Rewatch: The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files is a 2007 supernatural detective series based on the book series of the same name. The series follows wizard Harry Dresden as he continues to get caught up in supernatural mysteries throughout Chicago, anything from finding a lost item to busting a necromancer’s life insurance fraud.

If you love noir-style detective stories and magic, this is a must-watch series! Narration throughout really makes things easy to follow, especially if you decide to just jump into the middle of the show or watch it out of order. There’s not much character growth, but the characters are all pretty much grown as it is, a benefit of jumping out of a well-established book series. The mystery starts, great characters resolve it, you have fun. What more could you ask for?

Paul Blackthorne stars as Harry Dresden, a talented wizard and noir-style detective type who works as a consultant for the police when they need a “difference perspective” on very unusual cases. Valerie Cruz stars as Lt. Murphy, the only police officer who can stand Harry, and thus often his only source of case work. Terrence Mann stars as Bob, the ghost of an ancient sorcerer cursed to spend eternity bound to his skull, and Harry’s teacher. Conrad Coates stars as Donald Morgan, one of the wizards in charge of policing other wizards, and one who isn’t particularly fond of Harry.

If you know the stories, the actors definitely don’t look the part, but they play their parts to perfection. If you go on to read the books, it’s easy to hear their voices delivering the lines, because they just are these characters. Blackthorne’s Dresden is sloppy, distracted, showy, and focussed and powerful when he needs to be. Cruz’s Murphy is curt, direct, and always focussed on the case at hand. Mann’s Bob is arrogant yet caring, a teacher anyone would be happy to have. Coates’s Morgan is the perfect mix of direct, powerful, and kind when he wants to be.

Sadly, the series only ran for 12 episodes before being canceled, which is a shame, because it’s an absolutely wonderful show to just sit back and relax with. Fortunately, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and if you want more, you can always read the books.

You can stream the series for free on IMDB TV, or buy the whole series on Apple TV for just $9.99. If you’re looking for one episode to get you started, try “Soul Beneficiary,” but really they’re all great, and I hope you enjoy watching The Dresden Files as much as I do!

Rewatch: Samurai Jack

Long ago in a distant land, Aku, the shapeshifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil. But, a samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck, Aku tore open a portal in time and flung the samurai into the future, where his evil is law. Now, the samurai seeks to return to the past and undo the future that is Aku. He’s gotta get back, back to the past, he’s Samurai Jack.

Samurai Jack is a 2001 children’s animated series lead by Genndy Tartakovsky, starring Phil LaMarr as the titular Samurai Jack and Mako as Aku. The series ran for 5 seasons, though there was a 12-year gap between seasons 4 and 5, more on that later. To call it strictly a “children’s animated series” though is a bit of a disservice. Like with Batman: The Animated Series, some episodes definitely have a time-filler feel, but other episodes feature moments that can only be described as art.

Stranded in the future, Jack (taking the name the locals call him) immediately sets out to find time portals or magic to send him back to the past and prevent the future that Aku currently rules over. The show focusses on his journey as a whole. He’s always walking towards the next rumored solution to his problem, encountering new challenges, friends, and people to rescue along the way. Though Aku appears a few times each season, Jack spends most his time dealing with robotic minions of varying statures in Aku’s employ. With that said, Aku is perhaps one of the best villains in children’s animation, largely thanks to Mako’s unique voice and comedic timing. It’s truly a treat whenever he shows up.

Samurai Jack was canceled without a resolution after 4 seasons. The lack of resolution was intentional. The final episode is just another “someone needs help” episode, Aku isn’t even mentioned. Tartakovsky intended the viewer to simply understand that Jack will continue his journey. 12 years later, the show returned for a final season. Rather than being episodic and kid-friendly like the past 4 seasons, it had an overall arc and was darker and more geared towards the audience that grew up on the show. Sadly, Mako passed away in 2006, and Greg Baldwin took over as Aku. Regardless, the final season is an excellent end to Jack’s story.

Samurai Jack is an incredibly diverse adventure, it’s art much of the time, and it’s simply fun. It’s well worth watching. Since the first 4 seasons are very episodic, it’s safe to check out episodes XXXV or XL if you want just a taste first, and I’ve posted a few GIFs if you need an even smaller taste. You can stream Samurai Jack on HBO Max, or buy the whole series on Apple TV for $84.99, so maybe just get HBO Max for a month and stream it.

Rewatch: Kamen Rider Kuuga

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a rewatch for me. This was the first time I’ve seen this show, but I absolutely had to write about it, so keep reading to find out why.

