TV show review

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. 

 

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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.

 

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.

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) [Review]

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Rating: 4.5/5

As someone who has always been into crime books and shows, few conversations with my colleague got me interested in classics especially children’s classics. I then began my journey exploring all the popular children’s classics from Alice in the Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. A couple of months back, I came across a book called “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I had picked up a random book from the series with no clue that it was actually a series. Yeah, I know, it’s in the title itself, “A series”. I didn’t notice it then honestly. Anyway, when I realized I had bought the 7th book, I kept it aside for the future. On my mind, I wanted to do it the right way, read it in the right order. Fortunately or unfortunately, then came my way- the television adaptation of this series of books. The trailer looked amazing and I couldn’t stop myself from watching the show. In a way, I can start reading now that I know what happened before the 7th book.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows the lives of the Baudelaire children- Violet (Appx 15), Klaus (Appx 12) and Sunny (Definitely less than a year). The sudden death of their parents in a house fire, when they were away, makes the children orphans. Arthur Poe, a bank officer, is in charge to put the Baudelaire children under the rightful guardian. And only when Violet comes off age, she and her siblings will inherit their parents’ huge fortune. Enters the wicked and cunning Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) who is, without any surprise, behind the Baudelaire’s fortune. He weaves plans with his dumb theater group to lay his hands on the fortune. Every time, the kids, in one or the other, escapes from his clutches and saves themselves and the fortune.

The series is narrated by the author of the books, Lemoney Snicket. He warns and warns and warns multiple times about the sad fate of the kids and how there are no happy endings all the time. He even asks the viewers (and the readers too) not to continue watching (reading) expecting a happy ending. The series have 4 stories of 2 episodes of each. Every story is an adventure for the Baudelaire children as they continue their fight against Count Olaf, who disguises himself in every story.

Before going into every story, let’s see something about the characters. The children. Violet is the eldest. She is a calm, smart girl with an excellent talent to invent things out of nothing and everything. She is responsible and takes charge most of the time. Klaus is the middle and is an intelligent boy. He is a voracious reader (I love him for that!) and has knowledge about everything. Sunny is the youngest. Cute and chubby, she has the power to chop hard things- from rocks to metals. Now, that was indeed very hard to believe out of everything but- it’s a fantasy story. The three children are rock solid together- compliments and supports each other. Count Olaf is the other central character. Vicious and ambitious, he is ready to do anything to get the fortune. He doesn’t hesitate to harm the children if needed too. He makes sure as viewers/readers, we absolutely hate him and we do!

Now to the stories. As I mentioned before, there are four.

  1. The Bad Beginning: It’s the sad beginning of the lives of the Baudelaire children. It begins with the children getting to know about their parents’ death and being put under the care of Count Olaf. In this story, Count Olaf decides to marry Violet to acquire the inheritance. The children outsmart him brilliantly.
  2. The Reptile Room: I absolutely loved this story. My favorite. After the truth about Count Olaf’s intentions are out, Arthur Poe puts the children under the care of Montgomery Montgomery. Yes. This interesting guy has the same first and last name. Monty, as the kids lovingly call him, is a loving and concerned person who really cares for the children. Hence, when Count Olaf appears disguised as Stephano, his assistant, Monty immediately sees through. He tries to help the children out but in vain. But as before, the children escapes on their own accord.
  3. The Wide Window: Out of the four, this was my least favorite. The kids are now put under the guardianship of Aunt Josephine, who is a loud, scared, grammar-particular woman. The kids, during their exploration find out that their parents, Josephine, Monty were all part of some secret group. Count Olaf enters as Captain Sham, a single legged pirate captain. The rest of the story revolves as usual around the kids and their escape.
  4. The Miserable Mill: The last story of the series, after escaping from Captain Sham, the kids run away on their own and enters this strange mill where they find out their parents had been in the mill and had caused a deadly fire resulting in the death of many. The kids determine to prove that their parents are innocent. Count Olaf is Nurse Shirley here and lot of hypnotism is involved in this. The mission is the same. How the kids escape?

