The Readlist: May 2017

Look, I hold my hands up – I read just one book this month. I’m not entirely sure why, I don’t think I was particularly busy but my heart clearly wasn’t in it…

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith

The difficult second album, eh? This is the sequel to The Talented Mr Ripley which I read back at the tail end of last year having treat myself to a bound, hardback collection (with a ribbon obvs) of the the first three Ripley novels.

It’s broadly accepted that numbers four and five in the Ripley series were essentially money spinners for Highsmith. They’re not the greatest in any sense but if they’re meant to be a bit “meh” then I fear getting round to reading them if they’re anything like this one, book two.

It sees the return of everyone’s favourite psychopath, Tom Ripley, who’s embroiled in an art fraud. Based on Tom’s idea, a collection of friends have been forging a dead painters work claiming that no, he didn’t commit suicide, but is in fact living a quiet life in Mexico. Tom is now living in France with his mostly-absent wife and is once again trying to spin many plates at the same time and keep on top of all his lies as the truth about the art fraud threatens to come out.

I can’t put my finger on exactly why but I didn’t enjoy this novel. I really wish I had but I’ve got to be honest: it did very little for me. I think it’s partly down to the lack of care I had for the characters involved. They weren’t presented in a way that I had any bond with them or care for their individual story lines. It all just felt a bit… scatty. There’s a young Greenleaf relative who pops up for little discernible reason other than to ‘spook’ Tom into thinking the truth may be given away, there’s a random count who pops up (Tom works as some kind of lackey for an crime syndicate, moving items between places for them, some of which are hidden in the Count’s suitcases) that has little impact on the plot either and you don’t feel close enough to the others involved in the art fraud to give a monkeys about them.

I did feel a little let down here but hopefully the third in the series, Ripley’s Game, is an improvement. I won’t be rushing to read it though.

Long Reads & Articles

Dacre’s Inferno It’s fair to say that the vast majority of people have never heard of Paul Dacre and yet he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest forces in the UK media. As the editor of the Daily Mail for decades he’s shaped the editorial direction of the paper and also the country politically. Much feared, this Guardian article delves into his role and influence.

A Letter To Hillary There was a great NYT long-read a few months back about the Obama administration’s letters department. This Buzzfeed article in a similar vein takes a look at what happens to letters of a Presidential candidate.

 

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The Watchlist: May 2017

Television

suits-season5Suits S5

Oh, Suits. It’s been a while since I watched you. Every time I finally took the plunge and bought the latest series on DVD inevitably Netflix would release it for streaming just weeks later so this time round I opted to hang in there, and BAM, surprise surprise it appeared… although not very well publicised, it took me a month to realise it.

The problem I always face with Suits is that it’s so tightly plotted it’s impossible to remember what’s gone on one series to the next and it can be incredibly alienating to start a new series after time away and be scratching your head. But hey, that’s not the biggest issue with the show: it’s time to get some stuff off my chest.

  1. Why does nobody use mobile phones?! They’re hotshot lawyers ffs and it’s like they’re in a parallel universe where working on the move just doesn’t happen. They’d rather schlep half-way across the city to have a conversation face to face that lasts two minutes than pick up the goddam phone. I appreciate endless calls don’t make ‘gripping’ TV in the same way face-to-face confrontations do but purleasseeee.
  2. Also on that note, how come everybody has access to harvey’s apartment? He wanders into his living area and BAM there’s somebody sitting on his sofa. And. It. Happens. All. The. Time. He needs to change the locks, pronto.
  3. The shot-to-shot continuity is still dreadful. If you’re going to be working with documents scattered all over the place it’s difficult but ffs it just looks messy. This is something they’ve never managed to conquer since season one.

Aside from all that, did I enjoy it? I suppose. There’s still great moments of humour but, as I’m sure it does with a lot of viewers, some of the lawyering stuff goes right over my head. It’s worth noting that character development seems to have paused for many of the series regulars – there’s little of their personal lives seen on screen, probably wise given the nature of the series plot overall. Harvey is a different matter, however. He’s started therapy and we see him come to realise things (albeit slowly) and get some flashbacks too.

Honorary mention for Jessica still being sassier than a sassy thing. We could all do with being a little more Jessica.

