XIPHOS TV ROUND-UP
Here’s a look at some new TV shows I’ve been watching going back to last summer. These will all be short except for one that I need delve into in order to do it justice. They aren’t in any particular order just how they occur to me. Enjoy.
The Returned (in French Les Revenants produced by Canal +): I figured I’ll bore y’all with the longest review first. From my 33 seconds of research I learned that this French show about the dead returning to life and trying to get back in the swing of things was a big deal in Europe. (Maybe Jarv can add some info on that). Here, across the pond, The Returned premiered on the Sundance Channel to big ratings for them so this “zombie” show is a semi big deal but is it any good is the real question. I am glad to say that it is in fact very well done.
This the story. Selected dead start coming back to life from different decades going back to the early 60’s. All the returnees are from a picturesque French mountain town that has a dam for hydroelectric purposes. The lake plays an important role in the story. All the stories are intertwined and each living dead and live persons story intersect in some way that is slowly revealed over the 8 episode run. Unlike LOST which utilized the same intertwined story lines and flashbacks, The Returned doesn’t beat you over the head with the connections. The returnees aren’t classic zombies, they are fully intact with all memories except for the one in which they died. To them its still the same day they kicked the bucket until they learn otherwise. The returnees have no memory of an afterlife.
Until the last two episodes the story was more creepy than scary. This is when a supernatural element was introduced to the story and it worked well. The Returned also featured the most unsettling and flat out disturbing kid on screen since Jake Lloyd in the prequel debacle. The character of Victor makes your skin crawl and he is the only returnee that seems to know what he is from the start and has some sort of powers. Great performance here by the kid who plays Victor.
The show is well written, well acted and shot very nicely. There is no gore or zombies eating faces. It’s more about how death affects the living and what would happen if the dead came back to life. If you don’t speak French it’s subtitled. I did notice in a few places the translator was way too literal and actually got wrong what the characters were trying to convey. Please remember translators, convey the ideas not the word for word literal meaning and you will get closer to what the writers really meant.
I highly recommend this series. You can’t go wrong with it since it also features a copious amount of female nudity. It does get dinged for the one scene of male dudity though. That is just plain uncalled for.
Top of the Lake (BBC2 in conjunction with UKTV and The Sundance Network): The damn nerds got me again. I listen to those tasteless humps about how great this New Zealand show was and got burned by it awfulness. The only good thing I can say about it is that it’s only 7 episodes. TotL stars Peggy that bug eyed chick from Mad Men (looking less bug eyed here for some reason) sporting a very bad Kiwi accent. She is a detective from Sydney, Australia specializing in crimes against children. She goes home to NZ to nurse her dying mother and is asked by the local PD to take on a case because that makes so-o-o-o-o-o much sense. Of course that’s probably the most sensible thing about this garbage. The case involves the pregnant 12 year old daughter of the local crime lord. The kid gets in the wind before a proper investigation/examination can happen about why she is knocked up so the other 6 episodes are filled with the worst police work put on film since Police Squad. Along the way we meet a semi cult led by Holly Hunter who sports a terrible wig, spouts nonsense and her character was struck by lightning twice. Bug Eyes has a gang rape back story and the mystery of who her real father is (hint it’s the crime lord and she is banging her half brother), some nudity by broads who should keep their clothes on, bad acting and rampant stupidity. Avoid this shit pile like your ass was on fire and your hair is catching. If anybody tries to tell you this insultingly awful drivel is any good smack them across the chops for being hateful liars.
Graceland (USA Network): The late summer show isn’t very good and its dumb but its mildly entertaining and this chick, Serinda Swan, is either wearing a bikini or a short dress and FMP so it’s sort of OK. The show is a dopey cop procedural set in a RICO confiscated beach house in Malibu. The hook is that the inhabitants of the house are from the FBI, the DEA and ICE. The whole concept of the show is dumb but hey, Serinda Swan looks tasty in a bikini. Hey look here! It’s a picture of her in a bikini top! and the closet case is looking at her rack and thinking “if only…”
At the house, an FBI rookie just out of training at Quantico is thrown into the mix. His deal is to investigate legendary UC agent Paul Briggs, the undisputed leader of the house. The kid has to determine if Briggs is dirty or not. The show never met a cliché it couldn’t make more cliché. The acting is mediocre, the direction bland and the writing dumber than a box of hammers. However if you’re bored it passes the time mostly due to Serinda Swan’s boobs.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox): This is the new comedy from the guys behind The Office and Parks & Recreations. The show is set in a fictional precinct in NY and is about the goofiest bunch of detectives since Barney Miller. The best detective of the bunch is Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) a gifted detective but incredibly immature. The new Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) is a hard ass and a great detective but this is the first command he’s gotten because he’s gay. The fun of the show is watching Samberg’s mostly losing antics go up against Holt’s hard ass personae. Braugher and Samberg have great chemistry and who knew that Braugher had comedy chops? The cast is rounded out by comedy vets like Terry Crews and Joe Lo Trujilo and some no names. The only problem I have with B99 is what I had with the Office and P&R in that the first season so far is rocky and a bit patchy in places. It’s not bad it’s just not great right now. I mildly recommend it as a time filler if you are so inclined.
Defiance (SyFy): This turned out to be a fairly entertaining show from the SyFy network. It started out rough and I only stuck with it because it was a summer show but it finished strong and on the continuum of Syfy entertainment starting at the bottom with Sharknado and the top with BSG, it’s definitely closer to BSG then Sharknado and for SyFy that is a win with an extra helping of tiger blood included in one low price.
Defiance has all the hallmarks of a SyFy show. Cheap sets, no name actors, bad CGI, filmed in Canada so it looks like every other Skiffy show. However they managed to find an interesting story of aliens crash landing on Earth and then accidentally terraforming it and changed it in radical ways. The result is a mishmash of alien races, new flora, fauna and radically altered versions of both. Everybody alien and human are living in Old West frontier like conditions but with some advanced technology. The story which takes place in 2046 centers around a Former Marine and somewhat shady guy, Nolan, who ends up being Defiance’s new law man and his self adopted alien daughter Irisa who might or might be her race’s Jesus. I found the show to be interesting after the third episode and it finished strong and was entertaining so I say give it a go. Good job for once Skiffy.
Broadchurch (ITV): Before I begin I have a question. Is there something in the Magna Carta or English Common Law or maybe a royal edict that proclaims that David Tennant has to be cast in every show broadcast on UK telly?
This is a crime show set in the fictional town of Broadchurch on the Jurassic coast (it’s really Dorset, the creator of the show lived near there for a decade and wanted to do a show about the area.) A young boy is found murdered on the beach and the new detective from London (Tennant) with a past scandal on his resume and the local chick sergeant who got passed over for the position (Olivia Colman) in favor of Dr. Who, are on the case. These two are bad detectives. Dr Who is carrying around a lot of baggage from his past and The Chick D is way too entwined in the town, she’s lived there her whole life, and her son was friends with the murdered kid. The story is about how death affects tight knit communities where everybody knows everybody and they all have secrets that come out during the investigation.
Broadchurch is a decent show but man are the two cops dumb. Broadchurch gets a mild recommendation from me.