Wednesday, 28 December 2016

MY TOP TV RECOMMENDATIONS OF 2016

WARNING: This post does not contain any gloriously sliced, tummy popping ab bricks, absolutely no impossibly pumped pecs, not one single inch of a freakishly sized bicep and not even the slightest hint of the brilliantly coloured, inexplicably shiny fabric of a teenie tiny pair of bodybuilders' posing trunks! 

So as most of you know, as well as being a lover of outrageously huge, shredded to death/bordering on alien-like (fuck yeah!) muscle freaks, I also write my own stories and post them here on the blog. It probably goes without saying, but I absolutely love storytelling. Not just through books and written fiction, but through film and TV as well.

I often surprise people when I say that, as much as I love films, I actually much prefer TV. Even short series' allow for so much more character development than a two hour film. I love being able to get emotionally invested in a set of characters and seeing them grow and develop over a number of years. Equally I love plot lines which can stretch and expand through an entire series, or, depending on the format of the show, seeing your favourite characters embarking on something new every episode.

There's been some incredible series this year, so in a completely different change of pace, I thought I'd do something unusual and put together a non-muscle post and write about a few of my favourites.

Given this is completely off-topic and unrelated to huge, freaky muscle, I'm under no illusion that this post will engage any kind of response! But I've always liked the idea of writing a non-muscle related blog post which explores another interest of mine, so I thought fuck it, I'll give it a go and maybe I'll even introduce some fellow muscle and TV fans who follow the blog to a show they haven't seen.

So first up...

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ROANOKE

When I was about ten years old my mum let me watch "Halloween". Yes it scared the fucking shit out of me (for months after I was convinced Michael Myers was following me home from school) but I absolutely fucking loved it! Even at that age I knew that I was watching something special. The whole look and feel of the film, the way the camera moved, the sinister music, the shot at the end of the film where the camera goes back to the empty patch of grass to reveal that Michael has gone, those last killer lines ("What's the bogeyman"? "As a matter of fact that was"), it all stayed with me as much as the image of Michael Myers in that boiler suit and terrifying/pant-fucking-shitting mask did. No other film had had that effect on me before and it set me on a journey to becoming a massive horror fan (needless to say I was a huge fan of the "Scream" films which paid heavy homage to "Halloween" and came just a few years later).

So a TV series called "American Horror Story", which, as well as obviously being in the horror genre, was also completely fucking bonkers and occasionally even funny, was almost guaranteed to be to my taste.

For those who aren't that familiar with the series, every season has a different story, setting/"theme", and set of characters. A lot of the same actors return for the follow up seasons (some dip in and out over the years), but they play different characters. So before this year, we had seasons set in a murder house, an insane asylum, a witches coven, a 1950's freak show and a haunted hotel.


The theme is often revealed about six months before the series airs. This year, however, the producers pulled off a BRILLIANT marketing trick by keeping the theme a secret right up until the episode aired, with a dozen teaser trailers for potential/"could be" themes to keep fans guessing. Save for a couple of leaked location pics which hinted at the storyline, no one knew what season six would involve before the premiere of the first episode; a fake TV documentary titled "My Roanoke Nightmare", which featured a "real life" couple telling their story of how they bought a farmhouse in Roanoke, North Carolina, only to discover it was haunted by a group of dwellers trying to reclaim their land, with the story being told with re-enactment scenes.


Even though I liked the fact that they'd done something different with the season, I wasn't initially that taken with it. Something really clicked with me around episode three though. After a bit of a slow start, things suddenly started moving with this episode. They introduced a brilliantly camp clairvoyant played by Leslie Jordan, and went into the back story of the dwellers, lead by a character called The Butcher, played by Kathy Bates. And then the "Blood Moon" arrived - three nights where the ghosts are able to actually kill people.


From then on, every episode was like a horror tour de force. A relentless, shocking, edge of your seat experience where you didn't know what the fuck was gonna happen next, or who would survive. I've literally never seen any TV series like "Roanoke", and I'd probably rate it as the second best ever AHS season behind season 2 ("Asylum"). If you're a hardcore horror fan and you're quite partial to gore, you can't go wrong with this season either. People get their heads smashed in with hammers, their arms pulled out of their sockets, stomachs split open and intestines pulled out while still alive (FUCK!). Every episode there's a hard to watch moment. Even I think they went too far with the fate of two teenagers in episode 9 in a scene which was just plain uncomfortable to watch.

And (without giving away any spoilers), the format takes a sharp U-turn halfway through with episode 6, but is just as equally, if not more so, brilliant for the remaining episodes!

And props must be given to some of the outstanding performances too, particularly a wonderfully deranged Kathy Bates ("I just wanted to be on TV!"), and Adina Porter. The latter not an AHS regular but she basically stole the entire season with her incredible performance during the second half.

By far my favourite TV series of 2016 (despite being in it's sixth season), and one of those seasons I'll be revisiting again and again (it's PERFECT for binge watching).


