music top ten of 2013
teevee 2013

the returned

I liked this French import quite a lot, and will say a bit more about it in a day or two, but I wanted to post something now, because Sundance Channel is having a marathon tomorrow where they show all eight episodes. Since it’s a good series for binge watching, I’m sending this out to let people know to set their DVRs.

The Returned is very hard to describe, because whatever genre you assign, it is much more than that. Last month, I wrote:

There is a new series out there that is very good, The Returned. I say “new”, but the show is actually a year old, having been produced for French television and now turning up in the States on the Sundance Channel. It is not an easy show to categorize, although I suppose if you looked on Netflix, it would be listed under “horror” or “thriller”. (OK, now I have to look. The movie the series is based on, They Came Back, is listed under these genres: Drama, Foreign, Zombies, Foreign Dramas, France, French Language (they really want you to know it’s French). I’ve listed this because “zombies” doesn’t strike me as a spoiler … The Returned is so unlike The Walking Dead, it’s a ludicrous comparison. And the zombies (or lack of same … it’s not completely clear there are zombies in The Returned, mostly because the show works on a different level from the usual scare-fest) aren’t the selling point, the way they are on Walking Dead. The Returned is a character story about how unexpected events affect the residents of a small town. Its pleasures are subtle, which is not to say boring … all of the episodes we’ve seen so far are very engrossing. There is certainly a place for the hyped-up excitement of a Walking Dead, and I don’t mean to suggest that The Returned is “good” because it seems arty and precious next to more spectacular series in similar genres. No, The Returned is good for the simplest of reasons: the setting is intriguing, the writing and acting are excellent, and the show manages to avoid stagnancy, advancing our understanding of events at just the right speed. So far, I’d give The Returned an A-, which could easily become an “A” by season’s end (there are eight episodes).

I’ve finished all eight episodes now, and I’m going to stick with an A-, mostly because it takes too much advantage of the fact that there will be a Season Two. But everything I said last month holds true. I don’t think I recognized a single actor in the show, and I don’t think there was a bad performance from anyone. Jenna Thiam stands out, but that is partly due to her magnificent hair. Trust me, that is not damning with faint praise. Check it out tomorrow, or when it inevitably ends up on Netflix or wherever.

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