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I recently just finished watching the second seasons of two of my very most favourite shows: Orphan Black and Orange is the New Black. Both very different, but both mesmerising. (Coincidentally, they both have an IMDb rating of 8.5.)

 

Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller about a woman who discovers she’s a clone. Before you think that it’s been done before—not like this. The characterisation of the clones is superb. Tatiana Maslany is an acting phenomenon, playing (to date) twelve different clones, at least five of them regularly. Although they are played by the same person, not once do you get the characters confused, so clearly are they depicted by the flawless Maslany (unless it’s one clone pretending to be another clone—it happens, trust me; these scenarios may also have made me love Maslany even more. Sometimes one clone might have to step in for another, and we know what’s happening, which makes it even more entertaining to watch a streetwise Londoner pretend to be an uptight American soccer mom). She holds her body differently, speaks differently, acts differently for each of the different clones she plays. If you watch Orphan Black for anything, watch it for her.

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(Above: Alison fixing Sarah-acting-as-Alison.)

The plot, as well, is entrancing. At turns edge-of-your-seat anxiety, and at others heartbreakingly tragic, and at yet others painfully funny. The atmospheres are handled masterfully, and everything ties into the greater mystery of how and why the clones came to be. Season two did not disappoint, picking up where season one left off, but steadily introducing even more minor mysteries that are actually part of the larger web. It mixes the stuff of science-fiction dreams with Greek mythology seamlessly, and is an incredible experience to be taken along for the ride. A little bit of violence, but nothing unwarranted (I don’t think). Highly recommended.

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(Above: Tatiana Maslany as Cosima comforting herself as Sarah.)

Orange is the New Black, on the other hand, is a drama set in a women’s prison. The first season followed, primarily, Piper Chapman, as she was sentenced guilty for a crime she committed ten years ago. I think we were meant to feel sorry for her, but I could never connect with her. However, apart from the early episodes of each season, each episode follows a ‘minor’ character, delving into their backstory and showing who they were before they were imprisoned, and why they ended up here.

Image(“V” trying to give The Fault in our Stars—a book about kids with terminal cancer—to Miss Rosa, a woman dying from cancer.)

The characterisation in this show, too, is phenomenal. Characters I’d dismissed as just quirky background noise suddenly became clear, and they had a voice. It was amazing to learn more about these characters, and they were presented magnificently (I think all of the actresses and actors in this show deserve an award). I think what was most satisfying though was that at the end of both seasons, all that you learnt about the characters tied in to the finale’s climax. The last scenes of the second season are still quite vivid in my mind (I think I’m still processing, although I finished watching it on Thursday!). I can’t recommend this show enough, although the sex (and sexual references) is quite gratuitous, so if you don’t like that, I’d steer away. There is violence, but it didn’t seem over the top or gratuitous (to me). Definitely, definitely recommend.

(Below, to leave you: Morello trying to describe Toy Story from her…unique…perspective.)

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So that’s what I’ve been doing when I should have been studying for my Modernism exam tomorrow. Whoops. Also, I’ve been cast as Mr. Teavee in a local production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but I have to put on an American accent (not a forte of mine). What have you guys been up to? Has anyone else seen Orphan Black or Orange is the New Black? What do you think of them?

But that’s not the world I live in

“Dear Diary, it’s easy to be brave and it’s easy to be confident…if you look good, if you feel sexy, and if you fit in. But that’s not the world I live in.”

Rae Earl being straight with you.

So my friend recently (and inadvertently) got me into a fantastic, amazeballs TV show called My Mad Fat DiaryIf you haven’t seen it or heard of it, it’s basically an English YA drama about a fat girl who has recently had a spell in a mental hospital for self-harming. Her name is Rae Earl, and the series is based off the published diary of a real Rae Earl (try saying that ten times fast!). Over the course of the show, you sympathise, empathise and fall in love with her. Her struggles are real and raw, and the character development (not just hers) is astounding. I have fallen in love with so many of the characters, and wonder if a TV show will ever hit me in the same way again (knowing me, yes, I’m sure there will be plenty more, but I’m in a bit of a fan-craze haze at the moment).

