TL;DR – In the battle between love and hate, on which side would you be on? This is the question today’s episode asks before emotionally punching you in the gut.
Score – 5 out of 5 stars
When I heard Doctor Who was going to set an episode in colonial India, you can bet I was deeply concerned. A British TV Show doing an episode on the British occupation of another country, it is a recipe for disaster if handled wrongly, and the title Demons of the Punjab didn’t exactly fill me with confidence either. However, then we got to see Rosa (see review) earlier this season all about Rosa Parks and her struggles, they showed a real understanding of exploring deeply complex historical events, so I had a hope that they would be able to here as well, and I honestly think they pulled it off.
TL;DR – Imagine if Westworld and Blade Runner had a baby with Ghost in the Shell as the midwife.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
What do we do as a society when the body is no longer the final resting place of the mind, or maybe even our souls? Well you get a world where you can wake up the dead and get them to tell you who killed them, where a child in a hit and run can get a second chance at life, where the rich can live forever jumping from one cloned body to the other, and where jail terms can last hundreds of years and you will wake up in a different body than the one you came in on. It is a world of great possibility but also a world of great sadness and inequality. So today we will be unpacking the first season of Altered Carbon an interesting show with highs and lows. However, quickly before we start, I have not read the books this show is based off, as such, I won’t be able to tell you how the show works as an adaptation on the source material. As well as this, because we are looking at the season as a whole, there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
In this series I will be discussing my top 30 TV shows (it was top 10, then it moved to top 20, then I had to but my foot down before it went further). So here we go with numbers 30-25.
30) How I Met Your Mother – Yes the ending was a kick in the pants (though I feel that may have more to do with Jason Segal’s availability in the last season than how they really wanted to end it). However, when you take away the ending, it was an amazing ride. It is a simple premise, a dad telling his kids how he met their mother, cue title card (though if you think about it, it is actually the story of how he nailed a number of women on the road to meeting their mother, which is a bit weird). The Slap Bet, The Pineapple, Robin Sparkles, so many wonderful episodes during the nine seasons. Also for a comedy it still had episodes that hits you right in feels (though not as many and not as feely as two of the other entries in this list), from when Robin found out she could not get pregnant to “Crocodile Dundee 3 Still holds up” to Barney’s emotion fight with his real dad . I don’t think I will ever forget the episode where there was a countdown, because once you saw it you were so excited to see what was at 1, and what we got was some of the best improvised acting I have seen, when Jason Segel simply ended the episode with “I’m not ready for this”. The reason it is not higher on this list is that it did probably go on 1 season too many, but I honestly enjoyed nearly all of it and the last episode doesn’t sting me as much as it does others.
29) Burn Notice – “My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy. Until… When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history. You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in. … Bottom line: as long as you’re burned, you’re not going anywhere.” Such a simple premise Michael Westen is a spy and one day he gets burned and gets dumped back in Miami where he has to survive everyone who is trying kill him and his family. Where series works is Westen was always a good guy, he was burned to try and recruit him, this means that he is always trying to help the people around him. As time progresses and Michael Western gets closer and closer to the truth or how he was set up, he also gets more and more compromised, walking that line between good and bad. All the cast (Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless and Coby Bell) work well together playing off each other’s strengths, by the end they feel like a family, not work colleagues. It is also nice to see a show set in Florida/Miami that is actually filmed in Florida/Miami, yes I am looking at you CSI: Miami and Cougar Town. The action is also quite good for a TV series, probably one of the bonuses form it not being on Network US TV. Finally the driving force of the show is the constant narration, whilst it does constantly break the illusion that this is a TV show, it gives the show direction, humour and a forward momentum that would be difficult to reproduce in other ways. Throughout the seven seasons there were highs and lows, great guest and recurring cast that was always a delight to see, and I Happy/Sad when it reached its end.
