Archive for the TV Tirades Category

SHERLOCK – Meh.

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by helenparker1212

So the premise of updating Sherlock Holmes to the present day seems so bloomin obvious it should have been done decades ago right? Well now that someone at the BBC has finally decided to pull their finger out of their arse and do it, you’d think they’d create something radical, something imaginative, clever, and worth the long wait. Not to mention the funding. Well we’ve all been proven idiots for expecting anything radical or inventive from the BBC. Sherlock, which aired on Sunday, proved to be little more than a copycat with a mobile phone.

White, middle class, prim English accented, sexually stunted, but most unforgivably comfortably DULL!! Cumberbatch as a leading man is DULL DULL DULL!! He’s a perfect Sherlock Holmes. which is exactly why they shouldn’t have cast him. And OH MY GOD i find it difficult to even put into words the majesty of the mistake in casting Martin Freeman. In anything, let alone as Doctor Watson!! This cretinous master of the awkward twitch and dumbstruck expression seems to be able to worm himself into even the most inappropriate of roles. And yes I am aware of my contradiction, criticising them for casting an obvious then criticising for casting a not so obvious, but it’s different. Martin Freeman is fucking shit. Cumberbatch is a wonderful actor, he’s just unconscionably boring, but Freeman, he couldn’t act his way out of a bag because he only knows one character, the one that made him (ugh) famous.

Or at least famous enough to be cast in Hitchhiker’s Guide – which flopped by the way – go figure. Anyway, back to Sherlock. let’s be constructive about this. actually the storyline wasn’t half bad, just only half good. And I do quite like Rupert Graves as Lestrade, but then again I like Rupert Graves as anything. There was also a token black person who was pretty shit too, some female police officer who – guess what – doesn’t like Holmes of his methods! Shock horror! Here’s a picture of her incase you missed her because her character was appallingly written and also her acting was shit. I’m using that word a lot aren’t I.

I have no doubt the series will improve with age. But the fact is it started with little enough imagination, i don’t really see it accumulating any more, despite the best efforts of Mark Gatiss. hard to believe an ex-League of Gentleman can be attached to such a dull enterprise but ah well, that’s the BBC for you. It’s just astonishing that in a climate of post-Guy Richey/Downy Junior playfulness and reinvention, the best the Brits can manage is this insipid ham.

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STARGATE UNIVERSE & DEFYING GRAVITY – Who is responsible for this shit??

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2009 by helenparker1212

Ugh! I just had to suffer through yet another ridiculous episode of Stargate Universe in the vain hope that it might have suddenly become tolerably alright, as opposed to utterly shite. Needless to say I was disappointed. Again. This episode was called ‘Water’ (get it? cos the other episodes were called ‘Air’, ‘Darkness’ and ‘Light’, get it?) and basically what happened was they ran out of water this time, and then there were some alien mosquitos, and then they trapped them in a barrel and threw them through the stargate, and then people went to get some ice, and some douche fell down a cravasse but then got rescued and was alright, and then that annoying man in charge mumbled something to the camera. The end.

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I’ve given it a fair chance, I really have, and as an avid Stargate fan I am more inclined to leniency than most viewers, but there is simply no way to polish this turd other than to call it what it is. A steaming pile of horse excretia. The moment the action begins all I’m thinking is, who is this person? Why is she listening to an iPod? Is Robert Carlyle aware of how awful this is? Why is the mumbling man ruffing Carlyle’s hair? Why is that angry black guy so angry all the time? What exactly is the point of any of this?! ARGH! After four episodes why the hell do I still not know or care about who any of these people are?!

But Stargate Universe is not the only new and much hyped sci-fi drama which has failed dismally to engage me. Defying Gravity, the ‘Grey’s Anatomy but in space!’ botch offered to us by BBC2 has already been as good as cancelled in the US with rumours of its sets being dismantled and its time-slot moved into the graveyard. Defying Gravity’s problem is the total opposite of SGU in that we are inundated with the reasons why these characters are doing what they are doing, and they say each other’s names alot so there’s no confusion about who’s who. But the fundamental problem remains: we just don’t give a crapolla about them and what they’re up to. This person fancies this person, and that person cheated on his wife and misses her, and they all want to shag each other and might be turning into aliens by the way.

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The unforgivable flaw in these programmes is simple. THEY ARE FUCKING BORING. People stand around and talk a lot, and every now and then someone falls over or cries. In the first episode of Stargate SG-1 people got kidnapped and killed, people got together into teams, aliens blew shit up and mangled people, and everybody sets off to kick butt for the American way. In the first episode of Grey’s Anatomy people get shagged and killed, people get together into teams, surgeons sew shit up and mangle people, and every body sets off to kick butt for the hippocratic way.

