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TV Wasteland: Calling all Heroes!

Pioneers of Television looks at superhero shows of the past.

By Rob Vaux     January 28, 2013

 We don’t talk much about PBS series like Pioneers of Television out here. We loves us the PBS, but – the odd BBC import notwithstanding – they don’t offer lot of genre programming. This week’s installment of Pioneers merits mention, however. It looks at classic superhero shows, starting with the old George Reeves’ Superman and continuing through the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk and The Greatest American Hero. 

That’s quite the nostalgic blast, complete with revealing interviews from Adam West, Lynda Carter, Lou Ferrigno, William Katt, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. It also shines a light on how much superheroes have changed over the years, and the growth the genre has undergone in the last twenty years. Comic book fans of all stripes will find plenty to enjoy, so set your DVRs posthaste!
Pioneers of Television: Superheroes airs at 8:00 PM EST on Tuesday, January 29.


Continuum (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
A new killer drills weird holes in his victims’ skulls, prompting Kiera and Carlos to take a look.
Being Human (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
A runaway presents a quandary for Nora and Josh, while Sally runs into a potential love interest.
Lost Girl (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
Bo takes in a houseguest who causes far more trouble than just a few dirty dishes.
The Following (Fox, 9:00 PM EST)
The team investigates Carroll’s ex-wife in the search for the serial killer.
The Mark of Zorro (TCM, 8:00 PM EST)
Pop quiz hotshot: what 1940 Tyrone Power movie did Bruce Wayne see with his parents the night they were killed?
Hulk (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Ang Lee’s great, but in this case, a smidge less ambition would have probably served the movie better.
Salt (FMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
Angelina Jolie is too skinny. She looks like a stiff breeze will blow her over here.
Bound (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
Lest we think The Matrix was the only good thing the Wachowskis ever produced.
The Last Legion (IFC, 10:15 PM EST)
Ben Kingsley stars in a limp and underwhelming reinterpretation of the Arthur legend.
Scary Movie 3 (Starz, 8:20 PM EST)
Speaking of limp and underwhelming…
Revolution is off this week.


Pioneers of Television (PBS, 8:00 PM EST)
PBS’s examination of the history of television focuses on early superhero shows like the George reeves Superman. See the top of the article for more.
Face Off (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
The title of this week’s episode is “When Hell Freezes Over.” We’re going to go with demonic snowmen as a theme.
Predator and Predator 2 (AMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:31 PM EST)
The first is a bona-fide classic. The second really, really isn’t, but it still offers some interesting ideas (like the alien skull on the Predator’s ship that paved the way for so many gloriously betrayed expectations).
Wrath of the Titans (HBO, 8:00 PM EST)
I admit that this sequel improves upon the original. But not by much.
Edward Scissorhands (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
Yes Virginia, Tim Burton had his own stories to tell at one point.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (IFC, 10:15 PM EST)
As its original creator would say, “mostly harmless.”
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Showtime, 8:00 PM EST)
It’s not creepy when a man in his twenties lusts after a newborn infant.  Okay, that’s a lie. It’s incredibly creepy.
Being John Malkovich (Sundance, 8:00 PM EST)
Question: What would have happened to this project if Malkovich had said no? Was Being Jeff Daniels a possibility? How about Being Tom Waits? Being Harry Dean Stanton? The mind boggles.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
Did anyone really have such a problem reading the subtitles on the first version?


Arrow (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
A new drug called Vertigo hits the streets and Oliver tries to trace the source. I suspect we may know where it leads.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EST)
Sam and Dean run into their grandfather – or at least someone who says he is. He also claims he’s travelled forward in time to stop an unearthly monster, which may put any questions about his lineage to rest for the time being.
Ghost Hunters  (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
The show always does well with lunatic asylums. This week, they head to one in Illinois.
First Knight (BBC America, 7:00 PM EST)
And then someone said, “I bet Richard Gere would make an awesome Lancelot!” You can imagine where it goes from there.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (FMC, 7:00 PM EST and 9:00 PM EST)
Part 2 actually airs at 5:00 PM EST, in case you want to watch them in order.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (IFC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
They tried to add jokes to the sixth movie. Big mistake.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Cinemax, 10:40 PM EST)
Robert Downey makes a great Holmes, but this rushed-into-production sequel loses everything that made the first film so terrific.
Knight and Day (FX, 7:30 PM EST)
Come on, admit it. Part of you still digs Tom Cruise.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
Peter Jackson’s triumphant conclusion to the Lord of the Rings trilogy sets the bar for fantasy filmmaking. We may never see its like again... at The Hobbit sadly proves. 


