Category Archives: Show Reviews

Daredevil

daredevilnetflixtitleCharlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page

Remember Daredevil, that mediocre movie that was made early in the seemingly neverending superhero movie boom? Its only modest box office profit and the outright failure of the Elektra spin-off pretty much killed that series, but apparently somebody decided to give it a try over a decade later.

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Cheap, bullshit season 1 costume.

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That’s more like it!

This show takes a very different approach. Whereas the 2003 movie was centered around action and detailed explanations of how Daredevil’s sensory powers work, this show thrives on drama inspired by The Dark Knight. There is not a lot of explanation of Daredevil’s powers, though. We’re told that he was blinded by a radioactive liquid that also enhanced his other senses, but that’s it.

While I love this show, there is a caveat I would add: if you don’t like too much talking in your superhero movies and shows, you won’t like this show. Much of this show is Daredevil’s true self, Matt Murdock, working as a lawyer. He runs a modest law firm with lifelong friend Foggy Nelson and secretary Karen Page. Matt only wants just cases, while Foggy is a more typical lawyer with an opportunistic streak. This creates great character conflict.

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“Did you stub your toe during the workday? Have an employee who needs medical leave? We at Nelson and Murdock can help you get ‘justice?'”

During the night, of course, Matt fights crime as Daredevil. There’s drama involving the criminals he fights as well. And it works. For instance, the second season had a story in which Daredevil battled The Punisher, a crimefighting vigilante himself, but who does so in a brutal way. Ironically, Matt ends up defending him in court, seeing Punisher as a well-meaning person with psychological problems.

So the drama works. How about the acting? The performances are very strong. Charlie Cox plays the part of a hero on a mission and does it well. Elden Henson and Deborah Woll play the parts of members of his law firm who work and talk with him. The casting of villains is just as good, particularly Vincent D’Onofrio as crime boss Wilson Fisk.

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Unfortunately, this character was created decades ago, when a shaved head made you sinister. Today it’s almost normal.

To sum it up, Daredevil is worth Netflix’ subscription price by itself, in my humble opinion! Just don’t expect it to be action-first.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Saturday Night Live

snltitleCast has varied widely from era to era, so I won’t
list it.

I really wanted to call Saturday Night Live the longest running TV show ever, but it’s actually pretty far down the list. Not just news and sports programs have been on the air longer. No, there are some soaps that were around longer.

But still, SNL has a fantastic legacy! In the first place, it’s been around for four decades. In the second, it’s been a great show all these years! In the third, it’s had so man iconic moments like John Belushi falling down as one of The Bees, Chris Farley foolishly thinking that a man of his weight could do cartwheels without falling down, Cheri Oteri as a crazy cheerleader, and Big Bird as a guest on Weekend Update even though it was way past his bedtime. Finally, there’s the fact that this show is a bridge between two eras of comedy.

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Forty-one years of presidential imposters.

Like the old days, we have short sketches with separate plots before an audience. As a result, every member of the cast has to play numerous characters every episode. Does it work? Yeah! This show has consistently been creative and insightful in the stories it brings to life, 3-10 minutes at a time.

But what about the humor? SNL has been consistently funny over the years. Whether with a weird job interview or confessedly fake news, the cast and writers of this show will make you laugh.

Yeah, Chris Brown and his military kill mark of his girlfriend are old news. gimme a break, it was to find modern, apolitical SNL photos.

Yeah, Chris Brown and his military kill mark of his girlfriend are old news. Gimme a break, it was hard to find modern, apolitical SNL photos.

Like any other longtime show, SNL has had its ups and downs. I doubt many recall the 2000s with its limited material with any kindness. Among the examples are Will Farrell’s lame parody of George W. Bush, in which he didn’t get the accent or lines right. High points of the show, in my mind, include the first couple casts and early 1990s. But as a sign of the enduring quality (most of the time), my all-time favorite recurring sketch is this show’s version of Celebrity Jeopardy.

What has been the consistently worst part of the show is the musical guests. Not that there’s not plenty of good music, but this is an industry that is about the flavor of the moment. SNL keeps inviting flash in the pan bands that we won’t have any trouble accepting the suckage of in a few years. Not all these bands are bad, but a lot are. Since guest hosts have a lot of say in musician choice, let’s blame it on them.

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I still have nightmares of Cypress Hill stinking up SNL. It’s kind of amusing to learn that they got banned from SNL (for other reasons).

Bad bands aside, Saturday Night Live is great! Hilarious and intelligent. You just often have to wade through some bad music.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Gotham

gothamtitleBen McKenzie as James Gordon
David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne
Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock
Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle
Zabryna Guevara as Sarah Essen
Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin

Following the success of Smallville, it was apparently believed that a similar prequel series set in the Batman franchise could work. And I must say that they were right. Gotham adds many twists to both this franchise and the crime drama genre of television.

This show seems to take place roughly twenty years before Batman is Gotham’s watchdog against crime. We have a Gotham that is run by organized crime. James Gordon is a police officer in a corrupt department trying to stem the tide. Young Bruce Wayne is sometimes caught up in these things as well. Bruce’s romantic interest, Selina Kyle, is a wild card, torn between her affections for Bruce and the fact that her hard life drove her into burglary long ago.

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Before his eighty-five years of calling someone else to solve cases for him, Gordon was actually a half-decent cop.

Like many crime dramas, the main antagonist changes over time. There was female crime boss Fish Mooney. At the time of this posting, the possessive (literally) Jervis Tetch is making his mark.

The standout villain in The Penguin. I was shocked when I first saw him. If you’ve seen any other version of this character, you know from heart that he’s short, overweight, and and has a huge nose. Here he’s tall and skinny. I guess whatever disease he has that gives him an abnormal appearance hasn’t taken effect yet. Anyway, this is a great character. He’s got a seemingly undeservedly cocky attitude that gets him underestimated and he consistently outsmarts people because of that. Everybody sees him as a self-deluded pushover. That he’s really a crafty genius nobody can understand. They don’t see it. And that adds to Penguin’s character.

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Hearing him get called “Penguin” for the first time was quite a shock, but it turned out well.

Story arcs are great! There was the Fish Mooney story, the one in which maniacs were running loose throughout Gotham City, and now Penguin has became Mayor! A bit of homage to Batman Returns, but this time it really happened!

Some comic book nerds criticize the faithfulness to the source material. Hey, it’s the gloomy setting with urban crime. Factor in the effects of the prequel setting, and it’s true enough for me.

Plus if you think this show has to have the Joker, we got that... kind of.

Plus if you think this show has to have the Joker, we got him… kind of.

Gotham succeeds with flying colors as both a Batman show and a crime drama.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Batman

BatmanTitleAdam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Burt Ward as Robin
Yvonne Craig as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (season 3)
Alan Napier as Alfred
Madge Blake as Harriet Cooper
Neil Hamilton as Commisioner Gordon
Stafford Repp as Chief O’Hara

I’m not sure how relevant this review is. Although it was quite the success back in the day, the Batman franchise has long since reverted to the dark version that existed before the 1950s and has never looked back. Actually, the fact that this character ever lightened up at all is really a product of the Comics Code Authority that forced darkness out of the comic books based on fears that they were ruining the youth. So the direction this show took is kind of a fluke of history.

But legend has it that this show actually saved the brand. Believe it or not, Batman’s popularity was at a very low swing for much of the 1960s and DC Comics was thinking of cancelling all his books. When the TV series became a hit, though, the sales of the comics surged to a level not seen in a very long time. So without Adam West and Burt Ward, it’s possible that Tim Burton’s Batman never gets made, there’s no Animated Series, forget about The Dark Knight trilogy, and don’t even think there would be the upcoming crossover with Superman.

In short, the history of superheroes on TV and the big screen would look a Hell of a lot different.

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Alas, there are more gay rumors than child endangerment issues in this pair.

Every episode’s plot is basically the same. Some villain is causing trouble so Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara call Batman and Robin on the Batphone. The Caped Crusaders then spring into action.

The performances add humor. Adam West and Burt Ward (the former of which now plays the crazy, senile, Mayor West to perfection on Family Guy) are delightfully over the top, particularly Ward’s “Holy ____.” Whoever the villain of the week is usually also plays well. This is particularly true of The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler. Each of these frequent villains had a little fun fact.

Joker: Cesar Romero refused to shave off his mustache. They had to tape it flat before the face paint went on. That couldn’t have been comfortable.

Penguin: Burgess Meredith’s “wak-wak-wak” squawking wasn’t just another gag. No, he was a non-smoker playing a smoker, so the squawking was in case he needed to cover up coughing.

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Burgess Meredith as Donald Trump.

