Friday, 22 July 2011

Talking Point: what have you series-linked?

Friday, 22 July 2011

If you own a Sky+, V+ or TiVo box, chances are you've series-linked various TV shows to record every week. And like browsing someone's bookshelf, what people choose to series-link says a lot about them. So what do you have series-linked—that's airing right now? Care to share, or just too embarrassed to admit you've recorded multiple episodes of The Jeremy Kyle Show?

This is the current rundown of shows my V+ box is diligently recording for me:

Alan Carr -Chatty Man: I've warmed to this Channel 4 chat show recently, as I think Alan Carr's improved slightly and the guests are starrier than they used to be (the result of limited chat show options in the UK?) But I still fast-forward through Carr's opening monologue and any guests that don't interest me, so can easily delete a recording if that week's guests don't appeal.

Arrested Development: FX have been running double-bills of this axed comedy every week, so I've been tearing through its three seasons. This is a show I missed during its original run, but kept hearing about over the years, so I'm glad I took the plunge and caught up. It's excellent. The best US comedy of the '00s.

Coast: I love this BBC series where a team of voluble scientists travel around the UK coast (and, increasingly, the shores of our European neighbours), revealing interesting societal, scientific, geographic, and historical stories along the way. It's always an hour of interesting discoveries, mixed with stunning aerial photography. Beautiful, enriching and fascinating.

Dynamo - Magician Impossible: Bradford's answer to David Blaine gets his own street magic series. And despite the fact it's massively derivative of Blaine's late-'90s shows, in terms of format and style, Dynamo's magic is still astonishing and will leave you scratching your head and giggling like a seven-year-old. This is easily the best original show Watch has ever made.

The Hour: It's early days, but I enjoyed episode 1 of this 1950s newsroom drama and, it would seem, conspiracy thriller. Stylish, well-acted, a little sluggish and awkward at times, but ultimately memorable with enough to lure you back. The kind of quality drama that was once commonplace on BBC2.

Lee Mack's All-Star Cast: There are things here I enjoy for their well-meaning shiny floor cheesiness, but a lot I hate or have grown to find tedious. This has been a surprise hit for the BBC on Saturdays, but I think that's more to do with the fact audiences want a show that's like this... of which this is a middling example. The problem is that it's not a very good chat show, and the best moments are when it goes all Noel's House Party-meets-Generation Game (a comedy sketch involving celebs and the public, and a webcam segment where people try to impress us in 15 seconds). Mack's a likeable host in the music hall tradition, but this show started uneven and has now become repetitive. I wouldn't mind a second series to improve things, or the BBC could just make something similar for primetime that works better. It's close to being deleted on my DVR.

Mock The Week: This satirical BBC2 panel show is still series-linked, but there are weeks where I can't be bothered to watch and delete it. MTW's struggled without Frankie Boyle's savage bite these past few years, and I never particularly liked the rounds and format to begin with. Funny acronyms from tabloid headlines, etc? Weak. Without Boyle lancing the week's politicians and celebs, it's become toothless pap.

The Office USA: Yes, you read that right. You must think I'm a masochist because I'm always mentioning I dislike the American version of The Office. But yes, I have seen most of the episodes and it's series-linked. So I must like this show deep down, right? Well, I'll admit I've learned to enjoy it on a shallow level—mainly because I think Steve Carrell's great and his charisma alone covers a multitude of sins. The rest? Well, it has some funny moments and some good lines. I do laugh sometimes, I'm not made of stone, but I don't embrace this show as anything other than a way to pass half-an-hour.

Penn & Teller - Fool Us: Entertaining ITV1 magic show, which hasn't done as well as it deserves to. I'm struggling to see why it hasn't caught on more, because it's one of the weekend's highlights for me. Maybe people don't like how Penn & Teller never outright expose how a trick is done, which appears to be the point when you're told the premise? I don't know. Do people really want the magic spoiled at the end of every act? Or maybe the ITV audience just don't like Penn & Teller themselves, who are a better fit for Channel 4—where they had a show in the '90s? ITV primetime certainly means their notorious edginess has been lost.

The Rob Brydon Show: Another chat show hosted by a funnyman, as if there wasn't already enough on British TV. Brydon's USP is that he's heterosexual, it would seem. Now, I like Rob Brydon, but what I saw of his chat show's inaugural year was limp and forgettable schedule-filler. All chat show live or die on the quality of their guests, and Brydon tends to rely on showbiz mates as his best bookings, sadly. It's series-linked for series 2, to see if things have improved, but I can see me deleting this.

Top Gear: I'm less enamored with this motoring show than I was five years ago, when it seemed to hit a peak, but it remains the UK's best-produced show in many ways. Truth is though, I tend to fast-forward through most of the hour these days –- except the news segment (doing my best to ignore the scripted "ad libs") and Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car lap. If there's a cross-country challenge, I'll perhaps watch that, but Jeremy Clarkson aggrandizing a Ferrari on an airstrip? No.

But what about you? Let me know what shows YOU'RE series-linking in the comments below. If you don't have a DVR, a quick rundown of which shows you're watching religiously will suffice!