What I’m Watching: Update

Previously, I wrote about some of the nerdy stuff I was excited to be watching in this new television season.  Now that we are several weeks in, I thought I’d touch on some of those shows, and talk about others that have popped up since.

Alphas – Okay, the first season is actually over, and I really enjoyed this show.  The ongoing story is compelling and complex enough to hold my interest, and there is some great character work from these actors (especially once Ryan Cartwright toned down the rainman schtick with Gary).  I’m curious to see where the Red Flag story-line takes us, and if the hints dropped about the team going rogue ever pan out.  And I still think this show is as reasonable a representation of how the government would react to and make use of the presence of “alphas”.  Definitely waiting on Season 2!

Eureka/Warehouse 13 – Both of these have wrapped their season finales as well.  I won’t go into much detail on either one, because, wow spoilers!  Both shows continue to deliver a delicious mix of comedy and drama, delivered in a crunchy sci-fi coating.  And both shows finished really strong this season; I can’t wait to see the new episodes and find out how some of these bombshells get defused (or how big the blast will be).  Do yourself a favour: if you don’t watch these shows, start.  If you do, watch them again!

Torchwood – I really like Torchwood.  The ideas and concepts behind the show, the characters, they all really appeal to me.  Which is what makes this season such a disappointment for me.  I want to describe it with words like “exciting” and “provocative”, but the best I can muster is “weak” and “meh”.  It feels like they took an entire season to wrap up what could have been done in 3-4 episodes.  Then, the season finale “twist” that seemed like a series-serving stunt, could have actually been explored a bit this season.  As it is, I am left feeling blah about the whole thing, a state which I seem to share with many viewers; there is some talk that Torchwood may not come back for another season.  A season ago I would have considered that a shame.

Outcasts – In the end, this show just didn’t do it for me.  I can’t put my finger on any one thing, I just don’t feel invested enough in the story or characters to care what happens next.  Which is weird, because a series featuring a sci-fi dystopian utopia would seem to be firmly in my wheelhouse, if not the very building blocks of said wheelhouse.  But sadly, I don’t think I’m giving Series 2 a try.  I have too much other good sci-fi to watch, I’m afraid.

Okay, so you probably noticed that everything I touched on last time is down for the season.  So do I just go into TV-less hibernation and wait for the coming episode spring?  Heck no!  Have faith in the TV my fellow geeks, and it will always keep you and preserve you.  Here are three I’m watching and loving right now:

Bedlam – One of my favourite new series, Bedlam is a moody, creepy supernatural drama focused around the tenants of Bedlam Heights ( a condo complex converted from the old Bedlam Asylum).  One episode in, and this promises to be a good old-fashioned bump-in-the-night ghost story, told in that special way the British have.  Need an excuse to snuggle closer with your SO? Bedlam is the show you’ve been waiting for.  Extra geek cred if you watch it with the lights off (and yes, you can hold your lightsaber, I certainly had mine).

Supernatural – The seventh season started two episodes ago and let me just say, I don’t think I will ever stop wanting to watch this series.  I am so invested in the characters at this point, I spend each episode dreading the next horrible thing that is going to happen, because you know there is always a next horrible thing.  If you aren’t caught up on the first two episodes I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say: nice fake-out at the end of the premiere, making us think it was all over and really just setting up the plot for the rest of the season.  I went from, “glad he’s okay now but disappointed it was so easy” to “Oh God! It’s never easy! When will I learn, your twisted bastards!” in about ten seconds.

Sanctuary – Okay, this technically hasn’t started yet; Season Four premieres on Space this Friday.  But I am really excited for it to start again for a number of reasons.  One, the acting on the show is top-notch, and I’ve been missing these characters. Two, Helen Magnus is stuck back in time chasing a psychopath, and that is just cool! (Yes, yes, I know. I hate time-travel in Star Trek and love it in other shows. I’m a complex guy. Bite me.)  And three, this season seems to focus on something I think has been building throughout the series: what happens when the world finds out about abnormals, and more than that, that they have been hidden from them?  This promises to be a delicious, meaty season, and I intend to eat my fill!

(Dis)Honourable MentionsCastle is still a lot of fun this year, with some tension and drama stirred in nicely.  Ringer is a miss, which is sad because I really wanted to see Sarah Michelle Gellar on screen again. But even two of her can’t save these scripts.  Unforgettable is a meh-level police procedural, with an as-yet-to-be-rendered-interesting special ability thrown into the mix; watch Prime Suspect for a better police procedural with more character/plot complexity (though not much more, so far).

Okay, that’s my time!  You folks have been great, and don’t forget to fill out the Comments below if you agree/disagree with anything I’ve said.  Discuss, people, discuss!

