Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks & Around the Water Cooler: “Madam Secretary” (Reviewing Season One; MAJOR SPOILERS)

Madam_Secretary_(CBS)_Logo

Reviewed by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Madam Secretary” is a political drama that currently airs on CBS, fall/winter Sundays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Madam Secretary,” which features Tea Leoni as Elizabeth Adams McCord, a former CIA analyst and college professor who is asked to assume the office of the United States Secretary of State by the President, her old CIA boss.

When: Season One aired on CBS from September 21, 2014, to May 3, 2015. CBS is currently airing Season Two.

Where: The story is primarily set in Washington, DC, although, like the real Secretary of State, Secretary McCord is asked to fly to various locales both within the United States and abroad.

Why:  I picked up this show when shopping for pilots during the 2014-2015 TV season (a yearly ritual for this viewer and this blog, no matter how far behind I am). I said:

“Honestly, the trailer convinced me. I’m not typically a fan of Tea Leoni (I never forgave her for marrying David Duchovny, even if they are divorced now), but this seems to be a good role for her, something that is both inspired and influenced by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Honestly, this could be intelligent, dramatic storytelling with very palpable intensity and consequences, and the caliber of talent in the cast is also high. I think it’s worth a look.”

My prediction has been, for the most part, both astute and correct.  Secretary McCord is a great role for Leoni, and she has been able to play this intelligent, liberal, compassionate character in an engaging way.  She also has effortless chemistry with Tim Daly, who is playing her husband, another college professor (and, apparently, that chemistry has moved to off-screen time as well).  The storytelling is both intelligent and dramatic, and there is very real intensity while the Secretary considers very real consequences that play out both in her private and public lives.  She also has an amusing support staff, led by Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers, Frasier), which keeps it interesting.  Whether or not that interest always sustains is another matter.

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.

Madam Secretary = ****

SYNOPSIS

Dr. Elizabeth “Bess” Adams McCord (Leoni) spent twenty years as a CIA analyst before becoming a professor of political science at the University of Virginia.  Her old boss, Conrad Dalton, now the President of the United States, selects her for the position of Secretary of State to replace the former secretary, who died in a plane crash under suspicious circumstances.  Not a natural politician, Elizabeth frequently clashes with White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek) and other members of her staff, who previously served loyally under the former Secretary of State; however, it is clear that Bess brings a new energy and integrity to the role that both infuses the administration with new life but also threatens the foundations of those who would oppose it.  All the while, Bess must be a loving mother and wife to her family, including her husband (Daly) and three children.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Even though this viewer is getting older and is slowly progressing toward CBS’ target age demographic, I refuse to become wholly part of that demographic at any point.  In other words, I choose to remain young forever, especially so I can enjoy what the CW has to offer.  Still, when intelligent television presents itself, I owe it both to myself and to anyone who trusts my television viewing recommendations to give it a chance and to consider it on the merits.  And as I said above, I knew, without a doubt, that Madam Secretary would be intelligent television.

The best part about this show is that it never panders to the audience.  The writers have given it the pace of The West Wing but have allowed the drama to unfold at its own speed, and for their efforts, it has largely been successful.  The show delves, quite aptly, into foreign policy matters that closely parallel real life while reminding its audience that everyone in its world is fictional – as President Dalton, for example, cannot in any way be equated to President Obama.  Reminding the viewer via the natural progression of the storytelling that what s/he is watching is fictional amps up the intensity of some of the episodes without causing the anxiety that a show “too real” in its depictions might otherwise cause.  Arguably, Madam Secretary has achieved a perfect balance of suspension of disbelief and a strain of actually being somewhat educational.  For that reason alone, it deserves a watch.

The show also effectively balances individual episode crises that McCord and her staff must handle with a larger, broader mystery that informs the entire season.  Namely, the mystery of who killed the prior Secretary of State Vincent Marsh, as it is made apparent to Bess that what looked like an accidental plane crash was no accident at all but political sabotage.  Much of the first season finds Bess in the position of having to suss out who she can trust from multiple angles: who she can trust to her allow her to do her job; who she can trust to facilitate negotiations with foreign officials and ambassadors; who she can trust to investigate Marsh’s murder on the quiet, without alerting whomever might be behind the scandal.  People who are perceived to be roadblocks, like Jackson, eventually become allies, while friends, such as her co-worker and best friend from her CIA days, become unknowable to her.

