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The Night Manager Cast BBC AMC Roper Birch Pine, John le Carré, Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki, Alistair Petrie, Douglas Hodge, David Harewood, Tobias Menzies, Michael Nardone

The Night Manager: a hotel manager is recruited by the British Gov to infiltrate a ruthless arms dealer’s inner circle. I can’t remember the last time the BBC threw this much money, stars, and talent at one project. Yet for such an accomplished cast, it felt like a faux pas to cast the leading lady as a relatively unknown; she struggles to keep up with the big and entertaining performances of villainous Roper (Laurie), heroic Pine (Hiddleston), and vivacious Corky (Hollander). Style-wise, this feels like a very expensive pitch for Loki to become 007: he even has the audacity to order a Vodka Martini in the final episode (WTF M8!?!) It’s all a bit ‘classic Flemming’, boasting the hallmarks of an old-school Bond film; from the decadent credits through to stellar production values and globe-trotting espionage. The disappointment is that it only dips a toe in the Bond waters: the plot’s far-fetched, but not too daft; the villain is dastardly, but not a megalomaniac; the hero is sufficiently heroic, but not an espionage badass… At six episodes, the setup, ending, and central plot of infiltrating an arm’s dealer feel rushed – sacrificing your belief in the story for as much drama, murder, action and boobs that the run-time will allow. The ending also feels quite spineless – turning its back on the pulpy / hardboiled vibe that the story built and opting for a happy, wide-open-for-a-sequel finale. Overall, The Night Manager looks fantastic, and is completely watchable… because it’s actually more of a saucy and sensational spy romp, than the classy espionage thriller it’s presented as.

Score: 7/10

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Deutschland 83 East West, Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Ulrich Noethen, Sylvester Groth, Sonja Gerhardt, Ludwig Trepte, Alexander Beyer, Lisa Tomaschewsky, Carina Wiese, Jens Albinus, Nikola Kastner

Deutschland 83: an East German foot soldier is sent to the West as an undercover spy to monitor the military, NATO, and carry out bespoke missions. I usually avoid lazy comparisons, but for simplicity, think The Americans or Homeland, with a younger & more naïve lead – and leveled at a younger audience. The show boasts a lot of inter-connected small and larger stories packed in to the 8 episodes, which helps to develop and justify each of the supporting cast members, and gives most of them some time in the spotlight. For the most part the acting is solid, nobody stands out as being rubbish. Set in 1983 (shock!) the period detail is very interesting, and arguably the biggest draw of the show: not just the nostalgic items on-screen or the dominating era-specific pop soundtrack, but differences between the East/West, and other background stuff from like the AIDS epidemic and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Unfortunately, the ending’s a bit too open-ended for such a dense and small slice of the Cold War; like one of the fat cat producers hoped they’ll be making Deutschland ’85 and ’87 in the near future. The only thing that bugged me was the lack of clarity regarding time: the lead transformed from a rookie footsoldier to a stone-cold, poon-slaying, espionage-master overnight, and some of the stories lurched forward days and weeks with no real indication. Overall, Deutschland ’83 is an impressive high-budget, well-acted, fascinating and entertaining drama; it’s maybe not quite as good as the hype (it’s the most successful foreign TV show in UK history!), but it’s a solid show, and another positive step towards the HBOification of Eurpean TV.

Score: 7/10

Deutschland 83 ARMY BROS, Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Ulrich Noethen, Sylvester Groth, Sonja Gerhardt, Ludwig Trepte, Alexander Beyer, Lisa Tomaschewsky, Carina Wiese, Jens Albinus, Nikola Kastner

 

Newsroom HBO Election Coverage Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

The Newsroom (Season 1): a news team bring their show back to old-school and trustworthy coverage of the stories that really matter – which proves to be a controversial decision for the network and the viewers. The first thing you have to tune in to is writer Aaron Sorkin’s unrealistic ping-pong-ping-pong rapid fire dialogue. Sorkin feels like the Tarantino of scriptwriting, everything seems to make it to the screen unedited, and you can hear him through the lines, smugly asking you: “Can you hear just how smart this show is!? Did you catch that cultural reference!? Can you keep up OK? Are you impressed? Please admire me…” The show is split into two main areas – the elite production team that are trying to bring facts and ethics back into news broadcasting, and two personal love dramas between various employees. The news stuff/cable network politics is absolutely dynamite and I could watch it all day; it’s dramatic, informative, well-researched, well-written, eye-opening, and makes for some of the best acting, speeches, and #scenes I can remember watching. The love angles on the other hand completely torpedo the show: it’s old writers writing unrealistic dialogue for youths; actors struggling to play dated neurotic caricatures; stretched out sub-Dawson’s Creek relationship arcs. I hate fingering people out, but it child over-actor Alison Pill plays the most unlikable love-interest in history – a terrible actress/character combo. To top off the stupidity, there’s a throughline of abysmal slapstick moments like people walking in to doors, falling over objects, ‘hilariously’ struggling to put trousers on, and general ACME antics that would perfectly match this song. When one of the female characters gets splashed by a passing Sex and the City tour bus playing the show’s theme song, I wanted to chew my fists off – this potentially great show is jumping sharks in season 1.

