Category Archives: tragicomedy

Episodes (s.05, 2017)

Fifth season of Episodes is the final one. Sean and Beverly are stuck working on a comedy they hate under the guidance of a man they despise. Matt is hosting The Box, a senseless but entertaining TV show produced by Merc; they hate each other, but keep good appearance. Carol is wallowing in depression and self-pity as she has no job, no money, and no hope; Beverly keeps trying to bolster her spirit, but with little success. After a sex scandal blown way out of proportion Matt gets fired from the show, but the network revises that decision pretty quickly after the ratings of the show rise by 30% as a direct result of the event. Besides a longed-for opportunity to rub it into Merc’s face, Matt gets a guaranteed 13 episodes of his own show from the network, and so he and Sean and Beverly start thinking about some entirely new project.

I love it when a story development is designed so meticulously as Crane & Klarik do for Episodes. It is quite obvious that even though the length of the journey could have been different (with correspondingly changed level of detail), but all the landmarks were conceived a long time ago exactly the way they’ve been executed later. The clarity of the story is astonishing; the way they managed to keep it highly dramatic and funny at the same time, with great harmony among the components, is truly masterful. In that respect, by the way, 5th season is better than the previous, which ended in a very gloom place.

This show is interesting in how it’s an exceptionally delicate and delicious combination of purely fictional elements and those that have direct correspondence in real reality: it is not the first work of this sort in cinema, but it is definitely one of the best so far. The writing in general is pretty much perfect, both in concept and in dialogs. I can say with absolute certainty that every minute of it was a pleasure.

The finale deserves a separate conversation, really, but all I can do is mention it. It is not just strong, it is truly surprising (which, to be honest, I did not expect), and would throw you into emotional lowland only to elevate you to a highest peak the next minute. This is probably the best show’s finale I’ve ever seen; it is surely bright, fascinating, remarkable.

Cannot recommend more.

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Orange Is the New Black (s.05, 2017)

Fifth season of Orange is the New Black is dedicated almost exclusively to the few day when Litchfield penitentiary was in riot. It follows the development of the situation and elucidates it from various angles; it tells about a vast number of characters, tracing each of theirs storylines quite meticulously, with conflicts and alliances forming and crumbling apart all the time. Several COs are taken hostages, including Caputo; they become a bargaining chip in the negotiations aimed at improving inmates’ lives, as well as making it right by Poussey. The negotiation are being held by Taystee – for the inmates, – and by representative of the governor (who brushed aside the corporation as soon as the conflict hit the media), with several other inmates and Caputo heavily involved. The COs in the meantime become exposed to quite a few unpleasant manifestations of the inmates’ love, but remain relatively safe, with the exception of Humps (one of the guards) who was shot in the very beginning and later got unlucky enough to get a bad in the hospital ward next to people wishing him ill. The inmates were united only for a brief moment, which soon elapsed, and some sort of feudal chaos took over, with several unions competing for resources, some of them also trying to establish some sort of order, and a great number of loners and tiny groups just minding their own business. At some point Piscatella in disregard of a direct order infiltrates the prison to take the inmates down one by one, and for some time he manages to get away with it. The several days of the wild reign come abruptly to anticipated end, when special ops finally gets the order allowing suppression by force.

Over the course of the show the internal time gets increasingly dense and slow: the duration of the season stays relatively unchanged, while the period of time it covers gets shorter and shorter in each new season, – it’s like a river spats broadwise and because of that slows down its pace forward. This approach allows Jenji Kohan to go deeper into the characters and their stories, instead of rushing the plot along, and as a result, we have incredibly complex narrative with unrivaled number of elements, all of which are relatively harmoniously balanced – relatively, because sometimes the tempo lagged a little bit when some characters were put aside for a period of time too long not to notice their absence; also, it’s quite obvious that some characters (like Bursett) were intentionally removed from the story to unload it at least a little bit. This, however, is pretty much all the criticism of the season I have in me. I think it’s brilliant, ingenious, and generally a remarkable work of cinema, powerful and beautiful in its sincerity.

All the stories of the season, each and every one of them, is interesting to follow; some of them produce wonderfully poetic images and situations, others provide the viewer with something to smile (or even laugh) at, and the best – combine humor with sadness of life to achieve some amazingly powerful pinnacles. I could’ve dived into specifics here, but learing it all anew will be much more enjoyable for you; besides, there’s too much going on there to squeeze it all into just a few paragraphs. Highly recommended for self-study.

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Doll & Em (s.02, 2015)

In 2nd season Dolly and Emily first write and then try to produce and direct a stage play based on a relationship between themselves. They settle down in the Mikhail Baryshnikov’s theater (who owned a favour to Buddy, their producer) in New York, off-Broadway, assemble the cast, including 2 girls to play characters based on them (but not exactly them) – Olivia and Evan. Things between the four of them do not work out very well exactly, but somehow they manage to haul as far as the premiere. Along the way Dolly falls in love with Ewan McGregor, because he picked her up in a bar and they almost dated, and there may be consequences to their encounter. Emily gets her hopes high with a new role she’s been offered, so much so she’s almost pulls out of the play, but then the project falls apart, and she comes back as domineering as ever. Doll & Em try to deal somehow with this new form of their ever-changing friendship, as well as each of them deals with their own personal stuff. In the finale the premiere of the play comes off, offering a few surprises.

