Tag Archives: TV Show

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy

tumblr_mpqc98RAda1r9a32bo1_500This show premiered last September in the UK, and I never heard of it until last week. It’s not airing on US TV, but is on Hulu. But I watched the entire first season in one day, and I feel robbed for not having known about it earlier! It’s the best thing I’ve watched in months. Good news: the second season/series starts in the UK next month, and a third series/season has already been ordered. More Martin Moone, yay!

The story revolves around young Martin Moone as he grows up in late ’80s Ireland. Chris O’Dowd plays Martin’s imaginary friend.

SNF21TV2D-620_1587704a If you’re wondering why I’m talking about this Irish show with an Irish cast on my British blog, it’s complicated. He’s Irish, but he and the shows co-creator have lived in London for a long time. He’s an actor I’ve written about before, and I think it’s okay to talk about what he’s doing that’s not set in the UK. Plus, I love this show, and really want to talk about it.

If you’re not wondering why I’m talking about an Irish show on my British blog, let me remind you that they are separate countries. Yes, really separate. You need your passport, and different money, and everything.

Anyway, back to the show. In addition to Martin and his imaginary friend Sean Murphy, there is the rest of his truly awesome family:

The Moone familyLiam is a clueless, exhausted Dad who I now have a secret crush on. Mom Debra is a smartass. Daughters Fidelma, Sinead, and Trisha are the good one, the tomboy, and my newest hero. My hero is the one in The Cure t-shirt, if you couldn’t guess. She’s like a really snarky, Irish Gabby Hoffman.

Poor Liam. One of the daughters asks him if ‘Mam has any cotton pads’ and he awkwardly asks if she means feminine sanitary pads, and said daughter responds ‘Yes, Dad, I want to wash my face with a tampon.’ Eye roll and doorslam. Ah, teenage girls. I remember being one, and am so glad I didn’t have two others in the house with me.

Other gems include Sinead finding out about menstruation. “What do you mean the moon is going to make me bleed? I’ll make the moon bleed!”

What I found so interesting about this show is the idea of a totally sweet, innocent 12-year-old boy with a cynical world-weary imaginary best friend. on his birthday, Martin watches his dad roll out his (wrapped) present, which looks a lot like a bike. Sean Murphy’s response is to say: “No! Surely they haven’t gotten you something decent. It must be a bicycle-shaped sock”.

Later, in church, Sean Murphy says “Church is no place for imaginary friends.” It took me a few seconds to get the second meaning there. It’s a lot of snarky little lines like that, they all made me chuckle.

I was about two episodes into this show when I decided that I loved it. Also, when Martin Moone grows up, I want to marry him. Adorable.

Other great characters include Martin’s best friend Padraic (also adorable!) and his imaginary friend, Crunchie Danger Haystacks, played by Johnny Vegas.

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Also, Steve Coogan makes an appearance as the single most disgusting human being that’s ever lived (outside of a Darren Aronofsky film)

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In addition to hilariousness, the show is actually really poignant. It reminded me a bit of Freaks and Geeks meets Roseanne, but Irish. Lots of coming-of-age themes, humiliating for nearly everyone, but still with a hint of respect that comes from looking back on such a terrible time in everyone’s life. Also, the music is great. The theme song is called ‘Where’s Me Jumper’ and I need to have it on my iphone ASAP.

I have no idea how I’m going to get a hold of the second season, but I will. I need more of this show in my life.

A new take on the zombie apocalypse: In the Flesh

InTheFleshIn the Flesh premiered on BBC Three in March, and aired over three nights on BBC America this month.  I’ve noticed lately that things which air over three-4 weeks in the UK are crammed into 2-3 nights in the US; not sure why.  This was no exception, but I found it easier to take some time between viewing the first episode and subsequent ones.

In the Flesh envisions a different sort of ending to the traditional trope of the zombie apocalypse.  Though the zombies rise just as you would expect, the government has a different way of dealing with them than you might imagine.  The ‘rotters’ are rounded up by the British government and rehabilitated.  Through group therapy and medicine, Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) sufferers can be reintegrated into society and returned to the homes they occupied before their deaths.  With the help of contact lenses and ‘mousse’ (foundation), they even appear normal.

We follow Kieren Walker, an 18-year-old PDS sufferer who is returning to his parents’ home.  There are just a few problems with his return.  Kieren’s village of Roarton was one of the major centers of the ‘rising’, and the village formed a Human Volunteer Force (HVF) to hunt the ‘rotters’.  Roarton is still a hotbed of hatred toward PDS sufferers, despite a government mandate of peace and acceptance. Kieren’s own sister, Jem, is a proud HVF member and zombie hunter.

