Sunday, January 26, 2014

Let us discuss television.

Alex found a trailer for season 2 of Hannibal, so I figured - why not?  Television

Hannibal - on NBC, of all places - is an incredibly gory psychological thriller about an FBI special-agent profiler who empathizes with psychopaths to catch them, the boss who will push him right to the edge and the brilliant monster in a human suit who will ensure he goes over.  Just for the fun of it. 

I don't want to come across as arrogant, or boastful - I don't mean to - but between you and I, Kayla and I have gotten pretty fucking good at snuggling and watching TV shows.

As we suffer through the doldrums of video game releases - an indie here, a up-port there - let us give thanks that some of the awesomest TV shows are on their way back.  First of all - and I'm probably going to sound super-creepy as I discuss this - Hannibal season 2 starts February 28th.

I love Hannibal. And not just the TV show.  All things Hannibal Lecter, I adore.  I don't know why, I just love him - perhaps because I'm jealous of his classical education and skills as a gourmand, not to mention his ability to silence anyone who disrespects him, regardless of the potential consequence.  Silence of the Lambs aside, I felt pretty disappointed with most of the movies, but I voraciously devoured the books by Thomas Harris, and probably read Hannibal two or three times.

It's that level of familiarity with the character that occasionally makes me cringe as I watch the TV show.  Basically, whenever Hannibal gets in a physical confrontation and he doesn't instantly overcome them with a single, anatomically-informed and perfect strike, I'm like "well that's not what Hannibal would have done."

Dem cheekbones.
Also, does anyone else find it weird that everyone but Will kinda' dresses in 1970s fabrics with like super-wide ties?

Similarly, I didn't like Mads Mikkelsen's casting as the titular cannibal, at first.  There's something occasionally-nervous about Mikkelsen.  Something sweaty and suspect (observe how he kinda' gleams, above), and Hannibal Lecter is never, ever nervous or out of control.

But Mikkelsen's won me over.  His Hannibal is too entertaining not to enjoy in the way Thomas Harris's Hannibal is enjoyable - he's brilliant, irredeemable, slightly demonic and prepares the most fabulous dinners while deadpanning the most pitch-black dark humor.

The show's writers have invested Hannibal with just as much mystery, menace and intelligence as Harris, but given their large canvas have also investigated a bit into what he enjoys, what he wants, what his motivations are.  (Hint : to fuck with you.)  Slowly, Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal Lecter has become my Hannibal - rather similar to how, after a few episodes of Orange is the New Black, you stop thinking of Laura Prepon as Donna as she becomes only Alex.

Between House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, I'd have to go with Orange as the cooler of Netflix's productions.  I love Kevin Spacey, don't get me wrong, and Cards is good - but they're really working the long-game thing with that series, and occasionally an episode or two will feel more like a build to something that comes later than an actual, engaging part of the story.

Orange is the New Black - on Netflix - is an ensemble comedy-drama based on Piper Kerman's memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison - the gist of which I'm sure you understand from the book's title. 

Orange is consistently entertaining. It has a fabulous ensemble and every episode (after the first - which gets things get off to a kind-of slow start) keeps the show's promise.  A friend and I at work were discussing it (as every conversation of its type goes, we began by gushing over how awesome the ending is) and we agreed that it seriously almost makes you want to go to prison.

Not because we want to be away from our loved ones or have our freedoms taken away and abused at the hands of rapists, but because the show represents that confined human ecosystem in such vivid emotions. Tiny epics of love and loyalty take flight in that little cage - it's a world of small operas, where everything seems so meaningful - as opposed to the humdrum lives we live.

But its second season doesn't even have a release date yet, so I don't know why I'm even talking about it.  What is out and playing and on TV right now is season 5 of Archer.

Archer - on FX - is an animated, M-for-mature, hilarious comedy about a pathologically immature and self-absorbed secret agent with severely dysfunctional co-workers, and the insanity the two produce. 

If you don't already know Archer, rest assured that you should.

