TV Shows Reviews
I feel immense distress in writing this review. I did my best to postpone reviewing this show, even skip reviewing it. I was in denial to be honest. How can one of the best written comedy shows in the history of Indian Television come up with such a poor script and structure! I remember being on cloud nine when the season 2 of Sarabhai was announced, especially with almost every show currently on Indian TV being either disgusting or bizarre. Hatsoff Productions have always given us magnificent shows in the past with the likes of Khichdi and Baa Bahoo aur Baby. Not to forget the first season of Sarabhai itself. I believed there was no way the writers would mess with the cult status of this show. But I was proved terribly wrong.
Almost everything about Sarabhai Take 2 is wrong. Season 1 worked extremely well for several reasons- Maya’s high class attitude, Monisha’s middle class antics and Rosesh’s weirdly entertaining poems. These three factors were given in balanced proportions which paved way for the huge success of the show. Take 2 completely messed with this balance. We had an overdose of Rosesh for one. Every scene of his had a poem which seemed to have been written in such haste without any thought. Jasmine, Rosesh’s girlfriend, has to be one of the most irritating characters written by the Hatsoff writers ever. In the beginning, she did seem entertaining with her funny English and giving a strong fight against Maya. But later, it became too much to bear. The simplicity and innocence of Season 1 was a complete miss in Take 2. The story line was never funny. Maya Vs Monisha didn’t have the earlier charisma. Maya was so preoccupied with Jasmine that Maya Vs Monisha took a back seat. Indravadhan was wasted. I missed his one-liners. Sahil looked helpless. His character seemed so different. I couldn’t see the purpose behind including Arnab in the family. He didn’t make any difference to the story line. Only Dushyant and Fufaji were enjoyable.
One of the major success factors of Sarabhai was its situational comedy, clean comedy. Take 2 boasted itself to be clean comedy but took high liberty in using double meaning lines especially from Jasmine. The show being a web series, there is no issue of scrutiny by censor board, yet, these jokes damages the image of Sarabhai. It’s painful to see the wonderful characters reduced to such jokes when they are capable of much more.
Another con for Take 2 is it’s continuous story line instead of it being episodic. I give it. It was an experiment but it didn’t work. I loved the apartments in season 1. The apartments in Take 2 didn’t feel like home. I know it is unfair to compare but it is also inevitable. I felt the show tried very hard to be modern, to be contemporary which was unnecessary in my point of view. They could have stuck to normal family incidents.
The actors were in form, no questions there. They performed their best sticking to their characters. I wish they had a better script.
Having said all the above, when compared to all the awful shows on TV, Sarabhai Take 2 is still watchable. It’s different. It’s online. And there is no meaningless melodrama. It falters badly only when compared to its legacy.
I hope the team learns from their mistakes and give us a better show the next time.
Number of episodes: 6
Mounting expectation and then huge disappointment! That’s how Top of the Lake was. Recently, Season 2 of this series, which I am yet to watch, was aired and has gathered very great reviews. I, being someone who goes by the order, decided to watch Season 1 first before moving to Season 2. Now I am not sure if I will watch Season 2.
Top of the Lake has been a show on my watchlist for very long. I never got around watching it until now. It’s one of those shows which is painted in gloominess, both in setting and emotions. There has been a lot of shows which are based on child abuse. This show is one among them. I wouldn’t say the writers were insensitive or did injustice to the theme, but somewhere I felt, they completely lost track of the story.
In a small town in New Zealand, Tui Mitcham, a 12 year old girl, tries to kill herself by drowning but is rescued. On medical examination, it is discovered that she is pregnant. Detective Robin Griffin, a specialist in cases involving children, is called for help. She along with Detective Sergeant Al Parker tries to get to the bottom of the case. Matt Mitcham, Tui’s father, the head henchman of the town, tries to deal with the case on his own. He has several ugly disputes with GJ, a spiritual woman leader leading a group of troubled woman, over a land they occupy. When Robin questions Tui if she would tell who is behind the pregnancy, Tui refuses to answer directly. Matters get worse, when Tui disappears- runs away. Robin now has to find the abuser as well as find Tui before something happens to her.
