Top Ten TV Mega Post Part 9/10 Premium Dramas (First and Last)

Top Ten TV Mega Post Part Nine: Premium Cable Dramas (The first and the last)

Mozart

“Finally, Mel. We’ve been waiting forever.”

For this, the penultimate installment of my Top Ten TV Mega Post in Ten Parts, I am finally covering the Premium Dramas (because I finally watched them all). The shows that you have to pay a monthly service charge to have access to (Or wait for the DVD).

Werewolf

“Wait for the DVD? What is this the 90’s?”

But this is a subject I’ve covered a lot on this blog. If you didn’t know already I love Homeland, House of Cards, Masters of Sex, Ray Donovan, and I have no interest in running over the same old ground.

Crossdressers

“Oh that’s wonderful. He doesn’t want to repeat himself. IT’S A LITTLE LATE DEARY.”

So instead, I will talk about the shows in 2014 that were in their first season or in their last season. New comers and departing faves from some of the American premium services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax…

Charle Vane, Anne Bonny and Jack Rackam

“…and Starz.”

And Starz.

Here are ten shows; Three of my favorites that said goodbye last year and seven that will replace them… if not succeed them.

To the list…

First up…

THE NEWCOMERS:

The Affair (Showtime)

The Affair

Created by Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi

Starring Dominic WestRuth WilsonMaura Tierney & Joshua Jackson

The Affair frightens me. It made me very anxious. It is the story of an extramarital affair (obviously). But the hook is that you see their story from both sides. Both genders. Complete with gender biases, blind spots and egos. They don’t know each other. So, their image of the other is completely skewed by their own preconceptions.

The Affair

“Are you banging the waitress?” “We just walked in here.”

The first episode is incredible. Once I realized they were showing the same story from two different vantage points I was in. But I kept getting anxious about the differences in the two characters’ views of the same events. And yes there were drastic differences but it’s the subtle differences that make this show so good and also makes me cringe so much.

Ruth Wilson

The way he sees her. (That far away from the fire she probably was wearing her sweater)

It is a very good show with an amazing cast. (I have loved Ruth Wilson since Luther on the BBC). But I was trying to binge watch the whole thing and had to stop. I only watched three episodes and had to stop. This show just made me so uncomfortable. That’s a good thing in my book but I didn’t expect to not be able to take it. The difference in the way he sees her and the way she sees herself, and the way she sees him and the way he sees himself, tied my stomach into knots. Aaaargh.

Ruth Wilson and Dominic West

“Whatcha thinkin’ bout?” “How men and women have very little in common.”

I feel like such a pussy. It could have been a horror film the way it made me so tense. So, I still don’t know who gets it more right or if they are both completely freaking delusional. I still have seven episodes to watch and I’ll probably get to it this weekend but at this point, the point when I bailed on it, the point when I chickened-out and turned it off, it is one of the best and most stressful things I’ve seen in a long while.

Transparent (Amazon Prime)

Transparent

Created by Jill Soloway

Starring Jeffrey TamborGaby HoffmannJay DuplassAmy Landecker & Judith Light

Transparent was the best show of 2014 with the best performance from this year by Jeffrey Tambor. The trans story is just the hook. A very well-played hook but just a hook. This is actually a dysfunctional family drama that is superb in every way.

Transparent Family

“Pass the peas to Elijah.”

Transparent is billed as a trans positive story. And it is… somewhat. But it doesn’t preach or propagandize. Because it is so much more than that. It is the story of a family; a collection of characters that are dynamic and creative and sexy and funny and so messed up. At one point I realized that the father, who is coming out as trans, late in life, is perhaps the only even slightly self-aware character on the show. It’s amazing.

Jeffrey Tambor and Amy Landecker

“Grandma what a big Adam’s apple you have.” “The better to creep you with my dear.”

This is quality TV of the highest order. Great writing. Great performances. Great directing. Phenomenal in every way. And while at the core there is the transition, the transformation… the trans-parent. It is so much more than that. It is a beautifully well-made family drama that I hope doesn’t scare anyone away with its trans hook.

