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“Orphan Black” Is Okay With the Mute Button On

The new series, “Orphan Black” from BBC America, looked like it might be an interesting show. Sadly, I will never know if it improves because I couldn’t even get through one episode.

To begin with, “Orphan Black” feels like a strange rehashing of The CW’s “Ringer” without the star power of Sarah Michelle Geller. The opening sequence of the pilot was interesting. Tatiana Maslany plays the lead – Sarah – who seems to be on a mission to retrieve a sibling.

Shortly after the show begins, Sarah is waiting for a the subway and a woman hurls herself in front of the train. As if that’s not disturbing enough, the woman looks exactly like Sarah.

So naturally, Sarah steals the purse of the recently deceased and tries to take over her life. “Ringer” anyone?  Turns out her alter ego is a cop which creates some problems.

The thing is, I couldn’t get over the terrible British Accents.  I’m not sure who came up with the bright idea that the characters should be British, but it seems like a bad choice.  Even worse than the forced accent by Maslany is the way her onscreen brother murders his accent.  Felix is a stereotypical, over the top, cliché of a gay character with an awful British accent.

It’s a shame.  I was looking forward to a science fiction type of show with a strong female character.  Tatiana Maslany is a pretty talented actor; it surprises me that it was felt that she should force a British accent.

So I stopped watching.  You may be braver than me or have a higher tolerance for massacred accents.   If you do – feel free to comment and tell me if it gets any better.

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21 thoughts on ““Orphan Black” Is Okay With the Mute Button On

  1. I spent the first episode thinking she was Australian. She doesn’t sound English (a British accent doesn’t exist, as there is the English, the Welsh and the Scottish accent. All extremely different) at all. And it’s not improving over the other episodes. But Felix’s accent is actually all right. I did think he was English. He sound like he’s from the suburbs of London. I am English, by the way.

  2. I hated the first episode, mostly because I found the characters unlikable and their motives implausible. I forced myself to watch the second because I’m a sucker for clone storylines and I was hoping it got better. And by the third episode, it got REALLY good. Maslany’s got an amazing technical grasp of how these different women walk, talk, and hold themselves; the “angry angel” character has been my favorite so far. And frenetic lunatic Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, Eureka, Alice) came on board for episode six.

    It’s still ludicrous that a bunch of cops haven’t figured out the Sarah character doesn’t know a thing about police procedure, so you still need to suspend disbelief.

    I thought Felix sounded authentically council-housing London. The Sarah character is laying on the chav a little thick but I ain’t bovvered, am I, cos I’m American, ain’t I, and sides zat, I’m Southern, and don’t nobody evah get our accents right on TV, honeychile. 🙂

  3. Tatiana Maslany’s accent is awful – I thought she was either Australian or South African at first. Felix is fine, I didn’t realise he wasn’t English until I looked him up.

    I’m English too btw – From London

  4. Totally agree…Felix by the second episode sounded London, for sure, but Tatiana’s accent I was sure was Australian, it is a mix of Canadian and English. It could have passed for south African as well, but I lived in OZ for 3 years and she was spot on ozzie, it was pretty amazing they tried to pass her off as British, why can’t Canadian just BE Canadian , we always have to pass for something else, in the fear Americans won’t want to watch, silly.

    • Still don’t watch. That first episode did me in. I mean it’s all relative. I never liked “full house” either but apparently, it was one of the most popular sit coms ever.

  5. Tatiana’s accents sound spot onto me…but I am Australian, so none of them are my ‘native’ accent. I can see how peole who live in the countries that she is doing the accents from would pick the parts that sound wrong…but to everyone else, she sounds great. I know that a LOT of non-Australians that try to do Australian accents sound horrendous…to an Australian, but to the rest of the world, you are used to the stereotypical acccent, so are less likely to pick the parts that sound wrong.

