Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Trailer: BREAKING BAD, season 4 (AMC)


AMC have announced the premiere date of Breaking Bad's fourth season. It's 17 July. They've also released the above trailer, although it doesn't appear to feature any new footage. Regardless, it's a very effective montage of the previous three seasons that sets the mood wonderfully well. I can't wait for this show's return, can you? Just how thrilling, shocking, dramatic and exciting can it get? On 17 July, we'll find out...

THE KILLING, 1.10 – "I'll Let You Know When I Get There"


I think I'd have liked "I'll Let You Know When I Get There" if it had come earlier in the season, but considering the fact it's essentially an alternate-episode 4 (now the Bennet Ahmed dead-end has come to an end after a ridiculous half-season spent on it), I can't shake my frustrations with The Killing's narrative structure. It's also becoming more noticeable just how much DNA this show shares with Twin Peaks. The surface level similarities were obvious (small town in Washington state, dead teenager, ominous musical score), but this episode even ended with Linden (Mireille Enos) discovering the existence of a casino that immediately reminded me of One Eyed Jack's from Twin Peaks. Maybe it's just another coincidence, but I can't shake the feeling that this show is in many ways a remake of Twin Peaks--minus the overt strangeness.

Overview:

  • Bennet's (Brandon Jay McLaren) beaten body was discovered and taken to hospital, where he's touch and go. Stan (Brent Sexton), realizing his mistake when he returned home to see wife Mitch (Michelle Forbes), turned himself into the police and was jailed.
  • Linden and Holder turn their attention away from Bennet now he's been proven innocent, with Linden making a special effort to see Richmond (Billy Campbell) and tell him personally that Bennet's been exonerated.
  • Richmond's political campaign received a much-needed jolt, as they can now promote the fact Richmond stuck to his guns and refused to believe an innocent man was guilty until proven so. A press conference was called, with Richmond denouncing the vigilante justice meted out to Bennet and resolving to reinstate the All-Star program that Mayor Adams shutdown. Later, Richmond made plans to reduce budgets in the City Council.
  • Linden returned to Regi's (Annie Corley) houseboat and heard that her son Jack (Liam James) has been misbehaving with friends, putting Regi in an awkward position. Angry and disappointed, Linden moves out of Regi's boat with Jack and into a motel.
  • Stan is interviewed in jail by Linden, who is now pursuing the theory his mobster past was somehow involved in Rosie's murder. Stan denies the possibility.
  • Holder goes to see Stan's best friend, Belko (Brendan Sexton III), who was also involved with the Kovarsky mobsters. Belko denies all knowledge of Stan's actions in attacking Bennet
  • Linden was called by a cab driver who has video-evidence of Rosie travelling from the Bennet house just after 10pm on the night she disappeared. Linden and Holder reviewed the cab's tape and saw Rosie arrive home at 10.37pm, before noticing a light in her assumedly empty house was turned off as she arrived—meaning someone was in the house when she came home.
  • Mitch's sister Terry (Jamie Anne Allman) revealed that Belko has keys to the Larsen home, so he became the new prime suspect. Linden and Holder investigated Belko's alibi that he was home with his mother by going to meet with her at his apartment. Inside they discover numerous photos of Rosie taped to Belko's bedroom ceiling and notice that Belko's mother dresses provocatively for someone of her age.
  • Belko is taken in for questioning and eventually admits that he helped Stan beat-up Bennet, and that he in the Larsen house when Rosie came home, but only hid because he was breaking Mitch's house rules by being upstairs. Belko doesn't confess to killing her, but instead reveals he heard her talking on the phone to someone, saying "Adela, I'll be there", before leaving again.
  • A City Hall intern found a video-clip of Richmond shaking hands with Rosie during his campaign, which Jamie (Eric Ladin) decides to bury in case it's used to link Richmond to her murder again in the eyes of the electorate.
  • Mitch received a phone call at the family business telling her a cheque has bounced and there's no money in their savings account to cover it.
  • The next morning, Linden is out jogging when she noticed a ferry called "ADELA", which has a departure time of 11.45pm which fits with the last movements of Rosie. She boards the ferry and soon notices a sign for the Wapi Eagle Casino with a logo that matches the key chain they found on Rosie's body.

Suspects:

  • I was getting worried we were going to spend another few episodes investigating Belko, before dropping him as a suspect, so I was glad they quickly moved past him. Mind you, it struck me as odd they just accepted his story. The guy's clearly got a fixation on Rosie, a childish bedroom (check out the wallpaper), and weird connection with the Larsen's. If this was a real investigation, I'm not convinced they'd have ditched Belko so quickly and moved into finding "Adela."
  • The Kovarsky mob were mentioned quite a few times, so it's still very possible they're involved here somehow. Was Rosie involved with the mob somehow? Did she learn something about them that meant she had to be killed? Do the gangsters run the Wapi Eagle Casino?

Summation:

This was a good episode, reminding me of what I was enjoying about The Killing when it first started. It had some actual movement and momentum to it, and it was just a relief to move on from the interminable Bennet storyline—finally! I'm not particularly moved by Stan's imprisonment, mainly because that character hasn't been very sympathetic for a very long time. And it still really confused me that so many major clues are arriving very late in the game. Why has the cab driver waited over a week

It's also slightly annoying that the avenues of investigation here (Belko, Kovarsky) are suspects the viewers at home were allowed to consider weeks ago, meaning Linden and Holder feel like they're playing catchup with the viewers at home. They should be the ones leading us through this story, but I actually feel more informed than Linden--probably because I am, given how the TV show can let us see people and things she can't. I think there's a way to tell this story much better, basically—but I'm pleased we're close to the finish, as I can't deny being very excited to discover who killed Rosie. If we are going to be told this season, of course...

written by Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin / directed by Ed Bianchi / 29 May 2011 / AMC

Poll: who's your favourite fictional investigator?


It's been awhile, so here comes another of those mega-polls that gives everyone a headache! This time, I'm after your favourite fictional investigator/detective. As usual, the poll's options below are extensive, but I'm sure I missed a great many.

In a change to the usual procedure, you can now select FIVE favourites. The "other vote" only allows for ONE answer, but you can actually add as many as you want by separating your answers with a comma (eg: answer 1, answer 2, answer 3). I will happily count five unique answers in the "other" field.

Feel free to discuss your answers in the comments below. This poll will close on 4 June @5PM GMT, with the results posted here shortly after.


Monday, 30 May 2011

X FACTOR'd


It's been a torturous year for fans of X Factor, despite the fact not a single episode of the show's aired since Christmas 2010. The speculation over the US version's judges dominated the showbiz headlines since New Year, and then Cheryl Cole was ignominiously given the boot after two-weeks in the prized job. Was it because of her Geordie accent? Or her lack of chemistry with the other judges? Maybe it was her downbeat attitude? It depends which news story you're reading, really. We'll probably never know for sure, because the matter's almost certainly going to be "spun" to ensure Cole doesn't look like a total fool, and Cowell and Fox likewise for taking a risk on someone who fell at the first hurdle.

With all eyes on the US version, the UK original has been in mounting crisis--faced with replacing its two most popular judges. There was the sudden possibility of Cole returning to the British show now she's been axed from the US remake, but she's allegedly been ignoring phone calls to that end. And, to be frank, it's hard to see how Cole could return to X Factor without it looking like she's run back home with her tail between her legs.

Regardless, ITV have now confirmed the judging line-up for this year's X Factor, which starts auditions on Wednesday. They are: Take That's singer-songwriter Gary Barlow, ex-Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland, N Dubz's lead singer Tulisa Contostavlos, and returning judge Louis Walsh. Dermot O'Leary will be back as host, having failed to secure the US X Factor gig (beaten by fellow Brit Steve Jones), while Caroline Flack and X Factor runner-up Olly Murs are replacing Konnie Huq on The Xtra Factor show.

So how secure do the X Factor's now appear? The US version has possibly been damaged by a public perception that it's an uncertain creative mess, but I'm pretty sure the "Cheryl Cole incident" will be a minor blip on the radar for Americans--as 97% of them have no clue who she was. The key thing is that the remake has its creator Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (reuniting after American Idol) and L.A Reid, who may not be a household name, but his credentials in the music biz that put Cowell's to shame.

