Saturday, January 2, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (Pt. 1)

Its been a while since I did a TV "What I Am Watching" and many things have faded into the "I Saw This!!" category. So, combined.

Limitless is based on the Bradley Cooper movie, and surprisingly is not a TV remake, but a continuation of the story. Eddie Mora has become Senator Edward Mora and the super brain drug NZT is still out there, but now in the hands of the FBI. Slacker wannabe rockstar kid Brian Finch becomes the new This Is Your Brain On Drugs guy when he gets mixed up in a murder plot involving an old friend who has hit it rich -- with the help of NZT. We think they might be resurrecting the conspiracy from the movie, but no, just a conspiracy of the week which Brian helps solve.

Brian is helped by Mora, who wants him to be his eyes on the FBI. Mora has figured out how to stabilize NZT and has the FBI believing Finch is naturally immune to the nasty side effects -- unlike every other FBI agent who used it, he has not yet died horribly. Mora manipulates him, via henchmen and only a few guest appearances, and Brian has to learn how to juggle the intricacies of the web he is in.

This show actually is incredibly light hearted considering the ramifications. Brian is a manchild and it shows. His knowledge is limited, but he realizes quickly that he can absorb new knowledge pretty quickly. He also quickly realizes his limitations as knowledge-of doesn't always lead to skill-in. FBI partner Jennifer Carpenter (somehow being actually skinnier than she was in Dexter) keeps him in check and shows him what hard earned experienced can do.

Brian is also realizing there is a bit of the Jekyll-Hyde going on, as Brian on NZT can be a bit of a dick. He only sees the connections and has to concentrate to see the people involved. Brian having come down is more empathetic, more likeable and not so overly concerned with how smart he is. With Great Power....

The show isn't deep but is a lot of fun. Stylistic choices as well as some Community style theme episodes (he does a gimmick around play-doh maquettes; and he does a Ferris Bueller episode) keep it light and moving on. And of course, there has to be some deeper conspiracies going on, around Carpenter's dad and the leader of the FBI team and what's up with Mora, etc. Very few shows get by these days without us wondering how many skins the onion has.

Speaking of the good doctor, we just binge-watched the first series of British TV's Jekyll & Hyde. Set in the 30s, with Dr. Jekyll's grandson coming into his inherited traits, it's more of a monster of the week and a whole monsters vs humanity tale than anything. It's amazing how genre TV has become more the norm these days -- my 14 year old self would be in heaven considering how much we have to absorb.

Robert Jekyll has been raised in Ceylon by an adoptive family, a good British boy being raised by a nice Indian (Tamil?) family. He is prone to outbursts but his father keeps him in check with small white pills. But sometimes, such as when lifting a lorry off a young girl, even the pills cannot keep the Hyde in check. Robert is summoned to England to deal with his father's estate and because the pull of his history is too much. But really, he is just being manipulated into joining a great conspiracy between the evil monsters of the Tenebrae and the agents of the British government's monster intelligence agency run by chief asshole Richard E Grant.

It's a fun romp of a show full of monsters and double dealing and mythology. Poor Jekyll gets dragged along by his heart while Hyde (they really only play it like Clark vs Supes, a bit of a hair change and brighter smile) gets all the super strength fun. The CGI is great and the set designs are spectacular; I was particularly fond of the period Batman-ish superhero character called Spring Hell Jack, who was supposed to be Jack Burton's grandson. Also, the centaurish man headed doggy "harbinger" is just creepy as fuck.

Like most British genre series, the arching plot is loose and seems to change as each episode progresses. But still, loved it. Ended with one hell of a cliff hanger, so there better be a Series 2.

Still in the British period genre realm was The Frankenstein Chronicles starring Sean Bean. Set in a world where Mary Shelley exists and the novel is out there, it focuses on the investigation of fledgling police inspector John Marlott, and by fledgling, I mean the police force is fledgling. Marlott is a seasoned member of the river patrol and is hired by a Lord to investigate the appearance of a sewn together young girl on the river flats, i.e. she is a Frankenstein monster patchwork person. Lord Harvey suspects someone is trying to discredit the Surgeons who are about to pass a law allowing them to take any unclaimed body for their cadaver needs. The religious folk oppose it as the surgeons are seen as doing unholy things to bodies in the name of medical science. But better than buying them from grave robbers who can never assure condition.

It's a fascinating story about a point in history where things are emerging: medicine, law enforcement, the rights of the poor, etc. Marlott is just an ex-soldier (the same regiment as Sharpe, as an amusing side note), man of the streets dealing with his own demons. Bean is incredible, playing Marlott as skilled yet dragged along by what is happening, having to navigate the morays of upper crust society. All good mystery stories seem to need to drag someone along. Most of the series has you wondering whether there is any genre element to it at all, or is it just a mystery about murders and conspiracies between the elite of England the beset upon poor.

But rest assured, there is some proper Frankenstein in the story leaving us with a final episode just BEGGING for a new series.