IR TV Review: “If Memory Serves” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The aspect of canon has always been a thistle in a way in the side of the “Discovery”. While striving to make something original, this franchise like Star Wars can be helped and hindered. But in its best it transcends. “If Memory Serves” is the best episode of the series by far because it found that balance. In bringing in old TOS lore, and staying fairly close without breaking it, it necessitates what might be in store. The aspect of Michael and Spock is so dynamic because it shows the incessant humanity while completely lost in logic. When he finally begins speaking, it makes a lot of what we have seen past and present integrated. It also very much speaks to perhaps a bigger structural basis between the Kelvin & Prime Universes which undoubtedly is spacing through the writers’ room. That said, despite any of the mechanics, “If Memory Serves” is a dynamic emotional episodes that contains the best perspective of Star Trek episodes in that they make you think, reflect but also emote. While Michael and Spock carry the basis of the episode, it is the balance and intent of Anson Mount as Christopher Pike and his connection that allows for the bridge between two worlds, as Mount alluded to IR at our interview at TCA, without him giving a thing away. Bravo.

By Tim Wassberg

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IR TV Review: “Light And Shadows” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The essence of “Light And Shadows” reflects in the ideas of who we are and who we are to be perceived to be. In the most recent episode, Doug Jones’ Saru discovered that his instincts were really part of an awakening which allowed him to come to his unseen potential. The inference comes to a head as he is drawn back home to face demons, literally and metaphorically that have changed the idea of what it means to exist. This balances in Michael Burnham’s continuing search for Spock and the reasoning of this point. We finally see the first glimpses of Ethan Peck as Spock but what is really interesting is the diametric of the family as Michael herself returns home and like Saru must understand the difference between knowing her path and walking the path. The Red Angel continues to be a presiding influence but in true serialized storytelling structure it is starting to take on a different meaning in terms of its resonance. Connection is a big driving force but tolerance and understanding even more so despite differing socio, political, even world views. The ideal that ends the episodes again points to another piece in the puzzle which slowly but surely continues to unfold while telling very universal stories which “Star Trek” has always been known for.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “The Sound Of Thunder” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The essence of identity continues within the structure of “Star Trek: Discovery”. In ”The Sound Of Thunder”, the texture of the Red Angel is continued by a series of perceptions of changed definition. Saru is the focus and the return to his home planet after a transformation of sorts. While not as powerful as the previous episode simply because the stakes are different, this perspective shows, without giving anything away that rising awareness can affect change but also change the nature of who we are. This is true not just of Saru but of a recently returned crew mate. What is interesting in this continuing thread is what expectations create. Parallel structure definitely affects Michael Burnham in many ways and in certain perspectives, some of the canonized material seen sometimes can also run parallel to “The Next Generation”. As the narrative continues to unfold, the essence of the story is connected but while still making each episode, this one more than the last, able to have a essential life force of its own without sacrificing the serialized nature of the proceedings.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – REBELS – S2 PREMIERE [Disney XD]

REB_IA_8807The key with “Star Wars: Rebels” has always been connection the emotional impact and nostalgia of the old series, bridging the mythology of the prequels and leading them towards the new films. If there is one thing that Disney knows, it is synergy. But what really seems to be working well here is integrating also the lifeline of “The Clone Wars” animated series with the new storylines. As dense and political as that series became, what it did do was immensely humanize Anakin Skywalker, specifically his relationship with his Padewan Ahsoka. The first episodes of season 2 of “Rebels” adequately pushes that.

REB_IA_8316There is a great reveal moment in the premiere episode but is interesting in that the series gives the audience a leg up on the proceedings that the main characters in the series do not possess. It creates a interesting quagmire for this season, one that unfortunately can only end in tragedy. That said, it creates stakes for the series and gives it more dynamic perspective. Strangely enough, the series is on XD which is more tween oriented and this is definitely a multi generational show through and through. The balance of force between Ezra and Kanan continues to work well especially in a face off with a certain Sith. The different consequences of actions though ring in eerie parallel, especially the burning of a place called Tarkin Town and the aspect of the Sith using “compassion” as a rebel weakness to his advantage.

REB_IA_9043The concluding showdown of the episode brings to mind the inherent strategy of thinking outside the box as in the original trilogy. At certain points you do feel it veering into military and political turmoil but the key in this series is always to bring it back to the main characters and with this season specifically: Ahsoka. “Rebels” has found a great crux of perception but needs to keep building. But with supervising director Dave Filoni as usual at the helm (like he was with “Clone Wars”), the course is in good hands.

