Versailles

Versailles S1 cast

It has been awhile since I watched a historical drama TV series. Over a year ago, I watched Starz’s Outlander and Penny Dreadful. Sometimes, I have moods for a particular TV show genre. A few weeks ago, I finished intensely binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I honestly had no idea what TV show to binge after it. I would still have to wait until November 4th for Season 4 of Outlander. Somehow, I decided to check out Versailles series on random whim.

Ironically, this was not my first time hearing about Versailles series. I actually had gotten the series pilot for free on iTunes. One year ago, I decided to finally get around to watching Versailles pilot episode. But I just couldn’t get into this show. Not sure why considering I love historical drama genre. So I put it aside and found other TV shows. Some things take time to be truly appreciated. Few week ago, I gave the pilot episode another chance. Within the first two episodes, I was hooked on this historical drama.

The titular show name is rather self-explanatory. Versailles is the origin story of King Louis XIV reign. Season 1 picks up in 1667 after French nobility start rebelling against the French monarch. The 28-year-old king seeks refuge at his father’s former hunting lodge in a small village called Versailles. King Louis XIV dreams of transforming his father’s humble hunting lodge into the Palace of Versailles. A new base of political power for the French monarchy away from Paris. But he must find a way to get the noble aristocracy under his control. That is much easier said than done. King Louis XIV faces resistance from even his own council of ministers. They cannot see the bigger picture. King Louis XIV wants to leave a legacy for future generations. He aspires to transform France into a powerful, centralized modern state.

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King Louis XIV is the longest reigning monarch in history to date. He ruled France from May 1643 to September 1715. His 72-year reign would be classified as an absolute monarchy. But the king was patron of the arts, music, dance, theater, and literature as well. Also, he took French haute couture fashion to new heights. King Louis XIV’s vanity always sought to maintain his image of the Sun King through the arts and fashion. He is even referred to as the king of propaganda.

Versailles series focuses mainly on King Louis XIV aka the Sun King. But there are plenty of important characters in the main cast ensemble. Very few are part of the king’s inner circle of trust excluding his council of ministers.

Versailles_Louis and Philippe_1One of the main relationships explored in the show is between King Louis XIV and his younger brother, Philippe. Louis is determined to make his ambitious dreams of Versailles palace a reality. Also, the king seeks to leave behind a glorious legacy. His younger brother, Philippe, is the polar opposite. He doesn’t have much ambitions in life beside enjoying life through lavish parties. Duke of Orleans was open about his preference for male company as well. Yet, Philippe offers an insightful voice of reason in many situations over the three seasons. During his whole life, Philippe got used to living in his brother’s shadow. During their childhood, their own mother purposely dressed up her younger son as a girl to refocus attention towards Louis. (Side note: Philippe still dressed up in woman’s clothing even into adulthood.) Also, Philippe was supposed to act appropriately so it wouldn’t negatively reflect on his older brother’s reputation. Eventually, he carved his own path through his distinguished military career. Despite their tumultuous relationship, King Louis XIV and Duke of Orleans are there for each other at the end of the day.

Versailles_BontempsAlexandre Bontemps was the first valet to King Louis XIV. In fact, his own father, Jean Baptiste Bontemps, was the primary surgeon to King Louis XII before being appointed the role of first valet. Alexandre was a very powerful figure at Versailles court. Bontemps was a loyal servant who effectively performed his royal duties. Discretion was of the utmost importance on certain royal tasks. He was responsible for ensuring the king’s security and taking care of his various households. This esteemed position was the perfect way to seek favors from the king. Yet, Bontemps never asked King Louis XIV for any favors. The king held a very high opinion of his first valet as a result. King Louis XIV trusted Bontemps and never doubted his steadfast loyalty. Versailles series depicts the close relationship between these two characters. The king often seeks personal advice from his first valet on political and personal matters. King Louis XIV even lets his guards down to show emotional vulnerability behind closed doors with Bontemps. In a way, the king looks up to Bontemps as a quasi-father figure. It is quite obvious real friendship existed between King Louis XIV and his first valet, Alexandre Bontemps.

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From left to right: Queen Maria Theresa of Spain, King Louis XIV, Madame de Montespan, and Henrietta of England

King Louis XIV had a voracious sexual appetite. He was not faithful to first wife.  Ironically, Queen consort Maria Theresa of Spain was well-known for her virtue and piety. She was forced to tolerate the king’s plethora of lovers. Yet, the king had a few prominent lovers. Henrietta of England, Madame de la Valliere. Madame de Montespan, and Madame de Maintenon are all featured in Versailles series. In fact, he secretly married his royal mistress, Marquis de Maintenon, after the death of Queen consort Maria Theresa in 1683. Surprisingly, King Louis XIV remained faithful after marrying her. But he would never remarry again for the sake of a diplomatic political alliance.

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King Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon

Versailles series frequently depicts the noble women at court seeking power and political influence by getting close to King Louis XIV. They eagerly wanted to gain access his elite inner circle. Woman at court weaponized their female sexuality to climb the ladder at French court. Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon each wanted political power confidently knowing the king cherished their private council. King Louis XIV’s mistresses weren’t always just to satisfy his sexual appetite. He also genuinely enjoyed the company of his royal mistresses.

Versailles_MonChevyOver the span of three seasons, there are plenty of passionate romantic affairs in Versailles series. Mostly it involved King Louis XIV and his royal mistresses. But there was one unconventional romantic affair. Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, and his longtime lover Chevalier of Lorraine. Philippe and Chevalier of Lorraine live hedonistic lifestyles at Versailles court. So obviously this is one commonality between them. They just wanted to enjoy life. Yet, their connection goes beyond a purely physical relationship. The two men connect on a deeper emotional level as well. You see this aspect of their relationship more fleshed out the Season 2 and 3. They genuinely love each other. No matter if their lives take them in opposite directions. Philippe and Chevalier of Lorraine always find a way back into each other’s lives. Over the three seasons, each character was well-developed through the story arcs. Sometimes, they struggled being forced to spent so much time apart. Yet, Philippe and Chevalier of Lorraine drastically matured by the third and final season. Honestly, I was quite emotionally invested in the MonChevy ship.  Also, I loved the dynamic trio. Philippe, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth of Palatinate, and Chevalier of Lorraine. I eagerly looked forward to their interactional exchanges in Season 3. Ironically, this was one of the healthiest romantic relationships in Versailles series. That’s saying quite a lot.

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From left to right: Chevalier of Lorraine, Philippe, and Princess Charlotte Elizabeth of Palatinate

Religion is a major theme interwoven into the plot arcs over the three seasons. French monarchy is always associated with the Roman Catholic faith. King Louis XIV was a devout Catholic. Yet, he called himself head of the Catholic Church in France. In a way, the Catholic Church was King Louis XIV’s subordinate and tool to do his own personal bidding. What was good for him was ultimately good for France. He often clashed against the papal powers in the Vatican. King Louis XIV used the Roman Catholic faith to control the nobles at court and French citizens. He wanted to enforce religious uniformity. The king was particularly less tolerant to the French Protestants (also known as Huguenots).  They were often viewed as heretics to the one true Catholic faith. In fact, King Louis XIV went so far to revoke The Edict of Nantes in October 1685 with Edict of Fontainebleau. It essentially made it illegal to practice the Protestant faith in France. (Side note: The Edict of Nantes was promulgated by his grandfather, King Henry IV, to promote civil unity and rights for Huguenots.) Hundreds of thousands of Huguenots left France as a result of it. This had a huge impact on the French economy. If there was going to be a Season 4, I’d be intrigued to see Versailles series explore the repercussions of Edict of Fontainebleau at Versailles court and within Paris.

Versailles S2.jpgThis English-speaking drama features an incredibly talented main and supporting cast ensemble of majorly European actors. Every actor was perfectly cast for their respective roles! George Blagden plays the lead role of King Louis XIV. Alexander Vlahos plays the role of Philippe I, Duke of Orleans. Evan Williams plays the role of Chevalier of Lorraine, Philippe’s lover. Noémie Schmidt plays the role of Henrietta of England, Philippe’s first wife. Jessica Clark plays the role of Princess Elizabeth Charlotte of Palatinate, Philippe’s second wife. Anna Brewster plays the role of Marquis de Montespan. Catherine Walker plays the role of Madame de Maintenon. Elisa Lasowski plays the role of Queen Maria Theresa, the king’s wife. Tygh Runyan plays the role of Monsieur Fabien Marchal, the king’s head of security. Stuart Bowman plays the role of Alexandre Bontemps, the king’s first valet. This is just the main cast ensemble. Overall, the entire cast ensemble had incredible chemistry!

All the historical dramas I’ve seen set in France feature vibrant colored elaborate outfits. The costume and make-up department have a daunting task of making the costumes accurate to the respective time period. The costumes perfectly matched the personalities of main and supporting Versailles characters. Even plain colored outfits have exquisite embroidered details on the material. Most of all, King Louis XIV’s embellished outfits dazzlingly embodied the glorious Sun King image. He always aims to stand out in a crowd. You didn’t rarely see him wear all dark colors. His outfits usually feature a variety of colors. Gold, red, navy blue, silver, and burgundy. But even the aristocratic nobles at court also wore vibrant colored outfits with beautiful embroidery. It’s truly a feast for the eyes when watching Versailles series.

Hair is equally as important as costumes in historical dramas. It wasn’t uncommon for men to have longer hairstyles. The male actors usually wore long wigs for their characters. (Side note: Don’t even get me started on the magnificently luscious wigs of King Louis XIV, Duke of Orleans, and Chevalier of Lorraine. Words cannot adequately explain how beautiful they are. It was so distracting sometimes too.) Women wore their very long hair in intricate hairstyles. Plethora of etiquette laid out guidelines of how the king and his noble subjects at court were required to present themselves out in public. The combination of the exquisite costumes and wigs along with breathtaking interior and exterior cinematography transports you to 17th century France.

 

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This Franco-Canadian production was shot on location in France including at Palace of Versailles.  In fact, Versailles TV series is the most expensive production in French history. 30 million euros production to be exact! It certainly isn’t cheap to shoot on location throughout France. Also, you’ve got to factor in costs for the costumes and wigs for the main and supporting cast along with the extras. With a plethora of other production elements, I can see how it all adds up to 30 million euros.

