Quick Takes on some of the sci fi / fantasy TV shows currently airing.
Colony (USA): This upcoming series from Lost veterans Josh Holloway and Carlton Cuse debuts January 14th, but the pilot episode is available early online at this link. The premise is that Earth has been occupied by aliens and they have cordoned off the cities in heavily patrolled “blocks”. In this new world, some people collaborate with the aliens (whom we never see in the first episode), some just try to live their lives, and others have formed a resistance. The first episode takes a slowburn approach to unfolding the premise as we first realize people are living under some sort of martial law conditions and we eventually discover it is due to the alien occupation. It also sets up an interesting series of events as Josh Holloway’s Will Bowman–a former soldier and federal officer–is forced into collaborating with the human leaders working with the aliens. It establishes plenty of dramatic potential with the moral dilemmas and tough choices its characters will have to face, but I was a little discouraged by its propensity toward copy-and-paste dialog and scenes. I’m worried that this may be another show that could be great if given the freedom to explore its concepts, but which ends up getting hamstrung by a network unwilling to take chances. USA hasn’t been known for its edgy scripted programming, though Mr. Robot did push some boundaries some last year. If Colony is allowed to do that as well, it could be great sci fi and I will stick with this one for now hoping it gets there.
The Shannara Chronicles (MTV): Looking at the network that this show airs on, you might at first think that this one would deliver Real World meets Lord of the Rings. And you know what? You wouldn’t be too far off the mark with that assumption. Take a well-known fantasy book series and throw in a bunch of hormonally overactive, hot young actors talking and acting very much in line with the typical young adult leads these days from the likes The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Vampire Diaries (I’m not going to take the more obvious stab at MTV’s own Teen Wolf because that one has exceeded expectations) and you have MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles. In its favor, the production values are first rate and it invokes Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films more than once (it is filmed in New Zealand just like those movies), so visually it is quite stunning. But it definitely feels like derivative fantasy (to be fair, the novels pretty much are as well) and it has far too much copy-and-paste dialog. I do like their take on Allanon as the show delivers quite a contrast from the Gandalf stand-in that he is in the books. I know that is in part to keep as many hot, (mostly) young actors in the cast, but I think it works with this character. And the world of Shannara has a lot of potential for interesting stories (it is the biggest strength of the books). I will keep watching this one for a few more episodes, but I’m not sure how much more angst and posturing I can tolerate before I have had my fill of this network’s teen/twenty-something Game of Thrones wannabe. You can watch the first four episodes of the show online at this link.
Angel from Hell (CBS): The simple premise of this sitcom is that an obnoxious woman, named Amy, buts into the life of Dr. Allison Fuller claiming to be her guardian angel. Allison obviously disregards these claims, but a series of awkward mishaps follows when she ignores Amy’s prescient advise, and the uptight, workaholic doctor starts to have second thoughts. I was mostly interested in this one because in the trailers Jane Lynch looked like she was having a ton of fun chewing the scenery as Amy. And the first episode was decent enough, but I really wonder how much steam this odd couple / girl buddy comedy has. It seems like kind of a one joke premise that would work well enough for a rom-com film, but not necessarily an ongoing sitcom. And it has very little in the way of genre elements as it is left open whether Amy is really a supernatural being or just someone on the edge of her rocker (and the pic of Amy in the background when Allison was just a girl could have been photo-shopped and planted on her computer; remember that Amy claimed she was a hacker). I may tune in for a few more episodes just to see how this one progresses, but I’m not ready to move it to my must-watch list.
Heroes Reborn (NBC): I’m still trying to get caught up on this one (the entire first season up to the most current episode is still available on Hulu) and I am still enjoying it for the most part. But then almost every episode has at least one or two moments that make me cringe and shake my head. For example, Hiro doesn’t want to change the timeline and is worried about “stepping on butterflies” if he and HRG go into the past. But they go back specifically to stop the Odessa bombing! That’s a Mothra-sized butterfly in my book, guys! Lapses like those were what always drove me crazy during the original series and they are still there in the revival. It hasn’t completely derailed for me yet, but it is still well short of the brilliance of the show’s first season.