Sampling Luther

It’s no secret that I love British TV.  Between my Whovian tendencies and my research paper on Downton Abbey, it’s not a surprise in the least that I think TV shows from across the pond are fascinating.

The culture and norms there are so different from what I’m used to in the U.S. and I love learning about people and situations that are different from me.  The best way for me to discuss this is in a sort of case study example.  Lately I’ve been watching and studying Luther, a show staring Idris Elba (The Wire).

In a word, Luther is intense.  It follows John Luther, the head of the Serious Crime Unit (and later the Serious and Serial Crime Unit) as they work bizarre and inhuman cases.  The show is more graphic and fast-paced than anything I’ve ever seen on American television.  It’s a high-risk high-reward situation as it certainly makes for a thrilling story.

It also focuses a lot on the friendship between Luther and Alice, a sociopath murder.  This relationship is borderline the most bizarre thing in the entire series, even over some of the crimes they solve.

Luther, and British television in general, doesn’t skirt around issues of violence or sexuality.  Graphic crime scenes are just background noise to the crimes being shown.  Scenes will often leave me with a “that escalated quickly” feeling when suddenly two characters go from greeting each other at the door to laying in bed a few hours later.

Besides the way that it approaches social issues, there’s also a really different form of storytelling that’s going on here.  Each season so far (and the upcoming season 3 from what I’ve gathered) has had an ongoing personal plot line going on the side.  Now, this isn’t completely unheard of in any television regardless of country of origin, but Luther does it differently than any show I can think of.

Confession time: For my class right now I am writing a sample script for Luther.  This is kind of terrifying to admit because this show has such a specific style that I’m worried I wont be able to properly emulate it.  And that’s without even the fear that I’m going to screw up some British thing and accidentally turn it more American.

Admitting this is also scary on the level of this-is-the-internet.  While I love the internet, it’s also a very permanent and very public place.  I don’t have any fantasies of someone from the show seeing this and then wanting to see my sample.  But more the opposite.  The worry that if someone sees this I could get in trouble for trying.

A little silly?  Yes.  Because I’m not trying to sell it.  I’m not planning to even shop it.  I’m writing this script as a sample.  A way of practicing something that I hope I can turn into a living down the line.  Practicing the method and the madness that I will apply to another show that probably doesn’t exist yet at some undetermined point in the future.

Maybe someday, far off into the future, I will get to work on a British show.  With people who will help me correct the mistakes I make as an outsider.  Maybe.

Have you seen Luther?  What are your favorite foreign shows?  

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My Year in Television

I considered a summary of just the season so far (starting in August/September/October), but realized that since I’ve been going on about the new format that television has taken of not having a strict season, I figured it would be more with the times to do an overview of the whole year.  This one may be a bit long, so I apologize in advance.

I started the year in a downtown apartment with glorious cable access including BBC America, and all the cable channels a girl could ever dream of.  My roommate and I would record everything on out DVR and then watch shows together.  Comedies like Modern Family, and The Middle; New Girl and Psych.

Watching things together made sure that I was caught up with everything that was going on in the world of sitcoms and dramadies.  We also watched all the BBC shows we could manage to record.  Doctor Who and The Hour being two of my favorites.  I would also watch anything with Chef Gordon Ramsey (and still will) which for the winter slump mostly includes Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

When my shows started up again I watched Once Upon A Time, Fringe, and Chuck, which I had caught up with again for it’s final season.  A bit into the semester I watched Downton Abbey as it premiered as PBS’s masterpiece series, loving every minute of it.

In fact, I loved it so much that I incorporated it into a ten page paper about how historical fiction is more a reflection of our times than the times it portrays  using Downton Abbey as a case study.  In another class I worked on a Once Upon A Time spec script that will likely never see more than my parent’s living room.  I got an A, and my mom displays it proudly, but the material was outdated as soon as I was finished with the outline.

Through school I was introduced to Husbands the Series, season one of which I gobbled up in a few hours.  As Chuck ended I turned to web series such as Husbands and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to keep me afloat before finals season struck.

When it did I was awash in emotion.  Saddness over Sherlock, questions for Fringe and Once, shock over NCIS which i had only watched a handful of episodes of all season.

Once the shock wore off I dove into summer television with a vengeance.  The full arsenal of Ramsey shows were family entertainment.  MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and the new Hotel Hell.  I also powered through the final season of Buffy the Vamipre Slayer, finishing what wound up being a nearly ten year watching in progress.  I had a lot to say about it.  Yeah.

Meanwhile, a friend gave me a call asking me if I was free to be somebody’s coffee bitch in LA.  Let me check m–YES.  The experience not only gave me a chance to talk with some awesome people, it also gave me a whole list of things to watch as the summer continued.

But there was no time for that as I began a period of travel induced, television watching stasis.  While I watched no TV for nearly seven weeks I did manage to catch the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Berlin, and then the closing two weeks later in Rome.  The trip also included breaking into Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Once More, With Feeling songs often, which was quite amusing to Germans who only understood half the words I sang.

Upon my return I set myself up with very basic cable (without recording!) and settled in for premiere season.  In the process I accidentally watched the summer finale for Leverage while waiting for the premieres of Fringe and Once Upon A Time.  I tried a handful of new shows including 666 Park Avenue, Revolution, Last Resort, and Elementary, but Elementary was the only one that stuck.  I haven’t missed an episode.

I trooped over to a friends building to watch Doctor Who and try out Copper (didn’t stick, but I plan to try again).  I waited patiently for Community to return (still waiting).  I worked through Angel quickly with minimal emotional breakdown and sat down loyally to watch my three loyal shows (Once, Elementary, and Fringe) live due to lack of recording.  Awesome.

