Broadchurch

Broadchurch

Broadchurch is simply one of those programmes that got it right. Rarely boring, always emotional and significantly never predictable, it’s proof that TV can be both formidable and powerful in style and substance. The eight part ITV drama written by Chris Chibnall (Camelot and Torchwood), set in the town of Broadchurch, week after week, unravelled the murder of local eleven year old schoolboy Danny Latimer.

Broadchurch, at its heart, was a story of community, family and loss. A strong script, haunting soundtrack and sweeping vista shots meant it was breathtakingly beautiful, genuinely moving and unflinchingly British. Chris Chibnall has succeeded in creating not only characters that jump out the screen at us, but he has made a whole community come alive with incredible authenticity, whilst at the same time, offering an insight into what the aftermath of a tragedy might do to a family and a community. The performances put in by the ensemble cast were respectful of the subject matter, yet emotionally committed enough to breathe real life and gravitas into the story. Olivia Colman repeatedly broke my heart, and along with David Tennant, they unsurprisingly held the whole story together. The chemistry and back-and-forth between the pair anchored the narrative and gave it a lightness and a humour that, at times, kept the drama from swaying too far into the morose or the bleak.

Broadchurch has kept me on the edge of my seat and demonstrates how there is nothing quite like a well-developed, British crime drama; like any successful whodunnit the story veered towards numerous suspects before falling on a real corker of a villain. Broadchurch smacked of nostaligia and delivered on story, suspense, and drama, all of which were executed stunningly. The editing and style felt etherial from the first episode till the last and the climax last night was a fitting end to a fantastic series. The final episode gave as much time, care and attention to the big reveal as it had to the build-up, letting the drama ignite and then settle with the maturity only a well written drama can achieve. Broadchurch was so damn good, I’ll even forgive them the slightly over the top homage to Lord of the Rings, involving a wildly implausible amount of bonfires in the closing scenes of the series.

Bravo ITV. More of the same please.

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Hannibal Review (TV)

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Blood, guts, shootings, stabbings, impalings, serial killers, psychopaths, nightmares, hallucinations, breakdowns, insanity and the FBI’s answer to rain man. Within the opening three minutes of Hannibal’s first episode, aptly named Aperitif,  the audience is immersed in Will Graham’s world; the camera walks us through a blood-soaked, body-littered crime scene, played out in the minds eye of the overly empathetic FBI agent. He is a genius. He can get into the mind of any killer. He’s slightly unhinged and seems to sweat a lot. Right got it. Scene has been set.

Here’s what worked for me. Hugh Dancy is instantly brilliant as Graham and manages to pull off likeable crazy without alienating the audience too much. Laurence Fishburne, as Agent Jack Crawford, was reliably great, and the supporting cast did the job they were required to do. The production values are clearly very high and all the special effects were on a par with what you expect from a movie. The dialogue wasn’t patronising; it actually credited the audience with a brain and the plot didn’t make me want to punch someone. Now to the problems.

On paper this was fine. Stellar cast, stellar script etc but I found it hard to shake the feeling that I was having the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at me. Hannibal was heavily stylised and violent right from the start. Everything I mentioned above was packed into the 43 minute episode. Unfortunately the style removed you from the action instead of drawing you in. A bit of restraint was needed. Dramatic foreplay if you will. Silence of the Lambs had this simple, unnerving and dirty quality which was noticeably absent from Hannibal. It may be unfair to compare. Different mediums. Different time. However, it’s impossible, as a lover of the films, to disassociate the two. These characters and stories have been done and they have been done well. The result is that character twists are removed due to prior knowledge, and with the plot points already laid out it’s difficult to become engaged or intrigued by characters; we know that dude is a cannibal blah blah blah. Which brings me onto Hannibal Lecter himself. Surely he will be so fucking terrifying the rest won’t matter? Err..

Now we definitely fly the flag for team Mads on this site but I really had a problem with him in this role. The issue is that when you have a character as established in pop culture and as fantastic as Anthony Hopkins, you leave yourself with no room for error. You need to make your Hannibal a Hannibal you haven’t seen before but equally as creepy. Mads Mikkelson currently is missing something. He lacks the quality that made Anthony Hopkins so compellingly sinister. If they cannot overcome or rectify this it will alienate older fans who hear Hannibal and simply think Hopkins.

