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How long does it take before you get hooked on a TV series?

Posted on September 24, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

So for a long time now, this 'ere blog has had a USP in terms of recommending shows: The Barrometer, which itself replaced The Carusometer. This takes the long view, requiring a minimum viewing of three episodes before it's willing to give a cheesy grin and a rousing showtune - and the all-important thumbs up or thumbs down to the show.

But I often wonder if that's too much or even few. Some shows you sense are never going to be good from the outset, while others genuinely do take a long time to get to the point (I'm looking at you here Rubicon - 10 episodes before you reveal your brilliance? Really?).

All I can do is guess. However, Netflix knows better. Apart from its top secret way to covertly view your every move as you sit in front of your TV screen or monitor (shh, don't tell anyone), it also can analyse exactly how far you get into a show before you decide you've got to watch the rest of it or abandon it altogether. And they've just released the results in a shiny infographic (click it to make it bigger):

Netflix infographic

There's also a list:

  • Arrow — Episode 8
  • Bates Motel — Episode 2
  • Better Call Saul — Episode 4
  • Bloodline — Episode 4
  • BoJack Horseman — Episode 5
  • Breaking Bad — Episode 2
  • Dexter — Episode 3
  • Gossip Girl — Episode 3
  • Grace & Frankie — Episode 4
  • House of Cards — Episode 3
  • How I Met Your Mother — Episode 8
  • Mad Men — Episode 6
  • Marco Polo — Episode 3
  • Marvel’s Daredevil — Episode 5
  • Once Upon a Time — Episode 6
  • Orange is the New Black — Episode 3
  • Pretty Little Liars — Episode 4
  • Scandal — Episode 2
  • Sense8 — Episode 3
  • Sons of Anarchy — Episode 2
  • Suits — Episode 2
  • The Blacklist — Episode 6
  • The Killing — Episode 2
  • The Walking Dead — Episode 2
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — Episode 4

Although it's worth remembering that the Netflix viewing experience is different from watching TV weekly, as you can see, it's never the pilot episode that grabs virtually anyone, so clearly I'm onto something there.

But there are a few surprises in there. Eight episodes before being grabbed by Arrow? Who waits that long? And episode five for Marvel's Daredevil, rather than the bravura episode 2? How odd.

Oddest of all: how can anyone get addicted to Sense8?


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Review: Life In Pieces 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on September 22, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Life in Pieces

In the US: Mondays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS

Linking narrative. You’ve got to hate it, haven’t you? You’ve got the idea for a cracking, meaningful, funny scene. You’ve got an even better idea for a tender, romantic scene. But FFS, you somehow have to get from Scene A to Scene B and however you do it, it’s either going to ruin scene A or B or is likely to be rubbish or at least not as good. That’s crap that is.

Wouldn’t it be good if you could just stick a set of random scenes together? Just stick them together. You have a whole bunch of characters in one scene doing one thing, a whole bunch of different characters in another scene doing another thing and you just keep doing that.

What do you mean that’s a sketch show? Hmm. Right. Okay.

How about we make them all related somehow and we have them all together at the end in another completely unrelated scene? Would that work?

Continue reading "Review: Life In Pieces 1x1 (US: CBS)"

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Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on September 21, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, CBS

One of the best things about Dexter, Showtime's little-known show about a serial killer who only kills bad people, was Jennifer Carpenter. A foul-mouthed force of nature, she was both fun and clearly having fun in the show - for the first few seasons at least.

Post-Dexter, her career hasn't taken off, unfortunately. An attempted USA Network pilot, Stanistan, failed to make it to series, meaning she had to pin her hopes this year on CBS's Limitless spin-off.

Park that thought for a second because the progress of Limitless from book to TV series is instructive. It originally started life as The Dark Fields, a novel by Irish novellist Alan Glynn about a down-and-out writer who takes a new drug, NZT, that can expand his mental powers. Effectively a metaphor for how people on cocaine feel, it sees the hero turn his life round, become rich and powerful, and ultimately completely dependent on the drug, which turns out to have horrific side effects for those who stop taking it. Unusually for a European writer, though, the moral of the book was 'don't do drugs' and 'Eddie Spinola’ (spoiler alert) ends up dying alone in a motel room.

The book was eventually adapted by Leslie Dixon of all people. Until Limitless, Dixon was best known as the screenplay writer of Outrageous Fortune, Overboard, Mrs. Doubtfire, Freaky Friday and Hairspray. However, for Limitless, although largely faithful to the original, Dixon actually improved on it in several ways: she added action scenes, a new female character (Abbie Cornish) and changed the ending. In her hands, hero Bradley Cooper also discovers the good side of drugs, solves NZT’s side-effects and ends up running for senator, thanks to the power of NZT. Director Neil Burger and cinematographer Jo Willems also gave the movie a unique visual appearance.

And now we have the TV version, which is both a sequel and an adaptation of the movie. In a script by Elementary producer Craig Sweeny, we get Jake McDorman of you'll-have-forgotten-it-existed-until-I-mentioned-it-again Manhattan Love Story as a down-and-out singer who ends up taking NZT and with the help of Bradley Cooper, becomes a vital FBI asset, using his vast mental powers to solve crimes no one else can. His helper and biggest support? Jennifer Carpenter.

And two things are clear:

  1. Although adaptations can improve on the originals, they can also make them worse
  2. You can be too slavish too the original when you adapt it

Why do I say that? Because although Limitless isn't all that bad and is actually quite fun, mainly thanks to all the things it lifts straight from the movie's script and direction, it lifts too much - by having a Bradley Cooper-esque hero, it overlooks the fact the show would have been about 1,000 times smarter and better if Jennifer Carpenter were the heroine on NZT, McDorman the straight-laced FBI helper.

Here's the trailer.

Continue reading "Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)"

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