Thursday, May 25, 2017

TV Shows That Died Off in 2016

As part of my TV show catch-up-athon, here are four shows I mentioned earlier that have all died in 2016. Join me now as we relive some fond memories. Beware, thar be spoilers!

Heroes Reborn: I believe this was always designed to be a one-season event, though they were keeping the door open for more seasons. They were not renewed for Season 2, and as far as I can tell, there are no reboots on the horizon, other than in the form of comic books.

I remember enjoying most of what I watched, though I had to read a few synopses to remember what happened. Most of it has come back, but obviously, the plot doesn't naturally stick long in my memory.

After the Cheerleader had exposed the powers of heroes, the world has become a new place. Much like in the X-Men stories, regular peeps fear and mistrust the "Evos." Some Evos do evil things, and others struggle to live good lives while hiding their powers. Regular peeps pass laws to force Evo registration and even develop a way to locate and identify them....

Yes ... that's my complaint #1. It is the X-Men movies reborn. That set of story lines failed to deliver anything new.

However, we did get a computer character who appealed to gamers like me. We got fun time-travel stories, even though they did use the usual annoying "Star Trek" time mechanics (you know ... the kind of time mechanics that relies heavily on audience time flow ... maybe I'll blog about this later). We got an evil lady who thought she had the one and only solution to the upcoming solar flare disaster, sending a small group of people thousands of years in the future to a time after the flare destroys everything. At the same time, she works to hinder the heroes who have the real power to stop the whole thing.

In the end, Noah Bennet gives himself as the conduit that helps the twins save the entire world.

Yeah ... there were some cool parts in there.

One last complaint: what was the deal with the Cheerleader? It was as if there were some legal order in place that didn't allow for the use of her image in any way, shape, or form. We almost got to see the dead body, featuring a blond wig. We get to see Noah see his daughter's face, but we never see her face even once. And how much did her death came from her decision not to do the show? It was particularly annoying, as she was a main pivotal character throughout the four seasons of the original show.

Yet, I stuck with the show till the end. It helped that the story was sufficiently contained in its 13 episodes. It had a good set of story arcs. I didn't miss it when it was over, and I enjoyed it while it lasted.

The Muppets.: I could have told you after one episode what would eventually kill off this show. It suffered from something I'll call "audience confusion." It was a whole bunch of cute puppets, so was it for kids? But it also had all those adult jokes, beer, and sex. So was it for adults? Not exactly sure what it was, people just tuned out.

At first, I was disappointed. Those first couple of episodes showed the same type of humor and mayhem, but at the same time, the "Office" style of mockumentary gave it a strange adult feel that didn't seem to fit. At least it was nothing like what I remembered growing up with these guys.

I quit watching after a couple of episodes. But those things accumulated on my DVR until I decided to try and watch some more, turning off my earlier preconceptions, and then I found I was able to enjoy it. (Though I never did get over the idea of Kermit or Miss Piggy talking about sex.)

I must admit, that one dirty joke in an early episode was pretty funny. Kermit says, "Zoot! Stop drawing dirty pictures on the get-well card!" And Zoot says, "Uh, I guess I can turn that into a saxophone."

Yeah -- it was stuff like that that got the Million Moms to boycott the show even though there's much worse stuff on TV.

Watching more episodes, I found myself being pulled in. Some of the lesser-known characters were developed very well as the season progressed. All the sub-story plot lines were interesting. Everyone acted with consistency. The show actually had good writing.

The story ends as that cute little shrimp Pepe sneaks on the plane to try to help Kermit and Piggy get back together ... a cliffhanger of sorts.

Then it ended, and I was okay with it. It was fun while it lasted.

It was enough to see that Gloria Estefan penguin a few times. Mehk!

Person of Interest: This show started out pretty strong. It stayed interesting the whole time, but toward the end, I thought it was getting to be too silly. At its lowest point, the writers had our heroes trapping a version of the bad computer virus within a physical Faraday cage, since we all know how one of those works, right?

But I was willing to overlook those silly science things. It was all bunk, but there were still good stories. The show relied heavily on the "Weird of the Week" formula, but toward the end, the writers found creative ways to use the weekly weirdoes in pushing the overall story arc forward.

