Thursday, 31 May 2007


Channel 4, 30 May 07, 9.00 pm

So which did you choose to watch at 9pm? The Apprentice (BBC1) or Big Brother's live launch (CH4)? For me, the lure of Big Brother 8 proved too much, particularly as The Apprentice is repeated and BB8 is live.

Following a disastrous Celebrity Big Brother 2007, thanks to the Shilpa Shetty race row, Endemol were expected to play it safe for BB8. The new "eye logo" is a harmonious rainbow colour, for starters.

Davina McCall somehow continues to keep her job, despite constantly proving herself the most irritating woman on television. She's all staggering legs, gurning face and rictus grins. So imagine my surprise when... Davina was on pretty good form! She even looked young and sexy in a figure-hugging black dress with tight leather jacket combo! And, despite being an even-numbered Big Brother, Davina broken unofficial BB law and isn't heavily pregnant...

Her obligatory tour of the house still aroused a few frustrations, however. There's something inherently annoying about watching a woman who's just 5 months away from her 40th birthday getting excited about Mario Brothers-esque shower heads, underwater jacuzzi cameras and a transparent Diary Room chair.

The house itself did its usual transformation that always seems refreshing and luxurious on the opening night, but will have burned your retina out by week 5. Bright, colourful, vibrant and full of "oh-so-hilarious" eccentricities: a bath in the front room, an oven in the bedroom, a fish phone, a bullseye on the floor, elongated beds and the supposedly "iconic" mangle (that you never see anyone use.)

But a BB house isn't a BB house without housemates. So enter the latest mix of vaccuous bimbos, oddballs, fame-hungry bitches and perplexed oldies:

Sam & Amanda, 18, social workers. BB's first ever twin housemates. Very giggly, very silly, prone to screeching, like "hot boys" and "pink things", rate themselves 10/10 for attractiveness. Consequently, they earned the first boo's of the evening. The new Chantelle(s). To think these bimbos are social workers is staggering!

Lesley, 60, retired head hunter. Not human heads, we assume, although it can't be long before ratings demands a serial-killer is thrown into the house. Her surname is Brain too, worryingly. Lesley's the resident eccentric, a former stand-up comedian(!) and expert on Charles Dickens. She was boo'd. The new Germaine Greer.

Charley, 21, unemployed. An ex-lapdancer who loves money and doesn't know the value of it through virtue of her cousin being a Man Utd footballer. Undoubtedly attractive, but her self-proclaimed It Girl demeanour earned a cacophony of booing and chants of "GET HER OUT!" before she'd entered the house!

Tracey, 36, cleaner. The resident nutter. A pink-haired raver whose gender is only determinable by her name (and even then I wasn't 100% sure). She collects carrier bags and lightbulbs. This year's Bez.

Chanelle, 19, student bar worker. For a few seconds she seemed to be the sanest person so far, but her adoration of Victoria Beckham has clearly taken control of her mind. She's a fun Yorkshire lass who's pretencious and proud (her words). Her first words upon entering the house: "Fuck me up the bum!" Posh Spice couldn't have said it better, love...

Shabnam, 22, unemployed. A girl who loves dancing, make-up, chocolate and her i-pod, although that's no way to distinguish her from anyone else! But she likes eating, which helps. A clear Amy Whinehouse double.

Emily, 19, drama student. She refreshingly talks about intelligence and education, but spoils it by gushing over make-up, shoes and clothes (like everyone else so far). She spent £4,000 on her teeth! A Peaches Geldof lookalike who's after a "rocker boy". Exposed her own stupidity by hilariously considering indie music fresh and new!

Laura, 23, nanny. With so many drop dead gorgeous girls (beyond Lesley and Tracey), in comes Welsh girl Laura. Her friends say she's a female Peter Kay lookalike (her pals are cruel but honest). She's talkative, likes sweeping leaves off graveyards and has a habit of stealing drinks.

Nicky, 27, bank administrator. An adopted orphan from Bombay who loves electro-music and hates men (she's in luck). Her half-brother is an actor in TV show Skins and she describes herself as ballsy. Asked "do I look really miserable?" Yes. Yes, you do.

Carole, 53, unemployed health worker. Bisexual east Londoner who regularly campaigns against war. Ugly, overweight with Olive Oil hair. Defining quote: "If people want an argument, here's the fuckin' argument!" Bizarrely, she earned the evening's biggest applause, prompting bookies to make her the early favourite. I'm not sure if the cheering was in response to the braindead limpets who'd come before, or the fact her appearance marked the end of the evening.

So, if you haven't guessed, all the housemates were girls. It's the latest "opening twist" Big Brother likes to do. Apparently, a man will enter the house on Friday. Rumour has it that the girls will face weekly evictions and be replaced by men for the next month or so.

Some early thoughts:

-- Is a house full of women a good idea? I know they'll be replaced, but I'm not convinced it's going to be the "hotbed of bitchiness" the producers think. There are no boys to get jealous over, so I'm predicting a nauseating den of conversations on lipgloss and hair-platting. I'm not beingt sexist, it's just the clear impression I'm left with given the housemates' personalities.

-- Actually, as most of the girls are dumb and sexy, I think it's clear the public are being asked to vote off the worst "hangers-on". As distasteful as Lesley, Tracey and Carole seem to be physically, they have personality. Once the likes of wannabe Chanelle and freeloader Charley are kicked out and replaced with men, balance will be attained.

-- What's with the age range? Most of the house are under-25! I'm pretty sure the over-25s were well-represented in past years, so what's going on? Again, I'm not being ageist, but a good chunk of BB is just watching people talk and interact, and conversation from stupid 18-year-olds isn't going to be stimulating in any sense. The last time a group of brainless young girls got together on BB, they spent their time making racist comments!

-- Not as many "controversial" people. Tracey and Carole are the only loons you usually see going into the house. There isn's a transexual, transvestite or outrageously homosexual man in sight! Just young, attractive, stupid girls. Well, mostly.

-- As a Virgin Media customer, I'm disappointed to see Virgin using the millions they've saved from ditching Sky channels to sponsor BB8!

Overall, it was an interesting start to BB8 given the difficulties Endemol faced earlier in the year. I'm not convinced by the all-female house -- as men have proven to be more entertaining on BB. A house full of babes has its lurid appeal for now, but the faster the boys get in to shake things up, the better.

As experience has taught us, you can't really judge anything based on the Live Launch alone. It's amazing how much people lie and exaggerate themselves to get on the show, then shrink into a corner once they're safely in. As if to illustrate this, in just 1 hour "crazy Tracey" was mooching around in the background by herself, while 60-year-old Lesley muttered under her breath as visions of youthful beauty continually wafted through the doors.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

LOST 3.23 - "Through The Looking Glass" (Part 2 of 2)

27 May 2007 - Sky One, 11.00 pm
WRITERS: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof DIRECTOR: Jack Bender
CAST: Matthew Fox (Jack), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Michael Emerson (Ben), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Sam Anderson (Bernard), Blake Bashoff (Karl), Marsha Thomason (Naomi), Mira Furlan (Rousseau), Lana Parrilla (Greta), Tracy Middendorf (Bonnie), Tania Raymonde (Alex), Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert), Kate Connor (Doctor), James LeSure (Dr Hamill), L. Scott Caldwell (Rose), Brian Goodman (Pryce), Ariston Greene (Jason), Andrew Divoff (Mikhail), M.C Gainey (Tom), Julia Bowen (Sarah) & Sonya Walger (Penny Widmore)


Ben confronts Jack about their attempt to call for help, Sawyer plans to rescue the hostages on the beach with Juliet, while Charlie struggles to block the underwater station's jamming signal...

Breathtaking. That's really the only word to describe it. Lost doesn't put a foot wrong with its finale: tension, exhileration, enlightenment unpredictability, poignanacy, heartbreak and startling moments, they're all here in abundance. Anyone who ever doubted Lost should hang their heads in shame, as Through The Looking Glass proves the show has no intention of losing momentum.

Events continue immediately from part 1 and the pace never lets up. Just when you grow comfortable with the finale's intentions, Ben arrives to plant a seed of doubt in Jack's head (and yours). Is parachutist Naomi really on their side, or will contacting her boat inevitably lead to the death of everyone on the island? Who can Jack trust -- devious Ben, or mysterious Naomi?

