Category Archives: TV

How Marvel Studios Should Approach Iron Fist

With Daredevil and Jessica Jones burning up the internet (and Luke Cage, not to mention a second helping of Ol’ Hornhead, on the way), everyone with a keyboard and some time to kill has been theorizing about Marvel’s plan for its Netflix series. The original plan was as follows: Four independent series–Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist–leading up to a team-up called The Defenders. It was a good plan. Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

 

Daredevil was an experiment. It could have failed. Miserably. Instead it took off. It became the most-watched show on Netflix and spurred Marvel to start work on a second season. Now there’s talk of a Punisher series. Maybe even Moon Knight. There’s also a lot of talk surrounding Iron Fist, and not all of it is good. Depending on who you ask, Marvel is either cancelling the series outright, retooling it to be a  one-off feature-length story, or going ahead with it as originally planned. It does seem as though the series has stalled. There’s been no word of casting or story or even when production might start. The usual internet reaction is to run around shouting that the sky is falling. Personally, this doesn’t bother me. Iron Fist will be an expensive endeavor (which is what’s fueling the one-off film rumor), not to mention an interesting creative hurdle: I mean, how do you visually represent someone’s chi or the Iron Fist effect?

 

Yes. An Iron Fist series will be expensive. Probably more expensive than DaredevilJessica Jones, and Luke Cage combined. At least if you want to do it right. K’un-L’un will need to be a lot more impressive than whatever matte painting Arrow uses for Nanda Parbat. (The easiest solution to this that I can think of is to just use whatever location Agents of SHIELD used for the Inhuman city, Afterlife.)

Afterlife

 

What about the story? Is the entire thing set in K’un-L’un? I imagine the first season of Iron Fist to be a little bit like Batman Begins. Danny Rand, long-thought dead, returns to New York City after years of training in K’un-L’un. As the Iron Fist, he has been sent to New York to prepare it for an upcoming supernatural threat (this ties in to one of the subplots from the first season of Daredevil). As Danny Rand, however, he has come home to face the men responsible for the death of his parents: the Board of Directors of the Rand Corporation. To accomplish this second goal, Danny needs the services of Heroes for Hire* (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Patsy Walker, and Misty Knight). Of course, things don’t go as planned and Danny discovers that his two objectives might be more connected than he originally thought. As with the other Netflix series, Iron Fist would rely on flashbacks to slowly spool out Danny Rand’s origin, from his parents’ death, to his training in K’un-L’un, to his rise as the Iron Fist.

There’s very little reinventing of the wheel here, and with good reason. Marvel’s Netflix series manage to be both straightforward and complex, and there’s no evidence to suggest that Iron Fist will be any different when we finally get to see it.

 

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*I would actually trade a second season of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist for an ongoing Heroes for Hire series featuring Jess, Luke, Danny, Misty, Patsy, and Colleen Wing.

 

Don’t Touch Lola: One Fan’s Reaction to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Trailer.

There it is. The first look at ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

My first reaction: COULSON LIVES!!! While I was pretty sure that Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson would be back in one form or another, it’s nice to see the Bob Newhart of the Marvel Movie Universe headlining the series.

I think the premise seems pretty solid, too. S.H.I.E.L.D. has the Avengers to deal with alien invasions and Asgardian war machines and gamma-powered engines of destruction. But, you don’t call out Captain America to deal with Stilt-Man, if you know what I mean. (If you don’t know what I mean, you’re probably better off.) Sure, Fury is going to want these smaller “incidents” investigated and he’s going to want his top man to head the investigations. I like that the titular agents are all new characters created specifically for the show, like Coulson was back in the day.

Now, about that one bit of speculation that has been floating around the internet. What speculation, you ask? The speculation that this–

CAGE

–is Luke Cage. I’d be totally happy if this turns out to be Luke Cage for two reasons: (1) I really like Luke Cage and (2) I really like J. August Richards. I admit that the evidence in support of this theory is pretty flimsy: African-American dude, super strength, seemingly invulnerable. I’d also add that Cage has been known to sport a hoodie from time to time–most recently in the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (I’m certain I’d seen him wearing a hoodie in one of his recent comic appearances, but I can’t find any images. Any assistance would be appreciated.)

