Revolution, You Could Have Been So Good

/ TV /

RevolutionI’m always on the lookout for new and interesting sci-fi and fantasy television so when I heard about Revolution last fall, I decided to give it a chance. It had a fairly intriguing premise where essentially the power goes out throughout the world and everyone is left to cope without electricity. It also had a couple of big names tied to it including Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, and J.J. Abrams (I don’t think I need to list Abram’s credentials at this point).

When I heard about the show, I really expected it to be about survival, about people learning to live without electricity. I expected there to be plenty of dangers to keep the show exciting and I hoped that there would be some larger, underlying plot that really drove things. What I got instead was a show set 15 years after the blackout in a former United States that is now broken up into large territories all vying for land and control. That wasn’t what I expected, but it still sounded promising. Unfortunately, the show didn’t live up to my hopes.

One of the things that I love about scripted television is that the writers have time to really develop characters. You can learn about their pasts, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. You can find out what they are made of and learn to love them or hate them. Revolution didn’t do that. They had the time, but they filled it with action sequences instead. It wasn’t the compelling writing that I expected from the likes of Kripke and Abrams.

I think that was really my chief complaint. I simply did not like any of the characters. That’s a big hurdle to overcome. I made it through the Battlestar Galactica reboot without truly liking the characters, but they were still deep, interesting individuals that I cared about, even if I didn’t actually like them. Revolution didn’t have that. Instead, it was full of single-minded, robotic characters. They got one idea into their heads and that was all that mattered.

Now, I’m going to nitpick a bit here, but there were a few other issues that I feel compelled to mention.

#1) The main characters walked literally all over the country, up and down the East Coast, from Georgia to Philadelphia to Colorado, and it seemed like no big deal. I’ll tell you what, that’s a huge deal. It would take months to walk those distances. Months of struggle and hunger and hardship, but instead the characters would complete the journey during a commercial break looking none the worse for it, hair and makeup still perfect. I don’t usually notice that kind of thing, but after awhile it really stood out to me as completely ridiculous.

#2) The writers constantly relied on the “out of frame” technique to allow characters to sneak up on each other. If the character isn’t on screen, then they can’t be seen, right? NO. That’s lazy writing. Real people have other senses and peripheral vision. In the finale, they actually had Monroe get sucker punched by a guy that appeared from off screen in front of him. Excuse me, but I’m pretty sure he would see the group of guys in his direct line of vision.

#3) The show was full of stormtroopers. What I mean by that is the good guys always hit their targets and the bad guys always missed. Miles is apparently so accurate that he would only bother to fire a single shot at this targets with his machine gun. This is a common issue with movies and television and I think we are all used to seeing it, but after awhile it becomes a crutch and it gets old.

I will give the show credit for one thing though: the action was great. I was really surprised at the quality of special effects that went into the show. I’m not sure if a single episode went by without explosions and other mayhem. Perhaps the show didn’t really that much action, but it looked good nonetheless.

Really, the show wasn’t that bad, but I was constantly aware of the fact that it could have been really good. I think that’s why I stuck with it through the whole season despite all my complaints; I just saw so much potential and I hoped that the show would get better. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better, at least in my estimation, and that probably means that I won’t watch it next season. It’s just not the show that I want it to be.

Star Trek: TNG Makes Me Happy

/ TV /

Okay, so I promised to post about my favorite books of 2012 and that’s definitely coming, but I want to make sure that I give that post the consideration it needs and I don’t have time for that just now.

Instead, I thought I would quickly share a random thought that I had this evening: Star Trek The Next Generation makes me happy. I didn’t watch Next Gen when it originally aired. As I’ve noted previously, my parents aren’t geeks and I missed out on some great stuff as a kid. One of those things was obviously Next Gen.

I’ve always been a bit apprehensive about Star Trek, being the Star Wars fan that I am. I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years (some of the original series and a couple of the movies), but I never actively sat down and attempted to watch any of the more recent shows. Recently, I worked up that courage and began watching Next Gen on Netflix and I’m glad I did.

Despite all of the goofiness, I really enjoy the show. So what if the science isn’t always particularly sound and that the crews seem to take almost no precautions when visiting alien worlds. So what if the producers couldn’t be bothered with location shooting and that those one-piece uniforms are simply ridiculous. All those things, good or bad, are part of what makes the show special, iconic even.

But what I really like about the show is the optimism. The crew of the Enterprise operates under the notion that the human race is capable of further evolution and peaceful existence (the prime directive), and has in fact come a long way in those departments. That’s a pretty noble dream. Perhaps it’s unattainable, but it’s a refreshing viewpoint when so much of today’s entertainment is gritty and pessimistic.

