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Non-Review Review: One Chance

It’s very easy to dismiss reality television. Personally, I wouldn’t be the hugest fan of the genre. However, it’s worth remarking that – in the right hands – it can be elevated to an artform. While the use of the word “reality” is applied loosely, it comes with its own narrative conventions – its own strengths and limitations. Carefully micro-managed, painstakingly edited and even sometimes clumsily scripted, reality television is simply another format of televisual entertainment.

It’s not that reality lacks a central crafted narrative or story arcs or character beats. These exist in reality television, albeit in a hyper-stylised meta-textual form. Just as some might advise you to read A Song of Ice and Fire to fully appreciate Game of Thrones, the meta-narrative from reality television spills out the side of the television set, unfolding in tabloids or gossip website. Characters are defined as rigidly, arcs are plotted just as carefully, it’s just that the narrative is crafted differently than it would be in an hour-long scripted drama or a half-hour sit-com.

One Chance, then, feels like the feature length adaptation of one such narrative. The story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts (“like the Cambodian dictator?” a nurse inquires in the opening scene), One Chance often feels more like the adaptation of a much-loved novel than an attempt to tell a true story.

Sing when you're winning...

Sing when you’re winning…

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Doctor Who: Partners in Crime (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Partners in Crime originally aired in 2008.

Would you rather be on your own?

No. Actually, no. But the last time, with Martha, like I said, it, it got complicated. And that was all my fault. I just want a mate.

You just want to mate?

I just want a mate!

You’re not mating with me, sunshine!

A mate. I want a mate.

Well, just as well, because I’m not having any of that nonsense. I mean, you’re just a long streak of nothing. You know, alien nothing.

There we are, then. Okay.

– Donna and the Doctor sort out the ground rules

From the outset, Partners in Crime makes it clear that the fourth season of Doctor Who is probably going to be lighter going than the show’s third year. To be fair, it was heavily foreshadowed by a Christmas special that drew heavily from the work of Douglas Adams, whose influence is keenly felt across this entire season – right down to repeated references to the bees disappearing.

Casting Catherine Tate, best know for her work on The Catherine Tate show, as the season’s female companion was a bit of an indicator, but Partners in Crime makes it quite clear – playing more as an affectionate spoof of a classic Doctor Who run-around rather than something equal parts witty and terrifying.

Then again, given that the end of the third season featured the death of one tenth of the world’s population, the assassination of the President of the United States, the destruction of a companion’s life and the Doctor’s crushing realisation that he’s so lonely he’d retire to serving as the Master’s warden, one might argue that “lighter” was the only way to go.

Things are looking up...

Things are looking up…

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The Sopranos: A Hit is a Hit (Review)

A Hit is a Hit works a lot better than Boca, despite the fact that it’s structurally quite similar. It introduces a bunch of new characters and concepts to the series which don’t really extend beyond the episode in question. Massive G never appears again, and the pending lawsuit he threatens is never discussed in any later episode. It’s a light stand-alone tale coming towards the end of a season which has dedicated so much time and effort to building a full-formed world.

However, A Hit is a Hit doesn’t feel completely disposable. Part of that is down to the wonderful B-plot in which Tony finds himself struggling for acceptance among more the more reputable members of his neighbourhood, but it’s also down to the fact that the main plot feels like develops the themes of The Sopranos a lot better than Boca did, and that Christopher’s character arc feels like a logical progression rather than simply “an issue of the week.”

Ain't that a shot in the head?

Ain’t that a shot in the head?

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Star Trek – The Cage (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

The Cage is fascinating. Looking at it now, it holds up phenomenally well a s apiece of sixties science-fiction. However, it feels like we’re watching a prototype of Star Trek. In many respects, The Cage feels like a rough sketch that captures some essentials, but is missing out on the finer details. Spock is there! But he smiles! The set design looks the same, but the characters are different. Some of the cast fill the same roles, but some are dramatically different. Watching The Cage, you can see a lot of the philosophy that Gene Roddenberry would bring to Star Trek, but it’s very difficult to imagine an on-going series spinning out of this adventure, let alone one that managed to become as iconic or influential as Star Trek would ever be.

Still, it’s pretty solid viewing. It’s entertaining on its own terms, but it’s also informative in the context of the series. It’s more like dry run or a test drive of the concept.

To boldly go... for some reworking...

To boldly go… for some reworking…

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Birthing Hips Sink Ships: Dark Shadows & Improbable Feminism…

I will concede that I am fonder of Dark Shadows than most. I’ve been disappointed with a lot of Tim Burton’s recent output, but something about his revival of the seventies soap opera worked strangely well. I’ll be the first to concede that it’s pretty esoteric. After all, like Casa de mi Padre, it’s effectively one single joke stretched across a film’s runtime. However, I couldn’t help but warm to it, at least because it seemed like Burton was enjoying himself a lot more than head been with films like Alice in Wonderland. There was something quite cheeky about it, from the way that it portrayed its central character as ridiculously unheroic through to the fact that it was perhaps the year’s most subversive feminist film.

Indeed, watching the film again this weekend, it struck me just how feminist the narrative actually was, despite the somewhat superficial distractions from that.

darkshadows10

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The Sopranos: 46 Long (Review)

With the second episode of the show, we can see things beginning to settle into place a bit. While David Chase did a phenomenal job with the pilot episode – introducing threads that would pay off years down the line – here we get a chance to see The Sopranos settle into its groove. The series has been praised, quite rightly, as one of the great and defining television series, and many writers have echoed the claim that the series is effectively a “televised novel”, wherein each episode could be considered a chapter as part of a greater whole, with small patterns becoming evident once the viewer pulls back far enough. I’m not sure I entirely agree – I think that each episode does a phenomenal story covering its own ground while playing into larger themes and that each fifty-five minute show is more than just an idle chapter.

Mommy issues...

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Don’t Leave Us Hanging: Going Out on a Cliffhanger…

So, I saw the final episode of V last night. Talk about disappointing. The series throws us a giant big cliffhanger and then… boom! It’s cancelled by the network in what has been referred to as a “bloodbath.” What makes it more frustrating, though, is the fact that the cancellation was quite probable even as early as last year, so it wasn’t as though the series was cut down in its prime without any warning. The cast and crew knewthat there was a fairly significant chance that this episode would be the last to see the light of day… and they ended on a whopping big cliffhanger anyway. I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed.

After two years, the visitors are sent packing...

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