Apr 292015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! Because it seems that all I’ve talked about recently is how great the shows out there right now based on DC Comics characters are, it’s time to give Marvel another shot at the small screen, and the perfect opportunity has presented itself with Daredevil, the first Netflix-exclusive series in Marvel’s arsenal.


Now I have to say, of all the possible superheroes that Marvel could have chosen to spin into a TV series, I would never have expected Daredevil to be the one that got picked…but that’s probably because he’s one of Marvel’s lesser-known properties (with the possible exception of that terrible movie with Ben Affleck a while back). The show is actually quite notable in that it’s the first of Marvel’s new properties to feature a disabled superhero, in that the titular character does all his crime fighting without the use of his sight.

The backstory established here is pretty close to Batman and all those other gritty genre-dramas: as the son of a hard-living boxer, Matt Murdock is blinded by chemicals as a young boy and forced to adapt to life as a blind man in the middle of New York City. After his father is murdered for refusing to throw a fight, Murdock’s grief and anger toward the criminal element in his city inspires him to train in martial arts and use his unique talents to become a masked vigilante. As Daredevil, Murdock takes on all manner of criminals, from corrupt officials to mobsters and street hooligans, and even Wilson Fisk, leader of a vast underworld organization who plots to take over the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and use it for his own ends.

Before I get into my problems with the show, I’d like to state of the record that everything I’m about to say is not a reflection on the actors themselves. In fact, I would venture to say that Daredevil is probably one of the best-acted installments in the Marvel brand yet, with incredibly solid performances by the lead characters, supporting cast, and even the villains. Special credit goes out to Elden Henson as Murdock’s legal partner Foggy Nelson, who provides a solid counterpoint as the grounded everyman to Murdock’s idealism and brooding. For once, here’s a sidekick (of sorts) that doesn’t feel inferior to the main hero, gets just as much screen time, and is actually more likeable in a lot of ways. Doubly so for Deborah Ann Woll as secretary and former client Karen Page: far from being the standard damsel-in-distress, she actively seeks out trouble as she tries to do her own part in exposing corruption and murder in Hell’s Kitchen. Compared to them, it’s often Charlie Cox’s action-packed exploits that seem like the secondary storyline to the more down-to-earth human drama and interplay between the characters and the secrets they keep from each other.


Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. “The Kingpin” if you’re a comics fan) creates a villain who is at once understandable and also utterly terrifying. While I do tend to enjoy Marvel movies, I have to admit that the one thing they don’t normally do is flesh out their bad guys and make the viewer actively care about them and their motivations. Granted, there’s not always time to do that in a movie, but I still think they could do a much better job. That said, Daredevil provides a breath of fresh air here by developing Fisk’s character just as much, if not more than, Murdock: we see how despite his being an obvious genius for criminal activities, Fisk is really just a child inside who desperately wants to be loved and make something of himself, throwing murderous temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. The time the series spends delving into Fisk’s psychology, as well as how is relationship with gallery worker Vanessa changes him, is really something unprecedented in Marvel’s history.

Also, Bob Gunton (Warden Norton from “The Shawshank Redemption” for any movie buffs) deserves a small shout-out for the relatively minor role of wisecracking criminal accountant Leland Owlsley. But despite my high hopes from when he first appeared, the writers saw fit to kill him off at the end of the season. It’s disappointing, but I guess we won’t be seeing Daredevil take on The Owl anytime soon.

While all this is true, I still have a number of problems with Daredevil. For one thing, are we sure that this is really in the Marvel universe? Granted, the fact that it’s a Netflix show lets the producers get into all kinds of nasty, violent battle scenes that the family-friendly Marvel films really couldn’t show, and I don’t have a problem with that in principle. But the fact is that this just doesn’t feel like a Marvel show. Where’s the sense of humor and heart that has really defined the Marvel universe up until this point? It seems the writers were just so preoccupied with going somewhere they hadn’t been before and exploring new territory that they forgot where they came from. As it is, Daredevil feels more like a skeleton outline of a Marvel show than an actual entertainment piece. Frankly, I’m sort of surprised a guy like Stan Lee signed off on a show like this.

