UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – The Christmas Invasion

The Christmas Invasion
Did everyone watch the Christmas episode of Doctor Who? I know 9.4 million of you did, so fess up. What did you think? I actually thought it was rather good. A couple of embarrassing moments at the beginning, but other than that, I really enjoyed it.

Heresy though it seems to be these days, I didn’t like the first season of the new Whos. Christopher Eccleston was good at the intense and miserable stuff (QFS!) but couldn’t pull off the lighter stuff at all. He clearly thought it was all beneath him: certainly if you caught any of the Doctor Who Confidentials (what can I say? I’m a sucker for a behind-the-scenes documentary. I even listen to the audio commentaries on DVDs, sitting through all three of the Se7en voice-overs), you’ll recall him saying “he didn’t need to get out his Stanislavsky” for the role.

Most of the scripts were equally toe-curling and there was more than a hint of “Oh my God! They’ve given us a budget but we don’t know what we’re doing! Help! Help!” in the earlier episodes. Given that the exec producer, Russell T Davies, is more than capable of writing drama for children that’s also suitable for adults – as anyone who watched Dark Season or Century Falls in the early 90s can attest – it’s a surprise that he went with fart jokes, belching dustbins and slapstick as a way to bring the kids in. Still, what do I know? Look what the ratings were.

Anyway, as a result of all this childishness, I never bothered to make a date for most of the episodes.

‘The Christmas Invasion’, however, is probably the first of the new Whos that I would want to watch again. Everything worked. David Tennant, with toned-down London accent, was very good, maybe needing a little more gravitas at times, but excellent for the most part. The script was good, with no fart gags and no tiresome deus ex Piper at the end: the Doctor actually earned his victories this time round. There was also a darker edge to it that hinted at a more adult tone for the show.

The trailer at the end of the episode has made me eager for more, which is something I wasn’t expecting. Curses. I really don’t want to be a Doctor Who fan. Don’t do this to me!

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Review: OFI Sunday – Chris Evans’ idea is back

Wow. Chris Evans has resurrected his idea again. How many times are TV commissioners going to give him money for it? He used it with TFI Friday on Channel 4. Then there was that thing on Five with Chris Moyles and Christian O’Connell. Now it’s back again as OFI Sunday on ITV1 – yes, he’s even recycling letters now.

I watched half an hour of it. That was 15 minutes more than I wanted to, but Sarah wanted to give it a chance. It was truly awful. It was TFI, but stupider, less funny and without any redeemable qualities that I could see. Future episodes will at least be redeemed by not containing cringingly painful interviews with Billie Piper, but that’s probably going to be the only thing in their favour.

OFI Sunday should cement ITV’s reputation as the originator of awful television, anyway, but I can’t see it lasting more than a few weeks, given ITV’s typical ruthlessness with failing shows.

Don’t watch it, whatever you do.

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Review: CSI: Miami/CSI: New York crossover

It’s been CSI sweeps week in the US and we’ve been treated (?) to a Miami/NY crossover double-bill. I was both impressed and disappointed.

CSI: Miami was entirely predictable: all gloss, no logic, David Caruso strutting around like he owns the place, giving everyone else about three seconds of screen time. You’d have thought, given Republican-man’s perfect on-screen manners, he’d have let guest-star Gary Sinise get more than five minutes of screen time. But ‘Mac’ Taylor gets very little to do, most of it badly written, generic and designed to turn him into David Caruso’s sidekick for the episode. Other than Caruso, he only got to interact with Emily Proctor, making this a wasted opportunity.

CSI: NY was a different story though. This harked back to the early episodes of the show and even to the original CSI: Miami episode that acted as its pilot. It was gritty, bleak and once more, New York was grey and rain-swept. The stylings of Se7en were back and the show was the better for it. It’s been so dull of late, I didn’t even watch the last episode.

In contrast to the churlishness of Miami, NY was generous with the time and importance it gave its guest star, almost to the extent of excluding the regulars. Once again, Caruso was centre-stage with Stella and the others support to the Horatio Caine ego. Despite this, Caruso managed to fit into CSI: NY well, reminding you just how good he used to be in NYPD: Blue. It’s something the Miami producers have realised for some time: they’ve made sure that Caruso looks like his NYPD: Blue character in all the flashbacks to New York this year – quite an achievement after all this time – so that we get the hint that maybe Caine and John Kelly are one and the same.

Evil baddie of the the two-parter was Henry Darius. Serial killers may be so 1990s and exceedingly rare in real life, but they’ll always be good in TV shows when you need a ratings-winning body count. It was an excellent performance by James Badge Dale (who was the squeaky clean Chase in 24), although his motivation – I’m going to kill everyone because my dad wouldn’t admit to being my father – was somewhat short of the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM IV.

I’ll tune into both next week, just to see if Miami gets any better and NY gets any worse.