"DVD Extras" Edition
On a recent episode of the Zone 4 podcast, I had the pleasure of talking about current comic-based and genre-related television shows. It's in that spirit that I present this month's column, which is the semi-regular "DVD Extras" edition - a collection of short snippets and "columns that could have been" which, for some reason, were never written in depth. These are provided more to give you, the reader, some suggestions for some really cool viewing in the coming months.
Part of the motivation for this column was a missed opportunity - given Nicholas Courtney's passing, I felt that I had an obligation to cover some of the animated work of the late Dwayne McDuffie. Much of this time was spent revisiting the animated Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (in preparation for jumping into Static Shock), as well as some of his DC Animated work. As a writer/producer, McDuffie had a slight eye towards revamping/repositioning many characters (especially in Unlimited) that helped give the show slightly more lift...as well as a very smart and considered approach to the characters. Some of his DC Animated work is also pretty strong, and my personal favorites are relatively unpretentious, but really charged stories - Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths could have been a great, lost JLU movie (just replace some of the voices and you'll see what I mean), and is "inspired" by past Justice League stories. In addition, his adaptation of Morrison & Quitely's All-Star Superman manages to streamline the story, giving it slightly more heart than its comic book incarnation.
One of the shows that Ron Fortier highlighted in his August 25th blog post is Leverage, the con artist-themed adventure series on TNT; I personally prefer BBC's Hustle (currently showing late Sunday nights on WTTW in Chicago; the first four seasons are available on DVD). This is, quite simply, a well written high octane show that not only has a unique charm and humor, but is unabashedly fun without taking itself too seriously (unlike Leverage). It also features Robert Vaughn, an actor whose resume spans movies (Magnificent Seven), television (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and by "features", read "has him do much than just provide a glorified cameo". Many of the scripts are top-notch, providing intricate turns of plot, and has a great charm that really deserves your attention, much like the first three seasons of Mission: Impossible. Each episode is worth watching. Writer Tony Jordan (who writes most of the episodes) provides each episode with a strong sense of plot and an appropriate amount of retro-cool...
...which he also brought as co-creator of the UK version of Life on Mars. Thanks to a recent US-based remake, many are familiar with the premise - a cop gets hit by a car, finds himself in 1973, and finds himself unsure if he is in a dream, has actually travelled back in time, or...something worse...). The UK Life on Mars manages to cleverly mix a 1970s cop show vibe, some incredible multiple plot strands, and an appropriately creepily surreal vibe. (Co-creator Matthew Graham recently wrote the "Almost People/Rebel Flesh" two-parter for Doctor Who). Although there are only 16 episodes, Life on Mars UK provides a conclusion that feels both definite and open-ended at the same time.
(Yes, I know the show was spun-off into Ashes to Ashes. Yes, I know that show had three years and provided "an explanation for it all". No, I won't spoil - I'm OK with others spoiling after pre-warning, but since I didn't do so this time, not going to. And I ask that if you comment, please don't spoil - show your fellow viewers some respect. End of lecture)
One show you definitely want to miss - Torchwood: Miracle Day. Although the initial episode provided an intriguing premise, the show became...well, a mess. The overall arc was wildly uneven, with each episode of this 10 part series varying in quality, with only one or two exceptional episodes. In addition, there are some blatant references to Doctor Who that attempt to bring it into that universe…but only bring out the series' flaws. If you didn't watch this series, you didn't miss much. Originally geared to be a 13 part series, Russell T. Davies talked it down to 10 parts. This story could have been told in six or seven, and is a crashing disappointment.
Thanks to CR pal Brendan Johnson (who made some anime recommendations to me after last year's C2E2), I've been enjoying the Japanese anime Lupin III. Although a take off from the classic French thief, this is a show that has a slightly wacky, zany sense of humor. (If you're looking for Sin City style noir...this isn't it). I'm only gradually getting into anime, and this is definitely one of the better series. I think you're really going to like this one. It's like watching a crime drama written in the style of The Monkees, and I mean that as a compliment.
While you're waiting for the second series of Sherlock, you might want to consider two earlier efforts from Steven Moffatt - one genre, one general. Much like Sherlock, Jekyll is Moffatt's "revisioning" /sequen to Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, focusing on Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt), who shares an unusual relationship to the Victorian doctor. At six parts, this series mixes a variety of genres - part science fiction, part horror, part X-Files style conspiracy thriller - into a heady, unique mix. On the opposite it is the non-genre Coupling, Moffatt's slightly randier take on Friends. (And both shows highlight the work of Gina Bellman much better than Leverage, in my humble opinion).
That's it for this month's column - as always, if you want to read/hear more, please feel free to catch the latest episode of Zone 4 or read my blog, Blog THIS, Pal! If you would like to follow me on various social networks, or find other sites where I write, you can find links via my personal home page or via http://about.me/gordondym.
As always, thanks for reading - and keep watching!
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