UK TV

Review: A for Andromeda (UK: BBC Four)

Wow. I know A for Andromeda was on a week ago, but I’ve only just got round to watching it. To rephrase a famous quote from 2001/2010: “My God. It’s full of arse.”

I can’t believe how mind-numbingly dull it was. Seriously, how do you compress six episodes of an old serial down into an hour and a half and still produce something so unbelievably tedious?

There was a good plot in there, trying to get out. I could see it. It had some nice moments and occasional touches of atmosphere. There were even some good actors. But direction and script? Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Fair enough that the original wasn’t much cop, but it still had some interesting ideas in there. With a bit of nurturing we could have something really worthwhile. But we didn’t.

So, it looks like this might be the last of the BBC4 “classic” remakes, then. So much for The Road: I was really hoping they could redo that, given it’s been wiped from the archives and it’s got one of Nigel Kneale’s finest scripts behind it. But on this performance, I’m guessing we won’t be seeing much more in a similar line from BBC4, especially with FictionLab given the shutdown orders.

Can’t believe that’s an hour and a half of my life wasted, as well as my childish enthusiasm totally dashed. There is no Santa Claus, after all.

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Review: The Adventurer

The Adventurer – The Complete Series

I’ve been “radio silent” for the last few days. Judging from the fact I used the phrase “radio silent”, you might have thought I’ve been enjoying myself watching some gung-ho escapism like The Unit. You’d have been wrong. I’ve been watching the four DVD set of The Adventurer, prior to its release on Monday.

I’m not exactly sure what I did to deserve that particular fate. Like Earl in My Name is Earl, clearly I’m balancing out some particularly evil act in a former life – I’m hoping it was in a former life, because otherwise there’s an act of genocide from my 20s I’ve repressed and you’d don’t want to be bottling that kind of thing up.

Anyway, 26 half-hour episodes of quite some of the worst early 70s television later and I’m ready to rejoin the living again. You can read my review after the break, if you want. I’m going to be out and about most of next week, so I probably won’t be blogging much, but you never know.

Continue reading “Review: The Adventurer”

US TV

Hits and misses of the new US sitcoms coming your way

Julia Louis-Dreyfus



The New Adventures of Old Christine: A definite miss. Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a just-divorced mum who still has a great relationship with her ex-. Ex-husband takes up with a new younger girlfriend, also called Christine, which makes Louis-Dreyfus the Old Christine – hence the title.

I think I laughed only about four times and they were more kind of nose snorts than belly laughs (attractive, huh?). Has one of those annoying precocious kids so beloved by US sitcoms, but most of the snorts came care of his adventures at his new private school (“Where are all the black kids?”), so that can be forgiven. Louis-Dreyfus is good, managing to avoid most of the possible Elaine mannerisms she could have thrown out, but the rest of the cast is insipid. Not exactly worth even half an hour of your time.

The Loop

The Loop: I reviewed this way back in August when it was still a pilot. It’s been retooled, although most of the good stuff – such as the Generation X-style margin notes – is still there. I won’t bother with the plot much, other than to say it’s about a junior exec at a Chicago-based airline firm who has to go through the various twists life and his job throw at him. The life stuff isn’t that amusing, although it has its moments, but the work stuff is on a par with the US version of The Office without the cringe factor. Amusing and should please anyone who’s ever hated their job, so I’m hoping it’s going to be on the hits side.

Teachers

I’ll let you know what I think of the NBC version of Teachers when it starts on the 28th. It’s based on the Channel 4 series, but has been smacked into standard NBC sitcom shape, albeit with the strange inclusion of Sarah Alexander from Coupling as a slightly priggish optimist who thinks she can make a difference in kids’ lives. It’s had bad reviews, so suspect a demise as swift as NBC’s version of Coupling.

For those of you still interested (beggaring the question “Why?”), Joey should be back next month as well. With two of the stars already signed up to appear in other shows next season and abysmally poor ratings when it briefly returned after the Olympics, the writing’s pretty much on the wall for Joey, I’m afraid guys.

US TV

Review: The Unit 1×1 – How cool is Dennis Haysbert?

Dennis Haybert: the coolest man alive

Dennis Haysbert: you know him right? He’s been around for ages. I first saw him in Suture, in which he played the absolutely identical twin brother of a white guy – a white guy who didn’t have an eye-patch like him. But he was also the getaway driver in Heat, was the government guy in Now and Again, and is best known as ex-President Palmer in 24 – Palmer being the only man in the world Jack “Harder than Chuck Norris” Bauer respects. He’s a cool guy, basically. But how cool?

I’ll tell you how cool he is. He now has his own show, one specially written for him by David Mamet.

Yes. David Mamet, the manliest of modern American playwrights. If David Mamet had one tenth the testosterone level of his scripts combined, he’d be able to knock out a charging bull with his bare hands. He’s that manly.

But The Unit, as Haysbert’s new show is called, is even manlier than David Mamet channelling the spirit of Ernest Hemingway in a Living TV seance. For starters, it’s based on Inside Delta Force, a book written by the founder of America’s answer to the SAS, Eric Haney. For no doubt a whole host of legal reasons, The Unit isn’t actually about Delta Force, but a thinly veiled version of Delta Force that goes undercover in Afghanistan one day and then on their day off foil hijackings of commercial jets. If ‘The Unit’ could talk, it would have to kill you afterwards.

The show is both good and awful. When dealing with the aforementioned hijacking, it’s very tense and impressive. Blink too many times and the spell that makes you think Scott Foley (Elliott’s ex-boyfriend in Scrubs) is capable of speaking Arabic and knifing people in the throat will wear off, but as tales of daring-do go it’s a lot closer to reality, I suspect, that the fabulous wonderland that is 24. It certainly makes Ross Kemp and Ultimate Force look like a bunch of Nancies.

It also manages to deal with the personal lives of the soldiers in a reasonably uninsulting way, while simultaneously recycling every cliché in the book. We get to meet all the Unit’s wives, who are a mix of the long-suffering, the cheating and the Independent Woman Who Wants Her Husband To Be More Emotionally Involved In the Family And Won’t Be Treated As A Second-Class Citizen By The Army. You know the type.

But there’s simply so much manliness going around, there’s a surplus that can be ladelled out to the wives as well. You could talk about The Unit if you wanted to, but then one of the wives would have to kill you.

Where it falls down quite drastically is when dealing with non-US affairs. Have a look at this picture of Haysbert and one of his comrades undercover in Afghanistan:

Undercover in Afghanistan. Really

Now if you were Afghanistani and you saw these guys in your local pub, would you, even for one second, think they weren’t Americans? No, neither would I. It’s not a fatal flaw – show me one TV series that properly manages to pull off International (don’t even think of saying Alias) – but it’s still more laughable than The West Wing‘s attempts (although not as insulting as Commander in Chief‘s).

If The Unit can confine itself to domestic US operations and maintain the same level of quality as Mamet’s opening episode, it’s going to be worth watching. However, I foresee a certain amount of jingoism in the near future that it’ll find hard to avoid. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for it.

But there’ll be one thing The Unit proves: you shouldn’t mess with Haysbert.