Tag Archives: TV Drama

TV Review: Mare of Easttown

Detective sergeant Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is a well-known heroic figure in her neighborhood of Easttown, a small town in Chester County of Pennsylvania. But she has faced a trembling year in quest of a missing girl that has raised many eyebrows over her detective skills. Also, she suffers the worst possible personal crisis due to a divorce, a custody battle, and a son lost in suicide. And during all this, the cops find a body in the forest park one morning. She is Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a teenage mother, who was fighting a custody battle for her kid with her ex-boyfriend.

Looking at this magnificent miniseries and the continuity of the plot, I am surprised that Mare Of Easttown is neither adapted from a novel nor is based on a true incident. In fact, I am impressed by the quality of production that they came up with such a presentation that makes the audience believe that this may all be true. But to some extent, Mare of Easttown is somehow the story of everyday people which is why it makes you believe in the bullet detailing of the screenplay. It gives you a real feeling the way the whole show is dramatized like a cop who is sensitive to blood, an old man confessing an affair at his wife’s funeral, a priest alleged for raping a minor, a mentally disabled girl bullied in the school, the old couple who tries to figure how to set up a security camera, and many more.

ERIN McMENAMIN

The character of Erin in the first episode is the most fitting epitome of bad social treatment. I have watched so many television characters develop well but have taken time to grow with more than one episode. But Erin whose character lived for just one episode has to be the fastest growth-developing character in recent years. It was phenomenal writing about a character that screamed louder the more she gets unsettled. Facing the hardship of becoming a mother as a teenager, she suffered rigidity from her father and her ex-boyfriend who should have emotionally backed her instead of being unsupportive. How heartbreaking it was to see Erin get beaten in the park and the ex-boyfriend doing nothing but watching and enjoying it.

All the major characters in Easttown are affected by Erin’s murder. They are socially distressed and contribute to the plot which is another impressive point of the drama.

MARE SHEEHAN

There have been many detective stories with the central character in the uniform always portrayed to suffer due to his/her line of work and in person. So there is nothing new about Mare but the reason why Mare’s typical character is picked and praised highly over others in recent times is because of touching the deepest aspects of her life very rightly, addressing her miseries peculiarly, giving enough screen length to suffocate between her roles as a mother of a dead son, ex-wife in a troubled marriage, irresolute to her line of work, and doubtful heroism that has faded since no trace of a missing child in an unsolved crime case. Mare is hanging loosely on the walls of many parallels with no success and optimism.

And the most impressive factor of all – Kate Winslet. How much do you have to influence a character to your body that the audience traces no sign of the actor’s stunning performance but feels the pain of Mare Sheehan? I am lost at how Meryl Streep a performance can be. This has to be Kate’s best performance since ‘The Reader‘. There was everything about the role, her body language, the Delco accent of the Phillys, the facial translation of emotional distress, rage, frustration, and God knows what else. The only scene in the entire series she laughed was so natural and visibly showed to the audience that her guffaw came out after all the bad things happening to that lady and was so necessary.

Unnecessary Developments

Yes, there are elements that looked pretty forced and time-consuming. Mare’s daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) had unnecessary sequences for her relationship with the radio jockey that had nothing to do with either plot or sub-plot. It clearly looked like this segment was dramatized to keep the LGBTQ+ community happy. The second is Mare’s love interest Richard Ryan, a writer and professor played by Guy Pearce. This character had absolutely no importance to the story and wasted quite heavy minutes in the development. In the beginning, I assumed that Richard’s character will be later linked to Erin’s murder somehow but he had no connection at all and was generally there for Mare. Giving so many minutes to his presence made no sense. The only theory that makes Richard in the story applicable is that his existence gave Mare’s unhappy life an opportunity to find positivity. She badly needed counseling so he was there. The same error in Detective Colin’s character, played by Evan Peters, who was brought to assist Mare in the crime case. First, he was awkward and I have never understood why the assistant or vice to a detective or a cop has to be a little dumb or less confident. And then, out of nowhere, Colin falls in love with Mare. Why would you do that?

