Friday, September 18, 2015

Fall TV Preview Part 1: Bring on the Pilots!

There are a lot of new tv shows coming this fall. I got a chance to watch a few of the pilots and I'm here to share my take on those pilots. Be warned I will be mention some small spoilers, nothing that isn't covered in the trailers, but consider yourself warned.

Blindspot (NBC)
Premiere September 21st, 2015

The minute I saw the trailer for Blindspot I was intrigued. A big reasons why was the start of that trailer. It begins with a police officer discovering an abandoned duffle bag in the middle of Time Square, which is crowded by people, with a tag on it that says "Call the FBI." Next scene Time Square is completely empty save the bag and a  man in a bulky protective suit, obviously a member of the bomb squad. As he reaches out the bag suddenly begins to move and he yells "There's something in there." As the bag opens he pulls out a gun and aims it at the bag, he's shaking and breathing heavily. Then a naked woman, covered in tattoos emerges. The first thing that popped into my head was: A woman is naked on the screen and the only other person, a man, in the scene is scared and pointing a gun at her. THIS IS AWESOME! 

It's a very striking subversion of how women and their bodies are framed in most crime thrillers, as literal bodies and terrified victims. That shifting of the lens is imbedded in ever aspect of Blindspot (though sadly not not reflected in the publicity campaign for the show). That opening scene is a visual metaphor for the show and Jane herself, because while she is a victim, she is also very dangerous not just because of the mystery she presents, but the power she holds.

Jane has no memory of who she is, but she retains all her knowledge and skills, and a body covered in clues in the form of various tattoos. This old chestnut of a plot device (amnesia) is given more depth by allowing the narrative to focus on Jane’s experience of this ordeal. She is at once vulnerable, determined, powerful, and very sympathetic. The mystery she presents is fascinating and frightening, both in how it affects her and the potential dangers her tattoos are heralding.

Jane is not an object in the story so much as she is the story. The plot, so far, hinges on discovering who Jane is or was before she lost her memory. What a brilliant way to humanize a woman, by not only making her both the key to the entire story, but by making her the only one who solve the mystery. Which sets the man, who would typically be the lead in the story, firmly in the supporting role. All this is wrapped in a atmospheric, action-crime thriller with pulse pounding pacing and fight scenes that are on par with big budget films. No shaky-cam here, my friends. 

The cast is pretty diverse, though actors of color are relegated to 2nd and 3rd tier roles. Still their performances are strong and stand out, which gives me hope for more development of these characters as the show progresses. Notable stand outs are Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Bethany Mayfair and Ukweli Roach as Dr. Borden. Sullivan Stapleton does an adequate job as the “Trojan leading man” of the story, playing Kurt Weller, an FBI who finds himself plopped into the middle of the mystery because his name is tattooed on Jane’s back. But it is clear this is Jamie Alexander’s show. 
If you're of fan of Jamie’s work as Sif, in the Thor movies and Agents of Shield tv show, you will be more than pleased to see her finally get the spotlight she has long deserved. Her performance is nuanced and stunning. I wish we had more action heroines with this much complexity and layers. 

The pilot has me hooked both on the story and deeply in love with the character of Jane. I’m setting my dvr. I can’t wait to find out the secrets hidden in Jane’s tattoos and past. 

Lucifer (FOX)
Premiere: Not announced yet

I am a big fan of the comic book spin-off of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, by the amazingly talented Mike Carey. Lucifer was one of my FAVORITE characters from the Sandman universe. I wasn’t sure what to think of the idea of a Lucifer tv show when I first saw the trailer, but I am so glad I gave the pilot a chance. This is not the Lucifer comic book, but it does have the same tone and charm of the world and characters. Not surprising as Gaiman has a producer credit on the show, I don’t doubt he had at least some say so in how it was made. Still I advise any fans coming to the show to keep their expectations in check. 

The show opens on Los Angeles where Lucifer, who has recently quit his job, i.e. abandoned Hell, is running a night club. His “vacation” is not without it’s complications, one of which is an Angel by the name of Amenadiel, played by the phenomenal D.B. Woodside, who has been sent by God to get Lucifer’s butt back in Hell. No suprising, Lucifer isn’t interested in returning to his old job. He has made a comfy life for himself, and some of his former minions, on Earth. One of those minions, fans of the comic book will be please to see, is Mazikeen, played by the talented Lesley-Ann Brandt, who is the bartender at Lucifer’s club. 

The story real story starts with the introduction of Delilah, an famous pop singer who Lucifer helped get started in the business. Sadly, she is killed right in front of him. While I’m disappointed by the fridging of a women, ugh this trope is quickly becoming a cliche, I was struck by the dynamic between her and Lucifer. In fact, this take on Lucifer’s motivations and personality is the strongest hook for me with the show. 

What I’m talking about (which can be seen in the trailer)  is how Lucifer isn’t flirty or sexual with Delilah, but rather very paternal and caring. His reaction to her murder is likewise very passionate, and I was really struck by how important “justice” was to him. I love this depth to his character that not only feeds into why he would have been so well suited to run Hell, but also hints at how much Lucifer might actually have in common with the father he claims to hate. Tom Ellis is fantastic as Lucifer. He brings a surprising amount of depth and humanity to a role that could be easily be played over the top. He fluidly shifts from petulant child to furious angel and back to a charming playboy within the space of a few minutes. He isn’t the devil we know, but he is a devil we want to know.