In The Flesh S2

Given this series is only six episodes long it took me a mightily long time to get through it – nearly six weeks. It was always within reach for me to watch another episode (the disc never left the blu-ray player) but it was never on the top of my list. I’m glad I finally got round to it though as series one was (for all its plot holes) one of the better things I watched last year. Was this purely because my future husband Luke Newberry is in the starring role? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The plot appears to have developed nicely, and given they were given more time (series one only had three episodes) it didn’t feel as rushed. The plates that were spinning never felt overwhelming or too few, it all trundled along nicely. There’s many parallels that can be made about the politics on display in the series and those we’ve seen the world over during the past few years. That’s no accident but it’s interesting how its come to more of a head since the series aired back in early 2014.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S3

With UKS (cba to type it again) there always seems to be an element of people wearing rose-tinted glasses between series. “It’s amazing!” “Look at these gifs of the show we made!” “Can’t wait for the next series!!!1!” Then the next series comes along and people come to their senses: “it’s… not as good as I remember?” “um… it’s not as perfect as it was in my head?”

It’s not a perfect show, that’s a given. It suffers from the classic Netflix problem of having as much time as it needs for each episode. That inevitably effects how tightly the editing of the show and script has been given its not fitting to linear broadcast episode times. There’s some really plodding moments at times ~but~ I think S3 is a vast improvement on S2. Far more enjoyable, and it’s nice to see Lillian finally given some semblance of character and plot for a change. In the previous two series I always felt that she was purely a conduit for the overall plot and as a sounding board for other characters’ feelings. That’s obviously important in any show but she always felt like a spare part and any episodes that tried to revolve around her were weak.

The opening two episodes of this series were very poor imo. Miraculously it perks up substantially for the next five or six episodes before falling a little again, so that was relief.

P.S it’s notable how many familiar 30 Rock faces pop up this series.

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Taskmaster

Woah now, this series has come round quickly again! This is the shining jewel in the Dave original programming crown (and kudos to them, there’s a fair bit these days) and it really is a great light relief from the trials and tribulations of the real world. There’s been a lot of politics and horrific events and news over the past few weeks and Taskmaster has acted as shining light for me; a real escape from the real world with an hour of joyous, good-natured nonsense. I can’t wax lyrical about it enough.

The Handmaid’s Tale

elisabeth-moss-as-offredThis has been much-hyped on Twitter since its release on US streaming series Hulu and there was much chatter about which UK entity would pick up the rights. I swear I saw that Amazon were extremely close to getting it, but thankfully it fell to free-to-air Channel 4. With any much-hyped show there’s always a fear that the reality is going to be far different from the gushing on the internet but I was thrilled to discover the The Handmaid’s Tale lives up to, if not exceeds expectations. The first episode was *insert 100/fire/suitable emoji*, roll on the rest of the series.

(I’m in two minds as to whether I should read the original novel or not – it’s been on my to read list for years, should I take the plunge? Or will it ruin my enjoyment of the show given I have no idea where the story’s heading?)

The Trial

My least favourite part of any crime drama series is often the bit in court. I realise it’s the essence of real life dramatics and you have the twists and turns of the courtroom but it wasn’t until American Crime Story last year that I think I appreciated it more. This series is a really interesting premise: a mock trial with a real life jury. Genuine judges and barristers preside over the case in a real court-room but we see all the evidence as the jury do and follow their deliberations. It was certainly different but I wouldn’t say it was as shit-mazing as some were making out.

First Dates

It’s back! And I’m back – I refuse to watch the mess that it First Dates Hotel. There’s been a few interesting developments this series:

  • diners no longer return if there date was unsuccessful the first time, as with previous series.
  • Also of note is the sizeable increase in sob-stories – there’s a far greater number of dead family, disabilities and illnesses cropping up than previously
  • the outdoor seating area is being utilised more, and they’ve switched its side – no more free exposure for Birley sandwiches
  • there was one episode where they experimented with using none of their post-date animations, but exclusively new shots of London where lights appear out of focus in the shape of hearts or heart shaped balloons float away. This lasted one episode before normal service resumed.
  • and… there was an odd episode this series. It didn’t appear under the banner of ‘series 8’ on All4, but series 5 and featured some clearly older dates that had sat on a shelf for a while, interspersed with more recent dates and shots of the restaurant and staff. I wonder what went on?

First Dates Ireland (and Australia?) air on E4 – I’ve not taken the plunge with these, but I’m intrigued to see if/when First Dates US appears. Drew Barrymore narrates it and it’s been getting rave reviews..! Okay, mainly from Ellen DeGeneres.

