17 April, 2012

What I'm Watching

Spoilers for the episodes at US-pace, OBVIOUSLY, because I'm not waiting till 2014 to see Laura Linney on my screen again.

Me and 'Waterloo Road' have quite a history - I've watched all 7 series of the show, and hated about 6 of them. What was an excellent dramatic portrayal of school-life for the teachers and their pupils has become a monotonous, poorly-written and frankly laughable shadow of its former self.

This week's episode had yet another rendition of 'Jez and Sian aren't right for each other and he can't behave rationally but works it out in the end' with a backing track of 'we've done the gang thing several times but we don't really know what else affects inner-city students'. For literally the third or fourth time, Jez took his child away from school mid-lesson, insisted that they would start a new life, without Sian, but then saw the error of his ways and made it up with Sian. Instructions for this seasons plot seemed to be 'take episode eleven, get a 2012 soundtrack attached, and air it'.

Other minimal subplots involved Chalky's ongoing infatuation with Janeece, which really, after twenty episodes of leering, has become pretty creepy. As is the dinnerlady's quest to bed Grantley Budgen, at most one week after his wife Fleur died in front of him. I know the characters in 'Waterloo Road' have always been a bit loopy (remember Lorna? REMEMBER LORNA?) but this takes social norms to a whole new limit.

The art subplot was ridiculous because it was quite obvious Roxanne was a drunkard, and 'director of LEA has a child who isn't as perfect as they think' is token WR. What really took the biscuit though is the Head of English taking the art exam (art A-Level doesn't work like that either, trust me) and saying 'it's difficult to tell if these are her work'. Yes it is, when you are an ENGLISH TEACHER.

Denby-Ashe was a pleasant addition to the show, pulling out lines like 'I sold my company for £75 million last week', and her ploy to steal Burnsy from Rochdale has legs - a convenient way for the BBC to shift production to Scotland. But if you were going to strive for excellence, why choose Burnsy, who has literally no charisma or authority or ability to improve a school he has led for like two series?

The second series of 'The Big C' came to a close on More4 over here in the UK, just as the third run began on Showtime in the US. As the (dare I say it?) perfect second series ended, my hopes for season 3 could not have been higher. After my love letter to the programme last month, it's probably clear that I think highly of it.

Season 3 returned, and, thank God, Paul was alive. It was touch-and-go for the first five minutes, but thankfully, Cathy's family is alive and well. The first episode showed us that Cathy's tumours are continuing to shrink, and some have even disappeared. Whilst this gives extra scope for the length of the series, it seems logical in the context of the story, and not a cheap ploy. What gave the story extra weight in the season opener, is the mix of seriousness and comedy. Paul's heart condition highlights the fragility of both of Adam's parents, to the extent that Cathy chooses Sean to be his legal guardian, should both parents die. This, mixed with the humour in Andrea's new name and Paul's shock treatment button, gave the show its usual mix of black comedy and deep emotion.

As I tuned into the second episode, I felt something was missing from the series - it's still as funny as ever, but there is something less of the heart that gives the series its unique taste. What they seem to be doing, I think, is in that Series 1 was 'Cathy secretly coping and going wild', 2 was 'virtuous Cathy and her family try to make sense of her shit', and 3 seems to have the intention of showing Cathy's mean, selfish side. Linney's interaction with her son in this episode was excellent in tone, and seems to be showing Adam's progression in maturity, whilst Cathy's retracts. What with her show in front of the whole school, the 'professional tie' joke in the school office, and her tattoo in the last scene, it seems we're being shown a Cathy that is struggling to cope, struggling to have the healthy outlook of last season.

I don't know where this will ultimately lead the show, but I'm sure it's headed there for a reason - I have great amounts of faith in Laura Linney and the other producers. To see another side of Cathy, the character who always has our sympathies, will be interesting - just who is the virtuous in a world where even the victim isn't acting justly?

Glee roared back onto our screens this week, following its 'winter hiatus' or whatever name they gave to yet another scheduling break which screwed up momentum and just bought the producers more time to buy bowties for Blaine.

'Big Brother' was a Blaine-centric episode (I love Blaine, just 'fyi') which obviously also focused on the aftermath of Quinn's accident, notably leaving out any mention of the previous episode's horrendous Dave Karofsky plot. But let's focus on Quinn for a while (I know the entire Glee production staff seem to be). I should be arguing that after such a horrific accident, a curable, scar-free Fabray is an impossibility, that the plot makes light of car accidents, that it will lead to an overwrought emotional satisfaction when Quinn walks again BUT I just can't be angry because I'm just happy Quinn's alive. Shoot me for this opinion I don't care - she is the best character in the show, and, despite the implausibility of 'this is the happiest day of my life' coupled with the 'I'm Still Standing' performance, let's just be glad IT'S ALL BACK TO NORMAL.

The Blaine/Bomer plot of the episode was a little ridiculous - whilst Bomer played pitch-perfect humour, it was over-the-top and led into some of the most uncomfortable 'characters-bursting-into-song' moments of any musical ever. 'Fighter' made me want to kill myself. The acting by Criss was superb, and Lea Michele pulled out some great moments in her limited amount of screentime. Arguably I'm biased as to the Criss thing cos, you know, he's my mancrush but in all fairness, him and his back did a spiffing job.

The songs in the episode fitted well, save the Gotye cover which was seemingly shoehorned in just because it's a big name chart-topper. 'I'm Still Standing' was a great blend of the Artie/Quinn voices that we haven't really heard before, and their duets came to a showstopping conclusion in 'Up Up Up' which was just lovely. Fighter was a little bit dodgy - do we really need some 2003 Aguilera in Glee? Do we? All this bother was worth it though - the 'Rio/Hungry Like A Wolf' mashup made me want to get up and literally dance it was that good, and the performance was mesmerising.

So Glee's now 7 episodes away from its 'graduation finale'. Quinn's back in Season 4, and the songs off of the Graduation album look amazing - I feel we've got some amazing episodes coming up, but we'll just have to wait through the Saturday Night Glee-ver fiasco and the cobbled-together Whitney tribute before we get to them. Upcoming highlights include 'Edge of Glory' and 'Forever Young' covers, NYADA auditions and actually seeing Emma in an episode. *Sighs and watches Purple Piano Project*. Until next time!


Twenty Twelve is one of the few GOOD things to come out of the Olympics - the only other good thing is 'The Tube', and that just seems to be a six-episode DON'T TAKE THE TUBE DURING THE OLYMPICS public service announcement). Let's hope for at least another series of this, and for more observational, situational comedy in this vein on the BBC, after the success of this show.

The story follows the Olympics organisational team, in the run up to the Games. They are departments like Legacy, Sustainability, Brand, Infrastructure, and quite brilliantly, noone understands what any of these words actually mean. The programme - from it's mocking 4-colour logo, to its brilliant camera pauses after a punchline - satirizes organisational bureaucracy, middle management and the language of management.

The standout star of the series is Jessica Hynes, who plays Siobhan Sharpe, head of Brand, and a character who is the physical embodiment of modern-day advertising jargon. She is perfection, and raises absolute hilarity in her inability to actually say anything. In the third episode of this series, she sat with three people from her agency, all just like her - amazing.
Even if the Olympics screws up your transport, takes over the TV schedules and makes you feel a bit annoyed all the time, don't worry - get this on boxset, and remember - something good came out of 2012.

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