Judith Light, Jeffrey Tambor, Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker

Family redefined… again.

So to recap… The cast is phenomenal and sexy. The writing and directing are top-notch. This is a huge win for Amazon. And I hope they can keep up this level for a few more seasons. Best TV show I saw all of last year. I kid you not.

Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Prime)

Mozart in the Jungle

Developed by Roman CoppolaJason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers

Starring Gael García BernalLola KirkeSaffron Burrows. Hannah Dunne. Malcolm McDowell & Bernadette Peters

This Amazon series about a new conductor at the New York Philharmonic is delightful. With funny situations and a sexy cast, this show is refreshingly original. I loved the music themes and the inside look at the labor, financing and management problems of running the orchestra. Mozart in the Jungle is extremely enjoyable.

Gael Garcia Bernal

“I’m not Mozart. Not really, anyway.”

However, there are times in the series where the quality drops substantially. Where it seems stiff, where it seems the acting and writing are not quite right, but if you hold on, wait a couple of minutes it returns to being brilliant. It is hard to explain these lapses.

Mozart in the Jungle Amazon

“You know what they say about violinists?” “Their fingering’s excellent?” “You do know.”

I think the best way I can describe them is to compare the show to its executive producer; Jason Schwartzman. Jason is brilliant for small stretches, just like Mozart in the Jungle. But as the audience, we have to muddle past the parts, where he’s just a little off and not at all funny, to get to another incredibly brilliant thing he says or does.

Mozart in the Jungle 2

“Mel likes us everyone. We get a second season.”

Mozart in the Jungle is not Wes Anderson good but it is TV good. It is at times zany. Always funny. Very sexy and creative. I really enjoyed the first season of Mozart in the Jungle and hope to see more. Bernadette Peters, Malcolm McDowell, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jason Schwartzman himself and John Hodgman all give great performances. By the end of the first season I did not want it to end. I want more of this.

Black Sails (Starz)

Black Sails

Created by Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine

Starring Toby StephensHannah NewLuke ArnoldJessica Parker KennedyTom HopperZach McGowanToby SchmitzClara PagetMark RyanHakeem Kae-KazimSean Michael & Louise Barnes

Black Sails, described as a prequel to Treasure Island, was a slow burn in its first season but it was well worth the ride. It has the proper mix of violence, political intrigue, romance, piracy and sex. I also think the costumes are cool.

Black Sails Hannah New

“You feel that?” “Your Heart?” “No that’s my nipple. My hearts inside my chest.”

This show makes a fine replacement for the amazing Spartacus. With that combination of graphic violence and graphic sex and a good-looking cast but it doesn’t get mired in that. Its stories and characters and politics and situations are deeper and more complicated than just sexy eye candy and well-dressed violence.

Black Sails

“Do you think the pirate theme is our hook?” Get it? Hook?”

But don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of cool characters. A lot of cool costumes. Sword fighting. Gun play. Cannons to the left of me. Real life pirates from history. Cannons to the right of me. And bad-ass, kick-ass, fine ass ladies.

Anne Bonny

“You call me a lady again and I’ll gut ya.”

Black Sails takes a while to set up all the characters. All of the rogues and rapscallions living together in this pirates cove on New Providence Island. But I eventually fell in love with this show. And I can’t wait for it to come back and hope it comes back strong.

The Knick (Cinemax)

The Knick

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Written by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler and Steven Katz

Starring Clive OwenAndre HollandJeremy BobbJuliet RylanceEve HewsonMichael AngaranoChris SullivanCara SeymourEric Johnson, David Fierro, Maya Kazan, Leon Addison Brown, Grainger Hines & Matt Frewer

Steven Soderbergh directs ten mini-movies about a failing New York hospital at the turn of the 20th century. The Knick shows the inner workings of the healthcare system, the underground abortion providers, the segregationist hospital system, the experimentation with drugs and surgery and, way too often, the inner workings of the human body.

