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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I think that's "Sergeant Save-a Ho," CK -- at least by season 5 -- but yeah, I've definitely noticed that tendency in Wojo in my scattershot re-watch of the series. (I'm doing it randomly, just recording several episodes from  MeTV a week, and keeping track of the episodes I've seen in an online log.)

On the whole, I'm really impressed with how well Barney Miller holds up. Even if some of the jokes & attitudes are dated, they assume an intelligence in the audience that surprises me. For instance, there was one episode that featured a running gag about a Goethe festival, and the last scene a character making a Faustian bargain -- the whole throughline would have been lost without a little bit of knowledge (not a lot) of the play.

I always loved the Dietrich character -- and surely identified with him, even on early watches as a kid -- but MAN, does Jack Soo kill it in every scene. Yemana is one of those TV characters that for some reason reminds me a little of my dad -- a working stiff with a quiet wit and a twinkle in his eye -- so I always appreciate spending time with him. 

Oh, and THANK YOU for that link to the We Stream TV blog -- I love reading commentary & hearing podcasts on episodes after I see them, and hadn't been able to find that for Barney Miller. 

Binging Dark Season 2. I loved Season 1, as my wife and I untangled all the timelines, but the downside of something this complicated.is that we forgot completely who was who by the time this season started, and -- by diving in without prep -- are completely lost.

But the show doesn't care, introducing new 33-year cycles and the same characters at new ages in the wrong places at a rapid pace. That alone makes it easy to forge ahead, because I don't get held up wondering, "Wait, why is that guy important again?" because the show moves on before it's an issue.

And everybody's getting into the zeitreise (time travel) game, even surprising characters like Hannah, who I didn't expect to be so important ... and awful. I mean, I'm no fan of Ulrich, but what she does to him is unconscionable.

Bonus: Learning German words like zeitreise.



Captain Comics said:

Binging Dark Season 2. I loved Season 1, as my wife and I untangled all the timelines, but the downside of something this complicated.is that we forgot completely who was who by the time this season started, and -- by diving in without prep -- are completely lost.

But the show doesn't care, introducing new 33-year cycles and the same characters at new ages in the wrong places at a rapid pace. That alone makes it easy to forge ahead, because I don't get held up wondering, "Wait, why is that guy important again?" because the show moves on before it's an issue.

And everybody's getting into the zeitreise (time travel) game, even surprising characters like Hannah, who I didn't expect to be so important ... and awful. I mean, I'm no fan of Ulrich, but what she does to him is unconscionable.

Bonus: Learning German words like zeitreise.


What he said!

Glad to hear the 2nd season of Dark is working. I've been putting off starting it. I might start tonight!

I've done the first four seasons of Schitt's Creek and am starting on the fifth.

If you're unacquainted, Schitt's Creek is about the travails of the Rose family: video store magnate John; his wife, socialite and former actress Moira; pansexual metrosexual son David, and ditzy debutante daughter Alexis. In the pilot, federal agents raid their palatial mansion and seize everything of value -- art, jewelry, furs, cars, furniture, etc. -- because a crooked manager at Rose Video embezzled from the company.  

The sole asset not seized from the hapless family is the small town of Schitt's Creek, somewhere in the middle of farm country in the middle of nowhere, purchased by John as a birthday gift for David a while back. Their new residence is adjoining rooms in a rundown motel.

At first, it seemed like a modern-day Green Acres, but it developed into something better than that. Creators Eugene Levy (dad John) and Daniel Levy (son David) describe the premise as "What if the Kardashians lost all their money?" The Roses are pompous and pretentious, but gradually, very gradually, learn to accept their new lot in life, learn to appreciate the yokels who populate the town, and make a real home there.

The yokels who populate the town include Chris Elliott as the mayor, Roland Schitt. I have always found him to be irritating and annoying, but that's his schtick. Fortunately, there are other characters to focus on.

And today, Schitt's Creek was nominated for four Emmy awards!

Oh my gosh, Chris Elliott is my favorite! Haha! Different strokes! He is just a piece of this amazing cast, though. Just last week, my sister discovered it. I told her to wait until she got to the end of season 2--my favorite episode. Great show all around.

ClarkKent_DC said:

The yokels who populate the town include Chris Elliott as the mayor, Roland Schitt. I have always found him to be irritating and annoying, but that's his schtick. Fortunately, there are other characters to focus on.

The Schitt's Creek Season 4 finale -- the one where Dad wants to host a Christmas party like the ones the family used to have.-- was touching.

Seasons 1 and 2 are fish-out-of-water stories. Seasons 3 and 4 are about each of the Roses letting go of their old lives, bit by bit, but it's very much a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of thing.

