Paul McCartney the life, a review (part one)

Paul McCartney, the Life

By Phillip Norman

A review, part one

The author’s name should be familiar to hardcore Beatle fans or Beatle historians.

He is the author of Shout, still a definitive biography of the group. It went to press shortly before John Lennon’s murder in 1980 and was published soon thereafter. The book was a smash hit – it would have sold well despite the timing of its release; it was a good book – and was timely bolstered by the author’s seeming assertion that the group was John Lennon plus three session men. McCartney bristled.

The Lennon lovefest continued with the author’s John Lennon, the Life; again relegating McCartney to that of a lucky hanger-on.

When the author was hired to write Paul McCartney, the Life, the author expected no cooperation from the Macca machine. But to his surprise, he received, if not Paul’s blessing, at least an affirmative nod. The author was given permission to speak to family, current and former employees and fellow musicians.

(Note I left out the word “friends”. Although the author neither says not intimates the fact, after reading the book it seems Paul has no friends other than his very tight-knit family spanning four generations. There’s nothing wrong with keeping yourself to yourself, but it is telling to his personality that there is no Eric Clapton to his George Harrison or no Harry Nilsson to his John Lennon. He had Linda, his kids, his brother, and his dad, aunts, uncles and Ringo – who counts as a brother. That’s all he needs.)

Anyone who called Paul (or his office) to verify Norman’s claim was told, “It’s up to you, but Paul doesn’t mind if you speak to him.”

There are only archival (by that I mean previously published) interviews with Paul, his children, his wives and Ringo. Otherwise the author interviewed nearly everyone else!

Norman explains this in the long introduction; along with his first meeting with Paul when he (Norman) was a reporter in the 1960s. He got to hold Paul’s Hoffner violin bass (Paul tossed it to him – the author describes his mortal fear of dropping it). The author admitted his bias toward Lennon and promised to write a fair book on Paul.

He succeeds.

Paul does not have many demons (unlike Lennon), but he does have his warts. These are shown in the book, but not in a tabloid way. They are explained and in the end the reader is left feeling sympathetic.

 

Paul comes off as a workaholic musician who autocratically keeps a tight rein on his music and image. The only other part of his life that matters is family – where he is a doting husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and nephew.

Paul McCartney the Life is as thick as a cinder block and could stop a bullet. Very little of Paul’s life is left out. Being able to surprise hard-core Beatles fans is a good trick in these later years – but you’ll find SOMETHING you did not know within its covers.

Norman explains how Paul’s love of family was rooted from the beginning with his kind father and mother. His mother’s death was a touching early moment and referred to throughout the rest of the book/the rest of Paul’s life. It weighed on his soul as much as the death of Julia Lennon did to John’s, but not as publicly.

The author also details whence Paul’s love of music came. Not just rock and roll, but varying genres thanks to his father, Jim, who played in his own jazz band.

 

The Beatle years were given their respectful due and comprised the second quarter of the book. The only tabloid-y part of the book came from Paul’s love affairs during the years before Linda.

Much is made of Paul’s non-Beatle interests during the 1960s and emphasizes that he was the first to experiment with things usually attributed to John: Paul was the first to tinker with avant-garde music and film, collect art (he drew and painted, too). He was interested in the latest fashion trends and was the first of the Fabs to grow a moustache (but, always being image-conscious, until the Beatles were finished he NEVER had his hair in anything but variations of the Beatle-cut).

The author describes Paul’s lawsuit to break up the corporate stranglehold of the Business Beatles in grisly detail as well as his public feud with Lennon. The author postulates that if Paul’s kind song “Dear Friend” had appeared on the album “Ram” rather than “Wild Life” it would have saved both sides a lot of hard feelings. I agree.

He began the 1970s with songs and albums that gave the people what they wanted – Beatle-like pop. After a few mis-starts, he formed Wings, a group that were what he wanted the Beatles to become – a performing band.

Here the author begins going into material that most Beatle biographies only gloss over – the story of Wings. He details their gigs. Band members get brief biographies. The making and charting of albums and singles are detailed and reviewed.

He also details the rapprochement with his “estranged fiancé” John.

Paul’s time in a Japanese jail for possession of marijuana is detailed (Norman should be complimented for writing of Paul’s copious history with the weed. His – and Linda and other – drug use is detailed but told in complete neutrality and with no judgment).