The show also lacks any tangible connection to the rest of Marvel’s franchises, which further confuses the picture. Sure, the characters drop a few references here and there about the devastation of the Avengers’ battle in New York or the existence of superhumans, but that’s hardly a strong link. If only we could see these things they were talking about, then it might seem more real. And finally, despite the novelty of having a blind superhero–which is admittedly very cool–it just doesn’t feel like Daredevil did anything new to separate itself from the likes of Arrow and similarly dark superhero dramas. Honestly, if you’ve seen one fight between Murdock and some hapless criminals, you’ve seen them all.


My Rating: 3/5

I’m not disputing that Daredevil is solid entertainment, or that it has a darker tone than most other Marvel properties up until now: that’s not the issue here. My main problem is not that the show is breaking away from the pack, it’s that 1) it didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from other shows and 2) it just didn’t jive at all with what we’ve come to expect from Marvel up to this point, which was quite distracting. I don’t have a problem with Marvel trying to explore new possibilities; I just think that they could have made a stronger effort than this. But who knows? Maybe season two will get better. We might even get really lucky and have Bullseye or The Punisher come along to give Daredevil some more things to do.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Apr 292015

One of my favorite shows of the new season has been Ore Monogatari!!, which runs as My Love Story!! here in the US. It’s not especially original or innovative, and that’s kind of the point. In a medium that so often relies on gimmicks and melodrama to sell romantic stories, it has the guts to just tell a story. In three episodes, with just three characters, it’s managed to outdo a huge portion of the genre. That’s pretty impressive, and it’s worth examining why this series works as well as it does.


For a start, it has characters the audience can actually like and relate to. No one has amnesia, no one’s tangled up in a twisted web of relationships, and no one’s an intolerable mix of passion and jealousy. There’s a big, goofy guy, his levelheaded best friend, and a nice girl who the big guy mistakenly thinks has a crush on his friend. Takeo, Suna, and Yamato are all entertaining on their own, and their personalities play nicely off of one another. The dramatic tension doesn’t come from wanting the protagonist to choose the good romantic interest over the bad one. Instead, it comes from wanting all of the characters to find the happiness that they want for each other. If it were possible to hug a work of fiction, I would.

What’s interesting to me is how My Love Story!! seems to have a fairly broad appeal. A lot of it seems to come down to Takeo’s strength as a main character. On one hand, he’s very much a guy’s guy: the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. He acts and thinks in ways that make it hard not to root for him. On the other hand, he’s not the same generic nice guy character that plagues the romantic comedy genre. There’s an actual, complex person behind that ridiculous face, and that’s the sort of thing that makes a character compelling no matter who’s in the audience.

Of course, it helps that the series is also damn funny. Takeo’s outlandish expressions are the main draw, but the writing is also very strong. Suna’s deadpan reactions to the other characters add another layer of humor and help to keep the story grounded. Yamato is an adorable mess, and her nervous energy is practically tailor-made to be paired up with Takeo’s intensity. There’s such a good comedic balance within this core trio that I’m almost afraid to see what will happen as the story develops and the cast presumably expands.

That’s really about all there is to it. Assemble some believable characters and tell their story with a good sense of humor, and you’ve got something worthwhile. Sometimes we need a series like My Love Story!! to remind us of that.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.

Apr 222015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! Most TV shows out there are, as well all know very well, works of fiction. But what happens when fictional worlds develop fictions of their own? It actually happens a lot more than you’d think.

There are a lot of ways that a fictional show, no matter how far separated it may be from real life, can ground itself enough to remain relatable to its audience. And what better way to do that than with a TV show within a TV show? By that I mean a show that characters within a certain show are seen repeatedly watching or referencing. This kind of thing is particularly effective because, as we know, real people watch TV as well: in fact, you’re doing it right now!

Below are just a few examples of what I mean, conveniently listed in the order of my amusement, and possibly the order with which I feel like they made a significant contribution to the larger show and fictional world that they were a part of.


