Tag Archives: TV Shows

TV Review – Steptoe and Son

The poor father-son duo of Albert Steptoe and Harold Steptoe run a rag-and-bone business while living in Shepherd’s Bush, London. With time, Harold’s desires and aspirations meet Albert’s rigid tendency of accepting change. His naivety irritates Harold and pretends to be ill if the son leaves to live some portion of his life on his own. Dirty ol’ man Albert lies to unsuccessfully avoid the blame of his mischievous blunders. Albert jeopardizes wherever Harold takes him, say cinema, restaurant, party. The best writing lies in the generational conflict of these two characters for eight seasons and they never disappoint at all.

The old BBC classic sitcoms were always known for their rich content especially a thoughtful theme on which the quality of humor was so delicate and rib-tickling. Steptoe and Son (1962-1974) is an influential and groundbreaking sitcom that made its rounds in British households in the early 1960s, right on time. Because around three million people in Britain were living on the poverty line. So this sitcom was a fit to their sentiments, especially for the Cockneys.

I will not skip mentioning both the leading actors, Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett. I mean what better father-son chemistry you will ask for. The generational conflict and comic timing between them were so striking and growing their partnership with the viewers for years being the only two major characters of the show is extremely difficult. Even Sandford and Son needed the assistance of the supporting characters especially Aunt Esther but the original show remained constrained.

Another significance of this sitcom is its cult status in Britain. Steptoe and Son was easily the first well-known British sitcom about a working-class, describing poor working men living without women in different setups. You can take an example of Ronnie Barker‘s Porridge and Open All Hours in the 1970s or most specifically the greatest British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses. The sitcom’s international influence can be measured by the fact that American tv producer and developer Norman Lear adapted the show and created Red Foxx starred Sanford And Son for NBC. 16 of Steptoe and Son episodes were recreated in the American adaptation. Steptoe & Son helped Norman Lear build his legacy in the 1970s when his developed sitcoms on NBC and CBS dominated the decade.

Had Steptoe & Son never happened, I wonder what the state of comedy would be in both regions. This is easily one of the best British sitcoms I have ever watched.

My favorite Steptoe and Son episodes:
01 – Season.1 – Episode.1 – The Offer
02 – Season.1 – Episode.2 – The Bird
03 – Season.1 – Episode.3 – The Piano
04 – Season.1 – Episode.4 – The Economist
05 – Season.2 – Episode.2 – The Bath
06 – Season.2 – Episode.4 – Sixty-Five Today
07 – Season.2 – Episode.6 – Full House
08 – Season.2 – Episode.7 – Is That Your Horse Outside?
09 – Season.3 – Episode.1 – Homes Fit For Heroes
10 – Season.3 – Episode.2 – The Wooden Overcoats
11 – Season.3 – Episode.4 – Steptoe à la Cart
12 – Season.3 – Episode.5 – Sunday for Seven Days
13 – Season.4 – Episode.2 – Crossed Swords
14 – Season.5 – Episode.1 – A Death in the Family
15 – Season.6 – Episode.1 – Robbery with Violence
16 – Season.6 – Episode.2 – Come Dancing
17 – Season.6 – Episode.3 – Two’s Company
18 – Season.6 – Episode.5 – Without Prejudice
19 – Season.6 – Episode.6 – Pot Black
20 – Season.7 – Episode.3 – Oh, What a Beautiful Mourning
21 – Season.7 – Episode.4 – Live Now, P.A.Y.E. Later
22 – Season.7 – Episode.6 – Divided We Stand
23 – Season.8 – Episode.2 – And So To Bed
24 – Season.8 – Episode.3 – Porn Yesterday
25 – Season.8 – Episode.4 – The Seven Steptoerai
26 – Season.8 – Episode.5 – Upstairs, Downstairs, Upstairs, Downstairs
27 – Season.8 – Episode.6 – Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard

TV Review – Downton Abbey

I am not sure from where to start because writing a mere formal review of a period costume-drama like Downton Abbey is unjustly and undeservingly shorter to write. I have a staunch interest in classic period dramas and that is why shows like Cranford and Poldark hit my list of the shows that I like the most under this classic genre. Downton Abbey is something else.

Created and written by Oscar and Emmy-winning writer and novelist Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is about the Crawley family who exists in the early 20th century when the world is shaping towards a difficult period in the European regions. In between 1912 and 1926, the Crawleys led by the patriarch Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his wife Cora, the American heiress, struggles to tackle many domestic conflicts running in the family and the business affairs that occur in the different phases.

The plotting of the show is divided into two different classes. One is the rich Crawleys and the other is their working staff. Their stories and characters play on parallel notes and are given equal importance that successfully shows that Downton Abbey is not only about the sophisticated luxury but the human value where the rich and the working class coordinate in harmony and build strong mutual respect. Internal conflicts and characterizations are dealt with with meticulous care. I liked how the three Crawley sisters were distinguished in characterization and their sisterhood was tested with time.