With bad science aside, the show did (for me) capture the reality we face now or in the near future where computers (and humans) are watching our every move with constant surveillance. It even touches on the all-too-real threat of computer AI's taking control of our lives and making immoral decisions in the name of achieving better efficiencies.

Though ... main complaint #1 ... if the baddie computer virus was so all-powerful, it would really have no problem finding our heroes and killing them within minutes, and that's even despite the counter-virus that the Machine had Root plant. The bad guys really couldn't see Root in her many "disguises" that looked remarkably alike? Samaritan really had no way of figuring out the identity of that cop that Reese was playing?

I did enjoy watching the fight against Samaritan coming to a wire toward the very end. Though, I didn't appreciate the artificial setup that caused Reese to give up his life. I loved the epic feel they tried to accomplish, but it was all ruined with me yelling on the inside all the different tactics he could have used to protect that briefcase long enough and still survive.

But ... fine, Reese, be that way and do the stupid thing so you can die that noble death!

It was a good attempt at an ending, but not so good in execution.

In the end, I did not regret watching the whole show.

The X-Files (2016): Technically this show isn't dead. In fact, this reboot was considered to be an extension of the original series -- its tenth season. And I just learned that FOX plans to bring it back near the end of this year with season eleven (no details are available).

Will I continue watching? Most likely, but I was mainly disappointed with season ten.

The pacing was just terrible. The six episodes didn't really fit together, and the last episode was the worst with events escalating so quickly it left no time to be processed.

The whole idea that the government staged EVERYTHING in the first nine seasons is super sucky, and really does a terrible job at explaining what all happened in the original series.

The other three shows I mentioned above I actually liked. This show, not so much.

There were a couple of good moments, but mostly I felt like Kathy Bates in that Stephen King movie a lot of us enjoyed. Cockadoodie! You can't keep changing the story on us, Mr. Carter! We saw the Smoking Man die!

Yet I will most likely continue watching, and give Carter another chance to redeem himself.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Updated TV Reviews Page

Okay ... I'm on way back to work on my writing. Yes, I'm still busy with my music publishing business, but I'm trying to switch gears. I'm back to submitting stories to magazines, and now I will attempt to do some catch up in my blog.

As you loyal readers know, I love to talk about movies and TV shows, especially sci-fi shows. If possible, I like to follow a show from inception to its death. I'm a couple of years behind, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

In preparation, I've updated my Review page to make it easier to follow the TV shows I write about. Go ahead and check out the TV section and see if you can find your favorite (recent) TV show, especially if it's sci-fi.

Stay tuned for more TV Reviews on the way.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Big Trouble in Space

There are some movies I just have to catch for the "midnight" showing, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was one of them. I went, I saw, and it delivered exactly what was expected. From eye-popping special effects and cinematography to hilarious music, action and crazy antics, the movie kept me entertained.

Starlord, during one of his gang's messed up missions, comes to meet his father, played by Kurt Russel (insert girly nerdy scream), and learns about his true origins. And just as in the first movie, the Guardians must save the galaxy -- again.

As a Marvel movie, don't expect anything brainy. This is one of those put-your-seatbelts-on-suspend-belief-and-enjoy-the-ride movies. It doesn't quite live up to the same magic as the first one, mostly because the audience already knows the characters, thus the writers could take more time with character development.

Of course, there are the many scenes where our heroes survive onslaughts that would kill off any normal beings, but who cares?

My only complaint is that the writers seemed a little too preoccupied with sexual innuendo jokes. A couple here and there should be sufficient, like in the first movie. But all over the place? Vol 2 left me wondering why they now let teenagers in the writing room. There's even one scene -- perhaps about five minutes long -- that takes place where half nude robots walk around flirting with everyone. It reminded me too much of Futurama and the robots weren't even cute. With that in mind, I would suggest keeping your pre-13 kids at home. Even my older teenagers who went felt a little uncomfortable at times.

As for 3-D, the producers filmed it with a "perfect" conversion in mind. I hear they did a good job, and I'm sure the IMAX version is super awesome. But you know what? They did such a good job in preparing for 3-D that I felt like I had watched it in 3-D even though I went to the 2-D version. I felt as if I enjoyed the entire effect without even having to wear the annoying glasses!

The incidental music was great, but nothing special. The music from the 70s and 80s, on the other hand, helped give the movie its charm. My only disappointment there was that they couldn't fit in "Hooked on a Feeling" again?

