TV catchup

November 14, 2018

Been awhile since I’ve done one of these.  Mostly because I’ve been compulsively binging Midsomer Murders, much to my anguish.  Like, there’s a level at which this is not a particularly good show. But that’s part of the appeal. I know exactly what I’m getting with it, and my headspace hasn’t really wanted to engage with anything more. On the other hand,  after ten seasons of this, The Prisoner weirdly makes a lot more sense.

That said, I think the episode when Cully gets married is completely brilliant in how it handles expectation and tension. It’s a running gag through the whole show that Barnaby misses important events, dinners, he’s always dashing out because he’s just figured out the murder, so on and so forth. And I swear I spent the second half of that episode thinking, “Wait, he won’t miss his own daughter’s wedding, will he? No. They wouldn’t do that. Except maybe they would? OMG.” I really didn’t know what was going to happen there. The show effectively manipulated my expectations. Well done, show.

I finally caught up on last season of The Flash. Still need to catch up on Supergirl, and I haven’t watched any of this season, alas.  See what I mean about not being engaged?  I liked how The Flash finished up, though it took its sweet time getting there. I think I’m being trained to the short-season model of Netflix and British TV to the point where 22 episodes in a season just feels horrendously long. The Flash is still goofy as all get-out and often contrived and stilted, but I think some of the acting is just great — Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells is clearly having the time of his life. I want to keep watching to see what else they throw against the wall.

I got a few episodes each into the second season of Luke Cage and third season of Daredevil and haven’t gone further. Long, meandering, self-indulgent, contrived angst. Exhausting.

BUT….

Many of you will be happy to know I finally started The Good Place, which is indeed probably the best-written show on television right now.  I don’t know why it took me so long. Just…Everyone raved about it and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to get emotional about it. Turns out, it’s not super emotional. It’s actually really kind, and really funny — actually funny, not infantile one-liner funny. So yes, I should have watched this a long time ago. On the other hand, I get to binge like 10 episodes at a time this way, because it really is one long story and not very episodic at all.  Much like Legion, I cannot guess where this is going and I love that.

I’m only halfway through season 2 so no spoilers. I will say — that twist at the end of the first season? That was amazing. AMAZING. And totally, totally earned. Not out of left field. Carefully, sneakily built in with a fantastic payoff that blew the story wide open in a way I could not have predicted. It’s great.

Weirdly, I’m also sort-of rewatching Babylon 5 right now because it’s airing in order on Comet TV. (It’s so weird. I have access to this show, commercial free, but for some reason it comes on TV and I just have to watch.) I saw the episode where Talia Winters is revealed to be a sleeper agent right around the time I watched the big twist on The Good Place.  The Talia Winters revelation was also a totally earned twist.  Built up, makes sense, shocking, has consequences.  (In season 3, when each of the crew confesses a secret to Delenn and hands over their Earth Force uniforms, and Ivanova’s confession is that she loved Talia — it’s a gut punch every time.)

So of course now I’m thinking of what makes a good twist, and what makes a bad one.

The “All Along the Watchtower” bullshit in Battlestar Galactica? The revelation of the last models of Cylons that made no bloody sense at all? Not an earned twist. Not planned, not built up, requiring retconning and hand-waving, with totally unsatisfying consequences.

“It was all a dream” is rarely, rarely an earned twist.

Must ponder further.

 

Advertisements

Midsomer Murders

July 26, 2018

MIDSOMER MURDERS TOP TEN CAUSES OF DEATH (as of season 5)

  1. Poison
  2. Pushed down stairs
  3. Pushed off roof
  4. Blunt force trauma — walking stick
  5. Blunt force trauma — farm implement
  6. Furniture
  7. Thrown down well
  8. Hunting rifle
  9. History
  10. Ennui

 

Midsomer Murders

July 2, 2018

So yes, I am currently binge watching yet another British cozy mystery TV series on Netflix, along with I think half the people I know. And for much the same reason I binge-watched Poirot and Miss Fisher — Barnaby is just so comforting to be around. It also reminds me of living in the UK in the 90’s (I’m still on the early seasons which are set in the 90’s). After not very many episodes of these, one does start to draw conclusions.

1. I can’t help but think Hot Fuzz wasn’t just a parody of all cozy mystery series set in the English countryside, it’s actually straight-up a parody of Midsomer Murders, isn’t it? It’s the body count in each one that does it, I think.

2. I want to know more about why Sgt. Troy has an X-Files poster hanging in his bedroom.

3. Where I’m at in season three we’ve got to the point that all cozy mystery series eventually get to, some sooner rather than later, where the detective goes visiting relatives in order to find new murders to solve. That Barnaby is an actual homicide detective and yet still encounters dead bodies while innocently visiting aunts and things makes this trope particularly noteworthy here. I think Jessica Fletcher still holds the record for having the most relatives innocently and tangentially involved in murders.

4. Everyone was so excited to tell me about the birdwatching episode (which I haven’t got to yet) that they failed to mention the episode with the excruciating writing group that appears to include Lady Catherine de Bourgh (it isn’t her, I looked it up, but the mere thought of such a thing gave me nightmares).

5. Over the last couple of years I’ve binged Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Poirot, and now Midsomer Murders, and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that my own detective, Enid of Haven, has more in common with Tom Barnaby than either of the others. I believe this is mostly because the Coast Road more resembles the post-Thatcherite English countryside than it does jazz-age Europe or Melbourne.