I was a bit concerned when the series creator said he wanted to take Archer in a decidedly "different direction" this season, but it's all turning out very, very well so far.  Pam's already addicted to cocaine and Lana's baby bump is beginning to show - this is gonna' be awesome.

Justified - on FX - is a dual-edged crime thriller/drama about Raylan Givens, a dead-eye, morally-gray U.S. Marshall, the charmingly well-spoken, criminally-enterprising Boyd Crowder, and the underworld happenings of eastern Kentucky.

As a general rule, I'm not a big TV guy.  People are always trying to sell me on shows - the worst offenders are Dr. Who and Breaking Bad - but honestly, I don't need another TV show to watch.  This is rather how I felt when Kayla told me she wanted to watch Justified - I figured it was because she's got a thing for any man wearing a cowboy hat - but I do love Timothy Olyphant (Raylan), so I gave it a shot.

Justified is awesome.  It's essentially a southern-set noire, based on the equally morally-ambiguous writings of prolific crime novelist Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Out of Sight - the only good Jennifer Lopez movie ever - and Rum Punch, which was adapted into Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown).

Raylan is a good 'ol boy with his shitkicker white hat, worn boots, casual drawl and easy smile, who - like Hannibal, actually - seems incapable of getting nervous, perhaps largely due to the fact that this modern law man is the fastest draw in these here parts.

He's an archetype, and that's his superpower - heavily-established in the show's (excellent) pilot, and only ever trotted out as a reminder that the only reason Raylan doesn't kill someone is because he's decided not to.  As self-destructive as he is, it's impossible not to love him - or his old friend and sometimes-enemy Boyd (Walton Goggins).

Both leads are excellent in their roles, but I'm a bit disappointed in whoever hands out TV awards for never giving one to Goggins.  His Boyd is an ice-cold wild man, a preacher, a born orator and a stone killer - who, like Givens, we can't help but love.

As the fifth season begins, we've gotten news that Justified's sixth season will be its last.  I'm glad, at least, that they know this far ahead, and will be able to give a proper sendoff to both characters.

Lastly, Kayla and I finally started watching BBC's Sherlock a few weeks ago.

Sherlock - BBC, PBS - is a modern re-imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic sleuth, produced by the BBC. 

Sherlock isn't excellent, but it's really, really good - a largely-clever modern adaptation of the old books. The Robert Downey Jr. movies actually pay very close attention to the character as defined in the books - those slow-motion superfights he has in the movies?  Very accurate to the books - while BBC's Sherlock goes off the beaten path a great deal more, renders him much more human and defines him as a "high-functioning sociopath."

Benedict Cumberbach's Holmes explores more of the emotional repercussions such a character would have on the people that surround him, and you feel downright hurt for his friends and helpers when his acid-laced, hyper-intelligent tongue tears a strip out of them without even being aware that he's shattered someone's feelings.

My only real complaint against Sherlock is that plot holes abound, and at least once per episode you'll notice some silly contrivance, engineered to keep the narrative on track, that shatters one's involvement.

Oh, and that time Sherlock went to his "memory palace" and moved things around in mid-air with his hands as if he were using the computer in Minority Report?  That was fucking stupid.

Otherwise, great fun.  And Moriarty is fabulous.


  1. Sherlock is the kind of show I watch once by myself, get a contact high, rush out to show it to friends, then sit through what has magically become a hokey slog.

    No other show has the wit and energy of these leads, but Stephan Moffat is just not... not that good of a writer once you really start to poke at his work.

    I'm so glad someone else sees it, all I ever get are looks of stunned horror from the faithful.

  2. Oh! and True Detective? Stunning. If you love Justified half as much as I do (and it seems like you do) it's almost worth a HBO subscription.

    I'm not kidding around, it's like someone looked at the worn out ivory tower the police procedural had become and threw a Molotov cocktail in there.

    1. I really want to check that one out after some of the press it's gotten. Woody Harrelson and McConaughey in his artsy phase? Yes please.

  3. Was never a big fan of either McConaughey or Harrelson until True Detective. But they're so good.