Review – Boardwalk Empire Full Series Review

There’s always a worry in finally being able to watch something you’ve been waiting ages to see.

Regardless of whether it be a film or a TV series, there’s a fear that it won’t meet expectations that have had plenty of time to grow.

So when I discovered the box set of Boardwalk Empire was on Now TV at long last, you can imagine my apprehension.

Well, I am over the moon to be able to say that it met every one of my expectations. I was so contented with the Prohibition-era set crime saga that I was kind of gutted when it came to an end. You know something? I can say I’ve watched plenty of good TV shows with multiple seasons, but I don’t remember any of them being as consistently good as this one. From the very first episode right up until the very last, it was rock solid. I would struggle to say the same about any show I’ve watched over the last few years.

One of the main things owing to the show’s consistent appeal was the eclectic mix of characters that were all brilliant in their own ways. And of course, where you find fantastic characters, you also find even greater performances. There’s too many for me to cover them all in this review of the full series, but I’ll cover some of the most honourable mentions.

Steve Buscemi is the ideal person to play some like Nucky Thompson. He’s played some right greaseballs during his career, and I think his turn as Nucky might be a beautiful culmination of them all. Buscemi probably isn’t the first man who comes to mind when trying to create a notorious gangster, but he absolutely owned the role and it’s hard to think that there would ever been a point where anyone else was in contention.

A truly star-studded cast stood alongside Buscemi here. Kelly MacDonald played Nucky’s wife Margaret. She underwent quite the transformation over the five seasons. Michael Kenneth Williams, a favourite of mine from The Wire, played businessman Chalky White and was as charismatic as ever. However, if I was to nail down any of the main performances for the sake of this review, I’d have to cover those put in by Stephen Graham and Michael Shannon.

Graham played the infamous Al Capone as he rose through the ranks to become a made guy. It was a very interesting performance, and certainly an entertaining one too. His Capone was a scrappy little terrier of a man, and he had the power to completely change the dynamics of a scene in seconds.

It is Michael Shannon’s performance that will stick in my mind for the longest though. That man can fucking act. Shannon was on another level entirely as Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden. He was exciting watch, and every time I thought he’d peaked he just smashed through the glass ceiling. Every. Single. Time.

Storylines across the five seasons were fantastic, each one throwing up surprises that kept everything interesting. The writing constantly introduced us to new characters who were determined to topple Nucky’s empire one way or another. If I had to isolate one season though, I would have to go with season 3. The balance struck between all the different elements of the show was just a tiny bit more perfect on this occasion than it had been on all the others. That being said, all the others knocked it out of the park – even season 5 where I must admit I started out sceptical due to the massive amount of change that had clearly taken place between it and the one before it. I kept the faith though and was rewarded for doing so, is it went of to be one of the greatest final seasons and final episodes I’ve seen.

Written aspects aside, a 1920s drama wouldn’t be the same without all the costumes and the music – two things that define a period I think. The show always looked the part, and I think the attention to detail that the costume department possessed really shone through. There was never any disputing when in history this was all taking place because of it.

I really, really enjoyed Boardwalk Empire. There was nothing that I didn’t like about it if I’m being honest. The great mix of brilliantly well-written characters and the ways their stories intertwined, plus the flair of the roaring 1920s made for a barrage of viewing that made me feel like my life was missing something when it was over. For a history nut like myself, this was a real treat, but trust me when I say an interest in the past is not essential to fully engage with this one. An appreciation for good TV will suffice well enough.

Thursday Thoughts – Is it time novel adaptations moved solely to television?

At the beginning of the last week, quite possibly the greatest TV show to grace our screens this year came to a knockout ending. Sharp Objects could very well seize the title of THE show of 2018 following HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s debut novel. The scintillating performances from the show’s three female leads especially, plus Flynn’s usual spot-on writing makes for a whole eight hours where the viewer is barely allowed chance to breathe.