When I look at the series as a whole, I find myself really saddened and disappointed. Why? Because the story didn’t have a happy ending. But is that necessary all the time? Probably that’s what the author talks about. The kids, even in their times of despair, fight their problems with positivity and determination. Their parents are dead. They are dealing with it. They don’t have anyone else. They are dealing with it. They know their lives are in danger but they are dealing with it. In such situations, we always hope for miracles. But it’s just a hope. There is no surety. And when there is no surety, we just have to move on in our lives. The kids do the same. There is a lot to learn from the show. Yes. It is about courage and determination. But it’s also about trust and togetherness. In spite of the author warning about no happy endings, I continued with the hope. I understood at the end that there is no end for hope. I hope the kids found happiness. I hope there is another season. I hope there will be a happy ending then.

Coming to the performances- the kids are great. They emoted the distress and sadness really well. Neil Patrick Harris is excellent as Count Olaf. The wickedness swam in his eyes. My favorite disguise of his was Stephano. The rest of the supporting cast has done a marvelous job too.

The writing is consistent for most part. There are some very dramatic lines by the children which comes out overdramatic. Otherwise, it’s neat and smooth. The cinematography is top notch. The gloominess is captured very well. The music plays a very vital role and it adds so much to the mood of the show. The costumes and make up are very well done especially for Count Olaf.

This show is an excellent watch but as the author said, don’t watch it if you are expecting happy endings. Highly recommended.

100 Code (2015) [Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Cop procedural shows are something that always pulls my attention. For sometime now, I have really been craving to watch a good police procedural. My research have been meticulously ongoing but with no effective results until I laid my eye on this show- 100 code. I can’t tell what exactly my mindset was when I started watching this show. I started with no great expectations. I was in fact ready to abandon the show if the first few minutes weren’t interesting enough. Fortunately and gladly, this show sustained my interest throughout and in fact ended up as one of the best cop shows I have ever seen.

A series of gruesome murders with the same MO- young blond girls brutally killed and laid with Asphodel flowers around. Tom Conley – NYPD, investigates the killings and nearly nabs the killer only his partner messes the plan and ends up being accidentally killed by Conley himself. Further investigation points to similar killings in Sweden and Conley flies there. He convinces the Swedish Police about the connection and begins his association with Mikael Eklund who heads the Swedish police team. Eklund and Conley, after a wavered start, work together very well. They support and back each other making them a perfect cop duo. They find more bodies and the team unravels connections to Greek mythology. They begin to forecast the killer’s play based on the mythological story and try to stop further murders and in a way succeed too. With a list of suspects, they begin tracking them, eliminating down to one single person at the end. More investigations, more interviews and clues, lets them arrive at the conclusion that all the murders weren’t actually committed by one person but multiple people under the instruction of one single man, the mastermind. LH. Tracking down LH becomes the mission of the team. More murders, more clues, more connections- the perfect recipe for a serial killer mystery. Honestly, so many things happen, it’s very difficult to mention everything. A lot of other crimes happen in the city too at the same time and the team are confused if everything has a connection to LH. I am not going further into the story as that would be a giveaway.

As always, apart from the script, it’s the characters which run the show. Mikael Eklund is the star for me. He is at the verge of retiring and he is forced to take this case. He is calm, composed and respects his team though everyone are so junior to him. He doesn’t lose grip over the situation. He had lost his wife a couple of years back and is guilty for not being there with her at her last moments. His daughter, Hanna, blames him for her mother’s death and there is a strained relationship, a small parallel track for them. Tom Conley, on the other hand, is completely opposite to Eklund. He is impulsive, arrogant and jumps the gun most of the time. He is brave and clever, no doubt, but is driven by emotions most of the time. He has a sad past too (Of course!). The supporting characters are good and to my happiness get a fair share of screen space. The characters’ personal lives are touched but not too much that it overshadows the actual investigation.

I loved Sweden. The locations were fantastic. The best part of the show for me was how normal the investigation proceeded. I don’t mean there is no excitement, I refer to the procedures. The test results or forensics or anything for that matter, takes the time it should take. The team reaches loads of dead ends as one would in real life. There is frustration of failure which plagues the team too. I love the theme of serial killings for a show because loads of connections and theories are possible. Same applies for this show too. At a point I wondered if it was someone close to the team. The suspense was well done and I was forced to move to the next episode every time. I just couldn’t stop myself. There are lot of moments which raised my heart beat.

Now to the disappointing factors. 12 episodes is far too long I felt. It stretched the story unnecessarily. The backstory of Conley was a super duper dud. Few episodes in between didn’t really touch the main case…but that is it. If the show had been for say 8-10 episodes it would have been more effective. Since it’s an English-Swedish show, there are many portions in Swedish for which I had to rely on subtitles. Unfortunately, the translations were really bad and I ended up assuming most part of it. Didn’t matter though. I still could understand the story.

