Tag Archives: tv

September TV and comics

Super quick update. The new NEW book is ready to go out to publishers. It doesn’t need another edit. YAY! And that’s where it is right now. With them. So I’m just waiting, which is the hardest thing to do, when all you really want to do is refresh your email every 3 seconds. Thankfully I’m pretty busy with some other secret projects so I’m not dwelling. Well, not too much.

The Good

Justified. This is a non-genre show. It’s about Timothy Olyphant playing a US Marshall, and it’s based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. He’s kind of a modern day cowboy who is forced to go back to his home state of Kentucky and he starts rubbing shoulders with old friends, old enemies and members of his family he’d rather not reconnect with. It’s funny, dramatic, heartwarming, disturbing and just a lot of damn good fun. I’m still not sure why I didn’t watch it back in the day when it was on. I think in my mind it was more like The Shield and I wasn’t in the mood for something so brutal and dirty, so I avoided it. It’s also only 13 episodes a season, which I can do. I’d struggle these days with a 20+ commitment on a series. Great fun, awesome twisty worldbuilding, complex characters with fully fleshed out lives, friends, families and enemies and it’s all one weird incestuous tangle where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business in the small community of Harlan county. Great stuff and well worth a watch.

The Bad

Another Life. This is a new SF show on Netflix starring the excellent Katie Sackhoff. The cast has a few familiar faces and they are all pretty good. That’s about all I can say that’s positive about this show. The Nightflyer is basically, and in many ways, the same show. Aliens make contact. We send out a ship to find out what’s going on. Cue wacky adventures, weird dreams, murder and mayhem. That’s both shows. Only this time around there’s a lot more shouting, bitching and acting like horny teenagers rather than, I don’t know, qualified astronauts. Yes, conflict makes drama more interesting but this was so painful to watch I was embarrassed for the actors. If it gets a second season I won’t be watching.

The Comics

52 from DC comics. 52 is an important number at DC comics for a few reasons. At one point it was the number of titles they were putting out in a month when all titles reset to issue 1. I know, right? Anyway, there are also 52 worlds in their multiverse, Earth 1 to 52, with slightly different versions of their heroes and villains. However, on this occasion, 52 refers to the weekly comic book series they published in 2006. Four writers (Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns) worked together with a number of artists and editors, to put out one comic book a week for a whole year. That’s one big huge story, featuring lots of characters from across the DC universe, for 52 week straight. It was a massive undertaking that had not been done before and has not been tried since.

It was a nightmare of logistics, there were bumps and mistakes along the way, but ultimately they did it. I didn’t read it at the time because it was too expensive, but today, thanks to the joys of comics deals I picked up the whole thing for a great price. Also, as a digital version, storing the 52 weekly comics is a lot easier. I’m taking my time, soaking it all in, and I’m about halfway through at the moment. It’s a fascinating story and a remarkable experiment that explores some remote corners of the DC universe. They pull all sorts of obscure characters out of the cupboard that we’ve not seen for years and take other known characters in new directions. It’s a big love letter to DC comics and given that I was raised on DC comics and they were my first love, I’m in my happy place.

More news on the book stuff when I can share it. What have you been watching? Anything good?

Comments Off on September TV and comics

Filed under Books, Stuff, TV

Recent TV

The joy of Netflix means I can start on a series and just really soak into it, and consume the whole thing in one stretch. No waiting weekly for episodes, and go at my own pace. There are some shows that are released weekly, to keep them in line or just behind the US, but for those I’m just stockpiling episodes until the series is done. It’s not as if there’s nothing else to watch in the meantime.

I’ve avoided spoilers in the following, so I’ve not given away anything about the stories for anyone who is worried.

The Last Kingdom – I’m not sure why I held off watching this show for so long. I’m a big fan of Bernard Cornwall’s books, I enjoyed the odd Sharpe episode back in the day with Sean Bean, and I’m a massive fan of his Arthurian trilogy. This falls into the same kind of mould, based on his long running book series that has been renamed to The Last Kingdom series I believed. Only instead of King Arthur, we’re focusing on King Alfred of Wessex.

