Resin Heroes

Direct Beam Comms #63


Humans Season 2, Episode 1 Grade: B

Bishop: “I prefer the term ‘Artificial Person’ myself.”

The whole idea of synthetic people, robots, androids, call them what you will, gaining, or trying to gain sentience is really nothing new. Data, on Star Trek: The Next Generation spent seven seasons of TV trying to do just that and I think there’s an argument to be made that HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey gained sentience, and that’s what drove him nuts. But just because all this has been done many, many times before doesn’t mean that story creators shouldn’t be using those same types of characters or exploring those same kinds of stories today. Even if they’re treading over the same story ground that others have already gone over before their stories will be different since they’re creating them through the lens of the present.

I don’t know if it’s the world we’re currently living in or something else but stories about robots becoming self-aware is really popular these days, with movies like Ex Machina and Ghost in the Shell and TV series like Westworld and Humans all exploring this same idea and coming at it in very different ways.

Humans is a series that originates in the UK and aires here in the US on AMC, the second season of which debuted last week. The series takes place in a very-near future world where “synths” are everywhere, do all the jobs that most people really don’t want to do and have even started turning up in homes to act as housekeepers, cooks, nannies, etc. But one scientist invented a code that made some synths self-aware, and in the first season these synths start coming together to try and escape the officials who want to wipe their memories since the fear is that self-aware synths would be the first step in knocking mankind down a few pegs on the evolutionary ladder.

The second season of Humans continues the story of the synths on the run and introduces a few new characters, namely Dr Athena Morrow (Carrie Ann Moss) who seems to have come up with the next step in computer artificial intelligence except she needs more computing power, and sees these self-aware synths as the final step in her AI quest.

Humans reminds me the most of the movie Blade Runner, in so much as it has the synths on the run from people who are out to kill them. But not so much in the tone and feel of that movie to the TV show. In many ways Humans is a bright series that takes place in gleaming offices and warm homes. I’d say that in tone and structure Humans is more akin to a 1990s series than the more modern series of today — and I don’t mean that as an insult.


Ghost in the Shell trailer #2

“They created me, but they cannot control me.”

The Reading & Watch List

Rumor Control

So far this year I’ve got articles written, or mostly written, to ones that will start publishing in early April. I’ve got one on Kong: Skull Island, Power Rangers almost complete and my annual summer movie preview in the works too. And another article after that which will either be about movies of 2007 or more probably a self-examination of my TV watching habits then we’ll be in the summer article season. I’ll tell you, it’s much better to be looking forward out a few months to things I’ll be writing when the weather’s started warming up than looking out a few months to things I’ll be writing about when it’s cold and cruddy outside.

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1932: Majel Barrett of Star Trek is born
  • 1969: Thomas Jane of The Mist and The Expanse is born.
  • 1982: Swamp Thing premiers in theaters
  • 1985: Brazil opens
  • 1993: Army of Darkness opens in theaters

Screaming for attention: 400 TV shows and counting

Late last year researches at FX Networks found that there were more than 400 scripted TV shows in 2015. Not 400 HOURS of scripted shows, but 400 DIFFERENT shows. Let that sink in for a minute. If there’s 400 scripted shows and each show has on average 10 episodes, some would have more and some less, that’s something like around 4,000 hours of NEW TV produced last year. To put that number in perspective, with that amount of content you could watch nothing but new TV shows 24 hours a day from December to mid-June.

Humans on AMC

Humans on AMC

And that’s not including news programs and game shows and variety shows and reality and TV movies either. That’s 4,000 hours of scripted dramas and comedies.

Part of why there’s so much “stuff” out there is that every channel wants to have a hit series that draws in viewers, which might turn a channel very few are watching, and therefor getting less ad dollars, into something many are watching and talking about and getting lots of ad dollars. Case in point AMC. A decade ago AMC aired classic movies, hence the name; American Movie Classics. Then in 2007 they launched Mad Men to great acclaim and have since launched other popular series like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Before, AMC was a channel that hardly anyone watched. Now, AMC is one of the most watched spots on TV and one that now makes a lot of money.

And with viewers “cutting the cord” as it were online services are also trying to get in with scripted shows too. Netflix and Amazon have have been creating series specifically for their service for a few years now and now other platforms like Hulu and YouTube are getting in on the game too with content of their own.

Jessica Jones on Netflix

Jessica Jones on Netflix

I watch a lot of TV, probably too much. And even with my prodigious TV habit I couldn’t watch everything last year that I probably would have in years past. For example, the series Humans on AMC looked interesting enough but I had too many things to watch at that time and never got around to it. And with a show like Jessica Jones on Netflix I did watch the first episode but when it didn’t immediately connect with me I moved onto something else.

Now I’m not saying that I’ll won’t go back and try and watch Jessica Jones or Humans again this summer when there used to be fewer new things to on, but I can’t guarantee it since nowadays there are just as many new and interesting series premiering during the summer as there are in the fall/winter months.

New shows last summer like Halt and Catch Fire, True Detective and The Carmichael Show, all of which I enjoyed a great deal, took whatever time I would normally have to checkout things I’d missed during the fall and instead put the focus on them. In fact, the only show I did catchup on last summer was Fargo, and that was only because a friend highly recommended it.

Maron on IFC

Maron on IFC

Which makes me wonder, what am I all missing? Years ago I was only ever able to get into The Wire when I caught up with it after HBO aired the first few seasons before the start of the third. Up until then I’d watch a few episodes at the start of each new season and give up. It was only because I had the time to catch up on it that I was able to be sucked in by that wonderful show.

But the last few years that really hasn’t been happening for me. I tell myself that I need to watch the latest season of House of Cards or Justified or Maron and something else new will appear on my pop-culture radar and I find myself putting off things for one more season.

I suppose the solution to all this is to count my blessings, too much of a good thing is better than nothing, and wait for the day that the eventual collapse of all this good stuff which is inevitable. There’s no way that all the networks and cable channels and online services can be pouring BILLIONS into these new shows with all expected to make back any money.

Maybe what I need to do is to get a colossal DVR and record EVERYTHING I might be interested in when the day comes after the pop-culture collapse when the only thing on to watch are reruns of The Big Bang Theory and episodes of Redneck/Swamp-Truckers/Fishermen/Miners/Pawn on The Discovery Channel.