TV series review

Fallet (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Number of episodes: 8

Fallet is a Swedish television series on Netflix, part satirical comedy, part crime drama. It stars Lisa Henni and Adam Godley in the lead roles. What I liked most about Fallet is its brilliance in sticking to its rare genre. The case is a very serious one but the characters’ antics can’t stop you from laughing. 

Sophie Borg is a Swedish detective; young, arrogant and always goes with her instincts, her very bad instincts. Almost every decision of hers ends in a disaster. But that doesn’t stop her. On the other hand we have DCI Tom Brown, a British detective, timid and innocent, he lacks the authority needed for his position. He rarely solves cases and frequently talks to his dead mother. When a British man is found murdered in Norrbacka, both Sophie and Tom are assigned the case, a last ditch opportunity to save their career. 

Till probably the first episode, I didn’t realise it was a satirical comedy. But with the introduction Klas Wall and Bill Wall, Norbacka police, the genre becomes clear. Klas is on the verge of retirement and doesn’t want to take any risks. Sophie takes it as her mission to break the rules while Tom makes sure he follows all British etiquette of pleases and thank yous. Sophie confidently bursting into a “drama” rehearsal and taking a bizarre shot at an alleged suspect was so funny. Bill’s character grows on you. His sincerity in taking down Morse coded statements from a witness was too good. 

Apart from these quirky antics, what makes the show even more interesting is the case itself. The murder followed by few other murders kept me on the edge of the seat. The connection to a group of exchange students and Sophie’s mother being a part of that group made it even more engaging. When the story took the turn of Tom being attracted towards Sophie’s mother, I thought it was very cliched but that’s what the writers intended to do. Make the show cliched. It’s really difficult to get into this complex genre where the case is dark and the actions are silly. The investigation process is very nicely done and the ending stood up to the build up. 

Fallet is quirky, funny and interesting. The cast is very good. The setting is magnificent. The writing is crisp and clear. An easy and comfortable watch. 

 

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Dark (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

No: of episodes: 10

It’s been a long time I felt pulled into a different world, a world of mystery, eeriness and creepiness. Dark is an intriguing and compelling German TV series which jumps from crime to horror to sci-fi effortlessly. It involves one of the most complicated concepts, something which I struggled understanding in even Harry Potter, Time-turner. 

The story is primarily set in 2019 where children are going missing all of a sudden. Ulrich, father of Mikkel, one of the missing boys, is on the hunt to find his son. There are so many parallel stories which run that it is sometimes a little too difficult to follow and slows down the pace of the narration. Charlotte is the lead investigator for the case and she suspects her own husband could have something to do with the crime. Jonas, a teenage boy, is still recovering the loss of his father when he finds out his father might have hidden a huge secret, a mystery which he takes it on as his own mission to solve. Every investigation connects to a strange, scary cave in the woods. What is in the cave? 

[Spoilers ahead]

So the cave leads to a two way path, one of which takes you 33 years behind to 1986. When Jonas travels through time to 1986, he finds Mikkel in a hospital, only to be informed by a mysterious hooded guy that this Mikkel would grow up to be his own father. WOW! When taken through 1986, we find all the characters in their young age, with very different equations with each other. In a way, the writers brilliantly use this phase to build the characters. 

Every character has some mystery behind. The story makes you wonder, what would be the right consequence and should you change the events of the past. Should Jonas just bring Mikkel back to 2019, but that would mean his own existence would be a question mark. Things turn even more complicated when the other path in the cave takes you 66 years behind to 1953 where it all started. You feel all the broken pieces falling into place. Loved the moment when Charlotte reads about missing people in 1953 and finds Ulrich’s picture in the newspaper. The Helge track was too good. There are many shocking moments which keeps you on the edge of the seat.

[Spoilers end]

The ending left me a little cold. I felt it was rushed? Just a tiny bit may be. I had difficultly understanding the purpose behind everything. The concept just went above my head. So this is all about good vs evil, but which party is good and which one is evil?

The pace of the narration was very well done. It started off slow, building the premise and the important characters. Slowly the mystery and the problem is unraveled. I did feel there were too many characters and too many love angles which I felt wasn’t really needed for the story. I never understood Claudia’s involvement and who the hell Noah is and what has Bartoz got to do with anything? Noah didn’t age in any of the three periods, did he? 

