Like, Love, Looking Forward to

I was asked on Facebook last night after my last Babylon 5 post went live why I am still doing this if it sucks (paraphrased). I guess from the outside it looks like I’m pretty miserable with these posts, but I assure you I am not. I love TV and I love dissecting TV. And while this show is currently not thrilling me, the posts have become kind of their own reward in a weird way. Make no mistake, if the show gets to the point where watching it is an out and out chore, I have no issues chalking it up to “Not for Erics” and moving on, but we’re not there yet.

But that got me thinking – I rarely talk about the things I am absolutely in love with. With that in mind I have come up with a few shows that I like(d), love(d), or am looking forward to in the coming months. A full post of positivity!

Like

These first 2 shows are only in the “like” category because I haven’t finished them yet. Great News (season 1 on Netflix, with season 2 hopefully coming soon) and Trial & Error (season 2 on Hulu with no word on where season 1 is). Both were short lived NBC sitcoms and both were completely hilarious.

— Great News  stars Briga Heelan as Katie, a TV news producer. Her mother, played brilliantly by Andrea Mitchell becomes an intern on her show and it’s off to the races. The show is smart, fast, weird, and drove me to bouts of scream-laughing a number of times.

— Trial & Error in it’s first season was a weird show about a big city lawyer representing a small town murder suspect. I gather that season 1 was fine but when the show came back for season 2, it really when all out on the crazy. Kristin Chenoweth joins the cast as the latest totally insane murder suspect and the show doubles down on the surreal. From the completely bonkers laws of the towns of East and West Peck to the people, to the crime itself this show is totally nuts. Not seeing season 1 isn’t an impediment to season 2 either, it’s more or less standalone and the few references to the previous case can be easily overlooked.

— Netfilx’s American Vandal is a dark, moody, deadly serious (faux) docudrama about the silliest crimes at 2 high schools. In its brilliant first season, they tackled the crime of teacher’s cars being vandalized with spray painted penises and in the far darker and way funnier second season they try to track down the Turd Burgler and stop a wave of poop crimes at a Catholic High School. This show is so fun and silly and odd and it’s all handled in the most overwrought solemn tone which makes it all the funnier when actors deliver lines like “I didn’t draw the dicks!” and constantly talk about “poop crimes.” Yes, it’s sophomoric. It’s also delightful.

— Let me be the millionth person to tell you that Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which just won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy series, is just so fun and well done. I cannot recommend that enough.

— FOX’s The Gifted is like a dark Easter egg for X-Men fans. It gets a little mired down its own world building but it looks like this season is already starting a course correction. I am excited to see where it goes.

Love

— I have already mentioned my adoration for Netflix’s BoJack Horseman before so I will just say that season 5 continues it’s previous trajectory and shows that even with a modicum of success BoJack is still a wreck.

— NBC’s The Good Place (now in it’s 3rd season) is pure joy. It’s hysterically funny, brilliantly conceived and perfectly realized. I could not adore this show more.

— CBS’ Mom, like BoJack Horseman, is a true laugh at your pain show. The season 6 premiere continues the story of Christy (Anna Farris) dealing with her gambling addiction while starting Law School in typical fashion (ie it all goes to hell). But, what I love about this show is how much it has grown and changed over the years and how the characters really show their love for each other. Dark and hilarious and loving- checks all of the boxes.

Looking Forward To

— NBC’s Superstore is back tonight and I could not be more thrilled. I binged the first 3 seasons over the summer and I can’t believe that I waited on this show. Funny, insightful and wonderfully performed, this is what a sitcom should be. Season 4 picks up in the aftermath of Amy (American Ferrera) and Jonah’s (Ben Feldman) televised tryst and I genuinely cannot wait to watch this show again.

— DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns to the CW on October 22. This show, out of all of the Arrowverse shows, has become my favorite because it is unapologetically insane. Season 3 ended with the Legends Captain Planeting themselves into a super furby and literally cuddling a demon to death. Seriously. That happened. And it was glorious. This season the team will be dealing with the magical fallout from that battle while travelling through time and generally being very weird.

— I have decided to go ahead and pick up Doctor Who again when it returns on October 7th. It’s not just new Doctor Jodie Whittaker, although there’s that, but the whole show seems to have an entirely new feel this time around. I became pretty bored with the show near the end of Matt Smith’s era and watched nearly none of Capaldi’s so I’m very interested to see how I feel about this new direction.

— Finally, the upcoming fourth and final season of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fills me with feelings. I am so sad that this show is ending but I am so happy it has been allowed to do what it has. A wacky weekly musical comedy about love and mental illness is a hard sell but I love that it has connected with so many people. It returns on October 12th.

And that’s not even all I am watching as I am working on HBO’s Barry, Syfy’s Wynonna Earp, Pop’s Schitt’s Creek, BBC America’s Killing Eve, CBS’s Survivor, and a couple of UK shows (Marley’s Ghosts and panel show Mock the Week).

I really love Peak TV and I only watch a small handful of the wonderful stuff that’s out there. Hope you find something in this list that strikes your fancy!

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Babylon 5 season 1 episode 3: Born to the Purple

You guys, this episode was bad. It was well acted by Peter Jurasik but beyond that it had basically no redeeming value.

This week, Londo (Jurasik) falls in love with a dancer (stripper?) who tries to steal his (laughably titled) “purple files” and that’s it. It is silly, ultimately pointless, develops no relationships and just sort of…happens. What there is though, is terrible fashion!

Screenshot (69)Our story begins with Sinclair and G’Kar interrupting Londo at the station’s…um…”burlesque house” where a young Barbara Mandrell practices for her set at Lillith Fair.

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Meet Adira (Fabiana Udenio) our plot device for the week. She’s a dancer, a slave, an adventurous dresser and a much better actress than this show allows her to be.

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And apparently she lives in a genie’s bottle.

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Jerry Doyle looks just as shocked at this credit as I am. Really? Harlan Ellison?

Anyway

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Game Boys existed in 1994 so there is no excuse for Vir’s (Stephen Furst) janky handheld. Come on prop department, spend a penny

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Although the dreaded return of the 13″ CRT monitor tells us that budget is still a primary concern. Also, I swear this is the best image I could grab, I do not hate Stephen Furst.

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I know I bitched a lot last time about how stupid these commlinks are on this show but look at this shit, Ivannova’s is basically peeling off. The corner there might as well act like a fist weapon. This was such a stupid impractical concept and I will never not point out how dumb it is.

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Speaking of, Adira is tasked with stealing the access code to the purple files (so, so stupid) with this…butt plug? super headlight? Ink & quill set? God I hate you, Babylon 5 prop department.

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More props: these janky “flowers” with Christmas lights and shredded zip-loc baggies dangling from them.

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Also: “Universe Today” ha?

 

And now a triptych of “what the hell is Adira wearing why do you all hate Adira??” She wears this Victorian-inspired mess for the remainder of the episode. It’s so floofy and complicated and so out of place with everything else I just do not get it.

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Additionally, Talia’s “nude illusion” shoulders are so CMA Awards 1987 I can’t stand it. Why is there SO MUCH velour in the future, huh?

 

Follow. That. Bustle!

Okay. Now we come to the dumbest part of this very dumb episode. Londo and Sinclair are looking for Adira. They go to the burlesque house before they open to try to speak with the girls. Londo, wears a hood to at least try a disguise (never mind that he told us earlier that he’s there nightly) but Sinclair just puts on a coat. Face fully visible. Now, why they’re trying to be sneaky with this rejected Dick Tracy-villain who runs the club I don’t know -like, just ask to talk to the girls! But for the club owner to not recognize the COMMANDER OF THE STATION is ludicrous! Especially if he’s criminally-aligned!

