Friday, August 28, 2015

Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters

So many television series are returning from the dead, "Twin Peaks" and "The X-Files" are probably the most high profile of them, but there are others out there, like the inexplicable "Coach," and one that should have been given a better chance, one that was mishandled and ruined by the powers-that-be... I'm talking about "Heroes."

I loved "Heroes," and so did everyone else, for the first season at least, and then it lost its way. Personally I blame Jeph Loeb, who similarly ruined the Marvel Animated Universe. I made some too-little-too-late suggestions hoping to save "Heroes," but the writing was on the wall, the show was doomed. Now it's getting a second chance. Perhaps the bad taste of the second and third seasons have been washed away, and that old magic is possible again.

"Heroes Reborn" begins five years after the start of the original series, with a special series of webisodes called "Dark Matters." This is really only fitting as the show was one of the first to be actively interactive with other media, why not ease us back into the "Heroes" universe in this way, right?

If you haven't watched yet, be warned, spoilers ahead.

Reconnecting the audience with elements that did work from the first season we meet Phoebe Frady (Canadian actress Aislinn Paul), who can 'steal light' and manipulate shadows. Like the Cheerleader, she documents her power discovery on YouTube. Unfortunately we are now in a world well aware of powers. Super-powered individuals, or EVOs, are watched carefully and discriminated against.

If you're feeling the heavy Civil War and X-Men vibe, you are not alone and it's probably on purpose to cash in. Substitute mutant or superhero for EVO, and you've got Days of Future Past and/or the Superhuman Registration Act all over again. It's pretty blatant, and as cool and engaging as Phoebe's story is, the shadow of the unoriginality of her world covers it up.

Phoebe is spurred on to show her powers by the HeroTruther, whose YouTube rants not only update the viewers on the new world status quo, but encourage those EVOs who have gone underground to show themselves. As we follow Phoebe's journey of discovery and she learns to use her powers, we learn that EVOs are being put in camps and sterilized in Russia and China, and that here in the States, some companies only hire 'humans.'

Phoebe's disappearance and reappearance in Odessa TX, at a EVO terrorist attack that destroys the city, kicks her brother into action investigating her apparent death. As it turns out, the attack was blamed on Mohinder Suresh, and the PrimaTech Paper Company now called Renautas is behind it all. HeroTruther is similarly revealed as an old friend. The story continues in "Heroes Reborn."

"Dark Matters" is available on YouTube and OnDemand, and "Heroes Reborn" premieres on NBC September 24, 2015. I'm giving it a second chance, are you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Unauthorized Full House Story

Full disclosure up front here, I don't think I've ever seen an entire episode of "Full House." The Bride was/is a fan, so a full episode may have been on while I was in the same room, but... it just was never my thing. I just wasn't watching all that much TV in the late 80s and early 90s, especially sitcoms.

I was aware of the show however. How could I not be, right? It was huge, even before the Olsen twins exploded. And I knew John Stamos, from "General Hospital" of course. But to me, it just seemed like another innocuous sitcom. I like sitcoms, don't get me wrong, but not the unsurprising formula ones like this - or so I've heard.

After the success of the 'unauthorized' treatment of "Saved by the Bell" by Lifetime, it seems as if this type of production will be appearing more often on the network. What's really frightening about this one is that every actor seems to be doing really bad and over the top impressions of the celebrities. But then again, earlier unauthorizeds for "Three's Company" and "The Partridge Family," among others, have done much the same.

Here's the thing though, "Full House" has something special other previous unauthorizeds did not - a unified cast currently working together on a new version of the show to comment on this movie. The cast is presently working on the new Netflix update of the show, "Fuller House." They expressed mostly disdain and disappointment. Having watched it, I'd have to agree.

So where was Alanis Morissette? Wasn't "You Oughta Know" about Dave Coulier? If there's one story from behind the scenes at "Full House" that needs to be told it's that one...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blunt Talk and Tunes

This past week featured the premiere of the new Starz series "Blunt Talk" starring Patrick Stewart and created by Jonathan Ames. I was looking forward to this one more for the creator than for the tenuous Star Trek connection. While it was fun to see Brent 'Data' Spiner show up in the first minute of the opening episode, I'm sure that the adventures of title character Walter Blunt, played by Stewart, may well turn off most Trek fans.

