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Premiere Week!

It’s not quite the big deal it was when I was a kid, but we still get jazzed in our household for the fall television premieres.

Part of it’s probably a hangover from what TV was like when I was growing up. There was no such thing as on-demand home video of any kind back then, so the September premiere (NEVER October; that still feels vaguely blasphemous to me) of all the new TV shows was a huge deal. They didn’t stagger them either, so it all rolled out in one glorious week of New Stuff. With no way to record shows, we would agonize over which one to watch– I vividly remember what a dilemma Friday night was in my household in September of 1975, when my brother and I had to decide if the new Planet of the Apes on CBS outranked The Six Million Dollar Man‘s second-season premiere on ABC or not– they overlapped by half an hour, and we had to choose one or the other. (We went with Planet of the Apes, then the last half hour of Steve, until Apes was canceled. We were able to catch up with the bionic man in reruns so it all ended well, but my God what an argument that was.)

Not to mention the other Friday night battle my brother and I had that fall of 1975, this one with Mom: to be allowed to stay up till eleven PM to see Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Not only was it past our bedtimes but, our mother insisted, it was full of Scary Things that Might Give Us Nightmares. We did eventually get her to cave, mostly just because we were relentless, and as we kept reminding her, it wasn’t a school night. (Today, of course, Julie and I have all of those shows here on DVD and can watch them whenever we want and stay up all night doing it if we feel like it. God it’s good to be an adult sometimes.)

….sorry, got lost in my memories there for a minute. Anyway, both Julie and I are of that generation when fall TV was a big damn deal, and we still enjoy trying out all the new shows to see which ones we like enough to stay with. Even today, when there are five hundred cable channels and streaming internet video and DVDs and Netflix and everything else, we still get a little charge out of network premiere week– well, weeks, really, because you don’t get that solid one week’s blast the way you used to. Still, we’ve been sampling all the new stuff that’s in our particular nerd wheelhouse, or nerd-adjacent, anyway.

Of course, the one we were most interested in was Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

You’d think this would have been a lock. It’s Joss Whedon, it’s Marvel, it’s coming off the biggest-grossing superhero movie in the history of ever… but to be honest, we thought it was kind of underwhelming.

We really like the cast. Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson is walking a line between dorky and tough that is great fun, and Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May is cool too. The younger folks like Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennett are trying hard with what they’re given.

The trouble is that it just doesn’t feel like there’s very much there. There’s way too many scenes of people standing around explaining things to each other. The humor often feels forced, and the ‘quirky’ science geeks are just about getting on our last nerve. (This is no fault of actors Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, whose personal charm is the only reason we can stand the Fitz and Simmons characters at all.)

Just as an aside, I think it’s about time that we declared a moratorium on quirky science-geek sidekicks for at least five years. We’ve had Marshall on Alias, David Krumholtz on Numb3rs, Masi Oka on Hawaii Five-0, that pigtailed girl on NCIS, and now these two. The first couple of times, okay, it’s fun, but now it’s become a cliche.

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What’s frustrating about the show is that we can see a really fun series underneath this one trying to get out. But so far they are coasting on the goodwill of the Marvel movies and the charm of the cast. The stories are by-the-numbers TV adventure plots with some snark thrown in, and always with a clearly-telegraphed life lesson attached– i.e., when Grant expresses his doubts to Agent Coulson about the group’s ability to work as a team, we know that in the next fifteen minutes they will face a threat that will force them to learn to work as a team. And so on. It’s not a bad show, it’s very competently executed, but there’s just not much there for us to invest in.

Honestly, we feel like we did watching the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation– we want to like it better than we actually do. We’ll hang in there a bit with it though, mostly because we enjoy watching Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen. They are clearly having the time of their lives (their Twitter feeds are endearingly exuberant about the new gig.) I just wish more of that fun was coming across in the actual show.

On the other hand, Sleepy Hollow on Fox has been a pleasant surprise.

I’ll just tell you up front, the premise is completely nuts. Ichabod Crane is a Revolutionary War spy for the American rebel forces, reporting directly to General George Washington, until one day in battle he beheads a Hessian soldier that is in actuality Death, the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Now-headless Death is only slightly inconvenienced by this and would have killed Crane then and there had not Crane’s wife, secretly a witch-priestess of a cult that has been fighting to avert the impending end of the world, placed both Crane and the Horseman in suspended animation for a couple of centuries, until both awaken in the modern era whereupon Crane teams up with a tough lady cop on the Sleepy Hollow PD to fight occult crime.

