“No Tomorrow” is the Lighter Side of the Apocalypse

I recently reviewed a number of zombie/vampire apocalypse TV shows but there is one more semi-apocalyptic show that’s new to television this season. CW network as a lighthearted one hour romantic comedy called “No Tomorrow“. While there are no zombies or vampires were big special-effects or blood or gore it does loosely deal with the end of the world.

It stars Tori Anderson as Evie was a rather timid woman with a boring job in a warehouse/distribution center who falls in love with Xavier played by Joshua Sasse who is a free-spirited risk taker who has concluded that the world is going to end in eight months because of an approaching asteroid. He spends his days spending money that he doesn’t have and during various adventuresome things on his bucket list which he calls his apocalist. I don’t recognize Anderson from other programs but Sasse recently played the title role in the comedy musical series Galavant.

Is a typical romantic comedy where boy meets girl, they have an instant attraction, a bit of awkward stalking by both parties until they finally hook up with each other. She has another boyfriend who ends up proposing to her but she can’t make up her mind between the boring boyfriend and the exciting devil-may-care adventurer.

It is an interesting premise for a romantic comedy and it does provide some reflection for anyone who regrets the road not taken. It’s not totally ridiculous but don’t expect much of any substance. Given that CW network’s demographic is young adult I’m predicting it will probably do well. The acting is adequate as is the writing. If you’re looking for a pleasant diversion I suppose it’s okay but for my part I am rating it “skip it”.

New SyFy Channel Offerings Join Crowded Zombie Apocalypse Genre

SyFy Channel is trying way too hard to cash in on the zombie apocalypse craze with two new series “Van Helsing” and “Aftermath“. Given the massive success of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and its spinoff series “Fear the Walking Dead” we can understand why people want to try to replicate that success.

FX network has succeeded with “The Strain” currently in its third season. It describes its creatures as “strigoi” rather than zombies and they drink blood sort of like a vampire rather than eat your brains like a zombie. But let’s face it they are still zombielike creatures who convert you into one of them with a bite and they are bent on overtaking the world. It has an excellent mix of compelling stories, interesting characters, lots of gore, and state-of-the-art special effects.

SyFy Channel has already had some success with “Z Nation” currently in the third season. It has more traditional brain-eating zombies but plays everything as a comedy. Also CW network takes the comedy approach with “iZombie” which will start its third season in the midseason sometime in 2017. In this show the zombies are fully functional people living “normal” lives except for the fact that they have to eat brains to live. Their main character works in city morgue where she has a good supply of brains for food so she doesn’t have to kill. The innovation in this one is that when she eats someone’s brains, she begins to take on the personality of the dead person and has flashes of their memories. She uses that capability to solve the murders of the people whose brains she consumes.

But really we’re here to talk about the two new series on SyFy Channel. First “Van Helsing” which starts deep into a vampire apocalypse. The main character is Vanessa Van Helsing who is a descendent of the famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. She is played by Kelly Overton whom you may recognize from True Blood or Legends. She wakes up in the hospital to discover the world has been taken over by zombielike vampires. It’s a wonder that Robert Kirkman creator of The Walking Dead doesn’t sue because it’s exactly how his story opens with the protagonist waking up in a hospital to discover a zombie apocalypse.

Technically the creatures in the show are described as vampires but as I alluded to earlier these are bloodsucking zombies as opposed to brain eating zombies. They are not your sexy vampires like True Blood or Twilight. Most of them are mindless creatures spreading a plague that has destroyed civilization. However there are some of the vampires in this series who are sentient beings that retain control of themselves.

The back story is that the vampires have been living among us in secret for centuries but there is a major volcanic eruption in the Western United States that rains down ash everywhere. With the sky permanently darkened by the volcanic clouds, the vampires see an opportunity to come out of hiding and take over the world. When they bite you, you almost instantly turn into a mindless vampire. The other gimmick in this version is that Van Helsing has the ability to heal herself magically along the lines of Wolverine from X-Men. She is not only immune to the disease of the vampires who bite her, her blood can also turn them back into normal human beings. Of course there are limits to her healing ability. Otherwise she could just go out and walk the streets to let the vampires bite all they want and she would convert them back into humans.

