a television round up (of sorts)

Television dramas – of all kinds – are totally rocking my world right about now. I’m a broke ass student which means cinema trips are lacking. Who needs the cinema on the regular when you have film worthy T.V. on the small screen? Now, I say ’round up of sorts’ because this is going to be a brief (if you read regularly you’ll know I have no idea what the word brief means) review of three series’ that are all currently airing. It’s extra exciting because said shows couldn’t be further removed from one another which makes for diverse watching and some hella’ interesting reading for you guys too – hopefully. Let the television bashing (or reviewing as most call it) begin.

Nashville, season 3

First up: you don’t need to love country music to enjoy ABC’s smash hit musical drama. Full to the brim with catchy songs and original narratives, Callie Khouri’s stab at the basically unexplored world of American country is one of the best shows on T.V. right now (no, seriously). Nashville‘s ability to stand out as both an up-beat and mellow series, with a healthy mix of both seen in each episode makes it a satisfying watch. Its rare you’ll finish an episode feeling like you need a glass – or two – of wine to cheer your sorry self up.

Unlike most television series’ that revolve around a musical premise, Nashville escapes the cliches that often lead to many a cheesy scenario – ahem Glee. It has sass, and series three – currently on it’s mighty eighteenth episode – continues to promote the talent of cast members Connie Britton, Sam Palladio, Oliver Hudson and a host more. Britton has been a stellar force in previous cult shows such as Fright Night Lights and season one of American Horror Story and to see her embody a Faith Hill-esque character – and give an acting master class in the process – is always a treat.

A unique and refreshing drama which never takes itself too serious but successfully manages to lift the lid on the previously un-seen world of country music.

Game of Thrones, season 5

It’s back. Unfortunately for HBO, it was back one day early and four episodes too soon. I felt sorry for them, for they are producers of some of the best small screen fare, and for that we must applaud. When someone swiftly reminded me the millions (probably billions lets be honest) of dollars they rake in each year, I felt less sorry and quickly ran home to watch all four episodes. Plus, Game of Thrones was the most pirated television series of 2014 so I’m not the only one. What followed was some face-clutching, deep in-depth plot analysis and then the thought of oh yeah…another four weeks to wait now’ (common sense has never been my strong suit).

natalie dormer and lena heady as margaery and cersei in game of thrones

natalie dormer and lena heady as margaery and cersei in game of thrones

Without giving too much away – as not everyone has rushed to download – so far, so good. With episodes all at an hour long (or just short of), fans are able to delve straight back into the lives of the Lannister’s and co’ as they await the winter Jon Snow keeps reminding us is coming. Slow and steady seems to be the general theme, while we wait for the warring houses to finally come to a head. Oh, and Sansa is suddenly so bad ass. Season five of HBO’s Game of Thrones is the first to feature episodes without a little help from source writer George R. R. Martin, as he pens his latest novel as part of A Song of Fire and Ice.

We waited a year for this fantasy drama to return, and now we have to wait as the remaining six episodes air. Its worth it.

Bates Motel, season 3

Bates Motel began as a contemporary homage to one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most beloved – and watched – films, Psycho. The classic film set the tone, and genre, for horror’s to come and has been referenced in popular culture many times. A&E brought the 1950’s to twenty-first century America and intelligently placed the Bates family in a realm of their own within their old-school motel, juxtaposing Vera Farmiga’s Norma and Freddie Highmore’s Norman against the locals of new home White Pine Bay.

The enigma and interest that came with the first two seasons of Bates Motel, as well as the sub-plot of a cannabis-related economy that engulfs the town, has been left behind. What dominates now are moody conversations and under-thought story-lines. Don’t get me wrong, Highmore in a woman’s dressing gown embodying the spirit of his mother and making waffles is certainly a sight to see – and for the first time we were able to see the real talent he possesses as an adult actor – but, beyond the presentation of great acting, there isn’t much else being explored.

Vera Farmiga as Norma has taken hold in season 3. With a back-story coming into play that has been building bit by bit since series one, Farmiga dominates the screen and the show is less about Norman‘s psychotic tendencies and more about his mother’s tragic past. The tables have turned and we now find ourselves defending her, despite her wrongdoings.

It will be interesting to see if A&E continue their foray into the lives of the Bates family pre-Psycho following the end of season three.

Bates Motel – a newbies impression

Promotional photo for the principal cast for season 2 of Bates Motel

Promotional photo of the principal cast for season 2 of Bates Motel

Last week a friend and I sat down to browse Netflix for something interesting to watch, and pass the gloomy rainy day by with. First came Quarantine 2: Terminal, a film which is so bad its mildly entertaining (and by entertaining, I mean accidentally funny). After the low-quality of Quarantine 2 we had a gander at the T.V section and gave Bates Motel a go. Less than a week later I have watched every episode that has currently been aired (its good ok, I do get out). Bates Motel is an original series that basically charts the days of Psycho’s antagonist Norman Bates, as a 17 year old he is protected by his ‘cute but nutty’ mother, Norma (weird name sharing, right?) and is seamlessly becoming the killer and psychopath he is more known as in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic of the thriller genre.

What’s strange about this series is the fact that the audience are so aware of what the central character of Bates Motel turns, well is, turning in to. Twenty episodes down Norman is responsible for two murders which he committed while having a ‘black out’, Norma wont get him psychological help, the town is run on drug money and it also appears to be pretty lawless (things aren’t looking good for the future Bates family). So, with them having all the malevolence of a serial killer and the mannerisms of a lunatic – what keeps viewers going back for more? Well, Vera Farmiga is a revelation as Norma; embodying the characteristics of a woman with a haunting past and some pretty obvious detachment issues. She treads the line between likeable and annoying and is most definitely slightly off (and by off, I mean deranged). The rest of the cast are of course good, with Freddie Highmore being an incredibly scary Norman and Nestor Carbonell as Sheriff Romero laying down the law as he see’s fit, but when in a scene with Farmiga they barely register; she sets an incredibly high standard to follow.

While Farmiga carries the cast, the production designers and makers of the show are also due some much deserved credit. There are constant, but cleverly subtle reminders and motifs of the originals 1960’s setting (Bates Motel is set in the present day) including the use of an old Mercedes, the family home being in dire need of a contemporary re-furb and Norma and Norman’s attire being practically ancient, I mean vintage..What’s clever about these aspects of the show is that they are pretty much confined just to the two protagonists (or antagonists, its hard to tell), who are obviously completely detached from everybody else and in their own world.

A third season has been promised for 2015, and I can only guess that there will be more unraveling of Normans sanity (lack of, that is) and some more interesting sub-plots that the loveable Dylan is involved in(the only ‘normal’ member of the family, y’know normal as in helps run a drug business and has also murdered two people..). At times a little corny, and not always entirely sure of its target audience for the most part Bates Motel is creepy, original and downright interesting.