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Tag Archive: History Channel


Review by C.J. Bunce

Previewed with an elaborate display at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Project Blue Book at last has made it to television as the latest supernatural TV drama.  It got off to a slow start with its premiere episode this week, but it has potential, beginning with the performance of the series lead, Irish actor Aiden Gillen.  Gillen, known for roles in The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, and Bohemian Rhapsody, plays real-life Dr. Allen Hynek, a college professor brought into the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book program to help debunk the existence of UFOs beginning in the 1950s (he would later be a technical advisor on Close Encounters of the Third Kind–he actually coined the term “close encounter”).  Gillen plays the role like the lead in a John La Carré novel, and he’s a ringer for a younger Gary Oldman (think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).  He is partnered with British actor Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn (an amalgam of several figures from the history books), the skeptic charged with quashing any idea that UFOs exist under the orders of General James Harding, played by Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Walking Tall, Star Trek: First Contact, Arrow, Quantum Leap).  

A twist for the series is its effort to show a non-fiction side to The X-Files motif.  It’s one of History Channel‘s rare efforts (along with Vikings) to get back to its educational roots.  This includes a smartly added In Search Of -inspired coda citing specific data points used as background for the episode.  And it has a big name attached to it–Robert Zemeckis–as executive producer.  The two women leads may pull in even more viewers–Laura Mennell (The Man in the High Castle, Haven, Watchmen) as Hynek’s wife, and Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl, Orphan Black, Black Swan) as a newcomer to Hynek’s neighborhood.

The production looks good, a typical Vancouver production with a moderate budget, but what’s there is quality–something in the vibe of Wayward Pines.  So look for plenty of good vintage nostalgia–some pretty 1950s cars, a solid wardrobe from costumer Carla Hetland (In the Name of the King, Butterfly Effect, Garage Sale Mystery) and a believable era from the past put onto the screen from production designer Ross Dempster (Wayward Pines, Lost in Space).

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here.

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

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC).  No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans.  This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK.  Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for.  And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her.  This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.

Best Sci-fi TV SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel.  The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address.  Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi.  Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).

Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble CastMagnum PI (CBS).  If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series.  With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts.  Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original.  Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).

Best Series, Best Drama, Best ComedyLodge 49 (AMC).  Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other.  Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions.  If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series.  And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all.  An oddball Cheers?  A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness?  Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season.  Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz).  Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
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It’s time for borg‘s annual look at 2018’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 24 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2018 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked as well had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a former MI-5 agent, bounty hunters, assassins, doctors, defenders, advanced superhumans, superheroines, warriors, witches, and even a few cyborgs–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Better yet, here’s something we haven’t said before.  Several of our selections this year were played by women over 50.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2018:

Enfys Nest (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  For the first half of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Enfys Nest was the leader of a band of pirates, a character as cool and ruthless as anyone Han Solo ever faced.  But once she took off her mask,  it became clear how important she was, how significant her mission was–even more so than Han Solo’s own pursuit of mere wealth.  She foreshadowed what Han would later find with Leia, an early glimpse at a rogue and scoundrel who actually had some good in him.  When they joined forces, it made their characters even better.  And she became one of the best warriors in the Star Wars universe since the original trilogy.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Okoye (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War).  Is there any woman warrior as powerful and impressive in a fantasy movie this year as Danai Gurira’s Okoye?  We can’t think of any.  A smart commander, a brave soldier, a loyal ally.  Stalwart, devoted, steadfast, strong physically, intimidating and wise, with a keen unwavering ferocity, she represented the best of Wakanda, and fought bravely to defend the world at the last stand against Thanos.  (Disney/Marvel)

