Hard Sun never quite moved beyond a police procedural, and suffered as a result

hard sun neil cross jim sturgess agyness deyn aisling bea hulu bbc one

It’s not difficult to argue that, in any drama about the apocalypse, the reaction to this knowledge and its effect on society is one of the most interesting things that could be explored. However, Hard Sun largely opts not to explore this part of its premise. Indeed, for the most part, the apocalypse is something of an afterthought as the drama instead retreats to the well-worn hallmarks of a police procedural. With episodes focused on serial killers and kidnappings, the end of the world isn’t so much a focal point but a background detail to add texture; it’s a concept that’s broadly gestured at, rather than a theme that’s interrogated particularly.

For the most part, Hard Sun was frustrating, and ultimately quite dull. It’s a shame, really, because I was really rooting for this show; the concept seemed fascinating, and Aisling Bea was in it, and I think she’s great. Unfortunately, though, Hard Sun wasn’t much of anything in the end. The above review is, to be honest, only really one line of criticism that could be applied to the show – it’s a very particular sort of grim detective show, with all the tropes and pitfalls that tends to entail.

I think it’s going to be on Hulu soon – US viewers, I say don’t bother. UK viewers who haven’t seen it yet, also don’t bother.

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Kiri was an engaging drama that raised a lot of questions, but offered few answers

Thematically, however, the series was weak; it gestured at larger ideas, broaching the topics of race and the role of the media, but was constrained in its interrogation of these ideas. Such concepts are a recurring thread across Kiri, but they’re generally left unexamined – a background presence, rather than the focus of any particularly sharp or incisive commentary. Writer Jack Thorne spoke about how he wanted the drama to “pose questions” rather than answer them necessarily, noting that he “always likes things where [he doesn’t] know the answer”. There’s a value to this, of course – and, indeed, a sense to it. Many of the ideas Kiri touches on are complex, lacking easy answers, yet there’s a feeling as well that the series just doesn’t entirely try to get to grips with them. Much of the complexity and nuance surrounding these concepts is acknowledged, but unexplored; there’s a lack of any real scrutiny to Kiri.

I liked Kiri, but also I kinda didn’t. Nuance! I’m not sure I got this article quite right, admittedly, but also I kinda did. More nuance!

Tell you what is odd, though – this was on Hulu in America, and went out under the National Treasure title, which was the title of one of Jack Thorne’s shows the year before. The two were pretty much unrelated, as far as I know, so that was an odd matchup.

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Some of the best TV you might have missed in 2017

2017 best tv you missed snowfall clique ill behaviour ronny chieng international student bablyon berlin end of the fucking world the state

One of the things that always stands out to me about year-end ‘best of’ lists is that there are usually quite a few shows that, for whatever reason, I never got the chance to see. What’s nice about that, of course, is that those lists become a set of recommendations for me to work through for the next few months.

But it did get me thinking, though – how about a list specifically to that end? Here are the shows, then, that you might have missed; ones that flew under the radar a little bit, either because of the channel they were on, the language they’re in, or the time of year they came out.

It’s obviously an incomplete list – how could it not be? – but here’s some of the best TV you might have missed in 2017…

The State

The State Channel 4 isis peter kosminsky national geographic Ony Uhiara Sam Otto Shavani Cameron Ryan McKen.jpg

The State took on a controversial and difficult subject matter in a sensitive way – but more than that, it did it at exactly the right time too. A nuanced and considered look at how people are radicalised, it was a compelling drama that drew on extensive research of real-life cases. Intense and emotional, The State explored nuanced storytelling in place of simplistic thinking – always willing to challenge audience’s preconceptions and prejudices, this was a stark and powerful drama.

Clique

Clique BBC Three bryan elsley jess brittain louise brealey synnove karlsen aisling francoisi

The first episode of Clique was a particularly tense and taut hour of television, crafted with a real precision; it was one of the most effective pieces of drama BBC Three produced in a long time. With an unrelenting intensity, gradually probing the darker aspects of the world it put forward, Clique was an effortlessly self-assured piece of television. Certainly, it’s the sort of programme that might be easy to dismiss at face value; yet another teen drama without a huge amount to offer on its own terms. But to think of it that way it to do a real disservice to the intricate, nuanced work that was going on beneath the surface – there’s a real feeling, watching Clique, that it exists in a world that goes above and beyond the young adult drama you’ve seen before.

