Four TV Shows with Bad Fourth Seasons Part Two

Check out Part One here.

2. Justified

The FX show Justified is a real conundrum for me. The first time I watched it, I was very young and didn’t have much of an idea of what makes a great TV drama, so I thought it was all amazing. And undoubtedly, there are some things that make this show unique: the exploration of southern culture in Kentucky, the look inside the US Marshall Service, the atmospheric use of country music, the intense dialogue in that wonderful accent. But when I went back to it years later, after having seen The Wire, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad, I recognized the many ways in which Justified really is not that good a show overall. It starts out amazing in the pilot episode, and then the next eight or nine episodes turn into a boring, generic cop show mess, before the last three episodes of season 1 are awesome again, and I’m sure I know where the problem lies, because the show’s saving grace is Walt Goggins as Boyd Crowder. As complicated as Raylan Givens, the actual protagonist, may be, and as nice as Timothy Olyphant is to look at in boots and a cowboy hat, Boyd Crowder has always been the coolest, the most captivating, and the most interesting character, and he just wasn’t present for most of season 1 because Goggins was off shooting Predators (and what a waste of his time and our money that was). Accordingly, the middle part of the season, when Boyd is in prison, had to be constructed around his absence and that just didn’t work. In season 2, Goggins joined the main cast, and it did the show a whole lot of good, because most of that season was great. There was Boyd trying to find himself after his faith in God was destroyed, his slow progress towards becoming Harlan’s leading gangster, and Raylan’s constant tension with the newly introduced Bennett family. Some parts still felt a bit forced or generic, and the writers would have done themselves a favor in making Winona a bit less annoying, but I could tell the show was finding its footing, whereas in the first season it didn’t seem to have a clue what it actually wanted to be. And then, well, the third season happened, and it was absolutely brilliant. The writers left all notions of generic cop shows behind and finally focused on amazing TV drama. There was one clear arc that led the season (where is the Bennett money?), but it had enough side plots to keep the audience on their toes, while there were betrayals, murders, and the introduction of some interesting new characters. As the best TV dramas are prone to, it also managed to blend drama and comedy, as we can see in that hilarious episode where Dewey Crowe runs around thinking someone stole his kidneys. And the season ended with an absolute bang, in terms of action as well as emotional impact.

The extremely high bar set by the season 3 finale was unfortunately also Justified’s downfall. The scene in which Limehouse chops off that creepy villain’s arm with a meat cleaver is pretty much the best scene of the entire series, and the moment when the audience realizes Raylan’s father really wanted to shoot Raylan and not the State Trooper was the most shocking, and the way in which this truth is revealed to the audience is beautiful and simply done very well. It just wouldn’t get any better than that, and that much became obvious in season 4: Justified had jumped the shark. Season 4 was just not very good. Apart from the introduction of some not very interesting characters, there was that nonsensical episode where Boyd and Ava have to go to this weird sex party organized by the former sheriff in order to achieve something (what exactly, remains unclear), not to forget the incredibly pointless and just plain stupid game cock episode. And going back to the structure of story arcs, this season functioned similarly to Teen Wolf season 4 because at the beginning of the season, a riddle was posed: who is Waldo? No, I am not kidding, that is the riddle. Some dude died some decades back, and apparently his name was Waldo, or maybe it wasn’t, and then Raylan has to find out who he really was. As far as story arcs go, this kind of idea is of course not uncommon, but whereas the stakes were high in Teen Wolf, in Justified season 4 the question remained: why do I need to care who Waldo is? The sad answer was: I absolutely do not care at all. It did not make any difference to anyone if Waldo was ever discovered. It seemed that the writers had used up all of their creativity on season 3 and just had nothing left. A few moments were still great, of course, such as the way Raylan’s father’s death was handled, or Boyd’s proposal to Ava, not to forget the finale, when Ava is arrested and Boyd completely falls apart. But while Teen Wolf and Community completely recovered from their terrible fourth seasons, Justified did not. Season 5 was a lot better, of course, as it went back to what had worked so well in season 2 with the Bennett family and introduced a new family: the Crowe clan from Florida. And I know Michael Rapaport’s accent was less than perfect, but I couldn’t help but be interested in the guy and his dynamic with Boyd. Nonetheless, the show couldn’t quite recover; the plot was a bit too convoluted, people scheming with and then against each other so quickly one had to stop and wonder what exactly the point was. This issue continued into season 6, although the finale was worthy of the show as a whole. Putting Boyd back in prison and making him a preacher again was a stroke of genius as it showed that some people are incapable of change.

