Thoughts on Outlander’s Two-Season Renewal

OutlanderStarz announced yesterday that they’ve renewed hit show Outlander for both seasons three and four. Multi-season renewals seem to be getting more common recently, and I don’t always think they’re the best idea, but here I think it makes a lot of sense. In a show of this scope, especially, knowing that the end of given season (here season three) will not possibly have to serve as an ending for the show as a whole opens up new storytelling possibilities.

And, of course, there’s plenty of source material. The press release specifically states that seasons three and four will be based on books three and four – Voyager and Drums of Autumn – but I do wonder how closely the show will stick to the books as it goes on, and if it even should. Things work differently on the screen than on the page, and I’d hope they’d allow themselves the freedom to tell the story in the way that best suits this format. In any case, there are eight main books so far, which both a book nine and a prequel supposedly in the works, as well as a related mystery series, so they’re not running out of story any time soon.

Belated TV Recommendation: War & Peace

War & PeaceLifetime and some of its affiliate networks aired the new BBC War & Peace miniseries early this year, and I finally had a chance to finish watching it last weekend. So I am here to tell you very tardily that you should catch it on demand immediately – here, at least, it expires in a few days – because it was just a delight. I’ve never read the novel, but this left me thinking “I can’t wait to read this book!” which is certainly a good thing for an adaptation to accomplish.

The story is, of course, sweeping and epic and so, so soapy, with all sorts of crazy interpersonal drama laid over an examination of aristocracy and social class in czarist Russia as well as, of course, Napoleon’s invasion. (Watching it made me want to read non-fiction about the time period as well as the novel itself, actually. I love TV that makes me want to read lots of things!) The cast is great – James Norton, Paul Dano, Lily James, Jim Broadbent, and many more – and the scenery and sets and costumes are all breathtaking. It’s just a highly satisfying piece of television.

Here’s the BBC trailer for the miniseries:

Anyone else watch it? Did you like it as much as I did?

Concussion Trailer (and Article and Debate)

ConcussionThe trailer for Will Smith’s football brain injury movie Concussion is out, and with it a minor uproar about the fact that Sony shaped the movie to avoid backlash/lawsuits/etc. (This was revealed in emails from the Sony hack.)

First, in case you, like me, missed it the first time around, here’s the GQ article on which the movie is partially based. (I didn’t read it when it was published because my brother was playing college football at the time, and I couldn’t bear to think about this stuff any more than I already was, which was a lot.) It’s fascinating and I totally get why people thought it would make a good movie, even if they weren’t trying to advance an anti-NFL agenda. So it really doesn’t surprise me that they tried to do it without angering the NFL too much. I get why people are upset about it – both from a “purity of art” perspective and a “they SHOULD be trying to take down the NFL” perspective – but we don’t live in a world in which major corporations don’t have to think about the ramifications of their actions and messaging. It’s just good business sense.

And on to the trailer!

It looks good! Aside from the actual football issues, two thoughts: 1. I get the timing for awards season, but, um, Christmassy? AND interesting to have it come out DURING football season. 2. I’m curious how the “Yay immigration!” part will play in the current political environment.

Thoughts on any of this?

5 Thoughts on the Lookinglass Inside Look

Okay, watch, and then let’s discuss:

1. WHAT IS WITH THIS TITLE? No, seriously. I get that it’s the company that the people in the show run, but it’s a TERRIBLE title. The Frankenstein Code wasn’t a GOOD title, but it was better than this.

2. “He looks beautiful. The monster is inside.” Of course. Because this is TV.

3. I do like that they named the main female character Mary, presumably after Mary Shelley.

4. Wasn’t Tim DeKay supposed to be one of the stars of this? Where . . . is he?

5. Other than the whole “bringing someone to life” thing (through genetic splicing here, not sewing together parts), I’m not really convinced that it has much to do with Frankenstein. Which is fine, and maybe part of why they changed the name, but . . . huh. I’ll be curious to see how many thematic echoes there are, if not direct plot echoes.

What do you think? Anyone planning to watch this? I was thinking it was a fall show, but nope, 2016, so we’ve got a while to wait to see if it’s as ridiculous as it looks!

Station Eleven Movie in the Works

This is not particularly surprising, as news goes, but it’s worth noting: the film rights to Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven have been acquired by producer Scott Steindorff. Critic Alyssa Rosenberg is concerned that the description in the article above suggests that the movie will be made with a male protagonist; I join her in hoping that it was just clumsy wording (pulled from a publisher-provided description, I believe). Kirsten is the strongest, most interesting character in the novel, so I certainly hope she is given appropriate prominence in the screen version.

I read Station Eleven a few months ago, and I simultaneously think that it’s a natural choice for adaptation and that a movie might easily destroy what I personally liked about the book. I’m not particularly interested in dystopian stories, most of the time; I liked the book in spite of the subject matter, not because of it. I was more interested in the overall themes about art and fame and survival, and I was captivated by Mandel’s language – even at times when I didn’t really care about or was frustrated by the plot, I couldn’t stop reading because the writing was so beautiful. And, of course, beautiful writing is one of the hardest attributes of a novel to translate to the screen. So. We’ll see.

