My Current Obsession: Broadchurch

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As you can no doubt tell, lately I’ve been on a bit of a TV kick. Specifically, outside of “Iron Fist,” a British TV kick. And since the final Steven Moffat-penned season of “Doctor Who” starts next month, I figured I’d further get acquainted with his soon-to-be successor, Chris Chibnall. I figured what better way to do so than by finally checking out “Broadchurch.” Now, I’ve only watched the first season of the show, hence why this is a “Current Obsession” blog.

So, what is the show about? Well, it’s a crime drama set in a seaside little town called Broadchurch. The first episode kicks things off with the death of 11 year old Danny Latimer. Once his death is ruled to be a homicide, the show delves deeper into the town’s residents and plants clues and red herrings about who committed the crime. Everybody is considered a suspect, save for the detectives working the case, local resident Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman) and city slicker Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant). The stakes are high, the melodrama is in full force, and the case is resolved by the eighth episode’s end.

I initially watched the first episode a year or two ago. While I did like it, I found I wasn’t in the mood for a crime drama at the time and promptly set it aside. But once I dived back in to continue Season 1, I was hooked immediately. Sure, mysteries are always fun to solve, and I liked getting to know the diverse cast of characters. But part of the draw was the setting as well. I live near a small town and have visited small waterside towns nearby, so I took to Broadchurch’s quaint aesthetic instantly. I could understand why some of the characters felt drawn in by the town, while others felt trapped. I’VE felt that way living where I do, so it made the town feel all that more interesting to me.

I was surprised by how easy to get to know the show’s large cast. Every character served a purpose, even if some got the spotlight more than others. I don’t feel like there was a bad actor in the bunch, honestly. Some of my favorite characters included local vicar Paul Coates (played by Arthur Darvill), store owner Jack Marshall (played by David Bradley), and Danny’s mom Beth (played by Jodie Whittaker). But my personal highlight of the show is the dynamic between Detectives Miller and Hardy. They have great chemistry as they learn to work with each other despite their opposing personalities. I thought Olivia Colman did a fantastic job portraying a woman who has close ties with everyone in town and is forced to attempt to be impartial despite it. And I can’t say enough good things about David Tennant. Yes, most people know him as the Tenth Doctor (and possibly Kilgrave at this point), but I equally loved his more serious and moody role here. Plus, it was great hearing his natural Scottish accent and a far cry from the shouty-ness I’d grown used to with Peter Capaldi.

If I had any gripes with this season, it’s that the writing at times felt a little too…poetic? I’m not sure if that’s the right word for it, but some of the writing seemed a little unnatural occasionally. While I liked the cinematography, I felt they relied a little too much on the use of slow-mo to make some moments feel more dramatic. Not saying it didn’t work at all, but it felt a tad overdone. And finally, I wish there had been a few more indications of who the killer turned out to be. It didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere, but it still felt like most of the other characters got more attention even though they amounted to red herrings. I suppose that could have been the point, since the show makes a statement about not trusting anyone whatsoever. I just think the execution could have been a little better.

Overall, I can see why “Broadchurch” is an appealing show to so many people. It’s got an intriguing mystery, solid characters, and a charming setting to bring everything together. At this point, I’m not sure what to expect from the next couple seasons. It’s strange to think they were allowed to continue since the story in this season was wrapped up pretty well. However, I’ll gladly revisit the show’s world and characters again. It’s just that good.

What I Liked/Disliked About “Iron Fist”

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 I finished Netflix’s “Iron Fist” last night and decided that my blog on it will be a little different than what I normally do. I’m going to go down some general points I liked/disliked about it. My main reason for this is because I could go on and on about this show otherwise. That said, let’s start on the positive side first.

