There are two types of people in the world: people who say they like Karl Pilkington, and liars. Everyone loves Karl, and everyone enjoys his shows and books.
The good folks over at Canongate Books are running what can only fairly be described as a public service by giving away books and DVDs of “The Moaning of Life”, and entry to the competition couldn’t be easier:
If the approaching end of Karl Pilkington’s TV series Moaning of Life is set to send you into a spiral of withdrawal, worry not as the book to accompany the show is out now http://ow.ly/qmGuB. To coincide with the launch of the DVD of the complete series of Moaning of Life a new competition has launched where three lucky winners will each receive a SIGNED copy of the book, a SIGNED illustration from the book (Happiness image attached) and a copy of the DVD. Five runner-ups will each receive a copy of the book. Does life get any better, Karl Pilkington fans?!
To enter, fans should simply look at this photo [below] and then e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with Karl Pilkington in the subject line, telling us what you think Karl Pilkington is saying in the picture.
The funniest entries win. The competition closes on Monday 2 December and the lucky winners will be chosen at random by Canongate. Don’t forget to follow @welovemoaning for all the latest updates on Karl Pilkington’s Moaning of Life book.
The ways in which people watch television shows and films have changed in recent years, with increasing focus on “binge” consumption of content on Internet streaming services. Really, it makes a great deal of sense, given the quality of home entertainment systems these days. Take a look at bestbuy.com and you’ll find a range of television and audio options that will take your breath away. This, coupled with the fact that you can find nearly limitless film and TV content at pictureboxfilms.com and similar streaming sites, and the appeal is obvious: why watch live television or go to the cinema when you can watch as many episodes or films as you want, in HD quality, at home?
For the most part, it seems as if there’s no going back from this shift in how we consume entertainment. However, every now and then a special film or TV series will still come along that simply demands to be watched in the “old school” way. Along those lines, AMC’s Breaking Bad has become the ultimate example of a modern show that people simply can’t wait for. Referred to by an increasing number of fans and critics as arguably the greatest show of all time, Breaking Bad is now in the midst of its final eight-episode run, and the drama is so high that you simply have to tune in week after week, rather than wait to binge watch online at a later date. But, if the suspense is killing you, here are some theories as to what we might see in the final episodes.
It’s important that this theory states that Heisenberg wins rather than Walt. It’s certainly possible that the indomitable Heisenberg takes over completely, killing everyone in his way, forsaking his family, taking his considerable cash, and setting out alone. He would, in a sense, have destroyed Walt in a classic “dark side” win.
Jesse Rights Wrongs
Jesse’s guilt is bubbling over this season, and one popular theory is that he rights wrongs to the extent that he can. This would involve killing or turning in Walt, abandoning Saul, and likely finding some noble purpose for the millions of dollars the meth empire has earned.
In this scenario, Walt and Jesse don’t have choices – Hank and the law would win out, and the bad guys end up in jail.
This is looking increasingly possible. Tensions are just too high for many of our main characters to remain alive – a final episode or two showdown could see just about everyone we care about end up in body bags.
The flipside of the first theory, Walt could still overcome his dark side. He could turn himself in (likely, if this happens, out of a desire to help Jesse or save his soul), give up his money, and either die from his cancer as a better man, or serve out his days in prison, preventing more bloodshed.
Considering those options, it seems like one of them will have to be at least partially what happens. But if you’ve been watching the final half season so far, you know that the folks behind Breaking Bad are still fully capable of surprising us, and the truth is the final season so far has spent more time building suspense than resolving plot lines. Ultimately, all we know is this: we’re in for one hell of a finale.
So are serial killers the new vampires? Now that our favourite serial killer Dexter Morgan is going to be hanging up his plastic sheeting after one final, bloody outing in July, it looks like American network NBC is keen to fill the void with a reworking of the classic serial killer story, Hannibal.
