Monthly Archives: October 2013

Copper, Season 2

Copper_S2_DVDThe second season of Copper ended last month, but I haven’t felt particularly excited to review it. The truth is, the show is just not exciting enough to talk about for an entire 500-word post.  But, if you were wondering whether you should watch it, I’m here to tell you you shouldn’t bother.

As season 2 opens, a lot is going on:

  • Corky has been reunited with Ellen (his wife), and they are living together with Annie (the Lolita from season 1), but things aren’t going well.  Ellen and Annie are both mentally disturbed, and their time together does nothing to improve either of them.
  • The 6th ward gets a new boss , Brendan Donovan. Corky likes him because he’s Irish, and he at least purports to want to bring order and justice to the seedy parts of town.
  • Copper-Blog-DonalRobert and Elizabeth are to be married, but Elizabeth is keeping the horrible secret that she was conspiring with Kennedy (the confederate traitor).
  • Dr. Freeman and Sara prepare to move back to 5 Points to confront their horrible memories of the race riots they endured, and so that Dr. Freeman can practice where his skills are needed

By the end of the season, a whole lot of shit has happened.  One of the women is dead, another is addicted to morphine, Lincoln has been assassinated, Sarah’s mother has been rescued from the deep South, Frances Maguire is reinstated as a detective after being cleared of all charges. Donovan proves to be formidable and despicable.  Dr. Freeman, Robert, and Corky are forced to remember and relive their horrible experiences in the war.

With all of this happening, you’d think the show would be truly compelling.  In trying to think about what has me so ‘meh’ about it, I can only land on the writing.  There’s little suspense, and emotional peaks and valleys for the characters are more like speed bumps.  Maybe it’s just the sheer number of characters we need to care about that makes it difficult, but…It’s almost as if the writers are afraid of being too climactic.  But this isn’t a Jonathon Franzen novel, it’s a TV show about an incredibly dramatic and violent time period.  They’re not afraid to show nudity and violence, but they do seem incapable of focusing on grief or tragedy or disgust in a quiet and overpowering way.  In the entire season, I never felt a strong emotional connection with the characters.  None of them.

Part of it is that we’ve all seen shows about the detective, obsessed with justice, willing to go to any length to see it done.  Luther comes to mind as a show where this is done perfectly.  But still, it’s a common trope.  If you’re going to make that the crux of your show, you have to do it in an unusual way, or do it unusually well.  I don’t think Copper accomplishes either thing.  And I think it’s got to be down to the writing. But I don’t know what goes into the directing, so maybe I’m not knowledgeable enough to point out the flaws there. I’ll let them share blame.

The show exists in a world where death is nearly constant, so I think it’s inability to show grief is what bothered me most. They devote almost an entire episode to the funeral/wake for Corky’s wife.  She’s been mentally ill, she was pregnant (did we ever find out who the father was?!), and then she killed herself.  What a better writer could do with all of that…but for all that happened, it’s as if she just died in her sleep one night after a peaceful life.  Death is something that (in my opinion) you can’t pretend you’ve experienced if you haven’t.  It seemed to me, watching this episode, that the people involved with it either had never experienced true grief, or were desperately pretending they hadn’t.  It didn’t ring true at all. Real grief, especially at an unexpected loss, involves a fair amount of numbness, of shock and inaction.  There should be anger, in this situation there should also be relief. And then more anger. But it was just flat, a flat grief that I have never experienced in my life.

I just read that the show won’t be returning for a third season.  Obviously I’m not terribly disappointed; I wasn’t going to be turning in either way.  On the other hand, I feel like it should be common practice for networks to either a-let showrunners know in time for the last episode to be a true finale or b-give the show one last episode, maybe during the summer, to create some closure.  I despise leaving a show behind on an open-ended episode.

