TV Show of the Week! Amazon’s THE GRAND TOUR! Great Car/Humor Show!

 

 

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Last year I became a huge fan of the BBC car show TOP GEAR. Thanks to catching episodes of past seasons on Netflix.  It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to the show, but quite quickly the natural camaraderie of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May  made a believer out of me.

The shows were just plain fun. So when news came that one  of the trinity was no longer going to be on the show, due to punching out one of the producers, and the other 2/3rds quitting to join him, I was dismayed. No more of the show that I had in quick order made a binge watch favorite.

And yes there was the American TOP GEAR, but the hosts there came off as annoying frat boys, making the show quite unwatchable. Nope it was clear that what made BBC’s TOP GEAR a long running hit, was the fun dynamic of the three hosts they had stupidly lost.

So when it was announced that AMAZON was giving the three ex-hosts a new car show, I couldn’t wait. Well tonight the waiting ended as the first episode of THE GRAND TOUR  dropped. And it’s great. Different but great. There are minor quibbles, the biggest being the absolutely awful ‘THE AMERICAN’ driver.

Their take on the very popular “STIG’ driver of TOP GEAR, but a very poor take it is. Being something of a very unfunny send-up of Ugly American cliches.  The ‘AMERICAN’ is very annoying, very unfunny, and is a bit that hopefully they will pull the plug on in short order.

That aside, the rest of the show and the skits and the cars and the banter of the hosts is great! And the opening sequence is quite frankly awesome. A welcome premiere and looking forward to the upcoming Friday release  of new shows!

 

http://amzn.to/2ePIPSa

 

 

The Grand Tour

 

 

Roku TV Watching Guide : 15 Favorite TV Shows on Netflix April/May 2016!!

15 Best TV/Cable Shows on Netflix

 

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RIPPER STREET Seasons 1 to 3 – Hands down the best BBC show, and one of the best TV shows period. Ranks up there with GRIMM and THE GOOD WIFE as television’s greatest

DAREDEVIL Seasons1 to 2 – Season 1 is a game changing masterpiece, season 2 stumbles a bit, but still very good

ARROW Seasons  1 to 3

HOUSE OF CARDS Seasons 1 to  4

BURN NOTICE Seasons 1 to 7

BLACKLIST Seasons 1 to 2

AGENTS OF SHIELD Seasons 1 to 2

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PERSON OF INTEREST Seasons 1 to 4 (Season 3 Ep 11 is television at its best, but you can’t just watch it without watching the previous episodes. You have to build naturally to that episode, but it is well worth the journey)

ALPHAS Seasons 1 to 2

WALLANDER (Swedish) Seasons 1 to 2

AKA JESSICA JONES Season 1

LONGMEYER Seasons 1 to 4

CLONE WARS Seasons  1 to 6

SPARTACUS Seasons 1 to 4

HELL ON WHEELS Seasons 1 to 4 – (9TH episode of season 1, is among one of the finest hours of television. Series jumped the shark with Season 4, but those first three seasons are television at its finest.)

 

Four honorable mentions:

MARON Seasons 1 to 3

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SUPERNATURAL Seasons 1 to 10 – Jumps the shark after season 5, but those first 5 sessions are a lot of fun

ZOO Season 1

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MESSENGERS Season 1

 

Black Faces, White Messages : Doctor Who

With Season 9 of BBC slated to start in a month, season 8 of DOCTOR WHO finally makes its way onto Netflix. I’ve watched more DOCTOR WHO than the vast majority of you reading this. My compulsive personality at work, I’ve seen all of the current reboot, and all of the classic existing series.

And I’ve seen the series go from great to mediocre and back again. One thing the series has suffered from, at times, in both its classic and modern incarnations is its depictions of people not WASPish.

Russell T. Davies was the visionary largely responsible for the rebirth of Dr. Who after an absence of over a decade; bringing a 20th century creation successfully into the 21st century. In terms of effects, and scope of story-lines Davies reboot was a massive win both artistically and commercially. That said one of the few failings of Russell T. Davies tenure, especially early on, was his use of characters of Color.