Chloe, the police detective investigating Delilah’s murder, isn’t what she appears to be in many ways, which is so damn refreshing. In fact, her character/backstory is another thing that got me hooked on the show. Her interactions with Lucifer fully embraces the odd couple trope, only here there is no weaker link/butt of the joke. Lucifer has met his match in Chloe, who is literally immune to his charms. So far, there is no real hint of romantic subplot between them, and I’m so hopeful it remains that way. I really enjoy seeing them as platonic partners, and even keeping Lucifer in a place of paternal responsibility. It emphasizes his power and separation from humanity. 

Overall, I’m super excited to see the show. It has a fair amount of diversity in the supporting cast, don’t mind me while I flail over Mazikeen being black in this canon. I’m really happy that despite the title of the show, Chloe is as much a lead in the story as the devil himself. 

Additional Note: Lucifer is the show that should be doing a crossover with Sleepy Hollow, especially since the same talent is working behind the scenes on both shows. I would much rather seeing Ichabod and Abbie face off with Lucifer, rather than the cast of Bones. Seriously, what the hell is FOX even thinking? 

The Minority Report (FOX)
Premiere September 21st, 2015

I watched this solely on the casting of Meagan Good. She does not disappoint, likewise with her costar, Stark Sands,  and the rest of the supporting cast (who are delightfully diverse). I've been missing a futuristic odd couple show since Almost Human was cancelled. Minority Report isn't that show, but it has the same bright technologically stunning vision of the future, which is a nice change from all the monochrome dystopian sci fi dominating popular media right now.

The story picks up a few years after the end of the movie and shows the inevitable repercussions of shutting down the PreCrime program. Dash, one of the original three pre-cogs used in the program, has return to the city to try to help people by stopping crimes before they're committed. He is joined by Detective Lara Vega, and together they explore his gift and try to prevent crimes. The introduction of Dash and Vega feels more like a superheroes origin story, opposed to a typical crime thriller. I think some of that is related both to Dash's abilities, but also the themes of Phillip K. Dick's story, upon which the movie and now tv show are based. The show expands on the moral and ethical argument presented by PreCrime with real world, or in this case futuristic world, consequences. It also confronts us with very real questions about personal responsibility, the nature of crime, and the cause of it.

Acting and story wise I am sold, I love the production/art design, and am genuinely engaged with the story. The look of the show beautiful without being distracting. The only thing that bothered me are some unnecessary bits of humor and dialogue forced into scenes where they didn’t belong. I’m hoping these were problems with the pilot that will be remedied in the rest of the show. I can see how they are attempting to replicate the dynamic of Sleepy Hollow within a future setting, which isn't a bad thing at all, for me. Dash is a hapless, but not completely helpless, man out of time. Vega is the intelligent and determined police detective, with a kind heart who takes Dash under her wing. There are obvious conspiracy going on, that hint at a bigger story arc for the season. It’s a good start.

Supergirl (CBS)
Premiere October 26th, 2015

If you were following me on social media when the Supergirl trailer leaked you already know that I'm very much in love with the show. Well, I've seen the pilot episode and my love has only grown. This is everything I never knew I wanted. 

I love everything about this show, from the bright color palette (FINALLY THANK YOU), to the joyful tone, and of course Kara herself. She is every bit the earnest, vulnerable, and capable super-heroine we deserve. On top of all that, this is a comic book show, by that I mean it has ALL the tropes. I'm talking monster of the week, smashing people through walls, and explosions. Best of all, we get all of this with a girl standing in the forefront. This isn't just a young woman coming of age story, it is a young woman superhero coming of age story. 

As a long time fan of the Superman mythos this show made me so happy, and surprisingly emotional. There are a lot of wonderful easter eggs for Superman fans. Whether you love the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, the original Supergirl movie, Lois and Clark, or even Smallville, there is a little surprise in here for everyone. It means a lot to me to see Kara's story woven into the Superman legacy. 

It is also wonderful to see that the central relationship of the show is not a romance, though there is definitely hints of a romantic subplot, but instead the focus is on the relationship between sisters. Alex Danvers, played by Chyler Leigh,  is the daughter of  Kara's adopted parents (who are an awesome easter egg for fans). Alex takes her role as Kara's older sister very seriously, which casts Kara's journey to becoming a hero into a decidedly feminist light. It's played subtly, but poignantly by Leigh, who gives a lot of real world subtext to the risks a woman, like Kara, faces being in the public eye. Honestly, the entire show is filled with feminist subtext I could be here all day going over all of it. 

Of course I can't not mention Jimmy, I mean James, Olsen, played by the handsome and talented Mehcad Brooks. That's right, Jimmy Olsen is black, and a potential love interest for Supergirl. Cue me dancing. Their meet-cute is ridiculously sweet. When James isn't melting the screen, he has a lot of depth and some secrets of his own. I can't wait to see more of him and the show. 

While the show is being marketed to adults, I think it's really going to hit big with younger viewers too. This show is made for young girls. Kara's story isn't just about being a woman, but about becoming a person. Figuring out who you are and what kind of power you have in the world. That is universal story, but one girls have been needing to see themselves in for a long time.

So that's part 1 of my Fall TV Preview. In part 2 I'll be listing the upcoming shows I haven't seen yet and talk about why I'm planning to watch them. 

What shows are you excited to see? 


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