It’s the final day of 2016, and it couldn’t come quick enough. For many people, the last 365 days have not the best, and we’re all hopeful that 2017 will be a much better and brighter year.
Things haven’t been all bad in 2016 though.
For the last few weeks the three of us have discussed what have been our favourite songs, albums and films from the last year, and now we want to bring our review collaborations to an appropriate end. With so many new releases, it’s hard to cover everything that has come out this year, so for our final week we decided to split three more categories between us. Holly has covered her favourite books of 2016, Sarah’s focused on her favourite games, and I’ve decided to look at TV shows. To try and cover a broader audience, we’ve each offered the others suggestions in what to write about for our individual categories.
I feel that this last month of collaborations has been a pretty great success. Although nothing has been discussed yet, and all will be dependent on everyone’s availability, I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to work together in the new year and all through 2017. These joint reviews have been some of my favourite posts that I’ve done since I started this blog, so I’m hopeful for the opportunity to do something else together. After all, I love these guys!
I have to admit now that I haven’t watched as much TV this year as I have done in the past. With university deadlines and commitments, I haven’t always been up to date with 2016’s hottest shows. That’s not to say that I haven’t watched plenty though – far from it. Although I may not have seen a great deal, the shows that I have watched have been incredible. Programmes on TV have such a hard task of attracting an audience with online services taking over, so to achieve what these series have is commendable in itself.
Scott and Bailey
The popular crime drama returned for its fifth and final season back in April this year with a special three-part story-line. The show was believed to have finished back in 2014, but executive producer and lead actress Suranne Jones wanted to give it a proper send-off with this year’s abbreviated series, and it was the right choice. With a gripping story-line that was darker and grittier than the show has ever had before, the wonderful partnership of Jones and Leslie Sharp as Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott was able to shine bright and make this series one of the best. The crime-drama has always done well for its portrayal of its vibrant main cast and this three-parter was no different, even without the incredible talent of Amelia Bullmore as DCI Gill Murray. Scott & Bailey was always my favourite show of this genre to watch because of how modern it felt, and how important the personal lives of the lead coppers was in the narrative of every episode. I’m going to miss it a lot, but at least this series did it justice.
The Night Manager
With a stellar cast that included Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Coleman and Hugh Laurie, it was clear before ‘The Night Manager’ even aired that it was going to be brilliant. Based on the John le Carré novel of the same name, the six-part miniseries follows former British solider Jonathan Pine as he tries to infiltrate and take down the inner circle of dangerous arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper. Every episode of this drama was more gripping than the last, with so many twists and turns that it was hard to see how the good guys could possibly come out victorious. I’m not normally one to enjoy spy dramas but I was pleasantly surprised by how gripped I was throughout the entirety of the series. Tom Hiddleston’s acting was a particular joy to watch, so it’s no surprise that he’s a solid contender to be the next James Bond. If his portayal is anything like it was in ‘The Night Manager’, Hiddleston will be the excellent replacement for Daniel Craig.
The Witness For The Prosecution
After the success of last year’s adaptation of ‘And Then There Were None’, BBC have taken another of Agatha Christie’s stories and turned it into a miniseries that aired just a few days ago. ‘The Witness For The Prosecution’ follows the trial of a young man accused of murdering a rich woman after she changed her will to make him the sole beneficiary. The first hour and a half of the miniseries builds a very strong story that ticks all the boxes when it comes to characters, settings and atmosphere, but its the last half hour that really makes the show unmissable. All of the twists are ones you don’t see coming, and they leave you on the edge of your seat til the closing moments. Agatha Christie’s writing is done justice in this adaptation and shows exactly how TV drama is done right.
In the last decade or so, period dramas have become extremely popular with TV viewing audiences. The success of ‘Downton Abbey’ was incredible, but its conclusion last Christmas left ITV with a large gap that needed to be filled in order to please the show’s millions of loyal viewers. *Enter Victoria* Covering the first few years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the eight episode series brought the 19th century to life with its vivid and dramatic portrayal that starred Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman as the lead. Unlike with ‘Downton’, ‘Victioria’ is somewhat more hindered in terms of narrative because the show cannot stray from the true history of the queen’s reign. However, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in performance with Coleman showing incredible strength in her role as Victoria. Critics who spoke negatively of the show due to Coleman being ‘too pretty’ to portray the queen should focus on the storytelling and see the series for the many positive elements that made it so great.
