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2/10
Hollywood Propaganda at it's Worst
18 July 2017
I entered the theatre with a relatively open mind. I had recently seen 'Get Out' after my reluctance in being entertained by more leftist social justice propaganda had somewhat subsided. And I was incredibly surprised. I loved the film! Yes, there were heavy nods to the oppression of people of colour but it was done intelligently and from a somewhat unique angle. Plus, the film was well written, well acted and paced perfectly.

So despite the trailer for 'War for the Planet of the Apes' looking like a grotesquely obvious allegory for the upcoming race-war, I figured I might be wrong. I hated the prospect of Jordan Peele's 'Get Out' and the film quickly became a favourite of 2017 for me.

It turns out I was right all along. The film stinks of social justice and white privilege. The overwhelmingly white human race are portrayed as a wholly irredeemable group of oppressive savages. Meanwhile the Apes are the oppressed. The unfairly vilified. The misunderstood. The empathetic and admirable. The unsubtle links to today's cultural environment wouldn't have been any more obvious if scene's were dressed in 'Ape Lives Matter' banners or Antifa masks.

As far as the film itself, it's about the least layered piece I may ever have seen. There's no subtext, no intelligent subplots. Apes are good, (white) humans are bad. I really can't expand any further on this storytelling mechanic. It is what it is, albeit with lots of CGI.

I've ran out of energy to finish reviewing this disappointment. Why the IMDb rating is so high can only reflect either a declining level of acceptable standards or the production company purchasing IMDb accounts. I have seen far more poor reviews than positive and cannot accept people interested in good film would be so complimentary of this huge pile of visual faeces.

2/10
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Billions: Golden Frog Time (2017)
Season 2, Episode 11
10/10
One of the finest episodes of any series I've seen
3 May 2017
Dear Kusama, Koppelman, Levein and Sorkin. Take a bow. This episode was by all metrics incredible television. To have arrived at the episode's conclusion in such a way was masterful writing and direction. With such a multi-faceted episode across numerous time scales and from multiple perspectives without giving anything away is a huge feat for anybody crafting a story so what was achieved by Kusama and the excellent writing trio was nothing short of impressive.

Of course it goes without saying that the performances from this wonderful ensemble were once again stellar but at this point such an observation is expected from the show. Giammati in particular steals the show and the final scene in particular is one to really savour. Asia Dillon as Taylor further cements herself (or himself) as one of the most interesting characters in the show.

The episode feels more like a one-off special and even though it's largely episodic in nature, it has an absolutely huge effect on everything. Billions have stepped it up a few gears this season and has quickly become my favourite current series. This episode in particular reinforces that.
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Derek (2012–2014)
9/10
Average and Forgettable
7 February 2013
I truly like Ricky Gervais. He has been a relevant fixture in British comedy for a decade and I owe a lot of my television enjoyment to him. I feel I am speaking from a very balanced and unbiased perspective and that what I think about his latest television series 'Derek' is based solely on the quality of the show.

Gervais states how the show is about kindness ultimately. Somewhere between a comedy and a drama, the series is up to the viewers interpretation when contemplating genre placement. Yet, a factor has no doubt severely affected how Derek has been produced. The media circus generated by the title character's apparent disorder, whether it be autism or asbergers, has no doubt poisoned the creative process. In trying to distance himself as far as possible from any calls of bullying, Gervais has sweetened this show to levels nearing one of those cringe-worthy television commercial's highlighting the plights of those less fortunate. The piano accompaniment does little to weaken this comparison and only the predictable sex-infused tripe from character 'Kev' that reeks of unoriginality.

And then we have Karl. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of this show is Karl's signature infusion. A huge Pilkington fan, I enjoyed his appearances in Derek and he definitely steals the show, as simple as that task seems given the circumstances. The remaining cast are either creative cast-off's from 'The Office' or shallow one-liner characters that one might not have expected from Gervais.

Then we have the preachy nature of the show. We get it - cuts are bad. The show is so safe and worries so much of offending that there remains only this air of self-righteousness. I worry that Ricky was so concerned with not offending anybody with the character of Derek, that he attributed so much kindness and redeeming qualities to him that it made him boring. I was bored by the character and felt nothing in watching him.

The show has one or two laughable moments, mostly from Karl. But it is certainly Ricky's worst project to date. All of a sudden I find Stephen Merchant's influence increasingly integral to the success of Gervais. I fully believe that Steve would have tidied this show up completely and perhaps even encouraged Rick to take more chances with it. Sadly, Ricky can't do this on his own.
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Louie (2010–2015)
9/10
Louis CK's seamless transition to TV
10 August 2012
Take a bow Louis CK. Not only are you possibly one of the most engaging, talented and funny comedians around at this moment, but you have this likability and watchability that makes a transition from stand up to comedy show utterly seamless.

Louie combines the situational and often crass storytelling of a heightened version of himself that made Curb such a great show with elements of his incredible stand up routine; something that echo's the format of Seinfeld. Louis CK plays himself in all his glory. A divorcée with two unappreciative children struggling to balance family and his own personal life, in particular his difficulty with dating. If you have seen Louis CK's stand up shows, you'll be comfortably at ease with his crass take on things, with humour delivered incredibly close to the bone. His television show pushes as many boundaries as his live performance and we find ourselves laughing just as guiltily as we did when seeing him live.

We see an excellent performance by Louis, showing he's a dab hand on the small screen too, as well as the supporting cast, who are not quite as recurring as we'd probably like. The overall feel to the show is very curb-esque and fans of that show will no doubt love Louie.

