spoiling perfectly good shows

Supergirl is a perfectly good show. The cast is perfectly pleasant, a mixture of veterans and youngsters, most of whom you’ll remember from other shows ... Melissa Benoist, who plays the title character, was on Glee, Mehcad Brooks, who plays “James” Olson, was on so many shows you’re sure to say “hey, it’s that guy!” (for me, it was his role as “Eggs” on True Blood), then there’s David Harewood (Homeland) and Calista Flockhart, and Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) and, in stunt casting, Helen Shaver (Supergirl in the movie of that name) and Dean Cain (Superman on Lois and Clark). It has a perfectly good overarching theme about family and belonging, and perfectly good action scenes whenever Supergirl is needed. Perhaps most importantly, I’m still watching after 13 episodes.

But Supergirl is spoiled by a couple of other shows that couldn’t be more different. Angie Tribeca is a hit-and-miss comedy that brings back the Police Squad/Naked Gun approach to television. Some of us have missed that kind of humor, and Angie Tribeca is OK ... the nice thing about a show like that is if one joke falls flat, another four jokes will follow immediately.

Is Angie Tribeca a “better” show than Supergirl? I don’t know. I prefer watching it, but it’s mostly a toss-up. But Angie Tribeca, like its spiritual father Police Squad, is so relentless is its destruction of clichés that it’s hard to watch an ordinary show after seeing an episode of Angie. Things that aren’t supposed to be funny on Supergirl remind you of something similar on Angie Tribeca that was supposed to be funny, and you end up laughing inappropriately.

Which is unfair to Supergirl, because that show isn’t trying to be funny, or to remind us of Angie Tribeca. But the latter makes it harder to sit through the former.

Coming from the other direction is The 100. This is a show that spoils you for other shows that are perfectly good, because The 100 sets a higher standard. A show like Supergirl offers interesting extensions of the usual, but with the emphasis on “usual”. The title character is marginally different from other superheroes, Jimmy Olson is a grown-up black guy named “James”, Calista Flockhart is a catty Perry White. Over time we get to care about the characters, at least the primary ones. The occasional death of one of those characters can hit us emotionally. But ultimately, Supergirl is comfort food, with just enough changes from what came before to keep our attention.

There is nothing comfortable about The 100. In almost every episode, one or more characters must make life-or-death decisions that can affect hundreds, and the writers make sure that we understand all aspects of what brings the character to the moment of decision. Maureen Ryan, who has written smart pieces on The 100 (and in fact is the one who convinced me to give the series a try), writes:

When a person on “The 100” is given an array of bad options, a viewer will understand why a character picked a certain path, even if the viewer doesn’t necessarily agree with that choice. Hand-waving away concerns about set-up and follow-through doesn’t work with this show, because half the appeal of “The 100” centers on our ability to empathize with people who often do terrible things. We need to know why they do those things, and we need to care even if they make choices that ends up working out very badly for them and for others.

Consequences ... that word pops up constantly when thinking about the actions of the characters on The 100. Thus far, at least, there are no happy endings ... we’re a few episodes into Season 3, and there has been maybe one brief scene in all that time that conveyed a sense of joy. (When one character, Indra, smiled on a recent episode, Twitter went wild ... who could have believed she had it in her?) The 100 takes place a hundred years in the future, on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where everyone must make daily choices the likes of which most of us could never imagine. Yet the characters on The 100 are recognizably human, with all the depth and complexity that suggests. There are no superheroes on The 100, just people doing their best.

After that, Supergirl comes up a bit short.

 


music friday: the violent femmes, "add it up"

Around here, it’s been pretty much All The 100, All the Time. Last night was the Season 3 premiere, and it was an encouraging beginning.

During one scene, a group of young people are driving to explore an area outside of their compound. One of them has a personal stereo of some kind, and as he sings to himself, the others want in, so they pull the headphone jack and hook the player up to an in-car audio system. The song they hear is “Add It Up” by The Violent Femmes.

We’ll ignore the part where the show takes place 100 years in the future ... let’s just pretend that after a nuclear holocaust, the Femmes somehow manage to retain their place in the cultural arena. Everyone in the Jeep starts singing along ... showrunner Jason Rothenberg called it “The 100’s version of the ‘Tiny Dancer’ sequence from Almost Famous.”

