CVIndependent

Sat12152018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Are we living in the end times? Yeah, probably—what are you going to do about it? Rage against the dying of the light and/or the Machine? Sorry, neither Dylan Thomas nor Zack de la Rocha are going to save your ass from annihilation.

Instead, binge some apocalypse-centric TV shows while waiting for the end of civilization—and there are plenty from which to choose. While the genre is currently dominated by The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Talking Dead Careers With Chris Hardwick and the like, there are other end-of-days series out there in the streamverse that are more fun, or think-ier, or at least somewhat sanitary. (Take a moment to imagine what Rick Grimes’ facial hair smells like—organic beard oil, it ain’t.)

Here are nine apocalyptic TV series to binge while standing by for sweet oblivion.

Blood Drive (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): What makes 2017 Syfy series Blood Drive even better than a Grindhouse Cannonball Run? It’s a cross-country death race in which the cars Run! On! Blood! Blood Drive follows ex-cop Arthur (Alan Ritchson) and trigger-happy Grace (Christina Ochoa), an odd couple forced to partner up in the race across an environmentally ravaged ‘Merica in the “distant future” of 1999 (yep), deliriously emceed by homicidal host Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham). It’s dumb, violent, sexy, meta and utterly over-the-top—no wonder it only lasted one season.

The Strain (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): When it premiered in 2014, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s FX series The Strain had to face vampire fatigue in the wake of Twilight and True Blood. This was anything but a hunky-vamps show—The Strain’s bloodsuckers are creepy AF. When an international flight full of “dead” passengers and crew lands in New York City, CDC agents Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Martinez (Mia Maestro) slowly decipher a grand conspiracy to transform Earth into Planet Vampire, and NYC is ground zero.

Continuum (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): In the year 2077, the world is ruled by a corporate oligarchy in a constantly surveilled police state, and most everyone is cool with it—including Vancouver cop Kiera (Rachel Nichols). But when Liber8, a cleverly named group of time-traveling terrorists go back to 2012 to stop the rise of the corporatocracy, it’s up to Kiera to chase and stop them … or re-evaluate everything she thinks she knows. Continuum’s brain-bending rules of cause-and-effect are as detailed as they are occasionally confusing, but time-travel geeks should be enthralled.

Wayward Pines (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Like CBS’ sorta-similar Under the Dome, 2015’s Wayward Pines was meant to be a single-season Fox summer series with a conclusion—and neither network kept their word. Matt Dillon stars as a Secret Service agent who, after a car crash, winds up in Wayward Pines, a charming Idaho town with no roads or communication out. (All the phones are landlines!) Disorienting weirdness and escalating clues that Wayward Pines may be a governmental human terrarium ensue. M. Night Shyamalan nailed Season 1; don’t even bother with Season 2.

Dominion (Seasons 1-2 on Amazon and iTunes): In 2014, Syfy already had a pricey, post-apocalyptic series on the air, the cowboys-and-aliens future Western Defiance, but Dominion was something darker and weirder. Based on rogue-angel movie mess Legion and set 25 years later, Dominion’s Earth was in ruins and terrorized by archangels bent on wiping out humans, who now live isolated in high-tech bunker cities like Vega (formerly Las Vegas). “Chosen One” plot nonsense aside, Dominion established an intriguing, if over-acted, Game of Thrones-lite stratagem over 21 episodes.

Z Nation (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Syfy’s answer to The Walking Dead is meant to be a cheap, played-for-laughs misdirection—it was the audience who fucked up in taking it seriously when it debuted in 2014. (C’mon, It’s produced by the Sharknado people.) Three years after a zombie virus has ravaged the country, a ragtag band of survivors transport an ex-military test patient from New York to California for the possible formulation of an anti-zombie vaccine … and it just gets more ridiculous from there. Z Nation: the fun, road-trippin’ side of the zombie apocalypse.

Dark Angel (Seasons 1-2 on Amazon): The series that brought us future Honey star Jessica Alba, 2000’s Dark Angel. Fox laid out truckloads of cash for James Cameron’s futuristic dystopia—set in 2009!—and it shows in every frame of the spectacular two-hour pilot episode. An electromagnetic pulse bomb has turned ’Merica into a computer-less mess, and genetically engineered warrior Max (Alba) is on the lam from the military, undercover as a bike messenger and, of course, master thief. After a killer start, Dark Angel lost the plot (and the budget), but oh, what could have been.

Woops! (Season 1 on YouTube): On the other end of the Fox money scale, there’s 1992’s Woops!, the conceptual ancestor of the network’s more recent—and far better—Last Man on Earth. After a nuclear warhead is accidentally launched during a military parade (paying attention, Mr. President?), the world is blow’d up, and only six survivors (including eventual Sex and the City and Californication star Evan Handler) are left to rebuild humanity—too bad they’re all morons. The “post-apocalyptic Gilligan’s Island” actually aired 10 episodes, because what else was on in ‘92?

