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TV Wasteland: Fades In
BBC America launches another intriguing series
By Rob Vaux
January 09, 2012
British Television has a rich tradition of science-fiction programs, topped by the long-running Doctor Who but including the likes of The Prisoner, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf Blake’s 7, Neverwhere and Life on Mars. The intelligent and highly literate nature of these shows helps them overcome their often threadbare budgets, while providing a refreshingly different take on standard genre staples. This week, we get our first glimpse of another one: The Fades, about a young man battling the vengeful spirits of the dead. Its premise gives us cause for hope, but more importantly, it shows the type of gumption that set many British sci-fi series apart.
The BBC’s tighter formatting means that the show runners can concentrate on telling a good story rather than keeping the ball rolling. The Fades’ first season runs for only six episodes, letting it get in and get out quickly. It takes a simple idea in original directions, yet keeps the reach within an acceptable television budget. And it demonstrates a willingness to go for broke by killing off main characters and similar shocking twists… something U.S. shows are loathe to do. It hasn’t always made for brilliant television, but when that formula clicks, it can deliver a modern classic. We’ll see what this entry can produce for us when it premieres on BBC America this Saturday night at 9:00 PM EST.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Cinemax, 8:00 PM EST)
Cinemax apparently intends to bludgeon us into submission with two of the worst genre films of recent years. They start with this gobbling turkey and then lead into…
Sucker Punch (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST)
Get your rampant misogyny while it’s fresh!
The Andromeda Strain (TCM, 8:00 PM EST)
Once again, it’s Turner Classic to the rescue with a first-rate piece of 1970s sci-fi.
The Last Man on Earth (TCM, 10:15 PM EST)
This low-budget version of the oft-filmed I Am Legend struggles to create a convincing universe, but benefits from a terrific performance from Vincent Price.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (FX, 8:00 PM EST)
Is it weird that Black Widow and Deadpool were actually married? Even weirder that it didn’t work out…
Avatar (HBO, 10:00 PM EST)
Fly, giant blue soldier boy! FLYYYYYYY!!!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
Starz is returning this to the rotation, filling the evening with cries of “it could be worse!”
Troy (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
Too long, but not bad. Sean Bean steals the show as the crafty Odysseus.
RED (Showtime, 7:00 PM EST)
Considering that it features Helen Mirren with a machine gun, this really should have been better.
Christine (AMC, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
John Carpenter’s flawed version of the Stephen King bestseller features moments of pure genius, making it a worthwhile watch despite its periodic problems.
The A-Team (HBO, 7:00 PM EST)
The TV reboot is deeply underrated: as fun as any action movie you’re likely to see.
Mars Needs Moms (Starz, 9:00 PM EST)
The box office carnage inflicted on this film belies its undeniable “not bad” status. Wish a few more people had seen it just to help its reputation a bit.
Casino Royale (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
I’d point out once again that this ferocious rebirth of the James Bond franchise is not, in any sense of the word, science fiction… but the network clearly isn’t listening.
Dr. Strangelove (TCM, 10:00 PM EST)
Say it with me now: “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
The premier of Season 8 sends our intrepid team to the King’s Island amusement park in Ohio, looking for spiritual residue from the Unfortunate Tilt-a-Whirl Incident.
Face Off (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
The second season of the monster make-up reality show premieres with competitors re-imagining characters from The Wizard of Oz.
Spawn (FMC, 7:00 PM EST)
I always think this station is “Fox Movie Classics…” until I see stink bombs like this one programmed in.
Jumper (FMC, 9:00 PM EST)
This one too.
Underworld: Evolution (FX, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
It’s almost like another entry in the franchise is opening soon or something…
The Eagle (HBO, 8:00 PM EST)
Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum headline a surprisingly good film about the fate of Rome’s legendary 9th Legion, who disappeared in the wilds of Scotland.
Assassination (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
Charles Bronson would appear in anything during the last few decades of his career. Case in point: this bit of nonsense involving a First Lady targeted for death after she tries to divorce her husband.
Black Rain (IFC, 10:00 PM EST)
Apparently, Michael Douglas used to be quite the tough guy. Who knew?
Tangled (Starz, 7:15 PM EST)
Rapunzel teams up with a wayward thief to thwart the schemes of Mother Gothel in this lively animated Disney adventure.
Domino (Sundance, 10:00 PM EST)
Tony Scott’s epileptic editing style reaches its logical conclusion in the story of real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EST)
New episodes return as Sheldon once again tramples all over Amy’s feelings and has to make amends for it.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Caroline’s friends plan a birthday party for her while Damon and Stefan try to hammer out a plan for dealing with Klaus. If you don’t know how those two subplots go together, you haven’t been paying attention to the horrible things the zeitgeist has been doing to vampires lately.