But yes, the makers of the show deserve special praise for funny sequences that occurred in such a dark drama out of nowhere. Not a single time did the comedy look forced and fitted so well. Mare’s mother Helen was a source of bringing excitement many times.

CLOSING REMARKS

Mare Of Easttown is another masterpiece that propels me to advise the television audience to prefer HBO over any network if they are willing to try a miniseries. HBO looks like a dominant force for limited writing and has impressed with many quality contents in recent years like Watchmen, Chernobyl, The Night Of, and a few more. The winner of 4 Emmies, the show deserves every credit for being one of the best suspense and detective thrillers in recent years.

TV Review: Modern Love Mumbai (2022)

Modern Love Mumbai is the Indian version of the Amazon Original anthology series, ‘Modern Love‘. MLM follows the same aesthetics as the original work. Set in Mumbai, each of the six episodes present different love stories expressing freedom and questioning the boundary to reach the human desire.

Modern Love was set in New York and all the stories were based on the essays published in The New York Times under the same title. So I am not sure if MLM also followed this route. But each of the stories has its significance and has the essence of the plot’s simplicity to sensualize. These stories are very close to life and most of the audience can relate.

Three of the six stories are about married women thoroughly divided in ages. One is as young as their twenties, the second is in her forties, and the third is in her late fifties or mid-sixties. One is about homosexuals, and another is about a young woman searching for the ideal man through a dating app. And there is one particular for the Northeast Indian mother-son story who is in the conflict of getting or not getting mixed in multiculturalism. So this indicates that MLM was written and developed with care.

I liked the panel of directors who worked on their part of the stories. Shonali Bose returned to the director’s seat for Raat Rani years after ‘The Sky Is Pink‘. Raat Rani is about A girl from Dal Lake, Lali, who marries a Mumbaikar, a security guard Lutfi and arrives in Mumbai but her life is dull until Lutfi is transferred to the other station leaving his bicycle behind for her.

Hansal Mehta directed a controversial episode ‘Baai‘ about homosexuality. Hansal previously directed ‘Aligarh‘ with the same subject. This is about Manzar Ali who belongs to a conservative Muslim household but is interested in men but is not able to tell his ailing grandmother Baai.

Another veteran director Vishal Bhardwaj did the Northeastern family drama ‘Mumbai Dragon‘ where the mother faces difficulty in accepting her son with his girlfriend who doesn’t belong to her ethnicity.

Alankrita Srivastava did ‘My Beautiful Wrinkles‘ about an old widow Dilbar who takes interest in a young athlete Kunal, a plot that is similar to one of the four stories in her ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha‘. Alankritas direction is like a wave for the liberalism of womanhood where she develops bold intentions in the plot and addresses them in a peculiar way. Alankrita shows the loneliness of Dilbar that absorbs and the passion and hunger in women in general for more adequate lust melts young men to daydream and draw their nudity in their honest illustration. Sticking with the old memories may lessen your optimism. Confessing private intentions is courageous but healthy for releasing the negative energy she had in life.

Super excited to see Little Things-famed Dhruv Sehgal who directed one of the episodes ‘I Love Thane‘ about Saiba who is seeking her ideal through a dating app but gives a shot at Parth to whom she finds out through work this time.

Nupur Asthana did the last episode ‘Cutting Chai‘ about a married woman Latika in her forties thinking about her life decisions, about becoming a wife, and a mother but not a novelist, something that was her ambition.

It is the beauty of small portions in the screenplay that gives you the feel about how these things matter in life, the human connection is strong in the drama. Like in Cutting Chai, Latika begins to regret her life decisions and imagine people around her agreeing and disagreeing with her. That is indicating how careful a young man or woman was when he/she was young and had to listen to society about what he/she should have decided and what not. In Raat Rani, Lali is about to throw her husband’s old bicycle from the flyover until she thinks about utilizing it by learning to ride it and earn bread through it.

Modern Love Mumbai is the positive energy that addresses optimism and encourages us to move on or give it a chance. Although, any tv or film product can have similar elements, but the beauty of MLM stories is that the plot inclines towards a push that is needed to make the audience think. The continuity of each episode never looks pressing too hard at all.