Why SyFy Needs a Eureka Moment

If you are a geek, the news that SyFy cancelled Eureka probably isn’t news anymore (If it is, well, better we ripped that band-aid off before you kept reading).  And you likely know that the PTBs have “graciously” granted the show an extra episode in it’s sixth season to wrap everything up.  Which, quite frankly, is the least they could do, considering they waited to announce this decision at the end of shooting for Season 6.

The cast and crew of Eureka have publicly been very positive about the whole thing, despite some of them finding out about the cancellation via Twitter (sorry, Erica Cerra).  And really I would expect nothing less from the people that have entertained me so well over the seasons.  They are consummate professionals, wishing to leave the series with their heads held high and not mired in acrimony.  Being neither professional nor answerable to SyFy, I don’t have that problem.  So speaking only for myself, but likely echoing a number of Eureka fans, I just have to ask:

What the @%$# is your problem, SyFy?

Eureka is one of their most popular shows, with (if the reaction to cancellation is an indicator) a varied, enthusiastic and loyal following.  Even SyFy acknowledges that, claiming the only area in which Eureka under-performs is cost.

Okay, valid point.  No matter how popular the show, if it costs too much to make then SyFy has to drop it.  Sure, I can buy that.  It isn’t as if there were other projects that could be down-sized or even scrapped in order to free up funds for a more popular show.  After all, how could we expect them to put aside quality movies like Meteor or Stonehenge Apocolypse in order to properly fund a series watched as more than drinking-game fodder?  Why, that kind of thinking would have deprived us of Killer Mountain, premiering this Saturday.  And obviously they should cancel Eureka before losing any of the three Ghost Hunter shows they carry.  God bless SyFy for keeping us safe from the phantom menace (though not from The Phantom Menace, sadly).

Or could it be that Eureka got cancelled because it was so popular?  It doesn’t take a GD scientist (pun intended) to see that Sci Fi…sorry, SyFy, has been re-branding themselves.  Bad enough they shame-changed their name. (SyFy? Really?  That’s like that annoying kid in your high school named Steven who spends one summer break in Europe, and insists his name is now pronounced “SteFAWN”.)  But the addition of shows like WWE Smackdown and a kludge of paranormal/urban legend “reality” programming shows that SyFy’s heart just isn’t in science fiction anymore.  And if it continued to carry a great sci-fi show like Eureka, they might be in the awkward position of supporting something they don’t really care about anymore. Heck, we geeks might even insist they make more great sci-fi, and then they’d really be in trouble.

So for me, it comes down to one of two possibilities. Either the people in charge at SyFy are making a tremendously stupid business decision, or they are following their re-branding strategy.  I could be completely wrong on both counts, and there could be a third or fourth possibility I don’t see from my position outside looking in.  But for right now all I see is a station cancelling a hit television series based on their bad economics.  Whether that’s from stupidity or malevolence, doesn’t matter much to me.

But SyFy, I think you need to take a second and consider your future.  There are already many stations carrying the reality-porridge you are so eager to add to your line-up.  And there will always be people ready, willing and able to make bad sci-fi, disaster and monster movies (cthulhu bless them!).  But there is no one out there doing what you used to do, back when you went by Sci Fi; you wowed people with your Dune mini-series, for instance.  You have a chance to create truly unique programming, about subjects and in ways that both entertain and make people think.  If you were truly focused on your job, we’d be watching Walking Dead and Game on Thrones on you, or some other equally amazing series we hadn’t heard of yet.  Maybe you need to take some time to think about that.

Maybe you just need to take your own slogan to heart, and imagine greater.

*     *     *

Comments? Counterpoints? I’d love to hear them!

Humpday Links for August 17

It’s that time again, gentles!  Have a whole mess of links to get you through to the weekend.  And while you’re checking these out I’m going to work out for a while.

– It’s no secret by now that Eureka has been cancelled.  It’s almost like SyFy is Fox’s little brother, imitating in the hopes big brother will think them cool.  And though I don’t think it will do any good, you can check out the effort to save Eureka.

– In other television news, the popularity of cable television seems to be dropping off.  Personally, I think we are closer than further to a point in which television favours streaming and/or on-demand.  I think cable companies are going the way of companies that made widgets for wooden sailing ships.

– Closer to home, Edmonton’s Fringe Festival this year features Sustainival, a fully green carnival.  I had reservations about adding carnival rides to a theatre festival, but I spoken with smart people that give me good reasons why they should stay.

– Geek vs. Life features a great article on cosplay and feeling good in your own skin.  I’ll admit, I’m guilty of judging some cosplayers based on body-type. But I’m getting better.

