Miranda Christmas and New Years Day Specials

Christmas TV, TV

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/813/66736813/files/2015/01/img_1438.jpgAfter a two year break, I eagerly awaited the return of Miranda for two specials in which we would learn her decision about the proposals of Gary or Mike. Miranda is one of those truly hilarious shows which whilst sometimes criticised for being childish or using dumb humour, is purely entertaining.

The last season was a my favourite, and I must say that I found the first Christmas special very disappointing in comparison. It lacked the sparkle and natural humour which was apparent in the rest of the series. The answer to the cliffhanger of a proposal was handled very quickly before the relationship between Miranda and Gary was messed up to prepare for the inevitable reunion in the final. Having them reunited only for them to split up so soon after seemed unnecessary and disappointing. However I did find the point of Miranda’s self esteem an interesting point and one that became a key aspect in the New Years episode.

Filled with the classic humour we have learned to love, this episode was definitely not disappointing. Miranda’s journey of self love and independence was heart warming and just what we all wanted for our favourite bumbling heroine. I almost applauded when she confidently delivered these lines “I’ve realised that women like me can be sexy, it’s just the world might never affirm it so it takes us a bit longer to realise it.” It was a wonderful message on New Years Day and it was truly touching to see Miranda, despite her flaws and previous self esteem issues, realise her own worth.

And then of course came the final run to get Gary with the words “I don’t need Gary. I want him.” It was like a scene from a classic romantic comedy and they were reunited before marrying at the restaurant. The last scene where she thanked the viewers with tears in her eyes was touching and made me rather emotional. Miranda has demonstrated the amusement and humour of everyday experiences and reminded those who don’t quite fit in or are slightly embarrassing that they’re fine as they are. It was a great last episode and I will deeply miss this show, but I’m glad Miranda got the happy ending she deserved.

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5 Best TV Shows of 2014

TV

As 2014 draws to a close, I look back on the best shows from this year.

5. How to Get Away With Murder

Although this show often chooses entertainment and melodrama over quality, it kept me interested in a way that many other shows failed to this year. Although there were some american shows from 2013 which seemed promising, the second seasons were disappointing and I lost interest in many of the pilot shows very quickly. Therefore, whilst I do like this show, I did not enjoy it in the same way as I have the others on this list. Interestingly, it is the only American show in this post, which is surprising as my favourite programmes are usually outputs from the US.

4. Grantchester

As a huge fan of Miss Marple and Poirot, it is not surprising that I loved this murder mystery set in a small village in the 1950s, and indeed it did have that particular quaint vibe which makes Agatha Christies so appealing. The detective and main character is (an extremely attractive) vicar with serious issues, played by James Norton. The combination of the weekly murders with a series long romance made Grantchester a very enjoyable programme which I hope will be renewed for the new year.

3. Utopia Season 2

I actually only watched the first season of this in June, before the second season came out in July. The quality of this series lies in the amazing acting  and the beautiful cinematography which often contrasts with the graphic horror that is portrayed. The incredible acting and well rounded characters – even when they make terrible mistakes, they still seem genuine, and even likable -made this more engaging than a typical thriller. One of the most imaginative and gripping television programmes of the moment, it is disappointing – if not entirely surprising –  that this has been cancelled. (You can sign the petition to save the show here; https://www.change.org/p/channel-4-bring-back-utopia)

2. Nothing Much To Do

Honestly, I don’t really know if this counts as a TV show or not seeing as it is actually a web series, but I will include it on this list anyway. Modernised web series adaptations of classic novels – often taking the form of “vlogs” – have become very popular in the last two years due to the success of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. However, amongst this wealth of material, and even compared to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Nothing Much To Do is by far the best scripted, well acted, most believable, and entertaining of them all. A modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing set in a New Zealand High School, the show manages to create characters which seem as if they could be real people vlogging. The story develops in a very interesting way, allowing the viewers to follow the story through three different youtube accounts – and many different points of views, as well as the twitter and tumblr accounts of different characters. If you only watch one webseries, watch this one. The full series can be seen here;

(although some of the Verges and Dogberry near the beginning can be skipped as, just like in the original play, I find them slightly tedious.)

