Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

Sense8: The Wachowskis invite you to take the red pill again

July 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 2 Comments →


You have to hand it to the Wachowskis. The success of their film The Matrix and its convoluted sequels bought them the freedom to do whatever they want, and they have used this freedom. Critics sneered at their post-Matrix movies, and audiences stayed away, but they will not abandon their vision. What this vision is exactly, I can’t tell you, but their work has the scale, ambition, and unpredictability that have largely disappeared from big-budget Hollywood filmmaking. Their failures are more compelling than other people’s successes.

Consider Cloud Atlas, their adaptation (with Tom Tykwer) of David Mitchell’s novel, in which many individuals living in different countries and periods in history are connected in ways not immediately apparent. By having their actors play multiple roles and through some fantastic hair and makeup work, they made those connections clear. They took the spirit of the novel and blew it up on the big screen. The reviews were so dismissive, it seemed that critics were compensating for having overpraised The Matrix. Granted, the recent Jupiter Ascending is a silly retread of the idea of an ordinary person having a great destiny, but is it much sillier than the superhero movies we gorge upon?

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Forever: The pains of being immortal

July 10, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →


Immortality is not what it used to be. Once a quality desired by humankind, it is now regarded by popular culture as problematic. Vampires are depressed because they live forever and never age, while their mortal sweethearts are subject to the depredations of time. The deathless warriors in Highlander went to great trouble beheading each other because “There can be only one”—couldn’t they just learn to get along? Whatever their grievances, surely they could forgive and forget after 500 years or so.

And yet it should be noted that vampires could end their suffering easily enough by walking outdoors in broad daylight or, if they were the sparkly emo kind, sky-diving onto flagpoles. The Highlander guys could’ve taken naps using train tracks as their pillows. But they didn’t do it, because you know why? Because if you have your health, your looks, and your wealth (Even the most inept immortal could get rich by opening a savings account—even at low interest rates, savings pile up in 100 years), you don’t really want to die. At least not yet.

Read our TV column The Binge in BusinessWorld. This week we explain why the 2014 series Forever starring Ioan Gruffudd and the 2008 series New Amsterdam (the start of our completely unilateral relationship with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are the same show.

This week we’re reading and watching science-fiction

July 07, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 2 Comments →

We just finished The Wachowskis’ Sense 8. Think of it as Cloud Atlas with fairly graphic sex. You have to hand it to the Wachowskis: they will do what they want to do. Even their “failures” are more interesting than other people’s blockbusters.

Up next: The Man in the High Castle is based on Philip K. Dick’s classic alternate history in which the Axis powers won WWII. It’s produced by Ridley Scott, the most successful adapter for film of PDK’s work. Lots of PDK stories have been filmed – Total Recall (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale), Minority Report, Paycheck, The Adjustment Bureau, A Scanner Darkly (the rotoscoped Linklater—not bad), etc, but Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) is still the best of the lot despite changes to the story (and to itself, you know how many versions were released).

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is available at National Bookstores, Php1049.

We were reading a different book when we happened to read the first page of Neal Stephenson’s latest, and ended up abandoning the earlier book temporarily. A large section of his 90s novel Crytonomicon took place in the Philippines; this one has a Filipino plant geneticist character.

Hannibal is cancelled, and you-know-who is not dead.

July 03, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

Gillian Anderson as Hannibal’s psychiatrist and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter

Critics have long come to terms with the fact that reviews have little impact on audience numbers: it may even be argued that lousy reviews translate to stupendous box-office, as demonstrated most recently by Jurassic World. A couple of weeks ago, Hannibal returned for its third season of exquisite butchery; shortly after that, NBC announced that the series created by Bryan Fuller was cancelled.

The cancellation of Hannibal wasn’t a big surprise, even to viewers who went into raptures over the cannibal’s culinary and interior design skills. Fuller’s adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter books by Thomas Harris constantly tested network standards and practices by showing us cadavers in artistic arrangements, like a Venice Biennale of Death. More that that, its ratings were very low. The Hannibal cult—you are few, but you know what goes with fava beans and a good Chianti—need not worry as the show will certainly find a new home on cable or on the increasing number of online media providers

I thought of Hannibal last week when I came home to find blood splatter on the floor. My cat housemates, who have been play-fighting for years, miscalculated their posing and made actual contact, leaving one of them with a bloody nose. As I scrubbed away at the dried stains, I wondered how the fastidious Dr. Lecter cleaned up his post-murder messes, and so quickly, too. Did he always carry plastic sheets and bleach? Pop culture has mythologized serial killers as geniuses, but perhaps their most amazing quality is their housecleaning acumen.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Plus: What Hannibal’s cancellation—and possible renewal—tells us about the future of TV.

Silicon Valley: The geeks have still not inherited the earth.

June 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 1 Comment →


Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, Silicon Valley was reportedly inspired by Judge’s stint as a software engineer in the 1980s. It was, by his account, a soul-crushing experience. “The people I met were like Stepford Wives,” he said in an interview. “They were true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.” He ended up on television, writing, directing, producing, starring and doing the music for Beavis and Butt-head. He also did the cartoon King of the Hill and the film Office Space, the classic on the banality of corporate evil.

“Every day it feels like I’ve died and gone to hell,” Gilfoyle declares.

“He’s a Satanist,” Dinesh explains. “It’s a good thing.”

Mike Judge knows better than anyone that highly intelligent people can behave like complete morons, and in that IQ gulf live the big laughs. Silicon Valley takes Office Space’s penetrating criticism of corporate culture, and delivers it with the off-color, juvenile humor of Beavis and Butt-head.

Read our review of Silicon Valley at our TV column The Binge in BusinessWorld.

Watch Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency. Language will offend some. There’s also a bit about Filipinos in season 2, but it’s a spoiler.

See you at the Cebu Literary Festival

June 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Television, Traveling No Comments →


We’re in Cebu from lunchtime till Sunday morning for the Cebu Literary Festival at the Ayala Center Cebu. We’re giving a talk, signing books, doing an interview with historian Resil Mojares, and visiting the Iron Throne at Happy Garaje.

Read our Season 5 review in our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld. Spoilers.

If you’re not in Cebu, you could go to Fete de la Musique. Click on the image to enlarge.

fete de la musique 2015