At The Medium Is Not Enough, we – by which, of course, I mean I – have a somewhat long-term policy regarding reviews of shows. Even the worst shows can get better after a few episodes, and of course, the best shows can get worse, too. So I hold off for a few episodes before stating for definite whether a show is worth expending valuable time on.
I started off with the third-episode verdict system: this uses The Carusometer, the most powerful and certainly the most egotistical TV quality system in the universe, to measure just how good a series' first three episodes are before declaring whether they're fit for human consumption. Look at Heroes: not exactly brilliant for the first two episodes but started to take off (literally) after three.
But there are some shows that still don't find their way by their third episode, so I came up with the fifth-episode verdict system: if the show looks like it could get better, I wait for another two episodes before passing it over to the penetrating, darkly shaded gaze of The Carusometer.
But I've noticed that some shows still don't get the hang of life for a few more episodes. Look at Torchwood: good start, absolutely dire middle, much better from about episode eight onwards.
Now there's no way I'm hanging on watching some of these shows for their full eight episodes: one episode of Ghost Whisperer was enough and I couldn't even last one minute of Angela's Eyes. If I dumped them by episode three, there's a very good chance they're going to be awful forever. Yet to avoid possibly missing a good TV show that only finds its feet at the last moment, we need some system to pick them up.
So today, I'm instigating the launch of the Random Episode Carusometer, complete with not terribly impressive graphic I whipped up in Illustrator in less than an hour.
Its principle is simple: if I've stopped watching a show after three or five episodes because of low ratings on The Carusometer, I'll tune in to see if it's got any better some random number of episodes later – typically around episode seven or eight but maybe longer. Kind of like a spot audit by a health and safety inspector. If it's somehow pulled itself out of the swamp, I'll give it a second chance; otherwise, it's consigned to the dustbin forever - I'll throw a tangerine at it and say something menacing like, “No ninth chances. That's the kind of man I am.” Then they'll be frightened.
Unfortunately, I'm starting relatively inauspiciously with Painkiller Jane. We left said piece of sci-fi/comic nonsense after three episodes on the general grounds that it's complete bollocks. Absolutely awful with the one slight reservation that it (and Kristanna Loken) look good.
So I tuned in to Friday's episode - episode seven I believe it was - to put the Random Episode Carusometer into work (at this time of year it gets very lazy so needs something equivalent to a 7% solution to keep its penetrating gaze up to spec).
It was rubbish. Absolutely awful. Still looks good, but every single second was an insult to the viewer's intelligence. Nothing's changed. They're still hunting down loony old people and kids, rather than actually threatening baddies. They still have awful dialogue, no characterisation and stating the bleeding obvious as a substitute for something approaching wisdom.
Then there's the fact that for a crack team dealing with people who can influence their minds, you'd think they'd have a few appropriate procedures worked out by now (eg “If someone starts to exhibit massive personality changes and odd behaviour, stun them and tie them up immediately rather than repeatedly asking what's wrong while they glare moodily at their pistol”). But they don't.
They also still take the most stupid tactic wherever possible. Shoot the 'neuro' from a mile out with a sniper rifle? No way, Jose. We want to get up close, tell them who we are and talk to them a lot.
Aargh. So dumb.
So The Random Episode Carusometer unfortunately has to declare this random episode of Painkiller Jane still merits the five or “Full Caruso” on the quality scale.
You absolutely must not watch this show except under threat of torture or death. It will not get better.
Better luck next time Carusometer. We'll find a good 'un one day.