The arguments against this theory are, in my opinion, equally flimsy. First, they say that Richards doesn’t have the right build to play Luke Cage. Yes, in the comics, Luke is freakin’ huge. But, you know what? So is Steve Rogers. So is Thor. Both Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth got in ridiculously amazing shape, but they’d still look puny compared to the unrealistic portrayal of human anatomy that is the “superhero physique.” My point? Mr. Richards can certainly play Luke Cage even without being built like a brick shithouse. I’d also note that the Luke Cage that appears in Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon is a significantly slimmer version of the character.

The other argument against this character being Luke Cage is that Luke Cage is “too important to be on a TV series.” That…kinda depends on your personal point of view. Yes, Cage is well-known to comic book fans, but a large portion of the potential viewers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are probably coming in as fans of the movies, not the comics. And, Cage’s role as a prominent figure in the Marvel Universe is something of a new thing, coming after a decade and a half of relative obscurity. Furthermore, the synergy between Marvel’s cinematic universe and its television universe means that there’s no such thing as “too important to be on a TV series.” This isn’t like when DC prevented Bruce Wayne from appearing on Smallville because it would conflict with Batman Begins.

Anyways… I’m really excited for this show. The Marvel Movie Universe has made me happier than most other things, and I look forward to seeing it expand to television. In a perfect world, the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would lead to Heroes for Hire, Daredevil, and maybe even Ghost Rider.

Random Final Thought: I’m not sure exactly how copyrights and such work, but could Marvel’s expansion to television be a way to circumvent outside studios holding the rights to certain characters? They might not be able to mention Spider-Man or the X-Men in their movies, but they might be able to incorporate them into a television series in preparation for the day the rights return to Marvel. Just a thought.

2012: The Year In…

Usually, I write up a bunch of Top 10 lists to end the year. Unfortunately, as some of you may know, I had a bit of a meteorological problem a few months back and lost all of the notes I had been keeping regarding my year in entertainment. So, instead of four separate Top 10 lists, I’m just going to give you all one post where I info-dump everything I can recall about what I liked this year.

BOOKS:

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

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There’s a reason the haunted/otherworldly traveling circus/carnival has been used as a setting for stories more times than I can remember. That reason is: It works! Morgenstern’s novel revolves around the doomed love between the apprentices of two feuding sorcerers; however, for me, the best parts were about the goings-on at the Night Circus itself, particularly the story of circus-born twins Poppet and Widget.

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher

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Here’s the deal: Jim Butcher releases a Harry Dresden novel and it goes on the Best of list for that year. End of story. I feel about this series the way a lot of people feel about the Harry Potter series.

The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan

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I really do love the kids from Camp Half-Blood. I’ve been amazed at Riordan’s ability to weave genuine Greek myth into a modern setting since The Lightning Thief, but the mythology geek in me was blown away by the way he’s decided to address the whole Greek god/Roman god quandary.

Phoenix Rising, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

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Phoenix Rising is the first book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. The best way I can explain it is to compare it to that episode of Warehouse 13 where we got a glimpse of what it was like when H.G. worked as a Warehouse agent in Victorian England. Eliza Braun is a dynamite-loving, armored corset-wearing Ministry field agent who finds herself saddled with a new partner: the prim and proper archivist Wellington Books. Needless to say, there are steampunk-fueled shenanigans aplenty.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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I’m always wary of anything that’s held up as “OMG Like Totally The New Bible of Geek Culture!!!!!111!!!1!!” Nine times out of ten, I can see the oily, pandering fingerprints of someone’s marketing department all over them. This is not the case with Ready Player One. A joy from start to finish, RP1 never felt like it was just trying to cash in on “geek culture” with a few carefully placed references to Star Wars or video games–other than a rather obvious “OMG HE KNOWS WHAT THE INTERNET IS!!!!!” reference to Wil Wheaton.

TELEVISION:

Gravity Falls (Disney Channel)

I’m not really sure what to say about Gravity Falls. I will say that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best thing to come from the Disney Channel since Kim Possible. It’s also leagues better than anything I’ve been able to find on Cartoon Network in a long time.

