Category Archives: TV Show Reviews

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (tv show)

TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN

DETAILS:

Created By: Carlton CuseGraham Roland
Stars:  John KrasinskiWendell PierceJohn Hoogenakker, Ali Suliman
Based on: “Jack Ryan Universe”, by Tom Clancy
Original Network: Amazon
First episode date: August 31, 2018
Number of Episodes: 8
Number of Seasons: 1

OVERALL: A little rocky on some parts, but overall an enjoyable show.

STORYLINE

An up-and-coming CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, is thrust into a dangerous field assignment as he uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication that launches him into the center of a dangerous gambit.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

Currently we have only watched season 1. Additional seasons will be added as they come out.

SEASON 1

First let me get this out there, as I grow older the less patience I have with flag waving bravado that has no merit and doesn’t give at least a cursory exam on the other side. Not really interested in propaganda. I was pretty sure this was going to be exactly like that.

Now, that being said, Jack Ryan was a pretty even handed, although a bit rah rah in its outlook. They managed to give the “bad guy” a backstory that gives him some sympathy. They made him smart and three dimensional. I honestly think they did great with the character and his arc across the season.

I enjoyed that they seemed to wrap up that story completely by the end of the season. This gives me a hope that this is more of an anthology series, with different stories of different missions for Jack Ryan. I really like how a lot of series have started this (thank you American Horror Story for trailblazing). I especially like they limited to 8 episodes. I would rather have less episodes that are better story wise overall, then too much fluff in the middle.

I did enjoy the first half of the season exploring Jack Ryan (John Krasinski). He suprised me, as an actor from the show “The Office” I really didn’t expect him to do well with the role. In the end he did pretty well.

The character Jack Ryan did have some problematic issues for me. They couldn’t decide if he was a hardcore badass, who survived possible death and was a combat genius, yet was so shocked that his boss would make deals with “bad guys” to get information. The naïveté combined with the warrior theme really didn’t jive with me. I especially hated when he lost his temper while on a mission. It broke any “realism” cred that he had before that.

The fact that they made torture seemed like it was efficient and effective is a joke, and having Ryan stand up to interrupt anyone and speak to the president directly without getting fired (no matter what he said) really annoyed me (coming from someone who worked for the DoD in a civilian position for over four years, no way that happens).

The direction, story writing (other than what I talked about above) and acting by everyone was on point and definitely worth it. I didn’t really like the relationship between Greer and Ryan, I know they are trying to shoehorn that relationship to end up like the movies, but it isn’t working for me.

TRAILER

The Last Kingdom (tv show)

THE LAST KINGDOM

DETAILS:

Stars: Alexander DreymonEliza ButterworthIan Hart 
Based on: “The Saxon Stories”, by Bernard Cornwell
Original Network: BBC America, BBC Two, Netflix
First episode date: October 10, 2015

OVERALL: A surprising success. 

STORYLINE

As a child, Uhtred witnessed his father being killed and the Saxon army defeated by invading troops. Danish warlord Earl Ragnar captured Uhtred and raised him in a Danish camp alongside fellow captive Brida, a sharp-tongued girl. Years later, Uhtred is a valiant warrior who is dealt another tragic blow when his home is deliberately set on fire, killing his surrogate family, including Ragnar. Now exiled — alone except for Brida by his side — he vows to avenge Ragnar’s death and reclaim his homeland. But, he must choose between his birth country and the people who raised him. If he is going to help birth a new nation and ultimately recapture his ancestral land he must walk dangerous path between both sides.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

SEASON 1

Worth it? Surprisingly good, definitely worth watching.

To be honest I was expecting this to be a Vikings rip-off. I had never heard of the book series at all and didn’t realize it was based on a relatively popular historical-fiction book. This was good enough I am going to add the first book to my audible list just to listen to at work.

