Friday, September 25, 2015


Mac Attack is back (and making me look lazy) with another review, this time of NBC's Blindspot. The ads make it look a bit derivative (Memento, anyone?) but who knows, you may be surprised. Read the review and find out! --Maggie Cats

Disclaimer: This show was basically made for me. I've been a big fan of Jaimie Alexander since an obscure show she was amazing in called Kyle XY, before she picked up momentum with a slingshot maneuver through Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Remember this show? Of course not. NO ONE remembers this show.

Blindspot also has a better backstory for narrative-but-not-procedural-or-semantic memory loss (which is actually explained, briefly but accurately, in the show) than usual for an 'amnesia' show. It's got tattoos. And quickly, in the background of one shot, is definitely a 3D printer. In short, this was geared to tickle my fancy.

I will try to give an unbiased review, nevertheless.

A completely naked woman is found inside of a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square, with no memory, and her body is covered in tattoos... including "Kurt Weller FBI" in huge letters between her shoulder blades. Kurt Weller, agent of the FBI, is assigned the lead on her case. He has no idea who she is, and she doesn't remember him, or anything. The overarching plot is, they want to find out who did this to her. Within the episode, they find and decode one specific tattoo, which helps them stop a crime. A few other tattoos are shown to have subtle meaning, implying that whoever tattooed this person knows a great deal about criminal elements, and about the FBI agents who end up in charge of this Jane Doe.

Kurt Weller is an FBI agent. Jane Dow is a kung-fu master who speaks Chinese and can remember nothing before yesterday. They fight crime!

The idea behind the show seems basic, not entirely original, but solid and interesting. The writing as it pertains to dialogue is... okay. I have high hopes for the supporting cast; none of them really shine in this first episode, but both the characters-as-written and the actors, from what little we get to see, show promise. As for plot, it raises some interesting questions in this first episode, but only time will tell if these questions will be answered in satisfying ways, or if we're just getting another LOST.

Much as I'm a fan of Jaimie, I felt they pushed the envelope on fan-service. As should be apparent from the posters, her body is covered in tattoos which are pertinent for plot reasons (I assume the formula will be, they start figuring out the 'clue' hidden in each tattoo just in time to rush and try to save something). More time is spent showing a lot of them than I think was strictly necessary. (They stay within their rating, but a woman wearing nothing but her own hands and a cocked knee is what it is.)

NBC, keepin' it classy.

I personally am giving it at least a few more episodes. This episode suffered a bit from Pilot Disorder; they introduced too much stuff and the show hasn't found its legs yet. The potential seems to be there, and I'm hopeful. If you only watch a few shows a season, I doubt this will make the cut, but it seems to be a solid, entertaining, something-to-have-on-in-the-background while you fold laundry.

Blindspot airs Monday nights at 10pm on NBC, and is available on Hulu.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Minority Report

There's no way the regular TV Sluts could make it through all these Fall Premieres by ourselves (even we're not THAT talented), so we're calling in all the troops. Here's a guest post from Mac Attack covering the new show, Minority Report, based on the movie of the same name. It's not a remake, but rather a continuation of the story. Is it worth your time? Read on to find out! --Maggie Cats 

 Minority Report: Somewhat aptly named. A show about precognition gives us a vision of a post-racial future. Main character is a woman of color, DC's mayor is a black man married to an Asian woman (who used to play professional football for the... wait for it... Washington Redclouds!). Even the semi-antagonistic office-political rival within the cops is FES from That 70's Show. Minority indeed. The only four white people with significant roles in the episode were all characters from the movie.

As someone who thinks "psychic" is a pretty terrible premise for a show, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. In part, they down-play the psychic element. The show focuses on Dash, one of the two twin male psychics, and establishes that he was, by far, the weakest of them. For whatever reason, he's the only one still interested in stopping murders; for the other two, their days of future crime are in the past. So, the heroes will have FAR less information than Tom Cruise did.

I do like pre-cog humor, which this episode was unfortunately somewhat light on. Two jokes stood out, and they were good, but not great. And they've already overused the "You're the pre-cog, you tell me" gag. A lot.

I think they knocked the tech out of the park. It was ubiquitous. It was central, or shown in the background, or as an accent, and just all over the place. Sometimes it was a plot point, sometimes it was just to give a sense of place. I worry that it's a breeding ground for 'forgotten phlebotinum'. Will an episode come where a crime could easily be prevented, if someone just used the device some random students are seen using in the background of episode 7?

