Archives for posts with tag: Netflix

As I have mentioned before, I very rarely give up on something after one episode. The merest hint that it could get better or be worth investing in and I’m there. Often I am proven right. Sometimes though I am tested. The first episode does enough to put me off entirely and I never go back or get close to.

The Alienist very much pushed me to the limit of what I was willing to go back to. It had several off putting elements, including open misogyny and extreme violence. Yes, both were central to the plot, but it was still a very comfortable watch.

What challenged me the most was the gore. I don’t handle gore well and find subtle hints at it serve a much better function and make a more interesting narrative then serving it up on a plate. The desecrated corpse of a child was bad enough, but for me it was the man banging is head against the wall, blood pouring down his face and syphilis marks all over him that was the hardest watch. It was making me, in northern English parlance, ‘gip’.

I didn’t find any of the characters, even the good guys, likeable either. So the omens were not good for me carrying on.

Yet I did, because part of me, despite my disgust, wanted to see the crime solved. And the second episode was significantly better. Firstly, the gore, although still present, was in smaller doses. Also, I began to warm to Dakota Fanning’s secretary character and even warmed a little to Luke Evans, although Daniel Bruhl is still annoying me. The Jewish brothers are also getting more of a role, and like Fanning, are providing a bit of warmth to an otherwise cold story.

The plot of police corruption and male prostitutes is also serving a proper function now rather than just acting to shock. All in all, it has turned a corner. Of course, it can no doubt turn back again, but let’s hope it doesn’t.

Even so, this isn’t for the faint hearted. There is no attempt at humour, even dark humour, bar the odd aside. It is uncompromising in what it does and can border on the unpleasant.

My advice – have something sunny and happy in your back pocket for when you are done. I have season 2 of Nailed It! ready to go as soon as I am done with it, and also watching the last season of The Middle. After The Alienist, you need that dose of loveliness. It probably wasn’t what the writers intended, but it is the result.

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Recent events have meant that I had a gap in my Netflix viewing schedule. House of Cards was delayed from its spring release following the scandal surrounding Kevin Spacey, meaning my traditional bridge that lasts me until Orange is the New Black was missing.

After a bit of scrolling around I came across Unforgotten, a crime drama that I had wanted to dip into when it was on ITV but never got the chance. So I took the opportunity to make up for lost time, and I am very glad I did.

The shows revolves around a cold case from forty years ago when the remains of a mixed-race teenager who was reported missing are found. The detectives then focus on four key suspects, a former gangster turned businessman, a reformed far-right activist, a bookkeeper with a history of violent assault and a vicar with a dodgy relationship history. Everyone has motive and the depth of their connections to the victim are slowly unfurled.

What I love is that the story isn’t rushed. There are no adrenaline pumping scenes, manic car chases or the like – it is all about slowly building a case through old-fashioned detection. For example, the interviewing of connections to the suspects, tracing pay phone records, the sort of stuff so many crime dramas do away with to make space for a torture scene.

Also, Unforgotten cleverly dodges another pet peeve of the complicated home life of the copper. Yes, Nicola Walker’s DI character has one, but it is subtle. A close but troubled bond with her father and a mother who hangs like a cloud over them both through her absence. It doesn’t detract from the main story, instead it merely rounds out a character.

It can be a bleak watch – there are suicide references and the constant feeling that no one is truly good can wear you down. The fact that the person most hit hard by the opening of the investigation on a personal level is the one who has most turned their back on their wicked former selves raises the question of even if the right person is convicted of this crime and the mother of the victim given some peace, is it truly justice if people have paid their debt in some other way.

The only real fault is that it does slip into one cliché. Private Eye recently mocked the crime drama trope of everyone who is suspicious staring out into the sunset, and this show practically thrives on it. Once you have spotted it as a marker it almost becomes comical, which is obviously not the intention.

That aside, it is still brilliant. It’s clever too. Fortunately, the second series is being repeated on Sunday nights, so I can dive straight in. What I use to fill my Netflix void though is anybody’s guess.

There are moments when a show does so well people become desperate to copy its success. Broadchurch was brilliant TV, a tense crime drama about the death of a child that reverberated around a small community and exposed all its cracks. While not completely original, it was at least so well done it didn’t matter.

Netflix is now in on the act with its crime drama Safe, written by Harlan Coben. It centres on the disappearance of a teenage girl from an exclusive gated community and the death of her boyfriend. There are also a million different subplots, including a teacher accused of impropriety and the girl’s father rebuilding his life after his wife’s death, which will all presumably tie in somewhere.

