Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Torchwood....they are coming. New teaser trailer...

A new ten-second teaser trailer has just aired in Australia for the forthcoming - and,frankly, long-awaited - new five-part Torchwood mini-series 'Children of Earth', due to be screened in the Uk this summer.

Click below to see the new teaser....

Come on....

UK TV Charts - w/e 19th April 2009

Here's the rundown of the Top 20 most popular UK TV programmes or series for the week ending Sunday 19th April 2009 collated from information compiled and presented by BARB. Note that figures for multi-episode TV broadcasts (ie soaps or other shows with more than one episode per week) are rounded up into an average figure for the series and are denoted in the chart by * News broadcasts are excluded from the figures.

1) Britain's Got Talent (ITV1)...............12.95
2) Coronation Street (ITV1)...................9.18 *
3) EastEnders (BBC1)..........................8.17 *
4) The Apprentice (BBC1)......................7.86
5) UEFA Champions League Football (ITV1)......7.81
6) Emmerdale (ITV1)...........................6.64 *
7) Heartbeat (ITV1)...........................6.24
8) Casualty (BBC1)............................6.14
9) (FA Cup (ITV1)..............................5.59
9) (Beat The Star (ITV1).......................5.59
11) Holby City (BBC1)..........................5.36
12) Countryfile (BBC1).........................5.16
13) The Bill (ITV1)............................5.03 *
14) Primeval (ITV1)............................4.97
15) Film: King Arthur (BBC1)...................4.80
16) All The Small Things (BBC1)................4.73
17) Tonight's The Night (BBC1).................4.69
18) Hell's Kitchen (ITV1)......................4.68 *
19) Waterloo Road (BBC1).......................4.60
20) My Family (BBC1)...........................4.58 *

Chart commentary: A pretty unexceptional chart this week with C*w*ll's parade of grotesques still proving unaccountably fascinating to nearly thirteen million people. I just despair. The soaps are posting lower figures than usual and good to see Primeval and The Bill rallying; Primeval's figures remain on the rise (while Saturday night BBC rival Robin Hood is sinking just outside the Top 20 with barely four million viewers)and with ITV undoing its recent various commissioning decisions (Wild At Heart, axed last month, has just been given the go-ahead for a new series and Demons, despite being rubbish, still hasn't been formally cancelled!) maybe the show's doing enough to justify another shot next year (or, more likely, the year after). A few new entries in the chart but none of them hugely inspiring. John Barrowman's new festival of cheese, Tonight's The Night, makes a solid start to its run and I am mortified to see the new series of Beat the Star hosted by the despicable, dreadful V*rn*n K*y nab a top ten slot. Top ten!! What are you people doing?? You should be throwing things at the screen when he turns up, not watching his programmes! Stop it right away! The British public remain hugely disinterested in the feeble Hell's Kitchen despite the near-hysteria of the tabloids and downmarket TV magazine programmes and its reasonable showing in this week's chart doesn't reflect the generally-poor viewing figures it's been achieving, as upper-end figures for the first edition have artificially inflated its popularity. So there.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Recreating a comedy classic....Reggie Perrin 2009

I wasn't one of those who threw up my hands in horror and ran around the room shrieking when it was announced, some time last year, that the BBC were remaking their classic 1970s sitcom 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin', which starred the legendary Leonard Rossiter. This new six-part 'reimagining', the latest resurrection of a TV classic in the wake of the success of 'Dr Who', would, we were told, star jug-eared TV actor Martin Clunes in a series which would update, modernise and thoroughly 21st-century-fy (a word I've just made up) the concept of a man wandering into the worst of mid-life crises and going entirely off the deep end, to the confusion of his friends and family. Now I'm a huge fan of the original 'Reginald Perrin' series and the somewhat darker books upon which they were based but I'm not such a fan that I baulked at the thought of someone new having a go at them. Why should I? Nothing's sacred these days, nothing's sacrosanct and, as 'Dr Who' and 'Survivors' have shown, a good idea's a good idea and is always worth a bit of a wash and brush up for a new generation who may be only vaguely aware of the original, if at all.

So now it's here. 'Reggie Perrin' has arrived on BBC1 on Friday nights and, despite all reasonable expectations (and much miserable comment from a few souls who saw previews of or bits of the first episode) it's actually not bad at all. In fact, on the basis of the first episode, it's really pretty damned good. The original writer David Nobbs has drafted in Simon ('Men Behaving Badly') Nye to co-write the series and drag it kicking and screaming into the here and now. And together they've done a good job so far. Critics will always groan and grizzle that "it's not as good as the original", largely because they're not able (or, more often, willing) to look at the thing in isolation, as a new creative endeavour for a new audience, without constantly harking back to the 'classic' series. It happened with 'Survivors' last year and it's still happening with 'Dr Who'; they just won't give these things a chance. 'Reggie Perrin', judged as a new comedy series, does what a new comedy series really needs to do - it's funny. Even set against the standard of the original series it holds its head up remarkably high and with some confidence. So it's a winenr as a new series and it's a winner in comparison with its forebearer...but with some inevitable and unavoidable reservations.