Newsroom HBO Will Anchor Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

It’s ironic that a ‘highbrow’ concept about how stupid TV has become, decides to devote over half of its runtime to shitty, banal and moronic will-they/won’t-they love stories, aimed squarely at the very idiots it’s trying to scold. Worse still, this is clearly Sorkin’s idea as HBO doesn’t tend to shy away from serious, engaging, and intellectual television. More than anything else, it’s a shame that the scathing, and brutally honest critique of US mainstream culture (especially tabloid press & broadcasting) loses out to second-rate soap opera stories. I can’t remember any other TV show that is so brilliant at some things (news, drama, dialogue), and inept at others (relationships, interactions, dialogue). You’ll be fist-pumping the air one minute, then tensing up in maximum cringe mode at the next. It gives with one hand, then pisses all over both of your hands. I could watch Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterson all day – and there’s a phenomenal mini series praying to be edited out of this – but in the current form, The Newsroom is one of the most frustrating TV shows you’ll ever watch.

Score: 4/10

Newsroom Cast AMC Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

Newsroom Sexy Sloan Hot Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

Archer Season 6 [Mild Spoilers]: Another year, and another season of FX’s show Archer has come and gone. While Season Six suffers from a tiny dip in overall quality, it places a lot more emphasis on witty conversations and established callback / running jokes than previous seasons. Also, admirably, the show hasn’t began to lean on entire ‘homage’ / ‘parody’ plots yet – keeping all episodes as original stories (other than the finalé). Some of the old favourites re-appear Conway Stern, “Mr” Slater, Barry Dylan (and Other Barry), Katya (Slutya Slutzakova), and Agent Hawley. Unfortunately, Woodhouse is still missing, after the voice actor died. The season sees some interesting episodes like one centered on a Japanese Stragglers (The Holdout) & a [now fairly standard] bottle episode (Stuck in a lift). They also visit locations like Brazil, Wales, Area 51, San Francisco, Wisconsin, and an Eiger-esque mountain. Overall, another top season that’s already proved to be a good watch, and re-watch!

Below is another list of running gags that make watching Archer an absolute treat… (1st List. 2nd List.)

Doctor Algernop krieger Van Rush Vanispheres, Caress of Krieger, VAN, Van By Night, Exit Van Left

Krieger’s Vans: through the seasons ‘Doctor’ Algernop Krieger (who’s first name was legally changed to Doctor) has owned a bunch of modified 1978 GM G-Series vans, which include upgraded “illegal-ass window tint”, chain steering wheels, projectors for his Hentai girlfriend, and each one has its own custom RUSH (the band) inspired paint job. Due to the questionable modifications, the vans are referred to as “Rolling probable cause” and “S.S. Date Rape”. These are also the main motivation behind Krieger’s illicit activities.

Namechecking & People References: This is one of the best riffs in the show, and includes everyone from Tron, Alan Turing, DB Cooper, and Norman Bates, through to bizarrely specific people like Frederick Andress (Watermelon Breeder), Elisha Otis (Elevator brake inventor), Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (Metric System), Cypher (The gayest X-man), Karl Landsteiner (Blood Groups), and even William Safire (lexicographer). It makes you want to stop the show just to Google the name. Here’s an entire page of Archer references – LINK

Archer Read a Fricking Coffee Table book for once in your life

“Read a book!”: (sticking with references) for being one of the world’s top spies Archer is particularly well-read. From Lord of the Rings and Wolverine through to heavier texts like Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare and Orwell. This often leads to colleagues missing references and jokes – like those above – and Archer shouting “Read a fricking [coffee table] book!” – LINK

Ray gillette Eye Patch Camo Paint Camoflage Turtleneck Tactleneck

Ray’s continual limb-loss & paralysis: since initially faking paralysis in S3 Ray has been constantly breaking bones and being healed by Kreiger’s robotics skills. He now sports bionic legs, and a black bionic arm (potentially Conway’s), and is – unsurprisingly – left re-re-re-paralysed in a wheelbarrow at the end of Season 6. BONUS: Ray also LOVES wearing commando paint whenever he can get away with it.

