DISCLAIMER: This Blog contains spoilers and some adult content.
There are good TV shows and there are TV shows. There are TV shows that make you cry, TV shows that make you laugh, TV shows that make you warm inside... hold on, have I just cut and pasted the into to my last blog?
Anyway, what I was gonna say is that occasionally, there is a TV show that comes out that is good – but I don’t think people appreciate HOW good it is. By the same token, it could be a show that is reviled by TV audiences and critics, but I actually consider it to be an underrated masterpiece. And then of course there are those shows that are good, but just overlooked due to any number of reasons.
So today, I’m looking the Top Five shows that in my opinion, usually get overlooked and not really appreciated for the gems that they are. These are the shows that I feel don’t get the credit they truly deserve, despite the fan following. So here are my Top Five TV Shows That Deserve More Credit. These shows aren't necessarily "underrated" as such, I just think that they deserve a little more praise than they actually get.
As always, this is in no particular order and just my opinion.
This encompasses the series from Blood and Sand, Vengeance, War of the Damned and the prequel series Gods of the Arena . This series is a stylised retelling of the Third Servile War, the famous slave revolt lead by a gladiator named Spartacus. Filmed in a similar way to 300, the show involves bright colours, tons and tons of blood and of course, boobs. And plenty of cocks as well.
So on the surface it seems like nothing but an excuse to have half naked (and sometimes completely naked) characters bathe in blood. And yeah that’s pretty much all this show is. And I love it!
Normally I tend to stay away from shows that tend to place violence over story, but for this show I’ll make an exception. Why? Because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. Here’s something else that I think people tend to overlook. Remember that the major theme of this show (at least in the first and prequel series) is the idea of the gladiatorial games. These games were created for the purpose of appeasing the crowds and appealing to their violent side, in the same way that Wrestling or Boxing is kind a way for people to vent their desire for violence, the same with action movies. Ergo, this show is basically “giving the audience what it wants”, and that in itself makes it a subtly clever show. Though I must admit even I get pissed off with the amount of Zach Snyder “Slow Down and Speed Up” it uses.
It also has a pretty cool cast as well, including guest stars Lucy Lawless of Xena fame (awesome) and Craig Parker who you may remember as Haldir from Lord of the Rings. And John Hannah as Batiatus is always a joy to watch. Just hearing his colour choice of words is chuckle worthy, especially when he says “Jupiter’s Cock”. Interestingly enough, a lot of these actors have since moved over to Arrow, Manu Bennett (Crixus) playing Slade Wilson and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) playing Amanda Waller as two examples.
It’s also worth mentioning the tragic passing of Andy Whitfield, who played Spartacus in the first series. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and sadly passed away, causing his role to be taken over by Liam Macintyre. Any death is tragic and this is no exception, especially for one so young. It was nice they did a tribute to him at the end of the last episode.
So all in all, this series is an entertaining one and something that you can just shut your brain off to enjoy. It doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. Whether you want to see sexy ladies or hunky guys, this show has you covered. What more can you possibly ask for?
2. The Musketeers
A retelling of the classic tale of The Three Muskerteers, I must admit I didn’t expect to enjoy this nearly as much as I did. And judging by the reviews this show has got over time, neither did the critics.
This BBC show follows the story of the adventures of Porthos, Athos, Aramis (played by Santiago Cabrera – whom you may remember as Isaac from Heroes) and D’Artagnan as they serve a pouty King Louis and fight many different enemies and face pretty tough situations. Throw in a subplot about Milady, a femme fatale that is seeking revenge against her former lover Athos and you got a recipe for a pretty decent show, right?
Actually, yes you have!
Like Spartacus this show doesn’t always take itself seriously and it isn’t afraid to have fun with the plot. But don’t be deceived – this show can get REALLY dark sometimes. I’ve actually been quite shocked at how adult the themes get at times. And because the show is usually light hearted, it makes the dark themes that much more prevalent and this is the reason why I feel it’s a better show than people give it credit to be. It has that perfect balance of humour and darkness – same as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The characters are also nicely put together and the Musketeers themselves are suave, honourable, funny and pretty badass (D’Artagnan obviously being the one that the fangirls cheer on). Some complain about the way the females seem to portrayed as secondary characters, but I think they have a lot of strength to them as well.
