Torchwood: Miracle Day – ep 3

Enough is enough.

Once again, I ignored the urge to switch this rubbish off two minutes in and once again, I should have followed my instincts in the first place.  It was better than last week’s, and genre stalwart Jane Espensen’s stamp on proceedings was obvious from the Scooby Gang-style shenanigans but the episode was still staggeringly stupid, crass and annoying. 

Again, there were good ideas, this time like the Soulless and the impossibility of murder, but again those good ideas were completely mangled by the patronising, lead balloon of a script – the “Americans use different words than the British, don’t you know? Tee hee!” scene almost made me put my foot through the tv – and the puerile, loathsome characters.  I’ve seen cartoons with greater depth and insight. 

In short, none of it worked.  The shoehorning in of the bar and sex scenes was no doubt meant to convey a sort of end-of-days party atmosphere but failed miserably, the emotional business started out promisingly but ended up being too flat and too obvious, and the entire programme continued to astonish with its lack of any sort of finesse.  The only things I really, truly enjoyed were Gwen’s camera contact lenses, but not enough to make me watch this show ever again.  I’m done.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 2

This was absolutely woeful.

Appalling dialogue, ham acting, and dreadful characters – it’s a bizarre state of affairs when Gwen and Jack are the most bearable, understated people in a tv show.  And even if I could have ignored the wretched Lyn, the mind-bogglingly awful Jilly and the rest of the bombastic, utterly empty parodies that pass for the new American characters, the story’s descent into gibberish gave me no reason to bother.  Any residual goodwill from the original, simple but startling concept was completely thrown away in favour of over-excited technobabble, conspiracy rubbish, and general idiocy.  I actually cannot get over how awful it was.  The only mildly diverting moments came from Esther breaking out of the Agency, and, I suppose, some of the tomfoolery on the plane as Gwen tried to save Jack, although that fell too often on the side of farce to work as well as it should.  All in all, execrable stuff.

Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 1

Well, that was… odd.

Opening with the failed (and graphic) execution of paedophile and murderer Oswald Danes, this new US/UK version of Torchwood is a strange beast. 

The basic plotline is an intriguing one; suddenly no one on earth can die. They get sick, they get hurt, but they live anyway. Forever? Who knows? And why?

On the US side, Mekhi Phifer has gone from beloved ER legend Dr Pratt to mercenary, callous CIA agent Rex, who has a very personal stake both literally through his chest and figuratively in finding out what the hell is going on. His sidekick Esther is sweet and clearly willing to throw herself in front of a truck if he should ask.  Which he may well do as the series progresses, it’s that kind of show.  They’re both worryingly lax when it comes to passwords, secret files and witness protection details so they find Gwen without much difficulty, and Jack finds them without any difficulty at all.  Again, it’s that kind of show.  After a quick trip to the UK to blow some stuff up, and a few mildly amusing jokes to explain the concept of Wales to any as yet uninitiated US viewers, it’s back across the pond this transatlantic task force go, and the story proper begins.

Did I like it? Sort of.  This first episode seemed both expensive and bizarrely cheap; there were plenty of snazzy special effects, but the zany, inappropriate music and deeply silly sequences like Gwen strutting through her CGI burnt-out house, baby in one hand, gun in other, made the whole thing look like a cheesy computer game rather than anything resembling grown-up TV.  Which I think is where Torchwood (with the possible exception of Children of Earth) has struggled a bit over the years; it’s always trying to deal with self-consciously adult themes and concepts in a self-consciously juvenile and “wacky” fashion.  I very rarely say this, but it’s one of the few shows on tv that needs to get a bit more serious and a bit less jocular in how it tells its stories.  Take Oswald Danes for example – Bill Pullman is a fine actor and it’s a waste of his talents to get him to play someone so supremely unpleasant and dangerous as a pantomime villain. Kids’ comic-book is the wrong tone to strike.

