Fall TV, Night by Night – Monday

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Well, the bad news is that summer is winding down. The good news? The Fall TV season is coming! I’m a huge TV nerd, so this is always an exciting time of year for me. Even if there’s nothing new that appeals to you, there’s always the Deathwatch of the Terrible Shows to entertain you.

But Deathwatch comes later. For now, let’s take a look at the geeky offerings on the 5 networks starting in September. I’ve decided to go night-by-night this year. We’ll start with Monday. Look for future installments covering the rest of the week as we get into the new month.

Onward and upward!

The Big Bang Theory fans will finally be able to find out what happened to Sheldon as he headed off to ‘live off the land’ (via malls, of course!). They’ll also see Penny take a job with Bernadette’s company and turn the tables on Leonard in the income department.

Of course, the big news about ‘Bang’ this summer didn’t involve Sheldon’s road trip or even Jim Parson’s big Emmy win. It involved reality intruding into our entertainment. After the comforting news in March that the series had been renewed for this and two additional seasons, we all got a reminder of the reality of being a TV fan as the cast went through difficult salary negotiations at the end of summer. Said deal-making ended up delaying production until contracts were finally signed with the trio of Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki — all will reportedly earn about $1 million per episode plus additional backend money. Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg also renegotiated for somewhere around half that amount, according to various internet ‘sources’.

Gotham, though, is clearly the must-see new addition for geeks like me. I mean, a pre-Batman series all about the city that will spawn him and some of the most famous DC villains of all? Who wouldn’t be excited?

The only problem is that the reviews coming in seem to be a mixed bag. Early reviews a couple of months ago were glowing. Great series, fun for all, lots of promise. However, since the screening at Comic-Con in July, the more recent reviews have been a lot harsher. Disappointing, overfull of in-jokes, bad production values. It’s hard to know what the truth is about this show.

I’m not the most hard-core of Batman fans, so I suspect I’ll be a lot more lenient on it than some of my fellow comic nerds. And pilots can be a tricky lot. Sometimes, they’re the best part of a mediocre series. And other times, it takes several episodes for a series to really grow into its own boots. If the pilot is as weak as some reviews indicate, I’m hoping that Gotham falls into the latter category. Still on my Must Watch List.

Gotham starts September 29.

image courtesy: www.cbs.com

image courtesy: http://www.cbs.com

Aside from Gotham, the only new entry for Mondays on my Must Watch List will be Scorpion. Based on real-life Irish genius Walter O’Brien, it follows a group of super-smart experts as they race around stopping bombs, saving planes, and otherwise protecting the free world for dullards like you and me. Based on the promotional material released so far, the series seems pretty engaging to me. Lead Elyes Gabel, who plays O’Brien himself, is likeable, as are his team of misfits. The show is giving me a super-intelligent, high-octane Leverage feel. And given my love for that team dynamic, that’s not a bad thing.

Giving Scorpion its steepest competition will be Sleepy Hollow, which returns for its second year following a surprise hit debut. In addition to bringing back Crane’s daddy, look for a couple of moms to make appearances. The new season will also explore trust issues between Ichabod and Abbie, as well as their relationship.

Rounding out the night, Castle starts its seventh season on September 29. Given that last season ended on a huge cliffhanger, it’s been a long summer for Castle fans. “Driven” will begin right where the season finale left off, but will eventually involve a time jump.

And, even though it looked pretty grim for the groom in the last episode, it sounds like Rick’s crash causes more mysteries than injuries. He will spend a significant arc investigating what happened himself. Creator Andrew Marlowe said to TV Guide that this will be Castle’s year for digging up secrets from his past: “Why does he do what does? Why is he interested in murder? What has gone on in his past? These are rich questions we haven’t really explored.”

 

Non-Spoiler Review – Doctor Who, “Deep Breath”

 

This is the NON-SPOILER review of “Deep Breath”.  To read the SPOILER REVIEW, go to my SPOILER POSTS page.

 

Like Clara Oswald, this was my first experience with regeneration as it happened (I began as a fan just after Matt Smith had been cast). Unlike Clara, I embraced the change. Which, unwittingly is my excuse for this review being a little late – I had a viewing party to plan and execute.

