Airplane! The Sequel

NBC’s The Blacklist: Redemption is on the air for a few weeks now and as I predicted it’s utter dreck. James Spader is missing every second, and the entire premise just feels extremely forced. Tom “I just want to be a dad” Keen suddenly spends all his time at his mother’s beck and call instead of doing that parenting thing he always dreamed of. Liz doesn’t really seem to mind or even notice – and how could she when she’s out chasing bad guys for Reddington in the main series?

Without Spader, there’s no comic relief either – unless the computer nerd counts, but his kind of humor really doesn’t click with me. Or maybe Solomon? He’s cool, but he’s ultimately a bad guy (not unlike Reddington, but Red’s just more charming).

After all, however, Redemption isn’t so different from your standard Blacklist fare: the storylines are ridiculous, the computers can’t be controlled without hammering on some kind of holo-keyboard (ever heared of a mouse, guys?) and Famke Janssen plays every bit as terrible and wooden as Megan Boone. The only upside is Terry O’Quinn, but his character is just not written well enough to be of much interest.

This post is a bit long, read on if you dare.

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Ransom, a rather new show on CBS, is about a team of professional – and commercial – hostage crisis negotiators. Why that’s a thing is beyond me as usually the police is pretty good at doing that already, but why not. Since it’s a CBS filler show – heck, it airs on Saturdays! – it’s pretty much a given that the paper-thin plot is peppered with plot holes and the cast is just as dull, and that’s okay – not every show can be the next Homeland. Oh, by the way – this is the gig Frank Spotnitz left The Man in the High Castle for. No, really. Must be a long way to fall from this height, but he finally hit rock bottom.

So far, the episodes were just your average nonsense but the third one pretty much did it for me. As usual, the script author probably read something about something, thought “hell, why not!” and went with it, logic be damned.

So there’s a hostage situation in a bank. The two hostage takers don’t want to negotiate because it’s not really about money, and obviously that’s a problem for our crisis negotiation team since they are hired to negotiate, not sit around in their thousand dollar suits and look pretty. The perps collected all the phones the hostages had on them so there’s no way to go around them and simply contact a hostage instead.


Image (c) CBS

Luck has it, however, that one of the two rent-a-cops in the bank wears a smart watch, more specifically a Samsung Galaxy Gear. How do they know that? Because it’s visible on the security cameras, duh! Unfortunately, the police has a cell jammer active and doesn’t want to shut it down just because some smart looking fella asks them nicely.

What’s the idea here? Well, the lead negotiator pairs his smartphone with the watch and starts to send messages to it. Why any given smartwatch would be able to receive messages directly from the paired smartphone is beyond me as there’s really no need for that kind of feature. Remember: the watch is normally paired to the wearer’s phone, which is likely in their pocket – what good would it do to be able to send messages from the phone to the watch? Except for resolving a hostage crisis, of course, but I doubt that’s high on the priority list when developing a smart watch.

That kind of nonsense aside, the security guy wearing the watch is laying on the floor (he got shot) pretty far from the bank’s entrance and the negotiator is standing a few meters away from it as well. Given how supposedly terrible the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s bluetooth range is – way less than the average of 30 feet, which is about 9 meters – and the fact that there’s a wall and several desks between the phone and the watch, the entire “I’ll just pair my phone with his watch” thing likely wouldn’t work in the first place.

But it gets better. After the negotiator manages to send some messages to the smart watch and gather information about what’s going on inside the bank, he can convince the cops to drop the cellphone jammer in order to get a “dedicated signal” to the phone connected to the smart watch (which, at this point, would still be his own … yeah, this is really through through). Actual cell jammers do have a feature to allow certain phones, although I highly doubt there’s need to shut down the jammer to configure it. The whole “dedicated signal” stuff is nonsense anyway – the cell jammer would simply be blacklisting any and all mobile signals except the ones that are on the whitelist, in this case the phone inside the bank and the negotiator’s phone, and the phones used by the cops.

Fantastic technical research, guys. No, really. No wonder Mr. Robot gets glowing reviews for their way of displaying actual technology at work when everyone else is just doing a hack job out of it every single time. Doesn’t really take much to shine in this colorful CSI world most shows tend to live in. Ugh.

Oh, and while we’re at it – what the fuck is this:


Image (c) CBS

No, I don’t mean the cop grinning like a moron, although … yeah, that too. No, what I’m talking about is the … holographic screen that is perfectly readable against bright sunlight. There’s even some room for nonsensical widgets that don’t seem to display any feasible information, and let’s not forget the very important company logo which is  always a great use of screen real estate! Now that’s some prime CSI tech right there! Must have blown out their entire SFX budget given an explosion of four blocks of C4 in a tight air duct looks like this:


Image sequence (c) CBS

Oh well. At least there still was some cash left to add a bunch of colored lights to the detonator.

Hey man, nice scarf!

Ever since watching an episode of Power being filmed in New York City last year I have paid extra attention to watching extras move in the background of a street scene. While it may appear that there’s just a lot of passerbys walking past the characters, many of these people are hired help – clothed to fit the weather the episode is supposed to be set in, instructed to walk in the background as inconspicuously as possible. The actual background is usually closely (and, to my dismay, fiercely!) guarded by staffers so nobody who doesn’t belong there can get caught on film. Of course, there’s a limited amount of extras walking around so it can occasionally be difficult not to have the same person walk past twice, so the editor and continuity manager have to pay attention.

And that’s just the problem in the latest episode of Elementary which featured a nice street scene set at the corner of E 44th Street & 3rd Avenue. As soon as I watched the episode I just knew I’d have to inspect that scene because something felt off, and I was right, although I had the wrong extra in mind. There’s a man with a dark beanie with a brown stripe passing behind the actors, and for a split second, it seemed the same guy was walking past twice. As it turned out, he was blameless – which can’t be said for this fellow sporting an even more memorable hat and a red scarf to boot:

(c) CBS

(c) CBS

As we’ve learned from that Castle epsiode with similar problems, it’s not a good idea to have extras with very colorful clothing mixed with others that wear rather plain garments – they stick out like a sore thumb if they walk past twice …

(c) CBS

(c) CBS

… because just seconds later, he’s there again, still walking around with no care in the world. Good for him!