Or, to put it another way, a good “TVWriter™ bud Sees ORPHAN BLACK.” Thanks, Kate!
by Kathryn Graham
“Alison: Fine. She wants in? We’re clones! We’re someone’s experiment and they’re killing us off! Is that helpful?”
Orphan Black from BBC America. An orphan turned con artist finds out that she isn’t as alone as she thought. She’s actually one of many. Clones, that is.
The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, who plays (to date) seven clones is reason enough to watch Orphan Black. But give the show a chance, and you’ll find it also has the most important element: a phenomenally written story with vibrant, gripping characters.
It has all of the makings of our favorite cult sci-fi shows. Which, if the past is any indication, means it might be on the chopping block much too soon (though, I sure as hell hope not). So get out there and give it a shot! Let’s not have another Firefly on our hands.
As an added bonus – the actors and the writers engage regularly with the fans. So you could always follow the writers’ blog at their site: Orphan Black.
We’ve resisted watching Netflix’s original series, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, mostly cuz, well, women’s prison stuff, you know? But Ken Levine has convinced us to give it a try, mostly cuz, hey, women’s prison. What can you do?
by Ken Levine
From the first moment there was pay cable there were women-in-prison movies. It’s almost as if the delivery system was invented just for that purpose. They came on late at night and were ridiculously gratuitous. After all, since you could now show naked women on TV, why not show them naked all the time? Like reading their mail while showering.
These movies were all singularly awful, filled with sadistic lesbian prison guards and showgirls gone bad. There was so much silicone the prison could float. In every film the girls plotted their escape, carving guns out of soap and turning nail files into knives. Of course, where were they going to hide them since they were always naked?
When I saw that Netflix announced a new original series based on a woman’s prison I thought, hey, I’ll give this a chance. After all, I’m a red blooded heterosexual male. I like watching women carve soap.
And what was the first scene of the pilot? Naked women prisoners showering. But something was different. Off. Shocking even. The breasts were real. They were in proportion to their bodies. What’s going on here? It was then I knew – this was like no women-in-prison movie I had ever seen. In fact, as I continued to watch I realized that ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK may just be the best new show of the year (Sorry DADS).
What a revelation! A prison drama where you care about everybody, even the scumbags. Jenji Kohan has taken a book by Piper Kerman and turned it into a riveting drama that will have you at times gasping, crying, and laughing out loud. You totally forgive the episodes where there is no nudity.
I was glad to see that the new Battlestar Galactica movie, based during the first Cylon war and starring the young and enthusiastic Bill Adama, later to be the older and wearier Admiral Adama of the other SyFy series, was not a jingoistic rah rah war movie. It was more in the tradition of Vietnam War movies in which the reasons for the war are unclear and the motives of the leaders who order young people into battle are murky.
And yet, this movie is a jingoistic rah rah war movie, because as someone said, you can’t make an anti-war movie. War is exciting, and addicting. It is more interesting than getting a job and having a family. For many people, once they have experienced it, they want to go back to it. You can call it meaningless and question why it happens all you want, but just showing it is attractive to many people.
This movie takes place after the Cylons, robots created as warriors, then used as servants, have rebelled against the humans of the Colonies. (Ask colonies from where, and you get into the never-explained backstory of the original 1980’s Battlestar Galactica. They seem to be colonies from Earth, but when did they leave Earth? In the original show, the viper pilots had helmets that looked Egyptian. Did ancient Egypt have space flight? The show never said. Oh, and the Cylons were an alien race in the original show, they weren’t created by the colonies.)
Young, cocky Bill Adama is given to a “milk run” for his first active duty assignment, but it turns out to be a secret mission to deliver a woman to coordinates on the border of Cylon space. Of course everything goes wrong, and Bill’s cockiness is tempered by the realities of war. In the process he meets a Vietnam War movie character, the guy who has been out on the fringes of the war too long and is a little crazy. He learns that his government has a lot of secrets, and his mission has several layers of deception built into it. By the very end, he is given a Viper, a one-man fighter, as he always dreamed, and grins ear to ear as he goes out to kill toasters. Toasters equals krauts, japs, gooks, commies; it is the single word that sums up the inherent otherness of the enemy. They aren’t people, they are….insert current word here.