 

I mean, if it was just and excuse for Michael O’Hare to use a crazy palooka voice and make weird faces… I’ll allow it.

Screenshot (93)These “dancers” (in quotes because I have no idea what this place is. Are they sex workers? ‘Cause that is fine if they just say that!) are so extra.

 

Wraparound glasses = alien bounty hunter

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So we’re all certain he didn’t make a copy of the IMMENSELY IMPORTANT SECRET FILES THAT COULD END YOUR CAREER? OK!

TROPES

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You knew there was an O2 mask. Of course there is!

QUESTIONS

Why? What was the point of all of this?

What are “purple files?”

Why did we need the subplot of Garibaldi creepily watching SUSAN’S FATHER’S DYING MESSAGE TO HER?????

Do all female Centauri look like Adira? Was she Centauri?

Why does Londo (and in this episode G’Kar) get an assistant? Where’s Delenn’s assistant (I gather from credits he exists…?)

Speaking of Delenn, I thought the Minbari were the “big” aliens for this show. Like the Vulcans were on Star Trek initially. Not even a mention of them in this episode?

Sinclair and Talia are gonna hook up, right?

This was BY FAR the worst episode yet. As I said before, Peter Jurasik gets some nice moments and his chemistry with Fabiana Udenio is really nice but I have never been more bored. This story was bizarre and the logic was non-existent. And no one was born to anything purple or otherwise, what does that even mean?

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but, when does Bruce Boxleitner get here? This is getting silly.

Next time: an Infection!

Babylon 5 Season 1 Episode 2: The Soul Hunter

This is the first “real” episode of Babylon 5 the series and it is one of the most underwhelming episodes of TV I’ve ever seen. It’s boring, slow, and nonsensical. And, while it deals with Minbari mythology (kind of?) it really does nothing to advance the overall narrative of the series or explore who the Minbari are. Which is a shame as this is the perfect time to start exploring this world. But, no. The lion’s share of this episode is taken up by the titular Soul Hunter (played by William Morgan Sheppard here doing ALL THE ACTING IN THE WORLD) MONOLOGUING ALL THE WORDS!!! and Delenn alternately looking worried and/or moaning inconsolably while being tired to a piece of grating material. Ironic that this is all grating material (get it?)

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What. Is. With. The. Design. Aesthetic. In. The. Future?!?! Why does everything look a a balloon/fuse/headlight bulb? I guess I am just too used to the general sleekness of Star Trek ’cause these just look cumbersome

We also meet our new swagtastic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) who already is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone on this show in terms of fashion. That coat/scarf combo is amazing in both looks and totally uselessness on a space station.

Screenshot (50)Last time I mentioned I thought there would be a fat Garibaldi story coming. Now I think we’re just being set up for him being useless as here Delenn steals his weapon with almost no effort on her part. Also in the background, the purple/O2 masks are back with us.

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Oh Michael O’Hare.

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The Soul Hunter’s whole deal is that they can sense on on coming death for the purpose of collecting the soul for archiving (and we later see, being extremely creepy with). This “death sense” is shown to us via watching this interminable 3-card monty game in which the conman is killed. This scene, the chase, the guy’s death and the Soul Hunter’s watered-down Vincent Price monologue lasts for at least 7 minutes. It’s exhausting.

All the while he’s just standing there. Like this. For the whole time. In that makeup. With…what the hell is his forehead? Is it supposed to look like that? I need an adult!

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Meanwhile the entire command staff is modeling the 3 possible ways to relax in the new uniforms.

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Farscape this is not.

This cracked me up. We start with Sinclair and Ivannova talking to Soul Hunter #2 on the requisite 13″ CRT monitor. Then, on the reverse, we see that while they’re taking to him, he’s on another bigger screen (15″ maybe) over their shoulders. There is no reason for this design, it’s wholly nonsensical and it makes me think that he’s looking at Sinclair’s ear during this whole exchange.

