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: The Flash To Meet Supergirl After Visit To Earth-2; Captain America: Civil War; Doctor Who; Manhattan; Gilmore Girls Casting; Bernie Sanders & Larry David on SNL; Gloria Steinem Insults Women Supporting Sanders On Bill Maher

The-Flash-Earth-2-Joe-Barry-and-Iris

Barry travels to Earth-2 on next week’s episode of The Flash and, from the pictures released, some things are quite different over there.

After many stories going both ways, it now looks official that he will also visit Supergirl.  With the manner in which The Flash deals with alternative universes, this is leading to a lot of speculation on line that Supergirl (and therefore her cousin Superman) are from a different universe from Arrow and The Flash. If so, being able to travel between universes might provide a way for the DC television universe to continue to tell stories which are unrelated to each other, but still have an occasional cross over episode. The same idea could extend to the movie DC universe, and could even be used to encompass the various versions of Superman and Batman seen on television and in the movies.

The Captain America: Civil War promo to be shown during the Super Bowl has been released prior to the game

Steven Moffat has confirmed that series ten of Doctor Who will have fourteen episodes. Presumably this means that there will be the 2016 Christmas episode, thirteen episodes in the spring of 2017, and Moffat’s final episode will be the 2017 Christmas episode. That might also be a regeneration episode if Peter Capaldi leaves with Moffat.

Manhattan has been canceled by WGN after its second season. It is a shame as it was one of the best shows on television. For those who have not seen it (which is most people) it remains well worth watching the first two seasons, even if the show was canceled. It is about the Manhattan Project. We don’t need another season to see how it ends, although I would like to see what happens to the fictitious characters on the show.

Colony has been renewed for a second season. Orange Is The New Black has been renewed by Netflix for three seasons.

I haven’t seen it yet, but the Deadpool movie is getting excellent reviews.

Liza Weil and Matt Czuchry have both signed on to be in the Gilmore Girls revival. (That’s Paris and Logan). Melissa McCarthy so far hasn’t been cast in revival based upon limited availability, but Amy Sherman-Palladino does say she will write her into a scene if she makes it to the set.

Bernie Sanders appeared on Saturday Night Live last night, with guest host Larry David. The show opened by mocking Ted Cruz. Then Larry David had one of the best opening segments on the show in recent memory, not needing the other cast members to get him through it, as many guest hosts to. He was later in an excellent per-filmed skit entitled  Bern Your Enthusiasm which had the feeling of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm with typical Larry David-type predicaments, except it dealt with Bernie Sanders and the Iowa primary. This included Bernie not wanting to shake a woman’s had after she had first coughed into it, two-percent milk.

Another skit dealt with a Titanic-like situation, in which Larry David played a rich man demanding that he get one of the seats in a life boat. Then Bernie Sanders appeared with a version of his stump speech:

Sanders: Hold on! Hold on! Wait a second! I am so sick of the one percent getting this preferential treatment! Enough is enough! We all need to unite if we’re going to get through this!

David: Sounds like socialism to me.

Sanders: Democratic socialism.

David: What’s the difference.

Sanders: Huge difference.

Previous impersonations of Bernie Sanders by Larry David can be seen here and here.

Also on light night television, Gloria Steinem received a lot of criticism for suggesting on Bill Maher that young women are supporting Sanders because that’s where the boys are, as if they can’t think for themselves. Steinem later apologized for her comments on Facebook.

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

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

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

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

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

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

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19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

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

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

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

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

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

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

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

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

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

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

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

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

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

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

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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: Continuum Series Finale; Doctor Who; Fargo & Manhattan Return; Defiance Canceled

Continuum Finale 2

Continuum had both a happy and sad ending but, even more remarkably, ended with a surprise which was totally consistent with what we have seen. With all the  questions among fans, and even some characters on the show, as to whether Kiera could return home, nobody I’m aware of predicted the ending. She was successful and returned home to a better world where the Corporate Congress never took control, and old Alec was much more like young Alec than a futuristic version of the evil cigarette smoking man. However, as in this future there was never a reason for her to be sent back in time, the future included another Kiera who was the mother to Sam. Kiera could see that her son would have a better future, but would not personally be a part of it. Plus Sam grew up with different versions of his parents and in a different culture and might not be anything like the Sam she left. She also has no real role in this timeline with another Kiera being there.

In retrospect, the ending was obvious. We already saw that when Alec went back in time to save Emily there were two Alecs. When Kiera crossed into the other timeline, there were two Kieras, even if one had been killed. If Kiera never went back in time in this timeline, of course there would be another Kiera there. This all assumes that the same people would be born. It is actually more likely that if the timeline was radically changed, there would not be the exact same people born in the future. This, like having all the action taking place in Vancouver, are just things we have to accept for the show.

In this future timeline, Alec grew older and remained good. Kagame was alive, and his role primarily served as a means to momentarily make Kiera think that the future was worse than it actually was. There would presumably be versions of other members of Liber8 who never went back in time, possibly with both an old and a young Garza since she remained in the past.

It was no surprise that the Time Marines were lying about their goals, and their plans failed. Kiera had a mixed ending. The ending was not so good for Kellogg. He killed Vasquez with a corkscrew (fitting for Kellogg) but learned while she was dying that she was his daughter, and not the lover of his future self as assumed. He was momentarily safer, if not for the legal penalties he faced, when the current timeline was tethered to the timeline of the Time Marines. Now if anything happened to him, such as having both kidneys removed, his older self would undergo a 12 Monkeys style fate (movie version). Kellogg tried to go back in time to when everyone first came back to get rid of them (presumably including another version of himself) to try to make things turn out as he wanted, including taking control of that kid in the garage (Alec). Instead Alec outsmarted him, sending him to prehistoric times. I’m not sure if Kellogg will get killed, or manage to be treated as a god. Maybe he does have a happy ending.

