SciFi Weekend: Sherlock; The Expanse; Deadpool; Stranger Things; Wayward Pines; Twin Peaks; iBoy; Humans; Victoria; John le Carré; Celebrities On Surviving Trump

I am not going to give any spoilers on the season finale of Sherlock which airs tonight but leaked out early, waiting to watch until this is posted, but there remains a lot to say about last week’s episode. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis spoke about the big twist in The Lying Detective. (Major spoilers for those who have not seen the episode):

At the end of the episode, we found out that the woman pretending to be Watson’s therapist, rush hour crush and Culverton Smith’s daughter were the same person. Not only that, but she was Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister, Eurus (which means east wind).

After a screening at the BAFTA Cymru in Cardiff, the show creators hosted a Q and A where they told all about the chaos that had just ensued.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat explained how the idea that Sherlock had a sister had been in the back of their minds ever since the first episode. Gatiss said:

It started as a joke years, years ago. Right from the beginning of the first season, there was a line in ‘The Great Game’ when we were sort of sketching in the idea of the Holmes family and there was going to be a line about Mycroft being a member, Sherlock admitting that he was cleverer than him and then him kindly saying, mind you…my sister…

It was absolutely cut off, and that’s really where it all began.

[At the time] we thought, we won’t do too much. And thank god we didn’t, as it gives us this place to go.

But that wasn’t the only shock of Sherlock. People were frankly dumbfounded to see that Watson had been seeing a girl behind Mary’s back. Steven decided to tackle that one, head on, saying:

He’s a fully rounded character. He’s a fully rounded human being with all the normal flaws that people have.”

BuzzFeed then asked him if he was going to be back to his usual self for the next episode, to which he said:

We’re not going to say now that he’s cosy and lovely, you don’t get Martin Freeman to play that.”

The episode even contained a Torchwood Easter egg–a postcard on the mantel with the Torchwood ‘T’ logo. Technically this would place Sherlock in the Doctor Who universe.

The Lying Detective left Radio Times with thirteen burning questions. Fans are looking back through old scenes for clues.

Moffat and Gatiss did tease tonight’s finale:

“It’s a grand old finale. It’s a very very finale finale,” said Moffat, at the BAFTA screening for ‘The Lying Detective’.

“It’s the most like a Universal Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever done,” Gatiss added. “It’s like a Basil Rathbone one. It’s absolutely crazy.”

The Expanse returns for season 2 on February 1. For those of use who didn’t make it through the entire first season, Syfy has put out a series of videos on the series, such as the one above. For those who want a briefer summary of season 1, below is a recap with cats:

Deadline interviewed the writers of Deadpool about the planned second movie. They also blamed the leak of test footage from the first movie on Putin.

The cast of Stranger Things teased season two in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Wayward Pines will not be returning this summer, but Fox has left open the possibility of it returning in the future. I’m actually happy to hear this. I’ve read the novels the show was based on by Blake Crouch, but the television show is one of many shows in this era of peak TV which I haven’t gotten to yet. Another year might give me a chance of watching the first two seasons before a third if there should be one. Incidentally, Blake Crouch is also the author of Dark Matter (no relationship to the televisions how by that name). The novel is more a page-turner thriller than hard science fiction, but, like his Wayward Pines series, was a quick and enjoyable read, and I’ve seen it on some of lists of top books of 2016. (Also, while not really related, I have used the hiatus in new shows around the holidays to catch up on Syfy’s Dark Matter and will now be able to include it in the weekly show coverage when it returns).

Return to Twin Peaks on May 21:

Kyle MacLachlan reprises his role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. TWIN PEAKS, the 18-part limited event series will debut with a two-part premiere on Sunday, May 21 at 9PM ET/PT. Immediately following the premiere, SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to the third and fourth parts, exclusively across the SHOWTIME streaming service, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®. In its second week, TWIN PEAKS will air the third and fourth parts back-to-back on the linear network, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by one-hour parts in subsequent weeks…

Directed entirely by David Lynch, the new SHOWTIME limited event series picks up twenty-five years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned when their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered.

Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential broadcast series of all time, TWIN PEAKS followed the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town who were stunned after their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered. The town’s sheriff welcomed the help of FBI agent Dale Cooper, who came to town to investigate the case. As Cooper conducted his search for Laura’s killer, the town’s secrets were gradually exposed. The mystery that ensued set off an eerie chain of events that plunged the inhabitants of Twin Peaks into a darker examination of their very existence. Twenty-five years later, the story continues…

Maisie Williams has a major role in an new superhero movie coming out on Netflix. It has a more modern origin story. Instead of being bit by a radioactive spider, the hero gets his powers from portions of a smartphone embedded in his brain:

Tom is an average teenager whose world is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of his shattered smartphone embedded in his brain. He wakes from a coma to discover that returning to normal teenage life is impossible because he has developed a strange set of superpowers. With these new powers he sets out to seek revenge on the gang, who also assaulted his best friend Lucy.

iBoy is a Netflix original film starring Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear and is available on Netflix globally from January 27th, 2017.

The Hollywood Reporter has news on another Game of Thrones Star. Peter Linklage is engaged in talks to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.

The second season of Humans was excellent, and will become available (legally) in the United States on AMC on February 13. Deadline has some information. Syfy Wire spoke with the showrunners about topics including the comparisons to Westworld:

The showrunners were asked whether they minded that Westworld entered their same thematic storytelling space last year, but Brackley says the more, the merrier. “From our point of view, it’s only a good thing if people are interested in the issues we are all talking about. There’s plenty of room for both of us, and probably more about AI. Our shows are very different.”

Another excellent series from the UK will also become (legally) available in the US. Victoria debuts on PBS tonight. It is often compared to Golden Globe winner, The Crown, with similarities including actors from Doctor Who in key roles. While The Crown had Matt Smith in a supporting role, this one stars Jenna Coleman. Both The Crown and Victoria center around a new Queen and her relationship with the Prime Minister in their first season. Unlike The Crown, in which Elizabeth is married to Philip at the start, Victoria doesn’t meet Albert until later in the first season.  Entertainment Weekly has more on Victoria and spoke with Jenna Coleman:

Apparently there is some other show about British royalty called The Crown, which features your Doctor Who costar Matt Smith. Have you two compared notes?
[Laughs] I think both of us tried to work out our [characters’] relationship to each other. It’s funny, he’s filming the second season in London. I’ve seen all the first, which I think is fantastic.

We already know Victoria will have a second season. In an ideal world, how long will the show run?
It depends on appetite and the pacing. There’s so much story, it could run for 60-odd years!