The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon)

The Legend of Korra is as different from The Last Airbender as a show could possibly be. Set in the generation following A:TLA, Korra focuses on the new Avatar, a waterbender named Korra. Aang’s world was a world of feudal states, kings, and farmers; Korra’s world is a world of industry, airships, and steam power. The animation has matured, becoming less stylized than the designs used in TLA, and the writing has matured, as well, presenting a darker storyline than that of the original series. Bring on the second season!

Bunheads (ABC Family)

Let’s face it, you are never going to recreate the adorable charm and whimsy of Gilmore Girls. Not gonna happen. But, with Bunheads, Amy Sherman-Palladino returns to what made GG so good, a town full of maniacs. Riding a Northern Exposure-like wave, Bunheads replaces a New York doctor with a Vegas showgirl, and small-town Alaska with small-town California. Yes, Sutton Foster’s Michelle is a cynical, slightly edgier version of Lorelai Gilmore, but you fall in love with her just the same. And, if your heart doesn’t melt when shy, awkward Boo finally dances with Carl–to “Rainbow Connection”, at that!–then you have no soul.

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Finally, I’d like to take this time to thank the creators, cast, and crew of Leverage for five seasons of pulp goodness. This was a show that pushed every single button I have, sometimes at the same time. Never has it felt like a group of people sat down and decided to make something solely for my enjoyment. Thank you. All of you. Thank you.

MOVIES:

Avengers

I paid to see this movie in the theater three times. I have never done that before and probably won’t do it again. (Okay, maybe I’ll do it for Avengers 2…only time will tell.) The point is: this is the movie I have been waiting for since the night I saw X-Men.

Skyfall

I’ve not been a big fan of the Daniel Craig Era of James Bond; I miss the camp-fueled insanity of Classic Bond. Skyfall did a good job of taking a lot of the tropes from the older Bond movies and either incorporating them wholesale (could Javier Bardem’s villain be any more like Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill?) or, at least, tipping its hat to them. I’m a tad annoyed that the new Q looks like a background character from Portlandia or Flight of the Conchords…but, the new Moneypenny? Yes. More of the new Moneypenny, please.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A lot of people are all cranky about making one book into three movies. As someone who can read, I realize that so much shit happens between the lines in that book that you could probably turn The Hobbit into a six-season series HBO. Also, and this is the heart of the matter, Peter Jackson can make a Middle-earth movie every year until he dies and I will pay money to see that shit. Why? Because they are just so damned pretty.

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom manages to be like every other Wes Anderson movie ever made and unlike every other Wes Anderson movie ever made. Visually, musically, verbally, Moonrise Kingdom uses all of the standard Anderson tropes. But, where it differs from–and, I’d argue, surpasses–Anderson’s other movies is innocence. Moonrise Kingdom is his most innocent film to date. It’s utterly charming, without resorting to the usual undercurrent of snark, dysfunction, and melancholia that you usually find in a Wes Anderson movie.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is what it must have been like to be inside Joss Whedon’s brain while he was creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Brave

Brave was the most fun that I’ve had in a Pixar movie since The Incredibles. I’m glad that the good folks at Pixar are still able to make a movie that doesn’t reduce grown men to blubbering, emotionally-destroyed shells of their former selves (I’m lookin’ at you, Up). Bows! Gingers! Scots! This movie had it all.

COMICS:

Daredevil

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I’ve always liked Daredevil. I’ve also always been confused as to why the only kind of Daredevil books that sell are ones that follow Frank Miller’s Watchmen-ization of the character. Daredevil is a guy who jumped from rooftop to rooftop in bright red and yellow tights. Grim and broody he is not. And that is why I want to thank Mark Waid. Yes, Matt Murdock’s life has been absolute shit for the last few years, but he realizes if he doesn’t lighten up, he’s gonna wake up one day and swallow a bullet. Mark Waid is responsible for making Daredevil a swashbuckler again and we should all send him a muffin basket.

Captain Marvel

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I can’t gush enough about this book. I love Carol Danvers. I loved her when she was Ms. Marvel and, if it’s possible, I love her even more since she was “promoted” to Captain Marvel. Kelly Sue DeConnick can do no wrong (as far as I’m concerned, Marvel Comics is just KSD and Mark Waid in a tiny room with some artists, cranking out comics).