1. In The Flesh Season 2

I’ve already discussed “In The Flesh” on my blog before; https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/in-the-flesh-a-series-review/ and this new take on the zombie tale is one that really should not be missed. After a zombie apocalypse, the zombies – here called PDS sufferers – are medicated and reintegrated into society where they are treated with contempt and violence by those who had fought them in the zombie-human war. The second season allowed the world to be further explored and how society has changed and developed since the first season.  The introduction of new characters allowed viewers to see the experiences of more PDS sufferers and, with a lighter tone to the first season, allowed viewers to see the complications of different aspects of life for a PDS sufferer. If you only check out one show from 2014, check out In The Flesh.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special

Christmas TV, TV

(I live in Britain, where the Christmas Special airs earlier than in America, and so if you don’t live in England and wish to remain oblivious to what happens, I would not recommend reading on; it is spoiler galore.)

The past few seasons of Downton Abbey have been a severe departure from the quality of the first couple of series, and so whilst sitting down to the Christmas Special, I expected nothing more than a mediocre episode with fantastic one liners from Maggie Smith. In some ways, that is exactly what I got, but a certain scene elevated it above the dullness which has been Series 5.

The biggest plotline was that of Anna’s imprisonment, a plot line I have never found intriguing. It seems like a simple recycling of the false arrest of Bates in Series 2, and I wonder how Julian Fellowes thought the viewers wouldn’t notice this repetition. There was a dull addition to the plot, that Anna was attacked before – which simply seems like poor writing to me and an unnecessary attempt to add drama. Honestly, the only way that I could imagine becoming engaged in this story was if Anna had actually killed Green, and was shown to have a back bone after all.

There was also lots of boring shenanigans up in Scotland, with a snooty butler, and an avoided scandal involving Lord Syndeby, and a new love interest for Mary – the gorgeous Matthew Goode. All in all, the majority of this was rather dull.

Isobel and Violet both had their romantic hopes dashed in this episode, and I was especially saddened by the end of the engagement between Isobel and Lord Merton, as I found him a sweet character.

If so far it seems I have a wholly negative opinion of this episode, I probably would have, if not for a scene in the last twenty minutes of the episode. In a wonderfully acted and best scripted scene for a long time, Mr Carson finally proposed to Mrs Hughes. As someone who has waited years for this, I was not disappointed, and that scene alone was one of my Christmas highlights.

Overall, the special was bland and overly long, but the heart warming and touching proposal from Carson elevated it past it’s usual mediocrity to something beautiful.

In The Flesh

TV

In The Flesh is a drama which originally aired on BBC 3, and the second series of which finished a month ago. I, however, only started watching it about a week ago and I’m so glad I did.

In The Flesh is about the aftermath of the “Rising” where everyone who died in 2009 came back to life as zombies. A cure has now been found for their state and the series begins as PDS sufferers (as is their politically correct name in the series – standing for people with Partially Deceased Syndrome) are reintegrated into society. There is however a huge amount of prejudice, especially from those who fought the zombies in the rising.
There are so many tv shows which you can watch absent-mindedly, whilst on your phone or doing something else, and there are others (such as Reign which I reviewed a few weeks ago) which are addictive, even whilst you are aware of the ridiculousness of the programme. In the flesh is not one of these programmes. It’s of a much rarer breed; the kind which leaves an immediate emotional impact which lasts, and is a subtle and excellently executed show with a strong message. The programme is very bleak, as it focusses on the prejudice the protagonist faces as well as the emotional impact for the family of having a loved one return to them. The first series, especially, is slow burning and is tragic in so many ways. The second series, with more episodes, athough there are still only six, has larger, more ambitious plots, as well as having the occasional side plot (such as the fascinating one between Freddie and Haley) to further develop this world. Each plot point is done so perfectly, focussing on the emotional impact, rather than the shock factor, and the show is courageous in the plot choices they make. The script manages to be poignant, without hinging on melodramatic, and is at points, especially in second season, humorous despite the serious issues discussed.