Hopefully, no. One of the first scenes was... kinda the worst. They tried too hard, I feel, at the first crime scene. Their forensic technology seems impressive, but the woman using it looks like she's playing Dance Dance Revolution, or possibly that scene from the Toxic music video where Britney Spears dances past some laser beams while lip-syncing.

 Don't pretend you don't know what I mean.

I have seen the movie, and I have not read the book. My gut says that you don't have to have seen the movie to understand what's going on, and you definitely don't to enjoy it. They re-cap the salient details of the movie quickly right at the start and let you get into the show. There's one huge detail central to the movie that they leave out for a long time, until it's revealed at a dramatically appropriate moment; I feel like if I hadn't seen the movie, I would have enjoyed that aspect of the episode more. As it was, I spent the whole episode thinking, "But why aren't they mentioning..." and then when they finally did, instead of a big pay-off, I was like, oh well then. Okay.

All in all, I think this was a solid first episode. Better than I expected from a "based on". There are the central characters, who are plucky but seem unaware that they've stumbled upon a much bigger picture. There are at least three side-characters who obviously have their own agendas; are they nefarious, merely self-serving but otherwise decent people, or actually altruistic heroes?

Perhaps Dash could tell you.

Guest post by Mac Attack. Minority Report can be seen on Fox Mondays at 9e/8c, or on Hulu the following day

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Premieres Part I

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The Fall TV season is upon us and it's like Christmas morning, but with even more potential for fun and disappointment! Which of our anticipated favorites will end up being awful? What black horse series will be take us by surprise and become a new obsession?

And remember, there's also the chance that everything will be terrible. Wheeee! It's like TV show roulette!

There's a whole lot of shows and only so much typing my little delicate lady-fingers can handle, so I am going to knock these out quick and dirty for you over the next couple weeks. Sure, some things might be worthy of a full write-up, but I'm fundamentally lazy so the chances of that are kinda slim. #truthtelling

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris: You gotta give it to him, NPH always works really hard. You can tell that he really wants to make this one succeed; he was almost manic in the premiere, with the jokes! And the stunts! And the dancing and the quipping and chatting and smiling and jumping, it's exhausting just writing about it.

The producers don't want you to call it a variety show (that's been made very clear in all the pre-premiere press), but I'm not sure there's any other way to capture the essence of the show. Best Time Ever's website describes it as "a live one-hour show that is unlike any other on American television. Anything can happen on "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris," which will feature appearances by A-list stars, stunts, comedy skits, incredible performances, mini game shows, audience giveaways and hidden camera pranks."

They're also very open with the fact that it's based on a British series called "Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway," and while I've never seen the original, I'm willing to bet it's better than the American version.  Because the first episode of Best Time Ever felt a little too rushed, a little too full, that there was never any time to breathe. NPH worked his butt off, but none of the segments got the chance to stretch their legs.

I can't decide if making the show live is a help or a hindrance; in the premiere NPH felt almost frantic and the pacing was kind of off. NPH came across more "used car salesman" rather than "comfortable show host." But the guts of the show are sound, the gags were pretty funny and/or cute and/or clever, and I think with time when everyone settles into it there really could be something here. Though it's unlikely it may get the chance based on the premiere ratings. Still, if you're looking for something family-friendly, say to watch with the parents sometime, this would be a great pick.

Honestly, the best reason to keep watching is to see what the show does with the "Little NPH" guy. He's kind of like Neil's Mini-Me. Please, God, let there be a Doogie Howser, MD, reference soon.

Best Time Ever airs Tuesday nights at 10:00PM EST on NBC.

The Bastard Executioner: Wow, this show has really thrown me for a loop. I kind of hated the first hour which felt like a total Braveheart rip-off except in Wales, and featured such gratuitous violence (especially towards women) that I almost turned the television off in disgust. The entire set up of the series was so paint-by-numbers it was kind of embarassing.

According to the press-release monkeys over at FX, The Bastard Executioner is about "Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny."

So basically, this guy was a bad ass soldier fighting on the side of the English King in Wales, but gave up the sword when he saw an Angel (for real) on the battlefield. He gets married, lives the whole quiet life, until he fights back against the local Baron's tax-collectors. Of course there is retribution, and his entire village and family is killed in really horrible and awful ways, and it all goes down just as you expect. He swears vengeance and pretends to be a traveling punisher, basically a torturer and executioner for hire to infiltrate the Baron's estate. No, really.

