TV reviews

Carmilla Mini-Series – a review

c1Published in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 20 years before Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, ‘Carmilla’ is a gothic novel told from the point of view of a young woman named Laura, who becomes the target of affection for a female vampire, Carmilla Karnstein. Since its publication, it has been adapted numerous times, but the most recent adaptation, a YouTube mini-series, is something that has really taken the internet by storm. The web series, aptly titled ‘Carmilla’, was released in August this year, and since its release it has exploded, with the series raking in over 1 million views overall during its rise in popularity. The mini-series is portrayed as a video blog, kept by university student Laura Hollis. Each episode is broadcasted as a ‘segment’ of her video diary, lasting from roughly 2 to 4 minutes each time, which brings a sort of ‘can’t-stop-watching’ feel to the show, as many fans will tell you.

The series maintains a certain degree of accuracy in terms of the original story, however much of it has been modernised to fit into the 21st century – in begins by introducing us to Laura, who is perplexed by the array of strange and mysterious happenings that begin to occur after the arrival of her new roommate, Carmilla. Laura expresses her fears and worries to her audience through her live video broadcast, and the story begins to unfold further when Carmilla begins to exhibit certain vampire-esque characteristics, although at first Laura is adamant that the red liquid she sees Carmilla drinking so often is just a strawberry smoothie. Things unravel further from this point, with more characters being introduced and more secrets being revealed (but I won’t include any spoilers, so that you can all savour the feeling of being surprised by the twists and turns!)

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Danny, Laura, LaFontaine, Perry, & Carmilla (the vampire drinking blood out of a cup that is stuck to her with duct tape because this show is brilliant).

Along with encompassing a fascinating supernatural element, the series is also fantastic in regards to LGBTQIA* representation. Carmilla and Laura are both presented as being openly interested in women, along with Danny Lawrence, a friend of Laura’s who we meet around episode 7 and we soon learn also has a Sapphic streak within her. The show also has a character named LaFontaine, who identifies as genderqueer and uses ‘they/them’ pronouns – this in particular has meant a lot to fans of the show, as LaFontaine is, for a lot of us, the first genderqueer character that we have seen in a widespread media production like this, and having that kind of representation is important, not only for people who benefit from seeing themselves reflected in the shows they watch, but also for people who may not be very informed about these issues and who may need a way of learning that doesn’t feel too commanding or formal.

The actors are also a major part of the show’s success – the chemistry between Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman) is electric, and they manage to portray so many emotions and evoke strong feelings within the fans watching, despite the episode lengths being a little restrictive.

The show as a whole is entertaining and very well put-together, especially when you take into consideration the fact that it’s all filmed in front of one camera in one room, and the show’s producers don’t have a very large budget with which to make the show. They’ve done a brilliant job, regardless of the fact that ‘Carmilla’ isn’t a glitzy television show, and they certainly deserve the recognition and praise they’ve been receiving in these past few months.

5/5 – It’s got lesbian vampires and spooky principals and weird occurrences, what more could you want?

~Steph.

Young & Hungry – a review

Young-Hungry-Key-Art So I’m just going to jump right on into this week’s review by talking about Emily Osment, who has recently blossomed into a superb young actress and is getting heaps of much-deserved recognition. A lot of you might recognise her as the hilarious tomboy skater girl Lilly Truscott, who starred in Hannah Montana as the protagonist’s best friend throughout all four seasons. She also played the main role in the movie Cyberbully (2011), a film looking into the power of the internet and how cyber bullying can have dire consequences and can do a lot more damage than one might initially think. Ever since her baby-faced days on Disney Channel, there’s always been something about Emily Osment that I liked, so when I heard that she was going to be starring in a new show on ABC Family, I was dying to watch it.

Young & Hungry begins by introducing us to Gabi Diamond (Osment), a food blogger and aspiring chef who lives in an apartment with her banking intern roommate, Sofia. But Gabi has a long way to go before achieving her dreams, and so she applies for a job to be a personal cook for young entrepreneur Josh; despite being underqualified for the job, Gabi manages to impress Josh with her culinary skills, and so he hires her, much to her surprise and delight. This paves the way for eight episode of greatness, and here are just a few reasons why I think everyone should watch this show (especially now that season one has just finished, so you can marathon all eight episodes in one delicious sitting!)