The 1st season was really great, but the 2nd one is slightly better – mostly due to freshness of the story and ingenuity of its authors, which has improved significantly. I think, once they’ve established that they can in fact produce a TV series, however small it is, they managed to relax and have fun on top of creating a highly professional product of cinema, which is reflected in the overall tone of the show. The narrator’s voice in episode 4 alone is worth some kind of prize, and that’s far from all.

The cast is pretty amazing: I suppose, Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Woods play fictionalized versions of themselves, as it usually goes; it was really cool to see Mikhail Baryshnikov; Ewan McGregor was kind of funny; the now infamous Harvey Weinstein appeared in a tiny, but quite memorable role of himself (not uncommon for the show, as you might have noticed).

By the way, Emily Mortimer speaks rather decent Russian, although not without noticeable accent.

All in all, in 2nd season the creators managed to preserve that combination of peculiar lightness and meaningfulness that formed in the 1st season, and enhance it with more humor and new ideas. The show has concluded with that, and it’s a good thing: it proves that Mortimer and Wells were never there for the money, that quality bears way more significance to them, and that they know how to end things at the right time.

Highly recommended for everybody.

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Orange Is the New Black (s.04, 2016)

In the fourth season of Orange is the New Black Jenji Kohan and Co continues to explore attractions of the corporate prison concept, prolongs the storylines of the characters we all grew to love, and, of course, adds some new heroes to the mix, interlacing their stories with ones already in progress. Alex, after receiving unexpected help from a mentally challenged Lolly, deals with the consequences of her self-defence actions; old COs retire en masse to strong-arm the management, but get replaced by an emergency fraction at first and with newly hired vets later; new team of COs establish their own rule, one that does not comply very well with the inmates; Chapman tries to assemble a semblance of a gang, but proves too weak for a life of professional criminal, especially after her actions provoke a much stronger reaction: the reinforced latin community starts acting in the same direction but with less humanity, plus the white power thing lifts up its ugly head; Brook Soso and Poussey become a couple; Nicky Nichols comes back from Max, which turns out to be too late for her sobriety; Bursett spends most of her time in SHU for no reason at all; Red works the kitchen, while trying to serve as a glue for the community; Dogget and Donuts become closer while trying to overcome what’s standing between them; Suzanne gets manipulated by ill-meaning guards into some nasty stuff, and so does a couple of other girls; Judy King becomes the queen of the prison, goes through several scandal, makes some friends; Caputo tries to balance between his duty as he sees it and the corporate interest, with the latter winning almost every time, which leads to rise of the tension in their relationship; Healy goes through some really hard times, with his wife gone, and fears about a mental illness inherited from his mother, starting to dominate him; Lorna enjoys the fruits of her unexpected marriage, but then starts acting destructively. Lives of old characters, as well as new ones, are explored through the flashbacks, as usual; this time it’s Poussey, Healy, Suzanne, one of the new guards, and couple of others. By the end of the season the tension between the COs and the inmates reaches its peak after a person gets killed by accident.

This season produces an impression of the strongest one so far: on the one hand, the overall quality remained just as high as it used to be; on the other – the main storyline builds up gradually with aggravation of conflict up to the point of no return (incredibly powerful death in the finale – like a cherry on top) and then escalates into a major cliffhanger, which imparts some sort of accord on the narrative intensifying it tenfold as a result.

The most important, the most interesting things about this season are: the purity of the Soso-Poussey relationship; the idea that criminal way of life is no joke, and you shouldn’t choose it unless you’re willing to go all the way, which you’re probably not; how impossible it is to help Lolly; that corporations are evil, and those dealing with living people are worst of all; certain everyday details of drug abuse and trade in prison; weird relationship between Dogget and the guard; how broken some of the new COs are; how cool it is to be a celebrity; that racial division in prisons is still quite real, but can be vanquished in the face of the common enemy. There were some truly brilliant scenes, including the one with fucking without any touching (#3), the finale in general, and tribute to Poussey in particular (#12-13).

It was quite fascinating, I loved it. Hopefully, season 5 would live up to my overgrown expectations.

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Doll & Em (s.01, 2014)

Doll & Em is a story about 2 friends, Dolly and Emily, who remained quite close even though Dolly stayed in London and didn’t achieve much while Emily went to Hollywood and became a famous actress. Doll breaks up with her boyfriend and turns to Emily for a solace. Emily, who is shooting some big movie in the US at the moment, invites her to come and stay with her, and have some fun, and work for her as an assistant at the same time. Dolly accepts the invitation; for some time everything goes wonderful, but a certain tension between them starts building up almost immediately, which eventually leads to a crisis in their relationship.

