Category Archives: TV Reviews

13 Reasons Why vs 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Book Review

Clay Jensen is a fairly normal, quiet teenager who has suddenly come into possession of a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has recently completed suicide. The tapes are being passed around the people who Hannah claims played a part in her decision to die. There has been assaults and friendships gone bad, betrayal and loss.

I watched this after watching the series, and it meant that it didn’t have as much impact as I think it may have reading it first would have. I think I spent a lot of time noticing the differences rather than enjoying the book as it unfolded. I think that it is a very troubling story in that it is difficult for a dead person to put the blame of all of their problems on other people – even if those people have done terrible things. I also think that the book only touches on the depth of most characters, and that the series was able to explore things a lot more, which presents its own problems….

13 Reasons Why – TV Review

Because Hannah is no longer there, and we are getting the story through the tapes and through memories, especially those of Clay, the TV show is told in two main ways – partly as a series of flashbacks, and partly as current events in the post-Hannah world. This means that we get to know the characters a lot more, see their flaws and this makes the idea of blame coming from beyond the grave even more problematic. It also makes Hannah more flawed as a character, which I think works well because it de-romanticises her, giving the real sense that her blame is very much her own opinion, and not straight out fact.

There have been a lot of claims, especially since the television series came out and the story has been able to reach a wider audience, that this could set off other people who may be having a tough time and feel that suicide may be an option. This is coming from professionals and I think that they have a very valid position that comes from research and experience. I also think that there are issues, particularly in relation to the way women and girls are seen and treated in society, that are handled very well in the show. It is very much worth watching the documentary, 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons that plays afterward if you let it carry on automatically on Netflix. I think that the show is flawed, but I think that the show is important, and has importance beyond the original premise. I don’t know what to do about those who may have more difficult issues that are pushed by watching the show, but I feel like perhaps it may help to open up conversations about some of these issues.

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Jane the Virgin – TV Review

Based on the famous telenovelas of Latin America, Jane the Virgin follows Jane   (Gina Rodriguez), a virgin who is accidentally inseminated by the doctor who should be doing a pap smear. What are she and her fiancé, Michael (Brett Dier) going to do – especially when she starts to have feelings for the biological father, Rafael (Justin Baldoni)? Then her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) has to deal with seeing her daughter, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) reconnect with Jane’s father, telenovela superstar Rogelio (Jaime Camil). But the doctor who inseminated her was Rafael’s sister, and was supposed to be inseminating Rafael’s wife who had stolen the last sample of Rafael’s frozen semen after he had cancer… and then it gets complicated.

What is great is that the characters are great. They have real good sides and bad sides, but they don’t seem too over the top – and then there are the ones who are over the top! Oh, they are so much fun! My favourite will always be Rogelio – so magnificently ridiculous and gorgeous and funny and – he’s great. Love him. In fact, I think he is really the reason I watch it. What’s not great – well, isn’t it just making fun of a person for their religion and beliefs, and saying that sure, you can believe in saving yourself for marriage but we’ll all laugh at you? Isn’t it, at the heart of it, just a bit nasty? Yet… no. I don’t know. Just enjoy it.

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American Horror Story – TV Review

 

    

  

This is a most strange and amazing television series – with the same actors returning series to series playing different characters, sometimes even different characters within a single series. On top of this, each series is separate and yet, at some times, linked. It’s clever. The first series is in a haunted house (and with so many TV shows, the first episode is the scariest of just about everything), the second is a creepy asylum, the third a witch coven, the fourth a freak show, the fifth a haunted hotel and that’s as far as I’ve gone so far. The first intrigued me… I liked it, and it had some interesting twists, but it didn’t blow me away. But I was intrigued enough to continue on – the second series was awesome. Scary, gross, clever, intriguing, and wonderfully twisted. Then the witches. A real waste of a series, I thought, although Kathy Bates was brilliant. It came back stronger with the freak show series, but the hotel series was fabulous. I can’t help thinking that the next few series could be fabulous or absolutely terrible. Either way I’ll give it a go. Oh, and how absolutely wonderful it is to be seeing so many older actresses getting really decent, juicy, fun roles. Other show, please take note of how skilled these actresses are.

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Shameless vs Shameless – TV Review

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From the estates of Manchester to the projects of Chicago, Shameless tells of the Gallagher family. A group of six kids aged from two to twenty with an absent mother, a severely alcoholic father and how they get by – breaking the law, getting into trouble, but always finding ways to support each other.

The show was created by Paul Abbot in England and started being screened in 2004. The family patriach, Frank, was played by a David Threlfall, a repulsive, pants wetting, staggering, muttering creep. Yet, somehow he is love/hated by everyone he knows. This was the character who was played by William H Macy in the US version, which first screened in 2011, and while I have seen Macy in a variety of roles, playing a wide range of characters, I just couldn’t see it. Yet… I should have known that he would be fabulous. It’s not quite the same Frank – some of the edges have been softened, but the essence is there.

