By Andy Chandler
Weird shows grab me. The world is far too full of paint-by-numbers television that doesn’t take risks.
Not many shows exist to challenge viewers, yes there are hundreds of quiz shows but I’m not talking about testing knowledge, I’m talking about test preconceptions, prejudices and, maybe even opening a few minds.
The world of online streaming has really broadened the horizon when it comes to the amount of shows out there, the varying genre’s and the subject matters. We’re far more open with the types of stories we tell now, we’re open to watching shows about things that take us out of our comfort zones.
I dread to think what infamous TV complainer Mary Whitehouse would’ve thought of shows like Game of Thrones, WestWorld or The Walking Dead.
But it’s a good sign, a sign of our growth as a species when shows like Transparent or Sense8 can broach subjects that, until recently, were far too volatile or sensitive a topic to even be touched upon by television without fear of causing offence to the greater population.
As this wave of forward thinking script-writing begins to crest, we get brave TV, risk-taking drama’s and concepts that wouldn’t have seen the light of day even 5-10 years ago. Some would argue that that means the shows being made now are of a lesser quality as ‘any old rubbish can get made nowadays’. Now, I do get that point of view but shows like Netflix’s ‘The OA’ show how far off the mark those type of comments can be.
The OA tells the story of Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) as an adopted young woman who resurfaces after having been missing for seven years. Upon her return, Johnson calls herself “The OA”, exhibits scars on her back, and can see, despite having been blind when she disappeared. The OA refuses to tell the FBI and her adoptive parents where she has been and how her eyesight was restored, and instead quickly assembles a team of five locals (four high school students and a teacher) to whom she reveals that information, also explaining her life story. Finally, she asks for their help to save other missing people who she claims she can rescue by opening a portal to another dimension….
As far as premises go, that’s my favourite one yet. It’s only 8 episodes long and it’s a belter of a series. You could argue that it deliberately sets out to be as obscure and off-the-wall as possible but, thankfully The OA never crosses into Twin Peaks territory of sheer unadulterated lunacy.
It’s a bit mystery, it’s a bit paranormal, it’s a bit sci-fi and it’s very, very strange. “Stranger than Stranger Things” is how this show has been described and I dig that. A lot.
The OA is written by its star: Brit Marling and the director Zal Batmanglij, the writing is very natural and the odd premise of the show isn’t hurt by bad dialogue or an awfully shot scene. It looks and plays out beautifully.
With an amazing supporting cast mostly made of unknowns, Alice Krige and Jason Isaacs are the only names you might have heard of and they suit this show. It works. Isaacs especially fills the screen with an uneasy threat that doesn’t seem to come from anywhere. It’s a haunting performance and one that I’ll watch again and relish.
This show sucked me in straight away, I was hooked, and it kept me guessing all the way through. The finale! Wow! I had tears running down my face by the end but I don’t know why to this very day. It was wildly mad, emotional and so odd.
The OA hit Netflix at the tail end of 2016 and Part II is right around the corner (filming began late last year). So, next time you’re stuck for something to watch, give this a try. It’s really weird and I think you’ll like it.