Ronny Chieng: International Student

Ronny Chieng International Student molly daniels declan fay comedy central malaysia melbourne university comedy central

It’d be easy to miss this one – a BBC Three acquisition that was only broadcast on BBC One very late at night – but it’d be a real shame if you did. Ronny Chieng: International Student has a certain charm that you could liken to Community, perhaps, but it’s very much its own show. Witty and inventive, this series draws on the real-life university experiences of its star Ronny Chieng – the perfect straight man for his increasingly absurd surroundings. In a year with a lot of great new comedies, this is the sort of show that might not get the attention it deserves – but it is genuinely, properly funny.

Snowfall

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Part of what I like about Snowfall is that it’s slow. Not in terms of pacing, not exactly; rather, it takes a measured approach, one that really lets it dwell on the period and pay close attention to detail. In that sense, Snowfall stands out because of how well it’s able to evoke a feel for the crack epidemic in 1983 Los Angeles. It’s the perfect backdrop for a cast of characters making increasingly compromised decisions – with newcomer Damson Idris giving a standout performance, Snowfall is definitely a drama that’s worth a look.

Babylon Berlin

babylon berlin liv lisa fries

Babylon Berlin is absolutely mesmerising. I said as much in my review of the show’s first season, but it really does bear repeating. The most expensive piece of television Germany has ever produced, every penny that went into Babylon Berlin translates to the screen – it’s a gorgeous drama, perfectly evoking the aesthetic of the 1920s. It’s also home of one of the best television moments of 2017 full stop – the almost trance-like conclusion to the second episode is breathtaking, exuding confidence and inspiring awe.

Ill Behaviour

ill behaviour sam bain chris geere liz kaplan tom riley jessica regan cancer comedy bbc two showtime tv show steve bendelack

Ill Behaviour took an absurd premise, but elevated it into something more – a dark comedy that was also a genuinely affecting drama. With a wit as quick as it was dark, this wasn’t just gallows humour; it’s a programme about repression, denial, and the lengths people go to in extreme situations. As ever, it’s a show that works because of its characters – self-destructive and neurotic, and perfectly pitched by the cast, each have a real and meaningful character arc. Ill Behaviour is packed with laughs, but it also leaves a lasting impact long after the credits roll.

The End of the F***ing World

the end of the fucking world alex lawther jessica barden charlie covell jonathan entwhistle lucy tcherniak review netflix channel 4

One of my personal favourite programmes of the year – I know that’s true of a lot of the shows on this list, but it’s particularly true of this. The End of the F***ing World is an elegant character study, focused on two isolated teenagers who live in liminal spaces; it lends its two leads, James and Alyssa, a real interiority, serving to emphasise the poignancy – and in some ways the tragedy – of the journey they undertake. Of course, it’d be remiss of me not to mention Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden, who really do make the series; an absolutely magnetic pairing, they’re fantastic actors who really embody the facades, neuroses and vulnerabilities of their characters.

Even then, of course, there are a lot of shows I’ve missed off this list that, if it could go on forever, I’d have loved to include – Guerilla, Overshadowed, or King Charles III, to name just a few. And that’s without mentioning all the excellent shows that, for one reason or another, I didn’t get the chance to see – shows like Three Girls, The Replacement or Bancroft.

If nothing else, that was one good thing about 2017 – there was a lot of really fantastic television.

Note: This was meant to be a Yahoo article which, for boring technical reasons I can’t work out, doesn’t actually display on the website anywhere – so I’ve put it here instead. Looking back on some of my choices, there’s a couple I probably would’ve changed – the fact that both The End of the F***ing World and Babylon Berlin took off massively in early 2018 because they turned up on American Netflix was validating, but does make me wish I’d taken the chance to stump for Overshadowed, which I really do love.

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Babylon Berlin is an absolutely mesmerising piece of German noir

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Babylon Berlin recently finished its first season, and was absolutely stunning from start to finish. It’s a complex paranoia thriller, a noir mystery set against the backdrop of political intrigue, police corruption and revolutionary fervour – drawing each of its threads together into a compelling and skilfully executed larger story. The series carries itself with a certain confidence, and it’s an entirely deserved one.

There’s something almost relentless about Babylon Berlin – not in terms of pace, where the show is considered and measured, but rather in its zeal and dynamic. At times it’s positively electric, centred as it is at the eye of the storm at a time when the world is changing. With its focus on rising extremism from both sides of the political spectrum, Babylon Berlin depicts a way of life the audience knows will soon be cut short – something that adds to the current of urgency that underpins the series.