As I mentioned before, the show starts with her in a coma in a hospital. She has been there for three years while the apocalypse has ensued. When she awakens in the hospital she is being guarded by a couple of Marines who had been told to guard her as she lies there in a coma. They have only been told that she is special and needs to be guarded at all costs. Her only desire is to go out into the world and find her daughter despite the fact that they have tried to tell her that the daughter is likely dead along with most of the rest of civilization.

There are numerous flashbacks to the pre-apocalypse. In fact the entire second episode is almost entirely flashback to the events that put her where she is when the show opened. You won’t find the gore like shows like The Walking Dead. There’s lots of machine-gun fire to kill zombies. Most of it takes place in extremely dark settings which of course saves on special effects and detailed makeups because much of the time you can’t really see what’s going on anyway. The story is not especially compelling or dramatic.

Although I have watched three episodes I’m not sure that it’s going to stay on my menu of shows to watch. In a crowded genre there isn’t much to stand out in this particular show.

The other offering from SyFy Channel that is new this season is Aftermath. Similar to Feel the Walking Dead, it follows the adventures of one particular family in the early days of the apocalypse so it is unoriginal in that respect. The biggest problem is it cannot decide what kind of a show it is. Early in the opening episode you think it’s going to be a more scientific end-of-the-world type of show. There are unusual numbers of earthquakes and mega storms scouring the earth. There are meteor showers and solar flares which are hinted to be the possible cause of all the strange occurrences. The show is set in the Pacific Northwest and begins with a mega storm. The storm brings about strange occurrences such as tons of fish, snakes, and other bizarre debris falling from the sky resembling a biblical plague. It is explained as being debris picked up by the storm.

If the show it continued in that vein, it might’ve been pretty interesting. But for some reason they decided to mix this traditional hard science apocalypse by also introducing some sort of contagious plague that causes people to act in bizarre and violent ways. Again if they had only added this one additional element to the story it might’ve been a good show. But they had to take it one step further.

The show also introduces a supernatural element. Some sort of ghostlike creatures are possessing people and causing them to do supernatural things. For example the daughter of the family gets dragged out of the house by a person who then flies up into the air and drags her off into the sky. The family goes chasing after her expecting to find her alive beyond all reason. In the next scene she is lying unconscious on the ground along with the man who flew off with her. The spirit which had possessed him and given him the supernatural ability had left his body and he was as clueless as she was asked to what actually had occurred. There is speculation that these supernatural creatures are manifestations of an ancient Native American legend called Skin-Walkers who rise from the underworld to possess the living.

In spite of all of these flaws and mixed messages, the show looks like it has potential. It would definitely be a much better show if it could make up its mind what kind of show it was. Is it a physical science end-of-the-world scenario with solar flares, meteors, earthquakes and storms? Is it a plague driven semi zombie apocalypse? Is it a show about supernatural possession? It tries to be all three and it is a distraction to the rest of the story telling. I’m hopeful that as the show progresses, the schizophrenic genre approach becomes less of a distraction and we can begin to appreciate the basic storytelling and characters. I have more hope that this will eventually be a watchable program than is Van Helsing.

Ultimately though we have to wonder that in a crowded field of zombies, vampires, and other apocalyptic stories if there is any room at all for either of the shows. For now I’m reading both of these as “could be watchable” with Van Helsing at the lower end of that scale and Aftermath at the upper end.

Kevin can Wait is King of Queens 2.0

Kevin James is back on television after taking time off to appear in several films after his former series King of Queens wrapped up in 2007. If you’re looking for a change of pace from his former character Doug Heffernan you will be disappointed. His new character Kevin Gable is pretty much indistinguishable from every other character you have ever seen him play.

Rather than a delivery truck driver he now plays a retired police officer. Again he has a hot looking wife who is clearly out of his league but that’s pretty typical for sitcoms. He has kids this time which he did not have in King of Queens. In place of his goofy father-in-law who lived in the basement which was played by Jerry Stiller the over-the-top comedy this time comes from his daughter’s boyfriend who rents a room in the garage. A recurring character of his brother is played by Gary Valentine who happen to be Kevin James’ brother in real life. Valentine also played his cousin on King of Queens.

There really isn’t much to say about the show. If you liked King of Queens you will probably like this show and if you didn’t like it you will not like the new one. For the time being it’s rated “I’m watching it”.

