SciFi Weekend: Legends of Tomorrow; The Flash; The 100; The Gilmore Girls Diet

legends_of_tomorrow_2

We might have to wait until 2017 for another season of Doctor Who under a new show runner, but there is plenty of other time travel science fiction on television. A new time travel show, 11/22/63, begins on Hulu in about two weeks. One new time travel show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just recently started, and other genre shows also deal with time travel.

After seeing the completion of the second part of the season premiere of Legends of Tomorrow, I plan to stick with it but have concerns. The show had three elements. There were the superheros fighting regular people, but this was no contest. There was the fight against Vandal Savage, but he is both immortal and we know he nothing can happen to  him until the end of the series as it is all about stopping him. Then there were the time travel elements, including whether Martin Stein will meet the woman who is to become his wife, or if their travel to 1975 messed this up. Unfortunately it was far too simplistic for anyone who has seen time travel stories. At least the interactions between the cast members kept the show interesting, leaving hope for the series if they can improve upon the writing now that the setup has been established.

Plus the show could benefit by bringing in other members of the DC Universe, including some from other Berlanti television shows. Stephen Amell  will appear as the Arrow on a future episode, except it will take place in 2046:

“Every once and a while, we do an episode where the 10-year-old me has to pinch himself,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim says. “We’re not only introducing our version of Connor Hawke to our universe, we’re going to meet the 2046 version of Oliver Queen, and Stephen Amell is going to be reprising his role from Arrow. As an added bonus to comic-book fans, Oliver is missing his left arm and will be sporting a goatee, in a nod to the character’s appearance in the seminal Dark Knight Returns. We think this episode features some of the coolest things we’ve ever done.”

…Amell isn’t the only familiar face from the Berlanti-verse set to appear on Legends. Among the others: Arrow’s Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) and Ra’s al Ghul (Matthew Nable), and The Flash’s Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), while there’s a very strong chance we’ll see a younger and/or older version of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) as well.

The Flash -- "The Reverse Flash Returns" -- Image FLA211b_0152b -- Pictured (L-R): Matthew Letscher as Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, Grant Gustin as The Flash, and Amanda Pays as Christina McGee -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Flash is getting into some really timey wimey stuff, including having the Reverse Flash reappear after we saw him eliminated last season. The catch is that we are seeing a version of him earlier in his time line. Andrew Kreisberg discussed the show with Entertainment Weekly. Here is part of the interview.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How different is the dynamic between Barry and this Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher) since he’s from an earlier timeline?
ANDREW KREISBERG:
What’s interesting about it is this Thawne hasn’t experienced last season yet, and Barry has. On Barry’s side, there’s a lot stronger feelings — a lot more anger, a lot more betrayal, and in some cases, that’s blinding Barry to what he needs to do. It’s really an episode about Barry coming to terms with what he wants to do and what he should do regarding this version of Thawne. There are some great surprises and some character interactions between this Thawne and all of our characters. Again, they all have the benefit of having enjoyed last season and he hasn’t.

Without making my head hurt, are you going to explain how the Reverse-Flash is back given Eddie’s (Rick Cosnett) death?
Yup. [Laughs]

When Barry ran through the time stream last year, he saw himself in jail. Will that be addressed this season?
Not this season. There’s a very famous comic book, “The Trial of The Flash,” where Barry was arrested for murder. We wanted all of those little future things to have a little nod to the comics, which is why we saw The Flash museum and why we did that little bit. It wasn’t something that was consciously have planned, per se, but it was a fun way to honor the comic book. While it always goes through our filter, we do tend to take a lot of stories and ideas from the comics, and that was a way to honor the comics.

How is Barry handling losing Patty (Shantel VanSanten), and could this open up his eyes back up to Iris (Candice Patton) again?
That could definitely happen. Right now, he’s reeling a little bit. Zoom is the splinter in his foot; it’s the thing that’s out there and ruining everything for him. What’s really going to happen after Patty’s last episode, which is this week, is it’s really this need to get Zoom. Barry is still haunted by that video message that Wells [Tom Cavanagh] left, which said he’s never going to be happy. Now that he’s lost Patty, he’s decided that stopping Zoom is the only way he’s ever really going to be happy and disprove Wells/Thawne’s hypothesis.

What can you tease about the identity of Zoom and when we might learn more about him?
We’ve never played this card down on a villain before, which is neat and interesting to us. As the season progresses, more will be revealed. We obviously don’t want to give too much away, because we’ve made his identity a mystery that’s part of the ongoing storyline. We’re really jazzed about the storytelling choices that we’ve made this season. So far, the audience has gone with them, and we hope they’ll continue to do so.

NBC is going to have their own time travel show:

Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke are making Time for NBC. Literally.

The Peacock network has ordered a sci-fi drama pilot from the respective creators of The Shield and Supernatural titled Time that follows an unlikely trio who travel through (wait for it… ) time to battle a brilliant criminal intent on altering the fabric of human history with potentially catastrophic results.

The 100 Season 3

The 100 returned for its third season. So far I haven’t liked it as much as the previous two seasons, but there has been a lot of setup and I’m hoping for improvement as we get into the new story lines. The final scene of last week’s episode when Clarke met an old friend or enemy was certainly interesting. Entertainment Weekly asked creator Jason Rothenberg and actors Marie Avgeropoulos, Bob Morley, Christopher Larkin, Eliza Taylor, Devon Bostick, and Richard Harmon about the season. Here is some of what they said:

…about the time-jump

“There’s relative peace when we start, so the people are able to take a breath, explore, and map the region. They’re building a real, functioning civilization, which they haven’t had a chance to do since they landed because they’ve been getting killed every second of every day. Now they can do that. And then the s— hits the fan.” —Rothenberg

…about Ice Nation

“[They] are a bit of an unknown. They’re quite renowned for being very fierce and aggressive. [Skaikru] are really not expecting that kind of welcome that they give them.” —Morley

…about the Big Bad

“This season you have to decide who the bad guy is and what side you want to be on, because one of the things Jason [Rothenberg] is doing a great job of is putting the leads all over the map and on all different sides — fighting each other and not even knowing they’re fighting each other.” —Harmon

…about Clarke

“I think fans will be very surprised with how Clarke has changed and been hardened by and broken by what she’s had to do.” —Rothenberg

“I think everyone is just going on with their lives [without her]. There’s not a lot you can do about somebody who wants to just leave and be on their own. You can sit there and wallow in it or you can just carry on. There are bigger fish to fry really… like this thing called living.” [Laughs] —Morley

Gilmore Girls Diet

Netflix has announced that the revival of Gilmore Girls is now officially going ahead. (As set pictures have already been released, I’m not certain how this announcement really changes anything.) With Gilmore Girls coming back,Lauren Valenti of Marie Claire decided to try eating like Lorelei and Rory. That means a lot of pizza, junk food, and coffee:

A week into 2016, I had a Gilmore Girls-induced epiphany. Lorelai and Rory were scarfing down pepperoni pizza on the couch and making fun of Dean for ordering a salad because, dude, seriously? Heroes, I thought for the millionth time.

