Category Archives: Television

First Trailer for Star Trek: Discovery- I’m Excited & Nervous

Star Trek: Discovery, starring Sonequa Martin Green, Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif & Anthony Rapp.

Right up top, it’s getting a 15 episode order instead of 13. That’s good. That cast. Also very good.

The thing that’s bugged me since they first announced we’re going to barely pre-Kirk era Starfleet, is that we haven’t had a Trek take place in the in-universe future since 2002, when Nemesis came out. Everything since, from Enterprise, to Kelvin-verse (official name for the Abrams films), and now back to Trek-prime with Discovery is all prequel based. For a series, a franchise, that was so forward focused, so progressive, it’s a difficult pill to swallow seeing it so regressive. DS9 and Voyager handed the franchise the Gamma and Delta quadrants to explore, Voyager gave us the 29th century’s Temporal Integrity Commission to to explore, basically handing us 400 years worth of space exploration left untouched. Think about everything that’s happened since 1617. All the discoveries and exploration that was done. And we keep getting, “Yeah, Ferdinand Magellan was awesome, so was this other guy who was Magellan adjacent. By the way, we eventually go to the moon, but how ’bout that Magellan guy, huh?! HUH?! Sailing and shit.”

There was another announcement that came with the “Slightly Before Kirk” decision was that it was to be anthologized. Bryan Fuller shot that down, but now he’s gone, so who knows? But they won’t anthologize it because that’s not how Trek works. That screws up the human element of Trek. I don’t mean humans as a species, but human as in connecting with the characters. They also won’t because they didn’t with Heroes, like they were supposed to, because “Oh, Character A is popular, so let’s keep them around forever.”

The other thing that gives me pause is how much of an influence the Kelvin-verse films will have on the series. Not the stories told, obviously, but the storytelling. They were decidedly more aggressive, more militaristic. Lots of space battles, destruction, death, and violent ends. Not that I have a problem with that, but will that do away with the core of Trek, the aims at peace and understanding and utopia? Klingons were the villains in OTS, and were allies by TNG. TNG had the Ferengi, who joined the Federation by the end of DS9. The Borg were huge villains across 3 shows and a movie, but both TNG and VOY had episodes where they were trying to understand and come to terms with the Borg. The Romulans, the Cardassians… they were hinted at becoming friendlies at some point in the future. Of the prime-verse, not just some weird Mirror-verse. That’s not to say the path to peace wasn’t littered with conflicts, battles or wars. But there was still that path. And Kelvin-verse sort of ignored that.

I’m excited to have Trek back on TV. That’s where it belongs. That’s where it thrives. I’m just more than a little nervous for what they may do with it (knowing studio people) and this trailer does little to ease those apprehensions. But it does look pretty cool. And as a lifelong Trek fan, I’ll watch every episode as it “airs,” so to speak.

But my point still stands: Let’s explore more of the unknown, and less of what we mostly know. I’d probably be OK not having those gaps filled.

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How I Was Disappointed by How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother PictureWhat made How I Met Your Mother an interesting entrant into the sitcom field is that it had a binding narrative arc that ran the course of its 9 seasons. there were payoffs for long game joke set-ups, references to previous episodes that weren’t casual lip-service, and a rich mythos set up by creator/writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas that’s usually reserved for serial dramas.
And we all went along for the ride. We were there for every inside joke. Every hook up. Every break up. Every make up. Every suit up. Fans of the show stuck dutifully by its side through 9 seasons in hopes of meeting the mother and getting a satisfying end to the longest story ever told.

Which we did…. kinda. Let me back up a little.

The primary conceit of the 9th season was that it all took place during one weekend, the wedding weekend of Barney and Robin. The narrow focus of the show’s final season raised some eyebrows when it was announced, but I commented that Bays and Thomas knew what they were doing, and we should trust that they’ll not lead us astray. And I was digging the final season. It was an odd route to go, but I trusted them to land the show in a satisfactory way.

But holy shit did they blow that the hell up.

Because of the final season’s structure, we were taken on a journey through Barney & Robin’s relationship, and how they handled their cold feet and dealt with their feelings and we came to accept that they truly did love each other, and we also had to deal with both Ted and Robin letting each other go after both being such a huge part of each other’s lives.

