TV Science Fiction & Fantasy


TV IN 2019: PART ONE – STREAMING SERVICES
by Michael Shonk


   The entertainment called television has escaped the boundaries of the TV set and now can be found almost anywhere. So where are all those shows hiding?

   During the last few years the total of original scripted TV series has approached nearly five hundred every year. With the upcoming explosion of new major media players joining the streaming wars the number of scripted original shows should increase like bunny rabbits.

   The business of television is in chaos as even the major broadcast networks are now minor players left playing a role for their business masters or they are struggling to find a way to stay relevant. But more about that in Part Two, in which broadcast networks and cable will be covered.

   Many of you have probably sampled or subscribed to at least one streaming service. The main ones have been NETFLIX, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Soon some of the world’s largest media conglomerates – Disney, AT&T (WarnerMedia), Comcast, and Apple will debut their streaming services, all with their own original programs.

   CBS has fought off media conglomerate Viacom and started its own streaming service with original programs. However due to the fall of CBS mogul Les Moonves, and Viacom slow but steady recovery, few would be surprised if Viacom and CBS rejoin together. Viacom recently bought streaming service Pluto to use to streaming all of its cable networks once it’s ready.

   Many other networks – broadcast and cable – have an online site where you can catch up on their programs you might have missed.

   A streaming service – usually for a fee – allows you to watch TV shows and movies on your computer or other devices via the Internet. There are smart TVs such as Roku, over the top box such as Apple TV and devices such as Amazon’s Fire stick that connects your TV to the streaming world.

   Netflix remains one of the most successful and powerful studios in the World. As it continues to develop original programming faster than any viewer could possible watch, Netflix has also created a film studio and plans to become a major player in movies as well as television.

   One update from the clip, BLACK MIRROR is playing on Netflix now. I would add to the list of shows worth checking out – THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, SANTA CLARITA DIET, and DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (coming in August).

   Netflix has also rescued two network series from recent cancellation – LUCIFER (FOX) and DESIGNATED SURVIVIOR (ABC). It has been announced LUCIFER has been renewed for another season after its current – it will be the fifth and last.

   DISNEY is now the top media giant in the business. It owns the rights to Mickey Mouse, Marvel, The Simpsons and Star Wars. It currently runs two streaming services –ESPN+ and Hulu.

   Hulu has been around for some time and was owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and WB. Disney now has full control over Hulu and plans to continue its focus on TV series, especially network and cable TV series. Hulu is not best known for its originals but THE HANDMAID’S TALE, CHANCE and CATCH 22 are worth checking out.

   Disney+ will be the company’s third streaming service and the one that will get most of the attention. This is the one Netflix needs to fear. It will be available this year and one of its first original series will be STAR WARS MANDALORIAN

   This year will also see AT&T join in the TV streaming fun. Its recent purchase of Time Warner gave the phone company a strong presence in the cable world. Reportedly the new service will be called WarnerMedia. They are still working on what kind of service will they offer. Will it be one service uniting HBO, Cinemax and all of WarnerMedia to cost $16-$17 a month or will it be a three tier – basic, HBO and premium? WarnerMedia has announced its first original program. TOYKO VICE will star Ansel Elgort and is based on the non-fiction book by Jake Adelstein.

   Warners have not had much success in the streaming business. Warner Archive with its over priced small library of old movies and TV series was a failure. DC UNIVERSE has had two minor success with DOOM PATROL and TITANS, but the service just cancelled SWAMP THING after one episode. Boomerang is an offshoot of the cable Cartoon Network spin-off network Boomerang. It focuses on post 50s to today era of classic cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and 90s favorite KIDS NEXT DOOR.

   Premium channels have their own streaming service that can also be found at Apple TV and Amazon Prime (for the price of subscription). These channels also offer apps that allow you to subscribe to the streaming service and watch it without needing cable.

   WarnerMedia has the most successful of the pay networks HBO. There is a question about what HBO will replace the epic hit GAMES OF THRONES with. At the moment only one series, THE LONG NIGHT will come from the world of GAMES. However THE LONG NIGHT will take place in Westero a thousand years before the GAMES timeline. Of course HBO does have some other shows to watch.

   Cinemax has grown up from its days as a soft porn cable network. Today it does some wonderful action series such as C.B. STRIKE, RELLIK, WARRIOR and JETT.

   CBS owns premium channel SHOWTIME and streaming CBS ALL ACCESS.

   SHOWTIME has always stood in the pay TV shadow of HBO and now it has even more competition. Perhaps its highlight of 2019 will be CITY ON A HILL.

   CBS ALL ACCESS is best known for the CBS classic TV series and originals STAR TREK DISCOVERY, THE TWILIGHT ZONE (with host Jordan Peele) and THE GOOD FIGHT (sequel to THE GOOD WIFE). Currently in season three, the critic favorite GOOD FIGHT will air season one this summer on CBS.

   STARZ has increased its original programming over the last few years featuring high production values in such series as BLACK SAILS, WHITE PRINCESS and my favorite COUNTERPART (that ended recently after two seasons),

   I recently reduced my cable to just basic and had to live without my favorite network EPIX. I discovered EPIX app and for $5.99 I am again watching series such as BERLIN STATION, GET SHORTY, DEEP STATE, and PERPETUAL GRACE LTD on my Roku TV and without cable.