Many years ago, I visited Paris with my family. We couldn’t leave France without seeing the Palace of Versailles. This landmark is absolutely sumptuous. Not enough words to describe how all the interior and exterior opulent details was a feast for your eyes! King Louis XIV knew exactly what he was doing by creating such an impressive yet imposing architectural landmark. He created an enticing environment for the nobles to call their permanent residence…in order to trap them in a luxurious prison. King Louis XIV ensured the rebellious aristocratic nobles at court were under his tight control.

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King Louis XIV in the famous Hall of Mirror room at Versailles palace.

Versailles brilliantly fleshes out King Louis XIV controversial reign over the span of three seasons. Season 1 explores the early years of his reign. It is set between 1667-1670. His ambitious dream of turning his father’s former hunting lodge into a stunning palace consumes his thoughts. But he must first convince French noble to make Versailles their permanent residence. The hedonistic lifestyle at court drew nobles away from their residences. They wanted to be part of this elite group.

Season 2 explores how King Louis XIV handles the dark side of power and slowly returning to the light again. It is set between 1670-1683. The king achieved his goal of building a magnificent palace to trap the French nobles and assert absolute control over them. Behind the rules of etiquette, the nobles will do anything to gain money and power to climb the ladder. Morality is rapidly deteriorating at court. The Affair of Poisons wrecks chaos at court. Ironically, Versailles palace turns out to be his worst enemy. The king experiences a downward spiral trying to find himself again. Also, he declares war on Holland. William of Orange proves to be his perfect opponent. The king has finally met his match.

Season 3 explores King Louis XIV at the height of his reign. He wants to expand his empire and impose his tyrannical power throughout Europe. But it could come at a high cost. The man in the iron mask mystery is interwoven into the storyline. We finally see how King Louis XIV’s reign affects the commoners in Paris. Drastically stark contrast from the life of debauchery at French court. These contrasting perspectives offer fascinating story arcs. Most of all, King Louis XIV has gained absolute power. But he must now maintain that power over his empire. Over three seasons, the king experiences volatile highs and lows in terms of personal life and political ambitions.

I’ve seen my fair share of historical period drama TV shows over the years. Generally, I avoid ones in which the storytelling focus too on much political drama. TV shows about a royal monarch in history is more my cup of tea. There’s a good balance between historical figure’s tumultuous personal life and the political journey throughout their reign. Showtime’s The Tudors tells the story of infamous King Henry VIII’s reign. CW’s Reign tells the story of Queen Mary of Scotland’s reign. PBS’s Victoria tells the story of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Versailles is an entity of its own in terms of being a historical period drama. There’s much historical accuracy to the story arcs as well as the development of main and supporting characters. Very little creative liberties in terms of the plot arcs and characters. In fact, there was a historian on Versailles set to verify the historical accuracy of the characters and their plot arcs.

Versailles S3This was not my first MA rating historical drama series about a royal monarch. The rating usually pertains to gory violence and explicit sexual content elements. Strong profanity is not too common in historical drama TV shows. Versailles is actually more raunchy and violent than Showtime’s The Tudors. I was impressed how there was more equality in terms of female and male nudity. This is a rarity on MA rating TV shows. King Louis XIV was an absolute monarch who was a womanizer and warmonger. These flavors were essentially part of his narcissistic personality. In my opinion, the explicit sexual content and gory violence didn’t detract from the incredibly captivating storytelling in Versailles TV series. It’s a pity that critics are focusing on these two elements rather than the bigger picture. This is why I decided whether or not I’ll like a TV series. Not based on the reviews of critics.

Versailles S2 promotionalVersailles is essentially a riveting rock ‘n roll docudrama about King Louis XIV’s controversial reign and the nobles at French court. The show also incorporates speculative rumors surrounding his reign. There’s plenty of historical accuracy in the spectacularly captivating storytelling and fascinating character development. So many compelling characters in the main and supporting ensemble. The cast brilliantly brought their characters to life. I couldn’t get enough of the magnificent costume and wigs. As a historical buff, I don’t know why it took me so long to start this phenomenal historical period drama. Better late than never. I regret absolutely nothing binge watching all 30 episodes of Versailles series within 7 days! Apparently, the cast and crew knew Versailles series would only be for three seasons. But I would have loved more seasons. At least, Versailles series got to tie up loose ends of various characters’ storylines. The series finale gave satisfactory closure for the fans.

I’ll leave you with the awesome opening credit of Versailles. I love how MA rated TV shows actually make an effort to make opening credits. The opening credits are always appropriately fitting for the overall theme of the TV series.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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A few weeks ago, I finished my binge of Freeform’s The Bold Type. This left me with an important question. What TV series do I start next? A plethora of options. Sometimes, I’m in a mood for a particular TV genre. Before binging The Bold Type, I had to say goodbye to The Originals. My beloved supernatural drama was coming to an end after five seasons. So I decided my next binge would be a comedy genre TV show. A refreshing change of pace. Laughter is a good medicine. My next TV show binge would be Brooklyn Nine-Nine (B99).

This was not my first exposure to this cop comedy sitcom. In 2015, Messiah College’s Student Activity Board planned a NYC Valentine’s Day trip. The trip organizers didn’t let us vote and decided on playing Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 1 on the bus ride to New York City. I was not happy about it. I slept most of the 4 hour bus ride anyway. Yet I vague recall watching bits and pieces of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 1 episodes. Just couldn’t get into it. In fall of 2015, I’d ironically begin watching random episodes of B99 which aired on the same day as Fox’s new series Grandfathered. It was amusing but didn’t really invest much time into this comedy series yet.

There’s a plethora of police procedural drama. Yet, Brooklyn Nine-Nine sets itself apart being a comedy sitcom series. It is set in the 99th Precinct of New York Police Department in Brooklyn. This comedy follows a group of detectives and their precinct’s commanding officer, Captain Raymond Holt. The 99th precinct’s detectives consist of Jake Peralta, Amy Santiago, Charles Boyle, Rosa Diaz, Norm Scully, and Michael Hitchcock. Sergeant Terry Jeffords is their immediate supervisor. Regina Linetti is a civilian administrator for 99th precinct. Each have very drastically different personality types which provide for incredibly entertaining conversational interactions in every episode. Never a dull moment at all.

Jake is one of the best detectives despite his immaturity and lackadaisical personality. It often annoys his desk mate, Amy Santiago, who very meticulous and always does things by the book. Charles Boyle has a docile personality yet is extremely hardworking. Also, he is obsessed with local and foreign food. Despite her intimidating persona, Rosa is an enigma as you never know what to expect with her. Scully and Hitchcock are much older detectives who are mostly incompetent with rare moments of usefulness. Terry Jeffords is an extremely muscular man yet very much in touch with his emotions. Also, he is a devoted family man to his wife and daughters. Raymond Holt is intensely serious man but is still funny and sassy in his own way.

Honestly, I watch a plethora of TV show dramas throughout the year. Very few comedy TV shows. It’s always great to find shows that don’t take itself too seriously. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is exactly what I needed lately. I laughed so much in every episode! Even to the point it involved tears of laughter and seal clapping during scenes.

B99Every episode starts with a cold opening scene. It doesn’t always tie to the episode’s story arc. Many cop procedural TV shows episodes heavily revolve around cases. Co-worker interactional exchanges isn’t focused as much. This definitely isn’t the case with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Every episode basically focuses on the conversational exchanges among all the precinct detectives and Captain Holt. Professional and personal lives aspects are mingled into their conversational interactions. Episodes still revolve around a case or two that the detectives are assigned to work. There are even a few episodes that literally have nothing to do with a case…but instead deal with the personal lives of the gang. Throughout the five seasons, the character development for each of the characters in the ensemble never ceased to amaze me. Also, all the characters interact with each other whether it be in a group setting or one-on-one. (Side note: One pet peeve of mine with TV shows is when characters only mingle with select group of characters. Never going outside of their social circle.) All of the B99 characters genuinely care about each other’s well-being and happiness.

BB9_5One of my favorite things about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is how it shows different types of friendships among the detectives. Jake and Charles. Amy and Rosa. Jake and Amy. Gina and Jake. Charles and Rosa. Gina and Charles. Jake and Terry. Gina and Rosa. Amy and Gina. Scully and Hitchcock. Terry and Amy. Charles and Terry. Captain Holt and Amy. Terry and Captain Holt. These friendships provide the foundation for the various story arcs over the five seasons.

There is one central romantic relationship in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago. They start out as work colleagues who frequently work cases together. Amy and Jake have a little work rivalry as well. Despite their opposite personalities, these two get along well together. By end of season 1, Jake has developed more than friendly feelings for Amy Santiago. Eventually, she forms romantic feelings for him as well. But the timing is just not always on their side. Either one or both of them are already in a relationship during Season 2. They finally get together in the season 2 finale. Their romantic relationship is interwoven into the story arcs of seasons three to five. Yet, it isn’t the main focus of the show. Jake and Amy dealt with ups and downs in their relationship. But nothing overly dramatic for the sake of driving the plot. Sometimes TV shows focus too much on particular romantic relationships that it detracts from the interactional exchanges among the cast ensemble.  Best of all, I love how their romantic relationship didn’t affect their friendships with their work colleagues. Honestly, Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago are relationship goals.

[Warning: This video compilation contains spoilers!]

Jake and Captain Holt have a unique relationship in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. They have polar opposite personalities. In Season 1, Jake goes out of his way to piss off Captain Holt. His new commanding officer comes in with new rules for the detectives. Captain Holt aims to run a tight ship in the 99th precinct. Yet, Jake slowly comes to respect his new commanding officer in Season 1. Despite his laid-back attitude, Jake strives to never disappoint Captain Holt. He cares about Captain Holt’s opinion. He even looks up to Captain Holt as a father figure. Coming from a broken home, Jake grew up most of his life without a father figure. It is obvious he has daddy issues. But he covers it up this emotional pain with comical remarks. Over the seasons, Jake does let his guard down to show emotional vulnerability. Even Captain Holt eventually emotionally opens up to Jake as their working relationship extends to out of the office. I especially love the fascinating conversational exchanges between these two characters.

B99_7A truly diverse cast ensemble is hard to find on TV shows. Sometimes, it can feel very forced. Nope. This is what bothers me to no end. Brooklyn has diverse population. Brooklyn Nine-Nine truly promotes a diverse cast ensemble. In fact, it’s impressive how they’ve reversed roles in terms of stereotypes as well.

