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THE HOT ZONE on Nat Geo

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  • Riley
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    #1202902590

    Just started watching the first episode. These are the real writing credits:

    Based on the book “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston

    Developed by Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson & Jeff Vintar

    Created by James V. Hart

    Teleplay by James V. Hart and Jeff Vintar and Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson & Jeff Vintar

    Story by James V. Hart

    Just to be clear, Vintar was double-credited on the teleplay alone. To recap, “and” spelled out in teleplay/screenplay credits acknowledges that people worked separately; an ampersand (the “&” symbol) means that they worked on it together. So his double-credit is presumably to acknowledge that he both worked on it alone and in tandem with Souders and Peterson, which is so petty. Also, having separate “created by” and “developed by” credits is something that I have only seen once before and that was on the new The Twilight Zone (and I am not even sure that that is a real credit and not just a fun touch to the title sequence, as it is presented separately). I suppose that every Julianna Margulies show is doomed to have behind-the-scenes drama.

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    Cobalt Blue
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    #1202902632

    Nice catch, those credits are not a great sign!

    This book was incredible.  It was supposed to be adapted into an A-list movie a long time ago, but it was lost to development hell.  So it’s finally back, but as a NatGeo series, so this calls for.. reserved excitement?  Obviously Marguiles in the lead role is a major positive.

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    Riley
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    #1202905312

    This is one of those shows that would get torn apart as a movie of the same caliber. It is like how every CW superhero show has 100% on the Tomatometer. Critics sometimes use kid gloves when it comes to television. After a tense opening, the first two episodes were hilarious and so entertaining because of how terrible they were. I cracked up at various scenes with ridiculous dialogue about monkeys that Julianna Margulies plays totally straight. She is bad in this, with the current limitations of her face doing the part no favours. I also do not know why she is wearing another wig. Not only is there no reason why this role requires straight hair, but the picture at the very end of the miniseries shows the real-life person with curly hair just like Margulies! The actual monkeys that figure prominently in later episodes are obviously not working with the same budget as the recent Planet of the Apes movies.

    After the first two episodes, this settles into the accessible territory that I had anticipated that this would inhabit before I read any reviews. This is a popcorn take on important yet thrilling subject matter and a total non-factor in the writing and directing races. The dialogue is stilted and expository. I recall a phone call in which the recipient states to the caller that she is his wife. The tone is such a far cry from Chernobyl, which tackles similar content and is airing simultaneously. It will be embarrassing when the academy nominates both for the same top prize, but it is probably different voters propelling each.

    Seventeen-time Emmy nominee and four-time winner Sean Callery composed the score and he unfortunately lives down to the material. Liam Cunningham is solid and has more to do than Margulies later on, but he is barely in the first episode and I do not see him transcending the quality of the show to a nomination. He has a packed category anyway. Noah Emmerich is decent. Topher Grace has been better. Strange that they did not submit James D’Arcy, but good for them arbitrarily drawing the line somewhere. Grace Gummer does well in a thankless role. Margulies will be carried in off the strength of her name and her position as the face of the show. The fourth episode is her hypothetical tape.

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    Cobalt Blue
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    #1202909699

    Kid gloves sounds right.   I haven’t even seen The Hot Zone yet, but, I’ve seen three episodes of Chernobyl, and I’d have an extremely hard time believing that Hot Zone (77 MC) and Chernobyl (83 MC) were not being graded on a WAY different curve –even before Riley’s review!

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    BamaEd
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    #1202913298

    I didn’t mind The Hot Zone. It is a lot of scientific exposition in the first 2 episodes, but I imagined it would. I would guess it’s tough to act while spouting all that jargon and lingo. In that sense (no, not saying it’s the same quality) it reminded me of ep. 1 of Chernobyl. But it did give some good tension on several fronts. I liked that Robert Sean Leonard isn’t playing some mustache-twirling villain, but someone who is just in over his head. The tension with Topher Grace and Paul James’ characters was good, if expected. The part that didn’t work for me was the tension on the homefront with Margulies and Emmerich.

    As for the wig, my guess is that it’s easier to wear a wig than to style her curls, especially with all the heat around wearing those suits. But I’m bald so I could be wrong haha

    I think it’s a fine miniseries overall. Nothing groundbreaking, but intriguing.

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    Atypical
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    #1202913487

    Part 1 had me hooked. Certainly procedural and the kind of miniseries I thought we were kinda passed seeing made, but maybe not. The material is suspenseful and riveting enough. Gross enough too, but surely not as graphic as “Chernobyl.” The material content isn’t the same, or the scope/money spent, but I think both will easily make Limited Series, which is how I’m currently predicting. Also penciling in Queen Julianna, who I’ve dearly missed seeing on television. I’ll try to see this through to the end now, not that I really need to, but still.

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    Atypical
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    #1202913647

    Part 2 was … fine. Having Liam Cunningham around elevates things greatly, but those flashback Zaire scenes were badddd. Death to useless flashbacks! The suspense factor and imminent plausibility of the Ebola threat itself keep me invested in seeing what happens next. Looks like Noah Emmerich will be wasted in the thankless “supportive husband” role that’s normally reversed for secondary female characters to male leads. This doesn’t change my long-standing belief that Topher Grace shouldn’t be paid as a professional actor, and he’s getting soooo much screentime. Ugh. Totally fine with Margulies for Lead Actress nomination though.

