Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Next Doctor

I think it's only fair that I say how much I enjoyed the latest Doctor Who special. I've said some bad things about many of Russell T Davies' episodes since he took over, and while I stand by at least the ones I remember, when he's good he's fantastic. Midnight was excellent and so was The Next Doctor. And probably some others that I've forgotten.

I must admit, when I saw the trailer, I was afraid that Davies had introduced a shitty new Doctor as a parting blow just to ruin Steven Moffat's day, so I was very pleased with the resolution to that mystery when I figured it out well in advance of the reveal. At least, I figured out that he wasn't the real Doctor. Obviously the whole bit with the Cybermen having left their Doctor database on a USB stick on the train I didn't see in advance. I liked that bit. It nicely fit in: the TARDIS lands in the middle of an apparent battle between Cybermen and Doctor and the whole thing is explained by one event.

It was perhaps a shame that the Cybermen, a fairly interesting 'viral' villain like zombies or the Borg, were reduced to rampaging vandals, but they were probably necessary for the Next Doctor puzzle to work. I have no idea what the weird copper Cyber-ring-wraiths were in aid of, though. They were neither needed nor properly explained. I would have preferred they were left out, and that the Blink reference had stayed at the one line from Morrissey, but the episode was great with or without those things. I did like the "I can't not pull from this position" line.

Of course, the fact that I know Davies can produce such tight, clever plots makes it all the more infuriating when he doesn't, but that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the ones he does write.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Dave Hitt Is... well, wrong.

The last Heroes annoyed me. It had some great bits, and some naff bits, because it was Heroes and that's what it does best. But it annoyed me just because the characters kept referring to the eclipse as 'a worldwide event', which eclipses demonstrably are not, at least, not unless you live on the Moon (and even then you can only actually see it from half of the Moon).

But I feel I have to defend it because... well, because someone has accused it of Jumping The Shark. "Jumping The Shark" is a phrase derived from an old Happy Days episode that many fans think of as the defining moment of the show's decline, and now means "I have appointed myself Supreme Judge Of Television, indeed I confidently expect to be asked to present the next series of Screenwipe, and I have noticed that something has changed in this show and therefore it is awful now". It can't be coincidence that without exception everyone who uses the phrase is disagreeable. They mostly drag it out when something happens that changes the initial setup of the show, such as Niles and Daphne getting together, or Chandler and Monica getting together, or some other yardstick event that points out that ten years is quite long enough for anyone to find themselves a girlfriend, and they're forced to either admit that they're socially inept or else start hating the show for letting the characters be happier than they are. Or whatever. I'm guessing here. Who knows, they might just be the same automatically-change-hating reactionary imbeciles that keep organising pathetic protests against the new-look Facebook.

In this case, though, I know the guy who's complaining of old. Dave Hitt and I have had our disagreements before, but he is at least a bit more refined than just some guy who turns off the first time anything clever happens. But still, he gets his basic facts wrong...

It’s not physically possible for an eclipse to happen simultaneously in Kansas, New Jersey (the location of Pinehurst) and Haiti, or to last for an hour.

Well, actually it's not only possible but highly likely, since the show clearly showed that a partial eclipse was all that was needed. None of those places are all that far away from each other. The eclipse was done wrong on a number of levels but these were not them.

There are also major continuity errors. ... Arthur Petrelli gains power by sucking other people’s powers away, leaving them powerless. But when he did it to Hiro, Hiro retained his powers and just lost his memory. Huh?

He absorbed Peter's powers, including the one he gained from Hiro, and he's always been able to wipe memories. What part of this is impossible? Question his motives for doing this, sure, but don't act like it's a continuity error.

None of the major characters in Heroes die and stay dead. Arthur Petrelli was supposedly dead, but then we find he’s really immobilized in a hospital somewhere. He steals Adams immortality, killing him, but we’ll probably see him resurrected later. In the last episode Noah kills a powerless Sylar, who is, of course, resurrected as soon as the eclipse is over. I’ve lost track of the number of times Clare has been killed. In this episode it looked like they finally killed her for real. Fat chance. She came back to life as soon as the eclipse was over. Of course. The result of these endless resurrections is that death has no dramatic impact in the series. Another character killed? Ho hum, what’s for dinner?

What? Of course major characters stay dead. Adam Munroe is dead. Elle is dead and so is her dad. Niki Sanders is dead, as is D L Hawkins. Alejandro is dead (and none too soon). Isaac Mendez is dead. Lindermann is dead. Parkman's dad is dead. Eden is dead, which is a shame because she was hot. None of these is coming back, except in flashbacks or dreams or whatever. The point is that it is clear which characters can do this, and therefore it's usually pretty clear which deaths are reversible: the only characters who have come back from the dead have done so as a direct result of Clare or Adam's regenerative powers. Arthur's surviving his apparent death was handled pretty well, I think, and in any case I don't think he was ever a major character before then. Similarly, things like Noah's ressurection using Clare's blood relied only on events that had been previously explained and was shown in the same episode as his death so nobody should feel too cheated by that. In any case, it was the resolution to the 'painting foretelling his death' plotline. If everything that was painted came absolutely true and was never subverted then the show would be fantastically boring.

Clare's death in the eclipse episode wasn't there to say 'look, we killed Clare' it was there to give Noah a decent 'oh shit, Sylar might still be alive' moment. I don't think it worked especially well, because we've had enough precedent by now that we all know Sylar and Clare won't be killed off halfway through a series.

The show has been entertaining, but spotty, and I’d been hoping it would improve. Instead it’s gone the other way, and now has officially Jumped The Shark.

It has improved. Series three is better than series two but worse than series one. Everyone in the world agrees on this. Now stop whining. If you want to make a point, don't pad it with nonsense. That only diminishes your argument.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Mitchell And Webb Situation

BBC2 have just finished rerunning The Mitchell And Webb Situation (the title having been suggested by Robert Ludlum), a TV sketch show that essentially became That Mitchell And Webb Sound on Radio Four and then That Mitchell And Webb Look on BBC2 again.

It's strange. It's very clearly Mitchell and Webb. You could tell that from a transcript: many of the ideas are ones that turn up in their later work and there's a lot of the clever poking of fun at ridiculous aspects of life that sets the pair apart from the catchphrase monkeys who make drivel like Little Britain. And it's very funny, technically, I think. It just doesn't make me laugh.

I can't watch That Mitchell And Webb Look without laughing. It's too good. But this I can. I watch a sketch, and I can see the joke, and it's clever, and I get the point, but there isn't the big impact punchline you get in their later work. It's like the it's entirely comprised of sketches rejected from the new show because nobody could quite make them work properly.

Quite interesting to watch, though. I feel like I've learned something about how comedy develops.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Heroes is back!

...And with it, Sylar, the most redundant baddie in TV history!

Sylar is a great character -- he's a murderous psychopath, but the writers have still gone to the bother of fleshing him out properly, with motives and consistent weaknesses and everything else that excites Greg Grunberg so much. And yet, he's never really used. In the first series he was always there, being a threat, but the nuclear bomb was a bigger threat. In the second, he played second fiddle to a deadly virus, and this year it looks like a large explosion, a troupe of even mentaller people, and a crazy Patrelli from a future that might not be the future.

This is arguably a waste of a good baddie, but that's why Heroes is great -- they come up with enough great stuff to fill the series, then they come up with a bunch of extra great stuff and put that in too. And then they do it again for the next series. And let's face it: we've not lost anything -- as if any of the hacks on other shows would use him any better.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A Glass and a Half of Effort

Cadbury's have two recently famous adverts. One, in which a gorilla plays drums along to the tune of In The Air Tonight, and a second one in which colourful airport vehicles race alongside each other to the tune of Don't Stop Me Now.

They've just aired both those adverts, in full, in a row. With two major changes. The gorilla advert is now dubbed with Total Eclipse of the Heart, and the race is now dubbed over with Living on a Prayer.

Why? Why waste 3 minutes of advertising with existing adverts redubbed? It just seems wasteful, and the only reason I watched both adverts in full is because I assumed there'd be some sort of twist. Like Bonnie Tyler in the gorilla costume. Sadly, no.

Very pointless.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Dead Set

Charlie Brooker, that guy who rants about TV on BBC4, has finished writing and filming a fantastic-looking new series for E4. It's called Dead Set, and seems to be about contestants on Big Brother leaving the house to find a zombie apocolypse on the outside.

Here is the trailer.

I'm looking forward to this quite a lot. There hasn't been a good horror series since Jekyll.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

How to deal with the Doctor Who gap year: An Easy Guide

Certain corners of Doctor Who fandom is absolutely terrified of the Gap Year. That's understandable. I mean, how will they survive without their fix of thirteen brand new episodes of Doctor Who? Well worry ye not, faithful readers, for I have formed an idea.

