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

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Sci-Fi Watch: "The Expanse" ReWatch, Season 5

One of the most insane things you can do is recommend someone watch multiple seasons of TV more than once.  But here we are.

The first time I watched The Expanse, I watched it entirely by myself* as a binge-watch.  I think I made it through the first five seasons in about three weeks (the sixth had not started yet), which is simply not a thing I do.  

Spoiler - my least favorite season of the show was the fourth season, which I still liked, but felt like the one season where I felt I'd seen this same sort of thing elsewhere.  On a rewatch, I better appreciate how the Western-like settlement and tensions between moneyed and non-moneyed pioneers informs the overall arc of the show.  

The Fifth Season, which brings the character, political and story arc threads of the show to a head, while simultaneously splintering our Rocinante-based space-fam, was one I'd quite liked the first go-thru.  On a second viewing, I liked it even more.  

The issues our characters brought into the series at its start finally have time to get some spotlight, all against a backdrop of the inevitable consequences of the centuries of exploitation of the Belt (for whom you can apply a dozen real-world analogies) coming to bear.  

Friday, May 17, 2024

Dabney Coleman Merges With The Infinite

Texas-bred actor, Dabney Coleman, has passed at the age of 92.  

Fellow Gen-X'ers will remember Coleman from myriad roles, not least of which included films 9-to-5, WarGames, Tootsie, Cloak & Dagger and plenty of other favorites from back in the day.  

Coleman worked consistently from the early 1960's til just a few years ago, appearing on Yellowstone in 2019.  

Monday, May 6, 2024

Sci-Fi Watch: "The Expanse" ReWatch - Season 4

Season over season, The Expanse manages to use genre changes to better expand its world and fill in the ideas the novels were trying to communicate - I assume.  I mean, this is what the show does, and the show follows the basic beats of the novels.

Season 4 is essentially broken into 4 separate storylines, with two of those storylines having sub storylines.  

In the wake of the Ring Gates opening at the end of Season 3, humanity is ready to see what else is out there as the gates seem to be opening onto mostly human habitable worlds.  Ships full of eager settlers have begun heading towards the ring in our solar system, hoping to make claims on the 1300-ish other worlds out there.  

While Earth, Mars and the Belt ponder how to manage the almost magical occurrence and ponder the inherent dangers of worlds that have never known human kind, there's also the vast wealth that seems just on the other side for the bold willing to risk it all.

Desperate Belters are rushing blockades in hopes of staking a claim before official channels screw them out of opportunity.  Meanwhile, Avasarala has been made Secretary General of the UN and is now sort of President of Earth - and with her experience has no interest in moving too fast.  She's already barely avoided a cataclysm with the Eros incident, and who knows what's on the other side? 

And after generations of Mars trying to terraform and do this the hard way, Martians see 1300 perfectly livable planets suddenly available.  And the dream of Mars suddenly seems... not worth it?

The four stories follow

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sci-Fi Watch: "The Expanse" Rewatch, Season 3

One of the curious things that the showrunners of The Expanse did was break things up somewhat by books, but not exactly.  Season 3, however, contains the back half of the second book and the events of the third (a quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that quite a bit was changed from the novels).  

Our crew has escaped Ganymede, and the Protomolecule hybrid.  But Chrisjen is still in space aboard Mao's ship.  Errinwright thinks he's free of Chrisjen, and is able to maneuver the UN Secretary General into war, but the Secretary General brings in an old colleague, Methodist Minister Anna Volovodov to help him write his speech for declaration of war.  

The third season includes events on Io, the Mars/ Earth near all-out-war, as well as the evolution of the crashed Eros station on Venus as scientists try to sort it out - and the eventual escape of the structure built by the protomolecule, forming the ring on the edge of the solar system.  They've also brought along a scientist from Ganymede, Prax, seeking his daughter who seems to have been kidnapped by her doctor.

