Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Social Screenings

We don't have a TV at home: a conscious decision which almost certainly leaves us with more time for doing other things, as there's less temptation to just switch on the box and watch something indiscriminate. One added advantage is that by the time we come to watch a series on DVD, we can take recommendations from friends who've already seen it.

Over the last couple of years, catching up on good TV has evolved into a regular social occasion with a group of friends. We get together and watch two episodes from a series, punctuated with a meal between the two, and then come back the next week for the next installment. Sometimes someone cooks, but more often than not we grab the Domino's pizza menu (I love the stuffed crusts, or the 'Double Decadence' base, which has cheese between two thin layers of dough... ahem, I'm making myself hungry now!), and because Andy has such a sweet tooth, we usually also take along a little something for dessert (whether that's a box of chocolates, freshly baked cookies, or - last week - a popcorn machine).

Given my travel habit, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that our selections had an international feel - not that I can claim any credit for the choices, as I just turn up to watch. But I do enjoy getting some insight into what's popular around the world.

We started off with The Wire, a crime drama set in Baltimore. I loved it for its greyscale morality, where the police were often prepared to be as unethical as the drug dealers, but also for the laugh-out-loud moments such as when a couple of police pretend that their photocopier is a lie detector, to intimidate their suspect into a confession. The production used a lot of local casting, with genuine Baltimore residents and even some genuine drug dealers on the cast, which gives it a lot of authenticity.

For a little light relief after working our way through all five series of The Wire, we then moved on to watching Icelandic sitcom The Night Shift (or Næturvaktin). This is a fairly dark comedy set in a Reykjavik petrol station, and concentrating on the lives of the three men who work the night shift. It was interesting for the glimpse into Icelandic humour, as well as being funny in its own right.

We've just finished Series 1 of The Killing (or Forbrydelsen), a Danish crime drama which has made as much of a splash in the UK for its fashion (gorgeous Faroese knitwear) as for its drama. I wasn't completely won over by this one at first (there are a lot of false leads and sudden about-turns, even by crime drama standards) but it got really good in the last half-dozen episodes. I'd quite like to watch the second series at some point, but not straight away!

We haven't decided what our next series is going to be, so if you have any recommendations for excellent television, please let me know in the comments.


Tabor said...

You like the dark and heavy stuff and I am more into light mystery, so hesitate to suggest. Although my two current favorites are the American series, "The Good Wife", which also poses lots of questions about honesty and I totally can veg out with "Downton Abbey" which is a British upstairs/downstairs drama.

Fly Girl said...

That's a smart idea not to have a TV, you get sucked into hours of wasted time when you do. My favorite American drama is Mad Men. It's set in the 60s in an ad agency with lots of historical references and clever symbolism.

Anonymous said...

We watch The Big Bang Theory, which is a sort of sitcom about a group of physicists and their interactions with the girl next door. It's the only comedy I've seen in which the geeks a) make the jokes rather than being the joke and b) are depicted as successful and enjoying their work.
Oh, and Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in "Jeeves and Wooster", but you must have seen that already, right?

Elizabeth Braun said...

Re your first para: That's excatly why Martin said he didn't want TV - that along with how much total garbage there is! Really, we'd just waste time sifting through junk just to find something decent to watch and then waste time doing it!

I catch up with the few things that interest me via iplayers!!=)

Bibliomama said...

I like dark and heavy stuff too (I also like the Big Bang Theory). We have a tv, but I only watch stuff I PVR, I never just turn it on and scan around. I've started watching the Canadian version of The Killing - it's pretty good.

Kazzy said...

We watch things off of our digital recorder and so we never waste time watching mindlessly. We also never watch commercials since we can ff right through them!

Alan Burnett said...

We do have a television and whilst it can be distracting, modern technology does help one to become more discriminating. I think the only thing I ever watch live is the News. Other than that, the hard disk is my filter and I therefore have to make conscious choices to record things.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Well, you've see The Wire, so there goes my usual first recommendation. :)

I'll echo both of Tabor's recommendations (The Good Wife and Downton Abbey) and add three more eclectic ones (all American, I'm afraid): Friday Night Lights, Firefly, and The Sopranos.

I'll be interested to hear what you watch next!

Moni @ CL Journal said...

I was watching BBC America and got hooked on "The Tudors" about Henry VIII, played by Johnathan Rhys Myers. OMG! I fell in love with the series so much, I told everyone in my family to figure out who would buy which season and give it to me last month for Christmas. That's EXACTLY what I received.

I am late in getting into "The Big Bang Theory", but I admit, it's hilarious and very well written.

The Blonde Duck said...

I like Person of Interest.

Andrew Cater said...

Borgen - First series has just finished showing on BBC4. Danish political thriller. Series 2 will show next winter.
Both available on DVD

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