tiistai 6. tammikuuta 2015

What to watch 2014 edition - Part 1 of 2

So this one will be in English again because that's the language we did this presentation thing at the åwesome convention Åcon. So this will be kind of a recap of the presentation but will also have some expanded thoughts and other stuff we just didn't have proper time to go through.

Because of the sheer amount of series covered we decided it would be best to cover the whole presentation in two separate posts.

This time our focus will be on genre-series that have premiered on the 2013-2014 television season. There will be a short non-spoilery description of the main plot or starting point of the series in question.

That will be followed up by some general information about it, mostly regarding how many episodes etc.

Then every series introduction will be wrapped with a short a pro/con-style lists of reasons to watch or reasons not to watch and our final thoughts/conclusion.

Those interested in hearing recommendations regarding newer series will be happy to hear that we are doing another What to Watch at next summer's Archipelacon-convention. So you can catch us there!

All views presented here are - of course - subjective. 
And you are free to disagree with them but like The Dude says:

But that's enough for disclaimers. 
Our first series will be none other than the not-so-delightful Atlantis.

While searching for his father's missing ship Jason is transported through time to the mystical city of Atlantis (where everyone of course speaks English).

There he finds out that he has a... destiny!

Was created by Johnny Capps (Merlin), Julian Murphy (Merlin) 
and Howard Overman (Misfits) to fill the gap that Merlin had left behind.

Premiered on BBC One in September 2013
First season of 13 episodes
Second season of 13 episodes currently airing

    Reasons to watch:
  • Maybe something to watch with your children... 
    • ...but likely only if they're under 10-years old
      • ... and are really into Greek mythology 
      • ... and have already seen Xena and/or Hercules ten thousand times
  • You have a compulsion to absolutely see everything having to do with Greek mythology or time travel 
    • Although there is a lot of better stuff to see before this
    Reasons not to watch:
  • Horribly cheesy - and yet unentertaining - acting
  • Clichéd storylines
  • Hercules and Xena were better

In conclusion: 
Atlantis was visually rather good looking but everything else was just painful. Probably the intended audience is thought to be so young that all the poor slapstick humour and overacting won't bother them but we only managed to watch couple of episodes before quitting.

It just feels that there isn't anything more to say. It wasn't bad enough to be entertaining and not bad enough to even have strong feelings about. It was just so mediocre.

A group of CDC scientists are called to a private bioresearch facility located in the arctic to investigate a possible viral outbreak.

At the research station they realise that the outbreak isn’t what it seems and the research done at the facility could have worldwide consequences.

Premiered on Syfy in January 2014 
13 episode first season 
Renewed for a 13 episode second season 
Ronald D. Moore (of BSG and DS9 fame) serves as executive producer

    Reasons to watch: 
  • Unpredictability 
  • Slightly unconventional and isolated setting 
    • Compares favourably to the excellent The Thing
  • Scary horror/suspense elements
    • Even if it might veers a bit too much from time to time to zombie-like territory
  • Good writing with multiple interesting characters operating in a moral grey area
  • Story that actually advances
    Reasons not to watch:
  • You don’t like series with horror elements 
  • Smart people doing stupid things annoys you too much
    • Though this isn't anything nearly as bad as in Prometheus
  • Rather unnecessary romantic subplots 

In conclusion: 
Helix was one this television seasons pleasant surprises. It turned out to be quite good horror / suspense series with a scifi-twist. The whole season is set on the research station with season long storyline. The setting has some similarities to John Carpenter's The Thing but it is still written very well and works.

All in all the writing is good with characters having their own motivations and personal secrets. Some of the romantic relationships seem rather unnecessary and the science might veer rather strongly on the speculative side but those are minor grievances.

From us this gets a definitive recommendation! 

In 2048, the uncontrollable evolution of science and technology has caused crime rates to rise an astounding 400%. To combat this, the overwhelmed police force has implemented a new policy: every human police officer is paired with a lifelike combat-model android.

A failed police operation on a crime syndicate left detective John Kennex in a 17-month coma. After recovering from he is assigned to partner with an older model android created to be as close to human as possible.