Just thought I would share that before I head off to bed. Night, folks.

Firefly Reunion At Comic-Con

/ TV /

I didn’t make it to Comic-Con this year, but if there was one panel that I would have loved to attend, it would have been the Firefly reunion panel. Although I’m one of the many fans that discovered Firefly after it was already off the air, it is still one of my favorite shows of all time (if not my favorite).

The renunion panel brought together Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Jose Molina, Tim Minear, and (of course) show creator, Joss Whedon. Participating in that panel would easily have been the highlight of the con for me.

Thankfully, the panel has been posted on YouTube in its entirety. If you love Firefly as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to watch this. The panel was a wonderfully heartfelt celebration of any amazing show. Enjoy!

So I Finally Finished Season 7 of Supernatural

/ TV /

And all I can say is…meh.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Supernatural. I would actually consider it one of my favorite shows, right up there with Firefly and Lost, but Season 7 was a definite step down.

Season 1-5 were all outstanding. The finale of Season 5 saw the conclusion of a story arch that had been building since the first season and, in my mind, the whole thing paid off. As a result, I was pretty concerned that Season 6 wouldn’t live up, but the writers surprised me and managed to put together another solid season. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as outstanding as the previous seasons, but it was still really good.

And then there was Season 7… From the start, Season 7 was clearly a full step down from Season 6 and it just never got better. There were so many reasons that the previous seasons were so amazing, but it really came down to one thing: great writing. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Season 7. It was like the entire writing team was replaced with 11 year old boys.

There were just so many problems, but perhaps the biggest issue was that the villains were terrible. Let me break it down a bit.

  1. The leviathans looked really stupid with those giant teeth exploding out of their faces.
  2. A leviathan is a giant sea beast, not a shape shifter. Everyone knows that, right? Why reuse a term that just doesn’t fit?
  3. The leviathans’ plot to take over corporate America was A) really boring and mundane and B) not something that two Hunters could really fight, despite all of their talents and resources. It just didn’t work. Nobody wants to watch Sam and Dean fight an enemy that is taking over the world with tainted corn syrup. Seriously. Stupid.
  4. The leader’s name was Dick. Ugh. I lost count at how many times I cringed at the horribly juvenile dick jokes that seemed to be required in each episode. Of all of the offenses, this is the worst in my opinion. I have come to expect better writing than that.

Sadly, I could go on. About how Sam and Dean are getting stale as characters. About how they are no longer developing at all and just seem to do the job out of habit. About how uninspiring it is to watch characters that don’t really care anymore. About how all of the good secondary characters are dead or were missing for the majority of the season (they did at least resolve that near the end to some degree). About how all of the comfortable elements of the show were missing–Bobby’s house, the Impala, classic rock.

The bottom line is that I was pretty darn disappointed. But I wouldn’t be this disappointed if I didn’t care. I’m disappointed, because the show has been so good in the past, but Season 7 was just so bad. I almost quit on it several times. As it was, I had the finale on my DVR for well over a month before I got around to watching it.

Despite my love for the show, I don’t think I can continue to put myself through another season of that kind of torture. I’m giving Season 8 five episodes and if it isn’t a significant step up, I’m done. I hate to say it, but that’s how it has to be. Here’s to hoping that Season 8 is a huge upgrade!

And Yet More Proof of My Laziness

/ TV /

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be pretty lazy, but if you need some proof, just take a look at the last time I posted. Over a month, yikes! I haven’t even been writing book reviews.

So what have I been up to? Well, mostly watching hockey. If you aren’t a hockey fan, then you probably don’t understand the awesomeness of the NHL playoffs. Let me tell you though, the playoffs are pretty damn awesome. The quality of hockey is exceptional (except that Pittsburgh/Philly series maybe), the hits are bone-crunching, and the excitement is incessant. And then there’s overtime. Simply amazing.

So with every game being broadcasted this year, I’ve had a bit of a tough time dragging myself away from the TV. Even as a type this, there’s a game on in the background. It just happens that this one isn’t particularly close… Even though I typically reserve this blog for my geekier passions, I felt compelled to express my excitement about the NHL playoffs.

That said, I’ll eventually catch up on my book reviews. I’ve several great novels recently like Good Omens and The Lions of Al-Rassan, and I really need to put some of my thoughts into words.

I also really need to put write a post about Twin Peaks. I finished watching the series on Netflix and there are just so many things that need to be said.

Oh, and The Avengers premieres later this week. I’m really pretty excited about that. I’m a big Joss Whedon fan and I think he’s going to do a great job with the film, although I’m pretty sure I would have seen the movie just to see Scarlett Johansson in that leather getup. :)

What’s Going On With Supernatural?

