Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Stuff I've Been Watching

Haven't done this in a while, but there's been some new stuff out this fall, and like all blowhard bloggers, I can't help but throw in my two cents on a few of these.

Caprica- Well, I read on the internet today that Caprica is going to be cancelled, and that's a real shame. Caprica is a really interesting show, with unusual themes, well developed characters, and complex plotlines. I'm not terrbily surprised that it's being cancelled, though. Caprica is an extremely intelligent and well written show, but it's not terribly heavy on action, and, to be honest, it sort of asks its audience to get excited about ideas and philosophical questions in a way that seems to ask an awful lot from a mainstream American audience (yeah, I realize that might have sounded pretentious or whatever, but I guess I don't care- I remain convinced that the U.S. television audience is mainly obsessed with entertainment junk food).
Key themes of the show revolve around questions of mortality, religion, the nature of the human soul, family relationships, politics, and the ways that technology impacts all of these areas. Given the fact that Caprica isn't really an action-based show, the show's writers have really been banking upon the fact that the audience will find these issues really interesting- interesting enough to keep them engaged. Personally, I found the exploration of these themes to be fairly compelling, but as soon as I realized what the show was up to I began to worry about whether it could find an audience (and I think it probably has found an audience, but that audience is a narrow one).
But what a unique show. Computer rendered avatars and virtual reality explored as a means of trying to achieve human immortality, a polytheistic population who live in fear of monotheistic terrorists (frightened by what they see as the narrow minded view of a religion with "one true god"), the rise of artificially intelligent beings who are fully aware of having been spawned in the image of (and to serve as substitutes for) human beings, economic and political power struggles played out on an interplanetary scale, polygamy practiced as a socially accepted norm in mainstream society, and so forth and so on. The show has so much that's familiar, and yet it manages to feel alien at the same time.
Anyway, it's a shame that Caprica is facing cancellation. I'm glad we got the episodes that we have, and I hope that a lot of people who never watched it will still give it a chance on DVD.

Rubicon- It's on break, but it's a really smart show, and people should give it a chance, or I fear that it may go the way of Caprica in terms of cancellation (although A&E seems to place a little more faith in good writing, so maybe they'll stick things out a bit longer than SyFy did with Caprica). It's a show about spies, but they're actually intelligence analysts (i.e., really smart nerd spies who collect data from Jason Bourne-style field agents and the military and then use the info to figure out what the bad guys are up to). They work for a private intelligence firm (which contracts with the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, and other agencies), and when they get involved in situations that involve action and/or fighting, it's typically not by choice.
I really like this show. The characters are really well written and well developed (some of the better characters I remember seeing on TV in the last few years), the plotlines feel both realistic and compelling, and I just find the show's subject matter to be really intriguing and unusual (it just totally makes sense that these sort of people have to be out there, but we just don't think about them much). Watch Rubicon! (I think Season 1 just came out on DVD, so buy it or Netflix it or whatever) Keep Rubicon alive! Reward good writing!

Fringe- Having gone right over the top in terms of setting up its premise, this season Fringe has done a fairly decent job of working inside the multiple reality storyline that it spent so much time establishing in Season 1. Fringe has done some interesting things, transitioning from an X-Files-style beginning (in which bizarre and paranormal occurrences were mostly just hinted at and existed primarily in the shadows), to a show with a full blown, explicit, sci-fi premise where we see characters moving between multiple realities and bizarre, non-human beings throwing themselves into an interdimensional war. Fringe is far from perfect, and in some moments I think it borders on silly, but it's a show which is willing to risk some silliness because it's also willing to give some concrete answers in response to the mysteries it presents. Personally, I appreciate that. We don't have to have solid answers to every strange thing that happens, but it's nice to occasionally have some concrete payoff for taking the journey with the show's protagonists. And when you spend a lot of time exploring the bizarre and seemingly unexplainable, the answers that you eventually come up with are bound to border on "over-the-top" (which is why I think some other shows- I'm looking at you again, X-Files- have shied away from ever fully exploring the ultimate conclusions reached by show's investigators.).

Well, I meant to write more, but that's all that I have time for at the moment. Everyone watch Rubicon!


Amy said...

I do want to see Rubicon. Let's make this happen soon.

J.S. said...

You and I need to watch The Wire, first. It's an even better show (one of my all time favorites), and I want to watch it again, anyway. The Wire kind of builds slowly, but it has some of the best characters ever to appear on television.