SGU and DG have both failed to do any of this stuff in four episodes, let alone in their opening pilots. I just don’t get it. Sci-fi is an extremely popular genre with infinite material and potential to exploit. So with all this potential at their disposal, how on earth have the producers of these two programmes managed to fail so miserably? And, more importantly, how on earth were they allowed to produce this tripe in the first place!? Did someone go on holiday? Or take a nap while these programmes were in production?? Was no one keeping an eye on these projects? Did it never occur to anyone involved that “Oh, this is a bit shit and will probably flop and get cancelled”?

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People like to spout bollox about studio executives interfering with programmes to make them more populist, generally copying other successful programmes. If this is the case then what the hell were the studios doing while these programmes were being made? Why weren’t they interfering? Asking dumb questions like “so where are all the aliens? This is sci-fi right?” and “where’s the peril?” I fully understand the desire of a writer and a producer to create something fresh within a genre, however, shirking your genre entirely because you are apparently embarassed by it (Stargate Universe I’m talking to you!) is utter folly, and has apparently resulted in two dramas which had so much potential, but which have, ultimately, fallen flat on their arses. And faces.

SEARCHING FOR GOD… ON THE TV.

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by helenparker1212

“I’m gonna find God.”

“God.”

“Yes.”

“God.”

“Yes. He isn’t in heaven, he has to be somewhere.”

“Try New Mexico, I hear he’s on a tortilla.”

“No, he’s not on any flat bread.”

If you’ve been watching Supernatural Season 5 (and if you haven’t then you’re an idiot) recently, either on tv or online as I have been forced to due to the arbitrary bastard nature of delayed British releases of US tv shows, then you’ll have noticed the narrative arc has taken a distinctly religious turn. Moving beyond the typical supernatural fare of demons and monsters, the angels and humans are now on a full on quest to find Him, the big G.

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His presence has been cautiously hinted at throughout the series (a programme premised on the supernatural could hardly ignore the biggest supernatural entity of them all) even before the angels showed up in season 4, and now finally the man Himself is being hunted down by his discontent and feuding creations.

This thrilling and also slightly ominous prospect of an actual glimpse of God begs some serious questions of the audience. For starters, do we actually even want to see God? How would he be portrayed? Would he be Alanis Morrisette? Would he be empathetic? Would he be to blame? Would he be seriously pissed off? So many possibilities for the writers, we can only sit and wait to see how their imaginings of the divine head honcho unfold. They have taken a bold step to say the least in invoking Him as a potential character, or even as a potential material presence.

But the Supernatural writers are not the only ones grappling with the enormous responsibility of invoking God as a cast member. In fact there appear to me more and more American tv dramas dabbling in religious narrative arcs. Joan of Arcadia, Wonderfalls, Carnivale, Tru Calling, Saving Grace, Pushing Daisies, Reaper, Battlestar Gallactica – the list goes on.

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Is there something in the fact that all of these tv series are American? Possibly it’s the simple fact that because America makes a lot of tv programmes it will logically have larger selection of similar themed programmes. It would be extremely lazy to just accuse the American quality television industry of bible thumping. We Brits make a lot of soap operas after all, and it’s not because we all live in the economically deprived back streets of cities, drinking in grotty local pubs, shopping at the market, and shagging the neighbours for all their worth.

Not most of us anyway.

And what does it say about us, that these tv shows are just as popular in our own countries, some even more so, than they are on their home turf? Did we ask for these shows? Or are we being coached by a malign evangelical force at the top of the tv production ladder? Conspiracy theorists and anthropologists: feel free to step in at any time. Is the rise of ‘Islamic extremism’ and the militarism of ‘Asian values’ making us all rethink our slack Western agnosticism and our arrogant atheism?

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Is the religious quest the new front in the war on terror?

Will finding our faiths again make us less terrified?

Is tv the new pulpit?

Is that all a load of bollox and entertainment is just entertainment?

You have to wonder though, why there are no western tv programmes involving Buddah, Moses, Muhammad, or any other denomination for that matter. The west does seem, for all its cultural and religious pluralism, to be rather preoccupied with Christianity. Still. Maybe it’s time we all stopped trying to kid ourselves that we’re a secular culture when our entire civilisation is built on the foundations of our Christian heritage. It’s like trying to deny your parents are your parents. You might not like them, but you kind of sort of owe them your existence.

