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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Where the devil are you, DM?

So what it is, right, is it's this, right. I was going to come back from the latest of my little hiatuses with an in depth and insightful discussion of that most venerable of 80's cartoons, Dangermouse. I felt that this would be a treat for you all that would be sufficiently exciting as to make you forgive the shameless lack of content recently.

I make no apologies. 'Tis a work of genius.

Sadly, this plan was kicked into touch by the THEFT of my Dangermouse 30th anniversary boxset. By the same person, I feel compelled to point out, that stole my Dangermouse 25th anniversary boxset. Back then, it was to sell for drug funds. These days, it was to watch. So while I can compliment him on his ability to leave behind his self destructive lifestyle, and on his taste in retro secret agent goodness, I feel that a better use for my time and the wear and tear on my vocal chords would be to swear at him, loudly and with much vigour.

"I only borrowed it, I didn't know you were in the middle of watching it", he says when confronted. Oh, well that's all right then, isn't it. It's not as if there was any way you could have ascertained whether I was watching it before you walked out with it, is there? No, no way at all. I mean, asking for permission to borrow it, at which point I would have told you that I was in the process of watching it; that's clearly just fucking crazy talk, am I right?

Anyway, while I wait for the miscreant to return that which he has stolen, what am I going to talk to you about? What? Eh? WHAT? Well, howsabout a little round up of what I've been watching that isn't a seminal 80's cartoon whose narrator is one of the greatest comedy creations of all time?

Sheer class
Much of my viewing of late has been a rewatch followed by first watch of the later episodes, of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip; another show I thought I'd seen all of but have been proved wrong by a DVD set; and Murder She Wrote on ITV1. I have to say, some of the episodes of the latter have really thrown me with just how clever they actually are. I've gotten some right, and I've gotten some wrong, but only once has the culprit been obvious from the outset. I've been surprised by how much I've genuinely enjoyed the show. I'm now wondering how much of it's mammoth run ITV have the rights to repeat, and when it's going to disappear; they have S3 at least, because that starts this week.

As good as they are though; and Studio 60 is one of my favourite dramas of all time; neither of those shows qualify for the Quest. So instead let's talk about... Primeval and The Walking Dead, both of which aired months ago for those with a half decent TV package and both of which are now FINALLY airing for those of us relying on basic TV. Except you can add, both of which I've managed to get even further behind on by recording them and not watching to the extent that by my count I'm now 4 episodes late on both of them. Because I'm shit. So let's not talk about them after all. Thwarted again!

Once Upon A Time is still trundling merrily along, doing it's own thing and not holding truck with any of those old fashioned concepts like heroes who aren't dicks or plots that show some signs of progression from week to week. It's picked up the pace slightly in the last two episodes I've watched; what with the whole 'Heart buried in the box/people remembering the fantasy world/Sheriff pulling her head out of her arse and actually starting to acknowledge that something weird is happening; so I'm  quietly hopeful the last few eps should be belters. Seriously though, can you believe we're 17 weeks in and the protagonist is only now starting to maybe believe in the premise of the show? There's slow burn, and there's, well... I'm not sure what this is.

So all in all, my first post back after yet another long break has turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Not to worry though, because LOOK WHAT I'VE GOT!

Isn't it lovely?

Yes, after all my many trials and tribulations I finally managed to get hold of a copy; I only had to sacrifice 4 virgins in the end, which was two less than I was willing to stretch to; and now I'm merrily chugging my way through. By all accounts it's a bit of a weak season by Supernatural's own standards but to be honest, it's taken me long enough to see it, so right now I'm just glad of anything I can get. Not sure how critical I'm going to be able to be, that being the case, but what the hell. Expect a full round up of my slavish fan-ish thoughts next week.

Until then, then, I shall bid you adieu and once more trundle my way into the sunset. I hope I'm not leaving you feeling too disappointed.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Hello and welcome to another thrill packed edition of 'Paul watches something and waffles about it it to no real point until he gets bored.' This week, Jekyll.

At some point over the course of the last several years I managed to convince myself that I had seen most of Jekyll and missed the finale. Then I watched it on DVD and realised that what I had in fact actually seen was one episode. Not really sure what happened there. Perhaps I've gone insane and no-one thought to tell me.

Leaving aside the question of whether I need to start checking for hairs on my palms, the good thing about this little piece of self delusion is that rather than having one episode of brand spanking new Steven Moffat sci-fi goodness to indulge in, I had five. And five episodes of Moffat sci-fi is pretty much akin to Christmas, that year your Mum won the lottery and your Dad got a huge bonus and your Gran decided to spend Grandads life insurance payout on the kiddies, cos "you can't take it with you, sweetie."

What I'm saying is, it's a good time.