Like I said, the first hour was pretty bad for several reasons, but then the second hour when Wilkin (ugh, that name) ends up in the Baron's castle got intriguing. Mostly due to the character of the Baroness, credited as "Baroness Lady Love Ventris" (no, really), who so far is fascinating and really well-acted by Flora Spencer-Longhurst. I've never heard of her, but I am impressed. I am really hoping that she will end up as more than just a love interest and will stick around for a couple more episodes to see where the show is going. Oh, and there was also some really interesting twists at the end of the premiere episode dealing with Katey Sagal's character (yes, THAT Katey Sagal) and excellent work from Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill in True Blood!) that left me pseudo-hooked.

One warning though: there is some REALLY graphic violence here. So much so in fact that I was shocked this aired on regular cable--sure, it's not basic cable, it's FX, but still. This is the kind of stuff that you wouldn't even see on Game of Thrones. If that's something that bothers you a lot, you're going to want to avoid this show like the 14th century plague. But if you can handle it or even dig it, The Bastard Executioner might be up your alley.

The Bastard Executioner airs on Tuesdays at 10PM on FX.

There's a lot of RAWR on this show. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

There are Two Kinds of Pain

In the pilot episode of House of Cards, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) talks about the two kinds of pain – the kind that is motivating and the kind that is useless. I’m going to posit that there’s a third kind which is the pain you feel that is half confusion about where the hell something is going, particularly when before it seemed like things were on track.

"Francis, Air Force One seems to have gone off course..."

Warning from here on out: I’m going to get mildly spoiler-y, but nothing major. Still, if you haven’t watched season three yet and you really don’t want to know anything about the outlines of some major storylines, go watch it and then come back.

We’ve talked about House of Cards before. Gushed about it, even. And while there have always been aspects to the show that didn’t exactly ring true to reality (it is television, after all), I, at least, have always appreciated the verisimilitude put forth by the show. Even when characters were doing things that no real politico would ever do, the show was trying to so hard to adhere to the look and feel of reality it helped to go a long way to excusing the need for dramatic license.

Now? Ugh. You guys, I’m just not sure anymore. Maybe it’s because so much of the action has moved away from Congress, a body that I understood even if I found it nutty, to the White House, which no matter how accurate the setting, it’s always going to be compared to The West Wing. But either way, the cracks are starting to show.

Some of those cracks just feel like stories that the writers have written themselves into the corner with. Case in point: The quickly disappearing prostitute. Remember Rachel? Didn’t she do something back in season one? How many of you remember what it was? Since then, we’ve gotten two years of Rachel either hanging out somewhere doing nothing or gone completely into hiding. Her only reason for remaining a character on the show is to further illustrate what a creep Doug Stamper is. She’s his plot point, not her own. What’s more, her brief appearances in season three actually kind of make Doug into something even worse: a boring creep. His entire arc in the season is to find Rachel and… what? Kill her? Rape her? Own her somehow? All we know is his intentions are clearly not good and for some reason he can’t get past them, even after she bashed his face in last season and left him for dead. While we do finally get some closure to this story, its closure that should have come two years ago.

Rachel, is it? Go buy yourself a nice condo in Vegas, Sweetie. It'll work out better.

The bigger cracks, unfortunately, are reserved for Frank and Claire themselves. House of Cards has always been about the intrigues and chess moves that make Washington a favorite topic for anyone writing a suspense thriller.  Likewise, its biggest flaw has always been that Frank and Claire are portrayed not only as master manipulators but as essentially the only master manipulators in town. For every scheme they hatch, there is literally almost no one who has any kind of counter-scheme, a concept that is about as far away from reality in Washington as is possible. Now, Frank has maneuvered his way into the Presidency and from the Bully Pulpit has decided to… do a reasonable job.

The intrigues that made seasons one and two so watchable are all but gone here. There’s a half-hearted attempt to establish a new level of intrigue by making this season’s “Big Bad” a very thinly veiled stand-in for Vladimir Putin, but it never quite moved beyond a simmering boil. To say nothing of the fact that anyone who has truly been paying attention to someone who is as good at double-speak and reactive tactics as the real life Putin could see half of his ploys coming from a mile away. It just doesn’t feel like any of the story rings true with anything approaching that verisimilitude I mentioned earlier.

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how not-Putin I am."