The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EST)
Howard and Raj covet a pair of action figures based on themselves, while Sheldon deals with his nemesis Barry Kripke.
Elementary (CBS, 10:00 PM  EST)
A conspiracy theorist falls prey to a hit-and-run that may not be as accidental as it appears. The game, presumably, is afoot.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Kol’s shenanigans kick into overdrive, threatening Jeremy and Bonnie, and prompting Klaus to ask Stefan for help. Nope. Nothing soapy here.
Beauty and the Beast (The CW, 9:00 PM EST)
Vincent has to choose between Kat and his old flame, which I’m sure doesn’t put him under any kind of strain at all.
The Transporter (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Did this elevate Jason Statham’s career or just cement his status as the Charles Bronson of the 21st century? Aw, who cares: look at him beat the crap out of everyone!
Starship Troopers (AMC, 10:01 PM EST)
That giant brain worm is really kind of spooky. 
I, Robot (Cinemax, 8:00 PM EST)
Will Smith turns a science fiction classic into a not-bad blockbuster. You won’t regret seeing it, but it’s still a step in the wrong direction.
Taken (FMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
It’s hard to imagine a time when Liam Neeson didn’t scare the holy crap out of us, is it?
Meet Joe Black (Showtime, 6:00 PM EST)
Though slow as molasses, this Brad Pitt vehicle about Death experiencing life as a normal man holds some real beauty at its core.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Starz, 7:20 PM EST)
Pirates should always be this much fun.
Joshua (Sundance, 8:00 PM EST)
I hesitate to recommend this thriller about a little boy who may be a serial killer – We Need to Talk About Kevin does much better with the same basic idea – but it has a creepy vibe that might appeal to those in the right mood.


Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Ryan sends out a team to rescue the abducted girlfriend of a renegade agent.
Spartacus: War of the Damned (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
Crassus raises an army while Spartacus battles for food and shelter.
Merlin (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
A trio of witches threaten all of Camelot unless Arthur legalizes sorcery.
Batman (IFC, 7:15 PM EST)
You can go for the Tim Burton version on IFC…
Batman Begins (TNT, 8:00 PM EST)
…or the Christopher Nolan version on TNT. There’s really no question which one is better, but both remain unique and intriguing takes on the Caped Crusader.
Captain Blood (TCM, 8:00 PM EST)
Noted Anti-Semite Errol Flynn defines the swashbuckling genre for generations. He was amazing onscreen. Too bad he was such a swine in real life.
Halloween and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (AMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
The John Carpenter classic appears alongside one of the innumerable stinky sequels that it wrought…
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (BBC America, 8:00 PM EST and 10:30 PM EST)
It’s far from the best Schwarzenegger film ever made, but he could have left on a far worse note before taking up the Governor’s office.
The Chronicles of Riddick (Cinemax, 7:45 PM EST)
It’s better than its reputation suggests. Trust me.
Kung Fu Panda (FMC, 7:00 PM EST and 9:00 PM EST)
Dreamworks animation rope-a-doped most of the free world with their surprisingly fun story of an amiable panda called upon to stop an evil kung-fu master.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (FX, 9:30 PM EST)
This is probably the best entry in the saga. For whatever that’s worth.
Die Another Day (Showtime, 9:30 PM EST)
Pierce Brosnan bows out of the James Bond franchise in an ungainly hodge-podge of better 007 movies.


The Woman in Black (Showtime, 8:00 PM EST)
Daniel Radcliffe makes a firm break from Harry Potter with terrific scare-fest that resurrects the old Hammer Studios.
Piranha (Showtime, 9:35 PM EST)
Nothing classy here, but it’s still good fun if you like lots of gore.
War of the Worlds (ABC, 8:30 PM EST)
ABC preps for the Super Bowl with Steven Spielberg’s not-bad retake on the H.G. Wells classic. We don’t understand the logic either, but there it is.
The Time-Traveller’s Wife (ABC Family, 10:30 PM EST)
Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams prove that love conquers all… even when you’re jumping back and forth in time.
Planet 51 (Cartoon , 7:00 PM EST)
Animation doesn’t get any lamer than this half-hearted effort about an astronaut who lands on an alien world, only to be mistaken for an invader.
Iron Man 2 (FX, 10:00 PM EST)
Downey and sequels… a streak that needs a few more wins.  
Batman Returns and Batman Forever (IFC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:45 PM EST)
From the flawed-but-interesting Tim Burton, we go to just-plain-flawed Joel Schumacher. Yeesh.
Independence Day (Spike, 7:00 PM EST)
As long as we have biplanes, the Earth will remain free.
Pitch Black (Spike, 10:00 PM EST)
Vin Diesel becomes a big star in a solid little genre exercise that deftly escapes its roots as an Alien rip-off.
The Dark Knight (TNT, 8:00 PM EST)
If you have to ask…
The Omen (Syfy, 6:30 PM EST)
Syfy unveils one of the sillier remakes of recent years: a limp update of the already goofy 1976 original.
My Soul to Take (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
Wes Craven strikes out again. Come on buddy, you’re better than this!
Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon (TCM, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
Not strictly genre, but too good not to mention.


