Direct Beam Comms #44
Westworld – Grade: B+
Until now, Westworld on HBO was known as the series that was supposed to have premiered over a year ago but was pushed back when the production had to be shut down for “script problems” which is never a good sign. I was really looking forward to the show when it was first announced but after that maybe not as much. So, it’s with a bit of relief I’m happy to report that the first episode of Westworld is pretty good, with a few caveats at least.
Based on the film of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), Westworld is a kind of western Disneyland stocked with era appropriate robots who guests can interact with, have sex with and kill with impunity. Created by Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the park has been running for decades without a hitch. The robots can’t harm any living thing, they literally can’t even swat flies from their face lest they kill them, and are reborn anew each morning with the memories of the previous day having been erased.
And some of these memories are pretty disturbing — rape and murder are a daily occurrence in Westworld but since all memories are erased it’s not much of a problem. Except now there’s a glitch in the system. The older the robot is and the longer they’ve been around somehow allows them start remembering things from their past. And when things start happening and robots begin to go “buggy” with them almost having what looks like strokes, no one’s sure if these changes are a mistake in the code or if what’s happening is about to be the next step in robot evolution.
Think The Truman Show (the overseers of Westworld watch what’s going on via a control center that overlooks things) meets Groundhog Day (the robots experience the same day over and over again) with a bit of Crichton’s own Jurassic Park too (the park designed where nothing can go wrong goes wrong) all mixed together. But these sources just makes up a small part of Westworld, much of the story of the show is about the robots who may be finding some sort of consciousness with the overseers of Westworld, mainly Ford, trying to figure out if this is good or bad.
What does hurt the show though, which has been pointed out by other reviewers as well, is that while the robots of Westworld come off as mildly fully formed individuals, the living people there do not. The park guests, especially so, are mostly one dimensional. They’re there to mostly live out their most debaucherous fantasies — be it via having wild sex or killing whomever they want whenever the whim strikes them. And the robots can’t fight back. Their guns though they work on other robots are useless against a park guest.
Enter the guest known as “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) who has been coming to the park for 30 years. He’s the bad guy of the park and thinks that by causing destruction and mayhem that he’ll be able to uncover the hidden inner workings of Westworld. Some of which involves brutally attacking Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) the oldest robot at the park over and over again trying to get her memories to carry over from today’s trauma to tomorrow’s memory.
Which is another bit about Westworld that bothered me — the level of violence in the show is pretty extreme, even for HBO. And since the robots live the same day over and over again with small differences depending on how they interact with the park’s guests and each other, there’s always the opportunity for the same bad thing to happen over and over again.
Still, there’s a lot more good than bad in Westworld and I’m very intrigued to see where the series goes next.
Timeless – Grade: C+
The new Timeless series on NBC really wants to be an American version of Doctor Who, unfortunately I think it goes about it in the wrong way.
Here, a stand-in for Elon Musk (Paterson Joseph) has created a time machine which unfortunately has been stolen by evil Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic). Flynn and his terrorist crew wants to go back in time and change things for his own devious ends. Enter extremely good looking history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), extremely good looking ex-special forces Delta Force guy who punches people in the face Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) and average-scientist guy Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) who have to use the old, backup time machine to go back in time to try and stop Flynn who’s first target is the Hindenburg. Flynn doesn’t want the Hindenburg to explode, he wants to save it.
But will Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus have the skills to stop Flynn before he rewrites history and changes our present? Will Lucy and Wyatt ever get together? And can Wyatt control his urges to want to save people in the past and therefor change his/our present?
Timeless is interesting if it’s been done a few times before with the likes of Time Tunnel and Voyagers. In fact, what reminded me most about Timeless was the unaired pilot remake of Time Tunnel back in 2006.
Honestly, for a network show Timeless is above average. I think the problem lies in that it’s not that original. It feels like the show really wants to be the US version of Doctor Who with people traveling around in a time machine solving mysteries and fixing things. But I think where Timeless is going wrong is that it seems like they’re only going to be making stops in famous periods of the past from the Hindenburg, to the assassination of Lincoln and even a visit with the Rat Pack which really screams “network event TV” to me. Going to just parts of the past we all know about feels like a cheat to me.
It would seem that rather than concentrating on things that everyone’s heard of, and are therefor easy to try and predict and stop, if instead Flynn went after something a little more hard to guess what he was up to that he’d be able to do a lot more damage.
But maybe that’s thinking too much in-depth, Timeless is a network show after all.
Black Mirror season 4 TV spot
Iron Fist TV spot
The Reading List
- Frank Miller’s New York: The Icon Reveals the Places That Inspire His Work
- Tech billionaires are asking scientists for help breaking humans out of the computer simulation they think they might be trapped in
- The ‘Veep’ Head Writer David Mandel Builds a Private Museum
On the Horizon
It seems strange but I only have three major articles left in 2016 — one on the movie What We Do in the Shadows, Doctor Strange and Star Wars and after that I start my “best of” lists that will carry over into the first weeks of 2017. And I’ve actually got a lot planned out in 2017 too, from new movies coming out next year to how bloody good the movies from 1987 were.
This week in pop-culture history
- 1956: Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, Millennium and The Lone Gunman is born
- 1995: Strange Days opens in theaters