Browncoats Unite!

Comic-Con International: San Diego 2012 has come up with the first bit of good news for Browncoats in as long as I can remember: The creators of the cult series Firefly will gather for a 10-year reunion in San Diego — and the Science Channel will tape it for a one-hour special to air on Nov. 11.

I know what you’re thinking: The Science Channel? Well, they’ve been airing reruns for the last year or so, and piling up gangbuster ratings, so they figured it was worth the investment to dish up a little treat for its loyal Browncoats.
Continue reading

Soap Opera Weekly: 11/4/09

The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we’ve seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.

This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering “universal health care” — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn’t compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!

It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl…er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.

Of course, that could be due to the clichés in the plotline: Morris Chestnut played a man with a mysterious past that comes back to haunt him just as he’s about to propose. And the FBI office investigating the case has a mole tipping off the bad guys, so our heroine — played by Elizabeth Mitchell, who has loads of science-fiction cred herself, thanks to her much-admired run as LOST’s Juliet — has to act as a lone wolf. That is, when she isn’t playing heroic single mom to surly teen Tyler, who has the requisite doofus best friend and a thing for comely newcomer Lisa. Zzzz…

Chad was told, “Compromising one’s principles for the greater good is not a shameful act. It is a noble one.” So if you want to watch V as currently constituted, then that’s fine. It’s diverting enough. But don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s for the greater good; it’s actually more of a lowest common denominator.

Contrast all this with STARGATE UNIVERSE, which takes some familiar ideas (It’s basically STARGATE crossed with STAR TREK: VOYAGER and a dash of LOST IN SPACE) and mashes them up into something greater than the sum of its parts. All SGU did was add a bunch of interesting character conflict, and really think about its premise; what’s really powerful and interesting about it? Then the-powers-that-be wrote good stories around those characters and ideas. Simple, right?

Simple as A-B-C. But can ABC pull it off with V?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

V Redux: It Came From Madison Avenue

The new version of V is designed to be a reboot, but tacking on the conventions of our current TV landscape calls attention to the familiarity of the concept. Of course a little of this is part-and-parcel of being a remake, and thus unavoidable, however, everything that is being ladled on top is also all too familiar. V feels like we’ve seen it all before because we have seen it all before. Literally.

 

Morena Baccarin

This time around, the idea is, when 21st-century aliens invade, they will not come as warriors, but rather as marketing agents. They will invade via advertising, with pamphlets, white teeth, long legs and tight butts. And a subtle message of inclusiveness and the common good. Heck, the Visitors were even offering “universal health care” — red meat for TV talking head Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), if only he hadn’t compromised his morals in exchange for ratings. Blast!

 

It was clever to cast Morena Baccarin (ex-Inara, FIREFLY/Serenity) as Anna, the beautiful public face of the Visitors; Baccarin also played Adria, the beautiful public face of the invading Ori cult on STARGATE SG-1. And, well, the Visitors are practically setting themselves up as a cult, to the point of recruiting confused young people. Getting Laura Vandervoort, whose big break came playing the alien Supergirl…er, Kara on SMALLVILLE, for Lisa was another sly casting move, as was bringing aboard Joel Gretsch (as Father Jack), who knows a thing or two about alien abduction after starring on THE 4400. Oh, Alan Tudyk used to play Wash alongside Baccarin on FIREFLY. Gee, one begins to understand why everything feels familiar, even without seeing ALIEN NATION before or District 9 this summer.

Continue reading

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/22/09

Can anyone think of a reason why Nathan Fillion is not one of the biggest stars around? His star vehicle, CASTLE, owes its success entirely to his lead character. This is basically, “MURDER, HE WROTE,” but Fillion (ex-Joey, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) is so charming that the premise doesn’t really matter; it’s just an excuse for Fillion (ex-Mal, FIREFLY) to smirk and deliver the show’s best one-liners. Sure, co-star Stana Katic (ex-Hana, HEROES) gets in her licks as Detective Beckett, and the able supporting cast (including GENERAL HOSPITAL’s former Ian Devlin, Seamus Dever)…er, supports ably, but it’s still Nathan’s show. Take this line from last night’s second-season premiere: Upon discovering a corpse with all its internal organs carved out, Castle declared, “Somebody hated his guts.” Okay, so it’s not a gut-buster or even shockingly original, but it’s damn funny and Fillion delivered it with aplomb. The killer turned out to be… ah, nobody really cares. This series isn’t about the hunt for a killer, it’s about the people hunting for a killer. And the chemistry between Fillion and Molly C. Quinn, who plays Castle’s daughter, Alexis, is fantastic (even if Alexis is just a little too perfect to be believed).

