For broadcast networks that still observe such archaic traditions, the new “season” has begun doling out episodes. Over the years I’ve watched fewer network shows, although this year I’ve actually added two new ones (at least temporarily). I’m still watching the old three… and still questioning why I do.
It would be easy to dump the three old giant dinosaurs, CBS, NBC, and ABC. I haven’t watched the smaller ones (TNT, USA, etc) in years. Other than baseball, regularly scheduled TV broadcasts are decades in my past. I’m solidly about streaming these days — Netflix, Hulu, Prime. I’m considering adding Apple TV and HBO Max.
I’ve definitely taken to binge watching!
For me, and I assume for others, binge watching includes watching N episodes a night for several nights running, or even for multiple nights with breaks. A binge doesn’t have to consume a season in one sitting (although that sometimes works, too).
I wonder how long the term “season” will persist. Some streaming shows use “series” instead, which is confusing since that usually refers to an entire show, all its seasons. “Volume” seems an acceptable replacement. A series has a set of volumes, each with a set of episodes.
Whatever. I have a lot to cover today, so I better get to it. I’ll start with the old broadcast network shows I’ve been following forever…
CBS, NCIS, season 19. I’ve been borderline on this series for a while. (See all these posts.) Behind-the-scenes ugliness (because people) tainted the show for me slightly, and I’ve disliked the direction the show has taken sometimes.
Characters I liked moved on (I really miss Maria Bello as “Jack” Sloan), and characters I don’t care for have become more central. This year it appears Mark Harmon has finally set his long role as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs aside. After 18 seasons, Gibbs has retired (to Alaska). No more rules!
(The last one is #91: When you decide to walk away, don’t look back.)
His replacement, blessed by Gibbs, appears to be Gary Cole as former FBI Special Agent Alden Parker. So that happened. Emily Wikersham (Special Agent Eleanor Bishop) has moved on — Eleanor is apparently a CIA secret agent now. The female agent role is filled by Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight.
I’ll say this: The episodes this season… haven’t been too bad. If they can settle back into their old mold of solving crimes, and stay away from the sweeping grandiose bullshit most action TV shows indulge in, I’ll remain a fan.
There’s a new spin off, NCIS: Hawai’i. Hard pass; no thanks (HP;NT). I got burned by both the other spin-offs. Not going there again.
We still don’t know the specifics of the relationship between Raymond (James Spader) and Elizabeth (Megan Boone), and now they’ve killed her off, so the secrets can keep on rolling.
I lost interest in that secret seasons ago. I never liked Boone’s character. I was glad when I thought they killed her off several seasons ago, but that death was faked. At the end of last season they killed her off good and proper. She ain’t coming back.
Spader continues to be watchable, but the more I watch old episodes of Boston Legal, the more I see him re-using the same actor mannerisms. Watch him long enough and you learn his moves. He’s still fun to watch, though.
Above I mentioned “sweeping grandiose bullshit” and this show has always had a huge helping of it. For example, Raymond is now the head of an ancient pirate organization.
I suspect I watch this show because I’ve been watching this show. I wish they’d end it and release me.
The problem is, the courtroom drama on this show really sucks. And what Dr. Bull’s company, TAC, does makes my skin crawl. Worse, it’s created by “Dr. Phil” who also makes my skin crawl.
It’s almost as if the show’s name is trying to tell me something.
This season begins with a kidnapping, the infant child of Dr. Bull and Izzy Colón. So dramatic kickoff, and now Bull is suffering from serious PTSD. As the show becomes more and more about the characters and less and less about (truly atrocious) courtroom drama,… why am I watching this show?
This one would be very easy to give up.
CBS, CSI: Vegas, new show. This is a reboot of the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the show that made criminal forensics famous (and ruined prospective juries who expected real life to match).
They brought back William Petersen as Gil Grissom and Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle. (Unfortunate for me, I never liked the Sidle character.) We also have some appearances by Paul Guilfoyle (Jim Brass, now retired and blind-ish) and Wallace Langham (David Hodges; also not a favorite character of mine).
The latter is the source of the apparent season arc: He’s being framed for having secretly faked much of the forensics he did while employed by the Las Vegas Crime Lab, so now he’s been charged with a crime and all his past cases are up for review and possible cancellation. He’s in a real pickle. So is Las Vegas Crime Lab.
And the frame job is really, really good. So good many assume it’s true.
I watched all of the first four episodes. The science bullshit level is fairly high, but that seems par for the course. I expected to disdain this, but so far it has kept me watching.
ABC, Queens, new show. I make no excuses, we all have our guilty pleasures.
Thing is, I had a huge crush on Nadine Velazquez when she played Catalina Aruca on the quirky and rather excellent TV series, My Name Is Earl. (Recently I re-watched that series, and it really is excellent. I recommend it.)
When I saw she was one of the four stars on this show, I thought I’d give it a try. Definitely not my usual cup of tea, but the two episodes I’ve watched so far haven’t melted my brain.
The music is kinda fun, and there are worse things than watching four attractive women, but I’m not sure how long I’ll hang in there with this one.
I do appreciate how ABC seems more open to shows focused on people of color or ethnicity. I thought Fresh Off the Boat was quite good, to name just one.
I’m thankful, by the way, that this one (and Fresh Off the Boat, for that matter) are available on Hulu. I much prefer not having to skip past commercials as I do with YouTube TV.
Speaking of Hulu, two new live action shows are worth checking out:
As some streaming services do to mix things up, Hulu released the episodes one per week. It’s an old-school murder mystery, a whodunnit, and it makes sense to give the fans a chance to chew on the mystery.
