Doctor Who – Deep Breath Review (or “Just Like My Unearthly Child Tagline, I’m Moved To Say That The Doctor Is An Utter Bastard. And Isn’t That Great?”

August 23, 2014

I like watching things without knowing what’s going to happen beforehand.

It baffles me that some people don’t seem to share that view and want to spoil things for themselves ahead of time, whether that be from reading plot details in advance or in the case of this new season of Doctor Who, watching leaked episodes in a quality unbecoming of the experience.

I just don’t understand why some people watched an apparently monochrome, low quality version of the opening story of Peter Capaldi’s reign as Doctor Who – Deep Breath – when it was accidentally put into the public domain a few weeks back.

What’s the point? Why not show the restraint to watch something in all its intended glory? Why ruin it for yourself?

It’s bizarre.

My brother asked me yesterday if I really knew nothing about this story before its broadcast, and I said that apart from it being set in Victorian England and involving Madam Vastra & Co, the answer was no.

He seemed amazed, but in my opinion, that’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that that wasn’t strictly true.

In actual fact – and assuming that nobody would be daft enough to read this review before watching it, and therefore operating under the assumption that I’m not spoiling this for anyone – I did know that Matt Smith was going to make an

What a bastard. Fantastic

What a bastard. Fantastic

appearance. And do you know what? That really pisses me off, because I shouldn’t have, and it ruined what would have been a terrific surprise.

Right now, reviewing this as I am mere moments after finishing watching the story, I can’t remember exactly how I came to know that. It was probably reported in a newspaper or on some website like Digital Spy, and that irks me. How is ruining the plot of a TV show newsworthy anyway?

Humbug.

Aaaaaaaanyway, here we are at the start of the Peter Capaldi Era of Doctor Who, and unlike every review I’ve written about the show, this is one I’m doing entirely based upon a first viewing.

It’ll be interesting for me to look back on this in the years ahead to see if my opinions on it will change.

Oh, and before we get into it, can I just take a moment to shamelessly plug my first book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – which is available to buy on Amazon for all Kindle, Tablet & Mobile devices. It’s great…honestly, and it gets 5 stars. Get it here

But back to Deep Breath.

Doctor Who – Deep Breath Review: What’s This One About?

A new, angry Scottish Doctor, a Dinosaur in Victorian London, robots looking for paradise, and a reference to an old story that I didn’t get until it was spelled right out for me.

Thoughts – The New Doctor

Ok, so let’s start with the new man.

Before I’d even watched this, I’d prejudicially made up my mind that I loved Peter Capaldi and was entirely sure that his take on the Doctor would be amazing.

Was I right?

Of course I was.

The first ten minutes or so of his character weren’t all that great, but they never are when a new Doctor comes along. Don’t get me wrong, this was hardly a “Three questions; who am I? Where am I? And who are you?” moment (oh…old story reference alert) but at the same time, it felt as though the lines given to him didn’t suit him as an actor.

Really, in his first few scenes, Peter Capaldi was sort of playing Matt Smith, and that was never going to work.

But from the scene with the tramp onwards, he was gold.

With the menace of a non-sweary Malcolm Tucker, but also with the gentle grandfatherly assurance of a William Hartnell style Doctor, Peter Capaldi – and I suppose Steven Moffat – have hit it out the park with this one.

Will the kids like him? I’m not sure. I’m writing this before I’ve read anyone’s feedback on his performance, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt he’ll have the same appeal as David Tennant or Matt Smith to people of a certain age, and in a sense I feel he’s more aimed at viewers like me. I’m more than happy with that though.

Some of his lines cracked me up, and in particular, his exchange with Clara in the restaurant about the self obsessed egomaniac had me laughing out loud. Just brilliant.

The question of whether or not he’s a proper bastard is yet to be answered, but right now he certainly seems to be.

The Matt Smith Cameo

Like I said above, I don’t think Capaldi will have the same appeal as Matt Smith in certain quarters, and so, having Smith appear to convince Clara – and by association the viewing public who maybe hadn’t already decided Capaldi was awesome -

What a moment this would have been. had the press not ruined it in advance

What a moment this would have been. had the press not ruined it in advance

that he was a man who was vulnerable and needed to be given time was a smart touch.

Long term readers of my Who reviews might think “Hold on Stuart; you had a go at the writers for doing something very similar in both the Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani“, but I think it’s different. Here, the audience identification figure – as Clara was in this episode – is being assured that he’s someone who must be given time and that she mustn’t judge by his older appearance (which is the thing that the kids will probably hold against him). In those other two stories, the new leading man basically told the viewer “You might think I’m a shite actor, but you’re stuck with me, so stick that up your pipe and smoke it”. It’s really not the same thing.

Anyway, Smith’s final appearance was handled very well, and I was impressed with him. I was less impressed with Clara not bothering to say goodbye to him, as she just hung up the phone. What a bitch!

If only that bit hadn’t been spoiled for me beforehand…

Clara

Speaking of Clara and her role as audience identification figure, I thought she was written for far better than in the past here.

