SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; The Americans; Arrow; Revolution; Orphan Black; Heroes; Farscape; Firefly; Better Call Saul; Doctor Who; Sherlock; The Crazy Ones; Mixology

Hannibal season 2

With the Olympics over many weekly series have  returned and two of the best shows from last season which aired in the spring or winter have started their second seasons. Hannibal and The Americans both began their second seasons. Hannibal began with an extended fight scene between Hannibal and Jack Crawford which foreshadows what we know must eventually occur before moving backwards twelve weeks in the narrative. The brutality of the fight indicates it is not a simple temporary falling out between friends, such as Watson being angry at Sherlock for pretending to be dead.  Jack must have found out the truth about Hannibal. As the series is part of a seven year plan (should it last that long) to retell the Hannibal novels (with some variations), we know that eventually everyone will know that Hannibal, and not Will, is the serial killer. (More on Bryan Fuller’s seven year plan for Hannibal here.)

After the fight scene we go back to just after the first season ended, with Will in jail for the murders committed by Hannibal. So far only Will, and some of Hannibal’s victims who did not live to tell what they know, really suspected the truth about Hannibal. Now that Will is healthy and no longer suffering from encephalitis, he can begin what will probably be a season-long cat and mouse game with Hannibal to reveal the truth. Hannibal has essentially taken over Will’s role in advising the FBI in serial murder cases, but we know he will not be able to resist Will’s request for Hannibal’s therapeutic help. Hannibal might even realize what Will is up to, but based upon his relationship with Will in the first season, this will be irresistible for Hannibal. We know where everything is leading and have already seen how the season ends. The suspense will be in seeing how we reach that point.

The Americans s02eo1

The Americans returns to 1982 with two Soviet spies living undercover as an American couple. Elizabeth has returned home two months after she was shot in the first season finale, claiming to have been caring for a sick aunt. We immediately see that 1) not everything works out perfectly for spies and 2) even the spy we have been led to root for (even if from an enemy nation) can be a cold blooded killer when there is an innocent witness around. While the first season centered around the relationship between Philip and Elizabeth, the second season will deal more with the entire family.

Elizabeth and Philip have tried to keep their children safe from their activities and we saw how important this is as another undercover couple were killed, along with their daughter. We know Paige is suspicious, but so far instead of learning the truth about her parents she caught them having sex. It is not certain which revelation will ultimately be more shocking.

The Americans did an excellent job of working all of this into the season premiere, along with returning to other subplots. We saw the fake marriage between Martha and Phillip (or Clarke as she knows him) in order to spy on the Americans. Their FBI agent neighbor Stan continues to use Nina, unaware that she is now really using him. The nature of Stan’s relationship with Nina came up as they watched a pirated copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman before Stan went to see the same movie with his wife and a friend. We also learned that Claudia has remained in the United States and she will have an influence on the season.

Arrow Time of Death

Arrow, yet another excellent genre show in its second season, returned after the Olympic hiatus with Time of Death. With Sara now making out with Oliver in the Arrow-Cave, it was time for Felicity to more firmly establish her importance. (“You’ll always be my girl, Felicity.”) The episode introduced another worthy opponent, The Clock King. It also brought the present day and island stories together further in the final scene where Moira brought Oliver in to introduce her son to the man she was meeting with–Slade. The first photo has also been released of Barry Allen in costume as The Flash in the planned spin off.

Yet another sophomore show, Revolution, is well below the quality of the other shows discussed above. They do try to keep coming up with new things to keep the show fresh, but in the end they just wind up without anything really compelling happening. The supposedly upcoming battle to the death between Monroe and his son sounds guaranteed to disappoint. Having Aaron wake up in an alternative reality in 2014 with the power on after trying tying to upload a virus into his nano-bot children (or are they now Gods?) made for a good final scene, but will anything significant really come from this? At least it sounds it might make for a good episode. In this alternate reality, Giancarlo Esposito will be back in his old life as a sleazy insurance salesman. If they were really creative, the episode would take place in a different alternative universe where instead he runs the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant chain.

Hannibal, The Americans, and Arrow were all excellent new series which began last year, but the best of all the series to premiere last year was Orphan Black. BBC America has released the above sneak peaks, with the show returning on April 19. More news on season two here.

Aaron Paul has again expressed interest in appearing in the Breaking Bad spin off, Better Call Saul. Bryan Cranston and Jonathan Banks have also expressed interest. Dean Norris is not interested, failing to understand that one episode of anything by Vince Gilligan is far more significant than an entire season of Under the Dome. (The series finale of Breaking Bad was reviewed here.)

Disney has always excelled at their synergy in using each of their holdings to make money for others. ABC will be running a documentary (extended commercial?) March 18 on Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe.

Heroes is coming back for a thirteen episode miniseries, possibly with some of the original cast “popping back in.”

