Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Series Roundup June 2017

I haven't done a series roundup in a couple months now, so let's take a quick look at what I've been watching, shall we?

Brockmire (IFC) ended it's first season last month, I think, after maybe 8 half-hour episodes.  When I saw the first episode, I honestly though it was going to be a heartwarming, yet funny story about an ex-broadcaster who finds redemption (and a job) by calling out the plays for a minor league baseball team.  At first, I thought it was a touching idea. A former big-league announcer spends his twilight years becoming a fixture of a small hometown, and ends up recapturing a bit of his lost dignity while the home team recaptures some of it's former glory.  The owner-bartender manages to save the town, which is being slowly destroyed by loss and a greedy oil company.  I don't really like watching sports on TV, mind you, but everyone likes rooting for the underdog, and that's what I thought Brockmire was going to be about.

Brockmire was none of that.  Hank Azaria plays Brockmire, the loud-mouthed, drunken announcer.  Amanda Peet plays the bartender, who's trying to save her town from a greedy oil company.  After that first couple episodes, which showed such promise, Brockmire devolved into a train wreck caused by the main character's own ego.  I think maybe that was the point, but it wasn't really a good end for the first season.  I was starting to root for Brockmire, but then everything went downhill.  I mean, who could abandon Amanda Peet?  Not I!  Just didn't seem right.  And who's going to save the town?  Maybe we'll find out next season, if there is one.

I've had a hankering for murder mysteries lately, and Netflix had a bunch to offer.  First one I discovered was Death in Paradise, a typical fish-out-of-water tale about a London detective sent to a tiny tropical island in the caribbean, to serve as the head of the Police force there.  As you may know, Britain was a naval superpower back in the day, and apparently this island was still under British rule.  I guess there's some law that states an Englishman has to be in charge of the police force, and that's why a replacement detective inspector was sent all the way from London to help sovle the death of the first detective, but that's all the intricacies of British law that I can follow.  In any case, Death in Paradise begins with the death of the first Detective Inspector stationed on Saint Marie.  Another detective inspector is sent to look into the death of the first one, and that's what kicks off the first season.  I think they've gone into 5 or 6 seasons, now.

Death in Paradise worked for me, at first.  The scenery of St. Marie was beautiful, and there were plenty of wide shots of the island beaches and jungles.  The London guy was a brilliant detective, but was totally out of his element in Saint Marie.  Leaning heavily on the local supporting police force, two officers and an attractive, female Detective Sargeant, the London guy manages to solve the case of the death of the previous inspector, and then gets shang-haied into staying on the island as the new Detective Inspector, another intricacy of British law.  Ben Miller played DI (Detective Inspector) Richard Poole, Sara Martins played the beautiful DS Camille Bordey, and I could see right off that she was enchanted with the new inspector.  I expected their romance to be a slow burn over a couple of seasons, and I was right, but just when I thought things were going to come to a head, DI Poole was killed off at the start of the second season.

Kris Marshall took over as the new DI, Humphrey Goodman, probably some cast kerfluffle that I was not privy to, and the series sort of took a nose-dive for me.  Kris Marshall's clumsy, oafish character portrayal seemed almost too similar to DI Poole, and they solved cases in almost an identical fashion.  The show became formulaic, and there was no sexual tension between anyone on the show anymore.  Cases began to focus on a huge buildup before the frenetic explanation of how the crime was committed right at the end of the hour-long show, and there was often little or no evidence presented by DI Goodman to support his fanciful explanation of events around the murder.  I watched supporting cast after supporting cast staring emotionless at DI Humphrey as he rattled off some ridiculous explanation of a crime that made no sense, and it was like the other actors didn't even care to act their parts, anymore.

Death in Paradise had become the DI Goodman Show, where the whole show began to revolve around Goodman's ability to make up some fanciful tale in the last 5 minutes of the show that somehow explained everything that had happened in the last hour, leading to the arrest of someone who often looked totally confused and perplexed by what had just happened to them.  I wonder if the writers had even informed the cast on who was going to be arrested beforehand, or just left it up to the individual actors to try and ad-lib the proper reactions to being arrested.  That would certainly explain the look of confused surprise I kept seeing on the actor's faces as they were led off in handcuffs.  Surely, if they'd actually committed the murder in the fashion that the DI had described, wouldn't there be a look of angry guilt over being caught, instead?  You'd think so, wouldn't you?  I know I did.

Over the course of DI Humphrey Goodman's Reign of Terror, inflicting random supporting characters with imprisonment at his merest whim, the show lost a good portion of the supporting regular cast members.  DS Camille Bordey was replaced by DS Florence Cassell (who, while beautiful, seems to offer no romantic options whatsoever), and one of the local officers was even replaced.  At this point, the only remaining members of the original cast are Officer Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) and Commissioner Selwyn Patterson (Don Warrington) ont he police side, and Catherine Bordey (Elizabeth Bourgine), Camille's mom, who at first ran the local bar and was recently elected Mayor.

