Thursday, 30 April 2009

Dexter: Season 4 Details

Spoilers for anyone who has yet to see Dexter's third season in its entirety, but here are some bullet-pointed nuggets about what to expect from season 4 later this year:

  • Events will pick-up six months after the season 3 finale, meaning Dexter and Rita will have had their baby!
  • According to executive-producer Sarab Colleton, "this season, we're going to deal with: can a serial killer juggle a personal life, work, and his 'dark passenger'? In other words, can Dexter have it all? Which is something all of us grapple with every day of our lives. So we're taking something that is a very human dilemma and putting it through the prism of Dexter's special needs."
  • The season will also feature another major new cast member who will "cross paths with Dexter in a major, dramatic way. He will illuminate a lot about Dexter's life and force him to make some tough choices." A rumour is circling that the producers want to cast someone similar to Jeff Daniels. What's Jeff Daniels up to? He has this audition nailed!
  • And, as set-up in season 3, Dexter's sister Debra "... in her need to know her father more, is going to get closer and closer to figuring out who Dexter's mother was and her relationship with her father." But, Colleton insists that Dex would never kill his sister if she discovers his extracurriuclar activities, adding: "that is inconceivable to me. Deb and Dexter are the best brother-and-sister team ever."

Season 4 is likely to start airing on Showtime this September in the US. Season 3 is currently airing in the UK on FX every Friday at 10pm (also in HD, available to Virgin Media on-demand subscribers a few days later.) ITV1 will assumedly get around to showing season 3 early next year, the slow-coaches...

PRISON BREAK 4.18 - "Vs."

||SPOILERS|| The versus of the title refers to two things: the fact brothers Linc (Dominic Purcell) and Michael (Wentworth Miller) are effectively working against each other in pursuit of Scylla, and initials found as part of another interminable puzzle -- one Vincent Sandinsky (Ivar Brogger), a scientist due at a Progressive Energies conference...

After the resolutely poor restart of season 4 last week, things aren't much better in "Vs.", although the episode contains more incident and one important reveal that made it worth the effort -- just. Michael and Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) are back in Miami trying to find Scylla using a coded message they found on a dead assailant (that indicates the arrival of the titular "V.S" at a Miami airport), while Linc's team are likewise chasing Scylla and follow its owner Christina (Kathleen Quinlan) to the Indian Embassy -- where she intends to sell it to an academic, and they intend to steal it.

It's while in the Embassy that we finally discover what Scylla actually is. It's a database of advanced material concerning revolutionary technology that will enable genetically-modified crops that can grow in any climate. Yes, The Company have been sat on an end to world hunger, it seems.

There's really not much more to say. Prison Break's running on fumes these days, with writers Christian Trokey and Kalinda Vasquez leaning on familiar series tropes to eat up time: a coded message to decipher for Michael (ooh, initials and numbers you can input into Google Maps), and an extended Embassy break-in. Yawn. The latter provides the most fun, but the tension usually associated with the show's covert ops is beginning to run dry. And it's not helped by the silly sight of T-Bag (Robert Knepper) distracting Embassy guards by cuffing himself to their gate to protest Indian cruelty to elephants.

Essentially, it's become impossible to care about the fate of Scylla or The Company and, by turning Michael and Linc into opposing forces, well... the show's lost some of the camaraderie it once had, too. It's no fun seeing Michael and Sara as a loved-up double-act; while it's a little perplexing that Linc is leading his team, considering Mahone's a former-FBI agent who led teams of people for a living. The writing finally gets around to making Sara pregnant (nobody in TV-land practices safe sex, remember), but even the idea of Michael having an unborn baby to protect doesn't really engage me.

No, Prison Break's sinking fast. The season has stretched itself too far and the storyline has become painfully thin, meaning recent episodes feel like exercises in keeping a ball rolling on a plateau. They can introduce competitive siblings, a long-lost mother, and a pregnancy, but none of it's really worth caring about.

28 April 2009
Sky1, 10pm

Writers: Christian Trokey & Kalinda Vasquez
Director: Dwight Little

Cast: Wentworth Miller (Michael), Dominic Purcell (Linc), Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Michael Rappaport (Don), William Fichtner (Mahone), Steve Tom (Stuart Tuxhorn), Kathleen Quinlan (Christina), Leon Russom (Krantz), Anthony Azizi (Naveen Banerjee), Raphael Sbarge (Ralph Becker), Ted King (Downy) & Ivar Brogger (Vincent Sandinsky)


||SPOILERS|| This week, Sir Alan tasked the teams with selling a random collection of 10 items, by determining their value and selling them for a profit. After last week's Pantsman fiasco, Philip was made project manager of Ignite, while Irishman Ben led Empire...

The items included a bicycle, a first edition James Bond novel, a skeleton, a commode, antique shoes, and an Indian rug that Philip immediately dismissed as modern tat, but Lorraine insisted was one of the " gems" Sir Alan's hidden in the mix. But, despite the fact Lorraine actually spent some time researching the rug (which, yes, was worth £200), she's one of those people everyone chooses to ignore, especially Philip -- despite his opening pep talk about teamwork and cooperation. It's her energy-sapping personality and half-melted claymation face, I reckon.

It was easy to spot where both teams went wrong. Nobody could be bothered to spend a few hours studying their items to find out how much they were worth. I can understand why. With the clock ticking, the few experts they initially visited for guidance were worryingly slow and not always helpful. So, both teams just relied on judgement. An old commode? We'll shift it for fiver. A James Bond novel? Ooh, a bookworm offered us £100! Result! A skeleton? Well, Empire chanced upon a bar where someone fulfilled their lifelong ambition to own one, giving them just under the £200 valuation. Ignite trundled theirs through the streets, then gave it to a medical student for a paltry £60.

This was also one of those episodes where the actual task was completed by he 30-minute mark, meaning half the show was spent in the boardroom discussing the results. Philip had his nose rubbed in the fact the rug (which he offloaded on a punter in the street) was very expensive, and Margaret compared Lorraine to disbelieved soothsayer Cassandra. They made a loss, overall. But, the loss wasn't as bad as Empire's...

Amusingly, when asked who he wanted to bring back into the boardroom with him, Ben chose Debra and James (the latter for the empty reason that he didn't really know what he did.) The audible gasps from everyone forced him to backtrack and change his mind, choosing Noorul instead. For, well, essentially the same reason he chose James.

Debra caused a stir by arguing with Nick over his claim she wasn't involved in closing the deal on the Bond novel, which I thought was refreshing to see. Nick and Margaret are held in high esteem as Sir Alan's "eyes and ears" on the ground, so most people don't bother to argue with their take on events. But Debra seemed to genuinely believe she should share the kudos for selling the book, as anyone can walk up a bookseller she'd arranged to meet and shake their hand on a £100 he offers. She has a point, doesn't she? I closing a deal more important than facilitating a deal? Anyway, Sir Alan didn't like her tone of voice and told her to shut it.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: Ben escaped the chop because, again, there was someone more useless on the team. Noorul, who had undersold a few items and hadn't been pulling his weight in previous tasks. It was only a matter of time, really. Ben will surely be a goner, too, unless he seriously starts to impress Sir Alan. And I wish he'd stop bleating about his scholarship at Sandhurst (which, we're told, he never actually accepted!) Debra showed a bit of attitude and lip, but hasn't really earned the right to be so confident and aggressive. I'm struggling to even remember a highlight from her in any of the six tasks.

As it's the halfway mark, can I predict a winner? Well, Philip's in with a chance if he stops being such a self-obsessed prat. And I think James is beginning to show some form of late (especially in last week's advertising task). But, for me, Kate looks like she's the front-runner: she's personable, bright, confident, funny. I like her manner and she seems like someone you'd enjoy working for, or with. I just hope she has the business acumen to leave her competition in the dust, as the tasks get a little more challenging and there's less dead weight around like Noorul for Sir Alan to focus on.

What do you think? Did Noorul deserve to go? Does Kate have this competition in the bag?

29 April 2009
BBC1, 9pm

Is Primeval extinct?

The Sun are reporting that Primeval might not be back for a fourth season, because ITV can't afford to make it. While the series gets an average of 5 million viewers every Saturday night (even when it's up against BBC1's Robin Hood), ITV's financial problems may spell the end.

An ITV insider:

"The problem is that we've lost a huge amount of money in advertising because of the credit crunch. So while programmes may be rating well, if they cost too much then we have no way to recoup our expenses. Primeval is a prime example of this."
But, if the show is axed, consolation may come with rumours a big-budget Hollywood movie is in development, following the show's success on BBC America.

24, 7.19 - "2:00AM - 3:00AM"

||SPOILERS|| There's a final kink in Day 7's tail, it seems. After last week's shocking/silly twist (that Tony still has his own nefarious agenda), David Fury scripts an episode that tries to reenergize the season in its final half-dozen episodes...