“Terrance and Phillip” (South Park)


The flatulent, foul-mouthed, puppet-like Canadians have been a fixture of the raunchy cartoon sitcom South Park since the very beginning, even serving as the primary motivator for the plot of several episodes, as well as the show’s only movie so far. Terrance and Phillip even had entire episodes devoted to them, and as with many of these listed fictional shows, the characters themselves often crossed over into the lives of the also fictional residents of South Park (see “Behind the Blow” and “The South Park Movie”). They’ve even had full episodes devoted to them (see “Royal Pudding” and “Not Without My Anus”).

While the humor is crude and not really all that funny (besides the obvious parody of the two being Canadians), Terrance and Phillip are a metaphor for the entirely of South Park in that it’s a children’s world turned on its head and gone terribly – although humorously – wrong. The clearly adult content of the program is probably where the kids of South Park get their own dirty minds and language. A subtle commentary on the pervasive influence of media, perhaps? Then again, maybe I’m just overthinking the fart jokes.


“Expose`” (Lost)

This is one that if you weren’t watching really carefully, you probably missed, and I honestly wouldn’t blame you for it. “Expose`” was literally the focus of one whole episode – probably the one fans of the show cared about least out of six seasons, and believe me, that’s saying a lot. The episode of the same name tried and failed to introduce fellow crash survivors Nikki and Paolo to the main cast, only to kill them off at the end of the episode. Oh, if you’re wondering how the show ties into that at all, it’s just that Nikki was a star on the show before being marooned on the island.

Despite the failure of the characters, “Expose`’s” influence lived on in Lost, every once in a while making the subtle appearance behind the scenes or off the camera that just screamed the producers saying, “Yeah, we know you didn’t like it, but we’re keeping it anyway. In your face!” Hurley even testified on several occasions that it was one of his favorite shows. It really had nothing to do with the plot of Lost whatsoever, but “Expose`” definitely wins an award for the most annoyingly pervasive inside joke on the long-running series.


“The Scary Door” (Futurama)


Now this is one that always has me busting a gut. As a huge fan of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, I was naturally very interested to find that among all its other spoofs on the sci-fi genre, Futurama featured a fictional TV show that was a hilarious parody of everything the classic series stood for – as well as some of its more quirky characteristics. Much like its source material, “The Scary Door” was made up of short stories with moral lessons – the catch being that the lessons rarely made any sense whatsoever, and the whole program was structured to be almost deliberately nonsensical and confusing.

The best part is always the narration, however: “The Scary Door’s” introductions expertly skewer Serling’s often over-complicated explanations and contradictory metaphors, as well as his ubiquitous presence on the show itself. You may not know what’s going on, but you can bet it will make you laugh regardless. Just remember that the next time you’re in “the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location…”


“Wormhole X-Treme!” (Stargate SG-1)

Time to get serious again… well, sort of. For non-fans of the cult sci-fi series SG-1, “Wormhole X-Treme” was a cheesy, over-the-top, low-budget fictional TV show that was in many ways a spot-on match to the “real-life” adventures of Stargate Command. And for good reason, too: the producer of the show, while he didn’t remember it at the time, is an alien who’s been through the Stargate himself! The cast members were also quite similar to the main characters of the SGC, although with their character traits played up to the max and deliberately corny dialogue.

This one has a special place in my heart as well because “Wormhole X-Treme’s” impact isn’t limited to one episode: its existence is frequently used throughout the series as the Air Force’s cover story for leaks about the SGC, and it featured prominently in SG-1’s landmark 200th episode as a major plot device (the gang had to stay on base and help its producer come up with a movie script). It’s a perfect piece of comic relief for a show that, come to think of it, actually didn’t have a short supply of that kind of thing to begin with.


“The Muppet Show” (The Muppets)


Of course, no list of this kind would be complete without mentioning the world-famous Muppets. The various television programs featuring the puppet creatures over the past few decades have always centered on the production of the fictional “Muppet Show”, a variety program featuring all the characters at their wacky and wonderful finest. For me, the highlight of the show was always Kermit the Frog playing guitar and singing one of his iconic songs.

