Category: Fantasy Realms


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Review by C.J. Bunce

The top genre TV actress Rose McIver is back and as irresistible as ever.  The star of the wildly popular series iZombie is right back in her wheelhouse in CBS’s new series Ghosts: rapid-fire dialogue, outlandish situations where she must lead a crew of characters to decipher and inhabit myriad character types in the craziest of concocted schemes.  But unlike iZombie, which had its lighthearted moments, Ghosts is 100% pure comedy.  Sure, there are ghosts, but this is a full-on ensemble cast comedy where a brilliantly conceived haunted mansion is only the setting, the framework on which to build a comedy that will hopefully stand up to the even more dreaded ratings wonks.

For fans of Resident Alien, the show smacks of the exact same tone and humor, the latest in the trope mastered by The Munsters and The Addams Family.  It’s Beetlejuice, The Sixth Sense, and Tru Calling meets The Money Pit with a splash of Clue, with not a speck of heavy drama (or frights) but heaps of fun and pop culture references (like Sneakers, and if you pay attention you’ll find more than one iZombie reference) stuffed into each half-hour episode.

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Fantasies rarely play out as you would expect.  — Mr. Roarke

Blumhouse introduced a new twist on the 1977-1984 series Fantasy Island in 2020 with a feature film version starring Michael Peña  (Ant-Man), leaning into a darker, horror take on its story. ABC tried a reboot in 1998, starring Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations, Heroes). This week a new series emerges on Fox, entirely separate (or is it?) from the 2020 movie, but landing a perfect opener that is perfectly faithful to Ricardo Montalban’s classic weekly anthology showcase, an episode that would qualify among the top of the original series’ best stories.  This time it’s the talented Roselyn Sanchez (Without a Trace, Kojak, Dragnet, Telenovela, Rush Hour 2), whose beauty, charisma, and talent are more than worthy of her iconic, suave, Latin predecessor.  Miss Elena Roarke is not a descendant of Mr. Roarke, but a great niece of the former ambassador of the island.  The update is as much homage as sequel, a fine balance that miraculously gets it all right, with an updated feel that is modern and even fun, like the long-running BBC series Death in Paradise (which follows a fish-out-of-water detective and his staff on another island paradise also encountering newcomers aka guest stars in each new episode).  As with Montalban’s Fantasy Island, character actors from television’s past, present, and maybe even future, should all be scrabbling to get a part on this new incarnation of the series.

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This year we found one series that could easily sweep most of the categories–a single television series that had everything: compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, all kinds of genre elements that were satisfying and left viewers feeling inspired.  Richly detailed sets and costumes.  An impossible feat to replicate.  No drama came close.  No other visual effects spectacle could touch it.  And its audience is everyone.  A truly epic addition to television viewing, that series is The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the greatest television series to come along in years.  If you love genre like we do, this was as good as it gets.  And like icing on the cake, along came The Mandalorian at year end.

But we’re not going to ignore the other good things that happened on the small screen this year.

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesDoom Patrol (DC Universe).  With this year’s series Doom Patrol we got a look at two borgs, DC Comics’ Cyborg, an update to Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man from the 1970s, and an older borg created before the word was even coined in the 1960s, Robotman.  Both characters revealed a glimpse at what life might be like with significant cybernetic enhancements (when brought together by a modern Dr. Frankenstein).  For 2019, it was the way to get your borg fix on the small screen.

Best TV Series, Best New Limited TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Writing for TV, Best TV Costumes/Makeup, Best TV SoundtrackThe Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix).  It was worth the wait.  Jim Henson’s seemingly impossible to replicate artistic vision was successfully achieved thanks to his daughters and the company he founded.  The kindest heroes, the darkest evil, a truly epic, legendary story for the ages.  Everybody is cranking out CGI extravaganzas, but how many are creating artistry so fundamentally real, with so many individual artists and artisans contributing and achieving so much?  Even that wouldn’t be enough if not for the layered mythology and epic adventure story.  Add great humor, high stakes, emotional impact, an all-star voice cast, Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim’s  imaginative musical score, and those puppets and all that go into them–it adds up to a rare thing–a Henson masterpiece.

