Tag Archives: TV

My Favorite ‘Scape

Thinking of last week’s post and the general notion of sharing creative work that excites, I stumbled across an interview with Rockne S. O’Bannon about Farscape, the sprawling space opera that ran on TV from 1999 to 2003.

How much do I like Farscape? Let me put it this way: I’ve introduced many, many people to Firefly: lent them the DVDs, pestered them via social media when it’s been streaming on Netflix. If I learned a new installment of Firefly existed, I would schedule some time to watch within the next few weeks.

If I learned Farscape was back, I would body-check man and muppet on my way to tune in. I wouldn’t even care that’d it’d probably be “on demand.”

(And yes, I know comics “continue the story” for both. I’ve checked ’em out and I still want the screen versions).

So why would I recommend Farscape?

It’s continually visually inventive. Beyond what you’ll probably hear that Farscape revels in getting weird –which is both true and delightful– both the visual effects and the creatures cooked up by the Jim Henson company are astounding again and again. It blows the Next Generation’s minimalist “forehead variation” makeup out of the water. I’ve heard from some people who can’t abide by anything slightly Muppet-like, so if Dark Crystal isn’t your bag, there may be moments of dislike. I’m biased, of course, but I think any of those moments are far outweighed by true “wow” moments.

It is equally at home with comedy and drama. Much like Deep Space Nine, Cowboy Bebop, and, yes, Firefly, it contains narrative multitudes. And importantly, it is driven by the story. The episode where they switch bodies is just as ridiculous as you’d expect and the episode “Season of Death” fully lives up to its title.

The heroes are heroic in spite of constant screw-ups and curve balls. Much in the tradition of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the heroes aren’t compelling because they win all the time, but how they deal with losing. And they get very inventive at trying not to lose. The fact that the very first episode shows the main hero thinking his way out of the episode’s dilemma is refreshing (though he proves to be quite adept with a pulse pistol).

The stories keep moving. They pack what might have made for an older TV show’s two-parter into a lean 45 minutes — and their three parters were usually wondrous. Just as you’re thinking “what if they…?” they go ahead and do it. It’s like the writers wanted to cut to the chase and get all the ideas on screen while they still could. Viewers of Castle in its prime as well as the best of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will recognize this breakneck pace. It’s exhilarating.

So there you have it. It’s sadly no longer on streaming Netflix nor Amazon Prime, but it is available on DVD via Netflix (I’m not the only one who uses that, right?)

Questions of Quality and Quantity in Prestige TV

So now that summer is over, including that show with the dragons, you may be wondering, “What shows are actually coming back this year?”

Jen Trolio and Caroline Framke over at Vox have answers.

This is one of those perennial Vox pieces I’m glad they do every year, because there’s a lot of shows. In fact, some might say there’s a glut of shows out there, which has led to occasional questions of whether we’re at “peak TV.”

Incidentally, I previously linked to a piece discussing what “peak TV” might mean anyway, but I find the way Variety tracks it is works for me: the number of scripted series. The concern, then, is not necessarily that we would exhaust the supply of talented storytellers making the various series, but that the series become so numerous that too many of them fail to find an audience and economic security (i.e., continued survival).

Todd VanDerWerff explores this more in-depth (also in Vox), including both the cyclical nature of notions of TV being horrible and then wonderful as well as the ways in which the quantity of media coverage on a particular TV show does not necessarily track to its quality.

Cable Defeats Cord Cutters?!?

On my Twitter feed, I frequently use the hashtag “#futureTV,” because I’m borderline obsessed with how TV is transforming, both in terms of how it’s getting made and how it’s being viewed (or “consumed” if you want to be extra biz-speaky).

So this past holiday weekend, while our Netflix connection seemed to strain under the weight people travelling to Stars Hollow, I re-read Todd VanDerWerff’s piece in Vox about how Netflix –and cord cutting in general– will fail. Cable will win.

Fine, 2016. Give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it, why doncha?

Kenneth Ziffren in the Hollywood Reporter delves in deeper on the numbers side of things to explain why he thinks “skinny bundles” are not going to survive on their lonesome… and that many of these new content sources can only work by being “additive” to the existing albeit evolving TV infrastructure. I suppose skeptics might point out that Mr. Ziffren –one of the founders of media law firm Ziffren Brittenham— might have an interested in maintaining the media status quo. And I’m sure I’m not the only consumer who doesn’t care that “unbundling” and moving to an “a la carte” system could destroy $100 billion worth of market capitalization. But the financial powers that be surely care — and it might affect what we as consumers can watch (given my social media feeds, anything that interferes with future travels to Stars Hollow may be grounds for bloody revolution).

And finally, there’s this piece by David Sims in The Atlantic about how Disney and Fox have come to an agreement with Hulu to offer live TV via Hulu. Talk about the plot thickening.

In part, I still find it frustrating, because so much of the energy seems to be about establishing content fiefdoms that bigwigs hope will become the standard — or at least realize “attractive market capitalization” — as opposed to “offering a damn fine service that consumers love.”

I mean, I know the financiers don’t like to admit consumers want what they want when they want it, but it was ever thus.

It’s just now we know we can sometimes get it.