/ TV /

I discovered Supernatural on Netflix as the sixth season was airing on television. By the time the seventh and current season premiered, I was already caught up to season six. I quickly devoured that season as well and I’ve been able to watch most of this season as it aired.

That’s been nice, but what would be even better is if the show was worth my time. Seasons one through five were all great and the story really came to a pretty neat ending, but they decided to bring it back for a sixth season. I was skeptical, but it was actually pretty solid. Not as good as the first five perhaps, but not a huge step down.

Season seven, however, has been a huge disappointment and it’s for more reasons than I can ever hope to identify in one blog post, but here are the main points:

  1. The villains suck. This season’s baddies, the leviathans, are totally lame and the CG that goes with them might be even more so.
  2. The story sucks. The plot just doesn’t work. The villains are so “sophisticated” that Sam and Dean don’t have any idea how to bring them down. That’s really nothing new, but this time it’s more like they are trying to fight a global corporation. How can two hunters combat that?
  3. The writing sucks. The last episode (the one with the real estate agents) was so bad, I almost turned it off. This season has been full of one-shoot episodes (which is normal), but they lack the creativity and wit that we saw in previous seasons. I mean, the episode with the clowns…what were they thinking? And all the “dick” jokes are horribly cringe-worthy.
  4. There’s no suspense anymore. Sam and Dean have died so many times now, you never worry that they won’t pull through.
  5. Sam and Dean are miserable. They’ve seen it all and they are both clearly sick of their situation, but can’t find a way out. Their despondence is so tangible, it transfers to the viewers. There’s no hope for a happy ending any more.
  6. There’s nobody left. The writers have killed off every single decent secondary character. No Castiel, Bobby, Rufus, Jo, Ellen. Sam and Dean are just depressing. I need some other characters to insert some comic relief or at least take the focus off the protagonists for a minute.
  7. There’s no fun. All of the things that made the show awesome are gone. The Impala’s gone. They no longer play rock music each episode. Even Bobby’s house was burned down. There’s nothing left and it’s depressing as hell.

Overall, I’m just really disappointed with this season. One of the things that made me fall in love with the show was the writing. For a long time, it was fantastic. The writer’s had an excellent sense of humor, but also knew when it was time to be serious. Now, all that is gone.

I guess I should have seen it coming. I mean, what show in its seventh season is still as good as it was in the past? There are some (Seinfeld maybe), but not many. Most fall apart well before then and get cancelled.

I don’t think there are many episodes left to the season so I’m going to stick with it. But if the show comes back for an eight season, it better step it up or I’m done.

The Required 2011 Roundup

/ Books, Movies, TV /

Happy New Year folks! In January last year, I did a little recap of my favorites from 2010. This year, I’ll keep with the same tradition and report on the novels, television, and movies that I enjoyed most in 2011.

Books

I read A LOT of killer books in 2011. I’m pretty sure my next post will be dedicated solely to my favorite reads in 2011, but here’s a quick glimpse.

Best Reads

These are the novels that I enjoyed the most in 2011. You’ll notice that, as usual, all of the novels fall into the science fiction / fantasy genre.

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  4. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Best Surprise

These are the novels that I enjoyed more than I expected. Both were excellent.

  1. The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Biggest Disappointment

These are the novels that didn’t live up to my expectations. Boneshaker was all right, but too simple. The other was just terrible.

  1. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  2. The Phoenix Unchained by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

Best Character

Oh man, this was tough. I read a lot of great books this year and many of them had wonderful characters. In the end, I think I would choose the following as my favorites.

  1. Logan Ninefingers (from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy)
  2. Kvothe (from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller chronicles)
  3. Mr. Wednesday (from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods)

Movies

Best Movie

Here are the movies that I saw this year that I found the most enjoyable. I didn’t really watch a lot of movies this year so I kept the list pretty short.

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (pt 2)
  2. X-Men First Class

Television

Best Television Show

These are the shows that I enjoyed the most in 2011. This is actually a little tough as most shows air of the span of two calendar years, but I did my best.

  1. The Big Bang Theory
  2. Castle
  3. Warehouse 13

Best “New to Me” Television Show

I watch a lot of television programming via Netflix. These are the shows that I started watching in 2011 and enjoyed thoroughly.

  1. The Big Bang Theory
  2. Castle
  3. Twin Peaks

Best Character

  1. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
  2. Richard Castle (Castle)

I could have gone into a lot more detail, but I really enjoy making lists and I didn’t want to over complicate things. As I mentioned, I think I’ll do a separate post regarding the books I read, because I would like to delve into a bit more detail there.

