SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who: Pyramid At The End Of The World (Or All We Need Is Love); The 100 Finale; CW Superhero Finales; 12 Monkeys Season 3 Binge

The Pyramid At The End Of The World was not as good as Extremis last week, but still an excellent episode. It does have some of the disadvantages of being the middle episode of a trilogy. This also makes it hard to criticize for apparent plot holes as I don’t know if there will be explanations in the finale. 

The episode seemed to once again tease the Doctor’s impending regeneration with this opening: “The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”

There was more misdirection as initially it appeared that the crisis involved the risk of conflict between the earth’s military forces, “at the strategic intersection of the three most powerful armies on earth,” but the actual danger was elsewhere. The concept of the Doctor being the President of Earth was always a silly one, but it did turn out to make sense here as Bill’s association with him gave at least slight credence to Bill negotiating with the Monks due to her association with him. Plus it allowed for this line when the term President was first raised: “How would I know the President? I wouldn’t even have voted for him. He’s… orange.” That pause allowed us to fill in many other adjectives.

Now we have poor Bill’s date being interrupted by the UN, after being interrupted in the simulation last week by the Pope. I do wonder why it was the UN and not UNIT.

There are other intrusions from our world beyond the orange president, the Pope, and the UN. Sometimes fictitious search engines are used, but in this episode Google was mentioned. This might be related to changes in BBC policy, with real brand names not being allowed in the past. Apparently this has changed as this week there was also a reference to Uber.

Besides the old idea of the Doctor being President of earth, they purposely extended the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen to both put the Doctor in danger, and give Bill a reason to negotiate with the Monks. It is a shame that the door didn’t have a keypad instead of the type of lock it did. The Doctor probably could have entered the code on a keypad by touch and saved the world without need for anyone to surrender to the Monks. (“Hello, I’m the Doctor, saving the world with my eyes shut.”)

While there are certainly questions about how plausible this is, it was a clever idea to have the Monks take over worlds by modeling every moment in the history of a planet, and figuring out when they would be destroyed without the help of the Monks. Then they could be asked to save the planet (with saving the planet but not surrendering control not being a consideration.) With countless alien invasion stories having been written, it isn’t easy to come up with new twists. Of course it does seem far fetched that their models could have predicted the exact sequence of events here, starting with a woman’s glasses being broken because she used her bag to prop her door open. It is also notable that Erica just played the scientists’s role as any woman might, without mention of her stature.

Modeling to this degree was not the only area where the Monks had inexplicable powers. For example, while perhaps they might be able to reset digital watches which are set from a common source to the time of the Domesday Clock, how could they possibly reset all the analog watches on earth? I also question the mechanism by which they could instantly restore the Doctor’s eye sight from a distance. It must be either nanobots moving at superspeed, or magic.

We will see if there is more of an explanation for their powers next week. Perhaps there is some clue in the TARDIS-like nature of the pyramid. While we know that Missy is involved next week from the preview, could the pyramid be related to the Time Lords, and perhaps the John Simm version of the Master (who is also returning this season)?

Their rational used by the Monks is also difficult to understand. The basic premise might make sense: “We must be wanted. We must be loved. To rule through fear is inefficient.” However, they seem to base this on technicalities (not unlike how the Doctor is keeping Missy in the vault but failed to go through with executing in Extremis). While they demanded love, and rejected the surrender of the others based upon fear, Bill’s love was for the Doctor, not for the Monks, and does not translate to love from other humans. I am willing to accept this for now based upon the Monks being aliens, with needs and motives which humans do not understand.

As they have the ability to change their shape, I also do not understand why they took this shape. A true monk, or perhaps an angel, might have led to easier acceptance from humans. Perhaps the third part will answer some of these questions.

The CW Network had several season finales recently. The 100 was the most interesting, and the only one to have a better season than last year. The season was about survival, and late in the episode it looked like we might have the group in the bunker, the group going into space, and Clarke on earth (never doubting that she would survive). The final moments expanded upon this by jumping ahead. Clarke was not alone, and a prison transport ship was landing. Presumably these were real prisoners, not the same as the original 100 to be sent down to earth in the first season. This also leaves open the possibility of other survivors, both on earth and from space.

Jumping ahead leaves open the possibility of telling one story six years in the future, while still having flash backs about how everyone survived. There are bound to be interesting stories about each group. As I would expect, Jason Rothenberg did say that we will see these flashbacks in an interview about the finale with TV Guide:

We do get a glimpse of Clarke in the flash-forward, and she’s taking care of a Nightblood child. What can you reveal about the life Clarke made for herself after praimfaya and who this girl is?
Rothenberg:
She’s definitely got a maternal bond with that child. Her name is Madi, she’s a Nightblood, you’re right. They probably found each other at some point a few years into being the last person the planet. We’ll play with that in Season 5 and probably go back and tell that story. But her relationship, her connection to Madi, is now as strong as Abby’s connection is to Clarke. These two people are the only two people on planet Earth. They are each other’s everything and they’ve survived together. On top of the age difference, obviously leaning into a mother-daughter thing, they also are each other’s best friends and companions. They’ve only been together for the last however-many-years-ago they met. That’s way longer than Clarke ever knew really anybody other than the people she came down with in the show. So it’s going to be a very, very important relationship in Season 5.

What can you say about the identity of the people on the ship and how they’ll factor into next season?
Rothenberg:
It’s huge. That’s essentially teeing up the story for the next season, which is obviously what we like to do in our finales. It’s prisoners. If you look at the signage on the ship, there are some Easter eggs to sort of indicate who those people may be. It’s a prison ship. So to me, it was really a cool idea to essentially bring things full circle. The 100, when they landed, were prisoners. They were juvenile delinquents, but they were criminals and they found out they were not alone on the ground. And here we have this group of real hardened criminals coming back to Earth thinking that its abandoned and that its their planet to come back to, only to discover, of course, that Clarke is out there, at least when we start things. So they’re not alone just like our heroes weren’t when they first landed. So there’s a real cool symmetry to that and perspective switch.

I definitely sensed some sparks between Bellamy and Echo in the finale, and six years is a long time to be trapped together in space. What can you say about the state of their relationship moving forward?
Rothenberg:
Well, I’m not going to go there, really, with you right now. But definitely six years is a long time to be trapped in space with somebody. And Bellamy and Echo have always had sparks. Their relationship was certainly interesting from day one when they woke up trapped next to each other in Mount Weather. It’s been a long and winding road, and obviously that road’s not over yet… They’re all together in a group in space, so you never know!

Will we get flashbacks to what happened in the six years since praimfaya?
Rothenberg:
Well, for sure the point of a time-jump is to skip a bunch of stuff and put them in another place and try to figure out how they got that way. And the thrust of the story in Season 5 will be going forward and not going backward. But the stuff that we’re jumping, as we’re in the room breaking Season 5, that time period is so filled with great story potential that it’s safe to say that we’ll see some of it. We’ll see the key moments for sure.

 

More in an interview at BuddyTV.