The Muppets made the top of my list because, in a sense, the “Show” pretty much is the show. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell at all except for some added humor here and there where the bits of the different characters infringe on the others. But nevertheless, this fictional program-within-a-program just goes to show that it may not be easy being green – but the Muppets sure make it look like it is.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Apr 222015

With the promising underdogs out of the way, it’s time to get to the real contenders: the shows that should be the big talking points for this anime season. While we’re a long way away from winter’s absurdly strong lineup, there are still some compelling new titles out there. So, without further ado, here are three shows that should be good during the spring anime season.


Blood Blockade Battlefront


I’ve heard a few people describe this series as Baccano! with aliens, and that’s a pretty accurate summary of this gorgeous action series. An eclectic ensemble cast, supernatural powers, and a vibrant take on New York City are some of the big selling points here, as is the fantastic animation. The story and characters seem genuinely compelling, but Blood Blockade Battlefront could put its script through a shredder and still be fun to watch.


Ninja Slayer


I’m still not entirely sure I understand the circumstances of Ninja Slayer’s production, but it’s supposedly a Japanese adaptation of an American novel about a ninja who kills other ninjas. It’s essentially a parody of American stereotypes regarding what a ninja is and what an anime series about ninjas is supposed to look like. Absurd characters and deliberately awful animation combine with a pointed sense of humor to make this one of the more interesting things I’ve watched in recent memory. Completely nuts, but very cool in its own way.


My Love Story


And now for something completely different. My Love Story is a shojo romance starring the kind of guy who would be a minor character at best in just about any other series. Takeo is a huge, burly guy with a heart of gold and a face that terrifies small children. He falls in love with a girl named Yamato, but immediately assumes that she’s more interested in his absurdly handsome best friend. It seems like his assumption might be way off the mark, and the show is downright adorable to watch. I want a big cardboard standup of Takeo so I can hide it in my house and use it to terrify visitors.


Only time will tell if these three end up being as good as they seem, but at least we’ve got some solid candidates to fill the gaping void left behind by last season’s landslide of goodness.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.

Apr 152015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! Recently I’ve been a bit unwilling to commit to starting any new show, so as often happens, I’ve fallen back on re-watching some old favorites of mine. And without a doubt, one of the perennial choices that I can never get tired of seeing is the classic 1950s series The Twilight Zone.

There’s a lot of reasons why The Twilight Zone is so near and dear to my heart, not least of which is because it was one of my first introductions into the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and so many other ideas that it’s hard to keep count of them all. But the most compelling of them is that The Twilight Zone tackles some of the most challenging and uniquely human questions that face us in during our lives: questions of morality, history, duty, psychology, and countless other subjects.

Since The Twilight Zone isn’t really a coherent series with an overarching narrative and is completely made up of separate vignette stories, it’s difficult to review it like I would any other show. To that end, I’ve decided instead to give you some of my favorite episodes and explain why I think they’re the best the show has to offer.

You won’t find classics like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, “The Obsolete Man”, or “Eye of the Beholder” on here–at least, not in every place. The stories that I picked are ones that have resonated with me the most on an emotional and intellectual level throughout the years, and are ones that I felt had the strongest moral lessons that changed the way I looked at both fiction and the real world. So now, without further ado, another journey through that famed land of shadow and substance begins.


Honorable Mention: “What You Need”

This episode is here not because it has a deep moral lesson, but simply because I love the whole idea of it, as well as the twist at the end. The story is one of an old peddler who can seemingly predict exactly what item people will need, no matter how crazy or unlikely it may be. This ability eventually attracts the attention of a young bully who terrorizes the man into helping him win money and avoid accidents. In the end, though, a pair of new shoes leads him to slip in the street and get hit by a passing car. As he lays dying, the old man looks at him sadly and says, “They were what I needed.”

It’s a chilling but fitting reminder that some gifts aren’t meant to be abused, and that bullies always get their comeuppance, but on the other side, it encourages us to appreciate more the things we often take for granted in our lives. You never know when one of them might be the thing that saves your life.


