The TV of 2020, A Very Timely Blog

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rorie

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Edited By rorie  Staff

Yolanda and I have relaxed into more of a casual TV-watching environment since the lockdown began. I’m not generally big on TV shows as I prefer to either play games or read, but there have been plenty of games and shows that have paired up well for paying half-attention to each of them. (“Podcast games,” I’m told people call them.) If I’m running around with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla muted while I track down sidequests while Great British Bake-Off is on the TV off to the side, am I really losing much of the experience of either? Maybe, but it’s worth the tradeoff so that we can all just hang out and dick around while obtaining Maximum Entertainment! Anyway, here are Quick Bite Thoughts on TV from 2020.

Star Trek: Discovery

This show seems to keep getting better and better, which is good because I really liked it from the beginning. This season with the timeshift opened up some interesting possibilities, so it’s a little disappointing that they don’t seem to have gotten any wackier than “we can teleport anywhere in the ship now” and “the warp pylons are attached by nanotech.” It seems like a bit of a failure of imagination, honestly, but then, Star Trek at its core has always been a bit conservative in imagining the future. I know that the show at its core has always been about examining humanity from a remove, but I sincerely doubt that anyone will have 100% organic bodies in the 24th century, let alone the 31st.

But anyway, beyond that caveat, I’ve really been digging this season so far. The actor who plays Book is a fine addition to the cast (and very handsome), although, again, I can’t imagine the 31st century will be so puritanical as to have two people who are clearly attracted to each other live alone on the same ship for a year and not get their bone on. Despite some weird go-nowhere plotlines (it’s not PTSD; it’s SPACE PTSD!) everyone seems to be gelling pretty well, and I really hope it keeps getting better.

The caveat here is that I haven’t finished the season yet because it ground to a screeching halt for me when they did the first Mirror Universe episode. The MU stuff in previous series was an excuse to let the actors camp it up a little bit, but Discovery takes it so seriously (probably because they’re spinning Michelle Yeoh off into her own show) that it’s just a real fucking drag. I generally like all of the actors on the show, barring perhaps Yeoh who I've never been a huge fan of, but none of them really seem to be in on the joke when the MU stuff pops up, especially Sonequa Martin-Green, who just starts acting a bit like someone who’s made too many memes about identifying with the Joker. It’s pretty god-awful and if they’re not going to bring back Jason Isaacs they should just stop doing MU stuff in Discovery. Hopefully they’ll stop after Michelle Yeoh goes on to Section 31 or whatever and I don’t have to deal with it anymore!

The Mandalorian

Hey, did you hear about this show? I’ll confess that I liked the first season a bit better as I never watch Clone Wars or Rebels or whatever came before this one, so I have no real attachment to any of the new characters they’re bringing in and am kind of immune to all the fan service-y stuff that they seem to be doing. Cara Dune? More like I Cara...Don’t, am I right!?!?!!

I still think this show is fine to watch from week to week, but honestly my enthusiasm for all things Star Wars are kind of muted after Rise of Skywalker, which probably influences my feelings here. Most of the episodes in season two are kind of fine, except perhaps for the Boba Fett episode directed by Robert Rodriguez. Most of the action during the fight on that Jedi Radio Beacon planet just seemed sloppily shot and all of the CGI looked real rough, as if Rodriguez was handling it himself in between editing passes. I know he takes pride in being a low-budget director but it seemed real out of place against the rest of the episodes. Also having the Mando take his helmet off in episode nine really muted the moment where the same thing happened in episode 10, which seemed like an easily avoidable problem.

Star Trek: Enterprise

I’ve also been rewatching this in the evenings a couple of episodes at a time, and man, it is one weird show. I know a lot of people complain about Discovery, saying “THEY’RE BASICALLY IGNORING WHAT RODDENBERRY WOULD’VE WANTED” and so on, but at least they try to spark a note of hope and optimism about Starfleet as an institution, even in what passes for the post-apocalyptic future. But Enterprise really went whole-hog on the post-9/11 mood in season three! Archer just straight-up tortures prisoners and steals a warp coil from a perfectly innocent passer-by vessel to expedite his mission, with very little in the way of meaningful pushback from his crew. In the episode we just watched, he glosses over the death of a crewman because it was caused by an old friend who really didn’t mean to do anything bad! Then he forces Trip to help that friend even though he just got someone killed! I get that they wanted to go back to the Kirk-esque captain who ran things his own way but it really seems like a far less Star-Trek-y show than any of the others.

