Bottom of the Barrel Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series



Man in the High Castle, The  
Based on all four seasons.

Created by Spotnitz of X-Files, produced by Ridley Scott, and based on a book by Philip K. Dick. One would not be blamed for having high expectations with these names. The setting is an alternate history, a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won WWII and split the world up between them, including the USA, which is where most of the series takes place. It also takes place about 17 years after the war, when most of the people in the occupied territories have already resigned themselves to being part of the greater Third Reich or the Japanese empire, and the new generation can't remember anything else. Pockets of resistance become pre-occupied with mysterious films that inspire other possibilities. The show explores several story lines: Some drama about people living under such a brutal fascistic rule, the story of the resistance that slowly gains momentum while being hunted by the fascists, the story of many Americans that participate and even join the Nazis, the tension and politics between the two fascist empires, and many betrayals and clashing agendas within the ranks of the Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun. Both the book and the first season will make you wonder why this is classified as sci-fi, but the sci-fi eventually does emerge, with the aforementioned mysterious films being the tip of the iceberg.

In complete opposition to the mass of reviews that list the first season as the best, I found it to be very weak and almost stopped watching there. The characters and story take a long while to gather any momentum or interest, and the sacrificial actions of the resistance revolving around the mysterious films never make any sense, especially since they never seem to be doing anything else of practical use, except being cruel to their own kind. But, curious as to where they will take this story, I kept watching. Seasons 2, 3, and 4 gather momentum nicely, the characters and story and sci-fi elements all become more interesting, with many nice ironic touches and strong moments of character drama, as well as lots of darkness. The story does develop enough to keep one watching, if only to see where it goes next. Although season endings are often flawed in that they sometimes feel rushed, resolving huge problems all too easily and quickly. The resistance slowly becomes more practical and starts making more sense, although they're still inhumanly cruel. This show, like Game of Thrones, has no problems with killing off main characters. But throughout the show I was always bothered by the fact that, like GoT, there was almost no one to root for. Protagonists include mass-murderers, Nazis, people that betray their own, etc, and the resistance behave even worse, killing their own for flimsy reasons and running their groups with fascistic brutality. There's one gentle Japanese minister with peace on his mind, except it's impossible to root for him since he works for an occupying government that constantly mass murder and torture people. And yet, most of the series focuses on these people, their rivalries, politics, betrayals, family dramas. But it's difficult to care when an American Nazi mass-murdering leader is having family troubles, or to care about who will win the political games when the choice is between two fascist empires, or even to care about a resistance that seems less than human. Granted, there are a couple of simple folk at the center of the show trying to be moralistic heroes and that try to do their best amidst all this darkness, but it's still very unbalanced in terms of humanity. Truthfully, this show failed to live up to its potential by portraying so much cruelty in such advanced stages, because this way it portrays Nazis as monsters rather than humans, even if they are American Nazis with families. The show could have been much more powerful by portraying at least a few average or basically good people that suddenly find themselves acting like a Nazi or collaborating with them, rather than diving head first into rampant cruelty. So the show ends up being dark, rather than provocative.

All the above would make this a flawed, but basically still-watchable and somewhat entertaining show, if not for the final episode. The final episode is not just a bad ending, but an insulting political one that suddenly makes you realize the agenda for the whole show, effectively not only ruining the series, but potentially making one hate the whole thing. Note that most reviewers hated the last 5 minutes which featured a strange, seemingly illogical sci-fi twist that is open to interpretation. But this is not the real problem. One could interpret that in a few ways or just leave it open-ended. The real problem is in the politically-correct content that happens before that. I'm going to ruin the ending, but this is a show that deserves to be ruined, and it will save you the bother of watching it: A black resistance movement manages to overthrow the Japanese government (way too easily) and do what the white people couldn't do. They give a speech of how they must rely only on themselves, and how ALL the white people had become Nazis. In the meantime, any successes by the white resistance or within the Nazi empire are only achieved via female leaders. Then, a young girl confronts her Nazi mother and blames her and her generation for causing all the evil in the world, and the white evil man shoots himself. Do I need to say more? Now I have no problem believing that many American white people would become mass-murdering Nazis. But this show takes it way beyond that. It turns out that the reason why this show focused on so many evil white people, is because it thinks that practically all white men are evil, and it wanted a white audience to identify with these people before making its multiple final speeches. There is no good vs evil here, there is only identity politics and victims vs monsters. And the white males that aren't that bad need to be led by women in order to be good or effective and avoid turning into cruel fighters. Even a Japanese working for a fascist government is better than white men. And the new generation gets to moralize and feel superior to the old. We have all seen this self-hating ranking system many times before, and it reeks. Ironically, it is the liberals that are the biggest racists and sexists.



Agent Carter (Marvel)  
Based on the first season.

This show takes place in the 50s right after the events of the first Captain America movie, and features agent Peggy Carter from that movie as the protagonist and super-agent. There are no super-powers, but, as with the movie, it features many sci-fi inventions, gadgets and dangerous chemicals, most of them invented by Howard Stark, the father of Iron Man. Some of these inventions change humans (as it did Captain America) giving them special abilities, but mostly this is about vintage-style spies and action and about reproducing the 50s with strong production values, only with a strong woman leading the fight. She is whip-smart, trained in combat, has a strong morality and sense of justice, and constantly outdoes everyone around her. She teams up with the amusing Jarvis, Stark's timid butler, who assists her in her undercover work as she has to fight in a world gone crazy due to Stark's super-dangerous inventions.

Unfortunately, this show has the same huge flaws and mistakes of Mad Men. It seems to have focused mostly on 50s sets and props but has no clue on what to do with their attitudes and behaviour. For starters, it hates both men and women. It seems to think that just because the second wave of feminism didn't start and women didn't have the same rights, that meant that all men are automatically pigs, and incompetent ones at that. At the same time, it has no confidence in women being shown as competent and strong without making all the men around them idiots and incompetent. There are also inconsistencies with attitudes towards race and several other liberal anachronisms, yet at the same time it pretends it is loyal to the time by portraying misogynist pigs everywhere. It is very confusing. It is also corny and condescending and feels like it only knows the 50s through movies. The period never comes alive, and the characters are dressed impeccably and are given fun lines, but there is no depth to them. This includes Carter herself who is a walking cliche of 'strong woman showing the silly men how to do things right' yet there is no depth and humanity behind her 'girl-power' character, making this a weak show indeed. The spy-craft, action, sci-fi and production values are all good, but all of these problems hold the show back from becoming anything more than average cheesy eye-candy entertainment, and the constant feminist preaching sinks it into something annoying and below-average. The rave reviews are obviously politically motivated.



Legends of Tomorrow (DC)  
Based on the first season and some episodes from the second.

Another entry in the 'Arrow-verse', the DC-comics universe where super-heroes and villains are a dime a dozen and everyone and his dog seems to have a power. These shows by now include Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and this one. This show features a gang of misfit super-heroes who are led by a time-traveller that is a poor man's version of Doctor Who. At least his background of renegade time-lord and stolen time machine is the same, but otherwise they are nothing alike, and this one is actually just another uninteresting too-young action-man who knows stuff about time. The rest of the gang include a lesbian master fighter and assassin, a 'nice-guy' with a brain and an Iron-Man power-suit, two thieves with special guns (it is never clear why they joined other than to provide more of a 'cool factor' and comic relief), a flying hawk-couple that have been reincarnating for millennia, and an interesting duo of young black man and older professor that merge to become a Firestorm-man, only this one's powers are badly defined and can seemingly do anything, so he is barely used. The gang join forces to fight powerful super-villains that usually have some kind of power over time, and this usually is stretched out over a season while they encounter smaller episodic adventures and missions in different time periods. The tone is light and fun and all about the action, and any drama or character development is completely ineffectual since problems are typically solved within each episode. Emotions flare, then they're gone.

The first season starts off like bubble-gum super-hero action fun with a tone that isn't too far off from Power-Rangers since the characters are so superficial. Eventually more drama is attempted, except that the characters feel like puppets for the writers rather then carefully developed three-dimensional people, with random emotions and personal problems flaring up then brushed away easily just in time for the end of each episode. So it remains mere action-popcorn fun for most of its run. But then the writers start to add time-travel twists for the last handful of episodes, twists that make no sense and which also contradict the rest of the season. So it all collapses due to sloppy commercial writing that doesn't seem like it's even trying. In the second season, they throw in another dozen powers and villains instead of building on the world they built, because that's all these writers can do it seems: Add more and more entertaining elements without actually thinking anything through, including the characters. On top of that, the approach to historical periods is to embrace stereotypes and preach about its political incorrectness. At which time I had enough, and even the simple action entertainment got tiresome. DC shows don't seem to understand that without some depth, proper story development and fleshy characters, the special effects and super-powers are just candy. And, like candy, you can only eat one or two before you've had enough.



12 Monkeys  
Based on the first season and some episodes from the second.

I wasn't expecting much from a TV series expansion of this time-travel story. There is simply no chance that it could capture even some of the magic of either the Chris Marker original short or the endless inspiration of Gilliam's film. And indeed, this show is just an ordinary sci-fi time-travel thriller, and the protagonist, instead of being an ordinary broken man from a broken future as in the film, is more of an action-hero type, only with dark, doomsday, end-game motivations. That said, the first few episodes are interesting nevertheless and I tried to enjoy it on its own terms. Once again, we get a time-travelling man sent by a desperate scientist in a desperate future to try and undo a pandemic that wiped out almost all of humanity. Being a series, however, the story is greatly expanded, uncovering more and more mystery behind the pandemic, and there are many more missions as he slowly collects clues and befriends some people in the past. The time-travel timelines becomes increasingly convoluted and the missions take place in a variety of time periods. The future world is also greatly expanded, with pockets of survivors led by fanatics trying to survive or fight each other.

Unfortunately, the writing doesn't impress and ultimately fails. The characters and their motivations are not well written and they frequently do nonsensical things just to drive the plot forward or to add dark, fatalistic outcomes to their arcs. They make less and less sense as the writers twirl their characters arcs around without regard to consistency. As a general example of poor writing, why would the military use a deadly virus that can kill all humanity as a weapon to kill a handful of people, if there is a slight risk that it would spread and kill the whole world (this is not a spoiler)? Especially if there are many other obvious weapons available such as a simple bomb. Time-travel rules and paradoxes are based on the 'Back to the Future' model, using this only as its base, which means it only makes sense if you don't think about it too much. But they make it much worse by adding more complications that immediately make the inconsistencies glaring. For example, why would they need to wait in the future while their man in the past made changes? Why does any time have to pass before they know the results of the mission? Why would a time paradox do so many weird supernatural things to suit the writer's needs? Why does one person freeze his own timeline with a paradox but then another person can travel to the future without a future self knowing about how the past was changed? Etc. And why do wounds change once the timeline is altered, but not memories? OK, that last one could be approached from a supernatural/soul angle, but the rest will just increasingly confuse and distract a thinking audience. Then the writers start changing and contradicting their own rules about time-travel about who can travel and what it takes to travel so the nonsense increases with every episode. The time-travel and sci-fi are not bad at first and are somewhat entertaining and interesting despite the flaws, but then the show adds cults, mystical visions and whatnot, and once you add up all of these factors, it is not surprising that even the first season deteriorates with every episode until it becomes complete nonsense in the last couple of episodes. By the start of the second season, I felt that I had completely lost a handle on any of the characters and their contradictory and constantly changing motivations, so I stopped watching.



Odyssey, The  

The word epic didn't even exist when this 3000-year-old classic was written, but I can see the word being invented just to describe this adventure. The tale takes decades, involves one adventure after another, from the war with Troy, to a cyclops, a witch, sirens of the sea, huge monsters, a trip to hell, as well as betrayal and greed at home, and romance in the form of a very dedicated married couple. So one can argue that even mentioning this epic tale in the same sentence as 'adapted for the small-screen', and 'mini-series', is simply wrong. To be fair, some of the special effects aren't bad for TV (like the sequence in hell, and the cyclops eating a man), but one simply expects much more than this for The Odyssey. The fact that it was crammed into 3 hours doesn't help either. But this may be overlooked by some (assuming you can get over the cheesy costumes as well). What can't be overlooked is the over-the-top acting by much of the cast, and the stiff, passionate Odysseus who isn't quite the wise man depicted in the poem. Also, some memorable scenes from the book were skipped, like the one where Odysseus ties himself to the ship to get through the dangers of the sirens. The truth is, I can't believe no one has adapted this into a big-budget modern movie yet (Peter Jackson?), and during the whole time that I watched this series I could only imagine how it should have been done.



Sapphire and Steel  
Based on the first season and some scattered episodes.

An old British sci-fi show that has gained a cult following, and ITV's answer to BBC's successful Dr. Who. Two mysterious inter-dimensional agents called Sapphire and Steel appear mysteriously in various places when strange occurrences threaten to unravel the timeline. A boy's parents, dinner guests or ghosts disappear or get lost in time anomalies and it's up to the agents to solve the mystery and the disruption with their arcane skills. A slightly more mysterious and challenging show than Dr. Who but also a much less interesting one simply because the characters are flat and wooden, the plot sometimes moves too slowly, and the mysteries are solved without much logic, using ad-hoc supernatural skills instead.



Adventures of Brisco County Jr., The  
Based on most of the single season.

Chalk this one up to disappointment due to a mis-marketed target audience and an overblown cult reputation. I expected a cult comedy sci-fi Western with Bruce Campbell with fun adult-oriented humor, instead I got a juvenile TV show. Bruce acts as Brisco County Jr. a bounty hunter with a law degree, son of a famous marshal who got killed by John Bly, an infamous criminal. He spends the whole season tracking Bly down, encountering his many gang members and fellow conspirators (who seem to populate the entire USA), with John Bly managing to get away every time due to some illogical writing and coincidences. He also keeps crossing paths with a mysterious golden orb possessing various sci-fi/magical abilities that can be passed on to humans and that seem to radically change with every episode. He is followed by a rival bounty hunter, the loud-mouthed and very cartoonish Lord Bowler, he talks to his horse, he shoots so well that he can calculate ricochet trajectories, he develops psychic abilities, and he wise-cracks. The silly humor isn't even at the low level of Army of Darkness, and many of the supporting actors over-act to cartoonish and campy effect. The world is one big anachronism, with badly inappropriate speech, attitudes, technology, dress, and treatment of blacks and women, and although this is on purpose because the show doesn't take itself seriously, it doesn't exactly help or add to the show either. In short, this is a campy, cheesy, illogical, silly, unrealistic show for kids and undemanding teenagers that is, at best, a mildly fun time-waster. Just because it has Bruce in it, that doesn't make it cult, guys.



Knight Rider (2008)  
Based on most of the single season.

What's funny about this show is that it isn't a re-imagination, only an upgrade. A lot of the cheese, the fantastical car super-powers, the bland acting with the car out-acting the humans, the implausible action, and the minimally dressed sexy female technicians and damsels in distress are all here, except they have been upgraded for the new millennium. This time, Michael Knight's army ranger son drives the new and improved car and fights the usual wide variety of criminals and terrorists, with some government interference. It's all entertaining and action-packed, until the howlingly implausible solutions start popping up, neatly solving every crisis in a single episode, and the car turns out to be ridiculously powerful. This show has more sci-fi than Transformers and Star Trek put together, and seeing as it takes place in our world, this is ridiculously impossible to swallow. The car transforms into other cars with the help of 'nano-technology', it creates objects from nothing in a 3D generator, hacks into any system in milliseconds, even non-networked machines like locks, cars and cameras, it can scan anything anywhere in seconds, has a mini-surgery compartment, and on and on, with more silly and impossible abilities popping up with every episode only to be forgotten in the next. A bit better than the original, and at least it knows how silly it is, but this is still kids stuff.



Knight Rider  
Based on most of the first season and scattered episodes.

An 80s mainstay with an all too 80s look and notoriously cheesy action, not to mention that it features Hasselhoff as the hero. Michael Knight is an ex-cop with a strong drive for justice who gets shot while fighting crime. He gets rehabilitated by the Knight Foundation which provides him with a super-car for fighting crime. The car has many weapons and gadgets, is indestructible, has surveillance capabilities, and an AI with a very human personality, programmed to serve and protect Michael. The show features episodic thrills and campy action, usually featuring Knight saving a damsel in distress as she gets in over her head with a criminal element. All this may sound like a terrible show, but this is somewhat campy and cheesy fun if you can stand the implausibilities and silliness, and it's mostly fun for the same reason we watched it as children: The car is super cool. The bad guys are too easily defeated, their willpowers seem to fade away at the end of each episode after Michael Knight pulls a car stunt on them, the car mechanic is a beautiful girl who never gets dirty, Hasselhoff is a dull actor who seems more interested in posing, it's all too easy to point out that the car has more character than the hero, and the car is always way too human, making jokes, sporting insecurities and playing mind games. The car may be irrepressibly cool, but its abilities frequently go way past plausibility into juvenile fantasy. Good for kids only.



Star Trek: Deep Space Nine  
Based on the third season, most of the fourth, and some scattered episodes.

A stand-out in the wave of Star Trek spin-offs that attempted relatively more mature, realistic and complex writing involving a stationary space station, developing a political and protectional relationship with a single abused race of beings while trying to maintain a power balance, or fighting with other aggressive neighbours (Cardassians, Klingons). This is in contrast to all other Trek shows that were about exploring new worlds. And even this single-minded focus is often overshadowed by an emphasis on character development and human drama. This approach is taken to such an extreme, that nothing really happens for two whole seasons except for some ongoing, banal human dramas and episodic dangers. During season three, the ominous Dominion rear their heads, threats from shape-shifting aliens grow, some spiritual themes develop, tensions rise with Klingons, etc. but it takes another two seasons to grow properly into a gripping story, the vast majority of episodes being a variety of stand-alones ranging from dull sci-fi, to moderately watchable. The actors are not bad relative to other Star Trek shows but still stiff and still missing that color and warmth from the originals. The occasional humor is mostly juvenile. In summary, this show has good elements in the form of more mature writing, actors and character, but is still bogged down by stiffness and too much banality, its alleged story arcs are very overrated, and the show is very hard to get into due to its tiring slow pace and lack of inspiration.



Midnight, Texas  
Based on the first season.

Glossy, superficially entertaining horror/fantasy series that thinks that throwing together everything and the kitchen sink will make it more entertaining. Take a town in Texas that is the opening to Hell (stolen from Buffy), throw in a psychic, a witch, an angel, a vampire, a were-tiger, a super-fighter, neo-Nazis, demons, and every magic spell, supernatural ability, and monster known to movies, and then add lots of new special effects and super-powers in every episode. It feels like a kiddie show for adults. It's a pity they didn't steal the humor from Buffy as well. It also doesn't help that the directing and acting are superficial and minimally functional, and every potentially big dramatic moment is glossed over quickly to make way for the next rushed special-effect and supernatural action sequence. There is a lot of story here, but they rush through things very often, the pacing is wrong, and the structure is mostly episodic with some slow character-building and story-arcs going on in the background. In other words, the writing and story could have been developed into something like Buffy, but this show seems to be more interested in rushing to the next grand supernatural showdown and special-effect. There is also a weak imagination, the perfect example of this is the treatment of angels, reducing them to human gay-angel and violent-angel characters. Very minimally entertaining at best.



10th Kingdom, The  

7-hour fantasy mini-series that, like some outings from the Sci-Fi channel, re-imagines classic fairy-tales and throws some contemporary heroes into the story. Virginia from New York and her father find themselves whisked away into a fairy tale of decrepit proportions through a magical mirror into the Nine Kingdoms where Snow White, Cinderella, Little Bo Beep, and many others are all past their prime, and all in danger of being taken over by an evil queen and her alliance with the Trolls. Prince Charming is turned into a dog, a half-wolf is after Virginia's grandmother, Cinderella is 200 years old and after much plastic surgery, and so on... The production, sets, locations and costumes are all quite good. But the biggest problem with this one is the tone. On the one hand, it doesn't take itself seriously, there are many cartoonishly silly scenes and unrealistic behaviour, and several of the actors (especially the trolls and the wolf) overact annoyingly to comical effect. In addition, the comedy is too silly and dumb to appeal to adults that want a fantasy comedy, and it desperately needs more wit to be categorized as such. To top it all off, the fantasy characters all behave like people from the modern world as if the lazy writers transported their own lives into a fantasy world instead of re-imagining a new one. All this would normally mean that it is aimed at very small children, except that there is also the occasional sexual and violent/dark content. So what were they thinking?



Killjoys  
Based on most of the first season.

There's fun light entertainment, and then there's air-headed uninspired fluff that is simply lacking in joy and anything of interest. It's also awkward when a show worships its own protagonist more than its audience and tries too hard to market her as a badass girl for fans before there are even fans. A trained assassin and her two boy-toys work as bounty hunters in a wild west of a galaxy, which also has an ominous but generic evil Company and generic revolutionaries. There's lightly fun banter and humor, and that's the only good aspect of this show. There is a lot of action, but this is stuff straight from a bad 80s action b-movie, complete with fast cuts and shaky cameras and cool gadgets to distract from the fact that the trained assassin doesn't really look very trained. The first few episodes are quite bad, with a mission-of-the-week structure and copy-paste action that seems more designed for girls and fanboys than guys, complete with an obnoxious chick-pop-rock soundtrack with a faux-grrl attitude. The two boy-toys, the camera, the music, the costumes, and everyone else worship this girl, making one constantly wonder what the fuss is all about. It improves after a while as the story-arcs develop and there is more character development, although these are not really anything imaginative to write home about. The world-building is derivative and uninspired. It's slightly better than Dark Matter, but only slightly. Constantly feels like artificial posers, with a lot of uninspired copying from much better shows. Less marketing, more content please.



Dark Matter  
Based on the first season.

Mildly entertaining but completely generic copy-n-paste sci-fi job featuring a setup used often since Blakes 7 of a group of renegades on a space-ship forced by circumstances to team up and survive the galaxy and its many adventures. This one emphasizes action and combat, but it's old-school fake stuff. The renegades in this case have the additional challenge of trying to regain their memories and figure out who they are, and the writers keep piling on the twists in that department. This one features some of the creators behind Stargate, and the structure of the show, despite the ongoing plot arcs of their memories, is largely episodic. In fact, some details in several episodes are often forgotten or dropped later on. Adventures include shady or criminal missions given to them by their shady contacts, or surviving attacks and crises created by corporations that are frequently on their backs for one reason or another, or regular stops at space-stations turning into dangerous adventures, sometimes with a sci-fi or horror twist in the tradition of Star Trek. There are no aliens in this universe, but there are robots. In fact, it makes no sense that they would send humans on any of these missions when they have vastly underused robots that can beat any and all humans at anything, as clearly demonstrated in the first episode. The characters are as bland as the writing, being standard types and cliches without much personality. And the casting is strictly of the modern PC type, giving all of the brains and leadership to the women, and the men are mostly dumb muscle that sometimes help but mostly get in the way. Of course, the females always outdo and beat up men, even ones that are much bigger than them (unless it's a bad guy and it's the beginning of the episode). They even have that ridiculous unrealistic fantasy of a teenage female hardware wizard that somehow knows everything about every machine or computer and how to fix or hack it better than everyone else, even though she is still a teenager and never studies. The android also makes use of all the recycled story-lines of Data from Star Trek, including the fantasy cliche of a robot having feelings. There isn't anything really bad here and it's kinda entertaining at times, but neither is there anything really good in this very bland and very uninspired show.



