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Television Thoughts

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Keeping up my disjointed approach to blogging this week, I wanted to get down some notes on recent television viewing. Somebody asked me what I watched regularly and I didn’t have an answer; however, this wasn’t strictly true. It’s just that I don’t sit down to watch things when they are actually aired because my viewing habits have been completely altered by a digital video recorder. I will now record want what we watch for a convenient time. Therefore, I don’t know what I’m watching by normal standards. I haven’t sat down to watch something specific as it goes out since the last Doctor Who. But that doesn’t mean I don’t watch things regularly.

I still watch Heroes but not for entertainment purposes – it’s more a fact of seeing superheroes on television is something needs to be viewed. The series seems to suffer from the overly complex continuity eating itself, something that works in comic books but doesn’t survive on screen. Also, as Steven Grant said, hearing people call themselves ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ in real life sounds really, really stupid. There are still some moments that bring a smile to my face, but they are rare.

Talking of superheroes on screen, I have started watching Smallville on a regular basis. It’s not because of Mike Sterling talking about it for three long posts but because it looks like it might be the last season. I’ve tried Smallville before, but the early stuff put me off with their kryptonite-based monster of the week. However, with the incorporating of wider-ranging aspects of the DC universe, particularly the Justice League, means that I’m much more interested in seeing what they do with it. If I could watch only the episodes which appeal to this deranged side of my personality, then I would. As for the current stuff – well, poor Tom Welling still seems a blank robot while everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves around him. It seems to be building up to the Superman/Lois basis of the mythology, something they’ve obviously been avoiding for the previous seven series, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to keep plugging away.

Not actually superheroes but I can definitely see a connection is Apparitions, the new BBC series by Joe Ahearne (who created Ultraviolet, the great series about a modern-day unit tackling vampires, and has directed Doctor Who and the horror/fantasy drama Strange). In it, Martin Shaw is an exorcist but the series in the same low-key and atmospheric manner as Ultraviolet. I was rather surprised by how enjoyable it is – Shaw is perfect for the role – and it isn’t over the top or silly. The superhero allusion is that the character is effectively a superhero – he has a costume and a power (exorcism is a power) and he acts heroically while others doubt or mock him in the face of overwhelming odds. Seeing that Ahearne is planning a proper superhero series for BBC [EDIT: broken link], called Superpower, it certainly bodes well.

Onto comedy now. Outnumbered sounds like a very traditional sitcom – a middle-class family and their three young children and their antics – but it the best comedy on BBC1 at the moment because it is horrific. Horrific in that it is what families are like – scary, loud, nonsensical, angry, stupid, petty, unbelievable and, occasionally, hilariously funny. It works by having the kids improvising ideas from the writers, rather than standing still and intoning fake lines. I come from a large family, so I completely recognise it, but it also works for me because I don’t want kids and this is a confirmation of that – it would make a great contraceptive documentary. Brilliant stuff.

The IT Crowd is back for a third series and it’s settled into its groove – the characters are comfortable and the situations are wonderfully surreal. The geek credential is high (even Warren Ellis mentions the Diesel Sweeties t-shirt that Roy wore on the show) and the absurdity and humour are great – the episode Are We Not Men? had Moss talking in ‘football speak’ (learned phrases from so that he could interact with the postman, which led to them being involved with an armed robbery and kissing Roy to disguise themselves from the police. Deliriously, wonderfully, insanely funny.

Finally, catching up with something old: I’ve been watching the first series of Flight of the Conchords on BBC4. The sitcom situation is unnecessary because the songs are so funny on their own but it does allow for the comedy folk duo to interact with each other, which is the other great aspect of their partnership. The songs stick in your head for days afterwards (Mutha Ukka, Business Time, Alby the Racist Dragon, Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros) – check them out on YouTube – and it also means that I retroactively liked them before I thought I did: Wikipedia informed me that they were responsible for the good Phones4U commercial from 2004, which had the great line, ‘This is for my friends in the alien zoo, minganingaminganamoo’. Well, I loved it. I didn’t know it was them at the time obviously, but I really liked the ad at the time but hated the fact that I enjoyed the music from an advert – thank goodness they turned out to be so good.

And that’s enough television stuff from me. Tomorrow some comic book reviews, I hope.

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