TV: Catastrophe, Orphan Black, Jackie Robinson,Togetherness, the Magicians, The Last Panthers

 

Several series are wrapping up and we got a couple of great new ones while I count down the days until the April 24th debut of Game of Thrones.

Premiers

Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)

If you missed Season 1 of Catastrophe on Amazon Prime, go watch it now. It’s only 6 one-half hour shows so it is easy to catch up with. It is about an American businessman who has a one-week fling in London with a girl he meets in a bar. She becomes pregnant and the two of them work through what they are going to do. Catastrophe is that new genre of “dramady” (like You’re the Worst, Togetherness, and Master of None), which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Several of them are about millennials moving in to adulthood but this one has more comedy and a little less drama than others. The two lead actors playing Rob and Sharon, write, direct and produce the series and they are so good. There is such a great relationship between them as they blunder their way through life with perfect dialogue.

Season 2 dropped April 8 on Amazon Prime. I watched all 6 episodes and they were terrific. This show may have a bit too much crude language and sex for some but the pluses far outweigh the negatives for me. We return to Rob and Sharon a couple of years later fully entrenched in a house in London with a toddler and newborn. Rob is still in his horrific job (although a new sexy co-worker is introduced) and Sharon is struggling with being a stay-at-home mom. Each episode is crisp with unbelievably pithy dialogue and deals with a main event that moves the plot along nicely. The trip to Paris episode turns out to be a disaster (as you can imagine) and the episode where they invite all their friends to meet the baby is equally as bad. The supporting cast, including Carrie Fisher at her best, is more prominent in this season and adds depth to the story. Unfortunately, the Season is over in less than 3 hours and we are going to have to wait a year for the next one. I’m sure I’ll go back during the summer and re-watch both season 1 and 2, as they are so great.

Orphan Black (BBC America)

Orphan Black returned this week. Season 1 was extraordinary – there had never been a show on television quite like it. Tatiana Maslany was brilliant playing a number of clones with completely different looks and personalities. This Canadian actress came out of nowhere to deliver the best performance of the year. The next couple of seasons slipped dramatically in terms of writing and story telling. They introduced male clones, new villains etc. and it was extremely difficult to figure out what the heck was going on. Nonetheless, despite not understanding the plot, watching Maslany as Alison, Sarah, Cosima, Helena, Rachel etc. Is just magical. I can watch her all day long.

The reviews for Season 4 have been encouraging. The writers are going back to some of the elements that made it great in Season 1. The premier did not disappoint. We flashed back to Beth’s backstory (she committed suicide in the first episode of season 1) and met a new clone , MK who I’ll just refer to as “Sheepgirl” given the mask she wears. We saw what happened with the murder Beth was being investigated for and introduced new mysteries. There was also a a surprising reveal about Beth and her partner’s Art relationship. It was a great start to Season 4.

Jackie Robinson (PBS)

As a student of history, there is nothing better than a Ken Burn’s documentary and Jackie Robinson does not disappoint. I was a bit skeptical as I really dislike baseball but there is plenty of meat here that has nothing to do with the sport, which helped immensely. It is a perfect balance of Jackie Robinson’s story amidst the history of the period. The narration is great as are the historians and other commentators used by Burns who even got President Obama to participate. We all think we know the story of Jackie Robinson but Burns provides so much insight into the years after his life in baseball which is pretty much ½ of this documentary. This is an important story and the 4 hours fly by. PBS usually repeats these documentaries many times over so if you missed it, just hit that cable “On Demand” button and see it.

Finales:

Togetherness (HBO)

Togetherness ended its 2nd and last season (was not renewed) this week. This is really a great show and I’m sorry to see it end. I don’t think the creators knew they were going to be cancelled when they wrote what turned out to be the final episode but it still was a satisfying conclusion to the series. The right people got together and the interaction between each of the couples was perfect. I wasn’t a huge fan of the charter school plot line this season – it was too much like Parenthood – but even that resolved itself satisfactorily. The acting is just great in this show and hopefully we will be seeing the actors again soon.

The Magicians (SY FY)

I’ve written about the Magicians a couple of times. It is the biggest disappointment for me of this Television season. I had such high hopes but by the end of Season 1, I was just screaming at the TV and trying to gauge out my eyes. How writers (with input from the author) could butcher the books so completely is beyond my comprehension. The plots changed, the characters changed, the worlds changed and none for the better. I watched each and every week for it to start to turn around and instead, it just got worse.

The finale was no different. A fat, ugly guy with a ram’s hat? Really? I realize that the budget is limited but Ember and Reginald the Fox were major disappointments.   Ember may not be truly god-like but he certainly wasn’t that! Why is Alice not a Niffin? It’s not like the actress is so great that they need to keep her around. Much of book 2 of the magicians was incorporated into season 1 so I’m really not sure where they are going to go with this. There can’t be enough material to sustain more than one more season of the show. I guess they could go the route of the backstory of the gods but given the kindergarten-like costumes of the finale, I don’t think that would be a good idea.  Unless the showrunner, writers and producers are fired and there is a major restructure for season 2, I won’t be back.

DVR Alert:

I don’t have access to the Sundance Channel but a new show on that network is getting a lot of good buzz. The title is “The Last Panthers” and if you get this channel, it is worth checking out. It is a 6-part miniseries that traces crime across Europe (primarily London, Marseilles and Belgrade) and really explores how international crime syndicates work and the fine line between legal and illegal. For me, I’ll have to wait until it hits Netflix or one of the other services.

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