Aside from the fact that Emily Osment is fantastic, the other cast members definitely need a look-in too. Aimee Carrero, who plays Sofia, is charming and hilarious, and comes wrapped in a layer of sarcasm and wit, which makes her even more of a joy to watch on screen. Her interactions with Gabi are brilliant, and by the end of the first episode it is impossible not to adore the kooky pair. They are also extremely relatable as individual characters; trying to achieve their dreams, experiencing relationship drama, and leaning on each other for support – seeing such a genuine portrayal of friendship in this show is wonderful.

The rest of the cast is also amazing – from Josh’s loud-mouthed housekeeper Yolanda to his flamboyant personal assistant Elliot, every character is unique and memorable, and with a cast of only five permanent actors, it is easy to immerse yourself in the lives and happenings of each person on the show.

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Speaking of the supporting cast, I need to take a moment to congratulate the show’s casting team in this area – I mean, it’s very rare to have a show that ticks just one or two boxes in terms of diversity, but Young & Hungry really takes the cake (excuse the pun!) when it comes to having a range of people in the show. First and foremost, its main character is female; this in itself is refreshing, as already this is showing a difference compared to other male-centric shows. The main cast is then made up of three females and two males – three out of these five are people of colour, and one is also homosexual. I literally drown in representation every time I watch a new episode and I love it. Also, one episode focuses heavily on a lesbian storyline involving a character played by Ashley Tisdale, and seeing a story like that treated so normally and with such great humour was so refreshing to watch. And yes, I am aware that sometimes the characters (in particular Elliot, who is gay) can exhibit some stereotypical traits at times, but in no way is it done maliciously or to make fun of certain groups of people, and that is something I appreciate very much.

Along with the supporting cast, the guest stars are also marvellous. As aforementioned, Ashley Tisdale stars in one episode and a few episodes later, Jesse McCartney makes an appearance; both of these cameos are excellent, but the most entertaining guest star in my opinion is Mallory Jansen, who plays Caroline, Josh’s snooty rich girlfriend who provides bucketful’s of laughs with her cavalier bourgeoisie lifestyle and obliviously obnoxious attitude.

Written by David Holden and produced by none other than Ashley Tisdale, this show is one of the best break-out shows I have come across in a while, and has definitely kept me entertained over the last eight weeks. Here’s hoping we get a season two!

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5/5 – While the show has copious funny moments, it also has some very touching scenes, with heart-warming words and meaningful messages being conveyed, making it an all-round success.

~Steph.

Penny Dreadful, Review

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Penny Dreadful is horror series, freshly finished its first season, from Showtime, taking classic horror stories and characters from old favourites such as DraculaFrankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray and placing fascinating new twists layered over plot-points to create a unique and engaging story. In it, African explorer Sir Malcom Murray hunts relentlessly for his kidnapped daughter, Mina Murray (or Harker, seeing as she was recently married) with the aid of Vanessa Ives and Sembene, later enlisting the help of Ethan Chandler and Dr. Victor Frankenstein. But they find a lot more than just vampires in their search. Something old and evil haunts Vanessa, posing links to both the vampires, and Christian and Egyptian mythology both, even as some unknown horror stalks the streets of London, leaving carnage in its wake.

The premise instantly intrigues me, and does not disappoint. Penny Dreadful is fantastically dark, expertly weaving psychological and classical horror together to leave me absorbed and definitely creeped out.

While the plot is fun enough, it is the compelling characters that drive the story for me personally, and both the re-written and original characters drag you screaming eagerly into their world.

I particularly love Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), the darkly mysterious woman with a past tying her to Mina Harker, and something evil stalking her even as it seems to lie within her. The wit and drama she delivers are flawless, and her harsher scenes in ‘Seance’ and ‘Possession’ left me genuinely disturbed, difficult even for me to watch, and I revel in good horror!

Sir Malcom (Timothy Dalton) intrigued, but frustrated me. He has his secretiveness, and his ulterior motives, such that when they come to the light, leave you feeling less than warm and fuzzy toward him. But his tenacity is admirable and he admittedly has his redeeming moments.

Ethan (Josh Hartnett), our American sharpshooter with serious Daddy-issues, is a strange one. His own emotional moments had me tearing up myself on occasion, while certain points of his intensity had me very suspicious – that is, until it finally clicked. If you watch very closely, you’ll figure out fairly quickly what’s going on with Ethan and his secrets, and if not, it’s a wonderfully grim revelation that has me very excited for his story-lines in the future.

