An Emotional Second Series for Downton Abbey

Us Brits are pretty obsessed with a good period drama. Throw a gripping classic, some heaving bosoms, a dashing underhanded gentleman and a overlooked hero together and you get primetime TV and ratings through the roof. The BBC’s classic Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle proves never to be outdone by rehashing of the story, whilst more recent wonders including the magnificent Judi Dench in Cranford, Bleak House and Little Dorritt all now adorn my shelves. But, before Downton Abbey along, there was a noticeable space for the early 1900’s. Perhaps the era was still too recent to be deemed ‘period’ drama, and being too young to remember the BBC classic of Upstairs, Downstairs I was totally enthralled when Downton Abbey came along.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. An incredible cast meant nothing when realising it was ITV and not BBC. But the sometimes second rate broadcaster pulled it out the bag and proved, even when the BBC quickly scrambled to rehash Upstairs, Downstairs in a competitive bid, that it was truly on top.

Downton Abbey was a soaring success, even with the extraordinary story of Mr (dashing, and suave, and gorgeous) Pamuk dying as he took heiress Lady Mary Crawley’s virginity. But, somehow, it added to the entire story in a very gripping way as the fallout and secrets starting appearing on the gossip circuit. With World War I breaking out at the end of Series 1 the scene was set beautifully for Series 2 which appears back on our screens on September 18th at 8pm. Unfortunately ITV have not released the trailer online, so below is a fan’s filming of the advert. But, by all accounts, it looks as if Series 2 will be a gripping and emotional ride for both characters and viewers of this masterpiece.

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Alcide Takes Over

Lets be honest, I was pretty critical of the opening episode to True Blood Season 4. However, one of my favourite series has gone from strength to strength….quite literally in the case of one certain actor. There were many reasons to watch this week’s True Blood (episode nine), but, to be honest, who needs anything other than this:

The Bachelor UK

When I first heard that Gavin Henson was to headline a remake of the ever popular US Bachelor series I can’t say I was terribly impressed, especially when I read the he was doing it for ‘a bit of fun’. Anyone who knows me knows that, after my sister encouraged me to watch the Jake Pavelka series of America’s The Bachelor, I’ve been utterly hooked. Ok, it shamelessly plays with people’s emotions, and most of the resulting engagements break up, but as a true romantic it does completely draw me in. With real love on the line, and the addition of some complete love freaks, the heart stopping rose ceremony, and the heartless two on one dates where at least one person is going home, it makes pretty epic viewing. Ok, so I watched my first episode ever going ‘bloody hell, this is awful’, but there’s a strange lure that keeps you hooked and you just can’t wait to see who actually ends up finding love. And whether it works out or not, its a thrilling ride.

 

The UK Bachelor with the harem

As with many British remakes, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, compared to ANTM, Britain’s Top Model looks like a selection of trailer trash victims being led by the best of the worst ‘Z’ list celebs, even after Elle McPherson took over. But, it’s go to be said, the UK’s version of The Bachelor isn’t at all bad.

It has to be said that Gavin Henson isn’t the most articulate of men, but he is by all respects a bachelor. He also revealed that he is looking for love and hope this series works for him. Of course, his 25 women were a mix of conniving stick thin bitches, brainless twins who looked like they’d come straight from ‘Take Me Out’ and a group of man eaters, but there looked to be some great girls too. Georgie, Keshia and Carrie stood out for all the right reasons, and I’m glad that Gavin sent a lot of the ‘crazies’ home in the first batch – excluding the total whack job Laura who he was probably told to keep by production bosses simply for TV viewing reasons. However, I have a strange feeling that, if she let down her obvious barriers against insecurities, Laura may actually be a very nice girl underneath her ridiculousness.

So, will I be watching the UK’s first Bachelor series? yes, most definitely. It’s not quite the US version, it has a strange narration which makes it seem like Channel 5 are trying to push this as a documentary when its actually a pure reality show, and some of the girls are pretty blah blah blah, but it has all the makings of a new and very popular UK series.

Back on Track for True Blood

**Contains Season Four Spoilers**

You may have recently seen that I was far from impressed with True Blood’s opening to season four. Whether it was simply a case of over anticipation that made the opening two episodes rather disappointing I don’t know. That, or the fact that due to the year time shift they had to cram in as much as possible making any indepth story out of the question. And what with werewolves, werepanthers, shapeshifters, demon babies, faeries, witches, oh, and of course, actual vampires, I was rather worried that too much was being crammed in too soon. However, I shouldn’t have worried, and with Eric accidentally snacking on Sookie’s fairy godmother, the humour has been brought back and I’ve done a complete U-turn on my previous concerns

The witches, which I thought were going to get hideously stereotypical, have managed to engross me pretty quickly. Head witch Marnie helps proceedings, especially with Harry Potter actress Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), at the helm. In the same way that I was in awe of Michelle Forbe’s second season Maynard, I think that Marnie is down for some wicked and wonderous magic. Especially since she’s already wiped Eric’s mind, providing a comedic duo for he and Sookie, and turning lipstick lesbian Pam’s manicured face into flaking dead flesh. Demon baby, whilst a little lacklustre has the possibility to develop into something good as well. And to be honest, there’s no need to really pay attention to Episode 4’s storylines due to this:

this:

and this:

With a sufficient amount of nakedness, none of Sookie and Bill’s tiresome romance in sight, and the prospect of some intense drama, Season Four looks set to be as thrilling as the three that have come before.

Hit or Miss for True Blood’s Season 4?