So, I feel like I’m a real Who fan now that I’ve waited with bated breath for the new Doctor along with the rest of the fandom. It’s a uniquely Whovian thing to have to do. Other shows live or die with their main actors, or bring in entirely new characters to fill the voids. A new Doctor is neither the same person in the lead nor a different person, all at the same time. It’s confusing, to be sure.

This episode – more than possibly any others – explored that confusion openly. In many ways, it was reminiscent of David Tennant’s first foray in The Christmas Invasion. But it went even further by making the newly regenerated Doctor not only confused about himself and those around him, but also markedly different from the prior Doctor. Tennant was a personality change, but Capaldi is a mindset change.

Mind you, I found that mindset to be fascinating and deep. The new Doctor appears in this episode both powerful and fragile at the same time. There’s a sadness to him, a vulnerability that hasn’t really been present in the earlier reboot Doctors. I was particularly moved by a couple of monologues, in which he seems to realize he’s missing something profound – something he can’t name or touch, but that’s very important. Capaldi’s performance was tremendously layered and oddly slow such a fast-moving hour.

Much was made of this Doctor being less ‘user-friendly’ and harsher than Matt Smith’s version. And to be sure, that definitely came across.  I was expecting this because interviews had alluding to it (even in specific ways/scenes).  Others in my viewing party were quite shocked at some of the Doctor’s actions.

But it really all paid off in one pivotal scene involving Clara’s faith in the Doctor and whether it was deserved.  Looking back, this moment (you’ll know it when you see it) was hugely important for the establishment of the 12th Doctor. It exposed us to the idea of a very different Doctor, made us question him at the most basic level – and then made us believe all over again. This moment was possibly the most important one, even if it didn’t have quite the emotional punch of some other scenes (particularly one at the end).

What about the episode itself?

I thought it was wise to make use of established characters like Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. They, along with Clara’s continued presence, gave continuity and reassurance to the audience. The trio can always be counted on for humor and adventure, and they provided all amply. Strax, true to form, was hilarious. I was never a big Sontaran fan, but Strax (Dan Starkey) has become a welcome sidekick in any Who episode. Having watched Guardians of the Galaxy recently, I realized that we love Strax in many of the same ways we love Drax. That brute warrior who gets so many simple things wrong but still would happily fight for his team to the death. Strax would welcome death a bit more, but Drax would look better doing it.

The Victorian setting also provided some shades of old-fashioned macabre without being too gross or scary. (I was aware of this because we had kids in our viewing party.) The return of a Who monster from earlier seasons was another way to connect with the past and provide continuity. And even though the dinosaur was added in just to provide some shock value and a fun non-sequitor, I still grew fond of that big gal. That hit a perfect Doctor Who note for me.

Was it perfect? No.

The episode had to get a lot done in a short time (even with an extended running time), so it did have its drawbacks. The central mystery was resolved a little too easily, in my opinion. This was accomplished as an opening to a new mystery arc, of course – but it was still a bit too pat and not entirely well-explored.

Also, I found the discussions of Clara’s reaction to the new Doctor as well as the phone call to be all a bit heavy-handed. Vastra’s comments to Clara and references to the prior Doctor were less about convincing Clara to accept the new Doctor and more about convincing the audience to do so. I don’t need to be told how to feel about a new character – I want to be convinced of it through storytelling skill. And I did feel that there was a lot about the new Doctor to love, so I didn’t really need to be beaten about the head with the suggestion.

But, overall, I’m on board with the new Doctor. I’m glad they went as diametrically opposite to the two recent Doctors as they did, providing an opportunity for variety in the TARDIS and a chance to get back to maybe a more traditional Doctor Who. And even if I wasn’t, how could I not love the Doctor after his diatribe about his massive eyebrows and his own Scottishness? They had me at ‘shush’.

And for good measure, the first 12th Doctor Quote of the Week:

“Five-foot-one and crying. You never stood a chance.”

