With Netflix, and other services, TV series have never been so widely available, and the temptation to binge watch a whole season of Breaking Bad in one night can be overwhelming. May contain spoilers.
The latest in the long list of additions to both Netflix’s library and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is The Punisher. It opens with said Punisher killing some bad guy, getting in a fight, then killing some more bad guys. The rest of the series pretty much follows in the same vein.
Frank Castle served in Afghanistan as a marine and, upon returning to New York, his family is murdered by a criminal gang. Unsurprisingly, this breaks Castle, and he becomes the Punisher, using his skills to kill each and every individual associated with his family’s death. The series starts up as Castle completes this task and fakes his death to avoid prosecution. Now keeping a low profile, and sporting the mandatory Beard of Sorrow, which lasts for almost a whole episode, he deals with his grief by hitting a wall with a big hammer all day. Soon enough he’s thrown back into a world of violence, deceit and death, which is where he’s right at home.
It turns out that the Punisher has some more people to kill and a conspiracy to uncover, dating back to his time in Afghanistan and relating to his family’s death. Throw in a Homeland security investigation into the mix, add a reclusive tech genius and we’re away.
That’s not to say that The Punisher is a stereotypical superhero show; there’s nobody flying around saving the day and the traditional Punisher garb makes only fleeting appearances. What this show is is brutal. Absolutely brutal. Barely an episode goes by without at least one shoot out or torture scene, making it most definitely not for the faint hearted. We are treated to ever more overwhelming odds for Castle to overcome as he fights to avenge his family and expose those higher up the food chain that have done evil. The frequency of violent confrontations makes it hard to look away, but what makes you want to watch the next episode is the evolution of the plot and characters, rather than just a hunger for action.
Jon Bernthal is absolutely terrific as Frank Castle, managing to steer well clear of portraying the character as just another angry-man-after-vengeance, but also doing very well to incorporate a strict moral code and complicated relationships with just about everybody else in the show. In a career highlight for Bernthal, we see Castle as a wounded dog, hurt to his very core and lashing out at the world because it’s all he knows how to do. Indeed, it’s all he has wanted to do, and Bernthal does terrifically to explore the place of violence and being a soldier in Castle’s character. The series as a whole does a tremendous job of looking at the problems faced by soldiers returning from war, with Castle being far from the only one with a struggle. Amber Rose Revah is also very good as Dinah Madani, the Homeland agent chasing Castle, so it’s a shame that the two share the screen for only brief moments.
Yeah sure there are the usual issues with this genre, like Castle seeming to recover from serious wounds in a matter of hours with no ill effects, but that’s what willing suspension of disbelief is for. Morality forms the basis of the main problem with the show; can a character who uses extreme violence really be a good guy? And is the near glorification of guns, present elsewhere, but particularly prevalent here, a good thing? (The Punisher’s release was reportedly delayed after the Las Vegas shootings last year). These are the only places the series tiptoes, though there is a brief gun debate and a significant subplot that revolves around a sort gun obsessed nutjob.
The Punisher is an edge of the seat ride that delivers incessant thrills, and will continue to do so, as a second series has been confirmed. It’s well worth a watch, especially at only 13 episodes, all of which fly by in a blur of bullets and Bernthal.
The latest of ABCs political drama offerings, Designated Survivor tells the story of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman as the Presidency is thrust upon him when the US government is all but wiped out by a terrorist bomb.
Viewers of the West Wing may recall from an early episode the principle of a designated survivor; in season 1 Bartlet nominates the Secretary of Agriculture to be his. For those not familiar with the West Wing, a) you’re really missing out and b) a designated survivor is the one member of government kept in a secure location during the Presidents Annual State of the Union addresses to Congress, in case a catastrophic attack that wipes out everybody else. In such an event, the designated survivor becomes President of the United States of America. No prizes for guessing what happens in the opening scene of Designated Survivor them.
And so Tom Kirkman, a complete and utter non-entity in politics says those magic 33 words that make him the most powerful man on Earth. First order of business, throw up in an underground, top secret toilet. Things don’t really get much better for Kirkman, played by 24’s Kiefer Sunderland, as he must confront adversity from pretty much everywhere.
Amidst the search for the terrorists who wiped out the government Kirkman must balance family matters, staff tensions and national security, all the while trying desperately to stop the country falling apart. It’s a lot to take on for someone with relatively little experience and we see him struggle with himself as everybody questions if he is up to the Herculean task.