Designated Survivor is Designated Viewing

First a disclaimer… I will watch absolutely anything starring Kiefer Sutherland. I even liked him in Melancholia which was a terrible movie. So my review of his new dramatic thriller Designated Survivor is naturally going to be biased. The title comes from the fact that whenever the president, vice president, cabinet, and Congress gathered together for the State of the Union Address, they always designate a low-level cabinet member to go to an alternate location in case of some disaster that would wipe out everyone. That way there would be a continuity of government because the Constitution says that after vice president and Speaker of the House the line of succession falls to individual cabinet members in a particular order.

Kiefer Sutherland plays the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman who is appointed just such a designated survivor. Earlier in the day the president tells him that he has been “promoted” to an ambassadorship which is basically saying that you’re fired from the cabinet. But before that promotion/demotion is official, there is a terrorist attack on the capital building leaving Kirkman as the sole survivor of the administration and by default becomes the president.

Although Kirkman is much more mild-mannered than Sutherland’s more famous character Jack Bauer from “24“, you cannot look at the man and not say to yourself “Wow… Jack is back. And he’s in the Oval Office as president!” It’s sort of reminiscent of the series of Jack Ryan novels by Tom Clancy in which CIA agent Jack Ryan eventually becomes president in a backdoor kind of manner.

Kirkman is a family man. His wife is played by Natascha McElhone whom you may recognize for playing the wife of David Duchovny on Californication. He has a teenage son and a younger daughter who are whisked away into the White House and struggled to adapt to the new surroundings.

Other characters include a speechwriter played by Kal Penn and an FBI agent played by Maggie Q. Most of the people of the government don’t believe Kirkman is qualified to be president and he himself is uncertain of his role but determined to prove himself.

The show is portrayed reasonably believably. There is one scene in the opening episode where Kirkman wanders out to the White House portico to collect his thoughts shortly after the attack. There is no way the Secret Service will allow him in the open like that even within the secure confines of the White House. Especially just a few hours after a terrorist attack. He would either be locked in the underground bunker or in the air in Air Force One escaping the capital for security purposes.

There really isn’t a lot more to say about the show except that it’s very engaging and well done. I highly recommend it especially if you are a Kiefer Sutherland fanatic. I’m going to rate it “must-see” but keep in mind my bias.

Speechless Hits Close to Home

There is a new sitcom on ABC that tells the story of a high school student in a wheelchair. His mother goes to extreme measures to get him out of a special education program and into the regular high school. She’s constantly arguing with school officials and anyone else who will listen as she complains about the inadequacies of the handicap accessibility features. For some bizarre reason this show is not titled “The Fran Young Story”. After watching 2 episodes of the show I commented to my dad “a lot of this strikes very close to home.” His reply was “I don’t need to watch the show… I lived it”

The name of the show is “Speechless” because the young man named JJ has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. He rides around in a power wheelchair and he communicates by pointing at a message board using a laser pointer strapped to the side of his head. Someone then looks at the board and follows the pointer as he either points to common words or spells out words. As is the case with most TV shows and movies featuring someone using an alternative communication device, they do not burden the audience with the tediousness of such forms of communication. It shows the young man pointing at the screen moving his head back and forth for a few seconds and then someone who is supposedly interpreting for him spits out an entire sentence faster than anyone could have possibly typed it out. We’ve seen the same thing in numerous movies about physicist Stephen Hawking whose voice synthesizer is controlled by a single pushbutton and other TV shows where characters have used extremely slow methods of communication.

The crusading mother is played by Minnie Driver. For some reason I’ve never cared for her as an actress. She seems to have annoying mannerisms in every part I’ve ever seen her play. In this particular story she’s supposed to be an annoying person and she does a reasonably good job of it. I can watch the show without thinking about how much I personally dislike her. As a character herself she does not remind me of my mother at all. But her dogged insistence that everything be perfect regarding accessibility and the extremes to which she takes her arguments is what reminds me most about my mother. Of course this is very much a comedy and she plays a part that most people would describe as “over-the-top”. If you had ever seen my mother in her “mother tiger defending her cubs” mode you would realize her performance was not as over-the-top as you might think it was. My mother could crusade on my behalf as ridiculously as this character does.

