Tag Archives: tv

The Stand

The Stand by Stephen King

I’m just under halfway through this incredibly long and detailed story. I started it just after the 3rd anniversary of the start of the Covid pandemic which somehow seemed like a good idea. Thankfully our outbreak wasn’t as extreme as that in The Stand – almost the entire population of America (possibly the world) wiped out in approximately 2 weeks by a human engineered weaponised flu virus.

The plot develops into a dark fantasy battle between good and evil as the survivors gravitate towards two distinct communities that seem destined to clash.

However, it starts with the story of how the outbreak began and spread, the small group of survivors and how they coped as the world died around them.

Having lived through our own much less virulent pandemic it was a little bit close to the bone. It especially brought back memories of those scary reports from Italy when it seemed like Covid was unstoppable. It was also felt frighteningly realistic when describing how the virus was developed, tested and eventually how it escaped. The real horror though was the attempted cover-up. That also felt too real for comfort.

The other feeling I’m getting from the story and the reason that prompted this post before finishing the book, is that it seems to me to be one of the big inspirations for the storyline of The Walking Dead.

The zombies in The Walking Dead are caused by an unknown virus and the survivors are immune and untouched by some unknown freak of nature or genetics until they are killed and then reanimate. What is less obvious though is the inspiration for some of the characters.

Negan is one of the most evil protagonists in the TV show and so much of his character seems inspired by Randall Flagg who is also known as “The Walking Man“. So many of Negan’s behaviours, speech patterns and characteristics just scream Randall Flagg that it’s almost distracting in the book.

Eugene is one of the complicated characters from The Walking Dead. He is a cowardly and insecure man, highly intelligent and has a peculiarly individual way of speaking in overly complicated language. At one stage he is working for Negan and The Saviors. To me Eugene is directly inspired by Harold Lauder.

There are other similarities but these are the two that stand out the most to me. I wonder has anyone else found anything that I’ve missed?

the mandalorian

Season 2 resumes exactly where Season 1 left off.

E9 is a fabulous return with all the elements of a great story. Our armoured hero is still on his quest to return Baby Yoda to his kind and in search of information runs across an isolated settlement with a protective Marshal and a big problem that needs a hero.

A blend of Spaghetti Western and old fashioned Knight v Dragon storytelling with a Star Wars background. What more could you ask for?

lockdown tv

After a couple of false starts with any luck this will finally be my last week in lockdown. Phase 1 of the government’s roadmap appears to be going according to plan and we should be going back to work on Phase 2 starting on Monday 8th June.

It will be a full 3 months since I’ve been at work as my last day was 5th March, just before I went to Switzerland.

Looking back it’s been a pretty productive time. We did a lot about the house with a lot of work completed outside and some changes made inside. We’ve had a lot of family time and I think that we’re all the better for it. I’ve also had a lot of spare time and while I’ve filled it with a lot of cycling, running and walking I’ve also had lots of time for reading, films and TV.

I’ve already written about the books and films so now inspired by A Dude Abikes I’ve listed below the main TV shows I’ve enjoyed watching over lockdown.

Click on the show name for the IMDb link

Better Call Saul ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Created by the same people behind the very popular Breaking Bad this takes the shady and corrupt lawyer, Saul Goodman, and goes way back to 2002 to explain who he really was and how he became the character he is in Breaking Bad.

As well as detailing the life of Jimmy McGill and his conversion to Saul Goodman it also acts as a prequel to Breaking Bad. There are a lot of the same characters and their back stories are also detailed explaining some of the untold stories. If you are thinking of watching this I’d recommend Breaking Bad first. Otherwise you will miss the significance of a lot of the characters and events.

In my opinion Better Call Saul is a much superior show to Breaking Bad. The characters are better defined and more likeable (I never liked Walt!) and the story lines better written. I liked Breaking Bad but I loved Better Call Saul.

Bosch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loosely based on the excellent series of detective books by Michael Connelly the series is based around an LAPD detective called Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch played by Titus Welliver. Harry is a cop with a very clear moral code but skates very close to the edge and enjoys the grey zone.