It is consistently funny and often side splittingly hilarious. But there is such truth to it. The show comes from a place that I am sure all parents, the overweight and all mediocre looking people and many divorced, middle aged men will know too well. But even to those not in such categories, we feel just as much agony for Louis as anybody. Here is a 40 year old man who has all but given up on most aspects of life. In many way's he's simply waiting to die, but there is always that beacon of hope that is his children that somehow always manage to give him validity, no matter how irritating they can be.

It's heartwarming, true to life and very. very funny. I cannot recommend this highly enough and have thoroughly enjoyed watching thus far.
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Go On (2012–2013)
Nice idea. Poorly done.
9 August 2012
I had just seen the sneak preview of 'Go On' after much anticipation. The trailers looked interesting and I have been waiting for a great Matthew Perry project for a while. After a disjointed half an hour I am feeling a little short changed.

I have heard likenesses to community, and that is clearly evident. But so desperate is this show to replicate the clicks and odd character traits that community does so well, that it looks forced and unauthentic. The dialogue attempts to snap but I found it convenient and very lazy. The casting seems incredibly weak and I had almost forgot the therapist completely. And talk about a room of clichés. There's the typically uptight angry lady, the overly nice middle aged man, the weird beardy one, the chubby hispanic lady, the token black guy and the eccentric old man. I could have written these character backdrops in five minutes! Community is in an entirely different league when presenting these odd, mismatched characters and 'Go On' is left looking like a cheap imitation.

The story goes like this. A sportscaster (Perry) attempts to go back to work quickly after a traumatising event. After being forced to attend group therapy, he does everything to avoid facing his issues until it's too late. After exploding, he decides to share. There is real promise in this interesting premise. The capacity for subplots and interaction is vast and the approach, from a comedic/dramatic view is a good one. There's still a lot about the show to admire. But it's as though the screenplay was either rushed or written without skill. The pace, writing and performances of better shows like community and arrested development far surpasses this and I find myself not caring too much about the plights of these therapy members. It's frustrating as the premise had so much potential.

Clearly this is not the joyous return of Matthew Perry we were all hoping for and he did little to capture the heights of great shows like friends and studio 60. Fans of community will either blindly like this show for it's similarities (no matter how badly portrayed) or dislike it for the same reasons I do. It's as though the network looked at he incredible success of community and decided to pump out something similar, only to not quite get there. There's so much quality on television right now with so many brilliant roles and opportunities for someone of Perry's stature. He's much, much better than this show.

Nice idea. Poorly done.
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Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
10/10
Cue Applause!!
9 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Wow. A thousand times wow.

Now in it's fifth season, Breaking Bad is one of the most unique and stylish shows to appear on television for some time. So crammed full of high octane drama and thrilling story lines, you can often forget this show is made for TV. Bryan Cranston, of Malcom In The Middle fame, is so immersed into the character of 'Walter Wight', a chemist professor who 'breaks bad' after suffering a cancer scare, that it almost seems as though two very different actors played both parts! And I mustn't forget such a stellar supporting cast. These characters are incredibly interesting, multi layered works of art and fit the writing like your favourite sweater.

Over five seasons we see a huge transformation in Walter, from a man desperate to do whatever he can to support his family in his time of need, to one with delusions of grandeur, frighteningly encompassing this new lifestyle with an almost sociopathic rationality. We see changes in those close to him. Hank's dealing with being shot and losing the ability to walk unaided and Skyler's acceptance of Walt and her descent into chaos are of particular note. Aaron paul's portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, a former junkie turned cook is another highlight and further reinforces how brilliant writing can complement superb character development.

Everything about this show is stellar. The funny moments are dry, clever and better delivered than most comedies. The depth of drama in this show is apparently endless with nearly everybody on a knife-edge of some sort. but it is the action and cinematography where the show really explodes. This is where the show transforms from a great television show to a stylish, unique piece of modern art. Much like the early Tarantino films, the cinematography and overall style is so distinctive that you could spot a breaking bad scene a mile away. It is often breathtaking and as always full of beautiful surprises.

This truly is a must see television masterpiece and is a work of the highest possible quality.

The easiest 10/10 I have given so far.
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Touch (2012–2013)
8/10
Nearly, but not enough
25 July 2012
Firstly, I have only watched about 5 or 6 episodes of touch before moving onto other things. The reason for this I shall get into later.

Anyway, Touch. It is a show about a gifted, autistic kid who see's patterns in people. He can predict a number of intertwining lives and expertly interpets them through number. Unwilling to speak or be touched himself, he uses his protective father as a conduit to help these people. In each episode we see three different lives that each have their own difficulties. These lives interact with one another's destiny and through the help of this intervention, everything is sort of OK in the end. And Keifer Sutherland plays the father of the mysteriously gifted child. All in all this was quite a nice idea I thought. And it is done very well. Tim Kring has produced a good show and it is certainly watchable for a few episodes at least. My own trouble is the lack of 'arc' in the story. From the episodes I watched, it was simply one clever intertwining story after another, with little main character development throughout, other than a supporting story about Keifer's difficulty with social services; both unable to control this boy. There is also the slight development we see between keifer and the kid...both growing closer through a unifying goal of helping people. As Keifer says, he can 'hear him' now.

