Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What's Wrong with Summer TV?

What Happened to Summer TV? I just finished watching the eighth episode (of ten) of M. Night Shamayalan’s mini-series, Wayward Pines. I don’t know why. I stopped watching the summer series Aquarius after just four episodes. That one was set around the time of the Manson Murders about a fictional detective getting used to Black Power, the Vietnam War, new age hippies, and the Miranda Rule all at once. David Duchovny plays the cop, and I liked him – at first. But when Fox Mulder beat Charles Manson half to death I stopped caring even about him. The show was interesting whenever Manson was not part of the scene, but I saw Helter Skelter. I did not need a fictional recap without any character worth rooting for, someone who didn’t turn out to be a monster, too. Maybe if Duchovney had killed Manson before the horrible murders, that alternate history might have had some interest, but I gave up waiting. Wayward Pines started out strong and intriguing. People were disappearing after car accidents and reappearing in a hospital in a small town they could not leave. People who tried were executed. It sounded a bit like Harvest Home meets Shamayalan’s own The Village. But by Episode 5 and the Big Reveal, I didn’t care. The characters were flat, even the megalomaniac puppeteer running the show. He had been kidnapping people to populate a single town in the future to preserve the human race against what it had devolved into because of genetic mutation. Humanity had become a mass of cannibalistic Cro Mag’s, Man gone feral, in this – pardon the overused word – dystopian future. Why not just have Zombies? So he decided he had to kidnap them, lie to them, bully them and imprison them to keep them safe. His faith in the humanity he wants to preserve seems a bit jaded. Couldn’t he have found volunteers? Well, he did have some – experts to help run the town, the power grid, the supply lines, and the electric fence that keeps the others, our degenerate future, out. Couldn’t he show them the truth now, realizing that they would see their future rests with him? The villagers think the world has not changed, either in point of time or reality, and that they are nothing more than prisoners in some sort of diabolical experiment. Almost everyone, that is. Those in the know teach the children – the breeders of a future normal human race – the truth, and help them keep the secret from their clueless parents. Can’t ever let them know – I mean, really? And now we have apparently good people doing terrible things for what they think is the Common Good. All that deception and brutality would lead to rebellion, wouldn’t it? Which, of course, seems to be the point, but they did stuff like this with a much more deft hand on Sliders years and years ago. There are only two episodes left. I’ve invested this much time, I guess I’ll stick it through. I just fear the Great letdown, just as Dig brought me this past spring. That one gave us ten episodes leading to a great apocalyptic crisis, but when the crisis came it just fizzled into nothingness and a busted dam. If Joseph Stalin had only a village to run, it would be Wayward Pines, a dull and boring place from which there is no escape. I myself might prefer the Wild. I do admit that the plot sounds better on paper, or would if it were in any way original, but the presentation and the acting are bland and soulless. Take this future, please! The penultimate (thank God) episode was a bit more interesting, I admit, and the finale promises to be the Zombie Apocalypse redux. At least, Suits is back. And thank God for BBCAmerica. They gave us the fascinating and mysterious Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This one presents a reinvented history of England at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when magic is an accepted reality but only studied, not applied. Then one magician begins to practice again, and his apprentice learns how to apply his skills for the greater good. Meanwhile, other powers awaken. Seven episodes, no waiting (except for the DVR to kick in), and absolutely no boredom or, for that matter, cannibals. And Doctor Who is coming!

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