Thursday, May 15, 2014

5 TV Shows I Can't Stop Watching

We are living in a television Renaissance. Bold statement? Sure. But it's also true. The production quality of series like; The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and True Detective is incredible. With the inception of cable programming and services like Netflix, we are now witnessing the kind of deep characterization, intricate plot lines, and global cinematography that is rivalling, if not surpassing, their cinematic counterparts. The small screen also allows for character arcs (see: Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones, or Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife) and, my personal favourite, good sub-plots (two stories for the price of one!). ...And while it's hard to choose from such an abundance of riches, I narrowed it down to the five I look forward to the most...

Longmire - I love a good Western. So it didn't take long for me to be taken in by this murder-mystery series set in a fictional Wyoming county, watched over by a newly widowed, old-school sheriff (played superbly by Aussie actor, Robert Taylor) - and his not-always-merry band of deputies. You quickly feel like you're on ride-along's with this dysfunctional little group, and admire the way they watch out for one another. I was surprised by how quickly I felt invested in the characters. The long standing friendship between Sheriff Longmire and stoic local restaurant owner, Henry Standing Bear (played by the sublime Lou Diamond Phillips), is particularly inspiring. Throw in a list of impressive recurring characters and guest stars like, Gerald McRaney, A Martinez, Charles S. Dutton, and Peter Weller - and you've got yourself an engaging, contemporary Western. Stand-outs: Starbuck alert! Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) is a blast to watch as Deputy Victoria 'Vic' Moretti, a brash Philadelphia transplant with attitude to spare. Did I mention Lou Diamond Philips is in this?? ...And the view from Longmire's front porch is unforgettable.
(Longmire, Seasons 1 & 2 are on Netflix, and Season 3 premieres on A&E June 2nd)

Fargo - There are good movie-to-TV adaptations (M*A*S*H, Buffy The Vampire Slayer) - and not-so-good ones (Clueless, My Big Fat Greek Life). Fargo is a great one. Written by Ethan & Joel Coen (who wrote and directed the film), this is a well-crafted, layered tale of how quickly things can spiral out of control - when a very bad man ends up stranded in an unsuspecting little town.
 While I love the music and stark-but-beautiful landscapes, this story is all about the characters. Billy Bob Thornton (as the malevolent stranger, Lorne Malvo) steals every scene he's in, but the lovely Allison Tolman (as Molly, the deputy who starts to put all the pieces together), isn't far behind. Rounding out the cast are Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Keith Carradine, Bob Odenkirk, and Oliver Platt - worth watching for their North Dakota accents, alone. The theme of good vs. evil is an ancient one - but seldom has it been so much fun to watch. The malicious influence of Thornton's Malvoy on the weaker characters is terrible and riveting, while his predatory presence seems to infuse the more innocent and noble townspeople with a necessary (and urgent) strength. I can't wait to see what happens next. Stand-out: Thornton. His quiet malice (and bad haircut) are reminiscent of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, but he also has some of the funniest dialogue on the show. A career-high.
(Fargo, Season 1 is currently airing Tuesday nights on FX)

Stay tuned for my reviews of Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, and Penny Dreadful (plus, some honourable mentions)...