Cole's role has also been taken by ex-Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger, who proved her worth when she guest-judged on the UK X Factor last year, but who was initially hired to co-host the show. Welsh presenter Steve Jones, a total newcomer to Americans, will now have to face presenting this gigantic show by himself. I'm guessing he's handsome and intelligible enough to get the job done, but I still think he's a strange choice. Maybe he'll rise to the occasion, who knows. American presenters are painfully vapid, so Jones could pull "a Cat Deeley" and endear himself by virtue of exhibiting a real personality.

One thing that's come to my attention is how the US X Factor judging panel is incredibly ethnic: with Cowell the only white person. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it is an unusual quirk of losing Cole.

What about UK X Factor? Gary Barlow's a great signing, but he's so much of a nice-guy that I can't see him taking Cowell's role in spirit. Kelly Rowland's career isn't big enough to get you excited about her inclusion (did she have any other plans this year?), but she's still a global name and I can see her working nicely as an opinionated judge. Tulisa Contostavlos faces the biggest struggle for acceptance, perhaps, as she's seen as the direct replacement for Cole... but most people over-30 don't know who she is! N Dubz are no Girls Aloud, let's face it. However, having seen her in interviews and on a BBC3 documentary once, she could actually be a surprisingly effective judge. She's definitely more "street" than Cole ever was and, in my opinion, more intelligent, too. As for Louis Walsh--well, you just can't get rid of him, can you? Expect more "you remind me of a young..."-style appraisals.

I have a feeling the UK version will miss having a clear replacement for Cowell, however--in the same way American Idol's new panel (Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson) have failed to do much beyond offer misplaced praise and support... when a verbal kick in the teeth would sometimes be the kinder thing.

But what do YOU think? Are these trans-Atlantic X Factor changes going to work for their respective countries? Will the US version soar to success simply because of Cowell/Abdul? Will the UK version find a new lease of life with its three new judges, or will it to hit the same snag Britain's Got Talent has been caught on this year without Cowell: audiences WILL tune in because they love the brand, but everyone can see the new judges aren't as good and the show's worse for it.

We won't really know how successful all these changes will be until both X Factor's start airing episodes in a few months time, but what's your gut feeling about all this?

Here are a few words from the UK X Factor talent:

ITV's Director of Television, Peter Fincham:

"The X Factor is more than just a television show: it's by far the nation's biggest platform for emerging talent and I'm delighted to be confirming a line up of judges who have experience right across the music business to pick the stars of the future. As multi-million selling artists, songwriters and pop masterminds, Gary, Tulisa, Kelly and Louis have huge breadth of appeal with our audience and the ability to engage both the UK's next generation of music talent as well as ITV's viewers."
Simon Cowell:

"These four are totally up for it, each of them bring a different attitude. They have had a ton of hits between them and they are all committed to finding a star. I have a feeling Louis and Tulisa will have slightly different points of view as to what the next star should look and sound like!"
Director of Entertainment, talkbackThames, Richard Holloway:

"Each year we aim to grow and evolve the show. This year will be no different. All I can say is expect the unexpected!"
Gary Barlow:

"I'm extremely excited about working on The X Factor. I've always been a fan of the show and always enjoyed performing on it too. My one goal is to find a global super star. If I don't find one I won't have done my job."
Tulisa Contostavlos:

"I'm so excited to be the joining The X Factor and want to bring something fresh and new to the panel. I'm not going to be afraid to speak my mind and mix things up a little. I am hoping to find some hot new talent and mentor a winning category. It is also going to be great to get to know and work alongside the other Judges. Let the fireworks begin!"
Kelly Rowland:

"I am so excited to join The X Factor UK and be able to spend time in one of my favourite places in the world. The music coming out of the UK right now is incredible with artists like Adele, Jessie J and James Blake, so I'm confident this season of The X Factor will give me opportunity to hear a few diamonds in the rough. Being a judge is never easy, but I promise to be as sternly honest as I can and also encourage everyone who crosses the stage. I can't wait to meet the world's next superstar!"
Louis Walsh:

"I'm delighted to back for my eighth series of The X Factor, it's my favourite job in the world and I'm really excited this year to work with Gary Barlow and the rest of the new panel. I'm the last original judge standing and I'm determined to find an act that can win this year and show the others how it's done!"

TV Picks: 30 May – 5 June 2011 (Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask, Case Histories, Coast, Lead Balloon, Meet The Elephant Man, Popstar To Operastar, Talking Funny, etc.)

Pick of the Week: LEAD BALLOON - Tuesday, BBC2, 10PM

BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY
Horrible Histories (CBBC, 5.15pm) Return of the BAFTA-winning historical sketch show for kids.
Gory Games (CBBC, 5.45pm) Horrible Histories spin-off gameshow. Hosted by Dave Lamb.
Four In A Bed (Channel 4, 5pm) Series 2 of the show looking into B&B's.
Come Dine With Me (Channel 4, 5.30pm) Return of the culinary gameshow. Continues weekdays.
The Truth About Wildlife (BBC1, 7.30pm) Series looking at wildlife conservationism in the UK. Presented by Chris Packham.
Britain's Got Talent: Semi Finals (ITV1, 7.30pm) Live finals with Simon Cowell returning to the jury to pick this year's winner. Continues weekdays, with results at 9.30pm.
Springwatch 2011 (BBC2, 8pm) Return of the live wildlife series. Presented by Chris Packham & Kate Humble. (1/12)
Egypt's Lost Cities (BBC1, 8.30pm) Documentary using "space archaeology" (satellites with infrared cameras) to investigate the surface of Egypt.
Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask (Dave, 10pm) Comedy quiz show where players have to devise questions that will bamboozle their rivals. Guests include Griff Rhys Jones, Robert Webb, Dave Lamb & Katy Brand.

TUESDAY 31st
Storyville: Amnesty! When They Are All Free (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary on Amnesty International.
Lead Balloon (BBC2, 10pm) Series 4 of the sitcom about a miserable comedian. Starring Jack Dee, Raquel Cassidy, Anna Crilly, Sean Power, Rasmus Hardicker, Ingrid Oliver & Tony Gardner.
True Stories: Google Baby (More4, 10pm) Documentary about a business where people can order babies online.

WEDNESDAY 1st
Springwatch Unsprung 2011 (BBC2, 8.30pm) Sister show to Springwatch in the form of an audience debate.
The Men Who Won't Stop Marching (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary looking at the current state of Belfast's Shankhill Road marching bands.
Cumbria, One Year On (ITV1, 10.35pm) Documentary reflecting on the tragedy last May, when Cumbrian taxi driver Derrick Bird went on a rampage: shooting 12 people dead and seriously injuring 11 before committing suicide.

THURSDAY 2nd
Andrew Marr's Megacities (BBC1, 8pm) Documentary series exploring how cities with more than 10 million citizens cope manage to feed, protect and transport the populace. Presented by Andrew Marr. (1/3)
Welly Telly: The Countryside Of Television (BBC4, 8pm) Homage to rural TV. Featuring Kate Humble, John Craven, Clarissa Dickson Wright, Bill Oddie, Bill Bryson, and more.
Meet The Elephant Man (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary where scientists study the bones of Joseph Merrick; the disfigured Victorian gentleman best-known as The Elephant Man.
Bums, Boobs & Botox (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary looking at a market leader in British cosmetic surgery.
Talking Funny (Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm) Special where Ricky Gervais chairs a meeting of top American comedy talent to discuss what's funny: Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK & Chris Rock.

FRIDAY 3rd
Julia Bradbury's Canal Walks (BBC2, 9pm) Series exploring some of the UK's canals and towpath trails. Hosted by Julia Bradbury. (1/4)

SATURDAY 4th
The Classic Brit Awards 2011 (ITV3, 11.05pm) Annual awards ceremony.