And then it occurred to me. Their complete and utter lack of hang-up about calories was the most refreshing thing I’d seen in a while—especially in the midst of all this talk about New Year’s resolutions and diets and “getting in shape.” Women inhaling junk food, take-out Chinese, and copious amounts of coffee—what a profound F U to those judgy, clean-eating freaks.

The result was that she lost two pounds.

As a physician, I cannot recommend that you try this diet at home.

SciFi Weekend: Steven Moffat Leaving Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Legends of Tomorrow; Charlotte Rampling On The Academy Awards

Moffat TARDIS

Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who after the upcoming tenth season (since the show’s revival) and Chris Chinball, best known for Broadchurch, will be taking over. Chinball is a long time fan of Doctor Who and also wrote these episodes: 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three. He was also a producer and writer on Torchwood.

The tenth season of Doctor Who will not air until the spring of 2017, and the only episode to air in 2016 will be the annual Christmas special. I wonder if Moffat will introduce the next companion in the special or wait until the show returns on a regular schedule in 2017.

After Broadchurch, I also cannot help but wonder if, should David Tennant return for an episode of the show, if Chinball will have him talk in an often incomprehensible accent.

Following is the BBC press release:

BBC announces Steven Moffat’s next series of Doctor Who will be his last and confirms Chris Chibnall as new Head Writer and Executive Producer.

After six incredible series at the helm, the multi-award winning Steven Moffat has decided to step down as the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who.

Steven took over the reins on Series 5 in 2010 and during his tenure the show has become a truly global success. He has been responsible for introducing the Eleventh and the Twelfth Doctors in Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi; as well as two companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) and iconic characters and monsters including River Song (Alex Kingston), Missy (Michelle Gomez), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the terrifying Weeping Angels. Plus, the smash hit 50th Anniversary special in 2013 which saw fans around the world celebrate the world’s longest running sci-fi series with the Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt battling the deadly Daleks in a feature length episode. Steven’s final series will air on BBC One in Spring 2017 and there will be a Christmas Special in 2016.

Steven Moffat says: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

Like Steven, Chris Chibnall is also a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a multi-award winning writer and executive producer. He has most recently achieved huge success with the triple BAFTA winning hit ITV series Broadchurch. His other credits include BAFTA nominated The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood. Chris Chibnall’s debut series will launch in 2018.

Chris Chibnall, new Head Writer and Executive Producer : “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One says : “I want to thank Steven Moffat for everything he has given Doctor Who – I’ve loved working with him, he is an absolute genius and has brought fans all over the world such joy. I will be very sad to see him leave the show but I can’t wait to see what he will deliver in his last ever series next year with a brand new companion. I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait! I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Chris Chibnall, a wonderfully talented writer who I know will bring something very special to the hit series.”

Polly Hill, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says : “Like Charlotte I would like to thank Steven for his brilliance, which has made Doctor Who a global hit under his tenure. Chris Chibnall is the perfect successor to take over the reins of this incredible show, so I am delighted that his love for Doctor Who has made it impossible for him to resist! Chris is an incredible writer and his vision and passion for Doctor Who gives it an exciting future and promises to be a real treat for Doctor Who fans across the world.”

AKA Jessica Jones

Variety discussed plans for season two of Jessica Jones with show runner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter:

Rosenberg shared that she doesn’t know when work on the new season will start, or whether she’ll be collaborating with writers from any of the other Marvel-Netflix series (“Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”) leading up to “The Defenders” crossover, but said that she intends to continue utilizing story ideas from Brian Michael Bendis’ series of “Alias” comics, where Jessica Jones debuted.

“I will always use as much as I possibly can from the comic book,” Rosenberg said, noting that they’ll have to allow for deviations given the differences in the mythology between the Marvel comics and ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. “The MCU is very different in terms of its mythology. In the books, everyone knows superheroes are walking around, there’s a lot of things building toward Secret Wars. We’re probably not going to be able to do a totally parallel storylines. But I take every little piece I can because it’s so good.”

While Rosenberg admitted that it was both intimidating and exciting to think of having to come up with a villain to follow Kilgrave, she didn’t consider keeping him around past season one, since “the show is about Jessica Jones; the story is about Jessica’s arc,” and thus everything had to be in service to her journey.

When asked about Jessica’s mental state at the end of the season, given her final defeat of Kilgrave, star Krysten Ritter said, “For Jessica, that final moment, that victorious triumphant moment, I found that very conflicting in terms of her headspace. He’s the reason why she got up every day. He’s the reason why she went out in the world… it really gave her a purpose, and the past trauma doesn’t go away with his death.”

Arthur Darvill Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow premiered this week and we found that there was some misdirection in both what the characters were told when recruited and in the trailers for the show. This might be for the better. If they really were already known to become legends, it would imply that they were successful and this was future history. The outcome of their mission would already be known. Of course with time travel a lot of questions can come up. For example, why not go after Vandal Savage when he was reduced to dust at the end of the Arrow/Flash episode and prevent him from being revived?

I suspect that this will turn out to be the sort of show which can be a lot of fun to watch as long as you don’t think too much about the time travel implications. It even has Rory (Arthur Darvill) as sort of a renegade Time Lord. Screen Rant has a list of additional Easter eggs.

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 18th December. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING as Jocelyn Knight. Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Charlote Rampling, who appeared with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in Broadchurch, has addressed the controversy over lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. Rampling had initially spoken about boycotting the awards, but has backed away from this:

In an interview with Europe 1 Radio earlier this week, Rampling said calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards because all of the nominees were white “was racist to white people.”

Today Rampling told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning”:

“I regret that my comments could have been misinterpreted this week in my interview with Europe 1 Radio. I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given equal opportunities for consideration. I am very honored to be included in this year’s wonderful group of nominated actors and actresses.”

Rampling also said:

“Diversity in our industry is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes announced today by the Academy to diversify its membership.”

SciFi Weekend: Mr. Robot; Jessica Jones; Kimmy Schmidt; Person of Interest; Homeland; 24; Heroes; The DC Superhero Shows; Orphan Black; Blacklist

Mr Robot Finale Bar

After Mr. Robot won two Golden Globes for Best TV Drama and Best Supporting Actor (Christian Slater), cast and crew discussed the show at the Television Critics Association press tour. Here are some excerpts via Vulture:

The first-season finale ended with everyone’s favorite hacker confronting his painful delusions. The new season will begin with that struggle. “The whole show has been about Elliot’s emotional journey, and I really wanted to focus on that and less about the plot,” Esmail said. “And so, for me, the headline of season two is: How does Elliot reconcile the fact that he’s aware that he’s been seeing this fantasy?” Even as the first season entertained viewers with several twists and turns, Esmail said he’s not interested in “gotcha moments … Rami brilliantly plays Elliot in a way that he drops you into his psyche. So you’re learning it with him. As long as that is organic and that feels real, then I think the twists will come from there. But it’s not my agenda to keep shocking you. It really isn’t.”