So this is both a Vietnam War movie with its cynicism and questions about why wars exist, and a jingoistic rah rah war movie. Since the United States of America seems to be in a perpetual state of war, you can go either way and still make young people want to join up and fight. The enemy in this movie, the Cylons, seem to be the perfect enemy. They are demonstrably not human, and killing them is like destroying a, well, a toaster. Anyone who saw the short-lived series Caprica know that the Cylon operating system is partly based on the personality of a human girl, and in this movie it is said that the Cylons feel pain. So I hope the series that Syfy no doubt plans, if the ratings for the movie are good, will explore some of the humanity of the enemy.
Human societies, at least the people in charge of them, seem to need an outside enemy to function well at home. The constant wars and expansion of many empires provided glory for the leaders and killed off many young men who might cause trouble by challenging the leaders. I’m sure the producers of this movie and any future series based on it won’t say that they Cylons were meant to serve such a purpose, but clearly they do. A few decades later they go a little over the top with it by nuking the colonies, but war always has unintended consequences. Rome didn’t expect the far flung barbarians they fought to destroy the empire either.
Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome is a pretty good movie if you treat it as just an entertainment, but it can also lead to thought about all the issues I have mentioned. One final note: Women and men serving equally in combat is a common idea in science fiction, and with a recent decision by the Obama Administration it has become real. Once again science fiction becomes reality.
HOUSE OF CARDS, is meant for the likes of me in one respect: I have recently streamed the entirety of shows like DOWNTON ABBEY, BREAKING BAD, SONS OF ANARCHY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES and the old and the new versions of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS.
I enjoy watching serialized shows that leave me wanting more, but because I waited I don’t have to wait.
Tensions built up over previous hours are instantly gratified with another hour, and so on… until all the hours are over and there is a profound sense of satisfaction and loss that there is no more.
So I’m a big fan of Netflix and genuinely want this kind of 13 episode drop of HOUSE OF CARDS to be a success, so we’ll get more of it in the future.
The problem with HOUSE OF CARDS though, is that it there is nothing that I really needed to have gratified after the first few episodes. There were no interesting characters I cared about, there was no clever plot I needed resolved, and there were no satisfying insights of the time and place.
Just a bunch of unlikely stuff happening to a bunch of unlikely people who I didn’t give a shit about.
If you like acting and actors Kevin Spacey (Frank Underwood) and Robin Wright (Claire Underwood) are as good as anybody, but their characters are two-dimensional psycho power-crazed nut-jobs who stick together like a pair of serial killers, and manipulate anyone who gets in the way of their grand plan.
For Congressman Frank Underwood it’s revenge for being passed over for Secretary of State in a new president’s cabinet, and a reacceleration of his career trajectory to where he believe it belongs. For Claire it’s the advancement of the clean water non-profit organization she heads. The two are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. If they can help themselves by helping each other, great, if not, screw them too.
In one scene, Claire sadistically gives her former bodyguard, in hospice for cancer, a hand job under the sheets, after he professes his unrequited love for her. Asking, “Is this what you wanted?” While explaining why she chose her husband as her life partner over the likes of the man dying in the bed in front of her.
And she didn’t even finish him off!
There’s no tragedy in Claire or Frank just self-absorbed assholery; and therefore, nothing to root for. No humanity to redeem.
Not even among the plot devices secondary characters. Everyone around Frank and Claire just lets themselves be manipulated and abused and does nothing about it. They all just lie there and get wanked around.
And that’s it. The show might be good if others fought or manipulated back. If there was true political intrigue. If HOUSE OF CARDS took a cue from GAME OF THRONES and Frank and Claire’s opposition pawns were at least somewhat formidable. But they aren’t. For the most part, they just take it.
After the first few episodes I realized that HOC lacked tension. That I really didn’t care if I found out what happened next. That the only reason I was watching the next episode was not that I had to see what happened next and I was relieved that the next one was already there waiting to be seen.
I was watching it just because it was all there and I had to finish it, like a new version of World of Warcraft.
In my quest to become a level 13 lawful evil streamer, I actually lost respect for myself. I’ll watch anything. I have no standards. Maybe I should start drinking again….
Don’t end up like me (hic!). For a truly satisfying experience, I recommend the British version. In fact, you can watch the whole thing on Netflix.
…And I can honestly say that it’s every bit as bad as the picture above indicates.
No way in hell can I believe that professionals were involved in this on any level. Writing, production, direction, acting, tech credits, it’s all mierdas, as in shit.
Creators-writers-producers Jason Winer, Josh Gad, and Jon Lovett should be dismembered and their spirits banished to the lowest circle of hell, to watch the pilot of this atrocity continuously for all eternity. As for everybody else involved – get out while you can! Get new gigs! Any new gigs!