I thought that the DC superhero shows on The CW Network all had a down year, and this was reflected in their season finales.

Despite a meandering season, I thought that Supergirl did improve for the end of the season. I did like the Daxamite invasion storyline at the end, and the return of Calista Flockhart. Hopefully she will be around more next season. There was finally confirmation that she realizes that Kara is Supergirl, which I already assumed after she quickly figured out that James Olsen was the Guardian from seeing only his eyes. The concluding episodes also featured a strong female supporting cast beyond Flockhart with Teri Hatcher, Katie McGrath, Lynda Carter, and Brenda Strong.

The episode had the frequent superhero trope of setting up a situation in which two superheros fight each other, with Supergirl beating Superman. Fortunately they made this brief and went on to fighting the invaders. After this was resolved, it ended with a look at Reign being sent from away from Krypton, and I  assume he will be the big bad for next season. It was probably for the best that they wrote out Mon-El, leaving him alive so there is a possibility of him finding a way to return in a future season.

I was disappointed that after all these episodes dealing with saving Iris on The Flash, the finale used a simple solution with a device introduced the previous week. It also felt awfully contrived to end with someone needing to be a prisoner of the speed force, and then only Barry volunteering. We know he will get out. Hopefully they will at least do something creative with him being there and how he does leave. The highlight of the episode for me was Cisco telling Wally to “reverse the polarity on the neutron flow.” For a show which has used so much timey wimey time travel, this homage to the Third Doctor fit right in.

I thought the least of the finale of Arrow. It just felt like a series of fights and pretending to change sides. The cliff hanger was even less suspenseful than on The Flash as there is no question most, if not all, got off the island in time. Just as the synopsis for the next season of The Flash (released last week) gave away the fact that Iris would return before the finale aired, the synopsis for Arrow in the same post tells who is returning. At least the flashbacks are now over.

Over on Syfy, 12 Monkeys had not only their finale, but the entire season last weekend. As I suspect that some did not have time to watch it all, I’ll avoid spoilers, but the season was excellent, even better than the second season. The season has a continuous story, working well for binging over a short period of time. Generally each episode was also a self-contained story, but sometimes one episode would go right into the next. There were major events and changes in the story to make each of the three nights feel like they were also coming to somewhat of a conclusion before going onto the next, and the story was more compelling by watching this all together.

SciFi Weekend: Homeland Finale; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Victoria; Orphan Black; Sense8; Star Wars The Last Jedi; The Magicians; Supergirl; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Big Little Lies

While not as good as the first season (a very high bar), Homeland finally figured out how to reinvent itself and become an excellent show again this season. When the series had a female president-elect, there was no question that they were playing on the thought that Hillary Clinton would have been elected last November. While the used the idea of a female president, she clearly was not Hillary Clinton. For most of the season it appeared that this was a far better choice for the first female present. Rather than being a warmonger and strong proponent the surveillance state like Clinton, President-elect Keane supported seeking peace in the middle east and was no fan of the Patriot Act. The series also dealt heavily with fake news and influencing public opinion.

The finale had an all too realistic warning. (Spoilers ahead). Shocked by an assassination attempt involving portions of the deep state, Keane snapped (as Dick Cheney may have when carried down to safety during the 9/11 attack). Like Donald Trump, President Keane went to war with her intelligence community, but to a far greater degree. She was no longer the anti-Clinton, expanding the Patriot Act and rounding up innocent people based upon metadata from NSA surveillance, including Saul Berenson. A right wing talk show host spoke of how President Keane broke her promises–somewhat like how real right wing talk shows are now talking about how Donald Trump has broken his promises to them. The name of the episode: America First.

Variety discussed the series with showrunner Alex Gansa. The interview was done before the finale and therefore does not include the surprising conclusion, but does discuss how the season was relevant to real world events:

“Homeland” storylines usually reflect real-world headlines in some way. What surprised you this year about how your show dovetailed with real events?

The most surprising and alarming coincidence was that the very thing we had posited a year ago in February — that is a President-elect in an adversarial relationship with her own intelligence community – actually came to the fore after President Trump got elected was just a coincidence of epic proportions. Frankly that was the biggest surprise second only to the fact that Donald Trump got elected in the first place. That dynamic – a newly elected President at war with her intelligence community was really the fulcrum that the entire season hinged on. The fact that it played out in the real world on the national stage was shocking to witness. There were some other (developments) that made us go back into some episodes to retrofit them.

Can you give an example?

The whole idea of fake news and propaganda – that seemed to take on a much more prominent role as we moved into our story. The one major thing we went back in and changed was introducing our Brett O’Keefe character much earlier than we intended. He was originally scheduled to be introduced in episode eight. But we went back in and did some reshoots and new scenes to introduce him in episode two…

You were clear all along in the lead-up to season six that “Homeland’s” female President-elect was not meant to be a thinly veiled Hillary Clinton. But were you concerned about that choice after Trump pulled off his upset win?

Absolutely. There was a moment we all just slapped our foreheads and wondered if the show was going to be irrelevant from that point forward. However, the story of the President-elect in an adversarial situation with her own intelligence community, that certainly wouldn’t have been Hillary Clinton. She was an establishment candidate. She was front and center of American foreign policy for years. …In a crazy way, the show would have been more irrelevant if Hillary would have been elected. The fact that Donald Trump and his team were in such a contentious relationship made the show feel current and contemporaneous. We lost on the gender but we certainly gained on the dynamic.

There has been a lot of news going into the season premiere of Doctor Who. As it has been sixteen months since a regular episode, Yahoo TV has the above catch-up guide.

Peter Capaldi has already filmed his regeneration scene. Steven Moffat has discussed the regeneration:

“With Matt I had a sort of idea that his entire run should be in the pre-math of a battle he’s having at the end of his life,” Moffat told RadioTimes.com exclusively at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival this weekend (see video below). “But with Peter I wasn’t quite sure. I wasn’t sure for a long time whether I’d be writing him out or whether he’d be carrying on with [new showrunner] Chris Chibnall.

“That fits his Doctor, though,” the screenwriter went on, before hinting that this less mapped-out path would be echoed in Capaldi’s regeneration.

“His Doctor feels sort of impulsive and in the moment and would do something reckless that you wouldn’t expect. That suits me.

“And I mean, you can overstate the difficulty of planning a finale for a Doctor. In the end, any Doctor Who story has such catastrophe going on in it, that he could be the one that gets the rock on his head.

“But I think I’m really happy with what we’re doing for his finale. I’m just working on it now. It’s quite early. I should be further through it, but there you go.”

Moffat has also said he will be working on another show with Mark Gatiss.

Normally when Doctor Who is on, the lead item of SciFi Weekend is quite frequently a review of the current episode. Because of the holiday weekend, I have moved up this week’s post to Saturday, before this season’s premiere episode has been shown. I still might add a full review as a separate post rather than waiting until next week, depending upon both available time and how much the episode warrants it.

