Friday, 19 July 2013

Yet More (Other) Shows I Love

Written between 27th June and 13th July 2013

Following happily in the footsteps of my posts talking about the shows and films that I like but would (probably) never review in full, this post is for me to talk about the shows I've discovered recently and that I absoutely adore, but will most likely never write about at any great frequency. From the crazy adventures of MJN Air to the wastes of Zombified Georgia, I've been having some real fun.
Protagonist Rick Grimes.
From Wikia
The Walking Dead.

I was already familiar with Robert Kirkman's expansive Walking Dead franchise, following various groups of people in the US State of Georgia as they survive after a world-wide Zombie apocalypse. The show is a loose adaptation of the comic series, taking certain liberties with the plot for better and for worse. What drew me to the show was probably just wanting to know what all of the damn fuss was about. I wasn't disappointed when I got here.
     The thing you immediately notice about the show, especially in its first two seasons, is how much it bathes in its own atmosphere, tending to keep background music to a minimum and spending a great deal of time on simple talk between the characters as they struggle under constant threat. The characters feel like real people, and for the most part issues are sorted out as they would be in real life - issues are actually discussed and not held back for cheap dramatic tension, and as a result the way the characters react to the bigger and more important developments paints a much more detailed picture of who they are.
     The series' arguable protagonist is Rick Grimes, played by British actor Andrew Lincoln (that creepy guy in Love Actually who films Keira Knightly and then has those signs and the CD player) who seamlessly pulls off a Southern accent to the extent that I forgot who he was and thought he was an American actor to begin with. Like a certain Mr. Shephard from another US show, his story is probably not the most interesting, but it's still damn good - we see the slow progression from just optimist to delusional opportunist, as the politics surrounding his family life, which initially appear to have improved post-Apocalypse, go into meltdown.
     The pacing of the show is admittedly all over the place, and that comes with the territory of having such a variation in season length - six episodes for the first season, thirteen for the second and sixteen for the third. But despite that, even when not a lot is going on, there's something rather uniquely engrossing about the show's atmosphere and the way it treats both its characters and its world. We've barely seen what the effects of the apocalypse are outside of the state of Georgia, but we don't need to - because these feel like real people, doing real things in a difficult scenario. And that's why I love it.
     I keep making mental comparisons to Survivors. Which I really shouldn't.

Cabin Pressure.
Arthur, Douglas, Carolyn and Martin.
From the BBC.
A Radio show! On this blog! Radio comedian John Finnemore began his BBC Radio Four sitcom Cabin Pressure in 2008, surrounding a small charter airline called MJN Air. The show has an impressive core cast, utlising Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness), Roger Allam (Ashes to Ashes Series Two) and Stephanie Cole (Tenko, Waiting for God) as well as starring himself. The show's character-based humour is exemplary and the writing between the leads is better than most of the sitcoms I've seen on television.
     Thanks to the radio medium, the vast majority of the comedy comes from the interactions between characters, whose complicated characterisations develop vastly across its alphabetically named 25 episodes. I especially love protagonist Martin, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, whose insecurity about not being a natural pilot (but being someone who loves it so much that he's just had to learn how to be one) gives him a great massive dollop of charm. A close runner-up is classic sitcom snarker Douglas played by Richard Allam, whose constant slimy wit makes the show what it is.
You can watch all episodes of this anime
legally, and for free, on Crunchyroll. (Here)
Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack On Titan)

As well as listening to my first radio show this year, I also started following my first Anime. I'd resisted the genre for a while, feeling unable to associate with the cultural associations and tropes from that part of the world. However, after some subtle browbeating from my friends, I decided to give it a go, and it appears that my choice was a good one. (Although not one for those with a delicate disposition...)
     Set in a crapsack dystopian world where mankind is menaced by nigh-immortal Giants, humanity is forced to live behind a set of three giant walls until one faithful day where a really big one comes along and provides our protagonists with their primary motivation. The series' depressing edge is only tempered by its gruesome imagery and its rather fascinating interest in a world where corruption in the system is obvious and unchallenged and where a person's primary concern is whether their death serves the Human cause.
     The series takes a lot of its mythology from Norse and Greek legend, which I suppose is what made it easy for me to get into. I feel as though the anime avoids many of the stereotypes that I'd associated the genre with in the past, such as excessive and problematic fanservice as well as soap-esque twists. While the plot does twist and turn, it does so in a spectacular fashion that only seeks to build upon its engrossing ontological mystery. It's bloody good, and I'm personally a little impatient for the next episode to come out.


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