We were also given very little face time with the mother. We don’t even find out her name is Tracy until the final episode. Looking back, it does nicely set-up the final reveal that the mother has been long dead while Ted’s telling his kids the story, and that Robin and Barney have since divorced. Since his relationship with Robin was a big focus of the whole story, it became his way of asking permission to date again. To date Robin.

My initial reaction to the finale was just two words: “Fucking Bullshit.” And I stand by that. During the first 8 seasons, we’re on this journey with Ted as he tries to find “the one.” That’s the story we’re emotionally involved with. We came close with Victoria and Stella and even Robin herself. They dropped subtle, and not-so-subtle, clues throughout the show’s run as to who she is and when they’ll meet. That’s what we were on board with.

In the final season, we’re emotionally involved with Barney and Robin, and all the little interactions with Tracy. How she came to meet everybody before she met Ted, then the pay off of them meeting in the final episode. We were now connected with Tracy. We loved her. We were emotionally invested in these stories and we wanted to see them played out.

By killing off Tracy and sending Ted right back to Robin, they completely invalidate everything we went through by hitting the reset button. Killing off the mother before we really get a chance to see them together… I mean REALLY see them together, means that our attachment to her was pointless. Ending the Barney & Robin relationship as casually as they did, just shrugging it off with “Oh, P.S. divorce” means the 4 season attachment we’ve had with them has been pointless. All the corners Barney turned to be with Robin… pointless.

Ultimately, my problem with the finale isn’t Tracy’s death, Robin & Barney’s divorce, and Ted & Robin getting back together. That ending makes quite a bit of sense. My anger, my disappointment, my dissatisfaction stems from how gloriously mishandled it all was.

Had the arc of the 9th season been condensed into the first few episodes of the season, starting off with the wedding right away, maybe meeting Tracy by episode 3 or 4, that would have been perfect. We could have lost all that Daphne road-trip bullshit. The point of the Blauman episode still could have been made. And then they could have spent the remaining 20 episodes on cultivating the relationship with Tracy. See them date and fall in love and go through all the things they go through. That way we as an audience can form that bond with Tracy that Ted does. They could have also spent more time on the Barney & Robin split, so that could have packed a more emotional punch for us as the audience.

But as it stands… it feels too hollow. We spent so much time on Barney & Robin’s wedding weekend, and then everything else was just rushed through and skimmed over. The important stuff was rushed through and skimmed over.

And that’s where they failed. Not in the story they told, but in how they told it. I’ll still love How I Met Your Mother… but that finale was just terrible. Again, not for what happened, but how they told us what happened.

And this is all coming from a guy who liked the Lost finale.

Stuff That’s Streaming: X-Files, Supernatural, Warehouse 13

This is the maiden voyage of a new weekly feature here on the blog: A weekly suggestion of something cool to check out online. I’m going to start with Netflix, then expand to include Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime, to help you with the full online streaming experience.

I’m going to ease into this with a few TV shows that I feel are all kindred spirits (no pun intended), and are solid entries into the sci-fi procedurals. Clicking the images and headlines will take you to the Netflix page for each of the shows.

The X- Files

The X-Files

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny

I know, I know… “DUH! You don’t have to tell me to watch that. I already saw it back when it first aired!” So did I. I grew up on the show, as did many nerds of my generation. But I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode since it went off the air back in 2002. Not that I’ve been avoiding it, and I may have caught a random episode here or there over the years in the wee small hours the morning during local programming. But I’ve yet to fully revisit one of my all time favourite shows. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now (as well as another personally formative show I’ll discuss next week).