Killing and mayhem and fathers and daughters all figured into the fourth-season premiere of HEROES last night, as well. But most of it was far less compelling than on CASTLE. I love watching Hayden Panettiere and Jack Coleman play out the Claire/Noah father/daughter dynamic. And it was funny that Claire’s roommate from hell was played by a fellow soap vet, DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Rachel Melvin. I know Claire will get along much better with Gretchen, played by Madeline Zima (Mia, CALIFORNICATION). It was a little hard to judge where the season will go from here because the two-hour block was dedicated to setting the stage for what’s to come. But Robert Knepper (ex-T-bag, PRISON BREAK) has the potential to turn Sam Sullivan into a classic villain. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude with HEROES — as in, I’m waiting to see what the deal is with that freaky tattoo ink…

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/19/08

This week’s DOCTOR WHO was a treat for old-school fans such as myself, thanks to the return of the Sontarans. I found it rather brave that the-powers-that-be brought back such funny-looking foes without a radical redesign. (That “baked potato” crack has been a running joke in fandom since the 1970s.) Even better, we get a proper U.N.I.T. story! While U.N.I.T. has been mentioned in passing on the new WHO (“Aliens of London” and “World War Three”) and on TORCHWOOD, we haven’t seen a real, full-scale UNIT story until now. The series also reached all the way back to last season for Martha Jones (once again played by the lovely Freema Agyeman, complete with her theme music). I love it when a show utilizes its history. 

I will now reflect a bit on U.N.I.T. and the Sontarans. If you’re not interested in history, skip ahead a couple of grafs… 

History Lesson I: U.N.I.T. has played a major role in the Doctor’s career, and vice versa. In fact, the Doctor was instrumental in the creation of U.N.I.T. (which then stood for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce; now it’s the UNified Intelligence Taskforce) — his Seventh and Second personas battled Daleks and Yetis, respectively, in London in the 1960s, pointing out the need for a military force to protect Earth. The Second Doctor subsequently took part in U.N.I.T.’s very first battle, helping the taskforce repel a Cyberman invasion. When the 10th Doctor mentioned he worked for U.N.I.T. back in the ’70s, he was talking about the period when his third incarnation was exiled to Earth by the High Council of Time Lords (it’s complicated). He signed on as the official scientific adviser to U.N.I.T., and the identity “Dr. John Smith” was created for him. (That’s why Col. Pace told the 10th Doctor he was “still on staff.”) U.N.I.T. saw only spot duty following the Fourth Doctor’s tenure, and the last proper U.N.I.T. story was “Battlefield,” featuring the Seventh Doctor, in 1989. 

History Lesson II: The Sontarans appeared in four stories during the original run of the series. The first came while the Third Doctor was working for U.N.I.T. Sontarans are a race of clones hailing from a highly militaristic empire. They are perpetually at war with the Rutan Host — a race that resembles giant jellyfish without the tentacles. The Sontarans are so brazen that they actually invaded the Doctor’s home planet, Gallifrey! They were last seen in “The Two Doctors,” in which the Second and Sixth Doctors teamed up. The characteristic giant helmets led to rumors they were slated to appear in last year’s “Smith and Jones” — ironically the story that introduced Martha (but those soldiers turned out to be the Judoon). The probic vent (on the back of their necks) is the Sontarans’ weak spot, but they are also vulnerable to coronic acid — and hubris. 

Back in the present: Martha has summoned the Doctor back to Earth, and we learn she is engaged to Tom Milligan, the hunky doctor who helped her back in “The Sound of Drums.” Good for her. We also get another glimpse of Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred — he and the Doctor actually recognize each other from “Voyage of the Damned.” (Did I mention I was loving all these connections to the past?) Martha is investigating problems associated with the Atmos pollution-control system. Hmmm…does Atmos remind anyone else of Archangel from last season? Of course it’s an alien plot. I loved how the Doctor spotted the alien technology, and said it was like finding a cell phone in the Middle Ages, because when the Third Doctor met a Sontaran, it was back in the Middle Ages, when he found a Sontaran called Linx supplying knights with guns centuries before gunpowder was introduced to Europe. It’s the little details that matter. In this case, Gen. Staal of the 10th Sontaran Battle Group was using Earth to build a clone army (poor Martha was cloned herself in part one!) and apparently Atmos will help him get rid of the pesky human population. The episode ended with the Atmos devices poisoning the air. The fate of the entire is world hanging in the balance pending part two, but that’s just another day at the office for the Doctor. 

On BATTLESTAR GALACTICADemetrius and the captured basestar jump to the fleet together — only there’s a malfunction on Demetrius, so the Cylon ship jumps into the middle of the fleet alone — with a frakked-up communications system, so they can’t signal that friendlies are aboard. Now that’s an exciting opening! Luckily,Demetrius shows up, but only after Tigh has mysteriously sensed something and stopped Adama from blowing up the basestar. Natalie and the Cylons reveal to Adama and his officers that not only have the Final Five models been to Earth, “the Final Five are in your fleet.” In exchange for the Colonials helping them resurrect the Threes (who can identify the Five), the Cylons offer to let the humans destroy the Cylon Resurrection Hub, because the rebel Twos, Sixes and Eights want to end the cycle of rebirth. 

