Fans of Dystopian Action Should See “See”

The next in my series of reviews of new streaming series is another offering from Apple TV+ titled “See“. I’ve seen all eight episodes of season 1 and it has already been renewed for season 2. It is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the entire human race has lost their sense of sight. No one has been able to see for many generations and so the entire concept of vision is impossible to explain to anyone. It is viewed as an evil mystical power that was responsible for the fall of civilization.

However there exists one person named Jerlamarel who claims they have the ability to see as does his children. This makes him and the children targets. Not only is vision believed to be evil witchcraft, if by chance you can control someone who has this mystical ability of sight, you would have great power over everyone.

Our main character is Baba Voss played by Aquaman star Jason Momoa. He is the leader of a clan of people who live in the woods. His wife Maghra played by Hera Hilmar. She is pregnant with twin children that were fathered by sighted Jerlamarel. She came to their clan as a pregnant refugee and Voss took her in and agreed to raise the children as his own. In the opening episode, the clan comes under attack from witchfinders who do the bidding of a bizarre leader named Queen Kane played by Sylvia Hoeks. She is in search of the sighted man and/or his children. The Queen rules over the area from a hydroelectric power dam that is still barely operational.

The entire thing is sort of a mixture of “Game of Thrones” and “Bird Box” with a little bit of “Mad Max” thrown in.

The action sequences as Voss defends his community from the witchfinders are exciting, bloody, and actually make you believe that a bunch of totally blind people could not only survive on a day-to-day basis but can defend themselves from a bunch of evil invaders. The entire society is created in detail and we learn a lot about how they survive. For example writing is accomplished by tying knots and pieces of cord.

The clan survives the initial attack but concludes that their main line of defense will no longer hold and the raiders will be back again so they have to flee their habitat in the woods. The sighted biological father of these hunted children have left them a trail to a new habitat where they relocate out of harm’s way. The series then fast forwards to when the children have grown. They have inherited their father’s ability to see and they are given a chest full of books left to them by their father. Voss and Maghra are assisted in raising the children by the clan’s medicine woman Paris played by Alfre Woodard. She gives the children the books despite their parents insistence that she not. The children teach themselves to read and educate themselves in the history of the fallen civilization. Eventually as they reach their teens, they go on a quest to seek their biological father and their destiny as one of the few human beings left alive who know what it is to see.

Although some critics didn’t think much of Momoa’s portrayal of Voss, I found him to be an interesting character. He is a devoted family man who is trying to protect his children and his clan without reverting to the violent mercenary he once was in his past. He does an adequate job of portraying the character torn between his violent nature and his desire for a peaceful family life.

I suppose you have to be a fan of dystopian post-apocalyptic genre and enjoy seeing a muscleman like Jason Momoa engage in all sorts of bloody battles. But if you do enjoy this kind of story, this is a really good one. The world they live in is richly drawn. The characters especially Queen Kane are a bit bizarre but that makes her all the more interesting as a maniacal leader obsessed with finding her white whale that is these children.

The series runs for eight episodes and to be honest that was probably enough. Although I really enjoyed it, it didn’t leave me anxiously awaiting for season 2 which has already been approved. I will watch it however when it returns. I’m giving it a strong rating “I’m watching” and if you like the genre I strongly recommend it.

“For All Mankind” is almost worth subscribing to Apple TV+

I barely have time to write reviews of new broadcast TV shows so I rarely write reviews of shows on streaming networks. But there has been such a lack of interesting new shows on broadcast that I need to point out a couple of really interesting series recently released on streaming. (See my recent blog “Is Broadcast TV Dead?“)

We are going to start off with a new offering on Apple TV+ titled “For All Mankind“. It’s a bit of alternate history sci-fi about what might’ve happened if the Soviet Union had landed on the moon before us. In real history, once we had made it to the moon first, the US visited the moon 6 times but with nothing left to prove, the space race was over and decades later we still haven’t been back. But in this alternate history, the space race continued.

