02 May 2014


I like watching TV shows when I can get them to stream on my iPad here in China, as that is only one of three ways I can see any real TV here. There are no American or foreign shows to mention of here in China. Okay, they have Sponge Bob I think. All TV programming is done by the communist party and the only network is CCTV and the local variations on it that are still the same thing -news reports about perfect China is- but with specialty shows on local tourist attractions or food  basically. CCTV really sucks and I never watch it really unless I am holed up in a hotel somewhere and bored shitless. There is some outside programming and in particular the soap operas from South Korea are popular here, but the commie government deems them as a threat to something  like a harmonious society too and they too are getting restricted more and more. So the other options are these; 1) Buy the full season on pirated DVD discs. The episodes are ripped from HD TV recorders or whatever it is that captures them and complied onto a diskc after a season completes. Problem is DVD stores here are getting fewer and far between and the quality can really be bad at times, especially the audio. I hardly buy DVDs here anymore as the quality is just getting poorer and poorer. I still get one now and then, but the newer option has become 2) streaming movies and TV. I have to correct myself and say that I discovered most of the movies and TV shows they show here (not all) are not actually pirated. The streaming companies here like PPTV, TuDou, AiQiYi and SoHu (to name only a few) pay big bucks to outside suppliers or distributers to use the shows legally and so advertise over them legally. A big commercial here lately is one with Brad Pitt promoting a car. Yea, Brad Pitt did a Chinese TV commercial and I saw a Johnny Depp on a billboard advertisemtn the other for a car. For the streaming sites to legally use that commercial the programming itself should be legal too or there can be issues. I found out a lot about this recently when The Big Bang Theory was banned in China and all streaming sites (like the above ones) was ordered that they must stop showing this subversive show immediately or face serious consequences. Why is Big Bang subversive? Who knows. The government here only has to say it is. Or not say anything other than “take it down” and that is it.

But there can be other problems with streaming TV here as well. And a big one is the lousy ass Chinese Internet. I read somewhere that China was developing a super high tech Internet that would be superior to anything in the US or Europe or South Korea. Well, maybe that is fine for the commie party fat cats who will have it and want to flaunt it and proclaim "we are better than thewest again!", but the rest of the people here, Chinese and foreign alike,  are all stuck  with ADSL type connections that are dial-up speed at best back in the States. For some things I manage quite well, but for watching movies and TV it can be hit or miss. Mostly miss here lately. The shows just stream so slow as to make them unwatchable. So that leaves one with the last option and that is 3) downloading via bittorrent type sites. I am good at this and used to be quite the ripper and uploader as well. I am able to find the shows, like Big Bang, and can even find Chinese subtitles (http://shooter.cn)  and pair them up with the AVI or MP4 file for my wife to follow. She can speak English but it can be hard to follow native speakers when they speak quickly, a problem I have trying to listen to Chinese native speakers to be sure. So subs help. And for the most part that is what I do to get shows and movies (I also download old movies from Youtube now and in MP4 but maybe more on that another time) but the glory days of bittorrents (R.I.P Demonoid) are over and I worry about all of that, but for now I get my TV shows via this method. My wife does not watch most of them really. She does not like cannibals and guys who wear masks made from the flesh of teenagers faces the way I do. Ah, go figure.

So here are a few shows I have been watching (or trying to watch) lately. Actually, only one show for this post as my intro went on a bit longer than I intended. Some new coffee beans, sorry. This show here I gave up on before the end of the first season. It is called The Following and is put out by FOX TV. It stars the reliable Kevin Bacon as burned-out  FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who is dragged in from retirement to seek out serial killer and cult leader Joe Carroll, played, I think, with tongue firmly in cheek by James Purefoy. The whole FBI/cop in retirement or semi-retirement because of of a dead partner or because they shot a kid with a water blaster one night in Compton being cajoled into returning to duty because they are the only one who can do it formula is getting pretty goddamned old to me. "I need the old Bladerunner." But Kevin Bacon handles it okay. I like the guy over all and the fact that a lot of the cool old movie actors from the 80’s and 90’s who are turning up in these TV shows now (like Kiefer Sutherland and Laurence Fishburne) is welcome to me. Those guys can still act better than the new generation and while they are not spring chickens they are still young enough to carry a good drama or action lead and even have a believable romantic relationship, but they are also old enough to be totally jaded and worn out with life and all it's bullshit. And Bacon’s Ryan Hardy is just that and an alcoholic to boot. I got pulled in to the first couple shows but soon got burned out with the strain on my suspension of disbelief with the continuous implausibility’s and plot holes. 