The Knickerbocker Hospital Surgery Room

“Okay we’ve opened up his chest. How are you doing Mr. Johnson? Want more cocaine?”

Clive Owen is good, if not great. The writing is good but not great. The themes and subject are uneven. Sometimes interesting and sometimes boring and/or cringe inducing. But the directing on this show is sensational. Each episode is like a mini-movie. A mini-well-made movie. Steven Soderbergh is what makes this show great.

Clive Owen

“It’s common knowledge that the human nose is useless. So I removed yours.”

My favorite parts of the series are the glimpses of New York during that time period. And the barbarism of what they were calling modern medicine at the time. I had to laugh every time these butchers cut someone open or prescribe dangerous drugs to their patients and themselves. There is so much to cringe at in The Knick. Almost too much.

Doctors

“What do you call a black surgeon?” “I’ve heard this one.” “Ni-” “I’VE HEARD IT.”

Then the show sort of gets bogged down in the racism of the time. On how even a black person in dire need of medical attention would be turned away at so-called white hospitals. Or how they thought blood was different between the races and how some white patients would rather die than have a black doctor save their life. More cringing.

The Doctor Will See You Now

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. The medicine go down. The…”

The show is very good because Soderbergh takes all of this. All of the cringe worthy things. All of the well-trodden territory. All of the madness and completely unlikable characters. And he makes it real. It feels so real. Soderbergh is a freaking genius.

Outlander (Starz)

Outlander

Developed by Ronald D. Moore

Based on  Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Starring Caitriona BalfeSam HeughanTobias MenziesGary LewisGraham McTavishLotte VerbeekBill Paterson, Duncan Lacroix, Grant O’Rourke & Stephen Walters

I have to admit to being confused at first when I started watching the show Outlander. For some reason, I thought it was going to be more like the movie Highlander. I heard Scotland and Time-Travel and I expected ritual beheading and shouts of “There can be only one.” Anyway, it is not… that.

“Take off my clothes.” “But I’ve only got three hours.”

But I stayed anyway and I liked this show about a married woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to the 1700’s. I liked it a lot. Outlander has just the right amount of suspense, romance, politics, drama, and the supernatural.

Outlander 2

“Oh you ARE ticklish. Aren’t you?”

I don’t know the books but I liked the story. A clever mix of history and romance and magic. I appreciated that it wasn’t someone from the present day going back to Scotland in the 1700’s (because frankly she would have been burned as a witch immediately). And because of this we notice our difference to her society and can more understand her differences to their society. It’s good writing. (better than the previous sentence)

Claire and Jamie

“I can’t. I’m married to a man whose great great grand father has not been born yet.”

Outlander is a really good story. Not a lot of action. It’s mostly drama and romance and political intrigue but the situation is an interesting one and by the time we meet the major baddie (no spoilers), it gets really really good.

Penny Dreadful (Showtime)

Penny Dreadful

Created & Written by John Logan

Starring Reeve CarneyTimothy DaltonEva GreenRory KinnearBillie PiperDanny SapaniHarry TreadawayJosh HartnettSimon Russell Beale & Helen McCrory

Penny Dreadful is a fascinating and fantastically well-produced monster mash series with an incredible cast of famous characters and monsters from literature and fabulous character actors lead by the amazing Eva Green and Timothy Dalton.

Timothy Dalton

“I can pretend to read with the best of them.”

Like the underrated Netflix show Hemlock Grove, (I just started watching that but they’re on their second season, so it didn’t make this list) it throws together classic monsters and pits them one against the other. But this one takes itself a lot more seriously than the younger and hipper Hemlock Grove and Penny Dreadful’s 19th century time period paves the way for gorgeous sets and even more gorgeous costumes.

Eva Green

“What did you call this again? A spliff? I like it.”

