iTunes PODCAST – Doctor Who (MAJOR SPOILERS)

couchpotatoesunite

A new podcast episode of Couch Potatoes Unite!, which is based on a blog of the same name hosted at couchpotatoesunite.wordpress.com. In this episode, recorded on September 19, 2015, our panel– including moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, and Sarah (but minus Amanda, who will rejoin at season’s end)–is Around the Water Cooler with our first ever Podcast Premiere Party, chatting about the Series/Season 9 premiere of Doctor Who. If you haven’t seen the series through this season’s premiere, be aware that there are MAJOR SPOILERS! Tell us what you think in the comments below and check out the blog and YouTube for other TV related discussions, in both podcast and blog format. Also, if there are other shows you’re interested in the blog covering, sound off below!

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler – Doctor Who – The Season 9 Premiere Podcast Party Discussion (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Doctor Who” currently airs on cable TV, specifically on BBC America, Saturdays at 9:00 PM.

What: “Doctor Who,” the long-running British science fiction show about an alien time and space traveler who gallivants across the universe with companions in an effort to save people and/or history and/or the universe itself.  The synopsis changes from Doctor to Doctor, but the above statement pretty much encapsulates all of them.

When: Series 9 premiered on September 19, 2015, at 9:00 PM on BBC America.

Where: The show is set literally everywhere in the whole universe at any given time, though not without the Doctor’s ship, the TARDIS, and some face of the man who pilots it.

Why:  Once upon a time (no, not that show), friends of mine said precisely this: “Why aren’t you watching Doctor Who?!  It’s science fiction, it’s British, it’s everything you love (short of vampires)!  Watch it!  Do it!”  I started with the 2005 pilot of “Rose” and kept right on chugging. Now, I’m a fully converted Whovian, with an obsessive eye to both past, as in Classic, Who and the future incarnations of the “Madman in a Box.”

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Welcome to a new season of Doctor Who! Our podcast panel was so eager to talk more “Who,” Kristen, Sarah, Nick, and I (but not Amanda, who will rejoin at season’s end) decided to convene together for another Couch Potatoes Unite! first – a Doctor Who Podcast Premiere Party!  We gathered together with snacks, comfy couches, a special junior panelist named Jack (he’s a panelist in training, of course, and already a huge Doctor Who fan), and a bit of BBC America; we watched the premiere and instantaneously digested it verbally while our stomachs were digesting the snacks.  We have some thoughts about what we saw.  How about you?  Give it a listen, and tell us what you think in the comments. Do you agree?  Do you disagree? What are your hopes, fears, and expectations for Peter Capaldi’s second season as the enigmatic Doctor?  What do you think of the announcement heralding Jenna Coleman’s departure from the series after her tenure as companion Clara Oswald?  What do you think of the (“spoilers!”) announcement of the return of Alex Kingston as River Song?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com.  We may not be as technologically advanced as the Doctor and his TARDIS…but we’re getting there!  Let us know what you think, either about Doctor Who or this podcast!

Old Questions

1) Is Tasha Lem really River Song?  I mean, she knows how to fly the TARDIS, is inexplicably flirtatious with the Doctor, and they didn’t fail to mention the Doctor’s marriage to River, never fully resolved.  She may have died at some point – but did the Time Lords save her too?

Answer: Still a question!  She has not returned for Capaldi’s tenure as of yet…but it’s been announced that River is coming back!  Will River return as River?  Will Tasha return as Tasha?  Are they the same person?

2) Will Gallifrey reemerge?

Answer: Still a question!

NEW QUESTIONS

1) Is Missy really Missy?  Or, is she something or someone else?  Nick suspects she is not who she is claiming to be, but Kristen disagrees (listen to the podcast).

2) Did Missy really die at the end of the eighth season?  She says in the premiere that people like her don’t die…so then, where did she go?  And where did she get what looks to be a vortex manipulator like Captain Jack’s?

3) How does the Doctor go back in time to even meet Davros to begin with?  When in his timeline does he meet Davros?

4) Where is Davros from?  Where is the Doctor when he first meets Davros as a young child?

5) What is the old Davros’ aim, other than to destroy the Doctor?  He seems to have an even greater purpose afoot.

6) Where did the Daleks take Clara and Missy?  We assume they are not exterminated.

7) How will Clara be written off the series?  Will they kill off a companion?  Will she reunite with Danny Pink in another dimension, one in which he never became a Cyberman, for a happily ever after ending?

8) Who will the Doctor’s new companion be?  Do we dare to hope that it’s River? When is she coming back?

9) It’s been foretold that Osgood is coming back.  How? Why?

10) Other aliens will make appearances, including the reappearance of the Zygons, reintroduced in the 50th anniversary special.  How will they reemerge?

11) Is Missy in league with the Daleks?

12) Does Peter Capaldi really play the guitar?  All reports seem to say yes.

13) What are the “Hand Bombs,” as Sarah believed they are called in the podcast?  How are they important?

14) What are other villains and creatures that might we see from the Classic Who this year?

15) Who is Maisie Williams (Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) playing in upcoming episodes?  Nick thinks it might be companion and Time Lady Rumana from Four’s term.  Others are predicting she is Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter first introduced with William Hartnell.  Maybe she’s someone all new…but who?

PARTING SHOTS

The podcast panel is cautiously intrigued about the upcoming season, with more comfort in Capaldi’s 12th Doctor.  The panel universally enjoys Michelle Gomez as Missy, but there is dissension about how effective Jenna Coleman has been as a transitional companion between Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor and Capaldi’s 12th.  Most are comfortable with her departure, though this viewer has enjoyed her to a point.   Some of the panelists are not looking forward to spending too much time with the Daleks, but the longer term Whovians accept their presence as a given, along with the Cybermen and the Master.  The entire panel is eagerly awaiting the return of River Song and secretly or not so secretly hopes for Catherine Tate to somehow return as Donna Noble someday.  Either way, the entire panel, the moderator and yours truly included, are excited to see what happens in season/series 9.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Doctor Who airs each Saturday on BBC America.  The podcast panel will reconvene following the Christmas special, to air on December 25, 2015.  Until then!

Discoveries and Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 TV Shows: “Felicity” (SPOILERS!)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Felicity,” a drama series that aired on then-network The WB (the CW’s predecessor, owned by Warner Brothers) from 1998-2002.

What: “Felicity,” a drama revolving around the fictional college experiences of Felicity Porter (Keri Russell), who follows her high school crush and moves across country to attend university in New York, despite the fact that she could have attended Stanford near her family and her home of Palo Alto, California.  The series documents Felicity and her friends’ various seeds of angst, romances, and self-discoveries.

When: The show aired in its entirety from 1998-2002 on the WB, better known now as the CW.  It is currently available for streaming via streaming service Hulu Plus.

Where: The show is set primarily in New York City, New York.

Why: Two reasons.  First, I am in the cult of JJ.  Meaning, I love just about everything that JJ Abrams touches, and if I don’t love it, I will at least try to love it.  As it turns out, Felicity is JJ’s first project as writer/director/producer of a television series – before Alias, before Lost.  I never gave this show much notice when it was on, preferring shows, at the time, that were either more grown up and adult (despite the fact that I was nearly Felicity’s age at the time of the show’s airing) and/or science fiction and/or fantasy related.  I wanted to rectify that and to add this show to the already long list of JJ-endorsed and/or production company Bad Robot-owned projects that I have already consumed.

Second, it has been suggested more than once that this viewer and this blog check out the FX series The Americans, which stars Ms. Russell as a Russian spy posing as an American housewife during the 1980s.  I harbored no preconceived notions about Russell, though I was aware of some of her previous body of work.  I decided to watch the show that put her on the map first before jumping headlong into the heady spy drama in which she currently stars, which brought me back around to Felicity.  Thus, having discovered the full series on Hulu (which was actually fortunate, as I had begun watching the series a year ago via other means, so I simply started over), I jumped back into Felicity.  Because I was in college right around the same time as the main character, the nostalgia trip was heavy and, at times, both delightful and painful in that exquisite way that memories can be.