That’s just the first twenty minutes of the pilot. It gets even crazier from there. There’s John Cho as a reanimated corpse, and a used-car salesman who’s also a practicing shaman with a secret warehouse full of Native American occult artifacts, and of course the Headless Horseman himself, who’s only too happy to abandon his battleaxe once he discovers what a machine gun can do.

The cast is terrific and really sells it– half the fun of the thing is watching Tom Mison as Crane and Nicole Beharie as exasperated lady cop Abbie Mills playing off each other. (My favorite so far is when Crane fires a pistol at a demon and, the shot proving ineffectual, drops the gun and runs. “Why did you drop the gun?” Abbie yells as they flee for their lives. “It was empty,” a bewildered Crane replies, to which Abbie squalls, “Today guns can fire MORE THAN ONE BULLET!”) We spend our time watching about evenly divided between laughing in delight at the sheer deranged audacity of the thing, and snorting “oh, come ON!” The internal logic is intermittent at best, historical accuracy is nonexistent… but damn it, it’s fun. It’s got a Kirbyesque hell-for-leather narrative drive that’s just irresistible. Or maybe it’s Bob Haney-esque. Somewhere between the two, I guess. Let’s say that if you’re the sort that gets bothered about historical facts being wrong or there being holes in the plot, then this is not the show for you; but if, on the other hand, you have a taste for Hammer films and old Irwin Allen adventure series like Time Tunnel, then you will adore this, because it’s basically a mashup of the two. But with better effects and a wickedly wry sense of humor.

We couldn’t even get through the first ten minutes of The Tomorrow People on the CW. Just not good. At all.

For God’s sake, my kids in Young Authors know better than to do the kind of clunky, exposition-heavy conversational recap scenes that opened this turkey, and the warmed-over X-Men premise of a secret mutant underground society of homo superior ripped-and-hawt tormented twentysomethings wasn’t interesting enough to make it worth our time. Even Mutant X was better TV than this. Maybe it’ll turn into something good– stranger things have happened– but we won’t be sticking around to see.

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Speaking of my kids in Young Authors, the vast majority of them this year are bright young nerdgirls who love to argue about Dr. Who and know all the words to the songs from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and the premiere they have been anxiously awaiting was just last night– Once Upon A Time In Wonderland.

The girls already are devoted to the parent show it’s spun out of, Once Upon A Time (so is my bride, actually, and I rather like it myself– it’s got Jane Espenson writing for it, which is enough to get my interest) so we figured we would check it out, if for no other reason than I’ll probably end up talking about it in class on Monday. It was… okay, I guess. Truthfully the pilot was mostly all about setting up the rest of the series, which appeared at first to be a story about Alice’s return to Wonderland after years in an asylum; she’s brought back by the White Rabbit and the Knave of Hearts to rescue her true love, an amiable genie named Cyrus, from the clutches of the evil Red Queen. Except it turns out that the Red Queen is only the employee of a far deadlier menace…

…the evil wizard, Jafar. Yeah, from Disney’s Aladdin. You can groan now.

Honestly, if they’d called him ANYthing else we probably would have liked it better. It was the kind of jarring product-placement moment that took us right out of the story. But Sophie Lowe gave Alice both a vulnerability and a determination that we could believe in, and it is Jane Espenson. As long as the crossover/Disney product-placement stuff doesn’t get too crass, we’re in. Anyway, it took most of the pilot just to get all the players in place. We’ll see how it goes when they start telling real stories.

Of the returning shows we pay attention to, a lot of them are starting to look tired, especially Revenge. I’ve noticed in recent years that there’s a number of television series built on premises that seem to me to be unsustainable for any length of time: the problem they pose for the protagonists is too limited, it’s too finite a setup for an ongoing TV show. Revenge, Lost, Last Resort, The Killing, etc. (To a lesser extent, this is true of Once Upon A Time and Sleepy Hollow, as well.) This is all very well if you have a specific arc you intend to execute over a set number of episodes, like Last Resort ended up doing, but if you get renewed year after year and your writing staff turns over, somewhere along the way viewers get pissed off at how you’re just dragging the thing out. Revenge is definitely hurting over that right now; they’ve just about run out of ways to hit the reset button.

