Monday, March 21, 2016

Sci Fi TV Quick Hits: Damien Isn't Scary Yet, 11.22.63 Needs to Work Out Its Time Travel Implications, The Walking Dead is Back to Top Form, and More

Quick Takes on some of the sci fi / fantasy TV shows currently airing.

damien-AEDamien (A&) – This show actually has a very good idea: carrying on the story from The Omen when Damien is an adult (and ignoring the subpar theatrical sequels), though the first couple of episodes really fumbled around and didn’t accomplish much. Damien doesn’t remember much from his childhood and doesn’t know that he is destined to be the Antichrist. Interesting enough and they can do plenty with that, especially if they take a destiny vs. free will approach. But the Damien we are presented with is such a mopey character that we quickly lose interest in his story. They need to work on that as the show progresses and also amp up the creepiness, otherwise the audience will quickly lose interest and move on to the next thing that the Too-Much-TV era has to offer.

11.22.63 (Hulu) – This mini-series adapts the Stephen King novel of the same name about a man that travels back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I've watched the two-hour first episode thus far, and while it presents a premise which didn’t quite grab me, the creepy, Twilight Zone-ish atmosphere of the production did. Time travel stories always annoy me because it seems that they never fully work the logic of how changing the past impacts the subsequent timeline (hello Heroes and Legends of Tomorrow). In this one, the lead character is convinced that stopping the assassination of JFK will also stop the assassination of Robert Kennedy and keep the U.S. out of Vietnam. Okay great, but how many other changes will come from that and do two men really have the right to make such monumental decisions? They rushed through all of that too quickly for my liking. But once Jake gets back in the past, the “you shouldn’t be here" man definitely and the idea that the past resists change offer plenty of creepiness and the show did a good job of establishing an eerie mood. I’ll catch a few more eps to see how it progresses.

Legends of Tomorrow (CW) – Speaking of messy time travel tales, I really want to like this show, and it can be a ton of fun at times in a braindead sort of way. But it slips into copy and paste all too often, and don't even try to follow their (lack of) logic on how they are impacting the timeline.  To make matters worse, almost all the actors spend way too much time mugging at the camera and over-exaggerating their performances, even for a comic book show. I’ll stick with this one because I’m half way through now, but I’m hoping the writing improves in the second season (and they bring Constantine onboard as well).

Lucifer (FOX) – I’m still enjoying this one, though it is getting on my nerves more with each episode. Why did they have to go with the procedural route with this show? (That’s a rhetorical question as I already know the answer: because it’s on broadcast television.) This would have worked so much better in a semi-anthology format where Lucifer gets involved with people who come to his bar because he knows that they are due some punishment. Plus, they could focus on the story of the sinner-of-the-week character and not cram Lucifer in every scene. Tom Ellis does a first-rate job portraying the Dark One, but having him onscreen almost constantly is definitely too much of a good thing. I believe the continued ratings declines reflect this and also that people are growing tired of the show’s formulaic approach with Lucifer constantly butting into the detective’s investigations. If this one does survive into a second season, they should consider shaking things up a bit with the format.

The Walking Dead (AMC) – After a somewhat shaky start to its sixth season (though not as disastrous as some claim), this show has hit its stride once again since returning from hiatus. It’s right back to dealing with the moral quandaries of survival in the zombie-pocalypse and doing what it does best by putting the actions of the show’s heroes out there for us to question. The initial attack on the Saviors’ compound as well as the hostage situation that followed was grueling and gut-wrenching and not easy to watch. But it was also engaging, challenging television and exactly what we expect from this show (and the reason I enjoy braindead shows like Legends of Tomorrow as a counterbalance). Sure, TWD has had its rough patches over the years, but it soars much more often that it craters and it is definitely in top form at the moment.

You, Me, and The Apocalypse (NBC) – I love this show and it is just behind The Walking Dead on my current must-watch list. And I am going to keep beating the drum for it while it is still on the air. Watch it, you will be glad you did. You can read more about it at this link.

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