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Friday, June 10, 2016

Watching Amazon TV Series 'The Man In The High Castle'

Besides having Sky as our 'television provider' we also have Amazon Fire, which is linked to Amazon Prime. A couple of years ago Carol bought a Kindle Fire, and as part of the deal, we got Prime free, which meant we got anything we purchased through Amazon came with free delivery as well as Amazon's 'on demand' television service. When the first year ran out we had to decide whether to continue with it and pay £79 a year and to purchase a Fire Stick. This we did and set up the Fire Stick which connects to our Sky wifi router. You then get a wide range of 'apps' which allows you to watch television shows and films free but also some which you have to pay for through the Amazon account. There are quite a few similar services besides this Amazon service, including Netflix. We can get the main channels 'on demand' such as BBC, through their iPlayer as well as Channel 4, Channel 5, as well as a few more besides. Very good, except you can't download and keep the programmes as you can with your Sky+ box. I'm not sure whether the newer Fire box which Amazon recently introduced allows this, but it costs a good dea than the Fire Stick (which I originally bought from Argos and costs around £34 which, considering what it does seems very reasonable, particularly if you don't have Sky, Virgin or any of the other 'television providers.') We used to have Freeview at this address but found that, because we didn't have an outdoor ariel, the signal was poor. So we looked around for a solution and found that Sky was perhaps best. It was when we were searching around that we discovered that Virgin wasn't available in this area because Milton Keynes, although a modern city, didn't have a cable network to carry the Virgin television or telephone network.

It's great having Television 'catch-up' services such as iPlayer and similar as you can not only watch programmes you might otherwise miss when they are originally broadcast (usually up to a month.) but there is quite a lot of what I'd call 'back-catalogue' material. We've watched 'Doc Martin' through the Fire Stick which also means you can miss the advertising. We did start watching 'Downton Abbey,' having recorded episodes on the Sky+ box but the adverts we so annoying and irritating that we didn't bother to watch any further episodes but eventually caught up with the final series when it was on the I.T.V. 'player.' It now appears that all six series are on Sky+ 'box sets.' With Netflix producing a remake of the B.B.C. series "House of Cards" with Kevin Spacey in the lead role, and the fact you can 'binge' watch all the episodes and don't have to wait a week before the next episode is available to watch, you can see why companies such as Amazon are making their own television shows for 'instant' download or steam. (Incidentally, I was a 'Walk-On' in the BBC version of 'House of Cards.")

I am currently watching an 'Amazon Original' series called "The Man In The High Castle." It's based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, who is best know for writing the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," which was the basis for the film "Blade Runner." That film was directed by Ridley Scott, who is also Executive Producer of "The Man In The High Castle." I am enjoying this series immensely. It is set in an alternative future where the Nazis won the Second World War and rule America jointly with the Japenese. This shows that television can beat cinema when it comes to story-telling because you can the time, over 10 hour-long episodes, to allow the narrative to breathe and characters to develop over time, which you cannot possibly have with a film which for no more than three hours.

This is dark and brooding and has a real chill to it. I think it's because it's believable. We know that the Nazis obviously didn't win the war, but this could so nearly have happened. It's this that gives it the edge. Only only criticism is that many of the scenes are in almost impenetrable darkness, to such an extent that you can barely see what's going on. I realize that this under-lit quality adds to the suspense and atmosphere, but it doesn't really help that you can't see clearly what's going on. I do like the fact that you, as the audience, has to actually work hard to make out what's going on, they don't give everything away. I like being able to make conclusions for myself. A lot of modern television and cinema is far too obvious. It's almost as if the makers assume you don't have the intelligence to work things out for yourself. It have a certain cinematic look, well photographed and the set design and costumes are well executed. I would imagine they had a fairly large budget to be able to give it that 'look.'
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