Miniseries Thoughts: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy[WARNING: SPOILERS!] Sorry for the slightly belated post, but I finally had a chance to watch the miniseries based on J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, and for the most part I thought it was quite good. What got my attention from the first moment, and kept it throughout, was the way the show used beautiful visuals of idyllic rural England and deliberately contrasted them with the less-than-idyllic things happening in the characters’ lives. There’s so much going on in the novel – so many characters, for one thing – that it was inevitable that some things get cut in the transition to screen; for the most part I thought these decisions were made well and thoughtfully. The cut character whose story I missed most was Gavin, and I thought it was sad that Sukhvinder’s important story was so reduced, but they were both fairly isolated and in their heads in the novel, so these cuts are understandable.

One character whose presence was increased rather than reduced, however, was Barry Fairbrother himself – the show spent more time with him before his death than did the book, and after his death the audience got to know him even better via flashbacks, primarily Krystal’s. Barry and Krystal had a closer relationship in the miniseries – I honestly couldn’t tell whether the show was trying to hint that he might be her father – and that went along with the show’s attempt to make Krystal more likeable and sympathetic in a straightforward way. I understand why they did that, but I preferred the more complicated character in the books. In addition to Barry’s closer, more direct tie to the Weedon’s, the miniseries also made him Simon Price’s brother and Andrew’s uncle, and I really enjoyed the little we saw of that relationship before Barry’s death.

The ending of the miniseries was somewhat less tragic and more hopeful than the book – for one thing, Robbie survives, and Krystal dies accidentally while trying to save him, rather than deliberately killing herself because she blames herself for her brother’s death. And several other characters – Mary, Andrew, Gaia – had their stories end on hopeful, “getting a new start” notes; while I had no problem with any of these specific endings, the focus on them rather than more prominent but less sympathetic characters like the Mollisons or Walls did feel a bit unearned.

Quick Pilot Thoughts: Wayward Pines

Wayward PinesThe Wayward Pines pilot aired on Fox last night – if you missed it, you should be able to catch it on Hulu or On Demand – and, like my friend June Thomas, who reviewed it for Slate, I found it to be, if not good, at least quite watchable. As she says: “In some ways, it’s a perfect summer show—just complicated enough to hold viewers’ attention without raising their temperature or heart rate.” I like several people in the cast, and enjoyed watching this first episode, and I’m mildly curious about the answers to the show’s big mysteries – but I don’t think I’ll be losing much sleep over it. And that’s fine! Of course, it’s hard to go by one episode, and it’s totally possible that in a week or two I’ll either be obsessed OR be bored/frustrated with the endless questions. But it sounds like the writers have made an effort to provide answers, at least partial, as they go, and they keep promising everything will be answered by the end. I care about that less as far as the answers themselves and more in that I like knowing that a show has a plan. Aside from that issue – Melissa Leo and Toby Jones are creepily great, of course, and I’ve learned I apparently had no idea who Matt Dillon was (though of course I knew the name) but he seems fine. There is, as June mentioned in the review linked above, some amazingly malevolent ice cream eating, and that goes a long way for me. I’ll be along for the ride, at least for now.

(Note: Yes, I’m going into this without having read Blake Crouch’s source material; I’m on my library’s waiting list for the first novel, Pines, and/but I’m also wondering if this is a case in which knowing [at least a version of] the answers would make the show less enjoyable. Well, we’ll see when the book comes in and when I have time to read it.)

Trailer Thoughts: The Magicians

The MagiciansWhee! BuzzFeed has the first trailer for Syfy’s The Magicians, based on the novels by Lev Grossman. It’s an exclusive, so I’m going to link you over to them rather than embedding, but if you’re interested in the show, you should definitely watch – I was a little skeptical at first, but by the end I was all in. Jason Ralph plays Quentin, and while he looked a little old at first, I think I’ll like what he does with the character, so I’ll go with it. Quentin needs to be something of a jerk but also sympathetic, which can be a hard line to walk; I assume a show would be tempted to make him too likeable, to make sure the audience is on his side, but so far so good. That first shot of the Brakebills lawn was perfect, and so far I like the way they’re portraying the magic itself. Can’t wait to see more!

Trailer: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellThe Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell miniseries, based on the novel by Susanna Clarke and starring Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel, premieres on BBC America on June 13th. My thoughts as I watched this trailer: 1. I haven’t read the book yet, but this looks fun! 2. Wait, are there any women in this? 3. That is not at ALL how I was pronouncing “Norrell” in my head.

Shadowhunters Casts Clary, Simon, & Isabelle

Kat McNamaraShadowhunters, the ABC Family show based on Cassandra Clare’s books, is continuing to cast its main characters! Most recently, Kat McNamara was cast as lead Clary, opposite the previously announced Dominic Sherwood as Jace. And last week, Alberto Rosende was cast as Simon and Emeraude Toubia as Isabelle. Exciting! Can’t wait to see how the rest of the cast shapes up.

Syfy Picks Up The Magicians to Series

It’s official: Syfy has picked up their drama based on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. Often likened to a more adult Harry Potter, the books center on a young man named Quentin who is recruited to a secret college for magicians. MTV has a good rundown of the basics, including the characters and their actors, including some comments from Grossman. Can’t wait!