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Friday, February 8, 2013

Dark and Disturbing Shows Light Up Winter TV

Winter TV line up: The Americans, House of Cards and Ripper Street.

A number of new television series are getting underway, and several have dark and disturbing themes. Boston Globe television critic Matthew Gilbert has brought us his picks for winter viewing.

He tells Here & Now’s Robin Young, “all the good shows are dark,” including the FX series “The Americans,” Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Ripper Street” on BBC America.

“The Americans” stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Russian sleeper spies living as an average American couple in Washington D.C. in 1981. Gilbert says the show captures the year beautifully.

“You really feel the urgency of these spies,” Gilbert said. “They’re still in the middle of the Cold War, Reagan has just come into office, and he’s kind of renewed the FBI’s efforts to find these sleeper spies.”

Gilbert is also a fan of the Netflix series “House of Cards” – especially star Kevin Spacey, who Gilbert says “is wonderful to watch on this show. He is a devil but he’s so slick and smooth.”

Netflix is releasing all thirteen episodes of “House of Cards,” so if viewers choose, they can watch them all at once.

Gilbert said he does not approve of that strategy. Watching episodes over time lets you savor them, he said, and a community can build up around a show as viewers exchange notes about a particular episode.

Another show on Matthew Gilbert’s list to check out is “Ripper Street” on BBC America. It’s set in nineteenth century London, just following Jack the Ripper’s killing spree.

The show stars Matthew MacFadyn as Inspector Reid, the head of the police unit that failed to catch the Ripper.

The show is “origin of the rock star serial killer,” Gilbert said, but without glorifying violence.

“We are meant to feel the horror of what’s going on, unlike the FX show ‘The Following,'” he said, which also centers around a serial killer, and ““fetishes killings in really gruesome ways without showing all of the costs of that violence.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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