Things I Liked

  • I thought the acting was pretty good. Yes, people have harped on Finn Jones’ performance as Danny Rand, but he didn’t bother me much. I do feel he’s overshadowed by some of the other actors, though.
  • Even though Danny was a bit bland (more on that later), I thought he was alright. I still prefer the leads from the other shows, however. Aside from him, I grew to like Colleen Wing for her abilities and relationship with Danny, and I also enjoyed Danny’s rocky friendship with fellow K’un-Lun warrior Davos. I initially disliked Danny’s childhood friend Ward, but by the end he redeemed himself. Claire Temple’s return I mostly liked, and there’s also a returning villain who I was happy to see despite the show’s handling of them. Aside from that, I did like one of the newer villains, though their story ended up being very cliched.
  • While the fight scenes could be hit or miss in terms of entertainment, I adored Episode 6 for both its memorable showdowns and all-around comic book feel. I’d say it’s still my favorite episode of the whole season. I also enjoyed one fight that moves from being your typical hallway fight to include an elevator as well. And there was this one hilariously awesome fight with a drunken member of The Hand that was a ton of fun to watch.
  • Finally, I liked some of the visual effects, most notably to show off Danny’s powerful fist. While it was nice to see in fights, I appreciated when it was used for practical reasons such as smashing down a door.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • The plot often threw in a lot of things at once, like villains, and it seemed unfocused at times. Many ideas here could’ve been saved for their own season, and I didn’t care about Danny’s involvement in the corporate plot because I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere for him and it felt too similar to what “Arrow” tried to do. Season 1 felt like a rollercoaster for me quality-wise, and I don’t feel either half was stronger than the other.
  • The returning villain eventually gets cast aside for both the “main” villain as well as a secondary villain. It felt like all three could have carried a season and made me long for the simplicity of “Jessica Jones” for having one major villain alongside a couple morally ambiguous characters.
  • I found I didn’t care for many of the other characters, and I thought they overused Claire. As much as I love Claire as a character, I felt she shouldn’t have been in the majority of this season. It kinda took away from building up a stronger supporting cast to me.
  • This show needed either a bigger budget or better storyboarding because I got sick and tired of Danny having to constantly “tell, don’t show” when he spoke about K’un-Lun. I equally got tired of them reusing the scene of him and his parents’ plane crashing. I would have gladly traded in half the corporate stuff in favor of seeing flashbacks to him training to become the Iron Fist. I also would’ve liked to see him in full costume, but the reference to it was acceptable.
  • My biggest gripe of the entire show is the writing. It lets it down not only with the above “tell, don’t show” aspect, but it also makes Danny comes across less interesting than he should. I would argue that fails the character more than Jones’ performance like many people have blamed. It makes him naive to the point of annoyance and stupidity at times, and he and everyone else seemed to get at least one cheesy and/or clunky line of dialogue. While I liked that Danny was a little more lighthearted and innocent than the other Marvel leads, I’m hoping he’ll fair better writing-wise in “The Defenders.”

Overall, Iron Fist is currently my least favorite of the four Marvel Netflix shows. However, I think it’s okay and isn’t nearly as bad as critics made it out to be. I came in not sure what to expect like I did with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Doctor Strange”, but I came out still thinking more could have been done with this first season. That said, I’m still looking forward to seeing Danny interact with the others in “The Defenders.” As for “Iron Fist”, if it does get a second season, I really hope the showrunners focus on improving the writing before anything else.

My Thoughts on “The Thick of It”

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I didn’t plan to watch “The Thick of It” in any serious capacity. I had considered checking it out for a while, but it was only recently that I decided to give it a shot. Part of that was out of genuine interest and the other was as a precursor to the obsession I’ll no doubt have when “Iron Fist” is released tomorrow. That being said, I didn’t have huge expectations. I knew it was a political satire/comedy show, and I knew that Peter Capaldi swore a lot in it. While I did binge-watch it (which I normally never do) in anticipation of paving the way for “Iron Fist,” I also found myself strangely drawn to the show itself. Also, for clarification, I did see the spin-off movie “In the Loop.” Because it has little to do with the show itself, I’m not going to focus on it here.

It basically follows British politics in a largely fictional sense. The core team involved are considered the government and work directly under the Prime Minister. As the show goes on, it also introduces the opposing party, literally called the opposition, to present both sides. Situations and people are loosely based on real-life counterparts, but the characters are easy to understand even without that knowledge. It might have made things easier for me to grasp in hindsight, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment all that much. The comedy here is a mixture of general bouts of rage, British wit, and pop culture references that for me ranged from immediately recognizable to ones that flew over my head. It made me laugh and chuckle a few times, though probably not as much as others. I’ll also be the first to admit that I don’t watch a lot of comedy anymore outside of improv and the occasional standup. However, this show did entertain me, which I haven’t felt much with some of the more recent American sitcoms.

The characters take some getting used to, whether they stick around or not. They’re all unlikable in some way or another, and it makes it tough to identify with any of them. I kinda think that was the point, though, as no one is truly the main character here. Part of the reason I enjoyed this show is because of the life-or-death stakes. Each episode makes you feel like any of these characters could be fired at the drop of a hat, and they often end on the “upbeat” note of managing to keep their jobs for another day. It’s a nice play on the typical sitcom happy ending, and it gave the show this odd charm for me. As for which characters I liked… Well, as the arguably most sympathetic and plain pathetic character, Glenn Cullen grew on me. His ultimate ending was both sad and triumphant. As the team leader, I also preferred Nicola Murray over Hugh Abbott. Hugh’s lack of pop culture knowledge was funny, and he helped give the first two series something close to a main character. However, I felt Nicola played off of the other characters better, and I still felt a tinge of sympathy for her by the end.

