Posts Tagged “Sci-Fi”
Welcome back to Falling Skies!
Creepy damn aliens (at least two varieties), giant spacecraft and wicked weapons, gritty bad-ass rebellious humans, and absolutely no socio-political commentary to be found anywhere!
Go ahead, bicker among yourselves. Excessive paranoia and a healthy dose of self-doubt? No problem. Threaten each other with violence … everybody is equally well armed (all praise the NRA!).
Just remember which way to point those guns with the aliens rain hell down on your heads and I’ll go to bed happy.
It’s clear from the start that our alien invaders in Falling Skies have the firepower to lay waste to the entire planet. Therefor, the big mystery here, is why they have yet to do so. Theories range from classic Twilight Zone (To Serve Man) to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I favor the latter, or something like it, meaning these aliens need our bits for some purpose other than stocking the larder. Regardless, this is the central mystery that provides the backdrop to Falling Skies … not that I care. I’m from the XBox generation, afterall. Just nuke some more aliens, dammit!
Alien death is often slowed up by interpersonal conflict between the principals, including Noah Wylie and his family of emo-boys, but I supposeTNT doesn’t have the budget for wall-to-wall alien-busting effects. I imagine, should I put my mind to it and use some of those brain-cells not yet burned out by various video games, I could probably find some kind of allegorical parallels to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I just as soon not. I can’t even spell Afghanistan without help.
The aliens are bug-eyed bastards that deserve to die. That’s all I need. As long as Noah and the boys can set aside the pseudo-drama long enough to take care of bidness, count me in.
The aliens are coming, boys! Lock and load!
Wait … don’t shoot! That’s just Larry Hagman …
What am I saying? Fire at will!!
Falling Skies airs Sundays on TNT at 9/8 Central.
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Ah, SyFy (rhymes with sniffie). We have such a love/hate relationship, you and I. For every Battlestar Galactica, there’s a Ghost Hunters. This summer, you blessed us with Warehouse 13. Then you turned around and cursed us with ECW … I know that the ‘W’ stands for ‘wrasslin’, but the ‘E’ and the ‘C’ still escape me. I guess ECW came before W13, but that’s just a technicality and doesn’t change the fact that the ECW is the wedgie in my boxer shorts of Science Fiction.
How fondly I recall Stargate Atlantis. Action-packed space cowboy stuff with nasty sci-fi vampire villains sprinkled about. It was magic. It was also too good to be true and untimely canceled. Around the same time you changed your name to SwyFty … or whatever. But you also promised us some more Stargate Goodness.
Thus we get Stargate Universe, aka SG-U. Aaand a cool two hour premiere which was actually three hours and split up over two weeks. I don’t get it, but that’s how you did it. Everyone says much the same thing about your new SG offering: it’s Battlestar Galactic (new style) meets the Stargate mythology. Can’t argue the point, except to say there’s a bit of Star Trek (original style) thrown in as well.
So I thank you, SyFy. This was a very nice gift, mostly unexpected, and I didn’t get you anything. I know I don’t visit as often as I used to, but it’s difficult for me to get comfortable with your new digs, what with the “rebranding” and all. But maybe that will change. Your Warehouse is really pretty cool and a lot of fun and you are offering Sanctuary again this year. In general, I have to say it’s darker around the new place, but that’s not really a bad thing.
This new SG-U reflects the darker edge you’ve been working so hard to display. I don’t blame you for that at all, SyFy. After the unexpected sensation that was Battlestar Galactica, it’s pretty clear that dark and gloomy works on you. Go with that. But keep in mind that its the sense of wonder, adventure, and discovery that really made the Stargate series (serieses?) work. No matter how much you might save on the power bill, dark and gloomy can only take SG-U so far.
So, way to go, SyFy (rhymes with shifty). With SG-U, you got me in the door. But you might want to consider an open bar if you want to keep me around.
