Monday, October 19, 2009

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: September-October 2009

After a few weeks where I was literally not watching anything, I've managed to get enough programmes together to do a review!

"Sailors fighting in the dancehall..." You know the script by now - Sam Tyler is run over by a car and wakes up in 1973. His iPod has turned into an 8-track cartridge player, and when he looks up he sees the Twin Towers. Yes it’s the American version of "Life On Mars" which is now being screened on FX. If you thought the original series was surreal, then this is twice as surreal, as it’s like watching a tribute act. It’s not that it’s bad, although Harvey Keitel’s Gene Hunt is just a little bizarre. It’s Life On Mars, but not as we know it, they’re not John Simm and Philip Glenister, and that’s where the problem lies.

Still on a time travelling theme, I’m enjoying E4’s quirky new Canadian import "Being Erica" (E4, Mondays) Imagine a time-travelling female version of "My Name is Earl" where she gets the chance to go back in time and make right her wrongdoings and regrets. Sometimes it can be a little too cheesy, but it works thanks to its charming lead and general simplicity.

More time travelling, but this time to a brief glimpse of the future. The new US mega-hit "Flash Forward" (Five, Mondays) from the makers of "Lost" stops the world for a couple of minutes, during which everyone has a ‘flash forward’ to the future. Not much really happens, but it keeps you coming back for more, week after week. Just one thing though: what’s with all these British actors doing American accents? This time it’s Joseph Fiennes. Good old Jack Davenport’s in it too, but reassuringly, he has kept his own accent.

Haven’t watched many films recently, but "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas" left an impression on me. A simple story - the son of a concentration camp commandant befriending a young Jewish boy through the barbed wire of the camp - it was very moving and thought-provoking, and the two young boys in the leading roles were very impressive. Didn’t expect a happy ending, but I wasn’t expecting that sudden, horrific, shocking and brutal conclusion either.

You can’t accuse "Later With Jools Holland" (BBC2 Tuesdays/Fridays) of lacking in diversity - for example, a recent episode featured Calvin Harris, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Spaghetti Western Orchestra in quick succession. It’s the only music programme on terrestrial television at the moment that we can still watch at a reasonably decent hour, and which (thankfully) has no risk of Cheryl Cole appearing on it.

Hotel Inspectors. Which is better? Ruth Watson or her successor Alex Polizzi? There’s only one way to find out...No need for a ‘fiiiiiight!!!!", though as we’re firmly in the Watson camp, so we’re enjoying "Ruth Watson’s Hotel Rescue" (Channel 4, Wednesdays). Think "Hotel Inspector: The Prequel" in which Ms Watson gives out advice to hoteliers at the beginning of their career, rather than when they are at a later soul-destroyed stage. There’s nothing new or original about it, it’s undemanding viewing, but I enjoy it all the same.

I’m still disappointed in Season Two of "Private Practice" (Living, Thursdays) which may have jumped the shark. There’s no interesting character development any more, it’s all about the bed-hopping antics of the docs and their patients and everything else is now a side issue.

Criticising Jamie Oliver seems to have been elevated to an Olympic sport in recent years. Yet in spite of that I enjoyed his "American Road Trip" which was a mix of cooking, travelogue and social comment. I suppose in these days of dumbed-down TV it’s as good as we’ll get.

Finally, "Coronation Street" hasn’t been too bad lately although still far from past glories. I was quite sad to see Amber and Darryl go; of the younger characters these were two that I actually cared about. It’s been a Platt-free zone recently, which has helped immensely. Tony’s proposed to Maria - but don’t expect the happy times to last too long, thanks to the return of Carla! On the down side, the continuing Kevin/Molly shenanigans would have you parting with the contents of your stomach. Luke Strong a.k.a. Craig Kelly of "Strictly" fame has also left the show - we thought he’d be out of "Strictly" before he was out of "Corrie" but hey, there you go....!

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