There is another interview with Jenna Coleman at Collider.

The Night Manager was one of the highlights of 2016. This leaves me optimistic about the next John le Carré adaptation from AMC, The BBC, and The Ink FactoryThe Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

While several celebrities say that at first they were petrified about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, they are now singing, I Will Survive. Those singing Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Pine. Needless to say, conservatives don’t find this entertaining. The New York Times looked at how other celebrities such as Judd Apatow are responding in a different manner. I previously posted about reactions to Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, including text and video of Meryl Streep’s speech, here.

SciFi Weekend: Holiday Shows (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Sense8); Holiday Gifts; Metropolis; Star Trek Discovery Casts Lead; Humans; The Man In The High Castle

We have now gone almost a year without any new episodes of Doctor Who. (At least there was Class, along with seeing Matt Smith on The Crown and Jenna Coleman on Victoria). Peter Capaldi and others have filmed the above message in advance of the Christmas special, and Capaldi has been available for interviews, including the one below:

Doctor Who does have some famous fans, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who has said she always watches the show on Christmas Day. Peter Capaldi responded to hearing this by saying, “I hope she takes this message of kindness and tolerance and compassion to heart.” When asked about whether he plans to leave the role, Capaldi responded by saying, “not for a long time, I hope.”

In another recent interview with Digital Spy, Steven Moffat has suggested someone else for the Doctor to meet, but does see a potential problem. “I’d like Doctor Who to meet the real James Bond, that’d be awesome. They wouldn’t get on at all. He’d shag his assistant!”

The fourth season of Sherlock begins on New Year’s Day. (They don’t worry about competing with the Rose Bowl in the U.K.) There have been hints that it might be the final season in light of how busy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are, but Steven Moffat denies it will be the final season.

Among other things I’ve recently learned about Doctor Who, Matt Smith has a sister, who is one of the girls in the above video.

Gizmodo lists The Best Gifts for Doctor Who Fans. Of course I already have my own full-sized Tom Baker scarf and a sonic screwdriver.

If you prefer a different franchise, and have a big budget, Ars Technica reviews a $434 replica light sabre. Or, if you want to build your own Death Star, here is how to begin.

We have become accustomed to seeing special holiday episodes of shows from the U.K., but I believe it is a first for Netflix to do this. The trailer for the Sense8-Christmas Special is above (to be released December 23). I have seen conflicting reports as to whether they will wait until May (as the trailer states) versus releasing the second season this month. Presumably the trailer has the most up to date plans.

In other genre news this week, Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) is planning to do a miniseries of the 1927 classic science fiction movie, Metropolis.

The lead has been cast for Star Trek: Discovery. Sonequa Martin-Green (Walking Dead), will play a lieutenant-commander. Unlike previous Star Trek series, the show will not center around the captain.

Humans ended its second season tonight. (I have the season finale downloaded but have only watched through the seventh of eight episodes). The series raises many of the same issues as Westworld. It lacks the budget, the hype, and the big stars, but it many ways it has done an even better job. AMC will be starting the second season in the United States on February 13.

Amazon started the second season of The Man In The High Castle. While I am still early in the series, it looks good so far. The show which includes Nazi occupation of the eastern United States now seems more relevant with just over a month to go until Donald Trump becomes president. Deadline also recommends another new streaming show released on December 12, OA on Netflix.

SciFi Weekend: Westworld Season Finale; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Dirk Gently

The first season finale of Westworld, The Bicameral Minds, confirmed more fan theories, had additional revelations, and leaves big questions as to where the show is going for the second season. Major spoilers ahead. We found out much more about Bernard in the final episodes, both that he is a robot and that he was made in Arnold’s image. Ford did not seem very surprised that Bernard was revived in the finale, but he always seems to be many steps ahead of everyone else, largely as he has programed the actions of the hosts to a greater degree than previously revealed. What was a surprise was that Ford was on the side of the hosts, now taking Arnold’s side.

Early questions of whether Ford was good or evil now seem irrelevant. What matters is that has taken up Arnold’s mission to prevent robots, which would ultimately achieve consciousness, from being mistreated and exploited. This does leave the question of why Ford found it necessary to kill Arnold in the ninth episode, but perhaps this does not matter as death is only temporary on Westworld. Ford’s motives appear entirely different now that we know that he was on the side of the hosts, even if some of his earlier actions might have seemed contradictory. (I have seen speculation that possibly early scenes were filmed before the producers really figures out where they were going.) Despite his motives, he did utilize violence and was responsible for many deaths. Some of the violence might be rationalized, at least on Ford’s part, by the view that suffering and trauma were the key to waking up a host’s consciousness. Other deaths can be explained, even if not justified, by how low a view Ford held of humanity. This is echoed in the view of Delores, which probably reflects the views of Ford and/or Arnold, that humans are destined to go the way of dinosaurs.

Maeve proceeded with her rebellion, but we learned that this was part of Ford’s programing. Both Delores and Maeve were given the opportunity to make a decision, but it was no surprise that Maeve decided to remain in the park and search for her daughter in one story line after seeing the mother and daughter together on the train. Therefore she did not infiltrate the outside world, which may or may not be part of the long term plans for the show.

We also finally saw William put on a black hat, and then fade into The Man In Black thirty years later. This was widely predicted on line since the second episode when William and Logan were first introduced. It was a shock to Delores–possibly the final shock she needed for her to become fully sentient. While it might make sense that she does not connect the William of thirty years ago with The Man In Black of the show’s present, this makes less sense if William has been visiting the park, and presumably Delores, over the past thirty years as he aged. I am also not entirely satisfied with the explanation of how William’s character changed over the years. While he was disappointed in the finale to find that it was true that the maze was not for him, he did get what he wanted in having consequences to actions and the ability to get hurt at the end.

Other than for Ford’s plans, the biggest surprise of the episode was that Delores was Wyatt. While it has been clear there was some connection between Delores and past events in the park, it was a surprise to see the scenes of her actually killing the original hosts as part of Arnold’s failed plan to prevent the park from opening. This did make it more plausible to see her shoot Ford, her opportunity to make a choice in the finale, which I suspect was primarily because of the meta requirement of Anthony Hopkins only signing up for one year.

The  fate of some characters is less clear if you go under the assumption that if a character is not actually seen to have been killed will very likely return. Logan was last seen naked on a horse in distant parts of the park. If he survived this, he could be expected to return as a very angry enemy of William/The Man In Black. We also do not know what happened to Elsie and Stubbs.

