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IR TV Review: ANOTHER LIFE [Netflix-S1]

The texture of “Another Life” as a series revels in a structure of both existentialism but also a progression of what life or the essence of what it means to an individual person really is. Katee Sackhoff, in the most dynamic and essential character she has played since Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica” is a commander who is brought in to lead a mission with a crew who undeniably is stacked against her. The dynamic and the subsequent ideal of perhaps a one way trip is personified in the intentions and perceptions of the crew. The one aspect that truly comes through, whether by design or organically, is the diversity of the characters and the personal interrelations. Some seem forced while others seem very fluid in the very sense of the word. The most interesting of the secondary cast is Blu Hunt as August and Jessica Camacho as Michelle simply because of their dynamic opposite personalities which shows the extremes of what space travel can do because of psychological resilience or as a coping mechanism.

The motivation of the first season (as seen in full but not revealing spoilers) involves finding the source of an alien probe which has made it’s way to Earth. Sackhoff as Captain Niko goes on the voyage as a modulation of protecting her daughter while her husband stays on Earth as a analyst trying to decode what the alien is about. The backdrop is perhaps similar to “Annihilation” which is vastly superior in terms of its texture and philosophy but more esoteric in terms of its character development. Reflexivity and what we think of ourselves play a big part as well as the hierarchy of command but also the curiosity of exploring the unknown.

The interesting structure that some episodes take on is the aspects of say a “Star Trek” episode with angles of the unknown (with a slightly darker tinge) while others can have the dread of say “Alien” or “Event Horizon” with differing levels of success.

Returning to the character work, the writers are not afraid of showing the different facets of human fallibility but also sexuality and insecurity. Some of these interactions and relationships work organically while others require a little more angling in the narrative to work. The most interesting by far but also the one that reflects Niko’s psychology even more is her interaction with William, the onboard AI who controls the ship. Like a variation of The Doctor on “Star Trek: Voyager” melding with that of Bishop in “Aliens” the context of what dictates emotions or the simulation of emotions comes to bare along with elements of the unconscious. This culminates in certain ways as the season progresses.

Back on Earth, the different paradigms reflect in the people on earth reacting to certain stimuli of the alien presence. Selma Blair as a would-be social media maven seems a little too specifically geared to the modern sensibility but her delivery especially in context of what can be perceived actually works in the long run while Tyler Hoechlin as Niko’s left behind husband reacts in understandable ways. The Earthbound story is not as engaging as the one taking place on the ship but, by extension, the stakes seem much higher up in space.

The special effects are effectively done with a certain veracity (much like the recent “Lost In Space”) and take into account some of the ideas that “Interstellar” played into with but sans the elite grandeur vying for the more practical. The design inside Niko’s ship balances between the claustrophobic but the technical much like a blend between The Nostromo in “Alien” and The Sulaco in “Aliens”. There is a dank humid element to the technology inside the ship like a submarine but with the idea that pressure or the lack of it lurks just beyond the walls.

“Another Life” is an interesting perspective into the sci-fi genre with a character worthy of Katee Sackhoff whose career choices will always be compared to her groundbreaking Starbuck on “Battlestar Galactica”. The assemblage of the crew and their dynamic plus a hidden foe which will not be named in various forms keeps the tension in play while exploring different ideas of psychology, sociology and space travel.

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By Tim Wassberg

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

Transcedental Alignment & Vivid Entanglements: The Fox TCA Summer Press Tour 2012 – Feature

The alignment between the transcendence of real and the modulation of the self continues to show its penchant revolving into the 2012 TCA Summer Press Tour for Fox Television as the engagement of re-emerging ideas as well as mind altering new ones forms the structure for either engaging television or vivid entanglements.

Starting within the reality purveyance of the world, the build up of “The X Factor” judge panel with the inclusion of Britney Spears offers the hope for spellbinding TV (or, at least, deer-in-the-headlights mayhem). Appearing via satellite from Miami where they are currently judging the next round of possibilities, the tension and energy seemed fruitful, if not a little unstable.

Spears, for her part, seems relatively focused and positive yet understandably reserved and restrained. She speaks that “I think that this show has been very good for me to do” because “I can relate to them [the contestants]” connecting that “I know the foundation and depth you go through”. Her instincts are “based on who I am and my personality”. One angle people might not know is “I am a huge fan of hip hop” but “I like cabaret music and bands [as well]”. In terms of the reality of “making it”, she explains that “in this industry, there are so many auditions” and “it is the way” but “having done 8 tours, this is different than anything I have ever done”.

For Simon Cowell, as the brawn behind the might, he explains that he “was fascinated by her [Britney] as a person and as a pop star” and “thought it would be interesting to put on this show”. By contrast, he says that “Demi [Lovato, another judge] is a brat but there is something about her”. In terms of structure, Cowell says “you are going to see some changes editorially” from last season. He admits that “there is an awful lot of competition that we have to fight against this year” but “I brought this show to America because I think the best singers in the world are here”. Examining pushing himself for excellence, he says “I put myself under a great amount of pressure” but “this is on a little of an upscale of the thing”. Commenting on the possibility of Mariah Carey on his previous show “American Idol”, he simply says “I think she will find it difficult to say no”. As to his impression of Britney’s judging, he says “she is as sweet as a lemon” but then addressing the departure of previous “X-Factor” judges says that “no one has job security anymore, [not] even myself”.

Demi Lovato, reacting with intensity to Cowell’s jabs, says that “any little bit of criticism hurts when you are growing up.” She remembers “when I was auditioning for things and I was dropped, it would hurt me” but “you can’t prevent anybody from going down the wrong road” though “fame makes the problem a little worse”.