Catwoman: Julie Newmar took off during the third season, to be replaced by the black Eartha Kitt. Not only that, Kitt was a lot shorter and since interracial relationships couldn’t sell so soon after Jim Crow ended, the romantic tension built up between Bats and Cats over the first two seasons was gone. I guess we just had to tell ourselves that this was the same character. Kitt did add great cat-like voices and purring sounds to the role, though.

Riddler: Frank Gorshin was busy. Busy enough that he had to bail on four episodes. John Astin subbed for two of these. They made up a new villain, The Puzzler, for the other two.

There are two more things to talk about that are easily the most recognizable features of this show.

The first is, of course, the fights. It’s Batman, Robin, and when she turns up, Batgirl beating up bad guys with huge letters spelling out “BAM,” “POW,” “BIFF,” or “ZAP” (how do even get “zap out of a punch or kick). Christ, that sounds horrible, but it’s executed well. You really have to see it to know how funny it was.

The other is the bat-trap cliffhangers followed by hysterical expositions by narrator William Dozier. Even in the third season, which mostly switched to a one-part format, they squeezed quite a few in. These are really exciting parts with the peril our heroes are in. Of course, after I had been burned by putting Batman and Robin in death machines once, I’d have just done a quick kill.

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I know people who think that this is the only bat-trap that makes any sense.

Yes, Batman is essentially a parody that bears no resemblance to any version of the character for almost thirty years, but even today it’s fun to watch. Just don’t expect it be serious like the Batman we’ve come to expect.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Mortal Kombat: Conquest

MKConquestPaolo Montalban as Kung Lao
Daniel Bernhardt as Siro
Kristanna Loken as Taja
Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung
Tracy Douglas as Vorpax
Jeff Meek as Raiden and Shao Kahn

Gamers have long accepted that it is a cold fact of life that movies based on video games, with like three or four exceptions in all these years, suck. However, this does not hold true for TV. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and its two sequels modeled after later games have generally been well-received by fans. So have a number of the various Sonic shows. Actually, they’re pretty much the one thing the blue hedgehog’s had going for him on what has otherwise been a road to Hell.

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Or maybe just the prison that Shang Tsung was banished to for much of this show.

In short, while TV hasn’t had as many adaptations of games as the big screen the gap in quality between the TV and movie attempts beg the question: why not?

Mortal Kombat was not as successful here. I thought the first movie was quite good. Alas, the sequel was terrible and bombed at the box office. In between these movies a kids’ show came out that would probably be hated if more people had actually seen it. I, myself, have seen exactly one full episode and not a second or any other. Suprisingly, a second shot at a Mortal Kombat show was taken. And while this one wasn’t particularly successful either, I have to view it as quite underrated. Watching it as a teenager, I found it to be a very effective combination of drama and martial arts action. This is a belief I still hold.

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I’ve never been this tense except when I was playing video games like those this show is based on.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest is a prequel to the first film. The first episode begins with the original Kung Lao (ancestor of Liu Kang) defeating Shang Tsung to Win the Mortal Kombat tournament. While Shang Tsung is punished by Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn for failing to win Earthrealm through tournament battle (in the movie it was pointed out that this was necessary for Kahn to legally enter our realm) by being banished to the Kobalt Mines (prison), Kung Lao is preparing to live the rest of his life with girlfriend Jen. But Raiden, thunder god and protector of Earth, tells him that must prepare for the next tournament, and that he has been granted the gift of not aging a day until he is killed in a battle. Not wanting to give up his love, Kung Lao isn’t sure what to do. As it turns out, the decision is made for him when Shang Tsung, in one of the many secret escapes from the Mines and attempts at revenge he makes throughout the series, fails to kill Kung Lao but does slay Jen. Kung Lao realizes not only that his decision has been made for him but also that he should have killed Shang Tsung when he had the chance. In the process of foiling Shang Tsung’s attempt at revenge, Kung Lao does meet two other warriors, a former thief named Taja and a former bodyguard named Siro. They are Kung Lao’s allies as he awaits Shang Tsung again in the next tournament, but he must defend himself from the forces of Outworld in the meantime.

The acting is surprisingly solid, especially Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung. Locke makes a perfect villain: power-hungry, vengeful, cruel, and determined. With the background of a tragic and reluctant hero, Kung Lao shows the right mix of sadness and determination. A pre-Terminator 3 Kristanna Loken also does a good job as a reformed thief. The only letdown is Daniel Bernhardt as Siro. He never shows any emotion. He just speaks plainly no matter how the script says he should react. As a result, he’s the show’s low point.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice acting.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice Bernhardt’s acting.

