March 7th, 2014


The instantly visible quality of television

A couple of weeks ago Julie and I sat down to watch the first episode of Helix. The plot sounded interesting (viral outbreak at a research station in the arctic that deals with genetic weirdness), and the idea of a near-future thriller with elements of The Thing, and Contagion sounded like fun.

We made it ten minutes in. Some of it was the bad writing (seriously awful infodumping that sounded nothing like people do), some of it was the idiot plotting (Someone at a research base is infected, so the CDC sends up their brother, _and_ the brother's ex-wife. Stupid enough - but then you discover that the reason that they divorced is that she had an affair with his brother. Yup, the one who is now infected.), some of it was the basic lack of understanding of any science, what the arctic is like (you try building a research station with a basement in the arctic circle), or anything else that might have helped with suspension of disbelief.

All of which would be fine, in a show that wasn't taking itself seriously. Give me a _silly_ show that makes no sense, but is endlessly fun, and I'm right there. But don't throw a bunch of badly written nonsense at me and ask me to take it seriously.

So we gave up after ten minutes and started on True Detective instead. Which I'd heard great things about, all of which turned out to be true. It's got flaws, but the dialogue is fantastic, the acting is amazing, the long sweeping shots of the scenery are gorgeously cinematic, and I'm unable to take my eyes off of it. One episode to go, and we're seriously tempted to wake up early on Monday to watch the finale before the internet spoils it for us.

Other good TV: Rick and Morty. Animation, you know, not for kids. Imagine that Doc and Marty from Back to The Future had many other adventures, all of them unpleasant, but hilarious. Morty is a 14-year-old kid, Rick is his genius grandfather who has clearly Seen Too Much, and now copes by drinking too much while building Things That Should Not Be. The pilot was a bit wobbly, but the show hits its stride with episode two and then just keeps getting better. It regularly riffs off of popular sci-fi, and does a really good job of it (crossing Inception with Nightmare on Elm Street was a genius idea). Smartly written and foul-mouthed, it keeps the characters just likeable enough to keep watching, and just dislikeable enough to have you laugh at the awful things that happen to them.

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