Wednesday, 30 September 2009

HEROES 4.3 - "Ink"

[SPOILERS] I was in the minority for enjoying season 4's double-bill premiere, with its slower pace and a focus on character over spectacle and lazily introducing another huge threat for the characters to spend a season fretting about. I thought it was a welcome change of attitude, which may have suffered from the slow pace that ruined season 2 at times, but it had something that awful season didn't: a mystery that actually has my interest...

And that key sense of mystery seeped into the third episode, "Ink", but only during the subplot featuring mysterious circus leader Samuel (Robert Knepper), who sets his sights on Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) by posing as a man suing his hospital for injuries sustained after a bus crash rescue. It's confirmed that Samuel can control earth and minerals, typified by his ability to consume ink and alter a newspaper clipping that proves to a dubious Peter that his story is true...

Right now, Samuel is by far the most interesting aspect of this new season, as it's unclear what his motivation is. He appears to be testing people (first Hiro, now Peter) to see if they deserve a place in his carnival, but I'm not sure how his dead brother Joseph fits into all this, or the mysterious compass. My only theory is that Samuel intends to resurrect his sibling, but needs various peoples' powers to do so, so he's effectively performing a long con. By the end of the episode it does appear to be true that Samuel's not a very nice person, as he kills a house full of partygoers who refused him entry to his family home by plunging the whole building into a sinkhole.

Sadly, everything else about "Ink" was either of mild curiosity, or brazen filler material. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) is being pestered by Gretchen (Madeline Zima) after she was spotted surviving a jump from her college room window, and eventually decides to share her secret with her new friend, even if her father (Jack Coleman) disapproves and would rather erase Gretchen's memory using The Haitian. There was nothing terribly interesting going on here, but Panettiere certainly looks a lot more comfortable in this college environment (mixing with Zima and Coleman), than she has done in awhile. I just hope the mystery of her ex-roommate's "suicide" is something worth our time.

We also meet another new character in the form of hospital receptionist Emma (Deanne Bray), a deaf woman who wears earphones to hide her disability from the world, who discovers she has the ability to see sounds visually. Her story weaves into Peter's, whom she meets a few times during this episode, latterly when he notices her playing a cello in the park after noticing the instrument emanating ethereal wisps of light. It's strange that Heroes hasn't given someone with disabilities a super-power before, but considering this one is explainable through regular science ("synethesia", which a character even refers to) kind of takes the edge off it. Still, Bray gave a good performance in a role that's mostly facial expressions, and the inevitable hookup with empathic Peter could be sweet. But it's still difficult to get excited about a story that feels like it should be one of those pre-season "webisodes" Heroes does.

A bit more exciting was Matt (Greg Grunberg) dealing with his inner-demon, namely Sylar (Zachary Levi), who is lodged in his psyche causing mischief. Here, Matt and his detective partner raid a suspect's house and Sylar spends the episode toying with Matt's sanity by obfuscating the operation with fake visions. In and of itself, this was a fairly entertaining storyline, but it felt far removed from anything else going on, and only really served to likely convince Matt to give Sylar his body back. You can't really live your life unable to trust anything you're seeing, can you.

Overall, "Ink" wasn't particularly good, but it wasn't wholly terrible either. I'm prepared to give this season more of a chance, because it's possible they're taking their time because there's a decent story to tell that deserves room to breathe. Of course, if it doesn't tighten its grip on our attention spans soon, it'll fall into season 2's trap of being far too lackadaisical for its own good. The ratings in the US are already the worst in Heroes' history (below 6 million*), so strong rumours are circulating that NBC will have no choice but to axe the show if there isn't an astonishing turnaround.

28 September 2009
NBC, 9/8c

written by: Aron Eli Coleite directed by: Roxann Dawson starring: Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Hayden Panettiere (Claire), Jack Coleman (Mr. Bennet), Robert Knepper (Samuel Sullivan), Madeline Zima (Gretchen), Emily Adams (Andrea), Deanne Bray (Emma), Edwin Kho (Cellist), Dawn Olivieri (Lydia), Louise Fletcher (Doctor) & Eric Shackelford (Carnie)

* To put that in perspective: season 1 averaged around 12 million, the hated season 2 dropped to around 9, and season 3 loitered around 7.

DEXTER 4.1 - "Living The Dream"

[SPOILERS] After a jumbled and inconsistent third season, Dexter's fourth needs to find a way to re-sharpen its edges. Simply by giving Dexter (Michael C. Hall) a baby son, this season premiere can't resist playing with the idea of a serial-killer daddy for a few laughs. I don't have a problem with that, as the show has always had a layer of black comedy, but I hope the ambiguities of the character aren't going to be eroded by knowing winks. I have fond memories of abhorring Dexter's activities in season 1, while still enjoying the character as a witty anti-hero, but the character's in danger of becoming too likeable unless they get a grip...

It's also a show that regularly has to tackle a few threats; namely the likelihood of formula infecting the plots, and the fact the supporting cast continue to be somewhat dull. I still believe Dexter used up its two best ideas in its first two years, too, and season 4 feels like it's going to be a mix of those glory years: there's a new serial-killer on the loose, the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), a meticulous murderer so-called because he kills in threes, by embracing naked women in a hot bath as he slices them with a cutthroat razor and lets them bleed out, later posing them in a literal "blood bath"; and the return of FBI Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine) from season 2, who is now retired and is using his time to solve the Trinity case that eluded him his entire career.

The Trinity Killer is lurking on the periphery of events right now, as the meat of this premiere dealt with the fact proficient Dexter is struggling to maintain his own exacting standards at work, thanks to sleep deprivation at home. He takes the wrong paperwork to an important trial (resulting in the perp going free in light of negligence), has his precise morning routine disrupted (in a fun self-parody of the excellent credits sequence), and finds his duties as a husband and father get in the way of his nighttime activities killing ne'er-do-wells. Even saucy sex with Rita (Julie Benz) has just become an opportunity for a cat-nap.

Most of the subplots were a little thin, which is often the case. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) is still dating hunky Anton (David Ramsey), but feels rival feelings when her ex-boyfriend Lundy reappears; Angel (David Zayas) has broken up with his vice cop lover and is now secretly romancing his boss Laguerta (Lauren Vélez); Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is royally pissed at Dex's recent negligence (a return of the Doakes-like workplace hostility directed at the bloodspatter expert), and finds himself attracted to sexy reporter Christine (Courtney Ford); and the aforementioned Lundy has returned to Miami now his "nemesis" has surfaced there, only to learn from Dex's ingenious forensics that Trinity's first victim was 15 years earlier than police records show, making him America's most successful serial-killer at-large.

