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The X-Files – The Goldberg Variation (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

Jeffrey Bell does whimsical very well.

The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are perhaps Bell’s two strongest contributions to The X-Files, and they stand as some of the show’s most light-hearted episodes. In a way, Bell was the perfect new writer for a show moving from moody Vancouver down to sunny Los Angeles, with his best contributions to the show managing to preserve the weirdness that fans had come to know and love while turning up the brightness at the same time. They were episodes that felt much more applicable to the show’s new home in California.

Eye see...

Eye see…

The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are bright episodes, and not just in a literal sense. There is an optimism that runs through both scripts, suggesting that maybe the world is not an inherently hostile place and maybe not every X-file is plotting to eat your liver or carve out your cancer. Strange things happen in the world on every day, and some times those strange things can be wondrous as well as terrifying. While quite far removed from the aesthetic of the first five seasons, The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are no less true to the spirit of the show.

The Goldberg Variation is light entertainment. It is so light that there are points where it almost seems ready to float away. That may not be such a bad thing.

Sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt...

Sometimes you have to play the hand you’re dealt…

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The Sopranos: Pax Soprana (Review)

I think it’s possible to make the argument that The Sopranos can be read as that illusive “great American novel”, just handily divided into eighty-six chapters and televised as opposed to written. Sure, it’s a show about the mob, but it’s also a compelling examination of the disillusionment festering at the heart of the American psyche. Tony might be a New Jersey mob boss, but most of his problems aren’t too far disconnected from those eating away at the American middle class. (Hell, I’d argue that it speaks volumes to the Irish psyche and probably many other nationalities as well.) As such, across the crucial first season, Chase and his team of writers seem to lay down and establish the core themes, allowing Tony to confront and explore just one of the many gnawing insecurities eating away at any middle-class father. In College, Tony wrestled with the idea that his daughter might discover who he truly is, while Pax Soprana explores the notion of impotence and insecurity – some times literally.

Psyche!

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Sopranos: Meadowlands (Review)

It’s interesting how slowly The Sopranos approached the violence of what Tony does. Of course, the pilot episode (The Sopranos) featured Tony brutally beating a debtor in an attempt to earn his money back and the subsequent episode (46 Long) featured Tony beating up an employee at the Bada-Bing for failing to work the telephone properly, but the show generally eased us into seeing Tony as a truly “bad” guy.

It was never ambiguous about his mob connections or the crimes and violence that he committed or that he authorised others to commit, but the first few episodes generally keep that violence somewhat insulated from Tony. Paulie and Pussy brutalise the car thieves to reclaim a teacher’s lost car, while Tony’s threatened castration of a Jewish man refusing to play ball is kept off-screen. While Tony would commit his first on-screen murder in the next episode (College), Meadowlands feels like the first episode to truly present Tony as a borderline sociopath, and to demonstrate just how aggressive and possessive he can be.

Paying respects...

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The Sopranos: Denial, Anger, Acceptance (Review)

Denial, Anger, Acceptance marks the first episode of The Sopranos not written by creator David Chase. In the United Kingdom, it’s traditional for a particular writer (or writers) to write every episode of a given series, to the point where you are quite likely to find a television show credited “by” a particular person. In the United States, due to longer seasons and various other concerns, such an approach isn’t feasible. (There are exceptions, such as Aaron Sorkin’s tenure on The West Wing, where he contributed eight-one scripts in the show’s first four seasons.) However, The Sopranos remains associated with its creator, David Chase, so it’s interesting to look at Denial, Anger, Acceptance as the first episode written by a writer other than Chase, in this case Mark Saraceni.

Sticking his neck out...

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The Sopranos: Sopranos (Review)

I feel like I am massively late to the party. Not fashionably late, mind you. However, my gran received The Sopranos on DVD for Christmas, and I’ve decided to go back and watch it from the start with her. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the iconic television show over the years – even following it for a full two seasons in the middle – but I’ve never seen David Chase’s dark exploration of the American dream from beginning to end. So, slowly, in the company of my grandmother, I shall be making my way through what many people consider to be the best television show ever produced. And where better to start, after all these years, than the very first episode?

Talking it out...

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Holding Out For an Anti-Hero: The Rise of the Morally Ambiguous Protagonist…

Sure, comedies have a long history of featuring genuinely unlikable characters as leads, but I think the last number of years have seen an explosion in the number of morally ambiguous (and sometimes downright villainous) protagonists, both on the big and small screens. Of course, the entire film noir movement was based upon the idea of a compromised hero, in recent times we’ve found ourselves increasingly cheering for the bad guy.

A serial charmer...

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My Top Ten Shows of the Decade

Yep, it’s retrospective time. I’ve done my top 50 movies of the past ten years, so it’s time for me to reflect on my top 10 television shows of the 00s. Prepare to be awed and mazed, shocked and astounded, angered and enraged, by the inclusions (and omissions) from my list. The good folks over at Television Without Pity included their favourite episode in each choice, so I think I’m going to run with that idea.

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