Steve Kidd's Review Pages

TV



Arrested Development
2003 Mark: 8.5
Watched: Thu 18 December 2014

Starring: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Ron Howard, Henty Winkler, Liza Minelli, Charlize Theron
Created by: Mitchell Hurwitz

Up to press four seasons of solid gold. Police Squad was cancelled after six episodes, because audiences are perceived as dim by even duller studio execs. This lasted three seasons, went on a long hiatus and Netflix have re-kindled it. And no wonder, It is a matrix of intertwined threads, self referential, gags set up years in advance. It is comfortable yet edgy, the more you watch, the more invested you become and the greater rewards. Is it better than Father Ted, Fawlty Towers or Trailer Park Boys ? No. Is it worse?... No. It is like being stoned with a group of friends, without the hash. Five star TV.


Better Call Saul
2015 Mark: 8
Watched: Mon 19 January 2015

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Michael McKean
Created by: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould

Well, dang it, I may be completely on my own here but that is how I roll. God bless Netflix for taking all the crappy bits out of Breaking Bad (i.e. Skylar) condensing and accentuating the pathos and the humour. Ever since I saw John Buck's T shirt I always knew Saul Goodman was the breakout character from the Walter White show, and he does not dissapoint here. Like OITNB this is far more dramatic than I would have expected, and it has developed, half way through season one at the time of writing, into an insight into Mike Ermintraut's back story. So far so excellent, my jaw was dropping through the latter part of Mike's soliloquy at the end of episode five. When I make my list of best TV characters, Saul Goodman will be up there. Better than Breaking Bad. By more than a length.

Update: It goes from strength to strength (Season 1 episode 9)


Boardwalk Empire
2008 Mark: 8
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Paz de la Huerta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Anthony Laciura, Paul Sparks, Dabney Coleman, Jack Huston, Gretchen Mol, Charlie Cox, Bobby Cannavale, Ron Livingston, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Rosenfield
Created by: Terence Winter

These shows are so good it is hard to pigeon-hole them with a grade. Is it because once you start investing your time into the multiple characters and plotlines it is somehow not just rewarding but establishes a loyalty, a positive form of Cognitive Dissonance? Whatever, a flipping great watch


Breaking Bad
2008 Mark: 7
Watched: Fri 13 February 2015

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn. Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk
Created by: Vince Gilligan

A most excellent TV show, spread over five seasons, the odd bum episode (I'm thinking of the one with the fly), some great comedy (Saul Goodman thoroughly deserves his own show) and a lead character who maintains the interest There are certain aspects of this series that I would like to diss so here goes..(SPOILER ALERTS)

Hank. Come on man, really, season five?? You'd keep it all to yourself, oh well maybe just take your partner along so he can get shot as well. Walter's taped 'confession' just would not hold up under the most rudimentary forensic analysis, it is just completely non believable (PS I liked Hank as a character)

Marie. What happened to your kleptomania? That was something we really could have run with, but it surfaced and disappeared for zero plot movement. You and your sister...

Skyler. Skyler. Skyler. Couldn't somebody edit the series and just take her out of it? The MILTD (Mother I'd like to divorce) of all time, she does not have one scene which entertained me. In this or Deadwood. It would be nice if somebody give Anna Gunn a part that doesn't involve her constantly scowling or being feeble or whinging or 'taking charge'

I would dispute that Walter changes during the series. He 'breaks bad' early doors but still retains some admirable traits, and the last one and a half episodes are him being self sacrificing "Take the money, don't shoot Hank", protecting his family "I made you do it Skyler", Not being really nasty (they are only laser pens after all). In itself not a bad thing, but don't say it is what it is not.

What kind of self respecting Neo-Nazis would ever ever not just kill Walt, once they had the money? Like, oh... here is 11 million dollars, go away and when your ready come back and kill us.. Boss, that might be a bit risky... no it's not he shook my hand, not because we wouldn't have killed him if he didn't, but because we just topped Hank and he really digs that.

