Category: television

Jun 01 2010

Flashforward from TV to Book

Flashforward logo
Imagine if the entire world stopped for a moment in time and got a glimpse of themselves at some point in the future? Imagine the ramifications of that moment – not just the effects of being stopped in place, but what happens to ambition and free will when you know what’s already going to happen?

That basic idea was what hooked me on Flashforward, first the TV show, and then, just yesterday, the book by Robert Sawyer. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? People need hope, they need to believe they can succeed. What happens if you KNOW your efforts will be fruitless? Or on the flip side – if you know you will succeed anyway, how hard will you try?

Flashforward, the TV show, just finished airing its only season. It was extremely disappointing, a great idea that was executed poorly from start to finish. It didn’t deal with any of the issues I mentioned above, but it did ask a lot of questions it never got a chance to answer. As entertainment, it was ok, but it came up very short of fulfilling what I thought was amazing potential. So when I found out there was a book, I jumped on it.

I read the book cover to cover yesterday. I don’t think that’s a major accomplishment, I don’t believe it was particularly long (it’s hard to tell relative book size on a kindle), and I had a long flight with nothing else to do. I also, admittedly, could not put it down.

The book had me at go just like the TV show did because of the concept, but where the show became immensely complicated and overwraught with useless subplots, the book remained simple – almost too simple. The story is about Lloyd. There are some small subplots, but they’re fairly unimportant to the overall story.

The book does completely, and very, very thoroughly, explore the science behind the Flashforward. It explains in great detail how the Flashforward happened. If you think the idea of a multi-page discussion on how Schroedinger’s cat fits into the idea of “moving the perception of now” in time travel than this is the book for you.

…but you can see the problem. While I did find that discussion fascinating, I’m not sure how many people would. And by the time I got to the end of the book, the excessive scientific detail was starting to get grating.

Unfortunately, the book does not offer any insight whatsoever into the television show. The flashforward in the TV show could not have been caused by the same thing that caused it in the book, and there is no FBI, secret spies, CIA, Mark or Olivia. No ring, no test in Somalia, no military connection at all.

Everything is different. Lloyd is Canadian, and he works for CERN. There is a character named Demetrius, but he’s not Demetri from the show. The Flashforward was 20 years ahead, and the Matrix put together not only each person’s individual flashforward, but an entire timeline of what happened between now and the flashforward. Big and small, people were able to figure out what would happen. What companies went bankrupt, who was elected president, what revolutions would fail, what marriages would last, even the lottery numbers for the day, it was all revealed.

The book kind of fizzled out at the end, I don’t even know how to describe it, it almost became another book and twisted in a very unexpected, not really enjoyable direction. But up until that point, it was a very, very enjoyable read.

I still believe that this is an amazing concept that has yet to be executed well, and I would love to see it done. Flashforward the movie, maybe?

Jun 02 2008

Andromeda Strain’s Sad Remake

Ok, this is long, I admit. But once I opened the flood gates on this, I kept going on and on and on. What can I say – mess with a story I ADORE, and this is what happens.

I love Michael Crichton books. I don’t think there’s a single one that I haven’t flown through, and then reread multiple times.

My favorite book and movie of his has always been the Andromeda Strain. It’s one of those rare book to movie adaptations that held pretty strictly to the original script. The result is not the most exciting movie in the world, after all, over half the story takes place in a dreary lab, but I love it.

The original movie was low budget, but still had some really memorable images, including a very graphic scene of a monkey dying from the virus. The scene looks horribly real, but the directors and producers still swear to this day that although they did knock the monkey unconsious, they did not hurt it. Don’t ask me how, it sure looks like a dead monkey to me.

…Spoilers follow…

To describe the plot of the original story:

A satellite lands in Piedmont, Utah. The entire town is killed, save for a baby and a drunk. The Wildfire team is called to determine what the virus is, and how to destroy it. The president tries to nuke Piedmont, but the team stops him first. They figure out what Andromeda is, but the virus renders itself inert due to its ability to continually mutate, so they just let it dissipate in the air. End of story. Epilogue: pilot burns up on reentry.

The plot of the miniseries:

A satellite lands in Piedmont, Utah. The entire town is killed, save for a baby and a drunk. The Wildfire team is called to determine what the virus is, and how to destroy it. Add in lots of backstories involving the various members of the Wildfire team, which now has five members (not four), two women, three men. A big conspiracy is going on involving the army, the department of homeland security, and the president. A reporter dude is following the story – he later becomes a target of an evil military plot to kill him. The virus keeps spreading, partially because a nuclear bomb is set off on Piedmont (hints of an additional conspiracy here – I was almost expecting to be told that an alien did it). Turns out the virus was sent from the future back to the past so it could be stopped, underwater mining was killing the natural bacteria that fought andromeda. There was a message coded into the virus container with a number and a logo (I still haven’t wrapped my head around how a virus replicates within a container – does it replicate the container? What’s a container, for that matter.). Wildfire replicates lots of the bacteria, the army drops it over the virus, virus is destroyed. End of story. Epilogue: Astronaut on the space station storing andromeda in a satellite.