The reaction of JJ and the other members of the family where they sort of roll their eyes as if to say “oh no… there she goes again” is extremely familiar to me and dad and although I’ve not discussed the show at my sisters I’m sure they would see the same things we are.

The stereotypical condescending ways in which other people treat JJ are a bit exaggerated caricatures of the people I have encountered. I admit that some people I’ve met were very nearly as ridiculous as what is depicted in the show. As I said it’s all played for laughs in an exaggerated way. But it would only need to be toned down a tiny bit to make it really realistic.

One of the plots of the first two episodes is the struggle to find an attendant to help JJ with his daily living activities as well as speaking for him by reading the communications board to which he points. Those of you who know me know that I’ve been in a several month long struggle to get a home health aide so the portrayal of the difficulty of finding the right person is spot on. And when he finally does find an aide, his relationship with that man is very well portrayed.

The opening episode shows that the family has moved to a new house in order to get into a different neighborhood so that JJ can attend a regular high school instead of special education. That part of the story will strike home more closely to my uncle, aunt, and cousin. When my cousin Nancy was young there was no special education program in Lawrence Township so they had to sell their house and move into the Indianapolis city limits so that she could attend a special education school where I attended. Then both my cousin and I later made special arrangements to get out of the special education school and to get mainstreamed into regular education. Fortunately my family never had to move and she did not have to move again in order to get out of special ed and into a mainstream regular education program like they did in the show.

There haven’t been very many shows that dealt with disabled characters as main characters. In 2014 there was a short-lived sitcom called Growing Up Fisher starring J.K. Simmons as a blind father of three kids . I never watched it and don’t know much about being blind. My favorite show that dealt with the issues most realistically with a dramatic series Joan of Arcadia in which the main character Joan would get messages from God. She had a paraplegic brother so in that case he wasn’t the strangest character in the family. There were dramatic moments of that show that I thought built very realistic with the family issues surrounding someone with a disability. Walter White and Breaking Bad had a son with cerebral palsy but he was a relatively minor character.

JJ is played by actor Micah Fowler who himself does have cerebral palsy although my speculation that he is not so severe that he is unable to speak. I’ve known people with cerebral palsy who were for the most part speechless and they were much more severely spastic that JJ.

The father in this family comedy is played by John Ross Bowie who you will recognize from his recurring character Barry Kripke on The Big Bang Theory. I think it’s ironic that his character on Big Bang Theory speaks with a lisp but he’s on a show now named “Speechless” about a kid who can’t talk at all. There’s no sign of a speech impediment in the character on the new show. In fact it’s a little bit strange to hear him speaking plainly when we’ve gotten so used to him playing Barry.

There are two other kids in the family a son and a daughter. Part of the show is their reaction to their mother’s antics and it does touch a bit on the fact that JJ gets much of the attention of the parents. However there is some balance between the characters. Some of the plots deal with the everyday issues that the other children in the family deal with that are not related to having a brother with a disability. So overall it’s a general family comedy that doesn’t constantly deal with the disabled kid.

My criteria for any sitcom is always “Did it make me laugh?” and this one definitely did. I’m giving this one a rating of “I like it”. And if you’re looking for a new sitcom that is admittedly a little bit goofy, check this one out. I’m pleased to hear that ABC has ordered a full season of 22 episodes.

“Pitch” is Thursday’s Other Hit Drama

In my most recent review I had high praises for the new primetime soap opera Notorious. I recently saw an ad for the show claiming that was the highest rated new drama on Thursday night. That seemed like a very specific category so I took a close look at the schedule and saw that there was only one new drama on Thursday. It’s a new series on Fox network called “Pitch“. It’s about the first woman pitcher for a major league baseball team.

It is created by producer Dan Fogelman who also created my other favorite new show of the season “This Is Us“. It is also directed by Paris Barclay who directed many episodes of Sons of Anarchy which was a favorite of mine.

There isn’t really much to say about the show beyond the basic premise that is the first woman in the major leagues. Our main character Ginny Baker is played by relatively unknown actress Kylie Bunbury. She was in the miniseries Tut as well as the Stephen King TV series Under the Dome. In the opening episode it covers her arrival in camp and the media hype surrounding the pitching of her first game. Under the pressure of all the spotlight of attention on her, she totally chokes and walks several players before they pull her from the game. There are flashbacks to when she was a child first learning baseball from a very proud father played by Michael Beach.

