New TV Shows 2015 In Review (Part 3)

I was travelling for work this past week, so had to delay this final installment – here’s the wrap-up to these reviews of the latest shows I’ve watched. There have been a lot of hits and a lot of great shows that hold up the view that TV as a medium is in a kind of renaissance, but there have been a few missteps too. Of course all my reviews are just my opinion, you can read PART 1 and PART 2 if you haven’t yet, now on to the last lot of shows!

urlLimitless (Season 01 Ep. 01-04)

I really liked the movie a lot. So the fact that the show picks up after the movie and is connected to it (including a cameo in the pilot by Bradley Cooper as Senator Eddie Morra) made me intrigued to see how this would play out and avoid becoming another run-of-the-mill procedural.

The pilot was interesting – it definitely felt like it had a weekly villain procedural thing coming, but the first outing was well handled. I liked the way it played out and it set itself apart from its peers a little by being less focussed on the crime per-se and more on the people involved, specifically the changes and experience of hero Brian (Jake McDorman) Finch. Episodes that have followed have really distinguished the show from the procedural cop-shows I was getting so sick of and McDormans performance is a big part of that, his affable charm and (on NZT) his smarty-pants-ness that borders on smugness actually are great fun to watch and while it skirts some edges, it has not gone for easy cop-outs that make you go “oh come on! That’s just taking the easy way out!” despite the premise of the show leaving the door for those choices wide open – kudos to the creative staff of the show.

The supporting cast also does an admirable job led by Jennifer Carpenter (FBI agent Rebecca Harris), who normally I feel comes off like Jon Snow (that mopey-bastard-who-knows-nothing) actually has more life and variance in expression here than she ever did on Dexter (which I loved the early seasons of, never finished it).

VERDICT: More than anything else, it’s the combination of some crime-solving as only a part of each episode with a healthy dose of ongoing storyline as we try to understand the nature of Morra’s plan, the source and nature of NZT, Brians personal challenges and how he is evolving as a person – it all combines for some very engaging and different TV and that for me has been a very good thing!

880ac52269ba4f9faeaaf513c357e6d6Mr. Robot (Season 1)

When my friend recommended this show to me I was a little perplexed. It’s a show starring a guy I knew only as the Egyptian Prince from Night at the Museum, Christian Slater (of all people) and Carly Chaikan who I was used to seeing in top-vapid form in Suburgatory. All well and good but then you see that it’s a show about hackers, conspiracies and a whole lot more – something seems a wee bit wobbly.

But surprise, surprise: the show blew me away.

Other shows could learn from this one on how to write a script for a weekly drama. There is NO over-the-top action, no chase sequences, no effort to try and make everything “cool” or overly slick, no deifying of the characters and no clear moral-stand.

The show deals with a reality that scares some people but is stunning in how it is portrayed in a way that is engaging and so real and yet somehow surreal as though this is almost a parody of our world. The acting by Rami Malek as the mentally-barely-stable Elliot is excellent and questions of his sanity and his choices is almost mesmerising as he stumbles through matters of morality, humanity, human relationships and addiction. He is ably supported by Slater (playing the titular “Mr. Robot”) who is really good as the possibly insane but maybe-genius leader of F-Society and Carly Chaikan (as the unpredictable Darlene) really shows her acting chops as she steps so far away from roles I’m used to seeing her take.

VERDICT: Watch it. Now. This is one of the most well-crafted, well acted and cleverest shows on television right now and deserves a lot more appreciation than most of its peers on the air. Bravo to the people who made this and I can’t wait for whatever else you have to throw at me!

minorityreportMinority Report (Season 01 Ep. 01-02)

I have to admit, when this was announced, I was quite excited. There has been a HUGE surge of not only good TV in recent years, but sci-fi as a genre has seen some really good stuff coming out – and the fact that this picked up from a good movie based on a story by an author I like a lot, well suffice it to say it was good news.

So with that in mind, I avoided most pre-release hype and speculation and was even unbothered by the casting of Megan Goode because while she mostly gets cast now for looking great (and she does!), she’s not a bad actress as such.

You can imagine I think how it felt then to watch episode one and find it really, REALLY underwhelming… The show is very slickly made and entertaining in its own way, but felt overly contrived and pushing it. That they were making it a procedural was inevitable so that wasn’t it. The production values were excellent so that wasn’t it either and nor was it the acting which didn’t bother me – in fact the dude playing Dash (Stark Sands) actually was kind of fun and did the naive thing well. Yet something really stuck out for me and I realised that it wasn’t any one thing but the whole package. The show was basically a great looking ball of fluff with no substance of worth below the surface and even the promise of the cool future-tech and the mystery of Dash’s missing brother couldn’t save it for me.

VERDICT: To be honest, I think I’m already done with this one. Mostly because this is sub-par TV, trying too damn hard to be common-denominator friendly and thus making it not fun for someone like me. For most folks it might actually be a nice no-brainer-entertainer, but I hope for more from my scifi than just ‘nice’.

qurlQuantico (Season 01 Ep. 01-02)
I was a bit hesitant on this show because the lead actress is from my country (India) and despite her immense star-power, I’ve always found her acting to be just about passable most of the time and the idea of her carrying a drama show was not exactly promising. But I decided to hell with it, lets give her a shot to show what she can do and I settled in to be entertained. And I was for the most part with a twisty, fast-paced mystery drama.

But sadly that’s where it stopped. It was entertaining. Even without meaning to, I was constantly thinking, “What…?!”

You’re at the FBI training facility, but twins can just sneak in, live without being noticed and that whole deal with the shady toilet-phone? Could they have tried harder to maker seem like a bad-guy? Okay moving on, but then someone doesn’t return their REAL gun after practice and no one is responsible for counting them out and making sure no unauthorised person is strolling around with a real one? Plus arent the fakes orange so why didn’t anyone notice his all-black one? Aren’t these guys super-observant? And then there’s the mormon guy (who I actually kind of found to be amongst the most potentially interesting characters), the bloody FBI researched you, but you’re shitting your pants about a blowhard rookie everyone knows is half-assing his way through training and is bad at the job, somehow finding out your secret and you decide killing him ON CAMERA is the way to go? The FBI finds what looks like a terror-base in your apartment, but only your former boss (another of the characters I liked in the pilot despite her minimal screen-time) thinks for unknown reasons that EVERYONE else is wrong and decides the best thing for you is to run because it’s a massive conspiracy, probably including her Ex-boyfriend/partner who she was helping and the show made me feel like they were teasing him as a possible bad-guy here? And on and on and on…

Basically a decent if cliched and trying-too-hard cast of characters, pacing that was a little too fast (again, trying too hard) but plot-lines that basically require you to not think too hard.

VERDICT: Could be a lot of fun I suppose, but like Homeland (which I thought was one of the MOST over-rated shows in recent years) this is all flash and “cool-shit” in quantity but not quality and characters that frankly I couldn’t care less if they lived or died. Never a good sign!

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