The Past Month on TV #1

This is a film blog (you may’ve noticed, it is in the title), but I spend a lot of my time watching TV. This is one of the reasons I have regularly struggled to make it to 100 films (not so much the last couple of years, but in general). Dedicated cineastes may find this unfathomable, and spend all their time watching as many films as they can gorge their eyeballs on, but I instead regularly fritter away said time on stuff like Arrow or Elementary or a 374th re-watch of Friends. Such is life.

So some of my viewing choices conform to the old-fashioned (way, way, completely-outdated-level old-fashioned) notion that TV isn’t really worth passing comment on; but there’s other stuff that is at least as high-quality as a decent movie — and, in some cases, considerably better. Therefore, provoked partly by this post by ghost of 82 (and our discussion in the comments), I’ve decided to post monthly thoughts on some of my TV viewing. I won’t bore you with every single thing I watch, nor dig too deep into what I do cover (not on a regular basis, anyway), but instead merely mention some highlights — and probably lowlights, too.

(Why do this? What do you mean, “why?” Why do we review anything?)

Last point before I begin: I watch hardly anything ‘live’ nowadays, so this certainly won’t be just “some stuff that happened to be on telly in the last four weeks”, but a mix of recent broadcasts, older stuff I’m (re-)watching, and stuff that isn’t broadcast at all (i.e. series from Amazon Prime and Netflix).

This month year-to-date I have mostly been watching…

Dickensian (Series 1 Episodes 1-12)
DickensianThe BBC’s Avengers-style mash-up of characters from the work of Charles Dickens is an interesting mishmash of a show — part soap, part sitcom, part murder mystery — probably quite like Dickens’ originals, to be honest. It’s also an interesting case study in dramatic irony: every major storyline is a prequel to one of Dickens’ works, so how much do you rely on the audience knowing where everyone ends up? We surely all know where Miss Havisham is headed, but do you remember exactly what roles Compeyson and Pocket have to play? And is anyone but a Dickens expert (or someone who’s read Wikipedia, obv.) aware of who Honoria Barbary grows up to be? As a show, it’s not as classy or accomplished as the Beeb’s peerless Bleak House (from a decade ago now!), but it’s considerably more entertaining than their version of Little Dorrit that followed (both apt comparisons, because they’re Dickens adaptations in 15+ parts). It’s designed to be a returning series, and I hope it gets recommissioned.

Gilmore Girls (Season 2 Episode 20 – Season 3 Episode 10)
Gilmore Girls season 3Oh, it’s a Woman’s Show — or, worse, a Teen Girl’s Show. There’s more to Gilmore Girls than that (stupidly reductive, anyway) description. OK, I’m not that fascinated by the ins and outs of Rory’s relationship dramas, and life would be simpler if Lorelai and Luke would just bloody well get together, but it’s endurable due to the fast*, witty, intelligent dialogue (seriously, these characters are impossibly well-read and -watched), the depiction of quirky small-town life and all its crazy characters, and the realistically antagonistic relationship between independent daughter and old-fashioned parents. I got quite far through watching Gilmore once before, many years ago, and then a while back started re-watching with a view to finishing it off. With Netflix’s four-movie revival coming later this year, it’s become time to get a wriggle on. So expect this to keep popping up — I’ve got 100 episodes to go…
* Favourite trivia: they talk so fast, scripts for the show were about 60% longer than an average TV script.

The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (Episode 1)
Gilmore Girls season 3This is a few episodes in over the pond, I know, but it only started here on Monday (see also: The X Files). I’ve never seen one of Ryan Murphy’s other shows (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, etc), except for the Rocky Horror episode of Glee, which I hated. He seems to be quite a divisive creator, so maybe it’s for the best that here he’s only acting as producer and occasionally director. For people like me, who were too young to follow the O.J. case, this is a potentially-fascinating insight into a famous bit of… I was going to say “recent history”, but it’s 22 years ago now. Reportedly the series will focus on how the apparently open-and-shut case we witness in this episode goes astray at trial, which I guess makes this first part all about setting things up. If that is the case, I think there’s a lot of promise.

