Cheeseburger Gothic

Travelers and Van Helsing. (Spoilers)

Posted February 9 into Telly by John Birmingham


I've been following two new shows on Netflix the last couple of weeks. Travelers and Van Helsing. Travelers is the smarter of the two, with a stronger cast and deeper script. It also seems to have more money, given it's clear advantage in production values. But I still enjoy both.

Spoilers follow. (Although mostly conceptual rather than narrative).

Travelers is a simple premise, a reworked cliche of people coming back from the future to prevent bad shit happening. That could be tedious in unskilled hands but it pays off with interest here if you're willing to ignore a couple of difficulties.

The tweak in Travelers is the way they move backwards. Unlike Smith and Cady they don't just conveniently jump into an era. Instead only the conscious mind can travel, and it can only insert itself into the mind/body of another human being, completely overwriting the personality, memories, and life of the previous occupant. For this reason the travelers take over the bodies of people about to die.

The pilot provides a series of WTF mystery moments as this process repeats itself again and again until you figure out what's happening. Things have gone horribly wrong in the far future and it seems all of the dwindling resources of mankind have been devoted to the Traveler program, to sending not just individuals back in time, but whole teams to carry out missions which will change the future and presumably Grandfather Paradox away all the bad mojo.

It could just devolve into a mission of the week series, but it doesn't. One of things that's hooked me is the prosaic difficulties the travelers have taking over the lives of people from hundreds of years in their past. Much of the drama comes not from the purely kinetic adventures, but from the lies they're forced to live and the compromises demanded of them.

It's great. Give it a look.

Van Helsing is different again. Based on a graphic novel it's more gloriously B-Movie inspired, although not as batshit B-grade as, say, Z Nation. A volcanic eruption which blots out the sun allows vampires to come out of the shadows and establish themselves at the top of the food chain. This could set up a standard Walking Dead rip off, except for the eponymous female lead: Vanessa Helsing, a woman bitten and killed in the early moments of the vampire uprising, but one who doesn't turn because of a pre-existing blood disease. Instead she becomes a sort of Buffy/Typhoid Mary imbued with vampire-killing physical skills and, more importantly, blood which is toxic to the biters. It turns them back into humans.

The first couple of eps are a bit wobbly, the acting a little wooden and even splintery, but by about six episodes in, the writers and actors have settled into their roles and it all accelerates nicely. It helps to remember that the source material is a graphic novel and that you should suspend your disbelief just that little bit harder.

But again, it's great escapist fun and well worth bingeing a couple of eps to get into.

12 Responses to ‘Travelers and Van Helsing. (Spoilers)’

Surtac mumbles...

Posted February 9
Adding them to the list now,

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 9
I was looking at Van Helsing but it made it towards the bottom of the list because it looked so cheesy - only so much time and i'm way behind on other stuff. It has been bumped up the list based on recommendation. Travellers i haven't even got around to noticing yet. Hell, i'm still watching Dirk Gently i'm that far behind.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted February 9
Yes, I enjoyed Travelers more than I expected. Action, SF concepts, but with more attention than usual to relatable human drama/melodrama about relationships and, dare I say it, feelings. I liked it.

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Aaron Campagnone swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 9
Spoiler for Van Helsing (minor)

Did anyone follow it until the bitter end.....really really poor twists (Mohamed) and silly silly character choices (doc). I think it started strong and then ran out of ideas and just threw the kitchen sink at the plot!!

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted February 10
Have you seen Westworld yet? I want to like it but it has been a slow slog for me.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 10
My mother loves that show! I've been meaning to buy it on iTunes because I don't subscribe to the only streamer here.

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted February 10
Westworld was incredible, you'll love it

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted February 11
I find it a bit frustrating, though I love the scenes with Anthony Hopkins and Jeffery Wright (who starred in Ride with the Devil and played Felix in the Daniel Craig Bond movies). However, I do get a bit tired of Ed Harris, an actor I like, with a character I should like, going on about, "The Maze is all that matters now."

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 12
I found it to be one of those shows were so much stuff like "the Maze is all that matters now" only makes sense in the final episode, where all the disparate threads you've been following either get tied up, or enough other threads get tied up to give you an insight into a particular thread. A colleague watched the whole thing again last week and said that so much of it made more sense the second time around, when he knew where it was going.

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Miss Maudy puts forth...

Posted February 10
I've just finished Travelers, and I really enjoyed it. A lot more than I was expecting - proper story and all that and not just drama of the week. I'm hoping for a second series sooner rather than later. I'm watching Riverdale and The Expanse at the moment.

ntwinter has opinions thus...

Posted March 3
I absolutely loved The Expanse. Very 'true' feeling sci-fi - gritty and down to earth with very believable concepts and characters. Hanging out for season 2!
I'm also 80% through Travelers and found it very entertaining, though I did inwardly groan at the addict character with thoughts of some predictable paths they would take.
If I had to choose I would go The Expanse with a clear win.

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Gutz mumbles...

Posted February 10
+4000 for Travellers.
I thought Eric McCormack needed to find a role far removed from Will & Grace and this is a good fit. I like the little things where they experience every day things that do not exist tine the future. Oh and MacKenzie Porter is Hawwwt!

