iZombie: Seasons 1-3

This had been on my list of things to watch for a while, but it didn’t have a UK distributor. I’m not sure when it appeared on Netflix but I only recently noticed it. On the plus side that meant I could pretty much binge watch straight through seasons 1, 2 and 3 over the course of a fairly short period of time.

The premise is fairly so-so. A doctor is turned into a zombie, but provided she gets a regular supply of brains to eat she’s pretty much normal. So she starts working in the morgue and dodging questions from her family and ex-fiance and just whines about here un-life a bit. Then it turns out that she gets visions from the brains she’s eaten, and if it’s a murder victim, that turns out to be very useful. She teams up with a cop who thinks she’s psychic, finds a purpose and we’re off and running with a fairly episodic “brain of the week” structure.

The first season or so plays to that pattern. The brains tend to have some over-the-top gimmick to them that is occasionally laugh out loud hilarious, and occasionally cringingly painful. That structure gets a bit trying when you’re binge watching, so it’s a good job that the background plots gather traction – seeking a cure and dealing with the various zombie groups that start to appear. There’s also a fair amount of relationship wrangling going on, which is again a bit tedious at times, but the characters are all likeable and self-aware enough that I didn’t get too bored of various makeup/breakup cycles.

Season 3 is where things really start to move pretty fast on the plot front. Throughout the season there’s a real sense of escalation building towards a satisfying game changer in the final episode that sets up for a very different 4th season. Some of the partnerships go through a couple more cycles that get a bit a tedious, but the development of the friendships are more nuanced and satisfying. Importantly for me, the humour is not lost with the increased stakes of the drama and there are plenty of hilarious set ups throughout the season that make this a show that I’m sure I will be happy to watch over again.

The reason that I’d wanted to watch iZombie (despite it’s frankly pretty awful name) was that it’s from the creator of Veronica Mars – one of my all time favourite shows. They share the same achingly smart dialogue, and take-no-crap characters but the sci-fi storyline of iZombie opens up even more opportunity for quirky situations and playing with genres and styles. The zombie cast wholeheartedly throw themselves into the different personalities, while the rest of the cast do a solid job as supporting straight men and women that the others can dance around. I don’t think iZombie will overtake Veronica Mars in my affections, but it’s certainly making a really good challenge.


Doctor Who: 2017

Did I even bother reviewing the previous Doctor Who? I’m getting so dissillusioned with it I’m not sure I bothered. Reading back my own reviews it seems I reviewed the first season with Capaldi (which I was not a fan of) and didn’t bother wittering on about second. I know I watched it, but I’ve got little recollection of it.

The problem is that something went wrong with Peter Capaldi in the role and I don’t know how or why. Capaldi is certainly more than capable of delivering both the comedy and the drama required for the role, and the older doctor should have been an interesting change, but the character just wasn’t very well written. They couldn’t get the fluidity between the comedy and drama, it just felt like abrupt switches from serious to weird with little sense of an overall character holding it together. With Clara as the companion there was also an odd hangover of the relationship with Matt Smith’s Doctor which made things slightly flirty, weird and uncomfortable.

So it was a good thing to bring in a new companion, and I liked Bill a lot. She felt like a proper modern and normal character, rather than another in the long line of ‘special’ companions who have some kind of destiny. Bill was just normal, mostly unphased by the “timey-wimey” stuff and treated the Doctor how he looks – an older professor type, all-be-it a pretty eccentric one. Removing any implication of sexual chemistry made a nice change, and the fact that she was gay was completely incidental to the rest of the story, it was very naturally handled. Bill was doing very nicely until a lazy writer undermined her and she made a stupid choice that just frustrated me and made her look na├»ve and weak. Then she almost got sidelined to give time to the terrible character of Missy and her ever-wandering accent.

Something I did really like this season was Matt Lucas as Nardol. I always prefer when there are more companions along, particularly ones that don’t blindly fall for the Doctor’s charms (Mickey, Rory, even River Song). Having someone who cuts through the nonsense helps ground the whole series. Nardol did exactly that when it was most desperately needed.

