In this peak TV period, I thought we could use a thread on TV like we do the "Movies I Have Watched Lately" thread. I'll start with two:

ALTERED CARBON: Stupid name for a good sci-fi concept.

In this far future, humans can download their brains/personality/soul/what-have-you into chips called "stacks" that are located at the top of the spine. Nearly everybody has these stacks, and if your body fails you can load the stack into a new "sleeve," or body. The richer you are, the better body you can get. And the ultra-rich clone their own bodies, so they are effectively immortal. They are called "Meths" -- as in Methuselah -- and are just as awful as you can imagine. In the end, the rich win. Imagine that.

The Meth we get to know best is played by James Purefoy (Rome, John Carter, Solomon Kane) and he thinks he's become a god, or at least the difference between him and a god is so minor as to not be important. His stack is backed up every two hours to his own satellite, and if his body dies the stack is automatically downloaded to a clone. But when he is killed in a locked-room mystery in the two-hour window -- he doesn't remember how it happened, because his current stack didn't experience it -- he pulls the stack of a great warrior (an "envoy") who has been dead (and the stack preserved) for 250 years to solve the murder.

There's a whole mythology behind the envoys (as well as everything else -- the show is based on a series of novels) and we constantly see past lives, where the protagonist is usually Asian. We also see his lover and his sister in these past lives, where of course their appearance isn't static, either, so there's a little hurdle at first figuring out who the players are every time the Envoy has a flashback. 

There are some people who think the whole stack/sleeve business is an affront to God, and mark their stacks to not be resuscitated. They are called Neo-Cs (Neo-Catholic) and the cop who is A) gorgeous and B) immediately attached to the protagonist at the hip by the plot is one (or her family is, anyway). The ethics of this technology is explored through these characters.

The rich live up in the clouds, of course, in graceful spires that top out above the clouds, so they don't have to see how the other 99 percent live. which evidently is in Blade Runner. Seriously, Bay City (San Francisco metropolitan area) looks just like that movie, with the constant rain, the explosion of neon signs and people scraping by with food carts and such .

Sex is very straightforward in this show. There's frontal nudity for both men and women. Once I got over being surprised I came to appreciate it. Sex is pretty meaningless in this world, and it's presented that way. Once you get over the taboos being broken, you take in stride and don't think much about it. Which is consistent with how the characters view it. But if you're into boobs, trust that every pair in the cast will be naked sooner or later.

My wife enjoyed this more than I did. The F/X and writing are top-notch, but I found the acting a little substandard. The guy playing the Envoy also played Rick Flagg in Suicide Squad, and his acting varies from bland to blander. His sister, played by a thin Asian actress who's been in a bunch of other stuff I've seen, is even worse. I'm no actor. and even I could tell she was mis-delivering her lines. Purefoy just looked bored with the whole enterprise. The actress who plays one of the Pussycats on Riverdale -- the one that briefly dated Archie -- in in here, too, so you'll probably recognize her.

I enjoyed it well enough despite my misgivings, due to the cool concepts and great future world on display. And, as I said, my wife really liked it.

THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES: We just started watching this, and have only seen the first three episodes. I like it because I love history, and the show does a great job of depicting 1820s London. I guess. Anyway. It's pretty sooty and poverty-stricken, which is probably true.

The story here is about a "Runner" -- what cops are evidently called -- who is hired by a lord to find out who is killing children and sewing their dead bodies together. This threatens a bill he has in Parliament to make doctoring a profession and regulate it -- putting out of business holistic practitioners, body snatchers, barbers and a host of other dodgy types. 

Our hero is played by Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship, Game of Thrones), a guy mourning the deaths of his wife and child, evidently from syphillis, which he gave them. So he's not doing so hot, either, as syphillis isn't curable in 1827, when the show begins. 

I'm not really sure how policing works in this age. They don't call themselves police, and they only arrest people when the victim can afford a prosecution. As noted, our protagonist is paid directly by a lord, and a local police station ("court of magistrates") is at his disposal. I know our police at the time were basically escaped-slave catchers, so I find this situation likely. I just don't know the rules of the game.