However it’s the great performances and the great stories that make this one of my favorite new shows from last year. Eva Green. Eva Green. Eva Green is amazing and scary and gorgeous. Also the Frankenstein story line is heartbreaking and painful. There is action and horror and the supernatural. Penny Dreadful is a good show.

“Oh my god. I’m Stan from Southpark. And you killed Kenny. You bastard.”

There are vampires and werewolves and animated corpses and all manner of spirits. And usually when you throw so many cool things into one show, it gets muddy and unfocused. But each classic character has its own agenda and its own story. And they overlap in the prettiest ways. So that it doesn’t feel like a stew but like a ten course meal.

Penny Dreadful 2

“That’s amazing!” “What is it?” “You look amazing in that overcoat.” “Oh. That.”

If you take away one thing from reading this list, take away the fact that Penny Dreadful is a great show that you should really be watching. I kid you not.

And lastly…

DEPARTING FAVES

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Boardwalk Empire

Created by Terence Winter

Based on Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City
by Nelson Johnson

Starring Steve BuscemiMichael PittKelly MacdonaldMichael ShannonShea WhighamAleksa PalladinoMichael StuhlbargStephen GrahamVincent PiazzaPaz de la HuertaMichael Kenneth WilliamsAnthony LaciuraPaul SparksDabney ColemanJack HustonGretchen MolCharlie CoxBobby CannavaleRon LivingstonJeffrey Wright & Ben Rosenfield

5 Seasons

Nucky Thompson

“Now hold on a minute everybody. Five great seasons is more than enough for this to be one of the best shows of all-time. More than enough.”

Boardwalk Empire was one of my favorite shows for its five season run. Another Premium Drama that felt like a mini movie every episode. With famous and not-so famous gangsters fighting it out for control of the illegal alcohol trade during the 1920’s and 30’s from New York to Cuba to Chicago to the Boardwalk of Atlantic City New Jersey.

Al Capone

“Did you say Chicago? Did he say Chicago? Don’t let me find out you didn’t say Chicago.”

I even loved the ending. And because it surprised me and because it was perfect, I’m not going to talk about it. And accidentally spoil it. It was cool though and wrapped up the show nicely. Everybody got what they deserved.

Michael Shannon

“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

I especially loved the episode that wrapped up the stories of two of my favorite characters on the show; Chalky White, played by the amazing Michael Kenneth Williams, and Van Alden, played by Michael Shannon, it is one of the best episodes of the series.

Gillian... so tragic

Gretchen Mol’s pained smile is now my favorite part of the series.

But what I loved most about this season was finally finding out why Nucky and Gillian had such a screwed up relationship. I always wondered why she was there. For five seasons it was like Nucky couldn’t look her in the eyes. And when we finally find out why, it made me want to watch the whole series again from episode one.

Richard Harrow

“I thought I was your favorite character.”

Boardwalk Empire is most definitely on my top 100 television shows of all time.

The Newsroom (HBO)

The Newsroom

Created by Aaron Sorkin

Starring Jeff DanielsEmily MortimerJohn Gallagher, Jr.Alison PillThomas SadoskiDev PatelOlivia Munn & Sam Waterston

3 Seasons

The Newsroom Cast

“He’s not really playing that keyboard. It’s fake.” “Nuh uh.”

I wanted a lot more from the last season of this great Aaron Sorkin show about the inner workings of a prime-time cable news program. During its first two seasons, I sometimes felt The Newsroom was trying too hard to impart lessons in responsible journalism but that was never to the detriment of its impossibly witty characters and their insanely fun and fast dialogue. But in this last season, I felt like the show was talking down to me.

Allison Pill

“He’s a virtuoso keyboardist. Years before his time.”

I didn’t like the ending. Well, I didn’t like that the show was ending first of all. But I also felt like it was rushed. Love this cast. Love this writer. Love the theme and the premise. I just felt the show never found a way to truly hook (there’s that word again) a large premium cable audience… I’m talking about sex, alright. There was not enough sex.

Olivia Munn and Dev Patel

“Where do you stand on the keyboard controversy?” “Well I’ve alwa-” “I really don’t care.”