I was a huge fan of the first two seasons of the UK show – perhaps even three seasons. But by the fourth season, many of the actors who had started the orginal cast – we’d lost Fiona (Anne-Marie Duff) who was the oldest sister who kept everything together – or lost it all. I seem to recall we only had James McAvoy playing Steve McBride for the first season, but he did go on to have a big-time Hollywood career, so what can you do? I think it was when the neighbours, Veronica (Maxine Peake) and Kev (Dean Lennox Kelly) went that I really started to lose interest. Storylines became more and more outrageous, and I just couldn’t be bothered anymore – which really says a lot given how much I hate leaving things unfinished. According to IMDB, it ran until 2013. Perhaps one day I’ll attempt a revisit, but unlikely.

Perhaps because the UK version had lost me, or perhaps because I couldn’t see it translating well to the US, I avoided the US version for a long time. Why oh why? It’s one of those shows, like The Office, that started from something unique in the UK then actually worked as well, or possibly better, in the US. The first season was essentially the same script as the first season from the UK but slightly Americanised and with some storylines somewhat lighter. After this, it felt as though they had found their feet and were able to take the series wherever they wanted.

For me, special highlights have included the addition of Joan Cusack in the cast in early seasons and in the most recent season I have watched (Season 6 which has just come onto the Australian Netflix), it’s been great seeing Sherilyn Fenn.

I’d recommend starting both. If you like them, obviously keep watching. But if you find, as I did, that you started to lose interest in the UK version, don’t beat yourself up for letting it go.

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Gilmore Girls & Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life– TV Review

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It’s amazing – seven seasons plus the recent bonus season and nothing really happens. How is that possible? Well, yes, there are engagements and marriages and divorces and babies and yet, it felt like nothing much was ever really at stake.

So, what is it? The Gilmore Girls are Lorelai (Lauren Graham) a thirty-something who had her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) at sixteen, choosing to strike out on her own rather than relying on the father of her baby or her mega-rich family. The premise that is set in the first episode is that they have had very little contact with Lorelai’s parents, but now she has the chance to go to a very prestigious private school and so she needs money, and so in come the parents, Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann), and everyone argues and stops talking to each other and then make up and then fight again. And yet… why does it feel like nothing has happened? Perhaps because the stakes are not that high. There is never any sense that anyone’s life will end, or that they will end up on the streets. I think this is because there is just so much money in this world, even randomly Rory’s father suddenly ends up mega rich. On top of this, the writers seem to really dislike women, because the set them up as allegedly strong, independent women who will not compromise their personal beliefs for anything, and yet they are constantly compromising those beliefs. And the way they treat the romantic interests – and the way the romantic interests treat them! I take it back, the writers don’t just hate women – they hate people. It’s set in almost the whitest town in America (apart from a black Frenchman and a Korean family who are intensely stereotypical) with a whole cast of quirky locals.

So if I disliked it that much, why did I watch it? A couple of reasons: I actually quite liked the characters, so while the plot may have been tedious, I quite liked the interactions. Second: Melissa McCarthy and Yanic Truesdale (the Frenchman – actually Canadian). I really liked their ridiculousness. Third: I was painting my house and wanted something on that I didn’t need to watch closely. A friend from school’s mother used to call this type of entertainment chewing gum. As chewing gum stimulates your digestive system into thinking that food is coming and leaves it disappointed, this type of entertainment stimulates the brain into thinking it will be needed and leaves it disappointed. Oh and the music? I was ready to throw my television out the window!

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Fargo – TV Review

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Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), a small town insurance agent in Fargo, is mollycoddled by his wife and laughed at by almost everyone around him. So, he kills her. Meanwhile, a mysterious character, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is drifting through town causing all kinds of epic disaster. And then there is our hero of the story, Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), a rising member of the local police who, despite the attempts to halt her investigation, continues to follow leads as long as she can.

I loved the Coen Brothers film – ooh, I must revisit it. I was slightly concerned about the idea of changing format, but it is fabulous. Same, somewhat kooky atmosphere (perhaps even more than the film), interesting and entwined storylines, great acting and moments of inspired fear. Oh, and as a delightful surprise, Key and Peele (Keegan-Michel Key and Jordan Peele) turn up as incompetent FBI Agents. Marvellous.

And then… ( some time later) the second season comes out. And it is also amazing! This time, it is about the events that happened when Molly Solverson was a small girl, and her father (who now runs the café) was the police chief. And it’s got Kirsten Dunst and Angus Sampson and Ted Danzon and just so many wonderful people. Oh, so good. Season three? On IMDB it says 2017. Yes, please.

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Grantchester – TV Review

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There’s a Church of England minister in a parish in Cambridge not long after World War Two has ended. Sidney Chambers (James Norton). He’s got a few issues; bit of shell shock, drinks a bit much, his handsome looks get him attention from the ladies, and he is somewhat in love with his old school friend Amanda (Morven Christie). Oh, and murders keep happening around him. He teams up with local policeman Geordie Keating (Robson Green) to solve them.

He’s handsome, but spends a bit much time mooning around for my liking. I’ve not been one to watch Midsummer Murders or any of the like, but I’m imaging they are similar. In fact, I am imagining they would be very similar.

 

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