Our Runner meets William Blake, who dies, and Mary Shelley, who is an integral part of the plot. (She's about 30 here -- Percy Shelley's been dead for 4 years, Frankenstein has been in print for about 12 years, and she won't die of a brain tumor for another 20 years or so.) I'm not sure what her game is yet, but she is clearly lying to our hero.

There is a lot of super-religiosity on this show. Some of it I think is a bit too modern; our hero and his assistant are shocked and totally against it when a street urchin girl says she's pregnant and she's going to "take care of it." I don't know what the attitudes about abortion were back then, but I doubt anybody would give a toss what happens to a street urchin's pregnancy. If our heroes had expressed concern about HER safety I'd buy it -- most people who tried to prevent pregnancies in back alleys up until the 1920s died of sepsis. Anyway, they find her a place to stay that will keep her until the birth. Lucky street urchin!

There's a lot of super-religiosity on display I have no problem with, as it was no doubt mainstream at the time. Not being part of a church would be very suspicious. 

They also have cast as our hero's assistant a black actor. I know that this is almost a necessity now, especially at the BBC, but I have to physically swallow my disbelief every time he's on screen and nobody seems to notice that he is black. I don't know how many black people there were in London in the 1820s, but I imagine whatever that number was they were all domestic help, or in some other subservient position. Here, our black guy is a Runner, a position of authority, and nobody even blinks. I would think he'd be such a novelty among the common folk that they'd turn and stare when he walked down the street in his middle class clothes, and I'd guess no white guy, criminal or not, would suffer being interrogated by a black guy. I just have to pretend he's white for his scenes to work.

I don't know where this is going, but my wife and I are enjoying it so far. Bean's his usual craggy, muttering self, albeit less physical than in previous roles. (He's not getting any younger.) We'll see it through to the end of the first season, anyway.

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“…the girl who plays Randall and Kate's adopted daughter Deja is a winner.”

Agreed. One particular (fairly recent) scene stands out for me: the one where they’re in the park, lying on the grass. She wants to trust him, but knows she’s so inexperienced that she doesn’t know whether or not he’s feeding her a line. She really pulled that off.

“I have seen it, and I'd like to discuss it…”

Ready when you are. (f you want to move it to “What Are You Watching Now?” I’ll find it.)

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“I have seen it, and I'd like to discuss it…”

Ready when you are. (f you want to move it to “What Are You Watching Now?” I’ll find it.)

I started a thread dedicated to the show over here: " 'This Is Us' Season 4 (and Others)"

A while back, I lucked into the DVD sets for all seven seasons of Mission: Impossible. I went through them and watched some fondly remembered favorites. Then I decided to watch the seasons in their entirety. I got through the first season this week.

This was the season without Peter Graves as Jim Phelps. Instead, the team leader was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill, who is most well known as New York County District Attorney Adam Schiff from the first 10 seasons of Law & Order.

As Briggs, Hill looked so plain you might think he was an insurance salesman, not a tough guy. But he could be steely and cold-blooded, sometimes shockingly so. 

This being the first season, the show was establishing its tropes, like Briggs going to some odd location to get the mission dossier and hear the recording with his instructions. But it was more than halfway into the season before they invented the tape that self-destructs in 10 seconds. Before that, Briggs had to dispose of it in low-tech ways, like dunking it in acid or tossing it into an incinerator. 

Another bit was when, after hearing the recording, Briggs would go to his way cool bachelor pad, look at photos of agents and toss them into two piles -- the ones he would choose for the mission and the ones he didn't.

It didn't make a lot of sense when Phelps did it, because he would invariably choose the same team -- Barney Collier, Rollin Hand, Cinnamon Carter and Willy Armitage. But in the first season, Briggs would sometimes choose other agents with particular skills, played by one-off guest stars like Wally Cox, George Takei, Richard Anderson, Eartha Kitt and others. I think that was the idea with Martin Landau, who was always billed as a "special guest star."

Also, back then Briggs might choose only two or three agents for a mission -- and sometimes he wouldn't join them in the field. Consequently, there are several episodes without Barney or Willy, and a few without Cinnamon or Rollin.