Van Helsing? its a car crash you cannot help to watch on the off chance it gets better? C'mon it can't get worse!
Z Nation has the silly Zed shtick market locked down, so it does now leave many avenues to go down. Er if they go time traveling zombies? I will drop it like nuclear waste!

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Respond to 'Travelers and Van Helsing. (Spoilers)'

Banshee

Posted July 28, 2016 into Telly by John Birmingham

I got into the Cinemax TV series Banshee after reading a Vox.com piece on how it’s fight scenes were the best in television and better than most movies. That was enough. Take my money!

If you’re familiar with the show and up to date with the eps, you should read the Vox piece.

It wraps the four season show thus:

The series is a pure pulp amalgam of They Live, the films of John Woo, half the Vertigo comics library, and every direct-to-home-video action flick ever.

Its setting — the rural hamlet of Banshee, Pennsylvania — is likewise a melting pot of idiosyncratic elements that somehow come together beautifully. Ex-Amish crime bosses, a pitiless gang based on a Native American reservation, a whole military base’s worth of corrupt soldiers, a cross-dressing hacker, and 7-foot-tall giants are somehow all crammed into the tiny town. Oh, and everyone is a martial arts expert. Everyone.

At the center of this maelstrom is a so-far nameless former thief (played by Antony Starr) who’s spent the duration of the show posing as Lucas Hood, Banshee's new sheriff. Fresh out of jail, "Hood" soon has any thought of keeping his head down dashed, as he gets wrapped up the myriad criminal threats plaguing the town, tries to win back his former partner in crime and lover (Ivana Milicevic), and finds he can’t resist the call of his old ways.

The fourth season will, sadly, be the last. Critics loved this show, but it never found the mass audience it deserves. I suspect because the fights are so visceral. It can be hard to watch them sometimes.

It’s not streaming in Oz. I had to buy my entry via iTunes, but it was thirty bucks very well spent for that first season.

I’m just about to grab S2 now.

Season ONE is here, if you're so inclined.

8 Responses to ‘Banshee’

Barnesm asserts...

Posted July 28, 2016
TOO MUCH GOOD TELEVISION TO WATCH!!!!

FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted August 1, 2016
I don't seem to recall Stranger Things being discussed here at the burger. Has anyone put in the time on it? I found it gave me a nice feeling of nostalgia. Right down to the opening credits! Not too bad an offering all in all.

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McGuffin asserts...

Posted July 28, 2016
Last I looked, Presto was streaming Banshee. I watched the first ten minutes of it and found it so over-cooked I skipped right over it and watched The Last Ship instead. Sounds like it's worth another look...

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Jevon Kasitch puts forth...

Posted July 29, 2016
Excellent series that is everything the article makes it out to be and more. The season four wrap was satisfying in a way that most of these endings are not. They could have kept going.

Oh, the safe combination that the opening credits has means something.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted July 29, 2016
Yeah. What Barnes said. I have all the series, courtesy of a colleague who thought I might like it after hearing me bemoan the fact I'd finished Justified. I've only watched the first ep so far and it looks good, albeit crowded with backstory, flashbacks and suchlike. I should stop being distracted by The Last Ship and get back to it.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mutters...

Posted July 29, 2016
that olde timey town roadside billboard ad seems to be a goer as a theme lately. Neil Gaiman is releasing a metric truckload of his books with pulp covers, some of which are by Robert McGinnis
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2016/07/robert-e-mcginnis-and-secret-of-new.html

The Amercian Gods one coming out now because of the interest generated by the impending tv series.

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Boscolamb mumbles...

Posted July 30, 2016
Fantastic show, and it was comparable to Justified, but more splodey and action-filled. Don't get your hopes up too high for season four. The final season, with the exception of the series finale, was something of a letdown.

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Stevo would have you know...

Posted August 2, 2016
Banshee looks good, must look it up. Preacher on AMC is also a great series that just wrapped season 1. Based on the graphic novel, it's "bank robbers meet supernatural meets vampires meets the clergy, in a kooky Texas small town setting.

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Respond to 'Banshee'

How to watch television

Posted July 6, 2016 into Telly by John Birmingham

Watched the season finale of Game of Thrones yesterday. A most satisfying series, particularly when taken with Ms Girlclumsy's world-class recaps. I'm pestering her to send me all of her files so that I might publish them as an e-book. Because I am a publisher now. I live off the hard work of others.


It was a little aggravating having her recaps running here at the Burger, seeing the volumes of traffic flowing into them every Tuesday, watching the comment count get higher and higher, all while being unable to take part. That's the price I paid for sticking to a principal. I wasn't willing to pay a Foxtel subscription, or hit the bit torrents, so I had to wait.
I missed out on the weekly water cooler conversation, but in return I gained something which was just as valuable, at least for me. I could enjoy the story at my own pace. So I took in this latest series of Thrones like a novel, watching it over the course of the week, an episode or two every night. What I gave up in community I took back in the singular pleasure of being able to immerse myself in the story world of my own terms. There is something to be said for that.
By way of contrast, I'm now stuck like a schmuck waiting for Stan to drop the latest episode of The Last Ship every Monday night. Having watched the first two series on my own terms, usually in two or three episode mini-binges, it was a grinding gear change having to wait for that one little sip every week. I still love the show, but I don't enjoy being drip fed the eps.
Can we ever be happy? I love the Netflix model of dropping an entire series all at once. Even though I never binge a show from start to finish in just one or two sittings, I do like to consume them like novels. Having done that, however, there is always the sadness that comes with knowing you have reached the last page, or in this case the last scene.
We were put on this earth to suffer, my friends.