#5: “The Silence”

This episode seems incredibly trivial and silly at first, until the devastating and unexpected ending. A tasteless, chatty airhead is challenged by his country club rival to remain silent for an entire year: a test of the young man’s honor versus the older man’s money. And so the ordeal begins for the young man, trapped in a glass cage wired for sound and observed at all times. Defying all the odds and everyone’s expectations, he doesn’t say a word until he is released twelve months later…only to find that his enemy was lying, and has no money to give. At this, the young man bursts into tears–still silent–and reveals that he had his vocal cords severed so he couldn’t possibly lose: the ultimate gesture in competitive spirit and pride, all for naught.

The warning of this episode is clear: too much competition is a very bad thing, and pride goeth before the fall. But it also clearly demonstrates that no matter how much you may dislike someone, you have no idea of what people are capable of when their backs are against the wall. And if you challenge them, you may get more than you wagered on.


#4: “A Nice Place to Visit”


In this tale, an apparent reversal of fortune lands a dead criminal in a luxurious realm where he has everything he ever wanted: women, money, status, and an ever-present servant named Pip. Confused as to how he made it into Heaven after doing only bad things during his life, he starts to realize that he’s still not happy: he wins at every game, can do whatever he wants with no consequences, and everything is boring and predictable. Desperate, he begs Pip to be taken instead to “the other place,” to which the supposed angel retorts, “Whatever gave you the idea this was Heaven? This is the other place!”

This episode raises some interesting philosophical points. We always imagine Hell as a place of flames, torment, and pitchforks, but what if it’s just a place where sameness eventually drives you crazy for eternity? In my view, the greatest torture in the universe is boredom and loneliness, and the way this story flips the traditional model of the celestial balance on its head is particularly effective.


#3: “A Stop at Willoughby”

What does a man do when he’s unhappy with his drab, dog-eat-dog, constantly moving modern life? He longs for simpler days, of course: in the case of this episode’s main character, that’s an idyllic, pastoral 1800s town called “Willoughby” that he sees as a train stop in his dreams. Seeking to escape from his ambitious, hen-pecking wife and the business world he despises, the man eventually leaps off a train to his death and is carted away to the local funeral home…Willoughby and Son.

Coincidence? Maybe. But message? It’s a double-header from this one. On one hand, the episode very strongly hints that maybe life was better back in the day when things were simpler and the world moved slower. But on the other hand, if the modern man lives his life looking backward instead of forward, he should be ready for the cost of too much nostalgia. The past is gone, and those who seek to relive it only end up disappointed… or worse.


#2: “People are Alike All Over”


Ah, the iconic mission to Mars. It takes on a different spin in this episode, where a two-man team lands in a rocket to explore the Red Planet. With his dying friend encouraging him to open the door to the unknown because “people are alike all over,” a frightened astronaut ventures out to find Martians who look and talk exactly like humans. Feeling more at ease, he is taken to a home specially built for him…only to find it’s actually a cage, and he’s in a Martian zoo because, indeed, people are alike all over: they fear what they don’t understand.

It’s a simple, yet highly effective point. Mankind’s boundless optimism and taste for adventure is our greatest strength, but what if the people we meet out there also shared our greatest weakness? And what would alien beings think of us if they looked at our minds, our history, and could see all the darkest moments of humanity? They’d probably be terrified of us. And they’d be right to be.


#1: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”


You had to know that while I promised mostly no standards, my favorite episode is also the critically acclaimed “best of The Twilight Zone” episode. Like the previous choice and many other stories in the series, this one focuses on human frailty: how quickly we turn on those we considered friends and revert to our barbarous animal instincts to kill or be killed when our sense of normalcy and order are disrupted. We watch in horror as the quiet suburban neighborhood of Maple Street becomes a bloodbath as the residents suspect each other of being alien invaders due to intermittent power fluctuations, while all the while the true aliens observe from afar. Their commander notes that in order to conquer humanity, they won’t have to do anything: they’ll just let us destroy ourselves.