But the character everyone knows and loves from this show is Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi. In some ways, his ruthlessness and conniving attitude reminded me of Frank Underwood from “House of Cards.” There’s something about him, maybe in his confidence or drive to win, that keeps you from hating him as much as you feel you should. Unlike Frank, however, Malcolm doesn’t hide his distaste with pleasantries. If he wants something done, he’ll curse you out or throw some creative insult your way. And even though this show only sometimes gives its characters depth, by the end of the show, Malcolm came out as the most interesting to me. It’s helped by the fact that Capaldi is a great actor who can sell anything given to him (no offense to anyone else on this show as they’re all solid).

I personally found Series 3 to be my favorite, mostly in part of the dynamic between Malcolm and Nicola and co. That’s not to say Series 1 and 2 were weak, but they were stepping stones in my eyes. And Series 4 tried to change up the formula by showcasing both sides of politics, which was done well, but I ultimately felt the final episode was a little anti-climatic in parts. It also took me some time to get used to the handheld style of shooting in the series, which I’d only seen done occasionally on shows like “The Office” and wasn’t a fan of. Despite my gripes, though, “The Thick of It” was pretty good. Even though Malcolm basically makes the show, it still kept me coming back to see how both the one-off and overarching scenarios would get resolved. I’d recommend giving it a shot as long as you’re open to British humor. And as I said earlier, while you can get background on who and what aspects of the show are based off of, it’s still easy to get into without that. Now, here’s hoping I don’t keep expecting the Twelfth Doctor to swear up a storm when Series 10 of “Doctor Who” starts next month.

The Journey Ends

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Well, since I’ve already watched the Seventh and Eighth Doctors’ TV runs in the past (both were fun if a bit cheesy at times), I’ve now come to the end of my journey through the classic era of “Doctor Who.” Having seen many episodes involving the Fourth Doctor, a few with the Fifth, and a very select few of the Sixth, I can already say that the Fourth’s was my favorite run of this bunch. That said, just like before, let’s take a look at what I thought of each Doctor and their tenures.

The Fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker) was one of the quirkiest and sometimes downright scariest of the bunch. He was almost like a human mood ring. One minute he might be flippant, the next grinning kinda maniacally, and he could easily become serious or angry at the drop of a hat. One of his most appealing traits for me is his sweet tooth, aka his love for the gummy candy called Jelly Babies. However, because Baker’s tenure was the longest (clocking in at SEVEN seasons), there were times I felt a little burnt out on his Doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why he’s so popular and Baker has a lot of charisma to spare. But I could also notice when he seemed a bit…tired in the role. It didn’t help that his first few seasons felt stronger to me than the remaining ones did. Despite that, it’s no wonder his run ended up coming out on top for me. As for his companions, I literally want to give a four-way tie to Sarah Jane, Leela, Romana (BOTH versions), and K9. All of them were extremely likable and I loved their varying personalities.

The Fifth Doctor (played by Peter Davison) easily comes across as the gentlest Doctor. He’s almost like a puppy in a way, because when he’s not being generally friendly, he can be excitable and passionate depending on the situation. Yes, he can also get angry and irritable, but that’s the impression I got from him overall. Sadly, his run came across pretty hit and miss, so I guess I’m in agreement with Davison himself on that. Still, he brought his all to the role and had a ton of energy even in some of the more lackluster stories. It’s weird to think that, at the time, he was the youngest person to play the Doctor, because he fits in pretty well with the others. Unfortunately, his companions felt bland compared to my favorites from Tom Baker’s tenure. I wasn’t big on Tegan, Turlough was interesting but short-lived, Nyssa could’ve been great if she wasn’t sidelined practically all the time, and nothing needs to be said about Adric. I’ll get into Peri in a minute, but I’ll just say that the Fifth Doctor deserved a better supporting cast and leave it at that.

The Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) is often the least-liked Doctor and it’s not hard to see why. Not only was his run cut tragically short, but Six is overly violent and acts like a jerk to everyone, including his own companions. Obviously, he got way better thanks to Big Finish, and I appreciate them for bringing some warmth to the character. But as far as the TV show is concerned, he can be a big douche most of the time. Still, I did like when Colin would tone it down from time to time, and even though he could be incredibly pompous, there were still moments where he felt like the Doctor. He even had a couple rare moments of kindness that I’m sure would’ve become more frequent had his tenure continued. But, because of how mishandled his run was, it was up to Big Finish to fill in the gaps. It’s a shame not only for him but also his companions. He only got two during this time, and both of them annoyed me. Peri’s American accent constantly bothered me, and she put up with his insults more times than I would’ve liked. As for Mel, she barely gets time with Six to make much of an impact, and I found her time with Seven often unbearable. Overall, if there was a Doctor who deserved better in every aspect, it was the Sixth.

That’s the end of my time with Classic “Doctor Who.” I know I kept things very general, but the main takeaway I had was more appreciation and respect for the show. Even though I mostly prefer the pacing of the new series, it’s nice to see how much thought and effort was put into the scripts (well, sometimes). I feel like everyone who’s a fan of the current “Doctor Who” should try to watch at least one story per Doctor, if only to see how far the show has come. And while I haven’t watched everything and probably never will, I’m glad I took this journey through the show’s past.

The Journey So Far…

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As I said last week, I’m slowly working my way through a bunch of the most acclaimed episodes from the classic era of “Doctor Who.” Since I’m still somewhere in the middle of the Fourth Doctor’s (aka Tom Baker) tenure, I figured I’d share my general thoughts on the first three Doctors and their runs. Without any further ado, let’s get started.

The First Doctor (played by William Hartnell) took me some time to warm up to. Considering he’s the most grandpa-like of the Doctors, he starts off gruff and very rough around the edges. But as he learns to dial down his violent tendencies and occasional cowardice, he becomes much friendlier and more keen to save the day. Even though more of his stories technically exist compared to Troughton’s, I found them the hardest to get through. As I’ve mentioned before, the slower pacing isn’t something I’m used to and since many of the First Doctor’s stories could be both historical and educational, it took a while for me to click with them. He also had plenty of companions during his tenure, though I felt Ian and Barbara were easily the best followed by Vicki (the others were…alright). Even though “Doctor Who” had some growing pains, there’s no denying the influence Hartnell and co. had. I can’t help but appreciate what they accomplished even with limited resources.

The Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) was a lot more carefree with the occasional bouts of seriousness. I can definitely see how Matt Smith’s Doctor was influenced by Troughton’s performance. While his recorder hijinks were impressive if sometimes annoying, he had this lightheartedness to him that easily set him apart from Hartnell’s Doctor. Of course, the writing helped too, even if it took a little time to mold this Doctor into the clown he is. The unfortunate part of his run is the lack of episode footage. A lot of the great stuff in his run was hampered for me by the necessary use of reconstructions. I would’ve loved to see his missing episodes in live action. As far as my favorite companion of his, I’d say that honor goes to mainly Jamie with Zoe not far behind. And even though I said I’d keep this general, I just have to name drop “The Mind Robber” as one of the best things I’ve seen from Classic “Doctor Who” period. It’s so imaginative and bizarre that words can’t do it justice.

Finally, the Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) was sometimes uptight and arrogant, but also often warm and kind. He felt grandpa-like to me as well, at least with Jo Grant, and one thing that sets him far apart from the other Doctors is his fighting prowess. Seriously, this guy was like an action hero compared to his predecessors. He also mostly trades up the Tardis for a car he calls Bessie thanks to being exiled to Earth (long story). This is where UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart come into play, and the stories are mainly Earth-centric as a result. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I did find myself yearning for an actual Tardis adventure after a while of seeing nothing but Earth locales. I also discovered how much I friggin’ love Roger Delgado’s role as the Master, and he’s easily my favorite version now. It’s like watching Moriarty duke it out with Sherlock with his Master and Pertwee’s Doctor. As for companions, I’d easily say the Brigadier will forever be my favorite. However, excluding UNIT, that honor goes to Jo Grant. I enjoyed her fun-loving chemistry with Pertwee, and even though I do really like Sarah Jane Smith, I feel she’s better suited with the Fourth Doctor (more on that next week, perhaps?).

So, I’d say of the first three Doctors, my favorite tenure goes to Troughton. While I liked the groundwork laid by Hartnell’s and the Master shenanigans in Pertwee’s, Troughton’s just came across as the most entertaining to me even with the lack of actual episodes. Of course, I’ll stress here and now that I love EVERY incarnation of the Doctor (yes, even Six), so I personally don’t consider one better than another. Even though Matt Smith’s was my first and the one I’m most attached to, the Doctor as a character always interests and fascinates me. And despite them being no longer with us, Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee have my respect now more than ever before.