European TV

Why I don’t watch Greek TV

So obviously many of this ‘ere blog’s readers – well, perhaps one or two – will be wondering exactly what shows I include on this blog and review, and which ones I don’t. Basically, I look at scripted shows (that is, comedies and dramas) from around the world that catch my attention and I can get to easily.

However, my time being limited and the world quite big, I can’t watch everything. More to the point, neither can you guys, which is probably why you’re here anyway, hoping that’ll I winnow out the rubbish and find the good stuff for y’all.

Now, there’s not much point my reviewing UK shows, beyond one or two. You – and I’m assuming most of my readers are from the UK (although, actually, it’s about a third UK, a third US and a third everyone else) – can find those for yourselves, either by looking through the EPG or looking at all the other excellent web sites out there.

I do get some offers of previews from the BBC and Channel 4. In fact, I get an email every night at 11.30pm from the BBC to let me know there’s TV on its preview site that I might want to watch:

BBC Previews

Helpful, hey? They never tell me exactly what it is that I might want to watch, only that it’s there. So I have to go hunting through their web site and then, if I actually find the new show, I have to ring the number of the PR person in charge of that show to get permission to view it.

Which not only is a pain in the arse but means I have to find a computer to sit in front of for 30 minutes to an hour and not do anything else. The short, end result is that I don’t bother.

Channel 4 send me emails, too, but unfortunately, it’s almost always for shows that aren’t scripted or are complete rubbish.

Overall, then, that’s why, with a few exceptions, I don’t really bother discussing UK TV.

So instead, I usually focus on English-language TV from the rest of the world – in particular, US, Canadian and Australian/New Zealand TV. In part, that’s because I speak the language; in part, it’s because it’s relatively easy for me to get this content and the previews people in the US that I’m in touch with actually have a sensible preview system, too; and in part, it’s because there’s a good old chance it’ll end up on UK TV and that you readers will be able to watch it at some point in the future.

The last part is important. There’s no point to my reviewing a brilliant show that’s airing on South African TV if there’s no chance you’ll ever be able to watch it. That’s a waste of my time and will stop me from watching and reviewing something else that more than two of you might actually be able to watch some day.

If we look at the countries from which the UK does import TV, we can see that I have to restrict myself, since between BBCs 1-4, Channel 4, More4, Channel 5, and Sky Arts 1 and 2, that list is pretty short: Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia, Iceland, Israel, Ireland, Italy and Spain. You occasionally get a few stragglers from elsewhere – the Africa Channel, for example, imports from Zambia and the like, and there’s bound to be some Japanese, Indian and Chinese shows I’m missing up in the nosebleeds of the EPG, too.

But there’s no guarantee that it’ll end up on UK TV screens and, since they’re in languages other than English, subtitles are usually important. I’d love to review Swedish TV more often. But I don’t speak Swedish and there aren’t subtitles. Oh well.

Now I do speak French pretty well and German reasonably well – in fact, I used to do the occasional bit of translation work – but French and German TV are pretty dreadful normally and Mr Thierry Attard is far better equipped and placed to cover them anyway. You want to know about TF1, you mentalist – go read his blog. If it arrives on UK or US TV, I’ll do my best to cover it, but I’m not going to put myself to any great effort, particularly in advance because – and to hark back to a previous point – still not much French and German TV ends up on UK TV.

Engrenages and Braquo are basically the good shows on French TV, bar a couple of strange Agatha Christie adaptations that replace Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot with some home-made French detectives. German has plenty of wacky fun on it, but we never get to see that: we get to see stuff set during the First and Second World War and that’s it. Because it’s still the case, unfortunately, that in the UK, if we hear ‘Germany’, we think ‘World War’, despite the fact WW2 finished 70 years ago. The last German show of any note that wasn’t about a war that I can remember airing on British TV was Gambit, back in 1987.

Which in a round-about way leads me finally to the title of this post: why I don’t watch Greek TV. Now, although the main UK channels don’t really offer much by way of opportunity to watch Greek TV, it is surprisingly easy to watch a whole slew of Greek-language channels in the UK, not just from Greece-proper, but also from Cyprus and Crete, on iOS devices using two free apps: Vision TV Net, which also offers other foreign language channels; and Greek TV Live.

And I do speak Greek reasonably well. So although there’s the obvious issue of a lack of English subtitles, you’d think that I’d be a least mentioning it from time to time, such as with ΑΝΤ1’s forthcoming Lost-alike Εκδρομή (aka The Excursion), which doesn’t look too bad.

Εκδρομή ΑΝΤ1

The trouble is that Greek TV is largely repeats, US shows dubbed or subtitled in English, discussion and game shows, and adaptations of other countries’ TV.

To give you the best example I can think of of why I don’t cover Greek TV more/at all on this blog, I’ll leave you with this image of what was on RikSat during prime time last night.

Rik Sat

Yes, that is a repeat of a 1990s TV drama that sees a man spanking a teenage girl while an old, stereotypically dressed Greek woman cooks in the kitchen. But no, I have no idea why there is a motorbike parked in their front room.

