US TV

CSI finales

Continuing this year’s season finale guide, today I’m going to be looking at the final US episodes of the latest seasons of the CSI shows: CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: New York.

The finale of CSI



CSI

Despite the promised tension of the potential death of a much-loved character, the finale lacked any real kind of tension. Instead, it was business as usual as the team investigated various crimes while Character X languished on his or her death bed, flat-lining every time an advert break was due. However, the ending lacked life-and-death tension, but had an emotional tension instead that makes you wonder what direction the show will go in next year. Still the best of the CSI shows, but they really don’t know how to open or close a season well, I’ll tell you that much.

Tension: 6/10

Csimiamifinale

CSI: Miami

With the promised conclusion of the “mole” storyline, the death of two ‘regulars’ and much more promised for this episode, it comes as no surprise to learn that it was all a bit of a letdown and astonishingly stupid at the same time. That’s CSI: Miami for you. Everything’s wrapped up nicely at the end with the traditional Miami message – the legal system is stacked against the victims and if only David Caruso was in charge and allowed to kill all the bad people, the world would be fine. A foreign trip and a reunion is promised for the start of next season, so long-time viewers are going to be all a tizzy; everyone else will be vaguely bored.

Tension factor: 3/10 (irregular viewers); 5/10 (regular viewers)

Csinewyorkfinale

CSI: New York

On paper, this should have been quite exciting. But then so should the previous episode have been, in which a former favourite gets burnt alive. But it wasn’t. This suggests there’s something wrong in the whole New York set-up (maybe the direction; maybe the cast) that needs some fixing. It’s also becoming clear that what the producers and cast would really like is a show about Mac (Gary Sinise), the ex-marine, and the skills he brings to everyday New York from the army. Sinise, whose band goes around playing gigs to support the US armed forces, would clearly like that too, and the show would certainly be more interesting than the cast-off forensics plots that CSI proper didn’t want and anything involving the other ‘characters’. So quite dull as a finale. But unlike Miami and regular CSI, which both had life-threatening scenarios for regulars, this don’t cop out (ooh, what a pun) and someone is still in the poorly bed at the end. If you’re a CSI:NY fan, it’ll be a tense summer. Otherwise, you’ll find it very easy to resist its pull.

Tension factor: 1/10 (irregular viewers); 7/10 (regular viewers)

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US TV

Season finales: Alias, 24, The Unit

Today’s finales guide is going to look at the silly spy shows of US TV.

Alias finale

Alias

Pants. I missed the Rambaldi episode. Instead, the finale dealt with a whole load of silly things, as you might expect with Alias. Various character arcs get resolved, both happily and happily, but ultimately you get the feeling the last five years was all for nothing. Oh well.

Disappointment factor: 5/10.

Jack Bauer in 24

24

Not the most tense of seasons, but by no means the worst (season 3?), this year’s 24 does have the most tense finale of them all. How does Jack get out of that one? Maybe Dale or Professor Zarkov can fashion a ‘ray’ to save him. Anyway, brace yourself.

Tension factor: 10/10.

The Unit finale

The Unit

After a terribly impressive 12th episode that took virtually none of the conventional paths in the standard “bomb in the building that needs defusing” scenario, the finale proved to be a terrible piece of silliness that went for guns and ammo plus francophobia in preference to sensible plotting. The conclusion makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, either. It’s not a cliffhanger, so the tension factor’s low, but you really wish there’d been a better choice of episode to round off a good first season.

Tension factor: 4/10

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UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – 2×7 – The Idiot’s Lantern

The Idiot's Lantern

I’m supposed to be writing a white paper on the Web 2.0 conference I went to in Edinburgh last Monday. So naturally, because I am the King of Procrastination, I’m writing about Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who.

On the whole, I’d say not bad. The 50s tele stuff made me all nostalgic for a decade I never lived through, which was quite impressive. The face-sucking was done nicely.

On the other hand, the union flag/jack debate annoyed me because Rose was just plain wrong (gasp, factual inaccuracies in Doctor Who!). The plot and the denouement had a few issues that really couldn’t be fixed in post. And the general bog-standard interpretation of the 50s – great decade for wife beaters, we fought in the war for the right to be lippy, etc – began to grate. Could we avoid the moralising please?

Basically, a reasonable filler piece as has been remarked elsewhere.

The Man Without A FaceOne last thing. Writer Mark Gatiss is a long-time sci-fi fan, something you may have noticed if you watched Doctor Who Confidential after the episode. He has, for instance, played Gold in the Big Finish Sapphire and Steel audio plays. So I wonder where he got the idea for the face-sucking in The Idiot’s Lantern. I’ll give you a visual clue: here’s the baddie in the fourth Sapphire and Steel TV ‘assignment’, as they’re called. Look familiar?

He does like his homages does Gatiss.

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US TV

Season finale: Lost

Lost's big foot

Lost‘s finale was just so plain weird and wacky, it deserves its own entry in my continuing season finale guide. Worry ye not, UK viewers, I won’t spoil it for you.

Most of the second season has been dull. Sorry to say that, but it’s been dull (and, it turns out, mostly pointless). The last few episodes have reversed that with several hours of shocking carnage that have wiped out all kinds of popular characters you never thought would get the chop (assuming they don’t make miracle recoveries, hide under large objects, etc). It’s all been really rather good. The finale was some really tasting icing on the cake, though.

