TV Binge: A Discovery of Witches (Season 1, 2018)

A Discovery of Witches (Season 1, 2018)

A Discovery of Witches

Cast: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Valarie Pettiford, Malin Buska, Owen Teale, Alex Kingston, Aiysha Hart, Edward Bluemel, Gregg Chillin, Trevor Eve, Louise Brealey, Elarica Johnson

Diana Bishop, historian and witch, accesses Ashmole 782 and knows she must solve its mysteries. She is offered help by the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, but he’s a vampire and witches should never trust vampires. – IMDB

A Discovery of Witches is a fun little gem. Season 1 is neatly packed at 8 episodes and stars the talented but rather underrated (in my opinion) Matthew Goode (I mean, have you seen him in Stoker?) and the very charming Teresa Palmer as they are paired up as two magical individuals, vampire and witch who unexpectedly and much against the magical order’s rules, fall in love with each other, except maybe its not that surprising with later discoveries.

A Discovery of Witches

Granted its only a few episodes long for the first season, the story does have some odd execution issues that probably lean more on building a romantic foundation between the two characters a lot in the first half before bringing in the magical dangers in the second half. This execution is good and bad. Its good because the characters of Matthew and Diana become quite the connected couple and we can root for them together. The bad is that, it takes a little away from the thrills of this world of magic and keeps that part relatively more shallow and piles it on a lot more in the second half. I haven’t read the source material so maybe that is also how the book is.

A Discovery of Witches Season 1

While I say that, Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer are amazing as a couple and probably will end up on couples to ship together for sure. Their characters Matthew and Diana are fascinating together even when some of the dialogue is very been there done that and maybe even a tad cringey however somehow whenever ancient vampires come into play, it all becomes a little more acceptable because they are expected to be old-fashioned. The connection they have is great on screen and they have some believable chemistry and passion between them. It also helps that Diana learns from him as he learns and protects her from the magical world that she isn’t quite familiar with. At the same time, they balance out because while she lacks control in her powers, she is also a tough character with determination not only for their love but other elements as well. TV couples that somewhat grow and better themselves together make for strong characters.

A Discovery of Witches Season 1

Where this season and possibly the story itself has its limits is in some relatively annoying characters who almost seem endless and have no sense of danger to them. Like the girl above playing Satu (Malin Buska) who honestly is supposed to be scary or unsettling through the constant character design of quiet and glares. Her character felt quite useless throughout although how they end the season 1 (and depending on what Season 2 does with it) might change that thought. While there are other fairly disposable characters here presented, which probably only feels that way because the season is so compact and has a good number of characters revealed but never quite having enough place to be memorable or meaningful.

This first season of A Discovery of Witches is honestly setting up a lot of foundations and giving an outline of the characters and the world and magical politics, that set the stage for whats to come in future seasons. Many shows tend to do that as something of an introductory. Luckily, there’s enough here to have Season 2 greenlit and hopefully will be released soon.

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TV Binge: The Mist (Season 1, 2017)

The Mist (Season 1, 2017)

The Mist 2017

Creator: Christian Torpe

Cast: Morgan Spector, Alyssa Sutherland, Gus Birney, Danica Curcic, Okezie Morro, Luke Cosgrove, Darren Pettie, Russell Posner, Frances Conroy

After an eerie mist rolls into a small town, the residents must battle the mysterious mist and its threats, fighting to maintain their morality and sanity. – IMDB

Hello to another Stephen King adaptation! I’m going to be honest that I’m not a huge fan of the 2007 film due to the ending but I have since seen the alternate ending and grown to have a newfound appreciation for it. Its not really a surprise that The Mist would be turned into a TV series, after all Under the Dome is kind of the same concept of being trapped somewhere with unknown dangers surrounding the characters. I’ve always believed that The Mist has the potential premise (without reading the source material) to make for some good TV but sadly, what I saw for the Season 1 (which was cancelled understandably) was a huge letdown. There were character issues and pacing and execution problems and every episode felt very rinse and repeat to a point that I actually lost track of what was happening and got confused a little.

