NEW DECADE; NEW SHOWS
With the start of a new decade and the onslaught of new options about to arrive on our screens, a lot of new programs are trying to grab our attention. Some new shows have tried to combine old elements from tried-and-true entertainments, giving us old gimmicks and familiar setups with a new bit of flavor.
This co-production between the streaming giant and BBC does its best to resurrect the dead and manages to be pretty spectacular at it. Taking all of the elements of the original Bram Stoker novel and updating them for the masses, the show, in three 90-minute episodes, feels more like a series of well-written movies than an ongoing series. Each one has its own setting, serving as a new chapter in the story involving the vampire and the scientist oddly obsessed with him. It's reminiscent of Sherlock, but it's much scarier, while remaining as clever.
The Harkers, usually the beating heart of the story, are side characters in this adaptation as the titular Count Dracula (played by an excellent Claes Bang) takes on a new adversary in the agnostic, snide nun Sister Agatha (played by scene stealer Dolly Wells). The first episode takes up residence in Transylvania and gives us much of what we expect, then suddenly turns everything familiar on its head with a series of shocking twists.
The second episode continues to buck trend, providing us with a locked-room mystery onboard the ship voyage from the original novel. And the third episode just drives everything involving the book's plot about Lucy and her suitors off a cliff.
It's a daring show, definitely worth catching.
ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST (NBC)
Jane Levy is a savvy, charming television star, but most audiences don't know her name, in spite of the fact that she's been featured in lots of pilots, movies and short-lived series. She was at the center of Suburgatory, where her sarcasm and bitter voice made for grand comedy. And she also appeared in the first season of Castle Rock, even though they barely used her as Jackie Torrance. She's got charisma, though. She managed to shine in excellent horror movies, the terrifying Don't Breathe and the remake of Evil Dead.
Her latest show Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist has a wild premise and a good heart, and Levy's luck at being in a project with legs may just have changed. It's got a fantastic cast - including Glee's Alex Newell, Skylar Astin, Lauren Graham, Mary Steenburgen and Peter Gallagher - and a bright, upbeat look.
Levy plays Zoey, a woman who is suddenly granted the power to know people's inner desires after she is zapped with every song on the Internet when an earthquake hits San Francisco while she's getting an MRI. Seriously, that's the premise. She's walking down the street, and everyone bursts into a song-and-dance number. It's Glee meets Eli Stone, and it's delightful.
At first, Zoey finds the change terrifying, but eventually she learns how to connect and use the power to her advantage, while helping others. The best moments involve Gallagher, playing Zoey's father who is suffering from a form of dementia and is unable to speak - but can sing for his daughter. It's cheesy, but it's effective.
STAR TREK: PICARD (CBS All Access)
Twenty years since the final voyages of Star Trek: The Next Generation's cast, the great Patrick Stewart has returned to the small screen to his most enduring role. (Yes, Jean-Luc Picard is better than Professor X.) Not much is known about the series at this point, though it does center on Picard returning to space exploration after a lengthy retirement from Starfleet.
In interviews, Stewart says that his character, now 92, is darker than when we last saw him, complicated and plagued with regrets, including the death of the android Data (Brent Spiner) during Star Trek: Nemesis. In addition to Spiner, other Star Trek favorites are expected to return to the series, including Jeri Ryan, Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes.
The showrunner for the new series, most interestingly, is Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who wrote the novels Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Chabon also wrote a draft of the screenplay for Spider-Man 2, suggesting that Picard's future is in very good hands.