Book Review – “The Fifth Wave”

Photo: THE 5TH WAVE is available for download TODAY ONLY for $2.99! We know YOU loved THE 5TH WAVE, so share this post to tell all your friends about this great opportunity to get this New York Times bestseller before book 2, THE INFINITE SEA, arrives! http://bit.ly/1jlAfV0I’ve been on my Young Adult Fiction kick for a couple of years now, and I’m currently on the lookout for a new book/movie franchise combo obsession.  My first was the Hunger Games series, but that’s winding down with the release of Mockingjay Part One in a few months.  Divergent didn’t really enthuse me as much as I’d hoped it would.  And The Maze Runner was a great first book but a disappointing second.

Along comes The 5th Wave – a really great, easy read with likeable characters and excellent action.

The story starts out following Cassie, a teenager left on her own in the aftermath of an alien invasion.  Well, a four-part alien attack that decimated the human population but entailed a suspicious lack of actual aliens.

There’s a giant hovering Mothership and a lot of dead bodies, but the truth about the aliens, their plan, and the potential fifth wave of destruction has yet to be discovered.  We travel with Cassie as she attempts to find her little brother and keep them both alive long enough for it to matter.

The 5th Wave is written by Rick Yancey, best known for the Monstrumologist series.  What I loved most about the book is his writing style.  He writes in the first person in a very realistic, casual manner. Switching at times between the voices of two different main characters, Yancey builds sympathy for both of them and sets them each on a similar quest from two different angles.

The characters are funny and dark and sarcastic and dramatic in just the right proportions.  I literally couldn’t put it down as the story progressed because it was so easy to read and so accessible.

This being YA fiction, of course, there’s a requisite romantic angle.  It wasn’t my favorite part, but I’m not the target audience.  Even with that aspect, I found the male characters to be equally as interesting as the heroine, each in their own right.  I won’t spoil the details, but I can’t wait to see how it all plays out in the sequel, The Infinite Sea.

However, the romance doesn’t really overpower the story.  There’s a lot of action and tension and some really exciting battles.  There’s also a few good mysteries to be solved.

So, is this my new obsession?  Not sure yet.  I’m waiting to see how I like The Infinite Sea when it comes out next month.  I was let down by the sequel to my last potential obsession, The Maze Runner.  So I’ll report back on the new book when I get it read!  Here’s hoping it keeps up the great momentum set by the first.

‘Doctor Who’ Rumors Suggest More Changes to Come

 

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… for Doctor Who‘s new Season 8, starting this weekend…

Reports have begun surfacing that Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara Oswald in the current and most recent seasons of Doctor Who, will be leaving the show after the Christmas special.  She will have been in 22 episodes and 3 specials by that time.

The UK’s Mirror quotes an unnamed source as saying: “The conversations about Jenna’s exit have started, and a plan is in place which is being ironed out.”

Who fans know that Companions – like Doctors themselves – come and go. But it’s never easy to experience. I feel like we just lost Amy and Rory, which was the second most heartbreaking Companion exit for me. And while Clara was never my favorite Companion, she was fun and plucky and had a great energy to bring to the series. I loved that the big mystery during her tenure was not that of the Doctor, but rather the mystery of the Companion. That’s a rare feat in the Who-niverse.

The Companion staying on during the Doctor’s transition brings some continuity to the show as it adjusts to Matt Smith’s exit and Peter Capaldi’s arrival. Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler did the same for the series in its early days, when much of the younger audience was still new to the idea of regeneration.

So, what’s next for the 12th Doctor? Fear not, he won’t be Companion-less for long, I’m sure. Two names have surfaced as the likeliest potential future companions: Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Chris Addison (The Thick of It).

For the next Companion, I’d like to see a guy step into the role. We’ve had a few gentlemen in the TARDIS, but really only accompanied by the ladies. Captain Jack spent some time as a Companion during the Rose and Martha eras and, of course, Rory traveled with his girlfriend/wife after she joined up with the Doctor. Donna’s grandfather served as the Companion briefly to David Tennant’s Doctor, but again had a connection to a female assistant.

I’d like to see the show explore what the TARDIS crew would be without a young, attractive female in the mix. So, for that reason, I cast my vote for Chris Addison for the sake of variety.

If Jenna is indeed leaving, I expect BBC to make a formal announcement sooner rather than later, now that the news has leaked. I’m sure they’ll wait until after the new season has its debut on Saturday, so as to not lose the focus and momentum needed to set the 12th Doctor out on his journey. If/when there’s confirmation, I’ll let you know.