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Direct Beam Comms #66


The Americans Season 5 episode 1 Grade: B+

The fifth and penultimate season of the series The Americans debuted last week on FX. I like this show a lot but as the series has progressed I think some cracks have started to appear in the structure of the show.

The last five season of The Americans have dealt with parents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), a seemingly typical American as apple pie family living in early 1980s Virginia. Except they’re anything but, the Jennings are actually Soviet agents hidden in suburbia who spend their days as the owners of a travel agency and nights doing bad things for mother Russia. Be it stealing secrets, helping fellow agents or even murdering the opposition. And as the series progressed and the missions the Jennings were sent on became more and more dangerous, a good chunk of last season of The Americans was about the Jennings trying to steal a sample of the virulent and deadly bioweapon, Philip and Elizabeth were also forced to bring their teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the family night business since she’d be the perfect commie spy for the 1990s.

Except that whereas Philip and Elizabeth both chose the cloak and dagger life and were borne in Russia, one day Paige went from a typical American teen girl who wanted her MTV to the next finding out that her entire life was literally a lie that lead to a breakdown.

What I find most fascinating about The Americans is that it’s a series that features the bad guys as stars of the show. Philip and Elizabeth are doing everything in their power to bring down our way of life, to try and make it so that in the 1990s it’s not Communism that’s left on the scrap-heap of history, it’s Democracy. And every time they steal some special microchip or murder an American scientist or foil the FBI they’re one step closer to their goal. What’s amazing is that we, as the audience, collectively hold our breath as Elizabeth is almost discovered by a guard or quivers in fear when Philip might have been infected with that virulent bioweapon. When, in fact, since they’re the bad guys we should be cheering anything that might bring their demise.

All of which makes for some brilliant TV.

The one bit about The Americans that’s bothered me the last few years, those above mentioned “cracks,” is that the Jennings take waaaay too many risks which is starting to push the bounds of believability a bit for me personally. They’re called on to steal state secrets, murder people, shepherd assets out of the country, break into classified areas, and on, and on, and on… All of which I’m sure the Soviets did in the 1980s, but I’m guessing they had more than a two agents do. It’s like each week the Jennings stick their figurative necks out to do something that if they were caught would at best mean uprooting the family and running back to Russia and at worse death in a blaze of glory and each week they’re able to squeak out a win. But realistically, by taking on so many challenges and risks I’d think that one time they’d screw up, they’d do something wrong and one of them would be killed or caught which would bring their entire lives crashing down around them.

Still, this is a minor quibble since The Americans has been, and still is, one of the best things on TV and puts most other drama series to shame.

Time After Time Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B-

I’m sure it was unintentional, but the creators of the new ABC series Time After Time have totally won the “2016–2017 TV Bingo” game with their series that hits two of the most popular types of new shows this season; it’s a series that’s based on a film that’s about time travel.

Freddie Stroma and Genesis Rodriguez

Freddie Stroma and Genesis Rodriguez


Following the structure of the 1979 movie, TV’s Time After Time stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells who just didn’t write about time machines in the 1800s, he invented one and Josh Bowman as Dr. John Stevenson who’s alter-ego just so happens to be Jack the Ripper. Just before he was captured by the police and just before Wells was able to test it, Stevenson rode the time machine to present day and arrived in New York City with Wells chasing close behind. They end up in New York since that’s where Wells’ machine was on display. And it’s up to Wells and assistant museum curator Jane Walker (Geneis Rodriguez) to hunt and stop Stevenson as he picks up in 21st century New York where he left off in 19th century London with stabbing lots of people.

The first episode of Time After Time isn’t bad, if it does seem to move a breakneck speed as we go from 19th century London to 21st century New York to Walker and Wells hunting Stevenson in the blink of an eye. The series isn’t bad even if it’s not something I would probably watch on a weekly basis. What concerns me most about the show, though, is that it seems like the first season will deal with the hunt for the Ripper. Which to me seems like there’ll be a lot of episode with Wells and Walker almost capturing the Ripper before he slips away until the end of the season where something big will happen. To which I ask if this is what’s going to happen, why watch the season and instead just tune in for the season finale?

Making History Series premiere episode 1 Grade: B

Leighton Meester, Adam Pally and Yasir Lester

The new FOX comedy series Making History is another time travel series this season with university facilities manager Dan (Adam Pally) and professor Chris (Yassir Lester) traveling back to 1775 via Dan’s time machine that’s just so happens to be hidden a large gym bag. In 1775 Dan’s a cool guy with limitless access to ham, which the locals adore, and has a girlfriend (Leighton Meester) who loves his songs like “My Heart Will Go On.” But on his latest trip when Dan returned to present day something wasn’t right with Starbucks serving tea instead of coffee and students eating fish and chips so he contacts history prof Chris to help fix things in the past to return our present to normal.