Best TV Sci-fi Series, Best TV DramaThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Amazon Studios could not have adapted a series more faithfully, making changes for the medium and the times, than its take on Philip K. Dick’s most celebrated novel.  The use of science fiction to tell a deep and twisty level of subplots and unique setting all came to a perfect conclusion in the series finale.  Exciting, intelligent, frightening, and the most thought-provoking series this year, it was also different from its sci-fi competition.  Honorable mention: The Mandalorian (Disney+)–but only if we allow space fantasy since the series is not true science fiction, The Orville (Fox)–for its two-part epic movie-worthy space story, “Identity.”

Best New Ongoing TV Series, Runner-up: Best TV Soundtrack, Runner-up: Best TV Costumes/Makeup The Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which in only its first two hours we rated it closer to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for the success of this surprisingly awesome arrival–the series is proof Star Wars is far from over.

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More frequently we in the States see British television series via either Masterpiece on public television or BBC America.  The new eight-part TV series Taboo is being featured on cable channel FX, no doubt for its level of R-rated language, nudity, and violence.  The historical drama airs Tuesdays and stars Tom Hardy as James Delaney, a son believed by everyone but his father to be dead who returns to England from Africa.  But he arrives too late–his father is dead, and he sets about discovering who murdered him.  Along the way his path is interwoven with an underworld of the strange and supernatural, and the intrigue of a vile early 19th century England, a dark, dirty, loathsome world where powerful leaders of the East India Company are in conflict with the shipping company Delaney is now inheriting.  The unexpected arrival of Delaney circumvents the inheritance by a sister, played by Oona Chaplin, who the East India Company had been negotiating with for the ownership of a segment of land in Canada.  In the first episode we learn that she and Delaney have their own dark secret.

Where is the series heading, and what is the nature of the “taboo” of the series’ title?  What is Delaney and his sister hiding?  And what did Delaney bury upon returning to England?  The first episode, airing this week, leaves too many hints and clues to be able to speculate just yet where the series is heading.

Programme Name: Taboo - TX: n/a - Episode: Taboo - Generic (No. Generic) - Picture Shows: Zilpha Geary (OONA CHAPLIN) Zilpha Geary (OONA CHAPLIN) - (C) FX Networks - Photographer: Courtesy of FX Networks

The brainchild of Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and his father Edward Hardy, Taboo is also produced by Ridley Scott.  What stands out most of all in the series is the talent of the actors.  Hardy, known best for his lead action roles in Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Trek: Nemesis, Inception, and The Dark Knight Returns, is equally known for the quality of his work in The Revenant, Layer Cake, Black Hawk Down, and Band of Brothers.  He was also the best actor in what was an all-star cast in the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Co-star Oona Chaplin, raised in the dramatic world of mother Geraldine Chaplin, grandfather Charlie Chaplin, and great-grandfather Eugene O’Neill, is a brilliant actress in her own right, owning every scene she appears in no matter the production.  Her work includes The Hour, Quantum of Solace, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones. 

Here is a preview of the series Taboo:

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC). From the awakenings in the first episode of season 2, AMC’s Humans kicked in full throttle as the borg show to watch this year.  Continuing to explore what it means to be real and addressing the desire and need to overcome oppression, the show took ideas from Frankenstein and THX-1138 and everything in between to show us realities of life as a borg as it took the world from robotic cyborgs to sentience.  And this year’s best borg goes to all the Synths on the series, as each showed a different side to what a world full of cyborgs might be like.

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best Soundtrack for TVThe Orville (Fox).   The Orville expanded on elements from across all sci-fi, like space battle sequences and planet flyovers using Star Wars-inspired camera angles (including real model ships, not just CGI), completely new and unique aliens (the only thing close to these can be found in Doctor Who), and a fantastic, triumphant musical score from Bruce Broughton.  A visually gorgeous show that took itself seriously more than trying to mock anything that came before it.  The science fiction series we’ve been waiting for since Star Trek Voyager ended.

Best Fantasy TV SeriesWynonna Earp (Syfy).  Wynonna Earp’s second season proved the first wasn’t a fluke.  The sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter, her sister, the sheriff, and the ghost of Doc Holliday added some new team members and some great supernatural villains, providing a series we couldn’t wait to get back to each week.  Wynonna’s handling of the Revenants and a transport back in time was even more fun while she managed her pregnancy.