I enjoyed when Dilbar gives a try to fantasize about young athlete Kunal in the fourth story or Manzar meets Rajveer after his fondness for the previous boy matters into heartbreak in the second episode. Same case with Saiba who gives a shot at Parth by breaking her norm to find men from the dating app. That explained a lot. Therefore, the audience gets to learn or realize a few things in life if not all by watching Modern Love Mumbai.

I don’t remember if I ever happened to see Naseeruddin Shah playing a Sikh character, that is another accomplishment in his celebrated career I reckon. Good to see Sarika after a long time, she deserves to get more recognition. Pratik Gandhi is quite an actor who has the ability to play different roles. From a rich Gujarati stockbroker to a Muslim homosexual from a conservative household, Pratik really has made a distinction in his choices. For me, from all the stories, the one actor amongst all who is the winner is Fatima Sana Shaikh in the first episode. The accent, the body language, the emotional breakdown, everything was there. She nailed her character. It was a delight to see such a quality performance.

MLM has impressive writing and direction as well as quality performances due to good choices about casting in the stories. Ram Sampath‘s music score is very touching and full of life. Modern Love’s creator John Carney was involved in financing MLM so that is also why the tone was maintained and none of the makers Bollyfied with curry aesthetics.

There is every capacity to go for more than one season. Because MLM is all about some quality essays to write about and stories to speak about. Stories will never die, and love won’t compromise. There is much human connection still to work on through different mediums. So MLM must go on.

TV Review: Man vs. Bee (2022)

Trevor Bingley is a rookie housesitter who is assigned to a high-tech mansion for a few days but to his bad luck, a bee begins to circulate around him and enters the property. After the owners hand over their place to Trevor and leave, the latter struggles to get rid of the bee that jeopardizes his work.

Netflix‘s Man vs. Bee has to be Rowan Atkinson‘s grand comeback to the comedy-drama on television since The Thin Blue Line he did for BBC back in 1995. Rowan Atkinson co. created this show with William Davies, the screenwriter who wrote Johnny English trilogy. So the artistic chemistry is there with David Kerr on the director’s chair who worked as a director with both of them in Johnny English Strikes Again.

Man vs. Bee is a fresh idea for a comedy. This is like someone showed up in a meeting with a plan that, to everyone’s surprise, works and suits well. No forced representation, no lovemaking, just an old-school comedy. Rowan Atkinson as usual displayed his slapstick magic that ages well with the audience. There is still Mr. Bean inside him that teases him to present his usual misfortunes. And the impressive part is that nothing looks unnatural, no portion of the jeopardizing moment is forced at all. The timing of the unfortunate incidents one after one defines a person’s worst Monday to begin with.

Another element of superb writing is the application of old-age or simply non-rich people struggling to settle themselves in a lifestyle that is so unusual and futuristic to them. The complexity of living in a high-tech residence is really well written. The exaggeration is sublime. The problems Trevor senses never end from the first day, it is the hardship of understanding such rich domesticity that leads to misfortunes, not only the bee.

Perhaps Trevor could have gotten rid of the troubling bee if it was a simple apartment. But then, the application of realism gets compromised for the sake of fun and laughter. Man vs. Bee does defy logic that questions realism. A few questions and Man vs. Bee cannot help escaping from the plotholes or obviousness. When the bee made Trevor break the first showpiece, why didn’t he inform the owners? Fine, he panics, and he recently got the job. But when he takes the dog to the vet, why doesn’t he inquire about catching a bee? And who in the right state of mind will detonate in the residence? Perhaps he gets so lost that he cared nothing and even puts the house on fire? Maybe this is an exaggeration to its peak but certainly, logic failed for the sake of comedy. I just felt that these are some portions where the writing and humor looked compromised.

One questionable part of writing was not killing the bee in the microwave when he had the chance. This can be theorized from several angles like sympathy with a living creature after spending some time with it for good or bad reasons, or being foolish by forgetting to close the glass sliding door, etc.

