American Horror Story

QuickTakes: Arne Dahl S2, The Walking Dead S6, Fargo S2, Arrow S4, The Flash S2, Empire S2, American Horror Story Hotel, The Last Kingdom

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It’s that time of year when the television schedules burst back into life and are packed with new series of shows, both old favourites returning for a new run and a few unfamiliar faces trying to make their initial mark. In fact there are so many such shows cascading onto the networks at the moment that just trying to watch them all is a practical impossibility, let alone trying to keep up with in terms of penning reviews.

All of which means it’s time for one of those bumper ‘combo’ posts of QuickTakes wherein a selection of the new shows I’ve been watching in the last week get a single paragraph before we have to move on to the next. Hopefully that’s still long enough to get the gist of things. Well, they are long paragraphs after all! Read the rest of this entry »

QuickTakes: The Flash, American Horror Story, How To Get Away With Murder, Intruders, Scorpion, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Walking Dead

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It’s that time of year when the TV schedules are so crowded with brand new shows (and new series of returning shows) that it’s impossible to keep up, so I’m going to go into ’emergency mode” and briefly cover four freshman titles and three returning shows in one go. Hold on tight, here we go…

The Flash S1 E1 (Sky One)

As you might expect from a direct spin-off from an established and highly successful series, The Flash hits the ground running (if you’ll pardon the pun) with top-notch, super-slick production values and a confident sense of what it’s out to do – no first episode/first season nerves here. As befitting its title character played by Grant Gustin, the show is also intensely fast-moving, the first ten minutes alone packing in more background story and new character introductions than most shows manage in two whole episodes, all the while seamlessly weaving in a recap of Barry Allen’s previous crossover appearance in Arrow. The overall set-up of the show is much brighter and cheerful than that of its elder sibling which skews to a darker, more angst-ridden approach whereas it’s clear this new show will be the one to take on the more fantasy elements of superheroes and supervillains (or metahumans as they’re referred to here) than Arrow which is much more set in a world of massively heightened but still grungy realism. The Flash seems to want to steer away from the darker depths of the senior series, and I’m all in favour of that sort of welcome variety of tone: by contrast with all the brooding sub-Batman introspection, this new show allows Barry the same infectious enjoyment of his new superpowers that any young guy would have in the same situation. However there is still the glint of something harder lodged at the heart of the backstory in which it’s revealed that Barry’s father Henry is in jail for the long-ago murder of Barry’s mother – and in the kind of little detail that will delight long-time DC nerds, Henry is played by John Wesley Shipp who was himself the Flash in a 1990 version of the series. On the downside, some of the elements of the show seem a little pre-fab – the instant team that Barry assembles around him feels like the show’s creators simply went to the same stockroom they share with Arrow, pulled out the same basic script templates and were content to simply respray them with bright primary colours as befitting a more comic book show, all of which does make The Flash feel slightly shallow and significantly less original when compared to Arrow. Even so, overall this was really as good a start to a new show as you could possibly hope for – it’s just that it will need to continue at the same level if it’s to survive in the crowded TV/film superhero market. My only concerns are whether the relative lack of depth compared to Arrow and the one-dimensional aspect of Barry’s high-speed powers will make for a diverse-enough long-running show.

The Flash airs on Sky One on Tuesdays at 8pm Read the rest of this entry »

American Horror Story (Murder House E1&2, Coven E1-3)

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I’ve been warily circling American Horror Story for a while now, dabbling in episodes as they’ve aired on the cable channel FX in the UK and feeling baffled as to why the show has had the acclaim that it has. Every time I tried watching, it seemed nasty and incoherent to me. Stylish but incomprehensible, going for the cheap shock effect at every possible opportunity just for the sake of it. Suffice to say, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t a fan.

ahs---coven-posterAnd yet, and yet … There was certainly something that kept attracting me back, like a moth edging back towards the flame despite knowing that every time I’d be burned and singed anew. I couldn’t make up my mind whether it was worth persevering with or if I should just give it up as a lost cause, a show whose appeal would forever be a closed book to me. Finally I decided that ‘dabbling’ simply wasn’t being fair to either party, and so it was time to give this one last chance and that this time I had to do it properly, by sitting down from the start and committing myself to a run of episodes.

The opportunity came with the start of the third season of American Horror Story on FX in October. The show is officially an ‘anthology’ with each season a stand-alone mini-series consisting of its own story and characters (although many of the actors are carried over from year to year in new roles, like a theatre rep company.) That means beginning with the first episode of season three (which has been given the overarching title “Coven”) is as good a place to start as any. Read the rest of this entry »