Jul 292015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! For those out there who, like myself, are fans of Doctor Who, you may remember some passing references to a group called “Torchwood” over the course of the series. Not only is the group central to the plot of at least one season of Doctor Who, but the writers even saw fit to give it its own spinoff series. And it’s quite good, really. That is, if you can get over how unrelentingly dark it is.


A bit of background for those who may be unaware: the story of Torchwood centers on Gwen Cooper, a police officer in Cardiff, Wales, who comes across a rather strange case that she quickly realizes involves things not of this world. That’s when she runs into Torchwood, a team of scientists and specialists “outside the government and beyond the police” whose job it is to investigate paranormal incidents and possible alien incursions on Earth. Convinced into joining Torchwood by its leader, the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen works with medic Owen, tech genius Tosh and office boy Ianto to protect the planet from all the threats that come from our universe and even beyond.

Deviating greatly from its parent show Doctor Who, Torchwood is much more like a procedural cop show, albeit with sci-fi overtones: kind of like a British version of The X-Files. The show also has a much darker and more serious tone than the often epic and light-hearted adventures of the Doctor and his companions, and this is noted particularly by Captain Jack, the only main cast member to have had direct contact with the Doctor (he was a companion on several occasions). I was at first very put off by this change of pace, and thus struggled through watching the first few episodes, especially because as compared to the intriguing and friendly Doctor, the Torchwood team is made up of such secretive and standoffish people.


But once I decided to give the show a chance and judge it on its own merit, it’s actually quite engrossing. I’d imagine you will probably like Torchwood a lot more if you haven’t already watched Doctor Who, as many more things are left unanswered that way, including the nature of Jack’s immortality. Yes, that’s right-Jack is an immortal. He can never, ever die, no matter how many times he gets shot, stabbed, blown up, or incinerated. Jack was well liked in Doctor Who for being a roguish good guy with a bit of a rough edge and a dark side, and that darkness is well played up in Torchwood. Jack often has the answers the other characters lack, and he doesn’t like sharing them, which always puts him a bit at odds with them, especially Gwen.

As a relatively short series, Torchwood enjoys a normal sort of episodic plot format over the first two seasons, with the latter two being serialized and shorter installments with continuous stories and guest characters. I have to say that while the third season, “Children of Earth”, is definitely the more visceral and emotionally impactful of the two, I think the fourth season, “Miracle Day” is greatly underrated, with amazing guest performances (mostly notably by Bill Pullman) and a highly original and fascinating premise. It’s made even more interesting in that as of the opening of “Children of Earth”, Torchwood is effectively disavowed and made a rogue agency by the government after their base in Cardiff is destroyed. As a result, the only two surviving members of the original team, Jack and Gwen, along with Gwen’s husband Rhys, have to live the rest of their lives on the run. But with the ending of “Miracle Day” ambiguous and the fate of the series currently resting in an “indefinite hiatus”, it’s unclear if we’ll ever see Captain Jack and the team again.


That’s a real shame, because Jack is the main reason to watch this show. John Barrowman became a fan-favorite character on Doctor Who for a reason: not only is he a mysterious, alluring and charismatic leading man with a classy taste in clothes and a quip ready for any situation, but he also has just the right amount of secrets and darkness to keep you constantly doubting his motivations. Is he really a good guy, or is he just manipulating events for his own ends? As stated before, the character’s carryover makes for an interesting commentary on the difference between traveling with the Doctor and working at Torchwood: in real life, situations rarely end happily for everyone, there are always consequences to our actions, and sometimes things just don’t turn out as planned. The show does lighten up considerably during the second season… just in time for your soul to be crushed by the destructive weight of “Children of Earth”. Only in the best way possible, of course.

My only real complaint about Torchwood is that aside from Jack and Gwen, none of the other characters are played up to their full potential in my view. Ianto is a glorified coffee boy through much of the first season, only showing that he has some kind of value once he starts a relationship with Jack. Tosh and Owen are given their own episodes, sure, but I see that more as a cop-out than an actual attempt to get us to like them. This applies especially to Owen, who is patently unlikeable in the early episodes. But I suppose dying and then enduring a living death for a couple of episodes sort of makes up for that.