1. Boardwalk Empire

It was obvious right away that Boardwalk Empire would be great. It was produced by HBO, and they went all-out, employing Martin Scorsese as one of the main directors and Steve Buscemi for the lead character. The wardrobe alone must have cost HBO millions, not to mention the fact that they built a life-sized replica of the original Atlantic City boardwalk. So this show had no need to find its footing. Right from the very first minute of the series premiere, it knew what it was and it did the job: high quality TV drama in a historical setting. As is usual for HBO shows, the story is populated by innumerable characters, all of whom have their own interesting backstory, their own motivations, and are portrayed by brilliant actors. The show harshly criticized American politics, the ideal of the American Dream, and World War I, while simultaneously underlining the fact that pretty much all Americans are immigrants, and it managed all of that through intricate, complex plots and subplots, and the first two seasons were glorious. At the end of season 2, the show found itself at a crossroads when two main players left the game: Jimmy Darmody first killed his father, the Commodore, and was subsequently killed by Nucky. These two characters, especially Jimmy, had been central to the plot of the first two seasons, so a completely new story arc was needed, and boy, did the writers deliver. Season 3 brought us Gyp Rosetti, one of the most fascinating and unpredictable TV villains I have ever seen, and Bobby Cannavale seriously deserved the Emmy he received for that role. But his story ended after only one season, sadly. And season 3 was the best season of that show by far. It’s almost impossible to choose one scene as the best one when there are so many highlights to choose from. The fact is, this season could not be topped, and indeed it was all downhill from there. Boardwalk Empire, too, had jumped the shark, although it wasn’t immediately visible.

The fourth season started out great and definitely had its bright sides. The introduction of the FBI agent Knox, the vilest creature this show has to offer, did the plot a whole lot of favors. Unfortunately, the dark sides slightly overshadow the season. For one thing, there is Eli’s son Willie, who in season 3 was a very mature, reasonable young man who had to grow up fast in order to care for his legion of younger siblings while his father was in jail. Now in season 4, the character has been recast, which happens and isn’t a problem, and has undergone some significant personality changes, which very much is a problem. Gone is the mature, reasonable kid; it seems like going to college has made Willie regress into a snotty, emotionally unstable teenager who makes spectacularly bad decisions. Most of the problems in that season could have been avoided if Willie had just used his brain a bit more. Then, there is the new villain Narcisse, who seems interesting enough, but most of the problems he brought about could have been avoided if Chalky White had a) treated Purnsley a bit more like a human being and b) kept his dick in his pants. And that leads us to yet another issue I have with this season. Her name is Daughter Maitland. Yes, that’s her name. She is a very talented singer. And how do I know that? Because the writers of the show seemed to think it a good idea to have her sing at least one song in every. Single. Episode. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem at first glance, but hear me out. Of course she had to sing once to demonstrate her talent and justify Chalky’s interest in having her perform at his club. But every performance after that first one was completely redundant. This isn’t going to turn into a tangent about musicals, but Boardwalk Empire is not a musical, and if her singing does not contribute anything to her character or the plot (and it never does), then I do not want to hear it. Her constant singing, as pleasant as it may sound, gave off the impression that the writers were running out of ideas and needed to fill some minutes of screen time, so why not have the pretty singer perform some more? This feeling was rather disturbing because it really was not an issue I had encountered before. Never had any of the musical performances (and there had been quite a few) felt so forced and so redundant and so incredibly repetitive. It appeared inspiration was dwindling.