As the Dust Settles on a TV Season

I tweeted out Vox’s rundown of shows that were renewed, canceled, or ended via the Team J twitter a couple weeks ago, though it’s since been updated further.

Last Tuesday, they not only updated that list, but Todd VanDerWerff did a great rundown of the various reasons a show might get canceled. Within that explanation comes a great overview about how TV shows make money.

For those of us looking to understand the economics of making television, especially as we wander into the future of more streaming, it’s a great read.

Recommended Reading: The Rise and Fall of HBO?

I’ve been thinking about “Peak TV” and such from a couple of articles I talked about back in January. Of course, one of the issues with TV or any cinematic development is that you need something of a development pipeline.

As Walt Hickey’s article on FiveThirtyEight last week goes into, that might be one of the biggest issues facing HBO right now. Apparently, Game of Thrones may be shorter lived than some of us hoped.

Recommended Reading: How American TV Gets Made (with a Case Study of The Americans)

I love to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how productions get made as it teaches me what I should do (and can conceivably do) for the indie productions I work on.

So I found this feature article by Caroline Framke in Vox about how an episode of The Americans gets on the air quite absorbing.

And I don’t even watch the series (yet).

Daredevil on Netflix Might be for you if…

In honor of the impending Season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix this Friday, I’m going to re-posting a list I put on Facebook after my wife and I finally got around to seeing it last Summer.

For those of you wondering if you should jump in, you should definitely start with Season 1… and I stand by all these observations.

Warning: Potential Spoilers for people who want to go in with no expectations…

Daredevil on Netflix might be for you if:

1) You watched The Dark Knight trilogy and thought, “Oh, they’re trying to be dark and edgy. How cute!”

2) You like to play “Spot the Accent” (Betcha don’t catch ’em all!)

3) You really want to feel better about yourself as a father by comparison

4) You like crusty old reporters whose wrinkles have wrinkles

5) You want to see a creative new spin on “Shut up, Wesley!” You’ll know what I mean.

6) You’ve always wanted to see if Vincent D’Onofrio will literally explode. I mean literally, not figuratively. Like the crew knew some of them would die in the D’Onofri-blast, but they still wanted to film it just to include the real footage in the show.

7) You want to see Rosario Dawson hang a lantern on it like a boss

8) You want validation that art people can dress in white but be just as weird. Seriously, what the hell is that person thinking?

9) You want to see someone completely miss the point of a Bible story.

10) You want to see an amazing drama with engaging characters which is also arguably the best superhero TV show ever made.

Star Trek Fans: Rules of Acquisition

This is the sixth entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

No worrisome things today, just more information on the new Star Trek series, set to arrive at CBS’s new “All Access” channel in January 2017.

Over at a site called Trek Core they’ve summarized a speech CBS president Les Moonves gave to CBS investors recently at a conference. (For those interested, they have the link to the full speech).

My main takeaway was that they were pretty sure the numbers would be there to support scripted programming like Star Trek. They’re looking to this as a good way to do international distribution too, profits from the international market being an every-growing facet of Hollywood equations.

I don’t mind that, because Trek does strive to be universal — okay, at least pervasive in the Alpha Quadrant.

Anyway, it’s good to know because it seems a short time ago, before scripted dramas clearly made a comeback, studios and networks were all about reality television and how to maximize dollars earned. Scripted narratives were nasty, cumbersome expensive things.

If they’re confident in the money earned from distribution, they may feel comfortable giving decent funding to the series, so there won’t be a situation like there was with the Ferengi when they first appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"Should we return fire, Captain?" "No, we don't have the budget."

“Should we return fire, Captain?”
“No, we don’t have the budget.”

Hey, interesting considering yesterday’s post about profit vs. purpose, huh?

Star Trek Fans: A New Hope?

This is the fourth entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

“A new hope?!?,” you Trek partisans cry. Yes, I went there. But stay with me, because although the tomfoolery (Garth-foolery?) of the Axanar lawsuit continues, CBS went ahead and announced the showrunner for their new Star Trek TV series: Bryan Fuller.

Yes, someone who has both written for Star Trek and led critically acclaimed shows.

This bodes well. Search your feelings: you know this to be true.

UPDATE, 2016-02-26: Yeah, some of you thought this was a thin thread to rest a new hope on, didn’t ya? Well guess who else has signed on? Nicholas “Khaaan” Meyer, that’s who. Yeah, you glass half-empty fans will worry about continuity holes from Chekov to gaseous anomalies, but tell me that doesn’t give you a whale-sized smile.

TV’s Golden Age… or too much of a Good Thing?

Last week, I made passing reference to Television’s “Golden Age,” an often-invoked, but still rather unofficial designation for the TV-viewing time we find ourselves in. Yes, I know some people still want to cling to the 50s being a golden age, but while my adoration for some skits of Your Show of Shows and episodes of I Love Lucy is second to none, please. TV is currently rocking.

One of the side effects of this embarrassment of storytelling riches is the possibility we have reached a state of “peak TV.” In fact, Slate’s Willa Paskin seems to contend that the current state of TV means we have passed the Golden Age. I think we’re still in a Golden Age, but perhaps as with so many ages of prosperity, the seeds of the age’s demise are being planted now, if for no other reason than we can’t see it all as Josef Adalian notes in his Slate piece.