I love Lucifer. The TV Series, That Is….

I really wasn’t sure whether or not I would like Lucifer the tv series, but given that I love comics and generally try to give adaptations of comics into other media a try, I figured I may as well check it out.

Lucifer, as presented in this series, is based on the version that appeared in The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman, and then later his own series, by Mike Carey. This incarnation of the devil is not so much evil incarnate as dissatisfied with his relationship with his “father.”

Played wonderfully by Tom Ellis, Lucifer is charming and charismatic, but for a being that has existed since the dawn of time, he is not terribly bright or self-aware. Tired of reigning in Hell and frustrated with the way humanity blames him for all their sins– he likes to point out that we make our own bad choices and he simply provides the punishment– he has abdicated Hell and come to Los Angeles to run a piano bar called Lux, accompanied by his guardian/ assistant, Mazikeen. It is here, following the murder of Delilah, a pop star whose career Lucifer helped launch, that Lucifer encounters police detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German).

The show quickly becomes a typical, old-fashioned cop/ buddy show with Lucifer constantly becoming involved with various police proceedings and using his supernatural ability to have people share their fantasies and deepest secrets in order to further investigations. While some of this stems from a seeming interest in understanding humans, it is primarily because Lucifer is entranced by Chloe, who is for some reason immune to his charms.

While I can’t say that Lucifer does anything terribly new or exciting (we’ve all seen this type of character dynamic several times over the years) I find myself totally enjoying each episode. Much of it is due to Ellis, who possesses a tremendous amount of charm and who manages to make the devil not only charming, but likeable. Yes, as mentioned above, he is a bit slow on the uptake, but he’s fun to watch.

The supernatural side of the story isn’t terribly evident in most of the episodes that I have watched so far, although there is the recurring presence of Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), one of Heaven’s angels who wants to return Lucifer to Hell and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal.

I’m still in the first season, streaming it on Crave TV, so it is entirely possible that the premise will wear thin before too long, but then again perhaps not. There have been several police procedurals over the years that managed to entertain for multiple seasons before going off the air, so Lucifer should be able to manage the same, especially if the show mixes up the action with the occasional “cosmic” story.

Genre TV often faces some difficulty, but Lucifer has been renewed for a full third season, despite protest from groups such as One Million Moms, who want to see the series dropped due to the “glorification of evil” that they believe it represents. How nice it would be if they could turn their attention to the evil that exists in the real world, instead of attacking television shows…

Personally, I hope it continues for another couple of seasons.

Remembering TV Shows of the 70’s: M*A*S*H

When we think back on the shows, movies and books that we liked as kids, very often they don’t hold up terribly well to a second viewing as an adult. Things that were funny or exciting are often much less so to modern eyes. In many cases, the best we can hope for is a pleasant sense of nostalgia, but far too often, we end up cringing and wondering what had appealed to us in the first place. Occasionally, though, we can look back on something we enjoyed and find that it is pretty much as we remembered.

For me, M*A*S*H falls into that latter category.

Not too long ago, my elder son and I sat down and started watching  M*A*S*H. I’m not sure how we decided to watch it, but I know I had mentioned it to him a couple of times and when we found it online (on the now-defunct Shomi), we put on the first episode and then the second, then the third… It quickly became something that we could both enjoy and then discuss with each other.

I am not going to claim M*A*S*H was a prefect show. In fact, I know a number of people who vilify it for two things in particular: the way so many characters are cheating on their spouses back home, and for the character of Oliver Harmon “Spearchucker” Jones.

In terms of the cheating, well, as a kid, I din’t really catch all the implications of that. As an adult, I recognise that these characters were far from home, lonely and afraid, living a pretty hellish existence. I can accept that they would seek comfort with one another much easier than I accept so many characters in modern TV and cinema cheating, primarily out of boredom or dissatisfaction with their lives.

The topic of Spearchucker is a bit trickier. Again, as a kid, I din’t understand the racist overtones of the name. As an adult, I cringe a bit at it, even knowing as I do that he earned the nickname by being proficient as a javelin-thrower (and also football). I see it as a bit of an ironic name, especially given that there is no over racism directed at him within the series. Viewers, however, will point out that he only appeared in 6 episodes and take that as being racially-motivated. Larry Gelbart, who was a writer-producer, stated that the decision to remove him was related to the fact that they couldn’t provide enough substantial material for the number of characters they had, and the fact that they didn’t want to engage in “empty tokenism,” as is was widely believed at the time that there had, in fact, been no black surgeons serving in MASH units in the Korean War. Jones was also not the only recurring character to be dropped from the show.