Meanwhile, Sawyer and Juliet return to the beach to rescue Sayid, Bernard and Jin -- who were captured by the Others during their explosive assault. It's the least interesting part of the finale, atleast until Hurley arrives (in his own inimitable style) to save the day. I've always enjoyed how the writers poke fun at Hurley's size size, but never let him become the victim. A nice moment of humorous derring-do from the big man.

The most emotional scenes are to be found in the underwater station. Charlie manages to escape from gun-toting Greta and Bonnie, with the help of Desmond, despite one-eyed Mikhail's arrival. Dominic Monaghan continues his sterling work from part 1, culminating in a tearjerking moment of prophecized self-sacrifice. It's a haunting sequence that hits you with more punch than you might expect. If you never cared for Charlie, who was often extraneous to the bigger storylines, this episode will make you reconsider his part in the show's dynamic. A small part of Lost's heart dies here.

Writer-producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof even take the time to answer smaller questions littered throughout season 3. The reasoning behind Karl's treatment in the "brainwashing room" is mentioned (although the explanation seems a bit odd) and Juliet reveals why Sawyer was made to cut stones by the Others. It appears they're building a runway. For whom is a question that goes unanswered for now...

Towards the end, all the plot strands begin to converge satisfyingly, building to a conclusion that focuses on Jack's call to the outside world (good or bad idea?), Charlie receiving an incoming transmission and a late appearance by injured Locke.

But, of course, it's the "game-changer" in the denouement that most frazzles your mind. Here, we slowly realize the flashbacks of Jack's tumultous off-island life are actually flashforwards! This brave new move by the writers throws up all manner of questions and thoughts. Whose casket was Jack viewing? Who else escaped the island, beyond Kate? Why does he talk about his father as if he's alive -- isn't he supposed to be dead?

Through The Looking Glass is superb television from one of the greatest mystery shows ever produced. It's easy to get swept along by excitement, but there aren't many TV shows that are as complex, intelligent and involving. The writers have managed to pull the rug out from under their audence (again) and news that the show now has a definitive end-date can only be good news for fans fearing the greedy network would try and milk Lost beyond its natural end.

For now, it'll be a frustrating eight-month wait to see what the distress signal will usher in, but I'm already quivering with excitement. This is phenomenal storytelling from a modern classic.

PRISON BREAK 2.20 - "Panama"

28 May 2007 - Five, 10.00 pm
WRITER: Zack Estrin DIRECTOR: Vincent Misiano
CAST: Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield), Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows), William Fichtner (Agent Mahone), Sarah Wayne Callies (Dr Sara Tancredi), Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note), Amaury Nolasco (Sucre), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Reggie Lee (Bill Kim), Wade Williams (Bellick), Jason Davis (Agent Wheeler), Barbara Eve Harris (Lang), Leon Russom (Pad Man), Helena Klevorn (Dede Franklin), Kim Coates (Richard Sullins) & Cynthia Kaye McWilliams (Kacee Franklin)

Michael and Linc head to Panama without Sara, T-Bag preys on a prostitute, C-Note is persuaded to snitch on Mahone and Sucre is forced to help Bellick steal T-Bag's millions...

The final stretch begins with the brothers successfully making it to Panama, although Michael is upset Sara isn't with them and racked with guilt over all the death and upset their actions have caused. It's great to see the brothers clash and their scuffle in Panama is a the one oasis in the relative mundanity of their plot.

Far more interesting is Agent Wheeler's growing belief that Agent Mahone is a murderer and loose cannon in the FBI. This has been a slowly unfolding plot-point for ages now, carefully unspooling over time and looking set to reach a big conclusion. In related scenes, C-Note agrees to testify against Mahone's actions if he's granted freedom...

Unfortunately, Robert Knepper continues to be wasted as T-Bag. His character doesn't work in the context of the show beyond prison walls. at best you can hope for occassional perverse thrills, but Knepper's character is far less interesting than last year's psycho jailbird.

Sucre reluctantly partners Bellick, who is holding Maricruz hostage but will release her if he gets his hands on T-Bag's $5 million. It's another twist of convenience to reenergize two characters and it works well enough.

Michael's tattoo's make a return to the plot, being feverishly decrypted by Mahone to uncover the final part of his plan. As always, the sheer ridiculousness of the tattoo's is good fun -- quite why Michael needs elaborate tat's to remember the simplest facts is laughable. Complex prison schematics, sure... but a boat named after your own mother?

Overall, Panama is a decent enough episode that keeps you entertained. I'm more interested in Mahone's situation and Bill Kim's mysterious boss "Pad Man" these days, as the conspiracy against Lincoln has been stretched too long and the subplots often test credibility. But the trick Prison Break performs weekly is in making its haphazard subplots race by so skillfully that you don't register their collective silliness until after the episode ends.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


Female comedians (whatever happened to the term "comediennes"?) have it tough compared to their male counterparts. Psychologists say it's because men find funnier women threatening, while women put a lot of stock on their boyfriends having a "sense of humour". Whatever the reason, when asked to name ten funny women, most Brits will rattle off Victoria Wood, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, then begin wondering whether to include Su Pollard...

Ronni Ancona has already proved herself a talented performer alongside impressionist Alistair McGowan, whom she partnered throughout his successful Big Impression series. McGowan's busy stretching his acting muscles elsewhere these days (to limited success, incidentally) so Ancona has decided go it alone for a new series entitled Ronni Ancona & Co.

Her opening monologue wasn't a strong start, particularly as it came across more as an apology for what you were about to see. The reason there are only three episodes, joked Ancona, is because Jonathan Ross decided he wanted a new tie. But, on the evidence of the sketches that followed, I think we all know the real reason, Ronni...

Sketch comedy is a difficult beast to get right, particularly for a comedian whose real talent comes from mimicking voices, not so much writing. The sketches here rarely delivered any laughs, with only a handful of sketches eliciting a smile.

The general problem with female impressionists is that there aren't that many worthwhile targets for them these days. You can't drag up Margaret Thatcher and Cilla Black these days, can you! Ancona did a fake biography of Demi Moore's life, but can anybody really imagine Demi's voice beyond remembering it as "husky"? Ancona did a half-decent husky American voice, so it seemed to fit. The gag was that Demi's plastic surgery eventually led to her being played by a five-year-old girl, voiced by the adult Ancona. That's the level the show worked at for cutting insight and satire.

Similarly undercooked was Amy Whinehouse (just act drunken and talk with a deep voice, nobody will know any better), Kate Moss (just act semi-posh) and Nicole Kidman (generic posh Aussie). The only recognisable hit was with Jade Goody, but even then it was suspiciously like a stupider version of her Posh Spice.

Despite being entitled "and Co", there wasn't much help from a supporting cast. Most female celebrities need a male counterpart, but the only help for Ancona came from the awful Phil Cornwell as Pete Docherty. I've never liked Cornwell, as he quite clearly can only do two impressions (Mick Jagger and Michael Caine), so he just stumbled around with a silly hat as Docherty. John Sessions, another limited impressionist and insufferable prat, just did the best he could as a husband of an Elvira-like wife in a one-joke sketch.

Without decent male support and, consequently, a limited choice of celebrities (she can't drag out her Victoria Beckham without McGowan's Becks, either), Ancona turned to character acting. Yes, the show was a mix of impressions and straight-forward sketches.. but she's no Catherine Tate.

A rude airport customs girl sounds more fun than it was, a Welsh psychic cleaner was plain unfunny ("I've got the gift, see?"), a grinning showbiz correspondent character was reduced to showing photo-shopped photos of celebs with extended necks (don't ask) and a Fag Hag bored two people (the audience?) with her life-story. All painfully unfunny.

The only highlights came when Ancona used her personal life to play a teacher who snaps at her smart-arsed class, a funny jibe about modern teenaged girls dress sense using a 1940s commercial and a better-late-than-never piss-take of that awful Nicole Kidman perfume advert ("I'm a dancer!")

The overall hit rate was very low, despite Ancona's generally strong performance managing to keep a few tired sketches bubbling along. Tellingly, Ancona seems more at home doing accents/voices of strong women from yesteryear, like 1950s Hollywood starlet-types, than modern day celebrities like vacuous Coleen Mclaughlin and Jade Goody.