My criticism of her last year was that despite being played well enough, her character was empty. There was nothing to her other than being the companion. We knew nothing about her.

Deep Breath managed to add some layers to her character, and with an actor that she actually seems to have some chemistry with, Jenna Coleman thrived.

With the news that she’s set to leave at Christmas – and once again, may I thank the press for ruining that one ahead of time – I’ve gone from being not fussed at all, to quite disappointed. On first impressions, these characters seem to work well together, and it’s a shame they’ll be split up.

And What Of The Story Itself?

It’s very easy in a new Doctor’s first story to forget about the plot and concentrate on the new man.

Not the best special effects. #BarryLettsCSOLoyal

Not the best special effects. #BarryLettsCSOLoyal

While I don’t think the plot was forgotten about per se, I do think it existed merely to help form the character of the new Doctor and his dynamic with Clara, and I’m happy enough with that.

There was nothing particularly groundbreaking or clever about it, and as a flowing narrative it won’t be remembered along with the classic stories, but then again I have no problems on that score.

It’s set the scene for what’s to come, and incidentally, I have absolutely no idea where they’re going with that new story arc with Heaven.

Let’s hope it’s more Bad Wolf than River Song though, eh?

Random Observations

  • Surprisingly, I enjoyed the use of Vastra and Jenny here. They helped Clara and the audience understand the new Doctor that little bit better.
  • I’m not sure about Strax though. He’s clearly a comedy character, but I think that comedy is wearing a bit thin.
  • The scene at the end is very like the final scene of The End of the World. I’m sure that was not an accident.
  • From an effects point of view, there were a couple of scenes – particularly the opening one with the dinosaur in the Thames and the one with the Doctor standing on the roof – that looked shonky. In that latter example, you could so clearly see he was standing in front of a backdrop that you might have been forgiven for thinking it was Barry Letts and Season 8 all over again.
  • The “You’ve redecorated. I don’t like it” line should never be used again. Ever.
  • I’ve got to be honest; I didn’t see the Girl in the Fireplace reference until it was so obvious that a blind man couldn’t miss it. That’s a shame.
  • Ok, I’ll be pedantic; when a Giant Cyberman walked across Victorian London, at least they came up for a reason for why it wasn’t recorded in the history books. How will they explain away the dinosaur?
  • The main villain robot looked a bit too much like a cross betwee the Gunslinger from A Town Called Mercy, and Richard E. Grant’s Great Intelligence for my liking.
  • If they keep talking about how much they miss the original TARDIS interior design, why not just bring that back?
  • In a weird coincidence, I was watching an episode of Black Books the other night that included the guy who got his eyes removed in this episode. Not a very exciting coincidence I’ll admit, but a coincidence nonetheless.
  • Though they were no doubt written with Clara being the audience identification figure in mind, some of her lines about changing the Doctor back seemed at odds with what we know she knows about him.
  • As a native of the same country, I love that Capaldi is being played as an angry Scotsman.

Doctor Who – Deep Breath Review: Final Thoughts

The main aim of Deep Breath was to introduce the new Doctor, and Steven Moffat achieves that spectacularly.

Peter Capaldi is assured and pretty much awesome already in the part and on initial impressions, has the potential to be one of the best Doctors of all time.

That’s fantastic.

It’s also great that Clara finally seems to have some purpose to her character and that Jenna Coleman works well with the new leading man.

On all those scores, Deep Breath is a success.

Judged on the merits of a stand-alone Doctor Who story though, the likelihood is that Deep Breath will never be considered a classic, or at least not by me.

Still, it did what it set out to do, and I enjoyed it a lot.

So I’d say it was a success and a strong start to the new season.

 

Remember!!! Get Stuart Reviews Doctor Who over at Amazon. I have no doubts it’ll be the best $9.99/£6.14 you spend all week.


TV: 24 – Live Another Day Review (or “One of These Days, The Daleks Will Show Up”)

July 17, 2014

Let me first start off by saying there are spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t seen all of 24 – Live Another Day, then I would suggest you skip it.

Anyway, for those of you who have seen it, here are my thoughts…

24 – Live Another Day Review: What’s It About?

The British widow of an Al-Qaeda commander killed in a drone strike by the US plans on taking over US drones and attacking London with them unless President James Heller – on a state visit to the English Capital – turns himself in.

Naturally Jack Bauer has heard about this and emerges from exile to help stop them.

And sure enough, he’ll kill lots and lots of people to make sure he doesn’t fail.

Also, because this is 24, once that initial threat is over, there’s suddenly a newer, bigger threat than ever before. Oh!!!! Em!!!! Gee!!!!!

24 – Live Another Day Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the obvious one, 24 – Live Another Day brings back old cast members like the incredibly wooden President Hellerbot (James Devane), his daughter with the face like a soup ladle, Audrey (Kim Raver) and the fidgety and awkward to

"Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!"

“Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!”

watch Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

Other than them, major parts go to the likes of Yvonne “Typecast” Strahovski, Steven Fry, Tate Donovan off the O.C. and the most b00-hiss of panto actresses, Michelle Fairley.

