Ladies and Gents, watch and learn – Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli and Isles - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Rizzoli and Isles – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Rizzoli and Isles (2010-)

Stars: Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Jordan Bridges, Lee Thompson Young, Bruce McGill, Lorraine Bracco.

The Bechdel Test was created by a Alison Bechdel in 1985 when she created a cartoon that featured a character that asked why works of fiction didn’t feature two women in the same scene talking to each other about anything other than men. Of course the question had been posed before. Many feminists have questioned the portrayal of women in film and TV, and with good reason. There is actually a website that lists films that meet the Bechdel test. The list of films that meet the tests three points will surprise you too. It’s not a hard to fulfil the requirements: 1. The film must have at least 2 women in it, 2. who talk to each other, 3. about something besides a man. How hard could that be right?

Well Rizzoli and Isles definitely hits that list. Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Maura Isles are two women who are intelligent, distinctive, accomplished, hard working, and very different from each other. The show is just a procedural cop show on the surface. But with two female leads who aren’t afraid of being smart and successful in their particular careers, and who aren’t afraid of being their own type of girly.

Rizzoli is a cop, a homicide detective who has had tough times in her career. Being haunted by an incident of almost being killed by a serial killer, Jane continues to work hard to solve murders and put killers behind bars. Her past is present but she is strong, both physically and emotionally. She is intimidating to men because she can fight her own fights and could knock any of her coworkers out if she needed to.

Isles is a doctor. The chief medical examiner of Massachusetts and a forensic expert. She is brilliant and logical and even tempered. She approaches life as a scientist in most areas, even when it comes to men and clothes. Her reasoning for dressing well is logical and rational. She is bold in her pursuit of men but possess the grace and poise to attract them.

The show itself is like any other cop show really. There are crimes that need solving in amongst the drama of the lives of the characters and the characters help each other get through the ups and downs of life, big or small. It’s the fact that there are two very interesting women at the head of the show that makes it more interesting than other cop dramas. The dynamics of seeing two women live out their lives, succeed in their workplaces, and deal with the troubles that come their way is so refreshing. Rather than them pining over men and worrying about finding Mr Right, we see them as human beings who are more than just the object of a man’s affections, or as only on screen to provide eye candy for the audience.

I really like this show because I like crime dramas, but also because it is so refreshing to have role models on TV who I’m not ashamed to look up to and admire. They are well-rounded, deep, complex characters. And with a background in the novels of Tess Gerritsen it is no wonder. Thank goodness this show exists.

5/5

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And now for something a little bit different – QI

QI - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

QI – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

QI (2003-)

Stars: Stephen Fry and Alan Davies

There are few shows that I can watch by myself and find myself laughing out loud. QI is one of those rare shows that never fails to be both freaking hilarious and informative. I am constantly amazed at how much I find myself giggling as I sit on my bed watching it on my laptop. There is something wonderful about comedians revealing their intelligence and the way their wonderful minds work. Of course then you realise the reason they are such good comedians is because they do know quite a bit about the world and thus can find what is truly funny about it.

QI, which stands for Quite Interesting, is a “game show” for the intellectuals. It is comprised of questions relating to all different aspects of the world. From Astonomy to the Immortal Bard to Zoology and Agriculture. It covers a myriad of ideas and facts and corrects the general ignorance of the world one episode at a time. Along with these weird and wonderful facts there is the weird and wonderful guests that grace the desk of QI with Stephen Fry and Alan Davies every week. They are mostly British comedians with a few extras thrown in for good measure. They compete for you knows the most interesting things and who is least taken by the myths that are spread by the general public.

My favourite thing by far about this show is Alan Davies. He is the representative of the world on QI. And as much as Stephen Fry would like to prove him to be an idiot, I think he is the one who shows the most humility and hilarity. He represents the public and helps us to know that we aren’t just all stupid, but simply ill-informed.

If you haven’t seen QI I would really recommend it. It is a fun show and you will giggle and learn at the same time, what could be bad about that!?

A little bit of screaming goes a long way – Supernatural

Supernatural - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Supernatural – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Supernatural (2005)

Creator: Eric Kripke
Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Jim Beaver

Tumblr is a blogging site that operates mostly in pictures and the support of memes and fandoms. If all of that didn’t make sense to you don’t worry, I will get to the review shortly (or just skip to the next paragraph if you like). I follow a lot of different blogs on Tumblr, most of which have similar interests to me. Most of those blogs are about Doctor Who, Firefly, Avengers, Merlin, or other bits and pieces I’ve followed along the way. A few months ago a lot of gifs and pics started popping up on my dashboard that featured Supernatural. I was initially put off by the show because of its darkness and violence. I decided to give the show ago because I thought that if many of the people who like similar shows to me like it then I might enjoy it after all.