The show was directed by Jean Marc Vallée too, who we know has previous form with these TV novel adaptations following the Emmy success experienced by the last project he worked on before this, which was Big Little Lies.

That’s two major television series lining up consecutively in his filmography. One won pretty much all the Emmys. The other one will surely do the same?

Now, the success of both of these series are phenomenal, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.

What occurred to me whilst watching Sharp Objects was that it is just one show in quite a long line-up of high profile television programmes to have been inspired by a novel. From HBO alone we have this, the also aforementioned Big Little Lies, plus Game Of Thrones that I know of. Across so many other networks there’s also the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale, Mindhunter, House Of Cards, Bosch, War And Peace, Hannibal, plus Lucifer and The Walking Dead (it was good once) if we throw graphic novels into the mix as well.

There’s definitely a trend for taking narratives from page to screens of a smaller kind of late. And personally I can’t fault that. From pretty much everything that I’ve seen up to now, books of any kind translate far better when not confined to a run time of 3 hours or less. That’s not to say books can’t be adapted for the big screen – there have definitely been some fine films harvested from books. It just seems to me that a higher proportion of TV shows are hits compared to the mountains of films that have managed to turn out just average despite having some of the finest page turners ever written. And following shows such as Sharp Objects, I can’t help but think on how much even some of the best film adaptations could’ve been improved if they’d have been made for TV instead.

A prime example of this would be Gone Girl. Another adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel, this film was met with great critical applause back in 2014. I was a big fan of the film, and my viewing of it prompted me to read the book, which further blew me away. The hindsight that shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies have given me suggests that Gone Girl could’ve been even better as a TV series. The detail that the book boasted, but that unfortunately had to be cut from the film for the sake of the run time really would’ve been something else if made as a four or six-part TV show. You got more of a feel of how much of an evil woman Amy really was in the book, and I just know that Rosamund Pike’s performance would only have been even greater is more of this material had’ve been put to use.

Of course, it’s very easy to say this for good adaptations of good stories. If we were to be talking about some of the novels that would struggle to be defined as high art (Fifty Shades does come to mind, thanks to a friend on Twitter). I’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing any of the full versions of either forms in which this franchise was brought to audiences, however from what I’ve heard, none of it was great. Would we really want 6+ hours fo that delightful tale? Most likely not.

So, really, the question is, should we just save the good adaptations for TV? Because let’s face it, the bad books will still get made into something if enough people read them. How about we banish those to the movies where they can be limited to two hours or less, and then allow ourselves to savour the good stuff during a run on TV? They don’t have to be long series – some might only need to be four episodes in some cases. But with those stories where every minute detail adds quality, I think we should be allowed to enjoy it all.

Review – Trust Me


When a nurse is fired for whistle-blowing, she has to take drastic action to provide for her and her daughter.
Catherine Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) was a good nurse in a crumbling healthcare system. However, whilst trying to carry out her duties with integrity, she rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and this eventually cost her her job. In a bid to prove herself, she steals the identity of an old friend and poses as a doctor in Edinburgh, away from her home town of Sheffield, with the big question being this – how long can she survive in the huge lie she’s spun?

When I saw that the BBC was bringing out yet another medical drama, I rolled my eyes so hard that they nearly fell out of my head. I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, my mum had said the words, ‘Oh, that could be quite good,’ which basically translates to, ‘We’re watching that whether you like it or not,’ so I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. However, as much as it pains me to say it, mum did us a favour with this one. It was actually quite a bit better than I thought it would be, which has been a hard thing to say with new BBC dramas of late.

Doctor Who fans have a lot to look forward to if Jodie Whittaker is half as good as the Time Lord as she was as Cath here. You got a real sense of the desperation her character was experiencing, and this got better as time went by and the whole lie she was living unraveled. I liked the other characters who were placed into her story too. Andy Brenner and Brigette Rayne, played by Emun Elliott and Sharon Small respectively, both piled the pressure onto Cath, and were two figures who I think really enhanced the story. They were well written into it, and that is probably one of the things that made this show as good as it was.