That means there's a bigger conspiracy at work here, just as Jonas Hodges (John Voight) suggested to President Taylor (Cherry Jones) before he was frogmarched away to a White House cell last week. Tony (Carlos Bernard) appears to be part of that wider operation, as he's killed Larry and shoots himself to give his story they were attacked by two Starkwood agents added credibility. Renee (Annie Wersching) hears about Larry's death shortly after and, while numbed with sorrow, decides to join the FBI manhunt for his killer on the ground. Jack (Kiefer Sutherland), still feeling the effects of the pathogen he was exposed to, cuts short a debrief with an agent about the day's events, to join Renee -- because he feels he owes her that much.

This episode was essentially an hour of manipulation, with Tony secretly helping his accomplice escape detection as an "inside man". Amusingly, within seconds of Jack arriving on the scene, Tony's story about there being two Starkwood agents starts to show holes thanks to Jack's expert eye for ballistics. Can Tony keep his cover and help his collaborator escape with the bioweapon canister, without arousing suspicion -- particularly from Jack, who has an experienced eye for deception? Tony's plan involves getting as many of the FBI in an abandoned warehouse as possible, primed to explode, and escape with his co-conspirator in the bloody aftermath...

Interestingly, it's not quite the end of Hodges' story either, as two of his superiors arrive at his lawyer's home and steal her identity, allowing icy blonde Cara Bowden (Amy Price-Francis) to gain access to the White House with fake ID and thumbprints. And Cara's not there to break Hodges out of jail as he initially assumes; no, no, she's there to threaten his family, pass him a suicide pill, and persuade him that the only way to ensure his beloved company's survival is through suicide...

There's also a small bit of business with Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) to flower later. We catch up with her driving home, having failed to convince her father to take the experimental stem cell treatment for the pathogen's effects. She calls her boyfriend to talk about her day, and we realized that she's since become the mother of a blonde baby boy called Terry. And she couldn't bring herself to tell Jack he's a grandad. If she did, he may have gone through with the stem cell procedure, you silly girl. Someone needs to teach Baby Bauer a few choke-holds and how to pistol-whip a terrorist. She can only provide anti-cougar tactics.

Episode 19 was a fun episode, even if I can't yet swallow Tony being a villain all along. It seems that Hodges went haywire once he got his hands on the bioweapon, to further his own political ambitions, but now his bosses have stepped in to course correct. So, I guess it makes sense that Tony wouldn't have wanted General Juma and Starkwood to succeed in their aims earlier today, but still agrees with whatever target these conspirators have? Cara certainly knows and trusts Tony, so I guess there's no way back for Tony now. He's joined the dark side.

After so many episodes with Jack and Renee stuck at the FBI letting Tony and Larry do all the heavy lifting, I was glad to see Jack getting stuck in with the investigation again. But I'm still a little irritated by the writers keeping Jack sick this long. Sure he'll have the treatment eventually (probably when he hears about his grandson), so will the stem cell procedure be effective within a few hours, allowing for a full-health Bauer smack-down around hour 22? I wish they'd get on with it, but at least Jack tends to show no sign of the pathogen's effects when he's got a crisis to solve... until it's dramatically the perfect moment to start twitching and repeating your words...

That moments arrives in the closing minutes when, after helping Renee mop up the warehouse explosion, Tony manages to get his accomplice to an ambulance to leave the zone safely, and Jack is told that someone Tony claimed to have killed for information about the White House attack is alive. Tony protects his innocence, claiming he lied to give his informant a chance to start a new life, but Jack's not having any of it -- despite it being a fairly decent excuse. Then, with Tony unmasked in Jack's mind, he begins to convulse and drops to the floor, unable to point the finger. I'm assuming Tony still respects Jack enough to not kill him, as he had the opportunity. That'll come back to bite him...

Overall, we still don't know enough about Tony's plan and Hodges' superiors to determine if recent developments are logical progression, or a cheap stunt to make events last the distance. Possibly it only exists because the writers want a similar ending to season 5 (when Jack was chasing his mentor), but one that really matters in the audience's mind (as Jack and Tony have an established history together that gives it added spice.) It's still a dangerous move, considering Tony's popularity and the difficulty in accepting that a man who dedicated his life to stopping terrorists would become one. Still, they have five episodes to make it work.

27 April 2009
Sky1, 9pm

Writer: David Fury
Director: Michael Klick

Cast: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack), Carlos Bernard (Tony), Annie Wersching (Renee), Cherry Jones (President Taylor), Jeffrey Nordling (Larry), Janeane Garofalo (Janis), Romeo Brown (White House Police Officer), Jon Voight (Hodges), Karim Prince (Med Tech #1), Zachary Stockdale (Med Tech #2), Emerson Brooks (Med Tech #4), Elisha Cuthbert (Kim), Sprague Grayden (Olivia), Will Patton (Alan Wilson), Paul Wesley (Stephen), Troy Mittleider (FBI Agent), Rey Gallegos (Agent Mizelli), Tom Choi (Agent Park), Kathryn Gordon (Patricia Eames), Diego Klattenhoff (Sgt. Cadden), Gabriel Casseus (Galvez) & Amy Price-Francis (Cara Bowden)

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

HEROES 3.25 – "An Invisible Thread"

||SPOILERS|| After two faltering seasons (mildly rescued by this half-decent volume comprising the back-half of season 3), Heroes reaches its third finale. Even back in the halcyon days of season 1, the show never managed a rousing finish, so my expectations were inevitably low for "An Invisible Thread". And, while certainly a little underwhelming in certain respects, I was ultimately appreciative for two reasons: they concluded the storyline fairly logically and gave us a few things to chew on. Just don't think too deeply about any of it...

Sylar (Zachary Quinto) is once again the threat that needs to be stopped by our heroes; now with a plan to shape-shift into Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) to facilitate a meeting with The President (Michael Dorn), and steal the Commander-In-Chief's identity to become "the most powerful man in the world". For no particular reason, it just sounds like a lark and the writers have fond memories of season 1's "Five Years Gone" plot.

Danko (Zeljko Ivanek) tries to stop his former-accomplice with a knife to the base of Sylar's neck, but it appears that Sylar's morphing ability has enabled him to move that weak spot (implausibly, as surely the "weakness" was always just severing blood flow to the brain -- so, what, Sylar moved his spine somewhere else?)

Anyway, Sylar soon becomes Nathan and prepares for a meeting with The President, only to make another monumental error (keeping the real Nathan unconscious, rather than kill him, or tie him up at the very least.) So, while Claire (Hayden Panettiere) arrives and is tricked into believing Sylar's her bio-dad, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) is the one to find his unconscious brother and know the truth. The Petrelli's then join forces to stop Sylar in his hotel room, where he's since revealed his identity to Claire and is taunting her with notions of being eternal, immortal enemies. The good news is: if power-leech Pete can touch Sylar he'll gain his power (perhaps all of them, or just one at random, it's never clear) and thus even the odds in their fight.

Elsewhere, Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando (James Kyson Lee) manage to free all of the captured "specials" kept in Building 26, by freezing time -– making you wonder why they didn't do that sooner, instead of travel to India for that pointless wedding. And it's worth mentioning that Hiro's still having health problems as a result of using his ability so often, in the form of nosebleeds, earbleeds and migraines. Concurrently, Angela (Cristine Rose) arrives at a bus depot to persuade Matt (Greg Grunberg) to help them defeat Sylar, claiming he'll be able to live in peace with his family if Sylar's taken care of, because Nathan's going to dismantle the Building 26 operation by being honest with The President over they threat "specials" pose.

One major disappointment was that a hotel room punchup, between the flying Petrelli brothers (a circus job beckons) and Sylar, was played out behind closed doors. This was likely a factor of budget/time restraints, but it was a shame we were denied super-charged action once again -- as there were similar complaints about the season 1 finale. Still, the episode clawed back some respect by allowing Sylar to rather graphically slit Nathan's throat and have him bleed to death in a chair. Angela and Matt arrived at the scene too late to help, and Cristine Rose's "wounded animal" reaction to her son's demise marked the first time death actually felt raw, consequential and heartfelt in Heroes.

But... well, they kind of ended up cheating the audience, in a silly but imaginative way that helped me excuse it. Sylar eventually winds up sitting next to the President in his limousine, disguised a Secret Service agent, but when he shakes hands with the President to sample his DNA, he's stabbed in the neck with a sedative by the President... who morphs into Peter! Yes, Peter managed to touch Sylar during their hotel fight and turned the tables. A clever end, that fed into the episode's most intriguing moment...

