Tag Archives: House of cards

…who would have guessed that Hollywood would be out and television in?

Things are changing in the entertainment industry. As movies become increasingly expensive to produce, economic common sense equals risk aversion. Stories told with the broadest strokes of the brush are more likely to garner mass appeal and recuperate costs. Playing safe when it comes to script, subject matter, choice of actors, visual ideas and trust in the intelligence of your audience is in many ways a rational adaptation to the current situation. However, financial gain sometimes comes with a creative price. It´s interesting to speculate on how many of your all time favourite movies would have gotten the ok if they would have been pitched today.

It´s becoming more and more obvious that if fresh, creative and inventive is what you´re after, television is where to look. If we go way back, a phenomenon like “Twin Peaks” could be seen as an anomaly when it comes to story, while still being instantly recognizable in its format. A combination that fast-forwarded the traditional TV-drama into the future. This feeling of excitement continued years later as HBO launched series after series of high quality material, taking the type of well scripted and intelligent stories that´s usually reserved for the art-house clientele to the mass market. Shows like “The Sopranos”, “The Wire” and “Deadwood” were milestones in their own right, and seriously upped the ante for everyone trying to produce television programming. With the high output of new series we´re seeing presently, quality will of course vary and the really good ones risk drowning in the static.

House of cards

As I´ve mentioned in this blog earlier, the net-based streaming service Netflix has turned into a serious contender when it comes to bold and original new material. Season 2 of its unanimously hailed series “House of cards” was recently released. Such was the cravings for more of the Machiavellan machinations of aspiring president-to-be Frank Underwood, that me and the wife watched all the 13 episodes during the first post-release weekend. Clever, captivating and strangely perverse in its unabashed amorality. Can´t remember when I last saw something like this on television, or in the movies for that matter.

True detective

Much talked about new series from HBO ,“True Detective”, didn´t look that interesting when it appeared in the program listings. Beginning as a police procedural dealing with one of the most overexposed creatures in crime story lore, the ritually bizarre serial killer, it seemed set to rehash old genre clichés for the umpteenth time. Luckily, first impressions can be so wrong. Instead it turns out to be a dark and bumpy journey into the minds of the two detectives investigating a murder case, that´s quickly turning into just a back-drop for something else. Woody Harrelson as Marty Hart plays a character that he´s done many times before, and his philandering, hard drinking, regular guy serves as a point of normality of sorts, contrasting Matthew McConaughey´s deeply troubled Rustin Cohle. Cohle is a fascinating character, fiercly intelligent but with a decidedly bleak philosophy of life coloured by the loss of his family. McConaughey, whom I´ve previously regarded as a fairly light-weight pretty boy doing rom-coms, plays him brilliantly. As the underlying murder plot slowly gains traction and draws you in, the interaction between the two main characters and their respective stories still remains the real focus and is what keeps you watching. I promise, you´ve never heard dialogue like this in a television show, ever. As of now, only two episodes left to air and I can´t wait for the next one.

Advertisements

…Netflix is a serious contender when it comes to TV-series.

Who would have imagined that Netflix, initially thought of as just a provider of streamed content, would evolve into a producer of cutting-edge television series? While being net-based has never been an argument for quality, Netflix has still managed to hold the attention of both script writers and high-caliber directors like David Fincher.

House of cards

Their first original series “House of cards” did everything right. A political drama set in Washington DC based on a story first dramatized by the BBC. Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood, passed on for promotion to Secretary of State, is one of the most memorable television characters ever since Special Agent Cooper of Twin Peaks. The meta-TV scenes of Frank breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the viewers feels so fresh, forever wiping away boring voice-overs. As a beginners course on Machiavelli this series gives you more than you would have a right to expect. TV is not that often both entertaining and intelligent. The much anticipated season 2 will be released in February 2014. Until that, watch the first season and marvel at the quality of the story, the exceptional acting and the insights into the day to day realities of real politics. Whatever you do, don´t miss this. Season two is coming up very soon.

orange is the new black

“Orange is the new black” was the next series to catch my attention, and tells the story of middle-class woman Piper Chapman serving a jail term for the youthful and naïve participation in her lesbian girlfriend´s drug-trafficking operation. The fact that the actions she was sentenced for took place ten years ago does nothing to cushion the blow to her fairly privileged life-style, together with fiancé Larry. While her difficulties being incarcerated is the superficial thread of the series, much more depth is lent to the stories of the women in there with her. The combination of banality and life-changing events keeps the story alive and kicking, as well as being a modern time socio-economic study. Crime still being crime, it´s unusual to see an American series with this much understanding of the underlying social factors, while still avoiding the pitfalls of unaccountability.

Lilyhammer

Original series “Lilyhammer” premiered in January 2012 to an enthusiastic audience on Netflix and Norwegian national television. The story of New York mobster Frank Tagliano relocated to Lillehammer in Norway after testifying in a US mob trial might have seemed like a good idea. An unholy alliance of The Sopranos and Fleksnes, sharp Italian fashion and the Norwegian lusekofta, New York street scenes and the snowy expanse of Lillehammer. The resulting schizophrenia is evident already in the opening score and the sense of dislocation never goes away. All the respect built by Steven van Zandt from his days in the East Street Band, his own grossly undervalued solo career and as an integral part of the captivating The Sopranos cannot save him from this parody of himself. Every gesture and facial expression of Frank Tagliano is a very bad carbon copy of Silvio Dante, making the viewer cringe behind the spread fingers of a hand held over the eyes. Much is made of the collision between the violence-solves-everything ethic of Frank and the meek hunched-down-under-authority Norwegians. Even though it´s done in an attempt to make fun, it´s more funny peculiar than funny ha ha. Despite good intentions this series fails in so many ways, with most of its humour being quite unintentional. When I was a kid everybody in Sweden told Norwegian jokes (very much like the American Polish jokes and the British Irish jokes). It seems like we don´t need to anymore, the Norwegians are doing it themselves.