IR Television Review: Design Infrastructure & The Narrative Lens: New TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part II

Finding different intonations to set genres against requires different elements of design and character infrastructure which becomes harder and harder with the extensive formulaic elements progressing through the TV landscape. Whether it be the medical drama or the lost adventure, the key becomes seeing it through a different lens or narrative construct which will allow the audience to see themselves in a brand new light.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series With “Clone Wars” setting the bar high in terms of visual excellence on Cartoon Network, it is undeniably a highlight to see this incarnation doing so well. Succeeding in ways that the feature film failed on because of its need for mass market appeal despite some lofty possibilities in the attempt reflects the purity. Beyond the journey set up, which is what lifts the series,(using an almost “Star Trek: Voyager” construct), is that it forces the creators to think outside the box and create a new world with rules aside from what the Guardian lore creates. Mixing Hal Jordan with a monster Lantern who lives by a rule of discipline and adding a Red Lantern always on the verge of betrayal keeps an interesting dynamic moving, not to mention a neat AI perception of a ship that happens to look like RL’s slain wife. For a Saturday morning show, it is a bit dark but also deep on mythology. The most stunning aspect by far is how complete the look is with some of bigger set pieces (like a starship falling into a black hole) culpable to anything on “Clone Wars”.

The River Bringing a found footage angle to network television is a tricky thing because much depends on the scare factor which is hard to function on a network (this one is on ABC). While, in certain scenarios where it is about what you don’t see (like LOST) it works to its advantage. This set-up works partially on this element but the pay off is not apparent. For what it is so far, its premise is engaging. What provides it with a solid ground is the flashback personage of Bruce Greenwood as a TV famous biologist who goes into the jungle to search for a lost “angel”. His found camera footage in the wilderness including the warding off of the “demon” and his refusal to kill his dog to avoid sacrificing his humanity is exceptionally compelling. The surrounding elements watching these journals but also the attacks from undead perceptions lack a degree of depth or tension creating a vessel and a void which definitely has potential for greatness but is not quite there yet.

A Gifted Man Approaching the medical environment with textures of paranormal influence is not unusual with ideas of guilt versus moving on. This series tries with good emotional weight to take this on but with a limited amount of perceptions to feed the fire. While the death of his ex-wife in a car crash resurfaces in heart transplants and the definition of love in the re-emergence of his high school sweetheart who eventually suffers from a life ending concussion has repercussions, the idea of what the lead character finds necessary to learn feels unstable and not very telling. Patrick Wilson tries his best but almost over-emotes the necessary beats to make an audience connect.

Two Broke Girls Using the vapid intentions of “Sex & The City” writer/producer Michael Patrick King on a network sitcom is both engaging and slightly worrying simply because the line becomes much more maligned just because of the nature of the beast when one moves between pay cable and network passing over basic cable entirely, While some of the jokes play dirtier than normal for network, it does play to the honesty of the characters. Kat Dennings’ slacker slut-type is perfectly in control of her facilities and understands her position but knows when to take risks even though she knows she might fall on her face. The actress sometimes plays it too hard because her sweetness in real life shows through while her cohort, more unknown to the public, is seemingly and paradoxically the more transparent of the two. The attempt focuses on a trajectory for these girls yet the most telling scenes (which at times are not used enough) are the moments in the diner where the true facts of life ring strongly.

IR Television Review: Hidden Masks & Pushing Characters – New TV Shows – Spring 2012 – Part I

Continuing the mix with pushing animation and eccentric characters, using tried and true methods sometimes works with mixed results whether it be sketch comedy gurus attacking the tenants of high school or a succubus finding her way in a coven of vampire. The shows structured here explore the hidden masks between the ideas of identity and coming to terms with who people want or expect you to be.

Unsupervised The only problem in being the second animated show at FX is that you have to be compared to “Archer”. While the series functions as a modern day “Beavis & Butthead” with heart, it comes off less snarky and more white trash than its older brother. While this undeniably is the background of the show, its insistence feels too earnest. The overweight side friend is too cool for school and the home-bound desolation of the kids is almost depressing. One light within the circumference of the series is the pyromaniac special needs kid, who it seems is based on one of the creators’ friend. He is snot nosed and hilarious. At one point in an episode which involves the lower echelon of students whose classroom is represented by a cargo container, his screams for help are both funny and slightly sad, so the connection is made. The balance of crash and temperament is a “touch-and-go” policy here so the line tends to manipulate the audience week to week.

Napoleon Dynamite The animated continuation of the popular independent movie by comparison plays much more innocent but with a texture of knowing on network. The fact that it is the exact same cast from the movie definitely distinctifies it. The difference is the kind of weird stuff Napoleon talks about in his head which before were only spoken daydreams are now adventures he can actually have whether it be a full-blown wrestling match or leading an army into battle. The texture seems to play with the right sense of tongue-in-cheek angle and the banter is every bit as witty though like the film, Kip steals the show because he is the most unlikely hero that has the cahones to start trouble even if it causes him pain. It always makes his “Hey!” and “Owww” even funnier.