The acting starts out pretty well, and takes place mostly in the Danes camps after they capture the boy Uhtred (don’t worry he is only a boy for an episode or two). You get to meet his owner then to become his father Ragnar, is brother Ragnar son of Ragnar and Rutger Hauer playing Ravn (whom I loved), Brida another captured Saxon and Thyra, Uhtred’s adopted sister. Now Rutguer and the rest of of the older cast are gone within a couple episodes so don’t get your hopes too far up.

The story follows Uhtred as he is accused of murdering his father, running to the Saxons and finding his uncle took Uhtred’s rightful throne and finally his journal to King Alfred. It continues as he has a dramatic relationship with the church, the king and more then one woman. It ends on a really good note for the first season, albeit a little sad in some ways.

The production value is way better than I expected as well. Their was obviously a decent budget, or at least someone who knows how to make it look good. There were larger battles that were interesting, and most importantly not every female got raped (thank you for not following GRR Martin’s technique). Don’t get me wrong there is raiding and some uncomfortable moments, especially in the beginning but it isn’t on the level of Game of Thrones.

The story is a lot tighter then other stories in the same vein. I am finding I like this more than Vikings and Game of Thrones, although in all fairness I should probably revisit Vikings before I make a final decision.

Overall I think this is a good tv series to watch. There is already a second season finished and a third season being filmed. I am curious what they will do in Season 2 and will probably report that back at some point. The fact season 3 is by Netflix could be a sign it will get better even.

Pros: Good acting, great sets, and a tight story.

Cons: There are some parts in the middle that drag, and sometimes you want to grab Uhtred and tell him to suck it up, but that is about it.

Here is the trailer:

 

The Mist (tv show)

THE MIST

DETAILS:

Creator: Christian Torpe
Stars: Morgan SpectorAlyssa SutherlandGus Birney
Based on: “The Mist”, by Stephen King
Original Network: BBC America, BBC Two, Netflix
Episode Dates: June 22, 2017 – August 24, 2017

OVERALL: Much like a lot of adapted works of King, there is good and bad in here. I would lean more towards good, but its a close call.

STORYLINE

After an eerie mist rolls into a small town, the residents must battle the mysterious mist and its threats, fighting to maintain their morality and sanity.

Worth it? Maybe, I am stuck on the edge… I should let the Mist decide for me.

I can’t decide if it should be cast onto the trash heap, or if I want to see a second season.

The story has a lot of good possibilities, and I like the basic setup of MOST of the characters. I especially loved Frances Conroy (from American Horror Story) and Alyssa Sutherland (from Vikings). The chemistry for almost all the characters is good.

The writing however isn’t so good. Some of the deaths in the Mist were pretty hokey, and the base conceits of the story and characters were overdone tropes. The movie was a lot better in writing and direction, then again it was Frank Darabont so of course it was better.

The changes in what they had the Mist doing and how it effected people was also new and interesting, and allows a lot of possibilities in the universe. As a person who runs tabletop roleplaying games it would be a fantastic world to set a game up in (well not a long term game, more like a Call of Cthulhu game where everyone will die eventually, or at least most everyone).

I could get past some of the bad acting (it was only some acting that was bad), I can get past the hokey deaths as well. What I am having a hard time getting past is a trope they centered on one of the characters. This is a spoiler, so don’t read any further if you don’t want to know details!!!

I dislike Adrian, the gay/bisexual/weirdo kid dynamic with Jay, the popular jock. In this show Adrian is the only real LGBTQ character (his sexuality is more on specific people not gender) but he is also a rapist and a monster who turns on people. He is the only queer representation in the entire series and they make him the bad guy, while the jock named Jay is actually altruistic and falsely accused of raping the main teenage girl in the story.

Are we back in the 1960s where the only queer representation is a monstrous rapist who is not trustworthy and who kills and rapes his own family/friends group. Oh, I forget there was one other possible queer character who is a bully and beats people up to cover up his homophobic behavior.