In the absence of a full series of Doctor Who, ‘Class’ stepped up and took its place to give us ‘Whovians’ a slice of our favourite fantasy universe. I talked before about how the pilot episode seemed to combine previous Doctor Who spin-offs ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’, and having now seen the entire series I still stand by that. However, with all that being said, ‘Class’ doesn’t really feel like it’s a part of the ‘Whoniverse’ (aside from that one cameo by Peter Capaldi), and that works out in the show’s favour. With enough blood, gore and violence to keep a young adult audience entertained, this series is a far cry from the family-friendly programme that people sit down to watch on a Saturday night. ‘Class’ doesn’t, however, overdo it on the more brutal elements, and gives more focus to the wonderful characters that really make the show come to life. I was particularly impressed with the portrayal of homosexuality with Charlie’s and Matteusz’s characters and the way its normalised onscreen. Their partnership is a great example of how much heart the show has, and it works well with the mixture of comedy and violence, the former expertly delivered by Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill. While I agree that the show took some time to find its feet, that’s no different to any other new series. The (many) strong moments in every episode outweighed the bad, and proved that the Doctor Who franchise still has a lot to give. Without a doubt ‘Class’ has been my favourite show of the year by far, and I hope and pray that it’ll be brought back for another series, especially given how the last episode ended. I need closure!
Before I start the list, we’ll put our hands up (I’ll definitely put my hands up) and say there’s a lot of games from this year that we haven’t gotten round to playing that we really wanted to. They could quite possibly have made the list had we actually bought them. I for one am poor. That’s my excuse. Saying that, I’ve played a fair few games from this year and it’s definitely a mixed bag. Notably No Man’s Sky seemed really, really awesome in the beginning until I found out that for such a big universe there was really nothing to do.
Launched as a phone app back in July, Pokémon GO hit the world by storm. Young children and 90s kids alike could be found wandering the streets, swiping at their screens in an attempt to catch the original 151. It was a phenomenon. It managed to get lazy geeks (yours truly included) up off their backsides and out into the fresh air, walking miles at a time. The game, with all its glitches and server errors at launch, lost a lot if its reputation, but it continues to throw out seasonal updates and bonuses, and soon it seems they’ll be releasing the generation two Pokémon. Some have already been released. Yay, Togepi! For me, it’s really nostalgic. I started with the original 151, and getting to catch them in real life is such a geeky but great thing. Yes, it has its downsides and its critics, but for the fact it got a generation up and exercising, and that it has a spawn spot right outside my house, Pokémon GO gets a firm spot on the list.
That Dragon, Cancer
Written and created by a man whose son Joel was terminally ill with cancer, That Dragon, Cancer, is a visual novel game that depicts the daily life, struggles and beautiful moments that came with caring for a young boy with cancer. The graphics aren’t amazing, and in reality it’s a click-based game with little to do, but That Dragon, Cancer is so moving and heart breaking, particularly when you realise that some of the audio clips used in the game are real recordings of the family. It’s a difficult game to get through, particularly at the end, but if you get the chance then you should play it. I’m happy to say that That Dragon, Cancer even managed to win an award at The Game Awards 2016, and it completely deserved it.
Pokémon Sun & Moon
The Pokémon games have come a long way. From 8-bit to 3D modelling, 802 Pokémon later, the games have totally evolved! Pokémon Sun & Moon bring a lot of new things to the franchise, not least its quirky and light-hearted story telling, as well as plenty of visual gags and an antagonist group that pokes fun at itself. In an interview, the developers said that they wanted to bring jokes and humour to this game, and just from looking at the Alolan Exeggutor it’s clear that they achieved it. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet at the same time it still manages to hold a compelling story-line and retain all the elements of past Pokémon games that we all hold dear. And, of course, there’s Mimikyu, one of the new Pokémon who shrouds itself in costumes of other Pokémon in the hopes that it can someday find a loving home. As soon as I read that datafile I made it my mission to get all the Mimikyu. It’s heartbreaking.
For eleven days this game totally takes over your life. No one warned me. If you play Mystic Messenger, wait until you have 11 days of relatively nothing going on because you will want to experience it in its totality. Mystic Messenger is a phone-based game primarily made for women. It simulates a chat-room app where you are able to talk to five men and a woman as you try to plan a party together, but it goes so. Much. DEEPER. Depending on who you talk to the most, the story branches out into different outcomes and let me tell you, you will go on a whirlwind trip of emotions. Originally written in Korean, the English translation is fantastic. The characters are so well written that you often find yourself attached to them as if they were real people. Which is why when they ring you at 4AM you feel awful for missing them. Yes. They ring you. Korean voices with English subs. They can message, text or call any time of day, and they like to do it between 1-6AM. If you miss a chat-room, you can pay hourglasses to go back and get involved. Hourglasses cost real money, hearts or accumulate over chat-rooms. That’s how they get you. It’s also a revolutionary game in the otome genre. I can only hope they create more phone chat-room based games because the concept is so unique and it works incredibly! Oh and let’s not forget the beautiful soundtrack and gorgeous artwork. They need notable mentions too!