But here is somewhere that The Musketeers succeed where a lot of shows don’t. In one episode, it featured a subplot of a family looking for their missing husband. In the main plot, D’Artagnan and the King had been captured by a slave trader group, of which one of the slaves was the missing husband. He unfortunately gets killed (you DID read the spoiler warning at the beginning, right?) and at the end, D’Artagnan goes to tell the family about his fate, saying how brave he was. I actually felt really sorry for the family and, as did the rest of my family watching the episode, teared up. That is REALLY good writing if you can be made to care for characters that weren’t really important to the overall plot.
And for you Whovians out there, this was the last thing Peter Capaldi did before Doctor Who, playing the villainous Cardinal. Though, between you and me, I actually prefer him in this show. And that’s not to say I have anything against him in Doctor Who, there’s just something about him playing a villain that is more entertaining to watch. People thought the show would lose steam without him, but in actual fact it’s still going from strength to strength.
Oh and on a side note, Tom Burke who plays Athos is from Faversham, which is from my county of Kent. So it has a local boy in the cast. Big up the Kentish lads!
I highly recommend this show if you want something that’s entertaining, but also offering something a little darker than standard family shows.
3. Toast of London
Of all the shows that me and my brother have watched, this is the one show that we have quoted from the most. So much so that I’m considering legally changing my name to Clemfandango!
Toast of London stars the wonderful Matt Berry, who I think is just one of the coolest actors from the UK at the moment – and one with the deepest voice. In this he stars as Stephen Toast, a washed-up actor who, in the first series, starred in a critically panned play and was desperate to do more high calibre stuff. In that respect it’s kinda similar to the show Extras.
Unfortunately, Toast’s progress is hampered by his somewhat useless agent, his arch nemesis Ray Purchase (a much more respected actor) and his own ineptitude. It’s somewhat of a parody of the whole “out of work” actor idea. Having done some work in acting myself, I appreciate a lot of the humour in this show as I have met a few people like the characters in Toast of London.
I think what puts off a lot of people about this show is the rather obscure humour, which sometimes makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. One example of this was in the first episode where a plastic surgery is sabotaged for one character, making her look like Bruce Forstythe from Strictly Come Dancing fame (don’t ask). Occasionally it breaks into song for no reason other than the plot says so – and there is also a very strange episode where, in order for Toast to get a certain part in a film, he has to become a Freemason and enters into a “backdoor” way to get the role.
All of this adds up to create a very strange and off-the-wall kinda show. But you know what, I love it. It’s unique and, most importantly, very funny. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what a comedy has to be?
Oh and another treat for you Whovians, Peter Davidson guests stars on the show occassionally.
And in case some of you may think this comedy is a purely “British” affair, I have heard that it has a very strong cult following in the US. One of its biggest fans is John Hamm from Mad Men fame. Considering he’s in one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, that’s a pretty good compliment to the show if you ask me.
4. Full English
Chances are, many of you may not have even heard of this show, let alone seen it. With good reason, it was cancelled before it even finished the first series. This was due to overwhelmingly negative reviews and quite possibly because people weren’t happy with the subject matter.
Full English was UK’s answer to Family Guy (which many reviews considered Full English to be a shameless rip off) and featured a dysfunctional family (the father of which was voiced by Richard Ayoade, one of the funniest people in the UK in my opinion) going on all manner of “misadventures”. One such adventure of note was the son, Dusty, getting bitten by a squirrel and believing it gave him superpowers (like Spider-Man), when all it did was given him diseases! And then of course there was Squidge, the invisible friend of the Father-In-Law who was basically like a Teletubby mixed with a sociopathic killer.