This is a very disturbing plot, no doubt. The screenplay is very slow, and hence the story moves at a snail’s pace. I don’t really mind slow stories, but when the story moves away from the plot, focusing on other characters which don’t really make a difference to the story? That’s when the attention begins to waver. Robin Griffin is the lead of the show. For the first two episodes, she was effective- good with her intuition, head straight with her fellow male officers and all. She has a troubled past (no surprise there!), something similar to Tui and that’s where the narration shifts. The story tries to connect Robin and Tui’s story. Robin subsequently comes across as whining and complaining, self piteous, and her on and off relationship with Tom (Tui’s step brother) gets very irritating and takes the story away.
Looking from a different perspective, my view of the show, my complain that it strayed away from the plot is just because I read the plot online beforehand. Hence, I had a set expectation which might have driven me to the disappointing conclusion about the show. Even with a beautiful scenic setting, a dark hovering theme and a good performance from the cast, the final Sidney Sheldon type of ending overshadows all the good things for me. Al’s attraction towards Robin was sudden and on the face. Matt Mitcham’s outbursts were either overdone or overacted. I never understood the purpose of GJ and her troops. May be just to bring some weirdness? I feel quiet doubtful why I didn’t like the show much while the same show had garnered so many positive reviews, nominations and awards? Could it be because of binge watching it? Guess, that’s an entirely different story.
On the whole, Top of the Lake isn’t a very bad show. It’s creepy, weird and gloomy. It did get my attention for the first few episodes. Probably the in-between ones- Episode 4 and 5 weren’t that great and engaging and hence the loss of interest. You can watch this show for its magnificent setting and at times very exciting scenes, but yes, there are much better shows to spend your time on!
Number of episodes: 4
Have you ever felt a nagging sadness, a frustrating anger while watching a show? Little Boy Blue makes you feel that. This show forces you to feel the pain and frustration the Jones family goes through. To be honest, I never really went through the plot of the show before I started watching it. I thought the show was about a little boy and may be his struggles in school or sports. But no!
This show is based on actual events which happened in 2007. This shocked me even more. Rhys Jones, a 11 year old boy, full of life, is shot dead brutally during his football practice. Detective Dave Kelly is assigned the case, to investigate the shooting and bring the killer to justice. With CCTV footage and information collected from the neighbors, it’s found that a gang lead by Mercer is responsible for the shooting. It was really astonishing to see how much evidence has to be gathered, how much work has to be put to make the case tight, get the statements right, the alibis recorded so that, at court, the suspects don’t get away. Dave gets help from one of Mercer’s associates who turns an approver. In this way, the killers are finally brought to justice.
But, the show is just not about the case. It’s about what everyone involved goes through. Looking at Steve and Melanie Jones, the pain they go through at the loss of their son, is heartbreaking. Melanie is open with her feelings while Steve silently takes it. At the end, their common loss breaks their relationship, temporarily. Sinead Keenan as Melanie was mind blowing. Dave Kelly, the detective in-charge, feels the pressure mounting from all sides to solve the case. Sometimes, I think we forget that the police officers involved also feel the agony especially when they interact with the family of the deceased. It’s really tough especially when it is a kid who is killed. Everyone in the neighborhood played their part well. We have the guilt ridden Claire, who knows her son is involved, who wants to save her son, yet want to help gain justice for the Jones.
The scenes where the entire city comes in to mourn Rhys was fantastic. Let me confess, I feel very disturbed writing this review mainly because the usual adjectives of Interesting, fabulous, amazing, wonderful…seems very inappropriate to describe this show. Don’t get me wrong. It is all of those adjectives, but it is more of frustration and suffering. I know many might not prefer to watch shows which are depressing- why to depress ourselves more, right? But, in a way, it opens our eyes to what is happening in the society and how many families are left in mourning for the rest of their lives due to violent and uncouth acts like this.
The writing and screenplay were really crisp. There were no unnecessary drama. All the actors were fabulous. The background score really moved me at many places.
A lot of interest has been generated around political thrillers after the immense success of House of Cards. It’s not like political thrillers are new to the television arena. There have been several shows like West Wing and Spooks which have dealt with diverse political conditions, national crisis and security issues with equal amount of fact and dramatized fiction. House of Cards just rekindled that interest, gave it a little nudge. I haven’t watched House of Cards but I do intent to watch it. I am just weary of how much I need to catch up. That would require binge watching at the highest level. When I searched for similar shows in this genre, the first popular result and the show which I am about to review was – Designated Survivor.
