A bit of a Marvel themed look at some recent television viewing, one show that's been on for a bit, and one that's just started...
BLADE the series - SPIKE 10PM Wednesdays
Blade started running on the cable network Spike (male-centric programming network) a couple months back, and I've been following it on DVR, watching the first several episodes in one block, and another chunk of episodes just this past weekend. I think I'm about 10 episodes in...
My wife and I were big fans of the movies, a cool blend of horror, action, and style, so I was always curious about the transition to episodic television. Blade the series has a lot in common with the movies, but due to the format change, it's wisely been retooled to work in broader arcs that carry on through a season. Much like any of the successful dramas of recent years, BTS creates a storyline, and moves it forward from episode to episode, along with a large cast of characters. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the TV treatment to the story, is it's lack of focus on Blade himself, instead we get the Blade setup we know from the movies, but most of the story is focused on his current rivals, a faction of vampires in Detroit, and more specifically, a young woman they've recently converted. Sure, there are plenty of scenes with Blade doing his daywalking, vampire takedown tactics, and patented vampire slaying moves, but the Vampire Christa is of equal focus, as we follow her decent into the vampire lifestyle, and all of the politics and dilemmas that come with it.
So, how is the show? Well, I wouldn't be a dozen episodes in if I didn't like it. I don't hold it up to the same high regard as Battlestar Gallactica, or some of the better HBO dramas, not quite, but it is very solid. The plotlines that run through it are interesting, and the varied focus on differing characters is refreshing, especially since the titular character is a little weaker here than his big screen version. Kirk "Sticky" Jones is a good fit for the role, but he's no Wesley Snipes, and the series could never hold up if it was just Blade, decked out in black trenchcoat, slicing vampires week in and week out without deeper conflicts and motivations.
Give this one a shot if you enjoyed any of the films, or enjoy genre television done well. It carries the mythos of the movies forward, and is true to it's spirit, but also thankfully blazes it's own trail. BTS isn't perfect, but it's enjoyable, and keeps the viewer guessing for the most part, anxious to see where things lead. Also of note, being on Spike/cable, and later at night, the series is able to carry off a more mature tone, in keeping with the films, and has the occasional use of language and suggestive themes (not quite HBO, but not exactly network tv either).
FANTASTIC FOUR (animated series) - CARTOON NETWORK 8PM Saturdays
The other Marvel Comic property to make the jump to television (also after hitting the big screen) is Fantastic Four. This time, instead of a mature drama, it gets the all ages animation treatment.
Gotta tell ya, as a fan of animation, especially angular designs, or anime style, the designs for this show had me excited. As the premiere grew near (last Saturday), the media blitz was on, and advance reviews and buzz was positive. After having watched the debut episode, I was fairly satisfied, but not too impressed.
First off, if you dig the style, the animation is great. I mean, regardless of the style, the quality is top notch, so no complaints there. As I said, I was already a fan of the design, so the actual production was good as well. The show blends CG animation pretty darn seamlessly, and is visually impressive.
As for the show itself, it was okay. The first episode, Trial by Fire, was decent, nothing impressive, but fast and somewhat interesting. Really aimed at a pre-teen audience, with not much outside that zone in terms of themes or content. Of note, the show hits the ground running, there's no origin of this version of the FF, no backstory for any of the characters, or their interactions. We don't know if Reed and Sue are married, or what (that I recall). Perhaps the origin and backstory is coming, I don't know, but the viewer is assumed to have some familiarity with the concepts at play, which I found a bit odd for a first episode. Maybe if the story was so cool, that you don't care about any of that, but really it's just serviceable in showcasing our heroes abilities and character. Nothing great about it.
So, I'll tune in some more to get a better feel, but I'm on the fence. So far the show hasn't shown me there's anything in it for me, outside a love of the characters (and a taste for the animation). I can dig on contemporary remakes, and new spins on classic properties, but to this point, it's not aimed at all outside the demographic it's marketed to - Cartoon Network's Toonami audience (and especially not to fans of the old school comcis!).