So long 2011 and thanks for all the fish!

Warehouse 13, A Fun Season

/ TV /

Warehouse 13 just wrapped up its third season on Monday with a two-hour finale and I thought I would pass along some of my thoughts about the final episode, this season, and the show as a whole.

First off, I thought I should start by saying for the benefit of those that have never watched the show that Warehouse is really fun. Perhaps it can get a little too goofy at times, but, in general, the episodes are entertaining and amusing.

Warehouse 13 is a show about an organization that collects, decommissions, and stores magical objects. It’s kind of like a lighthearted, whimsical version of The X-Files, but with a steampunk vibe, which I think works pretty well. The agents are responsible for capturing magical objects so it’s only fitting that their tech has a fantastic bent.

In addition to the premise, the characters are a major selling point of the series. The writers have done a nice job putting together a group of lovable and charming characters…who also happen to have plenty of baggage and shortcomings, but that only makes them more human and easy to relate to.

Of the characters, I think I’ve got to pick Claudia as my favorite because she’s so quirky, but I also like Artie, Myka, and Pete as well. And then there’s also H.G. Wells, Mrs. Frederick, Leena, and Jinksy. So yeah, the show a pretty nice group of characters and a good group of actors.

My one complaint is probably with the writing. It’s actually pretty good, but there a couple of things that I think could be better. For example, I often feel like Pete is little more than an overgrown 12-year-old and I have a hard time taking him seriously as a character. That, and let’s face it, these guys are REALLY BAD agents. I mean, they really can’t go an episode without screwing something up. I guess it’s kind of necessary to make the show interesting, but it does make me roll my eyes a bit at from time to time.

Overall, season three was solid. The quality has been pretty consistent from day one, but, if anything, season three was the best yet. H.G Wells was a pretty cool addition in season two so it was cool to see more of her this season. I also thought that underlying story arc was pretty good. They really expanded the lore of the Warehouse and I liked that pretty well, learning about previous Warehouses and the regents and so forth.

To cap it off, I think season three had the best finale. I can’t say too much without spoiling the episode, but I thought that the first hour especially was really good. It got way more emotional and way more violent than I would have guessed. The writers really raised the stakes for the finale and that was good to see.

Honestly, Warehouse 13 is probably the best show that Syfy has put together since Battlestar Galactica. I’m really looking forward to another season.

Fall TV is All About the Returning Favorites This Year

/ TV /

Every year, I like to check out a few new shows, particularly those that fall into the science fiction, fantasy, or supernatural genres. There a several web sites like io9.com or blastr.com that give fall previews and I usually check those out to see what looks interesting. Unfortunately, this year, there weren’t really very many new shows that caught my attention. At this point, I have only tried out two: Person of Interest and Terra Nova.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova is set about 100 years in the future when overpopulation and pollution have ravaged the earth. Luckily, some scientists have opened a gateway into a parallel universe, but, unfortunately, it’s 85 million years in the past. So, the upside is that some lucky humans get a chance to start over in an unspoiled setting, but the downside is that they might get eaten by dinosaurs. So yeah, the conceit of the show borrows a lot from Jurassic Park, but then who didn’t love Jurassic Park?

The two hour premiere was pretty entertaining. It wasn’t the greatest thing that I have ever seen, but I came away thinking that the show has some potential. At this point, I’m willing to give it more time and see how things play out. I think the concept is good enough to work for awhile, but I am a touch concerned about the characters. A show can’t be all action and adventure–it has to have great characters that audiences can relate to and I’m not yet sure that Terra Nova has many of those .

Person of Interest

This is another J.J Abrams creation. I loved LOST and Alias was pretty cool for awhile, but most of J.J.’s other attempts at television have been duds. I’m already afraid that may be the case here too. Although it includes some talented actors, I’m afraid that won’t be enough to really keep the show afloat.

The pilot felt very much like a standard investigation show with a slightly different (“sci-fi light”) premise. I have this feeling that we’re just going to get a procedural in the vein of The Mentalist and that won’t satisfy genre fans like myself. That said, I wasn’t really impressed with the pilot, but I might give it another episode or two to pull me in.

Returning Favorites

One thing that is a little strange this year is that there are actually several returning shows that I’m interested in watching. The problem is that, for a few of them, I’m a season behind!

I will of course watch The Office, unless it gets really terrible, because it’s still one of the funniest shows on the major networks. I am also looking forward to, what I assume will be, the final season of Chuck, which doesn’t premiere until sometime in October.

However, I’m also trying to catch up on Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, and Castle so I can start watching them as they air. The main problem is that the previous seasons’ DVDs only came out about one week before the current seasons premiered. I have no idea why this was the case, but, for the time being, I’m recording all three of those shows on my DVR while I catch up. Hopefully, I’ll do so before I run out of DVR space, but we’ll see.

