First of all – why the hell is Stephen Dorff holding a gun on the cover. He never comes close to a gun and dies 25 minutes in. That in itself is total false advertising. Second, God this movie is terrible. How they can make a movie like this and have it not make sense is an actual achievement. When Dorff dies, the car rolls immediately and stays there. Then Tally finds his body and his daughter Jo. Soon after, the arms dealers come back and bury the body. Where the hell did they go? At first they make it seem that there was a chase or something, and the guys have followed the trail to Dorff’s car and body. Yet there is no chase. He dies immediately. Why didn’t the guys bury his body and burn the car then? Instead they wander off for reasons unbeknown to us, probably so the writer could somehow get Tally to Jo. Also, Dorff dies in the spot where a great big dead Rhino is. Where the hell did that Rhino go? It isn’t there when Tally gets there.

In general, the film is a total snore fest. The first part of the movie is totally unnecessary. We didn’t need scenes showing them talking about the trip. Why didn’t the film just start in Africa? The scenes in America don’t add anything to the movie. The rest of the film, when we actual start getting some sort of action, is poorly executed. How a woman that tiny managed to go toe to toe in hand to hand combat with that huge South African guy is beyond me. It is never hinted that she has any sort of training, yet we are just supposed to believe she magically managed to fight him. She jumps on his back and tries to strangle him with a rope. I doubt she’d have had the strength, especially with being so dehydrated. He then punches her twice in the face, stabs her and kicks her when she’s down. Yet she somehow manages physically turn the gun round in the guys hand and shoots him. What?!

The dynamic between Jo and Tally is cringe worthy and quickly turns into a lifetime movie. At the end they’re best buds but you never really get any sense of them bonding and neither has any chemistry with the other. Maisie Williams – who is usually so good in Game of Thrones – is terrible in this. The scene were Jo breaks down and Tally hugs her would have probably been more believable if there was actual tears coming out of her eyes instead of Maisie just scrunching up her face. On top of that, she doesn’t look sad – she just looks like there is the sun in her eyes or she has smelt something bad. And then there is the direction. The scene in the camp when Jo realises the guy is part of the arms dealers is shot like a high school play. The three guys stand in a line and sort of talk at each other rather than talking like an actual human being and facing each other. And the angle of the camera is so amateurish I laughed.

The chemistry between Dorff and his girlfriend is non-existent. Svetlana Metkina is a terrible actress judging her off of this performance. She says all her lines like she’s reading them off of a piece of paper and doesn’t seem at all interested. Her tone of voice doesn’t change for the entire movie. She sounds exactly the same when she is fighting for her life as she does when she’s talking about an Jo’s iPad. On top of that, the writer keeps having her talking to herself which is just lazy writing. Peter Stormare can actually do a lot better than this movie and he’s usually terrible too. And to top it all off – the finale is totally anti-climactic and wraps it up way too quickly considering we’ve all just sat through an hour and a half of the protagonists being chased. The final scene has the girls go back to where Dorff’s body is buried to lay flowers when in reality it surely would have been dug up by the authorities to confirm their story and do an autopsy. It is evidence. And while they are laying the flowers, a hyena looks on stoically in what can only be described as the best acting in the film. Seriously, this is honestly one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

1/10

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TV is a strange place. That little box (although it’s more like a piece of paper these days…) in your living room brings you a cocktail with more ingredients in it than a long island ice tea – and just as much booze. Only on TV can you see a man make a gigantic fondant covered hogwarts cake, and then switch to a chick standing in a plastic cube while trying to blow a ball-bearing into a hole with a straw. Only on TV can you have bad singing and then bad dancing, laced with bad sob stories… and then flick over to the other side and OH MY GOD there’s a man on a desert island giving himself an enema (seriously channel 4? We did not need to see that). We have TV shows were we watch people watching TV, we have shows with dancing ‘celebrity’ dogs… we even have a show were we sexualize toddlers (?!) and make them compete with each other in order to vicariously fulfil some lady’s self esteem issues.

TV can be messed up. But it is the purest form of social commentary and can occasionally be the greatest form of entertainment the world has ever seen. Sometimes though, it takes a lot of delving through the mud and sludge to find those rare tiny gems that are worth switching on the box and delving in.

