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Credit: Trae Patton, CBS

The Week in Geek: Ghost Rider takes Marvel supernatural and amazing TV innovations

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Aug 16, 2019

Well, here we are. The end of another week. It's the last few weeks of August, which means the theaters aren't exactly blowing up with new movies to talk about. But there's still nerdy things out there worth your time, they're just a little trickier to find.

And that's the very reason weekly round-ups exist: to make sure you didn't miss a big story that's worth thinking and talking about. So here they are: the five biggest stories from ... The Week in Geek.

Ghost Rider SHIELD Robbie Reyes

ABC/Marvel

GHOST RIDER AND HELSTROM ARE PART OF A SHARED UNIVERSE OF FEAR

Turns out that Hulu's Ghost Rider series is going to be just the beginning for the more supernatural end of the Marvel spectrum. "We started having the same conversation [with Hulu], which was there in the comic book world [with] the Spirit of Vengeance, and they are this sort of unusual group of characters, which involve Ghost Rider, which involve Helstrom, which involve Helstrom’s sister, Anna," Marvel TV Chief Jeph Loeb said this week. "We suddenly saw that there were three or four shows that we could put together that we now refer to as Adventure Into Fear."

"Adventure Into Fear" was an ongoing comic franchise that lasted at Marvel for about three years. And if you were wondering who, other than Ghost Rider, Helstrom, and "Helstrom's sister," you could, hypothetically, look forward to seeing on Hulu, the answer could be Man-Thing and ... Morbius? Maybe not Morbius, since he's supposed to be getting his own movie through Sony in 2020. But Man-Thing is coming, maybe! So if you're sullen about Swamp Thing getting canceled so quickly, get hype! For Man-Thing!

But this opens the door to stuff like Midnight Sons, which could mean meeting multiple different Ghost Rider characters. Maybe we'll get Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze together in a live-action show! Maybe Nic Cage is coming back!

We could also see A.R.M.O.R., Jennifer Kale, Werewolf by Night ... heck, there could be a whole Marvel Zombies plotline. A lot could happen on an Adventure Into Fear.

DISNEY+ FORCES EWAN McGREGOR BACK INTO THOSE JEDI ROBES

Forces. It's a Star Wars joke. Anyway, speaking of streaming services owned by Disney, we've been hearing for a very long time that Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, would eventually return to the role. He kind of did, technically, as the voice of Obi-Wan in the Force dream that Rey had during Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And back when those Star Wars side stories were profitable and not, uh ... Solo, there was talk of there even being an Obi-Wan movie.

Instead, the forthcoming streaming platform Disney+ looks to be Ol' Ben's new landing spot. As of now, McGregor is still technically listed as being "in talks," but let's be honest: Disney would never let this information slip if it wasn't essentially a done deal. In fact, and this is pure speculation, but isn't it possible that the ink has been dry on this deal for a while? Isn't it possible that McGregor has already returned as Obi-Wan and we just don't know it yet? Isn't he in Rise of Skywalker? Come on. Search your feelings, you know it's at least possible.

Regardless, this new Obi-Wan series is yet another reason that shelling out money to Disney for its streaming service feels inevitable. Oof. Is it ethical to start a gofundme so you can afford to watch all the shows? Asking for a friend.

IS MINI-LED THE SHORT-TERM FUTURE OF TELEVISION?

People watch a lot of their entertainment on their phones, but, statistically speaking, the average size of televisions in the home is still increasing. The main reason for the trend of larger TVs is affordability. Technically, you can buy a 75-inch television for under $1,000 these days. It may not be the best 75-inch TV, but it'll be 75 inches, and that's what really matters when you have company over but don't have to turn on the TV.

A big part of the reason TVs are so affordable lately is because there haven't been a lot of innovations in their technological underpinnings. You're basically deciding between OLED screens and LED screens. It's been that way for about the last five years, with only incremental improvements. Quantum dot tech was a big-ish boom for LED; high dynamic range has gotten better at making images pop; user interfaces have improved — but that's about it.

There's an awareness that we'll eventually move from 4K to 8K screens, but actual content designed for that is still years away. Heck, most cable boxes still broadcast in 1080i. Micro-LED screens may eventually be the future, but they will likely remain prohibitively expensive for at least the next five years, probably longer. So where's the innovation going to come from in the interim?

Ironically, the budget TV models.

The Chinese company TCL Corporation has become one of the most successful budget TV manufacturers in the last few years. A passing search of websites dedicated to recommending what TV to buy will, reliably, yield the TCL 6-series as your best budget option in the 55-65 inch range. Like other budget companies, TCL is looking to expand into more premium models.