The Japan arrest marked the end of Wings (the other band members were forced to leave the country and Paul, at the time, saw that as a betrayal), the end of touring for many years, the end of arena-rocker Paul of the 1970s. Later that year came another ending.

 

My review continues next time.

 

Paul McCartney the Life by Philip Norman, 978016327961, 818 pages by Little, Brown & Company, published May 3, 2016.

 

Original material copyright 2016 Michael Curry

Michael Curry is the author of the short story “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” available here on Amazon Kindle.

What Might Have Been: the CW’s Constantine

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

? … Maybe someday … Constantine

 

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON the ONLY (so far)

John Constantine, a demon hunter and dabbling master of the occult, must struggle with his past sins while protecting the innocent from the converging supernatural threats that constantly break through to our world due to the “Rising Darkness”. Balancing his actions upon the line of good and evil, Constantine uses his skills and a supernatural scry map to journey across the nation to send these terrors back to their own world, all for the hope of redeeming his soul from eternal torment.

***

            Rumors of Constantine becoming the fifth DC-CW show were just that – and became wishful thinking among fans of the show.

Like me.

Only the most zombie-like of Marvel zombies will refuse to admit that DC’s horror comics were better than Marvel’s horror comics; even well into the 1990s when Constantine the comic book was in full vigor. (“What about DC’s Wasteland?” “Shut up.”)

Even in their super-hero line, horror would rear its misshapen head with characters like the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre and Dr. Fate – two of those three had fun Easter egg references in Constantine’s run. The show even had the Justice League’s baddie Felix Faust in an episode!

Constantine would have been a repository of all things supernatural in CW’s superhero universe.

Too bad the show was doomed from the start.

 

It had the usual Berlanti Production touches: the main character had a team of followers behind him helping with that episode’s problems. Oh sure after the pilot episode they dumped his first female companion for another without a word, but that happens with pilots. I guess.

Chas was to John Constantine what Diggle is to Arrow – muscle when needed. Like Diggle, he is knowledgeable about the goings-on of the show. He has helped Constantine in the time before the show and does not need an explanation about what kind of baddie he is fighting. He has his own arcane powers that are revealed slowly during the show. Charles Halford plays him wonderfully.

The audience conduit is played by Angelica Celaya as Zed. John and Chas explain that week’s Big Bad to us through her. Her arcane powers of divination help with necessary shortcuts in the show (otherwise how would Constantine know about evil doings in New Orleans?). She is also a great actress playing a great character.

I liked the underused Harold Perrineau as Manny – an angel ally of Constantine but still a pain in the main character’s backside. Although he seemed to be on Constantine’s side, he also seemed to have a different agenda. Constantine didn’t trust him. I didn’t either… He would have played a larger role in the series had it continued (as the final aired episode clearly showed).

 

There was a Big Bad who was (presumably) going to duke it out with our hero in the season finale. Unlike the other Berlanti shows, we never knew who the Big Bad was until late into the season. In fact, the main villain was revealed in the last broadcast show – ending in a bit of a cliff-hanger. It is likely we will never see it resolved.

And mcguffins abounded in the show – there was always a talisman or other thingumabob that Constantine and his crew discovered that would defeat the bad guy (be it human or demon) after the initial failed confrontation. But here it worked. Using a magical devise to defeat the Big Bad makes sense in this supernatural setting…

Perhaps the horror element made us forget this by-now over-used CW super-hero plot device.

 

The original character was based on the musician Sting, but actor Matt Ryan made the character his own. He played Constantine with an exhausted charm. You want to have a drink with him – then run away as fast as you can!

He seemed tired and confused (that is, drunk) most of the time. With his trench coat, he was something of a horror-themed Columbo with a northern British accent. But like Columbo, he always knew what he was facing and (sometimes) knew what he was doing. True, at times it didn’t work …

And intended or not, the thought of Kolchak always bubbled below the surface…

 

One highlight episode was “The Devil’s Vinyl” featuring a satanic LP. The show introduces sometimes ally/sometimes villain Papa Midnite.

 

Perhaps the character will pop up again in the other DC-CW shows as he did in his wonderful appearance in a fourth-season Arrow episode, when Flash, Supergirl or Arrow (again) needs some supernatural help.

constantine_2

I would hate to see them waste an excellent character played by an excellent actor.