This is three of the most underrated, underwritten or unknown show’s you’ve never watched – that you definitely should. And with netflix you have no excuse not to.

1) Nikita 

Nikita is unusual in that it isn’t unknown – it is just totally written off. From pretty much the pilot, Nikita got a bad rep. Being on the CW network meant it was never taken seriously by anybody, and totally missed it’s target audience – and likewise, as it wasn’t a teen TV show, no one who ever watched the CW ever gave it a look in. Marketing for the show also ruined its chances, the network wanted us to think this was a show about sexy women wearing revealing outfits yet being super spies and kicking butt. People said it was shallow and against feminism. When in reality, Nikita couldn’t be further away from that. Three of the lead characters are strong, complex women with dark, traumatic pasts. There is no skimpy outfits or overtly sexual scenes unless they have to for a mission, and even then it is rare. Nikita’s bad rep is totally and utterly unfounded, and here’s why.

nikita gifFirstly, it takes a hell of a lot to make an action show. Especially an action show with a full weekly roster of hand to hand combat like Nikita. I don’t think people appreciate just how difficult it is to choreograph it, get the actors to learn it – as well as their lines – and then bring in the explosions, gun work and stunts. Hell – Maggie Q did all her own stunts. And she got hurt a lot because of that. But Nikita never faltered, from start to finish the action scenes, especially the fight scenes, were always impressive and as good as any you would see in an action movie. I guess that’s what happens when you hire an action star. 

alex cage gifSecondly, the strength of the characters meant that it transcended being just an action show. It wasn’t just about a fight against Division, it was about these characters and their lives before, and then after, Division. It was about learning what made them who they are, and what got them on the dark path that led them to end up in prison. Each major character was deeply complex. And in a way, we were probing them all just as Amanda obsessively did over the four seasons. For me, Alex’s story was most interesting. When do we ever have a lead character of a TV show who has a past that involves drug addiction, abduction and sex trafficking? We don’t. These issues are skirted around on a lot of shows, and maybe looked at in depth for an episode or two, but never do we see the soul of a character like we saw Alex. We knew her, and we saw her pain and then we saw her evolve past it and even, in the end, use it. Nikita similarly had a dark past with drugs and abuse, and interestingly we saw how she was moulded by Division into this person who was now so fiercely trying to tear them down. Throughout the series, Amanda goads Nikita by saying Division made her – and in truth they did.

And finally, the writing. It is really tough to write any serial drama, but spy shows have to be complex and they have to keep surprising you. Most of all, the spine of the show has to be the series ark – for a show like Nikita, a mission of the week premise was never going to work without a boatload of story development. Nikita, despite the occasional derailment, did that. The dialogue was great and to cap that, the cast had a great chemistry. Lyndsy Fonsecca – despite her parents having spelt her name wrong – is going to have a long and fruitful career ahead of her. Maggie Q – well, she’s already an action star, but I think she proved she can do drama as well. And that she actually doesn’t need to be wielding her fists to delve some killer blows. Melinda Clarke, as always, plays the slightly odd and manipulative villain fantastically. She’s almost pantomime, and it works. Xander Berkley actually manages to get me to hate him as Percy, even though my heart still aches a little after his (spoiler!) martyrdom in season 2 of 24. Shane West is Nikita’s Romeo, but he also has a painful past and does the tortured soul well. And finally massive kudos goes to Aaron Stanford as Birkhoff who provides some brilliant one liners and at times, some much needed comic relief.

amanda gif

Nikita ran for three seasons, with six farewell episodes added on after it was cancelled to wrap things up. So we thankfully got some closure, and thanks to the great writing you couldn’t tell there was any kind of rushed ending. While it sort of went out without a whimper, with not a lot of people discussing it, and no real fuss – it was sort of fitting. Nikita did the spy thing – pulled off an impossible feat in that it brought three years of possibly the greatest spy show ever on a network usually dominated with teen angst, and with that brought all that badassery (not a word – should be) and then faded into the background. Unseen. Unheard. Untraceable. Sound familiar?

Yes, Alex is drinking milk.

Yes, Alex is drinking milk.