Supernatural is centred around two brothers and their search for the father. The family business is “hunting” but instead of hunting animals they hunt the supernatural. From ghosts and changelings, demons and hellhounds, if it is hurting people they will hunt it down and kill it. Charming, right? Well I didn’t think so either. But Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are so damn cute! They provide the entertainment with this show. It took me two and a half seasons to stop thinking of Jared Padalecki as Dean from Gilmore Girls and to reconfigure my mind to remember that he is actually called Sam in Supernatural, that would be Jensen Ackles’ character. After that little mind hurdle the show provides some interesting and entertaining story lines, but the main reason to keep watching is just for the eye candy.

The show is dark and scary. It’s balanced with some humour and banter, but when you have a ear piercing squeal and violins playing spooky music in the background it can be incredibly intense to watch. I’m not easily scared, that is, I can handle most violence, although I don’t like gore much, but when someone squeals you just can’t help but jump. I find Supernatural really interesting because it deals with subject matter that is highly mythical and fantastical. This provides both a new way of thinking about the world but also a different way of escaping. The world of Supernatural isn’t a happy one, it’s violent and scary and not a world I would want to live in necessarily. However, the ideals of the main characters are noble and honourable which is the main pulling point for getting involved with the characters and their journey.

I’ve now watched four seasons out of seven and have finally gotten to the point where I couldn’t keep watching, it just became unreal for me. And as much as I feel in love with Misha Collins (plays Castiel, an angel) it became too fantastical. Now that may seem silly because the premise is based on the unreal or unknown, however there is a point where I can suspend belief too if the world is real and if it fits within the realm of possibility. In fantasy it may be that a new, different world is created and thus the laws of our natural world do not apply in the same way, but in Supernatural it borders between the real world and a different reality that it lost me into the space between the two dimensions. I couldn’t believe that what was happening could happen in the world we live in now, even with everything that had come before, and thus I disconnected from the story.

It makes me sad that this happened. Not because I loved the show but because it meant that there were three seasons left for me to watch but I didn’t want to. I hate not finishing a story. Supernatural will be unfinished for me, but will live on in Tumblr land through gifs instead. I’ll just remain in the dark of the unknown of the world of Supernatural for the time being.

Fantasy in the real world – Dollhouse

Dollhouse - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Dollhouse – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Dollhouse (2009-2010)

Creator: Joss Whedon
Stars: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix and Fran Kranz

I have recently become a little obsessed with Joss Whedon’s work. After falling in love with Firefly and then The Avengers, I’ve now taken up the task of watching his body of work. (Although I may skip most of Buffy as vampires have never been my thing). I first heard about Dollhouse from a couple of my nerd friends who were having an Avengers marathon at the time and were talking about Whedon’s work. I put off watching it for a while as I didn’t really know that much about it. And then I got sick last week. And I watched the entire first season in two days. Oh my word. Joss Whedon is a genius. No really, there is nothing this guy can’t execute brilliantly.

Dollhouse is based on the premise that there is a exclusive, secret organisation that fulfills people’s fantasies through the use of “actives” or “dolls”. These dolls are people that have volunteered for the program for five years, had their memory wiped, and are imprinted with another person’s traits, abilities, characteristics, desires, etc, in order to fulfill the fantasy of the client. It sounds weird, it is, and it is fraught with ethical dilemmas. Whedon knows this and explores this in a really interesting way throughout the show.

Our journey in Dollhouse is centred around Echo, or Caroline, played by Eliza Dushku. She is one of the best dolls in the dollhouse and the story follows her life in the house and on jobs with clients. She has the ability to adapt in the imprint though and this unpredictable nature of Echo brings her under closer inspection. It is through Echo that we see the world of the dollhouse as what it is and what it does. I came to really love and care for Echo as she was tormented with the half-remembering of her past and the passion to find what really happened to her. It is characters like Echo that is the reason I love this kind of show. It has a unique ability to transport you into the world and to question what you know about your own world. It harnesses the power of the unknown and gives you a glimpse into how the pure can be corrupted. It transports desperation into peace, all with the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach of knowing that it isn’t quite right. And it grabs you and pulls you along for the ride through each episode with the excited and nervous anticipation of what will become of these people.

Maybe that’s just me, maybe I get too involved in TV characters and the worlds writers create for me to escape into, but I do love it. I live vicariously through them as they do things I would never do, things I wish I could do, and things I know I would love to do. And then when each episode ends I long to return with them into their world, to be one of them, and to experience life in a dramatic and exciting way. But as I pull back from that world and the main titles fill my screen I’m brought back to the fact that I am sitting on my couch, sick and tired, and that the world I’ve been transported into is not real and that I would much prefer where I am to the bruises and ethical dilemmas that the characters experience in that world. I suppose that is why I love TV so much as well, because you can escape that world when you need to. If only it was the same for life sometimes. And maybe that’s why Dollhouse has grabbed me so much, because the dolls live in an escaped world, where they experience something and then come back from the real world to their haven of tranquility to forget and escape the horror of the real world. Is it the same for entertainment? Is entertainment our haven?