Nobbs and Nye have very cleverly kept the spirit and theme of the original series and its characters and, of necessity, jettisoned the creaking 1970s characterisation, morality and imagery. Reggie in the 1970s constantly pictured his mother-in-law as a lumbering hippo; not big or clever in 2009 so now he doesn't think of his mother-in-law at all (as yet we don't even know if he's got one). Now Reggie's fantasy images are more prosaic but more contemporary; the frustration of the commuter age, the idiocy of 'new age' medicine, as dispensed by his company's "wellness person". Where Reggie in the 1970s worked for Sunshine Desserts (nicely visually referenced in the first episode of the new series), modern Reggie works in that most ludicrous of industries - the men's health and grooming business, characterised here in "Groomtech Industries" where excitable idiots dream up insane and pointless gizmos and gadgets for vain modern men who know a bit more about facial cleansing than is really necessary.

We're on familiar territory as the new series starts. Reggie sets off for work, battling through the hostile and unfriendly territory of the commuter train, arrives for work fashionably late, makes small talk with his miserable secretary, and faces another dreary day in a job he's become entirely contemptuous of. Clunes nails new Reggie from the off; he's as lugubrious here as the more physical Rossiter was back in the day. At times Reggie seems like an older and more grizzled version of Gary from 'Men Behaving Badly' but that may be more a case of Nobbs writing for the actor rather than any fault with Clunes' performance. Throughout the episode Clunes' comic timing is spot on; the visual gags all work, from his clumsy investigation of new girl Jasmine's office, casually throwing water in the face of a prattling colleague, telling a toady to 'Shut up'. Best of all is his little jab at his dowdy secretary; asking her if she's got any problems, if anything's worrying her, he responds to her monosyllabic assurances that she's fine with a snappy "Then cheer up you miserable witch."

So Clunes has made a more than decent fist of Reggie himself. But the original series had such a strong and memorable raft of supporting characters played by good, solid 1970s character actors, it'd be expecting miracles to hope the same sort of lightning could strike twice. Sadly it hasn't. I didn't get where I am today without realising that John Barron's portrayal of CJ, Reggie's monstrous boss in the 1970s, was a classic comedy creation. Neil Stuke plays Chris Jackson (a blander name it'd be hard to imagine) and while he has much of the same pomposity and I can see the logic in creating a 'younger' boss for Reggie, Stuke completely misses his chance with the "I didn't get where I am today...." line and only really raises a laugh in his first scene with Reggie where he replaces his off-putting big office desk with a huge leather chair which dominates the entire room. Stuke's promise that "I'm watching you, Reggie..." towards the end of the episode carries none of the weight, threat or humour of the original CJ and it's a shame that poor casting (Stuke's normally a decent, reliable actor, especially good in series two and three of 'Game On' a few years back) has undermined such an important character in the Reggie Perrin saga.

Problems too with Reggie's wife Nicola. In the 1970s Pauline Yates played Elizabeth as a prim, stay-at-home 1970s housewife who always made sure Reggie's dinner was on the table and that he was spick and span and well-turned out for his working day. Now, of course, Nicola's a busy career woman who attends tae-kwondo classes, holds meetings for various charitable organisations and, occasionally, finds a bit of time for Reggie even if she doesn't understand what he's going through. All well and good but Fay Ripley hasn't made much of the material so far (bearing in mind that we're talking about episode one where, quite rightly, the focus is on establishing Reggie and his dilemma) and it's hard, even taking the new series as a stand-alone show, not to yearn for the reassuring warmth of Pauline Yates.

Otherwise we've met only the new object of Reggie's obsessions; gone is his comely secretary Joan (Coronation Street's Sue Nicholls) to be replaced by Jasmine (Lucy Liemann), Groomtech's latest go-getting recruit, and Reggie's two weaselly colleagues Anthony and Steve who are so far more irritating and amusing and, frankly, no replacement for the "Great!" Tony and "Super!" David of the 1970s....but there I go making those damned unavoidable comparisons again.

It's hard - and not always advisable - to try and judge a new series on the basis of one episode and I hope to return to 'Reggie Perrin' on Stuff as the run progresses. I'm pleased that Nobbs and Nye haven't slavishly recreated the old show - even though I miss Jimmy with his "bit of a cock-up on the catering front" and even Reggie's dozy daughter Linda and her husband with his propensity for making undrinkable homemade wine. The old show was very catchphrase-based and that's what I miss most in this new series - but maybe we're not such a catchphrase driven society these days? 'Reggie Perrin' has, despite the fact it actually looks as if I didn't really enjoy it, got off to a cracking start with some good gags, some genuine laugh out-loud moments and lots of good physical comedy. A lot of thought has clearly gone into what from the old series can reasonably be expected to work in 2009 and while some old favourites have gone - whither Doc Morrissey? - there's a lot of potential here and, if nothing else, it's heartening to see a good old-fashioned studio-based comedy series on the BBC and even better to see one which is actually funny.

