The Battle of The Network Stars 2017 Breakdown: Part 1

**UPDATE – glitches have been banished, and pics have now been added. Yay!**

So, I knew better than to expect that ABC’s reboot of its illustrious celebrity athletic competition series Battle of The Network Stars would come anywhere close to recapturing the magic, infectious energy of the original. Especially since there have been some major changes to the state of network television from the 70s and 80s. Back then ABC, NBC and CBS were the only major players in the network game who were duking it out for tv audience shares every night of the week, so making them battle network against network in athletic competition seemed wholly natural.

But still. ABC seemed to be coming at it from the right angle. They were honouring the original – evident by the vintage clips in the opening credits, they were opening up the players eligibility to current and former network stars, they were bringing back classic events, like the Kayak Relay, Obstacle Course and Baseball Dunk, they got real sportscasters to announce (although nowhere near as iconic as Howard Cosell) and they even secured Pepperdine University, home to almost every previous Battle, for the current  Battleground! I will say though, I was a little wary on how the new team concept was going to be executed – making teams based on themes like “TV Kids”, “Sex Symbols” and…”TV Sitcoms” (whoa, don’t get too creative there, guys) – but more on that later.

The first problem however, became apparent right from the start, and it remained there over the course of the next hour, through every event, dragging the spirit of everything down into depths of sadness and despair (I may be slightly exaggerating) and leaving me with one simple question. Where is everyone?

Bronson Pinchot is the blue speck on the far left, Kim Fields is the tiny red dot on the far right — and there’s noooo one else, anywhere.

Spectators abound in the orginal BOTNS, with Howard Cosell announcing (top) William R. Moses kayaking (middle) and Geoffrey Scott and Heather Locklear relaying (bottom)

One of the reasons the original BOTNS was such a success is that it was treated as an actual major sporting event, complete with spectators, cheerleaders and teammates on the sidelines cheering on the participants to victory. In the new BTONS, there is no one there. And I mean No.One.There. And let me tell you, it’s very disheartening to see Pepperdine’s massive outdoor track, shrouded in fog and completely empty…save for Lisa Welchel from The Facts of Life struggling in the distance to catch up to Dave Coulier from Full House as they run their leg of the relay race – supported by just a smattering of claps and hoots from their various demi-celebrities/teammates.

Ditto when the action shifts to Pepperdine’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s been blocked off for just two sets of two swimmers, leaving only four teammates apiece clumped along one edge of this massive pool, cheering them on along with their two coaches.

And there’s another problem. The original BOTNS had 3 teams of 8 in each battle, so at any given time, you would have at least 18 celebs not actively participating, but cheering and supporting. The new BOTNS has only 2 teams of 5, which is problematic even outside of the lack of visual representation it causes – because this choice has warranted a restructuring of some of the events – making them much shorter. The swimming and  kayak relays have gone from 4-5 participants to 2. And as any BOTNS fan will attest, these events were always the most thrilling to watch because of the unpredictability of the match-ups, where the teams could go from first to third or vice versa with every new leg, tension building up as we all watched to see if each new celeb diving into the water would display some formerly hidden athletic prowess and surge ahead like a torpedo (Billy Moses!) or just sink like an anchor (Pamela Bellwood!). But now, with just 2 participants from 2 teams, the new relays are hardly relays at all, and over before tension can even get built up.

BUT before I get too gloomy about BOTNS redux,  there are some things that do get the thumbs up from me:

Improved Baseball Dunk – making the swimming pool double as the dunk tank AND placing the dunk platform 15 ft above it? Genius.

New Mini Events – the inclusion of smaller events (Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Golf and Archery) and presenting them all “re-cap style” provides a nice tempo shift in the show and is very welcome addition.

Announcers – Joe Tessitori and Mike Greenberg do an admirable job of treating the BOTNS tradition with dignity, but are not above having a good laugh at the expense of the participants, whether it be at Olivia D’Abo managing to belly flop her way into the dunk pool or when regarding her Wonder Years costar Jason Hervey’s diva drama after he refuses to wear a red shirt (which is a part of his required uniform since he is on the red team) (he eventually switched to red).