“The enormous impact ‘Heroes’ had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment. We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept. Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

I don’t care either way about Heroes but am happy to see that an American network is getting away from the usual season format. Heroes itself would have been much better as a miniseries rather than continuing it beyond the point where Tim Kring seemed to know what to do with the show. Note that almost all of the shows I mentioned above were aired for short seasons, generally on cable, which I think helps make a better quality show. Fox is also doing something similar with 24.

While I don’t  care whether Heroes returns, I am looking forward to the return of Farscape. A movie is planned:

Set to follow the awesome comics written by our favorite Keith R.A. DeCandido, the film would follow John and Aeryn’s son, D’Argo (or Little D, as we will always refer to him). Because their baby was exhibiting a set of interesting powers that made him a magnet for galactic villains, we find that John and Aeryn hide their son on Earth to grow up. Now the kid is 19 and ready to go into space with his parents.

There has also been recent talk about a limited series reboot of Firefly.

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Last week I questioned making US versions of British shows as opposed to airing the same shows here. Steven Moffat has had experience with cases where that did not work. His excellent sit-com Coupling flopped when an American version was aired, but I would highly recommend watching the original on Netflix. It is sort of a combination of Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City with just a little bit of The Big Bang Theory thrown in. Moffat wisely says it would be insane to make an American version of his current shows, Sherlock and Doctor Who:

Not just popular on a worldwide level, it’s so distinctively local in outlook that a remake of any sort would destroy what makes it work in the first place.

Doctor Who’s everywhere,” he said. “You can bump in to the Doctor anywhere,” adding that the series has, “probably penetrated enough that it’s no longer regarded as an import, it’s just that show.”

Sherlock and Doctor Who are both doing rather well but they couldn’t be more definitively British. They’re obtusely British. They’re about as British as it gets. You shouldn’t be afraid of being British because that’s what you’re selling.”

And of course, if a remake were to be proposed and the Doctor were no longer British in demeanor (albeit British via Gallifrey), would he even be the Doctor?

“If anyone were to ask me, I’d say it’s an absolutely insane idea. You couldn’t have more than one Doctor Who in the world. It would just be dreadful.”

CBS did approach Moffat about making a US version of Sherlock and when turned down developed Elementary.

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This has not been a good season for new sit-coms, especially for NBC but last week’s episode of The Crazy Ones (on CBS) was its best episode of the season. The cast put on both a Bar Mitzvah and a musical. While far from a great series, Robin Williams has kept the show amusing through a lot of otherwise weak scripts. I actually don’t mind that the new NBC sit-coms were flops. It just increases the chances that Community will be renewed.

Mixology premiered last week, showing some promise even if the premise is far-fetched. Personally I’ve always found the prospect of successfully meeting anyone in that type of bar to be less realistic than most of the shows discussed in this post. Besides, if I can spend the entire final season of How I Met Your Mother showing a weekend at the inn where Robin and Barney’s wedding is taking  place, I can try a series taking place all in one night in this bar. It will be interesting to watch to see if the idea works or turns into a flop.

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Republican Reality Free Debate Even Misquotes From Seinfeld

The Republican debate last night was another amazing display of people who are out of touch with reality. When I have patients who are as out of touch with reality as the four guys  on CNN last night, diagnoses are made and medications are prescribed. These guys sprout total nonsense which is rarely challenged. Wouldn’t it be great if debate moderators spoke out when candidates say things which are just totally off the wall?

Some of the misinformation spread has been reviewed by the media today, including Newt Gingrich’s false claim that Barack Obama voted for infanticide (although the media did seem more concerned with debunking his incorrect claim that the media never asked Obama about his vote than the fact that calling it support for infanticide is untrue). Romney’s recent attempts to rewrite the history of the auto bailout, repeated during the debate, have also been debunked. Unfortunately the media has not bothered to point out the vast differences between the fictitious president discussed during the debate and the real record of Barack Obama. That might be a matter better handed when one of these light weights faces the real Barack Obama in a debate.

While I noticed repeated false statements during the debates, I didn’t think to question one remark from Mitt Romney at the time, but on review of media reports I find yet another serious error on Romney’s part. He misquoted George Costanza according to Buzzfeed:

Romney, tonight at the Arizona debate (one he’s used before:

“What’s the George Costanza line? When they’re applauding, you sit down…”

The actual quote (from “Seinfeld” episode 172, “The Burning”):

JERRY: Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.

The line wasn’t even from George,  but Jason Alexander had a great response on Twitter:  Thrilled Gov. Romney enjoys my old character. I enjoyed the character he used 2 b 2. If he’d embrace that again, he’d b a great candidate.

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SciFi Weekend: Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 2; Ricky Gervais In A TARDIS, Dexter Trailer, Friday Night Lights Movie Proposed, Kinky Sex From The Girls of Community

Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 2, Rendition, continued where the first episode ended. Major spoilers for UK readers who won’t receive the episode on the BBC until Thursday. (I wonder how many really wait as opposed to downloading. Despite talk of different scenes in each version, the first episode was the same on both Starz and the BBC. The only difference is that the BBC had a longer trailer for upcoming episodes.)

