Saturday, June 29, 2019

Into The Swamp We Go

Last blog of the month and a look at some of the other shows I've been watching.

Catch-22: The latest adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic novel had it's run on Hulu over a month ago but so far, Channel 4 have aired the first two episodes of this six part series and it's been rather enjoyable. Christopher Abbott has been a good take on Yossarian, a man desperate to get out of his missions while backed up with the likes of George Clooney, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie and Lewis Pullman in various roles. The pacing has been decent enough with a few of the novel's more sexist material toned down a little bit for this current take. It'll be interesting to see how the remaining four episodes for this miniseries play out.

Jessica Jones: We're into final season territory and this really does mark the end of Netflix's era with Marvel property but there's always Disney+ for your next Marvel streaming fix in the next couple of months. The first four episodes of this show's third season still suffers from slow pacing and the most frustrating character transition for Trish as well as Malcolm seeming a bit aimless in his new job but on the other hand, both Jessica and Hogarth are getting love interests, Erik is one of the better male additions to the show with his unique ability and I'm hoping the Foolkiller main baddie will be a lot better than what we got last season. Saying that though, pick up the pace, show.

Swamp Thing: Following the announcement of the show's cancellation after it's first episode, I did wonder if I should've bothered continuing with the show. Right now, I'm glad I have as the main cast have been great and along with our titular creature the show has managed to introduce the likes of Jason Woodrue, Madame Xanadu, Blue Devil and Phantom Stranger with relative ease while upping the main mystery, making the supporting characters interesting enough, using flashbacks wisely and building the connection between Abby and Alec rather well. It's just a shame that once the remaining five episodes have aired, that's our lot with this one.

The Good Place: Recently it was confirmed that this show's upcoming fourth season will be it's last one. I however, have only just begun to watch the second season on E4 and the game has certainly been changed up a bit with Michael forced to work with the four people he has enjoyed torturing in order to save himself from a worse fate than death. I do like that the show didn't waste too much in having Eleanor and company figure out again what was happening to them while Vicky managed to usurp Michael for power over the Bad Place. It'll be fun to see how this grudging alliance with Michael and Eleanor/Tahani/Chidi/Jason over the remaining episodes of the season.

- Lucifer has been renewed for a fifth and final season for Netflix.
- Pop have picked up One Day At A Time for a fourth season, following Netflix's cancellation of the show.
- Scream's third season, which has six episodes will air for three nights in double bills on VH1 from July 8th. It also has the title of Resurrection.
- Lena Headey will lead upcoming Showtime series, Rita, playing the title character.
- Current episode for CW DC show are Arrow with 10 episodes, The Flash with 22 episodes, Supergirl with 20 episodes, Legends Of Tomorrow with 15 episodes and Batwoman for 13 episodes for now.
- CBS All Access's The Stand reboot could feature Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden and Amber Heard.
- Jennifer Morrison has a recurring role in This Is Us upcoming fourth season.
- The CW will be recasting The Lost Boys although Medalion Rahimi and Dakota Shapiro will remain on board.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has signed up for upcoming FX pilot, Gone Hollywood.
- Michael Gladis, Lorenza Izzo, Adam Rodriguez, Thomas Kretschmann, Dominic Sherwood and Ethan Peck have all signed up for Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Years & Years - Series Overview (Spoilers, BTW)

Originally I was going to do individual episode reviews for Russell T. Davies dystopian BBC1/HBO drama that has finished up on the former, but instead I've opted for an overall look at the series.

Muriel (to her family): “It’s our fault. This is the world we built. Congratulations, cheers all.”

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Simon Cellan Jones (episodes 1-4) and Lisa Mulcahy (episodes 5 & 6)

When this show begins it's in the first half of 2019 and it largely centres on the Lyons family. A family that comprises of great grandmother Muriel Deacon (Anne Reid) and her adult grandchildren and great grandchildren. It's a show where the realities of Brexit, Trump, nuclear disaster, immigration, and the wrong people getting all the power have the most devastating and life changing of consequences as our main protagonists and their friends and lovers navigate through the six episodes of this event series. With that, let's look at the Lyons in a bit more depth then, shall we?

