Usually new TV shows I’m interested in are few and far between, which makes the last few weeks unusual, as there’s been an avalanche of stuff that caught my interest. Apparently everyone wants to release their stuff in or near the holiday season. I wonder why they don’t think we need entertainment throughout the rest of the year.
Anyway, first I’ll mention a couple of shows I’ve already posted on, Foundation and Arcane, both of which recently wrapped their seasons. As I’ve noted before, Foundation is radically different from the books, so much so that it’s really more accurate to describe it as a science fiction show inspired by the books rather than a strict adaptation. However, on those terms, I’ve found it to be a captivating series that does capture at least the spirit of Asimov’s original stories, just with a lot of action and adventure mixed in.
Arcane is a show that only got better as its season progressed. Yes, it’s based on a video game, but whoever did this show seems to have been determined to tell a good story. The worldbuilding is rich, the characters and their plights are emotionally raw and compelling, and the combination of the animation and musical score seem like a feast for the senses. Definitely recommend checking this one out if you’re at all open to this type of fiction.
Apparently the Blade Runner franchise is starting to expand. There’s reportedly a new live action TV show in the works. But Blade Runner: Black Lotus is animated and out now on Adult Swim (for the English version) and Crunchyroll (for the Japanese subtitled version). It takes place between the two movies and is about a woman named Elle, who has no memory yet has extremely good fighting abilities. A central question of the show is whether she’s a human or a replicant.
I’m finding this one fairly entertaining. The animation is excellent, and it does a good job of invoking the Blade Runner world. But at the halfway mark, I’m not sure yet whether it tells us much about the world we didn’t already know. I hope it does. Stories that simply marinade in that world are going to have limited appeal to me.
I read the first few books of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series back in the 1990s. I stopped because there didn’t seem to be any indication of when it might finish, and didn’t care to get stuck into a mode of buying hardback editions. As the history of this franchise has unfolded, my decision has often felt validated. I also think by the 1990s, I had also started to become somewhat weary of Tolkien riffs. Which isn’t to say the books didn’t have a lot of originality, but fighting against a dark lord and his minions was starting to feel a bit stale.
At this point I remember very little of what I did read, so the TV show mostly feels like fresh content, with only the vaguest familiarity with some of the story elements. Similar to Black Lotus, I’m finding it fairly entertaining. It’s got potential to be a fun show.
And then there’s Cowboy Bebop, the live actioning. The reviews for this one haven’t been great, but I generally enjoyed it. It does mostly manage to capture the look of the original, really almost too well at times, replicating some looks that just worked better in animation. But there have also been changes, which have upset many of the purists. I was only somewhat captivated by the original, so the changes haven’t really bothered me.
And one change I do like is I understand the characters and their motivations better. One reason I struggled with the original was that both Spike and Faye often came across to me as selfish pricks, and so I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for them. This version relates their sometimes infuriating behavior to their driving motivations. (Or at least makes the connections more obvious.) And despite these motivations, they manage to express camaraderie with each other and Jet, with the result that this feels more like a team than random individuals who happen to be in each other’s vicinity.
One thing I didn’t like was that my favorite character from the original only shows up in the final scene of the season. Radical Ed, the child hacker, added a lot of levity once she came onboard, and I enjoyed the original show a lot more once she was there. The changes I noted above made her less crucial in this version, but she’s still my favorite character. If there’s a season two, I’ll look forward to seeing a lot more of her.
There’s also a major change to the overall mythology of the show at the end of the season. It’s a change I actually liked, but I’m sure it will upset a lot of people. It’ll be interesting to see if the show can overcome all these comparisons with an original that people are deeply nostalgic about, and succeed enough for another season. I hope it does, but only time will tell.
I suppose I should mention the latest season of Doctor Who. Ever since its relaunch in 2005, this series has often enthralled me with fearless imaginative storytelling. But it’s also just as often evoked exasperation over its frequent and aggressive flaunting of basic logic. (The classic show, like all of TV sci-fi, had its issues with scientific accuracy, but it at least tried to give the impression of making sense.)
The latest season continues this bifurcated tradition, but with an overall story arc that, frankly, started out as a frenetic and fragmented mess. Last week’s show with the Weeping Angels seemed to settle down enough to tell an interesting story, and end on an interesting cliffhanger. But this grab bag season, which seems determined to loop in as many longtime Who villains as possible, has felt more frustrating than enjoyable.
Ok, I think that’s enough. Have you seen any of these shows? If so, what did you think of them?