The show had some compelling characters–I imagine this is down to the actors who played them–but they were never given enough to do.  I rooted for Corky, as I was meant to. I liked Robert and Eva.  Dr. Freeman is a tough one; he was presented as such a paragon that it’s difficult to take him seriously as a character.  But I liked him too.  These likeable characters were always bogged down by such tiresome secondary characters and plot lines that I never felt I had time to appreciate them in the show.  In fact, a lot of them are likeable because they are around such unsavory (or worse, boring) characters.

The whole season was just–and I feel terribly harsh for saying it–a waste of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Spaced

spaced_dvdI recently watched through this entire series again.  I first watched it about a year or two ago, and had heard only good things.  It didn’t meet my expectations, and I didn’t enjoy it much.  But this time around, it just clicked.  Like any Pegg, Frost, and Wright endeavor (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, the World’s End), you get more of the jokes the second and third times through.  I laughed far more the second time.

Spaced stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes/Stevenson as Tim and Daisy.

95099_512x288_generated__E9Hvg5f8MkC8XDPmtDsX1wThey meet by chance as both are looking for new places to live.  London’s rental market being what it is (even back when this was made in the ’90s), it’s slim pickings. They find one ad that sounds nice, a flat for ‘professional couples only’.  Though they barely know each other, Tim and Daisy decide to pretend to be a couple in order to get the nice flat.  The rest of the series (2 seasons/series of 7 episodes each) revolves around them, their friends, and the characters already inhabiting the house where they now live.  There’s Tim’s best friend Mike, played by a young mustachioed Nick Frost.

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Mike is in the territorial army (sort of) and is obsessed with guns and war. He’s also, just as in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, clearly Tim’s hetero life mate.  They are pretty inseparable.

Daisy’s best friend is the vapid, ego-centric, slightly cruel, very selfish, generally awful, Twist.

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She’s in ‘fashion’ (aka works at a dry cleaner’s).

Once they’re in the flat, they also make friends of the chain-smoking, chain-drinking landlady, Marsha, and the artist that lives downstairs, Brian.

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About halfway through the first season, the most important member of the group joins the cast–Colin!

ColinColin is seriously maybe the third cutest dog I’ve ever seen.  He’s always riding along in backpacks, and being just genuinely adorable.  Want!  Apparently Simon Pegg loved this dog (actual name Ada) so much, that he’s gotten Mini Schnauzers as pets ever since. Understandable.

Here’s what you have to understand about Spaced. Almost everything you see in the show is an allusion to some part of pop culture (TV, video games, movies mostly).  Sometimes there are obvious homagesA good example is two government employees (one of which is Mark Gatiss) are after Daisy, and the whole thing is a clear-cut homage to the Matrix.  Other references are quick and easy to miss.  Hence me laughing more the second time through.  I would say the ratio of meta references: actual show is about 80:20.  If you don’t get the references, you’re not going to enjoy the show.  And I still don’t get all of them.  And since this show is already nearly 25 years old, the references aren’t getting fresher.

That being said, there are a lot of chuckle-worthy moments in the show, and you’ll laugh more the second or third time through.  Regardless of how many references you get, you’ll think Daisy and Tim (especially Tim) are adorable.  Having seen the entire Cornetto trilogy, it’s easy to look back at Spaced and see it as sort of a jumping off point to what they (Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Nick Frost) did later. In those movies, instead of making 60 fleeting references in one episode of a show, they took an entire movie and made it simultaneously an homage and a parody of a genre film.  In Hot Fuzz, they can make a lot of references, visual and dialogue-based, to different action/police movies, but it all meshes into the same theme. The same goes with Shaun of the Dead and zombie films.  And I think, more importantly, they learned how to create a story and scenes that can still hold your attention if you don’t get the reference.  

So Spaced isn’t perfect, and it can take some patience, but I think it’s worth it.  If you’re into action movies and are a boy, you’ll probably really enjoy the paintball scene and the fake gun fight scene.

Even when the humor isn’t 100% ‘on’, or you don’t get the reference, the center of the show is still the relationship between Daisy and Tim.  And they are adorable together, in a seriously flawed but still redeemable sort of way.  And that comes through really well, especially in the last 2-3 episodes. 

