Fall Geek TV, 2015

I haven’t talked about TV shows yet this fall, have I?  Right now during NaNoWriMo, TV is exactly the kind of vice I’ve been struggling with as it kills my writing time.  But I just can’t help it.  Here’s what I’ve been watching (or not, as the case may be).

What I’m loving:

  • Jessica Jones (Netflix): Because Marvel likes to torture all of us who are doing NaNoWriMo.

This show came out a week ago and I’m halfway through right now.  I think it is technically even better than Daredevil, though I’m not finding it quite as enjoyable (I think it’s the lack of fight scenes).  I especially like its treatment of mental illness, abusive relationships, and addiction (both literally and in metaphor), as well as the fact that it has TWO female lead characters, giving us a perspective that Marvel’s never really done before.

  • Into the Badlands (AMC): Here’s how I’m getting my fight scene fix.

This is an actual, legit martial arts TV show.  Plus it airs after The Walking Dead, so you can just stick around.  We’re 2 episodes into this 6-episode season, and I felt the second episode improved on the first (which was mostly just set up).  The characters are still a bit flat, but the show makes up for it by being stylish as hell.  The design is great and the fight choreography is lovely.  Plus we get an Asian-American male lead (Daniel Wu), with a non-white girlfriend no less.  I’m kind of in love with his character Sonny; he has these amazing, subtle facial expressions.

  • Supergirl (CBS): Not the world’s greatest show, but I’m liking it well enough so far.

Supergirl (TV logo).jpg

Melissa Benoist makes an adorable Supergirl/Kara Danvers, and I’d watch anything with Mehcad Brooks, who plays Jimmy Olsen…I mean James.  I’m kind of used to Kara being the cool girl and Jimmy being the dork but the show interestingly switches that around.  The writing and characters have been ok so far, leaning a bit too heavily on a villain-of-the-week structure.  I did really enjoy their take on DCAU character Livewire in the 4th episode.

What I need to catch up on:

  • The Flash/Arrow (CW)

I just finished watching the previous seasons of these shows, which were great.  Everything from the crossovers to Gorilla Grodd was squee-inducing.  The Flash finale actually made me cry a little.  Even Laurel has improved.  I just wish they would give Felicity something more to do, and decide on a pronunciation for “Ra’s.”  In any case, I have the current seasons waiting on my DVR, and I can’t wait to start!

  • Agents of SHIELD (ABC): Same deal.
This show has the best posters.

Last season was quite enjoyable, and I have this season waiting for me on the DVR.  It seems like there will be a focus on the Inhumans, so we’ll see how that’s going to mix in with the rest of the MCU and the upcoming movie of that name.

What I’m dropping:

  • Once Upon a Time (ABC):

I was willing to give this season a try for Merida, but I watched a couple episodes and kinda lost interest.  I might catch up when it gets to Netflix or something, but I’m not really in a hurry.

  • Gotham (Fox):

I watched about half of the first season, and while I enjoyed it for what it was, it wasn’t good enough for me to keep going on a regular basis.  And it seems like every week it just gets crazier.

What I’m waiting for:

  • The Expanse (SyFy): Episode 1 is up online!

expanse

This show is an adaptation of a great space opera book series; the first is called Leviathan Wakes.  I’m excited for real sci-fi back on the SyFy channel.  I’ve heard good things about the pilot and I’m planning to watch it online this weekend; the show premieres on TV December 14.

  • Legends of Tomorrow (CW): Coming next year.

legends of tomorrow

After last season of Flash and Arrow, how could I not be excited for this?  I know the current seasons are busy setting up for this show, introducing Hawkgirl, etc., and they just released a trailer that looks amazing.  The characters!  The special effects!  IT’S LIKE A MINI JUSTICE LEAGUE ON TV AND I’M SO EXCITED. Ahem.  Anyways, it premieres January 21.

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Korean Culture in Media: TV

I forgot another Korean word I learned, sorry.  No, literally, I know how to say sorry, romanized mianhae.  Though at first I thought it was bianhae, because Korean consonant pronunciations are difficult.  Anyways, let’s talk about some K-dramas I liked.

TV

Boys Over Flowers (2009)

This was the first Korean TV show I watched, and it’s a great one to start with because it’s a classic K-drama (and actually referenced by some others).  It’s based on a Japanese manga, Hana Yori Dango, and it really is basically like a live-action shoujo manga.  It follows a poor high school girl named Jan-di who ends up at a rich-kid high school ruled over by a group of 4 handsome boys known as the F4.  Naturally, troubles and romances follow.

Pretty much no soap-opera-style plot is off-limits, including blackmail, amnesia, hypothermia, arranged marriages, etc.  Just go with it.  The side characters are awesome; I was actually more invested in some of the other characters’ relationships than the main character’s.

