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May 15, 2013

Review: Doctor Who - 7x12 - Nightmare In Silver

Posted on May 15, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who - Nightmare in Silver

In the UK: Saturday, 7pm, 11th May 2013, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturday, 8pm/7c, 11th May 2013, BBC America

Well, it's Wednesday so there's probably not much point doing a full review of Saturday's Doctor Who episode - you've probably forgotten it all, already - but for the record and for completeness' sake, so I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts. Spoilers after the jump…


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May 15, 2013

Review: Family Tree 1x1 (HBO/BBC2)

Posted on May 15, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Family Tree

In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO
In the UK: Will air on BBC2 this year

Christopher Guest is a god, of course. One of the originators of Spinal Tap, he is the premier maker of the improvised 'mockumentary', with films like Best in Class that are cuttingly funny social observations. He is America's Mike Leigh.

Except, of course, Guest is half-British, the son of a UN diplomat, and shared his childhood between London and New York. Which is why we shouldn't be surprised that BBC2's latest co-production with HBO - following on from the likes of Rome and Parade's End - is set predominantly in Britain. Family Tree follows Chris O'Dowd's (The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids) attempts to trace various members of his family after his great aunt dies, leaving him a box of memorabilia. Along the way, he's helped and hindered by his sister (Nina Conti, best known for her stand-up act, but also from Guest's For Your Consideration), who still uses the therapy monkey she had when she was a child to say things that would otherwise be unsayable, and his dad (long-time Guest collaborator Michael McKean from Spinal Tap).

Again, largely improvised by the cast, it's well observed and engrossing, flirting with British stereotypes while undermining them and having far more depth than a whole load of US shows I could name. But is it funny? Well…

Here's a trailer:

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May 10, 2013

Your handy guide to true religions on TV

Posted on May 10, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Herne the Hunter with Robin Hood

We're going to have a little departure from our normal Nostalgia Corner this week as part of my somewhat unplanned 'Pagan Week' on the blog. Today, we're going to look at all the scripted shows (or as many as I can remember) on Western, English-language TV that have not just featured religions but have actually shown them to be true in some way or other.

Now, it might be tempting to instantly think that Christianity would dominate here - and certainly it shows up a lot, particularly on US TV. When it does it appear, it's also taken more seriously and is dealt with largely more accurately than other religions.

But TV is largely secular, either because the writers are atheists or agnostics or because they're afraid of offending or marginalising other religious groups, particularly when it comes to overseas sales. As a result, religion often lies unexamined in drama or when it does, it deals with 'safe' religions, doesn't make claims for the 'truth' of a particular religion or is 'fantasy' so doesn't pretend to say what it depicts is true.

Nevertheless, a few shows have done just that and I'm going to be running through them today. A few I've already covered in much greater detail elsewhere, so I'll link to those posts if necessary, but I'll still be looking at them from the point of view of religion, rather than as dramas, so there probably won't be much overlap with what I've already written.

To be included on the list (and these aren't 100% firm rules), the show has to fit into one of the following categories:

  1. It has to say a tenet of or an entire religion is true in some way, be it through the appearance of a figure from that religion or by the manifestation of their powers
  2. It features a follower of a religion actually performing important acts of that religion or explaining aspects of it, which are not later disproven or shown to be naive and which might even be proven right.

I won't be including shows that

  1. Include figures from a given religion but reveal they're aliens, spacemen, con men, etc (cf Star Trek)
  2. Made-up religions, except synthetic/reconstructionist religions that employ figures from other religions (so yes to Wicca but not to any alien's religion, for example)
  3. Feature ghosts, the supernatural, magic, etc, unless those things are caused by/stem from a particular religion.
  4. Merely include worshippers or the iconography of a particular religion, but don't claim that it's true or demonstrate any aspects of it (so no Father Brown or Lost).
  5. Are cartoons (e.g. Family Guy, South Park, Lost Cities of Gold)

Before we leap straight into the list, though, I'd like to give a big thanks to Jim Smith, Stuart Douglas, Dave Hoskin, Simon Bucher-Jones, Naomi Jacobs, Philip Purser-Hallard, Ian Mond, SK and Jon Arnold for their invaluable help in its compilation. Cheers, everyone!

The list
I'm going to break this down by religion. There are a number of 'mixed faith' shows out there, that have shown more than one religion to be true, but these generally show one religion to predominate and so will be listed according to that primary religion.

If I've left out any shows or religions, leave a comment below or on the relevant entry and I'll update the list accordingly.

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