Persuasion

PersuasionI caught the 2007 TV movie version of Persuasion on TV last week, and my love of the book came flooding back to me.  Persuasion was actually the first Austen book I ever read, at the tender age of sixteen.  Though I later learned to adore Pride and Prejudice more, Persuasion still ranks very highly on my rainy day reading list.

As with most Austen novels, the story focuses on a motherless, brotherless (and ergo in an insecure financial position) girl with a very silly family.  What sets Persuasion apart is the maturity of the story. It was Austen’s last novel, completed about one year before she died.  Anne Elliot, its main character, was the oldest of Jane’s heroines.  This isn’t a story about first love; it’s a story about a second chance.  As someone who has made tons of mistakes in her life, I can always appreciate a second chance.

Anne Elliot is 27 when the story begins, but much of the plot revolves around the action of 8 years ago.  Her prideful and vain family talked her out of an engagement when she was young. They didn’t consider the gentleman, Frederick Wentworth, worthy of her, because he was a lowly Royal Navy officer.  In this particular TV movie, he is played by Rupert Penry-Jones (Silk, White Chapel), and he looks quite good in the period costume:

rupert_440x293I think that this story has even more romantic tension than Pride and Prejudice. After she is convinced to spurn his proposal, Anne doesn’t see Wentworth for 8 years. He ventures off into his Naval career, and comes back into her life, and oh how the tables have turned. Anne’s extravagant family have run through their yearly allowance and need to rent out their expensive manor home.  It’s rented by Wentworth’s wealthy sister and her husband. Wentworth is a rich captain now, and is considered a very eligible bachelor.

Anne has spent most of the last eight years bitterly regretting her behavior and her decision.  When Wentworth comes back into her life, Anne is overcome with awkwardness and shame.  Wentworth is bitter and resentful.  The tension is hard to deal with, but the more they are thrown together, the more their feelings soften and relax.

For the couple to end up together, the hero and heroine have to do some risky things. Wentworth has to forgive Anne for hurting and humiliating him.  Anne has to win back his trust, but she also has to deliberately contradict her family’s wishes.  It’s just plain harder for Anne and Wentworth than it ever was for Lizzie and Darcy. Interestingly, I found a blog post with 5 reasons why Wentworth is more marriageable than Darcy. I don’t believe with a single one of her reasons, but Wentworth is pretty dreamy.  Darcy’s fault has always been his pride, and Wentworth doesn’t have that problem.

Of course, it’s an Austen romance, so there’s the perfect balance of will-they-won’t-they suspense for what seems like ages.  There are other girls interested in Wentworth, and another eligible match turns up for Anne. Austen strings you along and makes you worry, even though you know it will come through in the end, and that release at the end is a beautiful experience. That’s what makes her an impeccable storyteller.

Though this TV movie is not nearly as thorough (or faithful to the book) as a miniseries would be, it’s well done and Rupert Penry-Jones is very good as Wentworth.  I liked Sallie  Hawkins as Anne,

kinopoisk.ru-Persuasion-1276094but the combination of her reserved demeanor and severe bun make her look a little more matronly than really seems appropriate.  I know 27 was considered a spinster in those days, but she shouldn’t look so much like a sourpuss librarian.

Probably my favorite performance came from Anne’s father. He is an intolerable caricature of a man, constantly complaining about the physical appearance of his friends, when he’s not sniveling at the feet of his social betters.  He disapproves of the navy because the harsh winds and what they do to the faces of the sailors. He’s played impeccably by Anthony Stewart Head, aka Giles.

anthony+headI’ve had some ridiculous family members, and I’ve learned the hard lesson that sometimes they need to be ignored or disobeyed. That’s the central lesson for Anne Elliot, and it’s one that will always resonate with me. It’s a great book, but if you’re a more visual person, the movie is definitely worth a watch.