How – as in How Was It?  

I rate the show four out of five stars.  I watched all four seasons and enjoyed the series for the most part, but the writing, particularly, with this show was somewhat all over the place, both from a story standpoint and from a tonal standpoint.  There was a certain “indie” feel to the show that endeared it to me in the end, though, and the cast was so innocent and genuine in its late nineties earnestness, this viewer could not help but be drawn into the world of Felicity Porter.

SYNOPSIS

Felicity Porter (Russell), valedictorian and all around girl “with a good head on her shoulders,” has received acceptance to study pre-med at Stanford, with the endorsement of her doting but overbearing parents based in Palo Alto, California.  She is all set to accept that life path until her high school crush, Ben Covington (Scott Speedman), signs her yearbook at graduation with a heartfelt passage about how he wished he had come to know Felicity better during their school years.  Moved by the yearbook entry, and convinced that she and Ben are meant to be together, Felicity decides to chuck all her best laid plans and follow Ben to New York City, to study at the fictional University of New York, much to the chagrin of her parents, who fly out to convince Felicity to get her act together.  Though initially full of doubt, Felicity elects to stay, realizing that her move was as much about her own self-discovery as it was about becoming closer to dreamy, sensitive, but ultimately troubled Ben.

There, Felicity meets good friends and her college family nucleus, including Julie (Amy Jo Johnson, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), who initially breaks the girl code and canoodles with Ben; Elena (Tangi Miller), a fellow pre-med student; her resident advisor Noel (Scott Foley, who folks might know better now from Scandal), with whom Felicity has an initial romantic relationship that establishes the primary love triangle governing the series; her initially hostile but eventually protective goth Wiccan roommate Meghan (Amanda Foreman); and Ben’s roommate Sean (Greg Grunberg), who is older and generally focused on creating outrageous inventions and who harbors a secret crush for Julie until he becomes involved with Meghan.  Felicity also works for a local coffee shop under openly gay manager/barista Javier (Ian Gomez), who becomes one of her best friends.

The series follows Felicity’s good times and bad, as she struggles to obtain a sense of self-identity through school, her conceived future aspirations, her friends, and her romances.  Oh, and she cuts her hair, which was big news at the time.  More on that in a minute.

THOUGHTS

Felicity, though I watched this late nineties show in 2015, was a surprisingly mature coming of age drama for any year or time period.  Though it was part of the nineties explosion of teenager soapy dramas, such as sister series Dawson’s Creek, which aired on the same network, Felicity might have been a better if not the best niche entry from the genre – or at least better than most than I remember.  This show was an underrated gem, at least with respect to its first two seasons.

The first season was the best, as it depicted shy, smart Felicity, a fish out of water and far from home, struggling to come to terms with her decision to move all the way across the country essentially for a boy, and one with a far more messy life than his idyllic high school persona led her to believe.  She works through this struggle, at first, by sending verbal letters to her friend Sally via cassette tape that they exchange by mail and repeatedly record over; Sally, presumably older but not much older than Felicity (and voiced by Janeane Garofalo) dispenses her quiet wisdom about Felicity’s cautious and less-cautious steps through life from the vantage point of having just lived it and of living it again as her adult years move forward.  The tone of the show, from the program’s first opening theme to the gratuitous use of close-ups on Russell’s baby face and free-flowing curly mane of hair, lent a lot of quiet angst to the proceedings but did so in a way that never felt contrived.  Sixteen years out of college, I still found myself connecting to Felicity and her friends because I WAS them – maybe still am.  What’s more, I knew people like them.  Felicity’s friends were my friends, even though I didn’t know anyone that was exactly like any of the characters (there might have been a close equivalent in Elena).

What’s more, these characters were imperfect.  This wasn’t a soap focused look at beautiful people with beautifully messy lives.  These beautiful people were genuine, quirky, and flawed.  They made mistakes.  They experimented.  They were finding out about themselves at the same time that we were finding out about them.  For example, Felicity decides to curry favor with and help Ben by editing an essay for a class they shared, though she ultimately rewrites it, which causes the professor to launch an investigation into possible cheating, as the writing sounds nothing like Ben’s normal auteur voice.  Later on, when the two are moving toward being a couple, they break into the school’s swimming pool, shut down for lack of funds, while enjoying some underage beers, and they get caught.  Elena allows herself to become sexually involved with a pre-med seminar professor (Chris Sarandon) only to question the ethics of doing so when he awards her stellar grades, which later becomes the subject of investigatory inquiry. Ben is the son of an alcoholic father (played by John Ritter!), who Ben painfully and emotionally rails against in their estrangement. Julie becomes involved with a film student in the first year that forces himself onto her, but her own past leads her to question whether or not it’s rape.  Julie is adopted and searches with yearning for her birth parents.  Noel is close to his brother who is gay and who comes out to Noel first of everyone in his life.  Meghan rebels through punk dress and pagan worship, though she hails from a wealthy, straight-laced, conservatively Christian family….and the list goes on, as the characters struggle to relate to each other, to themselves, and to the world in which they were growing up.

Of course, some of Felicity is typical teen soap melodrama, but it never feels that way because the characters’ and their performers’ reactions are natural.  They also talk like normal teenagers/twentysomethings navigating college, at least for the time, which is a tribute to good dialogue writing.  Plus, Felicity broached some heady subjects for the Y2K era that still resonate today, such as gay marriage (Javier marries his long-time boyfriend) and, of course, the raging and ongoing war between Apple and Microsoft. Noel is a huge Apple fanboy; I think the company was a promotional sponsor.  Yet, in the end, the show was about kids in college, including Felicity herself, who were trying to figure out who they were, what they wanted to do, and how their dreams matched up against the realities of the time.

As this viewer alluded to above, however, the show was not perfect.  As the seasons progressed, the writing and even some of the regular show elements took some questionable turns or disappeared altogether, though one such turn was not, in this viewer’s opinion, the much maligned chopping of Keri Russell’s hair.

Back in the day, the ratings for Felicity slipped in the second season, and the network, of all things, blamed it on, in this viewer’s opinion, the very well scripted and logical decision of the title character to cut off her trademark locks after a particularly emotional entanglement with the two men in her love triangle, Noel and Ben.  In reality, the ratings slip was most likely caused by the network’s decision to change the show’s scheduled air date, I believe to Sundays, which, at the time, put it up against programs like The X-Files, a juggernaut in its heyday, which coincided with Felicity’s run.  For this viewer, through the lens of 2015 and the easy-to-relate-to nature of the characters, the decision to chop off her hair made logical sense for Felicity’s story arc; she needed a change and a mechanism by which to step away from herself and step outside of her comfort zone and to disassociate herself with the girl pining after two very different men but particularly the somewhat wishy washy Ben. The chopping of hair never really bothered me, but for the fact that her crop was not styled as nicely until it grew out a bit for the latter of half of season two.

To the contrary, there were bigger fish to fry with Felicity that probably ultimately contributed to it lasting only four seasons, unless the original aim of the show the whole time was to focus on Felicity’s undergraduate years.  First, the theme song changed, from an angsty hum, by a woman, with gritty black and white photographs of the characters in the streets of New York City in the first two seasons, as heard here…:

…to a peppier ditty written and sung by JJ himself that featured cutaways from the show’s episodes for the third and fourth seasons, as heard here:

This new theme song and, therefore, the new mood setter did not fit the overall angst-driven self-discovery thread of the show, and the change was a bit jarring because the new theme did not marry as well with the tone and direction of the episodes attached to it.