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Our baddie is eventually dispatched by his own machine that he was using to eat Delenn’s soul. While she needed to be exsanguinated and prepared over a few hours, this guy gets hit and just stands there for a full minute while getting killed. I assure you he easily could have stepped an inch to either side and left but he I guess chooses to just take it. Which begs the question: How does this process work?

No matter, Delenn is safe, the Soul Hunter is gone and the souls he acquired over the years can be released by Delenn in a sequence that I had to GIF becasue it looked fully insane.

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Questions

Besides what the fuck was Mira Furlan directed to do in the above?

Let’s talk comm links. I think this is the first time they’ve shown B5‘s personal comm system and it is actually stupid. It’s a giant speaker that is stuck in some manner to the back of the hand. Besides the fact that this is a really weird idea, like it’s clear you wanted to do a comm watch but thought the idea wasn’t future-y enough, your comm system can be negated by all sorts of things. Like the gloves worn in the flight suits you need to wear. And it’s cumbersome in that is seriously limits the range of motion (think hand-to-hand combat) of that hand. It’s also unsanitary unless you’re issued a new one daily.

Tropes

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We’ve already seen some O2 masks, purple lighting, and 13″ CRT monitors. So here’s 1 more purple and mask combo for the road. Richard Biggs is clearly thinking “what have I signed up for?”

God this episode was boring. I think they were trying to go for moody, mysterious, and atmospheric. But it came off as plodding, overwrought, and silly. These alien mythology stories are really hard to do under the best of circumstances but to hook it on the mythology of a species the audience doesn’t know yet makes for a shaky foundation.

Next time: The series 3rd episode dances towards either self-parody or retroactive justification with “Born to the Purple”

Babylon 5 Season 1 Episode 1: Midnight on the Firing Line

The first regular episode of Babylon 5 aired 11-months after the premiere movie. Now operating with a budget and a real cast in place, they began their series with “Midnight on the Firing Line.” 2 things right off the top: I hope they reran the movie before this premiered as this episode doesn’t set things up at all- The Gathering isn’t required to enjoy this (i guess…) but there is a certain barrier to entry that would be well eased by seeing all that world building (although, The Gathering is in no way referenced in this episode which I find odd to say the least.) Secondly, the title of this episode makes no sense as on screen text shows that this episode starts at 10:00 AM not midnight.

Anyway.

Episode 1 begins with a long cold open setting up the plot of the episode- and unmotivated attack on a Centauri civilian colony- and somewhat establishing the world of the station. We also get our first glimpse of the new uniforms

 

I have to say the leather lapel and collar really break up the fabric balloon effect of the original costumes. We also get our first shot of new XO Lt. Commander Susan Ivannova (Claudia Christian). As there’s no real way to determine how much time has actually passed since the movie- at least enough time to get new haircuts – there’s no way to really establish how integrated into the crew Ivannova is. That said, I can’t really say how close a relationship Laurel Takashima had with anyone either so I guess B5 isn’t super concerned about people and relationships just yet. One thing is certain, Christian is a far more confidant actor than Tamlyn Tomita was.

We also get our first look at our opening credits! I think I have mentioned before that I am kind of a credits sequence nerd and this is…over a minute long! The dour monologue, the restatement of the premise weekly (nicely sidestepping the need to ever reference the movie I guess) the line “Humans and aliens surrounded by 2 million 5 hundred thousand tons of spinning metal. All alone. In the dark.” It’s all so damn much for a weekly series.

The main plot about the Centauri colony gets folded into another plot about supply ships being attacked by raiders. In the movie it was established that Commander Sinclair was a pilot in the war so off he goes to investigate

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I kind of love how these fighters drop out of the station. It’s a cool re-imagining of the typical hanger concept. In the meantime it’s revealed that the perpetrators of the attack on the colony are the Narn! Oh no! Londo and G’kar get into a fight and Londo decides he has to kill the Narn ambassador. Before he can though he runs into (literally) new station telepath Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) who gives us B5 standard telepath is scared after a mind scan acting:

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Vague staring into the middle distance! Now we know it’s serious! But, no one gets killed, the Narn are defeated and the raiders are stopped to and everything is fine.