SUNDAY 5th
The Royal (ITV1, 7pm) Series 8 of the hospital drama set in the 1960s. (1/9)
Popstar To Operastar (ITV1, 8pm) Series 2 of the singing contest where pop singers are trained to become opera singers. Hosted by Myleene Klass, with mentors Katherine Jenkins & Rolando Villazon. Celebrity contestants are Joe McElderry, Jocelyn Brown, Cheryl Baker, Midge Ure, Andy Bell, Claire Richards, Joseph Washbourn & Melody Thornton.
Case Histories (BBC1, 9pm) Crime drama about a private investigator who is asked to help find a woman who went missing 30 years ago. Starring Jason Isaacs, Amanda Abbington, Natasha Little, Fenella Woolgar & Kirsty Mitchell. (1/6)
Coast (BBC1, 9pm) Series 6 of the show exploring the unusual and picturesque coastal sights of the British Isles and its neighbours. (1/6)
Annie Nightingale: Bird On The Wireless (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary to commemorate DJ Annie Nightingale's 40th year in the music business.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

State of the Blog: underlining & IT

This week: coding, IT at work, Twilight Zone

First, I'd like to openly thank longtime reader Alan Woodward, who helped me fix a long-running problem with DMD this week: the inability to underline links in blog posts. It's a minor thing, yes, but a tougher challenge than it would appear to be. Alan kindly spent a number of days re-coding DMD's template and, after some trial and error, I'm very pleased that links are now underlined in posts.

Alan also worked out why DMD's re-tweet buttons weren't displaying the full title of posts. For some reason the code hates the inclusion of apostrophes! Maybe we'll be able to fix that soon, but in the meantime I've ditched using apostrophes wherever possible in post titles.

So thank you, Alan! I'm very grateful for your time, effort and kindness this past week or so. *round of applause*

In other news, my IT problems have abated slightly, as I can now use the internet at work, but there's unfortunately no chance of Blogger and Disqus working for me. I'm stuck with IE6, which doesn't work with Blogger very well now, and the network people have blocked any access to Disqus. So you'll have to get used to most weekday updates being posted after 5pm GMT, although I'm trying to auto-post stuff from the night before (TV Picks, Jump the Blast, etc) just to tide things over. It's a shame--as there's less chance of me being first with a few UK TV news pieces, but that's how it goes.

I'm still planning to review episodes of The Twilight Zone in bite-sized form, remember. I've watched six episodes so far, and aim to release my first review of seven episodes later this week. It will primarily be a way to take up some slack here, as most US network shows go off-air. However, I'm not falling into the trap of assuming summer equals a TV drought--what with Breaking Bad, True Blood, Torchwood and many others airing new seasons. There will be plenty to be getting on with.

As always, this is the place to ask any questions, discuss something off-topic, bring something to my attention, or start a conversation about anything you like. Over to you!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

DOCTOR WHO, 6.6 – "The Almost People"


Some two-part conclusions are intentionally different to their setups and take things to a whole new level (see: "Day Of The Moon"), while others are just concerned with fast-paced resolution and pay-off. "The Almost People" was definitely in the latter camp, which makes it a tough episode to review separately, as I've said all I wanted to say about this story's direction, writing, location filming, and performances in my review of "The Rebel Flesh" last week...

However, freed of exposition and with a better way to let audiences differentiate between the humans and "Gangers" (the latter tended to wear Chronicles Of Riddick uniforms), this episode was a far more satisfying jolt of action, drama and light comedy. I was still disappointed the characterizations remained thin for the guest stars, which didn't help when we were supposed to feel attached to Jimmy (Mark Bonnar) over his son's holographic message, but the story definitely moved into a higher gear to distract you from most of its problems. It also helped that, with the arrival of a "Flesh-Doctor", the episode could have fun with The Doctor (Matt Smith) interacting with himself, and everyone else's reaction to having two identical Time Lords around.

Amy (Karen Gillan) was understandably less warm towards the "copy", which was a prejudice both Doctors couldn't understand, and in general the episode did a good job exploring the concept of identity--as the duplicates are supposedly impossible to tell apart. If only writer Matthew Graham hadn't decided to give the Gangers the ability to contort their bodies like Stretch Armstrong, together with their tendency to revert back to their malformed, glassy facial features—both huge giveaways that they're very different beings...

The story escalated the sense of jeopardy well, helped by a countdown element as the factory started to disintegrate, and the revelations that the humans are far from innocent in their mistreatment of the Flesh worked well. (That pile of melted Ganger bodies was a strong nightmarish visual.) I also appreciated how the episode continued to give Rory (Arthur Darvill) something to do in his own subplot with Jennifer (Sarah Smart) instead of hang on Amy's hip making jokes. I can't deny there were still times when my head would spin trying to remember who's human and who's Ganger, which wasn't always intentional, and there were many times when split-screens and actor-doubles were noticeable and distracting, but in general things were handled nicely. Smith definitely relished the opportunity to play a darker version of The Doctor, when his allegiance to his Flesh brothers was tested, and I'm sure Whovians enjoyed the Flesh-Doctor's initial difficulty parsing 900 years' worth of memories and speaking in Tom Baker and David Tennant's voice ("would you like a Jelly Baby"?) I even liked the CGI for the spindly wax-insect Jennifer transformed into which looked particularly effective in moody lighting moving down a corridor.

It's just unfortunate for "The Almost People" that its denouement featured an entirely separate cliffhanger that eclipsed everything that's happened in the previous two weeks. It was like Steven Moffat stepped in to write the last page as a prelude to his mid-series finale, and simply stole the show in a heartbeat. For we learned that Amy isn't the real Amy, but a "Flesh-Amy" who's been placed aboard the TARDIS in her stead. The Doctor's finally figured this out, and my guess is the Flesh-Amy was substituted by The Silence when Amy was captured in "Day Of The Moon". The real Amy is actually in some unknown location, about to give birth under the supervision of "midwife" the Eye Patch Lady (Frances Barber), and it's now up to The Doctor and Rory to find and rescue her...

Inevitably then, the questions viewers will be asking as the credits rolled had nothing to do with this two-parter, and everything to do with series 6's mytharc and random predictions for next week. Why did Flesh-Amy have a psychic link to the real Amy? I assume the TARDIS' unresolved pregnancy test was because Amy is pregnant, but Flesh-Amy wasn't? And why do The Silence want Amy's child, if they're behind all this? Is Amy's child the little girl we saw regenerating in "Day Of The Moon"? And while it seemed very plausible the Flesh-Doctor could be the Doctor we saw killed in "Impossible Astronaut", he was himself vaporized in this episode--although The Doctor did suggest his duplicate could endure ("your molecular memory could survive this, you know... it may not be the end.") Is it still feasible The Doctor's death was actually his Flesh double sacrificing himself, perhaps as payment for 200 years of life with no regeneration?

Overall, "The Almost People" was a good resolution of an average storyline and concept, mostly succeeding because it had a stronger pace, more energy, and more successful humour than "The Rebel Flesh" managed. It's cumulatively still a fairly unremarkable two-parter, but not the colossal waste of time it was threatening to become last week. As I said, it's just a shame so many episodes are made to feel like distractions to Moffat's masterplan, as there's definitely been a feeling since series 5 that stories that are unconnected to the year's mytharc needs to be "juiced" with breadcrumbs (the Eye Patch Lady sightings) or include epilogues that, in the show's near-future, will feel as extraneous as those "cracks in time" from last year.

written by Matthew Graham / directed by Julian Simpson / 28 May 2011 / BBC One

Next time...



"A Good Man Goes To War" Prequel...

Talking Point: do you start watching TV shows you know have been cancelled?


This is perhaps more of a concern for television shows that are imported, but would a show's cancellation put you off watching them to begin with? A good recent example is The Chicago Code, which was axed by Fox in the US the same week it made its UK debut on Sky1. For UK audiences, did that put you off investing time in The Chicago Code, or were you happy to just watch the season that exists? Or maybe this issue never affects you, because you don't keep a close eye on which foreign shows are being renewed/cancelled

Personally, I think good television is good television, regardless of how much of it exists. I'd happily watch a brilliant American TV show, knowing it was axed in the US. But I must admit, TV shows of only mild interest would probably get overlooked if I knew they only lasted a short while. Early cancellation doesn't inspire confidence in something, even knowing that ratings and quality are not intrinsically linked.