The Mist 2017

The structure of the show separates the main characters into three different groups: the first is at the mall including mother and daughter who had intended to leave town due to her daughter being raped who ends up at the same place as who they believe did rape her. The second group is the father who is trying to get to them and picks up a drug addict and an amnesiac military man as well as his daughter’s best friend. The third group is at the church with the police chief, a nature lover elderly lady who believes this is linked a previous event called Black Spring and clashes with the priest’s belief of Judgement Day’s arrival. It all converges to the end game of the focus of the story of these three groups meeting up at some point.

The Mist 2017

The Mist still remains a good premise to use. Its a smart Mist that comes around and then brings up a lot of questions on what it portrays as people can see dead people from that past that haunt them as well as those around them can also. It has these elements that are different for each one and then in one case, one character managed to escape the mist. The mechanics of the mist is the big mystery here and probably what works best when its at work. However, the story paces and executes the story between the characters in somewhat of a loopy way that makes it feels very much a lot of the same things going on. There’s the mystery of who actually did rape the girl and then the question of military blending with the people at the mall and then all these characters have their own motives which is fine because this is TV and it needs the content to move forward and develop everyone to give them all some kind of substance but then it also falls in the more dramatic elements. Probably where it suffers the most is in the beginning sequences and things do get more intense by the second half of the season.

The Mist 2017

The characters are rather bland as well as they all are rather familiar. There’s the rebellious daughter who ends up befriending the guy she thinks raped her while her mother is protective of her but rather overprotective as well. The lady at the church is one of the crazier roles and carries some good moments but is also a little over the top as well just like how some of the characters shift in nature very quickly. There are also a lot of characters that show up that a lot of it becomes very messy and lacks some depth on the story itself. Not to mention, a lot of the characters aren’t really very likeable that they become slightly annoying to watch.

The Mist in concept and premise does definitely have the potential and near to the end, a lot of the potential does show up as a lot of the different factors starting getting a solid footing but it is too little too late. It has some horror moments and there are some psychological bits to it and when The Mist is at work, the show is at its best. Unfortunately, the show focuses more on its unpleasantly structured characters and the same “been there done that” drama which doesn’t have a lot of great acting to compliment it sometimes that doesn’t quite work here. Along with how its the same running from the mist and hallucinations and death becoming fairly repetitive for some of them that it feels like the same problems stew rather than make progress. Its a bit frustrating that The Mist really was a letdown. At least, its made me want to check out the source material sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

TV Binge: Million Pound Menu (Season 2, 2019)

Million Pound Menu (Season 2, 2019)

million pound menu

Host: Fred Sirieix

Million Pound Menu is currently in its second season. Its main concept is that various restaurants concepts or food trucks or simply developing ideas are brought in to compete for a chance to run a pop-up restaurant for a few days to test their idea and functionality to impress several investors and hopefully end up getting an offer to invest and partner with them to take the next step.

While I can’t remember season 1 really well, Season 2 is structured where the first step is to put three restaurants against each other to cook the four investors of the panel their most popular/outstanding dish and to share their vision and concept for their restaurant as well as lay out their deal. The investors have to come to a consensus on one restaurant team who progresses to the next step to get a chance at the pop-up restaurant. In that process, investors who aren’t interested can drop out. Day 1 of the pop up restaurant is a soft launch dinner service where its open to public and the investors dine together to try out the menu and service. If they are satisfied, they progress to the next morning to discuss their business plans. If they pass this part, its the final stage of Day 2 lunch service at full price where the investors come back separately to dine alone and understand how the public feels about the concept and the food. At the end of Day 2, the investors have until 7pm to return if they want to offer them an investment.

Million Pound Menu is only 8 episodes long and it works to its favor because it is about investments and the progress of the meals and such. The show is edited fairly well to capture those moments in the services where the issues occur or the highlights of the discussions between the restaurant owners and the investors regardless of which meeting it is. There’s always that part of having the reason of why an investor backs out when they do. Its a decent show to see whether its the different concepts of restaurants but also gives the mentality behind investments as well as business plans and what different investors view a different path for some of these restaurants. What’s nice here (different from say shows like product-based investment shows like Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank), the investors can offer a different deal and modify the amount they plan on investing. There’s a certain level of flexibility there.