Two black men are in powerful high positions in the 99th precinct. Sergeant Terry Jeffords is very muscular but not afraid to show his emotionally sensitive side. Boys are raised to believe showing emotional vulnerability makes them perceived as weak. Society needs to stop teaching this to boys. We are all human who have feelings and emotions regardless of our gender.  Captain Raymond Holt is an openly gay man with an overly serious personality. Gay male characters in TV shows and movies are typically painted as flamboyant and overly emotional people.

Detective Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago are series regular characters among the cast ensemble. TV shows and movies almost never have more than one Latina characters among the main cast. Yet, Rosa and Amy have drastically opposite types of personalities. Rosa comes off as intimidating and aggressive sometimes but increasingly expresses her inner softie over the course of the seasons. Amy has Type A personality who doesn’t always speak up for herself. Often, she comes off as a teacher’s pet when it comes to making her mentor, Captain Holt, proud by going over and beyond. Her self-confidence steadily improves throughout the seasons.

I love how Brooklyn Nine-Nine defies stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream society. Stereotypical assumptions of certain sexual orientations and ethnicities are still widespread among TV shows and movies. Hollywood still has areas that need to improve.

BB9_1Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a cop comedy, but it still tackles a variety of serious and controversial topics within the episodes. Homophobia and sexism within the professional workplace. Exploration of sexual orientation. Divorce leading to abandonment issues. Dysfunctional families. Yet, this sitcom always finds the right balance between funny and serious tones within the scenes.

I’ve done my fair share of TV show binges. Yet, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of my most impressive binges. I watched all five seasons within 2.5 weeks. That’s a total of 112 episodes! I couldn’t get enough of this wonderfully addictive cop comedy sitcom. After five seasons, Fox network unjustly cancelled Brooklyn Nine-Nine inMay 2018. B99 fans expressed their outrage about the cancellation on Twitter. The next day, NBC network thankfully picked up this cop comedy sitcom for a sixth season. Season 6 will consist of 18 episodes. It will air in January 2019. I highly recommend checking out Brooklyn Nine-Nine TV series!

 

The Phantom of the Opera

HSM posterI’ve been a fan of musical theater since middle school. It all started thanks to Disney Channel’s High School Musical. I fondly recall watching HSM when it aired in January 2006. My 12 year old self had no idea how much High School Musical films would ignite my interest for musical theater. Also, HSM will always have special place in the memories of my teenage years.

I cannot act to save my life. During high school, I actively participated in Concert Choir music program for two years. This enabled me to befriend a small handful of people in the theater department. I attended my fair amount of high school musical productions to support my theater friends. My high school put on great productions. Not mediocre at all.

I didn’t see much musical productions during my time at Messiah College. I didn’t have too many musical theater major acquaintances. Mostly science or psychology major people in my close friend cluster. Messiah College’s Student Activity Board (SAB) arranged Broadway NYC trips during the fall semester. In October 2013, SAB had a trip to see First Date off-Broadway musical. Zachary Levi from NBC’s Chuck was playing one of the lead roles. This was my main reason to go on this New York City trip with my college. Since graduating in May 2015, I hadn’t see any musical theater productions.

My Kinky Boots blog post provides more details about the Broadway and off-Broadway musical productions I’ve seen on my NYC trips. Yet, I’ve seen a total of four professional musical productions. Three musicals on Broadway in New York City. One musical on West End in London, England.

POTO movie posterDuring my senior year of college, my friend convinced me to watch Phantom of the Opera musical film adaptation from 2004 with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. It would be first time watching it. I honestly didn’t know much about it, but I was willing to keep an open-mind. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this musical merely after watching the film adaptation for the first time. This took me by surprise. I now understood why my friend, Sasha, was so obsessed with Phantom of the Opera musical. Now, I wanted to see it on Broadway in New York City. Sadly, it was not on Broadway when I went to see Kinky Boots in June 2017. Phantom of the Opera embarked on a national US tour while another musical temporarily used The Majestic Theatre venue. But good things come to those who wait.

As of January 2018, Phantom of the Opera would be celebrating its 30th anniversary of being on New York City’s Broadway. It was coming back home to Broadway. In fact, Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history. It officially opened on Broadway back in January 26, 1988. More than 12,000 performances as of current date. During its 30 year run, it has stayed in the same theater venue. The Majestic Theatre.

This time around I wasn’t missing my opportunity to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. My family booked our New York City trip for August 25th to 26th. My mom and I got our tickets for Phantom of the Opera. My college friend, Sasha, told me the Broadway production would vary a little from the 2004 film adaptation. I was counting down the weeks until my New York City trip.

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On August 25th, our bus arrived into New York City around 11 am. Phantom of the Opera musical wasn’t the only thing I had planned for that day. My mom and I had also bought tickets for Downton Abbey Exhibition. It would be closing on September 3rd. So we technically had two reasons to visit New York City this time. It was going to be a jam-packed day for us. Yet, there was enough time between Downton Abbey Exhibition and Phantom of the Opera musical. We were only seeing Phantom of the Opera at the 8 pm showtime.

Time flies when you’re having a blast. Early evening rolled around in a blink of an eye. I was bubbling with exuberant anticipation. The exterior of The Majestic Theatre building is grandiose yet elegant. It opened in March 28, 1927. Many major musical productions have been featured at this venue including Carousel, The Wiz, Camelot, The Music Man, and 42nd Street. It is one of the largest Broadway theaters. The full seating capacity is 1,645 persons. The interior of this venue is even more luxuriously opulent. It blew me away. So much beautiful details throughout the entire venue from the ornate walls and ceiling to the very stage itself. Our seats were in the first row of the rear mezzanine balcony level. Best of all, we only paid $69.00 for each seat. These cheap tickets still gave us great overhead views of the main stage. Not bad for our first time seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

 

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Phantom of the Opera musical is based off Le Fantôme de l’Opéra novel by Gaston Leroux. It was published in January 8, 1910. The English translation novel was published in 1911.

POTO_banner 1The story arc takes place in Paris during the early 1880s. The musical is about a mysterious entity known as Phantom of the Opera who haunts the Paris Opéra House. He becomes obsessed with little-known soprano singer, Christine Daaé. He essentially was Christine’s music teacher growing up after her father’s death. The Phantom forces the new owners to promotes her from chorus girl to rising prima donna. We later learn the Phantom of the Opera (aka Opera Ghost) is actually a disfigured musical genius who lives in his subterranean lair under the Paris Opéra House. Also, Christine debunks the rumor he is a ghost. He is an actual human man. The Phantom continues to terrorize the owners and company in the opera house when they go against his orders. Eventually, they have had enough and formulate a devious plan to get permanently rid of Opera Ghost from their lives. Yet, you cannot forget the beautiful storytelling about the love triangle between Christine, The Phantom, and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. Phantom of the Opera has melodramatic elements of romance and gothic horror beautifully intermingled together.

POTOThe sumptuous sets and costumes immerse you into this complex universe. My college friend was correct that outfits and sets were extravagant but not on same level as the film adaptation. Victorian era influenced the style of clothing in terms of men and women fashion. Very lavish styled outfits were worn by people among upper-class society. They could afford the expensive price of fancy Victorian era clothing. Not as accessible for anyone who wasn’t in upper-class society.

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the music for Phantom of the Opera musical. He has composed music for other well-known musical production like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and School of Rock. He is one of the beloved musical composers of all-time. In fact, many of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals have been running for over a decade on London’s West End or New York City’s Broadway.

As the title suggests, Phantom of the Opera musical features songs in operatic style. The songs beautifully enhance the emotion of the scenes but also the storytelling experience. Throughout the performance, I was moved to tears on several occasions. The whole company collectively had great voices, but I was especially impressed with the actor Ben Crawford playing The Phantom.

It helped that I’d seen the film adaptation prior to seeing The Phantom of the Opera musical on Broadway. I could follow the plot of the musical easier. There isn’t as much backstory as the movie obviously. Yet, the movie adaptation and Broadway musical are both amazing in their own ways. Phantom of the Opera musical is an exhilarating 2.5 hours long performance. It takes you on a whirlwind romance and journey. I highly recommend taking a trip to New York City to check out this longest-running Broadway musical. You won’t regret it!

Now I’ve seen a total of four Broadway musicals. Two off-Broadway musicals (First Date and She Loves Me). Two main Broadway musicals (Kinky Boots and The Phantom of the Opera). I look forward to seeing more musical productions on Broadway! It gives me an good excuse to make a trip to New York City.

 

I’ll leave you with an amazing symphonic metal cover of “The Phantom of the Opera” by Nightwish. Nightwish is one of my all-time favorite female-fronted symphonic metal bands from Finland. Also, Tarja is sadly no longer lead singer, but still nonetheless my favorite.

The Originals

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I can openly admit I am biased toward supernatural drama TV shows compared to “normal” human TV shows. I can’t explain why this particular genre really appeals to me. Over the past 11 years, I’ve devoured supernatural fantasy genre that usually contained the element of vampires. The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and HBO’s True Blood were my first vampire-centric TV shows. Prior to this, I’d only read YA or adult fiction supernatural fantasy novels that mainly involved vampires.

The Vampire Diaries (TVD) introduces Niklaus Mikaelson and his siblings in Season 3. The Original family. The first ever vampires. These characters brought a wonderfully different dynamic to The Vampire Diaries plot arc. They really caused havoc and chaos for the Mystic Falls gang. Audiences fell in love with the characters of Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah, and Kol Mikaelson. TVD fans wanted them to have their own spin-off TV show. There is plenty of rich storylines to be play out for these complex characters. They are millennium old vampires. Plus, I loved how the historical flashbacks are seamlessly incorporated into the modern-day storylines of TVD.

TVD and TO

The Vampire Diaries aired the back-door pilot for The Originals in episode 4.20 on April 25, 2013. It had solid view ratings. 2.24 million. The CW network gave the greenlight for a full season order for TVD spin-off for the 2013-2014 show schedule line-up. The official The Originals pilot aired on October 3, 2013.

The Originals S1Compared to TVD, The Originals is drastically different. It revolves around the vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus Mikaelson and his vampire siblings becoming deeply enmeshed in the supernatural politics of New Orleans. There has always been a power imbalance among the vampires, werewolves, and witches. These supernatural communities don’t usually get along well. Of course violent power struggles frequently ensue in New Orleans. Understatement of the century. The human community are almost always oblivious to it. On the other hand, The Vampire Diaries mainly revolved around dynamics and drama among the Mystic Falls gang. It stayed far away from politics among the supernatural communities. The Originals has much darker undertones interwoven throughout the storylines. Also, the violence is a smidgen more intense and gory. This TVD spin-off is aimed at a slightly older age group.