Broadchurch

broadchurch_thumbnail_02_webLet me preface this by saying I think my expectations for this show were just too high. And I don’t think I accurately anticipated what the show was.  It’s not CSI.  It’s not a procedural, and the real focus of the show is not finding out whodunnit, even though such a suspenseful show will inevitably leave you constantly wondering whodunnit–for the love of god just tell me who did it!!!  The show is really more about how one crime, and one secret, can impact so many people in a community.

The first episode sees Alec Hardy (David Tennant) as the newly-arrived DI in the small seaside town of Broadchurch.  His arrival is a shock and a disappointment to DS Ellie Miller, who hoped to be promoted to DI.  Their relationship is off to a great start, and is further improved by Hardy’s gruff and aloof demeanor and his refusal to accept coffee and foods she brings him.

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The normalcy of life in Broadchurch is disrupted mere minutes into this first episode, because the body of a small boy has been found on the beach.  The reactions of Hardy and Miller could not be more different. Hardy is calculating and professional.  Miller is emotional and reacts like a civilian. Two reasons–Hardy has seen this sort of case before, and Hardy doesn’t yet know the people who he must now suspect of committing murder.  For Ellie, on the other hand, this is very close to home.  She recognizes the boy immediately as Danny Latimer, her son’s best friend.

The most horrible part about the first episode (and possibly the entire series) is the long slow buildup to Danny’s fate being revealed to his parents.  They don’t know he’s missing.  He leaves early daily for his paper route, so they assume he’s at school.  It’s midday before his Mom realizes something’s amiss.  The scene where she runs to the beach and needs to be restrained is gut-wrenching.

BroadchurchOver the 8 episodes of the first series/season, we learn to suspect everyone.  And Ellie Miller does as well.

First, there’s the Latimer family.  Why didn’t anyone notice Danny was missing?  Where were they?

Latimer family

Mark, the boy’s father, is particularly suspicious.  The entire time I watched the show, I couldn’t decide if he was a really bad actor or a really horrible character.  I will admit I irrationally disliked him due to the fact that he looks like my not-very-nice uncle.

But there’s also the Mom–something is up with her too.  And the daughter, Chloe?  She’s got a secret boyfriend who is too old for her (I’m not making a value judgment; he’s literally legally too old for her).

But the community is full of shifty characters keeping secrets.  Arthur Darvill (Rory!) plays the local vicar/reverend.

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Automatic suspicion there, obviously, given that it was a young boy that was killed.

David Bradley (Filch!) plays Jack Marshall, who runs the local news agent.  He’s haunted by his past and his story is both tragic and conflicting.

NYET290-1024_2012_102725_highBecause this is Britain, the interfering and immoral media show up to take advantage of the tragedy of Danny’s death. They run afoul of almost everyone, airing secrets and pointing fingers.

What started out as a small idyllic community is shown to be deeply and incredibly flawed.  The point that the show makes is that the secrets were always beneath the surface. It’s just this one event that has brought them all out.

And eventually we get to a killer, an answer.  But the answer just brings up more questions. We want to categorize what happened, but it’s difficult to do so.

Spoiler warning. Proceed no further if you haven’t seen all 8 episodes.

Here’s where I think they went wrong.

Sometime in episode 6, things took a shift and suddenly it hit me that it was probably Joe. I wasn’t certain.  I was still hanging onto my thoroughly-random theory that it was Grandma Latimer. But that scene at the skate park with Joe and Ellie made me realize that Joe was a pretty good guess.  Something about the music made him suddenly seem ominous and wrong-footed.  And I’m not the only one who thought this.  I discussed the episode next day with two co-workers and they both had the same feeling that it must be Joe.  The combination of the music and the acting and the directing acted like a bit neon sign pointing to Joe as the culprit suddenly.  The last two episodes, I was really hoping that it was a red herring and Joe was not the killer, because it just wouldn’t have surprised me.  And it didn’t.

