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August 27, 2007

Some thoughts on a few recent series

Posted on August 27, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Meadowlands/Cape Wrath
Well, if you made it through to the final episode, you'll probably have been a little frustrated, but will no doubt have spotted the continuing parallels with The Prisoner. At the end of that 60s classic, after a series in which Number 6 had tried to work out where the village was using stellar navigation and other means after a couple of boat trips home, it's finally revealed he's in Britain at the end of an A-road.

Similarly, at the end of Meadowlands, it's finally revealed that the eponymous village of that show is in fact in the middle of a desert. That would be the only desert with a small enclave that has the exact same weather conditions and solar strength as Kent, then.

John From Cincinnati (not Cincinatti, people!)
For true weirdness though, you had to watch John From Cincinnati. I'm sure that people are going to be discussing it for ages, and with every line of dialogue amenable to being stamped on a T-shirt, it'll probably grow as a cult over time. The ending, of course, explained little, but did explain a few things. Quite who John is remains somewhat inconclusive, although with his various speeches about his father and his father's father and heeding his father's words, I'm veering towards John being the son of Jesus, sent here to warn us of impending doom. Anyone got any better theories?

UPDATE

Burn Notice
Sorry. Forgot this one the first time round. Was that Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing) I heard on the phone a couple of episodes ago as the guy who put the burn notice on our hero? If it was, he's going to the villain of note this season, I suspect. Also, good use of Arye Gross as an assassin last week.

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August 26, 2007

Review: The IT Crowd 2.1

Posted on August 26, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The IT Crowd

In the UK: Fridays, C4, 9.30pm. Repeated on C4+1 an hour later. Obviously.
In the US: Being remade by NBC as we speak.

Characters re-cast: 0
Major characters gotten rid of: 1 (next episode)
Major new characters: 1 (next episode)
Format change percentage: 0%

When you think about it, a big chunk of classic – and not so classic – British sitcoms are set in an office of sorts. For example, On the Buses, Are You Being Served, even Dad's Army are all work-based sitcoms. However, The Office, for obvious reasons and not just its name, has occluded these in most people's minds and prevented any subsequent office-based sitcoms from emerging (the reverse is true in the US). Indeed, The Office has started a whole number of trends, including a veering towards cringe-comedy rather than joke-based comedy.

However, it's fitting that The IT Crowd has been trying its best to buck that trend, since it has The Office's producer Ash Atalla at the helm. The IT Crowd is sort of the flipside of The Office. It's traditionally filmed, with traditional characters, traditional jokes and traditional plots.

It's also funny. At least, I think so.

Continue reading "Review: The IT Crowd 2.1"

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August 25, 2007

Fifth-episode verdict: Damages

Posted on August 25, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Carusometer for Damages2-Partial-Caruso

As you may recall (although in all likelihood, you won't), I gave Damages a tentative thumbs up for its first episode. Not exactly my cup of tea, but for those who like the John Grisham milieu, not half bad and certainly not as insulting as the usual tripe.

However, five episodes in, my reservations are pretty much the same and have more or less been confirmed. With a really bad theme tune that endlessly repeats “When I am through with you” to ram home the subtle subtext, rather than being some Grisham-esque “innocent learns about life in the big league” tale, Damages has refined itself to be a game of one-upmanship between sociopaths.

At every step of the way, whether it's Glenn Close, Ted Danson or one of the incidental characters, everyone is trying to show just how ruthless and manipulative they are. They might as well be saying things like “pawn takes rook and then mate in seven moves” with a knowing glance at every conceivable point. Nothing rings true and events seem to take place simply to demonstrate how clever everyone is. It's as though the producers want us to know exactly how daring they are.

“Oh no, this would never get on mainstream TV,” they say. “We are just so cutting edge. Quick, let's have Ted Danson send out assassins to kill a witness while snorting coke with a hooker! No, let's have Glenn Close have her own son kidnapped!” And so on.

Remotely plausible? No. But as a way to pile on tension, it works. I'm not gripped, but if you love constant twists that you'd never predict (because they'd never happen in real life), Damages is a decent piece of work. The cast are good, all the quality checkboxes have been ticked. When ridiculous plot twists aren't been piled on top of previously mildly implausible plot twists, the characters are able to show depth and a degree of verisimilitude and intelligence. The plot's a little tricky to follow with all the game-playing and the constant leaping around between time periods, but it gels together about as well as other “tense legal thrillers”.

It just makes no sense whatsoever. If that's not an obstacle, you'll probably enjoy it.

So The Medium is Not Enough declares Damages a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso as a top-flight lawyer. After shouting 'Objection!' after every other actor's line, he will insist on smiling a secret smile to himself, since it's the only way he can suggest mental superiority without forcing others to take an IQ test – then cheating on his own results. The producers will write him out after episode two when his character bleeds to death after a freak paper cut.”

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