February 21, 2018

The Team, Danish crime drama on MHZ

The Team is a Danish crime drama television series which premiered in 2015 and is currently streaming on MHZ network. Lars Mikkelsen (seen in Borgen) is the Danish point detective Harald Bjorn working with Belgian homicide detective Alicia Verbeek (Veerie Baetens) and police superintendent Jackie Muller (Jasmin Gerat) from Berlin on a cross-border crime case.

Murders occurring in various European locales are suspiciously similar. The crime team connects the dots to determine the guilty party or parties.

We get glimpses of the European sex trade, human trafficking, political in-fighting within the police and pretty gruesome scenes containing waterboarding torture, the slaughter of chickens and the mutilation of corpses. If that does not put you off, you will be drawn into this story of international crime and intrigue.

For those that like a little emotional drama, there is also a sub-plot with two of the main detectives having had an adulterous affair that resulted in a child.

MHZ continues to offer some of the best European crime dramas. Danish, English, Dutch, French, German and Swedish are the languages heard in this production with English subtitles. Besides the scenes with subtitles, the principal actors all speak very clear English, with Mikkelsen having a scarily good British accent.

The eight 57-minute episodes of The Team are typical Scandi-noir with great cinematography, crisp dialogue, graphic crime depiction and an intricate plot. Is this perhaps your mug of glogg?

Scott & Bailey on Hulu

I had a ho-hum reaction when someone recommended the police procedural Scott & Bailey with it’s Cagney & Lacey parallels. Two women are detectives working together on major crimes, murder in particular. I watched a couple of episodes on Hulu and pretty quickly changed my mind about the appeal of the series. This show may have a boiler plate premise, but the acting, scripts and production values are first rate. The Manchester, England setting and the curious accents add to the entertainment.

Members of the Manchester Incident Team, Detective Janet Scott played by blonde actress Lesley Sharp and Rachel Bailey portrayed by dark-haired Suranne Jones are the major focus of the show, but boss Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) seems like the Third Female Musketeer on the program. Bullmore is also listed as the scriptwriter for seven episodes.

There are men, to be sure, co-worker police staff, ex-husbands, lovers, witnesses and criminals, but the plot concentrates on the women of the show. Each episode has a stand-alone crime, but there is an over-arching storyline that involves love lives, friendships, ambition and problematic family members.

As a side note, Lesley Sharp’s real life husband, actor Nicholas Gleaves has an engrossing dramatic story line as her detective colleague and sometime adulterous lover, Andy Roper.

Season One has six episodes, followed by Seasons 2, 3 and 4 with eight episodes each, ending with a brief 3-episode Season 5. Bullmore is not in Season 5 which robbed the series of a little magic.

Nevertheless, if you like female-centric police procedurals, especially set in foreign countries, the 33 episodes of Scott & Bailey on Hulu might be a good candidate for your watch list.

Manhunt: Unabomber on Netflix

I vaguely remember news reports on the Unabomber, but the new Netflix series Manhunt: Unabomber takes you into the world of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous man who sent mail bombs from 1978 to 1995. Don’t view the series as true history however, since FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald, well-played by actor Sam Worthington, is a composite character who never actually interviewed Kacznyski.

As far as drama goes, you will be sucked into this compelling tale with Paul Bettany creating an amazing portrait of the genius serial killer. The cast is fine throughout, but you may be tickled by some of the star turns: Chris Noth as FBI boss Don Ackerman, Janet Lynch as Attorney General Janet Reno, Michael Nouri as Bob Guccione and Brian d’Arcy James as evil professor, Henry Murray.

My only quibble is with the time jumps between 1995 and 1997 which are sometimes confusing and leave some unanswered questions. The flashbacks to earlier decades are much easier to follow. Nevertheless, the 8 episode mini-series created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente and Tony Gittelson might be worth your time if you like crime drama and exceptional acting.

As we see electronics and artificial intelligence creep into every aspect of our daily lives, Kacynzski’s Manifesto can be read today as a cautionary tale, not only for what he was saying, but for making clear that there is no message that justifies deadly means.

And I must admit that I have looked at my delivered packages in a somewhat different light since watching Manhunt: Unabomber.