First of all, there's housing officer Daniel (Russell Tovey) who started the series off being married to teacher Ralph Cousins (Dino Fetscher) before falling in love with Ukranian immigrant Viktor Goraya (Maxim Baldry), resulting in Ralph shopping Viktor into the immigration crowd and a series of disasters as Daniel's desperate fight for Viktor's freedom cost him his life by the end of the fourth episode. I can see why people who ascribe to the "Bury Your Gays" trope might not have appreciated this turn of events and while I would've rather the show not have killed Daniel off, I did like that in spite of one member's later actions, Viktor is still a part of the Lyons family by the time we get to the last scene of this very series. While Tovey was excellent as Daniel, it was Baldry who was quite the revelation as Viktor and one can hope he lands another few high profile gigs after this series.

Then there's activist, Edith (Jessica Hynes). For the first episode she was largely away from the events of Britain, travelling overseas protesting and getting radiation poisoning as a result. The show didn't waste time bringing into the mix with her family from the second episode onwards and we got to see how she was able to relate to her estranged family while also being something of a positive influence on her niece. We also saw a nice relationship between Edith and Fran (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) as the two got into a few political scraps, including the downfall of the series main antagonist. Unfortunately we did see Edith bite the bullet in the last episode but it was done in a rather emotional way, including a plot device that even Steven Moffat himself would've been proud of. Needless to say, Edith's spirit really will live on if this last episode is anything to go by.

Oldest son and banker, Stephen (Rory Kinnear) and by the end of this one, the least favourite of the Lyons to be honest. In the six episodes here, we saw his marriage to Celeste Bisme-Lyons (T'Nia Miller) fall apart as he left her for another woman, Elaine (Rachel Logan) while getting involved in the darker side of the country's downfall, thus cementing his own to a point. I do feel that by the final, he was perhaps a little too easily forgiven by everyone and a lot of his overall was a bit disappointing if believable compared to his siblings. Then there was his kids - youngest daughter Ruby (Jade Alleyne) had little to do but oldest daughter, Bethany (Lydia West) certainly got plenty to do as her obsession with physically upgrading herself through technology was quite scary to watch in parts, even if it did play a vital role in changing things around for the better. Like Maxim Baldry, the show did uncover a great new talent in Lydia West, who will next be seen in Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's upcoming Dracula series.

As for youngest sibling Rosie (Ruth Madeley). On the show we saw a wheelchair bound woman determined to make a life for herself, raising two children Lincoln and Lee, navigating through financial disasters and being forced to live in a closed off zone but like her older sister, the finale gave her one of the best moments to shine as she made her own stand against the oppressive system. Like her siblings the show didn't shy away from her love life with the first episode seeing her briefly date a guy played by Noel Sullivan who had a sex robot named Keith before eventually settling down with the more mild mannered Jonjo Aleef (George Bukhari) towards the end of the series. Often, Rosie would be portrayed as the sibling taken the least seriously by the rest of them, but Rosie really came into her own and Madeley is another actor I do hope we get to see more of in other projects.

Then there's Muriel Deacon herself. The matriarch of the series and if this show doesn't cement Anne Reid as a treasure, I don't know what will. Russell T. Davies really does know how to write matriarchal characters and with Muriel, he truly excelled himself here. She got virtually all the best dialogue throughout the series and was a rock to each of her family members while also having little problems with calling them out as well. She's given a beautiful speech in the last episode stemming from the use of those self service machines in supermarkets leading to bigger problems along with her biting commentary on the type of people you need to watch out for in power. If I had to pick a favourite character in the show overall, it's got to Muriel Deacon.

As for our main antagonist (or was she a pawn in a much scarier picture?) herself, Vivienne Rook - needless to say that Emma Thompson played a blinder with this role. Over the course of six episodes, we saw Vivienne's gradual rise to power, charming her way to the top, spouting some pretty nasty sentiments while at the same time also appearing on live television to do the Tragedy dance steps with Lee Latchford-Evans when she wasn't sending innocent people to their deaths with her harmful rhetoric and dangerous actions. The finale did see her downfall while also hinting at her replacement being potentially worse as even death wouldn't allow Edith from wanting to get even with the woman who nearly destroyed Britain. I really hope that Thompson takes on some more villain roles and that she also works with Russell T. Davies again in the future.