More troubling to me was the use of certain actors (Mako, Soon Tek Oh) to play multiple characters, as though we might not notice. I’m not sure I’d believe that there was a shortage of Asian actors at the time… Then again, they also famously re-used Harry Morgan, who first appeared as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele before being cast as Col Potter.

There is occasionally some criticism of Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, but her character grew and developed over the series, possibly more than any other. She went from being defined by her affair with Frank Burns to being an integral part of both the show and the MASH unit, as a strong, independent and very capable character.

There are so many great episodes of this show and countless scenes that I can still picture perfectly, decades after seeing them. The show was funny and serious at turns, often giving my young mind a great deal to think about and it often provoked discussion in my home. Was it right for Father Mulcahy to ask God to let one soldier die quickly to save another? Was Hawkeye cowardly for his steadfast refusal to use a gun? Was BJ Hunnicutt a boring stick-in-the-mud, or was he an important moral centre of the show who helped with Hawkeye’s growth as a character?

Something that I miss about TV was growing up is that there were limited channels and only two TVs in the house. We had to come to an agreement on what to watch and then we watched it as a family. As a result, we had a shared experience with these shows and could discuss them as a family. When the final episode of M*A*S*H played, it was a family event. Fortunately, I am now able to have a similar experience with my son as we make our way through the series.

Now I just have to get him to watch the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman….

The Santa Clarita Diet

I’d heard about Neflix’s series, The Santa Clarita Diet and was intrigued, but not really enough to watch it. I’ve always liked Drew Barrymore, but that alone wasn’t enough to make me watch. Then about a week ago, I saw one of the ads:


Having seen Hal and Joanne on my TV for so many years, this really made me laugh and was enough for me to try the show, despite already having enough content in my queue that I’ll likely never finish everything. So what did I think? Well…

The first episode almost made me vomit. Really. I’m not normally squeemish, so I am not sure why I reacted the way I did, but something about Drew Barrymore spray-painting an entire bathroom with greenish vomit made my throat tighten more than I would have expected.

By the end of the episode, I really wasn’t sure if I would continue. I had been hoping for a smart, witty dark comedy and wasn’t sure that I was getting it. I was faintly disappointed, but after considering it a bit, I decided I would at least try a second episode,  which then turned into a third.

While I wouldn’t have said that I actively liked it at that point, there was enough there to keep me watching. The teenaged daughter and her potential love interest– both of whom I expected to dislike– were actually fun characters. As each new episode played (and I ended up watching several in a row…) I grew to like it more and more.

Certainly the show wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it turned out to be something better. My initial thought– that it was more weird than funny– was probably related more to the show not meeting my preconceived notion of what it would be, because it is funny, often extremely so. Humour is subjective, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as it progressed, I started to really appreciate the clever dialogue and the way the characters were developing.

There is enough blood and guts in the show that fans of The Walking Dead might feel at home here, but there is quite a bit more. Each episode builds upon what came before, as Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) try to keep their lives from spiraling out of control. There is a subplot that comes in the latter half of the series, involving a potential cure for Sheila’s zombiehood, but the main focus is the attempt of this family to maintain a normal life despite undeath and murder.

While this isn’t a show that everyone can appreciate, I for one am already waiting for Season Two…

 

Thoughts on the Riverdale TV Series

Archie Comes to TV

 

As a kid, I always liked Archie comics. I read and re-read them over and over. Some of them I knew by heart. Even into my late teens and early 20’s, I would occasionally pick up an issue, or more likely re-read one of the old digest comics.

It was with some trepidation that I watched the first episode of the new Riverdale series. I had heard about it some time ago and had seen the trailer, which had me roll my eyes so hard I thought I’d never see straight again. When it showed up on Netflix, I resisted watching it, but finally gave in last night. I’ve read a few reviews and had heard only good things, so I finally gave in.

I’m still processing it.

Spoilers ahead!

On one hand, while it wasn’t terribly good, it wasn’t horribly bad either. K J Apa looks about as much like Archie Andrews as a real-life person can, but this being the CW, he’s now hot, muscular and– the very first time we see him– shirtless. It’s certainly not the goofy-but-loveable Archie of the comics I grew up with. His transformation, however, is less dramatic than Miss (now Ms) Grundy who now looks less like Peter Parker’s Aunt May and more like the sexy young substitute teacher than all the boys crush on.