11 Responses to ‘How to watch television’

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted July 6, 2016
The way I deal with shows like Last Ship, if I'm really, truly addicted is to go cold turkey until I get the DVD or can download the whole series.
What happens is that I then need to get back into the story by watching the old ones, or the best bits of them and then ripping into the new batch. And there are some series worth buying on dvd/blue-ray instead of storing in bytes.
Its sort of like when you wait for authors to drop the next book of a trilogy or universe series. When it finally appears you then reconnect with the characters and story arcs by skimming through or re-reading the previous books and that's kinda fun.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 6, 2016
Yeah, I've found myself going back and re-watching the first two series of TLS as I wait for the latest ep to drop. Chances are I'll buy the blu ray too.

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Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 6, 2016
I prefer episodic consumption, because I like the cycle of anticipation, excitement, post-screening discussion with everyone else who has also watched it at the same time; repeat.

Unfortunately the world has moved on quite a lot, so "post-screening discussion with everyone else who has also watched it at the same time" has become a bit of a Robinson Crusoe-ish experience.

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Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted July 6, 2016
Picked up the first series of TLS on dvd yesterday while shopping for an HDMI cable for Eldest Daughter's new Apple TV. Will probably start on it tonight.

Watched Tarantino's The Hateful Eight on the weekend and found myself back in Justified mind-mode when Walton Goggins character turned up. Chris Mannix is not a million miles away from Boyd Crowder.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted July 6, 2016
We were forced to go cold turkey from free to air and decent internet due to a location move to fresh country air. So we were only watching dvds. Now that the internet problem is fixed (fixed wireless NBN) we haven't really got into series at point of showing. I've gotten over the water cooler effect/syndrome which i must admit i kinda missed. It was great chatting to friends who were watching stuff at the same time. But I find now that some shows benefited from that shared experience. Watching them down the track after the general population excitement has worn off you find the episode not as good as first raved about or it has aged a bit too much within two years or so. (Madmen kinda fits that bill. Seemed to have the same formula each episode IMO). Now it is more recommendations to friends "have you watched X? it is brilliant" or "no i haven't watched Y i'll get onto it"

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted July 6, 2016
This is how I consume series now, in fact it is how I watched this season of Game of Thrones after swearing off it last season. Still haven't seen the last few episodes of that season.

I was able to participate in the community discussion with out having seen it thanks to the excellent recapping of those like Ms Clumsy.

I will certainly wait until season 3 of TLS finished before I begin, especially after they shot my favourite character in the finale. I worry she won't be there when I start watching.

Therbs puts forth...

Posted July 6, 2016
Yeah, that was arse. Hopefully it wasn't a killing shot.

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DarrenBloomfield asserts...

Posted July 6, 2016
I did the same thing with 22.11.63 recently. And the very excellent Jessica Jones.

I refuse to watch TV any other way now. I even recorded all the GoT onto my IQ2 and watched them in batches. Watched last 2 episodes on Monday.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 6, 2016
Great series.

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slippy puts forth...

Posted July 6, 2016
I'm going to have to slow down on the second season of TLS so I don't get stuck waiting for Mondays. I might pause and read the book instead, which only entered my consciousness while looking at the wiki to figure out a sub-plot. I am enjoying something produced by Michael Bay. Who would have thought?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 6, 2016
I hear the book is great, but different.

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The Last Ship

Posted June 15, 2016 into Telly by John Birmingham

The curse of the single-season TV show is terrible indeed. Firefly is probably the most celebrated example, but there are others – great shows that never found their audience, or found them way too late. There is a version of the curse, however, which is even crueler. Shows that you mistakenly think had only one season, when they actually rolled on for many more.

I vaguely recall Murph raving about some TV show a couple years ago, maybe set on a warship, possibly at the end of the world. That was all I recalled, that and the crucial detail that it had been cancelled after 10 or 12 episodes. It sounded like the sort of thing I’d normally watch, but when The Last Ship appeared on the front page at Stan, and I thought, "Oh, there it is," I decided instead to spend my attention dollar elsewhere. Why set myself up for the disappointment. Having been left dangling by the UK show Survivors, I wasn't in the mood for another tease.

Turned out Murph hadn't been talking about The Last Ship though. He'd been done wrong by The Last Resort. The latter was set on a nuclear submarine. The Last Ship is a guided missile destroyer. "Confusion," to quote ELO's Mr Jeff Lyne. "It's such a terrible shame. Confusion – you don't know what you're sayin'."

I'm still not sure how the world went down the dunny in Resort, but on The Last Ship it's an ebola-like virus. Glancing coincidence – Survivors is also an End of the World story with a flu-like plague doing the hard yards of cutting down the potential list.

The captain and crew of the USS Nathan James avoid the collapse of civilisation (and billions of exploding bloodsacks) by virtue of having been sent to the Arctic for a top-secret weapons test. Except it's not a top-secret weapons test, a couple of scientists who tag along with them are doing even more secret research on the superbug.