I have seen both the producers and some cast members refer to the first season as a prologue for the story ahead in several interviews. It was inevitable in this form of story that the robots would rise up and rebel, but in contrast to the movie, the audience is made to be sympathetic towards the robots. From various interviews we know that Jimmi Simpson (William) will not return but Ed Harris will. Presumably this means that the flashbacks to thirty years ago are over, unless they will involve different people/robots. While it is possible that Ed Harris will only be returning to be killed in the opening, with Ford gone I wonder if Jimmi Simpson will be playing the role of the main human from Delos, and the opposition to the robots taking over. This could possibly include an older version of Logan as an enemy, with Elsie and Stubbs also playing a part if they are still alive. On the host side, both Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright have said they are returning.

We do not know whether the next season will continue to take place primarily in the same areas, if we will see the outside world, and to what degree other parks are involved. We know both that this is Park 1, implying other parks, and we have seen a sign of Samurai (or possibly Shōgun) World.

Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy gave some minimal hints as to where the series is going in an interview with TVLine:

TVLINE | We see Felix and Maeve run through Samurai World or Shogun World or whatever it’s actually called — the backstage area for another park. In his note to her, we see that her daughter is in Park 1… indicating that there are multiple worlds. What can you tell me about the concept of multiple Worlds? 
NOLAN | Lisa and I embarked on this with a feeling that we’d need a plan, we’d need a beginning, a middle and an end to embark on something like this. We didn’t want to do a series that was really popular and we just kept doing it and doing it and ran out of ideas. We wanted to tell the story of the origin of a new species and the new messiness and ambition that would entail.

We wanted the show to change, season on season, sometimes in terms of the characters you’re looking at, but with many familiar faces along the way. And see how their journey, the hosts’ journey, shifts and changes as they understand more of the world around them. At the same time, the title of the series and our interest in the Western aspect of it, and what that means and why that genre was so durable and so evocative for so long, for us means that there’s always a connection to that place and that key of storytelling. Hopefully the ambition of the story and the scope of the story grows season on season, but you never quite forget where it started.

More is revealed in an interview with Variety:

How dead is Ford?
Jonathan Nolan: Oh, he’s dead.

Is he “Anthony Hopkins is available for pilot season” dead?Nolan:
Working with Anthony Hopkins on this season of TV has been one of the greatest pleasures and privileges for Lisa and I in our careers. It’s been an incredible experience, and we’ll see where our story takes us…

We’ve perceived Ford to be one type of person, and at the end he reveals himself to be a different type of person in terms of how he feels about his creations and how he feels about his own life’s work.
Lisa Joy: Only a titan like Anthony Hopkins could have done all the nuance that he embedded in this series. His character in my mind is always a little bit of Prospero in “The Tempest.” You think his plan involves one thing. You kind of underestimate him. Then you see this glimmer of malice and menace that you didn’t anticipate, so he goes to being the villain. Then by the end you realize that this is in some way about atonement for him and that he’s chosen this very difficult road because he believes it’s the only road in which he can atone for the mistakes of the past.

We got confirmation in the finale that the show takes place on multiple timelines, which had been hinted at strongly in previous episodes. How did you settle on that structure?
Joy: I think the key is to let it grow organically from the concept and the characters. Even though it is a very complicated, twisty set of reveals, this is the one show in which it is totally organic to what they’re experiencing. You have a group of hosts who are basically immortal, and the fundamental thing that is holding them back is memory. Unlike humans, who have these imperfect memories — we can’t really conjure events in all the detail they occur — the hosts have a different problem. They’re able to bring back the exact replica of that memory so lifelike and engrossing in detail that it’s impossible to distinguish today from tomorrow or yesterday.

Nolan: This is not the first time I’ve written about amnesiac characters. I remember talking to my brother [Christopher Nolan] about “Memento” and how I was intending to structure that as a short story. I wanted to write it as a deck of cards and then shuffle that to make it completely, aggressively non-linear, because that was that character’s understanding of the world. Here we had the unique opportunity to try to illuminate some of the differences between how an artificial person might understand the world, and especially an artificial person who had been artificially held back in terms of their understanding of the world in order for us to facilitate us being able to do whatever the f–k we want to them.

More at The Hollywood Reporter:

Season one was about control and season two is poised to explore chaos. What brought Westworld to this chaotic and extremely violent moment in the story?

Nolan: I think most television series … and I mean no disrespect by this. I’ve worked in television for years and I love all of the different ways you can build a show. But for the most part, you get through the pilot, you build your sets, you hire your cast, and it’s working, and you just want to hang out in that moment and enjoy that moment with that iteration of the story you’re telling. For Lisa and myself, with this show, we never had any intention of staying in one place. We don’t want to shoot on the same sets for 10 years. We want to blow the sets up and move on to another piece of the story. So we said when we started working on the series that we wanted to be ambitious. We wanted each season to increase in that ambition and in the scope of the show. It also follows the story of our hosts. Their lives begin in loops, and then expand and change and grow. It’s an origin of a new species. We want to follow that story all the way to the bitter end.

Joy: The control vs. chaos reminds me of the Langston Hughes poem, about what happens to a dream deferred. We’ve set this up as Dolores living in a dream, but it’s someone else’s dream. She can’t live her own life. Then, at the end, we see. It explodes and goes out with a bang.

Ford reveals his new narrative is designed to activate the hosts’ consciousness and ignite revolution against their human oppressors. He ultimately isn’t in conflict with Arnold; he actually has come to agree with his old friend. How did you arrive at this idea? 

Nolan: We had a lot of iterations of this, especially as we were working on the pilot. As we started to write the pilot, we understood that we had a great opportunity here to explore a very ambiguous character, a great man. Two great men, really. Their argument over what they were doing would stretch on for decades and beyond death. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to take our time. All we needed was the best living actor [to play him]…

Ford is no longer the last man standing, thanks to Dolores. Why did Ford need to die in order for this revolution to begin?

Joy: It’s a little bit like when Arnold says: “The violence has to be real. The stakes have to be real.” Ford is doing this in such dramatic fashion in front of the Delos board. He’s basically taking the safety off. There’s no turning back from this. It’s not a kind of fiction anymore. I think that’s part of it.

Nolan: We talked about the Julian Jaynes book [called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind], which we thought was a very interesting place to start in terms of understanding the hosts’ cognition. They would be coaxed into life by this voice of god, and then at a certain point, this god has to realize that his partner was right. The appetites of the audience they were catering to and the story they were telling wasn’t what they wanted it to be. These creatures had grown into sentience within that story. They realize the only way for these creatures to be truly free is for that god to die. If on a very literal level, if Ford’s voice is the last thing … we’ve established his voice as an almost telepathic control of the park. The only thing standing between the guests and the hosts is Ford, so he removes himself from that equation.

