MURDER-DEATH-KILL: XIPHOS LOOKS AT SOME 187 TV SHOWS
Here are some TV shows I’ve seen over the last 6 months or so that have a common theme (mostly I stretched on a few because I didn’t want to do something separate with them and they sorta’ kind of fit here) of murrrrrrrder in them. They aren’t in any particular order except I just noticed alphabetical.
Banshee (Skinamax and stretch TV show #1): This is the dumbest TV show I think ever made. It’s as dumb as a bag of retarded rocks and makes no sense whatsoever. However, does that necessarily mean it’s bad? Usually but in this case it embraces its stupidity in a non-winking non-self aware manner and it works. The copious nudity, a lot of it full frontal from broads praise Buddha, also helps.
Banshee is about Lucas Hood (Hood, get it?) played by Antony Starr. He’s a criminal, recently paroled after a 15 year stretch in the joint where he never aged (that prison must have had a hella fine spa) for stealing $15 million worth of diamonds on behalf of/or from, this never made clear, Ukrainian gangster Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross cue Chariots of Fire theme music). Hood goes looking for his partner/lover in the crime, Anastasia (Ivana Miličević) whom he took the fall for and never ratted out. With the help of fellow thief and the swishiest Asian tranny ever put on screen, Hood learns that Anastasia is hiding out in Banshee, Pennsylvania, a bucolic fictional county deep in Amish lands. Anastasia is using the name Carrie Hopewell, is married to the district attorney and has 2 kids, one that is 15 years old. coughcoughcoughdramticforeshadowingmuch?coughcoughcough. Lucas confronts her telling her that he wants his share of the loot from the heist but really he still loves her, D’oh! Did I mention that Anastasia is Mr. Rabbit’s daughter?
You know what? I can’t even remotely tell how this works it’s so dumb. Hood assumes the identity of the newly hired sheriff from Oregon that somehow nobody knows what he looks like, apparently they still do business in Banshee like it’s 1938. Hood was eating in the same bar as the new sheriff, a bar owned by a magical negro no less, when the new sheriff was gunned down by two collectors for the local Amish crime lord Kai Proctor. That is not a mistype, he’s an Amish crime lord though he was shunned by the community. This show is incredibly fucking dumb yet they embrace the stupidity without being meta and self-aware and somehow they pull it off. Banshee is a fun watch with tons of nudity much of it the Full Monty. I give this thing a solid 3 out 5 stars of entertainment. Don’t think about it at all and it works. Just watch the pretty people get naked and kill each other and you’ll be fine.
Bates Motel (A&E): This is the prequel story of how Norman Bates became the Norman Bates of Psycho fame except this version of Psycho has been JJ Abrams-ized and is set in modern times and not in the 60s. Norman (Freddy Highmore) and his way too involved in EVERY ASPECT OF HIS LIFE mother Norma (Vera Farmiga), on a whim buy a motel in White Pine Bay, Oregon. They got the scratch for this because of the just bought insurance policy obtained before Normans father’s suicide under mysterious circumstances. The town they move to is of course teeming with all sorts of issues. Massive corruption, a brutal Sheriff’s Office, pot farming and production, Chinese sex slaves and other weird stuff of an almost Twin Peakian like nature. Highmore is pretty damn impressive in mimicking Anthony Perkins’ quirks playing Norman Bates. Vera Farmiga is chewing scenery at a rapid clip as the mercurial messed up and complicated Norma. Guyliner king Batmanuel, er… Nestor Carbonell is quite chilling as the sheriff and gives a good performance because you wonder if he’s a good guy, bad guy or somewhere in between. The breakout star and character for me though is Max Thieriot who plays Norman’s half-brother Dylan. This kid is kicking ass as the one guy on the entire show who is a good person and even though he’s a killer and works for the local crime boss, he’s trying help Norman break away from Mama’s bad influence. Also Dylan realizes that Norman is seriously insane and wants to help him and he calls Norma on her shit. I give this thing a weak 3 out of 5. The early episodes are a bit of a slog but when they let Dylan come into his own and put Norma on the train to crazy town it gets much more entertaining.
