Entertainment

A look at shows and series that filled our TV and other screens in 2018

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2018 was the year when streaming platforms became the new buzzword, due to the ability to watch shows and movies anytime, anywhere. It was also the year streaming platforms got a lot of Indian content. We check out some of the shows that dominated our screens last year for reasons, good and bad.

Black Mirror

Netflix inverted the storytelling paradigm with the standalone episode, Bandersnatch, with a series of interactive options that let users participate in the show. Set in 1984, the simple story of a geeky computer addict, building an interactive game is filled with choices for the audience to make, from generic ones such as which cereal to choose for breakfast, to complex ones that determine the lives of the characters on screens. Netflix also makes a cameo in this episode, and the format works very well, since the audience also keeps second-guessing the next move of the protagonists. The interactive element does not distract one from the story and makes you feel more involved. The small nods to action sequences and self-referential humour were also on the money. We went through three different timelines, and though the endings do not change much, the path to reach it does, and makes this one of the best that streaming sites had to offer this year.

Netflix’s latest season of Black Mirror was also quite good. Instead of featuring absurd high-end tech, the focus pivoted to the human side of interacting with tech and the consequences it brings about. The stand-out episodes were ‘Hang the DJ’, a story of computer simulations trying to work out the perfect match. In the times of Tinder and Bumble, and when almost all our life decisions are based on algorithms running on apps, this episode made a lot of sense. Another episode, featuring a pack of robotic dogs hunting down people in an apocalyptic wasteland, also struck a chord and is a wee bit scary, especially after watching robotic dogs open a door with relative ease in a Boston lab.

The Haunting of Hill House

What’s new about another horror mini-series featuring a family in an old haunted home? The Haunting of Hill House packs in horror, a lot of mystery, some intrigue and throws in dysfunctional family dynamics for good measure. The story of the Crain family is showcased across parallel time lines, one set during their stay in the ‘most haunted house in America’ and the other in the present day. There is something sinister always hanging about, and constant shots of family members waking up in the middle of the night, out of breath, keep one on the toes. To be honest, the horror is not as much in the ghosts, plenty of whom hang out in the backdrop. It is in the terse relationship among the primary characters, as they try to get their lives into order. Hill House is a character in its own right, and not just a place where the family happens to run into ghosts. The series is shot very well; the close-up shots of Hill House, all lit up at night, are guaranteed to give viewers goosebumps. The beauty is that it makes you feel like you are part of the action. Though the pace slackens a bit towards the end, this was one of the best horror series on streaming platforms this year.

Nanette by Hannah Gadsby, Comicstaan and other comic specials

Stand-up comedy shows were a huge draw on streaming platforms last year. In June, stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, which dealt with a wide gamut of issues, ranging from identity to gender norms, was deeply poignant and offered a new perspective on topics generally brushed under the carpet. It was not perhaps funny in the conventional sense, but succeeded in striking a chord with the audiences. Closer home, Amazon Prime’s Comicstaan, a comedy reality show, was a fun watch. It introduced many talented comedians and gave the audience a chance to appreciate relatively lesser-known genres of comedy. Zakir Khan’s hilarious take in Kaksha Gyarvi, was also funny and nostalgic.

Sacred Games

This was the first big Indian Netflix original series, featuring an ensemble cast of Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte. The series, an adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s book by the same name, basically deals with Saif Ali Khan playing a policeman trying to save Mumbai from an unknown threat, aided by Apte. The star cast is excellent, Nawazuddin and Apte shine, and the writing is taut. Split into parallel narratives, the storyline kept us hooked initially, especially the evolution of Gaitonde from small-time goon to a don. However, the pace slackens off in the latter half and the frequent flashbacks mean that it is very tough to feel invested in any of the characters, especially the minor ones.

Ghoul

The Radhika Apte thriller/horror/political drama tries to be too many things at one time and that brings about its failing. Ghoul begins as a political thriller, set in a not-so-distant future, where right-wing radicals take over the country and cart off anyone opposed to their ideology to torture camps. Apte, an intelligence officer, betrays her professor father and ends up in one of the camps as the interrogator. A demonic force manages to make its way to the camp. Only three episodes long, Ghoul neither gets the audience involved. A bit more focus and tighter editing would have made it much better.

Breathe and Mirzapur

Breathe had superb performances by Amit Sadh and Madhavan and tries its best to be a racy thriller. However, the plot is flimsy and seems contrived. It lacks a good background story. In the best shows, even secondary characters manage to catch your eye and keep you riveted. That does not happen in Breathe. Mirzapur is set in the badlands of North India is an interesting tale of power and ambition. It is engaging and is helmed beautifully by Pankaj Tripathi. There is a lot of violence and this is not for the faint-hearted.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:33:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/a-look-at-shows-and-series-that-filled-our-tv-and-other-screens-in-2018/article25871330.ece

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