What do you think? Does foreknowledge of a TV show's untimely demise ever put you off watching them? Or doesn't it matter--unless you're aware there's a particularly stinging end-of-season cliffhanger that will never be resolved?

Over to you!

Friday, 27 May 2011

PSYCHOVILLE, 2.4: the Nazi and the nursing home


I've been frustrated with Psychoville because recent episodes haven't develop the backbone of the storyline much, they just brought a few of the characters' lives to grisly ends. A few new characters were introduced with no clear connection to the show's big concerns, and the central mysteries showed no signs of being explained after three weeks. It's indeed a problem with episodic reviews that you're effectively appraising "a chapter of a book" every week, so hopefully my overall opinion will change when all six episodes have aired. And fortunately, episode 4 remedied many of my previous complaints and could be the catalyst for a more focused, illuminating half.

Following the "suicide" of frugal Oscar Lomax, home help Tealeaf (Daniel Kaluuya) was summoned to the Hoyti Toyti toy shop by fey retailer Peter Bishop (a brilliant Jason Watkins), who's noticed that ex-patients of Ravenhill Psychiatric Hospital are dying in unusual circumstances. Even stranger, Peter reveals that Hoyti Toyti's is a front for his real passion--trading in Third Reich memorabilia he keeps in his basement--and that a notorious Nazi war criminal founded Ravenhill after emigrating to Britain with his daughter Edwina Kenchington as part of "Operation Paperclip."

It's a promising step forward that adds another layer to the show's creepy asylum back-story, but we'll have to see where it goes from here. What kind of crazy Nazi experiments were being performed on the patients? Do they explain why dwarf Robert had psychokinesis? Is Grace Andrews (Imelda Staunton) having Detective Finney (Mark Bonnar) kill people to prevent them remembering something about their treatments? What hold does Grace have over Finney, getting him to kill people?

Kenchington's locket also returned, now in the possession of vapid actress Debbie (Daisy Haggard), whom we caught up with preparing for a TV interview with Richard Bacon. Hattie (Pemberton) was also embraced into the main story, at last, as it was revealed she's Debbie's makeup artist and helped her open Kenchington's locket to find a silver powder inside that smells like "sugar puffs", which was swiftly emptied down a sink. Was that some remains of Kenchington's Nazi father? Has Hattie unwittingly released his spirit from captivity?

Hattie's own story was brief but amusing this week, taking a cue from Misery as her husband-of-convenience Shahrouz (Elyes Gabel) woke to find himself shackled and unable to leave Hattie's house--told there are prying eyes outside who are suspicious about the legitimacy of his sham marriage. I have to mention Gabel's performance, which makes me smile because he plays Shahrouz as a someone who knows Hattie's unhinged but just can't control her. Pemberton plays these monstrous women very well, and it's easy to sympathize with Shahrouz as he's dominated by Hattie's personality. In some ways it's another take on the Herr Lipp/Justin relationship from League Of Gentlemen.

Elsewhere, David Sowerbutts (Steve Pemberton) went to a retirement home to kill the great-aunt of Simon (James Holmes), the man he agreed a Strangers On A Train-esque murder pact with. It didn't go according to plan, naturally, as Detective Finney was also on the scene and killed the old woman before David got a chance--suggesting the great-aunt was a Ravenhill patient on Finney's hit-list? Simon's attempt to kill Maureen suffered a setback, too--as he wound up in dismembered in Maureen's bathtub, having clearly underestimated his elderly target. Great scene with Maureen indifferently asking if David wants to keep Simon's penis as a trophy, too. He agreed, of course. Where will he keep it?

And finally, crazy librarian Jeremy (Shearsmith) became a more serious threat to the family of the woman who hasn't returned "50 Great Walks Of The British Isles Volume 2', goaded by the specter of the Silent Singer to kidnap the family's dog and threaten its life. There's still no sense of a connection to the major plots for Jeremy, but it's feasible he's another Ravenhill patient we weren't made aware of last series--or perhaps he ran the asylum's library and went mad because of the horrors he witnessed? Anyhow, it was great to see Jeremy involved in an actual story, instead of sinister sketches of dwindling impact, and it gave Shearsmith a great opportunity for a subtle Norman Bates-esque performance. As much as I enjoy his angry Mr Jelly and irritable Maureen, it's nice to balance the ghoulish cartoons with a character who's more recognizably human.

Overall, episode 4 was very satisfying and did a good job handling its many storylines. The only residual complaint is that I'm not finding series 2 as laugh-out-loud funny as series 1, perhaps because the majority of characters have lost their element of surprise. But I chuckled more regularly here: at Hattie demanding a window kiss from Shahrouz, Mr Jelly stumbling on an old lady using a vibrator, the Sowerbutts' bathroom aftermath, and David trying to lie to his mother ("I'm going to Madagascar to see a friend.") I'm optimistic the remaining two episodes can continue in this vein, with less need to fly in a holding pattern...

Asides

  • Do you think Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are fans of Fringe, hence Peter Bishop's name? Or is this just coincidence?
  • The show's tendency for real-life celebrity cameo's continued with radio/TV broadcaster Richard Bacon, following Christopher Biggins and John Landis.
  • I really like how the Sowerbutts' flat often feels like a sparse theatrical set, with dark corners and backdrops. It sometimes feels like they're performing on a half-empty stage, with the faces of a quiet audience just off-camera watching. This must be intentional, given David's affection for musical theatre, right? The Sowerbutts also starred in series 1's splendid fourth episode, the Rope-inspired experiment that felt very much like a one-act play being performed.
written by Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton / directed by Matt Lipsey / 26 May 2011 / BBC Two

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Review: FIREFLY - The Complete Series (2002)


The eponymous insect burns brightly, but doesn't live long; an ironic omen of what happened to its namesake television series Firefly. Joss Whedon's space-western was posthumously more successful on DVD than during its brief, disorderly broadcast on Fox between 2002 and 2003. Gene Roddenberry may have pitched his venerable Star Trek as "Wagon Train to the stars", but Joss Whedon's Firefly delivers the arid aesthetic that description brings to mind.

The year is 2517 A.D. Mankind has colonized a new star system; terra-forming planets and moons to resemble the Dust Bowl of the United States. Not intentionally, one hopes. Adding a soupçon of melancholy is how these new worlds exist in the aftermath of a conflict between the victorious "Alliance" (comprised of Earth's American and Chinese superpowers) and the defeated "Browncoats" of outlying worlds who fought for independence.

One veteran of this "Unification War" is Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a swaggering hero who's named his scrappy ship "Serenity" after a notorious battle, which he uses to smuggle goods between worlds. Mal's loyal crew are comprised of tough wartime comrade Zoe (Gina Torres); her snarky pilot husband "Wash" (Alan Tudyk); beautiful Inara (a pre-V Morena Baccarin), the ship's resident "companion" (ahem, prostitute); tomboy engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite); and bonehead thief Jayne Cobb (a pre-Chuck, post-Predator 2 Adam Baldwin.) Following the events of the pilot, they're joined by pious Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), a tranquil man of faith, and fugitive siblings Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau)--the former a gifted doctor, the latter a young woman mentally-scarred by experimental Alliance brain surgery that's endowed her with psychic abilities and extraordinary combat skills.

As you'd expect from the wordsmith behind Buffy and Angel, Firefly's whip-smart, littered with fresh creative choices, polished dialogue and a knowing approach to the clichés of its genre. "Whedonesque" patois can occasionally turn characters into glove puppets spouting witticisms, but it's the same kind of heightened reality Quentin Tarantino imprints on his own litany of characters. You may sense that every ad lib Cap'n Mal delivers has been chewed on for days in the mind of a stressed-out staff writer, but diamonds need crushing.

Firefly's premise is similar to that of Blake's 7 (does Whedon take regular inspiration from British classics, as his subsequent Dollhouse also evolved the concept of Gerry Anderson's Joe 90?), and succeeds in delivering an immediate sense of camaraderie from its crew. Indeed, the cast slot together like they've spent years in each other's company. When you recall how long it took most of Trek's spin-offs to develop tangible chemistry, it's incredible how quickly Firefly's gang become a "family" to really care about. The excellent casting should take most of the credit; a group of relatively unknown actors at the turn-of-the-century, who've mostly gone on to bigger, if not necessarily better, things. Only a few are likely condemned to a Galaxy Quest-style existence of fan conventions; but I'll leave you to decide which ones will be brushing up their own Grabthar's Hammer speeches in 20 years...