What the show does not (yet) grapple with is whether these changing dynamics are caused by or are a result of her assuming the office she has assumed or whether they occur in spite of her promotion.  Bess finds herself in a very actionable/high-ranking and powerful position.  It’s a daunting one, and one she never feels prepared for, even though she never shies away from speaking her mind and offering her scope on the matters.  The character is a strong one and an admirable one; she goes a long way for the portrayal of strong women who can be both smart and feminine on television.  The show may not be pioneering the concept, but the idea is being championed immensely, and Leoni is largely to thank for that.  Bess presents both compassion and bravery, two necessary and admirable traits in a possible hero with political clout, and I think Bess, though she is imperfect as any human being, is a heroine that is both interesting and engaging to watch on a weekly basis.

The show does have some flaws.  First, the story deviates into two other primary character areas: the family and the staff.  To make the family and possibly the husband, Henry, more interesting, he is summoned by the President to act, again, as a mole for the National Security Agency (NSA), something he apparently freelanced doing at other points in his marriage to Bess.  Henry’s mission, at least by the end of season one, did not seem to have an overall bearing on the story, except for the fact that Henry, who is the more stable of the two parents in the McCord family lives, was endangered; I think the target individual was connected to the umbrella plot but marginally.  It was very unclear why this sidebar even occurred, and at times, it was tedious, even though Daly performed the role and the actions of his character ably.
The audience also watched the eldest daughter, Stephanie or “Stevie” (Wallis Currie-Wood), drop out of college and find her way to interning for a government program on the chopping block for funding, as she apparently is another lost millennial on the quest to find herself.  She dated her boss, a much older man, for a time before forming or reforming a rather complicated relationship with the president’s son.  On the one hand, her foibles offer the McCords something to deal with outside of Bess’ job and Henry’s freelance spy work, a complication to remind the viewer that we are watching human beings with human concerns.  Also, for all of the kids, when the show attempts to relate their normal coming of age problems to the abnormality of their mother’s job, the stories and situations are effective and interesting.  Sometimes, as in the case of Stevie’s love life, there was also a sense of tedium that would cause an episode to drag and this viewer’s mind to wander.  Also, there is something inherently not likable about this particular member of the family, and I can’t put my finger on why.
Finally, we have the taboo secret romance of staffers Daisy (Patina Miller) and Matt (Geoffrey Arend), which is seemingly born of stress sex and not much else.  Their chemistry is off, even though each individual character is at least moderately enjoyable.  Much of the season focused on the fact that Daisy was seeing Matt, despite having a rich, cookie cutter long-term boyfriend.  This viewer is not sure that this particular facet of the story added much to the overall dynamic of the tales being weaved.  Of more interest was the fact that Nadine had a decades-long affair with the former Secretary and then was wooed by a NASA official.  Also, Bess’ assistant Blake appears to be gay and closeted, at least in the office, which is an interesting choice, given the recent push for acceptance in present society.
Because these aspects of the story lacked something – Henry’s freelancing endangered him but landed with a thud, even though the man he was spying on admitted some of his connections to the treasonous assassination of the former Secretary of State; Stevie’s various affairs were tabloid fodder, even though Bess isn’t seeking higher political office; Daisy and Matt’s on-the-side tryst (and possible sincere romance) might have been professionally inappropriate but otherwise lacked drama, they tended to weigh the overall narrative down.  Thus, this viewer feels compelled to rate the show four stars.  Even though every episode is handled with intelligence and forethought to the continuity being created, it is clear that some of the story doesn’t always work.  Madam Secretary is best when it focuses on Bess and the people around Bess as they relate to her and she back to them or when the show focuses on broader situations, such as Bess’ visit to Iraq or the search for Vincent Marsh’s murderer.  I feel like the rest of it is fluff to fill an hour for 22-24 episodes in a season.  Perhaps, some viewers prefer the fluff, but if the fluff overtakes the political intrigue underlying M-Sec in her position, this show could become as tedious as these individual plot strands in a hurry – and also render the show too much like other fare available on television.
As it is, this viewer feels moved to keep watching.  It’s not a favorite or necessarily “must-see” appointment television, but Madam Secretary is a compelling political drama with a great cast and a great team of writers exploring aspects of a ranking executive position that the audience might not have considered, having never worked in or witnessed the workings of such an office.
It’s difficult to recap a season with the story structure set up as it is.  Therefore, here are some major highlights from season one:
  • Stevie organizes a protest at her university and achieves some notoriety due to her mother’s job.