For one thing the entire premise is too unbelievable for me. That the character of Joe Carroll could be so charismatic and his followers so needy and easily misled and manipulated that they all could develop a murderous Charles Manson like family built around the writings of Edgar Allan Poe is not something I swallow easily. And not only that, but to develop the cult-family while Carroll is still in prison -and meets many of his followers via prison visits- for murdering some sorority girls one night takes it even further from the realm of believability. And that night not only finds Carroll doing a soroity house Ted Bundy routine but has him stabbing Ryan Hardly in the heart and  therefore having Hardly need a pacemaker implanted in his chest. The pacemaker thing seems totally unnecessary and leads to some goofy situations really later in the series, like where a female killer tortures hardy with some batteries she hovers over the pacemaker. And that is really only part of the issues for me. Hell I could handle that stuff. But it gets keeps get getting deeper and deeper in terms of what I can sit and accecpt. My malarky meter was always in the red.

That this cult could be so powerful that they have technology that is beyond the FBI’s is ridiculous. Carroll calls Hardy and taunts him constantly on some satellite but the dopey, stuck n the stone ages FBI can never trace the calls because the bad guys are so smart and organized and one step ahead of the cops and feds. But when a call is made from Hardy to Carroll’s ex-wife in a witness protection program -who Hardly loves but can’t commit to cos’ he is a distant brooding loner and he will just get her hurt in the end cos' everybody he loves dies... and, and she does die later- and a window of a few seconds opens up on the phone line security because of a virus the cult memebers put there and the feds can't get off  the killers trace the call immediately and are there as quickly with machine guns and armored vests shooting up everybody in broad daylight. The family also stays in a huge multi-million dollar mansion somewhere in Virginia or Delaware. This is a palace, and they can stay there because one of Carroll’s top followers is the local sheriff. As if being a local small town sheriff suddenly means you have access to places that look like Buckingham Palace. And that is another issue I had. The family is not located in the mountains of Idaho or the deserts of Southern California or some mountains in west Pakistan. They actually seem to staying about a twenty minute drive from the FBI headquarters and never get caught at anything until after the fact, and sometimes not even then. 

You never know who is or who is not a family member. Well, okay, after a while you do. Once you catch on it is a story gimmick that some of people you least suspect are members then you started getting the hang of figuring it out pretty quickly. Could it be the helpful cop or FBI agent next to you? Or the kind, committed gay couple next door? Or maybe your trusted nanny? Or even the friggin’ president of the United States himself! I don’t think I even finished the entire first season now that I think about it. I may have been thinking when I went into this that there would be different stories over the back story of Hardy’s tainted past and drinking problems and inability to love and trust and stay focused on his chakras. I thought it would be a profiler show like Criminal Minds. In Criminal Minds the back stories not explored deeply enough really (these new shows are only like 40 minutes long, compared to the 50 minutes old TV shows were, so you cannot explore too much as a commericial break is needed all the time) but there was not a stretched over all the episodes story that focused on Edgar Allan Poe and a murder family built around him all the time. I love Poe, but I cannot except the premise of a frenzied murder cult built around The Raven or The Tell Tale Heart. That’s like saying people today even read Poe. I have my doubts. And what about the local sheriff with the hillbilly accent? Am I to assume he is an avid Poe reader? I now Poe was asouthern gentlman and all himself, but I don't think the sheriff here is the type to get all sucked into a Poe cult.  Yes, one has to suspend disbelief to a degree for most any movie or TV show I know. There has to be plot holes in order for the story to move along briskly. People are going to do things they would not do in real life or no one is going to die or get kidnapped. But enough is enough. And in the end I just did not buy the villain enough to continue watching. Purefoy’s acting style and weird accent from another time and place just began to annoy me. And there was one last major problem; I was watching ths via streaming TV here and it got so slow I could not finish the last episode I watched. It did not intrigue me enough to download and finish it. Bad sign. I could possibly watch a few more if the streaming worked again, but I doubt I will download this odd little series. 

TV show reviews coming up: Hannibal, American Horror Story,  Bones, Criminal Minds, The Big Bang Theory. Stay tuned!

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