The characters weren’t the only thing that was well written. The actual storyline itself was very good, and ratcheted up the tension nicely. There were so many things that could’ve gone wrong for Cath, and it was because of this that you could never be sure of when things were going to come crashing down for her. The short run of the show (which consisted only of four hour-long episodes) massively helped this side of things. This allowed so much scope for when exactly Cath could be found because it would’ve been very easy to make a story to fit. It was nice for them to not drag the show out until viewers zoned out for once.

On the whole, I enjoyed watching Trust Me. It was a lot better than I had thought it was going to be. This was largely down to the wonderful lead performance, but also the terrific writing that went into creating this show. Not only did it make for great prime time viewing, but with a bit of luck it has marked a turning point for the BBC after a string of productions that have been less than brilliant. If you didn’t catch the show, I’d recommend you rectify that as soon as possible because it was well worth seeing.

Review – Ripper Street Full Series Review


London Metropolitan’s H Division turns to solving crimes in the wake of the Jack The Ripper killings.
When Jack The Ripper took to the streets of Whitechapel in the late 1800s, it was up to the men serving a particular police force to hunt the perpetrator down and put the fears of the public to rest. However, while The Ripper may have disappeared seemingly without a trace one day, his crimes were set to haunt London for a long time to come. The trio dealing with the aftermath are Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and police surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), who all have their own personal struggles on top of the work they do by day.   

So, my favourite show, Ripper Street, came to an end this week. The last ever episode of the programme aired on Monday night, and I have to be honest I don’t think there has ever been a more bittersweet ending to a TV show from my point of view. Even now, almost a week after watching the finale, I’m still not entirely sure how to take it.

Ripper Street first came onto our screens back in 2012. The first season introduced us to the three main characters who would quickly grow on viewers. One by one, each character had his secrets revealed, and then developed upon as the seasons progressed. In the driving seat is Matthew MacFadyen as Edmund Reid, the main protagonist of the show. The writer’s of the show really put Reid through the mill, and MacFadyen had to run with these trials and tribulations whilst maintaining his character’s core values, which I think he did very well. What I really liked about MacFadyen’s performance was that he always showed Reid had immense integrity. No matter what state he was in during the show, Reid was always very true to himself; he always did what he believed was the right thing to do for himself at any given time. His actions may not always have been the good thing to do, or, as the show progressed, the lawful thing to do, but for Reid they were always the right thing, and that sort of conviction he had.

After Reid, you have Jerome Flynn as loyal sidekick Bennet Drake, whose promotion in later seasons causes ructions that never really disappear. This character, along with any character in this show who ends up being of any significance, could be talked about for hours if I was to sit next do a full in-depth study of him. I think of the three leads here, Flynn’s character was the most complex, and I personally think that it is he who best personifies the kind of Whitechapel in which this show is set.

Now we move onto one of my favourite characters, Captain Homer Jackson, or Matthew Judge if we are to use his real name. I absolutely loved Adam Rothenberg’s interpretation of Jackson. He was tremendous throughout the whole show, and I believe I can safely say that he had one standout moment in each and every episode. Rothenberg was gifted some of the greatest lines in the script, and followed this up by delivering them perfectly every time. Without a doubt, it was he who gained most of my affection, with his glorious one-liners and sometimes wise words. That and the fact that he was probably the character with the best heart of all of them.

While these three were largely the staples of the entire series, there were also a number of series regulars. MyAnna Buring played Long Susan Hart, or Caitlyn Swift, and was also a favourite of mine because of the kind of woman she portrayed. She was unconventional for the time, a woman elbowing her way into a man’s world, and watching her in each and every episode was wonderful. She possessed all the qualities that made Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman so fantastic, but for a female character such as this to appear in a period piece was an added bonus.