While the first episode had bigger movie-type action scenes, possibly using up more than its share of the show’s budget, this episode had more  of the feeling of a television show such as 24 (although not limited to twenty-four hours). The episode established that the same group which was after Torchwood, and presumably behind the “miracle,” has infiltrated the CIA. They handled the attempted poisoning of Jack by Dichen Lachman from Dollhouse very well, requiring some ingenuity to come up with an antidote. This helped make up for some of the other junk science introduced in the episode.  I’ll let them get away with this because, face it, the show would not be possible if they stuck to established science.

The episode also introduced Jilly Kitzenger, played by Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under.  So far it looks like Oswald Danes is doing fine on his own without her help. I did not find it realistic that one appearance on television would have been so effective in changing public opinion of him.

Best scene of the episode was seeing Gwen Cooper explain that, “I’m Welch.”  (Included in the extended trailer above). Rex Matheson also did well, after warned about the conspiracy by Esther Drummond, using some bullshit to distract the rogue CIA agents in order to set Jack and Gwen free. The episode made it clear how the four will turn into the new Torchwood (at least for this season) while being on the run.

The first episode raised the question of how they investigate intangible such as nobody dying, which is like investigating nothing. I would assume that the conspiracy involving the CIA would provide something to begin investigating. In  order to investigate “nothing,” they might check out a character who previously appeared in a show about “nothing.” The conspiracy at the CIA is led by Wayne Night, who played Newman on Seinfeld

Following is the synopsis released for Episode 3:

Torchwood goes on the run – and finds a new enemy. But as they launch a raid on PhiCorp headquarters, Jack must confront the mysterious Oswald Danes.

Episode three includes guest stars Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park, Seinfeld), Dillon Casey (The Vampire Diaries) and Richard Gilliland (Desperate Housewives).

Will Ricky Gervais be the next Doctor, or just steal a Tardis. Check out this report.

A new trailer for Season Six of Dexter. The next season is going to skip ahead so that Dexter can be past the death of Rita and Lumen moving away, allowing him to get back to being Dexter.

Friday Night Lights concluded its series, but now there is talk (and tweets) of filming a movie. Sometimes that works (Firefly/Serenity) and other times such movies have failed to materialize (Arrested Development and Veronica Mars).  The idea is to continue from where the series left off. This would work well with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, and it would be easy to work in some other characters, but unless the movie shows the Taylors moving back to Dillon, it would be hard for it to be a direct continuation of the series.

Last  season  Thursday night featured two genre comedies up against each other. Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs of Community got kinky for Esquire in the video above.  What will Kaley Cuoco and Melissa Raunch of Big Bang Theory do to match this? For more on the sex life of Alison Brie (of both Community and Mad Men) check out this essay she wrote.

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SciFi Weekend: Torchwood to US; Kissograms on Doctor Who; Rebooting An Old Roddenberry Series; Caprica Premiers; Rob Lowe Leaving Kitty

The Hollywood Reporter has a story on the possibility of Fox picking up Torchwood. Russell T. Davis would write it and John Barrowman might still star, but I still have my doubts about this working as an American television show. Many shows with science fiction aspect have had difficulty making it in the United States. One of the features which makes Torchwood special is being a more serious show taking place in the Doctor Who universe which would be unfamiliar to many American audiences. Even under the best of conditions, far too many genre shows such as Firefly and Dollhouse have died quickly on Fox.

It also does not always work to try to translate successful British television series to the American networks. Some such as The Office have been successful but there have also been many flops. Two examples of such failures in recent years have been Life on Mars and Coupling. The American version of Coupling also showed that having the writer of the original BBC version does not guarantee success. Coupling, which NBC had hoped to be the replacement for Friends (and which was in many ways more like a combination of Seinfeld and Sex in the City) failed for several reasons in the United States. They used the same scripts as were used on the BBC–written by incoming Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat.

The article also mentions the possibility of also rebooting Doctor Who for American television. That would be far, far worse than doing this with Torchwood. It isn’t clear if the idea for Torchwood is to pick up the series where it left off but with a more international background or if they would reboot it.

I’ve been impressed with Steven Moffat for doing such a great job on such different television genres. I’ve sometimes joked that I would like to see some of the characters from Coupling become The Doctor’s next companion. We don’t know very much about The Doctor’s actual upcoming companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). TV Overmind has picked up a report that “everyone thinks she is this prim and proper policewoman… it’s going to be revealed early on that she works as a kissogram.” Reading that, she just might be a Steven Moffat character of the Coupling variety!

Personally I think this whole trend towards reboots is going a bit too far. I would primarily reserve it for shows which were so bad that they should be done entirely differently (such as Battlestar Galactica) or for shows which never made it and we have no emotional investment with the original. One such show which is being talked about for a reboot is an old Gene Roddenberry idea, The Questor Tapes. His son Rod has said, “My father always felt that Questor was the one that got away. He believed that the show had the potential to be bigger than Star Trek.”

