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Saturday, December 26, 2015

BBC productions

Netflix doesn't have a great selection of movies; most are "B" productions with low ratings from Rottentomatoes.

What makes Netflix worthwhile are its TV shows.

And its best TV shows are generally the BBC productions. The best of those may be Broadchurch, The Fall, and Luther.

Broadchurch features a great ensemble of "real" actors (meaning, none look like movie stars) acting exactly as real people would if a young boy had been found murdered in their midst.

The Fall is about the search for a serial killer in Belfast. As I mentioned this past January, it may feature more beautiful women per reel than any show since the original 1967 Casino Royale. It's an excellent drama, and it also seems to have that indefinable quality known as "cool."

Idris Elba is appealing as the star of Luther, a London detective who must cope with a wayward wife, a corrupt colleague, and various criminals. He's got issues himself, but the various misfits he must deal with make him seem well-adjusted by comparison.

The Killing is also great, even though it's an American (AMC) show. It takes a few episodes to warm up to, but once you're into it, you'll be hooked. As an example of how well done it is: one of the two main characters, a detective, is both a wigger and a drug addict, but by the end of the show you'll see him as both likable and heroic -- as hard as that may be to believe.

I don't think you'll regret watching any of these series.

If I had to sum up the difference between the BBC shows and the typical American TV show (The Killing excepted), it's this: the British writers create their characters as real people, whereas Americans create their characters act as they think TV characters are supposed to be. 


Anonymous said...

I don't watch much t.v. A show that I've come to like watching though is Downton Abbey, a British t.v. show on PBS. The Brits can provide some entertaining shows.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
I know a lot of people swear by that one, though I've never seen it. A lot of people also seemed to like Upstairs Downstairs, and, back in the day, Brideshead Revisited. I was never into those, either, those tended to appeal to the same crowd which reveres the royal family. I guess I like the more middle class stuff. (I consider James Bond to essentially be a middle class hero.)

whorefinder said...

I cancelled my Netflix when I realized what you did: their selection was bad on movies, and I didn't feel like investing in a TV show, since I feel the obligation to binge watch them or get it done like a novel.

Also, the Netflix-made show with Jane friggin' Fonda encouraged me (screw that traitor). And finally another Netflix-made show-- Jessica Jones---which shows black-alpha male having sex with the cute and white Kristen Ritter and is a tough-grrl type drama---so disgusted me that it put me over the edge and made me change my CC # so Netflix couldn't contact me.

I've taken to merely ordering DVDs of movies off Amazon or buying at Target. Only the ones with good reviews. Usually on Fridays, when the deals are on. You can get 3-4 good ones with free shipping for about $30 if you hit it during a weekly deal. Then you own them forever. Not like Netflix, which monthly loses the rights to shows and movies. If I want to just sample a film, I will pay per view on Amazon for $2-4.

N.b. Netflix emailed me several times (once a month) to ask me to come back/ask me why I left. I finally got sick of it and emailed them back telling them I'd gladly come back when they stopped giving paychecks to the "anti-white interracial porn known as Jessica Jones and the traitor and liar Jane Fonda."

Their emails stopped after that. :D

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
I have to admit, I'm less enamored of Netflix than I was when I first started subscribing (or, more accurately, started piggybacking off my wife's subscription). They DO have some good original shows, like Narcos, or House of Cards, or the fourth season of The Killing (after AMC canceled it), and I've seen some stand up comedy specials which were actually pretty good (and I'm not particularly a fan of that genre). I refused to even try the Jane Fonda show, and I could only make it through one episode of Jessica Jones. But if you take a step back, they're really no more left-leaning than the average Hollywood studio (not saying much, I realize), and maybe they're even a little less so.

I hope you saw the BBC productions I mention in the post before you canceled. I also like to watch The Rockford Files occasionally for nostalgic reasons. Most American TV shows suck, though, and I'm finding less and less I want to see on Netflix these days.

Anonymous said...

I also like the Rockford Files and Quincy, M.E. (with Jack Klugman). They were good t.v. shows. Sometimes, I'll watch them on YouTube. My children watch programs on Netflix.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
You can "piggyback" on your children's subscriptions and watch The Rockford Files again if you want to. (Or maybe they are already piggybacking on yours, I don't know.)

Anonymous said...