- The series was dedicated to Russell T. Davies partner, Andrew Smith who sadly passed away in 2018. There's a dedication to him during the last episode.
- At some point Dermot O'Leary has become a news presenter. There's also cameos from Lee Latchford-Evans Alexander Armstrong to name a few familiar faces that pop up here.
- Episode 3 focused on the funeral on the Lyons father, a brief introduction to another sibling, also called Steven (Craig Gazey) and the reveal of some funerals boiling the bodies to fluid.
- The show's version of Alexa was called Senior and it was one of a few marvels in this series along with self cooking meals to name a few.
- Needless to say as a Doctor Who fan, there were times where it felt like RTD took his Harold Saxon/Master and Turn Left story arcs and retooled them for a 2019 audience.
- Chronology: 2019 to 2034 and barely anyone aged in that time. Even Muriel must have made it into her 100s as well.

Years & Years is definitely one of the most politically charged programmes that Russell T. Davies has been involved in over the last few years and easily one of his best as well. It's a rip roaring engaging series with a fantastic group of characters, the scary possibility that the events we witnessed actually being a stark reality in the not too distant future with some truly fantastic performances and beautifully charged character moments and dialogue throughout. I hope this goes down with US viewers as well as they get to watch the series next week on HBO.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Doctor Who - Series 12: What We Know So Far Thread

Oh, look, another Doctor Who blog entry and while I did consider last night making this a post about this show's increasingly divided fanbase, I thought it might be better to keep this more neutral for now and focus on what we seem to know so far for the upcoming twelfth series.

First of all, as I mentioned in my recent TV Jumble blog, the Judoon are coming back for the new series and it seems that going by the promo picture released from the BBC, they've gone and got themselves a mohawk since the last time we saw them back in 2015. Given that the previous series was lacking familiar monsters until the Dalek reappearance in Resolution, having the Judoon back is a good first step. I'm going to assume they won't be the only reappearances from an old enemy for the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yasmin (Mandip Gill) in the upcoming series, which is set to be another 10 episodes.

In terms of guest actors this upcoming series, it seems that one familiar face will be appearing, albeit in a different role. Anjli Mohindra, best known for her role as Rani Chandra in spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011) will appear in the current episode filmed with the Judoon as the character, Queen Skithra while other episodes will feature Neil Stuke, Jo Martin as a character called Ruth Clayton and Julia Foster as Marcia. There are rumours of Stephen Fry appearing in an episode that was filmed earlier in the year. Of course it's mainly down to spoiler hounds that some of this information has come to light as the BBC themselves (minus the press release on the Judoon) are still being a bit too tight lipped about the upcoming series.

Aside from current showrunner Chris Chibnall penning episodes for the new series, other writers will include Ed Hime (It Takes You Away), Vinay Patel (Demons Of The Punjab), Victoria Asare-Archer (who has written the VR game, The Runaway) and Prassana Puwanarajah for now. Directors seemingly confirmed for the upcoming series are Jamie Stone for the first and fifth blocks, Lee Haven Jones for the second block, Nida Manzoor for block three (the current one with the Judoon and Anjli's character) and Emma Sullivan for block four. Current rumoured episodes also include one focusing on Florence Nightingale and a musical episode. Filming for these episodes so far has taken place in Cardiff, Sheffield, Gloucester, Cape Town and Tenerife and filming won't finish for the series until later in the year. Hopefully as we head into the second half of 2019, more concrete information will come to light about what is ahead for Whittaker in her second year as the Doctor.


Series 12 of Doctor Who will air in 2020 on BBC1 and BBCAmerica. I'll do another blog in the next couple of weeks, assuming we get more information (or a trailer at SDCC) to mull over. 

Friday, June 07, 2019

EastEnders Gets It's Gay On Again

Okay, bit of a loaded headline there and in the first of a few LGBT themed blogs for the Month of Pride, it's time to have a look at the UK soaps and LGBT coverage over the last while, in particular with EastEnders.

You have to give Kate Oates her due. When she likes a storyline, she'll do it again and again and here she's only gone and done it on EastEnders. It was obviously that Ben Mitchell No 6 (Max Bowden) in between laughably stupid wannabe gangster storylines was going to get with an established male character on the show instead of a new one and the guy in question has turned out to be Callum 'Halfway' Highway (Tony Clay) and while I don't think this relationship will ever hit the social media popularity of Robron or Kana, it does manage to feel surprisingly believable. Halfway is probably the only male character currently on the show they could've done this with and while we're in the early stages of this particular pairing, including Halfway's own denial about his sexuality, it's off to an interesting enough start, story wise. Add to the fact that Halfway and Stuart's (Rick Champ) own father will be joining the show soon (and he seems like a right bastard, going by the summer trailer), not to mention a budding wedding with Whitney Dean (Shona McCarthy), this is going to get very peak soap fairly soon.

