UK TV

The Eleventh Hour: no original thought allowed

11th hour wallpaper

Every so often, a show comes along that is so derivative, so unoriginal, it becomes almost impossible to decide exactly what it’s ripping off. So it is with Eleventh Hour, a four-part series starring Patrick Stewart as a “government scientific investigator”.

Although it’s silly, that’s a pretty accurate job title, in fact. Stewart is charged by ‘The Government’ with investigating science, whether that’s Evil Scientists who try to clone human beings or Angelic Children who believe in the healing power of spring water. A pretty broad brief, given that as a physicist, he’s probably as qualified as the average PE teacher to talk about most of the medical issues Eleventh Hour focuses on, but that’s The Government for you.

Nevertheless, the countryside-patrolling Stewart is so important and vital to The Government that they’ve actually given him a bodyguard, played by Ashley Jensen. This could be a mistake, given she drinks any experimental samples Stewart takes, doesn’t bother guarding him at night, takes naps during the day in her Land Rover while he’s busy confronting angry parents, and rolls about on the floor having fights with blood-soaked potential smallpox victims. But we’re not talking police procedural here, so kooky bodyguard gets to stay and protect Stewart with her unconvincing gun work, no matter how much danger she lets Stewart get into.

With global warming and nuclear weapons research among the plots, it’s tempting for anyone versed in British television history to accuse Eleventh Hour of simply being Doomwatch reheated to a lukewarm temperature for the 21st century. But unlike Doomwatch, which literally plucked its plots from the headlines to warn society where it was going wrong, Eleventh Hour takes great pains to steer away from anything controversial. Instead of well-meaning scientists and civil servants who simply don’t think through the consequences of their actions, we get Hollywood-style moustache-twirling villains and fabricated threats that have no actual relevance to viewers. Why run the risk of complaints with an avian flu story when you can write about the risks of deranged researchers trying to cross-breed smallpox with other viruses? Lot of that happening, is there? Is that really something which we have to lobby Parliament to prevent? Thought not.

Equally, any resemblance to actual science depicted in the programme is purely accidental. When Stewart the physicist starts dipping pH paper in water as his sole test for contamination, anyone with even a GCSE in Combined Science knows we’re in the realm of science fiction rather than looking at a serious study of the potential dangers inherent to modern science.

Instead, to find the true inspiration for Eleventh Hour, we need to look at the show’s creator, Stephen Gallagher. While he’s best known for his equally irrelevant 1991 serial Chimera, Gallagher started out as a script-writer for Doctor Who. A pseudo-science spouting older man, always wandering into trouble with his naïve female sidekick? Ring any bells?

Just as Doctor Who is essentially an adventure show that uses aliens and technology as the MacGuffins that create and advance the plots, it would be wrong to think of Eleventh Hour as anything other than a thriller that uses ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ as an excuse for a jolly run round. However, while a good thriller, such as State of Play or Edge of Darkness, can leave you thinking about the issues and the characters long after it has finished, Eleventh Hour is nothing like a good thriller.

Stewart and Jensen do their best to inject life into their ciphers and Gallagher has an occasionally good line in humorous but predictable dialogue. But the show has next to no grounding in reality; the plots have more holes than a colander; the direction leaps from shot to shot without giving you any real idea of what’s happening; and when the usually incoherent plot explanation finally arrives, you’ll wonder what the five other impossible things you’ll be asked to believe before breakfast are.

Rather than provide warnings about the dangers of science, Eleventh Hour provides warnings about the dangers of not having a clear, original idea for your programme before you start filming it. With ratings of 3.8 million and Stewart’s schedule full for the foreseeable future, further instalments of the show look unlikely. But with no real raison d’être other than filling an hour and a half in the mid-week schedules, it won’t be a great loss to television.

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New Baywatch movie in the works. Boy does it sound good.

How about this concept for a new Baywatch movie that’s (allegedly) in the works?

‘Baywatch’ creator David Hasselhoff has revealed the new film will include crime-fighting lifeguards. He said: “It will be set in different locations around the world. There will be lifeguards who are also sent on crime-busting sprees.”

That’s clearly what any sane government would do, faced with increasing crime in society: hire more lifeguards.

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Film Four to go free

No mention of when it’s going to happen, but the Media Guardian is reporting that Film Four is finally to do the sensible thing and become a free-to-view channel. Given its tiny subscriber base, the news isn’t wholly surprising.

Film Four is a channel that in theory, is great. Yet it never was in practice. I, for one, should have been one of its obvious targets, but frankly, I could never justify the cost, given that whenever I looked at its listings, there was never anything on I wanted to watch. There should have been, but there wasn’t.

I might have been happy with it as pay-per-view so that I could watch the occasional movie of interest as it floated by, but free sounds even better. I hope the move is as much a success as the shift of E4’s sales model was.

UPDATE: Broadcast Now says Film Four will be free to view in July.

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Basic Instinct 2: a downmarket version of Basic Instinct is actually possible!

In case you haven’t yet seen the ‘leaked’ footage of Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, I envy you. Would that I could go back to those heady, innocent days. You can view it over on Rope of Silicon (hmmm…) if you want, but I warn you:

  1. It’s very, very bad
  2. It’s so very, very bad, you’ll be pining for the high quality writing that Joe Eszterhas brought to the original
  3. You’ll wonder what the hell David Morrissey was thinking. Okay, you probably won’t. It’s quite clear what he was thinking. But will you be able to take him seriously again? Could you take Michael Douglas seriously once you’d seen him in that v-neck down the night club? No. You couldn’t.

But you’re a grown adult, I take it, so if you want to make that choice, it’s up to you. But you won’t be able to go back. Oh no.

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