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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He was also in one of the newer Planet of the Apes movies in a more dramatic role. I had no idea he had played psychotic killers as well.

Richard Willis said:

John Lithgow, who has played some silly characters, also played psychotic killers in the movies Blow Out (1981) and Raising Cain (1992), both from director Brian De Palma.

The first movie with John Lithgow I saw was The World According to Garp. My favorite was 2010: Odssey Two.

I loved both of those movies. Garp was especially good, IMO, because it closely followed the terrific book. Some things had to be left out but it managed to tell an almost identical story in a different medium, which I keep hearing is almost impossible.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

The first movie with John Lithgow I saw was The World According to Garp. My favorite was 2010: Odssey Two.

I've watched a few episodes of The Kominsky Method. I think I have finished the fourth. This is pretty good, even if it comes off as another "industry insider" look at the industry of acting from people who are in the industry. Like Entourage, this is one of the better ones.

Instead of being focused on the young people, though, this one takes a look at aging and being outdated in the industry. It stars Michael Douglas, Nancy Travis, and Alan Arkin.

It skirts the drama with quite a bit of humor. It's from Chuck Lorre, the creator behind How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, but it isn't your laugh track material.

We’re still working our way through The Addams Family (almost done!), but reading The Autobiography of James T. Kirk inspired me to watch several partial episodes of the original series.

After that I watched “These Are the Voyages,” the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. The TV series told the first four years of Captain Archer’s Enterprise (NX-01), but his mission lasted ten. The final episode was a holodeck flashback (run by William Riker and Deanna Troy in the 24th century) of that final mission.

Then I watched the original series episode “The Tholian Web” and followed it up with “In a Mirror, Darkly” (parts 1 & 2), which told how the Defiant came to be trapped in interstitial space and what happened next. Or before. (Whatever.) Because “In a Mirror, Darkly” showed Earth’s first contact with the Vulcan’s from the POV of the “mirror universe,” I followed that up with the movie First Contact. After that, I jumped ahead 88 years to “Broken Bow,” the first voyage of the Enterprise NX-01.

My next “project” will be to watch the fourth season (only) of Enterprise. After that, my intention is to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation in its entirety. Before that, though, Tracy wants to watch The Frankenstein Chronicles (which is fine with me, because I’m currently reading The Frankenstein Diaries for the second time).

I think you'll enjoy Frankenstaine Chronicles, as we did. A couple of things you'll just have to accept: There's a major black character -- a policeman, no less -- that no one seems to notice is black. (And he has the preposterous name "Nighitngale.") It's not a problem, but the first season and second season have such radically different premises that they could be two different series. (Both enjoyable, but still.)

On the plus side, you get a look at early London police organizations slowly coming together. You'll meet the Bow Street Runners and River Police. (Sean Bean begins as one but very quickly becomes another.) I think you'll also meet the London Police, which then and now has jurisdiction over exactly one square mile in the financial district. Once you start figuring out jurisdiction and public unease with the whole enterprise it starts to make a lot of sense -- as does Ripper Street, which happens about 70 years later, where Bow Street has become the Metropolitan Police, but police still ID themselves by saying what station they're from instead of "metropolitan police." 

I don't have a lot to add on binging, as the holidays interrupted our TV time and my wife and I are still polishing off the third season of Van Helsing. After that, we're going to ample The Expanse, about which we've heard a lot of good things.

"I think you'll enjoy Frankenstaine Chronicles, as we did."

We watched the first episode last night. So far, so good.

Bear with me, I was born in England but had my fourth birthday in Los Angeles. Those of you who actually live there may very well correct what I say.

The square mile The Captain speaks of is the City of London. Apparently this was the site of the Roman settlement that they (and the Batman TV show) called Londinium. It remains a separate jurisdiction for policing and other civil matters even though it's surrounded by the county of Greater London, which most of us think of as London. The police force is what we Americans would call Federal or State Police. Some American TV shows will erroneously say that a police officer was "transferred" from Chicago to New York, which isn't possible. The officer would have to quit one city's force and be hired by the other. The United Kingdom police are organized by country (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). A transfer within any of those countries is very possible. I don't know if a transfer from England to Scotland would be allowed.

Thanks for the precis, Richard! My understanding of this square mile of jurisdiction is entirely derived from British TV shows -- and although they all seem to be consistent on the subject, it's still TV!

I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but I had an epiphany watching Ripper Street that, in retrospect, makes me look pretty dopey! But ever since I was a lad, I've heard references to "Scotland Yard" that indicated that this was an impressive branch of British law enforcement. Sort of like an FBI or Special Crimes Unit. But it suddenly dawned on me that "Scotland Yard" is a STREET NAME, where the higher-ups in the London Metropolitan Police Force work. So a message or messenger from Scotland Yard doesn't get immediate attention because those guys are so awesome, but because they have higher ranks than those at the precinct level (or "station level," I think it's called over there.)

This dawned on my watching Frankenstein Chronicles and Ripper Street after a lifetime of erroneous assumption because the cops on those show would almost always identify themselves not by saying "police," but by saying what station they were from, which was established by STREET NAME.

So in Frankenstein Chronicles, the Sean Bean character often IDs himself by saying he's "from Bow Street," which was the first station in London, or using the colloquial term "Bow Street Runner."

Ripper Street takes place 70 years later, and while the Metro force was still a little controversial, there were lots more stations. The main action takes place in Whitechapel, where H Division works. But almost none of the officers say "I'm from Whitechapel" or "I'm in H Division." They say "I'm from Leman" -- Leman Street, where the station house is. (Neighboring Limehouse is policed by K Division, but I don't remember their street name, which they almost surely used.) "Leman" was the catchall term to indicate the area (Whitechapel), the squad (H Division) and the physical location of the station house.

Being promoted to Scotland Yard was something that was done in Ripper Street, so that was my first clue that it wasn't a separate branch of some kind. Then I got to thinking about street names, and sure enough,  a quick Google told me that I had been wrong about what Scotland Yard was for 50-odd years.

I feel more ashamed than usual.

I just looked it up. They've moved a few times over the years. Apparently, Scotland Yard was the read entrance, not the front entrance. Probably when the police always entered and left by the back entrance. The only thing that's actually on Scotland Yard today is the stables for the horses the mounted police use. The building, and its sign, are still Scotland Yard regardless of location.

I have been watching Homecoming on Amazon with Julia Roberts. (No, I haven't been watching with Julia Roberts, although that would be...preferable.) It is not what I expected. I thought it would be about people coming home from war and dealing with their PTSD. But this is much more of a mind-bender!

So, unlike Heroes in Crisis (a.k.a. Identity Crisis 2), what this show adds to the PTSD experience is much more interesting, in a very good way.

Sorry, I can't help taking jabs at IC2: HiC when I get a chance.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY - “Lurch’s Little Helper”: We finished our binge of The Addams Family last night. Four episodes from the end came this one featuring Robbie the Robot. We now have Robbie in two feature films, two episodes of Lost in Space and, now, The Addams Family. We followed our binge with…

STAR TREK – “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”: Featuring Ted Cassidy as Rok.

BATMAN – “Batman’s Anniversary / A Riddling Controversy”: Featuring John Astin as the Riddler. (He’ll never replace Frank Gorshin, but he makes the role his own.)

MAD ABOUT YOU – “Up All Night”: Featuring John Astin as himself. A perfect coda to The Addams Family.

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