Discussion in 'Discussions' started by Haldurson, May 20, 2013.

  1. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Well we have a book thread, and a movie thread, and (of course) lots of game threads. This evening I was inspired to start a Television thread for a change.

    Mostly I was inspired by this Canadian Science Fiction/Techno-thriller series that I discovered a couple of years ago : "Regenesis". I'm happy because the 4th season has finally made it to Hulu (well, 13 episodes of the 4th season -- not sure if that's complete or not), and I've been busily watching them each night.

    I'd never heard of the series before, but I've become a huge fan of it, largely for it's interesting characters, quality writing, and because of it's support of rationality and the scientific method.

    The series concerns a fictional organization called NorBAC ("North American Biotechnology Advisory Commission"), which is a joint Canadian/American/Mexican lab concerning itself with all sorts of health and medical issues across North America. The episodes deal with a variety of medical mysteries, many on the frontiers of science, or slightly beyond them. The episodes deal with everything from communicable diseases, parasites, bioengineering, cloning, environmental issues, addiction, bioethics, agriculture, ecology, and so on.

    I only wanted to mention it simply because I love the show and it's something that I think some people here might enjoy. I love science fiction -- I don't read a lot of techno-thrillers, but this is quite good.
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  2. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    There have been far too few quality science fiction series so far. Star Trek is annoying in that it is the singular biggest mockery of science ever to exist. (Redouble the shield modulation transformers to stop the "Insert made up bipedal race" from transporting over!)

    I swear every other line in most so called science fiction is only true to the fiction side of the genre.
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  3. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    As a science-fiction author myself I agree wholeheartedly with you and confess to being on the 'fiction' side of sci-fi. Want to know why? Pure science is boring, and I say that as somebody who loves science and has always aced it. You won't sell hard sci-fi to the masses; you have a hard enough time selling it to those who love it.

    It's not sci-fi, but one of my absolute favorite shows that's still running is Psych. Discovered it two years ago on Netflix, watched all the seasons they had, and been watching season 7 fairly religiously. Hilarious stuff. It's about an incredibly observant person who pretends he's psychic in order to solve murders. It has more movie, tv show and music references than you can shake a stick at.
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  4. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I cannot tell you how accurate the science is in "Regenesis", but it does pay homage at least to the scientific method. Someone comes up with a theory that matches the evidence, then they come up with a method to test that theory, and maybe that theory is rejected and they have to come up with a new one. I think it's a really intelligent show. Someone gets sick while using a new drug, they don't automatically assume that it was the drug that made them sick -- they have to prove it.

    Granted, the show deals a whole lot with current cutting-edge science, and very near future science (it has a contemporary setting). So that gives it an advantage over shows like Star Trek, where the science and language to describe how things work hasn't been invented yet, so the writers just wave their hands a lot and substitute meaningless phrases. to describe what is happening. On the other hand, I think what ReGenesis does is a lot harder because you actually have to know the language of science to write stuff like that.

    The show has a little bit in common with "House" (another good show), in that there are medical mysteries, and the lead actor is a kind of prickly character who doesn't get along very well with others. But that's pretty much where the similarities end.
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  5. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    Then again, in the first place Star-Trek does belong to "science fiction" genre, with the emphasis on "fiction". Sure, they do try to sound scientific and be at least minimally accurate with what they are doing, but they put "fun" over "scientific accuracy" (for which I don't blame them, really) and it results in things like that.

    Not to mention the fact that if everything started being scientifically accurate, then every hour-long episode would consist of 10 minutes of things happening and 50 minutes of Spock making soup out of viewers' brains. Which would be funny if seen once, but not on a regular basis.

    Which is why it's called "science fiction" and not "popular science for masses", Omni. It's hard to be scientifically accurate when not even physicists are certain of everything they work on, so instead of risking making a small mistake that people will latch onto and complain about, the authors simply make their own "science" and try to make things more or less consistent with that (it's the lack of consistency that annoys me, personally, rather than inaccurate physics - those are fine if it's all consistent).

    I once had to make a magic system of a tabletop game into something as scientifically accurate as anything that is called "magic" can be without making it into something that would not be fun to use at all, and believe me, it's a chore. A very tiring one. And anything based on "not entirely 'Earthly' physics" has the same sort of problem, which means most of the "fantasy" and most of the "science fiction" genres.
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  6. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I love hard SF, but it's not the only kind of SF that I read. The trends in SF keep changing, and Hard SF becomes more or less in vogue at different times. But I agree, that it generally does not usually appeal to the mainstream.

    I personally don't insist that the science is 100% accurate, so long as you can convince me to suspend my disbelief in support of a good story, I'm cool with it. BUT there are times when you can't get away with it. Sometimes it's because some things are established science fiction tropes from ages past (maybe from before we knew better). These include things like faster-than-light travel, time travel, telepathy, antigravity, telekinesis, and even prognostication. Use any of those in your stories, and you can get away with it. You don't have to explain how it works, just say that it does work, and people can accept it for purposes of the story.

