Category: TV


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Two from Netflix, two from Disney+.  Fans of 1980s cartoons will get their fix this summer with four animated shows from some of the biggest genre franchises Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with the anthology series based on the classic comic What If…?  Star Wars expands into new animated territory with the anime Star Wars: Visions.  And both 1980s kid favorites Masters of the Universe and Transformers continue into their fourth decade with two Netflix series–Transformers: War for Cybertron already underway.

Check out trailers for each new show streaming this summer below.

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Although Sarah Michelle Gellar herself is only 44, BOOM! Studios and 20th Television is taking Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame into her 50s .  It’s a new limited monthly series called Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer Think Old Man Logan, Old Man Hawkeye, or Old Man Quill–or a much younger Old Laurie Strode or Old Sarah Connor–with a middle-aged, butt-kicking superheroine–and you’ll see where Buffy is heading.  And from the first looks at some variant comic book covers and concept art, Xander and Spike are coming along for the ride.  Take a look at some covers and art from the series below.

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After almost a week of rumor, the showrunner of a series that will continue the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer confirmed the series isn’t merely a rumor today.  Monica Owusu-Breen, a writer on popular genre series including Charmed, Fringe, Lost, Alias, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been working with Buffy creator Joss Whedon on a new story, and she has been tapped as showrunner for the new series.  Today Owusu-Breen confirmed the project is real, while also clarifying a new slayer is on her way, but not Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy from the original seven-year series.  Whedon will again serve as executive producer of the series, with returning producers going back to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Gail Berman, Joe Earley, Fran Kazui, and Kaz Kazui.  “For some genre writers, it’s Star Wars.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my Star Wars,” Osuwu-Breen posted on Twitter today.  “Before I became a writer, I was a fan.  For seven seasons, I watched Buffy Summers grow up, find love, kill that love.  I watched her fight, and struggle and slay.  There is only one Buffy.  One Xander, one Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Oz, Tara, Kendra, Faith, Spike, Angel … They can’t be replaced.  Joss Whedon’s brilliant and beautiful series can’t be replicated.  I wouldn’t try to.  But here we are, 20 years later … and the world seems a lot scarier. So maybe, it could be time to meet a new Slayer … And that’s all I can say.”

Fans will recall that a new Slayer took the place of a Slayer that had been killed–at least in the early seasons of the show.  Kendra, a fantastic and charismatic killing machine played by Bianca Lawson, was a Jamaican potential slayer who replaced Buffy Summers’s Slayer for three episodes after Buffy’s first death on the show (Buffy was quickly revived with CPR).  Early word from the production is that the slayer to lead the new show will also be played by a black actress.  Upon Kendra’s death, we were introduced to her Slayer replacement Faith, played by Eliza Dushku, who would co-star in the series for 20 episodes.  At least sixteen other Slayers of various backgrounds were portrayed in the series following the episode “Chosen,” including one played by Felicia Day.  At least 1,800 new Slayers were discussed in the series, 500 of whom worked for Buffy Summers’ organization which deployed Slayers globally into ten separate squads.  Countless others were featured in Seasons 8-12 of the comic book series.

The idea of taking the Buffy-verse forward was discussed more upon the show’s 20th anniversary in 2016, and with so many series getting reboots it was inevitable Buffy’s time was coming.  Unlike all those other shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is in many fans’ list of top 10 television series of all time, so the producers will no doubt take careful steps with the franchise.  The brilliance of the Slayer storyline is actually perfect for continuation.  Like the five decades of Doctor Who, Buffy always has had a built-in mechanism to allow the transfer of lead actors over time, while keeping the series fresh and surviving as a long-term franchise.  As with the Doctor Who regeneration that has allowed for the latest new thirteenth lead actor to take over that series after some five decades, the replacement mechanism of a new Slayer for each dying Slayer has always been a make-ready key to ensure a going-forward show.  Few would disagree that Buffy, Kendra, and Faith were fantastic characters, fantastic Slayers.  No doubt the next in line can be just as exciting.

Here is Owusu-Breen’s Twitter post today clarifying the vision behind the new show:

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Not likely to be the last we see of Star Wars animated television series from Disney, the successful four season run of Star Wars Rebels will wrap with its final episode March 5, 2018.  As each season has peppered fans with the official return of actors from the original George Lucas trilogy and prequels, as well as 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, at least one more major character will return in the series’ final seven episodes beginning next month.