Before I move onto anything else, I must point out that life for these characters was not a bed of roses. This, of course, was caused by numerous villains who cropped up from season to season. Now, while each season had a stand-out antagonist, the series itself did have an overall winner in the bad guy department. This has to be Jedediah Shine, played by the phenomenal Joseph Mawle. This guy made a prolonged appearance in both seasons two and five, and he just got worse and worse as time went by, and for someone like myself who is rather partial to a good villain, this was great to see. The performance put in by Mawle was on another level entirely, and he definitely deserves more recognition for the part than I think he has received. He actually made my skin crawl, and to watch him made me feel a whole range of emotions, which I think is a good sign.

Now we can finally move onto something other than the characters and the actors who played them. Ripper Street is kind of a hybrid of a formula show and those with a continuous narrative for their entire series run. For the most part, there was a new crime to be solved each week, but there were also a number of threads that ran through and connected each episode.I’m a fan of this approach because there is always something to bring you back to the next episode, but each week also has new life injected into it by the latest case the team are set to solve. What I also loved about the story is the fact that Jack The Ripper always seemed to have a presence. Ultimately, it was his crimes that haunted H Division, and gave Reid his motives, and so while the show was not directly about him, despite what the name suggests, The Ripper did have a very important part to play throughout the whole show.

Besides Ripper himself, there were other continuous threads that spanned the length of the series, and as far as I’m aware, none of them had happy endings, which I’m glad about because for life to have worked out to be a bed of roses for all the characters would not have been fitting for the show. Of course, having spent four or five seasons following thee characters, when their time came it was a rough moment in the show. I think these ends were handled very well, and whilst different for each character, every one of them was brutal. For me, this showed perfectly the capabilities of the writers for the show, who clearly knew that they didn’t need to make every character a martyr for the audience to feel the full impact of their demise.

That being said, one thing I do think was butchered was the show’s finale, but even that comes with a caveat (and the story of how this show came to be so significant to me). Ripper Street came to end long before this fifth and final season was in the pipeline. After ratings dropped during season two, the BBC cancelled the show, and there was a huge outcry from the fans, including myself. Petitions were created, and letters were written (still perhaps the finest bit of writing I’ve ever done if I’m honest), and after realising what a major cock-up they had made, BBC looked to continue the show with another network in a co-production deal. Eventually, Amazon took the show on, and split the budget with the BBC, but the episodes released on Amazon had to be trimmed down before they were shown on TV so as to not disrupt the schedules. Ultimately this meant that that there were scenes cut from the version of the show that I’ve seen, which now brings me back to the series finale. According to Amazon subscribers, the final episode was cut to ribbons before being shown on TV, which is potentially why it felt as flat as it did, so I can’t completely attack it for that. However, I can say that had I have been in charge of the writing and had decided to kill off all the other main characters, or take them out of the game in some way, Edmund Reid would also have been dead by the end of it. I wouldn’t have had him murdered, but he would have succumbed to some sort of illness or death by natural causes because come the series’ end, he had nothing left to live for, you know? His life’s work was more or less complete; the only thing left unfinished was the actual Jack The Ripper case, which I personally would have liked to have seen slowly cause him to lose his sanity, or compromise his health in some way that led to him dying. It just didn’t feel right that it finished the way it did, with him sat back at his desk without any of the people closest to him beside him.

Anyway, I think I should probably stop whittling on now, at 1,500 words I’ve taken up enough of your time and hardly scratched the surface of the show. I think I may do individual reviews of each season at some point in the future because there is so much more I’d like to cover, such as the different characters from season to season and the relationships between them all, the different stories that took hold and the wonderful sets and costumes as well. What I’ll say is if you have seen Ripper Street, get in touch and let me know what you think of it, and if you haven’t, please do give it a go. You might think there have been some spoilers here but I really don’t think they’d ruin the show at all. As you can probably see, I cannot recommend Ripper Street enough – it’s a show that grabbed me right at the start and never let go, and I think it is one of those shows that has shown the power of good TV and also the power of the fans too. This was a fantastic show, and I’m sad to see it go, but I’ll never tire of rewatching the box sets, which is a true sign of the magic Ripper Street possesses.

