It’s ages since I said anything about any television series that doesn’t involve Time Lords, so here goes.
I was a little bit shocked when I realised this inert legal drama comes from the creators of Life on Mars. Like that series, and even more like its successor Ashes to Ashes, it attempts to meld a procedural drama (in this case legal) with a fantastical premise (in this case, that the lawyers are Angels.) It’s not a terrible idea, but nor is it a particularly good one. It’s certainly neither as clever nor as complex as the writers seem to think and lacks the wit and, particularly, the ambiguity that made its predecessors worthwhile.
The Angels report to a mysterious, unseen Mr Mountjoy (by strong implication, God). They rely on signs and portents as to which cases to take, seeking to help humanity but never directly interfere (a premise that even after two episodes appears to be subject to arbitrary interpretation.) There are vague hints about this being humanity’s last hope etc. but to date the fantasy elements are just going through the motions. In fact the series is 80% legal drama and 20% fantasy.
What really lets it down is the clunking execution which at every turn seems more interested in explaining the premise and the relationships than it is in making them engaging. Flat, slow and overly literal, it lacks entirely the required lightness of touch. Even the reasonably Hitchcock-ian opening credits are marred by the high-concept pitch for the show.
On the plus side, and very unusually, it’s set in York which looks as gorgeous as ever.
Here’s a fun show done right. I’ll admit we started watching it because it has Nathan Fillion in it, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was also the reason it got made. Fillion plays bestselling crime author Richard Castle who, for reasons that don’t bear scrutiny, is on indefinite ride-along with his ‘muse’ Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic).
It’s basically a run-of-the-mill whodunnit given a lift by the sexual tension between the two leads. Beckett is just as strong a character as Castle and in many ways more interesting, and they really do have a lot of chemistry. It’s also a very flexible show that can flit between a gritty seige one week and a stupid episode about vampire conventions the next. In truth it’s more successful when not indulging in Ferengi-episode hi-jinx, but it’s a witty show with a keen awareness of its audience and plenty of genre in-jokes. My main gripe is its occasional tendency to get Detective Beckett to disrobe on the flimsiest of pre-texts, which is more than a tad tacky. Also even in the fourth season it’s obvious that keeping the romantic leads apart much longer is going to require some serious contrivance.
The Big Knights
An awesomely fun animation from the makers of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom about two, er, big knights, Sir Boris and Sir Morris (Brian Blessed) and their armour-clad pets Sir Horace the dog and Sir Doris the hamster, blundering around causing chaos in a pseudo-medieval Eastern European country called Borovia. Clever and silly this was inevitably cancelled after 13 episodes but has just come out in a remastered DVD/Blu-ray release. Lovely. Anna loves it, of course, and demands it on at least once a day.
You know, that show no-one is talking about.
I was blown away by the intricate cleverness of ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ (for many of the reasons Paul Cornell cites here). And although I feared that we may see another mid-season slump the remaining two episodes were pretty strong, leading to a very effective climax. While the series has had its wobbles (the end of the ‘Hounds of Baskerville’ goes a little off the rails for me), and of course nothing Holmesian will ever rival Jeremy Brett at his peak, I would have to say overall that it’s an exhilarating bit of TV.
Perhaps Sherlock is a little bit too much of a sociopath to understand what John sees in him, but their mismatched relationship is a fascinating and affecting one. Both lead actors give pitch perfect performances.
Much has been written by more articulate people than me about the show’s alleged sexism and inconsistency, but without wishing to sound like an apologist I think both have sometimes been exaggerated. Certainly I don’t share the concern about Irene Adler’s depiction; I understand why some see the ending as placing her in a subordinate position to Holmes, but… she wins more often than Holmes, emerges as his equal or foil in a way that really no-one except Moriarty does in the series to date, and takes away all the ‘winnings’ worth speaking of. Each cracks the other’s sexual shell, but if anything Holmes ends up the one at Adler’s beck and call.