While I think that most of the investors are pretty intriguing to watch, the host Fred Sirieux is also quite knowledgeable but has an element of being over enthusiastic. It might his accent or how its shot that makes him that way. He does balance a lot of it well as he does help out the different restaurant owners and gives them advice when he sees things going wrong. However, the hosting is sometimes a little over the top for my liking. Obviously not enough to stop watching, but its something to point out. There are some neat restaurants presented here and its always a bet on whether the investors do end up coming back or not. Its a fun show and its about restaurant investment which is pretty interesting in general.

TV Binge: Accidentally in Love (惹上冷殿下, 2018)

Accidentally In Love (惹上冷殿下, 2018)

accidentally in love

Cast: Fiction Junchen Guo, Yi Ning Sun, Yi Qin Zhao, Mu Xuan Cheng, Li Ma, Mo Zhou

Chen Qing Qing is the daughter of a rich household desperately wanting to avoid an arranged marriage and find love on her own terms. On the day of the wedding, she flees town and heads out to enroll in the same college where her parents studied, hoping to find out more about their death. She changes her appearance and name in an effort to hide her true identity and does her best to blend in with her classmates. Her desk-mate in school turns out to be the famous singer, Si Tu Feng, whom she’s already had multiple run ins with. The two don’t start off on the right foot, quarrelling constantly and causing each other trouble. But could there be more between them? – MyDramaList

Where to find it: Accidentally in Love is a Netflix series.

QUOTES/SCENE

accidentally in love

STORY

Accidentally in Love is a rather formulaic kind of story. It starts off with two characters Situ Feng (Junchen Guo) and Qing Qing (Yi Ning Sun) both running away from their own family obligations and running into each other accidentally which leads to a bigger conflict, connecting them together. It also leads to their dislike of each other and then gradually through time, secretly finding each other’s more shining points as they become friends and gradually find the courage to fall in love with each other despite all the obstacles. In the process, their friendships and crushes and childhood friends and past all come into play as the college is a central location of where the story unfolds.

Chen Qing Qing runs away from her engagement party to enroll in her deceased mom’s college in disguise to keep away from the searching eyes of her grandfather in hopes to find out more about her parents and track down her father, whom she knows nothing about. In the process, she doesn’t want to fall into the planned path without having a chance to see the outside a little more. On the other side, Situ Feng’s story is about his disagreement of his career choice with his father, while also struggling to write and sing the music that he would like to do instead of what his music company wants him to do. For him, its also about proving that he can be himself and still find his success.

The series revolves around expectations versus reality, social status, and the effect of physical appearances. It is a little over the top in parts deliberately and overall, is a fairly fun and comedic little series with a lot of feel-good elements.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 30 episodes
Episode length: 30 minutes (approx.)

Clocking in at 30 episodes with an average of 30 minutes per episode makes this a very quick watch. Its perfect for binging and also keeps it pretty well-paced. There’s almost always something going on whether its another of Qing Qing’s ideas or another of Feng’s little music things or some conflict that occurs because of past misunderstandings or present arguments or fun encounters. The story moves fast and while there are a good number of characters that pop in, it only chooses to focus on a few of them. There aren’t really any true villains but just friends with personal issues trying to stop things from going astray from where they anticipated.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

If we look at characters, there are some obvious relationships going on here as well as friendships and even some “enemies” are worth look at.

accidentally in love

The first is the obvious couple and the end game for our main leads: Qing Qing and Feng who are so simple and naive in nature, making them such a fun little pair to watch on screen. Both Qing Qing and Feng are naive in their own ways and each have their own little issues to deal with that when they meet, they end making each other better or at least they try to be a better person for each other. Its a natural development in their relationship as well that gives them quite a nice chemistry where its more rivalry at the beginning to finding a way to work together as students and friends and eventually embracing those lovey dovey bits. They are both charming and funny characters that can easily be loved that it makes their story so much more easy to connect to and root for.

accidentally in love

If we talk about the couple I was rooting for, this supporting characters Fang Fang (Mo Zhou) and school badboy Lin Yiyang (Yiqin Zhao) are the ones that change a lot throughout the series and they are the unlikely couple to root for but hinted from the beginning. There’s a Chinese saying which translates to “One thing best/vanquishes another” and its popularly used in relationship when a stronger character also finds that person who is able to “control” their attitude a little. Its not the right wording but it works here where the character with the most change is to both of these supporting characters and they are so fun in their roles as well.