The presentation of their aristocracy and costume designing is the zenith of the show that never disappoints. Screenwriting and dialogues are powerful, less pragmatic but also less dramatic. There is a tremendous balance of dramatizing humor to the seriousness of the subject. When it comes to dialogues, the unanimous winner amongst all the characters is matriarch Violet Crawley played by the legendary Maggie Smith. Your ears won’t fall deaf when Violet begins to speak.

Speaking of pragmatism, I was a bit skeptical about the respect the writer builds between the Crawleys and their staff; because I felt the writer was being too humble to let the Crawleys go soft on their staff that doesn’t look realistic. But see, I am a history digger but I need to be convinced with the detailing. Does the history really make the viewers believe that the daughters of the estate would show fondness in driving the tractor or work her kitchen in the maid’s quarter or allow one of the staff to leave unpunished when the voice is to be raised? Lord Grantham letting his daughter marry a man, not from their ranks is also debatable. Being so merciful, generous, and treating so well to their servants is pretty doubtful. There was a scene where the ball was organized where each of the Crawleys dance with each of the servants. In another scene, Lord Grantham himself serves with a tray for a drink when working staff member Anna gives birth. Really don’t know if such things actually existed in the past and with such a level of delicacy.

Yes, Mr. Fellowes didn’t exaggerate glamorizing the royalness of the Crawleys but rather focused on the changing times where the family took time to accept change and this is where characterizing in the plot plays a major part. One impressive aspect that the show enlightened was the ladies of the estate supporting liberalism. All the three sisters Mary, Edith, and Sybil believed and advocated for the education and employment of women.

The most shocking moment of the show was the sudden death of Matthew Crawley, out of nowhere. Good to know that the character was deliberately killed because actor Dan Stevens decided to leave. Otherwise, there was no reason to kill the character that soon. My favorite character was definitely Violet Crawley, her presence was the minty alfresco. The other characters I very much liked were Mr. Carson, Mr. Molesley, and Lord Grantham. The best character development definitely was Thomas Barrow, he was someone to whom the viewers hated and loved equally.

Downton Abbey is a cult phenomenon and one of the masterpieces works on British television. One significant point about the show’s remarkable legacy is that the show comes into existence in the newest times as most of the classical masterpieces in British television history are from the previous century. After my Sons Of Anarchy addiction, if there is another show that hooked me and bought my time, it is Downton Abbey.

TV Review – Squid Game

A wealthy secret organization invites scores of participants who suffer financial crises and heavy loans. The participants eagerly join and are sent to a secret place for a few days where they have to accept the rules and play six games to win the jackpot. Little do they know the price they have to pay to end their financial miseries. They have zero clue about the horrors they have to confront.

Yes, there have been similar plots before like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner but this South Korean tv show Squid Game cannot be compared for having similar elements. One, the former shows were adapted from their novels but the latter is created by the writer and director himself, Hwang Dong-hyuk. Plus the script of Squid Game was developed back in 2008 when the creator himself was in financial crisis too. So let’s assume that the foundation of this show was laid by his own lows. Indeed, the stories are gritty, moving, and compelling when you have bad times in life. Would the show have worked if produced in 2008? A kind of million-dollar question applicable in George Lucas‘ shoes when Star Wars was struggling to exist after Star Trek happened a decade ago.

I think Squid Game qualifies to be considered a complete source of entertainment where the games, the anticipation, the drama, and the suspense was thrilling, mesmerizing; and in all honesty, the show built a tremendous harmony of dark elements and forced humor in the writing. Just super brilliant work in the production design, contrasting colors of the interior so compelling and you are in some hypnotic illusion when the synchronized ladder climbing from different directions trying to reach the event.

The show is meeting immense global popularity and the kind of plot is hooking millions of viewers around the world, the story must also be subjected to observe how the ugliness of realities are made so warmly welcomed. Squid Game is easily one of the darkest satire on social capitalism on the global level. The highly rich people having fun of witnessing the poor turned into evils and murderers for the greed and hunger for money. Exaggeration of childhood games placed on adults becoming some harmless flying birds for the hunting season.

The world-famous music, ‘The Blue Danube‘ has found a new place in history and will be remembered for a reason. I must also admit that it wasn’t certainly perfectly crafted writing at all. Dong-hyuk did miss some portions that he should have taken into account. The heaviest of all criticism rests over lacking character developments. For example, I wanted to know the making of the Front Man. There was so much potential in the character but didn’t utilize. Police officer Hwang and the foreigner Ali Abdul were wasted. Ali Abdul’s introduction was one of the most intense scenes of the show when he holds Gi-hun from one hand before the girl looks back.

If there is a follow-up season then I think the creator has made a big mistake in the ending. With all the limited content offered for the writing of the plot, the story concludes with most of the characters meeting their deserving ends. So continuing out of nowhere, you need much a bigger picture to attract the viewers for eight or nine new episodes again. The biggest revelation in the finale was needless. But again, do we really need the second season? Can you just leave that secret organization and the dirty power kill scores of participants? Should the madness be stopped by someone or was that a slap on our hypocritic cheek? So if there is the second season then the writer, with all the global hype, is taking a huge responsibility.

But overall, Squid Game is one of the most exciting shows released by Netflix. This is easily recommendable to all the viewers who are looking for a potential story.