Elliot’s past — and when his delusions began, and whom they involve — will become clearer in the second season. “There will be a lot more backstory that we’re going to show,” Esmail shared. “The timeline is going to get a little clearer. Not 100 percent clearer, because what’s the fun in that? But a little clearer.” Malek said Esmail has shared “enough” with him to help him start preparing for his performance. With this character, I have to prepare for anything at any given moment. I go through every direction as to what possibly happened to someone like this because in his head we never know what has happened. And I think having to trace back the truth and discover the truth ultimately makes him more complex to play — just trying to decipher what he’s actually seen and where he’s actually been. When I think about that, it kind of haunts me as a human being, having to do that. And that’s the place he finds himself in approaching this next season.”

Elliot is an unreliable narrator, and yes, there are other things he’s shown viewers besides the identity of Mr. Robot that we shouldn’t trust. After Esmail revealed that during the panel, Malek asked him, “Do I know? Do we know?” The answer: “No.”

Jessica Jones Luke Cage

Krysten Ritter discussed the sex scenes in Jessica Jones during the press tour. Considering both the highly favorable reception for the show and discussion of season two in several years, I assumed that it was already decided. Apparently a second season was not official at the time, but Netflix has now made it official. Plus elsewhere there is talk about season two of Daredevil, and about  Iron Fist,

Netflix has also announced that Orange is the New Black will return on June 17, 2016 and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for its second season on April 15th, 2016. Kimmy Schmidt has also been renewed for a third season.

Person of Interest season 5 will air this spring, and CBS President Glenn Geller left open the possibility that it could be renewed. Perhaps airing in the spring, when there aren’t as many new episodes of network shows, will result in high ratings to justify renewing it. On the other hand, the show has an extensive back-story and a lot of episodes to catch up on which makes it difficult for new viewers to get involved. It would be interesting if someone could put together the parts of episodes dealing just with the mythology of the show and cut all the number of the week stories.

Homeland will be coming back for a fifth season, taking place in New York. I finally gave in and completed watching the last season over the holidays. It was better than some recent seasons, but still far below the first season. There were also some vague references to Quinn’s fate:

The closest thing to a teaser came in the form of a cryptic update on Quinn, who was not having a good time at the end of last season. “Quinn is very damaged, no question about that,” the network’s president of programming, Gary Levine, said, according to Deadline. “If he should live, he won’t be in the shape and form he was.”

If this (and multiple other shows) don’t give you enough stories on fighting terrorism, Fox plans to reboot 24 with a new case.

Heroes Reborn will not be coming back for a second season, and there is no reason it should.

73rd ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Benoist, Grant Gustin, Presenters at the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

We sort of had a Supergirl/Flash crossover at the Golden Globes when Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin presented an award together. (I wish they had the two race up the stage to see whether Supergirl or the Flash is faster.) There have been rumors and denials of a crossover on their television series for some time. CBS president Glenn Geller has now left an opening for such an event. I hope Arrow is included as I think that Kara and Felicity would get along very well together. More on the possibility of a crossover here.

The Flash and Arrow will be returning on CW, along with the premiere of DC’S Legends of Tomorrow. The producers have been denying internet rumors that Felicity will become Oracle. (I don’t think anyone really believes she was killed.)  Some news here, including that the remainder of the season on The Flash will deal with Zoom and the show’s multiverse.

The Americans, one of the best dramatic shows on television the last few years, returns on March 16. Some teasers on the upcoming season and future of the show here.

The above teaser has been released for season 4 of Orphan Black.

Blacklist appears to have wrapped up the Lizzie on the run storyline which dominated the first half of the season. The Director turned out to be less powerful that initially suggested as the Cabal literally had him dropped. Reddington has said it was time to “take down the Cabal” but it appears to remain alive and well (even if weaker). Things are much like before except it appears Lizzie will now be working with Reddington as an FBI asset as opposed to an agent. Plus it is not clear if Reddington is now a part of the cabal. If so, does that mean they are still an evil group trying to get us into World War III with Russia? Will Reddington still be helping the FBI capture people involved with the Cabal?Plus is Laurel Hitchen in charge, or just the highest ranking person we see, and how dangerous will she be now that everyone is on to her?

SciFi Weekend: New and Returning Shows For 2016, And Other Genre News

There has been a reduced television schedule so far this year, (giving me time to watch the second seasons of Catastrophe, Mozart In the Jungle, and Tranparent), but many shows are starting or coming back soon. Blastr has a list of nine science fiction shows premiering in January. I have already discussed Legends of Tomorrow and the revival of  X-Files several times in the past. The trailer for Legends of Tomorrow,which premieres on CW on Januray 21 is above.  ScreenRant discussed Sara  Lance’s mental state on the new series with Caity Lotz.

As for the three shows I mentioned watching above, Catastrophe‘s second season was broadcast in the U.K. on Channel 4 late last year but is not availably yet on Amazon, while the second seasons of the other two shows recently became available. The first season of Catastrophe, which I ranked as the best new comedy of 2015, is available on Amazon.

Getting back to the science fiction shows premiering this month, I have heard some favorable buzz for The Shannara Chronicles which began on January 5 on MTV. Nerdist interviewed the executive producer, Miles Millar. Other shows on the list which have received the most interest so far have been The Magicians (with Syfy streaming the pilot early) and Colony (with initial reviews being better for the first). Initial buzz has been negative for Second Chance, and there are questions as to whether Lucifer can make it on a major network.

There will be many additional genre shows premiering later in the year, along with the return of other shows. What Culture has a list of original shows appearing on Netflix this year, including Daredevil, which returns on March 18 (trailer above).

Supergirl returned last week, resolving the cliff hanger of Cat figuring out her secret identity just as I predicted last Sunday.

Sherlock returned for a single episode,The Abominable Bride, on New Year’s day. Those of us expecting a self-contained story in Victorian times were surprised by what was actually done with the episode and how it actually played into last  season’s cliffhanger.

ABC has ordered a pilot for the Agents of SHIELD spinoff, Marvel’s Most Wanted. The series will center on Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood).

Among the shows I’m most interested in seeing, 11.22.63 premiers on Hulu on February 15, with new episodes being released weekly as opposed to all episodes being released at the same time as on Netflix and Amazon. (Trailer above.) There will be some changes from the Stephen King novel. More here and here, plus J.J. Abrams also addressed the controversy over the female lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here) being left out of the Star Wars themed Monopoly game.

In my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I noted how the novelization has filled in some plot holes. Mashable has more from the novelization. In addition, the script has been released which also provides further explanation of some plot points.

"YHWH" -- Finch (Michael Emerson, left) and Root (Amy Acker, right) race to save The Machine, which has been located by the rival AI, Samaritan, while Reese is caught in the middle of the final showdown between rival crime bosses Elias and Dominic, on the fourth season finale of PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 5 (10:01-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

J.J. Abrams also says that Person of Interest will probably end after this season, which is no surprise considering how it is receiving a reduced thirteen episode run and has not made the schedule for this season yet. As long as it ends well this season, that is fine with me. The show gradually changed over time from primarily a procedural show to a true science fiction show, and it is better to have it end well as a great genre show as opposed to continuing indefinitely as a typical CBS procedural.

Like Person of Interest reinvented itself this year, Blacklist has also been considerably different from how it began. It was also off to an excellent start in this week’s episode. Unfortunately I don’t know  how much longer they can continue this storyline for.