All of the episodes are available on CW-Seed. Find them and watch them.

And Happy Halloween!

download

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

DC Legends of Tomorrow, a primer

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Thursday: Legends of Tomorrow

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE

After the murder of his family by immortal dictator Vandal Savage, time master Rip Hunter travels back in time to the present day where he brings together a team of heroes and villains (Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave) in an attempt to prevent Savage from destroying the world. However, they are opposed by the Time Masters, an organization from the future dedicated to protect and manipulate the timeline as they see fit and a body to which Hunter had sworn allegiance. During their early adventures, they are hunted by the Time Master’s agent Chronos.

***

            Lordie do people dislike this show. Go to IMDB and read some of the reviews.

Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s not THAT bad.

Isn’t it?

I liked the show! I look forward to watching it and am happy when I see it on my Tivo every Friday morning.

But after writing this review I realized there were parts – big parts – that I didn’t like.

In the end I decided the show was a mixed bag.

 

The premise itself is part of the problem: it’s the Gilligan’s Island syndrome. Once they defeat Vandal Savage, the show is over! SPOILER: The last episode proves this out. The gang breaks up and only some of them come back!

 

The show is not as dark as Arrow (despite its premise) and has light moments that rival Flash. The time-travelling premise should be liberating, but instead it seems limiting.

We KNOW they won’t finally confront Savage until the season finale, so the battles with him are incidental from the very beginning.

 

The show provides us with Easter eggs harkening to their DC comics’ roots…

Jonah Hex’s appearance was a highlight.

Finding Per Degaton as a youth made for some interesting moral debates: would you kill Hitler-as-a-child if you could?

Characters from other DC-CW shows pop up; notably Quentin Lance. We spy alternate futures including Diggle’s son taking up the Green Arrow mantel. They are careful in the future – not wanting to spoil anything. But they are also careful in the past when they did not have to be.

Professor Stein, Captain Cold and even Rip Hunter meeting their younger selves provided some good moments, but even I was confused when they snatched some team members as newborns. That plot-thread was quickly forgotten and wrapped up on the next show before the opening credits.

I found the multi-part arc in the 1950s especially disappointing. Racial hatred was only just touched upon. Maybe it was because the story was in Washington state. Jax’s flirtation and dating a white girl created some trouble with goons, but it was no worse than were he beat up by a jealous boyfriend rather than bigots.

Meanwhile, Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders play a mixed race couple who move into the neighborhood with only the slightest double-takes from the neighbors. Maybe Washingtonians were more progressive in the late 1950s than I thought.

They should have taken a chance and placed the story arc in Old Miss. But I don’t think CW wanted to do that.

 

One complaint that I had about the show from the beginning was the dialogue. Sometimes the characters quipped without having anything to say. Did the actors have to have an equal number of lines? Did the writers once in a while say, “Mick hasn’t spoken for a while…”

I noticed one scene where the camera panned left to right. As the camera passed, each character had a line. People don’t speak in the order in which they are standing.

 

***

            So what DID I like about it?

The characters!

Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell stole every scene as Captain Cold and Heat Wave (although they were mostly called by their civilian names Leonard Snark and Mick Rory). The duo was my favorite part of the show, despite my initial fear that they would be its weakest link (villains? They couldn’t come up with two other heroes?)! The occasional “I like this guy,” from Rory always made me giggle.

Best line of the show was Rory’s: “I need you to burn something.” “About time…”

Snark’s slow turn from bad guy to almost-good guy was the best part of the show. “Why do you care about any of them?” Rory would ask. “I don’t, but they’re on my team, and you watch out for your team.”

Nice.

So was Rory’s very very slowly developing friendship with Ray Palmer.

Speaking of him, Brandon Routh still channels his inner Christopher Reeve. He was excellent as Superman and very good as the Atom. I just don’t think he is given much to work with here. His eccentricity in Arrow became flightiness here.

His romance with Kendra Saunders was not very convincing. Plus the constant reminder that she is meant only for Carter Hall wears thin.

Saunders meeting her previous incarnation in the Old West was a fun few minutes, though.

Both characters were more interesting and better done in Flash and Arrow.

