Showing posts with label television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label television. Show all posts

Friday, April 15, 2016

Marvel Watch: Daredevil Season 2



If you think my movie watching has slowed to a trickle, you'd be right.  We're still neck deep in TV and baseball right now.  I haven't even watched my BluRay of The Force Awakens quite yet, but I did lose all of last night watching the disk of bonus material (totally great, btw).

We also blitzed our way through Daredevil Season 2, or as close to a blitz as you're going to get out of us.  We basically finished the series in about 2.5 weeks, which is really fast for us, even for a 13-episode series.

Last night's post should give you an idea of the regard in which I hold the source material of Daredevil comics produced by Frank Miller in the early 1980's.  But, to be truthful, I haven't read them in over a decade.  That's all right.  The show only references them loosely, doing what Marvel has done so well so often over the past decade: keeping the origins largely intact, remembering who the characters are at their core (and not in the squishy "well, which canon?  who are you to say this isn't Superman?" way DC has done), and boiling down stories to work better in the medium in which they're appearing.

Daredevil Season 1 carried the burden of the origin and establishing their corner of New York not just for Daredevil, but - as it turned out - for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.  In all honesty, I thought both Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones Season 1 could have been tighter.  They seemed to be 8 or 9 episode shows spread out over 13, and that meant a lot of filler.

I think those of us who watched Daredevil S2 can agree, if this season had an issue, it wasn't that not that we were hoping it'd pick up the pace a bit.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

That Supergirl/ Flash Meet-Up on CBS's "Supergirl"



Pick a tone, DC Entertainment.

I was never a fan of the "two heroes meet, fight, realize it's all a mistake and then go off to fight a common threat" trope of comics.  So, yes, just seeing the title of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice literally told me everything I didn't need to see in the WB opus (now down over 70% in ticket sales from last weekend).  It literally makes no sense for a person dedicated to improving things for other people to start a conversation by throwing a punch at someone else's head.  Frankly, it always kind of diminishes whatever I'm reading when the writers get lazy and that's the path they follow.

Yeah, even "Superman meets Spider-Man".*

I've been a fan of The CW's The Flash since episode 1, and I continue to enjoy the heck out of that show.  From this DC nerd's perspective, this is how you update a character and make the concept work in another medium with different needs than the comic page or context of National Comics in the Jet Age.  If you're going to change up Barry's origin story a bit, this makes sense, and I like the family with which they're surrounded Barry, both the Wests and his "work family", made up of repurposed C and D listers.

The show is far from relentlessly cheerful - villains are a threat, and we've had two seasons with serious arcs casting a shadow over the events of everything else.   But the core characters don't wallow in self-imposed pity parties and comply with the notion that being a jerk is a prerequisite to intelligence or depth of character (it seems Arrow is continuing to struggle with how to dig themselves out of that hole).  Barry and Co.'s ability to keep on going and improve things for themselves and the world is at the heart of what I like about ongoing superhero comics.

I wrote more than one post regarding the rocky start to CBS's Supergirl, but at some point the show started getting a grip on what it is and could be.  Once it dropped some of the standard soapy TV tropes and got on with the business of superheroing, it's been on a gradual incline of watchability.  They dropped the lame "nice guy" storyline for Win, and, to my great satisfaction, the seemingly one-dimensional character of Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) blossomed immediately into a mentor character for Supergirl and her alter ego.  And, of course, the long game of naming Hank Henshaw as leader of this DEO business pulled a switcheroo and turned out to be a huge highlight of the season as the character turned out not to be the ridiculous Cyborg Superman but Martian Manhunter.**

I never disliked the cast of Supergirl, but CBS applied a lot of old-hat tricks, believing they knew how to make the show work for the broadest audience, but it seemed outdated and a drag on the show's velocity.  And, while I'm not sure we're getting a second season (it hasn't been renewed so far as I know), a second season could get down to brass tacks and be quite fun.  Plus, they've said Lynda Carter could play the President next season, which this site heartily endorses.  It could be a lot of fun.

