Next of Kin [2018] [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6

If I have to describe the feeling when high expectations and thrill sags into extreme disappointment and boredom, this series would be the best reference. Starting off as an intense thriller, a very predictable story and characters left me just wanting the series to end.

Next of Kin follows a Pakistani family settled in London. Mona Harcourt, a successful GP, lives with her husband- Guy Harcourt, son- Sammy and her mother- Mrs Shirani in London. Their lives crash down when Mona’s brother Kareem is brutally killed by unknown terrorist group in Pakistan, the same day when a terrorist bomb attack occurs in London. You feel so sad for the family who have been preparing to celebrate Kareem’s return home. Their plight to retrieve Kareem’s body from Pakistan amidst political and legal hitches, riveting sequences. Then we have Kareem’s son- Danny, who goes missing and the police instantly connects him to the attack and a hunt begins. Mona tries to pull her family together in this grief stricken moment, protect them from conspiracy and betrayal, putting her life and her family’s at risk in the process.

Everything is so convenient. Mona’s character, whom you actually like in the first 2 episodes, becomes so irritating and utterly unconvincing. What started off as a strong character just ended up being helpless and her bizarre decisions and actions just only make things worse. I understand and I don’t expect characters to be perfect, but at least some sensible action from someone is required to retain the sanity of the show. Mona getting shot, getting imprisoned, getting kidnapped- it’s all too much. There are so many family members, and the writer strives hard to give some importance to each one of them through unnecessary story lines, that your attention gets wavered off the plot. Honestly, I don’t think so many characters were needed in the first place. The investigation team or task force or whatever you call is a complete mess. They try to portray the tension and pressure behind every operation but by that time you just lose interest in almost every bit of the plot. I don’t want to start on their shooting aim. Danny is forced to go undercover and provide details about attacks planned. You don’t connect to the seriousness of the situation at all. The pace of the show doesn’t help matters either. No explanation on Danny’s creepy expressions till the end. I took a moment to think- What exactly is the plot of the show? Is it about stopping the terrorist attacks? Is it Mona’s plight to save her family? Is it about Danny? Without a clear purpose, the show fails to impress at the end.

The actors did their best to emote their characters. Was good to see Shabana Azmi on screen but her character didn’t have much to do. Archie Punjabi and Jack Davenport did their best to keep the show together. Fine performances from the supporting cast as well.

Next of Kin started off very promisingly. But messy writing in the 2nd half makes this show easily forgettable.


Little Boy Blue (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

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.

Must watch!

Paranoid (2016) [Review]

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Rating: 1.5/5

With the yearend 2016, it was time for every entertainment website to come up with their pick of the best shows of 2016. I was really proud to find that I had nearly watched all the best shows listed. There were a few left and I decided it was time I tick them off my list too. There were several interesting shows whose plot captured my attention. One of it was Paranoid. I was really eager to watch a police procedural, more so, which involved a team working together. I missed Cop teams like the ones in Castle or The Blacklist. Reading that this show had a team involved, I plunged into it without any second thought.

This 8 part series is set in a small town of Woodsmere. Very picturesque. A young doctor mother, Angela Benton, is killed in plain sight in a playground by a hooded man. The police team- Nina, Alec and Bobby are assigned the case as they try to figure out who the hooded man is and what’s the motive to kill the doctor. The hooded man is guessed to be Jacob but he is subsequently found dead too. The team receives anonymous tips from someone who had visited all the witnesses impersonating as Detective Gaylan. The team decides to call this anonymous detective as Ghost Detective. Following the Ghost Detective’s tip offs leads them to more clues. Further investigation links the case to Germany where the husband of Angela Benton is found dead. Bobby travels to Germany and works with the German Police- Linda and her team. One clue leads to another and suspicion falls on a pharmaceutical company. Evidences are sought to prove the charges.

I immediately associated the word Paranoid to a lot of suspense and thrilling moments. But that isn’t the case. The investigation is straight and simple. It is the characters and their anxiety which constitutes the title. Nina is anxious to have a baby. She is short tempered and blurts out insensitive comments. Outcome- she is really irritating. Alec is a calm and composed guy (sometimes behaving really weird) who is in search of the love of his life. Bobby, on the other hand, has panic attacks and is under medication. He is a loner. He loses grip over himself and gets nervous at any time. He finds solace in talking to Lucy, the main witness to Angela’s murder. These three cops stay as individuals, they are never a team. Everyone is scared of something, is paranoid of something which hinders their lives. That’s Paranoid. Hence, the main case loses track most of the time. It begins well but drags along. I assumed a lot of portions to fit the missing pieces at the end.