For those who have watched 24, the idea of Jack Bauer, the all action, tough talking action hero not afraid to stand up and even die for his country is perhaps reassuring. This is not all too far from the truth of the show, as Kirkman is at his bets in the most action packed moments of crisis. In the more nuanced moments though, Sutherlands acting lets him down a touch, and it is clear that he has much more experience in shooting bad guys than close knit family scenes (although none of his family get kidnapped here, unlike 24).
The central thrust of the plot, the search to find those responsible for the attack that put Kirkman in power is a little too predictable from the off. There’s a clear sense just from the first couple of episodes where it’s going and how it will develop as the series goes on, and this is the path the plot more or less takes. However, there are enough sub plots that this is off little concern, and there are still plenty of twists and turns knocking around.
In terms of characters the show does well to avoid focussing too much on Kirkman, a trap that would have been easy to fall into. This is one of the major strengths of the show, allowing it to develop a number of reasonably complex relationships between each of the characters, which does a great deal for making the show feel like a more intimate look at those in power, in a vein not dissimilar to the West Wing, which is high praise indeed. The characters themselves are also clearly developed as they adjust to their new reality and positions in the world. The best example of this is Kirkman’s wife, Alex, played by Natascha McElhone, who must face the burden of a teenage son, with the added pressure of being the first lady and an employment lawyer.
Designated Survivor is a good piece of television, and its deliciously easy to devour the ten episodes currently available on Netflix outside the US. But it is just good, nothing more, nothing less. It is hindered by a plot that feels like it may well have been recycled from any number of other shows and acting that can be sub-par at times. These faults are more or less compensated for by some quality production, combined with an otherwise well written script that allows a look into the lives of people who have their lives irrevocably altered in an instant. Definitely worth a watch, but don’t expect to be bowled over.
This fast paced drama revolves around the eponymous west wing of the White House and those who work in it, including the President, and how they just about manage to keep everything together long enough to run the most powerful country on Earth.
First off let me tell you what the West Wing isn’t. It is not House of Cards. Though they both do centre on the dealings of a democratic President, in the West Wing egos are kept at a minimum, there’s no Machiavellian manoeuvring and all backstabbing is confined to the figurative, rather than the literal sense. So if you’re after a show about a somewhat psychopathic man hell bent on acquiring and consolidating ultimate power into his hands then go watch House of Cards, not the West Wing (if you’ve already seen the Netflix version of HoC, try the original British version or even read the even more original books).
So that’s what it’s not. Now let’s get into what the West Wing is. It’s a relatively small cast for a tv show that clocks up over 150 episodes, with just a small handful of major players that change very little over the 7 series (it doesn’t quite work out at one series of each year of Bartlet and co’s stint in the White House, but its near enough). It portrays a vibrant, if chaotic, view of the inner workings of a presidential administration, one which has been confirmed as being close to reality by a number of former White House staff, and even a smattering of former residents of the East Wing. Whilst grappling with suitably big issues, such as the death penalty, abortion and the like, the West Wing manages to stay light hearted and entertaining by also including bizarre and comic features on mapping projections and egg standing, which often take over whole episodes. In fact, the West Wing is remarkable in the fact that in some episodes, nothing at all of any consequence can happen, expect for the viewer being thoroughly entertained by the quips from the razor sharp intellect of President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen). That nothing happens might not exactly sound like a selling point, but it is a testament to unparalleled writing of Aaron Sorkin that almost an hour can slip by with no major plot developments but still be highly entertaining. Of course it is a show about the President of the United States, so worry not there is still high stakes drama pretty much on tap.
The West Wing also reverberates in modern society in a way that no other show really manages. Despite being filmed before the turn of the millennium (the picture quality can take a little getting used to but its more than worth it), it predicts that personal privacy will dominate society in years to come, due to the rise and rise of the internet, and actually based the candidate to take over the Presidency after Bartlet on Obama, three years before he entered the White House himself. Naturally the West Wing also grapples with real life issues, including gays in the military, the Israel-Palestine conflict, a nuclear showdown, trade with Cuba and the morality of the death penalty. Personally, I think it furthered my enjoyment that the stance taken by the majority of the administration was pretty close to my own views, but occasionally the opposite view is posited.
