TV mini reviews 2015

I guess I am trying to make up for some lost time here. I have been watching but haven’t had a lot of time for writing. Here are some thoughts on some shows that I have checked out recently.

*****

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sense8

Sense8-Cast_slider_001

*****

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I binge watched this Netflix original with my husband. It is a fantasy series produced by the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5). It features 8 unbelievably attractive adults, scattered over the globe, who slowly discover that they are psychically linked. Crazy stuff happens to them as they try to figure out what is going on. What more could we ask for? We enjoyed it but it was a confusing journey. If you like linear story telling, then avoid this. But if you like cinematic yet cryptic  and deliberately paced, ethnically diverse, action packed, character-driven story telling, then you may want to check this out. The actors are very charismatic; the exotic locations are beautiful (Iceland, India, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico). Their struggles are interesting and their psychic connections are a source of tense drama and light comedy. They are being pursued by a “big bad” but that is the least interesting aspect of the story. This 12 episode first season was a satisfying experience. Free of Network time-slot restrictions, this show was a bit indulgent at times with long drawn out montages (some worked, see video below and some did not). It is definitely aimed at a mature audience with its visuals (lots of typical cable TV nudity and sex, gay and straight) and themes (geo-politics, class structure, gender, identity, sexuality). I can’t wait to see what is in store for season 2.

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Daredevil
daredevilheader

*****
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Yet another Netflix original that I watched at the suggestion of my husband. It was produced by Stephen S. DeKnight (beloved by me as the producer of Spartacus an all-time favourite show). In so far as superhero stories go, this is a dark gritty mature drama with a bit of comedy. It had pretty good action sequences and an interesting villain. The performances are adequate but nothing earth shattering. I am rather tiring of superheroes in general. Unless it is something that I haven’t seen umpteen times before, I can’t get too excited. If you still like superheroes, this may be worth your while. I can take it or leave it.
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Silicon Valley
silicon-valley
I loved this HBO comedy about a bunch of tech nerds starting their own company and navigating the pitfalls along the way. Just because you are a brilliant coder doesn’t mean you know how to share it with the world. After watching Big Bang Theory (BBT) repeatedly with my family and friends (because they love it) and thinking “What is wrong with me? Am I too nerdy and sensitive to find BBT funny?” Now I know it is not me. BBT is just not for me, but this nerd-centric show very much is. Well-drawn characters with distinctive voices, great acting, funny dialogue, realistic situations and a level of earnestness come together for a super compelling binge watchable show. It is created by Mike Judge (Office Space-a brilliant film, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead) so I was intrigued. I watched Season 1 (8 episodes) on my own when it was available on demand and watched season 2 week to week as it aired. My 13 year old daughter was intrigued by my laughter, so I rewatched season 1 and part of season 2 with her and before long she was caught up. It was even more fun the second time round.
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Call the Midwife
Call the Midwife
This is a BBC show that also airs on PBS on this side of the pond that I heard lots of good buzz about. Luckily, I could watch all the previous seasons on Netflix in time to start the 4th season. I am so glad I did. What a pleasant, heartwarming, complex, moving TV show this is. I was leery at first; medicine and nuns are do not spring to mind when I think compelling TV. But I was still looking for a real world period piece I could sink my teeth into after I got fed up with Downton Abbey. I tried the Knick (more about that later) but that wasn’t doing it for me. Call the Midwife is a beautiful ensemble piece of episodic story telling dealing with women stories. It centres on Nonnatus houseMen are very peripheral, how novel. It is set in the 1950’s and 60’s in a poor area of East London. I am fascinated by the portrayal of medical partitioners of the past. We have come a long way. This show has a great balance of comedy, drama and heartwarming sentimentality. It is a great look back to a simpler time. It allows me to appreciate the societal strides for equality that were a direct result of the birth control pill. This show does not eschew controversy and deals with homosexuality in a way that painfully reminds me just how far we need to go.
*****
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VEEP and The Thick of It
VEEP
 *****
This HBO comedy, starring the amazing Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President of the United States of America, has been getting serious positive buzz for a few years. It was created by an Englishman, Armando Iannucci, so I was intrigued. I binge watched it and found it to be pretty funny but chock full of such unlikeable characters that it was hard to get emotionally invested in major plot developments. If you enjoy seeing politicians and their flunkies scheming and making asses of themselves, while tossing around vulgar insults, then you may want to try this show out. It certainly made me laugh at times (mostly at the insults being hurled, very creative use of language). The videos below should be listened to with headphones if at work or near young children.
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I am very cynical about politics and have loved political satire ever since I stumble upon BBC’s Yes, Minister as a radio play. Six degrees of separation time. Iannucci is well regarded for his BBC series The Thick of It, starring current Dr. Who, Peter Capaldi (who has put a neat spin on an old character). This series spun off a critically acclaimed movie, In the Loop, starring Capaldi and James Gandaolfini. I stumbled upon a box set of the TV series The Thick of It and gave it a try before approaching VEEP. I enjoy experiencing the evolution of an artist’s craft. As a Canadian, it was easy to navigate the political differences between a parliamentary political system and a presidential one. I enjoyed the BBC series a bit more, probably because I watched it first and by the end of the 4th season of VEEP, some of the themes felt repetitive.
*****
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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John
    Aug 31, 2015 @ 01:24:04

    I’ve never heard of Silcon Valley but I’m intrigued. I’ll make a point of looking for it. And Stracynski’s involvement makes me curious about sense8. Thanks for pointing these ones out. I tried Veep but it just didn’t do anything for me. Right now, I’m all about Poldark & Doc Martin–and I guess anything BBC, but Midwife still looks like something I wouldn’t like.

    Reply

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