Foundation of a Legend

Legends touts Sean Bean’s return to television and uses his notorious habit of dying in his various projects as hype for the show. The hash tags for the show? #dontkillseanbean

This is a stroke of genius and allows TNT to cash of Game of Thrones by directly referencing to being beheading in their promotional material. It engages fans and makes them invested in the show’s main character. Don’t kill Sean Bean!

zap-legends-season-1-premiere-pilot-photos-201-006How does the pilot live up to the wonderful hype and social media engagement? It’s a little under whelming. Pilots often are because they have to set up for multiple arcs and give you back ground. Legends sets the basic foundation without too much information. We learn Martin is an undercover FBI agent and he has an ex-wife and child. His world is then rocked when someone tells him that he is not who he thinks he is; that his undercover life has completely taken over his real life.

This is where the meat of the story gets interesting though the idea isn’t delved into too deeply. Legends (or their undercover egos) aren’t really explained. I feel like it’s much more than just an uncover identity and see some very Dollhouse-like aspects popping up in the FBI’s program. But the show is vague (I am hoping intentionally vague).

The pilot does help you connect to the character past the original Sean Bean base. Martin wears every man “Lincoln Dittman” who joins a terrorist militia because everything in his life has gone to crap. Martin is easily able to spin his story on the fly and adapt to surrounding making him a kind of super spy even though many of his coworkers don’t like him. This includes the female lead.

Alli Larter plays Crystal an exlover, current coworker who has trouble working with Martin. He goes off script often and will disappear from contact when he goes deep undercover. She is also concerned because he failed all but one psychological exam to be fit for duty. That one he passed? It claimed he was the best candidate for this kind of job.

The writers have no problem finding a way to sexy up Larter. Though she is a gorgeous woman and I am sure the male fans were excited, I felt like it demeaned her role as operative and as a professional woman. Hopefully, the show can create in her character a beautiful, forceful woman without too much gratuitous T&A.

Legends has lots of potential especially as the show expands into Martin’s various personalities and how they bleed into each other and his “real” life.  I look forward to seeing how the next few episodes unfold.

In the Depths of Noir

After a horrendous experience and firing from AMC, fans and Frank Darabont weren’t sure if he would ever return to TV. The Walking Dead was his child, lovingly recreated from the comic book with Robert Kirkman. Darabont understood what the comic was about, the importance including Kirkman, and understood that the characters, not zombies make the story. His brilliance shines once again with the TNT series Mob City.

Darabont seems to run into endless problem when working on TV. His TNT pet project was adapting the book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. But legally he had to change the name; the company that owned the rights to the video game L.A. Noire would not have even that close of a name usage. The series. Working through this arabount had no choice but to change the name to Lost Angels. He finally settled on Mob City.

MC1The characters are the best part of the tale. Like in most of Darabont’s work, the characters are strongly realized and well-cast.  Darabont has a unique family of actor that he likes to use and then adding a smattering of new faces. This show features Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Dumun, and Andrew Rosenthal. Fans will recognizes these faces from The Walking Dead and Darabont’s other works. Here’s why he keeps these guys around: they are fabulous completing becoming this character and making you forgets who they had played in the past. He also gets good work out of fresh faces.  I was personally amazed at Simon Pegg’s performance as a guest star in the pilot. Hos ability you do drama is wonderful and Darabount uses this to its best advantage.  Also in this amazing cast are Edward Burns and Robert Knepper.

The pilot episode it’s gorgeous.  Darabount takes us into the time when the mob runs the cities. This period piece goes to great detail with cars, costuming and language. Darabbount masterfully moves the players in a graceful narrative. Watching the show it’s like father and child as Darabount directs Bernthal with love and commitment. The pilot follows Teague as he works with a local low life to help him black mail a member of the mob. The ex-marine shows his true colors and blood is shed.

The second episode can’t deliver quite as much. Part of that is the fault of the writing. The episode is much slower than the first deviling into a few new character s while viewers want to know what the hell is going on with Teague and the woman. But even that revelation is foreseeable. What I really want to know is what did he see on the negatives? That’s the real mystery. The other issue is that the pilot is just so well done; it’s hard to live up to.