Klaus Mikaelson can easily carry his own show. Yet, the plethora of multi-faceted and complex characters add more richness to the plot arcs. Vampires, werewolves, and witches galore. Pretty early on you get emotionally attached to many of the characters. But some take time to grow on you. You will form love/hate relationships with certain main and supporting characters. I immediately fell in love with the concept of The Originals after the back-door pilot episode. It can firmly stand on its own while still having enough overlap to tie back to TVD world.

Very few shows can reduce me to rivers of tears from intense emotional feels. Tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. The Vampire Diaries and The Originals joins these elite ranks. The final season of The Originals has been especially emotional for me. Pretty sure I’ve cried at least once or twice in every episode. The cast ensemble are such talented actors in their own ways. They brilliantly convey a plethora of emotions in all the scenes. Every actor in the main and supporting cast was impeccably chosen for their role. Immense chemistry among them on and off-screen. It is what enhances or ruins the success of a TV show.

Just like every TV show, the first few seasons have strong storylines and character development. It needs to build and establish the world for the audience. One or two latter seasons will have weaker plot arcs and character development. Despite its flaws, I love The Originals too much to completely give up on this TV show. I’ve invested too much time to walk away from it. For better or worse, I must see it through the end.

The Originals title screenThe Vampire Diaries series finale aired on March 10, 2017. Time to mourn yet another of my beloved long-running TV shows. Yet, I was comforted to know The CW had renewed The Originals for a fifth season in May 2017. My joy soon became short-lived. In July 2017, it was confirmed that Season 5 would be the final season with only 13 episodes. Not enough time to get over losing The Vampire Diaries. Now, I must also say farewell to The Originals only one year after TVD’s series finale. I don’t wanna say goodbye to Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah, Kol, Freya, and Marcel…but all good things must eventually come to an end. The series finale aired on The CW on August 1, 2018. I’m losing too many of my beloved supernatural drama TV shows within a short span of time.

The Vampire Diaries and The Originals achieved an impressive feat. Longevity to still remain successful even when vampire genre’s popularity had long faded from mainstream pop culture. The Vampire Diaries aired from September 2009 to March 2018. The Originals will have aired from October 2013 to August 2018. On top of this, TVD world is expanding to spawn another spin-off called Legacies. This particular spin-off would focus on Klaus’s daughter, Hope Mikaelson. It was fascinating and exciting to explore New Orleans but we shall be returning back home to Mystic Falls. A new generation in Mystic Falls. I’m willing to give Legacies a chance.

Legacies

 

 

Asking Alexandria

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In terms of all my rock genres, I don’t listen much to hardcore genre. I’m quite picky with the few rock bands I do listen to within this sub-genre. I do love heavier sound when it comes to my rock music. Hard rock has a heavier sound. Yet, hardcore takes it to a whole new level in my opinion. Hardcore genre is definitely an acquired taste.

I recently learned “hardcore” is the abbreviation for hardcore punk. This genre is known for its aggressive breakdowns within the music tempo. In my opinion, I find it has an overall louder sound as well. It isn’t uncommon for there to be three guitarists among the band members. Two electric guitarists and one bass guitarist. There is one common element in hardcore. Screamed vocals. Some of my hard rock bands feature sporadic bursts of screaming in their music.  But this particular component way is more prevalent in hardcore genre music. I generally don’t mind screaming in my rock music. But there needs to a balance the clean and unclean vocals. I don’t like listening to music where it is almost entirely screamed vocals. That’s is why I’m quite picky when it comes to hardcore rock bands.

Also, I’ve come to a fascinating realization. I’m no stranger to profanity being in my rock music. I don’t mind. I’ve gotten used to it over the past 12 years. There are levels in terms of profanity. Yet, it seems strong profanity is more common in certain rock sub-genres. Hardcore genre is one of them.

Last summer, I randomly discovered Black Veil Brides thanks to Andy Black’s solo album, The Shadow Side. I would spend the next few months basically hunting down any band interviews with Black Veil Bride members especially with Andy Biersack. The YouTube videos I came across sometimes involved BVB’s interaction with other fellow musicians. Black Veil Brides members are good friends with Asking Alexandria band members. I’d never heard of Asking Alexandria before this point.

I proceeded to check out their music on Spotify. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was quite surprised to learn their music was metalcore. Regardless of what people say, I considered Black Veil Brides’ music to be within hard rock genre. Metalcore is something entirely different. In fact, hard rock is a smidgen more tame compared metalcore. I typically avoid metal rock genre. The rare exceptions are Nightwish and Within Temptation. Female-fronted symphonic metal bands from Europe. I struggled listening to more than a few Asking Alexandria songs. I didn’t mind the aggressively heavy sound. It was the sustained screaming throughout the song that really put me off. Not my cup of tea at all. I didn’t try to give them another listen until recently.

Asking Alexandria band members[From left to right: Danny, Ben, Cameron, James, and Sam]

Without further ado, I will provide some background information about Asking Alexandria. This rock band from York, England formed in 2008. It consists of five band members. Danny Worsnop is the lead vocalist and occasionally plays the guitar. Ben Bruce is lead electric guitarist and sings back-up vocals. Both Ben and Danny can play the keyboards as well. James Cassells is the drummer. Cameron Liddell switches the role of being rhythm and lead electric guitarist. Sam Bettley is the bass guitarist.

The Resurrection tour was co-headlined by Black Veil Brides and Asking Alexandria with Crown the Empire as the supporting opening band. I always prepare for concerts at least a month in advance. I had listened to Crown the Empire’s music. I surprisingly really enjoyed it. Hardcore isn’t my usual go-to rock sub-genre. I still wasn’t ready to give Asking Alexandria’s music another chance yet. So I focused on listening to only Black Veil Brides and Crown the Empire weeks leading up to the concert on February 9, 2018.

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The day of the concert finally arrived. I was bubbling with exuberant joy. Counting down the hours, I could feel the excitement exponentially growing inside of me. I had no doubt Black Veil Brides would sound incredible live. I’ve come across my fair share of BVB concert videos on YouTube. The thing about hardcore genre music is I don’t know if the band will sound good live in concert. Yet, I was going to approach the performances by Crown the Empire and Asking Alexandria with an open-mind. Rams Head Live is one of my favorite concert venues. It has great acoustics throughout the entire venue regardless if you are on the ground floor or upper levels.

To my surprise, Asking Alexandria sounded amazing live. I don’t typically expect too much vocal range with hardcore or metalcore vocalists. That is not the case with Asking Alexandria’s lead vocalist, Danny Worsnop. I was honestly impressed by Danny’s vocals. There was so much depth to his vocals. It really took me by surprise. He can effortlessly transition from unclean screamed to clean singing vocals. Also, his screaming vocal depth from deep growls to higher falsetto pitch screams. I’d classify the clean singing vocals as baritenor. There are very few baritenors vocalists in the rock genre. I haven’t encountered such a bizarrely fascinating vocal tone since Davey Havok, AFI’s lead singer. That’s saying a lot.

Asking Alexandria logoAfter The Resurrection tour concert, I’d changed my opinion of Asking Alexandria’s music off their newest self-titled album. It is a drastically different from their metalcore sound in previous studio albums. Yet, I can actually embrace this new musical style. Asking Alexandria album has a mixture of post-hardcore and electronica elements. I appreciate it when two unlikely genres can beautifully blend together. Electronica hardcore (aka electronicore) musical style is growing on me.

Electronicore is a fascinating fusion of metalcore and/or hardcore rock genre with electronic genre. Initially, I had very mixed feelings about this combination. But I am willing to be open-minded about it. This fusion sub-genre became more prominent on the rock scene during the late 2000s. Yet, Asking Alexandria was my official introduction to electronicore genre recently.

Sometimes, we’ve got to discover a band and/or genre a little late so that way you can truly appreciate it. There are very few rock bands I’ve discovered around their debut era. I fell in love with many of my favorite rock bands after they became more established.

It has been a little over three months since The Resurrection tour concert. I’ve listened to Asking Alexandria’s new self-titled album in full entirety at least 15 times. With each full listen, I formed a better appreciation for the new band’s new musical style direction. Electronicore is an acquired taste that takes an adjustment period. I look forward to the future music that Asking Alexandria will put out. I’d love to see Asking Alexandria again live in concert next time one of their tours come nearby me. It’s amazing how you can discover awesome new artists/bands when approaching music with an open-mind.

[Warning: This song contains profanity.]

Our Last Night

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It’s always awesome when you unintentionally discover a lesser-known artist or band. Spotify is a fantastic platform to expand your musical horizons even if it’s only within your preferred music genre(s). I’m picky when it comes to rock covers of popular songs. Several months ago, Spotify recommended a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” by a band called Our Last Night. I’d never heard of this band. I had no idea what to expect. After listening to their cover song, I was pleasantly surprised. It was much heavier sound than majority of my other rock bands. Yet, I liked it. The band name doesn’t give any indication of which rock sub-genre it is. This piqued curiosity to check out more of Our Last Night’s music.

Post-hardcore is on the heavier end of the rock spectrum. It’s only a few steps away from metal. Technically, it is considered a sub-genre of punk called hardcore punk. I’m no stranger to punk rock genre. I’ve been listening to pop punk and emo genres since I was a teenager. Hardcore punk maintains the fast-upbeat tempo and creative expression of punk rock while simultaneously incorporating a more aggressive, loud sound tone. Also, there is often sporadic bursts of screamed vocals. There is a mixture of clean and unclean vocals in post-hardcore genre. The best of both worlds.

I explored Our Last Night’s other cover songs and original songs. Their music quickly grew on me. They are much lesser-known then the other more mainstream hardcore punk bands I listen to. In a way, it makes them an underdog to keep a close eye on. They will eventually break into the ranks of mainstream post-hardcore bands. They honestly have so much potential. It’s only a matter of time.

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(From left to right: Woody, Tim, Trevor, and Matt)

I’ll give some background about Our Last Night. It was co-created by two brothers, Trevor and Matthew Wentworth, in early 2004 in Hollis, New Hampshire. Trevor and Matt are co-lead vocalists. Trevor provides both clean and unclean vocals. I like his screaming style. I’m quite picky when it comes to screamed vocals. Also, Matt plays the electric guitar, piano and keyboards. Matt is the lyricist for the band’s original songs. Trevor sometimes plays the guitar for acoustic songs. Alex aka Woody is the bass guitarist and provides backing vocals. Tim is the drummer. Their current line-up includes a total of four members since 2006.