Halfway and Ben's budding relationship also comes around the same time that Walford managed to get itself a gay bar. Well, Ben's mother, Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) came into some money, bought the Albert and renamed it the Prince Albert with Tina Carter (Luisa Bradshaw-White) being appointed as manager, getting her out of the Queen Vic for good measure too. For Tina, this should be a good venture as the show's treatment of the character over the last few years has been rather appalling from time to time. It's also nice that Oates seems determined to try and modernise the show as she did with both Emmerdale and Coronation Street and it's good to see the BBC not try and stop her either.

In terms of LGBT characters and stories, it's nice to see in a short space of time, how much of a positive impact Oates has made. Yes, we have the Halfway/Ben pairing, the arrival of a new gay bar and purpose for Tina, the show due to celebrate Pride and even Bernadette Taylor (Clair Norris) getting a brief love interest with Brooke (Ria Lopez), even if she still has feelings for best mate, Tiffany (Maisie Smith). Aside from the increased prominence in LGBT storytelling, the writing overall has taken a turn for the better and the show feels as exciting as when Dominic Treadwell-Collins had the reigns from 2013-2016. Hopefully this renewed quality will be around for a while to come.

Of course, it's not just the Square that's been prominent with LGBT storytelling for the last while. Coronation Street has had a slew of LGBT characters, storylines and relationships and the current stories are a mixed bag. Earlier this year, we saw the death of Rana Habeeb (Bhavna Limbachia) and it seems her partner, Kate Connor (Faye Brookes) will be exiting the soap soon while Sophie (Brooke Vincent) has had her own relationship ups and downs with lawyer, Paula Martin (Stirling Gallacher), not to mention Billy (Daniel Brocklebank) getting together with former jailbird Paul Foreman (Peter Ash). Elsewhere Sean (Anthony Cotton) has had a brief storyline concerning homelessness that was a bit rushed while a new family arriving this month - the Baileys will have a gay footballer son, James (Nathan Graham) who befriends Bethany Platt (Lucy Fallon). Either way, it's nice to have another new family on the cobbles and the issue of homophobia will also be explored with James.

Moving over to the most dangerous village in the land of soaps, there's still the power couple of Robert Sugden (Ryan Hawley) and Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller) in Emmerdale. Yeah, I've never been a fan of this pairing and while I'm more lukewarm on them nowadays, I do keep wishing the show would give us another gay/bi male character and for said guy not to be a plot device or spare part but I think I'll be waiting a while there. There's also Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins) and Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick), who are enjoyable enough while the show has furthered explored Matty Barton's (Ash Palmisciano) transitioning in a respectful manner.

Last but by no means least, there's also Hollyoaks, who have always been varied with their LGBT characters and storylines. In recent months we've had departures from Kim Butterfield (Daisy Wood-Davis) and Farrah Maalik (Krupa Pattani) as the latter was also involved with Grace Black (Tamara Wall). The strongest characters aside from Farrah have been the show's school principal, Sally St. Claire (Annie Wallace), a transwoman whose relationship with Myra McQueen (Nicole Barber Lane) ended, even though they still have a son with John Paul (James Sutton). Sally has been one of the strongest characters on the show along with gay lawyer, James Nightingale (Gregory Finnegan) while Scott Drinkwell (Ross Adams) and Kyle Kelly (Adam Rickett) have had hit and miss storylines as well as Harry Thompson (Parry Glasspool) in recent times. Currently the show is exploring a far right storyline with long term regular Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) being groomed by Jonny Baxter (Ray Quinn) and Staurt Sumner (Chris Simmons) that has definitely had the desired effect in being both compelling and uncomfortable viewing as we've seen them terrorise the Maalik family over the last few weeks to the disgust of everyone in the village.  Of all the UK soaps, this has always been the one with the most eclectic and diverse of storylines.

Well, that's a round up of the current soap goings on for LGBT storylines and characters. Any of these stories that you're enjoying/not enjoying? Anything you wish these soaps would cover or do less of too?