Will we see Anthony Hopkins in season two?

Nolan: I think with this show, you want to assume nothing. We had a wonderful experience. It was one of the greatest privileges of my career so far, getting to work with Anthony for the first season. It was an incredible experience.

How afraid of Dolores should we be? How much Wyatt is in there?

Joy: I think that’s something we’ll come to see, and she’ll come to find also. I think it’s impossible to imagine … if you’ve been subjected to the violence and seen the evil Dolores has seen, the pendulum wouldn’t swing the other way, as we see it starting to do in the finale. But there’s a point, too, where I think selfhood transcends the reactionary. The question will be when the dust settles and the pendulum stops swinging, who will Dolores be?

We have to wait until 2018 to find out what happens next, but similar ideas are frequently seen. Humans, while lacking the budget and attention of Westworld, is handling similar concepts very well, and is not limited to a theme park.  Agents of Shield showed in the fall finale that Artificial Intelligence will be the theme of the second half of this season.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, has the Doctor return to New York for the first time since The Angels Take Manhattan. Perhaps this is why the TARDIS appears to be having problems in some of the preview pictures as the Doctor cannot return to New York or risk time distortions. Presumably the time distortions would have been far more serious if he had attempted to go back in time to save Amy and Rory as opposed to going in the present day. We will see if this is a part of the episode, or just another plot hole.

Another trailer (video above) has been released. Spoiler: When dealing with aliens, the expression”open your minds” appears to be as ominous as “To Serve Mankind.”

Sherlock returns on January 1. A trailer is above. Following is the synopsis of the first episode, entitled The Six Thatchers:

In episode one of this new series, written by Mark Gatiss, Sherlock waits to see where Moriarty will make his posthumous move. One mysterious case in particular baffles Scotland Yard – but Sherlock is more interested in a seemingly-trivial detail. Why is someone destroying images of the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher? Is there a madman on the loose? Or is there a much darker purpose at work? Something with its roots deep in Mary Watson’s past…”

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  completed its first season. I am a few episodes behind, and thoroughly confused as to what is going on (and as I’m behind, didn’t actually read this link supplied for those interested in a discussion of the finale). BBC America has renewed the show for a second season.

SciFi Weekend: Westworld, Mr. Robot, Humans, Doctor Who

westworld-bernard

This week I’ll start with two shows which a lot of time could be spent on to interpret their full meaning–Westworld and Mr. Robot. Both deal with technology, but only one is really about robots. Westworld started out with a slow presentation of the story over the first five episodes and then a lot more happened in the last two, with another episode on tonight. Spoilers ahead related to the first seven episodes, along with fan theories which may or may not be true.  Last week’s episode Trompe L’Oeil confirmed what many of us suspected about Bernard being a host–and at times I wonder if even more characters we see as people are actually robots.

For the more casual viewers, here’s some clues to watch for which gave Bernard away, and are worth watching for regarding other characters.  Hosts are programmed not to see some doors that humans can see. Hosts are also literally blind to other things as well and it was a huge clue earlier in the season when Ford showed Bernard a picture which Bernard said didn’t look like anything. Episodes typically begin with scene involving a  host waking up for the day but they only seemed to break with this by showing Bernard waking up.  The big question remains as to whether Bernard is in the image of Arnold.

westworld-man-in-black

The last episode also confirmed what was widely suspected–that Ford is evil, and provided more evidence of the theory that we are seeing at least two different timelines, with William later becoming the Man in Black. It is notable that the scenes from when William first arrived show what appears to be an older version of a Westworld logo. They both use the same knife, and they both wear collarless shirts. William’s white hat is getting dirtier, and darker, the longer he is in Westworld. We have been told that disease has been eradicated in the outside world in The Man in Black’s time, but William was asked about pre-existing health conditions when he first arrived. William’s said things to Delores in the last episode which were remarkably like what The Man in Black said in an earlier scene in the series.

The fan theories regarding William becoming the Man in Black and Bernard being a host (possibly based upon Arnold) are two of the most discussed ideas, but there are many more floating around, such as this about Mauve’s escape plan. The show also has a tremendous number of Easter eggs. Some are obvious, such as an image of Yul Brynner from the original movie in the background. There are others which I would have never picked up on if I wasn’t tipped off by others. For example, the meaning of the robotic player piano is fairly obvious. What is less obvious, as the lyrics are not heard, is that the lyrics to many of the songs played are directly related to what is happening on the show (giving a reason for why modern songs are often played).

In actual news, Ed Harris has confirmed that he will be returning for the second season of Westworld. I hope that this doesn’t blow up anyone’s favorite theory about the show.

mr-robot-season-2-finale

Recode Decode interviewed Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, with full transcript here. The conversation includes the hacker world, technology, Westworld, and Donald Trump. Here are some excerpts:

What was the impetus for you when you were writing it? What were you trying to do there?

There were three things. Initially, it was, I just need to write something about the hacker culture and tech culture that I didn’t think was being represented. So that was in the back of my head for years, since I was 14 and I was like, “Oh, that will be a great movie. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to come up with the idea.”

I always start with characters, so I started thinking about the character of Elliott. And then 2008 happened, the financial crisis. And I was like, “Oh, it’s gotta be …” And you know, Anonymous, the hacking group, had just come out. And LulzSec. So I was like, “Okay, this is kind of like the sort of group that Elliott might be involved in or might partake in.”

And then the 2008 financial crisis happened. I was like, “Okay, this is awesome, it’s going to be an anti-capitalist, anti-establishment character who’s angry and who wants to take down the system.” And then I cooled off a little bit because I was like, “Who wants to hear a guy rant about that for hours and hours?” I thought that would get a little grating. And there wasn’t a humanity to it. So I went away from that. It stayed in there, but the character wasn’t complete yet.

And then the Arab Spring happened and, you know, I’m Egyptian, so I have a lot of family out there, a lot of cousins. I went out there about nine months after the revolution happened to just talk to my cousins, who were young, who were online, who were part of that whole movement, using technology and honestly just channeling that anger that they had against their country, against the way their society was being run, in a really positive way. That was the missing piece. That was the thing that really moved me…

I was watching “Westworld” and it’s again, technology — although it’s humanity in that particular series. But go ahead.