I think it was a smart move to divide a simple comedy into a maximum of 12-minute episodes. Maybe Trevor’s battle with the bee would have looked boring or silly if this was a one-hour film. But in any case, I believe that Man vs. Bee makes you think about those small moments that build nerves if you take this way too seriously. It was just a bee that happened to enter with Trevor and made the mess. Perfect timing for misfortunes and embarrassment that offers the finest displays of remorse and distress none other than Rowan Atkinson can master around.

A very funny take on mistakes, Man vs. Bee has a remarkable discomfort to laugh at.

Film Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)

THE AGING CRAWLEYS

In 1928, the Crawleys meet with two unexpected events knocking at their door. One is an opportunity to boost their finance when a film production company requests to use their estate for a silent film. Two, Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, astounds the family when she reveals that she inherits a villa in France that was given to her by the recently deceased Marquis de Montmirail. To unveil the mystery, Robert and Cora travel to France and hand over the headship to Lady Mary to look after the estate and host the film crew.

Twelve years of legacy of this British cult Downton Abbey that all started as a television drama on ITV back in 2010 and followed by the first feature film in 2019 has kept its loyal fans like me occupied on our chairs and enjoying the beautiful artistry of their aristocracy. One aspect that was maintained throughout their presentation is that the show remained persistent in facing not only emotional but economic and political challenges. Just like the television drama and the first film, Downton Abbey: The New Era emphasized the changing times testing the old and traditional family.


LADY VIOLET’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

There is a chance that the Downton Abbey-loving audience may get less motivated towards the plot of this film because both the events challenged in this film to the Crawleys may be assumed quite dramatic because these things neither occurred nor hinted at the future. The fan-favorite character of Lady Violet was assumed to die due to old age but the news she broke to the family after watching this drama for twelve years looked like a pretty forced attempt of writing in order to conclude this character. So revealing the news of her French inheritance is eyebrow-raising for me.

Why? If I assess this matter, perhaps will stretch at length but in short, the Crawleys, in the middle of the story met a severe financial crisis to the extent that they decided to cut the working staff. If the dowager knew about her inheritance for a long time, why didn’t she help out Robert when needed. If she came to know in this film in 1928, that’s the other thing.

But the death of Lady Violet’s character is a wise idea because I am not sure if Downton Abbey will continue to the third film although the story has the potential to continue to represent the Crawleys until the second World War if not the whole century. But it is the richness of Julian Fellowes‘ writing that I am concerned about, who is 72 already. How long can he continue storytelling us? What if he breathes his last during the continuity of Downton Abbey? I cannot imagine someone replacing his writing in the middle. After all, this Downton Abbey is his creation and needs to conclude one day. The same applies to Maggie Smith who is 87 at the time of writing this review. Therefore, killing the old character of the dowager was the right decision.


WAS FILM SHOOTING IN THE PLOT THE RIGHT IDEA?

This Downton Abbey film was particular to highlight this silent film industry business that reached the estate of the Crawleys. Shan’t film shooting be avoided and continued with a different plot? Here, there are two methods of judging this film. One is that the film didn’t need to show filmmaking and proceed with the familiar character developments. The audience may think that Julian Fellowes could have escaped the idea of shooting a film inside the estate for the sake of decent humor. Or the film definitely needed to show the change which was either acceptable or not to the old-age aristocratic family who has been facing economic, political, and social challenges. I support the latter.

Why? Because just like the Crawleys faced different events between 1912 and 1926, the art of filmmaking in the very same period was also meeting a change in the direction of the British winds. Many viewers may have not observed the sequence of shooting a silent film turning into sound after Lady Mary pinches the idea to the director that much of this is largely inspired by the making of Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1929 film ‘Blackmail‘ which is the first sound film in British filmmaking history. Blackmail was supposed to be a silent film but the producer let Hitchcock make some portions of the film in sound. But Hitchcock decided to make the entire film talkie. Just like depicted in Downton Abbey, Blackmail had a leading actress with a weak English accent and was dubbed by someone else. Moreover, Downton Abbey’s executive producer Gareth Neame is the grandson of Ronald Neame and was the assistant cameraman for ‘Blackmail’ before he established a prominent name in the film industry.