The evidence of Errinwright's machinations makes it's way to the UN, ending the war.  

With the Mars/ Earth war completed, and with peace a fragile thing, six months in, a convoy of Martian, Earth and Belter ships all head to The Ring - Earth sending civilians.  

Of the many, many things The Expanse does well, it's very aware that not everyone in the future will be a rocket scientist, and we're going to still have our candidates for FailArmy out there (sorry, Star Trek) - a rocket-racing Belter deciding to be the first to race through The Ring on the promise of sex.  And absolutely pancaking against an invisible wall of force.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

TV Re-Watch: The Expanse, Seasons 1-2

Like a lot of people, I tried to watch The Expanse twice before a third attempt got me hooked. 

I believe it was just before the 6th and final season of The Expanse debuted that I gave it that third shot, and I think through the power of subtitles and being told I needed to power through a few episodes, I'd be richly rewarded, I made it to the fourth episode and was all-in.

To that end, I have notes for any new show-runner on what is a turn-off on a very good show and why they should not do the things that the pilot for The Expanse did, even if I know perfectly well why it did those things in retrospect.  

Based on a series of novels by two writers working under the shared pen-name of James A. Corey, the show follows the events surrounding the introduction of a new technology to an all-too-buyable vision of the future in which humanity has not yet left our solar system, but has made it to the edge of the solar system, driven by the needs of humanity and the joys of commerce.  

Essentially, three populations are of concern 
  • the Earth of about 300 years in the future
  • Mars - a now semi-self-sufficient entity, highly militarized and suspicious of Earth
  • and the Belt - now hundreds of years old, a series of huge space stations, small stations and colonies clinging to asteroids and mining the asteroid belt for the materials needed by Earth and Mars to advance and survive
This year I did try to start reading the novels, but all it made me want to do was re-watch the series.  Well, Jamie's brother and dad had been watching the show, and my brother's family named their dog after one of the characters (Drummer) and Jamie was finally of a mind that she'd wade through those first episodes and see what the noise was about.

Like the best sci-fi, the world-building the of the series is so well done, it feels intuitive.  This is a deeply used future, and mankind is still mankind.  This is no Star Trek future where there's a bunch of reasonable species being reasonable.  And while not technically dystopian, there's a certain... inevitability to the future imagined.  Clearly the novelists understood what capitalism tends to do, what governments definitely do, and what it means to be born into systems that seem fundamentally fucked, and you have more or less no say in it.  Which, despite what the kids on social media think, is more or less the operating model for humanity.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Zorro Television Watch: Zorro (2024)

As much as I like to nod to the idea of superheroes as modern myths or carrying on the tradition of the Greek heroes or other mythologies of various geographic locales, it's an awkward fit.  The actual myths around, say, Hercules, are weird and brutal by modern standards.  ie: Murdering one's own family is not just another mishap adventure along the way for, say, The Flash.*  There's something a bit more of the swashbuckler and criminal doing right in an unjust world that was at the core of the first wave of superheroes.

Even before Superman leaped his first tall building, Batman punched his first mentally ill person, or Wonder Woman lasso'd her first Holliday Girl, pulp and popular fiction was cooking up some interesting personas.  One of the first superheroes I tend to think of is The Scarlet Pimpernel, who appeared in a novel in 1905 (written by a woman, no less, so take that, comics-gaters) and who would appear in a movie by 1934.  The Shadow existed as a radio and magazine character around 1931, Flash Gordon was around by 1934, The Phantom appeared in a comic strip by 1936.

But, Zorro..!  Zorro appeared in 1919 in print and by 1920 as a film.  