Ripper Street (Series 4 Episodes 1-4)
Ripper Street IVThe Amazon-saved Victorian murder drama returned with a 130-minute episode shot in 2.35:1 widescreen — in other words, it was basically Ripper Street: The Movie. In truth, it was clearly designed as a two-parter, and would perhaps have played better in that form. The cinematography of that first episode is glorious though, so rich and well-designed, it’s practically worth watching just for that. Series 3 was the show’s strongest run so far, and for me the new series isn’t quite matching it yet, but it’s still a quality drama about dark deeds in dark places.

Shetland (Series 3 Episodes 1-2)
Shetland series 3I don’t watch that much crime drama… says the person who’s already highlighted Dickensian, American Crime Story, and Ripper Street, and is also watching Death in Paradise, Elementary, and Vera right now. (I need to cut back on these.) One thing that works in Shetland’s favour is its remote, somewhat desolate setting. I suppose that makes it feel tapped into the Nordic Noir craze a little bit, though that’s probably where the comparison ends. This latest series is also telling a single story over its six parts, which is a change of pace for the show. It’s still in the “intriguing start” phase — there’s clearly something much bigger going on than these small-island cops are used to dealing with.

The X Files (Season 10 Episodes 1-2)
The X Files EventThe X Files revival only has one episode left to air in the US now, but over here it’s barely begun (episode two went out on Monday). Despite the general apathetic reaction to the first episode (My Struggle), I largely enjoyed it. Only having dipped in to the original series meant I was thoroughly lost at times, but the Mulder and Scully reunion was suitably nostalgic and it threw around ideas with abandon. Episode two (Founder’s Mutation) seems to have been better received, but I can’t say I noticed a massive up-tick in quality. Ostensibly a “monster of the week” episode, it’s decent in that regard, though I also liked how it tapped into storylines from the past — when you’ve only got six episodes, making any of them completely cut-off and standalone feels somehow wasteful.

Things to Catch Up On
Phwoar and PeaceThis month, I have mostly been missing the BBC’s new War and Peace — aka Phwoar and Peace, according to social media and/or journalists wanting to have influence on social media. It seemed like the kind of thing (i.e. lots of characters with Russian names) that would benefit from being watched intensively, rather than spread thin over a month and a half, so I’ve got it all saved up. Maybe next month, then.

Next month… largely more of the same, I should imagine — marking time until Daredevil returns…

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11 thoughts on “The Past Month on TV #1

  1. Watched American Horror Story: Hotel and nearly finished Ash vs The Evil Dead. Got an anime box set on the go ( Kill la Kill).

    Re: non-binge viewing, I’ve been enjoying Dickensian too. That episode with the baby being born was incredible, I thought, even knowing what would happen regards how it unfolds in Dickens original work. I gave up on Arrow (for a’serious’ show it just got dafter and dafter) after last year but enjoy The Flash. I’m becoming bit ruthless with tv shows to be honest. Case of having to be. Got Black Sails/ Mr Robot/ three seasons of Mad Men to watch. Plus that War and Peace, third season of Da Vincis Demons, Ripper Street… Its a wonder I fit any films in at all.

    And to think theres so much rubbish on the box I choose not to watch, its like we’re being beseiged by content!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I spend more time watching films and not getting round to series — most of my TV viewing is stuff the other half wants to/is prepared to watch, and then “my time” is films. That’s largely thanks to having this blog’s goal, which is why I’m going to cut back on films… at some point…

      Evil Dead is on my “to watch” list, as are Black Sails and Mr Robot, and I haven’t got round to Man in the High Castle yet either. It’s great we can watch series in their entirety on demand any time, but unless I’m desperate to see it, it winds up just waiting.

      How is Kill la Kill? I feel like I keep seeing it being pushed, but I’ve not reading anything more because I have too much unwatched anime as it is.

      Arrow definitely went off the boil last season, and I’m not sure the current one has dragged it back, but I kind of prefer it to The Flash — the latter’s cheesily cheesy, whereas Arrow has some variety by being dark ‘n’ cheesy. I know I’m going to end up watching Legends of Tomorrow too, though I managed to resist Supergirl.

      “Peak TV”, as the Americans have taken to calling it, is definitely a thing, but it doesn’t look like the bubble is going to burst just yet.

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      • Kill La Kill is pretty amazing and lives up to its reputation- its the maddest, most violent and funny anime I can remember. That said, I’m up to episode 17 and now it’s taking a rather surprising serious turn, becoming something I didn’t think it would be which is starting to bother me so we’ll see. A few episodes ago I’d have rated it as one of the very best anime ever but I’m not so sure right now, I guess it just depends on where it goes next. At the very least, its one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen and its twists and turns are impressive, only the Japs could dream this stuff up (“We ARE Nudist Beach!” -you have to see it to believe it). I’ll review it when I’ve finished it but even now I haven’t the foggiest how to even start that review.

