Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Bletchley Circle (2012- 2014) and The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco (2018 - current)

In season 2 of Agent Carter episode 4 "Smoke and Mirrors" we see some of Peggy Carter's life before the events of Captain America: The First Avenger.  She's engaged to be married and breaking codes at Bletchley House.  She gets the offer to join SOE (Special Operations Executive) an offer she originally refuses but eventually takes ending her engagement.  The rest for her is history, working with SSR and later SHIELD.

Airing before Agent Carter on BBC, The Bletchley Circle shows us what Peggy Carter's life might have been like had she not taken the SOE job - a civilian life as a housewife who can't even tell her husband what she did in the war.

This is the case for Susan Gray (Anna Maxwell-Martin who played Elizabeth Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley).  It's 1952 and she's following a series of murders in the news and notices that the killer has a pattern but there is a gap, possibly a missing vicitim.

Her husband served with a Scotland Yard Commissioner and he gets her an interview.  While she can't reveal her history, the commissioner is able to guess at her history.   The police search where her pattern suggests the body may be but they come up empty handed. But Susan can't leave it alone and calls in several of her old colleagues from Bletchley House to help her.  Lucy (Sophie Rundle), Jean McBrian (Julie Graham) and Millie Harcourt (Rachel Stirling) all pitch in and help solve the mystery.  This mystery is the three episode first season.

The second season  of four episodes has the circle working to clear Alice Merren, another Bletchley alum, from a murder charge at the end of that case Susan leaves to join her husband in the Foreign Service.  Alice then joins the circle for their next mystery when Millie is kidnapped.

The show was then revived for an American spinoff - with Jean and Millie heading to San Francisco when they hear about a murder in that city that has several similiarities to a murder during their Bletchley days.  In San Francisco, they track down some of their American counterparts from the Presidio, Iris Bearden (Crystal Balint) and Hailey Yarner (Chanelle Peloso) and try to find the killer.  The eight episodes had the new circle solving four cases.  Reportedly we are getting a new season this year.

I'd heard of both shows but when they originally aired, I must have missed them.  But I decided to watch them when they turned up on Netflix and enjoyed both shows.

Rachel Stirling's Millie Harcourt  was a standout for me reminding me somewhat of Miss Fisher.  I thought that the actress looked familiar but couldn't find anything in her filmography that I had seen but was pleasantly surprised to find that she was the daughter of Dame Diana Rigg, Mrs Peel herself.

I'm glad this turned up on Netflix and was an enjoyable watch,  I found that San Francisco could get a little preachy but I still look forward to further seasons, who knows maybe they can get Hayley Atwell for a cameo.

Blood & Treasure (2019)

Every now and then you hear about a new show, and you go YES!  This is for me.

Blood &Treasure was like that for me.  An Ex-FBI Agent and a thief team up to track down a terrorist selling blood antiquities.  Sounds right up my alley.

It was about a year ago I first heard this was launching in the States.  In Australia, not so soon.  In the interim, CBS (who air the show in the States) buys a big share of Network 10 in Australia.  So I figure that it should air on that Network, then they launch 10 All Access, which is the local version of CBS All Access, a pay site. If they don't air it on the free to air channels, it'll be on the paid site, I thought to myself.

So I've been keeping an eye out for Blood & Treasure on the 10 Network - nothing.  All Access (and other paysites) have an annoying thing where they won't tell you what is on them until you join.    And I'm not wasting a free trial in the hopes that it MIGHT be on the pay site.

Then in my Facebook feed - a sponsered post that was actually useful to me.  10 has put Blood & Treasure on the 10 Play site for free for 30 days.

So I fire up the internet and damn if I don't enjoy this show more than I thought.

Oded Fehr from The Mummy appears as the terrorist leader (and that's not the only Mummy connection in this show),  Mark "Human Target" Valley turns up as Danny's father in one episode and John LaRoquette from The Librarians has a recurring role as Danny's mentor J. Reece.
 The show features ex FBI Agent Danny McNamara and Egyptian thief, master thief Lexi Visiri as they tell us in an Arrow-verse like opening monologue (or rather dialogue as Lexi interupts Danny's speech)

The show opens with the discovery of the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony in the present day.  The discover the bodies of several Nazi soldiers.(Cleo's tomb was the subject of The Mummy Chronicles book The Heart of the Pharaoh by Dale Wolverton where the Nazis are searching for the tomb and Alex O'Connell has to stop them)

Turns out those darn Nazis had taken Cleopatra's Mummy before the Medjai er I mean the Brotherhood of Seraphis can stop them and they planned on weaponising Cleopatra's curse.  Kinda like how they planned on weaponising The Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.

Of course that's not the only reference to Indiana Jones - with a Danny quoting Indy at one point, "They're digging in the wrong spot" and referencing the Indy films.

The action moves to Casablanca and if you don't know what movie gets referenced there well Bogie says it's time to do some research.  They nicely play on several scenes from Casablanca in one case completely subverting my expectation of the scene.

Each episode has a flash back to the Nazis moving the mummy and our heroes tracking the clues in the present day.  I really like the changing map and date that told us when and where we are.

The leads have a nice banter but they can't quite trust each other, it's all cliche but I at least enjoyed watching it play out.  There are several twists and turns as people aren't what they seem and apparent villians are allies and allies have alliances that make them untrustworthy.

The season ends with the discovery of Cleopatra and the capture of the terrorist (I'd call it a spoiler but really? Is this a surprise to anyone?)  and a title card that reads The adventure Continues......

