The hole in the world: Why ‘Angel’ is better than ‘Buffy’


I’ve been saying this for years.

Originally posted on PopWatch:

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Fifteen years ago this week, Angel premiered on the WB. A spinoff of the much-beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show would run for five seasons, leaving the air in May of 2004—one year after Buffy’s series finale. In the subsequent years, Buffy‘s legend would only grow as critics and fans alike acknowledged the debt modern television owed to it. Angel, however, would linger in the background, never really forgotten but also never really championed, even as it sits just a few clicks away from its sister series on Netflix and Hulu.

But Angel is every bit as vital as Buffy. In fact, it might even be better.

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A whodunit is quite possibly the most common type of narrative that exists in fiction. Every single one of us is drawn to the inherent puzzle, as well the urgency created by the fact that there is a killer on the loose if the puzzle isn’t solved. Because it has been done so many times, the key to reviewing a whodunit is in the details. How is the story presented? How deep is the characterization of the victim and the suspects? Why should we care to follow the Detective, if we are following one?

Broadchurch is a whodunit with a lot going for it. It has a great cast, a great setting, and a gripping mystery. The series begins with the arrival of Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) to Broadchurch, a small coastal town. Hardy has taken the position that Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) expected to receive as a promotion, and she feels slighted to be assigned Hardy (an outsider) as a superior, given her in-depth knowledge of Broadchurch. Soon after Hardy’s arrival, 11-year-old Danny Latimer is found dead on the beach, and the two detectives embark on an investigation that rocks the small town.

The great thing about Broadchurch is not just the mystery of who killed Danny. The series succeeds because it takes the time to paint a picture of the town as a whole. Suspicion falls on MANY different townsfolk, and even those who are NOT under suspicion for Danny’s murder are hiding sinister or unsavory secrets. Hardy himself had sought out a position in Broadchurch because he felt the small town would be a retreat from the ugly, sinister cases he had seen in the past. What he comes to realize as the series progresses is that small towns can hide ugly secrets, too. The most interesting arc, however, belongs to Hardy’ partner Ellie. She is a member of the Broadchurch community. She has lived there, made friends there, built a career there. Now, Hardy demands that she look at her friends and neighbors with suspicion. After all, one of them is a killer. As a pessimist and a misanthrope, I like seeing narratives that don’t sugarcoat the black nature of humanity. Broadchurch is interesting because it validates Hardy’s suspicions and crushes Ellie’s optimism.

This is why it’s almost strange to see the series remade for American television as Gracepoint. I’d be curious to see if the American remake maintains the withering, bleak outlook of the original. In Broadchurch, even the people who were innocent of Danny’s murder proved to be terrible in other ways. Not since “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” episode of The Twilight Zone have I seen such a genuinely negative portrayal of “regular” people.

The performances in Broadchurch are spot on. Tennant, Colman, Jodie Whittaker as Danny’s mother are particularly strong. If I had one complaint about the series, it is that in writing Danny’s older sister, the creators have taken the lazy approach of the Bratty Teenage Daughter. Most recently an egregious element in Homeland, the Bratty Teenage Girl is a recurring trope that dictates that teenage female characters must be bratty, selfish, annoying, and act completely without care or logic. It is lazy writing, and sexist lazy writing, at that. Seriously, male writers of fiction: stop writing teenage girls without every trying to understand one. Here are two examples, just from recent posts on this blog, that prove that you can write a teenage girl with depth.

That rant aside, Broadchurch is definitely worth checking out. I can’t speak for the quality of Gracepoint yet, or whether it will make departures from the original narrative, but Broadchurch is out on DVD/blu-ray.

Entertainment Geekly: The Batman Top 100


Entertainment Week has selected their Batman 100.

Originally posted on PopWatch:

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So on Monday, I watched the Gotham series premiere with about 8 million of my friends. I started writing a column about the show and what it says (accidentally and/or purposefully) about the role of Batman in pop culture right now. But working on that column got me thinking more generally about Batman: A character who has been around for 75 years, a figure in my cultural consciousness since before my memory begins. The next thing I knew, I was making a list of my favorite Batman things–the movies, the TV shows, the vividly recalled comic book story arcs and standalone issues, the characters who stand out in my memory as defining aspects of the greater Bat-mythology.

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Royal Shakespeare Company Hit ‘Wolf Hall’ Moves to Broadway with Original Stars

Originally posted on Variety:

“Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2,” the rebranded two-part theater event that originated at the Royal Shakespeare Company as “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” has mapped out its route to Broadway, landing at the Winter Garden Theater in an April opening.

Actors Ben Miles (pictured above), Lydia Leonard and Nathaniel Parker, who played starring roles in the historical saga at the RSC and later on the West End, will migrate to New York with the show, which, like fall opener “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” will arrive Stateside carrying the imprimatur of London success. The show also comes pre-approved by the lead theater critic of the New York Times, who gave the plays a rave review when he caught their U.K. incarnation.

Adapted by Mike Poulton from Hilary Mantel’s two prize-winning books, “Wolf Hall” centers on the court of Henry VIII (Parker). Miles plays Thomas Cromwell, while Leonard…

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Netflix Procures ‘Peaky Blinders’ Brit Drama in Exclusive Pact With Weinstein Co., Endemol


I can’t wait!

Originally posted on Variety:

Netflix has acquired exclusive U.S. rights to British gangster series “Peaky Blinders” under a pact with the Weinstein Co. and Endemol.

All six episodes of season 1 will debut at 12:01 a.m. PT Sept. 30, and season 2 will launch in November, Netflix said.

“Peaky Blinders,” set in 1919 Birmingham, England, follows the Shelby family, which leads a criminal ring named for its practice of sewing razor blades into the peaks of the members caps. It was created and written by Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things”, “Eastern Promises”).

Series stars Cillian Murphy (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises”), Sam Neill (“The Tudors,” “Jurassic Park”), Helen McCrory (“Hugo,” “Harry Potter”) and Annabelle Wallis (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Tudors”). The series was produced by Caryn Mandabach Production and Tiger Aspect Production for BBC Two, which first aired “Peaky Blinders.”

“‘Peaky Blinders’ captivated audiences in the U.K. with its compelling storylines, powerful…

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