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January 8, 2008

Review: The Wire 5x1

Posted on January 8, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Wire, Season 5

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, HBO
In the UK: FX at some point. Hopefully

Characters re-cast: 0
Major characters gotten rid of: Unknown. Some still MIA
Major new characters: Dozens
Format change percentage: 75%

There was a criminal injustice committed last year. In March's list of the 50 greatest TV dramas ever, The Wire wasn't even mentioned. It came nowhere. Something called The Sopranos (sp?) came in at number one. What's up there?

There are many theories as to why this should have happened. Some say it's because The Wire is set in a poor city in the US – Baltimore – rather than something a bit more visually arresting and familiar like New York or Los Angeles. Some argue that it's because the cast is mostly black and filled with unfamiliar faces. Some believe the level of patience required to follow it, picking up small details and touches of character that become important only after episodes or even seasons have gone by, is too much for the average viewer. Others yet claim it's the fact it's on a channel like HBO or FX in the UK that reduces the audience to negligible numbers.

Yet, as I've been bleating on at you for ages, The Wire is one of the finest TV programmes ever made. A devastatingly realistic look at policing, the underclass, politics, institutions and why meaningful change is almost impossible, it's back for its last ever season.

Yes, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the end of its run, because it doesn't look like the show's creators have reduced the show's quality one iota.

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January 8, 2008

Preview: Eli Stone

Posted on January 8, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jonny Lee Miller and George Michael in Eli Stone

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, ABC. Starts January 31, 2008
In the UK: Not yet acquired

God. He's a slippery old bugger, particularly when you're trying to make him a central theme of a mainstream television show.

Do you spend your time trying to prove he doesn't exist? No, because you'll be boycotted in minutes by various pressure groups, and it'll be roughly an hour before a network executive pulls the plug on you, even assuming you didn't annoy all the God-fearing, red-state audiences into not watching you in the first place.

Or do you come over all fundamentalist (cf Saving Grace), thus annoying the Hell out Muslims, atheists, et al, as well as any other fundamentalists that don't share your particular view of the Bible?

Eli Stone goes for the much-trodden, wishy washy middle-path. To quote one of the characters, for any event, "there are two interpretations: the scientific and the divine." Yes, joining Signs and I Am Legend in the exciting world of inoffensive ambiguity is Eli Stone, prophet at large. Or maybe not. It's up to you. Your decision. We're not telling you anything.

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January 6, 2008

Review: Doctor Who - Return to the Web Planet

Posted on January 6, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Return to the Web Planet

Mention The Web Planet to almost any Who-er, and you'll likely as not get a great big smirk in response. It was a story written in the Hartnell days before anyone really 'knew' what Doctor Who stories were supposed to be like. A rather brave attempt at hard SF, it involved the planet Vortis, a world populated entirely by various giant-sized species of insect and absolutely no humans other than the Doctor and his companions.

Yes, giant butterflies, ants and larvae on a budget of £2 7s 6d, back before anyone had anything like the technology to do it properly. You can imagine what it was like, even if you've never seen it. Go on, imagine it.

Tee hee.

Fortunately, audio plays don't have this problem so Big Finish, throwing the fifth Doctor and Nyssa at the world of the Menoptera, Zarbi and Venom Grubs, can let their imaginations run wild, content in the knowledge that we'll do the rest of the work.

Yet somehow, it's almost impossible not to think one thought while listening to Return to the Web Planet: "Tee hee".

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