With Sylar caught and unconscious, Angela insists that things will only get back to normal if Nathan speaks with the real President to end Danko's manhunt –- but, seeing as he's now dead, they hatch a crazy plan to transform Sylar into Nathan, permanently. Therefore, Matt uses his ability to erase Sylar's memories and make him believe he's Senator Petrelli (just go with it), and this belief causes Sylar to shape-shift into Nathan and genuinely believe he's a different person after waking up.

Rather creepily, the victorious heroes burn the body of "Sylar" on a Darth Vader-style pyre (well, the shapeshifter double of Sylar taken from Building 26 by Mr. Bennet) as "Nathan" watches on, unaware he's actually Sylar. Too, too weird...

The traditional tease of the next Volume ("Redemption") looked intriguing, but low-key compared to previous sneak-peaks; here, six weeks later, Tracy (Ali Larter) returns as a naked water nymph in the flooded apartment of a former-Building 26 employee, killing him as her fourth victim. Then, in Nathan's office as he reads about the murder, Angela realizes there's still a trace of Sylar in "her son", as he has become fixated on a carriage clock that was running slow. So, while Adrian Pasdar will probably be around next year, it seems likely that Sylar's going to regain his memories and escape his existential prison. And is Tracy now to be counted as a villain, or don't we blame her for getting revenge on those Building 26 agents?

Overall, this didn't really have the impact of a big season finale, but neither was it a dud. In fact, it may have been small-scale, but it was actually more satisfying than season 1 and 2's climax in a great many ways. Sure, there are nitpicks everywhere you look, a few things didn't make sense (not least the haziness over Sylar's sudden desire to be President), and the threat of Danko's operation never really gripped like it promised to in the volume's premiere. Still, events wrapped up competently and "Fugitives" as a whole fixed a few longstanding issues with the series (like limiting Peter and Hiro's power), but I'm not especially excited about The Company being reborn as a government-sanctioned, Petrelli-run outfit.

27 April 2009
NBC, 9/8c

Writer: Tim Kring
Director: Greg Beeman

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), Masi Oka (Hiro), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Cristine Rose (Angela), Hayden Panettiere (Claire), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), James Kyson Lee (Ando), Zeljko Ivanek (Danko) & Michael Dorn (The President)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

DAMAGES 2.11 - "London. Of Course"

||SPOILERS|| I'm no longer sure if Rose Byrne is a good actress, or not. She certainly has a stock collection of reactions to whatever twist or revelation is thrown up each week; usually involving little nods, pensive smiles and a slightly ajar jaw. There's probably a fun drinking game in there somewhere...

We're nearly at the finish, so at least now we're getting some actual answers -- even if they mostly serve to make you realize how season 2 clouded its story so everything looked a lot more complicated than it actually was. That happens when you throw a stack of new characters at the audience, all swimming around a prolepsis narrative, keeping secrets from each other...

The big developments, and my reactions:

  • Okay, so... I totally missed the fact that Patty's husband Phil was being courted as Energy Secretary for the government, not UNR. This all makes sense to me now (as I couldn't understand why Patty was fine about her other half siding with the enemy in recent weeks!) Anyway, the real development here is that Patty discovers Phil's affair with a London-based businesswoman, thanks to Ellen secretly sending her photographic proof after chancing upon Phil and his new lover in a hotel lobby. Loved the fact all this coincided with Patty and Phil being interviewed about their perfect marriage to a magazine, and the quiet aftermath of Patty kicking Phil out -- as she sat alone in her bedroom, surrounded by clothes, Patty was only really upset that her husband was dumb enough to let her catch him out!
  • Claire Maddox became an unexpected ally, after trying to oust Kendrick as CEO of UNR by getting his number two to supplant him at a board meeting vote. It doesn't work, and her own attempt to takeover UNR also crashes-and-burns, as Kendrick is too wily to be toppled by his conspiring lawyer. So, Claire meets with Patty and agrees to help her take Walter for every penny he has over UNR's pollution and market manipulation. And now she says Daniel Purcell's willing to be honest and won't be turned in the courtroom.
  • We finally learn that the GPS inputting of coordinates in a stationery vehicle was a means to communicate to someone in secret. I guess I never realized sat-navs could talk to one another to make that connection.
  • Ellen is told that one of her FBI handlers, Agent Harrison, "killed himself" (he musta had demons, is all Agent Werner can say), and flashforwards appear to confirm that Patty really was shot and Ellen is quickly arrested by Wener for the deed. I somehow doubt Patty won't survive (Damages revolves around Glenn Close, after all), but I think we can safely assume season 3 will feature a big shake-up -- which I'm all in favour of. The Ellen/Patty goings-on had too much baggage this year. I still find the inclusion of Frobisher and the interminable attempt to make someone pay for Ellen's fiancé's death a real bore. It feels so unrelated to the UNR stuff, as if they have no confidence in their new storyline, so have to keep elements of the old one alive.

Just two more episodes to go, and I'm certainly interested to see where this all ends. I have a suspicion season 2 will look incredibly convoluted in retrospect because, well, it already does... but I want to see who lives, who dies, why Tom gets fired, if Wes will shoot Ellen, etc. But, please, I hope the finale wraps up the whole season 1-2 story and we start afresh next year. For me, Damages dropped the ball this year.

26 April 2009
BBC1, 10.25pm

Writers: Todd A. Kessler & David Zelman
Director: Andy Wolk


||SPOILERS|| A common complaint with Ashes To Ashes is that the '80s-set procedural is less interesting than the sci-fi trimmings. It was a criticism made of Life On Mars, too, but its predecessor had freshness and a compelling double-act to compensate. But, while the guts of this episode was another perfunctory storyline, there was a welcome move into a more serialized feel...

Things get underway when Gene (Philip Glenister) causes the death of a local gypsy called Jed, after ramming him off the road during a car chase. The man's fellow Romany's are understandably horrified, but Gene gets off the hook when DS Mackintosh (Roger Allam) invents an excuse for his actions: the presence of a child, whom Gene bravely saved from a reckless driver with his quick-thinking. Thrown into the mix is a bearded GP called Dr Battleford (Joseph Millson) who has an affinity with the gypsies, and possibly a connection to a pregnant teenager called Alva (Ellie Paskell)...

But, far more interesting was the continuation of the Gene/Macintosh situation, with Alex suspecting both are involved in police corruption that goes much deeper than bending facts to save CID some bad PR. Indeed, Alex discovers that Gene is being inducted into the Freemasons and the fraternity might be to blame for recent frustrations -- including why Gene's so reluctant to charge Dr Battleford for giving Jed sedatives at the wheel, because the doc's a member of his Lodge and it's part of their "code" to help each other. Gene also discovers that his predecessor at CID chose early retirement because he refused to be manipulated by Mackintosh, as he himself appears to be.

I have to say, it's a great idea to give us a recurring storyline to embellish the regular plots, acting as a thread through the season. It gives us something extra to tune in for every week, and the idea of Gene and Alex (Keeley Hawes) tackling police corruption (with Gene "undercover" we learn) is quite enticing -- particularly as Roger Allam always plays the type of smarmy villain you can't wait to see get his comeuppance. Also interesting to note that the corruption and the Masons are all-male, with the male-named Alex a woman who spends much of this episode believing she'll have to fight things alone. A key part of ATA has been putting Alex into a male-dominated environment, at a period in history when the tide was beginning to change for sexual office politics, so pitting her against an all-male clique was a juicy development.

Meanwhile, Alex is still rambling nonsense to Luigi (Joseph Long) and Chris (Marshall Lancaster) half the time, and the quirky way things in '82 seem to temporarily reflect what's happening to her unconscious body in '08 managed to stay entertaining.

What's nice is that there seems to be actual progression now; last week, Alex got the sense that her body had been found, and this week she's clearly being taken to hospital... a mechanic peering into a car engine suddenly starts talking like a paramedic viewing a body, Alex hears an ambicopter overheard in the empty streets, text on Gene's computer states "we are losing her" over and over, etc. And there are still some intriguing new developments -- like the sudden relevance of "the death of a princess", and a tarot card reader mentioning that Gene will have to "give up his power to a Tyler" (even if that's later explained as a component of Masonic ritual, not Sam Tyler, disappointingly.)

It's an episode about taking sides, really. Should Alex trust Gene, or will she have to fight this scandal alone? Is Gene going to side with "bent cop" Mackintosh? Occasionally, we're shown the characters watching the Falkland's War unfold on television, which again fed into the idea of taking sides in a conflict. Shaz (Montserrat Lombard) is sympathetic to the conscripted Argentine army, but Ray (Dean Andrews) firmly backs the British on patriotic principle.

Overall, there was a fair bit going on beneath the surface of episode 2, which helped improve a generally unimpressive story about a creepy doctor, some pilloried gypsies and a young girl he got pregnant. The burgeoning scandal at CID should give Ashes a strong foundation if its standalone stories fail to spark, there were some good character moments between Gene and Alex, the symbolism/quirkiness imbued in Ashes' premise is holding up nicely (throwing Freemasons into the melting pot should stoke the theory fires), and funnier dialogue was spat during this episode than the entirety of season 1 ("a hot cow's arse isn't my idea of a power drink!" / "this motor's more a part of me than me own ball sack!")

