Thursday, August 20, 2015

Strange and unReal, really

In this installment of not-a-True-Blood-recap, I can at least report that I have watch the first two episodes of S6.  And they're pretty much as terrible as expected.  The first episode, in particular, is a mess; the second is a little better.  There are still way too many characters (seriously, are Alcide and his merry band of redneck werewolves even connected to the rest of the characters at all?) but it appears that there may be some focus coming in this season's major storyline - vamps vs. humans - but DEAR GOD do I not care about the faeries.

I have been catching on on S3 of Orange is the New Black (wherein so far Alex is the Alcide of the prison in that her character is so isolated from what is going on with the rest of them that I just don't care).  I've also plowed through unReal and enjoyed it immensely.  Yes, I love a scripted show on Lifetime.  Judging from the online buzz, unReal is the summer's sleeper breakout show, something that no one expected.  It follows the production of a The Bachelor-type show, called "Everlasting," and the main characters are the producer and executive producer of the show.  They can't even be labeled anti-heroes because both of them are horrible, manipulative bitches (the show's words, not mine).  Rachel, the producer (Shiri Appleby - fantastic), is pretty damaged, with some depression and sociopathic issues; she is extremely good at her job - manipulating the show's contestants to get good t.v. - but at least she feels a little bad about it sometimes.  Her boss, Quinn, Everlasting's EP, is scarcely likable as she too manipulates everyone around her, including Rachel.  I rather wish they had gone a little deeper into the show-within-the-show (for instance, it's not really clear why most of the female contestants were even willing to sign up for such a degrading reality show in the first place).  But unReal is super-fun for the most part, even as it goes terribly dark.

The other thing I've been doing is reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  I had tried watching the BBC's miniseries adaptation earlier this summer but kept falling asleep, so I decided to go right to the source and read it instead.  It won all sorts of awards when it came out - winner of the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, NYT Notable Book of the Year, Best of 2004 lists for Salon, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, etc. - and the pull quote on the cover is from Neil Gaiman: "Unquestionably, the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years."  DAMN.  It is also a monster of a book, the paperback clocking in at 1,006 pages.  It follows two English magicians, the titular Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, as they each attempt, in their very different ways, to bring magic back to England from whence it has largely disappeared.  There are capricious faeries, enchanted ballrooms, tattooed beggars, Jane Austen-ish manners, the Napoleanic War, missing persons and pernicious plans to replace the King of England.  JS&MN starts off fairly slowly, then manages to suck you in so much that when the book finally ends, a thousand pages later, it seems abrupt.  I could have read more.

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