May 272015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! Well, I finally swallowed my pride and completed my long-overdue viewing of Netflix’s fourth season of the former TV sitcom Arrested Development. I was such a huge fan of the show during its run, and then was so disappointed by its lackluster return online, that for a long time I refused to have anything to do with the show that broke my heart. But now that I’ve seen it in its entirely, I decided that it was high time to give Arrested Development the full-length review it deserves.


The story of Arrested Development focuses on the wealthy Bluth family, an incredibly dysfunctional group that falls on hard times after their patriarch, George Bluth Sr., is arrested and investigated for widespread fraud in his real estate company along with some “light treason”. But rather than let his selfish, self-absorbed family break apart, George’s long-suffering son Michael decides to do his best to keep them together for the sake of his own son, while dealing with all the craziness and scheming that results from being part of a family built on double-dealing and lies.

The style of the series is one of the more notable things about it, as it is shot by handheld cameras in a similar manner to mockumentary sitcoms like The Office, except for the fact that in Arrested Development, the characters are not actually aware of them. Furthermore, the series has its own narrator (coincidentally the show’s creator and runner, Ron Howard), who provides commentary and clarification on situations that arise between the Bluths, complete with historical footage and photographs. But what really distinguishes the narrator is that despite being just a voice, he is almost a character in himself, often taking it upon himself to directly contradict statements made by the other people on the show for comic effect. It really adds a lot to the humor of the show, and opens up a very interesting meta angle that isn’t actually explored until the fourth season…although it would probably have been better if it hadn’t.

Arrested Development is a true ensemble show, with a central character, Michael Bluth, surrounded by his troubled, devious, or just deluded family members. While Michael is intended to be the straight man of the series and the most upstanding and moral family member, the show makes it clear that he is also a human being, and prone to many of the same flaws that his fellow characters fall prey to: selfishness, pettiness, vanity, and self-righteousness. Even still, the show tries to redeem Michael at least in part by showing that, more than anything, he cares about his son, George Michael. I have to say, Michael Cerra perfectly nails the role of the awkward, sheltered son who is a good kid but just gets dragged into so many other people’s problems, it’s hysterical.

I could spend ages talking about the entire cast of this show, mostly because it’s so big and they are pretty much all standout performances across the board. The intricacies of each character’s relationships with all the others are always continuing to be broadened upon and explored in ways that are usually terrible yet funny, but that on occasion veer into genuine sentimentality and understanding. I’d like to single out Will Arnett and Tony Hale as my personal favorites for their performances was Michael’s polar-opposite brothers. Arnett is Gob (George Oscar Bluth, pronounced by only him as “Job”), a narcissistic and superficial ladies’ man with a knack for messing up magic tricks. Hale plays Buster, an emasculated and timid man-child completely under the thumb of their domineering and manipulative mother. While they each have a complicated relationship with Michael and are both completely neglected by their family for different reasons, Gob and Buster probably have the most interesting scenes together of any other character, not to mention that their humanity is much clearer than many of the other Bluths: for Gob, his weakness is that he is very lonely and really doesn’t have any friends; and for Buster, you always feel good rooting for him to step out from his mother’s shadow and stand up to his belittling and oppressive family. Plus, the hook joke just never gets old.


I also love how the show is meta in its humor, in that it features many running gags (such as Tobias’s questionable turns of phrase and Gob’s awful magic tricks, among others), as well as flashback-rewind-self-referential jokes that make it so you wouldn’t just be able to jump into the middle of the series and expect to know what was going on. The plot also unwinds rather slowly and behind the scenes, but it is there, and the involvement of Afghanistan, the Japanese, and the collapse of the housing market add a touch of needed worldly awareness and realism to this insular and often ridiculous family drama.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that Arrested Development, like many other shows that are ahead of their time, was just too good to last. Unappreciated on its network, it was cancelled after just three seasons. And when it was picked up again on Netflix, it was done exactly the way you wouldn’t want it to be handled. Rather than going with its strengths in ensemble casting and family strife, the renewed series decided to be more creative and focus on the adventures of each of the individual Bluths, using frustratingly non-linear storytelling, with very few episodes ever featuring two characters exchanging dialogue. I’m sorry, but the new experimental style just doesn’t do it for me. All the humor that came from the characters’ interactions is gone, and we’re forced to confront the fact that these people are just completely and utterly terrible. Before, at least they could all be terrible together. I’m sorry to say that this is too real, and it’s just not funny anymore.