    On the other hand, write about a perpetual motion device, or mitochlorians (sp?) and you'll never hear the end of it.

    Part of the trick is not trying too hard to explain how the real far-out things work in any great detail. Just say that it does, and your fine. Say it's Mitichorians, and people will string you up by your toes (and rightfully so).

    I have a great deal of respect for those authors who write hard science fiction well (Larry Niven made a pretty good career out of it). Read Greg Bear's "Blood Music" -- it's terrifyingly real, and all he says to explain the premise is nanotechnology attaching itself to blood cells. There's not much else to it. THAT'S how you get away with it. He never explains how the nanotech devices are manufactured, how they have the computational power to do what they do in that novel. But it's hard science fiction because he used the 'NANOTECHNOLOGY' word, and in science fiction, that's as good as having a magic wand that can do anything.
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  7. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    ((shameless self-promotion: you been reading my book?! :p ))

    Baaaaaack on topic! I can't afford normal TV so I'm stuck with Netflix / Amazon Prime. Anybody have any good recommendations for shows on those two channels?
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  8. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    As has been said several times already in this thread, even fake science works fine if you omit erroneous explanations of it. My example above was psuedo-science that in reality means exactly nothing. If the dialog in Star Trek instead said "Hit the third button from the left on console number seven and then cross your fingers and they will be unable to magically teleport over." then I would have no complaints about the fake science. I would certainly have complaints about the nonsense factor getting astronomical. But that is another topic.

    I can accept a lack of explanation much easier than an obvious fake one.

    And as to where to get television shows, I have no useful input. I do not even own a television. I could explain a way to bypass that limitation, but that would violate forum rules.

    If you want to see if you like something before trying to get a purchased copy, I suggest checking youtube for the name of the series and watching some of the clips. More shows are willing to show you what it is these days than they were a decade ago since more people these days use their PC/phone for media and have no television. With time this is something I expect to become abundantly common.

    If you find a show you like, keep checking different sites. If you can stand advertisements inserted into the show, you can often legally watch the show streamed to you from the makers of the show itself. They get advertising revenue and you get what you want too. Win Win. :D
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  9. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    From YouTube:

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  10. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    Wow. That does look good. I will be checking a few of those at random to see if I can actually enjoy it. Thanks Haldurson.
  11. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    It's better if you watch them in order, but not 100% necessary (just recommended). Some storylines span multiple episodes, and when they are finishing up one storyline, another one is sometimes starting in the same episode. There's often season-wide storyline as well that has bits and pieces in each episode. It's not traditional episodic style, nor is it exactly like Lost with it's ever continuing never-ending story. They also refer to things and people from earlier episodes at times.
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  12. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    This isn't a recommendation or anything. But I've been trying to get a hold of an old British SF series on DVD, and have run into some difficulties (mail-related -- the post office sucks). Anyway, the series is "Blake's Seven".

    This isn't a recommendation since I've never seen a full episode. I'd heard of the series before, and apparently some time in the past it had appeared on US Television, probably PBS (I somehow missed it). I first became interested in it, though, from various passing views of it at Science Fiction conventions. One Worldcon party had episodes of it running (but it was a super-crowded, noisy party). But word of mouth was that it was really good.

    The problem is that it has never been released for region 1 on dvd, I've never seen it available to rent on-line, and so on. But recently, I had to replace my DVD player, and decided this time to get a multi-region player. And so I purchased a birthday gift for myself -- "Blake's Seven" DVDs from a store in the UK through E-Bay. That was over a month ago, and I still don't have it They've since tried shipping it to me again, and my fingers are crossed. If I ever actually receive the DVDs and get to watch them, I'll let you know if I can truly recommend the show or not. I've seen it referred to as "England's Star Trek"
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  13. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I'll list some really good television shows here -- I can't necessarily tell you where you can go to see them, you may have to actually pay money for them, or wait for them to show up on the boob tube.
    First, Sitcoms:
    Fawlty Towers -- there weren't a whole lot of episodes, but I loved every one of them, particularly "Basil the Rat"
    Seinfeld -- This was a definitively New York comedy, and it's been my experience that love for the show seems to drop off, the further you get from NYC. I can't rightly explain why that is, as I think it's hilarious, and I don't think there's ever been a comedy since then that's been as good.

