I don’t know if this still counts as “mid”season since we’re hitting spring, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about a few more cool, genre shows. My previous two updates contained more misses than hits, but I think there are a few this time that have some real potential to stay on my watch-list. Let’s hope they survive in the ratings.
Resurrection has a bit of a convoluted history, being based on a novel called “The Returned” (as opposed to the French TV series called “The Returned”) it starts off with a young boy who wakes up in a rice paddy in China (in a scene that visually echoes the opening shot from Lost). When he finds his way back to the US with the help of a government agent played by Omar Epps, he is reunited with his elderly parents who are shocked to see their son who had apparently died 30 years ago. In the two episodes that have aired so far, there are definitely some highs (Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith are great as the parents, Lucille and Henry Langton) and lows (a heavy-handed scene where all the local parents take their kids away once young Jacob Langton arrives at the park to play with them). A lot of time has been spent with the families/townsfolk coming to terms with the question of whether Jacob has really returned from the dead. However, there are also quite a few questions cropping up about the circumstances around his death. I really enjoyed the first couple of episodes because the show has a few twists and mysteries that keep me interested. However, the actual human reactions and the way people are behaving don’t always seem realistic given the circumstances. Does it make sense that Jacob’s uncle, the sheriff, is more bothered by Agent Bellamy looking into his family’s past (or that his wife may have had an affair) than the fact that his nephew has come back to life after 30 years? I hear that the French series does a bit better on the dramatic front, but I am pinning my hopes on the twisty mysteries to make this show into the next Lost.
Another new show in the “contemporary fantasy” subgenre that I had expected to be a whole lot better is Believe — a creation of genre auteur Alfonso Cuaron, along with genre TV pros JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk (who together helped create Lost and Alias, among others). Unfortunately, while Believe has a cliche premise, it’s the execution that really lets us down. The series focuses on a young girl named Bo, who is the target for two mysterious groups of people (one evil, willing to kill; and another supposedly good). The good guys help a death-row inmate escape as well and set him on the road with Bo as her guardian (though I was never clear on why he had to take care of Bo alone). As it turns out, Bo is a special child, with extra-sensory and telekinetic abilities (which inexplicably seem almost normal or only mildly interesting to the people around her who see her more for her political and human value). So far each episode has just been about Bo and her protector Jake on the run. The “magical child” motif has been done so many times already, I expected something a lot more creative from Cuaron, Abrams and Burk. I couldn’t believe it when they threw in a plot involving Bo helping out a child with leukemia — touching, but so cliche. Plus, we don’t get much of a chance to care about many of the other side characters except Jake (and he’s kind of a selfish jerk — who of course is learning to be less selfish by having to take care of Bo). If this show is meant to be a “slow burn”, they’d better at least hint at more interesting stuff to come, otherwise I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to enjoy it.
I had the opposite reaction to From Dusk Til Dawn, which I didn’t even give a thought to watching until I stumbled upon it and really enjoyed. It’s a TV remake of the 1996 film (which I have not seen) that starred George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, and Salma Hayek. Telling the same story of the Gecko brothers who rob a bank and end up taking refuge in a lair of vampires, I really enjoy the Tarantino-esque style of the episodes so far. There are many scenes of lawmen (Texas rangers) or the brothers having well-scripted conversations, intermixed with scenes of plain yet brutal violence. The story is told both in flashback (including scenes from the robbery) and in the present moment when the Geckos are on the run after an incident at a convenience store. Though so far things have been mostly real-world, there have been a few fantastical moments when Richie Gecko (the crazy one) hallucinates seeing or hearing some creepy things, including the demonic Santanico Pandemonium character (Salma Hayek’s star-turn in the original movie). This show reminds me a lot of the early seasons of True Blood (before that show went totally off the rails). Between this series and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I have a couple of good reasons to keep my Netflix membership going.
Even more of a surprise to me was Crisis, which I had not heard anything about beforehand (except that it starred one my favourites: Gillian Anderson). I was dreading that it was going to be a jargon-heavy, government agency procedural all about the FBI’s crisis management team (or something like that). Instead, it plays like a successor to 24 (though it lacks a magnetic lead character like Jack Bauer — Anderson does not actually play the lead character on Crisis). Rachael Taylor plays FBI agent Susie Dunn, who is assigned to manage a kidnapping crisis when a school bus on a day trip is hijacked. The bus doesn’t belong to just any school, but is filled with kids from the most powerful and elite parents in the US (including the son of the president). I had a lot of fun watching the first episode. There’s a great blend and balance of tense drama with action, some family stuff, and some really good twists (like 24, there’s fun in the fact that you don’t know who’s going to die, or who might be a bad-guy). Anderson hasn’t had too much to do yet though her character is substantial as Agent Dunn’s older sister, a mega-CEO, queen bee among these powerful parents, and a desperate mother whose daughter is on the bus. I’m hoping that the fact that it’s only a 13 episode half-season will mean that it can keep the momentum going throughout (though that wasn’t so easy for The Following last year). Pretty soon it will even be going head-to-head with Jack Bauer himself when 24 returns for a half-season.
As if they don’t have enough shows about pretty young people with a sci-fi twist, The CW has one more card to play in the form of The 100. Set some time in the future (at least 100 years) when the Earth is recovering from a nuclear holocaust that destroyed the entire planet and the human race. The remaining people live on orbiting space stations and have enacted an extremely draconian legal system that punishes all crimes with death. Luckily for a group of young people who just became of age to be executed for their crimes, they are instead sent to the planet as a test group to determine if conditions are safe for the rest of the populace to return to the surface. I really like the premise, but the show is incredibly weak in how it realises the science fiction aspects. It makes more sense to watch this show as a soap opera than sci-fi drama. The parents and leaders of the human civilization are petty and plotting. The kids are no better. Not only do they speak and act like high-school kids (and not very good ones) from 2014, they don’t seem to act like people (even kids) realistically would in those circumstances. When they land on Earth, they see no further than the immediate present and seem more interested in building a big bonfire and partying than in their own survival. When a troublemaker riles them up, they all cut off their bracelets — devices meant to monitor their vital signs to tell the orbiting colonists that it’s safe to come down — as an act of rebellion. Silly kids, now the others won’t come down to the planet! I realize that this is probably a gloss on Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, but it’s still hard to watch such a ridiculous show. Despite that, I might give The 100 a couple more episodes to prove itself — after all, I didn’t hate the similarly trivial sci-fi series Terra Nova.
Finally, I want to mention one more series that actually released its first episode a while ago (early Feb), but since it was one of Amazon’s pilots, it wasn’t guaranteed to go to series but has now been picked up. The After comes from the long-absent creator of The X-Files, Chris Carter. When a very mixed group of individuals gets stuck in an elevator, that is just the beginning of what is probably the worst day in history. As they try to escape the office tower they are in, they find only chaos outside as power has gone out in the entire city, and apparently all order and society has been lost as well. The series stars a few recognizable faces including Aldis Hodge (from Leverage), Adrian Pasdar (from Heroes), comic actor Jamie Kennedy, and Sharon Lawrence (tragically making the beautiful actress play a doddering, rich, old lady). The majority of the pilot episode was pre-occupied with disaster-drama where our rag-tag group try to survive the situation (without killing each other) but the last 10 minutes takes the story in a very bizarre, very sci-fi direction (which I won’t spoil here) and gave me that same feeling that I had at the end of the Lost pilot when the characters look at each other wondering aloud what is going on.
As the main TV season is actually winding down (some shows are even having their season finales soon), these new shows bring a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to the boost they bring to my TV watching.