Jodi-Lyn O’Keefe about to get dunked by Todd Bridges in the new and improved (yet still desolate-looking) baseball dunk

Coming Up in Part 2 – a closer look at the team structure and a deep dive into the BIG problem, competiton-wise, that’s plaguing the new BOTNS!

 

Prepare for “Battle”

This is just a brief post – more of a PSA in fact – about an event happening TONIGHT. In an already reboot-heavy year, the Most Important Reboot Ever is upon us. No, not Twin Peaks…or Will & Grace (and definitely not The Gong Show). Forget all of those – for tonight, Battle of the Network Stars is Back!

For the unaware, BOTNS was a series of specials aired by ABC twice a year (more or less) from the mid-70s to late-80s wherein teams of current television stars from the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) were pitted against one another in fierce, athletic competition, with the victors getting bragging rights and some cold, hard cash ($20,000 to each member of the winning network’s team).

Treated with all the seriousness of a professional sporting event (and by my younger tv-addicted self as the pop culture equivalent of the Olympic Games) and hosted by the sensational, albeit slightly sexist, Howard Cosell,  BOTNS was the only place viewers in a pre-Dancing With The Stars/reality tv/Instagram era could go to for candid and competitive celebrities (Robert Conrad always seemed ready to face-punch anyone, for any reason at all) and surprising displays of athleticism (like Heather Locklear – former Junior Olympian (who knew?) and BOTNS running relay MVP).

I won’t go in to much more detail for now, because I’ve decided to wait until the first few episodes of the reboot to air so I can then do a deeper comparison analysis. So until then, enjoy this classic BOTNS clip featuring two stars who will be appearing in the reboot: from The Facts of Life, Kim Fields and Lisa Welchel.

Green Fury, Olympian and a Possible Post-Mortem for “Powerless”

While I try to avoid doing back-to-back posts on the same topic, I’m making an exception for Powerless. The fate of NBC’s “civilians of the DC Universe” workplace comedy is hanging by a very tenuous thread, as it has recently been pulled from NBC’s schedule, even though they still have 3 unaired episodes. Though assumed by many outlets to have been cancelled, NBC still hasn’t officially made it so – and has stated it is still planning on airing the three remaining eps. So, looks like we will just have to cross our fingers and see. It would be a shame for this clever and fresh take on the superhero genre to die an early death. But honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me, as it really is more of a “niche” comedy that would probably be better suited for a Netflix-type platform (or even the CW), and doesn’t seem to have that “broad-appeal” factor needed for a major primetime network show.

Whereas straight-up superhero shows like The Flash and Arrow are able to build out their worlds and mythologies as they go, Powerless takes place in an already very-established world – one that the writers have mined for all its worth. This is truly one superhero production that could actually stand by the claim that it was “made for the fans”, because there are so many Easter eggs, random references and winks to trivial bits of the DC Universe that makes the fanboy in me squeal and clap with delight, but probably goes right over the heads of the average viewer.

Which gives a nice segue into the main topic of the post – a profile of the power couple of Powerless, Green Fury and Olympian.  Much like Crimson Fox, Charm City’s other high-profile hero, Green Fury and Olympian are both long-established DC heroes who have never quite made it to “A” list status, and although they both got started the same way, their courses through the DC Universe became drastically different.

Both heroes made their DC comics debut, along with a number of other international heroes, in the pages of DC’s kid-friendly title, Super Friends. Brazilian-born Green Fury (who had the power to exhale mystical green fire) and Greece’s Olympian, (endowed with super human abilities from the legendary Golden Fleece)  soon made the jump to the DCU proper as members of  international fighting force, The Global Guardians, teaming up with Superman in an issue of DC Comics Presents. The Guardians didn’t pop up much at all after that though, save for a guest stint by a modified version of the team in the pages of  Infinity, Inc. In this iteration of the GG, Olympian wasn’t even around and Green Fury was now going as Green Flame.

