Did you see number of cameos by different celebs? There were more appearances from celebrities in the first two episodes than in a baby shower hosted by a Nigerian media personality.
I watched episode 3 last week, and I have found it underwhelming to be honest. For one, Chris Rock is unbelievable playing a gang tough. Imagine Mr. Ibu playing a campus confraternity Don in a Nollywood movie. Gerrarahia!
The reception to Season 2 of Empire has been lukewarm. There is always a risk of making your audience lose connection with the popular characters if the characters evolve too much or play up to certain flaws. Many viewers of the first season of Empire, especially, dug Cookie’s ghetto fabulous sass, and Luscious Lyon’s belligerent, rebel with a cause, nature.
However, Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson) seems to be overdoing it this season and her shenanigans are beginning to look forced. Luscious (Terrence Howard) now appears to be this omnipotent larger than life mobster who is able to discern the most intricate plots against him, and outmanoeuvre his detractors – every damn time like a Nigerian cabal leader. It is like those Nollywood movies where the bad influences always sported dark shades and smoked cigarettes, as if these were the sole preserve of the dregs of society. Where are the vulnerabilities that made these two characters much loved by the viewing audience in the first season?
Now, I am a sucker for a good TV series. The pick-watch-drop-pick nature of serialized television is making them more popular than movies. There is only so much you can cram into a 2-3 hour motion picture. A producer and scriptwriter has a huge palette to craft a masterpiece on in a series. Many big name movie stars have made the leap to television as TV budgets explode in size. This was not the case a decade ago, when TV was seen as the last desperate act by a falling movie star.
Reality TV may have picked up that mantle though. Certain television shows are a bit watered down to cater to the prawn sandwich, couch potato audience. Some reality shows have included mindless violence, bubblegum plots or extreme sex to create shock value. No show these days is complete without a gay minority character and angry black women fighting and stripping their clothes off. Reality TV is usually scripted, just like WWE wrestling
What are the traditional elements of a good TV hit? It is usually a combination of a few of the below:
- Charismatic and attractive main characters and villains (See Pornstache in Orange Is the New Black; Kingpin in Daredevil)
- A college or high school setting (Off point, but Grease which is for me, the greatest movie of all time was set in a high-school)
- Music and performances – See Empire, Glee
- An intriguing plot
- Sex, Murder and Violence which is tastefully done and does not subjugate the story. Spartacus took gory bloodletting to new heights though.
Many hit TV series risk losing their edge in the third season. Like blue films, in order to increase or maintain viewership figures, the producers are pressured to add more absurd storylines to create shock value and keep the viewer’s keen. Or as success sets in, and the producers add in elements that take away what made the show good in the first place. Like celeb appearances. Soon every character has slept with the other one. Sometimes I pine for the simpler days of Zebrudaya and Ovularia’s “New Masquarade”.
Desperate Housewives was another show that fell off after the initial success. My sister Kpomkwem put me on to “Gossip Girl” when it first came out in 2007. I lose cool-points for admitting it, but I loved that show. There was something about a squad of preppy teens living it up in the Upper East Side of Manhattan that was endearing if not relatable. However from season 3, when Serena, Chuck Bass and co went to college, their snotty juvenile leanings started to look a bit out of place in a tertiary setting. I didn’t bother with season 4 and onwards.
Oh, and Game Of Thrones for me is meh. I do not get the blend of hack-and-slash whataboutery with an infusion of sick fantasy, dragon eggs and mysticism. I watched about 8 episodes of season one and then I was done.
For me, knowledge and value addition are key to good television. When I watch a program, I have to feel not just the comic value but also some kind of edutainment.
I prefer TV content with a bit of historical context even if mixed with a tint of fiction or stretched autobiography (The Tudors), or a Machiavellian political drama which shows the inner workings of the highest office in the world (House of Cards), or a medley of violence, sex and lust for power which is tastefully done (Narcos) or drama-filled lawyer/courtroom suspense (How to Get away with Murder).
Narcos, a Netflix special, is the best TV series I have seen this year. It is an account of the Pablo Ecobar, a Colombian druglord whose reign of terror, murder and mayhem brought his country to a standstill, until he was hunted down and killed by a specially created taskforce aided by the American Drug Enforcement Agency. It is intriguing, and the theme song starting the series is the most soulful Latin song ever. Have a listen here
I especially enjoyed Narcos and maybe it was because it hit so close to home. Criminal element, Escobar, makes billions through rackets, and enforces his power and influence through bribe, fraud and intimidation. He then tries his hand in politics in a bid to legitimize his standing in society, by contesting for a legislative position.
When he is found out, he swears to make the country ungovernable and makes good on that promise through a systematic crusade of killings, bombings and kidnappings which heats up the polity. He is so above the law, that he is able to negotiate a brief “amnesty” whereby he builds himself his own jail. Many corrupt politicians are in involuntary confinement, dungeon-ed in their huge mansions constructed with stolen commonwealth, and escorted everywhere by their security details – scared sh*tless of reprisals if they had to tango with the common man.
Life imitates art.
Anyway, see my recommendations below. Enjoy!
- House of Cards
- Orange Is the New Black
- Downton Abbey
- Marco Polo
- Happy Valley
- How to Get Away With Murder
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Monkey Business Images