And this trend was continued in the abysmal season 5, full of flashbacks that told us nothing new, only repeating facts we had already been told in detail. We already knew everything (!) about Nucky’s involvement in Gillian’s introduction to the Commodore, so there was no point, none at all, to rehash it all in a flashback. Again, there seemed an acute lack of ideas and an acute need to just fill a few minutes with something, anything, and the season only ran for eight episodes. Of course, it had its highlights, but they were few and far between. And that is why Boardwalk Empire is number 1 on this list. While Justified tried to regain its footing after season 4 and managed to produce a fifth season that was noticeably better, Boardwalk Empire’s fifth season was even more disappointing than the fourth one.

Author: Miriam (@miri_mh8)

Four TV Shows with Bad Fourth Seasons Part One

There appears to be a pattern in television entertainment that some series peak in their third season and then plummet in quality in the fourth. I am unsure of when I first noticed this pattern, but once I had recognized it in four of my favorite shows, I decided it was high time to think about it and possible causes and effects. So this is that. Beware, however, that I will talk about these shows in great detail, and not just their third and fourth seasons, but all of them. These “bad” seasons may not be that bad in isolation, so in order to explain what I mean when I call them bad, I have to compare them to the rest of their respective shows. So if you have not watched these shows, or have only watched up until the third season, there will be hard spoilers and you may not want to read. Let’s begin.

4. Teen Wolf

Oh, the beautiful mess that is Teen Wolf. Like two of the other shows on this list, Teen Wolf’s seasons vary in quality. The first season was nice, but still had a rather trashy look, and Tyler Posey as the lead was an undeniably mediocre actor—it didn’t help that his sidekick was Dylan O’Brien, who from his very first moment on screen outdid everybody so clearly it was almost embarrassing. Still, the show had a unique charm and so many beautiful people, I couldn’t stop watching. The second season was already a lot less trashy, but still featured some questionable ideas, such as letting the werewolves run on all fours while still in human form (an idea that looked so stupid it was thankfully abandoned after season 2). It did make some very good decisions, however, such as bringing back Peter, one of the funniest characters (and one who could provide a lot of friction). And then came the third season, which was the best season so far, the second-best season overall and definitely the scariest season. Stiles’s dream sequences in the second half were seriously uncanny, and the whole Nogitsune situation was body horror at its finest. It was exhilarating, complex, devoid of any trashiness, and the writers really went all out on emotional impact, as the death count in this season was higher than in any other. It would have been difficult to continue the series with something even better. But the fourth season made some serious mistakes, and in order to explore what went wrong, I’d like to say a few words on story arcs.

The story arcs of a TV show can span over one season and then be done, or they can be continued over the entire run of the series and be resolved (or not) after several seasons or even at the very end. The advantage of closing a story arc after one season is that it makes writing a season simpler: you present a problem/mystery at the end of the season premiere, and the problem/mystery is solved/revealed in the season finale. That structure gives the story arc a clear direction while still leaving room for interesting action. And if the stakes are high enough that the audience really cares for the problem to be solved and the mystery revealed, then this structure works. And it worked in season 4 of Teen Wolf. The stakes of finding the benefactor were very high, indeed, so lack of caring on the part of the audience was not the problem. The problem was the revelation of who the benefactor was. Seriously? Peter orchestrated the whole thing, but he did it while he was in a coma, so he didn’t remember, and then he stole his own money from himself, and Meredith, the traumatized reclusive, made it all happen? I mean, come on. It seems like the writers had a lot of fun constructing the plot for the season, lost sight of the time, and then had only five minutes left to come up with a resolution and realized they didn’t have one. The only possible resolution that could have been worse was that in the end it was all a dream. Gerard being the benefactor would have made more sense. Kate would have made more sense. Even Meredith on her own would have made more sense. Throw in the stupid idea of de-aged Derek and the convoluted side-plot in which Kate and Peter, the characters who arguably hate each other the most out of all the characters on the show, suddenly start working together, and the season was an overall failure.

It wasn’t all terrible, of course. There was the crucial introduction of some new characters after the numerous departures in the last season, there were some amazing fight scenes, Tyler Posey’s acting had considerably improved. But the main reason why Teen Wolf in only in fourth place, apart from the fact that its fourth season isn’t the worst fourth season on this list, is that the fifth season was much better, and almost as scary as season 3 (even if the writers seemed to have completely forgotten about Peter for an entire season, which admittedly was pretty weak). And the last season was the very best one, even if Dylan O’Brien was absent for a lot of it because of The Maze Runner. The drama of Stiles ceasing to exist, and the panic I felt when that happened, were gripping, and the series ended in the best possible way. After all the supernatural threats the McCall pack had to face, in the end the worst monster of all turned out to be the human being. It was just really good writing. So Teen Wolf’s fourth season was a dip in quality in the middle that it completely recovered from, ending the show on a high.