TrekMovie.com has some information on the show:

Now 36 years later “Questor” is back. Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry will develop the project along with Roddenberry Productions COO Trevor Roth and Imagine Television’s President David Nevins and EVP of Development Robin Gurney. The team is currently in negotiations with writer, producer and show runner Tim Minear (Lois & Clark, The X-Files, Angel, Dollhouse) to produce. Of course there still is no guarantee that the new “Questor” will get picked up as a series either, but Imagine Entertainment, which was founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, has a good track record on TV. Imagine developed shows like 24, Friday Night Lights, Lie To Me; Arrested Development, and many more (including JJ Abrams Felicity)…

Gene Roddenberry may never have got “Questor” as a series, but he didn’t forget the idea of that android on a quest. “Questor” influenced the creation of the character Data in Star Trek The Next Generation.

John Kennith Muir has more background, including a review of the original movie.

Caprica premiered on television this week. My original review from when it came out on DVD was posted here.

Rob Lowe, who left The West Wing before the series was completed to attempt to make it on his own show, has now decided to leave Brothers and Sisters at the end of this season. While his previous attempt with his own show failed it is more understandable that he wants to try again as opposed to remaining where he is as his role on Brothers and Sisters is not as substantial as his role as  Sam Seaborn on The West Wing. There is no word as to how he will exit the show. Possibilities include his character having another heart attack or a divorce from Kitty.

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Memories of Festivus Past

(It is almost the start of Festivus. Before beginning this year’s celebration I’ll look back at the traditional Festivus Airing of Grievances from 2005. The Grievances were aimed at then-president George Bush.)

Today is Festivus, the nondenominational holiday made famous on Seinfeld. The Festivus celebration includes The Airing of Grievances in which each participate at the Festivus Dinner tells each other all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year. In the spirit of George Lakoff’s “strict father” model for Republican leadership style, for Festivus this year I rant to one and all about all the ways in which George Bush has disappointed me:

George, you twice took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and you claim to support judges who look to the intentions of its framers. Yet you take executive powers, and the powers of the commander in chief, far beyond what the framers ever intended. Emergency powers are intended to allow for immediate response to a crisis, not to allow for an indefinite expansion of your powers without legislative approval or judicial review.

You failed in the most important duties of your office, protecting the country when under attack. You ignored the warnings about al Qaeda from your predecessor upon taking office. You ignored warnings in your own intelligence briefings that terrorists planned an attack involving hijacked airplanes, and then on the day of the actual attack you sat down to read a book, possibly for the first time in your life. I hope you enjoyed The Pet Goat. Now if you would only read a few books explaining the background to the problems you have been mishandling.

After failing to take action to protect us from an imminent attack, you totally screw up in retaliating against the wrong country. Your failure to settle matters in Afghanistan before attacking Iraq allowed Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora when he could have been captured.

Who has your foreign policy helped? You sure helped al Qaeda grow, as Saudi and Israeli studies showed that it was opposition to the war which radicalized those fighting American troops. The other big winner has been Iran as you have spread our military too thin to respond to problems beyond Iraq.

You even considered bombing al-Jazeera. Listen, if you really wanted to get rid of a bunch of religious fanatics and political extremists who were using biased news reports to prop up a corrupt government and reduce freedom you should have gone after Fox News. If Pravda had been as effective in deceiving the public as Fox News and the rest of the right wing noise machine is, the Soviet Union would probably still exist.

Then there’s this Medicare plan of yours. Those in Medicaid programs had their prescriptions paid for at negotiated discount prices, but your plan prevents such discounts in the Medicare programs providing a financial windfall to the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the taxpayers. What a great deal for the pharmaceutical companies who donated fortunes to you–plus you gave them a great excuse to eliminate their patient assistance programs. Of course don’t forget the insurance industry, which also makes out great thanks to the subsidies you are providing for Medicare managed care plans–plans which have historically been so inefficient that insurance companies will only get involved if they receive such subsidies, again at taxpayer’s expense.

You sure are great for your friends in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Then there’s the oil companies. How much did they stand to gain if you got away with the ANWR drilling? I’m sure they would have gotten a better deal than the consumers who would have save a whole one cent per gallon at the pump.

Besides undermining our national security and harming the environment, you have run up record deficits to undermine our financial futures while giving huge tax cuts which primarily benefit the rich. You have undermined important parts of the Constitution as you have engaged in illegal surveillance of American citizens, worked to destroy the checks and balances which have so far saved us tyranny, and you have harmed the separation of church and state which is so important to guarantee that everyone can practice (or not practice) religion in the manner they desire.

Your disdain for the democratic process was especially seen in your campaign last year. You both avoided contact with all but firm supporters, and avoided discussing any real issues. You were too afraid of a real discussion of the issues, knowing in such a situation you would be rejected, so instead you based your campaign upon distorting the positions and record of your opponent. I don’t think you ever commented on a single position actually held by John Kerry.