The first episode really shows the absolute sense of fear from having Kieren back in the family home.  Not fear of him, fear of the HVF and its leader, Bill.  It reminded me of something you might see in Nazi-occupied Europe, if you were hiding a Jewish person in your attic.  At the end of the first episode, Bill and the HVF show up at a neighbor’s house, drag his elderly PDS wife out into the street and shoot her in the head.  The hatred and anger are unforgivable and unacceptable.

The second episode had a bit more hope in it.  Word gets out that Kieren is back home, but he’s given a reprieve from being shot in the street. Bill’s son, Rick, who was lost during the war in Afghanistan, is coming home.  Rick’s parents have revered him since his absence, so his return as a PDS sufferer is confusing, given Bill’s hatred for ‘rotters’.  Rick was also Kieren’s best friend, and (this is implied but never stated outright) his boyfriend.  Lots of tension between Kieren and Rick, and Rick and Bill, and Bill and Kieren.  Bill combines his hatred of ‘rotters’ with his homophobia to absolutely despise Kieren.  As far as Bill and Rick go, Bill is totally in denial about what his son is, both as a gay man and as a PDS sufferer.  But the rest of the town starts to show a bit more compassion and acceptance.

Kieren meets his old hunting partner, Amy, and has someone with which to share the crazy experiences of being a dead body re-introduced to the human world.  Even Jem, his antagonistic sister, starts to come around.

The third episode gets into more of the meat of the relationships between all of these Roarton characters.  We learn that Kieren killed himself after Rick was killed in Afghanistan.  His parents and his sister were very angry with him, which explains a lot of the tension.  This fact also proves even more tragic later.

Bill is the catalyst for almost all of the action in this last episode.  He is in absolute and complete denial that his son is gay, and that his son is a ‘rotter’.  His response is to get rid of what he sees as the problem: Kieren.  Without Kieren around, he can pretend his son is normal, in every possible meaning of the word.  And the best way to make sure of it is to have Rick do the honors.  Bill tells Rick to eliminate Kieren (and Amy, for good measure).  I think Rick, who clearly has a hard time saying no to his father’s orders, is tempted to do it.  But how could he kill Kieren for the same faults that exist in him as well?  He can’t do it.  He washes off his mousse and takes out his contacts, and shows himself to his father as-is.

Meanwhile, Amy decides to leave town to find a ‘rotter prophet’ living in the woods, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask of some kind.  She’s looking for answers.  She doesn’t have a family anymore, and life in Roarton isn’t turning out to be peaceful.  Kieren sees her off at the train station and then returns home…to find Rick at his doorstep with a knife in his brainstem. Dead for real this time.  Killed by his own father.

Things are rough from that point on, obviously.  Kieren confronts Bill. Bill gets what he deserves, though not at Kieren’s hands.

Let’s take a moment to think about Kieren’s luck. His best mate/boyfriend goes off to Afghanistan and is killed in an explosion. Kieren doesn’t want to live anymore, so he kills himself because of the ensuing depression and grief.  He rises as a zombie (he can’t even kill himself properly!) and commits terrible atrocities, but after medical attention and rehabilitation he is able to return to his family.  Rick returns too…and is killed again.  The feeling of futility has got to be overwhelming at this point.

Kieren returns to the same place where he committed suicide, just to think this time.  His mother comes to retrieve him, and that’s when the story of his suicide comes out.

The whole miniseries features a lot of very grim and taciturn patriarchal figures and their quiet beset-upon wives.  We see Bill and his wife, one meek and victimized by her husband, the other a blustering despot with limited ability to process his own emotions.  We also see Kieren’s family.  His mother shows some emotion, but is still quiet.  His father holds in all of his emotions until the very last scene of the miniseries, when he lets them out in a moment of healing and crying.

This all reminded me of American Beauty, and Bill particularly of Chris Cooper’s character.  So much pain and denial and repression.  Willing to do intense violence to cover up, to keep from acknowledging, the truth. But my only issue with this miniseries is that I think it would be better placed in the ’90s than currently.  The gender politics alone were very traditional, and the ideas about homosexuality are also out-of-date.  Of course, this takes place in the North, somewhere near where Heathcliff and Catherine would have been running around on the moors.  It looks like the type of place where it is just never truly warm.  Windy and cloudy and gray all the time.  I know that the North is, stereotypically, a bit more conservative and less cultured than the South of England.  Something like how the Midwest is thought of in the US.  But, as someone from the Midwest, I also know that not to be particularly true. Is it (Lancashire) so very traditional that this is a reasonable depiction of a small village near Blackpool?  Maybe.  There are places like that in the US, small towns where homosexuality and atheism and being a democrat are unheard of, not talked about, absolute Sins with a capital S.  It’s definitely possible.

