TOP 3 – HBO TV SHOWS written by Miriam

HBO has given us amazing entertainment, groundbreaking, shocking, hilarious entertainment. However, this is only a Top 3 list, so I do not have a lot of space to spare, and also I am not basing this list on the number of viewers or prizes (if I did, The Wire wouldn’t even be on this list). I am solely basing this ranking off my personal taste. So I do apologize to those who are missing Game of Thrones, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or True Detective on this list, because I can only speak for myself and what I have seen. And the three shows I am about to introduce to you are three of the best TV drama series you will ever have the joy of watching.

TOP 3

3. Boardwalk Empire

The Volstead Act, which introduced the Prohibition era to the United States that lasted from 1920 to 1933, was a bad idea, because it did not work the way it had been planned. Boardwalk Empire shows how a group of gangsters became millionaires by smuggling alcohol into the US every which way, killing whoever stood in-between them and the alcohol they wanted to illegally import into the US. The series centers around Nucky Thompson, played by always awesome Steve Buscemi and based on a real-life person. Nucky is the treasurer of Atlantic City, but basically controls the entire city, and when the Volstead Act is officialized, he and a group of politicians and gangsters decide to cash in. The first 3 seasons of this historic TV show are epic and thrilling, with an amazing ensemble cast, including not only good old Steve, but also Michael K. Williams, Michael Shannon, and Daredevil Charlie Cox. The scale of this superbly written drama really reaches epic proportions, considering the producers were unable to shoot scenes on the actual boardwalk in AC, so they built a new one in another city, furnishing it with amazing details from original 1920’s postcards and photos. The wardrobe and cars used in the show are so true to the prohibition era the production costs must have been astronomically high, and it pays off: anyone watching will definitely feel like they were transported right into the year 1920. Add to that the amazing variety of characters and gripping dialogue (as usual for HBO), this show is just fun to watch. It can be quite gory at times, though (there is a scene in season 2 where someone is literally scalped), so it might not be suitable for people with weak stomachs, but that just proves how amazing the special effects make-up is, as well. Characters you hate will die, and characters you love will die, and you just have to know how the story continues. There are several characters involved in the plot who existed in real life, such as Charlie Luciano, Bugsy Segel, and Al Capone (portrayed perfectly by Stephen Graham), which again proves the attention to detail applied to the writing. Season 4 loses some of the show’s excitement and speed, and season 5 seems like a tired, idea-lacking wrap-up that had me quite disappointed, but the first 3 seasons are just plain brilliant TV drama.

“We been on the road for eighteen hours. I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies, eh?”

“F***in’ tough guy, you gonna shoot me for mouthin’ off?” – I wasn’t going to, but you kinda talked me into it.”

“Untie him. Oh, but before you do, put a bullet in his f***ing head.”

2. The Sopranos

This is a TV drama that basically paved the way for all other TV dramas that followed. There would be no Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or Dexter, without Tony Soprano and his family of thugs. For those of you who have actually never seen it, it is a show about Tony Soprano, New Jersey mobster and capo and later on the boss of the Soprano clan. Officially employed in waste management, he and his underlings are stone-cold killers who make their living with drugs, prostitution, illegal gambling, and collecting debts. At the same time, however, Tony is a loving father of two children and an unfaithful husband. The show explores themes of faith, family, loyalty, friendship, Italian-American intercultural conflicts, and lays down ground rules for storytelling and dialogue that were revolutionary at the time. Also, you will see some of the finest acting ever broadcast, on the small or big screen. Michael Imperioli especially, portraying Christopher Moltisanti, will tear your heart out with his all-in performance, and was awarded with the Emmy for his efforts. Moreover, I believe it was the first TV show to begin the tradition that was later copied by Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead of killing off characters unexpectedly that you were sure would stay until the very end. Some of the deaths you will see coming, some will hit you completely unprepared and make you weep with either glee or (more often) grief. The show stays brilliant throughout its six seasons, but the finale is, well, debatable. Nonetheless, if you love TV dramas, and you liked Goodfellas, Casino, and of course The Godfather, you need to see this. Even Martin Scorsese himself did not want to miss out on the fun and has a very brief cameo in the first season.

“Who do you think you are?” – “I’m the person who says how things go, that’s who I think I am.”

“You don’t think that human beings possess free will?” – “How come I’m not making f***ing pots in Peru? You’re born to this sh*t. You are what you are.”