Oh, and in terms of minor parts, there’s only bloody Denis Lill as the captain of a Russian ship!! Denis Lill getting TV jobs in 2014; awesome.

24 – Live Another Day Review: My Thoughts

Well in every way, this is the standard 24 formula. Jack Bauer reluctantly emerges to deal with a threat, the local authorities initially mistrust him and  – despite his record in the past – believe he’s fighting for the forces of evil until he proves himself; then the threat becomes critical, it gets stopped just in time, only for another, bigger threat to turn up. Throughout it all, Jack happily slaughters dozens upon dozens of people that he deems unworthy of living while screaming in people’s faces saying “WHERE IS (insert critical piece of information here)” and then just before the end he comes up against some kind of personal tragedy. Oh, and as always, someone working with Jack turns out to be a villain.

But who cares if that’s the formula, it’s a great laugh when it’s done correctly.

And unlike the last couple of seasons of 24 – which seemed to be unimaginative, uninspiring and at times plainly ridiculous – this did manage to get it right.

I’ll be honest; the first few episodes were a wee bit disappointing, and in general the Margot Al-Harazi storyline was let down by Michelle Fairley’s rather dodgy acting skills (cue Game of Thrones fanboys sending me angry emails), but it soon picked up pace.

And by the final quarter when the Chinese turned up, it was just fantastic.

Indeed, the bit where the Chinese showed up was such a great and unexpected swerve, that it reminded me as a Doctor Who fan of the end of episode one of Earthshock where the Cybermen suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The screen grab there reflects that.

So overall, I found it an enjoyable return to form for a series which shows that it still has legs. Long may it continue

Random Observations

  • I laughed at the bit where Heller tells the British Prime Minister “You’d have done the same if roles were reversed”. The understated look of “Don’t think so, mate” on Steven Fry’s face was great.
  • Going back towards the start of the season, was that meant to be the House of Commons Heller was speaking to the MPs in? If so, that was rotten.
  • I find that Yvonne Strahovski just plays the same part in every show now, and I’m getting pretty tired of her. There’s no doubt she’s well suited to playing the intense high action roles she’s cast in, but you’d think she’d try to amend her acting style at least a little bit.
  • At least we won’t see William Devane in the show again. What summed his acting ability up was the way he wandered back aboard Air Force One with a coffin containing his recently deceased daughter, and his emotions and expression were no different than they had been at any point in the show previously.
  • Hey look, it’s Kevin McNally off Dad!
  • I think Cheng Zhi would have been better if he was played by Ken Jeong
  • Do you think Jack will face any kind of enquiry for throwing Margot out that window?
  • You can’t not laugh at the bit where her daughter was hit by that bus.
  • In a real life situation where someone – even the US President – had to get to the centre circle of Wembley Stadium on a night when it was closed, they’d have far more trouble getting access than they did. Inevitably there’ll be some simpleton groundskeeper with the keys who would have come out with the line “I don’t care if you’re the Queen of Sheba mate, you’re not getting in there tonight” 
  • There’s a bit where someone – I think it was Strahovski – tries to get a shell-shocked child to open up to her by offering her a can of Ginger Beer. Ginger Beer? Really? I imagine most children these days would have told her to fuck off.
  • As always with 24, there were plenty of example of people being beaten to within an inch of their life in one hour, and being seemingly fine in the next. You’ve got to love it.
  • Similarly, the ease in which they got through traffic was astounding.
  • 24 simply has to have an episode where the Daleks show up towards the end. Surely you agree with me on that?

 


Stuart’s Television Review – May 2014 (including Continuum, Game of Thrones, Legends House and More)

May 16, 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of my Entertainment Review posts, with the last one being back in February, and with the US TV Season drawing to a close for another year, it’s time to catch up.

Here are my thoughts on some of the shows I’ve been watching lately…

24: Live Another Day

Yes, Jack is back (three words that have probably been used together in just about every single review of the show since it made its return last week) and this time he’s in London.

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

What can you say? Well it’s the tried, tested and a little bit tired formula all over again, with the first three episodes focusing on the Level One villains who will ultimately be killed off by someone higher up than them on the food chain.

But it’s been a while since 24 was on our screens and so even though it’s not breaking any new ground, it’s still entertaining.

I’m gutted about Maurice being killed off between seasons though.

The Big Bang Theory

As much of a fan of this show as I am, there’s no doubt the quality is going downhill. It’s not going downhill as fast as Kaley Cuoco’s appearance (cue angry feminist comments being left), but it’s still suffering from a drop in quality. Much of that has to do with the repetitiveness of it all, but with some level of character development in the past few weeks, I’m still confident that this is a show that will still be worth watching next year.

Castle

Castle, meanwhile, is a show that is going from strength to strength. But for one episode in the 2012/13 season that was a rushed clip episode, it has remained one of the most consistently entertaining shows on TV.

The recent instalment with the mobster who still believed it was the late 1970s was well written and superbly funny.

If you’ve not given this show a go yet, do so ASAP.