Second, Felicity forgot about “writing” to Sally as time went on; it was so forgotten, Sally was never mentioned again.  Felicity’s relationship with Sally allowed the viewer to peer more intimately into Felicity’s inner thoughts and to understand that the struggles and journey of self-discovery don’t stop with college.  Yet, one day, around the start of the third season, there were no more tapes and no more mention of Felicity’s jet-setting friend. Even if Janeane Garofalo wasn’t available to voice the unseen character, this plot device, Felicity’s confessions to Sally, was sorely missed and contributed to a tonal shift (along with the theme song) that did not seem to match that for what the show initially aimed.  If Felicity outgrew these letters and confessions, a mere mention of that would have been helpful; however, Sally was simply omitted without a second thought.

Third, Amy Jo Johnson left the series prior to the last season due to personal issues, and while Julie was never my favorite character, her departure disrupted the continuity and stability of the dynamics between the characters.  It’s almost as if the show had to struggle to make up for her loss, given that she was Felicity’s best friend and had close relationships with Ben and Sean.  Her departure might have been sudden and the need to adapt quick, but the adaptation was never complete.  It also did not make sense that the characters did not try harder to look for her or to reach out to Julie, even in the actress’ absence, given the written method of her departure.

Fourth, and perhaps the biggest questionable writing choice among the long-term story’s quirks and foibles, was how the series ended (spoilers).  Several outcomes emerged upon the close of Felicity and her friends’ college graduation.

1. Felicity, despite her fight to explore a long-term interest in and to major in art instead of pre-med, decides in the end to attend medical school, for reasons that are never fully explained.  There is a suggestion or the implication, facilitated by Felicity’s struggles to enroll in a particular art class, that she is not as capable as some other art students, but she seems to give up without fighting, and then, somehow, is able to make up for lost time by enrolling in medical school, despite not having a pre-med undergraduate education.  It felt forced and disingenuous to her character and to the story in how it was executed; also, it would have made sense, even if it was somewhat dramatically uninteresting, if she had decided to take on a fifth year of undergrad to better prepare herself for the jump to medical school, which might have also elongated the series and helped to stave off cancellation.  The show, in fact, seemed to abandon some of the realism, which rendered the first two seasons so engrossing and good, in the final season.  The lack of realism and disjointed turns in the character arcs dampened the finale episodes’ impact somewhat for this viewer and no doubt did so for viewers at the time, contributing to its ratings decline and paving the way for the inevitable cancellation.

2. Felicity cheats on Ben with Noel, which becomes fodder for an out-of-nowhere device that allows Felicity to travel back in time in her dreams and try to change her course. Prior to this purported time travel, Ben decides to be pre-med senior year and enrolls with Felicity at Stanford Medical School following their undergraduate graduation.  The problem is, Felicity and Ben, with their rocky past in tow checkered by trust issues stemming from Ben’s erratic behavior and Felicity’s need to cheat with Noel, grow apart, to the point that Ben starts sort of cheating with someone else.  This time jump allows Felicity to explore alternate pathways and how her life might have been affected if she had made different decisions that allowed her to stay with Noel.  Prior to the time jump, we learn that Elena dies in a car accident, even though she is alive again in the alternate past. Sean and Meghan married in the future we first encounter, only to not find the same level of love in the new timeline.  While this might have been an exciting plot twist on some of JJ’s other shows, such as Alias or Lost, Felicity was never established to be science fiction, and the execution of this “what if” exploration of past mistakes was not handled well.  It caught this viewer completely off guard and felt both convenient and trite, particularly since one of the show’s major themes centered on dealing with the ramifications of choices made, however poorly made they were in the end.  It also led to the series end being somewhat anticlimactic overall.

3. Felicity and Ben falling apart in the end seemed inevitable, unless the two could find a way to lasting love, but their relationship was always troubled, given that it was founded on Felicity’s rash decision to follow Ben to college.  If Felicity had not ended up with Ben (though I think she did in the end anyway), she might have become a great role model for other young girls in this situation by asserting more of her independence and foraging ahead through life, the consequences of her choices and actions in tow. Not a lot of what the title character did in the end made much sense, which seemed to imply that the writers lost track of their own characters.  Of course, Alias was up and running by then, and JJ and his co-creators might have been distracted and unable to multi-task show-running, an epidemic that would also affect Alias as JJ jumped later to Lost and to other projects.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, but it was a repeated mistake and one of Mr. Abrams’ primary needs for improvement as time goes on; he should have learned his lesson then, presumably, but perhaps, he was fumbling through TV show creation as his title character was navigating the uncharted waters of her early adulthood.

In the end, though the fourth season took this interesting if ill-conceived roundabout in story exploration, such exploration does not detract from the overall quality of the show, particularly of the first two seasons, which were heartfelt, genuine, and full of emotions to which most viewers could relate when reflecting upon their past or present youth, especially if college was involved.  As a result, Felicity is an entertaining show and one worth watching, by viewers of all ages, as well as an addicting story, for those interested in sexual tension and romantic triangles with handsome men.  It was also a great introduction into the storytelling mind of J.J. Abrams (with his co-creator Matt Reeves).  Furthermore, Ms. Russell and the rest of the cast offer some sweet, touching performances that tug at the heart strings without being manipulative. Plus, Scott Speedman is, and continues to be, easy on the eyes!

RECOMMENDATION

Felicity is highly recommended to anyone interested in teen dramas like Dawson’s Creek, Beverly Hills 90210, or One Tree Hill, as long as the viewer is prepared for less traditional soap opera twists, turns, and melodrama and better overall quality (in this viewer’s opinion). This show is also highly recommended to fans of J.J. Abrams’ shows, such as Alias or Lost; in fact, Jennifer Garner appears on several occasions as Noel Crane’s prior girlfriend Hannah, a music composer (she was married to Scott Foley in real life at the time), and Felicity helped to launch or further grow several actors’ careers.  The program also flirts with some “after school special” topics such as underage drinking, drug use and addiction, rape, and mental health issues like depression and may provide some interest and/or empathy to those who struggle with similar issues. It is worth noting that Felicity was promoted by Imagine Entertainment, including executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the same team that has produced some great films and some other equally laudable TV projects, such as Arrested Development.   Felicity contains some suggestive situations and is rated TV-PG.

Around the Water Cooler: “Witches of East End,” the Season 2 Mini-Recap and Cancellation (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Witches of East End,” aired on cable TV, specifically on Lifetime, from 2013-2014.

What: “Witches of East End,” a supernatural drama about a family of immortal witches. Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall; Sabrina) plays the matriarch, who is cursed to bear two daughters and watch them die over several lifetimes while her younger sister is cursed to die and be reborn as a cat with nine lives to live. In this current life cycle, the two daughters, Ingrid and Freya, are not aware (as of yet) that they are witches.

SYNOPSIS

Ingrid (Rachel Boston) is a feminist, a librarian, and characterizes herself as a rationalist.  Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum) is a romantic and is engaged to the wealthy son of a local family after a whirlwind romance.  Both girls are oblivious to the fact that they are immortal witches, daughters of mother Joanna (Ormond), who was cursed at the Salem Witch Trials to watch them die and to give birth to them all over again over countless centuries. Their mother decided to offer them a chance at normal lives, unaware of magic; however, past lives and odd occurrences are catching up with them, and now Ingrid and Freya are in danger – both of being exposed for who they are and for their lives in this current cycle.

When: The series finale aired on Lifetime, Sunday, October 5, 2014, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set on Long Island, New York.

Why: My love of supernatural and fantasy stories made me curious, and I did like Charmed.  Normally, the fact that the show airs on Lifetime would be a deterrent, but my curiosity got the better of me.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

I reviewed the premiere of the second season.  If you need a refresher, read here.

As noted in that review, this viewer’s initial impression is that there was a disjointedness to the start of the second season. While the first season was fast-paced and twisty in that guilty pleasure, addictive sort of way, the second season faltered in focus, scattering the story line in various directions that seemed to dovetail at the end but took some unexpected and less compelling by-ways. In fact, this program, which was already on unstable legs with some less than stellar performances and whimsical but scattered supernatural focus, lost its way early through midway into the second season, and the network’s early support of the show culminated in its cancellation, apparently due to ratings decline.

