Every month (more or less), TMINE flags up what TV events BAFTA is holding around the UK
Seeing as I’ve spent most of today on the phone to various customer service representatives – one of whom, who worked for a major mobile phone provider whose number is definitely not magic, decided to actual change my phone number while I was on the phone to him – WHYBW will have to wait until tomorrow. Sorry about that.
Instead, let’s catch up with BAFTA. October’s been a bit quiet for them, but in the next couple of weeks there are a couple of TV events coming up.
Wednesday, 8 November 2017 – 6:45pm
Princess Anne Theatre, BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly, London
The team behind the hit BBC Three mockumentary will discuss their creative process and the evolution of the show from YouTube to BAFTA-winning comedy.
Allan ‘Seapa’ Mustafa, writer and actor (MC Grindah)
Steve Stamp, writer and actor (DJ Steves)
Asim Chaudhry, actor (Chabuddy G)
Hugo Chegwin, actor (DJ Beats)
Jon Petrie (Producer)
Ash Atalla (Producer)
Jack Clough (Director)
Thursday, 9 November 2017 – 9:00am
195 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EU
Richard Watsham, Director of Commissioning and Hilary Rosen, Deputy Director of Commissioning share their vision for Britain’s biggest multichannel broadcaster. Chaired by Benji Wilson.
UKTV is investing heavily in original productions, with more original hours scheduled for 2018 than at any point in its 25 year history. With its eleven brands, it covers a wide range of genres and has broadened out into sports and gameshows, alongside original scripted comedies and lifestyle. Watsham has recently identified factual as a potential growth area for entertainment channel Dave in a bid to reach younger audiences. Watsham and Rosen will discuss current opportunities for producers across the channels and provide insight into UKTV’s plans for the future.
Richard Watsham joined UKTV in 2011 as Senior Commissioning Editor and was promoted to Director of Commissioning in 2014. Hilary Rosen joined UKTV in 2013 as a Commissioning Editor and is now Deputy Director of Commissioning. Commissioning credits include BAFTA-nominated Taskmaster, International Emmy award winner Hoff the Record, Dynamo: Magician Impossible, John Bishop: In Conversation With…,Unspun with Matt Forde, The Davina Hour, Zapped, Monty Python Live and Crackanory.
If you decide to base a TV show around time travel, it immediately causes problems in terms of plotting. Travelling forward in time isn’t a problem, but travelling or sending information backwards through time potentially results in effect preceding cause. Small wonder that scientists argue that either such time travel impossible or it requires the existence of ‘many universes’.
TV doesn’t have many universes, but it does have script writers who can make reverse time travel happen at the stroke of a Final Draft macro. But making their plots make sense afterwards? That’s trickier.
Take Lifeline, which is YouTube Red’s time travel drama series very, very loosely based on the Robert Heinlein short story Life-Line. The premise of it sounds reasonable enough at first. The idea is that there’s a life assurance company called Lifeline that knows when its clients are going to die so sends in agents to prevent those deaths. Which is nice, obviously, but how exactly does the company know the times of death so accurately?
Ah. Glad you asked. You see, all their clients get an implant in their arms that broadcasts their vital signs back in time 33 days. As soon as those broadcasts start indicating the client is having a hard time of it, the company steps in to save the client – among whose number are Lifeline‘s exec producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He even appears in the company’s promotional video.
Now, already you’re thinking to yourself of some possible problems. If the insurance company can send itself messages from 33 days in the future, why is it even bothering with being an insurance company when it could just be winning the lottery every week?
This is the point where the script writer could issue some sticking plasters and say that that would change the future somehow before it happened and your Lotto numbers would never come up.
Except Lifeline says the future is fixed. That’s why there’s no point simply sticking the future deceased in a locked room for 33 days, for example. Fate will somehow find a way to off the unlucky person.
Hmm. So why bother trying to save anyone at all, if the future is fixed? Surely they’ll die no matter what, while you’re cashing in your Lotto tickets?
Now come the plasters. Lifeline argues that the future is fixed… until just before the point the information comes from, after which everything goes onto a new timeline. Whatever shall be shall be, que sera sera – at least for 32.99999997 days.
Doesn’t make any sense does it? That’s just meaningless. Why 33 days? Why not 5? If it’s that close, won’t the Lotto numbers or stock prices still be valid, and you don’t have to dick around with that assurance malarky any more?
Still, that’s the set-up and you’ll spend roughly 90% of the show’s half-hour run remembering that it makes no sense, which is a tad distracting.
But assuming you can if not accept then tolerate that nonsensical basis for the show, what do the writers do with it?
More nonsense, that’s what. Although it’s nonsense with a certain amount of imagination and intelligence all the same. A paradox? Yes. Welcome to time travel, newbie.
So, as well as the capacity to send messages back in time, said insurance company’s boss (Usman Ally) has the ability to send people forward in time, too. (He has other secret technologies, include a memory-wiper. What he’s doing in the life assurance industry, I couldn’t say).
Rather than letting agents lead a normal life and just getting them to show up in 33 days’ time, Lifeline actually sends them forward in time 33 days to just before the fatal problem emerges. Chief among the accident-averting agents is Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights, The Family), who also happens to be married to fellow agent Amanda Crew (Silicon Valley).
Here the show does work relatively nicely as a metaphor for busy, jetsetting couples who only get to spend a few days together each month and who are missing out on life in general. Sure, everyone points out how young you stills look, but that’s because you’ve only lived a few weeks out of the past two years, while they’ve had to live through all of it. And they do seem to have a nice time at work.
But again, wouldn’t Lifeline be worried that everyone notices its agents are all the same ages as when they were recruited? How long could you be an agent for before you had to retire? How long would you want to be?