Films

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Ex Machina

There’s bound to be a lot of chatter this year about The Circle. I read the novel last year and the cinematic version is due for release in a few months (don’t get me started on how Emma Watson is terrible casting) but if you’re unaware of it, it centres around a large tech company, its mysterious leader and its mysterious new projects and ever reaching powers and presence in people’s lives.

Ex Machina has been recommended to me a few times. The reason I bring up The Circle is because Ex Machina also revolves around a tech firm and its mysterious leader (Oscar Issac). Caleb ‘wins’ a competition to go to the a retreat and meet the man behind the company and things develop from there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Domhnall Gleeson in another film before but I found him very watchable. His characters not overly likeable, he’s not the ‘hero’ of the piece (there really isn’t one) but Caleb was nicely naïve and well presented.

It’s worth noting how few characters feature in this film. In fact, it could quite easily be a play. There’s broadly one setting, the action doesn’t move out of three of four rooms and the number of characters can be counted on one hand. And it’s not too lengthy –  a run time of just over a 100 minutes. A decent watch.

Memento

Brace yourself, it’s coming – the joke is on its way, are you ready? Hold on, here we go… there’s no going back now…

I couldn’t remember if I’d seen this film before!!!!

Okay, now that’s over with let’s skip to the chase. Did I enjoy this? Yes, towards the end. I realise I’ll be saying all of this twenty years after everyone else but the presentation of this story takes a while to get used to. Is it genius? Yes. Is the way your perception of events and characters constantly changing impressive? Yep. Solid.

The Readlist: April 2017

Ooh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know… what my thoughts were on books I read six weeks ago because I’ve got a memory like a sieve and didn’t get round to writing the post until I’d mostly forgotten I’d read the books in the first place? That.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

51liuh5zcll-_sx311_bo1204203200_David Sedaris is someone who has been on my radar for a few years, mentioned in passing on podcasts, in articles or popping up on my Twitter feed (not him himself though, he’s not on there). If you’re unaware of his work, he’s an American-born satirist and humorist who is known for his essays which mainly revolve around his life experiences which have been published right across the shop from the New Yorker to the Guardian. On the surface they may appear humdrum but are told in such a way that they become these eloquent examples of human life and all the characters in it. Sedaris is gay and lives with his partner of many years – they’re currently in the UK I believe, however, during this particular collection of his work (published 2009) they live in France and for a short while in Japan.

I read a few of his pieces online and then decided to seek out one of his essay collections – I picked one at random from a bookstore in Cambridge when I was there back in January but only got round to reading it this month. It just so happens that this particular collection seems to deal a lot with his youth and sexuality and could almost be said to be an autobiography in scope. Given most of his pieces are autobiographical in sense, I found it very interesting to read how he painted his life’s events, his phrasing, his ability to tell the story and lead it to a worthy conclusion. I don’t want to compare myself to the lofty heights of Sedaris but quite a lot of his musings within this volume seems similar at times to things I’d use as content on the radio: that thing that happened in the barbers, the person I came across in the street that intrigued me. He made copious note of these events over the years then fleshing them out a later date.

There’s a real satisfaction to each of his pieces. That might seem a weird word to use in reference to his work but the collection was just a really pleasant read and I’ll certainly be aiming to get a few more under my belt before the year is out.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

You know those people who walk around in band t-shirts or own band memorabilia but can’t name any of their songs, thus sending hard-core music fans mad? That was me with Brave New World. I was culturally aware of the novel prior to purchasing a poster of a cover for my new flat (the cover pictured, in fact) but thought it only right that I get round to reading it given it looks down on me everyday. The tattered paperback copy I found on my flatmate’s bookshelves was slim enough and seemed doable during the course of my city-break to Nice so I took the plunge.

I’d class myself as a fan of dystopian and alt-history fiction and yet I’ve barely read any in the grand scheme of things. Brave New World to me delivers itself well in that it doesn’t fall into the trap of over-explaining the scenario the novel revolves around. Of course, there’s an element of that at the beginning with a ‘guided tour’ (solid technique) but it doesn’t feel like you’re being overwhelmed with large amounts of information. It’s not too transparent in its delivery, things aren’t being hidden from you, the reader, as such but it all just comes into focus over the course of the novel.

It’s interesting that the novel’s basic premise revolves around an incredibly uniformed class and caste system, something that had been steadfast for centuries but was starting to crumble during the period the novel was written. It’s undoubtable that there is still a broad class system in society, but the lines between them are blurred and you no longer necessarily have ‘jobs for life’, a family trade or a myriad of fulfillable roles dictated by your caste.

