This review represents me breaking down and going ahead with doing a review for a streamer show in the face of the fact that doing so, without having the ability to view all SF and adjacent media content, represents a watershed event for me, and reviews on the website in general.
I never articulated the fact that I was holding back on doing regular reviews of TV fare (now “streaming” fare) because doing so meant acquiescing to the fact that the media landscape has gone full “studio-system” with the streaming BS and neither I nor the firm can afford the budget to subscribe to all of the streaming services, which would give us an opportunity to compare and contrast and allow for conversation with all fans of the genre, regardless of what they are subscribed to.
So shed a tear for the fact that today, Amazing Stories will no longer be offering a place for all SF content, but is now forced to restrict itself to a handful of services and their in-house programming, in addition to whatever makes it into theaters. And seeing as how we are not subscribed to Disney+ or Paramount+, it means that we’ll be lacking in coverage of some of the largest, most highly promoted genre-related shows – including Star Trek and Star Wars fare.
But you know what? Seeing as how formulaic and eager those franchises are to expand into every single ecological niche offered by streaming and the genre, I’m not so sure we’re going to be missing all that much.
We do have Amazon Prime and are therefore able to watch and comment on Night Sky, the first season of which was released a week ago.
Night Sky features your favorite Carrie and Farmer’s Insurance pitchman (Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons – a favorite and yet an actor whose past follows him to some extent in the same way(s) that Ned Beatty’s did following Deliverance) portray and aging couple in retirement, dealing with the fact that one is beginning to get frail in body and the other frail in mind and trying to cope with life and whatever the tide happens to bring in on any particular day.
SPOILERS HERE ON OUT
Except they are not any ordinary couple. They’re a couple with a secret stargate buried in their backyard.
Some of the tale is told in real time and some as flashback, which is how we learn that the couple’s only child committed suicide and both parents blame themselves. The son’s daughter remains in their life (and amply demonstrates what portraying mixed race families can do for a show’s diversity creds). The secret space gate is discovered by Simmon’s character when he takes down a tree in their backyard that used to have a swing on it that the son frequently visited for comfort.
For some reason, and despite the fact that I find Simmon’s a fine character actor, his “rage at the tree” reminded me of the (poorly written, shot, lit, sound tracked and directed) burial scene in John Carter when Carter buries his non-existent wife and child…(but I digress with excuses: no opportunity to trach John Carter should be over-looked), which was juiceless. Both characters are supposed to be in the throws of extreme emotional distress (at least Carter took his frustrations out on dirt; Franklin – J.K. Simmon’s character – kills a tree) yet these scenes had little to no emotional impact.
Likewise, the arrival of a mysterious stranger (through the portal) complicates AND enriches the old couple’s life, while drawing them in to crimes, betrayals and unforeseen adventure…which will remain unforeseen as we do not intend to watch Season Two, if there is one.
This show is one of those that you know, about half-way into the very first episode, is relying on star power name and little else to attract an audience. Again, the acting is good from Spacek and Simmons…and sketchy from the others, while I do have to admit that Adam Bartley, as the socially inept ne’er-do-well neighbor Byron, does a good job of making you hate the character. I sure hope for the actor’s sake that he wasn’t typecast. The other actors are capable, frequently flat and
the writing. The pace is slow and deliberate – which is ok if you’re an older person trying to find something on TV that doesn’t consist of non-stop 1/2 second jump cuts and explosions of ear-bleed inducing decibel level. Slow and deliberate reflects the life of the two main characters, and I imagine was supposed to carry with it some semblance of what it is like to be growing old in the current era, but even alta cockers (Yiddish for “old people” – used to be “guy” specifically but has drifted) are wont to shout “get on with it!” at the screen from time to time.
It also unfortunately suffers from writing that introduces plot developments in an odd manner…each major development feels as if the writers had just said “ooo, wait a second! We should have THIS happen!”, and then they do.
In other words, while the plot does move the story forward, it feels contrived, or as if the writer’s themselves were struggling to come up with ways to advance the plot. (Franklin was really working on spacesuits since before the show began? Really? And no mention was made of them? And they go from his confessional of “not really being able to get them to work” to it being solved in half an hour by his nebbishy neighbor? Ummmm – NO.)
Fortunately, the first season only consists of 8 episodes, so you can knock off the whole thing in a couple of evenings if you are so inclined.
Side Note: Perhaps at 63 I’m too young to be feeling “old” but I do have to say that at least that aspect of the show they seemed to portray pretty well. So I guess we can recommend this show for nursing home and memory care unit viewing.