TV Trends: Bates Motel, Stranger Things, Shark Tank

Spring break is a great time to relax and catch up on the TV shows you’ve missed on network television, cable or streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Oxford Stories reporters shared what they’re watching.

Hannah Gambrell
Oxford Stories

Bates Motel – This is a well known thriller show based on the Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” Famous for its intense shower scene and the odd relationship between a boy and his mother, Norman and Norma Bates, this is one of my favorite television series. This show is unique because it is based off of a film, but they are also giving it a little twist.

As a psychology major, this film and television show is extremely interesting to me. We are able to see the main character, Norman, suffer from a psychology disorder that makes his murdering sprees quite confusing. Norman suffers with a disorder known as dissociative identity disorder. This disorder causes him to struggle with who he really is.

At one point, he is placed into a asylum, Pine Grove, to help with this disorder and the blackouts he has experienced. During his time at Pine Grove, they are able to see that he turns into his second identity, who is his lovely mother, Norma Bates.

This is where the murdering that Norman has done gets a little confusing. When he kills people, he does not know it is happening, and when it does happen, he thinks “Norma” is doing it. When he murders, he always blacks out and turns into her, and “she” kills people to protect her one true love, Norman, from the bad people in the world.

Only one word to sum up this story – insane. I would highly recommend this television show to anyone. The storyline is so interesting, and watching the interactions between the characters is great. Every episode is able to capture something so interesting and intriguing you can’t wait until the next episode  comes on. I believe the directors have done an amazing job keeping their focus and making sure every episode is solid and builds nicely to the last season.

Patrick Chacone
Oxford Stories

Stranger Things – “Stranger Things” features a group of kids who live in small town Hawkins, Indiana. The town has become ground zero for abnormal happenings and disappearances. There seems to be a paranormal monstrosity on the loose through the town. The monstrosity abducts the townsfolk and takes them to the “other side.”

The local authorities suspect foul play. However, the kids achieve a deeper understanding. Upon having one of their own from the group disappear, they become involved in the mystery from the start. To much of the authorities disdain, the children investigate and suspect the government research facility in town is either directly or indirectly involved with the disappearances.

During the children’s investigation, they discover a girl with a shaved head. This is abnormal, as she is healthy, but her personality is quite shy for such a bold appearance. This is an odd sight because this is a small town where everyone knows everyone, and life is bland. The girl calls herself “Eleven,” and she has the ability to compose/edit situations to her benefit. She has “powers” that enable her to control both people and objects.

The group of boys befriend her and have her assist in the investigation. Throughout this investigation, there is much distrust between the kids, the townspeople, and the authorities. However, a lead comes through enabling the trifecta of search groups to come together as one and solve the case. The government appears to be the lead suspects.

Jon Matrick
Oxford Stories

Shark Tank – “Shark Tank” is a TV show in which small business owners pitch their company to a small group of investors to receive money and insight about better ways to run their businesses and become more profitable. The investor group includes multi-millionaires who have various strengths in sales and marketing. Most of the time, their investment goes further than a big check.

It is access to the investors, or sharks’, as they are called by the show, ability to open doors into bigger markets to sell the product the company pitches. The TV show has helped countless businesses grow and flourish in the changing market. This is because the sharks are not just actors who are helping businesses get seen by a large TV audience. They have a powerful presence in the world as people.

Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, so if the product is sports-themed, he has the power and respect to get it on the shelves of the Mavericks’ and other professional teams across the country.

Mackenzie Brinson
Oxford Stories

Planet Earth – BBC’s “Planet Earth’ gives an unseen perspective on Earth’s areas that are nearly untouched by man and the animals that inhabit these regions. From the Artic tundra of the Poles, to the harshest deserts, animals have made fascinating adaptations to their environment.

“Planet Earth” offers a glimpse into the lives of animals of each diverse region. Beginning with the South Pole, we see emperor penguins and the struggles they face throughout their winter. Harsh temperatures totaling a number well below zero force penguins into tight groups in order to share their warmth.

Ironically, on the complete opposite side of the world at the North Pole, the sun shines for the first time in months signaling to the inhabitants it is officially spring. A polar bear and her cubs wake for the first time out of hibernation with little energy and a great need for food.

The program shows a unique look into their exploration for food and the cubs first time walking in thick snow. After showing difference in the Poles, “Planet Earth” shifts, showing different regions the show will cover throughout the series. The show gives a great preview of what is to come as the viewer watches what takes place over the course of each episode.

Mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and even a variety of fungus are shown along with a unique view of what they eat, how and where they sleep, where they migrate to and from, and how they mate. Through this unique view of the world we live in, it gave me a better understanding of areas of the world that are unlike where we live. I think it is important to inform people of the world we live in so that people can grasp what life is like outside of our back door.

Brantley Meaders
Oxford Stories

Taboo – Tonight, I watched Episode 7 of “Taboo,” a period drama set in 1814 London, which is co-broadcast on FX and the BBC. The series stars the excellent Tom Hardy, well known for his roles as Bane in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Max in George Miller’s 2015 reboot of his Mad Max films, and as the antagonist in the Oscar-nominated film, “The Revenant,” directed by Alenjandro Gonzalez Inarritu. This gave “Taboo” plenty of hype, as anything with Tom Hardy’s name in it seems to guarantee quality entertainment.