Uhtred Ragnarson, son of Uhred of Bebbanburg is a Dane, but not, an English man of Northumberland but also not and heir to Bebbanburg (Bamburgh to use its modern name). Fantastic stuff. I cannot fault the show. The cast is amazing and some characters are really interesting, both to love and hate, sometimes at the same time. Uhtred himself is not someone you always root for and I have to praise David Dawson who plays King Alfred. You want to hate him so much for some of his decisions and yet a moment later you feel sympathy and can understand his motives. Such a gloriously rich and layered character, it must have been a dream of a role for the actor. The brilliant Ian Hart as Father Beocca and so many of the others in the cast are amazing, especially those who play Hild, Finan, Brida, Steapa and Leofric. Three glorious series to soak into, do it now, and season 4 is in production.

Titans – So, as an old school long time DC comics fan I was torn about this and initially had mixed feelings. I read Teen Titans growing up. I know the characters and the trailer for the TV showed something very different. However, I gave it a shot and if you can get past some of the changes to the main characters, and put that aside then it’s an enjoyable show. The writers had to change some stuff to adapt it to TV, and I don’t have an issue with that, but at times it feel as if some of the violence and language was dialled up to 11 just because they could, not because it was always necessary for the story. Changing characters is fine, as long as they stay true to the heart of them.

Dick Grayson is a lot angrier than normal, however, they explain why this version id Dick is like that. Kori is perhaps the most difficult character to do in a TV series (more so than Beast Boy in fact with modern CGI) because she’s not human. She has orange skin, which the could have created using CGI, however, it would mean wherever she went people would stop and stare, and since it’s supposed to be set in the real world where there aren’t many aliens walking around, I can see why they didn’t go with that. The actress in the role Anna Diop fills the character with warmth, heart and compassion, and I think she did an amazing job, although the wardrobe they gave her initially, and in the trailer, was not a good choice, at all. It really gave out the wrong message.

The first series is also packed with a lot of cameos, and I mean A LOT. There is the potential for at least 3 spin off TV shows from this, and I know that one of them, Doom Patrol, has gone into production. In Titans we get to meet all of those characters for the first time, get a basic introduction to them and their powers, and then the story moves on. Lots of tie-ins to Batman and the city of Gotham, which is to be expected as part of the story explores Dick’s backstory. Overall I was able to put aside my issues about the changes that were made and I enjoyed it. Will definitely be tuning in for season 2.

The Punisher Season 2 – Given all of the faffing around behind the scenes between Marvel and Netflix this could be the last time we’ll see Jon Bernthal playing Frank Castle so I’ve mixed feelings. He’s the best version of Frank I’ve ever seen. The first series was perfect. Gritty, brutal and heart-breaking in equal measure. This season is trying to recapture that formula and although there are moments, it doesn’t reach the heights of the first season.

The acting is all spot on, but some of the storylines are jumbled, the pacing is off, it gets quite mixed up at times, and not in a good way, so Frank is bouncing around between things, juggling too much stuff, but it just doesn’t work. Some of the actors don’t have a lot to do except mope about, a lot. I understand this season is all about broken people and those kind of people don’t always make logical choices and deep-seated mental problems are not resolved overnight but even so, this is a TV show not a documentary and it’s an action show too, so some parts of this season were a bit repetitive which made them dull for me.

When Frank is unleashed the violence is explosive, difficult to watch and Bernthal is terrifying, as he should be in the role of Frank, a brutal force of nature. Some outstanding acting once again from a few people in the show. It’s worth watching but I don’t think this season reached the highs of season 1 by a good way. I hope there is a season 3 but I have massive doubts that will happen. I expect Netflix to announce the cancellation of The Punisher very soon and then Jessica Jones.