2) American Gothic

The 90s was a revolutionary period in terms of TV. We were gifted with strongly written feminist shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena. The face of procedural and medical dramas changed forever with the beginning of Law and Order and the brilliant ER. Comedy got two of the greats with Friends and Frasier, and science fiction changed forever when Captain Janeway took the bridge and Mulder and Scully opened their first X File. But one revolution that never took off was in the horror genre with the highly underrated American Gothic.

Before there was American Horror Story – the 90s gave us American Gothic. Sam Raimi – before he made us all hate him with Spiderman 3 – had quite the repertoire. Evil Dead, Darkman and this extremely underrated series. CBS are the idiots in this story, after cancelling American Gothic after one season. Ahead of its time, and therefore still watchable now, American Gothic revolves around Caleb Temple (Lucas Black) and the town’s corrupt sheriff, Lucas Buck (Gary Cole). Though appearing affable and charismatic, Sheriff Buck is a murderous rapist whose powerbase is backed by apparent supernatural powers, which he generally uses to manipulate people to “fulfill their potential” and make life-changing choices (usually for evil). Gary Cole plays a villain so well in this show that he literally ruined himself for me in anything else he is in. A very young Lucas Black is fantastic as Caleb, making himself the anchor for this wierd, anything goes series.

American Gothic was basically American Horror Story, but it was the 90’s and the world wasn’t ready for it yet. Hell – it even had Sarah Paulson in it to boot just in case you weren’t sure. The show was the epitome of strange, dark and disturbing all rolled into one. Had CBS had a backbone, no doubt it would have become a cult classic like the X-Files.

Despite its short run, it is still worth a look, and it really is a timeless hidden classic. I first saw this show when I was a teenager, about ten years after it first aired. And I remember being astounded when I discovered it was made in 1996. You really couldn’t tell.

If you get a chance, give this one a look.

3) Vikings

Vikings may be an Emmy nominated show, but I don’t know anyone but me who watches it. Where did this show come from? I didn’t even realise the History Channel made dramas, never mind dramas so breathtakingly shot, wonderfully acted and superbly written that it makes you want to sell all your worldly possessions, grow a beard (I’m a chick and I want one that includes a rather dashing mohawk), live off the land and kill a bunch of English people – a problem when you are actually English.

Vikings follows Ragnor Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) an actual 9th century notorious Viking famous for exploring the west and visiting all parts of Europe and fathering some very famous Viking sons. More notable however, at least in my eyes, is Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Ragnor’s shield maden wife who strides into battle even more fiercely than her husband, and is by far the strongest female lead on any TV, in any country at this current time. Winnick, who had a part in the hit show Bones, was otherwise a relatively unknown actress before getting this part. However, she shines as Lagertha, really bringing the character to life and managing to portray a character both ferocious and fragile at the same time. The supporting cast is also flawless. Special mentions go to Gustaf Skarsgard – another Skarsgard, just what the hell was Stellan feeding these kids? What ever it was, keep doing it! – who plays the eccentric Floki, and Jessalyn Gilsig who plays the manipulative Siggy. Fimmel, meanwhile, leads from the front. He gives a solid performance as Ragnor, bringing a light shade to a character that could potentially have been all dark. He does the misunderstood, persecuted farmer well, while always eluding to an arrogance that eventually leads him to lead.
But it isn’t that acting or the weaving storylines that makes Vikings a stand out show. Instead, it is just how breathtaking the show is visually. Week in, week out, we the viewers are treated to shots that surely belong in a photography exhibit or on the big screen. But it isn’t just the lovely scenery gifted to us by it’s Irish location, it’s the vision created by the cast and crew, and the impeccable direction and care given to each and every episode. It makes Game of Thrones look visually unstimulating, and when you can say that about a show as fantastic as Game of Thrones, you know Vikings is bringing something very special to the screen.

It should be noted however, this is a show about Vikings, so expect a lot of violence and sex, tons of Norse mythology and a general distaste for morals. The Viking women were strong, merciless and often rode into battle alongside their male counterparts. They were still looked down upon, but were seen as much fiercer individuals that could earn respect on the battlefield. In their own way, the Vikings were more advanced than any of their Western counterparts – and despite being reviled as bloodthirsty barbarians, it took the rest of us a thousand years to catch up (and in a lot of places in terms of combat – we still haven’t).