One of the best shows I’ve watched for a long time. Takes a little while to reconcile the Harry from the books with the one from the show as Welliver looks very different and brings his own style to the character. Also the books are set in the early 90s while the show is set in present time. An example of this is that Harry is a Vietnam veteran in the books but a Gulf War/Afghanistan veteran in the show. Once you get over some of the character differences the show is equally as good as the books.

Gangs of London ⭐⭐⭐

I can’t make my mind up about this show. It’s based on an organised crime gang family that controls all the other criminal gangs in London. The head of the family is murdered and his son inherits the family and the task of finding out who killed his father while holding the empire together.

The production quality is excellent and it’s obvious that Sky have spent a lot of money on this with the filming and the very recognisable cast. However, I’m struggling with it a bit. The storyline is quite disjointed and I’m struggling to keep track of the many different gangs and characters. In fact one entire episode simply stepped away from the main story entirely and although it was still linked I struggled to work out the reason behind it. It’s also a very graphically violent show that could put many off. In fact the episode I mentioned above was particularly violent and bloody although very well filmed.

I’m still watching Season 1 so possibly may change my rating and review once I get to the end.

Homeland ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in Season 8 and after 9 years this immensely popular and highly acclaimed show has drawn to a very appropriate finish. I’m glad about this as it has been through so many different story variations that it was beginning to look difficult how it could keep reinventing itself.

Throughout all the different storylines the central plot follows CIA operative Carrie Matthews and her struggles with both her mental health (bipolar disorder) and her inability to persuade the CIA that she sees more than they do. Her friendship with Saul, CIA Director and eventually National Security Advisor, and his role as both advocate and handler doesn’t always work in her favour but provides the backbone of the entire series.

I struggled with this show at times and almost gave up in the middle of one season as it seemed to have lost itself. However, it is definitely worth sticking with as it finishes in style.

House of Cards ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We came late to this show, only starting to watch it recently, as it started in 2013 and ran until 2018 when it was brought to a close following the sex scandal involving Kevin Spacey.

It follows the rise to ultimate power engineered by the highly ambitious and completely ruthless Frank and Claire Underwood. It’s a fascinating view of American politics and how politics in general can be manipulated for personal gain.

Despite being a completely despicable and downright nasty individual the show is filmed and produced in such a way that you begin to like Frank (especially his trademark addresses to the camera) and even want to see him succeed. Frank and Claire are perfectly suited to each other and every bit as nasty and it’s riveting to see how they scheme together.

We’re approaching the end of the penultimate Season 5 and while the show was brought to an unplanned halt I do feel that it may have been a hidden benefit. With the rise to power accomplished I feel the story was beginning to run out of steam and this was better in the long run.

Killing Eve ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in its third season this show follows MI5 security operative Eve Pollard and her search for Villanelle the elusive Russian assassin. As they get closer the two of them develop a morbid and repelling attraction for each other that neither want but can’t let go.

This show is like nothing else I’ve seen on TV. Brilliantly written it is full of fantastic characters but all of them are overshadowed by Eve and even more so by the comically insane and completely unstable Villanelle. Her innovative and off the wall assassinations and her character in general makes this show the 5⭐ performance it is.

Marvel’s The Punisher ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m not really into superhero type films and TV shows but really enjoyed this one. It’s a spinoff from Marvel’s Daredevil where The Punisher first appears.

The Punisher is Frank Castle, a US Army veteran and vigilante. His back story isn’t covered in this show, the expectation is that you have watched Daredevil already. It left me feeling I’d missed something for quite a bit and I may have given a higher rating otherwise.

The two main characters of Frank and Micro are really well cast and played well. They work well together and suit the characters. I’ve seen Joe Bernthal (Frank) as Shane in The Walking Dead and didn’t like him in that role. This time he’s perfect.

The rest of the cast is also very good with Madani and Curtis being particularly noticeable. In fact Billy Russo was the only performance I didn’t particularly rate throughout the first season.

