Anti-Heroes: The New Face of Television (Again...)

And the darlings of Tellywatch 2014 are…well, anti-heroes, yet again. Normal is truly boring.

Witches, pirates, the moodily misunderstood and the sinisterly sci-fi seem to have found favour once again with our movies and television. Midway through 2014 and we have already seen quite a few forays into seriously good productions championing the rebel cause. Move over, vampires, there’s a whole bunch of new (and somewhat neurotic) kids in the block!

Witch-watch has certainly gained in popularity since Fall 2013, with even hardcore vamp-fest ‘The Originals’ featuring a central-to-the-story standoff with witches - though these New Orleans based ladies are not quite related to the creepy coven we come across in the same town in horror anthology ‘American Horror Story’ (Season 3). Add ‘Witches of East End’ and ‘Salem’ to the mix, and we end up with a pretty decent spell for the witch-and-wizardry genre. Hollywood’s own current obsession with the anti-heroine helps of course - Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and the Angelina Jolie starrer ‘Maleficent’ have both been very well-received at the BO.

Earlier this year, we had the Starz-commissioned ‘Black Sails’ take us on quite the larger-than-life, action-filled, rough-and-raunchy ride, loosely based on the tale of legendary pirates Captain Flint and Long John Silver. As with the ‘Vikings’ (back for a second successful season), the series has captured the imagination an audience addicted to the high production qualities and machinations of grey, dastardly characters in cult shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. However, a similar attempt and premise did not work out quite so well for the Blackbeard-inspired ‘Crossbones’- even a heavyweight lead like John Malkovich could not stop that boat of trivial nonsense from sinking hard and fast.

Coming back to modern-age content, the Coen Brothers have struck gold with their venture into TV production this year with the superbly black ‘Fargo’. Billy Bob Thornton is quite a treat to watch in his role as the mysterious mercenary who brings murder, malice and quite a bit of menace to a small town in Minnesota. The show is already being hailed as one of the best this year. We had another Hollywood biggie Matthew McConaughey shining bright in his title TV role in ‘True Detective’ as brooding, brilliant and not-just-slightly nihilistic Rust Cohle – spouting pure poeticisms and highly quotable pearls bordering on the absolutely anti-social ("I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution”). While Cohle is not exactly an anti-hero, he is definitely a far cry from the typical honourable crime-buster – closer in depiction to Luther but much more intense, dark and troubled by inner demons than the British cop ever was. Look around closely, most of the characters and current/ continuing shows you love (‘The Americans’, ‘Hannibal’, ‘Sons of Anarchy’, ‘Banshee’, ‘Misfits’, even ‘Homeland’) are more skewed to the anti-hero archetype than towards any clear-cut mandate of ‘good’.

Of course, the stream of fresh good-beats-evil TV shows continues, with 2014 proving to be a mixed bag of sorts. Highly publicized shows like ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, ‘The Tomorrow People’, ‘Almost Human’ and ‘Arrow’ (returning for a third season) have met with decent response, though quite a few others have not fared well. The second half of the year promises more ‘positive’ action as comic-hero Flash gears up for his highly awaited small-screen debut. Amidst all this, we also had saving-humanity-from-doom Sci-Fi season openings for ‘Helix’; and there is a good deal of excitement for the premiere of ‘The Strain’. Both are centred on groups of scientists working to find cures to potential epidemics and disaster. Some of these disaster-mitigation shows are, however, rather kookily conceptualized – for example, ‘The 100’ is about fugitives given a chance to repopulate earth, and another upcoming show ‘The Lottery’ is centred round a world where women have stopped reproducing, and a nation-wide lottery is held to determine surrogate mothers for a hundred embryos. Not sure how that would provide quality entertainment - your time would probably be better spent checking EuroMillions lottery results.

The verdict is quite clear. Gone are the days where good ol’ feel-good sitcoms ruled the airwaves and heroes were the ones people rooted for. The rebels, the anti-heroes and the fallen angels have struck back and how!

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