Here's what you do:
  1. Beginning from Saturday 3rd 2009, watch an episode of New Who on DVD every Saturday at 7pm. Don't watch more than one episode.
  2. Assuming that the planned specials will air on Saturdays at around 7pm, postpone the viewing of your next episode for the following week.
  3. Postpone the viewing of your next scheduled episode for the Eurovision Song Contest. Log on to Outpost Gallifrey's forum to complain that your viewing of Doctor Who has been interrupted, then watch the Eurovision anyway.
  4. Optionally, write a review of Eurovision Song Contest on Outpost Gallifrey as if it were an episode of Doctor Who.
  5. That's it.
With fifty-five episodes of New Who in the can, this should take you all the way through 2009 and part of the way into 2010, with mere months - or maybe even weeks! - to go until Series Five starts. Good luck, Fandom.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Philled With Confidence

The BBC Doctor Who site reports that producer Phil Collinson, who is a producer for Doctor Who, managed to come up with two ideas during one season run of the show, and manage to run the article praising the guy throughout.

I'm pretty sure "coming up with ideas" is what a producer is meant to do.

Reading the article, I begin to think that Collinson may be some sort of editor of the BBC site. Either that, or the editors of the website are getting sick to death of praising Stephen Moffat every fortnight.

Not that I see how that's possible, of course.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

It seems CBBC is better than BBC3.

Is there any reason why a CBBC sketch show called I'm Sorry, I've Got No Head is smarter, cleverer and made me laugh more times than a BBC3 sketch show called Scallywagga.

This is YouTube's first clip if you search for I'm Sorry I've Got No Head:

That's pretty funny, albeit the punchline has been given away by the preview picture. But go on YouTube and search for more sketches from the show. Most of them are really good, with collaberations from great comedians such as Marcus Brigstocke and Mel from Mel and Sue.

Here is the top rated clip for Scallywagga:

Oh. I. I see. I understand why this is meant to be funny... they're making fun of sketch shows with pointless catchphrases within a sketch. But they're sort of repeating that Colin Hunt sketch. But they've turned the fake catchphrases into a catchphrase.

It's all very confusing and odd.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

"I Said to Beethoven 'I Can Rattle off a Tune', he said 'Pardon?'"

Despite it not technically being television, the BBC Proms this year showed a little mini-episode of Doctor Who as part of their Kids-Centric Proms. They showed this little episode...

It's quite funny, and I suppose it'd be greatly appreciated in the Albert Hall with lots of children talking to the Doctor. All in all, I loved it. It publicised the Doctor's love of music, it interacted well on a pantomimic scale (especially when listening to the Proms on Radio 3). The ending is a bit.. sappy, but it's all round fun entertainment.

But... I'm going to guess that a lot of people won't. In the comments section of this post, I would like you to find a link of every source you can find which complains about this little mini-adventure for the following reasons:

- It surely can't be canonical
- The Doctor breaks the fourth wall!
- They didn't credit Jimmy Vee!
- Pah! It's far too kids-centric now!

That's your task. Go.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Censor Sensibility

The Channel 4 franchise is rubbish. Well, that's a lie- it's excellent, but it's rubbish in one field. Why do they feel the need to censor programs at 2pm because they contain questionable words?

Let me explain further... the other day, they showed an episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel throw their daughter a 1st birthday party. They get her a novelty cake which is supposed to be shaped like a bunny. But it isn't. It's shaped like a penis. Hilarity ensues. However, if you're airing that episode on E4 at five in the afternoon and won't allow the word penis on air, the plot does lose a bit of sense.

The end scene is supposed to go like this:

(Rachel wipes away some tears.)

What's wrong? Are you okay?

Oh yeah, nothing! These are happy tears! This is just what I wanted.

(pointing at cake) Hey, you made it into a bunny.

(looking worried) What is wrong with me. It looked more delicious when it was a penis!

Here is E4's version of that scene:

(Rachel wipes away some tears.)

What's wrong? Are you okay?

Oh yeah, nothing! These are happy tears! This is just what I wanted.

(pointing at cake) Hey, you made it into a bunny.

(Looking worried) What is wrong with me. It looked more delicious when it was-

(Cut to bizarre audience laughter)

Making no sense at all, but at least the kids watching at home won't question what a penis is.

There seems to be something vulgar about the word "Penis" in the land of Channel 4. Watching The Nutty Professor the other day on Film4 (and being slightly freaked out at the fact it was made twelve years ago), they cut out the line after Professor Klump gets thin for the first time, looks down at his trousers and exclaimed "My penis! I can see my penis!". However, what they decided was perfectly acceptable for 1pm is the scene where the newly thin Klump goes to a comedy club and defends a comedian, claiming his date to "give the nigger a chance"- and then later calls a piano player Niggeraci. What are Channel 4 trying to do here... be too sensitive? Worry that if they edit that out, people will be more offended?

And despite cutting out jokes that end up creating an episode that makes no sense (seriously - try watching a Scrubs episode called "My Dirty Secret" on E4 in the evening. The episode is about Eliot accidentally giving a patient an orgasm during a pelvic exam and then focuses on her inability to say rude words - the edited episode is something like 12 minutes long), Channel 4 still continue this tradition- to the point that they're now airing Desperate Housewives at 2pm, which when recorded without the adverts is now 35 minutes long.

I just don't know who they're trying to protect with most of these bizarre edits. Are they worried that an unattended 8-year old is going to be watching Friends at 5pm and then ask his parents what a penis is? It's silly is what it is.

Shut Up, D. Fitzgerald

I do love people who write letters into magazines like TV Choice:

Why on earth does a backstreet boozer like Corrie's Rovers Return need so many staff? They've got Steve, his mother Liz, Michelle, Betty, Sean and Becky!
D Fitzgerald

Shall we look at this logically, D Fitzgerald? You've counted up six people there. Working in a pub. Now, let's say for argument's sake that pubs are usually open from 11am til 11pm - about twelve hours a day. That's 84 hours a week. Divided by the seven staff means everyone's working about 12 hours a week. However, most the time, there's usually two staff members working, so if people are sharing shifts, that makes on average that the usual working week for any one member of staff there can be 18-24 hours. When I worked at a pub, this was usually my regular amount - and we had a small pub in a village called Holdingham that was staffed by about nine people. Nine people. AND we served food as well, much like the Rovers Return.

I may be thinking about this too much, but I can't get over why stupid people write in to magazines complaining about this sort of thing.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cotton Wool Brains

On More4 just now was a show called Cotton Wool Kids. It's about parents, and children of parents, who think that the world is so dangerous that they simply can't let the kids out of their sight for even a second.

There's a guy who will stalk his son in his car whenever he lets him go anywhere (although he's rubbish at it), a woman who has conversations with her daughter that start "see that man? He's a stranger, isn't he?", and a woman who is having her children "chipped", like... God, I don't even know -- we don't even treat animals that way. Anyway, she's having GPS things put in them so she'll always know where they are and how deep the nasty man has buried them.

Partly it's just gullible, tabloid-trusting paranoia, which on its own is stupidity in such massive amounts that it's frankly verging on becoming a punishable crime, but as well as that it's the most god-awful selfish hypocrisy -- they were perfectly happy to run around free when they were kids, and let's not pretend their parents weren't at all worried, but now it's them doing the worrying and their kids' freedom at stake, suddenly now they flip into overprotective mode and keep the kids locked up where they can be monitored at all times by their parents and thirty-two satellites. All this, and the kidnappings they fear (largely on the back of one case that was almost certainly just the parents drugging the girl to sleep, overdoing it, and hiding the evidence) haven't actually got any more common in 20 years. Apparently. They want it both ways, and it's just selfish and stupid and pathetic.

I'm convinced they're busily wrecking any chance their kids might have of growing into useful members of society. They have good intentions, certainly, but so do the anti-MMR-jab whack-jobs and and suicide bombers, and they're all going to ruin and shorten people's lives. These people need to be fucking told.

Is it just me, or is there some really horrible stuff on TV? That nobody notices?

Claire cut off her toe on Heroes, and that was done brilliantly, but it was underplayed, I think, presumably because it play it as it would be would have been horrific. Of course, that was nothing compared to what happened to Jack in Torchwood after that. He was buried. In a hole. For hundreds of years. And when he came out, had he gone mad? Had he even lost his accent a bit? No. On his own, unable to breathe or eat or talk, for centuries on end, and the moment he's dug up he's straight on the job again, without missing a beat. I'm not buying it.