I also didn’t like how the show expanded on its meta-ness to dangerous levels by introducing Ron Howard, the actual narrator and creator of the show, as his own character as Michael tries to get the rights to make a TV show about the actual TV show we’ve been watching for three seasons. I’ve stressed how overuse of this kind of thing can have mixed results before (see my thoughts on House of Cards), and this time it’s the same deal. It doesn’t add anything to the story, but instead detracts and distracts from it in some ways. Not a great way to go on a season that was already lackluster and confusing enough.


My Rating: 4/5

I’m obviously not including the fourth season in my final judgment: you should probably only watch that if you’re really, really into it. But other than the somewhat failed revival, Arrested Development is a hilariously unconventional sitcom with just enough undertones of family unity and hope for individual character development to counterbalance the essential flaws of the Bluth family. You secretly know they’re never really going to change, but you always find yourself hoping that they will, and the little moments of triumph for each of the characters, however fleeting, are well worth the wait.


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.

May 272015

One of my favorite parts of watching and writing about anime is occasionally finding myself at a loss for words. Every once in a while, a series comes along that’s unique and crazy enough to leave me unable to do anything but mutter, “What the heck did I just watch?” This season has provided exactly that kind of experience courtesy of Ninja Slayer From Animation. For This Week in Anime, I’ve decided it’s time to see what in the world is going on with this shuriken-throwing oddity.


I’m still not convinced that I fully understand the mysterious origins of Ninja Slayer, but I’ll explain it as best I can: it’s an adaptation of a Japanese translation of an American story about a ninja who kills other ninjas. The main character was once an ordinary salaryman, but his life changes after evil ninjas murder his family. In order to get revenge, he makes a pact with the soul of a dead ninja to become the polite but deadly Ninja Slayer. In each episode, he kills his way up the hierarchy of a shadowy crime syndicate in search of vengeance and the truth.

That summary makes the show sound dreadfully clichéd, and that’s kind of the point. Ninja Slayer exists partly to poke fun at its genre’s bad habits. It’s deadly serious, yet it’s also violent and stylized to a laughable extent. Nearly every character archetype under the sun is put onto the chopping block at one point or another, and the storylines all seem suspiciously familiar. Even as it mocks itself, Ninja Slayer also plays on foreign impressions of Japanese culture. Ninja Slayer seems to eat nothing but sushi, and he always greets his enemies by bowing and politely introducing himself. For bonus points, even his most despicable rivals extend the same courtesy. Watching this show is a bit like flipping through a middle school student’s doodles of cyborg ninjas hurling comically oversized throwing stars at one another.

The animation in Ninja Slayer is also a bit of a joke. At several points in any given episode, the quality drops straight off a cliff. The art loses all illusion of three dimensions, and the characters don’t so much move as get dragged around the screen. Blood and explosions often look like canned effect templates that have been pasted into the general vicinity of where they ought to be. It’s as if the show exhausted its budget long before it was ever close to being completed, like some sort of legendary unfinished masterpiece.

Between the writing and the animation, it’s difficult to tell just how seriously we’re supposed to take Ninja Slayer. Is it a deliberate parody, or does it intend to tell a story of its own at some point? Is it brilliant, or merely idiotic? Six episodes have aired as of this writing, and there don’t seem to be any obvious answers at this point. I suspect the answers will always be a bit murky, and everyone’s reaction to the show will be different. Some will find its deliberate flaws hilarious and endearing. Some will think it’s a clever piece of satire. Some will simply find it boring, or even hate it.

Ninja Slayer is a very difficult show to recommend. People who love the shows it satirizes will be the most likely to “get” it, but they may also be the most likely to find it obnoxious. If you enjoy being confused and challenged by a work that might just be an insipid waste of time, then it’s definitely up your alley. As someone who enjoys puzzling over the oddities of the medium, I’m certainly hooked.


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

May 212015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! If you watch a lot of TV like me, then you’ve probably had a similar experience to this pretty often: you’re watching a new show and you see a face in the background or in passing, usually a more minor character, that looks very familiar. You’re convinced you’ve seen them somewhere before, and you wrack your brain for days and days trying to figure it out, only to blurt out at some completely random other time, “Oh my God! It’s (so and so) from (so and so)!”

