Dracula. The pilot.

Relevance is what separates great historical dramas from silly ones. Take, for example, HBO’s Deadwood, a show set in late 1800s but grappling with the perpetual problems of our age: creating structure out of chaos, governing an often hostile population, fighting to make real the American dream. Stellar historical dramas don’t speak only to their time; they say something about ours too.

This is what Dracula — a limited-run, 10-episode NBC special — is trying to do. So far, it’s been an awkward attempt.

Our Dracula, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, comes back from the (un)dead and starts a new life as an American industrialist living in England. He takes up residence at “Carfax Manor” (subliminally presented by CarFax.com) where he begins work as a … crusader for clean energy?

Dracula’s sinister plot to take down the wealthy British upper class involves — bear with it — creating a clean, cheap, wireless alternative to gas-powered electricity. It’s as if Ed Begley Jr. suddenly got really militant about his cause. And it feels way too modern to fit into this Gilded Age world. Continue reading

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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Episode three.

A few quick hits from a relatively uneventful episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland:

  • When Alice and the Knave show up at the Caterpillar’s mushroom, they step inside to reveal a giant living space. “It’s a lot bigger than it looks on the outside,” says Alice who will shortly be served papers by the Doctor Who lawyers.
  • The Knave and Alice spend the entire episode looking for a “forget me knot” which has unfortunate resonances for anyone who has watched Arrested Development. Continue reading

Reign. Episode two.

The pained look of a man who just realized his acting options will be crippled for decades because of the decision to take on this role.

The pained look of a man who just realized his acting options will be crippled for decades because of the decision to take on this role.

I want to love you, Reign. You have everything I desire in bad television. Ridiculous costumes, nonsensical storylines, hammy acting. But I cannot love you and here is why:

You are offensively stupid.

A measure of stupidity is an important component of bad TV. The stupidity on Reign, however, is so overwhelming that it’s difficult to focus on anything else.

For one, Reign’s second episode sadly dispelled the hope that I was having auditory hallucinations every time Francis’ bastard brother Sebastian was called “Bash.” Is it a form of social stigma meant to drive him further from the group? Nope. It seems to be a term of endearment.

Secondly, we learn that the heroine of our saga is a complete idiot. When the freaky kid from The Orphanage is found to be secretly following Mary around, she invents a game with which to communicate with it. Mary rolls it a marble. It keeps the marble for ‘yes’ and throws it back for ‘no.’ Hence, questions must be posed one at a time. Mary asks: “Who wants to harm me? Is it the English? Is it Queen Catherine?”

You can imagine the mutant girl with a scarecrow bag over her head rolling her eyes like, “This bitch is terrible at games.” Continue reading

Sleepy Hollow. Episode 5.

Storytime with FOX.

Storytime with FOX.

I’ve had my doubts about Sleepy Hollow. Obviously history hasn’t been its strong point, but it’s generally so far removed from reality that I figured it was intentional revisionism rather than total ignorance.

Now I am forced to believe that no one involved with this show knows US history at all.

The trouble begins when a mysterious boy in old-fashioned garb stumbles out of the woods and onto a highway (triggering intense PTSD for those of us who have seen The Village). Ichabod Crane proclaims that the boy is from Roanoke. Everyone stares blankly at him.

The realization starts settling in like a slow creeping terror. Oh my god — Is it implied that we, the audience, don’t know about Roanoke Colony? Why is Crane giving us the details of this famous moment in American history as if it’s new information? It’s been a good run, America. But now FOX is telling us our nation’s origin stories as if for the first time ever so it’s time to move to Canada and start anew.

The worst part is that everyone at Roanoke is speaking Middle English. Roanoke was founded when Elizabeth I was queen. The English haven’t spoken true Middle English in 200 years. As an English major, I can safely dwell on this topic no longer. The danger of aneurism rises with each passing moment…

FINAL RATING

0 stars out of 5

Your ignorance of history is unforgivable. No points awarded. May god have mercy on your souls.

Disclaimer: This episode also contains the worst pickup line in the history of human flirtation. While a deathly ill child is being wheeled into an ambulance, Abbie’s detective partner says, and I quote, “Witnesses say he was unaccompanied … I wish I could say the same for you.”