And there's that word.  Fun.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CBS's "Supergirl" Seems Markedly Better



Against my better instincts, I kept tuning in week after week to CBS's entrance into the superhero game, Supergirl.  In all honesty, I didn't think the show would last, so I figured I could stick with it for a season and call it a day.  The show would demonstrate these bits of promise, and then revert back to the disappointing formula blend it seemed the network wanted to enforce - all of which seemed out of step with what might make the show work.

None of what I think has an impact on ratings, and I don't know how large or small the actual audience is for the program.  I hear things about falling ratings, but then I'm told its been renewed, so someone has faith in it.

I was pretty hard on this show when it started.  If I can give it grief, I can say some positive things as well.  And there's been good on the show in ways I've found pleasantly surprising - especially on network TV.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Marvel Watch: Agent Carter - Season 2



Tuesday evening saw the conclusion of Season 2 of Marvel's Agent Carter, a short-run ABC television program.  ABC is, of course, a Disney company, and Marvel is also owned by Disney.

The show is a spin-off from the Captain America movies and a lodestone pointing to the mid-20th Century origins of the Marvel comic characters and the fictional origins of the doings of the Marvel Universe films.  If you're not keeping up (and both ratings and anecdotal evidence suggests you're not), Agent Carter follows the post-WWII, post-Captain America: The First Avenger doings of Special Agent Peggy Carter of the Strategic Science Reserve - the forebear of SHIELD.

You may remember Peggy as the uniformed sidekick to Tommy Lee Jones as Steve Rogers transformed into Captain America, who stayed on the radio with him as he piloted the Red Skull's plane into the Arctic.  Yes, yes, I was quite smitten with Agent Carter back during the first go-round, and I was a bit disappointed that - as we then jumped to the 21st Century, that was the last we were going to see of Peggy.  The film had written Peggy as pointing a new way forward for female characters in Marvel movies, and, Peggy was based on a character from the comics, who - in turn - reflected the sort of bad-assery women were displaying in all sorts of very, very real covert and resistance-fighting roles during WWII.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Short Stay in Houston: Old Pals, Work Stuff, a GOP Debate




This week I was in Houston for a short conference at which I presented.  A nice, friendly little conference we have once a year with folks that have known each other a while, and where new folks are usually made to feel very welcome.

I was staying at the hotel on campus, a Hilton commissioned by the late, great Conrad Hilton as part of the hotel management school at the University of Houston that bears his name.  During the conference, the candidates for the Republican party were slated to have a debate on the other end of campus, but CNN had set up adjacent to the library.  So, yes, yesterday I saw the back of Anderson Cooper's magnificently silver head.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

TV Watch: Legends of Tomorrow



Oh, man.  So many mixed feelings about this show.

Here's what I think:  If I hadn't been reading superhero comics for 30-odd years, this thing would seem fresh as a daisy  Lots of superheroes having an adventure, living a little, learning a little, comparing and contrasting themselves, speaking entirely in exposition.  It genuinely has the pacing and plotless weaving of a real DC Comics crossover event comic, complete with all the clunky dialog and trying to do too much with too many characters in too little time, and you kind of stick it out through the parts that don't work (which are many), because when it does work, it's a lot of fun.  And, it may actually "count", depending on how well received the thing winds up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Defense of Bizarro: Me Am Think Bizarro Is Worst Character Ever

So, I watched Monday evening's episode of Supergirl on CBS, and while heartened that the episode introduced the idea of Bizarro for a new generation, I'm also wondering what they're leaving for Superman himself at this point, or what they think Superman has been up to as they keep introducing all of his villains on the show like they've never been around before.

But, no harm no foul.  

If I took exception to the episode, it was that we had a BINO.  Bizarro In Name Only.

Good-bye!  Me am not comics version of Bizarro-Girl!

