That’s About Average for Second Class Post! (Red Dwarf Reviews: Series XI Preview)

 

“Well, gentlemen, congratulations. Scrambling in a red alert situation, a new record time – one hour, seventeen minutes, thirty-nine seconds!”

After a wait of a month and a half since its premiere in Britain, Red Dwarf XI has made its debut on America’s iTunes.

I’m assuming they saved the iTunes release until today in order to keep the DVD sales at least somewhat respectable. Then again, given that the show debut a week before it’s TV release on UKTVPlay, one has to wonder what Dave was thinking.

Nonetheless, I’m glad the show is out stateside, and that I can review it without dealing with viruses from a Torrent. (Yes, I’m a dork.) It’s the first Red Dwarf since 2012. In that time frame, there have been an entire series of Olympics, four Super Bowls, a change in the British Premiership and it’s relationship with Europe, and America is torn between the two least liked presidential candidates since the 19th century.

Yeah, this show will provide a bit of an escape. Continue reading

Red Dwarf XI: First Preview

 

219f8-red-dwarf-xi-coming-soon
Image taken from the Red Dwarf website.

 

Kryten, set a course for Red Dwarf. The slime’s coming home!” – Rimmer, at the end of “The Beginning”.

Finally!

This September, Red Dwarf returns for a new batch of episodes. Red Dwarf XI will mark the first series in four years, after Red Dwarf X‘s run on Dave led to rather high ratings and overall good reviews. The general consensus of Series X was that, while not as sublime as the earlier series, it was a return to form compared to the controversial previous three series. Continue reading

Steven Universe: A Show About Space Rocks

Imagine if there was a show about rocks – gems, to be exact. Expect to see it on Discovery, or the Science Channel, right? (I kid, I kid – it would air on ESPN.)

Now, imagine if these rocks were war veterans of various strategies and personalities, part of a quasi-militaristic race of aliens, and trying to interact with humans – even living with/raising a half-human who is about 11/12 years old, because the team’s sorta-leader married a guitarist.

Welcome to Steven Universe.

 

OK, if you want the real description, the show – created by Adventure Time alumnus Rebecca Sugar – revolves around this kid, Steven Universe (voiced by Zach Callison). He’s half human, and half-Gem. Gems are alien warriors who can harness superpowers, and project humanoid forms from magical gemstones in their bodies. Steven happens to live with three of these warriors, called the Crystal Gems:
  • Garnet: the stoic, slightly enigmatic, Picard-esque “leader” of the Crystal Gems, voiced by singer Estelle;
  • Amethyst: the snarky, lazy bum who lives on impulse and is quick to action (or, in other words, Dave Lister), voiced by Michaela Dietz and;
  • Pearl: the strategist with many neuroses, and no knowledge of humanity. None. Basically, Rimmer… except not a coward; voiced by Deedee Magno-Hall.

There used to be a fourth member, Rose – the former commander of the Crystal Gems – but Gem science being what it is, when she gave birth to Steven, she “gave up her physical form”. Thus, Steven all but lives with the Crystal Gems – in effect, their guardians. He does occasionally hang out with (and get advice/stories from) his somewhat bumbling father, Greg Universe.

The dilemmas they face range from an odd job gone awry in the town of Beach City, Delmarva to saving the entire Earth. It’s a strange show.

Of course, as we see later on, this show is more complex at a closer glance. It touches on topics such as love, family, risk, diplomacy, insecurity, rebellion, psychosis, and war crimes. It’s one of the most well-developed shows on TV… and every episode only lasts 11 minutes!

So… wanna watch?

Same rules apply with watching – we start from episode 1. (Not the actual pilot – I want to get seasoned into reviewing this show first.)

Now, because these are 11-minute episodes, giving a “Favorite Scene” and a “Least Favorite Scene” will be pretty pointless. Instead, while the “Favorite Scene” will remain, I have decided to replace the “Least Favorite Scene” with two features: a “Best Character”, which is what it says on the tin, and a “Memorable Quote”, also self-explanatory (the latter started in my Futurama blog). This only counts to this show, so the “Least Favorite Scene” will remain for my other reviews. Hell, I might spin off the “Best Character” and “Memorable Quote” to other shows.

Also, if these are successful enough, I might spin these off into a separate blog, with more expanded commentary on SU on that blog.

Well… time to believe in Steven.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 10 Preview

(DVD cover taken from the behemoth called Wikipedia)

Oh, boy. Season 10. The second of four (and change) we’re going to be covering… at a snail’s pace. I guess.

