Goodbye Film, Hello TV Box Set

Television Box Set - Header

You may have noticed that for a blog which was fast becoming nothing more than an apparent daily film critique things have slowed down a little, and also, become a bit more varied. The reason is simple: I haven’t been watching as many movies. In fact, it’s been nearly two months since I last watched a film at home, and in that time I’ve also only averaged a trip to the cinema once a week.

The reason is I was watching too many films and therefore, writing so many follow up reviews that my enjoyment in them completely waned. I would watch them but concentrate on my thoughts, emotions and responses rather than the narrative and the plot. I would focus on what I was planning to write rather the story on offer. I truly reached a point where it felt like a job and when you’re not being paid you have to ask yourself “what’s the point?”.

So I took a break and decided that I needed to find an evening “hobby” that wasn’t so demanding. Something that my anorexic demands and routines could accept but would fill the time and keep me entertained. So, harking back to the love I used to find in TV Box sets (although I’m not rowing an episode at a time) I set about catching up the latest TV show’s that I’ve missed out on, lacking as I do in Sky, Netflix or iTunes. Starting with Game Of Thrones.

Game Of Thrones

Game Of Thrones (TV Show)

I think it’s fair to say that recently the biggest thing to hit television, office water-coolers and social media spoilers is Game Of Thrones. The fantasy world of George R. R. Martin brought to life on HBO. While I knew it was based on a series of books I’ve never read them, and having not seen an episode I glossed over the social media discussions on dragons and snowmen and instead, came to the story completely blind.

The opening few episodes didn’t really draw me in. It just seemed to me to be too much of a juxtaposition of other fantasy stories and ideas. I don’t want to call it straight plagiarism but in my mind I just kept thinking “well that’s just Lord of the Rings” or “that’s just King Arthur” etc. and it meant I never fully relaxed into it.

As the characters started to develop though, I started to become more and more intrigued by their stories and while this drew me away from the compassion to other sources, did however, create my biggest problem with it. There are just too many people weaving too many tales. I would really start to feel or be drawn to a specific character and then they’d be dropped or disappear for far too long as the story descended off on another arc. I’d have much preferred for it to halve the number of characters and allow me to really spend the time I wanted with them to be feel satisfied rather than the constant bit here, bit there approach is has stopping and starting each story in bite size chunks.

Where Game Of Thrones does excel though is in it’s ability to manipulate your emotions towards a character. Time and again I’d loathe, hate and detest a character in one series only for a single action, word or event to completely swing my opinion, as planned, the next. But it’s a superficial act that never overcomes the other problems with the programme.

The box set I have included the opening 4 series and on finishing it I was left feeling that it was an overly complicated world of simplistic story telling that while I enjoyed, hadn’t made me love. I’d even go as far as to say that I don’t think it deserves the hype it gets. I’m still looking forward to seeing series 5, and beyond, purely because I’ve spent so long with the characters they are now part of my life, but it’s a life that hasn’t really changed for getting to know them.

Firefly

Firefly (Television Show)

I first saw the movie Serenity at an outdoor cinema at the Glastonbury musical festival and fell completely for its charm. It’s a wonderfully eccentric sci-fi tale of love, loss, good and evil set through a cast of space-pirates and knowing that is was born from a prematurely cancelled television series, now held in cult regard, I thought I’d see if the source material could live up to the memories of happiness I hold for the film.

While it’s been a long time since I last watched Serenity and not knowing exactly how it overlapped with the television series it was strange to be watching the opening episodes and instantly have all these previous memories of the film come flooding back, as one by one, the character started returning. Soon my mind was happily at ease as the entire cast had returned and I started to expect that I was in for episode after episode that echoed the quality of the film.

Sadly though that doesn’t happen. While the characters are all there and all bring back to life the personalities that make them so likeable it just doesn’t work as a television series. The story telling is just too formulaic and repetitive and after a while I simply became bored of watching, again, a story where A leads to B and on to C before D saves the day. I just needed a bit of variety and depth, it was almost as though being stuck with the same few characters, in the same confined quarters of their spaceship was just too claustrophobic to be entertaining.

The other problem was that the film focuses on River Tam, who for all her mental punishment creates such empathy, love and wonder in you that she binds the film together and becomes a character of almost legend. And while she’s in Firefly, she’s nothing more than a quirky child playing in the background throughout the stories. I sat there, knowing where her story goes, what pleasure she brings and waiting for it to arrive. Until that moment appeared in my mind where I realised it never would and it just left me sad.

The film was made to tie up the loose ends that the television series left when it was cancelled so abruptly and while it does that, it also shows that the television series never brought it’s world to life with the clarity and passion that it needed to to survive. I’m glad I have watched Firefly, to see where it started because it meant I got to spend time with the characters again, but I just found it on the whole boring. It works brilliantly as a film because it’s condensed into the perfect narrative time frame; where as a TV series, it’s all just too weak and repetitive to really be interesting.

House Of Cards

House of Cards (Television show)

The first Box Set I ever watched from start to finish was The West Wing. I’d never had an interest in US politics but I became instantly hooked, I’d throw away full days or more watching episodes back to back and back to back. So, when I set about my search for Box Sets to watch, googling: “Best TV Shows on Netflix” House of Cards with Kevin Spacey kept appearing over and over, and being another story set in American politics I thought I’d return to the White House and give it a go. Expecting to fall as deeply into it as I did with The West Wing.

As I watched the opening three episodes I thought that was happening. I really did think I’d started watching another gem. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Kevin Spacey but even he was winning me over leading a world and story that was twisted power, politics and psychology into a very dark and interesting series of events. I wanted to give up time to watch it.

The problem though was that it almost came out the blocks too quickly. It sucked me into it’s dark, twisting story so well that it left itself no room to move and as the first series went on things started to become more and more warped and implausible and almost silly. This trend continued throughout the second series and into the third. Essentially as the lust for power increases so does the ludicrousness of the stories. They ascend in parallel to a point where all the credibility of the show is destroyed and I ended up hating almost every character of the cast as a result.

It really does spectacularly lose all clarity of vision and self destructs into a narcissistic, vain and disgusting show. So much so, that as it drew towards the end of season three (the extent of my box set) I didn’t really want to bother watching it. I was almost forcing myself to finish it because I’d invested so much time into it up to that point but had lost all sense of enjoyment or interest in it.

And then it performed the most hideous trick of all, as I sat there watching the final episode, withdrawing more from the lack of reality I perceived and wondering how it’s world could be so blind and manipulated by the characters within, it pulled it’s last trick. It ended on such a strong cliff hanger that I physically sighed, because in that last, fleeting moment it forced me to forget every problem, every issue and demanded I fail back into line. I find it disgusting but I desperately want the next series. I need to know what happens next even though I hate who it’s happening to.

Conclusion

So that’s my thoughts on my last 8 weeks of television viewing. I’ve needed the break from films and the pressure of writing a review the day after, but the time is right to start again. I’m longing to lose myself into a movie. I still have the Swedish versions the Millennium Trilogy to watch and Firefly has sewn the seed again on Serenity but I need to think carefully about the pressure writing reviews puts on me and how that affects the future of my blog.

It’s either that or I try and convince somebody to buy me Better Call Saul!

Posted on by 5WC in Television First Edition

Comments are closed.