I absolutely loved the title track. The flashes of owl sent me creeps.

The cast, to the most part, has done an excellent job. Michael Nyqvist as Michael Eklund is amazing. The supporting cast is equally good too. I had major problems with Dominic Monaghan though. I felt he was trying too much. For one- I couldn’t accept him as a police officer. And then he looked way too serious, trying to put on the angry young man face. It’s just a small complaint. The screenplay makes up for this flaw.

The show ends in a cliffhanger with the hope of returning for season 2 but seems like there isn’t one. I wish the writers end every season properly as there is no guarantee the channel would renew the show.

100 code is a must watch for someone who loves murder, mystery and suspense. A wonderful plot with good action/chasing sequences, this show is very engaging. Highly recommended.

Speechless (2016) [Review]

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Rating: 4/5

I have to admit, I didn’t have the greatest first impressions of this show. It looked like any other comedy show based around disability with no boundary for insensitivity. The first episode was too loud and the characters looked superficial. Yet there was something, some factor, some emotion which drew me towards it. Something was definitely pulling me to continue watching this show. I couldn’t figure out what at the beginning, but as the episodes passed, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the show and loving all the characters.

Speechless revolves around the DiMeos, a very dynamic dysfunctional family. JJ, 16, is the eldest son of Jimmy and Maya, is disabled. He is wheel chair bound and cannot speak. He uses a board of words attached to his wheel chair and uses a laser pointer to select the words which he wants to speak. The entire family adjusts their life for JJ. They relocate a lot to find the perfect school for him. Maya, the mother, is loud. She gets her way through by shouting. At the school, she finds Kenneth, whom she appoints to be JJ’s voice. Then starts the roller coaster ride of numerous funny situations and enjoyable unpredictable reactions of the characters which turns the show into a perfect family entertainer. This show, just like I had said for Life in Pieces, isn’t hilarious. But there are so many funny moments mixed with heart-warming family moments which transforms this show to be an extraordinary one. Whatever factors irritate in the first episode turns out to be a fantastic standout features of the characters.

JJ’s disability is definitely the central theme of the show but it is handled with so much care and sensitivity. Full credit to the writers to have depicted it with so much respect yet everything seems normal. The show brilliantly portrays how a family with a disabled member leads a normal life. They don’t sit and lament everyday over their child’s weakness. JJ is such an inspiration. He has accepted his handicap and looks at other things that will make his life happy. He wants to do all the things he can. He doesn’t need pity but knows he is always seen with sympathy. The parents are mostly caught in a dilemma. They don’t want to make JJ feel bad but they don’t want to see him hurt. All these emotions are portrayed so subtly that they come and go, we feel and move on.

Jimmy DiMeo, the father, is a matured man. He handles his dysfunctional family so well. He understands his kids really well and does his best to fulfil their wishes. Maya DiMeo, the mother, is an over protective, loud, attention seeking woman, who argues her way through every problem. Initially, Maya is really irritating, but you get used to it. The mother in her is always on the lookout for her children. JJ DiMeo- I have said a lot about him. He is a happy boy in spite of being a special child. Ray DiMeo, the middle child, is a hyper and stressful boy who becomes nervous all the time. He, like his father, is very matured, more matured for his age. His wants and needs have to be compromised several times for JJ, but after the initial sadness, he is happy for his brother. Dylan, the youngest of the three, is an angry little girl, full of rage and fury. She talks very fast and makes very quick decisions. The three siblings have a wonderful bonding. They give in for each other and care for one another’s happiness. Kenneth, JJ’s voice, is an easy going fun guy. He is confused about his job initially but later understands that he just have to repeat loud what JJ points in his board. Through Kenneth, JJ gets a buddy. In due course, Kenneth becomes like family. Kenneth doesn’t treat JJ as special. He becomes more like his guru, teaching him the realities of life.

The story mostly revolves only around these 6 characters. A situation and loads of confusion. The actors are fantastic, the kids especially. It’s purely a family show. The writers make sure to project the thoughts of the kids wonderfully well. We can see what kind of ideas and fears run in those little minds. Just like adults have their worries and concerns, kids have their own stress too. Kudos to the writers.

I am absolutely loving this show and look forward to it every week. Surprisingly, this show doesn’t air every week and I have no idea about the reason. Nevertheless, do watch this show. It has its heart at the right place.

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.