Created by J.H. Wyman (previously worked on Fringe)
Starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy
Premiered on Fox in November 2013
13 episode first season
Cancelled after first season

    Reasons to watch: 
  • Good chemistry between lead actors 
  • Especially good performance from Michael Ealy
  • Intresting near-future scifi ideas
  • Setting and worldbuilding  
    • Very 80's style vision of the future
    Reasons not to watch:
  • Fairly conventional cop show-structure 
  • Uneven larger narrative 
    • Way too many one shot episodes
  • Unrealized potential 
    • Especially after cancellation as many plot points are left open 

In conclusion: 
Almost Human was one our favourites and it was extremely disappointing that it was cancelled after one season. It had a very distinctive updated 80's-retro-scifi-bladerunner-esque general vibe that we enjoyed.

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy had a really good buddy-cop chemistry and there was genuine humour in their interactions. They got a decent amount of character development but also meant that other characters (especially the female leads) were left a bit thin.

Somewhat disappointing was also the overall focus on conventional one shot episode-structure with only few episodes dealing with the larger storyline, though even the single episodes did a lot of world building.   

Because many of the main plotlines were left open for future it's a little hard to unconditionally recommend the series. It still has a lot of good and funny moments so if you're not too bothered by that and the premise sounds interesting you should then absolutely check it out.

Bo is a young girl born with telekinetic she can’t control. Group of people protecting her from scientists trying to weaponize her powers leave her with a wrongfully convicted man they broke out of prison. 

The duo tries to stay ahead of their pursuers while helping people in need.

Created by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men)
and Mark Friedman (The Forgotten) 

Premiered on NBC in March 2014
13 episode first season (only 12 were aired in the US)
Cancelled after one season

    Reasons to watch: 
  • You really like Touched by an Angel
  • You really really like Kyle MacLachlan
  • The acting is rather good
    • Even if the characters are really really bland 
  • Even though it was cancelled the main storyline apparently gets closure
    • Can't confirm it thought because we just couldn't manage to watch the whole season 

    Reasons not to watch: 
  • Horrendously sappy/cheesy storylines
    • Hence the reference to Touched by an Angel
      • Yes, it is at least as sappy
  • Just boring
    •  No intresting characters or storylines

In conclusion: 
ATV-series made by Alfonso Cuarón who was behind both Children of Men and Gravity does sounds really good. Unfortunaly Believe is anything but.

Again we only managed to watch a couple of episodes because it turned out to be really painfully sappy. It was like every episode was A Very Special Episode, meant to teach everyone a certain lesson every week.

A positive note was that acting was good, even if the writing wasn't. They even managed to find a child actor who wasn't actually painful to watch. Well... actually was, but that wasn't because of bad acting just the horrible writing.

If you really like preachy series that take themselves way too seriously this might be one for you. And even though it was cancelled after one season they apparently managed to wrap up the main storyline so that's kinda a plus.

Agent Phil Coulson (who was last seen mortally wounded in The Avengers) has been given his own small team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange cases.

The show follows the team as they try to stop dangerous new technology and supernatural events that are threatening earth.

While simultaneously trying to uncover the secret past of the newest member of the team and the truth of what happened to agent Coulson.

Created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen

Premiered on ABC in September 2013
First season consist of 22 episodes
Second season of 22 episodes currently airing.

Series is connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and
has multiple episodes that tie into the movies.

    Reasons to watch:
  •  Whedon!
    • Return to form after somewhat disappointing Dollhouse
  •  Marvel!  (Ties into larger MCU narrative)
  •  Agent Coulson
    • Because Clark Gregg is really likeable
  •  Writing that builds on previous stuff
    • Regarding both movies and previous episodes of the series
  •  When it gets good – it gets really good! 
    • The second season in particular has been pretty friggin' excellent

    Reasons not to watch:
  •  Takes a while to get going
    • The first half of the first season is a slow starter but it gets a lot better on the latter half
  •  More or less irritating characters that take a long time to develop
    •  But they actually do develop and get really interesting storylines

In conclusion: 
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not only a mouthful but also took a while to get going. The start is not exactly bad but feels that it plays it a bit safe with episodes that seem pretty self-contained. So it's very watchable but still kinda just okay.

Fortunately everything changes with the latter half of the first season (with stuff connected to the second Captain America movie) and even stuff seen on the previously self-contained episodes gets referenced.