First off, don’t expect any answers to questions you might be having. You won’t get any. At least, you won’t get any that make any sense or that couldn’t be elaborate bluffs. Yes, you will find out what happens if you don’t keep pushing the button down the hatch, but you won’t really know why. You’ll find out why the plane crashed on the island, but again, it won’t make too much sense. Etc etc. Lots of revelations. Lots of flashbacks where you see characters’ pasts intertwining. My theory of a live-action role-playing game is starting to make more sense, too, given the number of wigs and false beards that people are starting to sport.

But it all doesn’t matter because all the new questions are even more interesting and send the show in all kinds of odd directions. I got the feeling while watching the finale that Lost was turning into 70s weirdo Bermuda Triangle show The Fantastic Journey. Look at the picture above. That’s a giant statue of a foot (we’re assuming there used to be more to it than that, but who knows). Now count the toes (click on the picture to make it bigger, if you need to). See what I mean? Weird. And there’s a whole lot more weird where that came from (this was purely incidental weird that doesn’t affect the plot in any way, BTW, so don’t think I’ve ruined anything for you).

It’s going to be a long wait for the next season, given they’re going to try to run it without re-runs (January start instead of September, next season?) and the ending is particularly gripping, so I’m giving this a high tension rating

Tension rating: 10/10

PS One of the great things about Lost incidentally, is that it uses Australian and other non-American actors. Apparently though, there are enough Australian actors in the US for them to be used to play non-Australian roles in Lost, too. I say this because the finale casts Alan Dale (Jim from Neighbours) as a posh English bloke. Odd.

PPS Am confidently expecting an article from Lucy Mangan to appear in The Guardian in about 18 weeks or so about what she’d like to see happen in the finale. At about 1600 words for a double-page spread and at the standard freelance rate for The Guardian, that would be about £350 or so that could be mine if I wrote it right now. But I’d never pitch it because it would be a complete waste of time and space for everyone including the readers. Sigh.

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US TV

Greg the Bunny: a reason to watch ITV4, amazingly

Greg The BunnyI didn’t watch Doctor Who tonight. What can I say? I was playing ‘Settlers of Catan’ – damn those Germans make good board games, plus my mother-in-law’s addicted. Never mind: I’ll watch the repeat tomorrow or something. It didn’t look too brilliant so I’m not too worried. (Potted review, incidentally, of last week’s episode, since I never got round to it: nice video, shame about the script. For those familiar with classic Who, wasn’t it essentially Patrick Troughton’s The Invasion chopped in half and far less entertaining?).

So I didn’t catch the good Doctor, but I did catch Greg the Bunny on ITV4 afterwards. ITV4’s a great channel in many ways, with a lot of quality stuff, mainly programmes from the US (of course) and British programmes from the 60s and 70s, which is roughly when we could still make decent/entertaining TV consistently.

The trouble is it has ‘ITV’ at the beginning of its name, which makes you think it’s nothing but rubbish. You really have to force yourself to watch it and constantly come up with new reasons to switch the channel from Ulster TV’s pro-celebrity basket-weaving or whatever crud you’ve found on one of the other channels; ITV4 will almost certainly be guaranteed to be showing something that should be a gadzillion times more appealing but for some reason isn’t. Judging by ITV4’s viewing figures, it’s as though we’ve collectively been given aversion therapy and now have to summon our courage to the very sticking point just to watch a couple of minutes of even the best show, for fear of getting the electric shocks again.

So here’s a good reason to watch ITV4: Greg the Bunny, which airs on Saturdays. It’s really a very funny show (well, it was: it’s been cancelled, of course), put together by some cutting-edge New York comedians and with a pretty stellar cast. It’s basically about a TV show for kids that features puppets – such as Greg the Bunny – but the twist is the puppets are all real and are generally regarded as an ethnic minority. Tonight’s show revolved around some nasty graffiti found in the gents’ that used the s-word (sock), which forced management to send everyone to sensitivity training. Here’s a choice sample of dialogue I found on the Internet after doing some snooping:

“Let’s face it, humans have been mistreating puppets for centuries. It’s nothing new. We lure them to our country with the tartar sauce, and the lollipops, and the empty promises of sparklers which I believe are yet unfulfilled…”

Sarah SilvermanAnyway, I liked it, particularly because the cast includes not just Seth Green (Austin Powers and Oz in Buffy) and Eugene Levy (American Pie) but also the delectable but ever-so-slightly scary Sarah Silverman. In case you’ve not heard the name before, she’s commonly regarded as the Next Big Thing™ in edgy US comedy (the successor to Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Andy Kaufmann, Bill Hicks – delete according to your generation).

If you’ve seen her and actually remember her, it’s probably because you watched The Aristocrats, a documentary about comedians that was in the cinema relatively recently. It’s named after a particular joke told by comedians to other comedians. The joke only has an opener and a punchline, but the comedian has to fill in the gap in between, the idea being that it’s an opportunity to show off their comedic style and gross out or offend the others. Silverman’s version of ‘The Aristocrats’ is the only one that really offended people, despite descent into racism, sexism, necrophilia, coprophilia and the like by the other stand-ups. As I said, delectable but scary.

So catch Greg, catch Sarah and see if you can boost ITV4’s ratings in treble figures. Through the magic of YouTube, here’s a clip of Greg visiting a Sci-Fi convention for you to get your teeth into as a kind of sampler for you.