Best Retro TV SeriesStranger Things (Netflix).  The only question after binge-watching the second season of Stranger Things was struggling to decide whether it was better than the first.   It had the same look and feel of its first season, but somehow the characterization was really amped up, the action more exciting, and the tension pretty much perfect.  Stranger Things really had it all–stars of our favorite 1980s movies, throwback references to video games, music, fashions, and the obscure like no other show–and with a second season that eclipsed the first, it proved it is the real deal.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2017, including our pick for Best TV Series:

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SPECTRE Craig

The same agency that taunted James Bond in five classic James Bond films (Thunderball, Dr. No, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice) is the subject of SPECTRE, the 24th in the current franchise and 26th to feature Bond (if you include David Niven’s Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again).  Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz will star as the next Bond villain, “Oberhauser.”  SPECTRE is also the agency led by fan favorite Bond villain Blofeld, which has led to speculation that Oberhauser is really an alias for Blofeld.  With the last trailer released a few hours ago and the release date almost upon us, we’re that much closer to learning the truth.

Have you voted yet in out our James Bond – Bond Girl poll?  Check it out here.

Skyfall director Sam Mendes again directs Bond in SPECTRE.  New cast members include the BBC Sherlock’s Moriarty, Andrew Scott, as Denbigh, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) as the new Bond girls Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann, with Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista as Waltz’s henchman Hinx.  Returning cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, and Ben Whishaw, reprising their roles from Skyfall as well as Jesper Christensen as Mr. White.

Christoph Waltz

Here is the final trailer for SPECTRE:

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Sherlock scenery A

Review by C.J. Bunce

There’s got to be a reason that the third season premiere of BBC’s Sherlock was the most downloaded episode ever at Youku.com, a major source of streaming TV content in China.  Whether it’s the writing, the stunning movie-worthy cinematography, or the stellar cast you return for, Sherlock’s new season began with a gripping, emotional, and downright compelling opener.  Of course, like seasons one and two (the Brits call them series one and two), we only get three episodes this season.  Which begs the question:  What the heck is wrong with the Brits???  (Ahem, we mean that in the nicest way possible).

But seriously.  Probably the best TV series of all time, the original Life on Mars, lasted only three seasons.  Why???  The Hour got cancelled after two seasons.  Why???  And instead of series in the U.S. that may have 13 or more episodes a season, Sherlock has only three episodes.  Why???  Does the BBC not realize what a goldmine it has?  If the theory is that the three annual episodes are so brilliant because the BBC takes its time and can focus on only three episodes to make them so dazzling… well that’s just not good enough.  Let’s devote more resources to Sherlock and other superb British series.  Just look at Mr. Selfridge– it has ten episodes in the queue this season.  That’s more like it!

Holmes and Watson

OK enough ranting.  Steven Moffat has said “We think of them as films because they are ninety minutes long and once we knew we weren’t doing hour long episodes they needed to be on that sort of scale. They have to have the size and weight of a movie.”  Since it’s the great Mr. Moffat we’ll just let him have the last word.  Sherlock is must-watch television, period, so let’s move along.

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Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany as everyone

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and we’re certain we read more and reviewed more content this year than ever before.  And that in no less way was true for TV watching.  At the same time we waded through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre films we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our 25 picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on the moving image, and tomorrow we’ll run through our picks for the best in print and other media.  We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2014!

Year’s Best Fantasy Fix — The Wizard of Oz in Theaters.  It’s a film that has been viewed on TV so many times you might take it for granted.  It’s historically been on many movie reviewers’ Top 20 movies of all time.  But when you watch The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the middle of a year of modern blockbusters you realize how it can stand up against anything Hollywood has to offer today, even after 70 years.  Remastering the print for a new generation to see it in theaters was a highlight for movie watchers this year.

Almost Human partners

Year’s Best Sci-Fi Fix — Almost Human, Fox.  Like Continuum last year, the new series Almost Human created a future world that is believable and full of extraordinary technologies based in today’s science and touching on social issues of any day.  And even putting aside its buddy cop and police procedural brilliance, every episode plunged us into future police grappling with incredible technologies–DNA bombs criminals use to contaminate a crime scene, identity masking technology to avoid facial recognition video monitors–it was the best dose of sci-fi in 2013.