   COMCAST owns NBC Universal and all the cable stations that go with it. It has plans for a free ad supported streaming service this year but has fallen behind its fellow growing media giants.

   Apple TV is a box that connects your TV to streaming services. Apple TV+ debuts sometime this year as a streaming service specializing in Apple’s original programs

   Did you notice AMAZING STORIES is coming back with new stories and produced by Stephen Spielberg? Below is a promo for FOR ALL MANKIND, a TV series set in an alternative history where the Russians were first to the Moon.

   Of course I have not forgotten Amazon Prime. Prime exists to promote free shipping at a retail online store. There are many services offered to Prime members and the video streaming is just one of them and because of that it can get lost and forgotten.

   Prime, like Netflix and Hulu, has save broadcast and cable TV from cancellation. After three seasons of THE EXPANSE SyFy could no longer afford to make the series. Fortunately, Prime will air the original fourth season of TV’s best science fiction series THE EXPANSE. I recommend you watch the first three seasons now on Prime.

   There are a nice variety of original programs hiding on Prime worth watching such as BOSCH, PATROIT, GOLIATH, FLEABAG, SNEAKY PETE, and MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

   There seems to be a streaming service for every taste, genre and need. A good place to find the small service for you is to search through Amazon Prime Channels.

   Fans of British TV should start at BRITBOX, a streaming service from the BBC and ITV. Most of the best of British TV can be found there including every classic DOCTOR WHO episode in existence. My one complaint is there is not enough 60s series, especially not enough from ITV.

   Acorn is a service that airs series from Britain, but also Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand’s BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES remains high on my favorites list. Currently Acorn has five seasons and a six is on its way.

   Small streaming services such as Acorn can offer you first glimpse of quality TV before mainstream television finds it. In Acorn’s case it was the first to show MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES in America. Since MISS FISHER ended with season 3, Acorn has the Australian sequel called MS FISHER’S MODERN MYSTERIES – Miss Fisher’s niece joins the Adventuress Club to solve mysteries in the groovy 1960s.

   If you don’t mind subtitles there is the online only streaming service MHz Choice that has some of Europe’s best TV series. There is the French version of Maigret, the Italian version of Nero Wolfe, Detective Montalbano, Irene Huss, Donna Leon’s Bronetti Mysteries, Baantjer Mysteries, and so many more.

   Anime can be found at each of the major streaming services. Netflix tends to focus on original anime. Hulu and Amazon Prime have older shows. Free service Crackle offers some great dubbed choices including TRIGUN and DEATH PARADE.

   There are also streaming services just for the animated genre such as Crunchyroll or Funimation. I have been watching a lot of anime this year and appreciate the genre’s ability to world build completely different times, places and its own realities. My favorites include ACCA: 13-TERRITORY INSPECTION DEPARTMENT, BUNGO STRAY DOGS, 18IF, BLACK LAGOON and STEINS;GATE.

   PBS MASTERPIECE has added FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES. Now here is a series that illustrates how hard it is to find some of these shows. FRANKIE began at CBC (Canada) and done by the people behind MURDOCH MYSTERIES. Frankie and her fellow female PI have adventures and solve mysteries in the 1920s. It has been on Ovation under the title THE ARTFUL DETECTIVE and also on Alibi, but now on PBS streaming it finally gets a chance at a decent size audience.

   SHOUT FACTORY is more into cult TV and movies.

   There are many free streaming services most with ads. Here is a list suggesting some free sites you might sample.

   Sony’s CRACKLE is by far the best of the free streaming services with better than average network TV series, movies and anime. It also has a growing selection of original TV series include ART OF MORE, THE OATH, and START-UP.

   There are hundreds of streaming channels available from DOGTV a channel for your dogs to watch while you are away to POKERGO that offers live access to over 100 poker tournaments a year.

   More and more live TV is available through streaming. MLB.com offers you the ability to watch every major league baseball game played (subject to local blackouts) as does NHL and hockey. Amazon Prime, Hulu, Yahoo, YouTube, Playstation Vue and others let you watch live events and sports on your devices beyond your TV screen.

   Streaming offers the TV Viewer several advantages over broadcast and cable television. You can watch TV from around the world not just the US and a few imports. No longer is the TV viewer chained to the TV set, instead TV is available to watch wherever the viewer is. Streaming has no time periods or schedules, the days of scheduling your life around your favorite TV show are over, now your favorites wait for you.

   In my next post I will examine the broadcast and cable networks, their future, their search for an identity that will set them apart from the crowd and survive the current chaos that is the business of television.

CAN YOU NAME THIS SERIES?
by Michael Shonk


   Officially, broadcast network TV began in 1946, meaning we are in the seventy-third year of network TV. That is a lot of TV shows.

   Below I pick one series from each decade of TV starting with the 1950s. I will describe it and you can try to guess what TV series I am describing or just skip to the YouTube clip, theme or episode from the mystery series. Since YouTube videos are rarely immortal I will add the answers to the comments.

   We begin in the 1950s. A famous movie actor played a Town Marshal in this Western that aired on NBC during the 1959-60 season. One more clue – one of the Marshal’s Deputies was played by the movie star’s son.