Because of the wide swath of episodes this season, I will not be listing them like I did with my reviews of Red Dwarf. I will, however, mention a few of the casting changes and guest stars that will be seen this season. Some of this info I got from Wikipedia, others I got from the Dead Homer Society. I’m not really a professional. Continue reading

Red Dwarf X Preview

No matter what the critical response to Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was, the ratings were deemed to be extraordinary. Gaining the highest ever ratings for the Dave network, speculation was rampant and immediate concerning a tenth series. First word came out in June 2010, when the actors stated that more Red Dwarf would be made. However, nothing was confirmed then. It wasn’t until April 2011 when UKTV finally confirmed that Red Dwarf would be back for a full series.

The reaction was cautiously optimistic. TV series have been revived before due to strong interest. Doctor Who was brought back in March 2005, Family Guy was brought back two months later, Futurama was revived twice, etc. However, the quality of these revivals has been debated time and time again. While Doctor Who came back to rave reviews for it’s more character-focused plots, Family Guy and (to a lesser extent) Futurama got a more lukewarm reaction, accused of lacking the magic the original seasons had, or going in a more crass direction. On top of that, the past three installments of Red Dwarf have been blasted as being far weaker compared to the original six series. (You saw me getting more frustrated with the show as we ended the eighth series!)

So, would Red Dwarf get the same critique as other shows? Or would it be a return to form?

Well, before we dive in, let’s just see how the production went. This will be quick, because the fact of the matter is that it all depended on the budget… which was, yet again, barely there. Doug Naylor had to fight just to get a studio audience. Once the sets were dismantled, any extra scene had to be shot in front of a green screen- any episode containing these were aired to a studio audience, not taped like the other episodes.

However, this series did go “back to basics”. The Red Dwarf models were brought back (thank smeg), the sets gained vibrant colours again, Howard Goodall was brought back to do the music, Howard Burden was back to do the costumes… it really felt like the show was being returned to the “tried and true”. Granted, budget limitations constrained the episodes. Ambitious projects such as “Back to Reality”, “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, and “Dimension Jump”? Not done this time around. This was more like Series II- back to basics.

So, what was the end result? Was the show back to form? Or was it proof that Red Dwarf should’ve ended with Rimmer blowing the Time Drive out of the sky?

Well, here’s the episodes!

  • Trojan: Rimmer gets an SOS call from a ship… where his brother is the ship’s hologram. He realises that he needs to beat his brother at his own game, and pass the astro-nav exam… the one that he failed several times.
  • Fathers and Suns: Lister decides to help himself on Fathers Day, by trying to be a better father to himself. Makes sense. Oh, and Rimmer installs a new computer, Pree.
  • Lemons: After a time-travel incident involving flat-pack furniture, the gang are sent back to 23AD England. They have to travel to India to get some potatoes to get a battery to go back to Red Dwarf.
  • Entangled: A game of poker goes deadly when Lister loses Rimmer. He is given 24 hours to turn over Rimmer, or have a bomb that’s attached to his pelvis blown up. Oh, and Kryten and Cat become quantum entangled.
  • Dear Dave: Lister gets in a love triangle with an old girlfriend and two snack dispensers. 
  • The Beginning: Simulants finally begin playing war games with the Dwarfers. This seems like the end for the gang… even Rimmer, who never accomplished any of his goals.

Red Dwarf: "Back to Earth" Preview

“Remember: only the good die young.”
“That’s… never happened before.”

With those two sentences (and “The End”/”The Smeg It Is” slides), on 5 April 1999, Red Dwarf VIII faded away into Britcom history. Initially hailed as a return to form by many a fan, it’s reputation slipped quite a bit over ten years. By 2009, those that hated Series VIII loathed it. I consider “Krytie TV” and “Pete Part II” to be the worst episodes in British sci-fi history, and British comedy history. Yes. Worse than “The Twin Dilemma”. Worse than The Wright Way. The only worthwhile episode in that entire piece of schlock is “Cassandra”, and even that’s held back by off pacing and awkward character moments.

Yet, at the time, it was popular enough to bring up a question: will there be a movie?

Wait, There Was a Red Dwarf Movie Planned?

Movie spin-offs of TV shows are relatively commonplace. Yet, it would be a testament to the power of Red Dwarf if there was an actual theatrical spin-off. Theatrical movies directly spun off from sitcoms are something of an unusual breed (correct me if I’m wrong), and almost unheard of when it pertains to Britcoms.

Ultimately, the film never really went through.

Actually, if Doug Naylor is to be believed, a script was written, and they had plans for production. However, setback after setback, false funding after contract failure, damned the project. The BBC didn’t feel the script was up to par for a theater. Maybe they learned their lesson from Series VIII. Or, maybe they were too busy concentrating on what appeared to be their new cash cow in the making, some little show called Doctor Who.

So, the project was going nowhere. However, between February and August of 2008, BBC Worldwide appeared to strike a deal with Naylor: produce a mini-series consisting of three episodes, at least two of which could easily be strung into something resembling movie.

Thus, Back to Earth was born.

So, How the Hell Was This Thing Produced?

Intended to be two episodes and Red Dwarf Unplugged, the movie was expanded to three episodes.