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Television Watch: The Bear (Seasons 1 and 2)

Initially, I wasn't overly interested in The Bear.  It looked like "quality TV", but leaning into a type of character we've seen a few dozen times over the past 20 years - a self-destructive guy, likely with chemical dependence issues, and likely has sex a lot.  Watch him fuck up over and over.  Look, Don Draper *owns* that, and you're not going to top that writing or performance, but people keep trying. I figured the show would be in a high-pressure world of a field everyone kinda thinks maybe they could work in, but knows that the real winners are genuine artists.  And, sometimes I get very worn out less by the existence of high end cuisine, but how "foodies" can be in general.*  

But (a) that is not what the show is about.  And (b) they added Jamie Lee Curtis.  So.  You know.

Over time I'd also figured out:  the show is not about a high-end restaurant - yet.  It's about a Chicago-area Italian Beef sandwich shop, and our lead has no addiction issues to make them edgy.  At least no chemical addiction issues.

At its heart, this is a show about two families, who are almost a circle on a Venn Diagram - the Berzattos, and the employees of The Beef, the aforementioned sandwich shop.  All are in shock after the suicide of owner and eldest sibling of the Berzatto family, Michael.  Who has left the resaturant to his brother, Carmine, who fled Chicago and the family to become a world-renowned chef in New York.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Television Watch: Fargo Season 5

In the long, long ago, I went to film school and had the rough idea of the kinds of stories I was drawn to, and in the most auteurish version of the world, what sort of thing I'd want to make.  When I watch the television series Fargo, it is with the knowledge that this is the kind of stuff that lives in my wheelhouse, but done light years better than - even in my most self-congratulatory fever dreams - I could imagine delivering.

It's noir, in its way.  And allegorical, most certainly.  Characters have rich inner lives from which they call and respond to one another, and watching each season is mapping and reconciling the arc of each character, understanding how they fit into a larger tapestry as Hawley weaves a picture of the point he's trying to make this time.

Initially, the show seemed like a fool's errand.  The 1996 film upon which the show is based is a bonafide modern-ish classic (I am not taking comment or questions on this statement).  Trying to work in the world of the Coens, aping their style and worldview seemed breathlessly arrogant.  I was part of the audience from the 1980's and 1990's, who - thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen - came to see movies could maybe be a bit more than what I thought.  The Coens provided a fresh take and a clear perspective all their own when it came to style, substance and density of narrative, as much auteurs as you were likely to see in the US film industry, and ushering in the 1990's indie-film era.   

Friday, February 2, 2024

Carl Weathers Merges With The Infinite

Here's what I think about when I think about Carl Weathers:

Sometimes you just like someone's vibe.  And then literally everything you learn about that person over a lifetime just reinforces or surpasses your early first impression.

I didn't see a Rocky movie til Rocky IV, and my introduction to Carl Weathers was seeing the great Apollo Creed fall in the ring.  He was, in my opinion, more likable and charming than our protagonist, enough so that seeing him die on screen in the first act was jarring.  Mission accomplished, movie.  You motivated Rocky and you got us to care, relying on Weathers' performance - and that was before I saw the other three Rocky movies, in which he's clearly, absolutely the star boxer the movies need.  

But of course Carl Weathers was also in action movies and generally around.  A few years later I was enjoying him in Predator and other movies.  I missed Action Jackson at the time, but caught it in recent years (it's not great, but he is).  

And then someone realized: you can put this guy in comedy.  People love this guy, and he's got a sense of humor.  And, so he started showing up in Happy Gilmore and Arrested Development.  I also was surprised to see him pop up in Friday Foster (I, too, enjoy a Pam Grier actioner).

What I'd missed was the whole Carl Weathers backstory of New Orleans kid who got a sports scholarship in high school and then college, and went pro as a football player - quitting to get into the movies.  And successfully doing so.  

But he was also behind the camera - and directed some of my favorite episodes of what I think is already a well-made show, The Mandalorian, in which he also starred in what may be my favorite role of his - Greef Karga, the shady businessman who finds a calling as a local leader (and has a vain streak you can't help but like).  I own at least two Greef Karga action figures, I admit.