While I have my concerns about Dexter's future because the basic premise dilutes itself the longer it continues, "Living The Dream" was undoubtedly a stronger premiere than last year's. It was easier to follow, there were some fresh developments for Dex to deal with (even sweet Astor's become a teenage brat), there's the excitement of Lithgow as this season's "big bad" (a great actor, going back to his acting roots playing a psycho with this role), and it ended with a brilliant climax -- with Dex transporting the remains of a recent kill in the back of his SUV, only to fall asleep at the wheel and flip his car off the road. Will Dex be able to hide his incriminating quarry before the traffic cops arrive?

Overall, it remains to be seen if the show can rediscover the edge it lost last year, or if there are actually any compelling stories to be told within the confines of Dexter's premise, but there are still enough core ingredients that will keep me watching -- not least the always wonderful Michael C. Hall.

27 September 2009
Showtime, 9pm ET/PT

written by: Clyde Phillips directed by: Marcos Siega starring: Michael C. Hall (Dexter Morgan), Julie Benz (Rita Bennett), Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), Desmond Harrington (Joey Quinn), C.S. Lee (Vince Masuka), Lauren Vélez (Lt. Maria Laguerta), David Zayas (Angel Batista), James Remar (Harry Morgan), John Lithgow (Arthur Mitchell), David Ramsey (Anton Briggs), Adrienne Barbeau (Lisa Darr), Courtney Ford (Christine Hill), Keith Carradine (Frank Lundy), Christina Robinson (Astor), Preston Bailey (Cody), Rick Peters (Elliot), Tasia Sherel (Francis), Kelly Huddleston (Lisa Bell), James Ingersoll (Cop), Gino Aquino (Benny), Alexander Lewis (Marty), Alex Lewis (Marty), Mary Alyce Kania (Karen) & Mylinda Royer (Widow)


[SPOILERS] Another terrific episode, taking its cue from the great tradition of British farce. For the majority of this half-hour, events were contained within Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez's (Robert Webb) tenement block, as the pair grappled with a malfunctioning new boiler and a terrible lie...

Jez made a play for their sexy new neighbour, who turned out to be a Russian drug-dealer called Elena (Vera Filatova); while Mark invited Dobby (Isy Suttie) round for a date at their flat, intending to finally make his move on her...

Unfortunately, matters were complicated when Jez lied to émigré Elena about being an expectant father, once he learned she has a fetish for "DILFs". Jez was then forced to retell the lie to Mark, whom Sophie (Olivia Colman) had confirmed to him is her baby's father following their paternity test. Mark, wrongly relieved the test branded Jez the father and freed him of responsibility ("I can do anything! I can leave T-Mobile!"), was therefore emboldened to kiss Dobby, only for Jez to break the truth to him seconds after he finally got his colleague into bed. And then Sophie arrived to talk things over with Mark, meaning both guys had to try and keep the girls in the dark about what's really been going on...

Confused? It made more sense when you basked in the social embarrassment as it unfolded on-screen, watching things tangle into a cat's cradle of confusion, heartache, lies, and awkwardness: from Mark melting down and blaming his troubles on their overheating boiler, to Jez trying to keep his romantic chances alive whatever the cost. At times, it could be argued the episode veered into the ridiculous -- what with Mark insisting on wearing three condoms, electrocuting himself as he tried to dismantle the door-bell Sophie was ringing, or just the fact Jez continues to pull girls way out of his league -- but for the most part it kept its head.

Most interesting to me was how Mark has been named the father of Sophie's baby so early in the series, as I was expecting that revelation to come in the final episode as a lead-in to series 7. This unexpectedly early reveal has me very suspicious, particularly as we only have Sophie's word that she's telling the truth, and she's been known to be quite manipulative when she wants something. Will Mark get to see the paternity test result himself, or will he just take Sophie's word for it? A part of me suspects the baby is Jez's after all, but Sophie knows Mark would make a better father, or at least a more reliable provider of alimony.

Then again, it was strange that Sophie suddenly mentioned the possibility that Jeff could be the father, so maybe it's neither of them? I guess it depends if the writers want to keep Mark and Jez as fatherless losers next year, or plough ahead with them as misfit co-parents. I'm hoping for the latter, with Jez as a father shirking responsibility, and Mark back with Sophie as the baby's stepfather. How about you?

25 September 2009
Channel 4, 10pm

written by: Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong directed by: Becky Martin starring: David Mitchell (Mark), Robert Webb (Jez), Olivia Colman (Sophie), Isy Suttie (Dobby) & Vera Filatova (Elena)

MERLIN 2.2 - "The Once And Future Queen"

[SPOILERS] The title doesn't really make much sense, and it initially felt like The Prince & The Pauper-meets-A Knight's Tale, but then the story began to curry favour with its excellent jousting sequences and some fine performances from Bradley James and the hitherto wasted Angel Coulby...

Prince Arthur (James) is fed up with being treated as someone special during his regular jousting tournament, which he suspects he always wins because his opponents let him. Eager to prove his worth as an equal, Arthur pretends to leave Camelot on an important mission, while actually staying behind to compete in a jousting tournament. With the help of Merlin (Colin Morgan), a gormless peasant enters the competition posing as a knight, whom Arthur can replace during the actual jousts because of the obscuring armour.

Their plan results in Arthur getting a taste of a "normal" life in other ways, as he's forced to stay at Gwen's (Coulby) house and is finds it difficult to change his superior attitude as easily as he changed his clothing. Arthur's inability to lower himself to the level of his servants later provokes an uncharacteristic outburst from Gwen, who chastises Arthur's behaviour as a guest in her house, leading to an apology from the arrogant royal, reconciliation, and a kiss...

Concurrently, King Uther (Anthony Head) is informed that an assassin called Myror (Adrian Lester) has targeted Arthur, intending the kill the prince as revenge for the death of his own sovereign's son. When the hitman discovers Arthur's missing from the posse he left Camelot with, his investigation into the prince's whereabouts leads him to discover Arthur's jousting ruse, and gives him the ideal opportunity to set a fatal trap.

