Recent TV

December 19th, 2012

Well, not that recent.  Recently watched by me, but I’m usually at least a season behind on everything.  Such is life in this era of cable, streaming, and Sky Atlantic, but ample evidence recently that the revolution in televised drama continues to be fit and healthy, and that the exciting, surprising, progressive stuff is mostly happening on the small screen rather than the big, these days.

Mad Men Season 5 – I thought Mad Men might be losing it’s mojo last season, but it seems to have come back stronger than ever with this one.  Great characters, great offhand profundities, some brilliant stuff on the nature of capitalism and consumerism and the emptiness of modern life.  Harsh but beautiful.

In Treatment Season 2 – I found the first series interesting but patchy, this one a lot better.  Gabriel Byrne and cohorts put on an acting masterclass as therapist Paul and his patients face life, death, the hell that is other people, and the even worse hell that is no other people.  Bleak but riveting, and impressive how they can squeeze the same drama from an offhand comment that other shows can’t achieve with atomic explosions.

Homeland Season 2 – Like its predecessor 24, Homeland is really good as long as you can basically accept that, seen from a distance, none of it makes the slightest bit of sense.  Excellent pair of performances from Claire Daines and Mandy Patinkin (can it really be Inigo Montoya?).  Damien Lewis is a great actor, I think, but his character in Homeland is so riven by inconsistencies I just don’t believe in him as a human being at all, and the many asides with his family just aren’t that interesting.  Still, just when you’re getting bored they throw some crazy plot twist at you and suddenly you’re interested again despite yourself.

Dexter Season 5 – Michael C Hall remains eminently watchable, and there are still a few great characters on the periphery, but Dexter’s falling well short of the heights of its first couple of seasons for me.  A lot of forgettable sub-plots going on.  John Lithgow kept the last season watchable but there’s a lack of any really strong central villain this time around and nothing much new to say.  They need to up their game.

Breaking Bad Season 3 – Magnificently bleak, unpleasant, ambiguous, surprising and occasionally hilarious stuff from Bryan Cranston et al.  The lies pile up and so do the bodies, and things go from bad, to worse, to much worse, and you sense they’re going to get a whole lot worse than that…

If you plan to comment, don’t spoil me on anything, people!

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on December 19th, 2012.

37 comments so far

  • Chad says:

    My appreciation of your books is increased by your good taste in TV. It’s unforgivable that you’re just watching season 3 of Breaking Bad now though. IT. IS. AWESOME!

    As an aside, I just finished Red Country and I think it is terrific. Keep up the good work (i.e., get back to work, right now).

  • Alex says:

    Uhhh, Joe, i do think, that Mad Men is made by AMC not HBO.
    It’s still awesome, of course.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Well, I watched it a little while ago, but I don’t tend to watch things til they come out on DVD, and get them via love film. I’m so charmingly old school.

    Holy cripes you’re correct. D’oh.

  • Sidney Harbour-Bridge says:


    Have you tried Sons of Anarchy? Ron Perlman in charge of a gun-running SoCal motorcycle gang? What could possibly go wrong?

  • dan halen says:

    breaking bad goes from strength to strength its excellent. i used to love Dexter but its getting weaker and more implausable with each season. i just finished season 7 and was quite ambivalent about it. think season 8 is to be the last. if you havent seen it, check out american horror story. season 2 is almost finished, they use mostly the same actors but each season tells a separate story. the new season ‘american horror story-asylum’ is excellent and completely bonkers. jessica lange is easily the most watchable actor on screen right now.

  • dan halen says:

    sidney’s right. SoA is mental good. im a biker so im biased but yeah, daft as a brush sometimes but good telly.

  • Phil Norris says:

    No Game Of Thrones or Downton?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Haven’t seen second season of Game of Thrones yet and I swiftly tired of Downton’s endlessly circling storylines.

    I saw the first season of Sons of Anarchy. Think I commented on it somewhere. Found it OK, with many problems. I hear it improves but I didn’t really like it enough to put the effort in and my wife DEFINITELY didn’t.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    No spoilers, but I will say that if you keep watching Dexter hoping it will return to its previous quality then you will be disappointed. However, Breaking Bad just keeps knocking it out of the park with every season.

    Have you watched The Borgias Joe? I know you’re a bit of a history buff, so it might interest you. I thought the first season was decent, but the second season was excellent.

