Sunday, October 24, 2021

O’Neill on TV: these shows all have a kind of nostalgia for a better time

This week sees the release of La Brea Tarbox Thief: Veronica’s Storm. It’s very different to the other television shows for which we’ve been talking. The black ops New Yorker is a worthy successor to cult series Krypton (aka Space Show on Teen Vogue) and is said to be drawing inspiration from science fiction classics like The Outer Limits and Lost In Space.

Perhaps, when it comes to Negan’s future army, we need something more cerebral. That is, you can’t just stand on Star Trek’s bridge. In fact, to make a prog-fi that wouldn’t seem dated tomorrow, the writing should contain in broad strokes big concepts and expository dialogue. You’ve got to throw in logic. Like, look at the characters. Josh Randall (Justin Chatwin) is a reluctant sous chef who uses the website to supply artificially intelligent kitchen tech, with the catch that he likes kitchen technology and says so. Ruby (Rose Byrne) is, as a result, employed by the counter-intelligence department of an evil corporation to stay as far away from Josh as possible. Don’t ask why; it’s a cool back-story. Also, Ken, as befits the brainy guard, is 10 years dead and apparently played by Two-Face villain Jared Leto. His father was Jesse’s (Lee Pace) boss on a torture cruise in Black Swan. Now he’s built a robot version of himself called Matt who has feelings too.

Powerless should also straddle intellectual territory. The show isn’t really about finding the end of the universe. It’s about a group of normal office workers in DC who, in a world with zero organized superheroes, fight the big business. If people aren’t in their right minds then you can see how this might be a charming side trip. It will feature lesser known Doctor Who star Ivana Milicevic.

Where we’ve tried an unusual vanguard of different shows, most notably Supergirl and The Flash, we need retro. To that end, you need La Brea Tarbox Thief: Veronica’s Storm.

If you can’t get enough of L3-37, a trilately able android, you might enjoy R.L. Stine’s It! The Devil is a Great Big Bird!, which tells the story of Sneezy Potter, an unusual 11-year-old boy and his adopted cat, Harold. When he goes missing Harold never comes back – it’s assumed Stine has exorcised Harold – but he suddenly reappears as a much younger boy, Sneezy Potter. Every time this happens he is taken to a monastery where Stine, dressed in his black robe, has his hands bloody and his voice is raspy. Harold, though, is not enticed by the Unholy Spirit, and because the Unholy Spirit isn’t trying to take a sledgehammer to his skull, Harold finds that life goes on just as it always did. Plus, his little sister, Lil Buck, is an army daffodil who has apparently had pet present warnings. Right.

This isn’t something for you if you’ve ever had to set up a server with the spelling of “eShop”. What may be more comforting is the originality of Home: The Unseen Island which is a show within a show about an unremarkable family of lighthouse keepers. They watch crime-solving TV and become increasingly intrigued by the supernatural after a mysterious castaway has been brought to the house. Along the way, though, you might find yourself wondering if there’s a more coherent, well-plotted spaceship exploration show out there.

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