Community

It’s been cancelled! Nooooooooo!!!

Creatively, you could argue that it was time for it to go, because it finished on a happy ending and for the characters to still be hanging around Greendale for another year would just seem tenuous.

But I’m still disappointed as I’ve been mostly enjoying this latest season. With the exception of the episode centring around the phone app – which turned into yet another post-apocalyptic, Hunger-Games style war – it was of a high standard throughout.

My favourite episode – and one that I would implore you to watch, even though it didn’t get the ratings in the US – is the GI Joe one. By presenting most of the episode in an authentic GI Joe cartoon from the 80s, it was just one of the smartest/coolest/geekiest things I’ve ever seen.

Continuum

Now here’s a show I’ve just recently starting watching.

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

A Canadian Time Travel/Police Drama that is somewhere between Life on Mars and The Butterfly Effect, I have been thoroughly enjoying this, and would recommend it highly.

Starring Rachel Nichols from the final season of Alias, it has had me hooked for the past week of binge watching. Now I’ve read some people say it’s a bit too complex for them, and I can sympathise with that, but I’ve had no problems keeping up.

After a few episodes, I was wondering how they would keep the show fresh and interesting, but they’ve managed that by developing the storylines and characters and not being afraid of making key changes to the dynamic.

What I also like about it is the location. Because the show is made in Vancouver and primarily uses lesser known Canadian actors in the cast, it gives the show a different look and feel to the majority of shows from across the pond filmed in New York or Los Angeles.

On the whole, I’d give this a hearty thumbs up.

Game of Thrones

I just don’t get the hype.

I’m a few episodes behind on this, and that says it all about my desire to see this show.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Game of Thrones is bad – indeed I think it’s quite good – but the way you read people fawning all over it on social media baffles me.

It especially baffles me that some of the people who think it’s the coolest thing going are the sorts of people who’ll go out of their way to criticise shows like Doctor Who as being “sad”. It’s apparently acceptable geekery.

Personally, I do think it’s a case of style over substance, and has several issues, including a cast that is too expansive for the average viewer to fully invest in or even recognise the characters they play, and a narrative flow that is uneven at best.

There are some episodes where nothing happens, and if people weren’t willing the show to do so well, you would be right to say that the storyline with Daenerys Targaryen (I had to look her name up there despite watching this from the start) is moving at far too slow a pace.

Maybe I’m being too critical here, but I think there are plenty of more entertaining TV shows out there and that this is the classic example of a show that is best watched in bulk rather than episode by episode.

But it looks nice.

p.s. Don’t get upset…this is just my opinion. If you like it then good for you ;-)

Grey’s Anatomy

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I've seen. Class.

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I’ve seen. Class.

I can just see the anger on the faces of some blokey readers getting past my entry about Game of Thrones and then seeing me praise Grey’s Anatomy. How dare I!

It’s been a decent season of Grey’s, although probably the weakest one they’ve done.

Like a couple more programmes I plan on discussing, this is one show that could probably have finished for good here, with most of the story arcs of the characters being wrapped up nicely.

With original cast-member Sandra Oh leaving, and potential storyline exits for the likes of Meredith, Derek and Alex also hinted at in the last few episodes, it could well have ended here and nobody could complain from a creative standpoint.

But it will continue, and that’s not a bad thing. My only concern is that the end of season cliffhanger – that the new Head of Cardio is Meredith’s half-sister and the Chief’s long-lost daughter – feels like a Jumping The Shark moment.

Let’s hope it’s not.

Neighbours

I’ve got back into Neighbours!! Well..sort of.

Continuum - Well worth your time

Continuum – Well worth your time

Having read that one of the characters that put me off the show so much that I stopped watching it was getting killed off (the horribly smug Kate Ramsey with her Auton-like head), while the Living Legend, Doug Willis, was making a comeback, I decided to give it another go.

It’s been ok. It turns out that there’s been an almost entire turnover of cast since I stopped watching, but I’ve picked it up again.

I’m not hooked, but my brother and I are having a sort of ironic laugh watching it again.

Oh, and quite clearly Susan and Karl Kennedy are immortals. They just don’t age.

Revenge

Another show that probably should have ended this year is Revenge.

As hilariously bad, yet weirdly engrossing as it is, the whole point of the show was for an undercover Emily to avenge her father’s death and to bring those responsible for his incarceration to justice. And she did that.

And now everyone knows exactly who she is, removing that element from it too.

And yet it was renewed for another season.

Why?

Probably because it makes money, and that seems to be more important than making a creatively satisfying show.

The season ended with Conrad and Aiden murdered, Victoria in a mental institution and most ridiculously of all, David Clarke returning from the dead.

As much as I’m sure I’ll have a laugh when it returns, this show should have ended by now.

Scandal

And so should Scandal.

Olivia Pope from Scandal - a deeply unpleasant woman

Olivia Pope from Scandal – a deeply unpleasant woman

Here’s a show that has long outlived its welcome, despite only running for three seasons.