His Mickey character, played by the Shakespearean trained Noel Clarke (And I hold both creator and actor complicit for such a portrayal) from the first was a neutered, constantly emasculated character of color much in the vein of Step and Fetchit Hollywood, not just an offensive character, but worse a detriment to otherwise watchable story-lines, of which the Russell T. Davies run, had many.

I would rather creators avoid using characters of color, than use them offensively or ignorantly, as nothing more than tokens or stereotypes or outlets for their biases, which I think unfortunately is how Russell t. Davies approached such characters, particularly early in his run.

However by the Tenant years, Davies had a far better grasp on utilizing characters of color, as his Martha Jones character, brilliantly played by Freema Agyeman and her extended family were from the most part brilliantly written.

The post Tenant years, starring the youngest Doctor Matt Smith, and helmed by new Show Runner Steven Moffatt, I felt were pretty uneven, as the character was saddled with companions for most of his run that I found almost as annoying as the Mickey character.

That brings us finally to the new incarnation of the Doctor played by Peter Capaldi in Season 8, which definitely had me intrigued.

However, initially, the introduction of a Black character (love interest for the companion Clara), named Mr. Pink had me groaning audibly. I saw another Mickey in the making. A Black character called Mr, Pink? Really? Why not just call him snowball. But thankfully, the series, six episodes in is smarter, better written, and the character of Mr. Pink, stronger and more compelling and likably written and performed, than initial episodes and the unfortunate name… would imply. As well as other characters of color in far more humanistic and enjoyable and non-stereotypical roles than most stateside shows.

Add to that Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara are fantastic. Capaldi brings a less manic, measured performance and is a welcome touchstone to the Doctor as teacher and mentor and father. And Jenna Coleman’s Clara an excellent companion.

Episode 6 CARETAKER is my favorite of the season so far and season 8 as a whole my favorite season since the Tenant/Agyeman series. Let’s hope the writing continues to transcend the easy crutches of stereotype that sometime marred earlier seasons, and continues to broaden and enrich the history and mythology of Dr. Who.

Final Word:

On the accusation of Black Faces/White Message we find Season 8 of Doctor Who… NOT GUILTY. It is TV done right, as Showrunner, Stars, and stories combine to make addictive, fun, ethnically diverse, and smart television.

Currently Watching : AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT on Netflix VOD


Having exhausted all the episodes of many BBC shows, including both the seminal Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes and the inventive Benedict Cumberbatch series, I find myself using Netflix to find overlooked shows from yesteryear to give a try.

This weekend Agatha Christie’s POIROT finally made my radar. Initially viewed as a Belgium and more sedate and less exciting Sherlock Holmes, it grows on you none-the-less, six episodes in and I’m liking if not loving what I see, a passable, light-hearted comedy of manners, in a mystery setting.

The ratings so far with most of the first season done is:

1 1-01 101 08/Jan/89 The Adventure of the Clapham Cook ENJOYABLE INTRODUCTION
2 1-02 102 15/Jan/89 Murder in the Mews COMPELLING Locked Room crime
3 1-03 103 22/Jan/89 The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly INTRIGUING tale of a foretold kidnapping
4 1-04 104 29/Jan/89 Four and Twenty Blackbirds FORGETTABLE
5 1-05 105 05/Feb/89 The Third Floor Flat ENJOYABLE
6 1-06 106 12/Feb/89 Triangle at Rhodes PLODDING

Come by next time for more.

What I’m Watching : TORCHWOOD MIRACLE DAY

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Russell T. Davies the man who nearly single-handedly spearheaded the resurrection of the DOCTOR WHO franchise after its decades long demise, created the boundary pushing spin-off series TORCHWOOD. Revolving around the popular Doctor Who character Capt. Jack Harness, Torchwood allowed Davies to create a show for adults. While American audiences are relatively comfortable with violence, Davies wanted to create a more mature show, laced with sex and sexuality and relationships in this fragile 21st century.

From a rough and awkward first season, every subsequent season of TORCHWOOD became better both in terms of budget, story and scope, until the third season, CHILDREN OF EARTH, which is largely and I think rightly considered some of the best and most ambitious and heartfelt television the BBC has produced.