Later in the episode, Shawn Mendes turns up ... well, he’s playing a character, but he’s only there because he’s a 17-year-old Canadian pop star ... he sits at a piano and plays his own version of “Add It Up”, which The CW has kindly posted for our entertainment:

(I can’t resist ... the scene reminded me a bit in Ski Party, when James Brown and the Famous Flames just happened to show up at a ski lodge to sing “I Feel Good”.)

Anyway, the video of Mendes you see above isn’t exactly how it appeared in the episode. That was more like this scene of John Belushi in Animal House:

You see, as Mendes is playing his gentle version of “Add It Up”, one of the characters who is really stressing right now (well, they all are), runs over to him, knocks him down, and starts pummeling him. I wish I had video for it.

Well, I do, kind of. You can watch the entire episode on Hulu:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/892809

The Mendes version comes at the 37 minute mark. The Violent Femmes version is at 12:50.


the 100

I’ve made a habit over the years of catching on to very good television shows after everyone else has already gotten there. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer so much I taught a course on it at Cal, but despite my wife and daughter watching faithfully and constantly telling me I would like it, I didn’t begin until Season 3. (Once I made the decision, I binge-watched the first two seasons as quickly as I could download them, not the legal way but this was pre-On Demand.) The Wire is my favorite show ever, and I jumped in at Season 2, although in that case, it was because we didn’t get HBO until then. And Battlestar Galactica, after which I named our three cats (Starbuck, Boomer, and Six), was not on my radar until critics started talking it up ... don’t remember when I began watching, maybe between the first two seasons.

The 100 has gotten through two seasons, and it’s hard to imagine a show that would appeal less to me on first glance. It’s on the CW, and while it’s true I watch Jane the Virgin, until now, that show was the only CW program I ever watched. When I thought of the CW, I fell on the stereotypes: shows meant for the 18-34 market, featuring boatloads of young, very attractive actors. The 100 certainly has this ... I hadn’t heard of a single one of the young actors on the show, but a lot of them were eye candy in the extreme. And the basic setup is tailor-made for the desired market ... the one hundred teenagers of the title are sent by grownups down to a post-apocalyptic Earth, where for all anyone knows they will die instantly of radiation, thus establishing a primary location for the action that is populated solely by those good-looking young actors. Among the grownups were a few actors I actually recognized ... Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick ... and, perhaps more telling, three Battlestar Galactica alumni, Alessandro Juliani, Kate Vernon, and Rekha Sharma (who joined in Season 2).

So, to summarize so far: show for young adults (based, in fact, on a trilogy of YA novels), with a bunch of young actors I never heard of, on a network I rarely watch, with a premise designed to grab that young adult audience from the get-go.

I didn’t watch it. For two seasons, I didn’t watch it. Even when it finally crossed my mind to give it a try, I was put off by the general opinion that it started slow, and didn’t really pick up steam until Episode 5 or so. Still, this helped when at last I decided to play catch-up ... I wasn’t grabbed at first, but I held on, hoping for what was coming. (The primary driver of my intentions was Maureen Ryan, who is probably the show’s top advocate amongst the major critics.)

Here comes spoilers ... I generally try to avoid them, but it’s impossible when trying to explain how The 100 snuck up on me. In Episode 3, one of the main teenage characters is killed. In Episode 4, a 13-year-old commits suicide.

And then came Episode 5, called “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (calling to mind the BSG episode “Kobol’s Last Gleaming”), in which, due to a lack of oxygen on the space station that has housed the humans for 97 years after the nuclear holocaust that started the events of the series, the powers that be decide that a “culling” is needed. They need to kill off 300 of their people in order to maximize what oxygen remains. Now, maybe if I was watching Game of Thrones on HBO, I’d be thinking “I wonder if they’ll really kill off all of those characters?” But this is a CW show for “kids”. The kids on Earth are trying to contact the adults in The Ark (as they call the space station), and it’s easy to see that they will make contact in the nick of time, the powers that be will see that the Earth is now habitable, they won’t have to kill the 300, and all will be well.

Except the contact isn’t made. And the culling takes place. And 300 people die on a show that doesn’t have a very large cast of characters to begin with. And their deaths were demanded by good leaders who see no other option.

On the CW.

OK, I was convinced. Over the course of the next season-and-a-half, we get scenes of torture, we get “reapers” who are savage cannibals, we get living humans being “harvested” for their blood (and later their bone marrow), we see signs of war (and eventually more than signs), we see large numbers of people left to die, we see political intrigue as the various factions get a series of new leaders.

All of this works to confound the viewer ... what will they do next? Thoughts of the CW are long gone ... the show has made the network irrelevant.