         Answer: Click here.


   In 1967 CBS aired this hour-long series starring John Mills. Mills played a traveling lawyer in the Old West. Sean Garrison played his younger partner and protector. The series lasted thirteen episodes.

         Answer: Click here.


   This ABC TV series from 1970s was part of all three networks run to create TV shows for young viewers. Set during the American Revolution, it featured five young people attempting to aid the patriots against the British. The series lasted fifteen episodes.

         Answer: Click here.


   This series was the first TV adaptation of a story that has been a best-selling book, an iconic film, failed film sequel, and is now a critically acclaimed TV version currently in production for its third season. This 1980 CBS series starred Jim McMullan, James Wainwright and Connie Sellecca.

         Answer: Click here.


   Angie Harmon has starred in several TV series but she played a PI in only one TV series, can you name it? The series aired in 1995- 97 with the style noticeably different in each season. Our YouTube answer is the complete opening episode of the series with one of TV’s oddest introductions to a TV series I have ever seen.

         Answer: Click here.


   This fall Fox will have a new TV series about the son of a serial killer solving murders. The idea is not original, even Fox has done it before. In 2005, this series also aired on Fox and starred Johnny Messner as Detective Jack Hale, a member of the Deviant Crime Unit. No one would work with Jack because he did not get along with others and had a Daddy who was a serial killer.

         Answer: Click here.


   Name this NBC techno-thriller series that aired ten episodes last year (May 2018 – August 2018). In this era of nearly five hundred original scripted TV series a year, you no longer have to be old to be forgotten or never seen.

   The low rated series was set at a high-tech business that had invented a virtual reality machine that offered people a chance to relive their happiest memory. A problem develops when the people refuse to return to reality. Sarah Shahi played an ex-hostage negotiator hired to enter the virtual reality and convince the people to return to their depressing real lives.

         Answer: Click here.

ONE STEP BEYOND “The Bride Possessed.” ABC, 20 January 1959. Season 1, Episode 1. Virginia Leith, Skip Homeier, Harry Townes, Ann Morrison. Director & host: John Newland.

   In dealing with strange and unusual events in the world around us, there are some similarities between One Step Beyond and the much more well-known series The Twilight Zone, but OSB came along first. TTZ did not begin until October 2, 1959.

   The big difference between the two shows is that the stories on TTZ were fictional (and almost always with a twist at the end) and did not pretend otherwise. The stories on OSB were presented as “fact” and were purportedly based on real events.

   “The Bride Possessed,” the very first episode, is a good example. The theme is that of possession of a living person by the dead, in this case a young bride (Virginia Leith) on her honeymoon who suddenly begins to channel the being of another young woman who has recently committed suicide by jumping from the edge of a cliff into the sea below.

   But it was not suicide, the young bride insists in Leith’s new role in the story, it was murder. Neither her husband (Skip Homeier) nor her doctor know what to make of this until they find the murder weapon.

   That the story is as effectively chilling as it is is due to entirely to Virginia Leith’s convincing transformation from one woman to another and yet in the same body. One regret I had in watching it was how abrupt the ending was. It was up to the host at the end to conclude this first episode’s story line.

   Except for the little I’ve read about it, I know nothing about the rest of the series — it was on for three seasons and some 96 episodes — but from the accounts of others, this episode seems to have set the tone for the series rather well. I watched this one on Amazon Prime, but various episodes have been available in different collected sets of DVD over the years.

FOUR FAILED PILOTS
by Michael Shonk


   It’s pilot season at the major TV networks as the networks look for new shows for the 2018-19 season. Here is a link to Deadline’s “Primetime pilot panic” where you can read what each network is looking at for next season:

         http://deadline.com/category/primetime-pilot-panic/

   The creation of the pilot dates back to radio days when audition shows were used to find a sponsor or stations to support the show as a regularly appearing series. While radio used the word “audition” for the first example of the possible series, TV uses pilot from “pilot project.”

   In the summer of 1940 CBS aired FORECAST, a series of radio episodes with the hope the audience would help them become a network series. Of these auditions two would become hits and continue to be remembered today, SUSPENSE and DUFFY’S TAVERN.

   Below is DEDUCTION DELUXE, an episode from FORECAST second and final season. Despite its pleas to the radio audience DEDUCTION DELUXE did not survive for a second episode.

DEDUCTION DELUXE “Problem of the Painted Poodle.” CBS Radio, July 28, 1941, Monday at 9pm (Eastern). Cast: Adolphe Menjou as Roger Boone, Verree Teasdale as Twyla Boone. Other Voices include: Arthur Q. Bryan, Verna Telton, and Gerald Mohr. Written by Keith Fowler and Frank Galen.

   The episode sounded like a vaudeville sketch with its simple character types and non-stop patter of gags, many still funny. The mystery of who painted a rich lady’s poodle green was better than average as the writers for the most part played fair with the clues.

   Real life married couple Adolphe Menjou and Verree Teasdale certainly had the right chemistry as PI Roger Boone and his wife Twyla Boone. The fatal flaw for the show was in the character of husband Roger Boone, a man who handled “clues, blondes and horses with equal enthusiasm.” Twyla seemed resigned to her husband sleeping with other women but I doubt the 1941 radio audience was as forgiving.


