Hey, Grouchy, Whatcha Watchin’?

Seriously? You want to know? You don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, do you? Well, you’ll find out. You’ve been warned. Here’s what I’ve been watching of late and brief, sometimes not so brief, reviews/impressions.

Oh, and yes, there will be spoilers. Well, not that there’s much to spoil for most of these since the writers, directors and actors have already pretty much spoiled ’em.

OA – Oh, dear lord… Okay, OA created a lot of buzz when it popped up. People started reading all kinds of things into it’s surreal atmosphere and searching for some kind of hidden meaning.

And failed because there isn’t anything there to find.

Here’s the basic plot: Obviously mentally ill young woman has been missing for 7 years, reappears jumping off a bridge. Over the course of the series she gathers together a group of equally disturbed teens and one very odd adult in a house that’s under construction late at night and spins an even more odd tale about being the daughter of a Russian oligarch, going blind for no apparent reason after her school bus fell into a lake, ending up in the US adopted by a very strange and possibly abusive couple, being kidnapped, repeatedly tortured to death by drowning, and learning how to hallucinate through the magic of interpretive dance. And I wish I was making up that last part, but I’m not. The story says it’s some kind of interdimensional thing, but, well, no. I’m sorry, just no. Lots of people die in the end and by that time I really didn’t care any more. Actually I stopped caring about twenty minutes into the first show and just wished they’d get some therapy for that poor girl.

And for the writers.

Iron Fist – Son of a rich company owner disappears where he learns all kind of weird ninja and martial arts stuff, comes back to find his company taken over by evil people and his city being swept by corruption…

Hey, wait a minute, you say, isn’t that the plot from The Arrow? Yeah, it is. Only without The Arrow’s production values and, judging from the horrible sets and costumes, without its budget, either. Certainly without its acting talent.

It’s called Iron Fist because the hero, if you can call him that, has fists that glow in the dark when he’s really, really mad. You can tell when he’s really really mad because he looks like he has mild indigestion. And his fists glow in the dark.

Glow in the dark fists? Really? Let me guess, Marvel has finally run out of super powers. “Let’s see, we have a guy who turns green, we have a guy who thinks he’s a spider, we have a guy who bursts into flame, a guy who wears a robot suit, a guy who thinks he’s a god with a big hammer. I know, we haven’t done a guy who’s fists glow in the dark yet! Let’s try that!”

Luke Cage – One of the very, very few good shows I’ve seen, and pretty much the only one where the cast is almost entirely black and hispanic, with a lot of genuinely good actors. Yeah, how Cage gets his superpowers is pretty silly, but so is how Wolverine got his stabby things that shoot out of his knuckles and nobody seems to mind that. And yeah, the writing and acting is over the top at times. But still, it can be riveting and touching and genuinely hopeful. I’m looking forward to this one continuing in the future. Luke Cage believes that there is hope, that things can be better no matter how bad they may seem sometimes. And that kind of hope is contagious.

The Flash – I grew up in the 1960s and went through comic books like crazy. I occasionally picked up The Flash, but to be honest I wasn’t that much of a fan. A guy in red long underwear who runs really fast? Yeah, right…

When DC brought Flash to television, I wasn’t even going to bother. The previews I saw were not that good. But I gave it a shot and for some reason I got hooked on the damned thing, despite the fact I hate the character who plays Barry Allen/Flash. I hate him to the point where I won’t even allow myself to find out what his name is. I hate him even more than I hate Tom Hanks. Who cast this guy? He looks like he’s, what, about fourteen years old? I know sixth graders who look more mature (and act more mature) than he does.

But I keep watching the damned thing because some of the supporting characters are genuinely good.

And because of the writing. Not because the writing is any good. It isn’t. I just keep wondering how the hell the writers are going to get out of the corners they write themselves into on a regular basis. The answer to that is that they pretty much don’t. When they get themselves into a mess they can’t get out of, they send Flash back into the past to fiddle with something and do a sort of mini reboot. Only the reboot always seems to make things worse instead of better.

At this point I keep watching not so much because I enjoy the show but because I can’t wait to see how badly the writers mess things up.

Supergirl – Oh dear lord, what have they done to Supergirl??? Let’s, said the writers, take an intelligent, moral, strong, confidant young woman, stick her in a short skirt, crank her IQ down a few points and turn her into a giddy, relationship obsessed adolescent who can’t do anything right without a lot of help from men because, well, she’s a girl and girls can’t do anything right without help from men…

Oh, let’s make her sister a lesbian while we’re at it. And a spy or super cop or something.

And let’s put Jimmy Olson in a robot suit that isn’t at all a rip off of Iron Man.

Oh, let’s throw in some Martians, too.

Hey, let’s make her and Lex Luthor’s sister BFFs while we’re at it.