3. Community

Community is an outlier on this list for several reasons. First, it is a sitcom, not a drama series (and as hilarious as Teen Wolf is, it’s still a forty-minute-drama). Second, because of its difference in genre, it has a completely different structure in terms of story arc. While dramatic shows tend to tell stories that span over several episodes or even seasons, classic sitcom episodes function in a more self-contained way and rarely continue the main plot from one episode into the next one. Even though Community does exactly this at the end of season 2, the plot is only stretched over two episodes (A Fistful of Paintballs, and For a Few Paintballs More), and even between those two episodes, there is a significant tonal difference, as the first one is a homage to classic old Western films, while the second one makes clear and obvious references to Star Wars, complete with Storm Troopers and Abed’s Han Solo outfit. And third, it is the only series on this list with a constantly high quality that experienced only one decline: season 4. Now, first off, not all the episodes were terrible; I liked the Halloween episode, the Thanksgiving episode and the Inspecticon episode, and I thought the attempt at an origin story in the finale was nice. I didn’t hate the puppet episode as much as most do, either. But still, most of this season was dreadful, cringeworthy, and unfunny, most of all the abysmal body-switch episode. There is a clear tonal difference in this season compared to the others that I can’t quite pinpoint, but it is obvious that safe for Jeff, none of the characters develop or change in any way at all, and even Jeff’s change seems rather superficial considering the fact that the half-brother he meets and connects with in the Thanksgiving episode never appears again. The paintball episode was a nice try, but really what the writers did there was an attempt to recapture the brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory (without question the best episode of the entire show and maybe the best episode of any sitcom ever) that was doomed to fail because they didn’t get it at all. The season 3 episode Remedial Chaos Theory explores seven different possibilities of what could happen, and it uses the roll of a die to lead us through the different timelines. The brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory is that all of the different timelines actually happened, and all of them gave us as the audience valuable information about every single character. And in the season 4 paintball episode, despite the nice reference to Terminator, nothing actually happens, it is all in Jeff’s head, and the re-introduction of the die made no sense and had no effect, not to mention we didn’t learn anything about anyone.

The reason why this season was so bad is well-known and seated behind the scenes. For some stupid reason, Dan Harmon, the creator and mad genius behind Community (and nowadays, Rick and Morty), was fired after season 3, and then apparently NBC thought anyone could do what Harmon can and hired some replacements for him who wanted to capture the humor and tone of the show and epically failed. In addition, Chevy Chase wanted to leave the show, and that resulted in a lot of scenes where Pierce just wasn’t there and the remaining characters had to laboriously explain his absences. That alone disturbed the comedic rhythm enough that the audience had to notice something was off. And because it must have been so obvious that the show’s quality was rapidly declining, and because the cast complained about Harmon’s departure, Harmon was rehired for season 5, in which Community finally felt like Community again. That season had the most insane episodes—the one where the floor is lava, the MeowMeowBeenz episode (the idea of which allegedly Black Mirror stole for one of its own episodes), and G.I. Jeff. Of course, this season suffered from the departure of Donald Glover, but Harmon turned this massive change into an important character development for Abed. And despite NBC cancelling the show after season 5 and Yahoo!Screen picking it up for a sixth season (and plunging into financial ruin because of it), the last season is beautiful and hilarious and the finale was a real heartbreaker. And as Community has always been extremely self-aware, the finale even contains a reference to the low quality of the fourth season: when Abed mentions the fourth year (the fourth season), Chang farts and then explains that “it’s an inside joke.” May season 4 of Community function as a warning for anyone who thinks humor is easy to replicate.

Part Two coming this Thursday…

Author: Miriam (@miri_mh8)

The 3 Best Non-English TV Shows – Guest Entry by Miri

What’s up folks?

