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Review: The Magicians 1×1 (US: Syfy)


In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, Syfy. Starts January 25 2016
In the UK: Not yet acquired

From many points of view, most of them commercial, Harry Potter was a great franchise. It made it to seven books and eight movies for starters, which very few other franchises managed to achieve; it also managed to reach that end point without getting worse – in some ways it even got better – which is practically unique, unless you’re a dyed in the wool Fast and the Furious or Friday the 13th fan.

But it did finish, which is an obvious problem. It was also for kids and starred kids, who as well as appreciably getting older over time, precluded any possibility of sexy time except in the darkest, nastiest niches of Internet fan fiction. It was also about English people.

As such, The Magicians is an obvious attempt to fix all those issues while sticking as close to the Harry Potter template as possible. Based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman, it sees the daftly named Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), a fantasy-book reading college graduate, discover that magic isn’t just tricks involving coins – it’s real.

As there’s a university that offers a postgraduate course in magic, he enrolls at this ‘Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy’ to be trained as a magician and to maybe make sexy time with the witches. Unfortunately for Quentin, his childhood friend Julia (Stella Maeve from Golden Boy) flunks the entrance exam, so doesn’t make it to Brakebills. Instead, she gives up on her previous life, and instead goes searching for magic elsewhere.

Little does either Quentin or Julia know, however, that there’s an arch enemy no one will talk about at Brakebills who’s laid waste to a lot of the magic community, reducing the final year of pupils to a class of four. Is he related to the group that want to recruit Julia? Only time will tell…

Despite being an obvious Harry Potter knock-off with delusions of having subtext, The Magicians isn’t half that bad and bears more than a few similarities to Ursula Le Guin’s far superior to A Wizard of Earthsea that help to lift it. Unlike Potter, the story is at its worst at Brakebills, when it’s dealing with Quentin’s fellow pupils – they may all be graduate students but they still act like they’re in High School, and the show even gives us a 10 Things I Hate About You style introduction to all the campus’s various social groupsThey’re all completely insufferable and Quentin’s not that much better, being as full of himself ‘pre incident’ (you’ll know what I mean when I watch it) as Le Guin’s Ged was before that night on Roke Knoll. 

But when it’s dealing with both the real world and the darkest aspects of the magical world it’s conjuring, the show actually soars and the final few minutes of the first episode are genuinely disturbing and adult. It also clever enough to know its own heritage, with a ‘book within the book’ that’s clearly a Narnia knock-off, but like The Neverending Story, one that blurs into the ‘real world’ of the story.

If The Magicians can avoid its most Harry Potter-esque and its more ‘adult’ aspects in favour of its genuinely adult qualities, it could be a really good show. But I have a suspicion that it’s much more in love with its mean girls, cliques, nerds and sexy time party!! thoughts than with telling a seriously interesting story. 

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Totally Serialized is back for season 5

Yes, French TV meets UK TV in London in January next year for the fifth time and here are all the details:

Totally Serialized – Season 5
28-30 January 2016 at Ciné Lumière
From 28 to 30 January, Ciné Lumière will hold the 5th edition of Totally Serialized, the one and only TV series festival in London. Aiming to promote and improve collaboration between the UK and France, it will showcase the best of new productions from both sides of the Channel. Audiences will get a chance to attend exceptional preview screenings, meet creators and actors and uncover behind-the-scenes peeks.

Those last years of production have proven that TV series are more creative than ever. And more recently, the British TV industry has broken down frontiers, with international buyers moving away from a remake-centred strategy and now broadcasting the original series with subtitles. French shows such as The Returned, Witnesses, Braquo, Spiral, Hard and Maison Close from the French Pay TV channel CANAL+ have benefited from this shift, and have proven to be a success on Channel 4, FX, BBC Four and Sky Arts respectively. Just recently, BBC2 acquired Versailles, another French series.

One of the aims of the festival is to encourage this trend as well as co-productions which are also growing between the UK and France, as demonstrate successful series such as The Tunnel and The Last Panthers – both SKY/CANAL+ co-productions.

In the light of the growing demand for high quality European TV Drama, we organise an Industry dedicated programme on 28 & 29 January in association with Creative Europe Desk UK and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Aiming to foster international exchanges and co-productions, it will explore various aspects of the constantly-evolving field of TV series, and offer various networking and speed-dating sessions.

The first day will focus on producing and financing and the second day on TV writing, in partnership with BAFTA and the Society of the Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD).

For the opening ceremony of the Festival, we are delighted to host the World Premiere of The Tunnel: Sabotage, Series 2, episode 1, courtesy of SKY and CANAL+. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with key creatives and an Industry cocktail, organised in partnership with CANAL+.

Other highlights include an all-night marathon of all three series This is England 86, 88 and 90, attended by talents and shown on the big screen for the first time, a not to be missed treat for the fans.

French comedies are also on the menu with recent smash hit Call My Agent! directed by Cédric Klapisch (Pot Luck) and featuring an all-star cast mocking themselves, and A Very Secret Service, created by OSS 117 scriptwriter Jean-François Halin: a chauvinistic comedy show — the French missing link between James Bond and The Office.

The Festival will also feature political thrillers such as Black Baron centered on the raise for power of a French politician with Kad Merad, and The Bureau, created by Eric Rochant, a high-octane drama on the French secret services, with Mathieu Kassovitz in the lead role.

Last but not least, we invite the audience to give their views on TV series in our Café Philo and kids and families to discover the animated TV series The Long Long Holiday by the producers of Belleville Rendez-vous.

Totally Serialized is curated by Lorraine Sullivan, coordinated by Priscilla Gessati and organised by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, in association with: the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Creative Europe Desk UK, CANAL+, Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD), TV France International, Europe Créative Bureau France, France 24 and C21 Media.

The French Institute web site is down right now, but more information is usually available from www.totallyserialized.co.uk. No trailer as of yet, either, but here’s one for last year’s, as well as trailers for Black Baron (Baron noir) and A Very Secret Service. Stay tuned and there’s the possibility I might be running a competition – how exciting!

 

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