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What are you watching?

03 Jan 2012
Posted by Shannon

My latest column at TheTyee.ca on the decline of old-fashioned TV watching prompted a poster to make an excellent point: Ironically, some of the best television ever produced is airing right now.

And as we’re all watching it by other means, it’s important we tip our friends to what’s good. I’ve started a list of the stuff I’ve loved, and would welcome any recommendations.

JUSTIFIED

This is the single best TV show I’ve seen since Mad Men (with The Wire and Deadwood being my other benchmarks). I might have missed it because the story of a trigger-happy U.S. Marshall assigned to work hillbilly Kentucky couldn’t interest me less. Or so I thought. It was inspired by an Elmore Leonard short story, and features some of the most disciplined TV writing anywhere. The episodes fly by and the taut scripts leave you wanting more -- along with the great acting. It stars Tim Olyphant who played Bullock in Deadwood and a couple of characters actor who will look vaguely familiar, but you probably can’t place. Season 1 is good, with the fascinating Walton Coggins as Boyd, the cracker criminal who is the flip side of Olyphant’s Marshall character Raylan Givens. But Season 2 is brilliant, in no small part due to Margo Martindale, who plays Mags, a sort of Ma Barker of the hillbilly set. Season 2 just hit DVD, and Season 3 kicks off this month on FX. It was created by Canadian Graham Yost.

DOWNTON ABBEY

I’m a sucker for a British costume drama and this one is my current fave. Season 2 launches on PBS this month, with Lord Grantham and his household stiff-upper-lipping it through World War I. But I’ll wait until the seven-week series is complete to tune in. Then along with a fellow sets-and-décor junkie I’ll watch it on a rainy Sunday afternoon marathon, complete with an Edwardian menu.  I’m learning to make Apple Charlotte for the event.

LOST GIRL

I tripped over this one courtesy of Global TV’s excellent iPhone and iPad app, and it’s remarkably good, all Canadian, and on Showcase.ca. It’s the tale of Bo a weapons-wielding fae who only discovered she’s not human. The producers have used the old Celtic term for faery and imagined a world in which mystical creatures from every culture’s mythology are part of the fae.  She’s a succubus, one of those over-sexed demons that plagued medieval men, and her lusty nature offers the scriptwriters many an opportunity for viewer advisory scenes. Her world is populated with sirens, shape-shifters, fairy tale witches, and the old Irish goddess the Morrigan.

Lost Girl’s vibe is reminiscent of the early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Farscape, not least because it pinches their plots. Although it feels like more of an homage than a steal – I’d wager creator Michelle Lovretta is a big fan of those shows.

The cast is terrific, and refreshingly unHollywood in its look. Oh, they’re gorgeous – just not weirdly plastic. There’s lots of snappy dialogue, for those of us who like that kind of thing, and well-developed supporting characters. While Anna Silk as Bo gets off the occasional quip, it’s her quirky sidekick Kenzi who gets the best lines.  Ksenia Solo is a wonderfully physical actor who plays the lippy thief for laughs and is a compulsive scene-stealer.  Bo’s answer to Angel comes in the form of the shape-shifting wolf, Dyson, portrayed by the suitably dishy Kris Holden-Ried. He’s a nicely nuanced actor, although that might be missed due to the frequent shirt-removals. The course of true love never did run smooth if you want a long-running show, so it’s all delightfully tense and angsty.

Lost Girl is midway through Season 2 and has just been picked up in the U.S. by the Syfy channel. I predict it will be a cult hit.

New shows

I loved Mad Men, Deadwood and Downton Abbey too so I'm going to check out Justified based on your recommendation. Not a show I would have looked based on the title. And I'll see if I can find Lost Girl. At the moment I'm into Walking Dead and the new Once Upon A Time (my daughter loves it).

Thanks

Frank


thanks for the tip

I went off Walking Dead after a few episodes, because it didn't go anywhere fast enough. But I'll look up Once Upon a Time. I love the idea of doing fairy tales.