I stumbled on Spectrum's exclusive streaming Science Fiction show Curfew, and it's the worst show I've seen this year. But the interesting thing is, it made me consider a number of questions.
Curfew is a British dystopian Science Fiction show, the only type of Science Fiction show the UK ever makes these days. Britain is under martial law with a nightly curfew where people found on the streets are shot on sight. This is because there's a mysterious virus 101 that turns the infected into ravenous zombies. Everyone in the country feels trapped, but some of the more adventurous – or stupid – decide to enter an illegal cross-country race with souped-up vehicles where the winner gets to leave the country for a sanctuary that may not actually exist.
Got that? I had to type it quickly because the story is so derivative, clichéd, and stupid that if I spent any longer describing it, I would have collapsed into a coma. That this show exists utterly boggles my mind.
Who the Hell Thought This Show was a Good Idea?!?
This show is every done-to-death dystopian B-movie Sci-Fi plot mashed into one. It rips off Roger Corman's Deathrace 3000, as well as 28 Days Later, Mad Max, Judge Dredd and just about any random issue of the 2000AD comic you can think of. It's like someone put all of those elements into a blender, put it on "frappé" and poured the mixture into the brain of a lobotomized screenwriter before he started typing on his Macbook Pro.
The quality of the writing in the show is everything that's terrible and banal in British scriptwriting now. It has mawkish soap opera writing where people talk in the most boring way about how awful life is, which is a staple in British soap opera writing. Car crashes abound! People point guns at each other! People kill each other! Of course, Sean Bean dies! That's not a spoiler, it's an expectation by now! Everyone gets an emo moment that seems designed to bore the viewer into suicidal despair. It feels like the writers made an effort to make the characters as boring and clichéd as possible.
Whatever political commentary or satire falls flat because it has nothing to say – nothing to say other than "life is shit in the UK." All the jokes fall flat. Everyone acts like an idiot because the plot demands it. This is like a show you would get on SYFY if you beat everyone involved in the head with a lead pipe before you set them loose to produce it.
Do All These A-Listers Need Work that Badly?
The weirdest thing about the show are the actors in it. Bean is in it – oh wait, not anymore. Adrian Lester is in it – oh wait, he's dead before the first episode is even over. Robert Glenister is in this – but he keeps popping up everywhere these days. Jesus, Miranda Richardson is in this – and Harriet Walter?!? Billy Zane is in it, but he's in a lot of things these days. He might be the best thing in it because of his bone-dry delivery of every single line. Just what is Adam Brody doing here?! Last thing I saw him in was Shazam where he played one of the Marvel Family superheroes. The rest are British character actors and totally unknown twenty-somethings who weren't lucky enough to land a part on a soap. I guess they do need the work. There's so little work in the UK for actors.
This show is pointless. Virtually every line and every moment in it is utterly pointless – and this has eight episodes to get through with the possibility of a second season.
When I came across the trailer for this show, I was mystified. Why would Spectrum produce an utterly British mess for their exclusive streaming service? I cannot believe any executive at Spectrum could possibly have thought, "This is a great show! We have to have it on our exclusive streaming service! It'll get us a lot of new subscribers!"
Then I saw that Sky TV in the UK produced it, and it finally made sense. Spectrum simply paid money for the US broadcast rights. Where streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Studios pay massively for prestigious and desired shows, Spectrum seems content to settle for horribly mediocre shows like L.A.'s Finest and this one.
The Decadent Stage of the Streaming Era
This show wouldn't have been quite so bad if it was a movie. It's the type of Z-grade movie that we used to rent from the video shop in the 80's and 90's as kids or watched late night on Cinemax. It would have also cost a lot less.
If it was a 90-minute B movie, it might have passed the time painlessly. Eight episodes makes it a bloated mess, overlong and a total bore – and it has a higher budget than any B movie would have gotten. In fact, judging from the production values, it looks like it had the kind of budget every indie filmmaker would kill Granny for.
The Sad Irony of Streaming
The biggest irony here is that only a very small number of people will actually see Curfew in the UK or the US. In the UK, there are much better shows to watch than this one. In the US, only people who subscribe to Spectrum cable will get to see it and there's little incentive for them to want to. People in the US usually only subscribe to Spectrum when they have no other choice. At least it's not as bad as Comcast.
What Curfew tells us is we're in the age of streaming bloat. There are way too many shows now. We're at the stage where there aren't only too many good shows to keep track of, there are also too many terrible shows to keep track of now. It's like there are so many channels and outlets now that they have a bottomless demand for content, even if that content is dreadful and no one will ever watch them. Bad reviews probably won't even matter.
Now if that's not decadent, I don't know what is.