Hannibal (NBC): Yet another update of a “classic” story. This prequel tells of Lecter and Will Gram’s early days and pretty much blows out of the water the few allusions Thomas Harris made to it in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. They do that in order to tell their own story. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Lecter. It’s a layered complicated yet restrained job he turns in. Mads went his own way with it and decided not try to carry on either Anthony Hopkins or Brian Cox style of portraying Lecter and it works. His accent helps also since Lecter was supposed to be Latvian or Lithuanian I think. Morpheus plays Behavioral Analysis boss Jack Crawford. Cowboy Carl basically is reprising Morpheus with a bit more yelling and just as pretentious line delivery. They remade Freddie Lounds and Alan Bloom as chicks so there is a “love” angle thing brewing but they’re decent looking so it’s OK. The guest stars and recurring stars are all pretty good but the weak spot in this thing is the fancy boy English lad they got playing Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). One of his problems is the writing, they can’t decide if Graham’s nuts, has encephalitis or is just really observant and can think like a bad guy. The problem that the actor has is that he plays Graham too much as a cypher and holds too much back so you never really feel any connection to Will Graham which hurts the show. The reason they can get away with having a weak portrayal of Will Graham is that whenever Mikkelsen is on screen he holds your attention. The other issue is that the show is just way too talky and didn’t get all that interesting until the last two or three episodes. The final shot in the season finale was top notch and the smirk on Lecter’s face was priceless. I give this thing a 2.5 out of 5. It doesn’t help that the nerds embraced this mess as “special”. That’s an automatic deduction of at least a half a star since as we know, nerds have zero taste.
The one thing I am wondering about this show is if they will delve into why Lecter is the way he is. The book explanation made some sort of sense with Lecter seeing atrocities committed by everybody in WW2 and starving at the same time. I wonder what they will come up with if they decide to do an “origin” story?
The Fall (2013 BBC/RTV1): This 6 episode mini-series stars Scully from The X Files as Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson who is detailed to Belfast to assist the PSNI in finding a serial killer, with the need to kill of dark haired women, who has been terrorizing the city for months.
This show isn’t a who done it show since it opens by revealing who the killer is. Instead it’s a look at two hunters, Gibson and the killer, and how much they are alike. It’s really more of a character study than a mystery. It’s the usual quality BBC production but I do have a question for the blighty types. Does every BBC production look the same with the same locked down camera and boring straightforward filming style? Now granted, I have not watched many BBC productions and with maybe the exception of ROME and Copper all BBC productions share a dreary common look. Is that common? It’s like they made a choice in the 50’s and never ever deviated from said choice.
The other thing learned from this mini-series is that Belfast isn’t quite the LA or Detroit level of shit hole I was lead to believe it was. Listening to the SAS, Royal Marines and UK soldiers I’ve trained or served with made it sound like Belfast is a grim, dirty, grimy, dangerous, ugly place (like Detroit or LA) filled with evil, savage brutish, unhuman beings (again like Detroit or LA). From the look of the show it wasn’t any more awful than any other crappy city.
Copper (BBC America’s first scripted series and reach series #2) This show is about being an Irish policeman in the horrible slums of the 5 Points area of 1864 NYC. 5 Points was the original “melting pot” of America. It consisted of emancipated slaves (NYC having done so around 1830) and southern Negroes that made their way north. Thrown into this mix also are the Irish who had begun immigrating in large numbers augmented the small group of Irish that had lived in the area since the 1600s. Both groups were considered subhuman by the protestant ruling class made up of the descendants of the original Dutch and English settlers. The 5 Points was a truly awful place. It was crime and disease ridden hellhole where life was sold cheap, the whiskey sold bad and lives taken for a penny. The only ones willing to do anything in it were the Irish so they began to take over services like the fire brigade, police and sanitation jobs (while excluding the Negro). This became the basis for the Irish ascent to power in NYC and having a natural bent to waxing poetic, stealing and glad handing they of course became a political force in not just the sixth ward (where 5 Points was located) but in citywide politics.
Copper explores many themes (sometimes not that good) like race, class, religion, crime, ethnic identity politics, hate from all colors, war, prostitution, pretty much the whole range of human emotions and experiences. Copper isn’t a bad show and it’s fairly entertaining. The mostly unknown cast sell their roles hard and the writing and direction is generally good. The show is typical in quality for a period BBC production and I have no qualms recommending to you lot.