On the other hand, a show I was originally ambivalent about, Arrow, has turned into something very fun and cool.

If you’re a DC purist, it’ll make you crazy, but I’m not, and I enjoy the various little comics-related Easter Eggs that pop up without worrying about how ‘accurate’ the show is. A large part of the show’s appeal for us is the delightful Emily Bett Rickards as computer geek Felicity Smoak, who not only gets all the best lines but also serves as Oliver Queen’s conscience a lot of the time.

We are also intrigued by the appearance of the Black Canary this season, and I hear the Flash is on deck as well. Of course, it’s the CW network, so there’s lots of hawt ripped twentysomethings obsessed with relationships and dating and whatnot, but it’s at least done with smarts and humor and it’s not at the expense of the superhero adventure, the way it ended up being on Smallville.

And we like how Oliver is slowly, reluctantly, learning how to be “the hero the city needs.” It’s working for us. We’ll be sticking around for this.

(It doesn’t really fall under the category of SF/comics/fantasy-type nerd TV or even nerd-adjacent TV, but we quite like The Blacklist, as well. You’d think it was Silence of the Lambs from the ads but really it’s much more of a Robert Ludlum vibe. Totally my kind of thing.)

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If I am honest, though, I have to admit that when it comes to nerd TV, the most fun we’ve been having is on the internet. We invested in an HDMI cable to connect the computer to the television and we’ve found all kinds of nutty stuff. Just the other night I eschewed what the networks were offering in favor of Exo-Man, a failed 1977 pilot that was very much the same idea as the M.A.N.T.I.S. TV series on Fox that came along a decade later: a brilliant physicist invents a super-suit in order to go after the criminals that crippled him. And also a bunch of Star Trek fan films.

Exo-Man was mostly nostalgia– I had a vague memory of liking it when I was a kid, and I was amazed at finding it at all… but it was really pretty awful. On the other hand, the Starship Farragut shows I stumbled across were very impressive and a lot of fun. Better written and more character-driven than some of the professional Trek efforts have been. Julie is the Trekkie in our household, and she loved them, for what that’s worth.

The truth is we get more entertainment on our television out of the HDMI internet connection than anything the networks are doing. As much as we enjoyed reliving the childhood fun of “premiere week,” an internet full of near-infinite TV choices in the here and now is WAY better.

See you next week.


I barely watch TV outside of sporting events but I am aware of most of these shows. Most of this awareness comes from watching those sporting events, actually.

Anyway, I probably woulda been more interested in SHIELD if it weren’t just a bunch of made-up characters for the series. I guess they used all the Howlers in the Captain America movie? I don’t know.

My wife watches Once Upon a Time. I watched about two episodes or so before dropping out permanently. It’s just so damn cute. I’m sure she’ll be watching the Wonderland thing, too.

Sleepy Hollow sounds awesome, though. That premise is sheer lunacy. That kind of lunacy I can get behind. Maybe I’ll catch up to it later on some streaming service.

I’ve been wanting to catch up with both Sleepy Hollow and SHIELD through the on demand of the cable, but just haven’t gotten a chance.

On that Arrow poster, is the lady second from the right Amy Acker? I haven’t gotten a chance to look it up myself, so I’ll ask someone who watches the show.

Not a geek-type show, but Buffy is on it — the Crazy Ones is the only premiere I actually watched. It’s the show about the ad agency with James Wolk that isn’t Mad Men. It’s also got Robin Williams being way too much Robin Williams. Burgas might like the pilot since Kelly Clarkson was in it, but overall it just seemed to try too hard and wasn’t funny enough. I’ll probably give it another shot, since the CBS on demand lets you fast forward through it (not all of them do). I did like what I saw as a reference to SMG’s last show, where there’s a big picture of Robin Williams on the wall of the agency, and he tells her that maybe it should be her picture up there. Ringer had a big ol’ picture of SMG on the wall of the apartment of one of the characters she played in that. So I had a little giggle over what I saw as an Easter Egg.

