Tag Archive | tv shows

Fortitude 2015: Living on the Edge of the World

For fans of mystery and especially horror genre stories the best ones often take place at the “edge of the world” or rather the “edge of civilization.” The stories usually involve a limited number of people either living in or visiting a secluded spot where there is little relief from isolation and loneliness. Needless to say, these stories are often bleak and rarely have happy endings.

When the trappings of modern civilization are swept aside the lie that humans are basically good can be properly addressed. The number of people doesn’t matter, and in fact, less people around can lead to more vicious transgressions. Now, this could merely be a cosmopolitan disdain for small town life–and could be viewed in that lens–but it’s really purposeful isolation from broader humanity that’s being criticized, not merely small towns. The idea, I suppose, is that people who choose to live in secluded places have personal problems and inner demons that they wish to hide away. I would go further than that and speculate that these characters (at least those in the stories) have a profound sense of their own guilt and are afraid of what they would do living among more people. Then again, maybe they just like being alone.

Fortitude (2015) is set on an island in the arctic. The closest mainland is Norway and the scenery is gorgeous. What a setting! The story makes the island-glacier bittersweet in its beauty, drawing it right up against the evil in people and the evil in the earth. Sometimes we forget that our Earth itself, although beautiful, is tainted and corrupted. The very land supposed to sustain us can just as often kill us.

Like most other stories of this kind, Fortitude is set in a town with a few hundred people eking out lives in barren places. We are first introduced to the purposely flawed characters, then shown their indiscretions and weaknesses, then thrown into the larger plot as people start dying. Why anyone finds this entertaining, much less myself, I’m not sure. Sometimes we find it fun to be scared, sometimes we are eager to see what kind of person will make it to the end. Who will be the last one standing? Will they be like us and if so, would we also have a chance of winning out under such circumstances?

I generally liked Fortitude, but thought the ending too hopeless and drawn out. We’ve come to a point in our entertainment history where shows, not movies are the thing. Episode after episode can be devoured while the tension mounts. Trouble is, in too many of these stories, the tension is not held or increased due to too many episodes or too long of episodes.  Often the first couple of episodes are great and then the story meanders. In Fortitude‘s case too much time is spent dwelling on people’s faults rather than figuring out and fighting what was going on. For thrillers, a good policy is to have events happen faster than the audience thinks expects them to happen. Keep the audience on their toes. Of course this can backfire, but slow-burn really only works when the writers actually know how to consistently up the ante (AMC’s The Killing did this well in S1-3).

Fortitude increases the tension for a few episodes, drops it, forgets about certain characters or storylines for an unforgivable amount of time, and then tries to up the thrill level only when we’re already bored. It wasn’t a bad story, but it could have been as heart-stopping as some of the scenery was. It also had a non-ending–that is, Fortitude‘s writers left the forgone conclusion up to the audience without actually showing it all. If it had been a better-told story, this could have been brilliant, but really it just came off as the makers of the show tired of the whole thing and wanted it to end. And they strangely killed off Stanley Tucci’s (The Devil Wear’s Prada) character well before the ending. His character kept much of the plot going, so I don’t understand this decision, nor do I understand the uneven lengths of time devoted to the two researchers who end up being the ones to root for. We follow the sheriff mostly, but he’s already set up as an untrustworthy character. Until Stanley Tucci’s arrival, the audience doesn’t really have anyone to properly latch onto.

The acting was generally good, especially the mayor and the police team, but no one really stood out except for Tucci. The other characters could have been played by any number of actors. Maybe I just find Tucci’s American acting style more relatable, but I thought he did the best job. The taxidermist played by Ramon Tikaram (Jupiter Ascending) also had a lot of intrigue going for him that ultimately never paid off. Most of the characters seemed poorly drawn and so humdrum. Few had any dreams or plans or happy family life. Fortitude aimed more for depressing than thrilling and I think that choice was a mistake.

While I have criticized much about Fortitude, I found it generally entertaining and a puzzling story, but I would only recommend it to those that sincerely love these serial killer, edge of the world stories where most of the characters die. They are really not for everybody.

I am looking forward to watching S2 with Dennis Quaid to see the changes they’ve made in their story approach and to be able to compare the two.

Shows That Need to Happen: Red John (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2: What would a Red John show look like?