While the Myror subplot was slightly undercooked, it fed into the jousting storyline very nicely towards the end, and provided entertaining breathing space beforehand. The subterfuge at the tournament could have become a little tedious, but the action sequences were effectively handled and Howard Overman's script balanced the drama and comedy with greater skill than is usual for Merlin. Indeed, this episode featured some of the show's best character moments, by finally introducing the Arthur/Gwen romance fans of the Arthurian legend have been waiting for...

From the start, Merlin's greatest asset has been its cast (who have steered the show away from disaster on more than one occasion), and it was great to see James and Coulby play with material that rose to the challenge of making their relationship sing. Coulby, usually ignored or palmed off with weak material last year, was superb throughout this episode and her character has been turned around 180-degrees as a result.

The way Gwen is able to stand up to Arthur, speak her mind in front of him when pushed, and make him see things from a more humble perspective, felt like an early glimpse at how their relationship as husband and wife will work. I like James and Coulby's chemistry together, I love how their mutual attraction is complicated by the fact Arthur knows his father would never allow him to date a servant girl, and I'm glad the show has found itself another human dynamic that's more enjoyable than any amount of CGI they can throw at the screen. Hopefullt they'll keep the Arthur/Gwen love story going as successfully as the thorny Merlin/Arthur friendship.

Merlin's pushed into the background a little bit because of the Arthur/Gwen emphasis, but I liked how the episode reminded us of the similarities between Arthur and Merlin's situations here: Arthur has been born "special", sometimes dreams of being "normal", but can't ever escape his birthright; whereas Merlin has been born "special" but is forced to deny his magical nature, so every day is a struggle to maintain his disguise as a "normal" person.

Overall, "The Once And Future Queen" (seriously, is that inferring Gwen has royal blood?) was an excellent episode, only slightly let down because the Myror storyline flapped about in the wind too much (wasting Adrian Lester in the process), and the story was slightly predictable at times. And if another episode ends with Merlin saving the day by surreptitious telekinesis, I'll tear my hair out. But the exciting jousts and, more importantly, the fine performances from James and Coulby, compensated magnificently.

Even better, after seeing the preview for next week's episode, featuring the return of the boy Mordred and an emphasis on Morgana's own supernatural abilities, I'm hopeful this series is starting to find its mojo.

26 September 2009
BBC1, 6.40pm

written by: Howard Overman directed by: Jeremy Webb starring: Colin Morgan (Merlin), Bradley James (Prince Arthur), Anthony Head (King Uther), Richard Wilson (Gaius), Angel Coulby (Gwen), Katie McGrath (Morgana) & Adrian Lester (Myror)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sci-Fi buy V and Human Target

The UK's Sci-Fi Channel have acquired the rights to ABC's remake of V and Fox's Human Target, following a programming deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. They've also secured ongoing pay TV rights to Smallville (which they'll start showing from season 1) and Eastwick (which will be shown on their affiliate station Hallmark.)

These new purchases come hot-on-the-heels of other notable acquisitions like Dollhouse, Warehouse 13, Knight Rider, and Legend Of The Seeker.

FLASHFORWARD 1.1 - "No More Good Days"

[SPOILERS] Based on Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer's novel of the same name, repackaged for television by writers David S. Goyer (Blade, The Dark Knight) and Brannon Braga (Star Trek Voyager, 24), FlashForward comes laden with hype and a level of expectation it can't really top. ABC desperately want it to be the spiritual successor to Lost (which leaves the airwaves next summer), and there are vague similarities between the two shows if you peer close enough. But, really, the same can be said of most sci-fi bobbing in Lost's wake; with their high-concept ideas, large ensembles, a predilection for mystery, and a serialized format. The X Files inspired numerous investigative duos throughout the '90s, and now Lost's got everyone thinking bigger, deeper and longer...

"No More Good Days" started in media res following a car crash involving handsome FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), before we actually flashed back four hours. The aforementioned Benford is our hero; husband of doctor Olivia (Sonya Walger), father to little Charlie (Lennon Wynn), and spearhead agent of Los Angeles-based taskforce partnering Demetri Noh (John Cho) and led by Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance)

Benford and Noh are tailing a group of terrorists across town when everyone on the planet falls unconscious for exactly 2 minutes 17 seconds. Needless to say, the global blackout causes a great deal of subsequent catastrophes; vehicles pile-up on the freeways, hundreds of planes plunge from the sky, helicopters spin into skyscrapers, and people take advantage of the mass confusion to loot shops. It soon becomes apparent that the synchronized "blackout" is a misnomer, as most people experienced the titular "flash forward" to a point six months in the future. The flashes are corroborated between those sharing visions of each other, but nobody's sure how seriously to take them, if the events they predict can be avoided, and how they were triggered, by whom, and why.

Other characters are introduced in fairly perfunctory ways, just to highlight the different ways a glimpse of the future might impact your life: Bryce (Zachary Knighton), a suicidal intern who works with Olivia, sees a happier future and decides to embrace life, immediately rescuing a young surfer he spots from a pier; Olivia sees herself uncharacteristically cheating on her husband with a strange man; a father grieving the death of his soldier daughter is confused that his vision shows her very much alive; Noh saw no images, so assumes that means he'll be dead before then; a single woman sees herself pregnant; and Benford's flash provides an abundance of clues he remembers seeing pinned to a corkboard, involving an investigation called "Mosaic" that he hasn't started yet.

FlashForward did a great job of setting out its stall, which is half the job of an effective pilot. The fact you tend to know a new show's premise going in meant stretches of "No More Good Days" weren't offering us fresh information, but there was enough here to intrigue me into seeing where the show is headed. The characters weren't especially compelling (indeed, most were shorthand stereotypes), but most of the actors are established talent that it's easy to watch, so I'm hopeful they'll be able to tease out some interesting dynamics with the help of the writers.

My only major criticism was how the pilot felt a little crammed into 45-minutes and begged do be a 90-minute feature-length special. The blackouts occur less than 10-minutes into the episode, the blackout "event" is over after 17-minutes, and by the 40-minute mark it felt like things were almost back to normal. I can understand a TV series not having the budget or time to present an accurate reality of what it proposed -- I mean, two skyscrapers were felled in New York years ago and we're still feeling the effects, so imagine the upheaval of what Flash Forward poses -- but I still think it could have been handled better. A lot of the characters don't react in believable ways, considering what just happened to them...

