Five TV Shows I Am Really Enjoying

I’ve caught a few new shows of late that I’m really enjoying. I thought I’d mention them. You know, since The Game of Thrones can bite my ass. Yes, I’m still all cranky about that.

There are spoilers ahead, but I designed my writeups not to reveal more than you might learn in the opening minutes of each show.

Orphan Black

This is a new show from the BBC; it airs on BBC America here in the States. The show stars Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, a young ne’er do well trying to sell a big brick of stolen cocaine so she can use the money to get her daughter back, run away, and start life anew somewhere else.

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Tatiana Maslany x3 (Sarah is on the left)

There’s a problem, of course—I mean, aside from the fact that her big plans in life revolve around selling a big brick of stolen cocaine. Things are going swimmingly when she watches a woman who looks just like her slowly walk her way into an oncoming subway.

Ooops.

When Sarah goes digging into the woman’s life, she finds out she was a police detective. One things leads to another, and there Sarah is impersonating this cop trying to figure out how they could look alike. But wait, it turns out that there are more of these Sarah-copies, and some of them are being killed.

What’s a clone to do?!?

I really like this show so far. Tonight the 4th episode airs, and I’ve found it very interesting. The production value is high. The acting is solid (though not always great), and the script really sells the very improbable-sounding plot.

In particular, Tatiana Maslany does a wonderful job of portraying the ne’er do well trying to fake her way through being a detective. An untrained detective, at that. She messes up, she’s scared, she doesn’t know how to wear her gun, let alone fire it, and she has no clue about standard police procedures beyond what you or I might glean from police shows.

Yet she stumbles her way through in her efforts to understand what is happening to her, who she is, and what’s going on around her. It works.

I like her foster brother Felix, played by
Jordan Gavaris, too, and Kevin Hanchard as her clone’s partner cop Art is also terrific.

Doctor Who

OK, I admit it, I’m new to Doctor Who. I’ve never gotten into it, though I am almost as old as the series itself. I’ve been aware of it, of course, and I tried to watch it in years gone by, but amateur production value, cheesy dialog, and not-so-awesome acting were always a big turnoff.

And the Daleks? Please. I just couldn’t take them seriously as bad guys when it was obvious all the good guys had to do was tip them over or hang a toilet off those idiotic plungers they wield like drunken batons.

Ah, but that was then. I’ve been vaguely interested in watching the reboot of the series begun in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, and the trailers I had seen with David Tennant looked good, but I never bothered watching it.

The current Doctor, Matt Smith, didn’t catch my fancy until I saw the trailer for the current season where he mutters, “I am the Doctor, and I am afraid.”

There’s something about that shot that is extraordinarily compelling, and I found myself wanting to check it out. Then I tuned in to BBC America to watch the above-mentioned Orphan Black and caught a rerun of Doctor Who with Matt Smith and the stunningly beautiful Karen Gillan and I was hooked.

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Matt Smith & Karen Gillan

The BBC has come a long way in terms of production value. Yes, you could still tip the Daleks over, but the reboot has enjoyed much higher budgets than the series did in the past, and David Tennant and Matt Smith are particularly fine Doctors.

I enjoy both of them in the role and have eagerly devoured reruns of both Doctors in the last three weeks. I’ve really warmed to Matt Smith after seeing several full episodes, and the new Companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman, has a smile that melt the coldest heart.

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Jenna-Louise Coleman & Matt Smith

Hannibal

I didn’t see the prequels or postquels to The Silence of the Lamb, and I haven’t read any of the books. I was, however, curious about Hannibal, the TV series based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Like the movie Red Dragon, Hannibal is set at a time when Hannibal Lecter was a practicing psychiatrist.

The protagonist of the show is Special Agent Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy. He’s an empath profiler who works with Special Agent Agent Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) to find serial killers.

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Hugh Dancy as Will Graham

In the very first episode, Agent Graham is asked to work with Hannibal Lecter, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who I first encountered as the villain Le Chiffre in the James Bond reboot, Casino Royale. As you might imagine, Something Goes Wrong™.

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Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter

The dynamic between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter is fantastic. You get the feeling that Will is barely holding onto reality, while Dr. Lecter’s ability to control those around him, especially Agent Graham, is subtle, yet powerful, and oh-so-creepy.

And the dinner scenes? They are horrific for their very lack of horror.