This week, TCL finally debuted their new TV models for 2019 to reviewers and reporters and the big buzz was around mini-LED. Quantum dot technology is a big part of TCL's updates to their 5 and 6 series (fellow budget manufacturer Vizio is headed in the same direction). But with their brand new 8-series coming this fall, there's something else to get excited about: mini-LED.

The shortest way to explain mini-LED is to say that they're exactly what they say on the tin: smaller light-emitting diodes than TVs usually have. But what that has allowed TCL to do is increase the number of local dimming zones dramatically. More zones means darker blacks and less blooming. To give you an idea of the difference, TCL's 6-series has 120 local dimming zones on its 65 inch model, whereas the 8-series has about 1,000.

That radical evolution, combined with the higher peak brightness that quantum dots can offer, marks what may be the most significant improvement to televisions we've seen in many years. Keep in mind that retail models of the 8-series won't be out until fall 2019, leaving information about motion blur and variable refresh rate unknown, but there's a lot to be provisionally excited about here.

One of the most exciting things about TCL's 8-series is its price point: the 65 inch model starts at $2,000 in the United States (with the 75 inch resting version comfortably at $3,000), which is incredibly affordable considering the tech on display, and is more than competitive with LG's popular OLED screens and Samsung's best-selling QLED models.

We may be barrelling towards 8K (TCL, themselves, will be releasing 8K screens in 2020), we may be headed towards micro-LED, we may even see 100-inch screens flush against the walls of the average home 10 years from now. But that's still a long way away. In the meantime, mini-LED feels like it may be the stop-gap innovation that carries us into television's future.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MERGER. BUT THIS ONE INVOLVES STAR TREK

Post Enterprise, there was a bit of a split over who controlled what in the Star Trek universe. Some characters and concepts were owned by CBS, some by Viacom. For example, the characters from the original series were largely the property of Viacom who, up until recently, had been releasing those JJ Abrams, Kelvin universe movies. CBS owned most of the other television stuff. It was a fractured universe, at least to a degree, and mostly down the line of television and movies, but this week saw a merger of Viacom and CBS that removes those issues entirely.

The new ViacomCBS can basically do whatever it wants with Star Trek now. This deal is part of why Spock was already able to appear last season on Star Trek: Discovery, and it's the reason why movies going forward can be directly connected to all those Star Trek TV series and cartoons coming out in the next few years. It's good news. Provisionally. There are always lingering questions. For example, is there any chance that maybe Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, and other live-action Trek shows could make their way back to broadcast television? And what does this merger mean for fan projects? It's been a few years since the kerfuffle between CBS, Paramount, and the production of Star Trek: Axanar yielded prohibitive limitations on fan productions. How will this merger change how Star Trek treats its fans? Will it change how Star Trek treats its fans?

There's no way of knowing what will happen. But since this means that Star Trek and Transformers are owned by the same corporation, it's probably horrifyingly safe to say that the Federation will find Cybertron eventually. I think I speak for Scott Bakulas everywhere when I say, "Oh, boy."

powers of x

Credit: Marvel Comics

THE X-MEN ARE WILD, Y'ALL

Jonathan Hickman's run of his two X-Men comics, House of X and Powers of X, are only two episodes deep each, but, damn, y'all. Damn. Remember Moira MacTaggert and how she was this nice, human lady who had some warm romantic feelings for Charles Xavier and so she helped all of mutant-kind? Well, kiss that backstory goodbye, because now she's a mutant. And not just any mutant, either. Moira MacTaggert is a mutant with the power of reincarnation. She lives, she dies, she's born again, always as her same self, and then she does the timeline over again. Each time she gets more powerful, each time she tries a new way to deal with the fight between mutants and humans.

This week, we see Moira bridge the gap between Charles Xavier and Magneto, only to watch how the layers of her decisions still, ultimately, yield a future where humans and robots/sentinels combine forces to wipe out (most) mutants. And we also see how that will lead to control via the Phalanx, aka the Borg, but for comic books. But all of this is told with the understanding that the history we're seeing now is played out under Moira's 10th life. Another mutant, Destiny, revealed that Moira has a limited number of lives, and that she has 10, or maybe 11 lives before she dies for real. Which means maybe none of what we're seeing will actually come to pass.

Hickman is a master of two things: diagrams and mind @#$%s. Anyway, it's good comic book storytelling. Get on it if you ain't already.

And that's it. Your week in geek is over. Let us know what you think of these stories and what other stories captured your attention this week.

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