“You’re being set up! He’s lying to you, whoever he is!” – “Wouldn’t make any difference.” – “What do you mean, it wouldn’t make any difference?!” – “He wants you dead.”

1. The Wire

Once denoted the “best show that nobody watches,” The Wire is possibly the best TV drama ever created, and still, if you research how many awards the show has received, you will be appalled, and rightly so. Even though it was supposedly suffering from continuously low ratings, luckily the creators managed to produce five whole seasons, and they are a gift to anyone who loves watching high-quality TV drama. At first glance, it seems to be a cop show, but it cannot be compared to Law and Order and the likes thanks to HBO’s liberty to give it a gritty sort of realism, which is what the show is praised for and owes largely to its creators, who are an ex-cop and a journalist, respectively, and know how the real world of crime and punishment works in Baltimore, Maryland. Using their background to thoroughly investigate and tell the story of life in Baltimore from as many angles as possible, the show aims to portray a new point of view in every season. While the first season begins with introducing the police in Baltimore and kicks off the amazing plot by starting the investigation of the Barksdale clan, a drug-dealing organization operating on the streets, the second season introduces the struggles of the dockworkers on the Port of Baltimore. The third season focuses more heavily on Baltimore’s politicians, showing a white councilman’s attempt to become mayor in a predominantly black city. In the fourth season, we enter the school system of Baltimore, while the fifth season places us in the newsroom of a big Baltimore newspaper. The fascinating thing about this multi-faceted way of portraying Baltimore is that we not only learn more and more about the city and how its institutions have an effect on the individual, but that the plot manages to outline not only the stark differences, but also the striking parallels between all these milieus. Giving every character, from the lowest street thug to the richest politician, their moment to shine, we see how every system is built on greed and deception to achieve its goals of surviving and persevering. The Wire is also the only TV drama I can think of that stays equally strong and brilliant in its casting, acting, and storytelling from the first episode to the very last one. If anything, the series finale is the best episode of them all, because it manages to wrap up the story of the entire show by demonstrating how everything always changes and yet stays the same. There is a reason why it has been termed a literary show. It is beautiful, skillfully crafted, and yet still entertaining enough for people who prefer less demanding entertainment, through awesome and funny characters such as Omar, the gay gunman who robs drug dealers for a living. The Wire is my favorite TV show of all time and will always be an example of how to do it right.

“You come at the king, you best not miss.”

“Does this sh*t look like money, motherf***er? Money be green!”

“You heroic mother***ers. Fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time.” – “Girl, you can’t even call this sh*t a war.” – “Why not?” – “Wars end.”

 

Movie Monday – Miri aka @OriginalSGreenD

7. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

We have been waiting for it a long, long time, and here it is now. The release of Episode VII is scheduled for December, so there is still an almost year-long wait ahead of us, but it is getting closer and closer.

I have to admit that I never was a big Star Wars fan. Born in 1990, the first one I saw was (unfortunately) Episode I, and even though I had no eye for cinematic quality as a kid, I do remember being bored out of my mind in the theater back then. That experience kind of spoiled the franchise for me a little, but I do recognize and understand the deep appreciation fans have for the original trilogy, and what little footage we were allowed to see so far looks great. I might be convinced to watch it in theaters.

Anyways, re-christening JJ Abrams “Jar Jar Abrams”, as some skeptical fans have, is unnecessary. Why anticipate the worst possible outcome?

6. Pound of Flesh

Now you might think I’ve lost my mind. What is Jean-Claude Van Damme doing on this list? Well, if you saw “The Expendables 2” and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” (both 2012), you know JCVD can make for some really great end-boss action. The premise of this indie action flick sounds promising as well, with a missing kidney and an angry JCVD looking for revenge. This might be another candidate for direct-to-DVD, and I could not find a release date nor a trailer, but according to ssninsider.com filming had wrapped up in May 2014, so the chances are high we will be graced with it this year.

5. The Fall season 2

One British production has made it onto my list of things to look out for in 2015: the amazing series about a sexy serial killer in Belfast consisted of only five one-hour episodes for its first season, but the story was knitted so tightly it could not have been realized any other way. Also the shortness makes it possible to watch the entire thing in one go, which I strongly recommend you do. The tension and thrill of it are breath-taking, not to mention the actors are fantastic, the scripts are intricate and pay an amount of attention to detail I have only seen on HBO so far. Altogether this five-hour thriller was not something I would have expected the BBC to produce.