Again, the idea is strong and it is clear why Keifer agreed to go back to television. Each episode is clever, not too outlandish and produced fantastically. The acting is superb - the child is simply haunting. And it is nice to see Keifer play a less imposing character such as this. And a mention for the supporting actors who play the number of intertwining roles needed for an idea like this. On the whole they are very well cast and performed equally good. The writing is decent and on strictly an episode by episode basis, this is a significantly decent show. But that's where the trouble lies. I love a good story arc. Something to keep me watching week after week. I want to expect something more than simply another mysterious number pattern to solve. I feel this is where the general idea fails. It would certainly be difficult in boosting a main character story arc and lose what makes the show that little bit special. If I were Tim Kring, I'd have perhaps used one intertwining story per season, with the kid unraveling only parts per episode. This, alongside the social services malarkey and the growing bond between father and son would have made this show special. But it tries too much. By enforcing them to solve a mystery per episode, there's no real drama. We've seen them do it before, they'll do it again. The only remaining fun is working out who's related to who and how these people will end up interacting.

This could have been special. Tim Kring has missed a trick as far as I'm concerned and I struggle to think of how many seasons we'll go through before the idea becomes saturated.

8/10: Good, just not great.
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New Girl (2011–2018)
1/10
New Girl, Same Old Story.
24 July 2012
I reiterate every realistic, sensible comment I've read so far regarding this sitcom. What's so good about this show?! Recycled situations with recycled lines and recycled dynamics with recycled situations. It is basically any old sitcom WITH ZOEY DESCHENNEL (or however you spell that god forsaken name).

I feel you must truly love this woman (as most of the 2010+ world does) to like this show. People are drawn to her like moths to a flame. Or flies to...you know. So let's take away everything formulaic about this show, which of course leaves only Zoey. Now let's analyze what's so darn special about this woman. I loved the film 500 days of summer if that helps? But I mean...that was a good film. Her part could have been played by Michael Caine and I'd have still loved that film. She's just a sort of pretty face, which behind lies a personality that wishes it was more interesting and unique than it truly is. She's another Hollywood actress. Big deal.

So the show. As mentioned, it's a sitcom. On Fox. If you've watched sitcoms, you've seen this. There is nothing new about this show and I would argue that the conversation upon commission for the show went a little like this.

Fox: 'Who's this Zoey Desch...Daysh...' Writers: 'Deschanel?' Fox: 'Sure, whatever. Why am I hearing so much about her and why isn't she on our network?' Writers: 'She does films, I think.' Fox: 'Put her in something!' Writers: 'Like what?' Fox: 'I don't know, you think of something. That's what I'm paying you for.' Writers: 'How about a period drama?' Fox: 'Who the f*** watches that S***?! What do I look like? A HBO executive?' Writers: 'I don't know....Uhm...How about a gritty thriller?' Fox: 'NEXT!' Writers: 'A...Sitcom? THATS IT...A SITCOM!' Fox: 'Perfect. I want a script by the end of the week.' Writers: 'What shall we do for the other five days?' Everyone: 'LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL'

DONE.
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Life's Too Short (2011–2013)
7/10
Not too bad. Not too great. Just good.
24 July 2012
In writing this review, I think it is only fair to remove any influence that successes such as The Office, Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad may contribute towards it. I find that in doing so, I may avoid the typically predictable droning about it 'being better or worse that his last show'. I find that argument boring and it's narrowing both the potential comparative and the viewers focus when watching.

So, with my 'Gervais' hat now removed, here is my review for 'Life's Too Short', the new mock-umentary from Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais.

Gervais cited a number of ideas that had influenced the making of this show. With an influx of those awful, 'look at me' celebrity documentary things in which a television crew follows one, or a number of deranged, fame hungry socialites doing nothing other than sleeping with each other and shopping for new Ugg Boots and push-up bras.

In Warwick Davies, we have the protagonist, albeit an unlikeable one. Desperate to cling on to fame's back side, he invites a 'film crew' to follow him around, heightening his celebrity status at every opportunity. Much like those awful celebrity docu-soaps, Warwick yearns for all and any publicity, hoping blindly that living his life like an open wound would somehow benefit his career. Only...Warwick is a dwarf actor looking to pay a huge tax bill.

He continually annoys Gervais and Merchant, who both play themselves as conduits to Warwick's celebrity life. Warwick seeks their help in finding his way to higher pastures but is continually berated and mocked, mostly for his size. All in all there is an abundance of misfortune in this man's life, and we're party to all of it.

As you'd expect, there is an abundance of 'short jokes' in this. The casual observer would possibly assume a level of discrimination in doing this, feeling Warwick is somewhat exploited. But that could not be further from the truth. Although we see Warwick's immense difficulty with his stature, it is his small mindedness that we are most amused by. Where some might think forcing a dwarf down the toilet is immoral and wrong, others look at his reasons for agreeing this - trying in vain to impress Johnny Depp. Where some might see his hilarious scaling of a bookshelf and think it is somewhat derogatory, others might point out his ridiculous pride in saving face so not to give his ex-wife's new partner the upper hand. These moments are aptly portrayed in such a way as to mock only Warwick's personality and not his disability. This is a 'small man' in mind alone. He is petty, vain, desperate, small minded and arrogant. He is a small 'Alan Partridge' with the same delusions of grandeur that made Alan such fun to watch.

Most of Life's Too Short is familiar to fans of Gervais. His touch is evidently there, and the overall show is stylistically more similar to The Office as oppose to anything else. The physical comedy is done brilliantly and Warwick has such a commanding grasp on this realm. Yet there is too much missing from the show. The writing is just not funny enough. The incredibly funny parts, such as Liam Neeson's scene are too few and far between. I dare say it, but there is too little of Gervais and Merchant. And once more, Barry, Cheggers and Les Dennis are back to provide the odd laugh inbetween, proving the show needed additional comedy from somewhere. Other than Warwick, nothing stood out. Gone are the level of characters such as Tim, Gareth, Darren Lamb, Barry (who we see too little of), Dawn and the lovable Maggie. Finding incredible characters and creating interesting and brilliant people to play them is what Gervais and Merchant have done brilliantly. Yet there's nothing too special here. It's as though they narrowed their view solely to Warwick and forgot about the outer world he'll exist in.

