Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What I'm watching #1:

I've been watching a ton of TV lately across a whole variety of genres.  There are some old favourites on the list as well as some unlikely newcomers, so I thought I'd share with you all in case you need some help deciding on your next telly obsession.

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The Mindy Project
was created by and stars the witty and talented Mindy Kaling (who you may know as Kelly Kapoor from The Office).  The Mindy Project is a light hearted comedy (with the odd surreal moment thrown in for good measure) centred around the wistfully single, thirty-something Mindy Lahiri.  At first, I described the show to those who hadn't seen it as 'Bridget Jones-esque' (and got a few groans in response, particularly from Craig...).  However, in my opinion, as the first season unfolds, the somewhat predictable main plot point of Mindy's tempestuous love life is balanced out by her 
brilliantly strong and funny supporting cast and their own characters' stories.  In short, once I had persuaded Craig to watch a couple of episodes, I caught him chuckling away at Mindy and her colleagues just as much as I did.  There are some great celebrity cameos in the majority of episodes, and bear in mind that Mindy Kaling was a writer for The Office, as well as an actor, so if you like one then you will probably enjoy the other!

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Despite being one of the biggest scaredy cats the world has ever known, I recently decided to give American Horror Story a go.  Somehow I convinced myself that a TV show simply couldn't be as scary as a film.  Surely they wouldn't be allowed to actually put anything remotely disturbing on American prime time TV?  Surely I couldn't get anywhere near as creeped out by a TV episode in my own living room (in broad daylight) than I could in a tense and pitch black cinema screen for several hours?  
I was wrong.  

The first season of American Horror Story is set in an infamous 'murder house' in Los Angeles, and centres on its inhabitants, both past and present.  The second season, which Craig and I are currently working our way through, takes place largely inside an insane asylum and, again, focuses on the stories of the people there.  The premises of both seasons are typical of their genre, and the show blatantly borrows from many famous horror films, as well as real crimes.  On top of that, the show's story lines can be fairly exaggerated (verging on excessive) and seem to run away from the writers at points, particularly in the first season.  

Yet, somehow, it still works.  American Horror Story is still gripping and definitely still scary, especially for a chicken like me, but also for a horror fanatic like Craig.  In my opinion, the dramatic plot twists are the best part of the show, and these are especially well thought out and executed in the second, 'Asylum' season.  Evan Peters and Jessica Lange deserve a special mention for delivering the best acting performances throughout both series, and they both make up for and carry the weaker actors in the show.

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I couldn't be happier that Mad Men is back on our screens again.  Although a lot has changed in six seasons, the show still adds a much needed dose of glamour to my humdrum life.  As I'm sure you'll all know by now, Mad Men is set in the 1960s and follows an advertising agency (or group of 'ad men' - took me a worryingly long time to make that connection!) through both their work and personal lives.  Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, the leading man everyone loves to love and loves to hate in equal measure, and he is backed up by an excellent supporting cast.  John Slattery, as Roger Sterling, is one of my personal favourites, and his character adds some much needed comic relief to the show's more over dramatic story lines.  If you haven't seen Mad Men before, start from the beginning.  You have a lot to look forward to!

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Breaking Bad
is another TV show that has been a favourite for a while (thanks to my old flatmate, Liam, who introduced me to a lot of great programs!).  Breaking Bad follows the story of a high school chemistry teacher who feels forced to begin producing and selling crystal meth in order to provide for his family.  As you can imagine (and considering that there are currently five seasons) there are some consequences.  If you've never seen Breaking Bad before, I have two questions for you:

1) Remember Malcolm in the Middle?  
2) Remember Malcolm's Dad, Hal?

The mild mannered Hal was played by actor Bryan Cranston, who also plays Walter White, the main character in Breaking Bad.  I only ask about Malcolm in the Middle, because if you remember Hal and then watch Breaking Bad, I think it becomes immediately clear how versatile an actor Cranston is.  The show is extremely tense at points, as you might expect from its subject matter, but it has its comedic moments as well, particularly in the earlier episodes.  Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, is easily my favourite character, and I'm always rooting for him.  Quite recently, one of my managers at work became utterly obsessed with Breaking Bad, and was so excited to tell me where he was in the story every time we spoke.  It just goes to show that anyone can get addicted!

I'm still dutifully watching the US remake of mockumentary sitcom The Office in its ninth and final season, feeling simultaneously heartbroken and relieved with every new episode.  The show and its amazing cast make me laugh just as much as they always have, but something isn't quite the same any more.  So many brilliant characters have left (some without any explanation) and, as has become the tradition with most American sitcoms, The Office has begun to drag out a little.  I'm looking forward to the finale, as I hear lots of old cast members will be coming back.  Don't get me wrong, I will be very sad to see The Office go, but there is nothing better than going back to the very beginning and starting it all over again.  If you haven't done it already yourself, I highly recommend it!

Are you as addicted to any of these programs as I am?  What have you been watching?  I've already been told by a few friends that I should try Girls next.  I'd love to hear some suggestions for shows to check out in the future, if you have any recommendations!

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