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.

Thursday Thoughts – How much power do TV audiences have?

Fox has been on something of a killing spree of late. After cancelling 5 shows in as little as 2 days, you have to question whether channel bosses will still have anything to run by the time they’re finished.

Amongst the massacred was Brooklyn Nine Nine. The decision to call time on this much-loved cop show was met with shock and outrage from fans (myself included). Cries of disbelief rang out across social media and soon these turned into campaigns to get the show back. In the space of just 36 hours, the show has died, been buried, and then was resurrected by Fox rival, NBC.

This reinstatement of the Nine Nine raises the question of how much power audiences actually possess, especially when it comes to TV shows. With films, it’s all fairly clear cut – if the film makes enough money, you tend to get a sequel, whether you asked for it or not. With TV, it’s not quite the same kettle of fish, however there is obviously a correlation between audience numbers and show survival rates as one of the most common reasons for cancelling a show is low ratings. Quality doesn’t seem to be a real deciding factor here either, which means this selection process is quite unfair. Shows that are actual works of art are take from us far too soon, while others that are tripe at best go on forever purely because there’s a larger audience watching it.

However, it would seem that there is hope for those good shows that come to an untimely end. Resurrections do happen – they have now saved two shows that I hold very close to my heart (one being B99, the other being Ripper Street). And on both occasions, these decisions have been brought about by the actions their audiences have taken, mainly in the form of kicking up one hell of a fuss about some idiot’s momentary (but HUGE) lapse in judgement.

So, TV audiences have power, but exactly how much do they have? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but we definitely have a decent say in what makes the cut and what doesn’t. I don’t have the statistics for the Brooklyn Nine Nine revival handy, but I know that in the case of Ripper Street it took only 12,000 signatures on a petition to get Amazon to take the show on. In the grand scheme of things, 12,000 really isn’t a massive number either when you think about the 3.38million people that watched the show on average.

But here’s the thing – we are very spoilt for choice when it comes to what we watch on TV now. More so than ever before. There’s a lot of things to watch, but the actual audience size hasn’t increased as quickly, which in theory means that each new show and channel added stretches that audience thinner. Suddenly, 12,000 is a significant number of viewers for a channel to lose if it displeases them, and it’s also a significant number of viewers for a newer kid on the block to think about winning over. These two things coming together were ultimately what saved Ripper Street’s ass, and they will create similar dynamics in future that will save other shows. Why? Because in this world where everyone’s attention is being fought for constantly by at least 10 different entities, it’ll be the ones that give audiences what they want that come out on top. We as an audience must remember that we are the most important people to these TV stations, and also streaming platforms too. Without us, they have no purpose and therefore would cease to exist. NBC are giving the people what they want by saving Brooklyn Nine Nine, just as Amazon did when they saved Ripper Street. I do not doubt for a second that they will benefit from their decision, but regardless of however it turns out, they will be known to millions as the people who saved B99, and that kind of testimony packs a punch. And the only people who can provide that testimony are the audience, which is why they wield so much power.

Review – The Last Kingdom (Season 2)

If you’ve been frequenting this blog for a while you may be aware that a little show called The Last Kingdom stole my attention a couple of years ago. The historical drama, which has been liked by some to a budget version of Game Of Thrones, debuted in 2015 and took a lot of people by surprise – myself included. it finally returned for it’s second season in 2017, and despite my best efforts, I’ve only recently got round to watching it.

Was it worth the wait?

Quite possibly.

The show picks up from where it left off at the end of season one with our hero Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), continuing his mission to rescue his sister, but very quickly it becomes apparent that his energy is going to have to be focused elsewhere too. Just like with season one, the writing was superb. I’m not sure there were quite so many surprises this time around, but then i knew more about what to expect from the show, so you could say I was more prepared.

My love for our protagonist here grows with each episode I watch. I was well on-board with the character of Uhtred in season one, but I am surely smitten with him now. Bernard Cornwall, author of the novels that the show is based on, has created a character that you absolutely want to succeed no matter the cost, and Alexander Dreymon has brought those to qualities to life in such a way that I think everyone should be allowed to have an Uhtred-type figure in their lives. It seemed that this time we got to see a more human version of the character. Dreymon showed a side of Uhtred that was ruled more by his heart than by his head. The character also felt like he had matured considerably since the last time we saw him, which was also a nice development to see.

Season two also brought with it the return of a few other characters and fleshed them out more. some got better, others got worse, and my perception of these characters hinged purely on the way they treated our beloved Uhtred, funnily enough. We also got introduced to some newer faces as well, one of which I’m guessing will go on to have a pivotal role as the show progresses through future seasons.

I seemed to me that there might have been a bit more action this time around, although whether that was as violent as the last time I’m not so sure. As I said at the beginning, when the show started in 2015 it had an element of surprise about it. As a new show, I had no idea what to expect, and it pulled absolutely no punches. This time I kind of was more acquainted with the style of the show, so knew it wasn’t going to hold back as much. did this mean it lacked as much impact? In terms of shock factor, perhaps, but as I’ve said, the show felt more mature with this season, which I think made up for it.

So there you have it really, my take on The Last Kingdom season two. Definitely a good extension to what we’d seen previously, and it’s sown the seeds for what’s to come in future. Is it still one of the best British shows you could watch at the minute? Absolutely – give it a spin.