To a large extent, Flash Forward's survival will hinge on what it has up its sleeve to keep the audience gripped now the premise has been setup. I'm certainly keen to get the answers to the many questions it poses (and it's a relief to know we'll get some of the answers fairly quickly, as the flash forward day is 29 April 2010), but will the show overcome the fact the story feels better suited to a movie rather than a TV series hoping to last five years or more? Lost managed to grow beyond a desert island drama about a group of plane crash survivors into something that encompassed underground hatches, ghosts, a smoke monster, mysterious corporations, and time-travel... so will Flash Forward find a similar way to widen its scope and keep audiences gripped by the minutiae?

More than anything, I'm just curious to see how the writers plan to keep the ball rolling with their concept. Hopefully we'll see there's a more immediate threat for the characters to contend with, or a purpose behind "the event" we can't possibly be expected to guess at this stage. We'll most likely start piecing together a better picture from clues squirreled away in people's flash forward anecdotes, too -- like why that bird flew into a window, what a kangaroo was doing on the street, and who that man was seen walking around a stadium full of unconscious people...

28 September 2009
Five, 9pm

written by: David S. Goyer & Brannon Braga directed by: David S. Goyer starring: Joseph Fiennes (Mark Benford), Sonya Walger (Olivia Benford), John Cho (Demetri Noh), Jack Davenport (Lloyd Simcoe), Zachary Knighton (Bryce Varley), Peyton List (Nicole Kirby), Brian F. O'Byrne (Aaron Stark), Courtney B. Vance (Stanford Wedeck), Christine Woods (Janice Hawk), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Nurse), Brandon Bell (Paramedic #1), James Carraway (Older Man), Genevieve Cortese (Tracy), Ammar Daraiseh (Arabic #1), Kelly Galindo (Distressed Woman), Ted Garcia (Pundit #3), Barry Shabaka Henley (Agent Vreede), Cooper Huckabee (Trucker), Drake Kemper (Teenaged Boy), Alex Kingston (Fiona Banks), Pete Koch (Paramedic #2), Bill Lagattuta (Pundit #2), Jim Lau (Asian Man), Chyna Layne (Nervous Woman), Loren Lester (Neurologist), Raj Maan (Arabic Man #2), Blair Redford (Joel), Rachel Roberts (Alda Hertzog), Bryce Robinson (Dylan Simcoe), Ken Rudulph (Pundit #1), Kent Shocknek (Medical Correspondent), Lennon Wynn (Charlie Benford), Lee Thompson Young (Agent Gough) & Daniel Zacapa (Hector)

Primeval: back from extinction!

I didn't see this coming! After axing Primeval for budgetary reasons after its third series in June, ITV1 have agreed to greenlight two new series for 2011, thanks to a unique co-production deal with UKTV...

Under the agreed terms, Primeval will return to ITV1 in early-2011 for a fourth series, to be shown on digital channel Watch shortly after. Then, in late-2011, Watch will get the UK premiere of series 5, with ITV1 showing it afterwards. Both series will comprise a standard 13 episodes, meaning each series is effectively half the normal length.

This new deal actually makes BBC Worldwide the show's biggest co-producer, along with BBC America and ProSeiben (a broadcaster in Germany, where the show is very popular), who have both greed to contribute funding.

It's an extraordinary reversal from ITV, but a solution that's not a million miles away from Impossible Pictures' idea to finance a fourth series by co-producing with The Sci-Fi Channel, which fell through.

Tim Haines, Impossible Pictures founder and Primeval producer:

"I am thrilled that ITV has agreed to this new deal which will allow Impossible Pictures to produce another 13 episodes of Primeval. The confidence demonstrated in the programme’s continued success here and abroad will help us bring more big screen action and a whole host of new creatures roaring back into people’s living rooms."
Helen Jackson, BBC Worldwide's Director of Independents:

"There was a real desire between all partners to make this project succeed and to bring Primeval back from the brink of extinction. BBC Worldwide’s increased investment in the title is a reflection of our belief in the quality of the whole production and its international appeal."
Laua Mackie, ITV Director of Drama:

"The innovative nature of this partnership will allow the show to maintain its high production values and deliver the fantastic programme that our viewers know and love."

FRINGE 2.2 - "Night Of Desirable Objects"

[SPOILERS] Worryingly, this was the first episode of Fringe that felt like a lazy X-Files knock-off beneath the skin; comparisons to which the show has never shied away from, but usually does a better job of hiding. In "Night Of Desirable Things", Olivia (Anna Torv) is released from hospital to accompany Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter (John Noble) to the scene of a number of mysterious disappearances in Lansdale, Pennsylvania...

The new initiative for the Division to be proactive rather than reactive is probably for the best, but it's still another step closer to The X-Files tried-and-trusted template. This episode, written by Jeff Pinkner and J.H Wyman, could very easily have been a rewrite of an unproduced X-Files script, and there were clear overtones of episodes like "Home" (which featured a family of inbreds murdering townfolk.)

Here, the perpetrator is revealed to be a subterranean mutant, the offspring of Dr. Andre Hughes (John Savage), a geneticist whose research to engineer a child his Lupus-infected wife could successfully bring to term resulted in both their deaths. Of course, his dead child was actually buried alive (something that's never adequately explained), so he promptly burrowed through his casket and has spent the past 17 years tunneling around underfoot, dragging the occasional resident beneath the soil to feast on. Six people in nearly twenty years, so at least he's not a glutton...

This episode was rather cluttered and blunt, it has to be said. Last season, Fringe found that its audience only really became engaged in the show when it was mythology-focused and the standalone episodes were treated as entertaining filler. On the evidence of this episode, it seems they're trying to splice the two types of episode together, as the subplot to "Night Of Desirable Objects" continued the story of the sinister shape-shifter who has assumed Charlie's (Kirk Acevedo) form, and is apparently uninterested in killing Olivia now -- despite having plenty of easy opportunities. I thought this might be because he knows Olivia has amnesia after her trip to the alternate universe, so there's no immediate need to eliminate her, but later in the episode he's instructed (via that old typewriter) to help her remember. So, I have no idea what's going on right now.

