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"The Expanse". You're gonna need a VPN

Posted November 25, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

The pilot ep of SyFy's big bet on space based... er... sci-fi has dropped pretty much everywhere but here. The producers went with a broadside releasing the opener on pretty much every digital distribution channel worth its pixels. But none of them DownUnder.

Weirdly enough SyFy's local web site invites locals to view the premiere just like they had the same rights and priveleges as anyone. But if you try to play the vid you get put in your place, hard.

Luckily, God gives us VPNs for these trying moments. I dodged around the geoblock yesterday and took in the first installment. Sorry, Murph, I enjoyed it. The Zero G fx in the first scene are top shelf, and the action on Ceres, the space station where a lot of the action in S1 will play out was both, ahem, expansive and claustrophobic. There were some echoes of the greats in there. Some Deep Space Nine. A little BladeRunner. Possibly even a nod to Justified although Detective Miller wears a stupid hat in the books too. It's almost a supporting character.

Thomas Jane's Miller looks suitably sketchy and dangerous. Steven Strait as Holden is a great realisation of the written character, but he's not my realisation of the written character, damn it. I thought the physiological stretching of the Belters was brilliant and unlike some of the critics I wasn't much bothered by the density and complexity of the storyline – possibly because I've read the books.

It did take a while settling into the on screen personas and faces of characters I'd come to know so well on the page, and it was kind of a bummer already knowing who would live and die. But maybe the show runners will diverge a little. Critical reaction has been violently diverse, but I'm gonna go with hopeful anticipation.

If enough people are interested I'm happy to do a recap as new episodes air.

39 Responses to ‘"The Expanse". You're gonna need a VPN’

Barnesm asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015
Without admitting anything about how, I too enjoyed the first episode, and unlike Murphy I really enjoyed the books so there was a lot riding on me it for me.
This, like Amzon's Man in the High Castle, I am happy to hand over cash the minute I can to obtain/see legally.
I don't promise not to use some fairly easy tech to see it prior to that if I am made to wait much longer.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2015
I understand and excuse your needs.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015
John, you need to start a thread on The Man in the High Castle.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015
Yes, but I need to watch it first.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015
John did see this post

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted November 25, 2015
So strange to see an actor who portrayed Alexander Hamilton in the HBO miniseries John Adams playing a Nazi SS Officer.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted November 26, 2015

oh Jessica Jones is my best thing to watch at the moment.


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Blarkon asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015
I'm happy to wait until the first season or two turn up on Blu-Ray - though I have little faith in SyFy being able to monetise something when the majority of their audience believes that it is their spaghetti monster given right to view via BitTorrent.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2015
I was really hoping I could buy a season pass on iTunes.

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Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015
Guilty, didn't like the first book. In fact, it is the worst case of broken suspense of disbelief I have ever suffered as a fiction writer. For instance, I normally like noir style detectives, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me why I should give a shit about the one in this novel.

But the worst offense has to be the XO of the Canterbury, Holden.

I've suffered some bad leadership in my time in the military and in the civilian world. I've seen my fair share of full on fucking morons, one of which WAS the Executive Officer for 1-5 Field Artillery during Operation Desert Storm, Major Callahan. Folks talked about fragging his ass all the time and if an opportunity presented itself, someone probably would have done the deed.

Holden, from the start, is clearly a monumental fuck up of the first order. Discharged from the UN Navy for terminal stupidity, we get an inside look where he is having an internal monologue with himself about how he'd tell his CO to fuck off if he was ordered to fire on a civilian ship.

I put up with that. I put up with the fact he was predictably fucking one of his crew mates. I even put up with the very questionable decision to make this guy a main character when, if I were his Captain his ass would be chained to the reactor charged with cleaning the crevices of it with a tooth brush.

But the kicker HAS to be the moment, after the destruction of the Canterbury by what may or may not be the Martian Navy, is when he BREAKS comms silence and starts blathering away on the open air. In my head I'm wondering the following:

1. Why didn't another crew member go up there with a heavy object, bash his fucking head in, and throw him out the airlock. "I'm taking command of what is left of this goat fuck. This guy has clearly, and completely fucking lost it. Any objections?"

2. Why isn't an advanced warship using, at the very minimum, passive jamming to block any comms period?

3. Why would the crew of the Martian ship, particularly the Captain, give two shits about a transmission designed to be an insurance policy.
Aboard the Martian Naval Vessel Ares:

"Did you find that other contact?" the Captain asks.

Weapons, "I have had her on my screen the entire time."
"Destroy it too."
"But, they sent a transmission."
"Which will take light minutes to reach anyone who would even remotely care. I'm sure the Admiralty will come up with a story for it. People die in space all the time. Oh, where is that ECCM officer? Put them on Captain's Mast for incompetence."
"Aye, engaging contact."
Five seconds later. BOOM.
Or, if I really wanted to save this collection of terminal fuckwits for later in my novel, I might have had them evade to the surface of the asteroid, losing themselves in the surface clutter, or pull a Han Solo by boosting directly at the last known position of the Martian Navy based upon their fix of the weapons which had been discharged.
In any case, as I've told John before in more than one rant through Facetime, I can not for the life of me figure out why someone, if not an editor, somewhere, didn't ask all of the same questions I keep asking. Holden is clearly too fucking stupid to live.



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Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015
And on the off chance that perhaps I'm the only one who missed the point I went off just now to read the lowest rated reviews at Amazon.
Apparently I'm not the only one who got off the train a third of the way in. And vomit-zombies? Ah, what the fuck? I'm sick of zombies, walkers, and what have you. If the Martians fired on the Canterbury for that reason then I'd absolutely make sure I killed everyone.