The series is created and produced by Ronald D. Moore who is most known for the reboot version of Battlestar GalacticaClick and the romantic time travel series Outlander as well as several Star Trek series and films.

Our main characters are fictional astronauts and their families but most of the other characters in the series are based on the real life people who worked on the space program. Fictional Astronaut Edward Baldwin is played by Joel Kinnaman who has been in a variety of TV shows but is most known for playing detective Holder in “The Killing“. We also have astronaut Gordo Stevens played by Michael Dorman, a NASA engineer Margo Madsen played by Wrenn Schmidt and a memorable performance by Chris Bauer as real-life NASA astronaut/manager Deke Slayton. Colm Feore appears in three episodes as former German rocket scientist Warner von Braun who oversaw the design and construction of the Saturn V moon rocket. You can click on the names in this or any of my other entertainment blogs to see their resumes on IMDb.com. I won’t bother mentioning their many roles.

Before writing this review I have seen all 10 episodes and I’m pleased to report that it is already renewed for season 2. There are going to be some minor plot spoilers in the rest of this but I don’t think it will ruin your viewing. After the Russians landed on the moon one month ahead of Apollo 11, the US goes ahead and sends Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon as planned. But I will spoil the story this much to say that this mission doesn’t go exactly as smoothly as history’s real Apollo 11. The series also covers Apollo 12 but makes no mention of the accident suffered by real-life Apollo 13. There is a time jump in the series and from that point forward all of the missions are fictional.

As mentioned before, the story follows the continuing space race between the US and the Soviet Union. It now becomes a race to build a permanent moon base. On one of the missions, water is discovered in the permanent dark areas of Shackleton crater near the Moon’s south pole. In real life, water wasn’t discovered there until a few years ago when satellite reconnaissance detected the presence of frozen water. This early discovery makes a permanent moon base feasible and both countries race to build a moon base on the edge of this crater some distance apart from each other.

The Soviets also get one up on us by landing the first woman on the moon paralleling the true life events where they put the first woman in orbit years before we did. In this alternate history, we respond by rapidly recruiting and training a group of female astronauts and several of the episodes through the middle of the season forward deal with that story. Not only does the series deal with women’s issues it also touches on LGBT themes. It dramatically illustrates the way such issues were dealt with or not dealt with in the 70s and 80s. We get a glimpse of the political background of this alternate history which has some interesting twists and turns as well. The world these characters live in feels very real. An excellent bit of alternate world building on the part of the show’s creators and writers.

The writing is excellent. The acting is wonderful. The drama is compelling. There are surprises and tragedies that will break your heart. I will warn you don’t watch episode 9 unless you are prepared to watch the finale episode 10 immediately following.

I have to admit a bias because I grew up in the Apollo era and have always been a spaceflight enthusiast. But I don’t think that you have to be a space history buff or a spaceflight enthusiast to really enjoy this series.

For the most part the science is reasonably accurate. There are a couple of places near the end where I thought they glossed over a couple of issues for the sake of keeping the story moving. However I found much less of what I call “plot driven technology” then I find in many sci-fi series. I should mention that the special-effects are excellent as well for a TV series. Also a big tip of the hat to the set decorators. On the wall of one of the astronaut’s homes there is a wall decoration identical to one that has been hanging in my living room since the early 1970s.

I was fortunate enough to get a free subscription to Apple TV+ when I purchased my new iPhone 11. There are at least 2 other series available on Apple TV+ that are worth checking out.One of them is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series titled “See” starring Aquaman star Jason Momoa which I will review soon here. And a drama series called “The Morning Show” starring Jennifer Aniston which I have not yet seen but which earned a number of Golden Globe nominations. Ultimately whether or not it’s worth the subscription price to you is something you alone will have to decide. Overall Apple TV+ does not have a huge catalog of programming. There are less than a dozen original series but I suppose it will grow over time.

I’m giving this a strong recommendation of “I Really like It“. If you do have access to Apple TV+ this is something you should definitely check out. Really quality stuff with more to come next season.