All in all, then, while the new Torchwood is definitely bigger and bolder, it clearly thinks it’s better than it actually is. The concept is fine, but I’m not so sure about the execution. I don’t know if the new hybrid works.  I do know that spoiling the entire story in a trailer at the end which seemed longer than the whole episode is a bit daft. But at least they’re having a go at big, ambitious, sci-fi, and this first look interested me enough to keep watching for now.

Public Service Announcement 25 of 2011: The Glee Project, Franklin and Bash, Torchwood: Miracle Day

Summertime and the watchin’ is, er, scant; this week’s new stuff is all spin-offs and seen-it-all-befores.

Kicking off with a double bill tonight (Wednesday) at 8 PM on Sky One, we have The Glee Project, a reality TV series/audition process/talent contest thingy to find yet another member for the Glee cast. Because what the Glee cast really needs is another member, as opposed to coherent storylines, some semblance of continuity and 100% reduction in the number of scenes with Kurt in them.   Whatevs.  Ryan Murphy and Zach Woodlee are heavily involved and it’s all super-official, so if you’re missing all things McKinley, dig in.

Also tonight, new legal dramedy Franklin & Bash starts on E4 at 10pm. Maverick, streetwise lawyers taken on by big firm, shake things up, quirky blah kooky blah you know the drill blah blah blah.  I might just give it a go, though, because it has Zach Morris from Saved By The Bell in it.  ZACH MORRIS!

But forget the alumni of Bayside High for a minute, because I have momentous news: DR PRATT IS ALIVE!  Well, sort of.   Mekhi Phifer joins Bill Pullman and Sierra from Dollhouse as new additions to Captain Jack’s motley crue in Torchwood: Miracle Day, finally making its way to UK screens tomorrow (Thursday) at 9pm on BBC1.  Six days after it aired in the US. Six days.  Tsk, BBC.  I know Starz paid for both the lion’s share of the series’ production and the right to show it first, but why not show it the day after?  It’s not like there’s anything else on.  Argh.  Anyway, Torchwood took a turn for the unexpectedly, er, quite good with Children of Earth, and I do love Dr Pratt, so I’ll probably try at least a couple of episodes and see what happens.  I’ll report back in due course.

Torchwood s3: Children of Earth

I’m a bit of a fraud for writing about this, to be honest. 

I’ve only been a very casual viewer of Torchwood in the past, catching a few episodes here and there and, it has to be said, not being terrifically impressed by them.  And my casualness extended to this week’s 5 nights of the show.  I didn’t manage to catch every part of it, so feel free to have a go at me for writing about things I know little about.  What I do know though is, from what I saw, this short, sharp burst of Torchwood worked.  It really worked.

In moving the show from small-time BBC 2 to big-league BBC1, the BBC went for one last audacious twist of the sonic screwdriver and turned it into a week-long “tv event”.  And like I said, it worked.  The format, the story, the whole thing.  Ratings hovered around the 6 million mark – which is pretty spectacular for this type of thing – the show picked up viewers as the week wore on and Friday’s finale kicked alien ass.

Sure, there was a whiff of cheesiness and a lot of cribbing from the Big Book of Who – Lois Habiba was the new super-competent, super-organised super-Martha Jones, seeing as the old one’s off doing Law & Order:UK; Captain Jack Harkness had the same companion-related heartbreaks, decisions and self-loathing that the Doctor is haunted by; and Ianto and Gwen, like all the companions, stayed tough, sassy and true to the end.  And sure, certain characters’ motivations and decisions swung back and forth faster than the Tardis across the universe, but overall, thanks to a mix of socio-political commentary, moral quandary and really nasty baddies, this was exciting, enjoyable and pretty gripping.  I can ignore cheap gimmicks like John Barrowman’s nudity (at least the full-frontal was mercifully brief) and cheap sets (abandoned warehouses/power stations galore).  Some truly disturbing scenes in the finale, and some incredibly courageous and gut-wrenching story decisions, and suddenly season 4 is looking a lot more likely.