My brother and I used to LIVE for the big animated preview shows the networks would run. I feel like they were a week or two out from the debut of the new lineups, but they might have been the night before they launched. And Saturday mornings were regularly a heated debate over which show we were watching when. Good times, to be sure…

Crazy Ones improved a lot with the second episode but took a BIT of a slide back in its third, but still both better than the pilot, which I think Kelley felt had to hit certain notes dead on and so everything was very methodical and not as charming as you’d like. James Wolk has amazing chemistry with Robin Williams. It is too bad SMG does not as much. The most recent episode (in one of the cute outtake scenes they do at the end of every episode) did a Buffy reference, as well.

I’ve been enjoying Arrow, too, Greg, which is abnormal for me because I typically skip shows like it (Smallville, Birds of Prey, etc.) but yeah, when the CW-ness of it all creeps in it is pretty hilarious. Like the new District Attorney, who looks like he came out of central CW casting.

I’m right with you on every one of these shows but the Wonderland one – I didn’t watch it, so I have no opinion. I gave Tomorrow People a half hour, just because psychics are my thing. (Probably a holdover from my love of the original Escape to Witch Mountain/Return from Witch Mountain movies and the original Lena Thorul from Supergirl.) It didn’t grab me. Last night CW was rebroadcasting it and I caught the last half hour. I give them points for a different cliche plot point than the one I thought they were going for, but it still doesn’t make me want to follow it. Internally the decisions the characters make make no sense and there’s not enough punch in the script to make you ignore that. Well, one less show to watch gives me more time to read all those books stacked around my chair, doesn’t it? :)

I thought Agents of SHIELD took a huge leap forward in the third episode, which featured Dr. Franklin Hall a.k.a. Avengers baddie Graviton (even if the scene introducing him was ripped off from X-Men: The Last Stand). Still, I watch it on On Demand the next day because I prefer good ol’ NCIS.

@Travis: That’s not Amy Acker, but Willa Holland. She plays Oliver Queen’s younger sister Thea.

Amy Acker is now a regular on Person of Interest (highly recommended), after previously recurring since the finale of Season 1 (the show recently started its third season).

SHIELD is, at most, underwhelming. Coulson and Ming Na Wen’s characters are the only interesting ones but they haven’t got anything to do. The problem with the show is that it’s not SHIELD – it’s generic, ensemble 2013 written show that resembles every other show featuring an ensemble cast. It has neither the sexiness or the action of the comic the show is based upon.

Sleepy Hollow however – great fun.

Travis: I did not like The Crazy Ones that much, and decided not to watch past the pilot. But yes, Kelly Clarkson was awesome. Deny it not!!!!!

I agree with the SHIELD and Arrow reviews. I really want SHIELD to live up to its potential. Arrow is so slow, it’s taken me a while to get into.
Some other great shows, while not premiers, are noted on my blog: http://cobyscomics.blogspot.com/2013/10/super-shows.html

I know it’s a returning show, not a premiere, but on the ‘nerd’ spectrum, I really enjoy The Neighbors. Part of the fun is watching them throw everything at the wall to see what sticks (sometimes the two youngest kids are never seen or even referenced for entire episodes, they clearly don’t know what to do with them.)

Yeah, it’s full of ‘Earth rituals be crazy!’ but since the cultural landscape is vastly different today than it was even 10 years ago, there’s always something new to ridicule. When it gets in to the social structure and societal rules of the aliens though, is when it gets way more interesting.

The show is fully self-aware, making jokes like ‘I can’t believe Smash was cancelled! It didn’t even get a pity move to friday night!’ (A joke made in its first friday night episode) as well as constantly explaining their own writing process through plot exposition (‘We’ve never had a story together. Now I see why.’) And the season finale of season 1 had massive nerd fan bait in the form of George Takei and Mark Hamill as the alien rulers, complete with endless Star Trek vs Star Wars in-jokes. (For further nerd cred, Doug Jones was a recurring extra in season 1.)

It’s still finding its way, but it’s entertaining to watch. Toks Olagundoye as Jackie Joyner-Kersee is easily the star of the show.

And when the heck does Suburgatory come back? I know it’s losing some of its nerd cred, with Alan Tudyk no longer being on the show, but he was a largely superfluous character. (Though if he goes out on his last story, which was filing his ex-therapist’s teeth in to sharp demon teeth in retaliation for stealing his unrequited love, Carmen, his ex-maid, it’s a pretty great end to go out on. I’m sure they’ll explain he just went to jail.) Plus, the knock down, drag out fight between Tessa and Dahlia last season, (not a girl fight, but full on punching, smashing in to windows, bar brawling) was awesome. For a comedy, I can’t believe they went there.