This is a dark and violent show.

Revolution

I love love love love love love love love love love love love Revolution. I am an absolute sucker for anything and everything post-apocalyptic (PA). I have been since the 1970s when I read all sorts of depressing, yet exhilarating PA SciFi. Them were dark times, and the fiction reflected it.

Anyway, Revolution is a particularly fine PA work for TV. I have no doubt that it was green lighted solely because of the success of The Hunger Games (both in movie and book form), but I couldn’t care less. It was created by Eric Kripke (creator of the excellent Supernatural) and includes Jon Favreau as a producer/backer, and I trust both of them when it comes to making great TV.

J.J. Abrams is also involved, but thankfully he just has his name on it. It’s Mr. Kripke’s show. I like J.J.’s movies, but his TV shows always get lost, no pun intended.

Speaking of which, the premise of the show—that something knocked out all electricity and prevents it from being generated “today” (the show is set in 2027)—made a lot of folks cranky. As witnessed by my ongoing grudge against The Game of Thrones, I know from cranky, but I was ready to suspend disbelief on this issue.

That’s because I read that Eric Kripke had run his reason for the lack of juice past a noted physicist and received a thumbs up. When you add that to Mr. Kripke’s track record for making great TV, I was ready to wait for the show to reveal that reason.

The problem with shows like Revolution is that they always get canceled. The networks are always looking for a SciFi hit and then cancel it when it doesn’t immediately go gangbusters. And they always make it harder by shifting schedules, or in the case of Revolution, putting the show on a four month hiatus before returning with the second half of the season in March.

The L.A. Times reported that ratings are OK, but not stellar, since its return, but chances seem strong that it will come back for a 2nd season.

Which means that you should catch up on it and enjoy it if you aren’t already. I like the characters, and I love the world building. A lot. The acting is solid, and the sets are terrific. I’ve enjoyed the unfolding of characters past and present, and I love the dark, depressing air.

Tracy Spiridakos plays the lead, Charlie, a crossbow toting heroine who makes Hunger Games fans get all defensive. Billy Burke as Miles Matheson is amazing, and Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Tom Neville is even better. What a wonderful, troubled, complex, and awful man Captain Neville is. Just amazing. He steals quite a few scenes.

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Revolution

Defiance

Here we have a brand new show from SyFy. Surprisingly enough, this is actually a science fiction show, and the pilot was great.

Wait, I have to whine about the opening 90 seconds, where we’re told that aliens come to Earth and “terraform” it. I know I’m a pedant, but this was just beyond the pale for me in terms of science stupid.

“Terraforming” is the process of making a planet or environment like Earth, our planet. The last time I checked, Earth is already fairly Earth-like. So if aliens come and make Earth more like their planet, it is the opposite of terraforming.

“Terraforming” is a staple of science fiction, and it infuriates me that the folks in charge of the show either didn’t run the opening narration past a science fiction nerd or didn’t listen to them.

Heck, when I ran my complaint past friends who aren’t science fiction fans or scientists they said, “Well, I know what ‘terra’ means, and I know what ‘form’ means.”

Exactly! It required some willful efforts to get this little tidbit so wrong.

Anyway, the rest of the two hour pilot was more than enough for me to get past this faux pas. Who am I kidding? I won’t get past it, but I will definitely keep watching the show.

For one thing, it’s sort of PA. Earth has been overrun by several alien races, but there was some kind of problem that kept them from setting up a stable alien-run government. Instead, there appear to be regional governments and shifting alliances between the alien groups and humans around the globe.

Defiance itself is the name of St. Louis, or the city that used to be St. Louis. There’s also a companion game set in the same world, but in San Francisco. I don’t know much about it. It’s not available for Mac, so they can go fuck themselves.

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The town of Defiance

The TV show stars Grant Bowler as
Chief Lawkeeper Jeb Nolan and Stephanie Leonidas as his adopted (alien) daughter Irisa. The wonderful Julie Benze (Darla in Buffy and Angel) plays Amanda Rosewater, the mayor of Defiance. It’s a very large cast, and I thought the characters were well formed for a pilot.

There are also wonderful alien/earth landscapes, Defiance itself, all the aliens, badlands, weapons, falling spaceships to be looted (“arkfall”), alien weaponry, interspecies politics, and human intrigue.

What’s not to like?!


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