Tag Archives: Narcos

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 34-31

25 Apr

Three comedies, two of which are only occasionally funny, on purpose, and a Netflix drama.

Intro here and 58-55 here and 54-51 here and 50-47 here and 46-43 here and 42-39 here and 38-35 here.

34. Louie – 2014: 27

Louie

Evert year, feel like I rank Louie too low. Louie has the misfortune of appearing towards the bottom of a dozen or so shows that form a tier, and while I could definitely justify ranking it a bit higher, I’d then have to think about which shows it passes, and since if I thought more about this I’d never write it out, it’ll have to just put it right here. While it took me a while to get on board, I eventually came around to the genius of Louie, and though season 4, in 2014, had some serious missteps, season 5 is largely free of them. Louie is only ranked lower this year because there were simply so many more exemplary shows. Louie is always thought provoking, and like I wrote about the previous show on this list, Orange is the New Black, Louie is unique; Louie is the direct-to-our-screens vision of one man and is definitively unlike any show on TV. Louie has definitely suffered a little bit of the new ideas drain that these types of shows can face, and there weren’t so many mind-blowing conversation-starting episodes as there have been in earlier seasons. But when you start any new episode of Louie, you know there’s a chance for greatness, and that’s enough to keep watching Louie as long as he keeps making it.

33. Parks and Recreation – 2014: 13

Parks & Recreation

If I dislike putting Louie this low, I absolutely hate putting Parks and Recreation this low, an absolute first ballot hall-of-famer of a comedy that simply did everything right. It’s not, like Louie, a particularly different or unique series, but boy was it so much better at doing what it did than almost any other similar show. In fact, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, its fine but inferior descendant, shows just how difficult it is to create the all-around magic that was Parks and Recreation. The final season was actually pretty solid, better than the previous season, and could easily have moved higher in this tier. This particular rank is mostly an indictment of its fantastical finale, which, while probably exactly what I should have expected from the world of Parks and Recreation, contained more emotional manipulation than well-earned wins for our favorite characters. Parks and Recreation momentarily forgot that what make its emotional moments so powerful was the hard work, time, and struggle it took for the characters to achieve them, and tried to overdose us on feels by having all the characters get exactly what they want for all of the rest of their lives in the span of an hour.

32. Girls – 2014: 23

Girls

Girls trudges on year after year, and like a veteran athlete quietly putting up solid numbers years after being a rookie sensation, it remains a force amongst those who watch it if not the polarizing zeitgeisty culture magnet it was in its first couple of seasons. Girls hasn’t blunted its ambition due to whatever criticism came it’s way and that’s a good thing. While the characters can drive me, and each other, crazy, and their arcs often find them walking two steps forward and one step back, the characters are well developed and their adventures make for compelling television, along with the welcome growing roles for the expanded cast, the boys of the show. Season four also contained the gleefully terrible Desi, who was as fun to hate as any character on television in recent years.

31. Narcos – 2014: Not Eligible

Narcos

There’s probably a couple of other shows on this list that meet the following description, at least in some way, and it sounds like a backhand compliment but it doesn’t have to be. Narcos is a high floor, low ceiling show, and while I have a hard time imagining it ever making it to the top 15, it’s floor is pretty damn decent, and it’s a nifty little show that is a lot better than it could be (which also sounds like a backhand compliment, but really isn’t). It’s compulsively watchable and that’s not a quality to be sold short. When 24 was at its best, there were always lapses with the show, and it lacked a lot of the depth and development that some of the shows higher up on this list are awash with. But when you finished an episode, dammit, you wanted to watch another. Narcos has that same feeling, and being on binge-friendly Netflix, it’s ideal for said binging. I watched one and then paused, but when I eventually got back to the show I knocked it down in just a couple of days.

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Summer 2015 Review: Narcos

2 Sep

Narcos

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of plot in television. Sometimes plot is nothing more than a smokescreen to dig into other aspects of a television show; sometimes plot just gets the viewer on board so the creator can explore characters, relationships, visuals, emotions, and who knows what other themes. Think Hannibal, which had a monster-of-the-week first season only to bring viewers to a crazy and wildly experimental third season where plot was near last on the list of concerns. Rectify has a plot undeniably, but it moves at a snail’s pace so that viewers can take in the reality the characters face.

There’s nothing wrong with plot mattering though, and mattering a lot. The absolute best shows combine a number of elements and plot, or narrative, is a major tool in the TV writer’s toolbox. The Wire focus was wide and deep, but the rise and fall of Avon and Stringer Bell and then Marlo Stanfield was a major hook around which much of the show followed.

They call it storytelling for a reason after all; we like a great story, sometimes everything else be damned. Many mysteries and pulp fiction books are written with nothing but plot in mind. And that finally brings me to the subject of this review, Narcos. Narcos is lacking in many of the elements that denote great television. And it’s not a great show. But damn if it doesn’t have a plot that is immediately intriguing and flows along at smart pace.

Narcos tells a story everyone who has ever watched Entourage has at least a passing knowledge of. It’s about the rise and fall of Columbian drug overlord Pablo Escobar, whose power grew as cocaine took America by storm in the ‘80s. While I still don’t really know the deep details, it’s a story that has obvious movie and TV potential, and there have been several attempts to tell it. Besides the fictional Entourage version, there was a recent film starring Benecio del Toro.

And there’s a reason for all the Hollywood interest. It’s a fascinating story. The sheer size of his empire is staggering, and it’s easy to be attracted to a rise and fall story, even when, or perhaps especially when, the protagonist is a charismatic monster who could be charming, brilliant, and brutal all at once. The story comes from the point of view of a DEA agent who tracked down cocaine in Miami and moved down to Colombia to take the battle to Escobar himself.

That’s pretty much it. There’s a lot of Scorsese-esque narration moving the story along, and adding little historical tidbits and overview. I’m normally not the biggest fan of television narration, but the narration mostly fits into one of the categories I don’t mind as much, merely moving the narrative forward and adding exposition rather than insight. This type of narration can sometimes be superfluous but the story moves along fast enough that skipping forward and setting up scenes with narration isn’t really a problem. There is occasionally some narration which attempts to add big picture personal realizations which I don’t care for, but so far at least that seems to be kept to a minimum.

The protagonists doesn’t seem particularly interesting. The main narrator seems more like a vehicle to describe Escobar’s rise, and Escobar’s story is a lot more interesting than his character. He is a brute egomaniac who murders many, many people, after all. But it’s a well-paced and interesting story, and sometimes that’s enough for a fun view.

Will I watch it again? Yeah, I think I will. It’s nothing so special, but it’s a good story, and there’s some worth to that still.