Unlike Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge, what’s even more ridiculous about Scandal getting a new season is that every storyline was wrapped up at the conclusion of the last episode. Why would it need to come back, and how can it come back without it seeming ridiculous?

The problem is that over the last season and a half, it moved away from being a show about a team of political fixers taking on a new case every week and put all its eggs into the one basket – Olivia’s relationship with the President.

And though I did watch the season all the way through, it got really fucking boring by the end. Every single episode had a scene shoe-horned in where Olivia and the President – a man who she’s having an affair with – talk about their feelings while that incongruous incidental music that makes me want to slam my fist through the TV played over it. Just awful.

But what gets me about Scandal the most is that – not unlike Shonda Rhimes other shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice – the lead character is supremely unlikable. Olivia Pope is – I think – written to be a strong and independent black woman (with the “black” part being important, hence why I highlighted it), presumably because that’s how the show’s creator sees herself, but what she actually comes across as is an overconfident, hypocritical and deeply unlikable bitch. Meanwhile, the First Lady, who I imagine is written to be a villain, comes across as someone who is victimized and more often than not in the right.

The scene where Olivia tells the guy having an affair with the First Lady that he has to stop sleeping with her or she’ll destroy him – while she herself is openly having a relationship with the President in front of his wife – took the cake.

This is one show I may not return to.

Two and a Half Men

This is not so much a TV show that I’m watching at US Pace, but one that I decided to get into recently by watching the DVDs from the start.

I feel quite underwhelmed by it, and it amazes me that it’s still on TV now.

A bit like when I watched the boxed set of NCIS, I just sort of drifted away from it by the third season.

It made me smile, but not laugh, and I found myself frustrated, hoping that Alan’s ex-wife would get some level of comeuppance. I even googled it to find out if she did.

But she didn’t as far as I can see.

Meh.

WWE Legends House

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Finally, as a fan of WWE going back years, the idea of the likes of Hacksaw Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, Mean Gene, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart living in a house together is the perfect show.

Filmed years ago (as evidenced by the now UK based Ashley Roberts working as the host) but never picked up by any TV network, this has finally seen the light of day on the WWE Network.

And it’s crap, but a great laugh.

If you don’t know the characters, you won’t get it, but if you do, you will.

Simple.

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Feel free to get involved in the debate.


Ten of the Best TV Show Finales of All Time

April 4, 2014

Ok, so since I did an article on 10 of the Worst TV Show Finales of All Time, it’s only fitting that I should do one on 10 of the Best TV Show Finales of All Time too.

Like I said in the last article, some shows could have had tremendous conclusions if they’d only left it at that point. I’m thinking about the likes of Chuck, Only Fools & Horses, Alias and Scrubs, but alas they did nothing of the kind, and they kept going long past the point of exhaustion.

But these 10 shows didn’t.

As always, Spoilers Ahoy!!

1. Blake’s Seven

How Did It End?: In the last episode, Avon and the crew of Scorpio meet up again with Blake. Only Blake is a bad guy! Or is he? A miscommunication leads to Avon shooting Blake dead, and then being ambushed by members of the

And there wasn't a dry eye in the house

And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house

Federation. All of Avon’s team are shot – presumably dead – and the last thing we see is Avon being surrounded by a group of gun-toting bad guys. He raises his gun, smiles to the camera, and as the end credits music is played, we can hear shots being fired.

Why Is That Good?: Because it’s such a fantastic and dramatic way to end the show. They brought back the original lead, killed him off, destroyed Avon’s ship, killed all the crew and it appears as though Avon too has breathed his last. Talk about shocking! And the way we don’t know for sure who was firing all those shots as the end credits rolled made it even better. Did Avon escape? We’ll never know.

2. The Shield

How Did It End?: After being kinda the bad guys all the way through, Vic Mackey and the Strike Team finally get their comeuppance in a dramatic, action packed conclusion to a long story arc (#ArmenianMoneyTrain). Rather than going to prison though, Vic’s punishment is being tied down to a meaningless desk job; his ultimate hell.

Why Is That Good?: Because the drama led somewhere and the right thing happened. The longer the Shield went on, the more the supposed heroes – Strike Team – showed themselves as being pretty horrible blokes. Vic’s punishment was an inventive way of wrapping things up; far more inventive than sending him to jail or killing him off.

3. Friday Night Lights

How Did It End?: Character Arcs were completed, The Coach made the right move by putting his wife’s career first for once, and it finished on a great montage that showed what happened to all the characters. And moreover, it didn’t show what happened at the very end of the final game of the season.

Why Is That Good?: Everything wrapped up nicely and the writers made the right choice when it came to Coach Taylor’s choice of whether to stay in Texas or accept a lesser job to allow his wife to pursue her dreams for once.

4. The Office (UK)

How Did It End?: Everyone got the happy ending they wanted.

Why Is That Good?: Because a happy ending once in a while is the right thing to do, and the finale to the UK version of the Office did it better than almost any other show. Just when you thought Tim and Dawn wouldn’t get together, they did, and at last David Brent stuck up for himself against Finch. A perfect way to end the show at Christmas.

