Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

Conan in Armenia: At the market

November 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Television 1 Comment →

Why is Downton Abbey just like The Walking Dead?

October 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

L-R: Married to each other, gay, gone, gone, gone, widow, widow, married to each other, widow, widow, married to each other, widow, widow (common-law), widower, gone.

This column goes out to our friend Kevin, who will institute divorce proceedings if his husband doesn’t watch the next episode with him on Monday night.

It seems that Downton Abbey, like the zombie apocalypse, will never end. And yet the series created and written by Julian Fellowes will close this sixth season. Of all the shows on TV, the one Downton Abbey reminds me of is The Walking Dead. Both are global hits that keep going strong despite the repetition of plots (They might lose their money, they don’t, they might get eaten, they don’t) and the departure of major characters, through slaughter or real-life career ambitions. (I point you to the enjoyably nutty action thriller The Guest, in which ex-Downton star Dan Stevens displays abs you could grate cheese on. Cousin Matthew! Who knew.)

More importantly, both series are about extermination and survival. True, the probability that Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) will come out of the kitchen—gasp!—and devour the Dowager Countess Violet (Dame Maggie Smith) is slim, although Bates the valet (Brendan Coyle) is always getting accused of murder (Twice is not “only”, it’s a lot). However, Robert Crawley the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his family are also trying to get by in an increasingly democratic society where people earn their keep. “What is a weekend?” Lady Violet asked in the first season. As the tetchy matriarch, Maggie Smith can invest a line with so much meaning, she makes any writer seem brilliant.

My editor tells me that The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey air on the same night, which is very considerate of the cable channels. After intense pursuit and carnage, one can decompress by gawking at the place settings and pretty clothes. (For extra posh, pronounce close as in, “The close are awl-wiz marvlous, rarely.”)

Read our TV column The Binge.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple: The comfort of the British murder-mystery

October 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

Agatha Christie book covers

Miss Jane Marple is a menace to society. Whenever she turns up with that handbag of hers, sniffing around in other people’s business, murder follows. Corpses turn up, poisoned, stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled, shot. Suspicions mount, terrible secrets are uncovered, threats are uttered. People are revealed at their very worst. What fun!

Read our review at The Binge at BusinessWorld.


The other day we were watching the episode “After the Funeral” when we heard a familiar voice followed by that face: Michael Fassbender! As the dead man’s mysteriously disinherited nephew.

American Crime is an introduction to race relations in the US

October 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Television No Comments →

It starts with a phone call in the dead of night, then a visit to the morgue where the body of an Iraq war veteran named Matt Skokie waits to be identified. Skokie’s house in Modesto, California had been broken into, leaving him dead and his wife Gwen in a coma. His father Russ confirms his identity then goes to the bathroom, where he sobs and wails like a wounded animal. Russ’s grief is painful to watch, but the camera looks on pitilessly. This refusal to look away from the uncomfortable truth or allay the viewer’s distress is what distinguishes American Crime on ABC from the recognizable network offering. Cable and online streaming services may be winning the battle for prestige TV but the mainstream hasn’t given up completely.

Read our TV column The Binge.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Screwball comedy for the 21st century

October 12, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 1 Comment →

Fourteen-year-old Kimmy is abducted in front of her house by a cult leader. She spends the next 15 years in an underground bunker with the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne and three other women, believing that the world has ended and they’re the only survivors. One day the “Mole Women” are rescued, and Kimmy has to start her life over in a world where “phones look like cameras and even policemen have tattoos.”

It’s a good premise for a drama about how much America has changed in the last decade and a half, about shifting social norms, sexual mores and racial identity. Its protagonist could be a woman who must confront her emotional trauma, make up for lost time, and come to terms with a society that views her as a victim and a freak. Writers could really do something with that material. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, creators of the now-classic 30 Rock, have covered all these themes, but gone even farther. They have written and produced what may be the funniest sitcom of the year.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

You’re the Worst is the romantic comedy for people who loathe romantic comedies

October 05, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

This is the least NSFW scene we could find.

The first time we see Jimmy Shive-Overly, he is taking pictures of his genitals with those cute disposable “Help us make memories” cameras at the wedding reception of his ex-girlfriend. (Hire a photographer, people. It’s bad enough that we have to sit through your boring two-hour video before dinner is served). He proceeds to get himself thrown out of the reception. The first time we see Gretchen Cutler, she is stealing one of the wedding gifts at the same reception, thinking that it is a food processor (Tough luck: it’s a blender). The two meet while waiting for a taxi, and having nothing better to do, they go back to his place.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.