The Telegraph ran a story entitled, Steven Moffat talks the future of Sherlock and possible recasting. Of course, while scheduling Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman might be difficult, the show would never be the same with a different cast. Fortunately Moffat agreed:

Speaking at London’s BFI and Radio Times Television Festival, Moffat revealed: “Neither Benedict, Mark or Martin are against doing more Sherlocks. We have a great time making them, it’s a very, very nice bunch of people and we enjoy our reunions very much… [but] we’d never want to do it if we didn’t think we could do it as well as we used to.

“It also means, we’ll come back to it when we feel we’ve got the right idea. It could be off the earth quite a long while now. But I would be surprised, as I’ve said before, if we never made any more Sherlocks.”

Along with concerns over future stories, Moffat and Gatiss also have the busy schedules of their two stars to contend with: both men entrenched in the Marvel universe, as well as their multitudes of additional projects. It lead to Moffat being asked whether he would ever consider a recast.

“Absolutely not,” he was quick to reply. “You can admire great cinematography, a great score, great writing, great direction, great production. You can admire all those things, but you only fall in love with people. And the people you fall in love with are Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

“You cannot replace them. They are the magic, they are the show.”

Speaking of recasting, while The Crown plans to recast Claire Foy and Matt Smith after the second season as their characters age, Victoria will be moving more slowly through the 1840’s. Therefore there are no plans yet to recast Jenna Coleman.

BBC America has released a longer trailer for the fifth and final season of Orphan Black, which returns on June 10.

Netflix has released the above trailer for season 2 of Sense8, which will become available on May 5. The description:

From renowned creative geniuses Lana Wachowski, Grant Hill (“The Matrix,” “Cloud Atlas”) and J. Michael Straczynski (Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,’ “World War Z”), Sense8 is centered around eight characters, from different parts of the world, who experience a violent vision, and soon find themselves mentally connected by the experience. They become connected, able to see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, with access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must the eight adapt to this new ability and to each other, they must figure out why their lives are now in jeopardy. In Season 2, dark forces continue to track the cluster of eight connected characters. The sensates will learn more about BPO, the secret organization searching for their cluster and others like them, and will work to protect themselves from this organization that is out to hunt and kill them.

The above teaser has been released for Star Wars: The Last Jedi which will be released December 15. More at Entertainment Weekly.

Syfy has finally announced that The Magicians will be renewed for a third season. Grace and Frankie has also been renewed by Netflix.

Calista Flockhart will be returning for the final two episodes of Supergirl this season. She was written out of the show after two episodes as a consequence of the show moving production to Vancouver. Tyler Hoechlin will also return as Superman.

Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson/Deathstroke) will be returning for the season finale of Arrow.

Gotham plans to “introduce the idea of Harley Quinn” in the Season 3 finale.

The pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has received excellent reviews, so it is no surprise that Amazon has picked up this series from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. The only surprise is that Amazon has already picked it up for two seasons, which could keep Amy Sherman-Palladino busy if the rumors come true of a second season for Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. The summary for her new series:

The series, written and directed by Sherman-Palladino, stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. She charts a course that takes her from her comfortable life on Riverside Drive, through the basket houses and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she storms the world of stand-up comedy…a course that will ultimately lead her to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch.

In addition to House of Cards, Rachel Brosnahan also appeared as Abby Isaacs in the WGN series Manhattan.

Big Little Lies completed the events of  novel it was based on in its first season, but that might not keep it from getting a second season. It certainly is plausible–and there is precedent for this. The Leftovers was better in its second season, after its first season completed the novel it was based on, and early reviews suggest the third season might be even better. HBO was certainly not going to stop filming Game of Thrones when it caught up to the published novels.

SciFi Weekend: The Flash; Supergirl; Arrow; Legends of Tomorrow; Gotham; Dark Mirror; Westworld; Outlander; Falling Water; Doctor Who; SNL On The Second Presidential Debate

supergirl-season-2-trailer-superman

All four shows in the Berlantiverse have premiered on the CW Network for this season. (Spoilers ahead for those who are not up to date). The Flash returned with the long-anticipated Flashpoint story, and couldn’t keep up with the hype. Unfortunately it was all predictable that after saving his mother, some reason would come up which would force Barry to restore the time line. This combined both disasters for some of his friends with him developing the problem of losing his original memories. It was mostly resolved in the first episode, but the restored timeline did have some changes, such as Iris not speaking to her father. Almost everything was fixed by the end of the second episode. There is one change which does extend to Arrow–Diggle now has a son rather than a daughter (with the son seen in an episode of Legends of Tomorrow last season).

While The Flash got off to a mixed opening, Supergirl started the season strong with the introduction of Superman–now putting these two series out in front of the Berlantiverse shows. It was the perfect view of Superman for this series–the version from the latest movies certainly would not have fit in.

I bet nobody was surprised that Kara decided to become a reporter. The move of Winn from CatCo to the DEO is exactly the type of change which might be farfetched in the real world, but which fits into television reality. They hinted at changes for Cat Grant, which is probably a cover for Calista Flockart not going to appear as often due to the move of the show to Vancouver. It does make sense that Kara will not see her as much with the change from her personal assistant to reporter. She will have a new boss, with some information from Entertainment Weekly:

Kara’s working relationship with her new boss, Snapper Carr, is very different from the one she had with Cat Grant. “Cat — both with Kara and I think with others — is actually devoted to mentoring people,” EP Andrew Kreisberg says. “She challenges them hard, but she does that with the idea that she’s forging them and they’re going to come out the other side as stronger, better people. Snapper Carr doesn’t give a crap. He believes in the written word, in facts and ‘Are you good at your job or are you not? If you’re not good at your job, I don’t have time for you.’”

A clip from next week’s episode in which Kara meets Snapper Carr is above.

While The Flash was about Barry and Iris getting together regardless of the time line, Kreisberg has decided that Kara and Jimmy Olsen should just be friends. I just hope they stick with this decision. We have seen far too many Ross and Rachel situations on television.

Arrow has been on a downward trajectory since its superb second season, and it is too early to say whether it can move out of third place among the Berlantiverse shows. The first two episodes of the season have concentrated on building a new team, and have been rather unremarkable. Maybe once this is established the show will improve. At least the flash backs in Russia look more interesting than the flash backs from last season.

Legends of Tomorrow has been largely rebooted, but I’d still rank it as the weakest of the four seasons based upon the single episode available so far.  It appears that the team has a new leader in place of Arthur Darvill’s character Rip Hunter, but I’m not certain that he is really gone for good. On the one hand the mission first season was more personal for Rip Hunter and it might make sense to reduce the emphasis on him. On the other hand, it is Arthur Darvill who has the direct connection to the Time Masters they are replacing (along with a certain Time Lord). So far we have only had a glimpse of the Justice Society of America, but we should be seeing a lot of them next week.

Geek and Sundry has a guide to the Justice Society

Before the Justice League… Who’s the Justice Society?