The show and it’s protagonist act as a metaphor for minorities and the prejudice they face. The show was actually originally imagined as the stigma a mentally ill man faced when returning home after attacking someone. This isn’t the only way that this stigma is challenged however, as the characters also belong to other ostracised minorities as well. Because of this, the show is uplifting, and it has been called both an anti-suicide and an anti-bullying show because of the strong messages it both depicts and implies.

The characters are the strong point of the show, and on which the show focusses. Each character is entirely three-dimensional, with no complete “good guys” or “villains” and all of the characters have done morally grey things, making the viewer question what is right and what is wrong.
Keiran Walker is the protagonist, an introverted, artistic character who you just want to wrap up in blankets and shield from the cruelty around him. He doesn’t, and never did, fit in Roarton, where the residents hate him not only because he’s a PDS sufferer, but also because he’s not as macho as the other men. Keiran deeply regrets what he did in the Rising, and hates his condition, which leads to interesting character development as the show continues. There are other important qualities to Keiran’s character which are hugely significant to the message of the show and the plot, but I won’t mention them so you’ll have to watch the show and see!
  Amy Dyer is another PDS sufferer, who is funny, quirky and much more confident in her state than Keiran is. Whereas Keiran is rather shy and accepts much of the cruelty he gets, Amy is much rebellious against the prejudice towards PDS sufferers. Amy is one of the most likable characters in the show.
Gem Walker is Keiran’s sister, who during the Rising was part of the HVF, a force which fought against the zombies. The struggle between these two alliances carries through both series and is a very interesting conflict. Gem struggles with PTSD after what she saw in the Rising, and her actions motivated by this add to the complicated feelings the viewer has for her character, as with all the others.
Simon Monroe – played by the fantastic Emmett Scanlan, who never fails to make a complicated character likable – is a member of the ULA, an extremist society which protects PDS sufferers. He is unashamedly proud of his condition, believing it to be a gift and holding resentment against the living. Although he only showed up in series 2, he is one of the most interesting characters, especially as the motivations behind his actions are unclear for the majority of the series. Ultimately though, his charm and charisma win the viewer over.
These are only a few of the characters, as there are so many more, such as Keiran’s parents who struggle to be honest about their feelings about his return as well as with the truth of his condition.

Despite the complexity of each character and the combinations of emotions they have to express, as well as having to pull off zombie scenes without making them melodramatic or cheesy, the acting in this show is absolutely fantastic. Luke Newberry, who plays Keiran, the main character, was even nominated for a Bafta for best actor for this show. It is clear that In the Flesh hires their actors based on talent rather than just attractiveness, which is become rarer on tv.

The romances are handled perfectly in this show – whilst there’s only one depicted in the first season, it is incredibly touching and heart breaking to watch. The second series has more relationships to root for, and each are important to the show because, as well as being interesting in their own right, they make clear some of the conflicts between the PSD and the living, as well as the difficulties of having loved ones returning from the dead. I absolutely adored the relationship between Keiran and Simon, as although it was complicated – in numerous ways – and unexpected, it seemed very authentic and genuine.

Despite receiving great reviews and numerous awards, the life of In The Flesh does slightly hang in the balance, because of the cancelling of the channel it was aired on, BBC Three. I personally am hoping with all my heart that there is a third series, as the second demonstrated that the writer still has lots of ideas which he can deliver without sacrificing the emotional resonance which made the first two seasons so powerful.