Part of the problem, in this viewer’s opinion, is that the second season attempted to start where the first season left off, but there was little to no explanation of how certain characters ended up the way they were – as if time was missing after all. Subsequently, throughout much of season two, there was a marked lurch when the story was changing gears, and new developments seemed to come from nowhere from even more implausible corners, which is saying something, considering that Witches of East End and its concept demand a certain amount of suspension of disbelief.

The tone of the first half of the season was also a bit different than the tone of the entire season preceding it.  The advertising for the show’s new season repeatedly suggested that “darkness is coming,” but early episodes were a bit clunky in attempting to establish the new antagonists.  As this viewer predicted, the “darkness” in question was Joanna and Wendy’s father, the King of their home land, Asgard; he was the primary villain, but he had the help of Joanna’s lost son Frederick (Christian Cooke) for a time as well as of a loyal soldier named Tarkoff (James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer); both characters straddled the morally ambiguous fence at different points throughout the season.   There was also a “Beast” or Mandragora, who seemed to be in the King’s service as well.  Many questions were answered in what would be the program’s final season, fortunately; yet, this show still suffered from a sophomore season slump while already buried on a cable network known more for its movies of the week and questionable reality television than for its original scripted programming.  Cancellation, therefore, however unfortunate, even as this viewer was still devoted to the show and the story until the end, was not a surprising twist of fate, in this viewer’s opinion.

Let’s examine each character’s journey this season to recap, though the recap is less recap and more detailed summary of the thirteen episodes.  Viewers wanting more detail should watch the show!

Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond)

Joanna started the season poisoned while dealing with the aftermath of the open portal into Asgard at the end of season one. The aftermath also included the appearance of Joanna’s long lost son Frederick, Freya’s twin, who initially chose to remain in Asgard in service to his grandfather, the king Nickolaus.  All throughout the season, the Beauchamps, particularly Wendy, struggled to trust Frederick; though Frederick had a mission to lure his mother and aunt back into his grandfather’s fold, he found his loyalties shifting.

One of the casualties of the season is Victor, Joanna’s former husband and Ingrid, Freya, and Frederick’s father.  He meets a grisly end at the hand of Frederick’s friends, more Asgardian devotees, who also kidnap Freya and configure it in such a way that Victor must sacrifice his life to save his daughter, which leads Joanna to blame Frederick for his death for the rest of the season.

We also find out that Joanna had a relationship with a woman named Alex, who helps save Ingrid from the “Beast” that came through the Asgard portal.  Joanna is further wooed by Tarkoff, a friend of the family’s, who, as it turns out, also pursues her at the behest of her father, though his aims are more selfish.  Tarkoff always loved Joanna and schemes to finally “have” her through domination and submission; however, his aims become nefarious and desperate.  Frustrated by Frederick’s lack of movement toward the King’s secret goals, as Frederick finds himself pining for his mother’s and sisters’ love, Tarkoff takes drastic action by lynching Ingrid and Freya in the garden, with Joanna discovering her daughters in this state and realizing her worst nightmare of witnessing their deaths once again.  Joanna, as a result, attempts to commit suicide by slitting her wrists, but Wendy heals Joanna with magic.

King Nickolaus himself appears through the portal, the darkness referred to in the season’s tag line; in fact, it is his spirit that possessed Frederick initially.  We eventually find out that he is here to steal powers from Joanna, Wendy, Ingrid, and Freya (he repeatedly says that he gave these powers to them, but it’s unclear which is the chicken and which is the egg).  Wendy, however, summons the King, as he is the only being powerful enough to resurrect Ingrid and Freya.  He agrees to do so under the guise of reuniting his family, and this apparent change in attitude draws Frederick to him once more.  Joanna, however, is not convinced and spurs her sister and Freya to accompany her to a previous life to retrieve a magical item from her past self capable of defeating her father, though Ingrid stays behind, seemingly for the purpose of aligning herself with her grandfather.

Though the girls almost get stuck in the past, particularly as Tarkoff, not dead after all at Frederick’s vengeful hand, catches up with Joanna; drugs her with opium; and stays her magic with a talisman in an effort to have her submit to his will, the girls are able to jump back to the future just in time, leaving Tarkoff in the past, though alive.  Upon their return to the future, following the King’s successful theft of Ingrid’s powers, Joanna and the girls ultimately cast a spell from the Gardiners’ grimoire that causes the King to die; however, this also leaves Tommy the paramedic, his final host body, dead.

Joanna forgives Frederick, but their good feelings are short lived, as the season ends with someone having mysteriously taken Frederick’s life and written “Death to Witches” with his blood near his body.  In addition, Wendy sacrifices her last life to save Tommy. We’ll never know how Joanna accepts these losses, though.

Wendy Beauchamp (Madchen Amick)

Wendy is pursued by a suitor, a paramedic who works at the hospital and who has a daughter; his name is Tommy.  He learns of her magical double life reasonably quickly and is comfortable with the truth about her witchy ways but then becomes a host body for her father as he enters this earthly plain, because his strength and easy acceptance of the truth about magic and witches apparently render him the ideal host for the powerful king.  Wendy also spends much of the season mistrusting Frederick, with good reason, as he secretly hosts the King of Asgard in his own body to start and causes death to several East End citizens, as the King seeks a new vessel.  Wendy, despite being the supportive aunt and sister who also falls in love with Tommy, saves Joanna from the brink of self-administered death and summons her father’s spirit forth to save Ingrid and Freya from death by hanging in this life cycle.  She also, while in the past, helps Freya to realize that one of her gifts is to recognize Killian’s soul, in whatever form it is in and in whatever lifetime, as the two are soulmates. Wendy, never her father’s favorite according to his words, willingly if not eagerly helps to facilitate his death and willingly sacrifices her last life to save Tommy, the unwitting and initially expired host for her father’s soul, ending her season in death.

Ingrid Beauchamp (Rachel Boston)

Ingrid continued to flirt with the dark side this season.  First, she is pursued by the Beast, known as a Mandragora, which is draining the life from her via nighttime sex (ew), apparently on orders from her grandfather.  She also attempts to assert her independence by moving out of her mother’s house and gets a new job, but this is a forgotten and mostly snooze-worthy story line.

Ingrid discovers that Dash (and, therefore, Killian) are also witches. She tries to help Dash when she finds out that he killed someone by covering up the trail of his crime through magic, though Dash starts falling for Ingrid, to the point of obsession, which causes discomfort for Ingrid, given that he was formerly engaged to Freya and given that Ingrid was romantically linked with Dash’s relative Archibald in a past life.  This discomfort is short lived, however, as Ingrid and Dash, seemingly connected souls, share a night of passion; Ingrid also tries to help Dash to not succumb to the dark temptations of his family’s grimoire and magic.  Through machinations by Tarkoff, Ingrid, along with her sister, meet what appears to be their death in this life cycle, until her grandfather is summoned forth to save her.

When she and her sister are alive again, Joanna is determined to end her father’s life via a device held in the past; however, Ingrid chooses to stay behind under the guise of becoming closer to her grandfather.  It seems, however, that her true purpose is twofold: to learn what, if anything, her grandfather is planning and to stay close to the Gardiners, particularly Dash.

Though Nickolaus forbids Ingrid from seeing Dash, as he and Killian are also, apparently, immortal witches or reincarnated souls from Asgard with dark and traitorous histories, Ingrid first finds Killian, who poisoned himself upon learning of Freya’s death, and attempts to help save him. She also learns from Dash that the body of his victim has surfaced. Though Dash previously attempted to burn his family’s grimoire in order to avoid its temptation, she helps magically reconstitute it with the aim of finding a spell to defeat her grandfather; however, when Nickolaus learns that Ingrid is seeing Dash, a dark soul he once knew in Asgard, Nickolaus tortures her and takes her power as well as reveals his plan to take the powers of everyone in her family.  He also informs Ingrid that she is pregnant, which she later confirms, worried that either Dash or the Mandragora could be the child’s other progenitor.

