Category Archives: Television

War! What is it good for?

What would you do if any of your friends or family could be a shapeshifting alien who wants to kill you and your species? What would you do if you were a shapeshifter whose homeworld was destroyed and who just wanted to blend into an alien society and live peacefully, but you knew if your true identity was ever revealed to the xenophobic inhabitants of that alien world you would surely be shunned, persecuted, and likely killed? These questions drive the conflict in Doctor Who’s “The Zygon Invasion” and its sequel “The Zygon Inversion.” This brilliant two-part episode explores such contemporary (and in some ways timeless) issues as terrorism, immigration, xenophobia, and war. It features witty writing, breathtaking acting, and a villain whose plan and motivations actually make sense (something a bit too rare in Doctor Who). This two-parter is the highlight of an above average season, which has yet to have a bad episode but also has yet to have a standout one. “The Zygon Inversion” in particular is the best episode of Capaldi’s Doctor thus far and undoubtedly one of the top ten episodes of Nu Who. Continue reading War! What is it good for?

The White American Man in the High Castle

Television has long ceased to be a regional form of media. One would think that Amazon Studios, a purely online broadcasting platform owned by a global company, would be conscious of the international reach of American television. One might also think that, when tasked with producing an alternate history drama in which the Axis powers win World War II, measures would be taken to be inclusive of contemporary international audiences. Or at least, not to offend them.

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South Park and Satire’s State of Affairs

Trey Stone and Matt Parker are now, without argument, American television’s foremost satirists. With Colbert gone the way of national late night and Stewart the way of retirement, we’re left with a crude cartoon about 4th graders to poke fun at an entire nation’s hypocrisy. Aptly, this season, the show’s 19th, is preoccupied with the function and relevance of its own genre: satire. With the national climate becoming growingly politically correct, the show asks: where does satire–thriving on the impolite or the outright offensive–fit in? And South Park, an equal-opportunity offender, answers with its unique brand of irreverent, sharp comedy.

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The Lion’s in the Cradle and the Sonic Spoon

What could be bad about living forever? Most of us mortals don’t even get to contemplate immortality in the first place. But in the latest season of Doctor Who, two back to back episodes—“The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived”—grapple with this question. Naturally, we assume it would be better not to die. In “The Woman Who Lived,” however, we get a less than rosy picture of what an eternal life might hold; of what it might drive any reasonable person to do. As the Doctor eloquently puts it, “Immortality isn’t living forever. That’s not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying.”

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Despite Jeb Bush’s commentary, there is more to “Supergirl” than the fact that Melissa Benoist is “pretty hot.” “Supergirl,” CBS’s newest Monday night attempt to capture a young adult audience, is far from super. But the mere fact that it has a female lead, in a genre where they are about as common as quality Nicholas Cage movies, makes it culturally significant. We spent much of our childhoods watching cartoons like “Superman: The Animated Series,” “X-men: Evolution,” and “Batman: The Animated Series,” as well as movies like Christopher Reeve’s Superman (and unfortunately all of its sequels). Later on we enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and even watched a bit of “Smallville,” before it turned into a soap opera. Yet throughout our superhero-filled childhoods we personally never once saw a superhero movie or TV show with a female protagonist. Why?

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Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

The first season of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s new comedy series Master of None has just premiered in its entirety on Netflix for your binge-watching convenience. And binge watch you will. Following the misadventures of Dev Shah (Ansari), a thirty-something small-time actor struggling to make the leap from Go-gurt commercials to feature films, the offbeat comedy addresses the idiosyncrasies of millennial love and life in the Big Apple. In a pilot aptly titled “Plan B,” we watch as Dev holds priceless conversations with friends (single and otherwise) in a desperate effort to confront the existential crisis of his generation: to breed, or not to breed. In a series of stylized silent film montages, we become privy to Dev’s hilariously absurd imaginings of life as a family man, both idyllic and nightmarish. Ultimately, we come to suspect, as Dev does, that the reality probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. Continue reading Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

How Does a Doctor Deal with Death?

Has “travelling with the Doctor changed you, or were you always happy to put other people’s lives at risk?”

