Quick Takes on some of the sci fi / fantasy TV shows currently airing.
The X-Files (FOX): I have to admit that anticipation has been high for the revival of this show but that I found myself rather disappointed after the first episode. They tried to cram way too much in by getting people up to speed then introducing a convoluted new conspiracy that Mulder bought into way too easily. And of course Scully quickly slips back into the naysayer role despite all that she has already seen over the years. It doesn’t help that they reverted to copy and paste dialog a bit too much, but then it was borrowing from itself and likely trying to keep the familiar–and expected–pattern of the original show in place. Another problem the revival is facing is that so much of the territory it covered in its original run has become so ingrained in genre tropes to the extent that it has become a regular target for riffing and parody. That makes it hard to take the show seriously with such a straight-faced approach. Still, the episode showed some promise beyond its exposition-ramming stumbles and I plan on sticking with it for the remaining five episodes.
Legends of Tomorrow (CW): This is another highly anticipated show that disappointed somewhat with its first episode. It teams up heroes and villains that we have previously seen on Arrow and The Flash with time traveler Rip Hunter in the requisite quest to save humanity from impending doom. The setup was pretty much expected, so I can’t knock the show for that. And it definitely delivers on superhero action without the soap opera asides that drag Arrow and The Flash down to a crawl at times (the first episode at least). But apparently in order to save on budget they had to just copy and paste dialog and plot points from previous movies and television shows to cut costs on the writing staff. I have heard this described as Doctor Who meets Guardians of the Galaxy, and it comes uncomfortably close to ripping off those and more. I still consider it to be a ton of fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way, but it sure would be nice if not every line of dialog had a strong ring of “been there, done that” to it. Hopefully that will become less of an issue as the series progresses.
Galavant (ABC): The second season of this show finds Galavant and King Richard developing a bromance as they attempt to raise an army to win back Richard’s kingdom and also save Princess Isabella from having to marry her cousin. I’ve made it through six episodes of this season (two thirty minute episodes air back-to-back each week) and the first two had me rolling on the floor in laughter. The rest haven’t been quite as high on the laugh-scale, but were still chuckle-inducing at times and overall enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure why more people aren’t tuning in for this one (it is at historically low ratings levels for a Big Four broadcast network show), especially considering that it has really hit its stride in its second season. But I am enjoying watching a show that is just fun to watch without a complicated story arc or dark, troubled characters, and that just wants to make me laugh.
Second Chance (FOX): This new entry on FOX is about a recently deceased, 70 year old former police officer who is brought back to life because he has specific DNA that can reverse the cancer in his benefactor. He is revived as a young man who happens to have exceptional strength and other physical abilities and he decides to go after the people who killed him and who may be a threat to his son (also a police officer). I went into this one with low expectations and found myself pleasantly surprised after the first two episodes. It looks like it is essentially headed toward the procedural with a twist territory, but it has enough of its own unique elements to keep it interesting. There is also plenty of potential to explore some of the moral dilemmas presented, though broadcast network tends to shy away from that sort of thing. And this show is already in trouble because of the low ratings it has pulled thus far, leading FOX to the decision to kick it to Fridays. That’s a shame, because this one has some potential if allowed to explore some of the concepts it has toyed with thus far. I wouldn’t call it a great show, but one that could work in that direction if given the chance.
The Magicians (Syfy): I finally got around to watching the first episode of this new entry from Syfy (which is available to view online at this link), and found that I rather enjoyed it. It follows a college student who has been having trouble coping with the real world, and as it turns out he has a talent for magic and is invited to join the secretive school Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy to develop his skills. This one has frequently been referred to as an adult version of Harry Potter, which is essentially correct if you acknowledge those “adults” are actually young twenty-somethings. It throws in the requisite sex to prove it is a show for grownups, but that doesn’t distract too much from the story which progresses quite well over the first episode. It sets up an interesting setting with characters who aren’t just genre cut-outs, and I will definitely be tuning in for the next few eps to see how it develops.
Beowulf (Esquire): This British made series originally looked like it might deliver an interesting spin on the Old English legend, but instead cries out that it wants to be Beowulf meets Game of Thrones. I can’t quite figure out if it is retelling the original tale or taking place after Beowulf faced off against Grendel and his mother (is that “troll” supposed to be the Big G or some other beast?). And the first episode delivers such a mess of a tale that I’m not sure I’m interested. I may sample one more episode to see how it progresses, but there’s a lot of other sci fi / fantasy to watch so it will be hard to work it in.