This is Miri. The last couple of years I have always been on the lookout for new, exciting TV dramas, and, as we all know, the best (or, at the very least, the most) entertainment is still produced in the US and Britain. However, there are a few golden pieces of TV I’ve come across that may completely escape the English-speaking viewers. Of course, being able to watch something in its original form, without dubbing or subtitles, is always the most rewarding, but trust me when I tell you that for the three shows I will introduce to you, dubbing and/or subtitles will not ruin the fun.

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No.3: Gomorra – La Serie

Gomorra is an Italian TV series produced by Sky about the mafia in Naples, Italy. The show is based on the nonfiction book by Roberto Saviano, who infiltrated the Camorra (the mafia’s local name) and published names of important people and detailed information on the organization’s illegal operations. Saviano’s book was so close to the truth that he has had to live with a constant protection detail due to threats. Herein lies the series’ biggest advantage as well as its biggest flaw. The stories told are so realistic and so sinister they not only make for prime entertainment, but they also serve as a constant reminder that what we see here is not fiction but bitter reality; this knowledge creates an intense viewing experience. Because of its realism, however, we have no one to identify with. Everyone is evil, no character is likable. Every person portrayed in-depth is either a hateful, cruel beast of a human, or an innocent soon to be killed. That is reality in the mafia, and that makes the show hard to watch, so those who like gritty crime shows with hero figures may be disappointed or confused. We are constantly reminded that we are not watching standard, easily digestible TV because of the violence that always undercuts each scene, every piece of dialogue, always threatening to break out. Everybody is fair game, no one is safe, not even little children.

So why is this show worthy of your time? For one, it is something that needed to be made to expose the violence that exists day to day to a broader audience. The people live with fear, the young kids grow up believing that they will never get out of their parts of the city. Honest jobs are rare, so if you need money, you have to turn to crime. The show brilliantly portrays the way in which the kids in Secondigliano take the crime and cruelty for granted, even emulate what they see in their childish games.

Also, and we as viewers should never take this for granted, Gomorra is incredibly well-made. The cinematography is stunning, especially in the third season, where every frame would be worthy of being hung on a wall as a piece of art. The original score is haunting and creates a unique atmosphere. In these gorgeous images, we see devastation and beauty exist side by side.

Lastly, the characters may be unlikable, but they are strong and interesting and captured in amazing performances by talented actors. The show has been renewed for a fourth season set to air next year, and I cannot possibly imagine what may happen next, but the first three seasons all centered on the relationship between Ciro di Marzio and Gennaro Savastano. There is an entire army of characters, including some strong women, but Ciro and Gennaro and their connection with one another has driven the show forward. It is brutal, and disgusting, and beautiful all at once.

No. 2: Deutschland 83

Everybody in Germany who loves great TV entertainment has had to turn their backs on German TV productions. Most shows produced in Germany, by Germans, for a German audience, are not very good, and every German will agree with me, I’m sure. I think the problem is that the German networks are, on the one hand, very hesitant to allow change (which is why, when Breaking Bad was aired on free TV, it was hidden in a very small channel Saturdays at 10 pm). Experiments are never welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, the prime networks probably think we, the viewers, are stupid. They do not seem to have a lot of faith in our comprehensive abilities. These issues make it all the more astounding that such a show as Deutschland 83 exists at all. It is a well-written, intelligent, thrilling show about the tensions between East and West Germany in the 1980s. Martin Rauch, a young man who firmly believes in the government of East Germany, is forced to go undercover for the Stasi in West Germany, posing as a soldier named Moritz Stamm. The real Moritz has been killed to make room for Martin. Suddenly, Martin is ripped out of his safe, relatively comfortable existence with his sick mother and his (unfaithful) girlfriend and thrust into the colorful world of West Germany, where all the restrictions and trade embargos on American merchandise of the East do not exist. But Martin also continuously risks his life for his country, spying on the West, stealing important data, only barely escaping from being discovered. The stakes are high, as would be the punishment for treason.

