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October 4, 2011

Review: Homeland 1x1

Posted on October 4, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Homeland on Showtime 

In the US: Sundays, 10pm, Showtime
In the UK: Acquired by Channel 4

Ah, thank heavens for cable TV. Although network TV has been producing some perfectly acceptable dramas this fall season, the miss rate has been a lot higher than the hit rate. Cable, however, with the obvious exception of Starz, has a far better success rate.

You know what else? Thank heavens for Israeli TV. Although you could argue over the merits of The Ex-List and Traffic Light for a while, they were at least a cut above the normal fare, and Israeli TV has at least indisputably given us the basis for the surefire cracker that was In Treatment. Now Israeli show Prisoners of War has given us the basis for Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis and adapted for US TV by former 24 producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. 

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to AMC's Rubicon, the thankfully faster-paced Homeland sees obsessive CIA analyst Danes convinced that returning war hero and former prisoner of war Damian Lewis has in fact been turned and is really working for al Qaeda. All she's got to do is prove it, even though no one else believes her, not even her mentor, best friend and boss Mandy Patinkin. In fact, given she's on anti-psychotic drugs, there's a very good chance she actually is crazy. All the same, to prove her hunch is correct, Danes is going to do anything she has to - whether Lewis is innocent or not.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Homeland 1x1"

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October 3, 2011

Review: How To Be A Gentleman 1x1

Posted on October 3, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

How To Be A Gentleman

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS

And so it begins… Sigh.

You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? Well, here's the thing. Apparently, men don't know how to be men any more. We just don't know. We're all confused. Are we supposed to be macho and manly real men or are we really just overgrown children, playing with our Playstations all day while women run the world? Are we unemployable morons? Are we uncouth and ill-mannered - and is that what a true man is and what a woman really wants?

These are not questions I'm asking by the way. These are the questions that US TV networks - particularly ABC - are asking through the medium of the sitcom. We've got Last Man Standing, Man Up and Work It coming our way from ABC (read more about them over here, if you're a glutton for punishment), but CBS has fired the opening salvo in this particular gender war with How To Be A Gentleman, in which a reasonably nice, well mannered guy is forced to become friends with one of his former High School bullies (Kevin Dillon) in an effort to discover what it is to be a real man.

Sounds bad, doesn't it? But you know what? Even though CBS is the home of the horrific Mike and Molly and Two and a Half Men, while ABC has given us Modern Family and Suburgatory, How To Be A Gentlemen is actually a lot subtler and nicer than you might have thought. Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: How To Be A Gentleman 1x1"

October 3, 2011

Review: Doctor Who - 6x13 - The Wedding of River Song

Posted on October 3, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Wedding of River Song

In the UK: Saturday 1st October, 7.15pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturday 1st October, 9pm/8c ET/PT, BBC America

Erm, yes. Another crazy bit of Stevieness. How does he stop himself from going mad with thoughts like that?

I largely enjoyed that one. Full of fun moments. Good to see quite a big chunk of questions answered - River's timeline, how the Doctor avoids dying, what's up with the eyepatches - as well as a few new ones asked, such as Doctor Who? Could have done with knowing why the TARDIS blew up at the end of last season, but maybe we'll find out next year. The Silence were a little under-powered. Rory was a bit of a letdown. The Doctor's escape clause felt like a bit of a cheat. But pretty enjoyable and the tribute to Nicholas Courtney was tear-jerking.

But it didn't feel like a season finale, if you know what I mean. There was spectacle but no real sense of danger or of energy. Perhaps the supposed inevitability of it all robbed the story of that energy, since it felt like it was walking to its doom, Sydney Carton style. And putting out a message to the universe saying "Come help the Doctor" and getting a series of polite responses in return did rob the story of a potential bit of fun.

On the whole, in fact, a slightly less impressive two-part season than Stevie's first. Amy was a shadow of her former self. A lot of the non-Stevie episodes felt like filler. Maybe a little too complicated for its own good and not as emotional or grounded as Rusty's era, either. But Matt Smith's very good, isn't he?

On the whole, in fact, Doctor Who is starting to feel "interesting" in the same way as a puzzle rather than as drama. For me, it's hard to feel enthusiasm for it, rather than waiting for another piece of the puzzle to be added to the mix. Not so much fun as homework, if you see what I mean. And a lot of the time, I'm not sure I desperately want to know the answers to the questions being asked. The Silence need to be a bit more threatening if they're going to be a big bad. The companion(s), if they go through danger, need to change rather than be reset as a result of their adventures.

Although I won't miss the complete absence of logic and sensible plotting from the Rusty era, he did at least know how to make you care about the companions and the Doctor and the current run is a little too distant from them at the moment.

But what do you think?

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