Bucky says: Agree with most of your erudite and informed assessment - I am half way through ".. 's all good man " ~ really enjoying it , but too early to rate it above BB for me. BB had a mutli-dimensional approach, multi-layered plot, yep some 'slow episodes' (one or two fillers) but I'll take those against the rack of tension, the black humour, the language, the character/relationship complexities and nuances between the main two players and hey, even the track listings.,. I mean c'mon what US TV show would really feature an Albino Reggae Dancehall star who's other song is called Gimme Vagina? Some of the latter parts in S5 yes I concur sir, they did stretch the cred a bit too far, but the tension of Hank's demise was a classic.. and I was sad to see him go. Against something like the Sopranos which I have watched with Sue for 3 seasons now and I do like but equally can leave, then BB was something that Ellie and I watched together and shared many fantastic moments. It gripped, was a 'must watch'. The unbearable ending of S3 was, as the youth say 'awesome' or 'sick' man.. and S4 was a pinnacle too. S5 maybe one stretch too far.. but all I say, the Skylar stuff aside, then I would rate it as a 9.5 for me.. the best TV I've seen in the last 15 years.. and yep Saul was brilliant, Jesse too, Badger (loved him - didn't want him to die.. phew).. the chemistry was believable, the actual horror of the Mexican Drug Cartels barely skimmed, mindst you these real Sicarios make ISIS look like a bunch of pussys.

BB - 9.5 for Bucko beacuse of all of the above, I'm forever grateful for Karen Parky mentioning it to me - bought blindly on her recommendation of "Bucky you'll like this" Saul - running at a 8.5 at the mo.


Fargo (TV)
2014 Mark: 8.5
Watched: Sun 20 April 2014

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman
Created by: Noah Hawley

It is wrong to rate a TV programme in that there may be varying quality across the episodes. For me Star Trek Next Gens. would vary between 3 (e.g. Skin Of Evil ) and 10 (e.g. The Inner Light ). Whatever, I can only make the best fist of it I can. Fargo is beautiful. For such a bleak landscape, wide angle cinematography, minimal dialogue, 'mundane' personalities there is so, so much going on. "Everything happens for a reason". Replicating the film's feel, soul and humour, this Coen brothers produced TV sequel does not copy it. Did I say 'mundane' characters? Note the inverted commas, these are works of art, and (I am going to check now) a cast of people you think you know, for instance Keith Carradine as the cop's dad, the guy from Kinsey as the store owner (I must check), who is the new chief of Police? (NB it's Bob Odenkirk – " Better Call Saul "! Doh!). This program has taken character ambiguity to new levels with Billy Bob Thornton. We have seen with, for example, Jamie Lanister and Sandor Cleganne in Game Of Thrones some contradictions to initially 'bad' personas. But this guy, Lorne Malvo... What's the difference between this and GOT ? Last weeks in season 4 episode 3 of Thrones the scene when Strong Belwas takes on Mireen's champion and finishes it off with doing a crap in front of the city walls (in the book) has been replaced by Syrio doing a wee wee instead (Lame!). In Fargo episode 2 Billy Bob takes a dump without a blink, revealing his absolute ambivalence too threat. AWESOME!

STOP PRESS

Dare I say it... Season 2 is just as good!!!

The Fuzz
2014 Mark: 7
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: David Fino, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Rachel Bloom, Jon Grabus

Trailer Park Boys meets Avenue Q without scaling those hights but avoiding disgrace by a long chalk. Great concept, somewhat predictable delivery


Game Of Thrones
2010 Mark: 9
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Peter Dinklage, All of Westeros, Essos
Created by: "David Benioff, D. B. Weiss "

Average 9 on a TV series which combines all the best elements from Star Trek, The Sopranos, Deadwood, and Lord Of The Rings – How can it fail?


House Of Cards
2013 Mark: 8.5
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Michael Kelly, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stolle
Created by: Beau Willimon

This is the sort of program which can be held up as an example of this modern phenomena of TV shows/film entertainment which adds to the reservoir of awesomeness that one could not hope to fully consume. In this particular list there are several series that I would unreservedly recommend to anyone who wanted to be entertained by excellence (and I haven't even tabbed The Shield, The Wire or The Sopranos !

this is so thought provoking on several levels, so thoroughly compelling. I am only half wqay through season 2 at the time of writing, and honestly, I don't want to go out anymore until I find out what happens! Frank Underwood- what a challenging person.

P.S. Does the music sound like a cross between Prison Break and Mission Impossible ?


Lilyhammer
2015 Mark: 8
Watched: Thu 17 December 2015

Starring: Steve van Zandt, Loads of Norwiegans
Created by: Peter Kosminsky

Jeezus, telly is fun nowadays! This is the first time I have ever watched a full season on the first day, and I never nodded for a moment. If you like Silvio in The Sopranos you will love this. The thing that is so swell is, because it's over a series, the Scandanavian humour wheedles its way in and you start appreciating it. I could watch this and Fargo all the live long day.

