♥ “Big Giant Swords“ – Kris and I are loving the new Discovery show “Big Giant Swords”. Irish Mike was a construction welder who made giant weapons as a hobby in his spare time. His friend AmeriMike would record the weapon tests and post them on YouTube, and he became an internet sensation. Now, he’s making weapons on commission full time with a small team.
I am not a reality show fan at all, but the structure of this show trims the fat so it’s 90% about the weapons and 10% about the people involved. This makes the contrived drama, which has always discouraged me from watching reality shows, almost negligible. Irish Mike is hilarious and obviously genuinely loves what he does, which makes the show infinitely more watchable and entertaining than other shows of this type. (I’m looking at you, every car restoration show.) Definitely check it out if you are a fantasy fan and/or consider yourself a “maker”!
♥ “The Man in the High Castle” – If you’ve never taken part in Amazon’s pilot project, now is the time, if only to watch and vote for “The Man in the High Castle”. It’s already received very favorable buzz and critics are predicting that it will be picked up for a full season, but every vote counts and this series deserves to be seen. Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the original novella from which Blade Runner was adapted), “The Man in the High Castle” takes place in an alternate reality where Germany and Japan won WWII. The countries have split the US, with Germany taking the eastern states and headquartered in New York and Japan taking the western states, headquartered in San Fransisco. There is also a gash cut through the center of the country known as the “Neutral Zone”, which has a headquarters in Canon City, Colorado.
The pilot episode centers on two people, one on each coast, as they get involved in the resistance and learn that there is more to the outcome of the war than they originally believed as they journey towards Canon City. The production design is beautiful and the message of the show isn’t overwrought. It would be very easy to use the premise to depict a horrifying dystopia, but the world of “The Man in the High Castle” feels much more realistic. We see that life has continued as usual on the surface, but there are dark consequences of the Germanic-Japanese rule lurking in the shadows. This is a show that has the potential to reach a wide audience – perfect for history buffs while also including some subtle sci-fi elements. (Bonus: The gorgeous opening credits which feature a haunting rendition of “Edelweiss”.)
♥ “Twin Peaks” Revival – If you’re a David Lynch fan, you already know that Showtime is planning on bringing back a 9 episode run of “Twin Peaks” to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the show’s original conclusion. During its original two season arc, “Twin Peaks” was a quirky show with a devoted fan base that became a cultural phenomenon and made David Lynch a household name. The show ended prematurely after low ratings in the second season and was considered to be too weird for network TV. Lynch released a feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, that was intended to resolve some of the dangling storylines, but it received mixed reviews from both critics and fans.
Showtime’s revival will pick up where the story left off and it has been announced that a number of former cast members will return, including Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Dale Cooper). The entire run is being written and produced by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and all nine episodes will be directed by Lynch. This is exciting news for diehard fans, as it means all of the show’s inherent weirdness will be preserved. The new episodes will air in 2016 and Showtime will rebroadcast the first two seasons in their entirety prior to the new premiere.
♥ “The Fall” – You might have already heard some buzz about the British crime drama, “The Fall”. It stars Gillian Anderson as Superintendent Stella Gibson, a senior police officer brought into Belfast to investigate a high profile murder of the daughter-in-law of a prominent local businessman and discovers a string of similar murders.
The show is moody and gripping as the story slowly unwinds. We know the killer’s identity almost from the very beginning, so the tension is built not on who committed the crime, but if and/or when he will be caught. Jamie Dornan plays Paul Spector, a seemingly loving family man and dedicated grief counselor who spends his nights stalking successful, affluent women and killing them. Dornan is amazing as Spector; he starts out quiet and very controlled, but as the police get closer to discovering the truth, his carefully crafted facade begins to crack. American viewers can watch both seasons on Netflix.
♥ “Black Mirror“ – Similarly, Netflix is streaming the Channel 4 sci-fi anthology “Black Mirror”. Each episode tells its own story, set in a near future and relating to how human interaction is changed by technology. The title refers to the reflective quality of an empty screen.
The first epsiode, “The National Anthem”, may scare off some viewers, but it is the show at its most extreme. (If you find yourself unable to watch “The National Anthem”, don’t give up on the series!) “Black Mirror” is a return to the great anthology series of the past – think “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits”, and “Tales from the Dark Side”.