TV Review: Stargirl (2020- )

Original Run: May 18th, 2020 – current
Created by: Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Courtney Whitmore by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brec Bassinger, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Neil Jackson, Christopher James Baker, Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, Hunter Sansone, Nick Tarabay

Berlanti Productions, Mad Ghost Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Studios, DC Universe, The CW, 26 Episodes (so far), 42-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So this show starts off fantastically! The opening sequence is pretty damn incredible and really fucking cool! Branching off of that, this has some cool villains it throws at you from the get go and you’re immediately invested in the story.

Beyond that, the show is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, not really sure what it even is and not really able to find its footing before the end of the thirteen episode first season.

For the positives, I really like Luke Wilson in this and Amy Smart is pretty good too but she also doesn’t get to do much in the first season, which I hope changes somewhat going into seasons two and three. And while season two has already aired, it’s not on HBO Max yet, so I haven’t seen it.

The other adult actors are all pretty good in this too, even if they have to often times embrace the cheese in the way these Greg Berlanti DC Comics shows embrace the cheese.

I thought some of the villains were actually exceptional and legitimately awesome. I especially loved Dragon King, who looked like Cobra Commander if he were leading Hydra instead of Cobra. His costume was outstanding and he was intimidating, specifically in the scene where he has to knock his asshole daughter back down to Earth.

I also love the S.T.R.I.P.E. suit, which is basically a badass mecha that Luke Wilson pilots in battle. It resembles a patriotic Iron Giant.

Beyond all that comes the problems with the show.

The teen characters are all pretty annoying at times and Stargirl comes across as a reckless idiot until she learns some hard lessons. They all just seem one-dimensional and basic and that’s not necessarily a problem with the actors, as much as it’s a problem with the writing, directing and overall production.

Each teen is simply a trope or caricature. Now I hope that they get to build off of these basic templates but none of them get the time they need to really develop, except for Stargirl and to a certain extent, the villain teen Shiv.

The girl who plays Doctor Mid-Nite II is there to be the obvious “heart and soul” of the team, as she lacks powers and is just kind of stuck in the middle of all this. The problem is that she never really connects with the audience and she’s written to be annoying as hell, which wasn’t what they intended. I don’t blame the actress, I blame the lame material. In fact, she is somewhat charismatic and you kind of want her to develop into something but every time you start to dig her, she does something irritating.

The boy who plays Hourman II is also someone you kind of want to cheer for but then he acts like a total ass at the wrong moments.

Now maybe this is the writers trying to express these newfound heroes lack of experience in life and crimefighting but it’s just bad and there is a lot of awkwardness that doesn’t jive right.

Also, this takes place in Nebraska. The high school of this small town is incredibly diverse for a state that has 87 percent white people. Granted, I don’t care that much, as this is the norm in entertainment, but it’s just blatantly obvious Hollywood bullshit.

Additionally, Stargirl has never been a fighter but by the end of just thirteen episodes, she’s kicking the shit out of ninjas that have probably trained their whole lives. Also, Wildcat is basically a ninja but all she does is get angry and hit a punching bag. You never see her actually spar with opponents or have Catwoman-like reflexes and agility. It’s this type of shit that really turns me off about modern “nerd” entertainment. Where’s the struggle? The hero’s real journey?

At least this show allows its female hero to fail, pick herself up and learn from those mistakes, though. So that’s at least a step forward when compared to the brainless storytelling of modern Hollywood.

In the end, I mostly liked this. I want the show to be good. I feel like it’ll probably lean to much into its negatives, though, as just about everything else does these days.

If my opinion drastically changes one way or another after seeing season two, I’ll update this review and the score.

Rating: 6.25/10

TV Review: Swamp Thing (2019)

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Gary Dauberman, Mark Verheiden
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: various
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Will Patton, Kevin Durand, Ian Ziering

Big Shoe Productions, Atomic Monster Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 10 Episodes, 52-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

At the time of this writing, only two episodes have aired and the show has already been cancelled. Honestly, that’s kind of infuriating, as this is a damn good show from just the small sample size I’ve seen, thus far.

Where Titans got off to a pretty rough start, between Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, it looks like the DC Universe streaming service has quickly righted the ship and is making some damn good television.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that the service is in serious trouble and it is close to coming to an end, as it isn’t selling enough subscriptions and this solid show, only the service’s third, had its production closed down early, midway through its tenth out of the planned fifteen episodes. Additionally, it was then cancelled just after the pilot aired. Then DC Universe claimed it had something to do with North Carolina taxes, the State of North Carolina said that wasn’t true and then someone who worked on this show said that Warner Bros. (DC’s parent company) was sold to AT&T and they didn’t have faith in Swamp Thing.

Whatever the reason, DC Universe has been managed like a bastard child and everything surrounding it seems like a big corporate clusterfuck.

So I was really looking forward to this show, as I love the character and have fond memories of the Swamp Thing movies of the ’80s, as well as the old television show that used to air on the USA Network, back when I was in middle school.

Additionally, this show assembled a solid cast with Crystal Reed, who I thought was stellar as Sofia Falcone on Gotham, as well as Derek Mears as Swamp Thing, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton and Jennifer Beals. Also, a nice surprise in episode two is the addition of Ian Ziering, as the man that becomes another DC hero, Blue Devil.

What really makes this show work is that it commits itself to being straight horror, at least in these earliest episodes. We have some scenes that are very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing and it is actually quite glorious and impressive.

The show also is very dramatic but thus far, it’s all pretty good, the story is compelling and I’m already invested in the lives of the main characters. So much so, that it’s kind of depressing that I will only ever see ten episodes.