The Quick and the Dead (AMC, 8:00 PM EST)
Sam Raimi directs an all-star cast in an effort that does for Westerns what his Evil Dead series did for horror movies.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cinemax, 7:45 PM EST)
The specifics have dated a bit, but the overall package still holds up surprisingly well.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST)
Rent the original. It’s better.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (FMC, 7:00 PM EST and 9:30 PM EST)
It’s a night for crappy remakes, such as this awful new version of the science fiction classic.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (Disney, 8:30 PM EST)
Before he graced the cover of Nonthreatening Boys magazine, Taylor Lautner moonlighted as a superhero in this misbegotten effort from Robert Rodriguez.
Devil (HBO, 7:30 PM EST)
Elevators are a lot less scary than this movie apparently thinks they are.
The Boondock Saints (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
This energized knock-off of Quentin Tarantino movies has long since been eclipsed by the legendary bad behavior of its director Troy Duffy. Check out the great documentary Overnight for the scoop.
Layer Cake (IFC, 10:15 PM EST)
Matthew Vaughn did much better with his own crime story, about an amiable drug dealer trapped in a web of double crosses. He can also play nice with Hollywood… which means we got to enjoy Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class as well. Yay!
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST)
The Pirates franchise hits an unquestioned low point: attempting to salvage a morass of plot points to no avail.
Fringe (Fox, 9:00 PM EST)
Peter heads over to the alternate universe to settle things with “Walternate” as new episodes return.
Chuck (NBC, 8:00 PM EST)
Bo Derek guest stars as herself, giving the team a hand during a mission in Colorado.
Grimm (NBC, 9:00 PM EST)
Nick hunts an escaped prisoner whose great strength suggests he may be more than he seems.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EST)
Sean tries to take down Nikita and Michael before they can get to his mother.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EST)
Sam gets shot back in time, where Eliot Ness arrests him. If it were any other show, I would be mocking this to death right now, but Supernatural might just make it work.
Merlin (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST)
The second half of the two-part season premiere concludes as Lancelot fights his way back to Camelot with the dying Merlin in tow.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon, 8:00 PM EST)
Lux Bonteri breaks away from the Separatists to join an even more extreme faction. Insert Tea Party joke here.
Robocop (Cinemax, 7:00 PM EST)
Why don’t they make science fiction movies like this anymore?
X2: X-Men United (Cinemax, 8:45 PM EST)
One of the best X-Men films to date is always worth a look.
The Fades (BBC America, 9:00 PM EST)
A new BBC series debuts on this side of the Pond, about a young boy who can see the spirits of the dead. See the top of the article for more.
Men in Black (Cinemax, 8:15 PM EST)
We can get our hopes up for Part III by watching the thoroughly delightful Part I.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 10:00 PM EST)
This is the second film in the franchise. You can tell because of the racist robots.
The Devil’s Rejects (IFC, 8:00 PM EST)
If a good Rob Zombie movie exists, then this is surely it.
From Dusk Till Dawn (IFC, 10:15 PM EST)
There’s a lot of great faces in here, but Fred Williamson and Tom Savini make me smile the most often.
Shaun of the Dead (MTV, 10:00 PM EST)
Edgar Wright’s gleeful zombie satire hasn’t lost any of its bite since it premiered in 2003.
Eraserhead (Sundance, 8:00 PM EST)
If you like your Saturday nights weird, David Lynch has got the hook-up.
Meteor Storm (Syfy, 7:00 PM EST)
On the other hand, you could just waste it on a Syfy double feature instead.
Collision Earth (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST)
Syfy is capping its evening with an all-new movie about what happens when Mercury breaks away from its orbit and come hurtling right at us. Apparently, it’s up to a mad scientist’s doomsday device to save us all; bet you didn’t see that twist coming.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8:00 PM EST)
Hansel and Gretel are in the spotlight this week: threatened by the Evil Queen in Fairy Tale Land and foster care here in the real world.
Dune (BBC America, 8:00 PM EST)
David Lynch’s gloriously incoherent epic arrives in all its mid-1980s glory. Huzzah!
Zombieland (FX, 8:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST)
It’s on all night in case you miss the first showing.
Battle: Los Angeles (Starz, 8:00 PM EST)
Marines vs. aliens. Go.
Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Syfy, 7:00 PM EST and 9:00 PM EST)
The first two entries in the Resident Evil saga hit the airwaves just in time for the new one to come out.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (TCM, 8:00 PM EST)
A comedy classic with genre trappings arrives to save our Sunday nights, featuring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula and Lon Chaney as the Wolfman. Followed by the inferior but still cute Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man at 9:30 PM EST.