That was written after I'd watched the first season. Season 2 was just as good if not better, Season 3 was not bad at all, but it was a a liitle more surreal in some places (do you remember how League of Gentlemen went?. My theory is that something happened at the end of season 2 which took the wind out of their sails. I have to say that the season 2 finalé was one of the most enjoyable TV programs I have ever watched, and it was going to be even better, but something happened. SPOILER ALERT

R.I.P. James Gandolfini


Marco Polo
2014 Mark: 7.4
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong
Created by: John Fusco

I have just fallen victim to peer pressure. I have watched a couple of episodes of this and was thinking 7.4, Having read the critical receptions I want to downgrade it. What a wuss!! Look, it is a really entertaining and ballsy show, shot in spectacular places and with wonderful music, and if I was forced to sit through the whole lot, would not be too unhappy if they maintain the initial standard. Another three cheers for Netflix.


Narcos
2015 Mark: 7.8
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Luis Guzmán, Wagner Moura, Pedro Pascal
Created by: "Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro "

The kind of TV show which the last thing at night when you washed up and wiped the kitchen down, and rewarded yourself with a bowl of ice cream, you think to yourself, You know, all I want to do know is cosy up and see what happens to Pablo Escobar in this super-solid docu-drama. I'd like John Buck to watch this, as at the moment, half way through season one, I have it to myself. Only one actor that you'll recognise, heavily subtitled, set almost entirely in Columbia, and such ambiguity about the protagonists that it is perhaps the most authentic feeling guns and tits show I have seen. Has murder ever been so comfortable to witness? Netflix are awesome!


Orange Is The New Black
2013 Mark: 7
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs
Created by: Jenji Kohan

Far more dramatic than I expected, this is NOT a sit-com. I hear it is OK not to like Piper Chapman. I think you are meant to like her seeing as it is based on the memoirs of the mysteriously named Piper Kerman, nevertheless there is a slew of interesting inmates and peripherals who have me looking forwards to subsequent episodes and some nice unresolved threads to anticipate resolution for.


Parks And Recreation
2009 Mark: 8.5
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Paul Schneider, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir, Retta, Billy Eichner
Created by: "Greg Daniels, Michael Schur "

What makes great comedy? Is it the actors, the script, subtlety, cast?? This has it all, so forget Veep and The Thick Of It until you have watched this and House Of Cards


Peaky Blinders
2013 Mark: 7.5
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Cilian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Tom Hardy, Noah Taylor, Benjamin Zephaniah
Created by: Steven Knight

Home grown period gangster drama. This kind of edges Boardwalk Empire. I wish they were setting up a season six cross over. Thoroughly enjoyed season one, the music being an almost carbon copy of The Wire approach, lots of tropes seem to filter into these things, the ambigous anti-hero, the powerfull matriarch, The moll (Irish/Italian/Russian... whatever), but it works, and when delivered with panache in these new locations tends to carry one along. Roll on S02


Perfect World
2013 Mark: 8.2
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Paul Kaye, Derren Litten, Nina Wadia, Michael Cochrane, Terrence Bentley, Tasha de Vasconcelos, Dariel Pertwee
Created by: Mark Grant

An absolute hidden treasure. Sam Roberts picked this for his 2015 Fastermind subject, consequently I had the pleasure of digging this up (It's not available on DVD) and haveing a LOL night with a rare bottle of red at the antics of a distillation of David Brent, Ted Crilly and the guy from Kill Your Friends.

Sitcoms are formulaic, there is no escaping that, but this is done uncomfortably well. It is a shame that it is only two short seasons, as I would really have loved to have seen some more carachter development. How something so good can be so relatively unknown beats me. What a perfect choice for a specialist subject, I predict Sam will be close to maxing on it. Unless Martin rogers him!


Prey
2014 Mark: 7.5
Watched: Mon 12 May 2014

Starring: John Sim, Rosie Cavaliero
Created by: Nick Murphy

Thoroughly enjoyable three part drama, with the two main ingredients in reasonable dollops , i.e. story and characters Not a million miles from Life on Mars meets Red Riding, it is of an idiom that falls into the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" box! I can't help thinking that Fargo (The TV series that was on last night_, and this have two characters (Deputy Molly Solverson and DS Susan Reinhart) with much in common, not least because the makers haven't fallen into the trap of giving women superhuman powers and a universe where they can run faster than blokes, yet they retain those skills which make females complementary


Scrubs: My Musical
2007 Mark: 10
Watched: Thu 25 August 2016

Starring: Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley
Created by: Bill Lawrence

I just had to put this in after a re-watch. Great show teams up with the best broadway song writers. Impossible to fail!