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Upon talking to a bully who regularly teases her about her weight…

It deals with issues of emotional vulnerability, teenage sexuality, and a host of other cliché themes…but in a way I’ve not encountered before (or, if I have, in a way I’ve not encountered very often before). We see the effects of Rae’s crippling self-esteem issues as she struggles to deal with her largeness and own self-identity in the world of Lincolnshire, 1996.

I want to take this opportunity to applaud the acting ability of Sharon Rooney, a relative newcomer. She practically bares all to showcase Rae’s vulnerabilities and struggles, and does so magnificently.

Sharon Rooney

Sharon Rooney being sexy as.

There are so many aspects of this show that I venerate (and could indeed go on about for quite a while), but I wanted to give a brief list of some of my favourite:

  • The female sexual experience is the focus, and not the male’s (in one scene in particular, Rae’s boyfriend is pleasuring her—instead of using her to pleasure himself, as is usually the case in most film and television)
  • The fat girl, normally depicted as the outcast, the comic relief, or simply a minor character, is the protagonist: she is the main focus, and we find ourselves not laughing at her, if we laugh at all, but with her
  • I’ve heard it said from several females on the larger side, that this show is very realistic and captures certain experiences accurately—indeed, painfully so
  • The entire cast is stellar, and the acting is just breathtaking
  • It’s set in 1996, and has a wicked 90s-themed soundtrack (I’m in love with most of the songs they play already, but there are a few new—to me—ones that I’ve added to my iTunes)
  • I don’t really know what else to say except that you should really watch it. Like seriously. What are you even still doing here? Okay fine, I’ll show you a couple more images…
Fluffy Bastard Cloud Kittens

This scene made me choke on my tea.

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Hey look! It’s Professor Quirrell giving life advice! What’s not to love?

I'm devastated, Rae

I still tear up every time I see this scene. Superb acting.

What are Friends for?

And by Friends, I mean the TV show.

So, I know I’m a little late to this particular party (too late even to call it fashionable), but I have finally been convinced to watch the twenty-year-old show (how old do you feel now?) known as Friends — because that’s what it’s called, and that’s what it’s about. I put off watching it for so long because canned/studio laughter really grates on my nerves. But, putting that pet peeve aside, this is a really clever and funny show. (Just for the record, I still don’t know why there has to be audience laughter; if it does its job well enough, we should know when to laugh…shouldn’t we?)

I recently finished the first season (courtesy of a friend of mine — thank you!), but I’m now nearly finished the second season. And, seeing as I promised a review to several of my friends on the first episode, I think it’s high time to actually sit my bum down and write something about this crazy, witty, intelligent show.

The first episode begins when five friends become six: Rachel (Jennifer Anniston) leaves her fiancé at the altar, and finds Monica (Courteney Cox), her brother Ross (David Schwimmer), her friend Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and neighbours Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) at their hangout, the coffeehouse Central Perk. We follow these six friends as they explore the uncertain terrain that independence brings them: the ability to make their own decisions, the navigation of confusing relationships, and, of course, their own developing friendships with each other.

The six friends sippin' on two milkshakes: you do the maths.

Aw, look at these lovelies. I wish they were my friends as well.

Each episode is short — but the pithy kind of short. The kind of duration I like. Concise, but powerful. Like Ernest Hemingway and his short stories, I guess. But I digress. I just wanted to say I love love love this show, and I haven’t even finished the second season yet (so no spoilers, please!). Anyone out there have any fond Friends memories? Any other similar TV shows you think I might like?

[Also, because I know I’ll get into this somewhere, my favourite characters are Chandler (I love his sarcasm, amongst other things) and Phoebe (why she so whacky? I love it!). And who, may I ask, are yours?]