music friday: creep
prince plays guitar

tv 2015: d's and f's

Deutschland 83. I find this pretty much incomprehensible. It’s the first German-language show on U.S. TV (Sundance carried it). It’s not the German that confuses me, it’s the plot, which is to be expected, since I never understand the plots of complex spy thrillers. This one takes place in Germany in 1983 (duh), and involves double agents and ... well, a bunch of other stuff. I like it while I’m watching it, but then it sits on the DVR forever. We’ve still got three episodes to watch from an 8-episode series that ended a few months ago. It’s been compared to The Americans, but that’s not fair ... the latter is one of the best shows on TV, Deutschland 83 is marginal. Hulu will eventually get the streaming rights in the U.S.

Fargo. As I type this, Season Two has one more episode to go. Based on the first nine, I can safely say that Fargo is at or near the top of the list of great shows, and that Season Two might even be an improvement on the wonderful Season One. In takes place in Minnesota and other northern states in 1979, and while Season One took place in 2006, the seasons are connected ... Season Two features three characters from Season One. And the general tone is similar ... both seasons are like the movie in that regard. Strange humor, often of the gallows variety, simple setups that are always more complicated than they seem, and sporadic but awful violence. This season has a stunning cast of well-known and lesser-known names. Patrick Wilson is the closest the show comes to a lead character, playing the man who becomes Keith Carradine in Season One. The better-known actors include names like Kirsten Dunst, who gets top billing and who is really bringing it by the penultimate episode (she also gets to deliver my favorite line from any show this year: “It's just a flyin' saucer, Ed.”) There’s a Who’s Who of TV actors: Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Jeffrey Donovan, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, Michael Hogan. Kieran Culkin has a bit part. Bokeen Woodbine steals the show whenever he turns up. Zahn McClarnon plays another of his ominous Native American roles. And Bruce Campbell appears as Ronald Reagan. (He’s great, naturally.) No show goes from funny to dead serious better than Fargo. And it’s a show that is always capable of things you absolutely didn’t expect (see Kristin Dunst’s quote above). Even without seeing the Season finale, I can feel safe in assigning an A grade to this one. It’s hard to understand the streaming possibilities for this one, but Season One seems to be on Hulu, and Season Two is on the FX website if you have the proper cable or satellite provider.

Fear the Walking Dead. A prequel to The Walking Dead, this fairly popular short series is proof that if put the words “walking dead” in the title, you’ll have a hit. It’s not the worst series on TV ... no show with Kim Dickens can be all bad. And it’s the highest-rated first season for any cable series in history (did I mention the words “walking dead” are in the title?). But it’s not much compared to its parent. The ratings ensure at least one more season. I think the first season will begin streaming on Hulu next year.