Ed’s TV mumblings for 2015

Apologies for how late this has been, but I’ve been flat out with stuff since the start of October and it’s only now that I’m resurfacing. Hurgh. Anyway, I did a review of my TV watchings of 2014 in, erm, July, so here’s 2015’s in March.

silicon_valley_titleLet’s start with something I missed from 2014, Silicon Valley (HBO, Sky Atlantic). Just the funniest, geekiest programme you’ll ever see. Set in the titular Silicon Valley, it features a gang of start-up millenials, who accidentally stumble upon an app everyone wants. As someone who loves following all that geek culture and is fascinated by the way the Googles and Amazons have changed the world, it’s pretty much perfect and shows HBO can still produce brilliant shows.

One of the best binges I had last year was Six Feet Under (HBO, DVD), which was the most astonishingly good thing I’ve ever watched, I think. Set in an LA funeral home, it tells the story of the Fisher family, initially dealing with the loss of the patriarch, but expanding into rich territories. The writing and acting was pretty much perfect, setting a standard few shows have ever met. In fact, few artworks have ever met. Classic HBO.

Unlike True Detective season 2 (HBO, Sky Atlantic) which was just horrible on so many levels. A lot of words have been written about how bad it was, but I’d say it’s largely because HBO dispensed with their tried and trusted method of an Exec Producer Showrunner, i.e. lead writer, supported by a writer’s room and put too much on the shoulders of Nic Pizzolatto. Nothing worked. The world-class acting from season one was replaced by fumbling performances by Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn. The misogyny might’ve been lessened but at the expense of suspense, mystery and anything you would care for. Just terrible and an example of how not to do story and plot and character. If there’s to be a third season, I hope they let it stew for a while.

Showing how it’s done were two shows I watched on Netflix. Fargo (FX) and Better Call Saul (AMC). I was never a fan of the Fargo film, but the TV show was incredible. It had everything — comedy, action, tragedy, suspense, mystery, and excellent performances from Martin Freeman and, especially, Billy-Bob Thornton. Such incredible writing — the scene where the two henchmen argue in sign language was just, wow. And I was a huge fan of Breaking Bad. So much so that I was concerned about BCS. The first couple of episodes might’ve been a bit too cute with the BB references, but the series evolved into one of the richest and most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read/watched. Just sublime. [Note, I’ve watched the second season of Fargo and it’s just as good, and the second season of BCS might be even better — time will tell]

Another Netflix gem, this time a self-produced one, was Daredevil (Netflix). You’ll know that I’m an uber-geek and fell out of love with Arrow as it got blander. No such worries with DD, capturing the darkness and brutality of the comics after Frank Miller’s work, arguably perfected during Brian Michael Bendis’ run on it. The show does away with a lot of the camp of superheroism but still retains warmth and humour. It’s arguably a better crime story than superhero, but it’s still brilliantly watchable. [Note, a lot less convinced by Jessica Jones]

Other comics-related stuff is my devouring of The Walking Dead (AMC, Amazon Prime/Fox). Don’t be put off by the zombie setting, this is about people and how bad they are. There’s gore, yes, but it doesn’t really follow horror tropes, instead focusing on selfishness and alienation. There are plotting problems, mainly to do with the pace and frequency African-American characters are killed off, but it’s ludicrously compulsive watching.

Not so good was Fear The Walking Dead (AMC, AMC), which shifted the action from rural Georgia to LA and promised to show the apocalypse happening, something the parent show skipped over with Rick’s coma. Well, it did and it didn’t. Suffice to say, there must’ve been studio interference because they did the old time-jump trick just as things got interesting. Other than that, the show was okay. I didn’t really attach to any of the characters, which is the real strength of the other series.

I had a good bit of sci-fi catching up to do and watched Firefly and Stargate Universe, both of which were entertaining, if heavily flawed. Another great comedy show we watched all of was 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s seemingly autobiographical series set behind the camera on a weekly sketch show. Funny and insightful, what more can you ask for?

Terrestrial watching highlights were few and far between. British TV has got so bad that The Bridge III was the only decent thing worth watching and that was Scandinavian. Thanks for that, Tories. Everything else we tried was either scene-chewing Shakespearean tedium (focusing on the language rather than the stories) or just shit. Sorry. A decent gem was The Fall, an authentic Northern Irish serial killer drama starring Gillian Anderson, which stuttered a fair amount in the second season but was still pretty compulsive viewing.

And I’ll end on one of my highlights, The Good Wife. It must rank as a guilty pleasure, but it’s so very good. Really strongly written and tightly plotted, reflecting current events and breakthroughs. Makes you care about a firm of scumbag lawyers. Really. Unlike Damages (FX), which did the opposite — every character in it is horrible. One of the things that irk me about it is the creation of false suspense by a tedious flash-forward device — gruesome scenes are peppered in amongst some fairly low-key law-y stuff. Shows a real problem with the writing, in my opinion. Glenn Close is decent as an immoral lawyer but everyone else, meh. But watch The Good Wife. I’ve got seven eps of the final season ticking around.

And there you go.

— Ed

Author: edjamesauthor

East Lothian-based writer of crime fiction novels. Published by Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer imprint and self-published on Kindle.

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