Well what to say which hasn’t already been said about Game of Thrones? Intricate politics, excellent human relationships and lots of violence and sex. I could leave it at that but I hope you’d like to know more about my opinion on HBO’s adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s gargantuan, doorstopper novels. The second series builds nicely upon the first with the ongoing conflict between the various fictional houses which are inspired by the families of the Wars of the Roses. The second season starts to take on more supernatural elements, featuring much more magic (in particular Stannis Baretheon) and of course the return of the dragons. The dialogue is particularly sharp, especially between the children with Arya Stark (Masie Williams) and the despicable Joffrey Baratheon (Ian Gleeson) deserving particular praise for their performance. The cast is interesting in two respects: it’s largely English and it features a mixture of veteran actors such as the wonderful Charles Dance playing Twyin Lannister (one of the most Machiavelli characters ever to grace the screen), along with previously lesser known talent such as Peter Dinklage, now an big star for his Emmy-winning performance as Tywin’s dwarf son, Tyrion. The rather underpowered Emilia Clark (Daenerys Targaryen) seems to be growing into her role this season and Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy is becoming an interestingly flawed character, torn in all sorts of directions and becoming a truly unpleasant figure. This is one of the best examples of a sympathetic adaptation as it largely keeps to the books with only necessary changes. In many ways, its method of vast storytelling and its narrative concerning the dynamics of power has a linage to the great HBO dramas of Rome, The Sopranos or The Wire. It is constantly a gripping 55 minutes where some of the most interesting things happen not in on the battle field but over discussions in cold keeps.
Well, Community is smart. It is also divisive. In my unofficial straw poll of friends it ranges from crap, boring and formulaic to inventive, clever, and meta – or simply the best thing on TV. I see it more as a spiritual successor to the great Channel 4 comedies such as Green Wing, Spaced and Black Books. It works from the fun principal of watching someone loathing his time in community college (a concept we in the UK have nothing really to compare with but seen as the bottom of the barrel for education unless its for a hands-on course). He treats it like a prison sentence while discovering the good in himself. A bit like if Joss Whedon did comedy. Community has lots of snarky clever dialogue, with Joe McHale playing this arrogant former lawyer with mother issues and an obsession with looks and a frat boy attitude, at least initially. Meanwhile, the rest of his study group of six fulfill all the anxiety, mental illness, problems, diversity and quirks you could ever hope to meet. Often the show stops holding your hand and goes into an anarchic/experimental ride from a very funny paintball episode to a plasticine stop motion episode about the meaning of Christmas. It’s also filled with references to movies and TV shows. At times this is bewildering but if you just go with it and get into the rhythm of the show you will have fun, especially because at times it’s rather deep and tragic. It will often play on your expectations and then amusingly end up somewhere you weren’t even thinking. Like bigger dramas, there is a continuous story development and repercussions from each episode into the next. I personal can’t praise it enough but I know it’s not for everyone and it’s a bit of an acquired taste.
It’s a crap reality show so why is it on this list? Well, it’s compelling in a slightly horrifying way as it quite cleverly edits six months worth of filming into 19 minute episodes showing that comparatively speaking, no matter how bad your job is, there are harder ways to make money such as being stuck on a 100 ft boat filled with weather worn bullies in the most inhospitable sea on the planet, whilst working stupid hours haling heavy crap around a violently pitching deck. It’s compelling in a way other reality shows don’t capture as there is a constant waiting for an accident or something catastrophic to occur as it’s only a matter of time before something happens: fights, breakdowns, accidents and even a sinking or two, while building stories around the captain and the crew and the rivalries between boats and their fight against the weather. It’s strangely compelling and has the advantage of there being no need to watch it in linear fashion as you can jump in if it interests you and stay with it if you like it.
Review by Harry Riedl