Tag Archives: 1001 tv shows

What’s On TV – Fringe

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 193/501
Title: Fringe
Episodes Aired: 100
Year(s): 2008-2013
Country: USA

Good news: I have found a new thing to binge watch. Bad news: it’s another show to add to the pile.

Fringe is one of those cult shows that I have been meaning to start for years. It’s just that, as they said in the most reason of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtyou know it’s a ridiculously good time for television when you don’t have time for a show like The Americans. For me, this was always the case with Fringe.

Now that I have done my minimum watch to cross this off the list, I am glad that I didn’t start watching this show when it first came on. Whilst the pilot is interesting – this is not a show that gets off to the best start. Thanks to some cross-referencing with The AV Club and IGN  I made sure that the episodes I saw were either good, part of the overarching storyline or (in most cases) both.

By the time I reached the end of this watch-through I still feel like I haven’t gone in depth into the shows mythology. I still have no idea who the Observers are and I haven’t met any of the main characters’ parallel universe counterparts.

For the uninitiated think of this as being The X-Files with a parallel Earth instead of aliens and a bit more of a goofy personality.  This feels like an undersell because it has fantastic performances from the central three and there is a lot of nuance to the conspiracy theories that underpin the show. Then again, this is a lab with a cow as a recurring character… so there’s that.

Honestly I don’t feel that after 20 episodes I know enough about the show to write about it. Yes it is a sci-fi show mixed in with a procedural, but there is a lot more to it than that. I just know that once I have cleared away some of my ‘non-blog’ backlog Fringe will be a show that is consumed very quickly. I just have to finish off Iron Chef, House, Eureka and a bunch of other shows first…

Advertisements

What’s On TV – Eureka

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 192/501
Title: Eureka
Episodes Aired: 77
Year(s): 2006-2012
Country: USA

Eureka is one of those TV shows that has been my long-term ‘to watch’ list for years. Mainly because the hub seemed very keen on it and, as with most things he wants to watch, I wanted to give it a go before I gave it a definitive yay or nay. Now that I have watched this for the list I really wish I had started this earlier. It was one of the most pleasant surprises that I have encountered so far for the TV show list.

Being a show that originally aired on the Sci-Fi channel (aka the home of Sharknado) my expectations weren’t too high. However, a few episodes in I was hooked. I had to make my way through the rather rickety pilot in order to get there, but I got there.

The premise of the show is interesting enough – a secret town in the US that houses residents of genius intellect who are the progenitors of all the major technical leaps in the last 50-60 years. Our way into this rather eccentric town is through the (initially relucant) new sheriff who isn’t book smart, but uses his layman knowledge to help solve the cases of the week.

Okay, so it feels like a riff on the standard fish out of water cliche, which it totally is, but Eureka plays with this by making the problems outlandish and firmly in the realms of science fiction. One week people are being flash-fossilized, the other sees the main characters being trapped by an artificial intelligence who is petrified of abandonment. Sure, the science can be a bit off, but that’s part of the fun.

The real thing that impressed me about this show, however, is what they did in Season 4. Between Seasons 1-3 we get to know the cast of characters incredibly well. They live and grow with decisions having lasting impacts for many episodes to come. Two characters in particular that benefited from this are deputy sheriff Jo Lupo and a geeky (and adorable) scientist called Fargo whose roles become greatly expanded from how they were initially introduced in the pilot.

Then everything changes. Where shows like Parks and Recreation and Desperate Housewives used a time jump to bring fresh storylines and inject new life into a show, Eureka does something more daring. They change timelines. This means that 5 of the main characters are transplanted into a alternative world and have to come to terms with the differences that this brings.

This could have been a catastrophic story decision since established relationships are effectively retconned and new relationships are introduced that are already in progress. I can see how, if done poorly, this would have led to an extreme backlash from fans who have lost their favourite shipping or just feel a sense of unease at no longer being able to make certain assumptions about the world of Eureka.

Amazingly, they pull this timeline jump off incredibly well. The show still remains a light sci-drama with a lot of the same beats, but it allows for a lot of development in a quick time as nearly all the major characters are now promoted to higher positions than those they had before they jump. Also, and this is more impressive, this shift is permanent rather than part of a smaller story arc.