Aside from that, there are other characters. Some of them are in the rivals. The first is the childhood friend of Feng who believes she should be with him and tries everything to get between them and sometimes in a frustrating way, which writes her in a very manipulative but also easily manipulated character that goes to some extremes that I don’t particularly like. At the same time, there are also other smaller supporting roles like Yiyang’s two minions who are wondrously dumb but adds so much humor. Then you have Feng’s agent who also has a so-called dominance but never quite gets there and yet plays up to something rather sarcastically funny as well as he overreacts at times and such.

OVERALL

Accidentally in Love might have a familiar plot concept but where it excels is being able to keep it very light-hearted. It is still a drama, so there are moments of heavier content however, it still lands a lot of the comedic moments. The rivalries here never are too heavy and lined a lot with some silly characters that keeps the tone in a fun territory while the characters all have pretty decent chemistry. The episodes are short enough to keep it paced well and the series itself is also very acceptable amount of episodes. Its deliberately over the top but it all adds to the humor its trying to achieve and most of it lands very well. Its definitely one to check out!

MAIN THEME

 

TV Binge: Hyperdrive (Season 1, 2019)

Hyperdrive (Season 1, 2019)

Hyperdrive

Hosts: Mike Hill, Michael Bisping, Rutledge Wood, Lindsay Czarniak

Tournament series where drivers from around the world compete on one of the largest automotive obstacle courses ever made. – IMDB

I’ve talked about it over and over again that Netflix really is starting to build itself an empire out of international competition series and I’m loving every bit of it whether its professional cooking like The Final Table or their version of American Ninja Warrior in Ultimate Beastmaster, the next one to join the ranks is a precision driving obstacle course racing competition which was bound to happen at some point and here we are, looking at Hyperdrive. I don’t know a ton about what goes on under the hood of the car but I do love racing video games a ton and this one is like Need For Speed or The Fast and the Furious come to life. The reason why it wasn’t first on my radar until it actually launched was simply that the trailer itself wasn’t that appealing. Fortunately, it fulfilled all my adrenaline boost desires as well as being very entertaining to watch. There are some little issues with it but there’s a lot that is done on point as well.

Hyperdrive

As always, I want to talk a bit about the structure of the competition before diving into what works and doesn’t. Hyperdrive is a 10 episode competition series. The first 4 episodes are the Qualifiers where 12 competitors run the course set for that qualifier. Bottom 3 are eliminated from the competition, Top 3 go straight to the Knockout rounds and the middle 6 move onto the next qualifier to join 6 new competitors to fight for the Top 3 spot to advance. Next 4 episodes are the Knockout rounds where the lucky 12 who made it through from the qualifiers now have to battle it out. The lowest in each knockout round is eliminated right away and the 2nd and 3rd last have to compete against each other to see who stays in for the next round. Each episode has modifications to the previous tracks to make it more and more challenging. It tests speed, precision, skills as well as focus and patience, more and more so as it approaches the finals and the obstacle course increases the amount of obstacles to conquer.

Hyperdrive

Whether we are talking about the international element and the fantastic industrial location that they choose and the structure of the course as well as being able to increase the difficulty every course as the competition moves ahead and even the fairly forgiving structure of the competition, Hyperdrive really does get all those elements right. Every competitor also has their spotlight and their background story of why they are there and how they started driving or drifiting or whatever they are passionate about. As with most car racing and obstacles, the unexpected is the key element here and it lies in every turn (literally and figuratively). Accidents happen and cars break down because the race is done night after night and it strains both the driver and the cars and yet, the anticipation of whether the driver behind the wheel makes it or not is the real adrenaline rush here. Plus some of these obstacles are quite wild and a wild card that can make or break the run. With that said, my issues with Hyperdrive are not huge. Its more on the element that the obstacles probably need to be tested out just a tad more to prevent accidents to happen, luckily things didn’t go too horribly wrong and danger seems to be expected with this sport.