Safe at times feels like a rather odd fish. On the one hand it wants to be gritty – it is, after all, about a missing child – with character’s heroically charging around council estates for drug dealers. Yet its main setting of this high-end community means it can’t help having a Desperate Housewives varnish on it.

This is also seen in some of its more ridiculous twists, not least when the family who are the viewers’ prime suspects border on the tragi-comic in the some of the scenes where they try to cover their tracks. Having said that, I have a high tolerance of, and even a bit of love for, such daftness. If anything, I wish the show was a bit more comfortable with that aspect of the plot.

Safe was also clearly designed for binging – characters briefly appear in an episode and then reappear in a later one with minimal context, suggesting that the viewer should only have seen them a few hours previously as opposed to days. For those of us that don’t binge, this becomes a test of memory.

Neither the odd genre fit nor the need to binge watch are insurmountable. What could be for some viewers is the return of my pet hate – British characters made by an American production team which means everyone must be Cockney or posh. This despite filming being in Cheshire, Manchester and Liverpool. To top it off, Michael C. Hall appears to have to gone to ‘speak with a mouth full of marbles’ school of learning an English accent. Every sentence sounds over-enunciated and drawn out.

But I’m invested now. There are enough decent plot twists to keep me going back as I reach the halfway point. This isn’t going to be the next big watercooler conversation, but it will titillate those who take the time to watch. All will rest on the ending though. Failure to provide the best one it can, and Broadchurch will be able to sleep easy atop the crime drama throne.

I’m going to be honest with you, it’s been difficult to write this week’s blog post. There has been little new for me to watch this week, and I feel I have discussed everything that is on a hundred times before. I now there are new shows every week, but I am one man, I have other hobbies and some shows that I am desperate to watch remain unwatched.

So what I thought I would do is list the shows I want to watch when I finally can. Maybe some of you readers can help me prioritise or maybe even advise me not to bother with them.

This Country: every article I read about this show praises it to highest heaven. The premise is that it is a mockumentary about two cousins growing up in a sleepy small town and the idiosyncrasies of such a life. I have seen clips online and it does look to live up to the hype, and it is also loved for being a little bit heart breaking in its humour. This is sometimes a red flag for me (why do comedies needs to also be tear jerkers?) but if done well can be the cherry on top of the ice cream.

Chewing Gum: another much-talked about comedy, following the adventures of Tracey and her quest to lose her virginity. It is hailed as a funny, rude and, above all, honest representation of female sexuality. It has earned its creator and star Michaela Coel awards for both acting and writing.

Game Face: another female-fronted sitcom. This time Roisin Conaty is our lead, playing wannabe actress Marcella. Again, there is a hunt for her dream man, which is making me wonder how many sitcoms by men are about guys finding their girl, at least in the UK anyway. The main appeal here is that I love Conaty in so many other things that this has got to be good.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Maybe you are seeing a pattern. What can I say, the argument women aren’t funny doesn’t sit with me at all. If anything, I find women are more natural in their humour and try and do each other down less. Anyway, this has been on my list for a while now. It seems warm and hopeful, qualities I sometimes thing sitcoms forget to include. Tina Fey is the brains here, and 30 Rock was another show I adored, so high hopes again.

There are very few dramas appealing to me, but then I have plenty to be getting on with for the next few months. I might dip into Designated Survivor. I may have a root around on Netflix for something else. If I get desperate, I may even get an Amazon Prime account.

So there you have it. Please suggest away anything else that should be on my list. Not Breaking Bad. So many people have wanged on about it I have now made it an ambition to never watch it, just to watch its devotees flail their arms and implore me to do so. But besides that, fire away. The floor is yours…

 

Fans of The Great British Bake Off may be aware of the companion show in Britain An Extra Slice. A segment of this show is dedicated to showing people’s bakes from home, where they have tried to achieve an ambitious design, say a unicorn or pet dog. Some of them are successes. Many of them are not, ranging from the hysterical to the terrifying.

It provides a cheap but effective laugh. So effective, Netflix have turned the concept into an entire series. Nailed It! is a show where three amateur bakers attempt some of the most challenging designs possible. The problem is, none of them are actually good at baking and all of the instructions are similar to those from the technical challenges on GBBO, i.e. virtually non-existent. Whoever eventually gets closest to the finished product wins $10,000.

There is a lot I enjoy on this show. Although the disasters are made fun of, it always stays the right side of cruel. It helps that the contestants know they are in on the joke – they all know they are terrible. Nicole Byers, the host, is brilliant, and pitches the energy at the right level: manic but not annoying. And some of the guest judges are delights; I am already a paid-up Sylvia Weinstock fan after she grew bored of judging and decided to hover malevolently over people’s cakes and steal stock.