I have the subscription. My children use it. For whatever reason, I watch many things that I'm interested in via YouTube. I sit in my family room and watch programs using our computer.


whorefinder said...

@John Craig:

If I want to try a TV series, I usually check the reviews and then try to watch the first couple episodes on a pay-per-viewing basis/for free somewhere online before deciding if worth it. If I do like it, I'll watch on a pay-per-view basis or else buy it wholesale on DVD. But a TV series requires an investment in mental faculties these days that doesn't really pay off for most of them, so I haven't gotten into one in a while.

When you step back, most "deep" TV series, aren't that worth watching again. For example, I saw a lot of Mad Men and The Sopranos, and then watched the same episodes again, only to see the massive holes in the plots, bad acting, bad writing, and social messaging (Bill O'Reilly really nailed the Sopranos ---I'm paraphrasing here000when he said it was just a remake of Goodfellas on TV). The serious shows tend to blind you on first glance with lots of disorienting things or set details---the zombies on The Walking Dead, or the outfits on Mad Men, the sets on Downton Abbey and The Nick, the blood and violence and tits on the Sopranos. But on repeat viewing, once you get past the flash and distraction, they really are poorly made lefty messaging systems (I'll give a pass on this to the Sopranos; I didn't catch much messaging, but it was really just wallowing in mafia movie stereotypes without saying anything new).

The sillier shows---like NCIS or Psych or even Murder She Wrote ---are actually much more watchable on repeat viewing, since they have a good sense of how lightweight they are and have the Easter egg jokes play to repeat viewers. About the only "serious" show that holds up on repeat viewing is the original Law & Order, which contained pretty balanced arguments on all sides of many social issues (so long as you can look past the first few seasons, which were more strongly about lefty social messaging). It's really a sad shame NBC so ignominiously dispatched the show on Saturday nights and didn't even bother to give it a proper farewell episode or final movie; yet another nail in the coffin of NBC's integrity.

As to House of Cards, again, the show heavily promotes disgusting sexual perversion. We have Spacey gang banging his own wife with a new SS agent (probably Spacey's real life boy toy); Spacey eating a girl out while she calls her own father on father's day at Spacey's insistence (played as kinky fun but really the most mentally disturbed moment in the series, if you reflect on on it); and, finally, the tough-grrrl alpha female congresswoman Iraq war hero (lol) becoming all weak-need for darkie-alpha lobbyist because he's just dang good in bed and smooth and smart and awesome(lol). And that's before we get to the increasingly ludicrous plot points involving Spacey himself murdering people on the subway and in parking garages and such. Who does he think he is, Bill and Hilary?

I began interested in House of Cards, but as the absurdities and social messaging piled up, I became detached from the series; but once it started openly promoting the bestiality and other perversion I turned it off. It, like Jessica Jones, is just a lurid expensive soap opera with over-the-top "shocking" moments and some heavy black-on-white sexual pairing propaganda.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
Your approach to finding new TV shows makes sense, and I agree with you about most of them not being worth it. (Partly why I wrote this post, to save people the trouble of searching.)

I've never seen any of the shows you mention in your second and third paragraphs except for Law & Order; I'm surprised you like that one so much, it never really grabbed me. And I actually thought it DID have a lefty message, what with all those black women judges and mostly white defendants for violent crimes in NYC. Although, I've gotten so used to it that unless a show really hits us over the head with its lefty message, I can sort of ignore it.

The sexual perversion on House of Cards honestly didn't bother me, maybe I'm more of a pervert by nature than you. I find it actually makes a show more interesting, plain vanilla sex isn't really all that interesting to watch onscreen. I agree, having Spacey murder people himself was pretty ludicrous, but I only looked to the show for entertainment, not enlightenment.

whorefinder said...

As to L&O, it might be my timing. I moved to NYC in the late 1990s, right when it was clear that Giuliani's stop-and-frisk policy and broken-windows philosophy was cleaning up New York better than any lefty could argue against. Most lefty NYers at that time were grudgingly giving Giuliani praise and were themselves tough on crime---the death penalty came back on the table as a legitimate tool for a while!---and the show really did get the look and feel of NY and its police and prosecutors of the time correct.