STRANGER THINGS

Sometimes I just know I'll love a series before I've even watched it. I'd heard good things about "Stranger Things" but as always, avoided reading anything about it before hand (I like to watch things with as little info as possible - I very rarely watch trailers for that reason, even of my favourite returning shows). Pretty much from the opening scene of the first episode I knew I was watching something special. The brilliant music, the retro, 80's style opening credits and the whole look of the show is unique, helped by the fact that it's set in the 80's. It even pays homage to a lot of films from that era.


It's set in a small town and centres around the disappearance of a boy and the search for him by his group of misfit friends, his mother (played by Winona Ryder), brother and the town's police officer. A strange girl called "Eleven" with special powers, who befriends the kids, appears and everything points towards a laboratory who seemed to have opened some kind of gate and unleashed some kind of otherworldly monster.

It's brilliantly nostalgic and unlike anything else out there at the moment. The storytelling is excellently paced too and keeps you guessing all the way through.


BLACK MIRROR

So as much as I loved the first two mentioned shows, if I had to recommend just one series from 2016 it would be "Black Mirror". Chances are you'll have at least heard of it (at least if you're a fellow Brit) and maybe seen a creepy trailer or two.

One of the things I love about "Black Mirror" is that every episode is a stand alone story. You can literally pick any episode and watch it without having seen any others. So what to expect from a "Black Mirror" episode? Firstly, something very well written. And secondly, something extremely clever. Most episodes are set sometime in the future, and although they're not connected, they all share a common theme; a satirical look at modern society, particularly the use of technology and social media. Most present a sort of "what if" scenario, some of them warning signs as to what might actually happen in the future.

So in the six very different new episodes from this year's third season (the first since the show moved from Channel 4 to Netflix), the American set and cinematic feeling "Nosedive" (creator Charlie Brooker purposely set the first episode in the States, with a big budget and American actors in response to those who feared the series would become too Americanised after being bought by Netflix), was set in a world where everyone uses a "Rate Me" app. So every encounter we have with someone provokes them to rate the other person out of 5. Those with higher average ratings get to move up in business and live in nicer/more exclusive properties.


In "Hated By The Nation", a controversial and reviled news journalist (Katie Hopkins anyone?) dies in mysterious circumstances after people start using her name in a new #DeathTo hashtag trend on Twitter. Every day, whoever is mentioned the most in the hashtag will die, highlighting the increasing and common trend of people taking to Twitter to express their hate for certain things/celebrities (Honey G and Donald Trump would be fucked).


Some episodes are predictably better than others, but out of the 13 made, there really isn't a bad episode. Each one is unique, clever and brilliantly written and produced (some episodes feel like mini movies).

And to show how diverse the series is, the episode which seems to have been the most loved from this year's season is perhaps the least "Black Mirror"-esque episode ever produced, which is not only perhaps my favourite ever "Black Mirror" episode across all three seasons, but the best hour of TV I watched this year.

It's really hard to talk about "San Junipero" without giving anything away for those who haven't seen it, but I'm going to try my best because if you do watch it, you really don't want to know too much about it!

Episode four of the new series, it's set in a mysterious fictional town called San Junipero in 1987 (a first for the show, which is usually set in the future) which seems geared towards young people doing nothing but going out, dancing and having one night stands and features a shy twentysomething woman going to the town's club for the first time. There she meets a woman who she instantly connects with. She wants something to happen between them, but she's weary and scared - and she only has until 12:00 before, well...something happens (we're not exactly sure what). The next week she goes back and the two embark on a bit of a romance. However, after their second encounter, she struggles to find her, and as she tries to track her down, the reality of what's going on slowly unfolds.


At it's heart, it's a love story (I guess if I'm honest, I'm a bit of a sucker for romance) but "San Junipero" explores some themes which, needless to say, resonate with a lot of us, which no doubt plays a part in explaining why it's loved by so many. Unfortunately to list those themes would be giving too much of the story away.

And I can't not mention this episode without praising the repeated use of three things; music, movie posters and music videos on a shop window TV! They even managed to squeeze a bit of Kylie in there.


FLEABAG

It's fair to say this BBC comedy about a thirtysomething Londoner (adapted from a one woman play) was a bit of a slow burner. I remember watching the trailer for it and thinking it looked pretty funny, and slowly I started hearing more and more people praise it. So I took the plunge and watched it and I was completely taken in.

First of all, it's very, very funny. The whole opening montage of the first episode which starts with "you know when a guy sends you a text at 2 o'clock in the morning" and ends with "and then you spend the rest of the day wondering...do I have a massive arsehole?" is just brilliant.

But as much as it's a comedy - there's some incredibly emotional moments too. The shows' star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has this knack of making you laugh out loud one moment, and feeling sad the next. In fact, there's an underlying sadness running throughout the whole series, with regular flashbacks of her best friend and business partner from her cafe who was involved in a road accident and died. The final episode reveals a surprising twist which makes the whole back story all the more tragic.


It's been (lazily) compared to "Miranda", presumably because it's a female led comedy where the actress regularly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience with her (often brilliant and hilarious) real thoughts, some revealed just through a facial expression. Personally I'd say it's more of a one woman British version of HBO's "Girls". It has that same rawness to it, while being as unapologetically filthy and just as effortlessly funny.

