Series discoveries


I haven’t posted about my television viewing since the fall. At that time, I wrote of my disappointments with various television series in the past.

I had some fairly high hopes for some of the new series. That’s what I’m going to spend a little time on today.

First, I’ll remind you that I do watch television and movies with a writer’s eye. That is, I look at the plot lines and the story overall, the character development, and I try to analyze why I like watching it, and not simply accept that I do and blank out on the couch for an hour.

I’m a critical thinker. What can I say?

So the new shows I’ve watched and liked this season are:

Almost Human

When I saw this one listed and read the preview, I thought that it would be a take on I, Robot, the novel by Asimov, not the Will Smith interpretation, which I must say was entertaining, but had as much to do with the text upon which it was based as Blade Runner had with Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Plus, there was the added attraction of Karl Urban. Hey, I don’t always have to be deep and thought-y, do I?

I’m enjoying AH, though it has been basically police procedural with a small twist for the most part. I’m waiting for the pay off of the Detective Kennex’s inciting incident: the failed assault which resulted in the deaths of his squad, the loss of his leg, and a 17 month coma.

Kennex bears the responsibility for the failure of the assault and the loss of his squad. He is teamed with a DRN android whose line has a history for going crazy. So two pariahs in arms. A buddy drama.

Bitten

This one is a mid-season offering from Space based on the Kelly Armstrong novel of the same name. It’s about werewolves, in the broad sense.

I’ve only seen a few episodes so far, and while the main plot continues through each episode, the cast is still in the character development stage. After establishing the crisis (murders of humans by renegade werewolves, or mutts), the series has gone into backstory mode.

The jury’s out on this one.

Dracula

I’m enjoying Dracula far less than I thought I would.

I appreciate the reengineering of the story and the tie in with Tesla (Greyson, Dracula’s American Industrialist cover is developing a new energy source that threatens the oil and coal interests of the wealthy in Britain). I like the strong(ish) women characters.

It’s too easy to dislike Harker, though, and the highlight of the show (for me) is Renfield, the voice of reason in a howling vortex of loose plot threads.

It’s hard to admit I like Renfield better than Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’s Dracula.

The concept isn’t strong enough to breathe life into the undead. Eye-candy aside, if I miss a week, I find I don’t really mind.

Intelligence

This is another mid-season offering and I like the premise, but I’m not certain about it yet.

An agent named Gabriel, with a special genetic affinity, has a computer chip installed in his brain. He can access the internet anytime he wants. The project is called “Clockwork.”

He’s not only a kick-ass spy, but he is also an asset, and so must be protected. They bring in a secret service operative to do this, and though Riley does prove herself, I was left wondering at the choice.

There seems to be a lot of potential in the series, but there is also a lot of potential for bad science and plot holes.

In the first episode, another person has the chip implanted. This, of course, becomes Gabriel’s nemesis. His wife ends up being a terrorist and she kills herself in a suicide bombing. Almost immediately, sparks seem to be flying between Gabriel and Riley, and I was disappointed in how they handled the whole situation. Gabriel was initially so devastated by his wife’s defection and death that he tried to hide in a bottle.

In any case. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, too.

Once upon a time in Wonderland

Like its parent show, Once Upon a Time, OUaTiW turns the Disney standard on its head and does a bizarre bit of a mash-up with the main character.

In this version, Alice is a young woman, having survived both her adventures in Wonderland, and the battle in the “real” world against those who believe her to be insane, including her family.

The mash-up comes from her love interest, a genie named Cyrus, and the two antagonists battling for control of him, the Queen of Hearts, and Jafar (from Aladdin).

Alice is helped by the Knave of Hearts (the Queen’s former love), and the unreliable White Rabbit, voiced by John Lithgow.

I haven’t seen any cross-over action yet, and don’t anticipate it, given the disparate settings (Victorian England vs. modern day North America).

