Monday, September 29, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 2!

Another week, another post with some capsule reviews. You see all the time and energy I am putting into this for you people! IT'S ALL FOR YOU.

Anyway, hit it!

Gotham: Clovis is going to give you a full review (and possibly recap?) for this one, but I'll just say a few words. So far, it's been my favorite pilot of the season: stylish and with enough originality to distinguish itself from the other comic book adaptations and Batman stories we've all seen. The focus here is on Jim Gordon, a new detective at the Gotham PD, who is in the extreme minority of the police force with his sense of "ethics" and "justice" and "not killing everything in sight." Sure, we get a look at the murder of Mommy and Daddy Wayne and Gordon forms a bond with a young Bruce, but right now that's secondary. The real focus is on Gordon is battling the rise of Gotham's most notorious villains. 

Fans will immediately notice the future Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin, but the real baddie is Fish Mooney, a nightclub owner and power player in Gotham's underworld. She's played by Jada Pinkett Smith in a brilliant performance that was one of my favorite parts of the pilot. Fish is smart, badass, and with just enough camp and fun to make you root for her--while also knowing she is a horrible person. Gotham is the battle ground for Mooney and mobster Carmine Falcone who are locked in a fight for control of the city's criminal empire....while Gordon does his best to protect the people caught in the middle. Oh, and I would be remiss to not point out that Ben McKenzie is also great as Gordon. He reminds me of Russel Crowe in LA Confidential, but without the simmering rage. Gordon just wants to do the right thing. In Gotham though, nothing is ever going to be simple. 

Bottom line: Gotham is a dark and stylish comic nerd's dream, with great performances, a solid concept, and stories that will be fun to watch unfold.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8:00PM on FOX. 

Forever: I had very low expectations for this one; I figured it was another procedural with a medical examiner teaming up with a cop to solve murders. But darn if I didn't actually enjoy it. Perhaps it's because Ioan Gruffudd is all dashing and British and I remember him fondly from the BBC Horatio Hornblower movies (we'll pretend The Fantastic Four never happened, mmkay?). Or maybe it's because the show has Judd Hirsch, one of my favorite Jews. But really I think it's because there is enough of a mystery with the main character's, Dr. Henry Morgan, immortality that I find myself intrigued.

"What was that, Maggie? Did you say 'immortality??'" Why yes, I did, gentle reader. Thank you for noticing. You see, Henry can't die. Well, more accurately, he dies but then comes back almost immediately. Reborn at the same age, naked, in a nearby body of water. This has been happening for 200 years, so it's understandable that Henry has become somewhat obsessed with death; hence, his job as a medical examiner. He's also kind of a Sherlock Holmes--super observant, but not in an asshole way. In a more "OMG stop being so charming or I am going to slap you" type of way. He might be a bit too charming. It kind of bugs.

Anyway, the first two episodes had ok central murders to solve, but the real mystery is about Henry and why he can't stay dead. Add to that mysterious messages from someone who claims to share the same condition....and yes, folks, Consider me intrigued. I'll keep watching, though the first episodes' ratings weren't stellar so I'm not expecting this one to be around for long. 

Bottom line: A surprising solid show, though the mystery of Henry's immortality is way more compelling than the standard "murder of the week" storylines.

Forever airs Tuesdays at 10:00PM on ABC. 

Black-ish: Oh, man, I soooo wanted this to be good. I love Anthony Anderson and the ads made it look like it could be a biting satire of suburban culture and how it seems to erase all distinctions among people. Unfortunately, the pilot relied way too heavily on lame humor based around racial cliches and stereotypes. Though I will say the last 10 minutes were somewhat entertaining and I really enjoy the actress who plays the wife/Mom (and is also a doctor, yay!). I might give it another shot to show some more of the promise demonstrated in the later minutes of the pilot, but if the next episode is more of the same, I'm out. 

Bottomline: A disappointing pilot that might be redeemable if the focus shifts to the family rather than the lame racial stereotypes.

Black-ish airs Wednesday nights at 9:30 on ABC.

Madame Secretary: Another show I found surprisingly good. I thought that this was going to be some kind of lame overly sappy drama about a woman doing it her way in the cut-throat world of Washington politics, and while there is some of that (watch out for the cheesy slo-mo at the end of the pilot episode), it actually fills the void left by The West Wing pretty well. There's lots of walking and talking and political maneuvering. While the work Tea Leoni does as the Secretary of State probably steps outside the realistic bounds of the job description, it's still interesting to see inside a cabinet post that I don't know that much about.

So far the supporting cast doesn't leave much of an impression, except for Bebe Neuwirth and Zeljiko Ivanek ,who are both most excellent character actors and always elevate any material. I'm sure the writers will try to give the younger staff members some kind of sexy side plots, but whatever. It's CBS. It's not like they have the same demographic as The CW so I hope we don't go too far down that road. Anyway, I'll stick with it unless the schmaltz starts to outweigh the actual drama.

Bottom line: Promising political drama about a female Secretary of State who is more comfortable working outside the official channels, but has to learn to play politics or may herself with the Chief of Staff as an enemy.

Catch Madame Secretary Sundays at 8:00PM on CBS.

How to Get Away With Murder: This show is ALL ABOUT Viola Davis. She is amazing. Whenever she is on screen, the show is riveting. Whenever she is off the screen it's....well, not. No offense to the other cast members but they can't hold a candle to Davis.

Davis plays law professor Annalise Keating, who teaches Criminal Law at some mythical law school. She is also a partner at some random criminal defense lawfirm (because in tv land, defense attorneys have time to work two full time jobs) who hires a few of her first year law students to assist with her sensational murder trials. You know, like in Legally Blonde.

Ok, sidenote. I am a lawyer. However, I am not going to harp on the inaccuracies of how law school and the legal profession are depicted in this show. We all have our areas of expertise and I am sure some people have trouble watching fictionalized accounts of them; however, I am pretty good at turning my brain off and not letting it get to me. Let's just state for the record that nothing in this show--whether we're talking about law school, the courtroom, or the law firm--is realistic, and leave it at that.

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a character like Annalise Keating on television. She's brilliant, tough, manipulative, and kind of an asshole. Also a woman. And also really complicated. While she has many weapons, the writers and Davis infuse enough realism into the character to avoid making her a mustache-twirling villain. She's like the onion and/or parfait of prime time television.