Supernatural Is My New Favorite Show

/ TV /

Okay, this is old news if you’ve been following the blog, but I’ve been meaning to write up my thoughts on my new favorite show (Supernatural obviously) since I finished watching the fifth season in March. Yikes, I can’t believe it’s been that long.

Now, for those that aren’t up to speed, there are currently six full seasons of Supernatural. The sixth season aired this year and a seventh has been green lit for next fall. At this point, I’ve seen only the first five, because I didn’t start watching the show at all until this year and I’m waiting until the sixth comes out to DVD to catch up.

What I’m going to do now is basically just reflect on my favorite moments, characters, and other various awesomeness from the first five seasons. Spoilers ahead!

The Good Guys

Overall, I think Dean is my favorite character, but this is a bit of a tough one actually. Yes, I understand that there are only two characters (Sam and Dean) that have appeared in every episode of the series so there are really only two likely choices here, but may of the minor characters are also phenomenal. Some of my other favorites include Bobby Singer, John Winchester, and Chuck (the prophet).

However, for me, Dean is the obvious choice between the two brothers. I really do like them both, but Dean is easier to relate to. He’s pretty much a normal dude stuck in a shitty situation. He loves classic rock, cheeseburgers, cars, and the ladies–really a man’s man, if you know what I mean. He’s really pretty hard NOT to like.

The Bad Guys

The show obviously had some awesome villains. Yellow Eyes, Lilith, Lucifer. They were all great villains that you just loved to hate, but I think old Yellow Eyes was my favorite even though, on the grand scheme, he was, perhaps, the least important. The early story that surrounded the death of Sam and Dean’s mother and the acquisition of Sam’s powers was really compelling and Yellow Eyes, having orchestrated the entire nightmare, was the most perfectly evil bastard.

The Story

I’ve tried to pick my favorite season, but I really can’t decided which is the best. I mean, they each have their great episodes and their okay episodes. I’m not even sure if I can really think of any that I would consider to be bad. Early on, there were a lot of “monster of the week” episodes, but that’s not really a criticism as most of the one shot episodes were still really good.

The show didn’t really embrace the larger, underlying story in a significant manner until towards the end of the first season and that’s what really propelled the show forward. That’s what made me want to watch episodes non-stop. That’s what pulled together all of the random bits and odd comments and united them into a cohesive story that had its roots in the ground from the very first episode. It was really amazing to see this detailed, season-spanning story unfold. So yeah, I liked all of the seasons equally, or pretty damn close.

Beginnings and Endings

It’s pretty much impossible to pick just one episode in the entire first five seasons as my favorite, but there are definitely some that stand out. All of the season finales, for example, were fantastic. If I had to pick just one as my favorite, I would probably have to randomly select one of the finales and just call it good enough. However, the season premiers were also very good. In fact, the premier episode of season two where Dean spends some time with a reaper stands out in my mind as a particularly excellent episode.

Humor

One of the things that I was surprised to find about the show was just how funny it could be–I mean some of the episodes were literally roll-on-the-floor hilarious. Among them, the episodes featuring the Jester or the Ghostfacers were probably the most hysterical. Seriously though, almost every episode had at least one comedic moment and I really appreciated that. It was nice that, despite how dark and serious the show could get, there was always a one-liner to disperse the tension.

The Writing

The writing was phenomenal. I don’t think I can fully describe how much I appreciated the quality of the writing. The characters, the plot, the dialog, the humor…it was all so well done. Kudos Eric Kripke and team.

One thing in particular that I loved about the writers was how they would, quite literally, tease their own fans. I mean, Sam and Dean end up having novels written about them in the show and have their own fans. The devotion of those fictional fans, I’m quite sure, was a direct parallel to the show’s actual fans and it was very amusing. Many of those episodes included Chuck (the prophet/author) and I found him to be a great character. In particular, I loved the episode that took place at a Supernatural convention!

Other Awesomeness

At this point, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job identifying why I love Supernatural so much, but there are still so many things that have been left unsaid, so many tiny little details that helped make the show what it is. This is where I’ll tip my hat to some of those things, because this article wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning them.

The Impala. The Colt. John Winchester’s journal. The motels. The awesome music. The episode titles. Castiel. Ruby. Jo. Helen.

So yeah, I think Supernatural is a fantastic show. I can’t wait to catch up on season six and dig into season seven. If you haven’t watched the show (and somehow made it through this article) and you enjoy The X-Files or Buffy or just good television, you should get on that pronto.