RUSSELL. Paramount Television – CBS Films Production; date unknown. Fess Parker as Charles Russell, Beverly Garland as Bonnie, Jay C. Flippen as Windy, and Paul Carr as Tracey. Created and written by Borden Chase. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Executive Producer: Gordon Kay. Produced by Frank O’Connor.

   I can find nothing about this pilot beyond the on screen credits and the copyright is unreadable. The pilot was done by Paramount. Fess Parker worked for Paramount between 1958 and 1962. The credit for CBS Films and the sales pitch epilogue probably makes this a pilot for a possible syndicated series. Since Fess Parker was starring in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in 1962 we can narrow the time for this show even further to 1958-61.

   While the story and characters were overly simple the show had a certain charm helped by a talented cast and a script that kept things moving.

   Fess Parker played Charles Russell one of the greatest artists of the Old West, and a man of many talents and experiences. He was a good man who was as good with the gun as he was with a brush. Russell wrote about his times and travels through the Old West in books such as TRAILS PLOWED UNDER. Link from Project Gutenberg Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700941h.html.

   In an interesting twist, the premise of the series was not to be just a loosely based biography but instead the stories were to be based on Charlie Russell’s artwork. The pilot episode featured the famous painting “Innocent Allies.”

   The story had Charlie partnering with a man called Windy to run a cattle drive. When Charlie and a young hothead cowboy witness a stage robbery, the young cowboy overreacts and runs off to stop the robbery. His gunfire starts a stampede. Charlie warns others of the approaching stampede and rescues the beautiful and feisty Bonnie, the new owner of the saloon. Charlie tries to help the young man grow up while he paints for Bonnie “Innocent Allies” – his eyewitness account of the stage holdup.

   RUSSELL had the makings for a successful series but Westerns were fading during the years 1958-1961 as the PI and modern detective was growing in its popularity.


GLOBAL FREQUENCY . WB, 2005 Cast: Michelle Forbes as Miranda Zero, Aimee Garcia as Aleph, Josh Hopkins as Sean Flynn and Jenni Baird as Dr. Katrina Finch. * The on-air credits were clipped from this YouTube copy of the 45-minute pilot. The series was created by Warren Ellis based on the popular award winning graphic novel series. John Rogers wrote the script, or at least he was the main writer for the pilot that was directed by Nelson McCormick. (Sources: IMdb and Wikipedia.)

   Before WB had made its decision about the fate of GLOBAL FREQUENCY the episode was leaked to the Internet. According to an email by creator Warren Ellis sent out to fans he claimed WB was so unhappy over the leak they rejected the pilot (CBR.com, July 29, 2005). It would not be the first time or the last Hollywood egos destroyed a quality program.

   Here is a YouTube clip explaining the premise.

   Global Frequency is a secret independent organization created to do the dirty jobs that threaten the world. Run by Miranda Zero, a former top spy, with the aid of Aleph, a young female computer expert who from a high tech base assists and contacts field agents.

   Global Frequency’s agents are a group of people with various talents and connections from all over the world waiting for that call that they are needed to save the world, or at least part of it. This is one of my favorite plot devices and the way it is handled would have hooked me on the series.

   The story began when disgraced ex-cop Sean finds the dead body of a Global Frequency agent. It seems San Francisco will be destroyed in 55 minutes. Sean joins in to help find the man who killed the agent and now is a threat to destroy San Francisco.

   Everything works here. The writing based on an award winning graphic novel series, the cast, the direction, the production, all are excellent. The characters are likable and developed. This even has the most elusive of all qualities, excellent chemistry between the actors.

   Every time I watch a TV thriller like GLOBAL FREQUENCY that blends technology and the human hero so entertainingly, I remember the objections that Hugh O’Brian had during SEARCH (NBC 1972) that the technology not upstage him and again I realize how better SEARCH could have been.


CALLAHAN. ABC – Carsey/Werner Company Production in association with Finnegan Associates, September 9, 1982. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis as Rachel Bartlett, Hart Bocher as Callahan, John Harkins as Marcus Vox, and Peter Maloney as Mustaf. Created by Ken Finkleman. Developed and Written by David Misch and Ken Finkleman. Directed by Harry Winer

   This funny pilot spoof of the Indiana Jones movie unfairly faced some challenges that had nothing to do with the quality of the episode entitled “Appointment In Rangoon.”

   Plucky innocent Rachel Bartlett applies for the job of assistant to the Director of Research (Callahan) at the Regis Foundation. The job interview quickly expands from Callahan’s academic office into a dangerous thrill-filled chase across the world.

   Overly focused on his work, Callahan is clueless to how unaccustomed Miss Bartlett (as Callahan calls her) is to the action. But Rachel does not let the constant dangers to her life or her torn and increasingly disappearing dress stop her from helping Callahan to recover the object, stop the villain and save the world.

   However quality writing and acting does not always lead a pilot to series. CALLAHAN wanted to become an ABC series for the 1982-83 season. But TV cop spoof POLICE SQUAD had just bombed on ABC during the 1981-82 season. ABC’s pilots for the 1982-83 season had contained more than one Indiana Jones inspired pilot. ABC chose the action drama TALES OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY.