28) Survivor – Look I love Survivor, and yes I know, it is formulaic, and there is probably a lot more intervention behind the scenes that what is show, I don’t care, I watch every episode to see whose torch get snuffed out. So the question is why do I love it, oh let me count the ways, is it the way is encapsulates Realist International Relations Theory in a single episode, is it the way a small down and out team reach the merge and because they stay strong the obliterate the bigger less united team, is it the way Jeff Probst looks when he realizes he just got someone to blab a key bit of information during a Tribal Council, is it all the scheming, is it the expression on someone’s face when they realized they have just been blindsided, or the look when someones crazy plan actually comes together, is it the chaos of the final Tribal Council when the roles get reversed, is it the simple act of snuffing out a torch too end someone’s game, yes it is all of these and more. The reason why this is not higher on my list is that it is very dependent on the cast make up each season and some seasons work much better than others. But it is a testament that it has been 31 seasons since 2000 and I still tune in every week to see who is going to get voted out.
27) The 4400 – The 4400 is the little show that could (this will be a running theme in some of my choices) that almost made to the end only to get pipped at the goal post. The story of the 4400 is that one day comet/missile/who knows what shoots down over the sky toward Seattle but instead of apocalypse 4400 missing people land in a clearing in front of Mount Rainier/Tacoma, missing for years/decades and not aging a day. But not only have they returned, they have returned changed, and it is up to the NTAC to try and police the new arrivals. The twist of course comes at the end of the first season when we find out that these people were taken from the past by the future to save the human race from destruction and it is this drive and grey ambiguity that elevates the 4400 from any of the several other x-men wannabies. Throughout the four seasons we get shifting alliances, factions from within and without, twists and real ethical decisions, would you take a drug that will give you superpowers if there was a 50/50 chance it would kill you. Unfortunately the 4400 was cut short one season before it was ready to finish off, buy hey that’s what we have Netflix for… maybe … please. What drives this series is the characters, the girl who can see the future and her new mother that does not know if she works for the bad guys, the cousins, one who shouldn’t have gone, and the other that was damaged by the mistake, the messiah that might not be as good as he thinks he is, and the daughter that shouldn’t be. I do hope one day we get the conclusion to this story, but it was fun whilst it lasted.
26) IT Crowd –, “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?”, “Memory is RAM”, “I’ve got Aunt Irma visiting”, “it’s not for you Jen”, “0118 999 881 99 9119 7253”, “Space is invisible mind dust, and stars are but wishes”, “I’m disabled”, “From Goth to Boss” “Good morning, that’s a nice tnetennba”, “Have you tried turning it off and on again”. I could have gone on but then this would be all great quotes and no review. The IT Crowd is the first British TV Show on my list (but it is not the last) and it is on here because it is simply a rollercoaster of laughs from start to finish, even the last episode which was not quite up to the same standard as the series was still really funny. The IT Crowd tells the story of Roy, Moss and Jen who work in the IT Department in the basement of Reynholm Industries. Roy and Moss understand computers and don’t understand people, Jen on the other hand, knows nothing about computers but understands people and from there shenanigans ensue. One of the ways the IT Crowd excels over say other shows about ‘nerds’ currently on TV, is that it actually understands the things it is talking about, and it is not just taking crib notes of popular culture and repackaging them for a mass audience. Also it excels because it follows the British comedy styling on focusing on the slow build until the climax of the episode rather than chucking in as many one liners as they can think of. All of this leads to some truly wonderful moments that I will always enjoy.
25) Beast Wars: Transformers – Beast Wars, started out with a simple premise, take the Transformers narrative that we know and love and repackage it for a new audience, a new generation, but with a twist. Instead of Autobots and Decepticons, you had Maximals and Predacons, instead of transforming into cars/planes/trains etc, they transform into animals, instead of 2D traditional animation, it was 3D computer graphics and instead of Earth they crash land on a wild uninhabited planet. The only real link back to the original was that the leader of the good guys was “Optimus Primal” and the leader of the bad guys was “Megatron”. While it does look dated today, the graphics were truly amazing for 1996, Toy Story had only just come out, but this was that kind of animation on a TV budget. For me however, Best Wars does not get on the list for just its shiny graphic, no, it is on here for the amazing story telling. This was a dark show at times and the first “kids” TV show that I watched that actually dealt with themes like abandonment, depression, suicide, fate and sacrifice, and for a kids show they we not afraid to kill characters off. The creators/writers/animaters took time and care in creating characters that you understood and cared about, and they took a (at that time) stale formula and reinvigorated it, but showed their understanding and care and respect for the franchise, unlike some others who have attempted this in the past. Even if the animation is a bit dated these days, if you can find a copy then have at it, I hope you won’t be disappointed.