Superheroes Decoded,” a two-episode History Channel documentary from 2017, isn’t what I thought it would be. But it turns out to something good: The definitive analysis of the history of superheroes and how they bob and weave with American history over the past century. Adults will learn a little something – even if a lot of it is a fun refresher — and brainy younger viewers should be enthralled too. Its only major problem is that if you’ve just watched PBS’ “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013), the first episode will be redundant – although it does go deeper.
If you’re a fan of superheroes thanks to the 2010s cinema boom and are curious about their history in comics, “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” (2013), a three-part PBS documentary, is a nice overview. Hosted by Liev Schreiber (Sabretooth in the “Wolverine” films), it’s aimed at a wide audience in a somewhat academic tone, but I – as a mid-level superhero/comics fan – learned several tidbits and had fun watching it.
2021 will be a hugely transitional year for television and cinema as they react to our new post-pandemic habits. It could also be hugely entertaining year for audiences, as we get all those delayed 2020 releases plus some new ones. Here are my picks for three TV shows and three movies to see this year, plus a rundown of other big series and films:
Like everything else, TV took a hit in this year of the pandemic, but networks felt the impact more so than streaming and premium. The latter categories put out several good short-form series or seasons, accelerating what had been a gradual shift to that format and making a tough year bearable. These were my 10 favorite TV series of 2020:
Not all October premieres have to be scary – although a lot of them are (see later in this post) – so let’s start off this look at first episodes of new streaming shows with “Emily in Paris” (Netflix). Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not at all scary. The story of Chicagoan Emily’s relocation to Paris for her job emphasizes her outsider status and loneliness even though she always puts on her delightfully Lily Collins face.
Nowadays, lots of things are remade that elicit groans from fans, but “Swamp Thing” is a property that was ripe for a remake – which DC Universe delivered in a 10-episode series in 2019. For those of us too cheap to subscribe to the streamer, it’s now airing Tuesdays on The CW as pandemic-era filler. The two “Swamp Thing” movies of the 1980s would make all lists of Worst Superhero Movies except that they’re relatively old and obscure. Simply by having modern production values and not being embarrassing, TV’s “Swamp Thing” could improve on that cinematic dreck.
It’s been said that Washington, D.C., is Hollywood for ugly people, but we mostly view politics and celebrity culture as two distinct categories. What’s smart and fun about Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” – which recently released the first three episodes of Season 2, with episodes 4-8 coming out on Fridays – is that it mashes politics and celebrity into one thing via The Seven.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with fall TV scheduling (it’s hard to tell one socially distanced, masked story, let alone fill a slate with them), and also revealed that (no surprise) cable and streaming were better prepared with content in their pipelines than the networks. But while 2020 serves up the thinnest lineup in modern TV history, it’s not a total wash. Here are my thoughts on 13 notable fall premieres, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
Here are my 10 favorite characters from the last year of television, from networks to cable to streaming, counting down from 10 to 1:
Stargirl” (Mondays on DC Universe; Tuesdays on CW) – one of 14 current TV series executive-produced by Greg Berlanti – falls into the category of what my buddy Michael calls “product”: something that exists for commercial rather than artistic reasons. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, but this latest addition to the DC TV universe is as stiff as the Cosmic Staff wielded by its title character, teen Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”).