Friday, November 26, 2010

Falling Kingdoms on the Web

A couple of months ago I did a post about web series. Well, great minds think alike, because the same subject was on the mind of the NY Times a few weeks ago. The writer, Mike Hale, did a review of several series--none of which, by the way, were ones I mentioned, so our mind meld was only partially in synch.



The article reviews 6 different series, but I'm only one belongs in the Otherworld Diner: Riese.

This Canadian-produced show airs on syfy.com and has a lot going for it. First off, it's a pleasure to watch--it's professionally shot with good production values. Second, it's a kind of a steam punk infused fantasy, with the fate of kingdoms at stake. If you can imagine steam punk Tolkein, you'll have an angle on Riese (although there are no hobbits as of yet). To give you an idea, here's the villain, Herrick, half human, half machine:




And here's our heroine, Riese, her trusty wolf by her side:



She wears the requisite goggles, along with sexy leather getups. She can fight with the best, and though she shouldn't, she's a sucker for a damsel (in this case, mother) in distress. Every episode is narrated by Amanda Tapping of Stargate SG-1 and Sanctuary fame, and because the heroine is on the run amid a myriad of strangely-named lands, there's always a handy map (I love maps) to show viewers what the hell the narrator just said (What? Did she say Ass-wad? Oh, Asgard..). There's a dasterdly religious group called the Sect, an evil Queen, and, of course, a ragtag bunch of "heretics" known as the Resistence.

The acting is decent but not terrific. I love watching the actress who plays the Queen do her cold, evil thing. It's so one note, it's a lesson for all would-be villains. Riese, herself, is played by Christine Chatelaine, who Santuary fans may recognize as the "Invisible Woman" in an arc of episodes. Most of the cast has sci fi creds, but the only one I recognize is Alessandro Julian who played Gaeta on Battlestar Gallactica. Despite the shallow characterizations, the story is fun and hey--it's only 10 minutes out of your day. Besides, how many steam punk shows are out there?

Certainly Riese proves that given enough money and talent you can make an entertaining and watchable show. What I find really intriguing, though, is what the series represents. Is this the forerunner of a real format change? Will the next generation find 30 minutes a hardship and only sit for 10 minutes at a time? Or will web series go the way of the Edsel?

I don't have a clue. But it will be interesting to see the future unfold.

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