Who is a Designated Survivor? According to the show, a Designated Survivor is someone who is in line to become the President of the United States of America in case of the demise of the sitting President and all his cabinet ministers. Now that situation seems highly unlikely, isn’t? Yet, when the Capitol building is tragically bombed killing the President and the cabinet ministers, Tom Kirkman- the Designated Survivor, becomes the next President. Now Kirkman, or for that matter anyone in his position, could have never anticipated such a turnaround. He is a very simple and modest man, a Professor in Architecture, the Secretary of Housing and Development- and who was just fired from his position the very same morning. Immediately taking oath after the bombing, Kirkman faces the mountain task of bringing some stability to the currently nonexistent government. With absolutely no political experience, Kirkman struggles to keep his mind focused and put a strong demeanor forward. He receives advice from several fronts but isn’t certain whom to trust and whom not to. Media makes things worse as they correctly doubt the capability of Kirkman as President. How does Kirkman make a stance for himself and how he restores the country back to normalcy while he faces problems from different fronts- cyber crime, terrorism, foreign relations and mainly the investigation into the Capitol bombing is the plot of the show.
The Capitol Bombing investigation storyline runs throughout the season with other problems being mostly episodic. I think that was a very clever move. Agent Hannah Wells is assigned with the investigative task and she uncovers several disconnected pieces which she tries to piece it into one. 90% of the time, this storyline captured my attention. The rest- it was too forced. The number of times Wells gets abducted or gets injured/into trouble is numerous. And her working alone most of the time just got a little irritating. The entire track of Vice President Mackliesh was nicely written. Just at the time when I felt it was being dragged, the track was brought to an end which was smart.
Another part which I loved about the show was bringing Ex-President Cornelius Moss into the picture. Not only did Moss bring with him a vast load of experience, he understood the humongous task Kirkman was facing and offered valuable advice at the right time. He didn’t overstep the line. Rightly, Kirkman appointed him as the Secretary of State and all the scenes involving both of them beautifully showed how much thinking goes behind every decision and how many factors have to be considered to avoid repercussions.
The support staff- Emily, Aaron and Seth- depicted how much of the ground work is carried out by them, making things easy for the President. Without them, the President would just be disabled. It’s good they didn’t drag the Emily-Aaron relationship. I loved the scenes between Seth and Moss. They were a huge comic relief.
The role of media and their power was strongly represented in the show. The government has to decide when and how much the public needs to know. But many a times, the media gets a step forward, due to leaks within the office, and gets secure details into the open, forcing the government to either clarify or deny those information.
Running a government isn’t easy and the President is as much a human being as everyone else. This show beautifully portrays that. There were various instances when Kirkman just couldn’t stop himself being emotional especially when he had to his soldiers into war or when Wells got abducted. He felt responsible for those lives. Also- the changes his position brings into his family- his wife and two children and the adaptations they have to make- just only shows the amount of sacrifices one has to make for the country- not just the President but everyone working along, and not just the President of the USA but every other country.
Coming back to the various tracks- I really wish they had completely ended the Capitol Bombing investigation in the finale, especially when they had identified the traitor in the White House (That track was very good). Taking the same track into the next season too would just only drag the storyline and restrict for further creative tracks.
The writing was tight for the most part. Little drags here and there- but it really held my attention most of the time. The entire atmosphere of the White House was set effectively. The actors did their parts really well- but none of them completely stood out. Kiefer Sutherland was very good as Kirkman- but the majesty and charisma for the stature of a President was missing. May be that’s because he is still on the learning curve and would gain more confidence in due course.
Designated Survivor is an excellent watch especially for those who love political thrillers and conspiracy theories. It’s just one season down and hence very easy to catch up too.
Number of episodes: 3
For any Agatha Christie fan, her work And Then There Were None would hold a very special place. In this review, I am going to stick to the series rather than babble my never ending amusement on the brains behind this story. This novel is creepy (It’s specialty!) and keeps you guessing right till the end. I felt chills while reading the book and I geared myself to view one of my favorite thrillers on screen. Did it live up to the book? Let’s find out.