As the year ends I am beginning a regemene of British shows and random mini series.  I watched Neverland in a weekend, and have Luther, Copper, The Hour, Downton, and a few others on my list (any suggestions?).  Granted I seem to be ignoring the list for a borrowed copy of Band of Brothers and Lost Girl on Netflix.  Hmm.  This year has been filled with wonderful television and I couldn’t be more excited to see what 2013 has to bring.

Oh Cable Television, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

So, it seems to be that this month is the month of TV schedules here on the blog, and while that wasn’t necessarily the original plan, I think I like it slightly better.  It is impractical to talk about cable shows by the day they are on the air, so instead I will be talking about these under the slightly broader heading of networks.  In Reverse alphabetical order:

USA has consistently served up shows that I don’t think are going to work and then manage to prove me wrong to the tune of five or six seasons.  It’s one of those cases where I love being wrong.  Seriously though, a football psychiatrist (Necessary Roughness)?  A doctor who only makes house calls (Royal Pains)?  Do those exist?  Couples therapy for cops (Common Law)?  And of course, a fake psychic detective (Psych).

Okay, I’ll admit that the only one of these shows that I consistently watch is Psych, but still, USA has so many cool concepts, and so many great characters.  Bonus, all the people who work on these shows seem to be the chillest people ever.  Proof?  They Psych cast at Comic Con this year.  Okay, even I’m seeing that this is a little pineapple heavy, time to move on.  I’ll watch: Psych.

TNT is the network that I would most like to work for someday.  Well, I’d like to work for anyone who would hire me, but I feel like I would really get along with the people at TNT (in my head everyone who works there is somewhat serious with a dark sense of humor; they wear a lot of black).  Their shows include The Closer and it’s step-child Major Crimes, as well as Leverage, Rizzoli & Isles, a reboot of Dallas, and a show called Perception.

Of most note to me here is Leverage.  You guys. I have seen a grand total of three episodes of this show and I’m already in love.  Gina Bellman!  Christian Kane!  Crime!  I’m overwhelmed by how much I love this show, and I know it’s only going to get better when I, you know, watch more of it.

I’ve also seen bits of Major Crimes, and so many ads for Perception I may as well have seen the whole show.  Both seem good, if not quite my usual style.  I love that Sasha Alexandra is in Rizzoli and Isles.  I missed her when she left NCIS oh way back when.  Overall TNT is pretty awesome.  Because when they aren’t showing their own content they’re playing repeats of The Mentalist, which is also awesome.  I’ll watch: Leverage when it comes back and Major Crimes when I’m at my parents house.

HBO is… heavy.  Everything they do is a huge production, and everything is well done.  The production value on everything they come out with is through the roof and that in and of itself is noteworthy (so here I am taking note).  Comedy and Drama, HBO is the real deal.  Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, and Veep are only the beginnings of comedy; and Boardwalk Empire, Entourage, Game of Thrones, and The Newsroom are all fabulous.

As previously discussed, I have mixed feelings on Girls.  It’s a working relationship.  Game of Thrones is one of the most talked about shows in the TV department and I can’t even start with my frustration over having been away while The Newsroom was airing this summer.  I still haven’t seen all of it.  Terrible television student, I know.  I’ll watch: The Newsroom.  And probably Girls.

The Discovery Channel is where I get my “reality” TV.  While I love scripted TV the most, there is a special place in my heart for shows that are unscripted and are actually able to teach me something in the process.  Or at least be wonderfully interesting and full of fun facts to spout out to strangers at a later point in time.

My favorites are most definitely Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.  Teaching me randoms stuff and being wildly entertaining.  I also think I saw Grant once on the street in San Francisco.  NBD.  I’ll watch Deadliest Catch in a pinch every once in a while too, but for the most part, I’ll watch: Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs (on repeat, forever).

BBCAmerica.  I love the BBC.  I love that they exist and use government funding to make cool shows.  I love that it’s British.  I just love it.  I don’t know that I can actually explain why.  I just do.  I love Doctor Who and Torchwood and The Hour and Sherlock and anything staring Gordon Ramsey.  Really.

At the moment Dramaville includes Luther and Copper, both of which have landed themselves on my too watch list.  I was underwhelmed with Copper upon first viewing, but I feel like I need to give it a second shot.  In the meantime, I’ll watch Doctor Who and Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

AMC is here so that it doesn’t feel neglected.  Though, with all the talk of their shows (especially Mad Men), I doubt that will happen.  I don’t actually watch any AMC shows for reasons that may or may not be legitimate, but I won’t know how much so until I get around to watching The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad or Mad Men.  Until then, I can’t make much of a judgement call other than to say that they all come fabulously recommended from people who’s taste in television I trust explicitly.

And that’s it.  I think, all cards on the table, I have to say that I don’t actually have cable.  I get TNT for now, though I’m not sure I’m supposed to (not complaining).  I go to my friend’s place and we rent out the media center to watch Doctor Who on BBCA every Saturday.  I get snippets of these shows from classes, loaned DVD’s, friends houses, Netflix, and the shows that are on Hulu or a network’s web player.  What can I tell you, I’m in college.  I can’t afford cable right now as sad as that is to me.  One day.

Cable provides an awesome place for creators to play.  There are less limits and bigger budgets which allows things to happen on a larger scale with more raunchiness or violence.  Neither of those things are elements that I’m always in favor of, but I do think that there is a place for it and in this world, that place is cable TV.