Saturday, June 15, 2019

A recap on some great telly I've watched

Riviera, a real guilty pleasure
As we're getting stuck into the long awaited second series of Killing Eve, we're also going to have to face the inevitable sense of loss that will follow it when it ends. Just as we have following a ton of different series and boxed sets over the last year. Here's a bit of a flavour of my tastes.

Fleabag was as good as any comedy I've seen in the last 10 years. Very sharp, very well acted. The scene with Kirsten Scott Thomas was mesmerising and if anything the second series took it all to a new level.

By contrast, much as I was swept along by the last series of Line of Duty it was more miss than hit. Great one liners, good pace, but at times it seems to have disappeared up its own firmament.

Bodyguard was better and proved you can still create those moments of collective gasping both in the social media second screen, but back around the table at work on Monday.

The Walking Dead managed to redeem itself in Season 9, the time jump was a bad idea which betrays quite how over ambitious the whole enterprise is becoming. It's good that it seemed to have broken something of the cycle of plot lines and places. Conversely, the bridging of TWD with the alternate Fear The Walking Dead season 4 didn't work with Morgan walking across four states, and somehow managed to make a series with sublime promise lapse back into the ridiculous. Season 5 looks somehow better.

A strange zombie apocalypse diversion on Netflix was Black Summer, which was particularly brutal and fatalistic about the ability of society to cope with a shock like this. It ended on a bleak and very final kind of note, which strangely felt like a relief.

The algorithim on Netflix has picked up on my fascination for end of days apocalyptic drama. I was disappointed we can't seem to get hold of season 3, the final one, of alien invasion nightmare Colony. The first two were good enough and well put together.

Danish bio-disaster The Rain was better with subtitles than with dubbing into English. It was also in danger of running out of ideas as much as spending a meagre budget on limited locations and bad CGI. Still, decent enough and a similar evil biotech corporation loomed large in Sky Atlantic's Hanna, which had its moments.

I felt violated by the extreme violence of The Punisher and irritated by ITV's Paranoid, though surprised to see they shot some of it at my workplace.  I'm one episode in to the new season of Black Mirror, having been drawn in and spellbound by the intensity of the two mates getting carried away by a VR game in Striking Vipers. Warped.

A really guilty pleasure was a double series binge of Sky Atlantic's Riviera. The younger me was transfixed by Lena Olin when I saw first saw her as Sabina in the 1988 adaptation of my student era favourite novel Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. She stole the show then in her bowler hat, and again five years later as the ultimate femme fatale mob boss in Romeo is Bleeding. As the matriarch Irina Clios she also dominates every scene with a look, or a glance, in a lavish and preposterous romp that takes us back to the glory days of Dallas and Dynasty. And I spotted Doug Barrowman in the first episode.

I've written here in October 2018 about my penchant for sharply written Australian noir and a couple of series have capitalised on the wave with well-delivered follow-ups. The third season of Wanted was another step up in drama and plot twist and I do hope they are heading towards my old home of Perth for season 4. Canberra set Secret City took the geo-political stakes even higher in the follow up as my favourite new hero, Harriet Dunkley, made a seamless transition from journalist to jailbird to political SpAd.

A constant of that whole genre has been the corruption and laziness of the entire Australian police force. When I go back, please remind me not to be a victim of crime. I've seen the two Wolf Creek films with the villainous and sadistic Mick Taylor stalking unsuspecting backpackers and torturing them, I don't know if I'm quite ready for two entire series of more of this.

Similarly, Welsh noir took a dark turn with Hidden, which was gracefully acted and touched on the same unseen Wales, as I said here, that parts of Hinterland did so successfully.

Finally, as if we needed reminding of the incredible raw acting talent of Stephen Graham and the awesome combination of him being directed by Shane Meadows then Channel 4's The Virtues hit you like a steam train. Graham's depiction of lead character Joe wasn't even the stand-out, though him falling off the wagon was horrifically powerful. But Meadows seems to draw out a whole range of quite incredible close up, raw, believable and underacted performances. Helen Behan as Anna and Niamh Algar as Dinah brought such sensitivity and feeling to a disturbing and haunting storyline. I watched this a few days after finally seeing Meadows' bleak and captivating 2004 film Dead Man's Shoes. Sometimes telly can be like a snack to the full on glory of a sit down spread that a feature film offers, and sometimes it is a real treat.

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