I am aware that technically, season 2 was released in November 2014 and that should disqualify “The Fall” from this list, but I have not been able to see it yet. If I can, I will watch the six episodes in one go again and then probably sleep with the lights on. Also, I did pick a trailer for you to watch, but to be honest, I did not watch it, because for this show, spoilers are deadly.

4. Justified season 6

FX’s “Justified” is one of the most underrated TV shows I know. The story of Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens returning to his hometown Harlan, Kentucky, and his life-long friend/nemesis Boyd Crowder was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and some of the intrigues and schemes hatched in that show really remind you of “Jackie Brown” and make Leonard’s best qualities shine through.

Even though “Justified” was graced with several Emmy nominations and a few wins and has made it to its sixth and final season, the show never reached the popularity I feel it deserves; in my list of all-time favorites it would easily crack the top five. I am sad to see it end now, but at the same time I am anxious to see how the story about crime, friendship and betrayal comes to a head. If you haven’t seen this show, but you like drama series quality with brilliant, quick-witted dialogues, a gloomy atmosphere and bloody shoot-outs, there is only one thing I can tell you.

Watch it.

3. Community season 6

When I watched the pilot episode of “Community” I knew this was going to be a big thing. This TV show was possibly the funniest comedy ever. Oh, the quotes, the hints, the constant insertions of meta-elements and jokes you could only understand if you knew your way around movie history – I was in fan-heaven, even more so when Abed’s promise of “Six seasons and a movie!” for the low scale NBC show “The Cape” was taken out of its in-show context and referred to “Community” itself.

Countless hearts were broken – mine included – when the show was canceled after only five seasons. (I still wish for all NBC officials to get nothing but socks and Chris de Burgh CDs for Christmas for the rest of their lives.) All hope seemed lost when suddenly Yahoo! Screen turned out to be the unexpected knight in streaming armor. I guess most fans were thinking the same thing: TV series, web series – who cares, as long as there’s another season! A few members of the original cast have already left, and new characters will be added, but as long as Danny Pudi’s Abed and Dan Harmon are still on board, what can possibly go wrong?

Now the only thing we need is a movie and Abed’s prediction will be fulfilled.

2. Better Call Saul

If you cook meth for a living and you get into a tight spot with the law, who you gonna call?

No, not the Ghostbusters. You know who I’m talking about.

In “Breaking Bad” Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill was one of the most popular characters, even though he only entered the series at the end of season 2. Why? Well, the answer is obvious: he was comic relief, he was slightly ridiculous in everything he did, he was the epitome of a slimy lawyer, but at the same time he was sympathetic and honest and had the greatest catch phrase. Not to mention, “Mr. Show” Bob Odenkirk did a fantastic job portraying him. I have to admit, the moment I first saw him on the show, he immediately became my favorite character.

Hence, when I heard there would be a spin-off called “Better Call Saul”, I was over the moon. I still am. This will probably be the TV event of 2015 for me.

1. Skin Trade

If you are a true lover of the medium of film, you cannot get around watching the old action classics, and in that genre there is no way around good old Dolph Lundgren. He is “The Punisher” (1989) and the “Red Scorpion” (1988), after all. And now, after a successful and joyous return to the big screen thanks to Stallone and the Expendables franchise, he has written, produced and starred in a new movie that’s supposed to be released this year: “Skin Trade”.

With human trafficking the movie touches on an important subject, and the action in the trailer looks nice; still, there is a chance this production could end up as direct-to-DVD, considering “The Expendables” (2010) was Lundgren’s first cinematic release in over a decade. However, the involvement of Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman (!) might lead to a theatrical release in more countries than just the US.

I have a deep appreciation for Dolph Lundgren because, while he is not a great actor, he is almost always fun to watch. That’s why I had to put “Skin Trade” to the top of my list. I am really looking forward to some good action reminiscent of the old days.

Agree with my list? Do you have anything to add that has not received the attention it deserves? Feel free to let us know.

Miri

Twitter: OriginalSGreenD

Skin Trade trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsGH6_qbBxU

Better Call Saul trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK_70f7PamE

Community season 6 trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ3qzm0c7FA

Justified season 6 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH6J4UFMI_w

The Fall season 2 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXuJONpEpXg

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOVFvcNfvE