SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Eaters of Light Review and Chris Chibnall Hints At Plans For Next Season

Eaters of Light was a filler episode of Doctor Who before we get into the two-part season finale. It was written by Rona Munro, who wrote Survival, the last serial of classic Doctor Who. Some elements of the old serials could be seen compressed into this episode. Munro has also been working as a play write, and this could be seen in the excellent dialog of the episode, which helped make up for the weakness of its plot.

In some ways I felt like I was watching a different version of last week’s Empress of Mars. Like last week’s episode, it began with a brief scene in the present or near-future which raised a question–this time the TARDIS engraved on a stone. The story then went back to resolve the mystery. Like last week, the plot was pushed forward by Bill falling. Again there were the themes of redemption for cowardice, the folly of war, and the need for enemies to work together for their common survival.

Besides the minor mystery of the TARDIS being engraved on the stone, two other common ideas from Doctor Who were seen. An old mystery, in this case what happened to the Ninth Roman Legion  in the second century AD, was “answered.” We also “learned” a lot about crows and how they communicate.

Bill showed her science fiction geekiness in figuring out the telepathic autotranslation functions of the TARDIS, although this revelation would have made more sense earlier in the season. This came into play in also allowing the previously warring parties to communicate and settle their differences in order to work together. Bill’s sexual preferences were easily understood by a Roman soldier. Bill also played a role in motivating the others, which ultimately set them up for their sacrifice at the end: “If you come with me, I can’t promise that you won’t die but, I can promise you this: you won’t all die in a hole in the ground.”

Nardole played comic relief, initially going around in his bathrobe like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Later he changed clothes and did some face painting to fit in with the natives.

The plot did have its problems. I was bothered early on when Bill just went off on her own with no weapons, no way to communicate, and no way for anyone to track her. This did propel the plot, and everyone did get together after being separated, as often happened over and over again in the classic serials.

The entire enemy creature was weakly described. After other episodes in which the “monster” turned out to not be entirely evil, with motivations which made sense, we had a rather simple monster here. It is best to ignore much of the explanation and settle with this:

The Doctor: “It’s as if his bones disintegrated.”

Nardole: “What could do that?”

The Doctor: “A complete and total absence of any kind of sunlight.”

Nardole: “Death by Scotland.”

It was predictable that the Doctor might be willing to spend eternity battling the monster to protect earth, but hardly clear how the gate works or how the humans, with their brief lifespans and no regenerations, could accomplish this. It is best to just move on and get back to the TARDIS where we were surprised by the presence of Missy. The Doctor has upset both Bill and Nardole by allowing her out, but for the moment it appears she is trying to be good. Unfortunately for the Doctor, that does not mean she sees things the same way as he does.

Missy: “Those little people, trapped in a hill, fighting forever – – is that really up to your bleeding-heart standards?

The Doctor: “You understand the universe, you see it, you grasp it, but you never learn to hear the music.”

We should learn soon whether Missy really is good, and the previews reveal (as was already known) that both the John Simm version of the Master and the Mondasian Cybermen play a part.

The upcoming two part episode and the Christmas episode will also mark the end of Steven Moffat’s tenure as show runner, and the end of the current configuration the Doctor and his current companions. We may have learned something interesting about next season from incoming show running Chris Chibnall:

Season 11 of Doctor Who is going to be new… very new. There will be a new Doctor, a new showrunner, and apparently a new format. Chris Chibnall, who is slated to come on board as showrunner in 2018, has hinted at going away from the monster of the week format and into a more broad series storyline. As long as the TARDIS allows.

The writer/producer, who is coming off of the blazing BBC hit Broadchurch is fond of season-long storytelling, proven through the compelling, addictive crime drama. As the new head honcho, the style could easily bleed into Doctor Who, giving the season one single storyline…

Though Chibnall stayed mum on most Doctor details (ahem, like who is going to play the Doctor), he did respond to the question if he would be allowed to do a whole-season story­line, like Broadchurch, rather than individual episodes. To which he responded: “Yes. What the BBC was after was risk and boldness.”

Considering how difficult it must be to come up with a fresh story every week, this might be a good idea. Chibnall showed that he can keep a season long story arc interesting on Broadchurch (with the first and third seasons far better than the second). More on Chris Chibnall here.

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Much more has happened in genre beyond Doctor Who, but I have had to limit the last couple of posts due to traveling. I still want to get to the question of whether Nora was telling the truth in the series finale of The Leftovers. Gotham ended the season with major character development for many characters, including Bruce Wayne. Dark Matter has continued from where last season left off, and is pushing some of its characters in new directions. Wynonna Earp has also returned on Syfy. I have not seen this series yet, but based upon recommendations of others it is now high on my list of series to catch up on. Orphan Black has also had major developments in its first two episodes, including the death of a clone. We are well into the revival of Twin Peaks, but still have not seen the real version of Special Agent Dale Cooper in the real world. I also just completed House of Cards, which is struggling to be even more outrageous than real life politics these days.

I am hoping to get caught up by next weekend to review some of these shows in greater detail.

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: Time After Time; Arrow; X-Men Casting News; Dark; Sense8; Santa Clarita Diet; Shows From Matthew Weiner and Amy Sherman-Palladino on Amazon; Doctor Who; Star Trek Discovery Air Date; Saturday Night Live

Time After Time is the next network time travel show to premiere. TV Guide answers some questions about it:

Is this really about Sexy Jack the Ripper and Sexy H.G. Wells? Boy, is it! You see, back in the day, before H.G. Wells wrote any of his now legendary novels, he apparently built a real time machine. He was showing off this game-changing piece of machinery to his good friend John — who, as it turns out, is actually the notorious anonymous serial killer Jack the Ripper. And once John discovers the authorities were hot on his tail, he uses the time machine to hightail it to modern-day New York City. Realizing he’s the only one who can stop John from killing again, H.G. follows his old friend to the future, where the world’s sexiest cat-and-mouse game begins!

Is it weird to feel attracted to Jack the Ripper? Yes and no. It’s totally weird to be sexually attracted to a serial killer, but the charismatic power of Josh Bowman is also impossibly hard to deny. Plus, this version of Jack the Ripper isn’t completely evil. There is a part of John that does want to change and leave his psychopathic, murderous tendencies behind. It’s a small part, but it’s big enough that you should feel slightly less confused by your newfound crush on the legendary murderer…

Don’t we have enough time-travel shows on TV right now? While time-travel is definitely one of the TV trends of the season, Time After Time isn’t exactly a time-travel show. In its second episode, the drama establishes its rules for time travel – ones which make it very dangerous to actually travel through time too often. That’s why H.G. Wells doesn’t simply go back in time to stop John from ever taking the time machine in the first place. It’s also why the show only time-travels four times in the first season.

Instead, Time After Time is far more interested in exploring how H.G. Wells’ adventures in modern-day Manhattan eventually inspire him to write The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau and War of the Worlds, which is a fun way to fully take advantage of having H.G. Wells as the show’s dashing protagonist.

The identity of Prometheus has been revealed on Arrow. TV Line spoke with the show’s producer and actor who played him, noting how this differs from the comics:

In the comics, Chase’s alter ego is Vigilante, but the producers chose to flip the script “because everybody would be thinking, ‘Of course he’s going to be Vigilante,’” executive producer Wendy Mericle explains. “We thought it would be a really fun twist to… take the comic-book mythology and turn it on its head and see what kind of story we can mine from a surprise like that. It was also something different for this season. We wanted to change up how we introduced the Big Bad and when we did it.”

…Although viewers are now aware of Prometheus’ true face — he exposed his mug to the audience when he took off his mask following a fight with Vigilante — Team Arrow will remain in the dark for the time being. As a result, the show gets to have “fun” as the characters continue to “interact with Adrian Chase in City Hall and elsewhere without knowing his real identity,” Mericle describes. “We’re going to play around with that for a little while before we let Oliver and the team find out.”

And find out they will, possibly sooner rather than later. “We’re not going to leave it to the end of the season,” Segarra promises. “We’re going to get to watch the pot get stirred a little bit. It’s hard because I already know how [Oliver] reacts, and I love the way it goes. You’re going to see Chase just kind of trying to burn the world around him.”

While we no know the identity of Prometheus, we will probably not learn the identity of the person under the vigilante mask this season.

Regardless of whether they are able to use the X-Men name, we will be seeing a lot of the X-Men in some form on television. ABC will be getting an Inhumans show. FX already has premiered Legion (which is highly recommended). Fox has some casting news on their upcoming untitled show. This includes Natalie Alyn Lind of Gotham:

Written by Matt Nix and directed by Bryan Singer, the pilot focuses on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Lind will play Lauren, one of the children at the center of the story. Smart, pretty, popular, organized and already ahead on her college applications, Lauren is the model of a perfect kid.

Amy Acker, who has a lot of genre experience in shows including Angel, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest, will play the other female lead:

Acker will star as Kate Stewart, a woman who is struggling with her separation from her husband, Reed (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer), and her increasingly challenging teenage children. When her family situation takes a dark turn, she finds that she’s stronger than she thinks.

As noted above, Stephen Moyer has been cast as the male lead:

Moyer will play Reed, an ambitious attorney trying to balance the demands of his job at the DA’s office with his responsibilities to his family.

Patrick Stewart recently announced his retirement with regards to playing Professor X, but now states he might reprise the role in a Deadpool sequel. As I posted on Friday, he has also announced plans to become an American citizen to help fight Donald Trump. Make it so!

Netflix has released a teaser for Dark, an upcoming show being made in Germany, which appears somewhat like a darker version of Stranger Things. The description reads, “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers. Their search for a culprit unearths a small town’s sins and secrets.”

Netflix is reassembling the cast for a potential third season of Sense8. The second season will be released May 5.

While reviews have been mixed, I’ve been  hearing a lot of great buzz from viewers of Santa Clarita Diet. We binged a large portion of the season last night and, while certainly not a hard-core zombie show, it was very enjoyable.

Mathew Weiner’s next show, The Romanoffs, to be on Amazon Prime, sounds nothing like Mad Men:

“Romanoffs” will consist of eight hourlong episodes, each of which will tell a standalone story with no recurring plot elements or actors. The only common thread is that each episode will tell the stories of people in contemporary times who believe they are descendants of the imperial family that ruled Russia from 1613 until the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917…

Weiner came up with the notion for “Romanoffs” about a year ago, after a long break following the end of his work on “Mad Men” in late 2014. He had the chance to watch other TV shows “in a non-competitive atmosphere,” and he realized that there was room for a show of this nature. “The rise of (Netflix’s) ‘Black Mirror’ made it easier for me to explain it, even though this show is not in that genre,” he said.

Amy Sherman-Palladino also has a pilot for Amazon:

After venturing into streaming TV with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix last fall, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is trying her hand with Amazon this spring. The site announced today that Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will be among the batch of programs up in pilot season starting on March 17. The one-hour pilot stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, Manhattan) as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s housewife who starts a career in stand-up comedy. Monk’s Tony Shalhoub will play her father; Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) will play her husband. Alex Borstein (the original Sookie!) is also in the cast.

Speculation this week about the replacement for Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who includes Kris Marshall and Anthony Head. Doctor Who returns on April 15 with DoctorWho TV recapping everything which is known about the series so far.

After having been delayed twice, CBS is now saying that the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery will be in late summer or early fall.

The election of Donald Trump has been fantastic for the ratings of the late night comedy shows. Having Donald Trump as a regular target has improved the material on shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. The cold open on SNL last night had Kate McKinnon portraying Jeff Sessions as Forest Gump. Of course Donald Trump will likely be upset about him being portrayed by a woman, as when Melissa McCartney played Sean Spicer.

Last night’s episode of SNL has also received a lot of buzz for the above skit:

“Saturday Night Live” just ran a nearly two-minute liberal’s dream sequence disguised as a movie trailer.

The trailer — which promises a Republican “patriot who will put country over party” — features a notable omission: a title character. The point is that no Republican has really stood up to President Trump. You get it.

SciFi Weekend: Bryan Fuller Named Star Trek Showrunner; Valentines Day For Marvel Heroes; Agent Carter; Gilmore Girls; Flash & Supergirl; Outlander; 11/22/63; Better Call Saul; House of Cards; Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton As Comic Book Leads

Bryan Fuller Star Trek
Bryan Fuller has been named to be the showrunner for the upcoming Star Trek television series on the CBS All Access streaming service starting in January 2017. Fuller has certainly demonstrated his skills in running a first class genre series with his work on Hannibal. He is also a long time Star Trek fan:

“My very first experience of ‘Star Trek’ is my oldest brother turning off all the lights in the house and flying his model of a D7 Class Klingon Battle Cruiser through the darkened halls. Before seeing a frame of the television series, the ‘Star Trek’ universe lit my imagination on fire,” said Fuller. “It is without exaggeration a dream come true to be crafting a brand new iteration of ‘Star Trek’ with fellow franchise alum Alex Kurtzman and boldly going where no ‘Star Trek’ series has gone before.

Fuller also has experience with Star Trek, including writing two episodes of Deep Space Nine (which he has called his favorite Star Trek series) and twenty episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

Variety reports that “The creative plan is for the series to introduce new characters and civilizations, existing outside of the mythology charted by previous series and the current movie franchises.” This still leaves open whether it will occur in the Roddenberry or Abrams time line, at what point it time it will occur, and whether it will encompass the entire Star Trek universe or be more limited as Voyager was.

For Valentines Day we have a special edition of Marvel Super Heroes in the video above.

Elsewhere in the Marvel universe, there is now a question as to whether Agent Carter will return as Haley Atwell has been cast in a pilot for an ABC drama entitled Conviction. It sounds doubtful that she will return to Agent Carter if the pilot is picked up, although this is a series which might return at any point in the future as time allows.

Girlmore Girls Rory Jess

Being Valentines Day, it is also significant that yet another of Rory’s old boyfriends has been cast for the Gilmore Girls revival, now adding Milo Ventimiglia. In an unexpected addition, Sutton Foster has also been cast. Will she reprise her role as Michelle and make this a Gilmore Girls/Bunheads cross over episode, will Foster play another Lorelei stand-in, or will she have an entirely different part.

Supergirl Flash Instragram

Grant Gustin has uploaded the first picture of himself and Melissa Benoist in this Glee reunion and Flash/Supergirl cross over.

The latest trailer for Outlander deals with attempting to change the future due to Claire’s knowledge of history. Outlander returns on Saturday, April 9th at 9pm ET.

11.22.63 also deals with attempts to change historical events. It premiers tomorrow and it is disappointing that USA Today gives it a very poor review, advising to just watch the final episode if you are curious as to what happens. The New York Times and IGN have more mixed reviews. Adaptations of Stephen King novels do not have the greatest track record on television, as with Under The Dome.

The New York Times has a much better review for Better Call Saul, which returns for its second season tomorrow.

The latest trailer above for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which premiers on March 25th, 2016.

Syfy has renewed The Magicians for a second season.

Aniz Ansari’s Master of None has been renewed by Netflix for a second season.

House of Cards  returns to Netflix on March 4th. Trailer above.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle for a third season. The show recently Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe awards and Gael Garcia Bernal won for Best Performance in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.

Bernie Sanders Comic

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are the stars of their own comics. More on the comics 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.

A Great Injustice Finally Reversed–Tatiana Maslany Nominated For Emmy Award

Tatiana Maslany Three Clones

Over the last couple of years we have seen a grave injustice as Tatiana Maslany was totally snubbed when the Emmy nominations came out. Finally, this year Maslany has been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The reaction from the clones can be seen here. Fans are celebrating on Twitter. Despite her Emmy snubs, Maslany won two Critics’ Choice Television Awards and a TCA Award for her performance in the series. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, losing out to Robin Wright of House of Cards. The Emmy nomination this year is an excellent start, but considering all the roles she plays in Orphan Black, she should also receive at least one additional nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Her roles even included one guy(actually one of her weaker characters) and the voice of a talking scorpion.

The nominees in the categories are below and the full list of nominations can be found here.

Hey, what is this??!!   You’re The Worst not nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and Aya Cash not nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series?? At least many of the other shows which I regularly cover on this blog have made the list. I guess I better catch up on Bloodline, having only seen the first episode so far. Did I make a mistake in giving up on Ray Donovan after the first season?

Outstanding Drama Series

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)

“Downton Abbey” (PBS)

“Game Of Thrones” (HBO)

“Homeland” (Showtime)

“House Of Cards” (Netflix)

“Mad Men” (AMC)

“Orange Is The New Black” (Netflix)

Outstanding Comedy Series

“Louie” (FX)

“Modern Family” (ABC)

“Parks And Recreation” (NBC)

“Silicon Valley” (HBO)

“Transparent” (Amazon)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)

“Veep” (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”

Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”

Louis C.K., “Louie”

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”

Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”

Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; DC vs. Marvel Movies; SHIELD; Why You Should Watch The Americans; Big Bang Theory On Leonard Nimoy; The Last Man On Earth; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; House of Cards and Hillary Clinton

The Orphan Black Season 3 trailer is above. Following is the official season synopsis for the third season, which starts April 18:

No sooner has Sarah caught her breath after a stealthy escape from DYAD and the ruthless clone Rachel (Maslany), she is called upon to face the crazed, captive Castor clone, Rudy (Millen). But it is the discovery of Helena’s disappearance that spurs Sarah into action, rallying her sisters in the quest to reunite their clone family, and find peace once and for all.

Their greatest threat is a band of highly trained soldiers – identical brothers dubbed Project Castor. Unlike the sisterhood, Mark, Rudy, Seth, Miller and others (Millen) grew up together, fully aware of who and what they are. Developed by the military, this wolf pack was raised as regimented clones – singular in thought, movement and allegiance. Hell-bent on kicking up dirt, they’re dispatched to tackle their mission from all sides. But differences in approach betray cracks in their armor, and may be the very thing the sisters need to escape their clutches.

The sisters will need all the help they can get. With Cosima’s fluctuating health and no known cure for the mystery illness that ails her, she is holding onto life by a thread while nursing a broken heart left by her scientist lover Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).  Can she find a cure in time to save herself and her sisters? As the turbulent world of Alison turns, she faces fresh suburban woes and new marital challenges with lovable oaf of a husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun). How far will Alison go to keep up the façade of her cookie cutter life?  Sarah’s torn between her desire for a life with daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Kira’s father Cal (Michiel Huisman) and the urge to protect her foster family – loyal and feisty brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). But Mrs. S’s betrayal may cause her to turn her back on the only mother she’s known.

The hits keep coming for the girls but their commitment to this new family is as important as ever. No clone can do it alone, and Sarah must align with unlikely bedfellows in order to take on what is yet to come… and hopefully, discover the truth – her truth – along the way. How far are they willing to go to save each other and protect their families?

More on the upcoming season at The Mary Sue

Superman Warner CEO Interview

There are a lot of superhero movies planned making some wonder if viewers will have sufficient interest.  Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara says that the DC movies will be edgier and more steeped in realism compared to Marvel’s movies:

“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” said Tsujihara.

Not everyone seems to agree. The comic book movie pile-up was the subject of numerous jokes at this year’s Oscar ceremony, and the eventual best picture winner, “Birdman,” is a satire of the craze for superhero films.

However, Warner Bros. is making a big bet that the comic book phenomenon won’t fizzle out just as the craze for disaster movies, biblical epics and other once-hot genres cooled off. The studio is using sister company DC Comics’ stable of masked vigilantes and villains to make roughly two superhero movies a year beginning in 2016 with the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Other films include bigscreen adaptations of “The Flash,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam.”

The idea is to create a connected cinematic universe in which characters from one film interact with those from another, partnering, warring and creating super-teams such as the Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” It’s a strategy that owes a lot to Marvel, but Warner Bros. chief Tsujihara stressed that characters like Batman and Deadshot are very different from that company’s signature Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America brands.

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

The major DC comics programs were on hiatus last week and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returned. While Agent Carter was well-received, and people thought it was a good idea to use it to fill a hiatus in SHIELD if there is a hiatus, there have also been a lot of complaints that the hiatus destroyed the momentum of the show. It was also a bit confusing for those who were forgetting the events of two months ago, and haven’t been reading up on the significance of adding the Inhumans. Bleeding Cool has a good summary of six key events from the return of SHIELD, which might be especially helpful if anyone is a bit lost.

Saturday Night Live has coverage in the video above of the Avengers beating Ultron.

Chris Evans spoke with Collider about Captain America in Avengers: Age of Ultron. ComicBookMovie.com has more on the movie from Joss Whedon.

The Americans 69 Scene

The Americans continues to have excellent episodes week after week. Many critics agree that it is the best scripted drama which continues with the same cast from season to season, but very few people are actually watching. Many reviewers have pointed out that more should watch. Uproxx presents a good argument for watching which might get more attention than favorable critical reviews abut its smart story telling:

It’s a show about sexy spies doing sexy things, with wigs and intrigue and great music and a teenage daughter who isn’t Dana Brody and violence and 69’ing. Maybe that’s the problem. The Americans is too vague a title. For the rest of Season 3, and hopefully into Season 4, FX should start promoting the series as The Show Where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys 69.

There really was such a scene–see picture above. Plus their daughter walked in on it. Maybe that is what drove her to going to church. Paige is still a much better television daughter than Dana Brody.

I have mocked NBC for trying to copy The Americans with Allegiance. It has been canceled after only five episodes.

Big Bang Theory Nimoy Tribute

The Big Bang Theory ended with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy last week. I couldn’t read the text as my DVR popped up the window asking if I wanted to save or delete at the end of the show. In case anyone missed it, I have obtained and posted a screen grab above.