Stewart plays Blunt, a British war vet and newscaster who's come to America to do a news/opinion show, the kind that I hate so much. One drunken escapade with a transgender prostitute, and Blunt is in trouble, and continuing his downward spiral as he takes drugs and lies to his employers. This dark humor is what I tuned in for, not Star Trek.

I'm a big fan of Jonathan Ames. His novels, columns, and especially his HBO series "Bored to Death" are full of this type of sarcastic darkness, and I love it. Stewart plays well in this world, and is a comic delight to watch. One particular scene in an airport bathroom in the second episode had me in hysterics. Stewart has a real talent for physical comedy.

The real bonus for me watching the first few episodes was the song "Miss Cindy" by The High Decibels in the first one. Sort of a hip hop rockabilly, it grabbed me right away, so after Shazam-ing and SoundHound-ing it, I sample-listened to the two albums by the band on iTunes. I dug it, a lot, and bought both. Seriously, there's not a bad song in the bunch. When was the last time you bought an entire album where you liked every track, let alone two? Great stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Star Trek Morning Coffee

This past Friday I had the opportunity to speak with friend, fellow writer, and TV host Kristin Battestella at the RadioVision Network on their program "Morning Coffee." The topic was Star Trek, in the movies, and on television, in all of its various incarnations.

We discussed the original series and what made it work, moved on the animated series, and into the movies. We talked about our love for (and apparently we're the only ones) for the much-maligned "Enterprise," about "The Next Generation" and its spin-offs "Deep Space Nine" and Voyager."

We also talked about the movies - how Wrath of Khan was the best, and what was right and wrong about all the others, from The Undiscovered Country to the new reboot of the series. It was a great discussion, you can check it out here. Thanks to Kristin, Morning Coffee, and the RadioVision Network.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fear the Walking Dead

New territory. That's what AMC's "Fear the Walking Dead" is about. More than the bottom line of greed and money and cashing in on the idea of a companion series to the wildly successful "The Walking Dead," it's about unbound, source material-free storytelling.

As most folks know, "The Walking Dead" is based on the black and white Image Comic from Robert Kirkman. When he brought the series to television he made sure that it was different from the comics. While some of the characters, situations, and storylines are similar to the comics, they are not the same. Kirkman's thinking follows two lines of thinking - first, the television series is an alternate universe to the comics, and second, if the viewers knew what was going to happen, why would they watch?

Still, in AMC's "The Walking Dead," if you read the comics, you did have some idea of what to expect, whether it played out that way or not. "Fear the Walking Dead" would be a whole new game however. The series would be clearly taking place in the same universe, but be happening in Los Angeles as opposed to the Atlanta area, and would also be more of a prequel.

"Fear" would occur while Rick Grimes was in a coma in the early days of the 'zombie apocalypse,' (and yes, I know there's no Z word in this world) before the original series. We may even learn how this all started, something that has never been fully explored in the comics. New territory.

From the previews, it would seem to be a subtle and gradual zombie takeover (how long was Rick's coma anyway?) that simultaneously conjures images of both Ferguson unrest and 1970s Battle of the Planet of the Apes. We're looking at military vs. walkers and a family caught up in the transformation of mankind from top of the food chain to prey on the run, at least from the quick cuts we've seen.

I'm looking forward to seeing Kim Dickens. I loved her in "Deadwood" and "Treme," but hated her in "House of Cards" and "Sons of Anarchy," so I'm also looking forward to finding out which Kim Dickens we're getting. I've always been a Ruben Blades fan and it will be fun to see Elizabeth Rodriguez in a starring role outside of "Orange Is the New Black."

So I'm excited for some new territory with "Fear the Walking Dead," maybe some answers, and maybe better stories than we have seen the last few seasons of "The Walking Dead." The series begins tomorrow night, and Marie Gilbert will be covering it for Biff Bam Pop!, watch for it right here.