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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Captain Comics said:

15 seasons ... is a LOT!

Yeah, 15 seasons is a lot, but ER is worth it. There are no truly bad episodes of ER; it's more that it came out of the gate so strong that some episodes don't reach the level of excellence that it set for itself.

Like "Hell and High Water" in the second season. This was the one in which Doctor Ross desperately rescues a kid who is stuck behind a grate in a culvert that is filling up with flood water -- so the kid might drown if he doesn't first succumb to hypothermia -- and then commanders a TV station helicopter to take him to County General. Details here, from TV Guide"ER: The Story Behind 'Hell and High Water'" 

And there's "Love's Labor Lost" in the first season. It is, without question, one of the absolute finest hours of episodic television ever produced, so wonderful and harrowing that I don't know when or if I can ever stand to watch it again. I know that's a perverse recommendation, but really, it's that good. Details here, from TV Guide"ER: An Oral History of the Powerful, Groundbreaking "Love's Labor Lost'"

The second half of Season 1 of The Tick dropped Friday (Feb. 23) and we watched two of the six episodes -- goofy fun, and we'll finish it off soon.

We had to take a hiatus on Frankenstein Chronicles. Both of us were expecting a continuation of Season 1, but Season 2 is almost a different show, with characters played by the same actors and using names we know, but they seem to have entirely different agendae and motives than Season 1. And some principals, like Lord Hervey, Lord William and Mary Shelley, are entirely absent. We watched two episodes before we jointly decided we were utterly lost.

Then it dawned on me: This is a BBC production. They do things differently across the pond, such as filming a standalone series, and then if it's a hit, ginning up a sequel and trying to gather up as many of the original actors, writers and showrunners as they can -- which is never all of them. (Many already have new gigs to pay the rent.) We had this experience with Broadchurch, where the first season was a taut and tense murder mystery, and the second season was almost a (bad) sitcom that completely bollixed a couple of key points of the first season. 

And, sure enough, I checked and Frankenstein Chronicles Season 2 was filmed two years after Season 1. So, with that in mind, we are going to re-watch the first two episodes of Season 2 without expectation, and hope we follow it better.

But probably not very soon. iZombie returns this week, along with Lucifer, Flash, Arrow, Black Lightning, Gotham and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Jessica Jones Season 2 drops March 3. Walking Dead and Legends of Tomorrow are also back live. 

In the words of Professor Hinkle, "Busy, busy, busy!"

Points for the Professor Hinkle reference!

We re-watched the second episode of Frankenstein Chronicles. It made much more sense the second time.


Skipper, what did you think  of Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch?

Captain Comics said:

We had this experience with Broadchurch, where the first season was a taut and tense murder mystery, and the second season was almost a (bad) sitcom that completely bollixed a couple of key points of the first season. 

Frankenstein Chronicles sounds interesting to me. Last summer Tracy and I watched every Franenstein movies we could find, and I have read several books which contimue the legend as well (not to mention I've read the original several times). This Saturday, Tracy and I will attend a new version of the play in Dallas. We will arrive an hour early to attend a lecture about this particular adaptation. After that we'll likely check out Frankenstein Chronicles.

Fine, I guess. David Tennant was the star, and his associate more or less the co-star, so Whittaker was part of the ensemble in support of those two -- she gets a decent amount of screen time, but she's not the star. Her son is murdered and her family falling apart, so she's grief-stricken most of the time. That's pretty one-note by definition, so I don't have a lot to say.

(The same is true of her husband, who is always crying or about to cry.)

She's married to a plumber. I don't know what the social classes are in England, but she's not rich by any means. Is plumber working class? I think she and her husband do reasonably well, owning their home and raising two kids. They appear to be what would be middle class in the U.S., or maybe lower middle class. Ordinary folks. She has a mild accent that I assume is accurate to her character. (Not posh.) 

At one point in the story a local reporter is trying to sell the story to a big London paper, and the editor asks if the mother is good-looking. The local guy replies "wild English rose," so she's considered very attractive on the show. (The editor replies "get pictures.") 

Incidentally, the local vicar is played by the guy who plays Rip Hunter on Legends of Tomorrow. As far as I can tell, he does not have the diocese tattooed on the back of his neck.



The Baron said:


Skipper, what did you think  of Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch?

Captain Comics said:

We had this experience with Broadchurch, where the first season was a taut and tense murder mystery, and the second season was almost a (bad) sitcom that completely bollixed a couple of key points of the first season. 

Interesting. I'm curious about Whittaker as she's going to be the next Doctor in Doctor Who, so I'm hoping she's got good acting chops.

I saw the (3rd?) series of Broadchurch and thought she came off well. She was now a victim counselor rather than just a "grieving mother in shock" and so had less of a one-note character to play. (Same character, more nuance.)