L&O in the first few years (the Michael Moriarity as lead prosecutor years, sadly, an actor who I really like ) had a shit-ton of "very special episodes". They had the black assistant DA, a lot of race and poverty based crimes, and a lot of explaining-away-black-crime episodes. However, when Jack McCoy (Sam Watterson) and Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) came on board, the tone noticeably shifted to less "very special" episodes and more "episodes with a twist". (Lenny represented the old wiseguy detective archetype from the noir era, and Jack was the crusading-alcoholic-DA type from the 30s and the noir era).

I agree, the black judges and white defendants were de riguer, but outside of tokenism, they didn't hammer on whitey as whitey too much. They often put sympathetic anti-left arguments into the mouths of the female ADA's (Angie Harmon, a real life righty, in particular was often the voice of harsh sentencing/death penalty, while also being staunchly against women-pretending-to-be-the-innocent-victim).

Many times they subtly let race and political realism play into a case: there was one episode where the white hero Jack McCoy seriously attacks the impartiality/ability of the Hispanic judge by calling the judge "a card carrying member of the ACLU". (!) Other times, they let very stereotypical courtroom characters in: one I recall in particular was a snarky Jewish judge, who had several appearances; another clearly-Jewish attorney who pulled an almost protocols-of-zion-esque act, complete with finger in the face and large nose; and black hoodlums whose antics I have only seen repeated on World Star Hip-Hop (one even ran a dice game in Harlem!).

Perhaps the best way to say it is: L&O did the bare minimum to keep the lefty masters at bay, while throwing in enough counter-argument and race-realism to at least take seriously non-lefty arguments. In other words, it showed a NY that could elect a moderate-Republican mayor---like Giuliani.

I doubt you're more a pervert than me (lol), but what I mean is the propaganda and gratuitousness. I'm a pretty horny, perverted guy, but outside of porn, sex on the screen is usually gratuitous and unnecessary and just for titillation or propaganda or both (in porn, sex is the whole story).

Movie/TV shows throw those in when the movie/Tv show isn't that good or they need an overt political message. Put another way, take out the sex and swearing and most of these shows are unwatchable. Good old movies and TV shows do just fine holding up without it; Casablanca has more heat between fully clothed characters than any two naked models on House of Cards. And House of Cards was billed as a serious drama that was deep, not this schlock fest.

Anyway, that's all to say I think way too hard about this Hollywood crap. Sigh, I miss the Hays Code.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
Okay, I'm going to have to defer to you on law & Order, you've watched more episodes and thought way more about it than I have. (I think I may have seen maybe a total of five or six episodes.) it was my fleeting impression that they were very PC in their casting, and that caused me to lose interest more quickly than I would have otherwise. Maybe I should have given it more of a chance.

You characterized Orbach's character perfectly, he was very much the noir detective who stepped right out of a Raymond Chandler novel. In fact, Orbach almost overdid it to the point where he was a parody of that character, but, then again, that was sort of Orbach's persona.

Interesting about the Jewish characters. Those kinds of portrayals onscreen are awfully rare.

As far as the sex on House of Cards, some of it wasn't really necessary to the plot, but at the same time, it would have been a little frustrating to have a woman as attractive as whichever Mara sister that was onscreen that long and NOT see her get boffed. And actually, given that her character did use her sexuality to get ahead, it really wasn't gratuitous for her to be shown having sex. Plus, given that the Spacey and Wright power couple were based, if anything, on the Clintons, seeing those two in all their perverse glory was also sorta appropriate.

The Hays Code??!! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Yet I can't help read it without remembering that 3 years ago you wished you could press a button so I would drop dead. Do you still hold this view or has age altered your desire to end my life?

whorefinder said...

@John Craig:

Good points by you. I will only add:

Orbach was an old NY theater actor; he was Billy Flynn, the shyster "Irish" (*wink wink*) lawyer in the original run of Chicago on Broadway in the early 1970s.

NY theater went completely provincial following the gay takeover in the late 1960s-70s---that is, once gays completely took over the theater set and made everything have gay/corrupt undertones, American largely stopped paying attention to theater/musicals. Before that, musicals of the 1960s and 1950s and before were expected to appeal to a wide, broad American audience, reinforce values, etc. Those oldermusicals eventually became movies: think Music Man.

But in the late 1960s/early 70s, gay liberation made gays aggressively take over theater in NY and make it their own. The result? New musicals past 1970 or so were so insulting, decadent, snide, campy, insider-jokey, and gay that it turned most audiences off. So theater became a provincial thing, something rich lefty NYers loved and nobody else watched.

Part of this NY provincialism allowed NY theater to begin to openly mock Jewish-NYers stereotypes; it was ok because "it's only us watching" i.e. other Jews, gay Jews (of which there are a lot in NY and in NY theater) and Jewish-friendly NY theater geeks. So Orbach's theater act was informed by this openness, theater hamminess, and partial Jewish stereotyping; his character is a Raymond Chandler private eye who seemingly has a Jewish mother who loved theater and wanted him to be a lawyer (in fact, before Orbach was cast as a police officer on the show, he played a shyster-lawyer in an earlier episode).

As one who took in a lot of theater early in my stay in NY, I was mega-confused at a lot of the "in-jokes" thrown about in shows. It wasn't until much later in my NY life I realized they were stereotypes of Jews, gays, and other assorted NYers that outsiders wouldn't get. Theater was (and still is) so insular there. The few big-money musicals in NY that draw tourists (Lion King, Cats, Les Mis, Wicked) are routinely mocked by NY theater folks as not being "real" theater---i.e. not being real NY provincial theater (though Wicked gets a partial pass from them because it's such a gay-friendly musical).

As to the over-the-top Jewishness of later characters, that's Dick Wolf (the exec producer and creator, who is Jewish) indulging himself. When he felt secure enough in the show, he let a few things slip in, like portrayals of his own people. It's like when you watch a black comedian drone on about how blacks really aren't that criminal---and then zing them with a line about how even blacks get nervous at the ATM when other blacks are around.

Hays Code, FTW! The best movies in Hollywood history are from the Hays code period. And largest volume of great per year.

John Craig said...

Anon --
How can I possibly answer your question when I don't know who you are?

I've made that comment in the past about sociopaths in general, never anyone in particular that I recall.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
You're obviously more of an expert not only on Law & Order but on television in general than I am, and WAY more of an expert on New York Theater. Everything you say rings true, though I've never been a theater fan; I think I've been to one play in the past twenty years.

I guess "The Producers" is a musical of the type you're describing -- a lot of insider Jewish jokes, making fun of certain Jewish types (while also making fun of the goyim). And Jackie Mason is another example, someone making fun of both Jews and goyim in a way that no TV station would pick up on.

And yes, I certainly can't argue with the gay direction of Broadway. Broadway has always been full of gay actors and dancers and choreographers and playwrights; but the gay content of the plays themselves only really emerged after the 70's.

Anyway, thank you for that lesson on Broadway's evolution.

MarieC said...

Have you seen the French policier, Sprials (Engrenages)? It's like a French "Law and Order" but much, much (much) better (imho). Also good for practicing your French, if you're into that kind of thing.

John Craig said...

MarieC --
No, haven't seen it, and gave up on my French after high school.

Steven said...

I was thinking that yesterday. The movie selection is not very good. It seems like they've consciously moved towards more TV shows because when I log on I see rows and rows of TV shows. I'm not going to sub to Netflix for BBC shows I ignored when they were on TV. I did hear good things about broadchurch though- everyone was raving about it. I am now keeping Netflix purely to see the second season of Marco Polo which comes out soon. I also liked house of cards, another netflix original.

I hope you are enjoying Christmas and indulging a little more than usual.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Well, if you missed a good show when it was first run on the BBC, no reason not to catch it later on Netflix. I agree with you about House of Cards, and also love the Netflix original series Narcos, but couldn't really get into Marco Polo.

Yes, enjoying Christmas, thank you. Hope you're enjoying the holidays too.

Lucian Lafayette said...

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wonder if our experience with BBC programming is a case of only seeing the best. I will have to query my friends in Britain about this.

One thing that British television does is that they are not afraid to end a show. Many shows are conceived as a limited series with a beginning, middle, and end even before filming commences. This avoids the "jumping the shark" situation which plagues many US television series.

I think we will see the next (it probably already is happening) big event in video arts take place on the internet. The production costs have dropped so much that any high school student can create Irwin Allen scale special effects on his laptop. As an example, look up the wonderfully hideous movie "Kung Fury". I was surprised at how much background scenery was actually added as green screen work. If not already there, we will shortly reach the point where good acting and a compelling story are what will make a film or series outstanding.