That's about all the set up you need to know. The Nathan James returns from its four-month mission to find the world is falling apart and whenever they set foot on dry land they have to wear NBC suits and stay clear of the infected. Props to the producers for not firing up the zombie cannon at this point. It must have been tempting to make this The Walking Dead On Water.

It’s not. After an admittedly wobbly pilot, the series really settles down into a propulsive hybrid thriller. (Seriously, just ingnore the cheesier dialogie, cardboard characterisation, and a few continuity issues in that first ep. Everything gets better). The contagion threat is always there. You've got rogue Russians chasing them for a cure (and it is SO GREAT to have the Russians back as the villains of a military story. We missed you so much, Ivan!). There is the always exciting collapse of civilisation to deal with every ep, and the producers never lose sight of resource scarcity as both a constraint and a driver for the story engine.

It's the writing and character work that have really impressed me so far. With 200+ sailors on the ship, the crew could become ciphers. Redshirts. But they don't. The supporting cast is large, and they get some great dialogue and story arcs - more than enough to make the investment of caring about them. The headline characters (after a slightly wooden start) are all very well realised.

The writers perform a neat trick of borrowing tropes from a whole bunch of genres, so that they're not just recyling mil-fic cliches every week. There are lots of WTF plot moments, but nothing bizarre or outlandish. Simply surprising.

I'm up to episode six of season one now, and as I understand it the third season has just commenced in the US. This is what I love. A new story to invest in, and lots of chapters still ahead of me. If you're looking for something along these lines I am happy to give it a big thumbs up. Streaming now on Stan.

38 Responses to ‘The Last Ship’

Gutz mumbles...

Posted June 15, 2016
I am a bit further into the series than yourself so i will not impart anything that may be interpreted as a spoiler apart from you will encounter a few what i term to be...... "holy crap!" moments. (code for 'well i totally didn't see that coming').

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted June 15, 2016
Yeah, there's been a couple of those already. There is some good writing in this series.

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Surtac mutters...

Posted June 15, 2016
Okay. Another one to check out.

Btw JB, your earlier endorsement of Justified was spot on. I felt a bit sad when I finished it last weekend.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted June 15, 2016
I feel your sadness. Give yourself a little break, but check out Longmire next. A very different vibe, but also a great reimagining of the classic western. It's so different in tone from Justified, however, that you do need to catch your breath between them.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted June 15, 2016
OMG I love Longmire so much! I stumbled across it by accident, then binged the first two seasons in a week and a bit, just in time for season 3 to start. Thank god that when the idiots at AMC cancelled it, Netflix rode to the rescue and saved it. Long live Longmire.

Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted June 15, 2016
I used to watch it when Ch 9 was playing 'hide & seek' with in their late-night schedule. :(

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted June 15, 2016
Thanks. I shall check it out. Also, another show that has been recommended to me is Banshee. Anyone else here at the Burger know anything about that one?

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted June 15, 2016
I've not seen it yet, but it's on my list of things to catch up on. From what I've heard it's insanely violent, but not in an exploitative way, and everyone I know who's watched it raves about it quite passionately. Definitely a must see for me.

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Aaron is gonna tell you...

Posted June 15, 2016
Dang it, I had most of it series recorded off free to air (ch 11 I think) but after the first episode thought god no and deleted it all. Hopefully they repeat it.

I can recommend 'the strain' it's a vampire apocalypse series. Feels like an old school x files ep turned into a full show. Created by the guilmero del torro.

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted June 15, 2016
yeah caught this one, for me it was more the science/cure/plague scientist as hero that interested me.

So you off handed 'a couple of scientists' comment -really JB your love of explosions aside surely Dr Scott, ably played by Rhona Mitra, deserved more than such a brief description.

Smart, capable and in later episodes show to be capable of great restrained violence, but using her mind and not a gun. She was my favorite character. Her ability to invest scientific authority in what from what I know of biology some credibility stretching in terms of how the immune system works, looking at you Sorensen's lungs.


and for those wanting more of Rhona Mitra's work might I recommend Neil Marshall's sadly underrated 2008 film Doomsday or her work in the Underworld series.

I am tempted to read the novel it was based on, written by William Brinkley.

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Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted June 15, 2016
When is that asshole from Missouri not raving about something?

;)

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Dick reckons...

Posted June 15, 2016
I also recall this being on free to air some time ago, or if not this something very similar, but, typically, as soon as it got really interesting, they pulled it. Bastards.

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sharky would have you know...

Posted June 15, 2016
Yeah, I saw this on FTA Win. The last one I saw was ep 12 I think, then it stopped.

It looked like everything was wrapped up nice and neat and was the end. Then, bang, a WTF moment and it looked like it would definitely be continuing, but I have heard nothing since--Until now!
Will see if I can find season2
Thanks JB

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Mark R, Whittington swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 15, 2016
FYI The series is based loosely on a 1988 novel by the same name by William Brinkley in which the disaster is a thermonuclear war and not a plague,

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Aaron swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 15, 2016
The thing I like about the strain is the characters don't make stupid decisions (am looking at you walking dead) and the vampires are definitely not of the twilight kind.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted June 15, 2016
agree the vampires aren't the twilight kind, but I must respectfully disagree with the "characters don't make stupid decisions".

