Debating TV shows

I thought it would be helpful to have one thread where we can all debate tv shows we like, we dislike, we hope to watch etc.

Here are some I watched recently:

AWAY (Netflix)
Okay, just today I read that there won’t be a season 2. Nevertheless I recommend this show about the multinational crew of the first space flight to Mars, with their families on Earth coping with their lives and the disconnection from them. Very well made, not too challenging, comfort food watching.

WESTWORLD, Season 2 (HBO)
I liked the first season but I had to try three times to watch season 2 because the first episode (again) repeats those storytelling habits which frustrated me in season 1 already. The deliberate slowness, the sinister joylessness, always loaded with the implication that this is DEEP and HIGHLY INTELLIGENT when the same narrative points could have been made faster and less self-importantly. Still, I went along with it this time and, again, liked some of it very much and sighed to many other moments. Best episode: the one with the Native Indians, simply because it really managed to connect the emotional content of the central theme. Pretty telling, though, that the show succeeded (for me) only through the story of a side character, not through any of the main ones. I do want to try out Season 3 because it seems to go into a new direction.

OZARK Season 1,2,3 (Netflix)
I stopped after episode 1 of season 1 last year because it was so extremely depressing - and because I was influenced by those critics who reflexively ridiculed this show as being a worse BREAKING BAD clone.

But now I binged through all available seasons and still can’t get enough. For me, it is deeply involving, exciting, darkly funny, perfectly acted, written, shot end edited. Really one of the best shows of the last years. And very different from BREAKING BAD. This is about a family adjusting to the loss of morals, creating a maelstrom of problems that they think will be overcome… until they realize that they are the problem.

SUCCESSION Season 1,2 (HBO
Hands down the best show about lies corrupting everything and power motivating anyone to succumb to their worst instincts. And still it´s a show that made me care deeply about every horribly flawed character, mainly because it is hilarious, dismantling the poses and still showing the sadness driving every decision.

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Shame about Away. I had the same with Swamp Thing, brilliant series, but immediately killed because of an accounting error.

Re: Westworld, if the purposefully slow pace of 1 & 2 bothered you, you’ll be glad to know 3 moves at a much faster pace with a huge shake up to the structure with the ensemble.

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I must go and look at Seasons 2 & 3, since I stopped after the first one. As I have posted before, my husband is the television maven in the family. I seem most to enjoy shows with self-contained episodes, e.g., “Columbo” or “The Big Bang Theory.” I did enjoy “Veep” where the episodes struck me as both self-contained and part of a larger story (BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ and SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE are exemplary in this regard). In contrast, “Picard,” which I looked forward to because I like “Star Trek,” seemed like an elongated film, with scenes stretched out in order for the narrative to fill ten episodes.

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In agreement re self contained episodes, my wife is the series binger. I much prefer things like Columbo and find myself giving up on things quickly and going back to Columbo. Falk is such an interesting actor spend time with.
Possibly why I enjoy Bosch so thoroughly, even though it is an overreaching plot format, because the lead actors are such interesting company.

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Picard was unnecessarily dragged out, could have been told far better in 5/6 episodes

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Just last evening, I watched the Season 5 episode FORGOTTEN LADY with Janet Leigh. A superb entry with its overtones of SUNSET BOULEVARD, and an intriguing variation on the usual Columbo template. I saw all the episodes as a teenager since my parents considered it “quality tv,” and so I was given permission (during the early seasons) to stay up and watch it (by the last seasons, I was old enough to set my own bedtime).

I was amazed at how much I remembered of FORGOTTEN LADY–it certainly made a deep impression on me. With lesser episodes, I sometimes do not even remember the “gotcha” mechanism Columbo employs. FL also has decent mise-en-scene, shared with another Season 5 episode IDENTITY CRISIS, directed by and starring Patrick McGoohan, who was given a free hand by the producer and Falk to shape the episode as he saw fit. The episode has a great 1970’s vibe–both visually and culturally–that adds to the overall pleasure of watching it.

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I really enjoy the episode set in London, daggers of the mind I think… Identity Crisis is superb though.
When I lived in Madrid Colombo on the TV was a comforting bit of home, weirdly.

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Not a series as such but a collection of Christie works for the BBC written by Sarah Phelps
The ABC Murders in particular I thought superb with Malcowich as Poirot. Really well made 2 / 3 episode bots of class from the Beeb.
Well worth a watch

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The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
I am a fan of writer/director Mike Flanagan since I first saw the predecessor to this series, “The Haunting of Hill House”.
Magnificently told horror which is based on characters and themes, not cheap jump scares and gore.