Continuum Finale

The condensed six-episode season did wrap up the series well, but compromises had to be made. It was necessary to quickly have Kiera want to remain in the present at the end of last season and then want to go home this season. Kiera’s husband was totally ignored for the final season.

Presumably there were plans to do far more with The Traveler, but his story had to be wrapped up very quickly. Once Kellogg went back in time, the future with the Time Marines, along with a future with evil Alec and the Corporate Congress, never took place and The Traveler’s future was again present, allowing him to return home.

The flash-forwards of previous seasons were no longer used and until the finale we only saw old Alec in Zero Hour. I still have so many questions which will never be answered. The episode confirmed that Alec sent Liber8 back to prevent the future he created, and that Kiera was assigned to be at the fake execution because young Alec mentioned her name. However, young Alec never told old Alec that Kiera arrived with no idea what was going on. Knowing the little he did know, I would think that old Alec would have instead briefed Kiera and sent her back with a more concrete mission. If there was more time in future scenes, it might have convincingly be shown that Alec considered this but, in recognizing her views at the time, decided it was better to send her back without such a briefing.

It is also unfortunate that there was little time to get into the politics of the show in this condensed final season, especially with the series ending this year. Given more time, Continuum could have been partially a weekly promotion for the views of Bernie Sanders. Maybe there is a timeline where Bernie Sanders gets elected to prevent the corporate excesses shown on the show.

Simon Berry had said he envisioned the final scene from the beginning. This led to the show making more sense than shows which drifted like Lost and The X-Files. However, the other examples which come to mind of a television writer having the end in mind have not worked out as planned. J. Michael Straczynski got the ending he intended for Babylon 5, and then wound up having an extra year to kill. Amy Sherman-Palladino never got to end Gilmore Girls as she planned as she did not remain for the final season. The ending for How I Met Your Mother might have been clever at the time, but no longer was the best ending by the time the story was told.

Doctor Who The Girl Who Died2

The Girl Who Died was on one level a light episode of Doctor Who with Vikings versus aliens, but it also included a lot of references to the mythology of the show, and presumably leads into however the season ends. The Doctor was caught by Vikings and tried to pretend to be Odin. That did not work as there was already another alien pretending to be Odin. Plus it was the nearest thing we will probably see to Doctor Who meeting Game of Thrones.

The Doctor helped the Viking village defeat The Mire with clever but improbable strategy including electric eels, mind tricks to make the invaders think they were under attack by a giant serpent, and threats to ruin their reputation with a video of the events. Along the way there were references to previous Doctors along with some seen in videos. The Doctor used the phrase attributed to the third Doctor, even if not really used all that often: “I’m reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something, it sounds great.” The seventh Doctor was also recalled with “Time will tell – it always does.”

There was an explanation for the current Doctor looking so much like Marcus Aurelius from The Fires of Pompeii (beyond both being played by Peter Capaldi). Seeing this face was a reminder that he can sometimes change what might be fixed points in time.  In the episode, Donna Noble convinced the Doctor into saving a the volcano which destroyed Pompeii. This tells him: “I’m the Doctor and I save people!” (Will we later get an explanation for Peter Capaldi’s appearance in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or is it just better to pretend that one never existed?)

It is never clear what the rules of time are. Will they necessarily lead to problems, or are they just rules of the Time Lords which can be ignored when they are not around? We received a little guidance: “It’s OK to make ripples, but not tidal waves.”

This all mattered first to get the Doctor to save the village. It was saved but Maise Williams’ character, Ashildre, died during the battle. The Doctor not only made her “functionally immortal,” but also gave her a second dose of the revive-chip for “whoever she wants” so she will not be alone. It is strange that the Doctor did this for her, but never considered it for many other people he saw die, or to make sure he is never alone. I wonder if there will be tragic consequences of this violation of the rules to provide reason for him to never consider it again.

The Doctor did realize that he turned Ashildre into a hybrid. We heard mention of a hybrid earlier in the season in The Witch’s Familiar, but it sounded like a cross between a Time Lord and a Dalek. We will have to wait and see if this is all connected.

Another event of the season was to have the Doctor lose his sonic screwdriver and replace it with the sonic sunglasses. The Vikings broke them, but they also appear in a preview so presumably are returning.

The episode had the second suggestion that Clara might be bisexual when she spoke of fighting the Doctor for Ashildre. In The Magician’s Apprentice she mentioned that Jane Austen is “a brilliant writer and, strictly between ourselves, a phenomenal kisser.”

A couple other memorable lines from the episode:

Doctor: “I’m not actually the police, that’s just what it says on the box.”

Clara: “The universe is full of testosterone. Trust me, it’s unbearable.”

Behind the scenes videos with Maisie Williams can be seen here.

fargo-season-2-header

Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching.

Fargo and Manhattan returned for their second seasons. Fargo looks fantastic. I have not seen Manhattan yet but I hear it was also excellent. I would highly recommend watching the first season of each of these shows. Fargo is a different story with slight overlap in characters, and I doubt it will be necessary to have seen the first season to enjoy the second. It would be better to watch the first season of Manhattan before trying to jump in.

Fresh Off The Boat, also in its second season, has been picked up for a full twenty-two episodes.