So, the Justice Society of America, or JSA, was DC comics’ first all-star super group, debuting in the 1940s. Its initial roster consisted of names who should sound very familiar to followers of recent movies and shows. There was the Atom, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Flash, among others. Only these weren’t the same characters which viewers are familiar with today. A key aspect of DC lore is the notion of masked personas being passed down through generations, so when the company dusted off the super group concept in the 60’s with the Justice League of America, it didn’t take long for the creators to retcon the two teams as being part of a lineage.

Judging by the trailer, it seems this JSA might be the only official super group in the “Arrowverse,” and its line-up will be cherry picked from various incarnations of the team. It’ll also apparently live up to its name more by operating as a clandestine secret society. Who are the members, though?

Hourman

The first wearer of this cowl, Rex Tyler, takes his name from the Miralco Pill which grants superhuman physical prowess for an hour once ingested. As soon as time’s up, though, Hourman’s reverts back to being a normal human being. The chronal chaos seen in the trailer suggests, however, that this guy will be an amalgamation of all three heroes in the tradition, having the time-travel capability of the second Hourman, along with the black costume of the third.

Stargirl

She’s a more light-hearted heroine with ties to two superhero dynasties. Stargirl wields the powerful “cosmic staff,” which absorbs and re-directs energy, allowing her to fly, fire bolts, create forcefields, and also levitate objects.

Dr. Mid-Nite

Imagine a character somewhere between Daredevil and Riddick. All three Doctors have been actual medical doctors who turned to crime-fighting after accidents granted them night vision at the cost of near-blindness in normal light conditions. Hence, the goggles. For all doctors, the preferred tool is the noxious “black out” smoke bomb, and the preferred assistant is a deadly, trained owl.

Obsidian

The mutant son of the first Green Lantern (not Hal Jordan!), he’s born with powers that ironically invert the mighty light of his father. Obsidian can turn into a living shadow and gain all the associated qualities, like flight and intangibility. He can even sometimes build objects out of darkness, much like GL’s constructs.

Vixen

A bit like the Beastmaster, this heroine can tap into a primordial force called “the Red” which allows her to possess the abilities of any animal. This power comes from the mystical Tantu Totem, which is passed down through generations. And in fact, this Vixen is not the same one who’s previously been seen on Arrow. She’s her grandmother.

Commander Steel

A bit like Captain America, this star-spangled hero is a military man who’s granted super strength and invulnerability after a top secret experiment. (In this case, it’s meant to restore his damaged body.) Steel fights in World War II, and he makes life-long enemies with Nazi super-villains who come back to bedevil the grandsons who eventually take up his mantle.

There was even a reference to Gotham on Supergirl last week, even if not the Gotham of the Fox television show. This DC-based show also got off to a good start this season. Their election for mayor was settled far more quickly than our presidential election. Oswald Cobblepot might be as disgusting a figure in many ways as Donald Trump, and as crooked as Hillary Clinton, but if he was in a three-way race for president, I would be tempted to vote for him over our current awful choices.

Black Mirror

Just after I finished one show dropped on Netflix (Luke Cage), they are releasing another genre series on Friday. After two seasons of Dark Mirror on Channel 4 in the U.K., Netflix will be releasing a third season. TV Guide looks at the previous episodes to watch before the third season begins. The first two seasons are also available on Netflix. The New York Times spoke with the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker, and his collaborator Annabel Jones.

While I will hold off on discussing Luke Cage until a later date, of the Netflix Marvel series, I’d rank it just a bit behind Daredevil season 1, and above Daredevil season 2. Jessica Jones remains the best of the series. While there are some overlaps, and Luke Cage did have a role in Jessica Jones, each series can be watched independently without having seen the others.

Nerdist looks at how Doctor Strange fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

westworld

I was disappointed when I found that HBO was not streaming the third episode of Westworld early like they did with the first two, and I will have to wait until later tonight to watch. While I have not seen all of the new series which have premiered this season, so far it is the one I am most interested in. Assignment X has an interview with Jonathan Nolan. Here is a portion, which also compares it to Nolan’s previous series, Person of  Interest:

AX: You spent five years dealing with A.I. on PERSON OF INTEREST …

NOLAN: I think I found my subject.

AX: Did you come to any conclusions about artificial intelligence while doing PERSON OF INTEREST that have been useful in WESTWORLD?

NOLAN: It’s funny, because it’s really looking at the subject from a different perspective. PERSON OF INTEREST was relentlessly non-anthropomorphic A.I. was really the godhead, it was A.I. as a pure intelligence, not tethered to the mortal coil, an A.I. that was developed in secret. With WESTWORLD, you have really the opposite. You have A.I. that, if you consider the consciousness aspect of it, it’s almost an accident that these creatures – they’ve been programmed merely to be as lifelike as necessary for their job, and their job is to satisfy, as Lisa said, our most noble or most base desires. So they’re not supposed to be smarter than us. That’s the last thing [their makers] want.

AX: What are the WESTWORLD park’s customers like?

NOLAN: Well, the guest experience is the third point of view of the show, but it’s very much unlike the original film. We really wanted to start with the hosts, start with their limited understanding of what this world is. But there is that great point of entry. You want to know, how does this place work? As Lisa said earlier, the show is really an examination of human nature, from two different directions. From the perspective of synthetic humans, or synthetic beings, who have been coded to resemble human nature as closely as possible, and who are beginning the question, in the first season, just how worthy a model that is to follow. Every perspective of human beings, and this is the delicious part of the premise, who have been invited or made their way into a space in which they’ve been told that they have free rein. They can take their id on vacation. They can indulge in any whim, no matter how noble or dark that they want, and apparently without consequence. And so that’s a fascinating premise as well. You know, who are we when the lights are off? Who are we when we don’t think anyone’s keeping score? And then in between these worlds [of the synthetic hosts and the human guests], you have the programmers, writers, technicians, the Promethean characters who are responsible for mediating those two worlds.

AX: It seems like Ed Harris’ Man in Black gunslinger/marauder character is a guest who is indulging real darkness in himself …

NOLAN: Ed’s character features as the “ne plus ultra” guest. This is an expert-level player, someone who has been coming to the park, as he says in the second episode, for thirty years. He knows everything about [the park].

When Crichton wrote the original film, the state of the videogame business was Pong. In the forty years since then, that entire industry has grown up and evolved into this monster that’s bigger than the film business, bigger than the TV business. So our narrative had to account for that more sophisticated understanding that we have of gaming. We call them “guests,” but there is also a gaming aspect to what they do in the park. It is not just a leisurely resort. They’re here to engage in the narratives, and the narratives are increasingly sophisticated.

AX: We see that the guests can shoot the android hosts, and the hosts can’t shoot each other, but theoretically, the guests can’t shoot each other and the hosts can’t shoot the guests. Are the guns built so that they can detect human physiology as opposed to android physiology, or how does that work?

NOLAN: It’s not the guns. It’s the bullets. We thought a lot about this. In the original film, the guns won’t operate guest on guest. But we felt like the guests would want to have a more visceral experience here. So when they’re shot and it has an impact, they’re called “simunitions.” The U.S. military trains with rounds like the ones we’re talking about. There’s a bit of an impact, a bit of a sting. So it’s not entirely consequence-free for the guests.