You were even so far off the wall as to suggest that intelligent design be taught in schools as an alternative to evolution. At least you aren’t flip flopping this time (which is something you and not John Kerry has been guilty of). Supporting such superstition over science is consistent with your overall disregard for science. Calling intelligent design a valid alternative to evolution to explain the development of life is as nonsensical as promoting the belief that earth quakes occur because the gods are angry as a valid alternative to geology.

Traditionally, at the Festivus dinner we have the The Feats of Strength. This year I propose that we show our strength by working to remove from Congress those who have collaborated with you and replace them with new members who are willing to vote for your censure or impeachment and restore Constitutional rule as intended by the Founding Fathers. You already have the distinction of being the first President to admit to an impeachable offense in your illegal surveillance, and your lying us into war was an even worse crime. Both are certainly more deserving of impeachment than a private sexual affair and creative uses of cigars.

Next year, when we have a Congress willing to take action against you and to reestablish the form of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers, we can call it a Festivus Miracle.

Now, in the spirit of Festivus, I invite you all gather around an aluminum pole to air your grievances or perform a feat of strength.

Update: Thanks to The Atlantic and others for linking to this airing of old grievances. This year’s airing of grievances, ranging from Barack Obama to the Obama bashers (left and right) to J. J. Abrams (for destroying Vulcan) are posted here.

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Tea Baggers And Republicans Get Ready For War on Christmas

The tea-baggers talk about limiting government but, as with most conservatives, their idea of freedom is the freedom to do what they think is best. One tea-bagger has proposed a law making Christmas carols mandatory for the schools:

Merry Hyatt has found allies in her quest to put an initiative on the ballot next year requiring public schools to play Christmas carols.

Hyatt, who moved to Redding four months ago, said she joined the Redding Tea Party Patriots and recruited several members to help her collect the 433,971 signatures needed by March 29.

Hyatt said she has partnered with a couple of churches in Redding and one in Wildomar in Southern California to collect signatures. All the signature pages must be turned in together to the Shasta County registrar, she said.

The initiative would require schools to provide children the opportunity to listen to or perform Christmas carols, and would subject the schools to litigation if the rule isn’t followed.

I don’t suppose she’d go for Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. Would she like or if we forced her kids to sing the Dreidel song, or perhaps make viewing of the Seinfeld Festivus episode mandatory?

Conservatives will probably see opposition to this as being part of their imagined War on Christmas. Congressional Republicans are also out to protect Christmas:

South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown, Jr. and 18 of his fellow House Republicans this week introduced Resolution 951, which makes it clear that Christmas should not be watered down for political correctness.

“I am troubled by the growing sentiment that the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ is not appropriate,” Brown said in a statement on his web site. “I am worried that attempts to celebrate a ‘politically correct’ holiday season may cause the loss of some of the traditions sacred to this widely celebrated holiday.”

The nonbinding resolution states that it was never the intention of the Constitution’s authors to “prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog” when they prohibitied the establishment of an official religion.

It goes on to say that the House “strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas,” and “expresses support for the use of… symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.”

“I believe it is important to preserve the right for everyone to worship as they believe,” Brown said. “As a Christian, I feel it is also important that I have the right to celebrate Christmas and observe its significance as a national holiday and I strongly believe that wishing someone ‘Merry Christmas’ should never be met with disapproval.”

To further bring his point home, Brown commented that while Christmas is a national holiday, its true meaning is to “celebrate of the birth of Christ.”

Will we also get a law to protect Hanukkah?

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SciFi Weekend: Surprises on Dollhouse and Lost (Penelope Widmore is Sally Harper!)

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There were several surprises this week. Some of the surprises were actually anticipated but this isn’t necessarily bad as it could indicate that the writers did a good job of setting up the surprises as opposed to bringing in things out of left field. Spoilers released earlier in the season also made some more predictable.

Briar Rose, this week’s episode of Dollhouse, began with one surprise as Ballard dumped Mellie. At first I was surprised he would to this but the moment we saw Mellie back with her handler the reason became clear. I had no doubt that Ballard was following and that this would be how he found the location of the Dollhouse.

While Ballard was hunting for the Dollhouse, the obligatory Echo story showed yet another use for the Dollhouse’s technology as this was used to help an abused child. It was not clear how this organization, which generally sells their services to millionaires, wound up helping this child (or how they could find the Dollhouse when the FBI could not).

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The real surprise of the episode was that Kepler turned out to be Alpha, but I actually expected that even before they made in inside of the Dollhouse. This guess was helped both by knowing that the season would end with a confrontation with Alpha and as Joss Whedon had already hinted that we would first see Alpha in a different identity.

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The show started out with problems, probably because of the interference from Fox, but is ending the season strong from a creative if not ratings standpoint.  Briar Rose set up a the finale, which will hopefully be a season as opposed to a series finale, with Alpha taking Echo. It turns out that both Ballard and Alpha are obsessed with Echo/Caroline. Of course after her nude picture in Allure (above) , I imagine there might be lots of guys who are obsessed with Eliza Dushku.