We've all seen the reports of torture in Guantanamo. It's becoming pretty apparent that you don't need to go to anything like those lengths to break someone's mind, at least for a while. We all know now that an hour feeling like you can't breathe and you're going to die is spectacularly awful enough to render most people useless for at least the remainder of the day. Unless you're Captain Jack. Earlier in the same series, Toshiko was basically date-raped and nobody said a thing. Even Jeremy from Peep Show can spot date-rape when it happens. (I did like that Toshiko didn't think of it that way, as she still 'loved' him, but I'd have thought Owen would have said something.) And don't get me started on the incredible stunts Jack Bauer pulls shortly after undergoing literal physical torture or while recovering from a heroine addiction or something.

It's so inconsistent, too. Staying in series two of Torchwood, because I think that has a lot more scope to do horrid things to the principal characters than most shows, when Zombie Owen went a bit mad and started breaking his fingers at Toshiko, she all but broke down. I thought that was great TV, and the final scenes between those two were also fantastic. (I'm struggling to think of a reason to watch the show without those two.) And yet, that was the same episode that Jack was dug up after apparently failing to notice that he'd been buried for longer than anyone else lives.

I don't know. It always seems fine at the time -- it's usually only after the show that I think "hang on, that was actually pretty fucked up" -- but even so. Maybe it's just really, really hard to write good TV without this kind of thing happening once in a while. Or maybe it's just lazy.

Friday, 11 July 2008

I Actually Do Like This Show.

Dara O'Briain: Hello, and welcome to Mock the Week. I'm Dara O'Briain, and I'm not doing a stand-up bit, presumably because it used to give away all the answers. The first round is called "If This Is The Answer, What Is The Question?" Russell, pick a topic.

Russell Howard: Anything.

Dara O'Briain: Okay, the answer is "a ridiculously large number".

Russell Howard: Is it "how many times has this episode of Mock the Week been on Dave?"

Andy Parsons: EXTERMINATE!

Dara O'Briain: And I'm going to give the points to Frankie, Hugh and Easily Booked Guest #1. Okay, the next round is called "try to tenuously link an existing bit of your stand-up routine to a category I read out", so would everyone go and stand on the lowered bit of the set we used on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Okay, the first topic is "the congestion charge". Anyone?

Andy Parsons: So, the congestion charge, eh? George Bush is a bit thick. A joke about that.

Dara O'Briain: Well done, Andy, sit down. The next round is called "Between the Lines", where Frankie, you'll take the part of Gordon Brown making a speech, and Hugh, you say what he really means.

Frankie Boyle: Clever setup line for Hugh.

Hugh Dennis: I hate everyone.

Frankie Boyle: Clever setup line for Hugh.

Hugh Dennis: I hate everyone.

Frankie Boyle: Clever setup line for Hugh.

Hugh Dennis: I hate everyone.

Dara O'Briain: Well done both of you, sit down and I'll award one of you points for "winning" even though you're both on the same team. The last round is called "Scenes We'd Like To See", and the first topic is "Bad or Otherwise Unlikely Things for Someone with a Vaguely Newsy kind of Job to Say".

Hugh Dennis: Are you paying too much for your car insurance?

Frankie Boyle: Paedophiles.

Dara O'Briain: Okay, so this week's winners are whichever team I feel like. Well done to everyone. Goodnight!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Official Channel Flip Review For "Bonekickers"

It's crap.

It's like the commissioners thought "Yeah, let's make a TV show based on The Da Vinci Code. Only we can't for legal reasons." Then, they got some really terrible actors to run around about an age-old mystery using brushes and digging, and at the end nobody really gives a shit because the mystery happened 300 years ago and everyone back then is now dead.


Thursday, 3 July 2008

It's the Master, disguised as Davros, who is actually Adam, in a parallel Universe populated by Sontaran Cybermen

This post contains spoilers for last Saturday's Doctor Who. If you haven't seen it by now then, well, what's wrong with you?

Being the Doctor Who fan that I am, I tend to hang around on the Doctor Who Forum. There you'll find some of the most terrifying aspects of the fandom, from people who think that the show is rubbish based solely on the fact that the current series isn't called Season 30, to people who think that Davros is actually Adam from the revived show's first series, to people who start entire threads just to post "squee" at varying lengths over and over again. It's also a breeding ground for suspect speculation, convoluted conspiracies and idiotic ideas for what people think will happen in the current series.

There have been a couple of theories bubbling to the surface this year. The dramatic reveal in last week's "The Stolen Earth" (which you can still watch on the BBC iPlayer if you're fortunate enough to live in the UK) is marginally less dramatic when you consider that a large portion of the fanbase has known about it now for very close to a year.Much of the fanbase chose to ignore this info, of course, and flat out say with absolute certainty that Davros wasn't coming back. Even when his silhouette appeared in the mid-series trailer, even when leaked photos which clearly showed him on set with a red Dalek leaked, people were denying that he would return.

Didn't stop him though, did it? I mean, it'd make things much easier for the Doctor, certainly...

Davros: I have returned, Doctor!
Doctor: No you haven't.
Davros: ...Yes I have.
Doctor: No, you haven't.
Davros: Haven't I?
Doctor: No, you definitely haven't.
Davros: Oh. Er... this is... um, sort of awkward now, really.
Doctor: It is a bit.
Davros: I'll just, um... I'll be off then, shall I?
Doctor: Prob'ly a good idea, yeah.

...but returned he has. Suck it, Portion Of The Fanbase Who Choose To Ignore The Bloody Obvious.

The other popular fan-theory over at the Doctor Who Forum is that the Master will also make a Triumphant Return, aiding the Daleks in some manner. It's not going to happen, as already apparent to anyone who is a) a fan of the classic series, and/or b) in possession of something vaguely resembling a brain. Fans are even stretching this ridiculous idea as far as to speculate that the Master is actually inside that ruddy great big red Dalek.

The annoying thing is that you can't tell 'em it's not going to happen, either. Because they take the viewpoint of "If you're not part of the NuWho Production Team, you're not qualified to say it won't happen." Apparently this means that it is happening, which is the kind of Dave Hitt Logic that jes' dun't compute.

Next they'll be trying to tell us that Donna Noble is the Final Cylon. Tch.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Too Much Continuity

Here's a question I have about Heroes. If you've not been watching it lately, and you don't want to know, obviously stop reading.

But I'm puzzled by Adam's accent. When he was first introduced, as Kensei, I assumed he was a time traveller: his accent and dialect were decidedly modern-day English, which I assumed didn't exist in the seventeenth century. (I don't really know how I would check this.) Eventually I just assumed he wasn't.

Then he lived in Japan and America for four centuries, and hasn't picked up an accent at all? I for one think that's weird. Does his accent have healing powers of its own?

It would have been a nice touch if his accent had changed a bit between the 1650 and 2008. And the actor is American, so I assume he can do an American accent.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Everything You Need To Know About Next Week's Doctor Who Finale

Sorry to post a forth Doctor Who post in a row, but it comes around that time of year where people are searching for information about the show. Specifically, information about the finale. So, from my conclusive sources*, I can tell you everything you need to know!

American UNIT Guy: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at war"

I can deduce from this sentence that there will be a war.

Doctor: "Can't Be"

I can deduce from this quotation that somebody says something that The Doctor doesn't believe.

Jack: "There's Nothing I Can Do"

There is nothing Jack can do.

Sarah Jane: "It's impossible!"

I can deduce from this quotation that somebody says something that Sarah Jane Smith doesn't believe.

Martha: "It can't be!"

I can deduce from this quotation that somebody says something that The Doctor doesn't believe.

Ooh! Sounds like a decent finale!

*The trailer that aired after tonight's episode

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The Scary Thing Is that the BBC Three Repeat was On at Excatly the Same Time

Just because I feel I've been a little harsh on Russell T Davies from time to time, I feel I should mention that I thought tonight's episode, Midnight, was excellent. (It certainly didn't hurt matters that Catherine Tate was hardly in it, although I assume that means they're double-banking again and that all bodes ill for next week.) It was a good concept, with good dialogue, and a very good execution of an idea that looks simple on paper but is decidedly freaky to actually watch made it one of the most genuinely frightening episodes in a long— er, one of the most genuinely frightening non-Moffat episodes in a long time. Davies even managed to resist being frivolous and silly, at least after the first couple of minutes, which is good because it would have really ruined the feel of that episode, more so than most I think. I'm tempted even to compare it to Blink, but that would just seem needlessly cruel, like praising some great new film and then dismissively saying "still, no Godfather trilogy, eh?"

