Sky have gone hard out promoting their new sci-Fi themed channel The Zone. I know this because a package arrived with some promotional knick-knacks, some of which my family will receive as gifts this Christmas.
The pack also contained a sleeve of DVDs with some of the big new shows they're launching the thing with. I like to think I cant be bought off like some cheap film reviewer who's been flown to the Gold Coast to watch the latest Adam Sandler, although that sounds like a life I could adjust to.
Like Winston, I like to think I'm not interested in the baubles of office, but this was top-notch swag we're talking about, throw pillows, wacky pens, the flaming lot.
So nek minute I'm feeling compelled to watch the DVDs and furnish some column centimetres. Like a good little cog in the matrix.
To spice things up, and because I'm away from the Internet for a few days, I decided not to read about any of the shows before watching and react without prejudice. It's a trick you can pull off at a film festival but it's a rare treat when watching TV, where there's so much media foreplay and online handjobbery before anything gets to air that we go in to most new shows like a white jury in Mississippi in the 1960s. These are my raw notes as I watched. The margin of error is 12%.
The first words are, "The dreams returned last night". The first scene is in a park with kids playing. Oh, oh, a spaceship is coming down, a family is freaking out.
An explosion of CGI erupts on screen and the narrator continues "The earth we once knew is gone".
I'm getting a weird Little House on the Prairie vibe with all the early settlers and pioneer overtones.
Look, there's Wolf from Outrageous Fortune, he's obviously the hero, a Hans Solo type, and is that freaky looking half alien looking girl his daughter? Is this like the time humans and Neanderthals first got together? He reckons he adopted her, not sure if I believe him.
Kitsch music cue: Wolf and his alien maybe half-daughter are singing along to Johnny Cash in the car.
Actually forget Little House on the Prairie, I've now narrowed it down to Storage Wars crossed with Total Recall. Dad and alien are in the business of finding treasure from fallen star ships. A jewel-like electrical part is thought to be worth enough to pay off all their debts. They walk right past the jet skis.
Friends have their coffee shop, Coronation Street the Rovers Return and it seems that Defiance has a brothel/niteclub, a post apocalyptic Bada-bing if you will.
Within seconds Wolf get's it on with the hot madam who runs the joint. "It was so good I don't really want to charge you", she says, he replies "I don't really want to pay you either." It's a terrible line followed by a great line. So we are not without hope.
It turns out Defiance is the name of town built in the ruins of the city that was St Louis, allowing the first episode it's Planet of The Apes moment, via the St Louis Arch. There has been a great war and Wolf is somewhat of a war hero.
But it's a weird mix of things this show, a darker Disney tone perhaps, but it didn't have me reaching for the second episode which sat unmolested in the fancy promotional folder.
Best lame scene: When Wolf fights a "Bio Man" a freakish robot/Mr Universe the size of a small car, and knocks him out by punching him on the arse, which is where "the off switch is on the 2037 model."
The first words sound portentous: "Hunger a poet once said is, is the most important thing we know."
We open on spooky dark skies, a plane is coming in to land in New York, on board is a rock star in a bad wig who is being annoying, he'll be dead soon I think, but then we meet a sweet little French girl in pigtails, surely she doesn't deserve to die? "There's something alive in the cargo hold!" yelled the concerned trolley dolly.
"Something big!" I won't spoil things but suffice to say things don't turn out to be anywhere near as predictable as I thought but bad things are on the way, that's a given.
This show has real star power too, that guy from House of Cards, the bald one who played the congressman, Corey Stoll, he plays the boss virus and strain fighting guy, and there's that old guy from Broadchurch, and one of the early Hobbits. There's also something really creepy in a jar, in a brain that wouldn't die kind of way.
"I just do it for the pussy", the rocker says when asked by our investigator of infectious stuff, if he believes all the satanic nonsense he has tattooed on his arm. Then the rocker pulls of his bad wig.
We get our Kitsch music moment via Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. This is a seriously enjoyable pile of graphic novel nonsense, I'm liking it and looking to see if there's a second disk. I love this.
"Oh that's why it's so good", I exclaim like a dolt when the credits come up and I see who made it, bloody old Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame, that's who.
First words are a recorded voice that alarms us with a droning repetitive "contamination, contamination."
The kitsch music moment happens just a minute in. Do You Know the Way to San Jose? Asks Dionne Warwick.
Something terrible has happened on an arctic science base the size of a Westfield Mall, strange experiments have run amok, I suspect the shifty Japanese guy has been playing god.
He is the bad guy, the good guy played the mayor in the American version of The Killing. Like our friend on The Strain he runs some sort of crack team of infections disease investigators, freaking out a class of graduates by tossing a bottle full of cholera across the room, and warning of new "horrors that make cholera seem tame". It's all very Ebola. The bottle turns out to filled with single malt, classic.
Love triangle alert in first few minutes as the team head off to the arctic for the outbreak at the Westfield Mall. Hero, his ex and newbie love interest are all on the flight. Oh and the Hero's ex slept with his brother who is now infected at the Westfield Mall thing.
After poking around some demented half-rat people, we come across a herd of frozen monkeys. The uppity newbie who fancies the Mayor from The Killing chunders in her helmet after a body turns to black mush. I'm getting a sniff of Space 1999, Aliens and the racy bits of Shortland Street. I'll be back.
No classic songs in this one, aimed as it is at a younger demo. First words are not portentous but "what are you doing?"
But the next one is better, when the friend of the would-be teen-wolf gets the ball rolling.
"You're the one who's always bitcthin' that nothing ever happens in this town."
The kid, teen wolf's BFF, has heard that his dad, the town cop, has found a body in the woods, well, "half a body." The boys head out snooping in the woods but teen wolf, Scott, gets lost and bitten by some wolfy beast. Bring on full moon I say, and within minutes the moon is beaming down and Scott is having a hairy meltdown.
It's pretty watchable good dumb fun all this and I spied in the credits, director Russell Mulcahy, the famed Australian music video director of Duran Duran videos in 1980s and the film Highlander in the 90s.
From Dusk till Dawn
The first words lay it on pretty thickly, as you'd expect from Robert Rodriguez: "Since time began we have lived in the shadow of the moon ... blah blah blah". There's some running in the jungle in a thunderstorm some natives throw a hot chick into a pit of vipers.
Oh look it's Don Johnson in a cowboy hat, he's a cop and his partner sits beside him as they head off somewhere in the car.
"I don't believe in that voodoo shit", says Johnson. That means bad shit is about to happen and it soon does, some psycho brothers who look like they have walked out of a Barkers catalogue have been on some killing and robbing spree and have millions of dollars, but first they must stop and terrorize a storekeeper and pretty female customers in the very store our cops call into very day.
Carnage follows, the sort of graphic, cartoon violence that Rodriguez does almost as well as Tarantino. One of the cops sets the series up as he lies dying:
"You promise me something, you kill these fellas, even if you have to follow them to the gates of hell." I'm thinking that I'll head up this blood splattered garden path for a while, but I might not get all the way to the doorbell.
These shows start on The Zone in November, a channel available to all Sky basic subscribers.