You may wonder why I’ve mentioned Battlestar Galactica more than once. Outside of a connection to sci-fi, the shows are not the same. But Battlestar Galactica was a great show because it used genre to investigate big questions. Politics, identity, religion, ethics and morals ... these were all part of BSG, and they made the show more than generic. The 100 has a sci-fi basis, and it gets your attention by confounding expectations. But where it really shines is by showing the ramifications for every action. No one is spared, particularly leaders who must constantly make decisions based on the conflict between the good of the many and the good of the individuals. Some of those decisions are horrific ... lots and lots of people die, usually people who don’t deserve it, always in the name of something “greater”. Everyone is touched. The 100 makes clichés into something real. “Maybe there are no good guys” is facile, except by the time that line is delivered (at the end of Season 2), we’ve seen evidence to suggest facile is not the best word to describe what we’ve seen. The person who says that is the same person who helped put her husband in an airlock ... the person she is talking to, her daughter, has saved her world but lost her soul.

Perhaps the most commonplace idea here that works better than you’d think is the good old generation gap. On The Ark, the teenagers are prisoners. On Earth, they are responsible for themselves and everything they confront. When the adults finally get to Earth, the interaction between the two groups is fascinating, because the adults want to reassert command, and we’ve seen the kids make plenty of mistakes and we might even side with the grownups, except the grownups have no idea what life on Earth has become, while the kids (they really aren’t kids any longer) have seen it for the dangerous place it really is. The show actually goes a bit too many times at this ... a grownup will give a command, a young adult will contest them, the grownup will note that they know best, the young person will do what they want anyway, because they actually do know best. It’s an interesting inversion that surely plays well with a CW audience. Gradually, you notice that leaders from other factions bypass the grownups on a regular basis ... for instance, when the “grounders” (people who survived the holocaust) want to communicate with the “Sky People”, they don’t go to Mom, they go to the daughter, because they know who is really in charge.

I don’t know if I can single out any particular actor ... the entire cast is very good. It is a female-centric show without preening ... a majority of the main characters are females, the most important leaders are women, and the matter-of-fact way this is addressed actually makes it more powerful. You just gradually realize that the women are more likely to know what’s what. Of course, this also puts them in positions where they can fuck up, and as I noted, everyone on The 100 fucks up, often with the most dire consequences. And no one gets away with anything. The people who fuck up are changed by their actions ... even if they did “what had to be done”, something inside them is destroyed. To the extent this is believable, I’d give great credit to that unknown-to-me cast of young actors. In some ways, Eliza Taylor, who plays Clarke, the leader of the teenagers, has the biggest challenge. A typically pretty blonde, she looks like someone who gets cast as the dumb friend. Taylor has spoken to the value in being able to play a complex character who exists as something beyond pretty and dumb. It’s a bit of a running joke, but Clarke, and many of the other characters, are generally completely covered in dust and dirt and mud, deflecting any desire to see them only as sex objects. This makes interviews with the cast rather fun, because we’re not used to seeing them after they’ve had a shower. (It’s even more fun that Taylor and Bob Morley, the male lead, are from Australia and don’t sound anything like their characters.)

I can’t tell if I’ve properly conveyed how good The 100 is. If nothing else, I hope I’ve disabused people of the notion, which I once shared, that it can’t be any good. The first several episodes are only OK, the rest of Season 1 is much better, and Season 2 moves it into the highest levels of current TV.

Season 3 begins on January 21. The first two seasons can be streamed on Netflix.

Here’s a sort of Mo Ryan manifesto:

 


tv 2015: s through z, plus the 100, plus a best-of

Sense8. One of the oddest series of the year, from the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. I can’t say I got it immediately ... I’ve seen all of Season One and I’m not sure of that. But where Sense8 succeeds is in creating an atmosphere that feels real in a psychic way, so the actual “plot” is pretty much irrelevant. I wrote about it here. On Netflix.

Shameless. A perennial favorite of mine that starts Season Six next week (the first episode of the season is already On Demand). Everyone still offers great performances, and if I don’t talk as much about Emmy Rossum these days, it’s only because I’ve given up ... she is as good as ever. On Showtime.

Spiral. I want to say I love this French procedural, and I’ve made it almost all the way through several seasons (although I am more than a season behind). But I’m likely never going to catch up ... I don’t usually watch procedurals, and just because this one comes with subtitles doesn’t mean it’s any better than the American versions. Except this one has Caroline Proust, as the Jane Tennison of her generation. I wrote about Season One at the beginning of 2015. On Hulu.