Oh, brother…

Covert Affairs – A series about a young, female CIA agent that is, well, it’s actually not horrible. It’s totally ridiculous, true, with technology straight out of the pages of a science fiction magazine, they haven’t a clue as to how computers actually work, 90% of what they do is totally illegal, and thanks largely to Piper Perabo and Christopher Gorham, who play Annie Walker, the star, and her “handler” at the CIA, Auggie, I didn’t care. I just enjoyed it. Perabo is good, making Annie Walker a character I really cared about. And Gorham as Auggie, a former soldier who was blinded by an IED in Iraq, was just as good, if not better.

Jumping The Shark –The Arrow

One day I was scrounging around Netflix looking for something decent to watch when up popped a television show called The Arrow. From the accompanying blurb it sounded suspiciously like an old DC comic book character called Green Arrow. I ignored it at first, because when it comes to super heroes, GA was pretty much down at the bottom of the barrel.

His only super power was being able to somehow keep off the sexual predator watch list while running around wearing green pantyhose, matching green man panties, a silly green tunic, an even more silly hat with a feather in it, and sporting a dyed blonde goatee. Oh, and let’s not forget a just as ridiculously garbed pubescent boy named “Speedy”.

(What is it with all of these super heroes from the ‘golden age’ of comics and their scantily clad adolescent male companions? Batman and Robin, Green Arrow and Speedy, Flash and Kid Flash, Aquaman and Aquaboy…)

Anyway, the only thing Green Arrow had going for him was an endless assortment of utterly ridiculous arrows. Like boxing glove arrows when he needed to knock someone out. Net arrows when he needed to catch someone. Rope arrows when he needed rope. Exploding arrows when he needed to blow something up… The list was endless. Whenever he got himself into some hopeless situation, guess what? He would just happen to have yet another ridiculous arrow to get him out of it.

Batman wasn’t ‘super’ any more than Green Arrow was, but at least Batman was intimidating looking. The Green Arrow with his green pantyhose and green panties and ruffled shirt… Well, let’s just say that even back in the 1960s when I ran into the comic, people kinda wondered…

Well, they’ve been busy “rebooting” all kinds of comic books of late… SHIELD, Flash… I’d seen some of SHIELD and it wasn’t bad. Flash, well, it was silly but at least not truly horrible. Good enough to keep me watching. So I’d take a shot at the Arrow (ha ha… take a shot at the Arrow… get it? God, that was bad even for me.)

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t actually bad. Not at first, anyway. In true reboot fashion they’d made it gritty and dark and ridiculously complicated with about a dozen different subplots all running at the same time. But they did manage to keep things interesting enough to keep me watching.

(Aside: What’s with all of these former actors from Dr. Who turning up in these comic book reboots? The woman who played River Song, the fellow who played Jack Harkness from Who and later from Torchwood)

The Arrow (NOT Green Arrow, thank you very much. At least not at first. By the second or third season he is Green Arrow, although they don’t change the title of the show itself.), had been a young, naive, wealthy playboy until tragedy struck and he ended up shipwrecked on an island that would have been too sadistic and horrific even to include as one of Dante’s circles of Hell. The whole island story gradually comes out gradually in flashbacks extending through the entire length of the show as the writers attempt to somehow justify the ever more bizarre corners they write themselves into by the end of the second season.

Eventually they turn his teenaged sister (I think she’s a teenager. At least she was too young to legally drink in the first series so she was under 21) into the old Green Arrow sidekick, Speedy, because she’s learned mad, crazed ninja stuff from her evil biological father and member of the Assassin’s Guild…

Assassin’s Guild? Wait a minute… Where the hell did a guild of assassins come in?

Hell, I don’t know. I’d given up trying to figure out what the hell the writers were doing by that time and realized I’d been sucked into some kind of bizarre and possibly drug induced evil vision that the writers were trying to work out by writing instead of going to therapy like normal people.

So, we got Green Arrow. His sister, now super ninja assassin girl, Speedy. We got your drug crazed super soldiers. We got an assistant DA who dressed up in a black latex jump suit and a mask and screams at people who calls herself Canary. We got people coming back from the dead. Literally coming back from the dead.

The Arrow’s girlfriend, who just happened to be the sister of the assistant DA and the daughter of a police captain, died in the same shipwreck… Only she didn’t. She comes back and it turns out she’s some kind of wicked super ninja assassin too only she’s a good super ninja assassin…

And then it turns out the daughter of the head of the assassin’s guild in the lover of The Arrow’s risen from the dead girlfriend. And then Arrow has to fight the head of the assassin’s guild to the death and sort of kinda gets killed himself only not really, and then Arrow’s sister gets almost kinda sorta killed and they have to take her to the guild and shove her into this magic spring that heals people but only by turning them into occasional monsters who have to kill people every month…

There is a phrase that’s come into common usage in the entertainment industry: jumping the shark. It originates with an episode of the old Happy Days series where they put The Fonz, complete with leather jacket, on water skis, and made him literally jump a shark.

It referred to the fact that the writers and producers had so completely run out of anything even remotely entertaining to do that they had to resort to outright insanity in order to try to keep going.

The Arrow has jumped the shark. The assassin’s guild, the Hive plot, government conspiracies and now outright magic? Come on, guys, you’re not even trying now, are you?