The Monday mess, aka me, is looking forward to the return of “Justified” in January. Although I like my deep, layered drama shows, I also love this one. It has a great mix of fun, good dialogue, good characters, story, and guns. I suppose that implies the show isn’t multi layered, thoughtful, like The Sopranos was, or The Wire was. Well it isn’t, but it never tries to be. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It is pretty much an Elmore Leonard novel correctly brought to screen (the character is Elmore’s from his short story “Fire in the hole” which Elmore used again inspired from the series, in the recent novel “Raylan”). It is great. Hmm. It inspired me to give some thoughts on this years TV drama. Run away if you wish, but here they are, with added highly useful / useless, three word summary:
One reason for January to hurry up…
Justified – Maybe not as rounded a story as Season 2, but still great. Criminally ignored at the awards shows in favour of supposedly more serious fare. Loved the show. If you recall the line “They are saying I disarmed him”, you’ll know what I mean. – 3 word summary: Crisp dialogue king.
Breaking Bad – Short 8 episodes, but sweet as you like. The drama seemed a little bit rushed in some ways due to the reduced episodes, but there were plenty of good set pieces, wow moments, I cannot believe they did that moments, and the usual great acting. It opened with a clever scene from a year further down the line, which we have still to get to, and ended with a good cliffhanger. Cannot wait for the final 8 episodes next year. If you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – Walter, Holy sh*t.
Mad Men – Back after a break and still on form. Slight dynamic change, some interesting character endings and repositioning of characters. Roger’s acid trip perhaps the highlight. Clever and stylish still. Again, if you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – stylish, cool, thoughtful.
Game of Thrones – Beautiful to look at and well acted. Some things trimmed from the second book, some moments appearing in different form from the early part of the third. Looking forward to how they deal with the rest of the third book. Best episode this time was the episode focused around the assault on Kings landing, was the best. – Tyrion, the tall.
The Killing – Finished off the story. Improved on the first season in some ways, and made mistakes in other ways, like the “mad for a day” moment the two main characters had in separate episodes. One also took a bad beating but seemed ok enough a day or two later. The show was cancelled after this. That I wasn’t disappointed, says it all. Glad its over.
The Walking dead – perhaps on it’s strongest run so far. Good stories, good zombie kills / special effects, more tension between human vs human characters which drives the story much better. Nice ending to the mid season finale. Looking forward to this one coming back. – No, Andrea, no.
Boardwalk Empire – Despite that they killed off my favourite character at the end of the previous season, I think I enjoyed this season the most. This show for me has always been very stylish, but maybe lacks the tension and tight dramatic drive of other shows. It is still decent though, employs great actors, for example Stephen Root who did a great job this season, and I loved the way they wrapped this season up. Great to see Richard involved. Interested to see where they go next year, as I was a little apprehensive to begin with this year. – Go Richard, go.
Hell on Wheels – Beautifully shot, never really had the dramatic tension that it ought to have. Quite a bit of it is well, a bit obvious. I tend to know where this is going most of the time. I will still watch it if it returns for another season. Needs more tension.
Treme – Have this season on the recorder but not watched it yet. Nothing to add. – Better watch it.
Homeland – Half of the season watched which was excellant. They changed track, but really this had to happen in the story. I have heard reports that the second half of the season is a bit weaker, but I guess I shall see. – Better catch up.
My Fave show of the year through nonet:
Oh sunday evening drama time
what a great selection to see
but when I look back and think
which of these is my fave
gut feeling selects
the dialogue cool
Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.
No really this is, the ten best drama shows of the last decade. If you’re looking for something to watch, check the list to see if there is anything you haven’t seen.
Or in other news I wanted something more lighthearted to write about today. Something I thought might add a little information about my interests in terms of tv, relevant to the tv vegetable posts. So in an additional feature for my new tv vegetable section, here is the list. The rules for this one are:
The show must have had episodes in the last decade which unfortunately excludes British classics like “The Singing detective”, or “Boys from the Blackstuff”, and would include “The X-files” although that is not in the list.
The show must have aired more than the first season. This therefore excludes good one offs that got cancelled after a season such as Terriers (this is on Netflix streaming so check it out if you missed it), and the recently cancelled HBO show Luck (cancelled due to a third horse death during filming, not due to ratings or creative disputes, it is even possible this show might yet be back).
So the list will be as follows and to add a little more to it, they are in order, starting with what I consider to be the best:
The Sopranos – ” Woke up this morning… got myself a gun”. Really for me this was a super close call between this and the number two selection. But as modern dramas go, the Sopranos led the way. With no commercials on HBO, the sopranos was a film on tv, but with the increased running time, came much deeper characters. It went against being episodic in nature with each episode being essentially an instalment of the whole season, rather than an episode per se. There were individual stories in episodes, yes, but never self contained. You needed to see a whole season to get it. Many shows since have followed this model, but The Sopranos made it popular. – Then there are the characters, Tony Soprano himself, a beast of a man, but as we followed his viewpoint, someone we could sympathise with whatever bad deeds he did. Paulie Walnuts, Sal, Uncle Junior, Carmella, Ralph Cifaretto, the list goes on. This also gave the “no-one is safe, anyone could die model” which shows like “A Game of thrones” have today. The Sopranos was full of classic moments and scenes. I would list some but this blog piece might never end.