You only see so much of the ‘brave new world’ through the course of the novel, and little outside of the country (the US?) that it’s set. I would have been fascinated to know if the rest of the world is similar or not, or if this brave new world is some kind of pariah.

Long Reads & Articles

Lorde All Mighty Oh, Lorde. She’s an incredible person and I’m eagerly awaiting her second (or sophomore as the Yanks say) album – this NYT profile of her is a stunning read.

Beano Keeno I was big into the Beano as a kid – in fact, if you ever bump into me, get me to tell you about my life’s biggest regret… it involves the Beano. ANYWAY, I can’t remember for the life of me how I stumbled across this blog post but it’s fascinating. How the Beano ubiquity and recognisability became rife as a method for satire and pastiche across the years.

Fastlove 2.0 An extended mix of George Michael’s Fastlove exists! Brb, gotta get up to down.

 

The Watchlist: April 2017

A joyous month, truly. I’ve moved and settled into a flat with a proper telly, a proper living room and proper sofas. Here’s the watch list.

Television

Line Of Duty S3 & S4

I treat my Line Of Duty as a bit of a non-binge. I made my way through Series 1 and 2 in March and it was now the turn of 3 and 4. I could have gone from episode to episode in an afternoon but the episodes are so detailed, so full of plot that I was determined that I was going to at least partially savour them and try to leave a day between episodes. I’m glad I did – this has been one of my favourite periods, knowing I’ve got another episode of LoD to come back to after work.

Series 3 was explosive, as seeds planted in series 1 and 2 came to a head with an astonishing finale. In fact, it’s worth pointing out that a huge swathe of the finale was based in the ‘interview room’ – over twenty minutes, one scene, one table, four actors. It’s testament to the show’s direction and writing that this doesn’t feel boring, far from it. This finale felt like an ending as well, whereas I thought S2 was a little of a damp squib in the final few minutes. There’s the usual series of twists and turnsand and as I said previously, the fact that what other shows would use as a cliffhanger to close an episode can happen in the middle of one with Line Of Duty, this is about as tightly plotted and action packed a drama you can get without feeling overwhelming. At no point are you confused, at no point does it over step the mark and feel ridiculous, at no point is it overwhelming.

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I caught up with Series 4 the week before the finale aired. This one was more nuanced, we didn’t see the full picture but were given inklings as to the truth. There was a lot that each character under investigation was hiding. Finale wise? Not as explosive as S3, but the final ten minutes were pacey. The whole thing leant back to Series 1 without making new viewers feel alienated, and they set themselves up for a S5… but we have to wait until 2019 for that. The investigation took control of this series and less was seen of Arnott, Flemming and Hasting’s personal lives. A shame I thought, but with so much going on with Huntley’s, it was understandable.

I also discovered the reason as to why I felt there was something odd about Martin Compston’s portrayal of Steve Arnott in S1. I mentioned in last month’s post that his delivery seemed a little stilted and off, but I couldn’t understand why – his acting felt fine. It turns out that he’s not a native English man! He’s ‘doing a Tennant’ and in fact has a natural strong Scottish brogue that he’s covering up.

Broadchurch

The final few episodes of Broadchurch aired in April. It’s undeniable that it was a marked improvement on Series 2, which undeniably had it’s problems, but this wasn’t without its flaws either. I was impressed that the finale didn’t play too much on the fact it was billed as the final series. There wasn’t a neat personal wrap up for Hardy and Millar, it didn’t appear wistful in anyway. I was, however, disappointed by how the plot wrapped up. With a series of this length that’s based around one case, I, as a viewer, feel a little cheated when the ‘winning evidence’ in the final episode is something new. Something the murderer did in panic, something only just discovered that changes everything… I want to be able to look back on the series and see the stars align and wonder why I didn’t get it sooner. I’m all for red-herrings, obviously, but I felt like the reveal featured a bit of a scapegoat and not one that was massively clever. No one could have predicted it or why it was, so I felt cheated.

My money was on Arthur Darvill as the vicar and when it turned out not to be it left me scratching my head. Not because there was a mountain of credibly evidence against him, but the opposite. I couldn’t understand why he was in this series. Sure, he’s the parish priest but he plays no part in any plot. Same goes for the newspaper editor. They’re local ‘characters’ we’ve met before but there inclusion in this series felt odd. They were given nothing to do, and the fact part of the finale was given over to wrapping up their story seemed bizarre – no one really gave a monkeys about them or what they were up to post ‘case’. Will I miss Broadchurch? Nah. Did I appreciate it for what it was? Yes.