The problem I’ve had with the last few seasons of Doctor Who is that nothing felt earned. Characters didn’t so much develop as just teleport from one mindset to another. It’s not the actors’ faults but the writing. Too often things happened just to get from A to B, things were forgotten or remembered as the machinations of clumsy plots required, mysteries were engineered, painfully deliberate hints were hammered home, good ideas were never developed, thrown away for a cheap effect or fast resolution, and elegance just went out the window. Was Stephen Moffat tired, or just too distracted with Sherlock?

With the recent announcement of Jodi Whitaker as the thirteenth doctor, partnered with a new executive producer in Chris Chibnall (a writer on Torchwood and creator of the excellent Broadchurch, which also starred Whitaker) I have hope again for the series. It will be a completely fresh start for the series, which is the great thing about Doctor Who, it can completely reinvent itself. Fingers crossed it can either re-find some of the magic, or even better, create all its own magic.

Lethal Weapon: Season 1

The biggest surprise about a Lethal Weapon relaunch is that it took this long to happen. It’s pretty basic and classic set up for a generic action/comedy/character network drama for primetime. It was already a step ahead of some of the other big hitters in the genre like NCIS in that it was pretty much unconstrained in the kind of case that could be tackled. So all it needed was a chunk of money spent on it for the kind of action sequences and stunts that we’ve come to expect from TV these days, and, most importantly of all, two charismatic leads.

Thank heavens they found them. Damon Wayans takes the Danny Glover role of Roger Murtaugh, the ‘grown up’ of the partnership. The casting director did a stunning job in casting a comedian as the straight man. The obvious choice would have been to find a ‘dramatic’ actor who could hold his own in the comedy moment, but the drama of the character is actually quite straight-forward and often driven by those around him anyway and Wayans delivers that adequately. Really, in any other partnership Roger is likely to be the wacky one anyway, so it makes perfect sense to cast a comedian and then put him opposite someone who takes “wacky” to the next level.

Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs is a relative unknown who I’d never encountered before, but absolutely blew me away episode after episode. It’s a gift of a role really, wacky goofball covering up huge emotional trauma, plus a hefty amount of running, shooting, bantering and monologuing. The complexity of the character is present in every movement and tone of delivery, and it takes some talent of both writing and acting to make such a broken character so functional. He *is* crazy, but it works for him. Even with that god awful hair and moustache.

Everything around those two characters is solid enough, but a bit unremarkable. Roger’s wife Trish is a bit too perfect, the psychiatrist is a bit too obvious and the two junior detectives never really get enough to do to make them anything other than exposition delivery methods. I did like the captain though – he was nicely written so it never seemed ridiculous that he would continue to send these two out in public, or that he would endlessly chide them for doing what everyone could predict they’d do. If you compare to someone like Cuddy in House who every week lectured him that his methods were unacceptable and then watched them succeed.

This show quickly became one of my favourite things to watch. I’d eagerly await each episode and settle in with a smile on my face. Even if the plot of the week was a bit so-so, the characters were so rich it was great to spend time with them. There is a bit of repetition in the character development as things seem to move forward and then loop backwards again, but it’s just about believable and it just presented another opportunity to watch them some more. The show is full on laugh out loud funny, but there’s an honest heart running through it that rises it above a lot of the disposable action on TV.

The Upfronts 2017 – The CW

Sorry these have been so slow!

What’s done
The Vampire Diaries was retired after 8 seasons, but is survived by its spinoff The Originals. Reign lasted 4 rather improbable seasons. Frequency and No Tomorrow didn’t survive their first seasons.

What’s coming back
A while ago, Supernatural had a five year arc, now it’s back for season thirteen. Mind you I gave up a few years ago because I got a bit depressed at how things just kept getting worse and worse for the characters, so who knows how miserable it is by now. Nearly half the schedule is occupied with the DC universe: Arrow (season 6), The Flash (season 4), Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl (both season 3). The Originals and The 100 both return for season 5; iZombie and Jane the Virgin both for season 4, and Crazy Ex Girlfriend for season 3. Riverdale was the only new series to survive to a second season.

What’s new

Black Lightning – another super hero. This looks like the CW version of Luke Cage, with a reluctant superhero becoming a vigilante against a neighbourhood gang; it’s just there’s some teenagers thrown in to make it CW. It looks ok, and apparently isn’t part of the Flash/Arrow/etc family so at least there’s no need to catch up on all gazillion episodes of those to watch this.