There’s a reason why this episode is considered the greatest: it captures the entire essence of The Twilight Zone as a show, depicting human beings at their very best and their very worst, showing how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go. And maybe, someday, we’ll actually learn something from it.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Apr 142015

It’s the start of a new anime season, and that can only mean one thing: time to start judging books by their covers! Rather than put you all through a detailed preview of every new series out there, I’ll be focusing on a few promising titles in this pair of articles. For part one, let’s take a look at some promising wild cards that could be good if all goes well.


Sound! Euphonium


Kyoto Animation is making a show about girls in a band? Golly, that doesn’t sound familiar at all. Before you fall headfirst into a K-On! flashback, it’s worth noting that Sound! Euphonium is showing a few key differences from its spiritual cousin. Classical music has replaced the old pop rock, and the girls in question play a variety of brass and string instruments. There have been confirmed sightings of male characters with speaking roles, and there even seems to be a real plot here.

All kidding aside, this one should appeal to both admirers and detractors of the K-On! franchise. The main characters seem likable enough, and the animation looks absolutely gorgeous. As long as the writers can wring a half-decent story out of the premise, this has the potential to be a low-key hit.


Mikagura School Suite


On the other end of the spectrum, we have Mikagura School Suite. The show supposedly has its origins in a collection of Vocaloid songs, and boy does it look the part. Bright colors and energetic characters abound, and the plot seems to revolve around magical battles between cultural clubs at an exclusive high school. Honestly, it’s a bit tricky to tell exactly what’s going on in Mikagura’s manic first episode.

There’s an awful lot of energy in this show, but it needs to be unleashed in the right direction at the right time. It’s possible that the whole thing might collapse under its own weight, but there’s definitely fun to be had if the series can keep everything together.


Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches


I’m cheating a bit on this one, as I’ve read the manga that Yamada is based on. A goofy school comedy with some interesting gimmicks, this show will live or die based on its ability to make the audience laugh. The first episode is heavy on set-up and character introductions, but getting the heavy lifting out of the way early on could prove to be a good call in the long run. The anime is adapting what is arguably the best portion of the source material, so it’s got a decent shot at holding up over the course of the season.


That’s all for now, but check back for part two of the season preview later this week. I’ll take a look at some big hitters that should be good as long as they don’t do anything stupid.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.

Apr 082015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! If anyone’s been paying attention to the world of television recently, you’ll know that there’s some pretty big stuff coming out in terms of casting for a couple of well-known networks and shows. Both of these items have me very, very excited for a lot of different reasons, so I’ll just go ahead and get right into them.

If you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I did a piece about speculation on who was going to step up to run Comedy Central’s The Daily Show once long-time host Jon Stewart had gone. Stewart announced earlier this year that he would be leaving the show after nearly 16 years at the helm, both on camera and behind the scenes, and there were a ton of theories flying around as to who would replace him: from long-time correspondents like Jessica Williams or Jason Jones to complete outsiders such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

But I’m pleased to announce, if you haven’t heard already, that the guessing game is over. Comedy Central announced on Monday, at the beginning of a mid-season hiatus for The Daily Show, that new contributor Trevor Noah was tapped to fill the show’s starring role.


At first, I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about this move. In terms of potential candidates for taking over the hosting job on The Daily Show, Noah had never even crossed my mind. Sure, he’s been on the show a few times, and sure, he was pretty funny when he was. But he never struck me as true star material. Little did I know that apparently, in his home nation of South Africa, Noah already has quite a reputation as a comedian, and he’s been extending that presence to the United States as well.

Once I recognized that Noah had the chops to do the job, I started to realize what a potentially great move this was by Comedy Central. Not only will they attract so many new fans to The Daily Show based on Noah’s already existing stardom, but they’re following the clearly successful model of getting a foreign-born person to commentate on U.S. affairs for a perspective-shifting kind of humor. I say clearly successful because there’s already a model for that, established by another former Daily Show contributor: HBO’s wildly popular Last Week Tonight with Englishman John Oliver. If Comedy Central can capitalize on this idea, they could have yet another hit on their hands.