Really my only issue with this show was that the male lead occasionally shows his love by being jealous and controlling in a Twilight-esque fashion (…yes, there’s even a love triangle).  Every time he grabbed Jan-di’s arm I got upset (to be fair, she does a pretty good job standing up for herself).  Also, he seriously needs some anger management help.

Coffee Prince (2007)

Go Eun-chan is a tomboy who poses as a boy to work at a coffee shop, but then starts to fall for her straight male boss.

I liked that this drama is about adults, rather than high school students, so it felt more relate-able to me.  I really liked Eun-chan’s character, and again, the side characters are awesome, especially the other boys working at the Coffee Prince.

While the gender-swap plot point does create some funny moments, it also creates some really serious scenes that touch on gender identity and sexual orientation issues, both personally for individual characters as well as how the issues are viewed in society.

Secret Garden (2010)

Don’t bother reading the blurb about this show on Netflix; it has absolutely nothing to do with the story, no idea where it came from.  This drama actually has some light fantasy—the main characters swap bodies when it rains, though this part of the story doesn’t even start until a few episodes in.  It’s also a bit of a Cinderella story because, like in Boys Over Flowers, the guy is from a higher socioeconomic class than the girl.

The main characters obviously learn a lot about each other from their periodic body swaps; both end up coming to terms with theirs pasts and growing into better people, and it leads them to make really touching sacrifices for each other.  I especially liked Gil Ra-Im, who is a badass stuntwoman.  Supporting character Oska, an aging Hallyu star, is also a favorite.

The K-pop group BIGBANG has actually done parodies of Boys Over Flowers, Coffee Prince, and Secret Garden that are quite funny.  The Secret Garden one is my favorite; once you watch the show you will get a huge kick out of the parody–check it out here.

Dream High (2011)

Another high school drama, this time about a group of students at an arts school trying to become K-pop stars.  It’s a musical show with a cast full of real-life idols, including Suzy from Miss A.

Though the premise seems like it might be shallow, there are a lot of really touching moments and the show really drives home the benefits of hard work and true friendship while at the same time being realistic that life isn’t always fair.  I watched the last episode recently and thought it ended on a note that was more bittersweet than syrupy.

The acting is better than I was expecting, and of course there’s lots of great singing and dancing.  I’m guessing you’ll like this show if you liked Glee.  Or if you like K-pop, because there’s some funny things you’ll appreciate, like Baek-hee singing “Bad Girl, Good Girl” by Miss A in front of her rival, whose actress is a real-life member of Miss A.

These first 3 shows (and many more!) can be found on Netflix; Dream High can be found on DramaFever.

Sense8 is a slow, mindbending adventure

Sense8 (2015) PosterI usually give TV shows a few episodes to hook me before I decide whether I want to keep watching or not.  In the first two episodes of Sense8, the new sci-fi Netflix series from J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis, my husband and I sat through the introduction of eight characters with no discernable connection between them, except that they all had something to do with this woman that committed suicide on a mattress, and the cryptic mutterings of Naveen Andrews’s character (whom I continued to call Sayid, despite his name being Jonas, or something). At that point, I told my husband I would even be thrilled if they were all aliens, because then at least something would make some kind of sense.

I love character-driven stories, and even I thought this was slow. I was pretty much ready to quit, but B seemed to like it, so we kept going, and finished the series in about a week.  If you are patient enough, the story unfolds nicely and the eight characters come to life, not just within their own stories, but as a group, psychically connected to each other.

They live all over the globe: Chicago, Seoul, Berlin, Nairobi.  They are gay and straight, cops and criminals, loving sons and troubled daughters. They make bad choices and fight for their loved ones.  And their lives are changed forever when discover they are a “cluster” of sensates, empathetically linked, and the true joy of the series is watching them learn to use their various talents to help each other and become something more than individuals.

I liked all the characters, especially the women. Here’s a video intro to one of my favorite characters, Sun (also shows Capheus and Nomi):

Netflix is really the perfect venue for this show, both because of pacing and content.  It is eminently binge-able, because watching it in succession helps build a little more of the momentum that the show needs.

Sense8 was also not destined for broadcast TV due to its graphic content.  There are graphic depictions of sex (including gay sex and masturbation), violence (including gunplay and suicide), drug use, and childbirth.  Though most of it is in the service of character or story, it was a little raw for me at times.

The end climax of the story was suitably dramatic, but the resolution felt a little weak to me because it leaves the fate of the group, and one member specifically, a bit open.  I was hoping for a more complete, self-contained story.  This was more of an origin story for the group, and it doesn’t seem like their journey together is over yet.

Reports of the EU’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

I got very, very excited when I saw that this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels was called “Idiot’s Array.”

Sure enough, the episode came through for me: sabacc is now official Star Wars canon.

Sabacc is a card game where players gamble based on their hands (kind of a mix of poker and blackjack).  “Pure sabacc” is when the hand cards total +/- 23; the only hand that beats this is the “Idiot’s Array.”