Syfy has canceled Defiance after three seasons. I thought the third season was much better, but not enough people were watching. Please do not  let Manhattan suffer this fate–it is an excellent show despite being seen by so few people as it is only on WGN.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Jessica Jones; Fargo; Extant Canceled & Minority Report Unlikely To Survive; Blindspot; Limitless; Casual; The Flash; Arrow; Continuum

Doctor Who Before-the-Flood-3

The conclusion to last week’s episode of Doctor Who, Before the Flood, got more timey wimey. Under the Lake, possibly not trusting the audience to realize they were seeing a paradox, began with the Doctor speaking directly to the audience about the Bootstrap Paradox (named after the paradox in Robert A. Heinlein’s classic story By His Bootstraps). The doctor told what he called a fake story about a time traveler who loved the work of Ludwig van Beethoven. He went back in time to meet Beethoven, and even took all his sheet music for Beethoven to autograph. The time traveler found that Beethoven did not exist, so he had the sheet music he brought published under Beethoven’s name. History went on as he remembered it, but who actually composed all the music in the first place?

The Doctor also had to find a way to break the rules of time in this episode–which he wold only do for Clara. When he first found out that he was to become a ghost in the time  period where the story began, he assumed that this was part of history, a fixed point in time, and could not be changed. Clara urged the Doctor to try and he did find a way. He created a hologram, so that Clara saw what she told the Doctor she saw, but it was not actually a ghost. He then set up a prerecorded message claiming to be the order of the deaths, motivating the Doctor to take action to prevent Clara’s death (but not O’Donnell’s). There was also a second message, “The chamber will open tonight.” The Doctor then came out of the suspended animation chamber in  the future, like his companions and the Pandorica. The messages given by the hologram gave the Doctor the information he needed, but where did the idea for those messages come from in the first place? Maybe the same place as those messages in Blink.

Best line from the show: “You might find you’ve lost a couple other memories too. Like people you went to school with, or previous addresses, or how to drink liquids…”

The early reviews of Jessica Jones have been excellent. The show includes superpowers,  hot sex scenes, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first lesbian character. There have now been a few teasers such as above, without Krysten Ritter’s face actually being shown. This makes me wonder if these scenes are not from the show, and possibly filmed with a body double. Jessica Jones premiers on Neflix on  November 20.

Fargo returns on Monday and sounds quite promising. Reviews herehere, here, here, and here.

Manhattan is also starting its second season soon. This show deserves a far bigger audience than it has received. I highly recommend binging on the first season and then watching the second.

CBS has finally canceled Extant, and plans another project with Halle Berry. They should have made this decision at least a year ago.

I held off on watching Minority Report after the first couple of episodes were not received well. Fox has now cut back the order from thirteen to ten episodes, which looks like a poor sign for the show to continue.

AMC has renewed Halt and Catch Fire for a third season. While it has low ratings, I’ve heard that AMC likes the demographics of the viewers. Plus AMC directly owns the show and hopes to make money off of streaming rights in the future.

Blindspot

Blindspot is the first new drama of the season to receive a full season pickup. It is well deserved, so far being my favorite new network drama of the season. Another new drama I’ve watched has been Limitless. I see Blindspot and Limitless as having a lot in common, with Blindspot the better of the two and Limitless as being a lighter version.

Both shows feature protagonists with powers (fighting ability plus her clues in Blindspot, and abilities from the pill in Limitless) who are working with the FBI. The first few episodes of each centered around them gaining trust and getting involved in cases rather than remaining behind in an office. Both have some type of mysterious  background stories.

I was surprised to see how quickly Blindspot revealed that Jane Doe is Weller’s missing childhood neighbor Taylor Shaw, but that really does not answer any of the mysteries. (Does star Jaimie Alexander’s Asgardian roots explain anything about her character?) I was also surprised to see the bearded guy get killed so soon. Actors on this show have even less job security than those on Games of Thrones.

When Brian’s new “boss” introduced himself on Limitless, I wondered if this was a way to continue the story without Bradley Cooper, but reportedly he will return in future episodes.

Sleepy Hollow also follows this pattern to some degree with Abbie now being in the FBI and, while not having unusual abilities, Ichibad does have an unusual background in other days. This season feels like an attempt to reboot the series, but so far has not captured the unique entertainment of the first season. It does look promising enough to watch longer.

Other worthwhile shows of the new season include Supergirl, based upon the pilot previously released on line, and Casual. While totally non-genre, Casual (on Hulu) is an excellent family dramedy. The first two episodes were very entertaining, and reviews have been great from those who saw the series at the Toronto Film Festival.

Above are trailers for this season of The Flash and Arrow from New York Comic-Con. Note that characters who have apparently died are present, in preparation for them joining together on Legends of Tomorrow.

The penultimate episode of Continuum has aired in the United States and the series finale aired on Showcase in Canada. The Desperate Hours was mostly all action, including another heroic death, setting up the finale which is obviously named Final Hour. It seems rather pointless now to discuss the questions I have had during the season and after The Desperate Hours considering that they were answered in Final Hour. I will wait to discuss Final Hour to avoid spoiling those who wait for the US presentation of the show.

SciFi Weekend: Under the Dome; Extant; Jessica Jones; Doctor Who; You’re The Worst

""The

It is a shame that CBS cannot handle genre on the main network as well as they do on The CW Network. The third season of  Under the Dome totally forgot what made the show interesting, even if the stories were highly flawed. Initially the show was of some interest for showing how relatively normal people would react to an implausible but interesting situation. The third season was basically a third-rate alien invasion story, stealing heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a touch of the least interesting aspects of The Matrix. Earlier seasons threw in all sorts of mumbo jumbo for the show’s mythology. These are even less interesting in retrospect than at the time as there was no real pay off.