  • Luke Scull says:

    Boardwalk Empire is well worth watching. Seasons two and three have some brilliant moments.

    Small screen is definitely where it’s at. Modern day cinema is inferior in almost every way save visual spectacle.

  • Brett says:

    Mad Men Season 5 – I thought Mad Men might be losing it’s mojo last season, but it seems to have come back stronger than ever with this one. Great characters, great offhand profundities, some brilliant stuff on the nature of capitalism and consumerism and the emptiness of modern life. Harsh but beautiful.

    Agreed. “Signal 30” is my favorite episode of “Mad Men”, and #3 after “The Suitcase” and “The Gypsy and the Hobo” IMHO.

    Still, just when you’re getting bored they throw some crazy plot twist at you and suddenly you’re interested again despite yourself.

    It’s the disease that most open-ended political thrillers seem to succumb to over time. The tendency is always there to keep upping the ante on plot twists to maintain the sense of tension and “what will happen?” that got the show going in the first place.

    Probably a good reason not to make them open-ended, or to change up the cast.

  • James says:

    How about some British love? If you’ve not seen Misfits its definitely worth a watch – and not too lengthy to catch up on given the British tradition of 6-8 episodes per season rather than 20 odd. It faltered a bit for me in season 3, but the latest (season 4) is back on form, despite an almost totally new cast.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    I’ve been raping Television box sets over the last two years myself. I’m not a big fan of watching weekly and much prefer waiting for the DVD to come out.

    Just nearing the end of The West Wing’s final series. Good watch, with lovely writing, not so dissimilar to yours actually… (You’ve just been compared to the best writer in Hollywood by the way – Andy Sorkin).

    I’m getting Breaking Bad and Dexter for Christmas – along with a shit load of others – so I’m looking forward to seeing them.

    What’s your favourite TV series of past and present, Joe?

  • John says:

    I think Aaron Sorkin used to be the best writer in Hollywood, but he’s just become too self-indulgent for my liking. I hate The Newsroom.

    And Joe, you following anything on BBC’s lineup. We get BBC America here in the States, of course, and I’ve thought about trying a few of theirs – Copper, for instance. Any thoughts?

  • Gary says:

    No Peep show? First couple of episodes of season 1 are mildly amusing but then it just goes from strength to strength with later episodes being much better and very funny. A good one to watch for light hearted relief, told and seen from the point of view of the main characters.

    Think all seasons are currently on 4oD still…

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Saw the first Boardwalk Empire, and I’ll watch more, but I felt it tottered a bit under the weight of its own period-i-ness at times. Plus deeply unlikeable characters. The FBI guy has to be one of the creepiest characters ever on TV, a superb performance, but hard to watch.

    I think I’d have to go with The Wire as my all time-favourite series. But HBO have done some amazing stuff in the last few years. Sopranos and Deadwood are also right up there. Got to give an honourable mention to The Shield as well. Had some patchy seasons but the last few episodes have to be some of the hardest-hitting TV ever.

    Oh, and, without wanting to be too much of a dick, your use of ‘raping’ in that context makes me a bit uncomfortable.

    Haven’t even heard of Copper. I do like Strictly Come Dancing a lot, though.

    Yeah, I’ve got so used to looking to US shows that I’ve missed out on recent British stuff. I do hear good things about Misfits.

    Peep Show can be fantastic but I just find it so cringe-inducing it’s actually uncomfortable to watch. You’ve got to admire the bollocks of the writing and acting, but I’m not sure I actually enjoy it, per se.

  • Marc says:

    Great Books Joe,

    Just throw the American version of the office into the mix. I was dead against it at first but have to admit I find it very funny. There are over a hundred episodes to go at. The wife also enjoys them so that’s our ‘quality’ time together sorted.

  • Dav says:

    Stick to the first couple of seasons of Misfits, it goes downhill rapidly after that. Boardwalk Empire really doesn’t get much better, so if you disliked the first season, mayhap try a few better episodes of the second seasob(‘Gimcrack and Bunkun’ especially).

    And I ardently maintain you should atleast try ‘Suits’, on the USA network. Interesting deconstruction of the lawyer-courtroom drama, amusing writing, if very…’USAesque’, if you catch my meaning.

  • Giasone says:

    There’s a strongly American focus in your posts on TV, so I’m wondering what you think of Being Human, Spooks and Silent Witness – just to choose 3 that seem more likely to be of interest than, say, period dramas and literary adaptations.