The Strain. Between this and Crimson Peak, it was a good year for B-level Guillermo del Toro. I summed up Season Two here. Short version: Fun, but not as good as Walking Dead, and definitely not as good as Penny Dreadful. On FX.

Supergirl. Pleasant enough, but I don’t know that I will stay with it after it returns from break.

Togetherness. Lost in the shuffle a bit, this is HBO’s contribution to the now-common genre of quirky takes on rom-coms. Melanie Lynskey gets a chance to show her stuff, which makes this watchable all on its own. I gave it a B+. Season Two starts next month.

Transparent. I’ve only watched a couple of the Season Two episodes, but this show is as good as you’ve heard. Since I’m only just into the new season, I have nothing new to add, except to note that I find it more obvious now that almost every character in this show is self-absorbed to an amazing degree.

The Walking Dead. There is nothing left to say. It’s the most-watched series in cable television history. It is such a part of our TV landscape that when a mediocre prequel aired this year, it got the highest ratings for any first season in cable history, apparently because the words “walking dead” were in the title. On AMC.

Finally, to jump out of my alphabetical silliness, Maureen Ryan convinced me to give The 100 a chance, and boy, was she right. There would seem to be no reason for me to watch this series. It’s on the CW (which does have Jane the Virgin, but which is otherwise outside of my interest zone). It’s a “Land of the Lost/Lord of the Flies” story about 100 teenagers stranded on Earth. I don’t know any of the young actors. But I trust Mo Ryan, who among other things was a great champion of Battlestar Galactica. All I can say for now is that The 100 completely defies your expectations. It is very hard-edged, and it doesn’t shy away from events that might seem a bit much for a Young Adult audience. Almost every episode ends with me looking at my wife, mouth agape, as if to say “I can’t believe what just happened.” It’s not that they pull plot switches out solely for the purpose of creating cliffhangers. No, The 100 gives us characters in flux, makes us care about them, and then constantly reminds us that the world these characters live in is dark and treacherous beyond belief. And most of that darkness comes from humans. I’ve got 11 episodes to go in Season Two before Season Three starts on January 21, and I join Ryan in saying, get on this, anyone looking for a new show.

Maybe, since I’m so far behind, I’ll end this with a list of the shows I’d place above the other good shows. These are the series that, as I type this, seem like the best of the best of 2015 (I’m sure I’m forgetting something):

  • The Americans
  • Fargo
  • The Leftovers
  • Penny Dreadful
  • Sense8
  • Broad City
  • The Jinx
  • Rectify
  • The 100
  • The Knick

Honorable Mention: Shameless, Jane the Virgin, Outlander.


tv 2015: m's through r's

Man in the High Castle. We’re about halfway through Season One (not sure if there will be more). They do a good job of world building, and there are some interesting performances from the supporting cast. But it’s rather slow, the leads don’t have a lot of charisma, and while High Castle is arguably Philip K. Dick’s most honored novel, it’s not my favorite (I like the drug books), so I’m respecting the series without loving it. Available on Amazon Prime.

Master of None. Only watched three so far, which is too soon to evaluate, but I can see why it’s getting good reviews. On Netflix.

Masters of Sex. A favorite, but I guess it’s lost its charm, because the season ended some time ago and we still have a few episodes to watch. Showtime Syndrome.

Mozart in the Jungle. I very much liked Season One, and just watched the first episode of Season Two. Looks to be more of the same, with the addition of Gretchen “It Girl” Mol. I like all of the actors on this one. Amazon Prime.

Mr. Robot. Intriguing, with a great performance in the lead by Rami Malek. I got through about half of the episodes, and then stalled, but I intend to finish the season.

Orange Is the New Black. Some say last season was a bit of a comedown, but I can’t tell the difference between the seasons, except I’m glad Jason Biggs is gone. Netflix.

Orphan Black. I’ve mostly lost interest in the plot, but Tatiana Maslany is so good, I’ll keep watching.

Outlander. One of the surprises of the year, at least for me. A bodice-ripping historical romance novel is turned into a TV series under the watchful eye of Ronald D. Moore. I put great faith in Moore ... otherwise I would have missed this series. It’s very good, and, as many have pointed out, it sees the bodies of men and women in a different way than we’re used to (i.e. much less male gaze).

Penny Dreadful. Still going strong through two seasons ... I gave the series so far an A-. Eva Green is terrific.