The trailer above shows how the second season of Outlander will be much different from the first when it returns in April.

While not genre, another show of interest, Love, from Judd Apatow and staring Gillian Jacobs of Community will be released by Netflix on February 19.

HBO has renewed Girls for a sixth and final season. The fifth season begins on February 21.

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

Better Call Saul returns for its second season on February 15. Trailer above.

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

Besides all the speculation as to the fate of Felicity, there have been rumors that Stephen Amell would leave Arrow, presumably ending the series, in the next year or two. Amell responded by saying his contract runs through 2019 (which doesn’t guarantee that CW will continue the show that long).

Laura Dern has been added to the cast of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. While her role has not been announced, there have been rumors that she might play Special Agent Dale Cooper’s previously unseen secretary, Diane. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn,  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Knepper, Balthazar Getty and Amanda Seyfried. The first three were from the original cast.

Coal Hill School

Class, the Doctor Who spinoff from BBC Three taking place at Coal Hill School, will also be available on BBC America sometime in 2016, but no date has been set yet.

Doctor Who has made the short list for the National Television Awards in the Drama category. It is up against Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, and a show I am not familiar with named Casualty. Humans is among the nominees for New Drama. Downton Abbey has completed its run in the U.K. (doing a good job of concluding the series) and has resumed in the United States.

BBC America is also working on a new television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series.

There is now hope that Parenthood will return in some form, with Jason Katims being inspired by the movie Boyhood to return to the lives of the major characters over time. (Review of the finale here). It is interesting that two of the shows which might return in such a manner both star Lauren Graham, with a revival of Gilmore Girls now being filmed. Katims made it sound unlikely that the rumored follow up of his other show, Friday Night Lights, will return.

Yahoo Screen has been discontinued, making it even less likely that Community will ever return.

Sylvester Stallone discussed running for office and Donald Trump with Variety.

Update: News came in overnight that David Bowie died of cancer. The New York Times reports:

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

Mr. Bowie’s death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

He died after having cancer for 18 months, according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social-media accounts.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.

His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Following is a video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2014:

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:

  • Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
  • Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
  • Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
  • If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.

Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.

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19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

A time travel show which took aspects from the movie, but improved upon them for a weekly series. The series did an excellent job of building on its mythology, providing surprises, and moving in a new direction in the season finale.

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Mr Norrell (EDDIE MARSAN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)

An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

12. Supergirl (CBS)

Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.

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10. Agent Carter (ABC)

This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story.  Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.

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9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of  Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

A cyber-thriller which is totally different from what anyone would expect from a show on USA. The show gave a lot of hints about one element which was not confirmed until later in the season, but still came up with surprises along the way. The season finale also left room for a lot more.

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul greatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.

Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well.  While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.

Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of  near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.

Honorable Mention

Grace and Frankie Season 1 netflix handout .... Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.

Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.

Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central) were two excellent additions to light night television, a genre which I arbitrarily left out of the rankings. They help make up for the loss of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. I haven’t actually watched much of Larry Wilmore but he has been hilarious when I’ve seen clips. I’m looking forward to seeing him host the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.

Besides the above changes on late night television,  this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).

Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.

Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).

SciFi Weekend: Star Wars, The Force Awakens; Doctor Who, The Husbands of River Song

Star Wars Force Awkens Rey BB-8

The Force Awakens was the sequel to Star Wars we were looking for after the original trilogy. While J.J. Abrams has never understood Star Trek, he is a perfect fit for a franchise such as Star Wars which centers more on action and mythology than the type of ideas which characterize Star Trek when done well.  Rather than rejecting parts of of the original as with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams made a sequel to Star Wars which was a true homage to Star Wars: A New Hope. The movie has many parallels to the original, but does introduce a new generation of characters and mix things up enough to keep it fresh.  It avoided the mistakes of the second trilogy. There was no Jar Jar Banks, and it presented a cuter version of R2-D2 for a new generation. This review contains major spoilers, along with looking at some of the questions left unanswered in the movie.

In many ways, The Force Awakens was a retelling of the original story for a new generation. Both The Force Awakens and A New Hope have much of the early action on a desert planet with a droid carrying important information playing a major part. Therefore it did not came as a surprise that the escape was on The Millennium Falcon. Having it sitting there unused for years but all fueled up and ready to fly is just one of many plot holes which are easily ignored. Nor was it a surprise that Han Solo showed up. Many of the scenes on The Millennium Falcon felt quite familiar. Rather than repeating one classic scene, Harrison Ford did provide another reference to the original when asking about a garage chute.

The biggest surprise of the movie was that Rey turned out to be the character with the Force. We saw this when Rey found Luke’s lightsaber at Maz’s watering hole (reminiscent of the Cantina scene), with no explanation of why it was there. The producers did an excellent job of keeping this secret, such as showing the rare scenes in which Finn held the lightsaber in previews and posters.The experience would have been quite different if the previews showed the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, or showed Rey holding out the lightsaber for Luke at the end.

Once we learned that Rey was really the main character with the Force, her path in the movie became clear. She would fight the movie’s villain, be tempted by and resist the dark side, and ultimately find Luke–after this movie’s version of the Death Star was destroyed (including flights through the trenches).

Once we saw the bridge in this part of the universe where hand rails have never been invented, it was also obvious that Han Solo would reprise Obi Wan Kenobe’s death scene. J.J. Abrams explained that this was also done to establish how evil  Kylo Ren was so that he could be at the level of a Darth Vader. Of course moments later in the movie R2-D2 woke up, so that viewers wouldn’t be sad for too long.

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The movie introduced other characters. One of the new characters, Poe, was intended to die but instead he turned up later in the movie. This isn’t the first time that Abrams planned to kill a character who seemed like a major character and later changed his mind. The original plan was to for Jack to be killed on Lost. While it might have been a surprise to see him later in the movie, most genre fans know that if you don’t see the body, the character most likely isn’t dead. I would have preferred it if there were brief scenes of Poe surviving but getting separated, and showing how he escaped from the planet.

Abrams also repeated an error he made in Star Trek in ignoring how big space is. The Enterprise seemed to travel from Vulcan to Earth in minutes, and in the alternate universe it is possible to beam by transwarp onto a starship traveling at many times the speed of light. The hyperlight weapon in The Force Awakens seems implausible, undoubtedly as a result of a desire to have a weapon even more powerful that the Death Star. The weapon was capable of destroying four distant planets as if they were nearby, with the four planets also appearing to be very close to each other.

The politics of the movie was also puzzling. It looked like we had a civil war between the Republic and the First Order. If that was the case, why weren’t the forces under Leia’s command the military for the Republic, as opposed to a rebel group? While I’ve seen explanations on line such as a peace treaty between the Republic and the First Order which made it necessary for the Republic to hide their actions against the First Order, the meta reason is most likely to be reminiscent of the rebel forces in the original trilogy. I suspect that having had its capital and a few other planets destroyed, we won’t see much more of the Republic, except possibly at the conclusion.