Almighty Johnsons, The  
Based on most of the first season.

The Norse gods are alive and well, kinda, in New Zealand, reincarnated, kinda, as a bunch of horny ordinary blokes and vindictive goddesses. This Kiwi comedy seems to be popular but for a show about gods, it's kinda the opposite of almighty, which is perhaps the point. There are four brothers, all gods, except their powers have been extremely diminished. There's the horny immoral playboy with a power to talk people into things, a clueless horny young guy without powers yet, a responsible adult in a marriage with a gift for luck and games, and some guy who makes things cold. Their quest, get this, is to get Odin his destiny goddess wife, or at least get him laid with Norse-looking chicks until he finds her. But the goddesses are having none of that and have plans of their own. So does Loki, a ruthless business-man manipulator. The problem with this show is that everyone behaves just like ordinary, even obnoxious and dumb, folk, and their problems consist of mostly ordinary relationship stuff and lots of cheating. One would expect even reincarnated gods to behave a little differently than banal humans. The actors are kinda fun but their characters are poor and uninteresting. Their romantic interests waver from one person to another like the wind. It would be funny if it were witty, but there are only a couple of chuckles per episode.



Touch  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

The first episode intrigues with an interesting idea of interconnected lives and events through math, patterns and numbers. Except it does it through the cliche of an autistic kid. Martin (Kiefer) is a father of an autistic kid who is constantly seeing and drawing numbers and patterns, and one day Martin realizes that the kid is seeing the world differently and communicating to him the pain he sees and the things that need to be done to connect the dots. People in trouble around the world suddenly become connected, each in turn affecting the other, and when everything becomes aligned, their stories resolve themselves like dominoes. The structure is mostly episodic, setting up a new pattern of people and events, and having Martin chase down clues given to him by his mute son to connect the dots and try to do good. This is the only way he finds he can communicate with his son. There is also a longer story arc where dots from other episodes start aligning up for a larger story thread, this arc also involving various people and organizations that become interested in his son and his abilities. This eventually becomes a conspiracy thriller and feels out of place, except it's the only story in this show with a meaning to it. See, during the first episode the idea is intriguing, the second one already gets one's suspicions going that this is going nowhere and it's all random connections and lazy gimmicky writing, and by the fourth episode or so, it has already worn out its welcome and stops making sense completely. Just because the same number appears in different places, that doesn't make the connection meaningful in itself, nor does it make it interesting, and if the connection is already there, then why does it depend on Martin or his kid to tie the threads together with so much desperate running? In summary, this has good acting, but only a half-baked premise merely used for yet another gimmicky supernatural series.



Luke Cage (Marvel)  
Based on the first season and some episodes from the second.

Another in the series of Marvel-Netflix superhero shows that shares characters with the others in this TV universe. This one focuses on Luke Cage, an ex-con framed for a crime, converted into a superhero in a freaky science experiment, giving him invulnerable skin and super-strength. He finds his way back to Harlem and has to use all of his powers just to keep up with the dozens of urban crimes and crime-lords. Crooked politicians and policemen, rival crime-lords and escalating violence doesn't let him rest even though he returned to Harlem to rest and avoid the super-hero label and lifestyle.

There are many problems with this show. For starters, his powers make him so invulnerable, and seeing as he is mostly up against regular human criminals, there is almost never any sense of danger. In fact, with his powers he should have been able to clean house in a short while, except the writers twist logic and extend their plots into sheer nonsense to stretch the story out to a whole season. Ironically, logically he actually isn't invulnerable (what about poison, drugs, the need for oxygen, etc) and yet nobody seems to be thinking of ways to get to him beyond fists and guns. As with other Netflix superhero shows, the writers come up with ridiculous reasons for the superhero to leave the evil crime- lord alive even though innocent people are constantly getting killed. And criminals easily slip away from the law just to keep the stories going even though there is evidence that can be used in court that somehow the writers chose to ignore. Luke's over-confident attitude and very bland personality only makes it all worse. Towards the end of the first season, the writers have to come up with super-weapons that defy the laws of physics just to give him a vulnerability, and then in season two his powers both increase and decrease according to the needs of the plot. In short, the writing is lazy and of poor quality, it almost never does anything interesting, and swims in ghetto-crime cliches and contrived shifting allegiances and artificial motivations. It also doesn't help at all that most of the actors are interchangeable and lack personality, and the only thing they do is act 'tough'. At best, this show is a bland way to waste time, providing very mediocre entertainment. Even the frequent music performances are limp.



Into The Badlands  
Based on the first one and a half seasons.

Post-post-apocalyptic kung-fu action TV series. I.e. it takes place long after the catastrophe and features a 'wild-west' world that is slowly coming together, except it is based on feudalism and slavery. There are no guns, so the wars and fighting are all done with fists and various sharp weapons, hence the intense amount of kung-fu. There are multiple power-hungry barons, shaky alliances, trained killer armies and 'Clippers', wild violent nomads, cult religions, slavery mines, some lawless lands, and rumors of an ideal civilization somewhere unknown. Every episode features at least a couple of elaborate kung-fu fight scenes. Although not listed as a fantasy/sci-fi series, some people have mysterious super-fighting-powers of unknown origin which have both a sci-fi and fantasy aspect. The ongoing story involves a master warrior-Clipper with ideals that conflict with his evil Baron, a teenager with special fighting powers that he can't control, fighting and politics between Barons, etc.

Although the above sounds like a dream come true for action fans, there are many issues with this show. The first is the fighting: Daniel Wu seems to be the only main actor with proper training and skills (Wushu). Most of the others are obviously faked using fancy choreographed moves, wire-fu and slow-mo. This could still work if the characters and plots would be otherwise compelling, but if you are expecting a high level of martial arts, you will only get it from one actor. Another issue is with the liberal/feminist/confused approach of having a leather-clad, high-heel wearing woman slice up every male enemy she encounters using obvious wire-fu and agile dance moves (despite being in high-heels), all the while she is claiming to fight for freedom from oppression from evil men. And finally, there are the characters: Almost none are interesting. Csokas chews the scenery with a strange accent as a typical b-movie bad guy, Wu is a bland super-warrior hero, the dour teenager is instantly forgettable, etc. It all feels exactly like a forgettable action b-movie from the 80s padded out to be a long series. For example, take 'Steel Dawn', except remove interesting elements like Swayze's character, the unusual farming technology & weapons, and the creatures in the desert, then add some feminism, and you'd have this. It's mildly entertaining, for a short while only, and only during some scenes.



Friday the 13th: The Series  
Based on most of the first season.

I avoided this show based on the assumption that it was an extended series based on the dumb slasher franchise. Adding 'The Series' to this show's name strengthened the assumption. Except it has nothing to do with those movies, making one wonder what the marketing people were thinking about when they named it. The show is actually about two cousins and an eccentric man who inherit an antique shop that has been cursed with demonic evil, making each and every item that was sold in the past into a bringer of murder, evil and general havoc. Mirrors cause people to fall obsessively in love until death, dolls commit murder and make children into evil murderers, a camera brings to life evil doppelgängers, pens cause grotesque deaths simply by writing about them, and so on. This show is actually an early template for so many of the Sci-Fi channel's shows that uses weekly gadgets or episodic magical powers and objects. Perhaps my expectations have been ruined by so many clones, but, unfortunately it is even more formulaic and bland than those shows. The writing is pedestrian and predictable and one knows the whole episode within the first five minutes, the structure is formulaic with a vengeance, there is no character development or trace of story arcs, the horror is often hokey or contrived and the characters never feel real. There is still some minimum fun to be had from the weekly adventures and variety of evil powers, but I spent most of the time just getting bored waiting for the next episode. Nothing really bad that one can point a finger to, but nothing good either.



Humans  
Based on the first season and three episodes of the second.

As a stand-alone show, and one that is made quite well, this seems like it should get higher marks. But there are two huge problems: One is that it is yet another inferior pointless remake. In this case the original show is the Swedish 'Real Humans' (see review). This British remake repeats most of the same story-lines, except it feels less subtle and complex, and approaches the AI robots that are turning human in a much more blatant manner: They simply gain full human consciousness, personalities and even a morality thanks to a special program which basically represents life in the form of a tree. I kid you not. This silly tree-hugging show then wants us to accept that robots can be 100% human and it goes on from there to add social commentary and thrilling plots as the emerging conscious robots hide or fight with the scared human race. And that's the second huge problem with this show, which has even worse conceptual problems than the Swedish show. Another lesser problem is a blatant despicable gender double-standard: It's ok for women to use male robots for sex, but when men do it, it's disgusting. But back to the main issue: Most movies and TV shows dealing with this topic have similar problems, and it's the rare masterpieces like Blade Runner and Spielberg's A.I. that get it right, and that give the robots only an exterior resemblance to humans with not-quite-human quirks in their behaviour. If you can accept this premise that full human consciousness can be evoked via programming and that materialism contains the magical emerging property of consciousness and morality and an autonomous personality locked away inside it somehow, then you may enjoy this much more than I did. But it doesn't stop there: The robots gain individual complex personalities thanks to their experience, their technical problems are often described organically with code acting like psychology and chips behaving like body-parts, and reviving a robot suddenly looks very much like the treatment of a human, all, of course, to manipulate us into accepting them as 100% human. Except that this is all nonsense. And this is a remake.



Defiance  
Based on the first season.

Earth has been overrun by aliens that have wrecked the planet with attempts to terraform it to their needs. Now, years after the wars, aliens and humans are trying to live together. Defiance is one such town built on the ruins of St. Louis with a tense relationship between its various species, and a new sheriff: a renegade bounty-hunter recently convinced to work for them. Invading political and military organizations, as well as internal strife, tension and politics make life constantly difficult. In short, this is a Western with sci-fi species and gadgets. And not a good or interesting one. SyFy produces yet another bland and uninspired series, making me think that their CEO is an AI program designed to create as many commercial gimmicky shows it can generate. Most of the story in this show could have been told without any of the sci-fi, replacing the alien species with Natives, Mexicans and Chinese, their quirky behaviour with their obviously cloned human equivalents, and their weapons and space-vehicles with plain guns and horses, and not much would be lost. Which means two things: The sci-fi is wasted and merely a gimmick, and they have no imagination. And even the show as a Western is bland, uninspired, copied from other recognizable movies, and cliched. Most of the aliens behave so much like humans, that they feel like geeks play-acting in costumes rather than aliens. Some even call themselves 'aliens' in a really silly bit of writing. There is serviceable character development and a few story arcs, and it may distract you for a while, but that's all it is at best: Serviceable.



True Blood  
Based on the first season and scattered episodes of the second and third seasons.

HBO's popular vampire series is nothing but badly written pulp and soapy trash, albeit somewhat entertaining pulp. In this world, vampires have come out of the closet and are trying to integrate with society, with a bill trying to pass equal rights for vampires, and humans splitting down the middle whether to treat vampires with respect. Subtle metaphor eh? They don't really do anything interesting with this idea however and instead, inject new supernatural surprises and creatures every few episodes, killing the realism. The setting is a town in Louisiana where every crazy and violent thing seems to happen for no particular reason and every other human has a secret or supernatural power. Sookie is a telepathic barmaid whom everyone adores, worships or wants to protect for no good reason. She is over-confident way beyond her intelligence, constantly does and says stupid things, and is not likeable. And almost every other character in the show has similar likability issues, and that is only when they aren't being unrealistic bundles of whimsical emotions and lusts straight out of a soap opera. Their emotions and personalities swing from one extreme to the other from one episode to the next; they hop from one fling, love or attachment to another; and loyalties, motivations, interests and beliefs are changed more frequently than underwear. One girl even has sex with a complete stranger before her cherished boyfriend is even buried, and she is supposedly one of the good ones. And then there is the sex: It's everywhere. Every gender and vampire/creature combination is displayed, and that's just for starters. Sex happens for any reason whatsoever, and when the quota starts to fall behind, they even bring in sex dreams. If two people meet after not seeing each other for days, they have sex; If they hate each other, they have sex; If they are having yet another emotional outburst, they have sex; And if they are bored, they have sex. And, for some reason, based on the fact that they all seem to enjoy getting their throat flesh ripped, they are all masochists too.

And then there is the sloppy writing that doesn't care about details or sticking to a stable storyline. One example is the way vampires seem to have complete control over humans to the point where they can make them think, forget or do anything they please, and yet somehow half of their problems involve unruly humans. Not to mention that this whole thing about needing an invitation to enter a house becomes completely pointless. In one episode a vampire says that they don't just burst into flames when the sun comes up, a few episodes later they are doing exactly that. And so on... an endless stream of violence, gore, sex, emotional outbursts, betrayals, twists, new creatures, etc. all churned out by witless writing that is just there to keep you from switching off the screen while feeding you more and more junk. It's sometimes entertaining in a pulpy dime-novel way, but this kind of thing gets boring fast.



Pushing Daisies  
Based on most of the first season.

Bryan Fuller is really repeating himself now. This is partially a retread of his Dead Like Me show with a similar collection of characters that have to deal with death in a quirky way, by way of an Amelie clone, except it doesn't have the character and base in reality that those had. Ned has a gift for bringing things back to life with a touch of his finger, except that if he lets them live for more than a minute, something or somebody else has to die in its place. Ned teams up with a detective, and with his childhood crush that he brought back to life, in order to solve murder mysteries by bringing the dead back for a minute and asking them questions. This concept is almost as contrived as it sounds, and to make things worse, it isn't developed any further, with the writer giving him the illogical ability to turn back time and bring rotting fruits and leaves 'back to life' as well, which makes no sense (humans would grow young again if that were the case). The reactions from the zombies usually don't feel realistic either. But the show has quirk and cuteness on its mind, and isn't bothered by such details. And that's another problem: It's all cartoonishly and colorfully cute and quirky, which is mild fun for a couple of episodes, but then it wears out its welcome without something else to balance it: Something edgy, somebody that feels real for a change instead of these ridiculously perky and cute women, some drama, anything! Another significant flaw is the heavy use of a narrator to tell us everything we already know. In short, this is stale stuff that is only light entertainment at best despite its vibrant colors, and it desperately needs some life injected into it. Too much quirk and lightness is bad for a series.



Whispers, The  
Based on the single season.

At the end of the first episode I was sure that Spielberg had something to do with this since his fingerprints were all over it, what with the heavy reliance on kids and a Spielbergian feel of magical strange encounters with other-worldly forces. The credits confirmed this, which means he is either repeating himself, or he is an auteur even as a producer. In any case, this show starts quite well actually, with a gripping mystery involving mysterious powers manipulating children into doing disturbing things. The story and mystery develop at a good pace, involving various government agents and soldiers as well as families, as they uncover what these forces are up to, and the race between paranoid governments, other-worldly agendas and plots, and parents who also happen to be agents, escalates constantly. The deterioration in the writing and story starts after a few episodes, however. The biggest problem is in how they treat children, as if they never dealt with children before. Children may be very gullible and open-minded and accepting, but when it comes to doing obviously horrible things based on strange voices, and despite what their own parents tell them, this show seems to think they are completely stupid. Also the writers set the rules, then every time a development plays itself out, they change the rules, especially at the end of the first season. Some episodes feel very contrived and manipulative, a story written by writers that are too involved in their own internal logic and in pacing and stringing the audience along from one plot twist to another, to bother with realism and careful character and world building. This cancellation made sense.



Emerald City  
Based on the single season.

A re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz as a dark fantasy with adults, for adults. Dorothy is a 20 year old woman raised by her aunt who is suddenly transported to the land of Oz where there is a complex struggle between believers of magic and science. Both are terrified of the looming prophesized 'Beast Forever'. This rich world is populated by witches with different agendas and their strange covens, industrious steampunk scientists that can build mechanical people, an amnesiac scarecrow soldier who may to may not be a killer ...and a person that does not know their gender. This show does not shy away from killing anyone, and the world is rich with detail and striking sets and costumes, courtesy of Tarsem Singh of 'The Cell' fame. This is the good. Unfortunately, many of the characters are flat and the story-telling and writing are weak. Dorothy seems to have two facial expressions, and registers no surprise or wonder at the amazing world in which she finds herself. Almost all of the characters waver this way and that without rhyme or reason, and I struggled to make sense of them throughout the season. They do strange things without an explanation, then change their minds often. I watched the whole thing, and wanted it to be better, but it never got off the ground for me.



Star Trek: Discovery  
Based on the first season and some of the second.

A mixed bag of a Trek series, partially enjoyable despite its many many flaws, until an unforgivable flaw came along. This is another prequel, taking place only a few years before The Original Series that plays very fast and loose with the Trek universe, blatantly contradicting many things (and I'm not even a Trek-fanatic). Starfleet is finding its footing and learning the politics of an expanding universe (especially how to deal with Klingons) while exploring new worlds and going where no man has gone before. At the center of most events is 'Michael' Burnham, a black female human trained by Vulcans, who often takes action according to her own principles, causing many problems with Starfleet authorities as well as her Vulcan adopted father Sarek (yes, that Sarek). There are both longer story arcs as well as episodic dangers and mysteries intertwined. The good: Trek never looked better thanks to Bryan Fuller and a beautiful and detailed production. The story-writing is capable, sometimes interesting, other times merely uninspired but functional. The casting and characters are a mixed bag ranging from not-bad to bland to very poor. The actress at the center is as bland and forgettable as they get. The writers also make the same mistake most politically-correct shows make of turning the woman into a super-human and making her better than anyone else at absolutely everything, whether it is fighting, action, science, logic, know-how about everything and anything, relationships, etc. This makes it impossible to accept her as a real person. In terms of the Trek universe, even as a non-expert I kept noticing things like 'anachronistic' technology, a blatant re-imagining of Klingons, and a complete misunderstanding of Vulcans. So far, these were all things I could put aside (with some difficulty) and I partially enjoyed the good aspects of the show nevertheless. But then they made Sarek into a sentimental man, and Spock into a completely unrecognizable broken man, even having him see shrinks and making him dependent on his black super-human sister whom we never heard of before. And that's when I had quite enough. I'm fine with an alternate re-imagining of Star Trek, and this is not the first time Klingons were altered, but never lay your filthy PC fingers on the original characters that I grew up with ever again. Thank you.



Incorporated  
Based on most of the single season.

I was ready to stop watching this within the first five seconds. It starts with a description of a future dystopian world: Climate change, evil corporations, and poor zones exploited and neglected by the rich zones. Obviously I expected a liberal preachy disaster, but kept watching anyways. Surprisingly, it didn't go in that direction once the world was set-up, and floundered for completely different reasons. This is about a future where ruthless corporations rule the world, and where many people vie for power in the lower ranks, as well as the criminals and some poor people from the slums infiltrating the companies and trying to maneuver or manipulate the system in different ways. The technological details and various gadgets and technologies are pretty good and imaginative, and although the story starts very boringly it gets more interesting as it goes, but the world-building is weak and unimaginative (as described in the intro), and the characters are all bland cogs in a wheel of ruthless games, rather than actual personalities. Their extreme behaviour and decisions don't make sense half of the time, seemingly doing many wild things to keep the thrills and the plot moving along. The writing felt like the output of a thriller-writing-factory, and the world, characters and story never came alive. Just another modern show that is good with technology, but bad with humanity.



Colony  
Based on most of the first season and a bit of the second.

Aliens have taken over Earth again, and pockets of human resistance are fighting them. Except that, for the whole of the first season, there is not a single alien to be seen, and sci-fi is so rarely used that it is irrelevant to the plot. The show starts right in the middle of a resistance movement, except they are fighting a human fascist government run by collaborators and set up by the aliens. We never learn what happened, we barely see what the occupation looks like and how it works, so we have no idea what the humans are facing, what they are fighting, and why they are fighting. Similarly, the motivations of the collaborators and their gung-ho attitude towards abusing and killing their own species are never clear throughout the whole season. Instead, we get lots and lots of 'thrilling' details involving cat-n-mouse games, spy games, resistance action, and a family stuck in the middle of it all with family-members playing both sides of the fight. Except, since there is no background, why should the audience care? What were the writers thinking? I'm not a fan of back-stories used heavily in shows, but this has zero background. It also doesn't help that the characters are as bland and forgettable and generic as they get. So I started skipping, but kept watching, hoping that the story will open up. By the second season I had given up, although it seemed that things were starting to open up, but it was too little, too late, and way too slow. Plus, I read that the show was abandoned mid-story in season three, so I didn't feel like investing any more time. Plus, one of the writers was involved in Lost, so that is an automatic trust issue. Taking this into account, the holding back on the sci-fi and all this 'mystery aliens' nonsense suddenly feels like audience manipulation rather than mystery. In summary, a badly managed show from all points of view.



Lucifer (DC)  
Based on the first season.

Vastly overrated and another painfully superficial Bruckheimer-produced show. The show's ambition only makes it's lack of imagination worse. It's not about some demon, or some other supernatural being, or human turned vampire living on Earth, but about none other than Lucifer himself. When it comes to fantasy movies about demons devils and angels, most have a poor imagination and cannot imagine beings behaving vastly differently than humans, but this one just makes this the gimmick of the show: Lucifer has had enough of managing Hell and doing his duty, so he clips his wings and spends time with humans as a human, indulging in every desire and whim, only with supernatural powers such as immortality, an irresistible devilish charm, and the ability to extract a person's deepest desire and use it. Except that he has no experience as a human, and is puzzled by some of his own behaviour, especially when it comes to a hot detective who brings out his vulnerabilities. So he visits a shrink. The result? In this show, Lucifer is nothing more than a spoiled handsome playboy used to getting his way, as superficial and uninteresting as any playboy, and is ultra-confident, narcissistic and carefree as only an irresistible immortal can be. Tom Ellis is actually good in this role and fun, and the humor does offer plenty of chuckles, but the complete lack of imagination and the reduction of such a potentially interesting character to a silly boy-toy playboy is too painful to watch. The parade of model faces and bodies only makes it worse.

