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September 11, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Narcos, Hand of God, You're The Worst, The Last Ship and Impastor

Posted on September 11, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Once again, we’re in that slightly fallow period between seasons, where almost nothing new has started yet and everything old has already finished or has only one episode left. That’s why most of this week’s reviews have been previews:

Fortunately, though, there’s not been nothing at all on and after the jump, I’ll look at the few regulars that are still on or that have just returned: Hand of God, Impastor, The Last Ship and You’re The Worst.

But the big holes in the viewing schedule that are still to be filled meant that I’ve actually been able to watch a whole new series in one go:

Narcos (Netflix)
I didn’t quite manage to watch it in one weekend, but since tassiekev recommended it last week, I made a start on it on Friday and had got through all 10 episodes by Tuesday.

Slipping under most people’s radars like so many Cessnas heading into Miami from Colombia during the 1980s, Narcos is a dramatisation of the story of Pablo Escabar’s reign as a drugs lord, starting from the late 1970s when he sees the potential in exporting new drug cocaine into the US before making its way through the events of the 80s and early 90s that rocked Colombia and eventually other parts of the world.

Initially, the show feels like GoodFellas, with DEA agent Boyd Holbrook providing a helpful voiceover that’s at times comedic. But while it does occasionally jump around in time, the show quickly becomes almost documentary-like, with little of the standard tropes of drama: there’s no strong narrative drive, no “good guys win, bad guys lose” and no themes illustrated by suitably balanced sceens.

Instead, Narcos retells the events in all the real-world's messiness, showing just how much of a war was going on in Colombia in the 80s, a war almost reminiscent of the IRA’s similar campaigns in England at the time. Perhaps the show's only real directorial flourish is the use of the original photographs and footage from events, rather than mock-ups featuring the actors, whenever they appear in the story. And Holbrook’s narration quickly becomes hardened and surprisingly anti-Reagan for a show that’s made in a time when half of America seemingly reveres the former president in the same way they revere Jesus.

Like a lot of other Netflix shows (eg House of Cards, Marco Polo, Daredevil), Narcos revolves around one absolutely stonking central performance – in this case, Wagner Moura, who plays Escobar. It’s a mesmerising affair that manages to convey Escobar’s friendliness, ambitions and his capability for extreme violence that makes him seem like a modern day Kublai Khan, despite being perpetually clad in tatty shirt and trainers.

What’s even more extraordinary about Moura’s performance is this is effectively Netflix’s first Spanish language show, with about 80% of the dialogue in Spanish, and Moura is Brazilian and didn’t speak any Spanish until six months before production started. The show’s come in for some criticism from Colombians, because despite being lavishly shot in Colombia and the rest of the cast being almost universally Spanish speakers, they’re either not Colombian or not doing the right accents. Nevertheless, it’s to Netflix’s credit that it’s making something so heavily subtitled because the story demands it.

With Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)’s more nuanced DEA agent providing a strong counterpoint to both Holbrook and Moura, this is Netflix’s best new show in quite some time and heartily recommended. Season two’s already been commissioned, in case you were worried.

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September 11, 2015

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September 10, 2015

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Posted on September 10, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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