Deutschland 83 thus manages to combine history lessons on East and West tensions and the Cold War with a genuinely thrilling espionage story. The actors are amazing, and the soundtrack includes some of the best songs from the 80s. What makes this show so entrancing, however, is the development the main character undergoes over the course of the episodes. Martin starts as a rather naïve young man who firmly believes in his government’s values, that East Germany is right and everybody else is wrong. When he is forced to go undercover in the West, he refuses at first, but with a few patriotic lines, his Stasi handlers, who include his aunt, manage to convince him that what he is doing is “the right thing.” This serves as one example of how fanatic patriotism is akin to brainwashing. And the longer Martin works for the Stasi, the more ruthless he gets, until even human lives seem to pale in significance compared to his mission. Subtly fused into the compelling thriller is the story of how one finds his or her identity, sometimes by consciously turning away from what you know. The show is also very well-made, as lighting and editing basically scream American TV standards. And, indeed, it is a co-production between German network RTL and the AMC. If only we could have more collaborations such as this one. A second season is supposed to be coming this year, and I can only hope that t will be able to compete with the first one.

No. 1: Bron/Broen

The Bridge is a Scandinavian crime drama I discovered on accident while I was browsing articles for my bachelor’s thesis. The pilot episode begins with a female murder victim on the Øresund Bridge, a bridge that is 5 miles long and provides a direct connection between Denmark and Sweden. The body discovered has been placed exactly at the junction of the bridge where the official border between Danish and Swedish territory runs, even though the border crossing is not marked on the bridge. Also, the body of the victim is cut in half, one half each lying on Danish and Swedish territory. As the upper half is immediately identified as belonging to a known Swedish citizen, the Swedish police claims the case as theirs. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that the lower half of the body belongs to another victim, making it two cases of murder. The lower half is discovered to be that of a Danish woman, and thus a cooperation between Swedish and Danish police forces becomes necessary. The bridge obviously stands in for more than just a geographical connection between two places; it also symbolizes the cooperation between two nations, as well as the language gap that is artfully bridged in the show. The original title, Bron/Broen, means “bridge” in Swedish and Danish, respectively. As I do not speak Swedish, or Danish, I watched the show in German, so the language barriers that the characters may encounter at times was completely lost on me, but I do know that when the Danish characters speak, there are Swedish subtitles, so the language definitely factors into the viewing experience for native Scandinavian audiences.

Even without the language barrier, however, the show makes for a unique experience. In part this is due to the clearly Scandinavian crime thriller vibe. Muted colors, sparse lighting, and imaginative murders create an oppressive, sinister atmosphere that provides a welcome distraction for those viewers who are tired of polished, over-produced shows where everybody looks pretty and the bad guy is always apprehended. This is one thing The Bridge has in common with Gomorra: there can be no happy ending. The bad guy is never caught, or if he is, he has been caught too late.

What really makes this show worthwhile is its main character: Såga Norén, homicide detective in Malmö, is the strong female lead women have been waiting for. Interestingly, she is the antithesis of what societal norms predetermine a woman should be. An excellent detective, extremely intelligent, with an almost perfect memory, Såga is incapable of understanding social cues and engaging with other people on an emotional level, which makes her come across as cold and rude in the beginning. Once the audience gets closer to her, it becomes clear that she must have some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, and although she has never been diagnosed, Såga herself is aware, as she says at one point, that she is “not normal.” She never tries to hide this fact about herself, however, which gives her a range of freedom in social interactions others can only dream of: not inhibited by the unwritten rules of “proper” conduct, Såga has sex whenever she wants, with whomever she wants to have it, without ever coming across as anything but self-assured and determined. On the downside, her condition, and the love she has for her job, make her incapable of maintaining relationships, and she has a hard time finding, and keeping, friendship. Såga’s job is her life. Not interested in hobbies, police work is all her life consists of. We learn more about her tragic backstory as the seasons progress, and it fits right into the sinister mood of the show. Basically, if you love Scandinavian crime thrillers and strong female lead characters, this show is an absolute must. I am currently waiting for the fourth, and final, season to arrive on Netflix, because I would really like to see how Såga’s story concludes. If you have the opportunity, just watch it. It is time well spent.

Do you know any non-English TV shows that would be worth watching? I would love to hear some suggestions. Also, follow me on Instagram if you want: miri_mh8

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