As far as plot is concerned, the show commits two more crimes: The mythology involving Lucifer's 'relationship' with his 'Father', his angelic brother, and even a 'mother' (groan) proceeds at a snail's pace, like a throwback to 90s shows, and the format of the show is yet another plain, episodic detective series, as if Bruckheimer still hasn't had enough with his endless glossy CSI franchise. So not only is Lucifer reduced to being a playboy, he is also made to use his powers to solve murder mysteries. The rest of the celestial beings in this show like angels would be laughable with their human behaviour if they weren't so sadly unimaginative.



Cloak & Dagger (Marvel)  
Based on the first season.

This feels more like a teenage supernatural thriller rather than a super-hero series. A freak combination accident and shooting bring together two children that gain a special connection and hidden powers from their joint-trauma. Years later, the teenagers have grown up into psychologically broken individuals, but another encounter brings out their freaky abilities, only they seem to be controlled by them rather than the other way around. For half of the season there is much angst and self-entitlement, and things pick up for the second half as the plot finally kicks in and they start to figure out their powers and make use of them to fight various conspiracies and evil corporations that have ruined their lives. The powers include psychic super-knives made of light, teleportation, and the ability to explore people's dreams and nightmares in surreal visions.

At first the story looks intriguing and has a complex emotional core. But very soon one realizes the writers simply don't know what they are doing and are lacking basic skills. Namely, the ability to build three-dimensional characters, think through consistent motivations and behaviour, and to connect the dots. Instead, they seem to have simply thought up various plot points and thrown some random character traits at random stock characters without working out many of the details. So half the time in this show, things happen that don't make sense, people behave in ways that don't ring true, and characters have suddenly moved to the next plot point or conclusion while you are left trying to figure out how they jumped from A to B. The writing does improve somewhat for the second half, but not enough. The worst offender, however, is the soundtrack. Obtrusive, and in poor taste, it features a collection of the most derivative, obnoxious, auto-tune, emo, vapid, modern collection of pop songs, one after another after another, as if some millennial producers decided to leave their iPod pop-music collection on while filming the show. This show is the equivalent of those cellphone kids that have their earphones and music on while doing everything, without actually investing effort in what they are doing. This one has a good base and potentially entertaining story, but needed more work.



Gates, The  
Based on most of the single season.

This starts as a mix of rich society soap opera and 90210-esque teenage high-school drama taking place in a gated suburbia community, except with vampires, werewolves and witches. Instead of housewives having affairs, they go off hunting humans with wild men of their past behind their husband's back, a vampire's bite bonds a couple and stands for fidelity, and teenagers, on top of having their usual angsty problems, now have to worry about sucking the life force out of their loved ones. There's a catty scheming back-stabbing witch, and both love triangles and quadrangles. In addition to this show being almost as bad as it sounds, I am not sure what kind of target audience would enjoy both soap and teenage drama together, and what they were thinking when they made this. As if that weren't enough, the writing is often poor and lazily makes up its own contrived drama, having characters do stupid things. For example, a vampire reveals himself to a human in order to save his life by killing a threat, but no one ever thinks of having the vampire simply kill with his bare hands instead of fangs. Just when I was about to give up, the writers start writing more interesting thrilling developments and dramatic crises towards the end of the season, gathering momentum, and then it suddenly ends. My guess is the execs told them to switch to another approach, then cancelled the show anyways.



Frequency  
Based on the first three episodes.

I knew this used the 2000 movie as its base but I didn't know it was a straight remake. This is the same plot as the movie, padded out to fill a season, replacing the male protagonist with a female and the loving father with an irresponsible dad just because it is 2016, and making useless changes like making her father a policeman instead of a fireman, which makes it less interesting. It's about a freak connection between ham radios allowing a child to talk to a dead parent across a twenty years gap, with all the expected drama that this entails. Except the focus is on preventing catastrophes that happened in the past, and then preventing other catastrophes that occur because of the changes they make by communicating across time, butterfly effect style. Most of the thrills involve a serial killer that goes after some family members. The original movie was deeply flawed to its approach to time-travel rules, and this show is no different in that regard, copying its flaws. Movies can make up any time-travel rules they want, but when they apply them inconsistently, that's when it becomes 'implausible' and impossible to enjoy. For example, the fact that some people's memories are memories and others are completely altered. Or the way that changes propagate to the future either in 'real-time' or retroactively depending on the writer's whims. In short, this is a useless, padded-out, inferior remake of a very flawed movie.



Last Ship, The  
Based on the first season.

Within a few seconds of the show, and without looking at the credits, I knew this was a Michael Bay production. The soldiers were square-jawed patriot poster-boys spouting cliches to a rousing canned soundtrack, and soon things were blowing up and people were fighting for no reason other than to feed the show with regular, slick action scenes. If anyone watches this to see a thoughtful show or a dramatic thriller about a virus apocalypse, this is obviously not it. To be fair, some episodes are better than others dealing with a wide variety of crises, and one of the strengths of this show is the constant momentum and continuous story-lines, each episode picking up seconds after the previous. The plot is about a US navy ship at sea with over 200 soldiers and a couple of CDC scientists that become the last hope for humanity as a virus wipes out billions on dry land. But the stupidity keeps infecting the writing like a virus: To start with, much tension and war is made over the only two chances for a vaccine: A 'primordial virus' sample from the Arctic and one female CDC biochemist, except that they said themselves that the virus had already mutated, and there doesn't seem to be anything unique about her knowledge. Then starts the jingoism, and black and white view of the world: Evil Russians appear straight out of a cartoon, chucking nuclear bombs over people's heads on a whim without any seeming interest in their own survival, nevermind the human race. Then a Cuban dictator, and various other people that want the virus for a power trip, and these handful of square-jawed Americans never falter, fighting evil, working on a cure, and saving everyone they meet from themselves. It's downright ridiculous, if only for the lack of interesting, even 2-dimensional human characters. Tribute is paid to human emotions with some corny lines, they keep doing stupid things like walk in and out of infected areas without a safe quarantine procedure, or test a vaccine on six healthy humans instead of one sick one. In between all these stupidities there is some entertaining action and thrills as more and more things go wrong, then more insane people get in their way that don't seem to have any interest in basic self-preservation, just so that our heroes can have someone new to fight, kick-ass and kill. Enough said.



Resurrection  
Based on the first one and a half seasons.

Although this is based on a book written in 2013 and is not officially a remake of the French 'The Returned', the book is obviously plagiarized and stolen from that show. Not just because it deals with dead people coming back to a small town and causing many upheavals and dramas, but because it uses so many of the same ideas from the original, thus making it an obvious copy. As such, it doesn't deserve to judged on its own terms, especially since most the good aspects of this show are the ideas stolen from the original, and its original material is quite pedestrian. The original started very strongly with superb atmosphere and intense quiet moments as some long-lost dead family members come back (as normal people, not zombies), re-awakening forgotten, dead or repressed memories and feelings, and causing havoc with their relatives that have since moved on. And then it unravelled with poor writing. This one doesn't have that magic, and it seems to create a more solid story at first, working out some the details that the original left out, but then it unravels as well in the second season as it deteriorates into convoluted Lost-territory where more developments just keep happening without much rhyme or reason. So not only is it stolen, it doesn't have much to offer even on its own terms.



Saving Hope  
Based on most of the first season.

Another medical drama with the same template of many other similar shows, combining episodic little medical dramas with ongoing relationship drama between the doctors. The only difference with this one, is that the drama with the patients continues even when they go into a coma or die, since there is a resident doctor in a coma whose spirit wanders the hospital talking to the passed-out or dying patients. There is also a bit of a 'Ghost' element here with the comatose doctor having a fiance nurse in the hospital who does everything she can to talk to him or wake him up. Otherwise, it's all kinda mawkish, emo and uninspired. The 2-4 patients per episode come in with a wide variety of emotional or personal problems as well as their medical crises, and the doctors have to deal with both. Most of the doctors are unrealistically cute and pretty, the relationships are dull, and the writing doesn't offer much in the way of intelligence or inspiration. It sometimes works in small doses in some episodes, but given that there are so many medical shows, this one simply isn't special enough.



Goblin (AKA Guardian: The Lonely and Great God)  
Based on most of the single season.

This was only my second taste of Korean drama TV based on numerous gushing reviews across the board. ('The Legend' was primarily fantasy-action with drama whereas this is drama with fantasy). If definitely did not make me want to check out more. This 18-hour production is basically one long romantic-comedy for teenage girls, with its fantasy elements used only for the drama. There's a war-general from 900 years ago cursed with immortality and with suffering from not being able to forget any death he caused. He is also given god-like powers for some reason and he is called a Goblin. There is also a bureaucratic system and hierarchy of grim-reapers ripped off from 'Dead Like Me' where ordinary people atone by working as collectors of souls that have just died, without remembering who they were. And, of course, there are the women they love, or are destined or doomed to meet, with super-natural complications getting in the way of their ultimate love, etc etc. Other layers and secrets slowly reveal themselves as they discover their destinies. The mythology isn't bad, and the fantasy aspects and story-arcs are moderately interesting. The problem is that they serve as mere excuses to make this romantic-comedy-cum-melodrama as long as possible, with lovers separated over and over and over again by death and reincarnation and more reincarnation and prophecies and whatnot, piling on the melodrama in a repeat-loop until it becomes a ridiculous laughing stock. And in between the melodrama it's worse: The guys here are sometimes prettier and more emotional than the girls, and when they aren't crying over their doomed lives, they are acting in nauseatingly cute and silly ways seemingly to endear themselves to their teenage-girl audience. And all this while the girls act usually sassy and cutesy, overwhelmed with their 'romantic' whims, often making one wonder what a 900-year old deity would see in such a silly 18 year old that acts like a 10 year old girl. Except the Goblin and Grim Reaper often act even sillier of course, which explains it. To top this all off, the music is painfully schmaltzy and they just keep piling on the montages and romantic flashbacks, and each melodramatic scene goes on forever. In short, not only am I puzzled why so many people would fail to mention that this is obviously targeted at teenage girls, I felt nauseated by the constant schmaltzy emotional manipulation and superficial cuteness.



My Love from Another Star  
Based on the first four episodes.

A final attempt for me at getting into Korean fantasy-comedy TV, seeing as this show is one of the most popular ones. Other, more serious Korean shows I've seen have been better, so I suppose that it's specifically the romantic-comedy genre that I must avoid. The sheer number of Korean shows of this type are really puzzling, however, as is their popularity even with adults. The comedy aspect is so 'cutesy' with accompanying over-the-top acting and bouncy music, it seems to have come from a show for kids or silly teenage girls. And the romance is so programmed with nauseating cheesy music and flashbacks that it is off-putting. The love interest is usually a bland boy-toy hunk, who, after the initial harsh behaviour, necessary objections and obstacles, always becomes the ultimate cutesy dreamy boy-toy for the female protagonist. Add more obstacles and dramatic challenges in a cycle where their love is destined to be, but full of inevitably drawn-out drama, then repeat and rinse for a dozen or more episodes, and that's the basic template. In other words, it's a chick-flick rom-com par excellence except its for teenage girls, and it lasts 12-20 hours instead of 1.5 hours. And keep in mind that I enjoy quite a few Hollywood rom-coms myself so it's not like I never enjoy this type of thing. In any case, the plot for this one is a bland boy-toy who happens to be a combination of alien, superhero, and immortal Highlander-type human with a long history, is finally on his way back to his planet when his meets his destined love on Earth. Except that, in this reincarnation, she is a combination of bitch and dumb brat celebrity. You can imagine the rest.



Houdini and Doyle  
Based on the first five episodes.

Tales of friendship between these two famous people were enough to inspire this silly paranormal-mystery-solving show. This short-lived series imagines Doyle as the believer in the paranormal and Houdini as the skeptic, for a classic and often-used type of partnership, and they combine their very different skills in their curious and adventurous chases after bizarre cases. Houdini uses his skills in figuring out tricks and illusions and getting out of sticky situations, and Doyle uses his skills as a doctor and his detail-oriented sleuthing. The cases always involve various elements of the paranormal, and, in the tradition of Sherlock, usually involves some kind of trickery, but the show leaves some room to doubt and always involves outlandish adventure and elements of the bizarre. The structure is episodic. Unfortunately, the show feels like half-baked fan-fiction. And it is also flooded with endless sloppy anachronisms. Mysteries are often solved with sudden leaps of intuition out of left field. To add insult to injury, the show is inundated with political correctness, preaching on toleration and the treatment of women, and somehow manages to be both anachronistic in its tolerance, and portray intolerance in over-the-top ways at the same time. This is toned down somewhat after the first two episodes, but not enough. It looks like it should be a fun show, but this is just lazy populist writing.



Joan of Arcadia  
Based on many episodes of the first season.

Joan is an average teenage girl in high school who starts getting missions from God who appears to her as various people at random, and the missions, get this, often involve her doing something difficult in her personal life like dating and listening to a jerk at school, or getting her driving license, because, if she does these things, they cause a chain reaction that ultimately results in something good. And, she gets to learn life-lessons. This premise isn't always as bad as it sounds, as some episodes manage to evoke some good and touching drama, but it's bad enough to sink the show in general. For starters, why would God need to appear and instruct these actions, thus interfering with free will, in order to get the result he wants instead of just engineering it in a million other ways. And then there's the stupid and unimaginative way of communication via flawed humans instead of a much more effective and direct method. There's also the fact that there is nothing special about her that would deserve this kind of communication. And finally, there's the life lessons that sometimes are nice, but mostly feel like a talk your mom would give you. The dialogue is pretty good, and can even be sharp and fun at times, but the premise and plots make it impossible to enjoy the show as a whole. Other elements include the usual high-school teenage drama, parenting woes, a recently crippled brother, and a cop-father who finds himself fighting incompetence under him as well as corruption over him, all of this adding many more life lessons for everyone to learn.



Early Edition  
Based on most of the first season.

The premise of this one is that some dude gets tomorrow's newspaper every day along with a mysterious cat, and, since he is a nice guy, this forces him to spend all of his life saving people and averting disasters foretold in the news. His friend wants to use it for financial gain, but soon learns that this tends to backfire, and yet, somehow, saving people in danger and interfering in crimes never backfires. In fact, disasters and huge mistakes are fixed often with a simple well chosen words, because, this show wants us to believe that things like kindness, faith, warmth and selflessness can save any situation in an instant, and the rest is taken care of by some kind of benign karma. Because, in addition to quick and easy solutions, this show also wants us to believe in endless coincidences, where people you just met turn up in the headlines the very next day, and news events turn out to be connected if this helps you perform a good deed. This is the kind of show where street hoodlums turn out to be kids stealing for their suffering mothers. In short, this is the Hallmark version of super-heroism. It's about heroism without superpowers, unless you consider a magical newspaper, kindness and good luck to be superpowers. Sure, the hero is reluctant and suffers doubts and the loss of his personal life, but that's OK, because, according to this show, self-preservation is evil. What a load of fuzzy, sentimental crap. I can't say that it's all bad, and some episodes are somewhat entertaining. But, in general, the warmth of the show tends to get too cloying too often, and, otherwise, there is no surprise, character or personality to keep one watching.



Chuck  
Based on most of the first one and a half seasons.

Although not billed as such, this is a sci-fi spy-comedy series with the fantastic ability to store and retrieve knowledge in the brain via images, not to mention the supernaturally indomitable ninja spies. One of the biggest problems with this show is that everything about it is ridiculously unrealistic to the point that it is impossible to switch off your brain and enjoy the comedy. Chuck is a nerd working in gadget-support who is sent a complete database of everything the government knows, which is promptly stored in his brain, and the original is somehow lost, instantly making him the most important person in the world as far as spies are concerned. He is assigned two agents, one from the NSA and another from the CIA, to protect him, or to get rid of him if he ever becomes a threat. To keep his secret, they go undercover and work with him at the Buy More store, and the CIA agent becomes his girlfriend. This premise is so ridiculous and full of technical and logical holes, that it would take a whole page just to list the errors. Suffice it to say that even the little fact the most important database in the world didn't have three off-site backups is impossible to ignore. But then we wouldn't have this show and the chance to show a nerd with a super-hot model in skimpy clothes that fights ninjutsu style. And that's all this is about. Because, besides Chuck himself who kinda acts human, everyone else is cartoon and cardboard, including his caring sister, her jock boyfriend, his cartoonishly silly co-worker nerds, and all of the spies. The constant fights are bad, and the actors obviously have no fighting talents, but who notices that when you have a half-naked girl jumping around the room, right? In between the episodic 'spy-crises' that are quickly solved with a few action scenes, the ridiculous story arcs keep bringing in more and more exs, friends, and relatives into the conspiracy and builds an evil and powerful spy organization as the nemesis. Eventually I figured that this is a show that doesn't take itself seriously, and is just having fun with the setup, but the show's writing was too dumb to allow enjoyment even at that level.



Fringe  
Based on most of the first season.

I should really just skip J.J. Abrams TV creations. He is obviously a commercial hack with no respect for his audience, presenting only manipulative, brainless, uninspired writing engineered only for commercial success. This cut-and-paste job is a blend of Alias, X-Files and Eureka. There is a clique working within the government assigned to bizarre cases involving what seems to be supernatural or weird science, and Abrams gleefully chooses populist cases involving gross-outs or horrific strangeness, except they are always reduced to pseudo-science and have no sense of mystery and intelligent complexity as with the X-Files. Also, this time it is the brainy man who is the skeptic, and the female agent that just goes with it. The story arcs involving an all-too-powerful corporation, its many agents and motivations, its relationship with the government, other traitorous individuals and their criminal gangs, and the surprise, inbreeding relationships between all of these people, are all reminiscent of Alias, and aren't much better in terms of plausibility or intelligence. Once again, the writers constantly demonstrate that they are making things up as they go along, contradicting previous details. As if that weren't enough, the story arc moves at a snail's pace with a symmetrically engineered distance between key episodes. And then there are the Eureka elements: An insane but quirky and childish scientist that helps the investigations, and the endless stream of impossible gadgets and technologies that keep appearing out of nowhere for the episodic thrill of the week. Although Dr. Walter Bishop is acted well and provides the only lively personality of the show, the writers obviously have no clue what to do with him, assigning new childish quirks-of-the-week for comic relief that are here one day and gone the next, turning him lucid or incoherent as convenient plot devices only, and never allowing him to develop into a real person. Of course, the canard of geniuses knowing everything about everything is abused once again. The rest of the cast are capably acted but are quite forgettable as personalities. In short, it may seem entertaining and thrilling for a while, but this is just another unrewarding, skin-deep, commercial hack job.



Event, The  
Based on the single season.

Comparing a show to Lost dooms it from the start. Fortunately, this show doesn't have much in common with that one despite the many comparisons by reviewers. Unfortunately, this show resembles a weaker 24 season, except it ends with an unresolved cliffhanger, and it has 'aliens'. Just replace terrorists with 'aliens' that are identical to humans and who have some advanced scientific know-how and weaponry (which only makes 4 or 5 appearances in the whole season). They think, look and act like humans, they have no unique capabilities, just more advanced scientific knowledge, and the only thing that separates them is that they have their own agendas which conflict with the human race. So, yes, basically just advanced terrorists. The President of the US, his entourage and army, and some untrained programmer kid who somehow magically turns into a Jack Bauer, have to fight the endless crises, several attempts to kill various people, plots against the human race, secret agendas, double and triple agents, conspiracies within conspiracies within conspiracies, and so on. People sway from one extreme to another without rhyme or reason, they switch sides, change agendas, repeat mistakes, make stupid decisions, perform despicable acts for minor selfish motives, all to propel the action and messy plot forward with constant momentum, and it all collapses under its own weight within a few episodes. Add to this the casting: A handful of people in the President's entourage are passably OK, the rest are either awfully miscast or terribly bland. In summary, this is addictive and entertaining like a bad season of 24, but you will regret watching it given the terribly messy writing, the lack of character and surprise, and the cliffhanger finale.



Brimstone  
Based on most of the single season.

A tormented, dead police-man who got sent to hell for killing his wife's rapist gets a second chance. He is given the mission to recover over 100 escaped dangerous souls that are currently hiding with the living, and to send them back to hell. This is an episodic show, and the writing is so pedestrian and uninspired that it feels like a cookie-cutter old-school cop-show, except the cop and criminals have random supernatural powers and cannot be killed. The writing has the mentality of a video-game, with obvious and neat little clues always leading the cop on a predictable track to the evil soul, and then a tattoo is magically erased off his arm every time he succeeds in order to keep track of his points. Yes, it's another monster-of-the-week show. The charming devil appears as his boss to tease and play sadistic games with him, which lightens up the show a bit, but even this aspect lacks imagination. Personality-wise, the leads are passable, but never stand out. So all-in-all, there isn't anything bad here, but it is forgettable, uninteresting entertainment.



Taken  
Based on all 10 episodes.

Spielberg presents X-Files: The Drama. 10 long episodes covering four generations and three families whose lives were changed due to alien abductions and UFO sightings, from the Roswell incident to today. At first some characters are interesting, especially the brutal, calculating soldier and strange aliens, but as soon as we get to know them they are replaced with weaker characters, then replaced yet again with uninteresting children and teenagers. The effects are passable, the spookiness of abductions was covered much better in X-Files, the conspiracy and government angle was more interesting in X-Files, the magic of encounters was handled much better in Close Encounters, the cheesy and heavy narration is ludicrously delivered by a child, and the drama, which is the main focus of this series, is very soapish and overlong. Spielberg, please stop using children to carry your flicks.



Twilight Zone, The (2002)  
Based on most of the single season.

This third incarnation of the Twilight Zone series is closer in tone and content to the original than the fun 80s version, but its heart is all wrong and it's a painfully mediocre effort. The fact that the opening theme is by Korn should give you a clue: This often feels like an attempt to rejuvenate and remake the series with a parade of hot young actors, except that they forgot to hire talented writers. The trail-blazing original and the even better 80s version are hard acts to follow, and this makes the mediocrity even harder to take. The original, even when it was cheesy, approached moral twists from a human angle and usually involved at least some thought or character. This one seems to enjoy pulling out weird twists from left field and give the protagonists moral choices that are completely random or very superficial. The writing in general isn't very satisfying or well thought out either. In other words, the writers seem to think that the only thing needed to make a Twilight Zone episode is something supernatural or weird that puts the protagonists in a difficult and bizarrely unusual position, then throw some hot young actor at it. In addition, Forest Whitaker is miscast as the narrator. As with any anthology, there are some better and entertaining episodes, but the hit ratio here is quite low and the rest are only slightly above average.



Paradox  
Based on the single season.

Less flashy British CSI with a sci-fi twist: Clues are given to the detectives and a scientist as images from the future. The detectives have to race against a ticking clock to solve a murder mystery that will take place in the future by trying to piece together a puzzle out of the cryptic images, sometimes involving themselves in the events that unfold. Unfortunately, this is too contrived to enjoy. You could take any detective episode from any show, collect 8 random images from the episode that don't give anything away too easily, then show these images at the beginning of the episode and you'd have this show. And since the writers didn't even get close to the part where the source of the images is revealed in this first season, nor do they give us a theory as to why the images are so cryptic, I found it unenjoyable.