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BrianC has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2015
Murph
He was a civie 2nd officer of the dumping ground ship of a second rate ney third rate shipping company. I found his actions to be totally believable indeed infuriatingly so.
But horses for courses I guess

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2015
Brian, as I've said before, I have met no fair shortage of incredibly stupid, incompetent people.

Holden? I can't believe he can tie his own shoelaces. I can't believe anyone, even a bunch of other drooling incompetents, would follow him anywhere. And big surprise, he was fucking someone on the ship and she was about to tell him she was pregnant.

They broke the bullshit detector with that one.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 26, 2015

I also like the epiphany Miller has where he realizes he is a washed up detective links his hero's journey to that of Holden's -both flawed and fallen but both capable of redemption through the hero's journey.


Its the description when Miller realizes that the archetype of the old hand who thinks even though they are bitter and cynical still believes they are respected by their peers but is really dismissed.

"So I pick the guy who maybe used to be good, but then got a divorce. Started hitting the bottle. Guy still thinks he's a hotshot. Acts like it. Only his numbers aren't better than anyone else's. Give him the shit cases. The Shit partner".- Octavia Muss

Sometimes I worry that's me at work.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted November 25, 2015
Murphy I have previously read how you didn't like it, didn't realise you only got a third of the way through Leviathan Wakes. Its interesting what engages different readers in so many different ways and what we find goes beyond each of our willing suspension of disbelief.
One of the parts I found very engaging was consistent and hence believable for me Newtonian Physics displayed in the world. The setting of a solar system only a few centuries ahead where millions now live in the outer solar system. Also I have read one or two zombie tales, and like all good zombie stories, its never about the zombies.

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015
Frankly, Al Reynolds did it far better, Barnes. Most of this uses the bones of Reynolds' novels to include Chasm City, Pushing Ice, and The Prefect. It reads like a sad fan fiction of Reynolds' work, to be brutally honest.

I don't begrudge writers, even writers I don't like personally (I do not really know the writers behind this pen name) their success.

What I fail to see is why they are even remotely successful in the first place.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted November 25, 2015
Well they certainly aren't the only writers whose significant success is a mystery to many.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 26, 2015
Shut up you!

Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted November 26, 2015
Barnesm LOL.Belated thanks to whoever put in a good word for Jessica Jones on netflix a few weeks ago.Can't stop watching it & am finally feeling that something out there is compensating for no 3rd season of the Sarah Connor Chronicles.'you keep pushing people away,'Jess: 'And yet, you're still here.'Love, love, loving it.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted November 26, 2015

Another great line

HOGARTH: You need to control yourself. You are coming off distinctly paranoid.

Jessica: Everyone keeps saying that, it's like a conspiracy.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted November 26, 2015
Yeah, it's an awesome show. I'm gonna write something up next week. The one problem with the Netflix model, though. Everyone is at different stages in the series.

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S.M. Stirling ducks in to say...

Posted November 26, 2015
I read this in manuscript -- Daniel and Ty were in my writer's group (I'm having thanksgiving dinner with Ty and Walter John Williams).

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted November 26, 2015
I realize they probably get told this all the time, but their's was/is my favorite book(s) to read last year/this year.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted November 26, 2015
So . . . I should let this go, I know I should but . . . the Holden character got through an entire writer group without anyone throwing up a red flag?

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted November 26, 2015
ha. Murph are you sure there isn't some kind of small terrier in your ancestry?

Barnesm mutters...

Posted November 26, 2015

I think some of the attributes about Holden that bug you, like how he breaks comms silence to broadcast about what they found implicating Mars seems to be a defining characteristic of the man and is reflected and commented on by significant characters in the story who have to deal with Holden.

If its any consolation the find it a major flaw in the man as well almost pathological.

So with regard to the writers room, using an old tech vernacular maybe 'its not a bug, its a feature' of the Holden Character.

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 26, 2015
Simon, there is a reason the Brits finally gave up on us.
Barnes, I did a google search using the phrase, "Leviathan Wakes, why is Holden such an idiot?"

What I got was a Reddit discussion with the phrase, "Pulling a Holden."

My problem is that it may be a feature but it should have gotten him killed along with anyone else around him. He is simply, in my humble opinion, too fucking stupid to live. Reading wiki summaries on follow on novels were even more horrifying, given that the idiot manages to live through every novel.

If I had been on that ship, I'd have spaced his ass and taken command. I wouldn't follow him out of a burning building.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted November 26, 2015

So what you are saying is that if I see the appearance of a character in the story who seems to be a thinly veiled version of you I should expect the demise of James Holden shortly after.

I'll keep an eye out.

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted November 27, 2015
Barnes, I sorely doubt you'll ever see such a character. But if they want to Tuckerize me in order to kill Holden off, they should call me. I'll even write the scene.

S.M. Stirling is gonna tell you...

Posted November 30, 2015
Murph: the reason the Brits gave up was the French Navy.

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted November 30, 2015
Hey, don't puncture my myths, buddy!!! <GRIN>

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted November 26, 2015

I dread to imagine what you would have thought of the Martian Marine Bobbie Draper.



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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted November 26, 2015
Holden is the 'holy fool', the blind and dangerous optimist. Miller is the constant cynic, dangerous in a different way. They authors wanted to set up that idealism/cynicism dialectic so they could poke around the middle ground in an narratively interesting way.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted November 26, 2015
OOOhh that's even better than redemption through hero's journey idea.

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 27, 2015
Oh, so it is Don Quixote.
Still doesn't redeem it for me.

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Blake asserts...

