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Binge-worthy: Bodyguard is everything we love about British storytelling

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Binge-worthy The Bodyguard is everything we love about British storytelling

Hollywood may have all the money in the world, but Great Britain is the home of masterful storytelling in the English language. This year’s breakout hit on the BBC, Bodyguard, delivers on everything it promises, then adds a few more elements we didn’t expect

As usual, no spoilers ahead.

Showing now on Netflix, Bodyguard tells the story of DS David Budd (Richard Madden), a veteran with PTSD who finds himself playing multiple roles in terrorist plots happening all across London. His heroism in the series opening lands him an assignment protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot.

At six hour-long episodes, this first series is a self-contained story that leaves the possibilities for the second series wide open. But don’t wait until the next series to launch before diving into the first. It’s fully resolved by the end in an almost too-neat ending. Intended to be a standalone mini-series, its popularity has sparked calls for expanding it. At this point, that seems like a foregone conclusion. Madden is set to meet with show creator and writer Jed Mercurio later this month.

Bodyguard is grittier than most BBC dramas, tackling a wide range of issues in a short period of time. PTSD, terrorist motivations, police state politics, inappropriate relationships, conflict between government departments, and how all these things affect a single cop make for a dynamic story of intrigue delivered in a not-so-tidy wrapping of personal turmoil. This is the story’s strength; we know there are many demons plaguing the main character, but we don’t know which ones will win in the end.

Perhaps lost in the mix of politics and espionage is a strong whodunit that allows us to follow the evidence and sift through red herrings until the last episode’s climax when all is revealed. They didn’t just answer all of the questions we were asking. They answered a few questions we didn’t know to ask.

Madden handles the role like a seasoned actor beyond his years. Known mostly for his portrayal of Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, the 32-year-old actor opened more eyes and started further speculation that he’s the frontrunner to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond after the 25th movie is finished.

One of the things that separates British and American television is an uncanny ability to utterly surprise without pulling things out of left field. With British surprises, we can look back and wonder why we didn’t see it coming all along. Oftentimes American television surprises leave us asking, “what the hell just happened?”

There are other qualities in which American television excels over British, but delivering the right shockers at the right moment without leaving us scratching our heads is a very British trait and Bodyguard delivers it expertly on multiple occasions.

If you’re looking for something you can binge in two or three sittings, six hours of Bodyguard is right up your alley. Exciting at the right times, methodical at others, it’s a drama that deserves attention.

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Entertainment and Sports

Binge-worthy show: Counterpart works because J.K. Simmons is incredible. Twice.

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With season 2 of the Starz hit Counterpart getting going, I thought I should go ahead and binge the first season to see if it’s one to follow going forward. Despite a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and universal acclaim, I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t move forward to season 2 if it weren’t for two letters and a surname: J.K. Simmons.

Very minor spoilers ahead for the sake of understanding why you should see this show.

Imagine if the world we know copied itself 30-years ago. These two worlds continued without knowledge of each other, save for a select few on each side who are aware of the tunnel below a building in Berlin that connects the two worlds. Now, imagine if both sides kept the existence of this secret from everyone, even most of the world’s governments, and instead ran a shadow organization in the building above the tunnel that allowed the two sides to cooperate.

That’s the world of Counterpart.

This is where it gets interesting. J.K. Simmons plays Howard Silk… twice. In the “alpha” version of the world he’s a mild-mannered operator working in the building above the tunnel but unaware of what it does or the role he plays in everything. The “prime” version is a badass secret agent who must travel to the “alpha” side to foil a plot that would bring the two sides to war.

The premise is pretty clever, albeit not completely unique. There have been stories of alternate realities playing with or against each other in everything from comic books to Star Trek shows. This is the first I’ve seen that plays it more as a spy game in an inter-reality Cold War setting, but nonetheless it’s a relatively common premise. What Star Trek fan doesn’t remember evil Spock?

Spock Mirror

On the merits of the story alone, I’d see this as an acceptable show to watch. Not quite binge-worthy, but a nice aside while waiting for the next season of The Expanse for sci-fi fans. What pushes it up to the binge-worthy level is the dual performances of Simmons. Despite the parallels between the two characters he plays, the audience is never confused about which one they’re seeing. He doesn’t even have to speak most of the time. We can tell by the way he carries himself, the expressions he makes, and the bearing he holds when looking at people.

That’s actually not that hard. What Simmons does masterfully is he accomplishes this without exaggerating the differences. He brings them to light with subtly, giving us just enough understanding of who the characters are without overplaying those differences.