Not a great start and I don't see it improving. Mildly diverting if you're in the mood, but we won't be adding Ronni Ancona to the best female comedienne's list just yet...

DOCTOR WHO 3.8 – "Human Nature" (Part 1 of 2)

26 May 2007 – BBC 1, 7.15 pm
WRITER: Phil Cornell DIRECTOR: Charles Palmer
CAST: David Tennant (The Doctor/John Smith), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Jessica Hynes (Nurse Joan Redfern), Harry Lloyd (Jeremy Baines), Thomas Sangster (Tim Latimer), Tom Palmer (Hutchinson), Pip Torrens (Rocastle), Rebekah Staten (Jenny), Gerard Horan (Mr Clark), Lauren Wilson (Lucy Cartwright), Matthew White (Phillips), Derek Smith (Doorman) & Peter Bourke (Mr Chambers)

In 1913, an ordinary English schoolteacher is disturbed by a recurring dream he's an adventurer travelling through time in a strange blue box...

Writer Phil Cornell adapts his own novel for the latest Doctor Who adventure, creating one of the series' most unique and entertaining episodes. For a series that's already dangerously close to becoming formulaic in its third year, Cornwell's twisting of Who's storytelling template comes as a breath of fresh air.

Human Nature begins mid-adventure, with The Doctor and Martha on the run from an unseen enemy. As The Doctor hatches a plot to avert disaster, the episode suddenly lurches into the idyllic calm of a 1913 school in rural England. The Doctor now believes himself to be John Smith, a teacher at the school who's been having strange dreams about weird creatures, time-travel and a mysterious blue box...

It's an interesting twist on the usual storyline, with The Doctor now fully human and oblivious to his real identity. Only Martha knows the truth, working as a maid at the school and keeping an eye on The Doctor until their enemy, known as The Family, lose their scent.

David Tennant gets to play a different character here, essentially a charming, quiet and introspective academic, without any of The Doctor's manic energy. Being human also brings the unforeseen prospect of true love for the former Time Lord, in the buxom shape of Jessica Stevenson's Nurse Redfern.

Freema Agyeman is great here, entrusted with saving the day without the usual backup from The Doctor. As his guardian and protector, it's a neat reversal in their relationship and Agyeman continually impresses. It's clear she's a great deal more resourceful, trustworthy and pragmatic than most companions. The subplot of The Doctor romancing a human also brings its own heartache for Martha, as jealousy gets the better of her.

Once the episode plays its hand with The Doctor's new identity, Human Nature gradually falls into more customary territory. The Family arrive on Earth in a cloaked spaceship and begin to possess various townsfolk; from preppy schoolboy Baines (Harry Lloyd, excellent), maid Jenny (Rebekah Staten), Mr Clark (Gerard Horan) and a little girl called Lucy (Lauren Wilson).

In the great tradition of Doctor Who villains taking form in everyday objects, The Family also animate various Scarecrows to act as foot soldiers. The scarecrows are very creepy, flopping about the countryside with their stitched grins, if not entirely necessary in the grand scheme of things. The Family members themselves are great; particularly Harry Lloyd's performance as Baines, whose lilting head movements, sniffing nose and deadpan voice is chilling.

Phil Cornwell, who wrote possibly the most emotional Doctor Who episode in Father's Day, makes a triumphant return to the series here. His original 1995 novel has obviously undergone a few changes (it starred Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor most notably), but it remains mostly intact. If anything, Human Nature is strong evidence that the TV series should be adapting other novels occasionally.

Human Nature is a spark of freshness for the series, forcing the audience to play catch-up instead of being spoon-fed the storyline. There isn't really a bad note throughout the episode, with the possible exception of a slightly underwritten role for Redfern (Jessica Stevenson) and schoolboy Tim Latimer (Thomas Sangster) being conveniently "psychic".

Overall, this is a great start to the two-part episode, expertly juggling sci-fi adventure with solid human drama. Fans will also get a kick from the various in-jokes and allusions to the past (particularly John Smith's notebook with previous incarnations of The Doctor drawn in scratchy ink).

A great story, beautifully told.

Monday, 28 May 2007

LOST 3.22 - "Through The Looking Glass" (Part 1 of 2)

27 May 2007 - Sky One, 10.00 pm
WRITERS: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof DIRECTOR: Jack Bender
CAST: Matthew Fox (Jack), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Michael Emerson (Ben), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Sam Anderson (Bernard), Blake Bashoff (Karl), Marsha Thomason (Naomi), Mira Furlan (Rousseau), Lana Parrilla (Greta), Tracy Middendorf (Bonnie), Tania Raymonde (Alex), Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert), Malcolm David Kelley (Walt), Kate Connor (Doctor), Larry Clarke (Customer), Loreni Delgado (Pharmacist), Nigel Gibbs (Funeral Director), James LeSure (Dr Hamill), L. Scott Caldwell (Rose), Brian Goodman (Pryce), Ariston Greene (Jason), Andrew Divoff (Mikhail), M.C Gainey (Tom) & Julia Bowen (Sarah)


An ambush for the Others is prepared, Ben is told of Charlie's presence in the underwater station and Jack leads the group to the radio tower...

Lost has a massive reputation and chief amongst them is its mind-blowing finales. Season 3 wraps up with Through The Looking Glass, an incredibly exciting and enjoyable episode that answers some questions, poses a few more and entertains with such ease it's almost fiendish.

The storyline is split into four main strands: Jack leads to castaways on a trek across the island to the radio tower, to turn off Rousseau's 16-year-old transmission. Deep underwater, in DHARMA station The Looking Glass, Charlie's suicide mission to switch off its jamming signal hits a snag when he's captured by its two inhabitants.

At the beach, Sayid, Bernard and Jin have been left behind to detonate packs of dynamite when the Others ambush their camp to kidnap pregnant women. Finally, in flashbacks, we see Jack at a difficult period in his life; contemplating suicide before he becomes a local hero by rescuing a family from a traffic accident.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof ensure there's plenty going on, creating an epic scope through sheer bredth. It's a trick they have employed in previous finale's and it continues to work wonders for them. As always, the script is a masterful juggling of characters and plot, continually keeping you unbalanced and unsure what will happen, or who will survive events.

Matthew Fox gives a terrific performance here, particularly in the flashbacks where Jack's more fragile and depressed than we've ever seen him. Fox's role in season 3 hasn't been as integral as usual in the series, but Through The Looking Glass again reminds you why Fox is seen as the show's leading man. He's a great actor and does a fantastic job with the material.

Similarly, Dominic Monaghan does good work, making you wish Charlie had been given similar storylines in the past. Too often he was used as comic-relief or for snug romance subplots with Claire, but Monaghan clearly relishes the chance of some proper heroism. Marvellous.

Every character appears and has something of interest to do, or gets a a few nice lines at the least. Lost has a fantastic ensemble of actors and you can almost sense the character's bonds, making each group's adventure more engrossing than it would be otherwise. You yearn for Jack to lead the group to salvation, you urge Charlie to escape and you even love-to-hate creepy Ben.

Speaking of whom, Ben, played with quiet charm by Michael Emerson, has had his cloak of secrecy exposed in recent weeks, but he's benefited immensely from this. Now we have some understanding of his past, it only makes his current decisions and reactions more intriguing.

Overall, by the time part 1 reaches its climax with Locke, still languishing in the DHARMA mass grave, you'll be grinning from ear to ear as a face from the past puts in an appearance. This is masterful storytelling from a show that refuses to become boring. A fantastic set-up for the final hour...

24, 6.22 - "03:00 AM - 04:00 AM"

27 May 2007 - Sky One, 9.00 pm
WRITERS: Evan Katz & Howard Gordon DIRECTOR: Bryan Spicer
CAST: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer), Peter MacNicol (Lennox), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brian), Marisol Nichols (Nadia Yassir), Carlo Rota (Morris O'Brian), Powers Boothe (Noah Daniels), Ricky Schroder (Mike Doyle), Kari Matchett (Lisa Miller), Tzi Ma (Cheng Zhi), Michael Shanks (Mark Bishop), Rena Sofer (Marilyn Bauer), James Cromwell (Philip Bauer), Evan Ellingson (Josh Bauer), Ian Anthony Dale (Zhou), Spencer Garrett (Ben Kram), Matt McKenzie (Agent Hollister), Ron Yuan (Chinese Gunman), Kenneth Choi (Cheng's Operative) & Nick Jameson (President Yuri Suvarov)

Cheng arranges to have Josh delivered to Philip, Jack battles the Chinese in CTU and Daniels faces a tough decision when the plot to feed false information to the Russians begins to unravel...