First off – the miniseries just wasn’t a good movie. There were an insane number of dropped or unnecessary plot points, padding for time, I assume.

This may be science fiction, but there normally is at least some “reality” to the story. this? Grass would turn brown as Andromeda moved through it like a wildfire, with a computer screen updating in real time. The big action sequence came when the military dropped bacteria on the virus to kill it “right before it spread to LA.” Wouldn’t it be neat if you could SEE a virus in the air? And track it? “We have an outbreak of flu in the Arlington area today, winds suggest it could be over Georgetown by noon.” That’s just comical.

There are so many things that I had wanted to see redone in this movie that weren’t even in the miniseries, it’s sad. Andromeda replicating is an amazingly memorable image from the original film. The killing of the monkey, Dr. Leavitt having her seizure, THAT’s what I wanted to see in this movie.

I think I would have been ok with this miniseries had it been “Based on The Andromeda Strain.” But it wasn’t, it was billed as a remake. If something is going to be “remade,” it should be REMADE. Not changed beyond all recognition.

I’m just disappointed. I had a feeling this was going to be a mess – I mean, Ridley Scott doing a movie with no action? I never expected what I got, though. It was just awful.

So in case you were going to see the Andromeda Strain miniseries? Don’t. Rent the movie from 1971 instead.

Dec 13 2007

Tin Man

I suppose I kind of have to write an entry about this, given my love of the story and sort of obsession with Wicked. Plus – Wizard of Oz goes sci fi? Sweet!

For those of you who may not know, Tin Man was a sci-fi original series taking a look at the story of Dorothy and the world of OZ (or as it’s known on the show – the O.Z. Outer Zone).

hrm. Trying to write this without spoilers…

The show was really interesting to me from the very beginning. We all know what happens – a tornado comes along and sweeps Dorothy and her house into the land of OZ. But this being a sci fi movie, the tornado couldn’t be JUST a tornado, right? No, it’s a time rift caused by an evil princess.

And the story just goes from there. The scarecrow is missing a brain, but it’s because someone sucked it out of his head. The cowardly lion sure is cowardly, but he also has an amazing psychic gift. The Tin Man, well, I’ll leave that one for folks to discover on the actual show.

The first two hours are definately better than the last one, which is filled with a ton of exposition as they explain everything that you’ve been watching for the last five hours. Understanding what has truly been going on is good, and it’s certainly hard to write interesting exposition scenes, but the show really does slow down because of it.

And, for those who don’t like Wicked (book or musical), have no fear. This is nothing like Wicked. Wicked starts before Dorothy arives in Oz, and ends right around when she leaves. Tin Man takes place at a different time, and is very much science fiction. I haven’t quite grasped my mind around whether or not they could exist in the same universe.

Wicked doesn’t mess with canon, which, honestly, was part of what it made it so amazing. It’s like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – as far as you know, what you are watching truly did happen in the background. You just never saw it as part of the original movie (or play, in the case of Hamlet).

I think this does mess with the story a bit (I don’t quite get how certain characters would fit in), and I need to hunt for whatever blogger somewhere did an analysis. Cuz you just know SOMEONE did.

All in all, I really recommend watching this. It may have taken me a few days to get through it all, but it was well worth it.

Nov 29 2007

Why does the UK get all the cool TV?

As I’ve talked about before in here, my latest obsession is Doctor Who. I’m rewatching the old series, and I’ve discovered that there is a TON of doctor who stuff in the UK that we just don’t ever get here. There is Doctor Who Confidential (Torchwood has “Declassified”), Doctor Who the Animated Series (with the voices of doctor who and Martha from the show), and the Sarah Jane Chronicles. HOURS and hours of stuff. And that’s not even counting the specials, the interviews…

For example – Time Crash just aired in the UK during the Children in Need Special. Everyone in the US should go find it and download it, it’s all of 8 minutes long, but it’s David Tennant’s doctor meeting Peter Davison’s doctor, and it’s an absolute blast to watch. How could we not even KNOW that this aired???

The Sarah Jane Chronicles are adorable as well. It’s a pre-teeny type show, Saturday morning TV type stuff, and is focused around a couple of kids…who hang out with Sarah Jane Smith. And Sarah Jane is very cool, especially since I’m flipping between watching that and watching her 30 years ago on Doctor Who. It’s surprisingly quality children’s programming.

The more I dig into BBC tv, the more I find really neat science fiction shows I’ve never heard of. Some are random Doctor Who spinoffs, but some are shows like Hex, which is a fantastic show most often compared to Buffy (not entirely accurate, but similar). Neverwhere’s also really good, the book was based on the BBC series, not the other way around. In that instance, I think the show is better than the book. But again…good luck finding it. I got the Neverwhere DVD set as a present, and I’m pretty sure I remember being told that the DVD’s had to be ordered direct from the BBC.

Non scifi BBC tv is great too, of course. I, Claudius is one of the best miniseries I have ever seen, the BBC version of Casanova puts the American version to shame, and of course, how could I not mention Pride and Prejudice. Another one where the American movie doesn’t even compare to the BBC one. And then there’s UK Big Brother, which is just in a class of its own.

