Colony, Episode Zero Offers Zero

USA’s new science fiction show Colony keeps its cards close to the vest. One way to describe it is Sawyer, a wall and a riddle inside an enigma. Occupy L.A., another. The half hour long making of ‘Behind the Wall’ is an exciting appetiser, it does, however, poses a lot of questions. I suppose that’s exactly the point, in order to attract the former LOST fanbase, in need of mythology.

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Sociology
From what we do know, Colony is another (militarised) occupation show, where the primary location or region is fenced in. A mashup of Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Wayward Pines, The Man in the High Castle, Into the Badlands, the movies Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver and Elysium. A potpourri of popular culture, albeit looking original – which is an achievement already. It probably means something, the sudden rise in dystopian stories. Is it a reaction to an increasingly dangerous world? A reflection of the threats the western world is facing? The wars abroad coming to our door, the limits of privacy? Or is it the exact opposite? It’s known that people in times of war, worry and insecurity generally prefer simple, positive TV shows; Colony doesn’t look like it wants to be simple. Or positive. Is there a sociologist in the audience?

Behind the Wall(s)
Not many other series get a zero episode AKA first look AKA warmup such as ‘Behind the Wall’. USA has got a lot riding on this. However, the way they choose to market the show, and specifically the cast and crew involved, is a bit awkward. The two leading actors don’t need an introduction. Josh Holloway is of eternal LOST fame, Sarah Wayne Callies will be forever tied to Prison Break – although USA apparently prefers her role in The Walking Dead. Speaking of Prison Break, that series once aired a similar special, called ‘Behind the Walls’. Or is that too much of a geek fact?

Awkward Marketing: The Crew
Anyway, the other key players in this production include: Carlton Cuse (LOST, Bates Motel, The Strain, I would’ve left out the fact he wrote the movie San Andreas). Ryan Condal (I would’ve just said he was a writer, without getting specific, like informing the audience he wrote Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie). The marketing department has an odd target audience, because they don’t just focus on empty blockbusters starring The Rock, but on other big movie letdowns as well, such as 2014’s Godzilla and Pacific Rim (like Colony, both were produced by Legendary Studios). Sure, the premise of the new series sounds like science fiction, but that doesn’t mean lovers of shallow action movies with either big creatures or giant robot suits are the only ones who might be interested.

Awkward Marketing: The Cast
When it comes to the cast, they’ve got Kathy Baker, of Picket Fences. Really, USA? A twenty year old show that wasn’t even that big a hit? You might want to be a little more 21st century. She starred in Boston Public, Medium and Against the Wall, for example. You could even mention Saving Mr. Banks, Saving Grace or The Glass House.
They’ve got Peter Jacobson, of House. That’s been a while, too. Besides, every actor on that show paled next to Hugh Laurie. Why not say Jacobson was in Ray Donovan?
They’ve also got Amanda Righetti (The Mentalist), Tory Kittles (True Detective, but let’s not forget Sons of Anarchy), Paul Guilfoyle (CSI) and Carl Weathers, ‘of Rocky fame’. Of course, his portrayal of Apollo Creed has been iconic, and there’s a new movie out (Creed), but he’s done more than box. He’s been in Arrested Development, The Shield, Brothers and Tour of Duty. ‘Of Rocky fame’ makes him sound twice as old.
But at least they’re being mentioned, which isn’t the case with Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy, Longmire, Boston Legal, Profiler), who’s nowhere to be found in ‘Behind the Wall’. Maybe she plays an alien and they don’t want to spoil it, who knows.

The Director
Despite a questionably put together ‘first look’, Colony looks very promising. The pilot is directed by Juan José Campanella (House MD, Halt and Catch Fire), who’s gone all out with handheld cameras. It gives the show – for as far as we can tell – a nice, gritty, documentary feel.
On January 14, 2016, the characters are going to ask themselves this cheesy line: Collaborate or Resist? After watching episode zero, I’ll definitely join, and take it from there.

Fargo: Did You Do This? No, You Did It!

In last week’s ‘Rhinoceros’, Fargo walked a straight line, but the show’s grown a few extra limbs again, which has resulted in ‘Did You Do This? No, You Did It!’, an episode like a broken up chocolate bar; delicious splintered pieces of the same thing.

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Jaws
I love the fargonian predictability. On a show like this, you know trouble’s on the rise when two window washers are moving into view. Is it just a nice touch? Something to add extra flavor? Or does it have a purpose? You’re damn right it has.
I love the use of music. The episode starts with a killing collage, accompanied by the song ‘Locomotive Breath’ by Jethro Tull.
I love ‘I’m grown’.
I love the Jaws reference. Because it’s Jaws, ya?
I love that the police waited till ‘the dirt settled’.
I love the deep voice of Bear Gerhardt (Angus Sampson), not to mention the grunts in between.

