Why so series? – Marcella

Marcella is a good series.

Yay.

It’s one of the shows I was speaking about when I reviewed Paranoid. An interesting story that lets its characters carry the load, while sparkling the space in between with an interesting case to solve.

Anna Friel stars as titular Marcella, an ex-police mother of two, who just got dumped by her husband of 15 years. Soon after, she’s visited by a member of the police force, asking her for details on an old serial killer case. She decides to re-join the police to help solve the possible resurgence of the killer – who she failed to catch back then.

She enters into a complicated web of lies and deceit, human decency and indecency.

Oh, and she gets black-outs. When she gets stressed out, Marcella blacks out, and cannot remember what she does. To complicate things, her husband, Jason, works for a development contractor, whose troubled business has some worrying ties to the killings.

The case is an interesting one. The killer uses many of the same techniques as the killer from the past did, which convinces Marcella that her main suspect from a decade ago, Peter Cullen, is her man. The rest of the team isn’t nearly as interested in looking at Cullen, who’s serving a (minimum security? or whatever it’s called in England) prison sentence, where he’s constantly under watch.

It’s a very complicated web, that does make sense when looking at it from the finish line, but it’s a bit hard to keep up with at times. There were a couple of times when I had trouble remembering what character did what things. A few characters could have been cut without impacting the story and making it easier on the viewer.  Marcella’s black-outs add unnecessarily to the complicated nature of the show, even if it very interesting to begin with.

A bit on the characters, then:

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Marcella and Tim

Marcella is a confident woman with her own sense of honour. Still, she’s not disconnected – as modern “strong female protagonists” often are – and make some silly decisions due to her vulnerability after being left by her husband. She’s driven, intelligent and magnetic, getting people to follow her lead, even when they don’t want to.

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Jason

Jason, is the chief legal officer of a local development firm. He’s very ambitious, but seems caring enough. That is, until you get further into the show, and he seems more and more like a pile of shit.

Henry Gibson, the son of the development company’s owner. He’s the black sheep of the family and will go far to get the affection he sorely desires. Excellently played by Harry Lloyd, who played the more interesting Targaryen on Game of Thrones.

Tim Williamson, a police detective investigating another crime, which has worrying ties to Marcella’s case. An old co-worker of Marcella’s and sparks fly when they’re aound each-other. Played by Jamie Bamber, who’s good in this, but needed a bit more time on the screen to develop the character more.

Some other characters are a bit one-dimensional, but that’s fine. Everyone can’t be the most interesting bugger you’ve ever seen.

What I will give the series props for, is that it doesn’t shy away from the really bad stuff. I won’t spoil anything, but I’m a bit surprise at how raw it was ready to get. Also, the antagonistic characters are wonderfully acted and very creepy.

Recommended for someone looking for an interesting, character-driven detective story.

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Why so series?: The Newsroom

The Newsroom is one of the best examples I’ve ever come across that completely subverts what you think it will be, and surprises you with its quality. See, a couple of days before watching it, I thought the show had one of the worst concepts ever. “Who the fuck would want to watch a show about producing the news?”

After seeing it, I think it’s worth watching.

The Newsroom is a good series.

It’s in fact a fabulous one.

I was randomly watching youtube-clips during the evening and came across a couple of videos with great speeches. That great Chaplin speech and then finally finding this speech. It’s the first scene of the damn series, and completely sold me on the main character, as well as the tone of the series.

Before that, I thought it was a random comedy show, about a jerk reporting the news. Like House, but the news. Boy was I wrong. The Newsroom is a brilliant and thoroughly riveting show about the news and how it should be produced and why being responsible with what you produce is so important (proven in the uneven, but very good second season). But really, I could go on for a long while, when the thing you really need to do to gauge if this show is likely for you – is browse for some more Will McAvoy segments where he’s railing on people/subjects. They don’t give you a window into all the series entails, but help you understand the tone and what the series is about.

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Don and Mac after an exhausting newscast

As the series starts, Will is doing a good job in keeping his popularity only. He’s scared of letting people know that he’s a bit of an arse in private, and mainly produces fluff TV on his newscast. A sharp contrast from when he first took over on the channels 9/11 newscast, when he was only the show’s legal counsel and had to step in when not ready at all. However, after the speech that I liked to earlier, there’s a change.