How many times have we seen depictions of white dudes who are jerks, but command respect because of their smarts and their looks. And guess what? Annalise Keating is the same--but she's a lady of color. You could reverse gender cast almost any of the characters on this show without any problems, and I think that's kind of cool. I can't overstate how great Viola Davis is in the role and she is the clear reason to watch. The plot is intriguing (there's a lot of flashbacks so if you get confused with time jumps make sure you pay attention) so that's a point in it's favor, but Davis is completely compelling.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast (especially the law students, led by Alfred Enoch from the Harry Potter movies who is waaaaay out of his depth) doesn't hold the attention as much as Davis. But really, who could? I'm on board as long as Davis and the twisty plot live up to the promise of the pilot.

Bottom line: One of the better pilots of the season, Viola Davis is amazing in the lead role of Professor Annalise Keating, who pits her lamely stereotypical law students against one another in a competition for a few coveted spots in her criminal defense firm. But everyone has secrets...including the students, who find themselves covering up a murder of their own.

How To Get Away With Murder airs Thursday evenings at 10:00PM on ABC.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Season 2: A Mac Attack review

Remember last Fall when we all waited breathlessly for the premiere of SHIELD? And then the internet was like blah blah blah I hate it or blah blah blah I love it or blah blah blah I only watch things based on DC Comics? But then we stuck with SHIELD and it got really awesome in the Spring after the new Captain America movie? Well, even if you don't remember any of that--the second season of SHIELD has started and ready to weigh in on whether things have improved or gone down hill is Mac Attack. 

Warning: Spoilers. 

Let's begin with the TL;DR. I liked it, but it wasn't amazing. If my cousin is more indicative of the general audience than I am, the changes will be, on balance, positive.

I personally didn't like them. That said, this whole review comes under the caveat that In Joss We Trust, and also that the show is (in my opinion) supported by the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, so there's no question but that I'll keep watching it. In short, it's less "great" and more "good" now. 


Director Coulson. What's up with him? He used to be Superman, in that he was the paragon of hope. Nothing could ever change his innate nature, his trust in himself, in his mission, in the ultimate goodness of humanity that had to be protected at all costs. Towards the end of last season he went through some stuff that made him darker for a while, but he seemed at times to be fighting to maintain that belief, even though he admitted it was faith. I sorta wish they'd found drama in other places and let this one thing be the solid foundation of the show, but at least then it was still an interesting conflict. Now... he just seems sorta waffling. He cares about his team, but he wants to take risks, and he'll stay in the shadows but look towards the light... It's more "real", I suppose, but also more boring. They could have achieved the same effect by introducing outside pressure (like from Melinda) that forces him to act that way, while maintaining the interesting parts of him. I'm not saying it's not a valid character choice, but it's a downgrade from what he used to be. 

I know people wanted more shout-outs to Marvel Canon. Here you go. Absorbing Man.

Here you go, canon fans. ... And ladies. 

I actually like how they're doing this. Pick a bunch of D-listers, take the name and power, then do your own thing with it. I would still have been in favor of an even more original, unique take, but if it keeps my cousin happy, I'll take it. I really think they threaded the needle on this one. They're giving the people who want this to be just an extension of the comics 90% of what they want, and giving people like me, who want something new and think the comics are a hot mess, 90% of what we want. Neither side is totally happy, but both sides keep watching.

Anyone who actually thinks Lucy Lawless's character is dead, raise her hand. Sidenote, that was a LOT of trust on Absorbing Man's part that rubber is immune to the Obelisk.

So... big dangerous mission, we're gonna take the risks, we need to win... and they get, what, a cool jet? To replace the cool jet they can't use anymore? We'll risk EVERYTHING to... maintain the status quo.

Seeing Skye in the field doing a good job with guns was a nice change.

Absorbing Man's trick of using the glass to turn invisible and draw in the guards was smarter than I give that character credit for.

Their handling of Talbot was masterful. Saving/kidnapping him, demonstrably wanting to get one thing out of him while secretly getting another thing, playing him like a puppet... add this to the fact that they have the team all doing each other's jobs (Skye's in the field while Trip's running computers) and I'm starting to suspect they poached some of the Leverage writers, which would be a huge positive in my book.

A few things I hate. 

The show has gotten stupider. Ontology is following intent, and that's always a bad thing. Absorbing Man had about a 45 second headstart on Agent Xena. How could he possibly have known where she was going, AND gotten ahead of her? And I don't totally agree with the physics of the crash. Perhaps they'll fix it later, explain that one of the mercenaries was a traitor or this Doctor Evilface dude was tracking them via GPS and somehow had a vehicle for Absorbing Man that was faster than a speeding car trying to go as fast as it could in a straight line on an empty road. If this is not at least referenced in the next episode (how could he POSSIBLY have gotten there in time?) I will be greatly disappointed.

Ward's imprisonment, he'll only talk to Skye, he's got an agenda and will attack psychologically. Skye is initially hesitant to meet with him and acts aggressive at the start. We, the audience, will slowly gain sympathy for him while Skye does. This sympathy will cause conflict between Skye and the people Ward's actually hurt, like Fitz. His ultimate betrayal of Skye's newfound trust results in his escape, while still somehow leaving potential room for his true redemption. Sorry, already saw the second season of Alias.

Absorbing Man's guards see him gone, so they immediately open the door and walk into the room. Because apparently they got kicked out of the Evil Overlord's Legion of Terror. I get that we were supposed to believe they weren't as good at being guards as SHIELD agents would have been, but did they have to be suicidally, mind-numbingly stupid?

A lot of potential. 

A lot of things weren't addressed in this premiere. I'm not against this, I think they did cover a lot, and I can't think of what I'd suggest they give up in order to cover these other things. I am looking forward to them finally being addressed.

Does Skye think of Ward, the man who trained her, when she's out in the field kicking ass with guns now? 

Melinda. We got almost nothing with her, though I love the complexities of her arrangement with Coulson. He's in charge of her and the mission, she's in charge of him as a resurrected half-alien. And they're both good enough at what they do to make this complicated relationship work. Mostly. Check in more often, Coulson. Don't be that trope.

I'm glad they've basically gotten rid of Fitz and Simmons, they were the show's crutch. I liked them as characters, and I'm glad they're still on the show, but they would just magic-science every problem. Now the characters will have to solve problems with skill and cleverness, and not just, "I've analyzed this and here's a magic antidote".

It was awesome seeing Carter's shout-out, odd that she calls it the end of Hydra, yay she's with the Howling Commandos. And interesting tie-in, now we know why "mysterious artifacts" are called 084's. It's these subtle details that really flesh out the world. This is why I will always keep watching.

A Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in was asking for too much; I can't think of a reference I would have actually liked, anyway.

From Risks above; too often, "take a risk" gets translated in TV to "try something that seems dangerous but then win big and get everything." I like that there was sacrifice. Things went wrong, costs were paid, but they got something for it. Tension. Yay.