But still, with my Gervais hat still gone, I will review this show on its merits. Ultimately it is very funny in parts. Watching Warwick scale that bookcase had me in tears. Liam Neeson's bit was one of the greatest scenes the guys have written and the whole idea behind the show is still strong. I enjoyed watching Life's Too Short and it was in no way a bad show. The current viewer rating on IMDb is 7.8/10, a little generous for my liking. If I could be more specific, I'd give the show a 7.4/10...or 74/100...or 74%...whatever works.

All in all - not too bad, not too great. Just good.
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3/10
Weak
23 July 2012
I will hereby remove any Trailer Park Boys influence from my reviewing process and rate this show simply on it's own merit. I will forget that the guys behind 'Drunk and on Drugs Funtime Happy Hour' had helped produce one of the greatest recent comedy shows I have had the pleasure to watch. Because let's face it. The characters in Trailer Park Boys were perfect. They were an ensemble. They all mattered and they were all constructive to the overall quality of the show. I loved everything about the show, from Lahey's continual battle with alcohol and all things sexy, Ricky's take on the English language and his justification of skewed logic and the incredible creation of the character 'Bubbles' to even the most minor of roles. Phil Collins, Jacob, J-Roc, Ray, Trevor, Cory, Lucy, Sarah....they were all so important.

But with this new show there is nothing. Perhaps I just don't 'get it' or maybe I'm never high enough but the show is just poor all round. To those unaware of the plot, J.P, Rob and Mike (Julian, Ricky and Bubbles) are creating a new show but are constantly given some blue drugs created by Doctor Funtime. They get into a number of scrapes and are constantly on the run from a local mafia man and a knife wielding madman amongst other things. Inbetween this ridiculous plot are a number of...well, I suppose i'll call them 'subplots' for now. Basically, it's the boys dressed up as 'characters', much like 'Little Britain' or similar sketch comedy shows. I expect to most, what little humor there is to absorb from them would lie in their appearance. From fat disk jockeys to silly superheroes. There are all of the hallmarks of a costume budget gone wild. In between drugged dazes, the boys find themselves struggling to keep it together, whilst the television network tries in vain to keep on top of the show.

It might sound confusing or just stupid. But that is basically what you will be watching. There is little to laugh about here. A show like this can only work if the characters are watchable, humorous and absorbing. These characters are pointless, bland and definitely not watchable. There is no sign of cohesive plot, no apparent sign of comedy and pretty much nothing to keep you watching.

If a TPB fan is about to embark on this, please don't. You'll only be terribly disappointed. I imagine this is a show that can only have been produced whilst on drugs, yet I think even those higher than a boeng 747 will struggle to enjoy this show.

A mild 3/10
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The Newsroom (2012–2014)
10/10
This is why TV trumps Film
26 June 2012
I should be more specific, this is why HBO trumps film. We seem to be blessed with a limitless bounty of maginificent television from this network. Television networks such as 'AMC' and 'HBO' (and a lesser extent 'Showtime') set standards that echo those championed in the outline of 'The Newsroom'.

The ratings chasing network NBC failed to renew Sorkin's last television effort 'Studio 60' which, in my opinion, was a masterpiece in it's own right. They must certainly be kicking themselves now, wondering just how they managed to allow a genius such as Aaron Sorkin to slip through their fingers. Moving over to HBO is the best move Sorkin has made since putting pen to paper to a screenplay titled 'The West Wing'.

Now over to the show. I must prepare you that I am an avid Sorkin Dork. I have seen everything he has produced with great admiration and thorough enjoyment. His idealistic view of how the world should be is refreshing and bold. He presented the Bartlett administration as this fallable, noble group of like-minded people striving to always do better. This was mirrored in the late-night entertainment world in Studio 60 and now in The Newsroom. Sorkin once again has unearthed a world where serious flaws exist and rather than berate those responsible, he presents a solution in true Sorkin fashion. Do better.

That seems to be a running theme with his work, which ironically would struggle to be better given an infinite number of monkey's, typewriters and time. In The Newsroom, a news anchor (played by Jeff Daniels) addresses an audience of college students. When pressured to come up to a response as to why America is the greatest country in the world, his enigmatic rant citing America's major failings compared to other nations, thus provoking the country to do better leads to a career-changing crossroads. With a new EP, new staff and new outlook, the 'Jay Leno of news anchors' decides to take no prisoners in reporting the very best in news coverage.

The news in the show reflects actual events that occurred 2 years ago with this episode featuring the BP oil disaster. Sorkin's masterpiece takes you behind the scenes at a 24 hour cable news station, with intertwining relationships, office conflict and strokes of enlightening genius in healthy supply. Sorkin's 1930's-esque rapid dialogue is once more in abundance and not once does this show pander to the viewer. Sorkin's philosophy, as mirrored in the show, is that Americans (and thus viewers) are not as stupid as we all like to think.

The Newsroom succeeds on so many levels. The direction is flawless. The writing, as you would expect, is impeccable. Sorkin's touch is there but not once are you fully aware of this and taken away from the show. The casting is near-perfect. Not one of these characters is in any way unbelievable or weakly cast. I feel the need to watch more of them and I genuinely care about each of their fates. The acting is also strong with Jeff Daniels in particular showing strong. This is certainly Daniels' chance to shine as an actor and I guarantee Emmy's will arrive in abundance for his performance.