A quick mention also has to go to the always amazing Olivia Coleman, who puts in a brilliant performance as Fleabag's evil bitch cunt of a stepmother.


HAPPY VALLEY

It was always going to be tough following the brilliant and hugely successful first series of BBC drama "Happy Valley" but the producers managed to pull it off earlier this year with it's second outing.


Overall I think the first season was probably better and had a stronger overarching storyline but more than anything, season two showcased what a relentlessly brilliant actress Sarah Lancaster is. A strong supporting cast and a gripping plot of a twisted serial killer targeted prostitutes, with some genuinely shocking twists and reveals also helped the series rise above the many other British dramas to become one of the finest of the year.

2 comments:

  1. An unusual concept MA. It's absolutely fine by me that you include a non muscle theme as I always enjoy reading your commentary. Unfortunately I can't comment on any of these TV productions except Happy Valley, which was brilliant. It's obvious from your punchy journalistic style of writing and inclusion of the vernacular,that media/script writing etc interests you greaty. In the new year, I'll try to catch up with some on your reccomendations. Off the subject slightly...Your post got me thinking about muscle and bodybuilding on TV in my formative years. This was a very different world to what it is now. No internet, youtube, mobiles n for me growing up in the 70s not even video for another decade! Funny how even pre-puberty there are signs of sexual disposition, n what we'll be attracted to in later life. Obviously for me, virile men was my focus of attention so 'fraid to say there wasn't that much eye candy about except the occasional glimpse of StarTrek's Captain Kirk, sexy cowboys on 'The High Chaperal' and on saturday morning TV, the loined clothed Tarzan! That was about it! It got slightly better in the early 80s and by then i'd discovered the amazing world of bodybuilding . Like most lads of that age I would be tugging my pud whenever I got the opportunity, but my growing collection of muscle mags had to be my main source of wank fodder. TV wise, bodybuilding was in the desert with few exceptions. Lou ferrigno's incredible hulk for one. I do remember staying awake late and watching a screening of 'Pumping Iron'. By then we had a portable tv so I was able to watch it in the privacy of my bedroom. Fuck! It's no exaggeration to say what an incredibly memorable personal experience that was..seeing such sexy musclemen flexing their astounding physiques. I was so turned on, permanently hard and orgasming time and again. Even writing about it is exciting me and that was nearly 40years ago! Another programme which I vaguely remember but have been unable to find anything online about it. I think it was called 'The Club'. Maybe a pilot soap on ITV and was probably a wannabe rival to BBC 's 'Triangle'. It didnt last long. It was set in a gym but mainly the reception n back office. It was really hammy n I can see why it was axed. It's only saving grace was a sexy muscleman..a personal trainer. In my memory, he was gorgeous and huge (probably neither in reality). It was so hot and intense to see a real bodybuilder on TV. One episode involved steroids but the abiding one was the last episode when he won a contest. Fuck, I was so horned, watching a bodybuilding contest on TV..beating one off just as my mum was calling me down for dinner! "Coming Mum"! I gasped, and I certainly was! Lol! I would love to find out about this programme if anyone can help. Anyway MA. I'll end there. Thank fuck for the internet and abundant access to muscle..my lifelong, wonderful, horny,(and as you would say) 'fuckity fuck fuck' muscle obsession!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and well written comment Anonymous! :) I've thought about doing an off-topic post for a while and this was really fun to write and put together. As stated in the post I wasn't expecting a response so it's great to hear at least one person enjoyed reading it. And I LOVED reading about your memories of viewing muscle on TV growing up. I have my own similar (and very fond) pre-Internet memories of viewing muscle on TV and actually used to have a VHS tape I’d record anything muscle related on (I probably still have it somewhere)! For me one of the best shows for muscle was actually a really cheesy American chat show on Sky One called Jenny Jones - for some reason she regularly featured bodybuilders/muscle guys/wrestlers (I read on the Internet somewhere that she actually had a bit of a thing for bodybuilders). But that character on “The Club” sounds like the kind of thing I would have recorded on to my muscle video (hehe) - I did a quick search but couldn’t find anything (will have to have another look)! I’ve said this before to a muscle mate who is around my age - I often envy today’s teenagers who have access to so much muscle on their phones/tablets etc. They can just go on YouTube and there’s a whole world of muscle just sitting there. No embarrassing trips to WH Smith to awkwardly buy magazines with bodybuilders on the front cover! But equally I’m also glad I grew up when I did with little access to muscle because it made me appreciate it so much more (even when we finally got the Internet it was dial-up, YouTube wasn’t yet founded and watching videos wasn’t a common thing so it was really just images - though that alone was incredible). Thank you again for the brilliant comment Anonymous and the trip down muscle memory lane! And (again) I really did love reading about your own memories! Here’s to our equal, how did you so brilliantly put it...”lifelong, wonderful (it really fucking IS!) and horny muscle obsession”! ;)

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...