Blood Ties  
Based on most of the first season.

Although this show is based on books that predate Buffy, the adaptation is post-Buffy and therefore has to deal with not being original. In addition, the acting and writing have severe flaws of their own. Vicki Nelson is an ex-cop gone PI who finds herself specializing in supernatural cases, a wide variety of killer monsters, and criminals with superpowers, especially after teaming up with a mostly moral and helpful handsome vampire. Her ex is a cop (who, for some reason, never seems to have a backup when he goes investigating), and her secretary is a goth-librarian who finds supernatural solutions in books. Any of this sound familiar? The structure is mostly monster-of-the-week with some longer character development and two-parters. All the leads are only partially OK: They have presence, personality and looks, but never materialize as three-dimensional people due to superficial acting. So they all come off as dull and unmemorable even though the writing occasionally gives them something to do. The writing, too, seems like it has potential at times, but is mostly bland, features awkward attempts at humor (which may be the actors/directors fault) and has its brief moments of good drama, only to constantly disappoint by not developing them. It's like there is one person in the team with some talent, and everyone else doesn't have any. A show that never comes to life, and ends up feeling like a bland copycat.



Fear Itself  
Based on the single season.

Masters of Horror season three, transported to another network that imposed reduced gore and nastiness. It's a horror anthology directed by several names in the horror movie industry, including John Landis, Stuart Gordon and Ronny Yu. All anthologies offer episodes that vary greatly in quality, except the 13 episodes here are mostly mediocre, weak or poor entries, with a small handful of watchable ones, and no great ones. Many of these episodes seem to be aware that they are making a quickie horror flick and don't bother much with plausibility, development or character, or even feature some brainless plot twists that make no sense. The enjoyable ones are 'Family Man', the funny 'Something with Bite', and maybe Gordon's 'Eater'. Very lacking in creativity and definitely not one of the better anthology series.



Iron Fist (Marvel)  
Based on most of the first season.

Another in the series of Netflix-Marvel super-hero adaptations. This one has the worst reputation of them all and I can see why. It's about a son of a billionaire that grows up in a mystical monastery around Tibet that trains him to be the ultimate kung-fu warrior with a supernatural ability to center all of his chi into his fist and make himself unbeatable, giving him the ability seemingly to smash anything and anyone. This show has him fight his own relatives and business partners after he comes home from being presumed dead, as well as the many minions of The Hand, an evil, criminal and ruthless organization that has its fingers in everything. There is lots of kung-fu fighting, plots and twists, as well as fantasy elements such as special mystical fighting powers and undead humans.

The biggest fatal flaw is the casting, and it is so obvious as to make one wonder what they were thinking. The super-hero is supposed to be an ultimately trained and ripped kung-fu fighter, yet this guy doesn't have anything remotely resembling the physique, the balance, the elegance, the power, etc. Fight scenes use every trick in the book but make it very obvious, especially when he is up against actual trained fighters that are obviously slowing down for him. He looks like an amateur practicing dance moves and poses, rather than fighting. And the rest of the time there are obvious cut-aways as the camera switches to a stunt double. This is enough to sink the show. But the writing is also poor, with characters switching motivations and behaviour in every other episode just to pile on the plot twists, giving the strong impression that the writers have no plan and are writing under a 'plot-twist quota'. In short, this is an obviously poor TV series and the weakest of the Netflix-Marvel bunch.



Tomorrow People, The  
Based on most of the single season.

Yet another copy-cat uninspired super-hero series that is a bland retread of several other ideas. It also features very poor writing. As with X-Men and its clones, people find they are evolving into super-humans, some turn towards crime, others form a group to fight the evil government organization that was put together to control or destroy them. Conspiracies and secrets keep emerging, and the people in charge turn out to be one of those inbred Alias-type of circles where everyone is related or linked via one conspiracy or another. The chief nemesis at first is a one-dimensional cold-blooded killer, then the writers pile on the secrets and personal agendas, not realizing that these contradict what he did at the beginning of the season. Similar dramas are constantly inserted into the show for some very artificial and contrived character development. The writers also keep making up rules then break them all the time, making this show unwatchable. For example, there's the rule that both sides agreed on for some reason to not show their powers to civilians, and the agency takes this extremely seriously, instantly killing anyone who has been exposed, but then everyone constantly teleports almost anywhere without a care over who may accidentally see them. Their powers at first are 'the three Ts: telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation', but then the writers keep adding more and more powers to a select few whenever it is convenient, and conveniently forget to use these powers numerous times later on. And it's no wonder these powers disappear, since obviously if someone has all these powers in addition to being able to stop time, predict the future and turn back time, then he becomes completely unbeatable and omnipotent. Which brings us to the most ridiculously obvious and repetitive mistake: The fact that these people with super-powers are always physically fighting instead of doing 100 other basic things with their powers, like teleport themselves or their enemies away, or block their punches with telekinesis. And why do they walk or run every time they teleport? Later episodes start getting more creative with it, but these only serve to emphasize the question of why they didn't use these things before. There's another random rule about them not being able to kill humans which makes no sense, especially given that they harm humans all the time, or even kill them by mistake, and all these powers can be easily removed using chemicals, even though they are supposedly genetic. And so on. Get a clue, guys. This show was unwatchable, and also uninspired to begin with.



Tru Calling  
Based on most of the first season.

Brainless, high-concept, episodic TV show that always feels like its made for simple teenagers, as demonstrated by the show's silly name. Tru Davies, who works at the morgue, is called on to help people by having some of her days rewound so that she can fix whatever went wrong and caused one or more deaths. The episodes quickly feel repetitive, with a dead person asking for help before she starts her day over again, racing against a clock to fix things both big and small, with some unexpected dead-ends, twists and turns. Her sister and brother have got to be the biggest losers on the planet, forcing her to save them from various crises and disasters that always take place coincidentally on the same days that she is trying to save a life. Her experienced and wise co-worker at the morgue is slowly turned into her mentor, and a muddled story arc starts to appear at the end of the season regarding a man who seems to have the same ability. Eliza Dushku is surprisingly bland and not at her intense best, the concept is never developed, the writers never take risks or show an interesting imagination, and the episodic structure gets old fast. Watch Day Break instead.



Phantom, The  

Sci-Fi Channel re-imagines yet another oldie, this one a superhero fantasy as a possible series pilot. It's a pity they didn't actually think things through instead of just re-imagining the look and feel into a hi-tech 24-esque thriller. The costume is updated into some kind of hi-tech suit that amplifies strength and stops bullets without even a nod to Newton's basic laws of science. The supernatural scenes are silly, especially when juxtaposed with all the hi-tech. The bad guys live in a nonsensical and cliched evil boardroom that think up pointless conspiracies for their own sake. The plot that uses hypnotic TV signals is cliched and never believable. The lead is yet another instantly forgettable and bland hunk. The dialogue is awful. There is some action entertainment here and there if you switch your brain off, but this not only fails when compared to all the great superhero movies of the last decade, it also fails on its own right.



Masters of Science Fiction  
Based on the single season.

Short-lived attempt at another Outer Limits type of show with short stories containing a moral message written by prominent sci-fi authors. The liberal moral bent is painfully preachy and insulting, perhaps suitable for 5 year olds, and it isn't delivered in the form of a speech or twist at the end of the episode, choosing mostly obvious and predictable stories instead. Hopefully, these flaws were not in the original stories. Out of the six episodes, three are very poor and weak, and three are only mediocre or moderately entertaining, covering things like how the nuclear bomb or violence is bad, and acceptance of all people as equals, all in futuristic settings of course. The high production values and good casting help, but most stories end up disappointing.



Langoliers, The  

3-part Stephen King adaptation of a novella. The story contains a fascinating sci-fi/horror hybrid concept involving time and a group of airline passengers caught in a very strange mystery where everyone seems to have disappeared during their flight. But some of the characters are reduced to cliches, and this movie makes it much worse by approaching them in a very infantile way with very broad strokes. As the group slowly unravel what has happened to them, Craig Toomey unravels into cartoonish psychotic madness, and the cliched little blind girl somehow knows what is about to happen. Finally, the special effects for the monsters turn out to be pathetically poor, slamming the lid down on yet another poor King adaptation.



Primeval  
Based on most of the first season.

A British Stargate involving primeval beasts and dinosaurs by the makers of the Walking With... documentary series. Anomalies are opening up that are portals in time, allowing creatures from the past to step into the present. Scientists, geeks and soldiers combine forces to study or fight this phenomenon. A good setup, and the effects are pretty good, but the implementation is poor. This is a show where writers can write phrases like 'the anomalies are concrete proof that the past exists' without even realizing what they are saying. The characters are either cliches of 'driven scientist', 'evil bureaucrat' and 'knowledgeable nerd', or outrageously dumb, or the actors simply don't fill in their shoes convincingly. The monsters are unstoppable when it comes to extras, but laughably ineffectual when it comes to our heroes, rendering the fight scenes impotent. The writing is weak, mind-bogglingly artificial, or secondary to coming up with new monsters of the week, and the science is either based on too much guesswork and fantasy, or very lacking, as evidenced by the fact that they never even run basic tests or take readings when the anomalies appear, and they never bother to explain how time-portals always connect only with a moving planet Earth. Entertaining at times due to its subject matter, but the flaws are bad enough to leave me very bored.



Riverworld  

2-part mini-series by the Sci-Fi channel (I refuse to accept their silly name change) that is set-up to become a potential TV series but I doubt this will happen. It is based on the classic sci-fi books by Philip Jose Farmer that are full of thoughts and ideas, but these writers stupidly decided to re-imagine it as a Lost clone. This alone is enough to sink this show. Some people die in a terrorist bomb and find themselves in the strange afterlife of Riverworld where innumerable dead people from various places and times on Earth hang out, including historical figures like Mark Twain and Tomoe Gozen the female samurai. Some are given missions by mysterious blue creatures, and when they die, they come back to life again in seemingly random times in the future like some kind of computer game. The writers stray very far from the books, cram some elements from many of the books into 3 hours, and reduce a thinking man's sci-fi story to an action-adventure with simplistic good vs. bad men, and an elusive mystery Macguffin of the new world a la Lost. Good acting (except for the badly fake Japanese accent by Goossen), mildly entertaining, but quite pointless, and very insulting to fans.



Hex  
Based on the first season.

A girl in a boarding school finds she has supernatural powers and is hounded by a demon, her best friend turns into a ghost, all making her life terribly complicated. Comparisons to Buffy are not altogether wrong as they do share quite a few elements: The capable blonde heroine who finds herself with inherited supernatural powers and a fate not of her choosing, complex relationships and even romance with evil, a school setting, horny friends, strong character development, and a balance of comedy and drama. Differences include the lack of action, a lack of creativity and risk-taking, and not enough strong characters. The real flaw however is the inconsistent and lazy writing, the most egregious involving the mechanics of a ghost who inconsistently interacts with the real world, and the deterministic and therefore weakening approach to characters and plot development. Fatalism is always boring.



Shut Eye  
Based on most of the first season.

I have a low tolerance for crime shows unless they feature something beyond just the violence and a bunch of people behaving like animals. Some class, some cleverness, a protagonist with some humanity, some crime-fighting, anything. This has none of the above. It combines con-games revolving around a fortune-telling scamming business, a unique 'gypsy mafia', and some fantasy psychic visions. At the center is a non-gypsy scammer working for some very cruel and hard gypsies. Surrounding him are a dozen tricksters, liars, criminals and general low-lifes, including his wife and son. Everyone with no exception is despicable in their own way with no redeeming features. The psychic fantasy angle isn't interesting, with vague visions, and it looks like they spent ten times more effort on the special-effects than on the writing. Even the cons are not clever, just slimy. Everyone behaves based on base drives and impulses, often doing incredibly stupid things, and the violence and lies are everywhere. This does not make these people interesting, quite the opposite. With every episode it got worse.



Magicians, The  
Based on almost the whole first season.

Harry Potter, the horny teenager version as imagined (ripped-off) by SyFy. Let's see, there's a secret school for witchcraft hidden behind spells, school categories for budding young wizards, spell sports and tests, rogue wizards, an evil menace constantly in the background, a chosen special boy with extra powers, a geeky girl that is extremely dedicated to studying spells, etc. There are also elements of Narnia with hidden entrances to magical alternate worlds, as imagined by a writer's family and kids with dark secrets. So the copying is quite blatant. Add to this pan-sexual obnoxious angry horny teenagers, and scarier bloody violence, and you've got this show. Except that this isn't the serious problem. What really sinks this one is the very strange characterizations. I've seen this before with shows like Ozark and The OA: The dialogue is unusual and intelligent, but the characters are narcissistic, cruel and unreal, not quite human, always with selfish agendas, their emotions explored clinically and awkwardly, and the relationships (especially sexual ones) are cold and clunky as hell. Besides everyone in this show being thoroughly unlikeable, they also aren't quite all-there, and watching their relationships is especially painful. So, despite the complex story and dialogue, the characters are just way off and very poorly written and acted, and this makes it increasingly harder to enjoy the show as it goes. It's a combination of the detached writing, and the casting and acting, and I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if someone told me that the people in charge of this show were suffering from Aspergers, because that's what it feels like very often.



V (2009)  
Based on the first one and a half seasons.

Like Battlestar Galactica, this remake tries to upgrade an old 80s show with mixed results, and is ultimately a failure due to constant poor writing. Unlike BSG, this show is a remake of a great show, and the remake is a mixture of mediocre, bland and bad, as opposed to BSG's mix of great and terrible. We all know the V aliens that visit Earth have a devious, brutal agenda and are reptiles hiding behind masks this time, so the pilot gets this over with quickly (too quickly) and sets up the series with a handful of people that get together to fight the aliens whom everyone thinks are saviors. The effects are upgraded, and the writers now have the job of re-imagining an alien invasion of human psychology across the whole planet - a very promising sci-fi setup. But the stupidities, bad writing contrivances, and blandness start from day one and accumulate with every episode. Here are some off the top of my head:

Firstly, all of the actors seem to have been cast for looks over personality. This is a world populated by models, not exactly helping plausibility. I presume the queen alien rules over them due to biological dictatorship, otherwise it would be hard to imagine how such a bland creature lacking personality could become a supreme leader. The idea that she convinced the whole human world based on her expressionless and obviously masked face is very implausible, and doing this without extreme censorship (as with the original series), and blaming it on the humans 'needing a savior' is pathetic writing. Then there is the alien agenda: They don't seem to have any, except to want to play petty power-games just to pad out the series. In the original, their priority was on getting supplies. And why would they carefully manipulate the whole planet for decades only to bring in an invading armada? What possible grand purpose could they have to spend weeks and weeks of work on a single teenage boy's state of mind? And then there is the resistance: In the original, it was a growing network, here it's four people. Pathetic. Other miscellanea: The traitorous reporter character makes no sense as he suddenly swerves from scheming skeptic to devoted follower. Ultimate stupidity: The resistance brands all their members by cutting into their scalps. In one episode, a traitor blames his actions on 'we cannot win', in the next he says that he believes in the visitors. Then there is the same contrivance of BSG where we don't know who will turn out to be an alien. Then there is whole confusing thing about the aliens being emotionless all their evolutionary lives, but then they develop emotions just by talking to humans or wearing synthetic skin. Ridiculous. And if the majority of visitors are emotionless, then why do they need 'bliss', a purely emotional state of mind imposed on them by their queen like a drug? All of this shows the writers are making it up as they go along and have no consistency control or an inkling of discipline to think things through. Season two, as expected, only gets worse, with the show reduced to a petty soapish struggle between a handful of people and catty aliens, and lots of nonsensical, poor writing dealing with emotions.



Caprica  
Based on most of the single season.

An extremely poor Battlestar Galactica prequel spin-off featuring the worst of that show's severe writing flaws made even worse. It takes place about 60 years before the Cylon attack and explores the rise of the Cylons, the company and family that created them, the circles of conspiracies, religious nuts and criminals that revolve around this new technology, and an attempt to portray the cultures and religions of the original worlds from BSG. The biggest problem with this show is very simple: The writers are terrible. Sure, the show is based on story arcs, complex story-lines, high drama, tragedies and a unique sci-fi setup. But the brainless writers decided to make all the worlds depend on some bratty and obviously dumb teenagers, giving them not only super-intelligent talents that are never believable, but also magical abilities to control virtual worlds, create souls, and whatnot, all straight out of a bad, undisciplined fantasy outing. The character motivations are so terrible, they seem random and never make any sense. The approach to religion is laughably bad and superficial. And the culture of Caprica consists of duplicating the USA and just changing some names for things. The Tauron culture does better, but half the time it feels like they just think they are in a mafia movie. After watching this, I feel like re-reading some Frank Herbert or Asimov to remind myself of what sci-fi is all about.



Jeremiah  
Based on most of the first season.

A poor post-apocalyptic series by the maker of Babylon 5. The setup is that a virus has wiped out every human past the age of puberty (can viruses be that effective?), leaving behind children to fight for survival. The show takes place 15 years after the event, with various pockets and groups of survivors, each with their own problems, attitudes, goals and methods of survival. Two men travel the countryside in search of a mysterious Valhalla Sector that may have something to do with the government and the virus, using a group of people in a nuclear shelter with many resources as their base of operations, going on missions of information-gathering, alliances and aid while inevitably coming across many adventures amidst the general anarchy. This is a good setup for a show, and the wide variety of survivors is plausible, ranging from morally bankrupt narcissists in charge of military weapons, to Mad Max style bartering towns, to people training from books to bring back civilization. But that's where the good stuff ends. The leads are OK but very forgettable, and many of the leaders are poorly cast, with the worst example being Theo: a skimpily dressed bitch who would most probably be raped and left for dead in a world like this, yet this show thinks hundreds would see her as their leader. There is a very implausible lack of starvation, malnutrition, diseases, and hygiene problems, with everyone looking too clean and healthy. The lead has an annoying habit of preaching to everyone in the country, sure of his moral superiority. The plot moves along slowly trying to hook an audience with hints of a convoluted mystery, while most of the episodes are filler drama. And even the better episodes are sometimes let down by poor attention to detail and quality in the writing. One example is a military outfit which for some reason saw fit to wire up their own base with explosive so that anyone could blow them up with a press of a button thus conveniently ending an episode neatly. Jericho this isn't.



Crusade  
Based on most of the single season.

A short-lived Babylon 5 spin-off by the same creator taking place in the same universe. Numerous rumors were spread about its cancellation, but since the show isn't much good, these are irrelevant. The setup is a weak contrivance: An alien species has infected Earth's atmosphere with a virus that will take effect in 5 years and a captain in his special space-ship has to roam the universe in search of a cure. And then there is the strangely unfocused wandering of the ship spending too much time with adventures that seem insignificant when compared with the pending deaths of billions. The show promises story arcs but, like Babylon 5, seems content mostly with various episodic adventures that come up while exploring unknown areas of space, most of which we have seen in many other shows. The approach to cultures, aliens, politics and humor is simplistic, just like Babylon 5. The leads are all passable but most never come to life and are therefore forgettable. The general tone of the show is unique, attempting a fusion of juvenile fantasy and sci-fi by having a telepath, a thief, and a wizard... I mean technomage and using names like Excalibur and Galen. But this comes off more like an engineered attempt to draw in a larger audience rather than a well-thought out world. And finally, many of the special effects look cheap and unreal, like an old computer game. In short, there are many other much better sci-fi shows out there about the exploration of space in a space ship.



Revelations  

Religious-apocalyptic horror mini-series nonsense about the end of days and a nun and physicist that try to stop it. A Satanist with special powers is on the other side, stirring up a prison riot, trying to kill a comatose girl struck by lightning for wearing a slutty outfit who is suddenly channeling messages from God and the physicist's dead daughter. In the meantime, there are politics between various factions of the church, Satanic feline twin fashion models that don't do anything useful, a Satanic conversion of a troubled youth related to the physicist, virgin births, both holy and evil, and more. Pullman is bland as the physicist, Rhys-Davies is wasted, and McElhone never registers any religious conviction as a nun, and her character is supposed to be a skeptic investigator yet she believes everything without proof. Somehow, this series manages to turn off all its viewers: Christianity is preached, but scripture is misquoted and twisted, and most of the movie features gleeful violence, horror and sadism from the Satanists, and yet the Satanists are only typical Hollywood bad guys with no raison d'etre without Christianity. The series as a whole fails to excite or horrify, going for implausible Hollywoodized dramatizations and sets, designed to pull in Da Vinci fans but it doesn't do anything interesting, reminding me of The Seventh Sign. If you want a humorous treatment of this topic with muscle, try Day of the Beast instead.



Blade (Marvel)  
Based on most of the first season.

The movies were only above-average superhero entertainment, focusing on a lot of cool techno-dark vampire action and over-the-top shenanigans with blood, and by the third one I had had enough. This series is just a cash-in that looks like it should be entertaining but never is. For starters, the lead they got to replace Snipes has zero personality, maintaining a grim look on his face throughout the show and droning monotonously in a menacing whisper-snarl as if he were trying to channel Batman. He simply never registers as anything and is instantly forgettable. For the story of Krista, a revenge-driven female ex-soldier forced into a life as a vampire who becomes Blade's ally, they got another non-human performance, but she at least makes up for her flat delivery with very non-flat eye-candy. None of the rest of the cast stand out, and although this isn't as bad as Mutant X, it is almost in the same category. The continuous story lines involving complex machinations and agendas amidst the hierarchy of vampire houses helps but although it seems like it should be interesting, nothing surprising ever happens, as if a factory had churned out a vampire series. In short, action-packed entertainment and it does look cool at times, but this is generally dull as dishwater.



Demons  
Based on the single season.

Yet another attempt by the British to copy Buffy, this one so blatant that it gives the college warrior a foreign (American) 'watcher', also by the name of Rupert. The warrior, a Van Helsing descendant, is male this time, and his assistants include his girlfriend and a blind psychic, as they battle supernatural monsters in every episode, with only hints of character-development and story arcs. Despite its unoriginality, it could have been fun, except the protagonist is bland and looks bored, the watcher has a terribly fake American accent, the blind woman forgets she's blind, the rest of the characters don't register much personality, the writing is predictable and pedestrian, the monster masks are silly, and the effects are cheap. The British are typically much better than this. Shows what can happen when you copy instead of finding your own inspiration, I suppose.



Dead Zone, The  
Based on the first season.