The setting, the rain, the background music all added so much to the impact of the show. 

Having watched the show in English audio, I did find a lot of voices off, especially Ulrich’s. The actor was equally bad in my point of view. With no character actually playing the lead role, the rest of the cast were satisfactory. None stood out though. 

Dark is a must watch. It is very thrilling for most part and the story captivates you from the word go.

The Middle [2009-2018] (TV Series Review)

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Rating: 4.5/5

Seasons: 9

I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a show so much like this one. I haven’t watched many sitcoms as my interest is mostly into crime thrillers. But wanting a break from my favorite genre, I was browsing through to find a good-feel show and The Middle smashed it out of the park. I am so glad to have found this show. 

The Middle follows the lives of the Hecks- a middle class, perfectly dysfunctional family and their struggles with every day life. It doesn’t take you much time to connect to the characters and warm up to them. Every character is written with so much substance. Each one has their own strengths and flaws which are so common in the real world. You can identify yourself to one character or different characters at different situations. 

Mike Heck is the man of the house- a man of few words. He is easy going and doesn’t take things too seriously. He likes his sports and can sit in his couch watching sports all day. He struggles to express his feelings and the times where he uncomfortably speaks his heart out are the best moments of the show. His relationship, with Sue in particular is so heart warming. He and Frankie make a great team and have a great understanding. 

Frankie Heck is the mother of the house. Yes- her main role is of the mother which she loves to be but at times wishes she didn’t have to. She is loud, hysterical at times, but loves her children a lot. She is lazy and irresponsible, keeps forgetting her children’s school activities and does everything at the last moment. Nevertheless, she is a wonderful mom who craves for her children’s love and attention. She always works very hard to make her family as a normal family- a family who shares their day with each other, sits together for dinner, etc. But it just doesn’t happen. 

Axl Heck is the first of the three children. He symbolises the teenage boys of today perfectly. Lazy and careless with no discipline but with high self esteem, Axl always gets what he wants. But once he gets into the college, reality strikes and he slowly learns that the real world isn’t easy. He has little respect for everyone but deep down loves his family a lot. I wish Axl had more character growth but his character was in a good spot at the end.

Sue Heck is the middle child- happy and excited at all times and full of hope. She is the most positive person in the world. With no talent of any sort, she tries out almost every club and competition meeting failure, but nothing affects her. Even though I found her irritating in the first 2 seasons, the character slowly started growing on me and became sort of an inspiration at the end. She is more like Frankie, who wants her family to do normal things- celebrate birthdays and other festivals, etc. 

Brick Heck is the youngest child and is occasionally mentioned as the mistake. With at least 4 to 5 years age gap between him and Sue, he gets left out of the siblings group all the time. Even from his parents, he gets the least attention. Being a voracious reader, the negligence matters very little to him. Probably after Mike, he is the wisest of the lot. The growth he has from being a weird kid to a slightly less weird teenage boy is great. 

The supporting cast which includes the neighbours- Donoghues, Norwoods and Glossners are great as well. 

What makes The Middle work are the realistic situations and struggles the characters face. Be it problems with the homework or a tap leak or an out of function washing machine- everything is so relatable. Every Thanksgiving, Birthday, Christmas and Anniversary celebrated are memorable. I love how Sue is the only one to take initiative to arrange a party while the boys just put their hands up doing nothing. Also, the series shows how parents aren’t perfect. They try but they fail. They get impatient with the kids just like how kids get impatient with them. They also crave for some good free time, doing things they love. Whenever the show takes the emotional path, they nail it. A funny scene effortlessly turns into an emotional one and you see what family is all about. Below are few of my favorite moments. 