I highly recommend watching this show, and whatever you do, do not write it off as “just another zombie show” as this concept only adds to the intrigue and is used to bring interesting issues to light whilst focussing on very human issues.

Reign

TV

I was recently persuaded by my sister to start watching Reign, a highly fictionalised programme about Mary Queen of Scots’ arrival at French Court and her engagement to Francis II. I began incredibly sceptical, and it is, by all accounts, a soapy drama with little real life accuracy. And yet I love it. Reign never promises historical accuracy, and it is very aware of it’s own ridiculousness. But as well as the soap drama-esque antics, which pop up in so many popular teenage shows, there is more to Reign. It’s about a young girl’s struggle for power, and how dangerous power can be. Of course, as well as the political struggles of French Court, it also details the relationships of both Mary and her ladies in waiting. There are moments where the show is overly dramatic and the script lacking, but it is compelling stuff.
One of the most interesting part of the series is the characters, who are fully developed and intriguing.
Firstly, of course, there is Mary. Despite starting off in the show as a naïve character, to the point of being embarrassing to watch, she soon toughens up. She struggles between what she wants and what is best for her country. She is also forced to make tough and morally ambiguous decisions for the good of her country and one of the most intriguing plots of the series is how this battle for power threatens her moral integrity.
Francis starts the show as a playboy who has no intention of loving or being faithful to Mary, due to his knowledge that his country must be his first priority. However as the series continues, Francis, despite his questionable choices, becomes likable through his passion and the kindness and vulnerability which becomes more clear.
Bash is, basically, a huge sweetheart. He’s the bastard of the King, and as such enjoys all of the freedom which Francis is denied. He’s chivalric, kind and follows his heart in a way that Mary and Francis can’t. However, he has secrets and is ruthless in his protection of them, as well as in his defence of the people he loves.
Kenna is the sexually liberated lady in waiting of Mary. She is disliked by many fans, probably due to the aspects of her personality which are selfish, determined and cunning but she is also independent, loyal and kind.
Greer is the only one of Mary’s ladies in waiting without a title, and due to this, has to hurry to find a good husband, regardless of her affections for him. Greer’s plotline (which I won’t go into due to spoilers) is my favourite, and I think her situation is a hugely sympathetic one, which makes her actions, though frustrating and heart breaking, understandable.
Lola is my least favourite of the main ladies in waiting, as she seems to have the least personality, despite one of the key plot points of the series revolving around her. The actress playing her is also unconvincing.
Henry is the King, a misogynistic, power hungry, ruthless player, who shows brief glimpses of humanity. He is a fascinating character, and is compelling to watch. Alan Van Sprang plays the character to perfection.
Lastly but certainly not least is Catherine de Medici, one of the most interesting characters in the series. She is ruthless in getting what she wants, which is normally power, for both herself and her family, as despite her numerous negative traits, she is loyal. She has great lines and is humorous as well as wonderfully wicked.
The relationships in this show are also done perfectly, as although most programmes thrive off the will they-wont they dynamic, the social context means Reign cannot do this to the same extent and most of the characters are either engaged or married pretty quickly. This means that the relationships, which most tv shows fail in making compelling to watch, have to be interesting, and Reign does this successfully, showing the interesting struggles within the relationships, especially in Francis’ and Mary’s.
Reign succeeds from a feminist viewpoint as well. It centres around a character who is powerful in her own right, and the number of female characters outweighs that of the men – which is rare for most media. Although an important plot in most of the ladies in waiting is about their marriages, this is due to the social context, and they are developed to an extent which many female characters are not. There are also certain instances when the women point out the double standards of sexuality, and whilst they are in the 1500s, this is still relevant in today’s culture. Overall I would say that with so much of media depicting women in an unhealthy light, teenage girls watching Reign is in no way a bad thing.
In conclusion, if you are a stickler for historical accuracy, do not watch this show. However if you’re looking for a fun show to watch, give Reign a go, and you might find more than you first expected. Personally, I adore it.