27 April 2009
BBC1, 9pm

Writer: Matthew Graham
Director: Catherine Morshead

Cast: Philip Glenister (Gene), Keeley Hawes (Alex), Dean Andrews (Ray), Marshall Lancaster (Chris), Montserrat Lombard (Shaz), Roger Allam (DS Mackintosh), Adrian Dunbar (Martin Summers), Joseph Millson (Dr Battleford), Ellie Paskell (Alva), Paola Dionisotti (Old Mother), Joseph Long (Luigi), Geff Francis (Viv James), Grace Vance (Molly Drake) & Dean Bardini (Terry)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Chuck vs Subway

I thought this was kinda cool, especially if you like Chuck. Zachary Levi and Adam Baldwin attended a convention at the Birmingham NEC (England), and Levi led an impromptu 400-strong group of fans to a nearby Subway to help make them all some sandwiches!

Chuck's season 2 finale airs tonight in the US. NBC have yet to renew the series for next year (although Levi claimed it's "on the right side of the bubble" during his convention appearance.) Levi's Subway stunt is all part of a campaign to make "the suits" know a lot of people are watching the show, and he encouraged people to get the word out virally. So, consider this my little effort. Now if only Virgin1 could pull their fingers out and actually show season 2 in the UK! *grumble, grumble*

If you want to support Chuck, why not follow SaveChuck on Twitter, join the campaign's Facebook group, sign this online petition, or write a nice letter (don't rant) to one of these addresses:

NBC's Chuck
3000 W Alameda Ave
Burbank, CA 91523

Ben Silverman
3000 W. Alameda
Admin Building
Burbank, CA 91523

Angela Bromstad
President of Primetime Series
100 Universal City Plaza
Bldg 1320, 4th Floor
Universal City, CA 91608

DOLLHOUSE 1.10 - "Haunted"

||SPOILERS|| There's a brilliant idea behind "Haunted" that held my attention for awhile, before its inherent problems became all too obvious. Here, a wealthy middle-aged woman called Margaret (Brenda Bakke1) is killed while riding her horse -- but, having long suspected someone might murder her, she's had a series of expensive brain-scans at the Dollhouse. This allows her personality and memories to be imprinted onto Echo (Eliza Dushku) shortly after her passing, allowing "Margaret" to attend her own funeral and solve her own murder...

Like I said, it's a really compelling idea, and another example of how Dollhouse's premise can be stretched into interesting territory. Sadly, once the novelty of the situation ticked some obvious boxes (Margaret/Echo getting to see what her family really thought of her, etc.), the episode had to somehow make us care about a half-dozen characters we've only just met. And it didn't manage it; despite the fact three writers had a hand in crafting this tricky episode. To her credit, I thought Dushku did a decent job at altering her poise and mannerisms to play an older, posh woman... but then, as the episode developed, she seemed to just lapse into playing a quieter version of herself...

The murder mystery itself wasn't particularly compelling given the potential for a fun Cluedo-style romp, although a final twist over the killer's identity was effective enough. You had to suspend your disbelief a great deal, though, as Echo gains access to the family by pretending she's an old friend of Margaret's called Julia (that Margaret kept mentioning before she died, to facilitate her own infiltration after death.) That was plausible enough, but I didn't believe the family would allow "Julia" (who's still a total stranger to them) to stay over after the funeral and pry into their lives to the extent she did. Still, without that concession, it would have been impossible to pull off this story.

The subplots weren't too good, either, which didn't help the episode at large. Topher (Fran Kranz) was given permission to run an annual "diagnostic test" which amounted to him imprinting Sierra (Dichen Lachman) as the ultimate best friend. The pair spent the whole episode playing video-games, throwing ball to each other, and sprinting around the Dollhouse playing laser-tag. All pretty forgettable, and only there to underline how lonely Topher is.

Slightly little better was the continuing storyline for Agent Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett), who has to keep up appearances with his neighbour and girlfriend Mellie (Miracle Laurie), now that he knows she's a doll sent to spy on him. So, he's keeping his work life tight-lipped and acting distant (which is beginning to frustrate Mellie), and later beats himself up when he gives in and has passionate sex with a woman he knows is essentially a slave. At work, Ballard gets his colleague to run Mellie's fingerprints through the FBI database, and appears to discover she's actually a criminal of some description, before the record is mysteriously wiped as they watch. Still, at least now someone at the Bureau actually believes him.

Overall; great idea, poor execution. I can understand the difficulty in making us care about characters in a one-off story, but it's something the likes of Quantum Leap pulled off nearly every week. Still, I guess that show always had the same character (Sam Beckett) dropped into different lives, and seeing him struggle to cope was part of the fun. In Dollhouse, Echo is primed to slot into people's lives with no such problem (unless there's another "glitch"), so we have to try and see her as someone entangled in a real life. And this episode didn't manage to make Margaret's life, or afterlife, particularly interesting. The idea that Margaret/Echo would refuse to be wiped/killed at the end of the mission was more intriguing to me than discovering who actually killed her, but "Haunted" only had time to reference that possibility before brushing it under the carpet.

24 April 2009
Fox, 9/8c

Writers: Jane Espenson, Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon
Director: Elodie Keene

Cast: Eliza Dushku (Echo), Olivia Williams (DeWitt), Fran Franz (Topher), Harry J. Lennix (Boyd), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), Ian Anthony Dale (Jack Dunston), Tahmoh Penikett (Ballard), Miracle Laurie (Mellie), Enver Gjokaj (Victor), Brenda Bakke (Margaret Bashford), Jordan Bridges (Nicolas Bashford, Gregg Henry (William Bashford) & Rhea Seehorn (Jocelyn Bashford)

1. Yes, an unrecognizable Brenda Bakke! The leggy hottie in Hot Shots: Part Deux and the delectable Ms. Coombs in American Gothic is now playing a crinkled, snooty mom! God, I feel old.

All Grown Up #2

Last week's inaugural All Grown Up was won by Carl (with help from "James in the office"), who correctly guessed that this guy was David Moscow (a.k.a Young Josh in Big.) I thought it was hard, but clearly I need to get even more fiendish...

So, this week's edition is tougher. To your right is a photo of a child star who's now all grown up. The question is simple: who is it?

Please leave guesses in the comments area below. Ideally, I need the actor's name, but I'd be surprised if you know it without researching once you guess the role he played...

If things begin to drag, I'll offer clues to nudge you along. But, does anyone know the answer straight away?

TV Picks: 27 April - 3 May 2009

Pick of the Week: "Boy Meets Girl" -- ITV1, Fri @9pm

Oh, you know what this is by now. It's a roundup of the week's best, new television shows airing in the UK, as chosen by me:

  • Chopping Block (ITV2, 10pm) Marco Pierre White hosts this cookery competition, recently axed in the US.
  • Impact (Sci-Fi, 8pm) US disaster mini-series about a meteor that hits the moon.
  • Kirsten's Topless Ambition (BBC3, 9pm) Former children's TV presenter Kirsten O'Brien considers posing topless for a magazine.
  • Nothing.
  • Nothing.
  • Boy Meets Girl (ITV1, 9pm) Comedy about a man and a woman who swap bodies after a lightning strike. Stars Martin Freeman, James Lance, Rachael Stirling, Marshall Lancaster & Angela Griffin.
  • All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV1, 6.20pm) Celebrity couples gameshow presented by Phillip Schofield & Fern Britton.
  • Martin Clunes: Islands Of Britain (ITV1, 9pm) Three-part series where the actor explores some of the small islands that surround the UK.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

British Academy Television Awards '09: Live Blog


||SPOILERS|| Credit where credit's due, at least Primeval's third season isn't retreading old ground entirely. By expanding the mythology to explain beasts from cryptozoology and myth, we've also seen a bit more imagination behind the plots themselves. Of course, it's still absurd and poorly-conceived a lot of the time, but at least the show's trying to do something different...

This week, an anomaly appears in the plush apartment of Sir Richard William (William Scott-Masson) and one of his aides wanders through after mistaking it for modern art(!), to find himself in a future woodland where he's infected with a fungus-like contagion. Before dying, the aide vomits on the apartment floor in the present-day, before the anomaly imprisons him in the future, and Sir Richard is infected upon returning home and touching the curious black stain he discovers.

The ARC team are soon on the case (after a curiously late anomaly alert), and Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts) takes a sample of the floor mildew and realizes it's a virulent contagion. So, the search is on for Sir Richard before he can infect other people. And, wouldn't you know it, the upper-class dullard's currently stumbling around the heavily-populated St. Pancras station, hiding an arm covered in mossy swellings.

