Saturday, October 3, 2009

What I've Been Watching

A little update to tide you out there on what I've been doing. Mostly, like usual, the only television I've been watching is shows from the U.K. However, the girlfriend and I have been slowly watching the entire run of The Sopranos, from beginning to end. It's her first time with the show, and my second time going through the entire thing. This is a follow-up to both of us watching The Wire for the first time. Both are amazing shows and testament to the power of the serial storytelling medium. 

I love serial stories. The ongoing storyline, the A plot, the B plot, the characters, the mysteries teased out for weeks, the cliffhangers, there's so many elements that make television so unique, and nobody does serial television quite like the British. I'm going to highlight two shows that I've been watching with excitement.

The first is Life on Mars, starring the imitable John Simms, who also starred in the amazing State of Play (the serial I reviewed here and was made into an American feature film that I haven't seen). The premise of Life on Mars is absolutely amazing. A cop, Sam Tyler, in the year 200- is hit by a car and wakes up as the same person in 1973. Is he in a coma, is he dead, or is he a time traveler? While he tries to figure this out, he comes into conflict with the bygone era of cops in 70's era England.

A combination of science fiction and mystery, this is a police procedural in the British sense. Each episode follows an A plot, for example, the cops chasing robbers, or a kidnapper, and in the B plot, Sam Tyler has problems reconciling the 1973 way of doing things with his more politically correct and technologically oriented style. The overarching mystery of why Sam is in 1973 gets teased throughout the entire show.

I love cop shows, I love time travel, and I love John Simms. This is an excellent show filled with great cop moments, and a tantalizing mystery. The series is comprised of 16 episodes over two series (or seasons) and was followed by a spin-off series, Ashes to Ashes, also named after a Bowie song.

The other show I've been loving is Primeval. Strange time anomalies have been opening up in Britain, letting creatures loose from a prehistoric or alternative time, and it's up to Cutter and his team of scientists to figure out what's making these creatures appear and how to stop them.

This is classic British science fiction, sort of like Doctor Who, but without the space or alien angle. Again, this is serial television, so each episode follows a monster-of-the-week format, while slowly advancing the plot of the overarching story. In the first of three series, it's the mystery of where Cutter's missing wife is.

The show was created by the people who created the Walking with Dinosaurs show that captivated many English viewers with its mixture of cutting-edge CGI and actual science. But Primeval is not about real science, as many of the creatures are futuristic and imaginary.

While the writing isn't top notch or the characters very fleshed out, the show's premise and execution are enough to keep me watching.

Stay tuned to a lay of the land as I watch Torchwood and the classic show, The Prisoner.

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