I don’t mind that Jay is innocent and he is a good kid, my issue is that the monster is the one queer character in the entire show. I am not sure I can get past that.

Pros: Great possibility, lots of options as a storyteller.

Cons: Horrific stereotype of LGBTQ, bad directing and really hokey deaths on occasions (really leeches falling on someone from the ceiling.

Here is the trailer:

 

Schitt’s Creek (tv show)

SCHITT’S CREEK

DETAILS:

Creator: Dan LevyEugene Levy
Stars: Eugene LevyCatherine O’HaraDan Levy 
Original Network: CBC Television, Netflix
Start Date: 2015

OVERALL: It is far more entertaining then it has any right to be..

STORYLINE

After an eerie mist rolls into a small town, the residents must battle the mysterious mist and its threats, fighting to maintain their morality and sanity.

Worth it? Yes, embarrassingly so.

I started watching it as something in the background while I work on the computer, I ended up watching most of it.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t some miraculous comedy, it is mostly funny, and definitely cringe worthy in some ways. I originally started watching it because Eugene Levy (the dad from American Pie) stars in it alongside his son Daniel Levy. I was curious if it was the same dad character… it isn’t.

The family starts out incredibly horrible, classist, snobby and annoying. The town of Schitt’s Creek starts out os ignorant bumpkins. Somewhere over the seasons the town becomes more interesting and you see deeper into them, while the Rose family learns to quit being uptight asses and they start to show some soft appreciative sides (except the Mom, Moira does change a little but I still really don’t like that character).

I was surprised at how it handled some things. David (the son) is bisexual. They are very clear about it, and it shows him kissing and dating men during the show. It isn’t made a big deal and the family and the town all seems to kind of accept it. The fact that it was just taken for granted that he would date guys too really bought a lot of good will from me. It isn’t a struggle for him to be accepted, he is accepted and if anyone dislikes him its because his family can sometimes be snobbish, not because he likes other men.

Pros: Easy to watch, you won’t miss much if you miss an episode, and some of the jokes are pretty funny.

Cons: It is the equivalent of popcorn, not really filling, nothing unusual tasting, but it passes the time.

 

Here is the trailer:

 

 

 

Bates Motel (tv show)

BATES MOTEL

DETAILS:

Creator: Anthony CiprianoCarlton CuseKerry Ehrin
Stars: Vera FarmigaFreddie HighmoreMax Thieriot
Based on:
“Psycho”, by Robert Bloch

Original Network: A&E
Original Release: March 18, 2013 – April 24, 2017

Worth it? Yes, and don’t tell mother!

STORYLINE

A contemporary prequel to Psycho, giving a portrayal of how Norman Bates’ psyche unravels through his teenage years, and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is.

REVIEW

I have to say this is the biggest surprise of a tv show that I have had. Far better acted, written, and was far more interesting then I ever would have given it credit.

When I originally saw teasers and trailers for the show I assumed that it was going to be A&E’s copy of a teenage CW show with teen angst and drama. I had absolutely no interest after catching the first episode because it dealt with Norman at a new high school. I was entirely wrong about the show.

I had assumed it was only a teenager show mostly because the actor looks like, and it is a young Norman Bates, and they focused on his mom a lot in the beginning, but for some reason I assumed she wouldn’t be a lasting character. I mean how do you make Norma Bates, AKA “MOTHER!” a regular character. Not only is she a regular (and she is there on screen until the last episode), she is on the same level as Norman and they are both great characters, acted by very good actors.

There is of course a lot of drama, violence, death and insanity, but that is expected from a reboot prequel of the original movie “Psycho”. It hit all the notes for me, including the surrounding characters, unexpected reveals and even though several key facts about Norman are changed it is definitely Norma Bates.

The only thing I hesitate on, and this isn’t a poor reflection it is still great, I would have handled the last 3 or 4 episodes differently. SPOILER ALERT: I would have not had the final 3 or four episodes end the way they did, wrapping up the storyline 100%, instead I would have changed a couple of things that would allow it to end, right about where the movie started. That however isn’t a bad thing, just a style thing.