So it’s in the shadow of that huge popularity and success of season 3, that season 4 of TORCHWOOD, MIRACLE DAY was born. A ten episode series, it met with less than stellar reviews upon its release. Season 4 set in the US, and financed by a US company, possibly fell afoul of an American audience expecting the standard Sci-Fi tropes, an audience possibly unprepared for the depth and level of sophistication and level of sex and sensuality, sometimes transgressively so, showcased in the season.

For the mythological middle America demographic that ratings are supposedly based on, MIRACLE DAY had a lot in it to buck the expected trends, Black guy on White woman, guy on guy, multiple characters of color, characters of color as heroic and smart, non-stereotypical writing. Davies (whose take on characters of color in his early work on Doctor Who bordered on the minstrel and offensive) in all categories is pushing the boundaries of his latest adult scifi epic, and especially in exploring the sexuality of its protagonist.

So MIRACLE DAY took its share of hits from those threatened by all the above, as well as the British audience feeling the show had gone American, and to be fair there is a bit in here to make even me uncomfortable. But if Davies comes down a bit heavy on the skin and sexuality, to push his own inclinations, it is his right, and thankfully the excesses never come at the expense of the story, and for the most part are always done artistically; and scifi has always been the perfect place for pushing boundaries and being a little bit dangerous.

And here watching MIRACLE DAY for the first time, courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku, I have to say ignore the naysayers, Season 4 of TORCHWOOD stands the test of time as some of the best and most epic writing Russell T. Davies has produced, which means this ten part epic is among the best and most satisfying TV produced… period.

It’s not perfect, the first couple of episodes are a slow build, the character of Rex perhaps more annoying than he needs to be, or perhaps it’s the actor Mekhi Phifer who tends to grate and be a little too belligerent and obnoxious for me in all his performances [I think the series would have been better with another actor cast, say Michael Ealy (ALMOST HUMAN) or Taye Diggs (DAY BREAK], and while a strong Season, CHILDREN OF EARTH still edges it out as the high-water mark for Russell T. Davies and Torchwood and arguably BBC. But those stumbles along the way just make MIRACLE DAY sticking its landing all the better, and stick its landing it does, a great end to a great season.

And an especially valid watch (episode 10 in particular) on Father’s Day! Grade: Highly Recommended.

Watch it for free courtesy of streaming [Get a free 30 day Trial of Amazon Prime (One Year Membership) here!] and then if you are as impressed with it as I was, buy it and the other seasons of TORCHWOOD, here:

Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series [Blu-ray]

Torchwood [Blu-ray]

Torchwood: Miracle Day [Blu-ray]

Branagh WALLANDER BBC TV series vs WALLANDER Canal!!

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My first introduction to Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander is with the Kenneth Branagh helmed WALLANDER BBC series. I found those shows visually striking and emotionally intense. Only recently have I likewise become introduced to the earlier Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson (earliest episodes dating from 2006, with the latest episodes being in 2013).

There is a degree of fatalism and nihilism in the more slick and stylish BBC reworking of WALLANDER that is absent from the earlier Swedish television series. And I feel that that absence is to the earlier show’s benefit.

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While the Swedish series is no less a captive and mirror of the forlorn land it depicts, there is in the original series and in the captivating and world wearied yet bemused performance by Krister Henriksson a welcome sense of hope, of optimism even in the face of those who have forsworn hope. As such, despite or because of its understated nature, there is something more endearing in the Swedish WALLANDER, something easier worn.

Whereas the BBC version of Wallander is a different animal all-together. First its scale is far grandeur than the Swedish version, essentially each season comprised of three feature length movies, with approximately two years between seasons; 2008, 2010, and 2012 respectively.

Add to that Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of a man ever more broken is superlative. However that degree of depression can be taxing to view. To the BBC WALLANDER’s credit it is a distinct and different take from the Swedish version they were going for and achieved, so it can be viewed as its own thing rather than simply a remake.