Sherlock
2010 Mark: 8
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss
Created by: Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss

Another review after one episode. I had heard glowing praise of this, and it is worth every ounce. Martin Freeman plays the part of Tim Canterbury / Bilbo Baggins / Lester Nygaard as only he ca n, and Cumberbatch is hootingly funny yet unbelievably believable at the same time. It fits into the cannon, like Hook, it takes a brilliant idea and runs with it, evading tackles, avoiding errors, sticking to the rules, using support and making optimal tactical decisions, to score spectacularly. Christ, I'm making myself puke on the pretension!!!


Stranger Things
2003 Mark: 8
Watched: Thu 25 August 2016

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, and Matthew Modine
Created by: Matt and Ross Duffer

Cool shit to watch. By the time it gets stupid one is totally hooked into it so one can forgive the stock horror tropes which abound in this funny yet well jumpy homage to everything 80s and scary. Millie Bobby Brown is wonderful, and the child stars all really get away with it. Respect. Watched Season one inside two nights!


The Thick Of It
2005 Mark: 7
Watched: Wed 18 November 2015

Starring: Peter Capaldi, Chris Langham, Roger Allam
Created by: Armando Iannucci

I watched the first two of these after Veep with a very similar reaction. Peter Capaldi is awesome, the rest of the crew seem to struggle to emulate the cast from The Office without ever being more than passable imitations, so it stays at two episodes whilst I explore other avenues


Trailer Park Boys
2003 Mark: 8.5
Watched: Wed 15 October 2014

Starring: Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay, Mike Smith, John Dunsworth, Patrick Roach, Lucy Decoutere, Sarah E. Dunsworth, Tyrone Parsons, Jonathan Torrens, Cory Bowles, Michael Jackson
Created by: Mike Clattenburg et al

Half way through the eight season set and I have not seen an episode which I have not thoroughly enjoyed. Why should you get rid of Cineworld Unlimited and get Netflix? Trailer Park Boys

Yes, it is stoner comedy, but it has much more than that, it is frontier western, it is clichéd and brilliant for it, it is pathos. When asked who my favourite character was I said "Ricky" but each and every one of them is wonderful. I've met cats and dogs smarter than Cory and Trevor. I am going to stop writing reviews now and after a five film marathon am going to really relax with one of these. AWESOME


True Blood
2008 Mark: 7.5
Watched: Ongoing

Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Alexander Skarsgård
Created by: Alan Ball

Only watched the first episode so far, and a hoot it was too. I want a Merlotte's Bar and Grill shirt! I love the music, the cast are awesome, I especially like Tara, and am going to watch four more tonight (unless Jake comes around) (NB I did watch 4!) (That is 4, not four factorial)

Becca says: True Blood, now where do I start with that... Quite possibly my favourite TV show of all time! That's a bold statement considering there is the likes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Spartacus out there. But True Blood has everything, sex, violence, vampires, werewolves, magic, Alcide... Need I go on!? The first 3 seasons were the most gripping, but saying that I was hook line and sinker right until the bitter sweet end. In fact I'm inspired to start it all over again for the 3rd time

Update: I am into season 2 now, and it is unashamedly brilliant. Each and ever character begs investigation, the dialogue is superb, the stretches stretch, but who cares, there is some seriously weird shit going on in Bon Temps, so just let it go!


US Masters 2013
2013 Mark: 10
Watched: Sun 14 April 2013

Starring: Adam Scott, Angel Cabrerra, Golfers, commentators

Last three holes + Play-off. Woah, dukin' it out as the dusk settled on Augusta. Great shots, amazing coolness, faultless strategy – this is drama at its finest


US Masters 2014
2014 Mark: 7
Watched: Sun 13 April 2014

Starring: Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith, Jonas Blixt, Fred Couples, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Peter Aliss, Ken Brown, Paul Azinger, Hazel Irvine

I set a precedent last year by including this, so... It is a sporting highlight, and when I give it 7, it makes it sound a little lame compared to last year's but that is no disgrace. Bubba Watson was the outright star of this one, with his play, and his emotion, and just a pure endorsement that nice guys can win. Spieth is only 20, but I reckon.. Ah, no match reports, this is an enjoyment report, and yes, I fell asleep prior to the last three holes, but thoroughly, thoroughly, loved it. I reckon if Jake had been with me that would have been worth an extra point!