Then there’s the domestic agenda. Frank Underwood, a democrat, spends his political capital as a relatively unpopular, unelected President trying to do away with social security.  Never mind that social security is called the third rail of politics for a reason or that both Republicans and Democrats don’t go anywhere near it. The show makes a half-hearted attempt to explain this away by saying that the needs of the sweeping social program don’t meet the needs of today before getting into some truly wonky talk about a new jobs program, the details of which are of course never discussed (fair enough – this is entertainment, not a real campaign). And while in life there is a certain truth to the fact that social security is a system in need of repair or revamping, the fact remains that no politician seeking reelection, even one as bold and unhindered by impossible odds as Frank Underwood, takes that kind of a risk. And, more importantly, the show never makes it clear why Frank wants this program to succeed. Is it to have another thing that he “wins” at? Something to cement his legacy? Or just because he thinks it’s the right thing to do?

All of which leads to the biggest crack: the Underwoods are, like, nice. Power may corrupt, but for most of season three it turned the two of them into civic-minded public servants. Think about it: In the first episode of season one, Frank strangles a dog with his own bare hands. Sure, he does it out of some twisted rationalization that it’s better for the wounded dog to die quickly instead of suffer longer in pain, but it’s not like there aren’t animal hospitals in Georgetown.  Now he’s just sort of vaguely wormy, trying to maneuver candidates so that he can have the best possible field to himself when running for President. Claire used to be the woman who used that utterly sweet and kind voice to mock a dying man in his hospital bed who had just confessed that he loved her, telling him that not only was that feeling never going to be returned but he was pretty much an idiot for even thinking that telling her would do anything. And that’s before she told one of her former employees who was making life difficult for her that she would purposefully withhold prenatal insurance coverage for the pregnant employee if she didn’t give up her lawsuit. (I believe her exact line to the employee was “I will let your unborn child wither away inside you.”) Flash forward to now and she is ambassador to UN and spending nights in jail to protest a political prisoner’s capture in Russia.

Watching characters grow and change is good; characters that evolve are far more interesting than ones that are static or worse, evil just because. That said, the Underwoods’ growth is almost done in the wrong direction. Unlike real life, we don’t want to watch the Underwoods get redeemed, we want to see them make a mess of things. House of Cards isn’t A Christmas Carol, its Macbeth. The more the Underwoods use their powers for good rather than pure self-interest, the less interested we are in them. And while that trajectory starts to get a bit wobbly toward the end of the season, the characters’ motivations are far more left in the bright center rather than the dingy perimeters.

Yes, that's more like it. Now, more spot-cleaning. Could we possible get three weird sisters on set?

Much like Frank Underwood himself, rising up to the most powerful job on the planet a mere two-ish years after being denied a cabinet position, House of Cards is starting to feel like it has peaked too soon. And while the show sets up its next Big Bad, presumably in the form of an opposing candidate for the presidential campaign that is just beginning at the end of season three, it’s hard to see how much more of this story there is to tell without moving into the inevitable final act: downfall. We’ve seen Frank and Claire rise; the only thing left is for them to fall. If the show can’t get there quickly, we’re going to be all out of reasons to keep watching the realistic sets. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fear the Walking Dead

When I first heard AMC was making a prequel series* to The Walking Dead, my response was "ugh." The show is insanely popular so of course we need to milk that teat until it's completely dry.

After giving it some more thought,** I realized there is actually a good story to tell here. The Walking Dead picks up after the the zombie apocalypse has already occurred. We, the viewer, see the show through Rick Grimes' eyes, and his initial confusion and lack of information adds to the feeling of dread and unease we experience. The Walking Dead has never explained the events that led up to the collapse of civilization; we don't know where or how things started, how quickly the world fell apart, how the government responded, when things went to....well, to put it bluntly, went to shit.

So then I was excited for Fear the Walking Dead. I was hoping it would fill in some of the gaps and give some more information about the virus, which to me is the most interesting part of The Walking Dead's story. I was also hoping that the show would learn from some of the elements of TWD that didn't quite work--such as the family drama bullshit with Rick, Lori, and Carl. Oh, I'm sorry. I mean, "Caaaaaaaaaaarl!"

Alas, no. Because the public was definitely crying out for more family drama.