Something else I really like is the fact the errors are left in, like when someone reads the autocue wrong or stage hand messes up in the background. It is part of the show’s charm to not be completely polished. After all, the cakes aren’t.

I do have the odd frustration. One is that some of the contestants are too OTT – everyone on GBBO is so demure that to see everyday people trying to be as loud as the host is distracting. I also include in that the guy in the first episode who brought a martial arts bandana thing to wear. I have no truck with such pretensions.

The other is that because we only see each contestant in one episode, we don’t get attached to them the way we do on GBBO. I suppose the problem is that repeated viewings of them would see them get too good, but even so, there is no connection to them beyond the surface.

I would love to see a British version of this show. The humour would be drier and everyone that bit more self-deprecating, but it would still have the energy. Keeping the errors in would also be a must.

Nailed It! is a little slice of fun. The simple joy of life explodes from it. It is not a show that changes the world or passes comment on it, but it is a reminder that, underneath the crazy, most of us are just ordinary people trying to nail it. I hope there is more of it. An extra slice perhaps?

I have spoken about How to Get Away with Murder before. My problems with its unsympathetic lead cast, being style over substance etc. It is far from my favourite thing to watch. So why do I put myself through it? Because I want to see things through.

To a certain degree, this persistence is now paying off. I am currently reaching the climax of season 3, which has had a strong second half. This has been aided by allowing us into Annalise Keating’s hinterland, particularly the loss of her own child due to crossing the dangerous Mahoney’s. It also helps that Keating’s back is well and truly against the wall, with manufactured murder charges against her.

I have done some flip reversals on the cast as well. Asher Millstone is still an irritating frat boy, but one who is proving to be surprisingly well intentioned and loyal to those he cares for. Likewise, Michaela Pratt’s over-driven streak has been tempered by her discovering an empathy for others that is stretching beyond that needed for self-preservation.

On the other side, Connor Walsh, whose gallows humour I previously liked, is increasingly dislikeable. I am frankly bored of him toying with the naïve Oliver and treating him like a plaything and his scowling in every scene is increasingly at odds with the personal growth we have seen in the surrounding cast.

The plot also seems to have upped its game slightly. It is as daft and OTT as ever, yet I find myself caring more about the end result. For once, I find myself wanting Annalise wanting to win, not for the sake of others, but for her. Perhaps this is because for once the other side is more morally questionable then her. Or maybe, as I said, all those vulnerabilities she has kept hidden have finally broken through. It is more admirable to see her as a fighter when you realise how many battles she has thought before.

I do slightly miss case of the week. I find law interpretation fascinating and the chess games that go on in the courtroom. Hopefully when I get to see season 4 finally we will return to that, albeit with

Word of mouth is a surprisingly valuable asset for streaming services. Hype can get a ball rolling, but it is the ability to make the show a watercooler conversation that is the most valuable. Netflix and its ilk gets the most benefit from this as their shows stay on forever, whilst on-demand sites are more time orientated, with hits disappearing only to potentially return as an archive later.

Word of mouth means even a sleeper show gets a shot. I was recently put on to the case of Schitt’s Creek, a Canadian comedy that is completely unknown in the UK unless you stumble across it on Netflix. I was put onto it by the same person who recommended me The Good Place, and they were more than right about that.

For the uninitiated, a rich family is stripped of all their assets for not paying their taxes bar a small town they bought and have to move there to start a new life. The town is awful in the way backwater towns are, and the programme avoids the cliché of the town folk being sweet and humble by making them equally as bad in some cases. Having said that, I’m only two episodes in so forgive me if I have misconstrued something.

The best scenes feature Dan Levy as the son David. Acid tongued, shallow and melodramatic, he is also that little bit vulnerable. He hogs the best lines, but rightly so, as he delivers them so brilliantly. An early favourite of mine his is comment on his dad’s Ebenezer Scrooge nightshirt: “Give my regards to Bob Cratchitt”. I howled.

With any comedy the question is always ‘is it actually funny?’ I would argue this is, although in a sporadic, low-key way. I certainly feel the ‘rich people become poor’ plot has been done a lot before, so I hope there are some other interesting developments. There is also the question of whether or not this show will trip into that cliché of everyone learning a lesson and becoming better people, which is fine so long as it stays funny.

Overall, I like it. It has enough acid to keep it sharp and I feel actual storylines coming together. It is slightly lightweight, and I doubt when I have finished it I will be crawling the walls for more, but it fills a gap. At least until my friend gives me her next recommendation.