If a big moment in the second movie of the first trilogy was Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father, I wonder if the second movie of this trilogy will be Luke saying the same to Rey. While I think that this is the most likely reason for Rey having the force, there are other possibilities. Maybe Leia is her mother, making Ren her brother, but this would require an explanation for Leia giving no indication of knowing about a daughter. Possibly Rey is descended from Obi Wan Kenobe. This could also explain the connection with the lightsabre as Luke’s lightsaber previously belonged to Obi Wan.

Another theory is that Ren’s parents are not from the characters we know. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Luke completed his training under Yoda, Obi Wan said , “This boy is our last hope.” Yoda replied, “No, there is another.” It was assumed he was referring to Leia, but she was never trained in the Force. Perhaps Yoda was referring to someone else that we do not yet know about.

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There are many other questions raised, some of which will probably be answered in subsequent movies. Others might be plot holes which there is no good reason for, but the movie was so much fun that most viewers won’t care. Some elements of the movie were taken from plot points in the expanded universe which was invented after the movies, which should give fans a lot to speculate on. The novelization for The Force Awakens also fills in some points.

The Daily Dot listed ten things learned from the novelization. Among the most interesting are the description of Kylo Ren’s feelings about killing his father:

In the movie, it isn’t clear what’s going through Kylo’s mind after he stabs his father through the chest with his lightsaber. The scene quickly shifts gears, and Kylo, wounded by a shot from an enraged Chewbacca, snarls up at Finn and Rey from a crouched position before the two heroes flee.

In the novelization, Kylo feels “stunned by his own action.”

“Following through on the act,” the narration says, “ought to have made him stronger, a part of him believed. Instead, he found himself weakened.”

Foster wrote the novelization based on a version of the script that later underwent significant revisions. It’s possible that the discrepancy between page and screen here is not a casual inconsistency but a deliberate choice—that J.J. Abrams and company didn’t want to suggest that Kylo felt conflicted after the fact. Of course, given how difficult it is to visually convey an internal monologue, it’s also possible that this moment wasn’t so much deliberate struck as overlooked for simplicity’s sake.

Rey’s battle with the dark side was more obvious in the novelization than the movie:

Rey’s triumph over Kylo in their lightsaber duel is widely considered one of the film’s greatest moments. But what you don’t fully see on-screen is that, standing over a defeated Kylo, Rey faces a final challenge. The novelization portrays it thusly:

Kill him, a voice inside her head said. It was amorphous, unidentifiable, raw. Pure vengeful emotion. So easy, she told herself. So quick.
Instead of killing Kylo, Rey “recoil[s]” from the feeling, which the narration describes as the pull of the dark side.

This is a very significant moment. Every Force-strong Star Wars hero faces this kind of challenge. When the narration refers to “pure vengeful emotion,” it’s important to remember that part of what drove Rey was seeing Kylo brutally defeat her new friend Finn. She had just seen Kylo deal Finn what might have been a killing blow. She was no doubt furious in that moment—the perfect target for the lure of the dark side.

This is, in essence, the dark side’s modus operandi. It’s how Anakin Skywalker began his fall in Attack of the Clones, when he slaughtered a village full of Tusken Raiders after they kidnapped his mother, who died in his arms.

But Rey, like Luke, is stronger than Anakin. She resists the urge to deliver her own killing blow. In the movie, a chasm quickly opens up between her and her vanquished foe, appearing to foreclose the possibility of her killing him. In the novelization, she makes her choice before that happens. She runs to Finn, to her friend, instead of yielding to her rage. In refusing the dark side, she has just taken the biggest step of her life.

I will be looking forward to seeing where they go with the next installment. It might be difficult to top the Starkiller base, and I hope they are not tempted to come up with a more implausible threat.  The answer might be to concentrate more on the characters now that The Force Awakens has made them important to the viewers. Will Luke have a more significant role? Presumably we will learn more about Ren’s back story, and possibly more about Snoke, assuming he remains a factor.

Doctor Who Husbands of River Song

Christmas also meant the annual specials from British television. This year’s specials included Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, and Downton Abbey. The Downton Abbey special was also the series finale, and therefore I will not give any spoilers for those who are waiting for the US showing of the final season. I wills say that they ended the series quite well.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special, the Husbands of River Song, was a very fun episode. The actual story hardly mattered. What was important was that it set up the situation where the Doctor met River Song with a different face that she knew, with River not recognizing the Doctor at first. This provided the Doctor a chance to act like those who see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, and Peter Capaldi really hammed it up:

River: Oh, before you come in, you’d better prepare yourself for a shock. It’s not as… snug as it looks.
The Doctor:Finally… It’s my go. Oh… my… God! It’s bigger!

River: Well, yes.

The Doctor: On the inside!
River: We need to concentrate.
The Doctor: Than it is!
River: I know where you’re going with this, but I need you to calm down.
The Doctor: On the outside!
River: You’ve certainly grasped the essentials.
The Doctor: My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed! Three-dimensional Euclidean geometry has been torn up, thrown in the air and snogged to death! My grasp of the universal constants of physical reality has been changed… forever. Sorry. I’ve always wanted to see that done properly.
River: Would you like a drink? Aldebaran brandy. Help yourself, but don’t tell Dad.
This also allowed River to describe her relationship with the Doctor, more than once. First, someone looking for the Doctor questioned River, having identified her as “the woman who loves the Doctor.”
River: Yes, I am. I’ve never denied it. But whoever said he loved me back? He’s the Doctor, he doesn’t go around falling in love with people. And if you think he’s anything that small or that ordinary, then you haven’t the first idea of what you’re dealing with.
Doctor Who Husbands of River Song2
River discussed their relationship once again, when they were in danger, just before the Doctor revealed his identity:
River: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!
The Doctor: Hello, sweetie.
Another of my favorite exchanges between the two when in danger:
River: Does sarcasm help?
The Doctor: Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?
The dangers in this episode were handled, but we know there are other dangers ahead for River Song. She had a feeling for this when she saw how little room was left in her diary and noted, “The man who gave me this was the sort of man who would know exactly how long a diary you were going to need.”

The Singing Towers of Darillium was established as the location for their last night together when in 2008 in Forest of the Dead. However things were not as bad as they looked, even if this is truly their last night together before River met a younger Doctor in the library:

River: So… assuming tonight is all we have left…
The Doctor: I didn’t say that.
River: .. how long… is a night on Darillium?
The Doctor: 24 years.
River: ( gasps ) I hate you.
The Doctor: No, you don’t.

Doctor Who Extra videos can be seen here.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Luke Cage; The Man In The High Castle; The Expanse; Childhood’s End; 11.22.63; Minority Report; House of Cards; Fargo; Doctor Who; Ted Cruz Christmas Infomercial

Arrow -- "The Magician" -- Image AR304a_0155b -- Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Ed Araquel/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Nable will be reprising his role of Ra’s al Ghul from Arrow in the ninth episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Considering that much of the cast is made up of people who either died or appeared to die on Arrow, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Damian Dark will also be making an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow. On Arrow, Nyssa will also continue to fight Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) for her dead father’s title.

