Tag - TV

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The Vikings *is* Game-of-Thrones-Lite, and that’s why I like The Vikings more
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Broad City … Once You’re In, There’s No Pulling Out
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Black Mirror—Reflecting Our Bleak Future?
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The Killing – the first two seasons

The Vikings *is* Game-of-Thrones-Lite, and that’s why I like The Vikings more

Source: http://www.vikingstvstore.com; Fair use - commentary

Source: http://www.vikingstvstore.com; Fair use – commentary

I like the TV series Game of Thrones. When I heard that the History Channel’s The Vikings was GoT-lite, I thought: Oh, let’s give that a try, but I know it ain’t gonna be as good as GoT, cuz GoT is pretty splendid.

I watched the first couple episodes of The Vikings and wasn’t impressed. It was okay, but the production value wasn’t nearly as shiny GoT’s. To be fair, GoT probably had 5,000 times the budget. Then I watched more of The Vikings. By the end of the first season, I was hooked. Having seen three season, I can safely say that I love it more than GoT.

The two shows have one thing in common: political intrigue. But there are key differences. The Vikings has one dominant story line. My atrophying brain finds it very taxing to follow the multiple parallel plots of an epic like GoT. Some GoT storylines I just don’t care for that much, and I find myself zoning out while waiting for the show to return to the characters I care more about. Second, The Vikings is faster paced. Lots of fighting. So yes, The Vikings is lighter. Lighter is more digestible. And digestion is good. Sometimes less is more.

The story is about Ragnar, a Viking leader whose dream is to go overseas (i.e. England) and raid. And raid. And raid. Them Vikings like to raid so much you’d think they have nothing else fun to do. If you’ve seen Sons of Anarchy (another fantastic show), Ragnard might remind you of Jax Teller. They’re both smart, cunning, and ambitious. Most importantly, they’re patient, biding their time until it’s ripe. Whereas most of their peers would gobble up their marshmallows in seconds, Ragnard can wait for hours. Days.

Since modern-day Scandinavia is one of the most socially liberal and egalitarian places, it’s fitting that the The Vikings portrays a progressive culture as well. The people vote for their leaders. Unmarried people cohabitate without shame. People (even kids) talk about sex as a natural human activity, not a dirty taboo. When a woman complains about an abusive husband, she is believed by the authority, not dismissed like chattel. Upon hearing that, the English king mused that the Vikings’ pagan laws seemed more enlightened than the English’s Christian laws. However, I don’t know how much of the show is historically accurate.

Lagertha is probably the most unexpectedly fierce character on The Vikings. She is smart and headstrong, but the best part is that she kicks ass. She goes with the men on raids and cuts up people as easily as she chops turnips. One time she leads a group of shieldmaidens (female warriors) on a special covert mission, kind of like Viking navy seals. Shieldmaidens are prominent in Scandinavian legends, though scholars disagree whether such warriors actually existed.

My favorite character is Rollo. Cuz he fights awesomely and is awesomely sexy. ‘Nuff said. If you don’t find him hot then I don’t know what to say.

If you like ancient political dramas like The Vikings and GoT, another good show to check out is Rome. Unfortunately, that one had a short run (only two seasons), but it’s very compelling drama.

I’m a season behind GoT and I’m still looking forward to watching it, but what I’m really eager to see is the upcoming fourth season of The Vikings.

Broad City … Once You’re In, There’s No Pulling Out

 

Two young, goofy women deal with daily life in NYC—not the most original premise, but the humor of the TV show Broad City is all fresh. Less serious than Girls and less quirky than Portlandia, but funnier than both. Like Seinfeld, Broad City is a show that seems to be about nothing yet mines comedic gold out of the most pedestrian grounds.

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who created and star in the show, are best friends whose specialty is getting into situations that go wrong. Ilana “works” at a company that promotes internet deals, yet the only time she produces results is when she hires free interns to do her work. Abbi is an artist, but her day job is cleaning endless disasters in the restrooms of an obnoxiously positive fitness club. “Oh Abbi, hey, I know you’re not working today, but we could really use some Abbi magic. There’s a pube situation in the locker room that is unprecedented.” Hahahaha. Yes, I’m juvenile.

One of the funniest scenes is in the premiere episode of season two, when Abbi mutters a double entendre about “pulling out.” Pure comedic beauty.

Broad City is not afraid to push satire into risky territory, touching upon ethnicity, rape, sex offenders, and anal sex. And this is the deftness of the show’s style: it embeds subversiveness into humor and teases out absurdities from serious matters. Under the jokey veneer are thought-provoking takes on the complexities of taboos. Their jokes don’t usually have political content (maybe they do, and I’m just too dense to get the nuances). It’s always funny first, then implicitly asks you what you think.

Any twit can babble commentary (you’re reading it now). Smart commentary is hard. Funny commentary is harder. Smart and funny—that’s the hardest. Glazer and Jacobson are subtle enough to not seem like they’re trying to prove how smart and funny they are. I kinda have crushes on them both.