5. The Office (US)

How Did It End?: A few months after the documentary is released, Dwight & Angela get married, Jim & Pam move away and Michael returns briefly but in a way that doesn’t overshadow the rest of the cast.

Why Is That Good?: Pretty much the same reasons as the UK version. It just seemed like the right time and place for the show to end, and it was well handled.

6. Breaking Bad

How Did It End?: Walt dies killing the bad guys and saves Jesse’s life.

With the odds against them, could Angel and his crew survive? We never found out, and that's a good thing

With the odds against them, could Angel and his crew survive? We never found out, and that’s a good thing

Why Is That Good?: The finale to Breaking Bad is a bit different to other shows in that the finale itself wasn’t meant to be sentimental or shocking on an individual level, but it was the end to a story-arc that had built up from the moment the show started. Everything that happened before it was key to getting the characters to where they were in the last episode. There were no cop-outs and no disappointments; this was the only way Breaking Bad could end, and it did not disappoint.

7. The West Wing

How Did It End?: With the handover of power from the Bartlett Administration to the Santos one.

Why Is That Good?: Because it was time for the show to end. Had it gone on for a few more years with a mostly new cast, it would eventually have just petered out and died. This was the right time for it to end. And when watching it, I knew that it was the right time for it to go. It didn’t outstay its welcome.

8. Angel

How Did It End?: A bit like Blake’s Seven. Angel and the remaining members of his team are trapped and under attack with practically no chance of survival. Can they do it? We never find out; all we know is that they try.

Why Is That Good?: Again, it’s a shocking way for the show to end; this was not the type of TV show that needed a flippant, cheery conclusion. And just like Blake’s Seven, it left you to speculate as to what happened.

9. Ashes to Ashes

How Did It End?: Both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are explained in this gripping and dramatic final episode.

A fitting end to a great series

A fitting end to a great series

Why Is That Good?: Because unlike Life on Mars, it explained what exactly was going on to the viewer, and it did so in a way that satisfied. The scene outside the “pub” at the end was moving and the way each character’s storyline is dealt with properly was executed perfectly.

10. Blackadder Goes Forth

How Did It End?: The troops in the front line are at last faced with the reality that they must go over the top and into battle.

Why Is That Good?: I think everyone loves the way Blackadder Goes Forth ends; it’s just so emotional and moving, and yet it still manages to retain the comedy element. The final shots of the troops going over the top and then the cut in of the poppy fields probably brought home the realities of the First World War to a whole new generation. Superb.


How I Met Your Mother Serves Up The Most Unsatisfying Ending To A TV Show Ever (Finale Spoilers)

April 1, 2014

Ok, so if the title of this article wasn’t enough to make you realise that this will contain spoilers for the finale of How I Met Your Mother, then consider yourself definitively warned now…

Last night in the US, after 9 seasons and 208 episodes, How I Met Your Mother came to an end.

Now you know that I’d long since grown tired of this show – a show which just hasn’t been even semi-consistently funny for two or three years at least and had only one good episode in its final season – but I still saw it through to the bitter end as I’m a completist and I wanted the fucking payoff.

And what is the payoff to a TV series called How I Met Your Mother? It’s him meeting the mother. That’s it; nothing else.

Is that what we got, and was I happy with it?

Two answer those questions in order, “Yes and No” and “Absolutely Not”

The Most Unsatisfying Ending To a TV Show Ever

The very last episode of How I Met Your Mother was actually going quite well I thought.

Ted and The Mother Finally Meet, But Fuck You Viewers,  She's Already Dead

Ted and The Mother Finally Meet, But Fuck You Viewers, She’s Already Dead

In terms of character development and progression, the show had arguably been stuck in a rut since the Wedding was first shown back in episode 113 of 208 in September 2010, but now things were moving, and moving at pace.

While seeing Robin & Barney divorce was a very firm kick in the teeth to anyone who had endured the rest of the ninth season – set as it was for 23 mind-numbing episodes over one single weekend – it at least seemed to give their characters a bit of closure. Barney finally found love in having a child and Robin had a good career.

Lily & Marshall meanwhile continued to grow their family and we also saw plenty of interesting bits like the gradual breakup of the group over the years; something that inevitably happens a lot in real life.

And as it bounded back and forth between Ted finally meeting the mother for the first time and flashforwards to how their lives developed, it just – as I said above – felt good to see the show moving again after being stagnant for so long.

The first meeting, when it finally happened, was nicely written.

And I’d have been happy with that. That’s where it should have ended. It would have been a fitting end.

But to have Ted – and I should say Josh Radnor and not “Future Ted”  aka the voice of Bob Saget, which made no sense considering Saget was still narrating up until that moment – then finish the story by saying to the viewer “Lolz, she’s dead” and for his kids to then say “Oh dad, you’ve only been telling us this because you really love Aunt Robin; feel free to go and shag her since mum’s been dead for six years” just felt insulting and actually rage inducing.

How is that a good ending? Seriously?