It’s not a highbrow show, but it sure is an addictive one if you want an alternative sort of procedural. From what I’ve read this might just be the sci-fi/geeky alternative to Northern Exposure – which just makes me want to check out Northern Exposure all the more.

What’s On TV – Nip/Tuck

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 191/501
Title: Nip/Tuck
Episodes Aired: 100
Year(s): 2003-2010
Country: USA

After something as serious as City of Men it was nice to move onto something a bit more frivolous. I had actually seen a few episodes of this before giving this a proper watch; so I was pretty pleased when we picked this out of our TV show bucket. I then remembered the hub’s aversion to blood…

For the uninitiated – Nip/Tuck follows the work and personal lives of Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, two plastic surgeons based out of Miami (LA in later seasons). Each episode is named after the main patient of the week, but usually this is only the B or C storyline. Most of the actual drama is about the personal lives of these surgeons.

As this is a Ryan Murphy drama there is that hint of campness to Nip/Tuck. Not a criticism, especially since I adored Feud, but it does mean that everything in this show is just that bit more heightened. Then again, that’s one of the things that helps to make this such a compelling watch. That and the fact that everyone in this show is essentially messed up. Apart from Liz, who is awesome.

With so many messed up individuals sailing through each episode Nip/Tuck has a number of pitfalls that it can fall victim to. At times there are storylines that can come across as heavy handed. Also there are some characters, like Gina, who can be played so broadly at times that they are just off-putting. However, for the most part, Nip/Tuck manages to tell interesting stories of damaged people.

I know that the hub is slightly relieved to us having stopped watching this show. During the surgery scenes I would look over to see him covering his eyes or desperately trying not to make eye contact with a giant boil that is being lanced. For me, I am keen to keep going with this – after all I need to find out who The Carver is.

What’s On TV – City of Men

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 190/501
Title: Cidade dos Homens (City of Men)
Episodes Aired: 19
Episodes Watched: 19
Year(s): 2002-2005
Country: Brazil

Sometimes we just don’t know we’re born. I’ve thought this a lot when watching film and TV portrayals of Brazil and City of Men really crystallises a lot of the issues. Crippling poverty, paternal abandonment, gang violence, teen pregnancy… and yet they still find ways to have fun.

As the title probably gives away, City of Men is a pseudo-spin off of the 2002 film City of God. It even features some of the same cast, albeit in different roles. Both tell the stories of live in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, but the storytelling in City of Men is, at times, on the lighter side.

That is not to say that the same big issues aren’t covered in City of Men – in fact I would argue they do it even better in the TV show than in the movie. However, they are able to take an episode off every now and then to do something a bit more flippant. It’s a nice antidote to an episode dealing with a possible fostering away of a baby.

My favourite episode? Possibly the penultimate episode of the final season (called ‘As Aparências Enganam’) which is one of the lighter episodes centred around the two boys trying to retrieve the dog of a wealthy woman after it had been commandeered by the male dog belonging to the local mob boss. Weird ‘white person’ stereotype humour occurs alongside acts of drag and gay dogs.

The episode before this? Well that dealt with divorce, parental rights, struggling with money, drugs and a whole mess of other things. That’s what City of Men does –  extreme shifts in tone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

That’s the main issue with this show, inconsistency. As the two leads (who are excellent by the way, especially Douglas Silva as Acerola) grew up and the storylines matured with them, the quality of the show increased markedly.

The fourth season was, by far, the best and most consistent. It helps to have watched it from the beginning as you really watch these boys grow up over the four years. Possibly the best part of the show to be completely honest.

That, and getting an insight into just how some people live. 50 million + Brazilians live in this form of poverty. If that isn’t something to make you feel thankful then… I don’t really know what will.

What’s On TV – Heartbreak High

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 189/501
Title: Heartbreak High
Episodes Aired: 210
Episodes Watched: 13 (it’s all I could be bothered with…)
Year(s): 1994-1999
Country: Australia

I am going to start this off with the acknowledgement that I am, no longer, among the target demographic for a show like Heartbreak High. Not that I ever really watched teen soaps/dramas, but still I was a teen once and many teens in Australia (and apparently the Netherlands) would tune in on a regular basis.

However, as an adult and a former teacher, I could not bring myself to enjoy this show. In the vast majority of the situations I found myself on the side of parents and teachers since a lot of the conflict I saw was, unsurprisingly, childish. No – you should not be getting that motorbike when you are in high school. No – you should not give up school because that girl caught your eye. No – stop complaining about how this subject is irrelevant to your life, it matters because without good exams you are going to be scuppered.