– Here is a little behind-the-scenes look at Team Unicorn’s latest photo shoot.  Learn the secrets of their radioactive goo, and how the Unicorns are like Ninja Turtles.

– NPR has released a list of the Top 100 Sci-fi and Fantasy Books.  I’m happy to report that I have read at least 60% of this list.  I’m also happy to report I now have a shopping list for my next bookstore run…

– Sticking with fantasy literature for a while, here are some interesting artist renderings of the dwarves from The Hobbit.  I really think I prefer these to the photos I’ve seen for the upcoming movie, but then what do I know?

– Scott Kurtz, creator of PVP webcomic, talks about his very smart and honest use of product placement in his work.

– No one wants to see this more than I, but I do have some reservations regarding a possible biopic of Gary Gygax.  $150 million seems like a lot.  Also, I’d much prefer a straight ahead documentary than some semi-fictional tomfoolery.

– In a trend I could fully support, Paizo outsells Wizards of the Coast.  I think WotC/Hasbro will have to seriously consider listening to their player base, because that will be the only thing that saves them from this slump.

– A little ditty from Reggie Watts and Amanda Palmer about our beloved Doctor.

– Last but not least: from @geekyjessica comes this pictorial comparison of the Women of Sci-Fi vs. the Women of Prime Time.  No surprise, Sc-fi for the win!

That ought to hold you for a while.  If you have your own links to share, send them through the comments, below.

What I’m Watching, in Brief

For some mysterious reason our internet connection was severed yesterday and came back just as mysteriously this morning.  So I apologize for my blog-silence yesterday; I trust that you all somehow soldiered on without me.

There has been a fair-to-moderate amount of hullabaloo surrounding television lately; new shows, new seasons of old shows, cancelled shows and so on.  The latter topic, and specifically Eureka, is a subject in an upcoming post.  But I thought I’d take a moment to give you a run-down of what I’m watching and enjoying/not enjoying these days.  And because it’s Friday and we both want to get on with the ensuing awesome, I’m going to keep my summaries to 5 sentences or less.

Eureka – This is one of the rare shows I didn’t have to be coaxed into watching.  I have loved Eureka from the first episode.  The show’s writers do a fantastic job of blending comedy, science and bucketfuls of the ever-elusive “heart”.  Colin Ferguson as Sherriff Jack Carter has been a delight to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he works on next.  Because in an effort to destroy all that I love, SyFy (seriously, what the fuck is up with that name!?) has cancelled the show.

Alphas – I had my doubts, because we all know how well modern super-hero-type shows have turned out (I’m looking at you, Heroes!).  But a handful of episodes in and I’m actually becoming attached to these (mostly) loveable mutated misfits.  I think what I like the most is that the show isn’t “slick”.  It paints a fairly realistic picture of how the presence of “alphas” (people genetically predisposed to having extraordinary abilities) might be handled.  Add that to characters which are finally stepping away from caricature status, and I’m going to stick with this show for a while.

Warehouse 13 – When I first heard the concept for this show, I assumed it was going to be quirky cheese-fest city!  And I was okay with that, but the reality has turned out to be way better.  The show has a formula and a cast that really work, and they’ve found a tone that is equal parts cheese, darkness and suspense.  If I had to choose a favourite show off my list it would be Eureka, but Warehouse 13 is the one I have the most hands-down fun watching!  Plus, stellar acting from Saul Rubineck, Joanne Kelly, Eddie McClintock and Allison Scagliotti.

Outcasts – I really wanted to like this show, because lets face it; the British have pretty much owned television sci-fi lately (with a few notable exceptions).  But this story of the last humans from Earth colonizing a new world and dealing with prejudice and religion and strange goings-on started…so…slow.  I had actually erased it from the PVR, that is how sure I was it wasn’t worth my time.  Then I saw a particularly cryptic and enticing commercial for the next episode, and I decided to give it another chance.  So far I’m still on the fence, but I’ll keep you posted.

Torchwood – I was really excited to see what they did with the new season, in light of the previous season’s goings on.  And while I do not believe the show has been ruined by its transplant to America, I do believe it doesn’t have that special “feel” that Torchwood always had.  Right now it just seems like an SF thriller featuring characters from Torchwood.  And while that is fun to watch it just isn’t the same.  Also, Captain Jack needs to step up and lead, dammit!

So that is a little taste of what I’m watching these days.  Add to that shows like Game of Thrones, Burn Notice, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead and Doctor Who…and I have a busy viewing schedule.  Lucky for me these shows don’t all air over the same time period, or I would never leave the house.  Which I’m sure would be bad in some way I haven’t figured out yet.

So what are you watching?  What do you think of the shows I’m watching? Let me know in the comments below!