James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) returns to London, England as a mysterious figure with a devilish reputation that he earned after spending 12 years in Africa. Rumors about him include terrible things like witchcraft and cannibalism.

He has come home to mourn his father’s death and claim his inheritance, which includes a valuable piece of land called Nootka Sound coveted by the USA, Great Britain, and the East India Company – the era’s most powerful and feared institution – as a means for tea trade with China.

Delaney is wise to this, however, and we begin to learn that he is a highly intelligent, unusual and mysterious protagonist with his own plans for Nootka Sound. Knowing this puts him in a vulnerable position.

We get to watch the mystery around his character slowly fade as he takes on both King and Company over the course of the series. He is forced to thwart multiple assassination attempts while putting the pieces in place to carry out his master plan.

His intentions in the beginning of the show are unclear, but it becomes clear that Delaney has a history with the East India Company and his desires go beyond the wealth and prosperity that Nootka Sound guarantees. He desires revenge.

“Taboo” offers much entertainment with its acting, writing, 1800s characters and society, and its mesmerizing depiction of the violent, harsh realities of its time. It follows the trend successfully utilized by “Game of Thrones” of savagery and bloodiness from a different age without being gratuitous or distasteful.

Although the show might not be half as good without being carried by the captivating performance of star man Tom Hardy as James Delaney, the supporting characters are all fascinating and eccentric in their own right, as we watch the mystery and drama around them unfold towards what promises to be a breathtaking climax.

Madison Rettig
Oxford Stories

Scandal – The television series is already in its sixth season, and the first five are on Netflix. “Scandal” stars the actress Kerry Washington, who plays Olivia Pope and runs a firm called “Olivia Pope and Associates.”

Other main characters that were focused on in the first season were president of the United States Fitzgerald Grant III, played by Tony Goldwyn, and his chief-of-staff Cyrus Beene, also played by actor Jeff Perry.

Throughout the first season, the main focus is on Pope’s relationship with President Fitzgerald. Pope once worked for the president helping him win the election before starting her own firm. President Fitzgerald and Pope have an intimate relationship, despite the fact that the president is married. This relationship between Pope and President Fitzgerald was exposed early in the first season to the viewers.

Pope and associates work with a young woman whose name is Amanda Tanner, played by Liza Weil. Tanner was hired by Pope in the beginning of season one, then Tanner finds herself in trouble with the government. Pope and associates spend the first season understanding Tanner’s involvement with the White House, while the associates are solving other cases.

The plot is appealing and keeps viewers engaged. “Scandal” is a political thriller. One character has power while his/her opponents attempt to stop it. The development of power always leads to corruption, and Pope and her associates work diligently to understand it.

The actors are talented. They all do an impressive job. “Scandal” has me hooked as a viewer, and I have already suggested to my friends and family members to start the television series with me. Seeing how there are now six seasons, I plan to Netflix binge them all.

Caleb Brown
The Office

The Office – I began watching the TV series, “The Office,” on Netflix, starring Steve Carell. Carell plays Michael Scott, branch manager at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Scott is not the best manager when it comes to work-related activities. Instead, he goofs around in the office all day with his employees.

Other roles include sales people, accountants, receptionists, and other managers. Some find their boss, Scott, annoying and childish, but others share the same sense of humor.

The setting is in an actual office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Unlike many other TV shows, “The Office” holds interviews with individual characters all throughout the show. It is almost like it is reality. The series has no actual plot. Instead, each day at the office is interesting and different.

It is not the type of show that has one anxiously waiting for next week’s episode. One does not really need to understand what happened in previous episodes to know what is going on the episode he or she is watching.

What drew me to this show was the fact that it is funny. Every character in the show has a part in comedy in some way. Usually, I do not watch TV series on Netflix. I chose to watch a TV series because I could not find a movie that interested me. Also, I felt like I would not get hooked on “The Office.” I thought I would watch one episode then write this blog post.

But, the way the producers displayed numerous scenes of comedy through the actors and actresses made me want to watch more episodes until I eventually became hooked on it. Now, I find myself watching “The Office” almost every night before I go to bed.

William Nash
Oxford Stories

The Office – I have recently watched the Emmy award winning series “The Office,” which is one of the greatest television shows of all time. Every character is perfectly cast and has created one of the best scenarios on television.

The scenario is a documentary crew is filming the employees at a small paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The office setting creates the perfect opportunity for dry humor and absurd situations that get funnier every time they happen.

Finally, the show builds upon previous episodes and gives the show a sense of progression. These reasons are why I love the show and would recommend anyone else to watch it. The characters are what makes “The Office” one of the best shows on television. Every single character is perfectly cast, from the clueless temp to the regional manager.