Our Last Night has released four studio albums. Their debut album, The Ghosts Among Us, came out in March 2008. Their sophomore album, We Will All Evolve, came out in May 2010. Their first albums feature more unclean vocals given off a more metalcore vibe. Age of Ignorance, the third album, came out in June 2013. Their music style transitions from metalcore to post-hardcore after their third studio album. Younger Dreams came out in June 2015. The band has come out with many EPs as well. In terms of their original songs, Oak Island and Selective Hearing are most notably my favorite of their EPs. Oak Island was released in 2013. Selective Hearing is their latest EP which released in June 2017. I highly recommend checking out their full-band covers of pop songs on their official YouTube channel as well.

Our Last Night’s music has drastically evolved over the past 14 years. I’m more biased to post-hardcore style than metalcore style. I prefer sporadic bursts of screamed vocals over sustained screamed vocals. They have beautifully blended hardcore and melodic pop music styles together in their music after 2012.

I usually see well-known bands in concert. AFI. Fall Out Boy. Paramore. Panic! at the Disco. Switchfoot. Black Veil Brides. Lifehouse. Asking Alexandria. Apart from three, I’ve seen the rest of these bands two or three times live in concert over the years. I wanted to switch things up. To see lesser-known bands before they break into mainstream hardcore scene.  I discovered Our Last Night was launching a US tour for their new EP album, Selective Hearing. One of the tour dates was coming nearby me. Best of all, Baltimore Soundstage is a small, intimate venue compared to other concert venues I’ve checked out. My ticket for Our Last Night’s Selective Hearing tour came to $25 with fees! That’s super cheap! The last time I paid $25 for a concert ticket was for mtvU’s Sunblock music festival with Boys Like Girls, The Academy Is, The Veronicas, Never Shout Never, and Kid Cudi back in July 2009 at Pier 6 Pavilion venue. Over the past couple years, I find myself often buying concerts 3-6 months in advance. This is a good thing especially since almost all the dates on Selective Hearing tour were sold out concerts.

OLN Selective Hearing tour

I was bubbling with excitement the weeks leading up the Our Last Night concert on March 23, 2018. There are certain rock genres I’m skeptical how they sound live in concert. Post-hardcore is one of these genres. But I wasn’t worried about Our Last Night not sounding as good as on their recorded albums. The day of the concert finally arrived. I love Friday evening concerts. It starts off the weekend in a kick-ass way.

My $25 ticket was part of a “buy one, bring one guest free” promotion Baltimore Soundstage had on select concerts during Black Friday period. Also, I was eligible for a free meet and greet session with Our Last Night. How could I say no to such an incredible opportunity?! I had planned on going solo for the concert. Very few of my friends appreciate post-hardcore rock sub-genre. My longtime friend, Erika, and I share many music genre interest in terms of rock music. I decided to bring her as my free guest to the Our Last Night concert. Concerts are more fun when you can share the experience with someone who has similar music taste.

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I literally got off work and ran to make it in time for the designated time for the meet and greet session. There were about 100-ish people in line. I wasn’t expecting that many people. It was a mixture of people who had been longtime fans and new fans of Our Last Night’s music. Baltimore Soundstage staff was efficient in ensuring only those on the list got in for the meet and greet. After waiting in line for one hour, the doors opened and we were allowed into the venue. Our Last Night band members were standing spread out in the “pit” section. There wasn’t really any strict protocol except politely wait in line until it is your turn to talk with the band members. I wasn’t sure we’d get much chance to converse with them seeing with how many people came for the meet and greet session. Matt, Trevor, Woody, and Tim made effort to have actual conversation with each of us in line. I was quite impressed. We had an hour for the meet and greet session. I wasn’t actually nervous when it came to my turn to meet the guys. They’re super chill and awesome people. I told them how thanks to Spotify I randomly discovered their music. Also, I had candid conversation with each of them. Each of them autographed my concert ticket and took a photo with me. (Side note: They give great hugs too. I’m usually not a huggy person. But I make some exceptions of course.)

Another perk of the meet and greet session was we got to choose our spots for the concert before general admission people streamed into the venue. I no longer get an adrenaline rush being in the “pit” standing area right by the main stage. First of all, I actually want to get photos and simultaneously not worrying about fending for my own safety. I honestly have no desire to know what it is like to be in a most pit. I had no doubt there would be one for a post-hardcore concert. It ain’t an uncommon occurrence. Erika and I chose to stand more in the middle of the venue. This area was slightly elevated compared to the ground level standing area. We had much better overhead view of the stage. Also, the acoustics are generally better farther away from the stage. Baltimore Soundstage is a small, intimate venue so everyone can have great view of the stage no matter where you stand in the place.

The opening bands for Our Last Night were Jule Vera, Don Broco, and I The Mighty. Surprisingly, one of Abercrombie & Fitch’s store playlist featured a Jule Vera song called “Bad Company”. Otherwise, I’d never heard of any of the other two opening bands. But I had an open-mind when listening to the bands’ music. I liked them all. Out of the three opening bands, I really enjoyed Don Broco’s set the most. They have a quirky musical style. I’m excited to see Don Broco again at Vans Warped tour in July.

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One perk of smaller concert venues is being able to meet the bands for free. I decided to check out the merchandise table before Our Last Night went on stage. This was right after Don Broco’s set and before I The Mighty’s set.  I was sad there wasn’t any Don Broco merchandise. At Our Last Night’s table, I purchased a Selective Hearing tour tee ($25) and two CDs ($10). I accidentally bumped into someone on the way back to my spot. It turned out to be Don Broco’s lead singer, Rob Damiani. I apologized first before proceeding to chat a few minutes with him. He was so chill. I also took a photo with Rob before heading back to my spot.

It was finally time for Our Last Night’s set! Not surprising there was a mosh pit at some point of their performance. That’s why I didn’t want to be too close to the main stage. Trevor mainly provide commentary between songs. At one point, Woody, the bassist, crowd surfed from the stage to the bar and back to the stage. It was quite impressive. Our Last Night certainly know how to energetically engage the crowd. This sold out concert date had approximately 1,000 to 1,100 attendees. Despite the small stage, Our Last Night sounds amazing live! I love when a band/artist sound even better live than on their recorded albums.

Our Last Night performed a jam-packed 15 song setlist. Most of the songs were from their recent Selective Hearing EP. There was mixture of songs from Younger Dreams and Oak Island albums. The setlist even included two cover songs.

Our Last Night Baltimore Soundstage setlist

 

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Our Last Night is an up-and-coming post-hardcore band to tabs on. I have no doubt they’ll break into mainstream hardcore scene eventually in time. Our Last Night has gained a new fan. I’m glad I randomly discovered them through Spotify’s Release Radar playlist. Life is full of surprises. I eagerly look forward to their upcoming original and cover songs. Also, I’ll definitely see them again live in concert when their next tour comes nearby me.

 

The Greatest Showman

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Many months ago, I discovered a YouTube trailer for an upcoming Hugh Jackman film. This immediately caught my attention. The YouTube movie trailer was for a musical movie called The Greatest Showman. Musical films aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea. I didn’t grow up watching musicals. My appreciation for musical productions didn’t form until eleven years ago. Back in January 2006, High School Musical film debuted on Disney Channel. I’d grown up watching Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) since my pre-teen years. Little did I realize how High School Musical movie franchise would form a longtime love for the musicals over the next eleven years.

I’ve been an immensely huge fan of Hugh Jackman’s career since I discovered the nerdtastically amazing X-men trilogy in 2006. I have no shame admitting how I’ll watch any TV show or movie starring certain bias actors. Hugh Jackman is one of the actors on this elite list. Many including myself will always associate Hugh Jackman as Wolverine aka James Logan. But I’ve seen majority of the movies in Hugh Jackman’s filmography. It proves he is an incredibly talented and versatile actor. On top of it, Hugh has a wonderfully amazing personality. This is quite evident when you watch his press junket interviews. I have absolutely no shame admitting to being obsessed with Hugh Jackman. Honestly, I’ve loved this man since I was 13. My love for him has exponentially grown over the years.

Very few of my favorite actors have a musical theater background. Let alone can sing and dance well. This is a very short list in fact. Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Zachary Levi. I learned each of these actors had pretty awesome singing and/or dancing abilities in surprising ways.

I’ve always known Hugh Jackman as an incredibly versatile actor. In 2009, he hosted the 81st Academy Awards. He performed a musical number at the beginning of the award show. I recall blinking at the television screen for several minutes in total shock. Until that point, I had no idea Hugh had a background in musical theater.

On random whim, I decided to watch Moulin Rouge starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. Being a massive Star Wars fan, Evan is well-known for his role as young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels. I honestly had no idea what to expect when watching Moulin Rouge. But I had no clue it would be a heartbreaking musical film. Thanks to this movie, I learned Evan McGregor had a good singing voice. I’ve never saw him the same way many years later. In a good way.

Back in September 2007, I randomly changed channels and tuned into NBC channel. I normally didn’t venture here. I was quite biased to either The CW or ABC channels around this time. I randomly stumbled across NBC’s new spy dramedy called Chuck on September 24, 2007. In fact, this was the day of its series premiere. (Side note: Chuck was created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. Josh Schwartz is well known creating teen dramas series such as Fox’s The OC and The CW’s Gossip Girl.) Chuck’s quirky concept piqued my curiosity. I was hooked by the end of the pilot episode. NBC’s Chuck was a guilty pleasure obsession show. Not enough words can begin to describe why I adored this TV show. I would devotedly continue watching NBC’s Chuck until its series finale on January 27, 2012. Chuck was my official introduction to much-lesser known and vastly underrated actor Zachary Levi. Levi played the main role of Chuck Bartowski. Many people now know him best for his role of of Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled. Honestly, nothing could have mentally prepared for how pretty his singing voice is. I legit cried happy tears during the scene where “I See The Light” song was duet song between Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

First Date Musical posterZach made his official Broadway debut with First Date musical. This off-Broadway musical ran from July 2013 to January 2014 at Longacre Theatre. My college had a NYC Broadway excursion trip in fall of 2013. First Date was the selected Broadway musical for this NYC excursion. The day of this trip finally arrived. I was exuberantly buzzing with excitement on the 4-hour bus ride to New York City. First Date musical is about a blind date between two polar opposites, Aaron and Casey, in present-day New York City. I really enjoyed it this off-Broadway musical. Three years later, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway in She Loves Me revival. Drastically different from First Date. She Loves Me takes place in 1934 Budapest. The main characters. Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash are secret pen plans who wind up working in the same perfumery shop. They initially butt heads frequently at work but slowly realize they have feelings for each other…and are actually each other’s pen pals. Zachary plays the lead role of Georg Nowack. I’d honestly see any Broadway musical starring Zachary in the main cast ensemble. He is a very versatile actor with a lovable nerdy personality as well. Thanks to NBC’s Chuck, I formed an immense appreciation for Zachary Levi over the years. He is one of my beloved bias actors.