First the premise. And Then There Were None is about ten unrelated people, invited by a Mr and Mrs Owen to their bungalow at a deserted island called Soldier Island. These ten people are from various fields and professions. We have a police in Blor, a doctor in Dr. Armstrong, a judge- Judge Wargrave, a teacher Miss Claythorne, a party boy Marston, a social activist Miss Brent, an army veteran General McArthur, playboy Lombard and the keepers of the house Mr and Mrs Rogers. There is one curious question in everyone’s mind- Where is Mr and Mrs Owen, their employers/owners? As time progresses, one by one, people begin to die, or say murdered in gruesome ways. But by whom? Mr and Mrs Owen, who are probably hiding? Or is it one of the ten? Each one of them has committed a crime in their life which they are guilty off, which keeps haunting them. Who could possibly know about their past? Their crimes are their only connection. One of the highlights of this story is the old poem- Ten Little Soldiers went out to dine- which is framed and hung in almost everyone’s room and after every death (which happens according to the poem), one of the ten showpieces on the dining table goes missing! Phew!! Add to this, the frightening weather of lightning, rain and thunder. At the end, there is no one alive in the island. And Then There Were None. How?
The BBC adaptation of this marvelous story doesn’t score a perfect 5 but it’s not very bad either. The show captures the mood of the story accurately and the suspense and nervousness did grow on me while viewing, even though I knew the story. Most of the details were captured and used appropriately. The best part was, they didn’t try anything new but stuck to the original. I felt a little impatient at the beginning. A little more time than needed was taken to set the story. The flashbacks of every character was nicely done yet at some places the timing didn’t really work. Like, Blor having his flashback at the very end stuttered the pace. Also- I wish the ending could have been more powerful, a little more into how exactly the murders happened would have been nice. We have the confrontation but much is left for us to be understood. How did the killer make it happen? Wish it had been visually explained too. Too much time was given to Miss Claythorne’s backstory while we didn’t see much for the other important characters. The doubts and feuds between the characters could have been dealt with more clarity. There were lot of loose ends which I felt should have been tied up especially with how the killer timed every murder. I can’t reveal much here as that would give away the main plot. I know it’s not like the book is new or the show is- still I don’t like giving out spoilers (would make my post lengthy too LOL).
The actors were absolutely fantastic. General McArthur would always be my Alan Grant (Jurassic Park) and Judge Wargrave would be Tywin Lannister (GoT). Background music plays its role well. Costumes and the setting were apt.
Having read the book, I knew the ending. I think that kind of definitely influenced my watching?? May be I didn’t feel the needed suspense at certain points because I knew it was a bluff? Adapting a thriller, as a matter of fact, any book is difficult. It would definitely stand good for those who haven’t read the book. But for those who have read it- it becomes a mere comparison of how much effective the show stands to the book and if the show writers have done complete justice to the original author’s work. I would really appreciate this BBC adaptation for not trying too much with And Then There Were None. And Then…is more or less like a cult and is considered as one of Agatha Christie’s finest work if not the best. Even though, I am slightly disappointed with the impact of the ending- this series is still makes a great viewing.
Season 8 Episode 1
For those who have read my previous review of Inspector George Gently, you would be aware of how much I love this show. The magnificent 1960s setting, old school policing (No technology or high tech forensics) and highly dynamic and flawed characters made this show one of its kind. There are no heavy action sequences or car chases. The investigation is simple and mind kindling. I never really had the hope that the series would come back after Season 7 ended. But here it is, at last, for its final season.
If you want to watch an honest and self-righteous cop, George Gently is the one. He is a moral cop with a terrific understanding of the police system and how the society and its people change according to the times. A war veteran and in the brink of retirement, Gently is about to complete his circle. Having lost his wife, and having no one else to consider as family, he in a way decided to mentor his Sergeant, John Bachchus into a better cop and a person. But the difference of perception and the unavoidable generation gap between Gently and Bachchus was and is the core of the show. Their arguments are a treat especially when Gently wins it. Just having both of them back on screen is such a pleasure. Apart from these two central characters, the specialty of the show is its focus on a lot of the social issues that prevailed in those times. The first episode of this season focused on violence against women.