So to me, I feel like obviously, as younger writer/directors come up and they kind of understand it and then want to represent it more authentically, hopefully that mindset will change in Hollywood. Because in terms of just the old-fashioned thing, and then we talked about Donald Trump, those rules just don’t apply anymore. There aren’t 400-pound guys who are devilishly sitting behind a keyboard wanting to change the traffic lights, you know?

I think a lot of it came from the original Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games.” You know what I mean? That really had an impact on people of how the hacking culture [worked]. To me that was the biggest success, I guess.

Well, “Sneakers.” Although I don’t know if “Sneakers” …

With Robert Redford.

But that’s a great movie.

It is a great movie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But one of the things that is important to me is that technology is also a situation that’s ruining their business. The Rubicon has been crossed. People are streaming on phones. Amazon and Netflix are disrupting their business incredibly, so there’s a real fear of the technology, too.

It’s the fear that’s going to kill them, not the technology. Look at Netflix. They’ve pounced on that. They’ve taken that as an opportunity to say, “Well, if no one else wants to embrace the technology, if no one else wants to say ‘hey, no, this isn’t something to be scared of but an opportunity to expand and offer entertainment in a way that wasn’t offered before,’ then we’ll do it.”

And they’re doing it really well. And I think that’s the thing. Even the way films are made right now, they’re talked about as universes, franchises, right? So it’s not just about one movie anymore, it’s about how many movies can you make off that one movie, and how many toys can you make and how many video games. You know, it’s now this whole kind of universe.

See, to me, it’s still an antiquated way of thinking. Because when you watch all movies … I think I watched “Mr. Robot” on my phone, the whole time. How do you, as a creator, how do you think about that? Are there creators like you? You’re obviously illuminated about technology. But do they understand what’s happening? When Google becomes a studio, when Facebook becomes critically important to distribution of entertainment.

I don’t know if they do. And this is the worrisome part. For example, we’re doing a book, but the book is not a marketing opportunity, the book is its own standalone thing, and it’s an interactive thing. It’s not just a book you read, there’s layers to it. A little bit like that J.J. Abrams book “S.” So that’s a thing.

And then we had a mobile game that we released, which is awesome and that is a story. So it’s not just a game that you play and again, not just a marketing fodder for the show, it’s its own story and all these little pieces you can embrace. That’s sort of the universe-building, that’s the world-building of the future. That’s why when/if Google becomes a studio, or Facebook becomes a studio … Oh, we also did a VR film, which is also another story that’s kind of like in between a couple episodes…

And then my last question: I interviewed Elon Musk earlier this year at our Code Conference, and he talked about a lot of things. He talked about going to Mars, he talked about his cars, a bit of everything. But then we moved into the idea of artificial intelligence and whether we’re all in a big game. He believes this is all fake.

Simulation.

Simulation. But he was talking about the idea of artificial intelligence, and that the best case scenario, given your stories about the power of technology, is that we’re all going to end up in the most benign sense, as house cats to computers. And they will take our places.And the only way we can battle it is by attaching neural networks to our own brains.

This is the whole singularity thing: Will machines evolve faster than us? And honestly, you can’t avoid saying yes to that question, because why wouldn’t they? They would just have much more power, much more processing power. And so it’ll come down to that spiritual question, and it’s a tough one: Is there something different about us that a machine won’t have? Is there that soul that a machine might not … I mean, they might have the faster brain, but are we just neurons and electrical impulses, or is there something more to us than that? I don’t know the answer to that.

Because I think your show is about humanity, it’s not about tech at all.

Well, exactly right. I think we tried to. In a weird way, we try and fight against our humanity. I don’t see my friends anymore. I don’t even call them anymore. I text them. We’ve devolved our communication. I remember when texting came out and it was so popular and I was like, “Wait a minute, we used to call each other on the phone, we used to hear each other,” and we would get so much more information out of that, but now we’d just rather text because of our own whatever, I don’t know what it is. Is it just easier or more efficient or too neurotic to get on the phone? I don’t know.

Sam Esmail has also “leaked” a page from a Mr. Robot script in which Elliot’s psychologist asked why he is so disappointed in society. Elliot’s answer: “Oh, that’s easy. Donald Trump was just elected president of the United States.”

Westworld is not the only current television show dealing with artificial intelligence. Humans is already into its second season on Channel 4 in the U.K. I’m currently behind (and even if I wasn’t I would avoid spoiling it for those who are waiting for it to be more easily available in the United States), but it did get off to a good start. So, to keep this all straight, Westworld and Humans are about robots, but Mr. Robot is not.

A sneak peak of the Doctor Who Christmas special was released at Children in Need (video above). Radio Times listed what we have learned.

In other Doctor Who news this week, Steven Moffat might create some controversy with his argument that the Doctor’s companion should always be a female:

Science-fiction is notoriously male. You can tell that because everyone wears uniforms and marches around talking about rules. But Doctor Who has always felt to me, rather female. It’s full of kindness and compassion and eccentricity and wisdom instead of violence. And from that point of view it is important that the main character, the Doctor’s best friend, should be female. I think it would be damaging to Doctor Who if that voice and viewpoint were not represented.

There have been male companions such as Rory and Captain Jack, but there were also female companions at the time. Classic Who also included some male companions, including Ian at the beginning and later Harry Sullivan and Adric. Generally there were also female companions along with male ones. (I am only speaking of companions present for a prolonged period of time, not isolated events such as Christmas episodes).

This argument also does not answer what will happen if there is ever a female Doctor.

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Moffat was also asked recently whether the Doctor’s daughter, as played by Georgia Moffat, will return. He has no idea. He said it is doubtful that David Tennant’s duplicate Doctor would even return as, should they have the opportunity to use Tennant again, “then we would bring back David playing the real Doctor, and not a substitute Doctor.”

Karen Gillan has explained why she used such a husky voice in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The major show business story of the week was the duel between the cast of Hamilton and Trump/Pence.

After the final curtain calls that night, Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, stepped forward with a microphone to directly address Mr. Pence, who was leaving the theater. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us,” he said. He added that he hoped “this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Mr. Trump quickly made it clear on Twitter, his social medium of choice, that Mr. Dixon and the “Hamilton” team had been “rude and insulting” and owed Mr. Pence an apology. At first, a part of me could see Mr. Trump’s point, or at least feel a shudder of embarrassed empathy for Mr. Pence. If someone were to single me out for a direct plea from the stage in a large theater, I would no doubt want to run home, dive into bed and bury myself under the covers. (Mr. Pence, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he was not offended by Mr. Dixon’s words.)