Not everyone likes musicals regardless of what form they come in. TV show, film, school production, New York City Broadway, and London West End Broadway to name a few. I attended many of musical productions in high school and college. I don’t have acting chops. Nope. My talents lie in freelance writing and recreational singing. But I can appreciate a well executed musical production. In terms of professional live musicals, I’ve seen a total of four musicals. Four in New York City Broadway and one in London West End Broadway. First Date, She Loves Me, Bend It Like Beckham, Kinky Boots, and Phantom of the Opera. Most of the musicals I’ve seen have been in full-feature film forms rather than TV show form. I especially enjoy seeing musicals of different genres. Yet, most of the musicals I’ve ever seen have some sort of happy ending for the main character(s). Of all the musicals I’ve seen, Les Misérables film adaptation was the most depressing musical of them all. I still have different reasons for why I enjoyed a particular musical.

TGS poster

The Greatest Showman took seven years of development before this musical film was finally released into theaters. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul penned the lyrics for the songs. This film was a passion project for Hugh Jackman, who was cast as title role back in 2009. The main cast ensemble includes Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron. Michelle and Zac were only joined the main cast in summer 2016. Zac Efron hadn’t been in a musical film project since High School Musical trilogy and Hairspray in 2007. Hugh Jackman hadn’t done a musical film project since Les Miserable in 2012. There’s a plethora of incredibly talented actors among the minor cast ensemble.

The Greatest Showman is an original musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum. The birth of the show business through the visionary ambitions of Phineas Taylor Barnum. Yes, this original musical film took drastic artistic liberty how they portrayed Barnum’s character. The Greatest Showman essentially humanizes P.T. Barnum’s character for the sake of the plot arc.

I do enjoy historical period films every once in a while, regardless of its genre. The Greatest Showman takes place between early to mid-1800s. The costumes in this film were amazing. Every main and supporting character had their own style that complimented their personality. I love how historical period films gives us a glimpse how life was centuries ago. An entirely different perspective from modern-day life.

TGS_1The Greatest Showman took artistic liberties in terms of adding character who never existed in the actual historical narrative. The characters Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle were created for the film. Anne Wheeler is a trapeze artist and acrobat. Her and brother, W.D. Wheeler, were both acrobats in P.T. Barnum’s troupe of performers. Phillip Carlyle is a well-known playwright among the elite upper class. Phillip grew up in a wealthy family. Of course, he is comfortable in this posh crowd. P.T. Barnum asked Phillip Carlyle to join his risky yet exciting business venture. This is how Barnum plans on bettering his reputation among the upper class. The film explores the controversial interracial romance between Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle. Neither can deny their attraction for each other. At the end of the movie, he stops letting his upper-class breeding stop him from enjoying life and take some risks in life regardless if is conventional by society.

This film is full of heart and soul as it shows the internal struggle among P.T. Barnum and the other characters. The Greatest Showman is about personal growth and a journey of self-discovery. P.T. Barnum was an enterprising man yet he unintentionally created a new family for his unique troupe of performers. The original songs beautifully capture the emotional depth of the scenes. The songs make you laugh and cry. Also, the dance choreography for the musical numbers are incredible. Every song on the film’s soundtrack is amazing in its own way. The cast ensemble takes great pride in this challenging film project.

No surprise I absolutely loved The Greatest Showman. I shed tears of laughter, joy, and sorrow throughout the film. Hugh Jackman and the cast ensemble didn’t fail to deliver an incredibly heartwarming movie. I saw this movie around Christmas time, but I definitely plan on watching it again in theaters. I actually watched it again this past weekend. It took seven years before finally hitting the big screen, yet it was so worth the wait. If you’re a fan of musicals, I highly recommend seeing The Greatest Showman. This is a great film for the whole family!

AFI

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In a previous blog post, I mentioned AFI was my official introduction to emo rock. But there’s more to it. A small handful of rock bands officially introduced me to the rock genre. AFI, Three Days Grace, Red, and Skillet.  Each band is on the heavier end of the rock genre spectrum. 2006 was a pivotal year for my music tastes. In fact, it was quite a drastic transition.  Disney Channel pop music to hard rock music. Day and night.

The CW’s Smallville exposed me to many wonderful bands and artist. AFI was one of them. Decemberunderground was released in June 2006. This was the first AFI album I listened to.

AFI band members

(From left to right: Jade Puget, Adam Carson, Hunger Burgan, and Davey Havok)

I’ll provide some basic background about AFI. AFI (A Fire Inside) is a rock band from Ukiah, California who formed in 1991. The band’s member line-up has remained the same since 1998. The band consists of four band members. Davey Havok is the lead vocalist. Jade Puget plays the electric guitar. Hunter Burgan plays the bass guitar. Adam Carson plays the drums. Jade, Hunter, and Adam provide backing vocals as well. Out of all my bias rock bands, AFI is one of the oldest in terms of age of its band members. All four band members are in their early 40s.

They’ve released ten studio albums to date. Answer That and Stay Fashionable, their debut album, was released in August 1995. Very Proud of Ya was released in June 1996. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes was released in November 1997. Black Sails in the Sunset was released in May 1999. The Art of Drowning was released in September 2000. Sing the Sorrow was released in March 2003. Decemberunderground was released in June 2006. Crash Love was released in September 2009. Burials was released in October 2013. AFI was released in January 2017.

Sing the Sorrow album cover2003’s Sing the Sorrow was their sixth studio album. This album propelled the band into mainstream recognition. This studio album was a drastic departure from the musical style of their previous five albums. Also, their previous five studio albums were released through independent record labels. A major record label. Sing the Sorrow was released through Dreamworks Records label. As a result, their fan base exponentially grew. AFI continued to gain more popularity with their follow-up album, Decemberunderground, in 2006. Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground transitioned AFI to emo and post-hardcore genres. Hardcore punk and horror punk elements have been increasingly less prevalent in their music. Some fans did not like this transition at all. This group of people complains AFI sold out and became too mainstream by abandoning their punk rock roots. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone.

Decemberunderground AFI logoUntil a couple years ago, I hadn’t listened to any AFI albums prior to Decemberunderground album. But I diligently kept up with albums they released after 2006. I love how not one AFI album released after 2006 has the same musical style. This proves how the band has matured as musicians over their 25 year music career. Plus, AFI isn’t afraid to experiment with different musical styles. I appreciate it when bands/ artist evolve with each album. Nothing is wrong with nostalgic elements in songs on an album. Yet, it shouldn’t be used too much that it detracts from the band’s growth. There will always disgruntled fans that resist major musical style change with their favorite bands or artists. Typically they don’t like the overall polished sound of albums proceeding Sing the Sorrow. I just ignore these individuals. Instead, I’ll form my own opinion about AFI albums. Critics and dissatisfied fans won’t influence my opinion. Most of the time, I don’t agree with them anyway.

Decemberunderground was my official introduction to AFI. It took me a bit to warm up to this particular music style. Up to this point, I had yet encountered hard rock music incorporating sporadic bursts of screamed vocals. Three Days Grace and Skillet don’t incorporate this aspect into their music. Despite gaining mainstream popularity, AFI wasn’t as popular compared to other “emo” bands of this time like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco to name a few. Yet, this band was my introduction to “emo” rock genre.

You never forget the album that introduced you to your favorite band/artists. Out of all their music videos, “Miss Murder” has the highest views with over 12.5 million views for both the short and longer versions. Yet “Love Like Winter” was the first AFI music video I ever saw. Music videos from Decemberunderground album has the most views compared to music videos from their other studio albums. “Miss Murder” (long and short versions) and “Love Like Winter” music videos have total of 34.5 million views to date. Sing The Sorrow music videos only have total of 21.8 million views to date. Despite being my first album, Decemberunderground is not my all-time favorite AFI album.

Crash Love was released in 2009. This album had a very different tone from previous AFI albums. It was slightly more up-beat yet still had dark undercurrents in the songs. It was love at first listen. I didn’t take time for the album to grow on me. Quite surprising. Decemberunderground grew on me after listening to this album at least 5-7 times.

Fans long to see your favorite bands/ artists in concert. Well, my dream to see AFI in concert came true on October 23, 2009. mtvU’s Ulalume festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Paramore was the headliner band with supporting bands including AFI, Dead by Sunrise, and Kid Cudi. AFI gave incredible live performances in their short setlist. It was same as what you’d hear on their recorded studio album…yet even better. Sadly I only knew half of the songs of the 13 song setlist. These songs came from Crash Love and Decemberunderground albums. The other half of the songs were from Sing the Sorrow album. At this point, I had yet listened to this particular album. Nonetheless, my first time seeing AFI in concert was amazing. It left quite the first impression.

MTV Ulalume Festival setlist

In January 2017, AFI released of their 10th studio album. The Blood album had nostalgic throwback sounds from Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground albums. Yet, they introduced a newer modern rock sound into the songs as well. The album has an overall mellower tone compared to previous albums. It’s refreshing. Quite a departure from 2013’s Burials.

I saw AFI for The Blood tour at Ram’s Head Live venue in February 2016. My second time seeing them in concert. Yet, it was my first time seeing AFI as the headliner band. I’ve always wanted to check out this local concert venue. Ram’s Head Live venue certainly lived up to this hype.

AFI nonetheless delivered a kick-ass rock concert. The set list for this concert included few songs off new self-titled album. But the other 16 songs were derived from Sing the Sorrow, Decemberunderground, Burials, Crash Love, The Art of Drowning, All Hallow’s EP, and Black Sails in the Sunset albums. I was aware of what to potentially expect when standing in the general admission “pit” area near the main stage. I got frequently jostled by those standing nearby me. Don’t forget the extremely close quarters. You didn’t have any personal space at all. It made it impossible to pull out my cell phone to take photos or videos. Any photos or videos wouldn’t have turned out well anyway. By immersing myself in the experience, I created long-lasting memories in my head. Overall, I had an awesome concert experience.