    Science Fiction:
    The Prisoner -- This is, I admit, an acquired taste. It was a 17 episode series, and the last two episodes of the series really defy description. I recommend watching "The Chimes of Big Ben" to see if you like it, and if you do, watch it from beginning to end, in one of the recommended orders (the proper order to watch the episodes in is oddly controversial, but this is from Wikipedia: Two of my favorite episodes of the series are "Checkmate" and "Hammer into Anvil".
    You can ignore the miniseries from A&E -- it was... ok. But you should watch the original first.
    The Lathe of Heaven -- This was a made-for-PBS movie of Ursula K. Lequin's short novel of the same name, and it was incredibly well done. There were some really cool and interesting shows made for PBS way back when, and this was one of the best. Some of them are incredibly hard, if not impossible to get a hold of, but this one was so popular that they finally did release it on DVD.

    One made for PBS movie that is nearly impossible to get is Between Time and Timbucktu, which was a fun romp through the mind and works of Kurt Vonnegut. The script for it was actually published as a trade paperback. It's worth getting (if you can find it) for no other reason, but the appearance in it of the old comedy team of "Bob and Ray". The main character keeps getting transported through time and space into scenes from various Vonnegut novels and short stories.

    That's enough for now... Someone else should really make some recommendations also.
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  14. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Ooh, look what I just found! The full version of "The Lathe of Heaven" (I was just looking for an excerpt from the film).

    The Full version of episode 1 of "The Prisoner"


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  15. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    Ah, Fawlty Towers! One of my favorite shows!

    For British comedy, I also turn to Keeping Up Appearances which has a marvelous portrayal from the leading lady. It's impossible not to feel sorry for Richard "Bouquet" (spelled b-u-c-k-e-t!) in this show.

    Back on over to my side of the Pond is my favorite sit-com ever, Frasier. Witty and hilarious, there are probably only three or four episodes out of the eleven-year run that I don't particularly care for. The interaction between psychiatrist brothers who are worse off than their patients is a subtle, beautiful thing.

    And of course, Futurama. Sorry, I've never been a Simpsons fan but Futurama grabbed me. Extremely smart while also hilarious.

    When I'm in the mood for semi-cheesy but still awesome, I watch The Pretender. When I'm doing things differently, I watch and call it TV.
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  16. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Frasier was fairly good -- not one of my favorites, but not bad. The irony of it was that many people didn't like the show because they thought it was much too 'highbrow', when in fact it was completely the opposite of that.

    I kinda sorta liked Futurama sometimes. It was really much too inconsistent for my taste. It certainly has its moments though. Simpsons had its day a long time ago, and when it was good, it was very good. It's still ok, but hardly consistent, and its best shows are now in the past.

    My pick for animation has to be South Park. It also is not consistent, and never actually was. For the most part, I don't care for some of the toilet humor, but other than that, and for classic episodes, I don't think it can be beat.
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  17. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    South Park was great. They often tried to piss off everyone. It was so very in your face about anything and everything that you could easily debunk it as satire. There were numerous political and/or ethical challenges woven into each episode for people to mull over. Every possible stigma was picked on. From the racism of the character called "Token" who just so happened to be the only black child on the show, to the many gender and sexuality questions exploited in ways to make you think. Many saw only the negatives. But the show had to be largely ignored and you had to continue asking yourself if you had any of the bad qualities you saw on the show. In that way it was a genuine service to equality in every way.

    It is equally true that it was the single crudest piece of excrement ever made. Thus it was either horrible and anyone who knows of it's existence is horrible, or it was satire and those of us who watched it were testing ourselves for what vices we exhibit. Either way, I loved it. Sue me. :D :rolleyes:
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  18. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finally received my "Blake's 7" DVDs. I was a bit confused since the boxes were in Dutch (I think), but the DVDs were in English (but with Dutch subtitles which I was unable to turn off). Still, I'm happy enough to finally have them, so I can live with that.

    This evening/morning, I watched the first three episodes, which, essentially established the general story of the series. Blake was a political dissident in a far future dystopian society. He was arrested by the very corrupt government, his mind was erased, and his memories were replaced with new ones. Now some of his old friends from his political movement have contacted him in order to remind him of who he used to be, and to get him back into the movement against the government once again. That's pretty much established in the first 5 minutes or so of the first episode, so I'm not giving away any big spoilers.

    It's very low-budget science fiction, on par, maybe, with Doctor Who, but it certainly isn't as light-hearted as that show. The special effects and so on are kinda cheesy, but it's still fun to watch. It actually makes the original Star Trek look like a modern big-budget movie by comparison (one example is the teleportation effect, which... you have to see to believe).

    Anyway, I expect I'll be watching more of the series in days to come.
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  19. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

  20. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    While not in the general vein of the discussions so far, it's still TV so it counts! I recently discovered River Monsters. While it has some unnecessary sensationalism (like everything else on Animal Planet) it is still an awesome show about dangerous critters in rivers. The fish and the locations where Jeremy Wade catches them are amazing and it seems like he honestly wants to get to the bottom of the legends surrounding 'deadly' fish. A fun watch, even if you don't like fishing.
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