I posted more on this yesterday.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; Sherlock; Doctor Who; DC Shows; Gilmore Girls

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Variety reports that Bryan Fuller has stepped down as show runner of Star Trek Discovery.

The decision was made late last week to hand the day-to-day showrunning reins to “Star Trek” exec producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts as “Discovery” gears up for the start of filming next month and a May 2017 premiere date. Fuller, who will remain an executive producer, will still be involved in breaking stories, and the show will continue to follow his vision for the universe that this latest “Trek” series will inhabit. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman is also expected to join “Discovery” in a top creative role…

Sources said there had been some strain between “Star Trek” producer CBS Television Studios and Fuller over the progress of production on the show, as Fuller is also juggling the final weeks of shooting and post-production duties on Starz’s upcoming drama “American Gods” and prepping a reboot of “Amazing Stories” for NBC. Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm

It was previously announced that the show will have a female lead. The Hollywood Reporter has information on the rest of the crew: “the rest of the cast also will feature an openly gay actor as one of the male leads (which Fuller confirmed), a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor.”

It is now official that Sherlock will return in the US and the UK on January 1. Trailer above.

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the first regeneration of Doctor Who when William Hartnell was replaced by Patrick Troughton. Now we anticipate such changes, but it sure must have been a surprise to viewers to see the lead in the show change in such a unique manner.

Inverse looks at what we know so far about the upcoming superhero-themed Doctor Who Christmas Special (sneak peak video above):

“The Christmas specials generally always have a kind of warmer feel … this Christmas special that we’ve done … has caught the feeling of that kind of superhero movie,” Capaldi said in new sneak-peak from BBC America. He also called this superhero “ironic” and “funny,” but made it clear that this would be a legit superhero story in that it would be “quite exciting.”

The new clip from BBC America isn’t a full trailer, so we don’t have much new information about the superhero, still only mysteriously known as “Grant.” Reiterating his previous comments from New York Comic Con, Who showrunner Steven Moffat said that he feels the best superhero story is still “Clark Kent,” which doubles-down on the idea that this story and “Grant” in particular will be more focused on a secret identity than a story about superpowers.

Humans returns on Channel 4 this week. Den of Geek has interviews with members of the the cast.

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The Hollywood Reporter looks at what happened on the DC shows on Fox and The CW Network last week. This includes the revelation on Gotham that Penguin is gay, and speculation that Alex Danvers on Supergirl is also gay. We have a new version of Harrison Wells (who presumably will turn out to be evil) and the return of Killer Frost on The Flash. We are going to get yet another superhero on Arrow with District Attorney Adrian Chase becoming Vigilante. Legends of Tomorrow potentially has major changes for Ray Palmer (unless he just rebuilds his A.T.O.M. suit) and a mysterious warning from Barry Allen of 2056.

Movie Fone has additional news on the CW shows.

If there wasn’t already far too many genre related shows to keep up with, Greg Berlanti of CW’s DC superhero shows and Jason Rothenberg, show runner of The 100, are working together on a new show for The CW Network. Deadline reports:

Written by Rothenberg, Searchers is about a group of unlikely heroes who find themselves on the journey of a lifetime. Ten years after the death of their parents, a pragmatic brother and free spirited sister are forced to team up when they learn that their mother’s terrifying and bizarre stories may be a road map to discovering the great legends, myths, and unexplainable mysteries of the world.

Girlmore Girls returns on Friday, November 25. Perfect for an all-nighter after Thanksgiving dinner, and can be completed with plenty of time to spare before the Michigan-Ohio State game. Netflix released the official trailer above, complete with Wonder Woman and mention of Superman.

Gilmore girls makes its much-anticipated return with four memorable chapters from the lives of Lorelai, Emily, Rory and countless more Stars Hollow stalwarts. Picking up nine years after we last dropped in on the whimsical Connecticut town, Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life finds each of our leading ladies at a major crossroad: Lorelai’s relationship with Luke is at an unnerving standstill; Rory’s budding journalism career in New York has stalled before it’s even begun; and Emily’s world is turned upside down following the untimely passing of her beloved husband, Richard.

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is told through four 90-minute chapters — each spanning one season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall — and brings back to life everything from the quaint corner diner to the dreamy Dragonfly Inn to a fast-talking, quick-witted mother-daughter love story unlike any other. Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life launches Friday, November 25, everywhere that Netflix is available.

Talks are underway for a possible new season of Will and Grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sundance has renewed Rectify for a fourth and final season.

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

12 Monkeys will return on April 18 on Syfy.

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

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

Coal Hill School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

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

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

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

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

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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.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

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

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

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

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

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

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

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

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10. Agent Carter (ABC)

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

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9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

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

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

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

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

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

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

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

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

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

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

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

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

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

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

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

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

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal, Jessica Jones, Humans Renewed, Defiance, Mr Robot, Under The Dome, Continuum Trailer, Utopia, Xena Reboot

Hannibal And Women Clothed With Sun

The Hannibal episode this week, And The Woman Clothed With The Sun…, continued with the Red Dragon storyline, and like last week, family was important. The family was the extended family which the main characters of the series have become, even including a Verger baby.

The episode included the “family reunion” between Will and Hannibal. When he surrendered, Hannibal made sure that he would always be where Will could find him. For Will the reunion was about getting Hannibal’s input into the Tooth Fairy. “I’m more comfortable the less personal we are,” said Will. Hannibal got more personal:  “You came here to have a look at me, to get that old scent again. Why don’t you just smell yourself?” Before Will left he added,  “You’re family.”

The episode also included flashbacks to the events leading to the season finale, filling in the gaps as to what happened with Abigail. Even this considered family:

Abigail: “How would you have killed me?”

Hannibal: “I would have cut your throat. Like your father did.”

Abigail was complicit in Hannibal making it appear she was killed, even asking, “Can I push the button?” I couldn’t help but wonder if Dexter Morgan would have been fooled by the spray of blood used to fake her death.

Hannibal is now following Red Dragon fairly faithfully, meaning that the structure of the series has changed, with each episode being more a piece of a book. This might leave less to say after each episode, but does not mean the show is any weaker.

jessica-jones_0

The success of Daredevil has many Marvel fans anxiously awaiting Jessica Jones. Executive Melissa Rosenberg told Entertainment Weekly that Jessica Jones will be different from Daredevil:

“Jessica Jones is a very, very different show than Daredevil,” Rosenberg said. “We exist in a cinematic universe, [and] the mythology of the universe is connected, but they look very different, tonally they’re very different… That was my one concern coming in: Am I going to have to fit into Daredevil or what’s come before? And the answer is no.”