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Lost had its 100th episode, centering around Daniel Faraday. The Variable probably foreshadows the final episodes of the season as they move on from living with the Dharma people. The show could turn out to be a real game changer if it does turn out that people are variables which can change events, contrary to what we were previously told. The ultimate surprise could turn out to be that everything changes.

The surprise in this episode which came as no surprise was seeing Daniel Faraday get shot by his mother, Eloise Hawking, after going back in time before he was born. (It would have been far more interesting if instead he shot his mother before he was born, but presumably time could not be altered in that manner). We had already known that a major character would die before the end of the season and, being gone for a while, Faraday certainly seemed expendable. Seeing him enter the hostile’s camp after outright telling Jack and Kate that any one of them could be killed made his death so obvious that I told my wife that he was about to get killed with total certainty.

There are suggestions that there could be variables which change time, but it does not appear that changing Daniel’s fate is included. Eloise Hawking seems to know more about time travel and the island than anyone else. If she had sent Daniel back to the island, knowing that her younger self would kill him, she must be very certain that time could not be changed. Perhaps she had everyone else go back in the hopes someone else would be killed or events could have been chaged in a different way, but if she really thought she could change events the most sensible course would have been to keep Daniel from returning (unless there are other reasons this was not possible). It is conceivable that, like Ben, Daniel will survive the shooting but I will be very surprised if this is the case. What remains to be seen is whether Jack or anyone else does can change the sequence of events which have taken place on the island, leading to the crash of Oceanic Flight 815.

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While somewhat contrived, they made use of a story featuring Daniel and Eloise to show that Desmond is all right in the future as Eloise met with Penelope Widmore at the hospital. We also found, in a relatively minor surprise, that Charles Widmore was Daniel’s father.

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The biggest surprise of the week for me came when I obtained copies of the US version of Coupling. The show was based upon a BBC show which I previously discussed here.  The US version was intended to replace Friends but was actually a combination of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. The BBC version, besides being one of the greatest comedies ever made, is notable for being written by Steven Moffat, who will be taking over as show runner for Doctor Who when it returns on a regular basis in 2010.

The show was a flop in the United States but now that I’ve seen the BBC version I wanted to give the US version another chance. Seeing what the series turned into in the BBC version, I was curious to see the entire US run, especially as only four out of eleven episodes were aired here.

One problem the show had in the United States was the protests about the amount of sex discussed in the show. It was also probably hurt by the shorter length of the US version due to commercials. Typical episodes of Coupling were like many episodes of Seinfeld in which different stories often came together at the end. Taking an excellent script by Moffat and cutting out several minutes would be likely to ruin it.

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I’ve wondered if the problem could have been the quality of the actors. Here is where I had the surprise. Playing the beggining of an episode I found that in the US version Sally Harper was played by Sonya Walger. Walger also plays Penelope Widmore on Lost, was in the HBO series Tell Me You Love Me, and played Michelle Dixon on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The presence of Sonya Walger alone does not redeem the US version of Coupling, but after seeing her in Lost on Wednesday I was surprised to see her face when I started to watch Coupling. Although it has an ensemble cast, Sally was far less significant to the stories as compared to characters such as Steve and Susan. The actor playing Steve also looked familiar, and I later tracked him down to be Jay Harrington, who currently is doing an excellent job as star of Better Off Ted (shown here with Portia de Rossi of Allie McBeal and Arrested Development). Presumably he has improved his comedy skills since staring on Coupling.

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SciFi Weekend: Cancelled and Returning Shows; Seinfeld Reunion; Paparazzi and Emma Watson

It is that time of year when we start receiving news on which shows will or will not be returning. It is now official that Life on Mars has been canceled and production will stop after the seventeenth episode, leaving four left. As I didn’t expect the show to return in light of its poor ratings I actually saw the early announcement as good news. Knowing that the show will not be renewed allows them to properly wrap up the series.

The American version Life on Mars will actually run one more episode than the British version. A show of this nature actually works better as a limited run series with a definite beginning and end. Such series are rare on American television, probably guaranteeing failure for this show. If the show had continued for five years it would have either dealt with general police shows or the hints about the time travel aspect would have become increasingly contradictory and incomprehensible, reminiscent of the latter mythology episodes of The X-Files. Hopefully they can now write an ending which does justice to this idea.

Heroes will return for another season but will be reduced to eighteen to twenty episodes. They are also considering a definite end date and conclusion for the series like Lost and Battlestar Galactica.  Upcoming episodes will include Angela Petrelli’s  back story.

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It is questionable if Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will return. The season finale was written to answer a number of questions and serve as a series  finale if it isn’t renewed. This week’s episode returned to the main characters along with wrapping up the Riley stories after recent episodes  seemed to be drifting. It also looks like they are returning to the storyline from the beginning of the series in which Cameron might be damaged. Summer Glau discussed the upcoming episodes:

For her part, Summer Glau, who plays the cyborg Cameron, added that the show will provide some kind of closure for her character as well.

