Thursday, January 27, 2022

Make your TV world a little bigger - Ozark, Walking Dead and those hopeless Australian cops

Maybe I've reached an age where I find my willingness to try new things tested. Yes, I say I want to find new films to watch, new books to read, films and TV series to bury myself in, ones that bust a genre and redefine culture. But let's face it, most stuff is made precisely because it has a guaranteed audience of people who liked one thing, and who will also like another. People like me.

I quite enjoyed the BBC's Australian outback romp, The Tourist, but as one reviewer said - "stick another cliche on the barbie, Bruce". It had elements of Mystery Road and of Wolf Creek, and the only two types of cops allowed in Aussie TV dramas, corrupt ones and the hopelessly incompetent variety. But it also had Jamie Dornan, who seems to have a strong appeal to a certain section of the population. By the way, I'm genuinely excited to hear that a third Wolf Creek film is in production, just in time to prepare my wife Rachel for our long-awaited holiday in WA.

Another slick Harlan Coben adaptation featuring seemingly unemployed wealthy people living in implausibly large houses in the North West of England, Stay Close was probably one too many. I can get over the location continuity - IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE REAL - but not the ludicrous introduction of Killing Eve inspired characters Barbie and Ken and the utterly implausible scenario of someone living in the next town and no one noticing she was missing, nor that twenty blokes were AWOL. Maybe the cops were trained in Australia.

So I do have a tendency to revert to what I know and like. British gangster films. And Zombies.

I'm going to have to say this now, but for slightly different reasons. I'm kicking the habit. Enough is enough.

I reached gangster/hooligan nadir with ID2: Shadwell Army. A truly awful film. Unless it has Craig Fairbrass in it, I'm out, maybe Rise of the Footsoldier Five will be just one last job.

With Season Six of Fear the Walking Dead, I've seen my last zombie fight. Erik Kain in Forbes - a peerless TV and games reviewer - said it was: "tepid, nonsensical and deeply silly". He's right, but I think it's actually even worse than that. I actually watched the last few episodes on shuttle, it takes about ten minutes, the dialogue is predictable drivel, the stand-offs tedious. But it is also now offensive because it is so reckless and negligent with the development of characters and the use of acting talent, notably Alicia Clark, played by Alycia Debnam Carey. I want it to end and refuse to have anything more to do with this franchise or any of its spin-offs.

So that's me also done with season 11 of The Walking Dead too, which involves a Disney subscription, and a bucket load of disbelief that this is still a thing. 

Redemption for the familiar has come in the form of Season 4, part one, of Ozark. As I wrote about season 3, which concluded in April 2020, I lauded the women of the Ozarks. How this is a show in which they provide all of the forward motion. Even Helen, spoiler alert, is the one corpse from the previous season that's unaccounted for and causing problems for everyone else in season 4.

But for all the nonchalant chat about the drugs trade and the outrageous behaviour of Wendy Byrde, Ozark is tense and challenging. The last two episodes were directed by Robin Wright, but unlike House of Cards (in which she starred as Claire), or Succession, which also has no characters with any redeeming features and none you can root for, you are gripped by Ozark because you care. We may not inhabit the world of media moguls or powerful politicians, so we probably can't place how we'd react. But while we also don't launder money for the Mexican drug cartels, or farm heroin, there are parenting choices and business decisions that indecisive middle-aged men everywhere can relate on a certain level to Marty. 

But, all day long, Team Ruth are we, right? 

It's only been up a few days and we've rinsed it already, I hope none of that has spoilt it. But it's set up for a storming return in a few months time.

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