My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

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With 12 Monkeys, Cable tries to Binge

When Netflix started to do original programming and released the entire season at once, I thought, “What an original idea!  But how are you going to keep up the excitement of a show if you release it one shot and you’re done?”  Although it does limit the time frame of “buzz” it turned out to be a successful business model.  People can move at their own pace, which could be anywhere from watching the show on the traditional once a week schedule to all at once, bleary eyes and lost weekend included.

But I was surprised when the Syfy Channel decided to do the same thing for returning show 12 Monkeys. Airing season three over three nights, the network is trying something different.

It’s an odd choice for a cable network.  They have airtime to fill, so why blow an expensive season of an original show over a weekend?  And before you say it, no; this is not like showing successive Twilight Zone episodes over New Years. That’s simply to fill airtime during a period when viewing will be exceptionally low.  But dropping an original show is a streaming service move, which Syfy definitely is not.  So what’s up?

Well after watching Friday night’s initial 4 episode blast, I have to say I agree with both the TV Guide and TV Line reviews: This show was meant to be watched in a binge format.  Having watched Season’s 1 & 2 in the traditional once a week format, you often forget where you left off.  After all, this show is complicated.  Each episode takes place in more than one time period, sometimes with the same characters at different points in their lives. Sometimes, death comes first, as for the character of Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), who’s skeleton was discovered in the very first episode way back in season one.  Sometimes it’s in the middle, like for former asylum patient Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who’s death was shown last season.  Not to worry though Jennifer fans, her younger self is featured pretty prominently this season.

And a good thing too.  The character steals every single scene she’s in, adding humor in otherwise grim situations without detracting from the grimness of the situations because…well she’s crazy.  So far my favorite episode of the season is episode 2, which is a Jennifer-centric episode.  Jennifer trapped in the past tries to figure out ways to catch the attention of the future so she can be rescued.  It’s entertaining and still moves the plot along.  So more Jennifer.

 

One character that I like, but has been degraded somewhat is Deacon (Todd Stashwick), the formerly ruthless leader of a violent gang in the future.  In earlier seasons, Deacon made a great foil as a villain more interested in looting the time travel facility than saving the human race. Unfortunately, the violent, evil, but witty bad guy has been tamed somewhat by his attraction to Dr. Railly. It’s not the first time on TV and movies an alpha male bad guy has been tamed by love, but it isn’t very realistic.  Hopefully Deacon gets his evil mojo back.

So maybe binge watching cable isn’t a bad idea after all.  Particularly if it encourages the production of more complicated dramas that may be digested better in very large bites, rather than doled out bit by bit on a weekly basis.

 

Walking Dead Mid Season Finale

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of this episode, the mid season finale (technically Season 4, Episode 8), so this comes a little later than the usual TV episode review, but I was inspired by another blog I read occasionally that absolutely trashed the episode!  Did we watch the same show?

Anyway, this blogger had issues with the following aspects of the episode (warning, all below is spoilerific so if you’ve not seen the episode yet, bail out now):

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth?       

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Everybody is both starving and chubby

Hershel

And of course; the car seat.

Is Rick’s prison the only safe place on Earth? 

I’m sure there are plenty of safe places.  Practically any place that is protected by either a wall or strong fence could be a safe place.  That could be anything from a National Guard Armory to warehouses.  But the Governor had unfinished business with Rick.  He needed a safe place for his new community, but he needed closure by getting rid of Rick’s group more.

And if so, why destroy it with an armored attack?

Although a compelling case could be made that the Governor was just crazy and didn’t see the contradiction of firing repeated 105mm shells at the place he hopes to call home, he may have reasoned that the prison was vast enough to sustain the damage and still leave plenty of undamaged living space for his little group.  One thing I’m sure of; the Governor would rather have destroyed the prison than leave it for Rick’s group.

Can a corpse be bullet proof?

As far as the bullet proof corpse goes, eh… it’s possible.  The M-16/M-4/AR-15 variants that the Governor’s group was armed with fires a 5.56mm round.  If my memory serves me from Basic Training, the round is supposed to hit the target and rotate, tearing up the human body along the way.  The purpose isn’t to penetrate and then exit the body.  So although I agree that a walker body might be a bit too squishy to provide the padding needed to protect someone hiding behind it, I could see that it might just be possible that bullets fired at it wouldn’t exit and hit Daryl, who was using it as a shield.  Since there was body armor at the prison, I think I might rather take my chances with that.

Rick’s babysitting arrangements

Agreed.  Rick is no father of the year.  I don’t recall a single scene this season where he has spent any one on one time with his daughter.  He’s basically farmed out the job of parent to Beth.  Maybe it’s because he suspects that Shane is Judith’s real father and he’s keeping emotional distance. The Governor’s sudden arrival prevented Rick from trying to keep tabs on Judith even if he wanted to and I suspect that he didn’t think of her once up until he saw the … but more on that later.