Totally delicious little thing. It has the power of sincerity, because the story comes from the real-life experience and adopts as much drama from there as possible, and at the same time it is devoid of the roughness ordinarily accompanying veracity of this intensity – the show’s actually very delicate and amazingly subtle. The overall development is psychologically correct, has a lot of nuances and doesn’t have any stretches or omissions. The story is small, non voluminous, that much is true, but whether to deem it a plus or a minus, is a question to which one should apply their own judgement. The execution is impeccable, especially the acting. Also, it’s not particularly a comedy, as the writers do not try to make the viewer laugh, but rather some scenes they want to tell about are naturally funny.

I love gems like Doll & Em here: tiny, almost inconspicuous, as if hiding from the world, but pure at the core, and with no defect anywhere, presenting the audience with concentrated quality. First season was a pure pleasure; hopefully, 2nd will be a match.

Names and figures

Orange Is the New Black (s.03, 2015)

Third season of the Orange Is the New Black is all about the great change the american prison system undergoes presently: for the general arc, the prison’s senior staff gets in trouble due to their financial indiscretions, but the catastrophe is averted thanks to a giant corporation buying the prison out in order to make it profitable. The transition brings a lot of minor changes to the established environment, some of which may appear critical. Besides this general line that pierces everything else, the season consists of the following storylines: Piper and Alex’s conflicted relationship; the improv class opened by a new counselor and some of its consequences, including Crazy Eyes’s surprising career as a fiction writer; the loophole of a kosher meal that got abused too much, but had a curious consequence of turning Black Cindy into a jewish person before shutting down; Nichols gets upgraded to maximum security; Piper’s undercover enterprise that grew on the weaknesses of the corporate prison approach, as well as her action for its protection; Norma pretty much becomes the leader of a cult; Red returns to kitchen, only to regret it immediately; Alex is freaking out all the time expecting an assassin in every new person; Morello starts a mail scheme that ends up in the most unexpected way for her; Daya gives birth, considering if she wants to keep the baby in the family, or give it away to Pornstache’s mother. The intervals are filled with deep exploration of some of the inmates’ and prison staff’s lifepaths – this time it’s about Norma, Chang, Boo, Lianne, more Pennsatucky, and several others.

All this and more is carefully stirred and balanced for our enjoyment, and constitutes in general a consistent and interesting story for the whole of 13 episodes. The prison management format development does seem a little weird, but, considering all that we know about the US, not at all implausible. It definitely brought in some very curious offshoots to the story.

The narrative is rich and flows without restrictions. The acting is in harmony with everything else in the execution. All in all, the show is more powerful than even in season 3. Which makes me think that one tiny autobiography probably couldn’t have been the source of all of that power, and if so, what else do they use? Not very relevant, of course, as the quality of the final product is the ultimate criteria, and by that measure the show is at the top of the chart so far.

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Orange Is the New Black (s.02, 2014)

In the 2nd season of Orange Is the New Black previously charted storylines continue to develop in their natural fashion, with some of them interlacing around Vee, a hardcore professional criminal who has history with Red. Piper Chapman and Alex Vause get to participate in the trial of their boss the drug lord, after which Alex goes free, and nothing changes for Piper; she returns to genpop, gets furlough and visits funeral of her granny, makes piece with her ex-fiance and her best friend falling in love with each other, but other than that she just lives. More and more often the focus of attention shifts from Piper’s storyline towards other lines, specifically the one about Vee, who just came to Litchfield, but started to distort reality around herself almost immediately; the one with Brook Soso, another newcomer, a young girl who launched a hunger strike; miss Rosa, a cancer patient who didn’t want to die behind bars; the Diaz baby intrigue, including Mendez the Pronstache, who returned briefly only to be taken to prison himself; and others. The further the more the show seems like a uniform soup with lost of brilliant parts in different places, but no particular hierarchy story-wise.

One of the show’s most powerful features is the diversity: on the one hand, it comes natural, because anybody can end up in prison, therefore no combination of characters would be too unbelievable (plus, there is a build-in mechanism to bring in new ones), all of which means it gives a lot of opportunities for not very high cost; on the other hand, the abundance of faces makes it a little challenging simply keeping up, but so far it’s barely an issue at all.

All of the small stories that constitute the multitude of the show are well thought-out and well-designed; they link together and form storylines that evolve over time. Arguably the strongest constituent of the whole season was Vee, a black woman of around 50 years old showing signs of manipulative and psychopathic behaviour, who gathers almost all black women of the block around herself, and creates out of them a dark force with potential to oppress every other force existing in the prison environment. As contrasted by the events connected to her character, previous prison intrigues seem even kind of childish.

All in all, season seems very strong to me, but with a certain doughiness quality impacting the whole structure of the show, although without any significant consequences so far. Still great, still fascinating, still powerful as hell.