This second series uses many of the actors from “Hill House” but puts them into another story, based on the classic “The Turn of the Screw”. Reviews were mixed this time, and although Flanagan only directs the first episode, his style is imprinted on the whole show. And just like his movie adaptation of King´s “Doctor Sleep” I think “Bly Manor” is highly underrated. While “Hill House” had a very strong hook with the family moving into the house, “Bly Manor” takes a different approach. Both series deal with grief, but this one even more so with love and how loss is part of it, unfortunately so.

The acting is superb all around (again), the cinematography, the editing and the score fantastic. I binged these nine episodes within two days and could not believe how time flew by.

Highly recommended.

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The Outsider (HBO)
One of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made. Richard Price really understands what makes King so interesting, something too many writers and directors never got right: establishing reality with characters which are likable because they are flawed, and then confronting them with supernatural phenomenons that completely go against everything our reality supports.

Ben Mendelsohn is terrific as the cop who follows proof in order to arrest a well-liked baseball coach as a child killer, but can barely contain his anger and therefore loses sight of the brutal consequences - and then he has to learn to accept that he was wrong from the beginning and that his world view is completely shaken up by the scary truth of it all.

Even though Cynthia Erivo as socially awkward but highly gifted private investigator Holly Gibney (one of King´s favorite characters, appearing in his “Mr. Mercedes”-trilogy and short story “If it bleeds” as well) only appears from episode 3 onwards, she is completely fascinating and commands the screen with her deeply involving portrayal of a woman who knows what it is like to be an outsider.

The whole cast, actually, is pitch perfect, as is the writing (knowing exactly where to stay extremely true to the book but also where to speed up and where to slow down), the editing and the cinematography. Once again, Jason Bateman shows what a superb director (and actor) he is, establishing the tone of the series in his first two episodes, while also giving the suspected man an intriguing edge so the audience is kept in the dark about his true thoughts until… well, it is too late.

Simply wonderful, a pleasure to watch.

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Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Ridley Scott produced (and directed the first two episodes of) this science fiction series, and after the first two episodes I am absolutely intrigued. At no point I knew where this was headed - and that’s the biggest compliment I can make any show. Too often it´s so clear which template a show is following. This one teases highly interesting themes and then weaves them together in a way that is different from other sci-fi fare. Scott, for me, seems to be content to concentrate on arresting visuals if the script is lacking (instead of pushing for a better script). But this time the scripts are wonderful, and so he can visualize them perfectly, resulting in one of the most interesting shows of the year.

EDIT: Ooookaaay. Having seen the whole series now I have to correct my first impression after the first two episodes, as written above. The story remained highly engaging (for me) until the fifth episode. After that it degraded rapidly and became a surreal maelstrom of every trope known about extremism and android seeking to be human, becoming not only visually bland but also narratively boring. What a shame. A show that started so well developed into a total misfire. Sorry for being so excited at first.

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Well put. Last night, I was on the couch as my husband cooked, and on television was THE CROWN (for some reason, my Black husband who was raised on a dirt road in rural South Carolina adores any movie or television show to do with the English monarchy). The scene on the screen was the death of a character who turned out to be the Duke of Windsor. Watching the sequence, I was struck by how slow it was–how it went on and on, far beyond the point where what had occurred had been conveyed. The visuals were fine (if not arresting), but there was a showy distention to them–what Manny Farber called White Elephant Art–that made me feel impatient. I could only think of how Howard Hawks or William Wellman would have handled the scene. I think that contemporary directors sometimes forget that the word “moving” is part of the term “moving image.” Nowadays, a viewer is frequently presented a lumbering image–impressive, even arresting, but do we want a motion picture to be subject to arrest as it unfolds?

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The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Now, this is one gigantic surprise - a completely gripping show about an orphaned girl becoming a chess player genius. I never thought this could work but it manages to be completely engaging, fast-paced, emotionally gripping yet always subtle, gracefully elegant, thrilling and funny. Definitely a must-see this year.

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The Mandalorian (Disney +)

What you have to know: “Star Wars” (the first one, you know, Episode IV) was my first life-changing movie experience, closely followed by “The Spy Who Loved Me”). I was eight years old, and I lived in those worlds until I became a teenager. I was 30 years old when the prequels started to be released and watched them with interest but also diminished involvement. I tried “The Clone Wars”, liked some episodes, gave up somewhere in the fourth season after watching the previous ones on and off, thinking, well - that’s kiddie stuff, and I now am an aging grown-up. Then came the sequel trilogy and I was thrilled and entertained by them, reliving my childhood dreams. But after TROS I thought: yeah, it was fun, and now let’s close the book on this.