Of course, the decision hasn’t come without controversy. Immediately after the announcement, Noah’s background was subjected to the full scrutiny of the Internet community, and what came out of it wasn’t all good. Noah has come under fire in recent days for certain comments he posted on his Twitter account over the years that some see as insensitive and demeaning toward women and minorities. I won’t bother re-posting them here: enough of that has been done already. If you’re really interested, go to pretty much any major news site.

My take on this whole thing is that it will eventually go away. Everyone’s got a few skeletons in the closet, a few things that maybe they shouldn’t have said, and some stuff that social media doesn’t manage to keep under wraps: I know I’ve made mistakes like this myself many times. Obviously it’s not great that Noah may have posted some questionable jokes (which, in truth, really don’t come across as that funny), but I take them as just tasteless rather than out-and-out offensive. Comedians these days are so often dancing the fine line between humor and insult that things like this are bound to happen. They happened to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, too. In any case, Comedy Central is standing firmly behind Noah, and for the time being, so will I. Unless he’s not a good host, of course. In that case, we never had this conversation.

In other casting news, we’ve gotten another exciting update in the CW’s upcoming Flash/Arrow spin-off: Arthur Darvill, of Doctor Who fame, will be joining the main cast. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Darvill is a British actor who spent two and half years by the side of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and fellow companion/wife Amy Pond as they journeyed through time and space in some of the show’s most unforgettable adventures.

And this addition is even bigger than that: not only are we getting a guy who’s a pretty big deal already, but the role he’ll be playing is even bigger. Darvill has been cast as Rip Hunter, the Time Master himself–a character from DC Comic lore I think it’s safe to say that nobody really thought would show up on the CW. But I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised: since Barry Allen and Harrison Wells have been messing around with time a lot recently in The Flash, perhaps the reason Rip shows up at all is to try and fix the damage they could be doing, in keeping with his comic-book role as the guardian of history.


The most interesting part about this, aside from some outlets saying that Hunter will be the central character of the spin-off, is what it means for the future of the CW universe. Firstly, Rip Hunter has been both a hero and a villain in comic books, and portrayed in many different ways over the years. The casting call for this role describes him as a “Han Solo-type rogue” with a swagger and sarcastic attitude, a far cry from the uber-serious character Hunter usually takes in source literature. But I have confidence that Darvill can handle the part in spite of the vast difference between this role and the bumbling yet sincere Rory Williams: having seen him in many other roles besides on Doctor Who, including some pretty heavy stuff like Broadchurch and live stage shows, I can definitely say he’s got the chops for this part.

Also, there’s the implication that one time-traveler’s arrival could be just the beginning here. Who’s to say that Hunter’s friends and fellow time-traveling heroes the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, as well as Atom enemy Chronos, won’t be joining the party? Many people were upset when it was announced that it would be Hunter and not Booster in the show, but I don’t think an appearance by Gold should be written off just yet. Then again, the writers do seem to be giving Hunter a lot of the characteristics that Booster was known to have, sort of like combining the two people into one…but who knows? All I can say for now is that a show with Firestorm, Atom, Hawkgirl, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Hunter sounds pretty darn cool.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Apr 012015

Welcome back to another edition of Channel Chaser! Instead of my normal review of a new show that I haven’t talked about this week, I’ve decided to go back to an old subject that’s just recently gotten its newest season. I’m speaking, of course, about the Netflix-exclusive political drama House of Cards.


If you’re a fan and you haven’t watched yet, I’ll advise you now that many spoilers lie within. That would also beg the question of, seeing how hyped this whole thing was, where exactly you’ve been for the past month or so.

Anyway, as you may recall from the last time I did a review of House of Cards (only the first two seasons were around at that point), I had a few criticisms about the storyline and the technical aspects of the show, but all in all I thought it was a pretty solid show that really does a great job of drawing viewers into the lives of its characters, just like its kindred spirit Game of Thrones. But as pleased as I was with the first two seasons, I have to say that unfortunately, season three is a bit of a letdown by comparison.

