John Walker's Electronic House

TV Update

by on Oct.31, 2006, under The Rest

By unpopular demand.

Shows that haven’t survived, or survived my interest:

I feel like the world has been hypnotised. What the HELL is going on with the gushing reviews of this miserably unfunny mess? Tina Fey’s writing is almost as awful has her gurning acting, while Alec Baldwin farts out the most abysmal gibberish with far too much pride. It’s dire bilge, and will probably outlive Studio 60 thus bringing about the end of the world at my hand.

The Class – Tried two, but don’t hate myself enough to endure another. I think it’s important for a sitcom to contain at least one joke.

Kidnapped – I feel bad for this, but as soon as I found out it wasn’t going to carry on after the first 13 episodes, I lost interest. It was only moderately good to begin with, and now it will be all rushed. It might be worth looking at once it’s all out there.

Shark – I’m really surprised by this one, but all my worst fears came true of what should have been a really fun show. As I said originally, “I can see it working if they don’t overplay the teenage daughter crap.” Guess what. With the Who Cares Plot of the Year, with his daughter’s cheating at an essay, running to at least three episodes, following the achingly stupid story of Stark’s blackmailing a driving examiner to pass her, I was done. If people tell me it becomes super-fun House-alike entertainment, I’ll check it out on DVD.

Smith – About a minute after I declared I wouldn’t bother with it again, the network cancelled it and took it off air immediately. That’s the kind of influence I wield.

Oh good grief. I knew RTD was a bad writer, but I didn’t think he could be this hideous. Imagine the worst episodes of Doctor Who from his hand, and then divide it by 4000. I could barely bring myself to finish the second episode, about an alien that had to have sex with people for energy – OH GOOD GRIEF! How? How can he have sunk to that ghastly idea already? And look, they can say “fuck”! Well they’d better say it a lot then! It’s extremely unnerving to be watching what to all intents feels like the lamest of children’s television, and then hear someone bellow out “FUCK OFF!” Ooh, and boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls! Russell, you naughty old queen! It’s all so pathetic, like a naughty teenager trying to shock his bored mum. Also, if you’re working for an organisation above the government and beyond the police, er, why would you hire the STUPIDEST WOMEN IN BRITAIN to work for you? And I heard a rumour that it’s set in Cardiff. Go away Torchwood, for ever and ever and ever.

Everything else:

Battlestar Galactica – SciFi Channel
After the WHAT THE HELL moment at the end of season 2, all right-minded people could be forgiven for having at least a small glimmer of worry over where the show was heading. But push it all aside – season 3 is… it’s what science fiction television always should have been. Rather than eschewing the main motifs as with the wonderful Firefly, BSG embraces them but with the cunning notion of doing them really well. Anyone who saw episode 4 will understand as it became pure SPACE ROAR, with ships falling out the sky, rebellions, murders, angry robots, tragedy and elation. Whether the series can hold onto this now that things are slightly more under control will be interesting to see, with the valid fear bubbling that it might go where season 2 found itself, and slip into the generic. I’ve high hopes that it will not, as right now this is one of the best things on television.

Bones – Fox
I’ve only just caught onto Bones, catching up with season 1 and now waiting for season 2 to come back after its break. I love this silly show so much, with a fantastic cast making what might otherwise be a mediocre murder mystery show into something completely engrossing and delightful.

Dexter – HBO
I didn’t cover this programme before, but along with BSG, Studio 60 and Heroes, this is in the Must Watch list. Based on a series of novels, it’s the story of a blood spatter forensic specialist working for the police, who also happens to be a sociopathic serial killer. Episodes consist of the ongoing case against the ‘Ice Truck Killer’ – a murderer who removes all the blood from his victims and then carefully chops them up into sections and lays them out in specific patterns – and Dexter’s vigilante murders of those he deems to be evil. There are flashbacks to various points in his childhood as his adopted father, who recognises his son’s inherent drive to kill, trains him to take control of the urges and put them to what he deems good use. These illustrate the nature of Dexter today, while his cold narration explains his confusion at a world driven by emotions while he has none of his own. It’s beautifully shot, compellingly performed, and causes all sorts of conflict over the fact that you’re empathising with the emotionless murderer.