Swirling within his own private empire, much like Martha Stewart, Chef Gordon Ramsay expands his domain with “Hotel Hell” where he helps provide new perspective within the texture of the bigger picture that surrounds his restaurants and, by extension, hotel service. He initially offers that “we have had good and bad experiences, like with ‘Kitchen Nightmares'” but believes that “we don’t book or banter on the hotels”. The idea of this show was “the next extension”. In terms of his presupposed omnipresence in the media landscape, he explains “I pace myself” but “the appetite’s there” and “I work for a living”. Implementing his work ethic, Ramsay says “if you are that talented and that determined to do something, all is well”. The focus with him starts with the fact that “I was dealt a dysfunctional card when I got into the industry” which reflects in his current propensity to that “when you undermined the customer and [take] shortcuts in hygiene”, all is not well. Reflecting on the rage that seems to be his persona, Ramsay retorts “I think it is misconstrued at times. [I think] it is passion. It is what I know” and “deep down inside, I don’t know any better.” His advice to patrons worldwide (but especially in the US): “We are too polite. We need to complain more”.

Entering into scripted territory, “The Mob Doctor“, currently shooting in Chicago, follows a female surgeon that is forced to moonlight to treat one of the city’s major crime lords. Josh Berman, who also works on “Drop Dead Diva”, explains “the doctors to the mob are usually motivated by greed…but I think we flipped that”. The key with this show is that it “does not need to be black and white” and “we love that, with our idea, the starting point is that there is no rules”. As far as shooting in the Windy City, he states “it is tough to beat Chicago for a mob town [because] it has an old world feel”. In terms of the mob doctor Grace (played by Jordana Spiro), “we have really mapped out [her] story” adding that the narrative “is really grounded” and “we are not playing to the humor at all”.

Rob Wright, also an executive producer, who concurrently works on “Diva” with Berman as well as previous stints on “Las Vegas” and “Knight Rider”, sees the progression of “Mob Doctor” “sort of like ‘Faust’ with elements of ‘The Sopranos’ meets ‘ER'”. The thought for them of the notion of “‘Do No Harm’ juxtaposed with ‘No Honor Among Thieves'” creates an interesting dynamic because the jealousy of the hospital mirrors the mob world.

Jordana Spiro, who plays Grace, speaks that, with Chicago, “when you are on location, it lends to the authenticity”. The physical aspect of that “a house is a house” gives it a weight for her. She agrees though, in terms of the tone, that “the timing of this will have to be handled carefully” because “it is the seduction of that kind of human desire [that leads] to the dark side”.

William Forsythe, no stranger to heavies (he famously played Al Capone on the TV series of “The Untouchables”), explains years ago when that show ended “they placed me [as Al] in prison”. “The Mob Doctor” begins with him being released (though he is not playing Capone here). It plays full circle in his mind.

Circling into closure, “Fringe” finds its notion of heaven and redemption possibly in the resurrection of its final season. J.H. Wyman, an exec producer on the show, speaks that the goal of this season is “because we have done so much work to get people interested in the mythology”, that has to come to fruition. The key beneath is that “the root of it all is that these people [Walter, Peter & Olivia] are what the fans care about” but “the relationships need to pay off”. In terms of lessons learned, he says “Akiva [Goldsman, another executive producer] taught me that being clever is not an emotion”. Looking at the endgame of the series, he states “we want the end of these characters to be beautiful and touching” while “still connecting to the metaphor of the difficulty of keeping families together”. He accentuates that “where else can you talk about an affair [in a series] that involved two of the same people”. Seeing the ending in sight, he says that, over the years, there have been 3 or 4 possible end scenarios, but “it [the show], being a living breathing organism, is going to change” and “I truly believe the show has a natural end”. How that is seen takes the form of “something that we know is right but how that takes shape is always in flux” though he resolves “I want them to have what’s been earned”.

Anna Torv, having taken the duality of a character like Olivia Dunham to new heights, explains “the more you have to do, the more you are engaged in it”. In terms of playing both sides, she says “I loved it so much because, when ‘Ultimate Olivia’ came in, I knew what I didn’t want to repeat” but continues that “it is very much on the journey”. As far as seeing what the end has in store, she hints that “we have a little bit of a clue in terms of what is going on more than ever before”. Speaking of her co-stars, “for me, watching John [Noble] and Josh [Jackson] taught me how television works and how you attack [it]” in that “you look at the story and plan out your arc”. One of the key lessons, she says is leanring that “television is fluid” sensing that “you’d watch them [John & Josh] pushing the envelope” . She adds that “John [Noble] tries anything and everything”. The complication for her becomes “you don’t realize things unless you can define it” but “because we are a cult show with a cult following, you can [end] it right”.

Joshua Jackson, playing the essence of Peter Bishop, waxes that “in an odd way, I have plenty of actor friends that had shows cut before their time” but this one “is not bittersweet since all shows end” but it is important “to have it end well”. Looking at John Noble’s immersion as Walter Bishop, Jackson explains “what he has done and created in the character in Walter, it is once in a lifetime”. He continues that “we are in a good era of television” but specifies that, with “Fringe”, “great science fiction takes big think ideas and makes the entry point lower” but “you have to have the cahones to do it”.

Fox continues to move to the balance without rocking the boat. Allowing “Fringe” to exit with grace definitely creates a specific tone while maintaining with tried and true formulas across the board that both engage and intensify their viewership.

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