While it’s obviously a given that ambitious U.S. Senator and now President Frank Underwood isn’t the greatest guy ever – and that’s probably the understatement of the century – it’s true that since the very beginning, he’s been the underdog of the story. Not in the traditional sense of the haves versus the have-nots, because Frank and his wife Claire are shown to be pretty well off. It’s more the fact that Frank was passed over in the pilot by the Democratic Party establishment and is somehow inexplicably underestimated by every single person he meets, to their eventual doom. As soon as you or any of the other characters think they’ve figured him out, or how far he’ll go to get what he wants, he’ll turn around and surprise you again by either showing unexpected restraint or the cold-blooded, ruthless pragmatism that we’ve all come to expect from our favorite villainous protagonist.

So I have to say that I started to get worried as of the end of season two. The whole goal of the show up until this point is to show Frank’s path to the top – to becoming the President, the most powerful person in the country. But then, now what? Where does the show go from here, plot-wise? And if Frank is no longer the underdog fighting to get what he thinks he deserves, will his morally questionable character still be able to capture my attention, and possibly sometimes my – if not sympathy – understanding?

The answer, sadly, is no. From a story standpoint, the season was a bore from beginning to end. There were a few interesting parts on the campaign trail, including when Frank’s presidential rival Heather Dunbar decides to get her hands dirty with Claire’s diary, but other than that, I really wasn’t feeling the urgency. I mean, Frank made it. He’s president now. So who cares? I’m almost hoping that he’ll lose the election in the next season so that the show has somewhere to go again. As it was, the introduction of the Russians, including the creepy Putin-esque Petrov, was pretty mediocre and I just wasn’t really feeling it. While the Russians did play games with Claire’s head plenty, I was never caught thinking that Petrov was an adequate adversary for Frank, even when he apparently had him over a barrel in Moscow. The character just wasn’t charismatic or interesting enough to grab my attention.


Also, sorry if I didn’t fall out of my chair at the end of the season when Claire announces that she’s leaving Frank. That’s probably because I’ve been waiting for it for, oh, three seasons now. You had to know that eventually they’d split after everything that’s happened. Claire already almost did it once with her photographer friend Adam Galloway… speaking of which, whatever happened to him? I guess no one really cares. I can’t say that I do, either.

It’s also easy to notice how Frank’s monologues to the camera – Kevin Spacey’s creative signature for the show so far – have been dialed down a lot in this season. They’ve gone from long musings on the meaning of life and the circumstances surrounding him to simple, sentence-long, snarky observations. While I did criticize the overuse of this technique in the previous review, now that it’s so diminished I actually find myself missing it a bit. While a bit cheesy, it certainly provides some much-needed insight and context for Frank’s actions. I suppose in the end it’s just a matter of personal taste.

But I’ve complained enough for one article. On the flip side of things, it was nice to see some of the more minor characters getting the attention that they’ve been lacking in past seasons. Specifically, I’d like to single out Doug Stamper, Frank’s traditionally stoic and stony-faced henchman, whose recovery from a near-death beating at the end of last season and reconnection with his estranged family, as well as his quest to redeem himself in his boss’s eyes, make him a much deeper and more interesting person – if not a better person. That’s still sort of in doubt, given that he probably murdered Rachel (finally).

Also, Remy Danton went from being just another corporate/political scumbag to actually being a human being this season through his relationship with uncomfortable family woman Jackie Sharp, who is also developed quite a bit. He even quits politics! Now that’s something I didn’t see coming, although I wonder how long it’s going to take before he gets dragged back into it.


My Rating: 2.5/5

Despite some rather satisfying character development from some of the smaller-time players, the big picture remains pretty unsatisfyingly static over the course of the third season of House of Cards: only now, there’s no race to the top to justify the fact that Frank and Claire are truly terrible people. The show also lost a lot of its drive and urgency now that the two of them are living it large in the White House – well, at least Frank is, anyway. And who knows for how much longer? I just hope the next season, whenever it decides to become a thing, can recover the intriguing drama and magnetic personalities of the previous two years–something I think was lost over the course of this one.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.