Torchwood ep 6

Well, look at that.  I am not a regular viewer of this show, but I dipped in again tonight and it happened to be the obligatory Alan Dale episode.  Hi Alan!  Welcome to BBC Drama!

He may be more commonly known as Jim Robinson/Caleb Nichol/Bradford Meade/the-man-who-has-been-in-nearly-everything – but officially he is called Alan Dale and he is the hardest-working man in showbiz.   Now that he’s been in/died in just about every cult US show there is or ever has been, he’s now moved on to the British ones.  Yay!  What other shows will he do?   Corrie?  Emmerdale?  Will he turn up on Spooks soon?  Watch your step Harry Pearce, no one does conspiracies like old Alan, and true to form, he was right at the heart of a nice big evil one here.

Alan kicked all kinds of ass obviously, but his character Prof Copley met his match in the Woodsmen and their new secondee Dr Martha Jones who strolled on over from Doctor Who to help out a bit at Torchwood Towers.  Cue lots of nice bonding between her and Captain Jack over their shared love of David Tennant, and lots of metaphorical winking at the fanboys/fangirls in the audience. 

Regardless of the fanboy factor though, Martha is a great character.  She is a cheerful, strong and clever woman, who seems like fun to hang out with.  Unlike the rest of the miserable social maladroits on the Torchwood team.  So, yay Martha!  Both Alan and Martha in the same episode?  Gosh! Yay everybody!

All in all then, a job well done to the Torchwood folks tonight, except for one thing – guys, I really don’t like insects.  I really don’t.  So why is it the last two occasions when I’ve decided there’s nothing else on and I’ve watched this show, it’s been about bugs of some sort?  Last time I watched it, there was a giant worm being enslaved and chopped up for lunchmeat.  And tonight, there were some giant flying beasties and their giant flying beastie babies (I am told the technical term is larvae) being “enslaved and exploited”, by Alan Dale, to develop a one-size-cures-all drug for all human disease. 

I know you Torchwood folks have done plenty of episodes without insects.  Seriously.  So can we please build on that good work and try and keep the bugs to a minimum and the Marthas to a maximum in future when there is a chance I may be watching?  Yay that!

Torchwood Ep 4

Here at unpopcult, we are not just about entertainment.  Oh no.  Education is a serious concern for both Jed and I.  So with that in mind, here is some not-at-all-serious educating, courtesy of the book of CJ.

Fun fact no.1?  The only piece of sci-fi ever to convince me with a giant worm was Tremors.  Fun fact no.2?  The only 2 tv programmes ever to convince me with a Scooby-Doo baddie-busting dynamic were 1.  Scooby Doo (!) and 2.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Fun fact no.3?  Last night’s Torchwood was no Tremors, Scooby Doo or Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Joking aside, these opinions are obviously just my own, and no doubt others don’t share them.  Indeed, in all fairness, the first two episodes of this second season of the ‘Who spin-off were clever, entertaining (if a little self-conscious) and an immeasurable improvement on last season’s shenanigans. Last night’s episode, however, was an entirely different kettle of alien worm.

Putting aside the difficulties of creating a convincing giant worm on a BBC Drama budget for now, however, the main problem with Torchwood is that it is very difficult to believe the Torchwood team (Torchies?  Torchos?  Woodsmen?!?!) are the best people to save the world from alien-related nastiness when their top priority seems to be making eyes at each other.

Last night’s episode was a case in point.  A particularly bizarre scene springs to mind where Gwen, the show’s Abby Lockhart, all set to rush off to rescue her non-Woodsman fiance, was stopped from doing so by being shoved up against a wall and emoted at very fiercely by Captain Jack, who, at the last count, fancied, oooh, everyone in the world, ever.

And a good few people from other worlds too.

Gwen and Jack weren’t the only culprits either.   Seemed like the only non-baddie not getting any longing looks was the giant worm.

Either Torchwood is not an accurate representation of life in the average workplace, or my workplace is not at all average.  Or, then again, maybe I am just the giant worm. Hmmm.