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.
I recommend The Americans to anyone who hasn't seen it. The stories and performances are fantastic. Matthew Rhys as the doubt-filled undercover Soviet spy and Keri Russell as his true-believer wife are both off-the-charts terrific.
I actually watched the second season of American Gods several weeks back, so I don't remember much detail. But I recall it comparing favorably to the first season, which was a bit surprising given the drama during its production (more than one showrunner was involved, for example).
And I highly recommend The Americans! One of my favorite recent shows.
I've been watching Quantum Leap after running across it on the Comet channel.
I always wanted to see more of the "future" of 1999, but the show only gives occasional glimpses. One episode has Sam leap into a killer who is holding a family hostage -- and the guy Sam replaced escapes from the experiment headquarters and steals Gooshie's car, so Al has to track him down and bring him back.
The early season episodes use a technique where, when Sam leaps, each show begins with Scott Bakula doing a voiceover narration over clips from the previous episode. They dropped that.
And although the credits frequently show Sam kissing a series of hot blondes, the early episodes had him worry about the ethics and morality of sleeping with them under false pretenses; he's essentially impersonating someone they know. Al, the devil on his shoulder, doesn't see the problem.
In one, Sam leaps into a newlywed cop on his honeymoon, and spends half the show avoiding bedding his very willing bride, a law student .. and the other half fending off her jealous, murderous first husband.
This mission also affects the "future" of 1999, in that Al is testifiying before a Senate appropriations subcommittee that wants to pull the plug on the Quantum Leap project because it's not showing results. As it happens, Sam's been helping her study in the past and one tip changes the future; before Al's eyes, she becomes the chairman of the Senate subcommittee and doesn't cut the funding.
Sam gives her that tip after he's slept with her, though, and they stop worrying about it. Then in the Season 3 premiere -- in which things really go wrong and Al leaps into the past and Sam is the hologram -- Sam goes back to the Quantum Leap HQ and we learn he's married! That's one of the things that slipped out of Sam's famous "Swiss cheese memory." Sam's incredibly understanding wife swore Al to secrecy and preemptively forgives Sam for anything and everything he might do while leaping around.
Great, because I understand Sam wound up fathering a child along the way, too! Haven't seen those episodes; somehow, they weren't included in the rerun rotation.
We've just started watching Tales from the Loop. So far, great, though difficult to discuss already without posting spoilers.