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Orange Is the New Black (s.01, 2013)

Orange Is the New Black is a drama with a touch of comedy about a girl (Piper Chapman) who was sentenced to a term in a minimal security prison for assisting drug trafficking some 10 years ago. It is based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman. The story follows Piper’s attempts to adapt to prison life and not lose her identity in the process, which proves to be extremely hard. Larry, her fiance, tries to be as supportive as he can, but some choices Chapman makes while behind bars, turn this task into an impossible one. Secondary storylines follow some of Chapman’s inmates paths, including those of Alex Vause, her former lover and the reason she’s got imprisoned; Miss Claudette Pelage, a Haiti native convicted for murder; Red, a Russian native and a power figure; Crazy Eyes, a strange and intense girl with lots of talents and stage fright; Nicky Nichols, a hot and bright lesbian; Pennsatucky, a christian fundamentalist with mental issues; Laverne Cox, a transgender hairdresser. Prison staff also produces some major characters for the story, including COs mr. Healey, Joel Luschek, George “Pornstache” Mendez and John Bennett; Joe Caputo and Natalie Figueroa. There are many other characters, too many to count, each of whom comes with his or her own story.

I don’t have a lot of words for this show, except, maybe, that it’s extremely rich and perfect in a lot of ways. The thing I loved about it the most, that it impacts the viewer in a way consistent with how Piper’s life developments impacted her – after the 1st episode, I was pretty much terrified with all that’s been going on, and my only thought was that all the romanticization of prison life, all the attempts to rationalize this kind of experience, are utter bullshit, and that I would never want something like that happen to me; later, as Piper adjusted a little bit, found some friends and engaged into some not entirely unhealthy activities, it became easier, and, of course, humor enclosed in the numerous funny situations helped a lot, so I even thought to myself – it ain’t that bad; but then the scale achieved relative balance: I got the feeling that even though life in prison is still life, and people there are still people, I still would never want to get there, because not being able to exercise my will is still a horrible experience, no matter what they say. All those stages of understanding corresponded really well with what the heroine was going through, and in that I see a great achievement of the writers’ team, and especially of Jenji Kohan.

Like I said, the show is very rich, however, notwithstanding the abundance of characters and situations, it would be hard to get lost in them as everything in this story is well-structured and extremely well-balanced. And because the writing and the direction are so good, the narration feels so smooth and easy, you may not notice the time passed. The acting is amazing; all the cast members are in their proper places, and all of them do their job amazingly well. The setting, the makeup, the special effects, – there is literally not a single element of the concept, or the execution, that has been overlooked or tumbled.

This is a great show, because it’s both significant and entertaining, and also because it’s implemented with unparalleled dedication and talent. At least, so far.

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Flaked (s.02, 2017)

Second season of Flaked follows the Chip story after the unfortunate public meeting. He’s an outcast now, despised by everyone; his relationship with London is developing, but all the difficulties they encounter (no place to live, lack of money, etc.) threaten to ruin it to the ground. Dennis opens a wine-store, or, at least, tries to do it; he later engages into a relationship with his new neighbor, who turns out to be George’s daughter. Cooler looses his lease, and is forced to live in his car for some time, which doesn’t effect his cheery optimism all that much, and then he meets a woman. Chip eventually confesses to London his big secret: he still fails to repair what has never worked properly, but at least they get some clarity.

On the one hand, the overall development seems more or less plausible, especially the development of the relationship with London storyline; all the relapcing is shown rather authentically (although I believe things like this should be emphasized a little more clearly); the acting is fine, as well as the new characters. But Chip becomes more and more repulsive with each episode, as he appears not only a chronic liar, but also a person who can easily abuse somebody’s trust for merely a glimps of benefit. This character is donwright unpleasant, and attitude he provokes kind of spreads onto the show in general. Also, there’s an issue with the story digressing almost entirely into the relationship stuff, which makes it, basically, a melodrama, because most of it ends unnormally happy, and the thragic nature of the rest is a bit too tragic.

All in all, it’s not that bad, really, but it’s worse than (most of) the 1st season; and the troubling tendency leans towards soap, which is never good. Still, there’s a hope, albeit a decrescent one, that the next season would be better than this.

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Flaked (s.01, 2016)

Flaked is a tragicomedy about a recovering alcoholic named Chip, whose life has rapidly changed after he killed a person while drunk driving some 10 years ago, and who since then relocated to Venice, California, and gradually became a renowned member of the community by trying to help those around him. He cultivates a friendship with a guy named Dennis, who lets him live in his house, and maintains a business of making stools, though not a very successful one. When a new girl starts waitressing in his favourite restaurant, Dennis immediately fells for her, but so does Chip, and though he tries to keep away from her, the chemistry between them soon becomes indisputable. Also, the era of new technology comes to Venice in the form of large Internet companies, as well as real estate developers, which arouses resistance reaction in the community, and, because Chip has certain connections (his famous and wealthy ex-wife is in a relationship with one of the key developers), he manages to overthrow the redevelopment project, – or does he?

