Monday, 30 June 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: June - TV Special

Continuing on with the resurrected Monthly Mini-Reviews feature, this time around there's a cornucopia of goggle-box-based goodies for you to feast your eyes on. In other, less purple, terms - it's the Monthly Mini-Review TV Special! First up, speaking of resurrections...

In The Flesh (Series Two)

After the cancellation of Being Human, I was left bereft over the lack of interesting supernatural dramas on British TV - for about a month, that is, as right around the corner came In The Flesh, another BBC Three show which had a similar melding of the monsters with the mundane. Set in a small Northern village after the Zombie Apocalypse, it saw Zombies (or Partially-Deceased Syndrome sufferers) return home, having been treated for their conditions, only to be met with prejudice and hostility.
The second series really comes into its own, expanding the mythology of the show and deepening the characters. Luke Newberry as the put-upon Kieran continues to be a talented find, ably supported by Emily Bevan as the (ironically) lively zombie Amy and the obligatory brooding Irishman (I'm thinking Being Human's Mitchell) in Emmett Scanlan's Simon.
Despite the impending death-knell of BBC Three itself, as the series has just won a BAFTA and has been met with positive responsive and garnered a strong fanbase, I suspect that this Zombie show won't be easy to kill off...

Penny Dreadful: 'Night Work'

Since hearing about the upcoming Victorian gothic series, helmed by John Logan and Sam Mendes (the writer-director team behind the recent excellent Bond film Skyfall) I've been very intrigued. And, although, I've only got around to watching the pilot episode so far I would say that intrigue was justified.
In its premise, it's a dark and heady blend of the 19th century's most famous macabre works, featuring Dr Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, a hunt for a vampiric Mina Murray and an Egyptian curse, however, whereas previous riffs on this idea, namely Van Helsing, went all-action, from what I've seen so far Penny Dreadful sees itself as a good old-fashioned supernatural soap opera.
The stonking, and positively Bond-laden cast, is headed by Eva Green as seer Vanessa Ives, Timothy Dalton as game hunter Malcolm Murray and Josh Hartnett as American cowboy Ethan Chandler who all get a chunk of the action, or rather dialogue, in this opening hour which neatly sets up several threads of the series. Channelling the lurid, melodramatic stylings of its namesake but marrying it with a somewhat sombre, contemplative feel, Penny Dreadful is certainly one to watch.

Torchwood: Children of Earth

As easily the best instalment of the wildly uneven Torchwood (although don't tell my younger self I said that, he was obsessed with it), and one of my favourite individual television series ever, I was due a rewatch of 2009's Torchwood: Children of Earth for the first time in several years. Thankfully it did not disappoint.
To my mind, this is the Torchwood series which most satisfactorily reaches its mandate of being Doctor Who's mature sister show, examining the political and social effects of alien incursion far more than Who ever could or should. It also isn't afraid to push the boundaries far further than can be done on Doctor Who, producing some truly shocking, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking moments across its tightly-plotted five episodes. The main three cast members - John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd - are all on top form but Peter Capaldi (hey, whatever happened to him?) steals the show as pressured politician John Frobisher, a man who is forced to make difficult choices when placed as the ambassador of the human race. This is simply science fiction drama at its best.     

Bates Motel (Season Two)

While it is by no means needed, a prequel series to Hitchcock's seminal thriller./horror film Psycho that focussed on the teenage years of the crazed cross-dressing killer Norman Bates was something that caught my interest.
The best parts of the series are undoubtedly those that feature Norman and Norma, played rather solidly by Vera Famiga, who are embellished significantly beyond Hitchcock's, literally, 'psycho' characterisation to become three-dimensional people, with good and, in particular, bad points. Particular praise should be given to Freddie Highmore (once the innocent Charlie Bucket from Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) who siphons off several of Anthony Perkins', the original Bates, mannerisms while giving the character his own spin. Inspired by Twin Peaks in its presentation of a suburban town full of secrets, it can be hit-and-miss but this second series improved upon the first, taking Norman further down the dark path. You wouldn't think it to look at him, would you? Why, he wouldn't even hurt a fly... 

You can read more of my televisual ramblings over on Whatculture where I chose 8 TV Finales That Left Major Unanswered Questions.

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