Best TV Series — Orphan Black, BBC America.  What rose above everything on TV or film this year was BBC America’s new series, the almost indescribable Orphan Black From its initial trailers that piqued our interest, to the surprise series consisting of one actress playing multiple roles that dazzled from out of nowhere, magical special effects, and a unique story of clones and X-Files-inspired intrigue propelled Orphan Black to be our clear winner for Best TV Series of 2013.

Sleepy Hollow

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Gruffudd star of ABC Forever

We love good TV.  Nothing is better than looking forward each week to a show you can trust to have great writing and great acting.  We’ve made our way through several series again this year, trying out pilots for new shows and adding them into the DVR queue–if they made the cut.  Many didn’t.  We also re-try series that didn’t prompt us to watch in prior years.  Most lose out because they rely on shock over substance and storytelling.  Where we ended up was a list of what we love, and what we have recommended all year.  These series are our Best of the Best for 2014.

Our biggest disappointments?  The cancellations of the brilliant, futuristic Almost Human and the reboot of the TV classic Dallas–these shows were written by the best script writers around and will be sorely missed.  We hope you’ll give some of the following shows a try next year, or catch them on streaming media, if you’re not watching already.

Forever De la Garza and Gruffudd

ForeverBest TV Series, Best TV Fantasy Fix, Best Actor (Ioan Gruffudd), Best Actress (Alana de la Garza), Best Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Best Villain (Burn Gorman).  Contenders for the year’s best series were easy to spot:  ABC’s Forever or NBC’s Gotham.  In years past at borg.com we have favored cable programming, yet this year the networks surged ahead with these two superb series.  Forever nudged out Gotham for top prize because of its straightforward storytelling, small talented cast, superb dialogue, and fun situations.  Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Ringer, Fantastic Four) and Alana de la Garza (Law and Order) were perfect foils for each other in the lead roles, and each created compelling characters.  Judd Hirsch played son to younger Gruffudd’s unsinkable doctor and gave us the best father and son team on TV in years.  Burn Gorman’s chilling performances toward the end of this season were a great addition, setting us up for more fun next year.

Gotham clip

GothamBest TV Series Runner-up, Best Supporting Actress (Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney), Best Supporting Actor Runner-up (Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock).  NBC’s Gotham did many things we normally wouldn’t like, including taking source material and standing it on end and adding new characters to a classic story’s established cast.  Yet it all worked somehow with this intriguing re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s backstory.  Catwoman and Batman were friends as kids?  The Penguin was a mole and stooge for key crime families?  Commissioner Gordon took Bruce Wayne under his wing as a child?  All of this worked, yet the best view into Gotham life was provided by Gordon’s partner, played by Donal Logue (Life, Vikings), and Jada Pinkett Smith’s sultry and ruthless gangster Fish Mooney.

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It’s less than two weeks until 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International will host more than 150,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes and other pop culture, and SDCC has now released the entire panel schedule for this year’s big show.  If you haven’t been to the modern-day Greatest Show on Earth, it should at least be on your bucket list, but beware:  if you attend the show once you’ll want to keep going back.

Tickets as usual were sold out months ago, but for those attending this year’s show, we have some quick links to the event list so you can start planning your days now.

This year’s panels prove yet again that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who claim SDCC doesn’t focus on comic book artists and writers.  Even more events are occurring this year focused on the comic book medium, including benchmarks like Batman’s 75th anniversary.  Yet there are also all of those big panels planned full of this summer’s movie blockbusters and big-name casts and the casts and creators of your favorite television series.

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First and most importantly you’ll want to download to your smart phone the SDCC handy My Schedule app here.  We’ve used it before and it’s a great help when you’re in the crowd and can’t get into one panel but you want to try the dash for another one or you just get tired of walking the main hall with Artists’ Alley and the dealer booths and you want to sit down and see something new for an hour.

Having trouble choosing from all the panels?  We think the biggest event and best bang for your buck will be the Warner Bros. panel we previewed a few days ago here with pilots and previews of DC Entertainment series The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Arrow.  After the break we pulled some other panels you might like if you follow borg.com regularly.

Here are the quick links to each day’s panel events for SDCC 2014:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Preview Night

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2014 Panel Schedule

Saturday, July 26, 2014 Panel Schedule

Sunday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

SDCC 2014 banner

Here are some panels to consider (after the break):

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