Archive | US TV 2011

Reviews of new US TV programmes from 2011

September 28, 2011

Review: Terra Nova 1x1

Posted on September 28, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Terra Nova 

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Monday, 8pm, Sky 1 HD. Starts 3rd October

A true scientific law about TV: while having the name 'Steven Spielberg' attached to a movie is almost always a blessing, with a TV show, unless it's an historical drama about the US military, it's almost certain that that TV show will suck collossally and usually feature various men agonising about the responsibilities of being a father.

Another true scientific law about TV: if your script is written by former Star Trek producers René Echevarria and Brannon Braga, it will almost invariably involve time travel and temporal paradoxes.

The final true scientific law about TV: it's almost impossible to go wrong with dinosaurs on a TV show. Almost.

You can imagine the thought processes involved in the making of Terra Nova. "You can't go wrong with dinosaurs. Remember Jurassic Park? Let's have a TV show about dinosaurs."

"Dinosaurs are millions of years in the past. How do we have have a show about dinosaurs?"

"Can we just make new dinosaurs?"

"Jurassic Park – we'll get sued."

"Can we bring the dinosaurs from the past to now?"

"Primeval – we'll get sued."

"Dinosaurs on another planet?"

"Why would there be dinosaurs on another planet? How about we go into the past? I do like time travel and timey-wimey paradoxes."

"Why would we go into the past to meet dinosaurs?"

"Maybe the whole world is falling apart from environmental catastrophe and the only way to escape it is to go back into the past."

"That makes no sense, but it would mean we could pretend to do Blade Runner for 20 minutes. Then what?"

"Well, we could tell a story involving lots of kids and really dangerous dinosaurs about how hard it is to survive millions of years in the past with only the bare essentials."

"Where's the fun in that? How about we create a show in which people go 'glamping' - that's glamorous camping – in the past to escape from the terrible future and have mildly exciting adventures in which they're surrounded by inhospitable but only marginally threatening outsiders, while a bunch of guys worry about how hard it is to be dads?"

"Cool. And even though it's set in the year 2149, do you think we could have minimal changes in technology and social order, while reinforcing every single possible modern-day stereotype imaginable?"

"Sure. Although it's going to sound a bit like Earth 2, isn't it?"

"Meh. Who remembers you even did that show, Steven? Falling Skies is the one everyone will be reminded of because it's on TV right now."

"This has got dinosaurs in it though."

"Big difference…"

"You can't go wrong with dinosaurs, Steven."

"Fine. Let's do it."

Here's a trailer.

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September 26, 2011

Review: Pan Am 1x1

Posted on September 26, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Acquired by BBC2

Again, stop me if you've heard this one before

There's a lot of talk about people harking back to the 'easier' times of the 60s, to wanting to once again enjoy a time when sexism, racism and homophobia were acceptable. When women know their 'place' and that was too look pretty and not do much.

That, apparently, is the appeal of Mad Men. And why there are now two other shows set in the 60s, vying for our attentions: The Playboy Club and now ABC's Pan Am

Of course, this is cobblers. Mad Men is successful because it allows us to look back and condemn those times and because it actually has good writing, good acting and good characterisation. And while Mad Men has certainly helped to get these two shows on our screens, American TV has been making 'period pieces' like this for years, whether it's Swingtown, Band of Brothers, John Adams, Life on Mars or Bonanza.

Like Mad Men, these new 60s shows also allow us to look back at the 60s and condemn, yet while The Playboy Club has decided to tread the dark path of the crime drama while showing us a certain amount of the sleaze at the Chicago Playboy Club and what women's lives were like at the time, Pan Am has gone light and fluffy when doing the same, trying to show us a world in which the air hostess was the height of glamour and empowerment and a job to which apparently any intelligent woman would aspire, whether it was to get away from her own life or because she's a secret CIA agent.

Yet, despite all the things that Pan Am could and should have ripped off from Mad Men, even with the help of West Wing producer Thomas Schlamme and a cast that include Christina Ricci, it's gone for possibly the worst option: it's picked up on Mad Men's pacing. Pan Am is about as exciting as an eight-hour flight across the Atlantic.

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September 25, 2011

Review: A Gifted Man 1x1

Posted on September 25, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

A Gifted Man

In the US: Fridays, 8/7c, CBS

CBS, the home of the procedural TV show, has been a little bit strapped for medical procedures. It's tried in the past with shows such as 3 Lbs , but they've never really stuck.

So desperate are they for a medical procedure, it would seem, that they're willing to take something with just a hint of medical procedure to it and revamp it to fit the new mould.

Take A Gifted Man. Now on the face of it, this is a supernatural/spiritual tale of life choices and redemption. Patrick Wilson (The Watchmen) is a rich and indeed gifted neurosurgeon, at the top of his profession. He's divorced, he's a complete dick, he doesn't have many friends and he treats his sister (Julie Benz) and her son like crap, but he's doing well for himself at least. Then one day, he bumps into his ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice) and they have dinner together.

But the next day, he discovers she's been dead for two weeks. After having the necessary brain scans, he comes to the conclusion that she really is a ghost and begins to re-evaluate his life choices, his attitudes to the poor, his family, his friends, his employees and in fact life itself.

Except that's not good enough for CBS, so on top of that, he has to do three to four exciting, brain-related medical procedures per show on top of that.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: A Gifted Man 1x1"

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