So put aside your preconceptions and your prejudices and even your DVDs of the old series - you can watch and enjoy them any time you like. Take a chance on the new 'Reggie Perrin' and I really don't think you'll be too disappointed.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

UK TV Charts - w/e 12th April 2009

Here's the rundown of the Top 20 most popular UK TV programmes or series for the week ending Sunday 12th April 2009 collated from information compiled and presented by BARB. Note that figures for multi-episode TV broadcasts (ie soaps or other shows with more than one episode per week) are rounded up into an average figure for the series and are denoted in the chart by * News broadcasts are excluded from the figures.

1) Britain's Got Talent (ITV1)...............11.21
2) Dr Who: Planet of the Dead (BBC1)..........9.54
3) EastEnders (BBC1)..........................8.72 *
4) Coronation Street (ITV1)...................8.64 *
5) The Apprentice (BBC1)......................8.04
6) Lewis (ITV1)...............................6.61
7) Casualty (BBC1)............................6.51
8) Emmerdale (ITV1)...........................6.47 *
9) UEFA Champions League Football (ITV1)......6.30
10) Law And Order:UK (ITV1)....................6.02
11) Robin Hood (BBC1)..........................5.85
12) Holby City (BBC1)..........................5.48
13) My Family (BBC1)...........................4.93
14) The Bill (ITV1)............................4.88 *
15) Countryfile (BBC1).........................4.71
16) Waterloo Road (BBC1).......................4.51
17) Antiques Roadshow (BBC1)...................4.50
18) The One Show (BBC1)........................4.47 *
19) Traffic Cops (BBC1)........................4.42
20) All The Small Things (BBC1)................4.28

Chart Commentary: The easter weekend chart sees the inevitable triumph of the latest series of the ghastly Simon C*w*ll 'talent' vehicle but, more importantly, a massive rating for the Dr Who special 'Planet of the Dead'. The episode improved on its overnight figure by well over a million, narrowing the gap between BGT which, according the Press reports the day after "trounced" Dr Who (even though the two weren't opposite one another). These final figures - the ones the Press won't report because they're still screaming hysterically about the non-existant 'Boylemania' they've manufactured - tell a much more satisfying story. They also tell a slightly skewed one when it comes to the soap figures. One or two episodes of Coronation Street and EastEnders scored, individually, more than Dr Who but their average figure - the one reported here - was dragged down by some lower-rated ones, particularly a poorly-advertised Easter Sunday episode of Coronation Street which rated well under 6 million and thus drags its average and chart position right down. Maybe that'll learn ITV for lazily scheduling a ratings banker and not telling anyone.

Elsewhere we see that Primeval, flattened by Dr Who, slips right out of the Top 20 and Robin Hood put up a decent fight against the monsters of Cowell and co and rallied from the previous week. Oddly ther situation is reversed this most recent weekend (to be reported next week) where Robin's figures collapsed and Primeval's rallied. A good figure for the last Law and Order episode and steady numbers for other BBC dramas such as Waterloo Road and All The Small Things present a satisfyingly drama-heavy Top 20.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Book Review: Dr Who - Prisoner of the Daleks

The Doctor, travelling alone, jumps a time-track (he does that sort of thing, you know) and finds himself at a point in time before the Time War wiped out the Daleks and the Time Lords. Landing on an abandoned refuelling station planet called Hurala, the Doctor quickly finds himself locked in an underground chamber. Inadvertently rescued by a shambolic bunch of intergalactic bounty hunters, the Doctor escapes aboard their battered spaceship The Wayfarer as the planet comes under attack by the Daleks. They flee the planet with a Dalek prisoner who, when tortured, leads the Doctor to suspect that his oldest enemy may be about to embark on their most audacious campaign of all...a campaign which threatens all Creation.

It's good to see the Daleks make their debut in the BBC Dr Who book series in a story cleverly constructed not to interfere with the fragile ongoing timeline established for the Daleks since they reappeared in the new TV series. Trevor Baxendale's exciting book is any number of things; it's certainly pretty much unputdownable, it's a 1960s Dalek comic strip on the written page, it's a big ol' space opera, the sort of thing we all secretly yearn to see the new series do at least once. Or maybe twice. The plot has a bit of everything and it borrows liberally from several televised Dalek yarns - the Daleks at their most brutal, the Daleks excavating the core of a planet using humanoid slaves, a Dalek being savagely tortured by its human captors and, in best new series tradition, the Doctor having a bit of a heart-to-heart with the grisly innards of a Dalek machine. Luvverly. It's also got spaceships, expoloding, shattered planets, armies of Daleks, killer zombies in the ruins of a city in space.

The Dalek plot is typically audacious and typically utterly insane. It transpires that they've discovered a rift in time - a bit like the one in Cardiff which causes so much trouble for Captain Jack and Torchwood - at the core of the planet Arkheon, a planet which they've already torn apart. They intend to use this rift to gain control of Time and to wipe Humankind from the face of history! But with Daleks swarming all over the place it's not long before the Doctor and the crew of the Wayfarer are quite literally prisoners of the Daleks; for once the Doctor has absolutely no idea how to thwart his oldest enemies who finally have the upper sucker and it looks like he's met his match in the metal casing of the ruthless and implacable Command Dalek.

