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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I have the first season of Lost in Space on factory VHS, and seasons two and three on dubbed VHS. The new Netflix show has put me in the mood to watch it again, so I just reacquired it on a DVD series set.

Cool. Thanks for the info, Richard!

Richard Willis said:

Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:

I finished the first 9 seasons of Cheers on Amazon (wish they had the last 2 seasons, Woody's wedding is amazing).

All eleven seasons are on Hulu. We recently saw the whole thing. You could see them in the 30 day(?) free trial.

I started watching the eighth and final season of Laverne & Shirley. Back in the day, I watched it for the first season or two, but lost interest.

I recall one episode from the first season in which a sailor names Sal Malina proposes to Laverne and she says yes, only because she's afraid she'll never get asked again. She admits to Shirley she doesn't love Sal but she'll learn to love him. Shirley impresses upon Laverne that she shouldn't marry if she doesn't feel "goosebumps."

Laverne admits this to Sal. His response? "Ah, you'll learn to love me!" But Laverne presses, asking Sal if he's ever been to the dance with a girl who was crazy about him; yes, it was a blast, Sal responds. But have you been to the dance with a girl who just wanted to be at the dance, Laverne asks. Sal's answer? "It was a long evening."

They did a sequel to that episode years later. Oddly, they kept saying Laverne rebuffed Sal "10 years ago" even though this episode was in the seventh season. Anyway, Sal has retired from the Navy and is a rich businessman. He proposes again -- but this time, he wants to be sure Laverne feels goosebumps. She still doesn't. So that's that.

What got me invested was the eighth season premiere in which Shirley gets married -- and it's not to Carmine, the long-time boyfriend throughout the run of the show. I didn't watch it then, but I was curious as to how that would all shake out. On screen, Shirley was dating a soldier named Walter Meeney, and he proposed, so she said yes. As for Carmine, he had a whirlwind romance with another girl, so it was all good. 

Off screen, Cindy Williams engaged in a contract dispute with the producers. She was pregnant and made various demands to accommodate her condition. When the producers refused, she quit and sued them. So Walter got shipped out an overseas posting and Shirley joined him, and from the third episode on, it was essentially "Laverne" without Shirley!

I understand they might have kept a Shirley-less show going into a ninth season, but Penny Marshall wanted to move production to New York. The producers were unwilling, so they pulled the plug. 

I am about half way through season two of Lost in Space. I see now the incredible influence this show, more than any other I think, had on me growing up. I wish I had started a discussion, but I’m too far into it now. Tracy was enjoying it, too, up until it got super campy. We started watching it years ago, but abandoned the project when we got to this point. Tracy doesn’t remember much about the episodes, and I haven’t seen season three since the ‘90s. The only thing that maintains Tracy interest is answering a quiz (from a book) after every episode.

Has anyone made it through the Netflix Lost In Space revival? If so, what did you think of it?  I watched the first three episodes but the characters and set up just didn't grab me. I haven't been motivated to watch the remaining episodes.

I did, and I really, really liked it. Ten episodes is much too short of a season. I'm trying not to get too worked up about it, though, because who knows how long the wait will be until the second season? If you watched the first three episodes and they didn't grab you, you probably wouldn't like the remaining seven any more.

I would have enjoyed the revival more if they had simply gone with the original series premise, added modern effects and avoided the campi-ness.

Well, let me tell you this, then. [SPOILERS] By the end of season one, the Robinsons become separated from the rest of the expedition and are shunted through a space warp to the Robot's home system. In season two, they will be well and truely "lost in space." Also, I think the premise that the Robinsons were part of a group of explorers rather than a lone family of "space pioneers" is a bit easier to swallow.

Hmm. That does sound interesting. Maybe I will give it another try.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Well, let me tell you this, then. [SPOILERS] By the end of season one, the Robinsons become separated from the rest of the expedition and are shunted through a space warp to the Robot's home system. In season two, they will be well and truely "lost in space." Also, I think the premise that the Robinsons were part of a group of explorers rather than a lone family of "space pioneers" is a bit easier to swallow.