After she has her embarrassing debut she gets in a shouting match with her father saying that it was always his dream and not hers that she play in the major league. It seemed to me that if they were going to have that kind of confrontation that would’ve happened way before this particular incident. However that particular scene was the only part of the opening episode that seemed a little unrealistic.

Overall it was well-written and well acted. It has a lot of heart but doesn’t get sappy. It also doesn’t get very preachy. Overall I can highly recommend the show however I have to admit I probably will not end up watching it. I’m not at all a baseball fan and I have a hard time identifying with a 20 something-year-old African-American female baseball player. But if the subject matter appeals to you at all I can easily recommend it.

You want to be sure to see the pilot episode on a rerun or on demand because there is a bit of a plot twist in the last two minutes of the opening episode.

So even though I won’t be watching more than a couple of episodes, I’m giving it a rating of “I Like It”.

Notorious is Guaranteed a Hit

ABC network had a dilemma. The problem is Shonda Rhimes can’t produce enough primetime soap operas to fill their entire schedule. She already produces Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Catch. Scandal had to be pushed to midseason because Kerry Washington is pregnant and they did not want to write the pregnancy into the show. Fortunately they found another producer who has created what should be a big hit for them. Josh Berman has created “Notorious” that fits right in with its Thursday night neighbors Grey’s and How To.

It’s another show full of beautiful people in powerful positions manipulating one another and the general public in a variety of very clever ways. The star is Piper Perabo who plays Julia George. She’s the producer of a cable TV news program. I apologize… She does not produce the program. When one character says “she produces the show” they get corrected. Another character explains “She produces the news. The number-one cable news program. She decides what the country cares about. She creates heroes and monsters, victims and villains. Julia George tells the world when to pay attention and what really matters.”

She is friends with a powerful attorney who represents powerful people. In the opening episode one of his clients, an Internet billionaire, is accused of killing a 15-year-old boy in a and run accident. Together the attorney of the producer manipulate the media to the advantage of his client and of course to boost ratings for the program.

Of course in a show like this, everyone is sleeping with everyone else and cheating on them with another person. Julia finds out her boyfriend who was recently appointed as an appellate court judge is actually cheating on her with prostitutes. She breaks up with him but tends to hold that over his head forever.

I’ve always been a big fan of Piper Perabo from her various film roles such as Coyote Ugly and her previous TV series where she played a kick ass CIA agent Covert Affairs. She’s got the looks and the swagger to fit in this new role perfectly. The remainder of the cast is not as recognizable but they are all pretty people.

Given its time slot is guaranteed to be a big hit because it will appeal to the same audience as the other Thursday night ABC shows. If you like Scandal you will definitely like Notorious. I’m rating it this “I like it”.

MacGyver Missing More than the Mullet

The late comedian George Carlin once did a routine in which he pointed out that when an advertisement says “new and improved” that logically cannot be both. If it is truly new then it cannot be an improved version of something else. Similarly if it is improved that it is not entirely new but just a revised version of something else. Scripture also reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “there is nothing new under the sun”. Unfortunately in the case of MacGyver, the CBS reboot of the original MacGyver that ran from 1985-1982, it is neither new nor improved.

Although our hero played by Lucas Till has a shaggy hairdo, it isn’t a mullet. For some strange reason I miss the mullet. If that was my only complaint about the show it might be worth watching. I can understand why with modern technology to exploit as a storyline and with more modern special effects they might want to bring back in action show like this one. Both the old and the new MacGyver a guy who can jury rig any kind of device out of ordinary objects. At one point he says to a computer hacker “You can hack computers… I hack everything else.” Which is a pretty good description of this classic character.

