Posts Tagged ‘ affair ’

15-16 Season

Wow, I haven’t watched nearly as much television as I thought I had. There’s 22 series this year, whereas last year I watched 27 American series, without even counting the British ones. I really thought that living by myself would increase the amount of TV I watched, but I guess I’ve been focusing rather more on films and reading this year. But, I don’t think that’s the only reason, either the series themselves are just not grabbing me or possibly (shudder) I’m just going off TV a bit.

Things I’ve watched

American Gothic: S1 (review pending)
The Americans: S4
Braindead: S1 (review pending)
The Bridge: S3
Code Black: S1*
Criminal Minds: S11*
Downton Abbey: S6*
Doctor Who: Swhatever*
Fargo: S2 (no review? Oops. It was great)
Grey’s Anatomy: S12
Happy Valley: S2
Jessica Jones: S1
Lucifer: S1
Marvel’s Agent Carter: S2
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: S3
The Muppets: S1
The Musketeers: S3
NCIS: LA: S6 (in progress)
Penny Dreadful: S3
Preacher: S1
River: S1
Stranger Things: S1 (review pending)
Trapped: S1
Unforgotten: S1
Walking Dead: S6

* Failed to review the season. I’ve been really slack this year! I promise to make an effort to do better!

goodwifeI know people describe this as a golden time for television, and there are still some real gems out there, but there’s a huge amount that I just find unexciting. I repeatedly found myself realising that I was only watching something because I thought I should, a kind of inertia. So I waved goodbye to the increasingly rubbish Scandal, couldn’t face the endless misery of The Affair and opted out of the abundance of awful people on Transparent. A tougher cut was one of my previously favourite shows, The Good Wife. I may go back to finish off the final season at some point, but I just found myself too frustrated by the big storylines endlessly pulling characters in frustrating directions.

ncislaShows like Criminal Minds, and NCIS LA remain on my Sky box only for their use as background noise while ironing or playing Candy Crush. But there’s only so much time for that (I really don’t iron that much) and most of the networks’ offerings this year would only have bulked out that list rather than add any particularly quality. I just about made it through the year with Code Black despite it being almost entirely ridiculous, and The Muppets only really lasted the year because at 20 minutes per episode, it was useful filler. I didn’t make it beyond the pilot for any other Network shows this year.

Agent_Carter_Series_LogoThere were a couple of returning shows that I actually looked forward to, The Americans goes from strength to strength as the characters and stories continue to evolve. Fargo had another great season, maintaining the offbeat tone but brought to life by an ensemble of familiar actors really showing their talents. The two Marvel series (SHIELD and Carter) remained entertaining, and while The Walking Dead writers made some big, annoying miss-steps its still probably the show I await most eagerly each week.

Jessica_Jones_NetflixSo, thank heavens for Netflix and Amazon. The ease of watching, combined with some actual originality has made Amazon and Netflix my TV source of choice recently. Things as diverse as the dark Jessica Jones and the cheesy American Gothic; the throwback Stranger Things, and then the downright un-classifiable Preacher and Braindead. These are the shows that I actually remember more than 5 minutes after I finished watching them, ones that I have something to say when I come to write their reviews, and the ones that I talk about with friends. Even shows that I didn’t get on with (Mr Robot for example), I still respect them and talk about them.

happy_valleyNon-American TV faired a little better at the start of the year with Happy Valley and Unforgotten both absolutely superb dramas with incredible performances by Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker. Trapped and The Bridge were both excellent entries in the Scandi-noir genres. Downton Abbey closed as it lived in cheesy ridiculous fashion, but for all that it really wasn’t very good, I will miss it as a pretty much perfect piece of Sunday evening rubbish telly. Things went a bit downhill after Christmas, with many dramas sounding too depressing for me to even start watching, and several leaving me apathetic and giving up on before too many episodes in (War and Peace, Victoria). The theoretically more light hearted, entertaining shows have also rather suffered, another season of Doctor Who that failed to grab me, a final season of The Musketeers even the writers couldn’t be bothered with and an array of uninspiring shows that never got off the ground.

I don’t really have a massive amount of enthusiasm for the coming year. There are only a couple of returning shows that I can summon any real enthusiasm about, and a couple of the new shows look like they might have potential; but at the same time I’m feeling rather cynical that things will turn out to be rubbish and I’ll be disappointed. I miss science fiction, I miss shows with a sense of wonder about them, imagination and the ability to surprise me. Is everything feeling a bit formulaic because it’s getting worse, or is it just that I’ve watched so much that I’m only now detecting the patterns. Fingers crossed something will manage to re-inspire me soon.

