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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


January 30, 2008

Review: In Treatment

Posted on January 30, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

In Treatment

In the US: Mondays to Fridays, HBO, 9.30pm
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There are certain things actors like doing. They like good dialogue. They like building up a character. They like to display nuances. And they like showing off.

As a showcase for actors' tendencies, it would be hard to beat In Treatment. Based on an Israeli TV show, Be 'Tipul, In Treatment is innovative stuff. It's centred on a therapist played by Gabriel Byrne. Each night of the week, we see a session between Byrne and one of his patients, who include the likes of Blair Underwood and Melissa George. Then at the end of the week, we see Byrne visit his own therapist (Dianne Wiest) to discuss the patients he's been treating and his feelings about them, before we start again the following week with the next sessions in his patients' schedules.

In effect, we're getting five weekly pieces of two-handed theatre, all bundled in one series. You like Blair Underwood's story best? Just tune in to Tuesdays' sessions then.

Of course, how well such a concentrated environment is going to work - very little incidental music, no incidental characters, no explosions, just two people talking – is going to be down to the strength of the acting and the writing. And they're all great.

Continue reading "Review: In Treatment"

January 30, 2008

Review: Horizon - What On Earth is Wrong with Gravity?

Posted on January 30, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Dr Brian Cox

In the UK: Tuesday 29th January 2008, 9pm, BBC2
In the US: Erm...

Every year, the GCSE and A-level results come out in Britain; every year, people question whether standards are slipping. the exams are getting easier and if today's children are actually learning anything worthwhile in school.

The same sort of thing happens among the science geek population every time a new series of Horizon comes out. Is it dumbing down? Is it avoiding proper science in favour of whizzy things that look good on television?

Back in the glorious 80s when most grumbling science geeks were growing up, Horizon was a veritable powerhouse. There was the justly famous documentary [video clips] about Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, which was more or less a straight-to-camera piece without the benefit of an interviewer that looked at one of the most interesting and famous physicists of all time.

There was the Horizon 'special', Lifestory, starring Jeff Goldblum, Tim Pigott-Smith and Juliet Stephenson as Jim Watson, Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin, which still rates as one of my all-time favourite pieces of television ever (can anyone send me a copy that doesn't cost $150?). I learnt more about DNA from that than I ever learnt at school (A-T, G-C; base pairs in keto form rather than enol; sugar chains running in opposite directions. Marvellous!)

Nowadays? Danny Wallace learning about chimpanzee communication. Maybe standards are dropping... (caveat: I haven't seen it, so that one might have been good)

Last night's What On Earth is Wrong With Gravity?, presented by Dr Brian Cox (no, not the Hannibal Lecktor actor - the particle physicist, Guardian science podcast guest star and former D:REAM keyboard player), tried to re-capture some of the glory days. While it was good in its own right, it still failed to demonstrate any of the strengths of the Horizon of old.

Continue reading "Review: Horizon - What On Earth is Wrong with Gravity?"

January 29, 2008

Adventures in Canadian TV

Posted on January 29, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

A while ago, I wondered what I'd be watching if the US writers' strike were to continue much longer. British TV? Don't be daft. How self-loathing do you think I am?

The obvious answer was to give Canadian TV a try. Okay, not necessarily the most obvious, but far less painful than Australian TV, even if you occasionally do get a reasonable show like The Surgeon.

Now Canadian TV had something of a bad rep for a while. After messing up shows like Airwolf during the 80s, most of its original output hasn't got any further than Canada's borders, unless it's been about vampires (cf Forever Knight, Blood Ties) for some reason. Yes, Canada has pretty much been the shooting location for every low budget US TV show of the last two decades, but shows made by Canadian networks with Canadians not pretending to be Americans? Less common.

That has been changing over the last couple of years, though. As well as co-financing shows such as Doctor Who, Canada has also started to make shows intended to appeal to the rest of the world as well as Canada, that have high production values and quality scripts.

The first real hint of this was Intelligence, which came out in 2006. A sort of Canadian Miami Vice about an undercover cop, it had moody lighting, decent direction and some good scripts. Unfortunately, in common with most Canadian TV, it also starred that bloke who played Huck Finn back in the 80s so I didn't watch much.

Now though, there's a bumper crop of world-worthy Canadian shows, some of them good, some of them… not so good. For your consideration: JPod, The Border, The Guard and Sophie.

Continue reading "Adventures in Canadian TV"

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