There are flaws with Firefly, of course--unthinkable as that may sound to intransigent Browncoats. I think it's safe to say Firefly's main fault was emphasizing its parched viscose backdrop over the sci-fi. Considering the show's set half-a-millennia into the future, the only regular reminder is the presence of spaceships instead of stagecoaches. I'm not saying Firefly needed a constant string of space battles or a time-travel adventure, but I may have been nice to see stronger sci-fi ideas being tackled--beyond River's brain surgery. And don't get me started on inscrutable villains "The Reavers", unseen boogiemen whispered about ad nauseum, who had to wait for spin-off movie Serenity for their moment in the sun.

Alleviating some of that, the basic concept is crystal clear and engaging: a motley crew of "space pirates" smuggle contraband while avoiding the "space navy" and any ne'er-do-well rivals. But given the fact Fox inexplicably decided not to air Firefly's pilot first, it's little wonder audiences were bewildered by the show's jumble of influences, styles and ideas--which range from Star Wars, Star Trek, Cowboy Bebop and Red Dwarf, to Mad Max, Buck Rogers and, perhaps, '80s cartoon BraveStarr?

But boy-oh-boy, that cast is golden: Fillion, face as bug-like as Mal's beloved ship, channels a wittier Han Solo; moon--faced Glau debuts the "violent swan" act she's reprised to various degrees ever since; Baldwin's essentially playing the tougher, dumber, unscrupulous younger brother of Casey from Chuck; Tudyk's a bundle of amusing tic's and twitchy energy as the prodigious pilot with a Hawaiian shirt obsession; Torres personifies quiet, feminine toughness with her lethal quick draw and bee-stung lips; Glass makes for a pleasantly whimsical, genial "mystic"; then-newcomer Baccarin manages to turn a potentially uncomfortable live-in "geisha" into a beguiling character of subtle depth; Staite initially annoyed me as a perky grease monkey, but became rather adorable; Glass is effortlessly likable, even if his character suffers from the least development (a late-season reveal he has scarily long hair is about it); and Maher just about manages to avoid becoming a total drip as the dependable doc--although he remains less of a foil for Mal than I think was intended. A few of the relationships also feel relatively fresh in a space-faring context--with brother/sister and husband/wife duo's involved, both afforded opportunities to act those roles naturally.

The 14 episodes themselves are of good quality with only a handful of weak hours--"Shindig" (*½), "Bushwacked" (**), "Safe" (**), "The Message" (**)--and managed to hit a notable high in the season's third quarter. The pilot "Serenity" (***) is a confident intro, so goodness knows why Fox didn't air it first, but early episodes are mainly just serviceable escapades, until episode 6's "Our Mrs Reynolds" (***) introduces sexy swindler Saffron (pre-Mad Men Christina Hendricks), who proves to be stimulating fun--and the possible inspiration for Doctor Who's mysterious archaeologist River Tam Song, as both share "sweetie"-talk and poisoned lipsticks. However, the trio of episodes that make you lament Firefly's passing arrive soon after with "Out Of Gas" (***½), a flashback hour as the crew suffer a life-threatening engine failure; a daring undercover mission to an Alliance hospital to brain-scan River in "Ariel" (***); and hostage crisis drama "War Stories" (***) where Mal and Wash are tortured by a mobster.

Perhaps Firefly's brevity and network mistreatment worked in its favour, helping it find unexpected success on DVD? The show had a fantastic excuse for failure with Fox's disorderly scheduling, and never lasted long enough to face creative struggles. "Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse", as the saying goes, and that's exactly what Firefly did--whether it wanted to, or not. At least people still visit its grave and leave flowers.

written by Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg, Ben Edlund, Jose Molina, Cheryl Cain & Brett Matthews / directed by Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Vern Gillum, Michael Grossman, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Marita Grabiak, David Solomon, Allan Kroeker, Jim Contner & Thomas J. Wright

"Serenity" (***), "The Train Job" (**½), "Bushwacked" (**), "Shindig" (*½), "Safe" (**), "Our Mrs Reynolds" (***), "Jaynestown" (**½), "Out Of Gas" (***½), "Ariel" (***), "War Stories" (***), "Trash" (**½), "The Message" (**), "Hearts Of Gold" (**), "Objects In Space" (**½)

Screenshots kindly provided by Tyler Scruggs.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Review: PRIMEVAL, 5.1


Burrow over to Obsessed With Film, where I've reviewed the series 5 premiere of PRIMEVAL, which  received its UK premiere on Watch last night.

As part of ITV's co-financing deal with BBC America, Germany's Pro Sieben and UKTV, that allowed the return of their axed sci-fi drama Primeval, it's UKTV's digital channel Watch who receive the British premiere of series 5. This results in mixed fortunes: loyal fans get new episodes mere months after series 4 ended on ITV, but it’s no longer accessible to everyone and isn't being simulcast in HD. It also strikes me as odd that Watch have moved Primeval from its customary Saturday timeslot, as I suspect they could have lured a sizable post-Doctor Who audience their way... Continue reading...

Edward James Olmos joins 'Dexter'


Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica) has been added to the cast of Dexter for its sixth season, joining the previously announced Colin Hanks, as an expert on religious artifacts, and Mos (formerly Mos Def) as an ex-convict who's found religion. Olmos' character is described as a "brilliant, charismatic professor of religious studies."

Olmos confirmed the news in a tweet:

"It's true... I'm coming for you Dexter...."
Clearly the next season of Dexter will be tackling the issue of religion, which I'm sure the central character will have something to say about in a pithy narration or two.

My feelings about Dexter are well-known: I adored the show's first two seasons, but everything since has been variations on a formula. Season 4 was a return to form in some respects (mainly because of John Lithgow's electric performance), and season 5 had the occasionally successful flourish, but I still think the show has a natural lifespan that's been stretched beyond capacity. That said, religion sounds like fertile ground for the show to tackle, and the casting this year is quite promising. Admiral William Adama locking horns with Dexter Morgan, eh? So slay we all.

Dexter returns to Showtime in September.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Trailer: 'Torchwood: Miracle Day' (Starz / BBC1)


Starz have released a full-length trailer for Torchwood: Miracle Day, their co-production with BBC Wales and BBC Worldwide. The ten-part series reunites John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Kai Owen from the original British show, joined by newcomers Mekhi Phifer (ER), Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Alexa Havins (All My Children) and Arlene Tur (Eat Pray Love.) Guest stars include Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), C. Thomas Howell (ET), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) and John De Lancie (Star Trek.)


What do you make of this trailer? Is certainly looks bigger and bolder than anything creator Russell T. Davies could have achieved on a BBC budget, but it also looks worryingly devoid of its unique personality. The last sci-fi drama that tackled a global high-concept event like this was FlashForward, and look how that turned out. Of course, Miracle Day has the benefit of beloved ready-made characters and a self-contained story to tell, so I'm hopeful this trailer's "wham-bang" aesthetic is just a concession to the American market.

Maybe the BBC will pull their finger out and release a more persuasive, intelligent trailer soon. Or is Torchwood: Miracle Day going to be nothing more than an Americanized 24-esque romp, with everyone under the misapprehension Eve Myles doesn't look ridiculous brandishing a bazooka?

Torchwood Miracle Day premieres 8 July on Starz. The BBC have not yet announced their schedule.

THE KILLING, 1.9 - "Undertow"


In "Undertow" there was a major development in the murder case, but it wound up setting the investigation back by several days/episodes. That's even more frustrating when you realize the removal of Bennet Ahmed's subplot means The Killing could probably have been told in a tighter six hours. Beyond that, my usual complaints and praise largely apply, regarding performances and , but it's fascinating watching The Killing slowly throttle itself...