While MacGyver’s gadgets always stretched the bounds of believability, you always had the feeling that is maybe the gadgets he put together by the have actually worked. Countless episodes of MythBusters were devoted to his gadgets and devices and some of them did actually work. However in this new incarnation the second thing that he did about five minutes into the show was that he created interference in the communication earpiece of a security guard by making an electromagnet out of a piece of metal, a coil of wire, and a AA battery. Any fifth grade science student will tell you that such a device might make a strong enough magnet to pick up a paperclip or two but not much else. The idea that you can use DC current to create any kind of significant radio waves to jam a radio also is completely of everyday science. I don’t know how much C4 explosive it takes to blow something up. I don’t know what combination of everyday chemicals you can put together to get some unusual reaction. There are a million other things that MacGyver could pull off that I might say “Well maybe that could work”. But when right out of the gates he did something that stupid that so obviously would not work, it tells me that the writers think we’re stupid.

A friend of mine also pointed out to me that the voiceover narration is especially condescending towards the audience as well. At one point he picks a lock with a straightened paperclip and while showing it to us took the time to explain in voiceover that it was a straightened paperclip like we had no idea what it was.

I’m not going to apologize for the following spoiler because the whole show is fairly rotten to begin with. In this incarnation MacGyver has a female assistant who also happens to be his girlfriend. The bad guys capture her and kill her and he spends three months trying to get over it. When he finally does get back to work he discovers his girlfriend was actually still alive and working with the bad guys. This show really doesn’t need that kind of a continuing subplot that the villain is an ex girlfriend.

I have to admit I don’t remember a lot about the original series but it seemed to me that MacGyver usually worked alone. In this incarnation he has a sidekick played by George Eads formerly of CSI. And after his girlfriend died/came back to life he replaced her with a hacker girl that he helped get out of prison to join his organization. I seem to recall Richard Dean Anderson’s original MacGyver have a sort of dry wit about him that is lacking. And the comic relief provided by his new sidekicks don’t make up for that lack of humor in the new version.

I have to give a bit of disclaimer for badmouthing this show for lack of credibility because I’m also a big fan Scorpion in which our heroes routinely come up with a MacGyver-like solutions to problems that stretch credibility and the laws of science to their very limits and often beyond. But they are more interesting people to begin with and the personalities play off one another really well. I just don’t think I’m in the mood for that much mindless action trying to be scientifically grounded and failing. If I wasn’t already watching Scorpion you might talk me into watching a few more episodes of MacGyver in hopes that it would get better. But as far as I’m concerned my sense of nostalgia for this character isn’t strong enough for it to make the cut. I’m getting this one a very definite “skip it”.

Michael Weatherly’s New Series Is A Lot of Bull

After spending 14 seasons on NCIS I understand why Michael Weatherly would want to do something different. When he left the show at the end of last season I presumed he would take a year or two off. Perhaps he would do a couple of movie roles or even try going to New York and doing a stageplay. I did not expect that he would jump right back into another TV series. He was already on the highest rated drama on television. I would’ve thought if he wanted to continue to do TV he wasn’t going to do much better than where he was. I’ve not seen any interviews about why he left or what was so attractive about this new TV series for CBS but he made the move anyway.

In his new series “Bull” he plays Dr. Jason Bull who is a psychologist that is an expert jury consultant. He works with lawyers to analyze juries and help them fine-tune their presentations to have the most impact. Supposedly this story is inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil who before he had his own TV show worked for a very successful similar consulting firm. They do not claim nor is there any evidence that the character himself is based on Dr. Phil.

Bull is self-assured to the point of arrogance. He’s one of those people who is always the smartest person in the room. If you have any doubts, just ask him. He basically takes over the case and dictates to the lawyers how to manage it. This in the face of lawyers who are normally self-assured and arrogant themselves. The lawyer in the opening episode is a former US Attorney General but Bull treats him like a community college dropout. Tony DiZozzo on NCIS was self-assured but rarely arrogant and was substantially more likable then the new guy. So if he was looking for a new character to play he’s definitely found someone different.

Once a jury is seated, his firm recruits their own panel of jurors who are a psychological match for the actual jury. Then they hold multiple mock trials to see which strategies will or will not work. During the actual case, Bull sits in the courtroom and we look inside his head where he envisions the jurors talking to him and telling him what they’re thinking. Supposedly he is so adept at reading their body language that he knows what they’re thinking and whether or not they are buying what the lawyer is selling them.