The double-bill season length finale is just around the corner, so the penultimate episode is the expected exercise in re-positioning dominos for their final tumble. The CTU crisis reaches a quick end with Jack back on one-man army form, racing through sewers after his kidnapped nephew Josh.

Yes, it appears that daddy Bauer (James Cromwell) wants to whisk his grandson to China -- so just forget about all that kidnapping and threats to kill Josh. It was all a clever ruse. He'd never hurt Josh, oh no. The diehard US patriot just wants to take him to China for economic purposes, see?

This is an odd episode. There are moments of excitement as Jack kick ass at CTU and chases tormentor Cheng, but the White House subplot is squandered. Here, Lisa (Kari Matchett, wasted) is still having difficulty pretending to still be in love with Russian informer love-rat (love-mole?) Mark Bishop, leading to a protracted plot that fizzles out.

There's a sense of disappointment as we limp toward the finale -- which can't come soon enough to put season 6 out of its misery. I have confidence the writers will manage to craft an explosive final few hours of entertainment, but the Cheng/chip subplot is too recent to really care about and the reappearance of Philip Bauer isn't all that interesting. There's no overall cohesion to season 6. No defining element to invest in. As a result, the season finale will likely prove entertaining but emotionally empty.

Remember when season 6 seemed to be exaggerating contemporary concerns over racial hatred? How it presented a worst case scenario for our own post-9/11 world? How far away all that seems now we're back in familiar preposterous villainy and threats of global war over microchips.

Episode 22 is just going through the motions of a narratively bankrupt season that will no doubt try to hide its failings with explosions, gunfire and deaths next week. The now-obligatory jaw-dropping final moment for Jack had better indicate a huge shift in dynamic for 24 when it returns for season 7.

You see, I still love and care for 24. For me, it was the defining show that shook up the TV landscape back in 2001. But I won't make excuses when it clearly goes off the boil. It's just unfortunate the writers didn't realize season 6 couldn't afford to rest on its laurels following its '06 Emmy win. I'm sure they won't make that mistake again, though...

Friday, 25 May 2007

Despite scathing reviews directed toward its lack of ambition and laugh-free stretches, Shrek The Third still tops the US box-office with a mighty $122m. Good to see a R/18-rated movie like 28 Weeks Later doing respectable business in the US and UK, though.

In Britain, Spidey sits atop the chart for another week and it's mildly disappointing to see Zodiac not break the £1m barrier in its first week, too. Maybe early-summer isn't really the time to do and see a true life serial-killer thriller, eh? Poor old comedy duo Mitchell and Webb have to make do with a mid-chart placing for their Magicians, off the back of dismal reviews.


1. Shrek The Third $122m

2. Spider-Man 3 $29m
3. 28 Weeks Later $5.45m
4. Georgia Rule $3.75m
5. Disturbia $3.73m
6. Fracture $2.28m
7. Delta Farce $1.85m
8. The Invisible $1.3m
9. Hot Fuzz $1.29m
10. Blades Of Glory $1.09m


1. Spider-Man 3 £2.5m

2. 28 Weeks Later £882k
3. Zodiac £818m

4. Bridge To Terabithia £460k
5. Magicians £366k
6. Lovewrecked £223
7. Wild Hogs £194k
8. Mr Bean's Holiday £143k
9. Next £135k
10. This Is England £127k


A 40-year-old man finds himself in a strange city with no memory of how he got there. He is given a job, a house, even a wife, but makes a desperate escape bid. Norwegian mystery thriller.

An Irishman living in Australia discovers the body of a murdered girl while on a fishing trip with three friends. Mystery drama with Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney.

Captain Barbossa, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann set sail for world's end to rescue Captain Jack from Davey Jones' locker. Fantasy adventure sequel starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley.

Thursday, 24 May 2007


After losing the week's task, Tre brings Jadine and Lohit into the board room with him face the wrath of Sir Alan...

Sir Alan: The task was simple; you had to choose a product and sell it to traders. But you blew it. Tre, you're always saying how amazing you are, but I'm not impressed.
Tre: Sir Alan, the task wasn't well planned, I accept that.
Sir Alan: What was the strategy?
Tre: Um, well, Simon wrote down some numbers for us to ring and we rang them.
Sir Alan: And..?
Tre: And... um, after that we just did our own thing. Freestyle, y'get me?
Sir Alan: Running around like headless chickens at 2pm, you mean?
Tre: No, not at all. It was half-one, at the most.
Sir Alan: Lohit, you're a bit quiet. What do you think happened?
Lohit: The phone list I was given was rubbish. It was terrible. Half the numbers didn't work and the other half were just random digits, I think.
Sir Alan: What makes you say that?
Lohit: One of the numbers was 111222333.
Tre: I think Simon accidentally leaned on the keyboard.
Sir Alan: God help us. Jadine, what have you got to say for yourself?
Jadine: It was all bad communication, Sir Alan. I mean, we didn't even know what packaging the reheatable bunnies came in!
Tre: There was no packaging.
Lohit: We didn't know that!
Tre: You should have gone to the two-hour meeting we had then.
Lohit: I was wiping Jadine's tears.
Sir Alan: Hold on -- what?
Tre: Jadine had... personal issues, uh... whatever, whatever... woman's problems, innit.
Lohit: She was missing her family.

Sir Alan sits back. Nick is writing something on a sheet of paper.

Tre: What are you writing, man?

Nick looks up, alarmed. Sir Alan leans over for a look at his paper.

Sir Alan: Very good, Nick. But I think Tre's beard isn't quite right.

Nick nods, returning to his work, tongue poking out.

Tre: Is he all there?
Sir Alan: Never mind him. Now, did Jadine's home sickness cost you the task?
Lohit: Well... it didn't help, no, but I understand her situation because I'm a great guy.
Jadine: Can I just say, I asked Tre to let me be in his pair because I missed the meeting. But he refused.
Tre: I wanted to be with my mate Simon, so?

Sir Alan exhales, thinking...

Sir Alan: Lohit. Y'know, I think you're an intelligent person. You can certainly speak for yourself.
Lohit: Did you think I was a ventriloquist?
Sir Alan: I just mean your vocabulary's good. You say "because" not "cos", stuff like that. But, where will you fit into my company?
Lohit: In some menial management position, like working on cosmetic products or recycling projects, like the previous apprentices?
Sir Alan: Hmmm. Tre. You messed up her, didn't you?
Tre: I accept that, yes. It could have gone better. It just wasn't my day.
Sir Alan: Still, you've contributed to lots of tasks in the past and you're a bit of a funny character. Good for ratings. So I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt. You can thank me later. I like single malt scotch.
Tre: I am the greatest, what can I say?
Sir Alan: Now. Jadine. I sympathise with you missing your kid, but it shouldn't get in the way of business. I also vaguely suspect you might be a nutter after reading The Sun, so... you're fired.

Jadine wells up with tears.

Jadine: Thank you...

She gets up and heads for the door. Sir Alan looks tearful. Jadine leaves. Sir Alan looks at Tre and Lohit.

Sir Alan: Not nice, is it?

They shake their heads like school kids in front of the headmaster. Nick shoves his paper under Sir Alan's nose.

Sir Alan: What's that?
Nick: The Cutty Sark, Sir Alan. In flames.
Sir Alan: Are you feeling alright?

Nick stares fixedly ahead. Cape Feare-style music.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

HEROES 1.23 - "How To Stop An Exploding Man"

21 May 2007 - NBC, 9/8c
WRITER: Tim Kring DIRECTOR: Allan Arkush
CAST: Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), Masi Oka (Hiro), Hayden Panettiere (Claire), Jack Coleman (Mr Bennet), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Ali Larter (Nikki/Jessica), Greg Grunberg (Matt), James Kyson Lee (Ando), Leonard Roberts (D.L), Missy Peregrym (Candice), Noah Gray-Cabey (Micah), Cristine Rose (Angela), Adair Tishler (Molly), George Takei (Kaito Nakamura), Tawny Cypress (Simone Deveaux) & Richard Roundtree (Charles Deveaux)


Mr Bennet uses Molly to find Peter, Sylar plots to blow-up New York, Hiro tries to rescue Ando, Nathan leaves the city with Claire and Jessica searches for Micah...