As a writer and a TV critic, I’ve always been greatly interested in minor and side characters because how they are handled is a big testament to how good a show is on the whole. And the fact is that a lot of those times, the same men and women get cast in those passing roles. So for this week, I’ve attempted to compile a handful of faces you may have seen pretty often over the years, but never been able to put a name to. Some are better known than others, but they’ve all been pretty prolific in terms of roles. And if you still don’t know who they are…well, you might have rethink your membership in the TV Fan club.


Robert Picardo


Best Known As: Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) “The Doctor” (Star Trek: Voyager)

Also Seen As: Coach Cutlip (The Wonder Years), Dr. Dick Richard (China Beach), Richard Woolsey (Stargate), Jason Cooper (The Mentalist)

Character Type: While he definitely has more of a range than some of other people on the list, Picardo usually takes on the role of someone in authority, i.e. doctor, teacher, government official, and usually one who has a bit of cultured nature to them. He’s also very, very good at acting condescending and snobby, though his characters usually have good hearts in spite of this.


Mark Sheppard


Best Know As: Demon and later “King of Hell” Crowley (Supernatural)

Also Seen As: Canton Everett Delaware III (Doctor Who), Romo Lampkin (Battlestar Galactica), Badger (Firefly) Jim Sterling (Leverage), Benedict Valda (Warehouse 13)

Character Type: Sarcasm, sass, and dry British-style humor are Sheppard’s trademarks in most of his roles. He usually plays a criminal, villain, or just morally gray kind of character, and his motivations are often difficult to guess. A rogue in the finest sense of the word, alternatively shifting between rough and charming with ease.


Nathan Fillion


Best Known As: Author and crime-solver Richard Castle (Castle)

Also Seen As: Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly), Captain Hammer (Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), Johnny Donnelly (Two Guys and a Girl), Hal Jordan/Green Lantern (Justice League)

Character Type: Fillion seems to prefer characters that have a bit of self-confidence (or self-overconfidence) and swagger, but these traits usually mask much more complicated inner issues. While he can do serious, his roles usually have a middling to large element of comedy associated with them, as his characters are mostly sharp, but he can easily play the buffoon as well.


Kavan Smith


Best Known As: Prominent SGC B-teamer Major Evan Lorne (Stargate)

Also Seen As: Deputy Andy 2.0 (Eureka), Agent Jed Garrity (The 4400), Cuthbert Sinclair/Magnus (Supernatural), Wade Mahaney (Smallville)

Character Type: Probably the actor with the largest and most diverse range on this list, and in some of the smallest parts, Smith’s roles are usually confined to sci-fi/fantasy genres in minor or recurring roles. He specializes in minor characters who are quirky, flippant, or have some kind of eccentricities, and even in more dramatic roles is usually seen to crack a joke or two.


Tricia Helfer


Best Known As: Cylon infiltrator/angel “Number Six/Caprica” (Battlestar Galactica)

Also Seen As: Carla (Burn Notice), Alex Rice (Dark Blue), Captain Veronica Dare (Halo 3: ODST), EDI (Mass Effect)

Character Type: The damsel in distress, but always with a twist. Usually, said twist involves her characters proving to be more than capable of taking care of themselves in a fight or just playing mind games with those around her. Known for being a pretty but powerful female, in a lead role or otherwise. Ironically enough, you’ll probably know Helfer’s voice better than her face (see above).


Lance Reddick


Best Known As: Morally gray Baltimore Police officer Cedric Daniels (The Wire)

Also Seen As: Agent/Colonel Phillip Broyles (Fringe), Matthew Abaddon (Lost), Papa Legba (American Horror Story), Deputy Chief Irvin Irving (Bosch)

Character Type: Generally portrays law enforcement or government operatives, sometimes, but not always, with shady back-stories. Reddick also has an enigmatic and sort of creepy aura down pat, often landing him roles where his character motivations are unclear.


