SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD


Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.


The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.


Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

Gal Gadot2

Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.


Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.

In Defense Of Online Reviews

The Daily Mail warns us: Don’t trust online reviews! A fifth are left by people who have NEVER tried the product.

In general, on topics far beyond this one, I’d warn against trusting The Daily Mail.

I do almost all of my shopping online as I simply do not have the time to go to stores, and rarely even make it out of the office before most stores are closed. Other than quickly running into a grocery store, I can’t recall the last time I was in a retail store. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I’ll even order items under $10 online, knowing that I will receive them in two days without any shipping costs. Amazon shows that I have placed 83 orders in the past six months, including orders for both home and office, but not including additional orders placed by others in my family.

Reviews are not needed for many items, but in other cases they are extremely valuable, especially when buying items which I have not seen. Sure, some are fake, but the article exaggerates the problem. The survey cited shows that over a fifth of responders have at some time reviewed an item they have not tried, not that a fifth of reviews posted are fake. Many are intentionally left as spoofs, and are easy to spot.

With a little common sense, it is not hard to go through the reviews and determine if they are worth considering. Many are a quick couple of sentences which may or may not provide useful information, but quite often there are reviews from users which are as detailed as a professionally published review. As they are reviews from someone actually using a product on a regular basis, as opposed to a brief time by a professional reviewer, they often do a better job of giving me the information I want to decide upon a purchase. Someone providing such detail is unlikely to be able to fake the review, and any attempts would be contradicted by other reviewers should they provide inaccurate information. In addition, reviews on sites such as Amazon often include updates as someone has used a product longer, and often include comments and questions to elaborate on the information. Having the reviews from many users provides further information, increasing the chances that the overall reviews are providing an accurate assessment. Plus I can quickly pull up additional reviews from additional sites, such as checking the comments on New Egg when buying electronics.

Amazon also indicates whether someone has actually purchased a product from them, and other sites do the same. Of course it is possible for someone to still write a good review if they purchased the product elsewhere. There are additional warning signs. I have sometimes seen products start out only receiving good reviews, often with similar comments. In such cases they are often followed by a comment from someone else pointing out that the reviewers do not have a history of leaving other reviews, raising suspicion. Unfortunately this also sometimes leads to arguments in comments with someone insisting their review is real and readers will have to decide for themselves whether to trust the review.

This doesn’t mean that there might not be problems with online reviews. Reports that many of the reviews on Yelp are fake is of greater concern as it wouldn’t be difficult to write a review which sounds legitimate for a restaurant which one has not actually gone to. Restaurant review sites also have the opportunity these days to provide some confirmation of legitimacy to their ads by having reviewers sign in at a restaurant on their cell phone to show they were there, even if the review is completed later.  Similarly, sites such as Trip Adviser might indicate whether a person had checked in at a hotel they review. Online reviews are a useful item on the internet, and technology can help make them more reliable.

Update: In the discussion of this post on Facebook, someone brought up reputation management firms which offer to scrub unfavorable reviews from the internet and write favorable ones. This could definitely throw off the value of online reviews, but not to the point where it would be necessary to stop using them.

These companies primarily “remove” unfavorable reviews by flooding the internet with favorable mention of a client so that these come up at the top of a Google search rather than unfavorable sites. This would not remove unfavorable reviews which someone writes at a site such as Amazon or Yelp. By working with information supplied by the company (and perhaps buying their own product) they could conceivalbly get away with posting favorable reviews listed as from verified purchasers with enough detail to sound real. This could tilt ratings, but if a product has problems which the planted reviews leave out, or if the planted review is unrealistically favorable, there could still be red flags when compared to other reviews from real users.

Oklahoma Republicans: Ban All Marriages To Prevent Gay Marriage

Republicans, who have a strange set of priorities for the party which claims to be the party of small government, have made a major priority out of making sure that two gay people cannot get married. Dump pollutants into the atmosphere or rip off consumers, and they won’t care, but if two people of the same sex try to get married, they are on it. Now that some courts are ruling that it is unfair to tell some people that they cannot marry the person of their choice, Republicans in Oklahoma have come up with a plan prevent same-sex marriage without discrimination: ban all marriage.

State lawmakers are considering throwing out marriage in Oklahoma.

The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it’s an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it’s what Oklahomans want.

“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all,” Turner said.

Other conservative lawmakers feel the same way, according to Turner.

“Would it be realistic for the State of Oklahoma to say, ‘We’re not going to do marriage period,'” asked News 9’s Michael Konopasek.

“That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it’s something that would be part of the discussion,” Turner answered.

Such a discussion will be made possible by a current shell bill — something that can be changed at almost any time to react to upcoming rulings on Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban.

“I think that, especially with issues like this, [these lawmakers are] out of touch with most Oklahomans,” said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU Oklahoma executive detector.

Kiesel says prohibiting all marriage is new territory. In fact, the ACLU was unable to find an example of where a state has ever tried to ban all marriage. Kiesel believes the entire idea just boils down to politics.

This is clearly unworkable, and might just be a publicity stunt. If they are serious, and willing to compromise, they might consider one idea which some advocates of marriage equality have proposed–have the governments provide civil unions instead of marriage for the current legal aspects of marriage without discrimination, and then leave the term marriage for religious or civil ceremonies. Anyone could have a marriage ceremony, but government would not be involved with the term marriage. I’d prefer to see a cleaner solution of governments not getting involved in saying who may or may not marry, but at least this idea would place everyone in an equal situation, with anyone being able to get married separate from government. Of course these Republicans are unlikely to go along as changing the term from marriage to civil union would not satisfy them if they are unable to continue to discriminate.

It might be interesting if Democrats call their bluff and do not vote either way on this, and then let Republicans deal with the backlash should they actually ban marriage.