As Hiro asked in Chapter 11's Fallout, "How Do You Stop An Exploding Man?" Well, in the season 1 finale he finally gets his answer. After months of cliffhangers and twists, creator Tim Kring returns to join all the dots together; resulting in a finale with moments of brilliance, but one that misfires elsewhere. Ultimately, the weight of expectation after such a marathon build-up was just too much...

That's not to say the climax to Heroes' freshman year is a waste of time. There's enough entertainment and sense of closure to make this worthwhile, particularly with Hiro's storyline, which is the only continuing narrative that has forged an emotional bond with viewers. Hiro's childlike wonder at his abilities, his resolve to "save the world", loyalty to best-friend Ando, family dysfunction and a tragic romance helped make him one of the most popular characters. But also, crucially, a character you want to see succeed.

Peter Petrelli's story has been almost as developed; learning about his power, saving the cheerleader, fearing the NYC explosion, being mentored by Claude, etc. Consequently, Peter's role in the finale is quite strong, bolstered by the huge expectation of another Peter versus Sylar punch-up.

Other characters are less invested in the New York plot, particularly Jessica and D.L, whose rescuing of Micah from the Kirby Plaza is just a diversion. However, it does result in a rather nice cat-fight between Jessica and Candice (who makes herself look like Jessica's evil alter-ego Nikki). An attempt to bring closure to the Jessica/Nikki battle of wills is included here, but it feels tacked on and doesn't do justice to the prolonged mind-games through the season.

Similarly stuck in a rut for the finale is Claire (Hayden Panettiere). Her storyline was superb for much of season 1, particularly regarding her secretive father, but it's clear Claire and Mr Bennet already had their finale with Company Man.

Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) has only recently been given a decent storyline, with his political campaign involving a faustian deal with gangster Mr Linderman. Nathan's decision to allow millions of people to die, so he can assume Presidency in the wake of the disaster, is a big part of the finale. It's actually the main aspect that tugs the heart-strings in the final moments.

Sylar (Zachary Quinto) has been a wonderful villain this year, but he's pushed into the background for much of the finale, along with Mohinder, Matt and D.L That said, he does get a few nice scenes, but it's a shame more couldn't have been done to really build the Good versus Evil component of the finale.

In terms of story, Tim Kring's script is weak in many areas. The greatest disappointment for fans will be the episode's inability to build much momentum or emotional highs. Indeed, for the first half particularly, things are pretty monotonous and only the expectation for an explosive conclusion keep your focus and interest.

A weird trip into the past by Peter (using Hiro's power?) provides a link to the early season, with a return for the now-dead Deaveaux family -- girlfriend Simone Deveaux (Tawny Cypress) and her father Charles (Richard Roundtree). In classic Heroes style, Charles appears to have some kind of ability himself, knowledge of the impending disaster and words of wisdom to get Peter ready for action. It's all very well, but the Deveaux's always seemed to be ill-conceived characters and my opinion hasn't changed despite Kring's ret-con for Charles.

When the final moments arrive, we're treated to an enjoyable but brief fight involving Peter, Sylar, Hiro, Jessica and Matt. As the culmination of a season-long tease, it's disappointing once it's over, although there are a few moments of fun. But there are equal moments of silliness, such as Jessica getting involved without any knowledge of who Peter and Sylar are, or what their argument even is!

There's also a sense of disconnection to events happening. This is New York, the city that never sleeps, but where is everyone? I understand Heroes has a TV budget, but impending doom is made so low-key it's more frustrating than exciting.

Of course, a few moments linger in the memory: Jessica clobbering Sylar with a parking meter, a Matrix-inspired bullet-freeze, Hiro sent spinning through the air and Nathan's airborne entrance. But, while we know the stakes are high, after a season of foreboding, it's a very tepid climax with no conclusion for anyone beyond the NYC disaster.

Fortunately, How To Stop An Exploding Man just about manages to rescue itself with an amusing denouement, as Volume One closes and Volume Two opens, in a sequence fans of Evil Dead 2 will get a smile from.

Looking beyond the finale, Tim Kring's script leaves plenty of room for continuation -- even allowing a popular character to survive death (contrivance bedamned!) I will be fun to see who returns for season 2, as a number of character's fates go unresolved, while little Molly's fearful pronouncement of a villain who's worse than "boogieman" Sylar is exciting...

Overall, there's no denying the finale crumples under the weight of huge expectation. What's most disappointing is that the errors made are so glaring and obvious to anyone with an ounce of comic-book familiarity. Writer Tim Kring has admitted his comic-book knowledge is limited, despite similarities between Heroes and every comic ever written. But that's no excuse for a failure to provide much tension, excitement and thrills. It's a failure of scriptwriting, not knowledge of superhero lore.

So, after 22-weeks carefully setting up the dominos, the final tumble is spoiled by the final domino refusing to fall. While it's frustrating, it doesn't taint the whole season, as Heroes has been great fun. I only hope the writers iron out the problems that bit them here, such as directionless characters (Jessica), poor internal logic (Peter's inconsistent abilities) and the narrative pitfalls of powers like time-travel and clairvoyancy existing...

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

PRISON BREAK 2.19 - "Sweet Caroline"

21 May 2007 - Five, 10.00 pm
WRITER: Karyn Usher DIRECTOR: Dwight Little
CAST: Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield), Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows), William Fichtner (Agent Mahone), Paul Adelstein (Agent Kellerman), Sarah Wayne Callies (Dr Sara Tancredi), Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note), Amaury Nolasco (Sucre), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Reggie Lee (Bill Kim), Wade Williams (Bellick), Camille Guaty (Maricruz Delgado), Karl Makinen (Derek Sweeney), Kevin Dunn (Cooper Green), Barbara Eve Harris (Lang), Jason Davis (Agent Wheeler) & Patricia Wettig (President Reynolds)

Michael blackmails President Reynolds, Lincoln secures them an exit strategy, Bellick tracks Sucre, T-Bag loses his millions at the airport and Mahone finds Sara...

After discovering the evidence against President Reynolds won't hold water in a court of law because the date of their voice recording can't be authenticated, Michael and Lincoln have other plans...

Sweet Caroline sees the belated return of Patricia Wettig as corrupt President Reynolds, who's marvellous here. Her face-to-face confrontation with Michael is one of those moments Prison Break fans have been waiting ages for... and it delivers. It's also great to see the deliciously smarmy Bill Kim (Reggie Lee) get his hands dirty for once during a violent interrogation of Michael.

As usual, the subplots struggle to be anywhere near as interesting as the brothers' titanic struggle. T-Bag is briefly seen, sweating over his $5 million swag going through an airport's baggage handling system. C-Note's suicide attempt last week is also continued, but not enough to really impinge on the episode. The main subplots involve Sucre's love nest being blown by Bellick, Lincoln using an old friend to get transport away from the U.S and Agent Mahone finding Sara in her hotel room.

The latter is particularly good, with the doctor picking up on Mahone's drug abuse. The pair enjoy some great scenes throughout the episode, with Mahone again proving himself a very complex and enjoyable character.

But the meat of the show rests on President Reynolds and Michael. Wentworth Miller is a strange lead actor in this show's second season, as he's usually little more than an engine to fuel various plots. There's rarely any real character-building going on, certainly not like last year when the intimate prison setting relied on character development. So it's great when Miller actually has something to do!

Viewers will relish a particular reveal about the President's relationship with her brother Terrence Steadman, which twists the controversy into a different area, while the entire episode has that "premature finale" feeling last seen with The Killing Box.

A strong episode that manages to keep Prison Break cruising along, although it's bewildering how it manages to keep going. As we near the end of season 2, I'm at a loss to where the direction will go in season 3. Another year of running? Another stretch in jail?

Of course, for quality's sake, I think Prison Break should reach a conclusion now before it stretches its thin concept to breaking point...

This Is David Gest, ITV1

The title of this series suggests we don't know who the real David Gest is -- just his media persona. So This Is David Gest aims to help open our eyes to the man behind the mischief..

Of course, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here got their first, turning weirdo Gest into a lovable weirdo. The tabloids exaggerated perception of Gest for weeks before I'm A Celeb started (printing flabby photos of him in the ocean and reminding us of his wedding day "face-munch" with ex-wife Liza Minelli).

