I’m certain I’m ambivalent

My review of Primeval is up at Strange Horizons today. I know there can be few people in the world today who wouldn’t rate this groundbreaking drama as their favourite show of all time, so I know you’ll all want to head over and take a look. Ah, go take a look anyway.

I’d comment on the Life on Mars finale but it’s been covered in many other places. It’s odd for such a lightweight–if extremely skilful and enjoyable–series to have such a controversial ending. Like The Prisoner, Twin Peaks and even Quantum Leap before it the conclusion casts a strange shadow over the series. Right now I feel fairly ambivalent towards the finale, but I suspect that in a week’s time I’ll either hate it or have come to regard it as a work of genius. At least it wasn’t dull.

Although there’s a dearth of good TV on at the moment until Veronica Mars and Heroes make their long awaited returns, I’m quite enjoying House, Bones and CSI: Original Menthol Flavour (although so far this year CSI is not matching its superb sixth season).

We’ve also been watching The Dresden Files, an entirely formulaic piece of television involving a down-at-heel P.I. who’s also a wizard, and his Tim Curry-esque mentor, who’s a ghost. It’s exactly what you’d expect: vampire of the week, werewolf of the week, skinwalker of the week. I’d place it somewhere above Charmed and occasionally up to the standard of below par Angel, riding on the rumpled charm of its lead performance and the feeling that everyone involved is giving it slightly more effort than the show strictly deserves. I have to say that the second half of the 12 episode season has shown a notable improvement with a lot of input from Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Hans Beimler of Deep Space Nine fame: the plots have become less obvious, and the story arc involving Dresden’s father has moved forward very rapidly. I would only recommend it if you’re in an undemanding mood and predisposed to like this kind of thing, but on those terms I *would* recommend it.

The one thing I can’t recommend about The Dresden Files is the main theme music, one of the most anodyne themes-by-numbers I’ve heard since the 1980s. They try to funk it up mid-season with some up-tempo trumpets in the background, but it’s the very definition of polishing a turd.

Random television things

Just as a quick heads up for those that consider Stargate to be a worthwhile waste of 44 minutes, it looks like Sky One have the world premiere of Stargate SG-1 10×11 (“The Quest, Part 2”) on Tuesday, and the same for Stargate Atlantis 3×11 (“The Return, Part 2”) on Thursday Wednesday. Neither show returns from its mid-season break in the US for a couple of months.

Edit: I forgot to mention that the third season of Battlestar Galactica starts its UK airing right after SG-1 on Tuesday. I’d say it’s well worth a look for those who haven’t watched it yet. Not as strong as the beginning of Season 2, but an improvement on the thin and patchy material that characterised the end of the season.

Meanwhile Series 6 of Waking the Dead starts tonight on BBC1 (with part 2 tomorrow). I’m not sure how we got into this show as we never watch UK crime drama, unless you count Spooks, but it’s an enjoyable and surprisingly consistent series. Trevor Eve’s character is a complete curmudgeon in a way that, like Hugh Laurie in House, teeters on the brink of parody but never quite goes all the way there.

House itself returns in the US next Tuesday, weeks before most other US series, although HBO’s Rome is also back on Sunday 14th Jan. We enjoyed the beginning and end of Rome‘s first season, but the middle was entirely trashy.


Saw a trailer for the new season of Doctor Who last night. It looked rather nifty, with a couple of moments that made me wince slightly. So same as always, then. 🙂 It’s on the website too.

I’m not a massive fan of the Mission: Impossible movies, though the first one had its moments, but I get nostalgic about the TV show. So I’m heartened to read in this interview with JJ Abrams (he of Alias fame) that he’s written the third film to be more like the TV show:

“The fun of “Mission: Impossible” was always the teamwork. One of the beautiful things in this movie is that we’ve got Maggie Q, Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Billy Crudup, Keri Russell, Simon Pegg … this credible supporting cast. The teamwork, for me, was always the greatest part of the “Mission” TV series. And in “Mission I” and “II” — with some exceptions in “Mission I” — they’ve really been Ethan-Hunt-as-spy movies.”

It’s exactly what I need to hear to move me from apathy into active interest in the film, especially since the trailer was pretty uninspiring. Also he talks about an iconic piece of background music from the TV show (not the main theme) that he’s insisted they work into the film. I think I can picture the music he means, and it should be great.

CSI:NY last night featured a plot about a writer that, even as I look back on it, was the least plausible thing ever. And a plot about rollerskating that, even as I look back on it, was the second least plausible thing ever. However I did catch most of the pilot of NCIS beforehand, which was a great deal more engaging – even if ultimately not very, y’know, plausible (freakishly it’s a Donald P Bellisario show, the first I’ve seen since Airwolf, and his company logo at the end is still exactly the same! Ah, nostalgia…) The original CSI remains better than the rest of ’em by some margin.

Another show riffing on the same basic genre is Bones. We didn’t watch this for ages, but have started catching up with it: it’s oddly clunky but quite endearing, and the two leads work well together. Boreanaz is basically called upon to be laconic and long-suffering with every fibre of his being, and fortunately that’s well within his comfort zone. We’ve only seen the first few episodes, so the show is still in the painful early stage where the characters feel the need to explain their backstory to one another on a ten minute rotation. Also it has a 3D holographic display which does realtime simulations of things in the most ridiculous detail. But we’ll overlook that because it’s that kind of show.

And House continues to be massively entertaining and funnier than most comedies, if slightly less plausible than all of the above shows put together. But it doesn’t matter because it’s that kind of show. It’s like there are two kinds of television – the quality kind where I actually care when it’s crap, and the potboiler kind that amiably passes the time which can get away with all sorts of liberties1. With House the characters are king, and if the plot happens to be a formulaic mass of contrivance, illogic and bad science well, er – look! Hugh Laurie!

1 I suspect that Doctor Who has one foot in each camp.

Useful dates for the diary

US TV seasons are about to resume…

Battlestar Galactica (Season 2) – Fri 6th Jan
(Also S2 starts on Sky One on Tue 10th Jan at 9 p.m.)
Stargate: SG-1 (Season 9) – Fri 6th Jan
Stargate Atlantis (Season 2) – Fri 6th Jan
The West Wing (Season 7) – Sun 8th Jan
House, M.D. (Season 2) – Tue 10th Jan
Lost (Season 2) – Wed 11th Jan
Veronica Mars (Season 2) – Wed 18th Jan (Woo!)

We’re waiting for House to show up on UK telly, and we’ve given up on Lost. Who knows why we’re still watching Stargate Atlantis. Meanwhile on UK TV, Sky One are airing the new CSI-tinged show with David Boreanaz in it, Bones, on Thur 12th Jan at 10 p.m.

Me again

There is a really deeply spiffy interview with Joss Whedon here which is worth your time. Lots of in depth discussion about his contribution to films in general, including Toy Story, Speed, Wonder Woman and of course Serenity, with no significant spoilers that I’ve noticed.

EDIT: …and Batman, and Global Frequency, and Iron Man, and Powers, and….

EDIT 2: …and House, and Veronica Mars… phew! Long interview.