John Craig said...

Luke --
Thank you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

That's a really good observation about not being afraid to end a show. Now that you mention it, those BBC shows really DID have the feel of having been carefully plotted out beforehand, and drawing to a natural close. With American shows, you do get the sense that as long as the ratings and advertisers are there, they'll keep resurrecting a series no matter how stale and tired it is.

I hope you're right that production costs have come down so much that extremely low budget movies will now have a chance -- if they deserve one.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis totally.

The Killing is awesome. Wassup, Linden? I was sad to see it end.

I'll have to check out the other two.

Have you ever watched The Shield? I think it was on FX in the earlier 2000s. Great cop show. From my experience as a reporter covering crime, it came the closest to capturing the different cop personality types and internecine fighting.

Someone recently recommended The Man in the Castle on Amazon Prime to me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

- Gardner

John Craig said...

Gardener --
I had the exact same feeling, was sad to see The Killing end.

Yes, I loved The Shield. It's my son's all time favorite TV show, by far, and also one of mine. Colorful, entertaining, with a charismatic central figure. My only quibble with the show, and it's a small one, was that they tried to portray Vic Mackey as a sociopath (he would have had to be a sociopath to do some of the things he did) but also as a guy who was loyal to his family and friends, and that doesn't quite fit. But otherwise, I agree, an incredible show, and it did capture a range of types well.

You were a crime reporter? Ah, that explains a lot -- like your realistic attitude toward a lot of things. (I'd known you were a journalist, but not your beat.)

Thank you, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I started off covering cops for a small-town paper. It was incredibly eye-opening for the liberal girl I was. I loved having access to all these stats and incident reports and databases. I would pore through them, looking for patterns, trends etc.

Those experiences really shook my world view, and bit-by-bit I began letting go of what I had been taught.

Was Vic a sociopath? He certainly had sociopathic tendencies. But his intense feelings --of loyalty, jealousy, rage -- point more towards narcissistic rage. When his image of himself was threatened, he became enraged.

Whereas, I've read that true sociopaths don't really become "enraged"since they are really unable to have any genuinely strong feelings about anything. Even their anger is somewhat controlled and cold and clinical. There is just nothing behind it. All emotion is manufactured and play-acted. Thoughts?

- Gardner

John Craig said...

Gardner --
So you're numerate as well as literate, which explains your realism. I wrote about how most journalists lack a sense of numbers, and therefore a sense of proportion, here:

You're right, sociopaths tend to fly off the handle less frequently than narcissists. But it's not as if they don't feel the negative emotions. Their emotional repertoire runs the gamut from rage to hostility to jealousy to spite to hatred. It's the positive emotions they fake -- love, loyalty, gratitude, and affection. Every now and then they let their masks slip and you see the hatred, front and center. But you're right, it tends to be a more controlled, cold hatred. But there are certain actions that people take which are so utterly immoral that they couldn't have been taken by anybody but a sociopath, and those are generally dead giveaways. Sometimes, all you need is a little snapshot to be able to tell. And, for instance, Mackey having killed that member of his squad early on when he figured the guy was a plant was something that it would be awfully hard for a nonsociopath to do. And his constant unrelenting ribbing of Dutch and his unrelenting hostility to just about everybody outside of his team was something you'd generally only see in a sociopath. (I've known people like this, and it's a very discernible pattern.) And the people I've known who were like this did not have a set of friends that they were intensely loyal to -- they merely regarded the members of their "team" as more people to be manipulated and used an scoffed at behind their backs. So I thought the portrayal of Mackey was off kilter in that respect.

I know it's silly for me to go into detail like this about a fictional character, but it's a pretty constant theme in Hollywood: the antihero with traits that only a sociopath could show, who is really good underneath it all. We saw it in Mackey, we saw it in "Catch Me if You Can," where we were supposed to be enchanted by the Leonardo DiCaprio/Frank Abagnale character(who could only have been a sociopath to do what he did). We saw it in "The Sting," where we were supposed to be rooting for Newman and Redford, when in fact con men are basically always sociopaths. And we've seen it in innumerable other instances. It never rings true if you're really familiar with sociopaths.

Anyway, it's fictional, so I shouldn't care, but as someone who's fascinated -- and repelled -- by sociopaths, I retain the right to "quibble."