Will returns to find most of his crew leaving to the newscast the follows Will’s with its new anchor (basically Will’s protégé) and his former EP (Executive Producer – the one who feeds info to the anchor and directs the show) and thus leaving him with a skeleton crew to produce a show. His boss, Charlie, tells him that he’s hired a new EP – MacKenzie McHale. Of course there’s a catch, and the catch is that “Mac” used to be Will’s long-time girlfriend. The pair of them both anchor (bwahaha) a reborn Newsnight with a mostly new crew and new direction.

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Charlie

That’s the show, basically. Watching the successes and failures, the trials and tribulations of making a newscast: Collecting the information, checking the sources, making sure you have everything at least double-checked, writing the script, planning out the show, finding and vetting eventual guests, and so on. It’s a wonderful thrill at times, which was a pleasant surprise to myself.

The cast then, which is mostly brilliant and many were unknown – at least to me:

Jeff Daniels pulls out some of his finest work to play Will McAvoy, in all his glorious ass-hattery and the odd caring moments. He’s a supremely clever former attorney-turned-news anchor with a razor wit. The show sees Will try to go from being a miserable bastard towards a self-improving man with ambition. It’s lovely to see him improve with the show’s (that is, the show within the series) gradually increasing quality as he learns the importance of the people around him and how it’s more important to be genuine than to pretend being someone else to be well-liked.

MacKenzie “Mac” McHale acts as the fuel initially for Will to return to form. She has a very idealised, yet realistic, view on how the news should be reported. She and Will have many arguments about how the show should be presented and reported and are both equally stubborn in supporting their own position. She was a war correspondent before the start of the series. She brings a lot of the series’ comedic relief. Played by the wonderful Emily Mortimer. (Weirdly, Mac’s supposed to be in her early thirties in the show, while Mortimer is clearly in her forties)

There’s a bunch of great supporting players as well:

  • John Gallagher as Jim Harper, Mac’s producer friend from her days in the war. Clever and sometimes abrasive, he’s a hard worker who’s instrumental in turning News Night’s fortunes around.
  • Dev Patel as Neal Sampat, who starts the show as just the editor of Will’s blog (which Will didn’t even know existed back then) and grows more confident and gains more trust from the rest of the crew.
  • Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith, the economics reporter, who gets gradually better at dealing with people from the rather cold person she starts out as. Has some incredibly hilarious scenes.
  • Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner, who probably should be a bigger mention, but there’s so much overlap between his and Mac’s character that there’s not too much to say about just him. He’s the one that got the ball rolling for the gang’s sometimes literally quixotic quest for a better newscast. Has some absolutely banging lines.
  • Allison Pill as Maggie Jordan, the character with possibly the most growth of the show. She starts out as very meek and ends up being a very confident woman in charge of herself and some others. Similarly a great and awful character, in that she’s either randomly the solution to problems or nonsensically put in situations to fuck things up completely.
  • Thomas Sadoski as Don Keefer, Will’s former EP and a brilliant jack-ass. A very hard worker when he wants to be, and surprises his co-workers by being just as passionate about the news being reported correctly as the other crew.

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    A meeting to decide what to feature on the show

I’ve almost only been on about positives so far, but there are some negatives. Some episodes can be a bit of a slog as not every news-story is absolutely riveting.

There’s also the other negatives for me: The romantic sub-plots. I get it, okay – romance is a good source for drama and conflict, and I don’t have anything against it being on a screen. But when it takes up substantial amounts of time and thus weakening other segments, it can, and did, become a problem. One of these sub-plots that keep getting in the way is the sometimes love-triangle around Maggie.

One of my favourite things about the show is the usage of real-world news to comment on. There’s the BP oil-spill, Osama bin Laden killing, Presidential elections and so on. It makes for a much better show than if they tried fake news or concurrent news to use for the shows.

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Will and Sloan

 

 

I could go on, but I probably wouldn’t add anything more to interest you in the show, so I’ll stop here. I’ll just say that I’ve been very positively surprised by this gem of a show, and I hope you will find it as good as I did. I’m re-watching episodes when writing this, and I’m getting really excited about watching it back in a few years. Really unique and excellent television, and obviously highly recommended.

Good evening.