Stuart’s Entertainment Review – August 7th (or “Everything From Total Divas to The Twilight Zone”)

It’s been a while since I wrote one of my general entertainment reviews, so it’s time to go back to it.

Here’s some of the TV I’ve watched over the last month or so.

Big Brother

I know it’s not the done thing to say it anymore, but I’ve enjoyed Big Brother on Channel 5 this year.

Sure, the concept is a little bit old hat now, but the idea that the show can’t be good these days is nonsense. It entirely depends upon the quality of the people they bring in to be housemates. Where Endemol, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have gone wrong in recent years is in casting some of the most fame hungry, attention seeking dregs of society to take part. I have no interest in watching that sort of thing, so I stopped a few years ago. But I had heard the newest series was quite good, so I gave it a go and found that it was. On the whole it has a decent mix of characters who – up until very recently – kept my attention without being caricatures. Well…maybe except for those awful twins.

But there has definitely been some entertainment to be gotten from Big Brother, with everyone on their toes wondering what the next swerve will be, and some of the stupidest conversations I’ve ever seen on TV.

For example, one woman – who was one of those people who has done whatever you’ve done, but better or more extreme – claimed her daughter had died in her arms in a bid to have a bigger sob story than another woman who said her daughter had seen her grandmother die. But it turns out her daughter hadn’t died, and had simply stopped breathing for a few minutes before being resuscitated.

And so kicked off one of the best/worst arguments I’ve ever seen.

That’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

Anyway, as with all seasons of Big Brother, all the housemates who bring entertainment and controversy have been kicked out now, so it’s winding down to a halt.

Dexter

 So you’ll know that Dexter is one of my Top 10 TV Dramas of all time, but sadly, this final season has started with a whimper. As of today I’m a couple of episodes behind, so it could have kicked off by now, but as of the last time I saw it, it certainly dexterhadn’t.

The thing is, I’m a binge watcher when it comes to TV shows, so when people say that a show like Dexter is meant to be watched one week at a time, I think this season disproves that. I’m sure it will all come to an exciting conclusion and looking back on it, the season as a whole will be remembered well, but when it’s going as slowly as it is, I almost think it would be better to wait and let the show get to its final week and then watch it all together.

Suits

Suits is also back, although is hasn’t really had a chance to kick into gear.

What I’ve found most interesting is that they’ve hired some rather pedestrian British actors like Max Beesley and Adam Godley to take on major parts.

It’s still good, but it needs a more interesting and different approach, otherwise it’ll get old quite fast.

The Great War:

This isn’t a TV show that’s on now, but rather the DVD boxed set of a 1964 BBC documentary series made to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the First World War.

It’s interesting on a number of levels. First of all, I’m learning a lot about WW1 that I never knew about before.

Before I watched this, had you asked me to describe the war, I – and I assume many people – would talk about the trench warfare in Western Europe between the Allies and Germany, because that’s what all the TV shows about it these days focus on, but there’s so much more to it. I didn’t really know about the military plans and advances that got them to the trenches, nor did I know about the different battles and wars raging in the other parts of the world that don’t really get spoken about anymore. Thanks to this documentary, I can talk with some authority about the Schlieffen Plan. So there!

Another reason that the documentary is interesting is because of the graphic nature of it. They don’t hold back with the footage that they show, and so you’re exposed to seeing people shot, corpses rotting away in mass graves and recently hung people swinging from the gallows. It’s incredible that sort of footage was shown back then on prime time BBC. This must have been before Mary Whitehouse and her gang kicked up a fuss.

Finally, what’s captivating about it is the amount and clarity of some of the footage available. The world at that point was a completely different place in terms of how places looked and people dressed. Ok, I know that’s obvious, but what I mean is that to see it in footage captured at the time seems utterly incongruous.

I’d recommend this DVD to anyone with even a passing interest in the world from this era.

The Killing:

I’ve started watching the critically acclaimed Forbrydelsen, or as it’s called in English, The Killing.

Before starting it, I had to make the choice between watching the US or Danish version. Plenty of people recommended the Danish one, but you can never be sure whether or not they are recommending it because it’s actually better or because they want to feel more arty and high brow by saying they got more enjoyment out of a foreign language TV show.

But since nobody recommended the US one over it, I gave the original a go.