Olivia herself is developing super-hearing, although I did read an alternative theory that she's just picking up on what her counterpart in the parallel Earth is hearing -- but that doesn't make sense to me, unless alternate-Olivia has super-hearing. We know from last season that Olivia's special and was one of many kids in the late-'70s who were experimented on to become super "soldiers", so maybe alternate-Olivia's far more advanced than our own? Either way, I hope Fringe doesn't go too far in turning Olivia into a "superhero" to mask the character's dullness.

Indeed, while she has occasional moments to shine, I still find Torv rather insipid in this role, and there's just something a bit unlikeable and inaccessible about Olivia at times. Take the scene where Walter accidentally explains alternate dimensions to Olivia (again), but notice Olivia's blank reactions to Walter saying how much he feared she'd died. Noble may as well have been opening his heart to a brick wall.

Really, this episode was just a bit messy and lacked a truly compelling pseudo-scientific idea at its heart. It was a formulaic monster-of-the-week installment and nothing more, with a few nice moments to its credit. The messiness of running some mythology alongside the plot didn't work all that well -- it just felt like that the main story wasn't strong or complex enough to justify the time, and its mind was elsewhere.

Overall, "Night Of Desirable Objects" didn't maintain the premiere's quality, but occasional duds are to be expected in shows of this nature. I'll only start to worry if they become more regular, or the mythology that's stitching the series together begins to unravel. Still not convinced about a few creative decisions this season, like giving Olivia amnesia, another super-power, and now introducing a strange "therapist" in bowling alley worker Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), but the writers have done enough to keep me faithful, for now.

24 September 2009
Fox, 9/8c

written by: Jeff Pinkner & J.H Wyman directed by: Brad Anderson starring: Anna Torv (Agent Olivia Dunham), John Noble (Dr. Walter Bishop), Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop), Jasika Cole (Astrid Farnsworth), Lance Reddick (Agent Phillip Broyles), Kirk Acevedo (Agent Charlie Francis), Meghan Markle (Agent Amy Jessup), John Savage (Dr. Andre Hughes), Kevin Corrigan (Sam Weiss), Charles Martin Smith (Sheriff Golightly), Chad Cole (Raymond), Matthew Robert Kelly (FBI in Parking Garage), Craig March (Co-Worker) & Marsha Regis (Nurse)

STRICTLY COME DANCING 7 - Week 2 (Part 1 & 2)

I didn't watch either episode of Strictly Come Dancing live this weekend, so I caught up with the dances as isolated BBC iPlayer replays (see below, for UK readers only). Therefore, feel free to add your comments about Week 2's shows; what the judges said, the Alesha Dixon debate (oh, if you must...), and all the group dances and performances I missed. But, here are my brief thoughts on the celebrity dances for Friday and Saturday's shows:

Natalie Cassidy & Vincent Simone

Tango: The hot pink ballroom dress was garish, but Natalie (forever Sonia from EastEnders to most people) performed quite well -- she at least sold the whole dance through her expressions and full commitment to the performance. I find these tango's can be quite dull and pretencious, though.

ChaChaCha: Y'know, confidence is key. Put Natalie in a cute silver dress with tassels, get her to show some leg, then get her to strut around the set with a big smile... and I have fun watching her, I have to admit.

Zoe Lucker & James Jordan

Waltz: Zoe's long blue dress was rather swish and I liked her hair, but there wasn't much to get very excited about.

Rumba: She looks like Sarah Harding's hot mum, and Zoe tore up the dance floor in a super-sex black dress and shredded skirt. Glamour, a cute blonde bob, great legs. Excellent.

Craig Kelly & Flavia Cacace

Tango: Flavia "abs of steel" Cacace is back for another year, kicking things off with a high-powered tango to "Jai Ho". Her white open-backed dress afforded some flashes of leg, but it was a little too odd for me.

Rumba: She's hot, but the dress was a disappointment; one of those glittery things that hide too much, although there were moments when Flav's long legs came free to slice the air.

Richard Dunwoody & Lilia Kopylova

Waltz: She gets overshadowed by scrummy Ola Jordan these days, but Lilia's still incredibly cute and she looked quite swish in a somewhat musty-coloured dress. Still very disappointing, but that's a waltz for you.

ChaChaCha: This was just the kind of fun, upbeat, sexy number Lilia excels at. Tiny, sparkly cyan mini-skirt with a silver thong, everything clinging to her shapely bod. What's not to like? Oh, yeah, Richard Dunwoody.

Laila Rouass & Anton Du Beke

Tango: A blood red dress with Laila's exotic looks, dancing a tango, was the perfect sight for the dance. Exactly what you expect and she did it very well, but it was a tad robotic for my taste.

ChaChaCha: A ting skirt, leggy, but a little bit too uncertain to exude the sexiness I think she was going for, sadly. But I'm sure she'll get a lot better.

Phil Tufnell & Katya Vershilas

Waltz: New girl Katya made a great impression in her elegant yellow, open-backed ballgown. Very smooth, beautiful and sophisticated.

ChaChaCha: Wow! Katya was wearing that skirt as a belt, it was so high. Really long legs and blonde hair, very twisty hips and a great attitude. Even better, Tuffers isn't letting her down too badly, so I reckon she'll be sticking around.

Jo Wood & Brendan Cole

Tango: Another oldie, so one for your grandad to gawp at perhaps. The black-brown dress was pretty hot and I like how Jo's retained a certain '60s flair, but it's hard to feel passionate.

Rumba: She likes her chocolate dresses, no? For a minute there I thought someone had dunked her in a Dairy Milk and left it to set, but let's not get into all that. If I was 25 years older, I'd have gotten more from Jo's leggy performance, but I can aprpeciate the mature beauty.

Ricky Whittle & Natalie Lowe

Waltz: Another new face to SCD, it's lovely Aussie Natalie Lowe in a sexy sea-green dress with tassels and airiness to spare. Very nice, if not very exciting.

Rumba: The hair was a bit electrified, but Natalie's a statuesque beauty wearing a golden puddle for a dress, so my attention was elsewhere. It seems Ricky's a contender for the final already, so we have him to thank for many more weeks of Nat!


Oh, the cruelty. Flavia & Craig versus Lilia & Richard -- two of the show's sexier stars, up against each other already. And, despite my best attempts to psychically influence the judges (no, I don't believe in phone voting), Lilia was sent packing. This is another awfully early exit for the Russian minx, but the show bosses keep giving her some very suspect dance partners since her heyday earlier in SCD's run. How do they decide these things? She should complain, really. Lilia has the talent to win these shows with the right man, and now there'll be another Lilia deficiency as a result this year. A terrible shame.