If you've unfamiliar with Superman's sometimes enemy/ sometimes pal, Bizarro, well, firstly, I pity you.  Secondly, in the original comics, Bizarro was an imperfect duplicate of Superboy and, soon, Superman.  The angular-faced misfit was a perfect fit with the bi-polar nature of Superman's Silver Age adventures.

In the wake of the Senate hearings and the installation of the Comics Code Authority - we ended Superman threatening people and hurling them around violently and the comics explored what it meant for Superman to be the Last Son of Krypton as well as a Superman with time to kill since crime was abruptly held in check.  The Man of Steel was now having a good laugh moving the Eiffel Tower around to mess with Lois one story, and in the second feature was openly weeping about the fate of his birth parents.

Equal parts clown, monster, hero, villain, misunderstood child and wreckless menace, Bizarro was the wild card in the Superman deck in an era of Superman comics littered with Robot Supermans, Supergirls, Super Cats and Dogs, King Kongs with Death Laser Eyes and routine occurrences of Superman being turned into a baby.  I haven't even gotten to Jimmy Olsen's Silver Age lifestyle and all that insanity.  And, yet, it all fit together pretty well.

Bizarro first appeared as a one-off in Superboy #68, but soon re-appeared in the mainline Superman titles where he gained his own supporting cast and planet.  Hell, yes, he did.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Happy Birthday to Ms. Sherilyn Fenn


Happy Birthday to actress Sherilyn Fenn.  She's been great in some great movies and good in some bad movies and I was as stunned as the next person to see her combatting Bigfoot in the accurately titled 2012 SyFy/ Asylum movie, Bigfoot.

You may know her as Audrey Horne from cult TV series, Twin Peaks, making sweaters and saddle shoes a very good idea to high-school-me.


I am thrilled to say it seems she's returning to the role when the show returns late this year or early next year.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Watch "Grease: Live!"



I'm not exactly what you'd call a "musical theater guy", but I don't turn my nose up at a good musical on screen nor stage.  And, frankly, I kind of think it's weird that we're at a point in history where people singing through a story is suddenly seen as "unrealistic" when the combo of song and story has been a major force in storytelling in almost every culture.  If you watch anything but documentaries, your argument that people don't just break out into song is an artificial construct and you don't like artificial constructs in your story, your argument is invalid.*

Ever since the debacle that was Carrie Underwood as Maria in NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music, I've been chasing that high where I could find it.  My GOD, how I like a good disaster.

NBC has now also done Peter Pan, which I missed, and The Wiz, which was basically pretty much a solid performance and free of glitches or shameful moments, and had some really good performances, Queen Latifah.

But we're here to talk about Grease: Live!, which aired tonight on Fox.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda Merges With The Infinite. Or, the Infinite Merges With Abe Vigoda.



I know.  None of us believed it actually possible, but Abe Vigoda has passed.

Most famous for his roles in The Godfather and the TV series Barney Miller, where he played Fish, a cop who acted exactly how you'd expect a cop who looked like Abe Vigoda to behave - Vigoda somehow became pretty famous and well-loved.  Almost all of his other roles since Barney Miller were more or less "holy @#$%, is that Abe Vigoda?" when he'd walk on screen.  He also kept invading the sets of late night talk shows for a while in the 90's.

I'll miss Vigoda.  It was always nice to know he was out there being Abe Vigoda, a role no one else will be able to fill.

Monday, January 25, 2016

X-Files is Back For Some Reason!

Look, I'm not made of stone.  I started tuning into The X-Files in 1993 when it was schedule adjacent to the short lived series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (a show canceled way, way too soon).   And, yeah, I dug that shortish FBI agent and her skeptical ways and off-the-rack pantsuits.

I was also into aliens and real-life UFO conspiracy stuff at the time.  Skeptical, but this was an era before YouTube or 10,000 cable channels - a state of things that meant, eventually, this dude got a platform on the @#$%ing History Channel

:
But, again, in 1993, access to those videos you'd see written about in books and articles were hard to come by, so why not at least entertain the notion?

And, again, Special Agent Dr. Dana Scully in sensible shoes.

