A few months back, I wrote about how awful summer tv was. Mostly just reality shows and competition shows. After all, most of the major networks keep all their best shows for the fall. Thankfully there were a few good new shows, and an old favorite to hold me over this summer.
Ray Donovan is my favorite new shows. The show is a mix of Scandal and the Sopranos. Liev Schreiber plays the main character Ray. Ray is a complex man, who lives quite a tortured, and hectic life. He helps celebrities get themselves out of hot water, tried to balance “work” and home life with his family, and he himself has lots of skeletons in his closet. Family is a big part of the show. In addition to Rays wife and two kids, he also has three brothers (with lots of problems of their own), and a father (played by Jon Voight), who makes Ray’s life very difficult. The show is so well done, with lots of very interesting and dark characters. Perhaps Ray is the darkest of them all. He’s so caught up in cleaning up other peoples messes, that he basically sells his own soul to keep others reputations in tact. I really enjoy the show a lot. Rachel isn’t a big fan of this one because of all the sex and violence, so I watch this one by myself.
Two shows that Rachel and I have enjoyed together this summer is “Orange is the New Black” and “The Bridge”. Orange is an original series on Netflix. It was created by Jenji Kohan, who was the mastermind behind “Weeds”, another one of my favorite shows. Because Kohan is involved, there are lots of familiar faces from Weeds that show up in Orange. Orange is the story of a woman (Piper Chapman), who seems to have everything going for her, but then her past comes back to haunt her. She has to put her business, her wedding and the rest of her life on hold to serve a 15 month prison sentence for trafficking drug money. Something she did in her carefree early 20’s as she was trying to “find herself”. I’m used to prison shows like Oz and Prison Break, where the prisoners are always looking over their own shoulder, because they are afraid of being attacked, raped or killed. In Orange, the only real danger is going crazy. There is no real threat of violence, but when you have all those women locked up together, you better believe there is going to be some “cattiness” and finger pointing. I don’t know how true to life the story is, but it’s quite fascinating. The show points out the freedoms prisoners lose, things we all take for granted. Like having a sweet treat like a donut or cookie, or having the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever we want. You know how there always seems to be a line to get into the ladies room at public places? Well imagine having to always wait in line every time you had to use the bathroom. The show is very well done and interesting. I think perhaps women could relate to the show more, but Jason Biggs who plays Piper’s fiance, brings some male perspective to the show as he tries to cope. It’s a bit of a slow burn. We’re only about halfway through season 1, but I was happy to read there will be a season 2.
The last of the new shows we watched is an FX series called “The Bridge”. The show is about a serial killer who cuts one of his victims in half and leaves half of the body is Juarez Mexico and the other half in El Paso Texas. Since the body straddles the border between the US and Mexico, investigators from both sides must work together to catch this killer. The show “spiders” out and numerous other characters come into the story. Week by week, we learn more and discover how all the characters are somewhat intertwined and have ties. Kind of a twisted version of 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon. One of the most interesting characters is Sonya Cross played by Diana Kruger, who is the lead detective on the case. She works for the El Paso PD, and since she has Aspergers Syndrome, her methods and behaviors are quite interesting and very different from other detectives. Her Mexican counterpart is Marco Ruiz. Marco is played by Demian Bichir, another familiar face from Weeds. He looks quite different than he did when he was on Weeds, but his voice is very distinctive and I recognized him immediately. He played the head of Mexican drug cartel (Esteban Reyes) on Weeds, so he was always clean shaven, dressed in expensive suits and not a hair was out of place on his head. Marco’s Ruiz is quite the opposite. He always has several days worth of stubble, he dresses casually, and he lives a very modest lifestyle. This is another slow burn of a show, but each week, more of the pieces of the puzzle come together and I find myself more and more interested. I don’t know how they will get a season 2 out of it, but I hope they do. Ruiz and Cross are two great characters and there are others on the show as well, that I would love to see more of.
And of course the series finale of Breaking Bad is just two weeks away. A lot of great shows have hung on too long, and fizzled out by the time the series ended. Breaking Bad is definitely still burning white hot, and not anywhere close to fizzling out. The last few episodes have been mind blowing and have left me speechless. The show is so brilliant, and so well done in every aspect. Not only is the acting top notch, but the story telling is also spectacular. One of the signatures of Break Bad are the opening “vignettes”. These 5-10 minute vignettes are better than 90% of the crap that is on TV. Each week, it sets the table for the story that is about to unfold. And each week, it’s done just a little differently than the week before. Some scenes have lots of great dialogue, that give you a better understanding of a character, and other times, the scene could be completely devoid of speech. Devoid of humans talking, but not of sound. There is always something interesting to be heard. Sometimes it’s boots, crunching along the New Mexico desert sand, or i it could be wind howling and rattling wind chimes outside of a home, but one thing is for sure, it’s always super engaging and interesting. It draws me right in, and gets me super excited for the rest of the episode. I will miss Breaking Bad, but I’m excited to hear that there is talk of a spinoff involving Saul Goodman. Saul is one of the many great characters on the show, so a show built around him could be really interesting.
As Autumn approaches, it means the returns of favorites like “Homeland”, “The Walking Dead”, “American Horror Story” and “Boardwalk Empire”. I’ve grown a little bored with Boardwalk Empire, so not sure if I will watch season 4, but I’m eagerly awaiting season 3 of Homeland and to see what awaits Rick Grimes and his new “family” of survivors on The Walking Dead. The first season of American Horror Story was great, season 2 was good, but not as good as season 1. So I’m not sure what to expect out of Season 3. What I love about the show, is that the story is completely different every season. A lot of the same actors and actresses are featured, but they play different roles. Zachary Quinto and Jessica Lange are both top notch. Zachary has a small role in season 1, but because he was so good, they gave him a much bigger part is season 2. Season 3 features of coven of witches, so not sure if Zachary will have a smaller roll again, or if he will be in it at all. I was familiar with Lange and Quinto before American Horror Story, but there are a lot of newcomers that I had never seen before like Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson who I really enjoyed watching on the show.
I can’t tell you the last time I watched a movie. I used to love movies, but I find it hard to find 2 hours of uninterrupted time to watch a movie, and I find the format a bit stale. The stories feel rushed, and I feel like I never really get to know enough about the characters. With dramas like Homeland and Breaking Bad, you really have a lot of time to develop characters, show the audience what makes them tick, and really make for some gut wrenching twists and turns. Things just happen too quickly in movies, and I am often left feeling cheated and wanting more. TV dramas are my favorite form of entertainment, hands down.