Now all is not lost. Let’s give Fuller the benefit of the doubt.  He may have panicked at the size of the task and thought that going all out on the stylistics and heaping on gore would make this a compelling ride. Hopefully the show will relax into a more sustainable pace as the series matures. To make this work we need to start to appreciate the characters in their own right, introduce unknown threats, tone down the visual barrage and make Lecter terrifying. We’ve got the whole series to see how this pans out. I hope this turns out to be brilliant. Watch this space…

10 kids TV Shows from the 90s that changed your life

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1) Power Rangers: When The Power Rangers burst onto the scene in 1993 you could hear the collective sound of kids heads exploding everywhere. The Power Rangers were everything you wanted from your action heroes and more. Not only did they have mad fighting skills, they had unique weapons, the ability to control colossal assault machines called Zords and a mentor that looked like a giant potato, the tastiest and most versatile of the root vegetables. The Power Rangers have gone onto achieve world domination, with so many different spin-offs I’ve lost count, but every child of the 90’s will agree that the original line up has been and always will be the best.

Here’s the original opening sequence; damn I forgot how good this is..

2) Fun House: A man, a mullet, an oversized playground, go-karts, a pair of blond twins and a wickedly catchy 80’s style theme tune. No it’s not a low budget porn film but the classic and epic kid’s TV show from the 90’s, Fun House. Show me a child that didn’t want to go on that show and I’ll show you a kid that needed a punch in the face.

3) Ren and Stimpy: This bizarre and twisted American cartoon followed the tales of a chihuahua and a cat as they embarked on graphically gross and often disturbing adventures. This cartoon sometimes left me feeling a little strange inside, like I’d just seen something that no child should ever see. And it was awesome.  If Ren and Stimpy were around now, they’d probably be in a methadone programme trying to kick their crack habit.

Check out this clip that shows why this show was like nothing on TV.

4) Art Attack: Neil Buchanan taught us that with a little creativity, some PVA and an array of coloured card you could make anything. It was a great time as a child when guessing the giant Art Attack, before he’d finished making it, was the highlight of your week. Art Attack was so successful that it is actually CITV’s longest running programme, running from 1990 to 2007.

5) SMTV:  Proof that children’s TV could be smart, funny and not at all patronising. If you were a kid (big kid) in the late 90’s and you weren’t watching SMTV then you there was something wrong. With Challenge Ant, Wonkey Donkey, Chums, the beautiful Corrs, Pokemon battles, to name but a few, this programme had it all going on. Many before and after tried to create the magic that existed between Ant, Dec and Cat but none came close. Here are two clips to remind you just how amazing it was:

6) Playdays: All the toddlers in the know were all about Playdays. Where would the bus be going that week? Who would be taking us there? What adventures would we have when we arrived? Playdays was the staple of any British child’s schedule and was a nice warm up to Neighbours later on in the day (My Mum and I learnt to share in the 90’s…).

7) Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends: Thomas had it all going on and more. Excellent plots, versatile characters, fantastic models and gripping, yes gripping, action sequences meant Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends was must see viewing in the 90’s. Originally broadcast in 1984, Thomas has such lasting and timeless class that the programme is still loved today. Thomas and Friends taught me how to be a better person and how to overcome obstacles. It even moved me to tears. Here’s a the sort of drama that had me hooked:

8) Gordon the Gopher: Gordon the Gopher and Philip Schofield were the sort of dream time that children’s TV was all about in the 90’s (hello? Bodger and Badger!). With a leather jacket gifted from Adam Ant and a personality that matched, we all wished we were friends with that gopher. In 2005 Philip Schofield claimed that sadly Gordon was an alcoholic but later revealed in 2008 that he was in rehab. Hopefully Gordon is managing to stay on the wagon.

9) Maid Marian and her Merry Men: Created by and starring Tony Robinson, this children’s musical comedy was well before it’s time. Horrible Histories owes a lot to Maid Marian and her Merry Men for paving the way with comedy accessible to adults and children alike, whilst being immensely watchable and bonkers at the same time. Maid Marian was hilarious and fantastic and taught me not to take life too seriously. I owe my later-day love of Blackadder this programme.

