TV Snarks

The Dead Don’t Work For Me

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead2

I’m already sick to death with February! The prospect of stupid Valentine’s Day will usually bring out a gollup of spiteful resentment in me at the best of times. But it goes a little deeper than that. I’m fed up with the dark mornings, the dark nights, and the dark rings around my scathing eyes.

Weather forecasters keep scaring us with predictions for Day After Tomorrow’esque snow blizzards; my winter weight gain has reached its zenith and I have now started to collapse into myself like a dying star, and the expensive garden I built currently looks like a perfect medium to grow rice in!

This black dog of seasonal depression always hits me at this time of year, and usually continues right up until Christmas. As a means of escape, and to avoid a messy divorce, I try to lighten my mood with a little TV. Last year I worked my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad, the year before was a gruelling three seasons of Boardwalk Empire. This year, I thought I would try the hugely popular The Walking Dead.

Well, I’ve done the first season, and I got two episodes into the second, and promptly gave up.

I’m a big fan of the show’s star performer, Andrew Lincoln, and a sprawling story about a zombie apocalypse is just my particular brand of tea – as it were. In fact, I did spend a lot of the first two episodes nodding my head enthusiastically, and thinking, ‘Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino! I would be just like him!’

As Deputy Rick Grimes, Egg, sorry, Andrew Lincoln, does a stand-up job and gives a believable grimace to an unbelievably horrifying situation. The American accent is no worse than Dick Van Dyke’s cockney horseshit, and as the hero figure, he plays it low key and from an everyman perspective I like.

Trying to find his family while coming to terms with the new, bitey neighbours, the show got off to a promising start – with the tension becoming as epic as the production itself. The camera pulling back on an Atlanta city street, slowly expanding the view and revealing thousands of “walkers”, was a real highlight of that first episode. For such a wide shot, it felt utterly claustrophobic.

The supporting cast do a reasonable job, and deliver the dialogue with just enough commitment to stop it going full cheese… and it’s always a pleasure to see the bat-shit crazy Michael Rooker on our screens.

But this isn’t a review, because as I said a while back, I quit the show after the first season.

Why?

Because it was just too damned depressing! I was feeling gloomy enough, without watching a band of people under constant fear of being eaten by a bazillion bastard zombies! It was too much for me, and this is coming from someone who is a seasoned horror fan, and loves a juicy plotline to slowly work through. I did five seasons of Breaking Bad in a month… The Walking Dead should have been a walk in the park.

But it seems to me (and I know this is only after one season), the show might ultimately suffer from its own longevity. What I mean is that whilst Rick and his fellow survivors might encounter the occasional moment of light relief (precious little in the first season, and non-existent in the first two episodes of season two!), that constant threat of being swarmed by happy eaters is just too much of a buzz-kill.

Oh… and I have since learnt that our ill-fated troupe of walking ready meals frequently run into other humans who also want to do nasty things to them! No, no thanks.

In short, you can’t help but feel they are simply running from the inevitable – like One Direction does from their inescapable obscurity!

Again, I know this is a short-sighted view, and maybe if I worked through the five seasons currently available, I may be proved wrong. But The Walking Dead was a little too gloomy for me, and filled with the kind of existential horror I normally reserve for dinner with my in-laws.

… and it’s only the 10th February!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead1

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Time to Unplug?

I’m in the midst of a tricky home entertainment dilemma at the moment. No, I’m not referring to the fact that my wife now refuses to juggle with chainsaws since the new wallpaper went up, but rather that I’m questioning whether I should cancel my various TV packages and go rogue.

Our American cousins call it “cutting the cord”, which gives a somewhat gory connotation to practices best left in the maternity suites! With that said, it’s also a pretty fair explanation towards what is becoming a very common practice for those who no longer wish to pay inflated prices for a few hundred channels they don’t watch.

Would it not be more in keeping with this modern age to be able to select exactly what you wish to view? To pay for only what you consume?

It’s quite a tricky thing to pull off for us Brits, as we don’t have the luxury of choice found in the US.

First off you have the BBC TV licence fee of £145.50 a year. This is only avoidable if you ensure no TV aerial is ever connected to your lovely 40-inch LED! It’s a tough one to avoid, and wholly impossible if you want to make use of their channels, or any of the free-to-air services provided by the likes of Freeview.

Sky TV (evil Galactic Empire, and headed by melty-faced shitbag, Emperor Murdoch), has a vicious stranglehold on the likes of HBO and most of the UK sports franchises. This chokes our ability to subscribe to a dedicated streaming service that could offer any kind of alternative… at least, nothing that’s strictly legal.

For years we have seen the rise of clandestine websites providing HD coverage of Premier League football – which is arguably the biggest and most sought after cash cow for British broadcasters. However, this small band of rebel websites has provided some means of evading the dark lord Murdoch… providing you are willing to bend the rules a little.

For the most part, Netflix and Amazon Prime have our movie and TV box-set desires covered. And should you need to watch Game of Thrones as it airs (in order to avoid some miserable bastard in the office giving away spoilers), well… let’s just say that other ways exist to source what you need!

In fact, HBO have publically recognised that their shows are immensely popular with the swashbuckling torrent sites. But rather than become bitter and shitty about their expensive TV shows being raped and pillaged by men with peg-legs and parrots, they see it as a flattering testament to the quality, and desirability, of their programming. I’m not suggesting the executives are jumping around in delirium and joy towards those who download, but it is a unique approach to the anti-piracy argument.

I also feel that HBO have learned a tough lesson on this front, and by tying themselves in with the likes of Sky, have only limited themselves to a select audience who are paying over the top prices for an ever expanding list of unwanted channels. Perhaps it would have been more profitable, and less restrictive, to simply release the HBO Go app to the UK market. Time will tell.

