This week, and for a number of the weeks to follow, we will be doing Summer Television Secret Santa. We each randomly chose a name and were given the job of gifting a television show to that person. This week we will be discussing the person we drew, the show we chose for them and why. In the coming weeks we will be pairing down our roundtable to two and interviewing our Secret Santa about the show they were gifted (or forced) to watch. The rules state that you may watch as much or as little of the show as you like and that the gift giver must have seen at least a portion of the show as well.
1. What name did you pick?: Katie
2. What show did you pick for Katie to watch?: Orphan Black
3. Why did you make that choice? I had Orphan Black in mind for Katie after a very brief discussion we had about The X-Files and Lost a while back. But, I also had a few other shows on my radar as well, so I asked Katie a series of questions that ended up making my choice of Orphan Black pretty easy. Some of these questions directly pertained to Orphan Black and some of them were designed to throw Katie off. For instance, I asked Katie about Lost again and she mentioned that she liked it. If you can get through Lost (like, all the way through Lost), any show with twists and turns and ridiculous scenarios should be pretty easy to finish. What sealed the deal was when I asked Katie what her feelings were about wigs. She said she loved them.
4. What do you think Katie will like about the show? The acting. Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple characters on the show (I’ll say no more as the first season is much more of a wild ride when nothing is spoiled for you), is remarkable. The way she fully inhabits her different roles is breathtaking and very fun to watch. Each character has their own specific ticks and quirks. The fun that Maslany is having seems to infuse the rest of the show as well. Sure, it’s serious sometimes but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ever. Also, the plot is fairly complicated but I wouldn’t say it is ever too taxing or so wound up in its own mythology that it prides that over general good times. The pace of the show and the plot is breakneck which works in its favour as nothing ever lasts for too long. And Felix. Felix is great.
5. What do you think Katie might not like so much? The acting. A couple of the secondary characters are played by actors that are pretty stiff. And maybe the Canadian production values will become a nuisance. This never really made a difference for me but the show definitely has “Made in Canada” vibe and is made on a Canadian budget. I wish they embraced that a little more (the show was shot in Toronto, there are Ontario license plates aplenty but there is this overwhelming sense that the show doesn’t actually take place in any specific city). The show is coming back for a second season, though, so one can dream. Also, the police investigation subplot drags the show down a bit.
1. What name did you pick?: Kerri
2. What show did you pick for Kerri to watch?: John From Cincinnati
3. Why did you make that choice? Kerri was hard to pick for because I usually get my show suggestions from her. She’s watched most everything that I have. I finally settled on John From Cincinnati which I picked for a few reasons. First, it has this great Twin Peaks-y vibe. It isn’t as dark as Twin Peaks but there is a great mystery brewing under the surface of the sunny surf town of Imperial Beach, California. The mystery is told by an amazing cast which include Rebecca De Mornay, Bruce Greenwood, Ed O’Neil, Jim Beaver and Luke Perry (who is surprisingly great). It is a pile of fun to watch it unfold. Also, the series was created by David Milch who created Deadwood, a show that I know Kerri liked quite a lot.
4. What do you think Kerri will like about the show? First of all the show fun. It’s a surfing show about misfits and magic and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s fantastically quirky while still being believable. Characters levitate, dead birds and dead boys come back to life and I was always game to go along for the ride (I think Kerri will be too). That being said, the show also has effective dramatic moments. Rebecca De Mornay and Bruce Greenwood portray an on-again-off-again couple with a gritty but passionate obsession with each other. Their scenes together are among my favorites on the show. JFC does an excellent job (most of the time) of balancing melodrama with whimsy and I’m sure this quality is something Kerri will appreciate and enjoy watching. Lastly, it has a GREAT opening song.
5. What do you think Kerri might not like so much? JFC can be gimmicky at times. On occasion character dialogue is motivated by symbolism rather than realism which can be frustrating because the show has an amazing cast. Watching Ed O’Neil attempt to motivate the line, “You don’t hold onto a bird once its passed,” is kind of embarrassing. However, these moments don’t dominate the show and the ensemble of actors tell this story well. The other problem with JFC is that was cancelled after its first season leaving the series unresolved which is also frustrating.
1. What name did you pick?: Jane
2. What show did you pick for Jane to watch?: Top of the Lake
3. Why did you make that choice? I had a few shows selected for Jane. Then, like Kerri did for me, I asked Jane a series of questions to determine what she’d probably prefer. I asked her all these questions, then, when she answered that she liked mysteries, I totally discarded all of my shows and decided that she should watch Top of the Lake. I had Top of the Lake on the top of my to-watch list for several weeks, and I actually broke the rules and recommended it to Jane sight unseen. Luckily the show is great (I have since watched it). Top of the Lake is a mini-series about a young girl who goes missing, and the cop that tries to find her.
4. What do you think Jane will like about the show? Three things. 1. Elizabeth Moss. Jane is a big Mad Men fan, and Elizabeth Moss is her usual brilliant self in this series. She plays the police officer that takes a special interest in finding the missing child, Tui. 2. The cinematography. The show is set in a picturesque/creepy town. Everything is well shot, but the scenes that are set outdoors really shine. 3. The secondary characters. The town is filled with ugly and innocent and deranged characters. Everyone is interesting at the Top of the Lake.
5. What do you think Jane might not like so much? Jane watches a lot of crime shows, so I think that she will be ahead of some of the plot points. Also, there is a lot of dialogue that is either stiff or “on the nose.”