My Rating: 3.5/5

Sure, Torchwood is no Doctor Who, but it’s not really trying to be, either. It’s taking a much different, more human perspective on the same kind of wild and crazy universe, but with some of the heavier, darker material that Doctor Who generally avoids. What happens to the people that the Doctor leaves behind? And what happens when the world needs saving and the Doctor doesn’t turn up in the nick of time? Well, Torchwood has to get down and dirty to do the best they can, even if it means making some huge sacrifices. If you’ve got a taste for the weird and some adventure on the side, followed up with a gut-punch of reality, then this is the show you’ve been waiting for.


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.

Jul 292015

I recently picked up the tenth volume of Black Lagoon, the first installment of the deceptively clever action manga to be released in quite some time. Despite the lengthy hiatus between books, I had no trouble jumping back into the bulled-riddled city of Roanapur. That’s a fairly impressive feat, and it inspired me to take a closer look at how the series is able to rebuild its momentum so quickly. Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out.


First and foremost, Black Lagoon starts clean with a new story arc and a new major character. “The Wired Red Wild Card” introduces Feng Yifei, a Chinese hacker who’s on the run after being thrown under the proverbial bus by her superiors. The new plotline saves the series from having to bring the reader back up to speed on all but the most basic developments from earlier volumes. Feng also provides a fresh outsider’s perspective to Roanapur, which allows us to regain our bearings as she slowly comes to terms with the way the city’s underworld operates. This is as close to a clean slate as Black Lagoon can get, and starting from the beginning of a storyline makes it easy to jump back in.

The story also doesn’t ask the audience to remember many recurring characters beyond the Lagoon crew and a handful of their regular associates. If the politics of the Russian, Chinese, and Italian mobs have grown fuzzy in the reader’s memory, it’s not a big deal. The new plot arc has a “back to basics” feel when compared to the web of alliances and rivalries that defined its predecessor. We’ve got Rock and Revy, Feng and her pursuers, and a few minor players that will likely become part of Rock’s strategy for helping his latest client escape in once piece. Instead of asking, “Who was that guy, again?” over and over, we can sit back and enjoy the quickly escalating chaos.

That return to fundamentals also applies to the themes and ideas that sit at the core of this series. As a white-collar character on the run from her former employers, Feng is in much the same situation as Rock was when we first met him. That connection allows the two of them to speak at length about the ups and downs of stumbling into a dangerous new life of crime. Their conversations are aimed straight at the mix of escapist fantasy and brutal reality that drives the series as a whole. In a way, Feng’s primary role is to remind the readers why we like Black Lagoon so much.

No matter how it does it, I’m glad to see Black Lagoon finally jumping back into the saddle. Feng is an excellent new character, and there’s no such thing as too much of Rock and Revy. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait quite as long for the next book.


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

Jul 232015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! One of the things that can really make or break a series in my experience is the clever use of music. Whether it is a simple orchestral soundtrack or an addition of popular music into the story and drama of a TV series, music has lead to some truly magical and touching moments in television history. It also brings the action in a show even more into focus, and can offer some humorous parallels to what is going on in the story. In short, music is pretty important.

Below is a list of what I consider to be the top musical scores in television history, from the simply iconic to the masterfully beautiful. Some are better known than others, but the best of them have soundtracks that are just as essential to the story as the characters, plot, or any other element.


Honorable Mention: South Park/Family Guy/American Dad


While music isn’t necessarily an integral part of any of these three cartoon shows, I thought it at least deserved a mention due to the musical genius of creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Seth McFarlane, especially in regard to Seth McFarlane. Plenty of memorable, albeit comedic and in some cases just plain vulgar, songs have come out of these shows, from the opening tunes to random episodic musical numbers, including Chef’s uncountable numbers of adult-themed educational tunes. Also, I guess it’s less likely that people will be offended by your show’s raunchy, politically incorrect humor if you put it to some cheerful, catchy music. So there’s that.


5: The Twilight Zone

Sure, you might not be listening to this on repeat on your iPod or anything, but nobody can deny that music was one of the things that made The Twilight Zone so memorable. I mean, who doesn’t know that creepy steel-guitar opening jingle when they hear it? And while it may not play as important a role as in some other shows on this list, The Twilight Zone’s soundtrack provided an appropriately startling, sinister background for the dark, twisted, and just a bit humorous morality tales the series thrived on. Really listen the next time it’s on, and you might see what I’m talking about.