I thought this miniseries was pretty good, actually.  Lots of complex ideas and unavoidable tension.  The actor who played Kieren could be a little stiff, a little numb, but how perfect is that for someone playing a partially-dead person?  Anyway, everyone’s emotions were so repressed and covered, that it worked quite well.  My only issue was that the ending was very open, almost not like an ending at all.  I hope that will be resolved when the series comes back for another 4-6 episodes in 2014.

TV Series Review – The Misfits (seasons 1 and 2)

misfits_wallpaperI am generally skeptical of British shows involving supernatural powers or fantasy settings, because to be quite honest the production values and special effects are usually awful. The sort of special effects you would have seen ten-fifteen years ago on American TV.  Luckily for me, I gave this show a chance after hearing lots of good things.

The show opens with the first day of community service for Simon, Nathan, Kelly, Alisha, and Curtis–a group of juvenile delinquents with nothing at all in common.

Curtis was an all-star track athlete, headed for the Olympics before he got busted for drugs. He seems the most sane of the group.

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He definitely doesn’t think he belongs with the rest of these losers.

Kelly got in a fight over a boy, Simon set a fire, Alisha was caught drunk driving (or drink driving, if you’d prefer the UK vernacular). Nathan is just your typical rebel without a cause, only he’s more of a moron without a cause.

Misfits NathanAt first, I absolutely hated him, but he was my favorite character by episode two. He is devoid of all shame, all sense of propriety, and possibly any ability to scrutinize his own behavior.  He’s the id, incarnate, and he says lots of things we wish we could say in social situations.  On the other hand, he says a lot of things we wish we could unhear after they are said. So, fair warning there.

The team is sentenced to work at a community center cleaning up graffiti, picking up garbage, etc.  They are out doing just that when a freak lightning storm hits and they all sort of get zapped.  This section is a bit ridiculous because well, the special effects just aren’t that good.  Still, the show is worth putting up with this sequence.

The long and short of it is that the group get super powers from the crazy lightning strike.  Curtis, we soon learn, can rewind time.  Nathan’s power takes a while to reveal itself, but he turns out to be immortal.  Kelly, the chavviest of all the chavs,

Misfits Kellycan read people’s minds.  She is kind of awesome, despite how trashy she is and how strange her accent sounds to an American ear. She is brave and loyal and has a pretty good moral compass when it comes down to important decisions.

Simon, the shy one who (according to Nathan) looks like a ‘panty sniffer’ has the ability to become invisible.

simonTrue to form, I liked Simon the most at first.  After all, if there’s someone who is socially awkward and shy, I’m going to empathize with them. That’s obvious.  Plus, he’s pale.  He might, in fact, be the male version of me.

Over the two seasons, Simon has the biggest transformation.  Mostly he transforms from a lonely nerd to a parkour-expert and generally shirtless badass. Still pale though! We, the melanin-challenged, can still be superheroes! Take note, world.

Alisha gets genuinely fucked when it comes to super powers.  All of them get super powers that sort of reflect a main facet of their personalities.  Curtis is overcome with regret, so he gets the ability to turn back time and make right his big mistakes. Simon is painfully shy and he can turn invisible.  Alisha is…promiscuous?  What’s a nice way to say her main reason for life seems to be to get as many men to want her as possible?

Misfits Alisha

Well, she gets her wish. Her superpower is that when men (or women) touch her, they try to rape her because they just can’t stop themselves.  Sex with her is the only thing they can think about.  If a man she doesn’t want or like touches her, she’ll be raped.  If she touches a man she does want, she’s basically raping him.  Rape either way. So…yay.  Worst super power, ever.

If you get confused about their powers, here’s a handy infographic:

Misfits infographic

Very quickly after the lightning storm, things start to go to shit at the community center.  Their probation officer, also affected by the storm, attacks and kills them.  Curtis has to turn back time to undo what has happened, and instead they are forced to kill their probation officer and hide his body.