Higgins (Magnum PI).  Few television characters are as beloved as Jonathan Higgins in the original Magnum, p.i.  So it was going to be risky having any actor step into the role John Hillerman made famous.  So when the show honored the original character and late actor with such a finely tuned, updated character and actor, we took notice.  Perdita Weeks’s Juliet Higgins is everything Robin Masters was–the character we all thought Higgins was in secret.  We don’t know whether we’ll learn the truth this time around and what that truth will be, but as an ex-British secret service agent, she’s a James Bond for Thomas Magnum to partner with–literally running alongside the show’s star and fighting and shooting her way as an equal.  And the result?  Every episode of the first season was full of great action and fun.  (CBS)
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Sometimes the inbox offers up something really exciting and fun.  Today the HISTORY channel greenlighted ten episodes of the unscripted series In Search Of, hosted and executive produced by Zachary Quinto, who audiences all met in the series Heroes, and now everyone knows as the actor who played the parallel universe (“Kelvin Timeline”) version of Mr. Spock opposite Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock.  The original In Search Of… was your humble Editor’s own first introduction to Leonard Nimoy as a kid in the 1970s.  The series was a weekly show between 1977 and 1982, first briefly hosted by Rod Serling, but it became synonymous with Nimoy’s one-of-a-kind narration.  In 2002 Syfy Channel tried to reboot the show with our favorite FBI director actor Mitch Pileggi as the host, but that was short-lived.   Inspired by the iconic 1970s’ franchise, the new series will examine unexplained phenomena from all over the world.  As HISTORY stated in its press release: “UFOs and paranormal mysteries remain relevant as the Pentagon recently acknowledged a secret UFO program which investigated sightings of UFOs from 2007 – 2012.”

The Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, Atlantis, Amelia Earhart, Easter Island, the Loch Ness monster, Stonehenge, the Mayans, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania, the Shroud of Turin, D.B. Cooper, and the Holy Grail.  If you were a kid in the 1970s, the odds are you learned about all of these from Nimoy on this series.  The mix of mythology and lore and fact and fiction with the authority of Nimoy prompted me to check out books on the subjects from my local library to investigate further about which stories seemed plausible and which didn’t.  An updated instrumentation or at least a new recording of the classic theme song will be a must for fans of the original show.

“I am so excited to be reimagining ‘In Search Of’ and exploring new questions and phenomena with all of the advancements in science and technology from which we have benefitted in the past forty years since the original series first aired,” said Quinto.  “In the spirit of my late dear friend Leonard Nimoy, we intend to honor and perpetuate his endless curiosity about the world – and universe – in which we live.”

If you missed the series, just watch this classic episode from Nimoy, In Search Of… Bigfoot:

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Vikings 4b

Two years ago I interviewed two stars of Vikings here at borg.com just before the premiere of Season Two of the landmark series.  It’s hard to believe a show this good, and as historically and culturally focused as Vikings is, has managed to survive this long.  But it’s well-deserved–the drama and action rival any other series on television.  The second half of Season Four is coming soon, and we’ve seen a first look at what’s to come courtesy of the History Channel at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.

Swag available at this year’s SDCC booth for the series included a drinking horn and comic book from a story written by Michael Hirst.  “The Bastard,” was written by Ralph Tedesco and drawn by Andrea Mutti.

vikings-sdcc-comic-cover-titan

Panelists from the series this year included key players Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Clive Standen (Rollo), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn), Gustaf Skarsgard (Floki) and Michael Hirst (writer/creator).

Vikings season 4b

Check out this preview of part two of Season Four of Vikings, previewed this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con:

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Labyrinth shirt

Loot Crate continues to be one of the best buys on the market in the monthly collectibles grab bag space at less than $20 per month.  Across all boxes, whether it’s Nerd Block, Comic Con Box, or any other, the fantasy themed boxes only seem to come around once or so per year, but when they do it is easy to make the genre base happy.  And that was no less true this month with the Quest themed box from Loot Crate.