Pros: Excellent acting, writing, and kept my interest over the five seasons, even if I cringed sometimes.

Cons: I stylistically would have wrapped it up at a different point, but that is purely a dramatic choice.

I am really glad I did start watching it, and I encourage others to give it a try.

Here is the trailer, I really wish though it didn’t have that CW feel at the beginning:

 

 

 

Fortitude (tv show)

FORTITUDE

DETAILS:

Creator: Simon Donald
Stars: Richard Dormer, Björn Hlynur HaraldssonSienna Guillory
Original Network: Sky Atlantic
First episode date: January 29, 2015

OVERALL: A very interesting twist on a police investigation show.

STORYLINE

Perched on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Fortitude is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

SEASON 1

Worth it? Yes

Fortitude is a fictional location in Artic Norway, with an unusual population consisting of a lot of people not from Norway. It is almost a direct comparison to the way that Alaska was for the USA for a long time, comprised not of locals but of people from different parts of the country/world trying to either start something new, or get away from something old.

The basic concept is about a company trying to build a vacation getaway/go to location in the artic, while there are also a research facility and some sort of mining/oil location. All of this is in danger when a headless body is discovered, a murderer is lose and there is something more then a banal human doing the killing.

The acting is great, and the writing makes it feel like these people do know each other. You can feel them sort of group together when Stanley Tucci comes in as a British investigator for the death, and Tucci’s struggle to find out what actually happened.

The whole storyline is over by the end of the season, they wrap up the killer and supernatural parts of it cleanly, leaving the show with a solid conclusion. I very much enjoy this with British shows, the idea that the season can stand alone.

The one down part is the show does drag a little. It gets slower in the middle then I would like, and that could be my American take on shows, but they could have reduced this from a 12 episode show to a 10 episode show and it would have only been better

I suspect part of this is the show starts to have a lot of relationship drama, where they really shouldn’t be, and slows down the story just for drama’s sake. Never a good thing.

Pros: Excellent acting, writing, location.

Cons: Could have been a little shorter, a little less relationship drama that went nowhere.

Caught my interest enough I will have to see what Season 2 will be about.

Santa Clarita Diet (tv show)

SANTA CLARITA DIET

DETAILS:

Stars: Drew BarrymoreTimothy OlyphantLiv Hewson
Based on: “The Man in the High Castle”, by Phillip K Dick
Original Network: Netflix
First episode date: November 20, 2015

OVERALL: I never imagined Timothy Olyphant from Justified could be so damn funny!

STORYLINE

Sheila and Joel are married real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California. When Sheila dies, their lives take a dark turn.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

SEASON 1 & 2

Worth it? Yes

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star in this Netflix-original series as married realtors, Sheila and Joel, who are living a quiet life, raising their teenage daughter in Santa Clarita, Calif. Their world unexpectedly changes when Sheila dies and becomes a zombie, a cute hungry and sometimes feral zombie.

The show is a lot better then I would expected. I wouldn’t have thought that either actor would do well in a 30 minute comedy based on keeping the wife fed, looking for a cure (thanks Serbia) and from being discovered. The show can be gory, can be crass but is almost always funny. There are a ton of guest stars as well, all in memorable roles. I am looking at you Nathan Fillion (GARY!).

The show is even good enough that I enjoy the teenager subplots involving their daughter and daughter’s geeky best friend. The show also kept what made it good in the second season and improved it. I am looking forward to season 3 already.

Pros: Great writing, acting and humor.

Cons: Starting to get a lot of secondary characters, I hope they don’t keep up increasing it in Season 3.

 

Man in the High Castle (tv show)

It should be noted that I have since moved to just updating the original review, this post was originally broken into seasons. I have tried to update further seasons below the intro. Starting with newest and working back.