"He can absorb the properties of whatever he touches, we don't know how." A foreshadow to the 'age of miracles' from the end of Winter Soldier? Is this the beginning of a tie-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron?

The Obelisk, when activated, has runes on it like Garett and Coulson draw. Obviously a Kree artifact.

Oh, and a female lead changed her hair-style. I think I'm supposed to care about that, it prolly says something deep and meaningful about gender roles. I don't really care.

Wow...what a searing indictment, wavy hair?

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 1!

Last week marked the official start of Fall premiere season, as new shows began airing on the major and cable networks. I managed to catch three shows; one was ok, one was great, and one I liked, but I'm not sure about. Are you intrigued? Let's get to it!

Z Nation: This zombie show airing on SyFy was one of my top 5 most anticipated new shows of the season. After watching the pilot though, I have mixed feelings. During the first 10 minutes or so, I was really disappointed. The whole thing has the grainy look and feel of a typical SyFy low budget Saturday night movie. You know the ones I mean--something like "Giant Mosquitoes Attack!" (which I think was actually a movie they aired several years ago).

But then a funny thing happened...the show got good. The budget and amateur direction didn't improve, but once we got into the actual story and met some new characters, I found myself impressed by the performances and the concept. And the zombie attacks were frequent, creative, and had awesome kills. I also respect that the show isn't afraid to cross the line. A bus full of school kid zombies? Done. Oh, and a zombie baby that chases around the characters and is shown gnawing on a person's intestines? DONE. This is not for the fair of heart...or stomach.

As if I needed ANOTHER reason to be grateful I don't have kids.

Bottomline: If you can get past the low production budget, there is a compelling concept and good performances in a zombie show that is not afraid to go for the gross-out.  Z Nation airs Fridays at 10:00PM on SyFy. 

The Mysteries of Laura: Debra Messing is back on NBC as a NYPD homicide detective who solves murders while juggling her responsibilities as a working mom. She has twin boys who are trouble-makers (they get kicked out of their pre-K school for misbehavior) and she is going through a separation/divorce from her cheating husband. He claims he still loves her...but can she ever trust him again?

She's taking bad guys down with whatever's handy...even a nerf gun.

Look, here's the deal. This is a good show. There is nothing wrong with it and it's essentially a cop procedural combined with a dramedy about the main character's personal life. And that's fine if it's your bag, but it's not mine. Other than Law and Order: SVU when I'm traveling (or drunk), I don't have much use for procedural dramas. So while there was nothing about The Mysteries of Laura that was bad, it's just not a show that I am particularly interested in. But if you enjoy procedural dramas, Debra Messing, or shows about ladies doing it their way, give it a shot. 

Bottomline: An enjoyable cop procedural centered around a woman who must reconcile her obligations to her family and her responsibilities as a homicide detective. The Mysteries of Laura airs Wednesdays at 8:00PM on NBC.

Red Band Society: This show was not even on my radar until it aired, but I loved the pilot and fully intend to keep watching. I saw a lot of comparisons between it and Glee, and I think that's fair--except Red Band Society is way better. There's no singing, but there is voice-over, characters who embody teen archetypes with a twist, and snappy clever dialogue with insults flying fast and furious. 

The show is about a group of teenagers who are semi-permanent residents of the fictional Ocean Park Hospital in LA. They have various maladies: cancer, an eating disorder, heart problems, cystic fibrosis, etc. There are also some adults in the mix, most notably Octavia Spencer, who plays the pediatrics nurse everyone is afraid of, but who actually has a heart of gold. But: YOU GUYS. You know who else is in this show??

Wilson Cruz, aka Rickie from My So-Called Life!!

I know, I know, a lot of you are thinking "who?" But MSCL is one of my favorite shows of all time and Rickie was an amazing character, not to mention one of the first gay teen characters on television. Anyway, whenever I see him in something I get really excited. So I hope Red Band Society is popular so he can keep working. 

The show has that same edgy and black humor as Glee, but is less shallow with more substance and heart. The subject matter is also understandably more serious; in the pilot the "new kid" is about to undergo surgery to remove his leg (because of cancer? I think?). Anyway, I can't lie--I teared up at the end.

Bottomline: A wickedly funny drama that successfully balances typical teen trials and tribulations with more serious subject matter. Also watch for the interesting adult characters and the tv trope of the"family of choice." Red Band Society airs Wednesdays at 9:00PM on FOX.

Coming later this week: capsule reviews of Madame Secretary, Forever, Black-ish, and How to Get Away With Murder. I also expect Clovis will have some thoughts about Gotham...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Kids are Alright

It’s no secret that I am, at my core, a nerd.   Specifically, a comic book nerd.  As Maggie Cats mentioned last week, I am seriously excited about the wealth of comic book properties that we’re going to be seeing on TV this year.  And while television may just be echoing the notion that movie studios have already picked up on, namely that comic book properties can make for big hits, that doesn’t make it any less cool for what we’re about to see every week. 

I’ll be talking more about this new Valhalla that we find ourselves in later, but before the ginormous comic book television extravaganza begins next week with Gotham, I decided to go back and rewatch one of the only television mediums that for years has been safe for superheroes – cartoon shows.  Particularly, one of the single best superhero cartoon shows ever to air on television, Young Justice.

"Don't you...forget about me..."

Young Justice can be loosely understood as the adventures of the teenage sidekicks to the bigger DC Comics superheroes.  In practice, the show merged characters and stories from two different comic books, the Teen Titans franchise (which also has had several of its own cartoon shows) and the eponymous Young Justice series which was a short-lived early ‘00s book that was essentially Teen Titans by a different name.   The stories are more or less similar: teenage superheroes, by and large the protégés of stalwarts like Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter, are brought together both to help each of them be around other young people like themselves and for training with the implicit understanding that, due to the dangerous nature of saving the universe all the time, eventually each of these young heroes is probably going to have to take over for their mentor someday.

And that point right there illustrates one of the reasons why Young Justice was such a powerful show, cartoon or otherwise.  The show is premised on the notion that teenagers are living with a sword of Damocles having over their heads constantly and preparing themselves for their mentors and family to one day be killed.  That’s some heady stuff to load onto a cartoon show.  Young Justice gets away with it by introducing characters that are not only well-written, but are also treated seriously.  The show wasn’t afraid to go to pretty dark places conceptually, even if it always did so with a sense of adventure and humor firmly attached. 

They actually smothered Superboy with a kryptonite pillow right after this scene. 