So far only two seasons have been released with no expectation of a third. I’ve only watched Season 1 which makes me wonder if the second is as good.

Picard ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A must for any Star Trek fan this is the first venture into the Next Generation story since Star Trek: Nemesis and is set 18 years later. Captain Jean Luc Picard is now retired and living on his family estate in France. He’s tormented by the loss of Data and the destruction of Romulus and pretty much secluded from the world.

His seclusion is interrupted by his appearance in a media interview and the arrival of a strange young woman who turns out to be a synthetic and somehow connected to Data. This begins a new chapter in the life of Picard as he is forced to confront his past to secure a future for the synthetics.

This is a great show. It’s fantastic to see the Star Trek universe brought back to the TV screen with such polish and enthusiasm. Some of the acting is a bit wooden at times and I wouldn’t have missed some of the characters but highly enjoyable overall and I look forward to seeing what a second season will bring.

Ozark ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marty Byrde is a Chicago based financial planner that is working to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner attempts to cheat the cartel of $8 million and when the scheme falls apart Marty makes a deal to save his family and relocates them to the Ozarks in Missouri.

The story then is all about how Marty and his wife Wendy try to first of all save themselves from the cartel and then make themselves indispensable.

This show is chock full of brilliant storylines and great characters. It has won numerous awards and all well deserved.

At times it can be difficult to watch and it is filmed in a distinctive low light quality that creates tension but it’s all worth it.

Sons of Anarchy ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another show that was long finished by the time I got around to watching it. It ran from 2008-2014 and follows the lives of an outlaw motorcycle gang in the fictional town of Charming, Southern California.

The show ran for a total of seven seasons and to be honest it was probably two too many. It’s definitely a show of its time with many storylines that have aged badly and some that have been badly actioned.

The main focus of the story is Jax Teller, son of the founder of SAMCRO, and his family. Jax constantly struggles with his loyalty to the Club, his desire to see them become more legitimate than outlaw and how this conflicts with his need to protect his family. Jax tries to live in both worlds and is doomed to failure as he gives in to the violence in his nature.

Seasons 1 and 2 were a real eye opener for me. I hadnt watched anything similar before and the storylines were really exciting and novel. Season 3 and 4 were very poor. The whole Irish connection was terrible, bad storylines, terrible research for authenticity, shocking accents and in general actors that looked very uncomfortable in their roles. I have a feeling that if it wasn’t for lockdown I may have given up at that stage! Season 5 picks up with a shift in storyline and by the time Season 6 comes around you have to see it through to the end and it does have a definitive end. It’s not a fairytale ending but it suits the show and fits well.

There is an ongoing spinoff series called Mayans MC that I haven’t yet watched and rumours of a reboot focusing on Jax’s sons.

The Mandalorian ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A space Western loosely based on the bounty hunter character from the original Star Wars films. Fully reviewed already in an earlier blog post: this is the way

Vikings ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An historical drama that is inspired by the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok, an ancient Norse hero. It portrays Ragnar’s rise to power, the Norse invasion of Britain and after his death the story of his sons.

Officially it’s six seasons but with Seasons 4-6 split into 2 sets of 10 episodes it’s effectively nine and probably too many.

🔴SPOILER ALERT🔴 When it started it was something completely different and novel and really grabbed everyone’s imagination. I can’t remember if it sparked a Viking trend or came close to the beginning but it’s definitely part of it now. The massive success of the show has forced it to keep running but the storyline changed so completely with the death of Ragnar in Season 4 that I feel it lost itself at that stage. Season 5 was still good but nowhere like the previous four. Season 6 is definitely the weakest of all and I’m pretty much watching it now just to see how it ends. The core Ragnar story would definitely be 5 Star 🟢SPOILER END🟢

Everything I’ve read about Viking/Norse culture suggests that women played a vital role in the community as landowners, rulers and warriors as well as mothers. This is definitely portrayed in the show with Lagertha being the obvious character but many other strong female characters. Refreshing to see in modern TV.

Header image by Andre Moura from Pexels