I don't do the Dr Who books very often. The new series on TV is written in a very specific way and so much of its success depends on the breathless energy of David Tennant and that's an energy which is often hard to pin down in prose. But Baxendale's made as good a fist of it as anyone; Tennant's Doctor here is all the things we see on TV. He's fast, funny, deadly serious, omniscient when he needs to be - and, unusually here, completely powerless and at a loss. The Daleks have really never been better portrayed and Terry Nation himself would be proud to see his neo-Nazis depicted as the merciless, pitiless exterminators he created back in 1963.

The small supporting cast of characters - and it really is a very small one - is comprised of the handful of crew-members of the Wayfarer and if they're your typical rugged space-bunch they're well drawn, from the off-hand commander Bowman, gruff pilot Cuttin' Edge and fresh-faced crewman Scrum. It's a nice twist to find the Doctor in the company of people who aren't automatically deferential and in awe of him; they remain suspicious of and belligerent to him throughout much of the book and it's good to see the Doctor not having such an easy ride and finding it harder to get things done his way.

With Dr Who on reduced duties in 2009, the three latest BBC Books have seen fit to resurrect some of the show's most popular and most recent enemies - the Slitheen and the Judoon feature in the other two recently-released titles. But if you want a quick dose of genuinely-rattling space adventure laced through with the new spirit of Dr Who, 'Prisoner of the Daleks' comes very highly recommended indeed. Quite possibly the best new Dr Who fiction I've ever read.

TV Review: The Gene Genie's back....Ashes to Ashes series 2

I was dismayed - no, colour me appalled - when I heard, midway through the screening of the second and final series of the sublime 'Life on Mars', that the BBC couldn't leave well alone. So easily and quickly had their quirky time-travel cop drama and, more particularly, its monstrously (and refreshingly) politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), entered the lexicon of modern British TV icons, that the Corporation just couldn't bear the thought of leaving the series and Hunt after just two eight-part series. So it was that 'Life on Mars' begat 'Ashes To Ashes' where, we were told, a female cop from the 21st century would find herself apparently relocated to the early 1980s where Gene Hunt and his chums would themselves have relocated from smokey 1970s Manchester to London, just about to enter one of its greatest periods of cultural upheaval and physical renewal. But it all sounded like a very bad idea to me, a case of desperately hoping that lightning can strike twice - and we all know that just doesn't happen.

Sure enough the first series of 'Ashes to Ashes' - with Keeley Hawes as timelost DI Alex Drake replacing John Simm's Sam Tyler - came and, largely, went. It wasn't a bad series; the talent both behind and in front of the camera meant that, if nothing else, it was a slick and assured piece of TV. But there was a sense of 'been there, done that' about it. It just wasn't new any more; we've been here before. Modern cop thrown back in time (in a coma?) and bumping heads with long-dead sensibilties from a time not so long ago and yet in some ways frightening prehistoric? Great stuff, refreshing and original in 'Life on Mars' but it just seemed a bit reheated, the same idea trotted out for the sake of it with nothing really new added to the recipe. The writers also seemed to be worshipping a bit too close to the altar of the Great God Gene Hunt; despite Glenister's gruff performances, Gene became a bit of a cliche in the first 'Ashes to Ashes', posing and posturing and spouting achingly-glib dialogue which just sounded too artificial. But it was a decent, watchable series - it just didn't have the shock of the new. It pulled in reasonable viewing figures and so a second run (with a rumoured third next year to tie everything up, although the press this week seem to be assuming this second series is the last) was pretty much a shoo-in.

And now it's here. The second series of 'Ashes to Ashes' has just started its run on BBC1....and count me a major convert. Some considerable work has been done on the format and style of the show and what we now have, judging by this first arresting (ahem) episode, is a series which has found its feet and learned to run. It's taken the tired 'Life on Mars' format, given it a bit of a shake, added a few new ingredients, a few new mysteries, and it's gotten off to the best start of any new British Tv series, that'd be 'Life On Mars' I suppose. Odd, that.

Everything about this second series - and I appreciate I'm basing this entirely one one episode, the whole thing could come down like a deck of cards next ween and won't I feel like a Pierrot clown? - just seems more confident, more sure of tiself, a series with more direction. The set-up's the same; Alex is still 'stuck' in the past (we've moved on to 1982 now....the music was better) and she's still working with gruff old Gene Hunt and his cohorts Ray and Chris. But the forced sexual tension between Gene and Alex has been toned down, there's now a sense of mutual, if reluctant, trust between them and they both seemed to have learned from one another. Alex is still frustrated by the fact she can't 'get back' to her own time; like Sam Tyler she makes curious connections with the future - voices and faces on TV, talking dogs, mysterious gifts with curious clues - and, most intriguingly of all, the main in a bed in a coma at the very start of the episode, a man unconnected with the main narraruive, a man who's clearly very impoortant to what's to come. These are all intriguing mysteries, the sort of story-0threads which play on the mind, forcing the viewer to try and piece thignsd together, to try and work out exactly what's going on. 'Ashes to Ashes'; is wrong-footing us now, just like 'Life on Mars' did. We all assumed we knew that Sam was 'just' in a coma, the same way we assume Alex is too. This first episode sows a few more seeds and gives us something more to think about. That's whatg ood telly does. That's what great telly does.