There are also a couple of subplots that are worth mentioning. There is some lip service paid to a Presidential election on Earth. Upshot is everyone is very concerned with voting so I guess that is a thing that gets better in the future. Secondly, the President is shown in a weird black & white photo and my first thought was that it was a news story about an ancient Hollywood couple? Why was it in black and white? Color exists! We’ve seen it!

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It’s one of the many aesthetic quirks about this show that I just do not get.

Moving on, there is also a subplot about Garibaldi’s (Jerry Doyle) “favorite thing” which is heavily implied to be sex. Every time he mentions it, there is a lasciviousness to his tone that is really gross. But, it’s revealed at the end that it’s really watching old Duck Dodgers cartoons (on the standard 13″ CRT monitors) while eating popcorn. He tries to get Delenn to join him in his frivolity.

It works as well as can be expected.

Questions

Since I am knew to the B5 world, there are some questions I have, things that I am super unclear on that the narrative has not fixed. Primarily with episode 1 is how the hell does hyperspace work? In dialogue, they seem to know far in advance when there is a hyperspace approach, I assume because there has to be some reservation on their “jump gate” (I think).

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But, at the beginning of this episode we see an…uh…hyperspace tunnel(?) open without a gate present

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Which begs the question: What is the point of the gate?

Tropes

B5 has already established a certain number of tropes to be uniquely their own. I’ve already shown you this week’s 13″ CRT monitors but let’s not overlook the…

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Oxygen masks!

Non-Spoiled future guessing

I am trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I have watched A LOT of TV before so I have some thoughts.

— Garibaldi is going to have a weight problem storyline? As Chief of security, he needs to keep in shape, but all we ever really see him doing in his off time is eating. I already showed you the popcorn but check out this dinner

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That is ALL for him. And Ivannova gives him a look like “Really dude?” I’m just saying, I see a fitness story in the offing.

— This is less a prediction than a “what might have been” had this show aired a little later. I get the impression that there is a sub-textual flirtation brewing between Ivannova and Talia. Ivannova tells a long story about why she doesn’t like telepaths because of mom-related trauma. Talia is sympathetic. I’m not sure if it was intended, or the actors were just feeling a certain way or maybe I am just reading into it, but I think if this show had aired later than 1994 there would have been a relationship there.

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I mean, Claudia Christian can sure do longing looks, right?

This episode (and the next to be honest) was really boring. The raider plot and the colony plot merging was a nice touch but either one of them was likely enough for a full episode at this point in a series. I still don’t know really anything about the characters, the species, the reasons for any of this to be happening. They really need to step up the characters and relationships because this plot-driven nonsense is honestly really boring.

Babylon 5 Season 1 Episode 0: The Gathering

I have always loved science fiction. From the first time I saw Star Wars as a kid, I was hooked on stories involving weird aliens, amazing technology and far off worlds. I’ve discussed before my love of Star Trek, Farscape, and the various Stargates. But, for whatever reason the beloved 90’s sci-fi epic Babylon 5 never quite made my list.