When Disney + started “The Mandalorian” and I only heard good things about it I thought, well, another streaming service to be paid? C´mon, who’s got the time and the money?

So I waited. And shrugged it off. Again and again. Now I gave in. I paid up. And I watched the first episode, thinking: nah, that can’t be really good. Just a cash-in on that nostalgia, right?

Wrong. I absolutely LOVED the first episode. It had the nostalgia but also the willingness to tell a new story in that universe, using the Western genre. And it even had Werner Herzog as a villain.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m almost two seasons behind. But still. I can’t wait to watch the next episodes. Although I am waiting, just to space these episodes out through the Christmas lockdown.

Simple pleasures…

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I rarely watch series, the last one I really followed was Sherlock (still not given up hope for a fifth season). But Disney was clever: in Germany, they showed the first episode on free TV (2 days before the official start), right before the free TV premiere of The Last Jedi. They caught me with that - I knew I had to watch it, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Easily the best Star wars production since ROTJ, with the exception maybe of Rogue One.

Mando rules! :laughing:

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Is Star Wars maybe in the same place Star Trek was until Next Generation? Only for a full 43 years?

Trek was a moderately successful tv show that gained fame in reruns. But its core and main attraction has always been the Kirk-Spock-Bones triumvirate, the original NCC 1701 and fans until the mid-80s vehemently refused anything not centred on this theme.

Then came Next Generation and the show gradually developed away from the Kirk attitude and opened up whole new dimensions by an emphasis on the Klingons and their culture, a treasure trove of storylines with political intrigue that would later offer many more diverse alien races with their conflict and storyline potential.

Granted, much of it may have existed for some time in the fan scene, just as the Star Wars universe has branched out with comics and games. But the main article, the films, have centred firmly on the events of STAR WARS and the characters of the Skywalkers.

Now The Mandalorian finally puts away the ballast. We get to learn about a (not entirely) new culture and their mysterious customs. The setting is the familiar space frontier western, the characters are new and interesting for various reasons. It’s Wanted Dead Or Alive meets Lone Wolf and Cub in space - and it’s hugely entertaining!

My one gripe is that the setting seems somewhat inconsistent; would players in the Empire/Rebellion clash really not be aware of the force and the Jedi a mere five years after RETURN OF THE JEDI? Seems a bit unlikely to me, I’d rather think of 80 or 150 years after. But then you wouldn’t have veterans of that war and stormtroopers stomping about.

Biggest asset of the show: little Yoda of course! Splendid idea to pick this mysterious race, just the right ‘Disney vibe’ but in a good way. There’s plenty of potential in the unlikely team with the armour-clad Mandalorian whose background is also a mystery to the viewers.

Recommended.

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In all fairness that inconsistency predates the Mandalorian. In A New Hope Han says things like:
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side,”
and
“I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other . I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.”
even though he was around before the rise of the Empire when Jedi were common. And Chewie had even met Yoda!

In fact I’m even willing to give Din Djarin a bit more of a pass as growing up in the Mandalorian enclave is probably akin to growing up in one of those weird communes. They would have been very controlling about what he learned and may have deleted their enemy from the history books. You can’t expect someone who doesn’t believe in taking their helmet off and considers weapons to be part of his religion to have had a broad and balanced education.

As for me…
I really enjoyed the first season of the Mandalorian but I’ve given up on season 2. Season 1 struck a good balance between familiar imaginary and new ideas but season 2 leaned way to heavily on established characters. I appreciate that this is a minority opinion as the episodes that annoyed me were well received but I found the fan service reached obnoxious levels. If this is what fans genuinely want then I’m deeply concerned for the future of Star Wars.

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I haven’t yet started season two of The Mandalorian so I cannot comment on it. I’d very much hope they keep their distance from the beaten path of Star Wars since the show’s appeal to me lies in it not playing the same cards over and over again. I’d even prefer it developed more in a direction where we recognise the source - but wouldn’t have expected it back in the day. Star Wars is influenced by pulp and high sf fantasy, equal parts Flash Gordon and Dune. Let that melange simmer and boil.

Speaking of which… Isn’t it about time?

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Absolutely - I suppose whoever is holding the rights/options is just afraid they get accused of copying Star Wars. Oh the irony…

Seriously, Flash Gordon would make a fantastic project. Quite surprising this hasn’t been mined for development already half a dozen times since the 90s.

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