Drawn Together – Comedy Central
Take all the offensiveness of every episode of Family Guy ever and put it into 22 minutes. I adore Drawn Together, despite watching it with my fingers over my eyes and my jaw hanging open in horror. Eight cartoon characters in a house with a million cameras, an then the most astonishingly inappropriate jokes, references and murders. It shows no sign of running out of ideas in its third season, only more shocking. Hooray for rudeness!

Help Me Help You – ABC
Perhaps I had stupidly high hopes for this one based on the pilot. I’m still enjoying it very much, but really wish it would stick with its own formula, and stop deviating off into the tiresome world of Danson’s ex-wife. When they follow the week’s events of one of the therapy group it’s magnificent. When it’s Danson hiding in closets with mattresses, or fighting over a barbeque, it’s every sitcom ever.

Heroes – NBC
It’s great being right. Yes, the pilot had some problems, and without doubt something went incredibly, horribly wrong with the continuity into the second episode, but wow, Heroes is bloody excellent. Clearly the pilot was hacked to death by NBC so deeply stupidly that rather important events were somewhat missed out. Like, how did the artist get his hand put back on? And, how did the kid suddenly get back after stealing the wallet and running away? But forget all that because from there onwards it’s flipping excellent. And thankfully, there are enough people agreeing to hopefully give the show a full run. Everyone’s fallen in love with Hiro, as they well should, but what makes Heroes stand out is that every character is interesting enough to care about. While so many mysteries remain, Heroes remembers to deliver enough answers every week. Plus there’s flying and people stopping time and you know – superhero stuff!

How I Met Your Mother – NBC
Season 2 continues where the first left off, in terms of story and quality. What’s most impressed me about the second run is that it hasn’t lazily relied on the conceit of the first, will-they-won’t-theying Ted and Robyn. While we know they ultimately won’t, right now they just are, and it’s not being messed with. And further, the other major relationship is being left in its broken state, with the episodes generating interesting and funny stories based simply on the characters within. Barney’s continued deviance is still celebrated in a way I’ve never seen a sitcom try, and last week’s episode had more penis jokes than anyone could hope for. But most of all, it’s a sitcom about nice people having a good time, which is oddly unusual and well worth enjoying.

Jericho – NBC
Oh dear, what a silly programme. That I can’t stop watching. I can’t work out what’s wrong with me, because it really is rubbish. One recent episode featured the library catching fire, delivered as if no programme had ever featured a building catching fire before. A building? On fire?! What will they do?! The following episode introduced the intriguing notion of some corn needing to be harvested. But somehow I stick with it. I guess I’m being suckered in by wanting to know what’s going on with the nuclear war, how serious is it, and who exactly are the two mystery men and what do they know? I’m rubbish, but then so’s Jericho. We make a good pair.

My Name Is Earl – NBC
It’s great to report that season 2 is still superb, the episodes wonderfully constructed, playing with time lines and maintaining the fairytale world of Earl’s small town. Definitely the best episode so far has been about the bearded lady and her fellow freaks, but the “I won’t jump for Joy” joke comes a close second.

Runaway – CW
This show has one last chance. It’s going to have to feature that explosion I talked about before very soon, because so far all the big events have been about anticlimax. And if I have to see one more spelling contest I’m done. Come on Runaway – blow shit up.

Six Degrees – ABC
I’ve tried to justify why I like this show so much, but I can’t find the words. It’s something about the combination of the very ordinary, with the background rumblings of intrigue. As the episodes progress, more links appear between the six main protagonists, although most remain completely unaware. Certainly a lot is to do with the strength of the performances (especially Campbell Scott’s artist Steven), and the honesty of the relationships. What’s surprised me most are the mistakes it hasn’t made. It didn’t drag out the cheating husband story for the entire damn season, but rather had him rumbled very early on. It didn’t keep Mae’s background a meaningless mystery, but instead presented it pleasingly soon, while still keeping the contents of the box a secret. It seems to revel in taking dramatic cliches, and then making a good job of them. I think, perhaps, I’ve found my regular relationship drama that I enjoy, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – NBC
Oh, precious Studio 60, will you survive? I’m guessing not. The negative criticism of this show bemuses me, but I think is captured in that frustrated utterance, “Smart as a pejorative.” While Studio 60 has, very sadly, lived up to the main criticism levelled at it – the sketches just aren’t funny – there’s so much more happening here that it makes this a weak stick to beat it with. However, that doesn’t mean it can be ignored. Sorkin’s asking us to believe that this is the recovery of satirical comedy on network TV, and yet only shows us glimpses of some really crappy sketches. Obviously nothing would be good enough to match the hype, but at least something that’s funny would be helpful. And showing endless shots of the director laughing at the laugh-free scenes isn’t helping. My other concern is the dip into predictability that’s occured of late. The first few episodes were wondrous beyond words, my mouth agape as lines I could never have dreamed of cascaded from the characters. In the last couple of episodes, I’ve been mouthing the script along with them. I still love it very much, and still believe it could be the best programme ever. But Sorkin, hire some comedy writers – use McKinney properly, and get Odenkirk on board. Fix the hole so it stops leaking, because otherwise we’ll never see the Christmas episode.