Stargate Universe airs Fridays on SyFy
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How did this happen? I’m supposed to be plugged in, at one with my TiVo*. Yet somehow Defying Gravity slipped in under my radar. I have heard absolutely nothing about it. If I had encountered even the smallest rumor regarding a show about a six year mission to explore the solar system … well, I’m there.
The year is 2052 and the Antares is blasting off to Venus, the first stop on a multi-planet tour of the neighborhood. That is so cool. Not so cool is the often alluded to “big secret” being harbored by the folks in charge. Based on what I’ve seen so far, the secret is they really aren’t in charge at all. There is someone or something else out there making the calls … something called “beta”.
Secrets. That word describes Defying Gravity quite succinctly. Everybody has secrets. There’s Beta, the big secret often referred to simply as “it”. There are the little secrets between members of the Antares’ crew. Then there are the endless number of secrets to be unlocked by the mission itself. Based on the way ABC rolled this series out, I doubt we’ll get to see many of those answers if any.
But one can always hope.
The concept is solid. Better than solid. And the plot moves along at a steady pace, featuring flashbacks and the odd dream sequence or two as key elements. There are a number of casual references to the current political climate, plausible little bits and pieces which serve to keep things interesting.
Ron Livingston plays Maddux Donner. He is one of many familiar faces among an eclectic ensemble cast which includes Karen LeBlanc (ReGenesis), Christina Cox (Blood Ties), Ty Olsson (Flight 93), Paula Garces (The Shield), and Malik Yoba (New York Undercover). Much of the plot revolves around Livingston (Sex and the City, Standoff) as “bad boy/good guy” astronaut Donner. Opposite him in an equally pivotal role is Laura Harris as a rookie crew member named Zoe Barnes. Harris (Dead Like Me, 24) is one of those actresses you can’t help but watch. In fact, this is a great cast from top to bottom; I can’t really point to a weak spot.
Maybe that is what troubles me. Between a terrific concept, a tightly plotted storyline, compelling narrative devices, and a great cast there is almost no way this series will really get the chance it deserves from ABC. It would be a perfect fit for StiFfy (aka SyFy) after ABC lets it die on the vine, but that’s unlikely to work out either.
I believe that Defying Gravity is a trip worth taking, a clear step above almost anything else on network TV. This show has the potential of Lost and Heroes. Sure, those two series have been a bit uneven, but they both deserve their cult following. Cult or no, I’m going to enjoy following the Antares while it lasts, all the while hoping that Defying Gravity manages to defy the odds and stick around a bit.
Defying Gravity airs Sundays on ABC at 10/9c
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I had hoped to get around to reviewing Warehouse 13 a couple of weeks ago. I’m not a credentialed critic and I don’t get to see episodes of upcoming TV shows in advance. Despite this, I prefer to give new shows a couple of episodes before forming an opinion. This is not always the case, of course. Some stuff starts stinking up the place as soon as I tune it in. Much as my cat does on instinct, I have a moral imperative to bury such crap before it even stops steaming.
Of course, not everything immediately gets consigned to the litterbox. Warehouse 13 is one of those. It was not an instant disaster, but neither was it a certain winner. It clearly falls somewhere in between. Despite my ongoing disappointment with SyFy (rhymes with Stiffie) in general, I felt I should give this new science fiction series a few episodes before forming my own damn opinion.
And hey, it doesn’t stink.
Let’s put on our nostalgia caps a moment and recall the first of the Indiana Jones movies, Raiders of the Lost Arc. One of the final scenes in that movie is the Arc of the Covenant being stowed away in a plain wooden crate in a giant warehouse. Intriguing idea. The latest Indiana Jones movie employs the same plot device in that it recovers an artifact from (presumably) the same warehouse. Somebody got to thinking about that particular warehouse and asked the rather obvious question, “How can we make this into a television series?”
