Author Archives: Liz Dircks

Gracepoint: An Inexact Copy

Dear David Tennant: the next time you’re cast in an American drama series and some network honcho tells you to lose your beautiful Scottish brogue, you fight it.

My own biases aside, there’s much to be said about Fox’s new drama Gracepoint. I don’t want to be yet another person stuck in the abysmal “British originals trump American remakes” mindset, nor do I necessarily want to focus on how foreign Tennant’s accent sounds to me, a fan of both his run on Doctor Who and the original Broadchurch, from which Gracepoint is directly influenced. But in its relocation from the English county of Dorset to a northern California town, it seems to have forgotten parts of itself along the way.

The pilot episode of Gracepoint is structurally almost identical to its cousin. Young mother Beth Solano (Virginia Kull) wakes up one day to discover her son Danny is mysteriously missing, and makes the usual calls and inquiries into his whereabouts. Meanwhile, Detective Ellie Miller (Breaking Bad alum Anna Gunn) returns to work after a vacation to find that the job she was being considered for has been given to Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant With An American Accent, whoops, there I go. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.). Carver is an out-of-towner hoping to put some demons of an undetermined nature to rest, and Miller is rightly pissed that he’s muscled his way into her limelight. But these characters’ normal lives all come crashing together when Danny Solano’s body turns up on a Gracepoint beach, jump-starting the worst breakdown of “love thy neighbor” in TV history.

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Checking In with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor

Last summer, Doctor Who fans were crushed to hear that Eleventh Doctor and clumsy baby giraffe Matt Smith would be stepping down from the iconic role the following Christmas. Two months later, in a live, worldwide special, Smith’s successor was announced: Peter Capaldi, arguably the first veteran actor to assume the role and a household name in the UK for his many memorable TV characters, including spin doctor Malcolm Tucker on the BBC’s The Thick of It. The feedback was generally positive, with some scattered ageist comments that we’re going to pretend were never uttered, but it would be another year until Capaldi’s real debut, where fans would be able to see him in action.

Now halfway through Series 8, Capaldi appears to have breathed new life into Doctor Who. His version of the enigmatic time-traveler is the most alien in recent memory, and it’s making for some cracking good TV. Here’s a brief look at his tenure so far, broken down by episode.

MAJOR EPISODE SPOILERS AHEAD.

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ABC’s Forever: Appealing, But With a Murky Future

Ladies and gentlemen, your hybrid show with an undying protagonist for the 2014 fall season is ABC’s Forever, and it’s anyone’s guess how long it’ll stick around. Taking all bets now.

Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) and Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd).

Genre shows are all the rage these days, whereas crime dramas are a dime a dozen. The success of smushing together elements of the traditional and the contemporary depends on how seriously a show takes itself, and while Forever is a bit of a romp through established TV tropes, it also elicits a decided “ehhh” in terms of staying power. Starring The Fantastic Four’s Ioan Gruffudd (sporting the most wonderfully Welsh name, damn, lookit those consonants in places they shouldn’t be), this show has the potential to be a good palette cleanser in an era of sobering television, especially in a post-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. timeslot. It’s unclear, however, if that title is inadvertently writing a check the show can’t cash.

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Cosmos Makes Triumphant Return

You don’t need to know rocket science to know the name Carl Sagan. Easily one of the most brilliant and passionate voices of his generation, Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, Cornell professor, and prolific science popularizer, and in 1980, he captivated America with his hit show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. It was unlike anything seen on television before, a documentary series that provided an engaging look at the history of mankind and its collective thirst to understand the universe. It seamlessly melded philosophy with life lessons, experimentation with historical re-enactments, and scientific theory with impressive visual effects relative to it time.

Like the zombies it’s currently up against in the Sunday night timeslot, Cosmos has returned from the dead, and without a moment to spare. The new season, subtitled A Spacetime Odyssey, is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and already seems to be living up to it namesake with the thrilling journey it promises over its 13-episode run. The show is co-produced by Seth MacFarlane (proving that backing projects outside one’s typical genre can and should be done), 24 and Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Brannon Braga, and Ann Druyan, producer of the original show and Sagan’s widow. The first of what I anticipate will be a series of spectacularly informative hours of TV included a look at our “cosmic address,” the influence of a monk named Giordano Bruno, and the Cosmic Calendar, a narrative device used in the original series to demonstrate humanity’s history relative to the history of the universe. (Spoiler alert: we’re a blip on the radar.)