Car Share

Am I just very difficult to please? I’m feeling like I’m being very negative this month, but I had real issues with the new four episode (and apparently final) series of Car Share. Having sat on the shelf for a while S1 proved to be a huge success and S2 was met with a lot of excitement as a result. Once again, all episodes were available to stream on iPlayer at once and I did them over a weekend. Episode one was a real shame I thought, feeling like a free kick that went nowhere near its intended goal. I understand the broad show premise had to move on a little, but I kept waiting for Episode 1 to get started, to become pacey with an actual storyline filled with jokes… and it just never appeared. It ended and left me feeling a little empty. Was that… it? Really? After all that time?

4221396001_5395733519001_5395726104001-vsEpisodes two and three were a marked improvement. Still not as ‘laugh a minute’ as they could have been but at least they felt like an episode worth watching. The final one felt a little flat to me. A shame. And interesting to see how often Peter Kay lifted his phone while stationery at traffic lights – that’d get you six points now with the 2017 post-filming crackdown!

First Dates

Having ditched First Dates Hotel in a fit of pique, I was pleased to see ‘proper’ First Dates had returned and back to its usual self. The newer waiter still has much charisma as a wet fish, though.

Department Q

Interestingly, this was filed under the ‘films’ section of iPlayer while I was browsing through. I assume that was the case purely because the three episodes that exist are standalone and of feature length. It’s another BBC Four Scandi-noir import, based on some novels revolving around the premise of a police officer recovering after a botched operation being shunted to ‘close’ cold cases. His idea of ‘closure’ is a little different from his superiors, however, as he goes about re-investigating from scratch. Episode 1 was quite enjoyable and I haven’t watched a piece of Scandi-noir for a while. What I really loved was the fact that once again, being multi-screen is impossible. You can’t quickly check Twitter while watching as you’ll miss half the action and subtitles.

Films

Get Out

I’m a terrible person I know, but when I’m considering going to see a film at the cinema, its length is very important to me (ooh, matron etc). Get Out is a snip at 1h44m, and it felt just the right length. There was a lot of chatter flying around about this film and I haven’t seen a psychological thriller for a while. The people with me in the cinema however, had clearly got the wrong memo. They thought it was more of a horror and subsequently audibly gasped at every little thing that made you jump. It wasn’t designed to scare but to freak you out. I think Get Out did a pretty good job of that, aside from the fact the main theme sounded remarkably like ABBA’s Does Your Mother Know with the ‘take it easy, take it easy’ line.

I was a little thick at times and had to get my flatmate to explain some plot points and scenes to me I didn’t understand and when he did I realised how clever the plot was. A good, solid little thriller.

45 Years

This has been on my to-watch list for a good while now and I’ve really had no excuse since Netflix added it months back. This is one of those wistful movies, the ones that are character driven and feature lingering shots of them staring into the distance contemplating things. In fact, like a true cliché, that’s how this ends. Nice to have Norwich having a spotlight shone on it though with something other than Partridge.

The Readlist: March 2017

Just one book this month and something that was being pushed by the publishers as timely and prosaic:

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

This novel has had a real push by its publishers ever since Trump became President back in January. “Oddly prescient!”, “super relevant!”, the promotional literature proclaims – I enjoy a bit of speculative and alternate history (and don’t read nearly enough of it, given) so I was happy to take the plunge with this.

Here’s the headline: it’s not nearly as ‘eerily prescient’ as they’d have you believe. Is it still a decent read? Yes. When I was investigating this book prior to buying it I stumbled across a ‘hot take’ saying that It Can’t Happen Here is actually the least relevant of all Sinclair Lewis’ novels. As much as the relevance isn’t overflowing, it’s undoubtedly there. It’s most obvious during the presidential campaigns in the first quarter, as you’d imagine, before the plot takes over from then-on. It’s fairly lengthy for what it is and falls into the hole of having some parts of incredible action and movement in the plot done and dusted in less than a page and entire chapters which are a near perfect repeat of the previous one. Persevere with it, I’d say. There’s swathes of the novel in the front half which are very repetitive and slow but once you’re in, you’re in.