Cronenberg directed this story to great satisfaction in 1983. Do we really need to see it again padded out to multiple seasons? Johnny Smith becomes even more psychic after an accident that put him in a coma for 6 years, seeing dangerous and traumatic events in the past and future. Lots of inner torment and drama ensues. His visions are shown (too) vividly with great special effects and computer graphics, and the acting and direction are strong. This is all moderately interesting but the episodic nature of the show, the repetitive Kassandra complex drama and the coincidences where he always happens to be in the right place and see amazing things all gets repetitive and unrealistic after a while. It very quickly becomes like a psychic CSI rather than about the personality, dread and the burden of living with such a gift as in the book. Uninteresting.



Collector, The  
Based on half of the first season.

The setup is that a 14th century fallen priest has been recruited by Satan to collect souls for him, only recently, Satan has given him permission to try to save them before he collects them. This sounds like a morality show in the vein of Quantum Leap, and it does sometimes plod through the same kind of simplistic preaching, but mostly, it is just a childish, game-like take on morality, ethics and karma. The contestants (AKA human beings), like in a computer adventure game, have to find the right combination or push the right ethical buttons within 48 hours to be saved and go on to the next round. The good news is that each episode ends unpredictably, with some people finding redemption through an unexpected angle, others refusing or continuing to do the wrong thing due to personal fears or arrogance, and others resulting in different conclusions and twists. The bad news is that the setup is too silly and the writing is too immature. Satan appears in different forms and ages and has a wicked sense of humor even though the Collector is humorless which is OK, but when the episodes range from comically silly to melodramatic, it alienates the audience. Although the show is episodic, there is an annoying story arc involving his attempts to help a bitchy crack-whore, and there's a reporter with an autistic child with cliched mystical abilities. Badly done.



Quantum Leap  
Based on the first season.

Typical simplistic, mildly entertaining 80s show that, at first, seems conceptually reminiscent of Sliders. The hero leaps through time, taking over other people's bodies during a pivotal period in their life and has to correct a momentous mistake they will make in the future/past in order to be able to leap back. This formula is contrived crap both scientifically and conceptually and having to fix other people's 'mistakes' is wrong no matter how you look at it. Add to this the sanctimonious and politically correct moral attitude of the show and it becomes unbearable. Also, although it's based on time-travel, there is no sci-fi, and every episode merely features a different human drama story during the limited range between 1950 and 1980. It's still got amusing characters and entertaining situations, balancing action, comedy and some interesting historical detail, but this is mild at best and the preachy moral bent ruins it.



Person of Interest  
Based on most of the first season.

Although labelled as sci-fi, this is actually just another in a long line of detective, crime-solving series. You see, the sci-fi setup of this show is that a brilliant computer programmer working for the government, set up a system that searches all e-mails, phone conversations and video footage in the whole country for threats. A system that actually exists, except that the makers of this show decided to make it a kind of all-knowing program that can find crimes before they are committed, and with 100% accuracy. Besides never making any mistakes, or never just warning about potential crimes with probabilities, this program is even psychic. In one episode, it warns that a police officer is now in serious trouble. Can you imagine a program that examines the life of a police officer who is always in danger and under threats, and decides that today she is in real trouble? Neither can I. Because it would have to be omniscient. A program would even have difficulty telling apart an explicit threat from a joke with any sort of reliable accuracy. In any case, this programmer, ever since he was ousted from his job, only gets information from this program written in god-code through a back-door, in the form of social security numbers of people who may commit crimes or be victims in crimes. So this show would have us believe that this hacker, who throughout the show has no problem accessing and breaking into any system in the world and bringing up exactly the file they need in seconds, cannot get any more information than that from his own system. And why? Because this show wants him and his action-figure partner to investigate the person until they come up with a reason for the trouble. Which brings me back to what I said: It's just a crime-solving show. Replace the god-computer with a private investigator who gets leads, jobs or investigates any suspicious activity, and you basically have the same show. Except in this show we also get a Bond-like action-man (without the charm) who is ex-military and whatnot, who uses his skills to save ordinary people from ordinary crime thanks to the pointers by his hacker friend. Sounds familiar? Do yourself a favor and check out The Equalizer first - it was done better the first time around, with more personality and without insulting the audience this much. Or check out any other crime-problem-solving show for that matter. The writing is also mostly episodic crime-of-the-week with the occasional paranoid conspiracy or cases that involve their friends and their past, some of them entertaining, except that it's impossible to get past the premise. This show even pulls out that old canard and Hollywood fantasy of a super-hacker better than everyone else who is a female, and a hot one at that. Why do all J.J. Abrams produced shows insult their audiences?



Total Recall 2070  
Based on scattered episodes of the single season.

Sci-fi show that is a blend of the Blade Runner/Total Recall worlds of Philip Dick, a noirish cop show (without a narrative), and some elements of Star Trek's Data, the android in search of humanity and his maker. The writing explores themes of mind-manipulation, memory, androids that dream and aspire to be human, evil corporations, Mars colonies, dystopian future, and man vs machines in an atmospheric recreation of Blade Runner that is too low-budget to be immersive. The structure is mostly episodic with some two-parters and occasional hints of a story arc. Unfortunately, it's not as interesting as it sounds. The dialog is very cliched, especially at the beginning of the show, as if they copied-pasted from other movies without transporting the rest of the environment to back the words. The wooden actors don't help either, the writing rarely does interesting things, and all this together with a dark, monotonously soft-spoken and dreamy atmosphere, constantly threatens to put you to sleep.



Cold Lazarus  

Dennis Potter's follow-up series to Karaoke, exploring what it would be like for people to pick his brain, thoughts and writings after his death, necessitating the use of sci-fi to explore such fantasies. It's several hundred years into the future in a dystopian society of ubiquitous commercialism with entertainment tycoons running the world, and a population that lacks any meaning or real experiences, with the expected terrorists that demand 'reality or nothing'. A group of scientists have managed to tap into the preserved brain of Daniel Feeld from Karaoke, extracting memories and thoughts as digestible entertainment and experiences. Two powerful, arrogant and eccentric American moguls compete for what they see are huge commercial possibilities while the scientists and rebels grapple with the social and personal consequences of using a human being in such a manner. The concepts and ideas make it sound interesting, but the actual product is mostly awkward and inauthentic sci-fi and characters probably more let down by the production and direction than the writing, some tedious dialogue, endless scenes of watching another person's memories as if they were movies (a ridiculous idea feebly justified in some of the dialogue), and many badly faked American accents, with the occasional interesting scene or idea.



Andromeda  
Based on the first season and some scattered episodes.

An inferior Farscape clone with healthy doses of Gene Rodenberry's bleeding heart idealism and racial conflict, and some Blakes 7. In terms of Farscape characters we have the resourceful, idealistic human who came from a different world through a black hole, a fiery female fighter, a spiritual, preachy alien, a weird-behaving colored alien, a huge warrior with a chip on his shoulder, and character-driven drama and humor. The main story arc is somewhat interesting with a captain of the Commonwealth getting stuck in a black hole for 300 years only to find that the Commonwealth has disintegrated and the universe turned to chaos. The race of humans known as Nietzscheans who follow Nietzsche's writings, self-interests and evolutionary gene pool superiority morals serve as the interesting opposing force, but the writers often seem to be in over their heads when it comes to keeping their behaviour consistent. But the real problems are that the writers periodically serve bad science fiction (especially an all-too-human AI), deus ex machina solutions by a brilliant engineer who seems to be able to invent anything only to forget about it later, some cheesy cliches, some painfully badly delivered humor, and too much bleeding-heart preaching. The acting and personalities are weak relative to Farscape, and the makeup effects are sometimes laughable. Some episodes show traces of the Farscape magic but they only make me want to watch Farscape again. This show gets points for not being another stiff Star Trek show but unfortunately they didn't pull it off.

The first season starts out horribly cheesy but soon becomes more acceptable, showing occasional potential and more character. Subsequent seasons soon revert back to cheese however and by the third season, the show discards logic, story arcs and personality drives and becomes a ridiculously cheesy action show revolving around the main character's ego.



Time Trax  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

Instantly forgettable time-travel series that opts for the cheapest sci-fi plot device: A man from the future who travels to the present time. He is a cop tracking down criminals that escaped him using the only method possible: time-travel. Even culture-shock and social adjustment is supposedly made irrelevant by making him a student of history, as if that would help anyone adjust to another century. And that is the biggest problem with this show: A lack of imagination. He has several almost super-human abilities which come into play during the physical action sequences, but his supposed super-intelligence never makes an appearance. In fact, he does many rather dumb things. His assistant, in the spirit of Knight Rider, is a computer with an all-too-human personality, in this case a mother-figure know-it-all with several hi-tech tricks up its sleeve. Except that it isn't as entertaining or cool as in Knight Rider, and a holograph computer with hokey anthropomorphisms is never interesting. The rest of the characters are forgettable, and the writing is pedestrian. Some light story arcs regarding an arch-nemesis and a love interest make for a backdrop to the episodic evil plot or criminal-of-the-week structure that often make use of future technology for their nefarious deeds. Nothing really bad, but neither is there anything of interest.



Listener, The  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

There are dozens of shows about psychics using their gifts to solve mysteries, so what new angle does this show have to offer? None whatsoever. This is a tired show in a tired genre featuring yet another psychic whose gifts seem to include many different supernatural abilities based on writers' whims, who works as a paramedic, forms ties with law enforcement, and just happens to witness a whole lot of crimes and mysteries which only he can solve. Yawn. To make matters worse, the show is mostly episodic mystery of the week, with a really poor and uninteresting longer story arc about his past which makes minimal appearances. There is nothing even close to a compelling character, and everyone is pretty, including the doctors and horribly unconvincing cop. Nothing to see here.



Being Erica  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

This is about as 'chick-flick' as it gets. For starters, this is for people that thought that the best thing about Ally Mcbeal was Ally herself, despite the fact that she was often annoyingly neurotic and made a mountain out of every romantic molehill. If you want to see a show that dedicates itself to similar dramas without the balance of the legal aspects and male characters in that show, then this might just be for you. It's about Erica, a thirty-something that has made a series of 'bad decisions' all her life and now finds herself a mess of anxieties, romantic complications and confusions, and a life that is going nowhere. In short, your average modern woman. A god-like therapist enters her life and starts helping her to fix her problems one by one by using time-travel: Sending her back to pivotal moments so she can see if she can change her life for the better, which, more often than not turns out to be impossible, yet she emerges from it with a valuable life-lesson. And that's another thing: Some shows shoot themselves in the foot by inserting corny life-lessons into their endings, but this show is almost only about life-lessons. I wouldn't mind it if the lessons were deep, insightful, unusual or interesting in some way, but the ones here are self-empowering pop-psychology cliched nonsense that weekend writers were crapping out into women's magazines for decades. Things like 'it only matters what you think', or learning how to go after what you want, being honest with your friends, and so on. And then there are the men: If you ever needed proof that this one is only for chicks, the many guys in this show are about the only ones undressing for the camera, they are all hunks and smooth models, and they have that impossible one-dimensional fantasy-male character that you often find in chick-flicks: They're either just jerks, or ultra-sensitive to Erica's every need and emotion. So, basically, feminists complain about how women are often portrayed in movies, then they do exactly the same. To be fair, this show does have its moments, but they're eclipsed by all the above.



Firestarter 2: Rekindled  

Sci-Fi mini-series sequel in name only, completely violates the original's story, characters and themes. Charlie McGee is now a charmless teenage brat, still on the run from the men in black behind the experiment that gave her superpowers, and having difficulties with her sex life due to an uncontrollable connection between her lust and her pyrokinesis. When a naive young investigator tracks her down, things become complicated again, with Malcolm McDowell as an insane scientist, Dennis Hopper as a fatalist with time-vision, and a slew of evil 'X-Boys' with superpowers, the next experimental generation. Thus, instead of the horror of psychic superpowers and the human drama angle of the original, the story has now become a fantasy-superhero action movie with sloppy writing. McDowell and Hopper are wasted powerhouses here, the writers seem to have no idea what to do with Charlie, and the ending is so nonsensical, it's bizarre.



Torchwood  
Based on most of the first two seasons.

A Doctor Who spin-off series. Torchwood is a not-so-secret Earth institute formed to study, capture and use alien technology to defend the planet. Week after week, their hi-tech radars discover dangerous alien devices, threats, alien attacks, or monsters that need to be captured, thwarted and hidden from public view. The team is very loose and informal, to say the least, trying to have fun with a job that keeps them so busy. The result is a blend of Men in Black, and fast moving episodic X-Files thrills. The approach is more adult-oriented than Doctor Who, employing a touch of violence and gore, and lots of sexual content, but the stories are the same blend of populist sci-fi, entertaining action, and comedy, with frequent forays into drama and emotion.

As a concept, and given the success of Doctor Who, this should be a great show. But there are so many things wrong with this one I hardly know where to start: The sci-fi rules are obviously made up as they go along and sometimes contradict themselves even in the same episode. The writing is sloppy, the sci-fi gadgets keep coming out of nowhere as lazy plot devices, many crises often revolve around a 'time-rift' which is just another weak plot device that seems to be able to change the universe in any way the writers please. Emotional scenes almost always feel forced, overwrought and too melodramatic. The sexuality is so obviously a forced gay agenda on the part of Russell Davies despite his protests otherwise; The problem is not the homosexuality, but the sacrificing of character and writing just to insert yet another scene of rampant snogging, flirting and shagging, the characters' slutty bisexuality and omni-sexuality seemingly drifting like the wind from one creature to another, constantly undermining the show and any attempts at drama. The lead character is an unlikeable arrogant slut that seems to think he is a gift to the universe, his immortality removing any sense of danger and replacing it with annoying I-can't-die angst. Another character is an annoying over-emotional woman who constantly bosses and mothers people around based on her whims. The team is so incredibly sloppy professionally that they make it impossible to believe that these people are trusted by a government, have lasted for decades, and are able to survive so many crises. Etc. The restrictions set by the fan-base in Doctor Who are probably what made the comeback so successful, but this unrestricted show is a mess.



Fallen    

A mini-series released as three TV movies. A teenager realizes he is not quite human when he starts to understand animals, and angels either try to kill him or protect him, and he is made to understand his destiny which may involve saving angels or something more sinister. This fantasy series is based on the Bible with its setup of God, angels, Nephilim, etc. As such, it should be criticized by its adherence to Biblical lore rather than on its imagination. For one thing, it sticks to the Christian version of angels that claims they can rebel and fall, which never made sense to me. The angels I know have no free will, thus undermining this show's raison d'être. But even after accepting this viewpoint, it fails on a logical level: Why are angels sent by God on a mission suddenly killing humans indiscriminately and behaving like jerks and bitches? How did they become so human? Why are all fights reduced to fists and sword-fights instead of something more powerful or supernatural? Why does the Redeemer seem immortal one second then mortal the next? Although the show does become hammy at times, the real problem is that it is impossible to enjoy the story since one can't get past the ridiculously illogical setup. Other low points include preaching to Azazel about feminism and respecting women, and blaming Satan for all wars and humanity's mistakes. At least Dogma was fun because it knew it was being funny.



Grimm  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

Bland, uninspired and nonsensical Buffy follower. A cop, as part of the Grimm family, finds that he comes from a long line of hunters of supernatural evil. Only he can see their true faces, and he uses some kind of super-fighting genes to take them down. So far it's like Buffy, except it's a policeman instead of a high-schooler, it has almost no humor, and the actors are almost all forgettable. Even the switch to a cop format is a big mistake, since they basically combined cop-show with Buffy, and this is very uninspired considering that there are hundreds of cop-shows using this very limited crime(monster)-of-the-week format. Another big problem is that they didn't bother in the slightest to make this remotely plausible. For one thing, every single case of his somehow involves a monster, which means that every criminal is not human. In addition, his partner is somehow oblivious to all of this, even though he witnesses one bizarre case after another with superhuman feats of physical strength, impossible deductions by his Grimm partner, and very bizarre deaths. As far as characters go, they are all as bland as they get, except for Monroe, who lends some humor and sarcasm as a rehabilitated monster that helps the Grimm-cop, but he isn't enough. The creatures are also largely silly, all of them flashing yet another unconvincing CGI beast-face every time they get emotional, before reverting back to their human self with only a bit of fighting skill. Even the mythology that typically moves at a snails pace is uninteresting. Definitely not worthwhile.



Merlin (2008)  
Based on most of the first season.

Of all the shows to model after, why would a show pick a bad one like Smallville? The laughably contrived setup is that Merlin, Arthur, Lancelot, Morgana, Guinevere et al are all teenagers living in the same town, and, like superman, Merlin has to hide his superpowers from a law by Uther Pendragon who banished sorcery under penalty of death. Episode after episode features a crisis brought about by magic and monsters, and Merlin has to secretly save the day with the help of Arthur's sword and the guidance of his father.. I mean a wise old mentor. In other words, a cheesy teenage fantasy show in a castle, where even a historically challenged person such as myself could spot dozens of anachronisms in the speech, dresses, and attitudes towards class, gender and race (Guinevere was a black woman?). The CGI effects are bad, the characters don't seem to learn or grow much, the fight scenes are masked by rapid cuts, and the writing is mostly episodic and repetitive. At least this show isn't whiny and has more humor than Smallville, making it slightly better, but this is basically just juvenile cheese.



Storm of the Century  

A Stephen King mini-series, by-the-numbers and full of recycled latter day King cliches. Some good moments but over-stretched to 4 hours, and the ending makes no sense. The tale is about an evil man that knows the town's dark secrets, manipulating everyone and causing havoc until the final evil ultimatum.



Tommyknockers  

By-the-numbers mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's last good book. A woman finds an alien object on her grounds and starts digging it out, releasing powerful forces into the town that converts everyone into evil geniuses, slowly transforming them physically as well. Jim Gardner, a local alcoholic poet, is immune to these effects, but can he fight a whole town and his own inner demons? Mostly robotic direction and weak acting, capturing none of the heart of the novel.



My Own Worst Enemy  
Based on most of the single season.

This is one of those rare shows that never get off the ground because of a completely illogical premise. A spy agency develops a way to install another personality into their spies, making them oblivious to the fact they are spies, living a normal life with families. But why would this help the spy in any way? If they were sleeper spies in another country and could be awakened whenever they are needed or when they are in danger, then it may make sense. But this not only doesn't help them, it also puts them in danger, and adds many, many complications and therefore more ways of things going wrong. In any case, the implementation of this concept is entertaining, with Christian Slater depicting a split personality that not only breaks down and makes the agency lose control over the switch, but one that also starts fighting with himself. One is a family man, the other is a psychotic and cruel spy. The action-thriller aspects of this show are modelled after 24, with constant action and violence, and are not realistic but are entertaining. The acting is also pretty good. But it's hard to enjoy a show when it makes no sense.



Pretender, The  
Based on most of the first season.

Vastly overrated cult show. The concept here is the biggest problem: A man can pretend to be anyone else. But the show can't seem to make up its mind what this means exactly, and the various abilities this man has aren't entertaining or interesting. One ability seems to be to just know how to do things without training or study. This is hardly impressive and it doesn't exactly celebrate ingenuity. Another is to know what happened to a certain person using some kind of supernatural super-empathy visions. Another is the ability to lie about being someone and have everyone believe him in seconds, using mind-control maybe? Add to this an additional big problem that most of the episodes in the first season are formulaic and repetitive (he takes on a new career, helps someone, then escapes in the nick of time before the Centre catches him), and you have one very uninteresting show. As if that weren't enough, add a female character that is so over-the-top bitchy and dull, she seems to have come from a soap opera. There is some story arc regarding his background, parents and the mysterious agency called the Centre that is constantly after him, but most of the show consists of him adopting a new career every episode, doing good deeds helping little people with their problems which somehow always involve a bad person that needs to be put in his place.



Invisible Man, The  
Based on half of the first season.

A thief is manipulated into volunteering in a scientific experiment where a gland is inserted into his brain that allows him to be invisible. He is then forced to work for the government in miscellaneous jobs while playing cat and mouse games with his arch-nemesis who killed his brother and who wants to reproduce the experiment. The show is mostly episodic, involving hi-tech FBI crime-solving thrills or spy action mixed with some light humor, and feels often like a throwback to the cheesy 80s action shows. Somewhat entertaining but the writing is very weak and unoriginal, the science fiction is inconsistent and unconvincing, and the actors are all uninteresting.



Second Chance  
Based on scattered episodes of the single season.

I wasn't aware that they still made shows like this in this day and age. This is a throwback to the cheesy 80s action series and a bad clone of "Six Million Dollar Man". An old, retired law-enforcement man who is killed is secretly brought back to life with an experimental procedure for a medical experiment, only he comes back as a 30-year-old with super-strength and he is backed by eccentric billionaires with access to advanced technology. After some womanizing, he finds his calling helping his son with special criminals, only he works outside the law and uses his special powers and his rich, hi-tech saviors' hi-tech tricks. The structure is an old-school mixture of episodic case-of-the-week and some snippets of a story arc involving the strange rich twins that brought him back to life and their past experiments, as well as the old man's family. Besides this old-school structure and Knight-Rider-esque approach to crime-fighting, the actors are quite bland, the unlikeable protagonist never seems to even try to channel the mentality of an old man (this detail is really bothersome and a missed opportunity), and the writing and characters all feel like they came out of an assembly line.



VR.5  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

Produced back when VR was still a new thing full of possibilities, this TV series is certainly dated in its effects and technical approach to VR. But suspension of disbelief isn't enough with this one, since it also features weak, cliched writing. The setup is a female tech-wizard inspired by her dead father who discovers the next level in VR by connecting a phone connection to her VR system, allowing her to take her caller's subconscious into VR worlds and explore their mind and thoughts. This is similar to The Cell I suppose, and the episodic stories usually involve her helping conflicted people with deep dark secrets, which is somewhat reminiscent of Quantum Leap in the sense that it involves the episodic fixing of other people's lives via sci-fi. There is also a slow story arc involving her past and the circumstances in which her family died, as well as conspiratorial developments involving the mysterious "Committee" which tries to control anything VR-related and its onion-layered management and secret ties with her father. It all progresses pretty much as expected without surprises, the protagonist is bland, and her guru-roommate is never believable. The details also never really make sense, as it is unclear why the Committee need her at all since they can simply take away her equipment and use it, the people she calls never seem to react realistically to the strange phone calls they get, what she can or can't do once within the VR world is never quite consistent, and of course, the whole Hollywood concept of a female doing the tech-stuff better than anyone else is tiresome.



Merlin  

Mini-series with an impressive cast attempting to retell the Arthurian legends through the life and eyes of Merlin. Unfortunately, the writing is terrible, the approach is mostly for children yet contains violent battles, the legends have been twisted and simplified into a dull fairy tale, there is too much cuteness and forced comedy, the special effects are weak, and most of the actors chew the scenery. Sam Neill brings class and strong character to the show and there are some good moments but this is just another failure in the long line of bad Arthurian adaptations.