The CW seems willing to shake things up with the characters, giving us such things as good-girl Betty Cooper becoming rebellious at home, Archie’s parents being divorced, Veronica’s dad being a criminal and more.  They are less willing, for some reason, to allow Jughead to be asexual, as he is in the comics, which seems odd given that they have no issue with making Moose Mason gay (or at least bi-curious) and giving a fan-service scene of Betty and Veronica making out…

I’ll probably give it another episode or two before I make up my mind. I’m trying to be fair and say that if it wasn’t Archie and the gang, the show might be intriguing. There are elements that could certainly prove interesting, but at the moment it just seems like they are only using the names for familiarity’s sake and to attract viewers. I am not sure that Archie-as-Twin-Peaks really works (although I seem to be in the minority). To me, it’s as if they made a new Gilligan’s Island series, but crossed it with Lost…

I guess we’ll see how things progress, but my WTF? meter is in danger of breaking already.

Riverdale can be seen on both the CW and Netflix.

Craig

Does whatever a Spider Can!

As everyone with an internet connection (or a friend with an internet connection) now knows, the new Spider-Man Homecoming trailer has arrived!

I have pretty mixed feelings about it though. Overall, I am tremendously excited to see him in the hands of Marvel (even if still owned by Sony) and I am so seeing this on opening night! But to run down a few pros and cons:

Pros

Tom Holland shows more “Peter-Parker-ness” in this trailer than we’ve seen in all the previous movies.

I think he is a brilliant choice for the role and look forward to seeing him play Spidey for the forseeable future. He also seems to be having fun with it and is young enough that he can stick around for years to come .

Connections to the MCU.

Marvel and Sony have given fans what they have been hoping for for years now: Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, some people will complain (and they have been…), but that’s just the internet being the internet. This is a good thing, for the most part, but we’ll address a possible Con below.

It just looks fun.

I totally enjoyed Tobey Maguire, but he was a little too mopey. Certainly, Peter had that side, but what usually draws people to Spider-Man is that he’s a fun character and no matter what brings him down, he always bounces back. There should be a sense of wonder and fun to Spider-man, especially in his early years and it looks like this will take that into account.

 

Cons

Too much Iron Man?

Robert Downey Jr is Marvel’s biggest star. One could argue that Sir Anthony Hopkins deserves that title more, but he is in a supporting role, with nowhere near as much screen time. RDJ is pretty much Marvel’s ambassador, being in so many films as well as making numerous real-life appearances and helping charitable causes. Iron Man has become one of Marvels most visible and most popular heroes. That said, there is a risk of him being too involved in this movie.

Having Tony take Peter under his wing is a logical step for Tony after some recent events. His guilt over the death of Miriam Sharpe’s son in Sokovia and his growing frustration with his own failures (Ultron, his “break” with Pepper Potts, his falling out with Captain America) could all quite easily lead to him helping Peter out. On Peter’s end, it’s totally logical for him to accept help from Stark and even seek him out when in need.

The problem, however, is that this is a Spider-Man movie. It is not a team film like Avengers. For Spider-Man to carry his role as the lead, he needs to be independent. He needs to be able to rely on himself and solve his own problems. Peter Parker is a genius. His intelligence is often underestimated and even down-played, but he is actually brilliant. To have Tony supply him with various gadgets is totally unnecessary; Peter can and should create his own gear. He should be self-reliant. Having Iron Man help him out implies that Spider-Man is incapable of solving his own problems. Hopefully the movie will allow him to be his own hero.

Aunt May.

I like Marisa Tomei. In real life, she is a realistic age to play his aunt. After decades with Aunt May being portrayed as a frail, grey-haired woman, however, it is difficult to accept her in the role. I’ve been calling her Aunt Tomei, but I think I will start using the much more clever Aunt Bae…  Also, a small pet peeve is having Peter call her May instead of Aunt May. That’s disrespectful.

No sign of Jonah yet.

Come on, we need JJJ.

The Costume

It’s not bad, but I would like to see a more comic-accurate version. I don’t understand how everyone seems to think this is identical to the comics; it’s not. Andrew Garfield’s costume in ASM2 was the closest we’ve ever seen, aside from the spider design. I can live with it, but I hope it evolves. Plus, I don’t like Peter being dependent on Tony for the costume.

Ned Leeds

I… just don’t see Jacob Batalon evolving into the Hobgoblin. I understand the need to get away from Harry, Gwen and MJ for a bit, though, so focusing on other character is ok. It’s just odd casting.

 

Well, that’s about all I can think of for now. I’m seeing this multiple times, no matter what happens.

Fingers crossed that it’s good.

Also: I’m still thinking that Homecoming might tie in to Winter Soldier, given that it was one of his activation words…