Through that work was how I learned that Weathers had been busy behind the camera for a while, directing some TV, including some action programs.  Which - totally made sense.  I could see him dipping in and wanting to expand what he was doing and trying.

On a personal note, back when I was on twitter, I exchanged a tweet or two with Weathers, and the fact I'm still giddy about it should tell you where he ranked with me.  

I'm absolutely rattled at the sudden news of his passing, and wish his loved ones well.  I hope my impression of the man was correct, because he seemed like one of the good ones.    

Thursday, January 18, 2024

G-Watch: Monarch TV Series (2023-2024)

I did not expect my viewing of a show about Godzilla and Kurt and Wyatt Russell to turn into a hate-watch, but here we are.

My understanding is that there are enthusiastic viewers of this show, and, if I'm being honest, one of the things I've enjoyed about being a somewhat sideline Godzilla fan over the years is that the fanbase is pretty chipper about all forms and takes on Godzilla. There's no shock it would extend to this show. Maybe they're not as critical about film as they could be, but I was not going to be the guy to point out that maybe Destroy All Monsters is not going to double-bill with Citizen Kane.*

And it is a great time to have a general fondness for Godzilla. The movie in 2021 from Legendary was super fun, Minus One and Shin Godzilla are actual think-pieces, the shorts Toho put out are perfectly recreating what I like about pre-2000 Godzilla. I keep finding funny Japanese shorts aimed at kids with the monsters in-character and adorable and insane. And if I'm being candid, there's a hurricane of affordable (and less-affordable) Godzilla merch out there right now.

When Apple+ and Legendary announced Monarch, I was ambivalent. To me, the track record of the Monsterverse is not amazing, and I am decidedly less enthused about the existence of Monarch in those films than other fans. It's my opinion that the execution has, overall, been inconsistent and sloppy across the few movies they've put out. And, after several episodes, it seems the raison d'ĂȘtre for Monarch as a show was to paper over the bad continuity. Which, as every DC Comics fan should know, is actually just going to make things worse.

And, indeed, it did!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

90's Watch: Quiz Show (1994)

Watched:  01/15/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Robert Redford
Selection:  Jamie

It's been 30 years since Quiz Show (1994) was released, and probably 29 since I've last seen it.  I'm now much older than Ralph Fiennes and Rob Morrow as our leads, and in the intervening years, the real Charles Von Doren, Richard Goodwin and Herb Stemple have passed (oddly with little in the way of news or media mention).

Sometimes watching younger film reviewers on YouTube or reading the film discussion of younger film enthusiasts, it's interesting to note the tilt to genre pictures of prior eras, and it's easy to forget that genre was largely in the margins thirty years ago.  At the time, something like Quiz Show was happily released by Disney when they had multiple outlets for producing movies for general and adult audiences - this one released through Hollywood Pictures (see also Touchstone and whatever their deal was with Miramax).  And we had name directors doing prestige pictures that were a thing to go see.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Television with The Signal Watch - 2023

So, this isn't really a television blog.  But we did watch a lot of TV this last year.  

I can't really remember everything we watched in 2023, and certainly Jamie will immediately identify some gaps, but I wanted to give it a go and list out shows we watched a full season, to the best of my recollection. 

Now, in general I don't hate-watch television, so if I watched the thing, it means I enjoyed it.  Probably.  There's a notable exception here.  And one thing I was ready to quit on, but Jamie seemed into it, so I stayed with it.  

So, what shows did we watch?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Report on Hallmark Movies 2023

don't worry, they play brother and sister

So, here we are in 2023.  

In addition to Direct to Streaming Christmas movies, I've been throwing on the Hallmark Channel since way back in November.  

Apparently what both Jamie and I need this year is to just zone out for 90 minutes from time to time, and to be able to talk over a movie featuring characters we don't really care about a whole lot.  And that's absolutely the intention of a Hallmark Christmas movie - a minimum of drama and plot, reasonably good looking people predictably falling for each other, and a happy ending that guarantees these people will now be as boring as you are, because the events of this movie was the biggest thing to ever happen to them.