Knights of Bloodsteel  

Lame fantasy mini-series. Recently, fantasy has gotten a big boost in popularity with a depth that appeals to adults, but this feels like a throwback to the cheesy geek fodder. The plot involves a world of humans, elves, sorcerers, goblins and dragons and a designated group of four reluctant warriors sent on a quest to retrieve the magical crucible that holds great power, while the evil Dragon Eye and his minions fight with them and compete at every stage. Sound familiar? The biggest problem with this series however, is that it never feels like another world. Between the politically-correct casting, the cheesy dialogue that can't decide whether it wants to be flowery or a modern-day spoof, the cardboard leads that hold no character, the constantly bitchy female warrior, the surveillance and robotic gadgets that feel out of place, and the really bad CGI effects, this never transports you to a world of magic.



Harsh Realm  
Based on half of the single season.

A rapidly cancelled and very incomplete sci-fi series by Chris Carter of X-Files fame about a virtual reality world, with several amusing parallels to Matrix (which came out in the same year). The military has invented a virtual world for training, but it has taken on a life of its own, and Santiago, a renegade soldier, has taken over this world with brutal dictatorship and idealism, and even threatens to annihilate the real world to ensure that his own world becomes dominant. Soldiers are sent into the Harsh Realm to attempt to bring Santiago down and they find they cannot go back until they complete their mission. Since this is a Carter show, complex conspiracies, alliances and double-crosses start piling up. But the insurmountable problem with this series is that the concept is ridiculous and the writers consistently demonstrate a lack of even basic understanding of computers. For starters, this takes place in our world and time, and the world is created by the military, but somehow they have managed to invent super-computers that can recreate the whole world and all of its occupants in absolute detail, as well as recreate all humans with their complex emotions and consciences intact. And why is this necessary for military training in the first place? And why can't they simply switch it off, disconnect people, or simply fight a program with programmers from the outside? The Matrix and the Otherland novels explained the mechanics properly, but this show never bothers. Then there are the constantly laughable details that make no sense: 'zipped files of testosterone' used for fighting, black 'unprogrammed' voids, 'glitches' that neatly allow people to walk through fences and nothing else, etc. And then there is the lead soldier, who is so bland and stupid that he risks real lives for virtual people and dogs, and constantly makes bad decisions. The first few episodes start revealing aspects of this bad setup, the rest wander off into more interesting stand-alone episodes, then the show ends abruptly.



Prisoner, The (2009)  

Mini-series 're-imagining' of the original cult series. The original didn't really need a remake, and even if it did, to improve on it would take much talent bordering on genius. This one features Ian McKellen, and limited itself to 6 parts, so I was interested in giving it a shot. The story, once again, involves a man who finds himself trapped in the 'Village', where everyone is a number and doesn't seem to know about another life outside, or do they? #2 is the psychologically manipulative near-god of the village, and beyond the village there is only desert, glass towers in a mirage, and the surreal bouncy spheres as protection mechanisms that somehow stop people from escaping. Unfortunately, this is modeled after Lost: Throw a confusing bunch of metaphysical nonsense and possibilities including dreams, the supernatural, the subconscious, Matrix-like hi-tech manipulation of reality, drugs, alternate realities, conspiracies, etc. make the characters utter things that could be construed as deep and mysterious and make them seem like they know more than they let on, draw superficial parallels between random objects, and finally, throw in some parallel back-story that supposedly reveals things inch by inch about the reality they are in now. In other words, this is purposely muddled writing carefully designed to impress a lazy and undisciplined audience into thinking the show is made of genius. Add to this the fact that the first episode right away makes it very clear that we are not dealing with reality, so all the paranoia and suspense is undermined. The ending seems ambitious and doesn't provide a simple cliched twist ending, but neither does it clarify anything, because it can't and doesn't want to. If you are going to explore a world of dream-logic or the inner minds of people, then the only thing of interest is to explore their inner minds, not a plot about escaping, Big Brother corporations, and paranoia. But what did we learn about our characters? Almost nothing.



Night Stalker  
Based on half of the first season.

An attempt to recreate X-Files based on characters from the original Night Stalker show. Kolchak is the Mulder character, a reporter who always assumes supernatural causes for one bizarre mystery after another and there's the skeptic female partner who tags along and helps. Strange crimes, mostly murders, uncover beings with supernatural powers, ghosts, psychic evil, mysterious cult leaders, and other unexplained phenomena. But the leads are dull as dishwater, the stories are predictable, recycled and bland, and the show structure is episodic monster-of-the-week with monotonous weak attempts at deep dark atmosphere. Even though the X-Files took a while to get started, it had variety, intrigue and some charm. This feels like X-Files leftovers.



Haven  
Based on most of the first season.

I'm really sick and tired of Sci-Fi Channel shows. It seems they have been using the same template for the past 10 years for all their shows. This may sound familiar: Come up with a nonsensical reason for strange things, objects, gadgets or superpowers to happen, then have new things, objects, gadgets or superpowers happen every episode while someone has the job to chase or investigate these new things, objects, gadgets or superpowers. Add a stretched-out story arc involving this someone's past, and progress this story arc as slowly as possible while distracting audiences with constantly new things, objects, gadgets or superpowers. SyFy have dumbed down science fiction for kids addicted to their cellphones, and the channel's name suits them. In this show, an FBI agent without a past arrives at Haven, where strange things happen. People's emotions and secrets lash out in violent supernatural ways, and it's up to her, and her local police friend who pines for her, to track down the culprit as fast as possible, and solve his emotional problems with a flick of the writers' pen, while she tries to figure out her convoluted connection with this place. So we get endless things like killer shadows, or butterflies that appear right before killer bedsheets, all the while SyFy tries to keep you watching to see what happens with her constantly twisting back-story which they are obviously making up as they go along. Dumb entertainment.



Bionic Woman (2007)  
Based on half of the single season.

I'm getting really sick and tired of shows about female ass-kickers that have nothing else to offer except a woman in tight clothes fighting. This one is a remake about a woman converted into a superwoman cyborg by the government and asked to complete missions, and commits the popular sin of casting an extremely dull protagonist, albeit not an annoying one like with Alias and Dark Angel. The structure of the show is the same as Alias, with a mixture of story-arcs dealing with family, angst, politics and some problems with the government Bionic project that keeps catching up with them, as well as episodic action-oriented thrills as the Bionic Woman is sent to save people and the world, while head-bashing with her own team and an annoyingly angsty sister. There's some entertaining action, but the writing is cliche and dull as well as sloppy, the characters are all instantly forgettable, and the fights use shaky cameras and dizzying editing to hide the fact that the fights aren't any good.



Earth 2  
Based on half of the first season.

A group of colonists land on an Earth-like planet and it's nothing but conflict, problems, sabotage, and double-crossings from then on as they travel across the planet to find the rest of their team and a place to stay. This colonization idea could have worked, but the writing always plays it safe and is therefore uninteresting, the characters aren't addictive to say the least and don't develop much either, and there isn't much sci-fi. There's also too much drama going on with kids. The only really good thing about this is that it feels like an ongoing arc instead of an episodic space ship show. But in the end it's a very mediocre show about people with a robot and some gadgets travelling across what is obviously Earth, occasionally interacting with a couple of alien species (one humanoid wearing a terrible suit). Not exactly a show that will take your mind places.



Battlestar Galactica  
Based on half of the first season.

Attacked for being a Star-Wars ripoff, and indeed many of the characters, gadgets and costumes seem to be inferior variations, but the story is original. Using the bible as inspiration, this series attempts to tell the origins of the human race as a colonial race scattered over several planets, all of the distant non-Earth inhabitants waging war against the Cylons who recently tricked them into accepting peace only to mass exterminate the humans. The remaining humans escape on a battleship and some smaller ships on an exodus to the promised land, a trip full of hardships, starvation, adventures, battles and strange planets. Expensive but cheesy effects, silly dialogue and characters, and childish, simplistic writing.



Poltergeist: The Legacy  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

This has nothing to do with the movies, and I have no idea why they picked such a title seeing as it deals with anything that is supernatural. This re-uses the same old setup of a group of people investigating paranormal events, except that they work in secret and have a family history. The structure is strictly episodic featuring a monster-of-the-week, and the paranormal evil forces involving a variety of ghosts and evil spirits are mostly unimaginative. Perhaps some could have been made interesting or scary if the makers of this show didn't go for unimaginative theatrical special effects using wind, smoke and filters combined with some cheesy cheap 90s computer effects to try to create some excitement and nonsensical action sequences involving malicious spirits. Less is more, and take a page out of the X-Files book, guys. The characters are bland and instantly forgettable, and there is minimal development. The writing is braindead copy-paste material with no imagination or any realistic-sounding dialogue, and the crises are all solved by random things that the writers come up with, and the protagonists always come up with the exact thing to do that will work for no reason whatsoever just in the nick of time. I forgot about the show even before I finished writing this.



Star Trek: Voyager  
Based on most of the first season.

Another year, another increasingly poor Trek spin-off. This one feels like immature and stiff geeky sci-fi with a sprinkling of juvenile humor, combined with politically-correct casting at its worst. There are simply too many things wrong with this show and most of them have to do with the casting and acting, although the writing is mostly recycled or bland as well. The Voyager is a star-fleet starship that finds itself transported to a very distant galaxy by a powerful being along with its enemies in the middle of a battle. They then have to learn to work with each other on the long trek back home while exploring many new worlds, cultures and aliens and surviving various imaginative dangers. Janeway is the stern female captain who constantly has to make so-called noble choices to sacrifice something or another to save worlds and lives, but this often turns out to be annoyingly repetitive as well as twisted, high-horse, bleeding-heart morality, and she is too stiffly acted. Torres is a constantly angry female Klingon with uncontrollable emotions and there is a boring black Vulcan, and probably the most stupid thing the PC execs ever did since it would be dumb to assume Vulcans developed the exact same variety of skin colors that humans did. Ironically, and in a Star Trek tradition, the most humanity and humor is given to a holographic Doctor, a program, who is acted well, but given that he is a program and not even there, this is utterly ridiculous. The rest of the cast are so bland they are instantly forgotten and the holograph deck is abused yet again. Also the show is episodic and doesn't really go anywhere, has more humanoid aliens with silly makeup, and it's infamous for a later character used to attract fans using revealing outfits: Seven of Nine, a female Borg who verbally dismisses beauty and sexuality, but obviously spends hours working on her hair, makeup and skin-tight outfits.

P.S. I just realized that Star Treks are the most hypocritically racist shows ever made. They idealize the humans and Vulcans to the point of nauseating political correctness, but when it comes to dealing with many other races like the Klingons, Andorians, Ferengi, et al, they almost always reduce them to a single defining characteristic, and human interactions with them are usually based on this alone.



Earthsea  

Based on LeGuin's novels which I have not read, but I have as many complaints as the fans seem to have. It starts like a Harry Potter clone with a young, new wizard in training, sometimes reminiscent of Dragonslayer but without the atmosphere. Then it sinks to fantasy cheese with plot details and characters that don't make much sense, whimsical treatments of magical powers, weak CGI, and mostly miscast or bad actors. There's an evil self-proclaimed king who wants immortality, helpful wizards, an evil unleashed creature, an order of women led by a hopelessly incompetent mother, and of course, silly romance and cliched dialogue. Still fun at times, but bad overall.



Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital  
Based on all 13 episodes.

Based on Trier's brilliant Riget series, King dumbs it down for American audiences and adds his by-now severely hackneyed trademarks. Where the original had naturally acted, quirky and very funny characters, this one has forced acting that is never believable and an overused little girl; Where the original had gripping mystery and over-the-top entertainingly bizarre developments, this one hits you over the head with simple ideas and an anteater; And many of the scenes that are copied from the original were obviously never understood as they are taken out of context and their motivations removed. The show has some good moments when it goes for darkly funny and some characters hit their stride mid-season, but otherwise it serves hokum horror and typically lazy writing from King who forgot how to write a good scary yarn 15 years ago.



Shining, The  

King never seemed to like Kubrick's version of his classic novel so he authorized this mini-series to be more faithful to the book but like almost all King adaptations, the result is disastrously weak. Lame special effects instead of real scares, acting that ranges from dull to annoying, and too many weak scenes that could only work in a book but not in a movie. Oh, the plot? A man takes a job as the winter caretaker in a hotel during which time it closes down to guests, and he brings along his family and psychic son only to find evil in the historical building that takes over his personality with violent results...



Smallville (DC)  
Based on most of the first season and many scattered episodes.

Superman is an angsty teenager in school and Lana is a pretty but vapid girly girl. Superpowers and evil creatures create havoc with his studies and life in general as he is forced to save the town day after day while hiding his powers. Lex Luthor, an heir to a mogul's fortune and power, develops a complex relationship of secrets, power and respect with Clark. A potentially good show developed poorly as an annoyingly angsty, teenage touchy-feely series with horribly dull and whiny leads. The structure consists of mostly monster-of-the-week plots with uninteresting teenage high-school drama arcs, with matters almost never changing between episodes. Only the actor in the role of Lex Luthor provides charm, intelligence, and a fascinating character that is miles above anything else in the show and the bottom line is that such a silly teenage show doesn't deserve him.



Orville, The  
Based on most of the first season.

It seems obvious by now that Seth MacFarlane's brand of humor is not for me. First, this is a show that wants to be two conflicting things, and ends up being neither. It is a silly spoof on Star Trek (TOS and a bit of TNG), with dumb 'bro-humor' on various bodily functions and angry ex-wives, and it also wants to be an homage to TOS with sci-fi adventures and action on various outlandish alien planets that it takes seriously even when it's a bit cheesy (TOS style). The bland cutesy humor sometimes looks like it should be funny, but almost never is, just like Family Guy, and the lowbrow and juvenile bro-humor is painful. But worse than this, it undermines the homage aspect because in the middle of a perfectly good Star-Trek-style adventure with dangerous aliens, they kick in with the silly or dumb gags. I don't know what it is they were thinking when they created this. But even this would just make it a clunky and silly show. What really disgusts me is the very pervasive childish radical leftist agenda in every single episode. Women in this show are always better, stronger, smarter than the guys and take every chance they get to bash men. There is ham-fisted preaching on tolerance for every gender combination and sexual orientation, preaching against religion of any kind, and not even against actual conservative targets but against the silliest stereotypical 'aliens' you've ever seen. And it does this on every single episode I've seen. The adventure part could actually have been fun, but the inappropriate humor as well as the agenda ruin any chance of that happening.



Legend of the Seeker  
Based on most of the first season.

Well, the first episode starts like a TV version of Lord of the Rings, with wonderful scenery, a chosen hero to save the worlds from impending doom from a growing evil lord, and plenty of magic and effects. But it soon deteriorates into D&D cliches and cardboard characters, and, by the third episode, it becomes a modern version of Xena/Hercules with a focus on episodic fights, girls, quests and magic. Which is no surprise seeing as Sam Raimi produced all three shows, evidently still letting his love for silly fantasy-action-cheese loose and keeping his real talents for the movies. This is based on Terry Goodkind's novels which I haven't read, but, based on reviews, this hasn't been faithful to the books. And I should hope not, as the writing is devoid of imagination, discipline and inspiration. As an example of poor writing, a 'Confessor' is said to have such powers of observation and truth that people follow her blindly, and yet only last episode she failed to see who the hero really was and lied about him helping her. The first episodes launch the important and mission-critical quest to kill Darken Rahl, but then they wander about the countryside for the whole season distracted by one little quest, monster or task after another, even finding time to visit a birthplace, as if they were on vacation rather than trying to save their people. And, as an example of the mentality of this show, the highest rated episodes feature the Mord-Sith, a gang of Dominatrices in tight leather outfits equipped with a phallic magical weapon that deals both masochism and sadism to the wielder. The characters are unreal cardboard cutouts straight out of a D&D quest, and the hero has all the personality of a hood ornament for teenage girls. Like I said, much more Xena mentality for fanboys and D&D nerds rather than LOTR. But at least it looks good, right?



Shannara Chronicles, The  
Based on most of the first season.

I haven't read any of the novels by Terry Brooks, but this one feels like a standard fantasy plot transposed into a Twilight-esque fantasy series. At the core is a story that could have been developed into something grand perhaps approaching Lord of the Rings (although I'm not sure the original material supports so many grand themes). There is an ancient Elvish tree protecting the realm from demons, a realm that has gone soft and stopped believing in magic. But changes are coming, and when a Druid re-appears and the tree starts to fall apart, an inexperienced princess and forgotten young son of wizard find themselves on a quest and long dangerous journey to save the kingdom. But most of the cast feels, looks, acts and talks like they just stepped off a high-school soap-drama set and simply put on some new costumes. Even the costumes feel like someone combined Gap clothes with LOTR leftovers, complete with low-cut jeans and back-pockets. The cast consists of serious actors in the background supporting the story, while at the front we get the usual wicked hunks, boy-toys, hot chicks with perfect make-up kicking everyone's ass, and cute boys to make the teenage girls hearts melt, and the guys remove their shirts for every flimsy excuse. Every time the story starts moving along again, the show stops for another painfully flat romantic or angsty interaction between the flat pretty leads. In short, MTV produced this one, and it shows, even in the horrible title-track pop music.



First Wave  
Based on most of the first season.

Simplistic, amateurish, poor man's version of X-Files by way of Nowhere Man. An ex-thief discovers that aliens are experimenting on humans and making preparations as the first-wave of their invasion. They kill his wife and ruin his life, forcing him to go underground as a fugitive from both aliens and humans, tracking down alien encounters and experiments to foil their plans as much as possible, partnering with a conspiracy-freak-nerd straight out of X-Files with many hi-tech resources and useful knowledge. They uncover many strange experiments involving gene splicing, cloning, psychic powers, and invasive, brutal psychological tests, fighting one discovery per episode as well as slowly uncovering more about the aliens in a story arc. This sounds like a potentially good setup, but the execution is poor. The two leads are acceptable but never develop character, many of the guest stars are very bad actors, and the writing, dialogue, directing, and acting very often combine to create frequent hokey, laughable, implausible, cliched and artificial moments. It doesn't help that the writing looks down at the audience and explains everything to death either. In short, the amateurish feeling of the show is too pervasive to allow enjoyment. It's hard to believe that Coppola produced this.



Eleventh Hour (US)  
Based on some episodes of the single season.

Another American remake of a superior British show, this one by Bruckheimer who turns the original into more of his typically plastic over-produced bores. An FBI scientific adviser works on cases involving science and nature gone wrong or weird, helped by an FBI bodyguard. The original show was like a non-supernatural X-Files, but this feels more like CSI without the flashy forensics. Both leads are not only laughably implausible in their roles and hired only for their looks, but are so bland that they are practically non-existent and make Mulder and Scully look passionate. The writer, imported from the British show, does come up with some interesting scenarios that frequently dips into science-fiction, but the show is simply too mechanical and plastic to maintain interest.



Alien Nation  
Based on a few episodes from the single season.

Preachy political correctness, the TV show, in the form of a 'sci-fi' cop show. A space-ship of alien slaves lands on Earth and humans have to learn to live with this new species and assimilate them into society. Unfortunately, the aliens are as humanoid as can be, with extremely unimaginative writers giving them only an 'alien' cranium, some different eating habits, and the occasional alien custom. 99% of the time they are all-too-human, and the show uses the setup to explore culture clash and racism, drawing parallels to the treatment of blacks or even the Holocaust any chance it gets. The fact that this is a cop-show gives them the chance to uncover different inter-species crimes every episode, but this aspect of the series is just another boring and cliched cop drama. Terrible sci-fi, but worse liberal preaching.



Salem  
Based on scattered episodes from the first season.

The Salem witch trials have been portrayed several times before, usually as a case of religious hysteria, sometimes portraying the people as twisted monsters, often also in horror movies about twisted people and evil fanatics, or, alternatively, as a movie about men that victimize poor old Wiccans or women. This movie takes the approach that there were really evil witches in Salem creating real black magic, and makes a horror show out of it, except it wants to be several things at once and ends up being none. The priests are cliched hypocrites killing women on flimsy evidence, except they don't seem to believe in their own religion much and seemingly have no motivation. The 'level-headed' atheist for some reason keeps denying that it has to do with witchcraft, except it actually does according to this series, and he even saw it with his own eyes since magic is quite widespread, thus ending up as another character that makes no sense. The female protagonist is another character that seems to have been written by several unsynchronized writers or one schizophrenic producer: She freely does evil to innocent people and has many killed, then cries about how she is 'possessed' by some evil and is suddenly free to follow her more human whims extensively, and she switches back and forth often like this in every episode as if they wanted us to like her. This is obviously a case of commercial decisions being forced into the show whether they make sense or not. And if you still aren't convinced, there are rampant sex scenes with modern attitudes, witches that behave like catty, scheming soap-opera queens, a witch in bondage gear, and a modern whore-house right in the middle of a puritan town. I would ask what were they thinking, except it's obvious they weren't. This is a show that doesn't even begin to work.



Impact  

Disaster mini-series based on a meteor impact, but not in the way you expect. This one rips off the basic plot from movies like Armageddon, but has ambition in the science department, coming up with scenarios that would introduce things like loss of gravity, an exploding moon, loss of electric devices, the complete destruction of Earth, etc. Unfortunately, the physics here wouldn't even convince a child, with a long list of mistakes and impossibilities, some of them so bad, they are embarrassing. Apparently, there are no time-zones on Earth, the electromagnetic force can affect gravity and vice versa, brown dwarfs have super-dense mass, moon debris is not affected by gravity, ships are held down by gravity whereas the sea-water isn't, and gravity is the force that "attracts smaller objects to larger objects". Personally, I really enjoy watching even weaker disaster movies, but this one is so bad, and the human drama is so cliched, that, despite some good moments towards the end, it was too painful even for me.



Meteor  

Extremely dumb disaster mini-series about pieces of a huge smashed meteor causing havoc worldwide, with bigger pieces threatening to destroy the whole planet. Most of the movie consists of the adventures of an assistant with social chaos, evil men, power and satellite failures, and whatnot, as she tries to get critical information that can save the world to the meteor disaster center. This brings to mind a bad episode of 24 as contrived coincidences and bad timing stretch out a plot device to hours on end, and I half expected a mountain lion to stop yet another attempt at transferring trajectory data. The fact that something as basic as the algorithm to plot out meteor trajectories would only be in the hands of one person is bad enough, but when they keep forgetting to transfer the program itself to the center, have no redundant systems for something as important as a planet-wide disaster management center, when the world's resources and scientists seems to consist only of two Americans, and the meteor is so huge you can see it with the naked eye yet they have no clue how to hit it... the IQ level of this show drops under zero. What kind of idiot doesn't think of backtracking a few meters to regain cell-phone coverage? The useless lengthy side-plot about a corrupt cop gone nihilistic only makes things worse.