Just Having An Angsty Teenage Moment – Awkward

Awkward - Poster from IMDB.com

Awkward – Poster from IMDB.com

Awkward (2011)

Creator: Lauren Iungerich
Stars: Molly Tarlov, Ashley Rickards and Beau Mirchoff

I discovered this show late one night while I was scanning through a list of shows on GetGlue. I started watching the first episode at 10pm as something to fall asleep to. Six hours later I had not slept and I had finished the first season. I’ve gone back again and watched the first half of it through again and I have to say MTV has actually done something right for once.

Awkward tells the story of Jenna, a bit of a nobody at her American high school but after a summer camp and her first time with a guy from her school – Matty – she is confronted with the prospect of becoming high school famous as she has an accident whilst choking on some Asprin which makes it seem like she has attempted to commit suicide.

The season unfolds with Jenna finding her new found status on the school’s radar as “That Girl” both troubling and exciting. The complexity of teenage relationships, the pressure of high school, and the humour behind having parents who were only 16 when they had you brings the tormented world of high school to life.

I really love this show because of the character of Jenna and how she seems to be one of the only three sane characters in the entire show along with her father and Jake, the golden jock. Her sense of humour is delightfully dry and the way she approaches tricky situations is balanced with a reasonable amount of both crazy and sensible. It creates a perfectly real character that intrigues and makes you want to keep being involved in Jenna’s life. You want to be her friend and to help her make better life decisions and you want to bitch slap Sadie and Matty at points for her. Jenna is a compelling character because she is conveyed to be misunderstood and underestimated by those around her.

The relationships that Jenna forms over the season bring to light a complexity to people that we all know is there but it really can be seen in teenagers as they try and work out life. The things that go unsaid because of fear, or the reasons why some people are awful to all those around them are not just as simple as the fact that they are awful people. Jenna’s relationship with her nemesis Sadie is an interesting one because Sadie isn’t your typical pretty, thin, popular mean girl, she is popular because her family is rich. It’s a different take on the mean girl because it shows the real insecurity of bullies. It reveals the true nature of teenagers in their own little world and the fact that no matter who you are and where you come from the insecurities that haunt you also haunt others. The beauty in this for a teen show is that it makes you, as the viewer, relate to the characters on screen. No matter how old you are there will be resemblances of you in this show, especially if you are a woman, although I feel that the male characters are quite true to form in their complexity and confusion.

The story line of the show is mixed with humour and seriousness but it is held together well with the arching narrative of the ominous letter and the mystery of who wrote it to begin with. The narrative within each episode isn’t strong and it at points can seem to struggle pushing through the 20 minute episodes. It is however one of those shows where you get to the end of the episode and without thinking go to the next one because you are compelled to keep watching these characters and see where their lives will lead them. It will be interesting to see how long the show goes for and how they continue to chart the course of Jenna’s experiences but I am looking forward to seeing where they take it.

A Unexpected Underdog – The Adventures of Merlin

Merlin - Poster from IMDB.com

Merlin – Poster from IMDB.com

The Adventures of Merlin (2008)

Creators: Julian Jones, Julian Murphy, Johnny Capps, Jake Michie
Stars: John Hurt, Colin Morgan and Bradley James

I wasn’t going to watch this show when it first started on TV but I ended up watching it, like everything I watch, because someone said I might like it and it had an Irish actor in it. So I started watching and then kept watching and haven’t stopped.

I was never very interested in magic, magicians, witches or anything like that as a kid and I totally missed the Harry Potter faze that most of my friend’s went through growing up. I was however a lover of the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Growing up I really enjoyed the Sword In The Stone and the tale of a poor young boy who was actually the King of Camelot, proven for his character more than his birth right. I love a good underdog story and so when I worked out that this was a King Arthur tale I was in.

Now from saying the above you would think that I would’ve been quite disappointed with the adaptation of Merlin, however the first episode really grabbed me because instead of Arthur being the underdog, it was Merlin. The character of Merlin and his noble cause of seeking to stand up for the rights of those who were undermined and disadvantaged was one that really appealed to me. The cheesy humour and character relationships didn’t hurt either.

Colin Morgan who plays Merlin is an outstanding young actor and his innocence, naivety, and compassion are abounding as Merlin. He brings a real earthiness and humility to the character which makes him a likable underdog. There is a fragility to his physique that makes him the perfect young wizard and also makes him believably strong in mind and heart. It is this heart of the character which is the core of this show. It is about how he struggles to help and protect those who cannot protect themselves and it is his battle with the arrogance of Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and his connection with him that helps create the conflict needed for the narrative.