Dynasty – Was anyone out there really saying “what we need is to remake Dynasty, because everyone wants to watch rich white people’s dramas”? I mean, they really go for it, fully embracing the melodrama and shamelessness, but it just feels incredibly wrong.

Life Sentence – She thought she was going to die, now she’s not and she has to work out what to do with her life. I liked the trailer a lot, yeah it’s schmaltzy and obvious, but the cast pulls it off and watching it immediately after the Dynasty one buys it a lot of positivity. I worry though that the central idea will run out of gas quickly, I just hope they can manage to ground everything else before it grinds to a halt.

Valor – a military/conspiracy theory drama that feels completely out of place in the rest of the CW lineup and I suspect it will lack the conviction to really follow through on the subjects.

The Upfronts 2017 – CBS

Oops. I completely failed to post the last couple of Upfront summaries! Here you go.

What’s cancelled
The only big casualty at CBS it feels is 2 Broke Girls, cancelled after 6 seasons. The Odd Couple was cancelled after 3 seasons, probably a record run for a post-Friends Matthew Perry. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was cancelled after its second season, which I hadn’t even noticed had happened.

Four new series didn’t survive their first year. Only 2 episodes of Doubt aired, Katherine Heigl seems to be the kiss of death for television, slightly unfairly. Training Day was unsurprisingly cancelled following the death of its star Bill Paxton, although ratings and critical response was also underwhelming. Pure Genius (tech billionaire runs a hospital) was cancelled, just like the “tech billionaire runs a police dept” on Fox. Oh, and The Great Indoors died too, which was fairly predictable from the awful trailer.

What’s returning
Despite the increasing repetitiveness, the aging collection of action/procedurals are all renewed. All three flavours of NCIS will be back for evermore tenuous naval connections, original flavour for season 14 (second longest running show on air), LA (9) and New Orleans (4). Criminal Minds is renewed for season 13 even though season 12 was so rubbish even I gave up on it. Blue Bloods and Hawaii Five-0 will both be back for eighth seasons (although the latter seems to have lost half its cast), Elementary is renewed for a sixth and Scorpion (which I have no memory of) for a fourth. Code Black reached the limit of even my tolerance for over-blown medical drama a while back, but is renewed for a third season, as is Zoo, which I’ve never managed to catch but is apparently ridiculous. Madame Secretary is a slightly more intelligent offering and returns for a fourth season.

Only two new dramas got picked up; I’ve been watching Bull for the cast, but don’t think I’ll make it much further because the ideas and writing are painfully contrived. I keep meaning to catch up on MacGyver and may make more of an effort now it’s been renewed.

Not much in the way of comedy at CBS. Big Bang Theory was renewed for both 11 and 12. Mom for fifth, Life in Pieces for a third. New series Kevin Can Wait, Man with a Plan and Superior Donuts were all picked up.

What’s New
CBS don’t seem to want to share their trailers and I got fed up hunting for them.

9JKL – terrible name, bog standard sounding ‘comedy’ about a guy getting divorced and moving to New York.

By the Book – “a comedy about a modern day man at a crossroads in his life who decides to live strictly in accordance with the Bible.” Yeah. Really. That’s genuinely what someone pitched, someone bought, someone made, and someone is putting on the air.

Instinct – a former CIA operative (Alan Cumming) is lured out of retirement to help the NYPD catch a serial killer. Apparently this is based on a James Patterson novel that hasn’t even been published yet. It’s about time Alan Cumming got a lead, but sounds pretty unremarkable.

Me, Myself and I – this actually is a fun idea. A sitcom centred on three periods in the same characters life, a 14 year old in 1991, a 40 year old today, and a 65 year old in 2042.

Seal Team – The work and lives of an elite Navy Seal team. (See The Unit). Solid cast led by David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), but I sort of wish he’d done something different from his character on Bones.

S.W.A.T. – Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) leads a specialised tactical unit. Sounds the same as Seal Team expect it’s LA Police not international military. Both are good fits for the network, strong leads and high potential, but maybe both at the same time is too much? But I think this one actually has the edge for me, it’s dealing with very real, very current issues and feels less “hoorah for America”.