Poor Sarah Lance (the White Canary), despite being played excellently by Caity Lotz, seems bored. The few times the show focuses on her are excellent: her falling for a nurse in the 1950s and rebuffing Snart’s hesitant advances. Maybe the writers weren’t sure what to do with her and her powers. She kicks butt, true, but what can she do against a robot as tall as a skyscraper? Hopefully she will be back on Arrow soon providing some grist for that mill should Legends fail to keep up good ratings.

I like Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein; always pontificating and irritating his team while providing the viewer exposition. He talks down to the team to provide exposition for the viewer. His “partner” is Franz Dramah as Jax. Their friendship was only explored occasionally and we need more of it.

Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter was also wonderful. His Ahab-like need for vengeance wore pretty thin, though. Savage killed his wife and son! Yes, we know, we were told in the opening credits and two or three times every show – even shows that don’t really feature Savage.

I wish Casper Crump were given more to do as Vandal Savage than preen and smirk. His final battles in the season finale were very good, though.

***

            The show was an exemplary example of Berlanti Productions #1 rule of a Big Bad who fights the heroes throughout the season culminating in the season finale.

But fortunately the nature of the show made it nearly impossible for Rule #2: bad guy (or gal) appears, heroes fight him or her and gets whipped. Team finds flaw and makes a macguffin to defeat bad guy. Arrow does it, Flash does it, even Supergirl. Legends? Not so much.

***

            It’s not a perfect show, but it is fun to watch, and that’s the whole point isn’t it?

***

So what’s next for our legends? It looks from the previews that the show is entering into Doctor Who territory – going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous.

They will be repairing the timeline.

They will also be meeting more heroes (and villains) from the DC roster: Vixen will join as will Steel. They meet the Justice Society of America.

And fight the Legion of Doom! Malcolm Merlin, Damien Darhk, Captain Cold (what!?) and the Reverse Flash gather together to try to defeat our heroes.

I’ll be there. Will you?

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

A review of the CW’s Arrow (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Wednesday: Arrow

Part Two

Read Part One here

Arrow the television show and Arrow the character are the Batman of their CW Universe: the flagship, the one the other shows and characters look to for inspiration, guidance and training (willingly and unwillingly for both parties).

Hell of a thing to say for a big Superman fan like me, eh? Like it or not, up until 25 or so years ago I would have said that Superman was the iconic flagship, and would have been correct; but the apparent dislike of the Man of Steel by the editors and writers at DC since have lowered his esteem – at one point making him as laughable as Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter were. But that is a whole other blog rant.

When Flash faced his Big Bad Season-Ending supervillain on his own show, the Big Bad taunted him for coming alone. “Who said I was alone?” Flash said. Arrow jumped from the background to stand beside his friend and protégé.

Chills. This is going to be a cool fight! (It didn’t disappoint!)

 

Arrow/Green Arrow was the perfect DC hero for a television drama: a little-known character (but popular in the comic book world) with a simple origin and not a lot of background to burden a program developer.

Millionaire playboy trapped on an island where he learned to shoot arrows. In the early 1970s the character loses his fortune and becomes a social, as well as a crime, crusader.

Quite likely because of the movie franchise, the Batman character was unavailable. In retrospect, it was a good move to go with Green Arrow. Giving Batman the Berlanti treatment would have been fun to watch, but it would not have worked as well.

Let’s face it; Batman’s origins and character are too firmly entrenched. The show would be too burdened by its past (although Gotham – now in its third season – does a great job in re-imagining that past; and is very good in its way, that take on the Caped Crusader would NOT fit in with the DC-CW stable).

 

Being in its fifth season, Arrow shows cracks that are not yet visible in Flash, let alone the sophomore Supergirl or Legends. The cracks are particularly apparent while binge-watching.

The formula (which can quickly become formulaic) for the DC-CW shows started in Arrow:

  1. The uber-baddie that lurks throughout the season culminating in a season-finale final battle. Granted the show does it well: it’s not one long storyline with zero progression {kaff-last-season’s-Agents-of-Shield-kaff}. Other villains show up during the season – some you think MIGHT be the season-finale uber-villain. A viewer can go several weeks without hearing the Big Bad mentioned. This is good.