Emperor Palpatine himself, Ian McDiarmid, joins original film cast members James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Warwick Davis, and Genevieve O’ Reilly, and an ultimate mash-up of actors from literally every major genre franchise, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gina Torres, Tom Baker, Brent Spiner, Jason Isaacs, Katee Sackhoff, Clancy Brown, Peter MacNicol, Sam Witwer, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.  McDiarmid reprises his role as the franchise’s top bad guy seen in the re-edit of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.  Although other original characters were voiced by new actors for characters like Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bail Organa, Darth Maul, Wedge Antilles, and General Dodonna, this is a rare treat in any franchise to see the return of an actor to an iconic role so many years later (that is, except the Doctor Who franchise, which has seen 7 of the original 13 actors who played Doctors return along with nearly every companion in the series’ 50 year history as part of Big Finish Productions’ 17 years of audioplays).

Sam Witwer provided the voice of Palpatine earlier in the series, but Lucasfilm pulled in McDiarmid for one last curtain call.  What will be the ultimate fate of Lothal, another loss like Scarif and Alderaan?  Will Ahsoka return?  Why didn’t we see Grand Admiral Thrawn in Rogue One?  Does Captain Rex live to fight at Endor in Return of the Jedi?  Fans of the series are waiting to see what happens to the key characters, the crew of The Ghost.  We know from Rogue One that Hera and Chopper survive.  Will Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, or Sabine make it out of Star Wars Rebels, too?

The end, and the answers to these questions are almost here.  Check out this new trailer for the final episodes of Star Wars Rebels:

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This year Buffy Summers, one of the greatest characters in the history of sci-fi and fantasy television and the #1 kick-ass heroine of all time in any medium celebrates a major benchmark as the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns twenty.  Dark Horse Comics–publisher of the Buffy comic books and related characters from the series including titles featuring Angel, Spike, and Faith–announced this past week that a new trade edition of its Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The High School Years monthly series is available for pre-order, and an adult coloring book for the series was released last week.

The television series was groundbreaking, its first episode airing March 10, 1997, on The WB.  With high school and college as a backdrop, the incomparable showrunner Joss Whedon was able to address racism, identity, bullying, guilt, death, first love, and heartbreak using demons as metaphors.  Never before on television had a teenage girl been empowered like Buffy, with smart writing, lovable characters, fun monster-of-the-week episodes, action-packed choreographed battles, and emotional and dramatic arcs that continued over seven years from 1997 to 2003.  Buffy Summers, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, would go on to inspire other great shows with smart, strong, and empowered young women, including Veronica Mars and iZombie.

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It’s a subject of debate among Buffy fans, but some of the best episodes and story arcs of the series can be found in the first seasons of the series.  Dark Horse’s new collected edition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The High School Years, titled Parental Parasite, taps into fans’ nostalgia, taking readers back to the first season of the series, when Buffy’s mom starts to want more “quality time” just as Buffy must secretly fend of monsters as part of her nightly slaying duties.

Dark Horse has taken Buffy all the way into four seasons of stories beyond the finale of the TV series.  Check out a cover gallery after the cut, and links to hardcover and trade editions of Seasons 8, 9, 10, and 11.

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Unlike the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the canon series Star Wars Rebels takes place in the classic trilogy timeline, where we get to see our favorite characters, like Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian, C-3PO, and Yoda, with the original actors voicing the characters (Leia excluded) in an era that is the most loved by the fan base.  It takes place five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, and it’s canon, which means all that happens there influences Star Wars Episode VIII and onward.

As one example, if you think Finn (the Stormtrooper who defects to the Resistance in Star Wars: A Force Awakens) is the first famous Star Wars character to defect from the Empire to fight for the good guys, think again.  Season Three has many reasons for Star Wars fans to keep watching.

The biggest news has been revealed in the DisneyXD previews:  Grand Admiral Thrawn becomes a part of Star Wars canon beginning tonight, voiced by Lars Mikkelsen.  Created by Timothy Zahn in the first expanded universe Star Wars trilogy novel, the excellent Heir to the Empire, Thrawn was the rare intelligent Imperial officer like Grand Moff Tarkin.  Dressed in the formal white uniform seen worn by a background actor in the original Star Wars, he is the blue-skinned humanoid who helped rebuild the Empire after the second Death Star was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.  We even see from the preview that his attending ysalimir are back.

