Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: The Strain and Moonbeam City!
Joe Stando is watching…
The Strain, FX
Season 2, Episode 11, “Dead End”
Sundays at 10/9c
For all its faults, The Strain is still pretty good at telling a good story when it’s given a level of focus. So at the end of last week’s episode, when they revealed Dutch chained up in Nazi vampire Thomas Eichorst’s torture/feeding room, I figured we were in for a pretty good, if dark episode this week. And for the most part, I was right.
The aforementioned plot was great pretty much start to finish. Eichorst works better as a villain than the Master or other vampires because he’s incredibly theatrical and sadistic, and there was a clear Silence of the Lambs vibe to a lot of his interactions with Dutch. Theatrical villains are great because they’re fun to watch, and the mistakes they make (monologuing, torturing and playing with their captives instead of just killing them) feel believable instead of contrived. As nearly every other element of The Strain is super contrived, this is a big deal. Intercutting the scenes with flashbacks to Eichorst’s life pre-vampirism and pre-Nazism was clever too, establishing that while he may not have always been a monster, his lust for power and loyalty to strength have always defined him.
It was good plot, but because it’s still The Strain, a lot of screen time had to be devoted to other plots that are treading water. So we finally got Gus saying goodbye to his girlfriend and her family as he escorted them out of the city, and a bunch of time was wasted as some dumb jerk with a bad accent held Setrakian hostage. This show is like a stove where only one burner really works, so everything is left simmering for way too long as you jump between the plots you’re cooking up. It looks like we get some good stuff with Gus and the other vampire hunters next week, so expect a full twenty minutes of Goodweather arguing with his stupid kid again.
Episode Highlight: Again, definitely Dutch versus Eichorst. From the opening bit where he murders a cop in front of her for fun to the creepy chase bits through the abandoned hotel, this was a great look at what the show can do if it puts most of its effort towards one thread. While I would’ve liked to see Eichorst with his full vampiric appearance revealed again, Sammel does a great job being uncanny and feral even without extensive makeup. Lots of good editing and scares, and the fact that Dutch was actually rescued was a pleasant surprise.
Dylan Roth is Watching…
Moonbeam City, Comedy Central
Season 1, Episode 1: “Mall Hath No Fury”
Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c
It only takes about thirty seconds to understand what creator Scott Gairdner is going for with the new animated comedy Moonbeam City: ‘80s Archer. Rob Lowe provides the voice of inept, horny, distractible, but insanely lucky Detective Dazzle Novak, who patrols the neon album cover streets of Moonbeam City. Just like super-spy Sterling Archer, Novak has a case to solve but gets side-tracked by a sexy woman, basically loses all sight of his objective, and manages to solve the case anyway, much to the annoyance of his more competent colleagues.
What separates Moonbeam City from Archer? Well, for one thing, Moonbeam City isn’t funny.
Despite borrowing liberally from the premise and characters that made Archer such a success, from its stylish pseudo-period setting to its raunchy sense of humor, Moonbeam City lacks the spark of wit that raises Archer from gross to brilliant. Rob Lowe’s Novak isn’t as smart or as oddly adorable as Archer, and his deadpan deliveries lack the energy of a veteran voice actor. The remaining lead characters—Kate Mara as talented novice police officer Chrysalis, Will Forte as Dazzle’s chief rival Rad, and Elizabeth Banks as their hardass boss Pizzaz—are as paper-thin and unfunny as the show’s lead, each only managing maybe one halfway decent gag in the twenty minute episode.
I’ll give Moonbeam City this—it’s a damn fine looking show. The character and set designs are based on Patrick Nagel’s iconic album art for Duran Duran’s 1982 debut Rio, and they absolutely nail it. This episode is directed by Metalocalypse’s Mark Brooks, and is every bit as kinetic and distinctive as that show, albeit built around different genre tropes. But where Metalocalypse is a dense, rapid-fire barrage of jokes, Moonbeam City just can’t land a punch. It’s a shame a show so visually striking is bogged down by unoriginal tryhard dick humor.
Episode Highlight: Some of the watered down Archer jokes were almost as good as some weaker Archer jokes.