Tag Archives: TV Review

The Tick (2017)

 

UPDATE: this review stands, but scroll to the bottom for my second-viewing reactions. 


I wanted to love the new live-action series The Tick, but as of this writing I only kind of like it.

I’ll lead with this: the 2001 series, starring Patrick Warburton, is my definitive Tick. The sheer Warburtonlessness of the 2017 series is a hurdle that could only have been cleared if Peter Serafinowicz (playing The Tick) was allowed to go full Warburton in his delivery of the lines.

Clearly, my standard is not a fair one for judging this particular series, most especially because the creator of the characters, Ben Edlund, is involved in this project and wrote the first two episodes. Also, it’s completely unfair to ask an actor to be more like an actor who wouldn’t or couldn’t take the part.

2017’s The Tick, now streaming free on Amazon Prime, does give us a satisfying amount of superhero action. I like this much more than the 2001 Tick’s “noises off” gags where we can only hear the fight. And the fights are funny! Well done!

My biggest “fair” gripe, then, is Arthur. We spend six episodes—the entire first season—on what is essentially his origin story. It begins with Arthur as a very sad, broken, PTSD-suffering shell of a young man. To my eye it aims at dark comedy, and ends up joylessly gritty. As first episodes go, it’s not really “best foot forward.” By episode three we begin to pull out of that humorless place, but that’s an episode and a half too late.

(This is probably going to put me in a bad way with hard-core Tick fans, because the episodes I liked the least were the ones written by the man who created the characters to begin with.)

Episodes five and six pulled the whole shebang out of its slump, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. To me they feel like the true beginning of the series. They’re also the last two episodes of the currently available season, making them quite a bit less satisfying. The show stops just as it starts to get good.


Update: Second Viewing

So… I watched it a second time and it was *much* better. Arthur’s character arc became less miserable, The Tick’s characterization became fixed as the right one, and I no longer have any misgivings recommending it to people. Familiarity bleeds contempt? Dunno.

 

The HUNTED Camera Loves Myke

I don’t watch much TV. We don’t have cable. If a program gets good reviews from my friends, I’ll pick it up on Amazon Prime, or I’ll wait until it hits Netflix. Sometimes I’ll buy DVDs and Blu-Rays.

MykeCole-HuntedMy friend Myke Cole, whose books I’ve plugged in blog posts of yore¹, is featured in a reality TV program from CBS called “Hunted.” (Episode 1 is currently free to stream from CBS.²) Reality TV is pretty much my least favorite form of TV, but Myke is awesome so a gave it a shot.

No regrets. None.

A team of investigators, of which Myke is a part, break out all the tools of their trades to track down nine two-person teams of runners, who are playing the part of fugitives, with a $250k prize awaiting them if they can stay hidden for 28 days. We follow some of these teams each week, and each episode thus far has had at least one capture in it.

I have no idea what the actual mechanics are behind this game, but the tools and skills on display are the real deal. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and it’s entertaining to wonder how long you’d make it before Myke tracks your “untraceable” burner phone from a convenience store receipt and a traffic camera. (Answer: I can remain hidden for at least three meals if you give me a 1-hour head start. That’s probably it.)

Here’s the thing: The camera loves Myke. Several times during the first two episodes I noticed that shots were framed to include Myke in the background for no other reason than to make the shot look better. The costuming department is dressing him in t-shirts made of little more than paint and hard living, and I am forced to concede that not only is my friend Myke a fine human person and an outstanding writer, he looks really, really good on TV³.


 

¹ Here, here, and here. No yore was harmed in the reposting of these links.

² We’ve subscribed to the show via Amazon Prime, which is my least favorite part of this whole thing. Their digital delivery of HD is full of MPG artifacts that I never see from NetFlix. I’ll take MPG artifacts over commercials, but it stings to do that after spending actual real money on HD.

³That paragraph won’t embarrass Myke. His already-thick skin has been hardened under regular abrasion provided by his friend and mine, Sam Sykes, on Twitter. The Sam and Myke show (as I like to call it) is worth following: @MykeCole and @SamSykesSwears.

Lemony Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

UnfortunateEventsOrdinarily I don’t review television programs, but there have been enough exceptions that I’m not breaking a rule at this point, you’re just experiencing another edge case.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is proving to be delightful. I’ve watched the first four episodes, and I’m hooked. The series has two of my favorite things in it: clever writing, and Patrick Warburton. Imagine Kronk, or perhaps The Tick narrating in the bleak tones of Lemony Snicket, and warning you at the beginning of each episode that you really don’t want to continue.

It’s a bold move. When your story, as part of the story, is telling people not to keep reading, or watching, you’d better be doing it in a manner so entertaining that the audience hopes the warnings will continue.

In this case it is, and they do.

There’s much more than just dire warning working in favor of this series. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes are awesome, Presley Smith would chew scenery if given the chance, and over-the-top melodramatic performances are turned in by Neil Patrick Harris, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Usman Ally, Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins, and Cobie Smulders, and I’m only halfway through.

Were this series available on Blu-Ray or DVD I’d cheerfully pay season-of-TV-series rates for it. It’s not, but by that math the series totally paid for two months of Netflix just by existing.

 

The Expanse. It is Just. That. Good.

I’m amazed by how good SyFy’s The Expanse is.

TheExpanseIt is head-and-shoulders above anything else in TV science-fiction, with the possible exception of The Martian, which was a movie. Yes, I include Star Trek, Babylon V, and Firefly.

Here’s my stake in the ground: In 2020 we’ll look at the state of science fiction programming, and ask ourselves how we got into this golden age. Then we’ll look back and say “ah. The Expanse. It set a new bar, and for the last five years everybody has been racing to clear it.”

The Expanse has flaws, sure. It’s a television program, after all. The series of books from which it is drawn are solid, but they’re not epic-level standouts of literary science fiction. That’s okay. They’re worlds better than what usually gets turned into TV programming, and the folks working on them are doing everything they can to convince us that the characters we’re following live in space, on asteroids, in accelerating vessels, and (most importantly) in our future.

This is science fiction that manages sense-of-wonder without sugar coating the dangers of space exploration. It is science fiction that depicts many of the grim realities of human nature, while still instilling hope for the amazing things humans can, and will, create. It is science fiction that does not feel like high-magic fantasy wrapped in robots and ray-guns.

Minor spoiler: There’s one scene in particular during which a vessel loses power, and stops accelerating. Everything starts floating. Then a hole gets punched through the cabinThe characters still able to move spend no more than three seconds looking shocked, and then they do what people who live in space do. They patch the holes so they don’t run out of air.

The Expanse is very non-episodic, much like Netflix’s Daredevil. Each episode is one act in a multi-act story, and while these acts have beginnings, middles, and ends, the overarching story is never lost as we drive forward. I bought the Season Pass on Amazon because I expect to binge watch this at least a couple of times before (huzzah it got renewed!) Season Two comes out.

We’re only six seven episodes in, and the season is short, but if you love science fiction, and you have sufficient discretionary income to let you comfortably put some money where your mouth is, this one’s worth buying now.

Content alert: There’s some PG-13 nudity in episode 1, presumably to rope puerile male viewers into thinking this is Game of Thrones (episodes 2 through 6 have none of that in them). Also, there is PG-13 violence, and can I just say that arterial spray in null-gee is terrifying?