Kamen Rider Kuuga is a 2000 Japanese tokusatsu series, following an unlikely hero’s struggle to stop an ancient race of evil monsters who see the killing of humans as a competitive game.

There’s a huge cast in this show, which normally I’d ramble off, but that would be a bit much. The show primarily focusses on our unlikely hero, Yusuke Godai, played by Joe Odagiri (with Kenji Tominaga as his suit actor), and his police partner Kaoru Ichijo, played by Shingo Katsurayama. As the Kamen Rider series tends to lean towards a more mature audience than the Super Sentai series, the show is packed with characters who all have meaningful relationships, contributing to the drama and realism of the show.

This show has depth, I can’t state that enough. To be honest, I watch these shows because they’re usually ridiculous and fun, and that’s what I was expecting here. That’s not to say this show isn’t fun. It is fun, but it’s also very good, shockingly good. The production values are very high for the year it premiered, the acting is great, and the characters are so grounded that you can’t help but feel for them.

In particular, Godai is absolutely the ideal hero. When we meet him, he’s simply a self-proclaimed “professional dream chaser” who wanders into his friend’s archeological dig. The dig uncovers the evil Grongi, and the Arcle, which will eventually allow him to transform into Kuuga. When his friends are attacked, the Arcle calls to Godai, and he puts it on, transforms, and fights off the Grongi without hesitation. Godai declares that his mission is to “protect everyone’s smile,” and that’s exactly what he does.

We’re all used to selfless heroes, but even our favorite heroes have moments of “Oh no, I’m going to miss my date,” or “I’m so tired from last time.” That is not the case with Godai. He relentlessly thinks of others first. Nothing in his backstory sets him up to eventually be a hero, he just accepts the responsibility and gets to work. That is not to say he doesn’t have a life outside of this. He works at his surrogate father’s restaurant and volunteers at his sister’s school, but if a Grongi is attacking someone, Godai is either fighting to stop it or still in a coma from the last fight. He also makes no effort to hide his identity. He’s always printing Kuuga’s logo on his clothes, painting it on his bike, and if he transforms in front of you, he’ll just give you a thumbs up. On the other hand, he makes no effort to tell people he’s Kuuga and capitalize on the fame. Godai is simply fighting because if he can’t stop the Grongi, people will stop smiling.

At the beginning, the police see Kuuga as another threat. Over time, lead by Ichijo, a whole team of officers, scientists, and a doctor are formed to support Kuuga. To be clear, the police are not simply here to be Worfed. They hold their own in a fight against the Grongi often, and their science team is constantly coming up with weapon advancements. Since the Grongi are playing a game to see which of them can kill the most humans in the most creative way, the police are often charged with determining the motive and method for the killings, locating the Grongi, and paving the way for Kuuga to finish it off. Throughout the series, the team, and Ichijo in particular, go from not trusting Godai to practically becoming family.

I cannot state enough, this is a good show, it is a shockingly good show. It’s easy to care about every character, and though the formula is often “monster appears and is defeated,” you’ll find plenty of engaging content between the margins.

You can stream Kamen Rider Kuuga for free on Shout! Factory TV. If you want to try one episode, check out Revival (the same episode embedded first in this review), which is the first one, because no matter which episode you start with, you’ll keep watching. If you need a smaller taste before diving in, I’ve posted several GIFs, mostly because Godai is so GIF-able. I was really expecting something ridiculous and fun with this show, but instead I saw something very good and fun. I hope you’re just as surprised as I was!

Rewatch: Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe is a 1980 detective series that is simply a joy to watch. Perhaps best know these days for starring Saturn Award-winner Jeff Goldblum in his first lead TV role, the series also stars Tony Award-winner Ben Vereen in his first lead TV role.

The series followers Vereen’s E.L. “Tenspeed” Turner and Goldblum’s Lionel “Brown Shoe” Whitney as they start a detective agency in Los Angeles. Turner is an ex-con, working off his parole as a detective. Whitney is an ex-accountant, enamored by detective novels. The two are a perfect fit for each other. Whitney often takes the most dangerous cases, seeking to claim the glamour of his fictional detective hero, and Turner constantly comes to his rescue with his far more experienced people skills. In a sense, Turner is the brains of the team while Whitney is the heart. Without Whitney, Turner would be happy to chase down missing pets and run background checks, never doing anything as daring as saving lives. And, without Turner, Whitney would probably be dead by now, walking into a gun fight or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. The two quickly build up a solid detective agency and become the best of friends.

