After a long period of disinterest in seemingly endless reality shows, ‘come on down!’ game shows and morning news and current affairs disguised as high volume infomercials, I am actually watching TV again. That doesn’t mean the DVD player has fallen into to disuse, as there isn’t anything good on e very night, but HBO have certainly encouraged others to lift their game. I still have to watch Game of Thrones and Carnivale on DVD, as I refuse to have Foxtel, but these days there is enough on Free To Air to make watching it a pleasure again.
Three fine specimens of Victorian manhood right here
Ripper Street: Absolutely top of the list. For one thing, it has Bronn from Game of Thrones, otherwise known as actor Jerome Flynn, playing a pugilistic cop in Whitechapel, scene of the Ripper murders. I always have a fondness for bareknuckle boxers – my great grandfather Charlie Mitchell who fought John L Sullivan for the world title twice. Flynn’s acting style has me completely won over, and he fits as perfectly into the post-Ripper milieu of Whitechapel as he did into Westeros.
Flynn also seems to be adept as establishing good rapport with other actors. As with Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, Flynn has established a comfortable rapport with star Matthew McFadyen (no relation to Braveheart’s handsome Angus) and Adam Rothberg (who also does a nice line in sardonic humour). Watching these three work together is half the pleasure of Ripper St, enjoying the beautifully crafted reconstruction of filthy Victorian London is the other half.
This guy is awesome – that’s all
Vikings: I love Vikings in history and have been a fan of Gabriel Byrne since Hello Again, for goodness sake – but it is the production values of this Canadian-Irish saga and the performance of Australian Travis Fimmel that keeps bringing me back. Crikey, is that really the guy fro m the Calvin Klein bill boards? That’s a whole world away from this. He plays the mythic hero Ragnor who pillaged and plundered his way across the seas to Britain, Ireland and France, the bloodthirsty barbarian who sacked monasteries and ploughed his way through peaceful settlements looking for riches. I am desperately hoping this is not just ‘the role Fimmel was born to play’, because I want to see what else he can do with his Heath Ledgerish cheek and charm and wayward but confident acting skills.
If there is still a chance that Vikings were misunderstood philanthropists who carried bunches of flowers when they arrived in their dragon-headed boats, there’s no mention of it here. They are barbarians, arriving swords in hand to slice up unarmed monks and take their gold. But for all this simple bloodlust, and the venal greed of the Earl (Gabriel Byrne), Ragnor is no comic book, Americanised Viking. At times he is even adorable, a loving dad, sexy husband and all the rest. This complex character is beautifully realised by Fimmel, and he has a good supporting cast behind him. Katheryn Winnick as Ragnor’s wife Lagertha is especially good. It is good, also, to see the origin of Tolkien’s ‘shield maiden’.
What’s with the kid and the dog?
The Dome: Yeah, I’m watching, but The Stand it ain’t. It does have some good characters, and an interesting premise, but mainly it’s a good laugh. The plot holes and misconceptions about women and childbirth are so male (what are you thinking, Stephen? Women do not stop to have a chat with the midwife halfway through the last stage of childbirth, so the midwife can say “you can start pushing again now” – contractions don’t work that way – just ask the missus) and so amusing it is impossible not to watch. Of course the great thing is that every blunder can be explained away as something the Dome did. Perfect plot device really. I must remember that one. TV is so educational even in its dumbest moments. But I honestly think it may have jumped the shark with the last episode. A blonde from Big Jim’s and Barbie’s past turns up and it turns out they are both working for her. Really? Just when I thought we’d never hear mention of the reporter’s dead hubby again. And Junior’s a good guy after all, just misunderstood. There is a way out of the Dome, writers – it’s called a remote control.
It saddens me to note that I’m not watching any Australian productions like Offspring and A Place to Call Home, but there is just nothing that matches up to Ripper St or Vikings – it is all bland soaps about relationships where people break up, make up, get pregnant, and die (not necessarily in that order). A Place to Call Home was the biggest disappointment of all, full of clichés and hammy acting. I tuned out mentally in the opening scenes on the liner, when they reversed the genders in the Titanic ‘Rose jumping off the ship’ scene. After that it was pure Mills and Boon.