Brona Croft (Billie Piper), savvy but sickly Irish prostitute, was another that had me in tears. Though she is slowly and painfully dying of consumption as she struggles to make enough money just to eat, she falls for Ethan, and him for her, it would seem. I felt as helpless as he did, knowing there was no help for her – but her story is far from over.

Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway). Well, I bet you know where this is going! Some time after his disastrous first creation was brought to life, we see him feverishly trying to again pierce the veils between life and death (a very big theme of Penny Dreadful as a whole), and his past coming back to haunt him. I love Victor’s characterisation; he is naive, but dark, young, but with horrors in his eyes. He is an easily lovable character, even as he is a total walking disaster.

Speaking of walking disasters… Dorian Gray’s (Reeve Carney) story is well known to us all, and he certainly lives up to it in this incarnation of his character. He is free, pleasure-seeking, has an obsession with portraits, and seduces or sleeps with anything with hip-gyrating capabilities, but I cannot dislike him. It’s his vices that seem to make him, and I actually find myself cheering him on a bit, just to see how far he can go before things inevitably come crashing down around him. And it seems Vanessa may be a large part of that crashing. Sadly, his portrait has not yet been seen from the front, so we can only guess at how much he has eroded his soul, but his actions within the series and his overall character suggests that it’s probably a hell of a lot.

One of the show’s greatest virtues, outside of these characters, is its sincerity. It takes no joy in outsmarting viewers, or even taking itself too seriously. It is what it is, and doesn’t dance around that.

I’ll admit that the first two episodes may leave you a little confused as to what the heck is going on, which is often a pet peeve of mine. I don’t always enjoy shows that make me work for it. But stick with it – things do come together, and it is very much worth it when they do. And yes, some of it’s pulpy shock-factor can be a little over the top.

Despite this, its silliness adds to its charm for me, and makes the weird ride that much more fun!

Here’s to the next season being as successfully creepy, fun, dark and sexy as the first! And to finding out what’s up with that mysterious Sembene (Danny Sapani)??

4.5/5 Stars! Only 8 episodes long this season, but so very worth the watch!

– Meg

American Horror Story: Coven – a review

American Horror Story is a recently aired television series that seems to have taken the world by storm.

Based on tales of horror and fear, it is currently in the process of having a fourth series made, as a follow up to the frs_634x873-130918103524-634.Amercian-Horror-Story-coven4.jl.091813irst three instalments – Murder House, Asylum, and Coven. So far, I have only seen Coven, but it impressed me so much that I couldn’t wait until I had watched the other two series to write about it.

The third segment out of the three (all of which are entirely independent stories, so they do not need to be watched in any specific order), Coven follows the lives of a group of witches living in New Orleans. While it begins in 2013, it flips back and forth between the present day and the 1800s, showcasing the age-long battle between witches and voodoo masters. It also illustrates the conflicts between the witches themselves, with battles for dominance and power causing rifts in the dynamic of the coven on multiple occasions.

One very prominent reason why this show hooked me in from the moment I began watching it is the abundance of female protagonists. More and more shows these days are female-centric (Orphan Black, Orange Is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars) but it is still so refreshing to see a show in which women are the headliners, and are not dependent on male characters for story lines or justification of their character’s presence in the story. One scene in particular really stood out to me in terms of female empowerment and shedding the notion that men are needed to be the heroes and the saviour for women – in episode 12, a scene occurs where the witches are under attack, and the only male in the house, Kyle, steps in to help; but he is rapidly pushed aside by Misty, one of the witches, before she delivers the line, “We really don’t need a man to protect us.” This line really resonated with me because for too long, women have been perceived as weak and needing a man in order to survive, when really, that isn’t the case at all, and Coven has done a brilliant job in showing that by having a group of formidable women fighting for themselves and doing a bloody good job of it.

