Archives For HBO

***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…

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…

...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…

Ordinary Television

April 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Not even Channel 4’s own announcer sounded convinced when she was forced to describe the last episode of Indian Summers as the ‘gripping finale to our hit series’. This was a risible, ham-fisted attempt to lash together the hazy colonial nostalgia of a Somerset Maugham story with modern sensibilities. It failed. Continue Reading…

Cromwellian: Wolf Hall

January 24, 2015 — Leave a comment
Image credit: BBC

Image credit: BBC

Condensing Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies into six hours of television must have been a challenge that required a severe hand as well as a deft one and, after the first episode, we can conclude that Peter Straughan has produced an admirable script. One that marries well with the BBC’s seven million pound budget; both of which, one assumes, were attractive to its commanding cast. Continue Reading…

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

So it has ended: bloody, cold and brutal Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic). And when Mad Men concludes next year, so ends the great age of the grand dramas. Tom Wolfe is entirely wrong to say that the modern novel needs to engage with and depict society as a whole, returning to the tradition of Dickens et al, because the writers of television programmes such as these (along with The Wire, Breaking Bad, and, top of the heap, The Sopranos) are telling modern sagas. Equipped with far more scope and creative talent than most films, television is the place for story and character over plot and gimmickry. Continue Reading…

***Contains spoilers for Boardwalk Empire***

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

Cometh September, cometh autumn, which means longer evenings and the return of good television with which to spend them watching. Seven years after Nucky Thompson’s arrest at the end of the last season, the final run of Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic) finds Steve Buscemi’s kingpin exiled to Cuba, eagerly awaiting the end of prohibition and positioning himself as the middleman between the US and Bacardi, whilst Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) is on the chain gang and America is in the depression. Although we don’t know how these things came to be – excepting the depression – it’s much better for the plot to have skipped ahead than to have had to witness Nuck’s ignominy in a trial. Continue Reading…

***Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones***

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

Farewell, Charles Dance. Yes, the little shit shot Lannister père on the can before sailing away in a crate (one can almost hear the keyboards of Freudian acolytes clattering away). This was the climax of the Game of Thrones (HBO/Sky Atlantic) season finale and we can only presume that the downward spiral of Tyrion’s tailspin is far from its presumably fiery impact. As scenes go, it probably could’ve had more impact of its own: Tywin (Dance) didn’t seem particularly shocked by that first crossbow bolt, and the disavowal of his son lacked the proper intonation of his customary malicious indifference. That being said, it had to happen – what with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) listing all the names for murder two episodes ago – and now we can move on: I expect, next year, to see a flock – or murder, if you will – of new characters prowling, skulking and, of course, sulking around Westeros and Essos, one of whom had better be a better villain than either Roose or Ramsey Bolton. Continue Reading…

***Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and Mad Men***

Image credit: BBC

Image credit: BBC

The observant, and interested, may have noticed that this year has been a bonanza for those of us who enjoy watching writers sit down and talk about their lives and work. Alan Yentob has clearly lashed The Culture Show and Imagine… together to provide us with a surfeit of moveable feasts spanning the entire BBC frontier.

Hanif Kureishi came out swinging first, swaggering and courting controversy like a bad first date; Julian Barnes scintillated at his wry, precise, prickly best; Lynn Barber, the famous interviewer of the famous, complained about the politesse of Gore Vidal and the petulance of Rafa Nadal; and, most recently, Edward St Aubyn gave a rare television interview. We knew it was rare because John Mullan, his interviewer, told us so. He also told us that St Aubyn is a writer of exquisite prose, which is true, but he, Mullan, might concede that television crews won’t be swarming the St Aubyn lair begging for him to appear. He was underwhelming, but the fact that anyone could talk with any amount of eloquence about the events of his life (rape, drugs, matrimonial euthanasia) is something to be grateful for – if it attracts more readers to his books, his publisher will be too. Continue Reading…

The Joy of Louie

May 20, 2014 — Leave a comment
Image credit: FX

Image credit: FX

I’m not sure if it’s a good sign that FX has decided to squish the fourth season Louis C.K.’s Louie into seven back-to-back instalments, but, as a gluttonous fan of the show, I am grateful for the opportunity to binge on the surrealist satire-come-farce.

Some might say a glutton for punishment, given that Louie is often dismissed as ‘depressing’. True, some of it is bleak, but humour and despair are an ancient double act. Shakespeare’s comedies are leant all the more pathos because they are closer to life as it is than tragedy; The Winter’s Tale is still, I think, the most terrifying play ever written.

We may cringe whilst Louie is upbraided by a fat girl for denying her size or when, this week, he struggles, through an intermediary, to ask a woman who doesn’t speak English out for a dinner, before being promptly told that she’s leaving the country. But if you persist – and don’t look away – Louie often rewards you with a tenderness that is rare this side of nineties-sitcom schmaltz. Most episodes traverse every emotion, which is not to say that it isn’t primarily hilarious – simply, that that’s not the only thing it can be.

Veep (HBO), however, can only be hilarious because it is populated by people without souls and it succeeds with malice aforethought. This is of course familiar territory for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who probably doesn’t need to be prefixed with ‘Seinfeld’s’ anymore) who, as Vice President Selina Meyer, fresh off last week’s incident with a Finnish politician, continues to have as many problems with europeans, in London, as she does with her own team of bumbling backstabbers. As usual, the gong for most fabulously feckless goes to director of communications Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) for brazenly insisting upon a fraudulent knowledge of German, even in the face of someone who clearly did possess the language. Such dedication to ineptitude and artifice has a pathos of its own.

Finally, a brief word about Mad Men (AMC/Sky Atlantic) – a programme that is only ever a vodka shot away from turning into car-crash television: three cheers to Matthew Weiner for making Don the centre of the show again, after being the man-who-wasn’t-there for much of the previous season. More on this after next week’s mid-season finale – and what can be done about these year-long breaks?