   YouTube continues to be a great place to find failed pilots, so coming soon I will look at four more failed pilots from the past.

LOVE CAN BE MURDER. Made-for-TV. NBC, 14 December 1992. Jaclyn Smith, Corbin Bernsen, Cliff De Young, Tom Bower, Anne Francis. Director: Jack Bender.

   Some viewers may rate this as the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy, but I enjoyed it, and I make no apologies about it! That it has to do with Los Angeles and private eyes may have something to do it, with a wink and a nod to the late 1940s when PI’s had to wear fedoras and be swift with the wisecracking repartee. In fact, I’m sure it does.

   In this film Jacklyn Smith, always to my mind the most beautiful member of Charlie’s Angels, plays Elizabeth Bentley, a lady lawyer who has a problem. She’s bored with both her job and her earnest but very dull fiancé. What does she do? She quits her job and decides to become a private investigator.

   Her first case? The ghost of the PI (Corbin Bernsen) who haunts her new office. It seems that he was killed in a phony automobile accident back in 1948 when he was on a case, one that was never solved. By some sort of rule or regulation that governs such matters in the hereafter, he cannot move on until the case is solved. And all of sudden Ms Bentley has a new partner, one that only she can see.

   I have to admit that the case is not all that interesting, though there is at least one decent twist to it before it is solved, and maybe two. No — and of course we are moving into present day Hallmark territory here — the fun of this film is watching a romance grow, complete with lots of humor, witty patter and a huge wardrobe for Ms Smith. A romance, mind you, that unless there is some fine print at the bottom of the page of rules and regulations that govern such matters, does not have much of a future to it.

   The TV reviewer for the Los Angeles Times liked it, saying that “The production is loaded with charming nostalgic touches…” with a “kind of Nick-and-Nora flavor,” but an anonymous reviewer for People magazine gave it a D plus. I lean far more toward the former than the latter.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


G vs E (aka Good vs Evil). USA. July 18, 1999 to October 31, 1999. Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) March 10, 2000 to May 12, 2000. Rockfish Films / USA Studios / Universal. Cast: Clayton Rohner as Chandler Smythe, Richard Brooks as Henry McNeil, Marshall Bell as Ford Plasko, Googy Gress as Decker Benbow, Tony Denman as Ben Smythe, and Deacon Jones as himself. Executive Producers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate and Paul Biddle. Created by Pate Brothers (Jonas and Josh).



   This Cable original series from the USA Network had a fun premise that offered up enough laughs to make it entertaining. Yet there were too many flaws that eventually doomed it with the Heavenly Listeners on its Day of Judgment.

   G vs E (as it was called in the first season on USA) featured the adventures of two dead men working for the Corps, God’s bounty hunters. Chandler Smythe and Henry McNeil are two murder victims trying to earn their way into Heaven after living a life not worthy of either Heaven or Hell.

ORANGE VOLVO. (July 18,1999) Written and Directed by Jonas Pate and Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Troy Evans and Dominic Keating Recurring Cast: Susie Park, Blake Heron and Ashley Rogers. *** Reporter and widower Chandler Smythe is killed during a mugging gone bad. Next Chandler finds himself still in Los Angeles and being told he is dead by two men called Ford and Decker. They offer him a second chance at redemption if he joins the Corps, God’s bounty hunters.


   Stationed in the Hollywood division of the Corps, Chandler and new partner Henry hunt down people who have made a deal with the Devil. They try to get the person to renounce the deal but should they fail the Devil takes their client’s soul and turns them into a Morlock (demon). Morlocks and the Corps fight a constant deadly battle, a war of good versus evil.

   The leader of the Corps is tough mean Deacon Jones. Played by the real Deacon Jones a Hall of Fame NFL player that terrorized quarterbacks during his career in the 60s-70s. He brings his no nonsense approach and the ability to inspire fear to his leadership of the Corps.

   Here Deacon gives some advice and also explains the three rules of the Corps:


   The Corps rules are simple:

   No sex. Morlocks look like normal humans except when they die or seen in a mirror. Morlocks use sex to trap Corps agents to kill and turn them into a Morlocks.

   Agents can not contact friends and family. Their loved ones will not recognize them and the Morlocks would use them against the Corps agent.

   Corps agents have no special powers or magic. They can be killed and if they die they face immediate judgment for where they will spend their afterlife.

   While Deacon Jones was a better football player than actor his character is one of the best parts of the entire series. However the rules are a major flaw of the series and while offering conflict for the drama, the rules are responsible for most of the buzz kill when the story gets fun.

   A bigger mistake is the series focus on rookie Chandler Smythe, the worst part of the series. Chandler is a self-absorbed whining loser who refuses to give up being involved with his son. The son is a teenage boy on the edge of going bad. This running plot point is a constant source for Chandler to do something stupid and put everyone in danger. Neither actor Clayton Rohner (Chandler) or Tony Denman (son Ben) are able to make their unlikable characters any less unlikable.

   Richard Brooks’ portrayal of dead 70s cop Henry McNeil is another highlight of G vs E. The series does a fine job parodying 70s TV cops shows from the visual style to the buddy cop relationship between experienced and groovy Corps agent Henry and bumbling idiot rookie Chandler.

