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:

The original trilogy had a lot of problems, especially in internal consistency, which I ignore because I didn't take them seriously. When I am forced to take them seriously ... well, to paraphrase CK, it takes all the fun out of it.

Did somebody call my name? Thanks.

Captain Comics said:

As a secondary note, that's why I don't really care about the so-called fans who got made at The Last Jedi for not doing whatever it is they wanted it do, and the other group of so-called fans who are mad at Rise of Skywalker for some reason. I don't even understand those reasons, because, again, I refuse to take all this nonsense seriously. I just let Star Wars movies wash over me with my brain turned off, and walk out of the theater with a happy grin.

I have never, for a single second, thought about Star Wars continuity and the broader history and geography of the Star Wars universe. George Lucas never did, so why should I?

Yeah, really -- caring about all that stuff makes it too much like homework. Star Wars movies are NOT supposed to be homework.

"The more they take themselves seriously, the less I enjoy them."

Well put. I feel pretty much the same way about comic books. I read comic books for entertainment. Whenever I read a comic such as Incoming! or Hox/Pox, I feel the need to cleanse my mental palette by reading a Jack Kirby OMAC or Machine Man.

"Star Wars movies are NOT supposed to be homework."

Nor X-Men comics.

I am binging Succession. It's a riveting show about extremely unlikable people. As intriguing as it is, I am glad I am almost caught up on it, because sometimes I feel like I need to take a shower at the end of an episode.

On more genre-related TV news, I tried watching Doom Patrol after checking it out from the library. It's okay, but I can't get past the obvious production issues, such as Cliff Steele's "big race" with no one in the stands. I guess it's harder to get extras with all the TV being produced these days. They didn't show the empty stands, but they didn't show anyone even in a small group cheering to make it seem like maybe it actually happened. And Cliff Steele--in his Robotman body--protecting everyone from Rita Farr's sprawling, oozing body by lifting up a small amount of the road, which drives her back completely? It's okay at best.

During this winter time lull when a lot of shows are off the air so they don't compete with big events like the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl and the Grammys and the Oscars, I got caught up with all of my shows and needed something new to watch, and turned to This Is Us.

I got hooked.

I quickly plowed through the first and second seasons, and then the third, and am now just waiting for each new episode.

If you're not familiar, This Is Us is about the live and travails of the Pearson family, in the past, present and future. In the pilot, Jack and his very pregnant wife Rebecca -- she's carrying triplets -- are about to celebrate his 36th birthday when her water breaks.

Then we meet Kevin, a TV star who has a meltdown on set; he's the star of a lame sitcom called The Man-ny, and gets fed up with just how stupid it is. (How stupid is it? So stupid, the character is dumb enough to think he can breast-feed the baby in his charge.)

Next we meet Kate, who is morbidly obese and whose self-esteem is as small as her body is large. 

And there's Randall, a prosperous businessman who is living the American Dream. He has a well-paying job in the finance realm, a fabulous home, a stunning and driven wife, and two insanely adorable daughters. But there's a hole in his soul, which is filled when gets information he's been seeking his whole life -- the whereabouts of his birth father. He goes to the address and angrily berates the man for abandoning him at a firehouse when he was a baby ... and winds up inviting him to his home, as the elder man is dying of cancer.

The twist is that Kevin, Kate and Randall are Jack and Rebecca's children, all growed up. 

The show jumps around at different points in the timeline, showing Jack and Rebecca's courtship, wedding, and them coping with young parenthood, and the kids' elementary school years and teenage years, It follows each of the kids and their growing pains. Randall, being adopted and Black, tries hard to find his place in the world, and becomes Rebecca's clear favorite. Kate, who has a lifelong struggle with her weight, is a daddy's girl. Which makes Kevin the middle child, even though they all have the same birthday. It also follows them as adults and their ups and downs.

Tonight's is the third part of a trilogy focusing on each of the Pearson kids, specifically Kate. Kate has developed into my least favorite; she's always whining about her weight, even when it really isn't the problem. For example, at one point, she decides to audition to be lead singer in a band, but chickens out when she sees her competitors. Later that day, after the audition is over, goes back and demands to be heard, claiming they won't listen to her because she's fat. So the band manager says, "Go ahead. Sing for me. Right now." Kate is shocked and unprepared. "Go ahead. Let's hear something. Anything." So Kate sings a few bars of a tune and the manager tells her to stop. Then he calls over someone and says, "Hey, Janet, sing for us, would you?" Janet sings a few bars of the same tune and blows Kate out of the water. Then the manager says Janet is the backup singer; she used to be the lead singer but they found somebody better. To Kate, he says, "I don't care about your size, lady; you're just not good enough."