Monday, 28 September 2009

V, interrupted

There's worrying news for V, ABC's remake of the '80s sci-fi drama, starring Elizabeth Mitchell. The network have announced that the series will premiere on 3 November as scheduled, but will now go on extended hiatus from 24 November. The remaining 9 episodes won't be shown until March 2010.

The reason for this turmoil is that V's production was recently shutdown for two weeks, following "creative" concerns for how the show is developing. I assume they're having problems breaking stories once the attention-grabbing premise has been explained, and the budgets for every episode are more conservative. It's enough to fuel rumours that V may be repackaged as a mini-series if it fails to overcome its behind-the-scenes problems, effectively cancelling one of the year's biggest shows.

To be positive, V could find direction and overcome whatever issues they have... but, with a massive 4 month break after only four episodes have aired, is that a blow it can't recover from? The initial run of episodes need to be pretty special to ensure people stick with it, as it's unlikely to have earned the level of viewer loyalty that ensures the likes of Lost can go off-air for 9 months and still retain a patient, core audience.

Normal service resumes... well, until Sunday

I'm back, but not for long. Yes, just as the new TV season gets into its swing, my social calendar goes into overdrive and "real world" work comes my way! I just got back from my Pinewood Studios trip (which I'll blog about separately), and now my V+ box is bulging with all the shows I missed at the weekend...

I'm going to try and catch-up with Fringe, Peep Show and both Strictly Come Dancing's tonight, before watching Flash Forward's premiere live on Five, and get some reviews up by tomorrow. Then I'll tackle Merlin and Dexter tomorrow, for review on Wednesday. Time allowing, I may also catch-up with Harper's Island tomorrow, but if not I'll watch the latest double-bill on Wednesday and review for Thursday.

That should hopefully get me straight, but I also have to try and fit in a writing assignment, which will take priority if needs be. It's all a bit hectic right now, not helped by the fact I'm on holiday from 4-11 October (yep, you guessed it, that assignment's going to eat into my holiday because the deadline's 9 Oct!), so expect disruption and delays until the middle of next month. Then, fingers crossed, it should be plain sailing 'till Christmas.

TV Picks: 28 September - 4 October 2009

Pick of the Week: "Flash Forward" – Mon, Five @9pm

It's a great week for new shows! Here are my picks of what to watch, for British audiences:

Dancing With The Stars (Watch, 9pm) Ninth season of the US version of Strictly Come Dancing, featuring celebs Macy Gray, Kelly Osbourne & Donny Osmond.
Flash Forward (Five, 9pm) Brand new US sci-fi drama where the entire population of the planet fall unconscious for a few minutes and experience a flash forward to six months in their future.
Upgrade Me (BBC4, 9pm) BBC4's Electronic Revolution season kicks off with this programme about people's desire to upgrade their gadgets.
Being Erica (E4, 10pm) Sci-fi drama about a girl whose therapist can send her back in time to change her past.
Ross Noble's Australian Trip (Five, 10pm) Six-part series where the popular comedian travels around Australia on his motorbike as part of his tour.

The Choir: Boys Don't Sing Revisited (BBC2, 9pm) This programme catches up with the 2007 winners of The Choir.
How To Look Good Naked (Channel 4, 8pm) Gok Wan returns to provide makeovers for more members of the public.
Electric Dreams (BBC4, 9pm) Three-part documentary looking at technology in the home, starting with the 1970s.
Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe (BBC4, 10pm) Video-game spin-off to Charlie Brooker's popular Screenwipe and Newswipe series, featuring Graham Linehan & Dara O'Briain.

Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue (Channel 4, 8pm) Six-part series about the hotel inspector, who now aims to help first-time hoteliers set up business.
The Secret Life Of Twins (BBC1, 9pm) Two-part documentary on twins, focusing on questions of personal identity.
MOBO Awards 2009 (BBC3, 9pm) Award show for music of black origin, coming live from the SECC in Glasgow, presented by Reggie Yates and Keri Hilson.
The Art of Dying (BBC4, 9pm) Dan Cruickshank presents a programme about whether or not art can offer enlightenment and solace in the face of death.
Mark Lawson Talks To Richard Wilson (BBC4, 10pm) Interview with the popular actor, most famous for his role as curmudgeon pensioner Victor Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks (BBC2, 9.30pm) New series of the pop comedy panel show, with guest presenters replacing Simon Amstell, starting with James Corden.
Captive For 18 Years: The Jaycee Lee Story (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary about the recent discovery of Jaycee Lee, 18 years after she went missing, who was brought up by her kidnappers and fathered two children with the perpetrator.
Kids For Sale: Stacey Dooley Investigates (BBC3, 9pm) Investigation into child labour in Nepal.
Eastbound & Down (FX, 10pm) Comedy about a failed baseball player who returns to his hometown as a disliked "local hero" to become a P.E teacher. Stars Danny McBride.
School Of Comedy (E4, 10pm) Sketch show co-created by a group of 18-year-old actors, including Will Poulter from Son Of Rambow.

A Question Of Sport (BBC1, 8.30pm) Return of the long-running sporting quiz show.
Friday Night With Streisand & Ross (BBC1, 9pm) Special edition of the chat show with Barbra Streisand's "first British TV interview this century."
Autumnwatch (BBC1, 9pm) Eight-part wildlife series presented by Chris Packham and Kate Humble.
Autumnwatch Unsprung (BBC2, 10pm) Sister series with live discussion and debate on the main show.
Benidorm (ITV1, 9pm) Six-part comedy about British ex-pats in Spain.
The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (BBC4, 10.40pm) A film based on the recording of Madness' latest record.

Monty Python: Almost The Truth - The BBC Lawyer's Cut (BBC2, 9.15pm) The Ruby Jubilee of Monty Python is celebrated by programming that includes this documentary about the world-famous comedy troupe's origin.
Three Lives Of Gandhi (BBC2, 8.15pm) Series about the spiritual leader's fight for Indian independence.