Tigh is not thrilled at the prospect of an “unboxed” Three fingering the five. The Quorum is not thrilled about teaming up with Cylons. And Gaeta is not thrilled that his leg had to be amputated, so he spent the episode singing (portrayer Alessandro Juliani did his own singing). Later, Roslin, Sharon and Caprica Six share a vision of searching the Opera House for Hera. Awake, Sharon is distressed to see Hera obsessively drawing pictures of Six. Hera disappears and runs into Natalie, just as Sharon spots her. Sharon has Hera removed, then shoots Nat. Meanwhile, Roslin has brought Baltar to the basestar to get to the bottom of her visions. When the deactivated Hybrid is plugged in, she screams “Jump!” and the basestar disappears with all aboard. 

Hoo-boy, things are getting crazy and picking up speed! 

Speaking of crazy, on the season finale of GHOST WHISPERER, Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) finally got to the bottom of the her father’s story. In true soap fashion, Tom, the man she believed to be her father for all these years, was not her daddy after all. Her mother, Beth, hid the identity of her real father, Paul Eastman, because he was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, Beth married Tom, the DA who locked up Paul. But wait, it got messier: Paul escaped and confronted the man who framed him — Tom — forcing Tom to kill him. Melinda witnessed the murder but suppressed the memory (until now). So Tom tried to kill her, but Paul’s ghost saved her. 

Sex, lies and ghosts? Sounds like an ABC soap to me! I’d guess the only reason Melinda doesn’t visit ALL MY CHILDREN‘s Pine Valley or GENERAL HOSPITAL‘s Port Charles is because GHOST WHISPERER airs on CBS. The nominal cliff-hanger for next season hinged on the obnoxious Dr. Rick noticing that six people cast only five shadows. What does that mean? (It could mean his portrayer, Jay Mohr, is off to a new series — PROJECT GARY, which just got picked up by CBS — and may or may be back on WHISPERER.) 

The projected “season finale” of MOONLIGHT turns out to have been the series finale, as it was canceled a few days earlier. The cancellation came just as the series was trying to expand its mythos, but it wasn’t doing anything new anyway — humans who volunteer to let vamps feed on them? Please. Been there, bitten that. This vampire series sucked. (Sorry, but this is my last chance to use that gag…) 

On Sunday night, I decided to give the season finale of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES a whirl. I haven’t paid attention to this series in a few seasons, and while some stuff remains — Susan and Mike, Bree still has a stick up her…back — others change. Where is Edie? Who is this “daughter” tormenting Lynette with false accusations of child abuse? When did so many soap people take up residency? Nathan Fillion (ex-Joey, ONE LIFE TO LIVE; better know to me as Capt. Mal Reynolds of FIREFLY/Serenity) is playing Adam, and GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Epiphany, Sonya Eddy, is stretching her her wings as…a hospital administrator of some sort. And there’s Tuc Watkins, ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s David, playing Bob, who trying to get married — sorry, committed to another man amid all the usual pre-wedding disaster clichés. Kyle MacLachlan (Orson) will always be TWIN PEAKS‘ Special Agent Dale Cooper to me, so I hang on his every word, waiting for him to call someone “Diane.” (It never happens.) While slogging through the plotlines (this late in the season it’s unfair to complain that the episodes are too dense for new viewers), I flip over to CBS, which is airing THE ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS. I am not a fan of country; despise the stuff. It just sounds…wait a second…who is this “Taylor Swift” person, and why is she singing in an indoor rainstorm? Y’know, I always said country music got a bad rap! 

Back on ABC, it turns out that while billed as a “two-part” finale, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is really just back-to-back episodes. The idea that Kayla is assembling a puzzle in her room rather than texting or watching TV is the most unrealistic thing I’ve seen all weekend is — and that’s taking into account a ghost in a burn-victim mask, potato-headed aliens and a living spaceship. I’d sooner buy the idea that abusive husband Wayne (Gary Cole, Mike in the Brady Bunch movies) would be protected by his fellow cops on the force. Or that Mike Brady could take out space pirate Mal. (As if!) 

Anyway, Katherine shoots her abusive ex dead, and the ladies of Wisteria Lane conspire to cover it up. Then the scene jumps to five years in the future, and viewers learn: Gabby has two daughters; Katherine’s daughter Dylan has gotten engaged in Paris; Lynette’s twins have grown into teen delinquents; Bree has published a cookbook, Andrew is her adoring assistant, and Orson her adoring hubby(?); Susan is not with Mike, but rather with somebody played by Gale Harold. Huh? 

That must remain a question for another time, but not the next Night Shift….

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com