   The last two regulars are Ford and Decker, Chandler and Henry’s superiors. Both Marshall Bell and Googy Gress have fun with their roles as bumbling inept superiors and are fun to watch.

   My favorite episode of the series is “Buried,” the third episode of season one. This is a fun episode as the focus is on the buddy relationship of Chandler and Henry as Gods bounty hunters trying to save souls. But even this episode could not avoid spoiling some of the fun with maudlin scenes between Chandler and son.

BURIED. (August 1, 1999) Written and Directed by Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Reno Wilson, Michael Paul Chan and Emmanuel Lewis. Recurring Cast: Susie Parks. *** Chandler tries to save a young boxer from Hell but ends up buried alive. He calls Henry (by cell phone) and Henry begins a quixotic adventure across Los Angeles to find and save Chandler.


   NBCU cable networks USA and Syfy have often shared original programs. USA ordered 22 episodes of G vs E. It aired Sunday at 8 pm and lasted eleven episodes. USA has always aimed at the general audience so G vs E was much better suited for the SciFi (now SYFY) channel and its different smaller audience. The series changed its name to the easier to understand Good vs Evil and moved to the Sci-Fi channel on Friday night for its final eleven episodes.

   The series did a good job exploring the inner workings of the Corps. In an episode from the second season, “Portrait of Evil” wraps itself in parody of 70’s TV buddy cop shows and the film Rear Window as it shows the process of possible promotion (aka Judgment Day) for members of The Corps.

PORTRAIT OF EVIL. (May 5, 2000) Written by Marshall Page. Directed by David Mackay. Guest Cast: Thomas F. Duffy and Jack Donner. Recurring Cast: Jack Esformes. *** Henry retrieves some important documents the Corps was after, kills two Morlocks and saves Chandler’s life. Hero Henry is offered possible promotion to Heaven while Chandler wallows in self-pity.


   While not totally forgotten today, man, if they had just been satisfied doing Starsky and Hutch fight demons, Good vs Evil could have been a cult classic on the level of X-Files and Twin Peaks. Instead it is just another series of many during the wild cable/syndicated days of the 80s through early 2000s that a few viewers remember with fond memories.

THE TIME TUNNEL. 20th Century Fox Television, 2006. Unaired pilot. David Conrad, Andrea Roth, Max Baker, Bob Koherr, Tawny Cypress. Written by Rand Ravich, based on the original series created by Irwin Allen. Director: Todd Holland.

   The first and only season of the original Time Tunnel series was on ABC during the 1966-1967 season. I was not a fan. I made sure I was on hand for the first episode, though, and I was so disappointed after seeing it that I never watched it again. There were so many holes in the plot that I found what was on the air next to worthless. That’s what growing up reading Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke will do to you.

   The earlier series is out on DVD, though, and this unaired pilot that came along some four decades later is one of the bonuses to be found on the final disc. (If I’m in error about this later show never being telecast, please let me know.)

   It’s actually quite good. If it had picked up as a series, and I’d watched this as the first episode, I’d have watched more, there’s no doubt about it. The tunnel itself is a lot spiffier, of course, but so is the story line, which considers the possibility — if not likelihood — that changing things in the past is more than likely to change the way the present looks now, with no one being aware of it.

   Except for the scientists and technicians who were working underground when a “time storm” was accidentally created. They are also aware of “ripples” in time that mean something has happened to change history as they know it. Their job: to go back to the past to correct it.

   It turns out that a young monk with the bubonic plague has slipped far into his future, 1944 and Germany during World War II. A team from their present has to go back and solve the problem, and quickly. During this highly secret operation, one of the members meets his own grandfather, who is known to have died that day. Can he save him? Or, should he save him?

   The cast consists of a bunch of actors unknown to me, but they do just fine. Even better is the script, which I think does about as good as it’s possible to outline the problems of time-related paradoxes as could be done in less than 50 minutes of running time.

ISIS. “The Lights of Mystery Mountain.” CBS, Season 1, Episode 1. 6 September 1975. The series was known as The Secrets of Isis in syndication. Cast: JoAnna Cameron (Andrea Thomas/Isis), Brian Cutler (Rick Mason), Joanna Pang (Cindy Lee). Guest Cast: Kelly Thordsen, Hank Brandt, Ken Wolger, Mike Maitland. Developed by Marc Richards. Director: Hollingsworth Morse.

   Opening narration: “… a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure and found that she was heir to the secrets of Isis. And so, unknown even to her closest friends, Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher; and Isis, dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice!”

   According to Wikipedia, this Saturday morning TV series has the distinction of being “the first weekly, American, live-action television series with a female superhero lead character.” Although intended for kids, rumor has it that quite a few adults watched it, too. The star, Joanna Cameron was a former model with nice legs and as Isis, wore a very short white miniskirt. That may have had something to do with it.

   In this first episode, Cindy Lee has taken photos up in the mountains of what appear to be UFOs, and she, Andrea and Rick decide to investigate further. Upon arrival they discover that several people have disappeared, leaving only circles of scorched earth behind them.