Standing around looking at photo albums knowing the Vampire Mom is due is but one example. Oh and Eprhaim choosing to hold off helping Nora make the vampire killing virus to drop Zack off in Georgia and instead of getting started on the Vamp-Virus she decides SHE HAS TO GO WITH HIM.

also I have read Zach Goodweather described as the worst character on television.

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HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted June 15, 2016
I started watching it about a month ago....IT FKN ROCKS! great cast.....and so far, pretty well done.

chrs
H

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Sparty mutters...

Posted June 15, 2016
Agree completely - love the confrontations with the Klingon D7M battle cruiser- sorry i mean Russian Navy Kirov class battle cruiser.
Season two has a great arc involving the Royal Navy (kind of)

and they actually treat subs in a vagly realistic (for TV) way and the battles have that genuine "plotted" dimension that BSG used to capture.

and yeah a fan favorite of mine got killed off (you'll know when).
sadly season premier of 3 has been postponed cause of Orlando ( and yeah i know Orlando is the actual big sadness).

still think the actor who plays the captain, models himself on, well the best captain the world has ever (or will ever see)...

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted June 15, 2016
Jim Kirk, of course.

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BostonJoe would have you know...

Posted June 16, 2016
One of my all time favorite shows that never made it to season 2 was Space, Above and Beyond. It had a great story line and seemed to be really hitting it stride when it got the axe. It took me years to forgive FOX for that one then they went and did it again with Firefly.

James Morrison as Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius 'T.C.' McQueen was badass.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 16, 2016
I am in furious agreement with you. I loved that show.

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted June 17, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKbMq-8kAAo

tqft would have you know...

Posted June 18, 2016
Watch your six

I do own the DVD set.

The story could be brought back and rebooted (as suggested down thread) with the original actors - having all been imprisoned for the duration

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Gutz would have you know...

Posted June 16, 2016
One show that aired in 2014 that only had 10eps for season one. Seems possibly to be continuing in 2016? (not sure if a release date for season 2 has been confirmed). Marco Polo. It chronicles his adventures during an indenture within Kublai Khan's court in the 13th century Mongolia. Only 10 eps. But give me those instead of 'someones got talent who can cook while renovating a house and getting married to their next door neighbor that they have never met show' any day.

Surtac asserts...

Posted June 16, 2016
How did I miss this, given my known obsession for all things Mongol?

Must seek it out immediately.

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Gutz swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 16, 2016
One show that aired in 2014 that only had 10eps for season one. Seems possibly to be continuing in 2016? (not sure if a release date for season 2 has been confirmed). Marco Polo. It chronicles his adventures during an indenture within Kublai Khan's court in the 13th century Mongolia. Only 10 eps. But give me those instead of 'someones got talent who can cook while renovating a house and getting married to their next door neighbor that they have never met show' any day.

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Aaron reckons...

Posted June 16, 2016
Barnes those decisions do sound dumb but have only seen 7 eps so far.
Space above and beyond was promising would love a relaunch. In fact I don't why if the idea is good why not have another go?

I feel a mass geek out coming on

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Roger Ward mumbles...

Posted June 16, 2016
I'm still lamenting over the ending of Deadwood.

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William swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 16, 2016
I've been into The Last Ship since it started and if you are buying it to keep definitely get the blu-rays, it looks great. Great production values too and it uses FX to expand the story not just for explody things.

Agree with everything you've said about the character arcs...But it does start to take a leaf out of GoT's playbook eventually.

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robW puts forth...

Posted June 16, 2016
Hate to reclaim Murphy's stolen thunder, but it was me who brought up the subject of The Last Ship being made into a series. It didn't make an impression on the list, and I am not to be confounded with Murphy in any way...

McSteamy of the McSteamy & McDreamy pair (Grey's Anatomy) was cast as lead, and the original novel THE LAST SHIP was ruined and raped in the process. THE LAST SHIP was William Brinkley's last novel, and I thought it was a powerful one.

The opening sequence of the novel, in which the ship's crew dispassionately and deliberately and professionally delivers its nukes, was--no pun intended--a killer. Brinkley's feel for life aboard a ship was good, the way he described a ship at sea above the 60th parallel was spot on, but I think he was sick with cancer when he wrote the novel and it shows toward the end.

Nukes not being fearsome anymore--hey, everybody has one, right--the television producers recast the novel as a bug hunt, and it has degenerated into yet another endless soap series with McSteamy starring.

I don't know whether the novel is still readable or not. Like reading any old stuff you wonder where the cell phones went and why there is no mention of the Internet. Whatever the case, I still recommend the prologue and first chapter--i.e. the storyline up to and including the launch of the nukes. It's worth the purchase prices just for the first 50 pages. It's a compelling, horrifying piece of writing, but probably best understood by those who remember when nukes were horrifying pieces of warfare.

Today people are much more jaded. A nuke is Meh. An imbecile with a rifle in Orlando, Florida inspires much more terror than a Peacekeeper MX with a 300 kiloton yield upgradable to 475 kilotons. A nuke these days is BORING.

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted June 17, 2016
Well, to be fair, not every conversation I have with John takes place on this blog.