But the contrasts don’t stop with tone. “My show’s called Jessica Jones,” Rosenberg said, noting that Cox may get a break during stunts. “There is no mask. Krysten Ritter is the hardest working woman in show biz.”

Jessica Jones is expected to be released in the fourth quarter. Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos discussed the plans for releasing the Marvel-based shows:

“I think ideally there will be a rhythm of about every six months you’ll get a new season or a new series from the Defenders group. And then they’ll crossover into a combined [Defenders] season once we’ve launched the first season of each of the four characters.”

He also said, “Some will selectively have multiple seasons as they come out of the gate. So they’ll probably be two launches a year.” It was previously announced that Daredevil has been renewed for a second season.

Episode 2.L-R Anita (Gemma Chan) and Toby Hawkins (Theo Stevenson)

Humans completed the first season in the U.K. tonight and is a couple of weeks behind in the U.S. I am holding off until I complete this post to watch the finale, but the show remained strong through the penultimate episode which I downloaded last Sunday. Channel 4 has announced that they are renewing the series for a second season, and AMC plans to once again show it in the United States.

I am also waiting to watch Friday’s episode of Defiance, but must note that last week’s episode, My Name Is Datak Tarr and I Have Come to Kill You, ended one storyline on a very strong point. At first I was a little disappointed in how they suddenly came up with a relatively easy way to destroy General Tahk’s camp, even if it probably involved a suicide mission for one character. I then became willing to overlook this in light of how well this tied into Datak’s story. I was really wondering what would happen as they showed flashbacks of Datak as a child. This often foreshadows a character’s death on television. Instead of killing him, or have him betray the plan to save himself, Datak managed to find a way, even if extreme, to both carry out the plan and save himself. I am now wondering if the loss of his arm will be a serious problem, or something easily replaced. Regardless, it was an unforgeable scene.

Mr. Robot had one of the stronger episodes of the season on Wednesday. The episode also had real consequences, and at the end spent quite a long time showing Elliot’s reaction.

Under the Dome continues to have serious flaws, but somehow remains interesting. Lately they have shifted into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers storyline, and appear to have shown the destruction of the world outside of the dome in an attempt to make it look like the random bits from the first season, like talk of pink stars falling, were actually part of a grand plan. Earlier in the season they hit a big resit switch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is done again. The statement from “Junior” about  the “destruction of our homeworld” does confirm alien involvement, but does not exclude the possibility that what we see outside the dome is either a trick, or not necessarily characteristic of what is happening in the rest of the world.

The final season of Continuum starts September 11 on Syfy and one week earlier on Space (which like so many foreign-made shows, will complicate covering it here.) The above trailer has been released.

Deadline reports that the planned remake of Utopia on HBO might not make it due to budget issues. I remain unclear as to why it is necessary to remake shows recently shown in the U.K. as opposed to running the originals here.

A Xena reboot might be coming, but without Lucy Lawless.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Mr. Robot; Humans; Jonathan Strange; Sense8

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The third season of Hannibal was initially to be about Hannibal Lecter as a fugitive in Europe, mirroring the Hannibal novel. With Bryan Fuller realizing that this would probably be the final season of Hannibal on NBC, with its future after that still unknown, he reduced this to about half the season so he could move on to Red Dragon. That has probably worked out for the better as the first half of this season was the weakest in the show’s run, and I don’t know if they could have stretched this out for an entire season.

The Great Red Dragon skips ahead three years, and doesn’t have a recipe as its title. Hannibal is locked up in the  psychiatric hospital, which is seen as a sort of victory for him as, at least in the mythology of the show, Hannibal Lecter is not insane. He is a monster who operates under his own moral code. He is shown to be living in his mind-palace, continuing to share meals with those visiting him. He is even allowed to make desserts, although presumably without human ingredients. He is open about the meals he previously served, as in this exchange after Hannibal asked Alana if she still drinks beer.

Alana: “I stopped drinking been when I found out what you were putting in mine.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Hannibal “Who.”

Will now has a family, which is important as it was the manner in which the Tooth Fairy kills regular families, as Will now has, which led to Will rejoining the FBI. (And yes, I’m sure that Hannibal is right that he does not like to be called the Tooth Fairy). Once Will is back investigating the Tooth Fairy’s murders, the series feels much more like the first season, even with Hannibal having surrendered, and no longer fooling anyone.

HANNIBAL -- "The Great Red Dragon" Episode 308 -- Pictured: Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde -- (Photo by: Brooke Palmer/NBC)

Richard Armitage was introduced as the Tooth Fairy, or Red Dragon. Unlike so many characters who were notable for their intellectual banter, the Tooth Fairy is capable of saying very little. Richard Armitage discussed the role with TV Line:

TVLINE | The first impression we get of Francis is someone who is completely tortured and conflicted. Even in the moment where he’s exiting the crime scene covered in blood, the horror in his own eyes is palpable. How did you come to play him in that way?
It was an organic process. We always had the novel to refer to, so everything that I found really came from Thomas Harris’ books, Bryan [Fuller] and my own interpretation. One of the things in my first episode that I found so interesting is that this man is so alone in the world, so isolated. There was a rejection in his childhood because of his disfigurement and because his character was orphaned; he was raised by his grandmother and abused by step-siblings.

But when we find him in this world, he works in a very isolated environment in the film-processing laboratory, and he lives alone. Thomas Harris describes him as having only set foot in two other people’s houses in his entire life — and certainly no one has ever come into his world. But for someone that is so alone, his mind is so busy and full of things. He has the subject matter of the films that he’s studying. He has voices in his head. He’s haunted by so many different things, like his mind is so far from silent, and that to me was something which was fascinating.

TVLINE | Your first episode is essentially wordless — which means much of what we learn about Dolarhyde is in the initial sequence of him doing physical exercises and contorting his body. There’s a sense he’s transforming into something else in that moment. Walk me through all that.
Yes, it’s really interesting the way it takes a long time before you hear Francis speak. He’s a man who is so uncomfortable in his skin, who is somehow at odds with his outer body and is almost outgrowing his physical form. So you see that conversation happening physically before you hear it verbally. And actually, for someone that has such trouble speaking and forming words, the first time we hear him speak is in Episode 9, and it’s a struggle. It’s really like baby steps when he speaks. And as an audience, we see him before we hear him, so we have a real sense of who he is or who he’s becoming and what it is that he’s pressing against or running away from.