“Deputy” is Nothing Special

The first new show of the midseason is Fox’s procedural cop drama “Deputy“. The show stars Stephen Dorff who has most recently been seen in the 2019 season of HBO’s “True Detective“. In this show he plays LA Sheriff Deputy Bill Hollister. He’s your typical hard-nosed cop who hates authority and breaks all the rules. As the show opens he’s being disciplined for refusing to engage in an ICE operation to round up illegal immigrants saying that it’s his job to protect them and not round them up just so that LA County Sheriff Department can get federal grant money for cooperating with ICE.

The show then goes to a case in the field where he engages in a high-speed car chase that is ridiculously over-the-top. Not quite “Fast and Furious” ridiculous but clearly unrealistic. It involves all sorts of dangers to the public such as him speeding down side streets and narrow alleys at high speed and eventually running the suspects off a bridge where they crash into a street below. That kind of reckless behavior would have someone kicked off any police force.

As the chase concludes, the higher-ups come to inform him that the sheriff has recently died of a heart attack and because of an arcane law from the days of the wild West, his most long serving deputy will be made interim Sheriff until an election can be held. And of course that’s him. So suddenly this almost rogue cop who everyone hates and who can’t follow the rules is now in charge of the entire LA County Sheriff Department.

The entire premise is so ridiculously contrived that you have to hold your nose just to buy into the concept. If the characters were compelling and the stories interesting you might be able to get by the ridiculous premise but unfortunately none of that happens.

Hollister is accompanied by his only friend in the department Detective Cade Ward played by Brian Van Holt most recently seen on TV in the series “Cougar Town” which I never watched. The show also features his driver/bodyguard a young lesbian woman named Deputy Breanna Bishop played by Bex Taylor-Klaus most recently seen in “13 Reasons Why” and also appeared in 9 episodes of “Arrow” as the character “Sin”. These two sidekicks are mildly interesting but can’t save this otherwise un-extraordinary cop show.

The plot of the opening episode was nothing special. The action sequences were okay although as I said before quite unbelievable. If you want a good action filled cop show you should skip this and watch SWAT or Hawaii Five-O on CBS.

I’m giving this a solid rating of “Skip it“.

Is Broadcast TV Dead?

Those who have followed this blog in my postings on Facebook know that I used to post entertainment news about once a month but I been so tied up with other things in my life I haven’t had a chance to do that. Among the things I haven’t followed very closely for this year’s Golden Globe awards. When the awards aired last night on NBC I had not even looked at the nominations prior to watching broadcast. As I watched something disturbing became evident to me. Click here to see a complete list of nominees and winners. Here is a chart I put together showing how the nominations were split up among various kinds of media. The categories are Streaming: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple+. Premium: HBO, Showtime etc. Basic cable: FX, BBC America. Broadcast: NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX. A “w” in a column designates that’s the category for the winner.

Category Streaming Premium Basic Broadcast
Drama Series 2 2w 1 0
Musical or Comedy Series 4w 1 0 0
Limited or TV Movie 2 2w 1 0
Actress Limited or TV Movie 3 1 1w 0
Actor Limited or TV Movie 2 2w 1 0
Actress Drama 3w 1 1 0
Actor Drama 1 2w 2 0
Actress Musical or Comedy 4w 1 0 0
Actor Musical or Comedy 4w 1 0 0
Supporting Actress 3w 2 0 0
Supporting Actor 2 3w 0 0
Grand totals 31 18 8 0
Winners 5 5 1 0

As you can see not a single nomination for a broadcast TV show. Nothing for “This Is Us” or any other broadcast drama. Nothing for a traditional live audience sitcom in the comedy category. Even basic cable was only represented by 2 networks FX and BBC America with only 3 shows nominated: Fosse/Verdon, Pose, and Killing Eve. Streaming services and premium cable split the wins at 5 each but streaming was nominated nearly 2 to 1 over premium cable.

The only conclusion that we can draw from this information is that if you want to see quality television, you are going to have to pay extra. So we have to ask the question: is broadcast TV dead? If they don’t change they will be.