TV Shows Reviews

W1A (Season 3 Review)

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Rating: 5/5

You may like it. You may not like it. You may understand or you may not. But the fact is, this show is a brilliant piece of writing. I haven’t reviewed the first two seasons but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. I read this season, Season 3, is the final one. Sad. So here goes my thoughts.

W1A- I still don’t know what it stands for- is a mockumentary, a satire, a parody of BBC and the insider happenings. The show follows a team of people, their meetings, discussions and outcomes on various popular incidents in the entertainment world. The show is narrated by David Tennant in a documentary tone, and the narration is as funny and hilarious as the show itself. The heart of this show is to present how ridiculous and nonsensical a corporate set up can get. There are way too many meaningless teams and a Head for each one. I mean- Head of Values, Head of Better, Head of Inclusivity, Head of Diversity- and each one wondering what their exact roles are.

I love Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), Head of Values. He is the only sane guy in this dynamic and interesting group of insanity. He is mostly unheard but the one to solve the issue at the end. Siobhan, Head of Brand from Perfect Curve and later Fun Media, has to be the most exciting character ever. She is sharp and pointless. Her ideas are bizarre in the name of creativity. I still remember her and her team’s idea to change the BBC logo to mere 3 lines and they gave a very serious explanation to support this strange idea. The competition between Anna and Lucy just gets better everytime. Neil is the underdog in the group but the one with the best one-liners. Will with his, “Yeah…cool…yeah” is adorable.

The show’s pulse is its writing. Just the way the meetings take place with everyone just muttering, “Right”, “Brilliant”, “Hurrah”, “Fabulous” without listening to a word- is probably how conferences are conducted nowadays. Just lines like the one by Anna, “This is about identifying what we do most of the best and finding fewer ways of doing more of it less.” I mean what is that! But if you actually sit and dissect the lines, it does hold some deep meaning. Initiatives like Renewal Team, More of Less, BBC Me- It’s about You- each one of the storylines better the other.

I wait for crisis in the show and how the team sits for a Damage Limitation Meeting. In Season 3, the best crisis has to be with how the new automatic subtitle software mispronounced Jules as Jews and the subsequent media roar. I couldn’t stop laughing when the software named Maggie Smith as Baggy Smith. Naming current shows like Strictly, and the stars involved makes the show even more interesting. And the Forecast App! Wonderful!

The silent discos, On my bike, uproar over cutting down BBC orchestra, the plot on the cross dressed football analyser, new roles like Head of Empowerment and Head of Purpose- each one of them has excellent moments involved. Comparing Ben and Jerry to Ant and Dec was hilarious.

Few more lines to quote.

“No one watches Television anymore, like no one. Get over it. It’s over. It’s not an overstatement. It’s an Uber statement.” -Siobhan. Reaction from others is same as yours-“WHAT?”

“Given the strong reactions provoked by Ryan’s Match of the Day appearance, and given the complex and sensitive issues involved, the problem for BBC is they don’t know what to do.” – Narrator.

“What are we actually going to do when we actually run out of time?” – Tracy

Siobhan: “We need to prioritize Plan B”.

Neil: We don’t have a Plan A, stupid.

Siobhan: “That’s why we need to focus on Plan B.”

The show also showcases on the huge number of things that had to be concentrated on for the running of the network. It’s interesting to see how brand and marketing works. The location being the actual BBC office, it adds a lot of credibility. I mean those chairs! The actors are absolutely marvelous. It’s difficult to perform in a show like this where the lines have absolutely no meaning, yet you need to deliver them with utter seriousness.

Many people might not get this show. Also, I wouldn’t say it’s a hilarious show either. It’s just BRILLIANT! I couldn’t stop admiring and being astonished by the writing by John Morton. I really wish for more seasons.

This show is a joy to watch. Don’t miss it!

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Gently in the New Age [Finale] (TV Show Review)

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Rating: 5/5

Fitting, satisfying but a depressing end to an absolute marvel!

Inspector George Gently has always been one of those series which I just can’t stop admiring. I don’t know if it’s because of the 1960s setting, or the blending of the then relevant social issues with intriguing crime cases, or the brilliantly picturesque setting or the fantastically amazing cast- it’s just very difficult to pick one reason. 8 series- 10 years! That’s a journey to applaud. When it was announced that this series would be the final one, I was in a way happy because ultimately the show would get a fitting closure and Wow! What a closure!

Before I get to the part which eventually turned this usual finale into an extraordinary one, a little about the case. It’s the 1970s now. We have two cases running in parallel, connected by one person, Michael Clemens, an ambitious politician and a potential winner for the next PM. George Gently, after successfully proving corruption within the police system, is approached to look into the murder investigation of Leslie, a case involving Clemens in some way. On the other side, a undercover reporter is murdered publicly at a union protest, the reporter who laid his hands on a proof concerning Clemens. John Bachchus and Rachel Coles run the latter investigation while Gently takes the cold case. We also catch a glimpse of the state of politics then and the government cover ups. But what’s interesting and better than the actual case is how every character reacts to the case.

George Gently! This show has always been about him more than the cases. An honest man with extreme integrity, at the verge of retirement after the assassination of his beloved wife Isabella, he moved down from London to lead a quiet life, to cope with his pain and loss. This finale portrays how George never really overcame his grief and come to terms with his loss. He had distracted himself with work and nurturing his protege John Bachchus, but with the changing world and his inability to adapt to it, it results in absolute frustration and opens the door of helplessness and loneliness for him. The friction between him and John doesn’t help him either. In a way, George feels like an outcast unable to compromise with his principles or accept the harsh corrupt world. At the end, the season finale ends with George finding closure over his wife’s death.

The first half hour of the episode, I felt the story was going nowhere. It didn’t feel like it was a finale. But the next 1 hour! Mind blowing! Seeing George struggle with his emotions was agonizing, especially his call to Rachel in the middle of the night and the subsequent breakdown. I was surprised how George called Rachel and not John. That scene was so endearing. It was the first and the last time we see George so vulnerable. I absolutely admired how George wasn’t ready to give up his integrity even though he was about to retire in a week. That’s Gently for you! We never got many scenes of George thinking about Isabella over the series, may be a few here and there. This episode showed how much George missed Isabella and how he just can’t live without her or how every day has been a struggle for him. Another strong point of this episode was how it was and is highly difficult for an honest cop to work in the real world. The last scene between John and Rachel showed George’s success- creating two potential and capable police officers.

A little disappointing was the very few interactions between George and John. They have been through their ups and downs over the years and in the previous episode we saw a huge clash between them. I expected them to mend their relationship or something that would mean they were at a better place. I wasn’t sure at the end if George and John were Ok. I mean, they would have definitely been, courtesy to the lovely friendship and bonding they share, but- I wish there was one scene to show their strong bonding, to show what each meant to the other.

Coming to the performances. This episode, hands down, belonged to Martin Shaw. What an actor and performer! Shaw portrayed Gently’s frustration and pain so well, it just hit me. He effortlessly lets the viewers into Gently’s personal and vulnerable side. Even though the rest of the cast and supporting cast did a great job, they didn’t have much to do in my view. It was all Gently throughout, which I actually felt was the right way to go. Kudos!

I’ll miss George Gently a lot but I am really happy that the show got a wonderful ending, which many series doesn’t get. This show had one of the best story narrations and the pace of every episode was almost equal to perfect. Appreciation to every one of those involved in the process of making this amazing series. George Gently will always hold a special palace in my heart.

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.

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!