There has been a steady stream of news, such as this casting news, to keep alive interest in Outlander until it returns, probably in April. The season two gag real was also released–audio not safe for work.

I haven’t had a chance to watch Falling Water yet, but have a few links for those who are interested. The New York Times has a review. Buddy TV has videos of interviews with cast and crew, followed by summaries of key points, here and here.

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Den of Geek looks at the possibility of Jenna Coleman returning to Doctor Who.

While there are no firm plans yet, Steven Moffat has stated that Benedict Cumberbatch is interested in continuing with Sherlock after the fourth season. He is obviously quite busy on other projects, including Doctor Strange. Moffat also states that Peter Capaldi will be remaining on Doctor Who after he leaves as show runner.

Donald Trump is not happy with how Saturday Night Live has portrayed him. Video of their parody of the second presidential debate above, with Alec Baldwin portraying Donald Trump. Trump says that the media is rigging the election that Baldwin’s portrayal stinks. He also tweeted that it is “Time to retire the boring and unfunny show.”

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek; The Growing Berlantiverse; SHIELD; Doctor Who; Catwoman; Genre Shows Win Creative Arts Emmys; The Nix

George Takei discussed Star Trek with Stephen Colbert. Video above. Nerdist reports:

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek (well, in America at least: sorry to Canada that we didn’t do this two days earlier), so fittingly the tributes and odes were pouring in from fans around the globe. However, it was George Takei who best summed up what the franchise is really all about, and in doing so explained why it is so beloved and has endured for so long.

The O.G. Sulu was a guest of super nerd and Trekkie Stephen Colbert on The Late Show last night, and Takei shared his memories of the “very special” first time he went to work on the series, where franchise creator Gene Roddenberry described to him and the rest of the cast at their first table read what story the space adventure show was really telling.

“Gene explained to us what Star Trek was all about,” said Takei, “He said that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth, and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity coming together.” Roddenbery then explained that the possibilities of “infinity diversity in infinite combinations” (IDIC) would force the crew, representing the many people of the planet, to combine their abilities to solve problems as one.

More detail on the interview at The Mary Sue.

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Majel Barrett has had both on-screen roles and has been on multiple versions of Star Trek as the voice of the ship’s computer. Her voice was recorded phonetically before she died and there is talk of using her voice on Star Trek: Discovery, along with using it Siri-like virtual assistants. I want my Amazon Echo to use her voice!

Bryan Fuller continues to slowly provide hints about other aspects of Star Trek: Discovery. He tweeted than an episode from The Original Series, Balance of Terror, is a “touchstone” for Discovery’s story arc. The episode introduced the Romulans, and TrekMovie.com speculates on what this might mean.

USA Today has an article on Rod Roddenberry.

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Greg Berlanti is working on yet another superhero show, now Black Lightning for Fox.

IndieWire has interviewed Gregg Berlanti about his multiple superhero shows. He has news on several of them, including the cross-over episodes:

As “Supergirl” leaps to The CW, how has the network move – and the relocation to Vancouver – been going?

I just saw the director’s cut of the first episode, and I’m in as much love with the show as ever. It’s been challenging to figure out all the moving parts, moving the show across cities and across networks. But the reality is, I think the show is as strong as ever and it feels really seamless. People will not be able to tell that it’s not L.A. It feels like National City still. There are some new enhancements to the set that we were going to do anyway. Obviously some new characters are coming to the show that we would have brought in anyway to the second season. And so I’m really pleased. CBS in their own wisdom recognized it, there’s no part of the show that’s fighting itself anymore. It has a youthfulness and appeal because of the age of the leading lady, and it gets to embrace that a touch more.

What more can you tell us how often we’ll see Calista Flockhart’s character, Cat Grant?

She’s recurring. We’re trying to get her for at least six episodes this year, and she’s in the first two episodes. We’re just trying to see when she can come back now.

And will we see her interact with Superman?

I don’t want to give it away, but she has a special kind of dynamic with Clark Kent.

How far along is the “Supergirl”/”The Flash” musical crossover?

We just finished writing the fall crossovers. And now we’re trying to figure out how to produce them. That’s probably the most challenging thing we do all year. And now we’re doing it across three shows! But next week we’ll have to start talking about clearing music. I have a few ideas for tone and style in my head but we’re just starting to talk about what that can be. I do want to try and get an original piece of music written. As we make a deal on that we’ll probably make some announcements on the original songs.

Perhaps written by, I don’t know, Lin-Manuel Miranda?

[laughs] I would say, pretty close. I can’t say yet because we don’t have a deal yet, but I did speak to someone we’re really excited about. There are some writers I’m incredibly excited to work with.

Back to the big CW series crossover, how difficult is that to pull off across so many series?

You really are trying to run a single production across three different productions. But they’re run as three separate entities. We have to figure out when we’re borrowing one actor from where. We’re telling one cohesive story; “Supergirl” will participate, but the storyline doesn’t actively begin there. There are some characters who show up in her episode, but the story begins with “The Flash” episode and goes to “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” We’re just getting into designing the bad guy for it, and we start now but it doesn’t air until the end of November. We will put a lot of time between now and then figuring out visual effects sequences. Just today I was holding the three scripts back-to-back – that’s 180 pages of material. It’s a three-hour story, almost a miniseries.

And when you place all three scripts together, it unlocks some sort of fortune.

[laughs] It’s very daunting when you hold them all together like that. Each one of these pages is 10 hours of shooting and a visual effects extravaganza. But hopefully it feels like a great kind of crossover comic book sell.

The Spoiler Room at Entertainment Weekly has news on several genre shows, including this about Felicity on Arrow:

Emily Bett Rickards has been training a lot lately. Does it mean Felicity will be involved in more action scenes in Arrow season 5? — Itakha
At first, Felicity will be dealing with the fallout of Havenrock’s destruction. “In the first five episodes, we face head-on the decision that Felicity made,” EP Marc Guggenheim says. “We are most definitely not ignoring it.” Following that, though, Guggenheim cryptically teases what could be Felicity jumping in on the action. “We’re positioning her to do something in the second half of the year that is really, really key, and that isn’t about her relationship with Oliver or even necessarily her father or her mother. It’s really new territory for her, and we’ve very excited about it. Some big things are going to happen with Felicity.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see Emily Bett Richards while watching Brooklyn last weekend. (Sorry, it was not a major role, and the movie, while excellent, is totally non-genre).

Agents of SHIELD has a promo for Ghost Rider. More at Screen Rant.

Hulu has picked up a sci-fi comedy entitled Future Man from Seth Rogen.

Vince Gilligan is producing a limited series for HBO on Jim Jones for HBO entitled Raven. My bet is that he will do a good job of showing Jones’ life, but after Breaking Bad I would prefer to see him invent more flawed characters of his own.

Netflix has renewed Narcos for season 3 and 4.