But this episode really made me feel for Johnny, who has, more than any of the family, tried to fit in under their new circumstances. (There was one episode where he and Moira go out for their anniversary to a nice restaurant in a neighboring town, and they run into some friends from their old lives. At first, they try to pretend they've landed on their feet, but the snide remarks from their old friends about the town get under Johnny's skin. It doesn't help that Roland and his wife Jocelyn join the group, and the friends don't stop. Finally, Johnny tells them off, pointing out that they ghosted on the Roses when they ran into trouble but Roland and Jocelyn are true friends.)

I spent a lot of wondering why Christmas is so important to Johnny, who is Jewish, but for him, it means togetherness and family, and it hurt him that they didn't want to celebrate how they've pulled together and each grown up somewhat. I haven't been in that circumstance exactly, but I could feel for him. Eugene Levy certainly earned the Emmy nomination he got today for Best Actor in a Comedy.

I'm binging Season 2 of grown-ish, the spinoff of black-ish that follows the adventures of eldest daughter Zoey Johnson in college. I didn't take to black-ish -- I can't relate to the premise -- but I like the coming-of-age vibe of grown-ish a whole lot better.

Over this season, Zoey's sophomore year, the stories of her and her circle of friends cover male-female-and-other relationships, cultural appropriation, feminism, depression and attempted suicide, ethics. Zoey makes a series of bad decisions that have bad consequences: partying all night before her chemistry final, cheating on the final because she doesn't know the answers, getting caught cheating, getting hauled before the deans, and getting put on academic probation --

-- all on parents' weekend, which means she is immediately confronted by her father and grandfather ,,, who find her boyfriend in her apartment. Dad is so upset (it doesn't help that he notices the boyfriend has a spliff tucked behind his ear), he decides he's made things too easy for Zoey and declares, "I'm cutting you off." And then, that same night, Zoey learns her best friend has started to date her first crush, an egregious violation of Girl Code ... and her boyfriend knew but didn't tell her, so she get mad at the best friend and the boyfriend. She puts her whole crew through drama before she comes to her senses.

grown-ish is a more real take on college than its spiritual forebear, A Different World. Our young adults here engage in casual drug use and casual sex that probably couldn't get past network censors (not explicit, just frequent); one of their friends is even a drug dealer, but he's not painted as a bad guy, just a guy financing his lifestyle.

This being TV, Zoey's crew is appropriately multicultural: one of her roommates is Jewish and bisexual, another is Cuban and Republican, and her other two friends are Black and are twin sisters (although the actresses who play them, Chloe Bailey and Halley Bailey, are sisters but aren't twins). Among her guy friends, several are Black but one is Indian. And everyone in the cast is fashion-model beautiful, which, admittedly, makes for a better TV watching experience.

Our lead, Yara Shahidi, is winningly charming -- she has to be, she narrates every episode, and frequently breaks the fourth wall, which sells Zoey's blend of insecurity and self-absorption and makes it endaring, not annoying.

I watched a couple of episodes of Grown-ish. IMO, the Zoey character is the least interesting of the kids on Black-ish, which I love. Watching unfunny, uninteresting Zoey and her apparently entitled fellow students doesn't work for me. The ensemble is missing something. Shoe-horning in the lovable Charlie character (Deon Cole) as an instructor isn't enough to help. I'll give the new spin-off, Mixed-ish, a chance. It already looks better in the promos.

Well, that's what makes horse races!

Caught up on Arrow -- we'd fallen behind maybe 10 episodes, but I wanted the wife caught up for next season when Oliver ... does whatever he's going to do for 10 episodes. 

When you watch a bunch of 'em in a row, they do seem a little repetitive. Well, more repetitive than when you space 'em out. I have to say some lines of dialogue were just awful, and some were just delivered badly. But worse, quite a few were both, as if the actors were pained to say them, or just tired of saying them, or didn't care any more. It's probably for the best that most of these characters are gone in their current form.

And, hey! We finally got a reason for Diggle to call himself Spartan! (It has to do with his step-Dad using "Spartan" training methods.) Also, Diggle's stepfather has the last name Stewart ... meaning John Diggle is actually John Stewart, at least in some corners of the multiverse, and almost certainly Earth-90.

The fights picked up a few new tricks toward the end: lots of spinning. But it got tiresome, especially since the good guys had guns and the bad guys (who were in robes for some reason) were armed with what looked like claw hammers. So, you know, guns beat hammers so it's kinda weird that the bad guys didn't go get some guns. 

I also found it tiresome that Oliver kept trying to "save" Emiko (whose name every character pronounced differently). She had crossed too many lines, and he was risking the lives of his team and Star City civilians on this quixotic quest. I was glad when she finally died.

One thing that really jumped out: The actor who played Felicity is by far the best actor on the show, and by far the best part of the show. It's a shame she won't be back for the last season, but then again, it's pretty foreshortened and won't be set in this status quo. It might be that every episode is on a different world, so it could be interesting regardless of the cast.

I'm sad in general that this show is ending, but watching this half-season I'd definitely say it's time. It's just run out of things to say.

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