Posted December 23, 2015
I find Holden believable because he reminds me a bit of me. I dont think he is completely stupid, he has some measure of competency. But he's an idealist and idealists are prone to moments of emotion driven stupidity. I once had a stand up arguement with a good portion of my snr management in front of a couple of hundred staff. May not have done my progress very well but the general populace seemed to think i was a bit of a hero and i kept getting pats on the back from random people in the lift because i 'stuck it to the man'I hadnt really set out to be some kind of elevator hero, i was just sticking up for my ideals and didnt give a shit what the fallout was. ( i came pretty close to resigning that day, but instead followed it up with a bit more holden-esque emails)
Its been a while since I'd read it but i recall thinking that he wasn't jammed /killed was because the mysterious party had largely set the whole thing up as a catalyst to escalate tensions between Earth and Mars.
I think the reason these type of works become successful is because most people can ignore shit like that when there is otherwise splosions and intrigue. Look at dan brown.
I personally have little interest in technical detail in books, i must confess i skim read most of the technical guff in the early parts of AoT, although i did wikipedia warship classifications at some point so i could at least contextualise the difference between a frigate and a cruiser.
Each to their own, although a friend of mine when tasked with reviewing a local pulp writers awards told me on one novel she had cast it aside in the first sentence, because the opening similie was crap. I do wonder if she does that, how many Hitchhikers guides get lost because bricks just don't hang in the air. (and hg2tg is basically the pinnacle of written fiction ;-))

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted December 23, 2015
Blake, I gotta ask. What leads you to a post so far off the front page?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted December 24, 2015
Maybe he's late to the game, like me. I just caught up with this and am loving what SyFy is going. I didn't read the books, but will when this is done.

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Respond to '"The Expanse". You're gonna need a VPN'

Lost in Space remake.

Posted November 25, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

Is there anything Netflix can’t (or won’t) do? I’m both a little excited and bemused at news the maximum streamer is to remake Lost in Space, one of my favourite childhood memories.

Gilligan’s Island can’t be far off, starring Michael Cera as Gilligan and William Shatner as the Skipper. Hogan’s Heroes already had a sort of reboot with that dark biopic of Bob Crane a few years ago. And there’s been how many very Brady movies?

My childhood afternoons just need this one last remake to be complete. I did enjoy the Lost in Space movie adaptation a couple of years ago*, especially the bit where John Robinson looks at the shiny space blanket and is like, “Pfft. As if.”

Looking through the lens of the way-back-when machine though, I sort of wonder how close to the original series any new version would be. It was pretty lame. I suspect Netflix would be looking for something gnarlier and less kid friendly - but then if that’s the case who’s the audience? They can’t be narrow-casting to nostalgic Gen Xers alone can they?

___

* I admit I may have been alone in that.

26 Responses to ‘Lost in Space remake.’

John Samuel puts forth...

Posted November 25, 2015
I seem to recall liking the Lost In Space movie. I think it handled time travel and paradoxes fairly well, which is always nice to see from Hollywood (I've only seen it once though).

DNABeast reckons...

Posted November 25, 2015
Lost in space is actually my 'go to' film for time travel narrative failure. It mixes the 'Changes to the timeline have already happened and are immutable' and the 'go back in time and change everything'. (though I concede this may be justified with a sentient time machine.)

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted November 25, 2015
I am so looking forward to this - and not just because of the Space Chick factor. If Marvel could take the crap that was Guardians of the Galaxy and spin it into gold, then Netflix can do it with Lost in Space.

Halwes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2015

And what cream of the crop space chicks they were too. Except the mother who I'd have left on earth accidentally in the hope of hooking up with some shape shifting, brain stimulating alien who wasn't so serious about everything.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2015
Be interesting to see their take on Dr Smith's relationship with young Will. Also, Smith's insults of the robot better be good.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2015
* I admit I may have been alone in that.

I was in a bar in Berkeley when I learned about the reboot and announced it to everyone present. After a fast discussion it was generally agreed that the film has at least ten minutes that are excellent.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015

You aren't alone JB I too enjoyed the Remake a few years back, inspite of Matt LeBlock who I thought was a good choice to play major west. I thought it had all the right nods to the series down to the guest appearances by the original cast, the large enigmatic space ball station.


Warner Brother's tried to reboot the series in 2003 with The Robinson's (I serious hoped that was only ever considered a working title, yes we all know it was an updating of Swiss Family Robison but still) caught the pilot episode when it was uploaded to Youtube at the time, I think the 1998 movie did a better job of updating the story.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015
My favorite example of how they updated the movie but noted the series was with the Robert Kinoshita designed Jupiter space craft looking like the old saucer but once in orbit exposing the sleek Chris Foss inspired craft.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2015
With Gary Oldman as Dr. Smith, how could even the most hardened cynic not find something to enjoy in that movie?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2015
Eight of the ten minutes of greatness belong to Oldman.

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GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015

I saw William Shatner's show in Melbourne - I can definitely see him in the Gilligan remake but not as the Skipper ... he'd want to be called the Admiral.

As for the Netflix remake of Lost in Space ... an all-time favourite as a teenager, especially as the Jupiter II launched on my birthday.

I trust they'd make a better fist of it than the Goldsman/Hopkins movie - I agree with PNB, there's only about 10 minutes of good stuff in the whole show.

Key questions - who to voice the Robot, who to play Will and Doctor Smith and what am I going to have for lunch?

Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2015
This may cause much debate, but Cumberbatch as Smith could work. He does sneering and snide very well.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 25, 2015
Yes, yes he does.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted November 26, 2015
But then the stories must ensure Dr Smith never has to say Penguin.