Still, go see this movie while it's still in the theater. Bring your older kids. Have fun.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Global Warming: Bill Nye vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Let's talk about global warming. A couple of nights ago I watched the first episode of Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix, and I got annoyed.

This is what I see. I do not doubt the existence of global warming. I also do not question the idea that we humans have been contributing to rising temperatures. But, wow, people can be so annoying about it!

There's one camp that chooses to believe that global warming doesn't exist at all. This tends to include conservatives who are really more concerned with the costs of cutting pollution than anything else. These people rely on obscure reports to support their beliefs (such as one or two years of increasing ice in the arctic), while at the same time ignoring tens if not hundreds of more reports to the contrary (such as decades of decreasing ice in the arctic). It's easy to get annoyed with this camp, especially now that they may have control of our government.

There's another camp that is just as annoying: the oh-my-gosh-we're-already-too-late-to-do-anything-about-it-and-we're-all-going-to-die-and-we-should-still-turn-off-all-our-lights-at-night camp. No matter the cost, we all need to switch over to renewable energy and make corporations pay. Really?

Where is the camp that prefers to take a more reasonable and realistic approach and come up with real solutions? Fortunately for us, this camp exists, and they're already hard at work. I have full confidence that we will find the solution with plenty of time to spare -- that is if we can keep those other two camps at bay.

Enter in Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I have already written a review here, but I'd like to revisit the global warming episode (#12. "The World Set Free"). Three years ago, I called it my favorite episode of the series. It's possibly the best presentation I've seen on global warming. Despite how much Tyson like to take little pot shots at religionists, this one episode was free of that, free of politics, and it simply presented the facts. It even demonstrated what's already being done, and what can be further done to effectively counter global warming at a relatively low price.

In other words, I strongly recommend that you catch it (still on Netflix right now).

And now I come to Bill Nye's version. Let me save you time, and recommend that you skip it -- that is unless you want to see what irritates me so much about the ultra-save-the-planet camp.

Bill did present a couple of ideas supporting global warming. Heating water in an experiment caused it to rise (barely). He presented one (count on my hand here -- one) example of water rising in Venice. He did explain on a really high level about how carbon gases (rhymes with glasses) traps heat, ... and that was about it. Nowhere near enough facts to convince anyone.

He spent the rest of the time whining and complaining about "deniers." He even spent a full minute (in the "Bill Takes a Minute" segment) giving a really heated rant about how stupid people are for ignoring all this stuff, and then when the minute was up, he caught his breath and said, "I feel better now." At the very end of the episode, he had everyone in the audience chanting, "I'm tired of talking about global warming, and I'm not going to stop until everyone listens!" Bill is tired that no one is doing anything about it!

Now, let me tell you how unproductive this episode was. Getting angry never convinces anyone except for those who already believe what you're trying to say. Bill's cute rants is nothing more than a variation on "preaching to the choir."

If anything, this presentation is likely to do more harm than good. Think about it. If you were to present something with very little facts, and then rant like a lunatic and call everyone "deniers" if they don't listen, how would you expect to be received? Yeah, people would tend to believe anything other than what's coming out of your mouth.

Most of all, I take offense at Bill Nye's claim that nobody is doing anything about it. That's just a bunch of crock. What planet is he not living on? How can he deny evidence to the contrary? Come on, Bill! Open your eyes and see what's going on in the good old USA.

On my last road trip out west last August, I passed by many wind farms that weren't there a couple of decades ago. More and more people are turning to power their homes with solar energy, and are choosing to buy fuel-efficient cars. People are experimenting with solar-cell roads and sidewalks that can gather energy over a large area while providing electricity, warmth, and even light.

Conservatives that we would expect to be greedy fuel consumers turn out to be green powerhouses, such as George W. Bush's Texas nearly-self-sustaining ranch compared with Al Gore's 20-room power-sucking mansion.

If no one is doing anything, then why are carbon emissions from the USA decreasing over the past decade?

A lot of people may choose not to believe in global warming, but you know what? I think our scientists will find an answer, and there will be enough of us to implement solutions, and everything will turn out okay, and ultimately, "deniers" will wonder what all the fuss was about.

That would be a great outcome! Bill Nye may get so angry at "deniers" for being so stupid that he collapses under a tree, but Neil deGrasse Tyson would clap his hands and praise humans for prevailing in the end.