Overall, Vikings is brilliant and refreshing and needs to be your newest show.

What is your most underrated show?

Hello friends! It has been a while. But I recently had an almost lethal overdose – of movies (did you think I was going to say something else then?) and so it is time to empart my wisdom once again about the one thing in this world that I can talk insenently about, even if you tell me to stop. And you probably will. But I am stubborn so there.

When I first saw the trailer for Elysium, I though it was right up my street. Post-apocolyptic. Space. Robots. Its like the movie equivalent of an orgasm. Anyway, it was clear they chucked a lot of money at this film, the special effects were top notch – and the cast impressive. Matt Damon – I’m guessing – doesn’t come cheap, and neither does Jodie Foster (despite not really bringing anything good to a film since Contact back in 1997). Also in the starring line up was City of Gods Alice Braga who has done some interesting films since her big break, and as an actress I think she does the whole damsel in distress well. But the best thing Elysium had going for it was it’s concept. In the not so different future, earth has become inhabitable due to over-population and pollution, and using up resources. As a result, those with the means, moved to Elysium, a space station in Earth’s orbit that is basically like the astro version on Bel-Air. The people in charge are all on Elysium. And they rely on robots back on Earth to govern the people with a literal iron fist. The world has become unjust, third world dictatorship, where the people with means (the 1 percent) live in paradise while trampling on the 99 percent back on the ground. On top of that, people on Elysium have health pods that – from what I gather – can make people live forever. They can heal any person of any ailment. And the rich use that to prolong their lifestyle while the poor have no decent healthcare.

It’s not difficult to see that the whole movie is a metaphor for what we ourselves have become. There is still a huge class divide by where 5 % of the population controls 95 % of the worlds wealth. And those in the developed world are okay with that – a bold statement, I know. But it’s all fine writing a check to a charity every once and a while when you saw the starving child covered in flies on TV, but when the solution to the problem becomes something that impacts on our actual way of life – we start to have a problem. People question how much the government spends on foreign aid when there are domestic crisis’ that are in need of funding. We have our flat screen TV’s, and our games consoles, and our holidays abroad – not because we need them, but because we can and we feel we deserve them. It’s an ugly side to human nature that we all share.

Anyway, back to the movie. The concept of Elysium interested me. And the film had potential in spades. However, I think the execution was flawed. In terms of direction I think Neil Blomkamp did well, but his script was lacking. There was no big finale, just several events that didn’t really climax in any meaningful end. The action was not as exciting as it could have been and in terms of the story development, the whole thing felt very much like it was plodding along at an uneven pace. I enjoyed Elysium, and it definitely wasn’t a bad movie, but it never really excited and enthralled like a big budget action movie should. It is possible that this was purposeful, in order to not overshadow the films message, but the ending wasn’t really moving enough to be memorable. Matt Damon’s character wasn’t particularly likeable, and I hated Jodie Fosters Delacourt much more than I liked him. All the performances were good, and I think the actors did their best with what they had, but there was no winning spark that would have made this a mega movie.

Overall, this movie didn’t live up to hype. But still delivered as a weekend blockbuster.

6/10

Well here we are, another movie that is loaded with controversy. I must admit, when I first saw the trailer for The Impossible, I myself did think, “Um… it’s a movie about white people… when hundreds of thousands of Asian people died.” It is pretty hard not to think that when you see what they did with the trailer. But I still wasn’t exactly surprised. I figured this for a Hollywood movie – where the American people always get the centre of attention. I was wrong. There, I said it. Don’t make me say it again. 