4: Battlestar Galactica

Ah, BSG. The show to end all sci-fi shows. How we miss you. And, more specifically, how we miss your music. While the show really only had three main tunes and infinite variations thereof, it was just the kind of powerful driving force this drama-laden series needed to drive the message home. First, there were the string serenades and dream-like symphonies that always accompanied the Cylons. The Colonials had their bagpipe-infused anthem that just screamed brotherhood and military pride. And, of course, the battle scene music, full of drums, wood blocks, and percussion that underscored the tense and choppy nature of the silent space dogfights perfectly. Stellar composing work all around.


3: Lost


While I can appreciate a homebrewed soundtrack, I also love it when classic and contemporary music is blended into a show to make it work, as shown by the next few shows on this list. Lost is the first, given that its tunes are predominantly voiceless in nature, from discordant, meandering melodies for the dark and scary jungle to the calm, relaxing beach tunes for the rare moments of happiness the crash survivors enjoy. But when the songs do come on, boy do they work. I cite in particular the use of Cass Elliot’s “Make Your Own Kind of Music” in the first scene of season two where Desmond and the Swan station are introduced. If there was ever a character’s theme song, that would be it.


2: Doctor Who


Okay, so I’m kind of going back on my own rule here. Doctor Who rarely ever uses popular music in its repertoire of sound, but it really doesn’t need to that much. The score of the show perfectly captures the madcap, zany adventure and just downright fun and adventurous spirit the show embodies, with tunes that are exciting, urgent, and grand in sound and scale. Also, props to the composers for giving each individual Doctor his own distinct theme, from David Tennant’s sad, somehow nostalgic one to Matt Smith’s whimsical and epic sweeps. And of course, let’s not forget the haunting drumbeat and fading scales that signify the Master’s madness. Plus, a healthy inclusion of the pop-punk “Voodoo Child” that he jams out to as his alien army slaughters the world. That was some scene, all right.


1: Life on Mars (U.S.)

Yes, when it comes right down to it, I’m just a sucker for the classics. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but a show that takes place in the 1970s pretty much had a soundtrack to match, with almost every major artist from the time period being given a song or two at one point or another. Heck, the show is even named after a David Bowie song. There was also, on occasion, some minor incidental orchestra music thrown in, mostly jarring, mysterious pieces meant to illustrate Sam Tyler’s confusion and the bizarre circumstances he finds himself living. But Life on Mars just had a thing for perfectly choosing the right song to capture whatever moment was on the screen, from the sentimental finale courtesy of Elton John to the teasing tones of Simon and Garfunkel for all those awkward near miss encounters. I enjoy it way too much. I guess maybe like Sam Tyler, I was just born in the wrong time.


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.

Jul 172015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! Well, it’s that time of year again: time to speculate on what could be coming next on that wackiest of sci-fi shows, the long-running British series Doctor Who. The creators of the show recently put out a trailer for the new series to start in September, and oh my, is it exciting.


First and foremost, I’m going to skip right to the part that everyone’s talking about: the identity of Maisie Williams. She pops up at the very end of the trailer, where she questions the Doctor, “What took you so long, old man?” To which the Doctor replies, “You!” as if he knows who she is. There’s many, many theories flying around about the identity of the Game of Thrones star, from a younger incarnation of River Song to the Master, or another Time Lord from the old series like the Rani or Romana, or even the Doctor’s long-lost daughter Susan.

Personally though, I’m really pulling for Williams to be a post-regeneration version of Jenny, the young female clone from David Tennant’s episode “The Doctor’s Daughter.” The end of that episode established that despite appearing mostly human, Jenny had indeed picked up a Time Lord’s power to return from death, and while she didn’t actually change her face, who’s to say it couldn’t happen? Also, I’m not really seeing anyone else, especially River or the Master, call the Doctor “old man” in such a flip way. Jenny was an awesome character who I’ve been waiting to see again for a while, and as such I think her whole story has been criminally neglected thus far. Her fun and feisty spunk might even inject some much-needed light-heartedness into the series.