I absolutely loved Babylon Berlin – it was one of my favourite shows of 2017, and I think the close of the second episode is probably one of the best TV moments ever. Genuinely, it was like I was in a trance state watching that.

I’ve not yet had the chance to watch the second series – it’s sitting taking up space on the television planner right now – but I’m massively, massively looking forward to getting around to it eventually.

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Liar’s depiction of rape isn’t just insensitive, it’s reckless

liar ioan gruffudd joanne froggatt itv harry williams jack williams rape sexual assault poorly handled reckless insensitive

Viewers were invited to doubt Laura’s testimony – drawing focus to her drinking, suggesting that she had past form for false rape accusations. It’s interesting to note, in fact, that in Metro’s review of the first episode, the majority of the comments were in support of Andrew. It wasn’t until the end of the third episode that Liar unequivocally revealed that Andrew had spiked Laura’s drink; that’s half the length of the series predicated on doubting a woman’s account of sexual assault.

Rather than examining the attitudes that lead to people doubting women when they speak out about sexual assault, Liar was advancing them – perpetuating a stereotype that is in many ways genuinely quite harmful. Across recent weeks, the revelation about Harvey Weinstein’s actions has been followed by many women speaking out about their own experiences with sexual assault, and the doubts they faced afterwards. A popular television programmes that invites its five million viewers to think a woman is lying about being raped feeds into the same culture that lets that happen.

A piece about a series that made me quite angry, given that it dealt so poorly with its subject matter.

This article got a lot of traction, actually; it was cited by the BBC in this piece about the series. I don’t think there was enough writing done about Liar that held it account for this, so I’m glad I wrote this piece.

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5 years on, can we settle the question – is Elementary better than Sherlock?

elementary sherlock jonny lee miller lucy liu benedict cumberbatch martin freeman steven moffat which is better elementary vs sherlock

Today marks five years since the first episode of Elementary – the American retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in the modern day and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. 

Since that first episode, it’s been repeatedly compared to Sherlock – the British retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in the modern day, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It also first aired a few years before Elementary, leading to more than one accusation of copying. 

So, with Elementary about to enter its sixth season, and Sherlock seemingly finished for the time being, can we finally settle the question – which is better?

Something of a repeat from me today, actually; the first ‘proper’ blog post I wrote on tumblr was on a similar topic, and it was also the first to pick up much traction. I don’t think, back then, I ever dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in now – so it’s nice to return to this!

To hedge against the obvious: I don’t actually think Elementary is better than Sherlock. I also, however, don’t think Sherlock is better than Elementary. They’re both such different beasts, with different strengths and more importantly different aims, it’s difficult to compare the two – to attempt to seriously is a folly, really. Essentially, then, I like them both a lot, albeit for different reasons, and in different ways.

And, in response to the other obvious question: No, I didn’t make this image, no, I don’t know who did, no, I don’t know what they were thinking.

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Bernard Zeiger and Casey Stein, the team behind Otis, on interactive drama, new modes of storytelling and more

otis bernard zeiger casey stein interview crime drama interactive choose your own adventure three perspectives infinite possibilities

Our development on this short began about four years ago when we stumbled on an article about a boxer in the American Rust Belt whose life turned to crime and eventually caught up with him. We decided to try to write his story as a feature-length film. When we finished it, we hated it. There were so many people playing crucial roles in the way this man’s life turned out who were not getting the attention they needed to tell the full story. After struggling with it for a while, we decided we wanted to get a more holistic view of the events by telling the experiences of multiple characters – all at once.

Recently did an interview with the team behind an interesting new project!

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The Cuckoo’s Calling was a compelling detective drama – but one that faltered at the last hurdle

cormoran strike the cuckoo's calling tv jk rowling robert galbraith tom burke holliday grainger bbc one ben richards michael kellior tom edge

In every respect, The Cuckoo’s Calling was a competently executed detective drama, moving intelligently between the different hallmarks of the genre. It was never, for example, the high concept thriller of Sherlock – there are no astounding deductions or leaps of intuition. Rather, this was a case of gradually unveiling each layer of mystery, plunging the viewer into a well-drawn world of colourful suspects. You could describe it as generic, perhaps, but in a way that’d be missing the point; it’s not so much that The Cuckoo’s Calling typifies the genre, but rather embodies and enlivens it.