In short, The X-Files was the first TV show I ever watched first run in prime time with any dedication, at least as an adult.  Otherwise, I guess you could say I'd had strong feelings about The Dukes of Hazzard when I was 6.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Marvel Television: Jessica Jones and the New Era for Marvel



I'm about two months behind everyone else finishing the Marvel Netflix series Jessica Jones, a spiritual sibling of the much celebrated Daredevil, and as far from the TV-logic and twee shenanigans of Agents of SHIELD as you're likely to get.

I'm going to throw this out there, and I'll ask you to stick with me:  Jessica Jones may be, to live-action superhero media, what Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were to comics in 1986.

Way back in the late-90's/ early-00's, I was reading a lot of this new kid, Brian Michael Bendis, who had some indie success with Goldfish, Torso and other gritty crime books (and Torso is still an amazing read, the based-on-real-events story of famed lawman Elliot Ness trying to find a serial killer in Cleveland after putting Capone behind bars).  He followed this by teaming with Oeming on Powers, a "cops in a world with capes"  comic with a decidedly Rated-R bent, and I followed that series for years.  Around 2001/2002, Bendis and Gaydos brought Alias to Marvel and minted their new MAX imprint - a line of comics with a hard "R" rating, but absolutely within the Marvel Universe.  Something even DC blanched at, separating Vertigo from DCU proper circa 1994.

This was about fifteen years after the atom-bomb of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns exploded in the comics world and, in the aftermath, the idea that comics could reach an adult audience was left behind in the radiation and sand burnt to glass.  Bendis was part of the generation who came into the field when a few things were happening.  (A) Reaching an audience older than 17 was now possible - which meant the very real-world problems facing actual humans could be discussed in comics, even with a superheroic bent, which (B) meant that the comics companies were setting up imprints to deal with this idea, keeping their mainline branding safe for the parents associations who would show up and breathe fire and throw comics retailers in jail from time-to-time for not carefully shelving their wares.  And, of course, (C) Marvel was dealing with bankruptcy.  I have very little positive to say about 2001-era Marvel honcho Bill Jemas, but he was certainly willing to try new things, and all of that risk-taking has indirectly led to the Marvel we think of today.

Alias showed up in this market as a sort of indie-within-the-Big-2 title.  It was something to see a character who smoked and drank and had sex with Luke Cage (which she does in the first few pages of the series - so I feel spoiler free), and met Carol Danvers for coffee.  It was a detective series.  There was something in her background we'd get to sooner or later, some dark reason she'd quit heroing, but at the outset, it seemed to just be a series about a failed superhero making ends meet and seeing real human foibles and crime in the underbelly of the Marvel U.

So... the TV show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Batman! The 50th Anniversary!


Longtime readers will know - Batman, the TV program, is probably ground zero for everything you see here at the ol' blog.  Born in '75, obviously I was too not-yet-in-existence to catch the show when it premiered in 1966, and I think my dad was in Vietnam and my mom was in college and not watching TV when the show hit the airwaves.

Family history says my first words included "Batman".  Or, more specifically, "Mat-man", as I couldn't quite work that "b" sound quite yet.  The story is that my mom needed to fix dinner for my brother and myself, and at some point she figured out I'd hold perfectly still for half an hour each week night when she'd point me at the TV while Batman played in syndication, and the rest just sort of played out.

As big as Star Wars may have been in my early childhood, so, too, was this version of Batman - or so I am told.  But I have almost no memory of watching the show at this age, I just remembered the characters and sounds of the show.  It fell off the syndication wagon in my local viewing area for a number of years, and didn't return until 1989, when the popularity of the Michael Keaton Batman meant someone decided to cash in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

All Quiet on the Western Front: What We've Been Up To

Do as Peggy says

If it's been a little quiet around here, I apologize.

Sunday I wrapped a week-and-a-half off from work (sometimes working at a University has its privileges.  They just sent us home on the 22nd and said "don't come back til Monday the 4th"), and between writing those end of the year posts and no longer being under obligation to write about every movie I've watched, I've felt some sense of liberation and I'm enjoying it.