At its heart, the novel deals with Doremus Jessop, a small-town newspaper proprietor, and his family and townfolk. Having the media element so prominent within the novel, a mixture of politically leaning characters and a few young adults makes ICHH a decent take on the circumstances from a variety of angles. What’s very clear though is that Jessop is no ‘hero’. We’re rooting for him as much as he’s the protagonist but he’s never presented in a way where he’s on a one-man crusade against a new terrifying regime. The reality of a new politics moving in is that many feel powerless to do anything regardless of their beliefs and their lives must continue as those above continue to grind the wheels in the background. You’ve still got your job to do, clothes to wash, food to earn and eat. The novel seems quite realistic in that sense.

Here’s some bits:

Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boeotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.

Doremus had never heard Windrip during one of his orgasms of oratory, but he had been told by political reporters that under the spell you thought Windrip was Plato, but that on the way home you could not remember anything he had said.

When Windrip does reach power (obviously) there’s prominent elements of Nazi Germany. The little armies of ‘Minute Men’ that roam the streets, the hierarchy, the camps etc. and this…

By ill-natured people the Corpos were called “the Corpses.” But they were not at all corpse-like. That description would more correctly, and increasingly, have applied to their enemies.

Long Reads and Articles

Richard Simmons There’s been a lot of chatter this month about the Missing Richard Simmons podcast. Initially I thought it was a podcast parody: Simmons didn’t exist, it was all a concoction to mimic every investigative podcast going. The audio clips, the bits where they’re outside someone’s home – it can’t be real surely? It was and is, and the NYT aren’t so sure its morally right.

St4lker How good are you at Internet stalking? I haven’t done as much of it recently but my skills are outstanding. I deep Google, I cross reference different social streams, I check the electoral register, I find family members and long forgotten friends to get to my subjects and always succeed (be warned – I’m a stalking creep when I turn to my mind to it). I’m purely linking to this article as it goes step by step through finding the FBI chief’s secret account being as thorough as I would be.

Whodunnit A TV event aired across the continents and one question: whodunnit? The story of a terrible TV drama set in space and the race to get to the crux of it; who’s the murderer?

The Watchlist: March 2017

I’ve been moving flat this month so I’ve watched far less than usual – here we go though…

Television

Line of Duty S1 and S2

This show completely passed me by to begin with. It wasn’t until people started raving about S3 last year that I sat and took notice, but it was only the imminent airing of S4 that made me finally get round to watching them. It’s a really strong premise: an anti-corruption force investigating bent coppers and their criminal connections (in the East Midlands no less – whoop!). Steve Arnott, the guy I want to call the protaganist or at least an ‘integral character’, is recruited after standing up for what’s right when an antiterrorism operation he’s running is botched. For the first series I struggled to understand if the acting and portrayal was a bit pants and there was some very wooden delivery that I couldn’t put down to a poor script. S2+, however, the performance seems to improve and be more settled and comfortable. The other performances are difficult to fault.

Line of Duty has more twists and turns than a maze. Anyone who’s watched it can testify that, it’s not a show where you can in anyway predict the direction of the plot. Things happen thick and fast and for a show where a bunch of the drama takes place during long repetitive police interviews there’s never a dull moment. Out of these two series, however, I was disappointed by the ending of S2. It seemed to peter out in my opinion, and the use of a flashback seemed a lazy way of conveying the truth with little character retribution after a series full of thrills and spills. The way the series end with non-action shots and overlaid captions as if it was based on real events, however, nicely wrap things up without being reliant on forcing extra drama. I eagerly dive into S3 and S4.

Grace & Frankie

If you ask me at any time outside of a new series of G&F hitting Netflix, I’ll happily tell you I love the show. During the process of watching it though? I’m not so sure. The extended family of children has always felt like a bit of a spare part to me, in particular, Frankie’s two adopted sons. I don’t know whether to put this down to under-utilisation or over-utilisation. Every scene they seem to be in they appear to be superfluous to requirements*. In S3, however, I was pleased to see the strongest of the bunch, Briana, have her character continue to grow into something more tangible.

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In a rare move, I’m including an image that’s *not* taken from the show in question. Why? The clutch! OMG the Jane Fonda mugshot clutch! Iconic.