I copped to watching the film in 2015 and wrote my treatise on Hallmark movies back in 2017, and I think it shocked a lot of you to find out how very, very much I know about these movies that so many so casually get sniffy about (with good reason, tbh).  But a lot has occurred since 2017.  We're in the dark future of 2023 now, and the world is not what it was.  

A very, very big part of me would love to know how Hallmark works and how these movies come into being.  I have some theories based loosely on what I knew from a friend's mom who wrote Harlequin Romance novels, but there's zero confirmation on any of this.  I'd just be guessing.  

Andre Braugher Merges With The Infinite

I am deeply saddened to say that actor Andre Braugher has passed.

Back in college, he was the talent who got me to check out and stay with Homicide: Life on the Street and years later starred for several seasons of Brooklyn 99 as the precinct captain, making the most of his comedic talents.

Braugher was an amazing talent, and added a great deal to everything he was in.  I'm very sorry to hear of his passing.

Please enjoy some of the best of his role as Captain Holt

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Norman Lear Merges With The Infinite

Norman Lear, a man who changed television, has passed at 101.

There's whole areas of media study dedicated to Lear, so I won't get into it too much here.  But for those of us growing up as kids in the 1970s and 80's, there was kind of pre-Lear television and post-Lear television.  Those halcyon days of media you think of where father knew best and folks' disagreements were settled over a polite laugh or gunfire and women wore pearls and kissed husbands as they walked in the door with a smile?  Not Norman Lear.

Lear found the comedy in the reality of world and knew you could do more making people laugh than you could with a lecture, reflecting real world issues back to the audience, in the format of the sitcom.  As a kid, I remember knowing things could take a dramatic turn on One Day at a Time (something the reboot series echoed), but it wasn't off-putting even as a kid.  It was part of how television worked, as far as I was concerned.

While he moved on from TV, Lear has remained influential.  I hope in years to come, folks understand what he did to move TV on from its juvenile state and propel conversations onto the screen and into living rooms, and giving voice to characters that had been supporting characters at best.

Here's to 101 well-lived years. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

90's 70's Watch: The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)

Watched:  11/10/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Betty Thomas

November of 2023 is about 28 years from when The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) was released.  Which is funny, because the TV show, The Brady Bunch, which this movie spoofs, ran from September 1969 to March 1974, meaning the movie - which was sending up the show was only separated from the final air date by 21 years.  That's some math, but we're~7 years further out now from this movie than we were from the show when the movie arrived.

While the US is too large and has too many people to have a monoculture, due to the nature of broadcast TV, and then early cable, in the 20th Century there was a shared experience for the youth of the United States in the form of mass entertainment.  With a minimum of programming aimed at youth, for millions of us, the politely banal episodic adventures of The Brady Bunch, playing in mid-afternoon reruns, were a common touchpoint.  As were a handful of other shows, to be sure.*

Musical tastes of the time could vary - you might like country or R&B or rock or metal - but you only had so many channels to pick from.  I cannot imagine today's kids have a concept of wanting to unwind after latch-keying oneself into your empty house after a long day at school and watching some TV, and, really, there's maybe two options across your 4 to 30-odd channels (if your folks sprung for cable).

So it was that, thanks to the power of cheap syndication, for about 20 years, The Brady Bunch aired daily, sometimes multiple episodes, as the six kids, two parents and their maid acted like weird, alternate-reality stepford wives and children, making mountains out of mole hills and speaking in an almost otherwordly way that became a common cultural currency for kids to discuss, make fun of, etc....  The tendency of TV execs to want to sanitize the world was so harsh and weird, it was like bleach had killed anything resembling actual life. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Piper Laurie Merges With The Infinite

Star or movies and television, Piper Laurie, has passed.  

We know Laurie primarily from Twin Peaks, Carrie and The Hustler.  