  • After Stevie splits from her much older boyfriend, supervisor, and director of the microloan program for which she interns, she rekindles what appears to be an old friendship and nascent love connection with the President’s son, who is similarly aged, drawing more tabloid fodder by the end of the season.  Maybe this is why this viewer finds it hard to like her.  She’s a publicity hound!  And in no way similar to an obvious possible real-life inspiration, Chelsea Clinton.
  • A Russian foreign minister attempts to cajole Henry into giving his daughter an “A” grade, even though she is earning a “C” in his ethics class.  He is unsuccessful, even though the cajoling includes possible blackmail.  This is interesting only because the minister becomes an ally later for Henry as he conducts his NSA assignments undercover.
  • When the Secretary is in India regarding a joint project involving some sort of petroleum or oil factory, an earthquake hits.  Bess’ middle daughter, Alison, who is becoming romantically linked with an Indian prince, is lost in the earthquake.  Fortunately, they are not harmed or killed, but the king is fatally wounded.
  • Henry’s initial reactivation as an NSA mole, requested by President Dalton, Henry keeps secret from his wife and children at first, which causes Stevie, who catches sight of him with his female handler, to suspect that he’s having an affair.
  • A gunman threatens the State Department, causing it to go on lock-down, while Elizabeth is stuck with an Iraqi delegation.  The delegation threatens to expose some of Bess’ actions and work done during her time with the CIA.  The viewer learns that much of her time with the CIA was spent assigned to Iraq during a time period eerily similar to that of the George W. Bush years.
  • Elizabeth also contends with an issue of slavery when a diplomat traps his maid in his home as well as the possibility that a young, gay citizen of Iraq faces stoning for his sexuality, human rights violations that have basis in real life.
  • Interestingly enough, the Greek debt crisis also features for an episode.  This is interesting because it happened in real life too.
  • Elizabeth and Henry as well as Bess’ old colleague Isabelle initiate the investigation into deceased Secretary of State Marsh.  Their secret investigation, over the course of several episodes, reveals that their mutual friend and former CIA colleague Juliet is caught up with a radicalist movement that does not support the administration’s efforts and stances with respect to the Middle East, particularly Iran.  This movement is responsible for the death of Marsh as well as ranking Iranian officials; in fact, an attempted coup in Iran is held up as a by-product of this conspiracy, supported by former members of the CIA and current members of the American government, not all of whom are uncovered during the investigation, which eventually expands to include Jackson and later Dalton himself as individuals looking into the plot on the quiet.  Elizabeth discovers that several of her former colleagues are involved in the coup; the ones that are not but find out about it lose their lives, such as the colleague who alerted Bess to the possibility behind Marsh’s death in the pilot.  Elizabeth spends much of the season trying to suss out if Dalton, her former CIA superior, is aware of the wheels behind the attempted coup in Iran as well as the plot to murder Marsh.  By the end of the season, he appears to be absolved of any wrongdoing, but there is still question as to which factions specifically are orchestrating these plans.
  • At one point, Elizabeth visits Iran in order to secretly meet with a ranking official who has information about the potential coup.  While there, the official’s home is bombed, and he is killed, while she is in the home.  His young son also witnesses his father’s murder as Bess throws herself over him to protect the child from exploding debris.  This incident, among the additional stressful incidents that Bess is subjected to such as the threat of the gunman, causes her to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and to seek therapy, which she must keep quiet, lest she lose face in the public’s eye and in the eyes of Congress, which appear to be majority Republican, opposing Dalton, a Democrat – another ratio inspired by real life.  The PTSD concern seems to be a lasting one and may affect Bess more in future seasons.

It will be interesting to see how future seasons unfold and whether some of the perceived kinks in pacing and superfluous story trails can be ironed out for a more enjoyable viewing experience.  This viewer believes that the show benefits from its balanced approach of episodic and serial storytelling, but some of the fluffier story lines surrounding the McCord family and the staffers (namely Matt and Daisy), ironically, cause the pace to drag and the tedium to increase, bloating what is truly an intelligent television offering, even if they are designed to be comic relief.  These pitfalls are not huge, but they prevent at least this viewer from seeing Madam Secretary as the kind of “HOLY SMOKES!” show that warrants appointment television.  Also, because I rarely catch TV episodes when they first air, I frequently have to catch up, and CBS only airs its in-season streaming content on its streaming app, for which one must pay to subscribe.  I already subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus – and I don’t pay for the networks on my TV.  I’m not about to start paying for them just to watch in-season content, unless something earth-shattering is released.  CBS is not winning the earth-shattering contest.  Let that be a lesson, Eye Network.  Your streaming app and target audience are not aligning right now, from what this viewer observes!