You know you really a like show if you fantacize about ways to continue it. I thoroughly enjoyed The Mentalist, especially Seasons 1-5.5 – basically up until Red John was executed by the Patrick Jane.  The character of Patrick Jane played by Simon Baker is pretty awesome and well-rounded, and he had a great team to work with.

Here’s my vision of what a continuation of the story would look like:

  • It would be called Red John, not The Mentalist. As I’ve stated in Part 1 of these posts, the appeals and uniqueness of The Mentalist had a lot to do with Red John. Without the hunt for him, the series petered out quickly and did not work as a normal procedural drama.
  • It would consist of a limited number of episdes. 24 to comprise one “season” or “series.” Much more than that would compromise the “chase” of Red John that should be the focus.
  • Red John doesn’t have to be the “Red John” of The Mentalist. That is, the Red John caught and killed can stay dead. It’s not necessary to go back and make it look like Patrick Jane killed the wrong man. However, this would be a good ploy for the first couple of episodes, highlighting the doubt that may still be in Jane and the audience. Also, no bureau infiltration. That just got ridiculous after awhile. More of a straight chess match this time.
  • Put the California Bureau of Investigation back together. Since Cho has moved up in the FBI, a good plot could be to have “Red John” murders start springing up in California again ideally resulting in an FBI task force that combines with the local police force and the old CBI gang, all with Cho as the head. It could be even a reestablished CBI under the FBI’s jurisdiction.
  • Red John, whoever he is, needs to be a mentalist in a similar vein as Patrick Jane. In The Mentalist series, this element wasn’t pushed enough when it came to the villain. His powers of persuasion were alluded to on sporadic occasion but not shown in a definitive manner, like the tricks Patrick Jane uses to con people into confessing. It’s why Sheriff McAllistar didn’t work. He was never shown to have an almost supernaturnal ability over other people in which Jane could illustrate that there are no real psychics. This was somewhat attempted with the list of seven suspects, but never came to fruition, in my opinion, and the list itself seemed a let down.
  • Keep the awesome other villains. When it wasn’t about Red John, The Mentalist had some pretty good villains and absolutely chilling episodes. My favorite episode is when Jane comes across a serial killer who pretends to be investigating the murder of a girl he killed. Jane takes him down on TV by getting him to arrogantly denounce Red John, with the knowledge that Red John can’t take criticism and will kill him. Villains that could definitely get a couple more episodes are temptress and dating expert Erika Flynn (Firefly’s Morena Baccarin) and sociopath power broker Tommy Volker (LOST’s Henry Ian Cusick). These villains could be in cahoots with the new Red John or just red herrings and/or informants.
  • A romance for Cho. He and Summer were so awesome and had great chemistry. It was sad they couldn’t be together and it would be fun to watch him try again with another unlikely lady.
  • Let Van Pelt and Rigsby show off all their new spy skills and gear. It would be interesting to have Red John target their kids (and the adults terrified) only to have him be one-upped by these future agents and well-trained munchkins. The Rigsby’s would totally be Spy Kids.
  • Let Lisbon and Patrick Jane fall for each other all over again doing what they do best: hunting and catching killers. The show should highlight how it is the best line of work for them to be in. And altough Jane is generally hands off to the “action” part of the investigation and police game, it would be fun to see him be more physically active, perhaps in an effort to show how invested he is in beating the villain not for revenge, but to protect those around him. And perhaps to highlight how getting his revenge in the previous series has changed him – as has fixing up that run-down cabin he bought. He would have built up muscle and dexterity doing so.
  • Jane vs. John. Not that the team can’t deal with other mysteries/cases at the same time, but the hunt for this new Red John, should be the focus. The use of both Jane’s brain and skills should be combined with everything he taught the original CBI team. His quirky ways can be introduced to new members as well, just not in the boring FBI building/setting in which The Mentalist ended.
  • A wham bam ending not dependant on the guessing of Red John’s identity. The long-term arc in The Mentalist worked so well because it played into our love of psycological thrill. This could be the ultimate in that genre. Is Patrick Jane really good at what he does, or was it just because he was out for revenge? Will he work within the law this time around to catch the killer? How would he deal with a Red John copycat who knows everything about the case, is far better at manipulating people?
  • Sign on the original cast and add local precinct detectives who first run across this new Red John. Ideally these newbies would be played by Christian Bale (I’m a little biased, as he’s my favorite actor) and Zoe Saldana, both of whom would be excellent at playing detectives and have awesome onscreen chemistry.