The story itself is a fairly routine Police murder yarn - but this time the victim is one of their own. A popular up-and-coming young PC is found dead, in women's clothing, in a seedy Soho strip club. The only witness is shot dead soon afterwards, dying in Hunt's arms. Hunt is typically dismissive but Drake smells a rat. It soon transpries that the young copper's wife has been telling porkies (ah, see how easy it is to slip into Gene Hunt patois!) and has been having a bit of a fling (Hunt's descriptions are a bit more graphic) with Det Superintendent Mackintosh (Roger Allam) who's arrived on Hunt's 'manor' (ha, there's another one!) to make sure Gene and the boys are ready to change with the times. But there's more going on here than even this episode is prepared to give away; there are hints of real Police corruption with Mackintosh up to no good and covering up his own part in the young PC's demise and, it now seems, Gene Hunt willing to be complicit in his superior's misdemeanours. It's meaty, gritty stuff, captivating to watch, beautifully filmed (1980s London is nicely evoked with tight camera angles and imaginative set design) and acted with pace and vigour. Keeley Hawes came in for a lot of criticism last year, probably because she wasn't John Simm. But here she's hugely confident, striding through the episode and thankfully bereft of the slightly OTT clothing which led to Hunt's sometimes-tedious "Bolly-knickers" nickname. Hunt himself remains a bit of a caricature, albeit a marvellously-watchable one, but Hawes has really stepped up to the plate this year and is making Drake just as interesting and multi-layered a character as her superior and, indeed, her illustrious predecesssor.

I'm more than pleasantly surprised to see this second 'Ashes to Ashes' series kick off with such a powerful and dynamic episode. it's clear that the writers have found their focus and it looks like we could be in for something very special indeed over the next seven weeks. Oh, and who could really slate a Tv episode which features The Funboy Three, Adam and the Ants, The Human League and ABC in its soundtrack? I mean, come on, you slaaaagggss...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

UK TV Charts - w/e 5th April 2009

Here's the rundown of the Top 20 most popular UK TV programmes or series for the week ending Sunday 5th April 2009 collated from information compiled and presented by BARB. Note that figures for multi-episode TV broadcasts (ie soaps or other shows with more than one episode per week) are rounded up into an average figure for the series and are denoted in the chart by * News broadcasts are excluded from the figures.

1) EastEnders (BBC1)........................9.55 *
2) Coronation Street (ITV1).................9.34 *
3) Football:World Cup Qualifier (ITV1)......7.93
4) The Apprentice (BBC1)....................7.16
5) Casualty (BBC1)..........................7.08
6) Lewis (ITV1).............................6.83
7) (My Family (BBC1).........................6.72
7) (Emmerdale (ITV1).........................6.72 *
9) Holby City (BBC1)........................5.94
10) Antiques Roadshow (BBC1).................5.88
11) (Law and Order:UK (ITV1)..................5.84
11) (National Lottery: 1 vs 100 (BBC1)........5.84
13) Countryfile (BBC1).......................5.69
14) Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1)..............5.39
15) Primeval (ITV1)..........................4.94
16) All The Small Things (BBC1)..............4.92
17) Total Wipeout Awards (BBC1)..............4.87
18) Waterloo Road (BBC1).....................4.86
19) Robin Hood (BBC1)........................4.63
20) How Woolies Became Wellies (BBC1)........4.48

Chart commentary: Another convincing win for BBC1 with an impressive 13 titles in the Top 20. EastEnders regains the pole position courtesy of the dramatic (ie extremely melodramatic) wedding episodes with Barbara Carry-On and the bloke off Gavin and Stacey. Get aht of my pub!!! Some footie nudged Sralan down a couple of notches and over a million less people than week one saw the man shout "You're fired" at the end of 'The Apprentice' and thus their week must have been a little gloomier magnificent without this highlight. Disengaging irony mode... Cheesy broad BBC comedy My Family returns for its 189th series and landed itself an immediate top 10 slot...other ailing/axed BBC sitcoms must be wodnering what its secret is. Sorry, I've no idea. Robert Lindsay once starred in Citizen Smith, you know. Ah, now that was a comedy... Elsewhere BBC1's unusual idea of moving sleepy Sunday morning country magazine show Countryfile to the white heat of early Sunday evening has paid off impressively with a handy top 20 slot for the show. Odd. Primeval and Robin Hood, as predicted, saw their ratings slide in week two but both held on to a top 20 slot. Next week will see Primeval tumble out - it logged its lowest ever figures last week against Dr Who - whereas Robin Hood will bounce back up, inheriting a bit of Dr Who's audience and hauling itself well over 5 million again. BBC1's new Tuesday night light choir drama, All The Small Things, made a decent enough debut; its figures have remained pretty constant across three episodes so far so the show's a quiet hit and a likely recommission, I'd have thought.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Dr Who - Planet of the Dead: The Alternative version...

