iZombie and Lucifer: Season 4

These two shows both fall neatly into what I label as “ironing TV”. They’re shows that I put on when I’m doing something that needs some level of awareness but isn’t fully engrossing; if there’s an interesting bit of the episode, I can pause the ironing to watch it, but 90% of the time it just doesn’t need (or support) that much attention.

Part of the reason both Lucifer and iZombie fit this way of watching is that the structure of most episodes are built around a “case of the week” that is varying levels of forgettable, and occasionally outright annoying. This structure is better done on iZombie because it presents opportunities for fun with the zombie trick of taking on the characteristics of the person who’s brain was eaten, usually some sort of extreme personality (posh, germophobe, sports obsessed etc). It gives Rose McIver plenty of opportunities to shine and keeps things fresh. Lucifer however is less successful because the cases are always wafer thin with a completely obvious connection to the other stuff going on in the characters lives, I often felt like I was being treated like a bit of an idiot and it left me a bit bored and frustrated.

The 10% of the shows that are worth putting the iron down for are the ongoing storylines and characters that are building up. Both shows are playing with similar ideas about nature, destiny, self-awareness and acceptance – generally the fundamental themes at the heart of most of the supernatural genre. Also season 4 for both series are dealing with the fallout of “coming out”. On iZombie the world has found out about the zombies with all sorts of ramifications that each of the characters are having to deal with in different ways. That’s a rich canvas and the series juggles most of it fairly well, but it did sometimes feel like there were too many threads running and not intersecting often enough, with some left hanging and forgotten about by either writers or watchers. It also didn’t always blend well with the more quirky cases of the week and the caricature personalities being shown, the two elements were fighting each other at times.

Lucifer meanwhile has a more personal reveal with Chloe finally finding out Lucifer’s true nature, which in turn forces Lucifer to confront his own acceptance of who he is. The problem with this is that I’ve never really believed in Chloe as a character, she has little in the way of core personality, just her job really. Also the fact that she’s been with Lucifer this long and she’s never really challenged how he does what he does just undermines her. Lucifer is such a strong and charismatic character and I’ve never felt she balances him, it’s a missed opportunity for a strong female character which is disappointing (maybe due the gender inbalance in the writers room – imdb). There are more interesting threads going on with the supporting characters, but they’re not given much time to really breath.

Neither show particularly excited me, and both took me several months to get through, partly because of my lack of enthusiasm for ironing, but mostly because of my lack of engagement in the shows themselves. Lucifer is watchable because of the superb Tom Ellis, but fails to adequately support the richness of the potential. iZombie is doing something a bit more creative and interesting, but is maybe overstretching and trying to do too many things.

Lucifer: Season 1

Lucifer,_titleAided by the tragic demise of my sky dish, I blitzed my way through Lucifer on Amazon Prime over the space of a few days. It’s something of a one trick pony kind of show, it’s a good trick, which is enough to carry the 13 episode season, but the lack of other tricks (or ponies… I’m not quite sure about this metaphor) is a constantly niggling irritation.

The pony in question is the titular Lucifer. “Devil gets bored of hell and runs away to LA to run a nightclub” is a pretty good pitch. Added to that idea is the complexity of the character which makes him so much more than the stereotypical devil, which he himself gets very cross about. He doesn’t consider himself evil, in fact the very opposite – he punishes evil. He doesn’t force people to do evil things, he merely encourages people to follow their desires and takes satisfaction in punishing them when their desires aren’t all that they should be. He does have a sense of morality that doesn’t really match most people’s, but frankly when he explains his reasoning it kind of makes sense. He’s also got some pretty serious issues with his father of course. The elegance and complexity of the character, make a lot more sense when you realise it’s actually Neil Gaiman’s character from his Sandman series. Heaven knows nothing else in this series has that level of talent.

When you get away from Lucifer’s character and story you find yourself in the familiar, tedious and clumsy worlds of a procedural cop show. It’s “Castle, but with the devil instead of a writer” and the way he’s clumsily brought into each case is painful beyond belief. I also unfortunately just didn’t get anywhere near the same complexity, depth, or (sadly) acting talent from his partner’s character. She just felt very flimsy and insubstantial, like she wasn’t quite grounded in the show around her. It’s possible she lost me at the moment she revealed she named her daughter Trixie, which even Lucifer points out is a stripper name.

The show is pretty much worth watching for Lucifer and Tom Ellis’ portrayal. He’s incredibly charismatic and manages the dramatic shifts in tone from charming to terrifying at incredible speed. His character development and story is fascinating, and his interactions with those that really know who he is have a tremendous depth and history that leaves you wanting to know more. It’s just a shame that the mortal side of the deal is cheesy, obvious and amateur.