Even if you’re not a big comic book fan, you’re going to find familiar characters here.  Superboy and Robin are both leads, as is Speedy/Red Arrow who is familiar to anyone whose watched Arrow.  Rounding out the cast are Artemis, another Green Arrow protégé; Miss Martian, young cousin of J’ohn J’onzz, Martian Manhunter; and Kid Flash, the resident speedster.  The team is led by Aqualad, an Atlantean who is struggling with his own inner issues.  Other characters like Wonder Girl, a teenaged Zatanna, and Rocket fill in on missions. 

The thing about watching Young Justice that makes it such a rewarding TV show is the level of sophistication it takes in long-form story telling, something that is usually unheard of in what is nominally a children’s show.  In order to make that format work, characters have to change and evolve over the course of several episodes, which is exactly what they do here.  In contrast to most superhero cartoon shows, the status quo is almost never returned at the end of any given episode.  In every case, something alters the story or the way the characters interact with each other, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.   Because the writers treat the characters respectfully, they have secrets and fears as well as desires and hopes.  In other words, there’s pathos in them thar superheroic hills. 


All of which is part of what makes the story behind Young Justice so heartbreaking.  The show only ran for two seasons from 2011 to 2013 when Cartoon Network abruptly canceled it.  Fans were understandably flummoxed; the show had enjoyed critical acclaim and was performing well.  It wasn’t until after its cancellation that writer and producer Paul Dini stated in the media that the reason for cancellation was because Cartoon Network feared that the show was becoming too popular among teenage girls.

Let’s unpack that for a moment.  A critically acclaimed TV show, performing well with a solid fan-base gets cancelled by its network because the network fears that rather than hit the target audience of teenage boys, girls have started to like the show.  I could see the argument for more girls tuning in; the show featured several female leads (Miss Martian, Artemis, Zatanna and others) who were heroic, well written, fully-fleshed out characters.  Young Justice passes the Bechdel test pretty well.  Note that they didn’t say that boys weren’t watching any longer – just that more girls had started to pick it up.  According to Dini, the network was concerned because “girls don’t buy toys” in addition to being worried that boys would start to view the show as a “girl’s show” if they learned that too many girls were watching.

"That is some BULLSHIT..."

If Dini’s take on this is accurate, it’s a brand of shortsightedness that is, in addition to being ridiculously misogynistic, is also ridiculously wrong.  I dare anyone to go to any ComicCon out there and not see girls buying toys.  (Even if the network’s assumption that girls didn’t buy toys was correct, what would stop them from branding the items the girls did buy with their product?)  I also completely blow the bullshit whistle on the idea that boys will stop watching shows about Batman, Robin, Superman, Green Arrow and the rest of the comic book world because they think girls may watch those shows too.  I just don’t think that boys are as simple-minded as networks apparently think they are.

In the end, what we get is a brilliant TV show taken off the air before its time.  Whether that has to do with a network’s backward thinking or not, it still leaves a Firefly-esque hole in my nerdy little heart.  In any case, do yourself a favor and check out Young Justice if you want a nice base-layer of comic book-y goodness ahead of the deluge of shows that we’re going to see this fall.  It will give you a new appreciation for a ton of old characters and introduce you to new ones that you’ll want to know more about.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt Was Hawt, You Guys

Yes, hi. It is I, Arsenic Pie, returning like a bad rash to my blogging duties and a mobile device near you. It's not my fault there's zilch to watch on teevee and that I've been throwing my entire music box collection at the TV due to its inanity. Everything smashed gloriously. I feel better.

ANYWAY. I'm here to educate and edify you about the PBS Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Parts 1 through 4 will have aired by the time that this is posted. This was well-timed to fill the gap left after Season 2 of Drunk History ended. I bet there's a lot of overlap between those two audience demographics.

The takeaway? Teddy Roosevelt was fucking hot.

Earnest young presidential hopeful. 

Wearing ironic sideburns before it was cool...or ironic. 

Okay, maybe that's not all that's interesting about the documentary, but I had no idea that TR was a total hottie. Why don't they teach this in history class? I feel this is a failing of our school system. More people would pay attention to history if they knew that TR was featured the My Daguerreotype Boyfriend web site. I really do feel this to be the case. 

I like documentaries. They do the thinking for me so I can just sit and watch them and shove Jimmy John's into my mouth. 

Like Burns' previous documentaries (The Civil War, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl) , The Roosevelts is crack for the history buff. The format is very much like other Burns work you may have encountered. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the main content consists of compiled photographs and moving pictures, accompanied by letters, newspaper articles, and other writings given life through the narration of actors who have either been nominated for an Oscar or have done so many Ken Burns documentaries that they comprise a significant portion of their acting CV. Paul Giamatti, whose career goal it is to play all of our shortest and fattest presidents, voices T.R. Edward Herrman, mainstay of the History Channel back when it the voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And as Eleanor, Meryl Streep.

I bet she went on and on about how I was her role model.

Parts 1 and 2 focus on the early years of the two branches of the Roosevelt family which produced presidents -- the Hyde Park branch and the Oyster Bay branch -- and which were united when FDR married Eleanor, Teddy's niece, in 1904. The first three segments also give a detailed look at the beginnings of TR's and FDR's political careers, as well as a surprisingly honest examination of the main players' private lives. Teddy suffered immense personal tragedy as a young man, and triumphed over the physical limitations he had as a young boy. Especially interesting was the documentary's discussion of the honestly messed up relationships FDR and Eleanor had with their parents. FDR's mother Sarah seems as though she was quite the overbearing MIL from hell to Eleanor, and Eleanor's childhood was marred by an alcoholic and absent father, and a beautiful but cruel mother, who ridiculed her young daughter for not being "pretty."

Whatevah. I'm totes gonna grow up and live in the White House. Cha-ching!

Speaking of role models, I hope there is more to come about Alice Roosevelt. She seems hilarious and awesome. I wish to hear more about her engaging in more scandalous activities, such as smoking cigars at gambling halls and flirting with married men. Holla!

Being a debutante can suck it. 

As usual, check your local PBS stations for air dates and times. You can also binge watch all seven episodes online at and through other various and sundry streaming services.

Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling are totally going to get into fisticuffs for my biopic. Dicaprio is so out! Heheheh.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The True Death

Our long, sexy, national nightmare is over.  This past summer, perennial WTF generator True Blood finally met the True Death and concluded a seven season-long run on HBO.  And while I can’t say that I’ll really miss the show, I am going to miss always knowing that there was something on TV that would make me shake my head and mutter, “well, okay…” 

True Blood started ridiculously strong back in 2007.  In an era where every single story emphasized the misunderstood, sympathetic, chaste, teenage nature of vampires, True Blood’s malicious, randy bloodsuckers were a breath of fresh air.  There was no “romantic” staring into each other’s eyes scenes, no “they just don’t understand us” soliloquies set to classical music.   You got the sense that the entire cast and crew of the show read about 30 pages of an Anne Rice novel and said to themselves, “well this is boring as hell” and then immediately got to filming a butt sex scene while covered in blood.