SHIELD has barely interested me so far. I will keep watching, out of geekness, but I think they missed on several fronts:

It should have been more movie-like. That involves not casting all-TV veteran Ming Na in a recurring role, and not casting tv stalwart J. August Richards in the pilot, or NCIS/CSIS, LandOs persistente guest star David Conrad in the third episode. They should cast unknowns, not the guy who played a killer that Horatio Caine arrested, before he was arrested by Olivia Benson and shot by LJ Gibbs; or actors in the tv/film threshold.

And it needs more “name” agents. Quatermain and Sitwell would be awesome additions, as would Jimmy Woo, and GW Bridge. None of them would have a big role in any movie, methinks.

And it needs more “internationality”. Seriously! In the pilot Coulson says something about the whole world being in on the action, and then introduces… an English character (with too thick and annoying an accent). American TV is littered with brits, and while I have nothing against them, really, it kinda makes me think that about 10 percent of people in the US are british. They had a chance to introduce some international flavor, and went with yet another vanilla british character.

They should also go to Europe, with the Contessa as the continental chief or something

My brother and I used to LIVE for the big animated preview shows the networks would run. I feel like they were a week or two out from the debut of the new lineups, but they might have been the night before they launched.

Oh, us too. There’s a bunch of them up on YouTube now, but only going back to the early 1980s or so, which is a little after my time. At one point I remember there was an EPIC crossover tale where Space Ghost met all the other Hanna-Barbera adventure cartoons from the 1968 season– the Herculoids, Mightor, Moby Dick, etc. My memory is trying to claim that was the preview special that year but I don’t think it was, I think it was just my first-ever crossover experience.

And Saturday mornings were regularly a heated debate over which show we were watching when. Good times, to be sure…

We would end up alternating between things like Shazam! and the animated Star Trek. The good news was, they did so few episodes of Saturday morning kids’ TV compared with adult series that it wasn’t too hard to catch up.

I can’t believe they remade the Tomorrow People.

Count me as another who loved the preview shows for Saturday morning fare – those always got me so jazzed up. And Dave (Ziegler), as I recall, those were aired the night before the launch of the new season. I was lucky on Saturday mornings, by the way, since I was five and seven years younger than my older brother and sister, respectively, so they had already become “too mature” to watch cartoons by the time it became my thing – so no conflicts over what to watch. It was an entirely different story in the evenings, however, as I was pretty much forced to watch whatever the older siblings agreed on…

And man, I love those Trek fan films: Phase II especially, but also Starship Exeter, Farragut (thanks for the link; I see they’ve added some new stuff since I last visited the site a few years ago, including animated episodes) and one I stumbled onto just a few months ago, Star Trek Continues (http://www.startrekcontinues.com/). Have you seen these yet? There’s only one episode and a few vignettes so far, but it’s not bad. Also interesting in that Mr. Scott is played by James Doohan’s son, Chris, and Sulu is played by that guy from Mythbusters (Grant Imahara).

I was one of those who loved the big tv guide premier digest (special issue in Sept. before premier week) that was always informative about what series were coming on for the season. They were fun and I would carve out my viewing from their recommendations and show overviews. They covered everything. Only new show that grabbed me so far is the Blacklist and I have reservations about it. Wanted to like Ironside but nothing to see there. I vaguely remember the Space Ghost x-over episodes and cannot remember if they were on the individual shows of the time period or through the Space Ghost series. Have always loved team ups and x-overs and wished shows did it a little more. When I was a teen I wanted a lot of the 70 detective shows to meet up. Would have loved a Charlie’s Angels / Starsky and Hutch when I loved those shows. (Today old me has a nostalgic fondness for them but they really don’t hold up well.)

i have to admit that i never got into the planet of the apes tv show back then prefred the six million dollar man. and i am kind o liking agents of shield though wish they would start having them team have to face some baddies like hydra being in the flesh or for a thrill modock leading aim. arrow love how the producers are trying to stay true to the dc characters they use but make them fit for tv. including that he may soon be joined by the flash in a spin off if

emily bett rickards might be the hottest woman on tv. she’s gorgeous.