It really is a great turnover. It turns so many things on their heads and puts new perspective on seemingly stiff or boring stuff that it is actually brilliant. Some of the actors actually turn out to be really good when beforehand they seemed kinda meh.

We being rather big fans of the Marvel movies this series has been a really good addition to the whole setup with a distinctive identity of its own but it's still kinda hard to know if anyone who hasn't enjoyed the films would like it as much.

That said, we will still definitely recommend it to everyone! Even if you haven't seen each and everyone of the Marvel films (like we have) it still works well on its own. The references kinda just supplementing the big screen stuff not absolutely requiring it.

And you really should watch it because the second season has been just great with the show having more freedom from the movie-side of the MCU regarding storylines. And actually introducing things that will definitely show up on the big screen.

Watch it!

Gabriel Vaughn  is an ex-Delta Force soldier who has been implanted with an experimental chip that grants him unparalleled access to the information grid.

He works for US Cyber Command dealing with various domestic and
global threats.

Created by Michael Seitzman
Very loosely based on the book Phoenix Island
by John Dixon

Premiered on CBS in January 2014
13 Episode first season
Cancelled after one season

Starring Sawyer Josh Holloway,
Meghan Ory (Once Upon A Time) and Marg Heigenberg (CSI)

    Reasons to watch:
  • Josh Holloway
  • Kick-ass chicks
  • Cool scifi idea
  • Intresting side characters

In conclusion: 

Intelligence was a very uneven show. It has an interesting premise, a charismatic lead actor and strong female characters. But the overall writing is just uninspired.

The show doesn't actually seem to take enough advantage of its premise and most of the episodes are just so generic and bland. The overall sense of lazy writing isn't helped by the clichéd romantic tension between Gabriel and Riley - the female ex-Secret Service agent tasked to protect him.

Also the lack of any kind of larger narrative was in our opinion a minus. In a sense it was a bit refreshing that the mystery of Gabriel's wife was solved fairly quickly but there didn't seem to be anything significant to replace it with.

Even with all that said... there were enough entertaining elements that we watched the whole season and would have liked to see more. There was potential here and with the show cancelled it will all remain unrealized.

So maybe give it a watch if you're in the mood for very undemanding but kinda entertaining scifi-spy series.

97 years after devastating nuclear war remnants of the human race 
are living on a giant space station.

On the station all crimes
are punishable by death unless
the criminal was underage.

Because the station is falling apart  a group of 100 expendable 
youth-criminals are sent to earth to
find out if the surface has become habitable again.

Premiered on the The CW in March 2014
Very loosely based on a YA-book  of the same name by Kass Morgan
13 episode first season
Second season of 16 episodes currently airing

    Reasons to watch:
  •  Surprising (people die a lot)
  •  Female lead -  who is also smart and intelligent
    • ...at least most of the time
  •  Interesting setting and story (there’s even ”old” people!)
  •  Nice looking set design and effects

    Reasons not to watch:
  •  Somewhat annoying characters
    • But many of them die!
  •  Teen drama/romance
  •  Very CW casting with magical make up 

In conclusion: 
I can admit that I was very suspicious about The 100 beforehand. It sort of seemed to be just trying to ride on the current YA popularity wave. So imagine my surprise when the series actually turned out to be quite entertaining.

The premise does have a lot of common with other post-apocalyptic YA-fiction but it feels that it still has its own personality and they have done a decent amount of world building to flesh it out. The space station in particular has some interesting power-dynamics and actually has a good worn-out look.

The series revolves a lot around interpersonal drama so that might be a turn-off for some people but even though some of the characters are annoying they still kinda grow on you. But they actually do manage to kill of multiple characters, some of them quite unexpectedly.

The acting might not be the bestest ever but many of the actors do have actual chemistry and most of the time they do a decent enough of a job that it works.

There are multiple larger storylines continuing through-out the first season. Some of them more thematic - like the 100 trying to survive on the ground - and some following the events happening on the space station. It works most of the time well but the writing is somewhat uneven at times.

The second season has actually expanded the world quite a bit and has still been very entertaining, even if there still has been some stupid writing from time to time.

Adjust your expectations accordingly and you should give this series a chance. We still continue to watch and enjoy it so it gets a recommendation from us!

Rest of the series will be covered in part 2. 
Coming here... soonish!

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