Ingrid finds the spell to help defeat her grandfather and is able to do so along with her sister, mother, and aunt, despite the initial loss of her power.  Lasting damage is done, however, and Ingrid ends the season not knowing what to do about the new life inside of her.

Freya Beauchamp (Jenna Dewan-Tatum)

Freya spends the first couple of episodes of season two seeking Killian, only to discover him in a remote location via astral projection with a powerful twin spell she is able to cast with Frederick.  She also learns that Killian is now married to a mysterious woman named Eva.  When she goes to find him in Santo Domingo, she is confronted by Eva only to admit that nothing happened between her and Killian (other than longing glances and a few passionate kisses).  Freya informs Killian of his mother’s death, which spurs him to return to East End.  Their tenuous soul relationship is fueled by Freya’s grief over her father’s death and by a spell that allows Freya to relive one of her past lives, in which Killian is Edgar Allen Poe and Freya discovers that she loves Killian’s soul repeatedly, only to watch their love fall victim to tragedy in every lifetime.  Upon this discovery, she blesses Killian’s new marriage.  She also entreats her former fiance Dash to help Ingrid when her life is threatened by the Mandragora.

Freya, like her sister, falls victim to Tarkoff’s off the grid antics and the resurrection by her grandfather; however, she follows her mother and aunt into the past.  There, she learns that she and Killian are meant to be together, as she is able to recognize his soul in any lifetime.

Freya returns to the future in the nick of time and helps to defeat her grandfather.  With Ingrid’s help, she finds Killian, wasted away by poison; however, her magic heals him, and they are briefly and momentarily together until Killian goes to see Dash in jail, and the latter casts a spell to switch their bodies.  As the season ends, Freya is happy to be with Killian at last, except that Killian’s body is inhabited by her former fiance, Dash.

Killian Gardiner (Daniel DiTomasso)

After his brother left him for dead following his non-marriage to Freya, we next discover Killian married to Eva.  He’s also living in Santo Domingo, unaware that he is a male witch, until a gambling incident forces him to accidentally discover his powers, which is confirmed by Eva through her own secret spell casting.  When Killian is inspired to return to East End after learning from Freya of his mother’s death, he reunites with his brother Dash, who had been racked with guilt over the possibility of murdering his brother.  Their reunion leads to their discovery of their family grimoire, which is full of dark magic; in fact, Dash accidentally casts a spell that drains Killian of his life force until Ingrid arrives to help reverse the spell.  Killian also is able to fight through the spell that Eva has cast on him, via slipping something into his drinks, which apparently helps her to retain youth (if I remember correctly, she also tries to get pregnant by him to help allay her own curse).  His own magic allows him to see her as the old woman she is, and find his love for Freya, even though both seem to realize that they are star crossed; Eva dies as a result. Killian and Dash clash heavily when Killian learns that Dash intended to murder him on his wedding night.  Killian further learns from Frederick that he has also lived several lifetimes and may be descended from Asgard.

When Ingrid and Freya meet apparent death at the hands of their grandfather and Tarkoff, Dash and Killian subsequently discover their dead bodies. Killian is consumed by grief and decides to poison himself, to be with Freya in the afterlife.  He sees her in dreams, however, in which her soul spirit informs him that she is alive (as she was saved by her grandfather).  He calls Ingrid, who attempts to stay the poison with a potion based on dream clues, though she admits that Freya’s the more talented with potions.  Killian eventually dies, though Freya’s love, grief, and magic subsequently revive him. Their reunion is short lived, however, as Dash, now in jail, engineers escape by casting a spell to switch their bodies, leaving the Killian-wearing Dash in Freya’s arms and the Dash-wearing Killian stuck in jail at season’s end.

Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter)

Dash succumbs to the dark side faster than any of the other witches in the series.  After being consumed by guilt at the thought that he might have murdered his brother Killian, he also causes the death of another man as part of a spell to help save one of his patients, who happens to be blackmailing wealthy Dash regarding the attempted murder of his brother.  He grows closer to Ingrid in a weird parallel to his grandfather Archibald, who Ingrid loved in a previous life, as she is quite susceptible to dark temptation, based on the events of the first season; he tells Ingrid of his newly discovered powers and legacy, and she helps him to cover his crimes through magic.  He falls into obsessive love with her, particularly after she helps him to save Killian when he casts the life force draining spell in the family grimoire, a hand-me-down from the erstwhile Archibald and Penelope. Dash also helps Ingrid discover that she is sleep walking to the Beast; Ingrid attacks Dash, and the Mandragora begins feeding on him until it is defeated by Joanna and Alex.

Dash and Ingrid share a night of passion.  When Dash and Killian discover the girls’ temporary death, they fight, as Dash descends into darkness without Ingrid to anchor him. Dash reveals his former intent to kill his brother, which causes them to beat each other bloody.  He also learns from Nickolaus in Tommy’s body that he was someone called “Bastian” in another life, and that he may be descended from Asgard.

In his grief, he ends up sleeping with a detective investigating murders in East End in which bodies turn up with symbols carved into them: these were caused by Frederick and others while possessed by King Nickolaus, as the King looked for a new host body. Her name is Raven, but in her investigation, she pieces together that Dash is responsible for at least one murder, the one formerly magically covered up by Ingrid and Dash, and arrests him.  When Killian comes to see him in jail, prepared to forgive and stop hating his brother, Dash casts a spell, learned from his family’s grimoire that he promised Ingrid not to touch, which causes he and his brother to switch bodies.  He ends the season wearing Killian’s body and smiling evilly at his incarcerated brother as he hugs his former fiance Freya with his brother’s arms.

In the end…

Despite the unevenness of season two, the plot did pick up by the end of the season, and the performances improved, though, unfortunately, Mrs. Tatum continued to struggle in that respect.  Unfortunately, the show also ended on some meaty, never to be resolved cliffhangers, with Frederick’s killer unidentified (I would guess Tarkoff, though); Wendy having met her apparent death; Ingrid’s pregnancy; and the body switch of Dash and Killian.  The show was also shot well, with some fun visual effects and consistently dark-washed cinematography that lent to the creepy nature of the stories being told.  It’s also a shame that viewers will never be able to delve into the history of Asgard, which seemed like a logical and tantalizing next direction for the story. Though the program boasts a small but robustly passionate fan base that has been attempting to save it, it’s been nearly a year since the Witches of East End bowed. Personally, in this viewer/reviewer’s opinion, though the program offered some decently compelling moments, the writing and performances were so inconsistent, this viewer was neither surprised nor disappointed by the cancellation, despite the fact that the show provided some decent summer viewing.

Lingering Questions

1) What is Asgard, really?  Why did it burn Mike up when the portal opened upon Ingrid’s touch?  Why did the Beauchamps leave to begin with?  What will happen now that the portal is open?

Answer: Asgard is the home world for all of our witches, in all lifetimes.  The Beauchamps left to escape Joanna and Wendy’s father, a culpable tyrant who controlled and manipulated his children and, subsequently, his grandchildren. With the portal open, he was able to hitch a ride in Frederick, Joanna’s son and Freya’s twin, who aligned himself and his loyalty with his grandfather.  Nefarious schemes and hi-jinks ensued.

2) Why is Ingrid the key to the portal?  Why does she seem to be the most magically powerful after her mother?

Answer: Still questions without answers.

3) Why did Joanna and Victor ultimately split up?

Answer: Joanna and Victor had a complicated romance, sullied by Joanna’s repeated grief at watching their daughters die and her powerful magical ability, which she used to various ends.  Plus, they both have lived a really long time.

4) What’s going to happen as Dash (and possibly Killian) discover their magical abilities?  Is it significant that these two men, so connected to Freya, also have these abilities?