Firstly, this is a true story, based on a Spanish family. Secondly, it is actually a Spanish made film. And thirdly, the family are actually portrayed as British. Although it is never actually said in the film. I figured they attached the actors and then cast the kids so it made sense. The real Maria – portrayed by Naomi Watts – was actually adamant that they were seen as people, not as any nationality. Still, I can’t help but thinking there was a million stories to be told, and they told this one. About a family of Westerners. There is barely any references to the native population that was killed. In fact, all we really see of the locals is them briefly helping people – all unscathed themselves like it was some sort of isolated event to only effect white people. Don’t get me wrong, The Impossible is a very moving film. I just feel as though it isn’t a true and fair portrayal of the Tsunami. I guess it isn’t supposed to be – it is about one family’s struggle. But there is no reason that family couldn’t have been Thai. I get that they wanted to market the film to an English speaking audience, hence the Britishness, but still – they could have just made the family speak English. Simple. People have been making Ancient Romans, Musketeers and Aliens speak English for years in movies when it didn’t make sense. It would have been overlooked. Also, I can’t help thinking that yes the family were obviously scarred about their ordeal. But they get to go home. The Asian people don’t. Their plight was only just starting. What about the clean up? The hunting for dead? Rebuilding homes?

Anyway… rant over. I suppose I should review the film. I will try to be unbiased! If you look at The Impossible without prejudice and just see it as a story of one family, then it is a good film. I pretty much cried from start to finish. The direction really helped to bring a sense of hopelessness and panic to an already good script. And I was highly impressed by all the actors involved. Special mention goes to the young Tom Holland who played the eldest son Lucas. Wow. What a job he did. When you steal scenes from Naomi Watts, you know you’re a talented lad. Ewan McGregor was, as usual, fantastic – surely one of the most underrated actors working today. Naomi Watts gave every bit the performance you would expect from her, and the casting of the family overall was spot on. They gelled as a unit, and despite little screen time altogether, you really believed they were a family.

For what The Impossible sets out to do – move you – it succeeds. But I stress that, although you do get a view of the Tsunami itself, it isn’t really a retelling of the disaster. I hope that a film properly portraying the Boxing Day Tsunami will follow shortly. Overall, this is a quality, well made film. But ethically, I feel they should have waited to make it. The first movie about the Tsunami should have represented the main people effected by the tragedy.

7.5/10

Five minutes into this movie, and I was struck by something – not the saliva dripping lollipop that the guy behind me had just chucked – but rather that, in order to truly enjoy this film – you need a brain. I’m not saying that any grey matter will do, monkeys for example – probably not a fan. But if you go into this film with misconceptions about what to expect, then you are already destined to fail. Zero Dark Thirty charters the years spent after 9/11 by various CIA operatives to track down Osama Bin Laden. Before this film even hit theatres, people were calling it nothing but ‘Liberal propaganda’ and ‘biased junk’. I can see why people would assume that was what Zero Dark Thirty is, but on closer inspection you can clearly see that neither the Bush regime, nor Obama’s time in office is particularly looked upon well.

Firstly, we’re shown the darker side of the USA’s war on terror… the side that made the papers and outraged millions – torture. Watching the prisoners suffer made me uncomfortable – and after all, what kind of world would we live in if it didn’t. They may be terrorists, or at least suspected terrorists, but seeing anyone scream in pain, especially when based on real events, made me uneasy. After Obama came in, the torture went out and was replaced with a slow moving system – that possibly cost lives. Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, pushed and pushed to get the intelligence she’d gathered taken seriously. But the people above her were often more worried about looking bad politically if it was the wrong call. And so yes, the torture portrayed did make Bush look bad. But at the same time, throughout the movie they make the point that they wouldn’t have the lead which led to Osama without it.

Now, with all the controversy out of the way, let’s get to the actual film. Zero Dark Thirty is at times hard to follow, but so it should be. If the average Joe could understand the plot easily, well then it wouldn’t be a true representation of the obstacles overcome by these extraordinary individuals. The film basically follows Maya, as she is dropped into Pakistan having been recruited to the agency straight from High School. She’s committed, and you see that from day one. Unsurprisingly she gets ridiculed for her age and her looks, and finds it difficult for people to take her seriously. This toughens her up and by the end of the film she is very much a woman I wouldn’t want to mess with. The sass she had at the beginning of the film, very much morphs into a hardened shell. Chastain is probably at her best. While I haven’t always rated her highly, I definitely feel she stepped up to the plate in what must have been a huge daunting task. Her performance as Maya is likeable but not enough to deter you from the main premise of the movie – the hunt for Osama. Kathryn Bigelow allows just enough of Maya’s personality to shine through to endear her, but doesn’t allow the movie to become all about ‘Maya’s hunt for Osama’; because it is very much a team effort.