Idiot's Array beats Pure Sabacc
Idiot’s Array beats Pure Sabacc

This is about all the detail that the episode went into about the game, so the rest of the rules (suits, randomizers, skifters, neutral field, etc. [the Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin provides good detail])  may or may not be canon.  Sabacc is apparently also mentioned in the Rebels tie-in novel A New Dawn, which I have not read so I don’t know what detail is provided there.

My point with all this is: the EU is not dead.  There are people involved in making franchise decisions that love Star Wars as much as I do, and they actually know more about it than I do.  Someone made a conscious decision to put sabacc in Rebels.  That gives me hope.

I would not be surprised to see small things from the EU continuing to appear in canon, whether it’s books, TV, or movies.  Now, will we see Mara Jade on the big screen? No.  Will Korriban henceforth be known as Moraband? Yes.  We are going to have to reconcile ourselves to this.

But let’s rejoice in the small things.  For every Darth-Maul-on-robot-legs The Clone Wars gave us, we also got a Selkath named Chata Hyoki.  Selkath are an aquatic species created for the Knights of the Old Republic game, and they are now canon thanks to the TCW episode titled “Pursuit of Peace” where Chata Hyoki appears as a bounty hunter (perhaps not a distinguished view of the peaceful species, but better than nothing).  The series goes on to include several other Selkath.

Chata Hyoki, Selkath bounty hunter
Chata Hyoki, Selkath bounty hunter

Heck, the very name of Coruscant, the most important planet in the galaxy, was originally named by Timothy Zahn in his novel Heir to the Empire.  It was made canon in The Phantom Menace.

Who knows what we’ll see next?

Fall Geek TV 2014

FallTV2014x

Here’s what I’m watching this fall:

  • Once Upon a Time (ABC): Honestly, I was planning on dropping this show at the end of last season.  But then they teased Frozen and it sucked me right back in.  Darn you, Disney!  I really do like the show’s characters, but the writing and plots just seem to have no focus.  Hopefully the addition of Elsa (Fringe‘s Georgina Haig) and OUAT in Wonderland‘s Will Scarlet/Knave of Hearts will breathe some life back into this series.
  • Agents of SHIELD (ABC): Have the first 2 episodes of this season on my DVR unwatched, but I am very eager to see where this show goes after last season got so good following the SHIELD/HYDRA reveal from Winter Soldier.  Even Skye got tolerable!  Also, I might be the only person on the planet that thinks Ward is redeemable.
  • Arrow (CW): One of the best live-action superhero TV shows ever made.  Oliver continues to build Team Arrow; I can’t wait to see Roy in his official Red Arrow/Arsenal get-up!  I am not really an Olicity shipper, because I think Felicity is too good for Oliver, but I am interested to see where their relationship is going.  I also have high hopes for Ra’s al Ghul, a favorite of mine, as the season’s antagonist.
  • The Flash (CW): Spinning off of Arrow, this show could be as great if they can manage a lighter tone and keep the special effects decent.  I loved Barry Allen in his guest appearance last season on Arrow, so I’m hoping the show will be a good addition to the DC TV-verse.
  • Gotham (FOX):  If you want a Batman show, watch Arrow.  If you want a gritty drama about corrupt cops with slightly cheesy dialogue and heavy-handed Batman references, Gotham is your show.  Ok, that’s a little snarky.  I liked the pilot enough to give it a couple more episodes.  But this is one of the shows I’m most concerned about quality-wise.
  • Constantine (NBC):  Another comic book property comes to TV.  I’ve never read it, but John Constantine gives me kind of a Harry Dresden vibe: smartass “grey” magician mixed up with the darker side of the supernatural.  So that’s got me interested enough to give this show a try. It doesn’t premiere until Oct 24, so I’ll let you know how it is.
  • Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD): Watched the pilot over the weekend and I’m feeling hopeful.  After we got through the terrible “Aladdin” opening scene, things got much better.  I LOVE Hera, and Sabine is pretty cool so far, too.  I think some of the voice acting and animation could be better, and I’m still not sold on Ezra.  My favorite part of the episode was Agent Kallus kicking the stormtrooper in the head to knock him off the support beam.
  • Legend of Korra (Nick.com): Season 4 is now online-only, which I hate.  Season 3 ended on a really strong note, so I hope they keep the momentum going.  The first episode jumped us a couple of years into the future, and Korra’s no longer the fiery, brash teenager she started as.  In fact, she seems pretty lost.  With trouble brewing in the rubble of the Earth kingdom, will Korra find her way back to spiritual balance?  Or does this new world even need an Avatar?
  • Sailor Moon Crystal (Hulu): A reboot of the Sailor Moon anime, hewing closer to the manga (which I’ve read).  Episodes are coming out twice a month.  I’ve only watched the first episode, but I really liked the look and feel of it so I’m excited to continue.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the original anime (and the English dub was heavily edited anyway), so I really feel like this could be “my” Sailor Moon.

What are you guys watching?