There’s our power couple in the bottom right corner, giving that giant’s shin a good working-over

And that’s where their fates diverged. Olympian would only pop up a few of more times over the next two decades (with one time being in the out-of-continuity title Batman: The Brave and the Bold). But Green Fury/Flame did much better. When the Justice League got U.N. backing and became an international entity (as detailed previously), the Global Guardians were dissolved. Now without a job, the resourceful Green Flame grabbed best pal and fellow ex-Guardian, Norway’s  Icemaiden and marched right up to the Justice League Embassy and simply announced that they were there to join. When their timely assistance proved helpful against and alien invasion, they were indeed signed up. Soon after, the heroines shortened their monikers to the much catchier Fire and Ice and much like Crimson Fox, went on the establish themselves as two of that eras most enduring Justice League members. The flirtatious and fame-friendly Fire even got a power upgrade when the metagene bomb activated a latent gene in her DNA, turning her from a ground-bound fire breather to a being who could switch into a flame form that enabled her to fly and project fire through her hands.

After her Justice League era came to a close, Fire briefly appeared with a new version of the Global Guardians (alongside Crimson Fox III, in fact) but after DC’s most recent reboot, has since been established as a charter member of the short-lived  Justice League International.

Meanwhile, Olympian struggled with garnering the spotlight, resulting in minimal exposure over the years, and he has yet to be established in the rebooted DCU.

Which makes his appearance with Green Fury in Powerless so enjoyable. In their episode, Green Fury confides to Wayne Security’s Emily Locke that she can never be taken seriously by the public or considered for the Justice League when things like her break-up with Olympian is front page news for the gossip rags (which Fury figures Olympian  leaked himself, just to get attention). She then agrees to film an endorsement for Wayne Security, think the PR will do her good (which aligns well with the motivations of the Justice League-era Fire). Then the commercial morphs into an explotative T & A shoot, but instead of calling it quits, she calls in Olympian. Ever happy for a gig where he can get maximum exposure for himself and his Greek-god bod, the shoot is reworked for beefcake instead of cheesecake, and comes off without a hitch.

Eventually, things do kinda work out for our power couple…in the end

The commercial is such a success that Fury tells Emily she even got a call from the Justice League…well, actually Justice League Europe. Emily tries to make her feel better by pointing out that the JLE is like, “one of the top five Justice Leagues”. And this exchange is a good example of that which is one of the strengths of  Powerless as well as its kryptonite: it’s humourous and enjoyable – IF you know that there actually was a Justice League Europe and that there have been a plethora of Justice League iterations and offshoots over the years, from which a top five could easily be ranked. Otherwise, it’s just another semi-amusing, non-contextual throwaway line for the majority of mainstream viewers.

So, even though the writing is pretty much on the wall for Powerless at NBC, maybe there’s still chance that someone like Netflix will swoop in and save the day for the citizens of Charm City (because Crimson Fox sure ain’t gonna do it – she already skipped town for a new gig in Metropolis…adjacent)

The Powerhouse of “Powerless”: Who Is Crimson Fox?

With DC and Marvel Comics laying claim to over a dozen television shows currently on the air, the new NBC comedy Powerless does something unique to stand out from the pack. It does this by focusing not on superheroes, but rather on the everyday joes who just happen to live and work in a world where a plethora of super-powered beings don flashy costumes to either wreak havoc or save the day – or sometimes both.

As it takes place in the DC Universe (albeit, a much more brighter one than the film DCU of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad and more lighthearted than the tv DCU found in the CW’s quartet of Arrow-verse shows) there have been multiple references to many of DC’s superhero royalty. We’re talking the big guns like Batman, Aquaman, Flash and the one character than has been significantly featured more than any other — Crimson Fox. Wait — Crimson Fox?

Always the hero, Crimson Fox bravely places herself between civilians and the deadly powers of Frostbite

Yes, on Powerless, this little-known heroine of the DCU has already crossed paths numerous times with one Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) – saving her on first day of work at Wayne Security, battling Frostbite on her office building’s balcony and becoming her game-changing Fantasy Superhero League pick when she surprisingly manages to leapfrog over heroes like the Flash by saving a whole cruise ship full of people. It appears that Charm City has its very own protector (Powerless continues the fine DC tradition of creating fictional cities for their superhero stomping grounds).

