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Nostalgia Review Video

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!

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Nostalgia Review Video

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!

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Nostalgia Review Video

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 resumé 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.

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 during the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a stark tone-shift for the Star Trek franchise, focussing on character development and story arcs that spanned its entire 7 seasons, while also primarily taking place on a diverse space station with little space exploration. The fanbase has always been polarized as to how that went. I loved it.

The series initially focussed on whatever random situation the crew of Deep Space 9 encountered, and eventually spent much of the first 4 seasons brokering peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. For its last 3 seasons, the space station became the front line of the epic Dominion War between the Federation Alliance and Breen-Dominion Alliance. These last seasons had some of the most emotional and character-focused war stories I have ever seen on television, not to mention some of the best ship battle sequences on Star Trek television.

The main cast was extensive, featuring Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys, René Auberjonois as security chief Odo, Armin Shimerman as bartender Quark, Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir, Terry Farrell as science officer Jadzia Dax, Nicole de Boer as science officer Ezri Dax (taking on the Dax symbiotic in later seasons), Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf, Colm Meany as chief engineer Miles O’Brien, and Cirroc Lofton as Sisko’s son Jake Sisko. Villains appeared often, but Marc Alaimo as Dukat was the primary antagonist throughout the series. Finally, a personal favorite of mine from the recurring cast, Andrew Robinson as spy-turned-tailor Elim Garak.

Following Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was no easy task, but Brooks as Sisko pulled it off from day one. He brought a gravity and humanity to the role that is difficult to describe. Sisko felt always in charge, yet often vulnerable. There was no occasion he didn’t rise to, no matter how unsure of himself he was at the time. He did his job, and carried the weight of that job, because it was his job. There are many great characters with their own great actors throughout the series, but Brooks as Sisko is uniquely captivating. And, since Brooks himself is so incredibly cool too, here’s a clip of both:

The series is packed full of stories that explore the personal impact of war, politics, and religion, far too much to cover here. There never has been a better time to re-watch it, or watch it for the first time. You can stream Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, or buy the complete series on Apple TV for $204.93 (so maybe just watch it on Amazon). Also, you can stream What We Left Behind for free on Shout! Factory TV, it’s a 2019 documentary about the series.

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Terra Nova

When folks speak of unjustly canceled shows, they often speak of Firefly, but I’ll always speak of Terra Nova. Premiering in 2011, the show takes place in the year 2149, when the Earth is so ravaged by pollution that mankind has no choice but to roll the dice on time paradoxes and begin evacuations to the Cretaceous period. That’s right, future humans and dinosaurs! What’s not to love?

The series is packed full of folks you may recognize from their later work. The Terra Nova colony is lead by benevolent military dictator Commander Nathaniel Taylor, played by Stephen Lang. While Lang may not be a household name, he’s practically a household face. Lang is a great actor, and by this point in his career, you’ve seen him in something. Our lead protagonist is Jim Shannon, a police detective who stows away with his family to Terra Nova. It would seem that the colony would have no need for a detective, but circumstances quickly launch him into a leadership role. Shannon is played by Jason O’Mara, whose voice you may recognize as the voice of Batman from DC’s latest animated films. You may also recognize Shannon’s son (played by Landon Liboiron) as Peter from Hemlock Grove, and Shannon’s daughter (played by Naomi Scott) as Jasmine from the Aladdin remake.

The series follows our characters as they learn to survive in a past rich with new adventures and dangers, ranging from dinosaurs to a corrupt future corporation that wants to “control the past to control the future” and their agents in the past (lead by Mira, who’s played by Christine Adams, whom you may recognize as Dr. Lynn Pierce from Black Lightning). This is basically Jurassic Park, but humans are the ones in the wildlife preserve, and they’re from the future. With Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer, and bringing over some unused sets from the Jurassic Park franchise, the show will feel incredibly familiar to any fan. The cinematography is gorgeous, the overall story is great, and the actors and characters are outstanding. My only complaint is that some of the side-plots can be a bit cliché, but what do you expect from the first season of a network show? Oh yeah, and there was only one season.

Terra Nova didn’t end on a standard cliffhanger, it ended on the worst cliffhanger of all, the world-building cliffhanger. Not only was the new enemy still out there, the world and situation were far grander than we ever knew. And we won’t know any more than that, because the series was too expensive for pre-Disney Fox to continue. It’s a shame, really, the show had a lot going for it. While I have seen many canceled shows in my life that I’ll never recommend because of that, this is one of the few that I do recommend regardless of the cancelation.

Despite the cancelation, Terra Nova was a great show and it deserves to be seen. Maybe one day we could even crowdfund a continuation of some kind, or at least share our own ideas of how it would have continued. Terra Nova is not available on any streaming platform, but you can purchase the entire series from Apple TV or from Amazon for just $9.99.