Director Kathryn Bigelow also managed to bring home the reality that these are real people. We live in a society glamorised by Hollywood, and it is easy to forget sometimes that the CIA aren’t the really like ‘Borne’ or ‘Bond’. They are real people, with real families who are trying to keep the world safe. I found that a little unsettling. It was a dim reality that showed how vulnerable we are, that there isn’t some great power out there to save us. Because, they don’t always succeed.

But Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately about when they did succeed. And by the end of the film, we are shown the assault on Osama’s compound in Pakistan. The use of night vision goggles, interchanging with the dark made the whole scenario seem more unsettling. And while the men who went into that compound seemed ultimately bad ass, you also had the same sense of realism. They weren’t superheroes. They were just doing a job.

Overall, there is a good performances all round for the ensemble cast. I was particularly impressed with Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain. And I think, with all things considered – and how wrong this movie could have easily gone – this is a solid film that fairly and accurately portrays the hunt for Osama. An engrossing watch.

8/10

Something occurred to me today, while I was laughing away to the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory. Being a geek… has definitely become a lot cooler. When I was a kid, if you so much as mentioned something about ‘Comic Books’ or ‘Star Wars’ you were either immediately ostracised, forced to spend the day undergoing a make over (actually happened) or compulsory left to get picked last in P.E. class. It was never a positive experience. And so I found myself – especially because I am a girl – purposefully hiding the real me.

“Oh… what music do I like? Erm… Oh what’s that new song they were playing on Juice FM… yeah I listen to Juice.” When in reality I had a room with head to toe pictures of Jimi Hendrix and I liked listening to metal when I did my homework. I know this isn’t unusual – the whole hiding your true self, I mean – pretty much every teen in history has experienced this at some point in their lives. But there is definitely much more acceptance for someone with more geekier tendencies these days than there were, say ten years ago. Take this for instance…

Source: weknowmemes.com

^That, right there, pretty much summarises what I mean. People are actually buying glasses with no glass in them, to simulate the fact that they look slightly nerdy! Why? Do you think it makes you look smarter? …I’m pretty sure it achieves the opposite. Then you get the people on facebook who are actually pretending to like ‘so-called’ geeky stuff. Holding up x-box controllers, or writing statuses like – “Just watching Star Wars… wow I’m so geeky.” …Erm, I have news for you girly. Watching a sci-fi flick doesn’t automatically make you geeky. Being like me and owning a replica light saber, a life size R2-D2 and spending your nights questing on The Old Republic… yes, then you could possibly be a nerd. But you’re not doing those things to be geeky. You’re doing them because you God damn genuinely love them.

I honestly think The Big Bang Theory has kind of added to this trend. People who know absolutely nothing about half the things the guys of the show are into still watch the show. Which, I am not ridiculing. It’s a great show and I don’t care who watches it as long as they keep it on the air. But, my boyfriend is prime example of what is wrong with this. He is not a nerd. He hates Star Wars, comics, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, MMORPGs, Star Trek… etc. He despises it all. Yet he loves The Big Bang Theory. Again, nothing wrong with that, I love it too and we have it in common. The only problem I have with it – is this – He doesn’t get half the jokes. In the beginning, especially, The Big Bang Theory had more geeky references than comicon. Sheldon would say a joke about both Star Wars and Star Trek that would only make sense to you if you’d seen either of them. But still… my boyfriend laughs. I don’t get it… on what level is he watching the show on? Because there is no way he understood that joke.

THESE are geeks! And FYI, I hope sincerely that if you watch TBBT you can at least name all the characters/species they’re imitating! Too much to ask for? Damn. Source: TV Fanatic

So this is my point. People watch a hit show about geeky guys and now, suddenly, they think they’re geeky. It doesn’t work like that people. I mean, in a way, I applaud The Big Bang Theory, for making it mainstream and essentially okay to like Star Trek, and to go to comicon and dress up as a Hobbit. The ridiculing has definitely decreased. I once went to a screening of Star Wars episode I with a face painted like Darth Maul. I was 8. But still I was ostracised for it. I got called names at school. And it was then that I started hiding the real things that interested me. Just for an easier life.