Have any of the rest of you read the book? Are you hopeful about the movie version?

Podcast Recommendation: Classic Alice’s Pens vs. Lens

Classic AliceI mentioned Classic Alice‘s podcasts in my review of the series earlier this month, but I thought I’d tell you a bit more about Pens vs. Lens, since it fits so perfectly with the aims of this site – and since a new episode came out last week after a bit of a hiatus.

Pens vs. Lens is a podcast done in character – though you don’t necessarily need to follow the show or know the characters to enjoy it – and the basic gist is this: lit major Alice and film student Andrew debate a book and its movie adaptation, and listeners vote on whose argument was better. (The loser has to dress up as a character from the property at hand.) So you can see why you guys who read this site might like it! Some of the episodes offer more substantive critique than others, but they’re all a lot of fun to listen to, and the subjects range from classics like Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island to recent phenomena like Gone Girl, The Hunger Games, and Twilight.

Want to listen? The podcast, made by Kate Hackett and Tony Noto, lives at Soundcloud, but the easiest way to get to the episode of your choice is through the show’s archive. You can also subscribe on iTunes. To learn more about Classic Alice in general, check out their site, and support them on Indiegogo so they can make more.

Book Thoughts: Rip Van Winkle

I recently read Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” and since Sundance currently has a drama based on the story in development, I thought it was worth a post. First of all: I really enjoyed the story; I like Irving’s writing style, and this story, like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” was really funny. I’d known the most basic of outlines – that it was about a man who accidentally falls asleep for years – but I hadn’t known about the ghost bowling (until they started talking about it on Classic Alice) or that it was set amid political turmoil – or that the title character was partially trying to avoid his wife and his family responsibilities. And probably my favorite small detail was the way the portrait of George III that is at the local bar when Rip falls asleep has been edited into George Washington by the time he wakes up – but it’s still the same painting.

So how about the show? It’s tentatively called Crack in the Sky and it’s about “a Don Draper-type who falls asleep in 1962 and wakes up in 2012.” In the original, Rip sleeps through the entire American Revolution and wakes up in a different country in a very literal sense; do we think the changes of the past fifty years – politically, culturally, technologically – are of similar magnitude? And what position will the show take in regards to those changes? Will Rip’s Draper-esque values be seen as charming and chivalrous, or backward-thinking? I hope they don’t fall into the trap of completely glorifying the “good old days” of even more inequality and fewer civil rights in the name of style – but at the same time, I always get annoyed when time traveling characters’ worldviews adapt too quickly to their new environments. Speaking of Irving, Sleepy Hollow, which obviously borrows a bit from “Rip Van Winkle,” usually does a pretty good job of dealing with these issues. Hopefully Crack in the Sky, if it happens, will live up to this modern Irving adaptation precedent.

The Hollow Crown: Richard II

The Hollow CrownThe Hollow Crown premiered on PBS on Friday night with Richard II, and honestly, it was even better than I’d expected, and I expected it to be good. Ben Whishaw was completely mesmerizing as Richard – he plays insane so very, very well. The cast had a surfeit of talent – Patrick Stewart, David Morrissey, James Purefoy, David Suchet, Rory Kinnear, Clemence Poesy, Tom Hughes, Lindsay Duncan, and more – and they all pulled this off beautifully. Shakespearean language on screen can sometimes seem artificial or stilted, but this absolutely did not; it was natural and full of meaning and emotion.

If you missed it, you can watch the whole episode right here:

The series continues this Friday with Henry IV, Part I.

Watch the Masters of Sex Premiere Now!

Masters of SexShowtime’s new drama Masters of Sex, based on the book of the same name by Thomas Meier, tells the story of pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It stars Lizzy Caplan, Michael Sheen, Nicholas D’Agosto, Caitlin FitzGerald, and Teddy Sears. I really enjoyed the first episode – Caplan and Sheen are both incredibly compelling, the writing is good, and the historical details – the show starts in 1956 – are fascinating. The show premieres on Sunday, September 29th, at 10/9c, but Showtime has put the entire first episode online, and you can watch it right here. Here’s a taste:

Under the Dome: “Outbreak”

Under the DomeSo . . . I mean this in a nice way, but does anyone care? I will admit that I’ve been very disappointed by Under the Dome so far, and it seems that many of you are feeling the same way. For a situation with so much obvious tension and danger, the show seems oddly . . . boring. I don’t object to changes from the book in theory, but as I’ve said before, a lot of the things they’ve changed seem to make the plot less interesting. I’m happy to keep posting about it each week if people want to discuss, but if no one does, I won’t bother. Let me know!

Anyway, on this week’s “Outbreak” . . . well, at least we got some answers about Barbie and Julia, maybe, if Barbie’s telling the truth. They made Barbie way less sympathetic in the show than in the book, which seems like an odd thing to do for the person who is more or less your leading man. And . . . oh, Angie. What are they doing with Angie? When she was found at the end of the episode, I realized that I had completely forgotten that a supposed main character was in life-threatening peril all hour. That is not a good sign.