None of the effects have aged particularly well, but I still do dig the performances of Connor Trinneer as Trip and most of the rest of the crew. I don’t know if I would necessarily call Jolene Blalock a good actress but I give her credit for at least attempting to handle some of the most ridiculous plotlines and outfits (or lack thereof) any Star Trek show has ever handed to an actress. I mean, seriously, Vulcan mindmeld AIDS? An addiction to Trellium-D space meth? (Apparently she was dating Ed Furlong during most of the filming of the show, so I guess she had some real-life experience with the latter.) I remember being embarrassed by it at the time and it hasn’t held up well, but at least we have some Peter Weller Section 31 action at the end of the series to look forward to.

The Expanse

It’s a little ironic that Jeff Bezos saved a show that’s at least partially about drastic wealth inequalities from cancellation, but hey: more Expanse is a good thing. I’d consider it by far the best-acted series on this list, and while some of the CGI isn’t fantastic (anything involving zero-G liquids is pretty bad), they at least save the fireworks for the bigger moments of the show, and have a pretty talented stable of matte background painters as well, by the looks of things. I’ve read all the books a couple of times now, but I’m happy to see them (more or less) faithfully adapted and while it sucks to learn that Cas Anvar is apparently a true shitheel, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with his absence in season 6. Already he kind of feels like the least important main character on the show in season 5 so I assume they'll write around it without too much trouble.

My Life Is Murder

This Australian show is available on Acorn TV in the U.S. and I recommend it highly! It's a pretty by-the-numbers detective show with Lucy Lawless, but it's a lot of fun and you can watch it with your parents without having to worry too much about it.

I didn’t watch much more TV than this this year that I can remember and if I did it didn’t leave much of an impression on me! Sorry!

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csl316

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The Expanse aka the show I'll plan to start watching every month for the rest of my life.

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#2  Edited By frytup

I've generally been disappointed with Discovery, but gave CBS my hard-earned $10 to marathon this season because I heard a miracle had happened and some Star Trek writers had actually taken the series into the future! Wow! Finally moving past the TNG timeline! (Yes, I remember the Temporal War stuff from Enterprise. The less said about that the better).

I've genuinely enjoyed parts of the season, but the fundamental problems haven't gone away. I think most of the characters are bad, it's far too action-focused, and it revolves around Water Bear Space Magic that makes the worst 90s Trek technobabble seem plausible.

Glad Discovery has its fans, but sadly I don't think I'll ever be one.

The Expanse is great, though. Watch that.

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Humanity

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While I generally think Discovery is a pretty bad Star Trek show with worse acting and a cast that ranges from downright unlikable to forgettable, I genuinely really enjoyed those last two episodes of the final season. From the outset Discovery was in that typically troublesome situation of technically being a prequel but wanting to explore cool new technology and situations which just made most fans angry. Now with that ridiculous second season they've been able to write themselves out of that hole and enjoy the freedoms of being able to carve their own path instead of somehow trying to exist in the shadow of Star Treks vast history. I'm actually excited to see where the show will go after the changes at the end of season 3 especially since Sonequa Martin-Green has finally realized she can start acting now, although Mary Wiseman as Tilly continues to be utterly unbearable. Most of the ancillary crew have this dopey look that makes any scenes involving them resemble an episode of Riverdale.

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Shiftygism

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So Rorie, man... you may want to check out Rebels...at least the episodes featuring both Ahsoka and Vader because once you take those into account with what has happened on Mandalorian this season, it changes everything you thought you knew about where Star Wars is headed...which I think you might get a kick out of being a Trek fan.

Also, Clone Wars is really good stuff if you can grt around its polarizing artstyle. It's honestly the best Star Wars this side of Mando since the OT, and there's even some episodes inspired by Star Trek including a season one storyline featuring George Takei. The show really goes a long way in making you appreciate the prequel era and establishes Darth Maul as the best written villain of the property.

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I'm really torn on Discovery. I think some of the writing and acting is downright terrible but I sort of like it overall for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on.

This season was probably the most disappointing, I thought the central villain Ossyra (spelling?) was super forgettable and the conclusion to that whole story was fairly underwhelming. I hope it doesn't get cancelled because I think there are some redeeming characters/story elements which I'd like to be explored further (i.e Book) but the show desperately needs new writers.

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@humanity said:

Most of the ancillary crew have this dopey look that makes any scenes involving them resemble an episode of Riverdale.

Oh yeah. The YA fiction / CW superhero vibe is strong.

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@frytup: Yes exactly - Young Adult describes it well. A lot of pivotal scenes in the show involve a group huddle and some form of “cmon gang we can do it if we just believe in ourselves!”

