Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Amen, PREACHER!

Article originally published as PREACHER Review on Seat42F.


AMC’s newest drama is PREACHER. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the series follows a Texas minister in a small town where danger and the supernatural seem to exist in abundance. It is shocking and action-packed, while also being a compelling character study of a man who is trying to do good and frequently failing. In short, it is worthy of being on this top-quality network, and makes a good addition to AMC’s morality-questioning slate.
The protagonist and titular man of the cloth is Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, Agent Carter, Fleming). Ingrained in him by his ill-fated father is a drive to do good in the world. But in a position he doesn’t want in a place that, for the most part, doesn’t want him, and with a past he isn’t proud of, Jesse is struggling to feel like he’s living up to his potential. As the story begins, he’s about at a breaking point and must decide what his path forward would be.
There is no shortage of others who either want to help him or hurt him on his path. Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun, Misfits) is a vampire lying low who is drawn to Jesse’s violence. Tulip (Ruth Negga, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is his ex who seeks to involve him in her latest scheme. Emily (Lucy Griffiths, True Blood) is the busy mother who is devoted to the church. Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown) is the lawman who doesn’t put up with Jesse straying, while Hugo’s son, Eugene (Ian Colletti, Rake), is devoted to a God he thinks may have abandoned him. And there’s also Donnie (Derek Wilson, In the Now), the abusive husband that Jesse confronts.
Each of these play a role, most of them quite loud and large. Cassidy and Tulip, in particular, are introduced in extreme scenarios that reinforce the graphic novel roots of the source material and certainly keep things exciting. This is a show that will not shirk from its action sequences, and has no qualms about showing death and destruction.
Yet, for the run of the pilot, Jesse himself is the calm center of the storm. He doesn’t react largely. He doesn’t do anything too crazy. He exists in the midst of everyone else’s drama, which is not what one typically expects from the main character of a series such as this. It’s unlikely he will stay that way for long, probably taking lead in the bigger sequences going forward, especially given what happens at the end of the episode. But it’s a very interesting choice to make to introduce him in the way that he is.
There’s also a phenomenon not yet explained that will play a very large role in PREACHER. Seen at the beginning and during a few interstitials, a being of energy has arrived on Earth looking for a host. After some false starts, it chooses Jesse as its vessel. Neither obviously good or bad, it’s the nth embodiment of Jesse’s own internal conflict, and promises more than just a slow-burn character-driven drama that would likely be good, but what we get is even better. With two mysterious men (Boardwalk Empire’s Anatol Yusef and Pirate Radio’s Tom Brooke) on the hunt for it, Jesse won’t just be able to live the life he’s been living.
I found the first episode of PREACHER to be terrific. It draws you in appropriately, feels fresh and original, despite a few familiar elements, is amusing in a sly way, and lacks the types of plot holes or gratuitous things that bog down most new series. Each moment seems carefully calculated to build towards something, and with fascinating characters populating the world, I look forward to seeing where it goes.
PREACHER airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pick Some FLOWERS

Article first published as FLOWERS Review on Seat42F.


Premiering stateside on May 5th is the British sitcom FLOWERS. A very dark, very off-beat comedy show about a messed up, three-generation family, it will make you both uncomfortable and amused, though the balance between the two may vary moment to moment. It’s an original work that is hard to compare to any existing show, despite the familiar family format, and while I don’t yet know if I should recommend it or not, two episodes into the six episode run, it is certainly something worth taking note of.

The patriarch is Maurice Flowers (Julian Barratt, The Might Boosh), a children’s author who tries to kill himself in the opening moments of the show. This in of itself is a startling beginning, with the strange verses of his literature serving as voiceover to the events. And while we’re told Maurice is a successful writer, the content of the stories we hear seems questionable and certainly speaking to much deeper levels than most works geared towards kids.

Maurice’s wife, Deborah (Olivia Colman, Broadchurch, The Night Manager), is completely oblivious to what her husband is up to, but she willfully goes that way through life. It looks like she’d rather be happy than knowledgeable, and in dealing with her family and friends, looks at the bright side rather than the honest one. Her attitude is obviously a fa├žade, clearly failing to convince even herself of her rosy perspective, and there is always the sense she is barely a few seconds away from losing it.

Around this couple, who are celebrating an anniversary, revolve their grown-but-still-living-at-home twin children, egotistical inventor Donald (Daniel Rigby, Flyboys) and musical lesbian Amy (Sophia Di Martino, Casualty). Donald and Amy both happen to be interested in the same girl, Abigail (Georgina Campbell, After Hours), whose plastic surgeon father, George (Angus Wright, Maleficent), will not stop his inappropriate flirting. Plus, there’s Maurice’s senile mother, Hattie (Leila Hoffman, How Not to Live Your Life), Maurice’s almost-servant-like assistant, Shun (creator Will Sharpe), and a handful of other bizarre personalities that flit in and out of the story.

If this sounds like a lot, trust me, it is. Watching FLOWERS makes it feel like even more, the constant fast pace and dense plotlines making your forget each installment is a mere twenty-three minutes in length. It’s like walking into a crowded room where everyone is talking loudly and trying to sort out exactly what is going on and who everyone is.

And yet, the more I watched, the more I liked it. Behind all the weirdness is a group of complex human beings with rich emotional layers, and they are all hurting in their own ways. Each is doing their best to get along in life, or end it, with little idea of how to do so. They (mostly) keep chugging along anyway, despite constant setbacks. The FLOWERS family, while not exactly likeable, become very sympathetic in a short amount of time.

Mixed with this is zany, madcap comedy, often of misunderstandings and errors, which makes their existence seem like hyper-reality despite the grounding. This is what happens when various mental illnesses collide, often more disturbing than funny, even though the situations themselves are humorous. This structure makes it hard to process or binge watch FLOWERS, and yet, also makes it so unique that I am drawn to continue viewing, if only to reward the huge risk making a show like this is.

Well, that and I would watch the excellent Colman in anything. This is off-type for her, and it’s rewarding to see her rise to the occasion.

FLOWERS will be available on Seeso (NBC’s new streaming comedy channel, available through Roku and Amazon) in the United States beginning Thursday, May 5th.