NBC has announced that Hannibal will return on June 4. Zachary Quinto will be guest staring on an episode. I hope someone Slaps him.

There was a reason for all those rumors that Jenna Coleman was going to leave Doctor Who after last season, along with all those hints in various episodes. Steven Moffat has confirmed that Coleman did plan to leave after last season but was persuaded to stay.

kimmy23f-6-web

It feels like the number of quality sit-coms had dropped tremendously by last season. Then last summer we got You’re The Worst, one of the best ever. Three new sit-coms worth watching have premiered recently. I discussed The Last Man on Earth in a separate post here. Also worthwhile are Fresh Off The Boat on ABC and Netflix released the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Friday. The last was developed by Tina Fey, originally to air on NBC. It would have fit well on Thursday night on NBC with shows such as Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. Now that all of the shows of this type are gone from NBC’s lineup, it is far more likely to survive on Netflix. Netflix also plans a second season, which will be produced without concern for the standards of network television. Tina Fey has claimed it primarily consist of shower sex.

Some have criticized The Last Man on Earth for being totally unrealistic, but the same can be said about many events in other shows such as House of Cards (as I’ll discuss in the future). If all the unrealistic aspects of Last Man On Earth bother you, pretend it is just a bizarre dream. Who knows, maybe that will be the explanation in the end. Regardless, it is funny enough to get away with an unrealistic view of how things would be after most people die of a plague.

As people are watching at different rates, I’ll wait a little longer to discuss Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt along with the third season of House of Cards. While avoiding any spoilers, I will mention that watching House of Cards did have me wondering who would make the worse Democratic president–Frank Underwood or Hillary Clinton. Saturday Night Live also tied Hillary Clinton to House of Cards in this skit, following her Nixonian email problems.

The Last Man On Earth Is The First Original Network Sitcom In A Long Time

Last Man On Earth

The Last Man on Earth is something rare, a single cam sitcom which feels entirely original. Nothing is entirely unique on television. You’re The Worst was in many ways unique, but did so by showing a romantic comedy in a new way. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic television science fiction shows, but none done as comedy as Will Forte has. This post has spoilers regarding the events of the first two episodes.

Being a comedy, it can get away with a preposterous set up. In the first episode we learn that a virus has seemingly killed everyone on earth but one man. Three are no rotting bodies, and no signs of civilization collapsing. Forte’s character, Phil Miller (whose name comes from the writer and director pair of  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), went to all fifty states in an RV, searching for other living people, with no difficulty getting gas. He raided the Smithsonian and other museums for decorations for his ultimate home and shouted in every state asking if anyone was around. Of course the show is not entirely implausible. Phil realized that he could have missed some living people in his ride through each state so he spray painted the message “ALIVE IN TUCSON” around the country.

Phil ultimately moved into a neighborhood in Tuscon which is much like my neighborhood (other than for the different climate). After traveling around the country, an area where air conditioning would be preferable, and there is limited precipitation, hardly seems like the best idea. If not staying in his own home for the sake of familiarity, a less affluent house which has practical measures such as an out house would seem preferable to cutting a hole in a diving board to make the world’s biggest toilet. Perhaps he could find the home of a survivalist who had everything he needed. If I didn’t stay in my home,  I might also consider a facility such as a hospital. I could tolerate sleeping in an on-call room or former patient room in return for an emergency generator system (assuming I had any idea as to how to run it).

The Last Man on Earth has a simple solution for its implausible situation–keep the viewers laughing continually. Phil does everything you’d expect a single guy with nobody to judge him to do, and more. He started with simple outdoor bowling with pins, progressing to knocking down aquariums full of water and making cars explode. He spent time in a kiddie pool filled with the ingredients for a giant Margarita, even with salt all along the rim.

If it was me, I would stock up on batteries for notebook computers, tablets, and/or smart phones and use them to view DVD’s plus media in digital form. I’m sure that with a bit of searching of abandoned homes, Phil could have found plenty of portable hard drives which were well stocked with porn and other movies. He did use a generator one day to view Castaway, and mocked Tom Hanks for talking to a Wilson volleyball. Months later he had an entire group of imaginary friends and drinking buddies made out of balls.

The first half hour was fine with only Phil. He periodically spoke with God, in addition to all the balls, to make up for the lack of others. While the first episode was quite funny, it was hard to see how they could make an entire television series out of this. Before viewers got bored, Phil got bored with his life. Fortunately, just before killing himself, Phil saw a fire. Not only had someone seen his signs, it was someone who had a bra hanging up to dry. Unfortunately, after a rather funny scene in which they met which included fantasies and wetting of pants, Phil found that it was someone he wouldn’t sleep with if she was the last woman on earth (as she appeared to be).