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All that to say you can watch the original series and the BBC series and see two distinct and divergent shows, each deserving of your time. But if pressed regarding the version of Wallander that I enjoy the most, I would have to choose the Krister Henriksson series.

While the BBC version has amazing direction and cinematography, powerhouse acting by its lead Kenneth Branagh, and a wonderful score and introduction (reminiscent of the equally compelling LUTHOR), thematically I prefer the less angst ridden and less dire Swedish version. Its low-key delivery making for less hyperbolic viewing.

Grade: WALLANDER BBC series gets a grade of B/B+, and the CANAL Swedish version edges it out with a solid grade of B+.

Wallander Season 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (This item requires a 1080i compatible player)

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander (Faceless Killers / The Man Who Smiled / The Fifth Woman) [Blu-ray]

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander: The Original Episodes, Set 1

Next up I’ll sample the Rolf Lassgard WALLANDER episodes and bring you my take on those.

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH

DVD Review of DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH. [Under Construction- some spoilers]

WORLD’S END- Written by Terry Nation. It’s a pretty dire opening with
someone committing suicide. A fitting opening for an episode entitled
World’s End. Grade: B. Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, and
Richard Martin.

DALEKS- Reintroduces the almost immediately iconic Daleks. A tale of
humanity attempting to resist… in an age called Dalek. A captivating
story, solid performances and a large cast for a WHO production, but man
the Dalek effects (little streamers supposed to be the gun firing) and
the battle scenes are shockingly bad. Shockingly bad. Even for 1965 the
special effects, saucer flying scenes, and fight staging are c
ringingly, embarrassingly inept. Only the script, performances make it
worthwhile. The Doctor comes into his own in this episode using his
genius to launch an escape, only to find himself out of the fire and
into the frying pan. Questionably directed by Richard Martin. Grade: B-.
Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, Richard Martin, Bill
Russell.

DAY OF RECKONING- Written by Terry Nation. The human attack against the
Daleks has been rebuffed. And now the Daleks have only one thing on
their mind… extermination. And on the battle scenes, considering the
show is done for the most part live/in real time, you can excuse much of
its failings. However the Dalek shooting effect, and saucer footage,
there is no excuse for anything that lame. I say again, shockingly bad.
Susan gets to step up this episode and even gets a bit of romance going
on. And one fantastic, iconic scene this episode is the Daleks’
possessive march through London. Done to a great atonal score. Unusually
cinematic and very impressive. The highlight of the episode, and my
guess would be the serial. Appearance of the Black Dalek. Great
commentary. Grade: B.

THE END OF TOMORROW- A possibly explosive opening as Susan and her beau
David, save the day. Nice scene of the Daleks overseeing their human
slave labor. Nice THE GREAT ESCAPE feel as multiple story-lines converge
on the same goal… freedom. It is impressive and layered storytelling
by Terry Nation and Story Editor David Smith. Alligators in the Sewers
of London. Human vs Human. And a Dalek Guard Dog… the Slither?
Color-coded Daleks. And another strong cliffhanger. Great, full house
commentary.

THE WAKING ALLY- Ian and compatriot, escaping the Slither must face the
secrets of the mine. Doctor, Susan and cast must face the horrors of the
Sewers of London, and Barbara and friend, find uncertain shelter. A
wonderful Terry Nation script that continues to plumb the horrors of
humanity as much as the horror of the Daleks. The romance of Susan and
David continues. And the Black Dalek/The Supreme Controller announces
the reason the the Daleks have come to Earth and boy is it a doozy! They
intend to turn the planet Earth into a ship that they can pilot
anywhere?! That’s massive huge thinking by Terry Nation, way ahead of
its time! Commentary with Richard Martin, Carolyn Ford, Bill. Grade: B+.

FLASHPOINT- Ian is a fly in the ointment and nearly pays for it with his
life, Barbara launches a bold plan at the heart of the Daleks, And the
Doctor, Susan and cast also launch their attack against the heart of the
Dalek invasion. Nice use of Dalek-vision. Nice wrap-up, actually pretty
fantastic wrap-up with Susan and David. Strong episode. Grade: B+. Richard,
Verity, Carol, and Bill on commentary