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It appears that the next season of Doctor Who will start in April based upon reports in Radio Times and a comment from Peter Capaldi. Before that, there will also be the Christmas episode. Plus in November there will be an animated version of a lost story:

It’s one of the Doctor’s most celebrated adventures and yet no complete film recordings of The Power of the Daleks are known to have survived. The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974.

BBC Worldwide has announced that a brand new black and white animation based on audio recordings of the programme using the original cast, surviving photographs and film clips will be released 50 years to the minute after its only UK broadcast on BBC One.

The six half hour episodes feature the regeneration, or as it was then called ‘renewal’, of First Doctor William Hartnell into Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, as the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan.

Anne Hathaway told Variety she would live to play Catwoman again. That might be difficult as the Christopher Nolan Batman stories, where she appeared, have concluded, but that doesn’t entirely rule out her reprising the role in a future movie.

A few genre shows have already won awards last night at the Creative Arts Emmys. Winners included Jessica Jones (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music), Mr. Robot (Outstanding Music Composition For A Series), and Man In The High Castle (Outstanding Main Title Design and Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series). Hopefully some of these series will  also win some of the more major Emmy awards.

J.J. Abrams is working on a television adaptation of The Nix, staring Meryl Streep.

Headline of the day coming over my news aggregators which sounds more like cheap fiction than news: Sick African dictator ‘eats his enemies’ testicles and brains to boost his sexual prowess’

SciFi Weekend: Network Renewals and Cancellations; New Shows; John Barrowman on Doctor Who Christmas Special?; Nebula Award Winners

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Announcements came out last week regarding the fates of network shows. With most of the shows worth watching now being on cable and streaming, this news is not as major as it once was, but there is still some news which impact genre shows. A list of renewals and cancellations from all the networks can be seen here.

As discussed last week, CBS did go ahead and cancel Supergirl, but it will be continuing on the CW Network (which CBS partially owns). This does seem where it belongs anyways. CW will most likely wind up paying less for the show than what studios charge CBS. It will also save money in moving production to Vancouver. Besides the lower costs involved in filming there, they can probably save additional money by sharing costs with the other Berlantiverse shows.

The move to Vancouver might also affect the cast if not everyone agrees to go. Most likely they did make it worthwhile for Calista Flockhart to come to Vancouver periodically. With the vast majority of her scenes occurring in her office, it might be possible to have her come out to film for a few episodes at a time, and then return home. This would also make it easier to have more cross over episodes with the other Berlantiverse series, with the casts of all four shows working in Vancouver. Supergirl takes place on a different earth, but we have already seen The Flash make it to her earth, Supergirl should be able to replicate what Barry Allen did to cross over, and the Waverider on Legends of Tomorrow can travel between the multiple earths.

In other genre series on CBS, we’ve already knew that Person of Interest has been canceled, and Limitless remains on the bubble.

Yet another series in the DC universe has made it to network television. NBC has picked up Powerless. From Entertainment Weekly:

The network has given a series order to Powerless, which stars Vanessa Hudgens (Grease Live) as a “spunky young insurance adjuster specializing in regular-people coverage against damage caused by the crime-fighting superheroes.” (Think The Office meets Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. minus Marvel).

More details about the pilot storyline: “It’s when [Hudgens’ character] stands up to one of these larger-than-life figures (after an epic battle messes with her commute) that she accidentally becomes a cult ‘hero’ in her own right … even if it’s just to her group of lovably quirky co-workers. Now, while she navigates her normal, everyday life against an explosive backdrop, Emily might just discover that being a hero doesn’t always require superpowers.”

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Marvel series have not done as well as DC on network television. While Agents of SHIELD returns on ABC, ABC has both canceled Agent Carter and decided not to pick up Marvel’s Most Wanted. The good news is that, along with cancellations of Nashville and Castle, Adrianne Palicki, Connie Britton, and Nathan Fillion are all available for new shows.

ABC did pick up Conviction staring Haley Atwell. Maybe Netflix, which has been the strongest television outlet for Marvel, will also bring back Agent Carter when Atwell’s schedule permits. Before Agent Carter was canceled, there was talk of still continuing the show and work around Atwell’s schedule. A grittier version should do well on Netflix.

Fox, where many other genre shows have died too early, didn’t have the sense that ABC did in ending Castle when with the loss of a star. For reasons nobody understands, they have renewed Sleepy Hollow. In good news from the network, Fox is also renewing Gotham.

The new genre shows appear to be primarily based upon time travel next season. The trailer for Timeless from NBC is above. The TV Addict has this description of the series

Lucy is one of the most history popular professors at her university when TIMELESS begins, but her modern teaching styles don’t really appeal to the school’s tenure committee. And while she seems very unappreciated in the world of academia, Lucy is about to get a big opportunity that perfectly fits her skills.

One night, a mysterious criminal and his henchmen steal a secret state-of-the-art time machine and they’re looking to destroy the country as people know it by changing the past. Lucy is soon recruited by Homeland Security — along with soldier Wyatt and scientist Rufus — to help retrieve the machine and stop the criminal from changing the past. To do that, they’re going to use the machine’s original prototype. Their first stop is to 1937 and the site of the Hindenburg disaster.

But in addition to preventing the past from being destroyed by this criminal, they also have to make every effort not to affect the past themselves.

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Other new shows on NBC include Blacklist: Redemption. TV Line described the series:

In the new venture, undercover operative Tom Keen teams up with Susan “Scottie” Hargrave (played by Famke Janssen), “the brilliant and cunning chief of Grey Matters, a covert mercenary organization that solves problems governments don’t dare touch,” per the series’ official description.

This suggests that if Lizzie returns from the dead on The Blacklist after Megan Boone’s maternity leave is completed, she will probably not be with Tom.

Other networks are joining NBC in premiering time travel series next season, including ABC with Time After Time. This is based upon the 1979 movie about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time. Teaser above. Fox will have a time travel comedy, Making History. A list of the new network shows can be seen here.

John Barrowman made a statement on Facebook which has attracted a lot of attention: “I will be back in Cardiff in about a week and a half. But I’m not telling you what for…sssh!” This has led to speculation that he is returning to Doctor Who, possibly for the Christmas episode. The spin-off Class also films in Cardiff.

Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards have been announced.  Uprooted by  Naomi Novik has won as best novel. The winner of the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation Winner was Mad Max: Fury Road.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Supergirl; Agents of SHIELD; Renewals; DC Movie News; Schwarzenegger Refuses To Talk About Trump

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Peter Capaldi had previously suggested he would leave Doctor Who after the upcoming season, when Chris Chibnall will replace Steven Moffat as show runner. He has now told Radio Times that he has been asked to stay on but has not made up his mind. He also states that the new companion to replace Jenna Coleman has been cast and will be named soon.

Capaldi has told Newsweek that he is not happy with how the BBC handles the series:

Perhaps, as is the fate of so many seemingly happy marriages, the BBC has taken the Doctor for granted? “Undoubtedly,” he says. “The BBC is an incredible organization, but…sometimes people there think, That’s looking after itself. And it’s not being looked after. I think maybe their eye was taken off the ball, or the show was seen as a thing they could just push around. It’s not. It’s a special thing.”