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Also, in keeping with the theme of ‘women’, this show isn’t just a group of female characters shoved together to form a crowd – each woman is an individual, with her own plights and issues to overcome. And while some of their actions may be cruel at times, they all possess very human emotions and traits, which allow them to retain an essence of humanness, which makes them all relatable in one way or another. I mean, the characters themselves are all just a huge reason to watch this show; they all have aspects of their personalities that make them brilliant individuals, whether it’s Queenie’s sass, or Zoe’s innocence, or even Madison’s obnoxiousness, and it all makes for wonderfully entertaining television, and definitely makes the show more than just a horror spectacle. The characters also undergo rigorous developments, with some of the character arcs being utterly fulfilling to watch – we see frightened young girls grow up into strong, powerful witches, who take on their enemies and any danger that may befall them, and I’ve found that this gives the viewer a great feeling of gratification and pleasure.

Additionally, the show is great when it comes to its addressing the horrifying events that occurred back in the 1800s – from the hangings of witches, to the persecution of innocent African-Americans, this series does not hold back in its portrayal of some of the atrocities that took place. It must definitely be commended on its historical accuracy – unbeknownst to me when I first began watching it, some of the characters featured in Coven are, in fact, based on real people from history. One character in particular is especially loathsome – the role of Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, played by Kathy Bates, is based on the woman of the same name who lived in New Orleans in the early 1800s. A wealthy socialite harbouring an immense hatred for people of colour, LaLaurie was infamous for her horrific Chamber of Horrors, in which she used to capture, tie up, and torture African-American slaves until they died. She committed countless murders in her chamber, and during the show, when the character of LaLaurie finds herself alive a few decades later after waking from a spell that put her to sleep, her heinous crimes do not go unpunished by the strong women of colour who now reside in the New Orleans area and who are fully aware of the acts that Madame Delphine carried out on numerous innocent slaves. This historical accuracy continues throughout the show, with multiple characters being based on real-life people from New Orleans around this time. This all adds to the authenticity of the show, and makes it both even more engaging and terrifying to watch.

Also, in regards to casting a wide range of women, the show has characters belonging to all kinds of groups, including having people of colour as main protagonists and as regular recurring cast members – this in turn makes the show more accurate in terms of representation of society, and this diversity is both important and necessary.

All in all, this is one fantastic show – it has variety, characters aren’t restricted or oppressed due to their gender, and, most of all, it’s a damn good piece of entertainment. While it may not be for the faint-hearted, Coven has certainly impressed me, with an all-star cast including Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett, and even the incredible Stevie Nicks, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to see it.

5/5 – Complete with zany witches who spout hysterical one-liners, this show is definitely something to be revered and remembered.

dont be a hater ahs

~Steph.

Suits, more Rant less Review

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This week I fancied a change from the usual game review so have decided to have a little rant about one of my favourite television shows which recently finished its third season. If you haven’t guessed it by the title I am talking about the show Suits. Suits Is one of those shows that most people haven’t heard of or seen but those that have can’t sing its praises enough. Just to give you a brief synopsis Its about a guy named Mike who, while running from the police, stumbles into a job interview for one of the biggest law firms in New York. To hide from the police Mike pretends to be one of the candidates and sits in the interview where he really impresses Harvey Spectre by showing of his eidetic memory (Photographic memory) and gets hired, despite not attending law school the show follows the cases and life of Mike and Harvey as they try to not only make a shit ton of cash but also cover up Mike’s lie and avoid other complications in their firm.

Louis Litt at his most profound

Louis Litt at his most profound

The story lines of the show are brilliant and frequently have a sherlockesqueness (Yeah I just made up a word, what of it?) about them in the way that they get resolved, or sometimes don’t. Like all shows even though most episodes have their own plot there are also larger more complex sub -plots that eventually culminate in a few episodes in a row. Now some of the acting in the show isn’t exactly Oscar worthy, especially near the beginning, but it does pick up significantly as the show goes on with much more dynamic plots and also much more back story to a lot of characters.

The dialogue however is where I think this show really shines with nostalgic references and witty banter the show perfectly straddles drama and comedy which makes the pacing of the show near perfect in my opinion. It never feels that something is dragging on or maybe getting a bit too serious by seamlessly switching between tones. Mike and Harvey’s relationship epitomizes what the show is about and is such a joy to watch and will frequently have you both smiling and on the edge of your seat.

