Netflix Goodness/ Reviews Galore!

Lilyhammer LOLS!

So I hopped on the Netflix train in December (I know, I’m about the last person on earth to get Netflix!). It always seemed a tiny bit excessive to have two streaming services (we already have Amazon Prime), but as winter approached there were just too many damn fine shows calling out my name to resist any longer! Plus I won’t lie, the Gilmore Girls revival may have been a teeny tiny little factor!

So anyway I keep wanting to tweet and Facebook my brand new deep thoughts but feeling weird/ like everything I’m watching is like so two years or six months ago or whatever. But here are my thoughts, so far, on what I’m watching! As spoiler free as possible, hopefully!

House of Cards (s.1 and 2): I guess this show isn’t the top hot Netflix show it was a couple of years ago, but it’s all new to me! It was slightly less new to it than David as he had already seen the British version (which was like a miniseries though so only a few similarities really). Kevin Spacey is seethingly acidic and scenery chewing as the scheming Washington politico Francis Underwood, while Robin Wright is magnificently terrifying as his wife Claire. For Frank revenge is a dish best served cold, over several courses and with a side of poison. His charming persona hides a very dark side that the show slowly unfurls the depths of, while keeping him enough of an enigma to keep the viewer intrigued.

I spent most of the first season going “Ok so they’re creepy and weird but I kinda like them….” And then season two going “Oh God make them stop, these horrible evil people!” (but still I can't look away, it's too good!). I’m taking a little breather before I start the rest, you kind of have to pace yourself with this one I think: after awhile it all gets a bit much! It is dark psycho drama, impeccably well-acted, and Shakespearean in scope. Is it ever so slightly implausible at times? Maybe, but it’s so enjoyable I don’t really mind!

Stranger Things: 80's kid nostalgia fest! Winona Ryder! Small town with cute Spielberg style spunky kids! 
Very scary government science lab! Supernatural powered (ah wait no, spoiler!)! Monsters who are there but not there! Ok I’ll stop shouting now. :-)

Stranger Things is a TOTALLY addictive box set binge. It tells the story of a small town that begins experiencing mysterious disappearances, central to the story being young Will Byers' disappearance, which drives his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) to the edge of sanity when she begins experiencing (some of) the "strange things" mentioned in the title.

I think the overall effect is perhaps more popcorn-y than particularly impactful due to some slightly cartoonish villain elements. But the kids' geeky teamwork is nostalgic fun reminiscent of so many 80's films, Winona is excellent and I heart the sheriff. I hope season two is as good but they are definitely going to have to pull some new tricks out of the box, and hopefully there is much more to see from Eleven, Mille Bobbie Brown as the mysterious strange girl rocks and deserves every plaudit she is getting.

Better Call Saul (s.1 –we’re in the middle of 2): I was a fan of Breaking Bad but wasn't expecting this show to be much like it, which I think is maybe the best way to go into it. Bob Odenkirk as Saul in Breaking Bad was always great light relief, and this show is a really wonderful prequel/back story for his character.

It’s a finely nuanced character study about how Jimmy McGill slowly comes to be Saul (we presume eventually they will show this), with a few Breaking Bad references thrown in for fun. Much of the camera work and storytelling does reference Breaking Bad but this still manages to feel like its own show.

There’s a real inbuilt poignancy that is handled delicately and manages to wring humour from despite knowing what we know about post BB era Saul. Michael McKean is great as Jimmy's disturbed (and mean!) older brother Chuck, and Rhea Seehorn as Kim is Jimmy’s best shot at a happiness that seems unlikely, but somehow as a viewer you keep hoping for the best.

The character of Mike (also of Breaking Bad) is along for the ride and is gruffly awesome as ever. His expanded back story lends further edge to the proceedings. Better Call Saul is clever and quietly devastating at times, much like Breaking Bad, and surely is setting itself up as the best spinoff of another great show, ever?

The Good Wife: I was a big Good Wife fan, so much so I couldn’t help diving back in for a re-watch and wow, how great was this show in the beginning? I almost forgot. Alicia Florrick is a woman whose husband goes to jail for corrupt hooker times (he’s the state’s attorney, played by Chris Noth/Mr. Big), and so she gets a job as a junior law associate thanks to old college friend/flame Will.

I’m getting closer and closer to the VERY BAD THING happening, I don’t know if I will bother re-watching the last season (or two) if I’m honest because I do think it went downhill fast after that. I want to savour this “I love Alicia” feeling, and Kalinda and Carey when they were integral to the show. Plus the case per episode format, why did they change that? It was perfect! Why do good shows eat themselves alive? Gah!

Lilyhammer: So this was on one of the BBC channels a couple of years ago and they stopped showing it. We have picked up in season 2. As fans of The Sopranos it’s quite a delight in and of itself just to have Steve Van Zandt’s mafioso character Frank in hiding (in Lilyhammer!) as the central character, who let’s be honest is not far off from his Silvio character in The Sopranos.

It’s quite silly and comical but a fun fish out of water show to watch. It has a nice level of kookiness with the Norwegians not knowing how to deal with Frank and vice versa. It's maybe not for everyone, it does this weird thing that kind of reminds you of Scandi Noir at times but has a pretty B movie American crime type plot - as I said if you liked The Sopranos you might like it, but it is not as sophisticated or well thought out as the Sopranos really, it's kind of like The Sopranos meets the Marx Bros!

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: This Tina Fey co-penned show is about a woman called Kimmy (the fab Ellie Kemper) held in an underground bunker for 15 years by a religious cult leader type (he’s really just a kidnapper - played with great zeal by Jon Hamm, but sells the numerous women in his thrall that the apocalypse has happened). Anyway Kimmy is freed in the first episode and arrives in Manhattan for a Today Show interview and decides to stay. Kimmy’s undying cheerfulness masks her very dark memories, this is a comedy so they try to strike a balance of her dealing with stuff in as un-heavy a way as possible (bringing in Tina Fey to play a perceptive but alcoholic therapist is one instance).

At any rate she finds a home and a job, and the cast of characters all work well. Her roommate Tyson is never not hilarious and scene stealing. Carole Kane is a freaking delight as the dodgy landlord with a heart of fake gold (the show does a great job keeping her as ornery as possible). Jane Krakowski continues her Tina Fey winning streak, making sure vapid society wife Jaqueline is funny and likable. The “Kimmy still thinks it’s the 90s” jokes are thick and fast, and her childlike wonder/emotional and educational gaps are also used to regular comic effect.

I think maybe I liked season two a tiny bit less than one in retrospect, I missed Kimmy's bizarre dating adventures and awkward banter fails with Jaqueline’s stepdaughter. I guess maybe I would like season three to have more focus on Kimmy/have her stop being a reactionary for everyone around her so much. The show even points out that Kimmy spends most of her time fixing other people’s problems, but it never seems to gain much traction with Kimmy dealing with hers. But generally a thumbs up, and the writing is as sharp as you would expect from Fey – there was even a hilarious Pizza Rat reference in a scene with Carol Kane (I cannot iterate enough it is worth watching this show for Kane alone)! ;-0

Ok well that’s probably more than enough for now! I might do a separate film post later as this one has gone on a bit as per usual! What are your favourite Netflix watches/recommendations? I have to say I underestimated just how many shows there would be on it that I'm dying to many shooows, not enough time!