It’s somehow fitting and hilarious that a show about the normal people living in an unknown city of the DCU only gets to have face time with one of its more obscure heroines. But for DC fanboys like myself, it’s also great to see a largely disregarded but still fan-favourite character finally get some mainstream exposure.

But who exactly IS Crimson Fox?

In a nutshell, she was a France-based heroine created by DC scribes in the late 80s specifically so that the newly-launched Justice League Europe would actually have a European member. She would end up becoming one of the more constant members of that era, eventually moving to Justice League America after it reformed following the folding of its International division.

But lets’s deleve a little deeper, shall we?

The Origin

Chantal D’Aramis was a research scientist who worked for a corporation called Big Time. Her main project was development of an irresistible perfume derived partially from fox musk. What she didn’t know was that the formula was also toxic, and shortly after she left Big Time to give birth to twin daughters (Vivian and Constance), she died of cancer.

Years later, Vivian and Constance learned that Moriarty, their mother’s former employer, had known all along of the toxic properties their mother’s perfume development was creating, but didn’t inform her until she had refined and perfected the product. Vowing to take him down, the girls started their own beauty brand, Revson which eventually eclipsed Big Time and ruined Moriarty. This drove him crazy with revenge and he ended up killing the twins father, Andre, and then vanished.

This motivated Vivian and Constance to seek out justice not only for themselves, but “for all honest people”, so they became Crimson Fox.

Yes, they became the Crimson Fox. Since they couldn’t very well run a business empire and fight crime as a costumed vigilante (although it seems to work for Bruce Wayne), they decided to fake Constance’s death and share Vivian’s identity. So, when one twin was running Revson as Vivian, the other was free to fight crime as Crimson Fox, and vice-versa. Vive le difference!

Crimson Fox’s time as an active Justice Leaguer coincided with the trading card boom of the 90s, leading to her appearance in a number of DC’s collectable sets

Powers

Both D’Aramis girls shared enhanced abilities that are believed to be a side effect of their mother being pregnant while working on her experiemental fox musk-based perfume. Crimson Fox had enhanced strength, agility, speed, endurance and healing ability. She could leap up to 20 feet in the air and complemented this with steel-taloned gloves that enabled her to attach to and climb most surfaces (and made a pretty good weapon on their own – as did her cowl, which she could manipulate like a whip). Crimson Fox also had a pheromone-control power that she could use to influence the actions of those near her.

Career

As previously mentioned, Crimson Fox became a member of the Justice League but kept secret the fact that they were twins. This was ultimately revealed after Vivian (as Crimson Fox) began a romance with fellow Leaguer, Metamorpho. Shortly afterward, Vivian was kidnapped by the villain Puanter and killed. Constance carried on as Crimson Fox, but there was still more tragedy to follow.

After Justice League America folded and reformed as the “big guns only” JLA, Constance attempted to reform the European branch with four other Justice League cast-offs. Unfortunately, they were infiltrated by the daughter of the supervillain The Mist who managed to decimate most of Crimson Fox’s new team, killing not only Blue Devil and  Amazing Man but Crimson Fox, herself.

But that was not the end of Crimson Fox! Years later a third Crimson Fox showed up as a member of the Global Guardians, one who insinuated that she had inherited the Revson business and apparently the abilities of Crimson Fox, too. Shortly after her first appearance, DC Comics rebooted their universe (again) and in the reshuffling since, Crimson Fox has yet to be reintroduced.

Until Powerless, that is. Now she’s back, more powerful and getting more coverage than she ever has before – which I find kinda nice after having already been killed twice.

And don’t worry, they eventually thawed her out

‘Twas The Easter Before Christmas (or: When The Teen Titans Battled Santa Claus)

So, I was recently watching Netflix and catching up on the best super hero show on television today (no, not one of the CW’s colourful quartet of DC shows…and not one of Netflix’s growing stable of gritty Marvel adventures, either). What I’m talking about is Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go! – the irreverent animated take on the mighty teen heroes of the DC Universe.