The thing about this show is that it walks a very fine line between comedy and drama.  Somehow they allow you to be in the moment when really serious, scary, or emotional things happen, but seconds later you can be laughing hysterically–usually at something Nathan says to defuse the situation. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is really helpful when you’re dealing with the supernatural.

Over the course of the first two seasons, they kill at least 2 probation officers, someone has sex with an octogenarian, someone has sex with a gorilla, they all die at least once, there are two separate semi-religious cults, a character called SuperHoodie, people who travel into the future and past, Simon is referred to as ‘the Invisible Cunt’ and Barry, the group is overpowered by a man who can control dairy products, and Jesus rises again during the Christmas special. The show is funny and goofy and really truly enjoyable.

You need a dark sense of humor to appreciate this show, but if you have one then it is excellent. You also need to be able to laugh off incredibly heinous language and slang.  And if you watch the Christmas special, please be aware that there is a truly traumatic bit with an ‘afterbirth’.  There’s a reason I’m not having kids.  Actually, there are 500 reasons, but that is definitely on the list.

I really enjoyed the show, and I especially adored the main theme song. Must. own.

The entire series is up on Hulu or on DVD.  The trailer is here.

Upcoming TV highlights

There are a whole score of new and returning shows on TV this month and next. I thought it might be a good time to discuss them.

First of all, the end of March marked the return of Doctor Who!

The Doctor and OswinAnd there’s a new outfit, a new TARDIS, and a new companion.  If you watched season 7, you already know Oswin.  Can I say already that I love her?  I love her.  She is super smart, she is a conundrum, and she is simultaneously friendly, playful, and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor.  Add to the wonderfulness of her character, she is a real enigma.  The Doctor doesn’t understand her, and he finds anything he doesn’t understand really mesmerizing.  It’s a totally different dynamic than the big brother relationship he had with Amy and Rory.  And I really like his new coat.  I feel like maybe I’m getting my expectations up too high.  Last season was a little disappointing for me, and I don’t want to get too excited and then be disappointed again. But…it’s probably too late.  I’ve seen the first episode and I really liked it, and I love their dynamic, and I’m really excited for what’s coming next.  Dr. Who is on BBC America on Saturday nights at 8 Eastern.

Orphan Black bannerPremiering that same night was the new series,  Orphan Black. Although this is on BBC America, it doesn’t actually seem to be a British show. It is set in Canada, I believe, though it is never explicitly stated.  The ‘main’ character, Sarah, is British, as is her best friend Paul.  Only the actors aren’t actually British, but whatever.  The show seems interesting; I haven’t made my mind up about it yet.  It begins with Sarah (a woman with questionable morals and a shady background) seeing a woman, Beth, who looks exactly like her, jump in front of a train.  She takes over Beth’s seemingly swanky life (wasn’t this the plot to that Sarah Michelle Gellar show, Ringer?), mostly based on the fact that the woman had money and nice clothes.  Remind me to never take over my dead clone’s life based on her clothing quality, because it just doesn’t turn out well.  She has to get to know Beth’s boyfriend (including possibly the most graphic sex scene I’ve ever seen on a non-premium channel), deal with a police inquest over a shooting in the line of duty (oh, Beth was a cop?) and a mysterious safety deposit box full of birth certificates.  Sarah proves herself to be pretty stupid in this first episode.  Her goal is to get her daughter back from whomever is caring for her, and to start a new life.  Her first plan is to steal heroin from her ex and sell it for $20k.  Her next plan is to have her best friend identify Beth’s mangled body as Sarah, and steal all of Beth’s savings.  It never occurs to her that her daughter might find out that Sarah has been declared dead, but of course that is what happens.  She seems to really lack the ability to think about consequences, but we know very little about her back story, except that she is an orphan.

This show is iffy.  Could turn out well, could be implausible and ridiculous.  I’m going to give it a few more episodes before I make a verdict.  It’s on after Doctor Who, Saturdays on BBC America at 9 Eastern.

Mr. SelfridgeThe last weekend in March was a big one for me! Also premiering, on PBS this time, was Mr. Selfridge, a proper British period drama about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of the eponymous store on Oxford Street.  I had no idea he was American, but apparently he emigrated from Chicago to open the world’s best department store in London.  It just finished airing in England, so kudos to PBS for getting it over here in less than 6 months.  They’re getting better!

