Black Mirror: USS Callister

Black Mirror is a science fiction show on Netflix that explores the darker side of technology and science. Many of the plot lines are dark and disturbing, with unsettling endings. One recent episode has been called out for being a fun homage to Star Trek, and so last night we sat down and watched it.

** SPOILERS BELOW **

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Watching Brooklyn 99

My wife is much more versed in the world of modern TV shows, and so many times she sees shows long before I do. One of them that she’s really enjoyed lately has been Brooklyn 99. She’s been encouraging me to watch it, and since she was right about Parks & Rec, I decided to give it a try.

The past few weeks we’ve been blowing through the first 4 seasons and are getting close to being caught up with the broadcast. Being a 22 minute show, it’s really easy to just cram a bunch of episodes into an evening while we’re doing nothing. It’s a nice mindless show that you don’t need to invest too much intellect in to enjoy.

The plot of the show follows a rag tag group of detectives from the 99th precinct as they solve crimes around New York. It’s setup as a sit-com and and is genuinely funny most of the time. The lead detective, Jake, is quirky and messy, but he’s also brilliant, solving crimes and arresting bad guys like crazy. However, one of the best characters on the show is Raymond Holt. The dry, non-nonsense captain of the precinct with deadpan humor expressions and delivery. He is often one of the most hilarious characters in an episode.

One of the cool things about binging a show that’s taken years to make is how you see the characters grow. Seeing the actors really develop their characters into more than caricatures of themselves. Seeing Holt develop into a real person with a personality, and seeing Jake grow up, has been a really fun thing to see. And, you only really see that type of thing when you’re watching it in such a compressed format.

If you’re looking for something fun to watch, that doesn’t take much brain power, check out Brooklyn 99.

Stranger Things 2

Last year, everyone I know was enthralled by Stranger Things. I know I personally loved the wonderful 80’s geeky vibe, and the weird mix of sci-fi with a Goonies/Stand By Me vibe. It was a beautiful series with all the right touches to make you feel like you were right there in the 1980s again trying to figure out problems without the benefit of more recent technology. With a show as successful as this, you have to expect that there will be a sequel.

To be honest I was worried. I loved the mystique of the first series so much that I didn’t want to risk anything ruining it for me. I knew at some point I was going to need to just do it though, and so last weekend the wife and I binged all 9 episodes. Before I drop into spoiler territory (below the fold) let me give the tl;dr: I enjoyed Stranger Things 2, and if you enjoyed the first one, you probably will to.

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Quick Review: The Orville

The other night we started watching the new series The Orville. I am a huge fan of the movie Galaxy Quest, and this show seemed to be another lampooning of the whole Star Trek-style genre. It stars Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame, so I went into this assuming a lot of laughs.

I’m not going to go into a lot of depth in this review, because I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. The one thing I will say though is that it’s actually a slightly more serious show than I was expecting. There’s a lot of comedy to be sure, but it actually has some drama. This actually keeps in line with Star Trek which often dug into deep complex issues. The issues in The Orville aren’t quite as profound, but they’re not just dismissed with a joke.

The special effects are actually really good for a comedy show, and overall the writing has been witty and well paced. I’ve really enjoyed how human the crew feels, and not some idealized notion of what an “officer” should be like. Despite how much I love Star Trek, sometimes people are a bit too white-bread. In The Orville, there’s a lot of down-to-earth characters.

Oh, and the bridge has cup-holders.

Check out The Orville. It’s on Hulu right now, but you’ll need to catch up quick because the old episodes will start dropping off in a week or so.

Quick Review: The Defenders

The wife and I finally got done watching the latest in the Netflix Marvel extravaganza, The Defenders. In order to get to The Defenders we had to suffer through the mediocrity that was Iron Fist, but frankly, seeing how Danny Rand was portrayed in The Defenders made everything in Iron Fist make a lot more sense.

If you’re not familiar with The Defenders, this is a superhero team-up show that brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and all of their supporting cast. Throughout all of the previous series there have been whispers and confrontations with the mysterious group, The Hand. The Defenders completes this storyline by introducing the full leadership of The Hand, and the reason for all of their nefarious deeds.

One of the best parts of The Defenders is seeing the four heroes try and relate to one another. Each of these characters is so very different, that putting them all in the same room and having them work together was amazing and really well written. It’s obvious that these people will never be best friends with each other, but they form a working relationship of respect. It’s a team-up that gets the job done when everything is crumbling around them.

I mentioned Danny Rand before, and something that I noticed in The Defenders is that he was still the whiny rich kid. There would be deep rich dialogue between all the other characters, and then as soon as Danny came on the screen, the script would devolve. It convinced me that all of the annoyances of Iron Fist are actually there on purpose. They want his character to be this way because it allows them to put him in circumstances that highlight his stunted personality. In some ways it’s brilliant writing, but man can it be hard to watch.

The Defenders is only 8 episodes, but that’s all that is needed to get the job done. Of course the ending sets up the next round of seasons for each of the shows, and strongly hints at storylines that are ripped right out of the comic books. I’m excited to see what the next seasons of these shows have in store for us, and hope that we continue to get really great television for a while longer.