One of the most untapped franchises for fan merchandise is History Channel’s Vikings series.  We’ve talked about the comic books before here at borg.com, but have not stumbled across much for fans to buy.  So we were ecstatic to not only find a Vikings item in the crate but a cosplay-worthy 1:2 scale replica of Floki’s drinking horn complete with wearing strap.  Although you wouldn’t wear it if you’re after a full-sized large horn for your fantasy or historical costume, it will work fine for those who prefer carrying the smaller horns during Renaissance Faire season.  And it looks great.  Of course when you’re ready for the real thing, check out our friend’s shop, Wildman Drinking Horns, here.  Randy has the best real drinking horns around.

Vikings Floki Viking horn    Floki Vikings horn replica

With the passing of David Bowie and rejuvenated interest in the classic 1986 adventure film Labyrinth co-starring Jennifer Connelly, incorporating a clever labyrinthine box design and well-designed T-shirt was a good move for Loot Crate.  See the shirt design above and fold-out box below.

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Vikings banner season 4

Ragnar.  Lagertha.  Floki.  Rollo.  Helga.  Bjorn.

If you’ve ever dreamed of what the Viking world had been like, if you could spend a week in the world of any of your favorite television shows, MGM and History Channel’s Vikings series should be at the top of your list.  Nobody knows what it was like to live in any period of the past.  We rely on histories passed orally and in writing.  But it’s hard to imagine anyone getting so much more right than what the writers and art directors on Vikings have done.  The fourth season opener, which premieres in two weeks, is a relentless volley of action, excitement, and gritty drama.  After building conflicts, and the bloodiest most realistic battles on TV, it all comes together this season.  We’ve previewed the first four episodes of the season and Vikings could be on its way to be the year’s best drama.

This season History Channel has also added four episodes to its initial 16 episode order.  Beginning February 18, a new episode will air every Thursday for ten weeks with the remaining episodes to air later in the year.  Season three culminated with the battle in Paris, where Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) was victorious but returned to Kattegat nearly dead, leaving the legendary scheming of those around him–his wife Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and his oldest son, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig).  Meanwhile the driven Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) develops a new relationship with her former lieutenant Kalf (Ben Robson), Rollo (Clive Standen) betrays all by remaining in France and the incredible character Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) must answer for the death of the Christian priest Athelstan.  And King Ecbert (Linus Roache) strategizes to defend Wessex from Ragnar.

Lagertha

New to the cast this year is Peter Franzén (The Gunman) as King Harold Finehair, a man who seeks to be King of Norway and a potential threat to Ragnar, Jasper Pääkkönen (Jet Trash) as Halfdan The Black, King Harold’s younger brother; and Dianne Doan (Descendants) as Yidu, a true newcomer to the world of the Vikings who fascinates both Ragnar and Aslaug.

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Ragnar Lothbrok

Last year I interviewed two stars of Vikings here at borg.com just before the premiere of Season Two of the landmark series.  It’s hard to believe a show this good, and as historically and culturally focused as Vikings has managed to survive this long when so many other good series get cut from the network and cable line-up.  Season Four has been filmed and will premiere next year, but we have a first look at what’s to come.

Three new major players will enter the scene in Season Four: Peter Franzen (The Gunman), Jasper Paakkonen (Frozen Land, Secret Lives), and Dianne Doan (Once Upon a Time).  Franzen plays Scandinavian King Harald Finehair, a threat to series lead Ragnar (Travis Fimmel).  Paakkonen will play Halfdan the Black, Finehair’s younger brother.  Doan will portray Yidu, a new Chinese character who, along with Ragnar’s growing sons, will have a big role in the next season, which skips ahead a few years after the events in last season’s stunning finale.

Vikings season 4

Historians also know the role Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is destined to have in the series.  How the series writers reveal her role, the fate of Ragnar, and the subplot with Alyssa Sutherland’s Aslaug, is plenty reason to watch this coming season.

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Travis Fimmel as Ragnar and Alyssa Sutherland as Aslaug in Vikings

Expect more Viking intrigue and action, more Viking drama, and a realistic historical look at Viking life in Season Two of Vikings, premiering tonight at 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.  The series introduces new characters and shakes up the very fabric of the universe centered on the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok.  Based on Viking sagas and characters from Norse mythology, Vikings is a series filled with both political posturing, hand to hand combat, giant sailing vessels, and a realistic look at the Viking world.