Under the Dome  
Based on the first season.

I found the book by Stephen King to be another tired formulaic work by King with lazy copy-paste characters from his usual stable, much like most of his recent books. But it did have a good idea of a town cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious dome, and the rising tension and chaos that ensues. An extended TV series based on this book produced by Spielberg could take the idea and develop it further, and even give the characters more dimensions with good actors. On the other hand, padding out the novel to multiple seasons could result in a needlessly padded out soap-opera of lawless survivors, or worse. Unfortunately, almost none of my optimistic expectations were fulfilled, and the bad turn was in fact even worse than I imagined. It starts out OK, with good effects and a collection of colorful characters. Some characters were improved slightly over the novel, others were added, or left as poorly one-dimensional as in the novel. The idea of the dome allows chaos to gradually increase as more citizens realize there is no hope, or law to tell them what to do, criminals run rampant, politicians try to collect more and more power, and secrets rise to the surface in the pressure-cooker environment of the dome, or they continuously escalate. But then something really terrible happens: The writers start adding more and more character and plot twists, as well as fantastical elements in each episode that keep adding to the mystery and power of the dome, and soon it's obvious that they are taking their instructions from the 'Lost' playbook. Characters change so often they give you whiplash and they lose all semblance to reality, the dome keeps developing more and more god-like powers, and the writers very quickly write themselves into a corner they cannot possibly get out of, and even start contradicting themselves. The fantasy elements just keep piling up without rhyme or reason just to hook the audience, making any discerning viewer quickly lose interest.



Mist, The  
Based on most of the single season.

I didn't like the movie based on this classic Stephen King short story/novella, so I was actually hoping this TV show would improve on it, but I wasn't counting on it. Padding out a novella to a series doesn't sound like a good idea. The movie featured a childishly simplistic portrayal of religious fanatics, and the ending was completely nonsensical in terms of character behaviour and was gratuitously doomsday in its approach. The story involves a rapid deterioration of society, as a group of people find themselves trapped in a supermarket behind a mist of undefined horrors and scary otherworldly creatures, everyone pushed to their breaking point, bringing out the worst in them. But, without careful and realistic characterization, this simply won't work. This series, at first, does seem better, and it enlarges its canvas to cover a whole town of people with secrets and grudges, and instead of a supermarket, there are multiple pockets of people in a shopping mall, a hospital, etc. As such, it brings to mind those zombie apocalypse movies, as well as disaster movies with each group of survivors going through their internal dramas under the pressure of a deadly and scary environment. Unfortunately, it gets worse with every episode. The Mist and its creatures play by different rules in every episode, and the characters deteriorate to heavy-handed, broadly-drawn crazy people that constantly do stupid or suicidal things, from the priest and his cohorts that go biblical, to doctors that suddenly turn into mad scientists, to, obviously, military people that exert their power for no reason. But even the ordinary folk all turn nasty quickly and unrealistically until it all falls apart. One would expect people to fall apart under these circumstances, but this is simply too heavy-handed and over-the-top.



Lost  
Based on the first season.

A few dozen survivors of a plane crash find themselves deserted on a mysterious island with no savior in sight. Strange animals, monsters, artifacts and people are discovered on the island that don't make any sense. Their back-stories are shown while they try to survive, the mysteries and circumstances growing stranger and more puzzling all the time. This is one of the most manipulative but well-directed shows ever made that only introduces mysteries and doesn't reveal an inch, getting viewers hooked while the more soapy drama unfolds. For example, many people have obviously seen the monster but we don't get to see it and nobody ever talks about what they saw. When a character gets kidnapped, the victim comes back and should reveal some interesting secrets, but the writers give her amnesia. The show starts off amazingly well but soon it's obvious that the writers are more interested in endless, incredulous and overly dramatic flashbacks than the more interesting action, survival practicalities and secrets of the island. One story is so stupid it tells how a character robbed a bank and killed people just to get a toy with sentimental value. This show isn't an adventure with a Macguffin; the adventure IS the Macguffin and the real show is just meandering soap. Even the huge mythology arc of the X-Files progressed at high-speed compared to this. They lost me after half a season.

Reading reviews on subsequent seasons only confirm what I felt during the first year: that the writers never had a plan, that they are making things up as they go along, that there is no way they could come up with satisfactory explanations since they don't know what it is themselves, and that the only goal was on pulling in an audience using every trick in the book, not on writing a solid story that makes sense. The show simply makes up more and more convoluted nonsense involving sci-fi, mystical mumbo-jumbo, time-travel and magic to keep audiences on its hook, because there never was a plot and they have to keep covering this up with more drawn-out lies and tricks. This show is so despicably manipulative, that any temporary entertainment value in its individual episodes is destroyed. Now that the show is over, am I allowed to point at all of you that kept watching it and laugh? A J.J. Abrams hack-job.



Starhunter  
Based on half of the first season.

Bad sci-fi show that aspires to be the next Farscape, Firefly or even Andromeda. A bounty hunter in search of his kidnapped son travels through space hunting and picking up criminals for a price while trying to take care of his bratty niece who serves as the technical wizard and engineer for the ship. The story arcs take forever to even start and involve an uninteresting search for his son mixed with a mysterious organization that performs experiments on people and a 'Divinity Cluster': genes that allow people to gain God-like powers. Most of the episodes consist of a fugitive-of-the-week who makes their lives difficult, very often with unexplained super-powers, thus shifting this show into deus-ex-machina fantasy realms. The writing is a cut-and-paste job from other shows, and often shows signs that the writer has no grasp of a situation he is creating with developments sloppily put together. The CGI effects are terribly cheap, the actors range from dull to terribly artificial, and the humor is the worst, often feeling juvenile and awkward.



Intelligence  
Based on the first four episodes.

By picking that title and not living up to it even remotely, the makers of this show are obviously setting themselves up for ridicule. This one doesn't even get off the ground, as it starts with insultingly stupid ideas, and goes downhill from there with insultingly stupid writing. The sci-fi gimmick here is that someone invented a super-chip installed in the mind of a spy with a specific 'genetic mutation' that gives him hi-tech super-powers. The basic super-power is... are you ready... a Google search. That's right, he can search for information on anything instantly, or upload pictures for analysis and get information on anything that he sees inside his head. Granted, he also has access to international top-secret databases and many other sources of information not normally provided to the average person, but it's still a Google search. The only advantage he has over, say, an agent with a laptop and an internet connection, is that the search happens in his head and is therefore faster. Which isn't exactly something that spy agencies are going to fight over. Actually, if you think about it for a second, his mind obviously isn't actually part of the internet, so he still has to access it via a search program and internet connection, so his instant rich multimedia search results must be, in actuality, the result of a program that could just as easily be accessed via a computer device. Also, the fact that he has access to top-secret information wherever he goes is the equivalent of sending someone with a laptop constantly logged into CIA's secret files, into the field. Who in their right mind would do that? Another super-power is the ability to recreate scenes in 3D in his mind so that he can examine the evidence in great detail. Once again, obviously a program that could be shown on a computer screen since his mind obviously wasn't capable of doing this beforehand. Except this turns out to be a 'bonus' feature that the chip makers didn't know existed. I kid you not. Obviously no one here has any basic understanding of computer programming. The one aspect of this feature that actually makes a unique use of the interface with his mind, is that it uses his imagination and subconscious to help fill in the gaps or to create an imaginary image from scratch. Imagine that: Evidence that has been altered according to the whims of a subconscious. How on earth can that ever be useful?! And so on, each episode offers a dozen more offensive stupidities like these, with the producers assuming that the audience will be distracted by the slick special-effects enough not to notice how badly the sci-fi was thought-through. The fact that this super-agent is physically protected from all manner of assassins by a gorgeous female model is just another nail in the coffin of this DOA show. The Knight Rider for the dumb internet and smartphone generation, except this one makes that show look brilliant.



Dark Angel  
Based on the first season.

With James Cameron at the helm you would expect something special. And indeed it starts off well, offering some cutting-edge ideas and portrayals of the future. Politics, economics and morals have long gone rotten and cyber-revolutionaries are fighting an evil government that genetically alters humans into fighting machines. But that's where the good stuff ends. The ear-grating dialog and characters are all 'hip' and cool in a very annoying way, the plots develop into ridiculous childish nonsense, none of the characters are memorable, but the worst is the lead female actress who is ultimately boring, can't fight, and portrays an extremely uncharismatic and bitchy character yet somehow everyone fawns over her because she supposedly looks good.



Good Witch  
Based on the first two episodes.

I shouldn't have bothered with a Hallmark show. Cassie is a small town 'witch' that uses premonitions, a magic touch, and herbs to heal her friends and neighbors and all of their woes, even stuck doors and bad behaviour. A city doctor moves in with his city ways and his rebellious misbehaving teenage son, this giving them more hearts to heal. Cue the smug looks, the cloying good messages, the overbearing do-good interfering behaviour, and miles and miles of fake happy smiles. All men and boys in this show are emasculated and unrealistically submissive, and if they aren't it's only temporary just to give the girls something to correct. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. It doesn't have to be fake and cloying in order to be 'wholesome' guys. I could only take two episodes and even that was too much.



Bitten  
Based on scattered episodes from the first season.

This is as bland and forgettable as it gets. It's a werewolf series with a super-warrior blonde werewolf chick, an ongoing feud between wolf packs, and a doomed romance. Are they still trying to copy Buffy nowadays? There is a girl who is the only female that has been successfully converted into a wolf, she hates her ex-boyfriend for biting her and is trying to separate from the pack, except he still loves her, and there are rival gangs and various individuals with ongoing complicated agendas that keep them on their toes. There are plenty of rules on how to obey the alpha or hide from humans, but of course there will always be trouble-makers. The biggest problem here is the acting: It's as if everyone takes medication before they get on set. Almost all of them recite their lines in a near-monotone, their faces every once in a while fake an emotion or two, but otherwise they may as well be zombies. They would be very listless as humans, but as feral werewolves, they are ridiculous. The writing is quite bland and uninspired as well, except you can't really tell if the writing is doing something interesting thanks to the tedious and sleep-inducing acting. I also didn't like that the writers approach being a werewolf as if it were an arsenal of super-powers that they can use whenever they want with complete control, and the super-strength powers seem to come and go inconsistently. The syrupy emo-soundtrack doesn't help either.



Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles  
Based on some scattered episodes from the first season.

This is all wrong. It's impossible to watch this show without expecting it to be a continuation of the movies and it fails miserably in this aspect, as well as failing on its own right. This is an action-oriented show following the crazy life of Sarah and her son John as they continuously fight against cybernetic organisms from the future, evade the law, while being helped by the future resistance, all this while trying to make friends and go to school. Failures are almost too many to mention: The character of Sarah is nothing like the movies and looks like she spends lots of time in a beauty parlor rather than with survivalists and soldiers. John is a whiny weak-willed teenager that is always complaining and doing stupid things. The robots are given random superman skills that don't make sense. Their main protector is in the form of a petite young girl who takes off her clothes every chance the writers get, manages to beat every inferior robot twice her size sent by the machines even though the machines should obviously be technologically ahead of the game, and she is given human characteristics like smiling, understanding emotions and eating for no good reason other than to make the fanboys relate to her before she kicks some more ass. The writing is bad and lazy and often doesn't make any sense, with sloppy time-travel plot devices and bad logic. In short, the action scenes may be entertaining, but this is too terribly insulting to watch.



Supergirl (DC)  
Based on most of the first season.

I wasn't expecting much, and got a lot less. This show about Superman's young female cousin not only turned out to be as bad as I feared, it found new ways to be bad. My primary reason for not liking Superman is that he is too powerful and invulnerable, lacking any sense of danger or humanity, and that whenever the writers need it, they simply make him exert more effort and suddenly Superman can do anything, including moving whole planets or turning back time. This show only partially corrects this problem, giving various people weapons that somehow make Supergirl much more vulnerable, providing some limitations to her powers, and introducing many villains with various superpowers that seem to overpower Supergirl (at least at first). But this is all handled poorly and merely introduces more contrivances since these things are only used when it is convenient for the plot. Supergirl finds herself up against something that seems more powerful at first (except that most fights are silly since she almost never gets actually damaged), and then she conveniently finds the solution or effort needed in order to win in time for the end of the episode. These limitations then disappear for the rest of the season to introduce new ones. Plus, I never understood how someone can crush steel one second, and then punch robots and villains in a fight without crushing them instantly. Thus powers come and go throughout almost each episode according to the plot timeline rather than according to any rules or logic. This seems to be a general problem with many DC characters where powers are very badly defined.

But this show has two more big problems: One is that the writing is at the level of a b-movie kiddie show. People often do things that make no sense whatsoever except that it sounds cool, events and actions are poorly thought-out, there is never any real violence, and emotional problems flare up and are solved neatly in every episode. The other problem is the insulting political-correctness and millennial vapidity. Only women are in charge here of absolutely everything. All human men are either bad, crooked, evil, or assistants to women. Supergirl finds she can do things that her much more experienced cousin Superman can't do. Girls beat men at almost everything with minimal effort. Characters often make speeches with a heavy liberal agenda on how society treats women and minorities. Supergirl make much ado over every emotion she has, except they the emotions come and go every minute like she was still a kid. Even her heroics come off as a selfish form of entitlement posing as morality. Etc. Plus, the structure of this show is mostly episodic with uninteresting monster-of-the-week tediousness, so it's no wonder the writers focus increasingly on the soapy personal drama with crushes and love interest drama straight out of high-school. In short, this is simply a bad show on many levels and not even fit for kids unless you want their minds to be warped.



Being Human (US)  
Based on most of the first season.

Presumably, I should be reviewing this show objectively on its own terms even though it is yet another US remake of a UK show. But it doesn't have its own terms, and the only reason this was made was for money, so fairness goes out the window. The British show was very good and did not need a remake. To re-use the same scripts and story two years after, solely to be able to cast American actors with American accents and dialogue is simply pathetic. If it were a straight remake of roughly equal quality, then that would at least be something. But it is inferior in every way: The IQ level is lowered, the plot developments, at first, are copied, but then they add padding, extra elements and changes that only detract from what should be the focus of this show: humanity as lived by non-humans. The casting is mostly bland. Witwer is cast for his 'vampiric' looks and is passably good, but he is the best of the lot. Josh, with a permanent deer-caught-in-headlights-look that represents personality, doesn't hold a candle to the original George who lent the original show most of its comedy, personality and intelligence. And Sally's presence is as ghostly as her character. They have no chemistry, and the reduced comedy mostly comes off as artificial thanks to the blandness. Most of the humanity, heart and personality of the original is gone. So, in summary, there is no point in watching this when you have the original, except in order to appreciate the original more. Unless you prefer gloss over heart.



Believe  
Based on scattered episodes from the single season.

Although this nonsense is only partially produced by J.J. Abrams, it has his fingerprints all over it. Taking its cue from Firestarter, this involves a little girl with super-psychic powers that is on the run from the government with the help of some dedicated rogue agents, scientists, and her father whom they helped escape from death row. They run, fight, run again, but in between all this running and hiding, they manage to focus on little dramas helping ordinary people using her special powers. The biggest hurdle with this show is the fact that the writers give her every and any psychic power ever imagined, but allow her to use them only at random based on the needs of the plot, drama and momentum. One minute she is in complete control and can do specific things with specific powers, the next she can't do anything even while emotional, just so that the danger can accumulate and cause more drama. Imagine a super-hero movie where he has every super-power from every superhero movie ever made, only he can use each power based on the writers' lazy needs. This is both incredibly lazy and insulting. And this laziness is not only concerning her powers. Other characters keep doing stupid senseless things just to further the plot, like hand over their prize girl to a guy who is being chased by every law-enforcement group on the planet. And the bad guys don't seem to even have their own interests in mind, doing 'bad things' that are detrimental to their own agenda. Another problem with this show is that it over-indulges in her angelic properties of wanting to help everyone, having her protectors believe in her as if she were Jesus, except she acts more like a spoiled brat that uses and risks everyone for her good deeds, and throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her way. Of course, the thrilling plot-arcs of the government conspiracy is always put on hold while she pursues her episodic good deed of the week. In short, a very lazy, boring, insulting and manipulative show.



Automan  
Based on a handful of scattered episodes from the single season.

Another highly cheesy 80s creation by Glen Larson, maker of Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and Manimal. Like his other creations, it doesn't age well and is only fondly remembered by people that watched it as kids, and this one is so wildly fantastic that it doesn't even begin to be plausible even for kids. Automan is obviously copied from Tron, except that it illogically transfers the computer simulations into the real world for crime fighting purposes. Walter is a computer wiz that invented a perfect crime-fighting man in his computer, which has somehow come to life and acquired an independent, cocky attitude of its own. It/he appears to save the day together with Cursor (Bit), another simulated being that, among other things, can create super-vehicles from energy for getting around the city. Other impossible powers come and go as reality is thrown out the window to allow Automan to do anything and everything as needed, making him a very boring being with seemingly every superpower in the world. The impossibility of this setup is bad enough, but the cheese and typically bad 80s TV action don't help make it watchable either.



Scarlet Heart  
Based on the first four episodes.

Fooled again by a popular and highly-rated Korean TV show. The descriptions promised a soaring historical drama and romance with a time-travel twist. What I got instead was a story about a teenage girl from current times transported to 10th Century Korea and waking up in the body of a princess in the middle of a complex rivalry between princes for the throne. Except that the eight princes look like they all came from a modern boy band complete with abs and modern haircuts, and everyone behaves in very modern ways. I had to keep reminding myself every few seconds that this was the 10th Century. The fighting and secrets are over-the-top melodramatic, and this is mixed with cutesy comedy as the modern girl finds herself up against 10th century rules. Except that they don't seem to mind much no matter what she does and how many rules she breaks in shocking ways. She falls in love with one gentle prince, then with a dark wolf prince with a disfigured face that he keeps behind a modern haircut and chic mask. In short, this is like a mix of Twilight-esque romance melodrama combined with teenage girl romantic comedy, and the time-travel angle is only there so that modern teenagers can transport themselves into a 'historical' setting with many boy-toy princes by looking through the eyes of the modern princess.



Last Man on Earth, The  
Based on scattered episodes of the first season.

This 2015 show's first second starts with an unintended joke: "2020: The year after the virus". Yes, it's post-apocalypse time, and a destructive, man-child slob is the only survivor. Or is he? After a year of a spiraling destructive binge of post-apocalyptic proportions, his deep 'longings' for a female of the human species doesn't exactly work out as he hoped. You know the sentences that start with "even if you were the last person on Earth I..."? Well this show uses these as its setup and proceeds to make hilarious comedy out of it. The characters are over-the-top obnoxious and idiotic in an annoying way, but the situation is funny, and I was laughing out loud for about 2 episodes. But you can't build a long-running show based on obnoxious, over-the-top and skin-deep cartoon characters like these, and by the third episode I was cringing and suffering, and it only got increasingly painful with every episode. This show isn't content with merely using the horrible 'idiotic man-child sitcom character', it takes it even further. And the rest don't do well either. The writing is juvenile and all I could think of is how funny this would be if it actually featured people. So there you have it; From hilarious to painfully annoying in 40 minutes.



Forbidden Science  
Based on three episodes from the single season.

I never understood the appeal of softcore sex flicks. If you are looking for sex, then just watch porn; if you want an entertaining movie, then just watch a normal movie. But this kind of crap with its focus on casting for looks and creating sexy sex scenes is neither here nor there. This TV series attempts to blend sci-fi with softcore flicks, placing the drama in the future where cloning, replaceable body parts, androids, and virtual reality are all available. But the writers do nothing interesting with these concepts, opting for cliches and messy, almost incomprehensible plot developments. Imagine what a cheap soap opera would do with sci-fi and you basically have this show. Back-stabbings, corporate wars, scandals, lust, crimes of passion, all weave their convoluted and laughably implausible threads while the bad actors flatly recite their lines and fake their moans and groans during the sex scenes.



Rose Red  

Stephen King plagiarizes the cliched story of a group of people staying in a haunted mansion to study it, as well as his own ideas used in previous stories. Violent and mysterious historical flashbacks merge with modern horrors awakened by the group of psychic characters, all come to help prove psychic phenomena exist while illogically ignoring the obvious phenomena they create themselves every day. King sledgehammers his way through 3 long hours of unsubtle horror, forgetting that less is more.



Roar  
Based on very few episodes of the single season.

I don't see how people can claim this is better than cheesy tripe like Xena and Hercules. The 'setting' is a Celtic rebellion against Romans, as a young leader (Ledger) tries to join the warring tribes together to fight against the evil occupiers. But there isn't much serious history, there's cheesy magic and sorcerers, the people, costumes and settings never convince you for a second that they are medieval, the scope is tiny, usually only involving a handful of people, the episodes usually revolve around hammy fight scenes, and yes, there are many scantily clad women in full modern revealing dress, hairdos and makeup wielding swords and beating men twice their size. There's even a token black man amongst the medieval Celtics and the writing never does anything interesting. That just about sums up this cheese.



Lost World, The  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

An action-adventure series inspired by a story by Arthur Conan Doyle doesn't sound bad, but when, in the first episode, you get a girl flying through the jungle with a perfect hair-perm, makeup and shaved legs pretending to be tough, you know you're firmly in Xena territory. If you like that sort of thing, that is, and even then, how much of this cheese can one watch? This series features a varied group of explorers that embark to a lost land high up in the mountains where they promptly find dangers like dinosaurs and ape-men and a ridiculously high number of tribes and people for an isolated land in the clouds. As with Xena, the story is both continuous and episodic, and the adventures can vary from dinosaur chases to bridal trades or warring 'reptile-men' in bad reptile-suits that speak English. In between the never-believable action scenes (where the bad guys always miss) and fights with badly-rendered dinosaurs (where the much faster and bigger beasts never seem to catch anyone), we get skimpily-clad women that take the time away from their beauty salons to wear loincloths. What's not to like you ask? Be my guest.



Birds of Prey (DC)  
Based on 5 episodes of the single season.

Girl-power super-hero series with some teenage angst featuring, yet again, bland, instantly forgettable protagonists with zero personality and poor writing. The daughter of batman and catwoman (was this written by children?), is the Huntress, a crime-fighting bitchin' superhero who gets her supernatural powers from either her parents even though they had no supernatural powers, or from the fact that she is a meta-human along with dozens of other meta-humans (who are rip-offs of X-Men/Heroes), because the writers can't seem to make up their minds. She also is another in the long line of bland and pretty female actresses to think that having a personality means acting like a bitch. A crippled batwoman serves as the brains and computer/gadget wiz, and a psychic teenage Dina serves the horrible whining even though she has absolutely nothing to whine about. All three are complete airheads and can't convince anyone of any talent besides the fact that they just got off the makeup chair and never have a hair out of place even after climbing up buildings and fighting. The writing never does anything interesting and even gets sloppy often, there is only minimal seasonal developments, and the structure is episodic villain-of-the-week. Terrible.