The characters themselves are something to behold each with their own quirks and traits that make them individuals. The relationships of the characters is fantastic and their interactions feel real and genuine and a lot of the time you will forget that the people you are watching are actors rather than the people they are playing. Harvey is conveyed mostly as an egotistical pig who hates to lose but he also has an unshakable moral grounding which makes for a really interesting character to watch especially when he needs reminding of himself from his secretary Donna (who by the way is my joint favourite character up alongside Harvey’s rival/best friend/I don’t know what they are anymore Louis Litt) who is acts mostly as Harvey’s conscious and guardian angel.

Donna telling it like it is.

Donna telling it like it is.

Im trying not to spoil anything for anyone that hasn’t watched it So I will try to be as vague as possible but there is something that the fans of the show will all be thinking about and that is the ending of series three. Despite being a huge bombshell moment it gives a nod to the first episode by directly referencing one of the first conversations between Harvey and Mike which I think was a genius move as it shows fans that they do know what they’re doing and that things won’t change as much as we worry they might. I actually like the new direction that they are going to try and after reading through interviews with the show’s creator Aaron Korsh my mind has been put at ease on some of the worries that I did have and I think it will allow for the show to have a longer life span  on our televisions than had they not done it.

Anyway that’s all from me and my opinions on the show, leave a comment with your opinion on the series and please like and share the page with all your friends! Thanks for reading.

 

You're damn right Harvey!

You’re damn right Harvey!

 

 

-Joe

NBC’s Hannibal – a review

“This is my design.”

Promo picture featuring Mads Mikkelsen [Dr Hannbibal Lecter].

Promo picture featuring Mads Mikkelsen [Dr Hannbibal Lecter].

Some of you may be familiar with this quote from the critically acclaimed NBC show, Hannibal, which aired its first episode last year. The show, which is adapted from the novel Red Dragon, follows FBI special agent Will Graham in his quest to expose the vicious and heinous crimes being carried out by the psychopathic cannibal, Dr Hannibal Lecter. But don’t let this nicely packaged synopsis fool you – the show certainly isn’t a simple cat-and-mouse game. It is full of twists and turns and has some of the most deliciously frustrating plotlines and cliff-hangers I’ve ever come across in the world of television.

Speaking of plotlines, Hannibal has some of the most compelling writing and structure I have ever seen – not only with the storylines and themes, but the script itself is a work of genius; innuendos, hidden clues, subtext, foreshadowing – all of this and more can be found woven into the strategically intricate words that are exchanged throughout the show. The efficacy of this tremendous writing boils down to two major components – the writers being the obvious one, but the actors then come a close second when it comes to doing the writing justice and delivering convincing performances. Hugh Dancy, who plays the autistic and empathetic Will Graham, delivers a spellbinding performance as the special agent, managing to tug at our heartstrings with his vulnerability and goodness, and then winning our support later on in the show when his desperate attempts to make people see the truth about Hannibal are thwarted time and time again. Also, he has a really big soft spot for animals, and he takes in dogs from the street and adopts them as his own and it’s the gosh darn cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

Will Graham and his dogs.

Will Graham and his dogs.

Will isn’t the only great protagonist in the show, however – I simply must take a moment to talk about Hannibal himself, played by the captivating Mads Mikkelsen. Never before have I seen such an arrogant and pretentious character played so well – and yet, I cannot seem to give him the amount of intense loathing that he deserves. Don’t get me wrong – I think his actions are utterly sick and deserving of punishment – but somehow, there is still a part of me that guiltily indulges in his grandeur and smugness; the way he almost mocks Will, teasing him with hints and throw-away lines that may seem meaningless but are in actual fact laced with more bait than a fisherman’s hook.

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The characters of Will and Hannibal are flanked by a brilliant supporting cast, too – Jack Crawford, the head of behavioural sciences at the FBI, and his colleagues all make for a wonderful team, with some comic relief supplied by the forensics team, which ensures that the show isn’t too weighed down by the morbidity of it all.

I must take a moment here to really reinforce the brilliance of the storytelling throughout season one and what has been released of season two – never before has a show made me so utterly livid, to the point where I have had to scream into a pillow multiple times because I am so exasperated and tense and worried and GAH. This is part of what makes the show so addictive, though – once you get started, you simply cannot stop due to the burning desire to know what happens next.