Things I want to watch but haven’t yet: Orange is the New Black S4 (half way through), Orphan Black S4 (argh! British scheduling), and I still want to catch up on iZombie and Empire

I was tempted to not bother with the “Best of” lists, but decided to do it just of the sake of tradition.

americansBest Shows:
The Americans – still one of the best shows out there and just getting better and better
Jessica Jones – there are so many levels to this show and it’s excellent on every one of them
Happy Valley – I didn’t think a second season of this could work, I was beyond delighted that I was wrong.

The Walking DeadFavourite shows:
Braindead – a total surprise of a show, totally fresh and incredibly current, I alternated between laughing hysterically and dropping my jaw in astonishment.
Walking Dead – really the only show that I pounced on new episodes each week, so it makes the list despite the fact that it wasn’t actually very good this year.
Trapped – I ummed and erred about the 3rd slot in this list, but then I remembered just how obsessed I got with the show, counting down until the new episodes aired each week.

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2014/15 – New Series

Another year of television drifts to a close, at least my rather arbitrary definition of ‘year’ which starts in September for my collation of American television. Based on an EXTREMELY haphazard count via wikipedia of things that look like ‘proper’ shows (seriously, that’s as specific as it gets) I’d say there were about 60 new shows lasts year. I watched 24 pilots which isn’t too shabby a ratio, particularly given I actively avoid comedies for the most part.

Jane_the_Virgin_logo (1)It didn’t feel like an exemplary year for television in general, or for new shows in particular. I guess the only notable thing was the rapid growth of the online channels and even that’s more of a continuation of a trend than a huge new development. The impressive calibre of serious dramas on both cable and online either overwhelmed or just wasn’t challenged by much in the way of fun simplicity on the main broadcast networks. In fact the only channel that really stood out was The CW where Jane the Virgin gained critical praise and awards previously unseen by the tiny little ‘teen’ network. So well done The CW for doing something different and well, while the other broadcast networks just seemed to do the same old stuff, and not really doing that great a job with it either.

Things I Watched/am watching
Agent_Carter_Series_LogoI picked up 6 new series this year, most of which I’m quite enthusiastic about and intend to stick with. The only one that I was in two minds about was cancelled anyway.

  • The Affair – the he said/she said structure of this, and the self-obsessed characters could have got tedious, but the actors carried it off. The murder-mystery flashforward story was a bit manipulative and contrived though, so hopefully the writers will go a bit easier on that in the second season.
  • Aquarius – I’m halfway through this 1960’s set detective drama based loosely around Charlie Manson. It’s David Duchovny’s dry detective who really sells this show though.
  • Jane the Virgin – quirky, fresh, charming, moving, laugh out loud funny, and utterly embracing it’s own ridiculousness. I loved this series.
  • Marvel’s Agent Carter – An absolute gem of a show that went largely unnoticed. It had great writing, a fantastic central performance and some really interesting things to say about women in the years post WW2. Absolutely brilliant.
  • Stalker – Another generic entry into the procedural pool. I watched the whole season, mostly while ironing or cooking and was utterly unbothered by the fact it was not renewed for a second season. The best thing about it was probably the quirky covers of famous songs that made even sweet ballads sound creepy as anything
  • Transparent – I was endlessly irritated by most of the characters, but Jeffrey Tambor makes the whole thing not only bearable, but funny and touching. If only season 2 could bring some redeeming features to the two younger children, I’d be even happier.

Things I watched a bit of
forever

  • Forever – A guy who can’t die solves crimes using his centuries of knowledge and experience while hiding his immortality from almost everyone around him. I watched about half this series, mostly because Ioan Gruffudd And Judd Hirsch had a really lovely chemistry and backstory, but I just kind of faded away from watching it as the case of the week got less and less interesting. Given it was cancelled after the first season, I wasn’t the only one that lost interest it seems.
  • Madam Secretary – despite my rather apathetic review of the pilot I stuck with this for a dozen episodes or so, but it just never got better. Tea Leone was great, but the fact that every complicated international story got resolved in 44 minutes and we all slapped ourselves on the back just got too tedious. It did get renewed though.
  • Twelve Monkeys – I lasted a few episodes of this and found it quite entertaining, but after a while I got rather bored and increasingly concerned that it was just going to turn into a giant net of conspiracy theory that could just add more layers of complexity in the middle if/when the series was renewed. I just wasn’t that engaged so drifted away.

