Tag Archives: 1001 tv shows

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

What’s On TV – The Great British Bake Off

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 183/501
Title: The Great British Bake Off
Episodes Aired: 64
Episodes Watched: 30
Year(s): 2010-
Country: UK

On paper this show should have been awful. A competitive baking competition between amateur bakers from around the UK. By no reckoning of the imagination should this have become the most watched show on British TV. Yet it did, and as a show it’s pretty damned magical.

I had resisted the world of Bake Off for many a year for one reason: it sounded lame. It wasn’t until a colleague of mine basically berated me for not watching it that I gave it a go. So an addiction was born and I have demolished Series 4, 6 and 7. Much like the cakes they are baking, this is a show that is hard to not finish once you have started it.

Now, by the time this post goes out a lot of the news items about Bake Off’s move away from the BBC will have died down. It’s more than a shame that this show has essentially been gutted, but we’ll just have to find that next piece of TV addiction.

Since I now have the TV podcast these particular write-ups are going to be brief.

Please tune in to the Just Watch It podcast and let us know what you think!

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/3cdiw-64084c

What’s On TV – Brideshead Revisited

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 182/501
Title: Brideshead Revisited
Episodes Aired: 11
Episodes Watched: 11
Year(s): 1981
Country: UK

It has been about 11 years since I read Brideshead Revisited. It was part of prep for my first term in sixth form and we had to read three things from a list – which meant I ended up reading The Bell Jar, The Colour Purple and, of course, Brideshead Revisited.

The way I tend to read means that, for most books, I forget most of the character names and events within a few months. This is not the best thing when you are studying for your English Literature A-Level and goes a long way to explain why my marks for Shakespeare and poetry were higher than that module I did where half was on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. 

I mention this because I was shocked at how much of this story I remembered. It’s a fairly simple plot line – man gets himself absorbed into the dealings of the aristocratic Flyte family where Catholicism and a rather famous teddy bear might be involved.

Evelyn Waugh’s book could not have been more faithfully adapted in this period drama by the people at ITV. To many this is seen as the gold standard of how to do an adaptation for TV (I would hold up Bleak House personally) and aside from a few slow passages I would find it hard to disagree.

The performances on all fronts are exemplory. There are some issues when it comes to age though. For characters like Charles and Cordelia this could not be helped as they need to span a large age range, but many of the university students are clearly in their 30s.

It’s hard not to single out Anthony Andrews’ performance of Sebastian. For a character that is absent from half the episodes he really is the one you end up remembering. He is able to somehow bridge the gap between the gaiety (in the old sense of the word) and the tragic.

However, I want to focus on Diana Quick as Julia. This is the hardest role of all to play because she somehow has to be, almost be Sebastian in female form (in looks and partially in personality). She looks nothing like Anthony Andrews so she has to let her acting speak for itself. No easy task and she does it really well.

Claire Bloom too as Lady Marchmain was brilliant as were Jeremy Irons, Laurence Olivier and Phoebe Nicholls. I could go on and on (as you can guess), but I’ll leave the rest to the podcast:

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/25sik-63d149

Please leave comments or get into contact with your thoughts.

What’s On TV – Pennies From Heaven

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 181/501
Title: Pennies From Heaven
Episodes Aired: 6
Episodes Watched: 6
Year(s): 1978
Country: UK

It would be so easy to avoid doing these TV write-ups and just post a link to the podcast instead. In fact, if it were not for the fact that this blog turns 3 years old soon (woah that’s a realisation and a half) I would have done so instead of just including a link at the end.

Pennies From Heaven comes from the mind of Dennis Potter – who would later go on to create the very well loved miniseries The Singing Detective. In fact, Pennies from Heaven is the first of three Dennis Potter musical series on the 1001 TV Shows list (Lipstick On Your Collar completes the list). Therefore it makes sense to start off at the first of his successful lip-synced TV musicals.

Many years ago I had seen the 2004 miniseries Blackpool so I kinda knew what to expect. However, seeing Bob Hoskins going into full music-hall mode really did take me aback. In his role of Arthur Parker (music sheet salesman and liar extraordinaire) he has to carry a lot of the series’ tonal shifts on his shoulders.

At times he’s the comic relief that we sorely need and at others he is as serious as a heart attack. At all times this man is a complete jerk. We see him hit and intimidate his wife, lech after teenage blind girl, lie through his teeth and, ultimately, corrupt another person. Yet, all he wants is someone to believe in him.

There is one rather heartbreaking moment in the first episode where all he wants is his wife to hold him (as even he realises that he isn’t doing that well as a salesman) and she can’t even do that for him. It’s sad to see… and then you remember how mismatched these two are. I mean this is a married couple that never should have been. He very much wants sex and she can’t stand being touched by him. It was never going to work.

Enter school teacher Eileen (a fantastic turn by Cheryl Campbell). At the start she is very much an innocent. She’s quietly spoken, works as a primary school teacher in the Forest of Dean and who lives with her father and brothers. By her end point she has had a back alley abortion, worked as a prostitute and, oh yes, killed a man.