Another winning aspect of NBC’s Hannibal is the technicality behind it all, and in particular, the cinematography – everything from the lighting to the most miniscule details in the background of a scene is all so purposeful and never without reason, and this not only makes Hannibal aesthetically pleasing, but also adds an air of cleverness to an already intelligent show, which only makes it all the more captivating.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that this is, by far, one of the most spectacular shows I have ever had the fortune to stumble across, and I think you should all put aside a few days and marathon season one and the current episodes of season two [perhaps with a friend for emotional support] – trust me, once you get a taste for this show, you’ll be craving it with an almost insatiable hunger.

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5/5 – Absolutely magnificent.

~Steph.

Skins – a review

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This week I thought I would reach back a little and review something that isn’t as recent as the previous shows I’ve written about, but still holds its own in terms of how great a show it is. ‘Skins’ is a British drama that first aired on E4 back in 2007, and since then, it has had seven series stemming from it, with each pair of series dedicated to a different group of teenagers who experience love, loss, heartbreak, angst, and everything in-between, all while trying to get through college and receive an education. Many people have mixed feelings about Skins – some say that it was a ground-breaking show that paved the way for more daring story lines on TV with more impact and relevance, while others think it is simply a show that glorifies teenage hedonism and recklessness. I myself am in total agreement with the first group of people – I see Skins as a show that rocked the world of television by being controversial and, ultimately, brave, both with its portrayal of characters and the story lines involved in each season.

Top - Generation 1 as seen in series 1 & 2. Bottom - Generation 2 as seen in series 3 & 4.

Top – Generation 1 as seen in series 1 & 2.
Bottom – Generation 2 as seen in series 3 & 4.

Like with any other television show, some aspects of Skins can be a little over-exaggerated – like the heavy drug taking some characters partake in on a regular basis – however, these little blips are greatly overshadowed by the show’s poignant plots and the plights of the characters involved. One of the main storylines that has really shone through since Skins ended involved the first proper lesbian relationship to be seen on the show [unfortunately, Cassie’s momentary lapse into the world of sapphic exploration during series 2 does not count]. Naomi and Emily are revered in the LGBT community because their relationship – which goes from disliking each other to having an awkward friendship to falling hopelessly in love with one another – was refreshingly honest during a time when queer representation in the media was still few and far between. Their interactions are real and believable – from drunken first kisses to eventual arguments about infidelity, their relationship was a beacon for any young gay girls who may have been struggling with accepting who they were and not being ashamed of it.

Emily [Kathryn Prescott] and Naomi [Lily Loveless].

Emily [Kathryn Prescott] and Naomi [Lily Loveless].

These two aren’t the only gay characters on the show, mind you – series 1 has one of the best gay characters ever seen on Skins, this being Maxxie, who has to not only deal with homophobia from ignorant boys who live in his neighborhood, but also has to wade through the sticky mess of being best friends with Anwar, a Muslim who finds it difficult to accept Maxxie because his sexuality clashes with Anwar’s religious beliefs. Their friendship – and Anwar’s eventual acceptance of Maxxie regardless of his sexual orientation – is yet another reason why Skins is like a breath of fresh air for British TV, even today.

Aside from the fantastic LGBT representation – which extends over all seven seasons – there are plenty of other story arcs and themes running through Skins that cannot be ignored. Mental health is a prominent story line, and is especially moving with Effy, a character who starts off as minor in series 1 but then becomes a main protagonist in series 3 and 4. Series 4 shows Effy progressing into her late teenage years, and we see her begin to suffer from severe psychosis and manic episodes of depression and euphoria, which is both raw and engaging, in terms of the acting and the story itself. Other forms of mental imbalance are also explored, with JJ, again a character from Series 3 and 4, who is autistic and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. We see him go through bouts of rage and panic brought on by his autism, and coupled with his reactions to things and how his friends help him cope, it makes for a moving and intense narrative.

Along with sexuality and mental health, Skins covers numerous other social issues that many teenagers face, like relationships, dysfunctional families, eating disorders, substance abuse, and dealing with death. All of this and more makes it not only a riveting and enticing show, but also makes it important in the ways that it can educate people and maybe even help them, while still maintaining humour throughout the show with many moments of complete and utter hilarity.

Skins is an exciting journey for anyone who elects to watch it, and while certain series weren’t as well-received as the others – *cough* series 5 and 6 *cough* – I still believe that it is a brilliant show overall and that watching it is definitely something that you should consider if you haven’t done so already.

5/5 – honestly one of the greatest shows to ever come out of British TV.