Danny Quinn (Jason Flemyng) is also back, refusing to take no for an answer in his quest to become ARC's new team leader, following the death of Cutter. It's an ambition we're certain he'll achieve, but the series still has to jump through some hoops. Primeval doesn't make it easy for itself, either -– pretty much every character has no watertight reason to be on the team. Connor began life as a dinosaur nerd with a laptop (and now he's a catch-all boy genius), Abby (Hannah Spearritt) is just a zookeeper (but now a gifted botanist and action-sprite to boot), and Jenny (Lucy Brown) was supposed to be the face of boring public relations, but has mysteriously assumed authority. Newcomer Sarah (Laila Rouass) has a half-decent reason to be there, but it's one that sadly confines her to the ARC, to scratch dirt away on The Artifiact.

While it seemed likely we were in for a different kind of threat this week; something biological, instead of monstrous... Primeval just couldn't resist indulging the FX team. So, it's not long before we realize that people infected by the fungus are slowly transforming into rampaging "mushroom men" –- necessitating our heroes to suit up with flame-throwers in the London sewers to try to incinerate patient-zero Sir Fungus, while Sarah and Connor work on a cure...

For all its ridiculousness, Catherine Linstrum and Paul Mousley's script kept things enjoyable and brisk, even if character's reactions were maddeningly illogical. Wouldn't you call for an ambulance if your hand suddenly started mutating into mold, rather than try desperately to catch your train? And the aide in the teaser was amusingly blasé about finding himself in another era; he even checked his phone signal before commenting on his surroundings!

Overall, this was silly... but fun. Primeval's never going to be much more than that. Flemyng's boyish heroics are blessed relief from stern-faced Cutter's joylessness, and the episode gave everyone something to do (again, splitting the cast into two groups, each with different problems to solve.) It was also a mild surprise to see Lucy Brown leave the show (although I suspected she'd be going, thanks to promo photos that didn't feature her), but clearly the door's been left open for a return, or some guest appearances. It's actually quite unusual to have a TV show adjust its cast so radically as it coasts along -- and, while I'm certain Flemyng will be an improvement on Douglas Henshall, it remains to be seen if Primeval can utilize Laila Rouass properly.

As a final, random addendum: whatever happened to Rex? That green flying reptile, so beloved of Abby and Connor, appears to have been replaced by a podgy Diictodon they've called Sid. Did Rex fly out the window, or did they squash him and cover it up?

25 April 2009
ITV1, 7pm

Writers: Catherine Linstrum & Paul Mousley
Director: Mark Everest

Cast: Jason Flemyng (Danny), Andrew-Lee Potts (Connor), Lucy Brown (Jenny), Hannah Spearritt (Abby), Juliet Aubrey (Helen), Ben Miller (James Lester), Ben Mansfield (Becker), Laila Rouass (Sarah), Belinda Stewart-Wilson (Christine Johnson), Alex McSweeney (Captain Wilder), William Scott-Masson (Sir Richard William), Theo Cross (Lloyd), Mark Leadbetter (Mark Baker) & Terence Maynard (Chauffeur)

ROBIN HOOD 3.5 – "Let The Games Commence"

||SPOILERS|| There were moments early on in this episode where I thought we might be in for something fun and exciting, but then a particularly terrible subplot and a lion made their appearance...

Guy (Richard Armitage) is back, sending local women's hearts all a-flutter, having somehow convinced Prince John that he isn't to blame for the failure to capture Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong). Now he's been given autonomy and a personal army of highly-trained soldiers to capture Hood's men, before unleashing his "secret weapon" (oo-er, misses.) Deep in Sherwood, Robin helps a beautiful woman called Isabella (Lara Pulver) avoid Guy's men, and she becomes embroiled in the dastardly villain's scheme to carefully herd Robin's men into a forest clearing, where his secret weapon is revealed to be... a hungry lion.

Little John (Gordon Kennedy), separated from the others after they temporarily split up, chances upon a travelling circus led by Bertha of Bath (a bloated Denise Black), a fiery woman on her way to Nottingham with her troupe of gladiators and children. She offers Little John sanctuary from Guy's men, but only if he'll agree to become a gladiator and fight as entertainment in Nottingham Castle's courtyard. John agrees, but after Bertha's ordered by the Sheriff (Keith Allen) to give him an extortionate amount of her takings, she persuades him to accept the public death of one of Hood's men as payment, and thus makes plans to ensure Little John's unwittingly participating in a gladiatorial fight to the death.

The script by Lisa Holdsworth (Waterloo Road, New Tricks) features a lot of running around, often apparently in search of a decent story. The Little John subplot felt undercooked in the extreme; so much so that when John forms another bond with a cute kid (Walt, played nicely by James Buckley), the relationship is never one we really believe in, or care about. Denise Black tries her best as Bertha, but it's a bland role in a story that feels like padding.

Robin's storyline is a bit more engaging, at least to begin with. It's about time Guy just combed through the forest with a ridiculous amount of men to catch Hood, but he makes another fatal error by overcomplicating matters. Why get a hungry lion involved, when a circle of men each firing a crossbow would do the trick? Robin's means of escape from that situation (shooting pouches of mustard powder thrown into the air with arrows, to asphyxiate the lion and Guy's army) probably worked better on the page than it did when filmed.

On the plus side, Lara Pulver feels like a worthwhile introduction as Lady Isabella (who we later learn is Guy's sister he sold into servitude), and an unlikely contender as someone to heal Robin's broken heart -– which would certainly toy with Guy's affections for his sister, if she starts dating his mortal enemy! I guess Kate (Joanne Froggatt) will have to pick between Much (Sam Troughton) and Allan (Joe Armstrong), then? Tuck (David Harewood) might be celibate and Little John would probably snap her like a twig, see.

Overall, "Let The Games Commence" was the usual baudy nonsense, but it was nice to see Guy back on the scene (one of the few actors whose presence raises the show a notch.) It's just a shame Robin Hood is so resolutely determined to undermine itself in the details (dubbing "tweeting birdsong" when John is struck about the head, and yelling "Gladiators, reeeady!" like referee John Anderson), and the storyline ultimately felt meandering and a bit pointless.

25 April 2009
BBC1, 6.15pm

Writer: Lisa Holdsworth
Director: Patrick Lau

Cast: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Richard Armitage (Guy), David Harewood (Tuck), Keith Allen (Sheriff), Gordon Kennedy (Little John), Sam Troughton (Much), Joe Armstrong (Allan), Lara Pulver (Isabella), Joanne Froggatt (Kate), Denise Black (Bertha), James Buckley (Walt) & Matt Devere (Elite Guard)

MAD MEN 2.11 – "The Jet Set"

||SPOILERS|| A truly fascinating and eerie episode this week, as "The Jet Set" whisks us to the sun-kissed west coast of California, where Don (Jon Hamm) and Pete (Vincent Karthesier) have arrived to attend a presentation on MIRV missiles and nuclear warheads...

It's here that Don meets the appropriately-named Joy (Laura Ramsey), a beautiful woman who takes a shine to Don after seeing him suited and alone at the hotel pool. She introduces him to her European friends, and eventually persuades him to join her at Palm Springs ("why would you deny yourself something you want?") -– leaving Pete in the lurch during a prearranged business lunch.

For Don, Joy proves to be a gateway into a faintly bizarre world, populated by self-confessed "nomads" with the wealth to indulge their bohemian attitude in paradisiacal mansion. He meets an elderly Viscount called Willy (Philippe Brenninkmeyer) who casually wanders in on Don and Joy after they've slept together, before Don realizes Willy is actually Joy's father! More than anything, Palm Springs allows Don to cast off his "Don Draper" identity (out goes the flannel grey suit, after a "reset" caused by fainting from heat exhaustion) and the real Dick Whitman is allowed to emerge. A final scene even had Don calling someone who knows him as Dick and arranging a get-together, so revitalizing was his experience. Is this the woman he sent poetry to in the premiere, or the one who recognized him as a second-hand car salesman? Or both.

The transatlantic flavour feeds into the New York-set subplots, too. Duck (Mark Moses) angles for a promotion from Roger (John Slattery), but is essentially mocked for believing he's earned one. Frustrated, Duck meets with his former employees in a restaurant – two British ad men from London agency PPL – and asks for his old job back. When they refuse, he instead suggested they buy Sterling Cooper as part of a readymade US division. Later, he meets with Roger and Cooper (Robert Morse) about a possible merger with the London-based group, which would be financially beneficial to their business, but also give his career the boost he thinks he deserves as the facilitator. It was also worth noting that Duck's maneuvering may not gotten so far if Don had been around, but "The Jet Set" was all about Don taking his eye off the ball...