 

Comments Off on Recent TV

Filed under Comics, TV

Altered Carbon

Has anyone else been watching and has now finished Altered Carbon on Netflix? If not, you really should make a start.

No spoilers from me, but a brief summary. At the start I was watching it with the subtitles switched on as it was all new to me having not read the books, they mumbled a fair bit to begin with, and there were lots of new terms to try and understand. As you might  expect given some the barriers mentioned, I was mildly interested but wanted to give it a few episodes as I knew the book was very highly regarded as is the author, Richard Morgan.

By the time I was a few episodes in I had changed from thinking it was ok to the place where  I was looking at the time and thinking just one more episode, just one more and then bed.

I’ve now burned through the whole series, all 10 episodes, in less than a week.

Some highlights. The look of the show is amazing. Shiny and futuristic but also grimy and seedy down below where all the poor people live while the rich live in the clouds and nothing is beyond them.

Aesthetics aside, it was a fascinating show about family, what constitutes a family and how to build a new one, religion and faith. Given the premise there is obviously a huge focus on what it means to be human.  There’s also a lot about gender, death, redemption and revenge. Power and money are strong themes as well. The future echoes the present in many ways where the rich can do and say whatever they want and the poor suffer the most. It was definitely a story about imbalance in society, rebellion, justice and also love.

The cast was incredibly diverse too with both strong, layered and interesting roles for men and women. It’s not a spoiler to mention the basic premise of sleeving, moving your consciousness into other bodies, so as you can imagine this led to some fascinating scenes and really interesting challenges for the actors. Men in women’s bodies and vice versa. People of different faiths and ethnicity finding themselves in sleeves that are so different to their own skin. One actor, whose name I will have to dig out from IMDB, must have come in for one bit part but by the end of two episodes his role had been transformed into a rollercoaster of a ride. It was a gift of an acting job. I can’t say more without spoilers but I would loved to have seen the casting sheet for that particular role as it required some unique skills!

If you have the time it is well worth the effort of persisting past the first couple of episodes where I wasn’t sure what was going on really.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Comments Off on Altered Carbon

Filed under Books, TV

Supernatural: Bloodlines

The CW show Supernatural has been going for ten years now and series 11 has been given the thumbs up. I was a big fan of the show in the first five years for many reasons too numerous to get into. Created by Eric Kripke, it follows the adventures of two brothers who hunt monsters. It’s a family basis, one they inherited from their father and they and other Hunters keep the world safe for the rest of us.

After the success of the first season information started to come out that Kripke had a detailed five year plan for the show. However, at the end of the fifth season there is an ending, that is both satisfying and moving, but then like The Return of the King, there’s another tacked on ending. That extra bit opened up the door for them to do more. The show was successful, the ratings were good, so he stepped down as showrunner, someone else picked up the reigns and the show continued. Some of the seasons after were quite good, some less so, and there were some stand out characters and moments.

In the UK we’re currently getting to the end of season 9, and season 10 has just finished in America. There has been talk of a spin off show for a few years and episode 20 of S9, simply called Bloodlines, was supposed to act as a back door pilot. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it and bits and pieces from previous seasons. I don’t work in TV, so I’m coming to this purely as a fan.

Within the first ten minutes of the episode I could see why Bloodlines wasn’t picked up to be a spin-off show. Sam and Dean were in the episode, so that was familiar, but the focus was very different. It tried to create sympathetic monsters and for them to be the majority of the cast. It was somewhere between The Sopranos and Romeo and Juliet. A human gets caught up in a fight between two warring monster families, and through the course of the episode we find that there are five monster families fighting each other for power in Chicago. There is also a shapeshifter who is in love with a werewolf from another family, and at one point in the show there are knowing nods to various bits of pop culture. I think Dean mentions The Sopranos and he even calls the male character, Romeo.