Answer: It was significant in that Dash and Killian both appear to be reincarnations of other lives descended from Asgard, same as Ingrid and Freya. Killian was hesitant about his magic and was not tempted by it, while Dash grasped control of his magic quickly and was lured toward dark aims, afflicted as he is by a dark nature seemingly embedded in his soul for lifetimes, and owing to the discovery of his family’s grimoire.  See above for further details.

5) Was Archibald from Asgard?  How did the Gardiners come by these abilities?

Answer: Seemingly, yes, Archibald was from Asgard or descended from Asgardians, though nothing is as yet confirmed, including how the Gardiners obtained their magic through anything other than heredity.

6) Wendy’s on her last life: how much time does she have?

Answer: Apparently one season.

7) Why is Frederick here?  Is he after his mother and aunt for whatever deeds offended their father?  Or, is he really trying to get away from his grandfather, as he repeatedly suggested (I’m with Wendy, though…I don’t believe it).

Answer: Frederick was used as a vessel by his grandfather, King Nickolaus, as a means of traveling to this world, though Frederick also yearned to reconnect with his mother.  I think Frederick, ultimately, was driven and torn by two impulses of loyalty: one for his grandfather and one for his mother.  Was he really trying to escape his grandfather’s clutches?  In his mind, perhaps, at one point, though he was very easily swayed by the idea that Nickolaus could have been reformed when he was summoned to help save the girls.  I think Frederick’s hallmark trait is that he loves his family, all of his family, regardless of their faults and misdeeds, despite the fact that different factions warred with each other; I think he saw himself caught in the middle, in some respects, though youth and arrogance may have initially caused him to side with his grandpa.

8) What is the symbolic tattoo/scar indicative of?  Why did the random patient and Frederick both have it? Does Wendy’s mysterious paramedic have it too?

Answer: The tattoo/scar is a magical sigil of King Nickolaus, allowing his soul/essence to occupy another body as a vessel.  Frederick was the first to have it, being the vessel that brought the King from Asgard to this world.  The King, via Frederick, sought another host, though, and so other symbols were tattooed on various people, who could not handle the magical hosting and died.  That is, until Nickolaus discovered paramedic Tommy, who ultimately become the ideal host body.

9) How are Killian and Freya going to be reunited – are they going to be reunited at all?  Who is the girl with the owl tattoo, and is she there by chance or with a purpose?

Answer: They were reunited after Freya dying and Killian dying and Eva dying. There was death and magical healing, as Killian and Freya’s souls are intertwined.  Eva, the girl with the owl tattoo, was using Killian’s magic to stave off her own death, but she was unable to compete with his soul-enforced love for Freya.  I think she was trying to have a baby with him too; honestly, Eva’s story line is hazy to me, as I finished this show quite some time ago, and she was my least favorite addition to the cast roles.

10) Why was Dash learning about Ingrid’s blood results significant?  Will he make the connection that the Beauchamps are witches also?  If he does: what then?

Answer: Dash realized that the Beauchamps are witches, which was also confirmed by Ingrid.  This led to much magical intermingling, in every way possible.

11) Wendy’s new stranger – unless he is Asgardian.  I feel as if he was introduced just to give Wendy more to do other than be the free spirit that is endlessly protective, though sometimes flippant, about the safety of her sister and nieces.

Answer: As it turns out, Tommy became King Nickolaus’ vessel.  He was still mostly uninteresting, but Wendy’s sacrifice to him in the end was moving.

12) Ingrid’s new job, though I enjoy the presence of Tom Lenk, otherwise known as Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Does this mean she is leaving the library? Either way, unless it ties into the larger story: yawn.

Answer: Still yawning.  At some point, Ingrid going to work was an afterthought and forgotten.  Though, it should be noted, that two Buffy alumni appeared, i.e. Tom Lenk (Andrew) and the former Spike, i.e. James Marsters.  Also, Freddie Prinze Jr., otherwise known as Mr. Sarah Michelle Gellar in real life, had a guest spot on the show. Theoretically, Buffy fans should have flocked to this one, especially if they dug Willow’s character.  SMG did, but others did not.

PARTING SHOTS:

The second season of the Witches of East End was far more inconsistent and scattered and lacked the magical twists and turns of the season preceding it, particularly as it struggled to offer one galvanizing villain early on when season one presented the interesting and brilliantly portrayed Penelope so quickly.  The writers, instead, chose to employ one overarching villain and several red herring possibilities loyal to this villain, which rendered both character and viewer unaware of the true source of the looming threat, but for the eminent and omnipresent “darkness,” for more than half of the season.  The first season was far more addicting, most likely due to the love triangle between Freya, Dash, and Killian; the novelty of the Beauchamps’ magic; and the exploration of past lives, particularly Ingrid’s.  On the other hand, the second season was, at times, compelling and interesting but lacked the same addictive qualities, since Freya ultimately (and always) chose Killian and since the rest of the story was less new. Thus, this program definitely succumbed to the second season slump after such a riveting and well written (if not necessarily well performed) first season; in fact, this viewer continues to believe that the writers and producers were less comfortable with the show’s new direction after likely expecting only one season.  Sadly, the lack of confidence and possibly of story planning, particularly during the early episodes of the second season, caused the show to lose viewers and the network to lose faith in the show, which is unfortunate, because this viewer wanted to visit Asgard and the connections between the characters, especially between the Beauchamps and the Gardiners, more deeply. Perhaps, it would be worth reading Melissa de la Cruz’s original novel(s) now that the show has been given early walking papers, if they retained any similarity.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Canceled!  Witches of East End was canceled after only two seasons, with what was ultimately the finale airing on October 5, 2014.  Fan campaigns to save the show have been unsuccessful to date.  The show is available to stream currently on Netflix.

Streaming Originals and Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks – “Sense8” – Series Premiere & Season One Review (SPOILERS)

Guest Reviewer: Edgar
see also:
The Once Upon a Time, Orange is the New Black, and True Blood podcasts

Who:  “Sense8,” is a Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.

What: “Sense8,” a science fiction drama created by the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5). The plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world, who suddenly and inexplicably become mentally and emotionally linked, and explores themes of religion, politics, identity, gender, and sexuality.

When: All twelve first season episodes became available for viewing on June 5, 2015.

Where: The action is set all over the world.

Why: I started watching this show after seeing it heavily advertised on the radio and TV. Also, the creators are connected to The Matrix trilogy, so I figured it couldn’t be half bad.  I was motivated to write a review because I felt a strong connection with this show quickly. I haven’t had a connection with a show like this in a very long time; the last time I felt connected to a show like this was when I watched Lost. Also one of my favorite actors from Lost is in this show, i.e. Naveen Andrews, who played Sayid.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Sense8 = *****

SYNOPSIS

Sense8 tells the story of eight strangers: Will, Riley, Capheus, Sun, Lito, Kala, Wolfgang, and Nomi, each from a different culture and part of the world. While living their everyday lives, they suddenly have a vision of the violent death of a woman called Angelica and discover that they are ‘sensates’: otherwise normal humans who are mentally and emotionally connected and who are able to communicate, sense, and use each other’s knowledge, language, and skills. While trying to live their lives and figure out how and why this connection has happened and what it means, they are aided by another sensate, Jonas, who is trying to protect them from “Whispers”, another sensate, who is similarly empowered and who is hunting them down by tapping into their psychic link.

THOUGHTS

Sense8 is a very complex show due to the number of characters involved in the story line. In Episode One, “Limbic Resonance,” we are introduced to Angelica Turing (Daryl Hannah). who is in the process of giving birth. Throughout the season, the show refers back to this moment and the act of Angelica giving birth. Within minutes during the first episode, though, we also learn that eight other people can sense this act, together, though as people find out about their ability, it is not easily accepted.