Because the show’s mission was always to showcase adults, the initial storylines functioned as a mature, if telegraphed, metaphor not for growing up or some other theme ripped from Joss Whedon’s notes, but for social issues like racism, anti-gay bigotry, and the American South’s continuing struggles emerging into the 21st century.  (Sorry, southern readers.  You know it’s true.)  And while the show was never subtle about its issues (the opening credits featured a billboard sign reading “God hates fangs”), it made up for its lack of grace with original storytelling and fresh visuals that hadn’t been used before.  If you haven’t seen the show, the first time a vampire is staked it will make your mouth fall open. 

The first season featured an erstwhile murder mystery as a framing story to introducing us to a world where vampires have “come out of the coffin” (what is this thing you call subtlety?) and organized, more or less, under two factions – those who want to integrate into society and live among humans thanks to a new synthetic substance called True Blood that mimics human blood thus negating the need for vampires to feed off humans, and those vampires who still believe that they are the superior race and that humans should be subjugated, not cohabitated with.  Later seasons ran with this tension, showing more and more about how vampire society worked and the ways in which the rest of the world had adapted or not, including the rise of “fangbangers” who are humans who have a sexual proclivity with vampires and drinking blood and even vampire-focused legal offices that only operate at night and help vampires who have been undead for many years figure out what their legal rights are to property owned while they were living.  Add that to a healthy dose of graphic sexuality, and you're at least going to be entertained for an hour each week. 

Did I mention the ho-yay?

All of this world-building made for fascinating watching.  Even as the show began to jump off the rails around its fourth or fifth season, seeing how the creators imagined how the most mundane aspects of everyday life would be managed in a world where vampires were real (a specialty airline service with UV-blocking windows caters to the vampires who wish to travel abroad) was always still interesting.  And if you couldn’t get into the subplots involving werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters, or witches, you always at least had the recurring southern gothic drama between the townspeople of Bon Temps, Louisiana, to keep you occupied. 

Unlike the characters, however, True Blood was not destined for an eternal life and began to age.  Plotlines got more and more ridiculous, the show developed an unhealthy tendency toward melodrama such that the speechifying and campy grandstanding of the later seasons stand in stark contrast to the more nuanced and, at times, genuinely scary first few seasons.  Where the first two seasons played with the audience’s expectations about reality and mystery, the show in its later life preferred to keep strictly to over-the-top plot contrivances and characters behaving like characters instead of people. 

An assemblance of well-developed, three-dimensional characters that were sadly never seen again after season three. 

Nothing is more illustrative of this trend that season seven’s insistence upon finding a way to bring lead characters Sookie and Bill back together.  True Blood was premised on the story of diner waitress Sookie Stackhouse falling in love with Bill Compton, a nearly 200-year-old vampire who is the first of his kind to make himself known to humans in his small Louisiana town.  Sookie and Bill remained the show’s primary couple for the first three years before starting to breakdown in season four.  By the start of the final season, it is well established that both characters have moved on, however the writers couldn’t resist the chance for an easy bookend and piled on the nostalgia to create a final story arc where both characters realize that they are Meant To Be or something.  This is particularly remarkable considering that neither character in the novels that serve as the show’s source material ever comes to any similar consideration.  Thanks, Hollywood. 

The final season is slightly mitigated by sheer number of Easter Eggs tossed in to appease long-time viewers.   The return of several fan-favorite characters, as well as the reunification of several others, helped to send the show off properly even if several other major characters, Tara and Alcide being the two most prominent, are given some of the most abrupt write-offs in the history of television.

So Hail and Farewell, True Blood.  I won’t miss your convoluted storylines, but I will miss Eric.  I won’t miss your unfortunate tendency toward saccharine storytelling, but I will most definitely miss Pam.  Actually, thinking on it, Pam is the thing I’m going to miss the most.  Someone get Kristin Bauer van Straten a pilot, STAT.  Meanwhile, I remain confident that television audiences have not lost their taste for WTF programming.  In any case, Salem is going to have some large, bloody shoes to fill.

Oh, Pam.  You can keep sassing me/slitting my throat for another ten seasons. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall TV 2014: My Picks

Ah, it's that time of year again. The temperatures are (finally) cooling off, kids are headed back to school, and a young-ish girl's mind turns to thoughts of the new Fall television season.

What? It's hormonal and all a perfectly normal part of development.

As usual there are a lot of new shows airing this Fall on the networks and I'm here to hopefully provide a little guidance as to what is looking good. Now, please bear in mind, I'm not one of those fancy paid tv critics who has access to advance pilots and press packets. Oh, no. Instead, my opinions are based solely on the descriptions I have read of the shows, who is starring in them, the "buzz" on the internet, and my gut. So basically, I am completely uninformed. Which in America makes me an expert!

And just so you know that I take this shit very seriously, here are my notes and viewing grid that I have compiled over the past few days:

The most impressive thing is actually that I have nice handwriting. 

So, here the 5 shows I am most looking forward to in the new Fall season (in no particular order):

Constantine: Friday nights at 10:00PM on NBC, premiere on 10/24 (oooh, right before Halloween!). 

From the NBC website: "Based on the wildly popular comic book series "Hellblazer" from DC Comics, seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, "Criminal Minds") is armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and a wickedly naughty wit. He fights the good fight - or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he's decided to abandon his campaign against evil until a series of events thrusts him back into the fray, and he'll do whatever it takes to protect the innocent."

There has already been some controversy with the show, notably that the character isn't bisexual and doesn't smoke (since he is and does both in the comics), and some casting shake-ups, but the pilot has tested well with critics and the folks at Comic Con. Also, I really liked the movie (the one with the amazing Tilda Swinton and, oh yeah Keanu Reeves was in there too). This one just pushes all my fangirl buttons and I admit--I'm looking forward to it!

Sure, he's smoking hot...but he is supposed to be SMOKING.

Gotham: Monday nights at 8:00PM on FOX, premiere on 9/22. 

I'm not the only TV Slut excited about Gotham; Clovis has already laid claim to the recapping privileges. This shouldn't be a big surprise, he is a bit of a comic book nerd. That's right--this one is another comic book adaption, though it takes even more liberties than Constantine and The Flash (discussed below).