Besides the characters being clearly written to go well with each other, the actors have great chemistry too, and it’s very clear that they were having the time of their lives (so far, of course). Vereen really gets to flex his acting chops by playing a ton of fake identities to get everyone out of tough situations, and Goldblum is really just himself. It’s hard to describe, but he’s unmistakably Jeff Goldblum, and he clearly loves it.

The series only ran for one season, it just couldn’t hold up against the amount of already established similar shows at the time, but it truly is a fun show to watch, and it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.

You can stream Tenspeed and Brown Shoe for free on Shout! Factory TV. If you only want to try one episode, check out This One’s Gonna Kill Ya (there isn’t any overarching story to this show, so it’s ok to watch out of order), and if you need just tiniest of samples, I’ve posted a few GIFs. I hope you enjoy Tenspeed and Brown Shoe as much as I do!

Rewatch – Highlander: The Series

The story of the Highlander franchise is probably familiar to most people. In short, Immortals exist, they can only be killed by losing their heads, which triggers the Quickening, a sort of vampiric transfer of power and knowledge. The goal is to be the last Immortal alive, who will receive some unknown fabled prize. The first three films are fairly straightforward, Immortal Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) encounters one or more Immortals who have turned evil, and he cuts their heads off. It’s a bit of a repetitive formula, and if you think that’s all there is to this story, it’s because you’ve never watched Highlander: The Series.

Highlander: The Series premiered in 1992 and ran for 6 seasons. It follows the story of Connor MacLeod’s clansman and student, Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul). In comparison to the movies as simply as possible, the series offers a solid look at the life of an Immortal. Born in 1592 in the highlands of Scotland, Duncan lived a very complicated life, from warrior to rebel to medic to spy to antique salesman to teacher to spiritual mentor, you will have seen his entire life unfold by the end of the series. There are your typical “cut off the evil Immortal’s head” plots for sure, but there are years of character development and lore too. The show follows a simple formula of present day situation alongside flashbacks to a period in Duncan’s life that informed the decisions or methods. I know it sounds like that might get dull, but it somehow never does. Duncan is charming, supportive, and stern when he needs to be. Simply put, you’ll wish he was your friend too, and that’s a great draw to keep watching. Plus, the sword fights are excellent.

Duncan MacLeod is not alone on his journey. Alongside frequent guest stars, he’s joined by his student Richie Ryan (played by Stan Kirsch), his confidant Amanda (played by Elizabeth Gracen), his Watcher Joe Dawson (played by Jim Byrnes), 5,000 year old Methos (played by Peter Wingfield), and it would be a crime not to mention the frequent guest appearances of friend Hugh Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey). Watching Duncan grow is great of course, but it’s even better when any of these 5 show up to spice things up even more. Speaking of growth, Adrian Paul didn’t have much of a resum√© when he was cast, and you can watch him grow in his acting, martial arts, and eventually directing talents throughout the series. I can’t think of a way to describe it simply other than it’s great to observe.

The series really hits its stride in season 4, it’s just about when they stop experimenting with their formula and settle on something both that’s both enjoyable and impressive in quality. In fact, all of the 5 supporting characters mentioned above were either intended to only last a season or only appear for a pivotal multi-part episode, and yet they were such great characters that they became staples of the show. Another factor that might make season 4 so great is that they’re all either main or recurring characters by that time. That is not to say the other seasons are bad, like I said before, watching this show grow is just as much fun as watching Duncan MacLeod grow.

The series itself has a solid happy ending, but you can continue Duncan MacLeod’s story with the excellent 2000 film, Highlander: Endgame. It’s the first Highlander film appearance for Duncan MacLeod and the last for Connor MacLeod, a solid end for the franchise. You may have heard of a 2007 film called Highlander: The Source, but it’s truly awful, don’t watch it. It was intended to be a final end to the franchise, but everyone involved in the film now refers to it as “a bad dream” so maybe just leave it at that. Like the Immortals all say, “There can be only one (film with Duncan MacLeod in it),” and that’s Highlander: Endgame.

Highlander: The Series is a great long-running series packed full of great characters, great action, great lore, and great growth. You can stream Highlander: The Series for free on IMDB TV or buy it on Apple TV for $39.99. It’s engaging from start to finish, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And now a quick little side-note. Writing these Rewatch reviews has been fun, but just like with the Splash Panel reviews, it’s much easier to do when you already have a collection of things ready to talk about. Rewatching these great old shows has taken time away from watching great new shows, so I’m going to take a bit of a break on these. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop, it just means these will be a lot less frequent, after all there’s still tons of great old shows out there.