I have a number of favourite TV shows. Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, Dexter, Deadwood, West Wing, Rome, Oz, 24 and so on. I fully expect this to be better than all those that preceded it and judging on the premise and the start it has made, I don't think I'll be disappointed.

A WHOPPING 10/10!
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Stargate: Atlantis (2004–2009)
8/10
Solid Spin Off!
7 February 2012
I came to Atlantis without ever engaging in the long running SG-1 series (through sheer availability rather than choice) and also as a relative new-comer to the sci-fi genre. Sure, I caught the odd episode of The Next Generation or The X Files as a kid and may have even enjoyed the seemingly ridiculous goings on of the fantasy fiction world. I was finally converted to a fully fledged fan of this genre after both watching Battlestar Galactica and completing the game Mass Effect (which I'd love to see a series of!) Anyway, I was given the Atlantis DVD boxset and encouraged to soak up the franchise. I expected to casually watch an episode here or there when I had little else to do. Perhaps after ordering a 12 inch pizza from the local take away I'd stick an episode on. Maybe even a quick 'before bed' routine I could get into. I was however not prepared for the addiction I was about to expose myself to.

Whilst the story lines and writing are neither nothing new or eye catching to the sci-fi faithful, I found myself utterly transfixed by the series; unable to tell myself 'thats enough for tonight'. But what sets this show apart from other formulaic universe-exploring show is that I truly cared about the characters. They were all so memorable and likable that I subscribed to the plot regardless. This is where the show truly exceeds.

The premise of the show is humanity's survival against formidable alien foes. After 'gating' to the lost city of Atlantis (created and once occupied by the ancients), they must protect it and themselves from replicators, the vampiric 'wraith', one or two 'Asgard' and even fellow humans. The genius that is 'Dr. Rodney 'Meredith' Mckay and fellow saviors Col. John Shephard and Dr. Carson Beckett often find themselves against insurmountable odds but somehow manage to fend off trouble for another day using almost miraculous methods. You sort of lose count of the number of times McKay tells Shephard something is impossible before doing it anyway. Whilst ridiculously unbelievable at times, it offers great drama nonetheless.

Often predictable and a little formulaic at times, Atlantis excels in the premise. The overall premise of the stargate franchise offers so much possibility that it's inevitable three spin off shows have been created since the film. With no big spaceship floating through space to contend with, the show is open to much more creativity, which it makes up for in spades.

The main enemy to the human race that is the Wraith are difficult to find both scary and original but eventually you get accustomed to them. Think Gothic vampires in leather coats and you'll not go far wrong. But the show again manages to find interest angles to approach the wraith, ensuring they're not just there as the main protagonist.

Overall, Atlantis offers both fans of the Stargate franchise and of Sci Fi 5 seasons of truly enjoyable material. This is no 'Battlestat Galactica' by no means but is thoroughly addictive and watchable nonetheless. If you care about great character development and can cope with the formulaic plot lines, then you'll no doubt enjoy Atlantis. For me personally, I consider myself a pretty avid Stargate fan after this.

8/10
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Mrs. Brown's Boys (2011– )
2/10
Proof that people will watch anything
2 July 2011
Whilst I may have occasionally chuckled in watching Mrs Brown's Boys, A joyfyul experience this was not.

I recall the great Father Ted; how it graced our television sets every week and yet we took its brilliance for granted. Fresh, masterful Irish humour at it's best. If not for the premature death of Ted Crilly, I'm sure the success of the show would have exploded even further.

And now we have this. Now don't get me wrong, I like the odd gag. I think if their well placed, appropriate and supportive of the storyline they can work brilliantly. However what this show does is overplay it's card, and by some distance. I found myself cringing at the overuse of innuendo and bad wordplay. I could barely finish my sigh before another bad, recycled joke passed by.

And then we have the characters. Sure - a man in drag is occasionally humorous in a sketch but to base a series around this utterly ridiculous premise is absurd. I find every one of them a cliché wrapped in another three clichés. It got to the point where I was finishing every joke before they said anything - and most of the time doing a better job of it.

This truly is evidence of the sad demise of British comedy on the BBC. The blame for shows like Miranda and this can only be laid at the feet of the producers. They commission the scripts and in my opinion have stopped taking any chances. I saw a few pilots not long ago that the BBC failed to commission - some of which were brilliantly original and utterly hilarious. But they lose out time and time again to this broad, formulaic rubbish! I don't wish to offend any fans of this show. Ultimately, if something is making you smile then you have every right to defend it. But this is my two pennies. Take from it what you will.

2 out of 10.
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Miranda (2009–2015)
1/10
Dreadful
2 July 2011
Everything about this show screams the words unoriginal, formulaic and broad. BBC has become so bland these days that I'm starting to find Countryfile interesting! What ever happened to British comedy? There is nothing new, witty or clever about Miranda. I found myself NOT laughing to the same jokes in every other formulaic 'comedy'. The acting is dull, uninvolved and I find no love whatsoever for any of the characters.

If you're a pretty bland kind of creature with the personality of a glow-worm, this might be right up your street. After all - you'll watch anything on TV; you don't care! But if you're hoping to be challenged and entertained then i'd stay well clear.

It looks like the days where BBC2 was the home of UK comedy are long gone.

1 out of 10
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Rome (2005–2007)
9/10
A True Spectacle
7 June 2011
I am often finding myself in awe at HBO's offerings and time and time again applaud their decision making when it comes to quality programming. This time is no different.