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Our loss of faith has been a relatively fast one. Over the last sixty years, religion has taken a back seat for the general western population (who don’t live in the American mid-west), church attendence has dwindled to next to nothing compared to the levels of our grandparents’ days, and young people today would not be seen dead in a church. Except for their own funerals – ah you know what I mean. How many people under the age of 30 do you know who go to church regularly or even irregularly? Two or three? There was a boost when the Poles came, but their goals are mostly to return to Poland – depite what the BNP would have you believe – so what then?

What has the rejection of God actually gotten us?

Society is in the shitter, we all know this, but does it have anything to do with the absence of a moral force in our lives? We claim we are intelligent enough to make our own moral decisions without religion to arbitrarily tell us how to behave, but isn’t that confidence just astonishingly arrogant? Do we really think we can be trusted to our own devices without the fear of an omnipotent power watching us and judging us? Without the fear of a punishment for our transgressions in the afterlife, even if we get away with it in life? Can we really get our heads around the notion that evil people escape when they die, because there is no Hell? Can we really deal with the horrifying, terrifying idea that death really is like dreamless sleep – absolutely nothing.

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I’m sorry, but it’s not shameful to have faith considering the yawning abyss that is the alternative. In fact, faith is the natural human condition. We have always worshipped, even when we were hunting and gathering and chasing wilderbeasts we worshipped. Who the hell do we think we are to claim we can just throw all that away? Bloody arrogant, that’s what. And bloody stupid.

Maybe these tv shows are proof that we haven’t thrown the baby of faith out with the bathwater of organised religion. We don’t need to go to church to have faith. It’s our actions, and our attitudes, and the moral codes we live by that define our faiths, not thumping great tombs of antiquated fairytales. The west shouldn’t be ashamed of the presence of Christianity in its popular culture, it should be proud of it, especially in comparison to other religious cultures which are so terrified of themselves they can’t even draw their own prophets, let alone put them in musicals in a nappy.

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I think God probably had a good laugh when he saw Jerry Springer the Musical. And that’s the beauty of faith. God is what you and you alone believe it/him/them to be, and no one else can tell you otherwise, which is why it is so important to explore, parody, criticise and expose religion in popular culture, whether in books like the Satanic Verses, in theatre like Jerry Springer, or in tv series like Supernatural.

It’s the day we start trying to censor our faiths that we really need to worry about.

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ITV’s THE BILL Finally Grows Up

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

I was recently watching ITV’s The Bill for the first time in around a year, when it began to dawn on me that something  was amiss. Thoughts such as ‘ooh, that was well filmed’ and ‘that was an excellent bit of dialogue’ began to enter my head, an occurence previously unknown to me in my fifteen-year-long relationship with this particular tv series. These were not my only causes for concern however, as it was then revealed that they are finally getting rid of that appalling ginger bloke Superintendent Heaton and the twenty-year dead weight of DCI Meadows. And to top it all off my two favourite characters, Smithy and Stone, proceeded to have the most epic wrestling match I’ve ever seen, on a par with Bates and Reeve in Women in Love, except, regrettably, with clothes on.

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‘Something’s going on here’, I told myself, ‘The Bill is never this good’. Something cataclysmic must have happened to their production team, someone must have died, or fired all the writers. Alas, my suspicions were confirmed as soon as I googled The Bill and discovered numerous press releases about the revamping, in conjunction with its new primetime post-watershed slot of 9pm Thursdays and Fridays. Finally, The Bill is growing up. Could this mean we are finally going to have a police series to rival its US counterparts such as NYPD Blue, Law and Order, or even The Wire?? These are examples of American Quality television, where the struggle between the strict series format and the demands of serial narrative depth have struck a balance with gritty plotlines and emotionally complex characters. This is a balance which British TV series such as The Bill and Casualty have never before been able to master, festering as a result in a sort of habitual limbo of vacuous characterisation, unimaginably dull filming technique passing for verite, and churned out, never revisited storylines.

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Much of the press surrounding this new move has mentioned a desire to concentrate on character depth and more realistic, contemporary and even controversial storylines. Given the show’s hour length and two nights run, it has the potential for a mini-series’ worth of material every week. There is a war raging in tv between series and serial, but the fact is that today’s audience demands the ‘story of the week’ be balanced with an over-arching narrative which can allow for deeper character development. Those shows which do manage to strike the balance are much more rewarding and culturally worthwhile than those just happy to plod along unassumingly for 20 odd years, unnoticed and therefore uncancelled (Casualty). So bravo The Bill! It’s taken long enough, but if the previous four episodes of The Bill are anything to go by, it looks like we’re back on track for a return to Quality British tv which doesn’t involve any frikin Larks rising in Candleford.