It was exactly what Doctor Who should be. Why can't we have this kind of thing more often?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Stolen Earth

When the premiere of Doctor Who's forth series aired, Radio Times had a special that told us all about the series. Except Episode 12. Episode 12's title was being kept a secret for some reason. I can only assume it's because they read my previous rant on 'Episode Twelve Syndrome' and decided not to get my blood boiling. The official statement was that the title "gave away too much".

It's been announced now. The Stolen Earth it's called. That doesn't give much away at all. An Earth gets stolen. The Doctor wakes up one day and thinks "oh crap, the Earth's gone. What a bugger". Will it have people just floating, grumbling that the Earth's been stolen. How the hell does one steal an Earth anyway?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

No Hype for Midnight

Just a quick thing... this Saturday's episode of Doctor Who (BBC1, 7.00PM) is entitled Midnight. Not only is it the fiftieth episode produced of the revied series, but it's also the two hundredth Doctor Who story... ever.

Then why isn't it being hyped up?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Did I Lie To You?

Right now, on Radio 4, there is a panel show where the celebrity contestants must determine if each other's statements are truth or lies. David Mitchell is on it.

Lee Mack is also on it.

It is a totally original concept.

You can play along, because I have hidden a lie in this post.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Fore Mour

More4, showing their late night repeat of Countdown, just had the continuity announcer say

"And now on More4, some train-braining with Dountcown..."

Really? Is that meant to be funny? Just because the announcers on Dave are retarded, doesn't mean these ones have to be.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Fresh Limericks

A story that's all about how
My life got flipped; turned upside-down
So sit right there
It's all about Bel Air
And the story will start about now.

West Philly I was born and raised
The playground is where I'd spend days
Chilling, relaxing,
And all about maxing
And playing some basketball games

Two fellas, who're up to no good
Made trouble in my neighbourhood
I got in their sight
And they started a fight
Know the outcome? I know that I should!

I didn't think that it was fair
That when my mother got scared
What the hell was she proving
When she said that "you're moving
With your aunt and uncle in Bel Air."

I whistled, and a cab was near
License Plate: Fresh; Dice in the m'ir
I thought it was rare
But then I declared
"To Bel Air, Taxi Driver, and steer!"

I pulled up to the house about eight
(Could be seven, it wasn't too late)
Said fairwell to the cabbie
It's time for this laddie
To start his life in Bel Air. Great!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Double Entendre of the Month

Today, the first (and possibly only) Double Entendre of the Month goes to the most recent episode of Crimewatch, whose Number Four Most Wanted had a rather unusual name.

It's like something out of a pantomime, isn't it?

It Should Be Okay, Torch Wood

The Doctor Who News Page reports that Torchwood is coming back for a week.

I'm not kidding. The third series, at the moment, is comprised of five episodes to be shown within the same week. Not only that, it's a five-part-story.

I'm not so sure how to feel about this. Torchwood can be really naff at times, and rather excellent at other times. A five-part story of 50-minute episodes however... that's four hours and ten minutes worth of Torchwood. And what would the plot consist of? Will it be one monster? Will it be resurrecting Owen and Tosh and dealing with the consequences? I don't know how Torchwood can do this- they've never even done a two-part episode before. And, previous cliffhangers involve Captain Jack hearing the TARDIS (which wasn't even resolved in Torchwood, Owen dying (which was resolved by resurrecting him) and Owen dying a second time (which was a bit naff).

I guess I'll feel more about it when they announce what it's about.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Iσως, Iσως, Iσως

I've recently found out, mainly accidentally, that there is a sitcom called Coupling. It features three girls and three guys, and ventures through their love-lives via a complicated and often non-chronological way of storytelling.

Oh, what? You already knew this?

I highly doubt it.

Welcome to Greek Coupling. It's Coupling, but in Greek. Instead of Steve Taylor, we have Stephanos. It's the little differences I like. I love how the opening credits are the same, how the sets are the same and how the dialogue is the same. The DVD has a similar design too.

Having just watched Part One of the above episode (the first five minutes of a forty-five minute show), I can tell that it is Sex Death and Nudity, a Coupling episode from series one. In the clip, you can see Greek Jeff Murdoch explaining the giggle-loop. Watch it. It's the scene where Greek Jeff puts down an empty pint glass, and the explanation that follows. It seems quite serious, doesn't it? Now watch the scene from the UK version. That's pretty damn funny, isn't it? It makes you wonder why the BBC cancelled it. Maybe because Richard Coyle didn't return to do a fourth series, and they got Richard Mylan, who hasn't seem to do much since. Except star in Grown-Ups. And that wasn't very good at all.

Does Steven Moffat know of this translation of his show? It doesn't seem to credit him. Or maybe it does, but they credit him as Stephanos.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

A Better Title For That Post Would Have Been "Pulling Daisies"

Friz will doubtless be thrilled.

The episode of Pushing Daisies that ITV1 absurdly chose not to show will be screened after all: on their website. Well, clearly that's good enough.

I might even watch it. I watched the first one, and it was very good, but then I found out the second one wasn't going to be shown and didn't bother to tune in for the third. I want to see them in order -- there's enough good TV around at the moment I can afford to be picky. If they get round to re-running the show then I might watch from the third that way.

I don't know why TV companies go to such lengths to stop me watching their shows. Last night, I recorded The Apprentice and went out to see some live comedy, and when I got into work today, the BBC News website told me the result! Right there in the headline! I couldn't have avoided that if I'd wanted to.

Surely anyone who wants to know would want to find out by watching the show?

Friday, 23 May 2008

Kaiser Grief

There's been a show on Channel 4 tonight called "Kaiser Chiefs vs Kaizer Chiefs". In the show, famous Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs met the South African football team Kaizer Chiefs. They played a gig with Kaizer Chiefs watching. They then played football.

Is this really worth half an hour of airtime? I attempted to count the amount of times they mentioned that both had similar names, but got too bored. I'd also like to know whose idea it was to commission this show. I didn't even learn anything from it. The one fact that had was that Kaiser Chiefs borrowed their name from Kaizer Chiefs. And this fact was uttered again and again.

What next? Franz Ferdinand studying the reasons for World War One?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

I'd Make a "Pluto" Pun, But It's Too Obvious

An advert for Bakers Dog Food currently airing states that they

"are the leading brand of dog food in Britain, so you'll have to go a long way to find a dog that hasn't tried it."

It then cuts into dogs in space.

Surely France is closer?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Oh No! The TARDIS is Trapped in a Giggle Loop!

According to the Guardian, Russell T Davis has chosen to stand down from his job as lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who. His replacement, when the show returns in 2010 or so (blimey that sounds like a long way off), will be Steven Moffat. This is, broadly, what I've been saying they should do for... well, more or less since the end of the Christopher Eccleston series. He's written the best episode every year, and Jekyll proved he can do multi-episode stories. Also I'm pretty sure I spied him on the "next time on Doctor Who Confidential", so watch out for a damn good two-parter coming up next.

Moffat said: "My entire career has been a secret plan to get this job. I applied before but I got knocked back because the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven.

"Anyway, I'm glad the BBC has finally seen the light, and it's a huge honour to be following Russell into the best - and the toughest - job in television."

Finally, people have chosen to listen to me. This has never happened before. I hope it goes well, or else I'll lose all my angry, shouty credibility.

If it does, perhaps other people will start doing what I tell them, and then we can all live in a blissful utopia where the trains work and faith schools don't exist.

We live in an exciting time.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

BBC Three To Make Doctor Who Confidential Anyway

According to Chortle, ITV have commissioned a second series of Moving Wallpaper... but not Echo Beach.

Which is fair enough, given that Echo Beach was total shit, but it really was all that made Moving Wallpaper different from every other behind-the-scenes sitcom.

I take this to mean that the whole ridiculous venture was probably a mistake.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Yesterday I Got So Scared/I Shivered Like a Child...

I'd like to point out a show I've been watching, I think possibly alone. It's a six-part British sitcom about a 16-year-old boy starting at a comprehensive sixth form having previously been in private education. I know, I'd instinctively have assumed it was drivel, too, but the trailer made me laugh, so I set the first episode to record.

It turns out to be very good. It's on on Thursday nights, repeated on Wednesdays at a ridiculous hour. It's pleasingly mature and clever, and it's a programme about young people that isn't ridiculously outlandish, which is nice: this week's episode featured a party with the parents upstairs and the closest thing to a sex scene the show has had yet — and that didn't count. Compare that to something like Hollyoaks, where the local school seemed, last time I saw it, to be a hotbed of knife crime. I'm sure that happens sometimes, but it's nothing I can relate to. The main character, Will, reminds me a lot of Mark from Peep Show, and The Inbetweeners shares Peep Show's liking for overblown "toe-cringing" farce climax scenes — and a Google search reveals Peep Show's script editor co-writes it. It's the first time E4 have commissioned a sitcom, and I think they've done bloody well for their first go.