Okay, so I can kind of see why I was bullied. This isn’t exactly normal. But it’s what I wanted to do, so I did it. And I don’t regret it. I just regret hiding my love of all things Star Wars all through my teens.

Things like that seem easier now. At least on the surface. Maybe if you pretend  to be a geek you are cool. It’s a strange phenomenon. I definitely like that you can seem to be more yourself now. That kid with the Star Trek lunch box isn’t going to end up eating its contents in a bath room stall, hiding from bullies. Or at least, he’s less likely to.

I think the true moral of the story it this. Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something your not. This cuts both ways. Don’t hide what you truly like, and don’t pretend to be a nerd so you look cool. It’s a hell of a lot more admirable to be yourself, and be self confident and comfortable in your own skin. Because at the end of the day, no body wants to really end up lying to themselves. Life’s too short.

…And on that note, I’m off to go play with my lego star wars set. Because I’m an adult and I can damn well do what I please!

“Look sir… Droids!”

Hello there – friends, enemies, cyborgs… The ‘You better abide by my TV guide’ series is back this week. And boy… have I got some quality TV picks for you. To get us going, I thought I would just start by saying a jolly old Happy New Year to you all – yes, I realise I am 10 whole days late, but it’s the thought that counts. I hope you had a good one, and that your Christmas was filled with family fun – because after all, that is what it’s all about.

Anyway, that’s enough jibber-jabber. Let’s kick 2013 off in style and get this show on the road.

1) American Horror Story

Jessica Lange in one of her two roles – as Sister Jude. Source: Collider.com

Wow. How this one stayed so low on my radar for so long, I do not know? American Horror Story starts off as a show that follows the Harmon family as they move into an house that has one hell of a famous history. American Horror Story is as much horror as it is mystery, and the plot is surprising and intricate throughout. Every single character is layered – from the occasionally seen ghost to the outstandingly played Constance (Jessica Lange… you most certainly still have it). As season one progresses, the house itself is nurtured into a character all of its own, and by the climax, you can only really guarantee one thing – anything can happen. We travel through time each episode, and are treated to all the previous tenants of the aptly named ‘Murder House’, and at the core of it all, is the Harmon’s who are so desperately trying to regain some sort of control and normality where there is none. What makes American Horror Story so compelling though, is the writing. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk stated from the beginning that each season would feature a new story and a new cast. The brilliance of this, is every season is like an outstanding well written and complex movie. There is no expectation to peak the series into having some sort of a cliff hanger… the whole show, after all is surprising enough in itself week in week out. Instead you expect this well crafted story to come to some conclusion, and then you – as a viewer, turn a page and eagerly await what new Hell the writers will dream up in the next season. It’s such an interesting way to do a show. And highlights to me that good writing is the backbone to any successful program. Season Two centres on ‘Briarcliff’ – an institute for the criminally insane run by nuns. Just the very premise of that is scary, especially, if like me, you’re Catholic. Thankfully, we have the amazing Jessica Lange back as Sister Jude – the care taker of the institute, and we are led through the complicated definition of ‘insanity’, not just through the patients, but through those tasked with housing them. Once again, I am surprised, week in week out, and with actors such as Joseph Fiennes and James Cromwell hopping on board, American Horror Story manages to not only maintain the successes of the first series – but perhaps even surpass them. But it doesn’t stop there, Evan Peters proves how utterly versatile he is, having taken two lead roles in both seasons, and Zachary Quinto reminds us all how easily he can play both the hero and the foe. A special mention also goes to Sarah Paulson, who plays journalist Lana – as it is essentially her journey we follow through the Mental system as she finds herself held at Briarcliff against her will when she gets too close for comfort.

Ahhh… the Rubber Man. Just one of MANY terrifying characters.

Essentially, American Horror Story can be shocking and repulsive – as most Horror’s often are – but when it isn’t being genuinely terrifying, it is wielding itself into a masterpiece of modern television. If you like your frights big and your drama raw – then I couldn’t recommend American Horror Story more. …And given it’s structure, there’s no need to watch the seasons in any sort of order. Enjoy!

You can catch American Horror Story on FX and Season 1 is on DVD now. Or if you’re naughty (hehe) check out TV Links. 