The show’s main ensemble includes Steve Carell’s Michael Scott (seasons one through seven), Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute and John Krasinski’s Jim Haulpert. Scott is fun-loving, naïve and ignorant to the point of being brutally awkward. Shrute is a quirky over-achiever who often serves as the antagonist of the series. Jim Haulpert plays a sarcastic stereotypical 20-something who often clashes with Dwight over his rigid views.

Even the side characters are always entertaining and add humor. The office setting of “The Office” is the perfect playground for the actors to experience awkward situations. The creators have utilized the stereotype of office boredom to exaggerate the crazy scenarios that happen to the employees.

For example, during a routine fire safety drill, Schrute actually set fire to the office, and the employees started to break the windows and raid the vending machine. This drastic contrast between office boredom and crazy hijinks makes any glance or one liner even more funny.

A recurring story line is the love interest between Pam (Jenna Fisher) and Jim. It started in the first season with Pam engaged to another man, then progressed to Jim and Pam getting married with children by the end of the series. Character evolution keeps the show fresh, and motivates viewers to keep watching the show.

Brandon Hancock
Oxford Stories

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – My favorite thing to do after a long day is watch something on Netflix. I am watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and I love this show.

It’s a dark comedy about five dissolute friends: Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Frank and Dee. Together, they run a bar named Paddy’s Pub, and the place hardly ever gets any business, mostly because the gang is always up to something. They try and do the most random things, and something always seems to go wrong.

In one episode, Frank wants to go to the Grand Canyon, so he, Mac, and Dennis pack up a U-Haul and decide to go until Dee shows up and demands to go with them. She finally convinces them to let her go, so Charlie, who is afraid to leave Philadelphia, also decides to tag along because he doesn’t want to stay by himself.

The gang finally hits the road, and already looks to make a pitstop because Charlie has never eaten a pear. On their way to the Farmers Market, they end up behind a bicyclist who is hogging the road, so Mac throws a beer bottle at him, and he falls off his bike causing Dennis to run over it and flatten both tires. Things like this continue to happen, and they end up never even getting out of Philly.

That’s what makes this show a big hit. No matter what they try to do, it never goes the right way for them, and at times, it becomes relatable. It’s now scheduled for its 14th season, and many critics are calling it “Seinfeld” on steroids, because of the way they clown their way through story lines that “Seinfeld” writers would never have touched.

I am only on the fourth season, but I’ve been drawn since the first episode. If you’re looking for some great laugh-out-loud moments, and a show to invest some time in, then you should give this one a chance. It’s crudely humorous in all the right ways, so if that’s what you’re into, then you have to watch this.

Ashton Riad
Oxford Stories

First Take – “First Take” is an American morning sports TV show series starring Stephen A. Smith, Molly Querim and Max Kellerman. This show has been around since 2007.

The sports analysis is second to none. This greatness comes from having a cast and crew with different opinions. They broaden your horizon by listing valid points when backing each of their claims.

Recently, they were talking about the Demarcus Cousins’ trade – where the Sacramento Kings traded perhaps the most offensively impressive center to play in the National Basketball League since Hakeem Olajuwon for a first and second round draft pick and a couple of bench players that didn’t necessarily contribute too much to the New Orleans Pelicans.

How can you argue a case for the Kings giving away their undoubtedly best player for some picks and some washed up players? I didn’t think they had a good answer until I watched an episode in which Max Kellerman argued the case. Kellerman argued the technicalities, and it made sense to me.

His contract expires this year, so they only have him for half a year guaranteed, and after that, he is up for bidding, whereas the Kings have players who are on multi-year contracts and draft picks who could potentially help build a solid foundation for the next years to come.

This is a plausible case to me because of the contract, and it was especially convincing when they played his interview in which he talked about NOLA and being traded. Most viewers would tell you that he seemed convincingly upset and not pleased that he was traded, and didn’t seem excited to leave a team where he was undoubtedly the best player to join a team where he will essentially take a backseat to Anthony Davis, arguably one of the top five best players in the NBA.

Abby Vance
Oxford Stories

Friends: The show stars six actors living in Manhattan, trying to make it through life with the help of each other. They are Monica Geller, the obsessively neat one; Ross Geller, the nerdy paleontologist infatuated with Rachel Green; Phoebe Buffay, the masseuse always sure to make everyone laugh; Chandler Bing, the guy with sarcastic remarks; Rachel Green, the beautiful young woman who left her soon-to-be husband at the altar and became a waitress to become independent; and Joey Tribbiani, the “wanna-be” actor who is in love with his good looks.

Several years ago, I heard about this show, but I never watched it until this past summer. When I first started watching the show, I would only watch one episode a day. That one episode escalated to three or four episodes daily easily.

Since June, I have watched all 10 seasons of this sitcom, not once, not twice, but three times. Yes, you read that correctly. THREE TIMES. And no, I am not embarrassed by that number. The comedy in “Friends” is enjoyable, and I often catch myself dying out laughing, whether it’s from Phoebe’s unique personality, Chandler’s dry humor and sarcasm, Joey’s unawareness, or Ross and Rachel’s rocky relationship.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s