A couple of new high-profile US imports caught my eye last week: SyFy’s multi-platform sci-fi epic Defiance and Starz’s historical fantasy Da Vinci’s Demons. Here is a cross-section of the Twittersphere’s reaction to both of those and the Boston Marathon bombings during the week ending 21st April 2013.
Defiance: not bad, but not great either
All told, SyFy has apparently plunged $100m into producing both a TV series and a tie-in massively multi-player online game for Defiance. Early indications point to a massive success on both fronts, giving the channel its biggest TV debut success for several years, and arguably its biggest commercial winner ever. But was the show actually any good?
It’s certainly ambitious. Defiance is set in the near-future and sees humans and the multi-species Votans living uneasily alongside each other on an Earth ravaged by the Votans’ terraforming technology. Visually, the show is spectacular – the two-hour pilot is jam-packed with alien prosthetics and make-up and a CGI-heavy climactic battle. There’s also plenty of political intrigue between the species, although most of the principal characters are drawn with nothing but the broadest brush-strokes. In fact, looking back its hard to see quite how the show justified its double-length running time, given how simple the plot was. It’s hardly surprising it left some viewers feeling sold short.
@gamespot shame the show was shit – plagued by terrible effects and atrocious acting
— Steve Brown (@qvx91977) April 17, 2013
I’m not sure it was quite that bad. There was enough to make me stay with the show for another week or two at least to see how things start to unfold. This tweet hit the nail on the head for me.
— shell owen (@shellowen) April 17, 2013
I had already picked out the similarity with the less-than-successful Jurassic Park-lite that was Terra Nova. Both series revolve around a character who rolls into town uninvited and ends up taking the mantle of law-keeper. Both series feature a wealth of danger somewhere outside the town walls, some of them informed by insiders in the camp – dinosaurs and a rebel group in Terra Nova, aliens and mutants in Defiance. And both series feature suspiciously similar-looking forms of all-terrain vehicles whose doors are hinged at the back rather than the front. (I wonder if Defiance simply bought up and refurbished the existing Terra Nova stock?)
Anyhow, I’d say it’s unlikely that Defiance will befall the same fate of single-season cancellation as Terra Nova – the initial ratings are too strong and SyFy will be determined to at least recover their heavy investment – but is it going to be any good? Too early to say for me.
Da Vinci’s Demons: Not a work of art
The pre-launch blurb promised us that Da Vinci’s Demons would bring us the ‘untold story’ of Leonardo da Vinci’s early life (for which, read ‘completely made-up’). After promising overnight ratings for the premiere, US broadcaster Starz blatantly tried to garner similarities with Game of Thrones by announcing their decision to commission a second season the following day. The show certainly brings a familiar heady mix of historical fantasy, copious use of ‘earthy’ language and plentiful bare flesh, but does it have the same level of quality as GoT?
I watched the premiere (the series is airing on Fox UK) and thought it was utter crap. Nonsensical histrionics wrapped up in a pretentious veneer of historical artiness, with all the credibility of Kat from Eastenders in a £10,000 ball gown.
As is always the case with any new series, some people loved it.
@foxtvuk loved it. Reminds me of The Tudors and Assassins Creed II
— Gemma Harding (@Geek_Queen_Gem) April 19, 2013
Although I’m not entirely sure how a show supposedly about one of the finest artists and inventors to have ever lived should draw comparisons with the Assassin’s Creed video game series. It certainly suggests that maybe I’m not the show’s core demographic!
Some (like me) were able to sum up their feelings in a single word (unlike me).
— #Miz-G (@Geekized) April 19, 2013
While others probed with insightful questions about the contextual credibility of the series as a whole.
@davincis_starz I’m expecting some liberties have been taken, but how historically accurate will this show even be?
— ERN⚡CLFFRD (@ERiiiN) April 19, 2013
She never got a response, by the way. Make of that what you will.
The last two efforts I watched from Starz were the fourth and final season of Torchwood (which I endured all the way to the end but was nothing short of an abomination) and the similarly pitched historical fantasy one-season not-a-wonder Camelot (which I gave up on mid-season and was essentially Game of Thrones 90210 – and not in a good way). I should have known better with both those series. I won’t be making the same mistake again. I’ve seen enough already. As one of the occupants of Dragons’ Den might say: I’m out.
Post-Boston: The ugly side of Twitter
Finally, and on a serious note for once, just a few words on Twitter’s response to events at the Boston Marathon, which dominated our TV screens for much of the week. The immediacy of social media always makes it an unreliable instrument when it comes to tracking a breaking news story. The exact course of events gets mixed up, casualty counts get exaggerated up and down – and then of course there are those few dark souls who delight in deliberate misinformation or the introduction of (mostly) harmless but utterly brainless tweets or memes in the hope of seeing their creations go viral. I won’t grace any of those by repeating them here, but you know the sort of thing: the “I’ll donate $1 for every retweet” which has clearly originated from some random 18-year-old idiot in [wherever] who could barely afford to fund a single retweet.
Seriously? Get a life. Twitter may be trivial for the most part, but even in a medium as transient as this there is no place for this kind of stupidity, even from the tiniest of tiny minorities. None at all.
I’ll be vigilante-hunting the trolls and time-wasters for the rest of this week but I shall return with more good stuff from our favourite 140-character universe next Tuesday.
To read previous Tweets of the Week columns, click here.