The six episode series has some promise for the future.  Darabont wants the show to never more than six episodes that would probably in Decembers if the show takes off. TNT is trying something new by pairing two episodes for a three “epic” event cashing in on the fact that regularly scheduled program

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are on hiatus for the Holiday Season.  How well this works remains to be seen, but it was an awkward transition from the pilot to the second episode.

Overall, Mob City has quite a lot of potential a day just be what Darbount needs to wash the nasty TV taste from his mouth. Fans will be excited for the narrative strong narrative and beautiful visual shots.  Though it seems non-fans weren’t that excite; Mob City had a soft premier. But here’s to getting Darabont (and Bernthal) back on TV!

Waking up in Sleepy Hollow

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Fox jumps on the fairy tale band wagon with its version of Sleepy Hollow. This incarnation of the Headless Horseman brings the tale to the modern day putting a witchy spin on the original story. Taking cues from Grimm and Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow set out to prove that fairy tales and legends are not just for kids.

“Sleepy Hollow” begins in the American Revolution where Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horse first come face to face. Crane beheads his enemy but finds himself mortally wounded. When he awakes, Crane finds himself in a cave. Confused and unsettled, he adventures out into the world and comes face to face with cars. It seems he has woken hundreds of years later in the present. But he is not the only one that has arisen. The Headless Horseman is wreaking havoc in Sleepy Hallow.  Crane teams up with a young police officer who frees him from a mental institution in order to keep the Horseman from reuniting with the skull.

Sleepy Hollow stands out for two reasons. The first is the new twist on an old tale. The plot is not just a modern take on a classic story. The twist is that Crane and the Headless horsemen are controlled by magic and Biblical prophecy. Crane’s wife is part of a coven of “good” witches who fight for balance in the world against the evil side of magic. She casts a spell on Crane keeping him alive allowing him to awaken only when the Horseman comes back. But the Horseman isn’t control by magic. Instead, he is Death, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So Crane is not just fighting a foe, he is fighting for the sake of the world.

The second is the casting. Tom Mison as Crane is a casting fall-new-shows-sleepy-hollow2_500x369masterpiece. He plays the character with genuine fervor. One minute Mison is mastering one like quips, the next he is fighting against magical and non-magical beings alike. His portrayal makes Crane seem real. No longer is Crane a scared school teacher; he is trained fighter who is coming face to face with magic. What we learn, he learns. While the character is not on the good side of Crane, it’s good to see Orlando Jones again. It’s interesting to see him take on drama when his most memorial moments are the hilarious miss adventures from Evolution. He works well opposite Nicole Beharie who seems too fresh for her part as the police cadet traumatize by demons, but she has the potential to grow in this role.

In fact, the whole show has potential. It captures you with an old tale with a fresh spin and a protagonist that you truly feel for. It will be interested to see if the show can live up to its potential. We shall see tonight.

Strange Things are Afoot in Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove

Netflix original, streaming

First it was cable television that gave network TV a run for its money.  Now it’s streaming TV online. Netflix and Amazon Prime have both jumped on this band wagon presenting new material and returning fan favorites. The creepiest so far? Hemlock Grove whose first season is streaming on Netflix.hemlockgrove

Hemlock Grove is based on the novel by Brian McGreevy.  A pair of gypsies move into town and the teen boy is pegged by the local aspiring writer to be a werewolf. But when grisly murders start happening around town, some of the town’s folk give credit to the girl’s theory.  Local girls are torn apart by what looks like animals. But it seems that the upiόr that the Gypsies are chasing may be the cause. The town sheriff as well as representative from the US fish and Wildlife Federation is investigating as well. Many strange things are found in the Pennsylvania little grove including a girl impregnated by an angel.

The show is The Gates combined with American Horror Story with a dash of The Walking Dead thrown. The story combines a supernatural town with the bizarre twists that keep the viewer confused, terrified, and wanting more. Each town member has a secret and not one person is the town is truly normal. McGreevy sinks into years of folklore putting the fear back into werewolves, vampires, and angels.