Wit and humour play a major role in the series, even in the darkest of hours which can lend a slightly surreal sheen to proceedings occasionally but on the whole only adds to the entertainment. Sarcasm is also often deployed, most commonly from the lips of the extreme cynic Toby Ziegler, and always to devastatingly amusing effect. The wry comedic nature of the West Wing is one of its biggest strengths, but be warned that it often comes coupled with biblical and Shakespearean references. There’s also an occasional tirade about economic theory and many a remark made in Latin, but again it all adds to the image of a group of highly intelligent people – the sort of people you’d hope are running the country. Monologues are littered throughout the series and range from the inane to the ideological to the patriotic to the unbelievably effective shutdown, best illustrated in Bartlet’s speech to a radio host who opposes gay marriage on religious grounds.
Characters are developed somewhat throughout the series, most notably Josh, who becomes the focal point of the show in the latter series, and CJ as she decides exactly what it is she wants in life and suffers through some personal issues, which take up a particularly hard hitting episode. That said, what changes most over the 7 series is the relationships between the characters themselves, who start off as close to colleagues but grow ever closer as they work together through crisis after crisis, until of course rifts begin to emerge.
A particular high point of the show comes at the end of the second series, in the episode entitled Two Cathedrals, in which both a sudden shock and long running plot that both have serious implications must be dealt with, culminating in President Bartlet raging against the injustice of God while in a cathedral. Oh and he does it in fluent Latin as well, because he can. This episode, for me, is the single best episode of any tv series ever produced.
In terms of cinematics, the West Wing is responsible for popularising the “walk and talk” shot, which follows characters round a building as they, well, walk and talk, which is deployed to great effect to add a sense of dynamism to a dialogue intensive script. As for the script itself, it is magnificently written throughout the show, but unfortunately there is a perceivable drop in quality after the end of the fourth series, coinciding with the departure of Aaron Sorkin, who created the show. This does affect the level of the show somewhat, but a partial recovery is made in the latter series, and in any case it could hardly be described as a comparable drop off to that of Lost, or countless other shows that falter after fantastic first seasons.
To sum up, the West Wing is an almost unique piece of television that weaves together an otherwise unremarkable cast, with the exception of Martin Sheen of course, with an exceptionally witty script and defining camerawork to create the finest, and most realistic, show of the political drama genre. Absolutely worth watching, but maybe brush up on your Latin first.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Imagine being stranded on a deserted island. Almost certainly something that you’ve heard before. But when their Oceanic flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles breaks up in mid-air somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, this becomes a reality for a diverse group of people. And by diverse, I mean really, really diverse. Passengers on flight 815 include a lottery winner, a murderer, a spinal surgeon, an Iraqi torturer, a mechanical engineer, a con man, a box salesman, jewel thieves, a forgotten rock star, a pregnant woman, a high school teacher and a cute dog.
The immediate crisis is not a lack of common experiences though; it is something a little more pressing. Plane crashes are not exactly the most comfortable experiences, and there is a frantic rush to escape the burning wreckage and to bring fellow survivors to safety. Jack Shepard, the spinal surgeon, becomes the unofficial leader of the survivors and soon sets off into the jungle, the first of many such expeditions, to find the cockpit so he can radio for help.
Back at the beach meanwhile, the survivors hear strange noises in the forest, accompanied by falling trees, which, along with the knowledge there is a murderer amongst them, doesn’t make for much of a happy camp.
After stumbling through this same jungle, Jack unearths the cockpit and finds the co-pilot still alive. No sooner than the co-pilot tells him that, without the knowledge of air traffic control, they were over 1000 miles off course so no rescue crew will find them, than he is snatched by a monster made of black smoke and killed.
So far, so bad. But wait, it gets even worse! Food and water supplies salvaged for the plane soon start to run out, and the news that there will be no rescue is taken pretty badly. As flashbacks reveal how each person came to be on the plane, tensions in the camp reach breaking point.
And this is just the first couple of episodes of series 1 of 6.
Essentially bad things continue to happen, with the odd amusing scene, like when Hurley, a fans favourite, discovers a set of golf clubs and sets up the first Island golf course. Bad soon turns to sinister, as the group realise that other people are on the Island, giving them the inventive, but quite effective name of “The Others”. Mystery after mystery is found on the Island, which seems to have been luring people to it for centuries, but each answer brings only a fresh round of questions, which are then slowly answered, bringing more questions, then more answers, then even more questions, then… You get the picture.
There are definitely some great characters in Lost and some fantastic little backstories, as well as a scattering of true love matches and, more entertainingly, mismatches. But after a couple of series, the backbone of any show, the main plot, simply becomes too convoluted, too messy and frankly, unbelievable. This would be acceptable in a show that made it clear that the whole thing was pure fantasy, but with Lost, there is an expectation that the viewer swallow ever crazier twists and turns without questioning the foundations of the show.