I don't want to say I'm disappointed in FWD exactly. It's great to look at, the acting is top notch (especially from Kim Dickens whom I loved in Deadwood), and it's very effective at building tension. Just like people used to say you had to watch Doctor Who from behind the couch, FWD sometimes makes me want to peek out from behind my fingers because I don't think I can handle what is going to happen next.

And that is what makes it all so monumentally frustrating that almost every single one of these characters is completely and utterly stupid.

Stories like this only work if you like the characters. You have to care what is going to happen to them. And it's hard to have your audience care about people who are TOTAL FUCKING MORONS.

Maybe FWD takes place in a world where George Romero never existed. Where Night of the Living Dead, World War Z, and the whole zombie genre never existed. Maybe these people don't have any reference for the undead shambling around craving brains. But there is nothing in this series (or TWD for that matter) to establish this as an alternate universe following those rules and I am not letting the showrunners off that easy. To leave it to the third episode before even one single person proffers that the infected are actually dead, to have no character even mention the word "zombie," defies belief and makes it seem as if all these people are brain-dead themselves.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but the more I think and write about this the madder I get. Seriously. All these characters have already seen the infected stumbling around, appear as if corpses, get shot MULTIPLE TIMES and keep going, feast on the flesh of the living, and they are still standing around asking, "what is going on?" I can't. even. handle. it. Just having one character say, "Hey, maybe it's zombies" and then everyone can shoot him/her down about how that is so implausible, only happens in movies, etc. would placate me. But no. Instead they sit around looking shocked and dismayed and trying to convince each other that we shouldn't destroy the neighbor's brain because there IS STILL A CHANCE HE CAN BE CURED. Even though we just caught him snacking on someone's dog and is actively trying to kill everyone in the house.

Flames. On the sides of my face.

But I guess the sickest part is I still want to see what happens next. At the end of the third episode the National Guard shows up and seems to be doing well with putting down the infection. So I still want to see how it all goes to shit.

But if all these people survive the season I am giving up. Because there is no way people this dumb would survive the zombie apocalypse. Zombies? I have no trouble with that. But these characters all surviving will defy even my ability to suspend belief.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9:00PM EST on AMC.

*Oh, excuse me, a COMPANION series. Whatever, AMC.

*I'll have you know I spent a good 10 seconds of brain power on this topic.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Sense8: A Rebuttal

Your TV Sluts have already reviewed Netflix’s Sense8, but with all due respect to my fellow bloggers, I’m here to offer a counterpoint. Rather than being a collection of disjoined stories that foists generic political correctness on the TV landscape, I submit that the show is moving, beautiful, and incredibly unique.  

If you’ll recall, Sense8 tells the stories of eight strangers picked to live in a house who somehow become mentally connected to each other. Each of the characters live in a different city and most live on different continents, as such the stories told are both stories about the individual characters’ lives, but also about the cities they inhabit. And of course, because nothing is simple, these eight people are also being targeted by a mysterious organization that wants to… kill them? Dissect them?  Mate with them? It’s unclear. 

Maybe they're planning on shooting the album cover for a '90s era alt rock band?

The action begins when one of these special people, Angelica (played by Darryl Hannah), kills herself in front of her sometime-lover Jonas (Naveen Andrews, reprising all the weird stuff about his character in Lost) because the mysterious Whisper is about to close in on her and if he does, terrible things will happen.  In killing herself, Angelica “births” the next cluster of Sensates, the folk who will make up our cast of heroes, and leaves Jonas as the (presumably) last remaining member of his cluster.

So who are the new cluster? Roll call!
·         Capheus (Aml Ameen), a bus driver in Nairobi who is desperately trying to get money for his mother’s HIV treatments.
·         Sun (Bae Doona), a financial executive in Seoul who’s relationship with her father and brother is strained after the death of her mother.
·         Nomi (Jamie Clayton), a trans woman and hacktivist living with her girlfriend in San Francisco. (Said girlfriend is played by Freema Agyeman, of Doctor Who Martha Jones fame, btw.)
·         Kala (Tina Desai), a pharmacist in Mumbai who is engaged to a man she doesn’t love.
·         Riley (Tuppence Middleton), an Icelandic DJ living in London with a tragedy in her past.
·         Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), a locksmith and jewel thief in Berlin.
·         Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), a closeted actor in Mexico City who has built his fame on playing tough, macho roles.
·         Will (Brian J. Smith), a police officer in Chicago haunted by an unsolved murder .