Make of that what you will.

 

TV catch up

April 13, 2018

My God.

It’s like I’ve been eating nothing but frozen chicken nuggets for the last six months. I mean, I like watching Flash and Supergirl, but they’ve both settled into their grooves and they’re not, like, earthshattering or anything. Rebels is great but it’s animated and sometimes I want more. Jessica Jones season 2 has been flat at best. I can’t even remember what other TV I’ve been watching.

Then I watched the new episodes of The Expanse and Legion.

Filet Mignon, perfectly cooked.

So damned beautiful. Like, they’re paying attention to the framing and the design and how it all comes together, and it’s got hooks and zing, and they’re showing me things I’ve never seen before.

As a fan of the books, I’ve been waiting for that Bobbie and Avasarala escape scene for years. Blasting off in the racing pinnace? So great I can hardly stand it. And now we’re going to Io? Yayayayayayayayay!!!

And Legion. There’s never been anything like this. I love it.

Hell yes.

 

I’m actually kind of stalled out on TV watching for the moment. Distracted by other things, just not interested, I’m not sure what. It’s actually not a bad thing, not being in the mood for TV. I’ve been reading a ton, these past couple of weeks. Of course that may be from all my library holds coming due AT THE SAME TIME. Heh.

Star Trek: Discovery:  I finally finished it, and while I liked a lot of it — the characters, the twist, the novelty of having a clear protagonist with a clear arc rather than the usual ensemble format of Star Trek, it also had a lot that just pissed me off. The soap-opera nature of the drama. So many places where everyone was just dumb as bricks. (Seriously, how many times does Burnham decide that the right thing to do is completely interrupt the very dangerous situation they’re in to go ask someone — usually someone really untrustworthy — about how to handle Klingons? Too many times.)  Really aggravating. Not sure I’m on board for season 2. People keep saying “but the first season of a new Trek is always bad!” Okay. Sure. But I’m afraid that the faults on this one are baked into the show’s ethos.

Jessica Jones season 2:  So, I watched two episodes and was kind of “meh” and wasn’t going to watch any more but I heard it got better so I watched the third, which starts with Jessica and Trish getting rid of a body, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember where or how the body came from. Like, no memory of how they got into this situation in what was clearly a continuation of what happened in the previous episode. And this may be why I’m not watching a lot of TV right now — I’m just not engaged enough to even pay attention.

And Star Wars Rebels is finished. Argh!

Maybe when Legion and The Expanse start back up in a couple of weeks my level of engagement will kick back in.

Oh — the book recommendation:  All Systems Red by Martha Wells. It’s a space opera/cyborg story. A cyborg trying to get along with people who don’t understand it, which is a story we’ve all seen before. But the voice on this one is so good, so distinct and engaging, that it blew me away.

There are apparently sequels on the way. *grabby hands*

 

TV catchup

February 26, 2018

I will never catch up on all the TV I want to watch. I just need to be resigned to that.

Altered Carbon:  Watched the first episode and haven’t heard anything that encourages me to watch further. So…much…cyberpunk…  and I think three dead women he’s pining over? I dunno.

The Flash:  I love how they’ve just gone full gonzo this season. Nothing makes sense. I like it anyway.

Runaways: It really feels YA and that’s a good thing and I liked it.

Legion and The Expanse are about to start back up. Star Wars: Rebels has aired but I haven’t seen it yet.

I decided to give up on The Orville. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. I am, however, looking forward to catching up on Discovery, even though it’s kind of weird and upsetting. The second Mudd episode was kind of great. (That’s the most recent episode I’ve seen, so no spoilers, I’m way behind. That’s where the catching up comes in.)

And there’s all the stuff I haven’t watched. Babylon Berlin looks right up my alley in terms of style-heavy historical and I’ve heard good things. Britannia has been recommended to me. And is that right that Sean Bean has a new series?  I’ve also heard that I need to watch The Good Place but I’m a little scared to.

Peak TV. Argh.

 

I run this thought experiment every now and then:  what would it be like to watch TV with Thomas Jefferson? First off it’s a fun image. But it’s also a way to think on what the Founding Fathers might have thought about what the future looks like, especially the future of the U.S., when some of them weren’t sure their new country would even outlast them.

This week, because I’m very studiously avoiding politics, I’ve been watching the Olympics with Thomas Jefferson.

I think he’d be delighted with the entire concept of the Olympics — athletes around the world competing in the name of achievement and sportsmanship. (Yes, I know all the arguments about the Olympics being corrupt and a huge money sink. Let’s talk ideals here.)  For an Enlightenment-era thinker, a peaceful international sporting competition inspired by the ancient Greek games is pretty much the pinnacle of human accomplishment. He’d love it.

I think he’d be nonplussed at the sheer number of countries. Dozens and dozens of them. So many countries.

I think he’d also be nonplussed by the image of women competing in skintight outfits.  But I think he’d slowly come around when it’s explained to him how hard women had to fight to be able to compete at any sports at all. And I’d remind him that Abigail Adams would love it and be so proud of them.

Winter sports, however, would be kind of baffling in general. How many different ways can we find to go very fast on ice? Lots. Lots of ways.

And I think he’d be absolutely fascinated by electronic timekeeping. The ability to measure and compare speeds out to a hundredth of a second, instantaneously. He was a scientist on top of everything else he did, and in some ways that’s the most astonishing part of modern sports.