Wisdom of the Crowd – Jeremy Piven (Entourage) is a tech genius who invents an app to allow people to share information and help solve crimes. Isn’t this very close to the “tech billionaire solves problems” series that just got cancelled? Dunno whether this is going to take a “woohoo ain’t technology amazing!” direction or a “bloody hell, vigilantes are scary” drift.

Young Sheldon – a spin off from Big Bang Theory looking at Sheldon’s life as a 9 year old genius in Texas. I thought this would be unremarkable but ok, but the trailer is a total mess with way too much sentiment and criminal bad writing resulting in zero laughs. The kid is cute and Jim Parson’s narrating it should be good news, but if that’s the best script they could come up with this is going to be a turkey.

The Upfronts 2017 – ABC

ABC – held together by Shondaland productions and a cheesy, but heartfelt catalog of shows to be watched with a healthy distancing from reality. It’s been a pretty brutal year for them, with very few new series getting picked up and a whole host of second years being canned as well.

What’s done
One of the few new shows I sought out and stuck with was Conviction because the cast was so good, but the writing let them down very badly. Half a season of Notorious was enough for anyone, Imaginary Mary struggled to make it to air before it was cancelled, but Time After Time (HG Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time – obviously) gets the booby prize, airing just 5 episodes.

American Crime’s critical acclaim didn’t help it much and after three seasons it was cancelled. The Catch and Secrets & Lies were both cancelled after their second season, and I have utterly no memory of them existing, let alone getting renewed the first time. Dr Ken I do remember from a horrific trailer, but I’d forgotten that it managed two seasons before being put out of all of our miseries. The Real O’Neills was also cancelled after two seasons. And Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing apparently made it through 6 seasons before anyone realised it was the 21st century.

What’s returning
Shonda Rhimes’ stable continues, with Grey’s Anatomy returning for a fourteenth series and How to Get Away with Murder for a fourth, but Scandal is set to bow out after the coming seventh season, and no one seems overly disappointed by that. Once Upon a Time has been renewed for a seventh season but it’s set for a big reinvention with a time shift and multiple main characters not returning. I am glad that Marvel’s Agents of Shield was renewed for a fifth season, even though it’s always slightly disappointing compared to what it could be. Quantico will have a reduced season (it’s third) and also gets a new showrunner which doesn’t bode well. The only freshman drama to survive was Designated Survivor which I’ve tried to get into multiple times and never quite clicked.

New comedies were a little more successful – Speechless and American Housewife were both renewed. At the opposite end of the age spectrum The Middle and Modern Family were both renewed for a ninth season, and Modern Family got an extra year too taking it through the following year too. Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat were both renewed for fourth seasons and The Goldbergs got a double pick up for five and six.

What’s new
Roseanne – do you know what series everyone really misses? Well, ABC thinks it’s Roseanne, presumably they’ll back out of the terrible final season.

The Crossing – a bunch of people show up in a small fishing village, claiming to be fleeing a war a couple of hundred years in the future. And some of them seem to have super powers. The trailer lays it on a bit thick, but I am intrigued.

Deception – A superstar magician is ruined by a scandal and the only place he can sell his skills is the FBI. Obviously. The trailer isn’t too bad. The lead seems charismatic enough, and yes, that is Vinnie Jones loitering in the background. As a character apparently named Gunter Gustafsen. Yup, seriously.

For the People – Shonda Rhimes does lawyers. Just the usual, young and ambitious blah blah blah. Whatever.

The Good Doctor – from the maker of House, a medical drama (duh) centred on an autistic, savant doctor who moves to a big hospital. Nothing particularly remarkable in the description and the trailer is pretty much by the numbers, but the cast has three big names that make me pay attention: Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) stars, Hill Harper (CSI:NY) and Richard Schiff (West Wing)

The Gospel of Kevin – a “light drama” about a “cluelessly self-serving person on a dangerous path to despair” who lives with his widowed twin sister and is visited by a “celestial being” who gives him a mission to save the world. The trailer is as bad as the description.

Inhumans – sitting in the Marvel Universe, the Inhuman royal family flee their world in civil war and land in Hawaii. It’s just a teaser at the moment, so who knows. The trailer really is a bit much.