The relationship between the Doctor and his companions plays a much more central role in Nu Who than it did in Classic Who, a pattern that certainly holds true for “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood,” the recent two-part episode of “Doctor Who,” Season 9 (on BBC and BBC America). Will the Doctor put the lives of his companions at risk? Will he put other people’s lives at risk? How are the companions changed by their travels with the Doctor? Like many of the episodes Toby Whithouse has written (from the rather underwhelming “Vampires of Venice” to the enjoyable but less than legendary “School Reunion”), the character development and the relationships between characters form the best part of these episodes. Peter Capaldi (The Doctor) and Jenna Coleman (Clara) deliver impassioned performances, as usual, but it’s a new villain featured in these episodes, played by Neil Fingleton (known for playing White Walkers in “Game of Thrones”) who embodies the two-parter’s creepy tone. The new nemesis, called the Fisher King, looks amazing and sounds terrifying, even if his villainous plot comes across as contrived. Overall we are happy to report that, thanks to intriguing character development, Season 9 stands alone in Nu Who for its consistently above-average episodes, making it well worth your time to watch.

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Rick and Morty Done Did It Again, Broh

Surrounded by dozens of literal Schrödinger’s cats, a mad scientist and his two grandchildren must find a way to fuse together separate timelines caused by the grandchildren’s inability to make decisions. In a race to make sense of this confusing reality and avoid being murdered by the other timelines, Adult Swim’s cult cartoon hit “Rick and Morty” starts Season 2 with its two best qualities: absurdity and dark humor. While the first season of this unpredictable show introduced us to creator Justin Roiland’s unique mannerisms and improvised scripts, the second season plays off those mannerisms and expectations for a more intense experience.

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5 Times in Scandal’s Season 5 Premiere that Abby Whelan, or the Audience, Deserve Better

Ever since Abby Whelan was Liv’s “gladiator” on “Scandal,” she’s been doing the dirty job of a true gladiator. Armed with technology, deception, and clever monologues, she has been solving the crises of Washington D.C.’s elite at Olivia Pope’s behest. That has left her, on different occasions, friendless, unemployed, single, involved in covering up presidential election rigging, and looking like a complete fool in front of rooms full of press. Continue reading 5 Times in Scandal’s Season 5 Premiere that Abby Whelan, or the Audience, Deserve Better

How Many Blind Writers Did It Take To Write Blindspot?

I thrive on mysteries. Give me a mystery novel or a crime saga, and I’ll probably grow an inch or two taller. As a kid, I would read everything from A to Z Mysteries to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. My taste became a bit more varied as a pre-teen: I watched David Fincher’s dark film Zodiac as well as the borderline mystery/fantasy film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Yet, after a couple of years, I came to the realization that television is the medium best suited for the intricacies of the crime mystery genre. In fact, the TV crime thriller has truly become its own form of art (check out Breaking Bad or Law and Order: SVU some time). Unlike books and movies, television shows can sustain an overarching mystery for longer stretches of time, allowing creators to drive the plot forward and simultaneously maintain the audience in suspense episode after episode. This successful formula is what the new crime drama series Blindspot attempts to replicate. Continue reading How Many Blind Writers Did It Take To Write Blindspot?

Quantico, a Melodrama with a Side of Cheese

Terrorist attack, FBI, mystery, investigation, inside job. These are the themes of Joshua Safran’s new ABC show “Quantico” which explores a topic covered a dozen times before. It hits on all the key target words to make a national audience interested, and it has a diverse cast of improbably good looking recruits. But these alone aren’t enough to make this show watchable or even begin to approach an accurate representation of the FBI in the manner in which it masquerades. Continue reading Quantico, a Melodrama with a Side of Cheese

How to Get Away with Melodrama? Hire Viola Davis

After spending the equivalent of a semester under the brilliant—if somewhat terrifying—tutelage of Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), you might think it was about time you graduated to How To Get Away With Murder 201, or at least 102. You’d be mistaken. The Season 2 premiere of Shonda Rhimes’ latest hit brings us right into the thick of the mess we left behind in the Season 1 finale. Continue reading How to Get Away with Melodrama? Hire Viola Davis