The episode, set in 1970 now, rightly begins with the uncertainty over Gently’s career. It is time for him to hang his boots- a thought running in his mind too. Looking at Gently in this episode, I could see him ready to end his professional journey. He still wants to fight for justice and serve his city and country, but there is fatigue etched in him. I couldn’t stop wondering what happened to Gently suffering from MS track last season? He is cured now is it? Anyway- John is John and it is so good to see Rachel still present in the team. The case. A body is found in a hazardous dump and is identified as Alister Liddle who was killed by his wife in 1962, whose body was never found. The wife, Eve Liddle was convicted for the murder and was imprisoned. John was part of the case in 1962 and Gently immediately senses nervousness in John. We know how John was when the show began- ready to tamper evidence to close the cases, forcing false statements from witnesses- anything for victory. After reading the reports, it is inevitable that the case was conveniently closed after getting a confession, a forced confession off Eve and the evidences were never substantiated. Gently reopens the case and along with Rachel’s support finds the loopholes and digs up what actually happened. The downside- his relationship with John is tested. From here on, sensitive issues on domestic abuse, rape and abortion are involved and the writers treat it with high sensitivity.
Women weren’t trusted back then (and perhaps even now). If they encounter domestic abuse and violence of any sort, no one believed them. Hence, they never voiced it out. They were scared for their lives and their societal reputation. They didn’t want to harm their kids’ lives and endured all the pain silently. The character of Eve Liddle is written magnificently here. She portrays the sad state of the women back then so beautifully. The actor playing the role is fantastic. It’s sometimes difficult to understand why she and others like her put up with it, but it’s not that difficult to understand either, is it? Eve and her daughter uniting at the end was really emotional. I was also glad that they didn’t make it the clichéd story of Eve taking the blame of murder to save her daughter.
Two other storylines were super impressive in this episode. Rachel and Gently’s relationship. I have always admired Gently for believing women could be police too and bringing in Rachel and supporting her to become a detective. Rachel faces workplace harassment from a top officer which she handles with firmness yet with embarrassment and fear. It was wonderful to see Rachel standing up for Gently and declaring how he is a mentor and a father figure to her. Rachel is a very strong and evolving character. I have always loved her from the time she entered the show, probably in Season 6. I wish we could have seen more of her.
Gently and John! When these two are on the screen, there are fireworks for sure. Gently always tried hard not to push the line when it comes to John’s personal life. He knows John lives away from his daughter. He could see that John is a mess- drinking and being imperfect in his work. When he questions John’s motives behind the case after finding out that it was John who forced Eve to confess, we see a huge argument breaking between them. It’s sad to see them fall out. John has worked under the pressure of Gently, to become someone like him. He just couldn’t. It’s never easy for Gently when words on his wife is brought up. John’s way of work is different. He fights for justice too but is impatient for results. He is ambitious with an unclear mind. Gently had seen potential in John and made him his reason to stay back in the police force after his wife’s death. John takes liberty to hit at Gently but understands Gently’s intentions at the end. But him being unaware that Gently is leaving the force, retiring, is the catch here. What would be his reaction? Waiting eagerly to watch that. How much ever John detest Gently now, Gently has been an integral part of his life for the last 6 years (Just 6 years?!). They have grown close to each other without their knowledge. I love their bonding and friendship- one of the strong points of the show- the strong point of the show.
I am sad that the show is ending, but I also feel it’s the right time. For one, the lead actor Martin Shaw has aged well beyond the normal police. He is in his 70s now and his age is visible onscreen, none his fault though. It doesn’t matter as I absolutely love his acting. Hence, I am waiting to see him in a different character now.
No idea when the last episode of the show is airing. This series will always be remembered for its amazing writing, brilliant acting and its marvelous locations. Huge thanks for the team behind this show for entertaining the viewers for nearly a decade.
Don’t miss it!
Seasons: 3rd ongoing
NCIS is one of the most successful shows on TV running for 14 seasons now. The show investigates crimes involving the naval community based in Washington. Banking on the success of NCIS, the makers introduced a spin off, NCIS Los Angeles. A team solving crimes in the city of Los Angeles. When that worked well too, another spin off rose. NCIS New Orleans based in the city of New Orleans. I was confused between picking Los Angeles and New Orleans. Jethro Gibbs was the reason I watched NCIS and I wanted someone like him to lead the show. I read through both the shows and found New Orleans better and more close to its parent show. The ratings were relatively lower, but the setting seemed to be different from the usual. I decided to give it a try, one or two episodes. I am up to date with all the episodes now.