~Steph.

My Mad Fat Diary – a review

A little while ago, a friend of mine recommended a show to me called My Mad Fat Diary. I had heard a lot about the teen drama, which made its E4 debut in January last year, but my curiosity spiked when I heard a large amount of people ranting and raving about it. So I decided to give it a go, and after reaching the end of season 2 a few weeks ago, I’m mighty glad I did.

Set in Lincolnshire in 1996, My Mad Fat Diary follows the story of Rae Earl (played by Sharon Rooney), a sixteen year old girl who has just been released from her four-month stay at a psychiatric hospital. Rae is overweight and suffers from an unhealthy relationship with food, as well as having dangerously low self-esteem and severe body issues. The series opens with Rae returning home to live with her mother, and we can see that she is clearly worried about life outside of the hospital and how people will treat her if they find out that she’s been ill. We see her reconnect with her best friend Chloe, who then introduces Rae to her new group of friends – Finn, Archie, Izzy, and Chop. Rae’s quest to fit in and be accepted is almost thwarted at times by her insecurities and fears, but slowly we see the gang grow to love her and she eventually becomes one of them. But life isn’t all happy and shiny for Rae – we see her go through problems with her mum, struggling with her feelings for boys, and dealing with people mocking her and not understanding what she’s been through, all while she’s constantly fighting with her own mental health.

“I am a body dysmorphic without the dysmorphic; I am a bulimic without the sick – I am fat.”

Rae's two worlds - life in the hospital, and life outside of it.

Rae’s two worlds – life in the hospital, and life outside of it.

This is part of what makes My Mad Fat Diary so great – it doesn’t gloss over Rae’s mental disorder or try to glamorise it or make it seem ‘cool’. On quite a few occasions, we see Rae freak out and break down – these scenes in particular are extremely well-done, with the animated annotations on the screen only adding to the intense rawness of what she’s feeling – and seeing something like this being portrayed so accurately is a refreshing breath of fresh air compared to other portrayals of mental health in the media.

In addition, Rae herself is a fantastic protagonist – witty and quick to fire a joke, she has moments where she is entirely confident with what she is saying, but in the blink of an eye, she can be right back to doubting herself based on her anxieties and uncertainty within herself. I think this makes Rae a brilliant character, because she’s real – she shows every young teenager who may be struggling with themselves that everyone wrestles with some form of self-doubt at some point in their life, especially during their adolescent years, and that it isn’t something to be brushed aside or pushed under the mat.

Rae Earl [Sharon Rooney]

Rae Earl [Sharon Rooney]

The other characters also hold their own in terms of powerful storylines and engaging interactions with Rae – Archie in particular has a rather poignant story [SPOILER ALERT!] in which we find out that he is gay and has been keeping his sexuality a secret from everyone around him for fear of being victimised or discriminated against for it. This is again another important plot-line which should be greatly appreciated, both for people who may be struggling with their own sexual orientation and their friends who may be hesitant to accept them – seeing Archie admit the truth, and then watching how Rae accepts him wholeheartedly without even hesitating, is both heart-warming and inspiring, and their friendship from this point onwards is definitely one of the highlights of the show.

There are, of course, plenty of other characters who play vital roles in the show – for instance, Kester (Ian Hart), Rae’s psychiatrist whom she starts seeing after leaving the hospital, has an extremely significant impact on Rae’s thought process and the way she views herself in the world. He challenges her and makes her see herself in a different light, albeit not without lots of resistance on Rae’s part. Other characters also make recurring appearances, like Tix – a young girl who befriended Rae during her stay in the psychiatric ward. Rae confides in her whenever something goes wrong, and continues to voice these fears once she’s back out in the real world, which gives us insight into how Rae is feeling and thinking, and we also get to see how Tix manages without the support of Rae in the hospital, which is intriguing and saddening at the same time.

All in all, this show is excellent for countless reasons; the most prominent of those being its ability to accurately portray the life and mind of a young person suffering from mental health issues. In no way does the show make light of Rae’s eating disorder [even though many people don’t see difficulties with food as a mental health problem unless issues like anorexia or bulimia are involved, which is utterly inaccurate and, quite frankly, a rather appalling opinion to hold], and it depicts a genuine character with real-life problems and fears and issues. However, the show also manages to be hilarious at certain times, with Rae spouting some classic lines that had me crying with uncontrollable laughter.