Randall and his wife Beth I like the best. They are a wonderful couple who really complement each other, although the writers put their marriage through a strain with an improbable storyline in which Randall, who lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia -- actually, across the river in New Jersey -- makes a run for city council in the city, and wins. (He ran in the district where his father lived.)

Kevin's story is appealing, too. He wound up quitting the sitcom, trying his hand at a play which led to a role in a Ron Howard movie (co-starring with Sylvester Stallone!). But he's struggled with knowing what he wants out of life, and also with sobriety. He also reconnected with their uncle, Nicky. Their father Jack had a falling out with Nicky during their days in the Army in Vietnam, an estrangement so complete, Jack considered Nicky dead to him, which caused his wife and children to believe Nicky really was dead. 

Tonight's episode sheds some light on Kate. The show has hinted that part of her self-esteem issues stem from a bad teenage relationship with a verbally abusive boyfriend. She also is in a crumbling marriage; she married a guy in her weight loss group, but is finding they aren't able to support each other through tough times (and a flashforward has us guessing as to whether she and Toby are divorced or if she's even alive in the future).

Looking forward to it. 

This is Us is probably our favorite television show currently on the air. I'm glad you discovered it and I'm equally glad you are enjoying it as much as Tracy and I are. Reading your synopsis has made me want to watch the whole thing again from the beginning!

I'm the only one in my house who likes This Is Us, I'm afraid. It's tear-jearker qualities turned off the rest of the household. (Particularly the buildup to The Final Fate of Jack Pearson.)

I love it. I love how it sometimes steps back and takes a deep look at one or two characters -- sometimes the key players, and even ones who aren't central to the storyline. Like the episode that focused on the OB/GYN who delivered the triplets and the firefighter who found Randall. They made them into fully rounded people, not just momentary plot devices.

And I like seeing that this family has its traditions (like Thanksgiving) and seeing where they began. 

And it has great casting. The kid and teen versions of Randall, Kevin and Kate are spot-on, and the girl who plays Randall and Kate's adopted daughter Deja is a winner. 

Now, some things about This Is Us are bonkers. Like Kevin; he's a semi-major Hollywood star, but he doesn't seem to spend any time promoting his movies.

And the whole business with Randall running for city council in another state makes no sense. Buying his father's old apartment building wouldn't be enough to establish residency in a district you don't actually live in. Any idiot could see that a three-hour commute -- longer if there's traffic, which there often is -- to go there to campaign was burdensome. Beating an incumbent who openly flaunts that "You're not one of us" by appealing to the Korean community -- which, implausibly, didn't react even more vehemently with "You're not one of us" -- because his brother is a TV star? That's science fiction! And then he won? 

I am so glad, however, that this didn't break Randall and Beth apart; they are absolutely a couple I'm always rooting for. 

Not so much Kate and Toby. I think they're a horrible match mostly because Kate is a horrible person. She's always sniping at her mother because she's jealous of her; she got mad at Toby for actually losing weight and getting healthy which is something she always talks about but never accomplishes. She was advised that having a baby was a bad, dangerous and risky idea, because of her weight and her age, but persisted -- and wound up having an emergency C-section and a baby born several weeks premature who is blind. And she and Toby can't support each other as a couple through this because their feelings about it are too different and she's not capable of listening and accepting what he thinks.

And she sold off Toby's vintage original Star Wars action figures! I don't get how "we need to make a nursery for our child" equates to "you need to sell your 'toys,'" but that's just terrible of her! Especially as Toby didn't complain about that raggedy T-shirt she wanted to wear at her wedding. That raggedy T-shirt was meaningful to her, and he accepted it; clearly, she does not think so about his possessions.

(I do blame Toby for not securing the items. He put them in a box marked "DNS" and thought Kate was supposed to know what that means? Were his fingers broken so that he couldn't fully write out "DO NOT SELL"?)

Here's a clip from tonight's forthcoming episode, from TV Line: "This Is Us Sneak Peek: Kate and Toby Clash Over Baby Jack's Future"

“I'm the only one in my house who likes This Is Us, I'm afraid. “

Really!

“It's tear-jearker qualities… (Particularly the buildup to The Final Fate of Jack Pearson.)”