I’m a little over halfway through the first season (I only recently started this endeavour), the exploratory season. You can definitely tell that Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are finding their footing on this groundbreaking series. It was a unique program to join the line-up of the then 6-year-old FOX Network, which was still trying to stake a claim in prime-time, and had already found some success with Married… With Children, 21 Jump Street, Beverly Hills 90210 and, of course, The Simpsons. But that’s always been the fascinating thing about FOX, they’ve always been just a step ahead, and quite bold with their programming choices. A prime-time animated sitcom which led to a whole block of animated program. Roseanne got the glory, but Married… with Children beat it to the punch on blue-collar dysfunction. Even into the 2000s, if it wasn’t for both The X-Files and later 24, we probably wouldn’t have seen Lost. But I digress, back to The X-Files

As long as there’s been TV, there’s been cop shows, Dragnet started all the way back in 1951. The X-Files took that long tradition of solving cases and threw aliens, ghosts, monsters and demons at it, but rarely strayed into the truly ridiculous. OK… there were a few episodes (mostly in the admittedly uneven 1st season) that got a little off topic, but once you push through the muck and WTF moments, the show really hits its stride.

What always kept my interest was the balance between “Monster-Of-The-Week” episodes, the stand alone stories, and the ones that fell under the purview of the running narrative arc – Mulder’s quest for the truth, specifically as it pertains to his sister’s disappearance, and the alien cover up conspiracy. The addition of the  fantastic Mitch Pileggi in the second season gave Mulder and Scully an authority figure to both clash and commiserate with. Skinner was both friend and foe, but not out of inconsistent writing, but out of the intricacies of the character. His arrival was when the show really started to pick up, and just a year after that, Vince Gilligan joined the writing staff, and he would go on to create Breaking Bad, one of the best TV shows of the past decade.

Say what you will about the first season, and there’s a lot to be said about it, but it’s a landmark show and I’m thoroughly enjoying the trip down memory lane. All 9 seasons are available for streaming on Netflix by clicking here. Run through the whole series, or just catch up on your favourite episodes.

Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13

Saul Rubinek, Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock

I spent a lot of time talking about The X-Files, so I promise to keep the next two relatively short. I was first introduced to Warehouse 13 by my dear friend Joel. I believe his exact words were “Dude, you gotta check out Warehouse 13.” It had just started, so the first few episodes were there for my viewing pleasure on Hulu. I marathoned them all and became an instant fan. I remember discussing the show a few days later and referring to it as “X-Files: The Next Generation.” Federal agents in a sci-fi show tracking down the weird and unexplained… I think it’s an apt description. It’s a little heavier on the comedy than The X-Files was, but it works.

I was attracted to this show because of its pop culture references. Not pop culture references the way Community and Psych (both great shows, Psych is on Netflix, Community is on HuluPlus) make Star Wars jokes. Pop culture references like… Victorian era authors. Centuries old world leaders. The show really hit the ground running, and I think benefits from the shortened seasons of cable. It’s definitely worth a watch, with seasons 1 & 2 on Netflix which you can watch here, season 3 will be released soon, and season 4 starts this summer. Also worth a watch: their sister show, Eureka, which is coming back this summer for its 5th and final season. All 4 seasons are on Netflix.

Supernatural

Supernatural

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki

Admittedly, I initially dismissed this show as “Great… another Buffy retread featuring guys who are way too good-looking, and it’s on the CW, so whatevs. GIRL SHOW!” But then I started hearing really positive things about it. From people whose opinions I trusted, and I wouldn’t have normally pegged to have enjoyed my perception of what kind of show Supernatural was. Then the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon kicked into high gear, and I started seeing it recommended on Netflix, on Hulu, I saw it mentioned a lot on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, it even showed up in Fark. So I said, “FINE! I’ll give it a shot!”

Holy shit! I totally should have been watching this from the beginning. It’s a damn good sci-fi/fantasy/horror show that very much follows the mold of The X-Files in that it does the aforementioned “Monster-Of-The-Week,” but also balances it with an overall arc. Since I’m watching this one in tandem with The X-Files, I’m still only on the first season with this one, as well. Though there are a few later season episodes I’m looking forward to, including the S5 finale set in Stull, KS, which as any good Kansan (like myself) will tell you, is allegedly one of the gates to hell. And there’s a S6 episode that gets really meta, which I’m looking forward to watching.

Mostly I’m disappointed I ignored this one for so long. It’s a really good show and if you aren’t watching it, catch all 6 seasons on Netflix here, and it’s currently in its 7th.

Previously on… Sports Night

Brodie Fanns!