Rae's use of words is legendary.

Rae’s use of words is legendary.

My Mad Fat Diary is a great show, whether you relate to the plights of the characters or not, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. And luckily for you, dear reader, season 2 has just come to a close, so you’ve got thirteen remarkable episodes to watch!

4/5. A remarkable, honest show.

~Steph.

Orphan Black – a review

For months now, the internet has been awash with rave reviews and articles about BBC America’s new sci-fi show, Orphan Black. The show premiered in March in 2013, and since its debut it has taken the world by storm. Throughout the show’s growing popularity, I’ve heard many people ask, “But what is it about?” To that, I simply smile and say one word: clones.

Clone shows and movies have been done many times before in the past, from the light-hearted ‘Parent Trap’ to films with a little more intensity like ‘Never Let Me Go’. But Orphan Black goes the extra mile; not only does it encompass the drama of a ‘clone show’, but it manages to encapsulate a myriad of other aspects and genres. For one, it manages to maintain a dramatic edge without being over the top or cliché; from the moment it begins, it hooks the viewer in with exciting incidents and compelling characters that make it almost impossible to tear your eyes away from it. In terms of the characters themselves, while there is an excellent extended cast, the ‘main’ cast, if you will, is simply comprised of the one person who brings such a dynamic quality to the show that makes it as phenomenal as it is; Tatiana Maslany, who won a Critics’ Choice award for the show in June.

Tatiana Maslany.

Tatiana Maslany, Comic Con 2013.

Somehow, she has achieved the seemingly impossible task of playing a multitude of characters on one show and making it look easy, which only endears her to her fans even more. Maslany is captivating to watch on screen, and her ability to act so convincingly as different people (including doing a variety of accents, all of which are practically impeccable) is what really draws people in to the show at the start. She is so adept at creating entirely new personas for each of her clones, it just stuns me every time to see one single person with so much talent; and I know it may be difficult to believe if you have not yet seen the show yourself, but Maslany has actually managed to make the clones seem like entirely different people, in altering their movements in subtle but important ways, and changing the way they speak using their lips and their reactions to things (and as you can imagine, this is utterly baffling considering they are all played by the same actress).

3 of the clones: Sarah Manning (left), Alison Hendrix (middle), Cosima Niehaus (right).

3 of the clones: Sarah Manning (left), Alison Hendrix (middle), Cosima Niehaus (right)

However, this isn’t the only reason Orphan Black has become so popular in such a short space of time – the show definitely holds its own in terms of the structure and plot lines, and while it can be quite science-based at times due to the involvement of the DNA replication involved in the process of cloning, the plot remains engaging and easy to follow, with thrilling twists and turns along the way to keep the viewer hooked.

In addition, the humour of the show is not to be ignored – in particular, the character of Felix, played by Jordan Gavaris, who is the stepbrother of the show’s protagonist Sarah, provides the show with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek commentary, as well as providing representation for the LGBT community with his character being openly gay. The LGBT community also receives more support from the show in terms of Cosima, one of the many clones portrayed by Maslany. Cosima’s character is presented extremely well in that she is not defined by her sexuality; her romantic interest in French student Delphine simply happens along the way, and the fact that they are both women is not ignored nor is it highlighted in any way – it is simply treated as any other romantic plotline.

Also, the fact that the show is female-led is definitely something to be revered; while there are male main characters (Felix, Detective Arthur Bell, Paul Dierden), the spotlight is focused on Sarah (one of the main clones) and her quest to discover more about her past and how she came to be. This is extremely refreshing in a time where so much of the media is overrun with patriarchy and misogyny, and makes Orphan Black even more compelling to watch.

The diversity of the show not only extends to the LGBT community; there is also a range of different backgrounds to be seen in the plethora of characters, with Maslany herself playing clones from England, Canada, America, Ukraine, and France, to name a few.

To sum up, this show is everything you could want a show to be; it has drama, romance, humour, a phenomenal cast and thrilling storylines, all wrapped up in a sci-fi blanket. So if you have some time to spare this weekend, watch Orphan Black; trust me, once you’re a member of the Clone Club, you’ll never look back.

Thanks, Cosima.

Thanks, Cosima.

5/5. Utterly brilliant in every possible way.

~Steph.