The Genius of Smiley’s People

Spoiler warning: I will discuss the ending!

Dispatching the last of the guards, George Smiley climbed onto the rooftop of the Fortress of Evil. The wind ruffled his hair as a familiar figure turned to greet him.

So, we meet again, Mr Smiley,” drawled Karla, taking a drag from his cigarette. “I thought I warned you not to come after me.”

This ends now, Karla!” exclaimed Smiley. “I’ve come to put a stop to your evil schemes.”

Oh George, George,” laughed Karla, shaking his head. “You always were so naive. All this time, I’ve been watching your every move. And now you’re too late to stop me. With this one remote control, I can launch the warheads and start a nuclear war. What can you do to stop me?”

With a mighty roar, George Smiley hurled himself at Karla, despite to wrest the remote out of the other man’s hand. Smiley was no stranger to martial arts, but his opponent’s strength was superhuman. Only the thought of what would happen if Karla succeeded in his plan spurred Smiley on to keep fighting.

The above scene is in no way drawn from anything that happens in John Le Carre’s Smiley’s People – neither the original book, nor the TV adaptation which is the subject of this review. The only reason I wrote it is to drive home a point – how delightful and refreshing it is that such a scene is completely absent. Continue reading

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Black Mirror: season 4

Continuing on from my appraisal of season 3.

Even though it’s technically just the second half of a twelve episode run, season four definitely has a bit of a different flavour. The overall feel of these episodes is ever so slightly less bleak, and the show even dabbles in slightly happier endings.

There’s also a definite shift in the dialogue, with plenty of blunt language and jokes about sex. Continue reading

Black Mirror: season 3

Some years back, I enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror on Channel 4 – seven episodes exploring how advances in technology could lead us to dark and dystopian futures. It wasn’t easy viewing, but overall it was definitely worth the emotional investment. One might even argue that The Waldo Moment, in which a foul-mouthed CGI bear runs for political office, was a dire warning not to dismiss the Trump campaign.

Flash forward a couple of years, and Black Mirror returned, in the form of twelve episodes commissioned by Netflix. Even though the first six of them were released over a year ago, I’ve only just binged all twelve, and I felt like saying a little about each of them. Continue reading

Why BoJack Horseman is (still) the best thing on Netflix

Twenty years ago, BoJack Horseman was TV’s hottest property, starring as “The Horse” on long-running sitcom Horsin’ Around. But those days are over, and now BoJack is a washed-up actor getting by on vast amounts of drink and horse tranquiliser. But when his agent arranges for a ghostwriter to help him write his autobiography, could it be just the thing he needs to kickstart his career?

For a while, there was a time when every visitor to our house was shown the first episode (or two) of BoJack Horseman. Not all of them liked it, or even understood it, but we felt it was our sworn duty to introduce them to the show that we loved so much. Continue reading

Waiting in Vain: The Redemption Arcs That Never Came

When we think of TV protagonists, we usually picture a hero – a morally righteous person seeking to make the world a better place. And when they don’t start out that way, we expect to accompany them on a journey of self-improvement, in which they discover important things such as love, happiness and the true meaning of friendship.

But not every main character takes that journey. In this article, I examine four protagonists whose redemption arcs never came – Tony Soprano, Jackie Peyton, Greg House and Bojack Horseman. Continue reading

Sports Night

Whilst most people were enjoying The West Wing back at the end of the nineties, few noticed that around the same time, another Sorkin show was airing – Sports Night. Doomed to air for a paltry two seasons, Sports Night focused on the trials and tribulations of a financially struggling TV network, and their sporting news show, the titular Sports Night. Amidst relationship issues, sporting ups and downs, and a general lack of money, the cast and crew of Sports Night had to come together by 11pm each night to air a mostly seamless hour of sporting entertainment. Continue reading