Overview:

  • A translator interpreted Bennet's wiretapped phone call to Muhammed, confirming he knows about the meat market room and how it was used as a holding pen for a young girl. Unfortunately, Holder (Joel Kinnaman) couldn't get an arrest warrant signed by his old friend Judge Elliot (Jay Brazeau), owing to the way the wiretap is a gross misuse of the Patriot Act's anti-terrorism provisions.
  • Mayor Adams (Tom Butler) responded to allegations he's the father of his pregnant intern's unborn child by holding a televised press conference and claiming it's all a smear campaign from Richmond's (Billy Campbell) camp. He even offered proof by revealing he's had a vasectomy, but is actually planning to have his medical records falsified and payments to his intern doubled to keep her quiet.
  • Mitch (Michelle Forbes) was assured by Linden (Mireille Enos) that the investigation will be over within the day, but after Bennet's arrest warrant is denied the school teacher goes back to school and faced walkouts from his class (who also wrote 'KILLER' on his whiteboard.) When Mitch saw Bennet was still walking free, she broke down and chastised her husband Stan (Brent Sexton) for letting the man who killed their daughter go.
  • Richmond was put in an awkward position, having to pretend he didn't leak news of Adams' pregnant intern, while Jamie resolved to prove Adams is lying about his innocence. All dirty tactics were called off by Richmond after hearing the Green Street Mosque has been defaced.
  • Bennet's wife Amber (Ashley Johnson) was still suspicious of her husband and wrote down Muhammed's phone number from Bennet's cell phone, passing the information to Linden and Holder. The phone's number was traced to a Muhammed Hamid (Jarod Joseph), with the GPS pinpointing him to a Seattle marketplace. Linden and Holder arrived on the scene, calling Muhammed's phone to see which of the stallholders responded, and eventually found their prime suspect--who decided to run when he realizes he's been identified, but was apprehended.
  • Gwen (Kristen Lehman) tried to convince Richmond to open up to the people about his wife Lilly's death, as it's a tragic story that comes from the heart and could be their last chance to turn the tide of public opinion now Adams looks like a victim. Richmond declined, but went to see multi-millionaire Drexler (Patrick Gilmore) to ask for more money. Drexler gave Richmond a basketball challenge: sink a basket in one free shot and receive $5m to rebuild the Somali community, or miss and resign from the mayoral election race. Richmond accepted the challenge and won.
  • Muhammed was interrogated by Holder and Linden over the abduction of Rosie Larsen, but it soon becomes clear they have their wires crossed: Muhammed and Bennet were actually involved with protecting a young girl called Aisha (Odessa Rojen Miriam) from female circumcision--a controversial tradition in their culture--and have been trying to smuggle her across the border to safety. Bennet and Muhammed are innocent.
  • An outraged Stan, feeling emasculated by his wife's comments, kidnapped Bennet with help from Belko and savagely beat him up on the outskirts of town. Simultaneously, Mitch found Rosie's "GRAND CANYON" T-shirt in the laundry, proving the one found at the meat market wasn't her daughter's.

Suspects:

  • You can mark a line through Bennet and Muhammed's names after this episode. They're both in the clear--although I hope they explain the sighting of a small woman helping Bennet and Muhammed smuggle Aisha away. Who was that?
  • Are there any more suspects to consider? We're back to square one after this episode--so my mind's wandering back to characters who felt significant before Bennet's story became a focus. Those being Rosie's best friend, her ex-boyfriend, and the mobsters her father used to work for. I'm also still suspicious of Stan's buddy Belko, frankly--but I'm suspicious of everyone because the story could throw a spotlight on any random character and somehow make them the murderer, let's face it.

Summation:

"Undertow" was a frustrating episode. I know this partly its intention (so audiences felt just as exasperated as Linden when the Bennet/Muhammed line of investigation became largely insignificant), but I question the need to have spent the majority of six episodes investigating a dead-end. I can only hope Aisha knows something about Rosie that could help Linden and Holder crack the case.

It's also becoming more noticeable that The Killing's ignoring the one thing that traditionally fuels whodunnits: motive. Why would anyone want to kill sweet Rosie Larsen? That obvious question has hardly been asked since the two-part premiere, and the show's mostly dropped the idea of investigating Rosie's background and getting inside her head. A particular shame because Linden was at her most fascinating when she was observing minutiae and making deductions from bedroom evidence and old videos.

"Super 8" was probably the last episode where Rosie felt like a tangible part of the story, even in death, before everything shifted and The Killing started spending an inordinate amount of time prying into Bennet's life. Isn't the one thing people love about murder-mysteries the way characters each have possible motives for killing the victim? Hopefully The Killing will get back to that for the remaining batch of episodes, perhaps returning to Rosie's circle of friends for some answers. But even if it does, so much time has been wasted mid-season. And will the Richmond/Adams story reveal a tangible connection to the murder, or is that as disconnected from events as it's now come to feel?

I appreciate what The Killing's aspiring to be, I really do, but it's a handsome production that's giving us too many reasons why this protracted method of procedural storytelling isn't the norm. It's too reliant on formula to pull it through each episode, and has just undone a huge swathe of the ongoing storyline. Real police investigations undoubtedly encounter issues like a prime suspect being vindicated, but perhaps the slow pace of The Killing is what made it sting as a viewer. All that invested time rendered largely pointless? Wow. Credit to the writers for managing to logically explain Bennet's suspicious behaviour while keeping him innocent, but it's shame we don't appear to have learned anything from this storyline that'll be useful in finding Rosie's killer. And the coincidence that both Rosie and Aisha visited the Ahmed residence on the same night of their abductions is hard to swallow.

Has The Killing lost its patient audience thanks to a misguided storytelling tactic, or can it be rescued as the show approaches the finish-line? And knowing that AMC have renewed their remake for season 2 (owing to the early critical buzz and good ratings), is that going to look like a poor judgment of The Killing ends its inaugural run in the midst of an audience backlash?

written by Dan Nowak / directed by Agnieska Holland / 22 May 2011 / AMC

Jump the Blast #17 – 'Rush'


Laura Schumacher's becoming a one-woman army when it comes to submitting screenshots for my semi-regular Jump the Blast feature. Her latest picks come from the third season premiere of Australian action drama RUSH, where a car-bomb explodes while the cops are clearing the area. As you can see, actor Rodger Corser does an admirable job protecting that bystander from the blast.

Have you noticed a shot in a film, trailer, advert, or TV show that features someone jumping/walking away from an explosion of some kind? If so, why not email me a screenshot and you can be credited in the next installment of "Jump the Blast".

Monday, 23 May 2011

Trailer: 'Homeland' (Showtime)


We've already seen the four-minute preview/teaser Showtime released a short while ago, but here comes the official trailer for their upcoming terrorist drama Homeland, which does a better job communicating the concept of the show. The official synopsis:

A taut psychological thriller about a volatile CIA officer (Emmy® winner Claire Danes) who becomes convinced that a recently rescued American POW may be connected to an al Qaeda plot to be carried out on U.S. soil. Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis also star.

Most of you have given your thoughts on Homeland, but has this new trailer changed your mind for the better or worse? I'll definitely be tuning in because I'm a fan of Damian Lewis and I'm hoping this revitalizes Claire Danes' career, but my big concern is how I can't see the concept lasting longer than one season. Still, hopefully that one season will be a wild ride.

BAFTA Television Awards 2011: The Winners


The BAFTA Television Awards were held last night. Below you can read the full list of winners, a reminder of my largely incorrect predictions, and a few thoughts on the outcomes:

Leading Actor
  • Jim Broadbent - Any Human Heart (Channel 4)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock (BBC One) – PREDICTION
  • Daniel Rigby - Eric & Ernie (BBC Two) - WINNER
  • Matt Smith - Doctor Who (BBC One)
My thoughts: One of the night's big surprises, as everyone thought it was a toss-up between Cumberbatch and Smith, but BAFTA seemed to prefer the accuracy of Daniel Rigby's Eric Morecambe impersonation. I don't agree it was the best performance, but it was a good performance.

Leading Actress
  • Anna Maxwell Martin - South Riding (BBC One)
  • Vicky McClure - This Is England '86 (Channel 4) - PREDICTION / WINNER
  • Natalie Press - Five Daughters (BBC One)
  • Juliet Stevenson - Accused (BBC One)
My thoughts: I suspected McClure would win for This Is England '86, and win she did. I'm pleased, mainly because she's a relatively fresh talent on the scene.