Intercut with this was many storylines poking fun at various celebrities, everyone from Derren Brown to David Cameron. The only problem with this was that unlike The Simpsons or Family Guy there was no real subtly to it. In fact, some of the jokes aimed at the celebrities were really low-brow and, dare I say it, downright offensive. One such joke involved the teenage goth daughter using a séance to speak to famous females across time – two of which were Jade Goody and Princess Diana, something that you don’t really joke about given how they died. I’m not sure if this was a contributing factor to its cancellation, but it couldn’t have helped the show.
So as you can tell from my earlier comments, it wasn’t a popular show. And it was pretty crude compared to a lot of comedies out there. So why do I recommend this show?
Because I am probably one of the few who saw merit. Very few shows made me laugh my ass off more than Full English and I actually liked the characters. Also the jokes weren’t that offensive really, they were so over the top you couldn’t take it seriously. Personally, in this ultra PC world, I think we need more shows like this to push the boat out as it were.
I’m not sure if it was ever released on DVD and to my knowledge it has never been repeated. You can probably find some episodes online if you look carefully, but I haven’t really found any as of this message. Full English is one of those love it or hate series and most people seem to hate it. But if you want something that isn’t afraid to stir things up, this might be worth a watch.
Another show that was criminally cancelled before it’s time – but a show that was absolutely fantastic in every regards.
Utopia is a dark thriller based around a conspiracy to “save” the human race. It follows a group of people that read a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments, which apparently shows all the greatest disasters to happen in the world. When a missing manuscript turns up, the group are soon hunted by assassins working for a very powerful company called The Network, who are planning something big. And they are prepared to do anything to keep it from being leaked – even kill.
The show is stylised and has a range of brilliant colours that almost leap off the screen (making it almost like a comic book, ironically enough). The soundtrack is some of the best I’ve heard, ranging from electronic atmospheric sounds to intense dubstep music. The main protagonists aren’t your usually “Super Spies” or “Tough Cops” that you get in thrillers – they are real people that have real jobs and real life worries. It adds a layer of realism to the show and you genuinely fear for them as they are hunted by the company as they try to silence them.
I think my favourite character is RB (Raisin Boy) who is one of the assassins after the group. He is a specialist assassin that is totally ruthless and seemingly lacking in empathy – but he does have a certain childlike naivety to him in some way. Once you learn his backstory, he becomes as sympathetic as the other characters – and I even found myself rooting for him in the second series. There is so much complexity to the characters that even the protagonists end up doing hateful things for their own survival.
The violence in the show is pretty horrific and sometimes hard to watch. One such scene (that caused a huge amount of complaints at the time of airing) involved RB going to a school and murdering many of the children. Considering this was around the same time as the school shootings in America, a lot of people found this hard to take. In Utopia’s defence, I found the scene harrowing to watch, but it was done with the intention of furthering the plot.
But what I find really chilling about this the plan of The Network. I mentioned that they had a plan to “save” humanity from extinction (major spoilers ahead here so I’m gonna write the next bit in italics. Skip to the end if you don’t wanna know).
What they believe is that the world is in danger of overpopulation and, as a result, the world will not be able to sustain it and they will run out of resources – leading to people fighting amongst themselves to survive. So as such, they propose a solution – Janus. This is a hidden chemical that they will hide in a vaccine to a Russian Flu epidemic that they will orchestrate. Within this cure, Janus hides a virus that will secretly make the vast majority of the world’s population infertile, thus leading to a gradual “culling” of the human race.
Is this not one of the coldest plans that you have ever heard? Just the very idea of it makes me shiver. Not only that, the show also created a number of “fake” websites and blogs that further adding to the conspiracy outside the show. This added a certain sense of realising and played on one of humanities biggest conspiracies. What if the governments ARE planning something? What if a large number of things that have happened been the result of government intervention? No other show has made me think like this.
With its cancellation, a large number of fans have rallied to try and get the show back on the air. And I hope that it does as Utopia had so much going for it, and the way it did end left me wanting more.
But then... what if it’s cancellation was part of a BIGGER scheme? Makes you think...
So anyway, those are my choices. What shows do YOU think don’t get the credit they deserve? Leave a comment below to let me know.
Thanks for reading guys and gals!
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