Jeremy Piven plays a non-douchebag, which I didn’t approve of at first.  Have they seen Entourage?  I haven’t, I’ll admit, but his suits were too shiny for me to see him as a non-douche.  Right? Look at this picture and then argue with me:

Ari Gold

So, I’ll reiterate that I wasn’t sure about all this, but Jeremy Piven is really good!  It helps that the character is bombastic and grandiose. He needs to act that way because, as we learn in the very first episode, he is in deep trouble with money.  He needs a lot of money, press, and publicity to make his store a hit, so he has to be more confident than he is.

The show follows Mr. Selfridge, obviously, but it is also a Downton-esque ensemble cast of high- and low-class characters. There are: his wife, who meets a (very) handsome artist at the National Gallery; the shopgirl Agnes Towler who works in the accessories department and her struggles with her brother, her father, and her suitor; other employees in the store both friendly and not; Miss Love, the actress and potential mistress for Mr. Selfridge; ruthless investors in the store; and I’m sure there will be more in later episodes.

There were a lot of interesting dynamics between classes, like any British drama worth its name.  Add to that, the genuinely interesting concept of the first true department store.  Most shops prior to this time period, especially in England, did not have displays as we do now.  There were counters, and you would go up and ask to see a specific type of glove or hat, etc.  Or, if you were wealthy, you would have a dressmaker, milliner, etc., come to your house for a fitting in your own home.  The art and hobby of shopping wasn’t the same.  Ready-to-wear clothing wasn’t the same, either.  So seeing this revolution happen in the show is intriguing.  I found the first episode really entertaining and cannot wait for the next episode.  Hopefully the quality stays the same throughout.  My only complaint is that in the intro on PBS, Laura Linney was talking about the show and described it using the following words about Mr. Selfridge: “He was the first person to know what women really want.  They want to go shopping.”

Oh, Laura Linney.  Why?  Why would you say that? Who wrote that?  Blech.

The Spies of WarsawAttention all Doctor Who fans! David Tennant is returning to our TV screens!  For a limited time only!  This is a two-part mini-series on BBC America, about a WWII era spy.  It begins in 1937, in Poland, France, and Germany.  David Tennant stars as Col. Mercier, a French ‘military attaché stationed in Poland. He alone sees the war coming, where his comrades don’t want to admit what is happening in Europe.  I don’t know much about the plot yet, but the NY Times called describes it almost as a whodunnit, more like a Christie novel than Casablanca, which it seems to want to be.  There is a love triangle, but the upcoming War is the real story of the mini-series.  Also according to the Times, despite the weaknesses in Spies of Warsaw, “there is nothing more satisfying than a prewar espionage story that shows, up close and told-you-so, how most of Europe slept through Hitler’s rise.”

It’s playing on BBC America on April 3rd and 10th, but I’m quite certain they will replay it several times over the next month or two.

Although I didn’t watch it, I should mention that the second season of Call the Midwife also premiered at the end of March. It airs every Sunday night on PBS, and is also available on their website.

Also coming soon on PBS is something I’m really excited to see: The Bletchley Circle

The Bletchley CircleThis aired last year in the UK.  Set in 1952, it follows four women who worked as code breakers at Bletchley Park (the main center for decryption/codebreaking in the UK during WWII).  If that wasn’t bad ass enough, it’s also a murder mystery. Police are overlooking a pattern in the killings, but these code-breaking badass ladies in their cardigans are smart enough to see it. It’s only a 3 part mini-series, but it sounds awesome. I love to see women in period pieces that have more to do than just swoon and get married.  The Bletchley Circle premieres on PBS on April 21st.

Looks like it’s going to be a great spring for us anglophiles!

TV review: Derek with Ricky Gervais

Derek series posterRicky Gervais’ new series, Derek, just finished its first season in the UK.  It will be airing exclusively on Netflix in the US later this year (no premier date yet).  It’s only six episodes, but a second season in the UK has already been announced.

There was a lot of controversy before the show started, when it got out that Ricky was playing a man who seemed to be mentally disabled.  I think most of the controversy dried up when people actually saw the show. I don’t think it’s offensive at all–it might even be a bit too safe.

The show features Ricky as the eponymous Derek, possibly the nicest man in the world.  If there is one thing this show is about, it’s about valuing kindness over all other traits.  Derek cares about everyone and every living creature, and the show illustrates how much more valuable that is than qualities like intelligence, material success, A level scores, etc.  Derek works in a nursing home; it’s his whole life.  I can’t tell you what he does exactly (in terms of a job). It seems like he is more of a companion to the residents, and he’s very good at that.  He genuinely cares about all of them.