Supporting Actor
  • Brendan Coyle - Downton Abbey (ITV1)
  • Martin Freeman - Sherlock (BBC One) - WINNER
  • Johnny Harris - This Is England '86 (Channel 4)
  • Robert Sheehan - Misfits (E4) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: I thought Sheehan would scrape a win as a rising star, but Freeman took home the BAFTA. I really don't mind, as playing Watson to a Sherlock is the very definition of a supporting role.

Supporting Actress
  • Gillian Anderson - Any Human Heart (Channel 4)
  • Lynda Baron - The Road To Coronation Street (BBC Four)
  • Lauren Socha - Misfits (E4) - WINNER
  • Jessie Wallace - The Road To Coronation Street (BBC Four) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: A big surprise! I love Misfits, but I don't really see what's so special about Socha's performance--she's essentially playing herself, and her character didn't even get much to do in series 2. Maybe BAFTA love human-gorilla love stories?

Entertainment Performance
  • Rob Brydon - The Rob Brydon Show (BBC Two)
  • Stephen Fry - QI (BBC One)
  • Harry Hill - Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1)
  • Graham Norton - The Graham Norton Show (BBC One) - PREDICTION / WINNER
My thoughts: Pleased to see I got this one right, as Norton's three-guest format is surprisingly joyous most of the time, and the quality of his Friday night guests has shot up recently.

Female Performance In A Comedy Programme
  • Jo Brand - Getting On (BBC Four) - WINNER
  • Dawn French - Roger & Val Have Just Got In (BBC Two)
  • Miranda Hart - Miranda (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • Katherine Parkinson - The IT Crowd (Channel 4)
My thoughts: Oh dear, what's going on? Brand's such a tedious screen presence, I'm not sure what happened here. I guess it's not as "lazy" as picking Hart, but Dawn French deserved the BAFTA over Brand.

Male Performance In A Comedy Programme
  • James Buckley - The Inbetweeners (E4)
  • Steve Coogan - The Trip (BBC Two) - WINNER
  • Tom Hollander - Rev (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • David Mitchell - Peep Show (Channel 4)
My thoughts: I'm okay with this win for Steve Coogan, who's was very good in The Trip.

Single Drama
  • Eric & Ernie (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
  • I Am Slave (Channel 4)
  • The Road to Coronation Street (BBC Four) - WINNER
  • The Special Relationship (BBC Two)
My thoughts: Disappointed BAFTA went with The Road To Coronation Street over Eric & Ernie, but it was a close call.

Drama Series
  • Being Human (BBC Three)
  • Downton Abbey (ITV1) - PREDICTION
  • Misfits (E4)
  • Sherlock (BBC One) - WINNER
My thoughts: Pleasantly surprised--I predicted Downton Abbey, but actually wanted Sherlock to win. Maybe voters had enough distance from both shows to make this correct judgement?

Drama Serial
  • Any Human Heart (Channel 4) - WINNER
  • Mad Dogs (Sky1)
  • The Sinking Of The Laconia (BBC Two)
  • The Promise (Channel 4) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: Hmmm, Any Human Heart starred award-magnet Jim Broadbent, I forgot.

Continuing Drama
  • Casualty (BBC One)
  • Coronation Street (ITV1)
  • EastEnders (BBC One) - PREDICTION / WINNER
  • Waterloo Road (BBC One)
My thoughts: Yeah, wha'ever.

International
  • Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic/HBO)
  • Glee (E4/Twentieth Century Fox)
  • The Killing (BBC Four/DR/ZDF Enterprises) - PREDICTION / WINNER
  • Mad Men (BBC Four/Lionsgate Television)
My thoughts: See! I knew The Killing would beat that competition. It has subtitles and it's in a foreign language.

Factual Series
  • Coppers (Channel 4)
  • One Born Every Minute (Channel 4) - PREDICTION
  • Welcome To Lagos (BBC Two) - WINNER
  • The Young Ones (BBC One)
My thoughts: I can't really comment--I didn't see Welcome To Lagos.

Specialist Factual
  • Alan Bennett & The Habit Of Art (The Making Of) (More4)
  • Flying Monsters 3D (Sky3D) - WINNER
  • Human Planet (BBC One) - PREDICTION
  • Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town (BBC Two)
My thoughts: Really? I didn't see the show, but the clips of Flying Monsters looked rather weak. Are BAFTA closet 3D fans? Or did the Sir David Attenborough attachment swing it?

Single Documentary
  • Between Life and Death (BBC One) - WINNER
  • The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan (More4)
  • Pink Saris (More4)
  • Scenes From A Teenage Killing (BBC Four)
My thoughts: I didn't see any of those.

Features
  • Come Dine With Me (Channel 4)
  • Hugh's Fish Fight (Channel 4) - WINNER
  • Mary Queen of Shops (BBC Two)
  • Pineapple Dance Studios (Sky1) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: Really? Wonders never cease.

Current Affairs
  • Kids In Care (Panorama) (BBC One)
  • Lost Girls of South Africa (Dispatches) (Channel 4)
  • Secret Iraq (BBC Two)
  • Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children (BBC Four) - WINNER
My thoughts: I missed them all.

News Coverage
  • BBC One Ten O'Clock News: Handover of Power (BBC One/BBC News 24)
  • Channel 4 News: From Chile's Ecstasy to Congo's Agony (Channel 4)
  • ITV News At Ten: The Cumbria Murders (ITV1) - WINNER
  • Sky News: Egypt Crisis (Sky News)
My thoughts: Again, strange category to judge.

Sport
  • 6 Nations: England v Wales (BBC One)
  • FA Cup Final: Chelsea v Portsmouth (ITV1)
  • Formula 1: The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (BBC One) - WINNER
  • Wimbledon 2010 (BBC One)
My thoughts: This is always a strange category. Is any of the coverage appreciably better?

New Media
  • LabUK/Brain Test Britain
  • Misfits
  • Malcolm Tucker: The Missing Phone
  • Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention - PREDICTION / WINNER
My thoughts: Wallace & Gromit were probably the only example of new media anyone was actually aware of. But where was Becoming Human in the nominations? That webseries was so good it actually got aired as a special by BBC3!

Entertainment Programme
  • The Cube (ITV1) - PREDICTION / WINNER
  • The Graham Norton Show (BBC One)
  • Have I Got News For You (BBC One)
  • The X Factor (ITV1)
My thoughts: I have a soft spot for ITV's The Cube, despite its repetitiveness, so I'm glad it won. It beats having The X Factor dominate the category.

Comedy Programme
  • Catherine Tate's Little Cracker (Sky1)
  • Come Fly With Me (BBC One) - PREDICTION
  • Facejacker (E4)
  • Harry and Paul (BBC Two) - WINNER
My thoughts: Oh wow, a slight upset for Matt Lucas and David Walliams' mockumentary Come Fly With Me. The BBC were close to axing Harry & Paul, too!

Situation Comedy
  • Mrs Brown's Boys (BBC One)
  • Peep Show (Channel 4)
  • Rev (BBC Two) - WINNER
  • The Trip (BBC Two) - PREDICTION
My thoughts: Slightly disappointed, but I know Rev has its fans. It's very BAFTA, isn't it.

BAFTA Special Award
Peter Bennett-Jones
producer, talent agent, Comic Relief co-creator

YouTube Audience Award
  • Downton Abbey
  • Miranda
  • My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
  • Sherlock
  • The Killing
  • The Only Way Is Essex - WINNER

BAFTA Fellowship
Sir Trevor McDonald
journalist, newsreader

TV Picks: 23-29 May 2011 ('Celebrity Five To Go', 'Four Rooms', 'Funny Or Die Presents', 'Paul Merton's Birth Of Hollywood', 'Primeval', 'Scott & Bailey', etc.)

