Thursday, 2 January 2014

The TMT Awards 2013: Category 3 - Television

Hi all,
No delay today! TV shows are just a lot easier to write about (possibly because you've heard of some of them) which makes my reviewing so much easier! I just finished the fourth season of Glee which explains the super-angst in the introduction, by the way. Now working my way through Teen Wolf. So addictive!

Of all of the categories this year, television was the hardest for me to pick just five. I watch a lot of television and discover so many great series’ that caused this list to change so many times. Some of my favourites from the year I’ve had to exclude (Land Of The Lost, This Is Jinsy, The Story Of Film, Brimstone & Treacle, Rick & Steve, Please Like Me, True Blood) but the list I have now are the 5 series that defined my year. There’s some really high quality programming being created at the moment and there are some great shows from the past which just make me realise that television is one of my favourite mediums. It’s the sense of connection that you don’t get with films (because of their short duration they have to tell a powerful story to work), books (which have to have something to make you keep reading) and music (which has a very different kind of power, because it can be associated with any moment and it’s so personal). We watch these people over a number of weeks (or a number of hours thanks to DVD) and grow to know them as family. It hurts when these people die or are heartbroken because we love them (or hate them in some cases). And when the series ends, it feels like something is missing but you keep strong by remembering all the lessons that they’ve taught you. That’s the miracle of narrative, which will never, ever change. I present to you my top five television series and animes I viewed this year. 

 
The Top 5 Television Series

1. American Horror Story: Murder House

My favourite series of the year was also one of the last I viewed, completing it in November. I’d heard of this series before because it was by the creator of Glee and tumblr is obsessed with it. In fact, it was tumblr that finally pushed me over the edge into viewing this series. And by god, I’m thankful that they did, even though it’s completely terrifying. There’s murders and freakouts and mysteries and disgusting moments and disturbing characters that you grow to love anyway. It’s the characters that make this show so addictive. You have to know what’s going to happen next, because you can never guess what these people are going to do or what’s going to happen to them. The end of the series is nothing like how I imagined it would be which is a testament to the level of skilful writing. Another thing that really worked in this series’ favour is that it borrows elements from other horror films and manipulates them to fit the story they’re trying to tell. This makes it something of  a film buff’s dream as you realise that that’s a bit like Rosemary’s Baby. And that bit’s Halloween and that’s the music from Vertigo! And yet despite all this borrowing, it still comes across as completely fresh and original with genuinely horrifying and clever twists. This was my television addiction of the year and one of the scariest shows I’ve ever seen (that title sequence!).

2. Game Of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2
I think you’d have to be living under a rock if you hadn’t heard of this show before. I only started watching it this year, though. One of my friends tried to get me to watch it last year, but I couldn’t see how it could be so great, so I passed on it. Then I got to Uni and it was all that my friends were talking about. I realised that if I wanted to avoid big spoilers I was going to have to watch it sooner rather than later. The first season was excellent, with me immediately growing attached to key characters such as Daenyrs and Arya Stark. The depth of character, the scope of the story and the intricacy of it was like nothing I’d ever seen before and it was immensely gripping. I was soon desperate for the second season which came in to the library shortly after. I wasn’t as big a fan of this (probably because of the lack of Daenyrs) but it was still head and shoulders above most television series. The episode Blackwater is probably the best single episode I watched this year but I soon came to a problem. The series was over before I realised. Now, I’m desperate for the third season, although I am wary. The phrase Red Wedding was all over my Facebook and I don’t think I’m fully prepared for that hell.

3. The Singing Detective
One of the most literate and engrossing programs I’ve ever seen, The Singing Detective soon became my thinking hour. From the 70s and written by Dennis Potter, it’s just one of those shows where you really have to pay attention. Floating between numerous time zones and featuring a murder mystery and insane musical numbers, the series requires you to solve the mystery of the main character. Who is he? Why do we keep seeing the train? Over the half a dozen episodes, you’re slowly given clues until you finally learn the truth in one of the most satisfying and thought-provoking series endings I’ve seen in a very long time. There’s just so many themes and layers to this series that it almost requires re-watching to fully uncover all of the mysteries. However, even on a single view this series has stood out to me as one of the most intelligent and challenging series’ I’ve seen.