Fearless on Amazon Prime

Hats off to the Brits for featuring heroines who are a little older, show a few more wrinkles and don’t look like they have just exited a trailer for hair and make-up.

Fearless on Amazon Prime stars Helen McCrory as appealing but non-glamorous human rights lawyer Emma Banville who attempts to exonerate Kevin Russell (Sam Swainsbury) who has served 14 years for the murder of a teen-aged girl whose body was found buried close to his workshop.

As Emma starts her investigation, she discovers threads that link to politicians, American military interests and to Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku), the original detective on the Russell case who is now a bigwig in Great Britain’s anti-terrorism department.

If you are watching foreign dramatic television, you will notice that the CIA and other clandestine American security personnel have supplanted Nazis as the new villains. Heather Myles chillingly played by Robin Weigert is the ultra-baddie American fixer who will go to any lengths to protect her important clients.

Throw in an ISIS sub-plot, Emma’s gay guy sidekick (Dominic Truelove) along with name actors Michael Gambon and Jamie Bamber and you have a very brainy and diverting six episode series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Just a heads up that the tag line for the show is “Read Between the Lines” with Fearless below it, so I was initially confused as to the title of the show until I saw the opening credits.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the fearless Emma Banville on another case, and pronto.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon

As I was listening to rapid fire clever dialogue in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon original series, I was vaguely reminded of another show that uses this screwball comedy conversational timing: The Gilmore Girls. Small wonder since both series were created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and co-produced with her husband, Daniel Palladino.

The heart and soul of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the titular character played by Rachel Brosnahan, a mixture of New York housewife chic and very blue humor. The unexpurgated comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) becomes her jail buddy and helpful colleague. The two people most important in her life at this juncture, however, are her wanna-be comedian and cheating husband, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) and her fledgling manager, Susie Meierson played by the wonderfully acerbic Alex Borstein.

While the heroine’s overbearing WASP parents were played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrman in The Gilmore Girls, Marin Hinkle and a daffy Tony Shalhoub are cast as Rachel Maisel’s Upper West Side Jewish parents. Hey, if something works the first time around, why break a winning formula?

Set in the late 1950s, the music, the clothing and the New York atmosphere are all convincingly evoked. Palladino’s script does point out that racism and sexism were alive and well, so this was no golden age in our country’s history for large segments of the population. Still, if a time machine existed, I would go back for a night in one of these New York comedy/music clubs.

Thankfully, we have The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as an entertaining alternative. Season Two, please!

Godless, a Western series on Netflix

My grandfather was an honest to goodness cowboy so I have a soft spot for Westerns. Netflix is streaming a pretty decent seven-episode series Wild West drama called Godless, created by Scott Frank. Steven Soderbergh burnishes the pedigree as executive producer for the show.

The strongest element just may be the acting. Good guy Jeff Daniels plays against type as a complicated villain who leads a pack of violent bullies. Michelle Dockery, last seen as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, plays Alice Fletcher, a hard scrabble widow with a convincing American accent. Merrit Wever who was so charming in Nurse Jackie does an about face as Mary Agnes, a widow who has started to wear men’s clothing, carries a gun and has been courting a local prostitute turned school marm. Even the venerable Sam Waterston has a small but memorable role as mustachioed Marshal John Cook.

Jack O’Connell playing hero-of-sorts Roy Goode has a phenomenal scene as he tames a wild horse with Alice Fletchers’ half Paiute young son, Truckee (Samuel Marty). Never have I seen a more convincing depiction of horse-breaking.

 

This is a current day take on the Western concept, to be sure, with a town full of women who have been forced to assume male roles, African-Americans who are Buffalo soldiers turned farmers and Paiute Indians who are some of the wisest and most endearing characters of the show.

The cinematography is stunning with panoramic views of the Southwest and arty shots like filming through a graveyard as a band of outlaws makes its way to town. Some will be disturbed by the “symphony of guns” scene towards the end of the series, but the Western genre usually has an equivalent of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, does it not? Only this is the good gals versus the bad guys.

If you feel like communing with cowboys, dance hall girls, farmers, Indians, sheriffs and deputies, school marms, Buffalo soldiers, yellow journalists, mining executives and psychopaths on horses, Godless might be worth a look-see.