Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thoughts on recent telly

Now that The Fixer has had two episodes to show me its stuff, I’ve concluded I like it. It's apparent that Ben Richards has had to comply with some idiotic network notes, which leads me to worry that maybe all is not well behind the scenes. If one season is all we end up getting of this enjoyable action show, then that would be a shame. Kudos have successfully updated the classic ITC formula, and tried to bring some quality hour long drama back to ITV. I really, really want it to succeed.

For those that haven't seen it, which seems to be quite a lot of you, judging by the ratings, The Fixer focuses on a group of extra-legal operatives, headed up by the modestly intimidating Lenny Douglas. An ex-copper, Lenny claims to be secretly funded by the State and tasked with controlling and manipulating the criminal underworld. Our window into his operation is John Mercer, an ex-soldier who murders his aunt and uncle in the teaser and then calmly calls the police. Mysteriously granted early release from prison, he soon learns that liberation comes with a price - that he join Lenny’s team as an assassin. Having swapped one sentence for another, Mercer now needs to find a way to enjoy the few freedoms he's granted. So far those include playing with his sister's kids and shagging beauticians. Such an unhappy lot he has!
 
It could all be very good stuff, as long as ITV leave it well enough alone.
 
Sticking with ITV for the moment, the second season of Primeval ended a few weeks ago, and if there was ever a show whose reach exceeded its grasp, this is it. It's nonsense. I really can't bear to watch it, and yet I do anyway, if only to see how they're going to throw away their premise this week. Season Two tried to come back BIGGER, BOLDER, BADDER, but limped its way through six episodes, desperately trying to prove it was actually about something other than it’s unconvincing CGI, by throwing in a half-assed conspiracy plot. Douglas Henshall looked more angst-ridded on a weekly basis, and Hannah Spearitt didn’t prance around in her pants enough. Season Three is already a goer,and is bound to be more of the same.
 
Sigh, what else? The Last Enemy, the BBC's big polit-thriller for 2008, failed to ignite despite the combined talents of Robert Carlysle and Max Beesley, and was sadly very dull indeed. No-one who writes about it fails to mention Benedict Cumberbatch’s wonderful name, presumably because they can find nothing to say about his expressiveness.
 
Torchwood. Torchwood, Torchwood, Torchwood. After a competent start to the new season, you seemed to be on a roll. Except for Meat, which was rubbish; irredeemable even by a face-tasering Ianto. You killed Owen! Hurray! But then you bought him back from the dead, and I had to forcibly asphyxiate myself because I couldn’t stand it.

Owen the Foul, a creepy rapey twunt who deserved a horrible TV death more than anyone I can think of, is finally done away with. Did you think anyone would be upset? No, we were all cheering! Then you bought him back to life and made him miserable. Did you think we’d care? No, we wanted him to be dead again. And cremated. And nevermore spoken of from this day forth. Then - then, sweet Jesus make this painful storyline stop, you had him come to terms with his unfeeling resurrected existence and thought we'd be pleased for him. No, I have not missed the bitter parallel of Jack living forever and Owen being dead forever, you just made a shitty job of it, you stupid, stupid TV show.
 
Remote control go “click.” And here we are with Kudos again. There's nothing wrong with Ashes to Ashes. I love the production values, and the performances, and actually think the toe-rag of the week storylines are more effective and better integrated into the fantasy than those in Life on Mars, but for some reason, the show can’t connect with me in the same way as its parent. I don't know if it's the locations, the year, the protaganist, or what, but Ashes to Ashes has yet to really strike a chord with me.
 
Like pretty much everyone else, I fell in love with Being Human. I thought it was brilliant both in concept and execution, but don't imagine for a second it will be back. It was just too promising. Although is anyone else shocked by the number of vampires in Bristol? What could possibly be the cause?
 
Ah, so much disappointment and compromise. Thank heavens, then, for Skins; improbably the most perfect show on telly right now. And Cranford, which I missed, but am catching on DVD. It's brilliant!
 
I am also extra impressed with Portal. It may not be telly, but it’s all on the same screen so there. Portal is a triumph of small-scale storytelling. And with me not being able to play Burnout without starting to hyperventilate, it satisfies my game craving like nothing else.

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