That said, robW may well have beat me to it.

Or may not.

I can not recall.

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Vovchara mumbles...

Posted June 17, 2016
couldn't get over suddenly appearing helicopters in pilot and another stupid plot where they had to pull a huge warship with improvised sails ><. The obvious fact the writers missed 3rd grade math was also returning aspect of the show.

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Helical is gonna tell you...

Posted June 18, 2016
I watched a few episodes when it first aired on 9 and loved it, though I did yell at the TV when the Russians came flying in with western helicopters (As355's from memory). Unfortunately I just don;t get around to watching TV other than Game of Thrones and the occasional doco really. Might have to download and finish watching the whole series.

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Guy ducks in to say...

Posted June 21, 2016
I certainly share your pain over Survivors, but would urge you to check out the original version from the early 1970s - http://amzn.to/28LwAl6

It was considerably more realistic than the remake, with none of the nonsense about secret labs and government conspiracies.

It was a bit like the Day of the Triffids without the Triffids or the Walking Dead without the Zombies.The writer, Terry Nation (the bloke who invented the Daleks) realised that trying to survive in a world where almost everyone else had died was terrifying enough. All the monsters were ordinary people.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 22, 2016
Added to my list. Thx.

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted June 22, 2016
I've just finished S2 of TLS now and I am addicted. It just gets better with every ep, which is what you want in a TV series. The things that have impressed me most have been the moral choices, the character arcs and the long form study of leadership. It's like a modern Star Trek.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted June 22, 2016
fkn gotta finish me binge on Entourage first..then its the SHIP oh yeah baby!!!!!!

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TheWah swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 26, 2016
Against the odds I've quite enjoyed this show. Well into series 2 and happy to watch more.

I will say this - If I am ever shot in a combat situation I won't stoically hide my wound on the ride home. I'll tell everyone around me and give them 5 minute updates - "Still shot over here". The Last Ship has taught me that stoics die

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One. More. Sleep

Posted April 24, 2016 into Telly by girlclumsy

Greetings, Burgers and Beloved Throners!

There is just one more sleep until Game of Thrones Season Six is unleashed on the world with the kind of terrifying passion I would unleash on Jon Snow if only he would let me.

I'm so thrilled to be writing my Raven On recaps here on Cheeseburger Gothic, a blog I've followed ever since I met JB in 2007.

If you'd have asked my teenaged self, giggling at her favourite book The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, whether a mere *cough cough* years later, she would be writing deep, mature analysis on a worldwide phenomenon on that same author's website, she would have been stunned. In fact, current Natalie is also stunned, as I usually stick to juvenile ogling and overly emotional rants, so I'm going to have to pull something sensible out of the fire this season.

Season Six is particularly special because of how it has united the book readers and the show watchers for the very first time. We are all in - to quote a playwright who coincidentally died 400 years ago this weekend - "the undiscovered country".

To mark the occasion, my podcast buddy Stuart Layt and I recorded a preview podcast in which we ramble on like Sam Tarly after a few good books.

You can subscribe to Raven On via iTunes, or find it here.

I'm also experimenting with Patreon this season - asking readers who can afford it to pledge $1 per recap. You can check out details of why I'm trialling this here.

I also have a Facebook page, which is full of the most delightful people, all obsessed Throners.

And please join me this week for my first recap of the season - and very first one here at Cheeseburger Gothic.

Valar Morghulis!

4 Responses to ‘One. More. Sleep’

dweeze mumbles...

Posted April 24, 2016
Yay for Clumsy Nat. Boo for not being able to watch Se06 until it's all over. Boo for not being able to join in the party. Boo for no Raven On for me. Can you archive these columns (posts and communts) please?

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Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted April 24, 2016
Not a Game of Thrones fan myself but I am a GirlClumsy Fan. I've got your back.

As soon as I get paid this Friday.

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JBtoo is gonna tell you...

Posted April 25, 2016
I can't find your Facebook page Natalie, what should I search for?

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted April 27, 2016
Does that help?
https://www.facebook.com/nataliesthrone

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Outlander

Posted April 12, 2016 into Telly by John Birmingham

Outlander has changed my opinion about romance writing, the same way George RR Martin changed my opinion about fantasy writing (with a little help from Steve Stirling and Peter V Brett). Diana Gabaldon's time travelling thriller has plenty of action, lots of blood, villains of the darkest heart, a kick-arse female protagonist, and a surprising amount of sex. Surprising to me, anyway. As I said, this TV series has changed my opinion about romance writing. Apparently it's a lot raunchier these days.

The second series is airing in the US, but the first has recently dropped on Netflix here. Were it not for that, and an enthusiastic write-up in Esquire, I probably wouldn't have caught it. And that would have been a shame, because Outlander marks the return to the small screen of Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D Moore. He's also Star Trek's Ronald D Moore, but Galactica is what he is known for these days. On the evidence of the first couple of eps of Outlander, his latest series is better than BSG. There. I said it.

The premise is engaging in and of itself. Clair Beauchamp (pronounced 'Beachum' in the English fashion) is in Scotland to reconnect with her husband after the Second World War. She served as a nurse on the front lines, which will soon become important. He worked behind a desk in military intelligence. They didn't see each other for many years. They visit the Scottish Highlands for a second honeymoon, never really having had a first one. Their careful, slightly awkward attempts to get to know each other again are well handled and strangely compelling – at least for me. I don't normally dig on emotionally driven narrative, but this shit is mesmerising.