Elementary (CBS, 10:00 PM EST)
CBS preps a new episode for immediately after the Super Bowl, which means the start time may vary. In it, Holmes teams up with the FBI to track a criminal who follows no apparent pattern. Um, woot?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Bay!
Ghost World (Sundance, 8:00 PM EST)
Not the first movie you think of when comic book adaptations come to mind, but definitely one of the best.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
For those of you uninterested in football, but who still want a good piece of action on their TVs, the second entry in the Narnia series will do the job.
Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone. Go Niners!



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doublec 1/28/2013 3:57:11 AM

 The giant brain worm is NOT spooky. Doogie Houser in a Gestapo uniform sticking his hand up the giant brain worm's ass, now, THAT'S spooky...

OK. Hollywood, let's see: rape and sodomize a 13-year-old girl and not only will we forgive you but we'll actually help you in your flight from justice, but say something bad about Jews in your private life and we will permanently ostracize both you AND your work, regardless of it's quality, even taking shots at you decades after you've died. Admitedly they're all jerks but it seems the priorities are off to me...

Wiseguy 1/28/2013 5:00:47 AM

Yeah no question who's is better, Burton's.

thefakejaredk83 1/28/2013 5:06:23 AM

What's happening with IFC? It's losing all it's merits as the independent channel it set out to be. It was bad enough they started interupting movies with commercials, then came the inevitable cash grab of a reality show. Now it just seems like they aren't even trying with the movies anymore & it makes me sad. It's bad enough they have "Fight Club" & "Boondock Saints" on constant loop? But all the Batman movies? They're the opposite definition of what an independent film should be.

DarthBob 1/28/2013 5:37:57 AM

I second wise's comment and it's really not even close.

Hobbs 1/28/2013 5:48:41 AM

I see wise is still banging that same old drum.  Has your continued rant about Nolan swayed anyone to your line of thinking yet?  Everyone has a Bat movie that he or she likes, the serious one, the corny Adam West version and the over the top Burton version.  Next we'll get to see him with the Justice League.  All the bases are covered.

karas1 1/28/2013 6:36:56 AM

As long as people still ask the question, people like Wise and I will have to answer.  The bait is too sweet to resist.

I like both Burton's vision and Nolan', but I like Burton's better.  Even Schumacher didn't bomb out completely with Batman Forever.  I really did like Jim Carrey's performance as The Riddler (though most of the rest of the movie is a wash).  Te less said about Batman and Robin the better.

monkeyfoot 1/28/2013 7:04:37 AM

I will definitely tune into the Superhero PBS special. I'd love to see interviews and history of my favorite superhero TV shows from my youth.

Thefakejared, IFC is unfortunately going the route of all cable channels trying to get ratings, which is whatever it takes to get 'em. TLC, MTV, SyFy, History, et cetera all have stretched the definition of what theire channel's supposed to be with reality shows and such to draw viewers in. Sadly, geek friendly G4TV is now going after cancelling AoTC and XPlay and trying for a more mainstream male audience.  

Wise, & Hobbs, Adam West has actually already done a live action Justice League. It was called Legends of the Superheroes in 1979 and was sort of a comedy/variety show featuring Adam West & Burt Ward & Frank Gorshin in their famous roles along with Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern and others.

Search for Legends of the Superheroes on Youtube to find various clips. 

monkeyfoot 1/28/2013 7:24:32 AM

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is the only one of the movie series I have ever seen. And the only reason I've watched it about 4 times is actress Jennifer Cooke looks fantastic in the tight jeans she is wearing.

Wiseguy 1/28/2013 7:25:07 AM

Yeah monkeyfoot I vaguely recall actually watching this as a kid way back when. I recall my excitement as a kid more than the show itself

Prospero2009 1/28/2013 7:34:48 AM

Why no "Person Of Interest."  If Elementary, Die Another Day, and Taken are all considered "genre" POI should definitely be in the mix.  Finch's computer should make it Genre.  Just saying.

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