There's not much of this series to go now. I think maybe three episodes, if you include a late-night repeat. The last couple of episodes are on Channel 4's free catch-up thing. It's also on 4oD, although I think you'll need a few spare pounds to catch up.

It's definitely worth a look, though.

Friday, 9 May 2008

It Made Me Clench My Fingernails

The Channel Four continuity announcer before Derren Brown today promised that tonight's would be "the most uncomfortable Peep Show yet". In fact, he said it would be "toe-cringingly funny".

That does sound uncomfortable.


I honestly, now that I come to think of it, don't really know what specifically cringing is, but surely you curl your toes. That's the saying.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Channel Flip Presents: The First Five Minutes of Scallywagga

A man in a red shirt jogs through the forest. He is portly and in need of exercise. He turns his head over his shoulder. He sees bikes coming towards him. Aloud, and to himself, he says one word. “Bike”.

Two people on a park bench. They are comparing phones, and showing off the technology that their phones contain. One of them stops time and pours water onto the other person’s lap. He looks like he has wet himself. A comical fart noise appears in the middle of this sketch.

A fly on an S.

A boy with long hair and black clothes claims he drinks blood. His mates say that he drinks Tizer.

Jeff from Peep Show and Sally Lindsay try and kill their son, unsuccessfully.

A boy with long hair and black clothes claims he once wore a wig. His friends disagree.

A woman straightens her hair. She sneezes. Her hair is no longer straight.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Bone Idol

America is enamored with American Idol. Not just this year, but every year. It is unfathomably the number-one rated show in the US, at times receiving over 36 million viewers during the '06 season. Why is this, I wonder? Why are people more interested in watching glorified karaoke than they are watching half-decent scripted television like Scrubs or Battlestar Galactica? The skewed interests of the American audience and the monstrous viewing figures that the show has received have, of course, led to television studios in the US trying to do one thing - top those numbers.

Shows are unfairly held up against American Idol's figures. If a show isn't getting the numbers that American Idol gets - if it doesn't even come close - it's already considered a failure by the network. No other network is more guilty of this than Fox, which is silly when you consider that they already have a track record of canceling successful shows for no real reason whatsoever, but even more moronic when you know that Fox airs American Idol. Ah, I get it.

Television Networks in the US, I implore you - stop using American Idol as a viewing-figure benchmark. The show is a fluke, an anomaly. Treat shows under their own merit. Stop being so bloody narrow-minded and let good television thrive.

Friday, 25 April 2008

This One Show, At Band Camp

I just watched The One Show. They started with a little item about homeopathy, introduced by Christine Bleakley saying, quite wrongly, that "the jury's still out". It's not out. Homeopathy doesn't work, and if it did then almost everything we currently know about science would have to be re-evaluated because the two are completely at odds. The doctor presenting the item was pleasingly dismissive of the "science", but really I'd have liked her to be less respectful of the homeopath's nonsense. I like my presenters to not take any crap. She said "The theory is that water has a memory. How does that work?" and the homeopath, Dr Sara Eames said this:

Yes, I think that's a really confusing point if you don't know actually how homeopathic remedies are made. They're actually prepared in a very careful way which is a series of dilutions and what we call succussions, which is a vigorous shaking. We think that it's that process of diluting and shaking, diluting again and shaking which actually transfers the information into the remedy.

She didn't answer the question (it has no answer) and she referenced at least two bits of unsupported pseudo-scientific gibberish. All I'm saying is, Paxman would have pressed her on it, like he did when Paul Dennison tried to explain that there isn't any water in processed foods. Then Eames was allowed to say that "there have been over a hundred clinical trials [of homeopathy] and the majority of them do show positive results or at least positive trends" (this is only true if you stupidly include really crappy trials) and "there's also more evidence from laboratories now suggesting that homeopathic remedies do have some sort of physiological activity" (this is only true if you define "true" to mean "false" -- unfortunately I can't directly refute this claim because like most 'evidence' for alternative medicine it is as vague, elusive and nebulous as it is voluminous).

Next, the presenter complained that homeopathy isn't regulated. (This is perhaps out-of-date information, since the government launched Ofquack, but it's still basically right.) Then she asked "how can someone know they're getting a qualified homeopath?", which is as nonsensical a question as you'll ever hear. The homeopath was then allowed to say this:

The body that I belong to, the Faculty of Homeopathy, does have a list of registered practitioners so particularly if people have a serious medical condition I would strongly advise them to approach that organisation.

What?! That's advice that will get people killed. If people say things like that there should be a big flashing message at the bottom of the screen saying "DO NOT TRUST HOMEOPATHY TO CURE A SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITION". It is, at best, a useful placebo to reduce pointless medication for self-limiting conditions. At least the presenter should have offered a counterpoint. Not only that, but she utterly failed to disclose, and this might seem like quite an important detail to forget, that she is the sodding president of the Faculty of Homeopathy (or at least she was this time last week -- it's hard getting information out of a homeopath without rapping them hard against a hard but elastic object such as a leather-bound book). Oh yes, investigative blogging, this, where "investigative" means "Google". Essentially, the BBC is giving a deluded quack a platform to promote her own organisation by posing as an ordinary user of that organisation and giving potentially lethal advice and misinformation. I'm fairly sure there are rules against that.

After that was an item about the song Baydon Races. You have very much not lived until you've seen Myleene Klass playing football anthems on the accordion using one finger. At the end, there was an "art psychologist" on, who had figured out just by looking at someone's favourite pictures that she was fun, sociable, and creative (which I think almost anyone will agree to) and a couple of obvious things formed by taking an adjective that describes the painting and applying it to the owner and "possibly a woman, rather than a man", then stated very wrongly that she was probably a housewife, and failed to work out that she was an artist. It would seem to me that at least being able to identify an artist when you see one standing in front of you in a room full of paintings would be a pretty simple job for an "art psychologist", but apparently "art psychology" is not what you'd call an exact science.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Shunning Daisies

Pushing Daisies. It's good. We like it. A lot of people like it. It's won a lot of award because of this. It's first episode aired Saturday on ITV1. People liked it. It's a well-liked show.

Then why in buggering biscuits aren't ITV showing all the episodes?

ITV has decided not to broadcast the second episode of its latest drama series Pushing Daisies. The episode titled "Dummy" will now not air during this current run, which means that episode 3 "The Fun in Funeral" will be shown next.


An ITV spoksman explained why: “Unfortunately due to scheduling restrictions we can only screen eight of the nine programmes in the current run. Episode two is the only one we can take out at this stage with out disrupting the flow of the series but it’s a great ‘stand alone’ episode, and one that we will broadcast later this year”.


"Unfortunately given the high profile nature of the 9pm Saturday slot, we only have eight windows at the moment and have therefore made the decision to show the second episode at a future point."

Whu- What? The amount of advertising ITV have done for this new show... and they didn't have enough weeks to air all the episodes? Couldn't they find a chance not to schedule tedious murder dramas, ridiculously thought-out game shows or Celebrity Mr & Mrs?

That's like hyping up 24, and only having seven weeks in which to air it. It's stuff like this which is the reason why people download and stream so much TV. If you take it away from them, they are going to steal it.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


From the recent media coverage, I am forced to assume that I am the only person in the country who wasn't sent a preview tape of ITV's new impressions show, Headcases. As such, I had to watch it on my actual television, on the actual day it was on (although I was still allowed to skip the adverts).

Because you don't actually see the impressionists, this show is being compared to Spitting Image and 2DTV. ITV have said that the clever CGI methods used allow them to make new sketches very close to broadcast if need be (although this week it appears they chose not to). I'm not certain what it is about pointing a camera at Rory Bremner which makes this impossible but apparently he is a very busy man. To be honest, I don't see how it makes the slightest bit of difference if the show is live-action, CGI, animated, latex puppets, stop-motion, marionettes, sock-puppets, or shot with crap cameras in the dark so we can't see who's who, like that ridiculous impressions show a few years ago that used the Barenaked Ladies' Humour Of The Situation for its title music, this being the best part of the show.

I did quite like Headcases. I laughed in a few places. I liked the political stuff best, because I follow politics more than gossip and because I think there's a richer vein of humour there -- plus the opportunity to make a point (which Headcases did exactly once, possibly by accident). That said, the fact that David Cameron had essentially the same character device as princes William and Harry did mean that about half the show was given over to just one gag. I was impressed by the credits. The show had two pages of performers and one of writers, and most of the names I associate more with the BBC and Channel 4 than with ITV. One or two I associate with BBC Four. That's unnerving. It's the sort of thing that just cannot happen. It's like finding out Alan Titchmarsh has written raunchy novels, or seeing the Prime Minister on Football Focus, or something.