Sorry Mr. Sorkin. We just weren’t ready for a cerebral, political dramedy without at least one gratuitous sex scene per episode (a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down). But for the first two seasons and on occasion in this last season, the show made me happy. It was smart and it was funny. It was timely but not preachy. It was pretty but it was never sexy and because of that last fact, it was never popular.

Will McAvoy

“Amazing cat plays keyboard. Film at eleven.”

Goodbye Newsroom (News Night). You go on to join Sports Night in the pantheon of short-lived, extremely well-written shows about the media. I will miss you.

But speaking of at least one gratuitous sex scene per episode…

True Blood (HBO)

True Blood

Created by Alan Ball

Starring Anna PaquinStephen MoyerSam TrammellRyan KwantenRutina WesleyAlexander SkarsgårdNelsan EllisCarrie PrestonChris BauerKristin Bauer van StratenJoe Manganiello & Deborah Ann Woll

7 Seasons

I’ve made no secret of my love (lust) for True Blood. So sexy and scary and gory and just all sorts of awesome. But the show did not end well. One or two seasons too many I think. But for a while there it was one of my favorite shows. The perfect combination of scary and very very sexy.

Eric, Bill and Sookie on the Table

“I get the feeling this post is about to get NSFW in a big way.”

In honor of the end of True Blood, I present my Top Ten Hottest True Blood hook-ups (fantasy or dream) sex scenes of the series. Because True Blood was very sexy.

To the list… (in no particular order)

Sookie and Eric

Sookie and Eric in the woods

Jessica and Jason in the Truck

Jessica and Jason in the back of the pick-up truck

Eric and Ginger

Ginger and Eric on the Throne

Alcide

Alcide and the wolf girl three-way

Eric, Sookie and Bill

Sookie and Eric and Bill

Jason and Eric

Jason and Eric

Witches Orgy

Tara and Eggs at the witches orgy

Jason and Sarah Newlin

Jason and Sarah Newlin

Jessica and Jason

Jessica and Jason on the bed

Arlene on the pool table

Arlene and Keith (the vampire) on the pool table

Goodbye HBO’s True Blood. You hung around two seasons too long but when you were good, you were really really really good. And now… cold shower.

 

So to recap… we said goodbye to Boardwalk Empire, The Newsroom and True Blood in 2014 but said hello to many great shows (Penny Dreadful) to take their place.

And thus concludes My Top Ten TV Mega Post in Ten Parts.

 

“But wait, Mel… there were only NINE parts. What gives?”

That’s correct, Dear Reader. I still owe you my updated top ten TV shows of all-time list. But I’ve decided, since I enjoyed doing this series so much, to split the tenth installment into ten installments of its own. Thus I am announcing my new series:

My Top Ten Television Shows of All-Time (in ten parts)

This way I can break each show down into seasons and talk about what I thought worked well and what I thought worked REALLY well on each show.

So I haven’t discarded the “Mega Post” format all together. I just think that each of the ten shows on my list deserves its very own, personal, in-depth mega post.

First up… Number Ten (hint… it’s The IT Crowd)

But until then

I’ll see you on the couch,

– Mel

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2 thoughts on “Top Ten TV Mega Post Part 9/10 Premium Dramas (First and Last)

  1. I still have to catch up on quite a few of these. The Knick is pretty high up on my queue. Black Sails and Penny Dreadful were both great. Really looking forward to Black Sails return this month. Only other one I’m caught up on is The Affair and while I was initially into the dual-perspective, I think it ended up being too problematic in the end. And I really hate the two lead characters. It’s a good show, but I’ve soured on it over time. I’m curious how you’ll feel when you finish it.

    An all-time top ten? That sounds awesome. Looking forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. It makes you hate both of them because by showing the story from both sides you get a glimpse into each one’s personality and into the way their brains work that made my stomach do flips. I’m gonna man-up and finish it tomorrow.

      Like

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