Perhaps it’s not so much a case of what is on offer, but rather what the viewing habits of the household are, and how these choices drive the decision to pull the plug on a particular service.

The only thing I watch on “live” TV is Coronation Street. Everything else is Netflix, various box-sets that I pick up on Ebay, and with growing frequency, the wonders of YouTube. My son has recently moved away from the Disney and Nickelodeon channels, and now spends more time watching Netflix Kids, the free-to-air CBBC channels, and a bit of YouTube (Play Doh movies for the win!).

Strangely, my wife is the heaviest user. Our TiVo box is home to an ever expanding list of series links, ranging from whodunits, fashion and home-craft, and those TV shows that carefully document people who don’t sell their house, don’t move to the country, or don’t complete their grand design on budget!

Not being without its limitations, I do believe a phone call to my supplier is not too far away. Looking at the above, it seems I’m paying a lot of money each month for stuff I could get on a £20.00 Freeview box.

But what of the larger question towards a true a la carte TV experience? Will it happen? I think it will, but we have a ways to go yet. In the UK, the BBC and Sky are still the key players in this media brawl, and control just enough to keep most of us in line… and on the books.

From this brave new world, questions towards the validity of the BBC licence fee spring up frequently, and seem to gather more support with each new cycle. Such a decision would certainly be a game changer, and carry monstrous repercussions for not only the UK audience, but also for the global BBC community. Whether it should happen is another question, and is one I have mixed views on.

In short, with the shift in our viewing habits becoming more pronounced, shouldn’t how we select and pay for these services also change?

Cutting the cord? I think I prefer the term, “Virgin Media… I’m outtie!”

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Virgin Media(I’m not taking any responsibility for the above “joke”… it was the only Google image I could find!)

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House of Cards

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard House of Cards

Last Sunday morning, whilst trying to avoid my son (and yet another retelling of a dream he had about teenage turtles), I flicked on the TV and stumbled into the last five minutes of The Andrew Marr Show. On the receiving end of his shitty gaze and carefully rehearsed criticism was our much beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron. As I watched our glorious leader lie, spin and spill his stupid face all over my television, I was drawn into a brief moment of pressing enquiry.

First, I pondered the likelihood of a decent assassination attempt happening right at that moment, and whether the gunmen would make allowances and do Andrew Marr at the same time to really boost the ratings? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wondered when House of Cards would return to Netflix.

As it transpired, no men in stylish balaclavas did bust onto my screen that morning. Marr and Cameron remained bullet-free and bullshit heavy, and I switched off the TV like all people with any sense should do when greeted with such dreck. I was, however, very pleased to learn that House of Cards is back in a few weeks.

Yes! Come the 27 February, we will all get the chance to watch another twelve hours of Kevin Spacey snarling at the camera whilst delivering a steady stream of disaster capitalism, and giving the likes of David Cameron something to truly aspire too!

Over the past two seasons, House of Cards has been nothing short of perfect. If savage political intrigue and intelligent dialogue is your thing, then I would first question why you are visiting this website… and with keener interest, whether your Netflix subscription is up to date.

The cast are beautiful, the production is sharp, and the plot is excruciating in its unfolding – and seemingly never afraid to take a few risks with its obedient audience.

Here now be spoilers!

The main protagonist, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), is the embodiment of what all vile politicians should be – corrosive, calculated and arrogantly charming. However, rather than drive you into a bout of galloping diarrhoea (just as any decent politician should do), he endears himself to us with the same devil-like manipulation he has used to reach the Oval Office in the show.

His frequent addresses to the camera coerce you into his plans, and breeds compliance with his treachery. It’s a well worn cinematic device, but perhaps never has it been so brilliantly employed than by the mesmerising Kev!

Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, shares her husband’s panache for being a vicious shit-bag, and perhaps due to the soft-spoken delivery, and chic appearance, manages to outdo Frank in the truly despicable leagues. Withholding critical neo-natal medication from a pregnant former work colleague, in order to win a lawsuit, is one of my personal favourites!

In short, not since the event of Big Brother, and all those other gutter-level reality TV mutations, has a show continually revealed the lower echelons of what humans are capable of, only to then dance around in its own glorious filth and pat itself on the back for a job well done. The saving grace for House of Cards is that such demonstrations are by clever design and brilliant performance, rather than out of a crass need to pitifully debase oneself for the chance to “be on da telly.

But let’s move away from the bevy of performing idiot monkeys that reality TV provides us, and back to something good.

With the third season fast approaching, can we expect House of Cards to hold back on the shocking moments of unfortunate demise? Not likely. The first episode of season two delivered perhaps the biggest to date… and it still hurts!

The loss of Kate Mara was a personal tragedy for me (see below for a partial description of my reasons), and for a few moments I thought the death of such a key figure might be a total season killer. In fact, it spun the show into a new direction, and opened up a cyber terrorism subplot that may well turn out to be the eventual undoing of Frank Underwood’s master plan. Now tell me that isn’t inspired storytelling!

Honestly, the elegance of its spiteful narrative is more engaging than crack, and during its ten month hiatus, has provided the same kind of chronic withdrawal symptoms for those hopelessly addicted.

It’s no surprise that Netflix will be hyping this into the stratosphere over the coming weeks – and rightly so. With Showtime, HBO and AMC as the more familiar names when it comes to providing game changing programmes, it was a real coup for Netflix to steal a sizable chunk of that action and deliver such an astounding piece of drama.

I’m now impatiently waiting for that familiar logo to appear on my Netflix account, announcing the arrival of season 3. Like all good addicts, I’ll binge on it over an entire weekend, twitch my way through another 10 month detox, and wait for season 4 to hit the servers. Knock-knock!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Kate Mara

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