Is it good? Well I’m only seven episodes in, but I’m enjoying it. It takes a while to warm up, and I don’t feel it has the moreish quality of certain US TV shows but I think that’s because you’re essentially reading it rather than watching it. Unlike a show in English, you can’t multitask and look away without missing potentially crucial lines of dialogue.

Ach well.

But I’ll continue on with it.

The Newsroom:

Another TV show that’s back for a summer season is the Newsroom.The_Newsroom_HBO

As I said in my Top 50 TV Dramas I went back to watch the first season again in preparation, and in hindsight it should have been further up my list.

Season Two has started off well with the Operation Genoa storyline and the fun – if not entirely predictable – storyline of Jim on the campaign bus.

Again, the problem with it is that they’ll never be able to do a really juicy storyline since they base their news stories on real life, so as much as Jim wanted to interview Mitt Romney, we knew he never would.

Best characters? Well they remain Will McAvoy and Sloan Sabbath for me, while my least favourite is still the self-absorbed Maggie, who I think we’re supposed to think is cute (as in “Awwww isn’t she nice” rather than meaning her looks), but who I just think is annoying.

My brother criticises it for having dialogue that people wouldn’t actually say in reality, and while I think that’s a fair criticism, and one I have used in plenty of reviews in the past, I’m not too fussed by it here because the dialogue is – to use a tired expression – sparkling.

The Twilight Zone

I’ve always wanted to watch the Twilight Zone since becoming a major fan of the Tower of Terror ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (a ride, by the way that I consider one of – if not the – best theme park attraction in the entire world for the complete experience), and finally I’ve had a chance to do so.

I’ve only seen three episodes, but I’ve liked what I have seen. Episodes One and Three were fine, but I was actually taken aback by how much I enjoyed the second episode. It’s about an old salesman who is visited by Death and warned he is about to die that night. He manages to convince Death that he should be allowed to live until he makes the one big sales pitch he’s never managed, but then reneges on that deal.

As such, Death is forced to take action and tries to take a young child in his place. So his big sales pitch ends up being to convince Death to take him instead.

It’s a well acted and rather touching piece, and it’s incredible that they managed to do it in a mere 20 minutes.

What’s also interesting is that you’d never be able to do that episode now. Society was clearly different back then; it was innocent enough to have a story involving an old bachelor who gives toys to children, invites them round to his house and openly says that he “loves them”.

Ah society was simpler before The Rise of the Paedos in the 1990s.

Total Divas

Now here’s a show I didn’t think I’d watch, but after two weeks of reading nothing but positive reviews, I gave it a shot.totaldivas

Total Divas is one of these E! channel reality shows like Jersey Shore or The Only Way Is Essex, but it’s about some of WWE’s female wrestlers.

And it’s surprisingly good.

What’s interesting for me as a wrestling fan is that it gives quite an open look at the backstage workings of WWE. And it’s especially odd seeing how everyone freely admits to playing characters in wrestling. Gone are the days of Kayfabe, dear reader.

So while the Bella Twins are the ultimate bitchy heels on Raw and Smackdown, over on the E! Channel they are a couple of normal sisters (although Nikki Bella is still a bitch) going out with John Cena and Daniel Bryan (or as they call him here, Bryan Danielson). That’s right, two of the biggest villains are going out with two of the biggest heroes. Furthermore, there are open admissions of matches having “Dress rehearsals” and road agents discussing how the matches will be constructed with the wrestlers before they go to the ring.

Now sure, we live in a world where everyone knows wrestling is predetermined, but it’s still an interesting watch.

Since it is WWE though, there is – as you’d expect – some level of fakeness about it. There’s no way that Eva Marie would have gotten away with lying about being a ballroom dancer in front of the E! cameras without it getting back to the Talent Relations Dept first.

Still, it’s enjoyable enough.

Under The Dome

Finally we move to Under the Dome, the new show based on a Stephen King novel of the same name.

“The Internet” doesn’t seem to like this show, and having initially praised it have turned on it badly.

Me? Well I quite like it. It keeps me entertained, and though I don’t think it should be dragged out beyond one season (even though it definitely will be), it has me interested and keen to know what’ll happen next.

Cos there’s no way I’m going to read the book to find out.

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