CBS announced the cancellation of the series before the finale aired so I hoped that maybe they had a cut ready which was a clear finale. Instead the dome came down well before the end of the episode, with the major characters next captured by the government until they agreed to keep the alien invasion secret. Then the episode ended with signs that the danger was still there. As usual on such shows, if there is no body when a character appears to have been killed, they will show up again–this time in a scene clearly intended to lead into another season.

extant_taalr

Extant started threatening to be an alien invasion series, but then turned into a story of misunderstood aliens who wanted to live in peace. Virtually every science fiction and many other television troupes were thrown in, including a human gaining powers, artificial intelligence, an evil super-computer, and evil versus foolishly-acting evil government officials. Unfortunately none of this was handled very well, substituting the use of  such troupes for good writing

The episode at least tied up all the plot lines for the season, working well as a series finale, but included a final scene to tease a third season. Apparently TAALAR has taken the form of a Humanick and goes out to coffee shops. No decision has been made on a third season, but the second season renewal was not announced until October last year.

Netflix has announced that Jessica Jones will be released on November 20. Trailer above. Time has more on the series.

The reboot of The X-Files doesn’t premiere until January, but it will be shown on October 10 at the New York Comic-Con.

With Bryan Fuller moving on from Hannibal to American Gods, David Slade, one of the directors of Hannibal will be joining him.

The BBC and BBC America will broadcast a prequel to series nine of Doctor Who the day before it premieres on September 19.

Youre The Worst Sweater People

A couple brief notes on two (quite different) television series which premiered last summer which are returning this fall and are worth catching up on if you haven’t seen them:

You’re The Worst has already returned for its second season with Sweater People. Jimmy and Gretchen now must admit they are in a relationship after moving in together but they are still as self-destructive.

WGN has released more information on season two of Manhattan .

 

SciFi Weekend: Mr Robot; Hannibal; Yvonne Craig; Luke Cage; Manhattan; Mockingbird Spin-Off; Hugo Awards Controversy (And A Win For Orphan Black)

Mr Robot Mirroring

Mr. Robot continued with the revelations started last week. Once again, there are major spoilers for anyone who might be behind on the series. At the start of Mirroring, it was revealed that Elliot’s father did work as Mr. Robot, repairing 1990’s era computers. In a flashback to 1994, Elliot stole money from a customer. His father decided against punishing him saying, “Even though what you did was wrong, you’re still a good kid. And that guy was a prick. Sometimes that matters more.” This appears to have influenced Elliot’s moral code, providing justification for his current activities.

The story jumped ahead to present, and appeared to center around Elliot and his father. At the end, in a common television trope, Elliot wound up at his father’s grave. He was confronted by both  Angela and Darlene, and was forced to confront the truth. “You’re going to make me say it aren’t you? I am Mr. Robot.”

It was confirmed that his father really had died years previously, as previously stated on the show. Elliot and his sister Darlene had formed FSociety. Apparently at some point Elliot as seen in the show had forgotten all of this and created Mr. Robot in his head, looking like his dead father. The scenes in which Elliot interacted with Mr. Robot were all taking place in Elliot’s head.  It would now be interesting to go back to the rare scenes showing Mr. Robot actually interacting with others, most notably his recent conversation with Tyrell. Most likely this was Elliott speaking with Tyrell, but not having memory of this when seen as Elliott. I also wonder if some of the scenes with Tyrell, possibly including his conversation with Mr. Robot, were actually things imagined by Elliott.

The episode also included more on Angela and Tyrell, but it was Tyrell’s story which was more interesting. Tyrell has now lost his job, and at the end really is working with Elliot, but not how it was suggested at the start of the season.

Nerdist interviewed Carly Chaikin  (Darlene) after it was revealed that she was Elliot’s sister.

Nerdist: Speaking of controlled vision: the reveal in “White Rose” had everyone I know going “wait whaaaaaaaa—”

Carly Chaikin: Well I knew from the beginning that I was his sister. From the very, very beginning Rami [Malek, who plays Elliot] and I both knew—Christian [Slater], Portia [Doubleday] and I all knew, pretty much. All I knew, though, was that Sam [told me], “Yeah he tries to kiss you and then you’re like, ‘I’m your sister.’” So I didn’t know how that was going to play out, or any details or anything, so I’d been waiting for episode 8 to see how it happened. It was exciting to see it, for real, in the script. There’s so much craziness that happens and it’s so hard to keep it in. Especially with something like that. People would say to me, “OK how do you fit into the show? Why are you so weird?” and all I could say was, “Well, you’ll see.”

Nerdist: Was it hard to navigate that—leaving clues but not projecting that you knew the twist—while still bringing a fully realized Darlene to the scene?

CC: Really, the way I played it is like he’s my brother and he knows it. Because how could he not know it, you know? It was just a natural brother/sister relationship. Like in episode two when we’re on the subway and Elliot says, “How do you know where I live?” And I gave him a look like, “Why wouldn’t I know where you live?” But because nobody knew and were seeing it through a different set of eyes, it wasn’t something that necessarily read as that.

Now that we sort of know what is going on, there is one more episode this seasons to see what becomes of it. Fortunately the show was already renewed for a second season.

Hannibal The Number of the Beast

The Number of the Beast is leading towards the finale of the Red Dragon arc on Hannibal, and possibly the end of the series. As of now, next week’s episode is the series finale on NBC, with some speculation of the show continuing on a more irregular basis elsewhere. It was not a good week for Frederick Chilton, with Bedelia probably being right in telling Will, “Maybe you wanted to put Chilton at risk.” While the arc is showing the transformation of Francis Dolarhyde, Will Graham has been slowly undergoing a transformation of his own for the entire series.