The basic plot of Jekyll is nothing massively original, at least at first; it really is just Jekyll and Hyde in the modern day. That doesn't stay the case for long though because, of course, if the plot was just a rehash of the original there would be little point in doing it. Instead Moffat, as he and Mark Gatiss would do (with much greater commercial and critical success) years later with the Sherlock Holmes mythos, adds twists, turns, and new elements aplenty to his modern take. Where this differs from Sherlock though, is that this isn't an adaptation. It's a sequel. Of a sort. Kinda.

I know that in TV terms Jekyll is ancient having been made, ruddy hell, 5 whole years ago, but I'm not gonna spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. Especially since it's on sale in HMV for £3 (hint hint). Unfortunately, that means I can't rave about what that 'kinda' means. Suffice to say, it's a clever little twist, it leads to an even cleverer twist, and then things twist around a bit more, and then a twist happens. And it ends on a twist. Or 2. And I'm not even including the ridiculous, laugh out loud false opening to one particular episode; it's very very cheeky, and could have gone massively wrong, but you'll love it.

I'm a Moffat fanboy though, so my opinion is perhaps not worth as much as that of someone less biased; or as I like to call it, more wrong; and to be honest the show seems not to have achieved much in the way of praise. Certainly, the lack of a second season, coupled with the fact that everyone I talk to seems never to have heard of it, tells me it's perhaps not so well regarded as all that. But I love it, and that's all that matters. So nyah! Also, I'm allowed to be excited for no other reason than I can finally tick the show off in my massive 'To Watch' file, which never seems to get any thinner. The swine.

Anyway, to the cast. James Nesbitt plays Jekyll-alike Tom Jackman and his initially un-named (later to take the name Hyde) alter ego is played by...James Nesbitt as well. It's a brilliant transformation, almost entirely achieved through movement and intonation; a wig is the extent of the make-up involved. I've never been a massive fan of Nesbitt, mainly because he has never really appeared in anything I'd like to watch rather than any active dislike of his work, but he's won me over here.

It's not his show alone though, and he is ably assisted by a pretty bloody good support cast. The one who got all the pre-launch buzz was of course Michelle Ryan, ex of Eastenders and soon to be Bionic Woman, who plays the psychiatric nurse Jackman hires to help him manage his condition. They'll tell you it's because she was an up and coming star in the making. I'll tell you it's cos she's hot.

And of course, who can forget the legend that is Wedge, Mr Denis Lawson himself. Lawson plays Jackman's best friend, and boss. With a smart line in sarcastic humour and a self deprecating air of 'taking it on the chin' when the jokes on him, he and Nesbitt share an easy chemistry that makes every scene they share a joy. But this is Denis Lawson we're talking about,  and as his role increases we see him steal any number of scenes. The man is class. (His attempt to fire a gun is one of my favourite scenes of the series. Seriously laugh out loud funny).

Jackman's bizarre behaviour has of course not gone unnoticed so it's only a matter of time before someone decides to do a little digging. Enter private eyes Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar, a pairing that is an absolute joy to watch together. Their chemistry is as seemingly natural as Nesbitt and Lawson's and I have no doubt that had this story been written from a slightly different angle, a sci-fi/horror detective show with these two would have worked like a charm. I'd watch it. You never know, we could still see it; I mean, it's not as if Moffat is busy at the minute or anything.

The villains of the piece, intent on harnessing Hyde for their own nefarious ends and hang the consequences to Jackman, are led by Paterson Joseph. (See, I told you this was a stellar cast). His American accent leaves a little bit to be desired; although I think that may have been intentional; but his smarmy, ultra confident 'we own the world' shtick always amuses, even when he's at his most evil, and trust me when I tell you that he gets evil.

Which just leaves Gina Bellman. Now, as much as it pains me to say this, I don't think Bellman is up to this. She plays Jackman's wife; a role which becomes pretty important as his enemies start to use his family against him, as well as in... other ways; and unfortunately never quite manages to convince us of their relationship. We're told that they are soul mates, that they're a love story for the ages, but we never feel it. Hers is a slightly too stiff performance, even in the sex scenes, or when she is required to almost break under pressure. She gives the impression of nothing so much as a drama student doing emoting exercises; there's nothing behind the eyes, no soul to the performance. It's a shame, and could easily have damaged the show, where she not carried so ably by those around her.

In the end the show is too good, the material too strong, the rest of the cast too talented; there is no question of one weak link dragging it down. It's never going to be regarded as a classic of the genre, and I'm not so mired in hero worship as to suggest that it should be, but I'd say it's definitely up there with the best of the BBC's post Dr Who revival glut of telefantasy efforts. If it wasn't for Moffat's current job, I'd be crying foul that we never got a second season. As it is though, I don't really think we can complain.

Of course, now that Jekyll is done I have to go back to waiting with the rest of you for the new series of Doctor Who for my Moff fix. In the meantime, what shall I be filling my empty little head with? Well, I'll tell you.

Now, where's that waterproof teabag?