You may have heard of the Brilliant Scottish Falsetto Sock Theatre Company who, amongst other inspired works, recently created and posted a savagely-hilarious homage to the late and very much unlamented 'Demons' onto You Tube. They've done it again and just posted an hilarious and affectionate - I think - dig at the most recent Dr Who special 'Planet of The Dead.' Just for you - 'cos I know you'll take it in the spirit I think it's intended, here it is in all its glory...

UK TV Charts - w/e 29th March 2009

Here's the rundown of the Top 20 most popular UK TV programmes or series for the week ending Sunday 29th March 2009 collated from information compiled and presented by BARB. Note that figures for multi-episode TV broadcasts (ie soaps or other shows with more than one episode per week) are rounded up into an average figure for the series and are denoted in the chart by * News broadcasts are excluded from the figures.

1) Coronation Street (ITV1)....................9.81 *
2) The Apprentice (BBC1).......................8.71
3) EastEnders (BBC1)...........................8.65 *
4) Lewis (ITV1)................................7.19
5) Emmerdale (ITV1)............................7.04 *
6) Casualty (BBC1).............................7.00
7) Law And Order:UK (ITV1).....................6.69
8) Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1).................6.42
9) Robin Hood (BBC1)...........................6.20
10) National Lottery: 1 vs 100 (BBC1)...........6.15
11) Primeval (ITV1).............................5.89
12) Holby City (BBC1)...........................5.56
13) The Bill (ITV1).............................5.22 *
14) Rogue Traders (BBC1)........................5.18
15) Waterloo Road (BBC1)........................4.95
16) The One Show (BBC1).........................4.89 *
17) (Antiques Roadshow (BBC1)....................4.79
17) (Funniest Ever You've Been Framed! (ITV1)....4.79
19) Watchdog (BBC1).............................4.72
20) Mistresses (BBC1)...........................4.63

Chart commentary: Very much a drama-heavy Top 20 this week....which can only be a good thing in these recessionary times with drama budget cuts at the BBC and just drama cuts at ITV. The first episode of the third series of Saturday night favourites Robin Hood and Primeval fared quite well - both have fallen since, however, and of the two only Robin Hood looks set to hang on in the Top 20 in the next few weeks. Waterloo Road made a rare appearance in the top 20 and consolidates it with another one this week - its figures have risen by around 500,000 this series, giving it the momentum to propel itself into the top 20. BBC1's Sex And the City-lite drama Mistresses crawls back in at no 20 for its final (ever?) episode and the inexplicably-popular reality show The Apprentice storms in to no.2 on week one. "You're fired!" There we are - that's 'The Apprentice' for you, week after what???

Saturday, 11 April 2009

TV Review: Dr Who - Planet Of The Dead

What's most amazing about 'Planet of the Dead' - the really rather astonishing Dr Who Easter episode screened this evening on BBC1 - is that three months ago it just didn't exist at all, save as a scintillating script from the dream team of Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts. Words on a page. Ideas in imaginations. It's a testament to the incredible expertise and experience of the crews at BBC Wales that, under the guidance of director James Strong, twelve short weeks later this bold, brash, colourful and impossibly-exhilarating 60 minutes of television landed on our TV screens fully and perfectly-formed with all the spectacle and energy of half-a-dozen bigger budget feature films. They went and did it again.

'Planet of the Dead' was just the best thing on British TV since...well, 'The Next Doctor' on Christmas Day, if we're being honest. With the show on reduced duties this year this insanely-adrenalized romp of a yarn reminds us just how good Dr Who can be and still is, nearly five years since it burst back onto British TV. This was an episode which just roared out of the screen as if to say "This is us, this is Dr Who, this is what we do and don't you forget it." I loved every mad minute of this one and I wasn't always sure I would, having seen some of the pre-screenbing pictures (see my comments on the tritovore, below) and hearing puff about how this story was "a bit of a laugh, a romp." Yes, it was both of these things - but in the uplifting and life-affirming (yes, sorry about that old chestnut) way that only the very best Dr Who yarns can be. Some of the episodes described as 'romps' have tended to be a bit light and fluffy and not completely satisfying - 'The Runaway bride', 'New Earth', 'Voyage of the Damned' and even 'The Next Doctor' may all spring to mind at times but 'Planet of the Dead' is a romp with a bit more of a heart to go with its running about.And against all the odds I really think this episode is right up there with the very best of New Dr Who.

So where to start? How about the International Gallery where slinky jewel thief Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan, surprisingly impressive here after a string our dour performances in 'The Bionic Woman' and, oddly, Steven Moffatt's 'Jekyll' a couple of years back) steals the Cup of Athelstan from under the noses of some particularly dozey security guards? Chased the Police who, it seems, have been on her case for some time, Christina hides aboard a London bus (no. coincidence that this is the 200th Dr Who story) just as the Doctor, electronic gizmo flapping and whirring, climbs aboard too. he's following the trail of something too....but the trailleads the bus and its colourful cast of characters through a wormhole in Time and Space which dumps the vehicle, damaged in transit, onto the sandy surface of a boiling hot planet on the other side of the Universe. But how did it get there - and why? And what's the secret of the chittering insect creature watching curiously from afar? And what's that approaching sandstorm all about?