Oh don’t get me wrong, it could have been a clever ending if the show had only run for two or three seasons, and it was interesting that they’d filmed that ending years earlier, but things had moved on, characters had developed, fan expectations had changed and it was no longer a valid or acceptable way to end the series.

Ted & Robin didn’t work. So many times we’d seen them realise that they were not meant to be together and in the last season alone, there were two supposedly final ends to any hope some people may have had that they’d end up together. It was a long since exhausted story arc.

Nine seasons in, the viewers of How I Met Your Mother just wanted to see Ted meet the mother.

And since she had popped up in flash forwards and flashbacks and since it appeared as though she was a nice person and that her and Ted were genuinely well suited to each other, why not just end the show like that?

I just find myself really irritated by the whole thing, and I’m not the only one.

Sure, there are other issues like why Marshall & Lily didn’t age as fast as previous flash forwards had suggested and why Ted bothered to even tell a 100th of that story to his kids, but the big one is that it’s just a terrible ending. Even worse than LOST.

And from looking at the amount of negative feedback from fans and reviewers alike (I think IGN is about the only site to give it the thumbs up), it seems as though I’m not alone.

Now if I was asked by friends if How I Met Your Mother is worth watching, I’d tell them to avoid the rest of Season Nine entirely and probably just skip to the last episode after the fifth season to avoid disappointment.

Because that’s what they’ll have if they don’t.

 


Jonathan Creek Series 5 Review (or “Could They Recapture The Magic?”)

March 14, 2014

If you’ve read my Top 50 TV Dramas article series – available to view in the Index section of the site – you’ll see how highly I rate Jonathan Creek.

Without question, it’s one of my favourite TV shows of all time.

So it came as good news to me that there would be a new season of the show this year. Of course, it wasn’t a long season – running for only three episodes – but it was still a season, and that was to be cherished after a mere three episodes in total over the last 10 years.

Whenever a show like this comes back after a reasonably long absence, you do have to wonder if it could still hit the right notes, especially when you consider there had been another cast change – Sheridan Smith and Stuart Milligan were not returning, leaving Creek’s wife, played by Sarah Alexander, to be his sidekick – and the magic advisor to the series and inspiration for so many of the mysteries, Ali Bongo, had long since died.

I decided to wait until the season ended before reporting back with my opinions.

Jonathan Creek Series 5 Review: ThoughtsCreek

I should preface this by saying that at the same time as these episodes have aired, I’ve been watching the show from the very beginning, so no doubt my opinions will be influenced by that. However, I’d say that was a valuable thing. If you watch an episode of one of your favourite TV shows after only getting three new episodes in the past decade, you might be inclined to look at it with an unnaturally positive outlook.

Comparing the old shows with the new ones I think gives a greater sense of perspective.

And though it pains me to say it, that perspective leads me to the conclusion that Season 5 just hasn’t been that good.

But why is that?

Well, there are some obvious problems, and I’ll break them down into bullet points for you…

  1. Messing With The Format: Whether it was the first episode operating like a Columbo – i.e. it was a “How Solved It?” rather than a “Who Done It?” – or whether it was the change from Creek being a magician’s assistant living in a windmill to a stuffy marketing executive solving minor mysteries in somewhere like Midsomer, it just didn’t work so well. Jonathan Creek is at its best when the mystery is the main event, but this time around, David Renwick seemed to want the mystery to be a side attraction to the comedy show he really wanted to write, and that leads me to…
  2. It Was Written Like A Half Hearted Episode of One Foot In The Grave: Just watch the interactions between Jonathan and his wife Polly, and the way they seem to land themselves in awkward situations and you just feel you’re watching an episode of Renwick’s other big show, One Foot In The Grave. Sarah Alexander’s character especially is written and performed almost exactly like Annette Crosbie’s Margaret Meldrew. Now sure, on the one hand that led to some humorous moments, but it didn’t suit the show we were actually watching, and the actors were neither able to, nor supposed to play it like it was a sitcom. Why? Because Jonathan Creek is not a sitcom. Some of the set pieces – like the bit from last week’s episode where Jonathan accidentally helps the burglars – was copied straight out of One Foot. I was just sitting there waiting for him to accidentally kill a tortoise or find a wig inside a loaf of bread.
  3. No Chemistry Between The Leads: Sarah Alexander’s character worked in her debut episode because she wasn’t playing Alan Davies’s sidekick. The idea of the wife who has tried to domesticate Jonathan while Joey leads him astray was great. Having her drain the life out of our hero to the point where he doesn’t seem interested in the mysteries just made the whole thing feel flat. You didn’t even get the impression the characters liked each other, although considering they’re married, maybe that’s realistic, eh?
  4. The Mysteries Were Weak And Took Too Long To Get Going: When the legacy of the show includes clever tricks that kept you guessing until the reveal – as was the case in episodes like Jack In The Box, The Black Canary and…well…almost all the episodes  – stuff like how a man wrote down a lottery number years earlier, or how a watch got into someone’s bed just seemed limp. And more to the point, they took far too long to get going. In the second episode, The Sinner & The Sandman, nearly half the episode was gone, wasted on “hilarious” town hall meetings and stuff involving a vicar’s wife thinking Jonathan was talking about wanking when he wasn’t, before they even started the mystery. I think this was the poorest point of all.