A lot of the bad (or morally negative things) are not directly because of Arthur, but it is because of his initial pursuit that all these things happen to her. She’s the perfect foil for Arthur as through it all she remains utterly practical and fatalist whilst he is still this weird lying dreamer.

Anyway, enough from me. If you want to hear more (including some ideas for an updated cast) please listen to the Just Watch It podcast!

What’s On TV – Roseanne

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 180/501
Title: Roseanne
Episodes Aired: 222
Episodes Watched: 20
Year(s): 1988-1997
Country: USA

I don’t know how I managed to do this, but before this blog I had never seen an episode of Roseanne. I guess that it must have been on in the UK during its first run (probably on Channel 4 or something) since it was such a massive show.

There aren’t many shows that can claim the title of being the #1 best rated show of the season in the US – and yet Roseanne was able to grab this title. True it shared this lofty mantle with The Cosby Show (which I am not looking to watching because of the sheer rape factor).

I have to say that I was surprised at just how much I loved Roseanne. It’s not like Cheers where, due to the insanely positive write-ups it gets, my liking it was a sure thing. I had expected this to have aged (maybe poorly) and just feel obvious. But no, it went straight for the heart.

In order to hit up the 20 necessary episodes I jumped between the first 7-8 seasons (just not the 9th season as that sounded awful) and it’s so amazing to see how the characters develop across the series (you hear that Modern Family – you can develop of your characters).

Obviously there is the Becky problem where they suddenly start swapping around actresses late in the series, but that is dealt with using such a wink that it’s hard to be too annoyed. Also it is just nice to see a young Sarah Chalke before she appeared in Scrubs and failed CBS sitcom Mad Love.

Now I’m going to say something that might be unpopular, but I didn’t think Roseanne Barr was that good in the first season episodes that I saw. Timing wise she was good and the chemistry she had with John Goodman was amazing, but her acting just wasn’t great. She got really good later on though, but it was pretty jarring to begin with.

If I had to highlight the best performances in this show it would be a tie between John Goodman as husband Dan and Laurie Metcalf as Roseanne’s sister Jackie.

I think it is criminal that John Goodman managed to snag 7 Emmy nominations for Lead Actor in a Comedy yet won none of them. You look at who beat him and apart from Empty Nest and Evening Shade he was beaten by some big people. Still – he was robbed.

Laurie Metcalf managed to win three Emmys. In a row. That’s fantastic. I haven’t seen all the shows to say that she deserved it the most, but I’m okay with this decision made by the Emmys.

This was a truly pleasant surprise and I can see where shows like The Middle got some of their inspiration from. It’s hard to make a successful show out of a failing family and yet Roseanne was able to do just that.

 Anyway, enough from me. If you want to hear more (including a debate over the identity over the real Becky Connor) please listen to the Just Watch It podcast!

What’s On TV – It

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 179/501
Title: It
Episodes Aired: 2
Episodes Watched: 2
Year(s): 1990
Country: USA

Just going to put this out there, but how come US network channels no longer make miniseries? Sure there are exceptions to this rule (I mean, there has to be right?), but after finishing Roots and It in the space of less than a week it got me to thinking: other than the NBC biennial live musical “extravaganzas” have the likes of Showtime and HBO killed the network miniseries? Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time.

It is one of those made-for-TV movies/miniseries that has truly ascended the pantheon of cult TV classics. This is in a very large part due to Tim Curry and his menacing portrayal of the titular It in his Pennywise the Clown garb. As a straight up clown he isn’t that scary compared a lot of real life clowns I have seen… but then those real life clowns don’t have even an ounce of the intensity that Tim Curry brings to the role. Yes the teeth and the claws help, but the most creepy part of Pennywise are those looks he is able to give.

Note that throughout this I am only going to refer to this as creepy. At no point during the three hours of It did I feel remotely scared or properly creeped out. Don’t get me wrong though – It is a fantastically well done horror thriller, just more on the gentler side of things. Then again, this is rated as an 18 (somehow) so I guess it is just my strange baseline for terror talking (high for film and TV, ridiculously low for video games).

Despite the fact that there are no real scares in this there was still a palpable amount of tension. Complete credit has to be given to the acting by both the adult and child ensemble who play the same characters some 30 years apart. There is a substantial amount of chemistry between the two ensembles (to the point that I would expect the child cast would play together and the adult cast would get drunk together).

it19902

Amongst the child cast is a 15-16 year old Seth Green looking adorable (as always) and there is Jame Ritter as one of the adult versions. Apart from that I could not recognise any of the other actors (it had been too long since I have seen Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet to recognise Olivia Hussey).

Anyway, let’s get to the thing I missed the most – back story about the titular monster. The big bad is never really explained in any real detail other than him being an evil entity that emerges every 30 or so years. I know that in the 1100 page Steven King book he goes into substantial detail about the origins of the monster and why he specifically targets children. Honestly, this was something that I felt was lacking in what was otherwise a fantastic monster.

Also (and this is a problem of time) there was some special effects issue with the big bad in the final scene. Forgivable when you consider this is nearly 27 years old and made for TV, still it shattered the illusion somewhat.

On the whole this is one of those things I know will be watched on a future Halloween. Sure it isn’t scary, but it’s got a creepy killer clown in it. What else do you need?