The first few series are great television, and it is easy to see how Lost soon built up a cult following and amassed awards for its ground-breaking ideas and visual techniques. Undoubtedly though, the series tails off toward the final season, as if to simply prolong the show and to squeeze out of few more elusive truths and answer questions asked in the very first episodes. The final ending is something that often receives widespread criticism, but personally, I did not find it so bad, I was almost glad that the series had come to an end, it was almost a mercy.
Lost has all the initial promise to be amazing, and manages to sustain it for a while, but in the end, it cannot reach the high standards it sets for itself, ushering in all kinds of bizarre phenomena, like ley lines, to try to explain away the plot issues. Once you start Lost though, it is hard to stop, as the need to know exactly what is happening on this mysterious island can be overwhelming, until the very last underwhelming answer. It is for this reason that Lost is probably a series best forgotten about.
Rating: 4 out of 10
House is one of those medical dramas, set in a big hospital, always somebody dying. That is normally enough to put me off watching a show, because they all seem to be almost identical, all the bizarre illnesses and unbelievable accidents blending into one long sequence of blood and needles. But I decided why not, give this one a go.
In a nutshell, this was the right idea. House is a bit different, in that Hugh Laurie is basically a funny guy, but after very few episodes a sense of monotony kicks in. A patient comes in with either a strange set of symptoms, or some that are perfectly benign, often with a collapse thrown in for good measure. Treatment goes ahead, but then, suddenly, the patient gets worse! Now they’re going to die, unless House and his team can crack the case! Spoiler alert, they normally do, unless it’s one of the sad episodes that end with a dark, rainy montage of people staring out windows and things like that. House then mopes around for a bit, throws a ball against a wall for a while and then, out of the blue, he makes the connection that solves the case and saves the patient’s life. All smiles then.
Well, not exactly, because Dr House is a depressed atheist who trusts nobody and loves to manipulate them instead. His endless stream of sarcastic remarks and complex metaphors are pretty much the only things that make the show worth watching. But after a while, even these become tedious.
The entire show simply seems to be on episode on a constant loop, there is absolutely no progression over a series, and the episodes just roll on and on and on. It’s the classic, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.Oh and by the way, it’s never Lupus.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Synopsis - WARNING: SPOILERS
When Michael Scofield’s brother is imprisoned for the murder of the brother of the Vice President and sentenced to death, he decides to intervene, but not through the courts. Instead the cunning structural engineer commits an armed robbery to ensure that he too is imprisoned in Fox River Penitentiary. On the face of it, this sounds like a pretty bad idea, but, as the title suggests, it is all part of a plan to break his brother, Lincoln Burrows out of prison.
The plan hinges around Michael Scofield, played by Wentworth Miller, having the blueprints to the prison in his possession, with an escape plan already figured out. With just over a month before Lincoln is due to be executed, Michael begins the Prison Break. Of course, he doesn’t just have a copy of the prison blueprints in his back pocket; instead he has them tattooed over his entire body, disguised as just a set of elaborate tattoos. Bit by bit, the plan to escape is revealed as each part of the tattoo comes into use.
With the aid of several other inmates, including Michael’s cellmate Fernando Sucre, criminally insane Charles Patoshik, and convicted child abuser and all round creep Theodore Bagwell, the brothers are eventually able to escape from Fox River, right under the nose of head prison guard Brad Bellick. Here, the first season comes to a close.
Season two opens just hours after the group of escapees, nicknamed “The Fox River Eight”, have managed to escape. But now the group faces a new challenge, as they must evade the nationwide manhunt, headed by Federal Agent Alexander Mahone. Again, this series is dictated by Michael, whose tattoo contains the plan to get the brothers to safety in Panama. However, Mahone hides a dark secret; he works for a shady organisation called “The Company”, which has infiltrated every aspect of the Government. It is revealed that this mysterious Company framed Lincoln for the murder of the brother of the now President, who is a Company agent. On orders from the company, Mahone tracks down and kills the escapees one by one.
After a prolonged battle of wits, the brothers manage to reach Panama, with Mahone and ex prison guard Brad Bellick in hot pursuit. Just when it seems as if the brothers might finally be free, they are arrested by the Panama police and thrown into the lawless prison Sona. In Sona, a prison riot has seen the prisoners take control of the prison, while the guards simply shoot anyone seen to be escaping. In series 3, Michael must, once again escape from prison.