Any reviews you read about the show focuses on how gory the show is. In reality it’s not insanely gory. What is disgusting is the events and how realistic they look. It’s not The Walking Dead gory with blood and guts everywhere. Greg Nicottero’s FX company uses a more subtle hand here. For example, it’s not gross how the werewolf sheds its skin; it is disturbing when the werewolf at its left over human parts. Only one body looks like a zombie, and even then, Bicycle Girl was scarier. But maybe I’ve just watched too much horror and sci-fi to be bothered by the gore.

The story itself is psychologically disturbing.  The show uses a giant with a deformed face as an allegory for being a teenager as well and a mysterious medical company that brings her back to life. The story sometimes over reaches and the finale is like the worst episodes of The X-files; you have more questions than answers. But more than anything it the characters and the actors that portray them that keep viewer hooked. Viewers will recognize Femke Jemson and Dougray Scoot as the adult stars. Battlestar hemlock_grove_netflixGalatica Fans will be thrilled by the appearance of Kandyse McClure and Aaron Douglas. But it is the two teen boys Landon Liboiron and Bill Skarsgård that give the best performances as they deal with their dual nature.  Their unique bromance captures your attention as they both try to help a girl they love (a love triangle Twilight would never touch!).
The first season follows the original novel and McGreevy is writing second while he had outlines for a third. As an Executive Producer, the show captures his warped version of a town from his childhood and this works for Netflix. Forget who shot JR; I want to know what that thing is inside the box!

Checking in at Bates Motel

TV shows based on movies face unique issues. The biggest being the lack of actors from the original movie. Actors are either not interested in TV work or cannot be paid what they would like. So producers have two options: use the same characters with different actors or create whole new characters. Both options can lose fans but sometimes shows can triumph. For every success like Friday Night Lights there is a Clueless.  The key is to have good writing and characters played by actors that are relatable.

Bates Motel takes viewers through Norman Bates’ journey of becoming a psycho. A&E jumps from the timeline of the original movie but keeps the character intact and the plot is engaging. The pilot starts strong.

Bates Motel beings the Bates story after Norman’s father dies and he and his mother move into the hotel to get a fresh start. The house and hotel are in major disrepair so the pair has a lot of work ahead of them. The town of Seaside is caught in an economic slump and the original owners of the hotel are not happy about losing their property. Added onto of being the new kid at school, Norman is dealing with the questionable death of his father and dealing with his mother’s mood swings. In the pilot, Norma is raped and the last shred of sanity in the Bates’ house snaps.  Viewers watch as Norman begins his descends to the world of psychosis.

A&E gets quite a few things right. The first is the casting of the principle characters. Great care was taken in casting the 17 year old version of Norman Bates. Freddie Highmore (Johnny Depp’s progeny) moves past fairy tale characters and becomes the awkward teenager with mommy issues. Highmore nails the almost stutter and jerky movements that afflicted adult Norman. Highmore seems to channel Anthony Perkins, and you feel sorry for this budding psycho.bates-motel-610x580

Adding the mother as an actual character is the unique twist that makes the show worthwhile. Even though Psycho IV: The Beginning delved into Norman’s childhood, the show gives a more intimate look of Norma Bates, and she truly comes to life. Vera Farmiga radiates crazy- the way she walks, the way she talks, the way she smiles. You clearly see why Norman becomes what he is; genetically and environmentally, he never had a chance.

Perhaps the best character in the show is the house itself. The production team did a fabulous job of reconstructing the Bates home and motel. The sets decorated as they were in the original movie. This eye for detail makes it seem nature that Highmore would be the young version of Bates. This blast from the past gives a sense to the family state of being: out of touch with the current time. The minimal use of technology allows the house to cast its spell and keep the characters and viewers trapped in the past. As a viewer, seeing the house done correctly was more important than casting the characters.

Bates Morel is a solid pilot and the show itself has lots of potential. Let’s see if the team at A&E can keep it up.