Then again, I have not watched Supergirl yet.  I could be proven wrong.  Also, I digress.

As such, for now, CPU! and this viewer will periodically check into Madam Secretary, but likely in a behind the times kind of fashion, as our podcast continues to develop. Speaking of our podcast, our next new episode will be released two weeks from today! Several panelists are undergoing huge life changes: new jobs, having babies, taking trips (it must be the moon phase), but we have a host of new offerings on our plate, including revisits for Downton Abbey, How to Get Away with Murder, and the X-Files miniseries, and we have new panels in the works (can someone say Jessica Jones and the DC Television Universe?). You won’t want to miss them!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Also: we now have Instagram! (@couchpotatoesunite) and a Pinterest (@cpupodcast). Find us there, if these social media platforms rock your respective socks.  We plan to get groovy on the interwebs elsewhere very soon as well – subscribe, follow, like, and review to stay on top of our newest developments.

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!

RECOMMENDATION

Madam Secretary is recommended to fans of similar fare, like The West Wing, as well as to fans of Tea Leoni (Jurassic Park III, Deep Impact) or Tim Daly (Wings, Private Practice).  This is straight up political drama, so potential viewers should like a healthy dose of realism in their fiction.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Madam Secretary is currently near the end of season two, but it has been renewed for a third season, which is likely to premiere in fall 2016.  CPU! will continue to cover the show; however, this show will not be covered as often or as in time as shows that we touch upon in our podcast episodes.  On the other hand, if you would like CPU! to podcast about Madam Secretary, send us an email at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com or comment on this post or in our guestbook (click the upper left dialog box in the picture of the TV watcher). We are always seeking new panelists and fans of TV; plus, we want to know what you want to listen to and/or talk about!  We take requests!  Until next time!

iTunes PODCAST – Futurama (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. Good news, Everyone! In this episode, our panel of prospective Planet Express delivery boys and girls–including moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, and Michael–gathered together for one of Professor Farnsworth’s more ludicrous workplace meetings, in which we were Looking Back and reminiscing about Futurama, which aired on Fox from 1999-2003 for four seasons and on Comedy Central from 2008 to 2013 for four films and two additional seasons.  If you have not watched any of Futurama, 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! Tell us what you like or don’t like. Keep the discussion going!

PODCAST! – Looking Back at “Futurama” (MAJOR SPOILERS) + Empire Magazine’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time (#25 in 2008)

futurama

THE SPECS:

Who: “Futurama,” an animated, science fiction situated comedy, that aired on the Fox network from 1999-2003 and on cable network Comedy Central from 2008-2013 (it was in syndication from 2002-2007).

What: Created and produced by Matt Groening, who also created The Simpsons,  Futurama follows the adventures of a late-20th-century New York City pizza delivery boy, Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West), who, after being unwittingly cryogenically frozen for one thousand years, finds employment at Planet Express, an interplanetary delivery company in the retro-futuristic 31st century. Each episode follows the exploits of Fry and his motley band of Planet Express co-workers.

SYNOPSIS

On December 31, 1999, after accidentally tumbling backward into a cryogenic freezing chamber upon answering a prank call for pizza delivery to a cryogenics company comprised of bored scientists, Philip J. Fry (West) wakes up 1,000 years in the future, confronted by a very different Earth.  He manages to secure a job – as a delivery boy – at interplanetary delivery service Planet Express.  His co-workers include mad-scientist/inept boss and his distant nephew, Professor Hubert Farnsworth (also voiced by West); the employee doctor, an alien crab that emits foul odors and who has no understanding of human anatomy, John Zoidberg (also voiced by West); Farnsworth’s graduate student intern, a sexually promiscuous, highly clumsy heir to the primary land holders of Mars, Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom); the resident bureaucrat and personnel director, a Jamaican former Olympic medalist in limbo with a penchant for Manwiches and grass, Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr); the Planet Express ship’s captain, a one-eyed suspected alien, confirmed sewer mutant, who becomes Fry’s primary object of his affection, Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal); and an anti-social, suicide-prone, drunken criminal robot bending unit who encourages people often to bite his shiny metal ass, Bender Rodriguez, voiced by John DiMaggio.  The series follows their many exploits in what is, ultimately, one part science fiction homage, one part workplace comedy, and one part adult cartoon.