When we settled down to watch this monstrous, creepy, sinister little Yank.. we were pleasantly surprised to find a harmless oddity.

Gest may cut a bizarre sight, with his egg-head, jet-black goatee, wonky smile and balding scalp, but he's no monster. We Brits like eccentrics, so we warmed to Gest as he subverted our tabloid-fuelled expectations. He participated in jungle tasks and busktucker trials, told cheeky fibs, spun humorous stories around the campfire and flirted with the girls.
Unfortunately, now we really have created a monster...

Gest is currently enjoying post-jungle fame and has transplanted his life to the UK. He currently stars in high-profile show Grease Is The Word, has been confirmed as a new judge on this year's X Factor and has his own docu-series.

This Is David Gest is every inch as bad, yet perversely watchable, as you'd expect. It purports to follow Gest's every move and give us a flavour of his bizarre lifestyle... but it's actually just shameless self-promotion.

This isn't really fly-on-the-wall material, as Gest is completely aware of the cameras and to them at every opportunity like a little kid. Consequently, you're not seeing "The Real David Gest", you're seeing what he knows we liked of him in the jungle. Watch as he picks arguments, plugs his music work, references "classic" jungle comments 90% of the population have forgotten about now, and generally act kooky. It's an exaggarated performance.

What really came across is how poor D.G is nowhere near as in-charge as he likes to think -- certainly not over this documentary. As an American, he's from a culture that adores celebrity and treats anyone famous with respect (most of the time). In the UK it's different. We love our celebs too, but we also take a perverse delight when they're taken down a peg or two with "kiss and tell" tabloids stories and whatnot.

What's more, it's open season for anyone who appears on Big Brother and I'm A Celebrity. They're easy prey, particularly anyone who achieved their fame via such a show. Gest is oblivious to this cruel UK culture, so while we enjoyed him in the jungle, and his outburts amuse us on Grease Is The Word, he's just another plaything for us...

Consequently, he has lots of British hangers-on. Ex-Busted popstar Matt Willis (who was in the jungle with Gest) has co-written a song with him. The track has no chance of being released (it's circa '92 in quality), but Willis will get paid. Handsomely.

Y'see, Gest's a good contact to have in the music biz... well, it can't hurt to have him in your contact list, can it? Can it?

Louis Walsh turned up on the show, readily plugging his boy-band Westlife as if his career depended on it. Well, now Gest has his X Factor job, maybe it does...

The show ended with Gest attending a Westlife gig and singing "Mandy" with the boys.I asssume he was singing, anyway, even though it did seem they'd turned his microphone off to be on the safe side. For Gest, this was a "cathartic" moment that brought a tear to his eye back-stage. For Westlife it was just another opportune PR exercise by manager Louis.

Gest's just the latest celeb with a degree of goofy charm, to be giggled at and disposed of. Just like Chantelle from Celebrity Big Brother. Remember her? She had a similar series after she'd won Celebrity Big Brother called Living The Dream. A few other shows she starred in were soon canned when her star began to dim. Luckily for her, she managed to marry a popstar during her 15-minutes of fame... rescuing her from a bumpy return to Essex. She can now sometimes be found clamped to Davina McCall's, side like an adopted child, at various awards ceremonies.

The same will eventually happen to David Gest (not the Davina thing, just the slow fade to obscurity.) If he'd turned minds around in America, he'd be laughing all the way to the bank now (look how golddigger Heather Mills changed opinions in America just by dancing on TV!)
But in Blighty, it's a different kettle of fish....

Gest doesn't seem to realize it, but we're all laughing at him on this show, not with him. I'm A Celeb proved to us he wasn't a sinister creep, just a comical dweeb. Therefore, we don't have to feel bad about mocking him and his behaviour.

We're welcoming him with open arms, but everyone is sniggering and pointing a finger behind his back.

Monday, 21 May 2007

TV BAFTAs 2007

I thought Graham Norton was superb hosting the show, certainly better than Jonathan Ross or Stephen Fry have been in recent years.

The winners were:

Jim Broadbent - Longford (CH4)

Victoria Wood - Housewive, 49 (ITV1)

Jonathan Ross - Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (BBC1)

Ricky Gervais - Extras (BBC2)

Housewife, 49 (ITV1)

The Street (BBC1)

See No Evil: The Moors Murders (ITV1)

Casualty (BBC1)

Ross Kemp On Gangs (Sky One)

Nuremburg: Goering's Last Stand (CH4)

Evicted (BBC1)

The Choir (BBC2)

Hungarian Grand Prix: Jensen's First Win (ITV1)

Entourage (HBO/ITV2)

Granada Reports: Morecambe Bay (Granada/ITV)

Hogfather (Sky One)

The X Factor (ITV1)

The Royle Family: Queen Of Sheba (BBC1)

That Mitchell & Webb Look (BBC2)

Life On Mars (BBC1)

Richard Curtis

Andy Harries

Some thoughts on the results:

It was great the big soaps didn't get a look-in for once, but I have no idea why Casualty is considered a quality serial drama. It's been predictable and tedious for years now.

Interesting to see Ross Kemp On Gangs get something; very unexpected, but it's certainly the best homegrown show Sky have.

Great to see That Mitchell & Webb Look get a BAFTA. it was definitely the funniest sketch show of the year, although their Peep Show is also the best sitcom, not the Royle Family special.

Nice to see regional news scoop an award, with Granada's report on Morecambe Bay winning through.

The best international show was Entourage. Never heard of it? That's because it's buried away on ITV2...

Erm, wasn't this year's X Factor actually the worst one yet? That's why they're revamping. Yes, Leona Lewis is the best talent Simon Cowell and his cronies have found, but she was surrounded by losers. The final between her and Ray "Eddie Munster" Quinn was a one-horse race!

I'm glad Richard Curtis got the Fellowship, although I find it intensely irritating when people seem to think The Vicar Of Dibley is comedy gold. It's not, it's just popular fluff. Curtis hasn't written a decent sitcom since Blackadder. Mind you, his work with Comic Relief and his film success is enough to gloss over any annoyanced.

It's clear what the average age of BAFTA voters are, with The Street and Housewive, 49 winning some big awards. Personally, I think UK television could do with less smug, suburban, cosy middle-aged drama. Shameless has more relevance and entertainment value than watching Victoria Wood sniffle away.

Nothing for Dragon's Den, The Apprentice or Doctor Who? Oh well, I suppose they're all stuck in a formula these days. Unlike X Factor and Casualty....

For me, the biggest disappointment was the snubbing of Life On Mars. Thank God the public made sure it didn't go home empty-handed, as it's been the most entertaining and original piece of British popular drama since Doctor Who. Great entry for Graham Norton in the back of Gene's Hunt's Ford Cortina, though!

LOST 3.21 - "Greatest Hits"

20 May 2007 - Sky One, 10.00 pm
WRITERS: Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis DIRECTOR: Stephen Williams
CAST: Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Matthew Fox (Jack), Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Sam Anderson (Bernard), Blake Bashoff (Karl), Marsha Thomason (Naomi), Mira Furlan (Rousseau), Andrea Gabriel (Nadia), Lana Parrilla (Greta), Tracy Middendorf (Bonnie), Tania Raymonde (Alex), Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert), Brian Goodman (Pryce), Neil Hopkins (Liam Pace), Joshua Hancock (Roderick), John Henry Canavan (Simon Pace), Jeremy Shada (Young Charlie), Zack Shada (Young Liam) & L. Scott Caldwell (Rose Henderson)

Jack devises a trap for the Others, who are going to kidnap pregnant women. Elsewhere, an underwater station is jamming all phone signals and Charlie's offer to help could have fatal consequences...

Season 3 races towards its season finale with Greatest Hits, an episode that continues Charlie's ongoing attempts to avoid predetermined death, while simultaneously setting the grounds for next week's feature-length climax.

Ostensibly, Greatest Hits is a Charlie episode, although the flashbacks don't tell their own parallel story. Instead, the flashbacks scenes are short glimpses at moments in Charlie's past he most remembers (his "greatest hits"), while other flashbacks focus on the Others following Ben's return to camp. I enjoy it when Lost takes a more experimental stance with its structure, as the typical template for episodes is becoming ingrained in my mind -- so it's nice when the writers shake things up a bit.