Ty Olsson


Best Known As: Actor who portrayed real-life 9/11 victim Mark Bingham (Flight 93)

Also Seen As: Deputy Andy 1.0 (Eureka), Colonel Barnes (Stargate), Captain Aaron Kelly (Battlestar Galactica), Benny (Supernatural), Detective Pratt (iZombie)

Character Type: Roles are often military men or members of the police, with gruff personalities and rigid principles, though he can be seen to go looser once in a while and take on roles that are a bit more out there. The very definition of a background actor, but he’s been in so many places that you notice him almost immediately. Parts usually have some kind of dark side to them as well, so watch out for that.


Colin Cunningham


Best Known As: Mad Max-type survivalist and resistance fighter John Pope (Falling Skies)

Also Seen As: Major Paul Davis (Stargate), Ryan Powell (The 4400), Detective Brian Curtis (Da Vinci’s Inquest/Da Vinci’s City Hall), Herb Colodny (Beggars and Choosers)

Character Type: Has quite a bit of variety, from tough, clean-cut and no-nonsense military men to the aforementioned road-warrior rebel roles. In any case, usually plays neither a hero nor a villain, but just comparatively normal guys just trying to get along in whatever world they happen to be placed in. Well, mostly normal, anyway.


Summer Glau


Best Known As: Mentally disturbed and partially psychic fugitive River Tam (Firefly)

Also Seen As: Isabelle Rochev (Arrow), Tess Doerner (The 4400), Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Jamie Flemming/Orwell (The Cape), Crystal Burns (The Unit)

Character Type: Adept at portraying female roles who are in some way otherworldly, odd, or otherwise removed from general society. This can extend to roles both as a heroine and a villainess, sometimes with physical strength and mental cunning hidden by her characters’ spacey behavior. Parts usually involve conflicted emotions and are full of surprises.


Garry Chalk


Best Known As: Canadian Inspector Andrew Pawlachuck (Cold Squad)

Also Seen As: Optimus Prime (Transformers), James Stillson (The Dead Zone), Colonel Chekov (Stargate), Colonel Briggs (Eureka)

Character Type: Usually sticks to cops or soldiers, be they alien robots or just normal humans. He’s probably played a small-town sheriff more times than anyone else I could name, and he has just the right air of the local police good old boy to do it. Also frequently plays a Russian character, most notably on the aforementioned Stargate.


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.

May 132015

While working on a review last week, I found myself thinking that I would’ve enjoyed a particular series more if I’d watched it five or ten years ago. The thought came and went at the time, but it eventually got me wondering about how where we are in life influences our response to fiction. Everyone loves The Great Gatsby in high school because teenagers are all miserable, antisocial egomaniacs. Middle-aged folks seem to love stories about cranky retirees going on adventures. Has the same phenomenon affected my impressions of anime? Oh, yes it has.


Exhibit A: Gundam Wing


Apart from a brief dalliance with the Pokémon franchise, Gundam Wing served as my first exposure to anime as a medium. (I’m inclined to discount Pokémon because my nine year-old self simply viewed it as an extension of the video games.) I was in the fourth grade when this show first appeared on Cartoon Network. How was a grade school kid expected to respond to a cartoon about giant freakin’ robots apart from immediately declaring it the best thing ever?

I haven’t revisited Wing in at least a decade, but the general consensus is that it’s a pretty average series about angsty teenagers blowing things up. If I watched it for the first time right now, I’d probably write it off within five episodes, but that’s kind of the point. Gundam Wing didn’t have to be a particularly awesome show, it just needed to impress a kid who had only just started using two digits to write his age. By being the first one through the gate, it ensured that I’d always remember it fondly.


Exhibit B: Aria the Animation


Let’s move ahead eight years, shall we? The first season of the Aria franchise came out in the fall of my freshman year of college. I rented it from Netflix, back when they still stuffed DVDs into envelopes and mailed them to people. This one is an unusual example because Aria didn’t make a huge impression on me when I first watched it. I though it was enjoyable and well crafted (which it is), but also slow and occasionally boring (which is also true).

No, Aria didn’t turn into the right show at the right time until four years later. I didn’t watch the final season until after I graduated, but that ended up working out perfectly. The first season of Aria features a trio of apprentice gondoliers just starting to learn their trade, and the final season ends with their graduation. As I watched the last few episodes, I found myself being hit by an odd wave of emotion. It felt as though I’d shared some sort of journey with the characters, working my way through college as they worked their way through their training. Objectively, Aria is a good example of its particular niche. Subjectively, it’s become a kind of gold standard that I don’t expect any other slice of life series to live up to.


