TV Shows Reviews

Atypical (2017 – ) [Review]

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Rating: 4.5/5

Number of episodes: 8

Atypical is an innocent and endearing tale about Sam, an 18 year old boy who is on the autistic spectrum. During one of his sessions with his therapist, Sam divulges his wish to have a girlfriend and is extremely surprised when his young therapist encourages the idea. The first season of this beautiful light comedy follows Sam and his amazing methodical ways to acquire a girlfriend.

The best thing about this show is it doesn’t expect the audience to sympathize Sam and his condition but just to accept him for what he is. Sam is autistic but very intelligent. He is passionate about Penguins and Antarctica and can speak non-stop on the subject. He has problems socializing and is troubled with overly noise. Apart from this, he is normal. And yes, he is radically truthful.

The family is a normal middle class family. Sam’s dating mission sends his mother, Elsa into intense restlessness. Having always been the go to person in the family, Elsa feels used and left out when Sam and the rest begin to lead their life on their own not wanting her help, sending her into having her own affair. I loved how the show portrayed different dynamics in the relationships within the family.

Sam and his sister Casey are amazing. Casey is so protective of Sam and loves him to the extent of sacrificing her own goals. She knows the family revolves around Sam and his needs. Yet, there are times when she feels her wishes and dreams are compromised for him. This scenario was beautifully written and executed. Sam and his father have a very interesting relationship. Doug has always had troubles connecting to Sam. There is a visible distance. But when Sam embarks on his girlfriend mission, he turns to Doug for guidance which surprises and excites him. Wonderfully, he takes the situation seriously and really wishes Sam could succeed in his mission.

A must mention is Casey’s boyfriend, Evan. Somehow, Evan seemed to be the most matured guy both in his relationship with Casey and his understanding of Sam. Also, not to forget is Paige, Sam’s trial girlfriend. Her understanding and handling of Sam is marvelous, especially her idea of having a silent prom.

All said and done, Atypical works for the most part. The part it falters is in the handling of emotions in the scenes. Every time, I feel a void in the scene. Is it the writing or is it the actors, I am not sure. You don’t feel completely involved in the scenes. You enjoy them yet it is forgettable. The track of Elsa’s affair is boring and irritating. You don’t feel for Elsa and her needs. Equally irritating is Sam’s friend Zahid. It’s good that Sam is having good friends, but Zahid is extremely irritating and is forced to be funny.

Keir Gilchrist as Sam is amazing. He brings a lot of life to the character. Brigette as Casey is wonderful. The rest of the cast are good enough but not fantastic.

Atypical is a feel good show. It’s not perfect nevertheless there are loads of moments which you would thoroughly enjoy. It gives a different take on autism and at the end, it is very lovable.

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Last Tango in Halifax (2012 – ) [Review]

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Rating: 5/5

The premise reads, “A romantic comedy between two 70- something widowed people”. For many, this would be enough to effortlessly overlook the show. But for many others, this would be enough to sit back and experience this intriguing story. I belong to the latter. The show boasts terrific actors like Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Nichola Walker and Sarah Lancashire and I have already enjoyed each one’s work except for Reid (I mean I haven’t seen her work before). This show is a breeze of fresh air. It presents the perfect balance between comedy, romance and sentiments. 

Attracted towards each other in their teens and unfortunately parted ways then, Alan Buttershaw and Celia Dawson, now in their 70s, find each other on social network and communicate after like 60 years. Their mutual attraction and silent love for each other hasn’t fizzled out. At the end of their first meeting, they decide to GET MARRIED! Haha. Now that’s the best possible way to begin the series. Season 1 follows Alan and Celia’s journey towards getting married. In a way, it’s after making the decision that they begin exploring and understanding each other. They get to know each other’s family. Oh yes! The scene where they inform their respective daughters of their wedding plans was so much entertaining. But it’s just not all about their innocent bubbling romance, it’s about the life they have led, a struggling life, and how they really wish to enjoying their remaining life to the fullest, especially when life is so unpredictable. The entire sequence where Alan and Celia get locked up in a Cathedral/Hall beautifully shows the ease between them and the comfort they seek in each other. Their family is skeptical and so should they be. But is it concern for their parents’ future or is it their own future they are worrying about? I felt they were probably jealous of their parents having found true love while they were struggling with relationships. 