The show’s almost definitely seems to have gone down the route of Amazon Prime’s Transparent route: a comedy about family that, a few series in, has become more of a drama than a comedy, and can barely be called a dramedy. There’s not all that many ‘funny’ moments or lines here and those that there are are often given (and rightly so!) to Lily Tomlin aka Frankie. It’s disappointing that plot ends up getting in the way of tight editing and strong lines, but that is the Netflix way. On the other side though, it’s great to see a show appear to deal with aging so sensitively and properly. I want to say ‘correctly’ at this point but that’s not something I’m qualified to judge barely being out of the fetus stage in terms of my life experience and age. Retirement, health, and fear of dying, appear throughout – and even the panic from the children in terms of their lives appears. Are they happy? Should they be somewhere in life that they’re not?

 

In all, it’s not the greatest series in the world but it’s still enjoyable. One thing it’s difficult to settle into from the off though is the glossy nature of how it’s filmed. It’s very ‘shiny’ and if I was more well versed I might be able to point to it being 25i or 50p or something, but the stylisation does look odd for a comedy drama. It appears almost like they ticked the ‘reality series’ box on the cameras when filming.

Sidenote: I was very disappointed that the Murder, She Wrote reference in the series finale was inaccurate. While talking about food ingredient lists Frankie comments that she expected them to be listed in “order of appearance like on Murder, She Wrote”. Guest stars are in fact listed in alphabetical order, a decision made by the show’s creators from the off to forgo celebrity egos. Don’t at me.

Broadchurch

Let’s cut to the chase: Broadchurch 2 was a bit pants. Broadchurch 1 was good but it wasn’t as amazing as people’s collective memories seem to have moulded it. It was quite predictable in the final few episodes, but it’d been a long time since there was a long one-case week by week crime drama on the telly so people went a bit mad. And Olivia Colman’s fame has skyrocketed in recent years, and there’s Tennant so obviously there was a losing of minds as to the potential of S3.

Thus far, it seems to be plain sailing. The script can be a little obvious and clichéd at times but the performances are all very strong, and the imagery and visuals are great as usual. There’s a list of suspects as long as your arm and I’m sure week by week this will be stripped back until someone who wasn’t a suspect is the one whodunnit. My money’s on the vicar: the other’s are too obvious.

All being said, there’s a great linking of themes in this series. Misogyny, rape, teenage sexualisation, what it means to be a woman – it’s clearly carefully crafted. Not so sure what I think of the odd newspaper sub-plot though. It appears to just exist with no real reason.

Inside No 9

This is another series I see a lot of chatter about on Twitter, and not a speck of criticism. There’s a lot of comparisons to Tales of the Unexpected in terms of the twists and the way episodes are written and pan out – each thirty minute episode is a mini tale, presented with just a few cast members and all in one location. One location for thirty minutes could almost prove to be a little dull and tiresome in some hands but Pemberton and Shearsmith. Each of these tales would work just as well on stage as on the telly and it wouldn’t suprise me if at some point in the future there was an anthology stage show.

Some episodes are weaker than others and I’m not as enamoured by it as some on Twitter but it’s undoubtable that it’s unlike anything else on telly at the moment. S1&2 have now appeared on Netflix so I’ll be sure to watch the episodes I’m yet to see.

Films

giphyMoonlight

It proved near impossible to go and see Moonlight on its initial release. The nearest cinemas showing it were over an hour away and it wasn’t until the Oscar win that Odeon begrudgingly added it to their roster for a few evenings, but alas, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I was making a trip to Nottingham for a gig one weekend so went a few hours early to allow time to see it. Moving, poetic and full of pathos, I enjoyed it, ’nuff said.

Toast

Browsing through Netflix the other evening I saw this film from a few years ago that completely passed me by: a little (kind of) independent film starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Freddie Hamblin and based on the childhood of well known chef Nigel Slater. It was an unexpected find to say the least. Around the ninety minute mark and with an all-British cast I settled down to it with a certain sense of expectation: this already ticks two of my film boxes.

I found the first hour or so quite enjoyable but its when the clock shifted forward five or six years it collapsed in on itself for one reason: Hamblin, Freddie. I don’t know if the script just became suddenly clunky or if there was something wrong with the delivery but it felt like a different film at this point. Bonham Carter continued on fine as did the Father but Nigel’s charter just no longer worked and seemed to be a complete shift away from what we’d seen up to that point without any radical change in his character. It was quite bizarre and unsettling. Also, I’m not quite so sure how realistic it is (spoilers) for Nigel’s epiphany, father dying, first gay kiss and escape from home to all happen in the same afternoon. But hey, it’s a film right? 6/10

*tautology?