CLOSING REMARKS

Should Downton Abbey continue from here? I would love to see Julian Fellowes writing more about the Crawleys until the end of the Second World War if he guarantees that the aesthetics and quality will not compromise at all. Overall, Julian Fellowes offers another masterpiece presentation of the Crawleys with the visible ‘New Era’ elements. The loyalists of this drama will understand the film and praise it highly.

RATINGS: 8.2/10

TV Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife is the new HBO romantic miniseries about Henry who has the unusual ability to time travel and meets Clare of different ages. With time, Henry’s tolerance of the power begins to irritate and Clare faces difficulties to manage him.

I neither happened to read Audrey Niffenegger‘s novel nor did I watch Eric Bana/Rachel McAdams starred film with the same title. The popularity of this HBO show was making rounds so I thought to check the trailer and found this strange plot pretty riveting.

A bigger impression about the show is that Steven Moffat has written and created it and one of the best TV directors, David Nutter, has directed all six episodes.

I found the first half compelling but the second half looked off. Perhaps the crafting of the plot was limited enough to stretch and lead it somewhere. Maybe I am wrong to judge that because the novel itself is around 550 pages. But to my thinking capacity, the story was neither progressing nor jumping to a conclusion. Henry kept traveling time and got naked which began to bore me as this plot was not engaging towards opening some other chapters or mysteries.

The nature of this plot is unsurprisingly very sexual and I think HBO was pretty sober for not crossing this line which I feel was important.

The biggest plus of the show is the onscreen chemistry of Theo James as Henry and Rose Leslie as Clare. They were committed to melting our emotions. Their meetings, their fights, and their romantic fluctuations were beautifully picturized. I am not going to declare that the show was disappointing, not at all. It was interesting, the show had its moments where the audience can burn in the sequences like the second episode about the fate of Henry’s mother.

The Time Traveler’s Wife
Theo James, Rose Leslie
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Such romantic time-traveling may have its breaking points but I believe Moffat-Nutter could have pressed this art more critically and showed us what else could Henry and Clare have possibly done in that limited space before Henry starts coughing.

Personally, I loved this show but on the scale of judgment, I’ll say the show with this plot could have been a lot better.

TV Review: The Tower

Sergeant Collins (Gemma Whelan) and constable Bradshaw (Jimmy Akingbola) are immediately called to reach the southeast of London where a veteran constable and a teenage girl have died by falling from a tower. When Collins reaches the roof of the building, she finds a young rookie officer Lizzie Adama (Tahirah Sharif), and a five-year-old boy alive. When the investigation begins, Lizzie disappears and the crime investigation gets intense when Collins discovers that Lizzie is a prime witness against a gangster.

The Tower is a limited series by ITV that presents just another British excellence in the portrayal of crime investigations. The show’s plot twists and the complexity of the characters are interesting but the suspense is flat. It is quite easy to guess what exactly would have happened on the roof.

What I liked the most about the show was how one crime case connects to the other. The show is too smart to make the audience understand that there are elements of racism in the police and sometimes, the deception jeopardizes their lives. The best case was PC Hadley who looked like a decent fellow for most of the time until there was proof that he did pass racist remarks. The audience is compelled to believe that Hadley could have never been at fault.

I think The Tower also accomplishes in stretching the matter of the witness being silent due to the trauma or the threat. The more the show expands Lizzie Adama’s character, the depth of silence becomes noisier with the flashbacks and her meetings with Shaw.

Gemma Whelan as DS Collins deserves praise for quite an impressive performance. I like how Collins is written in the show that looked like some sad cop running from some personal tragedy and also striving to solve a crime at the same time.

The way the show has ended, there is an indication that the show is just warming up. Because this show is based on the book ‘Post Mortem‘ which was the first in Kate London‘s trilogy book series. If that is so, I am eager to see how the screenwriting does justice in the continuity of an excellent police crime drama.

TV Review: The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is a significant period in American history that began in the 1870s and lasted until the 1890s. This period is considered the golden age of industrialization and rapid growth in the American economy. This era witnessed the birth of many business giants, important inventions, and the rise of many wealthiest families. This was also the period of the shifting of wealthy generations where the old and new families were struggling to join the rank of elites and high societies. Julian Fellowes‘ latest creation is based on that struggle.