Alana and Jack think they are in control when they devise the plan involving Chilton, Graham, and Freddie Lounds, but once again it is Hannibal who is really in control. This includes Hannibal getting Dolarhyde to burn Chilton’s body in the same way that Freddie Lounds’ body was apparently burned in a previous attempt to trap Hannibal.

The manner in which scenes were edited helped emphasize the message of the episode. Will asked Alana, as they devised their plan, “Are you volunteering?”  Alana replied, “No, I’d have to be a fool.” Then they cut to Chilton. We know the series is not ending well for Chilton, but I suspect that not many characters will come out in good shape after next week’s finale.

Yvonne_Craig_Star_Trek

Yvonne Craig, best known as Batgirl on the 1960’s Batman series, died last week of metastatic breast cancer. She also played an Orion slave girl on the Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy.

Alfre Woodard has been cast in a major role on the upcoming Netflix series Luke Cage:

Woodard will play a lead character listed on the breakdown as Minetta, a powerful woman in local politics who will have an impact on Luke Cage’s life. No one is commenting, but I hear she may actually be playing a version of Marvel villain Black Mariah, a nemesis to Luke Cage as well as Iron Fist. In the comics, she is a professional criminal and a drug dealer.

The Manhattan season two trailer has been released by WGN. For those who have not seen the series, I recommend binging on the first season before the second starts in October, but do not watch the above trailer or continue reading here. For those who have watched the first season of this excellent series, the trailer does show a little of what becomes of Frank Winter after the season one finale. He is shown in prison, and this has me wondering if when he set himself up to be arrested he also left some contradictory evidence and had a plan to ultimately get out.

Molly’s carnival dream scenes in last week’s episode of Extant rank among the low points of the series. I’m really not sure why I continue to watch this show.

adrianne-palicki

Last year there were reports of an Agents of SHIELD spinoff staring Adrianne Palicki to be shown in the midst of the season like Agent Carter last year. Instead ABC renewed Agent Carter and this show was put on hold. Variety reports that it is back on:

Despite putting a halt on the “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” spinoff, which was proposed earlier this year, ABC is closing in on a deal to order a pilot for a project centered around MockingbirdVariety has learned exclusively.

Titled “Marvel’s Most Wanted,” the drama will focus on popular “SHIELD” characters Adrianne Palicki‘s Bobbi Morse (also known as Mockingbird) and Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter. The two actors will topline the pilot and prospective series.

“SHIELD” producers Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski co-created the project for Marvel and ABC Studios, co-writing the pilot. They will serve as showrunners and exec producers together with Marvel’s head of television Jeph Loeb also exec producing.

Insiders say the series is not a spinoff, per se, but rather an entirely new project solely focused on the two characters to continue their story. Though plot details are scarce at this point, “Marvel’s Most Wanted” will follow the pair and their adventures together.

The 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu won as best novel. Guardians of the Galaxy won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. An episode of Orphan Black, By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried, won for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The Orphan Black episode which won was the second season finale which I discussed here. This included the classic clone dance party scene (above).

There has been considerable controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards this year. Wired reports:

But in recent years, as sci-fi has expanded to include storytellers who are women, gays and lesbians, and people of color, the Hugos have changed, too. At the presentation each August, the Gods with the rockets in their hands have been joined by Goddesses and those of other ethnicities and genders and sexual orientations, many of whom want to tell stories about more than just spaceships.

Early this year, that shift sparked a backlash: a campaign, organized by three white, male authors, that resulted in a final Hugo ballot dominated by mostly white, mostly male nominees. While the leaders of this two-pronged movement—one faction calls itself the Sad Puppies and the other the Rabid Puppies—broke no rules, many sci-fi writers and fans felt they had played dirty, taking advantage of a loophole in an arcane voting process that enables a relatively few number of voters to dominate. Motivated by Puppygate, meanwhile, a record 11,300-plus people bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners were announced Saturday night.

Just before 8 PM, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail and the like, one question was on most everybody’s minds: Would the Puppies prevail?

Though voted upon by fans, this year’s Hugo Awards were no mere popularity contest. After the Puppies released their slates in February, recommending finalists in 15 of the Hugos’ 16 categories (plus the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer), the balloting had become a referendum on the future of the genre. Would sci-fi focus, as it has for much of its history, largely on brave white male engineers with ray guns fighting either a) hideous aliens or b) hideous governments who don’t want them to mine asteroids in space? Or would it continue its embrace of a broader sci-fi: stories about non-traditionally gendered explorers and post-singularity, post-ethnic characters who are sometimes not men and often even have feelings?

The Guardian also notes that this dispute led to a record five categories with no awards.

SciFi Weekend: Agent Carter;Daredevil; Sleepy Hollow; The Flash; Arrow; Broadchurch; Gotham; 12 Monkeys; Penny Dreadful; The 100; Edward Herrmann; Stuart Scott

Agent Carter is one of the more eagerly awaited new shows to begin this winter. ABC has released another promotional video, in which Haley Atwell discusses her character’s double life.

Entertainment Weekly has more information on the upcoming Daredevil series on Netflix. Here are just some of the points:

1. Daredevil will be a uniquely localized Marvel story. Unlike the globe-trotting Avengers or SHIELD gang, Matt will stick to his hometown. “Within the Marvel universe there are thousands of heroes of all shapes and sizes, but The Avengers are here to save the universe and Daredevil is here to save the neighborhood,” Loeb said. “It’s a very unique look at Hell’s Kitchen in New York, where Matt Murdoch grew up and continues to defend it from people who would harm the people that live there.”