FOX says, "The good. The evil. The beginning. Everyone knows the name Commissioner Gordon. He is one of the crime world's greatest foes, a man whose reputation is synonymous with law and order. But what is known of Gordon's story and his rise from rookie detective to Police Commissioner? What did it take to navigate the multiple layers of corruption that secretly ruled Gotham City, the spawning ground of the world's most iconic villains? And what circumstances created them – the larger-than-life personas who would become Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker? GOTHAM is an origin story of the great DC Comics Super-Villains and vigilantes, revealing an entirely new chapter that has never been told."

I am intrigued by the premise, and hey, it's got Jada Pinkett Smith as a mob boss. Baller. 

The Flash: Tuesday nights at 8:00PM on The CW.

Yes, it's ANOTHER comic book adaption! It really pays to have a successful comic book series these days. Literally. Anyhoodle, The Flash is a spin-off from Arrow (which has become one of my favorite action dramas) so I have high hopes. It also stars the adorable Grant Gustin (who guest starred on Arrow last year and was also delightful as an evil gay rival glee-clubber on Glee). Rumor has it we can also expect lots of crossovers with Arrow including Felicity--who was set-up as a love interest for Barry last season. 

CW's official description: "Barry Allen is a brilliant, driven and endearingly geeky CSI investigator, whose determination to uncover the truth about his mother’s strange death leads him to follow up on every unexplained urban legend and scientific advancement that comes along. Barry’s latest obsession is a cutting edge particle accelerator, created by visionary physicist Harrison Wells and his S.T.A.R. Labs team. However, something goes horribly wrong during the public unveiling, and when the devastating explosion causes a freak storm, many lives are lost and Barry is struck by lightning. After nine months in a coma, Barry awakens to find his life has changed once again – the accident has given him the power of super speed, granting him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Barry has always had the heart of a hero and now he has the legs to match, but he quickly learns that being a superhero is not as easy as it seems -- and he can’t do it alone."

Jane the Virgin: Monday nights at 9:00PM on The CW, premiere on 10/13.

I know, I know, it's a terrible title. But this adaption of a Venezuelan telenovela has been getting a lot of positive buzz for months and the previews I've seen make it seem very Ugly Betty-esque. The description below doesn't really due the show any favors (it also sounds kind of terrible), but trust me on this one. It should be funny, entertaining, and seems like it has a good heart. 

The CW says: "When Jane Villanueva was a young girl, her grandmother, Alba, convinced her of two things: telenovelas are the highest form of entertainment, and women must protect their virginity at all costs. Now age 23, Jane is a driven young woman studying to become a teacher, nursing a dream to be a writer, and supporting herself with a job at a hot new Miami hotel. All of Jane’s meticulous life plans are turned upside down, however, when she sees her doctor for a routine check-up and is accidentally artificially inseminated with a specimen meant for the patient in the next room. Unbeknownst to her, the specimen belongs to Rafael, a reformed playboy and cancer survivor, who is not only the new owner of the hotel where Jane works but also a former summer crush of hers. A few weeks later, the unsuspecting Jane is faced with the most important decisions of her life. Will she continue with the pregnancy? How can she explain the situation to her fiancé and family? And what should she do about the wishes of the biological father, Rafael, and his scheming wife Petra?"

Oh, you cannot imagine how hard I would sue that doctor.

And....finally.....Z Nation: Friday nights at 10:00PM on SyFy, premiere on 9/12 (THIS FRIDAY!).

It's like The Walking Dead, except, you know, if things actually happened and people did more than just randomly walk around in the zombie-ridden world and then inexplicably decide to stand still for long periods of time without formulating any long term plans for their basic survival. Did I say that out loud? OH YES I DID. Basically, it will be The Walking Dead but not boring. At least, that's the hope!

From the SyFy website: "Z Nation starts three years after the zombie virus has gutted the country, a team of everyday heroes must transport the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood. Although the antibodies he carries are the world’s last, best hope for a vaccine, he hides a dark secret that threatens them all. With humankind’s survival at stake, the ragtag band embarks on a journey of survival across three thousand miles of rusted-out post-apocalyptic America."

Z Nation also wins the "best tagline" contest this year.

Honorable mention for Gracepoint over on FOX, a remake of the astounding BBC series, Broadchurch.

Some random/interesting stats I pulled from my personalized tv viewing grid for the Fall:

--FOX and ABC are tied for the network I will watch most--I plan on viewing 8 shows on each network (including new and returning programs). 

--My busiest time slot is Tuesday between 9:00 and 10:00PM, there are 4 shows I want to watch! Agents of SHIELD, Supernatural, and New Girl/The Mindy Project. I think I am going to have to record SHIELD and the FOX comedies and then catch Supernatural on On Demand. Sorry, Jensen, but you know I still love you--though your show has been a bit long in the tooth for a while.

--There are 15 new shows I plan to give a try! But please bear in mind: even though I picked 15 new shows to watch, most of them won't make my cut after the first episode. And I will probably only choose about 3 to stick with through the entire season. 

And now it's your turn! Anything you are looking forward to seeing this Fall? If you need a good resource to plan your viewing schedule, check out TV Guide's website where they have a day-by-day viewing grid and a premiere calendar

Happy viewing!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Bell Tolls for Thee

Last Sunday, Lifetime aired the made-for-tv-movie: The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. As a child of the 90s, Saved by the Bell came around at a formative period in my life. Everyone wanted to be cool like Zack, pretty like Kelly, smart like Jessie, buff like Slater, and sassy like Lisa. I guess nobody wanted to be nerdy like Screech, which pretty much explains why this movie got made. Yes. folks, Dustin Diamond is STILL carrying around his SBTB baggage, and this explains the movie--which is based on his book, Behind the Bell.

Surprisingly, I didn't think the movie was terrible, but it basically failed to consistently entertain as it wasn't able to pick a stance or point of view and stick with it. Fellow TV Slut, Arsenic Pie, and I obviously have many opinions about the movie, and we invite you to read them. You're welcome. 

Maggie Cats: Ok, so moving on to the clearly vital topic of the Saved By The Bell movie.

Arsenic Pie: It was fucking glorious. Although I was expecting it to be must more salacious.

Maggie Cats: I have two initial thoughts. First, that the actually most interesting part of the movie was (I thought) about the studio suits and producers who fought to keep it on the air. This is ironic, because when they pitched it, it was "all about the teenagers rather than the adults." But the teenagers were boring. Second, that nobody gives a shit that Dustin Diamond was a nerd and felt left out by the popular kids. Maybe it wasn't that he was a nerd, but that he was actually a spoiled brat who was fucking weird.

AP: I thought the kid was way too cute and adorable to be Dustin Diamond. He had a Screech fro but he was a pretty good looking kid .

MC: This is true. But the character of Dustin Diamond as written for the movie was basically intolerable. Mark Paul was way more interesting...sorry, Dustin. But I don't care that you took up drinking because NOBODY LIKES YOUUUUU.