Cyril Figgis suppressing fire Wooden Stick Gun Unicorn Astronaut

Cyril’s Gun Handling: the only person in ISIS you don’t want on your side in a gunfight is Comptroller and Accountant Cyril Figgis, who can’t be trusted with any firearm. He’s accidentally shot colleagues & interrogation witnesses, and regularly empties entire clips of ammo with his eyes closed in battle – whilst shouting – SUPPRESSING FIRE… only to hit nothing but air. He’s so dangerous with a firearm that he’s even given a wooden gun-shaped stick in one episode. He did however once manage to get several rounds into a small computer. Thank god for small miracles, right?

Archer Counting Bullets: despite having severe tinnitus (you cruel mistress!) Archer’s is able to count bullets on-the-fly, including multiple automatic weapons. He’s also able to identify the make and model of a gun (and blender) from hearing it over a phone.

Malory Dutchess Archer Insult Quote Listenign to Raps Shooting The Jobs

Malory insulting Ray: although everyone insults everyone continuously, and Malory is particularly racist and homophobic – her swipes at Ray are easily the most brutal and scathing. Like upon being told he can walk again “You mean mince?”, commenting his “excellent legwork”, and continually calling him ‘Ms‘ and ‘Missy‘ instead of ‘Mr’…. It helps that Jessica Walter’s bitter voice acting is perfect for this.

Ray Gillette: To reiterate! I am paralyzed!
Cyril Figgis: Well join a support group.
Malory Archer: For who? Cripple, gay, hillbilly spies? There’s a niche…

Signs/Posters: ISIS and the show in general have some fantastic posters/signs/warnings on the walls. Kreiger’s lab has a huge  ‘Clean or Die’ poster, even though there are animals, radiation and everything else in there. ISIS Armory employee Rodney (Season 4) has a bunch of bureaucratic notices, championed by “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.“. Others are used for continuity or callbacks like the Native American themed ‘Red Beer’, the poster for the movie ‘Disavowed’ from a previous season. The ISIS mainframe has a restricted sign on the door, despite being open most of the time.

Archer Drinking Finger Hold On Glugging Gulp Chug

Drinking/Chugging finger: as you can see from this YouTube clip, pretty much everyone in the show enjoys a big stiff drink (phrasing boom!), and when anyone else tries to ruin that special moment they’re usually met with an abrupt single finger to the face. It’s not exclusively for drinking either, as  has also been used for smoking.

Classic Mother / Archer / Her / Him: if you claim to watch a lot of Archer, and don’t use the phrase ‘Classic [insert acquantance]’… hand over your ISIS I.D. badge because you’re not watching enough Archer. This rule equally applies to yuuuuuuuup, noooooooope, Boom… phrasing, and shut up.

Archer Pocket Listing Maid Outfit Uniform Lana Kane Cheryl Tunt Pam Poovey french maid

Vocabulary: Where Archer truly rises above other comedy shows is in its tight and dense writing, which is absolutely laden with playful syntax and language. So much so that episodes like the confined Vision Quest are more entertaining than those with nudity, explosions, sex, action and guest stars. Season Six is an absolute goldmine for this – covering everything on the full spectrum of wordplay.

Slater: You’ll be given a cursory explanation at the CIA laboratory in New Mexico.
Lana: Why?
Slater: Well, I assume they needed a large building in a remote location with plenty of parking, and real estate is a lot cheaper out in the desert.

Pam: No! The solution to every problem isn’t throwing freakin’ acid on it.
Krieger: Unless the problem is a solution with an overly alkaline pH balance.

Lana: Have you at least babyproofed this place?
Archer: I don’t think a baby can hurt anything.

Lucky Yates Ray Gillette Face Krieger Voice

FINAL BONUS: The voice actor for Kreiger (Lucky Yates) is also the face of Ray! MIND BLOWING INTERVIEW CLIP.