When: The series’ tumultuous airing history goes like this: Futurama began on Fox, also home of The Simpsons, from 1999 to 2003, before ceasing production and being canceled by the, then, cancel-happy network. Futurama was then revived in 2008 as four direct-to-video films, the last of which was released in early 2009. Cable network Comedy Central then entered into an agreement with Fox to syndicate the existing episodes and to air the films as 16 new, half-hour episodes, thereby making a fifth season.  In 2009, Comedy Central picked up the show for 26 new half-hour episodes, which began airing in 2010 and 2011 as a sixth season. The show was then renewed for a seventh season, with the first half airing in 2012 and the second in 2013. Comedy Central then canceled the show themselves; the series finale aired on September 4, 2013, officially ending the series (…for now?).

Where: The show is set in New New York at the turn of the 31st century, in a time filled with technological wonders. The city of New New York, in this universe, would be built over the ruins of present-day New York City, which occupies New New York’s sewers, referred to in the series as “Old New York.”

Why: Listen to the podcast for the panelists’ individual stories on how they found Futurama.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

Good news, Everyone!  Futurama has always been one of Chief Couch Potato/Frequent Moderator Kylie’s favorite shows since it began its roller coaster, scavenger hunt-esque run of airing/being preempted/being canceled/being revived by various interested parties (my squinty eyes are staring pointedly in the direction of Fox; it was an ill-advised time for them, since 2003 was also around the time when they canceled Firefly).  A recent re-watch on Netflix inspired me to tag this enduring, future-minded cult comedy for podcast discussion as an experiment – after all, CPU! covers scripted TV.  Why wouldn’t an animated sitcom like Futurama qualify?

Thus, as things happen around here, I quickly invented a time machine and sought out a mostly familiar panel of past and future but altogether prospective Planet Express ne’er-do-wells and fellow Couch Potatoes, including two familiar voices and one brand new voice, to chat about whether Futurama inspired them to great scientific heights, to stand in line for a suicide booth, or to generally live as they would have if they had remained in the twentieth century. The resulting discussion reveals differing albeit overlapping nostalgia for this quirky but ultimately beloved sitcom.  This podcast was recorded in February 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover significant plot points as well as sight gags, successful and unsuccessful jokes, and Easter Eggs that occur throughout all seven seasons. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Also: we now have Instagram! (@couchpotatoesunite) and a Pinterest (@cpupodcast). Find us there, if these social media platforms rock your respective socks.  We plan to get groovy on the interwebs elsewhere very soon as well – subscribe, follow, like, and review to stay on top of our newest developments.

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!

RECOMMENDATION

Futurama is recommended to anyone who enjoys The Simpsons as well as to anyone who enjoys adult cartoons, satire, and nerdy/geeky/dorky humor.  In fact, the podcast panel universally agreed that Futurama may not be for everyone because Futurama might actually be a bit more sophisticated than comparable adult cartoons, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park.  The entire panel, though, believes that the show is quality and (mostly) survived against some hefty odds and a seeming lack of initial network support, and while there may be some episodes (or, at least, jokes) that swing and miss, there is, usually, something for everyone to love.  The panel also universally agrees that Futurama’s cast of voices is one of the most talented ever assembled, making the show what it became. The entire series is available on Netflix or at Comedy Central’s website.  If you love lots of riffing on things that nerds and geeks (such as my fellow panelists and I) enjoy, you’ll love this show.

iTunes PODCAST – Doctor Who Series/Season 9 (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 in February 2016, our panel– including moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, Sarah, and Amanda–is Around the Water Cooler and recapping Series/Season 9 of Doctor Who. If you haven’t seen the series through the Season 9 Christmas Special, 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 Series/Season 9 Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Doctor Who” airs on cable TV, specifically on BBC America; the show is currently on hiatus.

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.  The finale of the season was the Christmas Special, which aired on December 25, 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;” I’ve joined friends who are Whovians in their own right for another discussion “around the water cooler.” 