Or the “jerk mu chain” qualities.

“I am so glad, however, that this didn't break Randall and Beth apart…”</b. Not yet. (But there is that flash forward we’ve seen…)

“Kate is a horrible person.”

I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, but Kate is definitely the least sympathetic character for all the reasons you cite.

All the child actors on this show are phenomenal. I am particularly enamored with Faithe Herman, who plays Randall and Beth’s youngest daughter. We’ve also seen her in a commercial, plus she was in the Watchmen TV show as well as the Shazam! movie.

One thing I like about the show is that a given episode may start with a particular scene which doesn’t appear, at first, to have any particular relevance to the story until the very end. For example, the episode which started with the couple who gave Jack and Rebecca the slow cooker.

(We ended up not watching last night's episode; we'll watch it tonight <i>for sure</i>.)

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“I am so glad, however, that this didn't break Randall and Beth apart….

Not yet. (But there is that flash forward we’ve seen…)

I don't know how caught up you are, but let's just say that part of that flash forward was a bit of a fake-out. Other parts of that flash forward, however, have left a LOT of unanswered questions:

  • Kevin has a teenage son? But who is the boy's mother? And is she Kevin's wife?
  • Where does Kevin live in the future? (One odd thing about the show is that Kevin and Kate are in Los Angeles, Randall and family are in the Philadelphia area, and mom Rebecca and Miguel are in Pittsburgh, but they show up at each other's houses like they all live on the same street.) 
  • We saw grown-up Tess, but not Deja or Annie -- where are they?
  • We saw Toby, pointedly alone in his home and not wearing a wedding ring. What does that mean?
  • Toby came to the gathering, expressing surprise that he would have been invited, indicating he hasn't been in touch with the Pearsons. Why not?
  • Toby mentions Jack -- his and Kate's son, all grown up -- is coming with someone but did not actually speak Kate's name.
  • We don't see Kate. Why not?
  • We don't see Miguel. Why not?
  • What's up with the child's game and the chalk?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Kate is a horrible person.”

I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, but Kate is definitely the least sympathetic character for all the reasons you cite.

*SNIP*

(We ended up not watching last night's episode; we'll watch it tonight <i>for sure</i>.)

I have seen it, and I'd like to discuss it (although maybe over in the "What Are You Watching Right Now?" thread). It goes far to shed more light on why Kate is such a sad sack ... but it didn't win me over. 

“I don't know how caught up you are, but let's just say that part of that flash forward was a bit of a fake-out.”

We’ve seen every episode (except last night’s) as originally broadcast, once. The details are probably not as fresh in my mind as they are in yours (I’m not even certain if we’re referring to the same flash forward), but I seem to recall a scene that indicated Beth and Randall are not together in the future.

Yes, what I remember could be a fake-out.

We will definitely watch this week’s episode tonight.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“I don't know how caught up you are, but let's just say that part of that flash forward was a bit of a fake-out.”

We’ve seen every episode (except last night’s) as originally broadcast, once. The details are probably not as fresh in my mind as they are in yours (I’m not even certain if we’re referring to the same flash forward), but I seem to recall a scene that indicated Beth and Randall are not together in the future.

Yes, what I remember could be a fake-out.

We will definitely watch this week’s episode tonight.

Well, since you have seen it, yes, Beth and Randall ARE together in the future.

The flash forward was originally presented while their marriage was in dire straits. They were both worn out from commuting into Philadelphia and juggling their respective responsibilities, plus she got laid off from her job as an executive at a nonprofit organization and decided to revive an old dream by becoming a dance teacher ... which Randall, in an atypical moment of jerkiness, denigrated on a voice mail. He did so because she was late coming a dinner at a fellow councilmember's home. When she showed up -- traffic, of course, plus her phone died (she said) -- she put on a great show as the supportive spouse. But the moment they left and Randall asked her to delete the voice mail and she let him know she heard every word -- ! Oh, man

In the flash forward, we saw Beth as a future Twyla Tharp/Judith Jamison/Alvin Ailey, running a dance academy while Randall was somewhere else with grownup Tess, and all them met at Kevin's house. When they arrive, Randall and Beth embrace warmly ... and she is wearing her wedding ring.

"Well, since you have seen it, yes, Beth and Randall ARE together in the future."

Okay, I do remember the scenes you describe. I guess I wasn't clear at which point in the future each occurred. I guess I can stop waiting for them to break up now. Thanks for clearing that up.

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