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Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted November 25, 2015

I too loved the old Lost In Space - and the other Irwin Allen shows i.e. Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel, etc. The remake was not bad, and as usual Gary Oldman chewed vast swathes of scenery... I just hope they don't stuff up the latest remake. It HAS to have certain elements - make the robot basically like the old one, the Jupiter 2 has to be a saucer shape, and Dr Smith has to have a love/hate relationship with the robot, complete with insults like 'bubble headed booby'...



Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2015
"and Dr Smith has to have a love/hate relationship with the robot, complete with insults like 'bubble headed booby'...

I have to disagree. For a remake to be successful those reinventing cannot be burdened by sacred cows of any kind. That is what ruined Green Lantern. As a child I enjoyed the relationship between the mincing Dr. Smith and the robot. But it wasn't something at the core of what made the series special - those times it was special. There were more awful episodes than great ones - which is why it lasted only two seasons - despite the new theme song.

Therbs asserts...

Posted November 26, 2015
Time Tunnel!

Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted November 26, 2015
Only two seasons? I thought it went a tad longer than that (ah thanks Wikipedia - 3 seasons and 83 eps...gawd that's a lot of episodes!). Granted, finding a suitable replacement Dr Smith aka The Special Guest Star would be hard....Jonathan Harris was a unique specimen!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted November 26, 2015
I confused Lost in Space (3 seasons) with Land of the Giants (2 seasons). Anyone could have made that mistake.

GhostSwirv asserts...

Posted November 26, 2015
Sure, it's easy to mistake two of Irwin Allen's science fiction series, when they clearly both have a robot, a dog, a busted space-ship, aliens of wildly differing size, shape and colour, an irredeemably cowardly saboteur, square jawed athletic leading men, brightly dressed women and a young boy who somehow always manages to save the day to a boppy Johnny Williams theme.

Oh wait ... ?

Barnesm reckons...

Posted November 26, 2015
"anyone could have made that mistake"....really?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted November 27, 2015
Okay, I lied. I've never even seen Land of the Giants. But Wiki told me it had a two year run and, as GS points out above, there are some striking similarities between Land of the Giants and Lost in Space. So I thought it might be a convincing lie.

Nevertheless, my point remains: no sacred cows should influence the remake. An occasional reference for the fan boys is fine (there are plenty in Jessica Jones - such as Luke Cage saying "sweet Christmas" - his comic book catch phrase - and Jessica's friends' attempt to persuade her to were a costume that is clearly a reference to her comic identity as Jewel) but none of these shout-outs dominated or influenced the story line the way DC's insistence on power rings charged by small batteries that are in turn powered by a really big battery on another planet (great in the 1940's, but simply stupid in the wireless age) and power rings that make shapes like cars and swords (again, great for a kids comic, but idiotic in any adult context) totally fucked up Green Lantern. Jessica Jones, on the other hand, let go of the the sacred cow of the Purple Man's color and focused on his evil. You saw the result.

I expect Netflix to put together creative and production teams that have the same good sense when it comes to the Lost in Space remake.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted November 27, 2015

You have just provided one of the best pieces of advice I have seen on how to up date an old beloved TV series for the modern age.

Whatever your clients are paying you its not enough for the quality of your analysis.

GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 27, 2015

You had me at ... "Okay, I lied"!

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2015
Not just Gen Xers. This particular Boomer, then a teenager, was once quite infatuated with Angela Cartwright's performance as Penny Robinson in the tv show.

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JG mutters...

Posted November 26, 2015
Loved Lost in Space. I watched it religiously. Mr Smith - what a meanie, and those two women - very B52s.

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Christmas cannot get here soon enough

Posted November 18, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

... but it doesn't matter because the Bill Murray Netflix Christmas Special drops on December 4!

17 Responses to ‘Christmas cannot get here soon enough’

trib has opinions thus...

Posted November 18, 2015
Can. Not. Wait.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted November 19, 2015
Yeah but your Christmas is weird. Far too warm. And bright. As Tim Minchin describes:

Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun...


And that's just weird.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted November 19, 2015
Wait . . . this coming from someone who lives in California?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted November 19, 2015
My heart and soul are part of the American Heartland.

And, from that perspective, California is weird, too.

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted November 19, 2015
I'll take the weird over the frozen anyday. :D

Lulu has opinions thus...

Posted November 19, 2015
You say that now, but you haven't suffered through a Christmas/New Year of 104F. Frozen starts to look quite good ...

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted November 19, 2015
With the suffering compounded by ignoring that it's 40C and continuing to cook and eat like it's 10C.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted November 19, 2015
i don't care what anyone says - i want my damned roast potatoes at christmas goddammit.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted November 19, 2015
Oh hell yes, give me frozen over an Australian summer.

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted November 19, 2015
I can cite the fact that I've been to the Arabian Desert, which in terms of the heat, I quite enjoyed. Or I can cite the fact that I work as a lifeguard at temperatures reaching 118 degrees.

Bring on the heat.

Barnesm asserts...

Posted November 19, 2015
you can have it.

insomniac asserts...

Posted November 19, 2015
Fahrenheit or Celsius?

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted November 19, 2015
Fahrenheit. I'm human, not kryptonian.

Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted November 19, 2015
Tim Minchin is weird. Drinking wine in the sun isn't.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted November 19, 2015
Yes, my family would lynch the first person who suggested we skip the roast dinner at Christmas and eat something more suited to the inevitable 40 - 45 degree heat we'll experience on Christmas Day. Their solution is to crank up the air conditioning and enjoy their roast potatoes. Any other outcome is blasphemy, or at the very least a disown-able offence.

Quokka asserts...

Posted November 20, 2015
We recently bought a Delonghi multi-fry, which does exceptionally delicious roasties without heating up the kitchen to Luciferous levels. For bonus points it makes such a racket cooking them that you can bank on it eliminating 30 minutes of Bolt Comments from the most obnoxious of your relatives come Xmas day.The downside is the reduced fat levels, so don't pin your hopes on the grease from their plates sending anyone home early with a nasty bout of cholecystitis.Swings & roundabouts.