The actors are average. I have seen lots of work of Robert Glenister but most of them have been episodic. I was really excited to see him play a major role. Sadly, the character has no great potential and he looks too dull and tired playing it. The rest of the cast gives a very average performance too.

This show didn’t live up to my expectations and I still wonder how it made to the list of best shows in 2016. I get filled with so much anger thinking about the show, maybe I am just being paranoid about it.


Victoria [Review]

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Rating: 3.5/5

For someone who doesn’t watch anything other than crime, (with the occasional comedy), choosing this show was a huge self-surprise. It’s not that I have no interest in this genre. I have always been intrigued by history and I am greatly interested in reading and watching interesting snippets about various historical events and the significant people involved. But it’s highly difficult to find a history based work which captures and sustains my attention for a long time. There are several historical television shows. I have tried watching many of them but couldn’t get past few minutes. Victoria emerges victorious!

Very obvious from the title, Victoria is about Queen Victoria and her life. In this eight-part season, we get to see the conditions behind Victoria ascending the throne, her struggle to understand the responsibility and the power of the Chair, her various relatives and their relationships and Victoria’s wedding. The show is expected to come back for season 2.

In 1837, with the death of William IV, Alexandrina Victoria, his niece, becomes the sole heir to the throne. At 18, Victoria has no experience or knowledge about the administration. But there is determination. There is thirst for power. Having lived under the constant supervision of her German mother, she wants to break all the shackles and be independent. The first decision she makes is to move to The Buckingham Palace. The entire story takes place there. She gets advice from many but the first person she gets to trust is Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister. There is a beautiful relationship that’s weaved between them. Victoria becomes completely dependent on him. Initially its purely professional, then it becomes mentor-mentee and slowly it turns into love. But Lord M, as Victoria calls him, knows his place. He moves away but making sure Victoria reaches a place of confidence and clarity.

We have loads of Kings and Dukes who make appearances. Duke of Cumberland is the evil conniving Uncle whose only motive is to plot against the Queen and prove her incompetent. He is next in the race to the throne and he wants to make complete use of it. Certain scenes involving the Duke is actually funny. There is King Leopold of Belgium, Victoria’s maternal Uncle, who is very keen to get Victoria married to his son, Albert. With questions raised on her ability to rule independently, and with the threat of appointing a Regent looming, Victoria agrees to get married. Albert is a serious and a sane guy. After the initial arguments and misunderstandings, they both fall in love and their grand marriage takes place.

The show until this is very interesting with every scene having something to offer. As an audience, we quickly become part of the Victorian era. But after the wedding, the focus shifts more on Albert. Albert is German and he isn’t liked by many. He doesn’t want to be just the Queen’s husband. He wants to be part of the administration, wants to play an active role in handling social issues. There are problems regarding his allowance which is very engrossing. Victoria and Albert get into some arguments but it’s later resolved fine. Victoria is sceptical of becoming a mother. She is scared of the procedure involved in pregnancy and delivery but eventually at the end of the season, she gives birth to Victoria II.

The series showcases the distinction between Monarchy and Government rule in a very compelling manner.  The Queen holds a lot of power but it’s the Government which runs the country. It is crucial to maintain a healthy relationship between the Crown and the Parliament. The life in the Victorian era is attractively depicted. The palaces, the carriages, the costumes, the codes of conduct, and the parties and lifestyle is portrayed impeccably. The parallel stories of the servants and aids of the Queen is interesting enough but sometimes unnecessary.

There are loads of relationships which stand out. First is between Victoria and Lehzen, the Baroness. For Lehzen, Victoria is like her child and then the Queen. Victoria looks up to Lehzen as her mother and seeks guidance. I have already mentioned about Victoria and Lord M. Victoria and her pet dog, Dash, is very cute. When Victoria is with Dash, we see her as the little girl, innocent and playful. Victoria and her mother is interesting. Somewhere there is disappointment in that relationship.

Jenna Coleman justifies her role as Victoria. She confidently carries the entire show on her shoulder. But at times I found her trying too much and hence off character. Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne plays his role with deftness. A major disappointment would be Tom Hughes as Albert. He comes across dull and disinterested. The rest of the cast play their parts well.

The background score is top notch. The title track is absolutely fantastic. It effortlessly transports you back in time.

The writing is very effective. The dialogues are precise. But the script does waver in the last two episodes. Cinematography is good but I felt it could have been better.

Victoria is a very interesting for the major part. Not considering the last two episodes which I felt was wasted, I think this show definitely deserves a huge applause for the immense hardwork and brilliant portrayal of Queen Victoria and her life. I read Victorian Era brought about many industrial developments and hence I am waiting to see how young little Victoria proves worthy of being The Queen in the next season.