It was a fun diversion, and it got the tone about right. But I don't think it had clever enough writing to make me want to watch it every week. The risk with impression shows is that the writers develop their characters into something quite other than the person they're based on, and then they become just regular dodgy sketch shows. I'm not sure Headcases didn't do that before it started. I guess the test will be how well it manages to stay current and interesting in the coming weeks. (You know, because David And Victoria In America and Northern Rock Has No Money! are bost such up-to-date stories.)

Simon Says

I've just heard Simon Cowell say this:

And if Britain has no talent, it'll be the end of Britain's Got Talent

Really? And I suppose if they run out of casualty victims on Casualty, it'll be the end of Casualty.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

How To Watch Torchwood

Thanks to the BBC's iPlayer service, the unmissable is now unmissable™. It's not always that simple, though, so here, based on my experience last week, is a guide to using the new service:
  1. Set Torchwood to series record on your hard-disk TV recorder set-top-box. Use the BBC Three broadcast; it's almost a full week ahead, after all. This will suffice for almost the entire series.
  2. You will have to remember to record the last two episodes manually, as these have randomly moved to a different day (presumably to get them out of the way before Doctor Who started up again) and the finale is not on BBC Three because this would be making life too easy for us. In any case, the series is now on two channels, on two days, at two times, with gaps of anywhere up to two weeks between episodes, so the series record feature can't be trusted with this.
  3. Make sure you are not discouraged by the fact that the penultimate episode was a thoroughly missable (oddly, Firefox's spellchecker objects to "missable" but not to "unmissable") affair or the fact that the antipenultimate was shit. The finale is actually pretty good.
  4. If you miss the finale, and the series record feature didn't work, you can download it from iPlayer. Go to the TV Replay menu on your HDR box and select "Torchwood".
  5. Torchwood may, for no apparent reason, be absent from this menu. If this is the case then (a) you will have to use a PC, and (b) the associated episode of Torchwood Declassified is probably there.
  6. Fire up your laptop. Go to the iPlayer website. Browse to Torchwood and click "download". The file should register as 500MB. Do not click "stream", as we want to watch this later, elsewhere, offline, as downloads permit us to do.
  7. You are told that you must download some software. Do so.
  8. You are told that you must restart Firefox. Do so.
  9. You are told that you must update Media Player. Do so.
  10. Browse to Torchwood again and click "download" again. Wait for a pleasingly short amount of time, partly because the file now registers as 250MB.
  11. Shut down the laptop using hibernate mode to save time, and take it to your chosen viewing location. In my case, the train.
  12. Reboot the laptop. The iPlayer software has crashed, so you'll need to restart that.
  13. Browse to Torchwood, and click "play".
  14. You will be told that you must download a license to play this file and cannot watch it without an internet connection. Start mentally composing an angry blog post.
  15. Return home, safe in the knowledge that Torchwood is repeated on Tuesday evening.
  16. Turn on the TV at the appointed time.
  17. You will see a documentary about various inept conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Not-Actually-A-Princess Diana, which has replaced Torchwood at the last minute despite very obviously having taken quite a long time to research and make, because of the BBC's insipid obsession with showing every damn thing they have at the most 'relevant' moment possible, without considering at all how convenient or useful that is to anyone.
Nice job, BBC. You've made the unmissable very nearly unwatchable.

This Would be Liveblogging If We Didn't Have a Hard Disk TV Recorder

Kevin on the Apprentice just told Sir Alan Sugar,

The ciabattas sold like hot cakes!

Genius. Almost as good as Great British Menu the other day, when Jenny Bond, on a post-production voiceover, wondered how Angela Hartnett rated a meal out of ten, a musing which was followed by an apparently unrelated clip of Hartnett being critical of said meal, which itself was followed by Bond saying, "so, about two out of ten, then".

It's fantastic, watching the show and listening to Jenny Bond making stuff up to try to add layers of drama that don't even nearly exist. I never paid much attention to news about royalty, but if she ever had any credibility, it's long dead now. If she ever tells me how the Queen feels about something now, I think I shall assume she's made it up to add drama.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Having Worked Out How To Embed YouTube Videos, I Demonstrate My Mental Superiority Over All Sixteen Apprentice Candidates

Yes! The Apprentice is on again! Of course, in the first few weeks all the fun lies in poking fun at the inept attempts of the candidates to carry out even the most basic tasks. (In later weeks, all the fun lies in poking fun at the continued inept attempts of the candidates to carry out even the most basic tasks.)

Last week, they were challenged to run an industrial laundry. The men's team (Team Renaissance!) were disarmingly competent, especially after their woefully shoddy fishmongering skills in the first episode. The comedy came almost solely from the women's team (Team Alpha! Or something) who took incompetence to staggering new levels. While the men rang a proper laundry service to find out what they charge, the women decided to pluck a price point out of thin air and chose to charge a flat rate of £4.99 per item. Four pounds and ninety-nine pence per item of laundry. Their first task was to pitch for a contract from a hotel with a thousand sheets and pillowcases and towels to be washed, so they were looking to charge five thousand pounds. The hotel was unsurprisingly taken aback by this, expecting a price at least an order of magnitude lower.

To occupy my time, I have constructed a short list of proofs that they could have employed, without recourse to any actual research, to reach the realisation that this was not a plausible pricing strategy.

Some Proofs That £4.99 Per Item is Not a Sensible Price to Attempt to Charge a Hotel for Cleaning One Set of Laundry

  1. Several of the items were pillowcases, and you must be able to buy a pillowcase for less than that. I mean, surely. At TK Maxx.
  2. If the eight of them can earn £5,000 for less than one night's work, then they could do that for 200 nights a year and make one million pounds. Assuming you can rent and run the premises they were using for less than £100,000 (which obviously you can) this means the candidates can earn more than Alan Sugar is offering them just to clean sheets.
  3. If a guest staying one night at a hotel generates one dirty sheet, two pillowcases and two towels, this would cost the hotel £25, which even in London is a fair proportion of what the hotel would be charging.
  4. You can buy a lobster off Renaissance Fisheries for that price.
If anyone has their own proofs, please add them below.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Torchwood Reclassified

When you watch a show like Doctor Who or Torchwood, it feels very slick. Like a big-budget, American-style, cinematic job. It's a far cry from the old Red Dwarf II era, when the BBC would shy away from sci-fi because it was invariably both very cheap-looking and very expensive. (Ask Ben why they don't do it now.)

The BBC, of course, still don't have huge amounts of money to spend on these shows. That's why we have Brainbox Challenge. The reason these shows look so good is the huge amount of effort that goes into making them as good as they can be without spending a year and twenty million pounds on each one. And you don't really appreciate that until you watch the little documentaries they show afterwards. You get to see even little scenes you barely noticed in great detail, and even those have been painstakingly crafted by people who actually care about the show.

(A few weeks ago on one of these little documentaries, after Owen was shot in Torchwood, Russell T Davies said he'd had to be shot because it was important that the audience realise that "almost any of their heroes can die at almost any moment". This amused me, because of course Jack can't die at any moment, but now it's starting to annoy me, because months later Owen is still here, and in fact has been in it more since being killed than he was before, and this week was even strolling up and down not breathing saying, "these people should be dead. This is impossible," with no trace of irony.)

And so when I see all this effort poured into making a programme look and feel and sound as real and as gripping, as immersive and as good as it possibly possibly can, it just makes me sad that all that effort was wasted -- all because the plot of this week's Torchwood was such unadulterated crap.

For those that missed it (and I use the term "missed" generously), I shall summarise.
  • The monster was a Creepy Travelling Circus Ringleader Guy and his friend, Pearl The Strange Sideshow Woman Who Needs A Lot Of Water For No Stated Reason.
  • These two were trapped on a reel of film (somehow) and escaped (somehow) after sneaking it into a projector (somehow) and now they're running around Cardiff "stealing people's last breaths" (somehow and whatever that means) and sealing them in a silver flask (somehow). It is never explained what they are, where they came from or how they ended up trapped on videotape, much like those tiny green flies in The X-Files only infinitely less plausible.
  • Their victims go into coma-like states. If their breath is returned they recover; if it is lost, they die.
  • Eventually, Jack kills them by videotaping them, thus trapping them again (since obviously that is what would happen), and leaving the tape in his car until they turned into Freddie Mercury (or was that something else?). When Jack announces this plan, Ianto turns to him as if he's just said something really profound and says, in a state of total awe, "a film of a film..." as if someone who films a film has anything more deeply impressive than two films. That said, this would explain why the people at the cinema are so keen that I don't video the movies, and in any case it was nice to hear Ianto say something for a change. I was beginning to suspect he was just a particularly well-dressed extra. When (if) they finally do get rid of Owen properly, they won't need to draft in a new character -- just let Ianto speak sometimes.
I mean, come on. Torchwood is sci-fi. Everyone knows that. Look at Wikipedia:

Torchwood is a British science fiction drama television programme, created by Russell T Davies and stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles. [See, they don't think Ianto is a real character either.]

