SciFi Weekend: Last Man On Earth Kills Off Pence Administration; SNL Does SciFi Skit On Trump; Riverdale Renewed; Doctor Who; Broadchurch Season 3; Passengers; The Night Manager; The Americans

The Last Man on Earth returned with an episode which barely involved the regular cast. The, staring Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern. goes back to before the virus killed off virtually everyone. In a news report Mike Pence was referred to as the president. Wiig’s character was shocked that there was no vaccine for the virus, arguing that the president must have a vaccine. That led clips from news reports showing a series of funerals for President Pence, followed by President Paul Ryan, President Rex Tillerson, President Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and finally President Betsy DeVos:

There was no explanation as to why Donald Trump was not mentioned, with Mike Pence president at the time. This might suggest that Trump was impeached before the virus struck.

The episode progressed to having Kristen Wiig move to a bunker with only her dog for company. She gradually went crazy, including trying to get the dog to say “milk.” She turned out to be the person who sent out the drone shot down by Melissa (January Jones) in a previous episode. Kristen Wiig might be interacting with the regular cast as she left the bunker to search out the people she saw via the drone. Of course they have all moved on from the home where they were spotted by the drone, and we don’t know if she is immune to the virus.

While Donald Trump was not recognized as president on Last Man On Earth, he was portrayed once again by Alec Baldwin on a science fiction themed cold open on Saturday Night Live (video above). The New York Times recapped this and other political skits on the show:

Sure, “Saturday Night Live” has offered ample criticism of President Trump and his young administration. But in its latest episode, the program expressed confidence that he’ll be in office until at least 2018, long enough to see America decimated by an alien invasion force from the planet Zorblatt 9…

A military officer played by the cast member Kenan Thompson told him, “The aliens are killing us, sir. They have the most advanced weaponized technology we’ve ever seen. What should we do?”

The Trump character responded, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to bring coal back, O.K.? We’re going to have so much coal, you’re going to say, ‘Where did all this coal come from? I never knew there could be so much coal.’”

Informed that the aliens had already vaporized the state of California, Mr. Baldwin answered, “So then I won the popular vote?”

As Mr. Trump, he explained that the aliens had already been secretly living in the United States for hundreds of years. “Look, there’s one right there,” he said, indicating Leslie Jones. “And so is the woman next to her, right there,” he said, pointing at Sasheer Zamata.

Asked where he was getting his information, Mr. Baldwin replied, “From a very reputable source, Infowars. It’s a radio show hosted by Alex Jones. You know he’s legit because he’s always taking off his shirt.”

When the aliens at last overrun the base and learn that Mr. Trump is president, one creature (played by Bobby Moynihan) declares, “Really? This is going to be so easy.”

Riverdale has been renewed for a second season. I wonder if the season finale is already set, or if knowing that there is a second season will  affect when we find out who killed Jason Blossom. Screener looks at the major suspects. On the one hand, viewers might be disappointed if there is not some answer in the foreseeable future after following the show. On the other hand, ending the mystery requires them to come up with something new to hook the viewers.

The series is sort of a Twin Peaks light with its murder mystery in a small town. Twin Peaks quickly went down hill after it revealed who killed Laura Palmer, and we found that they didn’t have much more story to tell. (Hopefully they have come up with more story for the upcoming Showtime revival). There certainly is plenty of potential in Riverdale for additional stories, and not everything going on this season is centered around the murder of Jason Blossom. Perhaps it will be more like Veronica Mars in having a different mystery each season.

The CW Network has also renewed The 100 for a fifth season.

We are down to less than a month until the start of series ten of Doctor Who. The Gallifrey Times has an updated episode guide with what is known so far about every episode. The final two episodes feature the original Mondasian Cybermen seen on The Tenth Planet in 1966. New Who created an alternative time line in which the Cybermen were created on earth.

In other Doctor Who news, Radio Times looks at the question of Time Lords aging, or “why did Matt Smith’s Doctor look so young on his ‘farewell tour’ (the 200 years he lives through in series 6), but become an old man while defending the town of Christmas on Trenzalore for 300 years in The Time of the Doctor?” Plus we learned last week that a CIA hacking tool revealed by Wikileaks is called the Weeping Angels.

Broadchurch was of special interest to Doctor Who fans from the start with a cast which includes David Tennant and Arthur Darvill. It became even more significant when show runner Chris Chibnall was picked to replace Steven Moffat. After two episodes of Broadchurch, it is showing promise to surpass the second season and be more like the first. While the murder of the first season still is having an impact, the second season is concentrating on a different crime, a rape. There are already multiple suspects, and more are likely to be added. Beth Lattimer, a key character from the first season, remains a significant part of the story, having become a rape counselor.