Mr. Whispers (Terrence Mann) appears to be the villain; he has the same ability as the “8” and wants no one else to share his ability. The 8 include Capheus (Aml Ameen), Sun (Doona Bae), Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Kala (Tina Desai), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), and Will (Brian J. Smith). These 8 characters live nowhere close to each other; however, they all share a mental connection. They quickly learn that they also share the strengths that each person possesses, though each character lives in 8 different locations around the world from San Francisco to India to Iceland. Each of the 8 characters brings a different dimension to the connection. For example, Sun is an award winning fighter; Lito is an acclaimed actor in film. As the 8 are mentally connected, they can use and channel each other’s strengths or other attributes, like language.

From an audience perspective, it was very interesting to see how the show developed the characters in ways that they learned to help each other, whether by Nomi helping Will with her spy equipment or by Will, on the other hand, helping Nomi to break free from being held hostage. I fell in love with this show not because of the element, the “gimmick,” specific to the show, i.e. the mental connection between the characters, but because of the original state of each of the characters and what they uniquely brought to the “sensate” table, which made them feel more real and more like normal human beings. Nomi, for instance, is a transgendered woman who is fighting for her right to be able to be who she wants. Lito is seemingly a “man’s man;” he is a famous actor, complete with money, cars, nice house, and of course plenty of women to feed his image. Deep down, however, he has a secret that even he, himself, hasn’t come to grips with: he is gay and has a lover, but he is unable to love his lover because he has been unable to love himself.

What Sense8 does particularly well is showcase powerful themes of power, gender, identity, and sexuality. On the other hand, the biggest problem with the show is that, due to the number of characters and the associated complexity that covering so many main characters entails, there are many episodes devoted to exposition and explanation of who each of the characters are and what they do. It took at least three or four episodes, which is a quarter to a third of the opening season, for this viewer to truly grasp who everyone is, which I believe compromised the show’s future because the show takes so much time to lay the groundwork underlying its characters and its vision. Season two renewal was not automatically announced as with some of Netflix’s other original series; Netflix waited until August 2015 to indicate that Sense8 would be green lit for a second season.

The show itself is packed with drama, action, and lust, though it sometimes lacks a beat, a consistent pace that propels the story forward. In some episodes, the pace or forward motion felt as if it died very quickly. At times, it felt like, in one minute, I was focused on one thing but then was switched to a whole new adventure without forewarning.  The show’s direction lacked meaningful transitions at times, as the story lurched sometimes from setting to setting and character to character.

In the program’s defense, much of the chosen direction and pacing is devoted to developing how the 8 are connected. It’s clear that the writers want the audience to understand that the characters are deeply connected in a mysterious way, and the editing team does a wonderful job of showcasing scenes that take place around the world but at the same time in a manner that is both meaningful and engaging.

Overall, I am hooked. I rated the “first look” show five stars because, not only does one have to watch all the episodes to get a handle on all of the character and plot detail, but the characters’ individual story lines are well developed, interesting, and so good! I have enjoyed getting to know these 8 people and how they tick and work. It’s going to be interesting to see how Straczynski and the Wachowskis move forward. The creators have already announced that they plan to produce no more than five seasons, which seems short but for how television works today.

Though the renewal announcement for Sense8 took longer than usual, Netflix is advertising the show again.  For now, we know we will be reconnected with our Senses. Till we birth again.

Questions Going Forward

1) Mr. Whispers went into Will’s mind; throughout the show, all of the 8 were warned: “Don’t look at him, or it’s the end.” So what has happened to Will?

2) Why is Angelica connected to all 8 people? How did she give birth to the 8?

RECOMMENDATION

Sense8 is recommended to people who like action-packed shows. Although the show is considered science fiction, it is not rooted in much science, but for the fact that the 8 main characters can all connect their thoughts, actions, and minds. This viewer sees the show as more of a suspense filled mystery. Sense8 is also recommended to those who like trying to figure out what is going to happen next and to Lost fans because Sense8 reminded this viewer of Lost.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Sense8 was renewed for a second season, slated to premiere on Netflix in June 2016!

Meet the (New) Blogger! – Edgar (Eddie)

We here at Couch Potatoes Unite! are expanding.  You have already heard voices, old and continually new, on our podcasts!  Well, some people wanted to get into the blogging act as well.  From time to time, there will be guest writers reviewing shows on the blog. Because I don’t watch everything.  Because I don’t always have time or interest.  Though, maybe I’ll be convinced to watch more by these additional reviews. Such is the life of a small screen enthusiast.

Anyway, one of our regular podcast panelists wanted to write a review, which will be published later today.  For now, read all about him (his info will also be accessible on the About page, reachable by the little square box in the upper left of the header).

INTRODUCING EDDIE (or EDGAR, his actual name)!

Edgar is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He works for Charter Communications and enjoys musical theater. Since he works for a cable company, it may come as no surprise that Edgar loves TV. What’s more, he likes to analyze TV – thus, a podcast panelist and TV reviewer was born!

Edgar enjoys trying to figure out what TV writers are thinking when they craft their shows. To wit, some of Edgar’s favorites include Sense8, Lost, and Once Upon a Time, basically shows that offer mystery that Edgar can analyze and figure out, as he likes to be one step ahead of the show.

Edgar is very excited to be a team member of Couch Potatoes Unite! You can hear his voice on the CPU! podcasts for Once Upon a Time, Orange is the New Black (episodes to come), and the one-time “Looking Back” podcast about True Blood (so far!). Writing reviews is a new degree of TV appreciation for Edgar, but he very much enjoyed it and can’t wait to write his next review or sit around the water cooler again.

You will next hear Edgar’s voice when CPU! podcasts about Orange is the New Black, but for now, stay tuned for his forthcoming review about Sense8!

Welcome, Edgar!

Welcome, Edgar!

Around the Water Cooler: “The Mindy Project” – The Season 3 Finale and Mini-Season Recap and the Big Change (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “The Mindy Project” aired on network TV, specifically on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:30 PM during the 2014-2015 season.  It was canceled by Fox following this season, but streaming service Hulu picked it up and plans to continue the series.

What: “The Mindy Project,” a situation comedy about a thirtysomething, Indian gynecologist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), who is looking for love and life fulfillment, despite being a unique personality with a curvy body type and despite the fact that she works in an OB/GYN office filled with other unique personalities (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/mindy_project_the/summary.html).

When: The Season 3 finale aired on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, on FOX at 9:30 PM.

Where: The show is set in New York City (Manhattan specifically), primarily in the OB/GYN office in which Mindy works.

Why: I think Mindy Kaling (formerly Kelly Kapoor on The Office) is one of the funniest contemporary writer/performers.  She’s got a unique sense of humor and line delivery that makes her somewhat easy to relate to and yet awkwardly off-putting all at the same time, and this quality elicits the laughter, at least for this viewer.  Also, this program seems to be the Bridget Jones equivalent of the 20teens, and since I’m America’s answer to Bridget Jones, I had to check it out.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Ah, Mindy.  She could be the plus-sized version of the so-called “Manic Pixie Girl” if it weren’t for the fact that she is plus-sized.  It’s because she is plus-sized and probably almost too confident about it that makes her so appealing.

Is she a role model for the ages?  Perhaps, when all of the math is said and done, the numbers crunched, and the sociological impact of one little sitcom measured for all of its marginal effect on the landscape, the answer is no.  She’s angered many a feminist group, lately, which could be good or bad, with her scattered and somewhat shallow outlook on the world.  Mindy is a project.  Funny – that’s the name of the show, right?

Mindy is funny, though, because she’s a mess.  She’s funny because she’s me.  Slightly younger.  Shorter.  A bit thinner but not much.  Slightly more Indian (just kidding, she’s quite a bit more Indian).  Slightly more of a doctor.  Slightly way way way more into vacuous pop culture icons – I can’t even name half the pop acts she enjoys.  Her taste in men and her general approach to life, much of which is reactive to a combination of the crazy situations in which she finds herself and her very own crazy, is very similar to my own.  I have quite a few less cute boys (douche bags or not) in close proximity.  The long and short of it is, I can relate to her.  Are we very similar?  Not in so many ways, but there are aspects of this thirtysomething woman of a certain type that resonate strongly with this thirtysomething viewer of a certain type.  As a result, I probably find this sitcom funnier than most.