Pick of the Week: 'PRIMEVAL' - Watch, Tuesday, 8PM

MONDAY 23rd
Celebrity Five To Go (Channel 4, 5pm) Reality series where five famous people go on holiday together, starting in Cape Town with The Apprentice's Stuart Baggs, Christopher Biggings, and others. Continues weekdaily. (1/5)
Dispatches: The Truth About Your Dentist (Channel 4, 8pm) Documentary on how the public are sometimes misled about private dentistry and the NHS.
Supersize Ambulance (BBC1, 9pm) Documentary following the work of the Thames Ambulance's bariatric service.
All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary series exploring the fear that humanity's being willingly colonized by machines. (1/3)
Funny Or Die Presents (Sky Atlantic, 10pm) Comedy series from Will Ferrell, based on the humorous video website. (1/12)

TUESDAY 24th
Prince Phillip At 90 (ITV1, 8pm) Documentary on the Queen's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, as he celebrates his 90th birthday.
Four Rooms (Channel 4, 8pm) Dragons' Den-inspired antiques gameshow where four of the UK's top art dealers compete to buy people's unusual antiquities. (1/8)
Primeval (Watch, 8pm) Series 5 of the sci-fi action-adventure receives its UK premiere. Starring Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, Alexander Siddig, Ben Miller, Ciarán McMenamin & Ruth Kearney. (1/6)
Geordie Shore (MTV, 10pm) Reality-drama based on the US hit Jersey Shore.

WEDNESDAY 25th
Pawn Stars (Five, 7.30pm) Documentary following pawn shop owners trading on the outskirts of Las Vegas. (1/10)
Midsomer Murders (ITV1, 8pm) Series 14 of the murder-mystery series. Starring Neil Dudgeon.
Diagnosis Live From The Clinic (Channel 4, 8pm) Live episode where members of the public have their ailments diagnosed by doctors. (1/6)
Moving Nature's Giants (Five, 8pm) Series exploring the methods used to transport enormous creatures, starting with a task to relocate a herd of elephants. (1/4)
Heath v Wilson: The 10 Year Duel (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary on political rivals Harold Wilson and Edward Heath and their decadal feud.

THURSDAY 26th
Cutting Edge: Breaking A Female Paedophile Ring (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary investigation into how a child pornography gang was exposed and destroyed.
The World's Tallest Man: Looking For Love (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary about Turkey's Sultan Ksen, the world's tallest man, and his struggle to find love with his condition.
Ideal (BBC3, 10.30pm) Series 7 of the sitcom about a small-time cannabis dealer. Starring Johnny Vegas. (1/6)

FRIDAY 27th
The Joy Of Easy Listening (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary on the popular music genre.
Paul Merton's Birth Of Hollywood (BBC2, 9.30pm) Documentary where the comedian travels to Hollywood in the year the showbiz capital celebrates its centennial. (1/3)
The Book Review Show (BBC2, 11pm) Literary review show. Presented by Kirsty Wark, with Germaine Greer & John Mullan.

SATURDAY 28th
Nothing.


SUNDAY 29th
Scott & Bailey (ITV1, 9pm) Crime drama following the Manchester police unit's murder specialists. Starring Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, Rupert Graves, Amelia Bulmore & Nicholas Gleaves. (1/6)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Interview: Robert Sheehan, 'Misfits'

Digital Spy have a great interview with Misfits' Robert Sheehan, ahead of his arrival at the BAFTA Television Awards tonight (22 May), where the E4 superhero series is nominated for Best Drama again.

The interview touches on everything fans would want to ask Sheehan, particularly concerning his decision to leave the popular show, his thoughts on incoming replacement Joe Gilgun, and some information about the online special he's filmed to explain his character's exit from Misfits ahead of series 3...


"[I decided to leave] well before we finished series two. There's a strange kind of a theme of... There's a few articles I've seen on the internet or whatever about how I've left Misfits to go off and do films and that's all so bulls**t, that's complete nonsense. I left Misfits to go off and do other stuff, completely unspecific. I just left because a rolling stone gathers no moss, as they say, and I just wanted to p*ss off and do other things, you know? It's nice that the show's successful but it doesn't mean complete blind and unadmonished loyalty -- 'If something is very successful you should stick to it like a barnacle!' That's definitely not my thinking." Continue reading...

CAMELOT, 1.8 - "Igraine"


A flawed episode, but I found myself quite enjoying "Igraine" because of Claire Forlani's performance and the way it gently prodded situations along regarding Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) and Igraine's simmering sexual tension, and Guinevere's (Tamsin Egerton) pre-marital fling with Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower.) It was nothing very special, but it was an engaging enough character study that made us understand Morgan a little better.

Following last week's cliffhanger, Morgan has disguised herself as a duplicate of Queen Igraine and is now roaming around Camelot trying not to blow her cover--mainly by rehearsing the phrases "good morning" and "of course", which can seemingly be used to get you out of any tricky situation. The whole episode was essentially a way for smirking Morgan to see a side of her enemies she didn't expect: the heartfelt affection a little orphan boy has for Igraine, the kindness shown to said child by Merlin, the romantic feelings Merlin has for Igraine (shared by Morgan?), and confirmation that Guinevere slept with Arthur on the eve of her marriage to Leontes (Philip Winchester.) Forlani was exemplary throughout, in an episode that rested on her shoulders, particularly in her mimicry of Eva Green's accent and sneering expressions. The character of Igraine hasn't felt very relevant to Camelot so far, and this episode didn't really change that, but it certainly made you realize Forlani's a talented actress who can tackle this material well.

The best element of the story was "Morgraine" feeling a maternal connection to the orphan boy, which blossomed into scenes where she helped Merlin celebrate the boy's birthday by presenting him with gifts, becoming parents to him for the day. Morgan's a damaged child herself, and for a brief moment we saw how she could have been a very different person with a more stable upbringing. Merlin's words about what Arthur's trying to achieve at Camelot even appeared to be sinking in ever so slightly with Morgan, and there was a nice scene where Mograine made Merlin feel sympathy for Morgan by revealing King Uther regularly beat his daughter before exiling her from Castle Pendragon to the nunnery.

It was a particularly effective moment when Morgraine accidentally caused the death of the orphan boy, during a struggle with him after he saw her face contort as her spell weakened, pushing him off a balcony to the stone floor below. The little boy was so sweet-natured it was a death you really felt, despite his brief screen-time. It's a shame more time wasn't spent building the boy's friendship with Igraine during the previous seven episodes, as this could have been a genuinely heartrending moment instead of just a sad one earned because, well, nobody likes to see cute kids fall to a premature death.

The real Igraine's story was less compelling, as she just languished in Castle Pendragon's dungeon with no idea what Morgan's up to, occasionally goaded by Sybil (Sinéad Cusick), until she managed to escape by agreeing to have sex with a guard ("who's your king!") and plunging the guard's own dagger into his back during the act. How's that for penetration? Inevitably the two Igraine's came face to face when Morgraine returned home, having slept with Merlin and told Leontes about his wife's affair, so I'm sure everyone at Camelot will soon know about Morgan's undercover mission. It just remains to be seen if Athur's regime is about to crumble to pieces if Leontes tells everyone what the king's been up to with Guinevere, and there's surely the possibility that Morgan will now find herself pregnant with Merlin's child. Is this how Mordred will be introduced into the show?

Overall, "Igraine" wasn't anything special but I really did enjoy Forlani's twin performance, and as a piece-moving episode it sets up some rather big events to come--and they're all from a character standpoints, which is great. There was also the scene with Leontes seeing a wolf in the woods to take note of, which Morgraine also saw in her bedside mirror while having sex with Merlin--which I'm taking as the symbol of the dark force Morgan's allowed into her life. Does this mean the same Evil is now after Leontes, perhaps intending to use his resentment of Guinevere/Arthur against him?

Asides

  • Merlin has some rather elaborate, mystical scars on his back.
  • The fact Merlin's self-proclaimed powers of perception failed when he kissed Morgraine should have been a warning sign, right?
  • Vivian now appears conflicted over her loyalty to Morgan when faced with Igraine's pleading in the dungeon, eventually turning a blind eye to her escape.
written by Chris Chibnall & Steven Lightfoot (story by Chris Chibnall) / directed by Michelle MacLaren / 20 May 2011 / Starz