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

Welcome to a new season of Doctor Who! With another full season under our belts, our “Who” panel of Kristen, Sarah, Nick, Amanda, and Chief Couch Potato Kylie reconvened to discuss all things series 9: the stellar and interstellar as well as the parts that should really be exterminated.  We have many diverse thoughts about what we saw, including the return of Davros, the guest appearance of Maisie Williams, the departure of Jenna Coleman’s companion Clara Oswald, and the return of Alex Kingston’s River Song, Mrs. The Doctor herself.

How about you? Give our latest Doctor Who recap rundown 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 next and likely final season as the enigmatic Doctor?  Who do you want to see as the next companion?  Can Alex Kingston come back for more?  What do you want?  What did you like?  What did you hate?  Tell us!  Tell them!

As always, follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes. In the meantime, let us know what you think! Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

PS: We now have Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite) and Pinterest (@cpupodcast).  If these platforms float your respective boats, follow us there too!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Our next podcast episode will look back at the wonders and marvels of cult animated show Futurama. Stay tuned!

 

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!  Tasha has not returned for Capaldi’s tenure as of yet…but River came back as River!  Maybe we should give up on Tasha; I mean, it’s been a while, but the reappearance of River was such a breath of fresh air.  Listen to the podcast for the panel’s reactions!

2) Will Gallifrey reemerge?

Answer: It did!  It did!  Well, it emerged.  Actually, it’s not clear if the Doctor discovered Gallifrey in its pocket universe, or if Gallifrey is back this side of the crack in the wall.  We were left with many questions.  Scroll to the New Questions section to read what those are, and listen to the podcast for more.

3) Is Missy (Michelle Gomez) 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).

Answer: Kristen may be right.  Missy still seems to be Missy, the female incarnation of the Master.  In fact, after the first two episodes of the series, she disappeared.  Where did she go?  That’s the real question.

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?

Answer: She’s apparently very alive, though we did not see how she was able to transport herself or where she got the device that allows her to do it.  She’s also disappeared, which seems like a bigger question/problem.

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

Answer: It is not clear when in the Doctor’s timeline he finds Davros, except that it seems to happen after he meets Davros in the first two episodes of the season.  Davros is definitely a child at that point, so it’s definitely Davros’ past.  The implication is that the Doctor shows Davros compassion in the hopes that Davros will learn and remember the same impulse.  Yet, the episodes also tell us that Davros has compassion only when it relates to his Dalek creations and only insofar as they supply him with his life force, as they are interconnected.

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

Answer: This question was not answered.  Maybe Skaro is implied, but it’s never stated, and it’s not a lingering question at this point because Davros and the Daleks were only a focal point during the first two episodes of the season.

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

Answer: He wanted to sucker the Doctor into lending him some regeneration energy, which healed the ailing Dalek master.  Davros’ long con involved appealing to the Doctor’s compassion, his perceived weakness, by attempting to demonstrate compassion himself, in addition to regret over his actions in life.  As it turns out, Davros should be up for an Academy Award (or a BAFTA).  The Doctor plugged himself into Davros’ contraption to give him a Time Lord-aided boost of healing regeneration energy, but then Davros moved to suck the rest of it out, until Missy stepped in to save her frienemy, the Doctor.

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

Answer: The Daleks took them nowhere.  Missy transported Clara and herself outside, saving them both from the approaching tin cans.  Missy created what she considered to be a crackerjack plan to get them admission back in to save the Doctor by plopping Clara inside a Dalek, which set up a missed opportunity for continuity (listen to the podcast).

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?

Answer: It seems Clara is “Thelma” to Me’s (Maisie Williams) “Louise.”  Clara initially died, in self-sacrifice to save another, but the Doctor’s compassion and caring about Clara caused him to live billions of years inside his Gallifreyan confession dial, only to burst out and use Time Lord technology to freeze Clara in time and bring her to the end of the universe.  It was somewhat confusing, but in the end, she and Me flew off in a diner that worked like a TARDIS.  Wibbly wobbly and timey wimey, I shouldn’t wonder.

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

Answer: River came back during the Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song.”  And it was magical!  The Doctor’s new companion has yet to be announced, though the entire panel wishes for River to return.  Or Donna Noble (Catherine Tate).