4. House Of Cards: Season 1
It’s strange what leads you to discover really great things. House Of Cards, for example, I discovered through Dylan O’Brien (Stiles of Teen Wolf) tweeting about it. I looked it up and was intrigued by the premise. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting for it to come to DVD. And a few weeks ago it did and I watched it in about four days. It’s just so addictive. Congressman Underwood’s scheming and struggle to get into power make him one of the most watchable characters of the year, even when he’s doing some really horrible things. He says the wisest things which really make you think but then he turns to the camera and says he doesn’t believe any of the crap he’s just said. He does it all the time. We don’t really know who he is, so we’re just trying to find something, which is exactly what the characters do. He offers them greatness which just allows them to be manipulated. It’s genius. Twisted, but genius. And it’s the supporting characters that again do great work. His wife, Clare, is a stunning character while the drug, sex and alcohol addicted Peter Russo is compulsively watchable. You know that these people are stuffed as soon as they get close enough to Francis, but still you want them to so you can watch the world burn. And then when Francis world gets untangled, he’s clever enough to come up with a solution. And evil enough. Something happens towards the end of the series which is truly shocking and unexpected which left me breathless. I can’t enthuse about this series enough. A definite must watch.

5. The Fairly OddParents: Season 6
I’m always amazed when I watch things that I used to love as a child because I realise just how impressionable I am. My obsession with Britain and my general insanity and oddness comes from watching Alice In Wonderland and Mary Poppins every other day. Much of my deep thinking and philosophical ponderings comes from viewing Sophie’s World when I was in grade six (watching that again was really shocking because everything from the music to the actors has shaped the way I am. So strange). And then there’s The Fairly OddParents. One of my absolute favourite shows from childhood (along with CatDog, The Secret Show and Silversun), my overriding memory of it is actually very specific. It was the episode where Timmy and his Fairy Godparents are trapped in the television which was wonderfully meta (no, I had no idea what that word meant at the time. I just thought it was cool that they were crossing over with some of my favourite shows. I remember in one they were puppets like Sesame Street. Possibly my first ever fangasm. Yep, even when I was young I was a supernerd. Some things never change) and it was incredibly intense. I needed to know if they ever got out of there. Unfortunately, parents seem to be psychic about these sort of things. This was the one day where we were having a family barbecue. We never had them, but I was called outside, forced away from my beloved show to have some sausages and chops. I was so stressed about it, I couldn’t really focus on the food. After the meal, I ran inside to see that it was finished. I never knew if they ever escaped. I attribute this to my obsession with cliffhangers and open endings. Over the years, I’ve often tried to find the episode but never could. Even the library didn’t have any of the DVDs. Periodically, I do a such and this time I was overjoyed to find that they now had one season, the fifth. Watching it again was terribly exciting (even though it wasn’t the TV one) and I finished the whole season in about two days before I came to the concluding three-part epic where each episode went for 45 minutes. Now, no-one does epic and weird better than this show so it was awesome. Until I got to the end of the second episode. Where there was a really bad scratch and it refused to play any further. Henceforth, this shall be now as the Fairly OddCurse. Life is always repeating, even when we don’t want it to (don’t worry, I did eventually watch it on television much to my mother’s chagrin. She thinks it’s too silly. Lighten up!).

The Top 5 Anime
 
1. Free!
Where do I begin with Free! The ultimate slash potential of the hot anime swimmers? The sense of connection that I cultivated with these characters? Or the fact that I still miss this show? I first heard of this series because of that trailer (which was possibly the hottest thing I saw this year. Actually, no that probably goes to Eric Saade’s video for Winning Ground) and soon needed to see the series. A few months later I got the chance. It began as the whole slash thing as I picked out my fave pairings (Haru x Rin, Nagisa x Rei, Makoto for me) but as I watched it over the next 11 weeks, I actually grew to love these people as part of my family. Something happens when you watch a series every week for 12 weeks. It just becomes part of you in a really, special intimate way. One week it wasn’t on and I suffered withdrawal symptoms. I needed these characters, their friendship, their rivalries, their romance (imaginary. With each other. I created a whole story around Haru and Rin’s past relationship getting in the way of his burgeoning one with Makoto. It was a good storytelling exercise in my head). And when it finished, I cried like a small child. I still miss this show so, so much. Hearing the theme tunes again makes my chest fill with knots. These five boys were my family. I celebrated when they celebrated. I cried when they cried. And now I miss them like crazy. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
 
2. Azumanga Daioh
This was the other series’ I got very connected to. Despite being first broadcast a very long time ago, I watched the six volumes from the library over several months. Like Free!, it began simply enough. Azumanga Daioh is hilarious. There’s the running joke about the tall girl who keeps trying to get closer to cats, the small genius with pigtails and the really very unintelligent girl. But as you get to know them (and we get to know the six girls and their two teachers very well because the series takes place over their three years at high school), we realise that they’re more than these silly clich├ęs. They’re real characters and great friends who just have lives filled with hilarity. They soon became some of my best friends. When I was feeling low, I’d put on the next episode and feel brilliant again. I hadn’t felt this connected with something since I watched Glee. But ultimately it had to end. So with great sadness, I put the DVD in and watched the whole thing in one night. I was there as they studied for their exams and celebrated when they got into the colleges they wanted to. Ultimately, however, I cried as they graduated. Chiyo (the pigtailed one) cries and I joined her as I recalled my own high school time. While it was nowhere near as eventful as theirs, I did make some great friends and had some great times and that is ultimately what this celebrates. I still find it hard to believe that I will never have more adventures with these people but what’s great is that I know they’ll remain friends.
 