Lost Girl  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

Yet another cookie-cutter fantasy series, this one about a succubus and her plucky assistant running a P.I. gig with the help of a policeman and a slew of supernatural beings, both good and evil, barely just hidden from human eye. This setup has been done so many times before, it's beyond tired. The structure is mostly episodic supernatural mystery or evil creature of the week, with extremely lazy writing, convenient clues and developments so it can all be wrapped up by the end of the episode. If this didn't have the supernatural angle, it would be a bottom-rung detective show. There is also lip service paid to a very boring story arc which progresses at a snail's pace about her finding her mother who abandoned her. So the writing is painfully bland or dumb, but what about the characters? Well, the succubus uses her sexual powers to manipulate anyone she feels like, basically raping people, she uses even her friends and lovers, sucks them dry, then throws some kind of moral tantrum at them while throwing herself at everyone else that has what she wants, and she is so stubborn and selfish that she obliviously causes trouble or pain to everyone around her. So, basically, not very likeable. But that's OK because she is a feminist symbol of success, refusing to join any clan or commit to any man, and is most definitely in charge of her sexuality. Her assistant is a walking cliche of sassy, cutesy girl, except she is a thief, so she doesn't do much better. The rest of the cast are better, but they are in strictly supporting roles in every sense of the word. In short, skip it.



Defying Gravity  
Based on the first four episodes.

For a show supposedly depicting a realistic futuristic space mission, they couldn't have come up with a worse implementation. The show is supposed to tell the tale of a six-year manned mission to several planets in the year 2040, with the drama provided by the crew and an endless series of misadventures. For starters, the cast looks like they were selected from a reality show, with a token Asian and black man, women selected for looks over anything else, and the rest being either cliched, or terribly bland. The drama is somewhere between a soap and a reality show, meandering between endless banal relationship issues and sex-oriented shenanigans. The science is full of amateurish and lazy errors (using nano-technology to explain why everything isn't floating is just pathetic), the writing is poor, and the dialogue is full of endless male-bashing. On top of it all, they make use of an alien/sci-fi/supernatural/mystical mystery that moves at a snail's pace, and mix endlessly annoying and pointless flashbacks into every episode, both ideas taken from Lost. In short, a compilation of everything that is bad on TV.



Ghost Whisperer  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

Extremely formulaic and repetitive episodic show. What's worse is that even what it repeats is painfully cliched and crassly touchy-feely. Melinda (a pretty but thoroughly unconvincing Jennifer Love Hewitt) sees and interacts with ghosts all of her life. There are no tricky psychic powers here, ghosts are simply depicted as plainly visible people with pale faces and emotional problems that only she can see. Almost every episode is the same: Something spooky/scary happens until she quickly realizes it's just another ghost that needs help (when will she learn?), some quick and easy research reveals everything there is to know about the ghost and its problems, she faces rude disbelief before going through some emotional crisis with the friends and relatives, solving both the ghost's and relatives' psychological problems in a matter of days before sending the ghost off into the light in an overflowing display of emotions. Her husband is so idealistically supportive that he almost doesn't exist as a real human being, and the rest of her friends and family get some light and insignificant drama.



Leftovers, The  
Based on most of the first season.

This show's only creativity is in finding new ways to be terrible. It's like some emo kid thought for 5 seconds and came up with a fantasy event to get everyone emotional, then made a TV show about it. The event, is that 2% of the world's population suddenly disappears into thin air. Somehow, instead of just making a whole lot of questioning people that get over their loss after a few years, three years later the world becomes populated by an organization that asks relatives a whole bunch of stupid questions, a cult of people (mostly women) that don't talk, dress in white and appear everywhere to remind people of what they lost, another cult forming around an obnoxious, sleazy, bisexual idiot that spouts platitudes and somehow convinced his followers that he knows something, and a whole bunch of depressed people that make dramatic mountains out of molehills. Lots and lots of drama and tension is made over the white cult, even though they are easily ignored, and their ideas and mission never make sense, changing from episode to episode. Pseudo-mystical things keep popping up to add to the 'mystery' like dogs gone wild, coincidences, visions, and a deer that smashes its way through houses, all blatantly trying to make the show deep and meaningful accompanied by terrible touchy-feely music. The mystery of the event is never explored or discussed with any intelligence, and several people claim to know what it was about but never reveal anything, of course. After watching the show, I looked up the credits, and was not in the least surprised to find that the creator also made Lost.



Vampire Diaries, The  
Based on many scattered episodes from the first season.

Flat, pedestrian, teenage soap drama with vampires. That just about sums this up. There are two vampire brothers, one evil, one on the wagon, both falling for Elena. There's a witch with growing powers. And then there is a whole bunch of secrets, vampire rivalries, several other love triangles and unrequited loves, power games, and plots. If the above sounds like a soap, it's because that's basically what it is. The entire cast consists of forgettable hunks and pretty airheads, the writing is cliched and always predictable and never brings anything new to the table. Even the vampire powers are used brainlessly, with a convenient ring that allows them to walk in sunlight (otherwise how could vampires go to high school?), and various other superpowers used or forgotten at the writers' whims. One episode even has a vampire working out, which makes no sense if you think about it for more than two seconds. Vampiricism is handled exactly the same way as drug dealing and drug addiction, demonstrating yet again the lack of imagination, and even Damon, who is at first chaotically evil in sometimes unpredictable, but simple ways, is softened up for yet another love triangle. Even the trashy True Blood had some texture and character, but this is just a barbie-doll teenage vampire show.



Originals, The  
Based on the first five episodes.

It only takes a couple of episodes to see that this is a spin-off of Vampire Diaries and more of the same glossy garbage. Granted, the actors are tiny bit older in their 20s, improving it slightly over the silly teenage vibe in that show, but it's still the same approach. All characters are never convincing in the slightest and look exactly like what they are: Vapid, bratty, pouty and pretty models with 100% attitude and zero personality, pretending to have witchy or vampiric powers and acting like a younger cast of Bold and Beautiful in a glossy 'gang war'. Plotting and betrayals fly in every episode as they fight over control for New Orleans and over some hybrid wolf-vampire baby, with law-enforcement nowhere in sight. One would think that after 1000 years, they would have learned something, but they're just a bunch of catty young brats with badly fake accents, including the '1000-year-old' boys.



Mutant X (Marvel)  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

Laughably bad superhero show that rips off X-Men, pitting groups of mutant young heroes with various genetically engineered superpowers against each other for 'cool' looking fight scenes. This show and its actors focus only on looking cool. There is no character development because they don't have personalities. No one is likeable because they don't exist. They over-use wire-work in fight scenes because they can't fight. The writing is childishly simple and takes no account of logic, consistency or any plot developments that make sense. This one is for children only. Stupid ones.



Nine Lives of Chloe King, The  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

Yet another clueless, cliched, cookie-cutter, empty-headed show about a blonde superheroine, this one obviously targeted at 15 year old girls, featuring a teenager who finds out she's some kind of catwoman. She has a chummy, cutesy relationship with her adoptive mom, she has cutesy friends, and she is all angsty because of her powers, her destiny and the fact that she loves two hunks. Oh, and she can kill guys by kissing them. Enough said. The story arc is boring as hell, the writing is so dumbed down, your brain will melt into bubble-gum, the personalities and developments never rise above the level of a soap opera, and the fighting is so bad and her physical skills so obviously non-existent, that even the terribly choppy editing job that does everything it can to spice up the fight scenes can't hide this. During the first episode, she tells her Mom: "Do not cry, squeal or hug me". This is exactly what I feel like telling this show.



Roswell  
Based on a handful of scattered episodes.

So, like, this cute chick gets saved by an alien with super powers who looks just like a hot guy and now her life is gonna become complicated in addition to her wanting to be more popular, and she has to hide this secret from her friends, but, like, the alien is so lonely even though he has two alien friends, and they all are so like, alien-like you know, because they pour tabasco sauce over everything they eat and they can listen to CDs without a CD player, but everything will be OK because the alien thinks she is beautiful, but then the UFO-obsessed FBI-sheriff guy starts suspecting things, and his son, who was dumped by the cute chick, also starts making her life difficult, so her life is so gonna suck, OMG right? No, really, even as a teenager I didn't want to watch these dumb teenage shows. It gets a little more complicated as it progresses, dealing with alien hybrids, secret destinies, various competing government agendas, etc. but still with the same angsty teenage base, and with writing that takes itself seriously, designed to appeal to dumb superficial teenagers.



American Horror Story  
Based on the first five episodes.

Absolutely terrible 'horror' series by FX, with a different 'story' per season. Except that it isn't a story in any real sense of the term, as a story needs to be constructed, whereas this is just a bunch of randomly slapped together horror-movie elements. It's as if someone watched 100 Hollywood horror movies in a month then tried to see how many things they can squeeze into every single episode of this series. At one point in an episode, all of the following was happening simultaneously: A home-invasion by psychotic murder-obsessed teens, a supernatural pregnancy, a vengeful ghost, an evil house, a killer ghost, a hysterical past flame looking for revenge, a mad killer-stalker who killed his family, a husband who may or may not be killing when he passes out, and a Down's syndrome girl who warns of impending death (as if it wasn't obvious already). And this only takes up part of an episode. Of course, the characters never make any sense or come close to resembling real people's behaviour. How could they? Perhaps this is horror for an ADD person with a single-digit IQ, but the real horror is in how many people are watching this show and rating it so highly, and how it managed to hire so many good actors. And it is no surprise that Lady Gaga joined this show, since the writing is as disciplined and tasteful as her dress-code. Another over-the-top trashy show by Ryan Murphy, except this one is even more over-the-top than usual, is completely brainless, and designed to attract a tasteless audience with no attention span. The fact that this audience is so large is cause for concern.



Darknet  
Based on all six episodes.

30-minute episodes containing about 3-6 little horror pseudo-stories that feel more like a couple of scenes from a horror movie that was never developed beyond a murder scene and a half-baked 'twist'. These 'stories' are often 'linked' together by simply making the characters meet each other in random places. Almost all the shorts are either just mere surprise murder scenes, or they leave you hanging wondering what the point was, or they never make any sense, just showing random people becoming killers or cruel sadists without rhyme or reason. People encounter horror situations when they least expect it, often following clues or playing games, sometimes involving found-footage. The horror mostly involves murders, and vicious or disturbed people, with only occasional hints of something supernatural (unless it only seems that way because it's so poorly and randomly written). To cut a short story shorter, this is horror for the ADD smart-phone generation that equate brainless randomness with unique mystery, and that think that short bursts of sudden highly-contrived violence or cruelty by random people is intriguing horror. If this and American Horror Story present the new face of horror, then we may as well give up on the whole genre. Beyond brainless, and a complete waste of time.



Tripping the Rift  
Based on the first four episodes.

Another unfunny attempt at 'adult' comedy animation a la South Park, this one with a sci-fi theme that throws random references to Star Trek and many other sci-fi movies and staples. Except this isn't adult, this is juvenile from the mind of precociously filthy 10 year old boy, or a man who never mentally matured past that age. The height of wit in this show is having God duck in front of a space ship to cause someone behind him to die then call out 'suckers', waving bouncy big boobs and butt every other minute in front of the screen, kidnapping a chainsaw-sportsman by shoving something up his butt, having a spaceship call someone a whore, and calling someone 'Harry Ballsack'. Enough said.



Sense8  
Based on the first six episodes.

More clueless over-cooked propaganda trash from the one-hit-wonder boys The Wachowskis. To be fair, there is a fun sci-fi/fantasy idea at the center of this, but it takes too long to start getting interesting, and by then you have been inundated by the politically-correct hammer that is the Wachowskis. The plot involves powers to connect humans to each other in a cluster of psychic links that allow them not only to share all thoughts and feelings, but to visit each other, help, and make use of each other's skills. Of course, there is also a Big Bad Evil, who wants to control or destroy them, but this story arc disappears for most of the season and instead the show focuses on their personal dramas and various escalating dangers and back-stories. In that sense, it's like Lost, where the plot is a manipulative backdrop for the smaller stories. Which brings me to the characters: There's a gay Mexican action-hero actor who has to keep it a secret to protect his macho image, an African from Nairobi who worships Van Damme and who is has to face local vicious crime to help his mother who has AIDS, an Indian woman with pharmaceutical knowledge who is pressured to marry someone she doesn't love, and a white cop who tries to help a young gang-banger despite 'prejudice against black people'. There's a Korean super-woman who is both good at business and kick-boxing, who can beat professional male fighters three times her size extremely easily even though she's an obviously untrained skinny person (no Matrix-powers here and yet...), and whose father and brother treat her like garbage just because she is a woman. Then there's a professional ruthless German criminal with ties to the mob, a female DJ from Iceland with a dark past, and finally, a transsexual who is scorned by everyone except his black lover, and who is one of those fantasy hackers that can hack anything easily without research or work. In short, it's like the PC, LGBT, and Benetton dream-cast, and the writing makes sure you keep getting the message of victim-hood and widespread 'prejudice' over and over, along with constant rainbow sex scenes and dripping dildos. Of course, the psychic-joining idea takes on a whole new meaning here, but I kept watching for a few episodes anyways, and just when the stories started getting interesting beyond the clobbering agenda, the characters join in a laughable 'psychic' orgy where suddenly all the straight people instantly become bisexual and love it. Remember that ridiculous rave party in Matrix II? I wanted a sci-fi show and got a pride parade instead.



Dracula  
Based on the first four episodes.

I suppose this is the Millennial version of Dracula, and what a travesty it is. Dracula is transformed into a business-man industrialist hunk with fashionable facial hair who is fighting an evil, secret-cult called Order of the Dragon in order to avenge his wife's murder. Stakes and garlic are no longer relevant, and drinking blood is secondary to his plotting and scheming. Dracula becomes the relative good guy since he has some morals when it comes to his romantic love and is fighting a bloodthirstier cult. Imagine that. Renfield is suddenly a wise black butler, and Van Helsing becomes a co-conspirator with Dracula (!). Re-imagining a classic is one thing, but this is a gang-rape that goes against the spirit of the original on so many levels. Perhaps they would like to re-imagine Sherlock Holmes next by casting him as a mafia boss and FBI renegade who tracks down criminals in order to gain control of his territory? To add insult to gang-rape, they have Dracula sleeping around in the now obligatory titillating sex scenes, all the women in this show for some reason behave like insufferably arrogant harlots, the overdone fight scenes involve a woman wearing leather straight out of a Matrix clone, attitudes by and to women and black men are completely anachronistic, and Dracula is an arrogant prick with zero charm, making one wonder why women are falling at his feet. Absolutely terrible. Note to self: After Tudors and this, avoid anything with Rhys Meyers.



Mists of Avalon, The  

A Feminist-Pagan reconstruction of the Arthurian legend based on the popular book by Bradley which justifies its revisionism because the myth of Arthur is steeped in contradictions and unknowns as well as Christian-male alleged twisting of facts. Not having read the book, and knowing that the fans of the book hate this movie, I will stick to criticizing the movie, but I can't help but feel that at least some of the problems have been passed on from the original story. Firstly, where the book supposedly bashes Christianity, this series commits the serious sin of being new-age, politically correct claptrap, whitewashing both religions and their questionable practices, and claiming that all religions are equal and valid. Not only that, but some of the Pagan women here seem to be Christian moralists at heart and aren't consistent with their Pagan ethics. Secondly, by making all men into pathetic submissive pawns of the women, they have committed the same sin they accused men of doing: that of one-sided twisting of facts and hogging of credit. On top of all this, although this is supposedly a feminist statement, the movie proves that putting women in power would be a huge mistake as most of them act like soap-opera, selfish, catty, fatalistic drama queens. In summary: Good acting and production values, but the screenplay is as bad as it can get.



Charmed  
Based on scattered episodes of the first 2 seasons.

A dumb Buffy-wannabe show that is strictly aimed at the teenage crowd, a boring deus-ex-machina fantasy about girl-power, a purely girly show with insufferable girly behaviour, and a show that seems to care more about sex appeal than writing, acting or anything but artificial emotional resonance and annoying forced angst. I suppose the creators thought all they had to do was create a supernatural show where teenagers have difficult love affairs and moan about being witches with a destiny to save the world and the rest would take care of itself. Avoid it like the plague.



Witches of East End  
Based on the first 5 episodes.

Strictly for dumb teenage girls, also because they are the only ones young enough not to remember Charmed. This is pretty much a carbon-copy of that show, which was a terribly dumb and girly show to begin with. This has less annoying characters, but that's not saying much, and its unoriginality lowers its score some more. Two young women discover they are witches from a family of witches, and have to fight both romantic dramas and triangles as well as a variety of evil curses and warlocks. Like Charmed, the approach to magic is completely chaotic, with powers and rules that come and go as needed by the writers. Some spells have consequences, others don't, useful spells and powers sometimes work, or don't work, and anything can be resolved with a new magic spell when it's time for the climax. The boring casting is strictly the local flat modelling factory (except for Julia Ormond, what is she doing here?), some of which look and behave like they were stolen from a soap opera, and the guys are fantasy-hunks as imagined by teenage girls, that never resemble or behave as in reality. Throw in some Twilight-style romantic entanglements and the picture should be complete.



Eastwick  
Based on the first 5 episodes.

Let's compare this turkey to the greatly underrated movie Witches of Eastwick with Nicholson: Where the original had real women, this one has soap queens acting like 14 year old girls, the mysterious and scary magic of the original is replaced with some kind of comic book mentality where each woman gets only one superpower, the complex and devilish Nicholson is replaced by an obvious and dumb fratboy, the wickedness of the original is replaced with soap opera bitchiness, and the superb dialogue, rants, witty provocations are all replaced by stupidity. In addition, the women commit murderous acts on anyone that annoys them with only an oops and a gasp as a reaction, and the people are all cartoonishly scandalous because, obviously, this show wants to be the next Desperate Housewives. There is a developing story arc, but who cares when the show is this terrible. Despicably bad.



Beauty and the Beast (2012)  
Based on a handful of episodes from the first season.

I wasn't expecting much and got much worse. It's the romantic magical story updated with a very misguided sci-fi twist for modern 'feminist' air-headed teenage girls. The 'Beauty' in this version is a kick-ass super-detective woman who looks like she just had her hair brushed perfectly even seconds after beating up two guys three times her size. And she somehow combines detective work with gossip, as her cases often involve a romance gone bad. A sample of her 'brilliant' detective work is that she concluded that a woman must be pregnant because she had a used pregnancy test box in her bag. The 'Beast' is even worse: A heart-throb hunk with a scar on his face, who turns into a strong monster, more often voluntarily than not, whenever he has to save women. Obviously the writers of this show are missing the point of the original story and its broad appeal by a few light years and the 'Beast' is a joke. Much angst is made over whether he will heal or not, and their not-so-challenging romance, while a secret (and very incompetent) military group try to kill him and everyone involved with him. Except the acting is as superficial and fake as the ideas behind this show. A complete waste of time.



100, The  
Based on the first 3 episodes.

The list of stupidities in this show in the first episode alone would take a couple of pages. Let's start with the premise: Nuclear war wiped out Earth, leaving 4000 survivors in a space station 100 years later, except that their resources are running out, so they decide to send 100 juvenile delinquents back down to a supposedly radioactive Earth to test the survivability of such a move. It's like a teenage fantasy come true: Teenagers get the planet to themselves without adults to supervise them. Except that it looks like the same stupid teenagers wrote this show. If you were running out of options, would you send criminal teenagers that are only interested in themselves to test your only chance of survival? And with only last-second instructions on where to find food? And no equipment or survival instructions or training? And without even a Geiger counter? And would you send 100 of your youngest from a dwindling 4000-strong human race, including a couple of young children? And let's talk about the rules on the space station: The rules are death for any minor criminal infraction, even if it means killing a very valuable doctor for a minor crime. And the method of killing? Ejecting them along with a room-full of precious oxygen. No wonder the teenagers can't wait to get out. The adults are stupider than they are. And the characterizations... let's see: The leader seems to be the only black man on the station, the doctor is female, the star engineer is a hot chick, while the white men are stupid troublemakers. On Earth, the only level-headed leaders are female and black, the tech-wizard is Asian, and the white men are testosterone-fuelled troublemakers. Got it. It also doesn't help that resource-hungry survivors on the ship look like they just got off a modelling set, even after crashing on a planet and living in the jungle for a few days. An attack by a huge monster only results in a few scratches that heal in a day. They all seem to be more interested in partying than in surviving, and this is no Lord of the Flies as most are irresponsible criminals to begin with, so obviously the outcome won't be pretty, or interesting in the slightest. Not to mention the yellow 'radiation clouds' that somehow attack people instantly but can be avoided by going into a cave. And on and on, the list is endless. Frankly, they couldn't all die fast enough.



Spooks: Code 9  
Based on the first 3 episodes.

Dreadful side-project by the maker of Spooks, supposedly designed for a younger crowd and the result is horrible. Some actors of 24 and Spooks are already implausibly young, but here they look fresh out of high-school and act like it too. So what's the excuse for making them into spies for MI-5? Nothing less than a nuclear bomb. See, new terrorists are dynamic and therefore need a new generation of spooks to counter-attack after the failure of the old regime. Yes, the show actually argues this incredibly stupid point. Nothing interesting is made of post-nuclear London, the budget is much smaller than Spooks, and the show is as lame as it sounds. Kids playing spies in a show that takes them seriously. What's next, a West Wing with 16 year olds running America?



Kindred: The Embraced  
Based on the first 3 episodes.

A short-lived vampire mafia show, based on a role playing game with a large fanbase, that looks, feels, sounds and smells like a soap opera. Various vampire clans are clashing under the ultimate leadership of Julian, with a cop on their tail who got sucked into their circles via a vampiric love triangle. This wallows in the soap opera staples of lust, jealousy, betrayal, melodrama and beauty, only with fangs and glossy clan wars. The casting and acting are glamorously wooden, but the cheesy 'romantic' dialogue is the true offender, making it impossible to watch this trash for more than 10 minutes. By the producer of Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 and it shows.



Angels in America  

Gay fantasy mini-series about the 80s, the AIDS scare, being gay in America, homosexuality and religion, the ozone layer, and angels and ghosts. Perhaps if I cared about the subject matter it would be more interesting, but personal disinterest aside, the characters are all unlikeable and even annoying, the drama is stretched, crude and overwrought, the writing bashes your head with left-wing propaganda, the fantasy scenes are silly and pointless, AIDS is blamed on everyone and everything except homosexual life-styles, and religious concepts are raped.




© 2000- by The Last Exit Table of Contents