Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sci Fi TV Quick Hits: Agents of SHIELD, The Exorcist, Westworld, Channel Zero and More Are Among This Season's Standouts So Far

Before getting to my rundown of the Fall shows I have been watching so far, I have to say something first: I’m calling a time out! There is just too much sci fi to watch on TV these days, and surprisingly a lot of it has gotten really good. Over the past few seasons, I could pass over a lot of shows because of the high levels of mediocrity I was seeing. But I have been much more impressed than usual with what I have seen thus far this season and even find myself going back to shows I had given up on. This is really cutting into my plans for the Babylon 5 re-watch, and I’m not sure how I’m going to fit everything into the week. I’m sure I will slack off on some of these before too long just because of time constraints, but for now here are my thoughts on what I have been watching so far (sorted by those I have enjoyed the most to the least):

Agents of SHIELD (ABC): I tuned in to the first episode of this show’s fourth season just because I was curious what they would do with Ghost Rider, and then found myself hooked on it again. I liked this one when it first started, but then it seemed to start treading water about mid-way through its first season. It went darker in its second year and gave in far too often to copy and paste and I bailed on the show. But its fourth season has been really good so far. The witty dialog that we saw early on with the show has returned and the actors all seem have grown with their roles. There is a particularly good chemistry between Coulson and Mack, and the show could keep most of its focus on those two for my money. Plus they have done a good job with the Ghost Rider character as well even if the CGI is a bit cheesy. For now, this one is on my must-watch list each week.

The Exorcist (FOX): This revival of the infamous 1970’s horror film (which actually acts as a sequel to that movie) is doing everything that A&E’s Damien (a sequel series to 1976’s The Omen) did not.  Whereas that one quickly derailed with a mopey, EMO lead, The Exorcist is creepy and scary and has interesting characters with a decent storyline. Anybody who had doubts about this revival should put those aside and tune in, because this show has exceeded all expectations at this point. I’m hoping that the first year has a resolution to its story arc, though, because the ratings suggest that this one could be gone by as soon as mid-season.

Westworld (HBO): This show has been good so far across its first four episodes and has done an interesting take on the original premise from the movie. Once again, we have androids malfunctioning (I don’t think that counts as much of a spoiler), but it is following a different path as it appears to be related to them developing self-awareness. The only problem is that the story is unfolding at an almost glacial pace and there may be too many storylines going on. But it is sticking to its sci fi elements and could go on to be genre classic if it success in unlocking its potential.

Channel Zero (Syfy): I’m two episodes in on this season-long horror anthology based on the internet "creepy pasta" stories, and I’m really liking it. It is creepy and moody and has an interesting storyline. And it will wrap up after six episodes, so it does not require as large of a commitment (an important factor in the overload of the Too-Much-TV-Era). Some may be hesitant to check this one out because it veers away from Syfy’s return to science fiction, but like the network’s The Magicians, it is a very good genre entry and worth a look.

Aftermath (Syfy): I stumbled upon this supernatural-pocalypse series when I stuck around for its third episode which followed the premiere of Channel Zero (because there wasn’t a new ep of Adam Ruins Everything that night). I went in with low expectations, but found it much better than it had any right to be and went back to catch up on the first two episodes. Consider it a mix of Supernatural and The Walking Dead, but it treads that path without feeling too derivative and with a minimal of copy and paste. It also keeps the expected teen angst from dominating the family dynamic, which is a good thing. This is the type of show that could go south pretty quickly, but for now I am liking it.

Legends of Tomorrow (CW): After two episodes, the soft reboot this show is going through in its second season seems to be correcting many of the issues from the first season. Most importantly, it’s not just straight copy and paste anymore and the storyline they have introduced seems interesting. We will see how it proceeds from here, but I am back onboard for now.

The Flash (CW): I have only seen the premiere episode so far, but it is off to a solid start. This show has been the most fun of The CW’s superhero entries and I’m thinking it is still worth keeping an eye on.

Freakish (Hulu): The first storyline in Hulu’s new season-long anthology series mixes The Walking Dead with teen horror movie, but is proving better at that than I might have thought based on its first two episodes. It has delivered a minimum of teen angst thus far, nor has it digressed into the expected YA soap opera plots. Probably because it is only a half hour per episode, they are keeping it as lean as possible. And while I wouldn’t call this a great show thus far, it has exceeded expectations and only has four more hours to go, so I may stick with it.

Lucifer (FOX): I really want to like this show because Tom Ellis does such a good job as the title character and there’s plenty of potential with the premise. But they insist on keeping the procedural format which I thought they might back away from this season with the new character introductions. But alas, that change is apparently not in the cards. I like Tricia Helfer as Lucifer’s mom and look forward to Michael Imperioli’s intro as his brother, but I will probably only check on this one from time to time throughout the season.

Timeless (NBC): The first episode of this time travel series was pretty good even if it broke its own rules as most time travel shows do. (They are told not to change anything in the past not already changed, but they do it anyway.) This kind of reminds me of the 60’s Time Tunnel series, though better (but not better than the 2006 attempted reboot of that Irwin Allen entry, more on that at this link). And this is the type of show that I would definitely watch if there were not so many other sci fi entries on the air. I might check in on this one from time to time (no pun intended), but I don’t consider it a must-watch show.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America): I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the Dirk Gently books (though I love Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series), but I still had high hopes for this show. And Samuel Barnett does a great job in the title role as does Elijah Wood as the unwilling tag-along to the detective’s adventures. But it is a shame that is wasted on a senseless mess of the script that neither draws from the books nor does much to make the show interesting. And it’s definitely not funny. If I hear people saying that this one improves through its first season run, maybe I will check back in. But for now, I am out.

The Good Place (NBC): This sitcom set in the afterworld seemed like a hard sell from the beginning. But the first episode made a stab at some Tim Burton-esque (the good Tim Burton) visuals and could have really run with that. But it fell flat more often than not and seems to be wasting the talents of its leads Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, and it doesn’t help that the concept does not seem designed well enough to sustain an ongoing series. I bailed on this one after the first episode and don’t plan on going back.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I will definitely check a few of these out. My current favorites are The Expanse, Dark Matter and Humans.