Geekomancer Under Glass – Fall 2014 TV (Part One)

28 Sep

It’s that time of year again — New TV time!

Here’s a short run-down of some early thoughts about the Fall 2014 TV season based on a few pilots and season openers.

Gotham

Let me start by saying that I’m a big Batman fan. You might already know this. I should also say that I love the comic series, Gotham Central.

Gotham, however, is is not the TV show I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be a Gotham Central show, where GCPD cops try to keep the peace in an un-governable city cursed with larger-than-life villains and a guardian angel who is more terrifying than most of the villains he fights. But it’s not that show, and it’s not trying to be that show — it seems like it’s trying to be the story of Gotham before Batman and the story of the various villains and how they become who they are when Batman emerges.Gotham TV show poster

Let me say something about my favorite part:  Donal Logue is *excellent* as Harvey Bullock. He’s got a meaty character to work with, and he excellently delivers — showing how GCPD business as usual works, addressing the worst crimes but not rocking the boats of the crime families.

But largely, I find the basic premise of Gotham rather uninteresting. It seems like it’s going to be about Gotham before it gets interesting. It’ll be the city getting worse and worse, and then when the catalyst of change appears, the show would all but have to end, especially since the series starts with Bruce Wayne at age 12 or so. Unless the show is going to have some time jumps, I don’t think we’ll ever see Batman in a recognizable form. The pilot does already have young Master Bruce trying to conquer fear, with a really-actually-sounds-working-class Alfred Pennyworth as his reluctant caretaker after the Wayne’s death.

One thing that is notable about the show, if not exciting for me, is that it ties the Bat-mythos together much more tightly from the very beginning than most versions of the Batman origin do. The Waynes are murdered in the second scene of the show, and then freshly-arrived James Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock are the detectives who catch the Wayne murders. In the first episode alone, we meet no less than four future members of the Rogue’s gallery, and possibly one more. One interesting note is that aside from flip phones used by the GCPD detectives, the show is very intentionally timeless in its look, simultaneously invoking the 30s, 70s, and today.

I admit that I am not the prime audience for this show, as someone with a lot of Batman under my belt and who is most interested in the relationship between Batman and the villains and the impact of Batman on Gotham. I’m going to give the show a few more episodes, as there are some promising elements. Logue for one, as well as Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald “don’t call him Penguin” Cobblepot.

If you’re not as invested in a particular version of the Batman world or Gotham, and love character studies of villains in the making or how police might try to navigate the waters of corruption and institutional inertia, then this may be up your alley. The show’s still finding its tone, but that’s to be expected in a pilot.

Red Band Society

Red Band Society

So…this show actually seems like it’s slipstream speculative fiction — against my initial estimation. But more on that later.

Adapted from a Catalan drama created by Albert Espinosa, Red Band Society focuses on a group of teens all living in a pediatric ward, kids who normally would never be friends but fall in together due to proximity and shared circumstance.

Octavia Spencer serves as the big name in the cast, playing hard-love Nurse Jackson, who keeps order in the ward. Two of the kids have cancer, one has an eating disorder, another has massive lung problems, and one is a temporary visitor with a broken arm…mostly. The teen leads are mostly well-drawn, though some of them lean pretty hard into teen drama archetypes (especially the cheerleader with the broken arm).

The narrator of the show is Charlie, a boy in a coma. What makes the show actually sort of slipstream-y is that when one of the other characters goes under for a short time, he sees Charlie in a limbo-esque all-white version of the foyer of the hospital. This device comes back in the second episode, so it’s not just a one-time narrative technique. I don’t think the show will get any more speculative, but it’s enough of an element to be commented on, since this is mostly an SF/F site.

There’s been buzz about this show as a successor to Glee, and I do think that the immediacy granted by focusing on teens with life-threatening conditions resonating with the immediacy of teenage experience in general is quite powerful and likely to give the show a lot of narrative drive. But I am not yet won over by the show.

——————————

Next time, I’ll re-visit some of my favorite freshman shows from last year as they enter Season 2!

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One Response to “Geekomancer Under Glass – Fall 2014 TV (Part One)”

  1. SBecker October 1, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    The one positive thing I can say about Gotham is that it looks really nice. They really nailed that gothic noir look and the Production Designer and visual effects artists should get a lot more money than whatever they’re getting now. Also, the opening sequence with a young Catwoman was visually interesting and well shot.

    That being said, the rest of the show is a mess. I want to start off with saying, could you please find a more interesting way of showing Bruce’s Parents being murdered? I always think back to Batman: The Animated Series as the high point of that scene. Their deaths aren’t really shown, but hinted at during a hallucination that Batman has under the influence of Scarecrow’s fear gas. Not only was it creepy and strange, it conveyed the core emotion that Bruce feels. That’s what film is, right? Conveying an emotion in the most creative way possible? Or it could be that I’m just naive about that. You can’t tell me it’s that difficult to do something creative with “the scene” because a freaking kid’s show did it almost twenty years ago. I am tired of watching the same scene, beat for beat, angle for angle, in everything dealing with Batman’s origin.

    I understand the origin theme they are going for, I really do. There are many issues with it, though, the biggest being the fact that nothing will change in however many seasons they choose to have. Carmine Falcone will still be around when Batman rolls into town. GCPD will still be dirty and Gordon will still be one of the few good cops around. If you wanted to have the show be about Gotham’s spiral from a bright, bustling metropolis into the bleak and seedy underworld it is during Batman’s tenure, that’s an interesting story. But having a static plot does not interest me, nor does not so subtle fan service that makes the origins of these villains both pointless and vexing. I will continue to watch this show, hoping that it will find its legs like Agents of SHIELD did and because it somewhat satiates my appetite for neo-noir. But until it tells a good story and conveys emotion like a real human wrote the script and not SCRIPT O-TRON 8000, I won’t really enjoy it.

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