Monday, May 05, 2014

ORPHAN BLACK is the new ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Okay, I know I’m late to the party (by a year) but I finally discovered ORPHAN BLACK. Yes, yes. I am sooooo behind the curve. You’re probably surprised I’ve heard of LAW & ORDER.

Here in the colonies ORPHAN BLACK airs on BBC America on Saturday nights (but I found it ON DEMAND). And it is phenomenal!

Tatiana Maslany deserves not one Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, but nine – one for each character she plays. ORPHAN BLACK is about clones, but it’s less sci-fi and more character suspense/conspiracy. It takes place in the present on planet Earth so right away it’s groundbreaking for science fiction.  If you can put up with a story that’s not set five years after the Apocalypse, with evil robots controlling the world, and everyone dressing like punk rockers and driving rusted 1998 Buicks you might enjoy this show.
Tatiana Maslany is a revelation. She plays multiple characters, each completely distinct with unique voices, mannerisms, accents, and attitudes. I can only imagine Megan Boone from THE BLACKLIST trying to tackle this acting assignment. Nine wigs, one expression.

Series creators John Fawcett & Graeme Manson have devised an ingenious mystery and their storytelling is superb. This show moves like a bullet train. Things are always happening. There are most twists than in a helix. And along the way they actually ANSWER some questions. Yes, those lead to more questions but at least you’re getting some reward. (If LOST answered every question they posed over the course of the series the finale would still be airing.)

What’s amazing to me is that they’ve found a fresh way to tell a “you never know who to trust” series. God, we’ve seen a million of those. The good guy turns out to be the mole and the bad guy turns out to be the Pope. In this show they really keep you guessing. And because you care about the welfare of these cuddly clones you’re carefully trying to size everybody up. You’re watching for little tells. You’re thinking back to past conversations. Normally you’re saying – “Gregory Itzin? Bad guy. Next.“

Shows like ORPHAN BLACK also live and die by how good their villains are, and Matt Frewer is deliciously understated and evil. Who knew Max Headroom could be so scary?

The rest of the supporting cast is terrific too. My favorite is Jordan Gavaris as clone #2’s gay foster brother. (Or is it clone #3?) There’s a scene where he has to babysit a suburban soccer mom’s kids (clone #4 – wait, maybe she’s clone #2) and teaches them how to cross dress that is funnier than any sitcom scene I’ve seen this year.

Kudos also to the technology. There are some scenes where there are three Tatianas on screen at the same time and it looks seamless. (I only wish they were all watching PARENT TRAP and commenting.) Forget making Superman fly – clones even hand each other things! We’ve come a long way since THE PATTY DUKE SHOW.

ORPHAN BLACK is a series you have to watch from the beginning. But it’s not like one of those shows that starts off slow and you have to get four hours under your belt before it starts to click. The very first scene of ORPHAN BLACK hooks you right in. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The show is produced in Canada. I hope the US doesn’t do its own version (with Megan Boone) or ANIMAL PLANET doesn’t do its version with sheep.

30 comments:

Jeff said...

"It takes place in the present on planet Earth so right away it’s groundbreaking for science fiction. If you can put up with a story that’s not set five years after the Apocalypse, with evil robots controlling the world, and everyone dressing like punk rockers and driving rusted 1998 Buicks you might enjoy this show."

No offense, but…you haven't watched any sci-fi TV in a while, have you? The hallmark of most sci-fi TV these days is a fear of appearing to be sci-fi. (As a fan, what I wouldn't give for a show that takes place on another planet — or even acknowledges other planets.)

Matt said...

Who the hell is Max Headroom?

Charles H. Bryan said...

ORPHAN BLACK SHEEP? Oh, to cast Robert Conrad.

Isn't great, though, that we can discover great shows like this? And watch them when we like? (It's like discovering a new favorite author, as happened in the olden days when people would read books.)

Speaking of books, thanks again, Ken, for the mention of MAD AS HELL a few weeks back. Good book. It led me to buy the Blu-Ray which includes Paddy Chayefsky appearing as a guest on Dinah Shore's talk show. Yes! With Steve Lawrence as a co-host. Yes!

Let me recommend another show I think you'd like. It was on HBO a few years back and you may have heard of it. It's called THE WIRE.

(Ha. I remember reading in some post that people were always bugging you to watch it. Why should I not join them?)

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Matt All I can recommend regarding Max Headroom is wikipedia and youtube. It was the 80s.

Carol said...

To Matt who asked who Max Headroom is: Thanks. I feel old now. :)

Max Headroom was a show in the 80's that took place in a post-apocalyptic future where...okay...way to weird to explain. have a You Tube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYdpOjletnc

Sam said...

Ken, how would you like it if Megan Boone had a blog and was making cheap jokes at the expense of that hack writer Ken Levine?

Ken Levine said...

I would love it!

MikeBo said...

If you're just watching this for first time. Better later than never. I'll check it out, because, until I opened my "Ken Levine" morning read, I never even heard of it. But I will check it out. Oh, and your first radio job story is a classic. All of us old radio guys had an experience similar to that. Me, for instance. I had to report to my first day on the job by walking carefully through a swarm of bees. I think that was my audition.

Alan Logan said...

@Matt:

Google is your friend. In the time it took you to insert your question into Ken's blog, you could have typed "Max Headroom" into a search engine and answered your question in as much detail as you wanted.

LittlestWinslow said...

Glad to see the buzz continuing to build for such a DESERVING underdog.

David said...

More often than not, people who post questions like that don't really want the answer: they're weakly attempting to demonstrate they think the author of the post has mentioned something/one ancient or irrelevant. (The rest of the time, yes, they're simply demonstrating their ignorance of both the subject matter and their ability to do a web search.)

Kirk Chritton said...

