Natasha Noman reviews the most talked-about American TV shows of the season
In yet another Washington-based political thriller (it’s a shame no other countries can offer interesting politics), a ‘fixer’/PR specialist, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), gets drawn into the nefarious affairs of corrupt and often stupid politicians. She happens to run one of the best crisis management firms in DC â€” which can rather conveniently achieve anything (in the space of an episode, might I add), from circumventing CIA security to waltzing into the Oval office on whim. The twist: she’s sleeping with the President. Sometimes. The palpable chemistry between Pope and the President percolates through the screen and might be one of the show’s better merits. Line deliveries are not the show’s strong suit, predictably overacted and, well, predictably predictable. Washington says most of her lines with a disdainful upper lip curl, followed by an incredulous chuckle and a poker face. Her trusty, emotionally damaged former-CIA sidekick at the firm conveys everything from a look to a line with a shaky face and intense, unblinking eyes peeking out from a head lowered out of suspicion and a smattering of PTSD. The plots are often wildly unbelievable, a sensationalized version of Capitol Hill’s goings-on, but â€” similar to our friend’s at Homeland â€” the show can’t help but suck you in and make you crave more. Much like a cheap drug, it’s great at the time but you only realize how bad it is once it’s out of your system.
Oh, Girls. What can I say? This show brands itself as the portrayal of what it’s like to be a young, struggling artist in the grimy world of hipster Brooklyn.Â One problem: everybody’s white. Okay, there are lots of problems; but that’s the main one. It’s painfully homogenous, full of middle/upper-middle class caucasians, excluding the experience of anyone who’s a) a different skin color and/or b) from a different socioeconomic stratum. Lena Dunham, creator/writer/ star/producer/on-set chaiwallah and anything else you can think of, never loses an opportunity to strip down and use unsavory ‘intimate’ scenes to help the show’s shock-factor (one of its selling-points). I’ve heard viewers and fans remark on how this aspect is a sign of liberation, a modern-day female emancipation born from the literal and figurative stripping down. However, I see it more as a symptom of self-loathing: Dunham draws flagrant attention to her more unattractive features, such that you’re too distracted by your own judgment (whether it be good or bad), to focus on her own.Â Some moments are good at capturing the fitful loneliness and desperation of the human experience.Â But it seems to me the griminess of the show is an attempt to make it a ‘realistic’ and ‘honest’ representation of being in your twenties in New York â€” unlike it’s predecessor, ‘Sex and the City,’ which is built off of an excessively glamorized version of living in NY. The grime, however, appears more as facade than substance. Watch it for laughs, though, and to get an idea of what it’s like to be creative, white, and middle-class in Brooklyn. Like any good fried food, take it with lots of grains of salt, privately enjoy it and then feel mildly guilty afterward.
The Good Wife
This show follows the evolution of a middle-aged woman, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles), after her politician husband falls from grace in a sex scandal and she is forced to return to the workforce after a roughly fifteen-year hiatus. Having trained as a lawyer, she manages to get herself a job at a top Chicago law firm, thanks to an ex-boyfriend from law school. The writers use the circumstances as tinder for tentatively rekindling a love affair between the two.Â Alicia is conflicted between attempting to salvage a marriage rife with betrayal and hurt, for the sake of keeping her family together, and a former lover with whom there seems to be unfinished business.
If these reviews didn’t reek of subjectivity already, you’re about to get a heavy dose of it now. I find it hard to be scathing of this show, given how wonderfully understated and superbly acted it is. Yes, it has many of the same problems the political thrillers do â€” things happen at warp speed. Lawsuits will start and end in a day. Court dates are set within hours, rather than weeks. And, naturally, they win the vast majority of their cases. Having said all that, it achieves the same thing Homeland does, occasionally leaving the viewers with a feeling of confusion and unease. The characters’ internal conflict is reflected in how the audience approaches each new scene, feeling equally uncertain â€” whether it be over the righteousness of a lawyer’s defense or the pursuit of a love interest. The writers adeptly blur lines of morality, sexuality, loyalty, the nature of relationships, among other things, throughout the series. You see Alicia transform from a dewy-eyed, shell-shocked mother and wife into a hardened, independent, ambitious lawyer. And the transformation is played beautifully.
One of the strongest characters is indubitably Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi â€” you can’t make these names up), offering not only mystique and intrigue, but a bit of diversity, too, as an Indian; she is perhaps the most intractable character I’ve seen on television. All around, a superbly written show and a fascinating exploration of loyalty: both to oneself and to others.
In this Washington-based political thriller (where else do politics happen?), a returned marine may have been broken by his Islamic terrorist captors during his eight-year internment. One CIA operative, Carrie (Claire Danes), develops an obsession with exposing the lauded war hero. To make things more interesting, she suffers from bipolar disorder – which always manifests itself in her quivering chin and furtive, widened eyes (complete with a maniacal glint) in practically every scene. These are coupled with her taking out a pill bottle every five minutes to consume what I can only hope are breath mints. I will credit the show with the compelling, addictive storyline and leaving the audience just as confused and conflicted as the protagonists. The absence of any clear answers leaves the audience perennially questioning the characters’ motives.
One of the strongest characters is Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi â€” you canâ€™t make these names up)