There’s one more thing that the show does well that should be noted since it almost lost me otherwise. Just when you’re getting a little bored with the mundane aspects of the spy game, it slams you across the face with an unexpected twist or impromptu action scene. Even a simple conversation about arranging travel can turn into a gun versus fireplace poker fight to the death.

Great actors can take good material and turn it into something special. Though we’ve only seen one full season of Counterpart, it’s clear that J.K. Simmons makes it worth the watch.

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Travelers season 3 launches tonight and fans are going nuts

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Travelers season 3 launches tonight and fans are going nuts

Technically, it will be launched tomorrow at midnight, but who wants to get technical?

Time traveling science fiction has never been as great as it is with Travelers. This is one of the most binge-worthy shows on streaming television for a reason.

Binge-worthy show: Travelers season 3 is here. Time to catch up on the first two seasons.

http://noqreport.com/2018/12/05/binge-worthy-show-travelers-season-3-time-catch-first-two-seasons/Season 3 will be released on December 14 and I’m truly pumped. I haven’t been this excited about a new season of a show since the last season of Sherlock (which was admittedly disappointing). Season 2 ended with a world-changing cliffhanger. Luckily for those of you who haven’t seen the show yet, you have plenty of time to watch the two 12-episode season on Netflix.

Here’s a very brief overview of the premise:

Hundreds of years in the future, humankind isn’t doing so well. The planet is dying. The people are dying. All they have going for them is advanced technology that allows them to carry on with their dismal existences. Things are so bad, they decide to go back to the past – 2016 – and change things in a systematic way that will create a better world.

Season 2 ended on an extreme cliffhanger, one that will change the fabric of the story completely. It was so intense that by the last few minutes of the episode it almost seemed like a series finale. That’s how drastic it was. That’s how much things are about to change.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are buzzing over the new season dropping. The Canadian-American show has resurrected an interest in time-travel entertainment while never getting too nerdy. It’s almost contradictory that the science invoked by an understanding of the space-time continuum is able to exist within an excellent cast and a tight storyline that keeps viewers so engaged.

The new season of Travelers drops on Netflix at midnight, PST. Fans should prepare their excuses for calling in sick tomorrow. The Director has a mission for you.

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Of course an 8-team college football playoff system makes sense

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Of course an 8-team college football playoff system makes sense

In just over two weeks, we’ll get to see who’s going to play for the national championship in college football. It all happens in two games with the current playoff system; the winner of #1 vs #4 will play the winner of #2 vs #3. It’s simple, elegant, and so far it’s been working better than any previous attempt at crowning a national champion.

It’s also inferior to what it could be. An 8-team playoff system would be ideal.

Detractors (and there are fewer and fewer all the time) have two primary complaints. The first one isn’t really an argument. Traditionalists believe the playoff system in general harms continuation of the rich history of the old bowl system. This is true, and frankly there’s no going back at this point.

The second concern is about where it stops. If 8 is better than 4, is 12 or 16 better than 8?

Let’s put that one to rest now. No. 8 is the ideal number for the playoff system. It is fair enough to allow all the teams that deserve a shot without being so big that undeserving teams might sneak in and make a mess of things.

Today, there are seven teams who have a legitimate claim that they deserve a shot at the national championship. The four teams that are in – Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma – are the teams that had the best seasons this year. Oklahoma avenged its one loss in the Big 12 Championship game and the other three teams are undefeated.

Added to the mix are the three teams on the outside looking in. #5 Georgia had the two best losses of any team and is arguably the second best team in the country despite those losses. #6 Ohio State won the Big 10 Championship and has only one loss. #8 UCF is undefeated for the second year in a row. While #7 Michigan didn’t really have a shot at the top 4 after losing badly to Ohio State, they would round off a solid 8-team playoff if that system were in place today.

It would be perfect.

Not every year would end up like this one with 8 clear top teams, but even in disputed years where #9 or #10 complained, they would do so knowing they could have gotten in by winning. This year, Ohio State was penalized despite being the Big 10 Champion and having only one loss. UCF demonstrated it doesn’t matter how well they play for how long. Two undefeated seasons wasn’t enough to earn them a spot.

An 8-team playoff system with automatic bids for the champions of the five major conferences and three at-large bids would extend the season for one week, allowing the first round to be played on or around Christmas. It would make the whole bowl season more interesting and offer hope to teams like UCF who would otherwise need a perfect storm of major conference losses to earn a spot.

This really should be a no-brainer. ESPN won’t mind. Their contract lasts until 2026. They would happily expand to include another round of four games. Those who are making the decision should make it fast. We can get this up and running by the 2020 season.

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