Laurie was a Civil Rights advocate and involved in numerous causes.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Phyllis Coates Merges With the Infinite

Coates appeared only in the first season of The Adventures of Superman from 1952 and the film, Superman and the Mole Men.  

I am a fan of all Loises, and as part of the legion of Loises, Ms. Coates folds a special place here at The Signal Watch.  Her Lois was quite a bit different from Noel Neill's take.  Coates tended to play a bit more into the streetwise, tough newspaper writer persona that would circle back around with some other actors to play the part.  

She left pretty quickly, but one does not play Lois and not get included in the Superman mythos.  As is the tradition, she returned to a different incarnation of Superman, appearing on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the first year as Lois' mother, Ellen Lane.

Of course, Coates was infinitely more than her brief Superman appearances.  She has 145 appearances listed on IMDB, and spanned 50 years in the business (including a lengthy break).  

Let's salute Ms. Coates and remember her for being a terrific part of the Superman legacy!

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Bob Barker Merges With the Infinite

Bob Barker - the man, the myth, the pal for millions of us having a sick day from school or work - has passed at the age of 99.  

Not a soul in America living in the back quarter of the 20th Century hadn't seen Barker at one point or another, appearing daily on The Price is Right, possibly America's real favorite game show.  Among a hundred different games on the program, and surrounded by "Barker's Beauties", Bob was our genial uncle, walking contestants through the motions and managing chaos with a light chuckle, a peculiarly thin microphone and a voice gifted by the gods. 

Barker was a kind of gentlemen that no longer exists, a part of a different age.  The Kids will have only known the modern, post-modern gameshow host, maybe minus the soon-to-retire Pat Sajack, the guy who can't believe he's hosting a gameshow and refuses to take it seriously.  And while I don't think Barker had any illusions about what he was doing, he was never above it.  

Anyway, never write off a sharp suit, a good haircut and an unflappable demeanor.  

Have your pets spayed or neutered!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Birthday of Lucille Ball

Today marks the 112th birthday of one of the greatest talents of the 20th Century and a true pioneer, who had an immeasurable impact on the world that continues to be felt every day.

If you're my age, you know Lucille Ball from the one endless reruns of I Love Lucy, one the of the templates for television comedy we're still referencing and still trying to top.  Prior to her show, she was a model and movie star - but wasn't aimed to be one of the greats.  If you've seen any of her films, she seems like she's too big for what they're giving her whether it's a comedy or a drama (she appears in a couple of crime movies I've seen).   But my guess is they didn't know what to do with her in a male-forward Hollywood of the time.  

In musicals and comedies, it's weird to see her not given the lead.  I grew up with Lucy as a huge star, so you're retroactively thinking "why can't they give her more screentime?"  

She honed an act with husband Desi Arnaz, and it more or less created the basis for what would become the show they'd take to the networks.  And much like Seinfeld, because it was her show and not one she was cast for, as it became a hit, she was able to build more and more of an empire, setting up Desilu Studios.  

I was reminded that today was Lucille Ball's birthday by Star Trek social media, who has never forgotten that if it weren't for Lucy championing the show and everything it stands for as head of Desilu Productions, we either get no Star Trek or a very watered down show that wasn't what we think of as Star Trek.  And they're still making that show.

But go back and watch some I Love Lucy.  The show is so... good.  Sure, it's a multi-camera show and it doesn't always fit with everything we expect out of a modern sitcom, but in addition to being a female-led show (and produced as Lucy was very involved in *everything*, more so than Desi) it's amazing to see how we're still working bits from the show now.   It's a classic for a reason.

And, very indirectly, Ball is responsible for TCM.  When the network was coming together and they recruited Robert Osbourne to be Robert Osbourne, it turns out that he was a friend of Ball's who had been given the opportunities in Hollywood he'd had because of her largesse paired with his know-how and encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood history.  And you do not get the TCM of today without Osbourne, pals.