Quick Takes on some of the sci fi / fantasy TV shows currently airing.
Galavant (ABC): This show wrapped up what is likely its final season in grand fashion as the “big battle” it was building up to finally played out, and it was a hoot! When this odd little fantasy, musical comedy started out last year, it was kind of meh, but it showed notable improvement through its short, first-season run. And this season it hit the ground running and really found its stride as it delivered plenty of laughs with its Disney meets Monty Python (with an emphasis on the latter) parody. Why it didn’t catch, on I just don’t understand. It has appeal to adults and children just like Once Upon a Time does (the show it timeshares an hour with), so you would think that the same audience would stick with it. Maybe too many people thought the musical aspect was rather lame (my original thinking as well), but this show has delivered some of the best, gut-busting, meta-ditties you could ask from a Prime Time TV show. And it’s just plain fun. Sometimes it’s nice to watch a genre show that’s not heavy on story arcs and dark characters and that just makes you laugh. But with its historically low ratings, I can’t see how it will be back for a third season (though it did beat the odds last year), and I for one will surely miss this show, though I expect it to live on in cult infamy. Both seasons are available on Hulu, and it’s definitely worth your time to check them out.
You, Me, and the Apocalypse (NBC): And speaking of shows that make you laugh, this one quietly slipped into NBC’s schedule on Thursday and it is definitely worth a look. In the first episode, we find out that a comet is on a collision course with Earth which will lead to an extinction level event. Hi jinks ensue. The show follows a diverse set of characters across the globe as they each deal with the apocalypse in their own ways, some in denial, others facing it head on. Rob Lowe is at the top of his game as a cynical, sardonic Vatican priest tasked with debunking all the would-be messiahs expected to come out of the word-works, and The Office‘s Jenna Fischer gets to step away from the familiar surroundings of her old show as a convict (of sorts) on the run. This is a co-production with the British Sky channel and the humor has plenty of the typical Brit dryness to it, so you won’t necessarily find yourself rolling on the floor in laughter. But it also has plenty of wit and delivers more than its share of wry chuckles (and I loved the crib from Dr. Strangelove‘s post-apocalypse survival plan). This show will likely be one season and out (though it’s possible the international partnership could keep it alive if the numbers don’t sink too low), and perhaps that is best considering its premise. But it surely looks like it will be a fun ride and a very different bit of genre programming in Prime Time.
Lucifer (FOX): And continuing on the humorous bent, FOX’s Lucifer (based on the DC Vertigo comic book series) has been a ton of fun through its first two episodes. In this one, Old Scratch himself (the nickname Lucifer claims he prefers) gets tired of ruling Hell and decides to open a bar in–where else?–Los Angeles. Once again, hi jinks ensue. This show lives and dies by Tom Ellis’ gleefully mugging performance as Lucifer, and just like Ray Wise (Reaper) and John Glover (Brimstone) before him, you can tell he is having a blast hamming it up as the Devil. Of course, the contrivance they came up with to deliver a procedural format (Lucifer becomes fascinated by a detective who seems immune to his charms and butts into her cases) could get old really fast, so I hope they don’t hang the show on that formula. And Ellis does seem a bit in-your-face through the first two episodes, so they could tone him down some. But I’m hooked for now and this show has benefited from a strong start ratings-wise with the X-Files revival as its lead-in, so it could stick around.
Legends of Tomorrow (CW): After being somewhat disappointed with the first episode of this show (see my previous comments), I have liked it better across its second and third installments. It has let up some on the copy-and-paste fest (though it still has a fair amount), and it is settling into the superhero romp we hoped it would be. This will probably never be counted as a great sci fi show, but it is a good one for just some braindead, over-the-top, shoot-em-up fun. What I like most about it is American take on the Doctor Who formula with Rip Hunter as the Timelord stand-in picking up superheroes as his ongoing stream of companions rather than the (somewhat) normal people that the Doctor prefers. And Arthur Darvill is definitely up to the task of taking on the time traveler lead role, though he does need to lighten up a bit. I don’t expect this same crew to be back for a second season, but I certainly hope they keep Rip Hunter around to pick up a new set of heroes for another adventure in space and time next year.
The X-Files (FOX): I am caught up on this show and I am liking it better, but I can’t say it has lived up to expectations. Go back and watch the original show (especially the first season) and you will notice a definite cheesiness that takes some of the luster off your fond memories of this sci fi classic. And interestingly, that seems to have followed through to the revival. Even though the show is taking place in the modern day, its sensibilities definitely seem stuck in the 90’s (maybe Chris Carter is to and that’s why he has had a hard time getting anything else going sense this show went off the air). Another thing I have noticed is that it does not rely as much on the perpetual ambient, creepy music it used previously to hold the atmosphere, and I think they should have kept with the show. Still, I am enjoying it for the most part, especially the funny episode (with a reverse were-horny toad, no really), and wouldn’t mind if they brought it back for more episodes next season. And seeing as it looks like they can’t easily wrap up the fragments of story arc introduced thus far, I’m betting that has been the plan all along.
Agent Carter (ABC): I’ve seen the first episode of this show’s second season, and it continues to be an enjoyable bit of spy fi (with plenty of sci as well) fun. This year, Peggy Carter gets sent to Los Angeles (no worries because it is the late 40’s and Lucifer won’t show up for another 60+ years) which at first seemed like kind of an odd destination for the show. But it handles the move quite well and brings along our favorites like Jarvis and Agent Sousa while also giving us an interesting new character in Jason Wilkes. I don’t understand why people aren’t tuning in for this show, and series star Haley Atwell has been cast in an upcoming pilot which does not bode well for the future of Agent Carter. But while it is still around, I am enjoying the ride.