Speaking of which, a few other shots from this trailer seem to indicate things may be headed in that direction anyway. First of all, Peter Capaldi has visually changed, wearing less severe clothing and noticeably longer and wilder hair than we’re used to. It’s almost a throwback to a more Tom Baker/Jon Pertwee look for the Doctor, and it hints at a character who’s maybe a bit more keen on taking risks or having adventures than Capaldi’s so far stuffy, no-fun Doctor has been.

SIDEBAR: I apologize for my criticism of Peter Capaldi. Please understand it is in no way a reflection on the fine job he’s done as the Doctor so far. It’s just that the now-departed Matt Smith will always and forever be my Doctor, and his departure hurt in a very big way. Add to that the fact that Capaldi’s Doctor is pretty much the antithesis of everything Matt Smith was, and this has been a difficult transition to say the least. END OF SIDEBAR.


Anyway, about the Doctor’s Marty McFly moment where he’s rocking the sunglasses and jamming on the guitar…bizarre, yet incredibly awesome. If Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor was all about the character finding himself again after some post-regeneration angst, I’m very much looking forward to him loosening up and letting his inner quirks out more this season. We could all definitely use more moments like that.

From the looks of things, it actually appears Clara could be the one going to some dark places this season. Remember, she’s just coming off of losing Danny Pink, the love of her life, at the end of last season, so she’s probably still pretty devastated. Most of her shots show her looking pretty freaked out, and in places with creepy lighting to boot. And now she’s hanging out with the Master…what’s with that? Although the one shot of her and the Doctor hugging is sort of heartwarming. Maybe we’ll see their relationship thaw a bit as well this year. But it’s also true that Clara at this point is a super long-running companion, which more than likely makes this season her last. Will she get a sweet farewell, or a tragic departure like so many others before?

Yet another indicator of a tone shift this season is the near-end line from Peter Capaldi, as he shouts defiantly: “I am the Doctor, and I save people!” This sort of indicates that maybe Twelve has gotten over his aloof, hands-off attitude that dominated last season, and that maybe he’s going to be a bit more traditional hero and willing to get his hands dirty this year. As I said before, I can’t wait to see this Doctor come out of his shell and just be amazing.


Other brief notes:

-Well, we’ve got some of the usual suspects in terms of villains, including Daleks and Zygons…and that’s pretty much it. Huh. Most tellingly, no Cybermen. Although I’m sort of okay with that given how the Cyberiad’s been butchered recently by mediocre episodes like “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”. Sorry, boys. But it looks like there’s a whole bunch of new monsters, including walking trashcans, zombie Abraham Lincoln and others, and a shadowy thing with glowing eyes. Creepy.

-Zombie hands sticking up out of the ground…great. Didn’t we just do this in last season’s finale?

-Super delayed reaction: holy crap, the Master…I mean, the Mistress…is back! So how did she survive getting apparently blasted into atoms by the Cybermen last season? I guess we’ll find out, and I’m looking forward to it. Michelle Gomez was a delightful villain, and we need more of her on this show. Also, she and the Doctor seem to be getting weirdly tight this series, especially given the Doctor’s opening monologue about loving/hating something sounds suspiciously like it’s directed at her. A season-long struggle between these two titans would be seriously cool.


-In other returning character news, apparently UNIT techie Osgood will be back this season as well! Seems to be a bit at odds with how she was killed by Missy last season, though, but since the Zygons are apparently back this season and given their role in the “Day of the Doctor” story, my guess is that it’s not actually Osgood who’s returning, but the Zygon infiltrator posing as her. We’ll just have to wait and see.


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.

Jul 172015

It’s been a couple weeks since I traveled to Anime Expo, which means I’ve had a chance to gather my thoughts about this enormous monster of a convention. So, for This Week in Anime, I thought I’d assemble some of those musings into a vaguely coherent article. The good news is that you don’t have to stand in line for an hour to read it!


Never go to a big convention without a clear set of goals.

Any event that draws nearly 100,000 attendees is destined to toss up some challenges when it comes to actually getting anything done. If you don’t have your priorities straight, you’re going to be at a loss when it comes to adapting your game plan on the fly. For me, those goals were to meet up with some of the writers and editors who I’ve been working with for the past year, go to some interesting panels, and find some cool stuff to buy, in that order. Knowing what was most important to me helped inform my decisions throughout the weekend, and I ended up accomplishing what I set out to do. The fact that I needed disaster survival tactics to enjoy myself says something about the chaotic nature of big conventions. If you just want to have a good time surrounded by fellow otaku, then it’s worth giving up on the big-name events in favor of a more relaxed local con.