Anyhoo, I just stumbled across a TTGO! holiday themed show (Season 3, Episode 17) that I instantly had to add to my Classic Christmas TV Episodes short list – even though it’s actually an Easter episode. It’s titled “The TTGO! Easter Holiday Classic”, but I think a more fitting title would be “A Battle With St. Nicholas”.

And in that vein, allow me to use that classic poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, as inspiration for the following episode recap. After all, ‘tis the season!

 

‘Twas the Easter before Christmas and out on Titan’s Island
Our young heroes were excited – even Raven was smilin’!

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Robin had their next mission and was ready to unmask it:
“Titans – search for eggs to fill your Easter basket!”

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The Titans ran off, but soon noticed something funny…
Not an egg was to be found – nothing was there from E. Bunny!

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Something must have happened to the Holiday Hare!
There is no way he would leave Easter baskets so bare.

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The Titans questioned some other holiday icons
From second-rate days, they were nearly bygones.

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With Cupid, the boys got nowhere fast
Since he shot them all with his arrow love-blast.

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So infatuated now with one another
They forgot all about Leprechaun – paid him no bother!

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The girls tried cop roles – Starfire, the “bad” one
And Raven watched on as she harassed George Washington.

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Tom Turkey fared worse and barely squeaked out a gobble
Before Starfire bashed his head and made his brain wobble.

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Learning nothing helpful, the Titans took pause –
“Our last hope is King Holiday – we must see Santa Claus!

So off to the North Pole and Santa’s sprawling HQ,
Teeming with elves, all with something to do.

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They sat with Santa, he of white beard and round bod
Who noted that E. Bunny had been acting quite odd.

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“But if he’s gone missing, then there’s only one thing to say:
I’ll take his place – and save Easter Day!”

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The Titans all cheered as he hopped in his sleigh
And quickly restored Easter – but in a more “Christmas Way”

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That’s when Robin suddenly realized it was no time for cheer.
This was his plan all along – Santa wants to rule the whole year!

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So they raced back up north to sneak into Santa’s Lair
Shocked, but not surprised at what they saw there.

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All the holiday mascots, locked in cells, just a-chillin’!
While Santa watched over them like an evil Bond villain!

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“Yes, I kidnapped Easter Bunny and all of the rest!
Every holiday should be MINE, because I am the BEST!”

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Then Santa armoured-up, his battle suit ready to fight.
The Titans knew they were outgunned and could use some extra might.

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So with a snap of her fingers, Raven summoned to their aid
The stalwart members of the Holiday Brigade!

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A President’s Day punch, then a brutal swift kick
Followed by a bop on the noggin from Leprechaun’s stick

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Then Robin’s grapple wrapped him ’round and around
And brought Santa crashing right down to the ground.

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The day saved (again), all was now bright and sunny
And the Titans couldn’t wait to free cute, fluffy E. Bunny.

But as they unlocked his cell, what they saw was a fright
A human/bunny hybrid laying eggs? Man, that stuff just ain’t right!

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…and a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Scary Summer Series Scorecard (Part Two)

In Part One of this post on the scary series that popped up on the small screen this summer, I gave run-downs on SCREAM and Dead of Summer. Now, let’s shine the light on the best scary summer series – and probably the best summer series period. Even if you didn’t see it, you most likely heard about it, because the buzz around it built up fast and launched many discussions, examinations and think-pieces across the interwebs. Of course, I’m referring to…

stranger01Stranger Things (Netflix)

This homage to 80s genre movies was a spooky slice that was served up with little fanfare at first, but that all changed once its complete season of 8 episodes premiered on Netflix in mid-July. The tale of a town plagued by mysterious happenings, unexplained disappearances and ominous experiments gone wrong became the must-see binge watch of the season.

It kicks off with a boy named Will and his confrontation with (and eventual abduction by) a definitely non-human creature who emerges from the woods near his house. The story then follows everyone affected by it – his distraught mother Joyce (a fine and frazzled turn by Winona Ryder) and loner brother Jonathan, his trio of best friends, Lucas, Dustin and Mike, and the town sheriff, Chief Hopper as they each take matters into their own hands to try and discover what happened to him. Soon, Mike’s older sister Nancy also gets involved in her own way when her best friend Barb becomes the second person to disappear.

