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Josh Reviews American Gods Season One

A few years ago I read and absolutely loved Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.  It was weird and wonderful and funny and heartbreaking and I pretty much loved every page.  I was of course interested when I heard that there would be a TV adaptation, and then when when it was announced that Bryan Fuller (whose name I first got to know as a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and who has subsequently created and run several acclaimed shows) would be the show-runner, I was very excited.

The show, like the novel, begins with Shadow: a man released from prison only to discover that his wife has a) cheated on him and b) died while doing so.  At a loss as to what to do with his life, his path crosses with the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, who convinces Shadow to come work for him as his driver and assistant.  It turns out that Mr. Wednesday just might actually be the god Odin, who is own a mission to gather the many other Old Gods living across the United States to fight back against the New Gods who Wednesday feels are preparing to destroy them.

Mr. Gaiman’s original novel is centered around upon the intriguing notion that anyone who believes something manifests that belief into the actual deity, and their belief and worship gives that deity power.  And so, as immigrants came to America across the centuries, they brought many of their Gods with them.  But now, in a pointed critique of modern American life, the book suggests that we have turned away from those Old Gods and, instead, given form to New Gods who express the things we worship today: media, technology, etc.  This is a delicious idea.  The novel works because it is filled with fascinating concepts and compelling characters — Mr. Gaiman is a master at making each of his characters interesting and unique.

The eight-episode TV adaptation is a mixed bag.  It’s not at all what I would call a success, but there are too many fascinating and compelling ideas and moments in it to consider it a failure, either.  There are scenes in these episodes that count among the most striking and interesting things I have seen on TV in a good long while.  But unfortunately it doesn’t all come together in a satisfying way, as I will attempt to explain.

Let’s start with what works: the cast is fantastic.  I wasn’t at all familiar with Ricky Whittle before seeing him as Shadow here in this series, but he’s great.  He combines the physicality of a tough guy with a gentleness of voice and manner that is perfect for Shadow.  We have to invest … [continued]

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News Around the Net

“There’s always money in the banana-stand!”  I am thrilled that, four long years after the release of season 4, Arrested Development season 5 is officially happening!!  Yes, season 4 was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m hoping Mitch Hurwitz and this amazing cast can turn things around with another time at the plate.  I can’t wait.

A brief follow-up to my recent analysis of the teaser trailer for the new Star Trek show, Discovery: I’d noted in my review that it looked like they had adjusted the look of the actual starship Discovery since the initial teaser a year ago, though it was hard to get a good look at the ship in that new trailer.  However, eagle-eyed on-line fans noticed what I didn’t, which is that Jason Isaacs had previously been announced as the captain of the Discovery.  This means that much of what we see in the trailer between the first-officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green and the captain played by Michelle Yeoh all probably happens in the first episode as a prologue to the events of the series itself.  Therefore, the starship seen in this trailer is not the Discovery at all.  So we don’t know yet whether the Discovery is really going to look like that blocky, angular design seen in that first trailer.  (As I commented a year ago, I like the idea of basing the starship’s design off of an unused-by-famous-to-Trek-fans Ralph McQuarrie design for the refit Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture more than I like the execution as seen in that teaser, which looked chunky and without any of the art of Matt Jefferies’ original Enterprise design.)  Also, this likely means that Michelle Yeoh, who I liked so much in the trailer, is probably going to have a very small role on the show itself, assuming that something bad is going to happen to get first-officer Burnham (played by Ms. Green) assigned as the first officer to another captain on another starship, rather than getting her own command.  That is a bummer, since I really liked the dynamic between Ms. Yeoh and Ms. Green in that trailer.

Ordinarily we’d be well into the new season of Game of Thrones at this point in the year, but we all need to wait two more months.  This substantive new trailer will ease the pain (or make it worse!!):

Let’s also join in lamenting that the shortened seven-episode seventh season will be followed by an even-shorter final season, which will reportedly only be six episodes long.

Jon Williams recently received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University, and one of the school’s a cappella groups, the Din and Tonics, … [continued]