While I enjoy the quirkiness of the story and the visual oddities of Wonderland, I’m wondering where the plot will go. As of the last episode, the Knave, having helped Alice and Cyrus reunite, is now the new genie in the bottle.

It’s a bit of a ramble, but I’m willing to indulge the writers a while yet. Sometimes an interesting concept will trump a good plot (for a while).

Sleepy Hollow

Another reboot, this time of the Washington Irving story. It’s a favourite of mine, so on the strength of that alone, I’m willing to indulge the series for a while.

In this incarnation, Ichabod Crane is not a school teacher, but an Oxford professor who enlisted in the British Army against his father’s wishes. Fighting against the Americans in the War of Independence, Crane defects and ends up serving as an agent for General Washington himself.

In his final battle, he faces a soldier known only as “The Hessian” and decapitates his foe even as he is dealt a killing blow. The two die and their blood mingles. Crane’s wife Katrina, a witch, casts a spell which will awaken Crane if ever the Hessian comes back from the dead.

In modern times, Crane wakes, and has to adjust to life in the 21st century while trying to defeat the Hessian, who, it is revealed, is Death of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

With him are Detective Abbie Mills, her sister Jenny, and Chief of Police Irving, played by Orlando Jones.

The writing for SH has been a lot tighter than for some of the other series and the plot is far more intricate.

Death, it is revealed, is Crane’s old friend, turned competitor for the woman they both love, Katrina.

In the last episode I saw, War is a man Crane and Mills thought of as a friend, but who is, in fact, Crane’s son and in a jaw-dropping final scene, Death rides off with Katrina, recently released from limbo.

Crane is devastated.

There’s a lot more to the story than what I’ve written here. Every character has a stake in the plot beyond the obvious (save the world). So far, I find it very well done.

Then again, I like intricate plots that engage my brain.

A note on reboots/mash-ups

Phil has lamented the state of television (and movies) for some time now, declaring that Hollywood doesn’t have an original thought in its collective head.

I tend to agree, but I also find that if I can set aside the obvious complaint (could they not have written an original story with these elements and have done equally well, or better?), I can enjoy the story and series.

He also dislikes the tendency of North American studios to copy British or French shows of better quality. The British version of Being Human is far superior to the North American, in my opinion. And both are shown, sometimes on the same network. Why show up one series as a shoddy copy of the other?

Bonus: Homeland

I’ve watched season one of Homeland on Netflix and am now catching up on season two courtesy of Bravo.

This is an original series, and I really like it. It’s clever, and gives its characters a lot to deal with.

Carrie Mathison is manic depressive, a disease she’s hidden from her employer and coworkers. She’s an intelligence analyst for the CIA and she is obsessed with the terrorist Abu Nasir. She discovers that Nasir has “turned” an American soldier, though she doesn’t know who.

When US marine Nick Brody is rescued after eight years as a prisoner of al-Qaeda, Carrie immediately suspects him.

It’s very well-written, and extremely well-acted. I love Clair Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin.

The plot is so complex, with so many unexpected turns, I can’t even attempt to give you a summary that will do it justice, and the characters are so well-drawn that their actions are always logical in context.

I know that they’re already into the fourth season, but we don’t receive Showtime here, so I have to wait for Netflix, or put out for the DVDs.

So that’s what I’m watching these days.

Series discoveries

How about you? Have you seen a new series that gives you the frissons (shivers)? One that makes you sigh and give up hope for originality or quality programming? Have you learned anything from these series that you could apply to your writing?

It’s all good.

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3 thoughts on “Series discoveries

  1. I’ve also enjoyed Amost Human – to a point. Yes, it seems a bit repititve and copycat at times (more times than I’d like). So I wait and watch PBS (Masterpiece Series) shows Downton Abbey, Sherlock Holmes, Folye’s War, Inspector Lewis. These shows are masterful, original, and wonderful. Oh, yeah, they’re British. Sigh.

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