Moore, who wrote and directed the first episode takes the time to make us care about Gabaldon's characters. And then he tears them apart, throwing Claire back 200 years via some druidic jiggery pokery. She lands in the middle of a small but violent battle between Redcoats and Jacobin insurgents. Oops.

Her physical and emotional dislocation is totally believable, and all of the time spent building her backstory pays off when she applies the lessons learned surviving massive, industrial scale slaughter in World War II, to the equally challenging threats of a much earlier period in history. I'm only three episodes in, but I'm already hooked. Claire is not my usual sort of female hero. She doesn't even know kung fu. But she does know enough history and medicine to keep herself alive in the implacably hostile way-back-when and Gabaldon's twists and turns of plot are perfectly suited to long form television.

The period detail is rich and dense. You can feel her abject misery at being dropped into the real life squalor of a 17th century castle which she had recently experienced only as a quaint ruin. Every scene is so layered with this detail that it's tempting at times to hit pause simply to enjoy picking apart the set dressing.

The violence, befitting the preindustrial era, is intimate. Brutal, too. There is no squeamishness here. Bones break, flesh rends, blood flows freely. The characters whether central or bit player, are beautifully drawn, the actors having some excellent scripts to sink their teeth into.

If you've put off watching because Gabaldon is sold as a romance writer, get over it. This is the best time travel yarn I've seen in ages.

30 Responses to ‘Outlander’

jason would have you know...

Posted April 12, 2016
Perfect timing. I just finished Sense8 (awesome) and was looking for another binge worthy series.

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Sootynewt puts forth...

Posted April 12, 2016
Coincidence just started series today up to episode six well worth watching

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dman69 has opinions thus...

Posted April 12, 2016
I'd forgotten how raunchy the books were until we started watching this! Too true about it being a binge series - three episodes is the minimum for one sitting...

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Amanda would have you know...

Posted April 12, 2016
I will be interested to see what you think as the story evolves. It is so much more than romance! The cast, crew and author are really engaging on discussion panels and interviews, and as a fan of the book series, I have loved hearing about the adaptation process etc.

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Surtac asserts...

Posted April 12, 2016

Sigh. Another one to add to the list.

Btw, I'm on the third season of Justified now and thoroughly enjoying it.

Thinking of freaking out my work colleagues by changing my phone ringtone to the Gangstagrass theme tune.

Totally off-topic, but while I'm here: I came across a software product for Macs today that does ebook typesetting. Have a look at Vellum to see if it meets your needs.


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FormerlyKnownAsSimon has opinions thus...

Posted April 12, 2016
So is this the place where we can finally offload that I have actually read about 3 books in this series? (gimme a break it was a wet beach holiday with nothing else to do. Time travel is scifi/fantasy!). Romance is a rabbit hole best not to go down with its readership - it is varied and passionate.

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Blarkon puts forth...

Posted April 12, 2016
Dunno about time travel stories that don't involve Deloreans, Police Boxes, Starships or entire FKN aircraft carrier battle groups.

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JBtoo mutters...

Posted April 12, 2016
The books started off really well; richly depicted historical fiction, based on solid research,with a fantasy twist - what's not to love. I thought the series went on too long and got a bit silly. I'll be interested to see how the TV version goes.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted April 12, 2016
I have a policy against period drama.
Recreations/ dramatisation in crap docos can be a deal breaker.
But it's time travel. So it's sort of SF. But it's Druidy which is close enough to Greybeard to warrant suspicion.
Much thinking this will require.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted April 12, 2016
La Bobette is reading Dragonfly in Amber. This is not an endorsement.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted April 12, 2016
"better than BSG" yeah but if this is series four BSG that's a pretty low bar.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted April 12, 2016
Somebody had to say it. And it had to be you.

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 12, 2016
I love this show so much, and it's been adapted from the books with much love and faith and attention to detail. The books are monsters, these things are frigging doorstops, so adapting it for TV is a bigger challenge than you think. Gabaldon's idea of a "short story" is any other author's idea of a full length novel.

I've just started season 2, via means best not mentioned, and the first episode was an absolute punch in the gut grip you by the throat job, so it's only going from strength to strength. Those of you who can now binge season 1 in its entirety, without having a 4 month break in the middle of the season like the rest of us did, will be spared a world of teeth gnashing angst at the cliff hanger we were left on. There were memes.

I'm not even going to start with the "if you loved X you'll love Outlander..." comparisons, it's time travel via Stonehenge, there's blood, guts, sex, rebellion, politics, did I mention sex?, and a heap of well handled WTF moments, as Claire's proto-feminist 1945 assumptions smash up against the societal expectations of 1745 and leave her reeling. This is handled beautifully, because her native time is as alien to us in some ways as the time she's thrust into, and it's super compelling.

And if you're still put off by the romance tag, this show (and the book) is surprisingly brutal. Not GoT torture porn brutal, but real world, inescapable, shock you brutal. My best friend and I made a pact to watch a certain episode together because we'd read the books and knew what was coming, and she didn't have the stomach to sit through it alone.

