The Musketeers: Season 1 (TV Review)

The Musketeers: Season 1 (TV Review)

I had never heard of a television adaptation of the famed novel, and often adapted to film version of The Three Musketeers, until The Musketeers popped up on the “Recently Added” section of Netflix Canada. I’m always up for a show produced by the BBC, since they are consistently good, and therefore decided that I would give the 10 episode first season of The Musketeers a shot.

musketThe show provided a pleasant surprise, and offered something a little different from other adaptations of the novel. Typically, we are provided with a couple of hours of swashbuckling, and focusing on the same story of how D’Artagnan joins the group, and becomes the best of them. The Musketeers provides us with a little bit about that story, but they generally get it over with fairly quickly. From there, the show essentially becomes a crime drama, which makes it quite entertaining.

Many of the story lines are ongoing throughout the first season, but each episode also provides us with a central crime that the gang of Musketeers are trying to solve. This provides us with episodes that are able to stand alone, and allows for more casual viewing.

The show is fun to watch. All of the characters, specifically the four central Musketeers, are enjoyable and likable. There is often a lightness and a humour to the show that can keep viewers coming back for more, and it is not always super dark, and doesn’t always take itself too seriously.

musket2The actors chosen for the main roles of the show are all good. Despite all being British (even if they are supposed to be French), the casting was well done, and we can’t help but like all of them. D’Artagnan is played by Luke Pasqualino, who is excellent, from his acting to his ability with the sword. It took me a while to realize that he was one of the better characters on the excellent, and must-see British teen drama Skins (well, at least the first 4 seasons are must-see, after that the cast changes go south). Pasqualino is watchable, and is strong enough as the central character to keep us coming back for more.

There are the usual selection of heroes and villains in the stories of The Musketeers, and they all do a pretty good job. There are numerous love stories, including some with the pretty French Queen, there is the weak King, the evil Cardinal, etc. The writers have definitely created heroes that are heroic, and villains that are villainous. So many recent television dramas have succeeded by creating delicious anti-heroes, and The Musketeers takes us back to simpler characters. But not in a bad way. The show is not taking us backwards, and does not demonstrate weak writing, or a lack of chances being undertook. It just wants to be fun, and it does well at that.

musket3The Musketeers is well worth a watch. The sets and scenery of 17th Century Paris are great, the costumes are excellent, the acting and stories are strong, and there is always a good sword fight or five to keep the action pushing forwards.

A fun show to watch. Nothing too serious, which is a nice change.

Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve is another pseudo-documentary from Britain’s BBC, that is, of course, pretty solid. It seems like every TV show out of Britain is at least pretty good, going all the way up to excellent. They are simply different from what we are used to, and there is generally always success.

The story of Twenty Twelve is quite simple: a group of people are in charge of organizing the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and they are being filmed while trying to get things done, while avoiding humorous crisis after humorous crisis. The gang in charge, all with their own level of British silliness and foibles, are generally enjoyable, as they do their best not to muck up what is to be the largest sports spectacle in the world. The characters range from the head of the whole thing, the PR lady, the head of legacy and sustainability, the traffic guy, the doting assistant, and the poor former athlete, who is generally confused with what is happening the whole time, while delivering some of the worst motivational speeches you will ever see. The actors here, as with many British shows, have been seen before: there are people from the gamut of UK television and film, like Downton AbbeyShaun of the Dead, and the hilarious Peep Show. It provides the show with an instant sense of familiarity, and allows us to instantly like the characters, even if they are annoying at times.

2012Twenty Twelve is typically British, in that it really does use the typically sedate and dry sense of humour in order to push the show forward. There are some spectacular scenes, including the discussion on the bathroom situations in the athlete’s village, and the double-entendre discussion of how plumbing works for men and women. Something lovable about British TV shows, is that we can honestly ask ourselves if something was meant to be funny, or just was, or that’s just the way they are. As usual, as with most TV series from across the pond, it feasts on our ability to watch awkwardness, and Twenty Twelve is another solid producer in this. Not to the extent of the original The Office, but there are still scenes that are able to make our skin crawl, because it is just painfully awkward.

As usual, I stumbled across this show on Netflix, and it is a decent watch. The two seasons are short, only a few episodes each, so there are not significant demands on your time to pour through the two seasons of the whole thing. The stories themselves are pretty engaging, and manage to provide some decent entertainment. The leadership group getting lost in London due to the miserable traffic and construction delays is excellent watching.