Up until a certain point, the show was great, even amazing. The story is simple, yet deep enough to be interesting; the characters – well-elaborated; story turns – curious and quite unexpected. The atmosphere, and well as the whole environment mutation premise, is savoury and rich with ingredients; all in all, it was pure pleasure to watch it.

But then came the finale. The last episode spoiled everything. First of all, it introduced the final story turn, which turned out to be so spectacularly trite, I felt it like a personal betrayal. If not for this ultimate-truth-that-threatens-to-ruin-everything bullshit, even hero’s selling out (which is the second bad thing about this episode) wouldn’t have been all that disenchanting, but 2 of them combined feel kind of like you’ve been eating in a nice restaurant, and every single dish was perfect, so you dig into the last one, not expecting any foul play, and suddenly it’s a piece of tofu, or something equally terrible. And the worst part: there was no need for either of those things, they weren’t exactly driven by the story, but added simply for the purposes of intensification. Sadly, that miscalculation ruined all the previous hard work.

I’m still going to see the 2nd season, though: for one thing, it’s not that large, and also I’m curious as to how would they extricate themselves from that mess.

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Girls (s.06, 2017)

Sixth is Girls‘ final season, there will be no more Hannah and Adam, and Ray, and Marnie, and Jessa, and Elija after this. The most notable storyline of this season (arch, like Lena Dunham called it) is Hannah’s pregnancy. Besides the development of childbearing thing itself and its impact on the universe of discourse, there were plenty of pretty amazing stories about all of the main characters – each in its own way deep and smart, and airy.

And there’s not much else to say than that, because how many compliments can you fit in a paragraph without sounding like a toady? I love the show not just because it managed to maintain a very high level of drama quality over the years, but also because it was consistent, in everything, all the time. Every single piece of it, take it away and watch under a microscope, is of highest quality from beginning to end, and the assembling was being done by a team of nearly genius level. I’m not sure if any of them could qualify for such a characteristic by themselves, but altogether they certainly do.

I’m pretty sure by now, along with The Wire and Mad Men, this show, Girls, is one of the best dramas there ever were on TV.

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Girls (s.05)

In the 5th season of her show Lena Dunham continues to explore lifelines of her characters: Marnie gets married only to get a divorce later, and reunite with Ray in the closing episodes; Shoshanna moves to Japan to run from her troubles, but eventually returns to the US; Elijah has his heart broken by a famous person; Hannah destroys yet another one of her relationships, and helps her parents to find new sense along the way; and Jessa engages into a wild, conflicting relationship with Adam, who also evolves professionally. I’m writing all these things down, because actual events don’t matter very much: this whole season has been so penetrating and pure, it is exceptionally enjoyable whether you know the plot of the story or not. Every damn second of it was pure pleasure; it’s so good, so accomplished and integral, I’m starting to believe Dunham might be actual genious.

It’s interesting that Hannah is the only character on the show whom I truly dislike. She’s not a good person, that’s for sure; but the truth is – she was designed this way, and the design (which includes her multiple flaws) is absolutely perfect. But then again – the show in general is, too; well, at least this season of it. In fact, the finale of the season left me with an impression of total completeness; I think it may be a wonderful moment to wrap up the show for good, but there would be another season next year, and this fact makes me a little worried. Because it’s very easy to spoil a good thing with unnecessary continuation, and it turns out to be quite hard to just stop at the right moment. But, I want to believe in Lena Dunham’s vision – if anybody, she might actually overpower this threat. Let’s hope she will.

Nurse Jackie (s.07)

The story is solid, nothing to complain about at all. The development of events is rather natural and leads to an appropriate finale. It would seem that theme of addiction is studied by the writers from every quater, and yet this season uncovered some details that were not emphasized before. This tells me that when you sink deep enough into something very specific (which might be really hard), it eventually pays off, sometimes considerably. Same thing as with The Walking Dead, by the way, only in case of Nurse Jackie, it wasn’t clear from the beginning what the main subject is. That’s probably the reason why first 3 seasons are not as great as the subsequent ones.

The characters are all great, including new ones, although the Norwegian guy seemed a little artificial to me – too much of a jerk. But Tony Shalhoub did a wonderful dr. Prince, and the main cast managed to maintain the level attained. Dr. Couper was extracted from the show in the mid-season, and it was a calm removal, clearly organized beforehand, so no disturbances were entailed. Some of the recurring characters from the previous season didn’t show up, but the story managed without them quite fine. Show’s final episode starred some old friends, and it was nice to see them; that really put a gloss on the last moments.

What can I say about the show in general? It is a definitely an interesting one. Not without weak spots, but very healthy in the long run, which is ironic, considering that the disease is its main subject matter. Started off as a kind of comedy, but ceased being one rather quickly. Quite enjoyable. Probably important. I do recommend it to anyone.