In some ways, Making History is the comedy version of the NBC drama Timeless, except whereas Timeless has a villain intentionally wrecking the past to try and change the present, Making History has inept Dan unintentionally “Homer J. Simson-ing” the past which alters the present.

One episode in and I feel like Making History does have some promise. It does fall into the “boy, aren’t people from the past dumb” cliche that crops up in time travel series — lampooned to great effect in the Austin Powers movies — but that doesn’t quite work here. But on the whole I enjoyed Making History and am interested in seeing how the series plays out over the season since the first episode ends without any resolution with Dan and 1775 girlfriend arriving in our present and finding that they’ve got to go back and rescue Chris.

Better Call Saul season 3 promo

“You will pay.”


Evil Dead II

It took me many years to finally see Evil Dead II which came out 30 years ago this week. I was well aware of the movie from horror magazines like Fangoria but for whatever reason never saw it until about 10 years ago. I’d seen Army of Darkness when that originally came out on VHS but got on a The Evil Dead kick after that film was finally released on DVD and decided that I couldn’t call myself a fan of The Evil Dead if I didn’t also see Evil Dead II. And, to be honest, I was underwhelmed. In many ways Evil Dead II is a bit of a remake of Evil Dead with most of the same crew but with bigger and better splatter effects. At the time my favorite The Evil Dead movie was Army of Darkness with the crude, yet extremely effective original The Evil Dead as second with Evil Dead II pulling up the rear. But over the years as I’ve been more and more exposed to Evil Dead II I’ve found myself more and more a fan of that film.

It’s true that Evil Dead II is kind’a a remake of The Evil Dead but only really in the first 20 minutes. After that it ventures into its own territory. And it’s a great territory — with extremely effective special effects that covers everything from headless corpses flying around rooms to detached hands crawling across floors and even great monster makeup too.

Nowadays, I’m not quite sure which The Evil Dead movie is my favorite since they all have their strengths. The original The Evil Dead is a great horror movie that’s practically a blueprint for burgeoning horror filmmakers on how to create their own scary films without studio backing. Evil Dead II is an out of control gorefest with chainsaws buzzing, axes flying and shotguns blasting. And The Army of Darkness exists on a whole other realm from those two movies, being this rare comedy-horror gem that at times is really fun while also being really scary too.

But whenever I think of The Evil Dead franchise in general I keep coming back to Evil Dead II as the movie that best represents it as a whole. It’s got the perfect balance of comedy and horror and gore and action that really hasn’t been seen in the movies in the last 30 years.



There were a few announcements for some seriously cool Aliens toys last week. First up, Super7 is releasing a massive 18-inch Aliens toy that’s inspired by the 1979 Kenner Alien toy that disgusted parents, was pulled from shelves and now commands high prices on the vintage toy market. The Super7 toy is about as close as one could get to the design of the 1979 toy without copying it, yet it still feels fresh and unique. Unfortunately, this new Aliens toy costs nearly $200 which puts it just out of my price range.

A little more affordable, and a lot more smaller, are Alien/s/3/4, Predator and Prometheus statues from Eaglemoss. The figurines stand about 5-inches tall and retail for around $30 each.

The Reading & Watch List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1943: David Cronenberg, director of The Fly, The Dead Zone and Scanners is born
  • 1951: Kurt Russell, Escape from New York, The Thing and Stargate is born
  • 1956: Forbidden Planet premiers in theaters
  • 1971: The Andromeda Strain is released
  • 1973: The Crazies opens
  • 1984: The Ice Pirates opens in theaters
  • 1987: Evil Dead II premiers in theaters
  • 1989: Leviathan premiers

The Americans season 5 poster

Direct Beam Comms #15


The Carmichael Show

The Carmichael Show returned last week for a second season and is still pretty darn funny. The first preview episode that aired a few Wednesdays ago entitled “Everyone Cheats” was funny enough as were the two that aired last Sunday night; “Fallen Heroes” and “The Funeral.”

The Carmichael Show has a lot of controversial elements, from the characters debating on seeing Bill Cosby in concert even with his trial looming to the pros and cons of cheating on significant others. While it might have controversial elements, it never goes out of its way to simply be controversial, to try and stir up controversy for controversy’s sake. Instead the show tackles weighty subjects head on and doesn’t pull any punches. B

The Americans


Bill Sienkiewicz Space Ghost comic cover

The Americans returned last week for a fourth season — which is amazing in of itself since the series has never been embraced by the masses so simply getting more than one season is a huge win for those of us who are fans of this show. This new season felt very much like a direct continuation from the last, with daughter Paige learning of her parent’s dual identities and exactly the wrong time in her life and falling into the abyss of depression.