10)  The Simpsons: What can you say about The Simpsons that hasn’t already been said? It’s still one of the funniest, most intelligent, satirical, endearing and enduring, cross-generational TV shows ever to have been made. The Simpsons does family comedy like no other and after 20 years is as hilarious as ever. The Simpsons has become embedded in our culture and will stay there for a very long time.

N.B It’s seriously difficult to name just 10 TV shows that I loved in the 90’s so here are a few that were equally as awesome that didn’t make the list; Doug, Cow and Chicken, Cat Dog, Dexter’s Laboratory, Ahhh Real Monsters, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Sister Sister, Kenan and Kel, Angry Beavers, Are you Afraid of the Dark?, Johnny Bravo, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Sweet Valley High, Saved by the Bell, Hey Arnold, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Rocko’s Modern Life, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Inspector Gadget, Biker Mice from Mars, Pinky and the Brain, Sharky and George, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, Danger Mouse and Chucklevision.

10 Reasons The Following is blowing my mind

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1) Kevin Bacon: Oh Kevin, you twinkled toed fox, what do you do to me? I have always considered Kevin Bacon to be an interesting and commanding screen presence and he’s no different as tortured, ex-FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, on The Following, scowling up a storm and delivering some amazing one liners with superb precision.
2) Ryan and Claire: Everyone knows that the heart of a good drama is a good love story and The Following doesn’t disappoint. Bacon’s Hardy and Claire Matthews, played by Natalie Zea, have oodles of on screen chemistry and bring a softer dimension to the drama.
3) Joe Carroll: Slightly unconvinced at first at the gravitas of James Purefoy’s Joe Carroll, but nine episodes in and the sight of him gutting a poor woman on a make shift operating table, I’m sold. Purefoy is creepy and threatening and offers us up  an atypical TV villain.
4) Insane body count: The writers of The Following definitely aren’t concerned about being conservative with the amount of blood shed week after week. Not only are we guaranteed a respectable body count each episode, the ways in which these killings occur are equally inventive as they are insane. I mean, come on, murdering a woman in a diner with a whale harpoon??!! What?!
5) The suspense is killing.. well everyone: The Following certainly isn’t short on suspense and I’m bloody loving it. The stand-off at the farm house, the kidnapping of Mike Weston and the capture of Hardy’s sister have been some of my highlights of the series so far.
6) Trust no one: It would appear that Carroll has managed to recruit himself a band of followers so loyal and so many in number that there is nothing that this serial killer can’t achieve. With cult followers seemingly placed in all walks of life and within the highest echelons of the law, the audience learns early on to trust no one. By the end of the first episode we’re as paranoid as Hardy himself and it works brilliantly.
7) But surely not?: The plot twists and turns in The Following have blown my fragile little mind. With psychopathic nannies, gay love triangles, a woman in a cage, self harming cult members, an arsonist Edgar Allan Poe and paedophile cults (to name a few) this series has stepped up to the plate with its cuckoo cap firmly in place.
8) Supporting cast: Shawn Aston as Mike Weston and Annie Parisse as Debra Parker are fantastic supporting cast for Bacon. All the cult members have been successful in conveying believable madness with Marin Ireland as Amanda, recently seen as Homeland’s Aileen, providing the series’ stand out performance so far.
9) Sexy as hell:  Threesomes, shower scenes and lots of cult-on-cult member sex has meant that The Following has been damn sexy.. in a slightly disturbing, need a shower after watching kind of way..
10) Say whaaat??: The Following is bonkers. Absolutely bonkers. Unlike the heavily vocal web community, I have to say that’s what is keeping me coming back each week. Critics have been quick to jump on the implausibility of the ineptitude of the FBI and discard the set up as unforgivably far-fetched and I’m not going to argue as, well.. they sort of have a point, but I really don’t care. The top acting, well written script, constant suspense and brilliantly executed set pieces are enough to have me hooked.

The Following is unpredictable, violent, sadistic, sexy and isn’t pulling any punches and I, for one, can’t wait to see how this series plays out.