'Planet of the Dead' just doesn't pause for breath - and yet it's still a rich, well-observed character piece. At first the episode looks as if it's going to be revisiting territory last explored in the exceptional season four thriller 'Midnight' as the Doctor finds himself trapped on a crippled bus with a group of icnreasingly-hysterical passengers. But the script wrong-foots us here - we get to know a bit about the other passengers including the ill-fated driver, dowdy middle-aged mum Angela, likely lads Nathan and Barclay, elderly couple Lou and his low-level psychic wife Carmen (they win £10 on the lottery twice a week), before the Doctor and Christina are drawn together in finding a way back through the wormhole in a battered, smoking bus which, it transpires, is out of petrol. Back in London (well, the Bute Tunnel in Cardiff...I drive home from work through it most days and I've yet to plunge through a wormhole) the baffled Police led by DI McMillan (Adam James) have called in UNIT and before long Captain Magambo (Noma Dumezweni, last seen as the same character in 'Turn Left' last year) is on the scene with a few more soldiers than UNIT ever managed to mobilise in the 1970s and her very own scientific adviser named Malcolm (Lee Evans) who, it transpires, is a bit of a fan of one of his predecessors in the post.

So the pieces are in place and there are mysteries to solve. With much-publicised filming in Dubai adding a very real sense of 'alienness' to the off-Earth sequences (and no, they really couldn't have been filmed at some beach oir quarry in Wales) the story tears along, throwing in the usual mix of scientific mumbo jumbo and technobabble from Davies which makes its own sort of sense within its own narrative structure. For an episode put together in three months there's no scrimping on the visuals here - from the smashed Tritovore spaceship and its spectacularly-devastated interior, the swarm of metal-skinned flying killer stingrays, a flying bus, stunts, expolosions and gun battles, this is Dr Who doing it big and loud again. The Tritovores themselves, which looked a bit cheesy in the publicity photos, actually looked rather convincing in action, despite the boiler suit space costumes. Communicating in insect-speak with the Doctor the Tritovores, also stranded on the desert planet by their own encounter with the stingrays, quickly become allies with the Doctor and Christina as they fashion, in best Dr Who make-do fashion, a route back to Earth by using cannibalised alien technology.

'Planet of the Dead' is just bristling with mad, vivacious ideas - a planet picked clean and its people and buildings turned to sand by the stingray predators which travel through space by moving so fast they gnereate wormhole gateways, a bus turned into a Harry Potter-style flying machine with the hel;p of some cobbled-together alien gizmos - all held in place by the rich tapestry of witty dialogue, fun characters and very real emotion, new Dr Who's stock in trade. Once again FX Supremos The Mill have worked wonders in a very short space of time and the visuals here are amongst the best seen yet in the programme - the swarming, devouring stingrays, the flying bus, the shattered Tritovore spacecraft, all big, rich images which perfectly complement the hue cinematic scale of the piece, a scale emphasised by Murray Gold's joyous score which might well have been taken from some Stephen Spielberg adventure epic. Only the coldest of cold hearts wouldn't have felt a thrill as the music reached its triumphant crescendo in the very final shot, panning up the shape of the TARDIS as the Doctor prepares to move on to pastures new.

So to the Doctor with David Tennant now in the home straight. seeing him here, crackling with enthusiasm, brings home yet again what a huge blow his loss will be to the series. He IS Dr Who now, he's come to mean so much to so many people and the joy evident in every second of his sharp, twinkling performance just rushes out of the screen. I have every faith in Matt Smith's ability as an actor but those shoes he's got to fill are looking bigger and bigger with every passing Tennant episode. And he's matched here by Michelle Ryanm, an actress I've never been impressed by before; but here she's quite magnificent as the wily, confidfent jewel thief Christina as she assumes control of the situaiton shortly after the bus has arrived at its alien location and then giving as good as she gets as she verbally spars with the Doctor; together Tennant and Ryan establish a chemistry which literally demands that their relationship carries on into further episodes and the Doctor's heart-breaking refusal to allow Christina to accompany him in his travels not only reminds us of how emotionally-raw the Doctor is after recent events but also robs us of a travelling team, which, as Davies says in the accompanying 'Confidential' behind-the-scenes documentary, would have blazed across the screen. Oh well...but 'Planet of the Dead' has finally shown that Ryan has got some serious acting chops and it'll be interesting to see what roles come her way now she's back in the UK after the 'Bionic Woman' debacle. Kudos too to Lee Evans who turned in an energetic but not over-the-top performance as UNIT's new top scientist, a little bit in awe of the Doctor and yet in love with him too - a bit like the rest of us, really.

Time to move on. I loved 'Planet of the Dead', as you may have gathered. In its fifty-nine minutes it encapsulates the whole ethos of Dr Who in the 21st century; mad throwaway sci-fi which may irritate the hardcore Who crowd but captivate a massive broad audience, wonderful moments of humanity and emotion in utterly inhuman situations and a real, palpable sense of triumph in a string of punch-the-air moments which, in this Who-starved year, remind us why this show is so damned good and so damned beloved. When the dust (or sand, arf arf) has settled, I suspect this brilliant romp will find itself regarded as one of the very best stories in the new Dr Who canon. Pretty much completely wonderful.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Coming soon...