It’s increasingly tough to enjoy AX without throwing money at it.

Decent hotel to sleep in at night. Real food. Premier badge to avoid as many lines as possible. Enough merch to justify the trip. Sane travel arrangements. It all adds up, and it does so much faster than it once did. Premier badge prices are set to spike yet again for next year, so don’t expect it to get any cheaper. You can go for the cheaper regular pass, but be prepared to show up to major panels and screenings much further in advance if you want any chance of getting in. The market’s apparently willing to bear quite a lot when it comes to big conventions, and even I’m starting to question the value of it all. It’s worth attending a major convention for the experience alone, but after three trips, the sparkle starts to fade just a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll be back next year, and part of that uncertainty steps from the increasing difficulty of justifying the cost to myself.


I don’t buy what I used to.

I first went to AX in 2011, when I was spending the summer in Los Angeles for a pair of internships. I bought a few shows on disc and a handful of posters, two categories that didn’t factor into this year’s purchases at all. We’ve reached the point where it’s easy to find most standard-issue anime swag for a reasonable price online year-round. These days, I spend more time looking for things that I haven’t already seen advertised at 40 percent off on the big retail sites. This typically means imported merch from more obscure franchises. Leave the big buys for when your brain is functioning at full capacity and hunt down a weird trophy or two to prove you actually went to a convention to get it.


People matter more than the convention itself.

Much more than my previous visits, this trip to Anime Expo was primarily about meeting people. I talked shop with some of my fellow writers and editors. I met the author of a manga series that I enjoy. And, of course, I bonded with random strangers over the general misery of an overcrowded convention center. All of that is worth an awful lot more than an imported art book or a KanColle wall scroll. As much as we all gripe about the tens of thousands of people who crowd into the convention center, some tiny fraction of those people make all the difference in making AX a memorable experience.


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

Jul 082015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! I hope you’ve enjoyed your Fourth of July weekend as much as I have, and now we’re back into this week’s review. In today’s column, I’ll be talking about the mind-bending and definitely ahead of its time drama Twin Peaks. And boy, is it a lot to cover.


Let me just preface this review by saying that unless you have a very, very open mind, do not watch Twin Peaks. I repeat, just don’t do it. You will be confused, weirded out, and probably disappointed unless you have some very strange and offbeat tastes in TV. Then again, if you’re really into strange and offbeat things, then you’ll probably straight up love this show. It’s got something for everyone: horror, fantasy, crime, thriller, supernatural, buddy-cop humor, general small-town craziness, closed-door plotting, and the works. But let’s slow down and give you some context before I really get into the thick of things.

Twin Peaks begins ostensibly as a crime drama much in the same vein as a show like Broadchurch and Gracepoint. A popular and well-liked young girl, this time high-school aged and a prom queen, is murdered in the remote mountain town of Twin Peaks in an especially gruesome manner that hints at the presence of a serial killer. With the local sheriff and his deputies stumped, young FBI agent Dale Cooper comes to town with some unorthodox methods that, unsurprisingly, often get results. Through his investigations, Cooper unearths secrets that could tear the community of Twin Peaks apart, as well as a dark and sinister supernatural presence that could be the cause of everything.

Yes, you heard right. While Twin Peaks does start off rather sensibly, the series eventually takes a hard left turn into the land of ludicrous by pulling in all kinds of supernatural elements, from demons, visions, and spirits to Native American mythology and black magic. It’s the kind of bizarre twists and turns that many people have come to expect from David Lynch, creator of Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, and the oddness is enhanced by the fact that the characters apparently buy into it so easily. But if you’re going to understand why, you’d first better understand just whom Dale Cooper is.


Cooper, while an FBI agent by trade, is at heart some sort of mystic/hippie criminal investigator who believes in the philosophies of Tibetan monks, among many other things, and applies them to his crime solving: for example, throwing rocks at bottles with his eyes closed to determine who his prime suspect should be. Cooper is mild-mannered and good-natured most of the time, but with a strong moral compass and no tolerance for cruelty or incompetence. This seemingly at-odds nature fits with the entirety of the Twin Peaks narrative, which often seems to directly contradict itself in tone within mere seconds. It’s also pretty obvious that Cooper and his best friend in town, Sheriff Harry S. Truman (yes, like the president), have a very Sherlock Holmes to Watson dynamic (the latter actually says this more than once) in that Cooper is the intellectual while Truman is the down-home people person. Their goofy but genuine friendship as two essentially good guys who want justice for a murdered girl is the anchor that makes the entire rest of the story somewhat more believable, including that Truman buys into Cooper’s mystical ghost-story stuff because he’s seen it work. I’d be pretty hard-pressed to argue with it myself, honestly.

Unfortunately, as Twin Peaks aired in the 80s, many audiences just weren’t ready for this kind of show, which I’m convinced would fly much better today as character-driven shows have become much more popular. When the series was abruptly cut short, the murderer was revealed much earlier than planned as a demon from another plane of existence. He was replaced as a bad guy for a mere handful of episodes by Cooper’s former partner Windom Earle, a practitioner of black magic who wants to harness the dark forces surrounding Twin Peaks for himself. This could have been much smoother if the writers had more time to deal with it: as it was, the sudden shift from a murder mystery to a totally supernatural-driven plot seems jarring and even more unnerving than the show usually is.


While the plot may be a bit ludicrous, my hat is off to every single actor in Twin Peaks for nailing his or her respective part. I have rarely ever seen a cast so in tune with each other and in genuinely in touch with their characters. If you can get over the essential weirdness of the story, you start to look more at the interpersonal drama and the interplay between characters becomes a lot more enjoyable, especially the eventually friendly antagonism between Sheriff Truman and Cooper’s forensic expert Albert.

As for complaints, I could have done without some of the show’s teenage romantic angst, especially between James and Donna. I understand their desire to find out what happened to Laura, but they go about it so stupidly and without the help of Cooper and the rest of the law that it just strikes me as incredibly dumb and dangerous. Those darn kids. Also, does anyone else find it incredibly creepy that Cooper was sort of flirting with Audrey, a high school girl? Of course, they gave Cooper a real love interest in, like, the last few episodes, but it’s too little too late in my opinion. Oh, and as for that ending…what? That’s it? Cooper’s the demon now and that’s the end of it? This can’t be how it ends! That’s too dark, even for Twin Peaks!

But fear not, loyal fans: David Lynch has announced that the show will be back next year for a limited series featuring many of the same actors. One can only hope that we actually get some closure for Cooper, and that maybe he’ll be able to escape from Native American hell or wherever he is and get his body back. But since this is Twin Peaks we’re talking about, it’s probably not going to be anywhere near that simple.


My Rating: 3.5/5

I’ll admit, I was initially hooked on Twin Peaks in spite of myself, and for the first season or so I found the oddness and quirky characteristics of the show kind of endearing. The charm begins to wear thin in the second season though, as does the plot, which was honestly pretty stretched to begin with, and the ending rings hollow for everyone concerned, even though I recognize that it was cancelled. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: don’t watch this show if you have anything but a completely open mind and a love for things that are just plain weird. But if that’s something you don’t mind, I think you’ll get along with the Twin Peaks crew just fine.


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.

Jul 012015

It’s an unfortunate fact that not every television program is built to last. But while some shows deserve have their plugs pulled due to inferior content and poor writing, many other vastly superior programs are cancelled through no fault of their own, and despite their maintaining a massive cult following.

Presented here, for your consideration, are five cult shows that I most wish were still around.


#5: Star Trek: The Original Series


Everybody’s heard the joke that the so-called “first five-year mission” only lasted three years before NBC gave Star Trek the axe in 1969. The tragic part was that in every conceivable way, Star Trek was a show ahead of its time; it was one of the first purely science fiction television programs ever created, and with a cast that purposefully bridged gaps of race, nationality, and politics.

In addition to its diverse cast, Star Trek was also among the first TV shows to seriously address contemporary issues through a fictional lens; it discussed and challenged notions of racism, gender stereotypes, nationalism and cultural conflicts. This was not enough for NBC, who moved the show to a bad time slot and slashed its budget in a deliberate attempt to get it cancelled and make room for other up-and-coming shows. Fortunately, Star Trek’s legacy spawned one the longest-lasting and most recognizable franchises in history. Beam me up, Scotty!


#4: Arrested Development


Switching from sci-fi to the sitcom, we come to Arrested Development; ostensibly, the “story of a family that lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” Interestingly enough, creator Mitchell Hurwitz did have a choice; he might very well have been able to continue Arrested Development on Fox, but chose instead to attempt to move the show to another network, a move which never materialized. Regardless of intention, 2006 marked the end of the comedy that many hailed as a “new classic.”

Arrested Development seemed to have a lot going for it; each character, from poster-boy responsible son Michael Bluth, to his con-artist brother Gob, manipulative mother Lucille and power-crazed father George Bluth Sr., had serious flaws, but somehow managed to remain lovable (or at least, someone you loved to hate). The documentary-style shooting and ornery, contrarian narrator also provided a lot of extra laughs, making this lost gem a definite must-see. Just don’t go looking for that fourth season on Netflix; trust me, you’ll be sorry.


#3: Life on Mars


It sounds like a bad Twilight Zone episode at first glance; Sam Tyler, a cop from 2008 New York, is hit by a car and wakes up in the year 1973, confronted by an alien culture and a different set of rules as he clashes with cops who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and struggles to find his way home. Out of this bizarre premise, however, comes a series that is truly a work of art; everything from its production design and writing to its deep characters, star-studded rock-‘n-roll soundtrack, and even its liberal use of ironic humor is spot-on for an instant hit. Oh, and the tantalizing interjections of outer space objects into Tyler’s throwback world don’t hurt, either.

Despite everything it had going for it, Life on Mars proved to be too out there for ABC, which cancelled the show in 2009 following declining ratings and an awkward hiatus with just one season under its belt. Don’t be fooled by the procedural cop-show veneer, though; Life on Mars is a stellar, one-of-a-kind show headlined by an all-star cast including the up-and-coming Jason O’Mara as the dazed and confused detective Sam Tyler and veteran actor Harvey Keitel as his hard-nosed, ball-busting boss, Lieutenant Gene Hunt. Watch out for that finale, too; it’s guaranteed to blow your mind.


#2: Jericho


From High Street to main street; that was what defined NBC’s post-apocalyptic thriller Jericho, set in a small town in rural Kansas that survives a massive terrorist attack that wipes out 23 major U.S. cities and leaves the country in chaos. Local reformed bad boy Jake Green teams up with kindhearted schoolteacher Emily Sullivan, his community-minded family and friends, and shady secret agent Robert Hawkins to help pull Jericho through the troubled times and protect it from destructive forces both within and without, including a neighboring town bent on conquest and the formation of a new government that may be trying to subvert democracy in the U.S.

While the show gained a massive cult following that inspired NBC to bring back Jericho for a short-lived second season after nuking its spot in 2008, the network finally said “nuts” to dedicated fans who mailed them peanuts by the package-full to demand the show’s continuation. In spite of this, Jericho’s saga has continued in several comic books, and a deal with Netflix to renew the series may be on the horizon. So don’t count the citizens of Jericho out just yet; they’ve been through tougher things than cancellation.


#1: Firefly


That’s right; it’s cowboys in space! But really, it’s much cooler than it sounds. Following the renegade ship Serenity in the aftermath of a disastrous interstellar war, the show depicts former freedom fighter Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) on a quest to keep his crew intact and his ship in the air by any means necessary, all while avoiding the totalitarian grasp of the Alliance, who seek the fugitives and stolen cargo he carries.

With a quirky and charming supporting cast and a fascinatingly backward vision of the future, Firefly seemed like a sure-fire success; but thanks to network incompetence, Fox aired the series episodes out of order, causing massive confusion among audiences and contributing to the show’s premature death after only 11 episodes. The supporting fandom was so big, however, that the show spawned a blockbuster spin-off film and numerous comic books, and Firefly continues to rank as one of, if not the, best science fiction TV shows ever created.


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.

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Welcome to This Week in Anime… or not. There’s no column this week because I’ve been busy preparing to attend Anime Expo. Expect a a much bigger article than usual next week, complete with news and witty observations from the convention!