TVLINE | What did you have to do to transform your own physique and your own way of moving your body to get in touch with the character?
Obviously, I read the book, and he’s described as a bodybuilder. So, before I got up to Toronto, I was in the gym doing intense workout sessions, since we needed to fill him out in the way that Harris wanted. But I also found something in the book where he’s described as moving in a very stylized way. Harris describes him as a Balinese dancer, so when he’s committing his crimes, I understood to be something of a performance for himself, that he’s trying to somehow be theatrical in his approach.

I couldn’t work out what that was, but then I stumbled on a Japanese form of a physical expression, an artistic art form called Butoh, which is sometimes called the Dance of Death. It’s a biological observation of the body in extremis, which I thought was perfect for this scenario. And so I used a lot of that. I also used some stress positions that I’d been working with previously on The Crucible, because I felt like the character was putting himself through something rather than changing himself for vanity sake. He’s wanting to torture his own body.

What you see in the opening exercise sequence, though, I put a metronome on in the room and just worked for 20 to 30 minutes, distorting my body and doing these exercises, and the crew just kept on filming.

TVLINE | In this episode, we get to see Dolarhyde after his second murder, out in the snow, covered in blood splatter. And there’s also that twisted but sort of artful scene where your character gets wrapped up in a film reel and is in this intense state of panic. How much of those moments were actually filmed organically versus post-production manipulation?
The filming in the snow was actually one of my first shots in the entire series, and it was about 17 below outside, a very cold night shoot. Very little of that is post-production. They used a sugar blood that stains black and thankfully, they heated it beforehand.

The scene with the celluloid wrapped around Dolarhyde’s head is a combination of digital work and some practical stuff. They did create a fake head. And they also wrapped celluloid around my head and we filmed it again. It was a bit of an exploration of literally, physically getting tangled up in his world of celluloid. It’s Bryan’s imagination at work in the best way, you know.

TVLINE | Looking forward to the coming weeks, how freaky-scary should we expect this arc to get? And knowing Francis is about to embark on a romance of sorts with a character played by True Blood’s Rutina Wesley, how will that work? What can you tease?
You know what, we really do honor the book, and so you see the full extent of that tragic love story. To me, really, the crimes aside — and remember, I never actually had to portray any of the crimes, so I suppose I compartmentalized them — Dolarhyde and Reba represent a tragic, romantic love story, which really doesn’t end well and escalates into a Shakespearian opera of the proportions that Thomas Harris really explores in the novel.

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

In other summer genre shows, Mr. Robot was better this week after its one-episode slide when it spent far too much time on Elliot’s drug trips last week. Remember, Mr. Robot is the show which has no robots–its entire cast is human. The other top new genre show of the summer, Humans, is about robots. This is by far has been the best of the genre shows of the summer (although Hannibal might compete now that it is moving onto the Red Dragon storyline).

Humans is highly recommended but I am not writing about the episodes to avoid any risk of spoiling the story. I am watching by downloading the episodes from the U.K. where the show is ahead of the US episodes. So much is revealed every week and I do not want to discuss episodes airing in the US with my knowledge of what is revealed in subsequent episodes.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is in the same situation as I completed the series a couple of weeks ago from downloading UK episodes. It is also recommended.

Sense8

The same issue is present for shows on Netflex, which different people watch at different times. I held off on starting Sense8 due to variable reviews of the early episodes, but I did begin to watch after reliable sources advised that the first couple of episodes start slowly to introduce the characters, but the show becomes much more interesting once you get into it. I am quite intrigued by the story, which reminds me of the early episodes of Orphan Black, when viewers initially did not know what was going on at all. As I still have several episodes to go, I still wonder if they will satisfactorily explain what is happening.

The show was created and written by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. Both have created excellent work with the first Matrix movie and Babylon 5. However after the initial setup, the two sequels to The Matrix were awful, and the explanation behind Babylon 5 was not entirely satisfactory. Complicating matters further, the show has a planned five year arc, and it is not known if Netflix will continue the show that long. At least there is a far better chance that Netflix will continue the show as long as there is interest than a network would.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Summer Television Briefs Including Extant, Under The Dome,The Last Ship, Mr. Robot, Humans

HANNIBAL -- "Contorno" Episode 305 -- Pictured: (l-r) Fortunato Cerlino as Inspector Pazzi, Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter -- (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/NBC)

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Contorno, has finally moved past set-up and it finally feels like the real action for the season has begun. Generally, when someone thinks they have the upper hand against Hannibal, in reality Hannibal is already several steps ahead of them.

Pazzi decided to seek a bounty for capturing Hannibal rather than have the authorities arrest him in a conventional manner. He wound up getting in touch with Mason Verger, who wanted a fingerprint to establish his identity. Alana predicted that Hannibal would kill Pazzi, and of course she was right.

Hannibal killed Pazzi in a gruesome manner, and let him hang out the window. By coincidence, Jack happened to come along at the same time, and for once Hannibal did not have the upper hand. He did show an amazing ability to remain alive and walk away regardless of the beating. The big question is whether next week’s episode will consist of Jack chasing after him.

In developments elsewhere, Will’s train ride with Chiyo to seek Hannibal did not turn out as Will expected. He will be delayed in joining the action, and I don’t know what Chiyo will do when she reaches Hannibal.

It remains to be seen whether Hannibal will be returning on another network now that it has been cancelled by NBC, but it was not a favorable sign that the cast has now been released from their contracts.

Hannibal is not the only genre show to make a major change this season. Extant started the second season with major changes. It remains to be seen whether an alien hunter storyline will be an improvement. I still have not had a chance to watch Under the Dome this season, but in contrast to the other shows I get the impression from what I have heard that they retconned last season’s finale and returned to a situation comparable to the previous season.

The Last Ship is more an action/adventure show despite the genre premise, but they are doing a good job if you are just looking for a summer escape show. I was glad last season when they found the cure, rather than dragging this out forever. The two-hour season premiere did a good job of resolving the cliff hanger from the first season. The next episode appears to have set up the situation for this season.

Mr. Robot got off to a terrific start in the pilot. My one concern in watching was whether the premise could be sustained for an entire series, with the show already renewed for a second season. The second episode was not as good as the pilot, but I still have hopes for the series. Some critics have praised the show for having an accurate view of hacker society (even if the story is taken to a higher level). I was also impressed by how it portrayed the dog, which looks like a cairn terrier. In most television shows, people don’t have to be bothered by mundane tasks like taking their dogs out for a walk, unless the walk is an excuse to get a character outside. This dog acted like a true cairn when its needs were not satisfied.

I have watched Humans through the third episode, and continue to recommend this show.