This ability to magically read people’s thoughts by analyzing facial micro-expressions and body language is not an original idea for a TV series. The 2009 series “Lie to Me” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1235099/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_24 starring Tim Roth had a similar premise. While I’m a poker player and believe that it is occasionally possible to detect a person’s “tells” by reading their expressions, the extremes to which these TV experts take this phenomena is literally incredible (meaning without credibility) in my opinion. Such shows almost cross the boundary into science fiction. I think I would find them more interesting if they just said he had real psychic ability. At least the TV show “Psych” played it for laughs. It was about an ultra-observant private detective who claimed he had psychic ability because people would rather believe that he was psychic than believe that he could look at a situation and figure it out faster than Sherlock Holmes. I feel the same way about Bull.

The idea of duplicating a courtroom and holding mock trials is also not new to television. In 2006 we had “Shark” starring James Woods. He was a defense attorney who built an exact duplicate of the courtroom in his basement and would hold mock trials and rehearsals of his arguments.

Of course there is also nothing original about his old series NCIS. It’s pretty much an ordinary procedural crime drama in a military setting with an occasional touch of international intrigue. At times the military connections are pretty weak. For example their season premiere investigated the murder of a naval officer but it turns out he was not the target of the attack. He was just a guy who got caught in the crossfire however NCIS continue to investigate the entire crime whether it was their jurisdiction to do so or not. It remains the number one drama on television despite its lack of originality. Its success comes not from the plot lines but from the characters themselves. I watch it because I like the characters and the same is true for NCIS: New Orleans. For whatever reason I don’t like the characters in NCIS: Los Angeles so I skip it. I also Lie to Me, Shark, and Psych not because of their premise or plots but because I liked the characters.

Pardon the cliché but the jury is still out when it comes to Weatherly’s new show. I will miss Tony DiNozzo but I’m not yet fallen in love with his new character. Near the end of the first episode there was a hint that beneath this outer bravado is a troubled soul that he’s hiding. Depending on how that plot line goes it might make the character more interesting. If I believed more in his abilities it might be easier to like him. But for now I think the whole thing is a lot of Bull—-. I’m giving this on a high end of “could be watchable”.

“Quarry” Sends Mixed Messages about Vietnam Vets

You would think that a drama about a Vietnam veteran returning home and having difficulty reintegrating into society would be a big hit with Vietnam era veterans. However I’m concerned that “Quarry“, a new series from Cinemax, might be sending mixed messages that will upset some vets.

Set in the 1970s, this dark brooding drama follows the story of Mac Conway returns from his second tour of duty with his friend Arthur. They are met at the airport by protesters shouting things like “monsters” and “baby killers” because his unit was accused of massacring instant women and children in the Vietnamese village. He discovers that the protesters are not the only ones were not happy to see him back. He can’t get a job as a swim coach in the local high school because it would be controversial to hire someone possibly involved in such violence. Even members of his own family seem leery of him.

He is approached by a strange man calling himself “The Broker” who offers him thousands of dollars for his services as a gun for hire. Basically a hitman. As he’s trying to regain his identity as a “normal person” he summarily rejects the offer. Unfortunately his friend Arthur decided to take the money and do the job. Mac tries to talk him out of it saying to him “If we do this then we really are the monsters they claim we are.” Arthur is not persuaded so Mac file is him as backup on his first assignment. When that assignment goes horribly wrong Mac is drawn into the business reluctantly.

So for the first 40 minutes or so of the opening episode we see an insightful look into the life of the Vietnam veteran who struggles with being connected to an unpopular war. But it’s pretty obvious that most of the series is going to be about him becoming a hitman and working for this mysterious character. And as he told his own friend, this proves we really are the monsters they claim that we are. So what is the message? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him lady has no choice but to kill people for money? It looks to me like the entire show is going to reinforce the negative stereotypes of Vietnam-era soldiers.

The stars are know when you’ve ever heard of. The acting is adequate. The title of the show comes from the fact that Mac meets up with the Broker in a quarry and the broker decides that “Quarry” should be his nickname. Because this is Cinemax you’re going to see graphic violence and R-rated nudity and sexual situations. It doesn’t appear that this is typical Cinemax softcore. It’s just that they don’t hold back in showing you everything where there is sex or violence.

I’m probably going to give it one or two more episodes to see where it goes in to see if it ever makes up its mind as to whether we should be sympathetic towards Mac or fear him or both. For now I’m rating it on the low end of “could be watchable”.