Adorable Chubby Police Captain
I love ‘I’m going to smoke’, while being in an interrogation room.
I love the cops pulling out the ashtray, like that’s what you do. I love that it’s probably completely accurate – taking place in the seventies and all – and at the same time it’s a clear comment on the times we live in now.
I love smoke on screen.
I love guest star Terry Kinney (Oz, Show Me a Hero, The Mentalist), who always seems to pick ‘tough guy’ roles – but never looks the part. Here, he plays an adorable chubby police captain. Fargo, because of being populated by different degrees of goofball, really brings out the best of every actor on the show.
I love ‘This thing is over when you say it’s over.’
I love the ‘northern expansion’.
I love Floyd Gerhardt’s (Jean Smart) eye-roll. Hey, it’s in the tiny details, you know.

Seen Me or Watched Me
I love the grey, bleached, light-brownish look of the show. I love the subtlety of it; it’s not an obvious filter.
I love ‘sending The Undertaker’.
I love the vocabulary of Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine).
I love the elevator mirror. Very Bohemian Rhapsodian.
I love ‘Seen me? Or watched me?’
I love ‘the noose’. Just because of the sound, I guess.

Speeches and Pants
I love the creepy smile of Ricky (Ryan O’Nan, Ray Donovan, The Unusuals, Mercy).
I love Lou Solverson’s (Patrick Wilson) speech to Mike. Nail + Head.
I love Mike’s speech to Lou.
I love Karl (Nick Offerman), his back, the couch and the floor. And those pants. When did they ever go out of style? Now that type of clothing should be in clothing stores – and not just in vintage clothing stores.

Triumphant & Downplayed
I love the trip of Bear and Simone (Rachel Keller). It had quite a Sopranos feel to it.
I love the fish-eyed aerial shots.
I love you never see (or hear) Bear pulling the trigger.
I love Floyd’s ‘they bought it’ look.
I love ‘That’s one way to think about it.’
But what I loved most was the great climax of the episode, which featured a both triumphant and downplayed return of the long absent Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons), making a phone call.

Mr. Slow-Burn, Ray Donovan

Donovan. Ray Donovan. The guy you call to ‘change the story’ of an unfortunate event, is back for a third season. It’s slow, it burns – in good way – but that music score; why in the world do they always choose that type of music score?

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Wild Ideas
Showtime’s Ray Donovan can be considered one of those ‘slow burn series’. It’s a close relative to Bloodline (Netflix), Homeland (Showtime), Bosch (Amazon), The Affair (Showtime) and Rubicon (AMC). Quietly getting by, collecting season after season, receiving positive reviews but never gets any wild ideas, Ray Donovan steadily ploughs through.
The Kalamazoo. It sounds like a rare exotic reptile with tiny yellow wings and a curly orange tongue, but it’s a city in the state of Michigan. It’s also an outdoor grill and the title of Ray’s third season opener.

Mr. Cool
What makes Ray Donovan the perfect slow burn? First of all, everything happens rather slowly, most of all Mr. Ray Donovan himself. Liev Schreiber (Ransom, The Hurricane, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) walks slowly, talks slowly, stares into space like an unmovable object. As he should. In ‘The Kalamazoo’, his body jolts into action only for a second or two. The bad guy with the gun is standing in front of him, looking in the other direction, multiple times – to his hostage – so there was plenty of time to overpower him, but Mr. Cool, mister-I-ain’t-going-to-break-a-sweat-to-save-some-rich-guy’s-son, waits until the hostage gets shot in the arm before sticking a pen through the bad guy’s neck – instead of just taking the gun from him, like we know he can.

Godfather
The hostage is the son of Malcolm Finney, but who cares about his name; it’s the triumphant return to television of the one and only Ian McShane (Kings, Deadwood, The Pillars of the Earth, Lovejoy). Pacino, De Niro, McShane, I say. He’s just been unfortunate enough to not star in one of the Godfather movies, but never say never.
It’s actually McShane who’s the reason Ray Donovan is pulled up from the swamp that is slow-burnity, because he attracts, no, demands every attention. His lines are spot on, as always. The way he acts, is a feast for the senses. His scenes overshadow the rest of the episode. As always.

Pool
Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight) buys a grill – the kalamazoo – and makes burgers for everyone in the apartment complex, including his next door pimp neighbour. It’s one hell of a jackass, and Mickey disapproves of everything he does, but treats him like a close friend. That is, until after the grill party, it’s just the two of them having a drink by the light of the moon. It’s obvious Mickey put something in his beer. Sleeping pills? Poison? Whatever it may have been, the pimp falls asleep and Mickey pushes him into the pool. Face down and out of it, he grabs the edge, but with no power in his hand. It’s quickly kicked away by Mickey. Even the deaths happen slowly.

Score
One major condition for a slow burn: keep the pace. So even in scenes where something emotional happens, or anything with a lot of movement, just put a music score under it that completely drowns out any excitement whatsoever. It’s not jazz. It’s not elevator music. It’s not just soundscapes. It’s like a musical grumble, like very low, soft tones, lack of rhythm. I don’t know why any director, studio or music supervisor would pick this type of score, because it flattens the whole show. Sure, a lot of people enjoy it, given the success of Ray, but wouldn’t that success be bigger with a proper soundtrack? It’d be totally against the slow burn principle, of course, so that might be the answer: ‘slow burners’ have become a target audience to be reckoned with.