What I’ve been watching: July 2016

Just to share with y’all what I’ve been watching lately.


TV shows

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

buffy

I started watching Buffy recently after people started suggesting that the upcoming Doctor Who spinoff Class will be a lot like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Steven Moffat himself characterised the concept of Class as a “British Buffy”. I have such high hopes for Class, I’m actually really looking forward to it, despite the lukewarm reaction of much of the fandom, that I was naturally intrigued by the comparisons with Buffy.

I’m one-and-a-bit seasons into Buffy right now, and I’m really liking what I’m seeing. It’s fast becoming another cult show to add to my list of fandoms. I’ll admit there’s a lot of camp in what I’ve seen so far, especially in the first season, but the campiness is accompanied by genuinely good writing and storytelling and characterisation. It’s very much like Doctor Who in this way in that it’s essentially a fantasy show for kids and teenagers, but there’s such substance in the writing and the characterisation that it easily appeals to older viewers as well—for every Aliens of London there’s a Blink or a Heaven Sent, so to speak. But its strength is definitely its characters, and the characters of Buffy, Cordelia, Xander and Giles make up a tight-knit family of friends in whom it is easy to invest and identify with.

Parks and Recreation

parks and rec

I’ve been seeing Ron Swanson memes all over the place and I kind of felt like I was missing out. I was finally prompted to start watching Parks and Rec when I found out a friend watched it (she sent me a Ron Swanson meme…) She suggested that I start with season 2 rather than season 1, because season 1 apparently sucks, so I’m about halfway through season 2 but haven’t seen season 1 (weird, right?).

I love it. I don’t know why I put off starting watching this show for so long, because within a couple of episodes it became an instant new favourite. I love the documentary-style format, which lends itself so effectively to the show’s comedy (I think it makes all the jokes 10 times funnier). And the characters are all fantastic. Ron Swanson proved to be as amazing and hilarious as I expected, and I’m pleased to have found a cool INTP character in April Ludgate (for those who haven’t been following my Typing Doctor Who posts, I now obsessively try to figure out the MBTI type of every single fictional character I watch). Very good, very funny and addicting show.

Pretty Little Liars

pll

Don’t you dare judge me. I know. Trust me, I know. I was like you once. “I’m a grown man, I am not watching a show about a bunch of teenage girls.” But then I did. It was the Netflix description that intrigued me: it hinted at mystery, murder and plot. I was interested. I thought “It couldn’t hurt, could it?”, and watched an episode. Then another. Then another. Within a few weeks I had watched two whole seasons (50+ episodes). Before I knew it I had binged my way through all five seasons and had caught up with the sixth. Now the seventh season is underway and I’m ravenously devouring each new episode every week.

I wrote a post some time ago when I was relatively new to Pretty Little Liars, extolling the virtues of this show. The reason I love it so much is that it combines great characters and character drama with irresistible plot and mystery and intrigue. It’s the mystery and the overarching plot arc that draws you in and keeps you coming back every week, but it’s the soap opera stuff and the exceptional character writing that makes you continue to care about what happens to these characters. I promise that if you start watching the show, you’ll not only have a favourite character and a new OTP, but you’ll be hooked by the compelling mystery and plot, too.

Pokémon: Indigo League

pokemon

I LIKED POKEMON BEFORE IT WAS COOL. Unfortunately my phone isn’t good enough to get the Pokemon Go app (*tears*), but I’ve been rewatching the original Pokemon TV show for the last few months—for the memories, you know? It’s been a thrilling blast from the past watching all those old Pokemon episodes that I watched when I was a kid, and I’m pleased to report that they still hold up after all this time.

Rewatching Pokemon, I’m struck by how creative and inventive the writers were in coming up with such a diversity of interesting stories. The Indigo League series has 82 episodes (I’m up to episode 70), and each one of them is a new, exciting adventure. There’s rarely a dull script in there. I also love, having played some of my old Pokemon games recently, seeing how Ash’s journey in the show lines up with the journey you take in the game, and where it deviates (heresy alert: I played Fire Red, not Blue/Red/Yellow, because I like playing in colour *ducks for cover*). It’s sort of like the experience of watching the movie adaptation of a book you’ve read. Very interesting and rewarding.


Movies

Me Before You

me before you

Warning: spoilers about the ending in the second paragraph

I decided to go and see this one because it had not only Jenna Coleman in it, but also Emilia Clarke in the starring role — two of my favourite actresses currently. I really liked it. It wasn’t among the best movies of this romantic drama type genre that I’ve seen, but I found it an engaging and moving story all the same. I’d happily watch it again. The best reason to watch this movie is the performances of its leads, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, who really were extraordinary and elevated what might have been another unremarkable romantic drama, in the absence of leading performances of such quality, into the enchanting screenplay that it was. Emilia Clarke, especially, was exceptional. I actually think her performance in Me Before You bests her work in Game of Thrones—certainly it’s very different.

I only found out about the controversy surrounding the movie afterwards, and I should say that I don’t really see what the fuss is about. It never occurred to me once while watching the movie that it was propagating any ancillary socio-political commentary about disabled people. Why can’t a story just be a story without imputing politics into it? It actually seemed to me that it dealt with its subject matter very delicately and sensitively, and, in fact, that the point it was making was the precise point for which Vincent and the Doctor was praised in its handling of depression, i.e. that, as much as you might try to help someone in such a situation, sometimes you just can’t, and sometimes there is no storybook happy ending.

The Scandalous Lady W

the scandalous lady w

This is the BBC TV film about the historical Lady Worsley, from the late 18th Century, who eloped with a lover, who was criminally prosecuted by Lady Worsley’s husband for “stealing” his wife. Natalie Dormer stars as the “scandalous” Lady Worsley. Yes, Natalie Dormer, another one of my faves, was really the only reason I watched this film.

I can’t say I was satisfied, because the film wasn’t very good, in my opinion. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the script didn’t feel as though it was written with as much conviction as the story merited—I felt as though it was a ripping story which could have made a very exciting film in another production team’s hands. Perhaps it was the decision to overtly stylise and dramatise the story that left me cold—I felt that if they had played it straighter I would have enjoyed it more; although, that said, I’m not a great fan of historical drama in general, despite being a huge history geek.

Nor were the performances particularly memorable. Again, it was all too dramatised and soap-operatised for my tastes. Too Downton Abbey. It didn’t feel as though I was watching real historical figures, but crude soap opera characters in period dress. Even Natalie Dormer, who is one of my favourite actresses, was somewhat disappointing. The only parts of the film that really engaged me were the courtroom scenes, which I think were the best sequences of the film, although I may only think that because I’m a law student who gets an unnatural thrill from watching court processes.