DETAILS:

Creator: Frank Spotnitz
Stars: Alexa DavalosLuke KleintankRufus Sewell, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Based on: “The Man in the High Castle”, by Phillip K Dick
Original Network: Amazon
First episode date: November 20, 2015

OVERALL: A fantastic, must-see show!.

STORYLINE

In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, a young woman discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

SEASON 2

Worth it? Yes

Still can’t do better than the Nazis, mysterious films, alternate worlds and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

It’s the next season of the same world. We pick up almost immediately where we left off, having met the Man in the High Castle, the Nazi conspiracy and the drive to make a H-Bomb by the Japanese.

I can’t talk very much about the plot itself if you haven’t seen it. It does ratchet up the intrigue, who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. There is more of a focus inside New York (the Reich) and Mr. Tagomi opens up a totally new storyline that comes together at the end of the season.

It humanizes all the main characters, including  Obergruppenführer John Smith, and Inspector Kids. It doesn’t make what they do ok, so no apologism for their behavior, but it does show you why they do the things they do. Like all people, even villains, they are the hero of their own story.

This season was a little different, I found I didn’t like Juliana or Fink as much. Not acting or the writing. They were great, but their storylines took them into places I didn’t like and their character’s twists and turns made me not like the characters themselves as much.

Pros: Once again, great acting, immersive sets, an compelling story and I love Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Mr. Tagomi. I liked him last season, but he clicked with me a lot (well so did John Smith, but Mr. Tagomi took it away).

 Cons: Once again, I don’t think there is an overall con, but because there are so many roles you will probably hate someone… I still can’t stand Joe Blake, not the fault of the actor, he is good, just don’t like the character, this season he whines an awful lot and I just can’t stand it.

Hands down a great show, I still can’t recommend it more.

SEASON 1

Worth it? Yes

Nazis, alternate universe, resistance and a mysterious films showing alternate worlds, of course its great.

The world is different, the Axis powers won and split up America. The Japanese took the western third, the Nazis took the eastern half leaving a small strip in the middle that was a neutral zone. There are main characters in the resistance, in the Nazis and in the Japanese occupying force (and Trade Minister).

I don’t want to spoil it, but all the acting is really good. Their are two main Nazi characters, both very good at their roles, one who questions what he is doing and one who is a loyal higher up officer who does his duty but has to protect his family. There is a Japanese inspector and a Trade Minister both excellent with varying views, then of course there is a grouping of Resistance actors who are all great with various outlooks.

Its not set in World War II, its 20 years after and you get to deal with the politics of the two empires posturing over what is left of America with the threat of war (and surprisingly enough the only reason there is peace is because Hitler is still alive). There is a character in here that you will like no matter your outlook.

Pros: Great acting, immersive sets, an compelling story.

 Cons: I don’t think there is an overall con, but because there are so many roles you will probably hate someone… personally I can’t stand Joe Blake, not the fault of the actor, he is good, just don’t like the character.

Hands down a great show, can’t recommend it more.

 

Enterprise (tv show)

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE

DETAILS:

Creator:  Rick BermanBrannon Braga
Stars:  Scott BakulaJohn BillingsleyJolene Blalock
Based on: Original Star Trek TV Series

Original Network: UPN
Original Release: September 26, 2001 – May 13, 2005

Worth it?No, unless you want to go back and realize all the flaws with it.!

STORYLINE

A century before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission, Jonathan Archer captains the United Earth ship Enterprise during the early years of Starfleet, leading up to the Earth-Romulan War and the formation of the Federation.

REVIEW

A very big disappointment, but not for the reasons I had ignored watching it the first time around.

Enterprise has good actors, and the occasional great performance, especially from my favorite, Jeffrey Coombs who played the Andorian Shran with an occasional recurrent role. The sets I thought were great, along with the costuming for everyone except T’Pol (which this comes into the problems I have).