I'm well on board for a second season and hope it appears soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Battle of the 80s Supercars

My love for Knight Rider is well known (and if not, it is now)  KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand) was a car ahead of it's time nearly forty years later we still haven't got everything that car could do.

The Battle of the 80s Supercars was in effect two specials in one.

The first part was David Hasselhoff driving around in KITT looking at the new wave of cars that were influenced by KITT and Knight Rider -  bulletproof cars, self driving cars, a self sufficent survival car, smart cars that you open through your watch as well as very fast cars.

In most cases, The Hoff drives the cars - there's part of me that imagines the creators of these vehicles were doing the "Knight Rider is driving my car" happy dance.  And it was fascinating to see what was currently being done.

There's a cool bit where the Hoff visits the desginer of KITT for the TV series and we see his design sketches for KITT.

The second part which was woven through the special was an 80s super car race -  now this was a great idea as a young boy in the 80s we had a number of supervehicles aside from KITT on TV:

  • Blue Thunder (the one season spinoff from the movie), 
  • Airwolf (helicopter), 
  • Streethawk (motorcycle), 
  • Automan's car, 
  • the Coyote X from Hardcastle and McCormick, 
  • The Highwayman's truck, 
  • The A-Team van, 
and that is just off the top of my head.  (I was going to include Viper but that was in the 90s and we're not going into the Knight Rider spinoff TV Movies and series which would double the list alone.)

Okay we aren't doing the helicopters but that's an impressive list of vehicles and the producers got Dirk Bendict to drive the A Team Van - yes!  and Erik Estrada on his CHiPs bike - ah what now?

Now don't get me wrong CHiPs was a fine series and I have a feeling that my cousin Michael and I had CHiPs action figures but a) they were regular police motorcycles not super vehicles and b) CHiPs started in 1977.

A good chunk of the special had Erik Estrada hunting for his bike (which he did after accepting the challenge of the race) and Benedict getting the van serviced (at least he was spared running around looking for the van).

Really all they needed to do was what they did with Hasselhoff - make out that these guys were just driving around all the time in these vehicles.  I'm sure that most of us assume that to be the case anyway.

Partway through Hasselhoff runs into Morgan Fairchild who basically tells the Hoff  that she wishes he come last.  Morgan Freeman wasn't in any show even vaguely super car related, yeah she was in flashy soaps like Falcon Crest and Paper Dolls but why was she here?

We get to raceday and they get Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke from the Duke of Hazzard) as the race offical and starter which was a great idea, I suspect that instead of the four wheel drive she turned up in she was supposed to drive up in the General Lee, but given the sensitivity to the Confederate Flag these days that was sqashed,.  

The idea was first to win two races was the overall winner and I'm sure since this was Hasselhoff's special we can all guess who won.

The show ends with the Hoff talking a possible sequel with races with other super vehicles - that brought a huge grin to my face.

(I should mention that KITT brought the 

Arrow; A farewell

Wow has it really been eight years since Arrow started? Eight seasons of Oliver Queen fighting crime in Star(ling) City?

In many ways you could call Green Arrow the Iron Man of DCTV.  Like the MCU all of the top tier characters were tied up elsewhere and one of the lower teir characters got the tap to build a universe, in the case of DC it was the movie people who had all the cool toys.

To many people Green Arrow was a wanna be Batman with a Robin Hood twist.  And many people wrote Arrow off for just that - the early seasons were heavily influenced by the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy but dammit I loved it.

I was a huge fan of the Mike Grell run of Green Arrow comics in the 80s which were grim gritty street level crime comics and Arrow delivered that in spades. The twist was that it was the start of Green Arrow's career instead of a man in his forties (which lead to his death after Grell's run)

The early seasons had flash backs to five years earlier showing how Oliver gained the skills and knowledge he used in his fight against crime in the present day.

The show wasn't perfect but what show is?  I would have swapped season 4 and 5's flashbacks around as four took him back to the island he was stranded on in seasons 1 & 2 and then five sent him to Russia to race back to the island to be rescued at the end of the season to take us to the start of season 1's present day story.

The flashforwards to 2040 in later seasons did nothing for me.  I was hoping though that they might tie into the season 1 Legends of Tomorrow episode "Star City 2046")

I wasn't wild on all the costumes that were given to characters over the show.  Wildcat and later Black Canary costumes were some of my least favourite - I liked Sara Lance's original Black Canary costume. Other costumes like Ragman and Wild Dog were spot on.

Some characters got the short shift in the show either through actors not coming back or taken away by the movie people (Huntress, Suicide Squad, and Deathstroke).

The wasn't beholden to the comics, creating new characters (John Diggle, Sara Lance), recreating exisiting names (Felicity Smoak) and letting the story take them where it would - in at least on occasion the show used our knowledge of comics against us with the relevation of the true identity of Prometheus.  It was a surprise and while it could have rubbed some fans up the wrong way it made me incredibly happy - it solved a mystery with a twist that I wasn't expecting and handed me a new mystery that I thought I already knew the answer to.

Like Iron Man, the show grew and The Flash spun off from it, and then we added Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman, with Supergirl and Constantine joining from other networks which all culminated in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Crisis was probably the ultimate way to end Green Arrow's story in a tale so massive that it ranged outside the scope of the current Arrow-verse and affected other DC live action shows.  I won't spoil how it ended but the final episode was a great ending  for Oliver Queen.

Arrow was a show the defied expectations and changed TV superhero shows building a universe that challenges the MCU for a fraction of the budget.