   The story is paper thin, the special effects are minimal, and the action level is even less. Being a kids’ program, there’s a lesson to be learned by the two teen-aged boys who have helped the person behind this small semi-sinister plot. It’s all in good fun, and I’m sure anyone who watched this series back then still remembers it today.

COMING SOON – THE TV EDITION
by Michael Shonk


   Most TV junkies claim Fall premiere week as their favorite time of the year, but mine has always been the May upfronts. Upfronts are parties the networks throw for major advertisers, ad agencies and the media in attempt to get them drunk enough to believe next Fall’s TV series will be the best ever and hope they forget the lies the networks told about the quality of last season’s shows.

   In the past, May was the most dramatic month for the TV fanatic. TV viewers embraced hope of the new, relief when their favorites survived, and the devastation when they didn’t. But it is just not the same anymore.

   The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CW) have joined cable networks in the effort to supply original programming all year round. New television series never stop coming. The Big Four and-a-Half networks just announced their fall lineup with huge fan fare ignoring that September is no longer the best month of TV.

   Pushing the limits of space here, let’s check out the highlights of what is coming this week, this Summer, this Fall, and in 2017.

   Just because the main season is over, it doesn’t mean the broadcast networks abandon original programming. WAYWARD PINES is back on FOX. CW has the final season of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. CBS has the return of ZOO and two new series starting in June that sound better than any of CBS new fall shows. AMERICAN GOTHIC tells the story of a family that has discovered one of them is a serial killer. From the creators of THE GOOD WIFE, BRAINDEAD is a comedy thriller about a young woman who discovers aliens are eating the brains of politicians and government workers. NBC has the Olympics this summer but also airs AQUARIUS.

      NBC medical drama NIGHT SHIFT returns for its third season:

   Cable networks offer original scripted programs in May and June including AMC’s new crime drama set in a restaurant, FEED THE BEAST, and the last season of HELL ON WHEELS, HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, TNT’s LAST SHIP, MAJOR CRIMES, MURDER IN THE FIRST, and RIZZOLI & ISLES (final season), TBS’s ANGIE TRIBECA, Cinemax’s OUTCAST, Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, ADULT SWIM’s DECKER: UNCLASSIFIED, and SYFY’s 12 MONKEYS.

   The heck with Marvel and DC, give me an IDW comic book like the fun horror/western WYNONNA EARP.

   Cable original scripted programs continue through the summer with returning series such as SYFY’s KILLJOYS and DARK MATTER, FX’s TYRANT and THE STRAIN, STARZ’s POWER, USA’s SUITS and last year’s hit MR. ROBOT.

   New series include Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS set in the 1980s, a supernatural series centered on a missing boy, SYFY’s post-apocalyptic drama AFTERMATH, and TNT’s GOOD BEHAVIOR based on the Letty Dobesh books by Blake Crouch.

      Based on Stephen Hunter’s book POINT OF IMPACT, USA network new series SHOOTER premieres in July.

   This fall live television, especially sports such as the NFL and World Series, will distract the viewing public. Cable lead by one of the most watched TV series in all television, AMC’s WALKING DEAD will hold its own. TNT reboots TALES FROM THE CRYPT, this time from M. Night Shyamalan.

         Netflix starts another series featuring a Marvel comic character – LUKE CAGE.

   Midseason 2017 promises to offer some entertaining new series on cable networks. USA’s FALLING WATER is a supernatural thriller about three strangers who find they can share dreams. SYFY’s horror anthology CHANNEL ZERO,

      Syfy’s THE EXPANSE, the best TV series I watched in 2015-16, will return for its second season in January 2017.

   Top network CBS will add three new dramas this Fall. BULL starring NCIS Michael Weatherly as Dr Phil back when he was a consultant specializing in manipulating… uh, I mean analyzing juries. Medicine meets technology in the new drama PURE GENUIS.

      The pilot of MACGYVER had many behind the scenes problems. Let’s hope Macgyver can find the right knick knack to save the show.

   Two new CBS series wait for their turn and midseason. DOUBT a lawyer show starring Katherine Heigl, and TRAINING DAY, based on the film. But more important are two series that CBS hopes to premiere in 2017 on CBS ALL ACCESS, its streaming service. First original new series will be the sequel to THE GOOD WIFE. The second is perhaps TV most famous franchise in history. It began on NBC, cancelled and resurfaces as a successful film series. It was used to establish Paramount in the syndicated market. It began UPN (now CW) and tried to save the network before the merger with WB. As Paramount continues to pump out theatrical films, CBS will use STAR TREK to jumpstart its streaming service.

         Without a title or any idea what it is about, the new STAR TREK series is the most anticiated television series of next season.

   Among the CBS series returning in the fall are BLUE BLOODS, CODE BLACK, CRIMINAL MINDS, ELEMENTARY, HAWAII FIVE-O, MADAM SECRETARY, NCIS, NCIS: LOS ANGELES, NCIS: NEW ORLEANS, and SCORPION. While CRIMINAL MINDS – BEYOND BORDERS will be back in 2017.

   SUPERGIRL reminded CBS what its TV audience likes, so the new shows look like the old shows and SUPERGIRL flew off to CBS little sister CW. The comic book superhero will feel comfortable with the rest of DC comic superheroes, ARROW, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and CW’s top show FLASH. CW continues to specialize in comic books, horror and the weird.