The show has a pretty simple formula for quite some time. Then plot twists emerge with a mystery or two. I won’t give anything away for anyone wanting to check out the DVD set on Netflix, or wherever, except to say that there are some interesting turns, especially in its late stages. It’s really too bad that this show wasn’t renewed for a second season. The result is that it ends with a cliffhanger that is never resolved. No doubt there’s been some awful fan-fic that tried to explain how the series could have continued, though.

In conclusion, this is a worthwhile TV series that does justice to Mortal Kombat. Just don’t expect much of an ending.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda

AndromedaTitleKevin Sorbo as Captain Dylan Hunt
Lisa Ryder as Beka Valentine
Gordon Michael Woolvett as Seamus Harper
Keith Hamilton Cobb as Tyr Anasazi (seasons 1-4)
Laura Bertram as Trance Gemini
Lexa Doig as Andromeda “Rommie” Ascendant
Brent Stait as Rev Bem
Steve Bacic as Telemachus Rhade (after season 3)
Randy Ledford as Doyle (last season)

How often do you hear someone complain that “there’s nothing but crap on TV?” This complaint often stipulates that TV was much better in the past. Whatever you say.

I am about to turn thirty-two and I have already come to realize that every generation thinks of itself as the best. Take the millennials who consider the 2000s to be the golden age of television. I know why this is. They remember The SopranosSmallville, some of the best Law and Order seasons, The ShieldMad Men’s early days, and the Family Guy relaunch. Why? Because you want to remember these things. What you don’t want to remember is stuff like too many bad reality shows to choose from, FastlaneStar Trek: EnterpriseBlade: The Series, and Too Late with Adam Corrola. Actually, wasn’t this the precise era in which Matt Groening began to run out of ideas to use in The Simpsons but kept it going for more seasons anyway? That is ironic because in any rant about how remarkably bad today’s TV is, the decade-long argument that The Simpsons must be retired comes up without fail.

One of that era’s worst shows was Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. Oddly, Gene was not on this show’s crew, although his wife did produce it. In fact, the father of Star Trek had been dead for ages. Turns out that Andromeda was loosely inspired from little-used concepts and notes Gene had used in the 1960s and 1970s. That is grasping for a reason to leech onto the credibility of others, but at least it’s not like how the similarly atrocious Neighbors From Hell was advertised as “from the studio that brought you Family Guy.”

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The horrendous lighting in the intros isn’t a good sign either.

Although “Hercules in space” would turn out to be a prophetic jibe, the first season wasn’t too bad. There were serious problems, particularly where the low budget was concerned, but it actually had a decent concept. The idea is that Captain Dylan Hunt had been suspended in time by a black hole and been found and saved by the crew of a salvage ship three centuries later. He discovers that The Systems Commonwealth, of which we are members, is a society in decline. Many member worlds even want to leave. So Dylan makes a crew out of the people who discovered him. Their mission is to restore the seemingly hopeless Commonwealth to its former glory.

Unfortunately, the second season begins this series’ steady slide into the status of dumber than dumb action show. So much so that The Commonwealth’s unpopularity is reversed at the drop of the hat for no apparent reason other than to move on to harmless fun. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the average episode is dominated by cringingly awful dialogue. I’m talking Batman and Robin bad dialogue here. After that we view unconvincing shootouts and/or badly choreographed hand-to-hand combat. The firefights are especially laughable, as the good guys always hit their targets and the bad guys can’t hit a barn. These episodes tend to end with a nauseatingly sentimental moral statement by Dylan resembling those of 1980s action cartoons. In the episode Dance of the Mayflies, for instance, he says, “Love doesn’t die. It’s the only thing that lasts forever.”

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Better love than this cast.

It doesn’t help that the acting is simply atrocious. It’s a largely novice cast and does it show! Gordon Michael Woolvett (Harper), in particular, speaks more like a teenager than the inexperienced engineer he’s supposed to be. Even Kevin Sorbo, who I actually liked in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, seems to be sleepwalking through his lines.

Speaking of Sorbo, he seems to have had a lot of stroke and played a key role in the show’s change in direction. This change seems to have happened in the immediate wake of head writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe leaving the show. Sorbo’s explanation: “Robert is a genius, but was developing stories that were too complicated and too clever for the rest of us to understand.” Aw, Christ!