If the devil is indeed in Sleepy Hollow, he most certainly shouted, “UP TOP!” and high-fived that asshole.

Beauty and the Beast. Season two, episodes two and three.

"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer to have this conversation in a coffeeshop?"

“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to have this conversation in a coffeeshop?”

Season two is apparently the moment when Beauty and the Beast completes its full transformation into a walking, talking issue of Cosmo magazine. The remainder of this review will be written under Cosmo-like headlines to illustrate the point:

Ex-boyfriend doesn’t remember you? 10 sultry sex tips that will jog his memory!

Upon realizing that boyfriend Vincent has had his memory wiped clean, Cat’s first instinct is to remind him of all the lovely things they used to do. Like sneak around dirty alleys and picnic on non-regulation roof decks. When those triggers don’t work, Cat decides that the only thing left to do is to have sex with him.

OK, here’s what’s awful about this. She knows who he is, but he has no idea who she is. So she’s essentially having sex with a genetically modified stranger who works for a secret paramilitary assassin squad. How could this go wrong?

It does. They do the deed and he’s stoked that he scored with a random hot chick. Cat, shockingly, is appalled that her sex skills aren’t mind-blowing enough to permanently imprint on Vincent’s brain.

Coffeeshops: the hottest new place to have extremely private conversations!  Continue reading

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Episode two.

I’m convinced that a porn writer has been tasked with writing the Red Queen’s scenes in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It’s the only explanation.

The pilot could be written off as a bad mistake. Maybe after filming it, Emma Rigby looked in the mirror and thought, “I’m doing this all wrong. Why am I crying after every interaction with Jafar? That’s silly. Also, god, these duck lips have gotten out of control. Time to rein that in.”

Alas, episode two finds her fully committed to an acting choice I can only describe as “confused ex-porn star keeps thinking every scene is the one right before the fisting.”

red-queen-once-upon-a-time-in-wonderland-premiere

Surely that is the reason why we have a scene where a man with a red lightning bolt painted on his face  pumices the Red Queen’s feet as she shouts, “Harder, harder, harder!” at him. Is this some sort of weird backstage outtake from the Ziggy Stardust tour? David Bowie would never stand for this!

When Jafar shows up, freshly pumiced Red Queen purrs, “I have needs. I need to make sure you can satisfy them.” Continue reading

Reign. The pilot.

Every review I’ve read rips Reign for its historical inaccuracies.  I won’t pile on except to say: Where am I? Who are these people? Jesus Christ, is this thing even set in the 1500s? I thought this was going to be Tiger Beat Tudors but it actually appears to take place inside an Urban Outfitters.

The costumes. God, the costumes. You could write a treatise on them. Scan any scene and you’ll see dresses and hairstyles from every era in modern history:

reign

At least one of these extras giddily left hair and makeup only to arrive on-set and realize she wasn’t doing Downton Abbey. I’m devastated for her.

As if that wasn’t insulting enough, Mary’s four best friends on the show are Greer, Lola, Kenna and Ailey, name choices that indicate they were conceived in and work at Coyote Ugly. You may have heard about the “controversy” surrounding a scene with one of the girls. There’s a female masturbation scene (read: she touches her skirts and makes stripper faces) that the CW edited extensively in order to air.

The moment comes after Mary and the girls secretly watch a bedding between a French princess and her Spanish groom. It’s awful. This poor girl is being forced to lose her virginity to a stranger in front of a group of officials verifying the marriage has been consummated. Instead of being awkward and terrifying, the onlookers get super horny and one of the girls touches herself. Aren’t we so liberated on the CW? So fearless?

Give me a break. If the CW really wanted to challenge social norms about women, they’d stop portraying Mary and her friends as a witless gaggle of lovesick fashionistas and show us the reality of royal life in 1550. There are fewer dance sequences set to Mumford & Sons, but I promise it’s still compelling.

FINAL RATING

1.5 stars out of 5

The single most annoying thing about the show is that it insists on overlaying every scene with loud modern music. There are maybe two scenes of three minutes each that are soundtrack-free.

