What I’m Watching Now
At the risk of sounding impossibly self-important, I wanted to take a moment to review some of the shows that have grabbed my attention as of late. Chilling out in front of the tube is one of the few ways I relax from my busy work schedule, but recently I’ve found myself incredibly particular in regards to what I’ll watch, and I’m usually drawn to shows I can cull inspiration from as well as just, you know, enjoy. (Which means, I guess, that I’m working even when I’m not, but that seems to be the way I’m wired. Oh, well.)
Here’s what’s captured me lately.
Game of Thrones
One of the finest adaptations of a novel series ever put to the screen, Game of Thrones, the tale of the battle for the throne of Westeros, is flat-out brilliant TV. But why am I telling you this? Unless you live inside of a cube you’re well aware of what an amazing job HBO has done with this show, transforming George R.R. Martin’s dense narrative into a well-paced and well-balanced story that’s easy to get lost in without getting lost. Each role is cast to perfection (Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell has been a fantastic addition this season to an already picture-perfect cast), each character receives his or her due screen time, and the art direction and cinematography continues to get better with each passing year.
Game of Thrones is pure ensemble entertainment, and while the show certainly has its flaws it’s very easy to get wrapped up in Martin’s grim universe as interpreted by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. Even for those of us who’ve read the books and know what’s more or less to come (the show has strayed in minor ways from the novels, which so far as I’m concerned is fantastic), this show is an utterly enthralling example of how to tell a complicated story.
The best new show on network TV this season, The Blacklist is a thrilling action/drama about master criminal Raymond Reddington and his dubious alliance with the FBI. He presents them with information about the most vile and secret individuals in the world – his “Blacklist” – all for his own questionable purposes. Raymond, or “Red”, will only liaise through rookie agent Elizabeth Keen, and the villains he helps the FBI uncover are truly despicable, ranging from hitmen and mercenaries to slave traders and the heads of professional kidnapping rings. Worse, Elizabeth’s husband may be a target himself, and while she has her suspicions regarding why Reddington chose her to work with the truth is bound to be more than she ever anticipated…
I’m normally not a big James Spader fan, but his work as “Red” has completely won me over. Smarmy, sarcastic, diabolic, menacing and endearing all at once, Spader’s turn as a former government operative turned master criminal is simply mesmerizing. With solid production values and a story that never plays out as predictably as the audience might expect, The Blacklist is terrific escapist entertainment.
I can’t rave enough about this show. Dark, captivating and sinister, Hannibal has taken the core of Thomas Harrison’s novels and created a dark and alternate universe of madness, depravity and grisly psychological horror. Dripping with atmosphere and tension, Hannibal chronicles the early days of Dr. Hannibal Lecter — a respected psychiatrist who happens to be a cannibalistic serial killer – and his relationship with FBI profiler Will Graham. (For those of you playing the home game, this is the back story only outlined in the first novel, Red Dragon.) Lecter’s fascination with Graham is sordid and chilling, and as the series progresses we get to witness a deft game of cat-and-mouse as the two men try to gain the upper hand in one of the most unusual doctor/patient relationships ever put to the screen…
Brilliantly cast (Mads Mikkelsen is unquestionably one of my new favorite actors) and beautifully filmed (this show has some of the most creative cinematography I’ve ever seen in a network show), Hannibal is a textbook on how to tell a gory, frightening, twisted psychological thriller with a sense of pacing and class. Not to be missed (though I caution the squeamish…).
Battlestar Galactica (2004)
My wife and I started watching Ronald D. Moore’s brilliant re-imagining of the hit 80s military sci-fi series when it was originally airing a decade ago, but for reasons I no longer even remember we wound up losing track of the show about midway through it’s 3rd season. Now, 10 years later, I’ve started the series afresh, and I’m loving it. The tale of the human survivors of the devastated Twelve Colonies of Kobol and their seemingly futile quest to find a new home after their civilization was wiped out by the robotic Cylons is a grim undertaking, but one worth experiencing. Populated with well-rounded characters and a nice mix of space battles, robot confrontations, trippy dream sequences and very human drama, this show takes command of your attention and refuses to relinquish it.
Brimming with delicious subplots and deftly utilizing every plot possibility, Battlestar: Galactica is terrific TV even years after it was popular – there’s a reason why this show helped redefine television and helped to put SyFy on the proverbial map. With compelling stories, crisp writing and some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen outside of a movie theater, Battlestar might have just replaced The Shield as my favorite show of all time. (That’s a pretty strong statement…we’ll see.)
What have you been watching?