Exhibit C: Space Brothers


A few months after my teary-eyed Aria graduation, I was an unemployed college grad with no clear direction or ambition to follow. Enter Mutta Nanba, the main character of Space Brothers. The series begins with him getting fired in spectacular fashion while his younger brother gets ready to fly to the moon as a NASA astronaut. Mutta lucks into his own opportunity to pursue his childhood dreams of space travel, and an exorbitantly long process of exams and training begins.

Space Brothers is a very good series in its own right, but I like it because I felt an immediate connection to Mutta. His story of perseverance played a tiny but not insignificant part in driving me to push forward with my own goals. For that reason, Space Brothers will always occupy a special place in my pile of favorite anime series. Given that Mutta recently made it to the moon in the original manga, I suppose I’ll need to keep at it if I’m going to catch up.


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

May 132015

Yeah, I was really trying hard to come up with that title…

Anyway, welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! As you may have guessed (or not) from the title of today’s review, I’ll be taking a look at USA’s short-lived sci-fi series The 4400. While this show pretty much flew under the radar both before and since its release, and was cancelled after an incomplete run of four relatively short seasons, I really can’t wait another second to talk about this absolute gem of a series.


Set in the present day, which in the context of this show is 2004, the show details the aftermath of a mysterious ball of light appearing from space and landing in the woods outside Seattle, Washington. Contrary to what most people would expect, said ball of light doesn’t carry aliens: instead, it brings back 4,400 human beings, each of whom vanished under strange circumstances over the past 60 years. With help and supervision from a special team of national security agents, the members of the “4400” attempt to reintegrate into society and rebuild their old lives, some with more difficulty than others. And some with even more difficulty than that, because they appear to be developing special abilities: telekinesis, mind reading, healing, you name it. Agents Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris are partnered up to handle these cases and track down rogue 4400s, while also dealing with international conspiracies and the future of the human race.

Okay, so it’s not an original idea for a plot. In fact, it’s ripped straight out of Mulder and Scully’s days from the classic mystery serial The X-Files, complete with the personally involved, faith and gut instincts male agent versus the cool, intellectual, and skeptical female partner. Even the format of the show is similar, often with Tom and Diana tracking down a new super-powered returnee every week. But there are many reasons why I think The 4400 not only matches The X-Files in these things, but also does it better than the ‘90s show ever did.

First of all, in spite of appearances, no aliens are involved in The 4400: none whatsoever. It’s way cooler than that. It gradually becomes apparent that the 4400 were not abducted by extraterrestrials, but by other humans from mankind’s own future, where they were genetically altered and sent back into the past in order to prevent an unnamed great catastrophe that will destroy civilization as we know it. And while the intricacies of this time-travel premise are greatly explored throughout the series, the show manages to avoid most of the more obvious issues and clichés that usually come with it by concentrating not on how changing the past directly affects future events, but rather the principle of the “ripple effect.” In other words, the actions of enhanced 4400s in the past don’t directly change things, but have larger impacts on society or certain groups of people in general: for example, a super-strong vigilante inspiring people to clean up their crime-ridden neighborhood themselves, even after his death.

This of course makes for a fascinating study of how the smallest actions can create massive global changes, and how important and special each individual person can be. It also ensures that its mutant-of-the-week style never bogs down the show. Because of the ripple principle and the show’s own overarching plot, there’s no such thing in The 4400 as the painful, dragging filler that so plagued The X-Files.


From a character and acting standpoint as well, Tom and Diana make for a better Mulder and Scully team-up than…well, Mulder and Scully. Tom has a personal stake in the 4400 cases from the get-go, as his long-lost nephew is among the returned and his son was put into a coma by future forces for unknown reasons. Additionally, Diana eventually overcomes her cold, standoffish personality and takes Maia, a young girl who is one of the 4400, into her own home and comes to love her like a daughter…granted, a daughter who dreams the future, but still. Big shout-outs are due to actors Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie as well for the humor, interplay, and essential humanity they bring to their parts as government agents frequently dealing with ridiculous situations. It’s not quite as goofy as some similar shows, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the melodramatic, over-serious snore-fest of a relationship that was The X-Files.