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‘Doctor Who’ 50th: Wibbly-Wobbly, Feelsy-Weelsy

I am writing this post from beyond the grave, because Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary special killed me dead.

Yeah, I’ll admit it: I was pessimistic during the build-up to this most auspicious occasion. I grumbled for months about the trailer for “The Day of the Doctor” being released late (still grumbling in fact), and despite the staggering celebration line-up announced in October, I felt the classic Doctors were being quietly nudged aside. I quelled my fangirl jitters on the grounds that the special just wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

I’m so happy to have been proven wrong.

“The Day of the Doctor” is one humdinger of an adventure, equal parts playful historical jaunt, sobering backstory, and squee-worthy fanservice. On the outside, it resembles any other madcap episode — the Doctor (Matt Smith) and companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) are enlisted to stop Earth from falling into the slimy, suction-y hands of the Zygons, a villainous race making its first appearance since the classic series. But weaved throughout that predictable A-plot is easily the darkest B-plot the show has tackled since its return: the Doctor’s involvement in the Time War, where he was forced to wipe out his home planet of Gallifrey to end the violence. Loaded with snappy dialogue and peppered with more than a few surprises for the devoted Whovian, this was an anniversary to end all anniversaries.

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‘Fangasm’: The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Fangasm was airing on a different network.

I say this with residual bitterness after Syfy’s less than savory treatment of cosplayers in the six-episode run of Heroes of Cosplay. As if nerds weren’t already unfairly stigmatized, Heroes of Cosplay managed to make things worse by applying a tired reality show format and deceptive editing, making the cosplay community seem cutthroat and joyless. While I’ve eased up on placing individual blame, it continues to be difficult for me to mask my distaste whenever the show comes up in conversation.

Fangasm, on the other hand? Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Fangasm is a breath of fresh air, if the first episode is an accurate gauge of the rest of the season. It follows seven nerds of various backgrounds as they intern for Comikaze, a Los Angeles-based pop culture convention hosted by Marvel patriarch and cool dude Stan Lee. Their collective job is to market the convention and improve outside perceptions of geeks. The catty atmosphere of the show’s predecessor seems to have cleared, replaced only by the natural sort of tension one might expect when you put seven different personalities together under one roof.

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‘The Blacklist’: Part Thrill, Part Intrigue

James Spader, everyone. James. Freaking. Spader.

Oh, I’m sorry. There was a show going on around him? It took me a bit to notice, but I must say that The Blacklist, NBC’s newest high-action drama, is pretty awesome, I went into it expecting to not be able to get through the pilot, as procedurals and I went our separate ways many years ago. Not so, it would seem.

In the opening minutes of The Blacklist, the notorious criminal Raymond “Red” Reddington, played by Spader (ohh, I will certainly get back to him), walks into FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and promptly gets himself arrested. He doesn’t struggle, even when he’s taken a secure warehouse and shoved into a glass jail cell. Who doesn’t love a villain in a glass cell? Answer: no one. But the kicker is that his one request is to speak with Elizabeth “Liz” Keen, a brand-spankin’ new agent who has no connection to him.

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‘Heroes of Cosplay’: Nerd Culture Not At Its Best

Yaya Hun

I have a few bones to pick with Syfy’s newest nerd-based show, Heroes of Cosplay. Like, dinosaur-sized bones.

The art of cosplay, for the unenlightened, involves the meticulous crafting of costumes from pop culture; anything from TV, film, video games, comics, and loads of other media are fair play. Arguably one of the more expensive hobbies out there, cosplay combines hard work, craftsmanship, creativity, and a dash of theatricality. It offers a different kind of escapism, a chance to become your favorite character while building self-confidence. At the very least, Heroes of Cosplay succeeds in demonstrating these central tenements. The level of detail afforded for every costume unveiled on the show is staggering and gives me a decided inferiority complex as a casual cosplayer.

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BBC Announces the 12th Doctor

Since 2005, the BBC’s Doctor Who has gained a legion of rabid fans, transitioning from a cult classic to a full-on mainstream hit. The eponymous Doctor is a time-travelling alien who regenerates his body when he’s close to death, meaning that sooner or later, a new actor takes over the part. Current Doctor Matt Smith revealed in June that he was hanging up his bow tie, and from there, speculation on the identity of Twelve has run rampant. As of Sunday, however, this particular rumor mill has ceased production.

Whovians, join me in welcoming Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor!

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