A big problem facing production? The thing barely had a budget. With the script’s plans, the writers decided to (yet again) kibosh the studio audience to save money they barely even had. By kibosh, I mean it was decided not to even bring an audience in to record their reaction as the episodes aired. Thus, for the first time in history, Red Dwarf was literally laughless.

Sets were done on the cheap: half of the sets were built out of things they found in the closet. Camera work was done to try and make it seem the thing had a bigger budget than it actually did. The crew was brought in to be extras. Yes, they didn’t have money for extras.

Speaking of which, the casting was, well, troublesome. Norman Lovett was told to clear his schedule for filming dates. Ultimately, it was decided that he wasn’t needed. Thing was, he was never informed that he wasn’t needed until it was too late. Infuriated, Naylor went on record to declare that, as far as his acting career went, the franchise was dead. (He appears to have since reconciled with Naylor.)

Chloe Annett was also asked to join up. It would appear that her experience with the movie went far more smoothly. Why? Well… they used a picture of her at the beginning, for one. The producers and her agent must’ve gotten along well.

This episode also seemed to eschew the “traditional” camera yet again, going back to a filmized-style seen in Series VII. This time, the red-camera system was used. Effects seemed to reach a happier medium, with a cross between CGI and models used. Red Dwarf, for example, had it’s model rebuilt (thank god).

So, what was the end result? Guess it’s time to watch.

It’s back to Red Dwarf.

It’s Back to Earth.

Gravity Falls Review: Season 2 Preview and Hopes

Yes, folks! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again! Gravity Falls is indeed coming back. Mark your calendars! Those in the US, “Scaryoke” premieres August 1st in the US on the Disney Channel. Those in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia… I’ve got nothing right now. BUT IT IS COMING!

I’ve made it clear that Gravity Falls is one of my favorite TV shows currently in production, and one of my all time favorite shows, period. Season 1, at it’s best, didn’t really break the mold as much as it created an entirely new mold. Even at it’s worst, it wasn’t really bad; it just didn’t excite me as much as the best episodes did. It’s characters, plots, symbolism, and art… all of it ranged from “pretty damn good” to “sublime”. Even characters that seemed like they didn’t get development actually have so much potential to develop, that I’m willing to excuse their lack of focus.

So far, here’s what we know:

  • “Scaryoke”, as mentioned above will launch the season on the Disney Channel. It will ape some plot elements from “Double Dipper”, with a “Mystery Shack is Back” party… this time, it’s overrun by “unwelcome guests”.
  • “Into the Bunker” will be the first new episode premiered on Disney X-D, on August 4th. It will focus on the Mystery Shack employees diving deep into an underground bunker to see the true writer of the books.
  • There will be episodes dedicated to fleshing out characters that previously had bit or supporting parts. These include Wendy and Pacifica, two characters that, in my personal opinion, could’ve had so much more development (see below).
  • One of the writers for this season will be Josh Weinstein… the same Josh Weinstein that (along with Bill Oakley) ran Seasons 7 and 8 for The Simpsons. Seasons 7 and 8 were more well known for their focus on character while also being more down to earth compared to Season 5. Weinstein’s scripts during seasons 5 and (to a lesser extent) 6 were also more “domestic” and less surreal than the rest of the episodes during those two seasons. Oh, he also created Mission Hill, a tragically underrated TV show.

Barring any changes in my schedule, I will be able to catch episode 1 when it airs.

Now, what do I want in this series? Let’s run it down, lads!

  • As mentioned above, two of the show’s most underused characters are Wendy and Pacifica. I saw the untapped potential these two had. They were tragically reduced to relatively one-dimensional roles: Dipper fell in love with the Dave Lister wannabe who was going out with Robbie, and Pacifica acted like a snob. Maybe we could get some depth into their characters. What did they know about the incidents in Gravity Falls? What power does Pacifica hold? Maybe the Dipper/Wendy relationship will be fleshed out to be more professional and more staunchly platonic.
  • Of course, questions have to be answered. Specifically:
    • What power does Stan really have? While I wasn’t too surprised at the reveal at the end of the season, it did open a new wave of questions.
    • “Boyz Crazy”, the platinum episode of the season (and thus far, the series), revealed Robbie to have hypnotized Wendy via music. Where did he get the music? What connections does he have? What was his intent? Is he a perverted jackass, or is there another motive?
  • Hopefully, the plots should take a more dramatic turn. I would implement something of a season-long arc, maybe a self-contained episode or two sprinkled in.
  • While a part of me wants new, creative antagonists, I believe that the show’s best source of conflict will be between it’s established characters.
It’s a bit of a short list, but I think that’s more of a testament to the quality of Gravity Falls than anything else. Really, the big concern I have is that the show should keep up to the standards of the first season. It’ll be tough, but I think the writers will do well.