We also haven't watched all that many movies.  I'll still, at minimum, post the poster for whatever movie I just watched, but full write-ups won't come as often this year.  Yes, I probably should have written something about Hateful 8, but... nope.

A long while back I got Jamie the Season 1 Agent Carter BluRay set, but she's held off on watching it until now so we would get a refresher just before Season 2 arrives January 19th.

It's rare I feel so vindicated as I have about my instincts around Haley Atwell's kick-ass love interest for Cap in 2011's Captain America.  I won't lie:  Ms. Atwell is a striking lady, but I couldn't help but feel they'd found a lot of pieces in both script and actress I was interested in seeing expanded.  But the Marvel Cinematic U is pretty firmly planted in the 21st Century, so I didn't expect anything except for a lot of me saying "I wish they would have done more with Agent Carter".

Well, sometimes the universe surprises us, and not only did they make a short-seasoned TV show I thought was better than it was ever going to be, but Jamie - who liked Peggy as well in the Cap movie - was a HUGE fan.  I won major brownie points for getting her the Peggy carter Funko Pop, for example.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The 2015 Kryptos! We Talk the Best and Worst and What Made an Impression in 2016

Hey, everybuddy!

Welcome to the 2015 Signal Watch Awards, or, as we're calling them here - The Kryptos!  We've named the awards after everyone's favorite flying super dog.  We were going to call them The Jimmies, but that sounded like a crappy local pop-punk band, or some sort of speed the kids would be doing by crushing up their ADD meds, and we're not doing it.

So, welcome to the First Annual Kryptos - for 2015!

It's sepia for class

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV Watch: Fargo Season 2



I was on blogging hiatus during the first season of Fargo.  In the year since returning I haven't talked about the program a great deal, but if you're a regular reader (Hi, Dad!), you may have seen me make mention of the show and the Season 1 star, Allison Tolman.  Hollywood, find this person work.  She's great.

When the show came back on again this Fall, I didn't care to write about this season of Fargo on an episode-by-episode basis.  When writing about television with its weekly installments, with its endless trails of breadcrumbs leading you in to the next episode and into the next season, you wind up tallying plot points, punching holes, checking boxes and idly speculating.  I do it here all the time when I talk TV.  

But with programs like FX's Fargo in this new era of American television, we're getting a new form of the medium, something akin to the novel for motion pictures.  Obviously, TV has grown and changed.  In many corners its unrecognizable from the industry and story-telling I grew up with, and while I find the idea of "binging" a show kind of weird and self-defeating, I can understand the desire to move from chapter to chapter and stay up late to finish a good book.

Fargo the TV series was never going to be the film of the same name, and seemed a hugely risky endeavor, a tight-rope act of television.  It was to be produced by the Coens, but that's code for: they'd get a check, but have no real participation.  Instead, it was the creative vision of Noah Hawley, a guy who worked on Bones and some other shows, but who didn't seem to have made a name for himself, exactly.  Few modern filmmakers are as highly regarded as the Coen Bros., and few have been as routinely successful in plunging into new territory, film after film.  And while you can enjoy a Coen Bros. film upon a first viewing, they bear repeat viewings and never disappoint.  And the Coen Bros. are prolific. 

The movie of Fargo arrived in 1996 to well-deserved critical acclaim and solid box office.  A noir-ish tale of avarice, crime, and human monsters with the soft glint of decency still living on the edges, painting the warm bed and the mundanities of life as a refuge - a good thing - in a world that has darkness always lapping at the edges.  The film struck a chord with a wider audience than the Coen Bros. had previously enjoyed, even when the studios tried to push them front and center with Hudsucker Proxy.  Sure, a lot of folks went to see the cop movie with the funny accents, but they wound up seeing a pretty good picture, too.