In recent years viewers seem to have taken a bit of a shine to deadly creatures, first vampires, then zombies and now serial killers? We’ve come a long way from the days of the original Teen Wolf. The real difference with these new deadly creatures is that, of course, serial killers actually exist. Maybe not in the same form as Dexter or Hannibal but they are real enough to give a truly sinister edge to the programme.
It is particularly strange how a character that in real life would be jailed and vilified can become much more accepted and understood when fictionalised. We may only be a few episodes in to the gripping new Hannibal, played expertly by Mads Mikkelsen, but it is easy to see how by immersing himself into everyday life, even working closely with the FBI, he can remain hidden in plain sight. He comes across as educated, well spoken, normal even. Will Graham on the other hand, played by Hugh Dancy, is erratic, complicated and misunderstood.
It is a brave move by Mikkelsen to take on such an iconic role; hardcore Silence of the Lambs fans may find it hard to see anyone other than Anthony Hopkins playing the world’s most famous cannibal. Having only watched the Hannibal films a couple of times I may be easily swayed, in fact only a few episodes in and I am already hooked by the psychiatrist’s calm, reserved and haunting manner.
I should also probably admit that I have never read the books, but after discussing the show with people who have, I learned that the TV show stays much closer to the story of the books than the films. This might make a hard transition for the film lovers but I hope they stick with this new take. Exploring human relationships, mental illness and murder might not make for comfortable viewing but it does make damn good TV.
We are coming to the end of the penultimate series of Dexter and it’s dangerously close to unravelling for our favourite serial killer. If you are not familiar with Dexter then where the hell have you been?
Arguably one of the best shows on TV it has a surprisingly small audience in the UK. As all the best things do, it has a cult following that seems appropriate for the dark nature of the show. I’m always surprised that the American show has lasted as long as it has without being watered down or ruined by studios. Dexter Morgan is not your run-of-the-mill American hero and this often does not go down well with American audiences. We Brits however love an anti-hero and that is why I am surprised more people in the UK are not aware of the show.
Dexter is an anti-hero is ever there was one. After seeing his mother brutally murdered in front of him as a toddler, Dexter is adopted and raised by the policeman that found him, Harry Morgan. As he grows up Harry discovers Dexter killing animals and worries that what he saw at a young age has damaged him. How Harry reacts to this is probably one of the biggest questions of the show; instead of trying to suppress this need to kill, as he grows older Harry encourages Dexter to channel this need into killing only people that deserve it; people who have escaped punishment by the law. Harry sees this as an opportunity to allow his son to be the person he needs to be but also to correct what he sees as a failing in the justice system. By teaching Dexter to cover his tracks and abide by a “code” he will avoid being caught and satisfy his need to kill without hurting innocent people. Throughout all of the series this question hangs over Dexter, did Harry allow him to be who he needs to be or has he encouraged and nurtured a killer for his own sense of justice?
So far, Dexter has managed to keep his “dark passenger” hidden from the rest of the world and has a relatively normal life; he works as a blood splatter expert for the Miami Police, he even had a family but in this last series we have seen things begin to unravel for him as his life and his secret life start to collide. His sister has discovered his secret and struggles to come to terms with his other life, Maria LuGuerta is also getting dangerously close to the truth and Dexter is falling in love with another serial killer.
In the past each series of Dexter has gone from strength to strength but some viewers have criticised this last season, mainly because Dexter has become careless and you can see everything he has worked hard to hide is beginning to unravel before him. This show presents us with a strange moral dilemma, we know we should not like Dexter; we should want him to be found out and stopped because we know killing for any reason is wrong. But at the base of the show is a guy who is a little bit different trying to find a way to fit into society and I think that strikes a chord with many of us.
I think the reason some dedicated viewers are less happy with this season is that we can see it could all be going badly wrong for Dexter. As this series draws to a close and we excitedly wait for the eighth and final season, is Dexter going to make it through to kill another day or has his “dark passenger” taken him too far this time?
