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    1. Years and Years is a British political near-future soft SF programme. Being British it's one short series - 6 episodes, 1 hour per episode. Mainstream broadcast SF isn't going to push all the...

      Years and Years is a British political near-future soft SF programme. Being British it's one short series - 6 episodes, 1 hour per episode. Mainstream broadcast SF isn't going to push all the boundaries, but this has some neat ideas. The political stuff feels realistic enough to work.

      Emma Thompson is always impressive and she does excellent work here as a populist, fascist, politician. Jessica Hynes plays Edith with suitable intensity.

      Here are a bunch of links:


      [spoilers] https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/years-and-years-1220415

      [spoilers] https://variety.com/2019/tv/reviews/years-and-years-review-emma-thompson-hbo-1203243714/

      [spoilers] https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/may/14/years-and-years-review-a-glorious-near-future-drama-from-russell-t-davies

      16 votes
    2. Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I just finished Breaking Bad, second run-through. I had first started watching it when Season 4 had just started; binging seasons 1-3 and followed it episode-by-episode after.

      I was surprised to notice that the content I binged stayed with me much better than the seasons I watched one-episode-at-a-time.
      Also… Holy shit. Breaking Bad gets dark towards the end (Jesse getting imprisoned and forced to cook for months; his ex-girlfriend getting shot). I had forgotten all about that. I had forgotten almost everything about the last … 4-5 episodes.

      The scenes that had stayed with me the most from my first watch: Box Cutter's throat-slicing scene, the Prison Shankings, Hank vs. the Cousins, Hank's death scene, Gus's death scene.

      But, seriously, rewatching it reminded me how good of a series Breaking Bad is. I couldn't help but binge the entire rewatch marathon. It's an incredibly intense experience.

      In the context of what happened to Game of Thrones I'm also very happy to see the consistent quality and execution in Breaking Bad's storytelling. It's a series that set out to tell a story. The story makes sense from beginning to end, and gets resolved nice and tidy.

      I'm a little disappointed we don't get to see more of what happens to the family while Walt is gone. The trial etc, that all seems like potentially interesting stuff.

      On rewatch, I noticed my sympathies changing. I have a lot less sympathy towards Walt, even very early on. Knowing some things in advanced completely changed my view on him; whereas on first watch I rooted for him quite a bit.

      My sympathy towards Skyler also flipped. On my first watch, I disliked her a lot at first, but grew to like her when she "went dark". On this rewatch, I disliked her less and sympathized more with her, though her behaviour beyond season 4 became incomprehensible to me.
      I like Marie a lot more this time around as well. She's still pretty unbearable when it comes to shoplifting and generally the way she talks to people; but I hadn't realized just how much she loves Hank. How much she supports him through his PT (despite how atrocious Hank is specifically to her). Knowing Hank's death was coming, my heart broke into pieces when I heard their last phone call end in "I love you. // I love you too.". Hearing her say "He isn't picking up, probably because he's in the thick of it".

      I don't think I even noticed anyone's grief the first time around, most likely because I was dealing with my own. Hank's death was a shock then. This time, I knew it was coming, and I had a lot more time to process how people felt about Hank before and their reactions to the news.

      Just a bunch of random thoughts about that series. I usually only rewatch "comfort series" such as comedies, animated series, etc; I very rarely rewatch epics (except that I used to re-marathon GoT before a new season). But I don't regret giving Breaking Bad a full rerun. It is such an intense experience; during Seasons 3&4 I yelled in my pillows a few times on credit roll, just from the adrenaline.

      You too should give it a shot.

      9 votes
    3. I really enjoyed Peele's new Twilight Zone. It's a bit hit and miss - but most anthology shows have this. Some episodes are great, most are good enough, a couple are forgettable. The critic...

      I really enjoyed Peele's new Twilight Zone. It's a bit hit and miss - but most anthology shows have this. Some episodes are great, most are good enough, a couple are forgettable.

      The critic reviews (based on the first four episodes) are all over the place, with scoring ranging from 100 to 10. The user reviews are the usual tyre-fire of awfulness. https://www.metacritic.com/tv/the-twilight-zone-2019

      I found Replay to be genuinely upsetting and it was the episode that stayed with me longest. I get the impression that this episode split the audience and a bunch of people dislike the social commentary. (Or something, I dunno, I can't understand the mindset that criticises a show for something like this).

      So I'm interested in your opinions. Have you watched it? Did you enjoy it?

