NO SPOILERS CONTAINED
If you know me, or have been with my blog since the beginning, you should by now know my absolute unrepentant bias towards US TV shows over UK ones. However, every so often (bar Sherlock, Luther and Downton Abbey) a UK show catches my eye with its unexpected quality and depth. Recently three aroused my curiosity, and now have my attention. They were all random finds that I came across and never had the explicit intent to watch. I didn’t see any adverts for them or hear about them from anyone else. Now for someone like me to take a chance with my very finite free time and invest in watching shows I have seen any trailers for and have no positive recommendations from trusted friends on them…it’s pretty deep. Especially when there are a plethora of US shows, highly recommended, that I am still to get my teeth into. In this post I just wanted to reveal them, give my thoughts on them, and if you’re a bit scornful of what the UK has to offer (like me), perhaps encourage you to be a bit more open-minded. Every so often, UK TV experiences a revival and I guess I just caught the spirit and want to pass it on.
Summary: This is about 4 strangers brought together by their discovery of the manuscript of a famed graphic novel. However their discovery of this manuscript, unbeknown to them, opens them up to pursuit by a mysterious and brutal organisation called The Network.
Opinion: This show is fantastic in an eclectic way. I accidentally watched the first episode over a year ago on a rare occasion of having the patience to watch proper TV, and vaguely remembered it being a bit strange. However most recently I stumbled across the fact the whole of season one was on 4OD, and ploughed through the whole series. I’m so glad I did. It’s generally quite eery and eccentric, completely different to anything I’ve ever watched before. In terms of plot progression it is fluid and quite intricate. You can’t really afford to watch it half-heartedly or you’ll miss key information. It demands your complete attention. In terms of the protagonists, they are strange, highly irritating at times, mysterious and shocking in their behaviour, but pretty compelling to watch. They are a bunch of misfits brought together by this manuscript, dodging murder and maiming with disunified unity. You want to punch them sometimes, but not every day. Sometimes you want them to win even though it’s not the kind of show that gets you emotionally invested in characters. It’s an aloof kind of ‘let’s see where this goes’ that you feel. It is pretty gory/graphic at times, so not for the faint-hearted at all. Season 2 has just started broadcasting so it’s a good time to jump in on this show.
Summary: A 4 part series that revolves around the British Industrial Revolution and is based on the stories of real people at the time. It follows the lives of young apprentices employed at the Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire.
Opinion: If you’re into Dickensian drama, this show is for you. I can’t express how amazingly surprised I was by this. I saw it come up on the sidebar whilst I was watching Utopia and thought…let me try this. I was going to give it one episode to impress me or be ditched. It made the cut. With this show, you cannot help but get emotionally invested in the stories of the individuals. Especially Esther. The depiction of utter poverty, manipulation of the vulnerable, and misfortune of the lower classes, had me wanting to dive into the TV to burn the properties of the rich to the ground. What these children are enduring is mental and physical slavery for the benefit of the rich, whilst they live and die in squalor, all along being fed the illusion that they are privileged to even be there. It in fact has many parallels to Trans-Atlantic slavery, allusions to which crop up in the show. It’s a really humanitarian drama (if there is such a thing), and the quest of Esther, a very headstrong, intelligent and determined young girl to rectify some wrongs, takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions in terms of the setbacks she faces. Watching this show will make you angry, but you won’t want to stop. I finished season 1 in one night ( I had no chill). It was genuinely worth the sleep deprivation. It’s got that high level of suspense. Again season 2 has just started, so the availability of the first season to watch makes the transition a bit more fluid. No forgetting characters, storylines and all that jazz.
THE HONOURABLE WOMAN
Summary: British spy 8 part miniseries featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal as Baroness Nessa Stein, a British Israeli who is the new head of the Stein Group, a company set up by her murdered father. It was written and directed by Hugo Blick (previously directed and produced The Shadow Line (which was fantastic in my opinion)). It has quite a high-profile cast of British actors.
Opinion: Honestly for me, the jury is still out on this a little bit. The first 2 episodes I found a bit slow, and maybe a little too sophisticated. However in episode 3, a lot more clarity appeared and it definitely upped the anti. Again this came to my attention via some random bulletin about TV, and curiosity over Maggie Gyllenhaal playing the lead role in it made me watch it. Sidenote, her English accent is impeccable. If you didn’t know she was American, you’d think she was British. With regards to the plot, it plays on the extremely tense relationship between Israel and Palestine as a backdrop to the skullduggery that happens politically, within espionage, and in the Stein family’s domestic situations. It is so complex, it is almost too complex, if you don’t know the history of the regions. She is a British Israeli woman who has just been appointed as a peer, but has a complex and mysterious past, very close and intimate Palestinian connections, and enemies in high places. The thing with this show is nobody is safe and hardly anyone is what they seem. It is this mysteriousness that gives it an interesting edge. There are so many players with so many varying motives, and you can’t be sure who is bad who is good and who is just collateral. Again, this show demands your full attention or you will miss significant points. If you like highly intellectual dramas, this is for you. It’s release during heightened tension between Palestine and Israel is an unfortunate and awkward coincidence I think, and I hope no-one takes it as gospel.
So there you have it. Some of the things I’ve been watching recently. Are any of you fans of these shows?