So why doesn't Peter J Hammond know that? He clearly wrote a fantasy episode -- and bad fantasy at that. I mean, the plot made no sense, and I object to that because when the setup and the crisis make no sense, there's no reason for the resolution to make any sense, and when the resolution isn't obliged to make any sense, there's no tension because I've no real sense that anyone's in any danger (least of all Jack or Owen), because they could easily be saved at any moment by even the most preposterous Deus Ex Machina, and so no situation is even close to the level of apparent hopelessness you need to build up to make the audience fear the worst. And not only that -- not only could Hammond have picked almost any random combination of words and pictures, bolted it onto the episode and called it a resolution -- but the resolution he eventually chose was both totally predictable and stupid.

Seriously, Torchwood. This won't do. Where's Steven Moffat when you need him? Well, let's check Wikipedia again, shall we?

Steven Moffat (born 1961 in Paisley, Scotland) is a British comedy/drama writer who has contributed to television series since the late 1980s. He is married to Sue Vertue, a television producer.

His best known works include Press Gang, Coupling and some episodes of the revival of Doctor Who. He is currently scripting a trilogy of Tintin films for directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Er... okay then. (I was skeptical when I heard about Jekyll and can only assume he enjoys a challenge.)

But you know what? We don't need him. We just need someone who writes better plots than "an unspecified monster breaks out of a video and kills people in a needlessly impossible way until someone points a camera at him." (CCTV apparently doesn't count.) I could do that. You know what? I'll do it for free. Seriously. Me, Euan and Ben can each write an episode of Torchwood or Doctor Who, and the BBC can pick the ones they like, and if they like none of them, sod it; they've only lost a couple of hours' reading -- and they have a whole department just for that anyway. They get free scripts that are doubtless better than From The Rain, Last Of The Time Lords and Love And Monsters (because they'll make sense), and I get to impress slightly-geeky girls with my shiny new Doctor Who writing credit. Everybody wins, except perhaps the bad writers, and even they will at least have something decent to watch on TV as they sit at home all day without a job.

I mean, really it seems almost petty to rant at Torchwood for one bad episode (even if it was a really bad episode) when there are entire series that don't even get that good at their absolute peaks, but the point is that I can simply choose not to watch those series, whereas a bad episode of a good series not only wastes 45 minutes of my life, but it does so when I thought I would be watching something good. That's not fair.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Worried About Ray (Mears)

I was watching Dave this morning (the channel, not my neighbour), and among all the Top Gear repeats was one of Ray Mear's survival programs. In this enthralling episode, he was describing how a tribe in Africa pull out a type of poisonous vegetable, drain out all the cyanide and then eat it. He then had a taste. Then, he described how the fry larvae and consume them. He also had a little nibble. Num num num.

Something then concerned me. They didn't show any of the tribe eating these snacks. What if Ray Mears wasn't watching them prepare food, but watching them prepare wallpaper paste? And what would happen if they weren't frying the bugs to eat them, but frying them to sort out the bug infestation in their village? How annoyed would you be if you were trying to sort out an infestation problem in your house, and some hairy guy walked in and started eating the flies off the flypaper? I'd be very annoyed. Well, not annoyed. Concerned.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Prances With Wolves

The Writer's Strike, which as you should know crippled American TV to a point where NBC decided bringing back Gladiators was a good idea; had many effects on me. Most importantly it made me go cold turkey which made me quickly realise that I seem to depend more on new episodes of How I Met Your Mother than I do oxygen. It also made me actually watch some British television, watching Hollyoaks, Holby City and reality shows on BBC Three about whether fat amputee chavs can fight on bears with sticks and tutting, all the while criticising modern society when they fail to do so.

It was soon after I realised that TV in Britain is generally crap and so decided to give some classic shows a watch. Dusting off my old Seinfeld and Cheers DVDs and then stumbling upon a delightful old sitcom called Three's Company. A remake of an old British sitcom, Three's Company has the wacky premise of a MAN moving in with two WOMEN! Oh the potential for hijinks and hilarity! It's rife with sexism jokes, homophobic jokes and when they manage to fit it in, a cheeky one-liner about sex. It's classic 70's humour, the kind when the male chef talks to his female room-mate and says "The bun's are ready! Oh, I see you already have two of your own" followed by a minute of whooping from a studio audience filled with sugar.

Amidst a week-long marathon of bad puns and flared jeans, I found out that the new BBC Three (now with 75% more pink!) were to air a pilot about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in a flat. It was with a 50/50 mix of excitement and dread that I thought of the prospect of it being done in the cheesy sitcom style, full of one-liners like "Oooh, no need to get so hairy, it's not a full moon y'know" or "What's for dinner? STEAK!". Even if it was actually supposed to be taken seriously, a straight up drama with this premise it just much too silly to be bother with.

So how in the hell, in the form of Being Human (click here to watch on the fantastic iPlayer), did they manage to make one of the most engaging hours of television I've seen on either side of the Atlantic for a long while?

It's style was perfect, no OTT levels of mass fast-paced cuts, needless angles and scenes that last less than 5 sentences. It's storyline was perfect for a pilot - setting up characters, who are played to perfection, and their relationships perfectly. The main, probably-season-long plot is introduced slowly at a point when you actually give a monkey about these characters, and more importantly it's a compelling cliffhanger that makes you want to carry on and see how it progresses. But most importantly, it somehow manages to take a ridiculous idea and make it seem so believable. They do seem like people that could be sitting in the same pub as you, even though they may be a supernatural being. The fact that it sounds incredibly silly typing that a show about a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf living together is realistic proves my point. And it's about time we have such a fictional show be so rooted in reality, with Heroes, Torchwood et al presenting such a stylised portrayal of the world.

I urge the BBC to pick this up for a full series; this episode fails as a one-off hour drama, but succeeds so well as the start of a compelling series. This is the new BBC Three, get rid of every documentary you make that has a swear word in it, and use that budget to commission this. And while you're at it, stop bringing back Two Pints of Lager. Thanks.

No Skin Off My Nose

I'm a student. Being a student, I often find myself hanging around with other students. It's something I cannot avoid. Try avoiding it, and you become an outcast. Try it if you want.

However, being a student with all my student mates often means I go to student parties. The last party I went to was a two-day bender of which an onion ended up in the toilet, and we watched Elf on TV. This is typical student life. However, it'd never make an episode of Skins (E4, Mondays 10pm)

Skins has recently entered its second series on E4. It's become so successful because of it's ability to 'handle the true side of teenage life'. I watched all of the first series because I wanted an opinion of it so when discussing it with aforementioned student friends, I could express a view instead of agreeing with everyone. My opinion turned out to be a negative one, and I was a bit disheartened when the series finished that I had spent many hours of my life watching a half-arsed drama. Kidnappings had occured, eating disorders were dealt with in a patronising way and the final dramatic scene involving a car accident also involved a song and dance number. I'm not kidding. Watch the last episode on 4od.

If you've never seen it, let me give you a run down of the characters.

Tony - a student who looks a bit like Adric from Doctor Who, but contains as much charisma as a pot of paint. Sleeps with anything he sees and likes to live his life like a retarded Casanova. Got in a car accident at the end of series one and is not a twat anymore. He's now a twat with no motor skills.

Michelle - Tony's on/off/on/off/on girlfriend. Loves Tony, despite him treating her like dirt. Will try anything pill-based. Since Tony's accident, she appears to be a slut. But is still in love with Tony, because that is her one character trait.

Sid - Tony's best mate. The most likeable of the lot. Obsessed with Michelle, sex and sex with Michelle. Does anything Tony says. Started having feelings for Cassie. Michelle once tried to have sex with him, but decided her feelings for Tony were too strong. Because she loves Tony. Because that is her one character trait.

Cassie - a girl with OCD and an eating disorder. She's kooky. That's literally it. For the second series, she's moved to Scotland where she's learnt the highland fling. THAT'S LITERALLY IT.

Maxxie - has two x's in his name. 'Nuff said. He's also gay. Tony made out with him once, much to the annoyance of Michelle. But she forgave him because she loves him because that is her one character trait.