Season 1 also traces the lives of the daughters of the elderly couple. Alan’s daughter Gillian (Walker) runs a farm and works temporarily at a retail store. She has a teenage son. A suspense track runs throughout the first two or may be even three seasons over Gillian’s husband’s death. The writer very interestingly gives us bits and pieces of information in every episode and we know that it’s not the end of the story. As a character, I felt Gillian lives with an inferiority complex. Her tendency to have casual flings doesn’t help her personality. When she meets Caroline (Lancashire), she feels lower to her. Caroline, with a PhD in Chemistry, is the headmistress of a school. She is a confident and bold woman, many a times arrogant. A mother of two teenage sons, she is at the verge of divorcing her husband after she found him having an affair. During this situation is when she realized her inner feelings, of her being a lesbian. Both the daughters are plagued with their own problems which seeps into Alan and Celia’s relationship, even nearly breaking it at the end of season 1. It was really interesting and realistic to see both Alan and Celia wanting each other but unable to leave behind their family. 

Season 2 is a marvelous set. Primarily, it’s all about Alan and Celia’s wedding. They have two weddings which is an added treat. We have Gillian having an on and off relationship with her husband’s brother Robbie. Personally, I never really liked Gillian’s love track. According to me, she isn’t trustworthy. Caroline begins a serious relationship with her colleague, Kate, and sees its ups and downs. Season 2 for me is full of life. Just looking at Alan and Celia so excited to begin their life together gives so much positive energy. We could also get to see more on their personalities. Alan is calmer and softer while Celia is more straight forward. Alan tends to look from everyone’s perspective which Celia takes time at. Alan is more a country man while Celia is purely a city woman. They tend to balance each other, but at times there is friction too. In totality, they are such an adorable couple, admired by everyone. Caroline warms up to Alan easily but Gillian takes her time. The grandchildren are all too good. 

There are two scenes which you just can’t stop watching it again and again. Alan and Celia jiving in Season 1. OH MY GOD! Both of them matching each others steps and that sheer energy! Wonderful! The second is Alan singing for Celia at their wedding reception and Celia’s expression of surprise! Wow! 

Now, this is the part which is going to be difficult to write. As much as I absolutely marveled at the first two seasons, from season 3 I could see the show struggle. I would say, it was because the makers couldn’t answer, “What next for Alan and Celia?”. Last Tango is predominantly Alan and Celia’s life. That took the backseat from Season 3. Not knowing what track to write for them, the season had the most outrageous track of Alan having had an affair some 30 years ago, and a son out of it. One of the main reasons Celia adored Alan is for his integrity. Her own late husband had multiple affairs, the reason for her life’s suffering. A track to compare her husband and Alan on the same factor was stupid. It destroyed Alan’s character completely and the beauty of their relationship. The makers could have ended the show with season 2 as the basic story was a finite one- Alan and Celia’s wedding. This season also focused on Caroline and Kate’s wedding and Gillian and Robbie’s wedding. I don’t want to say much more on this season. It was a complete disappointment and I just wish to forget how Alan’s character was butchered in this season. 

Season 4 had just two episodes as Christmas Specials. It had Celia exploring her acting skills which was rather funny and entertaining. The rest was the same as all the other seasons. 

As much I love the interesting personalities of Gillian and Caroline, their own strange friendship where they confide their personal secrets yet don’t like each other, somewhere it slowed down the narration. They never really had a solid story. It was the same story going back and forth throughout the seasons. John, Caroline’s husband has to be one of the most irritating characters. I felt there was absolutely no growth or redemption which was sad. I would have loved tracks between the grandchildren and Alan-Celia. 

One question which kept nagging my mind: How come Alan doesn’t know his best friend Harry’s own granddaughter? Won’t reveal much about the track. 

The main cast is so powerful you can’t take your eyes off them. It’s like a competition which everyone is winning. The locations are eye pleasing. The background music is so full of soul. 

Last Tango is a must watch- the first two seasons especially. It’s such a feel good show, something which is missing nowadays. It’s a great opportunity to watch stalwarts like Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid in an ordinary family drama instead of lavish period drama. This show without doubt will bring a huge smile on your face. Regardless of my disappointment with the last seasons, I still go with a 5/5 as the show’s first two seasons are a masterpiece. 

 

Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai (Take 2) [Review]

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Rating: 1/5

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.

 

Top of the Lake (2013) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6

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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!

 

Little Boy Blue (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Number of episodes: 4

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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.

Must watch!

Designated Survivor [2016-]

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Rating: 4.5/5

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.

 

And Then There Were None [BBC Series]

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Review: 3.5/5

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.