Life After People (Seasons 1-2 on History.com and History app): So, we’re gone—what happens to the planet and all the stuff we leave behind? Scientists, engineers and other experts postulate all manner of crazy shit in Life After People, a History Channel series that imagines a de-populated Earth. Rats take over Las Vegas! Structures fall apart! War arsenals self-destruct! Supermarket inventories rot! Cities flood! Animals and vegetation run wild! Worst of all, solar-powered radio stations broadcast “Hotel California” eternally! Life After People is quite soothing, actually—bring on The End.

Published in TV

Longmire (Thursday, Sept. 10, Netflix), season premiere: Cable net A&E canceled modern-day western Longmire after its third and strongest-yet season in 2014, because the viewership demo was too old. While A&E forged ahead with shrewd new programming like Neighbors With Benefits (canceled after two episodes), Netflix picked up Longmire for a 10-episode Season 4 that continues right where it left off: Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is finally on to the man who had his wife killed, and Deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) is once again on the wrong end of a gun. Think of Longmire as a grizzled cousin to Justified, but with more pathos than clever quips, and binge all four seasons post-haste.

Z Nation (Friday, Sept. 11, Syfy), season premiere: In its debut season a year ago, lo-fi zombie romp Z Nation enjoyed the luxury of airing in a Walking Dead-free zone for a few weeks. This time around, however, spin-off Fear the Walking Dead is eating up all of the viewers and buzz—is there enough demand for all of this chomp drama? It helps that Z Nation doesn’t take itself too seriously in tone (less Dawn of the Dead, more Shawn of the Dead) or budget (an episode of Z Nation probably costs less than Norman Reedus’ hairstylist), but it’s still an iffy affair. The ragtag group of zombie-apocalypse survivors (now led by Kellita Smith, assuming the Rick Grimes badass role nicely) are still en route to California to find a Z-cure, but don’t expect them to cross paths with the Fear the Walking Dead gang in L.A.

Continuum (Friday, Sept. 11, Syfy), season premiere: The creator of Canadian time-travel actioner Continuum had up to 10 seasons in mind to tell his story; the originating network up north said, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to wrap it in four—and you only get six episodes, eh.” Will 2077 cop Kiera (Rachel Nichols) finally be able to stop “terrorist” group Liber8 from altering the future here in the present? And should she? The future Liber8 is attempting to thwart is an ironfisted, if outwardly tolerable, corporate dictatorship and zero-privacy police state. Oh, wait—we’re already there. (Sorry, been listening to that whacky Alex Jones again.)

Dancing With the Stars (Monday, Sept. 14, ABC), season premiere: Sigh. This time around, it’s Nick Carter (ex-Backstreet Boy), Victor Espinoza (jockey), Andy Grammer (mid-level pop singer), Hayes Grier (“social-media celebrity”), Bindi Irwin (daughter of the Crocodile Hunter), Alexa PenaVega (the Spy Kids movies), Carlos PenaVega (married to Alexa), Gary Busey (noted lunatic), etc., etc. Is there a legal threshold for use of the term “Star”?

The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 15, Hulu), season premiere: Even though streaming service Hulu is sticking with the old-school, week-by-week network TV model for The Mindy Project instead of dropping all of Season 4 at once (was nothing learned from Yahoo!’s fatal mishandling of Community?), at least Mindy Kaling’s Fox-canceled sitcom lives on. I would tell you that the new season opens with an alternate-lives/paths-not-taken tribute to some Gwyneth Paltrow flick called Sliding Doors, but I’ve never seen it and neither have you, so … Welcome back, Mindy!

The Bastard Executioner (Tuesday, Sept. 15, FX), series debut: As he did with Sons of Anarchy, writer/producer Kurt Sutter has cast himself and wife Katey Sagal in his 14th-century period series The Bastard Executioner; whether or not every episode runs more than 90 minutes long remains to be seen. Game of Thrones, Vikings and other dramas have tread this heightened historical ground already—but, unsurprisingly, Sutter’s take is uniquely his own: a bloody, violent, viscerally real world devoid of Thrones’ mystical hoodoo and Vikings’ low-budget cheese. The titular bastard is Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), a war-scarred ex-knight of King Edward I’s army who’s called back to serve, but now as an executioner who takes the lives/heads of the highest royalty and the lowest commoners. It’s a sprawling, dense epic Sutter’s trying to pull off here—but they once said “Hamlet on Harleys” couldn’t be done, and look how Sons of Anarchy turned out. The merchandising angles, though, are somewhat more limited; don’t expect Bastard Executioner sword keychain bottle-openers at Hot Topic by Christmas.