Some suspect that Sorbo was simply thinking that 9/11 required a more cartoonish kind of show. Never mind that the crime and courtroom dramas continued to succeed after that tragic incident. Or maybe Sorbo’s always been a John Wayne holdover? Either way, Sorbo’s ego hurt Andromeda much like William Shatner’s ego once ruined Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Amazingly, the show continued to get worse and worse and worse. Among the lowlights was Tyr betraying our heroes so Keith Hamilton Cobb can be one of worst-performed villains I have ever seen.

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Still, it’s nice to know that dreadlocks won’t go out of syle for centuries.

I was talking about how 2000s TV is falsely glorified. You know that protest that good shows get their plugs pulled and bad shows last awhile? Well, Andromeda lasted five f*cking seasons. Part of the reason why was that the vague connection to Roddenberry got it a two-year commitment right out of the box. And Sorbo’s name recognition kept it around some time longer. But really, I can’t believe I’m even rationalizing this. Do you realize that five seasons is just one less than The Sopranos?

So if you think that TV in the era of Game of Thrones is worse than it was ten years ago, remember that for every classic there was an Andromeda.

Overall: 2 out of 10

X-Men

X-MenCartoonTitleNorm Spencer as Cyclops/Scott Summers
Cathal J. Dodd as Wolverine/Logan
Iona Morris and later Alison Sealey Smith as Storm/Ororo Munroe
George Buzo as The Beast/Dr. Hank McCoy
Lenore Zann as Rogue
Catherine Disher as Jean Grey
Chris Potter and later Tony Daniels as Gambit/Remy LeBeau
Alyson Court as Jubilee
Cedric Smith as Professor Charles Xavier

Has it already been over a year since the last TV show I reviewed? Guess I better do another. This one is of the X-Men cartoon of the 1990s. Many of us were introduced to the X-verse by this very show. And I think that after all these years, it still holds up.

One thing that is disappointing is the animation. It’s kind of sloppy. Even more so by today’s standards, but X-Men came at the time of Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series. We had come to expect better.

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A woman with no face. Couldn’t ask for a better system of checks and balances.

But beyond that, there’s not too much to complain about. The plots are pretty good. The first season is mostly devoted to the humans’ intolerance of mutants and the Sentinel (giant robot) program. Although Magneto, The Juggernaut, Sabretooth, Apocalypse, Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants do make their first appearances here, the Sentinels are the villains who pop up the most in this season. This is good because it makes the point of the X-Men clear. What’s more, we get a spectacular conclusion when the head Sentinel, Master Mold, ends up turning on the humans. It turns out that Master Mold is doing it because he has concluded that “mutants are human” and therefore his directive to protect humans requires forcibly stopping humans and mutants from fighting each other. This makes for a villain who does wrong yet almost convincingly believes that he is right. After all, doesn’t it seem like Master Mold sees things more clearly than his creators?

The second season also has a story arc leading to a massive payoff. But I won’t spoil it here because it thrives on surprises. Along with Babylon 5 and Xena: Warrior PrincessX-Men was also one of the innovators of seasonal building that helped bring us to the climax.  And, of course, the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix sagas are adapted well in the third season. The last two seasons don’t do arcs except for some multi-parters. but still have plenty of continuity connections. They realized that they had done all they could with the arcs and did smaller and shorter stories rather than make vain attempts to top themselves. Not a bad call.

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Now Cyclops knows how the pilots who flew after King Kong felt.

Acting is above average. The majority of the main cast gives good performances, but the guests are rather mixed. I’m afraid that this acting can’t measure up to that of the Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man cartoons of the same era.

Quite a bit is done with the characters. The love triangle between Cyclops, Jean, and Wolverine is very solid for a kids’ show. The Beast’s love of Shakespeare and status as the technological genius of the group are showcased here. Jubilee serves as the young rookie for the kids to identify with. These are but a few examples.

The comic book has a revolving cast. Seeking to appeal to a more mainstream audience, the crew kept the lineup the same throughout this series. Certain episodes did include some X-Men not in that lineup like Colossus and Psylocke, though.

This show may be lacking in the animation department, and the voice acting isn’t all it could be, but the plots and characters make it stand out. And to me, these characteristics are what count the most.

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Mister Sinister is either a goth or in a heavy metal band, so I couldn’t tell you if he’s cool or not.

Everything accounted for, I give high marks to X-Men. I would say the same of X-Men: Evolution (since reviewing an entire show requires that you watch a lot of episodes, I may as well get it out now). Haven’t seen Wolverine and The X-Men so I hope it also followed this example. But both of those shows were largely inspired by the subject of this review. And so, I take a bow.

Overall: 8 out of 10