Hatcher’s Junk Drawer #16: Lightning Round

This is another installment of the New Year’s resolution series of columns about my attempts to make significant progress reading the books piled on the Shelf of Shame next to the nightstand before acquiring new ones, as well as watching the movies and TV shows stacked next to the television or waiting in our online queues before acquiring new ones.

Sometimes I don’t have a lot to say about these, so this week I’m going to collect all the ones where my reaction can be summed up briefly. Short takes. Quick and dirty. Lightning round. Whatever. Here we go.

*

Lost in Space Season 2.

It is impossible to overstate how much we loved this. My wife Julie is quite sentimental about the original sixties Lost in Space; I hate it with the burning fury of a supernova. (We were both ambivalent about the big-screen movie.)

But this version, both Julie and I adore; generally by the end of each episode we are wearing big dopey grins. Everything I loved about the first season is even more so in this one. Molly Parker as Maureen Robinson is even more of a hard-science badass, Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith is even more evil and manipulative, and the action sequences are even more breathtaking. We really dug the interplay between the Robinsons and the other colonists, and I was reminded of what our friend Mike Gillis used to say about the Walking Dead TV show: “The danger on that show is never the zombies, it’s the other human survivors who are so desperate they’d do anything. Zombies are bad but the other human enclaves, they’re fucking scary.” Yeah. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that applies to many other colonists stuck with the Robinsons, which makes them the perfect marks for Dr. Smith…

Anyway. Hugely recommended.

*

Stumptown (TV show.)

I’d never read the comics but we knew it was from Greg Rucka, and I liked Whiteout and loved Queen and Country. So we were up for this; Julie’s never read the books but she enjoyed meeting Mr. Rucka at a signing at the now-defunct-and-much-missed Seattle Mystery Bookstore a few years ago, so she was interested too. At eleven episodes in, we are loving each one more than the last. The cast is uniformly wonderful, but Cobie Smulders as Dex is a revelation. She is so good. Especially since her character prides herself on never showing her feelings and is terrified of relationships, but somehow Ms. Smulders is brilliant at showing how Dex feels about everything. Particularly those moments when she is clearly holding in hurt or anger. The plots are clever too, non-traditional P.I. stories that always seem to blow up into something deadly. There’s a real John D. MacDonald vibe about the whole thing, almost a damp gray Northwest version of Travis McGee. Oregon was never this cool when I lived there. Do check it out if you haven’t already.

*

Stumptown (the original comic.)

We fell so utterly in love with the television series that naturally I decided I was going to check out the comics. And they are indeed very good though honestly I think I like the TV show better. I find myself wishing that Greg Rucka would write a couple of Stumptown prose novels the way he did with Queen and Country. The TV show kind of spoiled me for these comics, I’m afraid, they feel like shorthand in comparison. A novel would better match the depth we’re getting on TV, and that way my brain would also stop saying, That’s not Cobie Smulders when I read it. Probably you should read the comics first and THEN watch the show instead of doing it the way I did.

*

The new BBC Dracula.

Well, of COURSE we were interested. Dracula is the story I have more versions of here than any other except possibly The Hound of the Baskervilles, and that’s just the Stoker adaptations; to say nothing of the other Hammer Draculas, the Universal movies, Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula, and so on and so on.

It’s a Dracula-friendly household here is what I’m saying.

Plus we really loved what Moffat and Gatiss had done on Sherlock, at least the first three-quarters of it or so. The trailer looked amazing. And certainly they had their hearts in the right place, as you can see in this promo.

I just wished they had actually made the TV miniseries they talked about making. It was three ninety-minute installments. The first two were brilliant. The third was… a mess. It was frankly bad. Kind of like with Sherlock, they couldn’t quite stick the landing. Pity, because parts one and two were wonderful and relatively self-contained, as well. I’d honestly recommend you watch those and pretend there wasn’t a third.

*

Land of the Giants.

I mentioned above how much I hated the original Lost In Space but that was the exception. When I was a kid in 1968, Irwin Allen was THE MAN. Three of my five favorite TV shows airing in prime time were his: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants. (The other two were Batman and The Wild Wild West; I didn’t get into Star Trek until after the show was canceled, when I found James Blish’s books.)

Today we have all of them on DVD except Land of the Giants. For whatever reason that show has remained maddeningly expensive and elusive. But we added Amazon Prime a month or so ago, and there is a HUGE library of old genre TV available to stream as part of that. Sure enough, Giants was there, and though it wasn’t included with our membership, it was absurdly cheap: we bought both seasons for a total expenditure of thirteen bucks.

It was pure sentiment. Most of the Irwin Allen stuff doesn’t hold up, if I am honest. (Voyage, especially in its later seasons, was a demented hot mess.) But the heart wants what it wants. I figured it would be an exercise in nostalgia.

