‘Gomorrah’ – Series 1

Welcome to Italy, Naples to be exact. Only these intimidating inner-city destinations won’t be on any tourist trail. If you end up in these locations you holiday stroll has taken the worst of wrong turns. Welcome to Gomorrah.

Gomorrah is based on the non-fiction investigative book — 2006’s Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia by Roberto Saviano, a journalist who got such a close and detailed look at Naples mafia he is now living in hiding. Gomorrah is the highest-rated show to ever air on the Italian network Sky Italia, far outstripping American imports such as Game Of Thrones and House Of Cards. There’s a strong familial resemblance to The Wire, as this captivating Italian series is also an immersive look at street-level crime, gang organisation and shocking scenes of unflinching violence.

Naples is a colorful city but those colours are washed-out neon, like looking at life through a fishbowl. In similar way to Braquo this is firmly set in the grimy underbelly of the city, filled with leather jacket wearing hard men. This is the territory of the mafia; running drugs, buying crooked cops and dishing out violence to all who cross them. And we meet them at a paranoid time – there’s problems with extra cops, neighbourhood watch and journalists crawling around the blocks. Everything is changing.

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‘The Last Dragonslayer’

The Last Dragonslayer on Sky 1 was a proper Christmas treat and should have been on everyone’s list to watch instead of the Doctor Who christmas episode, shown at the same time. In this reviewer’s opinion Doctor Who has been limping along since the unfortunate Peter Capaldi took over. The sooner we see new showrunner Chris Chibnall’s work in 2017 the better, although it’d take a miracle to lure me back. Anyway I digress…

This much more satisfying slice of fantasy was served up by novelist Jasper Fforde. I’ve read quite a few of Fforde’s weird postmodern literary stories but never realised he’d branched out into young adult fiction. Happy to report that while retaining his own odd identity (more on that later) this shared elements with classic YA stuff like the Harry Potter series, Rincewind’s adventures in the Discworld and the magnificent His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

This is a full review, so if you want to avoid spoilers go watch it now and come back later.

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‘The Crown’

Missing your Downton Abbey Sunday evening fix? Fancy a posh period drama? They don’t come any posher than this. Dramatist Peter Morgan (who wrote the film The Queen from 2006) offers us a new biographical series about Queen Elizabeth II and her family, disappointingly not called Keeping Up With The Windsors. It’s one of the most lavish and expensive period dramas ever made, and everyone who watches this sort of telly was startled to find out it wasn’t going to be broadcast on the BBC, the go-to broadcaster for Grandma-friendly programming. New commissioning behemoth Netflix apparently paid £100 million for the first 20 episodes, so you can see why the Beeb might have said no, in a year where they couldn’t find enough change down the sofa to keep Mel, Sue and Mary in their big tent.

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‘Westworld’ – On the Box

Big things were expected for Westworld, the telly reboot of the 1973 sci-fi film, and big things were achieved. It was HBO’s biggest series debut in three years. And it looks magnificent!

Westworld is a theme park – the newcomers are the players, the high-paying guests who get to live out their cowboy frontier town fantasy. Sex and violence is the top two reasons people seem to play, and sexy violence is probably competing for third place. The innocent townspeople who populate the game are extremely advanced androids (incredibly beautiful and faces full of character), who live in a Groundhog day-dream state, to please the guests and keep them entertained.

Through wholesome Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her cowboy lover Teddy (James Marsden) we briefly glimpse a clichéd romance fantasy before life quickly turns sour. It’s horrific to watch, and worse still she wakes in blissful ignorance the next day to be preyed upon all over again. Despite how real these androids seem these are just toys programmed for paying customers pleasure. We know this and yet our sympathies lie squarely with the machines from the opening moments.

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New Comedy for October 2016 – Seeing the Future

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and suddenly there’s a bunch of new comedy series on tv. Here’s your guide to great things returning this week, and one show that we can really do without…

YonderlandSeries 1 Episode 2 ©Ollie Upton / BSkyB
The Council of Yonderland baffles Debbie once again

Yonderland (Sky 1) Sunday 16th October 6pm

Written by and starring the cast of Horrible Histories, this show now returning for Series 3 is unrestrained by facts or learning and transplanted to a fantasy land on Sky1. Nice and normal Brummie housewife Debbie Maddox (Martha Howe-Douglas) is the saviour of this strange and silly land. She tries to impose some order on the chaos (fighting inept demons, going on mystical quests, dealing with the totally insane ruling council) while keeping her unbelievable double life secret from her husband Pete (Dan Renton-Skinner – brilliant in everything). If you’ve not seen the first two series, treat yourself because they’re all on Sky Catch Up right now. It’s the kind of show you need to watch recorded as Series 1 especially would make you laugh so loud and hard that you’d miss the next punchline and have to rewind it.

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I Have Been Watching… Game of Thrones (spoiler free!)

In which guest blogger Susie Sue tells us about her love for a dark and brutal drama, and shows off her holiday snaps!

 

Last summer I was lucky enough to go to the beautiful city of Seville in southern Spain. I visited the Alcázar,  better known as the seat of House Martell.

Alcazar
Sunspear, aka Seville

I mention this mainly to show off but also because there was nearly an hour wait to get in and also airport style security when you did get through. It was that popular.

With the new season of Game of Thrones  (Sky Atlantic, 9pm Mondays – or before that if you have Sky Go or Now etc) upon us I have asked myself why – why? – is such a brutal show so appealing to me – to us? 

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‘Marcella’ – On the Box

ITV has had a bit of a coup with the new London noir drama series Marcella. Written by Hans Rosenfeldt, the Swedish guy behind The Bridge which was such a success for BBC4, you’d think that naturally this would go to the Beeb. But no – it starts on ITV tomorrow night (Monday 4th April at 9pm).

I think it’s clear that ITV have been inspired by recent Scandi noir successes (The Bridge, The Killing etc) and by the revitalised UK detective dramas that have been must-watch tv – Happy Valley and Luther. The bucolic Midsummer Murders is done. Professor Plum in the dining room with the candlestick didn’t do it. It’s all gotten rather gritty, which is no bad thing. But can this writer shift his focus to London, or will the whole thing be lost in translation?

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