The problem comes down to the writing. It is the laziest, sexist, unimaginative writing that I have seen in the Star Trek universe, overall more so then even the first season of ST:NG. The number of rape/assaults that occurred randomly on the show (mostly using mind-melds as the stand in) were fairly common. They even had T’Pol who seems to be the constant recipient of this do it back to someone else. That bothered me a lot.

Then we get into the sexist treatment of T’Pol in general, constant forcing her into those situations, combined with that stupid body fitting outfit she wore, instead of the normal uniform. The ramrod writing of trying to shoehorn her into scenes such as the decon room where they have her sweating and posing sexually while waiting for the decontamination happens.

I also need to point out that there were very few original ideas in the series as well. Instead of taking this opportunity to maybe do something more gritty (maybe on a Babylon 5 level) they instead reworked a lot of episodes (well sometimes not even reworking) from the original series. They also tended to not tell stories linearly, instead starting from the end and going back which is not their strength (stay in your lane).

In addition there was no actual character progression, any progress in a character that was learned in a story disappeared within two more episodes. Not even counting the fact that the behavior of the characters would sometimes be 180 degrees from what they said in other episodes. I wonder if they even had a plot bible, which is a book or data store that records all the personality traits of each character and things that happen to change them, this way multiple writers have the same base character for each of their stories and it allows them to slowly change a character.

Overall the sad writing is what made this show sink for me. I can’t blame the actors at all, they did what they could. It was a chore to finish Season 4.

Pros: The actors worked hard on this and did make it more watchable (especially Jeffrey Coombs).

Cons: The writing was a mess, no permanent progression, no real original ideas, just rehashing old subjects.

Britannia (tv show)

BRITANNIA

DETAILS:

Creator:  Jez ButterworthTom ButterworthJames Richardson
Stars: Eleanor Worthington-CoxDavid MorrisseyKelly Reilly 
Original Network: Sky Atlantic/Amazon
First episode date: January 18, 2018

Worth it? Still undetermined.

STORYLINE

Britannia” is set in A.D. 43, when the Romans invaded Britain led by General Aulus Plautius, who is determined to succeed where Julius Caesar failed and conquer this mythical land on the very end of the Roman Empire. Kerra, daughter of the King of the Cantii, is forced to put her differences with archrival Queen Antedia aside in order to unite the tribes and supposedly magical Druids and face their invaders. But General Aulus carries a secret that threatens to undermine the entire mission.

SEASON 1 BREAKDOWN

I just finished watching the first season of Britannia and I honestly can’t tell you if I like it or not. I go back and forth and it really isn’t even something I can break up into too many pros and cons. That is because it is all so intermixed that there isn’t a clear winner and loser portion.

It is about the Roman invasion of Britannia in 43 AD led by Roman Aulus Plautius. David Morrissey who played the Governor on Walking Dead does well enough, it isn’t him, or it really isn’t any of the actors. They all do well. I suspect instead I have an innate issue with how they changed the history of the event.

It is to be expected they would change it, this is a supernatural historical fantasy version of the invasion. The druids are portrayed as supernatural (the leader being 2000 years old) and living in what most would consider squalor. It just didn’t work for me.

The second part that really bugged me was the references to Rome. It is historically true that Rome (via Julius Caesar) failed to conquer fully Britannia, they did however install a King who was subservient Rome. It was the first time that Rome had utilized the system of client Kingdoms when Caesar enthroned Mandubracius as King. Rome then kept diplomatic and trading links with Britannia until they finally came back in 43AD and invaded to take it fully. Whereas the show acts like Caesar left, the Britannia went on about their lives and never heard of Romans again for 90 years.

I think with my penchant to read a lot of history, precludes me to not liking the show overall. It isn’t that its written badly, just it isn’t true and I can’t really recommend the show to others because of that. I watch too many people believing things are factual because they watched a show that is fiction that I can’t go with this show either.

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