2012-3This show does not belong among the cream of the crop of British TV. It is consistently good, but never really great. As with these mockumentary-type shows, it is partially about the humour, and a little bit about the drama. There is that blend here as well. Neither are exceptional in Twenty Twelve, but neither are bad, either.

I wouldn’t rush out to watch the show, but if you have nothing else going on in your Netflix queue, there are worse things you could be viewing than Twenty Twelve.

Sherlock: Seasons 1 & 2 (TV Review)

Sherlock: Seasons 1 & 2 (TV Review)

After sitting forever in my Netflix queue, I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the always highly recommended by others, Sherlock. That may seem like a lot of TV watching over a couple of days, but as it is a British series, each “season” is only three episodes long (each episode is about an hour and a half, however).

Pouring through the first couple of years, I wondered why I had been so hesitant to begin watching this show.

sherlockLike other British crime shows, Sherlock offers more than the North American fare. Shows like CSI, or The Mentalist, have always lacked something, a certain depth that is too rarely explored on American network TV. Here, we all know that the good crime shows with the real depth are on the cable networks, like AMC’s The Killing. But there has been a boon of very strong British crime drama of late, and along with The Fall and LutherSherlock deserves its place among the elite.

The premise of the show is easy, and we all know about Sherlock Holmes. Here we are given the introduction between Sherlock and his dear friend Watson at the beginning of the series, and from there we are taken off on their crime-solving adventures. The show is set in modern times, but there are always good nods to the classic tales of Sherlock Holmes, like the occasional incorporation of the famed hat.

Our modern version of Sherlock isn’t a pipe smoking sleuth, he is a “high functioning sociopath” that is trying to quit smoking cigarettes, has no time for social niceties, and is an absolute genius. Our new version of Sherlock is able to process massive amounts of information, making him a formidable opponent for any criminal activity.

As the series progresses, we see Sherlock go from an unknown entity who simply helps out the police now and then, to being known as an incredible crime solver, thanks to the blog of his friend Watson. The blog brings him fame, and unwanted attention, as he must deal with becoming a bit of a celebrity while just trying to find cases that satisfy his massive intellect, and ego, and will keep him entertained.

This fame raises the show to its climactic events at the end of season two, which culminates the battle between Sherlock and his greatest criminal opponent, Moriarty.

With each episode spanning nearly an hour and a half, each one is like a movie. There is an opportunity to develop a complex plot, as well as move the characters, and their lives, forward. This is where we get the depth in the show, as we get to know them all better, and begin to understand them more. Throw that in with some classic British wit, and there is a winning combination.

Something else that is found in a large number of British dramas is the quality of the acting. They always seem to have top-notch people fill out the roles, from the top to the most minor of characters. The same can not often be said about US counterparts.

sherlock2The lead roles are played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (as Sherlock and Watson, respectively). And they are played especially well. Major credit goes to Cumberbatch, who truly owns the titular role, and makes the show as good as it is. Sherlock is a genius, and an egomaniac, straining all of the relationships he has with people. When he goes on one of his rants used to explain what is happening, it is great acting. Cumberbatch’s rapid fire speeches that remain eloquent in their own way engross the viewer, managing to explain so much, in such a small amount of time. He carries the show, as he should, and everybody else is a spectator in his life. Due to his mastery in the role, Cumberbatch has become a serious celebrity, and a fan girl’s dream. And, justifiably so. He truly is great here.

The mysteries themselves are always very solid in the show, some of them are completely engrossing. Certain episodes are simply great. The events of “The Hounds of Baskerville” are suspenseful and intense, the battles with Moriarty are great, and the inclusion of “The Woman” add a whole new twist to the show. Each episode is well thought out, interesting, and intense. It is a delight for viewers of mystery and suspense.

The show succeeds where I believe both Sherlock Holmes films failed. Despite the genius of Robert Downey Jr., those films were simply not great, in my opinion. There were simply put, dull. Sherlock avoids those trappings, and remains entertaining in each episode.

Everything about Sherlock is strong, from top to bottom. I have nothing to complain about with the series, and would definitely recommend giving it a watch, if you haven’t already.

It is great fun, seeing what will unfold from 221B Baker Street.