TV shows you may not have seen but really should – Part 2

download (1)Archer

Written by Jozef Raczka

YOU WERE never meant to like James Bond. It seems like this is something only Adam Reed, creator of Archer, the animated spy comedy on the US FX Network and on Netflix here in the UK, understands. Archer is the story of Sterling Archer, codename Duchess (after his dog) and the spy agency he works at, ISIS, run by his domineering mother, Malory.

The best thing about the show is the writer’s inherent understanding of the character; every character feels like they have a backstory, even if it isn’t mentioned. Barely a gag goes by that doesn’t feel in-character; the consistency is phenomenal. Presenting a lot of archetypes of both spy movies and office comedies it really succeeds at making the extraordinary feel hilariously mundane. The fringe benefits offered include Doctor Krieger, ISIS’ technology expert and mad scientist. Like truly mad; he has a wife who is a Japanese manga hologram, he killed his best friend who was a half-pig half-man and he isn’t even a licensed doctor, that’s just his first name. There’s Pam, the human resources director who at first seemed to just be the butt of fat jokes but has been revealed to be a pothead, a cockfighter, an amateur tentacle porn director and a bare knuckle fighter with over one hundred kills and Lord Byron’s ‘The Death Of Sennacherib’ tattooed on her back. They seem to take every character and push them into the weirdest, most interesting places possible and the cast clearly relish it; they seem like they’re having a ball creating an amazing chemistry, despite the fact that they are almost never recording in a room at the same time.

Yet the show is called Archer and it is his show for a reason. Blessed with the vocal talents of H. John Benjamin, he is made into the perfect combination of the cocksure arrogance of Connery-era James Bond and modern Apatow-esque man-childery whilst deconstructing both. He is not likeable – heck, none of the characters are – but they’re all simultaneously fascinating and hilarious. For all their problems with womanising, torture, homophobia, prostitute murder and many more, they are undeniably fascinating and hilarious. It is a show, that like its lead character is unafraid to pull no punches, jumping head-on into increasingly darker storylines like Season 2’s now legendary ‘Archer gets breast cancer’ arc. It is rarely deep but it is always clever and somehow never stops being funny. In the end, what more can you ask for?

 

download (3)Hannibal – Season 1

Written by Joe Michael Fairweather

HANNIBAL is an American television drama starring Mads Mikkelsen as the titular Hannibal Lecter, Hugh Dancy as Will Graham (who is played by Edward Norton in Red Dragon), a young F.B.I. Criminal Profiler who is haunted by the ability to accurately imagine how crime happened as he is looking at the crime-scene and Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford (Graham’s boss). It acts as a prequel of sorts to the books as it details the early relationship between Lecter and Graham along with how Hannibal became the world renowned criminal he is regarded as in the books and the films.

The first season has been exemplary. The first episode immediately draws you in with solid acting from all the cast – especially Mads Mikkelsen who should be applauded for making Lecter so sickening yet disturbingly charismatic. He gives the character a really interesting edge to it that Anthony Hopkins’ legendary portrayal didn’t have (that’s not to say he is as good, however). Dancy should also be lauded, his fragile Will Graham always on the cusp of either losing his mind, going to the dark side or somehow solving the crime. By the end of the series, their show goes places that one wouldn’t expect and it gets even darker in tone than the premise suggests, with Lecter attempting to eat people and yet simultaneously help the F.B.I.

It also helps that the entire show is beautifully shot. So much so, that it barely even looks like something that would be shown on the television. Hannibal has some serious style to it as almost every scene, especially anything that involves the murders, is dripping with moodiness. It feels like the creators obsessively made sure that the show was as cinematic as possible. This perfectionism also reflects in the plot. There is a sense that the authors are writing to an audience they respect. Intelligent characters are consistent in their decision making that allows the reader to not have to suspend their disbelieve more-so than they already have to when it comes to believing in a world that has an erudite cannibal  psychiatrist in it.

So I recommend this show wholeheartedly. The creator Bryan Fuller has stated that after the second season is finished that they will work through the books, Game Of Thrones style, however this viewer sadly believes they won’t get that far. Hannibal was snubbed getting nominated for various awards and it didn’t attract a legion of viewers. Also, there is some serious talent in this show especially Mads Mikkelsen who looks like an actor who is finally going to become a ‘thing’ and become huge. One could easily see it be easily cancelled in a few seasons time if it doesn’t get big. So watch it whilst you have the chance!

 

download (5)The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

Written by Sam Halford

HAVE YOU EVER wondered what British culture was really like? Considering that most of us are used to it, brought up on it, and it’s really all we know. Of course there are people reading this who were not used to British culture, who have had to adapt to our culture and social practices, this show then is something that both these groups can enjoy.

Todd Margaret (Played by David Cross – Arrested Development) is an American sales temp who has been promoted to a position way above his skill set. He has been charged to the promotion and selling energy drinks in the UK, of course he has no real clue of British culture, or even that much about Britain itself it seems, but he lies through his teeth creating a false profile of an experienced sales agent who regularly visited his father in Leeds. However, this is not the only lie he tells, Todd lies constantly throughout the show, and despite being a pathetic shell of a man he is way too proud to ever admit that he’s told a single lie. For example, when asked where in Leeds he grew up (while another character is on Google maps), Todd Margaret randomly makes up a postcode which just so happens to be the Leeds general hospital. Rather than just come clean, like most of us would at this point, he then claims to have contracted cancer as a young boy and spent the majority of his childhood in that hospital. One lie always leads to another and Todd Margaret eventually becomes the most hated person in Britain.