Speaking of those particular skills, although Rollin was "a man of a thousand faces," he didn't do the master-of-disguise bit all that often. And I didn't get why secret agents would have famous people on the team: Rollin was a stage performer, Cinnamon was "model of the year," Willy was a world-record-holding bodybuilder. Barney was the CEO of Collier Electronics, but most people wouldn't know of him unless they read Business Week or Black Enterprise (or maybe Ebony or Jet). I kept expecting somebody in one of their sting operations to say to Rollin, "Didn't I see you on The Ed Sullivan Show last week?" or spot Cinnamon's picture on the cover of Cosmopolitan

The Cold War looms heavy in these Mission: Impossible episodes. A few have the team going after "the Syndicate," but most have them infiltrating some made-up Iron Curtain country to steal a McGuffin, keep somebody from getting it, or depose its leaders. Somewhere in there is an understanding, or even a declaration, that they aren't supposed to assassinate anybody; frequently, however, they will pit one faction against another and skip out while their fall guy gets murdered by his partners.

One notable exception is late in the season after Hill gets phased out by the producers. As noted elsewhere, Hill was an Orthodox Jew who religiously observed the Sabbath, something everyone agreed to when he was hired, but a pledge that became a source of friction in practice. I don't understand why it was such a problem that he would leave early on Friday and take Saturday off; it's not like he was in every scene like, say, Jack Webb in Dragnet

In any event, Hill is conspicuously absent in one episode; it is Cinnamon who gets the mission briefing, and Rollin serves as the team leader in the field, as he had in several previous episodes.

In the next episode with Briggs, they are to stop an assassin in one of those Iron Curtain countries who is disguised as a government official. Their scheme is to have Briggs -- not Rollin, "the man of a thousand faces" -- go in disguise as the disguised assassin(!). Thus, Hill is out of most of the episode, and guest star James Daly does the heavy lifting, playing the government official, the assassin disguised as the government official, and Briggs disguised as the assassin. (Whew!)

Briggs shows up at the end to complete the plan. The man who hired the assassin planned to take him out, and the IMF thwarts the killing ... but Briggs, alone with the unconscious assassin, shoots him stone cold dead! Then when the body is found, Briggs uncovers the assassin's disguise and points the finger at the guy who hired him ... and the IMF team skips out while this latest fall guy gets what's coming to him.

In the four episodes that remain in the season, Hill has minimal involvement, partly because he sat out that one episode, and partly, I understand, because the network never thought he had the kind of leading-man star power they wanted. In Season 2, they fixed that by replacing Hill with Peter Graves.

I always wanted to like Mission: Impossible, but IU never quite got around to it. I remember being in the room when my older brother watched it, but I was too young to follow the plot. In the 90s I bought four VHS tapes of random episodes, which may have had two episodes per tape. At least one of those tapes featured Dan Briggs instead of Jim Phelps. (I remember one of them was about a photographer who had an underground studio...? Something like that.) Those tapes served as a good introduction, but I never followed up on getting the whole series.

When i think about how much money I spent buying TV shows on VHS! Now entire series are available on DVD at a fraction of the cost!

Hulu has select HBO content for free right now, so I'm taking the opportunity to finally watch The Wire. Almost through Season 1. I can see why it is spoken of so highly, and expect to keep going.

HBO and Showtime are offering free content, so I caught up on Seasons 4 and 5 of Ballers. It's a comedy-drama starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL player who has become a financial manager for athletes. As the series begins, he's based in a sports agency in Miami.

It drops in on several characters who all know each other but whose stories don't intersect. One is Ricky Jarrett, a client of Spencer's who is an aging quarterback with an impulsive streak and tendency to sabotage his relationships. Another is Vernon Littlefield, a running back who has an old buddy, Reggie, always whispering in his ear about what to do with his money. There's Jason Antolotti, a sports agent; and Joe Kruetel, Spencer's partner in the sports agency.

