Category: Television

Those Who Kill – Pilot

Glen and Darin Morgan are to this day best known for the episodes that they wrote for the paranormal procedural  The X-Files; they took the show’s formula – which was essentially Monster of the Week and had started to strain by the time they joined the team- and stretched it into strange and unusual shapes the likes of which would still stand out today. So the news that Glen would be heading up his own series was somewhat exciting, that he had netted Chloe Sevigny as the star only exaggerated that; known as she is for her idiosyncratic career choices. That the show was to air on A&E should have been a warning sign, but I went in with my expectations raised, expecting something wacky and one of a kind.

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The Bridge – Pilot

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Though all of the many TV databases will classify The Bridge alongside the likes of CSI and NCIS as a ‘Crime’ show that is something of an oversimplification. Though the promotional campaign was built on the brilliant concept of a body found in the centre of a bridge connecting the US an Mexico it seems clear, based on this pilot alone, that FX’s latest drama – and perhaps its most mature, i kept forgetting that I wasn’t watching Showtime, AMC or some other premium cable network – is not so much a program about a crime as it is one about crime, in general.

Of course, that body is found and yes after forensic analysis it provides some clues to the cops investigating and sure the show provides some suspects to us in the audience via cutaways to chilling criminal types ( there are two Buffalo Bill’s present here, one in character and one out) but these crime tropes are never what drive the action, they’re more a B-plot occurring in the background. The conflict at the true core of The Bridge isn’t a whodunit, because the battle most important to it is still raging, that being the bout between the artificially twain halves of North and South America; neither is dead yet, but boy has some blood been spilled.

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Family Tree

The BBC / HBO co-production Family Tree snuck under my radar – premiering the day that I first heard of its existence – and continued to fly low for a number of weeks although I was watching every episode close to live. It was a little show – a small production with a small cast telling the small story of a man who decides to look into his lineage outside the small bubble of relatives that he was raised with – which for weeks had little impact on me – small chuckles, slight winces, stereotypical UK comedy reactions – but this week’s season – and likely series – finale left me with the largest smile on my face and a certainty that it would slot into my Top Ten somewhere come years end.

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Mad Men – In Care of…

The Soprano‘s started many trends still adhered to by TV show’s today, one of which I abhor: the warm-down finale. I understand the theory behind putting big events in episode twelve and then allowing the ripples to play out as our fade out, but in practice I want a show to go out on a crescendo, to have the strongest beats vibrate into the ten-month silence to come and that is exactly what In Care of… did (following a rough pattern of on/off finales). So how was the finale? Pretty Great, Bob!

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Ray Donovan – Pilot

You can tell from this show’s title that it draws direct inspiration from the fantastic film Michael Clayton, but beneath the surface the two almost couldn’t be any more different. Set in a city of surface, Hollywood, Donovan is a heartless iteration of that tale, telling us of a fixer who works for the famous instead of the frighteningly powerful. It’s a potent seeming premise, especially when combined with the kind of ominous dynastic drama that was so successful for The Soprano’s. Those are two terrific things that I compare this show to, but Donovan is deep below their level. They are both interestingly faceted character drama’s, this is all bare breasts and empty bravado.

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Mad Men – The Quality of Mercy

Last week Favours took most of us by surprise when, after an amicable first-two acts it showed Sally finally seeing Don for the Dick he really is in the third. This week I was going to be prepared for the drama and it looked like I was going to need to be. This episode, The Quality of Mercy, was scripted by screenwriting married couple Andre and Maria Jacquemetton (and if this show has taught me anything it is that marriage makes you unhappy) in their now trademark penultimate place, right where their last script Commissions and Fees sat. Directed by Phil Abraham, a man oft trusted with the show’s more important moments, Mercy seemed like it would have none, that it was to be the bloodbath, third act climax of a season brimming with banal dread. Instead it was the most fun that a Mad Man can have while – relatively, Vitamin B free – sober.

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Mad Men – Favors

Mad Men Favors

“Eighteen, nineteen-year olds…they have no sense of their own mortality.”
“Or anyone else’s! That’s why they make good soldiers.”

Favors, while fitting, isn’t exactly the most inspiring of titles. It’s far smaller than most of the names that Mad Men offers up for its episodes; I might have been tempted to go for something far larger, to follow in the footsteps of last week’s Tale of Two Cities and call it War and Peace. Vietnam has been bubbling beneath the entire season so far, but because the characters are all out of draft range – so old and rich and white – it’s never really been a textual issue until now. This week the war starts to hit home for Don, quite literally striking a blow one floor beneath his bed with the possible drafting of the Rosen’s boy.

Given the season’s equally strong sense of duality this story was of course off-set by Sally, Don’s own daughter, attending a mock UN peace summit in the city. The idea of Sally and her schoolmate shaping the world is a silly one, political dress-up, but there is little more serious and more real than the fate awaiting Mitchell. We’re willing to entrust youth with the responsibility of fighting wars but not the power to shape or end them. Vietnam was a children’s crusade fought with, not for, the future generations; it’s the culmination of the culture shock that the show has been depicting since Season One.

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Mad Men – A Tale of Two Cities

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Upon reading the title of this episode I thought to myself, ‘Hmmm, whatever could this episode be about?’; needlessly sarcastic even in my internal narration. See, A Tale of Two Cities could well be the title of the whole season so far, stressing as it has the mirror-perfect dualities and dynamic inversions inherent in the Mad Men universe on both a character and city-wide level. So I went in thinking that I knew exactly what to expect from the hour, that it was to be a retread of things we’ve seen before, expressing ideas and evoking emotions that the show has since become overfamiliar with. I was right, but I was also very wrong.

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Arrested Development – Season Four (Part Two)

Since my last post ( which can be read HERE) on the series I have finished off the fourth season and returned to re-watch a select few episodes and have to say that I am now wholeheartedly behind its return. The result of the show’s editing experiment is at times imperfect but in many ways this season is more Arrested Development than even the early episodes were: its unadulterated, everything about it taken to the furthest extremes and so it takes some getting used to, but once you have the result is one of the most rewarding pieces of writing out there. And yes, as it went on the show even managed to be actually funny again.

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Arrested Development – Season Four (Part One)

( While part of me wanted to marathon this season life and my better judgement are making me attempt to savour it, so I’ve only seen a third of the season as of my writing this. I’ll offer more thoughts when I’ve seen more)

The first thing that you hear during the in order only of first episode of this season is Ron Howard clearing his throat; suggesting both that the man is out of practice and that he is gearing up for something big. It’s a way of poking that question that has haunted fans ever since the fan-favourite show was given this second (though arguably more like sixth or seventh) chance: can the show come back the same as it was? Can they recreate the magic that was Arrested Development? The scenes that follow that flaring of the vocal chords take the poke a step further, rendering it now a stab; the show embraces the weird feelings associated with seeing these characters again by recasting them with famous comedic actors and setting the scenes in a strange new time and place.  It’s a clever move, meta as always, but not a comforting one; it sets the tone for what will surely be the most alienating season of Arrested Development – arguably TV’s most alienating comedy – yet.

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