Greg Hatcher, on AGENTS OF SHIELD: “The trouble is that it just doesn’t feel like there’s very much there. There’s way too many scenes of people standing around explaining things to each other. The humor often feels forced, and the ‘quirky’ science geeks are just about getting on our last nerve. I think it’s about time that we declared a moratorium on quirky science-geek sidekicks for at least five years. We’ve had Marshall on Alias, David Krumholtz on Numb3rs, Masi Oka on Hawaii Five-0, that pigtailed girl on NCIS, and now these two. The first couple of times, okay, it’s fun, but now it’s become a cliche.”

You forgot the Computer Ops Room duo played by Barrett Foa and Renee’ Felicity Smith on NCIS: LA, whom Fitz and Simmons are basically lifted from only they dress in more ‘adult fashion’, have “smart” accents and they get to play with more techno-toys as to suit the Marvel Universe.

In fact, lt’s just tear SHIELD into the shreds it deserves for what it is – a third-tier cut rate recycling of NCIS and NCIS: LA that takes place in the Marvel Universe.

Mayday is Ziva David, Mossad Agent / NCIS agent. Fitz and Zimmons are the aforementioned duo from NCIS: LA. Skye is Abby without the goth fasion and tattoos look (girl in pigtails from NCIS, Greg) – just because she rides around in her van being a hacker instead of being a computer genius with a mass spectromoeter and other toys in a stationary lab, doesn’t mean they aren’t essentially the same character. Brett Dalton’s character – who’s so dull I can’t even tell you his name and it’s not worth my time to look it up – is a drab knockoff of NCIS Agent Anthony DiNozzo. Coulson’s Gibbs (the guy who’s the grizzled veteran agent who collects all the old stuff and loves old muscle cars and stuff) meets Granger (suit and tie by the book) with a lame assed sense of humor.

Top this off with the fact that there’s virtually no decent writers on this show, and what do you expect?

“WHAT?! JOSS RULES!” Listen, kiddies – David Greenwalt, Tim Minear, Jane Espenson, Doug Petrie – THAT’s who made BUFFY and ANGEL and FIREFLY worth a shit. NOT JOSS. Or don’t you remember how crappy the original Buffy movie was? Don’t you remember how bad ANGEL got once Greenwalt and Minear left and Jeffrey Bell** took over as head writer in Season 4, with teenage Connor and Cordy and Connor having sex and then Preggers Cordy to Jasmine to Team Angel running Wolfram & Hart? And who are the primary writers for SHIELD? Joss, his brother Jed – who has never had a damned thing produced that cannot be directly tied back to his connection to Joss, and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tachnaroen – who was an actress on DOLLHOUSE and has never written anything but that stupid DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG crap, another Joss production. And who’s one of the secondary writers? ** = Jeffrey Bell, sixth guy down the totem pole who was just sitting there after Greenwalt and Minear left, Espenson and Petrie stayed on BUFFY, and David Simkiss got fired by Joss for “creative differences”.

You’re not exactly instilling confidence when all you’ve got for a writing team is your family and your third team staff writing as your A-Team. Of COURSE your show’s gonna disappoint (and basically it has disappointed fans). Now, if Greenwalt wasn’t busy on SPARTACUS and GRIMM, and Minear and Petrie weren’t on AMERICAN HORROR STORY and CSI and other shows, and Espenson wasn’t on ONCE UPON A TIME and so on… maybe they could come pull Joss’ fat out of the fire? But honestly, I think all of those people have long since surpassed Joss Whedon in their own rights, and going back to work for him would be a step backwards for their careers, in my opinion.

Frankly, if Chloe Bennett and Elizabeth Henstridge weren’t so damned cute, there’d be no reason to watch this show whatsoever.

I haven’t seen the new version of Tomorrow People – sounds like they’ve made significant changes and are aiming at an older target audience than previous versions.
Being British and in my late forties I did watch the original 40 years ago when it was a decent ITV children’s show for 3 seasons of 13 “half-hour” episodes before going downhill with a boring 4th series (7 episodes). The 5th-7th series consisted of 3 2-part stories each, often corny (including the return of Hitler who was an alien) and not up to the standards of the early seasons. With a 4-part space war story ending it in the 8th season.
The 90s revival seemed targeted at a younger audience and, at first, seemed to aimed for laughs but improved for the second and third season (I believe they brought in Christopher Lee as a guest villain for one story)

Anonymous interesting comment on the Whedon C team, arigato

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