Joyce's questionable interior design choices

Soon, we’re knee-deep in spooky government agencies, a mysterious girl with extraordinary powers and gates that open to alternate dimensions that should really best be left shut. Well-paced with a great attention to detail, and telling a story both intriguing and unnerving, this show pretty much delivered the goods. Here are some of what I found to be the notable highlights:

The 80s Factor

Unlike Dead of Summer, whose commitment to taking place in the 80s seemed to begin and end with a character reading an ’89 Rolling Stone with Michael “Batman” Keaton on the cover, Stranger Things goes all in on the 80s. And not just as an homage to films ranging from E.T and Stand By Me to Poltergeist and Aliens, but by making certain elements of the era integral to the story. Dungeons and Dragons, landline telephones, walkie-talkies and ham radios are just a few of the era-specific elements that become key plot points, making this a story that takes place in the 80s for a reason and not just a story that takes place in the 80s “just because”.

High Stakes

In my previous post I lamented how in this season of SCREAM it never really felt like the stakes were high, what with the actual deaths being few and far between, mostly comprised of secondary characters and being done by a killer more concerned with taunting than killing, Well Stranger Things dives right into the tension-filled deep end when it becomes quickly apparent that Will is still alive somewhere…but time is not on his side because that somewhere is a place that is definitely not safe. (which we soon get to witness first hand, with the second abduction of Barb – poor, sweet Barb). Which brings me to…

Realistic Teens

While it’s Will’s trio of friends who get the majority of screen time, it’s Nancy and her crew that ring the most true. I was a kid in the 80s and lived a block away from the local high school. Nancy, Barb, Jonathan and Nancy’s boyfriend Steve and his asshole friends all look, and more importantly, act just like the teenagers I would see as I trekked past the high school every morning. Questionable fashion choices and all.

stranger02And this makes them succeed where Will’s friend’s fail – which is my only real quibble with the series – Mike, Duncan and Lucas just don’t seem believable – at all – and it’s especially glaring when everyone else in the cast does. I’ve never known any group of young adolescents – even when I was one – that were constantly so shrill AND precocious AND bickering AND stubbornly self-absorbed. I just wanted to smack each of them and tell them to shut up (as I shake my cane and tell them to get off my lawn too).

I also couldn’t get past the fact that they had to make them the catch-all group of kids for the plot to work – they were the D&D players who were also all members of the A/V Club and were the bullied kids of the school who were also the mouthiest kids of the school. Oy.

The teens on the other hand had more realistic overlapping of groups – popular, cocky Steve was dating quiet, good girl Nancy; Bookish Barb gets invited to Steve’s party but only because she’s besties with Nancy;  shy loner Jonathan is in the Photography Club, but so is one of the obnoxious girls from Steve’s crew, and so on. It just added that extra bit of realism that made all the difference.

But in the end, it all came together as a tidy package of eight satisfying, suspenseful, scary and sentimental episodes that, in true 80s genre style left the door wide open for sequel (which will be coming in 2017, when Stranger Things returns for its just-confirmed second season).

SCORE – 4 dimensional gates out of 5

Scary Summer Series Scorecard (Part One)

The summer season is quickly becoming my favourite TV season. This summer saw the return of my three favourite comedies from last summer (Difficult People, Another Period and Barely Famous) as well as a handful of series that set out to prove that summertime can also be scarytime. Let’s go in for a closer look, shall we?

SCREAM: The Series – Season 2 (MTV/Netflix)

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After a shaky first season, I was mildly surprised that SCREAM got the go-ahead for a second season. With an uneven go at being a slasher-movie-as-episodic-television I was intrigued to see how it would handle doing a slasher-sequel-as-episodic television. On the up side, I was glad to see that the acting and writing had both improved. On the down side, I was dismayed to see it stumble over the same problems it had in the first season: a low body count, how to plausibly have all the main players remain in an isolated location for several days while a killer is not only stalking them, but offing everyone around them  (a problem that also plagued both Scream Queens and Slasher earlier this year) and a killer whose whole plan would be shot to hell if those goddamn teens would just stop answering their phones whenever it says “UNKNOWN CALLER”.