Stop asking questions. Questions won’t make you happy.
By the end of the first episode, however, everything’s gone a bit pear-shaped, someone’s breaking the rules and some people are dead. Oh no. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have had a warning about that sooner?
Anyway, that’s your free episode. After that, you’ll have to stump up another £1.89 per episode for the remaining five episodes to see what happens.
By the end of it, as well as enduring a hefty amount of nonsense, I’d realised that I had no real interest in watching any more of it. Sure, the somewhat cheap production values nostalgically reminded me of some classic straight-to-VHS 90s movies such as Megaville. Crew is actually quite good, too, and Ally is enjoyable as the benevolent (or is he?) boss.
But Gilford is a bit nondescript. Most of the other characters have no personalities at all or are dead. The one fun thing about the first episode – Crew and Gilford’s relationship – ain’t happening any more. And all that really leaves at the end is the utterly nonsensical set-up and it’s arbitrary, nonsensical rules.
So there’s just nothing there to really make me want to see how it turns out. The first episode is free and you can watch it below, after the trailer. I wouldn’t recommend it though.
I feel sorry for some TV producers, you know. Sure, there are some that make television shows that are just bad. Often, as with Ghost Wars say, that’s down to all manner of obviously poor choices behind the scenes.
But with something like Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*, Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball, We’re The Millers, Central Intelligence)’s first TV show, you can tell that everyone’s really, really trying, there’s some real smartness to the writing, yet for some reason, nothing quite works.
As the name suggests, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* is a hyper-aware, highly meta TV show in which Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars) plays ‘Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars)’. An unnoted actor whom everyone confuses with Ryan Phillippe, he’s just landed a pilot episode on the new YouTube Red subscription service in which he tags along with LAPD detective Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black) as she investigates ‘real’ murders. Her no-nonsense cop skills combined with his insights into the LA social and acting movie scene enable them to solve crimes others can’t.
What’s the format?
So the format is slightly Castle, although with Wiley so focused on the Angry Black Woman persona she’s saddled with, there’s no romantic chemistry between her and Hansen whatsoever. But the show is far, far more It’s Garry Shandling’s Show than it is Castle.
For starters, it obviously knows it’s a television show that’s being filmed for a subscription TV series and so do all the characters, who can, of course, see the cameras and even talk to camera.
The asterisk at the end of the title has a different self-aware explanation each episode, too (eg “Though you’re probably watching this on your phone and that’s cool too”, “Though you’re probably watching this on stolen Chinese Internet and that’s cool too”).
There are constant digs at the network, whether it’s because no one’s ever heard of it, they have but are actually confusing it with RedTube or YouPorn (“It’s exactly like YouTube but it’s not free.” “Great business model”) or the fact it costs the same as Netflix but doesn’t have The Crown, Stranger Things or anything else anyone might want to watch.
There are digs at Hansen’s lack of TV success. There are digs at his cluelessness, such as when he goes for an audition in a movie version of Hamilton (“I know in the musical they’re all black actors, but the original guy was white apparently, so I guess I’m just going back to the source material”). There are cameos from other actors playing versions of themselves, with Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA) recurring as Hansen’s more successful, mean arch-rival ‘Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA)’.
But it goes deeper than that, as Hansen constantly gives Wiley notes on the nature of the show, such as the use of West Wing walk-and-talk scenes and whether she should have ‘a mouth prop’ and deliver lines in the style of the great David Caruso. Other characters can see the programme is being filmed, too, and can critique the show itself, including Hansen, such as when he’s attacked with a sword by a woman in her underwear (“I’m not sure whether this is misogynistic or empowering for women”).
And since the programme’s format is allegedly still in flux, the directorial style frequently changes, from cameraphone at one extreme to multi-camera studio comedy at the other – at the end of each episode, Hansen returns home to his ‘wife’ Aly Michalka (Hellcats, iZombie) and their children in their ‘house’, which comes complete with live studio audience – much to Wiley’s surprise, of course. ‘Neighbour’ Jon Cryer even drops by for the end scenes, too, so that studio sitcoms can be satirised (“Great cameo, Jon. If the pilot gets picked up, we could make this a regular guest spot”).
Perhaps most amusing of the regular jokes is that the Angry Captain who chews out Hansen and Wiley has a touch of the Prisoner/Callan to them – it’s a different famous black actor each time (Barry Shabaka Henley, Steve Harris, James McDaniel, Frankie Faison, Leslie David Baker, Yvette Nicole Brown and Reginald VelJohnson) but they’re always ‘Captain Jackson’.
Not much cop
Tragically, all of that is for naught, however, since when it’s not being meta and sending up LA and TV in general with accurate barbs, it’s not got anything left. For far more of its still-long 30 minute runtime, each episode is a cop drama that isn’t much cop. Most exchanges of dialogue between Hansen and Wiley involve Hansen saying something and Wiley hating/swearing at him in return without any wit whatsoever. Wiley doesn’t really get to contribute much to the show beyond being the straight woman, either.
All of which makes Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* a slog, albeit one that’s peppered with a considerable number of jewels. Is it worth it? Well the first two episodes are free, but in the UK, there is no YouTube Red subscription service, so you’ll have to buy each subsequent episode for £1.89 a shot. For eight episodes in total, six paid for, that’s nearly £12, which even with guest appearances by the likes of Kristen Bell and Joel McHale (“Who are you playing?” “Ryan Hansen” “He’s playing me?”) is a bit of an ask – certainly compared to Netflix.
So watch the freebies if you like, although don’t expect to love them, but paying for the rest is probably a bad idea.