Rectify. I guess this is still My Favorite Show No One Else Watches. Moves at a snail’s pace, but is excruciatingly honest, and Aden Young in the lead is My Favorite Actor No One Else Watches.

The Returned. I often get lost in plots ... I don’t know what’s going on half the time. After two seasons of The Returned, I’m ready to say in this case, it’s not my fault. Atmospheric, but obstinately obscure.


tv 2015: j's thru l's

Jane the Virgin. I liked Season One quite a bit, but I worried it would be hard to juggle everything for another season. I shouldn’t have worried. Jane is currently at its half-season break, and shows no sign of fatigue. You have to get with the program or the entire thing will fail you ... it’s too odd to be otherwise. But the balance of telenovela silliness, family drama, humor, Latino presence, and innovative technique still works. I have no idea why ... the thing should suck. In a cast that manages to handle whatever oddball things are thrown their way, special props to Gina Rodriguez for carrying the show without succumbing to saccharine, Jaime Cavil as her telenovela star/father, and Anthony Mendez as The Narrator.

Jessica Jones. We’re about halfway through this one, which streams on Netflix. It is one of the darkest entities to hold the Marvel tag. Jones is more private detective than superhero, with her drinking and her miserable attitude. She’s got a better reason than most of us for that attitude: she’s suffering from PTSD. I’m sure the cast is fine, but I haven’t noticed, because Krysten Ritter in the title role dominates, and she’s wonderful. David Tennant plays the Big Bad, but he has barely showed up in the episodes we’ve seen. I’m looking forward to it.

The Knick. Season Two ended, not with a cliff-hanger, but with the apparent end of the series. Steven Soderbergh directs every episode, and whether the show continues or not is probably entirely up to him. Once again, an excellent cast, with Clive Owen the most well-known. Matt Zoller Seitz in particular has done some great writing on how Soderbergh makes The Knick different from other series (here’s one example), and since the word “cinematic” popped up somewhere along the way, I find myself watching The Knick differently than I do other series. You could do worse than just concentrate on the camera placement ... “cinematic” indeed. I didn’t quite understand the concept at first, but The Knick forces it on you in a subtle way ... if you don’t look for it, you miss it, and you’re left with a very good hospital drama set in the early 1900s.

The Leftovers. I wrote at length about this show here.

Longmire. The kind of show that gets lost in the shuffle. It is very good at what it does (modern-day Western/procedural), it has interesting characters and an intriguing setting, it has Katee Sackhoff. It moved to Netflix this season, and it is as good as ever, but it has never been more than good, and since it’s no longer on the DVR, it’s easy to forget it’s out there. Which means we’ve only watched about half of the season’s episodes. Nothing wrong with Longmire at all, it’s just buried under Peak TV.


childhood's end

When I was a kid, around the ages of 10-16, I read quite a bit of science-fiction. I wasn’t as big a fan as many people are. Philip K. Dick was far and away my favorite, but I feel like I came to him late, in the early 70s. Mostly in the 60s I read the same hippie material as everyone else, most notably Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. But another of my favorites was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. While the book is known for its philosophical bent, the thing that really made an impression on me was the ships of the Overlords, most specifically, their size. Clarke referred to them as “huge and silent shadows” of “overwhelming majesty”. My imagination, fueled by Clarke, got the best of me. In my mind, the Overlords’ ship were so immense they covered the sky. In fact, my imagination was too puny to fully comprehend what Clarke had written ... I simply couldn’t imagine what such ships would look like if they appeared in my own sky.

I didn’t return to the book, at least not until recently, and I forgot most of the plot. But I never forgot the image of those enormous ships. And I hoped that some day Childhood’s End would be made into a movie, so I could see the ships visualized.

Clarke published Childhood’s End in 1953, the year I was born. There were several attempts over the years to bring it to the screen; all of them failed. In a forward to a 2000 edition of the novel, Clarke (writing when the book still hadn’t been filmed) noted that the times had caught up with his book, so much so that if a movie of Childhood’s End was ever produced, people would think it ripped off Independence Day, the 1996 film that featured what Clarke accurately described as “a very impressive version of the opening” of the book.

And it is true ... when Independence Day came out, I remember thinking “this is what I wanted to see of Childhood’s End”. Not the plot ... just the image of that enormous space ship. The quality here is pretty awful, but you get the idea:

Independence Day had a budget of $75 million (1996 dollars, I should add). It’s hard to find budget figures for Childhood’s End ... apparently it got more money than the usual SyFY product. So it may have been a creative decision rather than a budgetary one that gave us Overlord ships that were big but not overwhelming. This took some getting used to for someone like me, who has long hoped to see the ships as big as possible.