        I just know I need to get the series finished soon so I can re-watch those two Eva films prior to watching Eva 3.33 in a week or two…

        Oh, and Ash vs The Evil Dead is great. Perfect bite-sized 30-minute capsules of gore and fun. In a way it reminds me of Kill La Kill, funnily enough (the uber-violence, the 30-minute running time, mad humor etc).

        Liked by 1 person

        • High praise! Though I see it’s an All The Anime release and has their typical arm-and-a-leg pricing.

          I’d forgotten Evil Dead was only 30 minutes. I ought to start just squeezing it in.

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  2. I don’t normally do costume dramas, but can recommend WAR AND PEACE. It’s a long time since I read the novel (back when I had the patience to get through it) but I remember enough to get the impression of a decent adaptation, and it looks every bit as smashing as you would expect.

    Of those you mentioned, I caught the first episode of THE X FILES, which I liked a lot and seems every bit as meandering and teasing as the old series (of which I have on a set on some shelf and got a bit bored halfway through the third series). Nice to see it back. Gillian Anderson’s still wonderful.

    ARROW – loved the first series, really really got hooked on it, but the second started its descent into outright silliness and I gave up during the third.

    A shout out for JESSICA JONES, continuing the comic adaptation thread. It starts off slowly but builds into just about the best thing Marvel has done and the adult tone really helps. I got fed up with the movies a while ago, but this feels like a nice direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope X-FILES improves, only seen the first episode so far but the daft plot and cringe-inducing dialogue really turned me off. Haven’t seen the show since its original run, but surely it was better than this?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wonder if “quality TV” has moved on so much in the past 15 years that The X Files as-was would look less slick nowadays? Still, the Rotten Tomatoes scores suggest an improvement this season: episode one got 61%, but the next three get 84%, 100%, and 94%.

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      • Has ha nope it was just as bad really, and the show’s only really going to be any cop for fans of the original, accepting fans who can enjoy it whilst appreciating that television drama has moved on (a lot!) in the years since it was a staple in the schedules.

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    • I think the arrival of The Flash has negatively affected Arrow — it’s given them a licence to move away from ‘realism’ and throw in all the fantasy stuff, and I think that’s got it muddled.

      I preferred Daredevil to Jessica Jones, it ‘clicked’ with me more, but then I’ve been a fan of the character for years. Jones was a very good series though, much more mature in the themes and issues it engaged with, and Krysten Ritter and David Tennant were magnificent. I think it being part of the MCU probably hampered it for me a little bit, because I maybe came to it as “a superhero show”, whereas it’s really a drama with fantastical elements. I’m glad it’s been recommissioned.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In Arrow, it’s things like the girlfriend, Laurel, transforming herself into a hero, which I know happens in the comics but just seems like a development too far for me, inching it ever further away from the rather gritty world it had built during the first series. Always a fan of Manu Bennett though (not for the most serious minded of reasons of course) and every time he was on the screen was a treat. I have to be honest and admit it’s one of those shows that as a household we had as lot of fun taking the piss out of, through to retitling it ‘Arrows’ in honour of Bullseye. You need to be there. Mrs Mike watches the Flash, I never have, I confess.

        We’re all fans of the new Daredevil also, a much much better take than the irredeemable Ben Affleck movie. Looking forward to the new series that’s coming up. I’d never heard of Jessica Jones and came into it blind, but really like it and after reservations about Tennant (he comes across like the Doctor on a bad day) I’m sold on his playing also.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Laurel had, like, two boxing lessons and was suddenly supposed to be a respectable-enough vigilante! Her entire character seems to be based around “it happened in the comics so has to happen on screen”, aside from them ditching her romantic relationship with Oliver, presumably due to the lack of chemistry/plausibility there. I still keep expecting the writers to force a way back into it, though.

          I think “the Doctor gone evil” is a pretty fair assessment of Tennant’s performance, but I also think that worked for the character. There were certainly more layers to him as it went on, anyway.

          As for the Affleck Daredevil, I shall reserve my thoughts on that for another day…

          Liked by 1 person

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