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JPetherick is gonna tell you...

Posted April 12, 2016

My wife was anxiously awaiting the start of Season 2 on Showcase in Canada. It is quite good television drama, regardless of genre, with probably the most realistic depiction of sex and violence available right now. And the characters suffer from that violence for more than a single episode. There is definitely a reason that it is broadcast at 10 pm on Sunday night, well after the kiddies are in bed. And, to be honest, way more male nudity than female ... which may be why my wife likes it so much. The episode that you mention - well, I haven't seen it's like on television for some time.



she_jedi mumbles...

Posted April 12, 2016
I don't think I've ever seen its like; it's not something that would ever have made it on to a commercial channel. This is the great strength of the cable channels, they have the freedom and often courage to push the envelope way beyond their audience's level of comfort.

The brilliance, if I can call it that, of the direction and staging of that episode is that the events in that episode are so pivotal to the story as a whole, to have shied away or edited what happened in any way would be detracted entirely from the story, and damaged the credibility of the series as a whole. I deeply respect the producers and show runners from not flinching from this one in the slightest, they did an amazing job.

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Miss Maudy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 12, 2016
I've just started watching the series (well, I've just watched Episode six, after which I needed a cold flannel and a lie down, followed by a couple of episodes of Daredevil to recover my equilibrium) after reading all the books. It's so well researched and so well written that I look forward to the next one even though it's going to be yearsandyearsandyears. It's not often the actors in a telly show are exactly how they're imagined, but oh my goodness, they are.

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WarDog reckons...

Posted April 12, 2016
Really? Truly?
Gee JB all that credit you built up with me over the years, down the gurgler in one post. We kept watching this til the last episode of season 1 hoping that it would finally redeem itself. In the end we just wanted those hours back.
And there was nothing wrong with BSG until the final 2 episodes of season 9 when the writers (or whoever replaced the writers they must have shot) went all Deus Ex Machina.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted April 13, 2016
BSG had nine seasons, who knew?

WarDog puts forth...

Posted April 13, 2016
John I thought we had a no cylons policy on this list.

Barnesm asserts...

Posted April 13, 2016
I'm not a cylon! - though that's just what a deep cover cylon would think.

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Rob ducks in to say...

Posted April 13, 2016
those are my wife's favourite books. Our conversations go like this,
me: what are you reading?Her:outlander again, I love her diologue, such good stories.Her: what are you reading?me: turtledoveHer: nazis or lizard stories?Me: lizards again, the nazi stories are miserableHer: Just read Dave Hooper again, or something happy you miserable bastard.

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Spanner has opinions thus...

Posted April 13, 2016
Damn you JB! Damn you to heck. Just when I got my Netflix addiction under control and back under my download limit you come along and do this. Imma get MrsS to hold you personally responsible when our internet gets throttled (again)

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Tourist has opinions thus...

Posted April 13, 2016
I've found Outlander to be the perfect thing to share with Mrs Tourist. It provides the a good balance of swords and muskets to keep me interested, and dashing Scottish boys saying romantic things so that Mrs Tourist can get her fill of romance... and by that I mean alternating between looking wistfully at the TV and back at me in that "why can't you be more like that" way.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted April 13, 2016
Time Travel? All you really need is The Time Tunnel.

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Sandra R ducks in to say...

Posted April 14, 2016
I'm so glad you like it, and I'd love your thoughts once you've seen the first series, especially as this show is genuinely shown through the female gaze. Episode 7 is on repeat in this house. As much as it's centred around a central female lead, Tobias Menzies steals every scene he's in, and you're going to loathe him by the end. Thankfully, the first series was a great adaptation of the book, it's so good to see my favourite series come to life. It's one long love letter to Scotland.
The books are huge, dense and extensively researched, whether it be a herbal remedy, Gaelic phrases, 18th century surgical techniques or obscure battle references, but they are very hard to define. Historical romance they definitely are not! I love them all, but books 2 and 3 are especially good. Get into Season 2 as soon as you can.



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AuntyLou swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 15, 2016
Well I started watching this a week or so ago. A number of female friends were waxing lyrical about it. So far the most interesting bit has been recognising that the castle in episode 2 is the same one used by the Monty Python crew for Holy Grail. Hubby & I spent a lovely afternoon singing silly songs on the grounds of Doune Castle whilst using (attraction supplied!) coconut halves as nature intended ie percussive instruments. That is about it for me. The girls assure me that I will change my tune around episode 7. I don't do swooning over muscles...so we will see.

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Mike mutters...

Posted April 16, 2016
Damn really? I figured this HAD to be terrible, but now I need to watch it.

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CathieT swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 18, 2016
I read the books several millennia ago - and was delighted to hear that the series was on Netflix and even more delighted to see the lady author herself as an executive consultant.
Up to Ep 7 (small binge) and am really enjoying it.

I could say that Sam Heughan is a fabulous James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser - but I don't want to demean this post by bletherin' on all girly like aboot his muscles, so I'll just pull up right here!!

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Sue has opinions thus...

Posted May 16, 2016
I can't believe you didn't even mention Jamie.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 16, 2016
Ah, when I wrote this post, I had really progressed far enough through the series to see how important he'd become.

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