      5 votes
    4. Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Thought a thread for this miniseries would be good, as I've only seen discussion of the trailer up here. As of today (16th May) there are two episodes out, and a companion podcast for each (though I've not listened to these yet)
      I just watched both back to back, and I'm blown away. This is some very well made television, and somehow manages to be simultaneously nightmarish, and fully gripping. That this is based on real events is all the more amazing to me, and after watching the revelation about the exploding water tanks in the second episode I'm astonished that the world is as unscathed by this disaster as it is.

      24 votes
    5. I'm (re)watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and after a few episodes I started to tune out every time they detail how some specific solution is possible. There's little care with consistency,...

      I'm (re)watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and after a few episodes I started to tune out every time they detail how some specific solution is possible. There's little care with consistency, everything is bent to fit the story. "Oh, I get it, if I reverse the trusters and focus the beams using a microwaved non-Euclidian logarithmic abstraction, we can get the shields back and fix the time distillation!".

      I know Star Trek is soft sci-fi, but come on! If it's all meaningless, at least keep it to a minimum. Focus on the interesting bits: the politics, the culture, the philosophical exploration, the juicy paradoxes.

      I still love Star Trek and I definitely don't want it to become hard sci-fi, but sometimes it feels like /r/VXJunkies/...

      9 votes
    6. Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Spoilers for all seasons of both The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery.

      The Orville isn't bad, but it's not the worthy successor to pre-Abrams Star Trek that a lot of people on /r/startrek—and increasingly on /r/DaystromInstitute—make it out to be, and honestly I struggle to understand how people are even reaching that conclusion.

      I should start, I suppose, with what I like about this show. First, I like the characters—with two exceptions, I'll get to that later. Dr. Finn, in particular, is a delight: Penny Johnson Jerald is a very talented actress and it's really great to see her in a role where the rest of the cast draws on her character's wisdom. She plays it well. The rest of the bridge crew is great, too: Gordon, LaMarr, and Bortas are all lots of fun, and Jessica Szohr is a great addition for season 2: Halston Sage didn't quite have the skill to pull her character off.

      The show looks great. Union vessels are distinct from Federation vessels and they're not just ISO Human Standard Spaceships either, which is commendable. Kaylon spheres are neat play on Borg cubes, and my only real complaint in this regard is that Moclan and Krill vessels look oddly similar. The engine effects, the depiction of celestial objects, the overall Union aesthetic, it's all very pleasing to the eye.

      The worldbuilding is great. This is the one place that I think I would even go as far to say The Orville has a clear edge over Star Trek. Trek has built up loads of cruft over the years and sometimes struggles to keep it all together. For example, The Orville has swept away the inconsistent depiction of enlisted personnel that Trek fouls up seemingly very chance it gets by just depicting officers, which makes sense for a highly automated vessel. I fundamentally "buy" the Planetary Union as a human-centric interstellar polity in the same way I buy the UFP. (My one complaint in this department is that there does not appear to be any bureaucratic distinction between the Union government and the Union fleet, i.e. it lacks the distinction between The Federation and Starfleet. That seems like an oddity I hope they correct in season 3.) McFarlane is a nerd, he's fastidious about detail, and you just know he's has to have pages upon pages of worldbuilding details which helps him keep it consistent. It shows.

      But the show falls flat on its face in two key ways which, unfortunately, appear to be baked into the concept.

      Shortfall one: I just can't seem to warm up to either Mercer or Grayson, which for obvious reasons is a huge problem, because the show is now on record as indicating that their romantic relationship is The Key To Saving The Galaxy™. The Orville is an episodic throwback, but if it has a "main arc," that main arc is Ed & Kelly's relationship, and it just feels awkward and out of place.

      I don't really dislike Grayson, but I can't find anything to really like about her either. She's just kinda there, and her story never diverges from Mercer's. Which brings me to Mercer... which... just... ugh. Never in my life have I seen a more egregious case of a show creator playing out his fantasy on camera. I cannot tell you the number of times I've seen someone make a statement which boils down to "I don't like Discovery because Burnham is a Mary Sue, and that's why I prefer The Orville" as if Mercer is not the most blatant case of a Marty Stu to ever grace network television and get renewed for a second season. I mean, come on. He's the perfect captain, he always makes the right call, yet for some reason the show keeps trying to sell us on the notion that he's damaged goods and out-of-favor with the Admiralty. It's not believable, and it irks me endlessly that anyone would lob this criticism at Discovery when The Orville is an order of magnitude more guilty of this conceit.

