Inside No. 9

It might be a house or a flat, a hotel room or a train car. No matter where it is, something’s not quite right in Number 9. The twist might be gruesome, or it might be poignant, but either way, nothing will be quite as it first appeared.

A horror anthology series created and written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, Inside No. 9 offers a veritable smorgasbord of stories, all tied together by a single gimmick – they take place in or around structures labelled with the number 9. Continue reading

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The ABC Murders

First things first. When it comes to Hercule Poirot, I have always considered myself a self-confessed David Suchet purist. For me, his was the quintessential portrayal of the moustachioed Belgian detective with his infamous love of precision and square crumpets. Nonetheless, Suchet’s time as Poirot had long since come to an end, and so it was that over the festive period I found myself watching a rather different adaptation of a classic Poirot story, The ABC Murders. Continue reading

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Ahead of the release of Black Mirror season five comes Bandersnatch, a one-off “choose your own adventure” which offers decision points where viewers can choose which direction the story takes. The format echoes the plot of the episode itself, in which aspiring game designer Stefan is determined to make a video game adaptation of Bandersnatch, an epic sci-fi choose your own adventure book. But the further Stefan gets with the game, the shakier his grip on reality becomes. Is free will an illusion? Does he have control over anything, or is he just a puppet to the whims of an unseen viewer? Continue reading

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

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