In series 4, free again Michael is contracted by the FBI to steal Scylla, the supposed black book of The Company, so that The Company can be destroyed. The plot thickens as it is revealed that Michaels mother, believed to be long dead, is in fact a high powered Company operative. Mother and Son must battle for the control of Scylla, as tensions mount between Michael and his team and internal divisions threaten the Company from within.
Prison Break certainly starts well, with the high levels of tension sustained throughout the entirety of the first series, thanks in part to an excellent performance from Wentworth Miller. The introduction of characters like Theodore Bagwell into the equation keeps the interest firmly fixed on not only the plan to break out, but who should be part of the plot and allowed to escape. Michael begins to lose control of his brainchild and he must wrest it back, or it is his brother that will pay the ultimate price.
Series two is also of a high quality, with many of the same themes from series one repeated, but with the added element of danger in the form of Agent Mahone, who becomes ever more desperate to put an end to the escape. The stakes are raised each and every episode, as it becomes increasingly clear that the escapees are not only trying to escape from the authorities, but are battling each other to stay one step ahead of Mahone and The Company.
However, series three is where things start to go wrong for Prison Break. The plot line begins to spiral more and more out of control and further from any perception of reality. Series three is still quite entertaining though and does feature some good character development that is lacking a bit in the earlier series’, the best example of which is Brad Bellick, as he faces the role reversal from guard to an inmate in a brutal and lawless prison.
Series 4 is, quite simply, awful. The series begins to resemble that of a soap, with revelations about family coming at every turn, each more outlandish than the last. It is not long before the final series is almost unrecognizable as the masterclass in tension that is the first two series’. The plot lurches from one crisis to the next, littered with obvious flaws.
On the whole, the first two series’ are really very good television and even series three, despite its problems, is entertaining. Series four is a real stain upon the show as a whole, dragging down the overall rating, and it would have been much better if it had never been produced. There are rumours of another series being produced, and I sincerely hope it is much more like the first two series, which were outstanding.
Dexter Morgan is a quiet, unassuming technician who works for Miami Police in the homicide department, as a blood spatter analyst. By all accounts, he is a pretty normal guy, kind enough to bring doughnuts into work most days. But Dexter hides a deadly secret. He kills people. Not just anybody though, Dexter sticks to a "Code" taught to him by his father, Harry, who was a Detective before his death, which states that Dexter can only kill people who deserve it, such as other murderers.
Series One begins as Dexter is called to a crime scene in an empty swimming pool. Upon arriving at the crime scene, he sees the body of a prostitute, cut up into separate pieces and drained of blood. For Dexter, blood is a big deal; he has urges to kill people and thrives upon taking blood samples just before he kills them. So this new murder frustrates him for its lack of blood, and when the killings continue in the same fashion, Dexter realises he has a contemporary and the two serial killers begin to send messages to one another.
Dexter is a textbook psychopath; he is entirely incapable of feeling any emotions towards other people, instead he is filled with an emptiness and an urge to kill people, which he calls his "Dark Passenger". Despite this, he has a girlfriend, but he justify this to himself as merely a ploy to make himself appear as an ordinary human being. Dexter also has a sister, Debra, who he does admit he is close to, who becomes a Detective in the same department as Dexter.
Because of the rather unusual nature of the main character and what he does, Dexter is certainly very different to any other series, especially as it is presented from Dexter's point of view, giving an insight into his mind and the urges he feels, as well as showing the conversations he has with his father, both in flashbacks and as an almost Obi-Wan Kenobi like influence on him. This gives a strange sense of intimacy to the programme, which is not present in most other series.
However, the plot lines over the seasons are limited a bit by the fact that Dexter is a serial killer, as there are relatively few ways to explore his character and little opportunity to develop it. Also, the plots tend to be rather similar to one another, differing only in the specifics. For example, most of the series feature a serial killer, who Dexter eventually tracks down and kills, but along the way, the killer discovers who Dexter is and what he does, leading Dexter to fear for the safety of his secret and those around him. On top of this, the pace of the series can be slow at times, in fact, some series probably could have been condensed into half the number of episodes with no great loss of quality.
Personally, I grew a bit tired of Dexter about series 5 or 6, but continued to the very end of the show regardless. Every time I felt as if I was not going to watch another series, after the current one, the one that I was part way through watching turned out to be good. This happened in series' 3 and 6, both of which feature serial killers, but have very good, believable, plot twists.
Any show is most remembered for it's finale though, and it is here that Dexter really does come up short. After being told several times that the entire final series was terrible, I was pleased to see that this was not the case, and I quite liked it, apart from one very important part: the climax. I felt thoroughly disappointed by the end of the final series, something that many other people have echoed. The more that I think about the finale, the less it seems to be a fitting end and the more irritated I get at the writers, who have let themselves down with a, quite simply, bad ending.