Major updates coming this Easter weekend to of the new Dr Who episode, the return of Red Dwarf, Dr Who Book Review, movie reviews (Knowing and Let the Right One In), 24, No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, TV Chart update....and much more...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Dr Who Filming - EXCLUSIVE clips...

Filming is now well underway in the two part finale which will wrap up the tenure of David Tennant as the tenth Doctor. The unit has now moved back to Nant Fawr Road/Crescent in the Cyncoed area of Cardiff, specifically to the same location used last year for sequences set in and aorund the home of then-companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). Her Grandad Wilf Mott (Bernard Cribbins) has already been spotted out and about filming with David Tennant at Tredegar House in Newport last week so the signs are looking good that the supertemp from Chiswick herself will be back for these last two episodes although there have been no sightings of the actress yet. Here a couple of quick - not hugely revealing - clips from this morning's filming. Difficult to get much of a view at this stage as observers were shepherded into adjoining Nant Fawr Crescent as filming continued. Hopefully better photos and clips will appear at later today and, if Stuff gets the chance to pop back during the week, here too! Enjoy these for what they're worth!

UPDATE; Just popped back for another look. Managed to catch filming of a sequence where the Doctor and Wilf rush into the TARDIS as Donna's mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King) implores Wilf to come back. Long-distance video clip below. Apparently Catherine Tate has now been spotted on set!

Friday, 3 April 2009

UK TV Chart - w/e 22nd March 2009

Here's the rundown of the Top 20 most popular UK TV programmes or series for the week ending Sunday 22nd March 2009 collated from information compiled and presented by BARB. Note that figures for multi-episode TV broadcasts (ie soaps or other shows with more than one episode per week) are rounded up into an average figure for the series and are denoted in the chart by * News broadcasts are excluded from the figures.

1) Dancing On Ice (ITV1)...................11.31
2) Coronation Street (ITV1).................9.78 *
3) EastEnders (BBC1)........................8.30 *
4) Lewis (ITV1).............................7.54
5) Emmerdale (ITV1).........................6.88 *
6) Casualty (BBC1)..........................6.67
7) Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway
8) Law and Order: UK (ITV1).................6.24
9) Total Wipeout (BBC1).....................6.10
10) Rugby Six Nations (BBC1).................6.08 *
11) Holby City (BBC1)........................5.76
12) National Lottery Draws (BBC1)............5.52
13) Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV1)..............5.22
14) The Bill (ITV1)..........................5.01 *
15) Waterloo Road (BBC1).....................4.92
16) QI (BBC1)................................4.90
17) (Holloway (ITV1)..........................4.69
17) (The One Show (BBC1)......................4.69 *
19) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Five)....4.55
20) Rogue Traders (BBC1).....................4.50

Chart commentary: Another week with the soaps deposed from the number one slot - but a shame it's by a woeful celebrity skating competition, which sadly reminds us that the public's fascination for these tacky shows appears to be as strong as ever. The fourth series of ITV's Sunday night detective drama Lewis performs well - better than the overnights of 6.66 would have suggested - but the show's figures are well done on previous years. Will lewis be another victim of ITV's cutbacks or does it add a touch of affordable - and desperately-needed - class to Sunday nights on ITV? It's a dedcent week elsewhere for drama too; Law and Order continues to perform well and a rare and strong performance for BBC1 school stalwart waterloo Road which usually rates just over 4 million, not usually enough to make the Top 20. This week, at just under 5 million, it breaches the Top 20 for the first time in ages and justifies the BBC's recent decision to commission 20 more episodes for next year. Five hits the Top 20 withb a well-received episode of CSI - I don't follow the show but I believe Laurence Fishbourne has just taken over in the lead role which probably accounts for this sudden burst of interest. As expected, the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is nowehere to be seen this week...its fall from episode one to two was so great it doesn't even figure in the BBC's Top 30 shows. Elsewhere Ant and Dec rally a bit for their final episode of the series but they're still worlds away from the high numbers they generated only a couple of years ago. next week's chart should see Top 20 positions for returning Robin Hood and Primeval, both of which scored similar overnight numbers so it'll be interesting to see which came out on top after timeshift. xpect around 6 million for both series.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dr Who news...Planet of the Dead trailer on TV TONIGHT - plus episode airdate...

OO-ee-oooo!!! Just a quick word to the wise that tonight, just before 9pm (after Waterloo Road and before The Apprentice) BBC1 will be screening the first TV trailer for the forthcoming Dr Who Easter Special 'Planet of The Dead' which, incidentally, is now confirmed as scheduled for Saturday 11th April, 6.45pm to 7.45pm. A trailer for the episode has made its way onto YouTube so I've no idea if this is the trailer we'll be seeing tonight. Click and of the Video Bar images to the right to see the trailer RIGHT NOW...