The show sometimes even makes fun of this: at one point at the Season Three finale, Quentin Lance said (I paraphrase), “a super-villain is threatening to destroy all of Star City? It must be May!” In my opinion that line should proudly stand alongside “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” and “I saw it in the window and I couldn’t resist it” in TV history.

  1. The mcguffin syndrome that occasionally plagues Flash began with Arrow: bad guy shows himself. Arrow fights bad guy and gets whipped. Arrow’s team finds a flaw and creates a special Arrow to beat bad guy. In between we have scenes advancing the various sub-plots.
  2. The sub-plots: Characters die. They come back. Characters hate Arrow for various reasons (most often of the “I can never trust you again” type) but also come back into “Team Arrow”. (I cringe when I hear or read that term). Quentin Lance seems to hate Arrow in odd-numbered seasons and be his ally in even-numbered seasons.

 

That being said, I LOVE the show! It’s full of comic book Easter eggs (although not as much as Flash) to keep this old viewer happy.

Although even that is not without its faults. Introducing characters like Roy Harper and calling Arrow’s sister by her nickname Speedy pretty much give away their inevitable roles in the show. Their introduction and use of Black Canary was a nice surprise twist, though.

 

By not being tied to a popular back story ala Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, the creators of Arrow can introduce “new” characters: we meet his mother, his father, his sister (I love Willa Holland as Thea Queen – the character grows from self-centered rich girl to a very three-dimensional woman!), Diggle and of course Felicity.

Dave Ramsey as Diggle provides the muscle and back-up when needed and is a great character.

And of course how could I not love she-geek Felicity Smoak played by Emily Bett Rickards?

 

The villains are a mixed breed of one or two-shot baddies to the Big Bad that is finally fought in the season finale. The Big Bads are drawn from DC comics. When John Barrowman was introduced as Malcolm Merlin, we old-time readers knew he was up to no good. Same with Slade Wilson, Brother Blood and Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough, who also played Dum Dum in Captain America: The First Avenger movie).

The most surprising Big Bad was Batman villain Ra’s Al Ghul, confirming Arrow’s status as this world’s Batman. Excellently played by Matt Nable; he steals every scene.

For the new season the Big Bad is modern-era villain Prometheus. In the comics he fought the Justice League to a standstill and mutilated Red Arrow/Arsenal.

Uh-oh … once again being a comic book reader may have spoiled part of a future storyline…

 

I’m saving Stephen Arnell for last. The actor who plays Arrow excels at the role even five seasons in – he is serious, but not too Batman-like (read sociopathic) level. Sometimes he even smiles.

 

Oh and by the way, Arrow had Amanda Waller & the Suicide Squad before it was cool. Find those episodes.

 

We likely only have another two or three seasons of Arrow left. Enjoy them.

 

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

 

Arrow: a primer for the CW TV show! (part one)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Wednesday: Arrow

Part One

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASONS ONE through FOUR

The series follows Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), billionaire playboy of Starling City, who spends five years shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Lian Yu.

SEASON ONE: Upon his return to Starling City, he is reunited with his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), his sister, Thea Queen (Willa Holland), and his friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). The first season focuses on Oliver rekindling his relationships and spending his nights hunting down and sometimes killing wealthy criminals as a hooded vigilante, following a list of names he discovered in a notebook belonging to his father. He uncovers Malcolm Merlyn’s (John Barrowman) conspiracy to destroy “The Glades”, a poorer section of the city that has become overridden with crime. John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) assist Oliver in his crusade. Oliver also reconnects with ex-girlfriend, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who is still angry over his role in her sister’s presumed death. The first season features flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island, and how it changed him; flashbacks in subsequent seasons continue to show how Oliver spent his time and gains the skill-set that shapes him into the vigilante he is.

SEASON TWO: Oliver has vowed to stop crime without killing criminals. His family and allies come under attack from Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), a man from Oliver’s time on the island who returns to destroy everything important to Oliver. Oliver accepts aspiring vigilante Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) as his protégé, and begins to receive assistance from Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Oliver also gains another ally; a mysterious woman in black, who is eventually revealed to be Laurel’s sister, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), who survived her ordeal at sea after the yacht sank. In flashbacks, Oliver continues his time on the island with Slade, Sara, and Shado Fei, and depicts how Oliver’s animosity with Slade started.