Dominic Monaghan may not be the most dynamic character on the show, but he's pleasantly earnest and flawed. His romance with Claire has also been one of the more pleasing and realistic relationships beyond the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle. Here, Monaghan does an admirable job with the material and reminds viewers why Charlie deserves some credit as a character. It's just a shame his backstory never seems to stretch beyond fraternal love and drugs.

Matthew Fox finally gets back to leading the group, having been somewhat ostricized this year after a great start with the Ben's surgery plotline. Fox is a charismatic lead and the show always seems stronger when he's acting the Alpha Male, providing Lost with some heart.

The story is a little bit fragmented with its flashback style and central story, where Charlie becomes convinced he must sacrifice himself underwater to ensure Claire's safe escape from the island via helicopter, but still enjoyable as a scene-setter for the grand finale.

At this late stage in the season, it's frustrating that Naomi, a recent addition to the cast, hasn't been given much to do. Marsha Thomason has so far been used as a handy plot-device with her satellite phone, or plugs gaps with her knowledge of off-island life. She's certainly effective in this role, but I can't help feeling her character deserved to appear earlier in the season and be given proper development. Oh well, there's always season 4...

Overall, this is a fairly average episode, eleviated with a burgeoning sense that the shit's really going to hit the fan next week. As ever with episode's where the story's meat is undernourishing, it's the garnish that lingers on the taste buds -- in the shape of intriguing new elements to the show like the Looking Glass underwater station, the return of Sayid's girlfriend Nadia in a flashback and another heart-pounding final shot...

24, 6.21 - "02:00 AM - 03:00 AM"

20 May 2007 - Sky One, 9.00 pm
WRITER: Manny Coto DIRECTOR: Bryan Spicer
CAST: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer), Peter MacNicol (Lennox), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brian), Marisol Nichols (Nadia Yassir), Eric Balfour (Milo Pressman), Carlo Rota (Morris O'Brian), Powers Boothe (Noah Daniels), Ricky Schroder (Mike Doyle), Kari Matchett (Lisa Miller), Tzi Ma (Cheng Zhi), Michael Shanks (Mark Bishop), Rena Sofer (Marilyn Bauer), Ron Yuan (Chinese Gunman), James Cromwell (Philip Bauer), Matt McKenzie (Agent Hollister), Evan Ellingson (Josh Bauer), Ian Anthony Dale (Zhou), Marci Michelle (Marci), Kenneth Choi (Cheng's Operative), Terry Savage (CTU Guard #4) & Lex Cassar (CTU Agent Ryan)

Jack is held in custody, Lisa goes undercover to feed false information to her spy lover, Josh feels guilty over his grandad's involvement with terrorism and Cheng mounts an assault...

As new arrives that season 7 will "reboot" 24, following the fatigue evident throughout season 6, this tumultous year nears its end. Episode 21 is certainly memoable for a few reasons, not least another decent hour of Jack in Die Hard mode, coupled with the writers attempting to pull season 6's narrative together by rememberingabout the Bauer family...

Of course, to enjoy the dramatic machismo you have to accept a few contrivances and repetitiveness. At this late stage, I don't blame the writers for throwing caution to the wind and just giving fans action and tension over logic and freshness. Yes, CTU is attacked -- not for the the first time in the show's history -- no doubt prompting guffaws at how the Counter Terrorist Unit's security measures barely rival those of a convenience store! I'm willing to bet their front door combination is 1-2-3-4, too...

Still, despite writer Manny Coto slurping the last drops from
24's well-of-overused-ideas, this episode is a lot of fun. Kiefer Sutherland always makes for a great action-man whenever Jack gets to flex his trigger finger, and having gunmen marauding around CTU, barking orders and killing a main character, certainly made arresting television. It may not be 100% original, but we've never seen CTU embroiled in a hostile takeover before, so the situation is different enough to enjoy...

The only real subplot involves the White House's ploy to feed false intel to spy Mark Bishop (
Stargate's Michael Shanks; employed to bare his chest). Bishop's lover Lisa, also the V.P's secret squeeze, hopes to save herself from a jail sentence by going ahead with this plan, in the hope the Russians will call off threatened hostilities.

This isn't a bad diversion to the main story, but the episode stretches it out too long and it doesn't lead anywhere significant here. It was also annoying that Lisa couldn't come up with a feasible excuse to leave the room in one scene. Erm, how about "I just need to use the bathroom?"

Rena Sofer return as Marilyn Bauer, although her character has been so underwritten it's painful to watch her reduced to just flashing those hypnotic eyes of hers. Her first appearance in the show promised fireworks with Jack but, like so many subplots this year, that early promise fizzled away quickly.

Evan Ellingson returns as young Josh Bauer, a character untarnished through lack of use, so I hope the writers will use him well now. I still think Josh must be Jack's biological son, effectively to "replace" his daughter Kim Bauer, or perhaps one day replace Jack himself if Kiefer Sutherland ever quits?

To summarize, I got my fun from this episode despite its knockabout nature and vague desperation. At this stage, while
24 isn't making logical sense very often, season 6 appears to be edging towards a decent enough send-off.

But, seriously, roll on the reboot!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Fri 18 May 07, BBC 1, 8.00pm

As is customary in soaps, every six months you need a life-or-death situation to boost ratings and allow the poor writers a chance to pen a gripping action thriller... on a shoestring budget.

Such a moment came on Friday for EastEnders with a nightmarish camping trip for rivals Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale. Both were forced to go on a camping trip with Ben Mitchell (Phil's son, Ian's half-brother), joined in their gloom by Ian's son Peter and Billy Mitchell.

To say things didn't go according to plan would be like saying "does Dot like fags?" Having already burned down their tent with an errant fire, Phil proceeded to crash their car trying to avoid a tree (heaven knows why a tree had fallen down in the summer...)

Ben had minor whiplash, a blessing given the sprog's run of bad luck (dead mum, abusive stepmum-to-be). Phil and Billy got off lightly with cuts and bruises, plus a severe ear-bashing from Ian soon after. Ian himself had hurt his arm, but the real casualty was his son Peter, breathing but non-responsive on the backseat...

So far, so tragic, but things were about to get worse... and silly.

Omens had been revealing themselves throughout the episode, of course. Whenever a group of blokes have their lives threatened in a soap, you can bet your back teeth their wives and girlfriends are having a wonderful time together. And so it came to pass. Cue the improbable sight of Jane, Peggy, Honey and Lucy having a sing-along to Mica in Tanya's beauty parlour! Of course, there was one boy there (little Bobby Beale) but he'd quickly developed a fascination with cross-dressing, to help the male/female division!

Back to the action and, wouldn't you just know it, Phil's mobile couldn't get a signal! Gah! You'd think they'd gone camping in the wilds of Kenya, not the outskirts of London. It must also have slipped Phil's mind to see if Ian's phone might work instead. In the world of EastEnders, they must all be on the same provider, I guess...

Anyway, Billy's a handy guy to have around if you need someone to run about flailing their arms, so he was dispatched to get help. Of course, the sight of Billy Mitchell emerging from a forest with a bloody forehead only made potential Samaritans drive off!

Back at the smashed-up car, a few moments after Phil's idea to single-handedly move a tree to the side of the road(!) had failed off-screen, he dragged Ian out kick-and-screaming, leaving the two kids on the backseat. It was now that EastEnders morphed into Final Destination 4 and the crashed car mysteriously began to roll down the road! The only possible reason for this was scrawny Ian's weight had been enough to keep a car rooted to the spot... and I'm certain he weighs less than porker Phil.

The car rolled down the hill at a slow pace, chased in futility by fat-boy Phil. But the bad luck didn't end there, as some idiot had put a lake at the bottom of the hill and the car splashed into its murky depths. As the vehicle sunk, kids screaming in the back, Ian desperately leaped into the water and had to be rescued by Phil.

Impending doom and a car-load of cold water had woken Peter up and both kids found themselves trapped underwater in an air-pocket. Phil dived down a few times, finally managing to drag Ben up to safety. Peter (who is a swimming Olympian-in-the-making, according to weeks of foreshadowing by Ian) swam out himself... but snagged his foot in a seatbelt. D'oh!

