Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sci Fi TV Quick Hits: The Last Ship Holds a Steady Course in Season 2, Zoo Delivers B-Move Fun, Between Surprises

With so many sci fi / fantasy shows currently airing, it's hard to watch and/or review all of them.  In this column I will be doing short reviews on some shows and chime in with my thoughts how how others are progressing. And note that I am typically behind on these shows on my DVR.

The Last Ship (TNT, Airs Sundays 9 PM EST):  This series--now in its second season--takes place in a post-pandemic world and follows the crew of a U.S. Navy ship that has discovered the cure and is now trying to help rebuild the world.  This series touches on some of the same themes as television's other post-pandemic show, The Walking Dead, but takes a very different approach.  Whereas TWD offers gut-wrenching drama with plenty of moral quandaries, The Last Ship gives us basically G.I. Joe saves the world.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  TWD looks at human nature from a more cynical (and arguably realistic) perspective, while The Last Ship gives us a more hopeful look at what the human race is capable of.  It basically assures us that there will be good guys when everything falls apart, and their spirit and determination will give us a chance for a better future.  And you know what?  The show pulls its premise off pretty well.  Consider it a salve from the dark turn genre television has taken of late (sometimes to good effect, sometimes not), and just sit back and enjoy routing for the heroes for a change.  I do like that The Last Ship has changed things up a bit in its second season as its less about the lone ship trying to overcome multiple challenges.  They have found the cure and set up a base in Norfolk and now the U.S.S. Nathan James is using this as a launching point to help rebuild the country.  That's a logical progression from the first season and keeps the show from getting into a rut.  We also aren't burdened with characters having a dark and hidden past or with storylines that pile one mystery upon the next (a common misstep with genre shows these days).  Its straight forward tales of rebuilding a country (and then a world) and having to deal with the bad guys that emerge in this setting.  Put your mind on cruise control and just enjoy well-plotted stories that don't task the grey matter too much but that also don't offend it.  (Season 2 Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars after 4 episodes).

Zoo (CBS, Tuesdays 10 PM EST):  In a similar vein of not tasking the brain too much like The Last Ship is this new CBS series based on the novel of the same name by James Patterson.  The story here finds animals across the world (particularly of the feline variety so far) acting strange and turning against humans.  It hearkens back to 70's horror/disaster flicks like Swarm, The Food of the Gods, The Day of the Animals, etc., but it gives the subject matter a bit more serious treatment.  It still has that B-movie feel to it, which is a good thing, and it is treading a fine line of cheesiness that could go over the edge without too strong of a nudge.  But it's been a good, fun, end-of-the-world-is-coming romp across its first few episodes, and whether it starts to wear thin after thirteen episodes (and possibly more if it gets renewed) remains to be seen. (Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars after three episodes).

Between (Netflix):  I plan on doing a full review of this series once I have watched its full first season, but wanted to chime in early about this show that few people know about.  It's a Canadian-based Netflix original about a virus that kills everybody over the age of 22 in a small town, and among its stars is iCarly alum Jessica McCurdy.  I made the obvious mistake of assuming it would deliver the post-apocalypse meets teen angst when I first heard about it, in part because of McCurdy's involvement.  But that was a poor judgement on my part as I have found the show quite interesting after three episodes.  It's obvious that McCurdy is using this to try and step away from her teen star image and she is only one of an ensemble of players in this drama.  And even though the characters are all 21 and younger, this show takes more of a Lord of the Flies approach to their predicament than the mopey, angsty bent of so many YA genre tales these days.  This could actually be a prequel of sorts to The Walking Dead, or more appropriately the J. Michael Straczinski series Jeremiah (where a pandemic kills off everybody over the age of puberty, more on that one at this link).  I'm only three episode in so far (of a six episode season), but I like it.  And Netflix has renewed it for a second six episode season (that announcement is what brought it to my attention), so more is on the way.  It's definitely off to a promising start and I will report back with an update once I have made it through the first season.  (Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars after 3 episodes).  

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