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

Answer: Osgood came back in two middle-of-the-season episodes concerning the Zygons.  As it turns out, she did not really die but was secreted away by UNIT, monitoring the covert population of Zygons currently residing on Earth with her Zygon partner who wears her face as of the anniversary special.  When the Zygons faced a rebellion force within its own population, Osgood revealed herself (and all of her Doctor fangirl-ness) once again.

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

Answer: Ever since they came through the Gallifreyan paintings in the 50th, they’ve secretly taken up normal, human lives and lived as humans, monitored by UNIT.  Unfortunately, not all Zygons liked the arrangement, and some of them started to rebel, with the intent of becoming an invasion force that overtook humans as well as human-sympathizers among the Zygons.  Until the Doctor intervened, that is.

11) Is Missy in league with the Daleks?

Answer: No, but she likes to play them as much as she likes to play everyone else.

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

Answer: That’s really Peter playing, and he did it a few more times throughout the season.

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

Answer: Apparently, they are not important at all because they were really only used to creepy effect in the premiere and then were forgotten.  I guess we don’t really care about them.  That seemed to happened quite a bit this season.

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

Answer: From the Classics?  No one really.  We saw Daleks, a bratty immortal Viking girl, zombie ghosts from Neptune, Zygons, a creepy grim reaper like thing, a Shade, and Time Lords of Gallifrey.  We also spotted glimpses of Cybermen, Ood, and Weeping Angels, but they weren’t acting villainous at the time.

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?

Answer: She played a Viking girl named Isheilde, who was very good at fishing.  When her Viking village was invaded by aliens, which managed to fatally wound Ishielde, the Doctor intervened and placed some Time Lord technology inside of her that allowed her to be truly immortal.  After living for millennia, she retitled herself “Me, Just Me.”  She was plucky, bratty, and fun, though the podcast panel had mixed reviews about her…

NEW QUESTIONS

1) Is Gallifrey really back?  How is it back?  Is it only in existence at the end of the universe, where the Doctor met Me and Clara?  Or, is the confession dial some sort of inter-dimensional gateway?  Where is Gallifrey in current times and in current universes?  We need clarification.

2) Where did Missy go?  Will she be back?

3) Can we see more of the Doctor’s most recent 24-year date with River Song?  The Christmas Special was universally the panel’s favorite episode.

4) Who will the Doctor’s new companion be?

5) Stephen Moffat has announced that he will step down as show-runner after Series 10, and Broadchurch’s Chris Chibnall will take his place.  Unofficially, Peter Capaldi has suggested that Series 10 will also be his last as the Doctor.  Who could possibly be the new Doctor?  Feels too soon, doesn’t it?

6) In the season premiere two-parter, when Davros tricked the Doctor into dosing him with regeneration energy, did that incident affect the Doctor in any way?  How many extra regeneration cycles does the Doctor have right now?

PARTING SHOTS

The podcast panel’s reactions were varied and diverse in response to Series 9.  Some struggled with this season more, while others liked it better than Series 8.  Some panelists felt the writing was choppy and inconsistent with frequent missed opportunities for continuity with past seasons of the Doctor (why couldn’t Clara have stayed in the Dalek until the end of her life?).  Most of the panelists were happy to see Jenna Coleman’s time expire on the series, though there were very mixed reactions about the means and method of her departure.  There were also mixed feelings about Maisie Williams’ stint on the show.  The panel was more comfortable with Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, but the adjustment has not been without its lumps and bumps.  The entire panel hopes that the Christmas Special is not the last we’ll see of River Song and secretly or not so secretly hopes for Catherine Tate to somehow return as Donna Noble someday…still.  Either way, the entire panel, the moderator and yours truly included, will wait patiently…Series 10 is not slated to premiere until Spring 2017, with only a Christmas Special to tide us over in the meantime.  Plus, Netflix and Hulu lost the rights to air the new series and the classic series, respectively, while it seems that Amazon Prime was able to pick up the new series.  It’s wibbly wobbly and timey wimey in the Doctor Whoniverse as we speak!

LOOKING AHEAD:

Doctor Who won’t return next until the next Christmas special airs on December 25, 2016, the podcast panel will not reconvene until after that special.  It’s a long time to wait…how will we survive?  I know!  You can listen to other CPU! podcast episodes in the meantime.  Until then! 😉

iTunes PODCAST – Marvel’s Daredevil (Season 1; 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 February 6, 2016, our enthusiastic panel of comic book and superhero enthusiasts – including moderator Kylie, Kristen, Nick, Hilary, Kyle, and Spencer – is Around the Water Cooler and discussing Season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil, in advance of the second season, which premieres on Netflix on March 18, 2016. If you have not watched Daredevil, 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! Tell us what you like or don’t like. Keep the discussion going!