Surprisingly– well, I was surprised– it was really pretty good, even without the childhood nostalgia factor. Julie had only seen intermittent episodes and for whatever reason I hadn’t seen too many either. Two seasons is too short for syndication; most of what I know about the series is from the books. (Just as an aside, Carl Rathjen’s Whitman YA novel is terrific and gives you a nice conclusion to the story, as close to an official series wrapup as Land of the Giants got.)

So the shows themselves are mostly very dimly remembered or completely new to us. We watched the pilot last night and enjoyed it far beyond its merits. The actors really lean into it, too, you by God BELIEVE they’re fighting off a giant cat with giant matches lit and thrown like torches, though Deanna Lund says they were mostly staring offstage and yelling at a spotlight placed in the right position for the eye line.

*

Knives Out.

Clearly, I have a rep. Ever since this movie came out, people have been lining up to tell me how much I would love it. Finally, Mike Gillis from Radio Vs. The Martians practically ordered me to go and even sent us ticket money so we’d have no excuse. We are blessed with generous friends who understand us.

Suffice it to say everyone was right. It’s a delightful, dark, and funny take on the classic sort of Agatha Christie whodunit, but better. Anything more would spoil it. Now I know why Mike was so adamant– he wanted to be sure we saw it before it got spoiled for us. So just go.

*

That’s enough for today, I think. Back next week with a bunch of cool stuff from Hard Case Crime.

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9 Comments

  1. Edo Bosnar

    Can’t comment on this stuff very much because I haven’t consumed most of it, but this brought a smile to my face:
    “Oregon was never this cool when I lived there.”
    Don’t entirely share the sentiment, but in my case, I would actually narrow it down to: Salem was never that cool when I used to live in Oregon…

    On the Lost in Space movie, it’s kind of sad that it had William Hurt AND Mimi Rogers AND Gary Oldman, but still ended up being so bland and forgettable.
    By the way, wasn’t Land of the Giants syndicated back in the 1970s? I recall watching occasional episodes with my older siblings (on our old b&w TV) when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

    1. I think people tried it once or twice but there’s only fifty-one of them. Industry wisdom at the time was that you had to have either a hundred episodes total or a fanbase so fiercely loyal (like STAR TREK or THE HONEYMOONERS) that you can get away with fewer. LAND OF THE GIANTS had neither.

      On the other hand, the home video revolution and the practice of binge-watching means the whole television dynamic has changed. Genre TV was way ahead of the curve on that; turned out shows like FIREFLY and THE NIGHT STALKER were home video evergreens. Now shows like LOST IN SPACE or THE GOOD PLACE do ten or twelve-episode seasons that are complete arcs. A standard 26-episode season like when we were kids feels like too many, especially with long-running shows. I love GUNSMOKE and we have a bunch of it here but I don’t need every last one of them. There are a couple of greatest-hits packages–this one and this one— that are more than enough to meet our GUNSMOKE needs whenever we are in the mood for one. On the other hand, our friend Rick has the entire 1000-plus episode run of DARK SHADOWS, which seems insane to me, but it’s nice it’s there for him.

      1. wonderbretty

        Longtime reader, newtime poster here, Greg! I thoroughly enjoy reading about your adventures with Julie and have been hacking away at my Shelf of Shame as well this year (having the flu helped free up a little time). My partner is slooooowly making his way through that Dark Shadows coffin you speak of and, you’re right, it is insane! (I love Joan Bennett so much now though.) Putting Knives Out on the to-see list now. . .

    1. Julie and I were trying to figure out the last time a mystery reveal delighted us as much as KNIVES OUT. It’s been years. Bearing in mind how damn hard it is to play fair when writing one, I was just in awe of how elegantly it came together at the end, and it was ahead of us all the way through, something that NEVER happens. And that last act….. *chef kiss* Something like at least half a dozen Chekov’s guns, all going off at once. Maybe the finale of VERONICA MARS season two, we liked that one a lot. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen one that good.

  2. Louis Bright-Raven

    Well… I was never a fan of the original LOST IN SPACE either (or really anything or Irwin Allen’s though I respect the hell out of him for his imagination I think his era just was lost on me when I would get to see them in the late 1970s, early 1980s), and the 90s movie… didn’t really appeal to me, either. But something prompted me to get the first season of the Netflix version on DVD for Christmas and I just watched that last week. I must say I like it better than the other versions. But I am not sold on getting Season 2. There’s a lot of stuff I just didn’t care for, but I don’t really feel like ‘trashing’ the show. But I’m glad you and Julie enjoy it.

    Can’t say I much care for STUMPTOWN, be it the comic or the TV show. The comic never did anything for me, and I gave up on the TV series I think after the third episode. Sorry.

    Just finished STAR TREK DISCOVERY Season 2 on DVD today. It’d been over a year since I watched Season 1, but I found I didn’t really need to review Season 1 to refresh my memory to follow this season. Like LOST IN SPACE S1, there was a lot of stuff I just didn’t care for / wished they’d done differently or not at all, but it’s still worth watching.

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