Carol, played by Kristen Schaal, is the opposite of Phil. While Phil would leave even more destruction beyond him than was necessary to get supplies, Carol followed all the old rules as if there were still others around. She even objected when Phil ran though stop signs.

At least Carol is more practical than Phil. She is not content to live on canned goods and Twinkies, and realized they should come up with a way to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. She also thought the two were meant to repopulate the earth, and eventually Phil became horny enough to go along. This relationship was not consummated by the end of the second episode which aired as Carol insisted upon getting married before having sex.

Schaal had to keep her role secret so that viewers wouldn’t know that a last man on earth didn’t preclude a last woman. In addition, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Mel Rodriguez, and Cleopatra Coleman have been cast for undisclosed roles. Forte is vague as to what their roles will be:

“There are twists and turns,” Forte recently told E! News. “Other people show up, and we do have flashbacks and dreams, so we do have some exciting people involved. Kristen Schaal, who’s one of the funniest people around, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen just signed on. I don’t want to give away what roles they play, but it’s an amazing group of people.”

Carol was added to the show before Phil’s solo antics lost their humor, and the banter between the two added a new element to the show. Another woman could shake things up. Carol probably wouldn’t accept having Phil also sleep with someone such as January Jones after they are married. However, if she is serious about repopulating the earth, this would be the obvious thing to do, along as an irresistible act on Phil’s part.

There is no way to know if this show will still be as funny after running for weeks, but at the moment it is one of the funniest and most original comedies on television. It won’t be the only sitcom with a post-apocalypse idea in its premise. I’m now rushing through the third season of House of Cards, which became available on Netflix last Friday, to save time for  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which premiers on Netflix this week. It is the latest comedy from Tina Fey, originally planned for NBC before NBC essentially ended its run as the network home for quality programing. The premise is that the Kimmy Schmidt, played by Ellie Kemper, has been held captive by a doomsday cult for fifteen years. She escapes into the world, but instead of the expected post-apocalyptic world she is a person who has become out of place in our world.

SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

Youre-The-Worst-690

2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

the-americans-fx

The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow; Better Call Saul; Jessica Jones; Star Trek; Star Wars; Peter Pan Live; Into The Woods

Sleepy Hollow Irving

The networks have avoided new episodes around the holidays for a while, but they seem to be more formally dividing the seasons in recent years, including making the midseason finales a major event. Sleepy Hollow ended the fall season with major changes. This included the death of Frank Irving and Henry killing Moloch. This leads to questions as to whether we will see Irving again in some form and whether this suggests redemption for Henry, or will he now become the major big bad?

Variety interviewed executive producer Len Wiseman:

So, you just killed the show’s Big Bad halfway through the second season, which is a pretty bold move. Talk me through what went into that decision.
We were always leading up to wanting to [see how] Henry comes into his own. Henry has devoted his life to Moloch; he has served Moloch; and then to find out that he is just a servant, that another will take his place, and to see that he doesn’t have an importance to Moloch, is a big deal. We were always leading up to that fight within Henry. So where do we go from there, what happens? We also really wanted to present the idea that it’s not all about Moloch, and that’s why we decided that Moloch doesn’t die at the very end of the season, he dies at the midseason finale, because he’s not the endgame.

Obviously Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina both want Henry to be redeemed, and killing Moloch seems like a step in the right direction, but is it as simple as that for Henry, or are there other motivations at play?
To your point, “is it?” That’s really the question: who is he doing that for, who is he trying to protect? Is he trying to protect his mother? Maybe. Is he trying to save himself? Maybe. What is the reason why he killed Moloch, ultimately? That’s what we’ll find out in terms of Henry in the rest of the season. And [that’s] what our characters are going to question. It’s not going to be clear to them why that move was made and how he benefits from killing Moloch.

The episode also said farewell to Frank Irving — what was the impetus behind that decision from a storytelling standpoint?
That decision, in terms of an ultimate sacrifice… He is controlled and he had sold his soul to evil, so that’s the one last power that he has — the fact that his soul is already taken — in having the power to wield the Sword of Methuselah. It gives him a strength and a power because he’s spent so much time regretting that choice that he made when he was tricked into selling his soul. He wants to be able to use that trick on Henry.

