TV shows you may not have seen but really should – Part 1

netflix-arrested-developementArrested Development

Written by Joe Michael Fairweather

ARRESTED Development is an American sitcom about the very wealthy (and highly dysfunctional) Bluth family. It stars – breath in – Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter and is narrated by Ron Howard along with a huge cast of recurring characters. It is a profoundly intelligent and witty program that is profoundly British in its comic sensibilities. You can quite clearly see strains of Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Monty Python as the program effortlessly switches from hilarious sarcasm to slapstick to even some very absurd moments.

To get in-depth with what this show is ‘about’ would take far too long and may spoil the joy of discovering it for the first time. At its most basic level, Arrested Development is about Michael Bluth – played by Jason Bateman – the ‘sane’ one
in the family who has to look after the Bluth’s Estate Development company after his father George Bluth Sr (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for embezzling said company. He does this whilst trying to juggle dealing with his son (Michael Cera), his socialite sister and mother (Portia De Rossi and Jessica Walter), his useless youngest brother Buster, his older brother Gob (arguably the best character in the entire show; played by Will Arnett) alongside his sister’s family Tobias and Maeby (portrayed by David Cross and Alia Shawkat, respectively) without going mad in the process. This leads to some utterly incredible moments of gut busting comedy, especially when it involves Gob. His attempts to be a rock star, magician, business man and puppeteer through the three seasons left me with tears in my eyes from laughter. Jason Bateman deserves a special mention as well, he is fantastic as the dead-panning straight man Michael Bluth, a great counter to his eccentric family, although he does have some great moments as the show progresses.

Arrested Development only goes on for three seasons thanks to Fox not advertising them properly, despite the critical acclaim, multiple Emmies and Golden Globes, and so cancelled the show due to poor ratings. But they pack so much comedy into those three seasons that more than one viewing is needed in order to get all the jokes. Earlier this year, however, Netflix (along with the show’s creator Mitchell Hurwitz) released a much hyped 4th season with the entire cast reprising their roles. Now is a better time than any to start watching the program and I highly, highly recommend you do just that.

 

Awake

awake_2156038b

Written by Sarah Thornhill

THE AWAKE dramatic series starts off with the family in a tragic car accident.

Detective Britten, played by Jason Issacs, is in the driver’s seat and his son unfortunately does not survive the crash. He soon finds himself living a mind-boggling double life in which he inhabits worlds that are polar opposites. In the first one  his son Rex has died and his wife, Hannah has lived. In the second world he enters, his wife died in the crash and not his son. As soon as his head hits the pillow in one world he dives straight into the next one. He begins to wonder which one is real and can’t really quite make it out. The fabrics of reality are slipping – he’s defying the laws of physics. He seeks the advice of a psychiatrist in both worlds, both of whom tell him he is crazy and that the world he is in is actually real. However, he begins to notice similarities between cases and other people begin to notice that he knows things before they happen. He finds clues before everyone else did. Both sides of his life seem to compliment each other and are, in some weird way, connected. Although he’d rather have his family back together again, this probably won’t happen because his wife wants to up-sticks and move to Oregon. If so ,it would most likely mean accepting Rex’s death and leaving him behind for good. What will happen?

Personally I think that you should watch Awake because it has elements of everything. Like romance,  it’s got it. His son Rex has a girlfriend, who has been left with-child  in the world he no longer exists in, and you have the opportunity to see their romance re- kindled in the world where he lives. The relationship between the detective and Hannah (his wife) is slightly more fragile and you can sit and scream at the TV for them to stay together. It has action, and lots of high speed car chases, guns and galore. It has drug raids. It has murder investigations. Best of all, it is never what you expect it to be. It always keeps you on your toes or on the edge of your seat. On top of this, it always leaves you wondering which world is he really in, or is he the one that is actually dead, or is in a coma. You’ll just have to watch it to find out.

 

tumblr_mry6f7T4J01qbg80vo1_1280Venture Bros

Written by Sam Halford

WHEN Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon, the world fell in love with the idea of ‘space-age’, essentially the idea is that in the not too distant future we could freely travel to the moon in our hover-car and space helmet with plenty of time to get back to eat our dinner in pill form.  This idea was so popular that it had become forever engraved in the zeitgeist of popular American literate and film, particularly, not surprisingly, in the science-fiction genre, Lost in Space, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jetsons, etc. Yet as people grew up they became to realise that the space-age that they were promised was not going to be a reality, or at least, not within their lifetime. Venture Bros is a show that mixes our expectations, our childhood desires, hopes and dreams with the cruel harsh unforgiving element that is life, and while space-age is a prime example of the childhood fantasies that this show tears apart, it’s not the only show that asks: “What could that actually be like?”. Ultimately, Venture Bros is a show that corrupts our childhood fantasies and it is amazing.