Premiering in 1993, a month after the too-similar-by-half Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (which we’ll discuss more in a minute), J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 is still lauded by fans as an incredible work that, because of its perceived similarity to another show, never really gained the mainstream love it should have.  The story goes that Straczynski pitched B5 to Paramount in 1989 who passed on the series. He shopped it around and it was eventually picked up to syndication. But, right as B5 was announced, Paramount announced the third Star Trek spin-off, DS9, which was suspiciously similar to the show that they had passed on 4 years before. All parties have basically denied any copying but the initial similarities:

  • Takes place on a space station
  • Various aliens everywhere
  • Station has a centrally located casino
  • Political and religious intrigue take center stage

are hard to ignore. And, that DS9 has the obvious built-in Star Trek fanbase puts it in a better position for success right off the bat. But, as fans of both shows will point out, the series diverged from each other pretty sharply after the initial episodes and found their own paths (or in DS9’s case around season 3). As a die hard Trekker in the 90’s, B5 was never really on my radar. It wasn’t even a choice really, DS9 already plugged into something I was a fan of so dipping into this new world was not something I was looking to explore beyond seeing commercials and thinking “huh, that looks…what is with that guy’s hair?”

As the years wore on though, I heard more and more how amazing this show was. The last time I had heard such vociferous praise of a genre show was Farscape and when I finally saw that I was floored at how much I loved it. Which bring us here, now, with all (ish) of Babylon 5 being on Amazon Prime Video.

All 5 seasons, and the pilot movie The Gathering are available for streaming. The other movies (Thirdspace, In the Beginning, River of Souls, The Legend of The Rangers, A Call to Arms) as well as the spin-off Crusade and the final movie Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark are not currently available but from what I have seen those don’t begin in continuity until part way through season 4 so I think I have more than enough to really see if this show lives up to all the hype.

With all that preamble out of the way, let’s begin The Gathering

It’s important to note right at the beginning, there are HUGE differences between the movie and the first episode of the series. There are some differing characters and the aesthetic is slightly different. But, the crux of the world building done in the movie carries over to the series well.establishing shotWe get our first look at  our home for the series, the titular station Babylon 5. There’s some dialogue about why the station is designated 5- the first 3 were destroyed and the 4th vanished without a trace and that seems like a rather good time to retire the “Babylon” name but I digress- and nothing about why the station looks like a spark plug. I realize my DS9 bias as I immediately assumed that planet in the background is in someway important. It so far is not.

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The 1993 graphics are on full display. This was a random shot I grabbed but they’re all bad in a Starfox-meets-VR Troopers sort of way

not the promenade

And, again this station has a Not-the-Promenade casino centerpiece.

 

 

Here’s a quick glimpse of the aliens that populate the station, on the left is a proto-Farscape muppet-like creature and on the right is a refugee-from-the-planet-of-the-apes-cum-bartender.

And, don’t forget the cultures of Earth being represented

 

 

In their traditional garb and all…Yes that is a beret. Because of course.

 

 

Here’s our first glimpse of the XO Lt. Commander Laurel Takashima (Tamlyn Tomita). Her job appears the be to control all traffic entering the station and standing in disco lighting all day. Takashima doesn’t make it to the series. She doesn’t die (as far as I can tell) but her character disappears after this movie.

uniform hate

Other things that don’t survive this movie are these uniforms. Which, if I was Tamlyn Tomita I would have quit after looking in the mirror. If the uniforms didn’t look…um…uniformly bad (sorry) I would say the costumer hated her so very much. Additionally if you plan on watching this, please note that Tamlyn Tomita is a great actress and you should not judge her ability based on this movie. The acting in this movie is pretty bad across the board but Tomita’s performance is almost as fake as the graphics.

Babylon 5 (as the opening narration of the series proper will endlessly drone) is a place where humans and aliens can meet and coexist. Humans have in the recent past completed a devastating war with the Minbari , and the station is to serve as a diplomatic post to prevent future wars. There are to be representatives from all of the major races; Humans (who run the station), the aforementioned Minbari in the person of the mysterious Delenn (Mira Furlan), the Narn represented by G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas), and the Centauri represented but Londo (Peter Jurasik) who is also the most ridiculous being I have ever seen

wow

I mean…

The last of the ambassadors, Kosh of the Vorlons, is set to arrive as the movie begins. I gather the Vorlons are the mysterious warlike race of this world as no one has ever seen one and they are spoken about in hushed tones.

