I’m not someone who watches much television. I’m quite boring in that respect: whenever friends enthuse about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, I’ve no idea what they are talking about. Watching a popular series on TV is a great opening to conversation and I’m aware that sometimes I’m missing out on it. I tend to be too busy to sit in front of the gogglebox as I spend a lot of time by myself working in the evenings: besides, the cats and I have quickly realised the danger of tuning into programmes like Luther when we are by ourselves. How many nights have I checked under the bed and hoped no-one will pop down from the attic via a hole in the ceiling?
But since my son arrived back from South America and came to stay with me during lockdown, (and since there has been no football to watch for several months,) we have spent more time in front of the TV beside a warm fire with a glass of something nice. Firstly, we binge-watched all five series of Peaky Blinders, which I really thought were excellent. I enjoyed it for so many reasons that I’d have to write a blog about it separately, but one of the greatest highlights was Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Alfie Solomons. Absolutely inspired timing and characterisation- no-one else could have got away with it!
Then we sat through a whole series of Life on Mars, which was ok. Conceptually, it wasn’t for me but my theatre background has made it quite easy for me to separate a programme into the various compartments to analyse, and although I wasn’t keen on the story line or crazy about some of the characters, I enjoyed the acting, particularly the hilarious role of Philip Glenister.
Then my son suggested that we watch all three series of Hannibal and I agreed we’d try that. Of course, I should’ve known – as a vegan, I’m hardly a prime target audience to enjoy a suspenseful bloodthirsty cookery programme in which human flesh is prepared with elegance and relish. But I thought I’d give it a go. The cast was impressive and the series came recommended by someone whose opinion I value.
I love the opportunity to watch something and be surprised by my own reaction. Of course, I need to qualify what I mean by ‘watch something’: I spent most of the first two series on the floor with my hands over my eyes calling out ‘Can I look yet?’ While I enjoyed the powerful acting, the brilliant script, the clever photography, the symbolism, I couldn’t watch most of the gore, and there was a lot of it. It was too shocking for someone as easily horrified as I am.
The third series was a little less gory and more psychologically-tense and I preferred it, but only for that reason. Hannibal is not a series I’d naturally gravitate towards, and that’s why I’m so keen to blog about it. As a group performance, the acting is sensational, particularly Mads Mikklesen as Hannibal. The photography is excellent, the scripting is incredible and the way the characters develop and blend in a tense unfolding of a complex and well-contrived story is really good.
It’s an intelligently written and directed series that invites the viewer to think, to work things out: nothing is quite as it seems; the use of symbolism and semiotic or suggestion is impressive and, all together, I really enjoyed it. Well, not enjoyed. It’s not enjoyable because it is distasteful, uncomfortable and often simply revolting. But it’s clever, well put together and thoroughly satisfying intellectually and aesthetically.
I can’t quite believe how much I did enjoy it while, at the same time, I regularly almost stopped watching it because the violence was unbearable. But I persisted. Both compulsive and horrific, Hannibal wouldn’t be suitable for anyone unless they were sure they weren’t prone to nightmares. I had plenty of awful dreams as a result, but the programme was utterly powerful, and I (almost) watched it all. A great series for all the right reasons. Dreadful for one reason alone – it is really nauseating. But I’m so glad I sat through it to the end. I wish there had been a series four.
Now what’s next on my list of things I don’t usually watch?
4 thoughts on “Time to watch a series on TV?”
I’m glad I’m not the only one who isn’t addicted to the telly – I used to be when I was younger and then I quite simply became too busy. I’ll occasionally watch a movie with the spouse, or we’ll see some anime – the dramatic anime that is meant for mature and thoughtful audiences is often so supremely well done that it’s spoiled me for most other things.
Depending on what you watch the art can be amazing, the themes fascinating, the stories deep, and all with a fine understanding of the human mind. Of course, I’m talking about shows like Rescue Wings or Zipang or Ghost in the Shell, not shows like Dragon Ball Z or Naruto. I like watching something that truly engages my mind!
(Also I know what you mean about being able to compartmentalize and enjoy specific aspects of a show even if others aren’t so great. I find myself doing that quite a bit. )
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Thanks for this: my daughter is well into her anime and I’m going to get the ones you suggest! It sounds just my sort of thing.
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You’re welcome 🙂 Now, fair warning, I tend to like military sci fi. However there are plenty of categories of anime available – look for well regarded series in the seinen category, that’s the dramatic category made for adults, working professionals, people like that. In general subtitles capture more of the story than dubbed versions. A nice one to start with might be Shirobako – it’s all about a group of people working at an anime studio.
Thanks I’ll give it a go!