So how would it all start?

Since this musing is pretty much fan fiction, let me describe how I would open a Red John show. Please excuse my self-indulgence, but I just couldn’t help it. The Mentalist was such a good show and got my imagination going.:

I’d work with a slow burn kind of storytelling instead of opting for the newer tradition of starting with an action scene straight away, or a thrilling scene from the middle of the episode and then going back to the beginning. Sometimes it’s just a breath of fresh air to start at the begining.

First scene: A pretty twenty-something woman waiting at a busy L.A. precinct to see a detective. She has a tip and looks as if she could be a journalist or a journalism student. She has a fresh, peaceful air reminiscent of Lorelai Martens’ first scene where she talks about comfort in her faith in Red John. She first interacts with a senior woman homicide detective – let’s call her X (I would cast Saldana) who offers to help her. The woman insists she wants the detective’s partner (Y) (who I would cast as Christian Bale). Detective X tells her it’s going to be awhile, and with a laugh in her voice yells to her partner that he has a new crush who wants to see him. Detective Y is dealing with a precinst disturbance, unruly criminals or something like that. The journalist puts a small snarl on her face after the female detectie leaves the desk and sits down to wait. In her lap is a sheaf of paper notes along with photos. We see she has scribbled serial killer? Trademark? and other questions in the margins of the papers.

Cut back to Y who is now finished with his crisis, but the young woman is gone. He shrugs and gets called to an emergency/crime scene (perhaps one that tantalizingly appears to be the work of Tommy Volker (though he’s still in prison – or he could be out for good behavior, has pulled strings or whatever). In the early morning when he gets off shift, the journalist surprises Y just as he’s unlocking his car. She asks if he has some time to discuss information she has. Y agrees, noting she’s pretty, and suggests they go for coffee.

Cut to a college or university on the East Coast, where a ciminial profiling or psychology class is beginning. The professor briefly introduces the Red John serial killer and notes that they had invited Patrick Jane to speak, but who declines for personal reasons. In his place is agent Kimball Cho of the FBI. Cho, looking very important indeed, steps up and gives his talk with the students asking questions. A few of the students ask questions designed to unsettled Cho, such as “could Red John be still alive?” and so on. Many students are too insterested in the killer, clearly living in the “ghoul” factor of Brett Patridge from episode one of The Mentalist. A couple stand out as possible Red John acolytes (one could actually be the new Red John if one wants to go that route). Cho’s expression shows disappointment and a little bit of worry.

Open the next scene on a birthday party at the Jane household’s mostly remodeled cabin. Patrick Jane looks sublimely happy as he does magic tricks for his one year old’s birthday party. Rigby and Van Pelt are in attendance, also looking happy, as are their kids. Lisbon serves snacks and asks Rigsby if Cho was able to get away for the party. Rigsby says he had a thing out East, but caught an early flight that should have him landing soon. When Jane is done with the magic show he comes over to hug Lisbon, and also asks about Cho, though his expression is grim. The friends joke around for a bit and then the doorbell rings. Cho has arrived and looks exhausted. Jane offers to get him a drink, and, all smiles, asks him how it went in a soft voice. He doesn’t want Lisbon or any of the others overhearing. Cho says it’s the same as always, same questions, disturbing interest in Red John. Jane states crisply that Red John was a nobody. Cho agrees and Jane says he’s glad the killer is dead. Cho asks how much more family leave the Jane’s have. Jane says only a couple of more weeks and back to the grindstone. Cho comments how they have been missed and how cases aren’t getting closed. He says he misses the old CBI. Jane says nothing, reluctant to talk about the subject. He steers Cho away into a party trick and getting all the kids excited about a pony or whatever.

Back to the L.A. detective meeting at a dinner with the woman who tells him she’s a journalist for on online magazine that discuss local crime trends. A couple of murders in the L.A. area caught her attention and she started digging into the past and other cases that to her seem similar. The detective humors her as she goes through the facts, but clearly does not believe her, saying they get tips like this all the time. He tells her people like to look for patterns to make sense of death and adds that no sense to it, just murder and chaos. The journalist says she thinks she knows where another murder is going to take place, though doesn’t know who. She asks the detective to follow up on this. He looks at the location, saying it’s a bad or remote part of town. She asks again and he takes the papers and says he’ll think about it. She looks relieved and tells him she’ll bring more information. To her and to the viewers it’s obvious he doesn’t intend to pursue the tip.

Cut to scenes involving Cho’s current work with the FBI, how they are struggling without Patrick Jane, but were struggling with him before he and Lisbon went on leave. Cho and his boss discuss the fac that the FBI isn’t the right place for Jane, but that the government still wants to use his abilities and are still obligating him to work for them in some capacities to keep murder charges at bay. Cho remarks that this cage would be better if it was some place Jane wanted to be. Cho’s boss says that Jane is a born detective and that he’ll get there. Cho says he hates to say it, but Jane was at his best going after Red John. “Then we need another Red John,” the FBI boss says. Cho’s expression sinks and he says he would rather Jane risk a murder charge by failing to fulfill his obligation to the government.

Back at the L.A. precinct, Detective X asks her partner how his night was. Y says he talked to that crush and it’s another silly tip on a serial killer. X remarks that serial killers are coming out of the woodwork these days and sighs, saying everyone wants to be a detective. They discuss the previous day’s crime scene in detail, bouncing ideas off of each other and flirting in the process.

Cut to the Jane residence where it’s a Sunday afternoon, but instead of doing the newspaper crossword, Jane is actually solving each and every unknown crime listed in the articles, even noting in the margins that a woman writing to Ann Landers is obviously having an affair. Lisbon catches him in the act and when he shrugs she holds up a detective novel she’s reading on which she’s made her own notes detailing the mistakes made and who dunnit. They smile at each other and lean in for a kiss only to be interrupted by their cute-as-a-button offspring who’s markered all over himself — or something to that effect. Cut to cleaning/house remodeling scenes and then them sitting on the porch and night where they both declare they are happy, so happy. Their eyes tell a different story, however, with looks of boredom and dissatisfaction.

Show a scene where the young journalist prepares to go out at night. She looks at her notes and takes a deep breath in the mirror. In her bag, she included a taser, gun, or weapon of some kind. She is made up to look her best, almost for a date. Cut to her again walking into the same L.A. precinct that is chaotic as usual. She asks for the male detective, but he is out. She nervously leaves an envelope for him at the front desk, saying it’s another tip. She appears scared and says goodbye to the sargeant at the desk as if she is heading to her death.

The next scene shows the harried Detective Y coming back from a suspect interview or what have you (could even show the interview scene). He gets stopped by the desk sargeant who gives him the envelope. Y smiles and shakes his head. He heads to the office he and his partner Detective X share. She is finishing yelling at someone on the phone. Y asks whose heart X’s mother has broken this week. X states that her mother never stops looking for true love. “That pretty much sums up humanity.” He jokes back. He settles into his desk and looks through some paperwork and emails, finally settling on the envelope left by the journalist. His partner asks what it is. “You know that crush from last week? She left me another love note.” “Like you said, we’re all looking for true love,” X says back. When Y opens the envelope and starts to read the contents his expression becomes one of dread. X, who has started munching at her takeout dinner, asks what’s wrong. “This isn’t a tip,” Y says, “it’s a murder in progress.” He throws his badge (maybe he wears it around his neck) and/or coat and stormes out the door with the X in his wake asking him what’s going on.

Action scene with them both racing to get to the location the journalist previously showed Y. They shoult questions and answers back and forth and from their conversation Y thinks that either the journalist is committing the murder or going to be murdered. (To up the thrill factor could intercut this scene and the scene before with shots of the journalist nervously waiting for someone in a dark and remote part of the city). They make it to the location and find the journalist daed, with her body slashed up and Red John’s smiley face on the wall. The music gets louder as their eyes fasten on the smiley face with both horror and curiosity.

That would be the big climax of the episode, then it would go into the detectives trying to figure this out, and their superiors assuming it is Red John and informing the FBI. Cho meets with X and Y and all three hit it off and it’s obvious to him that the two work well together and are whip-smart. Jane is mentioned and Y states how he used to do magic tricks as a kid. Cho remarks that mentalist work is a little more advanced than that. At first, Cho and his FBI team work on the case with the L.A. detectives, but a couple of the FBI team members end of dead and it is then when the FBI boss says they have to bring Jane in. He or she (whoever is cast or kept on from the previous show) apologizes to Cho, saying they wish they’d never said anything about Red John.

Cho takes on the task of breaking the news to Jane and Lisbon. He is so worked up and spends so long hesitating that Detective X, having sympathy and compassion for him, says she’ll do it. The last scene of the episode could be her waiting at the Jane residence (perhaps she can see them happily cooking together or something through the windows) and knocking on the door. Patrick Jane answers, and being who he is, knows instantly why she is there. His expression says it all: Knowledge that there’s no way Red John could be resurrected. Fear that he is wrong in that and fear for his family. A spark of excitement at the thought of a new worthy opponent. Dun, dun, dun! Credits.

Whew!  You made it!

So that’s how I would begin, but I’m sure professional TV writers could do much better and also fill in more of the details. Thanks for reading.

Misunderstanding Edgar Allen Poe

I don’t read a lot of Poe, but his tales are deliciously thrilling and often tragic tales of the consequences of doing evil.

I’m watching The Following on Netflix.  It’s a show about a cult of murders who have chosen Poe as their icon.  Poor E.A.P.  The vast number of mostly brainwashed murderers in this series think they are awesome for what they are doing.  Nothing could be farther from the truth: Just about any person on this planet has the ability to murder someone else, to hurt someone else.  It’s not a unique or even special gift, no matter how elaborately done.  The rarer gift is that of mercy, of edifying people (I need to remind myself of this more often than I do).

The murderers in The Following can’t hold a candle to Poe.  Poe was a genius of a writer, the essential inventor of the Sherlock Holmes stories we all still love today.  His stories were most thrilling because of one element: Horror.  Horror, not simply murder.  Poe considered himself a genius (rightly), these murderers consider themselves genius, I get it.  They don’t seem to get, however, that the horror of stories like the “Tell-Tale Heart” are entirely due to guilt and the killer’s own fear of death.  These people are sadly misunderstanding Poe.

That’s not to say The Following isn’t an interesting, thought-provoking series.  It’s just a shame that Poe’s great body of work is so often reduced today to nothing more than the worship of death and killing.  I for one, don’t think that’s what Poe was really about.  Was he plagued with problems?  Sure.  What being walking this planet isn’t?

What do you think?  What’s your perspective on Poe?

TV Shows I Wish Were Book Series — Twisted

TwistedABC Family’s series Twisted is a show that fits in comfortably with another ABC hit series, Pretty Little Liars.  Like PLL, Twisted follows three friends who are wading through mysteries and lies surrounding their childhood.  Danny Desai (Avan Jogia), who in junior high murdered his aunt with a jump rope is out of juvie on probation and comes back to town seeking a renewed relationship with his childhood friends Lacey Porter (Kylie BunBury) and Jo Masterson (Maddie Hasson), both of whom were traumatized by what he did five years ago.

Twisted has two main things going for it: A fairly unique plot revolving around the question is Danny really a killer and a sociopath, and its casting.  It’s refreshing to have a couple of main characters who are minorities, yet have characters that don’t hinge on that fact.  Any race could play any of the parts, and ABC chose actors right for the role regardless of race.  Avan Jogia does a great job playing Danny Desai and especially in the first few episodes, everyone is wary that they are being manipulated by his character.  Kylie BunBury also does a fantastic job with Lacey, a girl who doesn’t easily show her emotions, and she comes off far more emotionally mature than Jo, who parades her emotions around for all to see.

That’s not to say that I don’t like the character of Jo.  She’s fun, plucky, and the kind of person you’d want as a friend.  However, the way the show portrays her in the last few episodes of season one is cringeworthy.  She comes off as extremely childish and having to constantly be patronized by those around her.  This is the big flaw in Twisted, that the last few episodes aired revolved around Jo dealing with something that for a teen is heartbreaking, but put a bad light on all of the characters walking on eggshells around her for something that they should NOT have to apologize to her for. Hopefully in the upcoming second half of season one, the writers will have corrected this issue.  Twisted isn’t the “Jo show,” and if anything, should be the “Danny Desai show.”

Why Twisted Would Make a Good Book Series:  The mystery behind Danny’s action promises to be unwrapped over several seasons and could also fill a few books.  Not only is he hiding something, but so are the main three’s parents, echoing another ABC Family series based on a book series, The Lying Game (sadly this one was cancelled after a couple seasons).  It also has the quaint, small town atmosphere begging for description and amusing side characters such as Jo’s friend Rico (Ashton Moio), who is adorably awkward and will make a nice fourth to the three mains once he comes into his own.

Aside from the past murder that occurred, Twisted hasn’t actually been that, well, twisted, but the mystery has promise of being a vast, unwinding conspiracy, and in later seasons we’ll likely find that the characters we are following are more complex than originally thought.  An intriguing question is brought up early on: What is a sociopath and can you tell of someone is just that?  The implication is that perhaps Danny or even one of the other characters is in fact a sociopath, manipulating everyone — okay, at least that’s where I hope the writers are going.

Twisted is back on the air next week on February 11th, 9/8 central at ABC Family.

TV Shows I Wish Were Book Series — The Killing

The KillingIn its first season, AMC’s The Killing took me a little while to warm up to, and I only watched a few episodes before deciding it wasn’t for me.  I then rediscovered the series on Netflix and was hooked.  The Killing, based on a Swedish crime show called Forbrydelsen, is set in Seattle, Washington, and follows a similar plot.  Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is called to begin one last case on the eve of her last day at work.  She is planning to give up detective work and move to California with her son and to begin a new, married life with the man she loves.  The discovery of a teenaged girl’s body in the trunk of a car presents an intriguing and heartbreaking mystery for Linden, and the detective finds herself continually delaying her departure for her wedding.  Linden is joined in her investigation by a newly promoted narcotics officer, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), whose methods are slightly unorthodox.

Why The Killing would make a good book series:  Its pacing and somber tone.  The Killing is not for those who want quick action and resolutions.  Much like a good novel or book, this series is slow-moving and character development is more important than merely moving the plot ahead.  The doom the audience and detectives feel in the first episode slowly grows over time as the threads of mystery begin to unravel.  It is a credit to the series that time and time again, things are discovered to be far different from first impressions.

The tone of the film is almost entirely due to its setting. Seattle is portrayed as a continually cloudy, gray city.  The colors in each shot are subdued and the music haunting.  The death of a girl is treated seriously, as are the efforts of the detectives, despite their obvious flaws.  Detective Linden’s obsession to the case is easy to relate to, as is Holder’s eagerness to prove himself in his new position.  The acting is much due to the fine characterization and writing of the series, though, I have to give Joel Kinnaman a special shout out for his awesome American accent.

For me, the series really came into its own in season three, where we find how truly flawed Detective Linden is, and how capable Detective Holder.  The series balances highlighting the detectives faults against their perseverance and natural talent at mystery solving.  So many scenes from season three shouted “literature” to me, due again to the mood of the show as well as the excellent characterization.  Also, the detectives are never quite happy.  This too, goes along with literary tradition.  Few, if any book detectives, have anything resembling joy outside of their work.  Their work is their happiness, everything else is secondary.

Something that makes The Killing stand out for me as well is that the victims are important.  Too many murder mysteries focus solely on the smarts of the murderer instead of sorrowing over the plight of the victim.  The important people in the series are the detectives, the victims, and the people who knew the victims.  The murderers themselves are rightfully forgotten by the time the next mystery begins.

TV Shows I Wish Were Book Series — Ripper Street

Ripper StreetThe BBC’s Ripper Street is much what one would expect: It’s gory, shocking, and not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.  But then, that’s police work in general, even today.  We may not have open sewers running down our streets, but we are plagued with much of the same problems police had to deal with more than a century ago when the most famous of serial killers leapt onto the headlines.

Taking place shortly after Jack the Ripper’s murder spree, Ripper Street is set in WhiteChapel, London, in the late 1800s, and shows a city plagued with disease, violence, and immorality.  Our heroes are smart, worldly characters, who much like officers today, go where the average man would fear to tread.  They are by no means perfect, but admirable in the risks that they take for their fellow citizens.  The detective team is as follows: Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn), and an American who specializes in autopsies, Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg).

The refreshing part of the show is that it uses actual detection with the detectives using what they know about their surroundings and the time and neighborhood in which they live to solve crimes.  It’s interesting to see how the burgeoning field of forensics plays a role in weeding out suspects, and how the Ripper murders have opened wide the possibilities of human deviancy.

Why Ripper Street would make a good book series:  It rings of authenticity.  Many a time I have tried to read mysteries set in Victorian London only to be disappointed at the lack of detail and attention to the time period.  The detectives in Ripper Street, although obviously modern, do not feel out of place in the story.  Their cynicism is matched by compassion and their practicality comes from experiences with the people and world around them.  They are not modern to express modern views only.  Like Syfy’s Haven, the Whitechapel setting begs to be penned in written description — smells, sights, and sounds more pungent than what we encounter today.  Ripper Street is a show that could only be enhanced by novels digging into the details of both the crimes and the community in which it is set.

TV Shows I Wish Were Book Series — Haven

HavenIf Hollywood movies these days have lost their luster, things are quite the opposite on the small screen.  TV is in somewhat of a golden age of offering engaging, epic stories with smart dialogue, plots and characters that audiences want to watch for years on end.  TV is in it for the long term.  The same can be said for a good book series.  This week I will highlight four shows that I wish were a book series.

#1: Haven.  The Syfy Channel’s Haven is my current favorite show.  Loosely based on a Stephen King novel, The Colorado Kid, Haven is a procedural drama in which the main character, Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) strives to ride a New England town of its supernatural “troubles.”  The plucky FBI agent is aided by local cop Nathan Wuornos (love that name) played by Lucas Bryant and slacker Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour), a smuggler who lives on a boat.

In season one, it wasn’t abundantly clear where Haven was going with all of their “troubled” townspeople.  Now, with season four just wrapped up, the show has become somewhat of an epic mind game, a reminds me the most of LOST with a smaller cast.  Haven has almost nothing to do with its source material, The Colorado Kid, but the premise of that crime story plagues me:  Some mysteries have no answer, only theories that can’t be proven.  I am somewhat apprehensive that the show will ultimately end on such a note, but the interim is exciting to watch nonetheless.  The characters are engaging to watch and for the most part the show sticks to its strength of dealing with a unique “trouble” each episode.  And the troubles are unique, with shades of The X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other shows involving paranormal problems or monsters.  The townspeople’s otherworldly afflictions are often related to their inner psyche in some way, allowing for the show to delve into weightier subjects even if it’s only for forty minutes or so.  The longterm arc of the show has so far presented many intriguing questions, many that also deal with similar issues of guilt, fate, faith, and how people deal with the fact that they aren’t perfect.

Why would Haven make a great book series?  In addition to the plot, characters, and themes of the show, it’s set in a gorgeous seaside town (filmed in Nova Scotia, Canada) dying for literary description, and showcases fantasy elements that would be even more amazing in a reader’s imagination.  In a book series, the characters’ inner thoughts could also be more specifically dwelled upon, as well as their pasts.  Nathan and Duke, for example, had an interesting childhood growing up together as on and off friends.  It would also be intriguing to visit the other years in which Haven was plagued by “troubles.”

Haven is due back sometime this year for 26 more episodes:  http://www.blastr.com/2014-1-28/more-troubles-are-coming-syfy-orders-super-sized-new-season-haven


Trolls for Dust, Season One for Kindle

Trolls for Dust, Season One is now available for the Kindle on Amazon.  Happy Reading!  –Pixie


Boys Over Flowers (kkotboda namja)

If you have Netflix and enjoy watching dramatic High School-themed stories, check out the Korean show Boys over Flowers.  It’s a 2009 show based on a Japanese manga (I think there is also a couple of Japanese adaptations, but I haven’t seen them).  The show is about a girl whose family owns a dry cleaning business standing up to super rich bullies that belong to an exclusive group called F4.

 The bullying is actually so awful, I found myself wondering where all of the adults are at this elitist snobby school.  No one seems to really care that kids are being bullied so bad that they contemplate suicide.  But the extreme bullying does make the fact that Geum Jan Di (played hilariously by Hye-Sun Koo stands up against it all the more powerful.  She soon has the richest, most powerful guy in the school so confused by this that he actually thinks she has a crush on him.  It never enters his head that someone might have compassion for the regular people that he pushes around as if they were serfs in his personal kingdom.

Throughout the show, the boys in the F4 grow on the audience and on Geum Jan Di and it’s a pleasure to see them begin to use their wealth and power for good instead of evil.  The wealthy Goo Joon Pyo (Min-ho Lee) could probably be Batman if he really wanted to:  He has the money, power, and fighting skills, and being the leader of F4, and the one completely dumbfounded by Geum Jan Di, he also has the most dramatic character growth of all of the Boys in the series.  I am halfway through the season and am looking forward to the last few episodes.  🙂