His best friend is Hannah,

hannahwho runs the nursing home.  She is one of those women who takes care of everyone and doesn’t have much of a life on her own. She puts all of her energy into her job and truly wants to take care of all of the people who live in and work at the home.  She makes me, honestly and truly, feel like a pretty terrible person by comparison.

To make me feel better, there is Karl Pilkington (and a hilarious wig) as Dougie.

slide_277704_2042719_freeDougie is the handyman in the nursing home.  He’s not as kind as Hannah or Derek–he is more willing to say what is on his mind and more likely to be irritated by other people.  Who knew Karl could act? He’s actually really good!  Now, there are a lot of similarities between him and his character.  In my preview of this series, I noted these similarities:

He complains a lot, likes to fix things, doesn’t know why he’s friends with Ricky.  Check, check, check.

And I stand by that post.  He’s very similar to what I know of him through An Idiot Abroad and The Ricky Gervais Show–though all of these shows give us Karl through Ricky’s eyes (and editing skills), so I wouldn’t presume to actually know him.  At any rate, Dougie is perpetually annoyed, but his annoyance is geared toward people who truly deserve it.  One high point of the series is when Dougie throws out the money-grubbing daughter of a woman who has just died, because she is a heinous person only concerned with getting her mother’s things now that she’s gone.  Dougie is my hero in that episode.

There’s also Kev

derek_kev_2Derek’s friend and the least likeable of the main characters.  He is sex-obsessed, crass, and generally unliked, but his friendship with Derek and the clear evidence that he is full of shit make the audience realize that he isn’t all bad.  If he was an asshole in the exact same way and also handsome/successful, then he would be unforgivable.  The fact that he is horribly unsuccessful in life and with women make his boasts and pronouncements less offensive and more sad.

In the background there are a litany of secondary characters from the fringes of life.  There are chavvy teenagers, assigned to do community service at the nursing home, the heinous people from the city council threatening to shut the place down, and of course the residents themselves.  I kind of love Derek for the simple fact that it shows people we don’t normally see on TV.  For how many hours of super fancy people on Selling New York or The Bachelor or Real Housewives of Whichever City, you’re only likely to see a regular person on shows like Hoarders or My Strange Addiction.  It’s lovely to see people represented on TV that normally wouldn’t be, and I hope it gives everyone a greater respect for older people, even though the show is inherently more rose-colored than reality must be.

Let me start with a warning about this show.  I cried during every single episode.  It is emotional; it is schmaltzy.  Some critics think the emotion has gone too far, into the realm of absolute sentimental tripe.  I think there are arguments for that.  After all, you never seem too controversial by showing how great it would be if everyone was kind to one another.  On the other hand, very few of us have the capacity to be as kind and as selfless as Hannah and Derek.  There are, undoubtedly, people who work in a caretaker capacity that are just like them.  But there are also people who take advantage of their situation to do horrible things, and there are people who become burnt out by what they are seeing on a day-to-day basis and become apathetic or cold-hearted as a result.  Derek portrays a world free from those types.  There are your occasional villains who come in (like the couple mentioned above, visiting only to get a hold of a family ring), but they leave.  Everyone there is forgivable and forgiving, and cares about the residents in their care.  I don’t know how accurate that is.

The show is genuinely funny, but you’re more likely to spend your time crying than laughing.

The show is very clearly a Ricky Gervais project, but at the same time it is quite different.  No matter how crass and unlikeable Ricky can be when he is confronting the world as himself (I have a coworker that loathes him completely), his works always have a good heart and good people behind them.  In The Office, Tim and Dawn are the heart of the show, but by the end of the run you do truly care for David Brent and for Gareth.  The only real villain of the piece is Chris Finch, and we see him put firmly in his place during the special (my favorite moment ever).  In Extras and Life’s Too Short, you see an egotistical, foolish, deeply flawed, very negative main character, but the show always makes clear that these traits are not rewarding.  In the end, these characters focus their energy on their personal relationships and not on the success they so long for.  That same sense of good and kindness is the main centerpiece of Derek, but Derek approaches it in a different way.  It’s there from the absolute beginning, as the prevailing quality of the main character.

It is schmaltzy, and it is sensationalist (to use the old definition of causing sensations), but it is cathartic to see and experience what life might be like if we were all a little less smart and a little more kind. It made me cry to the point of extreme discomfort on more than one occasion (especially the finale), but it did feel good afterward.  I really enjoyed the show and will definitely be watching the second season.

Ricky as Derek with dogs