Friday, July 18, 2014

The Strain sort-of Review

Television shows(TV shows for short) have slowly but surely been out-doing their theatrical counter-parts, entertainment wise, for a good part of the past decade. You could probably point the finger squarely at LOST back in 2004. That show came out of nowhere and became a huge phenomenon in no time.

So every network went looking for the next huge sci-fi/fantasy genre hit. Cue AMC and The Walking Dead in 2009. Nobody expected a Zombie drama based on an Indie Comic to do well. I'm sure if they expected it to make as huge an impact as it did, AMC would've ordered more than 6 episodes for the first season.

Walking Dead ended up being an even bigger hit than LOST ever was.
I knew that from this, other cable networks were going to comb the landscape of the independent comic book scene to find the next possible hit. No surprise, the FX Network struck first, announcing a TV show based on the "police procedural in a super hero world" comic book Powers.

That was in 2010, and Powers has been stuck in developmental hell, with only a pilot filmed at this point. I don't even think FX plans on airing Powers anymore, now that I've heard that the Playstation Network is developing the show for their new line of original programming.

FX, which has a fine history of edgy dramas, was now without their own Walking Dead.

This past Sunday, FX debuted their latest drama, The Strain, based off a series of horror novels, and a Dark Horse Comics series.

This show was completely off my radar. The only reason I knew I'd give this show a chance was because FX has a fantastic track record with tv dramas in the past. My two favorite non-Breaking Bad shows from the past 5 years are Justified, and the sadly canceled-too-soon boxing drama Lights Out from 2011.

When I learned that The Strain was about Vampires, I probably rolled my eyes. I then heard that it's a vampire-virus that infects NYC, which sounded a bit better, but I still wasn't looking forward to it. Even the knowledge that the great Guillermo del Toro was one of the creators did nothing to peak my interest past "meh, I'll check it out". I wouldn't have even remembered that it was premiering this past Sunday if not for my buddy Phil reminding me via telegram.

On a whole, I absolutely loved this first episode. It did a really good job of having a lot happen, without giving too much away. The episode had a great creep factor too it, as the idea of an airplane landing without any communication whatsoever is fantastically scary. I couldn't help but see a correlation between this and the beginning of the movie Nightmare City, with the silent airplane lands and sends out countless scabby-headed zombies(it's a great film, if you've never seen it).

The show has a good cast, with the best-known actor being fat Hobbit Sean Astin as a member of the CDC team that is checking out the spooky airplane. I will say, despite the solid cast, the acting is a bit on the cheesy side, and it might bother some. I forgive that because this is based on a comic book, and the violence is fantastic.

Speaking of that, this show will satiate any gore-hound. I won't go too deep into details, but I do need to point out that The Strain features a brutally beautiful(brutiful?) head-smashing that blew me away. It was unnecessary, awesome and sets a violent tone for the rest of the series.

My only problem with The Strain is a hokey sub-plot about Dr. Ephraim Goodbody and his year-long separation with his wife. We first meet him as he's late for his marriage therapy session, where wifey and the therapist do a damn good job making this poor guy look like an asshole because he very busy with his job at the CDC. The CDC! It's not like he's a butcher or a mall security guard! And the guy's obviously not a dick, and obviously loves his wife and son, and at one point wifey's new boyfriend says that no man should put his job before his wife while they watch a news report about the airplane and how it could possibly be a health risk, which is where Dr. Goodbody is! I mean how stupid is that?
Perhaps as the show goes on, we'll get some back-story featuring Goodbody killing kittens or something that's deserving of this treatment, but so far it's moronic.

The show is filmed beautifully, too. Every shot looks great. I don't know if that has anything to do with Del Toro's hand on the series, but I hope the episodes he doesn't direct still look as good.

The show also features:
-Crazy old Van Helsing-type with make-shift sword in his cane!
-Zombie vampires!
-The hispanic guy from Veronica Mars!
-Neil Diamond!
-The WWF's Kurrgan!

I am excited to see what's in store for the rest of season 1, because as far as I'm concerned, The Strain is well on it's way to outdoing not only Walking Dead's first season, but it's entire series altogether.

The Strain is a head-smashingly good time!

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