SEASON THREE: Arrow has become a public hero in Starling City following Slade Wilson’s defeat. Queen Consolidated is sold to wealthy businessman, scientist and aspiring hero Ray Palmer (Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh – watching him on this show makes me wish his Superman movie was more successful and we would have seen more of him). Oliver struggles to bring his family back together, an old enemy returns, and Oliver becomes embroiled in a conflict with Ra’s al Ghul (excellently played by Matthew Nable). After a tragic event and a rocky start, Laurel sets out to follow in Sara’s footsteps as the Black Canary. John Diggle struggles with his new role as a family man, as Oliver no longer wants John in the field after the birth of his daughter, while Felicity Smoak begins a new career as Vice President of Palmer Technologies (formerly Queen Consolidated). In flashbacks, Oliver is forced to work for Amanda Waller in Hong Kong alongside Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro, and to stop corrupt general Matthew Shrieve from unleashing the Alpha-Omega, which Ra’s al Ghul eventually acquires in the present.

SEASON FOUR: the Arrow becomes “Green Arrow”. He and his allies fight against the terrorist organization H.I.V.E., headed by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who is attacking Star City (formerly Starling City). John Diggle is concerned with finding H.I.V.E. and learning the reason for the murder of his brother, Andy (Eugene Byrd), who is later discovered to be alive and a H.I.V.E. soldier. Thea joins the team under the alias “Speedy”, but must learn to control herself while fighting, as she now has a blood-lust that may never be fully quenched as a side effect of the Lazarus Pit. Laurel struggles to bring Sara back after learning of Thea’s resurrection from the Pit. Oliver decides to run for mayor. Despite having found happiness with Felicity (now CEO of Palmer Technologies) and planning to propose to her, Oliver discovers that he is the biological father to a boy he unknowingly conceived nine years previously with a former lover, Samantha Clayton (Anna Hopkins). This discovery destabilizes his relationship with Felicity, his life as the Green Arrow, and his mayoral campaign. Oliver ultimately discovers that Damien plans on detonating nuclear weapons and ruling a new world over the Earth’s ashes. In flashbacks, Oliver is forced by Amanda Waller to infiltrate the organization known as Shadowspire, befriends a prisoner Taiana, and has his first encounter with the mystical idol that is eventually acquired by Darhk.

***

            A review and critique of the characters, the actors who portray them and the plots will come next time…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

The Flash! A review of the CW TV show (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Tuesday: the Flash

Part Two (here is part one)

It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this is my favorite of the DC/CW shows The Flash is light-hearted without being silly.

“Light-hearted?” you might say, “Worlds are imperiled; timelines are wiped and sometimes good people die!”

True, but by light-hearted I mean the show still keeps its sense of fun even at the darkest of times. You cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys. You know things will turn out all right in the end, however tense it might be.

Watch Supergirl episode “World’s Finest” in which Flash appears. The scenes in which they appear together emits so much joy and sweetness it hits you from every angle. There is genuine chemistry between the actors. You don’t see this on TV very often. Good acting, good writing, good show!

Flash sticks to its comic book roots in the Silver Age and Bronze Age. There are lots of Easter eggs that make this old fan smile.

  • There are so many references to the Silver Age Green Lantern – Ferris Air and Coast City are mentioned frequently and we even see a flight jacket with a “Jordan” name patch – that I think an appearance by the ring slinger is inevitable in the years to come.
  • Even their casting harkens back to loyalty and tradition: Barry Allen’s father (John Wesley Shipp) played the scarlet speedster in the 1990 TV show. Great casting – when I first read that he was playing Barry’s father I was excited! When I heard that Jay Garrick would appear in season 2, I thought, “Too bad, Wesley Shipp would have made the perfect Jay Garrick!”
  • Even the villains give homage to the past: the Trickster is played by Mark Hamill (do I REALLY need to tell you about that OTHER role he played), who played the Trickster in the 1990 TV series. Watching him chew the scenery is a delight.

Jesse L. Martin, who plays Iris and Wally’s father (and Barry’s adoptive father) is always a highlight. His role as a policeman harkens back to his Law & Order days. But characterization was not L&O’s forte. What a treat to see him laugh heartily, mist up as he gives fatherly advice, etc. He is superb…

Grant Gustin is no slouch either. As Barry Allen and the Flash you can feel his joy in playing the character. “I love being a hero,” Flash often says. Through Grant’s acting, it shows.