      New this fall to the mini-me of broadcast networks is FREQUENCY based on the film.

   Returning during midseason will be THE 100, iZOMBIE, THE ORIGINALS, SUPERNATURAL, and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.

   Midseason, CW will add FOX reject RIVERDALE, based on the characters from Archie comics focused on a murder mystery. But this is not Scooby Doo or your old Archie (even the comic books are not your old Archie), this Archie deals with “adult issues” such as him sleeping with his teacher.

   While CBS remains the top network, NBC is close behind. Its two biggest hits are SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and THE VOICE, each hogging up much of NBC’s fall schedule. This fall NBC adds five games of Thursday night football (CBS shows the first five, NBC has the last five). Without any major holes in its fall schedule, NBC saved its most promising new series for midseason, adding only three to the fall lineup.

      NBC’s only new drama this fall is TIMELESS, the most promising series of the many this season featuring time travel.

   Some of the series returning this fall are BLACKLIST, BLINDSPOT, CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, CHICAGO PD, GRIMM, LAW AND ORDER SVU. SHADES OF BLUE will have to wait for SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL to end.

   Other new shows waiting for their turn include comedies POWERLESS (insurance office comedy set in the world of superheroes), TRAIL & ERROR (court comedy). New dramas are BLACKLIST – REDEMPTION (spinoff), EMERALD CITY (based on Baum’s Land of Oz books), MIDNIGHT, TEXAS (based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris (TRUE BLOOD)), TAKEN (prequel to film series) and what would any NBC list be without another Dick Wolf CHICAGO series, in this case CHICAGO JUSTICE.

   There is hope at FOX. This year they have the Super Bowl guaranteeing better numbers at the end of the season. Ratings are changing, and FOX is pushing the hardest to find a way to count those of us who no longer watch TV live or on a TV set.

   TV is about to enter an era of MONEYBALL. For those not familiar with baseball or the movie or the book, sabermetrics uses an endless amount of numbers to measure performance. Networks like FOX are all ready there, someday the media will catch up.

   Speaking of baseball, FOX will have the World Series this fall as well as new series PITCH (story of first woman to play in Major League Baseball). Other new series of interest coming this fall are THE EXORIST (based on William Blatty’s novel), and LETHAL WEAPON (based on the film).

      My pick for first fall show cancelled is FOX’s SON OF ZORN, an animated barbarian tries to cope in live action modern world.

   Shows returning in fall include BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, insane GOTHAM, LUCIFER, ROSEWOOD, SCREAM QUEENS, and QUINTCO. Series returning in midseason include SLEEPY HOLLOW and the final season of BONES.

   Among the new series waiting for 2017 are APB (rich man buys a police precinct), MAKING HISTORY (time travel comedy), SHOTS FIRED (racially charged shooting involving a cop), and PRISON BREAK (sequel to 2005 TV series).

      FOX is hoping 24 – LEGACY will be as successful as the original 24.

   ABC did not have a good year. Its president of programming was sacrificed to the Nielsen Ratings Gods in prayers for better numbers in the demo.There was not enough time to change the fall offerings, but it is expected ABC will copy CBS and NBC with less soap operas and more procedurals.

   ABC’s new fall dramas of interest to us begins with DESIGNATED SURVIVOR starring Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ends up President after a terrorist attack takes out most of the leaders of the American government. CONVICTION with Hayley Atwell (AGENT CARTER) as a spoiled former first daughter who is forced under threat of jail to lead a small group investigating cases where the convicted might be innocent.

      NOTORIOUS is about the seduction between law and the media.

   Returning this fall are HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and ONCE UPON A TIME. While these returning series have to wait until midseason their turn – AMERICAN CRIME, THE CATCH, SCANDAL and SECRETS & LIES.

      Among the new ABC shows waiting for midseason is TIME AFTER TIME, based on the movie and stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells.

   Over one hundred TV series in the 2015-16 season were cancelled or ended. RIP.

THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. “The Crowd.” HBO, season 1, episode 3 (2 July 1985). Nick Mancuso, R. H. Thomson, David Hughes. Hosted and based on the story by Ray Bradbury. Director: Ralph L. Thomas.

   This one’s a ghost story, and like most ghost stories, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s slickly done, with high production values, and there are some appreciably spooky moments. But it didn’t work for me in any way, shape, or form, and I can’t tell you too much as to why without issuing a Spoiler Alert, so consider it done.

   The idea is that a survivor of a near deadly automobile incident can’t figure out how such a loud noisy crowd of people formed around the scene of the accident so quickly. (The tires hadn’t even stopped spinning.) Probing further, he discovers that the same crowd of individuals were seen (via videotape) at many other such accidents, most of them fatal. Against the advice of a good friend, he makes the mistake of trying to find out more.

   To me, with a logical mind, the question is not how these crowds of ghostly origin form so quickly, but why. I don’t remember how it’s replied to in the story, but this 27 minute cable TV episode answers with mirrors, atmosphere, glitz and special effects. It doesn’t go anywhere near a reason and relies instead on a knock-em-out finale that’s there for shock value only.

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