Published in TV

Z Nation (Friday, Sept. 12, Syfy), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ had high hopes for Z Nation, Syfy’s would-be answer to The Walking Dead—not officially, but at this point in the game, any new zombie-based series will automatically be labeled as such. Too bad it’s a terribly written, cheaply shot (seriously, it looks like it was filmed on an iPhone—an iPhone4, at best) and spottily cast (don’t get attached to lone A-lister Harold Perrineau, just sayin’) crapshoot with only a handful of “Damn!” moments worth a look. (Two words: zombie baby.) Three years after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the country, a ragtag band of survivors (led by Tom Everett Scott) have to get an ex-military test patient from New York to California for the possible formulation of an anti-Z vaccine. Meanwhile, for no apparent reason, a left-behind soldier (DJ Qualls) performs a stilted Pump Up the Volume/Good Morning Vietnam radio-voiceover shtick from a remote Arctic communications base, because …? The kills are passable, but The Walking Dead has made it impossible to just skate by on gore anymore. Where did all that money you didn’t spend on Sharknado 2 go, Syfy?

Utopia (Fridays and Tuesdays, Fox), new series: It’s a reality show with no prize, a “social experiment” … ugh … wherein a disparate group of people are dropped in the middle of nowhere for a year (!) and forced to create their own society and infrastructure. This “daring” “new” reality-show concept (swiped from a Dutch series, of course) at least sounds like a departure from the norm, but Utopia is really just another exploitative freak showcase, like Big Brother without a hot tub, or Survivor with no potential survivors. But at least Fox isn’t overdoing it: The Dutch version of Utopia airs five nights a week; we’re only subjected to two.

New Girl, The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 16, Fox), season premieres: Unfortunately, one of those nights is Tuesday, so Utopia will be providing a weak (going by the show’s ratings thus far) lead-in for New Girl this season, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been relocated to Sundays with cartoons and the comedic black hole that is the new Mulaney. Zooey Deschanel and the gang will absorb the hit, but The Mindy Project can’t afford to lose any more viewers—especially not with the potentially show-killing Season 3 storyline of coupling Mindy (Mindy Kaling) with Danny (Chris Messina). Better idea: Send Mindy to Utopia; they’ll need an OB/GYN eventually.

Red Band Society (Wednesday, Sept. 17, Fox), series debut: A dramedy with the snarky teen attitude of Glee and none of the musical numbers, Red Band Society (a title that beat out Sadder Childrens Hospital and Kancer Kidz!) is the only real chance Fox is taking this season beyond Gotham. Like early Glee, the young cancer-ward residents are all fresh-faced newbies spouting rapid-fire pop-cultural zingers, leavened with gallows humor and grounded by older actors of note (Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable as hospital staff). Hopefully, RBS can avoid the Glee death spiral. (Yes, I’m aware of the phrasing.)

The Mysteries of Laura (Wednesday, Sept. 17, NBC), series debut: There are two shows here: One’s a cop show in which a surprisingly effective Debra Messing plays a wisecracking, been-there-done-that NYPD detective who wouldn’t be out of place on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; in the other, she’s a harried single-ish mom to awful, awful twins. Call me when they dump the brats.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 16!

Alpha House: Season 1

Four Republican senators (John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos) share a rental house in Washington, D.C., and political wackiness ensues. Based on real-life events, if not actual Republican wackiness. (Anderson Amazon Direct)

Burning Love: Seasons 2 and 3

In Season 2, hot-mess Julie (June Diane Raphael) must choose between 12 dumb hunks (dunks?); in Season 3, previous contestants compete for cash instead of love. The only Bachelor/Bachelorette parody you’ll ever need. (Paramount)

The Fault in Our Stars

Two teens (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort … are these real names?) meet and fall in love in a cancer-support group in the tear-jerking film that sounds nothing at all like the new Fox TV series Red Band Society. Nope, not at all. (Fox)

From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 1

Robert Rodriguez’s 10-episode remake of his movie, starring D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz as the Gecko Bros, as well as Eiza Gonzalez as hot-as-hell Santanico and Wilmer Valderrama as evil-as-hell Carlos. It aired on El Rey, so you missed it. (EOne)

Godzilla

This is the re-re-re-reboot of Godzilla, in which the big (really big this time) lizard-thing and a pair of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, duh) are converging upon the Pacific Rim, er, San Francisco. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Sept. 16)

About a Boy: Season 1, Arrow: Season 2, Awkward: Season 3, The Big Bang Theory: Season 7, Bones: Season 9, Castle: Season 6, Grimm: Season 3, Hannibal: Season 2, Jesus People, Petals on the Wind, Sleepy Hollow: Season 1, South Park: Season 17, Spartacus: The Complete Series.