And therein begins the action as each of the new Sensates begins to see and interact with each across global distances.  As they each come into contact more frequently with each other, they begin to realize that they can not only speak to each other, hear each other, and see each other, they can become each other if they need to. Each Sensate can sort of possess the other and lend his or her knowledge, skills, and abilities to whatever the task is at hand.

This proves especially effective as Nomi is hospitalized early on and imprisoned by the organization that Whisper works for, telling her that she has a serious brain tumor that they need to remove but surely seems like what's going on is far more sinister. Nomi is the first to realize that she can borrow Wolfgang’s lock-picking ability break out of the hospital, Will’s knowledge of police procedure to out-maneuver a team of guards trying to apprehend her, and Sun’s experience as a kickboxer to subdue some of the more handsy guards.

The "I" in team.

Which is what brings us to what could be the hard line to cross for some viewers – despite an interesting premise and a wide collection of characters, the first five episodes of the show do tend to lag. Only Nomi seems to have much action central to the big mystery of the show while the rest of the Sensates are just sort of tripping out on seeing and meeting these other people that they’re connected to.

Sense8 is a product of J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis. For those familiar with Straczynski’s work on shows like Babylon 5 or Jeremiah will be familiar with his slow-burn approach to writing. The man is a genius at putting together stories that have long payouts but seemingly slow starts. This has been called Joss Whedon Syndrome, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Joss Whedon has a case of Straczynski Syndrome. While slow burns and long payouts can make for some mind-blowing experiences, they unfortunately ignore one of the central truisms of television: don’t hold back. As a series creator, you never know if you’re going to get to season five, so don’t hold off on your great moments in season one.

And yes, that means you always include a fight with a machete. 

But if the plot is, at least to begin with, less than utterly thrilling, the show more than makes up for that in the casting and the production design. To understand how incredible this show is, consider that each of the scenes were filmed on location. Chicago scenes were shot in Chicago. Nairobi scenes in Nairobi. For each character, we’re not seeing a studio set built in Los Angeles, we’re getting the real deal which also means we’re getting the real cast and crew from a diverse background. As such, this is as much a science-fiction/action story as it is a story about how interconnected the modern world is. In that sense, it’s very much one of the first real multinational television shows.  Add to that how lushly visualized it is and you can begin to appreciate the different storylines even more. The show is, simply put, beautifully shot. The picture is rich and cinematic and it feels far more like watching a movie than watching a television show.

But the real strength of Sense8 is the characters. Plenty of shows have token characters. It’s not that hard to find a show with the One Black Guy or the Cool Asian Girl, almost always used as set-dressing to back up the lives and experiences of the main white protagonists. Despite what Hollywood typically believes, you can tell stories that feature more than one person of color. And Sense8 does this in spades. The show has arguably 16 main characters. Of them, six are white, three are black, three are Indian, three are Latino or Latina.  Sun represents one of the only East Asian characters, however given how solitary her story is that’s unsurprising. Going further, four characters are gay and one is transgender.

That’s not to suggest that everything is perfect with the characterizations. Even with ten episodes, that’s not a lot of time to fully flesh out eight characters and some characters veer closely to stereotypes at times. (Sun’s kickboxing background is a good example of this, though at least she’s given a reason to be the one Asian person who is also a martial artist and it’s not just the product of “honor” or something.) All the more reason why I want another season from the show to help these characters become even more fleshed out.

Also, because seriously you guys - have I mentioned how beautiful the cinematography is?

What’s impressive about the diversity of the show is the fact that it was put to film at all. The creators have stated that the genesis of the show was thinking about how easy it is to make people into an Other and that the show was a way to illustrate how tribes form and what that does to humans when they suddenly realize they’re connected to someone different from them. And while none of the characters are expressly bigoted or hateful in any way (which is almost a shame because that could also have been an interesting story), half of the joy of watching these characters come together is seeing the beautiful ways in which they connect. A few of them are given sweet love stories; the meeting of Wolfgang and Kala, opposites if ever there were one, has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood romance. Riley and Will’s growing flirtation and attraction to each other plays off as less dramatic and sweeping, but still compelling. On the other end of the spectrum, the bonding that begins between Cepheus and Sun as two people who are so self-sacrificing to their families that it’s causing them a great deal of personal pain is a compelling story about how friendships can actually be formed without having to turn into something romantic.