House (Sky1, 9pm) New series of the hit US medical drama, starring Hugh Laurie.
Fringe (Sky1, 10pm) Season 2 of the popular US sci-fi drama, starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson & John Noble.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Weekend Break

There will be no blog updates today or tomorrow, meaning my scheduled reviews of Fringe, Peep Show, Merlin, Strictly Come Dancing and (possibly) Harper's Island will be delayed. Considering the amount of new TV around right now, don't be surprised if this has a knock-on effect throughout next week as I catch-up, so I ask for your patience.

The reason for this disruption? Well, I'm off on a weekend trip to Pinewood Studios, so if I see anyone famous I'll try and take a photo. It's not that likely, because security's tighter than a miserly duck's arse (so I don't think cameras are even allowed), but I'll apparently be drinking in a pub frequented by film stars. So maybe Daniel Craig will drop in for a swift pint and I'll manage to surrepticiously snap him...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Box Office Charts: w/e 25 September 2009

Cloudy With A Chance Of Box Office

In the US: CGI animation CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS has come out of nowhere to take #1 with a decent $30m (helped by the expensive IMAC 3D tickets)... Matt Damon's comedy-drama THE INFORMANT! is at #2, but with a very disappointing $10m... Jennifer Aniston rom-com LOVE HAPPENS flops with just $8m at #4... but the biggest bomb was dropped by horror-comedy JENNIFER'S BODY, starring Megan Fox, which has a nightmare to open at #5 with just $6m, making many people doubt the talent of its Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody...


(-) 1. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs $30.3m
(-) 2. The Informant! $10.5m
(1) 3. I Can Do Bad All By Myself $9.88m
(-) 4. Love Happens $8.06m
(-) 5. Jennifer's Body $6.87m
(2) 6. 9 $5.56m
(3) 7. Inglourious Basterds $3.82m
(4) 8. All About Steven $3.37m
(6) 9. Sorority Row $2.5m
(5) 10. The Final Destination $2.39m

In the UK: Likewise, in the UK most cinemagoers see CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, which grabs #1 with £1.5m, but compared to other CGI cartoons that's not too great, possibly because it's based on a book that's not really known here... GAMER fares better in the UK despite terrible reviews, opening at #3 with just over half a million... but there's bad news for football hooligan drama THE FIRM, which debuts at #9 with only £310,000... and Sam Mendes drama AWAY WE GO is a total turkey with just £250,000 to sneak into the top 10 at #10...


(-) 1. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs £1.5m
(1) 2. District 9 £810k
(-) 3. Gamer £641k
(5) 4. (500) Days Of Summer £511k
(2) 5. The Final Destination £485k
(3) 6. Dorian Gray £436k
(6) 7. Julie & Julia £389k
(4) 8. Sorority Row £347k
(-) 9. The Firm £310k
(-) 10. Away We Go £250k



Biopic drama. English naturalist Charles Darwin struggles to find a balance between his revolutionary theories on evolution and the relationship with religious wife, whose faith contradicts his work.
Director: Jon Amiel Starring: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones & Jim Carter.
Tomatometer: 60% (Fresh; based on 20 reviews)


Musical drama. An updated version of the 1980 musical, which centered on the students of the New York Academy of Performing Arts.
Director: Kevin Tancharoen Starring: Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth & Charles S. Dutton
Tomatometer: 29% (Rotten; based on 55 reviews)


Music drama. A Los Angeles journalist befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article for the paper.
Director: Joe Wright Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, Nelsan Ellis, Rachael Harris & Stephen Root
Tomatometer: 55% (Fresh; based on 173 reviews) "Though it features strong performances by its lead players, a lack of narrative focus prevents The Soloist from hitting its mark."


Sci-fi action. Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others' surrogates.
Director: Jonathan Mostow Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell & Ving Rhames
Tomatometer: 42% (Rotten; based on 36 reviews)

Fearne & Greg: saviours of Radio 1's daytime?

Radio 1 had a rare shake-up of its daytime schedule this week, with Jo Whiley and Edith Bowman both shunted to weekends and replaced by Fearne Cotton (10-1pm) and Greg James (1-4pm). So, after their first week on-air, how did Fearne and Greg fare?

Well, it wasn't anything to get excited about. I'm still relieved that Jo and Edith have been removed from weekdays, so any change is an automatic improvement over that irritating pair. The main problem with Fearne and Greg's succession is that the shows themselves haven't changed to any huge extent. Fearne has inherited the popular "Live Lounge" feature (where singers/groups cover a track, live), but beyond that the show is still characterless. Likewise, Greg James has introduced various experts each day (on gaming, sports, etc), but it was otherwise business as usual. There weren't even any new jingles to make casual listeners prick up their ears.

Disappointingly, there were times when Greg's show felt like an amateur had wandered into the studio and started riffing into the mic. An "alphabet game" was played, where Greg asked listeners on the phone lines to name bands/singers beginning with a certain letter, getting as far as "V" before nobody could come up with an answer (ahem, Vangelis...) And then there was a moment when Greg threw two dice and asked a listener to guess what they added up to, with the prize being a mint-flavoured Aero. Or how about a game where you guess how many sweets are in a jar? O-kay. Sure, the "comedy" is meant to come from how knowingly stupid this all was, but why not come up with some creative, fresh ideas and really get listeners engaged with daytime Radio 1? Being ironically bad is still being bad.

As it was, the new daytime lineup became a bland malaise, with neither D.J doing much to endear themselves to anyone giving Radio 1 another go with Jo and Edith gone. Change is great, but considering the new D.J's reputations at the station (Fearne's been hyped as a great presenter for years without actually proving it, while Greg's leaped up the Radio 1 pecking order in record time) it was all very unimaginative and, yes, dull.

Luckily for Fearne and Greg, their predecessors had become so awful that a deaf chimp could have played the Birdie Song on a loop and it would have been an improvement, but it's a shame that six hours of mainstream radio programming is being filled with nothing worth listening out for. It's early days, so things could improve, but as both


[SPOILERS] After two weeks of anodyne but passable fare, Off The Hook serves up its first resounding dud. This week, Danny (Jonathan Bailey) is desperate to pass his photography course, but Shane's (Danny Morgan) sudden commitment to cleanliness leads to him accidentally throwing away Danny's "Feminine Beauty" photos hours before the deadline...

