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.
My wife and I binged the first two seasons of Babylon Berlin, and were mesmerized. This is awesome work, with spot-on clothes, cars and culture for its 1929 Berlin setting. This is fantastic, well-executed storytelling -- and a story worth telling, as Nazis, Trotskyites, Stalinists, and a host of other philosophies clash in a city that is simultaneously the richest and poorest in Europe, and where drug use, legal prostitution and a hedonistic nightlife rubs shoulders with reactionary German conservatism, all as the context for a quasi-police procedural, as our protagonist is a Cologne detective in Berlin on a mysterious mission. I can't recommend this enough.
I should note that Babylon Berlin is organized on the British/European principle, where each season is called a "series." There have been two series so far, of 8 episodes each, but Netflix is mysteriously combining them into one season. A third series/season is in the works, which I guess Netflix will call Season 2.
We also watched all but the last three episodes of The Rain before my wife lost interest. There is only one series of this show out, a Norwegian production about an apocalypse where rain water contains a lethal virus. It's essentially The Walking Dead in Scandinavia, with characters who are a bit more sympathetic.
We've started Troy: Fall of a City. The production values and cinematography are excellent, with the downside being that there are no surprises, since we all know this story by heart from The Iliad.My wife is enjoying it more than I am, so she'll be the one to determine whether we continue.
Finished Troy: Fall of a City, and it was decent.
The gods did manifest, but were kept to a minimum -- not nearly as invasive as they were in The Iliad. Mostly they just whispered suggestions, or inspired people by allowing themselves to be seen. And Achilles wasn't invulnerable, just a ridiculously good warrior. (He is the son of Thetis, after all.) With the supernatural elements held to a minimum, it was a much more affecting story of human folly.
I was initially irked by how many characters were black -- Achilles (son of Thessalonian royalty + Greek Nereid) Aeneas (founder of white Rome according to The Aeneid, and whose relatives are the all-white Trojan royalty), Athena and Zeus being real head-scratchers. As regular readers of my posts know, I am a strong believer that we shouldn't change history, even to give "out" groups a historical "in" that didn't happen. But I shrugged it off pretty quickly, especially given how great the Achilles actor was. Hey, if I can live with a black Heimdall ...
I can see that Troy: Fall of a City could disappoint those who are big fans of the Greeks. Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus and Menelaus come off pretty badly.
Production values were really good, and Cape Town, where it was filmed, made for convincing Asia Minor. Overall we enjoyed it
There were comments about Frank Miller's 300 that because the Spartans were white and the Persian forces were not that it was racist. Never mind truth.
They may have a point. The Greeks and the Persians are both descended from Indo-Europeans, so they would have looked a lot alike. Greeks, historically, have had an olive Mediterranean look, while the Persians might have had a more Semitic look, given their domination by Levantine peoples for centuries. But they had common ancestors. The Persians of BCE would probably have looked a lot like today's Afghans.
So it's preposterous, at least to me, that the Persians would have had any black leaders. Yes, race is a mostly modern construct (in anthropological time), but most BCE Persians would have never traveled more than 60 miles from where they were born, or seen a sub-Saharan person, and so would have regarded any as outsiders -- not as potential kings. And whatever sub-Saharans made it that far north would likely have been slaves traded from Egypt, which had extensive contact with sub-Saharan Upper Nile peoples.
And I posit slaves, because there's extensive evidence to reject the suggestion (made in the 20th century) that ancient Egypt was a wholly black civilization. The peoples and leaders of ancient Egypt would, again, have been originally Indo-European, mostly of Semitic descent, although there would have been some, possibly a lot of, mixing with sub-Saharan peoples in the lower classes. At any rate, the royalty -- those who might travel to Persia -- would have been Semitic or even lighter-skinned, thanks to intermarriage with Mediterranean royalty.for political alliances. DNA testing shows that Ramesses II was red-haired. And toward the end, Egyptian royalty was Greek. (Cleopatra was a Ptolemy.)
This is why I reject both White Jesus and Black Jesus. Mary and Joseph were lower-class Middle Eastern Jews in a society of Middle Eastern Jews. They, and their son, would look like their neighbors.
I may be off base, and I would respect any correction to my assumptions. But changing history to reflect current politics gets my back up. We need to remember history accurately, with all its warts, so that we don't repeat it.
And one thing that really bothers me is pretending that black people weren't always excluded from position, power and wealth in white cultures. They were, and we shouldn't forget that.
Captain, I agree with all of your points and you beat me to it. The only thing I will quibble with is the bit about Greeks being olive skinned. The Greeks and Italians closest to the Mediterranean tend to be olive skinned or darker while the northern parts of those countries can be blond and blue-eyed.
I appreciate the quibble! Northern Italy was originally peopled by, essentially, German tribes. So, yeah, you had a whole other DNA pool there. Still had Indo-European roots, but that's where you find your fairer hair, eyes and skin.
Finished the first season of Siren (Freeform). It's not appointment television, but it's a decent series that we enjoyed (once we watched everything else). It's about mermaids, but thoroughly updated and not beholden to any specific myth, legend or fantasy cliche that I'm aware of. I genuinely don't know where they're going with this, which is a good thing.
The special effects are nice, and the lead actress does in fact look as exotic as you'd expect. Oh, and the reason the mer-people are showing up is because they're running out of food. Overfishing, pollution and deliberate military effort is forcing them to the surface.
We moved on to the third season of Lost in Space. So much bettert than season two!
When I watched a lot of the episodes back in the 1990s I thought the pacing picked up season 3.
The best season was season 1, but the robot only acquired real personality later. It's my favourite character.
I think the episode where the robot is made a giant was likely the model for the Ant-Man/Vision sequence in The Avengers #93.
I really like the design of the Robot.
"I think the episode where the Robot is made a giant was likely the model for the Ant-Man/Vision sequence in The Avengers #93."
I have always supected that as well.
The budget was cut for the third season, but they added the space pod.
I last watched the entire series back in the '90s as well. Tracy and I started it once before in the early 2Ks, but we didn't get through the second season. I had season 1 on factory VHS and 2-3 on dubbed VHS. Now we have them all on DVD. If we ever watch it again, we'll probably skip the second season entirely.
We're watching the new Lost in Space. I love it, but my wife is kinda "meh" on it.
One thing I love is how they've reworked the characters to work better. (Don West, for example) and the entire premise makes more sense (with lots of colonists, not just one family). It's a real nail-biter, with a danger/action sequence every few minutes or so.
That same robot was on Forbidden Planet and Twilight Zone, possibly more.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
I really like the design of the Robot.