Mad Men is another intelligent drama series from America, with charismatic characters and a socially relevant story, illustrating that not everything has to be about cops or doctors. I caught some of the season 5 episodes recently and was hooked, so now I’m watching from the beginning, devouring the repeated first season.
Mad Men is set in the Madison Avenue of the 1960s and the first season opens in 1960. The creative force at Sterling Cooper advertising agency is Don Draper. He’s not who he says he is and watching flashbacks of his mysterious childhood reveals tantalising clues. He sells the American Dream at work whilst at home, his suburban kingdom is falling apart.
The men in the office swap banter about the attractiveness or otherwise of the women in the office and sometimes make direct remarks that would result in a sexual harassment lawsuit today. The casual racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny are jolting to us, the modern audience.
Advertising sells the perfect family. Don understands what his clients want and cleverly manipulates them. Behind the white picket fence at home, his wife Betty struggles to keep up appearances. While Don sells the American Dream and the easy life, she spectacularly fails to cope within her suburban prison.
No one is happy. The wives gossip and go to the grocery store and prune the roses and pretend that they’re not bored and not nostalgic for their younger selves, before they were just somebody’s wife; somebody’s mother. They don’t know who they are anymore. Making sure dinner is on the table when their husbands return is their primary concern.
The women in the office serve the men, sitting behind their typewriters, providing a decorative distraction. The men would do something else if they could. They’re ambitious but they also yearn for their former selves. After all, they are creative people applying their minds to selling baked beans. They live on stories from their carefree, college days.
No one tells the truth. The consumerism boom of the 1950s and 1960s in America fed into people’s desires and images of themselves, but in contrast with today, there is nothing ironic about it. There is no truth in how the copywriters make their money or in their various affairs. Husbands and wives hide their disappointments from each other and the advertising industry continues the lie.
Don’s generation is an interesting one, caught between two generations – the WWII generation of their parents and the counter culture generation of the 1960s. In coming seasons, the cultural revolution will rage outside but Madison Avenue is slow to catch up. Don is more Frank Sinatra than longhairs playing guitar. It’s a shifting landscape of change. In season 1, Kennedy is trying to be President. As America is on the cusp of this revolution, the advertisers tell people what they want to hear. Within relationships, husbands and wives cheap cialis online canada tell each other what they want to hear. Kennedy will tell the country uncomfortable truths that the WASPS (white Anglo-Saxon protestants) will clearly not want to hear. As a surreal counterpoint, Don has bizarre brushes with a bohemian lifestyle when he takes a mistress whose Beatnik friends disapprove of him.
And then there is Peggy Olson. Peggy represents women in transition. Her rise from secretary to copywriter is a big deal in these times and so is her sexual liberation. There is also account executive, Peter Campbell, a man struggling with his identity. He gets married and immediately knows he’s made a mistake. He wants a woman he can drag back to his cave, but he hasn’t got the energy to stop his wife getting her way and he’s in hock to his in-laws. Feeling emasculated, he buys a hunting rifle, only for his wife to demand he take it back to the store. Gender politics, class snobbery and race relations are always just below the surface of the smiling, nuclear family with 2.4 children and a dishwasher.
Visually, Mad Men is stunning. Essentially a period drama, the clothes, hairstyles and décor flavour the drama as well as representing a point in time. Music also plays an important part in the series. Each episode ends with a different piece of music. Crooners of the 1950s make way for The Beatles.
Selling the American Dream used to be easy for these boys. But what do you do when people begin to question it – when people start demanding the truth? What do you do when everyone starts dreaming a different dream?
To say The Wire beats every other ‘cop show’ in the public domain would be an understatement. It eclipses them in every aspect.
Firstly, we shall state, it is not a ‘cop show’ at all. It is more comparable to a series of books that illustrate exquisitely and in such detail ‘the condition of man in the 21st century’, through the issues faced by largely poverty-stricken, inner-city Americans.