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But that’s not all.  There are many other reasons to come back for more:

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Rose McIver iZombie

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raise your hand if you wish you could watch more adventures of Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, Claire Bennet, or Tru Davies.  Fortunately you can get your fix here and there–you can find Buffy in comic books in Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Veronica continues in a series of novels by Rob Thomas, Heroes is coming back to NBC, and, well, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see Tru again.  But thanks to Veronica Mars’ creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, a new strong woman-led series might make you think they are all back.

iZombie premiered Tuesday night adding another winner to the pantheon of solid hit shows the CW Network has been churning out of late, alongside Arrow, The Flash, Reign, Supernatural, and the Vampire Diaries.  iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore, a cardiac medical student resident who ends up at a party on a boat where all the guests break out into an infection and become zombies.  Liv thinks fast and jumps off the boat, but not fast enough.  She’s scratched and dies, only to return as the undead.  Her so-called life crumbles from there and she ends up working for the medical examiner’s office where she can get easy access to unwanted brains, which she needs to eat to avoid getting mean and stupid.

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And the execution of that off-the-wall premise is simply brilliant.  There’s no hiding the fact that the voice of Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars is echoed in Liv–many scenes aren’t just banter between characters, but chock full of Liv’s inner-thought narration.  It was that storytelling device that was a big part of what made Veronica so accessible and endearing.  And it even works for a zombie.

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Orphan Black - Sarah at train station

Review by C.J. Bunce

From the first scene of Orphan Black you can’t help getting reeled in.  Although the pilot opens with a woman walking in front of a passenger train, the world of a street urchin instantly is propelled like a freight train into strange, new territory for fans of action and sci-fi.  Not since last year’s pilot for NBC’s short-lived series Awake were we so quickly certain a series had to be added to the must-watch list.  That’s saying something since there have been so many new series to try on this year, series like The Following, Cult, and even the more recent Bates Motel that have already started to stack up in the viewing backlog.  With series like Lost Girl, Psych, Arrow, Continuum, Grimm, Dallas, New Girl, and now Doctor Who back from hiatus locked-in the must-see TV realm, Orphan Black is pretty much a late but welcome entry, especially to the sparse Saturday night line-up.

Orphan Black changing appearances

Orphan Black has a completely cool look–big city, edgy, dark places, with an equally cool lead in Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany.  Maslany, who has a bit of the look of actress Summer Glau, plays a Brit who encounters what could be her twin at a train stop in New York City, but it’s all filmed in the not-quite-the-same looking streets of Ontario.  The women look each other in the eye and this is so well filmed you don’t question that these are two separate people despite Maslany playing both roles.  The pilot manages to take some extraordinary circumstances and render them believable, a rewarding feat successfully handled, due to good acting and a story that answers every question the audience could ask, and each question real people in these situations would ask.

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Fall TV banner

Now that the major networks have revealed their new TV series for the Fall line-up, what of the new series is worth adding to your must-watch list?  While we’re curious about the new offerings from the cable networks, we see many reasons to at least try out the pilot for several series, based on the genre, the subject, or the inclusion of some of our favorite actors.  We previewed Marvel’s Agents of Shield last week from ABC, and no other series looks to have as much appeal for genre fans as more Joss Whedon and Marvel characters.  But we’ve found 15 of the two dozen new series that have some reason to take notice, many with trailers that have been released with the announcements.  But be warned, despite some great actors, many of these previews look pretty bad and we’re only posting the trailers for you to judge for yourself.  if you want to save time, go directly to the previews for Almost Human, The Michael J. Fox Show, Dracula, and Sleepy Hollow, which look like the best of the new series the Fall has to offer–at least from the networks.