In the story someone is attempting to make things worse and stir up a fight between the families. The perpetrator turns out to be a normal human who did it because he hates the monsters. They killed his son and countless other humans in their fighting. There is also an guy called Ross, just a regular guy who is unaware, who gets caught up in events, and he works with Sam and Dean to try and find out what is going on. At the end he sides with the two monsters in love, even going so far as to kill the ‘villain’, the human being.

While we’ve had sympathetic monsters in the past, this was just a step too far for me. The everyman character, Ross, whose past had some interesting hints, knew nothing about this world. The fans do. They know everything. Watching him catch up would be very tedious after nine series. Oh look, silver kills werewolves. We know. We’ve known for nine years, 23 episodes a year. Neither of the ‘good’ monsters were particularly nice or that interesting.  She appeared to be nothing more than a love interest for the male shapeshifter character, and he was an outsider who left the family business but has now returned. Very Godfather, but it didn’t grip me.

There wasn’t enough grit under the characters’ fingernails. It spent too long focusing on the family business and not enough on the characters. As fans we know the world, and if these are going to be our main characters for something independent, I wanted to really care about them. After approximately 43 minutes, I wasn’t that fussed about them and can’t really remember their names. I didn’t sympathise that much with any of them, apart from Ross, but even he didn’t engage me that much.

For me the strength of Supernatural, even for all of its ups and down over the years, is in its characters. Dean and Sam. We’ve spent so much time with them now that when Dean turns on a TV in a motel and there’s something adult on there, we know he’s going to grin, open a beer and sit back to watch it while Sam will roll his eyes. Over the years they’ve come into contact with so many people that not all of them can just go back to their ordinary lives after the monster is dead. Some of them become recurring characters over a season, or multiple seasons.

Bobby was a great character, and a surrogate father to the boys, who was in the show for many years. Ellen and Jo, a mother and daughter hunter pair, plus Ash, were in the earlier seasons.  Ruby and Bella were introduced and then later Castiel and even Crowley who have both become part of the furniture. Felicia Day’s character, Charlie, has been cropping up in the last few seasons too as she’s become a fan favourite. There are others, who have shown up only a couple of times per season, like Sheriff Mills, or Benny. There are too many to name, but in some ways I think what they would have been better off doing for a spin off show is mining the existing characters to create a new blended, ensemble show.

DC have just announced their Legends of Tomorrow show, which takes characters from Arrow, Flash and the general DC universe to create something new. Arrow and Flash were both getting a little clogged as the main cast was massive, so this was a smart move for a number of reasons. Supernatural has announced there is going to be another attempt at a spin off. Just imagine…

Imagine if Sam and Dean went back on the road, and their base was populated by a number of characters in training to be new Men (and women) of Letters and Hunters. Even if the main show ended, the boys could still crop up from time to time, or guest star with crossover episodes if it continued in parallel. I’d love to see certain characters come back and step up to embracing their destiny or just trying to make up for all of the hideous things they’ve done and find some kind of redemption.

In season 9, Sheriff Mills gets the boys involved with a vampire nest, except it’s not that cut and dried. A girl called Alex lived with a vampire family as their bait and she lured countless people home so her family could eat. At the end she turns on the monsters to save Mills. Lots of pathos and redemption, and family issues, and so much to mine. They’re both wounded, both have lost their families and in a weird way are a new family, and kind of mother and daughter.

Season 8, Aaron Bass, inherits a golem from his grandfather who fought against the Thule Society in World War II. The episode was so much fun, he was so different and so very interesting. There was so much going on that you could have a whole season around it by itself.

Garth has cropped up a few times, and is now a werewolf, but he wants to be a good werewolf with his new wife. He used to be a hunter too.

Benny. I loved the character of Benny played by Ty Olysson, and having someone like him in the mix would be great as he’s a bit of wildcard and yet is someone who is trying to do the right thing. Dean trusted him because of what they went through but Sam never really did until right at the end.