Additionally, The 4400 makes great use of recurring characters and just good characterization overall to make the returnees, despite their unusual powers and quirks, seem just as human and relatable as anyone else. Although if there is a weak spot in the show’s armor, it’s Jordan Collier. The 4400 former businessman-turned-messiah quickly becomes a figurehead for the movement despite his less-than-perfect qualities and the lust for power, and just plain lust, that he so clearly suffers from. Granted, some of it is due to actor Billy Campbell’s own spotty schedule–he had to have his character assassinated and then brought back to life when he took some time off–but I just don’t buy Jordan’s supposed transformation into the righteous leader he’s portrayed as by the end of the series. But that’s the thing about The 4400: all the characters are so morally grey that by the end, you’re not sure whose side you should be on.

From a plot standpoint, the scope of The 4400 is actually quite epic, starting from the initial confusion surrounding the return and powers in the first season to global conspiracies, the fate of mankind, and making 4400 abilities available to the general public through special injections (although users should be warned that they have a 50/50 chance of just dying outright). Not confined to the scope of real-world events, the show creates its own almost apocalyptic vision of the present day that really sucks you into the world of the characters. After all, if crazy things like these were happening in the real world, you’d better believe things would seriously have to change. The fact that the cancelled series ends on a massive cliffhanger, with no solution in sight, to me actually seems more appropriate than it being tied up in a neat little bow. The show is all about choices, fate versus free will, and how nothing is ever certain, so the audience being left to draw their own conclusions about what should happen and who the good guys really are should give viewers something real to wrestle with.


My Rating: 4/5

While it’s not quite a perfect show and there are a few flaws to its logic, The 4400 is still an incredibly solid series that it was a crime to ever cancel in the first place. If you like The X-Files, I assure you you’ll probably like this show even more. And despite the lack of a nice, neat ending, the final episode actually leaves us with quite a dilemma. The future people say their time is a wasteland with only one city (Seattle) still standing, and that dominated by a ruling class of elites while everyone else suffers. But if the 4400 are supposed to save the world by annexing Seattle and turning it into a new Jerusalem by the end of the show, aren’t they just playing right into what the future would be anyway? It’s a question that you’d need to be able to see the future to answer.


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.

May 062015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! Once again, it’s about that time of year when our favorite shows go away for another few months until the next seasons come along. With only a few episodes left for most of the shows I’ve personally been following, I wanted to offer some speculation on where things could be going, both before and after this season of TV ends.

So without further ado, here are some of my burning questions for my favorite shows.


Is the CW universe headed for Flashpoint?

Because it certainly seems that way from where I’m sitting. With all the timey-wimey things going on in The Flash right now (and yes, someone should call The Doctor about that) along with Barry’s self-stated goal to travel back in time and save his mother from being murdered by the Reverse-Flash, things are starting to parallel the famous DC comic series very closely indeed. For those of you who don’t know, in Flashpoint, Barry follows through on his plan to change the past, and it nearly destroys the universe by taking away his powers and reshaping the destinies of everyone and everything he cares about. So it seems like Barry probably shouldn’t do that.

But on the other hand…it would be really, really awesome if it were to happen. I could definitely see a season two where Barry, now in a changed present and powerless, has to deal with the damage he’s done and somehow regain his speed. We know Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon may be destined to get meta-human powers of their own someday as Killer Frost and Vibe, so maybe this is how it happens? Plus, if it carried over to the rest of the CW universe, it could certainly set things right on Arrow as well. But more on that in a minute.


Who is the new mystery spin-off cast member?

Honestly, there’s several possibilities, and they’re all pretty cool. It was recently announced that British actor Franz Drameh would fill the final void in the cast of the untitled Flash/Arrow spin-off, and speculation has been running wild. At first I was really excited because Drameh is the spitting image of Jaime Reyes, a.k.a. the Blue Beetle, who I’ve been campaigning for a TV appearance for quite a while. Also, there’s the similarity with names (the cast list has him in a role named “Jay Jackson” for now) and background (he works in an auto body? So does Jaime!).


But the more I thought about it, the more I hope I’m wrong about that. One, I think Blue Beetle needs to get his own show in order to do the awesome character justice. And two, the backstory Drameh’s character has doesn’t completely jive–a sports injury and a tendency for wisecracking are things Jaime Reyes isn’t really known for. If I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a much better chance of Jay Jackson being a codename for Virgil Hawkins (Static Shock) or maybe Victor Stone (Cyborg). Either of these heroes could add some sass and levity to the upcoming series, which by all accounts looks like it’s going to be amazing.