It’s hard to do a proper, thorough review and I usually wait until a new show has at least given us a full season but maybe if more people express their excitement and enthusiasm over this show, more people will give it a shot and maybe, just maybe, Warner Bros. could find a way to save it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other DC Universe shows: Doom Patrol and Titans.

TV Review: Doom Patrol (2019- )

Original Run: February 15th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jeremy Carver
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Doom Patrol by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Grant Morrison
Music by: Clint Marshall, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Joivan Wade, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Phil Morris, Curtis Armstrong (voice), Ed Asner (cameo)

Berlanti Productions, Jeremy Carver Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 15 Episodes (so far), 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this show before seeing it. For one, the Titans TV show put out by the same streaming service, DC Universe, was pretty shaky and had a lot of issues. Plus, Doom Patrol is such a bizarre comic, especially during its Grant Morrison run, which this is based off of, that I didn’t know how that would translate to screen.

So I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this show and then some. It exceeds my expectations, which is rare in the realm of TV superheroes where the field is dominated by inconsistent and now cancelled Netflix shows, as well as the CW wing of the DC TV universe, which has mostly turned to crap after some solid starts on a few of those shows.

Doom Patrol, however, feels more like AMC’s Preacher or FX’s Legion but without the mental clusterfuckery of the latter.

What makes this so damn solid is the ensemble. Everyone here truly feels at home in their roles and they have stellar chemistry as a group. Plus, adding in Timothy Dalton was a real win for the show.

I’m really glad to see Brendan Fraser in this, as his career has felt like it’s been on a hiatus for quite some time. He is the glue that holds this group together. He plays a conflicted, complex character going through some serious shit but he’s just so good at it.

Also, Diane Guerrero, who I liked on Orange is the New Black, steals the f’n show in every scene that she’s in and that’s a true feat considering how good everyone else is on this show. She plays a character with 64 different personalities and she shows incredible range and talent in her ability to pull them all off and sometimes switch from personality to personality on a dime. It’s very similar to James McAvoy’s character in Split and Glass but Guerrero is really impressive in that she has to pull this off over 15 one hour episodes.

I also really love April Bowlby on this show. I’m mostly only familiar with her role as Kandi on Two and a Half Men, where she was a real highlight of that show. I’ve seen her here and there over the years but man, she shines on this show and I’m glad to see her working on a project that lets her do some real dramatic and emotional work.

The show takes some liberties, as all superhero shows do, but it does feel close to the source material and the spirit and camaraderie of the group is alive and well. While it’s not yet as nutty as Grant Morrison’s material, I think the show does a good job of keeping its bizarreness more palatable for the normies that don’t read the comics.

Unfortunately, being exclusive to DC Universe works against the show. It makes it hard for casual viewers to find it and just six months into its existence, the streaming service is already in trouble. So despite how good this show is and the mostly positive response I’ve seen from others, it’s future is probably in doubt because its home’s future is definitely in doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Legion, Preacher and other TV shows put out by DC Universe, such as Titans and the upcoming Swamp Thing.

TV Review: Titans (2018- )

Also known as: Teen Titans (informal title)
Original Run: October 3rd, 2018 (New York Comic Con) – current
Created by: Akiva Goldsmith, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Clint Mansell, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter

Weed Road Pictures, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 11 Episodes (so far), 40-50 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I finally got DC Universe, as it became available on the Amazon FireStick after months of dealys. So that being said, I have now checked out Titans, the streaming service’s first big attempt at original content.

While this wasn’t a total waste of time and shows some promise, it was still a pretty drab attempt at getting me excited for spending $7.99 per month on yet another video-on-demand service.

The biggest issue for me is that the characters don’t really act like the characters in the comics. Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing just straight up murders people the first time we see him confront some thugs. Then everyone else in the show kills or maims people pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to see what we have here, which is another live action DC Comics property giving itself fully over to their gritty, edgy boy formula that only worked for Christopher Nolan, ten years ago, and Zack Snyder once with Watchmen, also ten years ago.

Also, Gotham does a good job of being gritty but it takes tremendous creative liberties and took awhile to really find its footing.

So Titans could definitely improve, as Gotham did. In fact, there are signs of better things within this first season. However, there isn’t much here to make me care about the main characters. Dick and Rachel, who will become Raven, are emo to the point of cringe but at least Starfire is interesting and Gar, who will become Beast Boy, is charismatic and could potentially be the best thing on the show.

The real problem with Titans is that the best episodes are the ones where the title characters aren’t the focal point. My two favorite chapters out of the eleven here are the one that’s all about introducing Doom Patrol and the one that serves as the origin story for Hawk & Dove. So what does it say when I’m more interested in secondary characters with minor screen time or characters who are getting their own spinoff?

I’m actually excited about Doom Patrol based off of what I saw here. And if I’m being honest, I’m not all that interested in a second season of Titans, even though I will watch it in hopes that things improve.

The season also suffers from not telling a good, self contained story. We get the season’s cliffhanger ending in the second to last episode and then the final episode, which should have been a resolution to the ten episodes before it, is nothing but a hallucination that ends leaving us exactly in the same spot that the previous penultimate episode did. It’s an absolutely terrible conclusion to a mostly mediocre season.

On the positive side, at least this moves more briskly than the Netflix Marvel shows and even though it has its filler episodes, they at least have action and progress the story in some way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the upcoming live action DC Universe shows, as well as the DC Comics shows on the CW and Fox’s Gotham.