Hyperdrive is a win for me. I’m definitely looking forward to a next season to see some new race cars on the track and some new drivers out there. There’s a lot of hidden talent out there and I’m sure its a competition thats a ton of fun to watch.

 

TV Binge: Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

Check out the 1st Season of Sugar Rush review HERE.

Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

sugar rush

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 2 of Sugar Rush is here. With a quick 50 mins episode length and 6 episodes for the whole season, Sugar Rush is the perfect type of TV binge. It can be done in a day if you don’t have any other things planned or to do . Just like the previous season and the very on point synopsis on IMDB for the show, this is a professional baking competition which starts with 4 teams who compete in elimination format in 3 rounds to become the final winner of $10,000. Who makes the decision is between the two judges and the guest judge who may or may not be baking saavy but they are eating saavy (meaning they know how to eat and that’s really what is important here since baked goods isn’t only for expert tasting but for normal people too). Some examples of guests this season are Nick and Vanessa Lachey as well as Jacques Torres.

For those who haven’t seen Season 1, here’s a quick little rundown of how the competition is structured. There are 3 rounds to the competition. The first 2 rounds is cupcakes and confections respectively to be completed within 3 hours. Whatever time you save from those three hours adds on to the final cake round which also has 3 hours. The topics for each round is announced as you complete the previous round after the judges taste. The only trick here is that elimination of one team happens after each round as well. What changes in season 2 is two elements. The first is more relevant to the competition structure and that is all round 3 keep going. When Round 2 finishes, the final round topic is given as well as 3 additional hours. In that sense, the clock never stops making it embrace that time element much better and gives less down time where the other team doesn’t stand around waiting for their time to start like in Season 1. The second element is that the judges now all stay in the room while the competition is going on and does commentating which is great compared to the first season where they would leave and come back at the tail end. These little things keeps the process of the competition more engaging.

Other than one or two odd guest choices, Sugar Rush really does a good job in keeping up with the hype of the first season and polishing the structure and concept behind it which works better this time around. It had 2 less episodes from the previous season so its a quick one to binge through. The themes here also are pretty fun from starting with current popular baking trends to more thematic ones like science and love, they choose guests that match their theme while also having focus on both technique and visual appeal. Hopefully, Sugar Rush gets a Season 3 because I’d be down for it.

 

TV Binge: Love O2O (微微一笑很倾城, 2016)

Moving on from Rush of the Dead Summer (review), I really liked Zheng Shuang as the female lead and went to look for her other TV series. Luckily, there was one on Netflix called Love O2O. The other title is One Smile Is Very Alluring, which is the title of the movie that was released which is also available on Netflix that I hadn’t seen yet. Love O2O opened up a ton of talented young actors and actresses that will lead to some of my future TV series choices (as you will soon find out).

Love O2O (微微一笑很倾城, 2016)

LOVE O2O

Director: Liu Yu Fen

Cast: Shuang Zheng, Yang Yang, Xiao Tong Miao, Jun Feng Niu, Ye Cheng Zheng, He Zhang, Bai Yu, Vin Zhang

Xiao Nai is a gaming expert who, courtesy of his basketball skills, academic excellence, swimming talent and game company presidency, also happens to be the most popular student on campus. When he first comes across the gorgeous computer science major Bei Wei Wei, the infinitely talented wunderkind immediately falls in love. But it’s not Bei’s looks that he notices; it’s the ridiculous mastery with which she is commanding her guild and owning everyone in an online multiplayer game that makes her impossible to forget. Now, Xiao Nai must use his skills both in real life and online to capture the adorable but dorky Bei’s heart. But does their love have the XP to succeed, or will this relationship never level up? – MyDramalist

If you want to check out Love O2O, you can find it with English subtitles on Youtube or its also on Netflix.