I would be remiss not mentioning Carlos Valdes as Cisco. He plays the viewer’s role in the show: giving names to the heroes and villains, encouraging Flash to fight the good fight, creating the mcguffins that beat the bad guys. He is us.

Rounding out the crew of Flash’s allies are Danielle Panabaker as the beautiful uber-nerd Caitlin Snow. She started off as a cold fish but warmed up to the Flash (and us) pretty quickly. Her “date” with Barry in the karaoke scene is a must-watch. I hope her role in Season 3 is better than the love-sick hostage of Season 2, though. The character and the actress deserves better.

Candace Patton as Iris West is stunningly beautiful (just think if she were real: her dad’s a policeman, yeek!) and plays her up-and-down relationship with Barry well. Both Iris and Barry learn what we comic book fans have known for almost 50 years – they are destined to wed. But with all the time tinkering; will they?

The villains (super or otherwise) are also fun. One of the best part of the Silver/Bronze Age Flash comics was his Rogue’s Gallery. The fiends are second only to Batman’s slate of bad guys. The only one NOT to appear so far is Abra Kadabra; and with all the time-traveling taking place in the show this is surprising. I think even the Top showed up (I might be wrong, though). Mordant blue, even the TURTLE shows up!

The show has its flaws: most obvious is the character’s past. When Wally West shows up, we old comic fans have a fair idea where his character will eventually lead. Characters with familiar last names (Thawne) spoil any surprise to old readers of the comic. There is no Black-Canary-bait-and-switch ala Arrow, although with Edward Thawne, they try.

Binge watching reveals another flaw in the show: sometimes it tends to wallow in formula. Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash confronts villain again and defeats him. Insert subplots at any point (Barry loves Iris, Iris loves someone else or visa versa/team member might be bad guy/bad guy might be good guy).

Maybe it is a problem inherent in the premise, but they use it too often. Supergirl and Arrow use that formula, too.

A final issue that gnaws at me (and not just Flash, but with all DC/CW and other programs as well), is the season-length storyline that concludes with the big season finale. A super-supervillain is hinted at from episode one and introduced about four or five shows in. Other plots and villains come and go, but the super-supervillain plot keeps seeping to the surface – usually given the main plot-point every few episodes. The last three or four shows of the season deal exclusively with defeating the BIG baddie.

This is tedious for the casual watcher and eyerolling for the loyal fan. It became something of a joke at one point in Arrow: “Some supervillain is threatening to destroy the entire city? Must be May!”

For Season One of Flash this was acceptable, as everything about the show is new. By the end of Season Two, a new viewer will be lost, or should I say Lost. If the “previously on…” segment takes more than twenty minutes, you’ve lost your audience. Flash is in danger of that.

I can’t even tell you the events of Season Three without giving spoilers for Season Two (although the ads are giving it all away – it HAS to, to be effective)! All I can say is Barry regrets what he did and is trying to change the people and things he has affected!

The show is also in danger of becoming one long storyline (ala Agents of Shield). Which is fine if you are fan of that, but the real danger comes as lack of story progression: no plot advancement with the good guys facing failed plans and disappointed goals for 20 episodes (ala Agents of Shield) leaving the viewers frustrated and looking elsewhere (ala Agents of Shield).

In other words, every show will become “Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash is defeated anyway, repeat twenty times, Flash wins in episode 22, but it is revealed the enemy lives and will square off again next season. Repeat until cancelled.” (ala Agents of Shield).

See what I mean?

But let’s hope Flash doesn’t descend to that. There is too much love in the show, I think. And there is too much love OF the show to make me think otherwise!

 

Arrow is next…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

 

The CW’s Supergirl, a review

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Monday: Supergirl

Part One

From Wikipedia (why should I do all the work?):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE

Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) was sent to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton as a 12-year-old by her parents Zor-El (Robert Gant) and Alura (Laura Benanti). Alura gave her instructions to protect her infant cousin Kal-El, and informed her that she, like her cousin, would have extraordinary powers under Earth’s yellow sun.