In any case, it wasn't long before Kris Marshall was tapped to become the next Dr. Who (from what I've heard), and so he's been written out of the show.  Sadly, he wasn't killed off like poor DI Poole, but his character ended up following his heart to some romantic interlude back in London.  By some amazing coincidence of events, I started watching this show on Netflix, and then just as I finished watching the latest season there, I noticed it was actually playing on my local Public Broadcasting Channel on TV.  That's where I saw DI Goodman heading off to his romantic interlude, caught up on the latest season, and saw that they'd replaced Di Goodman with another DI from London, this one an older man whose wife had just died.  Accompanied by his adult daughter, this mourning Widower is the new DI of St. Marie, so I suppose he'll start solving crimes next season, if there is one.  After losing so many cast members over the last half-dozen years, I would be surprised if the show was already off the rails, and ended up cancelled before it could become a total trainwreck.  Still, as far as formulaic hour-long whodunnits set in exotic locations go, it's hard to go wrong with Death in Paradise.  Maybe next season will get better.  Personally, I think they should bring back Camille (Sara Martins) as the next DI, but what do I know?

There's another series of murder mysteries called the Midsomer Murders (also on Netflix, also British-made).  These are actually closer to two-hour movie murder mysteries, but star the same recurring characters.  DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Tom Barnaby begins the first season (which consisted of 5 hour-and-a-half-or-so movies), and Netflix just added season 19.  With the actual movies being made over the course of the last 20 years, from 1997 when the series began to 2017, there have obviously been a few cast changes.  Tom Barnaby is played by John Nettles where I am in the series at the moment, but as I can see from IMDB, he was somehow replaced in 2011 with Neil Dudgeon, and the series is still still going.  I am only up to season 7, I believe.  As each "episode" is an hour and a half to two-hour movie, and each "series" consists of 4-8 movies, that easily adds up to well over 100 movies!  :-o

So, if you're looking for an Agatha-Christie-Style whodunit, steeped in the idyllic small-English-town life of the (imaginary?) villages of Midsomer, look no further.  The acting and production values are exemplary enough for British television, and while the murders and plot twists are sometimes easy to figure out, there's enough variety to keep most people guessing.  At the rate I am watching these things (one movie every few days) I expect to be caught up to the latest series by the year 2020.  Yeesh.  I need to binge-watch this shit one of these days, but there's only so much dry British politeness I can handle at one sitting.

Saving Grace (also on Netflix, but not British this time) is another option.  An hour-long police drama series starring Holly Hunter, I first checked it out when it aired on TV about a decade ago.  Basically, it's a show about a police detective named Grace Hanadarko (Holly Hunter, and yes, Hanadarko is an odd name, I agree), who solves crimes in Texas, but is randomly visited by an angel (played by Leon Rippy).  Grace is essentially the poster child for functioning alcoholics, and ends up nymphomaniacally sleeping with any number of extras and male cast members along the way.  The angel (Earl, by name) is apparently Grace's "Last-Chance-Angel," meaning she's got to mend her life of drunken debauchery, or risk going to Hell.  Grace is stubbornly resistant to all of Earl's interference in her affairs, and I for one was almost turned away by the constant religious message underpinning the entire show.  Still, Leon Rippy made a great angel, and Holly Hunter did several nude scenes just in the first season, which kept me coming back, to see just how much nudity the show could get away with on TV.  I stopped watching after the first season, but Christina Ricci pops up in the second season as a temporary replacement for Grace's partner, who is doing undercover work.  I am hoping to catch the rest of the shows that I missed (just to see how much longer Holly Hunter can rock that older but in-shape naked body) before Netflix drops the show in early July.

Finally, I'm going to cap off this post with a quick review on Neil Gaiman's American Gods, on Starz (I think).  Ian "Tits-and-Dragons" McShane is Mr. Wednesday (Wotan or Odin), looking to recruit a bunch of old European gods to do battle with the new American Gods, presumably to try and recapture their glory days and get someone to worship them again.  I think there's only 8 episodes, and I've seen 7 of them, with the last episode of the first season to air next week.  Ricky Whittles plays Shadow Moon, an employee of Mr. Wednesday, and Emily Browning plays his undead ex-wife.  There's a medium-sized supporting cast, but this is no Game of Thrones.

Now, I'm not trying to say that the show is boring, but, the most exciting event in the last 7 episodes was a game of checkers.  And then, in the next episode...  they played checkers again.  I dunno.  I guess Neil Gaiman is some high mucky-muck or something, and everyone is supposedly all abuzz about this show, but watching guys play checkers just doesn't do much for me.  Emily Browning might have done a few nude scenes in the last couple episodes, OR that might have been just a body suit, because under all the undead make-up, it's hard to tell.  The series has felt really short, mainly because everything is all build-up leading up to the season finale, but if nothing exciting happens, I can only hope it'll be the end of the series.  There's only so much watching-people-play-checkers that I can stomach, before I turn to watch Friday the 13th part 2 for the 87th time, just to see some action.

That's all for tonight.  Same bat-time, same oh-you-know.

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