Monday, 17 February 2014


I seem to have gone off reviewing of late. I've lots (i.e. many, as opposed to loads i.e. weight & mass) of books, graphic novels (which are also books of course), CDs and DVDs which I've read/ listened to/ watched but haven't reviewed in this blog. Not uncoincidentally, as I re-use them on Amazon, my reviewer's ranking has plummeted lately, though I don't really care overmuch.

The first three titles (in the title) are all linked (which is stating the bleeding obvious if you've ever watched any of them and how many people reading this blog won't have done so? Damn few, if any.) But I'm throwing Girls into the pot because I've meaning to mention it for ages and now I don't have an excuse not to do so.

It all started when I picked up Season 1 of Torchwood (minus box but otherwise intact and in good condition at our charity shop and for which I paid more than was asked because I felt guilty at paying so little). And one thing lead to another. Specifically-

And, as yet unviewed-

The sign of whether or not a show is any good is how well you remember it. This notably applies in my case as a never reliable memory has grown steadily worse with my advancing age (pass me the zimmer frame, baby, I want to boogie -whatever that is). I've never watched any of these Dr Who shows since they were first shown. However, I found that while I may have forgotten numerous incidental details, my broad memory of the individual shows was very good. The result is that this mixture created a feeling a mild feeling of freshness and familiarity and an appreciation of how good the show was the first time around. Out of all of the episodes there was only one I skipped through because it was boring (spaceship plummeting towards a sun). 

There are so many things that are impress in that I can't think of anything about the show which isn't (ignoring the odd minor cavil here and there) -script, cast, music, sfx, direction, etc. Not a weak link anywhere and it's a great pleasure to watch them all again after a gap of several years. The many gay references Russell T Davies throws in there are even more, unobjectionably but noticeably, obvious on a second viewing. Davies, it has to be said, did a brilliant job of updating the show and making it fit for the modern world. 

And the same can be said about Torchwood which started the whole thing off. The same pedigree as Dr Who, three actors who appeared in it, notably the charismatic if annoying Mr Barrowman -even the same character more or less in Naoki Mori's case- limited location (Cardiff) but a whole lot ruder and more violent (great!). So what's not like? The third and shorter series is on my pile but not the appalling fourth.

From the hands of those complicit in Dr Who as writers and one, later, as showrunner comes this marvellous updating of Sherlock Holmes, a character whose become such a cliche I long ago lost any interest  in him. This retelling manages to be both faithful and iconoclastic (and often hilarious). I've only just finished the first season which also includes as an extra, apart from an interesting making of, the original hour-long pilot. 

A second viewing confirms my opinion that the first and third episodes were brilliant but the second, which had neither hands of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffitt involved, nor any of the regular supporting cast, to be woefully inferior and easily skipped. Thankfully this lapse has never been repeated.

Season 2 will be watched this week but I'll hold off a few months before buying S.3 by which time the edges will have blurred somewhat.

And now for something completely different.

This show is genuinely astonishing and, if you aren't prepared for it, can be genuinely shocking. It's also possibly the bravest show on American TV, at least for its auteur Lena Dunham.

Ah yes, Lena Dunham, let me count the ways: creator, main writer, often director, co-producer, lead actor (in an otherwise ensemble cast) and most likely to appear nude and/or having sex. If you're looking for another Friends or How I Met Your Mother then look away now.

Set in New York, Girls is about a dysfunctional group of four women friends (and their various associates)  in their early to mid twenties who are all self-absorbed fuckups trying to  find their places in the world and generally doing a very bad job of it, with Dunham's character Hannah being about the worst of the lot. This is of course an oversimplification as it's, you'll pardon the expression, more like shades of grey. 

Incidentally, while it is often funny, it isn't a sitcom it's a comedy-drama (I refuse to use the word dramedy even though I just have). At one point, Hannah descends into the depths of a horrifying bout of OCD from which she is ultimately rescued by her boyfriend Adam who is, almost up to that point, perceived by the viewer as a complete self-centred pile of shit.

Sex is portrayed extremely realistically, with nudity and simulated sex, as far from erotic by people with normal looking bodies -Dunham's is short, dumpy and with small breasts- having an often unsatisfying time and frequently with people they shouldn't.

Sometimes this show feels like a train crash -horrendous but you can't look away. 

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