In my continuing saga of discussing my favourite television programs, I’ve gone with another “Gone To Soon” show. And it is my hands down, all time favourite television program.

Sports Night

Sports Night was a sitcom-ish show that aired on ABC from 99-01 and was one of the pioneers in the single-camera comedy revolution. Essentially, most comedies had been shot as if they were on a stage, never breaking that fourth wall. What Sports Night did, is they moved the camera. The audience was suddenly integrated into the show. Which was mostly unheard of for comedies. At least here in the states. But it gave birth to the new era of the sitcom. Arrested Development, Scrubs, Malcolm in the Middle, My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock and The Office all later followed Aaron Sorkin’s lead into the single-camera sitcom. But it was Sports Night that planted that seed in everyone’s head to do so.

Sports Night was a show within a show. It was about a nightly sports news magazine show (coincidentally called Sports Night), similar to ESPN’s SportsCenter, and the people who produce it. There were anchors Dan Rydell and Casey McCall (Josh Charles and Peter Krause), Executive Producer Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman), Associate Producers Jeremy Goodwin and Natalie Hurley (Joshua Malina and Sabrina Lloyd) and Editor-in-Chief Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillame), along with various other production staffers.

And the purely content level, it was the first show that I watched in my generation that was about broadcasting. I of course watched reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and WKRP in Cincinnati (that gets it’s own post). But Sports Night was mine.

But deeper than that, it was the first of my shows that I felt really challenged me as a viewer. When I say “my shows”, I’m referring to shows in my generation, that were still in production when I started watching and paying attention to shows. Ones that I didn’t watch because my parents did. Not that there’s anything wrong with those shows. But… I digress.

Shows that I had watched up until then, like Wings, Cheers, Home Improvement, Drew Carey Show, Boy Meets World and Spin City, while good, and very enjoyable, I look back on, watch the reruns, and feel that I wasn’t challenged by them. I liked them on a sort of basic, almost superficial, level. They’re gag reliant shows. Very funny gag related, but… I feel too much emphasis on where the next joke was coming from.

But Sports Night, holy shit. Such a great, dialog centric show. For the first few episodes, you have too look past the unfortunately network mandated laugh track (which they swiftly got rid of, thankfully). The show was about the quips, the wit, the sarcasm. It’s fast paced so you have to pay attention. And the jokes are a little more cerebral. References to 19th century poetry, early 20th century musicals, philosophers, weather patterns and of course, sports figures.

But it never launches too far over your head. Sure, the average TV viewer wouldn’t “get it”, and that unfortunately led to it’s demise, but you don’t have to be well versed in trivial knowledge to at least appreciate the show.

As a long time fan, and having sat through the entire series (this one lucked out and made it to a full 2 seasons) no less than 7 times (not exaggerating that figure), I can say that now, to me, it is the show that really got me into writing. There was a Mamet-esque feel to it that you never saw on network TV, at least not then. I never thought that something like that could exist on TV.

It’s one of the finest shows ever, and no one watched it. I want to share some of my favourite clips with you. Some are longer and heavier in material, others are shorter and show the wit and fun of the dialog. But it’s important to show how the writers and actors expertly maneuvered between compelling pieces of drama and the hilarious exchanges.

As with most clips, I highly recommend you rent, borrow, or even purchase the DVD’s, and watch the full episodes, so you can see them in context.

This first clip, from the second episode. Dan made some comments in a magazine interview that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana. The network brass didn’t much appreciate it, and ask him to make a public apology. This is what he said:

This one is another Dan one. Funnier. Shows his lighter side. And yes. That is Yeardly Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson. Please ignore the unnecessary use of the laugh track, most viewers did, and they got rid of it after the first few episodes.

Another serious one. Jeremy gets to produce his first piece. Unfortunately it’s on hunting, which he is opposed to.

Funny one for Jeremy. From the pilot, he’s interviewing for the Associate Producer job. (Spoiler: He gets it.)

This is a great one, especially for the under appreciated technicians of the world.

And let’s go out on a good one.

That’s it… that’s Sports Night. I hope you enjoyed the clips as much as I liked the show.

– Brodie Mann