Monday, February 27, 2012

The TV Dump (iii)

Being Pooh

The disparity between Being Human and Being Human (US) was massive. Russell Tovey, Aiden Turner and Lenora Critchlow's development was excellent; the drama never overblown, the humour never forced and especially for the first two series, the supernatural side was never too forced. It was a series about Being Human.

The US (or, to be pedantic, Canadian) version with Sam (Doomsday) Witwer, Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath seemed to dispense with the quirk and development and went straight for the jugular. Don't get me wrong, as US supernatural shows go it's actually worth a try, especially if you think of it as an extension, a foreign cousin, to the original, which just happens to have similar things happen to this trio as happened to our original heroes. The SyFy Channel has, in many ways, dispensed with the being human side of the story in favour of typical angst ridden monster stuff. Witwer isn't a patch on Aiden Turner, Huntington is a different type of guy to Russell Tovey, even if they have almost the same back story and Rath is basically as up and down as Critchlow, but with less humour and more sulking.

Another thing is that you could believe that Mitchell and George were friends; there was a chemistry there - the werewolf acting as the vampire's moral compass. In the US version you get the impression that the vampire is sometimes a hair's breadth away from ripping the werewolf's head off and shitting down his neck and both characters seem to put up with rather than love their ghost.

The main problem with the US version is it likes to focus on the vampires and we're all getting a bit fed up with werewolves, vampires and the supernatural and it does them all in a US stylee while BBC3 does it in a mixture of British sitcom and 80s grit, therefore for that series to rise above others with similar characters it really has to try and be different; instead it's Being Lazy.

However, the initial disparity between the series is disappearing and not because the UK version is becoming more like it's younger sister, because the interesting parts of the show are now being outweighed by a Life on Mars kind of comedy villain (who - spoiler warning - is the adult version of the baby in the current story).

The Guardian claimed that Being Human does the balance of humour and horror extremely well, yet there has been too much humour in the UK version of late and Sunday night's episode felt like Rentaghost and while it had an interesting denouement, I couldn't help but feel that they ripped off some dodgy American programme's half-baked script.

The thing that pisses me off most about the current UK series is that I went out on a limb last week and told two lapsed viewers to give it another chance; saying that I believed it was finding its feet and returning to being an interesting series again. Then James Lance guest starred and by the 25 minute mark I was counting down time.

I think the wider picture is that even in this country the supernatural is becoming a bit overdone and unoriginal and it has to be something special to work. I hear rumours that Dark Shadows is being remade (again) and that there are a couple more barrel-scraping series planned; but the rumour around the US is that fantasy is going to try and move into that market and SF TV series - intelligent SF - could be the big thing for new shows in 2013.

I defended Being Human a lot and elements of it are still quite brilliant, but suddenly the new look feels a little contrived; with less than a handful of episodes left there seems to be more subplots being introduced than a 1990s X-Men comic (and non-comics fans, trust me, that's a lot) with no obvious conclusions in sight.

Beyond the Fringe

Scratch what I've said previously. It's still vastly improved, but I have no idea at all what they're playing at unless we're starting to get Twin Peaks sized red herrings.

Teens Too Far

I really like Skins. It has been, at times, a real breath of fresh air, and it manages to stay fresh because of its cast changing policy. The problem with series 5 and now 6 is that unlike previous series the dislikeable characters far outweigh the likeable ones.

In the past, there was almost a clear line between the good and the disenfranchised and the juxtaposition worked alarmingly well - kids make friends regardless of their social class or societal standing. However, the (not so) new crew have taken all of the focus; this series has barely been about that invisible barrier between adolescent and adult; between parent and child and more about just how fucked up each character is compared to another.