The diversity represented in Sense8 is likely a reason for the divided opinion on it. As the nation is learning, it can very uncomfortable to look at representations of ourselves and see what’s missing as well as what’s on display.  And yes, this show embraces its differences. Ostensibly a mainstream television show, it takes pains to introduce multicultural themes that aren’t usually talked about. Kala’s devotion to Hindu-ism is a direct contract to her future father-in-law’s desire to eradicate old style beliefs from India, believing that they make the country seem backward. Nomi is presented as a comfortable, confident transgender woman who doesn’t feel any pressure to “forgive and forget” her mother’s ongoing brutality to her by denying her identity. In one particularly moving speech, a heartbroken Lito describes the first time he performed oral sex on his male partner and how that experience was spiritual and transcendent for him. These aren’t the narratives that make it into most television.

It's not all touching sentimentality. There's also a five-minute mind orgy that happens at one point. 

On August 8, Netflix announced that Sense8 would get a second season. August 8th is an important date in the mythology of the show. Nice cross-marketing there, Netflix. It also dovetails nicely with the title and the repetition of the number eight. The show has proven popular (it is the most pirated Netflix show created) but has had a polarizing critical analysis. It also has to be extremely expensive to film, given the Wachowski’s insistence on filming on location in each of the major cities with a little extra time in Reykjavik for good measure. But for someone like me who really wants to see more of this show, and more about shows with this level of diversity in general, the second season is a gift. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Amazon Prime on Paternity Leave - Grimm and Your Fourth Amendment Rights

Amazon Prime has a couple seasons of the NBC supernatural sorta-police procedural Grimm on it, but I didn't consider watching it while a small child lay sleeping in my arms (but not on any inanimate surface) until I read a graphic novel version of an episode thanks to the blind box service Comic Bento. This month was entirely comic books published by Dynamite Entertainment, so along with New Vampirella #1, I got a Grimm comic, and after reading it, thought, "this is not horrible as entertainment goes, and not particularly intellectually taxing, so perfect for watching at 5AM."
Strangely and perhaps positively, the new Vampirella series' writers make it seem like they feel unjustly saddled with her outfit but can't change it due to tradition.
If you haven't seen Grimm, I will explain it to you in a paragraph:

Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a Portland, Oregon police detective who is also the latest in a line of "Grimms," humans who can see the animal- and myth-themed creatures that walk among us in human form. Most episodes, one of these creatures will act out, and Det. Burkhardt has to either kill or subdue it, depending on the creature's dangerousness. There's also some meta-plot about supernatural critters' politics, but it's safely ignored.
For example, Deep Space 9's Nana Visitor is a homicidal bee person in one episode.
It's a fun show in a "brain candy" sort of way, like Lost Girl or Gossip Girl, but the approach to law and policing drives me nuts.

Okay, so we've suspended disbelief that wolf people and bee people and whatever the heck hexenbiests are supposed to be live among us and follow their weird supernatural impulses but we rationalize it as crazy people, serial killers, etc. But the show does the thing I can't stand in most police procedurals, which is commit bad police work, which is why I stopped watching Mysteries of Laura.
Also, even on two detectives' salaries, how could they afford that house? In either Nassau or Westchester County, that's a >$2M home, and they clearly don't live in Jersey.
If you can't solve every crime without violating all the clauses of Amendments 4-6 of the Constitution, you shouldn't be a police officer. But shows where policing is sort of secondary to the plot, this happens all the time and is shown as, at worst, a "meh" thing.

For example, no, examining the "curtilage" of a house does not allow you to jump the fence in the backyard, Mr. Police Officer. And then finding a clue there does not give you probable cause to enter the house. This is what we call "fruit of the poisonous tree" in evidence law.

Or the time they ask a law firm partner for "all the cases" a dead associate was working on, and he says, "sure, full access," as opposed to, "you can have a list of the clients and litigation the attorneys were involved with, but anything involving our client confidences requires a subpoena or we all lose our licenses to practice law."

There's even an episode where a police officer character (not Nick) confesses to conspiring to keep Brady material from a defense attorney because he doesn't want a jury believing that this obviously evil guy might not be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the particular crime he probably did. As the defendant was, in fact, a vicious murderer possessed of supernatural strength, this is presented as a sort of defensible act. In real life, this behavior puts innocent people in jail. Also, makes a mockery of our constitutional system. Not everyone is a superstrong serial killer who can eat bullets.

So, when there isn't law, this show is fun. When there is, it's groaningly awful. Fortunately, the legal bits are few.