“At the beginning of the second season the thing in Cameron’s life was that she was damaged,” Glau said, referring to the chip in Cameron’s head. “She had been damaged, and then that threw her off her game. And I think if my character was experiencing anything, it might have been insecurity about whether or not she was capable of doing her best at protecting John [Thomas Dekker] anymore. And I think she was really struggling with the insecurity of having a new girl in John’s life, Riley [Leven Rambin]. … And I think that that’s all going to come to a head toward the end of the back nine [episodes], and then in the finale something, there’s just a huge, huge change/resolution/change.”

Summer Glau will also be appearing as herself on Big Bang Theory tomorrow.

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We already knew that Doctor Who is returning next year with a new show runner and a new Doctor played by Matt Smith. The Tardis is also to be redesigned when Stephen Moffat takes over the show. This will allow Moffat to establish his view of Doctor Who. Reportedly the design will be more high tech and desgned to look better in high defnition.

Lost moved in a new direction yet again with last week’s episode. Sawyer has become head of security for Dharma after the time jumping left him in the past, and he is living with Juliet. The episode ends with the return of Kate and others to the island, which is bound to create new complications.  Now that the story has moved back to Dharma we will learn more about Ben’s early days on a four episode arc involving young Ben.

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Curb Your Enthusiasm will be returning to HBO and will include a multi-episode arc with the cast of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards, playing themselves.  The show stars Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, who plays himself, with frequent references to his past work on Seinfeld.

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Yesterday I noted the remarkable amount of interest on line in nude pictures of Emma Watson (Hermione Granger). The Week reports that interest in salacious pictures has become a serious problem for Watson since turning eighteen:

Emma Watson sometimes wishes she were still 17, says Louise Gannon in the London Daily Mail. The British actress has been playing Hermione in the wildly successful Harry Potter films since the age of 9. Despite all the fame and riches, she managed to stay grounded, studying hard and keeping her private life private. But when she turned 18 last April, the paparazzi in Britain were legally allowed to photograph her at will, and they pounced. “It was pretty tough turning 18,” she said. “I realized that overnight I’d become fair game.” Suddenly her every move was being chronicled by
photographers hoping to catch her in a compromising position. “I had a party in town and the pavements were just knee-deep with photographers trying to get a picture of me looking drunk, which wasn’t going to happen. I don’t actually like being drunk, particularly in public.” She has been taken aback by the level of intrusion, starting the very day she came of age. “The sickest part was when one photographer lay down on the floor to get a shot up my skirt. I woke up the next day and felt completely violated by it all. That’s not something I want in my life. I just kept thinking that if it had happened a day earlier, people would have sued their asses off.”

I don’t know what the law is in the U.K. but I would think there should be some limitations on a photographer’s ability to lie on the ground to invade her privacy in that manner.  Why bother with going to all that effort to harass Emma Watson? There are other young actresses like Lindsay Lohan who are willing to show off everything. (And yes, I’m aware that there are up-skirt pictures of Emma Watson available on line but I purposely excluded them in choosing the picture for this post. It is one thing to post pictures of people like Lohan who are seeking such publicity, but a different matter to post such pictures of others.)

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The Festivus Airing of Grievances

Festivus, the holiday popularized on an episode of Seinfeld, continues to receive attention. The Miami Herald was among the newspapers noting the event today. A traditional component of the holiday is the airing of grievances at family gatherings.

In past years I  modified the observance on line to include an airing of grievances against political leaders. Last year I posted my grievances against the major presidential candidates of both parties. I had the least grievances against Barack Obama, but the section on him did predict that “in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.”

In previous years my grievances were directed towards George Bush. As this is the last opportunity to do so, and as the grievances remain relevant, I will repost them below. Note that this was originally written when the Republicans controlled Congress with hopes for a Festivus Miracle of a Congress which would hold Bush accountable. Below are my grievances against George Bush as originally written:

Today is Festivus, the nondenominational holiday made famous on Seinfeld. The Festivus celebration includes The Airing of Grievances in which each participant at the Festivus Dinner tells each other all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year. In the spirit of George Lakoff’s “strict father” model for Republican leadership style, for Festivus this year I rant to one and all about all the ways in which George Bush has disappointed me:

George, you twice took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and you claim to support judges who look to the intentions of its framers. Yet you take executive powers, and the powers of the commander in chief, far beyond what the framers ever intended. Emergency powers are intended to allow for immediate response to a crisis, not to allow for an indefinite expansion of your powers without legislative approval or judicial review.

You failed in the most important duties of your office, protecting the country when under attack. You ignored the warnings about al Qaeda from your predecessor upon taking office. You ignored warnings in your own intelligence briefings that terrorists planned an attack involving hijacked airplanes, and then on the day of the actual attack you sat down to read a book, possibly for the first time in your life. I hope you enjoyed The Pet Goat. Now if you would only read a few books explaining the background to the problems you have been mishandling.