So what could we expect out of a TV show with a seeming lack of participation from the Coens?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"A Very Murray Christmas" is the Christmas Special Gen X Needs



Murray is categorically a Boomer, but since we all saw Ghostbusters on VHS if not in the theater, he's been riding out in front of Gen X, the patron saint.  Whether he was unflappably dealing with Gozer, an alien in his own skin in a Japanese hotel bar, or deciding to take his crew on an ill-fated voyage to the depths of the seas while they all wore matching outfits, he was the guy we aspired to be when we hit whatever age he happened to be in his latest project.

I dunno.  Maybe that's just me.  But I've ordered speedsuits for all of you.  You'll have to attach your own name patches.

Few actors play exhaustion and pulling at the end of their wits and muttering about the insanity of it all to himself in quite the same manner as Murray.  And that's kind of been the story of Generation X, something the Boomers weren't paying attention to as they Me-Generationed, and something the Millennials are oblivious to as they wonder aloud why more people aren't listening to their ideas.

Generation X is tired.*

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Supergirl Season 1 Episode 4 or 5 - "How Does She Do It?"

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making nobody care how good a show actually is, just how it makes them feel.

Actually, the red button would have just opened the door, but that's okay.


I'm not sure how many episodes we are into Season 1 of Supergirl, but this week's episode "How Does She Do It?" was supposed to be last week's episode, but the episode contained some terrorist-like elements that would have seemed a bit unseemly to use in a show about the world's ginchiest superhero a few days after very real terror attacks that made the news in the same parts of the world where Supergirl is broadcast.

What I do know is that the entire program feels very, very much like it is written by people who absolutely cannot be bothered to think through their own show.  And it is absolutely exhausting to watch a show where it seems like the writers cannot follow logic from Point A to Point B to Point C without then deciding Point 117 comes next.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First two episodes of "Marvel's Jessica Jones"



Here is where I don my comic hipster cap and harken back to the days when I was picking up Brian Michael Bendis' Alias during its initial run.  Yeah, yeah.  I was reading Alias before reading Alias was cool.*

You have to keep in mind, and the kids will never believe this, but Bendis did not arrive on this Earth fully formed as a successful writer of Avengers and X-Men.  He started in indie comics (if you're never read Torso and Goldfish, correct that situation), with a particularly noirish/ crime-ridden bent to his work, which was how I picked it up.  It's good stuff.

Marvel was in a really weird spot when he showed up.  The Spider-Clone debacle,  merging with an action figure company and, basically, the 90's had nearly done the entire company in.  At the time, they were a publicly traded company, and their stock totally, totally tanked.  It was ridiculous.  For all the warm fuzzies the kids have about that 1992-style X-Men of Many Pockets, that shit almost killed Marvel the first time around under the stewardship of Bob Harras, currently steward of DC Comics (hey, DC, how are sales over there, pals?).

So, by the turn of the Millennium, new leadership was installed and Marvel was trying all sorts of stuff, including not-quite-Vertigo type titles under the Knights (basically PG-13) and Max (basically R-rated) banners.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wherein I just gush about "The Flash"

I keep meaning to write a post about Fargo,currently airing on FX.  But, for right now, I just recommend you watch the hell out of that show.  But I suspect writing about Fargo will take a super long time, I'm not going to do that tonight.  And, I'm not going to talk about Supergirl, which was actually not half-bad on Monday.

Instead, because its a Tuesday and its fun as hell to discuss, let's talk about The Flash.

this is not the actual Flash, btw


There are a large number of reasons I tune in every week to see the Scarlet Speedster, and I don't think I talk about it enough, but Grant Gustin is actually really pretty great as Barry Allen.  The guy has taken a character that comic nerds always insisted was "boring" (a diagnosis I never fully understood), and found the kind of guy it would take to be The Flash.  I know, it's crazy to think that a level-headed person with a sense of responsibility would put on tights as readily as the now omni-present anti-hero, but Gustin and a crack writing team have managed to make Barry a buyable, believable character in the middle of a very, very strange world.

And, speaking of strange...