    So, I guess I feel sorry for those people who find the accents annoying, because you are missing a hell of a show. And if you judged everything on the first episode, you may not realise that the actor also spends a lot of scenes having to do Canadian/American accents for her scenes (and being Canadian, that would be the easiest for her to do, so it makes sense that she is not using the English accent for the majority of the show). The fact that the ‘lead’ character is English is actually integral to the story and not just the writers trying to pick up a British audience.

  6. Yup, I agree with a lot of people on here. I’m English and was really confused at first trying to work out where Sarah was from. My first guess was Australian, then maybe South African and then back to Australia. I still thought she might be from Oz up until episode two and you start to see more of the family come out. Her foster brother’s English accent is spot on for a posh kinda London/Southern accent, I would have thought he was British. But her accent is terrible. I then realised that she was attempting to be English.

    As for the show, it’s ok. I heard really great reviews about it, but I don’t think it’s the most original show out there. Its entertaining 🙂

  7. This is a terrific series. Probably the most enjoyable I’ve seen this year.

    Tatiana Maslany really does a terrific job with the many parts she has to play. Anyone who quit after one episode didn’t even meet soccer mom Alison – who was probably my favourite character. Though I also had an irrational soft spot for the crazy Ukrainian. Even Victor – whose storyline I expected to enjoy the least was extremely well used in the second half of the season. And Felix – who I was ambivalent about at the start turned out to be great too. I love shows where the plot really moves – and it really does here. Highly, highly recommended.

    PS I also sat through the whole series of Ringer even though it really wasn’t very good. Sarah Michelle Gellar played two characters who were hard to tell apart. Tatiana Maslany plays at least four major characters – & a whole bunch of minor ones – all of whom are extremely distinct. Deserved all the awards (Critics’ Choice/TCA) she got and should’ve got an Emmy nomination.

    • thanks for leaving a comment that wasn’t rude!!! 😀 I’ve taken a lot of flack over not liking this show – but what you wrote makes me actually want to give it another shot. I appreciate that!

      • I do my best to avoid rudeness. Though I can’t guarantee I’m always 100% successful. 🙂

        It is worth persevering with – though I’ll admit I didn’t have the same problems as you did at the outset & was hooked pretty early. It definitely gets stronger & stronger as the series goes on.

        I haven’t checked around to see what else you are watching but for another very good: “science fiction type of show with a strong female character” I’d also recommend Continuum. First series had some good episodes but maybe put a bit too much emphasis on “case of the week” procedural type episodes. It’s really gone up a notch in season 2. If I had to choose one I’d still definitely give Orphan Black my vote but Continuum is pretty good too.

  8. I started watching this series, and had to stop because of the accents. I do accents, myself, so Orphan Black really grabbed my attention, however, it was irritating and distracting, to the point where I wasn’t sure if it was the overly slow pronunciation of Felix’s well pronounced English or if it was the almost Aussie sounding attempt from Tatiana. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the series, there isn’t any improvement on the accents, and some of them just make you cringe (Russian/German). I appreciate the idea/work that Tatiana has put into this series, and am aware that out of the accent police circles (read: Non-English speakers), the series is a hit. I’m still watching it, as the premise interests me, and I’m willing to overlook the accents for the overall story arc, etc.

    Basically, those who will not like this series, will be so hung up on accents, that anything with a fake English accent will cause the skin to crawl…however, the majority won’t care/perceive/know.

    Tatiana is a beautiful actress, and is very talented, I wish her all the best.

  9. I’m still watching the show because I think she is a wonderful actress, but she really cannot do an english accent at all. Personally I think her brother pulls it off well but Tatiana sounds a strange mix of australian/irish/american/english. And I cannot stand when people constantly add in words like ‘bloody’ or ‘shite’ to reinforce the accent. Perhaps certain areas use those words excessively but I rarely hear them used to the extent american actors seem to believe english people do. It just irritates me when people do such stereotypical imitations of an english accent. We do not speak that way!

