Life after Lost
This week, the final episode of Lost was broadcast worldwide, bringing to an end a six year run that captivated its fans from start to finish. Lost now joins the list of our favourite shows that are no longer with us such as The Wire, The West Wing, The Sopranos, Arrested Development and the recently cancelled 24. So if you are having withdrawal symptoms now that your favourite show is no more, JOE is here with five suggestions to get your entertainment fix.
By Leo Stiles
Sons of Anarchy
This show really picked up where the Sopranos left off and combines the drama, violence, gallows humour and expert characterisation that made the storyÂ of Tony and his family such compelling television.
The show centres on Jackson â€œJaxâ€ Teller, second in command of the outlaw motorcycle gang, The Sons of Anarchy as he struggles with how to lead his life following the birth of his son. While trying to reform the gang in order with his dead fatherâ€™s request, he is torn between his loyalty to his club and family and the need to redeem himself and protect those closest to him from a spiral of violence and death.
The cast here is top drawer, featuring Charlie Hunnam as the conflicted Jax and Katey Segal in full-on MILF mode as his scheming and manipulative mother. But towering above them all is Ron Perlman as Jaxâ€™s stepfather and gang president Clay Morrow, a man who strides in and out of scenes dripping menace as he seeks to keep the gangs dominance of the local underworld intact.
Watching Sons can often come with a strange feeling of familiarity and itâ€™s not until someone points it out that you become aware that the structure of the series closely follows that of Shakespeareâ€™s Hamlet. Kurt Sutter, the creator of the show, has explicitly stated that the show is modelled on the tale of the Danish prince and in a recent interview Ron Perlman has said that fans should not expect things to end well if the show plays out until the intended conclusion.
The first season has already aired on RTE 2 where it was lost in the late night schedules, but you can easily catch up before the next season starts by renting or buying the box set.
Coming to the close of its first season in America is this southern cop drama from Graham Yost, writer of Speed and one of the minds behind recent World War 2 miniseries, The Pacific. Based on a character that featured in a number of Elmore Leonard novels, the show takes a standard crime drama and twists into something enjoyably original.
Timothy Olyphant (who some of you might know from the equally fine Deadwood) takes the lead as the trigger happy US Marshall Raylan Givens. Marshall Givens is transferred back to his childhood home after a less-than-by-the-book shooting of a Miami gangster. Givens is the kind of lawman that is smart enough to ask questions first but knows when to shoot instead, and spends his time dealing with the local scumbags as well as a collection of friends and family who fall on both sides of the law.
Olyphant is the reason to watch. He imbues Givens with a barely-concealed rage as he chews through dialogue that is as loaded as his gun. Softly spoken but with a cold steely stare, Olyphant exudes effortless cool and is as close to a young Clint Eastwood as we are ever likely to get.
The series is fairly episodic, with each hour standing on its own, making a refreshing change if you are recovering from Lost-style series-long mythologies, but tucked into each story are enough incidents and developments to indicate that the series is going somewhere. Where that might be is anyoneâ€™s guess but just like the rest of the show, chances are it will be enjoyably unconventional.
Already renewed for a second season, Justified has yet to be picked up by RTE or TV3, but for anyone who has Sky, the show will almost certainly end up on the FX channel in the near future.
Based on the series of bestselling novels from Charlaine Harris, and brought to the small screen by American Beauty and Six Feet Under mastermind Alan Ball, comes this mix of sex, violence and vampires in Louisiana.
True Blood has it all and while some of you might dismiss this as yet more vampire romance for the ladies, even a cursory glance at any episode will tell you that this is far more than just another Twilight wannabe.
The main thrust of the show concerns the invention of a synthetic blood substitute that has allowed vampires to come out into the open and live side by side with the human population, creating yet another minority group in America. Thrust into all this Sookie Stackhouse, a strong-willed waitress played by the beautiful Anna Paquin. Sookie falls for the charms of a 200 year old vampire called Bill who is seeking to regain his humanity.
The show is a black comedy with a bit of the old ultraviolence thrown in for good measure, with the various groups in the southern town of Bon Temps frequently coming to blows. Much of the humour comes from Sookieâ€™s spectacularly bone-headed brother Jason, played with knuckleheaded charm by former Home and Away actor Ryan Kwanten, and from the flamboyant gay chef of the local diner who manages steal every scene he is in.
But even with all the quality, what will probably stick with you most after your first viewing is the amount of sex in every episode. Vampire stories have long been sexual metaphors and True Blood just runs with it, somehow managing to get away with some outrageous scenes without being gratuitous. And yes, Anna Paquin does indeed get her kit off on a regular basis, as does just about everyone else.
FX on Sky have been airing True Blood as have our own TG4, so it shouldnâ€™t be too hard to find and the season one box set is available with the second season to follow in September.
Another sci-fi influenced show from the creator of Lost, J.J. Abrams, Fringe comes on as this decade's answer to the X-Files and while that show concerned itself with the paranormal, Fringe instead has an FBI taskforce investigating incidents of fringe science gone awry. Regular storylines feature mind control, bizarre viruses, and in the main thrust of the show, parallel universes.
Going up against all this is the stoic FBI agent Olivia Dunham played by the delectable Anna Torv and Peter Bishop played by Joshua Jackson .It must be said that these two are no match for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, with their believer-sceptic dynamic that made the X-Files such a pleasure to watch. Instead we have Dunham who is relentlessly straight faced and Peter who may be a little more fun but for the most part is given very little to do beyond take care of his father.
Peterâ€™s father, the unstable Walter is the heart and soul of the show and the main reason why we would recommend that you check it out. Played by the brilliant Australian actor John Noble, Walter is the mad scientist that drives much of the show's plotting, with most of the episodes coming back to the mentally-vulnerable doctor and his past mistakes.
Having spent 17 years in a mental institution after walking on the cutting edge of science for too long, Walter is both brilliant and extremely vulnerable and he gives the show some much needed heart. His mental illness is sensitively played and is both a source of comedy and pathos as he struggles to put things right.
The plotting of the show is pretty good too and pulls of that difficult trick of making you suspend disbelief long enough to make you accept some of the more fantastical elements.
Both seasons have aired on TV3 and a third season has been given the green light in the States. For latecomers, season one is available on a DVD box set.
The Wire is often regarded as one of the best TV show ever made, and rightly so. When the series ended in 2008, many of us were wondering what the showâ€™s creator David Simon would come up with next.
Few would have predicted that he would return with a series concerning the residents of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but thatâ€™s exactly what he has done with Treme. The show follows a variety of characters from all sections of society as they struggle to cope with the destruction of their homes and businesses and a government that seems uninterested in their plight.
Much of what made The Wire so brilliant is present in Treme with a realistic depiction of society and it finds the humanity in a population that has been dehumanised through disaster, discrimination and government neglect.
In the few episodes that have aired so far, no one actor particularly stands out from the rest of the strong ensemble cast, but itâ€™s early days and the show is taking itâ€™s time setting the scene for the following episodes. Much more immediately appealing is the focus on the music that New Orleans is so rightly famous for and which gives the show a rich and unique atmosphere.
No word on when this will reach our shores yet, but given the heritage of the show, one of our networks is bound to pick it up. At least we hope they do.