The Blood tour_Rams Head Live setlist

AFI logoSo what exactly drew me to AFI? I listen to plenty of alternative rock bands. Compared to other bands I listen to, AFI has an overall heavier tone in their music. Lead singer, Davey, has a baritone vocal range. It is bizarrely fascinating. I hear my fair share of tenor lead singers from my bias bands/artists. But very few have baritone vocal range like Davey Havok. It seems you either love or hate Davey’s vocals. There’s no middle ground. I find this quite fascinating. Obviously, I love Davey’s singing vocals.

Plus, he can easily transition into throaty, high pitched screaming. AFI hasn’t used as much screaming vocals in their music since Decemberunderground. This particular element has become less prominent in seventh to tenth albums. If any singer doesn’t maintain their voice then their vocal cords become very strained over time. Davey had vocal cord surgery in 2006 or 2007 after getting a vocal cyst. This changed his overall singing vocal tone. Plus, it explains why AFI no longer has as much screamed vocals in their music. Yet, I actually love how AFI’s musical style has evolved over the past 10 years.

Most of all, I love the bands I do because they meet three requirements. Beautifully complex layering of instrumental sound, emotionally-charged vocals, and confessional lyrics. This doesn’t mean I’ll always emotionally connect with the lyrics. But it doesn’t change how much I love my bias band or artists.

I’ve been listening to many of my bias rock bands for 5-11 years. Many of them don’t sound have the same musical style as when I first discovered their music. Evolution is important. As much as I love my bands, I don’t want all their albums to have same musical style. Older fans often complain when their favorite bands release new music that doesn’t sound anything like music from the band’s “glory days”. I’ve learned you’ve got to be open-minded. Try not to attach too much sentimental nostalgia. You might actually like the musical direction the band is going in if you. But first you must acknowledge change isn’t necessary bad.

From my personal experience, many of my bias bands have demonstrated their maturation and growth as artists when experimenting with newer styles. There’s a delicate balance of giving fans nostalgic throwback while simultaneously pushing forward with a new musical direction. Based off their most recent album, it seems they’re moving towards an electronica hard rock style. I dig it. Regardless, AFI still beautifully weaves dark and heavy tones into their music. I will continue to support AFI and their future music endeavors along with side projects such as Blaqk Audio and Dreamcar.

Miranda

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I’m continuing my Tom Ellis TV show marathon. My love for this wonderfully awesome actor keeps exponentially growing with each TV show. I can check Fox’s Lucifer and USA’s Rush off my list. Each are unconventional dramas with plenty of witticism, sarcasm, and dark humor. Time to switch things up a bit. I metaphorically travelled across the pond to the UK for the next show. I’d read good things about BBC’s Miranda. It’s important to maintain an open-mind when approaching a new TV show.

Miranda is a comedic sitcom created and written by Miranda Hart. This show was developed from Hart’s semi-autobiographical BBC 2 Radio comedy, Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop, from 2008. The main character, Miranda, doesn’t feel like she fits in society at all. She is 6’1’’ and awfully clumsy with a child-like sense of humor. Miranda is a lovably awkward comedy revolving how the main character somehow always ends up in socially awkward situation on a daily basis. She is quite socially inept. Yet, Miranda embraces this flaw as part of her quirky personality. Despite being 34 years old, Miranda has no idea how to truly be a grown-up adult. She is always a kid at heart. Yet, she is constantly striving to be independent and forge her own path in life.

Miranda scene_3

I was a bit skeptical of whether I’d actually like BBC’s Miranda. The pilot episode most definitely won me over. It had me busting out in hearty laughter. Honestly, it has been a while since a sitcom TV show has had me in intense peals of laughter. I even clapped my hands aloud often watching Miranda episodes. (Side note: My family gave me a fair share of odd glances as I was watching this show. I couldn’t suppress my laughter or joyous seal claps.) Anyway, this awkward cringe comedy sitcom easily grew on me.

Slapstick comedy is a quintessential element. This involves exaggerated physical activities exceeding the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Miranda’s character is lovably clumsy by nature. It often leads to very embarrassing moments in social situations.

Miranda incorporates one element you rarely see in TV shows. The main character breaking the fourth wall and directly talking towards the audience. I’ve honestly only seen this element in very few of my TV shows and movies. Showtime’s House of Lies and Marvel’s Deadpool. In the opening scenes of every episode, Miranda converses with the audience to catch us up on what’s going on in her life. Also, she often breaks the fourth wall when reacting to her awkward actions in social situations. Breaking the fourth wall enables the audience to better understand fascinating nuances of Miranda’s quirky personality.

Besides the main character, there are plenty of fascinating characters among the main cast ensemble. Stevie Sutton. Gary Preston. Penny. Tilly. Miranda explores the dynamic relationship she has with each of these characters. So much history with each character.

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[From left to right: Tilly, Gary Preston, Miranda, Stevie Sutton. Penny]

Stevie Sutton is Miranda’s childhood best friend. She is the assistant manager at Miranda’s joke/gift shop. Although, Stevie essentially manages the business aspect of the joke/gift shop. Miranda lacks any sense of business. She doesn’t mind taking on this immense responsibility. The best friends enjoy the opportunity to work together. Stevie has some odd quirks despite externally appearing all put together. In the pilot episode, it is obvious why Stevie and Miranda are very close best friends right off the bat. Miranda frequently asks her best friend for advice. Stevie knows Miranda struggles with everyday adult life. These struggles typically land her in socially awkward situations. Miranda can be emotionally vulnerable with her best friend. Stevie is a very important person in Miranda’s life. Stevie is basically the closest thing to a sister.
Miranda-and-Gary

Gary Preston is Miranda’s old friend from university. He is the friendly, handsome chef at the restaurant next door to her joke/gift shop. Gary eventually buys the restaurant from the owner, Clive Evans, in Season 3. Throughout the series, the restaurant is one of Miranda’s favorite hangout spots. It’s not often you remain close with your university friends many years after graduation. Based off their conversation interactions, you can immediately tell they are close friends. Miranda doesn’t really have too many friends. Gary enjoys Miranda’s company despite her odd behavior in social situations. She can be her lovably quirky self around Gary.

In the first two seasons, the show explores the underlying attraction between these two characters. Neither want to act on their romantic feelings for the other in fear of ruining their close friendship. Mere friendship is no longer enough at some point. Gary and Miranda’s dating attempts have its highs and lows. Despite being confidence and outgoing, he also suffers insecurities when it comes to romance and dating. It’s one thing Miranda and he have in common. They must overcome their insecurities to truly be ready to pursue a romantic relationship. Through the good and bad times, Miranda and Gary cannot deny how they can’t imagine each other not being in their lives.

(Side note: The wonderful Tom Ellis plays the role of Gary Preston. This is a drastically different role from Dr. William Rush in USA’s Rush and Lucifer Morningstar in Fox’s Lucifer. In every role, Tom brilliantly brings to life the emotional nuances of the character. Don’t even get me started on his incredibly versatile facial expressions. Not many actors can make me laugh and cry. Tom Ellis joins this elite club along with few other of my actor biases.)

Miranda scene_2

Penny is Miranda’s overbearing mother. Also, she is very obsessed with what her upper-middle class “friends” think about her life and family. Miranda falls very short of her mother’s expectations. Penny often vocally expresses her disappointment in Miranda’s lack of a respectable career path along with no prospective men to marry. In terms of her expectations, Miranda is a massive disappointment of a daughter.

Penny often meddles in Miranda’s personal and romantic life. She can’t see how her constant interference prevents Miranda from truly figuring out how to properly adult in life. Yet, Penny does this out of love and concern for Miranda. It’s safe to say neither mother nor daughter often see eye-to-eye on matters. Miranda and Penny have a complicated relationship. But it isn’t always full of tension and animosity. Over the three seasons, mother and daughter slowly gain new understanding of each other. It dawns on Miranda that some of her odd behaviors come from her mother. In fact, Miranda and Penny grow closer over time. Penny even comes to truly accept Miranda as she is. The scenes with them are always fascinating. You never know what to expect.

Tilly is Miranda’s old friend from boarding school. Miranda doesn’t have any fond memories of her time at an all-girls boarding school. Tilly almost always refers to Miranda as “Queen Kong”. Unfortunately, this boarding school nickname seemed to have stuck with Miranda well into adulthood. Miranda obviously tolerates Tilly. They have absolutely no common interests. In fact, they are polar opposites.

In the beginning, it’s very perplexing why Miranda even hangs out with Tilly. Penny wishes her daughter was more like Tilly. Tilly gets along rather swimmingly with Miranda’s mum. Being a socialite, it makes sense that Tilly has a self-centered personality. She makes no efforts to conceal her narcissistic tendencies in social situation. We later discover that Tilly acts the way she does being afraid to reveal her flaws and insecurities to people. Like Penny, Tilly is very conscious of what upper-middle class society things about her. Over the seasons, she becomes slightly less vain and a decently likable character in the show. Miranda in no way considers Tilly her best friend. Yet, they mutually care for each other.

Miranda series cast ensemble_2

With a fascinating menagerie of characters, Miranda has an endearingly quirky storytelling style. The recurring characters grow on you as well. The ones that stood out to me were Clive Evans, “Dreamboat” Charlie, Michael Jackford, and “Random Customer”. It makes sense that Miranda has the most character development throughout the show. Penny, Gary, Stevie, and Tilly each have their own character development within the plot arcs. Just not as drastic as Miranda’s storyline.

Often, TV shows have multiple backdrops for the scenes. But majority of the scenes take place in three locations. Miranda’s flat. Miranda’s joke/gift shop. The restaurant next door. You see other various backdrops occasionally in scenes. Those three locations are core central to Miranda storylines.

Miranda seasons didn’t air consistently back-to-back. Season 1 aired between November to December 2010. Season 2 aired between November to December 2010. Season 3 aired between December 2012 to January 2013. The two-part episode finale aired on December 25, 2014 and January 1, 2015 respectively.

The creator and writer, Miranda Hart, said that there was a possibility for the return of Miranda in the future. I really hope this wonderfully quirky series returns with more episodes. I’d love to see what shenanigans Miranda and gang get up to. Plus, the focus would drastically shift from Miranda’s single life to married life with Gary. That will surely provide interesting storylines.

This show explores the tumultuous journey of self-discovery for the main character. Miranda navigates the daily struggles of acting like a functioning adult. Yet, she is always a child at heart. Out of all her insecurities, Miranda struggles the most with her lack of confidence. This often prevents her from living life to the fullest. She frequently questions if people can truly appreciate her personality. Quirks and all. Over the three seasons, Miranda slowly comes into her own being.