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Iain Bertram mumbles...

Posted November 21, 2015
Bung the turkey in the BBQ (we used to roast it in a Weber in the pre-airconditioned days).

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Star Trek returns to TV

Posted November 3, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

CBS announced overnight that they'd be airing a new series of Trek in 2017. No deets about storyline or when in the Federation's history it might be set, but with The Expanse going to the small screen, and Star Wars back in the multiplexes, it seems the Space Opera Moment is back with us.

Esquire is offering some free advice to the producers of the new series, about stuff they must absolutely do; not all of which I agree with, eg. "Don't follow the Netflix model". And some of which I do:

Hire real science fiction writers.

What made the original Trek a hit? A perfect cocktail of factors, to be sure. (Some of it was just making the uniforms bright. NBC was owned by RCA at the time and wanted to sell a lot of these newfangled color televisions.) But part of the alchemy was the freshness of the ideas—a sincere strike of bonafide sci-fi on television

Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, Norman Spinrad and Harlan Ellison (though he contests how much of his work ended up on screen) all contributed teleplays. My hope is that the new Trek show recognizes that the most important thing about this show has always always been the ideas. Finding creative folk who can dream up unpredictable and exciting adventures is more important that getting another bozo who knows how to take a good lunch in Los Angeles.

21 Responses to ‘Star Trek returns to TV’

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted November 3, 2015
Is it possible to find a real science fiction writer these days? I mean, you know, one that everyone can agree on?

It seems to me that Star Trek's greatest success was when they found someone who had never watched any Star Trek at all, Nicholas Meyer, to direct Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan. He threw out a great deal of Roddenberry's bloated Utopia for something a bit more realistic and nautical in nature.

Thus, they may well be better served in finding anyone but a science fiction writer. Or speculative writer, whatever the hell the accepted cadre is called these days, one has a hard time keeping track.


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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted November 3, 2015
Most of the "real SF Author" stuff never ended up on screen. It was more a publicity boost used by Roddenberry. There's a recent series of three books that goes through the creation of the series and each episode - down to digging through script revisions, called "These are the Voyages" by Marc Cushman that is a warts and all account of how it all came together. Either the SF authors normally touted as being involved with Star Trek submitted ideas that wouldn't be filmed as written (Ellison) or they didn't get around to submitting (Asimov). Almost all of the most famous episodes were written by people without much of an SF background.
Why new trek may work: The average TV viewer is in their late 50's. They might actually turn up to watch a show on broadcast TV that's been around before. Nostalgia will get people to sit down and look at the first episode.
Won't work for millennials though. Millennials watch on BitTorrent or streaming and their rates of watching traditional broadcast TV are plummeting. This is going to hit The Expanse much harder as millennials will be the primary audience for The Expanse and it doesn't get that nostalgia kick. It may end up like Galactica or Firefly - a series that people are vocally passionate about, but that not many people actually watch.
The big challenge is going to be the amount that Trek costs to make. Expensive TV is almost impossible to make these days because the audience isn't there. Encounter at Farpoint got 27 million people. Today Big Bang Theory, the series rated first or second in the US, gets about 20 million. The top rated series in 87, when Farpoint aired, was getting 35 million people.
Advertising rates are lower. Audience numbers are lower. Sales of BluRays and DVDs died sometime in the last decade.
I'd love for this to work - but whether the entertainment ecosystem can support a big budget show like Star Trek is questionable.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted November 3, 2015
Almost all of the most famous episodes were written by people without much of an SF background.

My favorite "who the fuck is that?" person associated with the first series is Gene L. Coon, a guy with no SF background whatsoever who nevertheless is credited with creating Klingons, the Prime Directive, The United Federation of Planets, Star Fleet Command, Zefram Cochrane, Khan Noonien Singh, and he wrote Devil in the Dark, one of the better episodes.

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ChrisB mumbles...

Posted November 3, 2015
I wonder if this is the long-rumored 29th Century Star Trek, the 10-years-after NextGen or the follow in footsteps of the new-reboot version of TOS. Either way they go, they gotta get some storytellers...

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Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted November 3, 2015
Might be Star Trek Renegades.
They were trying really hard to get CBS to buy their project.

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Aaron mutters...

Posted November 3, 2015
Maybe a bit of both is needed. Get scientists to contribute ideas to play with and different writers to make them sing.
I agree about outsiders, they can bring something fresh.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted November 3, 2015
The success of Star Trek was that it appealed to people that weren't SF fans.

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Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2015


as someone who didn't really like the Next Generation that much , but really liked Enterprise. I'm actually looking forward to it, I'd watch it. Although a made up on the fly story arc like in Battlestar might annoy me a bit. So I hope they have a plan from the outset.

JB maybe you can write a spec script? ala a time travel episode of old and new technology, that Star Trek loved to do occasionally.

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Rob mumbles...

Posted November 3, 2015
Oh and I don't know if 'on the small screen' is relevant anymore. I always watch TV on my 65" screen, and 5.1 surround sound in my lounge. Sometimes I go to the movies and it sounds terrible, the picture is dim and scratched and the people around have kids with them. I just end up thinking it would be better at home.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2015
I seem to have been outvoted on the sic fi writer thing. Ok. Fuck you all.

Narkor would have you know...

Posted November 3, 2015
If it was today's science fiction writers, it would be an endless sermon on the evils of transphobia and the patriarchy. It wouldn't be the USS Enterprise, but something like "The Intersectionality". There wouldn't be anyone incharge of the ship, it would sort of be run by a collective except instead of "make it so" the first season would involve countless arguments about the problematic nature of space exploration and the real need to solve more important issues on the Earth such as the problematic nature of many halloween costumes and the rights of roosters that self identify as chickens.