Is it too much to hope that Matt is actually Matt Frewer posting a cryptic in-joke from 20 minutes into the future?

Sharon said...

I watched the first episode when it originally aired, and was underwhelmed. It didn't interest me enough to watch even one more episode. You're not the only one who raves about this show, so maybe I'll give it another try. After all, we're of the same minds in our love for THE GOOD WIFE.

Anonymous said...

The wife & I discovered this show in March 2013- on demand, and watched all 10 eps in under a week. It's really, really good. I think the lead actress got a golden globe nom so the show is starting to get some pub/buzz about it. This season has a little different look & "feel" to it- a bit of Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, In Time & Inception- but still really worthwhile to check out. --LL

Zach said...

"It takes place in the present on planet Earth so right away it’s groundbreaking for science fiction."

Yeah, it's pretty different in that way to, say, X-Files, which is probably the least famous sci-fi show ever.

RG said...

Another great, mood-setting show that grips you right from the start is 'The Returned' out of France. Interesting, eerie, mysterious. I saw the marathons on IFC one weekend. I believe the next season is coming soon so get on board now.

Randy 92109 said...

As much as I like Mad Men, The Americans, Game of Thrones, etc., this is the show I really look forward to each week. So much fun. Each season is only 10 episodes, so the writers can pack in a ton of plot. I'm not really much of a science fiction fan, but this is a conspiracy/mystery show, cop show, and a Desperate Housewives tribute. One minute tense, the next laugh out loud funny.

It wouldn't work though without Tatiana Maslany. She did win the Critics Choice Best Actress award as well as the Television Critics Assoc. Individual Achievement Award. She and the writers have created unique characters - you will forget she is playing each one.

The second season started about three weeks ago and, if anything, is even more briskly paced. Not sure how long they can go - 3 or 4 seasons? I just hope they don't burn out Tatiana Maslany.

Lise said...

Don't know about Matt and his question about Max Headroom, but sometimes I ask questions on blogs liks this, questions to which I could easily Google the answer, simply because you sometimes get more interesting and personal answers on the blogs.

Alan Logan said...

@David:

Thanks for that. It was what I wanted to say, but I didn't want to project onto what might have been an innocent question. Frankly, the internet has brought out a particularly obnoxious sort of person who love to loudly and arrogantly proclaim their ignorance about a topic; not because they want information, but because the statement they are really making is "why on earth would anyone care about this old time person who obviously isn't relevant because he was born before the 90's?" I can recall this same sort of arrogant stupidity back in 2012 with all the barely sentient twitter morons with their "who the hell is Paul McCartney?" posts. To paraphrase Dean Wormer, "proud and ignorant is no way to go through life, son".

Which will probably result in a "who is Dean Wormer?" posting....

chuckcd said...

I agree. It's a great show!

Scott H said...

For me, the second most amazing thing about "Orphan Black", after Maslany's performances, is Jordan Gavaris's accent as Felix (he's also my favorite character, with Cosima a close second). His accent sounds so spot-on that it's crushing to see the actor in an interview, with a flat, unaccented voice.

Sherri said...

I'm one of the hardy few that have watched this show from the beginning, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It's a crime that Tatiana Maslany wasn't even nominated for an Emmy last year. It's easy to forget that all the clones are being played by the same actress, she does such a good job of distinguishing them, and then there are scenes where she's one clone pretending to be another clone, and she makes that distinct as well!

Cap'n Bob said...

All my science fiction friends insist that the term "sci-fi" is an abomination to the eyes and ears.

Wayne said...

I love actors like Megan Boone and Tom Selleck. They look like Obama told them "If you like your facial expression, you can keep it."

Anonymous said...

It's a brilliant show and she's incredible in it. To the letter writer who said they saw the first episode and stopped, although I liked it from day 1 it really clicks into gear by the third episode. Give it another try and get through the first few and I think you'll be hooked.
Oh,and once again, Ken, there are much more readable Capcha programs that you can use that won't make us enter the words a thousand times and still allow the security you want. The one you use is so difficult to make heads or tails of. - MARV@MARVWOLFMAN.COM

Ken Levine said...

I have no say on the Capcha program. That's a blogger thing. Wish I could make things easier.

marie said...

Ha, finally, the first day I wasnt able to read your post on the day of and you talk about Orphan Black. I sounded like a crazy fan of a weird little show when I suggested, at least twice, (and most recently in a Fridays questions) asking you to watch it.....fabulous acting, amazing accents especially when you realize Tatiana and Jordan normally have a Canadian accent, even Delphine (who is played by a French Canadian) has no french accent in interviews.
not sure it was because of me asking you to watch it, but you are welcome... You're Damn Right!

debapriya said...

Have been hooked to the Orphan Black world for some time now -- and its the one of the real game changer shows in narration around which uses technology and sci fi as tools of story telling and not for making an exhibition out of it.
And Tatiana does deserved hands down an Emmy and all accolades for such effortless portrayals.

Doug said...

Helena scares the hell out of me.Trevor Yuile's 'Helena's Theme' scares the hell out of me?Can Helena be killed?Ya ... I am hooked!

Salha Abuhayar said...

I began watching Orphan Black just a couple of weeks ago and I have to say that I am amazed by it! I really loved everything about this series: the cast, the technology, the plot. I'm really admired by Tatiana Maslany's ability to portray so many clones who are completely different from one another and not mess it up. She somehow manages to portray each clone with its own accent, mannerisms, personality and body language perfectly.
She definitely deserves more than just one Emmy Award for it.
Plus, the whole technology and effects implemented in this series make it all absolutely believable! I mean, clones hand each other things and they even hug each other!
I wrote a little review on this series on my blog, if you would like you can go check it up and let me know what you think about it: http://salhaabuhayar.blogspot.com/2014/10/orphan-black-personal-review.html