The Gathering is the story of Kosh’s arrival and the assassination attempt that follows. One of the things that is made clear is that most of the aliens need specific environments to breathe. This leads to what seems to be Babylon 5‘s favorite things: OXYGEN MASKS!!

 

 

So many scenes feature actors trying to act through giant oxygen masks. The scene on the left is station commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) leading new station telepath Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) to her quarters while explaining the station’s environs and population. Because of the mask it’s all done in voice-over while the actors gesture vaguely and move their eyes a lot. I have so far watched up through episode 2 and this trend continues. On the right, station doctor Benjamin Kyle (Johnny Sekka) works on a dying Kosh. Sekka also doesn’t continue to the series and again he spends a lot of time in this mask so I wouldn’t blame him if he quit.

Sinclair gets implicated in the assassination plot and a trial ensues. The ambassadors and Lt. Commander Takashima are the judges- the words conflict of interest are not uttered- and the witnesses get sent to the Phantom Zone, I guess

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How the hell is anyone supposed to concentrate on their answers with all of that going on?

As the trial continues, the crew continues to try to save Kosh, which requires eye-searing purple lighting

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And concerned looks. And conversations with people back on Earth (and Sinclair’s totally pointless girlfriend) via the future tech of grainy 13 inch CRT monitors

 

 

I understand it was 1993 but damn that looks terrible. If Star Wars could have holographic communication in 1977 they could have found a more futury looking communication technique in their budget.

Anyway, eventually they figure out that the real assassin is using an illegal shape changing tech to hide on the station. The tech is…not going well

MFW

But luckily the Doctor is on the case using this super helpful display

app store

Somehow playing 3 different types of Tetris helps save Kosh. Hooray!

The Gathering is…not good. Had I watched this on original airing it would not have excited me to watch a forthcoming series set in this world. It’s boring, poorly paced, badly realized, and badly acted But, knowing how it all shakes out, I am still planning on watching the rest of the series because I have been assured that it gets so much better .

2018 Emmy Nominations: Luke Warm Take

Primetime Emmy Nominations, Los Angeles, USA - 14 Jul 2016The 2018 Emmy nominations were handed out this morning and by and large there weren’t a lot of surprises. TVLine has a great post on the snubs of the year but I am more interested in who and what was nominated.

In this era of “peak TV” where there is more prestige content available than anyone has the ability to digest, what the academy chooses to recognize is always fascinating. It doesn’t hew solely to critical opinion or even to viewer opinion. They seemed to recognize streaming content right away, but simultaneously stick fiercely to their old warhorse nominees long past when the consumers of those shows have stopped caring (I’m looking at you Modern Family for the past few years).

The Drama categories are largely unchanged and expected with The Handmaid’s Tale and This is Us taking the most spots. Westworld made quite a strong showing with acting nominations in all but the supporting actor and guest actor races. For such an intensely dense show I love that these actors are getting recognized for what they’re doing. Thandie Newton especially is brilliant and deserves all this and more.

I am a little surprised by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) getting a best actress nod as (and I don’t watch that show as an avowed I-hate-to-be-scared viewer) I haven’t really seen (in clips) a ton of “acting” from her so much as intense staring into the middle distance.

Comedy though is very interesting. Series nods for GLOWBarry, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with acting nods for stars of all three. Also, Ted Danson (The Good Place), Allison Janney (Mom), Pamela Adlon (Better Things), and Issa Rae (Insecure) all scored lead acting nominations. Perennial nominees William H. Macy (Shameless) and Larry David (Curb your enthusiasm) are back too lest you think the Emmys went really crazy.