Speaking of which, where the heck is…?

Booster Gold, for one. I know I sound like a broken record on this, but it’s just that the jet-set show-off hero from the future continues to be one of the most interesting and least-explored characters in the DC universe: prime territory for the CW to develop. With all the time-travel that’s happening now in The Flash, and with more slated for the spin-off coming up, it seems like the time is right for Booster to appear. I could totally see him popping in from the future to give Barry Allen or Rip Hunter a hard time, and the tone of his character overall strikes me as perfect for CW shows.

Secondly, and a bit more obscurely, Doctor Light. This may come as a bit of a shock to some people, but we already got a bit of a hint that the super villain may exist in some form in this universe (anyone remember when Cisco and Caitlin fought off Slade using “some nutty scientist’s” prototype light gun?). Again, it seems to me the hapless, luckless bad guy could be a good fit along with the Rogues in The Flash’s continuum.


Will Arrow ever be the same again?

And by “the same”, I also mean “good.” Seriously, this season has dragged so hard that at times it has bored me to tears. First there was Sara’s death (unnecessary, I thought), then Oliver’s ongoing identity crisis, and the incredibly lackluster League of Assassins. Only the fun little jaunts of the Suicide Squad have made this a season worth watching, really. Oh, and Ray Palmer’s own budding superhero career as the Atom. But like so many other things, Ray wasn’t given nearly enough screen time this season, his bubbly personality all but drowned beneath the overwhelming tidal wave of dark, angsty Queen life. It’s all been a bit too much, if you ask me. Hence why I kind of hope a Flashpoint-type event resets everything in Arrow, too. There just doesn’t seem to be many ways of getting out of the bind Oliver’s in now.


Or will Supernatural ever get a plot again?

But if you really want an example of a wasted season…wow. Supernatural season ten really takes the cake in that department. Can anyone tell me what the point was, exactly? We had what seemed like such a cool story arc in that Dean became a demon and basically the enemy, including becoming best buddies with Crowley (hilarious), but it went away after, like, two episodes. What was that all about? And then all we get in return is a season full of filler without any kind of clear villain whatsoever. Except Rowena and the witches, I suppose. But who cares about them, seriously? I know I don’t.


I was most surprised, actually, by how promoting Crowley to a regular character didn’t really turn out as well as I thought it would. But I guess the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt is right on the money. When Crowley was a recurring bad guy, I’d always look forward to his return to the plot and his ever-treacherous motives and double-dealing. As it stands now, though, the story has humanized Crowley far too much for me to consider him a real villain or a serious player in the Heaven vs. Hell game anymore. I secretly hope this show doesn’t make the cut for season eleven.


Should Gotham get another season?


Short answer for this one: absolutely not. Despite its initial promise, much like its Netflix Marvel cousin Daredevil, Gotham has proven to be a colorless, joyless, and dull program whose characters take themselves much too seriously and whose story is much too convoluted and soap opera-like for its own good, with the outstanding performance of the Penguin being its only saving grace. And can somebody please, please tell me why Fish Mooney was ever in this show to begin with? No? Didn’t think so.


And where is Game of Thrones going now?

Okay, so I’m cheating a little with this one: it just started a season. But I couldn’t have you thinking that all I cared about was CW and comics shows, could I? We’re starting to see a lot more deviation from the source material with Game of Thrones, and it’s really anybody’s guess how things could turn out. The first few episodes have kind of dragged, but last week’s “High Sparrow” helped to pick up the pace and bring a few new character interactions, like Ramsay and Sansa as well as Tyrion being kidnapped by Jorah. That seems like it could make for a fun odyssey. And what sort of monstrous abomination is Qyburn, the Pinky and the Brain of Westeros, whipping up in his lab? Will we ever see Bran Stark again? Oh, and how amazing and priceless was it the way Margaery schooled Circe like that? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been waiting for that one for a long, long time. Hopefully, Game of Thrones can sail through these pre-game doldrums and get back on track before too long. But with the following for the show the way it is, I doubt that even a sub-par season would slow it down now.


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.