That isn’t a spoiler by the way, at the start of each episode (of season 1) we see a flash forward of Todd Margaret in a court house being read crimes that he has committed, all of which occur during the show. Todd Margaret isn’t an evil man, but he is definitely a man who is designed for us to dislike; a man we hate but a man we cannot stop watching as he continually messes up. Throughout the two seasons of this show I cannot think of a single lie he tells that ends up benefiting him in any way at all.

Of course I cannot forget to mention Todd’s boss Brent Wilts, played by one of my personal favourite comedic actors Will Arnett. The reason I consider him to be such a great comedic actor is because when  he plays a character he invests so much into it, by really making it his own. The result is usually a hilarious and memorable character and here is no exception. On the surface, Brent is just an asshole, a womanising man who screams and shouts at anyone and everyone with some quite inventive swearing, but as we learn he’s really just a man who has no idea what he’s doing.

This show has great comedy, some of it situational, some of it cringe-worthy, but ultimately it’s built up from great writing, amazing acting and some superb cameos. I honestly recommend that you watch the first episode and decide for yourself.

 

download (2)Falling Skies

Written by Andrew Simpson

FALLING SKIES is possibly my favourite sci-fi show since the end of the Stargate franchise. The premise of the show is that Earth has been devastated by an alien invasion and there are small groups of survivors that band together in hope of continued existence. The show sets off 6 months after the invasion and follows that of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a former professor  and his children as they become leading figures in the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment, which is a group of both militia and civilians who are trying to escape the terrors of Boston which has become overrun.

The show is now in its 3rd series and it is safe to say that things have developed considerably since the original set up of survivors hauled up in an old school in Boston. That is one of the key aspects I love about the show, not only is it fast paced, it can dramatically change from one episode to the next. Just as it seems like things are settling down and a base is formed, everything kicks off again. Another aspect to note is the aliens themselves, they are masterfully designed and offer another unique aspect to the show. The Skitters as they are so called, are creepy in every way and the ominous threat that they harness children to do their bidding just adds to the alien like horror they create. The continued development of the alien species is also key highlight of the show.

On the surface you may consider this show to be the standard run-of-the-mill apocalyptic survival story that has been seen before, however this one is unique.  The character and story development are the reason behind this, with both forming rapidly but also we see the depth of these characters and the depth and twists in the plot take form over each episode. The strong bonds the survivors have with each other are shown, they are a family. Even in the later seasons when things change and 2nd Mass merge with other survivors (this is much bigger than it sounds but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers), they are still as close and almost prefer the good old days when they were on the road together fighting for their lives. Also with the continued development of the aliens, the introduction of the Overlords that seem to control the skitters and the new race who’s allegiance seems unclear, it creates a compelling tale.

Overall, this show is a fantastic sci-fi adventure, and with the backing of Stephen Spielberg himself, it should not only show the quality of the programme but the long-lasting nature of it. None of the worry if the show will get cancelled and left unfinished, like many sci-fi shows these days. The show is popular and is already renewed for its 4th season, so you have no excuse not to try out this latest sci-fi venture.

download (4)Parks and Recreation

Written by Phil Kirby

PARKS AND RECREATION can be described in many ways, but the word I always associate with the award winning sitcom is ‘quirky’. Don’t worry: this is quirky at its best, whether it be Ron’s deadbeat one-liners or just Aziz Ansari’s presence on-screen. The show centres on the daily shenanigans of a group of workers in the parks and recreation division of Pawnee, Indiana. It is shot in the style of a fly-on-the-wall mockumentary, so it delivers a more personal view into the lives of these employees, which plays to the show’s strengths because of the likeability of the characters. It is impossible not to root for them, from the main character, Leslie, who takes her position far more seriously than her co-workers, wanting to make a difference for the better in the people of her town’s lives, all the way down to the grizzled yet secretly soft Ron, who wants the quietest life possibly. These two characters’ personalities obviously clash, yet the outcome is nearly always hilarious or, and I cringe to use this term, “life affirming”. However, for a sit-com to merit that term and genuinely affect you in such a pleasant, emotional way is rare.

Each character in Parks and Recreation brings their own brand of comedy to the mix. For example, Rob Lowe is excellent as an extremely health-conscious official, to whom the very idea of skipping his daily 5k run results in a personal meltdown. Yet the show is often sold by Aziz Ansari’s Tom, a sarcastic but well-meaning co-worker who is obsessed with technology and pop-culture. He often pitches straight to the camera his thoughts, showing his aspirations to be a James Bond-esque entrepreneur; these direct addresses are perfectly delivered by Ansari for full comic effect, highlighting exactly why he is such a successful stand-up comedian. Another character worth mentioning again is, of course, Ron Swanson, the serious boss with a heart of gold.

The show has been described as The Office turned up to eleven, as it was originally planned to be a spin-off, but that’s not a necessary negative thing. The situations are more farfetched but not obtusely so, and it leads to much more entertainment value. A striking similarity can be found in its many moments in which the characters look to the camera for help, breaking the fourth wall but involving the audience more with the current predicament, as made famous by Martin Freeman’s constant bewilderment in the original UK Office.

The show is definitely one you should watch; it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the formulaic American comedies being churned out at the moment. Not only comforting, it offers a satirical outlook on social trends such as dependence on technology which will make you laugh but also pause for thought.