It looks like, as usual, the story is as much about the effect on the town as the crime itself, plus the show has already gotten into other topics including the challenges to the small town newspaper. I would suggest that even those who gave up the show in its second season give it another chance. Broadchurch is currently on Mondays on ITV. BBC America will be carrying the show in the future but has not posted a date yet.

Similarly I would recommend that those who gave up on Homeland give the current season a chance, but beware it does start out slow. The payoff the last few episodes makes it worthwhile.

Nerdist looks at the Easter eggs in the Deadpool 2 trailer (video above). This includes posters for Firefly, presumably due to Morena Baccarin being in both Firefly and Deadpool.

Netflix releases Iron Fist this week, with early reviews not being very favorable.

A premiere date for season seven of Game of Thrones has been announced. The seven-episode season will start on July 16.

Passengers will never become a classic science fiction movie, despite a cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.  It is best to go into in looking for mindless escape and ignore how creepy the actions of the male lead were. Despite its flaws, the movie was actually enjoyable and even good for some unintentional laughs, such as with the resuscitation scene. Look at it more as a rom-com about the dangers of waking up a woman too soon in order to have sex with her. Or, if you are looking for comedy, you could just watch the blooper reel above (which some are arguing is far better than the actual movie).

The Night Manager was one of the top shows of 2016, but the miniseries completed the events of the John le Carré novel. A second season is being written, but has not yet been picked up. There is no information on what it will be about. It might take other elements from le Carré’s books, especially as some of the characters do appear in other novels. I imagine they could also come up with an original story based on elements and characters from the first miniseries. As I posted previously, the producers of The Night Manager are also working on a miniseries based on  The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

The Americans returned last week and is receiving additional media attention due to Russia being in the news recently. This includes articles in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. The Americans has consistently been one of the best shows on television since it premiered.

SciFi Weekend: Top Twenty New Shows Of 2016; Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt Die; Genre Novels In The Age Of Trump; Riverdale Premieres

With over four hundred scripted shows (expected to surpass 500 in 2017) it is probably impossible for any one person to fairly rank the best of any season. Even many professional television critics, who don’t have another day job interfering, have said  how difficult it is to watch all the shows to do their end of year rankings. To make it more manageable, and to get around problems of listing the same top shows every year, I have limited this to the best new shows every season. Last year’s list is here and the top new shows of 2014 were listed here.

It got even harder this year with so many new streaming shows, some not dropping until December. In order to include more shows, I waited until the end of January to post the list. As usual, there are shows which I have heard very good things about which I have not watched at all. I put in a couple of shows towards the end of the list which I only watched parts of the season, and might rank them higher if I were to watch more. Also, as usual, it is very difficult to compare shows from different genre’s, or shows watched months apart. If you disagree with some of the rankings, it is very likely I also might agree and rank them differently if I were to do this on a different day. The real point of lists such as this is to point out shows which were worth watching.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2016

20. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW Network)

If based upon the premiere of the show in early 2016, this show would not have made the list, however it was much better when it returned for a second season in the fall. If you gave up on it last year, as I almost did, it is worth another look.

19. Class (BBC)

A Doctor Who spinoff aimed at an older audience than TheMary Jane Adventures. Torchwood (in its early years) remains the only spinoff I consider must see, but fans should find this enjoyable. It aired in the UK last fall, and will be shown in the U.S. this spring after Doctor Who. While I understand the decision in the U.S., I personally found it to be of more value as a fall show to fill the gap when, besides the Christmas episode, there was no true Doctor Who.

18. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)

I wasn’t as in love with this show as the critics, but if you have Amazon Prime, it is well worth checking it out and deciding for  yourself. The entire season is only about three hours, making it essentially a long movie. There is a definite payoff to some of the events of the season in the finale.

17. Atlanta (FX)

Another show which many would probably rank higher. I started watching when it premiered, but then it got forgotten in September because of a combination of being busy with personal matters and the premiers of all the fall shows. It very could rank higher after I see more.

16. Dirk Gentry’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)

A fun and very quirky genre show which, by the end, definitely qualifies as science fiction.

15. Billions (Showtime)

An entertaining cable series. It’s most important benefit was to give Damian Lewis somewhere else to go to make sure they didn’t get desperate and try to bring him back to life on Homeland.

14. Speechless (ABC)

A few years ago it looked like network sitcoms were on the verge of death, beyond The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. ABC has managed to continue to make worthwhile sitcoms with the Modern Family formula, including Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, and now Speechless.

