A CW soap, a fan fiction card game, and a Neil DeGrasse Tyson series

A CW soap, a fan fiction card game, and a Neil DeGrasse Tyson series

Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations

Reign
We can always trust The CW to be at the forefront of teen soaps, and with Reign, the show has hit an unexpected jackpot: a teen soap about Mary, Queen Of Scots, and her ladies in waiting. In the early 1500s, Mary is sent to France out of political expediency, because she’s there to marry the Dauphin Of France—and make further claims on the throne of England. Her ladies accompany her. The Dauphin has an insane father, a scheming mother, and a rather handsome half-brother. Reign tosses them all into a castle to create drama for each other, and wow, do they succeed. The show is a treat to watch, because although it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it does take fun seriously. The theme song is by The Lumineers; Nostradamus is a character with a love interest; and Catherine De’ Medici and her husband, the king of France, are usually plotting to kill each other. Reign has become a must-watch for me, because it is so delightful; and the writers are showing a knack for keeping the characters interesting, even though someone else gets married every week or so. The best encapsulation of Reign’s appeal was a few episodes ago: During a wedding, the band—a collection of medieval minstrels playing stringed instruments—cheerfully covered Lorde’s “Royals” as the well-dressed aristocrats in the foreground chatted and danced. It’s a sly move, and of course wildly anachronistic. But it demonstrates Reign’s sense of humor about itself. Reign’s season finale airs May 15, so you have a few days left to catch up on this pick, either by watching on Hulu or reading Caroline Framke’s excellent weekly reviews. [Sonia Saraiya]

The Inexplicable Universe With Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s hosting stint on the new Cosmos has been quite good on the whole, but the astrophysicist’s delivery is sometimes hindered by cheesy writing and his tendency to push his points too hard. The Inexplicable Universe, a 2013 lecture series hosted by Tyson, doesn’t suffer from those drawbacks. The title is a bit of a misnomer, as Tyson deftly examines the limits of the explicable universe—including such topics as subatomic particles, quantum physics, and dark matter—before posing the questions that science has yet to answer. The discussion gets mildly technical at times, but it’s still pitched at a general audience. And while you won’t get Cosmos’ world-class visual effects (although the production values are quite high for a lecture series), Tyson is more relaxed and engaging in Universe’s modest setting, so he makes for better company. The occasional hokeyness of Cosmos gives way to an appealing dorkiness here, as the professor delights in nerdy little anecdotes and jokes from the annals of science history. Even if you’re already aware of the topics that Tyson discusses, The Inexplicable Universe offers new and illuminating ways to conceptualize the baffling truths of modern physics. So if you’ve been enjoying Tyson’s high-profile TV gig, it might be worth a look at this low-frills complement to Cosmos. [John Teti]

Slash: Romance Without Boundaries
About five months ago, I helped Kickstart a project that was described as “a card & storytelling game where you try to create the best fan-fiction romantic couples.” (After all, as the game notes, “Whether it is a relationship that crosses centuries, continents, or literary continuities, a true match cannot be constrained by the dictates of logic, propriety, or canon.”) I imagined it like Apples To Apples or Cards Against Humanity, but with dirty, twisted faux-romantic pairings. This week, the actual game arrived on my desk, and it’s everything I could have imagined. Cards range from real people like Alex Trebek to rascally rabbits like Bugs Bunny. The game can either be played as a “casual fling,” meaning there’s relatively little table talk or in “hardcore” format, where the “matchmaker” asks players to elaborate on how their picks would meet, woo, or even, uh, “romance” the matchmaker’s character card—with the dirtiness at their discretion, of course. Count Chocula, for instance, might not find himself that swayed by Cousin Itt, what with all that hair, but for whatever reason, I think he’d really get along with The Jetsons’ Rosie The Robot. My only complaint is that the game skews a little nerdy for me, as someone who doesn’t know details about Pokémon, video games, or characters on shows like Supernatural, but hey, I can figure it out. [Marah Eakin]


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