Tag Archives: TV

Get Ready for Flip & Burn: Expanse Season 4 this Friday!

I finished up my rewatch of seasons 1-3 of The Expanse this past weekend and it was just as good the second time.

If you don’t know this hard sci-fi series, the original trailer isn’t a bad way to gauge whether you’re interested or not:

There is a running theory that SyFy will cancel any series you love, like Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown. SyFy did not disappoint, even as The Expanse got to be bigger and bolder and beloved by audiences, so they canceled it at the end of the third season. I mean, in fairness, it can’t have been cheap to produce, but perhaps Syfy resents spending more on something than Sharknado.

I loved the show since its slow-burning first season and continue to enjoy how they’ve layered in more complexity and world-building. That a big chunk of the show is the small-crew-in-lone-ship-encountering-adventure sub-genre certainly doesn’t hurt (as regular readers may recall, I like that sci-fi sub-genre so much, that’s the basis of my own not-nearly-as-hard-sci-fi show).

The Expanse is frequently compared to Game of Thrones for its multi-character storytelling and far-reaching world-building. I’d also point out that many of the characters and situations can feel very, very real even as they deal with fantastical occurrences. This is hard sci-fi, but with some of the Arthur C. Clarke-style sufficiently-advanced-technology-indistinguishable-from-magic.

Anyway, Amazon picked up the show and are about to drop season four this Friday. In fact, you can begin your binge watching with a modicum of solace as they’ve already renewed it for season five. Early looks at the series are positive and I have to agree with Alicia Lutes over at Vulture who urges you to check it out.

And if that’s not enough, there’s the season four trailer:

TV Staying and Going – 2019 Edition

For those of you wondering what’s staying and going across the various networks, Vox has its usual list.

If you’re like me, there’s going to be at least one “oh, that’s too bad” and one “really, that’s still on?”

I should make Bingo cards one year.

Delia Derbyshire and the Doctor Who Theme

I know I’m not the only one who grew up collecting movie and TV soundtracks… and the opening themes of many works retain an almost Pavlovian response on me (and I’ve also tested this on my kids in the name of parent science: the Fraggle Rock theme still works).

So naturally, I thought of the memorable Doctor Who theme what with the current sweepstakes I’m participating in (as Jabberwocky Audio Theater).

Josh Jones over at Open Culture has a nice piece linking to some videos which gives you some of the background on the creation of the original theme — along with a montage of all the variations of the theme.

I’m looking forward to see how they’re going to adjust the theme for the newest Doctor.

In the meantime, if you like the idea of winning $250 worth of Doctor Who swag, the sweepstakes closes this coming Tuesday, July 17th.

Princes Come and Princes Go… same with TV Shows

So I was just posting about pilot season this morning, it seemed only right to mention the other end of the lifecycle.

As is usual, Vox has a rundown of all the shows that have been cancelled or come to a natural end, those that have been renewed, and your favorite show which is on the bubble.

I’m mainly concerned about the uncertain fate of The Expanse, but it probably is better situated on a streaming service anyway. Still, if one of them could pick it up soon…

The Show is Dead. Long Live the Show.

Okay, so what with streaming services, shorter TV seasons, and season premieres popping up whenever there’s a quiet moment, this list from the Hollywood Reporter doesn’t carry the same import, but I still find it interesting look over what’s been renewed, what’s ending, and what’s precariously on the bubble in terms of TV shows.

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?)

Update: a filmmaker friend passed along this video extolling the virtues of Farscape:

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.