Review – No Offence Season 2


The dream team return for another case, this time dealing with the head of one of Manchester’s biggest crime syndicates.
No Offence is one of those shows that I had never really anticipated being anywhere near as good as it actually turned out to be. Season one blew us all away in 2015, and with the promise of the show making a return, the next season could not come soon enough. After waiting almost two years, the show made a triumphant return. All I can say is season three had better hurry up – I’m missing the show already.

One thing that stood out to everyone when this show first arrived on the scene was it’s use of stonkingly good female characters. God knows that throughout history in both film and TV such things have been a lot harder to come by than they have been for men, but this show straightaway presented us with three wonderful women. This time around, we got four. The crime boss Deering, Dinah and Joy were trying to take down was Nora Attah, played by Rakie Ayala. She was brilliant in the role and was a terrific match for Joanna Scanlan’s Viv Deering.

Of course, there are some men in the show. Paul Ritter plays one of the best characters on TV at the minute in this show if you ask me. He never fails to make me laugh as Miller, who kind of does some of the CSI stuff. He is a prime example of the talents of writer Paul Abbott, who also wrote Shameless, and is always a highlight of every episode he appears in.

No Offence is billed as a comedy, and yes, it is very, very funny. The good thing about the show is that it doesn’t just rely on laughs to keep it’s audience engaged. What left me so impressed with season one was it’s brilliantly devised crime saga. No one had managed to guess the culprit in season one, and I was certainly looking forward to the same in this year’s run. The outline was slightly different, but the sheer quality of the writing was exactly the same, if not marginally better. I know I moaned a lot about the two year wait for the show’s return, but I guess it may not have been as good the second time around if it wasn’t for such a lengthy wait.

Once again, No Offence was an excellent watch, and may very well be one of this year’s best shows. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I would definitely say to watch it. I don’t know if it is a show that will work for international audiences, but there is only one way to find out. Even if the jokes fall flat for some people, the story itself should be plenty to retain your attention. This is definitely a show I will continue to be excited about, and I think plenty of other people should be too.

 

Review – Silent Witness Season 20


Now, I know it’s lazy, but please check my review of season 19 for the full description of the show. It seems silly repeating myself again this year.
So, 2017 was a big year for one of my favourite shows. Silent Witness premiered it’s 20th season! As it was such a landmark year, I had expected the show to pull out all the stops. I can at least say that this was the case with the final two-part story of the season. For much of the rest of it however, this year’s Silent Witness fell slightly below it’s usual standard, which left me asking myself a certain question…

Performances this year were given to us by the same people, but there was a greater focus on one person who I think has previously been treated as a more minor character. Liz Carr plays Clarissa, and I absolutely love her in the role. Carr makes me laugh a lot with the dry tones in which she delivers some of Clarissa’s more light-hearted lines – she always has done and I’m sure will continue to do so in future seasons of the show. It’s also great to see someone with a disability have a regular role on such a brilliant and beloved series. Finally, British TV is beginning to move forward!

A couple of the storylines for this season didn’t feel quite as riveting as others that have been covered by the show in the past. I guess after twenty seasons, I should have expected the show to feel a little tired. However, I was able to forgive the writers after watching the final two episodes of this run. Oh. My. Word. What a finale! I’m fairly certain the creators of those two episodes had recently viewed Buried and used it for inspiration, but I was still very impressed. The performances from Emilia Fox and David Caves were absolutely tremendous, and really added to the baseline tension already created by the writing. Plus, if nothing else, that very last episode just confirmed to me that all us girls need a man like Jack in our lives.

I mentioned at the beginning that I found myself asking a certain question throughout this season in regards to the future of Silent Witness, or whether indeed it should have a future beyond this point. After all, twenty years gracing our screens isn’t to be sniffed at. I had my doubts about whether it would, or should return, given that it had just felt slightly flatter than usual. However, I suppose I wasn’t ready to give it up yet as I massively rejoiced at the news it would return for it’s 21st birthday next year. Phew!

Overall, this year’s Silent Witness didn’t quite live up to expectations during it’s first four cases, but well and truly made up for it with the finale. As much as I can say I felt a tiny bit disappointed by this season, I can’t deny that I looked forward to every Monday and Tuesday evening when the episodes were being shown. It is a show that has a special hold on me, and I suspect it will have to go seriously down hill before I’ll ever be able to comprehend not watching it, so it’s dead safe for now.

Review – The Night Of Season 1 


A night of partying with an unknown female leaves a young college student in jail with even himself unsure of what exactly went on.Naz Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a university student living in New York, born to hard working Pakistani parents. One night he borrows his father’s taxi-cab to get to a party. Plans change when he unintentionally picks up a young woman in his cab and takes her home, where he is then invited in. After a series of drinks and other things, Naz ends up sleeping with the mystery woman. Hours later, he wakes up, disorientated, in her kitchen, and when he goes up to check on his date, he makes a grisly discovery, and he doesn’t know what happened or who did it.

The Night Of hadn’t been a show that had been on until I found myself watching the preview/trailer thing on IMDB one Sunday evening. During the two-minute clip, I thought I spied the face of someone whom I have grown to be very fond of, and after doing some research, I discovered my eyes had not been mistaken, and that I would certainly be seeing the show. I feel like that was a very positive decision to make as I absolutely loved watching this mini-series!

Many people have said that it was not the story that made this show so great, but that it is the way it was told and I couldn’t agree more. There were some phenomenal performances throughout the series, most notably those provided by Riz Ahmed and John Turturro as Naz and his lawyer. All I had seen of Ahmed prior to this was in Nightcrawler and I recall being quite impressed then, although there might have been another factor influencing my verdict then. He didn’t disappoint me here as Naz. There was quite an evolution that took place over the course of the story, and I think both Ahmed’s performance and the writers did a great job of ensuring this gradual change in character left the audience undecided about whether Naz had committed the crime he stood accused of. 

As much as I admired Ahmed’s wonderful show though, I have to say I thought John Turturro’s turn as underdog defence lawyer John Stone was a real treat to witness. It was a prime example of what you could say was tough love, and it was absolutely brilliant! It was one of those performances that are just captivating – when he was on-screen, there was nothing I could do to take my eyes off him. Turturro played perhaps not the most easily likeable character but I think it’s fair to say that by the time the final verdict had been reached in the courtroom, he was certainly a fan favourite.

Right, now, even though he as a somewhat minor character, I’m still going to crowbar in a small bit about the man who was the reason The Night Of caught my attention. The Wire‘s finest, Michael Kenneth Williams, starred as prison kingpin and Naz’s mentor, Freddy – a role very befitting of him if you ask me. He was charismatic as always, and I loved seeing him on my TV again.

The story, as I’ve mentioned, really is nothing that we haven’t seen before but, as I’ve also mentioned, it was done in a way that made it stand out from some of the more mediocre crime shows. In each episode the writers showed us another side of Naz that left us unsure as to whether or not he could have killed his lady friend, which meant we were left undecided about his innocence (or guilt) right until that final episode – exactly what you want from a show like this.

On the whole, The Night Of is definitely a show you should check out if you haven’t already, and if you’re in a position to binge-watch when you do so, 100% just go for it! This is going to be one of the contenders at some of the big TV awards I think – it was a really solid show. The writing and acting go hand in hand to deliver to us a very fine TV show that I think most people will struggle to find fault with.