Review – Top Of The Lake


When a pregnant twelve year old girl seemingly tries to drown herself in a lake and then goes missing, New Zealand police must track her down and work out who the father of the baby is.
Tui Mitchum (Jacqueline Joe) is found standing in a freezing lake one morning whilst a school bus is passing. She’s taken straight to the school nurse, who is shocked to discover that Tui is pregnant. Tui is taken to the local police station where she is interviewed by Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) and then taken home, only to disappear shortly after. Robin knows that time is not on Tui’s side, and nor are the weather conditions. She must fight to find Tui as soon as possible, whilst also confronting some of her own demons from her past.

Top Of The Lake is a show that felt like it took the world by storm when it first aired in 2013. There seemed to be an awful lot of people kicking up a fuss about it when it premiered on BBC2 back then. It would seem that I am quite late in only jumping on the bandwagon with this one now. However, I’ve finally watched the show, and I have to say that whilst I was quite impressed by it, I can’t quite figure out why Top Of The Lake heralded such a dramatic response from people as I thought it was good, but not exactly mind-blowing.

I liked most of the characters in the show, and I thought the performances that went into them were pretty decent. Elisabeth Moss had a fair old crack at a New Zealand accent so at least the show didn’t fall on it’s face there. She played a good part as Robin. I liked the strength she showed, but also the fragility that lay not far beneath the surface of her character. 

David Wenham played Al Parker. He was the top dog at the police station that was the hub for the investigation. There was something dodgy about him from the start, but the way Wenham played Al meant that you kind of kept coming back to the idea that he might actually be an okay guy. It was hard to gage exactly what side he was on throughout the whole series, and then things took a real turn in the final 20 minutes of the last episode that confirmed who he was was. I liked Wenham’s performance all the way through because I never really knew where I stood with his character, and I personally think that’s always a good feeling for an audience to experience.

Alongside the characters, the main story was one of the strongest elements of the show for me. There were a few twists that I think worked really well and didn’t feel as though they had just been thrown in for the sake of being there. One thing that did cause me an issue was the subplot involving the womens’ cult. That didn’t come together as well for me as some of the other subplots did. I didn’t really see where that fit into the rest of the show, and I think it could easily have been discarded. However, it didn’t detract from the rest of the show, so I won’t complain too much.

One last thing I would like to mention is the scenery. It’s something that has a place in a lot of TV and film productions that take place in New Zealand, but it’s always so beautiful. In this show, it kind of became another character as well because so much of the investigation at the heart of the story hinged on the environment. It’s not hard to see why so many films choose to shoot there because it is glorious to look at.

So, Top Of The Lake – would I recommend it? I think so. It was a good TV show – definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen on the BBC lately (let’s face it, the last few years has seen a lot of absolutely garbage come from them) – and it felt really solidly made. I do believe that China Girl, the second season, will be as good as this one. It doesn’t feel like a fluke, if that makes sense. Anyway, if you haven’t seen Top Of The Lake and have a gap in your TV schedule, give it a bash. 

Review – The Walking Dead Season 1


A sheriff wakes up from a coma to find the world in ruins after an outbreak of some sort of disease.
Whilst on duty one day, Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and left in a coma. After some time, he comes round only to find that the world has changed beyond all recognition. Something that can only be described as a zombie apocalypse has occurred, and it’s not long before he finds himself in another spot of bother. Thankfully, there are other survivors, who Rick teams up with in a bid to survive.

I’m a bit behind on this one, but I’ve just recently started watching The Walking Dead. I’ve got the first season out of the way, and so far I’m liking it. There’s a good bit of action to be had, and it’s also very funny in places. The characters that I’ve been introduced to so far have shown a lot of promise, and I’m now eager to see where things go from here.

There hasn’t really been a stand out character for me yet. Obviously we have our hero in Rick, but I think he’s fairly standard so far. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how his relationships with some of the other characters develop as there’s already some tensions growing. I think that Andrew Lincoln has presented Rick well with his performance. It’s clear that a lot of emotion is bubbling away under the surface, and so I’m definitely very interested to see where things go from here on out. Norman Reedus’ character Daryl has definitely been the most entertaining so far – I do love those loose cannon types! What I like about him is you cannot tell what he’s going to do next, which always makes for a decent amount of unpredictability. One thing for certain, however, is that there is a lot more to come with all of these characters, so I’m watching this space for now.

The story has also been set up nicely. With this being the first season, there’s not a huge amount that it really delved into, but it has created a number of possible plot lines that I’m hoping will be explored further down the line. For example, the mysterious disappearance of Merle Dixon (who I was very surprised to see was played by Michael Rooker) is one I need closure on. I don’t believe for one minute that I’ve seen or heard the last of that. Then there’s also the tensions between Rick, his missus and his old partner Shane. I’m just glad to see there’s plenty of potential for where the show could go now, and so I can’t wait to get my hands on season 2.

A big shoutout goes out to the make-up department on this show. The zombies looked good! I’ve seen a few zombie films and I think these ones have looked the best out of all of them. There was something about them that made them seem a bit more undead than the others, and the noises they made were better too. After reading a little bit about the show’s production, I discovered that there is such thing as a Walker School, which would probably explain why these zombies were a cut above the rest.

All in all, my first experience of The Walking Dead has been a good one. This pilot season has set up the seasons to come very well, and there’s been enough hints given regarding what sort of things might be to come to capture my attention for a while long yet. I’m interested to see how the characters and their relationships develop, and to see who else they gather along the way. All I have to do now is find myself a copy of season 2 on DVD…

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.