When a pair of Secret Service agents stumble across one of those mysterious artifacts in the course of their duties, it gets them both reassigned to Warehouse 13. Sort of the Area 51 of storage units, only it’s in South Dakota instead of Nevada. Pete Lattimer (hunky) and Myka Bering (hottie) are the Secret Service agents. They’re new boss and mentor is Artie Nielsen, kind of your ultimate custodian of all things unexplainable. Neither of our agents are too happy about their new assignment, but you know it’s going to grow on them. The first episode was pretty average really. Joanne Kelly (late of The Dresden Files, a much better show) is most appealing as Myka. Eddie McClintock as Pete brings to mind any number of reasonably attractive, witty leading men. As a pair, there may be some charisma here that future episodes can build on.
My first impression is that Warehouse 13 is a concept in search of a good story. The pilot episode just never found it. But maybe future episodes could, once the writers get up to speed and really begin to run with the concept. The addition of Allison Scagliotti as the youthful tech wiz-kid Claudia Donovan can only be a good thing. At the very least, we will get to see far fewer scenes of poor Artie stumbling about in the warehouse all alone as he ponders the many mysteries therein.
The introduction of Claudia, however, gives us a bit of insight into the narrative schyzophrenia troubling this show. Her arrival is as ominous as it gets, going from a complete security breach of the warehouse to outright kidnapping. Evidently, she is cutesy enough to be forgiven those transgressions and, well before the episode concludes, she has moved from bad guy to simply wise guy. Though her initial character arc feels quite uneven, it very nearly works. Even if it doesn’t, I’m inclined to forgive the ham-handedness in light of the final result.
And that, my friends, is the point. Based upon the episodes I’ve seen thus far, Warehouse 13 is mostly uneven. But every once in a while, it does deliver, or at least it leaves me with the impression that it could.
Warehouse 13 airs Tuesdays on SyFy (rhymes with stiffie) at 9/8c
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It’s summer time and the networks are throwing whatever they can at us to see what stinks … er … sticks. They’re busily burning off any leftover episodes of whatever series they long since decided to cancel and filling in the schedule with one reality show after another (I only watch the ones with incredibly gorgeous, impossibly athletic young women in very skimpy stripper outfits … aka So You Think You Can Dance). But every once in a while, they do cobble together a little original programming … as long as they can do it on a budget.
So we get Meteor: Path to Destruction. I guess the extra title is there to keep us from confusing this with Meteor, a disaster film from the late 1970s (early 80s?) staring Sean Connery. Back when it first appeared, Meteor was critically panned. Now, some might consider it a camp classic, a reasonable if not very good example of the disaster films of that era.
I really doubt this mini series “event” from NBC is ever going to be considered a classic of any sort by anybody. Instead of Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Martin Landau, and Natalie Wood, we get Jason Alexander, Stacy Keach, Bill Campbell and Marla Sokoloff. But I’m not going to fault the cast that this “disaster movie lite” is managing to fall below my own admitted low expectations. They’re game enough, if not great. Jason Alexander is somehow even slightly compelling in his role as the “in over his head science guy”. Some of Stacy Keach’s efforts darn near brought a tear to my eye. His threatening speech to a gun-nut would-be rabble-rouser had me believing that this old, small town sheriff could disarm this foolish bumpkin and kill him with a seizure inducing stare without even scuffing his badge.
And so what if the costumes for any week of the afore-mentioned dance competition likely cost more than the special effects on display here. I’ve been known to watch (and occasionally enjoy) the cheese-fest monster movie of the week on the Sci-Fi channel, rarely holding the lack of quality effects against them. Every few minutes we get to see thousands of asteroids hurtling through space toward our helpless blue planet … or some kind of computerized Google Earth meets NORAD map thing zooming in on the west coast of the United States. All the action happens here, by the way. Yeah, there’s the ridiculous story line of the cute science gal trying to make her way here from Mexico with the vital piece of information required to save us all from certain doom, but the rest of the story all takes place in the good ol’ US of A. Or, more precisely, in California. The oft repeated (and I do mean oft) Google Earth special effect thingy is as close as we ever get to NORAD … or the Pentagon … or NASA for that matter.
