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.
Anyone else think the Ministry of Justice sounds vaguely sinister?
(Not as sinister as my misreading of another BBC news headline: The PM sets post-coup vote date. It turns out it actually read “Thai PM”, but it did give me pause.)
EDIT: Vote to save Veronica Mars in E-Online’s Save One Show poll.
Having no internet did at least allow us to catch up on some TV. We just watched an episode of Bones which featured not only Bill S. Preston Esq. as a sleazy porn magnate but also Stephen Fry, playing
himself a psychiatrist. An English psychiatrist with a fondness for tea and esoteric trivia. Very entertaining, although as a TV show it does feel like an extremely friendly but not particularly bright puppy.
The second season of Rome is well underway, and is following the pattern of the first very closely, in that the episodes written by Bruno Heller are character-driven and interesting, and the others… not so much. However they do fling in random sex and violence in the hope of keeping your attention until the next good episode. Overall the good bits more or less outweigh the bad, even if it’s not quite the show it could have been. As a depiction of Ancient Rome in all its squalor and nobility it’s probably a good deal more true to the essence of the era than Richard Burton in a toga.
Heroes continues to dazzle with its momentum, although I occasionally have that second-season Twin Peaks feeling that some characters have outlived their storyline and are casting about for a new one. At times like these I suspect that the writers are not so much planning ahead as frantically paying out train track ahead of the locomotive. Nevertheless there’s a general feeling that they know where the season is going to end up; certainly the first half of the season made overall sense even if the finer details were a bit blurry. I remain optimistic for the rest of the season. An extremely entertaining series. (I think I’m
right entirely wrong in saying that Heroes started last night on the UK Sci-Fi Channel. fba notes that it starts next week with a double episode.)
Veronica Mars has so far impressed me greatly this year, striking just the right balance between the complexity of a story arc and the accessibility of weekly storylines. It also keeps the momentum going without sacrificing each episode’s individuality. The writers of Battlestar Galactica could learn a trick or two here. There’ve been a couple of clunkers, sadly, but overall the classic Mars spark is definitely present and I’m enjoying it more than Season 2. The worst I can say is that the supporting characters go AWOL so often that they’ve given up trying to explain their absence.
Spurred into action by a combination of Coalescent and a £15 Amazon deal, I’ve started watching season 1 of Life on Mars for the first time. Three episodes in and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s an odd mixture of 95% crime show and 5% SF, but somehow it works. At times it reminds me peculiarly of Quantum Leap: on one level it’s an absolutely straightforward (even lightweight) pastiche of a 70’s crime show, but at the same time the time travel conceit adds a post-modern distance. Like Quantum Leap, the often nominal SF elements give you permission to enjoy the drama, and the show is able to highlight and exaggerate the differences between 1973 and the modern world. The constant hints that Sam may or may not be in a coma are becoming slightly wearing already, but again they add a level to the series and the central character that’s definitely interesting. Episode three managed to milk the ambiguity quite nicely for some fairly obvious metaphor in which the struggles in the past are a means to keep Sam fighting in the present. It’s hard to see, even at this early stage, how they can possibly resolve the ambiguity of the premise in any way which is satisfying. My preferred ending at the moment would be for both versions of reality to be true; Sam really is in a coma, but he’s somehow back in time as well, and having a verifiable impact on history. Alternatively they can leave things open, a technique I often enjoy but suspect might be simply infuriating here. Either way, I’m pleased that the second season is the last as it prevents the writers from having to string out the premise too far.
Scrubs has done a musical episode. Which looks fun, though I haven’t seen it yet. I haven’t watched a lot of Scrubs but Janet’s been catching some repeats recently and it’s always amiable and often very funny. The creator’s interviewed about the musical episode here and does namecheck Buffy‘s musical.
In a strange Mutant Enemy juxtaposition, Amy Acker is to be Nathan Fillion’s missing wife in Drive. They’ve currently ordered 12 episodes on top of the now re-cast pilot, making 13 episodes in total. For a Tim Minear series. I think we can all see where this is heading.
Heroes has been renewed for a second season. By the end of the first season we’ll know whether the show can possibly continue spitting out plot at a rate that would make most other shows tremble. I really hope it can: it’d be a shame to see a Lost-style consolidation into jealously hoarding a meagre store of ideas; one of Heroes‘ more compelling elements is its page-turning cliffhangers. It starts on the UK Sci-Fi Channel next month and BBC2 has it at some point after that.
Battlestar Galactica in ‘may upset its fans’ shock. No surprise there, you may imagine, but it does seem to involve a significant turn of events (general spoileryness in the link). Hopefully this will be one that’s integrated into the storyline a little better than most of the series’ recent games of character pinball.
