Another Life

Loopy, lopsided yet weirdly… well not compelling, but certainly watchable sci-fi from Netflix.

What’s The Show? Another Life

What’s It All About, JG? In the near future an alien artefact appears on Earth, unexplained and uncommunicative. Yes, just like the movie Arrival! This time the alien ship looks like a sort of metallic mobius strip, except when the thing lands when it becomes a crystal tower. The narrative is split between following Niko, captain of the Salvere, which sets out to find the origins of the alien whatever-it-is, and her husband Erik back on Earth who’s investigating from a more terran perspective. The ship and it’s crew come across a variety of hurdles to strain credibility in all sorts of peculiar directions, while on Earth Erik fumbles around trying to work out what’s going on with the bloody great crystal until he’s essentially pushed into using a media “influencer” to help him break the story. Space shenanigans and faintly political/military thriller material ensues, until Niko gets an alien planet blown up and their daughter gets leukaemia. Sounds credible!

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Years And Years

The immovable object of satire crashes into the unstoppable force of Russel T Davies

What’s The Show? Years And Years

What’s It All About, JG? In one way it’s about something absolutely unique in contemporary culture – it’s not a bleak dystopian future! In another way, though, it’s also exactly that. Years and Years follows the fortunes of a family in the near future as they struggle to deal with what is essentially a worst-case-scenario extrapolation of the existing political situation. So you know how it goes – Trump launches a nuclear missile, racism runs rampant under the auspices of “immigration control”, Russia’s up to it’s old tricks, that sort of thing. Mixed in with this are some vaguely Black Mirror-esque ruminations on the place of technology in society, an attempt to analyse the conflicting feelings people have within families, the collapse of the banking system… Whatever else one can say about Years and Years it’s tough to deny that there isn’t plenty of stuff going on.

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Titans – Season One

Teen superpowers and a whole host of hey-it’s-that-characters!

What’s The Show? Titans – Season One

What’s It All About, JG? – Supporting Superhero Characters: The TV Show. Robin off of Batman, Wonder Girl off of Wonder Woman, a different Robin off of Batman and Gar off of Doom Patrol team up with Rachel Roth – the personification of emo makeup – and Kory Anders/Starfire – the personification of shiny disco outfits – for weirdly schizophrenic adventures in… stuff. Quite a lot of stuff, in fact, as the Netflix series rambles about ten episodes, dropping into random character arcs, plots, background and exposition with little rhyme or reason. Ostensibly we’re following Rachel’s story, as she tries to wrestle with some kind of inner darkness – inventively portrayed as some kind of outer darkness, usually via the medium of mascara – and tries to figure out who she is and where she comes from.

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Russian Doll

Groundhog Day, meet New York City. New York City, this is Groundhog Day. Play nice now!

What’s The Show? Russian Doll

What’s It All About, JG? Remember the movie Groundhog Day? I know, I know, everyone does – even if you’ve never seen it the film has become such a pervasive part of popular culture you know what’s being referred to even if you haven’t seen Bill Murray struggle through the same day near-endless times until he learns to be a better person. Well, Russian Doll is that, but not a movie and instead an eight-part series on Netflix starring Orange Is The New Black‘s Natasha Lyonne. She plays Nadia Vulvokov who experiences a time-loop at the party for her 36th birthday and gradually figures out what to do about it over the course of the eight episodes.  Kind of.  She’s joined by Alan Zaveri, who’s also stuck in the time loop, and we get to meet a mix of her New York friends, all of whom come from The Big Book Of Whacky NYC Characters. What could be causing the loop? How can she get out of it? Those questions, along with the detailed and intricate examination of Nadia’s personal life, are explored over the course of eight thirty-minute episodes.

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Will And Grace – Season 10/Revival Season 2

Ten seasons in can the gang keep the laughs coming? Nope.

What’s The Show? The second season of the revived Will & Grace

What’s It All About, JG? In line with the trend to see if just one more breath can be sucked from the desiccated corpse of 90’s nostalgia, Will & Grace  – a sitcom about a gay lawyer and his live-in friend, as if you need to be told – returned to our screens in a season that would be best described as “uneven”. It struggled in the early going, but, a few wobbles aside, more or less managed to return to the easy-going, knockabout atmosphere that made the original show so watchable. Since the revival was pretty successful we have this – an attempt to get a second breath out of the aforementioned corpse. So we still have the original cast – Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes – returning once more and the same basic set-up the show’s always had. Can lightning strike twice?