There is, supposedly, some kind of critical time-line involved for this disaster, but good luck figuring that out. Day becomes night becomes day at the whim of a seriously overpaid editor somewhere. Most of the subplot story-lines are so far off the chart stupid as to not bother even mentioning.
Okay. I just have to mention one. Is there anyone, anywhere with worse luck than the cute science gal played by poor Marla Sokoloff? Holy crap! Every step this lady makes is plagued by mishap and misfortune … and at no time is she actually obliterated by a meteorite. And by all that’s holey*, don’t let women drive them old trucks. Not only will they not put gas in the damn things, they will also cause them to certainly overheat … a dual disaster that happens not once but twice … in just the first episode of the mini-series … to two different female characters. And you just have to know that each time it happens, a fatal tragedy immediately follows.
And why is this thing in two parts? Well, for one reason, they couldn’t call it a mini-series if it wasn’t. But fortunately, there isn’t simply one giant Earth killing asteroid. There’s two. Ergo, part two. See how that works?
That’s it. I give up. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not giving this sad little mini-series anything close passing marks. Yeah, I’m gonna watch how it all ends up next week. Why? Well, I guess there’s a unlucky, sad little cute science gal inside all of us. We know it’s gonna be a hard, horrible road yet somehow we keep pressing on, regardless of the enormity of the disaster certainly about to befall us.
Meteor: Path to Destruction aired on NBC Sunday, July 12, and concludes the following Sunday at 9/8c.
*By all that’s holey … it’s a pun. And I do apologize for it.
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Um … not really.
Science Fiction fans everywhere choked on their soylent green when they first heard the announcement from NBC Universal that the Sci-Fi Channel was going to be “rebranded” as SyFy. Across the vast expanse of geekdom could be heard a collective, disbelieving chorus of “No … they wouldn’t … Would they?”
Yeah, they would. They did. Right on schedule on July 7, 2009, the Sci-Fi Channel was officially renamed SyFy. On a Tuesday, even … evidently to correspond with the series debute of Warehouse 13 (which I think is where they will be mothballing all that now defunct Sci-Fi Channel merchandise).
I really thought someone somewhere would come to their senses and change their drug addled minds. I understand it all has something to do with ‘branding’ and not being able to copyright Sci-Fi … but come on. On what planet, including Bizarro World, did this sound like a good idea?
I’ll continue to watch good science fiction wherever I can find it (and no, I won’t be watching wrasslin’ on any network whatever). In other words, I’m not going let sheer corporate stupidity change my viewing habits. When TNN became Spike TV, it didn’t suddenly become a better network (possibly the opposite happened). So Sci-Fi becoming SyFy doesn’t really change the fact that the network continues to be spotty at best. Some great stuff, sure. But for every great show, there’s a very good one they some how manage to bury or simply bungle. Some that sure as hell could have been great too. So I don’t expect this newly revisioned network to step up and rescue promising science fiction offerings dumped by other networks (as was once done for both Sliders and Stargate: SG1). Sci-Fi opted out of that business sometime ago, choosing instead to simply rebroadcast recently canceled science fiction shows … as well as various programs that don’t resemble science fiction at all. I’m surprised that Sci-Fi/SyFy can find room on the schedule for any original content at all anymore, unless it’s another big steaming pile of a “reality” TV show.
So, Battlestar Galactica is no more. Both Stargate series are gone (but living on in perpetual rerun hell). The Dresden Files (one of those shows that certainly could have been great) have disappeared and the legendary days of Farscape are all but forgotten. The glory days of Sci-Fi have come and gone. Welcome to SyFy.
And wrasslin’. Don’t forget the wrasslin’.
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Did I just have my expectations too high for Knight Rider? I was never overly impressed with the original, but I’m fairly sure it was better than this. While critically panned, the made for TV movie was a ratings success last year. I think both were right, the critics and the viewers. The viewers saw the potential … the critics reported the reality. Unfortunately, NBC and the writers and producers of Knight Rider only listened to the viewers and chose to completely ignore the reviews.