DEXTER series 2 – a cautionary tale

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , on March 1, 2009 by helenparker1212

‘The voices are back. Excellent.’

No Dexter. Not excellent. Bad bad bad. Something about season 2 of Dexter has been plaguing me since it started airing on itv1. Something is missing. Or perhaps something is there that wasn’t there before. A dark passenger of sorts?

First off the writing has deteriorated drastically. Instead of the subtle unravelling of complex emotions and plotlines we came to love in the first season, we are now treated to a mere spewing of information and thought processes via lazy, lazy dialogue and even lazier voice over. At first I wanted to blame it all on American quality tv’s creative technique of using multiple writers and directors during a single season, instead of a small, dedicated team.

Surely, I thought to myself, surely people floating in and out for random episodes would not be able to maintain the depth of character and narrative that a smaller, more dedicated team could. However, a quick glance at IMDB put paid to that theory because the excellent first season had no less than five writers and eight different directors to its credit. So I can’t blame the liquidity of the production team. A new culprit has to be found.

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Possibly the biggest problem I have with this particular season is the presence of utterly banal subplots, the most prolific of which is the Laguerta/Doaks spin-off show which raises its inane head in almost every episode so far. In the original books the Doaks/Dexter relationship is a dominant one in the overall plot, yet in the series it is shunted to three or four scenes per episode, and Doaks spends most of his screentime bitching and pouting with Laguerta.

Equally uninteresting are the storylines involving Debra and Lundy, and the Dexter/Lila thread has become such an utter yawn-fest even the occasional pair of pert English tits, or Michael C. Hall’s Herculean body, can’t reenergise it. And here we come to one of the biggest losses the series has suffered: the character of Dexter himself.

The voices may be back, Dexter, but too many voices spoil the syntax, and your writers appear to have forgotten your character’s journey almost entirely. Not only that, but you appear to be becoming, dare I say it, human. One of the most fascinating things about this drama was its eponymous character; we followed his thought processes and behaviour as he attempted to negotiate the minefield of human emotion and social interaction he found both alien and confusing, but was able to deftly insinuate himself into.

This is all gone from season two. Dexter is shoved aside in favour of storylines worthy of Diagnosis Murder. Understandably, the studio executives’ demand for further seasons must put pressure on the source material, namely Jeff Lindsay’s books, but this should be seen as a creative challenge for the numerous writers and directors, not as an opportunity for awful soap opera-esque plot padding.

One would think that, with so many writers and directors at their disposal, the production team would have no end of innovative paths for the series to travel down. But, alas, we are relegated to jealous girlfriends, family drama, relationship issues and, saints preserve us, superheroes.

I will be patient. Dexter is a series with so much potential, and with such a strong start, that ringing its death knell now, just eight episodes into this season, would be both overzealous and unfair. But it needs to pull its creative socks up, and fast, or Dexter’s victims won’t be the only ones facing the chop.

Battlestar Galactica – where did it all go wrong?

Posted in TV Tirades with tags on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“One more jump and I’m gonna lose my way altogether.”

Indeed, Kara Thrace, one more episode of season four and I think I’ll be lost beyond assistance too. It’s a truly heartbreaking thing to see, when a tv series with such promise, such emotional depth and philosophical scope, goes completely down the pan in the space of a couple of episodes. Admittedly, the writer’s strike must have played havoc with the focus and rhythm of the writing and production team, leaving scripts unfinished and plotlines uncoordinated, but this really isn’t a valid excuse for the poor quality of the end work.

This kind of dramatic change in writing quality can only come when a writer either dies or is fired – or even if a new writer is hired, because what was once an elegantly tangled web of storylines and character relationships has become a mere spewing-out of ill-defined motives and superfluous information, which only a writer seriously off their game can truly take the blame for. Unfortunately, studios have never appreciated the fundamental importance of writers to their productions. Essentially, if the writing team is producing solid gold, don’t fuck about with them.

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It was the ‘dvd movie’ Razor which set the warning bells ringing in my ears – and, sadly, the very first episode of season four proved all my fears right. The elegant web was sliced apart with so little subtlety or care it was like watching a brain surgeon operating with a machete. And believe me when I say I gave the series a fair chance to get on its feet and into gear – as all series require at some point during their runs – but the more I watched, the more I wanted to change the channel.

From what I have suffered through so far it seems clear to me that something cataclysmic has occurred in the writing department, and unless something equally seismic occurs before the season is completed, I fear the series is on a collision course with cancellation, audience wrath and an ultimate infamy it really doesn’t deserve, considering the overall high quality of its first three seasons.