Things I might watch
wayward_pinesAll series that I just reviewed the other day and enjoyed, or found intriguing enough that I might catch-up with them.

  • Bloodlines – it has Kyle Chandler.
  • Empire – does a good job with familiar tropes
  • iZombie – entertaining and fresh, but it’s not got a UK broadcaster yet.
  • Wayward Pines – a bit slow and lacking in originality but probably sufficiently intriguing to get through the short run

Things I didn’t bother with
constantine

  • Constantine – it was… fine, but no more. It felt too close to other shows to make it really worth watching and as it wasn’t picked up for another season, I won’t bother catching up.
  • The Flash – I did watch the pilot for this, and while it wasn’t anywhere near as dire as the pilot of its sibling show Arrow, it just didn’t grab me.
  • How to Get Away with Murder – this just didn’t charm me as much as I wanted it to, it seemed to fastforward straight to the conclusion I eventually reached with Scandal in season 4 – utterly unlikable, irredeemable characters heading towards inevitable destruction.

Things I’d actively avoid
NCISNewOrleans

  • CSI: Cyber (imbedded pilot) – I don’t really remember much about the imbedded pilot beyond the questionable logic of the storyline so I won’t be bothering.
  • Daredevil – In a crowded genre, this was just unremarkable.
  • Gotham – the following words appeared in my review of the pilot: trite, obvious, hammy, unsettled
  • The Knick – same old hospital plots just with period costumes and a very unengaging lead actor.
  • Murder in the First – so by-the-numbers that I barely made it through the first episode.
  • NCIS: New Orleans – yeah yeah we get it New Orleans has great food, great music, great accents and… enough navy related crime to keep a series going? Really?
  • Sense8 – so very dull
  • State of Affairs – pretending to be smart while in fact being stunningly stupid.

The Affair: Season 1

affairNoah and Helen live in New York city with their four children, he’s a high school English teacher who’s just published his first novel. They travel to Long Island to spend the summer with Helen’s rich parents who look down on Noah and never let him forget how much they are providing for his family.

Alison and Cole live on the beach, she’s a waitress and he runs the family ranch and they’re struggling; struggling with money, with grief, with family and with any form of connection.

Alison serves Noah and his family in a diner and there’s an instant connection that quickly turns into the eponymous Affair. A ‘simple’ summer fling quickly grows into something that both makes and destroys all it touches.

The ‘twist’ The Affair uses is that each episode is told half from Alison’s point of view and half from Noah’s. Sometimes it just fills in the gaps of what happens in the other’s life, but sometimes you actually see the same scene told with very different perspectives and recollections. Events and characters are minutely different – who initiated what, were words said in anger or jest, were events coincidence or construction.

It’s in the simplicity of the set up and the power of the storytelling trick that the real strength of this series lies. It allows the writers and actors to look at the complexity of human emotions and the way that people connect and feel. There are all sorts of subjects that come up and are elegantly explored without pretending there are right answers to any of it. There’s no implication that the truth is either Noah’s version or Alison’s version, but also no judgement that they remember things differently. The performances from the central four actors are wonderful, particularly the subtleties of the different points of view.

What lets the show down rather is the mystery plot sort of shoved over the top. We see both Alison and Noah being interviewed by a detective at some undetermined point in the future about a crime that’s painfully gradually revealed over the ten episode first season. It felt as if someone chickened out of just telling a story about people and thought the audience would need some kind of csi subplot just to keep their attention. Instead of sucking me in though, it did entirely the opposite, making me roll my eyes in irritation every time we jumped to an interview room and cryptic clues were drip fed out. It was just frustrating.

The other big frustration was the end of the season. I’m a bit late writing this review because I was actually waiting for the next episode to turn up and was half anticipating that it would be a one-season mini-series rather than an ongoing series. It felt rather like a cliffhanger was manufactured and I’m not sure that the next season isn’t going to be just dragging the story out longer than necessary. Those sorts of manipulative tricks just didn’t feel in keeping with the elegance of the rest of the writing.

Still, despite those misgivings, I still think it’s well worth watching. It’s such a simple setup, but it’s extremely well told and evolves into a fascinating story with some really impressive performances. Whether season 2 will sustain that, I’m not so sure, but lets see.

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