AP: I believe that he was probably that much of a little shit, though.

MC: Oh, me too. Absolutely. I mean, he did write the book was based on. Probably because he couldn't find any other work. OH SNAP.

AP: He should have gone the sex tape route. Wait didn't he try to?

MC: I thought he did? Or he made a porno or something? He definitely did something gross like that.

AP: This is what I did for you fellow, TV sluts. I googled "Dustin Diamond sex tape."


AP: That's in my search history now.

MC: You are a braver soul than I. Part of me wants to know about it and part of me wants to run screaming.

AP: My first search result is about how he regrets Celebrity Fit Club. You don't want to see grainy images of DD's bare ass?

MC: NO. Moving on, what did you think of the movie having the Dustin "character" as the narrator? So basically Dustin was the "Zack" of the movie?

AP: I didn't care for him as the focus because I wanted more focus on the other characters. They were all way more interesting.

MC: I totally agree. I get that he wrote the book and is why the movie got made, but it just made the film feel so slanted.

AP: There was very little of Tiffany-Amber. I liked the kid they had playing Mark Paul. He was interesting.

MC: He was my favorite by far. The best actor as well.

AP: The stand-out was the girl who played Lark Voorhies. She was spot on. Like they nailed the casting.

MC: The scenes between those two characters were the best; I did not know Lark was a Jehovah's Witness so that was an interesting revelation.

AP: I wanted more of their relationship.

MC: Though it seems as if nothing ever came of their flirtation. I wonder how accurate that is. The depiction of their relationship I mean, though if she is a serious Jehovah's Witness, I guess not much actually happened.

AP: I don't care. I"m totally shipping them. I kinda felt a little bad for DD because he was the one geeky guy with two much better-looking male co-stars. But I got kind of sick of the whining and how bitter he was. He could have quit at any time. I felt like he didn't get how things in that industry work.

MC: Exactly. It's like, "I understand how this must have been frustrating but OMG SHUT UP ABOUT IT." Especially since like 75% of America felt the same way when they were a teenager. And we all got over it without making sex tapes and writing a bitter lame supposedly "tell-all" book.

AP: I know it's mean but if you want to be the romantic lead who gets all the girls you have to look a certain way. There was nothing tell-all about the movie. I wanted more salaciousness. They just looked like really normal, decent kids. I thought they'd be all into destroying hotel rooms and stuff but nay.

MC: I know, right? Don't go trying to make drama, Dutsin.

AP: Like tell us how Elizabeth Berkeley had Mr. Belding's love child.

MC: Think about how interesting the movie would have been if they had actually based this on interviews with everyone and it was more accurate. It doesn't need to be manufactured drama, just tell the story how this unlikely show because a huge hit.

AP: I felt like they went in that direction, then pulled back to focus on Dustin. There's not much else to Dustin except he felt left out. Which is kind of stupid when you think about it because everyone loved him. He just wasn't getting the type of attention he wanted. I wanted to know more about Lark's life, and MP's relationship with his parents, because I could be wrong about this but I believe he sued them at one point.

MC: You are totally correct; there was that one scene where he fought with his mother about his money, and it was really interesting. They both had valid points. Tell me THAT story. About a teenager on a hit show who makes a couple missteps but is overall a nice person trying to negotiate all this craziness.

AP: Yeah, I definitely wanted to know more about Mark-Paul and his parents. Mario's characterization was just he was A.C. Slater in real life. Tiffany-Amber just seemed kinda there. Elizabeth seemed like Jessie but in real life.

MC: I wonder if they were that dull or if it was just the way this story was told.

AP: But DD kept claiming how they were all hooking up all over the place and the only hint of that I saw was with Mark Paul and Lark in that one scene. I think it was the way the story was told. They touched on Elizabeth wanting to do more serious work, then they dropped it.

MC: There was that one moment where he narrated, "if you were wondering who we were dating in real life just look at who we were dating on the show." But then it never actually showed any of that. So I was like, WHUT.

AP: It was poorly edited. They showed Mark Paul at the party, and then the next scene was him getting chewed out for doing shit but they didn't say what that shit was. I want some Ferris Bueller level messing around. Overall I was left wanting more.

MC: Yeah! For a story that is probably largely fictionalized, it just wasn't that interesting.

AP: Like drive your car into a pool, Mark Paul.

MC: Either make it ridiculously scandalous, or tell me the true story of the show. I think you mean his motorcycle.

AP: Impregnate the hell out of Hayley Mills.

MC: If he had run the motorcycle over Mario in that one scene it would have been amazing.

AP: I feel like Mario's last words would have been, "Preppy..." See we could have written this script. Why aren't we in charge?

MC: You know, I ask myself that every day. Perhaps the world just isn't ready for our brilliance.

AP: We're unappreciated in our own time.

MC: It's true. But just wait until the TV Sluts The Unauthorized Story comes out.

AP: We'll include a portion with how Clovis impregnated Hayley Mills. And how we were doing lines of pixie stix. And throwing actual food at the TV.

MC: That all actually happened though.

AP: I will talk to E! and do the True Hollywood Story.

MC: And also Behind the Music on VH1.

AP: Yes. Yes, we need one of those as well. I want so badly to be in one of those confession booth thingies.

MC: Next time you visit we will do a vlog entry.

AP: And I want to be subtitled. I don't care if I sound educated and Midwestern. SUBTITLE THE HELL OUT OF ME. We should way do a vlog. With sock puppets. We can subtitle it for our Honey Boo Boo viewing demo.

MC: Final thoughts on the movie?

AP: Saved By the Bell: The Unauthorized Story. Yay. Just not that unauthorized. Just not that scandalous. I was left wanting more. Saved By the Bell: The Musical?

MC: It tried to tread the middle ground between salacious and telling the true story, and failed at both. And it made me wish for the more boring actual story--so probably not what they were going for. My absolute final thought: GET OVER IT, DUSTIN DIAMOND.

AP: There wasn't enough development of the other kids on the show, who were interesting in their own right. They should reboot the show. Except do it meta. With them playing the cast of Saved by the Bell but also playing themselves. I'd watch that. There should also be a Broadway musical in the works. Where can we pitch this? Again I ask of the universe why we are not in charge.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bloated. Just Like Pregnancy!

It’s a familiar story.  Once upon a time, a young princess met a handsome price, got married, and moved into a fantasy castle.  Life was wonderful for the princess, but the handsome prince wanted more, so he arranged for his wife to be clandestinely raped by the devil in order to produce the antichrist.  I’ll grant you, this fairy tale may not have the same familiarity of a Cinderella or a Snow White, but after watching NBC’s remake of the 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby, you’d be forgiven for wondering exactly how many of the tropes are continued from one story’s iteration to another, just like a fairy tale. 

