TV Talk: Binge It! Humans

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OK, sci-fi TV buddies, I’ve been going through some serious withdrawal since the gripping, “Orphan Black,” “12 Monkeys” and fantasy fav, “Grimm” fluttered away to hiatus. And don’t even get me started on our year-long time-out from “Doctor Who.”

So, thumbing through my various watch lists, I came across “Humans.” Wow.

A species of my absolute favorite British-American hybrid, “Humans” explores what happens if we have truly human-like artificial intelligence. I’ve got to wonder, given all the science-fiction writers who’ve warned of what will come, why we continue to pursue it, but hey, some people never read to the end.

Unlike much American-based sci-fi, British science-fiction isn’t about explosions and bullets and chases, whether in space or in the future or in the past or on the way from the past into the future. British shows tend to explore the cultural questions, the impact on relationships, the way technology shapes our interaction with the world.

There’s a deeply reflective quality to it, both in the examination of issues and in the sense that it — like all good sci-fi — mirrors us back to us through a more palatable filter.

“Humans” accomplishes all of these things while still remaining captivating television. It’s quick, the plotting inevitable yet not predicable, and the acting is phenomenal.

It’s also got Jen (Katherine Parkinson) from “The IT Crowd,” so, I mean, there’s that. And she’s amazing.

“Humans” airs on AMC in the US and Channel 4 in the UK, and will be released in the UK first; it’s coming back to the US some time in 2017. Plenty of time to catch up! It’s available to stream from Amazon Prime, or directly from AMC, though you’ll need your cable provider info.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available atSecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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TV Talk: Binge It! My Mad Fat Diary

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It’s another British show! You all know how much I enjoy my across pondular entertainment, and this one was exceptional. Though I strive to make these TV talks spoiler free, there is one aspect regarding the structure of the show I have to raise, but I’ll try to keep it academic.

Still with me? Fab.

“My Mad Fat Diary” follows Rae, a 16-year-old girl living in Stamford, Lincolnshire in 1996. Recently released from a psychiatric ward, we’re with her, through the tool of her diary, as she navigates teenaged life out in the world. Based on Rae Earl’s (purportedly) real diaries from 1989, published as My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary, it’s a must-watch for anyone who’s ever, you know, been a teenager.

Though it’s about teenagers, it isn’t really for teenagers. It’s a show packed with truths about who you think you are versus how others see you; truths about relationships in all directions; truths about coping, no matter your stage of life.

It’s extremely well-written, with fleshed-out, believable characters, and enough humor to balance its sometimes stark subject matter.

But perhaps the most intriguing thing about “My Mad Fat Diary” (and here’s the possibly spoilerly bit) is the use of the unreliable narrator. It’s very much a first-person story, and that choice is used to excellent effect later on in the series.

It’s those seemingly small writing decisions that accumulate and tell a compelling, must-watch story. And it’s a complete story. The entire show is available to stream on Hulu.

Or binge. I dare you to try to stop.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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TV Talk: 12 Monkeys

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As usual for TV Talk, no spoilers!

If you follow me on Twitter (what? You don’t? Heresy!), you’ve probably noticed my, uhmm, somewhat fanatical devotion to the SyFy time-travel show “12 Monkeys.” It’s a writers’ show, and if you enjoy fully-realized thoughtful writing, you should be watching it.

What’s that, hypothetical reader? You remember a movie by that same name many years ago? Yes, the series is actually based on the movie, but it is so very much more than that. Get your rain ponchos and umbrellas ready, because I’m about to gush.

Hmm, hypothetical reader? And galoshes? Yes, they’d probably be wise.

With the advent of streaming services, and the tendency of outlets like Netflix to release a whole season of a show at once, the very fabric of television has changed. Now, instead of episodic shows which couldn’t rely on a viewer consistently watching every single week without fail, television has switched places with movies to become the long-form of visual storytelling.

With a show like “12 Monkeys,” — like many of the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu shows — writers now usually have  about 12 or 13 episodes, totaling anywhere from 9 to 13 hours, to plot an arc. Compare that to a movie’s 2-3 hours. The opportunity for nuance of character alone is incredible, let alone intricacies of plot.

And the plotting is intricate. Astoundingly intricate. Here’s the thing with writing about time: it’s hard. Time is complicated, as I discovered when writing my own novel dealing with it. And there is an enormous temptation to cheat, because cheating is so much easier than unpicking the consequences of your knotted-up plots.

(That actually sounds like a pretty good assessment of life in general, but I digress).

“12 Monkeys” never cheats. Like all well-done science-fiction, it creates its rules and it stands by them resolutely. And yet it manages to surprise me minute by minute.

That’s not easy to do.

It takes up every inch of the space it’s allotted, and the finished product, thanks to the writers, directors, the cast, the crew and showrunner Terry Matalas, is breathtaking.

It also has one of my absolute favorite genius nut jobs on television, Jennifer Goines, played the insanely (ha!) talented Emily Hampshire. Anyone who’s been around here knows I’m pretty partial to genius nut jobs.

All that aside, it’s just plain fun to watch. And tweet; the cast and crew are always active on twitter, constantly interacting with fans, which makes live-tweeting one big time-travely party.

Have a great binge this weekend (once you start, you won’t be able to stop) and come hang out on Monday, at 9/8c!

Yes, hypothetical reader, it’s now safe to remove your rain gear. What’s that? Stop talking to you because you’re trying to watch?

Very wise, hypothetical reader. Very wise indeed.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!