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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Yeah, don't watch Chernobyl if you're already depressed. Especially the scene with the dogs.

Finished off Season 2 of Happy! last night, which turns out to be the end of the series. That was clearly a surprise, because the last episode had a major change in the status quo and a clear change in direction -- that, sadly, we'll never explore.

It was a really weird show, both slapstick and shockingly violent. Not to mention the premise, which involves an imaginary friend, voiced by Patton Oswalt. And it was all made up after Season 1, which used up all the GN material (and in which the lead character died). 

But I really enjoyed it. Christopher Meloni was a marvel, playing a character virtually the polar opposite of his staid cop on Law & Order. He even says at one point, "I should have been a policeman on TV," which was unexpected and hilarious, but there were no other nods. Just knowing what he used to do, however, made his comic -- and violent! -- turn here even funnier.

And what other show could prompt my wife to say "That Little Bo Peep is just a slut."

So long and thanks for all the fish, Happy! It was fun knowin' ya.

Happy Season 2 was wondrously outrageous, and I was looking forward to Season 3. Rats!

I'm not sure why Happy hasn't clicked with me. I love over-the-top comic violence -- Preacher is a favorite -- but I never seem to be in the mood for Happy. I never really feel like there's anything behind the depravity & shock value with the show. (I suspect it simply comes down to me liking the characters and cast of Preacher more -- not that there's anything wrong with the cast of Happy. I agree Meloni's great.) 

I'll definitely get around to seeing the rest of season 2, though -- it's all on the Tivo, and Kathy likes it more than I one of these days, I know she'll turn her eye toward it. 

I watched the first episode of Happy, and while I did like it, it didn't click with me either. I felt more like, "That was good. I don't need any more of it."

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

I'm not sure why Happy hasn't clicked with me.

I had a blast with Happy all the way through. Liked it more than I remember liking the comic, too, but I need to revisit it.

One show that really did click with me was Dead to Me. It stars Christina Applegate and the older sister from Freaks and Geeks. At the end of the first episode, I thought I was done. The ending pretty much spells out exactly how the tenth episode is going to end. Or so I thought.

It has all kinds of twists and turns that have you believing one thing and then another, and it is incredibly entertaining.

If you haven't checked it out yet, I really suggest that you do so. It's on Netflix.

I just tore through the entire first season of Doom Patrol in about five days, and I'd say it's hands down the best live action DC adaptation ever done for television.

Some random thoughts on the series:

  • The group's lineup consists mainly of the classic Silver Age team (along with Crazy Jane and Cyborg), but the tone and atmosphere are all pure Grant Morrison.  If you're a fan of Morrison's late 80's/ early 90's run on the book, you'll probably love this.  In addition to Crazy Jane, Danny the Street, Flex Mentallo, Willoughby Kipling and the Cult of the Unwritten Book all have major roles.
  • The show apparently shares a continuity with Titans, but is set in its own unique universe (similar to the way that Supergirl is set in a different universe than Arrow and The Flash.)  This was a good decision on the showrunner's part, as I'm not sure how well this program's mood and style would fit in with its predecessor. 
  • Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser and Alan Tudyk are all clearly having a blast as the Chief, Cliff and Mr. Nobody, respectively.  There's something very appealing about watching actors who clearly relish their job.
  • Diane Guerrero is a revelation as Jane.  I've always enjoyed her roles on Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but those shows have never given her all that much to do.  Here, she's doing an amazing job distinguishing between Jane's various personalities, and if this program were being seen by more people, she'd probably be getting the type of praise that Tatiana Maslany got for Orphan Black.
  • I'm also loving the performances of Matt Bomer and April Bowlby as Larry and Rita.  Their roles aren't quite as showy or over-the-top as the rest of the main cast, but they're still doing great work, and are definitely worthy of lots of praise.
  • Speaking of Rita, this may be my favorite interpretation of Elasti-Girl ever.  Giving her more Clayface-like abilities just makes the tragedy of the character more believable than the shrinking and growing powers she traditionally had in the comics.  Here, she has to actively concentrate at all times just to maintain her human shape -- let alone her good looks.  Anytime she starts becoming aggravated or even a little nervous, she begins to melt into a gelatinous pool of slime, which has given her a near crippling social anxiety.  It's perfectly understandable why this version of the character would be treated like a freak and outcast.  (From what I understand, this is actually in-line with the Post-Flashpoint/ New 52 portrayal in the comics, but I haven't read any new Doom Patrol comics in years.)
  • I wasn't sure about Cyborg's presence on the show, but as the season wore on, he started to feel like a thematically-perfect fit.  I also wasn't really enamored with the performance of actor Joivan Wade at first, but he had really grown into the role by the end of the season.
  • Lots of praise is also due to the show's writers for somehow managing to find a near-perfect balance of humor and pathos.  Legends of Tomorrow's writers should take note -- the humor on that program frequently feels forced and unnatural to me, and will often even undermine the drama.  Doom Patrol's humor always feels like a natural extension of these characters and the completely ridiculous situations they're always finding themselves in.
  • Who would have ever though you'd see a live action version of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man on television?
  • Episode 14 gave me the biggest belly laugh I've had at a television show all year.  Yes, it was an extremely juvenile sex joke, but it's still making me chuckle several days later.  Let's just hope that this show continues to float under the radar of whatever easily-offended corporate executive was responsible for cancelling Swamp Thing.  I'm really going to miss this if it get canceled too.