The later time slot prompted tabloid hyperbole of a “ratings crisis,” something the star admits he begrudgingly keeps tabs on. “I have to pay attention to ratings—I’d rather not—but it’s the way the business is,” he says. “I think overnight ratings are a thing of the past. You can’t really measure the success of the show by its overnight ratings, which is what the papers do. But there’s still a place for families to sit down and watch the show—that’s still a great, fun thing to do. That’s what the show’s success has been based on. That has to be protected.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (5613187u) Melissa Benoist, Calista Flockhart and Chyler Leigh 'Supergirl' TV series screening, Inside, PaleyFest 2016, Los Angeles, America - 13 Mar 2016

The cast and crew of Supergirl discussed feminism, and the upcoming Supergirl/Flash crossover episode at PaleyFest:

Much of the discussion centered on feminism, particularly on the impact of having a female superhero on television in a male-dominated field. Leigh said that’s what motivated her to take on the Alex Danvers role. “I have two girls, and right before taking this job my husband was really challenging me in the sense of like ‘think about what this opportunity is and think about what it means to you and look at our little girls and if you don’t have a resounding yes [about being on Supergirl] then you’re crazy. For little girls, there’s so much on TV that is influential especially towards the younger ages. To be a part of something that’s telling a very powerful story in many different ways from many different perspectives, especially from a women’s standpoint but also from little girl’s standpoint … is rewarding.” Added Adler, “And that’s not just confined to little girls or women. I think the most exciting thing for me is the feeling that everyone feeling the strength of Supergirl regardless of gender.”

…On why he chose The Flash to be the first comic book crossover character on Supergirl, Berlanti said: “We needed to create a way to do it. We had to introduce Superman since you’ve heard about him and you’ve heard about Supergirl, but in worlds of Arrow and Flash, they didn’t exist in that world. We introduced the multiverse in The Flash this year, and that was always our way in.” But fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a visit from the Man of Steel. “We’re so thrilled that Supergirl is our point of view,” Adler said. “We’re thrilled to continue to tell her story.”

Supergirl has been renewed for a second season.

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Agents of SHIELD will once again be affected by the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

After Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivered the game-changing twist that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD from the inside, completely destroying the government organization that makes up the very core of Agents of SHIELD, the ABC Marvel drama became a completely new show in season one. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) became Director Coulson of the real SHIELD, working in the shadows to take down the Hydra agents who betrayed them, including their former friend Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). The show was never the same after that revelation, and it was clear from both critical and fan response that the series was better for it.

With Captain America: Civil War only weeks away from its box-office bow, Agents of SHIELD is set to change yet again as a result of whatever happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“It will definitely have a ripple effect,” executive producer Jed Whedon says. “It is one world, so if there is a giant event, it will definitely have a ripple effect on our world.”

SHIELD Palicki and Blood

There is also more information on the spinoff being considered staring Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood:

After spawning low-rated but critical darling period drama Agent Carter, ABC’s first Marvel series is laying the groundwork for pilot Marvel’s Most Wanted. Centering on the newest additions to SHIELD, Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), the potential series would follow the two former spies and ex-spouses who are on the run with no friends, no SHIELD and a long list of enemies looking to claim a bounty on their heads.

Without any allies except each other, Bobbi and Hunter will be forced to form an uneasy alliance with Dominic Fortune (Delroy Lindo), a rogue adventurer with a wealth of resources and even more adversaries, who agrees to protect them so long as they help him with his own agenda. These two heroes will help anyone in need, all while trying to uncover the conspiracy that put their own lives in jeopardy.

They will continue to work with SHIELD this season and decisions as to Marvel’s Most Wanted and Agent Carter will probably be made in May.

Fox has renewed Gotham for a third season. In other news on the show,  Brian McManamon has been cast as  Clayface.

Person of Interest returns on May 5 with two episodes to air per week, airing on Monday and Tuesday. This is to be the final season.

Amber Herd has been cast to play Mera in the upcoming Justice League and stand-alone Aquaman movie. Both the stand-alone Aquaman movie and Flash movie will be new stories following their appearance in Justice League and will not be origin stories. Following are the planned release dates for the DC movies:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice March 25, 2016

Justice League: Part One November 17, 2017

The Flash March 16, 2018

Aquaman following July 27, 2018

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is about to take over as host of Celebrity Apprentice, walked out of an interview and refused to answer questions about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign when asked on Australia’s Weekend Sunrise. Schwarzenegger has endorsed John Kasich for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile Trump’s campaign continues like a bad reality show or movie, with more violence reported, involving his campaign manager.

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

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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.

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18. Togetherness (HBO)

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

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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.

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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.

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15. Casual (Hulu)

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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: Leonard Nimoy, Who Lived Long And Prospered 1931-2015; Parks and Recreation Finale; Sleepy Hollow; Agent Carter; How To Get Away With Murder; Broadchurch; Arrow; 12 Monkeys

star-trek-spock-leonard-nimoy-nbc-pic

News of the death of Leonard Nimoy dominated the news and blogosphere since Friday. I had previous posts on Friday and Saturday, including  tweets from those who worked with him, those at NASA who were inspired by him, and even from President Obama. Obama also issued this longer statement:

Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.

As Vulture pointed out, it is fitting that Obama had such a personal statement considering how often there have been comparisons of Obama to Spock.

Parks and Recreation Finale

The week also featured the series finale of Parks and Recreation along with several season finales. The series started with a weak first season. Probably as a combination of this, initially just seeing it as a spin-off of The Office, and not being excited by the premise of a small town in Indiana, it did make it on my DVR every week, but for a while it was often put off until I finished the other Thursday sit-coms. Then at some point I realized that the show which had me laughing the most was usually Parks and Recreation.

Part of the success of Parks and Recreation was the manner in which over the years many cast members were developed, allowing the show to go in many different directions. The heart of the show was the dichotomy between Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), but there was so much more going on. Both Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza were excellent supporting characters, and their roles become even more terrific with their romance and eventual marriage. Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe followed a similar trajectory. Adam Scott started as a semi-straight man to Rob Lowe, and then fulfilled a similar role, in a way replacing her best friend Ann Perkins, with Amy Poehler after Lowe and Jones left the show. Cast members including Aziz Ansari, Retta, Jim O’Heir, and others further fleshed out the people Pawnee far more than is seen in a typical sit-com. I think the show which came closest in this regard was not a half hour sit-com but was Northern Exposure.

With this diverse cast there was a wide variety of types of humor, not the repeated jokes which are rapidly recycled for laughs on many other sit-coms. Being a blog about politics and often genre, I would point out that both were included on Parks and Recreation. There was Leslie Knope, who was always optimistic about what government could do, even when facing obstacles, contrasted with the libertarian Ron Swanson, who was in government to try to make sure it didn’t do too much. Genre sometimes did sneak in, such as when Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) once said told Leslie,I went back to season one of Fringe to check for plot holes. As suspected, it’s airtight.

