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'12 Monkeys': 6 reasons you should be watching the best show on Syfy

Currently in its sophomore season, 12 Monkeys is great television — on Syfy, or anywhere. It’s a complete package, with perks. If you’re watching, you’re getting one of the best all-around TV experiences on the market today. And if you’re not watching, well, let’s talk about that.

A Remake. It’s kind of the elephant in the room, isn’t it? So, let’s get this one out of the way.

If you’re not watching 12 Monkeys, one reason may be because it’s a “remake” — eek, that taboo word! But if that’s your attitude, you’re doing it wrong. Four words, folks: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And with that, we already know TV adaptions can work just fine.

Not only can 12 Monkeys carry its own weight against the 1995 Terry Gilliam movie, but (minor spoiler) the show is actually better. Wait, did I just say that? Let me explain.

12 Monkeys - Paradox - Feature Image

It’s really quite simple. Speaking as a true fan of the ’95 film starring Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe (who is set to make an appearance on the show), and Brad Pitt, the movie only exists for a fleeting moment — it’s a brief peek into this post-apocalyptic world of time travel, life-and-death missions, and oddball personalities (looking at you, Mr. Pitt). With television, the possibilities are endless for character growth and layers upon layers of fleshed-out plot points. Based on that, if you were a hardcore fan of the film, you really should be watching the show. In fact, it’s your mission.

The Storytelling. 12 Monkeys’ premise is easy-peasy: traveling through time to stop a deadly plague from killing off most of humankind. That’s the hook (and it’s a good one), but there’s so much more. While the setup for season 1 was virus-centric, season 2 ups the stakes in a big, BIG way. Who knew that stopping the plague was only part of the equation?

In a modern TV world, the hit shows are mostly conflict-of-the-week procedurals. But great shows plant seeds for future growth. And 12 Monkeys is king when it comes to Easter eggs, call-backs, and call-forwards (is that a thing?). Hours can be (and have been) spent examining what appear to be microscopic background props and many a screenshot/phone pic has been taken and blown up for scale to see what might be discovered.

12 Monkeys - Bodies of Water - Birthright

THIS is what makes great TV. The “idiot box” isn’t just about shutting off your brain anymore. With 12 Monkeys, we’re given a massive brainteaser to watch and work through each week. The story strengthens and builds with each clue and “reveal” because we all know we’re working toward something. Be it the Word of the Witness or the stark altering of timelines, we wait with bated breath — and we love it.

A Dream Cast of Characters. This is an easy one. Nine out of 10 times, a great show has at least one weak or unlikable character. It’s a rare event to find such a finished, seamless cast from the get-go, but we have one here.

12 Monkeys made us fall in otter-eyes love with protagonist James Cole (Aaron Stanford), an everyman who tumbled into the unlikely, yet predestined, role of world-saving hero. In the first season, Cole’s balanced with good-natured Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull). But the development of these characters is far from easy or pedestrian, and it becomes a surprising, emotional journey.

12 Monkeys - Arms of Mine - Cassie and Cole2

In a part made crazy-famous by Brad Pitt, Jeffrey Goines turns into Jennifer Goines for the TV adaptation, played by the pitch-perfect and scarily talented Emily Hampshire. Other supporting roles in the ’95 film become huge assets on the small screen. Cases in point: Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) and Dr. Jones (Barbara Sukowa).

While Ramse begins as almost a sidekick to Cole, we’re quick to notice how equal and important they both are to the world, and each other. As for Jones, a hardened scientist responsible for the time-travel machine, only Sukowa could make such a gruff personality both endearing and interesting. We see her layers start to peel away, but we know there’s so much more.

12 Monkeys - Jones and Ecklund 2

And let’s not forget those we were meant to hate. The villainous gang leader Deacon makes a hard turn in season 2, but even at his sadistic worst, Todd Stashwick makes the guy charming. And Cassie’s fiancé Aaron (Noah Bean) could have been a throwaway plot device, but the writers gave him a depth that made you realize why Cassie fell in love with him. That’s talent.

Girl Power to the Nth Degree. I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out the badass women of 12 Monkeys. When I say badass, I don’t necessarily mean it as a literal combat-style descriptor (while there is that, too). But instead, praise is owed a million times over to the design and execution of just how strong, evolving, and important the 12 Monkeys women are.

In Cassie, we witness a natural shift in character growth. We see her placed in a number of dire situations — things no one person should ever see or be a part of — but Cassie learns, adapts, and grows, for better or worse. She’s a huge part of the plan, perhaps the most important part of it all. She has influence,  smarts, and passion. Who knew the young girl from Center Stage would later become a hero of mine?

In Hampshire’s Jennifer Goines, we get something utterly raw. At times, we just want to hug her, but then we’re afraid she might kill us. She’s part nerd, part crazy, part injured–baby bird — and all-knowing and important. It’s been a wild ride, but in the end (of the world), I just want to be on Jennifer’s team.

12 Monkeys - Arms of Mine - Jennifer on plane

But the naughty girls deserve love, too. As a top-ranking exec in the Army of the 12 Monkeys, Olivia (Alisen Down), aka the Striking Woman, is one tranquil baddie. She’s a smooth-talking, sharp-dressed figure with a direct line to the apocalypse. Only this season have we seen Olivia begin to break the Zen vibe, but that just makes her all the more interesting.

12 Monkeys - Olivia

And then there’s the Lady Messenger (Scottie Thompson). Introduced this season, this one’s a cold, unwavering, badass member of the 12 Monkeys. Her time has been brief (so far), but … there’s just something about her. I don’t root for these femme fatales; I just want to sip Red Forest tea in their captivating company.

Tom-Freaking-Noonan. I cannot complete this list without mentioning Tom Noonan’s role as the Pallid Man. Noonan’s no stranger to the heavy stuff (Manhunter, Heat), but he’s my geek-out guy thanks to The Monster Squad. Seeing his name in the credits for 12 Monkeys was like icing on the cake from the beginning.

12 Monkeys 1.5 - Pallid Man

While the Pallid Man is a tall, spine-chilling, well-dressed (as all 12 Monkeys followers tend to be) member of the bad guys, his calmness is unsettling. And his story is unfolding.

Interactivity.  In the insta-tech-savvy world in which we now live, it’s no shock that fans were given all-access passes into the behind-the-scenes of their favorite TV shows and movies. Social media, live video chats, and extensive website resources all offer tools to connect us even more to these fictional settings and characters.

The 12 Monkeys cast and crew embrace this connection with open arms, in the best way possible. From fan shout-outs and simple plot questions to special hints and fan theories, the interaction is, in a word, extraordinary. The fans care. The show cares. And that doesn’t go unnoticed on either side of the audience/show relationship. That’s appreciated and important.

I get it. TV’s a hard game right now. It’s vast, quick-changing, and ever-growing. But one thing’s for certain: Great television deserves eyeballs. Do yourself a favor, and get on board the monkey train — before it splinters to the past.

12 Monkeys airs Mondays on Syfy at 9 pm EST.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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