Monday, December 5, 2016

TV shows - drama

The final two posts for this year are reviews of more light-hearted things  - TV shows.  Perhaps something will interest you over the summer!  Today’s are dramas, next week’s are comedies.  Then it’s time for a break for me too!

Over the years we have watched many TV shows on DVD or some free offer of Netflix, Stan, etc.  We often find that at the end of the day watching an episode is a good way to wind down and relax.  Sometimes it is the precursor to talking about the day, sometimes it happens after that.   Sometimes, when we have both had too much on, it’s a good way to spend time together but not talk anymore!   We usually have a drama series on the go at any one time, as well as a comedy.  It also seems that we always have two series on the go, one has 40-60 min episodes, another 20 mins – allowing more choice depending on mood and time available.

Here are some of the dramas we have enjoyed (probably spanning about the last 10 years)

House Husbands
We’re currently working our way through this, just having finished season 2.  It’s the story of 4 intertwined families, where the husbands are the ones mostly caring for the kids, and all have a child in the first year of school.   There is a blended family, a divorced family, a gay family and a ‘nuclear’ family.  I like the realistic portrayal of much of Australian family life where people are busy balancing jobs, family and friendships.  I like the way the men support each other and encourage each other to step up rather than be slack.   The school the kids go to is like any Aussie primary school, where you meet the teachers and parents and have to figure out how involved to be.   It gets more dramatic as it goes on (more like a soap opera) but for now, it’s still pretty good.

Sherlock (BBC)
Modern drama based around the idea of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson.   There are 3 seasons of detailed, very well produced 90 minute episodes, with only 3 to a season.   Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, the genius who is out of place in a normal world.   They take concentration and are best watched all together over a few months/weeks so you can keep track of characters and plotlines.  Very enjoyable watching for when you want to think a bit more.
NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles
We have been watching these on and off for years.   Starting with NCIS, it’s a good solid crime drama, without the gore of some other shows.  A murder/crime is always discovered in the opening scene and the rest of the episode it’s up to the team at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to solve it.   NCIS is in its 14th season and has slowly developed the main characters over this time.  NCIS: Los Angeles (up to Season 8) is more angled at solving terrorism cases, and this one has really grown on me.   I like the interplay between the characters here more (must be different scriptwriters), there are essentially 4 pairings of friends/partners and it is generally funnier and more light-hearted than NCIS.   Both are easy to watch with some humour and enjoyable characters.  
Friday Night Lights
It took me a while to give this one a go, it’s the story of a high school football coach, Eric Taylor in Texas. With his wife, Tami (a high school counsellor) and daughter Julie, they move to Dillon, for him to take over the local team.   Their story is told over 5 seasons with a fair number of changes in their situation, as it also charts the life of the students under their care.   I liked the reality of the situation they were dealing with for teenagers, although it did make me grateful (yet again) that I returned from the US and went to high school in Australia.   Overall, the best part of this series is the strength of Eric and Tami’s marriage and how they work through the ups and downs of life together.    

The West Wing
Probably the best drama we have watched in the last 10 years (we came to it late).  Spanning seven seasons (1999-2006), it charted the presidency of Democrat Josiah Bartlett with his key staff and family alongside him.   Loved by millions, chances are you have already watched this series, but if you’ve never tried it, it’s still worth it.  Get to the end of Season 1 and tell me you aren’t hooked!

The Newsroom
Another offering by Aaron Sorkin, this three-season series has Jeff Daniels starring as a news anchor Will McAvoy on News Night, a cable news program and his ex-girlfriend MacKenzie McHale as his executive producer.  Each episode is built around an actual news event, the pilot starting with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  This series got better as it went along, it took a while to warm to the characters (I found Maggie, an associate producer, especially annoying).  We like Sorkin’s writing, so we liked this series.

Madam Secretary 
Another US offering based around the events of the US government.  Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), an ex-CIA analyst (and happily married mother of three) is called upon by her old CIA director boss, now President to be his new Secretary of State.   Now in its third season, this is one of the few shows we watch as episodes are showed (well, taped of course to skip the ads).    Two aspects of this show stand out for me - firstly, the high levels of ethical and moral accountability both Elizabeth and her husband Henry (ex-marine, theology professor and lecturer at the National War College) have.  As he is well researched in theology and philosophy, the show has some intelligent comment on complex religious issues too.   Secondly, I really like the portrayal of their marriage and parenting - they are both busy, high-level public servants, but they are committed to each other and to their family.   It's a good show.

800 Words
An Australian-New Zealand co-operative effort, the is the story of George Turner (Erik Thompson), a journalist whose column is always exactly 800 words.   In the wake of his wife's death, he decides to uproot his two teenage children and move to New Zealand so they can all start anew.   This is the story of them finding their way in the small rural community of Weld.  You can see it going the way of all of these types of shows - good and realistic for the first few seasons, then getting soap opera-ish as the original story idea fades and they need to add more drama.   But, two seasons in, it's been pretty good so far.  

I have also written previously about: 24, ANZAC GirlsCall the Midwife and East West 101.

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