The finale, like the finale of Parenthood, followed the Six Feet Under precedent of showing how the characters wind up. They did an excellent job. Instead of putting this at the end, the fate of each major, and some minor characters, were interspersed into a story in which the former employees of the Parks Department got back together for one last task. Although they thought it would be their last time together, their futures did include getting back together at key moments in their lives.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Mike Schur. He left it to our imaginations as to whether in one future scene we are seeing President Leslie Knope with Secret Service protection.

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Finale

It is not known yet whether Monday’s episode of Sleepy Hollow will be a season or series finale, but after a weak season the show had an excellent episode which would work well as either. Abby’s trip into the past paralleled the series premiere, but this time Abby was in Ichabod’s role. Rather than having cliff hangers like last season, the episode tied up past plot threads, leaving only a vague mention of future battles should there be a future season. The episode ended with the core characters back together, and despite a weak second season I would be quite willing to give them another chance if the writers have figured out what to do with them for a third season.

Agent Carter Finale

Agent Carter concluded a self-contained story, and due to relatively poor ratings it is questionable if it will return. The season ended with Howard Stark exonerated, his inventions rescued, and the prevention of a disaster. Peggy had a moment of closure regarding the loss of Captain America. If the series returns, Dotty did survive to be a formidable ongoing enemy with her Black Widow training. Being Marvel, of course there was also a final scene, tying this into the rest of the Marvel universe. E! News spoke with the show runners:

E! News: Walk me through the decision to bring Dr. Zola onto the show, because as a fan of the Captain America movies, that was such a fun treat to find out what happened to him in between the first and second movie!
Tara Butters: We really wanted to connect Agent Carter to the greater MCU, and when we pitched the series to Marvel, they had brought up using Fenhoff as a way to connect to the Winter Soldier program. We had this idea of how great it would be to bring Toby Jones on for a scene—
Michele Fazekas: But we never thought that would actually happen. We thought we’d have to figure out a different way to make that happen. But then he was available and he was interested! That was really nice since a lot of different things could have gone wrong but it worked out.

The similarities between Peggy talking to Howard as he flies to his certain death and Peggy talking to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he flew to his death were so striking. Did you shape the finale to mirror that final scene in Captain America: The First Avenger, or did that happen organically?
TB: When we broke out the season, we knew that that’s where we wanted to end, a version of that scene, a version of her talking down Howard. There’s been different iterations of it, though. At one point, it was Jarvis [James D’Arcy] talking him down and then Peggy, and then we flew Jarvis in the plane. But it was really lovely how ABC and Marvel gave us a lot of time to break out the eight episodes, so it felt like we really knew where we were going and it was really nice to see all of it pay off in the final episode.

How To Get Away With Murder Finale

How To Get Away With Murder ended its first season by tying up one murder and ending with another. It did seem anticlimactic to go an entire season to only find that the most likely suspect was guilty, even if he called on someone else to do the actual killing. For a while the format of having a season-long mystery on shows such as Veronica Mars, along with a mystery of the week, seemed like something new and refreshing. Now it has been done so many times that the US shows doing this seem much weaker than shows which don’t try to stretch things out for a whole season, or longer, and deal with a single storyline over a shorter season.

Executive producer Pete Nowalk discussed the season finale with E!

Broadchurch funeral

Several British shows have been successful with the more compact formula of a single story instead of interspersing a crime of the week, with season one of Broadchurch being among the best. The second season just concluded in the U.K. and a third season is planned. While not anywhere as good as the first season, the second season did turn out to be worth watching.

The second season of Broadchurch starts on BBC America on March 4 and there are major spoilers in the rest of this section for those planning to watch. The second season dealt with two story lines. The major story line is that Joe Miller recanted his confession to the killing of Daniel Latimer and the case wentto trial. This is the show which could have been named How To Get Away With Murder, as the person the viewer knows to be guilty was found not guilty in court in the season finale. The show has always concentrated on how the people of Broadchurch reacted to the murder, and for a moment it looked like they were going to respond to the faulty verdict with a lynch mob. Fortunately they did not go that far.

The show has a more powerful lesson about the limitations of the justice system with the erroneous acquittal of Joe Miller. It had me thinking that, if it also extended the story this long, how Gracepoint could have been a more significant show than it was by nearly copying everything from Broadchurch. The high profile cases in which the legal system has failed in handling whites who have killed blacks in this country could have provided a more topical influence, while still retaining aspects of Broadchurch.

The B storyline from Broadchurch involving the killings of two girls years ago was by far the weaker, and was tied up very quickly following the more interesting aspects involving Joe Miller. The season might have been better if it was shorter and this was left out.

Arrow Oliver and Ra’s al Ghul

Arrow was not a finale but, going on hiatus for a month, there was yet another cliff hanger on Nanda Parbat. How does Oliver respond to Ra’s al Ghul’s offer and also save both Diggle and Malcolm Merlyn? Marc Guggenheim answered some fan questions, including questions about Felicity sleeping with Ray Palmer, but no clues as to how the cliff hanger will be  resolved.

There are also reports of yet another planned spin-off. It will star Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/The Atom), Victor Garber (Martin Stein, one-half of Firestorm on “The Flash”), Wentworth Miller (Captain Cold) and Caity Lotz (The first Black Canary). This raises at least two question. If Victor Garber is present, what about Robbie Amell, who plays the other half of Firestorm? As the Black Canary was killed, does this mean that the Canary will return to life, or that she will play a different character?

The other planned show in the same universe, Supergirl, has added a former Superman and Supergirl to the cast,  Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Helen Slater, who stared in the 1984 Supergirl movie. Calista Flockhart has also been added to the cast.

12 Monkeys 2

12 Monkeys had another strong episode in which time travel, along with the relationship between Cole and Cassie, played a big part. There was also a sort of role reversal here like on Sleepy Hollow. With his time jumping, there was a period in which Cassie was ahead of Cole, and realized he could be going to his death but could not warn him. There is no doubt that Cole will return, as was verified by executive producer Natalie Chaidez, but with time travel it is possible that he will not return in the same timeline to the point after this episode concluded for Cassie. He is certainly going to make it back to 1987 at some point. The episode also included an evil version of Edward Snowden, but the CIA was far more evil in unleashing a virus to try to kill him without taking the blame.

Rob Lowe Returns to Television Politics

Rob Lowe, whose character Sam Seaborn worked behind the scenes, now gets a chance to play the candidate himself (beyond his brief run for Congress before leaving The West Wing.) Lowe is joining the cast of Brothers and Sisters “as Sen. Robert McCallister, a California Republican with one eye focused on the White House and the other on Kitty Walker (Calista Flockhart).” Coincidentally, Bobby McCallister was also the name of the boy fated to become Republican President in 2041 on the 2004 WB show Jack & Bobby.

Contemporary politics was significant in Sunday’s episode of Brothers and Sisters as one of Kitty Walker’s brothers received a notice that he was to be sent back to Iraq. The episode included flash backs to September 11, 2001 to show why he initially enlisted.