The Finder Creating another private eye in Miami but one without the same charm or social interaction as say Michael Weston in “Burn Notice” or the lead investigator on “The Glades” pushes a little bit of credibility within this yarn depending on his level of clearance. Headquartered in a bar off the edge of the Everglades with a chaperone and omen like Michael Clarke Duncan wearing his best tropical shirt can brighten any day especially when cocktails are added into the mix. Like “Unforgettable”, this investigator uses a sixth sense to permeate his clues which distinctly don’t work in the aspect of modern forensic crime fighting because guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The ladies within the cast give some gusto from a Federal Agent who finds the investigator irresistible (if not a little weird) to a female juvenile delinquent the crew takes under their wing because she has something to offer. The narratives which include girls in trouble at local clubs mixed with NASA scientists and long-festering betrayals have their moments but the building of attachment to characters which continues as a plot ploy when the FBI sends a psychologist to gauge the importance of what the lead protagonist does seems more to engage the audience than the character itself.

Lost Girl Mirroring notions of “Being Human” whereas monsters exist in the real world as roommates just trying to get by, here the lead character is a Succubus set out on her own trying to survive until people begin to take notice of her special talents. The humor reflects more to a show like “Warehouse 13” in the aspect of an eventual sidekick/roommate who is not part of the clan but can offer a viewpoint of this world where throats are slit but the people don’t die. Our succubus keeps below the radar for the most part but brokers her deals as she can. At times, it seems all too domestic which makes sense if the series is trying to connect with alienated younger viewers. The forbidden love of sorts between a vampire and our lead character is one of mutual lust and energy. Only at full potential can a succubus fully work her magic. While there is not an overwhelming tension that creates an unbending mythology, the series does deliver on its seeming underworld, lurking just below the surface where, like in the real world, people are just trying to carve out (literally) their own slice of life.

Natural Legacy & Prevalent Viewpoints: Returning Television – Fall 2011 – Part II

The nature of legacy shows resounds in their ability to highlight and enhance without losing what they were in earlier incarnations. “Two & A Half Men” has been the most prevalent viewpoint in the last year with the departure of Charlie Sheen and eventual replacement by Ashton Kutcher but approaching characters like Batman and the vastness of the Star Wars universe holds its perils as well.

Batman: Brave & The Bold Interacting with the lore and mythology of other characters within the guise of Batman allows the creators to show and gauge the interest of fans (or the writers themselves) of how interesting certain backstories run. Highlighting lesser known vintage characters like The Atom or exploring the essence of sequel prowess with Green Lantern’s handling of Star Sapphire shows the possibility of them  against those backdrops without having to worry about logic. However, something like traveling through time to save different incarnations of Batman so he can exist in the current timeline is straining belief but the creative team knows that this is a chance to go off the rails before the next series inevitably return to darkness.

The Clone Wars Making the mythology more vast and intrinsic without overcoming the basic nature of the universe it has a created is a daunting task especially when you are writing the backstories of several of the species in later films. What this show tends to do, in short order, with adequate results, is create a depth of structure where the features just laid the ground work. Two story progressions this season so far show this both with the “Water War” progression with the Gungans and the Mon Calamari which dictate certain emotional responses in terms of war structure. By contrast, the episodes with General Krell where he displays a lack of empathy and regard to the clones results in a mutiny of sorts that creates a microcosm of battle command in its simplest form wrestling the idea away from being purely Jedi=centric.

The Big Bang Theory The indiosyncrasies of the core bunch continue to grow but what Chuck Lorre has learned to do is spin moons within the planetary configuration of the core five specifically with Howard’s fiance and Amy, Sheldon’s would-be girlfriend. The show has always been about social inadequacy and how technology and simple awkwardness make the possibility of these people connecting even more so. By changing the dynamic, especially with Penny, the idea becomes more of a wingman persona with all these people moving out in different directions on their own while still remaining a core group with varying circumstances and results.

Two & A Half Men In resurrecting the show after the unfortunate inevitable departure of Charlie Sheen, one would have thought it would be disastrous without him. The way however the writers have maintained shows a distinct undeniable truth that the writing, if done in a very specific way without negating or denying Sheen’s influence and still having a snarky but not mean edge towards its former star, shows an effective overhaul. You realize how key the bumbling mannerisms of Jon Cryer truly anchor the show and magnifies the everyman quality of it. Ashton Kutcher’s character is not a Charlie Harper but takes on a more cool quality from creator Chuck Lorre’s other show “The Big Bang Theory” in that certain qualities can be good and bad. An especially good two episode arch involves Alan (Cryer) and his worst day as well as a psychotic break where he reverts and tries to emulate his brother. It is neat because it addresses the good and bad sides of Charlie Harper while showing empathy. It might not be the Charlie show anymore but it does show that it can survive with dignity and darkness without him.