The Upfronts 2016: Fox

Fox network logoI watch precisely zero shows on Fox. I have vague intentions to watch Empire and Lucifer, but haven’t got round to it and that’s as close as it got. Just looking at the line-up it really looks like they’ve got problems, all the cancellations were from their new shows, two dramas, three comedies and an animation. Which might make you think that they’ve got a solid backbone of returning shows, but most of the rest of the schedule is only two or three seasons old and really nothing to write home about. The new shows actually had a few possibilities in there, but did rather annoy me that I had to re-label “new” to “new or resurrected”. I’m tempted to expand it further and call it “movie spin offs you never expected or wanted to see”

Cancelled
All of Fox’s cancellations were new shows this year. Minority Report got pretty bad reviews and was cut down to 10 episodes almost immediately before being officially cancelled. Grandfathered and Grinder both got pretty good reviews and made it through the full seasons before being cancelled, with some grumbling about Grinder in particular. Second Life had an 11 episode first season but was not picked up, which given that I’ve seen ABSOLUTELY no mention of it in any coverage is not hugely surprising. Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life also didn’t get renewed, personally I’d lost interest before even reaching the end of the title. Animation Bordertown was also cancelled.

Renewed
BonesBones will be back for a 12 episode 12th and final season. I gave up a few years ago when it started going round in circles and am somewhat amazed its managed to find enough gimmicky deaths to keep going so long. The critically acclaimed Empire is renewed for the third season. The rest of the drama line up is all relatively new, and not particularly high profile. Sleepy Hollow will be back, and trying to navigate its fourth season without its leading lady who was written out this year. Gotham continues into its third season continuing to confound me with people’s liking for the Batman universe.

New shows that did manage to get renewals were Rosewood (an utterly unremarkable looking standard medical/criminal procedural) and Lucifer (which I’ve heard some good things about and is sitting in my Amazon Instant Video queue). Scream Queens is renewed, although I would have thought the point of a slasher story is that most characters are either dead or guilty or both, so I can’t see how that gives a second season. Also I thought it was “unholy mess of un-watchable awfulness”

Fox has a pretty solid backbone of comedies with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man on Earth, and The New Girl. As are the animation block with Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, and the seemingly immortal Simpsons, which with its upcoming 28th season will surpass 600 episodes.

The status of The X-Files following it’s revival/10th season seems to be a bit up in the air.

New/Resurrected
24: Legacy – I guess the Legacy in question is “ratings that were the envy of the other networks” so why not give it a try. I never got into 24 (it was all just too over the top, I found it funny), but it unquestionably worked for a lot of people.

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Prison Break – of all the shows ever described as ‘cancelled too soon’ or ‘gone but not forgotten’ Prison Break never even broke the top 50! Yet here it is, back for a “limited event” which I guess means a one off series. I think it continues the original storyline with the original cast, but I never actually watched it so have no idea

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The Exorcist – did anyone ever watch The Exorcist and think “wow, there’s a great subject for an ongoing prime-time drama”? The trailer looked like it could be an ok film, but I just don’t see how you make this an ongoing 15-22 episode a year series.

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Lethal Weapon – ok, this one actually makes sense as a film to tv conversion! Casting will be key, but the trailer looks pretty good.

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Making History – so a nerd time travels back to the American Revolution and accidentally stops it happening, so he and his historian friend try to fix it. I barely made it through the trailer, the idea of watching more than 2 minutes is just horrific.

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The Mick – slacker Aunt gets left in charge of 3 rich kids. The title isn’t doing the show any favours at all, but there’s not that much to go on.

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A.P.B. – imagine if Bruce Wayne, rather than deciding to don a dumb costume, invests his money, genius and technology into actually making the police better. Instinctively I like this idea, because fundamentally it just makes sense! I’m not sure the cast quite ‘pops’ and it could fall into a boring pattern with gadget of the week, but it has some potential.

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Pitch – The first woman playing major league baseball. It looks like a fantastic movie, but I don’t see it working as an ongoing series.

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Shots Fired – The fallout and investigation of a police shooting in North Carolina. It feels a little like it’s trying too hard to be controversial and driven from the headlines. It’s described as ‘an event series’ which I think means that it’s a one-off season.

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Son of Zorn – the contender for dumbest name of the year is also the most insane concept. Animated Zorn (basically He-Man) returns to Earth to try to reconnect with his (normal) teenage son and has to deal with ex-wife, suburbia and office work. It’s just about amusing as a trailer, I doubt it can be stretched to a full half hour, let alone a series.

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Star – Star’s a “troubled kid” and wants to be a music star. I shouldn’t have liked this, but the trailer actually worked for me. It’ll depend a lot on how annoying the kids are.

