Shondaland brings us yet another new series – or in this case a mid-season replacement, meaning the network was maybe a little skittish, which turns out they had a right to be.
Alice Vaughn is a gorgeous private investigator working for corporations and rich folks. She’s engaged to Mr. Perfect, Christopher Hall, a high finance type, whom she meets not-so-cute when he comes to her firm to do some bidness, but then tells her he’s going elsewhere because he claims he’s already too interested in her. They’re engaged within five seconds, which doesn’t set off her spidey-sense, but in real life wouldn’t she have done some serious background checking? Especially given that he appears to have no friends, and all his relatives are conveniently dead? And he has that strange habit of ducking his head whenever anyone tries to snap his photo? And given that’s she’s a pro and all? Wouldn’t she, you know, google him, maybe? Just to see what turn up? (To read the rest of this fascinating review, head over to Happy Nice Time People where you can follow all my snarky television recaps and reviews.)
So I haven’t posted in forever. Some of this may have been owing to a crisis in confidence, the belief that I have no audience so what’s the point in actually putting words down even virtually? Yeah, I know, shouldn’t I be past all that by now? Something happened, which shook me, the influence of one of those toxic individuals we all come across, te insidious kind who may actually believe s/he is being helpful. Fortunately, there may be a story in there, and when I’m ready to tell it, you’ll be the first to know.
Plus there are those time constraints we’re all under, other projects, paid work, etc.
However, anyone who’s ever come here and found anything useful they’ve liked could probably look around and find more from old posts. Plus, if you want to encourage me, commenting here, increases in my book sales, etc etc will revive me like applause brought back Tinkerbell.
You can also keep up with snarky television recaps and other writing about television over at Happy Nice Time People— where they actually pay me sort of.
I’m also up for suggestions as to posts. Seriously, if there’s something you’d like to see me write about, just let me know.
The best (Philip K Dick) novel of all time, The Man in the High Castle will be coming to your favored viewing device on November 20, 2015 – just in time for Thanksgiving, via Amazon. So while your drunk uncle and Trump supporting uncle (who may or may not be the same person) and other assorted relatives are watching the football, you can lean back, plug in your headphones and see the greatest alternative timeline story ever told, on your fully charged phone. That is, if you have access to Amazon Prime. So if you haven’t done the trial membership yet, wait for it.
But here’s the bestest news of all – even if you’re a shlub who blew your Prime trial on Bosch, and you don’t have a significant other or family member willing to trust you with his or her Amazon password, you can watch the pilot episode FREE now (and if you do have Prime you can watch the second episode too).
What is The Man in the High Castle and why would you want to watch it? The Man in the High Castleis the television adaptation of a novel by Philip K. Dick – the man whose books have been the basis for Blade Runner,Minority Report, Total Recall,A Scanner Darkly,The Adjustment Bureau and more. It’s set in a world where FDR is assassinated in 1933, the US never gets over the depression, Kirk never lets Edith Keeler die, and we lose World War II. The post-war US is divided by Japan and Germany. Japan controls the West Coast, the Germans have the East Coast and most of the rest. The Rockies form a buffer zone. The novel takes place in 1962. There’s a novel within the novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which offers an alternate history – not ours – but closer to it. In that version, Germany and Japan are defeated, but Russia barely makes it through. The US and Great Britain emerge as the world’s two competing super powers.
In 2010, the BBC announced a planned four-part adaptation, with Ridley Scott as Executive Producer. Five years later with Scott still at the helm and no BBC involvement, it’s here. Why haven’t there been previous feature films? Possibly because the tone of the novel is so dark and humorless, and the ending doesn’t feel like one. Dick planned on writing a sequel. A couple of chapters exist, but he abandoned the project finding it too unbearable to read more about nazis and try to get into their heads.
Amazon refers to “season one” availability, so it’s unclear whether or not they’ll be following the book’s storyline, or going past it to create a broader series about life under occupation or giving us the sequel Dick never finished. The pilot follows the book’s plot with some variations, but not enough so far to cause this fan to go ballistic.
The biggest difference so far is that in the adaptation, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a film, not a novel. It looks like an authentic World War II era newsreel. Some people believe it is, and that belief causes the nazis to make even watching it an act of treason punishable by death. Others believe it is merely anti-fascist fiction. In both the novel and the series, the actual man in the high castle is the creator of the work. Why a newsreel rather than a novel? Maybe it’s simply a matter of one being more visual than another. We can experience a film within a film and watch it with the characters, a book within a film is tougher.
The pilot, like the book, is uncompromising in its bleakness, and then in episode two the darkness is magnified. Imagine if you will, living in a world that totally sucks and Jon Stewart was never born because his grandparents were wiped out. Amazon seems to be attempting irony in one of its promos – which doesn’t jibe with the tone of the pilot. They use the song Edelweiss from The Sound of Music over the opening credit sequence, but this is not satire, so don’t expect The Confederate States of America. But if you are a sucker for parallel/alternative realities, this is the mother of them all.
Enjoy (if that’s the right word) this official promo:
(This piece will appear soon on Happy Nice Time People where you can see more of my writing about television. If you can’t get enough of alternate timelines, you might want to check out this little novella. And remember, nothing says thank-you for offering all this free stuff with no intrusive advertising like buying one of my cheap books and maybe even writing a glowing review.)
If Quantico were just 10% more terrible, it would be great. For now it continues to ride the thin edge between hate-watchable and Ambien. I blame Josh Safron, the showrunner. His previous two-season camporama, Smash, was a total trainwreck, but Quantico is just a bus full of beautiful people stuck in traffic.
It’s not the constant seasaw timeshifts that make Quantico difficult to get into, or the lack of relatable characters, or even the utter ridiculousness of everything. It’s the totally awkward way characters blurt out IMPORTANT information. In the academy scenes, we watch swimming, shooting, and running exhibitions, followed by Miranda at the podium, explaining important life lessons. It’s like someone else’s summer camp home movies, if they went to a camp for runway models. Both timelines are filled with clunky dialogue dropping reveals and hints. The main means by which we “discover” anything is by being told in the present about something that happened in the past, with a hint that we’ll actually get to see that thing we now already know about in the future. It’s like getting the punch line before you’ve heard the joke.
(To read the rest of this brilliant episode recap and takedown, please visit the television blog that may be too hip for the room, Happy Nice Time People. You can also catch my Homeland recaps and other stuff.)
Just a quick reminder. You can ALWAYS catch up on my snarky television writing at Happy Nice Time People. This season I’ll be recapping Homeland and Quantico (until it gets mercifully cancelled). You can catch my latest — a review of the CSI series finale, and the Quantico premiere recap.