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!
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.
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!