En route to Earth, Kara’s spacecraft was diverted by a shock wave from Krypton’s explosion and forced into the Phantom Zone, where it stayed for 24 years. During this period, time stopped for Kara so, when the spacecraft eventually escaped the Phantom Zone, she still appeared to be a 13-year-old girl. By the time the spacecraft crash landed on Earth, Kal-El had grown up and become Superman. After helping her out of the craft, Superman took Kara to be adopted by his friends, the Danvers family. The main series begins more than a decade later when the now 24-year-old Kara is learning to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.

Kara hid her powers for more than a decade, believing that Earth didn’t need another hero. However, she has to reveal her powers to thwart an unexpected disaster, setting her on her own journey of heroism as National City’s protector. Kara discovers that hundreds of the criminals her mother prosecuted as a judge on Krypton are hiding on Earth, including her mother’s twin sister Astra (also played by Benanti) and Astra’s husband Non (Chris Vance), who seek to rule the world. After briefly becoming suspicious of the true agenda of her boss, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), she and her adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), secretly discover that Henshaw is actually a benevolent alien refugee, J’onn J’onzz, who has resided on Earth for over fifty years after escaping a holocaust on his homeworld of Mars. J’onn infiltrated the DEO to reform the organization as well as to watch over both Alex and Kara in addition to guiding the latter in the use of her powers due to his experience with his own abilities. Kara is also being targeted by Earth’s criminals as the result of her being related to Superman, and later on encounters an emerging community of metahumans and individuals from parallel universes. In the process, Kara accumulates her own rogues gallery who seeks to defeat and destroy her. She is aided by a few close friends and family who guard her secrets—most notably her cousin’s longtime friend, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks)—which also serves as a major plot in high tech mogul Maxwell Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) scheme to expose Kara’s identity.

***

            I adore this show. The few things I do NOT like about it are minimal, honestly.

The show is wonderful fun. Like the Flash, Supergirl tells us how much she enjoys being a superhero. No dark and brooding angst about being a hero! What little angst there is deals with normal emotional turmoil – balancing work and play, love and commitment.  Just like the rest of us! But overall the show exudes joy.

This is even more amazing considering the content compared to other DC-CW shows: In Arrow the main villain could (and tries to) destroy Star(ling) City. In Flash the main villains want to destroy … well … the Flash. The villains in Supergirl have the power to destroy the earth and everyone in it, have lunch, and then destroy Venus for snicks and giggles. That could be absolutely terrifying! But it’s not.

Don’t take that to mean the show is lightweight, or aimed at children. It just shows how much unbridled fun the show is even during tense moments..

 

DC characters abound – from villains (Hellgrammite, White Martians) to secondary characters (Lucy Lane). All lovingly plucked from the comics.

There are plenty of DC Easter Eggs to bring a smile or to make us worry. In the comics, Hank Henshaw (here the head of the DEO) is, in the comics, the evil Superman-Cyborg. When the character from the show intimates that he has a deep dark secret, comic book fans raise their eyebrows. “Aha! He’s going to become the evil cyborg!” Is he?

The major difference to Supergirl’s comic book origins (which has been tweaked over the years) is the addition of her adopted sister Alex. It adds to the show and its characters and is not a bad idea. If DC decided to make it comic book canon, I would not object. Trouble is, in modern comics her life expectancy would be quite short.

One episode is a reworking of the best Superman story ever printed: Action Comics Annual #11’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Supergirl trapped by the Black Mercy instead of the Man of Steel. When I saw the opening scene and the alien plant attached to Supergirl I about hit the floor! It was a great adaptation!

A nice non-comic book Easter egg is the casting of Dean Cain and Helen Slater as her adopted parents. Slater played Supergirl in the 1984 movie and Cain played Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman. It is little things like this that bring a smile to this old cynic: Berlanti Productions gives a damn enough about the comics to give us these treats.

 

 

You can tell the cast enjoys what they are doing, too. Melissa Benoist is phenomenal as Supergirl. She portrays an innocence (and a young person’s temper and frustration) and yet she will not hesitate to let you know she could pinch your head off with her thumb and forefinger.  Frankly she is cuter as flighty and naïve Kara Danvers.  Kara is a slightly less of a She-Geek than Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, but you can’t help but compare. Imagine if Mary Tyler Moore played the role of Mary Richards at age 24. Benoist is that good.

 

The show has a few drawbacks, in my opinion: More on those next time.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).