That said, I (and a friend who’s been watching) were ahead of the final reveal. The telegraphy is fairly loud, though — it wasn’t that hard.
It’s a fun series, and watching Martin and Short are delightful (they did a comedy show together; see it on Netflix). Gomez holds her own with those old pros, and the guest star list is fairly tasty. Nathan Lane appears often, and Sting shows up a few times (briefly as their suspect).
Of particular note, the episode that introduces the deaf character. There isn’t any spoken dialog (that we can hear clearly) until Steve Martin’s line at the end. I clever and subtle bit of filmmaking.
If you’re looking for something modern and edgy, this isn’t it. This is more like a comfy blanket, but I highly recommend it.
FX, Reservation Dogs. Available on Hulu. I’ll just quote Wikipedia:
“Reservation Dogs is a comedy television series created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi for FX Productions. It is a notable first in that it features all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous American cast and production team. It is also the first series to be shot entirely in Oklahoma.”
It’s worth at least checking out just on those merits. As it turns out, it’s well worth watching (which is easy to do; only eight half-hour episodes).
The series involves four indigenous teenagers living in Oklahoma. They’re an informal crime gang. In the first episode they steal a delivery truck filled with chips. The truck they sell; the chips they keep.
It’s funny, a little dark, wry as hell, and very engaging. I truly binge watched these; gulped them down in one sitting. I especially like the spirit William Knifeman, who died at Little Big Horn. (When he charged, his horse stepped in a gopher hole, and he was killed in the fall.)
They captured me with how cleverly they set up the Reservoir Dogs black jacket, black pants, white shirts thing. They found a way to make what could have been a forced homage into something natural if not downright necessary.
The later episodes didn’t sparkle quite as brightly, but they were still plenty shiny. I would say maybe don’t assume the first episode sets the tone. It’s more of an exciting way to begin the story.
It’s nice seeing a story with unknown actors. I’ve long thought famous names are often a distraction from the story. The only actor here that might be familiar is Zahn McClarnon, who plays Officer Big.
It’s been a while since I wrote about Japanese anime, so there are quite a few to mention. In approximate order of enjoyment:
Astra Lost in Space (2016) easily tops the list. It’s an easy watch, only 12 episodes, and they tell a complete story, no cliffhangers (although it’s open-ended enough it could be extended).
It’s a hard SF story about a group of high school students who, in 2063, head to a nearby planet for a camping experience. But immediately upon arrival they’re swallowed by a giant glowing ball of light that somehow deposits them in orbit around an unknown uninhabitable frozen planet. (Fortunately they’d left their space suits on or they would have died!)
Astonishingly, sharing their orbit is a deserted spaceship they manage to board. The spaceship works, so they decide to use it to try to fly home. The trip requires a series of refueling and food-gathering stops, so the main plot involves their adventures on various planets they use to leapfrog home.
But there is a mystery inside another mystery inside yet another mystery. What was that ball of light? Why did it deposit them in orbit? Where did that spaceship come from? Is there a killer among them? As it turns out, everything they thought they knew,… well, you know the rest.
Definite thumbs up! I really do like the more light-hearted, even comic, single story anime.
I also enjoyed the Full Metal Panic! (2002) series. It’s essentially a mobile suit anime with high schoolers as the main characters.
The later volumes have different names. The second one is Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003). It’s more of a comedy and parodies other anime. I especially enjoyed it. There’s a cute parody of mobile suit anime.
The third volume, which I happened to watch first, is Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (2005). The first and third are similar in tone. There apparently is a fourth volume, but Hulu doesn’t have it.
I wasn’t that gung-ho about that third volume, but then I watched the Fumoffu volume, which I found engaging and cute. As far as anime goes, the first volume is probably the best. I liked it more than the third.
As usual there are background secrets and so forth.
Afro Samurai (2007) is an interesting change of pace. For one thing, Samuel L. Jackson voices the two main characters. (Yes, two.) For another, the animation is not the usual cartoon/comic style, but more artful. It reminded me a lot of the Heavy Metal aesthetic.
The music by the RZA (in both) is likewise not the norm for anime. Music and animation combine to create a very different feel. This is definitely Japanese anime, but with strong Western influences.
The series is only five episodes long, so it’s easy to treat as a long movie.
It’s dark, violent, and mostly joyless, but I think it’s very worth seeing.
A few last quick takes…
I rather enjoyed Code:Breaker (2012). Modern day. It’s about a group of magical assassins. Kinda dark and murder-y but also with some whimsy and goofiness (like the puppy). Only 13 episodes, and they tell a complete story.
I enjoyed Black Cat (2005) okay, too. One season of 24 episodes. Action comedy (and I do like comedy anime better than the really dark dramatic stuff). Fictional universe, urban modern setting again with magical realism. The titular character, a young assassin, Train Heartnet, aka Number XIII, is a supporting character (with a tragic backstory). The main character is Sven Vollfied, former FBI agent (with a tragic backstory) who is now a “sweeper” — a bounty hunter. They team up with Eve, an young gal who is an engineered bio-weapon (because nanotech).
I watched the classic Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), but was underwhelmed. I found the ending especially disappointing. There’s a remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that’s supposed to be better. I can’t say the story really grabbed me, but I may circle back some day and try the reboot.
Some time ago, I was completely underwhelmed by Sword Art Online, but I thought I’d give two of the movies a chance: Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (2017) and Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013). Eh. I don’t think SAO is my cup of tea.
Stay watching, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.