Utopia
2015 Mark: 7
Watched: Tue 23 February 2016

Starring: Adeel Akhtar, Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Paul Higgins, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Steven Robertson, Oliver Woollford, Neil Maskell, Paul Ready, Geraldine James, Stephen Rea, Ian McDiarmid, James Fox, Rose Lesley
Created by: Dennis Kelley

12 episodes of very British "look at me I'm idiosyncratic", "look at me I'm edgy", "look at me I'm convoluted" Channel 4 drama. I don't know what the first of this type was, I remember GBH, and who could forget Life On Mars. Doomwatch? Edge Of Darkness?

I don't like to go into plot details, but the disparate band of individuals (which ones can you trust?) pitted against a sinister, mysterious, ubiquitous, and powerful governance has been a common trope for great drama. Like the book 1984 it strikes a chord with the fear of the Bogeyman in all of us, and therin lies my greatest reservation about this kind of thing, in that, in the words of Christian Bale "It's fucking distracting". We have a country full of people who put French flags over their facebook profiles, but won't put up a picture of Mohammed. People who will put on V for Vendetta masks but won't go on strike, People who 'like' inane posts saying "Look at David Cameron - HE'S A CUNT!!!!! :)" without even reading measured and rational critiques, people who whinge on about how bad the world is without fessing up to their own back yard's mess and the failings of their friends.

Relevant to this review: "Hey look, Big Pharma are the villains". Let me digress for a while and post up the top dozen or so richest global companies and what they do, according to Fortune magazine, on this day, 24th February, 2016

  1. Walmart - General Merchandisers
  2. Sinopec Group - Petroleum Refining
  3. Royal Dutch Shell - Petroleum Refining
  4. China National Petroleum - Petroleum Refining
  5. Exxon Mobil - Petroleum Refining
  6. BP - Petroleum Refining
  7. State Grid - Utilities
  8. Volkswagen - Motor Vehicles and Parts
  9. Toyota - Motor Vehicles and Parts
  10. Glencore - Mining, Crude-Oil Production
  11. Total - Petroleum Refining
  12. Chevron - Petroleum Refining
... Are you beginning to see a pattern?

Now, let's accept their are some hyper-intelligent "super-villains" who want to garner as much power as possible, who, in their unremitting pursuit of wealth to feed their megalomania do whatever they can, legal or illegal, moral or imoral in pursuit of their greed. Let's accept they have no scruples in externalising the costs of their activities. Where would such a person see the greatest opportunities? At McKesson (U.S. pharmaceutical distributor, the highest 'health' provider on the list) and its pathetic 16th place and one third the value of Sinopec?

The best cons are the ones where the victim doesn't even realise he has been duped. So we have countless documentaries and films exposing the ills of the world, from the church to Donald Trump, from prisons to McDonalds and then we have... Fast and Furious and Top Gear. You fucking idiots. Milner was right


Veep
2012 Mark: 6.5
Watched: Sun 8 November 2015

Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus,
Created by: Armando Iannucci

Lots of plaudits from the industry, but Parks and Recreation does it so much better for me. I may continue these at some time to see if it develops, but whilst I have over 100 American Offices to watch, I am spoilt for choice, so this has to go on the back burner after a couple of episodes


Wolf Hall
2015 Mark: 8
Watched: Fri 23 January 2015

Starring: Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire Foy, Mark Gatiss, Charity Wakefield, Joanne Whalley, Bernard Hill, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Created by: Peter Kosminsky

Probably the biggest fault of this half dozen programmes was it might have been 24 (programmes, not the TV series).

Absolutely sumptuous production, Mark Rylance illustrates acting at its best, vocalising so relatively little, but saying so much. For the last four episodes it did become The Anne Boleyn story, no bad thing, as she was terrific too, but there must have been so much stripped from the books (the court in France springs to mind), that, perhaps even more so than Game Of Thrones one is left feeling a little short-changed after having read them, albeit with a terrific product. Given the abridged nature of this production, there just might have been ten seconds ancillary standing around looking moody

I am so happy I watched this and hope somebody else does, so we can discuss it.