Indestructible Hulk

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Just like he did with Daredevil, Mark Waid offers up a Hulk concept that’s so simple it should have occurred to someone ages ago. Bruce Banner, annoyed that Tony Stark and Reed Richards get all the credit for using their big brains to make the world a better place, agrees to work for SHIELD. He will invent amazing shit for them every day and, if he ever needs to blow off some steam, SHIELD tells him where to aim the Hulk. Simple. Amazing.

Avengers Assemble

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Avengers Assemble is a no strings attached title for folks who just want to see the Avengers being superheroes. It started as an obvious tie-in to the Avengers movie (the team consisted of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye), but has since found a nice balance between being in and out of continuity at the same time–the characters behave like their standard Marvel Universe counterparts, but the stories seem to take place without regard to what is happening in the other Avengers titles. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only Avengers title Marvel needs. While I’m sending Waid that muffin basket, I should order a second one for Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Dungeons & Dragons

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John Rogers, the co-creator of TV’s Leverage, shows that a group of competent, bickering characters can work in any genre.

The Sixth Gun

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The other day, it occurred to me that The Sixth Gun is, basically, the western equivalent of Hellboy. The mythology that Cullen Bunn is creating around the six eldritch revolvers and the various characters hellbent on acquiring them is as layered and complex as anything that Mike Mignola has come up with. Gunslingers. Zombies. Wendigos. Voodoo spirits. Secret Societies. Golems. Mummies. If you want it, it’s probably in an issue of The Sixth Gun.

Man-making and Such

The number of “fandoms” that “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” can be applied to is staggering.

The Original:

 

The Doctor Who Version:

 

The Sherlock Version:

 

The Leverage Version:

 

The Supernatural Version:

 

Top 10 TV Shows of 2011

A large percentage of my favorite shows tend to be ones that have been on for a few seasons. That being said, there were a few shows that premiered this fall that really stand out in my mind–plus a handful that I think really hit their strides in 2011.

1. Grimm (NBC)

NBC’s Grimm is, at its heart, a police procedural. The main difference here is that the suspects are all critters that inspired fairy tales and the cop is the last Grimm, essentially a criminal profiler who specializes in things that go bump in the night. What separates Grimm from its “ripped from the pages of fairy tales” cousin, Once Upon a Time, is the former show’s premise that, while fairy tales may not be real, the monsters that inspired them are.

2. Young Justice (Cartoon Network)

DC has long been the champ of television animation. Young Justice follows in the footsteps of classics like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited. Unlike these older shows, Young Justice exists in a separate universe, one where superheroes are relatively new and Batman assembles a covert team of teen sidekicks to go on missions that are too sensitive for the higher profile heroes to handle.

3. Unforgettable (CBS)

The premise–a detective who remembers everything she sees–may be a little ridiculous, despite being based on an actual condition, but Unforgettable is a fun little show with an appealing cast of characters. Bonus points may have been added for a main character who is (a) not under 25 years old and (b) played by Poppy Montgomery.

4. Happy Endings (ABC)

I’m not really sure how I missed the first season of Happy Endings, but I did. (Actually, I think it might have had something to do with a lot of chatter about it being similar to a certain sitcom about the epic tale of the search for a female parental unit and, if there’s one thing that bores me, it’s something created solely to suckle at the teat of something that’s already an established success.) Anyways, Happy Endings is thoroughly charming and one of the few genuinely funny sitcoms out there.

5. Person of Interest (CBS)

I grew up watching shows like The A-Team, Knight Rider, and The Equalizer, so a show where Ben Linus and Jesus use a top secret super-computer to fight crime is right up my alley.

6. Up All Night (NBC)

I’m not going to talk about the state of the sitcom on NBC. We all know what happened, so there’s no reason to open up old wounds. That being said, Up All Night is a winner and, despite the programming hoopla, deserves every last ounce of faith that the network has seen fit to bestow upon it.