      And that brings me to the elephant in the room: the direct Star Trek comparison. I seem to recall Season 1 having a novel episode here and there, even if they were snoozefests. Season 1 also bothered to draw from other sources of inspiration, even if those sources were Trek-adjacent shows like Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone. But on the other hand, some episodes from season 1 were straight rips from old Trek. "If the Stars Should Appear"? Straight remake of "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." "Mad Idolatry"? Straight remake of "Blink of an Eye."

      And Season 2? Season 2 doubled down on the Trek remake approach. No other sources, no novel concepts: almost every episode is a remake of a previous episode of Star Trek. Sometimes The Orville at least bothered to remix a pair of episodes, and sometimes a lot of the details got changed, but with one exception, every episode was a Trek episode remake.

      Orville Ep Trek Ep(s)
      "Ja'loja" This is the only original one
      "Primal Urges" "Hollow Pursuits" and/or "Extreme Risk"
      "Home" "Home"
      "Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes" "The Wolf Inside" (Ash Tyler's arc in general)
      "All the World Is Birthday Cake" "Who Watches the Watchers" mixed with "First Contact"
      "A Happy Refrain" "In Theory"
      "Deflectors" "A Man Alone" and/or "Suspicions"
      "Identity" (both parts) "The Best of Both Worlds" mixed with "Prototype"
      "Blood of Patriots" "The Wounded"
      "Lasting Impressions" "Booby Trap" and/or "It's Only a Paper Moon"
      "Sanctuary" "The Outcast"
      "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" "Second Chances"
      "The Road Not Taken" "Timeless"

      The degree to which a given The Orville episode is a remake of the Trek episode I've listed varies. "Home" is only similar if you look at the broad strokes: the officer on loan from the scientifically advanced Earth ally goes home where her family disparages her for spending all that time with humans. The home invasion plot from that episode was original, but it was also kinda weird and contrived. The flipside of this constant borrowing from Trek is that when The Orville does go off the beaten path, it's inevitably flat out boring. "Ja'loja" was an utterly forgettable episode because it largely focused on Ed & Kelly relationship drama.

      And even if we look at "Ja'loja," there's a bit of "Amok Time" in there with the whole "returning to the desert homeworld" for the Moclan urination ceremony. Sometimes it's bits and pieces into a blender, but other times it's a basically a straight rip, like it is with "All the World Is Birthday Cake" and "Blood of Patriots." Perhaps the most blatant "homage" was introducing a surgically altered Klingon Krill to infiltrate the hero ship, right down to the name and rank of the infiltrator!

      I know, everything's a remix, and I know, it's a fine line between "ripoff" and "homage," but the problem with this level of "borrowing" is that when you've seen every episode of Star Trek as many times as I have, each episode of The Orville just becomes an exercise in "I wonder which Star Trek episode this will be," and once you figure it out, it just saps all the urgency and tension out of the viewing experience. It gets boring.

      I didn't get bored with Discovery. I mean, sure, Discovery has its problems. In many ways its problems are the inverse of The Orville's strengths: I struggle to care all that much about any of the characters, the show is rife with dark sets and quick shots which just isn't that visually appealing, and the worldbuilding is at times really difficult to reconcile with established Trek lore. (The Spore drive is classified? That's why we never see it again? Ummm... OK, then.) And the story, while chaotic and poorly paced & planned due to constant showrunner turmoil, is at the very least interesting and novel.

      The perfect Star Trek would be a synthesis of these two shows, but apart, each show pretty much breaks even when you take the strengths and weaknesses on the merits. Which brings me to my title: I cannot for the life of me get into the mindset of the fans who see this as the True Trek of our time. It's just remakes of old Trek, and while the visuals have been updated for 2019, the stories have not.

      The bottom line is that while it's great that we have two Trek-style shows on the air at the same time for the first time since the 90's, neither show is great, or even good. They're both just OK, and the huge disparity between how they've been received doesn't make much sense to me.

      24 votes
    7. I don't have a lot to say yet; I'm on episode 9 so far. That series has been on my watchlist forever, so the moment I saw it pop up on Netflix I jumped on it. It's as awesome as described. Moreso....

      I don't have a lot to say yet; I'm on episode 9 so far. That series has been on my watchlist forever, so the moment I saw it pop up on Netflix I jumped on it.