14 Comments for this entry

  • Log

    Could you write 10,000 words on why Torchwood is shit, please? I loved reading my half-formed thoughts made flesh.

  • Grill

    Dexter is bloody great. But being a semi-sociopath myself, I would say that.

  • mathew

    If Bob Odenkirk worked on Studio 60 then I might even watch it.

    But I remember he worked on Saturday Night Live and pretty much hated it so I doubt he would.

    Also, I’m really looking forward to “Let’s Go To Prison!” (the film) Bob Odenkirk directed! Will Arnett starring!

    Can it get any better?

  • Steve W

    I think I can pretty much agree with most of that. Though I’m not feeling the 30 Rock hate; it was exceedingly ok to my mind, not worth even writing more than thirty words about. Tina Fey comes across as a poor man’s Mary-Louise Parker.

    If there’s a better show on television right now than Galactica I’m not watching it. Studio 60 is still excellent, apart from the aforementioned sketches, and Sorkin needs to credit his audience with a little more intelligence now and again. It seriously suffers in comparison to The West Wing.

    Dexter is great fun, my g/f’s favourite new show, with Ugly Betty a close second I suspect. Bones I’ve been a fan of since the start, though I can’t tell why. The writing is often poor (though much improved in the second series), the dialogue corny. Maybe it’s the unforced chemistry between the leads, maybe it’s my weakness for crime procedurals of any flavour. Dunno.

    Oh, and I’ll add my voice to the chorus no doubt imploring you to dip into Veronica Mars: do so. It’s better than you think.

  • Rev. S Campbell

    Bear in mind that John thinks the best episode of Doctor Who series 2, penned by RT Davies, was rubbish, ie that John is a stupid-faced idiot.

  • GamingHobo

    “Could you write 10,000 words on why Torchwood is shit, please? I loved reading my half-formed thoughts made flesh.”

    I’ll second that motion. RTD’s writing is so vain and self serving, it’s just unbearable. I don’t understand how he keeps on getting these lucrative commissions. Argh!

  • Tim E

    But even so Stuart, he’s right about Torchwood!

  • John

    And indeed that god-awful episode of Doctor Who, you wrong-brained lunatics.

  • Richard

    The best episode of Series 2 was Girl in the Fireplace. As for Torchwood, I didn’t do 10,000 words, but I threw up some thoughts on the first couple:

    I was trying to be positive. Episode 3 was a slight improvement, but not enough to care about.

  • John

    The Girl In the Fireplace was written by Moffat, hence the vast difference in quality.

  • Steve W

    Fools! Despite some dodgy science and even dodgier acting from a couple of the guest stars, The Impossible Planet was the best episode. The Girl in the Fireplace (I’m still waiting for the inevitable Bones episode with the same name) was crippled beyond repair by an appalling performance from Sophia Myles in the title role, sucking the life from any scene in which she appeared.

  • pharoahe_monchE

    you’re wrong about 30 Rock. it’s not great, but it’s not bad either. i’d rather not watch The Nine (i only managed one and a half episodes, it’s a mess), Six Degrees (ok, Campbell rules, but the plot is not very engaging), Heroes (pilot is terminally boring) or Help Me Help You (it’s kind of nice, but why should we watch it?)

  • afray

    Yeah. the Madame Pompidou wasn’t great. And you could see the twist coming, but it was still a decent episode.

    Torchwood, however… I think it may just be bad enough to be good, but only in short blasts. Couldn’t take a full episode of it. For instance, last night’s BBC2 transmission featured some of the worst dialogue since the Earth-based Original-BSG-spin-off, especially in the final scene. It’s incredulous how bad the whole show is.

  • seb

    torchwood is great ,is there naything else half decent to watch on a sunday eh