Sidenote: By my count, every CW premiere this season has used at least one Ellie Goulding song.

 

The Tomorrow People. The pilot

"Stop! We're the X-Men. No, wait, we're the Avengers. Ah, try again. We're the Justice League! Hm, not that. We're the TOMORROW PEOPLE. That can't be right."

“Stop! We’re the X-Men. No, wait, we’re the Avengers. Ah, try again. We’re the Justice League! Hm, not that. We’re the TOMORROW PEOPLE. That can’t be right.”

The premise of The Tomorrow People is that the CW has a very successful show called Arrow starring Stephen Amell. The CW found out that Stephen Amell has a similar-looking brother named Robbie. They gave him a show too. End of premise.

Calling The Tomorrow People derivative is too kind. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is derivative, but it’s also witty and fun. The Tomorrow People is a lazy mashup of about a dozen different shows and movies, some of which are currently airing on the same network.

The pilot introduces us to Stephen (Robbie Amell), an ordinary high school student blahblahblah. He’s on meds because he keeps hearing the voice of Jane Sterling from Mad Men in his head. Unfortunately for Stephen, CW writers are not Matthew Weiner so she doesn’t provide much of an inner monologue. The good news for Stephen’s mental health is that Jane Sterling is real and using telepathy to communicate with him because — guess what — they’re X-Men. Except X-Men was taken so they call themselves “the tomorrow people.” Continue reading

Sleepy Hollow. Episodes 3 and 4.

Not that you care, but there’s a ton of bad TV out there right now and I just don’t have the time to review it all. If I don’t spend a few hours tonight reading something real, I’m going to start talking like Hayley from The Originals. I need a break.

So here’s a quickie recap of what I loved about episodes three and four of Sleepy Hollow. In two words: racial stereotypes!! And we all know FOX leads the league in those.

The third episode of Sleepy Hollow might be my favorite because of the avalanche of Native American stereotypes. Here we go:

There’s only one Native American in town who…

… wears slim-fitting button-down shirts and bolo ties and…

… happens to maintain a giant teepee in the wilderness where…

… he performs shamanic rituals with his mute assistant.

In case you were worried, Ichabod Crane and Abbie survive their shamanic journey through the dream world where they encounter and defeat the Sandman (not Mariano Rivera, disappointingly, but a guy dressed in a white version of one of those green body suits you see at hockey games).

But the show isn’t done with stereotypes just yet! In the next episode, we find out that Satan has a bunch of embedded, sleeper cell minions in Sleepy Hollow. They’ve got pointy little tattoos on their bodies, they like torturing human test subjects with medical tools and, when interrogated, they swallow cyanide pills to commit suicide. You betcha: They’re Nazis. Only we’re calling them Hessians. And pretending no one has noticed the massive influx in German immigrants to Sleepy Hollow in recent years. It’s like post-World War II Argentina up in here.

FINAL RATING

2.5 stars out of 5

Listen, I don’t mind believing that Ichabod Crane thought up the Boston Tea Party. I’m along for the ride, show. But DO NOT tell me that he initiated the Tea Party during the Revolutionary War to distract the British. You have to get some things right.

Unforgivable.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. The pilot.

Grown-up Alice’s first challenge in Wonderland is to escape a lake made of marshmallows, which she does by using a tiny dragon to roast the lake into s’mores.

Hmm, Alice’s psychiatrist is totally right. It DOES sound insane when you say it out loud.

As I watched the first episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, I found myself wondering if I’ve ever seen a worse pilot. It’s amazing in the way that catastrophic floods or mine cave-ins are amazing. All you can do is stand back and wonder: How did this happen?

The short answer is that ABC’s Disney princess fanfiction Once Upon a Time is doing pretty well. And as there are a handful of beloved Disney characters who haven’t been bastardized by that program, why not give them their own spinoff?

We’ve got the usual crew from Alice in Wonderland, although Alice is about 20 years old and engaged to the genie from Aladdin (work past it), and for some reason our villain is Jafar. Who is played by Indian Lionel Richie:

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Continue reading