Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (Pt. 5)

Britishisims!

OK, let's cover the one I completely forgot to cover, and should have.

There is very little of the TV I watch that I would qualify as "good". Some I enjoy immensely and constantly marvel at exactly how much, such as iZombie. Some I just enjoy despite being very aware it's not very good, such as Marvels: Agents of Shield.  Most is just OK but that is never very much the ringing endorsement. So, I should commend great shows when I see them!

Humans is an AI story done originally in Sweden. This is the British remake. I should have reviewed this during my spate of AI movies, but I watched it not long after. Not sure why I didn't review but likely because I was just not ... writing.  At least digitally.

The setting is a "20 minutes into the future" world where the latest, hottest home appliance is a human replica. These are not clunky machines, but perfect renditions of a human. Every home that can afford one has one, as maid, as caregiver, as sex toy. They look perfect if but for flawless skin and just a bit too blue eyes. The usual robot laws apply and despite pretty decent programming, they are easily identified as not-human.

But our story is about the next-steps, the ones the inventor of this technology created before he died -- his pseudo children, his perfectly sentient and independent replicas. Of course humans would be fearful if their appliances became self-aware, or at the very least, were capable of it. So, a squad of shadowy government figures is hunting down these rogue bots, and their older human brother Leo. But one of them is missing, and Leo is desperate to find his sister. She has been mind-wiped and ended up in the household of Joe & Laura, a couple with marital issues around her secrets.

The series introduces synths through Anita, the new addition to Joe & Laura's household. Through this we are introduced to how some people feel about them, how some people are creeped out by them, what they are capable of, what their roles are and their 18+ protocols. Yes, you can use your housemaid bot as a sex toy, should you want to, as long as you accept the proper User Agreement. All of the uncomfortable viewpoints of AIs, robots as people, robots as creepy surrogate humans, etc. are covered in this series and surprisingly with some forethought and weight. There isn't a lot of judgement but the show is very clear on one thing -- that synths are capable of becoming people, though the code is complicated. The opinions on the ramifications are left to us.

Speaking of great, you have seen Luther right? It started in 2010 and when I  heard Idris Elba was doing a crime show in his native UK, I was on board. Immediately. And it didn't disappoint. I briefly covered the first three series here and Kent not long after; Netflix encourages such.

This is Series 4, if you can call two extra-long episodes a season. I hate to say it but this all felt like a cash in. There didn't seem to be a point of revisiting John Luther after they tossed his overcoat into the Thames. Ruther (Did i just type that or is Kent messing with my drafts?) Wilson is busy doing The Affair with Elba's The Wire alumna Dominic West so didn't show up for the investigation of her own murder. Rose Leslie joins with a very very tossaway role. The funny thing, is that even with all the disappointments, it is still so very compelling to watch Elba do Luther. I would watch that hunched over massiveness order a curry.

The crime they investigate in the two episodes, is rather creepy. A hi tech killer, who has left trojan horses on the computers he repairs, allowing him to observes and become obsessed with his victims, has gone off the rails. John is impressive as before he left the force, maybe even more so.  And yet, it was over when it only seemed to be starting. Poo.

From heavy & grim to downright endearing. In a fit of "what do you wanna watch" I clicked on The Detectorists. Oh, am I glad I did. Detectorists are the people who claim detecting for metal as a hobby. You know, wand waving over the ground beep beep beep. Mackenzie Crook (you know, the wooden eyeball guy in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) and Toby Jones (the Hydra scientist from the Captain America movies) are best friends and detectorists, members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. This is small town England, rural countryside with not much going on but endearing, quaint streets and lovely open farmland surrounding. So, lots of land to detect on. Not much else to do.

This show was brilliant! Endearing! Charming! Sweet! Laugh out loud droll! Andy (Crook) and Lance (Jones) spend as much time as they can detecting, interrupted only by work (as to which Andy is a day-worker type and Lance drives a forklift), DMDC meetings (7 members?) and friends at the pub (trivia night!). They have never found anything (valuable) but have dreams of finding a Saxon ship. Apparently there was a historical trend of burying Saxon kings, in their boats, inland. But is the act of always seeking that seems to drive them on, despite finding mostly nails & pull tabs from 80s pop cans.

Shows like this always take some time to establish, for us, the basic tenets of life of the mains. The most defining quality for these guys, is sitting under a tree, talking about the quiz show from the night before, eating their lunch while on break. "What did you find?" or "Did you find anything?" is the inevitable question and the answer is always disappointing. These scenes were done so perfectly, so mundane, so boring and yet I was immediately attached to these two guys. The antics of the rest of the season were just plot points around which these two guys orbited. Andy is over 40, never a real job, meek & mild and dominated by his girlfriend. Lance is over 40, louder and a bit of an ass, but obsessed with his ex-wife, who takes advantage of it at any turn. And yet I found both these guys charmed and smiling whenever they interacted. Good friendships are like that. I appreciate good friendships.

Mackenzie Crook is writing and directing the series, which is going to require me to find whatever other creations he may have. I like this guy's mind.