'Rome' depicts the historic story of the late roman republic, following the time-lines of events such as Gaius Julias Ceaser's grasp of power from Pompey Magnus, his assassination and the young Augustus (Octavian) Ceaser's own continuous battle to secure the beginnings of the Roman Empire from threat of the dying Roman Republic and Brutus in particular. We are also treated to the lives of ordinary Romans such as Titus Pullo and Luscious Vereinus; two soldiers of the legendary 13th division who struggle adjusting to life outside of service and honour. Additionally, we find ourselves in the midst of treachary from those seeking the mistresses that are wealth and power, with Attia of the Julii a particularly conniving character. We finally bear witness to the ill fated demise of Anthony and Cleopatra at the behest of a rising Augustus Ceaser.

What makes Rome special is not just the visuals. Sure, the budget of such an elaborate series would command greatness from many similar shows. But Rome seems more 'real'. I felt as though the reality of ancient Rome was perhaps quite accurately depicted, or at least I imagined it would have been. I was not only shown a well executed cinematographic expression here...this was a whole world imagined and thought out by well researched experts who gave birth to the stage of which greatness can be played.

But this would remain a moot point should other areas fail, which they do not. The casting is near-perfect and you will both fall in love and despise each character in equal measure. Attia in particular is one of the latter. Her evil seems mostly misguided and it remains very difficult to completely detest this woman, especially once seeing her vulnerabilities. From Luscious Vereinus' struggle to adapt to normality after years on the battlefield to Mark Anthony's reluctance to allow pride befall his own life - the characters and the writing in particular triumph over and over. And the cast simply support this, with incredible showings from Brutus, Titus Pullo and Gaius Julias Ceaser in particular. The dialogue and writing is dynamic and well thought out. Riveting sub-plots fill any voids left by the ever progressing storyline. Intelligently written, you are left challenged in every measure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rome. Not only did it well support the history on an accuracy level, but it explored the city itself, giving the viewer glimpses of one of the greatest civilisations to walk the earth. A true 'EPIC' series that never fails to surprise and delight. Yet another victory for those at HBO who risk all at ensuring quality programming.
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The Wire (2002–2008)
10/10
The near-perfect drama
18 May 2011
It has been three years since the culmination of this HBO giant and only now have I been able to appreciate The Wire in its entirety.

I have spent the last three weeks surrounded by empty pizza boxes and pepsi cans; routed to the same spot like a paraplegic glutton. For this extended bout of inactivity I don't blame myself. Nor do I blame the addictive (and expensive) pizza habit I have inherited. I don't even blame society. Only The Wire has kept me glued to my position like a sniper perched on a Kabul rooftop.

From the inception, the sheer quality of everything blew me away. I was suddenly excited and knew that what I was about to experience was extra special. As a veteran watcher of recently great shows (The Sopranos/Six Feet Under/The West Wing/Game of Thrones/Boardwalk Empire/Arrested Development/Dexter/Breaking Bad to name a few) my expectations would take some beating. After all, I had witnessed the unnerving fate of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, the untimely death of Nathanial Fisher in Six Feet Under, the end of an era in The West Wing or the Bluthe Finale in Arrested Development; there have been some notable television experiences. Why should this be any different? And then came the first episode.

A drama from the perspective of all sides in Baltimore's continuous drug wars, the series portrays the everyday lives of those it harbours. From Councilmen to crack-addicts, soldiers to servicemen and drug dealers to drug releivers. The intertwining relationships between each facet of this world is simply fascinating. And I would bet that such a true and perfect portrayal of a problem that effects so many can be bettered than by that in The Wire.

The dialogue has a realism that I have yet to see in a drama. The acting is emmy winning all round, with stand out performances from near-all of the cast. The plots and sub-plots are dynamic, unpredictable and exciting. The level of suspense and grit are unrivalled in television. The production and location is also brilliant - the world of Baltimore is portrayed in a creatively perfect way so that anybody could imagine the atrocities that occurs in this town. The characters are multi-layered. Bad guys can be good, good guys can be bad and everybody has a number of sides that will never truly be discovered. The casting is immaculate. Not one character could be improved or cast better. And as for the direction - the sheer addictiveness of the show renders this argument useless.

All areas are to a level of near perfection and without waxing lyrical, there is not a show like this on TV. To all those who suspect this of being 'another cop show', you are heavily mistaken. This drama brings so much more than any standard 'cop show' in TV history. If you are willing to be thrilled, entertained, challenged and touched - please watch The Wire. It is as close to the ultimate television drama as you could possibly get.

Finally, a BIG round of applause to HBO. Time and time again they strike gold; finding the very best in writing and producing it to a standard that rivals film. The network has never ceased to amaze me and should be held in the highest possible esteem - a beacon for all other television networks to aspire to. Thank you, HBO!
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Mr. Sunshine (2011–2012)
3/10
Just bad...
8 May 2011
What a shame.

Matthew Perry, one of television's much loved patrons, has tried - and failed. After the never-ending but thoroughly enjoyable saga that was Friends and the brilliant but short lived Studio 60, Perry's next move appears not quite as astute.

I'm not sure whether he saw Aaron Sorkin and foolishly thought 'I could do that', or that he listened to too many 'yes-men' who just couldn't build up the courage to tell him that this show's a non-starter. Either way, this show is nothing short of amateurish.