This time around, Rosemary’s Baby is a miniseries starring Zoe Saldana in the title role made famous by Mia Farrow.  The miniseries expands significantly on the original film and Ira Levin’s original novel in an attempt to ratchet up the dread and paranoia that Rosemary feels over the course of her pregnancy.  Unfortunately, like an expectant mother well into her third trimester, the end result is a kind of bloating that makes the entire experience uncomfortable, rather than beautiful.

Demon baby.  Svelte pregnancy figure sold separately. 

The plot is familiar to anyone who remembers the movie or the book: Saldana plays Rosemary, a young woman who moves with her struggling creative husband from her familiar environment into a band new city.  (Originally New York, in this version Paris.  More on that in second.)  Elevated to living in a grand apartment far outside their normal standard of living by an eerily kind and giving older couple that establish themselves as mentors, confidantes, and sort of keepers of the young couple, Rosemary soon finds herself pregnant with the child she’s always wanted.  As her pregnancy progresses, Rosemary begins to sense that something is wrong and that her neighbors are far too invested in her unborn child.  Eventually coming to believe that the building’s residents are actually cultists who are planning to use her child as a sacrifice to the Devil, Rosemary falls into a web of paranoia and suspicion as everyone seems to be against her.  Or are they?  (Spoiler alert: they are.)

This is all a fairly simple story, which makes the decision to stretch that story into double its original length a confusing one. It’s frankly the hallmark of this version of the story: it’s at turns bad and good, boring and thrilling, atmospheric and dull.  Several changes were made, some for better and others for worse.  Fair warning: from here on out there may be spoilers.  I hesitate to say that, since I think the statute of limitations on a story that was filmed in the 1960s has passed, but just in case you’re not the classic horror movie kind and want to keep yourself pure for your eventual Halloween movie marathon, you’ve been warned.

Stop acting shocked, Mia. The movie is 46 years old.  This isn't a Game of Thrones post. 

Whereas the original film depicted Rosemary conceiving her child fairly early on, that event doesn’t happen here until the end of the first episode of the two-part series, effectively almost two hours into the action.  That split generates a bloated first half that attempts to establish the creepiness and dread that the second half will need to capitalize on, but more frequently feels boring and resorts to mini storylines that are added and dropped in order to keep the viewers waiting for the conception scene.  Zoe Saldana does an admirable job carrying the first boring half, but there’s only so many times she can have a sickly sweet conversation with her new benefactors, Margaux and Roman Castevet, as they pour her another special herbal shake that they insist will help her get pregnant before the audience is like, “they’re clearly evil – get a new apartment.”   The conception scene comes as a relief, mostly because so much has been built up about the Castavets that we no longer have any doubt that they’re Satanists and just want to get to the demon lovemaking already.  Thankfully, the second half proves to be a fairly tense and nerve-wracking 90 plus minutes, once Rosemary is actually pregnant and we can return to the original plot.

In that same vein, Roman Castevet’s characterization is given far too much weight.  Despite the fact that he’s played by Jason Isaacs, a man who I will watch be a villain in anything you care to put him in, the time and attention paid to his backstory is needless.  We certainly learn more about him here than we did in the original story; In this version, Rosemary discovers a series of murders of young women in the apartment, all of whom shared a connection to wealthy resident of the apartment luxury apartment building and whom the police pursued in connection to the murders before he died 30 years ago.  Surprising no one, the original suspect and Roman Castavet are the same person.  Because he’s the Devil.  Like, literally the Devil.  And he’s the one who had sex with Rosemary, not to raise a child to sacrifice to himself, but to have a son here on Earth.  While this gives some great opportunities for Isaacs be menacing, merging the character with the demon, a change from the original, feels too small.  One of the failings of modern suspense stories, likely the result of an audience grown far savvier over time, is that no character can just be himself – any villain must also really be someone else in disguise.  The irony is that attempt to hide the villain’s true nature has the opposite effect here.  Instead of wondering who’s behind it all, we instantly suspect the worst of Roman.

Wealthy, powerful, and handsome?  Yup, clearly evil.  

There are welcome changes to this version as well.  In the film, Rosemary and her husband are a small town couple moving to New York City.  The miniseries updates this, having the couple move from New York City following a miscarriage to Paris.  I could be cynical and say this change was made in an attempt to appear new and fresh, New York having lost some of its shine as an unconquerable city coupled with every young wannabe sophisticate in the United States insisting upon proving their bone fides by having lived abroad, but to be honest I liked the change.  The writers understood that viewers are no longer sympathetic to Mia Farrow’s willow-y, weepy heroine, so the modern day Rosemary has to appear competent and capable.  She may not be like other modern day heroines in a horror movie who will get into a fistfight with a monster, but we need to at least believe that she has some of the vim and vigor that she’ll need to have us on her side.  

Putting Rosemary into a setting where she knows no one and barely even knows the language is also a nice way of further isolating her.  The social constraints against a wife in the 1960s go a long way to explaining why Mia Farrow’s Rosemary doesn’t just leave the evil apartment building and go stay with her mom for a few months or something.  Given that this modern Rosemary would almost certainly have a Facebook page in addition to probably Twitter, Instagram and any other form social networking, it would be a harder sell to put in her New York and ask us to believe that she has no way of communicating with anyone.  Putting her in a place where she literally doesn’t speak the language and is separated by an ocean from her family back home is an example of how to properly update a story.

"Voulez-vou coucher avec moi et mon démon bébé-papa?"

The change of venue has an aesthetic appeal as well.  Paris is beautiful on film and has the benefit of undercutting all that beauty with a slice of darkness.  New York worked as a setting in the film because of the city’s stained and gritty feel in the 1960s.  It was all texture and shadow, like a dirty Baroque painting.  Watching Rosemary navigate her way through Paris’s gothic streets while getting steadily weaker as her pregnancy gets more and more frightening is a really fascinating image.  Likewise the final images of a suave and sophisticated looking Rosemary walking her infant demon baby in a pram down the banks of the Seine look utterly glamorous, even if Rosemary's sudden and uncharacteristic decision to go all evil at the last minute because WOMAN MUST DO EVERYTHING FOR THEIR BABIES is, at best, falsely nostalgic writing.  

Rosemary’s Baby works as a miniseries suitable for summer watching when there isn’t a lot of new content on TV and you don’t have much else to get invested in.  And while it is overstuffed, I’ll credit the miniseries for at least attempting to bring something new to the story rather than just release it in the theatres as a bankable property with new faces but old ideas.