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The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 4

Third-episode verdict: Transporter: The Series (RTL/M6/HBO Canada/Cinemax)

In Canada: Fridays, 9pm ET/MT, HBO Canada/Super Ecran 1
In the US: Acquired to air on HBO Cinemax, possibly in June
In Germany: Already aired on RTL
In France: Already aired on M6

Time for a third-episode verdict on Transporter: The Series, an international co-production that tries to replace the movie’s growling, car-driving Hong-Kong style martial artist who dare not get attached (Jason Statham) with a purring, karate-loving car-driver who loves a shag (Chris Vance).

Of course, what constitutes the first three episodes of the series is a good question, since the episode that aired last week – The General’s Daughter – was actually the first episode broadcast in France and Germany, and so is also a pilot of sorts.

Most of the same criticisms still hold for episode three/one that were true of episodes one and two. It’s a stupid show that doesn’t shoot action well and thinks that women are only useful if topless, naked or sat in front of a computer doing menial tasks. However, compared to the first two episodes, the action seems a lot more together. The fight’s are a tad more Hong Kong in terms of the use of props but, with a German stunt team, of course you’re going to get a lot more karate than kung fu. Pleasingly, Vance also seems to have got the hang of this fighting thing and is looking quite effective in the fights. And the car chases are now only sped up minimally, rather than virtually all the way through.

With less of the comedic German engineer from the first episode and more of the French police inspector from the movies, you’d have thought that would have meant the show was getting better, but the combination of the elevated misogyny and reduced characterisation, plus the fact that even when sped up, the third episode’s car chases weren’t in any way exciting – spoiler: one actually ended with Vance’s car trundling to a halt on a grassy verge after racing along driverless at 100mph – meant that it was actually quite dreadful TV viewing.

Nevertheless, despite being largely horrific, the halfway decent fight scenes are a least a reasonable enough excuse to watch. If you can sit through the rest of it, you’ll at least get that much each week. But if that’s enough, still well clear of this.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob’s prediction: Will last a season but no more

French TV

Review: Transporter 1×1-1×2 (RTL/M6/HBO Canada/Cinemax)

Transporter The Series

In Canada: Fridays, 9pm ET/MT, HBO Canada/Super Ecran 1
In the US: Acquired to air on HBO Cinemax, possibly in June
In Germany: Already aired on RTL
In France: Already aired on M6

Co-productions are the future. Allegedly. Ask the BBC, which regularly works with BBC America and also HBO on productions. Sky also does plenty of international shows in collaboration with US, Spanish, French and South African broadcasters.

The idea is that you unlock more money that can result in either better shows or shows that couldn’t otherwise have been made at all, or you can have overseas filming and exotic locations courtesy of the people who know the areas best and can give you firm advice on the cultures that can be incorporated into the scripts.

Sometimes this works: the Swedish/Danish The Bridge was excellent; Sky’s Falcón and Strike Back are good; Canada’s Flashpoint, originally produced in association with CBS, wasn’t half bad, despite its desperate attempts to appear as un-Canadian as possible.

Sometimes it doesn’t: BBC/Cinemax’s Hunted was dreadful.

Quite often, the problem is in making a programme that will appeal to audiences in all the countries involved. Anyone can import another country’s television, quite cheaply, but once big production money is involved, you often want actors from both countries, filming in both countries, writers from both countries and so on. And of course each country’s producers and network executives will want input into the show. As a result, more or less anything interesting gets filed off by the process.

It’s basically ‘death by committee’.

In particular, there is one unholy alliance of producing countries, familiar to anyone who watched TV in the 90s, that can be pretty much be guaranteed to co-produce rubbish: Canada, France and Germany. Forget how good each individual country’s television can be – united in co-production they are only a force for evil.

Remember Highlander? Remember its arbitrary location changes from Canada to Paris and back each season? Remember the contractually obligated French and German actors struggling to speak English each episode? Remember the guest Englishperson in any episode shot in Paris, since they needed someone who could act in English, who was cheap and who could be there quickly?

If not, let’s pretend 20-odd years haven’t happened and tune into Transporter: The Series. It’s based on the 2002 Luc Besson French-US movie that starred Jason Statham as Frank Martin, an ex-special forces, samurai-like car driver who would drive anything you wanted, anywhere you wanted for a price and would kick the crap out of anyone who tried to stop him – provided you stuck with his supposedly rigid rules. The series sees Chris Vance (ex of Prison Break and Mental but no action background whatsoever) take over the role of Martin, who’s still working in the South of France – and Germany – but now has the help of a comedic German car engineer and an East European female boss, and is being chased by both the French and Belgian police.

Creative compromises? I don’t know what you mean. Here’s a trailer for the movie, followed by a trailer for the series itself.

Continue reading “Review: Transporter 1×1-1×2 (RTL/M6/HBO Canada/Cinemax)”