I really liked Daredevil, and liked what they did with Jessica Jones even more. Jessica Jones also has me looking forward to Luke Cage. Collider had an interview with Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage. The discussion included how Luke Cage will differ from Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

Man In The High Castle

I was happy to hear that Amazon has renewed The Man In The High Castle, as expected, for a second season. The entire series was enjoyable, but that ending has me really wondering where the show is headed. I read the book many, many years ago and don’t remember how it ended. Plus there are already major changes from the book so that might not matter.

I’ve  been far too busy around the holidays to keep up with everything on television. I thought I was doing well completing both Jessica Jones and The Man In The High Castle. (My original plan was to review these two series this week, but holiday plans have prevented it.) I haven’t had time to start The Expanse, but I hear that if some time opens up it is possible to stream the first four episodes, and get ahead of what has been shown on television.

I have recorded Childhood’s End with hopes of watching it sometime later over the holidays. Meanwhile this article, which I haven’t read to avoid spoilers, looks like the type of article with a show’s producer on the ending which I would be quoting from if I had seen the show.

Yet another new genre show I haven’t had time to watch–The Magicians. IO9 has a review here.

Hulu is releasing teaser trailers of 11.22.63, produced by J.J. Abrams and based upon the Stephen King novel. Abrams also has something else major out this weekend.

I also haven’t had a chance to watch the movie version of The Martian yet, but did enjoy the book last year. Nerdist has news on Andy Weir’s next book, to take place on the moon and feature a female lead.

With so much to watch on television, I didn’t watch Minority Report after some poor reviews of the first episode, followed by news that production was cut to ten episodes. The final episode aired recently and I have heard some buzz that the series ended well. This is a positive sign of how television has changed. In the past a network needed at least a few years of a series to make money in syndication. If it looked weak after a few episodes, they would be tempted to just pull the plug.

These days a series can still bring in episodes with even a short run. By giving the producers a cut off date, they were able to make a series which stood on its own with ten episodes, or expand into subsequent seasons if it did build an audience. It is still possible to sell a self-contained ten episode series as a Blu ray or DVD set, as well as have it on one or more streaming networks. The networks have reason to continue a show with a small audience for at least a short time, current viewers get a conclusion as opposed to having a show they like abruptly pulled, and genre fans have one more thing available to watch when desired in the future. Plus maybe a show will even be brought back by another outlet.

Netflix ran the trailer for the fourth season of House of Cards during last week’s Republican debate. The show returns on March 4. “America, I am only getting started” sounds sort of scary.

The third season of Fargo won’t be filming until next winter, and therefore won’t be seen until sometime in 2017. It will take place in 2010, four years after the first season. We got an unexpected view of some of the characters from the first season in the second season finale, but reportedly the regulars from the first season will not be the major characters for the third season. Some could appear briefly.

Doctor Who TV has an advance review of this year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song.

ABC will be airing a one hour special, Captain America’s 75th Anniversary, on January 19th, just prior to the season premiere of Agent Carter. It will be opposite the return of The Flash on CW, but that is why we have Hulu, and modern DVR’s which record more than one show at a time.

Vox looks at Tina Fey’s response to some of the internet outrage over Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for having  the blonde, Polish actress Jane Krakowski playeding a Native American woman who was hiding her true ethnicity.

Ted Cruz has paid for a Christmas-themed parody infomercial to air during Saturday Night Live tonight. Steve M. has a review, and finds Cruz to be scary. I agree.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow (Is Felicity Dead?); Martian Manhunter Joins Supergirl; You’re The Worst; Fargo; The Leftovers; More Renewals

Arrow Felicity Shot

Mid season finales have now become a big thing on network television as many shows take a hiatus for the holidays, while some cable shows have completed their season. There were several big WTF moments on television recently, often, but not entirely, part of a midseason or season finale.

Two of the superhero shows from Andrew Kreisberg  and his group featured big WTF moments. The biggest one would be the death of Felicity on Arrow if anyone really believed it was real. Last year we saw Oliver die and come back to life, with Thea and Sara Lance having also come back from the dead. While there is no longer a Lazarus Pit, it seems a safe bet that they would never kill off Felicity. They replayed a portion of the grave scene, to imply that it was Felicity’s, but we’ve also been led to believe that the scene takes place later this spring, not currently to coincide with Felicity getting shot.

While there could be misdirection, Emily Bett Rickards is also present in set photos (such as here) from episodes still being filmed.

This leaves the question of who is in the grave. While there are other possibilities, at present I like the fan theories that it could be Samantha or William Clayton, Oliver’s former girlfriend and their son. This would explain why all of Team Arrow, along with Felicity’s mother, weren’t at the grave site if it was Felicity’s. In a recent interview, producer Wendy Mericle did warn of “serious consequences” that “come to a head” because of the decisions Oliver made regarding them. This most directly seems to be regarding Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, but perhaps it also leads to putting Samantha or William in danger.

Supergirl Martian Manhunter

The big WTF moment on Supergirl was that Hank Henshaw didn’t turn out to be an evil alien as many fans suspected. As with Harrison Wells on The Flash, Hank Henshaw’s body was taken over by someone else, but in this case not be someone evil. Henshaw turned out to be J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter. The show’s producers discussed this with The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s the secret of Supergirl: Within the body of the series of Supergirl, there is a Martian Manhunter series rolling throughout it,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s the thing that makes us giggle the most.”

Back when the showrunners were on set to shoot the pilot, the idea to make DEO head Hank the Martian Manhunter was initially floated as a joke.

“[DC Comics CCO] Geoff Johns, [executive producer] Greg Berlanti and I were saying, ‘It’s so funny we cast David because he’s got those weird ears. Like alien ears,’ ” Kreisberg says. “I don’t remember which one of us said it, but it was like, ‘If we were ever going to make a Martian Manhunter show, David would have been the perfect Martian Manhunter.’ And Geoff said, ‘Well, why can’t he be?’ We already had it set up that Hank was keeping this bad secret, and then we started thinking about well, what if it was a good secret? You think he’s bad but then he turns out to be not only good, but the most good person in the DC universe.”

…Executive producer Ali Adler teases that John’s abilities will blow Kara’s out of the water. “He’s got such tremendous powers,” Adler says. “We really want to show off what he can do, and we’re definitely going to do that in upcoming episodes.”

“There’s a lot of fun to be had,” Harewood adds. “He’s a shape-shifter so he can be whoever he wants to be. So you’ll find me being other members of the cast at some various points of the story.”

You're The Worst Season 2 Finale

You’re the Worst picked up a renewal for the third season as the second season concluded, plus Stephen Falk received a deal to produce additional shows for FX and FXX. While the second season of You’re The Worst was not as good as the first, Stephen Falk deserves credit for taking the season in such a different direction for the second season. I suspect that it might have been the added depth he showed in the second season which led to his deal to produce additional shows.

The arc with Gretchen’s depression showed more depth in writing by Falk, as well as acting by Aya Cash, but it was the comedy, not potential for such drama, which made the show television’s best (even if under-rated) sitcom last year. Another consequence was that there was less interaction between the story lines of the various characters. On the plus side, this ultimately did lead to further development in the relationship between the two dysfunctional leads. Gretchen decided to consider medications for depression, which she never considered in the past, now that she was involved with someone else who was affected by her depression. (Her friendship with Lindsay doesn’t count.)  Jimmy almost ran off with the girl who owns the bar, but in the end did not. Plus the two of them managed to tell each other that they loved the other, even if it required them to be drunk at the time.