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The Conners – Season One

Can Roseanne survive without, you know, Roseanne? Yes, as it turns out.

What’s The Show? The Conners

What’s It All About, JG? First there was Garfield Without Garfield, a bleak look into the existential crisis of one poor man’s attempts to wrestle with life’s greatest (and smallest) conundrums. Then we have  Rosanne Without Roseanne, following in GWG‘s trailblazing footsteps! Yes, it seems that getting fired from your own show wasn’t enough to actually kill said show, so instead we have this, The Conners, which is literally Roseanne but without the title character who died on the way back to her home planet off-screen of an overdose. Everything else about the show is exactly the same – the same characters, situation, difficulties and so on, just without the matriarchal centre that held the show together up until this point (even the title music and font remain the same). That means that John Goodman’s Dan shifts rather more to the middle of the show, while also loosening things up a little so it feels more like a genuine ensemble piece rather than “Roseanne, oh and also everyone else”. That format worked well enough for Roseanne the show, but how well can the series survive without it’s primary creative force and principal character?

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Doctor Who – Series 11

The Doctor’s a lady womaness! Gasp! But is the first series starring Jodie Whittaker actallly any good away from the controversies?

What’s The Show? – Doctor Who, Series 11.  The Series 11 starring Jodie Whittaker, not Jon Pertwee, to be clear.

What’s It All About, JG? – Well I’m not going to explain the concept of a time-traveller in a police box from another world having adventures, because come on. Instead, let’s talk about the most recent season, which is mostly about controversy, it seems.  Controversy over the social and political content, controversy over the choice of showrunner, controversy over the Doctor being a woman… there was plenty to discuss, and regardless of where one falls on these issues one thing is sure – people have been talking about Doctor Who in a way that’s basically unparalleled since the big media blitz in 2005 when the show returned from the Wilderness Years. If the end result of all these changes was to garner more publicity for the show well – job done. Significantly, despite all the many questions raised by fans and more casual viewers, and despite the vast differences of opinion on almost every other topic, one thing seems to unite just about everyone when they talk about this season – Jodie Whittaker’s great. 

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The Gifted

Dreary family drama does not become less dreary simply because your brats have amazing abilities, you know.

What’s The Show? The Gifted

What’s It All About, JG? The Struckers discover that their children have “special powers” of the type that ought to be immediately identifiable to anyone with a passing knowledge of pop culture over at least the last twenty years or so. They’re mutants of the X-Men variety, destined to be hunted by mutant-hating purists who want to “keep the human race from extinction” by persecuting said mutants, which means the family need to go on the run. They’re being hunted by Sentinel Services, a government-sanctioned (sort of) mutant control authority who absolutely totally aren’t just Nazi stand-ins, honest guv. So – family on the run, secret to hide.  There’s a line in the last Deadpool movie about how mutants are, “a dated metaphor for racism in the 60’s!” Mmm-hmm.

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Lost in “Lost In Space”

Can Netflix manage to do the whole nostalga-meets-new-technology thing?

[NB – This article was written after the first season had been released, but prior to the subsequent ones]

So here we go with another reboot. History (and by history I mean, “the last fifteen or so years” for the most part) is littered with the corpses of failed reboots. For every successful attempt to drag some forgotten franchise into the twenty-first century (Battlestar Galactica, say, or Doctor Who) there’s a dozen more that fell by the wayside, as forgotten as the shows they tried to resurrect. Hokey old 60’s and 70’s sci-fi shows come with a built-in fanbase – not always very large, but often very dedicated – so it’s not exactly difficult to work out why producers might think old franchises might be worth taking a gamble on. Why bet on something new and completely unknown when you can dredge something up from the past which, even if it won’t bring in huge numbers, will at least bring some?

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Hot boys fight monsters for a decade and a half.

What’s The Show? Supernatural

What’s It All About, JG? Hot boys fighting monsters, which has somehow just begun its fourteenth season (and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down). So yes, monster fighting. Also, demons. Also, angels. Also, the King(s) of Hell. Also… well just about any mythological creature you care to shake a stick at. Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester are “hunters”, people who track down and kill the monsters that are real in our world. And then they kinda get dragged into the apocalypse and have to stop it. And then fight more monsters. And then battle the denizens of hell. And then fight more monsters. There’s the odd parallel universe to be visited. And then fight more monsters. A visit to hell? Sure! Guess what happens after that?

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