3. Death Note
Despite watching this for over a year, I never did grow that sense of attachment to the characters of Death Note. Maybe because the main one was evil. Or was he? That’s what makes this anime one of the most highly regarded, because there’s that ambiguity there. We’re forced to think about what we would do if we were given a book which killed people. Whose side would we be on? Unlike other series, it uses its key concept to the fullest. This has more twists and turns and shocking moments than any anime I’ve yet seen which drags you into it. We’re awed by the scheming of Light and L, watching them try and outsmart each other before the final jaw-dropping twist and resolution. There is so much in this series that is iconic and worth praise (‘I’m going to take this chip. AND EAT IT!’ to the most epic music imaginable). It’s epic and personal. Thought-provoking but also not something you really need to think about. Plus it has the most epic soundtrack ever and a truly amazing ending. If you consider yourself any kind of anime fan, this is absolutely the one series that you have to see. Intense.
 
4. Steins; Gate
From the first episode which references Doctor Who and features a strange development halfway through, I knew this wasn’t going to be just another anime. Almost impossible to describe without giving away huge plot developments or needing a diagram, this series is just filled with strange mysteries and even stranger characters. It begins really lightweight introducing characters and being generally a lot of fun. But then something happens halfway through the series which changes everything. It becomes darker, filled with character deaths and paradoxes and time-loops and parallel universes. If this sounds hard to understand, it’s not because the focus is firmly on the characters rather than the temporal theory. Needless to say, I cried towards the end as the final solution became clear. It’s shocking and heartbreaking and unexpected (well, not entirely. I sort of worked out that something like this might have to happen. Pay close attention to the English subtitles of the title song. It contains more than a few clues. It’s also an awesome song) and cemented this as one of the very best anime series’ I’ve seen. Hard sci-fi and winning romance mixed with some really fascinating mysteries? A recipe for some really great entertainment.
5. Watamote
The other anime series that I watched more on less as it was broadcast, Watamote is just insane. Generally quite dirty, awkward and truly hilarious, it follows the exploits of a nerdy girl who just really wants to be cool but resents the cool people. She thinks that they are the reason that she’s not popular, forgetting that she’s actually a huge nerd and more than a little socially awkward. As a supernerd who’s really socially awkward, I related to this series a lot more than I should. Okay, I’ve never thought that someone was sexually abusing me only for it to turn out to be a hockey stick or wiped my forehead with a hanky only for it to turn out to be a pair of expensive underpants, but I could imagine that I would do many of the stupid things she does. Half of the time, it’s not even her fault. Circumstances continually work against her, presenting her as a far dirtier person than she actually is. Early episodes are actually quite painful because she doesn’t really have anyone being nice to her, but then she seems to get a boy’s attention. Throughout the rest of the series, I was praying that she’d get together with him. And then she meets him again and stuffs it up. Badly. There’s just some really clever, accurate and painfully funny comedy in this series. If you want to laugh til you actually feel physical pain, this is the series for you. Please God, make another season of this!
 

If I can find time, then tomorrow will be the top 10 films. If not, then it will be Monday. So much to talk about there! See you all again soon!
Thanks,
James

1 comment:

  1. Aah love some of these! Namely the Game of Thrones seasons 1 and 2 and DeathNote. I agree that there isn't nearly enough Daenerys in season 2 of GoT and you're going to need to brace yourself for season 3, especially the Red Wedding. NO ONE was prepared for that, not even people who read the books first. Oh-ehm-gee.

    I have only seen the first episode of House of Cards and I like it a lot. My bf is trying to get me into it because everyone else he has shown hasn't liked it. I don't get why! It's so intense and I've only seen the first episode! Kevin Spacey is an amazing actor. I'll let my bf know that he is not alone in the House of Cards world.

    And DeathNote. Oh DeathNote. I started watching that part-way through while it was airing on ABC3 a few years back and just fell in love with it. Love that line with the potato chip! The concepts are so dark and serious and everything that Light and L do is so intelligent and left me hanging on the edge of my seat, but I loved how it was balanced with humour, especially from Misa and sometimes Ryuk, even though he is creepy as hell.

    Thanks for telling us about these shows :)

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