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Nurse Jackie (s.06)

Story development in season 6 has no evident flaws. The chain of events is defined by the cause-effect relations, and is very strict. The only thing that might give rise to doubts is Jackie’s determination on her path of destruction, but only to somebody who haven’t dealt with addicts, or addiction. It is rather terrifying to watch, actually, but very fascinating too. Jackie became even a better liar than she was before (genious sometimes), and yet that skill didn’t save her from being uncovered; that’s because drugs may make you feel like you’re in control, but really it’s a delusion – there are always some things you’re missing out, like small cracks in the foundation of a house, and when their amount exceed certain level, everything goes down, no matter how much effort you put into adorning the upper floors.

Two characters were removed from the show this season: dr. Prentiss re-enlisted to the army (it was okay), and Frank made it to the last episode with obvious intention not to return, which was naturally interwoven into the Jackie’s story. Akalitus takes less space than before; Zoey is great; and Coop’s story paired with dr. Roman’s is rather interesting as well. The season all in all is one of the best, although there’s nothing comic left in the show whatsoever.

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Nurse Jackie (s.05)

The season is pretty great except for one weak link in the story in the very beginning. The way Eve Best was removed from the main cast is quite decent. New characters are interesting, especially dr. Roman (Betty Gilpin) – starting off as an ill-competent doctor tending to manipulate others with her looks, she eventually revealed a pure core. Development of old ones are logical, and sometimes fascinating (I like how Coop turned out, for example). Jackie’s personal life, her relationship with ex-husband and daughters, as well as her part in the working environment – the development of all these things is absolutely consistent. Season finale deserves a separate mention: it might seem that relapsing on the high note, like she did right before her one-year-sober ceremony, is unlikely, but in fact it is very much possible: fighting the desire is very hard when you feel bad, but you see the point, and that helps a lot, on the other hand, when everything’s going great, you just assume that you’re in control anyway, and making it a little better won’t hurt. It’s a mistake, of course, but it is also almost impossible to avoid.

As for the aforesaid weak link, I meant the initiating period of the season, when everyting resumed its natural course, and primary heroes returned to where they belong. Jakie was rehired by Akalitus, as well as Eddie, but who gave Akalitus her job back? She was fired for a good reason, and that reason never went away. The writers pass this issue in silence, probably because it’s irresolvable. Not a very good thing, but also not very crucial. Still, it’s a minus. But the season in general is great nontheless.

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Nurse Jackie (s.04)

Everything that should’ve happened in season 3 happened here. By all means, this season is the best for the show so far, and also the first one that I can characterize as brilliant without a hint of a doubt.

The storymakers took the previous history and made into a new starting point; the following development is determined strictly by logic, all the cause-effect relations are absolutely proper. Under the weight of circumstances Jackie’s family should’ve fallen apart long time ago, and so it did. There’s no way for her to get away with her addiction for so long, so it resurfaced and caused a shitstorm. Eddie should’ve figured out her bullshit right away, so he finally did. In short, that was the first time I could enjoy the power of irreversible life changes on this show.

Second great thing about this season is represented with the pair of new characters played by father and son Cannavale. This dramatic line is extremely vigorous in 2 aspects: first has everything to do with their broken relationship (on the show, of course), and second is about Dr. Cruz’s way to implement updates, i.e. his professional activity. While both lines are very interesting to follow, the second is the one that made me think. What was so erroneous about Cruz’s efforst to optimize the hostpital’s operational flow? Because at first sight they didn’t seem wrong at all, at least each of them taken separately. I gave it some thought, and came to the conclusion that it’s about 2 things: a well-established complex process that involves a lot of people and a lot of resourses cannot be adjusted on the fly all at once – you have to do it piece by piece, otherwise it’s gonna malfunction at some point, which is exactly what happened; also, Cruz’s personal control over the situation turned out to be more important to him than stuff getting done (Jackie’s strong point). These two things clashed and turned into some pretty strong action; and in combination with the rest of the season’s events brought to life a suprisingly vital show.

I can only hope they would keep it that way.

Names and figures

Nurse Jackie (s.03)

I don’t like very much when the anticipation grows too old – sooner or later it becomes evident that the writers are playing with the outcome, that they are deferring it using all they can in order to converse the effect of a planned bomb. But the thing is, building up to achieve some kind of catharsis doesn’t work if you make habbit out of overusing the anticipation.

Although, I have to admit: that’s kinda whimsy-whamsy on my part; and considering high quality of the show’s other components (and there are no real complaints there, not from me, anyway), it cannot be a critical point… Unless that anticipation that was being built during the whole season, that planned bomb of a peripeteia that everything was aimed at, – unless it goes off with a whimper instead of a bang. It feels as if you were ready to blow up a house of cards that you’ve been building, and then somebody comes into the room and the draught just blows off the whole thing.

So, basically, what’s wrong with this season is this rotten cherry on top of the wedding cake (that is very tasty otherwise). The saddest thing about this situation, though, is that this kind of conflict solving is pretty addictive, and I see no signs saying that it won’t be used any more. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily means that it will, but previous examples seem to indicate that it’s very likely.