Torchwood was apparently a ratings success after all. Hard to believe, I know. Okay, its BBC3 ratings fell by two-thirds but remained high for the channel, and the BBC2 ones fared a little better. In total it ranged from about 6.6 to 4 million. Still, it’s hard to see what it was about the show that actually warranted the attention of 4 million people. (My review of the finale *cough*shamelessplug*cough*.)
EDIT: Veronica Mars‘ shorter-than-hoped third season will end on five standalone episodes instead of a final arc. Not only that, but the final five episodes will air after an eight week break. No decision has been made about a fourth season yet, but reading between the lines I do wonder if that isn’t the distant whiff of cancellation in the air. I really, really hope not. VM is a strong contender for my favourite show at the moment.
Heroes has been nominated for Golden Globe in the BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA category along with 24 and Lost. I hope it wins, and that’s not just because I’m no longer watching 24 and Lost. (Non-genre contenders are Grey’s Anatomy and Big Love.)
Sadly Veronica Mars is nowhere to be seen, and perhaps surprisingly neither is the higher profile Studio 60, although Sarah Paulson gets a deserved nod in the BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION WHICH AIRS ON A MONDAY EVENING AND GETS MIDDLING REVIEWS. I’m also pleased to see a drama nomination for Hugh Laurie who deserves to win something for House before it inevitably jumps the shark, and for Kiefer Sutherland (hey, I’m no longer watching but Kiefer gives good angst). And in the mini-series category clearly Masi Oka should win for playing Hiro Nakamura. I mean, why not just give it to him now and get it over with? Between him and Jeremy Irons I know who I’d pick.
Meanwhile the Writer’s Guild Awards spurn Heroes in favour of a Deadwood nomination, which I have to say is fine by me, too, especially since they give a nod to Heroes in the Best New Series category. A certain Studio 60 also finally gets recognised, and for best episodic drama we have quite a line up including Election Day, Part II (The West Wing), Occupation/Precipice (Battlestar Galactica), Two for the Road (Lost), and Pilot (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).
And, buried right at the end, is something at last for Veronica Mars. A nomination in the “Best on-air promotion category”. Seriously. It’s both welcome and depressing at the same time.
EDIT: LJ have tarted up their Update Journal page. Shiny.
Veronica Mars Season 3 has been extended to 20 episodes, which is less than your typical 22 episodes but from where I’m sitting there’s no cause for complaint. Why do the best shows on TV always cling grimly onto life by their fingernails? Or in this case, cling snarkily onto life by their fingernails.
And yes, snarkily is a word. Although the more I look at it, the less certain I become.
[EDIT: Oops, I missed the fact that wrong_questions had already posted about this.]
My wife’s verdict on tonight’s Torchwood: “What a load of tosh!” My wife’s verdict on this weeks Veronica Mars: “When’s the next episode?”. She is, as always, most wise.
Spoilers for Torchwood
We’ve spent a lot of time recently sipping wine and watching TV and films, so time for a brief roundup:
Neil Gaiman, he so rightheaded. And just to remind
Maj you all, Doctor Who is on at 7 p.m. again tonight. (It’s even earlier next week, at 6.35, which will no doubt make a massive dent in the ratings.)
EDIT: Outpost Gallifrey informs me that at 8.15 p.m. on BBC4 is Time Shift: The Time Shift series celebrates the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who‘s Cybermen this Saturday “with a look at the rollercoaster fortunes of robots, androids and cyborgs in fact and fantasy; from the Flash Gordon serials via The Six Million Dollar Man to Marvin the Paranoid Android. For decades we were alternately warned that robots could take over the planet, and promised that they would liberate us from the drudgery of everyday labour. But in the real world scientists struggled to design robots that could even climb the stairs. Yet the continued appeal of the Star Wars films, the recent remake of the TV classic A for Andromeda and the return of the Cybermen to our screens all prove that there’s artificial life in the machine men yet. Among the contributors exploring whether we’re on the cusp of the true robot age are actor Anthony Daniels, aka C-3PO in Star Wars; British SF visionary Brian Aldiss; writer Kim Newman; and a host of real-life robotics scientists.” The programme airs on Saturday 13 May at 8.15pm on BBC4, repeated at 11.50pm.
Meanwhile, the ever unreliable AICN reports that Veronica Mars may be renewed… but that Veronica Mars may NOT be renewed…. (This is classic AICN: all rumour, no content.)
Meanwhile Deadwood may be on its last legs after its upcoming third season. That’s a real shame. Season 2 took ages to get started, but it had some flashes of brilliance and Season 1 was just superb.