I finished watching the eighth and final season of Laverne & Shirley. It was clearly, painfully out of gas at that point, despite changing the setting from Milwaukee to California in the sixth season; Laverne, Shirley, Laverne's father and his wife Edna Babish, and friends Carmine, Lenny and Squiggy all move to Burbank. They make a new friend, Rhonda Lee, an aspiring singer/dancer/actress.

I understand Laverne & Shirley was expected to end with the seventh season, so cast member Betty Garrett -- who played Edna Babish, Laverne's stepmother -- signed on to a Broadway show. When Laverne & Shirley was renewed, they carried on without her. Then Cindy Williams quit two episodes into the eighth season, so they bumbled about while down two cast members,

Oddly, Eddie Mekka (Carmine), Leslie Easterbrook (Rhonda) and Phil Foster (Frank DeFazio) are prominently featured in the opening credits but are not billed. Michael McKean and David Lander are still around as Lenny and Squiggy, and they are often billed in a clip that shows the two of them, but McKean is absent from several episodes and sometimes Lander is billed alone. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. 

It also seems that in this season, they don't feel the need to have all of the cast members in every episode. Many focus almost entirely on Laverne, and there are two that heavily showcase David Lander in dual roles. In one, he plays a defecting Russian ballet dancer ("Squigmanov") who is mistaken for Squiggy; in another, he dons drag and plays Squiggy's sister. There's also one in which Squiggy is reacquainted with his deadbeat dad, and painfully learns that leopards don't change their spots.

Along the way, there are guest stars. Laverne gets to dance with The Spinners; applies for a job at the Playboy Club with Carrie Fisher and they both meet Hugh Hefner. Jim Belushi and Adam West each show up as one-episode love interests for Laverne. Charles Fleischer, best known as the voice of Roger Rabbit, is Laverne's goofy co-worker in a couple episodes.

There are also a couple episodes that focus on Carmine. Carmine delivers singing telegrams, but is an aspiring actor and dancer In one episode, he becomes a one-hit wonder when he appears on a dance party show -- Jay Leno plays the host -- and sings "Do the Carmine." The song and the dance become a national sensation, until a self-appointed guardian of public morality objects and Leno immediately caves. 

in the series finale, Carmine decides to go for it, move to New York and try to make it as an actor. It was really strange to see the footage of New York in early '70s -- not only do we see the World Trade Center in the skyline, there's a movie with "SEAN CONNERY AS JAMES BOND IN DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER." I guess there must have been some jumps in the Laverne & Shirley timeline, as the show was set in the '50s at the beginning.

In any event, Carmine auditions for Hair, quickly becomes roommates with a fellow actor who finds a cheap apartment by reading the obituaries, and gets the gig. The final scene is of Carmine and the Hair cast having a party in his apartment. This was a backdoor pilot for a spinoff, but nothing came of it. 

Seeing Michael McKean on this show I never would have predicted his future career as an excellent, versatile character actor.
Moving the show to California was a bad idea, IMO. I think I bailed shortly after they did that.

Richard Willis said:

Seeing Michael McKean on this show I never would have predicted his future career as an excellent, versatile character actor.

True. He's good at comedy and drama. And he and David L. Lander were a comedy duo for a long time. They were doing the "Lenny and Squiggy" schtick even before they were cast on Laverne & Shirley, although they had to tone it down and clean it up for TV, because they worked blue. Plus, the producer asked Lander to change Squiggy from "Squigliano" because thought Laverne & Shirley was stocked enough with Italian characters. So Squiggy became German, "Squigmann."

Lander has struggled more with his post L&S career. For a while he dropped out of acting and became a baseball scout. Also, he developed multiple sclerosis, and necessarily had to give his attention to his health first. He's become a frequent spokesman for MS causes and for finding a cure.


Richard Willis said:

Moving the show to California was a bad idea, IMO. I thin k I bailed shortly after they did that.

I bailed well before that, but I can't say I see the change in setting as a big improvement, either.

Watching this run of episodes, Laverne & Shirley comes off as a low-rent copy of I Love Lucy, especially in how it invents excuses for several of the cast members to break out in song and dance. That's something you don't see much in modern sitcoms.

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