2014 TV Summer Season

TV's_Frank_&_Dr_Forrester;_DEEP_HURTING!

So summer’s here and amongst other things that means the networks are going to play “Trick or Treat” with a bunch of new shows. I haven’t seen them all, but the ones I have seen … ugh … “Deep Hurting”.

TYRANT

On paper, this show has a lot of promise. An Arab/Persian ex-pat and son of the king of a “Middle Eastern” country, returns to his homeland for his nephew’s wedding. At which point the king dies and he is thrown back into the “family business” he ran away from twenty years ago.

Created by the same producer of “Homeland”, you’d expect this to be pretty good. And it’s not “bad” per se. But there are problems at multiple levels:

  • The brother (the one who stayed in the country) is such an over-the-top mess that it gets boring. After the first couple of episodes he’ll have grossed you out at one level or another, at which point he’s just doing schtick.
  • The main character tries to pull off the “seething rage below the surface” act, but it doesn’t work. As you learn more about the guy, you end up caring less about him.
  • The setting in the palace is lush and all … but there’s no one there. A place that size and you never see more than a couple servants or security dudes. Where are the people? It feels entirely too antiseptic.
  • Likewise the scenes shot outside the palace really don’t come close to capturing the throngs of humanity that are featured in cities in that part of the world. It feels too quaint, for want of a better term.
  • The US’s involvement is entirely too benign to be believed.
  • The main characters wife is a boring one-dimensional character. And a little dense to blindly take her American family to a country in the Middle East at this time in history.
  • The daughter is “the smart kid” … but really not interesting either.
  • The son. Well, they had to pander to get an audience, so the son is gay. Not flaming, but clearly promiscuous. I see from comments on IMDb and elsewhere that the gay community likes being represented. But the character has 2.0 attributes – he’s gay; and he’s a whiney, spoiled twat.

As for the story … it’s just a litany of bad behavior by the “Middle Easterners” in power. The show portrays them as petty, violent, brutal, boorish, and uncivilized. You know, the same way the super-rich in America are portrayed on TV.

Hampered with a weak cast and pointless script, I’m really not sure this one gets even a second season. Too bad because the subject matter is interesting and, were it done properly, could actually teach people something about another culture.

THE LAST SHIP

This is actually a good show. It centers on a US Navy Arleigh Burke DDG being the last US ship afloat after a plague ravages the world. Of course, they happen to have the one scientist on the whole planet who can create a cure too. Convenient, huh?

But the cast is solid with some veterans from military/action shows (Rhona Mitra from “Strike Back,” and Adam Baldwin from “Chuck” and “Firefly”) and the writing is done well enough to be believable. Some of it is a little hackneyed, but you have to expect that when the show is right in the middle of the US Armed Forces.

There’s another ship also seeking the cure. A Russian one. With a well-played “bad guy” captain. This will probably be a recurring theme but it does provide some interesting conflict. They do a decent job representing the complexity of operating a modern DDG, it doesn’t feel like a sound-stage … because they shoot a lot of scenes on board active or retired Navy vessels.

Hard to say where this one will go. How long can you string out a “search for a cure” before there’s no one left to cure? It probably all comes down to if the show gets renewed or not, I’d expect them to have a couple endings possible from the footage they shot.

Still, of the summer shows I’ve seen this may be the best. Has a bit of an “On The Beach” feel to it. Hopefully they get the ratings they need to press on as the cast and attention to detail at least deserve that much.

THE STRAIN

Yikes … FX produces another bad attempt to cash in on the Vampire craze. Next time they should spend some money on a cast and a writer. I couldn’t even get half way through this thing. Especially once I saw the “vampire.” This thing is at one moment be a bad remake of Terry Gilliam’s “Death” from “Meaning of Life” and then … I don’t … some kind of gay vesper spirit vanishing into the mist. The way it was flapping its arms, or whatever, that’s the only way I can describe it.

The “hero” is a CDC immunologist or something or other and a total jackass to his family. Half the first act is spent on what a crappy husband and father he is. So you know this theme will run through the entire stinking show. This is a show about a new kind of vampire … who gives a happy damn if he’s a bad father?

And then things get really stupid.

To give you an idea of the idiocy – a plane load of people die on the runway at JFK, only some don’t die – they assign one CDC coroner – he finishes in about two hours.

Then they find some 9-foot “box” filled with dirt and covered with weird bones and skulls and shit … annnnnnd … they don’t quarantine this big box or put extra security on it. I mean, just because someone went to the bother to put this huge thing on the plane and somehow have no one know it’s there, there’s no reason to think anyone would steal it, right?

The victims on the plane itself … well they died in place. As in it looks like they died simultaneously. How is that possible when the creature came from the cargo hold and had to somehow make it’s way up the length of the plane?

Our Hero and his assistant seem to run from one stupid assumption to another, mainly because they tend to ignore really glaring clues until it’s too late. If these morons represent the “best and brightest” of today’s CDC, we are all in deep shit.

Just bad TV. The only thing this thing “strains” is your gag reflex.

HEMLOCK GROVE

Technically this is a “Summer 2013” show, but I only started watching this year so I power-slammed two seasons of this Netflix original show in a weekend while working.

Not a bad show … kind of a cross of “Twin Peaks”, “Supernatural”, and “True Blood”. Vamps and Wolfen and a few mad scientists thrown in. It moves kind of slow at times and the acting is uneven and inconsistent, as is the writing.

The cast is mostly a bunch of unknowns but they do a pretty good job. In Season 1 you’ll notice a couple of former cast members from the SciFy “Battlestar Gallactica” series. The script isn’t “Twin Peaks”, but it holds together. The storyline is interesting and different. The effects and gore are top-notch.

I enjoyed watching it as a marathon, but it’s not exactly a show I’ll be counting the days until next season for. Especially after the last 60 seconds of the second season finale. Holy crap was that ever stupid and poorly executed. I won’t spoil it, but if you decide to watch – you’ve been warned. It gives you that same sensation as tasting your own burp.

DOMINION

Based on the 2010 film “Legion,” about the battle on Earth between the armies of Angels, this is a visually stunning show. No expense was spared in getting things to look great. The wardrobe, sets, and effects are worthy of a feature film. Likewise the cast are good looking or evil looking or both.

And at that point the show loses me. It’s the same tired “power struggle between warring families/factions” plot we’ve seen over and over and over. Other than the visuals there’s nothing new here. Our “hero” is the “chosen one” … but he really wants no part of it. The whole “I just want a normal life” act. Every other episode the hero jumps in his SUV and high-tails it out of town, only to come running back when he gets into trouble.

It’s not a “bad” show, but it’s also not all that engaging. If you judge your Sci-Fi by the special effects and believability of the environs, you’ll love this show. They do a great job creating this vision of a post-apocalyptic Earth. If you want to, you know, think a little … nope … look someplace else.

THE LEFTOVERS

I’m not sure which column to put this show in. The premise is some kind of semi-Rapture where five-percent of the population mysteriously disappears all at once. Yeah, another mysterious “people disappearing” show.

The people in the town the show focusses on aren’t handling it all that well. Somewhat unrealistically so as two years after the fact they’re still in the early stages of grief. And the two years in-between is never explored – just *boom* – two years later and everyone is on edge still.

The weird twist is this cult that arises after people go missing. They dress all in white. They like to chop trees. They like to observe the people who remain, in pairs. And some weird part of their belief system makes them chain-smoke cigarettes. The explanation for these weird behaviors isn’t really explained. The cult isn’t menacing like they were probably intended to be – just weird and annoying.

In the end, this show is just kind of boring. The script and acting are on the bland side and the characters just aren’t very likable or interesting. It’s an interesting concept which could have been a winner if they had a cast. And a writer. And a director.

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