2) Chicago Fire

Beautiful peopleeeeee…. Beautiful peopleeee… Uh ohhhhhhhhhhh

Okay, so never have two shows been more different! Don’t ever accuse me of not giving you variety at Rather Be Mental…! Now to a show by NBC… meaning it could essentially get canned at any time so enjoy it while you can. I’m surprised a show like this took so long to get onto a major network, after the hugely successful E.R. and the totally underrated Third Watch, I thought for sure we’d have a totally focused fire department show. But it took a while for the idiots over at the network to catch up. Thankfully – they did.

Did I also mention I am in love with Taylor Kinney… Yeah, prettttyyy BIG factor! Source: Shayson (Tumblr)

Chicago Fire follows a Chicago fire department, meaning we get a lovely action packed insight into both muscly fire men and kick ass female Paramedic’s. A little slow getting off the ground at first, Chicago Fire is finding its feet half way through the season. The writers seemed to have realised that, like so many NBC shows before it, the characters are what is most important. Therefore, we are treated to many a layered soul, with many a complicated relationship. There is a chance occasionally that Chicago Fire falls into the ‘soapy’ trap from time to time, but when ever that seems to be happen, there’s a huge explosion or a plane crash to avert us back on course. While I am not raving over this show like I was American Horror Story, I can definitely see it has potential. What I would like to see more of is – a) more time on the street; and b) a little more of that smart humour that made shows like Third Watch so God damn good.

While it certainly ain’t perfect, I would say that Chicago Fire deserves a look if you are prone to a hospital/cop drama. Even if it’s not your thing, the whole show is full of beautiful people – who can act – which, makes a refreshing change. I am sure, as the season progresses, the show will just keep getting into its stride.

Like I said, Chicago Fire can be found on NBC or Sky Atlantic. Or online. Again. Hehe. 

3) Miranda

Oh look at that face… how could you dislike her?!

Ah… Miranda Hart. Every time I say her name I feel a rising urge to shout… “For Prime Minister!”. She encompasses everything I could ever want in a female British comedian. It’s hard to believe that I took so long to watch her sitcom, I just kept seeing her on TV wondering, “Who is that woman?” Then one day, my cousin told me that I absolutely must be watching Miranda as it was

“Move along…!” Miranda slightly illegally impersonating a police officer.

totally hilaire! (A word you’d understand if you saw the show). The reason I love Miranda so much, is she is basically every normal thirty something woman if you stripped away all their inhibitions and made them 12 again. I’m only 22, but how I longggg to be bold enough to ‘gallop’ down the street – because, after all it is such a more efficient form of transport!  Watching Miranda, I find myself thinking, “Oh dear… I’ve done that too.” Not exactly great when she’s constantly acting insane and humiliating herself. Because, as Miranda Hart so puts it in her book, ‘Is it just me?’, she always gets stuck at the little moments in life. The big ones – weddings, deaths, births etc. She can do fine. There is a mandatory guide book for how to behave for each and every one of those moments. But it’s the little moments – like accidentally losing your skirt at a job interview and passing it off as a deliberate move to show how smooth your legs are – that she gets so so wrong (genuinely happened to her… ). The sitcom can be ridiculously silly at times, but I think we all need that in our lives. Not afraid to use the odd catch phrase, and most certainly not afraid to let the world know her biggest, cringiest moments, Miranda is a breath of fresh air and a hark back to the silly comedy we would at times get from the likes of Morecambe and Wise. Except that, Miranda is a lot truer to life and definitely makes the odd ‘misfit’ like myself feel a lot better about themselves. Just for clarity Miranda… No, it isn’t just you. 

Watch Miranda on Tuesday nights on BBC1. I have no clue whatsoever if your treated to it in the USA (although it’s so British I’m not sure you’d get it…) but if not, again – ONLINE.

Special mention

Also, if you happen to be British, and are checking out Miranda, keep the tele on BBC1, as Mrs Brown’s Boys is an Irish sitcom that definitely gets a good few laughs.

That’s all from me now folks. Wow, definitely covered the spectrum of TV fiction. Give us a like on facebook to keep yourself well in the loop for any more of my recommended shows. Chow!