The creators and writers of the show have really made the show develop and succeed through it’s twisting of the myth and although it holds the mythology well in it’s narrative there is also a lot more depth to it created by the conflict with the characters and the secrets of the past that come to light over the seasons. The playfulness of the the first season slowly becomes less prominent as the story continues and as more people turn evil, however it remains within the realm of “family entertainment” for the most part. The youthfulness of the lead actors and the growing up that they experience over the course of the show has made it appealing for both children and adults alike.

The latter seasons although a bit darker are also more interesting as the relationships between the characters develop. The rival of Morgana and Emerys (old version of Merlin, still played by Colin Morgan and is incredibly convincing as an old man, it’s actually a little concerning how well he acts this role, awe-inspiringly good acting) and the love between Arthur and Gwen start to give a new depth to the story.

The battle between good and evil continues and the wisdom to know the difference is something that drives the characters in this show as well as the idea of duty and responsibility which for our day and age is an interesting one to explore. We don’t have the same sense of duty as they did previously however this show deals with the subject in a balanced manner which shows both the ill and the blessing of fulfilling duty and destiny.

I really like this show for many reasons but mainly because of Colin Morgan’s superb acting in every episode. He is mesmerising on screen and brings Merlin to life in the best way possible. His compassion and strength as Merlin is gripping and his journey through the story is riveting.

This show isn’t for everyone, it is fantasy and can be a bit cheesy at points. It requires a bit of suspension of reality and you have to allow yourself to be taken back in time but if you can live with the fantastical nature of the show it is a beautiful show to watch.

From A Genius Comes A Genius – Sherlock

Sherlock - Poster from IMDB.com

Sherlock – Poster from IMDB.com

Sherlock (2010)

Creators:Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Stars:Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Una Stubbs

I have been in awe of Stephen Moffat’s writing for a while now. I loved Press Gang when I was growing up and still remember watching it with my parents. I belly-laughed until it hurt at Couplings when I discovered it and consumed it like there was no tomorrow. Then when I worked out that he was the one responsible for the episode “Blink” on Doctor Who I took my Moffat appreciation to a whole other level of obsession. There was something about the way he constructed a story, intertwined the characters, and provided a script that held secrets that I don’t think even he realised were in there that I still sit shocked to realise. The complexity of the arching narrative, the detail in the little moments between characters, and the genuine nature of the dialogue between his creations is what makes it compelling to watch.

When it was announced that Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss would be collaborating to bring Sherlock to the small screen I couldn’t wait to see what they produced. Both geniuses in their own right, their collaboration was always set to bring forth a truly delightful television experience. And they delivered with Sherlock.

I wonder how many people have read the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. I for one have and I have loved them for a while now. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and I loved the wackiness of Sherlock’s character in the books. To bring the character into the 21st Century though is a challenging task because of the traditional investigatory paths that the original Sherlock had and the advancement of technology nowadays. I would never have thought to make Sherlock tech-savvy and that is probably why Moffat and Gatiss are the geniuses and I am not.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are brilliant characters brought to life by Moffat and Gatiss’ scripts and by the superb acting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The chemistry between the two men is inspiring and they explore a new angle of the relationship in a lot of ways. There is of course a lot of the original essence of the weird friendship there but it is a lot more complex and has a new depth that the original novels lack to convey. From the moment the two characters are introduced there is a spark of wonder that is the catalyst for the rest of the show. It is a moment that shows so much of what is to come in a simple minute of the film. The arrogance and charisma of Sherlock and the insecurity and rationality of John combine to drag you into these men’s journey together and which compels you to keep watching.

The show is slow moving and long for the most part but the quick speeches of Sherlock balance the investigating and experimental processes that are combined in his work. He reads rooms, people, scenes quickly but takes the time to make sure he sees the details as well. This makes the show roll on in a good pace and gives you time to take in what Sherlock has discovered in a quick minute of walking around a room. This pace allows the characters to develop and allows the relationships between the characters to be fleshed out more carefully. As the audience it is hard not to feel like you are taking the perspective of John Watson just like in the books and it allows you the perspective to journey along as an observer as John is for the most part.

The cleverness of the on screen text and the processing of information is one of the highlights of this show. I get giddy when they do something fun and new like that and it makes me excited for all the twists and turns that Moffat will provide in the narrative. It is small things from the text to Mrs Hudson’s one liners in the episodes that make this show really amazing. Moffat and Gatiss have made a show that will be rewatched over and over again and get the fan sites buzzing with theories on the how and whys of the show.

It will be a special and exciting moment when the third season finally airs and we find out how Sherlock escaped death and I can not wait for that moment!

I really recommend you spend the time watching this show. They are long episodes (90minutes) but every minute is worth it and it gets way better the further into the show you get. This is a fantastic show because of the writing and acting and production. Watch it!