Names and figures

Nurse Jackie (s.02)

General development of the primary situation feels more or less consistent, except this one thing seems kinda questionable to me: after Eddie discovered that Jackie has a family (and that she’s been lying all along), he naturally was off-balance for a while, which led to some pretty irrational behaviour on his part, but he never made an attempt to inform Kevin of anything, not once. Of course, it would’ve been a very different story, if he did, and it’s not that impossible after all, but still something is not completely right there.

Other than that it’s all great. Zoey really evolves and by the end of season 2 produces an impression of a strongly competent professional. Coop remains to be a peculiar kind of moron. The characters on the whole are quite interesting. Sudden disappearance of Mo-mo is a way to exclude a character I have mixed feeling about: on the one hand, simply not mentioning him again is kinda disrespectful; on the other – if you want your audience to forget about a character not talking about him ever would be actually a successful strategy (the fact that all this is stored on the ranges of internet somewhere and is available for study, spoils the picture somewhat, but not critically).

The show all in all maintains pretty good level of the first season; no signs of corrosion so far.

Names and figures

Nurse Jackie (s.01)

Mere existence of genres designates an attempt to bring structure into something as chaotical as creative work, – and the further, the less helpful it becomes as the borders between different genres, enough fuzzy as they are, keep getting even fuzzier. Nowadays you can tell a comedy from a tragedy basically just from the length of an episode. Nurse Jackie while being a half-hour comedy by default, combines traits of both tragical and comical nature in pretty much equal proportion, which makes it a higher form of organization in comparison with sitcom, for example, but as of the end of season 1, it still doen’t reach psychological depths proper for serious tragedy. Not that it needs to, but the creators’ ambition is rather clear.

Central character of the show is a responsible person – a woman who leads a complicated life in order to satisfy her addiction and remain a functional member of society, who is capable of keeping it all under control for the time being, – until something breaks in the perfectly adjusted system. During the 1st season we’re watching this system’s early stages of failure, the shaping of a future mishap, when 2 carefully isolated parts of life start to finally intermingle, – in the end it seems completely inevitable, but watching the situation mature is the most interesting thing here.

The humor is mostly dark or satirical, but more importantly – it’s funny more often than not. The acting is rather great; besides Edie Falco I really loved Merritt Wever (Zoe); Eve Best is very pretty; and Grace (Ruby Jerins) is a wonderful portrayal of a troubled child. Atmosphere-wise, the show feels a lot like Californication, only not as unscrewed.

Names and figures

Derek (s.02 + The Special)

General recipe is the same: a little of true-to-life humor coupled with a lot of sentimentality and such. Some stories are funny (as far as I can tell, a bit funnier than before), others are sad and arouse quite an emotional reaction. All in all differences from season 1 are not that considerable.

Karl Pilkington (Dougy) left the show in the first episode, which was the damn stupidiest character extraction I’ve seen so far: he just said that he’s fed up, and left to never return again. Which is bullshit, because in reality they would’ve at least stayed friends. He was replaced by that other guy, who was such a douchebag all the time, it actually made me shudder each time, and I couldn’t understand why did they bring him in; then it became clear that the message of this line is that even a douchebag deserves a second chance. Don’t really believe that, but whatever.

Kev played by David Earl is a more interesting specimen: however disgusting and pathetic he is, he still is capabale of good actions and maybe even not that hopeless as he seems most of the time. He’s got much more screen time than in season 1.

All in all this season and the show in general are pretty good, but I don’t thing I ever wanna watch it again, it’s just too sad, and the sadness does not soothe my soul, unfortunately.

Names and figures

Derek (s.01)

If anything can save the world at all, it would the kindness of small people. This thought is basically the tenor of the whole project.

The show is not that funny; you won’t find here anything to laugh at, because the purpose is not to make somebody feel better (as it usually is with comedies), but to arouse awareness about the elderly, to make people remember that these are actually human beings with needs and wishes and all. That this life, life of a 80 years old man suffering from Alzheimer’s syndrome, is not at all less important than life of anybody who’s healthy and young. That goal was accomplished brilliantly: there’s plenty of stuff that would make you smile, and even more to be sad about; in other words, this film is absolutely sentimental without being a soap.

There is also no real storyline, or better say it’s dotted; declared in the beginning funding campaign doesn’t seem to interest Gervais much: very few scenes were actually about it, the subject didn’t develop and had no conclusion. It’s obvious that everyday life with all its challanges is what truly bothers him.

By the by, every Derek‘s actor is professional actor, including all the elderly ones. There’s no such thing as real life perfomance, not in the serious cimena anyway.