After failing to take action to protect us from an imminent attack, you totally screw up in retaliating against the wrong country. Your failure to settle matters in Afghanistan before attacking Iraq allowed Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora when he could have been captured.

Who has your foreign policy helped? You sure helped al Qaeda grow, as Saudi and Israeli studies showed that it was opposition to the war which radicalized those fighting American troops. The other big winner has been Iran as you have spread our military too thin to respond to problems beyond Iraq.

You even considered bombing al-Jazeera. Listen, if you really wanted to get rid of a bunch of religious fanatics and political extremists who were using biased news reports to prop up a corrupt government and reduce freedom you should have gone after Fox News. If Pravda had been as effective in deceiving the public as Fox News and the rest of the right wing noise machine is, the Soviet Union would probably still exist.

Then there’s this Medicare plan of yours. Those in Medicaid programs had their prescriptions paid for at negotiated discount prices, but your plan prevents such discounts in the Medicare programs providing a financial windfall to the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the taxpayers. What a great deal for the pharmaceutical companies who donated fortunes to you–plus you gave them a great excuse to eliminate their patient assistance programs. Of course don’t forget the insurance industry, which also makes out great thanks to the subsidies you are providing for Medicare managed care plans–plans which have historically been so inefficient that insurance companies will only get involved if they receive such subsidies, again at taxpayer’s expense.

You sure are great for your friends in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Then there’s the oil companies. How much did they stand to gain if you got away with the ANWR drilling? I’m sure they would have gotten a better deal than the consumers who would have save a whole one cent per gallon at the pump.

Besides undermining our national security and harming the environment, you have run up record deficits to undermine our financial futures while giving huge tax cuts which primarily benefit the rich. You have undermined important parts of the Constitution as you have engaged in illegal surveillance of American citizens, worked to destroy the checks and balances which have so far saved us tyranny, and you have harmed the separation of church and state which is so important to guarantee that everyone can practice (or not practice) religion in the manner they desire.

Your disdain for the democratic process was especially seen in your campaign for reelection. You both avoided contact with all but firm supporters, and avoided discussing any real issues. You were too afraid of a real discussion of the issues, knowing in such a situation you would be rejected, so instead you based your campaign upon distorting the positions and record of your opponent. I don’t think you ever commented on a single position actually held by John Kerry.

You were even so far off the wall as to suggest that intelligent design be taught in schools as an alternative to evolution. At least you aren’t flip flopping this time (which is something you and not John Kerry has been guilty of). Supporting such superstition over science is consistent with your overall disregard for science. Calling intelligent design a valid alternative to evolution to explain the development of life is as nonsensical as promoting the belief that earth quakes occur because the gods are angry as a valid alternative to geology.

Traditionally, at the Festivus dinner we have the The Feats of Strength. This year I propose that we show our strength by working to remove from Congress those who have collaborated with you and replace them with new members who are willing to vote for your censure or impeachment and restore Constitutional rule as intended by the Founding Fathers. You already have the distinction of being the first President to admit to an impeachable offense in your illegal surveillance, and your lying us into war was an even worse crime. Both are certainly more deserving of impeachment than a private sexual affair and creative uses of cigars.

Next year, when we have a Congress willing to take action against you and to reestablish the form of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers, we can call it a Festivus Miracle.

Now, in the spirit of Festivus, I invite you all gather around an aluminum pole to air your grievances or perform a feat of strength.

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SciFi Friday: Moffat Wins Three In A Row; The Doctor Dates His Daughter

The Hugo Awards are out and Steven Moffat now won three years in a row for episodes of Doctor Who. This year he won for Blink, which I previously reviewed here. He previously won awards for The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. While I have long been impressed for Moffat’s work as a science fiction writer, I become even more impressed with him after seeing how well he did in a different genre. Coupling, which I wrote about here, is one of the best sit-coms I have ever seen, combining aspects of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex And The City. I am hoping that once Moffat takes over as show runner for Doctor Who in 2010 he gives The Doctor three famale companions–Susan, Sally, and Jane from Coupling.

Here are some of this year’s Hugo Award winners:

Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis

Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Guide” by Ted Chiang

Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear

Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “Blink”

David Tennant is currently busy playing Hamlet to mixed reviews. Catherine Tate, who played Donna last season is currently appearing in the play Under The Blue Sky. Tennant was recently seen attending an appearance of the play accompanied by Georgia Moffett, daughter of Peter Davison (born Peter Moffett) who previously played The Doctor.  Georgia also played The Doctor’s Daughter in the episode of that name last season, making her the The Doctor’s daughter both in real life and on television.

Besides the work of stars such as David Tennant, and writers including, but certainly not limted to Steven Moffat, much of the credit for the new Doctor Who series and its spin offs must go to executive producer Julie Gardner. IO9 has an interview with Gardner, which includes a spoiler about the Sarah Jane Adventures.

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