2. Daredevil will feel like a crime story, not a superhero show. “We really wanted to take our cue from [films like] The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and make it very, very grounded, very gritty, very real,” DeKnight said. “We always say we would rather lean toward The Wire than what’s considered a classic superhero television show.” Added Loeb: “There aren’t going to be people flying through the sky. There are no magic hammers.”

There are five more points in the full article.

Unreality Primetime has some spoilers as to what happens when Sleepy Hollow returns, including information on Frank Irving and an encounter between Abbie and an avenging angel. Spoilers also available for the return of The FlashThey also have some information on season two of Broadchurch.

Arrow Felicity Ray Palmer

The released synopsis by CW of the next episode of Arrow might also be seen as something of a spoiler:

THE TEAM DEALS WITH OLIVER’S DISAPPEARANCE — In the aftermath of Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) fight with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Arsenal (Colton Haynes) continue to protect the city in the Arrow’s absence. However, after three days without hearing from Oliver, they begin to fear the worst may have happened to their friend. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) refuses to believe that Oliver could be dead until Merlyn (John Barrowman) pays the team a surprise visit. Thea (Willa Holland) suspects there is something more behind Oliver’s disappearance and asks Merlyn for a favor. Meanwhile, Ray (Brandon Routh) tests a part of his new suit and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) takes up the mantle of the Black Canary. Glen Winter directed the episode written by Marc Guggenheim & Erik Oleson.

Gotham Penguin2

Speakeasy looks at the second half of the season of Gotham and interviewed series developer Bruno Heller:

Heller said we can look forward to a bigger, more complex show as stories start to pay off and others take hold. “A lot of the episodes set up for later story. So, certainly, in that way, the story will become much more engaging and much more operatic and suspenseful. It will drag you in because these are characters you have come to know and perhaps love,” he said.

Because it’s such a big show, Heller said it takes a while to get it right, particularly how to pack all that story, character and sense of place into a network show. Now that the series is grooving along, though, Heller and company plan to deliver something even bigger. “On that level, you will see more production value, more action, more drama — you know, more,” he said with a laugh.

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Entertainment Weekly described some of the differences between the movie and upcoming television version of 12 Monkeys. Among the differences listed, more will be seen of the future and there will be different factions interested in the time machine which pose a threat. Unlike the movie, in which the 12 Monkeys group turned out not to have a rather trivial goal, the group is more important in the television show.

The synopsis for the pilot, which airs January 16, suggests yet another major difference:

27 years after a virus wipes out most of humanity, scientists send a man (James Cole) back to 2015 to stop the plague from ever happening. Cole’s only lead is a virologist (Dr. Cassandra Railly), who knows the dangerous source of the outbreak

In the movie, Cole was seeking information to help the people in the future find a cure for the virus but the past had happened and could not be changed. The pilot synopsis provides a different mission. I suspect that these differences will make for a stronger television show as the more limited premise of the movie would not provide as much material for an ongoing weekly show. There are more potential stories in trying to change things as opposed to getting information, events in the future present a new avenue for stories, and the title of an ongoing television series should refer to something more significant than in the movie.

Showtime has released a trailer for Penny Dreadful’s second season. The season will be ten episodes, two  more than in the first season.

When I gave my list of top new shows last week, I mentioned two shows which I did not rank as I had not seen them, but have heard excellent things about–The 100 and Manhattan. Over the holiday I decided to catch up on The 100 based upon many excellent reviews from both genre bloggers and mainstream television critics. I picked this first since the show is now on hiatus but resumes on January 21, while we have more time until Manhattan returns. I very quickly got hooked on The 100, quickly knocking off the first season this weekend and starting the second season last night. I’ll discuss it more in the future, but wanted to give it a plug while there is still plenty of time for everyone to get caught up.

In order to plan out television binging and viewing for January, Vulture has a list of when television shows are returning.

Io9 has a good list of the top science fiction and fantasy books of 2014.

gilmore-girls-let-games

Edward Herrmann, who played  Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, died last week. Alexis Bledel had this to say:

Bledel, who played the granddaughter of Herrmann’s character in the Gilmore Girls, described him as “a wonderful actor and a kind man”.

“He was endlessly knowledgeable about theatre, TV and film, and would generously share his wisdom or tell stories from a long and rewarding career,” Bledel continued.

“I am grateful to him for that, and will miss him tremendously.

“He loved acting and was the head of our Gilmore family with his strong presence and great sense of humor. May he rest in peace.”

I anticipate hearing his voice for a long time to come as he is also the recorded voice giving announcements on Shepler’s Ferry coming into and leaving the docks going to and from Mackinac Island.

Other deaths this week include Donna Douglas, who played Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, and  ESPN anchor Stuart Scott. Think Progress wrote about how Scott changed ESPN:

In a media world largely devoid of both African-American faces and, especially, African-American vernacular, Scott’s iconic catchphrases — “Boo-Yeah!”, “Cool as the other side of the pillow,” and “Can I get a witness?” chief among them — brought a style that had been absent from sports and media programming straight to ESPN’s most-watched program and, by virtue, to the living rooms of white and black families alike.

Scott’s popularity, and the appeal of his brand of style, made him an icon for other aspiring African-American broadcasters who hadn’t seen anything like him on TV before.

“He was a trailblazer not only because he was black — obviously black — but because of his style, his demeanor, his presentation,” ESPN anchor Stan Verrett, also black, told ABC News for Scott’s obituary. “He did not shy away from the fact that he was a black man, and that allowed the rest of us who came along to just be ourselves.”