John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted November 4, 2015
Yeah, but not if I wrote it.

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JBtoo reckons...

Posted November 3, 2015
Bring back Blake's 7

Anthony asserts...

Posted November 6, 2015
Just Servalan will do...

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted November 3, 2015
I want to see at least a sprinkling of the current crop of Scifi writers have a crack especially those with short story experience, perhaps the well known author of a series of time travel/world war II novels as Rob above suggests.

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tqft has opinions thus...

Posted November 3, 2015
So this post is jb angling for a ticket to an LA writers room?
Section 31 needs a run.
I also saw greatest American hero is being rebooted.
Why not Blake's 7 as someone else asked above. Apparently not dead but not happening either.

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Sparty (via JB) would have you know...

Posted November 4, 2015
Well they up the quality and that means no more 22-26 episode seasons. And go for more Sci Fi stories – and an eclectic range of writers (Birmo looking at you!). And not dumb down at the very time TV is actually going in the opposite direction. And not get to stuck in their own mythology – that can come later by the third season etc. Oh and they should defiantly have a talking Robot Puppy Dog at the helm position.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted November 4, 2015
Star Trek coming back to TV is great news, but we'd be better off with new, original content, like an AoT TV series. JB should start writing that one :)

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GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted November 4, 2015

I like the idea of a Star Trek series at the tail end of the Third Millennium, I agree that sci-fi writers may not make the best writers for episodic TV, no matter how it's delivered, but I'd like them to contribute ideas and help shape the series.

Maybe there can be nods to the previous Trek adventures by using the idea that all of the Captain's Log's from Archer & Kirk through to Picard and Janeway have been uploaded to the ship's computer and every now and then an old Captain of the Enterprise wants to offer advice on how to solve an alien situation.

I also agree JB with the galactic will of the Burgers and strongly suggest you get cracking on a spec specky script ... nothing too flash, just a new propulsion system, fire-control & weapons system, new bad-guys and oh what about an Shark Alien with lasers for eyes?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted November 4, 2015
It's like you're looking over my shoulder.

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Rhino reckons...

Posted November 7, 2015
What's funny is that CBS is going to use this to bolster it's paid online service. The first one will be on the (free but not free cable) TV box ... but after that, you gots to pay the cheddar to get it online.

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X Files trailer!

Posted November 2, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

SO looking forward to this.

7 Responses to ‘X Files trailer!’

Surtac asserts...

Posted November 2, 2015

Looks good. And GA still looks good, too. :)


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Duce is gonna tell you...

Posted November 2, 2015
I'm sceptical, because boy did that last movie suck hard. And, you know what, from re-watching most of the original series lately, I've been struck by just how hit and miss the original X Files was. I mean I'll watch this regardless, but I'm not expecting brilliance.

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Sparty ducks in to say...

Posted November 2, 2015
A revolving stage and front row seats meant she took a shower in underware right infront of me during her production of streetcar in London last year. So I can happily confirm Surtacs observation....

Surtac mumbles...

Posted November 3, 2015

I am soooooo jealous now ...


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Wolfcat ducks in to say...

Posted November 2, 2015
OMG.... OMG... OMG... Breath... nope still OMG

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Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2015
God, why? Of all of the possible remakes, why this?

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Rhino asserts...

Posted November 7, 2015
Nope. Somebody needed a paycheck.

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Daredevil and the New Television

Posted September 11, 2015 into Telly by John Birmingham

Been meaning to write something about this series for a while, having finished watching it a few weeks ago. I still haven't sorted my thoughts out though, beyond my initial and sustained impression that Daredevil is an exemplar of everything that is good about TV as a medium right now. Perhaps that's why I haven't sorted out my thinking yet. It may not be possible to appraise the series without considering it within context.

This is not a show that could have been made before the advent of subscription TV, and specifically before the arrival of premium content makers who don't care for aggregating mass audiences with product for the lowest common denominator.

If you haven't watched Marvel's best TV adaptation yet (it is much superior to Agents of Shield) that's probably because you don't have a Netflix subscription. Netflix, like HBO, can afford to invest in original series like Daredevil, Narcos, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black because its business model is so different from the free to air networks and even the cable aggregators like Foxtel – although with reboots like The X-Files you can see Fox catching onto the game (and HBO's model is not perfectly aligned with that of Netflix. Not yet, anyway).

It's not just the sex and violence and grown-up concepts, it's the narrative space afforded to a 'narrowcaster'. You can see this in the establishing episodes of Sense8, which I wrote about a while back. You need to take a few hours to fill in back story and build character? Sure. You got 'em. You're not going to lose huge swathes of your audience after the second commercial break airs and the A-story is still no closer to exposition, let alone resolution.

I neither binge-watched nor eked out Daredevil. I watched a couple of episodes back to back, and at times went for weeks without watching any, usually when work and life got too busy. This is a crucial advantage for content-on-demand providers. Their program directors don't have to schedule an hour-by-hour line up, night after night to lock in millions of viewers. They effectively narrowcast to a time-shifting audience of one. Each subscriber is his or her own market, a single cell demographic. You don't have to lock them in with the six o'clock news and keep them locked in until they switch off the set and go to bed. If the viewer wants to drop out for a while, the next episode is always there, always waiting for immediate replay and already paid for by monthly subscription.

More than once I watched only a single episode of Daredevil because the intensity was so great that to watch any more invited overload. It is famously grittier than the movies that have made Marvel Studios a modern cultural power centre, and although it references the wider Marvel universe, the smaller more intimate story is not held in thrall to the demands of that meta narrative. Ask Joss Whedon about how frustrating and constraining those demands can be.

