Nic's ID Journal - #1 - Nov 7, 2013 - TV shows

Here it is, the first installment in my Inner Dorkdom journal. Prepare to be amazed. Or marginally distracted from boredom.

Much like with Josh, my aim here is simply to share with the four of you the things I'm currently enjoying from the world of dorkiness. These days, with a wonderful wife, inquisitive energetic two-and-a-half-year old, and a full-time job, free time is harder to come by than it used to be. But even so, I've managed to squeeze some dorkiness into my days.

Today's journal is going to, just because it happens to, focus mainly on TV shows that I've been enjoying. Some newer, some older.

The Neighbors: This is a sci-fi comedy on ABC, currently in its second season. Perhaps you've heard of it. Probably you haven't. And that's a shame. The premise is that a group of aliens from the planet Zabvron have been on Earth for 10 years, living in a gated community in New Jersey. In fact, until last year, the entire community consisted of nothing but Zabvronians. That is, until the Weavers (husband, wife, and three children) moved in. Next door to the community's leader, Larry Bird (all Zabvronians have taken the names of famous athletes), and his family, no less. The Weaver children learn their neighbors' secret in the pilot, and the parents follow suit shortly thereafter. The show often, but not always, explores the Zabvronians learning Earth ways from the Weavers who, for the most part, have become good friends.

I remember seeing commercials for the show before it premiered and thinking it was something I should check out. But life got in the way and almost the entire first season went by without be ever seeing anything more than a snippet of an episode. I do remember hearing that the show was awful. And then, a month or so later, hearing that it was getting better. ABC even highlighted this in their marketing campaign for the show.

Fast forward to sometime this summer, when I caught the replay of the season finale. I was somewhat lost on the subtleties of who the charters were, what their dynamic was, etc. But it still hooked me. The writing was clever, with some self-referential and even leaning on the fourth wall humor (the episode involved Larry's father coming to take the Zabvronians home, only to have Larry refuse to go, saying he's learned so much from the Weavers that "I feel like I just need another six, or maybe seven seasons – I mean, years – to figure it all out"). The acting was entertaining (especially Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Dick Butkis). And it guest starred George Takei (who did in fact get to say, "Oh my") and Mark Hamill.

When the second season premiered I made sure to DVR it. The premier proved that the first season finale hadn't been a fluke. I made sure to save the episode and told Liz she needed to watch it. A few days later we were talking to someone about shows we watch. In the list she mentioned The Neighbors. I asked her if she'd watched the episode. She had, and really enjoyed it. So now we have two Friday night ABC shows we enjoy together (the other being Tim Allen's Last Man Standing).

Castle: This muder-mystery dramedy is in its fifth season, and, although boasting some genre vets on its staff (i.e., Ron Moore, occasional director Jonathan Frakes, recurring actress Penny Johnson "Cassidy Yates" Jerald, with guest actors like Robert "The Doctor" Picardo, Tim "Tuvok" Russ, and Michael Dorn--you know who he is), isn't really a genre show.

Or is it?

Potential Spoilers

The premise of Castle is that novelist Richard Castle, played wonderfully by Nathan Fillion (hey, he counts as a genre vet, too, huh), works with a team of NYPD homicide detectives in order to do research and get inspiration for his crime novels. Over the years, the show has had our band of heroes face murder mysteries involving zombies, ghosts, etc. At least, at first glance. However, much like in Scooby-Doo, it always turns out the paranormal/supernatural/sci-fi element isn't what it first seems to be. This is always disappointing to Castle, who, unlike lead detective Kate Beckett, wants to believe in the unbelievable.

So whenever a genre-themed mystery comes up, it always goes the same. Castle loves the case, and spends most of the episode trying to convince the others that the supernatural explanation is the correct one, while Beckett is the champion of reason and mundane explanations. Not that I'm complaining by saying it always goes the same. Truth is, in a series where I've literally enjoyed every episode, these are always among my favorites.

Well, recently there was an episode where a woman was killed, and a man who at first seemed to be the killer is apprehended when he, like a moron, returns to the scene of the crime. During his interrogation by the police he claims innocence (they all do). He says that he was trying to protect her, because, wait for it, he's from the future. Castle declares this is his new favorite case ever. The suspect gives a brief summary of future history, which Castle eats up, and then explains that because this woman has been killed it has set up a chain of events that apparently will result in the deaths of billions. The killer must be found.

I won't go into details. But suffice it to say, although the episode more-or-less follows the standard trajectory for these stories, a careful viewer notices some deviations. Usually Castle's paranormal theories have some convoluted twists and jumps in logic (aside from the obvious "the paranormal is real" bit), whereas Beckett's are always more plausible and adhere better to the facts. But not this time. Though both plausible sounding, this time the facts better seem to fit the paranormal explanation. It's nothing overwhelming. And, indeed, when it seems like the scales tip in Castle's favor, something else happens to move them back the other direction.

But then there's the last scene in the station with Beckett. Again, I don't want to spoil anything. Watch the episode yourself. As for me, I don't know. I just don't see how that can be explained away as coincidental.

But then, that suggests that in the world of Castle time-travel might be real. Which would make Castle a genre show. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that, even though I love genre shows, and part of me thinks this development is pretty stinking cool.

Anyway, if you're not watching Castle, you should be.

Star Trek Voyager: The other day I was looking up something on YouTube. Off to the side in the suggestion column were some Star Trek videos. Usual stuff: compilations of Data being awesome, montages of Worf's suggestions being shot down by everyone on the bridge, that sort of thing. But there was also one from Voyager: "Janeway emotional at first contact with Starfleet Command." I watched it. Turns out it was from one of the episodes with Barclay in it. And it was a good clip. If only I could watch the whole episode, it might be fun, I thought. Wait, I have Netflix. So I pulled up Netflix and watched that episode, which also had Deanna Troi in it. And then I watched the other Voyager episodes with Barclay (except the series finale). I enjoyed those too.

So, I decided to start watching Voyager from the beginning. I've only gotten through the premier and second episode so far. Both of those I was already familiar with, since I watched Voyager regularly when it first came on.

We'll see how it goes.

Oh, and speaking of Voyager, here's a fun game to play. Look up the main characters from the show on either Wikipedia or Memory Alpha (the largest Trek wiki), and then look up how those actors look now. I'm not trying to be mean-spirited to anyone. That having been said, some of them are jaw-dropping surprising.


Recently I watched an episode of the Monsters vs. Aliens TV series on Nickelodeon. I've never seen the film, and have only seen one episode. But the one I saw was good.

Same goes for Rabbids Invasion, although there's no film it's based on, just video games, and I've played a few of those (including the quite enjoyable Rabbids Go Home on Wii).

Star Trek Online is gearing up for its 8th "season" which will involve activities within a Dyson Sphere (that's not the ball on the Dyson vacuum). That in and of itself is pretty cool. But here's the really fun part. The introductory episode includes an appearance from Ambassador Worf, sporting both the likeness and voice of Michael Dorn himself.

I posted this on our Facebook page. But I though I'd link it here, too. This is a video I stumbled upon, wherein someone has taken "An Ideal of Hope," the trailer music from Man of Steel, and subtly mixed in some of John Williams' classic Superman themes. The sound quality could be better (I think the mixer was working from just the trailer's audio track with the dialogue filtered out), but man, it's a great glimpse at what might have been.

And, in light of it, it makes me want to reiterate what I've said before. Much of the music that exists in Man of Steel isn't total garbage, even if stylistically it isn't my favorite type of sound (I'm more of an orchestral guy myself). It's just, for my tastes, not distinctive enough. It works on a basic emotional level. But not on a more complex thematic level.

In other words, Mr. Zimmer was off to a decent start. He had the accompaniment. He just forgot to write the melodies. As commenter MisterJJMoreno said, "even just the slightest hint of the grandeur that is John Williams score would have given the movie that extra push that it needed to really connect with audiences. this is very well done, hopefully the next movie will set the tone right, musically speaking of course." I couldn't agree more.

In fact, it's inspired me to try and recreate the remix at a higher quality, while also throwing in a couple of remixing ideas of my own. I'll keep you posted.

Alright, I think that's all I have for now. Time to go play some LEGO Marvel Superheroes on the Wii U.

I remain,

 - Nic

Posted on November 7, 2013 .