Seinfeld was the last pure comedy (i.e. not comedy mixed with drama) I loved on network TV. Since then, the best pure comedies have been non-networks, e.g. The Daily Show, South Park, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David ended his show, and to my distress, Jon Stewart will be leaving soon (please change your mind, Jon). Good thing Broad City has come along. On Comedy Central, of course.

The show has gotten great reviews, with the second season even better than the first. Though still a bit under the radar, Broad City deserves many more seasons to come. The Comedy Central website has locked all of the episodes except the first one of the second season.  It’s only twenty minutes, and I’d watch it just for that one joke. I probably replayed the scene five times already, giggling like a doofus each time. Yes, that’s how mature I is.

I watch Broad City on Hulu Plus, where you can stream all the epis. I’m also watching The Vikings and Twin Peaks, and about to start on Empire. Between Netflix and Hulu, there’s really no time for anything else in life.

Black Mirror—Reflecting Our Bleak Future?

Source: IMDB

Source: IMDB

Black Mirror is a thinky British TV series set in a near-future UK. The vibe is like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The main theme is dystopian, but the culprit is really the masses, not so much the government. Basically, the future sucks because people suck. The masses are fickle and prone to mob mentality. When we get better technology, we can’t handle it since it enables us to do bad things in badder ways. Technology progresses so fast that our moral maturity can’t keep up. It’s like giving a toddler a tank to drive when the kid hasn’t even mastered the tricycle. So yeah, we is doomed.

The subtext seems to be that democracy, based on the whims of the masses, is bad. A valid criticism, but the depressing part is that we probably have no better alternative. (Aside from having me as dictator for life, obviously. And having my clones as successors. Because I am all that and a bag of Cheetos, as anyone who knows me will testify.)

My favorite episodes are the first and the third ones in the first season. In National Anthem (the first episode), someone has kidnapped a royalty. The ransom demand asks the Prime Minister to perform an act … um … that will make you cringe, to say the least. It’s also darkly comedic, as cringe-worthy things can be sometimes.

In The Entire History of You (the third episode), people have implants that record their life experiences. Kinda like a DVR of what you see and hear. You can re-watch your past as if it were a TV show, essentially. The good is that you can relive your happy past. But what about the unhappy parts? And the temptation to watch another’s past? This episodes falls under the “be careful what you wish for” category because what you want is not always what’s good for you.

Another thing I like about this show is that it’s pretty edgy—it touches upon or jokes about taboo topics. British media, compared to American media, seem generally more willing to offend.

Black Mirror is available on Netflix, which has seasons one and two (total of six episodes). Season three is in progress.

The Killing – the first two seasons

Source: IMDB

Police procedurals don’t usually lure me, but the TV series The Killing reeled me in. In one weekend, I binged the first two seasons on Netflix. The show is tense, suspenseful, and gripping. And really bleak, both visually and emotionally.

In the first two seasons, two homicide detectives – Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) – investigate the murder of a teen girl in Seattle, a city that doesn’t seem to get a single ray of sunshine through all 26 episodes. Almost all scenes are washes of gray, and so are the characters. Family secrets, political intrigue, and personal struggles gnarl the case. And there are plenty of twists and red herrings to keep you guessing.

As complex as its mystery, The Killing isn’t all plot. The two leads are deeply carved and wonderfully played. Linden is hard, aloof, and mostly not very nice, but she betrays tenderness. She cares, perhaps too much. As her own rough past surfaces, you begin to understand the fears that drive Linden’s obsession with the case. Her single-mindedness may be great for solving crimes, but threatens everything else: her relationship with her son, her rapport with her partner, and her own mental cohesion. Ironically, it’s when Linden is at her toughest do you see the most of her vulnerability. I’m not sure if I totally like her, but she is definitely engaging.

Her partner Holder is a likeable dude that brings levity to an otherwise deathly serious show. As a detective new to homicide, Holder is the apprentice to the veteran Linden. But Holder offers more than what you would expect. He may seem silly, even loserish at times, but under the slacker veneer is a man who is thoughtful and caring, with much to contribute to the partnership. It’s no surprise that he may be driven by some of his own dark history as well.

The Killing isn’t for everyone. It is slow, but I didn’t mind the pace because I was absorbedThe show, basically a Seattle noir with a Nordic vibe, reminds me of the Swedish Stieg Larsson movies.  After all, The Killing is a remake of a Danish TV show. Also, if you like the miniseries Top of the Lake*, you will probably like The Killing. Both have the same measured pace, depressing vibe, and intimate focus on a female detective.

The first story arc spans the first two seasons (13 episodes each). Much to my disappointment, the series was canceled after four seasons. Boo.

* Top of the Lake is a beautifully filmed missing-persons mystery set in New Zealand, starring Elisabeth Moss. Those who have seen the TV series Mad Men will recognize her as Peggy Olson. She is equally compelling in both shows.

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