Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer TV Recap

Goodbye summer. It's been a long, dry, hot road here in California. What did I do during my summer vacation? Why binge watch TV in front of the AC! There were some surprises, some big disappointments and some vaguely entertaining shows. Here's my recap.

American Gothic
CBS double dipped in the genre this summer, and this one was exceedingly terrible. The premise however is good – a wealthy but dysfunctional family discovers their father was a serial killer just after his death – the show is curmudgeonly banal with the standard characters: the cold, calculating mother figure, the drugged out artist son, the straight-laced girl married to a black cop (heavens!), the loaner who saw things and lives in the woods, and the politician daughter who dabbles on both sides. Everyone is a suspect and everyone is unlikeable. It's remarkable how this show is so off-putting and dark, both figuratively with the young child who is clearly a sociopath, and literally, since the show seems to be lit with one single flashlight. The always classy, Virginia Madsen is seriously wasted in an anemic role, but the show was perfect for folding laundry, making dinner, etc.





BrainDead
However, CBS redeemed itself with the Ridley Scott (Alien) produced political comedy/horror hybrid BrainDead. Aliens in the shape of ants attack Earth quietly by centering their efforts on the politicians in Washington D.C. The tone is similar to Mars Attacks and features sung intro recaps, a whimsical musical score that heavily features You Might Think by The Cars, exploding heads, and an irreverent Tony Shalhoub. The rest of the cast led by the committed Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane) and love interest Aaron Tveit (Danny from Grease Live!) radiate chemistry. It is such a fun TV show and though it looks like it won't get a second season, is definitely worth watching. CBS didn't know how to market this gem and on any non-major network, this show would have been watercooler darling. As it stands, it's not for all tastes but those who get it will love it, and eventually it will be a stellar Netflix binge.





Scream, Season 2
The first season of Scream was barely tolerable but it came to a good resolution and made season 2 completely improbable. The showrunners stepped down (fired?) due to the creative direction, and new ones brought in to make this show completely intolerable. They sprayed everything with AXE body spray, added temper tantrums and illogical writing, ensured the remaining cast was even more unlikable and whiny. This series is intolerable. Also, 38 of 42 minutes of running time is spent on the teens' dramas and anxieties, then suddenly breaks in the 4 minutes of serial killer action. Srsly. OVit. 🙄 Clearly, I am not the intended viewer for this show. Interestingly, I've read a sound bite from the producers who are tired of being compared to the movie. Um, solution: don't call your show Scream, maybe?





Dead of Summer
Set in as summer camp in the 80s, Dead of Summer is the kitchen sink of genre shows. We have a slasher (?), horny teens, a mysterious camp leader with secrets, and a haunting supernatural force awakened by – what exactly? The show is an embarrassment on all levels from the "writing" to the high school acting troupe, to the nonsensical plot. Perhaps, like Scream, I am not the Freeform channel's (owned by ABC Family) prime demographic but why would anyone aim for the mediocre? Definitely expected a better show from the producers of LOST and Once Upon a Time.






Preacher
The first of two shows based on graphic novels, Preacher on AMC is one hell heck of a ride that plays like an early Quentin Tarantino movie. It's fast, stylish, full of interesting characters, absurd scenarios, and just tinged with a lil' supernatural charm. The well-coiffed Dominic Cooper plays a small, dusty town preacher with a checkered past, who gains an incredible force. Alongside his headstrong ex-girlfriend and an Irish vampire, he is being pursued by a pair of inept henchman who are trying to get that power back. This one is a head-scratcher at times and definitely makes the audience think a bit. Hang in there, although I will warn you now, the season finale takes a deep dive into the ridiculous.





Outcast
Cinemax's series Outcast is also based on a graphic novel and features a trouble preacher and an unfortunate man who's been plagued with demonic possession – not him, just those around him. He also harbors some strange abilities to exorcise those demons who appear as viscous, black oil. The show was created by Robert Kirkman who also created The Walking Dead and follows in that bleak, apocalyptic tone but here the characters are much more likable – and most importantly there is hope. As the citizens are being taken down by a nefarious plot, Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) shows up as a shadow person complete with hat and brings with him a dark force of mystery. What the hell is going on? Much is not revealed but the show was renewed for a second season before the first episode premiered so there's plenty of time to explore this world.




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