      It's as awesome as described. Moreso. It's funny and quirky. Despite watching two 12-year-olds hang out, it doesn't feel like a kids' series at all (the humour is quite adult, similar level as Futurama). It knows when to make fun of itself. It's pushing all my buttons and I'm having a lot of fun watching it.

      My biggest laugh so far has been Mabel's "Scout's Honor" shirt. In my head I was waiting for the punchline and loved seeing the delivery.

      Solid recommendation so far. And the theme song is so fucking catchy.

      20 votes
    8. We've had a few threads recently criticising the direction of various shows cough Game of Thrones cough and @Amarok suggested a thread celebrating the good stuff on TV instead. Personally,...

      We've had a few threads recently criticising the direction of various shows cough Game of Thrones cough and @Amarok suggested a thread celebrating the good stuff on TV instead. Personally, television is by far my favourite means of visual storytelling, a good TV show can go into the kind of depth and complexity that the more time-limited format of movies just can't touch.

      A few of my favourite shows then, in no particular order:

      House MD - recently rewatched this and it definitely stands the test of time. Sure, there are a few weak episodes here and there but on balance it's solid. Hugh Laurie absolutely nails the role of Sherlock Holmes Greg House and the supporting cast are excellent too. It has one of my all-time favourite endings of all television shows, even knowing what was coming I still ended up a little moist of eye by the end. Also they grade the colour with increasing desaturation throughout season 8, almost to the point of it being monochrome - until the final scene is in glorious, bright colour and I love little touches like that. TV shouldn't just be actors reading lines, there is a whole medium to tell stories with (Game of Thrones also did this kind of thing well).

      Detectorists - BBC show about two metal detectorists. Gloriously paced, slow and gentle but insistent in telling it's tale, with really strong characters. Finishes beautifully, at just the right time. A gem of a show, it's very well written and nearly flawless throughout. Mackenzie Crook (writer, director) was offered more seasons but he declined because the show was finished and that takes guts to do but I love that he did. Also features Diana Rigg (Olenna Tyrell) who is never not brilliant.

      Buffy The Vampire Slayer - I mean what can you even say about Buffy. Might have been the last show where my friends would meet up for a watch party every week, hanging out for hours discussing it and enjoying herbal cigarettes for the evening. Streaming is great and so convenient but in some ways I do miss TV being an event. There was someone very special about getting everyone together once a week to share in that world, and especially with Buffy because the characters were so close in age to me (I'm slightly younger than Alyson Hannigan and I had such a crush on Willow). Sure, it had it's wobbles (the entire Adam story arc, for example) but also some of the best TV moments of the 90s/early 2000s. Once More With Feeling and Hush are fan favourites for a reason.

      Hannibal - Produced by Bryan Fuller, who is always good, but absolutely outdoes himself here, and Mads Mikkelson is terrifying in the titular role. Visually it's stunning, the plot is engaging and deeply disturbing, the characters well drawn and believable (Hannibal particularly so, which is all the more horrifying) and the sound design is absolutely astonishing. I bought a whole new sound system literally just for this show and it was totally worth it. Sound design is one of those things which you only notice when it's particularly bad or particularly good and Hannibal is definitely the latter. It's such a well-rounded piece of television, it uses colour and light and sound and all the tools in the TV maker's box. the ending is a little on the weak side but they got axed early - Bryan Fuller had five seasons planned but they only got three.

      I could go on, but I won't because I'll go on for ages! Please add a couple of your favourite shows and maybe we can all find a few new things to watch.

      20 votes
    9. Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      So, in a nutshell, the writing quality and character development declined a lot in the last season ... except I mostly didn't notice (or mind), until I started reading online about how much - and why - everyone else hated the last season.

      I got as far as S08 Ep03 (the White Walker battle) without reading any online commentary, critiques, etc. On my own, I did feel some characters' activities/behaviors were a bit 'off', but I still loved the episode overall (except literally too dark, hard to see some scenes).

      Then a friend commented on some disappointing thing in the episode, and how 'everyone' was bitching about it. I started reading online ... and that's when I started seeing the flaws in the last season.

      Granted, even if I had stayed offline, just watched it myself, there probably still would have been things that pissed me off ... Euron's magical dragon ambush, the whole Missandei capture/murder thing, and Dany embracing the Dark Side. I can't imagine I would have overlooked those.

      But, by reading everyone else's gripes online, watching bitter youtube reviews, etc., the last 3 episodes sucked a lot more for me, because I saw all the flaws, many of which I would have missed.

      So, to sum up, I blame all y'all for ruining GoT for me.


      23 votes