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    Atypical
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    #1202914398

    Parts 3 & 4: The suspense factor is racheting up, which is what’s keeping me invested in watching. I grew up on guilty pleasures like “Outbreak” and “Contagion,” so I’ll probably like this far more than most around here who won’t bother with it. Way too long for what should have been a streamlined 2-night, 4 hr potboiler miniseries at most. 7 hours is insane! We’re getting parallel flashback storylines to the Ebola Zaire outbreak, which is relevant for a few scenes at best, not all of these scenes that needlessly add to the runtime. Both James D’Arcy and Grace Gummer (Meryl’s other daughter) bring little to this story. It’s still Julianna’s show, and she adds a great deal of heft to a role that feels more generic than it should be at times. There’s a tinge of “woman being underestimated in a man’s world” element with Nancy that has shadings of Alicia to it. Maybe that’s a bit too “modern” feeling for this particular 80s era? She also had very moving scenes with her dying father that brought out some needed sympathy with her character. Noah Emmerich is being given a bit more to do now. Topher Grace is still awful. Liam Cunningham is excellent in a limited role. Someone I didn’t expect to stand out as much as he has is Nick Searcy. He’s one of those “oh yeah, that guy!” character actors you’ve seen in everything but has never had that major role to give him the attention he deserves. He’s far better than he should be. Now I have to see this through to the end, though three hours is a lot to ask…hoping for a strong conclusion.

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    Riley
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    #1202914452

    You actually only have two episodes left and that includes commercials, so it is about an hour and a half remaining, which is half of what you thought.  You can do it!

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    Atypical
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    #1202914534

    Which only works not watching this live lol. But point duly noted.

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    BamaEd
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    #1202915013

    I’ve had to watch it on DVR the past 2 nights because of Chernobyl on Monday night and Animal Kingdom last night. I will say last night I did FF through the Africa scenes because they don’t bring anything to the story having this much time devoted to it. I think it’s meant to show what led to the tension between Cunningham’s and D’Arcy’s characters more than give the history of Ebola Zaire. I agree about Poor Topher, he finally redeemed himself some at the train station but was way too Eric Forman casual in the lab scenes. I thought the same about Nick Searcy and he is doing a great job as well.I am enjoying the show but it’s not the “prestige” project many on here fawn over, but it’s still got tension and is well made in a throwback way. I agree that this could have been a very tight 2 night event. I’m glad Margulies had more meat to her role last night. I will try to watch both hours tonight when I get home from choir lol

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    Atypical
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    #1202916493

    As it turns out, this ended up being six hours instead of seven. I don’t know why the listings didn’t alter programming. The last hour was a documentary called “Going Viral” that included the real participants in all of this, as well as general historical context (I only watched a segment). The finale had some thrilling moments to it, particularly the monkey extraction/extermination from Hazelton. I haven’t mentioned Robert Sean Leonard yet, but I liked his minor yet vital role in all of this. I think what made films like “Outbreak” such a guilty pleasure was the speculative fiction element of what was happening on screen. With anything purely historical like this, which I didn’t know about starting to watch, there wasn’t any room to do that. It lowers the stakes dramatically to the point of inert “cautionary tale” status, which rarely works out well. I’m very biased with Queen Julianna, but I thought she was great with the material given to her. Nothing all that challenging for anyone involved really, but still. The Africa scenes were excessive throughout and only resonated in the final installment. Of the men, I’d like to see Liam Cunningham nodded the most, and who knows, maybe “Game of Thrones” fever gets him nodded here instead of supporting actor drama where he had 0% chance. Limited series and Margulies should be good to go, though I wouldn’t expect directing or writing nods unless both fields are thin for contenders. Maybe tech nods? The Hazelton sequence was at least a strong technical achievement. I got mostly what I expected from viewing this in the end, so I’m good with finishing it.

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    Sam H
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    #1202919525

    Watching this right after Chernobyl was not the best idea. It just highlighted the quality gap and made the production values of The Hot Zone appear halfhearted and unrefined. If not for its accessibility and especially the network behind it, this would not be a player. It does not live up to the quality of the other contenders. It’s fine but not award worthy imo. That goes for Julianna too.

    The first episode was really bad and I was befuddled by the tone of some scenes. There is this scene between Nancy and whathisface who she pulled from class that was supposed to have a mentor/mentee vibe with a serious tone but Julianna struck me as amused, which belied the importance of what she was telling him about protocol and the hot zone. The tension of her being potentially infected felt tepid and really didn’t land for me. It was a weird episode all around but the show picked up after that, both performance wise and story wise. The hospital scene in Africa and the clean up at Reston were where the show did great with building tension and fear, though this ridiculous not-sedated monkey bit made me roll my eyes. Monkeys don’t act like haunted dolls to maximize spooky factor.

    Liam Cunningham was good but my favorite performance was actually James D’Arcy. Nick Searcy gave the outbreak a devastating human feel to make up for the the sheer mediocrity and lifelessness of Topher Grace.

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