“Yes, he brought hip-hop into the conversation,” Jay Harris, another SportsCenter anchor who followed in Scott’s footsteps, said. “But I would go further than that. He brought in the barber shop, the church, R&B, soul music. Soul period.”

He changed ESPN too. Scott’s style wasn’t immediately popular with ESPN’s audience or even its top brass. According to the ABC obituary, Scott and ESPN received regular hate mail over his “hip-hop style,” and at times, ESPN officials asked him to consider dialing it back. Scott refused, and over time that unwillingness to relent proved right.

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?

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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.

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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: Doctor Who; Dr. Cotton’s Bizarre Ideas, Boardwalk Empire & The Knick; DC and Marvel Movie Plans; Twin Peaks; The IT Crowd & Other British Adaptations

DoctorWho Flatline

Flatline managed to provide an episode of Doctor Who which successfully combined elements of both horror and humor. While not a totally original idea, it was something not seen on Doctor Who before, and realistically few television shows manage to come up with ideas which have not been influenced by other works. Think of it as if the residents of Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott were to invade earth, with a touch of The Adams Family thrown in.

Besides the idea of two dimensional beings invading, there was the added component of the TARDIS shrinking when the “structural integrity is compromised.” This did contradict The Name of the Doctor which showed such leaking to cause the TARDIS to swell in size, not shrink. The shrinking of the TARDIS, with the Doctor trapped inside, did enable Clara to take a leading role in this episode. This whole situation was quite difficult for the Doctor: “I mean this is just embarrassing. I’m from the race that built the TARDIS. Dimensions are kind of our thing.”

The Doctor did win out in the end. Ultimately the aliens from the two dimensional world were defeated by their inability to distinguish a two dimensional picture of a door from a real three dimensional door.

With the Doctor separated from the action for most of the episode, Clara took on the role of the Doctor, including taking on a companion, Rigsy, and calling herself the Doctor:

Rigsy: “What are you the doctor of?”
The Doctor: “Of lies.”
Clara: “Well, I’m usually quite vague about that. I think I just picked the title because it makes me sound important.”
The Doctor: “Why, ‘Doctor Oswald,’ you are hilarious.”

Clara did show Rigsy the inside of the shrunken TARDIS leading to the classic comment, “It’s bigger on the inside.” This set up the Doctor’s response:  “I don’t think that statement has ever been more true.”

Doctor Who Flatline1

Clara also showed that she can act like the Doctor, from using the Sonic Screwdriver to using his tactics:

Clara: “I just hope I can keep them all alive.”
The Doctor: “Ha. Welcome to my world. So, what’s next, ‘Doctor Clara’?”
Clara: “Lie to them.”
The Doctor: “What?”
Clara: “‘Lie to them.’ Give them hope. Tell them they’re all going to be fine. Isn’t that what you would do?”
The Doctor: “In a manner of speaking. It is true that people with hope tend to run faster, whereas people who think they’re doomed …”
Clara: “Dawdle. End up dead.”
The Doctor: “So, that’s what I sound like?”

Ultimately, when Clara asked if she did a good job, the Doctor did respond, “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it.” We still have the question from the start of the season as to whether the Doctor is a good man, and whether they are doing good.

The most amusing gag of all in the episode was seeing the Doctor’s full sized hand emerge from the tiny TARDIS to walk it away from an oncoming train.  The episode was very light on Danny Pink, but we did have another amusing scene with Clara talking on the phone with Danny, hiding the fact that she was in danger. The previews do show him taking an active part next week, but it still remains unclear whether we will ultimately see a return to two teachers from Coal Hill School being companions aboard the TARDIS as was teased last summer.

The ending scene with Missy took a different turn from her previous scenes, with Missy saying, “Clara, my Clara. I chose well.” It has already been suggested that it was Missy who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number back in The Bells of Saint John, but we still have no idea as to what Missy’s overall plan is. Also uncertain is whether this has any connection to Clara’s role in The Name of the Doctor to become fragmented in time and have a role in each of the Doctor’s regenerations.

The writers this season do seem to be writing as if some of the past events have not taken place, almost starting fresh with Clara and the Peter Capaldi Doctor. Even going back to the season premiere in Deep Breath, the Clara who saw each regeneration in The Name of the Doctor should not have been as surprised by seeing the changes in the Doctor after his regeneration. Perhaps the events of The Time of the Doctor, with the Doctor gaining additional regenerations and not dying on Trenzalore, also mean there was never a giant TARDIS tomb for the Doctor and Clara never was fragmented in time. The Missy story line might wind up providing a completely different version of Clara’s life.

The Doctor Who Extra for Flatline is above.

While both the Doctor and now Clara having claimed to be a doctor without formal qualifications, there are some actual doctors who have done considerable harm despite having true medical degrees. One example, Dr. Henry Cotton, has appeared on cable television shows in the past week both on The Knick (at the start of his career and Boardwalk Empire (near the end). He was a real person. Henry Cotton believed that psychiatric problems were based upon infections and his treatment often began with pulling the teeth of psychiatric patients. If this did not provide a cure, then he would proceed to remove other organs which he believed were the cause of the infection. Needless to say, in an age before antibiotics, such unnecessary surgery could have catastrophic results. At one point during his career Cotton even had a nervous breakdown. He responded by pulling his own teeth, then proclaimed himself to be cured and returned to work.

Knowing the factual basis behind Dr. Cotton’s life leaves me concerned about Gillian Darmody’s fate after she told Dr. Cotton that she felt she was cured. We already saw another woman at the asylum undergo surgery, and Cotton would not be likely to accept Gillian’s assessment that she is cured without surgically removing what he believes to be the site of her infection. Being the final season,  Boardwalk Empire does have the ability to show tragic endings for its characters. This included the deaths of two long time characters last week. While Boardwalk Empire is ending, The Knick just ended its first season and has done an excellent job of showing what medical care was like back in 1900 and the development of new ideas such as transfusions.