There’s a new Police poster around Sunderland (and possibly elsewhere) warning of the potential penalties for keying a car. Apparently you could be “DNA’d”. Yes, “To DNA” is now a verb. As is “To key” now I come to think of it. Not sure about that apostrophe either, although “DNAd” would look even stranger.
Other random things I have failed to mention recently:
The new Snow Patrol album is quite alarmingly anthemic, but has quite a few strong tracks amidst its blatant commercialism. I’m still making up my mind about it.
Pearl Jam’s new album cements in my mind that I really don’t like a good 50% of their material, and am unclear why I continue buying their stuff.
Bones is getting increasingly enteraining as the snark levels increase between the regulars. The opening credits are really annoying though, since they randomly fling actors names at you accompanied by images of entirely different actors. You’d be forgiven for thinking David Boreanaz was actually called Jonathan Adams.
The West Wing is really hard to watch with a 3 second lip-synch delay, but this week’s US episode was still very entertaining. I think it’s the series finale next week.
Speaking of which, I’ve obtained (via the pixies, don’t you know) the Veronica Mars S2 finale but we haven’t got round to watching it yet. I’ve been enjoying this show a lot recently, despite the stop-start vagueness of the season arc.
Woo! Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut. 50 minutes of extra footage and apparently a good deal more coherent from a character standpoint, this is Ridley Scott’s original cut of the film, not some cobbled together kitchen-sink-for-the-sake-of-it version. I liked the theatrical cut so we’re definitely after this. It’s due September 11th in the UK, a memorable date if nothing else, but it’s out on 23rd May in the US, and the UK art is not a patch on the US art.
In Scotland? Visit the scenic Torchwood House and its famous observatory. More information at www.visittorchwood.co.uk. Nicely done.
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.
Time for a round-up of my recent TV feasting. I’m keeping my discussion to generalities and opinions so there are no plot spoilers here beyond what you’d learn in the pilot episodes.
Both Janet and I are feeling under the weather at the moment – nothing major, just the typical head cold where your body’s normal resources are diverted to the full-time production of mucous. Lovely. 😦 As a result we’ve spent the day intermittently pottering in the garden when we had the energy (gorgeous sunny day) and vegging in front of a mini Veronica Mars-athon (episodes 6 to 9). I’m still not quite convinced that it’s the Best Thing Ever In The History of Television, but it’s definitely growing on me. Her Dad is fantastic.
In other news, my birthday has (not before time!) come to an end today with the arrival of my final present – a set of Creative 2.1 computer speakers from my brother and sister. I’ve wanted some decent computer speakers for ages, because I only listen to music in the car or on my computer. My actual standalone CD player stopped working some years ago, so I cannibalised its speakers for use with my PC. Unfortunately they weren’t shielded so I couldn’t have them near the monitor without it having a trippy sixties flashback. Instead I placed them both at the same side of the PC, behind the curtains. Most experts agree that this is not the optimal arrangement for stereo speakers.
The new speakers are much smaller and properly shielded, with a subwoofer in a huge box that required the removal of several panels from my computer desk. The new set-up copes admirably with the Gladiator soundtrack, from quiet solos to big thumping action, and “Annie Waits” by Ben Folds has a big rich sound in all the right places. Me pleased.
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.
I’m really enjoying Veronica Mars. I’ve watched four episodes so far (up to ‘The Wrath of Con’) and it’s a very good and inventive show. And yet… I’m struggling slightly to understand the massive and unreserved adoration everyone seems to be heaping on the show. And I do mean everyone.
Maybe my expectations were hyped up too high by all the great reviews. I don’t know. It’s just… it’s a good show – very good, even: great characters, edgy, witty, and the cast are great – but it’s also “just” another High School show about a Quirky Loner with a group of Quirky Friends (tm).
It’s certainly a strong, non-formulaic example of its type – far better than superficially similar fare like Smallville or Roswell – and it has the potential to do something bold and revelatory, but I think I may be suffering from Quirky High School Fatigue. The most interesting part of the series is the ongoing Twin Peaks style plot about the Local Murder which Changed Everything (tm), but even that is merely interesting at the moment.
I *am* enjoying it, and to be fair I’ve only seen four episodes. I’ll definitely continue to watch because it’s an above average, intelligent drama with sparks of real darkness; the kind that you start off liking and end up loving with a fiery passion, without ever knowing where you crossed the line. Or maybe we’ll end up just being friends.
So am I missing something? Are my standards too high? Has my wrongheadedness finally strangled my remaining shreds of good judgement and made a bid for freedom? Convince me. In a non-spoilering way, obviously. 🙂