Questions and realisations from television last month

After a long absence, here are my latest questions and realisations that my brain has generated over the last month that I couldn’t be arsed to put into individual entries. Actually, I didn’t have any questions, just realisations

  1. Realisation: There’s nothing more disconcerting than a first-run Christmas episode in January.
  2. Realisation: The 80s were small and blurry
  3. Realisation: Sayid is the most interesting character in Lost
  4. Realisation: It’s now possible to spot a Groundhog Day episode within its first three seconds

1 Realisation: There’s nothing more disconcerting than a first-run Christmas episode in January.

This realisation came about from watching House. Now we’re all probably used to watching a Christmas episode re-run at the wrong time of year and thinking to ourselves, “Oh, that was probably on at Christmas when it first aired.” There’s a similar effect when you’re watching a show from another country (eg UK viewer watching US show): “Oh, that was probably on at Christmas when it first aired in the US.”

But when you’re watching a new episode of a show as it airs, if it’s Christmas in their world and it’s not in yours, it’s very strange. You start looking for plot explanations (Is it a flashback? A time travel episode? Someone going mad?). Why are they celebrating Christmas in January?

And then you realise it’s because they’ve been holding over episodes because of the writers’ strike. Yet, you remain strangely disturbed by the whole experience.

2 Realisation: The 80s were blurry

I realised this while watching Ashes to Ashes this week. A much better episode than the first, I thought. The characters felt more real, the plot was less jumbled and it’s clear you’re really not supposed to like Alex in the slightest – you’re supposed to be rooting for Gene Hunt – and that she really is going to be the snooty bint who gets to find her humanity through bickering with a sexist git (à la Moonlighting), who will be similarly tamed.

Nevertheless, despite the numerous anachronisms (the Met having desktop PCs with hard drives in 1981, etc) and the disturbing revelation that I had 75% of the songs from the episode’s soundtrack in my iTunes collection (‘We Fade to Grey’ by Visage, ‘Money’ by the Flying Lizards: yey!), the thing that stuck with me most was the direction, which was so 1980s at times, I was having serious flashbacks to Edge of Darkness. The compositions, choice of mid-shots, etc were almost identical.

Yet… it wasn’t quite right. Thanks to the magic of DigiBeta, everything was too widescreen, too crystal sharp. The 80s was 4:3, dim and slightly blurry thanks to the lighting and film stock used (we’re not talking 16mm miseries like The Adventurer, mind). So even though ’80s shows’ were being homaged and the direction is spot on, it doesn’t quite feel right.

Still, I hear Kudos tried to get the Beeb to let them shoot Life on Mars as 4:3, etc, but the Beeb was worried everyone would think it was a repeat, so you can’t really blame the producers for that. I wonder if the US version will be able to make the leap (remember Police Squad ‘in color’?) when it eventually arrives.

3 Realisation: Sayid is the most interesting character in Lost

Well, he just is, isn’t he? None of the tediousness of Jate and Skate. He’s just a hard Indian-Iraqi. I hope that the final Oceanic Six will include him, Desmond and Locke, purely so they can have their own spin-off detective agency show afterwards.

4 Realisation: It’s now possible to spot a Groundhog Day episode within its first three seconds

Seriously, music and a close up of an alarm clock is all it takes. This revelation came thanks to Supernatural, which for a teenie show about some pretty-boy ghost hunters living the greatest hits of every horror movie you’re ever seen, is having a surprisingly good third season. It’s going into some surprisingly dark places, the goodies really don’t always win and it’s pretty original as well. Plus it can be really really funny, too.