Everybody is both starving and chubby

One of this blogger’s oddest complaints is on how fat this starving group of survivors have gotten.  I admit, I didn’t even notice.  This may be strictly a woman thing where everyone’s weight is kept tabs on constantly.  But even if the group has put on some pounds, it’s perfectly reasonable.  They’ve been at the prison for months and that’s provided a safe location with plenty of room for food storage and ample kitchen facilities.  Rick’s vegetable garden, although healthy enough, probably provides only a supplement to the food consumed by the prison group.  The bulk of it would be stores of food that would still be good after almost two years.  That would be canned goods, and boxed goods like rice, and instant potatoes. Considering the haphazard lives they were living before the prison, it’s easy to see how they could put on a few pounds.

Hershel

When a cast member, particularly one as important as Hershel has been to the show, is killed off, you have to show the death.  All of it.  This blogger complained of the rather graphic nature of the beheading, and the clumsy nature of it requiring several tries.  Gruesome?  Yes, but also necessary I think.  What I didn’t like is that I knew Hershel was going to die, and I’d known it for over a month.  One of the annoying habits of the Walking Dead promotions is that a killed off character is sent to do promotion for the show, so when you see a cast member calling into radio shows, you know he or she is not long for this world.  So true to form Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene) called in to the Monsters In The Morning radio show last month, just to promote the show in general, I was sad since I knew we were losing him.  But that spoils the surprise.  Why couldn’t Carl have called in?

  And of course; the car seat

And of course, we get to the most disturbing part of the show, at least to parents.  First, I can understand this bloggers revulsion, and I shared it, but that only made the scene more powerful.  Towards the end of the firefight, during that transition between the human’s battle being decided one way or the other, and the true winners of any battle, the walkers, coming to take their gory prize, Rick and Carl, reunited, finally realize they don’t know where Rick’s daughter, Judith is.  Like I said; parent of the year.  So what Rick and Carl view is Judith’s care seat; her bloody car seat.  In that kind of world, Rick and Carl come to the obvious conclusion that the walkers have gotten Judith.

That was tough to watch.  But that’s why this is such a great show, they “went there.”  So the episode was an emotionally draining success.  The group went from relative comfort and security to being scattered out in a Walker filled world, suffering crushing losses.

I don’t know whether Judith is dead or not.  The ending was certainly open ended, but in the comics, Judith was killed.  Of course, this show has veered away from the comics time and time again so who knows.  But if Judith was killed, at least it was an off screen death.  People would lose their minds if the show actually showed a Walker chowing down on a baby.  The television audience, even a Walking Dead audience, isn’t ready for that.

Anyway, when the show returns in February, I’ll be there, and I hope this blogger has gotten over her disappointment and will ready to bear down on the show again like a Walker bearing down on a femur.

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The Americans on FX

I wasn’t planning on writing about this show, or at least doing a regular review of it. I don’t review everything I watch and you would be horrified if I did.  Or at least as horrified as my wife is at some of the crap I watch.  But this show, The Americans, isn’t crap.  At least of the shows I’ve seen this season, this is the best new drama to come out of TV in a while.   And yes, that is high praise considering how the quality of scripted dramas has improved over the past couple of years, due in part to the rise in original programming on basic and premium cable (sorry networks!).

My wife had wanted to watch this show when it premiered, and I agreed to watch it with her in the hopes that this would be a show that we could both like and watch together.  Because couples have to do things together, right?  However she was asleep before the opening scene.  I decided to stick it out and was glad I did. The basic gist of the show is that it’s about two Soviet KGB agents under deep cover in the US during the early 1980’s.  Living as man and wife, they speak perfect English; they have established cover identities, and to friends and neighbors appear to be a typical, middle class American couple.  A middle class couple that responds to orders from Moscow, kidnaps defectors, and kills if necessary to keep their secrets.  All the while driving their kids to after school activities and playing catch.  What could be more American?

Events in the pilot episode lead the KGB agents into trying to make their fake marriage a real one and the way the parent their children, who of course have no idea of their parents real identities or purpose, makes for some fascinating family drama.  Adding to the mix is an American FBI agent who works in counterintelligence who moves in across the street.  Not exactly the type of new neighbor these spies want.  Did he move there because the FBI is on to them?  Is he suspicious?  It all adds up to make a tense, neighborly relationship.

So why am I writing about this show now if I didn’t intend to review it?  Last night’s episode was fantastic.  It follows the day that Reagan was shot, following both the FBI and the KGB spies, forcing both to take big risks to get information that their respective governments need urgently.  I was blown away by the episode and thought to myself, “Self, shouldn’t others know about this show?”

Unsurprisingly I agreed.

So we’re only 3 episodes in so there is time to catch up with the show either online or on demand.  Frankly, there are plenty of ways to catch up, and I would do it before Moscow finds out.