Last week I interviewed series lead Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar, and series newcomer Alyssa Sutherland, who has a key role in Season Two as Aslaug, a princess who drives a wedge between Ragnar and his family.

Vikings Season 2

Fimmel sees his role as the Viking warrior as the best project he has yet taken on.  “It’s definitely my favorite.  It has a lot to do with Michael Hurst, who created [Vikings].”  He credits his positive experiences on Vikings to the crew for the show.  “The Irish people do a tremendous job.  They’re very talented and very efficient and really make the best of the budget we have.”

The series is filmed an hour south of Dublin, Ireland.  During filming Fimmel lived in the country on a lake near one of the Vikings sets.  Although he plays the leader of the Viking tribe, he sees himself as just one of the crew off the set.  “I don’t let them treat me any differently–We all make fun of each other… We all get on very well.”

As you’d expect, filming the epic Viking longboat scenes is as much fun as it appears.  “We had a lot of tremendous fun on the boats.  This year we go out on the ocean–and it’s just beautiful.  Beautiful landscape.  The boat stuff’s really enjoyable.”

Ragnar and Floki season 2 episode one

Fimmel confirmed that full-scale longboats are used for the series, created based on historical research, and not just filming models or CGI creations.  “They’re made to scale.  They definitely float and definitely work and definitely sail.”

Alyssa Sutherland, who was introduced in the last episode of Season One as a temptress of sorts for Ragnar, portrays a princess from Norse mythology who played a pivotal role in the legend of Ragnar.  Sutherland also gets some scenes on the Viking longboats in Season Two.  “This season I got a bit of boat time, she said.  “We were really lucky.  It was this gorgeous day.  The perfect day to be out in the boat in the islands.  You really do feel a part of it.”

Alyssa Sutherland in Vikings

As the daughter of Sigurd and the shield-maiden Brynhildr, Sutherland’s character Aslaug is decked-out in beautiful, historically drawn ninth century costumes.

Sutherland said it was a treat to be able to work with the talented Vikings costume designer, Emmy Award winner Joan Bergin.  “Right at the beginning of the season when I went in for my first fitting, before I went in to see her I knew [the costumes] were going to be stunning…  She just knocked my expectations right out of the park.  It was fabulous.”

The authentic costumes help inform Sutherland’s character and performance.  “Working in these costumes–it’s so much easier to get into character when you have something on you that makes you feel so much a part of it…  Costumes are a really important part of your character and feeling you really are that person…  They really are gorgeous.”

Aslaug and friend in Vikings

Working on the set of Vikings brought some authenticity to the experience for Sutherland, and that authenticity helped her to portray the character of Aslaug. “Everything–every detail, from the sets, the costumes, the hair and the make up, the props… Absolutely everything has so much detail in it.  I’ve been on other sets and it feels a little bit like a set.”

She says with the Vikings series, it’s a different experience.  “Everything is so realistic.  It’s really hard to describe unless someone sees it.  It just makes being in character and being a part of the story so much easier for an actor.”

Catch the Season Two premiere of Vikings tonight at 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

Vikings prequel comic book SDCC 2013 exclusive

The History Channel pulled out all the stops at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend for its Vikings series.  If you didn’t catch the first season of Vikings, which we previewed earlier this year here at borg.com, you missed out on a series that rivaled Game of Thrones.  Vikings publicity was all over Comic-Con and we even landed great swag–this exclusive SDCC 2013 comic book prequel for the series, just begging to be made into a monthly series.  Vikings writer and creator Michael Hirst (who also wrote the comic story) was on-hand along with book artists Dennis Calero and Anthony Spay for signings.

You could also land a set of four exclusive lenticular trading cards at the Vikings events:

Vikings SDCC cards  Vikings SDCC trading cards Continue reading