Giving the creators three parts and six hours (minus commercials) to tell the story should have allowed room for lots of the book, and I don’t think they missed much. The acting was ok, if nothing more, although it was fun seeing Charles Dance in his makeup (no matter how much demon-face they gave him, his eyes told you it was still him). Workmanlike, that’s what it was. The special effects were good enough, but not awe-inspiring. The story was good enough, but not awe-inspiring. The final section, which reveals the Overlords’ big plan, is OK, but here is where I think the series fell short. In the book, Clarke allows us to understand the evolution of humanity in such a way that it doesn’t seem like the end of people as much as a transformation. (That a book written during the Cold War posits a future of collective thought without making that future completely dystopian would seem to have been startling in its day.) I don’t know what the TV series wants to say at the end. We get the “end of people” aspect, but what happens to the children is largely a mystery, which I think made it seem more negative than Clarke might have intended.

I wanted Childhood’s End to be as awe-inspiring as I found those ships when I first read the book. I always preferred Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Star Wars because for all its excitement, Star Wars seemed prosaic next to the religious fervor of Close Encounters. The TV version of Childhood’s End had dollops of philosophy, a plot interesting enough to get us through three nights, and the great moment when we first see what an Overlord looks like. But it didn’t have awe. B+.


throwback to 2006

Nine years ago today, I posted a roundup of TV in 2006. Nine years is a long time in TV World ... almost everything I talked about is long gone:

Battlestar Galactica, The L Word, The Shield, 24, Desperate Housewives, The Sopranos, Big Love, Huff, Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, Bonds on Bonds, The Unit, My Name Is Earl, The Office (U.S.), House, Lost, Rescue Me, Deadwood, Entourage, Life on Mars (U.K.), Weeds, Dexter, The Wire, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Ugly Betty, The Nine.

Some of my favorite shows are on this list: Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire. Some shows I barely remember are here: Bonds on Bonds, The Nine. There are even three shows where essays I wrote ended up in anthologies (BSG, 24, and House). They are all gone now. You can find a bit of the spirit of Lost in The Leftovers. Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin have similarities.

And then there are a few items that are still around in some form:

Comedy Central (although Jon Stewart is gone, and Stephen Colbert has moved to CBS).

Tim Goodman (went from the Chronicle to the Hollywood Reporter).

The World Cup (in 2006 it was the men, in 2015 it was the women).

Here is one of the highlights of TV 2006 for me ... it comes from a show I didn’t much like:


tv 2015: the h’s

Homeland. The word is that Homeland is much better this season. That speaks more to the quality of what came before. This was a great show in Season One, and an erratic but still occasionally great show in Season Two, but it has gone downhill since then, which is the norm for series on Showtime. This year’s improvement is thus something of a miracle. If you’ve never watched Homeland, this is not the place to start. Go watch Season One. After that, you are on your own. You can stream the show on Hulu, but I think you have to have a Showtime subscription.

Humans. An English series about a time in the future when robots in human form work as servants for humans. It airs in the U.S. on AMC. The first season had eight episodes; a second season has already been scheduled for 2016. It features the usual batch of English actors I’ve never heard of, all doing good jobs, with special kudos to Gemma Chan as one of the “synths”. Oh yeah, William Hurt shows up. Humans is a good combination of social commentary and personal experiences ... I wouldn’t say it breaks new ground, but it does well with the old ground. It’s certainly intelligent enough to maintain interest for another season. Season One streams for a fee on Amazon.


tv 2015: g’s

Game of Thrones. It may be indicative of where Game of Thrones now sits on my TV watching list that I don’t appear to have written about it during Season Five. I don’t remember that it was any worse this time around, and I watched it religiously. Cersei’s “Walk of Atonement” was stunning and hard to watch, and instantly became one of GoT’s most memorable scenes. But for the most part, it was more of the same, which was pretty good, but at this point, it just goes on. And on.

Girls. Once again, I don’t think I wrote anything about this show’s Season Four. And once again, it wasn’t that the show got worse, and I watched it faithfully, and maybe it’s just the Curse of Peak TV, where there is so much I can’t even remember what I saw. But I think it’s also the case that Girls isn’t getting any better or any worse, it’s just there, and I have nothing more to say about it.

Both of these series are on HBO, and can be streamed on their HBO Go and HBO Now services. They are also available on a pay-per-view basis on Amazon.