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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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Top of the Lake – TV Review

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Small town New Zealand. A twelve-year-old girl, Tui (Jacqueline Joe) is found in a cold lake, possibly suicidal. When it is revealed that she is pregnant, it sends things into a spin. Luckily, Robin (Elisabeth Moss) is in town. She is a police officer who specialises in working with children. The local police, including boss Al (David Wenham) are reluctant to let her in the ranks, but she will not let go. Then there is Tui’s family; her mother lives away from them, Tui lives with her family, extreme bad-buy and sleaze ball Matt (Peter Mullan) and his adult sons. Add to the mix a ‘guru’, GJ (Holly Hunter) who has brought a group of battered women to a piece of property on the lake that may or may not have been legally sold to her. And then there is Robin’s background, never far away.

Depressing as hell. One of my mates couldn’t get through it, feeling increasing sucked into the darkness of this world. And it is dark. But wonderful. It has all the beauty and complex story telling that you would want coming from director Jane Campion. Wow.

 

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Archer (TV Series)

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There’s a spy agency run by an older, over-sexed woman who is constantly trying to get with a rich man, be he KGB, Burt Reynolds, whoever. Her son, is Archer, and despite his alcoholism, constant womanizing, and telling every single person he meets that he is a spy, is none-the-less the best spy in the world. His ex is an extremely sexy woman, also an excellent spy, who is dating the firm accountant. The HR woman has an issue with a variety of substances and sex, the receptionist has even more issues with sex, and then there is a scientist who has a love for creating pig creatures. And if this isn’t enough, the company they work for is called ISIS.

Okay, the show pre-dates the now well-known horrific ISIS. But it is now a strange repeating gag – especially when they are talking about ISIS bureaucracy. I found the show somewhat funny initially, but as it went on and on, I became somewhat addicted. And then there was the fact that Archer is voiced by the same guy who does Bob from Bob’s Burgers. (H. Jon Benjamin) Another strange yet fabulous animation.

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