An article I wrote recently about The Cuckoo’s Calling.

I was, I think, probably a little too positive about it. I don’t know. The Strike adaptations started to take up quite a lot of thought for me for a while; they were often very close to being good, but never quite working. I got the sense that much of what was entertaining about them was almost by accident – an adaptation struggling against the flaws of its source material, for the most part. Indeed, lots of what was good about the show was probably just a quirk of casting Holliday Grainger, who did a great job with a character who I suspect could otherwise have been very flat.

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Broadchurch series three was about toxic masculinity – so why did it end by saying “not all men”?

broadchurch season 3 david tennant olivia colman julie hesmondlalgh rape not all men sexual assault mishandling criticism hd series 3 chris chibnall jodie whittaker

The series, then, was about toxic masculinity. That was the overarching theme, evident from the start and continued (almost) to the closing moments of the series. More specifically, though, it was about men controlling women – exerting influence over them, disregarding their boundaries and autonomy, and attempting to control them. 

However, it’s telling that at the end of it all, we get a “not all men” scene. DI Hardy decries the rapist as an “aberration”, insisting that “not every man is like that”. Which is odd, really – quite apart from all the problems inherent with that phrase, it seemed like every episode up until now had been about saying yes, actually. All men.

So why did the final episode flip the script?

Hmm, so. Broadchurch series 3.

Mostly, everyone loved this series of Broadchurch. I thought it was particularly good – and, really, more importantly particularly sensitive in terms of how it handled its rape plotline – until, at least, the final episode. There were a lot of issues, I reckon; from pushing Trish to the edges of the narrative, essentially removing her from her own story right at the end, to the redemption scenes given to each man (particularly Charlie Higson’s character), to the identity of Trish’s attacker full stop. Oh, and, the fact it said “not all men”. Yikes.

Pretty much no one, however, seemed to be writing about it – the praise was largely without caveats, and none of the above was raised in critique. So, obviously, I wrote about it. Problem was, I suspect, it took me a week to actually get the above piece done, so it didn’t exactly latch onto the public consciousness. I hope that, if Broadchurch ever undergoes a critical re-evaluation, this final episode becomes a bit more of a sticking point.

The other thing about this article, though, is that I decided to avoid outright criticising the show – or, maybe more accurately, just criticising the show. I thought it’d be a bit more interesting and worthwhile to try and divine why Broadchurch swerved at the last moment, and what that meant in terms of the overall message it was trying to impart. I’m not so sure about the second half of the piece, where I get all symbolic about things; nowadays, I’d be much more direct in my condemnation, like I was with Liar. Though equally Liar was a lot more straightforward in its flaws, so, perhaps it wouldn’t have necessitated an article like the above in the way that Broadchurch did. Or seemed to me to.

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Broadchurch series 3 finale – who attacked Trish? One last look at the suspects

broadchurch season 3 david tennant olivia colman charlie higson chris chibnall trish attacked suspects

Over the past eight weeks we’ve watched Broadchurch, with rapt attention, as Hardy and Miller attempted to solve one final crime.

The first episode saw Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondlalgh) calling the police the morning after being sexually assaulted. Over the course of the rest of the series, it was revealed that there was a serial rapist in the coastal town.

Tonight (Monday, April 17), the attacker is set to be revealed – last week’s episode ended on a cliffhanger as Miller and Hardy found the last piece of evidence they needed. Here’s a final look at who it could be, and why…

One last piece on Broadchurch for the Metro.

I never got these articles quite right, to be blunt. There was something that seemed a little tawdry about writing, effectively, whodunnit theory posts for Broadchurch series 3 in a way that doesn’t quite seem to apply with the first two instalments of the show. Indeed, while I was writing them, one of my Yahoo colleagues Ben Homes wrote something to that affect, saying the show wasn’t about a whodunnit; while I’m not quite sure I’d agree, it did feel a little like an indirect, whether consciously or not – probably not, and it was more my own concerns about what I was doing that prompted how I read his piece.

You can notice, too, that I never quite came out and directly addressed what happened in Broadchurch, always using words like “attacked” or “assaulted”; my friend Zak, who’d been reading my articles but not watching the show, was under the impression until fairly late in the season that there had been another murder, which is telling.

So, yeah, I don’t know. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think my approach with these articles is exactly an ethical failing or whatever, but there was definitely a bit of a screw-up going on here.

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