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.

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US TV

Kung Fu to be made a movie now

Kung FuThere’s hardly an old TV series that hasn’t been turned into a movie. Knight Rider‘s rights have been signed away. Miami Vice is almost here. Now Kung Fu is to be turned into a movie.

I kind of liked Kung Fu in theory. It started out well enough, but each episode moved so slowly. Plus they spent the first two seasons doing judo instead of kung fu, except for the pilot episode, which was slightly disappointing to say the least – talk about false advertising. Hence, my resistance to buying any of the DVDs.

Then, of course, there was Kung Fu – The Legend Continues, which made Ultimate Force look like a credible action show. “Look there’s David Carradine! Blimey, the budget is so low they can’t even afford the edit room time to do slow-mo. So David Carradine is just going to do everything in slow mo anyway, even if everyone else is going to go at normal speed.” Who says drugs have no effects on reaction speed?

Anyway, I’m curious to see what they do with this. Amp up the fight scenes, amp up the Eastern philosophy or both? And who will play Kwai Chang? Can they find another completely Caucasian man willing to fake a half-Chinese heritage, or will they actually do what they should have done in the first place and hire someone Asian?

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UK TV

Big Brother has already gripped me, despite my best attempts

As per usual, I vowed not to watch Big Brother this year. I’ve vowed this every year it’s been on (well from season 2 because it wasn’t that important, season 1). I’ve always ended up watching it though. Last night was no different. My wife wanted to see it, I was doing the ironing. Ta da! I watched the launch show all the way through: I fell at the first hurdle. It’s a good job I’ve never had to give up smoking with willpower like that.

It’s usually a bit fashionable to say from the outset that this year’s contestants are the worst examples of humanity since the previous year’s contestants. I’m going to buck the trend and say, actually, they weren’t that bad. So here’s my potted take on all of them:

Continue reading “Big Brother has already gripped me, despite my best attempts”