Now, there were storylines that did peak my interest every now and then. Like how there was one student having to look after her siblings since her mother went back to Latin America to find the father. When the show managed to tackle issues and NOT make it feel like an after school special, it was okay. Otherwise it just felt immature, preachy and a bit too convenient at times.

Still, this isn’t meant to be the 1001 best shows, but those shows which have done something different or original.  I guess that this is the Australian version of Hollyoaks… and I have to say that I am not looking forward to that one when it’s name come out of the Disney bucket.

What’s On TV – Gunsmoke

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 188/501
Title: Gunsmoke
Episodes Aired: 635
Episodes Watched: 20
Year(s): 1955-1975
Country: USA

 Considering the last TV show ticked off of the 1001 list was Keeping Up With The Kardashians… well you would be hard-pressed to find a better contrast on the list. A reality show about a family who are famous for being famous vs. a western series about a sheriff delivering the law to a frontier town.

In a nutshell, Gunsmoke is a TV show about  a sheriff (played by James Arness) who enforces the law in a town called Dodge. Whilst the tone is mostly serious and deals with a crime-of-the-week, it does allow itself to do a more comedic episode every now and then.

Since Gunsmoke ran for 20 years it is hard to get a substantial cross-section of what this show was, but I think I managed to see enough in 20 episodes to get to grips with it. I ended up watching a mix of episodes from both the half-hour and the full hour series (after several seasons the episode run time doubled, which allowed for some more in depth storytelling).

There was also an attempt to watch episodes dealing with topics that make it very much of it’s time… such as the way they talk about Native Americans. One episode that I watched was about the homecoming of a boy to his white mother having been kidnapped by Native Americans. With the twist that the Gunsmoke writers employ they were probably fairly forward thinking, but they still use words like ‘savages’ and that just feels wrong to watch.

Then again, it could be argued that the show was trying, in its own way, to be historically accurate in their depiction live in a town like Dodge. The extreme poverty, acts of spousal abuse and superstitions about medical men would have been commonplace at the time. Also, this is a show that started before the Civil Rights Movement and the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. So some consideration needs to be paid to that.

In the 20 episodes there is one that really stuck out to me; a 12th season episode titled ‘The Whispering Tree’. It’s fairly light on appearances from the sheriff and instead focuses on a man (who has just been released from jail) and his family. The man robbed a substantial amount of money and buried it on a plot of land.

The problem? Firstly, his family lives on this land and they have drastically altered its appearance in his absence. Also, there had been a large flood that removed many of the terrain markers that pointed out where he hid the money was. It’s probably the episode that most held my attention.

Honestly, this is not a show I will be continuing to watch. I am, however, glad that I got to see such a big piece of American television history. It’ll be interesting how I feel about Gunsmoke once I start watching Bonanza.

What’s On TV – Keeping Up With The Kardashians

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 187/501
Title: Keeping Up With The Kardashians
Episodes Aired: 181
Episodes Watched: 20
Year(s): 2007-now
Country: USA

It wasn’t meant to go down like this. I was meant to hate watch this. I was meant to find this utterly boring. I was meant to be able to roll my eyes and then forget all about this show.

Instead I have ended up working out who my spirit Kardashian is (it’s Khloe, in case you were wondering) and I will be continuing to watch this as the the show I cook dinner to.

Here’s the thing. Other than Hoarders I have never really had a trashy show to watch. Many people have a show that would be their guilty pleasure whether it be Say Yes To The Dress or Vanderpump Rules. I think that with Keeping Up With The Kardashians I might have found a show to watch when I am feeling tired, blue or sick.

For these 20 episodes I absorbed the first two seasons and then watched the two-part episode depicting the wedding of Kim to Kris Humfries (since I figured that it would be interesting to see the big wedding for the marriage that effectively only lasted two and a bit months).

Hindsight is a blessing with this show since thanks to my serial watching of The Soup and now semi-regular updates from the Bitch Sesh podcast and the front covers of gossip magazines.

Sure I know that a sizeable percentage of this show is staged to make the family look their best. Still, there are times where something real seems to happen and that’s what you watch it for. That and the main lesson of the whole show: money can solve most problems. Cynical? Yes, but this does happen an awful lot.