But surely it wasn’t all bad?

No, it wasn’t, of course it wasn’t. In the main, I enjoyed all three episodes, but there’s no doubt that the overall quality had declined, especially when directly compared to the older shows.

Can it be turned around? I would say so, but it needs to get back to having Creek solving proper mysteries. It’s fine that he’s moved on with his life and is an older, married man now, but you can still retain the essence of what made it good in the first place.

Let’s hope it’s given a chance to do that, and considering it still gets very high ratings by today’s standards and there’s an appetite from all concerned to make it happen, I’d like to think it will.

What did you think? Let me know.

 


Stuart’s Entertainment Review Feb 10 (Including 2 Broke Girls, Community, Scandal & WWE)

February 10, 2014

It’s time for a long overdue Entertainment Review (or in particular, TV Review)

2 Broke Girls: I started watching this in spite of warnings not to from people on Twitter. I’m glad I did, because it’s brilliant. Sure, it’s never going to win any awards for subtle humour, but unlike the sort of show you’ll find on BBC3, this

Better than many give it credit for

Better than many give it credit for

 

show manages to be quite clever along with the sledgehammer-esque crude jokes. It’s not rude for the sake of it, and it has a direction and plot.

The cast is pretty good too. Although I initially looked at the performances of the likes of Beth Behrs, Matthew Moy and Jennifer Coolidge and winced, I soon realised that was part of the charm.

Top stuff. If you haven’t given it a go, do so.

Celebrity Big Brother: Another show that gets looked down upon by the masses, Celebrity Big Brother was immense this year. While people will look at it and think of Big Brother as a tired old concept, the fact is that with the right group of people in the house, it’ll never get old. That’s where Channel 4 and Channel 5 have gone wrong in the past, filling the house with wannabees and try-hards rather than people who have a little bit of depth and interest in them.

So while I didn’t bother with the previous CBB for more than a few days because it focused on crap like the girl from Geordie Shore pissing the bed and Lauren Harries being…well…Lauren Harries, this edition actually had decent people in it.

More importantly, it had good storylines too. Jim Davidson’s war with Coleen Nolan & Louisa Zussman was epic, while the love triangle with that cad Lee Ryan and the two girls whose names I’ve now forgotten also provided a bit of drama.

And let’s face it, who ever thought you’d see the visual of Lionel Blair dressed in PVC aggressively shouting “Suck my dick” at someone. Class.

The best thing about it was that neither Sam Faiers nor Ollie Locke won, thus proving the general public has a sense of free will.

Community: Community’s back! Yay! And all the signs are that in spite of the departures of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, the return of original show runner Dan Harmon has brought with it an increase in quality on Season 4.

It’s not like Season 4 was bad, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.

The only thing I’d like is if there were more “normal” episodes rather than deliberately “Meta” ones.

The Musketeers: Tried it, fell asleep. Didn’t bother to watch it again.

Scandal: Considering I think Grey’s Anatomy is one of the greatest TV shows ever (and I don’t care if that loses me man points, because it is) it’s strange that I hadn’t given Shonda Rhimes’ political fixer drama a go before now. But now that I have, I’m glad. It’s another (mostly) well written TV show that does a great job on cliffhangers. Almost every episode ends with some startling revelation or event that makes you want to watch the next episode immediately.

What drags it down though is the relationship between main character Olivia Pope and the President of the United States. Their tiresome love affair hasn’t moved along an inch in the near two seasons I’ve seen, and yet every…single…episode involves a scene where they stare longingly at each other while that same irritating piece of incidental music plays over it.

Since I’m not up to date with it yet, I don’t know if it has moved forward or not, but my attitude right now to it is “Shit or get off the pot”.

The thing is, it’s like Rhimes thinks that a TV show won’t appeal to people – or more likely to women of a certain demographic – unless there’s a love story in there. And while Grey’s Anatomy has that too, I can count on one hand the amount of episodes where that becomes more important than the medical drama side of things.

With Scandal it’s too often the centre point.

I’d sooner it focussed on Huck killing more people in morally ambiguous ways.

WWE: Right now, WWE is fascinating to watch because of the turmoil surrounding it.

I don't know whether to boo or yawn

I don’t know whether to boo or yawn

Fans are openly rejecting the product on offer by booing the people the writers want them to cheer, and cheering those that they’d rather they didn’t.

The recent Royal Rumble almost became uncomfortable to watch. The guy the crowd unanimously wanted to win the Rumble match wasn’t even in it, and when the final entrant came in and they realised this, they booed. And booed. And booed some more. And when it was over, the guy who won it – who was supposed to the returning hero – was met with almost feral levels of hostility.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest stars in the company – CM Punk – appears to have quit without warning and the whole situation has left management scrambling for ways to sort things out in time for the upcoming Wrestlemania 30 (or as they’ve stupidly called it, Wrestlemania XXX, which is probably already commercially available as a porno).


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