TV shows I am binging

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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  • Our hero is ... 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. 

    My understanding, based on Wikipedia, is syphilis doesn't develop into tertiary syphilis in all cases and the interval before it does varies.

    I'm not really sure how policing works in this age. They don't call themselves police

    They'd be Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police didn't exist yet: they were formed in 1829 under Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel (hence the nicknames "Peelers" and "Bobbies"). Wikipedia tells me the Thames River Police were formed in 1798, so they might show up too. Peel was later Prime Minister.

    A fictional memoir Richmond, or Scenes from the Life of a Bow Street Runner appeared in 1827.

  • Sean Bean was in the River Police before he got hired by the lord, and started working out of Bow Street. So both of those are mentioned. I guess Bow Street is an anachronism, showing up two years before it was formed.

    As to the syphilis, our hero is heading into third stage as the show begins. He's had it for a number of years, which he describes as "coming and going" to a doctor he goes to when a chancre forms on his hand. My wife and I gave each other a look when he said that. Obviously, that's not true -- syphilis never just goes away, and short of an antibiotic, isn't cured. It just goes underground for a while. But it's re-surfacing now on our unfortunate Runner. The doctor indicates he's heading into third stage and give him some (useless) mercury as medicine. Just to drive the point home, Sean gets to see an advanced third-stage victim at a hospital, and it's horrific. So that's where the show's going, which is sort of depressing.

    On the other hand, the brother of one of the. main characters mentions something about a homeopathic medicine he's developing, which shows some promise. "It involves bread mold ..." So, there's a gun on the mantlepiece.

  • The Bow Street Runners preceded the Metropolitian Police (and continued to exist for awhile after their founding). They were founded in the 18th century by Henry and John Fielding. Henry Fielding was a magistrate as well as a novelist and playwright, and his brother succeeded him.

  • Well, I'm still binging on ER. I got up to the 15th and final season, but avoided watching the last half, because there were a few episodes in the seventh, 12th and 13th season that I've missed.

    Critics complain that it wasn't so good in the last several years, as it relied on too much craziness instead of honest drama. Things like

    • a smallpox outbreak that called for the entire hospital to be shut down.
    • Dr. Romano losing his arm to a helicopter rotor.
    • Dr. Romano losing his life a year later when a helicopter crashes on top of him.
    • Nurse Sam Taggart's diabetic son runs away from home to find his dad in Colorado because he thinks now that he's got a job, the family can come together again. Unfortunately, Sam hasn't told the boy that her ex isn't coming home because he's in a federal penitentiary.
    • Doctor Gregory Pratt getting blown up in an ambulance.

    I just saw the one where trio of convicts -- one of them Sam's ex-husband -- shoot their way out of the place and kidnap Sam, having previously kidnapped their son. Before the story ends, Desk Clerk Jerry's been shot, Doctor Luka Kovac is temporarily paralyzed from a drug the crooks gave him to abet their escape, Doctor Abby Lockhart has her baby prematurely, the getaway driver causes a cop to crash his car, the ex murders both of his partners, the ex rapes Sam, and to cap it off, while he's sleeping it off, Sam shoots him full of holes. And she doesn't know that her son saw her do it.

    Oh, and there's the whole star turn of John Leguizamo, who guest stars for several episodes as Doctor Vic Clemente, a new hire as chief of the ER with a shady past. This includes a relationship with a cop's wife in New Jersey. Said wife comes to Chicago and they hook up again. Said wife's husband comes to Chicago and shoots her full of holes. Clemente takes her to the ER, of course, and she croaks, "Vic? He did it" before passing out, which leads everyone -- especially the police -- to think Clemente was the shooter. She survives, but then the husband starts stalking Clemente, so he becomes quite paranoid and sleep deprived. He barely hangs on to his job, and loses it entirely when he goes out for coffee and gets into an argument with a cab driver -- and jumps on the cab's hood, kicks in the windshield and urinates on it. Hoo boy ...!

    But there are some honest moments of drama. The late John Mahoney was in one where his partner is brought in -- it was 11 years ago, so gay people weren't allowed to marry, which becomes painfully evident when his partner's family shuts him out, despite the fact they've been a couple for 15 years and they haven't spoken to him that entire time.

    The aftermath of Doctor Michael Gallant's death is handled well, as his widow, Doctor Neela Rasgotra, learns his parents have spilt up -- dad's career Army, mom's fed up with being an Army wife -- and she spirals into despair. And there's a great episode featuring Angela Bassett detailing her character's past. So I'm hooked to the end ... again.

  • 15 seasons ... is a LOT!

  • I'm glad you created this, Cap. I thought of doing something similar myself, but never did, so...

    I've been binging on Cheers, myself over on Amazon Prime. I did just noticed a couple of weeks ago that the last 2 seasons (of 11) aren't available on Prime.

  • I've been binging on The Good Place. I liked it during the first season, but didn't keep up. So I watched the entire first season on Netlix, and have been catching up on the second using NBC On Demand on Sling TV.

    Also The Mist (the Netflix series based on the Stephen King novel) and The Dark (another Netflix, produced in Germany, but there's an overdubbed English version).

    And I'm about three episodes into Altered Carbon, which I like so far. Also a few episodes into the newly released 4th season of the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.

    How are you watching The Frankenstein Chronicles, Cap? Sounds interesting.

  • I'm binging Westworld.

  • How are you watching The Frankenstein Chronicles, Cap? Sounds interesting.

    It's new on Netflix.

  • The missus and I are also watching Myths & Monsters, a BBC documentary on European myths. There are six episodes, and we've watched three.

    It purports to explain why these particular stories were important to the culture and why they endured, but they don't do that nearly as much as I'd like. I'm familiar with most of the myths -- what I don't know is why Jason could dump Medea (and his children) with no consequence or why that particular myth endured when others didn't.

    Anyway, it's a good refresher on myths I'm familiar with (Norse, major Greco-Roman, Dracula) and a primer on many I'm not (Koschei the Deathless, Irish Fomorians, minor Greco-Roman). That's kind of interesting.

    Most of the bits have limited animation (panning and scanning, minor movement) and the artwork looks like the style used in Castlevania. I'm not a huge fan, but it does the job.

    There's also a lot of pompous blithering made almost palatable by English accents. On most episodes, you can skip the last few minutes where the narrator simply uses big words to say that things like life, death and war are Very Important Topics.

    I'm sure we'll get back to the last three episodes after we've binged the other stuff we like better. (The second half of Season 1 of The Tick drops tongiht! Spooooon!) But we only give it a B or a C.

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