Names and figures

Girls (s.04)

The general line designated in the previous seasons carries on steadily. Hannah reaps the fruits of her selfishness, which is only natural and fair. (By the way, it warmed my heart to hear other characters acknowledging that trait of hers) Adam’s personal life decisions seem wrongful to him but really are for the best. Ray’s switching over to Marnie is fine (at least, it opened a possibility for some truly great moments), and his newly found career in politics might be interesting. Marnie becomes better with her music (although, it’s hard for me to understand why anybody would give her such a hard time about her singing; she’s actually pretty great, and always has been), and keeps making mistakes with relationships. Shoshanna’s choice of career over new boyfriend is understandable as she never got over Ray, and her search for a job before that is kinda peculiar. Jessa keeps going in a direction that seems really wrong.

Secondary characters made some positive impact as well: Hannah’s father coming out of the closet, and Adam’s sister giving birth, and Mimi-Rose’s artistry, and Hannah’s teaching experience,  – all these storylines gave way to some really powerful and interesting scenes.

The only thing I didn’t like is that Adam’s professional development was completely missed out, but that’s really minor, and doesn’t influence anything much.

As for the season in general, I detect some kind of intentionality in forcing the drama, by which I mean the existence of the relationships, that I as a viewer desired to be repaired, and whose chances for that were deliberately reduced. Another interesting thing is that Dunhan wrote less, and directed more. Don’t know if it means anything, just an observation.

Girls (s.03)

The border between comedy and tragedy are very much washed out by now. It was clearer before, at the dawn of television, when the quality of production was out of the question; later two poles started to approach each other, so that now every comedy has a certain admixture of tragedy, and vice versa, – all because the viewer demands quality, and high quality means being closer to life. Girls is the kind of show that claims to be comedy-drama (~tragicomedy), but really is more of a tragedy kind, because at places it gets too close to life to be funny.

But that doesn’t mean, oof course, that it’s not funny at all. It kinda is. Like life can be funny, which in no way abolishes its general inherent sadness. And so is the show in at least first 3 seasons: lifelike, full of situations and characters that are extremely interesting to follow and empathize with, but not at all cheerful.

As for season 3, it is a great performance. One of the show’s peculiarities (especially patent here) is unevenness of the characters elucidation: if in the comedies of the past the writers sought to tell about all primary heroes in equal shares, Lena Dunham and her team won’t pay too much attention to this issue combining and arranging bits and pieces as they please. It would seem like this approach should cause irritation and gaps in perception, but it doesn’t, which in itself is quite an interesting circumstance. Charlie character was removed from the cast, and the type of removal is not the best one: he vanishes completely with no screen time whatsoever, and only later his disappearance is explained in a more or less believable way.

In general, though, development of the characters and their storylines is brilliant. I liked most of them, – actually, it’s kinda hard to distinguish my liking for the different things as a human being from those obtained within the professional framework. For example, I like Hannah as a character, because it’s potent and promising, but I hate her as a person because of her utter selfishness. Anyway, regardless of the personal attitude to some of the show’s fundamentals, it thrives and blossoms, and will probably continue to do so in the nearest future.

Girls (s.02)

That feeling of novelty, it’s not that acute anymore, but the quality didn’t go anywhere, – the characters, the dialogs, the monologues, the tragedy, and all the other stuff – it’s just as good as season one. The humour is a little bit better. Characters development put out a few surprises: I like what Adam became under the impact of suffering from broken heart. I like Hannah a lot: she gained an additional dimension by refusing to take responsibilty for her actions, – to tell the truth, I knew a person in real life just like that (she was heavily built too), and the psychological image is very resembling. Others are quite interesting as well.
Anyway, the show remains bright, vivid, sexually explicit, funny, and tragical.

Girls (s.01)

It’s not that easy to grow into, but then it’s fresh, and interesting, and exciting, and explicitly sexual. I have to say, it’s just amazing, how frank, how vividly Lena Dunham can write – and how blunt and beautiful she can be on screen. Lena isn’t pretty (like supermodels cliche pretty, I mean), and she knows it perectly, and she uses it to her advantage in cold blood. You know, I’ve survived through five weeks of Entourage, and right now a lead in the series who’s far less pretty than two of her co-stars seems an amazing thing to me. America’s usually super uptight and conservative about appearances, but I guess something can change. Anyway, Hannah might not be pretty, but she is beautiful. Actually, all four of the girls are. Each in her own way, of course, but there’s a quality that unites them all: not one of them is boring.

Another thing: every character on the show is not a clear one. Most of the time we know what a person is from the very beginning, – in fact, getting the viewer to know the character asap is a common practice; but not in this show. Here, if you want an answer, you need to ask a question first, you need to show the initiative, because nothing would fall into your hands on its own, nobody would reveal personal stuff just like that, – exactly the way it stands in real life. By the way, it might be necessary to point out that this show is more like a life-comedy, and quite often there are pure tragical insertions to the story, nothing funny about them at all. Very powerful, though.

All in all, I now list this show among my favourite comedies, for one thing, and for another: it’s one of the three most modern comedy shows on TV I know. (Two others are: Modern Family and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Names and figures

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