  • Michael says:

    In our house, the only tv show on ‘record’ is The Big Bang Theory, and that is because my 4 year old daughter finds Sheldon amusing (I do too). The only show I am looking forward to is the next Sherlock outing, otherwise I think we are currently very poorly served at the moment.

  • Iangr says:

    Give “Elementary” a shot.
    When I first heard that the S.Holmes mythos would be transferred to modern day N.York and Watson being an Asian female,I must admit I was sceptical to say the least.
    But it works!There’s chemistry between the protagonists,good ideas (albeit a bit far-fetched at times) and an excellent John Lee Miller.

    Interestingly his physique does match yours.Or I’m just see Ambercrombies everywhere!

  • SwindonNick says:

    Game of Thrones is pretty special as is The Walking Dead.
    You caught up with The Hobbit yet?

  • Doug says:

    Just pop in one of the episodes of Fawlty Towers an you can’t go wrong. HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Joe!

  • Sidney Harbour-Bridge says:

    Every two years or so I re-watch ‘Band of Brothers’ being a WW2 freak an’ all. Just saw it on Blue-Ray, looks incredible.

  • Count Spatula says:

    Iangr, it’s not just you – they do look somewhat alike! 🙂

    Also J

  • Count Spatula says:

    Iangr, it’s not just you – they do look somewhat alike! 🙂 I always thought that hehe.

    Also Joe, I’d have to agree with everyone else about Dexter – the first four seasons were great. Now… Very disappointing to say the least 🙁 even MCH can’t work with the stuff he’s given. It breaks my heart.

  • Patrick Lundgreen says:

    I found Entourage, surprisingly entertaining. I lost touch with Dexter after season 4 just don’t see the point anymore.

    I just got hardcover Red Country, the flipping postman had, by mistake delivered it to a neighbor who shared my name. I had prepared myself for a fight to get my book back, but apparently my neighbor don’t know good penmanship when it’s handed to him at the door.

    let the world end, At least i got the latest Abercrombie book.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Good choices, The Wire and Band of Brothers are my own personal favourites and I completely agree about The Shield.

    I apologies for any offense given too, sometimes I forget that I am conversing with civilized people. 😛

  • Michael says:

    If you want to stick with Dexter, for the love of all that is watchable, skip season 6. Abysmal. Season 7 miraculously gets back on track (not as good as seasons 1 or 4, but worth watching), and conveniently renders all of the previous year’s plot points more or less irrelevant within its first couple episodes.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Not much of a telly watcher, but I do like Homeland. Saul’s a top chap.

  • Chris Upton says:


    The FBI Agent is played by Michael Shannon, soon to be General
    Zod in the upcoming Man Of Steel. Apparently he scares even the unflappable Bavarian director Werner Herzog. Make of that what you will.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    New “Joe Abercrombie book discussion” Thread. (the previous one got closed).

  • Harry says:

    Are you a music fan by any chance, Joe? If so you should do album reviews. No pressure though (I do realise this qualification puts more pressure on you). More pressure!

  • Bow says:

    The romance piece is what really nauseates me about Homeland. The storyline felt sadly more contrived in season two.

  • Mike G. says:


    Yes Dexter faulters more in Season 6, but comes back roaring in Season 7. It actually manages to address every plot point from season’s before that might have made you scratch your head, and make them better.

    The biggest problem that series has, is EVERY character shy of Dexter/Debra/gueststar/villian of the season gets increasingly more irrelavent the further the show goes.

    What is even the point of the Quinn character anymore?

  • enjai says:

    Interesting how the shows you are starting to dislike are those that meander along with pointless side-stories. I guess this is reflected in your writing. Something that would inevitably happen if your books were adapted into TV shows. Ardee would have to have something to do every episode from season 2 onwards and Bayaz would have to have some kind of affair to indulge in. I guess you don’t have you characters demanding more screentime unless they walk – although I guess your editors could insist. Doesn’t seem to be as obvious in fiction as it is in TV though. There’s only really “the wire” springs to mind where they don’t fall into that trap of “pointless storylines so we keep on seeing all the main cast”.

  • Marcus says:

    I Agree with the Dexter Situation. Far too many seasons. Breaking Bad is Epic, My house mates and I shout the occasional “Yeah Bitch!”….But more importantly, When will we find a director brave enough to display one of your awesome tales on screen? ;^)

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