The jokes are forced onto the cast like an ill-fitting shoe and the characters themselves have the dimension equivalent of paper. I could find no source of originality, humour or competence in the writing and I felt no compassion or even likability whatsoever for any of the characters. It's just all a little...bad!! As for Alison (CJ Cregg) Janney - WHY?!? Big fan of Perry, but I find myself really hoping this show does not get renewed!
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9/10
Who's Jack Bauer?
3 April 2011
After the culmination of '24', eyes across the globe were eagerly following Keifer 'Bauer' Sutherland and anticipating his next move. Little did we know it would be starring alongside film legend John Hurt in a gritty web series. Keifer plays The Confessor; a hit-man attempting to understand the root of evil through means of confession. Unrepentant, he debates theology and the source of evil with a priest (Hurt) who is forced to unravel the truth behind his confessor.

Before diving head-first into the show itself, I want to talk about the show's format. Split into short (6 min approx) chapters, this is not your typical TV series. However, the chapters seamlessly flow and the overall experience is fairly reminiscent of reading a short story or novella.

The length (or lack of) of the chapters would perhaps leave many viewers feeling a little short changed. After all - we were so used to having Bauer grace our screen for 24 continuous hours defusing bombs and torturing terrorists. But from the first second of The Confession, the tension immediately hits you whilst the shows dramatic undertones create an uneasy atmosphere. Regular flashbacks to the confessor's dark past fill any voids left by the inhibiting confession booth. These also provide well acted and well written sub-plots; further unravelling the mysteries of this troubled man.

I quite enjoyed the three episodes so far and a pedestal has definitely been set. The acting by keifer, Hurt and all ancillary characters is excellent and both the directing and writing is of notable quality (if slightly clichéd at times). That said, there is definite scope for a larger series. I fear that the potential in the current format will never quite reach the same heights as it would in a 40 minute format. But maybe i'm getting ahead of myself. It is only episode three after all. Overall, this is a great vehicle for Keifer and fans of 24 will find watching The Confession incredibly enjoyable. With it's grit, tense drama and an original concept, you'll almost forget about Bauer. Almost.
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The Ricky Gervais Show (2010–2012)
10/10
A whole new level of 'Funny'
2 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Back in 2002, a friend of mine nudged me in the direction of a small radio station called XFM. He strenuously urged that I listen to a Saturday show with comedy writers Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant and a strange, unknown entity. 'This will be your newest addiction' I was promised.

Ricky often mused that the radio show was probably the worst show on the air. With ridiculous competitions with crap prizes and idle rants about monkeys and freaks gave a general impression of a few friends simply messing around with a microphone. For anyone else, this would probably be difficult to enjoy and ultimately short lived. However, Ricky had a wild card. His name is Karl Pilkington.

The joy with Karl is his unique and misguided interpretation on life. This wide-eyed naivety that pushes boundaries through ignorance allows us to laugh guilt free at many of life's taboos. Often he strikes a deep and meaningful point before severely (and hilariously) misinterpreting it. For years Steve and Ricky poked the proverbial stick at their manchunian friend, each time striking a comedy goldmine.

And as the radio shows and subsequent podcasts peaked and flourished, team Gervais decided to open our peripherals to the perplexing mind of Pilkington. Cue - The Ricky Gervais Show.

As a huge fan of the original material, I was at first sceptical of the animated format. I thought it would restrict my own imagination as to Karls thoughts, almost spelling them out for me. Ultimately, I simply couldn't rationalise where the extra laughs would come from.

And then I saw episode one. As soon as I saw the cartoon Pilkington in Hannah Barbera style, I immediately laughed harder than I thought possible. His gaunt, glazed expression and perfectly round head were arguably better than the real thing. Added to that the constant digressions, brilliantly playing out the banter and conversations between the three of them. In between Steve's self deprecating anecdotes and Ricky's infectious laugh, Karl would set the scene time and time again; reflecting on his own adolescence, freaks, monkeys, the gays and many other areas of fascination, all supported by some of the funniest animation i've had the pleasure of seeing.

Now Ricky himself needs no introduction. Since the groundbreaking BBC comedy 'The Office', Ricky has time and time raised the bar in television programming. With the successful American adaptation, his (even better) comedy series 'Extras', fantastically risqué live stand-up (including the memorable Golden Globes performance) and regular movie work, he is now a household name; and rightly so. I even dare wax lyrical in declaring him the best comedian of our time. And with this newest instalment, along with the critically acclaimed travel documentary 'An Idiot Abroad', such a reputation can only be validated.

All in all, the animation has taken nothing away from the original format, and has added so, so much. If you have had the chance to listen to the older podcasts or even the XFM radio shows and yet not seen this, I would strenuously urge to to. If not, even better.

The Ricky Gervais Show (on HBO in the US and Channel 4 in the UK) will stimulate more laughter than you thought possible. As my friend once told me - 'This will be your newest addiction'.

********** (10/10)
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Episodes (2011–2017)
8/10
A gradual success
22 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
First and foremost, I must declare my adoration of Mangan and Greig. Both were flawless in the 2004 masterpiece 'Green Wing', and Greig did an even better job in Black Books. As a fellow Brit, I find both instantly recognisable and watchable, and any comedy show featuring these former co-workers would catch my undivided attention regardless.

Then we have the US invasion of Crane, Le Blanc and the rest of Hollywood. Desperate to shrug off the stigma of a character all to familiar (Joey), Le Blanc turns to his own idiosyncrasies and thus commits to the ever-increasingly popular decision of playing an exaggerated version of himself. And whilst he certainly draws most attention, integrating such a name into an atypically British comedy wasn't easy.