  10. Maslany’s accent is hit-and-miss… Usually more hit than miss, but at times she does slip into broad Australian. Seeing as the Cockney accent gave rise to both the Australian accent and the Estuary accent of 21st century London, it’s not surprising that she finds it difficult to stay locked into the Estuary English that her character is supposed to speak. She plays the character very well nonetheless and I don’t find the accents too distracting.

    I find it odd though, CHARKINZIE, that you thought Gavaris had an “awful British accent”. I’m English, gay and from London, I’m a linguist, teacher and dialect coach by profession and even I couldn’t tell he wasn’t English until I heard him being interviewed. He’s got the gay Londoner’s accent down absolutely perfectly. His vowels are naturally Estuary, but occasionally, when he’s excited or coy, he exaggerates them to make him sound more like a posh RP speaker. I don’t know where you’re from, but these things that he’s expertly doing with his voice which to you seem like he’s messing up the accent, are the things that actually make it more convincing. It may well be that you are so used to hearing one “British accent” that when someone has one which is different from what you’re used to, you don’t recognise the talent. As an expert in the field, I say his accent is spot-on.

  11. Have to add my tuppence worth here as I love this show so much, although Tatiana’s “Sarah” accent does my head in sometimes. I love listening to accents and distinguishing them from each other, and it is sometimes painful to hear her jumping continents mid sentence. However her characterisation of the different clones is so superb, I can overlook it. Also I have met people who moved countries in childhood and who veer between the different countries in their accents, creating some confusion in the listener! It’s not too implausible that Sarah Manning’s accent would be a bit off. If anything, it’s a bit odd that Felix has such a perfect accent considering he was brought to Canada at such an early age – I think he’s a little younger than Sarah and they moved when she was about 8. I also thought that Jordan Gavaris was English and was astonished to find he wasn’t when I looked him up. I think his accent skills are extraordinary. I am British, though not from London, and am pretty good at recognising different accent nuances, at least within British accents. Well done the person earlier who said there is no such thing as a single “British” accent – there isn’t even an English one or a Scottish one, or a Welsh or Irish one, the accents are so diverse all over the UK. Certainly there isn’t a “British” accent, though people from outside Britain often speak as if there is.

    If you haven’t tried more than one episode then you’ve missed out! The show’s crazy for sure but hugely entertaining and often also thought provoking. I’ve never seen a show to compare for good women’s parts and non-judgemental exploration of such a wide range of characters. And if you haven’t met Alison Hendrix yet then you haven’t met the best character!

    I am champing at the bit for season 3 to air in the UK. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been shown here yet. What is holding them up? I am getting Clone Club withdrawal symptoms!

  12. I just hope the lead character actually becomes sympathetic soon, because so far I have watched two episodes and I find her to be pure evil, and annoying, and her weird brother is just annoying.

  13. Wouldn’t it be natural for someone from the UK who at a young age moved to Canada (and moreover has a mother with an Irish accent (I think?)), that her accent is not “pure”? Of course, I am not a native English speaker, so I can’t really judge, but to me the accents sound rather convincing. Also, I thought the Ucranian accent isn’t too overdone, and the difference between the way Allison and Cosima speak are also interesting. Apart from the accents, I thought also the difference in body-language were quite impressive. Especially for a tv-show in which – I guess – there is less time to prepare than for a film.

    • It’s interesting that I’ve seen so many posts by British people that say that Jordan’s British accent is perfect, and other posts where British people say that his accent is horrible. It seems that British people themselves can’t agree on whether his accent is good or not. Another reason to stay in and watch a few more episodes is that after three or four episodes her accent gets much better. There are four seasons now, so I don’t know which season she was watching but one woman said, “I’m from south London, and she sounds just like me!” The interesting thing is that she doesn’t just do British and Canadian. Cosima speaks with Pacific Northwest accent, and Allison speaks Southern Ontario. People forget that there are different accents around North America, and I’m not talking about just New York and Texas.

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