Television is an evolving medium. The days of rushing home to catch a favorite show have gone the way of 1-800 party numbers, Discmans and PDAs. Can you imagine being tied to your couch because of a show that was on only once a week? Or if you missed it, you had to wait for syndication? Those were godless times.
We now live in an enlightened age were content can come from anywhere, appear at anytime — no waiting, no fuss, no muss. Everything is at your fingertips. All you need is a good signal and/or a great device and you have instant entertainment. And everyone is doing it, not just the TV networks. Even the company that delivers your favorite bodice-ripping trash romance novel can create an Emmy-winning series.
TV has become background music. It plays constantly as we run chores, hang with the family, or perform the most mundane of tasks. And with so much content, it isn’t about watching a favorite show anymore, but watching anything that can provide distraction. In the past, trash television would falter due to low ratings and bad reviews, but now it flourishes as people gather around gadgets to hate watch shows for the amusement of their Twitter followers.
But with so much content, it is easy to drown in a sea of endless entertainment. What’s good? What’s bad? Did Hallmark really just give us another Christmas movie about a hidden prince? Jesus. How many is that? Like 22?
Don’t worry. “UnBinged” is here to help you navigate the choppy waters of endless programming. After all, your time is valuable. Ours isn’t.
V.C. Andrews’ Heaven and Dark Angel
Lifetime continues to take aim at the 14-year-old-girl of our pasts with its latest series of V.C. Andrews book-to-screen adaptations. While its first go-around covered the incestuous junior high school must-read Flowers in the Attic series, this time they delve into the saga of the Casteel clan introduced back in 1985 via the saucy paperback Heaven. The five-part movie series follows the tragic hill-born title character as she shifts from one dysfunctional family to the next, discovering sex and secrets along the way. But mostly sex. And usually with a parental figure or relative. V.C. had a few issues.
Fans of the book will find the story moves full speed ahead into disappointment as the tale rushes through the content matter to “get to the good parts.” The pacing is so fast it misses key beats and crucial characters as it skims over the story. At one point, I left the room to get a snack while Heaven was fresh out of high school and came back to see her graduate from college. The hurried pace isn’t helped by the disjointed, over-the-top acting of the cast as they attempt to keep up with the stride of the saga. And the combo of the two misfires throws the whole affair into parody territory.
Characters become caricatures, as lead Annalise Basso as Heaven never finds her emotional center, turning on a dime from sobbing mess to sexpot. Jason Priestley as Tony Tatterton swaps book Tony’s charisma for misplaced, unexplained menace delivered in monotone monologues. Essential characters from the book such as Troy, Logan and Fanny become undeveloped parodies of their literary counterparts, there to only make Heaven either horny or heartbroken. All and all, these recent primetime additions to Lifetime’s V.C. Andrews catalog are a jumbled mess that only hardcore fans can make sense of… once they get over their initial disappointment.
Fifteen years after the initial pilot, Kristen Bell’s snarky sleuth returns to the small screen in all-new adventures. And this time around, Veronica and the good citizens of Neptune, California, are freed from the confines of a limited budget and given the ability to say whatever the “cuss” she wants. And it’s fucking glorious. In the fourth season, Veronica is hot on the heels of a mad bomber, who targets the Spring Break body-shot crowd that swarms the small town of Neptune once a year. But our girl is not alone, as current friends and old allies return to Veronica’s life to help her solve this latest mystery.
The Hulu-streamed version of the series maintains all of the quick wit and neck-break speed writing that made the show a cult favorite back in the day. Coupled with pitch perfect delivery from star Bell and the main cast, fans of the original will be over the moon to return to the scene of the crime. This is the way Veronica Mars was meant to be viewed: off a leash, completely free of the primetime constraints and censors so it can properly explore its surreal surroundings and fully embrace the noir content matter.
Take note, Marvel and everyone else: this is how you do a goddamn superhero show. After a series of wins for the streaming network, Amazon Prime ramps up its programming, exploring comic book-based universes for its next stellar series. And boy, did it strike gold. This dark comedy follows the exploits of a team of antiheroes looking for revenge against the local caped crusaders who are anything but heroes, despite what their PR department says. In the world of The Boys, superheroes are superstar celebrities who save lives, but also sell products, comic books, movies, TV shows, theme parks and the occasional Christian-themed convention. And just like celebrities, not all of them are great human beings. In fact, most are jerks. Irresponsible jerks who only care about their image and the ability to sell rather than make the world a better place.
Presented as a behind-the-scenes look at superhero culture, The Boys is a telling look into the dark underside of the entertainment industry and those who jump through hoops to keep their public image pristine. With black-as-night humor and enough gruesome deaths to make any horror hound happy, The Boys is an exceptionally crafted series that sets a new standard for the genre.
For more on The Boys read our recent cover story here.
For more on Veronica Mars read our ComicCon panel coverage here.