Ten Days in the Valley – a TV producer’s life turns into a version of her own show when her daughter disappears. Kyra Sedgwick vehicle. Doesn’t look like anything earth shattering, but it looks well done.

The Mayor – young rapper sort of accidentally becomes mayor and then gets all inspirational. Ugh.

Splitting Up Together – a couple splits up, sort of. It’s a plot that wouldn’t keep a 90 minute rom-com going, it barely made it through the trailer, so I don’t know how they think it’s gonna drag out to a whole series.

Alex, Inc.– I can’t even be bothered to explain it. Let’s just describe it as “Zach Braff deserves better”.

The Upfronts 2017 – Fox

Fox’s niche is kind of the low level action-drama often erring on the side of comedy, it makes for solid entertainment, but there’s rarely much there to get passionate about. The pilots are a little bit more varied, but good grief there are some real turnips in there.

What’s cancelled
Fox has retired a couple of big hitters this year. Bones bowed out after 12 seasons and nearly 250 episodes, about half of which were pretty good and then the series just sort of degenerated into a repetitive loop of character regressions. Sleepy Hollow started out big, but puttered out with four seasons. Scream Queens could have been fun, but was instead pretty rubbish and the biggest surprise was last year’s renewal for a second season, not this year’s cancellation. Rosewood was also cancelled after its second season

New series didn’t do too well. APB looked rubbish from the outset (rich tech guy takes over police department), but Pitch (woman major league baseball player) looked like it could have potential. Comedies Making History and Son of Zorn both looked insane and not in a good way.

What’s back
A lot of pickups for Fox. The X-Files will have another short season, its eleventh overall and second of this re-start, which I frankly found mediocre. Other than that, the longest running series, which will both be returning for fourth seasons, are the unremarkable Gotham, and Empire which doesn’t seem to generate quite as much buzz and praise as it used to. I’m a lot more engaged about the renewal of the extremely entertaining Lucifer for a third season. The animations are all back: the longest running scripted primetime show ever, The Simpsons was already renewed through season 30; Family Guy for a sixteenth, Bob’s Burgers had already been renewed for next year’s eighth season. The New Girl was renewed for a seventh season, but that will be its last, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man on Earth return for fifth and fourth respectively.

Three of the freshman shows got pick ups. I’m really enjoying Lethal Weapon which is doing a really solid job with very traditional ideas thanks to the charismatic lead pairing and able supporting cast. I was so surprised that I liked The Exorcist pilot that I wanted to watch it a second time before reviewing and then failed to do so, but with a second season, maybe I’ll try to get back to it. Star looked like it could be painfully cheesy or possibly interesting, but I don’t think it’s made it to the UK yet for me to find out. Comedy The Mick was also picked up.

What’s New
Gifted – based in the X-Men universe, a family goes on the run when their two teenagers are revealed to be mutants. The X-Men universe has a huge depth of untapped characters and stories, and with X-Men movie supremo Bryan Fuller is on board as Exec Producer and director of the pilot it’s certainly got potential, but the trailer did not excite me.

The Orville – A spoof of Star Trek, created by and starring Seth MacFarlane. I think it’s supposed to be funny but the trailer contains a joke about men and women arguing over the toilet seat being up.

Ghosted – an “action comedy” with a group of underdogs investigating unusual occurrences in LA with the aim of proving or disproving alien involvement. It’s awful. Stunningly so.

The Resident – absolutely bog standard medical drama. The blurb is a collection of tropes – unconventional approaches, charming but arrogant, innocent idealist and the final tedious nail in the coffin the “on-again-off-again” romance. I almost strained a muscle rolling my eyes so much during the trailer. Still, it does have Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife) in it and he is so very pretty.

LA to Vegas – A budget airline runs weekend flights back and forth, LA to Vegas, filled with a rotating group of gamblers, hen/stag dos and a handful of regular commuters, all held roughly in check by the cabin crew. I really loved the concept of this one, it’s possibly one of the best, tidiest ideas of the year with a great structure for new characters, but ongoing stories. And then I watched the trailer.

9-1-1 – Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck (Amerian Horror Story, Glee etc) take on emergency responders. Angela Basset stars, which is a good start, but other than the names this sounds pretty generic procedural, but it’s a pretty reliable format.