The current bunch of 4 girls and 4 boys has been diluted a little, with a swing back to the first two series with more recurring peripheral characters, but not one of them is a normal sixth-form college kid; every single one of them either is in a dysfunctional family or is having some kind of mental crisis - every single character! The thing that made the first bunch so good was that essentially they were non-fucked up kids with fucked up parents, who were fucking them up by osmosis. Yes, characters had problems, dilemmas and were into drink and drugs in a humongous way; but even Nicholas Hoult's narcissistic Tony was essentially just a teenager. A lot of the show hovered ambiguously over Effey, Tony's younger sister who was basically a walking disaster and would replace her brother as the main character in the second generation.

Effey and James Cook were the 'nutters' of seasons 3 & 4; there were other characters who had much to be ashamed about; but a lot of what happened was realistic as it related to peer pressure, the tragic mistakes teenagers can make and being confused. It, in many ways, was the perfect complement to the first generation. However the new crew have nothing in common with the previous groups and the continuity is maintained via the staff at the college, of which Professor Blood (Chris Addison - hamming it up badly). All of the characters, with the exception of Grace, who was almost too good to be believed, but also emotionally scarred by her incredibly protective parents, seem to have fundamental mental problems. They radiate considerably less empathy than previous groups and each character has had part of their personalities highlighted that are extremely unpalatable. The new group, whether you like the characters or not, are victims with some kind of dysfunctional metal trait and it doesn't ring true.

One of the other things about Skins I loved was that it was very much wishful thinking TV written by no one less than Thirty Something. It was, at times, like a bunch of 40 year olds given the chance to be teenagers again with hindsight. The new group feel as though they're being written by younger script writers. I'm happy that some issues have been addressed, but feel as though the need to shock has transplanted the need to entertain. The characters are almost interchangeable; few of them seem to have unique voices and they all seem intent on whinging a lot which turns the dialogue into a bit of a drone at times.

There's not long to go with this lot. This series has been full of continuity errors not seen before; inconsistencies of scripting and a drop in acting standards and the fact that Dakota Blue Richards looks like she's had DD implants put in since the last series is a little off-putting. There are a couple of characters that you can't help but like, but that's nothing to do with the story.

Egg of the Bored Dead

I suppose you could be thankful that US TV hasn't embraced zombies with the same fervour as vampires, because, as I've said before, zombies should be the lamest monsters in fiction and if you apply basic common sense to a situation you can pretty much survive a walking dead apocalypse, provided you stay away from the most likely scary parts of the world - major cities and towns and spend a lot of time up in areas where the temperature is freezing.

That said, The Walking Dead would be a pretty dull series if it was just about being practical in the face of flesh eating corpses. As it is, it's just pretty dull.

Cast your mind back to those first two episodes; they made George Romero seem like a 2nd rate after thought; they were genuinely creepy and the programme just oozed with menace. Then we got to know the survivors a little better and as soon as that happened every little bit of tension disappeared and the zombies suddenly became almost an afterthought.

I am completely gobsmacked at how this show has seemingly jumped the shark when it wasn't necessary and into a new theme where the most that happens in plot development is nothing. AMC were uninterested in spending money on the series despite the fabulous ratings it got and the second season has been static - on a farm - in a place where the zombies are almost an afterthought. It has become a human survival drama without any drama and is full of absolutely despicable and horrid characters.

I'm watching it now because it can only get better.

Low Gear

I'm of the same mind as Roger about Top Gear and he's only been watching it a couple of years. It is unashamedly one of my guilty pleasures and yet the last few series have been as interesting as studying Jeremy Clarkson's anus hair. It seems to have lost its edge; the madness has gone and been replaced with clever and clever doesn't work anywhere near as much.

It is still massive, but one wonders if now that Hammond and May have bright careers elsewhere, whether we might see the end of the series for a few years before the inevitable 'modern' update with idiots like Vernon Kay, Holly Willoughby and Jimmy Carr present it. Clarkson would undoubtedly produce it.

1 comment:

  1. who - spoiler warning - is the adult version of the baby in the current story

    It really is obvious isn't it? Yet no one seems to be talking about it, so I thought I was going mad.