Elsewhere, newbie foreigner Kurt (Edin Gali) told the junior execs of Sterling Cooper that he was homosexual, in a nonchalant way that stunned his colleagues. How distasteful was it to hear Harry (Rich Sommer) call Kurt a "pervert", to be reminded how far we've come since the '60s? Also worth noting closeted gay Salvatore's (Bryan Batt) muted response, who probably envies Kurt's bravery, but gets an earful of the private condemnation after Kurt leaves, which will likely increase his resolve to deny his own sexuality. Even Peggy, who has arranged a "date" with Kurt to a Bob Dylan concert, seemed a little taken aback by the revelation –- although Kurt proves to be another instrument of her piecemeal transformation, later giving her a sexy new hairstyle to replace her girlish curls.

In a largely unconnected few scenes, we also get some insight into Roger's affair with secretary Jane (Peyton List), whom he asks to marry him. It's all very, very wrong and Roger's surely misguided that his wife won't get a bean after their divorce -- something Duck certainly doesn't believe, but knows will strengthen his position when masterminding the possible PPL merger.

Overall, this wasn't exactly a change of pace (Mad Men's always beautifully restrained and ambling), but the location shift worked well and Don's scenes at the Monteforte mansion were wonderfully off-kilter, while Duck's suddenly launched himself into a very interesting direction. Might season 3 involve the takeover of Sterling Cooper and the ascension of Duck, as Don slowly begins to lose his grip on his career and identity? Just how far will Peggy inch her way up the corporate ladder? Will Sal ever be confident enough to come out to his colleagues? Will he perhaps seek guidance and assurance from Kurt sometime soon?

21 April 2009
BBC Four, 10pm

Writer: Matthew Weiner
Director: Phil Abraham

Cast: Jon Hamm (Don), Elisabeth Moss (Peggy), Vincent Karthesier (Pete), Bryan Batt (Salvatore), John Slattery (Roger), Aaron Staton (Ken), Robert Morse (Cooper), Mark Moses (Duck), Laura Ramsey (Joy), Philippe Brenninkmeyer (Willy), Justine Eyre (Rocci), Bjorn Johnson (Klaus), Peyton List (Jane Siegel), Charles Shaughnessy (Saint John Powell), Alan Blumenfeld (George Rothman), Rudolf Martin (Christian), Kevin Christy (Stu Rogison), Emilio Roso (Carlos), Nina Franoszek (Greta), Patrick Cavanaugh (Smitty), Brandon Hayes (Alec Martin) & Edin Galijasevic (Kurt)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Poll: Which US show most deserves to return next year?

Last week I asked everyone which US drama most deserves to return next year, from a choice of five whose fates are currently up in the air. The results are above, broken down below:

In first place, jumping ahead in the last day to win, was Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (with 33% of the vote); pushed into second place, after leading the pack all week until the final day, was Chuck (with 28%); third-place went to Fringe (with 17%); Dollhouse was just nudged out into runner-up position (with 15%); and Eleventh Hour was predictably the big loser (with 7%). Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote/comment, because this poll was the most popular ever, with 98 votes counted.


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let's hope the late Leonard Rossiter agreed with that sentiment. Reggie Perrin is a remake of a classic 1970s sitcom that starred Rossiter as the eponymous businessman having a mid-life crisis. This update has been co-written by creator David Nobbs alongside Simon Nye (who wrote Men Behaving Badly), with the star of that '90s sitcom, Martin Clunes, bravely taking the lead role...

A few things have changed by necessity: Reggie now works at Groomtech making men's razors (next door to the original's Sunshine Desserts office), and there are the expected cultural updates -– like train commuters with their heads stuck in laptops or iPods. Yet it's all very old-fashioned, really -- in its format (studio-set, live audience), middle-of-the-road jokes that lack any bite, and supporting players with unfunny, exaggerated personalities (a miserable, monosyllabic secretary; two young, sycophantic employees, etc.)

Martin Clunes is definitely the best thing about it; a genuinely likeable and watchable comic performer, who has the hangdog world-weariness of the character down pat, minus Rossiter's twitchy volatility. Consequently, Clunes' Reggie is more winsome and predictable, but also more charismatic. There's also promise in casting Fay Ripley as his wife Nicola, whose own life is full of distractions from her dour husband, and I quite liked Lucy Liemann (Moving Wallpaper) as a sexy co-worker called Jasmine whom Reggie's smitten with.

The sitcom's iconic daydreams (where Reggie's life suddenly takes a silly turn, before we snap back to tedious reality) also worked nicely –- although these moments did become predictable and easy to spot. And I'm not sold on Neil Stuke as Reggie's boss C.J (ahem, Chris Jackson), either. They've cast someone much younger than the original's John Barron, but Stuke seems to be playing the character as an older man, oddly.

Reggie Perrin can't hold a candle to its 1976-79 predecessor, but it wasn't anywhere near as awful as I was expecting it to be. Most of this is down to Clunes' performance, although I'm not sure even he's good enough to keep us watching once the novelty wears off. Still, it's much better than David Nobbs' 1996 attempt to revive the show, which unwisely based the whole show around the aftermath of Reggie's death because Rossiter had died in 1984! Still, you'd think the presence of Men Behaving Badly's creator would have resulted in something a bit more radical and progressive than this weak imitator

24 April 2009
BBC1, 9.30pm

Writers: David Nobbs
Director: Tristram Shapeero

Cast: Martin Clunes (Reginald Perrin), Fay Ripley (Nicola Perrin), Neil Stuke (Chris Jackson), Lucy Liemann (Jasmine Strauss), Jim Howick (Anthony), Nick Mohammed (Steve), Kerry Howard (Vicky), Susan Earl (Wellness Person), Laurence Howarth (Colin) & Justin Edwards (Monty)

BREAKING BAD 2.7 – "Negro Y Azul"

||SPOILERS|| Or "Black And Blue", if, like Hank (Dean Norris), you're a gringo who doesn't speak the lingo. This episode starts off with a ballsy four-minute music video, where a narcocorrido band sing about Heisenberg, a drug lord who's been disrespecting the Mexican cartel with his blue crystal meth. "But that homie's dead / he just don't know it yet..."

I assume the band's song can be taken as an accurate glimpse at how successful Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) will become, as Walt plans to expand their operation into rival territories of Albuquerque. Jesse isn't sold on the idea, but Walt's sure it'll work because Jesse now has a reputation as the killer of Spooge. The truth that Spooge's head was crushed by a ATM machine toppled by his girlfriend has been twisted into a cautionary tale for anyone else thinking of ripping off Jesse Pinkman. He's already a minor celebrity in certain circles, as evidenced when a biker recognizes him on the street.

And Walter's able to convince Jesse into following his plan by comparing him to a "blowfish" (a small marine creature that increases its size to scare away bigger predators), in another father/son-style pep talk that feels incredibly uncomfortable because we know Walt's manipulating Jesse to his own end. Indeed, Walter's becoming less likeable as time marches on, given the fact he's had ample opportunity to cut his losses and meet death with dignity, reputation intact.

Meanwhile, Hank is having trouble fitting in at the El Paso DEA office. He was a big fish in a small pond in his hometown, but now the reverse is true. He doesn't understand Spanish, doesn't get their customs (like keeping idols of the junkie's patron saint Jesus Malverde, to "know your enemy"), and is generally considered a brash American in over his head. And they're kind of right...

While helping to interview drug informant Tortuga/Turtle (Danny Trejo1), Hank's impatience is all too evident, and things literally come to a head in the ensuing stakeout -- when the DEA agents find the decapitated head of Tortuga stuck to a turtle's shell, crawling through the desert. The sick and twisted sight is too much for Hank, who retreats to vomit amidst laughter from his hardened co-workers. But that proves a lucky move, as Hank's a safe distance away when his colleagues touch the turtle and trigger a bomb -– the explosion causing a scene of ear-ringing bloodshed and severed limbs. Echoing Walt's place in the show, Hank appears to have similar luck in his chosen profession (he may even be considered a hero again for helping in the aftermath), but he's likewise ill-equipped to deal with his job's darker underbelly.

Elsewhere, Skyler (Anna Gunn) decides to get a job at her old company, Beneke, because they need cash to pay for Walt's cancer treatment. Her old boss Ted (Christopher Cousins) is pleased to see her and agrees to take her back, and we get the impression that Skyler originally left because of Ted's inappropriate sexual advances. Her sister Marie (Betty Brandt) isn't happy that "Mr. Grabby-Hands" is still there, and even Skyler looks wary after noting Ted's split from his wife and is already asking her out to lunch. Will the show avoid the cliché of Ted giving Skyler cash for sexual favours, that she'll use to pat Walt's medical bills?