There are more, many more, that they could pull into an ensemble show and then explore in more depth. I hope the next spin off show is a success and I hope they use a lot of good material that has already been laid out because it will mean more to the fans than trying to create something new from whole cloth.

Comments Off on Supernatural: Bloodlines

Filed under TV, Writing

Podcasting empire

I’ve been podcast for over seven years now and the landscape has changed dramatically in that time. When we started not many people really knew what podcasting was and the number of podcasts and people listening was a fraction of what is today.

Coming up on eight years on from when we first started in July 2007, my co-host and I have done all sorts with the podcast and it has led to all sorts of opportunities, personally and professionally. I’ve attended comic book conventions and spoken on panels about podcasting, their place in the new media landscape and taken part in discussions about whether or not it’s a form of journalism. I also co-ran the podcasting track at the Nine Worlds Geekfest convention last year and will be involved again this year.

Professionally I’ve used the editing and sound skills I learned from a hobby in two of my jobs. One was to introduce podcasting to a large global company who wanted to keep their employees up to date in a way that was mobile. So I trained a couple of other people on good technique, introduced them to the software and how it works, and off they went. I’ve also used the same skills for video editing and my voice has been used on several demonstration videos which I put together.

On a personal level, podcasting has allowed me to speak with some amazing creative people, writers and artist from several mediums, plus independent filmmakers. This was sometimes on the Book Club where we spoke to authors, and sometimes on Comic Book Outsiders.

We’ve now reached the point where after so many years we’ve settled into a rhythm and are still enjoying what we do. With that in mind I thought it might be worth giving a little bit of information about the podcasts I’m involved with, as part of our mini podcasting empire!

Comic Book Outsiders – Once a month I co-host this comics and geek related podcast with Scott. This was the original podcast we started in 2007 and we are still going. We talk about things in the news, comics books, TV, films and games, we discuss meaty topics, we have guests on to talk about their work and we highlight hidden gems that don’t get as much attention as they should.

Bags of Action – Once a month I co-host this podcast with Pete Rogers. If you love action movies then this is the podcast for you. We talk about the ridiculous stories and the wonderful chaos common to this type of movie. From gun fights that go on forever to fist fights that defy gravity and common sense. Every month we discuss and dissect an action movie and always have a good time recording it. Sometimes we go off the rails a bit and dig into some of the trivia, or we just wander off into other areas if the film is poor.

Crash Landing – Once a month Scott sits down with a special guest. Fortunately they have been rescued from a dying earth. Unfortunately the rocket ship they are on is going to crash land. They have to decide which popular media they want to save, books, films or comics, or a combination of all three. What could they not live without on their brave new world? As well as talking about why they love their choices we find out more about our special guests each month.

The website for the CBO network has more information on all of the podcasts, plus ways you can get involved and even support the podcasts. It’s all on iTunes as well so give one or more of the podcasts a try and let me know what you think.

Comments Off on Podcasting empire

Filed under podcast, Writing

The end of CBO…well, sort of.

Five years ago this July I started podcasting with a friend. This is back in 2007 when there weren’t that many podcasts. That sounds like a crazy thing to say, but ten years ago there weren’t any smart phones either, not really. The first one might have just come out, but it was nothing like the powerful machines we all carry around in our pockets these days. Machines with more memory than a hundred or even a thousand of my first PCs. But I digress. The point was, when I started doing podcasting on a regular basis, it was at a time when I had a sign on my table at a comics convention that read, ask me about podcasts. Almost every hour during that weekend one or two people came up and asked me ‘So what is a podcast?’

We weren’t one of the first, not by a long shot, but we were fairly unique at the time in that we only focused on comics outside the mainstream publishers of Marvel and DC. By that time the majority of the comics I was reading came from other publishers and other podcasts had coverage of the Big2 all sewn up. It seemed like a good fit. I was a life long comic book reader and I wanted to talk about some great comics people might not be aware of. My co-host was someone recently returned to comics and he was looking for some original material.