Overall though, Dexter is a good series, but it is not exceptional. It does create moments of high tension and action, as well as developing the characters around Dexter.But, for me at least, the overall pace is a little too slow and the way that the plot lines closely mimic one another over the entire show makes me think that it would have been better if there had only been, say, 5 series, instead of the 8. There is also a series of books, starting with Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay, from which the idea was taken, but these differ massively from the show in many ways. On the whole, I would recommend Dexter, but only if you are struggling to find anything else to watch.
Luther is a gritty, violent police drama that revolves around a small cast of characters, the star of which is the title character, Luther, who is by no means a standard policeman.
Played by the exceptional Idris Elba, Luther begins the first series returning from a suspension relating to his previous case, but soon finds his life spiraling out of his control and into a dark chaos once again. Working for the Serious Crime Unit he finds himself in a world of violent murders and terrifying killers who come out of the dark before slipping back into the night.
Everything must be questioned, apart from one thing; DCI John Luther's obsession with catching the killer, something which he fixates upon to the point where the darkness of the crimes that he investigates begin to seep into his personal life and the very fabric of who Luther is. Who is Luther, really? He is certainly not a perfect, incorruptible cop, unerring in his judgement, unswerving in his commitment to righteousness. He has his own demons certainly and sometimes the line between the hunter and the hunted appears blurred. Sometimes it can even be hard to distinguish exactly on which side of the law Luther falls onto.
Make no mistake, Luther is dark, graphic and chilling at times. But the acting is superb and the script excellently written by Neil Cross, who creates characters who lie squarely in that grey region that is hard to define. There are only 14 episodes of this gripping, psychological drama, spread across 3 series. Luther's creators have ruled out a fourth series, but a big screen adaptation is certainly not out of the question and neither is a spin-off series centered around a character met at the opening of the very first episode.
Overall, Luther is a consistently intense thriller that never fails to disappoint. A breathtaking pace is set from the word go, and is kept up throughout, enthralling the audience until the very end. Luther provides more than a simple thrill though, it is thoughtful in its own unique way, and does not rely on the cop being the perfect guy. Luther, as a person seems real, contorted by his job and the people who he must understand if he is to catch them. He must get into their minds, truly understand them, and in doing so it alters his own finely balanced mindset, leading Luther to become something of a tortured soul.
Professor Brian Cox, formerly of the band D;Ream, who had a number 1 hit single with Things Can Only Get Better, has been described as the natural successor to the BBC's scientific programming by David Attenborough, has been involved with television since 2005, most recently with his a few series such as Wonders of The Solar System, Wonders of The Universe and Wonders of Life. Unsurprisingly, given that he is a professor in Physics, these are documentaries about, well, Physics.
These programmes don't assume much prior knowledge, meaning that they are accessible to almost everybody, although some of the concepts explained are quite complex, as well as having lots and lots of very big numbers, but they come with the territory. A wide range of topics is covered well by someone who clearly both enjoys and thoroughly understands what they're talking about.
Once you get around the seemingly endless artistic time lapses, dramatic shots and Cox gazing at the stars, which become slightly tired after a while, you can appreciate the beauty of both the Physics being explained and the striking consequences it has, at the tiniest scales and at the grandest of scales, as minute forces create phenomena that have mystified and amazed humanity for millennia.
Cox himself is brilliant, as always, conveying confusing concepts with his typical style of easy going, smiling manner that allows the viewer to understand the consequences of some areas of Physics, but more importantly, where they come from and how they were developed, improved and refined over the years. It feels less like a documentary, more like being told a story, one that unfolds and unfolds until it is all encompassing.
However, with his newest series, Human Universe, it feels as if the BBC have coerced Cox into another series, which covers much of the ground already discussed in his previous programmes. That is not to say that it is a bad series, not at all, and, at the time of writing, it is still a new series, with only a small number of episodes aired. The camera work, is once again sublime.
An accompanying series of books is also available and these are exceptional. they take in all the Physics of the shows, with a bit extra information and explanation, that really makes the concepts come alive, and I would certainly recommend them to anyone with an interest in Physics.
As a whole, the Wonders of... series is a high quality Physics show, that feels as if its purpose is to entertain, rather than to explain. It provides well thought out explanations and demonstrations that make complex ideas spring to life for people with all levels of prior knowledge, giving it a 7 out of 10 rating.