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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H.G. Wells is a woman? – Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Warehouse 13 – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Warehouse 13 (2009-)

Creators: Jane Espenson, D. Brent Mote
Stars: Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly and Saul Rubinek

You may have noticed, if you have been reading my previous blogs, that I like a little bit of crime thriller/sci-fi action. This is true whether in film or TV. I think it’s because I wish I had a more exciting life and I like escaping into another kind of world and kind of thinking. Warehouse 13 caught my eye simply because it is made by the SyFy channel. It’s your average investigative agency trying to save the world kind of deal, but with a bit of a twist. It takes the myths and legends of history and takes the museum pieces we like to ooh and aah at and turns them into deadly weapons, or something like that. “Artifacts” possess a semi-magical/semi-scientific aspect that comes from the great event or person they were originally attached to. For instance, a hairbrush used by Marilyn Munroe turns people’s hair blonde. Okay so that one is less deadly than just a bit weird and strange, but the agents in Warehouse 13 track down these artifacts, neutralize them, and then pack them away so no one can use them for evil. You get the idea I hope.

I’ve only watched the first two seasons so far and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part. It’s not a serious or completely dramatic sci-fi show, it has it’s humourous moments. The characters are interesting and have complex pasts which makes them carry enough weight for me to continue to watch to find out where they end up. The stories can be a little far-fetched but then again it is science fiction, not everything is meant to be completely realistic. I find it hard to review because there is a level at which I really like the show, but there is also a level at which I think it could be so much better than it is. The cheesiness of some of the humour is a little unbearable at points but it does fit with the characters so maybe it’s the characters who need improving? Or maybe it’s that the scripts aren’t written well enough for the characters to be brought to life and be coherent with the humour? Or maybe it’s the direction of particular episodes? Or maybe it’s the fact that they try and bring H.G. Wells to life as a woman? I don’t know exactly what it is but there are bits and pieces that leave me a little disappointed with it.

Even saying that though I will get stuck into the third and fourth season as soon as I can get my hands on them. For nothing other than the character of Claudia Donovan who I love and I wish I was like.

3/5

The Truth At All Cost – Lie To Me

Lie To Me - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Lie To Me – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Lie To Me (2009)

Creator: Samuel Baum
Stars: Tim Roth, Kelli Williams and Brendan Hines

“The truth shall set you free.” It’s a beautiful thought and yet we have a tendency as humans to want to cover up and lie to protect ourselves. And in some moments it may be appropriate. But for the most part there is nothing good that comes from lying. Guilt, regret, hurt, pain, and loss are always knocking at the door as soon as that little lie escapes our lips. Most comedy of errors starts with a little lie to cover up a simple mistake and then the rest is trying to keep that lie a secret. Is it ever worth it in the end?

Lie To Me starts with the premise that we can tell whether someone is lying or not simply by observing their facial expressions and body language. Behavioural science is the key to unlocking the truth and solving the crimes in this crime/mystery/drama show. And it is this key that unlocks the intrigue of the audience. We are constantly asking ourselves “but how did he know?!” and then gently they reveal to us the science behind the mystery. The reveal is gradual but intriguing which makes this show just like any other crime drama, but it has an edge: Tim Roth.

Tim Roth makes this show continually entertaining and intriguing. His character of Cal Lightman is a beautiful balance of bastard and truth-seeker. He is charismatic and charming but also cruel and pushes the boundaries of people’s emotions and breaks them down to the vulnerable squishy-squirmy liars they truly are. You spend a great deal of the time watching Roth and trying to work out, like his colleagues, whether to love him or hate him. Over the three seasons so far I have come to admire the character and his unfailing search for the truth, not just the culprit of the crime he’s been hired to find.

Lie To Me is a different kind of crime show but follows the same formula, a formula that works. The characters are complex, intriguing, and people who I would like to know in real life. Their journey together through the work is what keeps me coming back for more. I really wish it hadn’t been cancelled last year but alas I must lose some more of my favourite TV characters. It’s really worth the watch and the show gets better and better over the seasons.

3.5/5

Competition is Cruel – Party Animals

Party Animals - Poster

Party Animals – Poster

Party Animals (2007)

Creators: Robert Jones, Ben Richards
Stars: Andrew Buchan, Shelley Conn, Andrea Riseborough and Matt Smith

There is something wonderfully foreign yet altogether too familiar about seeing the behind the scenes of political parties. I mean we kind of see it on the news every night. Someone has offended someone else which then makes their policy look better and so on and so forth. And with the familiarity of most of the western world with The West Wing and it’s glorious success, there wasn’t really much going for Party Animals. But I didn’t really know anything about it going into it. All I knew was that it had Matt Smith in it before he went and became the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who.

Party Animals is a British TV show that ran for only 8 episodes. With it’s main characters based in politics it has a West Wing-esque feel but with a British swing. With main characters Scott Foster (Andrew Buchan), lobbyist, his brother Danny (Matt Smith), researcher for a Labor MP, and Ashika Chandirimani (Shelley Conn) the head researcher for the Tory MP opposition to Danny. Their story intertwines in real and dramatic ways as they all go up against one another professionally whilst trying to work out how to succeed in work and love. With big themes of friendship, loyalty, politics, love and grief, it has a dramatic core with an ever-shifting outer coating of political intrigue and romance. Each character throughout the season is faced with heavy moral and ethical questions which provides us viewers with a real insight into what politicians and lobbyists must have to deal with to be successful.

I really enjoyed the series and was left with a hole in heart for the characters. All the actors are brilliant in their portrayal of their characters and the production of the series is done with a British grittiness and lightness that reminds me of Skins and Spooks. It is both enjoyable and painful to watch as it brings the characters lives alive on your screen. You really end up caring deeply for Scott and Danny’s relationship and the future of Ashika as she deals with the fall out of her life choices and losses. It throws into light the darkness of high powered and pressured occupations and how they take their toll on everyone differently.

I really recommend getting your hands on this brilliant yet short series. It’ll give you a new perspective on politics and the difficulties that come with the job of all involved, especially the women.

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!?

The Literary Genre of TV Land – Wallander

Wallander - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Wallander – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Wallander (2008, 2010)

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Sarah Smart and Richard McCabe
Series Writing credits: Richard Cottan (6 episodes, 2008-2010), Henning Mankell (6 episodes, 2008-2010), Peter Harness (3 episodes, 2012). Based on Henry Mankell’s novels.

I love my crime thriller TV shows more than most. There is something that compels me to watch them. From my adolescent times I loved CSI and for a while wanted to be a forensic scientist, then I discovered I hated chemistry and because that was a major component of being a forensic scientist I decided it wasn’t for me. The investigation and the intrigue that comes with crime shows is something I love because it is narrative driven. However when it comes to a show like Wallander there is something primarily different about it. The pace, the setting, the characters, the stories, and the audience it attracts is very different from your usual CSI, NCIS, and Law&Order audience members. It is much more character driven than other crime shows and it is for this reason that it has become a new favourite for me. That and Tom Hiddleston is in it. He is the reason I started watching it. I may be a little obsessed but don’t let that bias my opinion of the show because disappointedly he is only a minor character in the show and so it isn’t the reason I kept watching.

This show follows the man Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) as he is confronted with the harsh reality of murder and the emotional damage that being around crime can have on a detective. It shows a different aspect of a detective as he continues to investigate these murders, it shows the character’s moral dilemma and the weight that is placed on the detectives as they try and make sense of the irrationality of murder. Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Kurt Wallander is full of theatrical depth that you expect from a thespian of his caliber but the most interesting this about this casting is that his performance is almost entirely held in his expressions. Wallander is a man of few words, he is closed off, cold, and tormented by his vocation and Branagh is able to convey the complexity of this character in a single eye flicker or the way he holds his body as he approaches a crime scene. Wallander is a man that is confronted with the most horrific of human behaviours and struggles to deal with the trauma of these circumstances. Branagh grabs you and takes you with him as he explores the world of Wallander and pulls you in as he becomes more emotionally and mentally drained by these cases.

The pace of this show is one of the surprising things I found in watching it. It is slow and quiet. The atmosphere is dense and weighty and it feels all encompassing as you sit and watch these characters and stories unfold. It is definitely not a style that most people would enjoy and I would compare it to a popular fiction reader attempting to read literary fiction for the first time. It is heavy going and it does take a while to get into it. There are particular moments in each episode where if I hadn’t felt compelled to find Tom Hiddleston in the first episode that I may have switched off, but once you meet Kurt Wallander and get to know him a little bit more you can’t help but keep watching. The stories are particularly dark and complex but also truly intriguing. I have really fell in love with the characters in Wallander and the stories that connect them together. It shows the real pace of investigation and the humanity that lies behind both the criminal acts and the justice provided, as well the haunting of those detectives who are faced with the horrific. It is moving and beautiful at the same time and I have felt connected to these characters more than I usually do in tv shows. They feel real, they feel like they could be out there in the world, they feel true. It is a look at the darkness that underpins the evil in this world and the grief that is carried through the acts of violence that police have to deal with. This is a beautiful and tragic look at investigation of crime.