Five years on and we’re bringing the podcast to a close. During that time the show evolved in a number of different ways with new segments and we expanded our remit into covering hidden gems from the world of independent comics, movies, films and television. We also added a book club and I’m very proud of it and grateful to our listeners for taking part and getting involved. I’m also very pleased that we started it because it forced me to read some books I would probably never have picked up otherwise, it filled in some gaps in my classic SF and genre reading, and it introduced me and the listeners to some fantastic authors. Over the years we were lucky enough to get some great authors to take part in the podcast and interview them about their work including Arthur C. Clarke Award winners such as China Mieville (The City & The City) and Lauren Beukes (Zoo City).

We’ve also interviewed a number of independent filmmakers, and people I struggle to classify even now, but ultimately they were all extremely creative individuals trying something new, such as Jason Neulander, the creator of The Intergalactic Nemesis, a live stage show with a graphic novel projected behind the actors. He and the show were recently on Conan doing a mini performance with Conan taking part. Since 2007 we have also spoken to a number of comic book writers and artists, people I greatly admire and respect and whose work I still eagerly follow.

At times life or other commitments got in the way and the frequency of the podcast changed, or sometimes one of us wasn’t available and guest hosts stepped into the breach bringing fresh eyes, but we kept going. We always said we make the podcast because we enjoy talking about comics and so on, and best of all I like introducing people to new material they might not have heard about because it’s not local, or their comic shop doesn’t stock it, or they just weren’t aware that it even existed.

I had attended several comic book conventions before we started the podcast, but thereafter I was occasionally on a panel talking about podcasting and other forms of new media and where podcasting sits in the new wave of social media that has become increasingly important in the last eight years or so. It was very interesting to be on the other side of the table and to be sat facing a crowd of people. I actually dislike public speaking and don’t like being the centre of attention, but thankfully I wasn’t on the panels by myself and through the podcast community and the conventions I made a lot of new friends.

It’s also worth mentioning that what started out as a hobby, something that I did for fun, became something that I was able to use in my day job. Over those five years our skills at recording, editing, producing and even speaking on a chosen subject improved dramatically. We didn’t rehearse but we learned the rhythms of the other and we stopped saying um, and er, all the time. It also meant that the amount of time we spent editing was greatly reduced. A couple of jobs back, in the wake of the rise of social media and the growing importance it plays in business, the company I was working for at the time wanted to start an internal podcast for their staff who are spread out across the globe. A few weeks later I was training other people and passing on some of my podcast skills. A very weird but quire rewarding twist indeed.

I still enjoy doing the podcast but after five years I think we’ve sort of run our natural course. There are now thousands, if not tens of thousands, of podcasts, and many of them cover some or all of the same material as us. Some specialise in segments we touched on occasionally and others are equally as broad in their remit, so there is a lot more choice nowadays compared to when we started. I have a list of almost two dozen podcasts I regularly listen to during my daily commutes and, regardless of the subject, all of them are producing by passionate fans.

So, what happens next? Well, Comic Book Outsiders in its current form will cease to exist at some point in July. Thereafter the book club is going to continue so I will still be speaking to my co-host Scott on a regular basis and I’m starting a new (probably monthly) podcast. This will be something equally personal and something else I’m very passionate about. I say probably monthly because a lot of work goes into producing a podcast and I am trying very hard to focus on my writing and not commit myself to any new projects. The time spent on the new podcast should actually be less than CBO. Well, that’s theory anyway. I also think this new podcast will help me. Hopefully it will fuel my writing, give me something to think about and drive me (and hopefully other writers) forward. More info will be announced closer to the end of CBO. Also Scott is going to be doing a new podcast too and again there will be more info towards the end of CBO. So it is an ending, it’s just not the end.

We started out with good intentions – introducing people to comics (and later movies, books, TV and films) outside the spotlight, and overall I think we succeeded.

Comments Off on The end of CBO…well, sort of.

Filed under Comics, podcast, Writing