There are huge number of crime procedural shows on TV now. What makes a good show stand apart from the others is the investigating team. The characters are very crucial. Even a dull case would be bearable and watchable if the characters are engaging enough. That’s what makes NCIS NOLA click to the most extent. Dwayne Pride is the Head of NCIS NOLA. Experienced and wise, he leads a relatively small team. He loves and admires the city, his city and works hard to protect her. He owns a small bar and plays piano from time to time. He loves to cook and the office of NCIS NOLA has a kitchen. Actually, the entire office is based on an abandoned warehouse. Pride lives in a room upstairs in the office after his separation and subsequent divorce with his wife, Linda. He has a teenage daughter who follows his footsteps in the field of music. Pride is very level headed. He isn’t bossy. He isn’t forceful with his suspects. He is a very smooth contender. Colleagues and friends call him “King”. In most of the crime shows, including NCIS, the primary lead has a very tragic background. Pride saves us from that. Actually there is no tragic past and history for any of the characters which makes the episodes and cases more entertaining and not emotionally draining.
Apart from Pride, we have his colleagues- Christopher Lasalle. Meredith Brody and Percy Sonja as fellow investigators. Dr Wade is the Medical Examinar and Sebastian is the forensic expert. There is also Triple P, who is the technical expert, who uses the illegal ways to track suspects down. This is the compact team of NCIS NOLA. There is so much ease and fun among them. There is mutual respect for each other and no one shies away from sharing their problems with Pride, who is like their personal counsellor too. The cases are mostly interesting and straight forward. The city of New Orleans adds a lot of color and vibrance to the episodes. It’s really clever of the writers to merge the culture of New Orleans into the show giving a very different vibe while watching it. I, for one, have grown an interesting taste for Jazz music after watching this show. The forensics and pathology connections to the crimes are very intriguing. Each department chips in to solve the crime.
So? Where does the show falter? It falters at what I mentioned as its strength. It’s characters. Surprising? Confusing? I was confused myself when I thought about what was lacking in the show. The characters, as much as they are interesting and entertaining, lacks depth. The show is on its 3rd season now and the characters have had absolutely no growth, probably the reason why Brody left after season 2. They haven’t been tested or explored. A series gets better and better through its seasons when the characters move forward in their life; in other words, I expect as a viewer to get to know more and more about the characters as the series progresses. That is where NCIS NOLA fails in my point of view. The series is very consistent in its graph. But having said that there is no improvement too from the time the show started. The cases are well drafted but personal touches to the cases always bring in more thrill and tension. The team has no friction of any sort, no heated arguments or difference of opinion. The ride is too smooth. I really wish the characters are explored more and more tension is brought to the storyline. Example would be the recent episode, “End of the line”, we had Dr Wade’s past coming back where she had made a mistake in her judgement wrongfully convicting a guy who comes back after his release. Now that brings in a thrill. The case is solid, but the characters’ personal touch brings the viewers closer to the show.
The banter among the team members is good but nothing like the ones in NCIS when DiNozzo was present. The action sequences are nicely shot. The chasing and shooting add a lot of pace to the story. The series is beginning to get enclosed in a tight shell; the structure of the episodes have become very methodical with no room for innovation. It’s time the show breaks the shackles and brings out something new.
All the actors do complete justice to their roles. Scott Bakula (Pride) and Lucas Black (Lasalle) are the stars of the show. The change of accent, dressing and attitude gives us a different sort of cops from the usual ones. But again, I don’t think their acting skills have been tested at all. I am expecting to see more serious cases involving their characters for them to portray their acting skills.
The show, in spite of its not so great ratings, is a very good crime procedural. We don’t have suited men with dark sunglasses running around. The show keeps New Orleans in the front and portrays the cases and the city with as much authenticity as possible. Being a NCIS fan, I thoroughly love this spin off, more so now as NCIS has lost its magic. Go for this show to enjoy the dynamic and musical background of New Orleans intertwined with well written cases.