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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


May 15, 2015

Preview: 1864 1x1-1x2 (Denmark: DR1; UK: BBC Four)

Posted on May 15, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

1864

In Denmark: Aired September 2014 on DR1
In the UK: Saturdays, 9pm, BBC Four. Starts 16th May

We’ve been waiting over a year and finally, here it comes: 1864, Denmark’s latest lavish historical drama about the Second Schleswig War, starring Those People You Like from other Danish shows (including Sidse Babett Knudsen and Lars Mikkelsen) as well as Barbara Flynn (The Beiderbecke Affair, A Very Peculiar Practice) as our very own Queen Victoria.

Heard of the Second Schleswig War, have you? No, me neither. It was a somewhat brief affair that took place in - surprise, surprise - 1864, so unsurprisingly for such an overlooked, short conflict, much of 1864 is actually lead-up and background to it. Indeed, the whole show has an odd framing device to explain everything and make it seem relevant: a bored modern day teenager on a school trip.

While we follow her and see how present day conflicts have affected her and robbed her of her brother, we first journey back to the 1850s, shortly after the first Schleswig War, which the Danes had won, emboldening them towards further action a few years later. There, we meet as children two future soldiers of the 1864 war, brothers Peter and Laust, as well as Inge, the girl of their dreams and future conflicts. We see what their lives are like - harsh schools full of pro-Danish, anti-Prussian propaganda, beatings by their dad (Mikkelsen) and, erm, experiments in masturbation and the collection of emissions (Ed: was that scene really necessary?) - again contrasted with the present day slacker-robber of the framing narrative.

We also visit Knudsen, a stage actress, who’s important in Danish society, and get to watch her to do breathing exercises and Macbeth. We also get to see what’s happening in Prussia with the Kaiser and Bismarck, all of which pleasingly enough is in German.

What we don’t get in the first episode is any actual conflict or the torrid love story between Inge and the two brothers, although slightly pretentious narrator Inge does provide us with a little introduction promising us all of this; the end of the first episode also gives us more hints of what's to come later in the series.

Indeed, one might be forgiven for being as bored as the bored teenager, unless your idea of fun is either the general Danish cultural history lesson the show is intent on propagating through background detail or watching Mikkelsen occasionally ploughing fields with his top off. The first episode does end with some big shocks of sorts but nothing huge.

Oddly, things don’t change that much in episode two, with the first half remaining steadfastly in the protagonists’ childhoods, although as Inge points out at the beginning, a few dark clouds are set to appear very quickly. However, the second half moves us forward to adolescence, although not towards any real action.

If you were expecting 1864 to be an epic period war series, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed for quite some time at least. Instead, consider this more as a period coming-of-age story that will eventually have a war as a backdrop, combined with a slightly less interesting modern-day story about a teenage down and out and her relationship with a blind old man in a wheelchair whom she quite fancies robbing but slowly befriends instead.

Clearly, like so much Scandinavian TV, this is something of a slow burn and if you want things to happen, you’ve picked the wrong genre. Indeed, despite having spent two hours watching this not get to the point, I still can’t tell you if it’s worth recommending. I probably won’t be tuning in for the next few episodes (BBC Four scheduling being what it is), but I might, which is more than I usually do with a lot of Scandi dramas, so clearly this is in the upper echelons.

But despite all the effort and money lavished on it, it’s still something that could do with an awful lot of pruning and it’s by no means something that’s going to be to all tastes, even if you are into Scandi dramas.

April 20, 2015

Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)

Posted on April 20, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Messengers

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If I had to pin down a new trend in US TV, it would be “Bible stuff”. Time was, “Bible stuff” was pretty sporadic. A Highway to Heaven here, a Touched By An Angel there, but otherwise it was pretty sporadic.

The History Channel changed that with the appropriately named The Bible and ever since then, it’s been all the rage, although there have been some pretty obvious misses along the way. Right now, apart from the numerous “they came backs/went away” of Resurrection, The Returned, The Leftovers et al, we’ve got A.D. The Bible Continues on NBC (apparently The Bible left something out. Not The Bible. The Bible), Dig’s twaddling along on USA, Syfy’s had futuristic angels over on “world’s worst TV programme" Dominion and there’s a barrel load of pilots and new series heading our way just brimming with fire and brimstone, including a TV version of The Omen called Damien.

Now, turning up on our doorsteps like a bolt from Heaven is The Messengers, in which a meteor(ite)* falls to Earth unleashing an energy wave that gives a bunch of disparate strangers angelic powers - and wings - that might come in helpful for them as they come together to prevent the Apocalypse. Which might be coming a tad sooner than suspected, because that meteor(ite)* might well have been Lucifer himself… and he has a plan.

Continue reading "Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)"

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April 16, 2015

Preview: Wayward Pines 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on April 16, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wayward Pines

In the US: Thursday, 9/8c, Fox. Starts 14th May
In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Fox. Starts 14th May

M Night Shyamalan is a director who first came to fame with The Sixth Sense, an audience-wowwing supernatural thriller about a child who can see dead people and his psychiatrist, Bruce Willis. The principal reason for its success was the twist in its tail.

Shyamalan repeated his success with Unbreakable, which also featured a twist, and as a result, his fate was sealed. As long as name was on the credits, whatever he worked on needed a twist. Or something weird, be it mermaids or Joaquim Phoenix. He tried to fit in twist-free movies such as The Last Airbender, but that’s not what the public wanted and they failed.

So now we have Wayward Pines, a twisty thing exec produced and directed by Shyamalan. It stars Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of two federal agents, including former lover Carla Gugino, in the eponymous Twin Peaks-like Idaho town of Wayward Pines.

Except his car gets hit on the way and he wakes up in the town hospital without his partner, his wallet or his phone, but with a very sadistic nurse (Melissa Leo). He meets barmaid Juliette Lewis who thinks it’s the year 2000 but that she’s only been in the town a year; he meets Gugino, except she thinks she’s been in the town for years; and sheriff Terrence Howard isn’t too helpful, but really doesn’t want Dillon to leave, even if there’s a risk that Dillon will snuffle up his ice creams. Not that Dillon finds leaving that easy at all, given the town’s Pleasantville-like geography. And death fence.

All weirdy and Shyamalany, hey?

Trouble is that Shyamalan is only directing and fellow exec Chad Hodge (The Playboy Club) is the writer. I say ‘trouble’, but that might be one of the show’s assets, as the script itself isn’t that bad - it’s everything else about it that’s the problem.

Continue reading "Preview: Wayward Pines 1x1 (Fox)"

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