In a last-ditch effort to salvage the situation, Shane suggests Danny snoop on their roommate Scarlet (Joanna Cassidy) during her ju-jitsu class and take some photos to replace his lost coursework. Secreting himself in a gym locker, Danny is alarmed when a class of girls arrive and strip off, before he's discovered and embarrassed in front of his lecturer Vanessa (Nina Young), an oversexed woman with an unprofessional interest in him.

As usual, a handful of minor plot-points (from Shane's discovery of wart on his bum, to the messy flat undergoing a feng shui clean-up) all influence the finale, but with less success than previous weeks. Danny manages to grab some furtive photos of Scarlet sitting on the grass outside his bedroom window to rebuild his coursework, but he forgets that his camera's memory card contains snaps of Shane's arse, and both sets of photos are projected onto a screen in front of his class.

What damaged this episode was a stream of implausible elements just to keep the story going. Why was there a solitary locker in the gym itself? Why did the girls not get changed in the changing rooms? Who would think taking photos from inside a locker, through a grill, of girls doing martial arts, would be in any way a good idea? Would Scarlet really refuse to help her friend re-do his photos, just because Shane's request was tactlessly done?

Really, too much about this episode that felt manipulated and more improbable than usual, and the story itself strayed into feeble Porkies territory -- which is not only an outdated source of inspiration, but just adds to a sense of frustration because Off The Hook isn't rude enough to compete with that '80s sex-comedy, or find a way to give it a noughties twist. Remember, this is a sitcom about ribald university life where the teenagers say "I'm stuffed!" instead of letting rip with an F-word, because it's on at 8pm.

Overall, Off The Hook just felt stale this week, and there were signs that the charm of the actors has been stretched to full breaking point and is about to snap. Danny's character isn't a credible "loser" given the amount of girls who are interested in him, he's just unlucky in a convoluted way; Shane's shtick as a disruptive but well-meaning friend is growing thin; Scarlet's quit a dull character, making it hard to see what Danny finds attractive about her; and expressionless Fred has become a genuine drain on my spirits, let alone the characters.

24 September 2009
BBC Three, 8pm / BBC HD, 10pm

written by: Dean Craig directed by: Vadim Jean starring: Jonathan Bailey (Danny), Danny Morgan (Shane), Joanna Cassidy (Scarlet), James Buckley (Fred), Johnny Canter (Andrew Clover) & Nina Young (Vanessa)

Living HD launches 6 October

Virgin Media have announced that Living HD will launch on 6 October. This will bring popular shows like Ghost Whisperer, CSI and Grey's Anatomy to cable viewers of channel 110 in high-definition. It's not known if VM have agreed terms to allow Sky to carry Living HD yet, but it's been speculated that VM are trying to use Living HD as leverage to get their mitts on Sky1 HD.

Personally, I find it hard to believe Sky would let their rivals carry Sky1 HD (which shows 24, Lost, Stargate and House), in exchange for the considerably weaker Living HD lineup. It seems to me that Sky's extensive HD programming is its only persuasive selling point these days, as Virgin's cable service equals or betters everything else Rupert Murdoch's company offers.

For me, Sky's HD output is desirable but not enticing enough to make me sacrifice what I appreciate about VM (the cheaper price, the on-demand TV, the faster and more reliable broadband), but I know others think differently.

BORED TO DEATH 1.1 - "Stockholm Syndrome"

[SPOILERS] My hopes were perhaps too high for new comedy-drama Bored To Death, based entirely on the cast, the premise, and the reputation of HBO. So it's with a heavy heart that I brand the show's pilot a dull, unfunny and languorous chore that failed to entertain or amuse me in any way...

Created by Jonathan Ames, Bored To Death's lead character is a pointless proxy of the author, also named Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman), and likewise an author. The fictional Ames is struggling with writer's block as he works on his sophomore novel, but an affection for Raymond Chandler's oeuvre has given him a unique way to waste time and live out a fantasy, as he's sets himself up as an (unlicensed) New York private detective.

In this opener, "Stockholm Syndrome", Ames gets his first case -- to find a woman's missing sister, whom she presumes has been kidnapped by her meth-head British boyfriend Vincent (Richard Short). Quite why she doesn't go to the police before trusting a private dick with no credentials is anyone's guess, particularly as it's possible her sibling is lying dead in a gutter somewhere -- but that's the least of this episode's problems.

The fact is, for a TV series positioned to be a Wes Anderson-y gumshoe detective procedural, the mystery and how it unfolds would barely give Scooby Doo's scriptwriters cause for concern. Ames basically follows his client's hunch, asks some questions, bribes a barman, bribes a hotel worker, then finds his quarry in a hotel room, where the circumstances behind the girl's disappearance is revealed to be quite harmless. I guess the banality is supposed to be part of the joke, as Ames is expecting an exciting lifestyle ripped straight from a film noir, but instead just ends up traipsing around the city in the rain, wasting his own cash because he forgot to ask for expenses.

If you want to watch a lively Chandler-esque thriller with a modern twist, I suggest you seek out Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. There was nothing about this pilot to get me excited, no matter how desperately I wanted it to succeed. The casting is superficially great: spoon-faced Schwartzman as the wannabe-gumshoe (effortlessly eccentric, if difficult to like), Ted Danson as his pot-addicted publisher George Christopher (channeling his Frobisher character from Damages), and hirsute Zach Galifianakis as Ames' comic-book illustrator friend Ray (a scene-stealer in The Hangover earlier this summer, but given no such opportunity here.)

The infuriating thing is the potential going to waste. Give this idea to Wes Anderson and you'd have a fantastic movie; a screwier version of Manhattan Murder Mystery, perhaps. But the real Jonathan Ames (whom I'll assume is an egomaniac for putting "himself" in a TV series) fudges the idea every step of the way. I didn't laugh, I didn't get involved in the story, I didn't care about any of the characters. I just lamented the mishandling of a concept that should have been a lot of fun. I hear it improves every episode and that episode 3 is where Bored To Death starts hitting a stride -- but there was nothing here to tempt me back for more. The title is its own review for me.

Case closed.

20 September 2009
HBO, 10pm

written by: Jonathan Ames directed by: Alan Taylor starring: Jason Schwartzman (Jonathan Ames), Ted Danson (George Christopher), Zach Galifianakis (Ray Hueston), Alexia Anastasio (Lesbian), Ashley Bates (Door Girl), Reyna de Courcy (Rachel Weiss), Richard Short (Vincent) & Olivia Thirlby (Suzanne)