Usually horror sequels are supposed to give us more of everything: more deaths, more danger, more suspects, etc. Well, SCREAM season 2 definitely served up more suspects, adding three new suspicious students to the six who survived season 1 (SIX! No “final girl” here, instead we got a “final sextet”) as well as a bevy of new suspicious adults to cast suspicious looks and do suspicious things. Yet, with all the new bodies, season two proved to be very skimpy on making any of them new corpses. Instead, it chose to pad it bigger season order (12 episodes to last season’s 10) with plodding side storylines and even LESS kills than season one. It never felt like the stakes were really high this time around, especially when the killer spent more episodes blackmailing one of the characters instead of actually trying to y’know, KILL them.

But, much like season one greatly improved in the final stretch, so did season two, and the final reveal of the killer was pretty darn great. It’s just too bad that it took forever to get there and that *SPOILER* only 1 of the original surviving six got knocked off in the process (like I said, low stakes). But the most scary thing about season 2? Wes Craven, director of the SCREAM film series, retained his executive producer credit on SCREAM the series, even though he passed away well before the second season even began filming.

But then again, Wes Craven executive producing from beyond the grave seems just about right to me.

SCORE – 2.5 imitation ghostface masks out of 5

 

dead02Dead of Summer (Freeform)

Hoo-boy, this one. I can only imagine what the pitch meeting was like: “Okay, it’s like those 80s summer camp/coming of age movies – hey we’ll even set it in the 80s! – but with a bit of LOST and Twin Peaks thrown in, then mashed up with, say The Last Exorcism, Candyman at least three of the Friday the 13th films”.

And that’s Dead of Summer in a nutshell. At the core, it’s about the reopening of a summer camp where decades in the past, some unfinished, unholy ritual resulted in the deaths of numerous people. And now it seems like someone or something is trying to mount the ritual once again. Now, being a Freeform (nee ABC Family) series, you know that it’s aimed at the Pretty Little Liars set and won’t be able to amp up the scares and carnage that we’re used to seeing on similar cable shows, but what I wasn’t expecting was for almost half of each episode to be devoted to the decidely un-scary backstories of the Camp Stillwater counsellors (all of which except for main girl, Amy were Camp Stillwater campers 5 years earlier – a plot point which has no payoff whatsoever).

Things go off the rails almost immediately with an “accidental drowning”, and soon we’re dealing with ghosts, possessions, devil worshippers and how Camp Stillwater is one of the worst-run camps EVER (like, we’re talking Kamp Krusty levels here). I mean, a very significant plot point involves how the area all around the camp is peppered with bear traps. BEAR TRAPS. Surrounding a camp for children, who are only cautioned with a “be sure to stay on the trails!” warning from their counsellors. (Those counsellors, by the way, are the worst. They pretty much treat the campers as minor diversions that get in the way of them hanging out with and/or blackmailing each other, leaving camp to go into town or leaving camp to explore the woods and/or explore each other).

Even after one counsellor almost dies after literally getting struck by lightning and another counsellor DOES die after “accidentally” falling into one of the aforementioned bear traps (she was totes power-pushed by a devil worshipper), the camp director just squeezes in a quickie memorial service between Arts and Crafts and Capture the Flag and then continues running the camp as scheduled, hoping the dead counsellor’s grieving parents who come by to pick up her belongings don’t ruin the vibe any more than it already has been.

To try and explain the actual plot would take far too long, and probably wouldn’t make much sense, but suffice to say, when it did stick to the scary stuff, Dead of Summer was kind of enjoyable (in an incoherent way) and as with SCREAM, it balanced out some pretty wooden acting and writing with action that kicked it up a notch in the home stretch including a final twist/reveal that was also pretty darn great.

SCORE – 2.5 bear traps out of 5

Next up: In Part Two of this post, my pick for the best “scary summer series”!