So yes, I can chalk this up to a begrudging thumbs up. Not too high though. Maybe.

What’s On TV – Silent Witness

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 186/501
Title: Silent Witness
Episodes Aired: 174
Episodes Watched: 20
Year(s): 1996-now
Country: UK

This is the first 1001 TV Shows entry that I am writing about since myself and the hub ended our podcast. So I might be a wee bit out of practice when it comes to writing up TV shows that are not anime (see: over 1000 words on Yuri!!! On Ice). Still, let’s do this.

I have to start out this write-up of Silent Witness with the acknowledgement that this is actually two distinct shows: the Amanda Burton era and the post-Amanda Burton era. The show had already begun to change by the time Amanda Burton left, but when you watch an episode from Series 1 and then the opening episodes from Series 9 there is a world of difference.

If you have never seen Silent Witness the best way to describe it is: a crime procedural with the pathologists as the focus. Nowadays these types of procedural are fairly common, but back in 1996 this was a bit more unusual. Especially by having the main expert be a woman. When I think of other shows that have been made since (e.g. Bones, Waking the Dead and Body of Proof), the pathologist does tend to be a woman.

What’s a bit sad is how this show has ended up. Granted, this show has been on for 20 years, and that is an amazing achievement, but the work that is being done has started to feel more and more unbelievable.

In the earlier series the team would be doing their work as consultants with that little bit of pushing against the police in order to generate conflict. In the more recent episodes that I saw (because I figured with a show like this, it makes sense to hop around the years) these pathologists have become the crime-fighters and the cops are just in their way. I don’t know anyone who solves murders personally, but this feels a bit outside of reality.

That aside, I absolutely loved the episodes with Sam (Amanda Burton) because of how they developed her character. This started in 1996 and featured a Northern Irish woman as a central character.  This is two years before the bombing at Omagh and the tail-end of ‘The Troubles’. Needless to say I have learned a lot about how people in Northern Ireland were affected by this turbulent chapter of their history thanks to this procedural.

This is not to say that the later series aren’t enjoyable. I am a bit fan of a good pathology series and this still hits the spot (granted I haven’t seen anything from the last few series, so it might have taken a nosedive for all I know). This is a show that I will continue to watch outside of the blog; something I can’t say for all shows.

What’s On TV – As Time Goes By

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 185/501
Title: As Time Goes By
Episodes Aired: 26
Episodes Watched: 67
Year(s): 1992-2005
Country: UK

Going into this I figured that this was going to be a gentle and tame sitcom (which it is) about two older people who reconnect and fall in love (which it also is). The thing is, that it is a whole lot more than that. It’s a sitcom with a lot of heart and fantastic chemistry between the major cast.

Let’s be honest – a sitcom with Judi Dench was always going to be something rather watchable, but I found myself enjoying this sitcom far more than I had expected. Maybe I had a wrong preconception because the only episodes I had previously seen were later on in the series.

Having started this from the very beginning I got a lot of enjoyment seeing this touching story of love rekindled. Picture this: two people who fall in love some 40 years previously and then lose touch when the man is deployed in Korea and his letters get lost in the mail.

It is their meeting up for the first time in decades where the first episode picks up. The sitcom is essentially this story of these two (Jean and Lionel) falling back in love and all the baggage that comes with it such as her daughter and his weird father.

Sure there are times when the humour is a bit old-fashioned, but that’s the charm of something so quintessentially British. Also, you have the undeniable chemistry between Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer elevating this comedy from background viewing to something rather that became rather addictive.

What’s On TV – Rejseholdet

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 184/501
Title: Rejseholdet (Unit One)
Episodes Aired: 20
Episodes Watched: 32
Year(s): 2000-04
Country: Denmark

Since I now have the TV podcast these particular write-ups are going to be brief as I just need to these to officially cross these off of my list.

This is the first time I have ever watched a Scandinavian procedural drama and, thankfully, this will not be the last. Rejseholdet really is cop drama as I like it. Gritty in places, funny in places and a fantastic variation in crimes.

Having just spent 1-2 hours recording and editing a podcast episode about this show I feel a little bit talked out about this show. So if you want some interesting insight (and odd tangents) please tune in to the Just Watch It podcast and let me know what you think!

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hmu3v-64131c?from=yiiadmin