Each episode opens with an epigraph denoting the crux of that ‘chapter’s’ particular issue.
The producers, HBO, have a penchant for fantastic programming and although the medium of television is saturated with meaningless, shallow offal, HBO often deliver quality. Their flagship shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under display this and The Wire in some aspects outclasses even them.
The term Greek Tragedy is applicable to the show. It deviates from what America and the UK regularly seek for amusement. This is due to the belief of the writers (in particular David Simon) that life is a tragedy and viewing it as such holds power; the power to grant perspective and inspire honesty.
Largely down to the commitment of the writing, directing and casting teams, this show erupts beyond the confinements of contemporary entertainment.
To exemplify this we need look no further than the show’s head writer David Simon. A former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, he knows the city in which the series is set. The importance of honesty and realism are clear from the dialectal nuances in the script writing, imperfect characters, inclusion of real ‘ex-players’ from Baltimore in the cast, flawless cinematography and phenomenal soundtrack.
A quote from Simon himself illuminates us as to the core themes of the show:
‘The point of view is middle-management, and labour is diminished and the institution is paramount.’
Now we have context, we can move onto the specifics of season one. The preliminary response to the first episode may well be, ‘too many characters’ or ‘Christ that was dry’. If you have never watched it before and have those feelings after the first episode, DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM.
A large part of the show’s appeal is the plethora of characters presented to you. Being spoon-fed stereotypes happens far too often so when a show credits the viewer with being intelligent enough to invest and infer things about characters it is not only refreshing but rewarding.
In short, season one introduces us to the Baltimore Police department and a successful drug dealing racket. The focus within the police department in this series is directed towards a detail, headed by Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, with the primary investigators being Detective Jimmy McNulty and Detective Kima Greggs. The unit was set up after said drug racket beat a murder trial for one of its mid-level workers. This character’s name is D’Angelo Barksdale, he is nephew to the boss, Avon Barksdale who works alongside lifelong friend Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell.
We follow closely the two characters of D’angelo Barksdale and Lt. Daniels as the show cleverly draws parallels between them. The similarity is striking and thought provoking in that it rubbishes typical good guy, bad guy standpoints via the twinned pressures Barksdale and Daniels face.
Throughout the season Daniels is subject to the morally conflicting demands of his investigators, especially McNulty who represents the disillusioned, unstable labourer, and his politically driven superiors, Major Rawles and Deputy Ops Burrel.
Similarly, Barksdale is faced with opposing stresses. He must school and do right by his younger dealers such as Wallace, Bodie and Poot to ensure smooth business. However the hierarchy sends down confusing orders which compromise the already wavering morality of D’Angelo.
As a result, D’Angelo’s story is the most intriguing. Departing pearls of wisdom to his underlings such as an explanation of labour in America using a McNugget analogy and outlining how trapped all players in ‘the game’ are utilising a chessboard; he captivates you as a viewer.
We are given multiple other fascinating characters to follow including an addict and police informant named Bubbles. His daily strife on the streets adds to the already incredible sense of place and supplies a terrifically tangible perspective of the game.
Other ancillary characters such as Freamon, Herc, Carver, Pryzbylewski, Bunk for the police further the feel of the politically motivated department in their own exciting ways. One character who could not go without a mention though is homosexual stick-up boy Omar Little.
Omar’s profession of robbing drug dealers means he is not only dangerous but incredibly likeable. His morality and ‘code’ of living are dubious but respectable, as is his intellectual prowess in planning robberies and setting up those he dislikes. He is affected markedly by the actions of others, in particular Barksdale’s organisation; his story is another of great profoundness.
All of the characters not elaborated upon are spectacular in their own right and only by watching will the message truly embed itself in your mind.
‘The Wire’ season one is compelling and leaves one with an insatiable appetite for more. It is simply a beautiful work of art and one with a vital message.