‘Waiting sucks’ has been the slogan well used by True Blood to keep us die-hard vamp fans alive during the torturous months between seasons. This acclaimed drama burst on to the circuit in a fresh new way, with vampires emerging from their coffins and living alonside humans for the first time. With Alan Ball at the helm of course it was going to be a hit, but, as many progressive drama’s do, season 3 lost its way a little. And to be honest, whilst waiting sucked, so did the start of season 4.

The problem is, like many drama’s, the writers feel that there is a need to continually shock and compel viewers with more bizarre things. Season 2 started to unravel shapeshifters and of course, the wonderful Michelle Forbe’s Maynard. Season 3 then threw in a warlord, some werewolves, more shapeshifters and then ‘fucking fairies’ to put it in Sookie Stackhouses’s words. True Blood started to take a twist towards over population, veering dangerous away from the core values that makes the series so gripping.

The true face of Season 4's fairies

Of course, vampires remain a dominant part of the storyline, with Pam’s lesbian fetishism and love of shoes keeping her one of my favourite characters. Jessica, not even in the books, has also become an established favourite, desperately trying to deal with newly found vampirism. But with Eric and Bill on the constant love tussle over Sookie its beginning to feel like the teeny bopper Vampire Diaries rather than the cutting edge and dark drama that it should be.

Pam holds True Blood's essence in her lipsticked hands

One of the major attractions of Season 1 was that it was fundamentally a ‘who-dunit’ series that happened to include vampires trying to forge their way in the world. It was subtle conflict between humans and their dead counterparts, and the compassionate gestures too, that made this series great. There are flickerings of this in Season 4, with a shocked world recovering from Russel Edgington ripping off someone’s head on national TV, and many vampires desperately trying to maintain their place in the modern world. However, with witches, werepanthers, shapeshifters, vicious fairies and demon babies already making their presence known, I hope that the upcoming season makes an effort to address the core and subtle social skeleton of the drama, rather than trying to mesh an ever growing mengarie into a series that may not be able to hold them all.

Cougar Town: The Most Underrated Sitcom on TV

Ok, so even Cougar Town’s producer has admitted that it is probably one of the worst named sitcoms of all time. Despite a brief spell of episodes in the first season where Jules dabbled with dating one younger man, the only cougar in this show is Barbara, an innuendo driven character who crops up less than once per show.

Ultimately Cougar Town, in it’s entirety, is centered around drinking red wine. With Big Carl (Jules’ oversized vase of a wine glass) featuring in many episodes, it seems like most of the action takes place with the groups favourite tipple in their hands. And of course, I’m all for any sitcom promoting the consumption of large quantities of the stuff.

The Ensemble Love Nothing More than to Embarrass Travis When Bringing His Girlfriend Around

Of course, there are other stories too. Jules’ blooming relationship with her neighbour Grayson, the hateful affection between Jules’ two best friends Ellie and Laurie, Jules’ complete mothering of her teenage son Travis, and of course the ex husband Bobby who is as lovable a buffoon as you’ll ever see typecast. The clicky group of frenemies make the brief twenty minute comedy whir by with hysterical ease, and much like the ‘Friends’ characters became loved members of many family nights, Jules and her entourage fast become fully fledged friends, all with their own caricatures. There’s guest appearances from familiar faces too, with both Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow supporting their fellow castmate Courtney Cox in her TV endeavours.

Some Familiar Friends Pop Up

But what Cougar Town manages to do excellently is provide comical genius without making absurd situations to fuel the laughter. A light hearted bitching goes on between most of the characters; a banter which will be familiar to most groups of friends. And without the comedy pushing the boundaries too far, the touching moments allow for my appreciation of this fleshed out ensemble to gain even more.

I’m not one to buy DVD boxsets very often, especially comedy’s, which often fail to amuse after you’ve seen them once or twice. But with witty writing, loveable characters, and 20 minutes of red win showcasing, there’s nothing not to love in Courtney’s latest triumph.

The Bloodiest of All Reality Shows

After tuning into Living for the past week and watching obscene amounts of ‘Four Weddings’ and every series of ‘Next Top Model’ that I can lay my eyes on I finally found myself out of options and surfing Virgin’s on-demand. As my sister rattled past ‘Scream Queens‘ saying it would be too scary for her (here’s a girl that revels in the bloodiest horrors around) I managed to relinquish her grip on the remote and flick back. Four hours later at about 3am we were still sat, glued to quite literally the most bloody, gory and gripping reality series around.

The premise is nothing original. A load of girls in front of a panel of judges are vying to win the ultimate prize. They have challenges and tests to take and each week one of them leaves as the competition heats up. Scream Queens however proved to be quite fascinating as ten actresses competed for a breakout role in Lionsgate Films’ SAW VI. There were established actresses with years of experience, there were odd cooky girls, there were girls with no acting experience at all. They had acting classes which if they won gave them a ‘leg up’ in their final acting challenge which satisfyingly always compromised of a horror scene……emerging from a pool of blood, fighting an evil demon, or reenacting a scene from a previous SAW film.

With the delight of on-demand and the whole series available I wasted near ten hours watching the girls battle it out for top spot. Some fell down, some were kicked down, others excelled without needing to bitch. Shawnee Smith (lead actress in a number of the SAW films) was host to the series and having only seen SAW I before I had no idea who she was….and having now continued my Scream Queen fest by watching not only the winners performance in SAW VI but also Shawnee Smith‘s roles in the other movies it seems that perhaps her acting abilities have come under a little too much scrutiny. The resulting Scream Queen is FAR better an actress than Smith and with an invitation back for SAW VII the producers obviously think so too.

Meanwhile, with the successful and bloody series set to come back for another season this September it seems that I have yet another reality show that I’ll have to obsessively watch.