And so we have 'Episodes'. Set in the sunshine of Los Angeles, writers Greig and Mangan arrive in the US to film a pilot episode of their British comedy, Lyman's Boys. Only with continuous interference from producers, executives and even Matt Le Blanc himself, they instead are forced to cast Matt and inadvertently produce a broad sitcom named 'pucks'. Things go from bad to worse as relations between grieg, le blanc and mangan begin eroding the once lucrative idea of life in Hollywood.

At first, the premise of the show seemed to revolve almost entirely around Matt and at times the show struggled to appear more than one-dimensional. The connotation of 'Joey' from friends with a smart, classy British sitcom seemed a little extended and perhaps too much was made of this. Added to this the culture divide between Britain and Hollywood and you could be mistaken that there just wasn't enough to laugh about.

Thankfully, this was simply the first of many layers. As the series developed, the funnier it got. Matt portrayed an incredibly flawed, if generally well intended version of himself. He was as far removed from Joey as you can possibly venture, with a vulnerable, arrogant and self destructive edge that would never have worked in Friends. If anything, the show is perhaps a little Greig and Mangan heavy and more could have been afforded to Le Blanc.

It may take until the last few episodes for you to truly appreciate this show. It is at times intelligent, very dry and often reminiscent of Ricky Gervais's 'Extras'. By no means perfect, 'Episodes' will still keep you more than entertained. And if you were waiting for Matt to leave behind the persona of 'Joey', then we may have found the show to do that.

Perhaps I have been influenced with ex-friends co-star Matthew Perry's new comedy 'Mr. Happiness' (which is far from the best 20 minutes of television) but Episodes really is a gradually enjoyable and worthy comedy series. I am looking forward to a second season!
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Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)
10/10
The Best Thing On TV
22 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
As the somewhat 'tongue-in-cheek' summary suggests, comparing 'Boardwalk Empire' with the majority of your TV guide may seem as pointless as inflating a balloon with peanut butter. The mere fact I am able to see such a show week in, week out is frankly a miracle considering the tripe we usually suffer. I actually feel blessed that such an ambitiously creative idea has come into fruition in such a flawless manner – truly a credit to each and every member involved.

Now before I continue with this review, I should first speak of my adoration of Terence Winter, and more specifically his inspired work with 'The Sopranos'. Like many of you, The series left me with an endless void (and a sore head). It was a truly remarkable show, entirely worthy of its timeless eminence. Since the finale of The Sopranos, I have kept a keen eye open, watching intently for Winter's next move.

Boardwalk Empire is set in 1920's America, during the passing of the prohibition law. Believed to be a catalyst of organised crime, the prohibition era sets the scene for our main character, Enoch (Nucky) Thompson (based on the real-life 'Enoch Johnson') as the puppeteer of Atlantic City; pulling all of the political and criminal strings, often in tandem. At a time of increasing competition in the illegal liquor business, Nucky must keep a firm grasp on his illicit control over Atlantic City whilst playing the proverbial part of the reputable politician.

I first heard of Boardwalk Empire once Scorsese had picked up the Pilot for direction. That was the moment I knew something momentous was on its way. As the series picked up energy, it suddenly became difficult to ignore. Experienced names such as Buscemi and Shannon along with some I had not heard much of (Pitt, Graham, MacDonald) were cast and as the pilot finally aired.

At first glance, I was somewhat frustrated by the lack of pace the pilot seemed to exhibit. I saw many elements of a period drama but assumed the show may be trying too hard to look the part whilst leaving substance behind. Thankfully, my cynicism lasted little over 15 minutes.

As the series gathered wind, I felt myself truly emotionally torn by these characters. Nucky's apparent affability glossed over in a coat of manipulative deceit brilliantly epitomises the corruption augmented by the prohibition. Buscemi's profile may not on paper be ideal for such a character, but he seamlessly removes the comical facade he is more accustomed to and becomes Nucky – for better and worse.

That said, there are a quite ridiculous number of stand-out roles to be excited by. Michael Pitt plays Nucky's post-war prodigy – Jimmy Darmody. An ambitious and casually violent character, Darmody struggles to wrestle his turbulent relationship with Nucky, his unreciprocated love for his distant and artistic wife and his desire to fulfil the role Nucky has set for him. Michael Pitt is surely the highlight of the cast – his great blue eyes often telling more of the story than any dialogue. As a reasonably young actor, Pitt is surely one to look out for.

Other notable performances include Shannon as the hard-hitting, forceful FBI agent, Nelson Van Alden. Glimpses into his dark and mysterious side show another element to a character in danger of becoming too one sided. Shannon, as expected, performs this side to the character utterly convincingly.

Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Schroeder is a superb example of a modern woman caught in older times. Unable at times to contain her own noble ideas behind Nucky's own agenda, you at times wonder what exactly she wants from Atlantic City, and in particular from Nucky Johnson. Kelly MacDonald provides a faultless and inspiring display and falls into the whole period feel outstandingly.

Stephen Graham as a young Al Capone, Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein and The Wire's Michael K. Williams as Chalky White also offer excellent viewing.

After 10 episodes, the series is at a knife edge (literally in some cases). Tension between criminal contingents is building to what will undoubtedly be a dazzling, awe-inspiring climax. The character interactions leaves so such today's television miles behind, and with a cast so astoundingly talented and a script so eloquently sharp, you truly feel that every second of this incredible show is unmissable. As a big budget TV series, there is obvious pressure from HBO to ensure Boardwalk Empire is a resounding success. Instead, HBO decided to commission season 2 after just one episode. Testament if it were needed to both HBO (who are surely the most envied network on US TV right now) and everybody involved in this show.

10/10
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