Even with a seemingly built-in audience for Knight Rider, you cannot excuse how very awful this show is. Eye candy has its place. I love candy. But no one and no television series can exist on nothing but the sweet-stuff. Except maybe CSI: Miami.
The car looks cool. The leads look great and the supporting cast is kind of fun. The sets are awesome and the special effects (mostly) very nice. But then you swallow and get nothing for your efforts but a toothache.
The plot is mostly non-existent. The super secret code is hidden in some guy’s DNA … but we slide right past that into a messed up sub-plot of amnesia and secret files and ghosts from the past. The super duper car gets fire bombed but damned if the brilliant scientists can figure out how to put out the fire before our heroes get cooked … only we know that they will figure it out. After a bit of gratuitous semi-nudity.
Hey, gratuitous and nudity always get my vote. But gratuitous semi-nudity? That’s wrong on so many levels.
The technology which should be the heart of any show like this is highly suspect. Some of it works (the windshield HUD) but much more of it doesn’t (the transformation into a pick-up, eavesdropping on a speeding car). Even the geeks are not going to buy most of this. The ineffective editing doesn’t help sell the concept either.
I won’t say much about the performances … acting is hard to judge accurately when the writing (and directing and editing) is all so sad. Some performances are worse than others; Justin Bruening as Mike Tracer makes the Hoff* look like Robert De Niro.
Knight Rider could have been something pretty cool. It isn’t. Pretty soon, the viewers are going to realize that and get on the same page as the critics. When they do, it’s good night Knight Rider.
Knight Rider airs Wednesday on NBC at 8/7c.
*The Hoff is David Hasselhoff, star of the original series back in the 80′s.
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Maybe you’ve heard about it. This J.J. Abrams guy is quite the popular fellow and he has created this new show for Fox. It’s called The Fringe. It’s got this X-Files vibe going for it, mixed with a little Lost, plus a sprinkle of almost any cool show from the Sci-Fi channel. So there’s no Dharma Initiative … but there is a corporate superpower called Massive Dynamics. There’s no magic number sequence, but there an equally nasty construct they call “the Pattern”. And while nobody ever actually says “The Truth Is Out There”, I sure as hell thought one of the FBI Agents really, really wanted to.
Global conspiracies … check. FBI agents and requisite sexual tension … check. Brilliant but kinda crazy people … check. Faceless super-rich guy out to screw the rest of us over … check. Freaky almost nausea inducing special effects … check. Scattered symbols for us to write wild theories about on our blogs … check. Cigerette man … um … no. But we do get this very intense “receptionist” with a pretty nifty robotic arm … will that work?
Oh, I think I forgot to mention … The Fringe is a pretty damn good show. Sure, I was irritated (as you knew I would be) by the truncated, not quite two hour premiere which allowed for just enough time for a special episode of Hole in the Wall.
By special, I mean “riding the short bus” kind of special. The host actually says “It’s time to face the hole!” I’m not kidding.
But that small issue aside, there was plenty packed into this pilot episode to wet my appetite for more. All the performances were dead-on. Central to the story is Anna Tove as FBI Agent Olivia Dunham who gets drawn into all this weirdness when her partner/love interest (played by Mark Valley in a notably un-snarky performance for a change) falls victim to a very nasty illness. Other key characters are Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) as a disaffected son and father, both of whom are dysfunctional yet brilliant. The “team” is rounded out by Lance Reddick (The Wire) as Phillip Broyles, a big-shot in Homeland Security. Reddick is perfectly cast as Agent Duhnam’s boss, an imposing man who clearly knows more than he is ready to reveal, but isn’t opposed to letting you know he knows more than he is ready to reveal.
The plotting is tight if far-fetched … but far-fetched is exactly what The Fringe wants to be. The further out there they get, the better the show will be for it.
The Fringe airs Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox.
Hole In the Wall … no, I refuse to empower anyone to watch this crap. Look it up yourself. After you take your medication.
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