Jesse has become a recluse in the wake of Spooge's death, but the purchase a giant flatscreen television that can't receive a satellite signal proves the unlikely catalyst for some progression with tattoo artist Jane (Krysten Ritter), who comes round to watch some TV and ends up clutching Jesse's fingers in the final scene. Now that Jesse has a new home and a girlfriend, it feels like his life's on the up –- but I doubt he'll give up the drug-dealing and settle for normality, despite being given a wake-up call with Spooge's death. No, the lure of quick and relatively easy money is too much, and I can't see Jesse getting a normal nine-to-five job, can you?

Overall, "Negro Y Azul" was another excellent episode from a great series that takes it sweet time, but always delivers. I'm still loving Hank's storyline just as much as Walt's, and it feels like this episode really pointed us in the direction of the finale. Will the Mexican drug cartel find and target Walt in the finale? Will "Heisenberg" enter the big leagues that quickly? Will Hank find his feet at El Paso? How will Skyler's job work out for her? And are Jesse's deadbeat friends really the kind of guys you want as "lieutenants" in charge of their own underlings? Jesse's reputation as a bad-ass to protect them isn't likely to last, is it?

19 April 2009
AMC, 10pm

Writer: John Shiban
Director: Felix Alcala

Cast: Bryan Cranston (Walt), Aaron Paul (Jesse), Anna Gunn (Skyler), RJ Mitte (Walt Jr), Dean Norris (Hank), Betsy Brandt (Marie), Christopher Cousins (Ted), Danny Trejo (Tortuga), Krysten Ritter (Jane)

1. It's character actor Danny Trejo, so I think it's in his contract to die in everything he appears in.

Live-blog: British Academy Television Awards 2009 - 26 April @8pm (GMT)

Following the success of my live-blogging debut earlier this year (where I covered the British Academy Film Awards), I've decided to host my second Live Blog this Sunday, covering the British Academy Television Awards 2009. For international readers, they're the British equivalent to the Emmy's -- so, while this event will be more relevant to Brits, everyone's welcome to come along...

The live-blog window will appear here and resemble a "chat room", but your comments won't be displayed in real-time. I will be the Host/Writer and your comments will be filtered and published at my discretion. But don't worry, most get through if they're on-topic, funny, or of value. Beyond that, there are polls to vote in as the gongs are awarded1 and other interactive goodies.

So, be sure to check back here on 26 April @8pm (GMT) for real-time coverage of the two-hour British Academy Television Awards 2009. I'd be grateful if you could help promote this live event on your own blog, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter, if you're feeling especially kind and supportive!

1. Last time, the collective of voters had amazing success at correctly guessing the winners seconds before they were announced! Can we pull it off a second time?

Friday, 24 April 2009

HOTLIGHT: Arielle Kebbel

This will be the last Hotlight for awhile (unless there's a public outcry), so feast your eyes on rising star ARIELLE KEBBEL, who co-stars in The Uninvited. Arielle has so far appeared in dirge like Soul Plane, American Pie: Band Camp, John Tucker Must Die and The Grudge 2. She also starred in the failed pilot for the US remake of Footballer's Wives, and has been cast in the US remake of British comedy No Heroics. The Uninvited (another Asian horror remake, a la Grudge 2) doesn't feel like much of a step up in quality (it has a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but it's another means to take in her cuteness...

Date of Birth: 19 February 1985
Place of Birth: Winter Park, Florida, USA

Heroes gets cut short

TV Guide is reporting that NBC will cut the length of Heroes' fourth season from 25 episodes to 18 or 20. The reason appears to be a desire to keep the quality high, but NBC also have fewer primetime hours to fill now that Jay Leno has a 10pm chat show slot. As TV Guide mention, this is another example of a US network realizing that fewer episodes are actually of benefit in the longterm -- perhaps inspired by the success of cable shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Dexter (that all have 12/13-episode seasons.) On network television, Lost reached an agreement with ABC to only produce 16 episodes each year, and new series Harper's Island is airing with a built-in 13-episode plan.

Box Office Charts: w/e 24 April 2009

Zac vs Monsters vs Aliens

In the US: Zac Efron's starpower is clearly much stronger in his native US, where 17 AGAIN rockets to #1 with a decent $23m... forcing the US remake of British mini-series STATE OF PLAY into second place with a disappointing $14m... and there's bad news for Jason Statham, as CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE doesn't find much of an audience, limping in at #6 just shy of $7m...


(-) 1. 17 Again $23.7m
(-) 2. State Of Play $14.1m
(1) 3. Hannah Montana: The Movie $13.4m
(3) 4. Monsters vs Aliens $13.2m
(2) 5. Fast & Furious $11.8m
(-) 6. Crank: High Voltage $6.96m
(4) 7. Observe & Report $4.17m
(5) 8. Knowing $3.57m
(6) 9. I Love You, Man $3.33m
(7) 10. The Haunting In Connecticut $3.11m

In the UK: Monsters vs Aliens regains the top spot from Fast & Furious after a week... new "bromance" release I LOVE YOU, MAN with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel scrapes past £1m to take #4... Jason Statham's native land have a similar reaction to CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, as it only manages £55k to debut at #5... and political comedy IN THE LOOP gets off to a bad start, straight in at #8. Did anyone even know it was out last week?


(2) 1. Monsters vs Aliens £2.05m
(1) 2. Fast & Furious £1.9m
(3) 3. 17 Again £1.7m
(-) 4. I Love You, Man £1.1m
(-) 5. Crank: High Voltage £554k
(4) 6. The Boat That Rocked £498k
(6) 7. Race To Witch Mountain £469k
(-) 8. In The Loop £468k
(5) 9. Knowing £312k
(7) 10. Marley & Me £304k



Comedy-drama. A bi-polar mall cop goes to extreme measures to thwart a flasher on the premises he protects.
Director: Jody Hill Starring: Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta & Anna Faris
Tomatometer: 53% (Fresh; based on 160 reviews) "Though it has a mean streak, and does not cater to all tastes, Observe and Report has gut-busting laughs and a fully committed Seth Rogen in irresistible form."


Sci-Fi Action. A man from another planet crash-lands on Earth during the reign of the Vikings and has to join forces with a tribe to recapture a monster he was transporting.
Director: Howard McCain Starring: James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Ron Perlman & Cliff Saunders.
Tomatometer: 33% (Rotten; based on 48 reviews) "Schizophrenic in subject and lackluster in execution, Outlander might have trouble finding the cult audience for which it was built."


Horror-drama. A woman returns home to look after her sister, after being released from a mental hospital, and realizes a ghost has taken residence.
Directors: Charles Guard & Thomas Guard Starring: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, David Stratham, Elizabeth Banks & Maya Massar
Tomatometer: 32% (Rotten; based on 115 reviews) "The Uninvited is moody and reasonably involving, but suffers from predictable plot twists."

Robin Hood finds a new Sherwood?

We already know that Jonas Armstrong is leaving Robin Hood after the current series, and there are strong rumours that Keith Allen has decided to go, too. Robert Kazinsky (EastEnders) is allegedly a hot contender to replace Armstrong in the titular role (echoing how Robin Of Sherwood got around a similar change in actor?) I personally find it unlikely that Richard Armitage will be back as Guy of Gisbourne, as other commitments have already resulted in absences on the show. But, his fate hasn't been decided. Anyway, today it's been revealed that the BBC are considering transferring production from Hungary to Scotland, to save money...

The move would mean BBC Wales will lose internal control of the Tiger Aspect-produced series to BBC Scotland. It was also reported by The Stage that writer Sally Wainwright (At Home With The Braithwaites) has already been given the go-ahead to reinvent Robin Hood for its fourth year:

"The BBC has asked me to take over Robin Hood in a way Russell [T. Davies] does on Doctor Who. They have a third series going out in the spring which I have had nothing to do with, but they have asked me to reinvent it and they want it to be very different, which is why they have come to me. It's going to be a completely different show. I want to model Robin Hood more on Doctor Who, in terms of quality of script and quality of direction."
The question is: with major changes in cast and location increasingly likely, would it make sense to just recast the whole thing and start from scratch?


||SPOILERS|| Toni Graphia's one of the better writers on T:tSCC, and her script for "Adam Raised A Cain" is definitely a series highlight. After the coordinated attack on her family last week, Sarah (Lena Headey) and Derek (Brian Austin Green) have taken time to reflect on a field of unmarked graves, one of which contains the remains of Kyle Reece. John (Thomas Dekker) discovers a photo of Savannah (Mackenzie Smith) on a dead assailant's phone, recognizing her as the little girl at Dr. Sherman's office weeks back, and deduces that she is their next target...

Savannah herself is growing closer to John Henry (Garret Dillahunt), who is communicating with her online while she's at school. This raises suspicions in the teacher, who calls her mother Catherine (Shirley Manson) in for a chat, presuming that "John Henry" could be a paedophile. Of course, JR has no such intent, and is more intrigued about the idea he has a brother –- the fellow AI that hacked into his system recently – and discusses his thoughts on a likeminded sibling, the human brain, and heaven to Agent Ellison (Richard T. Jones).