Fargo Flying Saucer

Noah Hawley will not only be doing more of Fargo, but has signed a deal to develop additional shows for FX. He had one of the big WTF moments on Fargo last week (“It’s just a flying saucer, hon”), and there is still an episode to go. A UFO was also seen briefly in the first episode of the season. I now wonder if it will play a role in the finale, or just be something without further explanation. It sounds like it will be the later from Hawley’s comments. Perhaps Fox is getting us ready for the return of The X-Files.

Fox has renewed Wayward Pines for a second season. I haven’t seen this one, but a recent plug for the show and news of its renewal might change that.

The Leftovers 2x08 – International Assassin

The Leftovers has been renewed for a third and final season on HBO. This sounds about right. The second season was much better than the first, having completed the events of the Tom Perrotta novel and now able to explore new territory, but I’m not sure there is enough to do in this world which cannot be wrapped up in one more season.

This is the perfect series for Damon Lindelof . He can write about how people respond to unexplainable situations, without being expected to ultimately give an explanation as on Lost. A lot happened in the season finale, but for me seeing the Guilt Remnant show up and seeing Mary wake up was nothing compared to the WTF moment in the eighth episode, International Assassin, when Kevin was in a  hotel from purgatory, if not hell. That episode alone made the season a success.

Blacklist has been much better this season with Elizabeth on the run with James Spader’s character. It has been renewed for a fourth season.

Melissa Benoist Homeland Supergirl

Showtime has renewed Homeland and The Affair. After its slip in quality over the years, I haven’t watched this season of Homeland yet, but might watch binge it Netflix style if time permits. There are many reasons to remember the first season fondly, but the recent start of Supergirl has led to additional attention for the show as viewers recall a topless Melissa Benoist being asked questions such as whether she enjoys anal sex and other women in the first season of Homeland. (Video here–not safe for work.)  Kara would turn as red as the star she was born under if asked those questions on Supergirl.

Person of Interest strangely is not appearing on CBS’s schedule yet. There is speculation that it is being held back until spring or summer, and hope that maybe it can be renewed beyond this year if it is more successful than Extant and Under the Dome, which have been canceled.

The Man In The High Castle, which I completed this week, ended the first season with a couple of WTF moments. One was foreshadowed by events in the book, despite some major differences between the book and the television series. As there are still likely to be many who have not finished the series yet, I’m holding off on discussing this streaming series, as well as Jessica Jones, a little longer. Both are highly recommended.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hell Bent; Batman v. Superman; The Expanse; Transparent; Outlander; Supergirl; Fargo; You’re The Worst

Doctor Who Hell Bent

The season finale of Doctor Who, Hell Bent, concluded the three part story which began with the death of Clara Oswald in Face the Raven. It turned out that the ending of last week’s episode, Heaven Sent, contained some misdirection about where the finale was going. While the Doctor did return to Gallifrey, this was not at all what the episode was really about.

The Doctor returned to Gallifrey as a war hero, and used this return to save Clara. While the leaders on Gallifrey were concerned with the identity of the Hybrid, it turned out that the Doctor did not really know the answer. His priority was in saving Clara.

Face the Raven appeared to end with the Doctor allowing Clara to die as there was way to prevent her death. Now he was willing to break all the rules and risk the fracturing of time to save her. Clara was pulled out of time just before the moment of her death,  in between heartbeats and lacking  a pulse, not really living. She was informed of her condition by a general on Gallifrey: “Although you are conscious and aware, in fact you died billions of years ago. We have extracted you at the end of your time stream. Once you have finished here, you will be returned to your final moments. Your death is an established, historical event.”

The Doctor was willing to break the rules of time, as he had done on occasions before, and to defy the leadership on Gallifrey. He killed a general to demonstrate how far he would go to save Clara.  They escaped through the Matrix, one of several references for things established in old episodes, and escaped in an old school TARDIS. As he had started out, the Doctor escaped Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS, this time with a functioning Chameleon Circuit. They escaped the Time Lords by going to the last hours of the universe, where they met up with Ashildr, who the Doctor had made immortal earlier this season in The Girl Who Died.

While the identity of the Hybrid was never definitively revealed, Ashildr had what came closest to an answer. She theorized, “‘What if the hybrid was to people.‘A passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him – companions willing to push each other to extremes?” The Hybrid might have been the Doctor and Clara working together.  Whether this is the actual answer, it was still a meaningful description of who the Doctor is.

The problem now is Clara was only alive in a form with some very timey-whimey stuff which threatens the space-time continuum. Plus at any moment she could be returned to the moment of her death. The Doctor believed that Clara had to have her memory wiped to return to earth and lead a normal life, where she could not be found from her memories of being with the Doctor. (I’m not sure what would have happened the first time she had any type of medical exam and was found to be lacking a pulse). It would be a sort of repeat of how things ended with Donna Noble, although the need to wipe Donna’s memory was more straight forward on Journey’s End.

Clara was watching in on the Doctor’s conversation with Ashildr and was not willing to give up the best years of her life, or her memory of them. Ultimately matters were left to chance, and it turned out that it was the Doctor, not Clara, whose memories of the other were wiped. This might make Clara safer as nobody could use the Doctor to get to her. Perhaps it also made sense for the Doctor’s memories to be erased if they were not going to remain together. As we saw on The Snowmen, it took him on hundred years to get over the loss of Amy and Rory, and after over four billion years he has not gotten over what appeared to be the death of Clara.

On the other hand, this is not the first time that the Doctor has lost a companion. Is  Clara that much more important to the Doctor than Rose Taylor, Donna Noble, or Amy Pond? Plus it is never clear why the Doctor and Clara could not continue to travel together.

Doctor Who Hell Bent 2

Throughout the episode, scenes were interspersed with the Doctor at an diner speaking to a waitress played by Jenna Coleman. By the end, we finally realized the meaning of these scenes, with Clara knowing who the Doctor was, but the Doctor not remembering her. The Doctor told Clara what he recalled of this story, even believing that he would remember Clara if he saw her, but he did not. He did see an image of her when he got his TARDIS back due to Rigsy’s memorial graffiti, plus The Doctor got a new sonic screwdriver.

Despite the matters left unanswered on this episode, it was all worthwhile for the ending in which Clara, who had already become like a Time Lord, ended up in her own TARDIS with her own companion, Ashildr. Again, it is not clear why Clara can travel with Ashildr, but not with the Doctor. While we will probably not see Clara again on the show, I bet this will launch a lot of fan fiction.

Doctor Who Extra videos for Hell Bent can be seen here.

Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day with The Husbands of Rive Song. The synopsis has been released:

It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas carols and comedy antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?

The Batman v. Superman trailer was shown on Gotham last week. As I know some superhero fans are not watching Gotham due to the lack of superheroes, I’m posting it above for those who might have missed it.

The Expanse officially states on December 14, but the first episode can be seen online here.

Amazon will be releasing season two of Transparent on December 11, but the first episode was made available early.