FIRST LIST OF RUNNING GAGS

SECOND LIST OF RUNNING GAGS

*Drops mic on stage*

Fargo Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Rachel Blanchard, Oliver Platt

Fargo (Season 1): when a contract killer ends up in their small town he changes the lives of an insurance salesman, police woman, and grocery tycoon forever. This does well to instantly match up with the mood of the Coen Brother’s Fargo movie – there’s lots of crossover details that are familiar but not directly copied: pregnancy, outlandish hitmen, ice scrapers, car accident, salesman, the Mike Yanagita scene… It feels properly connected, instead of a forced spin-off.  It looks and feels very cinematic, even more so than the movie, and the score gives it even more heft – allowing this play more like a 10-hour movie than an episodic crime show. Although with this format it’s probably better to binge this as there’s a lot of nice and subtle callbacks to earlier episodes throughout the season. Given the screen time involved this is an actor’s dream; we spend lots of time seeing the main characters established and developed. Martin Freeman is great as the timid but very watchable asshole, but Billy Bob Thornton makes this show for me with a majestic performance as a creepy, dangerous and almost admirably smart hitman. Fargo’s lead and ensemble casting is stellar, and paired with the well-penned characters, really makes the show a joy to watch. The humour is also bang on; leveraging silly accents (a gift that just keeps on giving), and making the most of the trademarked ‘awkward, absurd, nihilistic, crimson coloured’ Coen style. This is the backbone of most episodes, however episodes 7, 8, and 9 feel a bit stretched and empty compared to the rest. Overall Fargo is one of the most promising new shows on TV, and I can’t wait for Season 2.

Score: 8/10

What if YOU’RE right, and they’re wrong?

Fargo Police Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Rachel Blanchard, Oliver Platt

Game of Thrones Season 1 Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena HeadeyGame of Thrones (Season 1): several noble families with royal ties feud over the right to rule all seven kingdoms in a medieval-ish fantasy epic. One year prior, Spartacus was balls deep in rumpypumpy and graphic violence, which felt like it was pushing boundaries; then someone in HBO said had said: “lets take Spartacus as a starting point, then add as much over the top sensational stuff as you can. 3, 2, 1… GO GO GO!”  GoT is loaded with full frontal nudity (sausages, chuffs, and udders), blood, gore, prostitutes, lesbians, and as much offensive language as censors allow; not to mention the taboos like breastfeeding and incest being pretty major plot points. Whilst these add to the show’s notoriety, it detracts from the Rome-like inter-weaving political storylines; continually reminding you that it’s actually being pitched at teenage boys. Other than the odd stinker (Arya Stark!!) the cast are generally decent; although different characters giving their roles different levity levels – from scenery chewing (King) to borderline comedic (Bronn). Peter Dinklage is the one actor that really sticks out from the vast ensemble – impressing and entertaining with his larger than life character. Due to the number of characters, families, locations and concurrent plots there’s a lot of dialogue-heavy slapdash whistle-stop history & exposition lectures between characters – some hit the mark better than others, but most are required. While there’s one big “Holy Shit” moment, Season One feels like a 10-hour teaser – promising better things to come; introducing white walkers (zombie-ish creatures), dragons, teeing up a war – but blatantly not following any of it through to anywhere near conclusion.

Score: 6/10

Game Of Thrones Season 1  Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey Game of Thrones Season 1 Mark Addy, Maisie Williams, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey

Justified Season 6 Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Jere Burns, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Walton Goggins, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Justin Welborn, Garret Dillahunt, Rick Gomez, Duke Davis Roberts, Patton Oswalt,

Justified: The Final Season (Season 6) –  Old-school kick-ass US Marshall Raylan Givens tries to put his lifelong nemesis Boyd Crowder behind bars before he gets re-posted to Miami. I didn’t get round to writing up reviews of Seasons 4 & 5 as they felt like the show was resting on its laurels – but Season 6 brings back all of the elements that make Justified a great show to watch; well written storylines and characters, fantastic dialogue, and a thick streak of humour – it’s entertaining TV in its purest form. The writing is particularly special in this season, which boasts an intricate, overlapping and multi-layered story that sees the upper hand continually shift between the law, and Harlan’s various quibbling crime factions. Everyone that’s still alive gets drafted back in, and because it’s the final season there’s no shortage of people being written out either – usually at the behest of Boyd, to make him seem more dangerous than the last few seasons. The only thing that is missing is a baddie that matches the villainous heights of Quarels or Maggs Bennett – or even a consistent henchman – but with all of the other fireworks going on, it’s not as big a deal as the previous seasons. The final 20 mins our may divide people, as it plays out in an ‘X years later’ fashion, trying to round everything off. Season six had a major legacy to uphold and close out, which it managed comfortably, while staying true to the characters, which are the biggest draw to the show – Olyphant and Goggins will always be Raylan and Boyd to Justified fans. Season six is a satisfying conclusion to one of the most enjoyable and truly entertaining shows on TV – sad to see it hand over its gun and badge.

Score: 9/10