Saturday 23 September 2017

TV series roundup

TV – Being Human

This comedy/horror series was made for BBC3 and ran for five seasons, from 2009 to 2013, a total of 36 episodes. I missed it the first time around, but in December 2016 the entire series was made available on iPlayer, so I looked at it then. There was a pilot episode featuring some different actors but this was not included in the current "virtual box set". The Being Human series was also remade in the USA (with its own plot variations) and shown in four seasons (52 episodes) between 2011 and 2014.

The basic scenario is a now-familiar one in contemporary urban fantasy: creatures of fantasy (specifically, ghosts, vampires and werewolves) trying to exist alongside humans in the modern world. A vampire and a werewolf combine to share a flat, only to discover that it already has a resident ghost (invisible to anyone but them).  This isn't a must-watch series but it is nonetheless worth trying, mixing adult dilemmas with a fair amount of comedy.

TV – Outlander

A time-travelling adventure in which a young English woman, fresh from working as a nurse in WW2, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband when she is accidentally transported 200 years into the past – a time of intermittent warfare between the English and the Scots. The first episode is terrific, with much painstaking effort to reflect the realities of life in both periods (particularly grim and unpleasant in the distant past, of course). However, after that the action slows down and the focus changes to concentrate on relationships, feelings and emotions; from a healthy 50/50 split between plot and relationships, it shifts to more like 25/75. The tale acquires a distinctly "Mills & Boon" flavour and I lost interest after the third episode. 

TV – Cleverman

An Australian series set in an alternate present day in which the natives, instead of being aboriginies, are "hairymen" with unusual abilities (and lots of body hair). Intriguing, but too dark in all senses to be appealing.

TV – Occupied

A near-future Norwegian thriller inspired by crime writer Jo Nesbø with the basic premise that Norway elects a "green" government committed to shutting down their oil and gas industries to rely solely on renewable energy. The problem is that Norway exports a lot of oil and gas, and its customers are highly alarmed. So much so that when the Russians occupy the North Sea rigs in order to ensure that production is maintained, the EU takes no action. Russian involvement in Norwegian politics becomes ever more complex and a resistance movement springs up among the disaffected Norwegian military.

The principal character is a Norwegian security officer who stops an assassination attempt aimed at the Russian ambassador. He becomes trusted by the Russians, and with official encouragement he gets closer to them – but problems arise over the way he and his family are regarded by their fellow-countrymen. The plot becomes ever more convoluted as the tensions ramp up – with war being declared by Russia against Norway at the end of the first 10-episode season. The second season I haven't yet seen. Gripping, but rather grim.

TV – Valkyrien

Another Norwegian series with an interesting plot with elements of crime, medical drama and "preppers" concerned with preparing for their predicted collapse of society. It has been compared with Breaking Bad, but since I haven't seen that series I can't comment. 

A brilliant surgeon falls ill while working on a cure for a particular disease. Her husband, also a surgeon, tries to obtain approval to try an experimental treatment which they have been working on, but this is denied. He accordingly fakes her suicide as she slips into a coma, and while continuing her research, hides her in part of a network of abandoned tunnels underneath Oslo, with the help of Leif from the Civil Defence Agency who is responsible for the tunnels. He is a prepper (and the most interesting character in the series) obsessed with planning for doomsday, and has been involved in organising bank robberies in order to obtain the funds he needs.

An interesting aspect of the series is that Leif lists a dozen threats that could cause a collapse in society, and these are so realistic that the actor who plays Leif (Pal Sverre Hagen) was invited to address, in character,  a National Security Authority conference on the subject!

The series is intriguing, with the development of the complex plot far more difficult to predict than is usually the case. Worth watching.