So, the synopsis. Daredevil tells the story of Matt Murdock, Roman-Catholic son of Hells Kitchen and only child of 'Battling' Jack Murdock a local boxer who couldabeen a contender, if only a local guy could get an even break. Which of course they can't.

Young Matt is blinded. Old Jack is done in by the perfidy of lesser men. And Thor's evil brother Loki opens a crack between the worlds above Manhattan unleashing Hell. The destruction in New York which occupied the final reel of Whedon's first Avengers outing, preoccupies the concerns of all the little people without spandex or superpowers in the opener of Daredevil. Matt and his college bud Foggy Nelson have opened a boutique law firm in their old stomping ground of Hell's Kitchen but it is boutique only in the sense of being very small and obscure. There are no polished floorboards, no Swedish furniture, and no epic narrative. At least not to begin with. A small case leads to one, however, in the doings and a-goings on of one Wilson Fisk, a towering villain played with the full range of Shakespearean flaws by Vincent D'Onofrio. Fisk is a very Manhattan super villain though. He doesn't want to destroy the world, he wants to redevelop its disgracefully undervalued waterfront property. It's the smallness of the story, the base criminality, which foregrounds so well against the Homeric scale of the greater Marvel universe. The violence is intimate but it hurts more for that.

People die in this show, and it hurts. When they get hurt, they carry the bruises and scars for weeks, even months, just like you would. Sometimes for years in the case of the two main protagonists. Murdock is a traditional comic book hero in needing to maintain his secret identity. Tony Stark he is not. There are emotional consequences for everything he hides and all that is revealed and it's a mark of the storytelling craft that went into this series that you can never quite be sure, right up until the end, how those consequences will play out.

The biff is excellent. Again, it all happens at such a human scale, the opposite of say Ironman vs the Hulk in A2. Matt Murdock, who resists his embiggening into Daredevil, is gifted with heightened senses by the loss of his sight and, it's implied, by the way he lost it – in a chemical spill. But he is not possessed of superhuman strength or speed or the ability to stretch his hand out all the way across across the room to grab a beer from the fridge. He just trains really hard at a bunch of martial arts and mostly fights in the dark, where he is at home. He still takes more than a few beat downs.

The kinetic exchanges are choreographed and performed with painful and violent authenticity, but also with real nuance. If you watch closely you can see Murdock alter his fighting style depending on the nature of his opponent, especially when he is forced by circumstance to take on somebody with whom he has no actual disagreement. It is the emotional exchanges, however, which power the series. Daredevil is driven by relationships, not action. Even Fisk's humanity is afforded sympathetic treatment and his friendships and the love he finds as he seeks dominion over the city are no less genuine than our heroes'. In the way of all great dramas it is sometimes hard to watch because human beings are hard to watch when they decide to destroy themselves.

Season 2 of Daredevil has been confirmed and started shooting in July. A pilot season of The Punisher is due and will reportedly tie in with Murdock's story arc like Arrow's with The Flash. I've never read the comics so I can't speak to future storylines, but as the best TV shows improve with every season (up to and including season 4, after which it's usually all down hill), I'm very much looking forward to getting back to Hell's Kitchen.

33 Responses to ‘Daredevil and the New Television’

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted September 11, 2015

I agree with everything you say, and certainly a topic worthy of discussion about how the new model Netflix is pioneering allows for this sort of TV. I am impressed with all the casting but its Vincent D'Onofrio Wilson Fisk's character I was most engaged with, he was complemented in his portrayal of person on 'the spectrum'.

Another thing I liked, in the episode where a woman was taken hostage and threatened with violence the writers didn't choose to go the lazy trope of threat of sexual assault. Still visceral, still terrifying but obviously made the considered choice not to go the lazy writing path.

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ChrisB puts forth...

Posted September 11, 2015
Agreed, JB. Tried to binge watch, only got through two back-to-back. Very intense and real, in a way none of the Marvel movies have gotten to. Even Tony's PTSD or Cap's 'old timey' conflict w/modern warfare and the loss of Bucky don't ring as true as Matt's past and present. And those fights - especially the hallway scene...wow.

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Mordwa is gonna tell you...

Posted September 11, 2015
<font face="verdana">Matt "Murphy" in para 7? Uhh, John, I think you two are spending too much time together-!</font>

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted September 11, 2015
Ha. Sorted. Ta.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 11, 2015
To date I have not seen Daredevil, so won't comment on that. SWMBO has the Tom tits that our current rental is sans ariel, so has forked over for Netflix subscription. So that eases some of my guilt about stealing IP. But I'm still praying for a business model that will get me back into video production.

NBlob reckons...

Posted September 12, 2015
By the way, we've just found that NetFlix has The Princess Bride. I've just introduced my Godson & his little brother to it. Gold, served on gold platter, dusted with gold with a side of gold.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted September 13, 2015
Only because you wanted Prince Humperdinck to prevail. All that scheming, for nothing.

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted September 13, 2015
Has anyone ever counted NBlob's fingers? I counted mine after we shook hands but didn't notice his.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted September 13, 2015
I've never even thought about his fingers until now.

Thanks for that.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted September 13, 2015
It's the webbing between my fingers that seems to put people off.

Rob reckons...

Posted September 14, 2015
I've been thinking about the 'getting back into video production' thing too. But so far I think it would mean shutting down my YouTube channel and starting again with no copyrighted material on it and filling it with pugs and bands I film. Been doing stuff with my Canon DSLR, those things are a pain to hold up for longer than 3 minutes, (mainly cos I'm so old and crusty now)

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted September 11, 2015
Netflix will be a reality here soon.The nbn fibre optic cable has been routed from the street to our house. Just need to decide a plan and make it happen.
Couldn't get adsl2 before.
Also we are running out of space for DVDs

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Rhino asserts...