Final Fantasy XV
If you play this game expecting it to be like the other Final Fantasy games, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you take it as it comes then it’s pretty damn amazing. Final Fantasy XV is Square-enix’s first attempt at a real open-world, narrated game within the franchise. Although the game has a very different feel to the others in the franchise, FFXV gives it a great shot at still holding onto its roots. Take, for example, the radio in the car that you basically live in because the map is too huge to walk across and there are technically no warp points. You can buy special CDs all over the world that play the soundtracks from the other games in the franchise. Say what you will about the game, I always have FFXIII’s soundtrack blaring out. Then there’s the monsters with all the old favourites: behemoths, cactuar and the eidolons. In that sense, the game is no different. There’s a real time battle system which brings about a whole new sense of realism, but the grizzlies are still the same. Chocobos too. It’s not final fantasy without those cute chickens. The four main characters are lovable, which is a bonus. They each have hefty backstories, which are all further explained in the accompanying webseries Brotherhood, and although they seem like the most unlikely friends, they are all in it together. It’s even difficult to hate Prompto, the annoying twit who always needs you to pull over so he can take a photo.
As an added note, FFXV in itself is brilliant, but it gains a whole other level of depth if you watch both Brotherhood and the accompanying film Kingsglaive. Watch Kingsglaive before you start the game, and watch Brotherhood once you hit about chapter 3. There are certain characters that you will never see the same again.
If you like my taste then you can check out my blog at https://giveitsomegeek.blogspot.co.uk/
So it’s the final week of this Collaboration series and I’ve enjoyed it so much. It has been really great to collaborate with two of my best friends and I am so glad we did it. This week we are all talking about something different, and I am talking about my Top 5 Books of 2016. There were so many incredible books released this year but these are definitely the ones I enjoyed reading the most, and I really recommend that you try and read them. One at the very least, because they’re all so great.
The Night That Changed Everything (Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice)
Now I would easily say this is one of the best fiction novels I have read in a very long time. I read it in May and I have not stopped recommending it to people, it is that good. It follows two characters, Rebecca and Ben, and how one secret from their past can set their lives on a completely different course. At first, I wasn’t so sure about this book, but as soon as I started reading it I was hooked and couldn’t put it down until I was finished. If you read any of the books from this list make sure its this one.
On the Other Side (Carrie Hope Fletcher)
I have admired Carrie Hope Fletcher for a long time for her Youtube videos, and so when she announced she was writing a novel, I knew I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed. The story follows an old woman named Evie Snow who passes away at the start of the book and arrives at the old building where she used to live when she was a young woman. This is her waiting room. To pass on, she must go through her past and solve her unfinished business, even if she has kept them a secret. It was such an enjoyable and easy read – wonderfully fun and sweet. If you’re looking for something to make you smile, this book will do just that.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne)
Now, if you haven’t heard of this one, you must have been living under a rock for the past year. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is a play that recently opened in the West End and it has easily become one of the most anticipated shows ever. It is so incredibly difficult to get tickets – trust me, I waited hours online in a queue and couldn’t get them. Thankfully script for the play was released as a book for those who wanted to know the story but couldn’t see the show. I’m not going to say anything about it, but if you’re a Potter fan, you just have to read it. #keepthesecret
Hamilton: The Revolution (Lin Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter)
Again, if you haven’t heard of Hamilton yet, you really have been hiding under a rock. It is the most popular musical around, winning multiple awards from Grammys to a whole lot of Tonys. It is a masterpiece. This year, the creator of the show put together this “Tome” of stories about the creation of the musical, from the beginning to opening night. It also includes the lyrics to the shows songs, with annotations to give the readers more insight into what Miranda was thinking about when writing the music for the show. It is honestly a breath-taking show, if you get the chance to listen to the soundtrack then do – you will not be disappointed. This book is the perfect companion for any musical lover
The Crown (Kiera Cass)
My final choice is the last novel in a series that I have been reading for years – The Selection Series. It’s kind of Disney meets The Bachelor. The Crown follows Eadlyn, a young woman next in line to become Queen when her father steps down, but she has to marry someone first. She has to choose from a group of young men from around the world as they try to win her affections. It’s a fun read, with great characters and their comedic moments, genuine dialogue and a heart-warming narrative. I highly recommend this series to anyone, it’s one that is very close to my heart and I think a lot of people will enjoy it.
If you interested in seeing more of my own blog then you can find me at http://www.hollyquillsandivy.co.uk