Miranda scene

Miranda consists of three seasons in addition to two episode specials to wrap up the show. That’s a total of 20 episodes. Best of all, every episode is only 30 minutes long. It took 2.5 days to binge marathon this quirky sitcom. From start to finish, there was plenty of smiling, tears of laughter, and seal clapping. Slapstick comedy is the main element of this show. I can see why people love this awkward comedy sitcom.

This endearingly awkward British sitcom is full of marvelous heart and soul. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. The right balance of drama and comedy.  If you’re looking for an unconventional British TV series, I’d highly recommend checking out Miranda.

Rush

Rush promotional banner_1

Thanks to Fox’s Lucifer, I have a newfound appreciation and obsession with Tom Ellis. I tried to deny my new obsession. Yet, there are so many reason I love Tom Ellis. He is an immensely talented actor. I don’t easily throw around the word “gorgeous” when it comes to actors. I cannot deny Tom Ellis is a gorgeous man. Don’t even get me started on his irresistible smiles. It makes me melt into a puddle of feels every time. In promotional interviews, Tom is well-articulated yet also finds the right moments to insert humor. He has an awesome personality. I could honestly listen to him talk for hours. When I become obsessed with an actor, I proceed to watch all their other TV and movie projects. Right now I’m focusing on watching other television shows starring Tom Ellis among the main cast ensemble. I’ll eventually get to his film projects.

Despite being popular in the United Kingdom, he isn’t as widely known here in the United States. In 2014, USA Network’s Rush was Tom’s first American network TV show. Rush is an edgy medical drama created by Jonathon Levine. It revolves around the tumultuous life of Dr. William Rush. Six years ago, Will was dismissed from a major Los Angeles hospital. He enters “concierge” medical field and serves a very specific clientele. Wealthy clients and Hollywood celebrities who need immediate medical attention but require the utmost discretion. No questions asked at all. His elite, affluent clients must pay thousands of dollars up front cash in advance. He essentially is a “medical fixer” who has thrown his moral compass out of the window. Rush is a good doctor with self-destructive habits. Heavy usage of alcohol and drugs. These are his coping mechanisms to fight demons from his turbulent past. Tom Ellis plays the leading role of Dr. William Rush.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about checking out USA’s Rush. I’ve seen my fair share of medical dramas. The basic concept of this medical drama seemed very cliché. Yet, I was willing to keep an open-mind and give it a chance. I’ll admit Tom Ellis playing the lead role was my main motivation to watch USA’s Rush. My bias actors have led me to some awesome TV shows and movies.

After watching the pilot episode, I was surprised how Rush definitely wasn’t what I expect to be. It wasn’t your typical procedural medical drama. In fact, I wouldn’t even really call it a “medical” drama. USA’s Rush explores the multi-faceted personality of Dr. Will Rush along the complicated relationships with the few important people in his life.

RushBeing a renegade physician, Rush runs an unorthodox “concierge” medical practice that involves personally visiting his elite clients at their homes or workplaces. He is basically a rock star freelance doctor to the elite of Los Angeles. He doesn’t discriminate nor judge his clients’ morals. All that matters is that pay in advance in all cash. It proves to be a very profitable business venture for him. In a way, you could technically say Dr. Will Rush runs not only an unorthodox but also an illegal medical practice. He always knows how to fix the medical issue. Also, he is always well-prepared for any situation possible. Rush lives by the philosophy that he would do anything for the right price. This becomes increasingly not as simple throughout the course of Season 1.

William Rush’s character isn’t what I’d call a likeable character. He is very screwed up. Not even going to sugarcoat it. Yet, he isn’t exactly a bad person. Rush is trying to make the best of his circumstance. He basically an onion with lots of emotional layers. On the surface, he seems so put together and unapologetic about his eccentric lifestyle. The drugs and alcohol numb his inner emotional turmoil. Rush refuses to face the ghosts of his pasts and constantly tries to keep burying them deeper away. He hides the darker parts away for only very few people to see this side.

The show explores the complex relationships with particular characters. He has very different relationships with each of these characters. Eve Parker is his personal assistant. Alex Burke is his longtime friend. Manny Maquis is his drug dealer. Warren Rush is his father. Sarah Peterson is his ex-girlfriend and still the love of his life. Quite the variety of interesting characters. You see different sides of Will when he interacts with these characters.

Rush cast ensemble.JPG

From left to right: Dr. Alex Burke, Eve Parker, and Dr. William Rush

Eve Parker, his personal assistant, goes above and beyond to ensure Rush’s unorthodox “concierge” medical venture continues to thrive. She does so much behind the scenes while he is out dealing with the elite clientele patients. From Eve’s interactions, you can tell she enjoys working for Dr. Will Rush. No matter how some days can get quite crazy. Eve knows about his heavy usages of alcohol and drugs. She tries to keep him on track and inquire about his well-being from time to time. Rush cares about his personal assistant. He appreciates all her hard work and loyalty. Throughout Season 1, you discover the backstory of how Rush met his personal assistant. I’d say this is one of the healthiest relationships in Rush’s life.

Alex Burke and Will Rush’s friendship go way back. Both are Harvard trained physicians. I’m assuming they most likely met in medical school. Alex and Will are total opposites. It’s kind of amusing how they are slightly envious of the other person’s life. Alex vicariously lives through Will. He craves the excitement and freedom in Will’s life. But he has lots of commitments in his life. Will vicariously lives through Alex. He longs to have stability in terms of his relationships. Rush doesn’t typically have healthy relationships with woman. He is envious how Alex is happily married to Laurel and a good role model for his son, Elliot. Rush will never admit it but he secretly wants to eventually settle down. The scenes with Alex and Will are always refreshing. It doesn’t seem Rush has other close friends. This is one of the few healthy relationships in Will’s life.

Rush is quite chummy with his drug dealer, Manny Maquis. The scenes with Rush and Manny are interesting. We don’t quite know the full history between Rush and Manny. There was only one flashback scene from six years ago showing hard-partying Rush randomly meeting Manny at some bar or nightclub establishment. Rush isn’t Manny’s best customer, but he is consistent. Most of their interactions involve a drug transaction. There was an occasion where Manny needs Rush’s help to convince his stubborn dad to see a doctor. Rush agrees to help Manny out. It isn’t too big of a favor. They have a bizarre quasi-friendship relationship which provides for an intriguing storyline.

Rush - Season 1

From the start, you get a sense that there’s tension between Will and his father. We don’t know exactly why until about halfway through Season 1. Rush blames his father for being the dismissed from the hospital six years ago. It is obvious Will and Warren have a tenuous, strained relationship. Warren doesn’t approve of his son’s unorthodox medical venture. A situation arises where he must ask his father for a favor in order to save Alex’s job. To say the least, it was an awkward and tense family dinner. Will meets his father’s new wife, Corrine. She is 20 years than Warren. (Side note: Rush and Corrine have a weird storyline in the show. But I won’t go into the further details.) He is even more shocked to learn he has a half-sister, Lily. Rush is very angry that his father didn’t tell Lily that she has an older half-brother. Warren is convinced his son is a bad influence to be around Lily. Also, he doesn’t want Lily to be disappointed by Will. Throughout Season 1, Will and Warren slowly rebuild their father-son relationship.

Rush - Season 1

Sarah Peterson is a very special person to Rush. He unexpectedly runs into her at Alex’s son birthday. Rush has been with many women. But Sarah is much different. She’s the love of his life. Her return sparks a desire to change inside of him. To become a better man that Sarah can learn to trust and rely on. He wants to settle down with the love of his life. Rush tries to walk the straight and narrow. But his self-destructive habits aren’t easy to kick.

Dr. William Rush is a multidimensional character which provides for some very intriguing plot arcs. He has a sharp, witty conversational style. Tom Ellis truly did justice of bringing this multi-faceted character to life. I’ll admit it took a couple episodes to get used to his American accent. It sounded a bit weird at first. Otherwise, Tom was the best actor for the lead role of Dr. Will Rush.

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I don’t normally watch USA Network shows. Three years ago, I randomly discovered White Collar few months before their final season. It was surprising to learn that USA Network has some leniency in terms of content in their TV shows. I’ve watch my fair share of premium cable shows. Strong profanity isn’t that uncommon in MA rated television shows. But I was a bit shocked with the strong profanity in Rush. The most common swear word used throughout Season 1 was “shit”. It is said at least 5 times in every episode. This swear word is typically not allowed on prime-time network TV shows. It would be censored out. That was not the case with USA’s Rush. Apparently, USA Network has a slight leniency on profanity in their TV shows.

USA’s Rush was a surprisingly compelling show. Each of the main characters’ development was amusing. The storylines kept you on your toes. I found it interesting how this edgy medical drama chose an 80’s music soundtrack. These past two days I binged all 10 episodes of Season 1. I don’t regret it.

Sadly, USA Network decided not to renew Rush for a second season. That is a pity. I really would have enjoyed seeing what intriguing storylines we’d see in Season 2. I tried to ponder why this show got cancelled after its first season. I feel the way the plot arcs were structure is most likely the main reason. It was compelling storytelling. But it was more than halfway when William Rush decides to drastically transform his life to earn back Sarah’s trust. This should have happened a couple episodes sooner. In my opinion, this aspect of the storyline in Season 1 seemed a bit rushed. Another plausible reason is that a small handful of the supporting characters really stood out. Eve Parker and Alex Burke. Rush had so much potential but sadly it didn’t garner enough of a following to be renewed for another season.

Lucifer promotional banner_5It is sad when a show full of potential isn’t fully appreciated by the general public. USA’s Rush being cancelled turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not long afterwards Tom Ellis had the opportunity to play the role of Lucifer Morningstar in Fox’s Lucifer. This would be his second American network TV show. I cannot imagine any other actor playing Lucifer Morningstar and truly doing this role justice. Tom Ellis is the perfect choice for this particular role! He wouldn’t have had this incredible opportunity if USA’s Rush had been renewed for a second season. The grass can always be greener on the other side when it comes to TV show cancellations.

I was surprised how much enjoyed watching this edgy medical drama. The storytelling keeps you on your toes. Also, you’d never imagine to be rooting for Dr. Will Rush. But this complicated character really does grow on you. I’d recommend checking out USA’s Rush if you’re looking for an unconventional medical drama.