Then we're dropped into one of T:tSCC's best ever sequences, as Savannah does her homework alone at the Weaver residence with her nanny, oblivious to the approach of a Terminator assigned to kill her. John Henry is fortunately keeping watch through the house's security cameras, detects the danger, and guides Savannah around her home via a Bluetooth earpiece, keeping her one step ahead of the enemy until security can arrive.

Luckily, John, Sarah, Derek and Cameron (Summer Glau) arrive, to prevent Savannah from harm. It's here that we're dealt a genuinely punishing blow that I give the series maximum respect for meting out: Derek, rounding a corner during the assault, receives a gunshot straight to the head from the Terminator, and drops down dead. No blaze of glory, no last words, no dramatic music, no ultimate point -– just a quick, raw, unexpected death. It wasn't even used as a climax to an act! And I have to say, it was so surprising and senseless that I still feel a lead weight in my stomach thinking about. Anyway, the whole sequence continues in an impressive fashion (we've really missed the cyborg-et-cyborg action), until Cameron manages to hurl the villainous Terminator off the Weaver balcony onto the hillside, as they make their escape...

The LAPD start a manhunt for Savannah's "kidnappers", although Ellison's made aware of Sarah Connor's involvement through John Henry's own surveillance recordings. Ellison arranges to meet with the Connor's to get Savannah back, and they agree to hand her over if they can meet with her mother Catherine. Savannah herself has made reference to her friend with "the cord in the back of his head" who "lives in the basement", causing John to realize that ZeiraCorp have created artificial intelligence using Cromartie's body.

However, before the Connors can confront Catherine, the LAPD capture Sarah after the exchange with Ellison for Savannah is made at a cinema1, and she's taken into custody as John and Cameron are forced to abandon her. Even the manner of her capture is problematic, as the area is surrounded by press and her face is plastered all over the television news...

"Adam Raised A Cain" was compelling stuff, throughout. That said, T:tSCC is definitely a show that's better at individual moments than anything too sustained. There's been a pacing issue throughout the series, but this episode contains so many memorable sequences that it's difficult to get bored. John Henry keeping Savannah safe, the Weaver residence attack, Derek's death, Sarah's capture, the bookending grave scenes, and a creepy denouement with John Henry singing "Donald, Where's Your Trousers?2" were all excellent, and it's a shame the series doesn't reach that level of quality with greater regularity.

Character-wise, this was another strong outing for Thomas Dekker, Mackenzie Smith was adorable as Savannah (her relationship with John Henry being a particular highlight), and Garret Dillahunt is once again nothing less than magnetic. As a penultimate episode, it definitely raised the game and set things up for a thrilling finale, too –- will Sarah escape custody? Will John Henry find his brother? Will Ellison realize Catherine's a machine? What will Catherine say to the Connor's if they find her? Whose side is Catherine on? And why do Terminators want Savannah dead? And, wow, is Derek really dead? I still can't believe it.

23 April 2009
Virgin1, 10pm

Writer: Toni Graphia
Director: Charles Beeson

Cast: Thomas Dekker (John), Summer Glau (Cameron), Brian Austin Green (Derek), Richard T. Jones (Ellison), Garret Dillahunt (John Henry), Shirley Manson (Catherine), Lena Headey (Sarah), Mackenzie Smith (Savannah), Larry Cedar (Det. Crayton), Jeffrey Pierce (Water Delivery Guy), Austin Highsmith (Debbie) & Jill Remez (Teacher)

1. I know the boring reason for this, but it always amuses me that people in television shows go to the cinema to watch black-and-white classics. I'm sure Savannah would have preferred Monsters vs Aliens.

2. John Henry lost points for not pronouncing "trousers" as "troosers". But, like last season's Johnny Cash sequence, T:tSCC really knows how to pull off a musical sequence.

Twilight (2008)

We've heard this story a thousand times before. You may have read it a thousand times before, too -- if you're a teenage girl obsessed with author Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, that is. It's another lonely-girl-meets-sexy-vampire variant (see also True Blood and Moonlight recently), with precious little to make it stand out from the crowd. It's difficult to see the merit in Meyer's premise or story, but easy to see why it's been adapted into a movie: the books have sold millions (so it has a readymade audience), it's relatively inexpensive to produce (despite its subject, there's barely a need for FX), and there are three written sequels to keep the accountants happy 'till 2011, at least...

Isabella "Bella" Swann (Kristen Stewart) is a saturnine outsider from sunny Phoenix, Arizona, who moves to rainy Forks, Washington to stay with her estranged father Charlie (Billy Burke). As she adjusts to life in a backwater forest town that's permanently overcast, Bella meets the impossibly handsome Edward Cullen (living anime Robert Pattinson, with walnut whip hair.) After getting off on the wrong foot in chemistry class, it soon becomes clear that Edward has the hots for Bella, who has the hots for Edward...

Trouble is, reclusive Edward's not like ordinary guys; he's super-fast, super-strong, can read minds, and is cold to touch. After a bit of research in a local library, the crazy truth dawns on Bella: Edward's a "cold one" (er, vampire), and his whole family are nosferatu that have chosen to become "vegetarians" (well, they feed on woodland animals and use their abilities to play superhuman baseball during thunderstorms1.)

There's really not a whole lot going on here. It takes a full hour just for Twilight to set-up Bella and Edward as "an item" (with all the weight of a Mills & Boon novel), then there's a half-hour of "meet the family", before a rather forced twenty minutes of actual incident (a rival gang of full-blooded vamps target Bella), and a fifteen minute denouement at Prom Night that sets up the inevitable lupine sequels2.

Okay, I'm definitely not the target demographic, so a lot of Twilight's charm will be lost on me. But I still find it frustrating that such derivative pulp is being stomached by impressionable girls who should look elsewhere for a decent vampire love story. The plot is thinner than Kirsten Stewart's legs and there's nothing screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (a writer/exec on Dexter) can do to change that. There's a drip-fed "murder mystery" that Scooby Doo could solve blindfolded (might the town's "animal attacks" be the work of... bad vampires?) and the motivation of villainous nomadic neckbiter James (Cam Gigandet) felt as substantial as a cobweb.

Admittedly, there are elements that work quite well. Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson are perfectly cast, it has to be said. Stewart has that beautiful, porcelain emptiness that teenage girls can project themselves into, while Pattinson turns a thin character into something more appealing through pure charisma. Everyone else just disappears into the background, though –- some awaiting the limelight of sequels, others unable to draw your eye away from Stewart's earnest beauty and Pattinson's cheek-bones. Both are entirely responsible for my 2-star rating.

And I didn't have too many complaints with what few FX there were (the twinkling of vampire skin in sunlight, running vertically up trees, and a Blade II-style punch-up in a mirrored ballet hall.) Laudably, this isn't a movie that churns out FX to cover its faults -- but that does expose the lack of a decent story or a unique perspective on the vampire subgenre. A few tweaks to vampire lore is about as creative as Stephenie Meyer gets -- and she shoehorns in mind-reading and precognition just to aide the plot. It's also very predictable and self-indulgent, clocking in at a ridiculous two hours to tell a story that barely justifies one.

Undoubtedly, if you're the target demographic and own dog-eared copies of Meyer's books, you'll love Twilight. I felt it was an utterly disposable, unimaginative and weightless vampire romance, but it features a pretty loner falling in love with a mysterious superman who won't have sex before marriage (echoing the author's Mormon views on chastity) -- and clearly a lot of 14-year-old girls can't resist that. I only hope Twilight will act as a gateway to more accomplished work in the same genre.

Summit Entertainment
Budget: $37 million
121 minutes

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg (based on the book by Stephenie Meyer)

Cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Cam Gigandet (James), Rachelle Lefevre (Victoria), Edi Gathegi (Laurent), Sarah Chalke (Renee Dwyer), Matt Bushell (Phil Dwyer), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Gil Birmingham (Billy Black), Solomon Trimble (Sam Uley), Christian Serratos (Angela Weber), Michael Welch (Mike Newton), Anna Kendrick (Jessica Stanley), Gregory Tyree Boyce (Tyler Crowley), Justin Chon (Eric Yorkie), Ned Bellamy (Waylon Forge) & Jose Zuniga (Mr. Molina)

1. Did I miss something about that scene? Edward's vampire family only play baseball during a thunderstorm because... the noise drowns out their activity? Aren't they already in a remote part of the forest?

2. Admittedly, I'm intrigued by the news that the third movie (Eclipse) will be directed by David Slade; no stranger to vampires after 30 Days Of Night, but also a controversial director thanks to paedophile thriller Hard Candy. This could be a Alfonso Cuaron-style appointment, who similarly energized the Harry Potter franchise with its third outing.