13. Goliath (Amazon Prime)

Billy Bob Thorton makes what could have been a run of the mill lawyer show well worth watching

12. The Crown (Netflix)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner played by Matt Smith, who adds a bit of whimsy to the show.

11. Victoria (ITV and PBS)

A young queen ascends to the thrown in a not-so-high budget presentation. She receives advice from the prime minister and is married to a foreigner. This also has strong connections to the Doctor Who world including Victoria being played by Jenna Coleman, with supporting cast including Eve Myles from Torchwood. It doesn’t have the budget of The Crown, but in deciding upon the ranking I deferred to my wife’s opinion. This aired in the UK last fall and recently started airing in the United States on PBS.

10. Luke Cage (Netflix)

The latest introduction of a Marvel character on Netflix. It could not meet the extremely high bar set last year by Jessica Jones, but was better than the second season of Daredevil.

9. The Magicians (Syfy)

Much more than an adult Harry Potter, but that would make a starting point to explain what this series is about. Yes, it did technically have an advanced showing of the pilot in 2015, but I’ll still consider this to essentially be a 2016 series. I watched the uncut episodes later in the year, and the editing for television on the premier episode of the second season last week was noticeable.

8. The Good Place (NBC)

A sitcom which has a continuing story, a genre element, discusses philosophy, plus has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Extra points for having one of the best plot twists on television in recent years.

7. This Is Us (NBC)

I thought that quality drama was dead on NBC with the ending of Parenthood, but this fills the gap. It had a fairly good twist of its own in the pilot but, unlike in The Good Place, I saw this one coming. The bigger surprise was that Mandy Moore could do such a good job acting. Sure it is full of old television cliches and spends most episodes tugging at the heart strings, but it does a good job of it.

6. 11.22.63 (Hulu)

Received mixed views but I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Stephen King time travel novel. (No comparison between this and the messed up adaptation of  Under the Dome). More on the show here.

5. Travelers (Showcase and Netflix)

Another low budget Canadian science fiction series filmed in Vancouver. This one is well-written and highly recommended, plus now easily available in the US on Netflix. The premise is that travelers from the future send their consciousness back to our present to prevent an apocalyptic future, taking over the bodies of people at the time of their recorded death. (I was  hoping that something like this would happen on January 20.) Besides having to attend to their mission, the travelers have to cope with the lives they took over–and sometimes their information was a bit off.

4. The Night Of (HBO)

A great self-contained story which shows both problems in the criminal justice system and xenophobia.

3. The Night Manager (BBC and AMC)

An excellent adaptation of the John le Carré novel. It was such a success that BBC and AMC are planning a second adaptation.

2. Stranger Things (Netflix)

The surprise hit from last summer. The series, with explanations of the finale, was discussed here.

1. West World (HBO)

The most discussed new show of the season, with mainstream critics also falling for this science fiction series. I looked at the show at various times, with a discussion of the season finale here.

There are also shows which might make the list which I did not see. I didn’t see any point in rehashing the O.J. Simpson story, but note that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  (FX) has received considerable critical acclaim. Many other shows, including genre dramas such as The OA (Netflix) and comedies such as One Mississippi (Amazon Prime) are also recommended by many people.

In past years I have found shows which I did not see when new, but saw them in subsequent years and thought they deserved to be in my rankings. This year I caught up on season one and two of Dark Matter (Syfy) and loved the show. I then tried Killjoys (Syfy) and didn’t get into it. I only watched the first episode, which might not be enough to judge it. I also thought that perhaps I was expecting Dark Matter and it might be better to watch some other shows before trying it again so I could judge it on its own merit.

It is notable that, once again, cable (both basic and premium), British imports, and especially streaming, dominate the list, with very little from the major American networks.

2016 ended with the loss of one beloved actress, Carrie Fisher, and began with the loss of another, Mary Tyler Moore. Later in the week, John Hurt died. While he is more famous for other roles, among science fiction fans he might be best remembered as the War Doctor for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary.

The past two weekends also were dominated by protests against Donald Trump. Earlier this week I looked at one good thing to come from Trump’s election–people are talking about books. This includes the classic 1984, as well as two other novels in which populist authoritarians became president. Even Doctor Who has been cited in discussion of the alternative facts coming from the Trump administration.

This week included the return of several genre shows, as well as the premiere of The CW’s reimagination of Archie comics, Riverdale. After watching Riverdale, I have three questions:

1) Who killed Jason Blossom?
2) What real teen talks about Truman Capote and about Mad Men by season?
3) And the old classic question, Betty or Veronica?