 

PODCAST! – Streaming Originals & Pilots, Premieres, and First Looks: “Marvel’s Daredevil” – The Season One Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

marvels-dardevil-title-card-130835
THE SPECS:

Who: “Marvel’s Daredevil” is a superhero/action/crime drama based upon the Marvel Comics character Daredevil and is a Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.

What: “Marvel’s Daredevil,” developed by Drew Goddard, is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise, and is the first in a series of shows that will lead up to a Defenders crossover miniseries. Lawyer-by-day Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) uses his heightened senses, a side effect of being blinded by a radioactive substance as a young boy, to fight crime at night on the streets of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood as Daredevil.

When: The first season of the series was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on April 10, 2015.

Where: The action is set primarily in the New York City, New York, neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, as depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below – though I will say that all of the panelists are fans of the Netflix original library and/or superhero/comic book based shows in their own right and have found themselves eagerly anticipating new entries in Netflix’s “Defenders” releases, so discussing Daredevil was a no-brainer.  Some have already watched the second entry in the series, Jessica Jones, which will also be covered by CPU! in the near future!

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.

Marvel’s Daredevil = 4.1, by average of the podcast panel.

SYNOPSIS

Charlie Cox stars as Matt Murdock / Daredevil, a blind lawyer-by-day who fights crime at night.  His associates include Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), a plucky whistle-blower with a heart of gold; Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Matt’s law partner and best friend; and Claire (Rosario Dawson), a nurse who discovers Daredevil bloodied and battered and repeatedly helps him heal after his nighttime vigilante activities.  Vincent D’Onofrio plays season one’s primary villain, Wilson Fisk, who becomes one of Daredevil’s better known nemeses.

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

CPU! is chock full of panelists with a proclivity for comic book and superhero TV shows and films, including your Chief Couch Potato and Main Moderator.  One of our frequent panelists, Nick, suggested that the Netflix originals Daredevil and Jessica Jones be candidates for new podcast panels, and several other regular panelists wholeheartedly agreed.  Therefore, it was only right that the next “Streaming Original” we tackled would be Daredevil, the first in Netflix’s series of Marvel-centered shows leading up to a special “Defenders” series, which will feature heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones joining together to form a special force of the ilk of the Avengers or of the Justice League in the DC Universe.

Thus, we bring you our first ever Daredevil podcast featuring frequent panelists Nick, Kristen, Hilary, and Kyle, as well as Spencer, introduced in the Gotham podcast.  Fair warning: we had some technical difficulties in the recording of this podcast, and fledgling sound designer and mixer that I am, I did my best to cobble together pieces of our conversation that may very well have been lost if not for some computer prowess of my own (if I do say so myself).  Hopefully, you will enjoy the discussion in spite of these hiccups, as it is quite meaty and involved.  You’ll find that Panelist Kyle brings a special energy and perspective to the group, as the resident lifelong Daredevil super-fan.

As always, follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, and/or our Stitcher Radio channel to keep track of brand new episodes. In the meantime, let us know what you think! Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Our next podcast episode will bring back our Doctor Who panel discussing the latest season, Series 9.  Stay tuned!

RECOMMENDATION

Daredevil is recommended to fans of comic books, particularly from the Marvel universe, but our panel, with the exception of one, feels that any comic book or superhero enthusiast will love it, even if the enthusiast in question is more loyal to DC or other comic book properties.  The panelist who is the exception feels that this show might be too dense and slow-paced for the casual comic book fan.  The panel generally and universally agrees, however, that Daredevil is well-directed (minus pacing), written, and performed, with particular love for Cox and D’Onofrio, and will delight most superhero/comic book fans.  Super-fan Kyle thinks any Daredevil fan would be remiss to miss this series, as he says it is quite true to the source material on which it is based.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW

Daredevil was renewed for a second season, which is slated to premiere, in its entirety, on the Netflix service on March 18, 2016.  CPU! will be following Daredevil throughout its series run, so we will definitely return to podcast about season two some time after it is released.  Until then!