Yet, Mindy’s mess is only funny in self-contained doses.  The framework of this show, The Mindy Project, works the best when it blends Mindy’s self-discovery with the antics of her office mates (Morgan, played by Ike Barinholtz, chief among them) and the romantic comedy on which she bases her shallow, if self-fulfilling, philosophy.

In the second season of Mindy, that balance was much more omnipresent.  Ever on the ratings bubble, however, the show’s writers and producers – Mindy’s alter ego Mindy Kaling at the head – threw everything they had at the episodes up to and including the season finale.  They capitalized on the growing chemistry between Mindy and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) and moved them toward being a couple, possibly much sooner than most sitcoms might elect to simmer such juicy potential.  As a result, season three, with no other possible direction to go, ventured steeply into romcom territory, with Mindy’s own Meg Ryan-like story playing out before her eyes.

Because the show settled into a romantic comedy type rhythm, there’s really not much to recap overall.  The entire season was about Mindy and Danny’s struggle to co-exist as a couple.  After all, they’re two very different people. Danny’s strict Catholic upbringing came steeply into play, particularly with the brilliant casting of Rhea Perlman as his mother.  Never a more perfect casting choice could there have been; her Castellano matriarch Annette was a bit more insane than Carla Tortelli of Cheers fame, but that Carla spark – or that essence of Rhea – was present just enough and matched perfectly to Messina’s Danny.  Every time she was on screen, whether interacting with Danny, Mindy, or her best friend Dot (Jenny O’Hara), she stole the show.  I hope they find a way to enlist Rhea Perlman to be a series regular because she added so much to the dynamic.  It was great.  Also, for those keeping track, Dan Hedaya plays Danny’s dad Alan, who also played Carla’s first husband Nick Tortelli on Cheers. 

In the meantime, the characters of Mindy and Danny struggled to decide on living quarters, with Danny reluctantly acquiescing to Mindy’s gradual attempt to consolidate their living spaces by moving her belongings into his apartment, no matter how much he tried to send her belongings back with her, in her suitcase.  Mindy and Danny struggled to have a sex life uninterrupted by Peter (Adam Pally), once he moved into the empty condo owned by Danny next door.  Mindy and Danny struggled to work together, with Dr. Jeremy (Ed Weeks) attempting to call the shots as head of the OB/GYN practice in which they work.  Mindy and Danny struggled when Mindy decided to accept a fellowship in California, resulting in a long distance relationship (but for the fact that they’re doctors and can drop bank on plane tickets at will).

The entire season was about Mindy and Danny finding their footing, while Danny reconciled his rather conservative upbringing with Mindy’s footloose and fancy-free – and not exactly White, which became important more often than was comfortable – ways. Season three culminated in the BIG QUESTION.  Would Danny ask Mindy to marry him?  It was, again, Bridget Jones in its way, or When Harry Met Sally, or any of the standard Meg Ryan led fare.  By the end of the season, Danny seemed to have decided “yes” and flew all the way to India to ask Mindy’s parents for her hand; their answer is as yet unknown, and that’s the big cliffhanger facing season four.

On the strength of the writing and performances, The Mindy Project retained its sassy, somewhat satirical view of life for someone that fits Mindy’s type.  The jokes flowed freely, and this cast works well as an ensemble, adding Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) into the mix.  Still, there is a sense, after viewing season three, that the show’s producers devoted all of their energy to building up to that fantastic finale at the end of season two to stave off cancellation by Fox, only to run into the same problem at the end of season three and not have built up enough steam and/or story ideas to convince the most fickle of networks to continue its run.  Need we list all of the series that Fox has canceled for much less?

Thus, in the end, it’s not surprising that The Mindy Project was ultimately canceled by Fox because, in some ways, it used up its best stuff too early.  Also, the show is not one likely to garner newer viewers without some stronger gimmick.  It is what it is – it’s a show about a slightly insane if all too familiar (and easy to relate to) woman of a certain age and type, and it’s a romantic comedy centered on an odd couple.  I like it, and I will watch it until it finally ends, but it has its niche.

This is not to say that this viewer is not highly ecstatic by the news that streaming service Hulu picked up the show to continue its production as original streaming content.  In fact, this move away from a prime time slot on one of the big five networks might actually infuse this program with new energy as it moves into its fourth season. Mindy Kaling has already hinted at the idea that they might try to “get away” with more elements from a humor perspective, without losing the core of the show.  Still, there is no doubt that the show could probably use it.  What if Mindy and Danny do get married? Will the program then veer into their off-kilter marriage – I mean, they’re not exactly Bones and Booth, so could this concept sustain long-term?  In fact, so much of the focus was on them as two rather than Mindy as one, or even the office as a whole, this year.  The Mindy Project needs to recapture the balance that season two brought to the table.  It might also help for the season to work toward a larger goal without serializing the episodes too drastically.  That sense of focus truly helped to ground season two in a workable and ultimately fantastic way.

As I have opined before, several times in this entry in fact, The Mindy Project may be the Bridget Jones’ Diary of the 2010s, but the fact that Mindy is nothing short of a mess when closely observed and analyzed, and Danny is a character just a bit less messy, makes for some truly funny comedy.  While season two felt less formulaic, season three dove head first into formula, foregoing previous deft, if slightly subtle, nods to the films that inform Mindy’s love life choices and skewering them outright into a fractured fairy tale version creating much of the story center of the third season.

Mindy and Danny remain a fun twosome to watch, and the supporting cast remains so zany, and the dialogue, supplied primarily by Kaling herself, is so rapid-fire and witty, that The Mindy Project is filled with laughs, even though the third season offered less guffaws and more halfhearted chuckles and failed to push the envelope as prior seasons did.  Perhaps, instead of a sophomore season slump, the show experienced a junior season one?  Here’s hoping that graduating to a new platform and a new method of distribution will inject the show with some of the zest it initially offered in its first two seasons.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) The biggest of all – what’s going to happen when the new season starts with Danny and Mindy?  How are they going to navigate their new relationship?  And will the show stay funny?

Answer: Danny and Mindy’s relationship dominated season three.  The navigation came with quite a few growing pains, but, for the most part, the show stayed funny.

2) Should we care about any of the other characters?  So far, I don’t.

Answer: Peter became a marginally likable supporting player this season, serving as Mindy’s dude/bro best friend.  His quest to become worthy of the girlfriend he had was touching.  I also like Morgan and Tamra together because they kind of cluelessly work together.  Dr. Jeremy is handsome but uninteresting.

New Questions

1) Will Rhea Perlman be made a series regular?  SHE SHOULD BE.

2) Will Mindy’s parents give Danny permission to marry her?

3) Will the show stay funny if they actually get married?

4) Will everyone return for season four and the jump to Hulu?

5) Did you know that the next time you read about The Mindy Project on this blog, it will fall under the category of “Streaming Originals?”  True story.

PARTING SHOTS

The Mindy Project continues to be a funny show that likely continues to appeal the most to thirtysomething women still finding their footing in the world (of which this author would fall into such a category). The show lost some momentum going into season three when Mindy and Danny became a couple, which did not bode well for its continued stay on network television, but hopefully, the move to Hulu will allow more creative latitude and freedom to get the show revving again, though the producers and writers would do well to regain the balance between the budding romantic relationship at the forefront and Mindy’s own struggle to be her own kind of normal, which is when the show works best.

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Mindy Project was canceled by FOX but then picked up streaming service Hulu and renewed for season four, which is slated to premiere on the service on September 15, 2015.  Until then!