Anwar - The "hilarious vigin" out of the gang. Maxxie's best mate. He's yet to have his own episode. I don't think the writer's have thought of a decent back story for him. Most likely to be the first one killed off.

And that was it. It was hard seeing these 2D characters move forward as a plot device, so I gave up. There truly was no reason to give the second series a watch. I had given my opinion that Skins went in my 'Apathy' pile, but I'm glad I did give this new series a chance. This Monday's episode was one of the best examples of TV drama I had seen in a good while. It was humourous, dramatic and even had Shane Ritchie as a perverted drama student. It also introduced us to Sketch, a never-before-seen character, and her obsession with Maxxie.

So, congratulations to Skins in being able to convince me to carry on watching it. Nothing like this has happened since the premiere of Torchwood's second series. Although, that's getting more rubbish by the week.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

But the Film is a Saddening Bore/’Cause I Wrote it Ten Times Before

I really don't know what to think about Ashes To Ashes. Not least this is because I managed to miss the second episode. I'm sure my opinion is slightly coloured by the fact that Life On Mars is one of my all-time favourite songs and I never really rated Ashes To Ashes anything like as much.

The first thing that struck me about the opening episode was the singing. I still don't understand why the gunman was singing "I'm happy, hope you're happy" before she was shot, except that that's the message the action man is supposed to give. One can only assume that she has a tumor as well and she was out of it long before she woke up in 1981. That, or the gunman had watched Life On Mars and wanted to fuck with her head.

I was also slightly annoyed by the ending. Okay, you've set up the series. But after all the "how do you know my parents" routine, it's now impossible for that plotline to be resolved until the series ends, presumably either a month and a half or a year from now.

But all of the above notwithstanding, there is one thing about the show I absolutely loved:

Look, all right. Just relax. OK, 'Chris'? I know how this goes. Hunt's the bullish one, Ray's the misogynistic one, and you're the nervous one, blah blah blah. I don't care. I am going to stop Arthur Layton because that could be the mental trigger to get me out of here. OK?

It's just so pleasingly self-aware. Like in Voyager, when Tom Paris points out that every time they find what appears to be a way back to Earth, something goes unexpectedly wrong. Or in Trumpton when Captain Flack gets all excited when he thinks there's finally a real fire. The characters in TV shows should notice when similar things keep happening. Otherwise it just starts to look ridiculous.

The test of this show, I think, will be in how well it keeps Drake interested without getting her thinking that her 1981 world is real. If she thinks it's real, it'll just be Life On Mars again. If she doesn't care what happens to the imaginary people in her head then the whole show will descend into farce.

Actually, that would be much better. I hope she masters the art of lucid dreaming and learns to create any object she likes. It'd be like a gritty version of Penny Crayon, except with marginally more sensible clothes.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

How To Watch TV

(This article is mainly about hit TV show The Simpsons. Bare with me.)

I watch television in a very simple way. I find a show that looks vaguely interesting, sit down, watch it, and then keep watching until the show has finished it's airtime. I believe that's how the majority of people like to watch televisions.

The thing is, I have a blog about television. This means, sometimes, I will watch a show with a critical eye. This is also how others watch television is they are a TV critic or if they too blog about television. This is also an acceptable varient.

What I don't understand are the people who mass together on the internet to scutinise every second of the show's continuity. The most-talked about show is Doctor Who. I like watching Doctor Who; it's reasonably entertaining. What I'm not going to do is complain that a recent boxset of the show involving the Pertwee adventure Doctor Who and the Silurians uses the correct title of Doctor Who and the Silurians. Many people complained when Christopher Ecclestone was credited as Doctor Who because "the character's actual name is The Doctor". David Tennant was one of these people. Shame on you, David Tennant.

That's one end of the scale. The other end of the scale are fans of The Simpsons. Earlier this week, FOX aired a brilliant episode titled That 90's Show. It was a flashback to before Bart was born about how Homer and Marge had troubles in their relationship before they got married. I found it hilarous because I grew up in the 90's, and identified the stabs at culture of that era. However, a lot of people are complaining that this episode was even allowed to air. Why? Because it 'deleted 20-years worth of continuity'.


The fact that the characters don't age doesn't delete continuity? The fact that it's a cartoon? The fact that they're all yellow?

I realised that The Simpsons wasn't a drama series to be taken seriously when I was quite young. Probably after the first episode I ever watched. But it really conerns me to see a lot of people trash this episode because it completely ignores the fact that Homer and Marge met in the early 70's. These type of people don't seem to realise that this would make them in their late 50's, and that Bart should be 30 by now. It's not even the young people on the internet that think this, TV Critic Robert Canning thinks so too. Grow up, Robert.

I think ignoring this type of person is for the best. Enjoy watching TV, everyone!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


The news today that The Gladiators is to return to our screens (albeit on Sky One), made my inner-child positively jump around like back when I was 7 years old and my mother had given me too much Um Bongo. If any show has been calling for a revival back to it's Saturday Night slot, it's the cheesefest that is The Gladiators. Thankfully NBC thought the exact same thing I did, although it may have to do with them scraping together any old crap they can make quickly; seeing as how all their actual television shows have ground to a halt due to the writers' strike. But one man's loss or another man's gain, and whilst some poor sap is mourning the loss of a season of 24, I'm experiencing the delight that is American Gladiators.

See, American Gladiators is quite possibly the the craziest show to be put on TV in a long while. It's exactly what you'd expect The Gladiators to be if it were: American, made in 2007, and targeted at teenage boys. Yet somehow it manages to give you so many "WTF!?" moments that make you laugh out loud, even if that wasn't the intention.

So let's compare the old-school 90's Gladiators from the era when ITV on a Saturday night was brilliant, with the new American Gladiators from an era when the kids that are watching can't stay still for more than 3 seconds. It's still the same format, play games, win points, gain seconds, do Eliminator. It's still the visual feast it's always been, only the new version whacks it up about 10 notches. Even in just the intro you have the logo spinning round, exploding, coming back, spinning some more, jumping from side to side, breaking apart, coming back together, staying still for about half a second, then exploding into your face once more. As this time we get to hear the first delights from the commentator who takes it all seriously, like he's bet his house and his family on one of the contestants to win.

Then there's the differences, instead of John Fashanu and Gladiator shag-piece Ulrika, it's hosted by Hulk Hogan. Yes, they thought it'd be a good idea to give an aging old man hosting duties. And yes, he still does that hand to the ear thing and says the word brother in every 3rd sentence. There's the wealth of new Gladiators, all angry, glistening and full of attitude, at one point in a game, a contestant is hanging on for dear life, so the Gladiator does the only plausible thing - kicks her in the face so she falls off. Of course.

The oddest difference to the British version of old is that, for some unexplained reason, most of the events take place above a huge pool of water. Get hit off in The Duel, down in the water you go. Get pulled off The Wall, better hope you can swim, cause it's nothing but pool for you. I was hoping for some kind of morbid twist to mixed in with the whole water gimmick, perhaps the contestants have heavy weights tied to their ankles, so they know that if they fail that there'll be a fight for survival. Or perhaps a shark... and a crocodile... and a bear with snorkeling gear, so they get ripped to shreds when they lose a game. Unfortunately, the only morbid twist is during The Eliminator round, for some reason, again not entirely explained, the pool is set aflame, so the contestants not only have to swim through the water, but they also have to make sure they don't catch fire.... whilst underwater... I'm not sure the makers of this show thought that deadly obstacle through...

The best water related piece in the whole show is the round called Assault. Now this isn't in the British version so let me explain it. The contestant runs from weapon to weapon, each getting more powerful than the one before, in the hope that they can use these weapons to fire Nerf balls at a big circle. But up top is a Gladiator, who also has a big Nerf gun, who is trying to shoot the contestant below with his Nerf balls. Yes, this round is actually sponsored by Nerf. So far so Gladiators, but what's odd is when the big circle target is hit, and the Gladiator i one final inexplicable moment, gets fire from the stage to the other side of the arena, and they end up in the pool. Just because you're as far away from the pool as you could possibly be, doesn't mean you're safe from a soaking. Seeing a 6 ft, 200lb bodybuilder scream whilst airborne and then get dunked in water is the funniest sight you'll see in a long time.

This is the kind of show that's so bad it's good, which gives me high hopes for the Sky One version that is imminent. If it keeps the cheesy nature and the incredible music of the original whilst borrowing a little of the exploding typography and general anarchy from the American version, this could send Sky subscriptions through the roof.

But if they don't bring John Anderson as the referee, there's gonna be hell to pay. I know where you live, Sky One.