I knew, for absolute certain, that Joe would be the killer. I knew it at the exact moment that Ellie looks down on Susan Wright and asks ‘how could you not know’ what was going on in her house?  That was a huge neon sign, a big red flag, an X marks the spot.  Don’t say shit like that.  That’s tempting fate, big time.  I knew it had to be Joe once she said that.  And it’s worth nothing that Beth said the same thing to Ellie at the end.  Digression–Beth has no room to talk, since she had no idea that her husband was cheating on her, her daughter had a secret boyfriend, and her son was going out late at night and on weekends to go paintballing, steal pheasants, and hug grown men. She had no idea he had a second cell phone or that he’d had a row with his best friend.  She should keep her mouth shut.

Back to the point: It’s not supposed to be a ‘surprise!’ kind of reveal.  It’s more the slow realization that everyone was keeping secrets, and then the slow horrible reality that it was almost definitely Joe. And then the aftermath.  They reveal Joe as the killer 14 minutes into the final episode, which left a lot of time for aftermath.  The scene when Ellie confronts Joe was brilliant and awful, and mirrored that first scene on the beach, when Beth is dragged away kicking and screaming.

The majority of crime shows (and there are a million of them) deal with the procedure of solving the crime, and make very little of the emotions of those affected by the crime.  Does CSI dwell on the grief of the murder victim’s family? Nope.  Does Law & Order spend time on the wife of the murderer? Not unless it helps them solve the crime.  It’s all about the solution and has nothing to do with the aftermath.  I sometimes find myself thinking things like ‘hey, family, stop interfering with the investigation!’, because you’re rooting for the answers, not for closure for those involved.

Broadchurch seems to have an opposite mission statement. It’s all about the effect.  When Hardy finds out it is definitely Joe, that secret weighs on him. He knows he has to tell Ellie, and Danny’s family.  He has to burden others with this horrible truth.  In instances like this, when the killer is someone you know, the truth can only ever make you feel worse.  It can only leave you angry with yourself and questioning everyone in your life because how can you ever trust someone again?!  It’s rare that a show really embraces such a heavy resolution. 

But at the same time I found some parts of the show irritating.  There were a lot of threads that were picked up for a minute, dropped, and never resolved. So many false clues and revelations that turned out to mean nothing.  And some of them were never discussed again.  A note though–we, in the US, did not get to see the full episodes.  Like a bunch of complete morons, BBC America decided to take out 15-20 minutes of each episode in order to fit in commercials.  Why couldn’t they just have made this a 90 minute program and actually show us the whole thing? One of the scenes I know they left out was after Joe is revealed as the killer.  Apparently Mark confronts Joe in the jail cell.  We didn’t see that.  That’s not a small scene.  And, really, we had to miss a lot.  Over 8 episodes, we would have missed almost 2 hours of content.  That’s pretty unacceptable.  And, from what I read, almost every scene they cut had Joe in it.  That seriously alters the way we perceived the show and him as a character.  I’m interested to compare the full episodes to what we saw. Of course, I can’t.  It’s not out on DVD yet in US format. And I can’t find any release date for a US format version anytime soon. You’re on my list now, BBC America execs.  And it’s not a good list.

They’ve already announced a 2nd series/season of the show will be aired in the UK. They haven’t revealed who will be part of the 2nd series, or really any details about it, its setting, its plot, or its cast.  News came in this week that David Tennant has signed up for the American remake of the show, that will air on Fox.  I think this is terrible news!  He’ll be on TV…in what will probably be a worse show, he’ll have an American accent, and it will (I wildly speculate) prevent him from being in the 2nd series of the original.  Boo!

No word yet on Olivia Colman.  I think she’s quite a brilliant actress, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tuning in every week for David Tennant.  I don’t know if I will want to watch without him.

Fun fact before I end this post.  Chloe’s boyfriend is named ‘Dean Thomas’ in the show.  That name will sound familiar to anyone who reads Harry Potter.  The actor who played Dean Thomas in Harry Potter (Alfie Enoch) has a brief cameo as a journalist in Broadchurch.