Oh, AND, there’s the Big Red Button on BBC. Interactive television. How cool is that?

I remember being stunned as a kid when I was told that there were only three television stations in the UK. So few!! But quantity does not equal quality, and having only one television provider lets them do things like the big red button. I can’t even imagine what it would take to do something like that here. Right now Hollywood’s having enough trouble writing anything. :)

On the subject of the writers strike, I drive past the picket lines on my way to work every morning, and they’re not shrinking at all. If anything, the crowds there have become larger this past week. If anyone’s so inclined, please donate a dollar to send a box of pencils to the studio execs. A list of the writers supporting this is on the site, and if your shows are listed…join in.

If this strike isn’t resolved soon, well, I wonder if I can get someone in Europe to set up a slingbox for me…

Nov 10 2007

Must Not Violate the Prime Directive

I watched the first group of the Tom Baker Doctor Who episodes today, Robot. As a show, I have to say, it wasn’t bad. I truly did laugh out loud at some of the special effects, but I also laughed at some of the things the Doctor did. It was really entertaining, albeit a kind of silly story.

Tom Baker himself, however, was just creepy. Robot didn’t have that scene I’m waiting to see – the one that scared me a way from Doctor Who as a kid. But Tom Baker was creepy just the same. I don’t know why, but something about him is just…off.

I don’t really know anyone else who spooks me on sight the way he does, and I so can’t wait to find out what on earth he did that got me this way.

Childhood superstitions are a riot, aren’t they?

Nov 04 2007

Scardy Cat

Let’s talk about horror movies and scary tv.

I remember very clearly watching the Exorcist when I was 12, and being terrified. It gave me that same creepy feeling that I got seeing Tom Baker on TV the other day.

I’ve seen it many times since, and think it’s one of the greatest horror movies of all time. I love it.

I also remember being scared by Penocchio (yeaaah, the cartoon. That scene with the wave.), I had nightmares about Freddy Kruger (although that was the first horror movie I actually enjoyed), was terrified of quicksand thanks to an episode of Charlie’s Angels, and I’m sure there are more examples I can’t think of off the top of my head. Safe to say, I was a little spooked as a kid.

I rather enjoy scary movies now, and no amount of movie gore will ever compare to seeing the real thing (I was an EMT on a volunteer ambulance corps). The only thing that truly gets me is lightning. Well, and thunder, since it means lightning’s coming. The lightning superstition has such a weird story behind it, it�s gonna get it�s own entry. �till tomorrow!

Nov 02 2007

The Weird World of Doctor Who

I�ve recently started watching (and in some cases, rewatching) Doctor Who, inspired by me realllly liking Torchwood. It�s all very funny, since last year I not only missed the first few episodes of Doctor Who (all I ever knew was this girl Martha was now with him), I also saw the first few of Torchwood and didn�t like them! I�d always liked the show, but it�s definitely one of my all-time favorites now.

I�d watched some of Doctor Who when I was a kid, and liked it�until the doctor turned into a creepy guy who scared me. What can I say � I can remember a lot of the exact scene, I have this picture locked in my head of what I saw � I was spooked.

Given my new love of all things Doctor Who, it�s only natural that I�d go back and start watching the originals. I�ve seen a few scattered ones here and there, but then stumbled upon a documentary about all the seasons. I figured it would be a great way to figure out what to watch (they�re not so easy to find online or get on DVD in any real organized fashion).

The documentary started at the very beginning with the black and white episodes, then slowly stepped through each doctor. I recognized the third doctor, and then came Tom Baker. The doctor I knew by name only, based on his reputation as being one of the best doctors ever. I couldn�t have picked him out of a crowd.

The second Tom Baker came on screen I got the heebies. I don�t know how else to describe it. Just very, very creeped out. So what did I do? Hit up Amazon and immediately buy his episodes. I gotta see what he did that freaked little me out so badly!

Apr 16 2007

Weekend and Buffy Season Eight

I had a good weekend – I was pretty lazy on Saturday, then yesterday joined a friend at the mall for some retail therapy. I’m going to LA, I needed fancy schmancy designer sunglasses, right? Now, if only the sun would come out so I could WEAR them…

For some reason, I felt like doing a lot of reading this weekend, including finally reading the first two issues of “Buffy Season Eight.” It’s a new comic book series that Joss Whedon is writing – the “official” season eight of the TV show.

I haven’t read any of the Buffy (or angel) stuff out there, the books, fanfic, comics, so this was the first time I’d ever really read Buffy in print. And it was pretty neat! I think a lot of that comes from the fact that this is actually written by Joss – Buffy is talking in Buffy-speak, and you can totally hear Andrew and Xander speaking their lines. They’re written exactly the way the characters speak.

The story is…interesting. I have no real clue what’s going on, which is kind of annoying. I think, given the title “season eight,” I’d been expecting television style pacing, with each issue being another episode. It’s not at all like that, it’s written more like a typical comic book. That makes sense – embrace the medium and all – but I like collected trade paperbacks for a reason. I’m not one for suspense without a payoff, and the series clearly is going to have a lot of that.

But all in all, I’ll take the characters however I can get them, and I’m just enjoying having them back.

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