Anyway, if you can't tell from my inane ramblings (and you aren't put off by Grant Morrison-like weirdness and lots of bad language) then this show gets a huge recommendation from me.

I completed the run of It's a Living, a silly sitcom from the '80s that had a couple of seasons on ABC and then another four years in first-run syndication. It was about the lives and loves of a quartet (a quintet in the first season) of waitresses at a restaurant called "Above the Top" at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.

This show put Ann Jillian on the map as brassy, man-hungry Cassie Cranston, although the lead was Susan Sullivan as Lois Adams, a mother and wife whose airline pilot husband was never seen on screen. The other waitresses were Barrie Youngfellow as Jan Hoffmeyer, Gail Edwards as aspiring actress Dot Higgins, and Wendy Schaal as the virgin naif from Iowa, Vicki Allen. Rounding out the cast were Marian Mercer as Nancy Beebe, the imperious maitre'd; Paul Kreppel as Sonny Mann, the sleazy lounge singer/pianist, and, in the first season, Bert Remsen as Mario the chef.

In the second season, Sullivan and Schaal were gone, replaced by Louise Lasser as Maggie McBurney, a widow who returned to work. Maggie combined Lois's mother-hen qualities and Vicki's ditziness. And there was a new chef, Dennis Hubner, played by Earl Boen. Dennis was in a troubled marriage (with a wife who also was never seen on screen) and Nancy kept coming on to him, although he was not interested in the slightest. Why the show kept playing up that angle I don't understand.

Thanks to the 1980 writer's strike, the show barely finished its first season and limped through a second, under the name Making a Living. After it was canceled, Ann Jillian worked in other sitcoms and TV movies, and then developed breast cancer, and became a public advocate for seeking a cure. This revived interest in It's a Living, and it came back in 1985.

In this go-round, Maggie was gone, and Jan moved up to be the new mother hen of the group. Replacing Maggie was Crystal Bernard as Amy Tompkins, another virgin naif, except she was from Texas and very religious. There also was a new chef, Howard Miller, played by Richard Stahl, which let the show go on with the business of Nancy chasing after the chef, who usually brushed her off. Eventually, however, she caught him, and Howard and Nancy married in Las Vegas.

Jillian left at the end of the first revival season, and was replaced by Sheryl Lee Ralph as the new sexpot, Ginger St. James. Ginger was an aspiring fashion designer who juggled several boyfriends -- and, at one point, two fiancés. When confronted, she didn't choose, so one bowed out and the other kept seeing her. Eventually, though, he wanted a commitment she wouldn't give, so they broke up ... and he got married the next week. Before the show's end, both Ginger and Amy found their Mr. Right and had a double wedding at the restaurant.

It wasn't a great show but was entertaining enough, with an attractive cast and enough dumb situation comedy contrivances to bring on the laughs. 

I like Barrie Youngfellow... just caught her in an episode of Barney Miller a few weeks ago. And she's Andy Travis's love interest (and Linda Rondstadt stand-in) in a memorable (if not particularly good) episode of WKRP.

I remember that episode of Barney Miller (but then, I've seen 'em all). In "Kidnapping," Barrie Youngfellow played Marsha Dixon, a prostitute whom Wojciehowicz arrested along with her business manager. Wojo had a rather ugly tendency to play "Captain Save-a-Ho" and then belittle the women he brought into his orbit, like he does here. You can watch the whole thing below:

Look here for some commentary on the episode.

Back then, before Magnum, Wojo was the only Vietnam vet portrayed on TV (or in the movies) who wasn't a criminal, a lunatic or both. I kinda appreciated that, even though he wasn't portrayed as very smart.

Wojo was intimidated by Harris, who was pretty smart, and both of them -- and Barney, and Fish -- were intimidated by Dietrich, who knew everything. 

Yemana was not intimidated by Deitrich, because he was cool like that.

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