The second season of Mozart in the Jungle will be released by Amazon on December 30.

Outlander returns for a second season this spring. Teaser above.

Supergirl has been picked up CBS for a full season. The show still seems to be trying to figure out where it is going without being too much a clone of The Flash, and sometimes struggles to be in Superman’s shadow while contractually being unable to show him as an adult (with a younger version of him to be seen this season). Now that it has a several episodes under its belt, it is starting to show more promise.

Meanwhile on CBS’s sister network, The CW Network, the annual cross over episodes of The Flash and Arrow has aired. It served largely to set up Legend’s of Tomorrow, but was a fun two hours with the casts of both current shows getting together again. During the week there was also another round of rumors of a cross over episode between Supergirl and The Flash, with this once again denied (but not ruled out for the future).

Fargo season three will take place a couple of years after the first season, and could include some of the same characters.

FXX has renewed You’re The Worst for a second season. While an argument could be made that the show had stronger dramatic material from Aya Cash this season, I do hope that she gets over her depression and the third season returns to the dynamic between Gretchen and Jimmy of the first season.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Heaven Sent; Legends of Tomorrow; Arrow; The Flash; Supergirl; Captain America: Civil War; Jessica Jones; Sleepy Hollow

Doctor Who Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent was an ambitious episode of Doctor Who, following the death of Clara Oswald. The Doctor is in a castle with moving walls and stalked by a monster who represents his greatest fears. Only confessing his deepest, darkest secrets will slow it down, but he ultimately dies and starts over, like Bull Murray in Groundhog Day. Before dying, he would retreat to a version of the TARDIS in his mind, and discuss his plans with a version of Clara, who also was only in his mind. Sometimes answers were provided on chalk boards. His escape might be in the twelfth room, once again giving more meaning to his artificial designation as the twelfth Doctor. He eventually realizes that every one hundred years a bird pecks on a diamond wall which is preventing his escape. He manages to reverse-teleport allowing a version of himself stuck in the hard drive to start over. (This might raise the question as to whether at the end he is really the same Doctor who we started out with, but considering that the entire universe has already been rebooted and recreated, this hardly matters.)  The rooms in the castle all revert to their previous state (automated room service). After billions of years, of doing this, the wall would break down.

You really must see this for it to make any sense, and I would recommend a second viewing.

As the Doctor confesses, we learned that he did not leave Gallifrey because he was bored, but because he was scared. The Timelords knew that the time war was coming. After escaping the castle, the Doctor sees Gallifrey off in the distance. He contradicts what he claimed before and confesses that nothing is half-Dalek. The Daleks would not allow it. He admits, “The Hybrid destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins is me.”

The meaning of this remains unclear. Maybe they are returning to the claims in the 1996 movie that the Doctor is half human, but I suspect there will be a different meaning. There are also other questions especially what will happen when he gets to Gallifrey? There are also questions about the recent past, give or take several billion years. Who trapped the Doctor and sent him to Gallifrey? What exactly is the confession dial? How does Ashildr fit in? These question may or may not be answered next week in Hell Bent.

Doctor Who Extra videos for Heaven Sent can be seen here.

A full length trailer for Legends of Tomorrow has been released, giving a far better idea of what the first season will be about. There are some minor spoilers out for the DC superhero shows. There are rumors that Constantine will be in season two of Heroes of Tomorrow, with a different cast from the first season. Other reports say that this might be a single season show, possibly replaced with a different show next year.

Constantine might also have further impact on Arrow this season:

Constantine’s parting gift to Oliver — a magical tattoo? — will come back to play soon. “Basically Constantine says to him that this is insurance against Reiter, and we’re going to deliver on that promise entirely,” EP Wendy Mericle says. “It’s going to help Oliver when he’s in a very dark place and time when he has no other way out. It’s going to be the thing that pulls him out of a very dark spot and literally saves him.” But whether he’ll be able to use it on Damien Darhk is another story. “The mysticism that Reiter is practicing may or may not sync up with what Damien Darhk is doing,” Mericle adds.

Stephen Amel told what he knows about the flash forward to a graveyard scene in Arrow (and it is not very much):

Amell initially joked, “It’s not me.”

He then added, “I don’t. That’s not for me to know. That’s for our producers to know. It’s only for me to know if and when I need to do something if we end up doing another flash forward in the show. I needed to know certain things about the scene without knowing who it actually was when we did the initial flash forward. I just needed to simply know that the person I wanted to kill was a him and that the person that was in the grave was someone I cared a lot about. That’s all I needed to know. I don’t need to know the specifics until if and when we shoot another flash forward scene if there was something else that I had to say.”

We will also be seeing more of Jay Garrick and Harrison Wells on The Flash:

When Jay Garrick returns, he may actually find some common ground with Wells for once, though it won’t be easy. “Jay is summoned to S.T.A.R. Labs in an urgent matter from Wells,” Teddy Sears tells EW. “Jay shows up only to find out that Wells wants Jay to be his guinea pig. He is toying with a substance that has its history in the lore of The Flash, so it’s something from the comics. He wants to try it on Jay to see if it works because he wants to use this on Barry in their fight to bring down Zoom. Jay doesn’t react very well to that. He doesn’t want to be a part of Wells’ schemes. There will be some life threatening moments in there and we have to use a combination of science and ingenuity and Wells’ mysterious substance to get to a safe conclusion.”

There are rumors of a meeting between Supergirl and The Flash. They do have a lot in common in their first seasons. Both were mentored by a head of an organization or lab who were keeping secrets. I suspect both were evil, but we don’t know very much yet about Hank Henshaw.

New scenes from Batman v. Superman will be shown during the Gotham season finale on Monday.

Over on the Marvel side,the above trailer was released for Captain America: Civil War, with the movie to be released May 16. Some fans have been disappointed by the lack of Spider-Man in the trailer despite his planned presence in the movie now that Marvel Studies and Sony have come to an agreement. There is also the possibility that Captain America and Iron Man will appear in the next Spider-Man movie.

I finished Jessica Jones on Monday, and it maintained the quality I noted last week. Unlike Daredevil, which did often have distinct stories within its general arc, the episodes flowed together like one long (and highly enjoyable) movie. Jessica Jones has a lot of Easter eggs related to the rest of the Marvel universe. If they ever decide to move beyond the Marvel universe, I recently noted aspects of Donald Trump which would work well to make him the evil supervillian in one of these future shows set in New York.

The other major streaming series to premier the same day, Man In The High Castle, also looks quite promising but I haven’t gotten too far into this one yet. Both of these  recent shows to start streaming might be good topics to write more about in December after most of the genre shows have gone on hiatus. Incidentally, TV Line has a handy chart of when shows are ending for the holidays, and when they are returning in 2016.

Fargo has been renewed for a third season by FX, but Fox is moving Sleepy Hollow to Friday nights, where genre shows go to die. While better than last season, Sleepy Hollow still has not recaptured the quality of the first season. Some shows are better suited for more limited runs than is common on network television. I don’t think Fargo is as good as the first season (very few shows ever have been as good as the first season of Fargo, but the second season is still very good. It does benefit from having an entirely different story each year.