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Showing posts from June, 2018

Get to the Next Screen: Thoughts on Westworld's Second Season

When I wrote about Westworld's first season eighteen months ago, it was with profound annoyance at the show's reliance on twists and revelations, to the detriment of some of the interesting ideas about personhood and consciousness that the season tooled around with but never really explored.  I wasn't alone in making this criticism, and creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have subsequently backed off some of their more elaborate (and unsatisfying) structural choices.  But the result hasn't been all we could have hoped for.  In 2016, I was annoyed by Westworld.  In 2018, I was bored by it.  Removing the show's central gimmick, it turned out, only revealed a sad truth: that despite its sumptuous production values, gorgeous shooting locations, and amazing cast, what you find at the center of Westworld's maze is a great big blank.  That after producing twenty-three or -four hours of material, this show still isn't any closer to articulating what it's actua…

The Shows of Summer, 2018 Edition

Summer is properly here, and with it all the TV shows deemed too weird or too niche to make it in more prestigious weather.  I admit that I've noped out of several shows whose flimsiness felt appropriate to the season but not really to my taste, like the virtual reality procedural Reverie or the Castle-in-reverse detective show Take Two.  And on the other hand, some more serious fare, like FX's Pose, felt a little more earnest and heartfelt than I can take right now in the sweltering heat.  But here are a few shows that hit the exact sweet-spot between shlocky and highbrow, and helped me greet the summer (in my air-conditioned living room) with appropriate flair.
A Very English Scandal - I'm a little surprised that this BBC miniseries hasn't received more attention from people in my various feeds, since it seems to tick so many boxes of stuff people like.  Hugh Grant, in full Paddington 2 smarm mode, plays Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the British Liberal party (precurso…

A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discusses Catherynne M. Valente's new novel Space Opera.  As I discuss in the essay, this is seemingly an odd choice--Valente's Hitchhiker's Guide-inspired comedy about a galaxy where species prove their right to exist among civilized nations by competing in space-Eurovision is pretty far outside the boundaries I had previously defined, of works that engage with concrete political and social issues.
To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations. ... Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the la…

Review: Lost in Space, Season 1 at Strange Horizons

This week at Strange Horizons, I review the first season of Netflix's re-reboot of Lost in Space.  Like a lot of people I found the entire notion of remaking a silly little space-pioneering show from 1965 (after a failed reboot movie in 1998) rather bizarre, and I can't say that the show has proved that this was something that needed to happen.  What it does achieve, however, is to demonstrate how you can take an unnecessary concept and execute it with intelligence and sensitivity (something that the makers of, to take a recent example, Solo: A Star Wars Story completely failed to accomplish).  I still don't think we needed a new Lost in Space, but the show we got has interesting characters, good storylines, and does some things that I'd almost given up on seeing in a genre show, such as construct coherent and compelling episode plots.  That said, because this is a reboot that is ultimately an attempt to monetize a familiar IP, the end of the season is a lot less inter…