QUOTE/SCENE

love o2o

STORY

Love O2O is probably one of the more light-hearted and positive Chinese dramas that I’ve seen so far. While there is some drama between friendship, work and relationships, it never over dramatizes and drags out a situation for too long. Perhaps this gives it less depth but the story itself knows how to focus on the positives of each relationship and give its a positive way to solve some of the issues here. There are conflicts that show up especially when dealing with the MMORPG world where the online relationships also result to the expectations and rumors and bullying that happens as well. At the same time, the story is set in the second half on the game development world and the hurdles that they end up facing.

Love O2O

While the story lies mostly in the real world, a portion of it is still in the fantasy world, more the in-game world where they have a lot of computer graphics. They have fighting bits together and has a whole relationships that comes out of there as well as giving it a lot of fantastical elements of online dating via the in-game elements. Its pretty charming to say the least but also has a side warning of how sometimes there can be cases of mistaken identity or lack of communication or misunderstandings and the fragility of building your friendships online rather in-person. The story itself does blend itself well together and as the series moves along, less and less is hidden in-game and more in reality.

LENGTH/PACING

Love O2O has the fantastic length of 30 episodes which borders on my personal belief of the upper limit of where an idol drama usually should be.

The execution and pacing here is very good. 30 episodes with the amount of characters and story arc gives the story a sufficient amount of character development while also giving the story a chance to focus not only on the romantic angles but also touch of friendship, bromance, family, etc. The majority of the story is set over the happenings of a budding relationship that starts at the end of a university semester and the summer time and then jumps forward at the end to push forward the timeline and give it a proper ending. That is a good way to do it because life is always full of crazy events but sometimes its those first moments when its goes from ultra sweet to building a solid foundation. Its why Love O2O doesn’t drag at all and stays fun from beginning to end.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

love o2o

If we look at characters and chemistry, our main leads and couple is Wei Wei, played by Zheng Shuang and Xiao Nai, played by Yang Yang. They are fantastic together and probably one of the best TV ships that could happen (in my short Chinese drama time). What works for them is that their characters are almost perfect from the outside and we soon find out that they each have their similarities and balance between them. Its in their actions and their pure intentions for each other that makes them so charming to watch. Plus, their relationship sprouts of Wei Wei adoration of Xiao Nai and idolization as he is the good-looking and smart senior student in school who all the girls swoon over, while as the show goes on, you can see that Xiao Nai doesn’t care of those things but rather its love at first sight on his side that he knows that she’s the right one and doesn’t know how to be a good boyfriend and just tries his best to protect her and support her.

love o2o

On the other hand, the second leads are Er Xi (Mao Xiao Tong) and Cao Guang (Bai Yu) who are the opposite of the main leads couple because they start off disliking each other, which is the more typical way of how most romantic leads start out in these dramas. However, these two are very fun characters while both of their story arcs have a slight frustrating moments, both regarding each other as well as in terms of friendship and crushes.

love o2o

Finally, relationships can be bromances and Love O2O thrives in that department, whether its the bromance between Xiaonai and his roommates, which turn out to be his work team as the series moves forward after their graduation or the girl friends (who really do have less part here) of Weiwei. However, the bromance here is fantastic especially as the friendship expands to a fifth member of the group as they get into the work space area. They add the fun and comedy also which rounds out the story a lot to keep it very light-hearted.

Finally, we take a look at the “enemies”. Be it the love rivals or the schoolyard internet bullies or the competing companies for the projects, it falls into the tone here because as frustrating as they can be, they never feel that harmful especially when they always find some positive outcome or enlightenment for the characters, which is nice to see because it keeps the series in a very positive light and gives hope especially to the younger characters who find their way. Its in the details of the script and the writer for this series manages to keep a good balance and remember the tone that its going for.

OVERALL

Love O2O definitely is one of my faves because of its positivity. There are more tears of joy and happiness and swooning over cute and endearing moments as well as being touched over the perfection of Xiaonai as a boyfriend who thrives in communication and trust over Weiwei no matter what other people say and believes his own eyes and experiences. Its span of touching different modern day themes and issues especially as we navigate the online landscape whether in gaming or blogging. It manages to focus on the love here but also give it a good dose of friendships as well as the reality of school, work and the challenges in life overall. Its charming and fun, romantic and cute, inspiring and positive: all the things I like about TV series.