Venture Bros is set in a world where super-scientists, super-villains, and government owned flying airbases in the shape of an Egyptian Sphinx are all part of the everyday norm. The Venture brothers are Hank and Dean but the show is not really about the Venture Brothers, it’s more focused on their father Rusty (otherwise known as Doc) who is a terrible super-scientist forever living in the shadow of his father, unable able to live to up to  his success. Being the offspring of the most infamous super-scientist, Doc is constantly under threat, especially from his arch-nemesis The Monarch (a guy dressed in butterfly armour who lives in a giant floating cocoon) so to keep him protected the government assigns Brock Samson to serve as his bodyguard (voiced by Patrick Warburton), who is the most manliest man who ever existed, in the series we see take on an army with a knife, survive in the vacuum of space and save a man from falling to his death with a bullet. Doc doesn’t want to have the lifestyle that he has, it seems that the craziness of the world just follows and traps him. However, we never feel sorry for him as it becomes clear he is a very selfish and petty man.

Over the span of (currently) five seasons there have been so many characters all with their own personalities, that the amount could even rival The Simpsons, the list includes a necromancer, a blacula hunter, a gay super-agent, a talking gorilla, two psychopathic midgets, a pirate, a male military commander with breast implants and David Bowie – this  is only the tip of the iceberg.  Yet all of these characters are so fleshed-out with personalities, dreams, fears, strengths and flaws. Personally, I think it’s a great show, it’s also from the American Adult Swim channel so even though it’s a cartoon, it’s not exactly kid-friendly. I recommend that you try at least a few episodes, the further you go into the series the crazier it gets.

 

returned_2578266bThe Returned

Written by Sam Meadows

IF YOU LOVE zombies but have always wanted to see one star in an art house movie, then French drama The Returned (Les Revanants in the original French) is the show for you. Set in a sleepy French town with a dark past, it perfectly blends the cliché of the zombie horror genre with an insightful study of death and what it means to lose someone you love.

The story begins when several families in the town are shocked when family members and friends who have been dead for years suddenly return to them. The Returned seem to have no memory of ever having died or been dead and seem surprised by the reactions of their families. This is when the character study really kicks into gear. Watching the different families and the community deal with the return of the dead is fascinating to watch and it is the relationships between the dead and the living that makes this show really gripping.

The characters are fantastically well thought out. Camille, played by the brilliant Yara Pilartz, and her twin Lena form the heart of the show. Camille returns having been dead for four years and the intense relationship between the two twins develops brilliantly throughout the show. Another child steals the show however; creepy Victor latches onto a particular member of the community but seems unable to talk to anyone about what has happened to him.

Midway through the first series The Returned transforms. It begins as an intense character study and a great investigation into loss but, half way through, it suddenly becomes seriously creepy. Complications with The Returned start to take centre stage and we begin to see several clichés of the horror genre dropped into the show. Interestingly, I didn’t particularly care when some of the things that happened felt clichéd purely because the whole build up to these events had felt so true and interesting. Yet even as the show becomes stranger and begins to introduce clichés, it never abandons the relationships between the characters that are at its heart.

It’s definitely not too late to get into The Returned as there has only been one series of the show.  It was aired on Channel 4 earlier in the year so is readily available, with subtitles. Writing is (currently) in progress on the second and final series. It is due to air in late 2014 and will wrap of the story of the sleepy French town in which it is based. The first series ended in a bizarre fashion and has left me and countless other fans waiting impatiently for the second series to be released. It is definitely well worth the watch.

 

Light-Yagami-death-note-28991638-1024-768DEATH NOTE

Written by Kisha Matthew

Imagine that you possess the power to kill people with the stroke of a pen…

Death Note is a gem in the world of anime that only comes around every so often, one that is rarely known or heard of, and one that I insist everyone watches (in Japanese with subtitles- I beg you), particularly if you aren’t an anime fan per se – this one will undoubtedly win you over.

Developed by Madhouse and directed by Tetsuro Araki, this anime series is composed of 37 nail-biting episodes that will thwart your conceptions of justice, ethics and the true nature of morality. With fantastic voice actors and stylish animation, Death Note will have you prepping the next episode before the credits have finished!

It is a captivating psychological thriller which follows the actions of college student, Yagami Light, who is frustrated with the pervasiveness of crime and corruption throughout the world. He stumbles upon a book inscribed ‘Death Note’ which allows its owner to kill any person of his or her choosing by simply writing their name upon its pages whilst picturing the person’s face.

Although sceptical at first, after cautiously testing the book and reading its rules, Light vows to use its power to purge the world of evil, and thus embarks on an ambitious quest for global justice which will throw you into a thrilling and detailed web of cunning and wit.

The series boasts deep  intense characters and throat grabbing tension which will force you into the position of deciding whether Light is to be ultimately praised as a ‘god’ of justice or shunned as an unyielding murderer.

Due to the nature of the story, it would be difficult to say any more without giving away too much, but I can guarantee it will have you at the edge of your seat and near pressing your face against the screen in disbelief at some of the intricate and complex situations the characters find themselves in.

In conclusion, Death Note is an intelligently streamlined portrayal of logic and redemption, trust and betrayal, strategy and pre-emption, that will have leave you wrapped around your chair like a flump, dying for the next episode!

Some extra info:  The series is an adaptation of the 12 volume manga of its namesake written by Tsugumi Ohba, further adaptations of which include two live-action films which were released in 2006, and a few games by Konami for the Nintendo DS. The actor who plays Yagami Light in the live action films, Tatsuya Fujiwara, is the leading role Shuya Nanahara from the Battle Royale films.