But the supporting actress category is driving me nuts! Nearly the entire female cast of SNL (Leslie Jones, Aidy Bryant, and Kate McKinnon) Atlanta‘s Zazie Beetz, Mrs. Maisel‘s Alex Borstein, and GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin all against 90s throwback nominees Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) and cancelled-in-disgrace Roseanne‘s Laurie Metcalf. And, don’t get me wrong, I love Metcalf and I think she is a powerhouse, but she had NOTHING to do in that 10-episode revival and considering the circumstances of that show ending I am very surprised to see her on this list (the series also got an outstanding editing nomination.) Not to get into snub territory but I was particularly surprised not to see a nod for D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place) who is fantastic on that show (and Barry by the way) and plays a totally unique character brilliantly (DISCLOSURE: I should mention I went to high school with D’Arcy and was in a terrible play with her when I was 12. But I don’t think we’ve spoken in 20 some odd years. I was thrilled when when I saw her in the trailers for The Good Place and am so happy for all her success. Also she is completely fantastic).

Tiffany Haddish earned her first Emmy nomination for hosting SNL, and the limited series categories are filled with Black Mirror (the terrifyingly delightful “U.S.S. Callister” episode earned nominations for the episode itself and Jesse Plemons in it) and nominations for everything Ryan Murphy has been involved in, including nearly the entire cast of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story save Cody Fern.

In the reality area, the big story is the continued applause for Rupaul’s Drag Race (12 in total including series and host), but the inclusion of Jane Lynch (Hollywood Game Night) in the hosting category is shocking as NBC treats that show like some sort of dirty secret.

Obviously there are a ton of nominees I didn’t get to (Lily Tomlin! Sandra Oh! Diana Rigg! John Legend! Adina Porter! Letitia Wright!) as well as all the technical and behind the scenes categories and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. The Emmys are my favorite show as TV is my favorite thing. I love the they’re trying to get some new and interesting people in there and hopefully it’s the beginning of a positive trend. The Emmy awards ceremony will air on NBC on Monday September 17

Hot Take: The Shape of Water

I can’t stop thinking about The Shape of Water

The newly crowned Best Picture of 2017 is by far the strangest movie I can remember winning that prize, but moreover I can’t think of a movie in the past that has been as well regardShape of watered and yet so…odd.

Called by some “an adult fairy tale” Guillermo del Toro’s film about a mute woman who falls in love with a literal sea monster (Doug Jones) is a really strange journey of a movie. All of the performances are stellar, it’s beautifully made and has all of the hallmarks of a good movie. Until the plot starts and it becomes this fantastical story about hard boiled eggs and inter-species love.

I genuinely don’t understand why this movie resonated the way it did. Sally Hawkins’ Elisa is interesting, and her line to Giles (Richard Jenkins) that the fish-man doesn’t know that she is incomplete is affecting enough. And Giles’ entire story as a closeted man in the 50s is heartbreaking- especially when juxtaposed with the main plot, but none of it really goes anywhere.

The film never really becomes more special or interesting than its core premise- and that premise is honestly not interesting so much as it’s weird. del Toro trades in the fantastical, and I can usually get into that fantasy world. And, the idea of a romance between beings from different worlds is not bothersome to me- I get that can be a commentary on identity and how love transcends barriers. It’s the fact that this fantastical story takes place in this otherwise wholly mundane universe that feels so jarring. And the fact that none of the other characters really questions it is really odd. If you were living in this world and your co-worker told you that she was having an emotional and sexual relationship with a fish man, you would have far more questions and concerns than these people ever express. It’s entirely “Ok, you do you” from these people which adds to the general wrongness of this movie.

All this is not even mentioning the completely useless and unnecessary spy subplot that fully goes nowhere.

Look, The Shape of Water

is a fine movie. It’s a great example of “Magical realism” breaking through to the mainstream, and if this film winning an Oscar is what it takes to make more niche and genre films gain wider regard then I guess it’s a win on a lot of levels.  But I just don’t understand why this was the one, why did this hit. What appealed to people, critics, and most confusingly Oscar voters – a group of people who rarely make decisions that are outside the box? I don’t get it.