Published in TV

The League (FXX; Wednesday, Sept. 3, season premiere): The funniest sorta-sports-related show ever returns, with Katie as the reigning (and insufferable) fantasy football league champion. Thanks to The Simpsons, FXX is finally on America’s radar.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO; Sunday, Sept. 7, season premiere): In the fifth-season (and final-season) premiere, Nucky’s in Cuba wooing Bacardi Rum as Prohibition ends, and the Great Depression of the 1930s sets in. So, if you though the show was a downer before

Sons of Anarchy (FX; Tuesday, Sept. 9, season premiere): In the premiere of the seventh and final season, Jax sets a new mission for SAMCRO: Avenge the murder of Tara, as soon as he figures out who did it. Yes, the premiere is 90 minutes, and yes, half of it is musical montages.

Z Nation (Syfy; Friday, Sept. 12, series debut): In Syfy’s answer to The Walking Dead, a group of survivors must transport a man with the potential cure across a zombie-ridden U.S. of A. Finally, we’ll learn if West Coast zombies are more laid-back than East Coast zombies.

Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories (Adult Swim; Thursday; Sept. 18, season premiere): Last year’s Halloween special is now an anthology series, with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim inflicting more weirdness on a higher budget than ever. Like $200.

Squidbillies (Adult Swim; Sunday, Sept. 21, season premiere): The redneck sea creatures return for Season 9 (!), this year taking on “marriage inequality, taint cancer, speciesism, and the impending Russian snake apocalypse.” Thanks a lot, Obama!

South Park, Key and Peele (Comedy Central; Wednesday, Sept. 24, season premieres): No one knows what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have in mind for Season 18 of South Park, probably not even them. Same goes for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele with their new season. Godspeed, Comedy Central censors.

Homeland (Showtime; Sunday, Oct. 5, season premiere): It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show, as our precarious heroine is deployed to the frontline in the Middle East (great plan, CIA). No, she won’t be bringing the Brody baby—she’s not that nuts.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX; Wednesday, Oct. 8, season premiere): In 1952 Florida, a traveling troupe of carnival folk (including AHS regulars Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, as well as newcomers Michael Chiklis and Wes Bentley) encounter dark, evil forces. Insert Florida joke here.

The Walking Dead (AMC; Sunday, Oct. 12, season premiere): Will Rick and the gang get out of the boxcar alive? Or will they become Terminus burgers? Are Carol and Tyreese on the way? Where’s Beth? Will the Z Nation entourage pass through Georgia? Why the hell is Comic Book Men still on? So many questions.

The Affair (Showtime; Sunday, Oct. 12, series debut): Joshua Jackson, Maura Tierney, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson star in the story of how an extramarital affair affects two families. It’s a departure for Showtime in the fact that only one affair is happening.

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO; Friday, Oct. 17, series debut): Director Dave Grohl documents the history of musical landmark cities over eight episodes. Oh, and the Foo Fighters record one song for their new album Sonic Highways in each town.

Web Therapy (Showtime; Wednesday, Oct. 22, season premiere): Lisa Kudrow is back for a new season as online therapist Fiona Wallice, with a new patient list that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Hamm, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Matthew Perry, Allison Janney, Lauren Graham, Craig Ferguson, Calista Flockhart, Dax Shephard and Nina Garcia. Then, in November, Kudrow returns to HBO in the comeback of The Comeback—she’ll be starring in two comedies on two premium-cable networks simultaneously. What are you up to, David Schwimmer?


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 9!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Cap (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) battle an inside conspiracy against S.H.I.E.L.D. and the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). It ties in with a certain TV show below. (Marvel/Disney)

Homeland: Season 3

Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) search for the CIA headquarters bomber, while Brody (Damian Lewis) takes on a mission of redemption in Iran, which doesn’t go well at all. Oh, don’t get hung up on spoilers. (Paramount)

Mantervention

After a girl breaks his heart, a dude asks his friend to stage a “mantervention” of sex and debauchery to cure him of being a hopeless romantic—only to learn that love isn’t so bad, after all. But neither is sex and debauchery, so win-win. (Vision)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1

Not-dead Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a ridiculously good-looking team of operatives to investigate weird cases-of-the-week and occasionally intersect with Marvel movies. Maybe just skip the first nine episodes. (Marvel/ABC)

Supernatural: Season 9

Sam and Dean must reopen the gates of heaven and stop a demon insurrection in hell while dealing with their own personal, heh, demons. Meanwhile, Castiel adjusts to being human and Crowley steals the whole damned, heh, show. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Sept. 9)

Blue Bloods: Season 4, Brick Mansions, Burning Blue, Dead Within, Deadheads, Doctor Who: Deep Breath, God’s Pocket, The Goldbergs: Season 1, Killer Mermaid, Last Passenger, A Long Way Down, Monika, Palo Alto, Top Model, The Vampire Diaries: Season 5.

Published in TV