The Wire – Almost the top spot. Easily the best show giving viewpoints from multiple characters, easily the best cop show, giving equal time and billing to the villains. Except there are few villains as such, only characters forced into bad deeds as a victim of the circumstances they were brought up and live in. Even the cops have their bad moments, the characters are all shades of grey. Across the five seasons (each one with a different focus area), perhaps no show examined the American experience (or cultural pie) as well as this one. If you have never seen this show and don’t mind having a slightly slow moving, but highly detailed show, you really should check this out. Be introduced to Mcnulty, Bunk, Stringer Bell, Omar (I think I read he was President Obama’s favourite character in a drama), Prez and a whole load more. A true modern classic.
Mad Men – The first entry that is still going, and about to restart in just over a week (yay!). Set in sixties Madison avenue advertising men, this show examines the America of then, through the eyes of now. It tears down the misty eyed view of that time, showing it to be just as awkward if not more so, as now. This show has a lead character in Don Draper, a drinker and womaniser, but very clever ad man. He has difficulties and troubles, successes and muck ups. We get to see it all in it’s fabulous vintage glory.
Justified – Currently broadcasting the third season. Perhaps the only onscreen place to capture Elmore Leonard’s characters and dialogue like they sound on the page. It stars Tim Olyphant as US Marshall Raylan Givens, who seems destined to be stuck in rural Kentucky. He’s the “Hillbilly whisperer” as his colleagues would have it. It’s a little like a modern day Clint Eastwood western. It manages the balance between episodes that are self contained, yet still having an overall story arc, perhaps better than any other show. It’s worth watching for the dialogue alone. Prior to watching, I never thought this show would be that much. It’s now like a guilty pleasure without the guilt. It’s brilliant.
Breaking bad – A show I only started watching on re-runs before they broadcast the forth season, so I’m a relative newcomer. A master of tension, and focussing on a few characters. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are superb as the two main characters Walter white, and Jesse Pinkman. If you want to know why being a meth producer or meth supplier can ruin you (and how?), watch this. N.B. The first season almost made me wander round greeting people with “Yo bitch”. You kind of have to see it.
Deadwood – HBO’s western loosely based on real characters, and a real place (Deadwood Milch). This was sadly cancelled prior to a final season due to production costs, yet it still features in the list. It has more swearing than any show ever but don’t let that put you off. You will soon get used to it, and the rest of the dialogue more than makes up for it, almost Shakespearian in places. Fabulous looking show, great characters, little details, again, no character is safe. Tim Olyphant is in this one too, as Seth Bullock, but Ian Mcshane is arguably the best character, a real smart nasty piece of work called Al Swearengen. Many of this cast have since appeared in Justified.
6 Feet Under – A great show set around a funeral home and a family trying to rebuild itself after the death of the father. Each episode started with a death of some kind (often leading you to guess the how), which would be the body being worked on or connected to family members that would appear in the episode. It was however much more than this each family member experiencing a journey of their own for example Michael C Hall (who went on to further success in Dexter) as the gay brother trying to find his way, or Lauren Ambrose as the screwed up younger, artistic sister. The show even had a proper ending.
The West Wing– Aaron Sorkin political dialogue in full flow. If you don’t like his style, you likely won’t like the show. However this was a clever political drama and foreshadowed Obama becoming president, in this case with Jimmy Smits. Maybe not the full depth of drama and empathy as some of the other shows listed here, but often fast paced and clever instead. Elizabeth Moss who was the presidents daughter had further success in Mad Men (as Peggy Olsen).
Treme – Co created by David Simon who was one of the creators of The Wire. Another slow moving, but detailed show, this time set in New Orleans beginning three months after hurricane Katrina wiped most of it out. Well written, well acted. It has several actors who were in the wire and also best supporting actress oscar winner (2011), Melissa Leo.
The Walking Dead – Zombies and some surviving humans. Based to some extent on the graphic novel. Good with tension, very good with make-up. It perhaps does not have enough depth on all the characters, but makes up for this with zombie visuals, and all that comes with it. About to hit the season two finale tomorrow.
So there is the list. There are some other shows around the edges. I’ve not seen Battlestar Galactica, but this is reckoned to be very good. It is on Netflix streaming so I may try it out soon. The Shield was excellent in beginning but misses out due to losing the plot a bit in it’s final two seasons. It did have an ending, but didn’t quite do it for me. Walton Goggins went from this to Justified (he was / is excellent in both) Game of Thrones I absolutely love, but it is simply too new. If the second season is as good or better than the first, this might be replacing something above. Rome was good but after being cancelled for the end of the second season, had to rush a bit to finish things off. Boardwalk Empire, was a close call, excellent in places but a little lacking in tension for me. Plus they killed off my favourite character at the end of last season so that might take away something for me. Terminator: The Sarah Connor chronicles was much more fun than I thought it would be, and might have been a contender had it not gotten cancelled without an ending. Lost was top fun but had a crappy ending that didn’t explain enough for me and just didn’t do it justice for me either. That was a shame as the shortened final seasons had mostly been a joy.