News came in last week that a cable series which debut last summer, Manhattan, was renewed. While I have not seen the series, I feel comfortable in recommending this show about the development of the atomic bomb based upon several favorable reviews. (Although I have not seen Manhattan yet, do I get any points for reading Joseph Kanon’s novel, Los Alamos, several years ago?)

Still no news on whether Continuum will be renewed.

Episode 101

I would also recommend another new cable series which I did see the premiere of last weekend, The Affair. The main story involves an affair from the viewpoint of both parties, each telling their version for half the episode. We have narrators who are unreliable at least due to the faults in human memory. There might be additional reason for intentional deceit as we found that the stories are being told as part of a possible criminal investigation years afterwards, similar to in the first season of True Detective. It also reminds me of William Landay’s novel, Saving Jacob, in which there are glimpses of future questioning but we don’t know who the accused is or the crime until the end of the novel.

The creator of The Affair, Sarah Treem, discussed the dual narratives in an interview at The Hollywood Reporter:

With Noah and Alison remembering different accounts of the same stories, the series explores the notion of objective truth. Do you think there’s such a thing?

I think there is such a thing as objective truth. There are events that actually happen. As individuals our understanding of what happens is often quite limited. Sometimes the only way to get at objective truth is to have multiple people tell their own version of the same event. It is the job then of the interrogator, the therapist, the audience member, whomever, to basically try to find the commonality between the accounts in order to figure out what actually happened. That’s basically what we’re trying to do with this show. We’re not saying there’s no such thing as truth — there absolutely is — but we don’t think that one person is usually the arbiter of the truth. We think that it comes forward in conversation. There’s this quote, I think it’s from Hegel, but it’s the idea that all understanding is dialectic, meaning that nothing gets understood unless it’s as a result of a conversation. That’s how I think of the two sides of this show, that it’s a conversation from which the audience gains an understanding.

Will we see the perspectives of other characters besides Alison and Noah?

Not this season but maybe in subsequent seasons, if we get them.

We see a lot of overlapping stories that vary slightly depending on who’s telling them. What’s it like to have to regularly write two versions of the same event?

It’s a really fun exercise for a writer. It’s just about putting yourself in another character’s perspective, seeing the scene through the other character’s eyes. For the scene at the end of the pilot [where Alison and Cole have sex on their car], I was interested in writing a scene that looked like an attack on one side, and then coming back into it knowing more about what was actually happening to where all of the sudden the scene plays as a very different negotiation. Writers are trained at this because you’re always approaching the story through somebody’s eyes so it’s just a great, enjoyable exercise to go back and think, “Well, I wrote it this way the first time and now let me jump into a different character’s body and a different character’s mind and let me try it again and just see what happens.”

super-movies

Both Warner (DC) and the various studies which own the rights to Marvel characters have recently released news on their upcoming movie plans. Comics Alliance has more information and has put together the above infographic.

Here is an ambitious list from Warner Brothers:

  • “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
  • “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer (2016)
  • “Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot (2017)
  • “Justice League Part One,” directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams reprising their roles (2017)
  • “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller (2018)
  • “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa (2018)
  • “Shazam” (2019)
  • “Justice League Part Two,” directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
  • “Cyborg,” starring Ray Fisher (2020)
  • “Green Lantern” (2020)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice producer Charles Roven recently gave an interview with more information on the movie, including the origin story for Wonder Woman which is being used.

Unlike Marvel, DC is keeping their movie and television universes separate. While Gotham will probably need to be kept in a separate world of its own, Green Arrow, The Flash, and next Supergirl are forming their own television universe. Many fans are angry that Stephen Amell and Grant Guston won’t be appearing as Green Arrow and The Flash in the  Justice League movie. While fans would probably prefer such continuity, it does make it easier to wrote both the television shows and the movies if there is not a need for consistency. We saw how Agents of SHIELD was harmed by a need to postpone mention of HYDRA taking over SHIELD until after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released.

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Marvel fans are getting more excited by what appears to be planned. While Robert Downey, Jr. has not agreed to do another stand alone Iron Man movie, he may be appearing in Captain America 3, which reportedly involves the two being on opposing sides over the Superhero Registration Act. This could also be the end of Chris Evans as Steve Roberts. of There have also been rumors of Marvel making a deal with Sony, which owns the cinematic rights to Spider-Man, to allow him to appear, which sounds plausible as Spider-Man had a role in this storyline in the comics. Several other Marvel characters are also rumored to be appearing.

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Meanwhile Emma Stone, when not playing the role of Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man, will be playing Sally Bowles on Broadway in Caberet.

With Twin Peaks coming back we have twenty-five years to catch up on. Mark Frost is writing a book to fill in this gap. I am looking forward to see what they do with the series and which characters return. I do hope that Audrey Horne returns and has a daughter who can tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue.

The IT Crowd

NBC has commissioned Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) to do a remake of the fantastic British sit-com, The IT Crowd. I have mixed feelings about such attempts to remake UK shows here. NBC’s first attempt at a remake, with cast including Joel McHale, was reportedly a total flop and never aired. NBC also failed in adapting Coupling, another excellent British sit-com written by Steven Moffat.

Fox has  had their own problems in attempting to remake British shows, both with Gracepoint (a remake of Broadchurch) and Us and Them (a remake of Gavin and Stacey).