***Spoilers for Game of Thrones and Tin Star***

Grimacing. Image credit: HBO

Not to rehash the many gripes about Game of Thrones near-total abandonment of logic, but I will clarify that the complaint is, here, at least, not that characters’ travels up and down the Seven Kingdoms aren’t shown, but rather those journeys that should take days elapse in an afternoon. A solid conception of time and place, grounding the fantastic, has always been vital to Game of Thrones’ success, without which it descends to grimacing and bickering with dragons. And so it goes. Continue Reading…

Image credit: FX

Once you know Baskets (FX/Fox TV) is about clowns, you know it’s going to be sad. Similarly, anything co-created by Louis CK is going to tend towards bleakness. Indeed, the story of Chip Baskets, aspiring bouffon cum rodeo clown, has many themes in common with CK’s abandoned Louie: the universal hostility of strangers, the evil of beautiful women, the pointlessness of art – if we can call clowning, and thus comedy, art – and the public’s disregard for it. Continue Reading…

The Spiral

September 28, 2016 — Leave a comment
Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

Most people reading this will have experienced the sensation of losing time – a few hours, an entire night – whilst under the influence of an intoxicating substance. Far fewer people, I hope, will have subsequently become the only suspect in the murder of a beautiful young woman. Continue Reading…

Kafka’s Quiz Show

September 7, 2016 — Leave a comment

magiciangtrialThe title of world’s most bureaucratic quiz show will never be taken away from the BBC’s No Win, No Fee, a 2001 daytime programme in which neither contestants nor host (Paul Ross) knew where to stand at any time. The only thing I remember about it was that this matter of where participants stood was, somehow, of vital importance – as important as anything in a quiz show can be. Continue Reading…

Image credit: Showtime

Image credit: Showtime

‘Are you threatening me?’ – ‘You’re fucking right I am.’

This is an example of the sumptuously awful dialogue that Billions (Showtime/Sky Atlantic) has offered up for the delight and derision of audiences everywhere. In this exchange the threatenee is a widow, the threatener is Lara Axelrod, wife of billionaire Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, played by Malin Åkerman as a sort of trailer-trash Claire Underwood. And this being a programme about ‘alpha’ hedge-fund gangsters, there’s a lot of macho swearing – and in fairness, some of it is quite creative, but you can’t help thinking you’ve heard it all before. What you might not have heard before is a cascade of legal and financial jargon which, like a sci-fi film, usefully pads the script out to make up for the absence of plot. Continue Reading…

Love in Actuality?

March 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

***Contains mild spoilers for Love***

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix

Calling a relationship comedy ‘Love’ is so on the nose that it had better be ready to woo us with some pretty profound insight into the third-most consuming concept known to humanity. (Without doing any research, I wager money and sex are ahead – perhaps even food.) Judd Apatow and Paul Rust’s new Netflix series of that very name isn’t profound, but then it doesn’t even attempt a sniff in that direction. Instead, we are given a tender story about minor misfits with a surprising lack of cliché. Reader, it’s a treat.  Continue Reading…

Image Credit: Netflix/Marvel

Image Credit: Netflix/Marvel

In the first episode of Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix) its titular cranky heroine says the girl she is tracking is ‘either an idiot in love or she’s being conned – which amount to pretty much the same thing.’ The series then grabs ahold of this sentiment and runs with it. In fact you could say that it follows the course of its tremendous opening theme-tune: plinky-plonky noir then all hell breaks loose. Continue Reading…

Hack Jobs

November 6, 2015 — Leave a comment
Image credit: Facebook/'Mr. Robot' Official Page

Image credit: Facebook/’Mr. Robot’ Official Page

Congratulations to television producers everywhere – it took them years, but they have finally found a new stock-hero to sit alongside doctors and the various branches of law enforcement. No, not the superhero – vigilantes, after all, being more or less cops with powers – but the hacker. Continue Reading…

...I'll write you a tragedy. (Image credit: HBO)

…I’ll write you a tragedy. (Image credit: HBO)

To remark that genius has become an overused and abused term has itself, of course, become a cliche. Small wonder when new – often self-proclaimed – geniuses pop up every day, most commonly from the industries of hip hop music and mass technology. These grasping technocrats may be geniuses, but it is a particularly debased form of genius that has only a talent for making money. The public, however, cannot be fooled: Continue Reading…

Arts and Class

July 30, 2015 — Leave a comment

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the best documentaries have no onscreen presenter taking up valuable airtime; fortunately, a documentary about Melvyn Bragg needs no presenter because Bragg is the presenter of all things whenever he steps in front of a camera or behind a microphone. Melvyn Bragg: From Wigton to Westminster (BBC Two) was a tremendously enjoyable, sporadically moving, profile of the man who is perhaps the last example of what used to be called a cultural grandee; but it was depressing viewing for anyone who cares about arts programming. Continue Reading…