Of course there’s loads of sexy spy stuff too!

The only other thing I the creators of The Americans could’ve done differently this season would have been to move the series ahead a few years in time. To pick up at some point in the future where the Jennings are a bit older and have passed Paige’s crisis where how they dealt with it could have been told via flashbacks. But sometimes handling story this way feels like gimmicky, so I’m not at all disappointed the creators of The Americans handled things like they did.

One prediction for this new season; some major characters won’t make it until the end — and I’m not talking about Pastor Tim whom I’m surprised has made it as long as he has. 😉 I mean it wouldn’t surprise me if a character like Martha or Stan aren’t around at to see the last episode this year. B+


The second season of The Punisher & Daredevil Show, err…, I mean the second season of Daredevil was released on Netflix Friday and so far I’ve watched the first episode. It was actually kind’a great. My big worry was that the Punisher would be “saved” for later episodes, but he had a big presence in the very first episode and from what I’ve heard seems to be a big part of the second season of the show overall so I’m very happy.

The New York City of Daredevil is an interesting place. It seems to take place in some dark reality where the “bad” New York of the 1970s and 1980s never ended and went right into the 21st century. New York City in Daredevil is a dark and dirty and dangerous place where someone like Daredevil really could exist to try and bring order to all this chaos.

Yet into Daredevil trying to bring order is injected a true agent of chaos; The Punisher. Someone who’s simply interested in destroying all crime in the city by any means necessary be it by gun or grenade or garrote. A

Malcolm-Jamal Warner & Max Casella

It’s great to see Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Max Casella on TV again. Warner* is best known for playing Theo in The Cosby Show and Casella* as Vinnie Delpino in Doogie Howser, M.D. Warner currently plays Al Cowlings in The People vs OJ Simpson on FX and Casella as Julie Silver in Vinyl on HBO.

Though that’s not quite fair, over the years Warner and Casella have been in many movies and films outside of those roles. For example, Casella did 28 episodes of The Sopranos* and Warner has appeared in Community, Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story to name a few.


Star Trek

Other than budget, I think the main difference between the Star Trek TV series and the Star Trek movies are there are more people on the bridge of the Enterprise in the movies than the TV shows. 😉

X-Men: Apocalypse


Starship Troopers Roger Young 35″ Long Studio Scale Model Kit

The $650 model in question

The $650 model in question

I’m a huge fan of Starship Troopers and am always on the lookout for a good collectible from the film. And a few collectibles have been released for the film the last few years, but they’re always quite expensive. Take this $650 MODEL KIT, yes, this is a kit you put together yourself that costs $650!

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • William Shatner turns, and Leonard Nemoy would’ve turned, 85 this week.
  • The last episode of the modern Battlestar Galactica aired seven years ago this week.

Direct Beam Comms #14


The Carmichael Show

The Carmichael Show

The Carmichael Show

This first season of this hilarious comedy that’s a modern version of the classic series All in the Family aired last summer and now a second season begins tonight at 10PM(EST) on NBC after a preview last Wednesday. I liked the first season of The Carmichael Show a lot, but my only worry here is its timeslot; 10PM Sunday night?

It seems weird that NBC’s programming a comedy in a space almost always reserved for dramas and reality TV. So either NBC doesn’t really have faith in The Carmichael Show and is sticking it wherever they have a hole no matter if it fits or not, or they have A LOT of faith in the show and figure they can put it wherever and people will still watch it.

The Americans

One of the best series on TV, The Americans, returns for its fourth season this Wednesday on FX. Both a spy-drama and a family drama, The Americans focuses on the Jennings’ family with mom played by Keri Russell and dad Matthew Rhys who seem like normal yuppies but are really Soviet agents living and operating in early 1980s Washington DC which itself is interesting enough. But it’s when the added element of what the Jennings’ secrets are doing to their kids, more specifically their daughter played by Holly Taylor who learned of her parent’s double lives at the end of last season, is where The Amercians excels. Secrets and lies are a cancer for families. And while the Jennings might be brilliant agents, what they do for a living is slowly tearing their family to pieces.

What I find most interesting with The Americans is that with the benefit of knowing how history plays out between the USA and USSR, the Jennings are playing for the losing team. And no matter how brilliant they are in penetrating various governmental agencies and stealing secrets, at the end of the day nothing they do will have mattered. The CCCP won’t see the 1990s and all the the Jennings will have done is poisoned any hope that they or even their kids will have any happiness in the future.


All episodes of the second season of Daredevil on Netflix debut next Friday, March 18. How excited am I for the return of this show? Very! How excited am I with the Punisher being a character in this show? So frickin’ much my face is starting to hurt from all the smiling.


Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2


10 Cloverfield Land

He is the law!

He is the law!

I wonder if the original Cloverfield had been more successful at the box office if the 10 Cloverfield Land sequel that’s not really a sequel would be more about giant monsters tearing apart major cities and less about people trapped in underground bunkers?


This Judge Dredd 1:4 Statue looks amazing. The design feels like it’s taken right from the 2012 Dredd movie. But it’s the price that’s not that amazing — a whopping $430!

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • Kurt Russell aka Snake Plissken aka R.J. MacReady turns 65 and officially becomes a senior citizen on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Forbiddon Planet opened in theaters 60 years ago this week in 1956.
  • Evil Dead II premiered in theaters in 1987.

Direct Beam Comms #11



I thought Vinyl on HBO was pretty good. I have a little knowledge of music in the 1970s, but not a lot — does Almost Famous count? And I liked how the story of a record exec in the ’70s who’s life is slowly unravelling from a few bad business deals and cancerous acquaintances unfolds.

That being said, my big fear for Vinyl is that what worked so well in the first episode — namely a crazy pace that went from 0 to 100 and back to 0 again over and over and the drug fueled mania of the times will be discarded moving forward for a more traditional structure. Not that this will doom the show, just that it might.

The Americans season 4 poster

The Americans season 4 poster

The creators of Vinyl, Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese, also did this interesting thing with the story by jumping around in time. We get an opening scene of insanity, then a cut to “five days earlier” like a lot of shows do these days but the creators of Vinyl also do a fair amount of jumping far back to, what I’m assuming is, the early ‘60s when the main character Richie (Bobby Cannavale) was just getting into the business and was learning the ropes on how to rip off the musicians and make loads of money himself. And this isn’t just once, it was over and over again and was an integral part of the show.

I can’t imagine how much the music rights for the songs used in Vinyl cost. There’s a lot of original music from the ‘60s and ‘70s played throughout. And though there is a scene with Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin’s manager backstage at some show, Zep songs must’ve cost too much since that’s the one scene I noticed they used sound-alike music for.

Now that I think about it, Vinyl is Almost Famous via Martin Scorsese but from the business side “ruining” music. B

The X-Files

As we approach the end of The X-Files mini-series I decided to look back on episodes of the show that I especially liked, new and classic included. I noticed one thing about many of the ones I liked the best; they were all written by the same guy, Darin Morgan:

  • “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”
  • “Jose Chung’s ’From Outer Space’”
  • “Quagmire”
  • “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”

It’s weird since all of Morgan’s episodes break the typical The X-Files mold, but I think that by breaking that mold he took the series places it might never have gone otherwise.

As I was researching Morgan I noticed another thing, he wrote my favorite episode of The X-Files spin-off series Millennium too. Now I can’t say I was a fan of Millennium since I only ever watched a handful of episodes at best. But one episode I did watch was entitled, “Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me.” In it, a group of demons, who look like regular people to regular people but demons to each other, sit around a diner and talk about all the mean things they’ve done to humanity since they’ve seen each other last.

It’s the way that Morgan treats these demons, as regular Joes with problems of their own who see what they do as a job, that makes the episode so interesting and more memorable than other episode of the series.

Better Call Saul

The second season of the fabulous Better Call Saul started back up on AMC last week and picked up right where the first season ended with Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) having to decide whether to do the right or wrong thing after events conspired against him in the first season. A


The novel 11/22/63 is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, books by Stephen King. It’s about a time traveler Jake Epping from our time who goes back to try and stop the Kennedy assassination in order to change the present. But what he’s not prepared for is a past that actively tries to stop anything that might change history and Jake finding his place and love in 1960s Texas which he’d have to leave behind to return to our time if he’s successful in stopping Lee Harvey Oswald.

And now comes the Hulu series 11.22.63 with James Franco in the role of Epping. From the first episode the creators of the show have done their best in condensing King’s 800+ book down into a more manageable story. It’s tough to say what’s been removed from the story after only seeing one, but it seems like all of the major story beats from the novel, from the way time travel works to Jake going back in time and trying to see if he can make small changes to time pushing back against those changes are all still present in 11.22.63. What seems to be gone are some of the little details. Which is probably for the best with an eight episode series like 11.22.63 that only has a limited time in order to tell the story.

My only concern is that what I loved about the novel so much were those little details and I’d hate to see too many of them go.

One thing I was surprised by the first episode was that it had something that I don’t remember being present in the book; the idea that when Jake’s in 1960s Texas and he notices the past starting to push back he might be onto something major that’s going to happen in history even if he’s not aware of what’s about to happen. I thought this was a great idea. B+

The Reading List