The HBO drama focuses on two rich families. The old money van Rhijn-Brook family and the new money Russell family. The latter is inspired by the real-life Vanderbilts who once were the-then wealthiest family in the United States. A sense of rivalry exists when the race of joining the elite ignites within the society and during all this hullabaloo, young Marian Brook became a lively figure between the two families when she moves from Pennsylvania to New York to live with her estranged aunts.

As true to the aristocratic nature and Julian Fellowes accurately admitting, The Gilded Age is the American Downton Abbey or shall I say, the American answer to Downton Abbey that was also created by Fellowes. Not sure if I must suggest that the dramas written by Fellowes are for rich people but there is no harm in developing an interest in dramas about the noble or upper-class lifestyle that proudly displays a fine exhibition of the aristocracy.

The show has taken good care of small accuracies and being a period drama, the costume and the production design are just marvelous. There is a scene, I think in the pilot or the second episode when the party host announces that she will organize a card game of Cinch. I found the name interesting so I googled it and I discovered that Cinch, which is also known as High Five, was the game that developed in Denver, Colorado in the same timeline where this drama is shot.

Downton Abbey fans are in for a treat as the music score, powerful dialogues and direction reminds you of the Downton Abbey show. Not only that, many characters of The Gilded Age will make the audience recall some Downton Abbey characters. The biggest one is Lady Agnes van Rhijn whose quick-witted one-liners will make you remember Lady Violet in Downton Abbey. Then there is Mr. Bannister, the butler who holds the same commands as Mr. Carson. The young chemistry of Jack and Bridget in the servant class is similar to Daisy and Alfred in Downton Abbey.

But one aspect where The Gilded Age edges over Downton Abbey is the representation of the Blacks. Downton Abbey have extremely shorter and limited roles but The Gilded Age has quite a take on the lives of African Americans. And their representation is the most different from most of the shows that are doing a favor to diversity. The show is giving its audience a sharp look at the certain existence of ‘elite’ African Americans which is quite disappearing from the script pages when we watch a historical drama where the Black Americans are mostly portrayed as slaves. One guarantee of trusting the Black representation is accurate is hiring Erica Armstrong Dunbar who is a Rutgers University history professor who specializes in Black American women of the 18th and 19th centuries, as a historical consultant.

The audience must also remember that this show is taking place in New York in 1882 which is around 17 years after Lincoln‘s historic Emancipation Proclamation, the ratification of the US constitution’s 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. So yes, the presentation is accurate, and more than that, the show still threw the shades of racial segregation and portrayed them as some second-grade citizens. Because this was still a fresh struggle for recognition.

Lady Agnes’ son Oscar is shown as bisexual and the flow of the characterization clearly proved that making him bisexual looked terribly forced. His being in relation to John has nothing to do with the story but just wanted the audience to recognize that LGBTQ+ existed in those times. And forced portrayals have this very problem in the films and tv shows that the writing and the direction of such chemistries do not come up with some genuine addressing.

Many of the cast have given fair performances but I will pick both the leading ladies Christine Baranski and Carrie Coon as Lady Agnes and Bertha Russell who gave top performances. Stage actress Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep‘s daughter, was first-rate and will take time to learn a lot since this is the beginning of her career. She made a television debut in such a bigger project.

Just like Downton Abbey, the show will be covering a lot of historical events and present portrayals of famous American people like the first season managed to do on a few occasions. For example, Linda Emond as Clara Barton who was the founder of the American Red Cross, and Ashlie Atkinson as Mamie Fish who was a lavish party-throwing socialite. There is a scene where Thomas Edison lights up the New York Times building, a historic moment in New York city’s history that is a real incident with few
changes for the dramatic effect. It was a mesmerizing shot to end one of the episodes and give the real incident its due respect to define the best moments of the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age is a spectacular portrayal of elite American history. Those who are enthusiastic about period dramas will surely love watching this. I am believing that The Gilded Age is definitely increasing its fanbase, especially amongst the Downton Abbey loyalists. The story has a lot of potential to stretch the drama to at least five seasons.