Luckily, Phil got down and freed him and we left the episode with Phil attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation... but not before the most bonkers moment in EastEnders for quite some time. Well, two weeks. Back at the Queen Vic, Peter's twin sister Lucy heard a spooky cry for help, confirmed an earlier statement from ditzy Honey that she might be "telepathetic".

Telly pathetic, more like...

DOCTOR WHO 3.7 – "42"

19 May 2007 - BBC 1, 7.15 pm
WRITER: Chris Chibnall DIRECTOR: Graeme Harper
David Tennant (The Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), Michelle Collins (Kath McDonnell), William Ash (Riley Vashtee), Anthony Flanagan (Orin Scanell), Matthew Chambers (Hal Korwin), Vinette Robinson (Abi Lerner), Gary Powell (Dev Ashton), Rebecca Oldfield (Erina Lessak) & Elize du Toit (Sinister Woman)

In a distant galaxy, in the 42nd-Century, a spaceship hurtles out of control towards the sun and The Doctor has 42-minutes to save the day...

After the rude interruption of the Eurovision Song Contest last week, the third season of Doctor Who continues with 42, from writer Chris Chibnall. Essentially, 42 combines the aesthetic of last year's The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit with the storyline of Danny Boyle's Sunshine, using the format of 24.

After arriving aboard another spaceship, this one spiralling out of control towards a sun, The Doctor and Martha fight to prevent certain doom alongside the crew, led by Kath McDonnell (Michelle Collins). Matters are complicated when two of the crew become possessed by a malevolent force, intent on burning each of them to death.

42 is a nice enough episode, enlivened by some great visuals and the occasional moment of tension, but it's also pure formula. It doesn't help that there are strong parallels to last year's The Impossible Planet, in both production design and general story, with both episode's concerning ragtag crews fighting an alien entity that possesses people. Impossible Planet's villain was an enormous demon held captive underground, whereas 42's is more ethereal in nature -- but the similarities are there.

While 42 is definitely a pale shadow of The Impossible Planet, that's not to say it's a terrible episode. The sense of pace and drama is well-balanced, although things begin to get a little strained and repetitive in the final ten minutes.

Chris Chibnall's script is most memorable for a perfect moment of tragedy when Martha finds herself jettisoned in an escape pod, inching towards oblivion, shock etched on The Doctor's face as he screams (silently) at a porthole to her. Kudos to director Graeme Harper for realizing this moment on-screen so beautifully, as it has more punch than the rest of the episode's histrionics put together.

It's getting boring to keep mentioning how perfect David Tennant is in the role these days, but it's true that his commitment and passion elevates dodgy writing and lazy plots. I'll never underestimate him, or take him for granted, as he'll be a tough act to follow when he eventually leaves the series.

Freema Agyeman seems to have settled into her role well, although it's disappointing the scripts since her introduction haven't fleshed out her character that much. She hasn't been able to play anything other than awestruck companion and model daughter so far, which has been a shame.

That said, the decision to have her mother (the excellent Adjoa Andoh) be surreptitiously poisoned against The Doctor is a great idea. Even if, in reality, three goons in your house, making you put your phone in an evidence bag, would make you more suspicious of them... not the handsome chap who saved you from a scorpion-crab creature last week. But hey.

The supporting cast are fine, although Michelle Collins (EastEnders) doesn't convince as a ballsy captain. She sweats and huffs around, but fails to make you believe she's actually the leader of these grease-monkeys. Everyone else has characters so one-note it actually comes as a shock when Martha kisses one at the end, as their romantic sub-plot was so emotionally cold you missed it.

Being picky, the science here is totally implausible, but bad science was necessary for the plot to work. Kids, don't ask me how a magnetic field from a ship can pull in an escape pod against the gravitational force of a giant sun... go ask your teachers. While you're there, ask how The Doctor can be covered in ice one second and have it melt without leaving any water or steam...

Overall, 42 was entertaining but wholly forgettable, mired by familiarity with the story-type Chibnall wrote and cardboard characters. I also find it strange why the two men possessed by the alien entity had to wear space-helmets, beyond the fact said helmets looked creepy. Even for aliens, it's all about "the look"; fiery eyes and baritone voices just aren't enough these days...

Saturday, 19 May 2007

What television shows are you watching?

24. A disappointing season in so many ways, but still an enjoyable way to pass the time. However, I'm very happy the producers will be revamping for season 7, as "terrorists attack L.A" is becoming incredibly tired...

The Apprentice. This is always a great mix of comedy and drama. The only reality TV show with any brains. There's not a bad mix of people this year and the weekly tasks have been enjoyable, so far. Entertaining and revealing.

Dexter. This is a great show about a Miami forensics expert who moonlights as a serial-killer. It's stylish, slick, brilliantly acted and I enjoy the series' slippery morality with its central character. Think American Psycho meets CSI. Dexter isn't on UK screens, but if it appears you should watch it. Phenomenal stuff.

Doctor Who. It's settling into formula at times, but this is still the best thing the BBC has done in years. The latter half of the season looks more promising, with The Master's return to the series...

Heroes. This is a sugary pleasure from start to finish. Pure entertainment, blessed with good performances, a hectic pace and a writing ideology that poses questions and answers them compellingly and quickly. It's a joy to get immersed in.

Life On Mars. I've just finished catching up with this series in a marathon DVD session and watching both series back-to-back has highlighted problems -- like how each episode's villain tends to be one of two characters you meet! But, while the "whodunits?" are a little weak usually, the performances are fantastic and the central conceit (coma or time-travel?) is brilliantly written. Philip Glennister and John Simm are both amazing in this.

Lost. This is still my favourite show, although Heroes battled valiantly with it earlier in the year. I don't think there has ever been a more multi-faceted and complex series that continues to impress and amaze after three years of scrutiny. It has great actors, brilliant stories and exciting plot arcs. I just hope it sustains itself and ends on a high.

Peep Show. The best comedy on TV, which has just finished its fourth series. I'm amazed how the series never gets tired, with the lives of losers Mark and Jez just getting funnier. The iconic "in head" style lends itself to dark comedy brilliantly and this is a real treat. The only downer is that it's over far too quickly.

Trick Of Trick. Derren Brown is the best thing to happen to magic since those David Blain specials before he went nutty sitting inside a box over the Thames. Derren's new show is a little padded and essentially just twists on his same basic tricks, but there's always something special to see. The guy waking up in a photo booth in India was classic!

What magazines are you reading?

As a film fanatic, I devour Total Film and Empire every month. I used to get Hotdog, but haven't bought that in over a year now.

What books are you reading?

I'm on a Chuck Palahniuk kick at the moment, prompted by the release of his latest novel Rant. I've just finished Diary and have Haunted, Lullaby and Rant on my shelf waiting. Not sure which one to tackle next, but it'll be good nihilistic summer reading!

What was the last DVD you purchased or rented?

I last bought Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut from HMV because it was reduced to £10 and I've been eager to see this alternative edit for months now. A review will be online soon.

As for rentals, I'm days away from completing my free month's trial of the Blockbuster rental service. I've been impressed with it, but after a month I've caught up with all the films I've missed, so don't want to dish out £15 per month for a trickle of releases. The last DVD I watched from them was Howl's Moving Castle.

What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

I hate to admit it, but I last saw Ghost Rider while at Portsmouth about 6 weeks ago. Before that I saw Hot Fuzz. I was keen to see 300 when it was released recently, but never got round to it.

What were the last foreign language films you saw?

They were both from Korea. I finally saw The Host a few weeks ago, which I found sporadically brilliant, but prolonged. Before that Sympathy For Lady Vengeance was an enjoyable revenge flick, but not a patch on Old Boy.

What film are you most looking forward to this summer?

Umm, I was quite interested in Spider-Man 3 until the reviews became mixed. As a child of the 80s, I have a pang to see Michael Bay's Transformers. Summer means big-screen spectacle to me and I think Transformers has the best chance of satisfying on a visceral level with giant transforming robots blowing crap up!

What has been the biggest cinematic injustice of 2007 so far?

The poor distribution of films like Shane Meadows' This Is England, or the fact nobody went to see The Fountain or Inland Empire while shit like Norbit, Ghost Rider, Mr Bean's Holiday and Wild Hogs reigned supreme at the box-office. My faith in the British movie-going public has seriously diminished, particularly after they showed such good taste by keeping Hot Fuzz riding high for so many weeks.