The Upfronts 2015: Fox

Fox network logoAm I growing cynical or are upfronts rolling round faster and with less actually interesting television happening in between? Oh well, here we are again!
First up are Fox. They only had two new shows out of seven that were renewed one comedy and one actually pretty critically acclaimed drama. With another three shows cancelled that means almost a full half of their shows have gone and frankly the remaining ones aren’t really setting the world alight. With American Idol going into its final season as well, it doesn’t look good over at Fox.

Finished or Cancelled
gleeI used to absolutely adore Glee, it was stupid but it made me happy. Gradually the happiness just got drowned out by the stupid and I gave up in the middle of season 4. The show committed my cardinal sin, it sacrificed coherent characters to drive short term plots. I also just never fell in love with the new characters as much as the original cast. Ratings dwindled, critical response plummeted and it was given a sixth and final season to wind things up.

The FollowingI was watching The Following, but frankly I lost enthusiasm somewhere in the middle of season 2 and it’s been on a death spiral for me for a while. I’ve watched the first few episodes of season 3 and it just wasn’t doing anything for me. It was still brutal but the relentlessness of that just disconnected me from any emotional level and hence there didn’t really seem much of a reason to watch.
New series Gracepoint made it through the whole season, but the American remake of Broadchurch seemed pretty pointless from the get go, particularly with David Tennant re-doing his performance.
Also cancelled: Utopia, Backstrom, Mulaney, Weird Loners, Red Band Society (all new shows).

Returning Series
BonesI apparently don’t watch any of the series on Fox! I used to watch Bones which will return for season 11, I gave up on it at a couple of years ago because I was frustrated with Brennan’s groundhog day character and just bored by the plots. I enjoyed the episodes of Sleepy Hollow that I saw, but didn’t really get into it enough to stick with it but it’s renewed for a 3rd season.
I have Empire sat on my Sky box to try, so that might make the cut. I tried Gotham but found it cliché, forced and disappointing.
Also returning: Comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine (3), The New Girl (4); new series The Last Man on Earth (2) and animations The Simpsons (renewed for seasons 27 AND 28), Family Guy (13) and Bob’s Burgers (7)
Wayward Pines (the M Night Shyamalan series) has only just stated so no word on whether it will be renewed.
Breaking news – just had to move The Mindy Project out of the cancelled list as it’s been renewed at Hulu.

New this Autumn

Minority Report:Based on the film, or at least on the idea of pre-crime and whizzy computer interfaces. I rather liked the trailer, with younger characters and less creepy military overtones it had a more energetic feel to it.

Grandfathered

A restaurant owner who is desperate to deny he’s aging finds that not only does he have a son he never knew about, but there’s a granddaughter as well. There were a couple of laughs in the trailer (largely thanks to the supporting cast), but it all looks pretty predictable.


The Grinder: After 8 years playing a lawyer on television a popular actor decides to ‘go straight’ and join the family law firm. His brother is less than thrilled. Nice idea, but even Rob Lowe and Fred Savage couldn’t make the characters anything other than irritating.


Rosewood: A “private medical examiner” (private? What?) who runs and looks good with his shirt off works with a new, young, female detective who is trying to prove herself. He’s cocky, but has a medical condition that could kill him at any time; she kicks ass and is resistant to his charms… sort of. Yeesh. It’s like someone set out to write a parody and accidentally took themselves seriously.


Scream Queens: An exclusive sorority is forced to open its doors to all comers, then people start dying. It’s billed as a horror/comedy and I think it’s probably the second half of that combo which stopped it from being just another season of American Horror Story as it’s done by the same team. I loved Scream so this might be a lot of fun, or it might show that it’s not an idea that’s sustainable over multiple hours.

Coming January

Lucifer: The devil has quit and moved to Los Angeles where he uses his powers of manipulation to charm women and have a good time. Then he seems to decide he wants to fight crime. And some of his old colleagues come looking for him. The character’s charm carries through to the trailer and I rather enjoyed it, although suspect the novelty might ware off very quickly leaving you with something that feels a lot like several failed series before it. It’s based on Neil Gaiman’s work though, so it might have enough to keep it going.

The Guide to Surviving Life: Group of guys, share a flat, screw up in various ways. Explain what they’ve learnt to the audience. Blah blah blah.


The Frankenstein Code: Rogue scientists take a 75 year old murdered guy and turn him into a much younger, stronger, faster, smarter guy who’s pretty peeved about being murdered and not that thrilled about being brought back it seems. Frankly the trailer looked rubbish.

The X-Files: Thirteen years later, Mulder and Scully are back for 6 episodes. I have no earthly idea how the series ended as I only made it through the first few seasons getting fed up of the ever more complicated conspiracies. Hopefully it won’t require too much background, and I’ll certainly give it a try for nostalgia’s sake.

Bordertown: Animation set in a town on the US/Mexico border taking a “satirical look at cultural shifts taking place in America”. This could go badly wrong.