  1. When Mike and Sue has a heart to heart conversation after Mike feels he hasn’t been a cool father to his daughter. Sue reminds him of all the small but great things he does for her- depicting how the gestures needn’t be big but even small ones get to the kids. 
  2. Sue and Axl always have a tom and jerry relationship but whenever Axl does small loving things for his sister, it just brings a smile to your face. 
  3. When Brick sits down to advise his mother not to expect anything from others and start loving herself as she is the best person in her life. 
  4. Sue always has the tendency to dream big and when she dreams for the big colleges, it puts Mike and Frankie in worry as they wouldn’t be able to afford it, forcing them to work more. When Sue realises, she tells them that she dreams big because she loves that feeling but she knows the reality and doesn’t want her parents to worry or stress themselves. The mature Sue. 
  5. When the neighbours come in for help to fix their house’s roof.
  6. The entire Brad track was so sensibly and sensitively handled. When he enters the show as Sue’s boyfriend when they are about 12 years old, Mike and Frankie instantly knows- Brad is gay. But they leave it to Brad to figure it out himself. After Sue and Brad decides to be just friends, and after 7 years of great friendship, Brad after realising it himself, decides to tell Sue. That scene is wonderfully executed. It was all understood. 

There are so many more moments- funny ones like Frankie becoming hysterical because the kids chose Mike over her, the family’s trip to Disneyworld, all the road trips the family takes and the bickering, the forgetting of the blue bag, all the disastrous mother’s day gifts, kids conducting an intervention for the parents, Mike and Frankie taking the house and their lives back from the kids, all the sports meet and competition…the list can go on. 

The cast plays a huge role bringing so much fun to the characters. Every actor plays his/her part so well that you actually connect to the character so well. I can’t pick one- all 5 of them are great. 

The writing is the star of the show. Wonderful storylines for each character and nicely written dialogues and screenplay makes the show so light and comfy. 

If you want to watch something light, heart warming at the same time very relatable, The Middle is the show to go for. 

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.

Bosch [Season 1 Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Network: Amazon Original

Episodes: 10

There have been numerous TV series with the leading character in the title- Inspector George Gently, Inspector Lewis, Morse, Rebus- and mostly every one of those shows were based on novels. Bosch isn’t any different. Created by author Michael Connelly, the novels and the TV series follow the life of Detective Harry Bosch. An Amazon Original, this series scores high in certain areas and fails poorly in others. 

Just like most of the main TV cop leads, Harry Bosch is a middle-aged, serious, no-smile guy. Investigated for a shooting/encounter, all eyes are on his every move. When the owner of a dog calls to report finding human bones in the woods, Bosch and his team begin their investigation. The bones belong to a 12 year old boy (Arthur Delacroix) who went missing 20 years ago. A group of suspects is lined up, including Arthur’s father and the timeline is established for the cold case. On the other hand, patrol sidelines a truck for a search and finds a dead body. The truck owner- Raynard Waits is arrested and questioned. The story takes a shocking turn when Waits confesses to murdering Arthur and many others whom he has hidden in the woods. He later escapes from police custody and commits more murders. It becomes a game for him between him and Bosch. But why Bosch? What’s the connection between them? 

The cases are one of the most interesting, thrilling and grittiest cases I have ever seen. They are perfectly set in the first 4 episodes. But then happens the fall. The next 4 episodes practically has nothing to offer to the story. Yes, Waits murders more people and speaks to Bosch over the phone, challenging him. We get to see Bosch’s family and his equation with his ex-wife and daughter. There is internal politics, competition for promotion, elections and lot more. But with such a brilliant case hovering helplessly over the head, its impossible to focus on the rest of the things. 

Titus Welliver, as Harry Bosch, makes things even worse. I haven’t seen any of his works before but he just makes Bosch so dull and boring. He is so wooden in his dialogue delivery. Don’t get me started on his weird white bracelet (May be some backstory there? I don’t know) I understand the character is meant to be serious but still the actor could bring some life to the character. As a viewer, I didn’t feel for Bosch at any point of time. I didn’t route for him, or had confidence in him, that he would solve the case. I missed energy in the character. I didn’t care what happened to Bosch and that’s epic failure on the actor’s part. Hopefully, he does something different in the other seasons. 

Coming back to the case, I loved the profiler’s angle to the case, some historical significance to the name “Raynard Waits” and digging up Arthur’s past. The connection between the cases was well established. I wondered why no one recorded Bosch and Waits’ conversations? I mean- no outside perspective on that? As much as both the cases ended convincingly with no open ends, it didn’t end on a high note. It was a complete fizzle at the end. 

I don’t know if I would watch the rest of the series- 2 more seasons have aired- but I did love the cases. So may be I might give another season a try. Fingers crossed.

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!

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!