Since Henry was holding Frank’s soul, now that he’s dead, does that mean he can be raised by Henry in some way, or is he actually free?
It’s a pure sacrifice, it’s a soul for a soul, so it is a real sacrifice. He’s free, and where his soul goes may be something that we will find out and our characters will search out, but it’s definitely a sacrifice and he knows it is — it’s not a trick.

How does the second half of the season differ from the first 11 episodes, now that Moloch is gone?
What really takes a different turn is between Katrina and Crane, as well. There’s a lot of curiosity about why Katrina is struggling with her powers and her place in this war, and I’ve heard people say is her character underutilized — I would say there’s a difference between underutilized and not realized. When she discovers her full potential, things really get out of control.

Other fall finales coming up include Skye meeting her father on Agents of SHIELD and The Flash meeting Reverse Flash (will it be Harrison Wells?)

When we last saw Deathstroke on Arrow, he was locked up in Oliver’s island prison. He will be returning later this season.

Sneak peak of Better Call Saul,  in which Saul meets Mike in the video above. The Breaking Bad spin-off starts February 8.

Krysten Ritter, who also appeared in Breaking Bad, has been cast to star in Jessica Jones:

The Jessica Jones drama is one of four shows centering on Marvel heroes that Netflix has picked up straight to series. The streaming service has committed to a minimum of four 13-episode series, which will begin rolling out in 2015 and are slated to culminate in a miniseries about The Defenders, comprised of a dream team of heroic characters.

Ritter will play Jessica Jones, the cynical, sardonic and tough-as-nails, but innately cool and sexy, title character. Jones is described as a superhero suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to her hanging up her costume and opening up her own detective agency, where she ends up helping people and assisting other superheroes.

Jessica Jones Kristen Ritter

Netflix has also  announced that the third season of House of Cards will become available February 27.

The final season of Parks and Recreation will start on January 13 and the series will conclude on February 24.

January Jones has already landed a post-Mad Men role in The Last Man On Earth, a post-apocalyptic comedy on Fox.

Benedict Cumberbatch, already having major genre roles in Star Trek Into Darkness and Sherlock, now enters the Marvel universe as Doctor Strange. The looks like a good move. Doctor Strange does not have as large a following as many of the other Marvel characters, and with the large number of comics-based movies being planned, a big star such as Cumberbatch will help to keep this from getting lost among bigger name movies.

Robert Orci was called in to direct the upcoming Star Trek movie after J.J. Abrams left for Star Wars. It has been announced that Orci is no longer directing. Edgar Wright’s name is coming up the most often as probable replacement but some fans are pushing for Jonathan Frakes. Frakes might be a great choice as someone who (as opposed to Abrams) understands Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek.

The second season of Broadchurch doesn’t start until next month but it is rumored that a third season is already planned.

Stephen Colbert explains why the new style lightsabers in the next Star Wars movie are a good idea in the video above. It might take you two weeks to understand.

Allison Williams said we could not hate-watch Peter Pan Live, but what about snark-watching? The play was so much more fun to watch while following on Twitter. Some reviewers have said that NBC should have used actors more accustomed to acting in plays. Both these critics and Allison Williams missed the point. Sure we made fun of her at times, but that does not mean we wanted a better stage actress in the role or like Allison Williams any less even though she wasn’t perfect in the role. The point was the fun of the evening, including watching Allison Williams live out her childhood dream of playing Peter Pan, not to see a top notch Broadway-quality play on television.

There is only one actress I would have wanted to play Peter Pan other than Allison Williams, Jane Krakowski. Here is her leaked audition tape:

The highlight of the play was when Peter began to fight the pirates and declared himself to be an Avenger. I hope that most people did not turn off the show before the credits were over and miss the scene with Peter and Tony Stark going out for schwarma. My only complaint about the play was that, in order to be more topical, the “dead maid” in the closet should have shouted out, “I can’t breathe.” I also don’t understand how Wendy grew up to be Minnie Driver and didn’t look a day older.

Anna Kendrick was among the most prolific, and amusing, celebrities tweeting during Peter Pan Live. There is symmetry here as the play began with Wendy reading Cinderella to her younger brothers and Anna Kendrick is playing Cinderella in the movie version of the Broadway play,  Into The Woods. The movie doesn’t come out until December 25 but Disney has released the audio below of Anna Kendrick singing a modified version of the Broadway version of On the Steps of the Palace. Audio below: