Thursday, August 6, 2015

Top 10: SF/F TV Shows (Part 2)

Hello again! Yesterday, I got started on my top ten spec fic shows to watch, but then I realized that I was on a path to write a ten or twelve page blog post and I shut it down halfway through.

Well, today’s the last half, my top five. As before, these are nothing but my feelings, these aren’t restricted to live action or animation, kids or adults, indie or major studio.

Now, on with the shows!

5: Marble Hornets (2009-2014)
I’m not a big horror fan by any stretch of the imagination. Not because I get scared easily, but mostly because I find myself just laughing at how ridiculous horror movies are. Not that I’m unscareable (totally a word), but I don’t fall for the horror movie tricks easily. I’m more often a victim of unease in horror rather than traditional horror.

Marble Hornets piles on the unease like you couldn’t even imagine. It’s unofficially a Slenderman show, all available for free on Youtube (unofficial because of copyright). Their Slenderman facsimile is simply referenced as The Operator, though never on camera, if memory serves. And Marble Hornets took the internet by storm, along with the companion Youtube Channel, totheark.

What makes this show great is, in part, the fact that it had such low production value. It felt real because things were grainy or somehow off, not in spite of that. Everyone involved knew what they had to work with, and this show takes advantage of that to the fullest possible extent.

But more than that, it’s the fear. I refused to watch Marble Hornets in the dark. I admit, some of it is personal. Slenderman scares the shit out of me. But he scares the shit out of a lot of people. That’s why Slenderman works. Marble Hornets managed to make the fear visceral, make you nervous about turning the corner or looking behind you, make your breath hitch whenever your screen shivered a little bit, because it could be Slender coming for you.

The downsides? Well, there are some. If you’re a stickler for production values, avoid this at all costs. You won’t enjoy it. If you laugh in the face of Slenderman, it probably won’t be that scary. But the biggest drawback to watching this, in my opinion, is that it’s over. The series has ended, which means that you won’t be able to experience the thrill of seeing a new video posted on the channel. Part of the magic of Marble Hornets was the way they uploaded videos. Sporadically, in line with the story’s timeline so that you could believe, just a little bit, that this was actually happening. You lose that watching it now, but I still recommend it without hesitation.

4: Once Upon a Time (2011-)
Back to more current television. I mean, you had to know that this would make the list, right? Once Upon a Time is one of my few stop everything, no, I’m not watching the recorded version shows. When it’s on, that’s what I’m doing. It has my full attention.

It’s not a new concept. Fairy tales and legends are real and they’re in our world. Chaos ensues. But the show comes alive, again, because of characters. The plots go up and down in quality, though they’re never outright horrible, but it’s the characters that make you come back. You care what happens to Emma Swan and Rumpelstiltskin and Regina. And it’s as simple as that. They could be doing almost anything and I would still want to watch this show to see what happens to my favorites.

The negatives are, of course, there. It sometimes feels like the writers put themselves in a corner and then have to scramble to get out of it. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it falls really flat. Never so flat to make me want to stop watching, but a little flat. There’s also a tendency to muck up season finales, just a bit. I don’t ever think the finales are bad, per se, but they sometimes feel overstretched, like there was about half of the plot that could have been cut and have things remain basically the way they are.

But all that aside, Once Upon a Time is one of the best shows currently running on TV, and you won’t convince me otherwise. Nope nope nope.

Oh, Avatar. How I love you. Now, if you’ve seen it, this hardly needs explanation. If you haven’t watched it and assume that I’m adding this show for nostalgia, you’re dead wrong. I was hardly the target audience for this show when it came out. But Avatar is different. Avatar has the ongoing plot lines you see in adult dramas, the aesthetic and story you’re likely to find in an anime, and animation better than I’ve seen from any of the major production companies since (The Legend of Korra notwithstanding, of course.).

In a nutshell, the world is at war because of the Fire Nation. They’re attacking everyone and, to ensure their plot works, they killed off all the Air Nomads, because the next savior of the world (The Avatar) was going to be one of them. Except that the Avatar escaped and basically went into hibernation for 100 years until two members of the Water Tribe found him and freed him.

That’s just the first couple minutes, mind you. But somehow, Avatar manages to not only make this an enjoyable show for adults and teens, but also keeps it accessible to the target audience of kids. It’s a very fine line, but it treads it well, mixing humor and drama, worldbuilding and plot. I have yet to see any other western animation live up to this, and I long for the day that I do. My only complaint is the same as in Gargoyles: sometimes, it got a little too childish, but what can you expect?

If you haven’t yet seen this show, then for real, get off my blog and go watch it

2: The Walking Dead (2010-)
I resisted the call of this show for a long time. I don’t like zombie stories, as a general rule. I think they’re overdone, overrated, and honestly not that terrifying. So this ranking so high is definitely a surprise to me. But I’m willing to admit that I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, now. And why? Because it doesn’t have to be zombies. There’s not really a lot of this show that relies on the zombie mechanic. Hell, there are entire episodes without a single zombie spotted. What matters is that there’s a threat out there, something that needs to be killed and avoided. And you never know when it’s going to go wrong.

As with practically everything, it seems, I love this show because of the characters. You see them evolve, and it’s not arbitrary. Every bit of it makes sense. The characters are easy to connect with because they seem like real people really going through hell. Plus it helps that this is a huge, tragic drama. I love tragedy, when it’s done well. I’d take it over any other kind of story without question. So to have this show come up? Now that I’ve finally watched it, I’m in, and I have literally zero bad things to say about The Walking Dead. So why isn’t it the top? Well, it’s honestly just personal preference. Number one and number two on this list are equally good, I would say, but they tell very different stories.

However, before we hit number one, though, I want to give a nod to some shows that I considered, but that didn’t quite make the final cut. No analysis on these, but I would still recommend giving them a watch, if you have the time:

Digimon (any and all of them)

Now, on with the number one spot.

1: Code Geass (2006-2008)

This is a show. This is easily one of my favorite shows of all time, and you’re not allowed to just discount it out of hand because it’s animated. If you never give another single animated show a chance, never watch anything else on this list, never turn on your set for sci-fi fantasy again, watch this show. It’s only two seasons, but I’ve rarely seen a television show that I like so much.

I can’t even give you a basic plot summary. There’s so much going on. Political intrigue, which is tied in with the descent into darkness, which comes with terrorist activity, which joins in with a secret second life. All topped off with a dose of sci-fi… or fantasy. This is another show that doesn’t bother to delineate what it wants to be, and I would never ask it to.

The main character is an asshole. Plain and simple. He’s likable at times, but he’s really not a pleasant person by any stretch of the imagination. But you love him anyway. Lelouch has lived a life that gives him permission to be an asshole. He’s been through Hell and back, and he didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt.

The other characters are just as dynamic, and the way they connect is, at times, mindblowing. And this show doesn’t pull punches. There’s death. It’s a war, for fuck’s sake. Nothing is sacred to the writers, and that’s what makes this such a delicious, heart-wrenching show to watch.

Also: giant fighting robots.

The only problem with this is that there isn’t more. And when that’s the biggest complaint about a show, you know it’s got something going for it.

So, did I miss any? Have I committed a cardinal sin? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for stopping by! I had a blast writing this list.


1 comment :

JM Scheirer said...

For shame that Firefly didn't make your list. You don't get much better SciFi than this. The characters are brilliant and brilliantly portrayed by their actors, who liked the show so much they hung out on the set in the same place their characters did! They have depth and hidden characteristics, the mysteries of which would have been slowly teased out had the show not been cut short. It's both tragic and funny and a perfect blend of both, which is so rare to pull off.