Posted September 12, 2015
Daredevil is pretty freakin' awesome.
Part of me was kind of hoping that Fisk would succeed.

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alexvdl has opinions thus...

Posted September 12, 2015
Great article! I'm a huge fan of what Netflix is doing with their content, and I think that Amazon and Hulu building on that should lead to some great television coming out in the future.

A minor quibble, but the next Marvel Netflix show will be Jessica Jones
(http://marvel.com/news/tv/25069/marvel_netflix_announce_release_date_for_marvels_jessica_jones)
and Punisher is showing up in season 2 of Daredevil, not getting his own show (yet)

http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/07/28/netflix-on-marvel-series-release-plan-and-if-punisher-could-get-a-spinoff

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Rhino has opinions thus...

Posted September 12, 2015
#TheDave would be great on Netflix.
Just sayin'

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted September 12, 2015
Yep. A great series and looking forward to the second season. Fisk was the best realised, most human and fleshed out (sorry) villain I've seen in years. Re Barnes above, the suits were a fascinating and un-commented light on Fisk's nature. Still working my way through Sense8 and finally reached the point where their ability seems to be more than an absolute nuisance. Another one I can't binge watch, unlike The Glitch.

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Grant ducks in to say...

Posted September 12, 2015
I need to read more comic books! Daredevil was more interesting, better directed and better acted than almost anything in the mainstream Marvel or DC movies (although I have a very soft spot for 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'). If the superhero genre starts to stagnate, as Spielberg has predicted, maybe we'll get to see the likes of Batman and Thor with their own gritty TV adaptations.

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted September 12, 2015
Started watching the Netflix series Narcos with the wife tonight.
A little heavy on the voice over exposition but pretty good.
What's funny is that it is set in the same time/place as the story I'm working on. Crazy.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted September 12, 2015
Yeah I'm about four eps in and loving it.

Rhino asserts...

Posted September 13, 2015
It gets even better.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted September 13, 2015
I fucking loved this series - from the opening credits that so elegantly and quietly point out that the urban jungle becomes visible only when covered with blood. The way Matt Murdock sees the City.

I binge watched the whole thing.

One of the coolest aspects of the show is that they found an actor to play Foggy Nelson who looks like the comic book character. How the hell did they do that?

If this is an example of the new television then I want more. I cannot wait for Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and The Defenders - all, like Daredevil, throw away Marvel properties with fantastic narrative possibilities.

NBlob mutters...

Posted September 13, 2015
And you say I'm lacking gravitas.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted September 13, 2015
I never said that. Ever. Stop spreading disparaging rumours.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted September 13, 2015
Ok, so you didn't actually say "Blob my man, you are well short on Gravitas." It was more inference, implication. When one repeatedly has one's attention drawn to mighty figures of history; remarkable artists, historic jurists, purveyors of precious stones with bearings such as if hewn from basalt, one can't help but feel a point is being made. A comparison drawn through which I am found somewhat lacking in the gravitas stakes.

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 13, 2015
At least I don't read comic books.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2015
"I don't read comic books."

Neither do I. Comic books are a childish, low class affectation designed for those who lack the intellectual capacity to distinguish cartoons from literature.

If I am anything, I am cultured and educated. That is why I do not read cheap comic books: I read Graphic Novels. Fucking expensive Graphic Novels.

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Aaron mutters...

Posted September 14, 2015
I went from not having any interest to loving daredevil and want to see the joss wed on epic movie of it.
If anything Fisk is the best character.
If anyone on the fence I promise it's worth it. It's a great crime drama first and superhero story second.

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Rob asserts...

Posted September 14, 2015

I think the new Netflix model is very interesting. It puts the consumer directly in the decisions over competition law issues (pricing collusion, restriction of competition via IP and licencing arrangements, bigger players killing off smaller players) previously competition law arguments ignore the consumer in favour of advertisers and media buyers, This arrangement now means the consumer (who pays directly for the service) must be taken into account when deciding which way the company responds to issues. About time too I say.

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Aaron would have you know...

Posted September 14, 2015
And very much agree with the new format making it possible. Imagine the alternative universe where firefly came out now on netflix, we would be reading announcements for season 2 etc. oh the joy

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pi would have you know...

Posted September 17, 2015
I was asked the other day what I thought of A2 from a guy that I recommended Daredevil to. I thought Daredevil was the best adaptation of a comicbook there has been in TV, and the re-invention of the characters in a modern context was second-to-none. Up until it was released, I started believing that this was a DC/Marvel thing. With the reboot of batman a few years back, and the re-invention in a modern setting, I didn't see a lot of the same thing happening with Marvel. Now that has changed.

But the effect of this was my opinion of A2. After Daredevil, it just looked too fantastical. I mean seriously... the suits were just over-the-top, and ultron was really just a caricature of a bad guy. Fisk had real depth to his character, and you were torn with his vision of how he wanted to change the world.

I think what is happening, is that the marvel universe is being split between the PG and the M markets. I have a kid, and I love watching the avengers universe with my pre-teen boy. But there is NO FRIGGIN WAY you can watch Daredevil with a child. The violence is so personal, and so affecting, it would give any balanced kid nightmares.

The long and short of it is that I want to see more of Daredevil, and less of the Avengers these days.

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Boscolamb mutters...

Posted September 18, 2015
I've been on the fence for a longtime about getting Netflix, but the arguments about how good Daredevil is has pushed me into signing up. Thanks folks!

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