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I never really liked Star Trek, so I can't comment on any of those shows - but I genuinely dig The Mandalorian. For the most part, it manages to get fan service right by putting that stuff there for the Star Wars-centric audience to notice without actually acknowledging that audience's existence. Put another way - it generally isn't lingering on the fan servic-y stuff for the sake of it, which keeps the pacing moving. It's sort of the anti-Rogue One in that respect.

Of course, the best thing on the list is the Expanse. It's basically the closest thing to "Mass Effect - the TV Show" we're ever going to get.

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@rorie said:
it sucks to learn that Cas Anvar is apparently a true shitheel
It was a real bummer to learn this. I remember thinking that Cas fit the closest to my mental image of the book characters. Alex is definitely the easiest to replace, but I will miss the drawl (but not the actor).

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Most of us tend to hold up DS9 and "the best 90s Trek" and with good reason. But one of the reasons is that it was finally free of Roddenberry. Now don't get me wrong, he created a great thing. But his staunch refusal to allow writers to create ongoing arcs, along with the aversion to any sort of conflict are what really held TNG back, particularly in the early seasons.

That said, I think Discovery has its own issues as well, but I don't think we can hold up "Roddenberry's vision" as the thing Trek needs to be great. In my view, the real issue is the same one that hit the first Abrams movie, they can't imagine people want anything other than action scenes. And even when big quadrant-affecting stuff happened in DS9, they still made a point to focus on characters that weren't the "main crew" from time to time. Quark and Odo, Bashir and Garak, for example.

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#11  Edited By theBusBoy

Does Rorie have any posts/tweets/whatever detailing his favorite books? It seems like our media tastes are fairly aligned and I'd be curious to know some of his favorite books.

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rorie

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#12 rorie  Staff

Does Rorie have any posts/tweets/whatever detailing his favorite books? It seems like our media tastes are fairly aligned and I'd be curious to know some of his favorite books.

I think I have a blog or two on here, but I went also threw a bunch of recommendations in my 2018 GOTY list!

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I need to get caught up on Expanse. Love that show. Anyways, great write-up!

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Season One of Star Trek Discovery turned me so off I could not watch season 2. That just they way it is I don't get in people grills about the show that do like it, but I hobnestly hate Discovery. I love the actors, I like the cionatrohgery, but they tone, story, and where they take the venets is garbage...leaking, hot, NYC seagull flapping garbage.

ST: Enterprise was problematic but I liked the characters on all levels. I liked the Federation crew, I liked the enemies...well I liked the Andorians, and I did like that they brought out the OBVIOUS emotional feeling that humans brought out in Vulcans. In other words, Enterprise show brought back things from TOS that TNG threw away. Nuff said.

Star Trek: Picard...LOL. I will never ever watch ST: Picard. I am willing to accpet that ST:Discovery exists. But, in no universe will I accept that Picard is an unsalvageable disaster that is worse than a poison pen letter towards that character.

Damn, I need to go back to watch beyond season one of the Expanse. That first season was too dry until near the end. Flashes of interesting stuff mixed with too much filler that was dull as dirt. I hear ist gets better.

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rorie

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#17 rorie  Staff
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@rorie: A beautiful farewell to a beloved Star Trek character. Someone on the writing team on that show really liked Mass Effect.

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Am I on Screened or Giant Bomb?

Just started binge watching The Expanse for the first time and have really been enjoying it. You're right, the CGI isn't always impressive, but over all I think they handle and show the physics in space better than most SciFi shows or movies. The acting has been really good. The politics are interesting. You know you got a good one your hands when once in a while you get that Firefly feeling.

After reading your opinions of Star Trek Discovery, I'm going to watch that after I'm caught up on The Expanse. That's one I've been meaning to watch for a while but have been on the fence.

Thanks for the good read!

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#20  Edited By Gundato

The Expanse is the show I have been meaning to watch since even before the first time it got cancelled. Watched the first season. Disliked basically every casting except for Tom Jane as Miller, whoever they had for Julie, and Shohreh Aghdashloo as Avasrala. Oh, and the shitbag. Ended up growing to really like the tv versions of Holden, Amos, and Naomi over the course of season 2 and then fell off again. For those who haven't read the books, they are GOOD (and ending soon?). Keep meaning to go back and watch the rest of it but that got really hard because of the shitbag.

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Discovery season 3 was a let down compared to season 2

Expanse is shaping up to be better than previous season where the recap of previous season is mostly ignored because it didn't matter match as a whole.

Mandalorian is great if you've watched Clone Wars, and I hated all the sequel trilogy