7. Whitechapel (BBC America)

Whitechapel could have easily taken the Sherlock route and simply presented itself as a modern retelling of the Jack the Ripper crimes. Instead, Whitechapel is a modern police drama in every sense, except in the stories it decides to tell. The first series focussed on a suspect who was meticulously recreated Jack the Ripper’s murders, while the following series tells the story of the heirs to ’60s mobsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

    Community (NBC)

Neither of these shows really blew me away when they premiered, but 2011 became “The Year I Learned to Love Them.” I can’t pick a moment when Community finally clicked for me. Parks and Recreation, however, won me over during its third season with the Leslie/Ben storyline and the April/Andy storyline (man, I hated those two characters until they got together and became adorable).

9. Downton Abbey (PBS)

The show for which the phrase “All British and shit” was invented. Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey has much in common with Gosford Park, which was written by Fellowes. Set prior to the outbreak of World War I, when the British aristocracy was slowly losing ground (figuratively and literally) to the growing middle classes, Downton Abbey is as much social satire as anything written by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. Also, where else can you see Professor McGonagall and Harriet Jones, Prime Minister (yes, we know who you are) snipe at each other for hours on end?

10. Covert Affairs (USA)

If you liked Alias, but thought that running around trying to find giant balls of mysterious red liquid was a little too pulpy, then Covert Affairs might be for you. If you ignore the oh-so-very-pretty cast (or don’t, it’s your call), Covert Affairs presents a fairly accurate portrayal of what I think being a spy is really like, from the inter-departmental backbiting to the boring stretches of downtime during an op.

A Boy and His Box, Off to See the Universe.

I really wish I had managed to finish these in time for yesterday’s 48th anniversary of the Doctor Who premiere. Oh, well…timey-wimey and all that.

First Doctor

Second Doctor

Third Doctor

Fourth Doctor

Fifth Doctor

Sixth Doctor

Seventh Doctor

Eighth Doctor

Ninth Doctor

Tenth Doctor

Eleventh Doctor

Grimm Can Be Great

It’s usually not a good idea to judge a show based solely on the first episode. Few shows premiere with zero kinks and many shows can take an entire season to find their footing. Taking that into consideration, I think Grimm has the potential to be pretty damn good.

The set-up is a simple one: Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a homicide detective in Portland, Oregon. While investigating the disappearance–and subsequent dismemberment–of a co-ed, Nick learns from his Aunt Marie that he comes from a long line of “Grimms.” Grimms are profilers, of sorts, keeping tabs on the supernatural whatchamacallits that plague humanity. Of course, Nick has to keep his secret from his fiance (played by Bitsie Tulloch) and his partner (Russell Hornsby), luckily he’ll be able to call on his supernatural informant, a reformed Big Bad Wolf (Silas Weir Mitchell).

If this sounds a bit familiar, there’s a good reason for that. Two of the men responsible for Grimm, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, come to us from Buffy and Angel. In fact, Grimm feels a little bit like a blending of the two shows: you have the Chosen One of Buffy and the sleuthing of (early) Angel. I’d also argue that the “family of hunters” angle ties Grimm to Supernatural, which makes the fact that the two shows are airing against each other kind of annoying. Given Grimm‘s Whedon-y pedigree, I wasn’t the least bit surprised by Mitchell’s reformed Big Bad Wolf (0r Blutbad, if you will). The feeb-demon–a noticeably un-demonic and comically humanized demon–was a hallmark of Angel and, later, Buffy. Grimm‘s Eddie Monroe is a Blutbad who has given up on his bestial tendencies, which allows him to tag along on Nick’s cases and offer exposition with a healthy dose of wry asides. Clem would be proud.

I think the biggest hurdle Grimm has to overcome is how people will ultimately compare it to Once Upon A Time, despite the fact that the two shows could not be more different. In Once…, the characters are actual fairy tale characters who now live in the real world. In other words, Snow White is real. Grimm goes down a different road. Here, the Brothers Grimm were criminal profilers of the supernatural. So, while there is no actual Big Bad Wolf, there are Blutbaden, wolf-like creatures who appear to be attracted to the color red. Folklorists tell us that fairy tales, like those collected by the Brothers Grimm, were used as teaching tools, showing people how to behave and that acting incorrectly had consequences. Grimm takes this and runs with it, claiming that the dangers depicted in fairy tales aren’t metaphors: if you leave the path in the woods, something will eat you. I love this hidden world aspect of Grimm and, if you enjoy the occasional urban fantasy novel, you might love it, too.