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Moving past Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the reason you might give Back in the Game a try is because of the lead, Psych’s Maggie Lawson, as well as James Caan.  It looks like a comedy version of Clint Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve.  As much as we like Lawson and Caan, we’ll probably skip this one.  Check it out for yourself:

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ABC also has a spinoff of its Once Upon a Time series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland We gave Once Upon a Time a try in its first season and it held our interest for several episodes because of series lead Jennifer Morrison, but an Alice in Wonderland spinoff?  The trailer makes this look better than Once upon a Time and it looks like more of a sequel than a real tie-in to Once Upon a Time.  And it does have John Lithgow playing the White Rabbit.  Check it out:

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NBC

The only reason we’ll mention Welcome to the Family is because of lead Mary McCormack, who we loved on In Plain Sight.  Other than that it looks like just another Parenthood series with an overdone culture-clash theme.  Here’s the trailer:

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Michael J. Fox is returning to TV with The Michael J. Fox Show.  On paper the description of this show looked almost cringe-worthy:  a series about a celebrity named Mike returning to TV who left to deal with his Parkinson’s.   But then you watch the trailer and only Michael J. Fox could make this look hilarious.  This series may be a very big win:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

(With spoilers)

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a dual role as estranged twin sisters in her new series Ringer on the CW network.  The “ringer” in the title is presumably Gellar as sister Bridget, who ends up as a pretender and “dead ringer” for high-class sister Siobhan.  The difficulty for Gellar will be getting viewers to forget she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The pilot episode featured non-stop plot twists, so many that it the show is very engaging, but begs the question: Can the writers keep up the momentum, or will this ultimately fall flat like Buffy co-star Eliza Dushku’s overly hyped but short-lived series Dollhouse?

Ringer plays more like Gellar’s early soap opera work but there may be more here to stick around for.  As Bridget, the focal character of the series, Gellar shines as a weatherbeaten survivor of one or more 12-step programs, barely making it in the world, and currently plea bargaining a prostitution rap in exchange for turning states’ evidence on a local crime boss.  But Bridget is smart and clever and concocts a plan to go away with a long-lost sister, Siobhan, who no one in Bridget’s current world knows about, a classy and smarter sister who is wealthy and has a seemingly perfect life.  But Siobhan too reveals a more vulnerable side and we slowly learn her life is in shambles in various ways.

On a boat ride the sisters bond but Siobhan drugs Bridget and by all accounts Siobhan throws herself overboard.  This leaves Bridget to step into her life like in The Riches or Dave, but Ringer is no comedy.  Bridget learns her sister had a dysfunctional relationship with her husband, played by Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower, Fantastic Four).  She easily takes to her sister’s best friend, only to learn her sister (and now she) is having an affair with her friend’s husband.  Yet we get the feeling she likes Siobhan’s husband and could make her new life work as his wife.  See the soap opera-esque branches starting to form?

As almost an afterthought she learns the problem behind her sister’s marriage: their son must have met some early death. This is befuddling and we only know this from a brief reaction to a snapshot on a shelf.  Wouldn’t this son have come up in a prior conversation?  We must assume this was also held back for some reason as part of Siobhan’s planned death.

To leave us further hanging, Bridget picks up the phone to learn her sister’s test results are back, Siobhan was pregnant, and Bridget repeats this aloud so now her new husband thinks she is pregnant.

But wait–there’s more.  We see a last-minute murder attempt on Bridget’s life.  And the person behind the hit?  Flash to Paris, France and here is the real Siobhan, alive and well after all.

  

Ringer will be the ideal star vehicle for Gellar and opportunity for Emmy glory.  She gets to play a down-and-out fish out of water with Bridget, and Bridget’s opposite in jet setter, fashion forward Siobhan, both caught up in this complicated web of deceit, with Gellar onscreen for every minute of it.  Do they pay actors twice for playing two roles?  Do you think Gellar asked her agent this question?  (Buffy would have).  Viewers will find themselves asking:  which sister is Gellar more like in real life?

Except for the huge Buffy fan base that is eager to see the next new Gellar project, the cards are stacked against any show like this being successful.  Will each episode be about lies built on other lies, with Bridget skating through all the barriers thrown at her?  How long can that story last, or will they play up the soap opera plotting to make this go on forever?  With most series cancelled abruptly we may never learn where the story will end.  Ringer’s producers and writers will need to offer more than twists to keep viewers watching.

That said, episode one pummeled us, along with character Bridget, with a lot of material to digest.  Gellar’s acting is more nuanced than her Buffy days, and what she has to offer new each week is what will likely keep viewers coming back for more.

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