One of my favorite characters in the show is Charles Greane, another retired player who doesn't know what to do with himself. Over the course of the series, he moves from being a car salesman to making a comeback to coaching to different front-office jobs with different teams, ultimately becoming president of the Los Angeles Rams. Through it all is his loving wife Julie, who is my other favorite character in the show. She always provides him with wise counsel, builds him up when he feels down, doesn't take any crap from anybody, and always looks good. 

Since I gave up HBO And Showtime I've been relying on DVD rentals through Netflix's mail option unless it's something I want to own, like most Marvel and Pixar movies. The free HBO let us watch the final season of Veep without waiting for the DVDs. Gayle hasn't been able to go to a theater since 2017, but hopefully that will be possible after things open back up.

I've binged on several episodes of CSI: Miami, a show I never watched when it was live. In fact, I never watched any of the CSI shows live; I'm more familiar with the original show from the comics miniseries published by IDW. But hey, why not?

CSI: Miami is distinguished from the original show because, well, it isn't set in Las Vegas, and because in Miami, the CSI are actually police officers, so they have legitimate reason to be out of the lab and investigating crimes in the field. One knock against it is that it wasn't actually made in Miami but in Los Angeles, but it fakes it pretty well, with a glamorous visual style, and a cast full of fashion-model beautiful actors like Eva La Rue and Adam Rodriguez. 

And then there's David Caruso ... 

CSI: Miami was David Caruso's comeback after he left NYPD Blue in the greatest act of career self-sabotage since McLean Stevenson skipped out on M*A*S*H.* Here on CSI: Miami, he has some odd schticks and tricks. One is that when she speaks, he always stands not facing the camera, but in a three-quarter turn with his head down, and when he opens his mouth he then raises his head and looks at the person he's talking to. It becomes terribly noticeable when he does it over and over again several times an episode, and more noticeable when you see him do it several episodes in a row.  

*Over here on Mark Evanier's blog News From ME, he's rather sympathetic to McLean Stevenson, casting him as a guy who took a career gamble that simply didn't pan out.

Tracy got me watching all of the CSI shows when they were on. It became a huge time-suck. My replacement time-suck is the "Arrowverse" shows.

The other day I finished watching the first season of Amazon's Hunters, which deals with Nazi hunters in NYC during the late 70s. It was okay, and I really like the ending. Nicely sets up a second season.

I thought the show was kind of oddly paced, and seemed to really drag at times. Too many flashbacks for me. At times it seemed to be going for a Tarantino vibe. I don't know if I would necessarily recommend it.

The pacing is what got to me. I didn't get past the first couple episodes.

Fantastic premise. Amazing cast. No editing. (Or at least that's how it appeared.)

Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:

The other day I finished watching the first season of Amazon's Hunters, which deals with Nazi hunters in NYC during the late 70s. It was okay, and I really like the ending. Nicely sets up a second season.

I thought the show was kind of oddly paced, and seemed to really drag at times. Too many flashbacks for me. At times it seemed to be going for a Tarantino vibe. I don't know if I would necessarily recommend it.

I caught an all-day marathon of NCIS, another show I never watched live ... and soon found out why. It's boring.

Maybe it's that these CBS law-enforcement procedurals -- the CSI shows, the NCIS shows, the FBI shows, the Criminal Minds shows -- are all too much the same. 

The one bit I liked in one episode: David McCallum (whom the really old heads remember as Illya Kuryakin from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is a regular character, a coroner/forensic scientist named Donald Mallard, nicknamed "Ducky." The case of the week involved the murder of one of his old friends from university, so he was allowed to accompany an NCIS investigator to London.

Ducky gets reacquainted with the murder victim's wife, another old friend, and they get captured by the villain's henchman. Said henchman waves a pistol around and gloats and boasts about how painfully his captives are going to die. Ducky quietly takes out a gift: His first scalpel from his days in medical school.

The henchman gloats some more, saying "What are you going to do with that?" Then he makes the mistake of getting close. Without getting out of his chair, Ducky jabs the guy, once, in the crook of his right elbow.

The guy kept laughing until Ducky said, "I've just nicked your brachial artery." Then he noticed the blood running down his arm.

Ducky told him, "You're going to die in 90 secconds." He then said he might save the guy if he told him what he wanted to know. That was badass.

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