Still binging on ER. I doubled back to the seventh season because I missed the first half dozen episodes. These covered Doctor Jing-Mei (Deb) Chen, and her growing realization that she can't not tell anybody about why her belly is growing.

Yeah, she's pregnant. 

She checks out an adoption agency, and the agent lets her know most Asian women, in her experience, don't go through with adoption; most don't even make it past that initial conversation.

She gives the baby daddy the news -- he's a nurse -- and in the same breath asks him to sign away his parental rights so the child can be adopted.

She's avoided telling her parents because she knows their reaction won't be pleasant. She's proven right when her mother comes by to invite her to Thanksgiving dinner. Mom strikes up a conversation with Nurse Abby Lockhhart's mom, who spills the beans. ("Doctor Chen? The cute one who's pregnant?") Jing-Mei declines to come to Thanksgiving dinner -- it was hard enough working up the nerve to face Mom and Dad, but the whole family, too? -- but shows up anyway and meets Mom in the kitchen. Mom assures her that the parents will accept things, but Jing-Mei asks if they would if they knew the father is Black. The look on Mom's face gives her the answer, and she leaves.

Doctor Chen gives birth, and the adoption agency has found a couple -- a Black man and an Chinese woman -- who come to witness the birth and take the child home. Chen declines to let them in, and the woman immediately becomes afraid Chen will back out. After the delivery, Chen refuses to look at the baby. A social worker insists she should, for lifelong peace of mind. 

This, of course, further introduces the risk of Chen backing out, which is her right by law. But the putative parents really freak out when Chen breastfeeds the baby. Assurances from the social worker that this is normal don't calm their fears. 

In the end, though, Chen gives up the baby, and all is well.

I carried on with ER through the eighth season, featuring the Final Fate of Doctor Mark Greene.

Poor Doctor Greene has developed a brain tumor. He also has struck up a romance with Doctor Elizabeth Corday, and they're expecting a baby. Greene has brain surgery in New York, and they hope he'll recover fully. But he has cognitive impairment -- he confuses words, like saying "she" when he means "he" -- and ER chief Doctor Kerry Weaver.calls the medical board on him to prove his competence.

They decide to get married, and the wedding day is one of those "if anything can go wrong, it will" kind of days. (Weaver is not invited.) It's raining cats and dogs, so his teenage daughter's flight from St. Louis is delayed. He goes to the hospital because he forgot his wallet, and finds his car being towed away as he leaves. The tow truck driver at least lets him retrieve his tuxedo. He tries to take the el train, but a tree fell on the tracks. He tries to take a transit bus, but there's a traffic jam. 

He goes back to hospital to borrow somebody's car, and Doctor Peter Bienton, who is going to the wedding, gives him a ride. However, it's still raining cats and dogs -- and his daughter's flight was canceled -- and there's a crash up ahead. So Greene and Benton go play doctor, and Greene gets a ride to the church in the ambulance.

What a day!

Eventually, Doctor Corday has her baby, and all is good ... for a while.

Later, Greene's bratty daughter, Rachel, shows up. She's bickering with her mother -- Doctor Greene's first wife -- and comes to stay. Which does not prove to easy. Rachel is a typical rebellious 14-year-old, breaking curfew, playing loud music, not cleaning up, yelling when she's called out on it. But she's also smoking, and sneaking drinks, and dabbling in drugs, and yelling even louder when she's questioned about it.

One day, she's babysitting baby sister Ella while Doctor Corday takes a nap. The baby wakes her up, crying inconsolably, and then throws up. Corday notices a fragment of a pill in the vomit. Rachel checks her backpack: There was some ecstasy in there.

Oh, crap.

They take the baby to the hospital and work their magic and she comes out fine. The family, however, is fractured. Corday is beyond furious, and even more so that Greene won't call the police or kick Rachel out. Corday moves out, for a while.

And the brain tumor comes back. And this time it's inoperable. He can do chemotherapy, which will give him another six to nine months. So he starts chemotherapy, but after a bad day -- he can't control his right hand, his coordination is off and he keeps falling -- he decides not to do it any more. He tells his wife he's not giving up; he's making a choice. He'd rather have two good months of freedom than spend six dealing with radiation and hospitals. 

So he leaves, for the last time, telling Doctor John Carter on the way out that "You set the tone."

In a later episode, the day begins with a fax arriving at the ER. It's a letter from Doctor Greene, and Doctor Carter reads it to everyone. Doctor Greene and the family have gone to his boyhood home in Hawaii to be together, and he describes beautiful sunsets and walking on the beach. He tells everyone that he wouldn't have done anything else in life, and how grateful he was to work with the people at County General Hospital, and please don't take my not saying goodbye as any slight on their character and professionalism; it was a great privilege to work with you all. 

And then, Carter reads, the postscript to the letter, from Doctor Corday: Doctor Greene died that morning.

We've started watching Penny Dreadful but so far have watched only one episode.

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