Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Catherine Tate On The Sunday Night Project – January 2009

I think most people know the drill by now regarding reviews for this particular show. It’s not something I normally review but if there’s someone from Doctor Who hosting it, I make the exception and following Billie Piper, David Tennant (twice) and John Barrowman, we’ve got another person from the fave sci-fi series on hosting duties.

This time around it’s Catherine Tate and given that’s been a while since she’s been on TV (I think her last TV appearance was the tribute to Geoffrey Perkins), I have to admit I had high expectations for her episode, which delivered of course.

Catherine might get a lot of flack from her hit sketch show as well as a reasonable amount of praise but one thing I’ve found evident is that the woman is naturally funny. She had me in stitches when her and David Tennant were on Jonathan Ross back in April last year and suffice to say, she does play a blinder here as well.

Hosting the news segment is always going to be funny but it didn’t surprise that the first five minutes would see Alan and Justin needle her about Doctor Who, including of course her own thoughts on Matt Smith being cast as the Eleventh Doctor. Much as I like Alan, he does tend to take the piss out of sci-fi stuff a bit too much and it’s kind of sad that we do get to hear about the more negative aspects of fandom in moments like this.

Catherine admitted herself that she was a bit stunned when she learned that a minority of viewers really didn’t want her on Season 4 of Doctor Who. I have to admit that I had reservations but I’ve also admitted on enough occasions how brilliant she turned out to be.

More interesting was her mentioning that one fan wanted to paint her breasts. As a Doctor Who fan who collects certain merchandise (DVDs, actions figures, some books) and has dabbled in some fan fiction writing (nothing overtly slashy I hasten to add), I do have to ask – where do these people come from? That being said, Catherine did seem to deflect the fan’s request pretty well.

In terms of the sketches, there was some fun to be had. Catherine did make for a rather fetching Doctor and Justin looked pretty close to “The Runaway Bride” Donna as best he could while Alan missed the point and posed as Lauren. The Big Brother sketch also raised a smile but taking the piss out Big Brothers has always one of the reasons why I keep watching this show. Plus the Lady Gaga one did stir some thoughts of Little Britain for obvious reasons.

Of course, there were some interesting tid bits revealed about Catherine during the show – one of them being that she’s not a great cook. This provided a decent source of comedy when she, Alan and Justin did a Celebrity Come Eat With Me but she still managed to beat the pair of them. Seeing as I’m unlikely to pose a threat to Gordon Ramsay culinary wise, I’m not exactly going to criticise her for.

The quiz section was definitely another good moments. It was nice that we got another Doctor Who person with Bernard Cribbins and Catherine’s definitely not above shocking an 80 year old man when he gets something wrong. The question though however was a bit too brief and I was kind of hoping that we would’ve gotten more on that.

I suppose the reason why is that aside from being asked if she was bullied at school for being ginger or if she had a nickname on the Doctor Who set, I was kind of hoping if someone was going to ask if she was coming back to Doctor Who but given that filming has now started for the 2009 specials, I’m sure I’ll find out the answer to that in due course.

- The quiz section is missing. I have to admit to being glad with that seeing as I usually tended to tune out during those. The Local News part is a decent replacement.

- Alan and Justin did a spoof of sorts of the Donna/Naked Doctor scene from “Journey’s End”.
- Catherine admitted that originally Tony Blair wanted to do a sketch with Nan but she pointed out that you don’t win with Nan. She also joked (presumably) about maybe doing something for Comic Relief.
- Catherine’s Mutya impression was a bit Lauren-esque or was that just me? I still think Coolio’s a bit of a div though.
- No prank segment in this episode. Those are the parts I tend to enjoy with this series.
- Imagine being a girl in a school full of 300 boys. Wow.

Quote Of The Episode

Catherine Tate (about Matt Smith as The Doctor): “He’ll be the first Doctor to travel in the TARDIS with his parents”.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x21: "Harmonic Divergence"

Written by Jane Espenson
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Harmony (to herself): “Here’s the thing about fame. It’s good to touch.”

If someone had to escape LA before it became Hell on Earth as well as the crappiness that is “After The Fall”, then Harmony is surely one of the more surprising of candidates.

I’ve never really been a big fan of Harmony and she really didn’t do much to fill that Cordelia shaped void in Angel’s fifth season, even if she did have some good moments in episodes such as “You’re Welcome” and “Shells”.

The Harmony we see now however is far from living in hell. In fact, her only problem seems to be getting into Elite the nightclub due to their policy of not letting dogs in the premise. Surprisingly enough Harmony decides not to throw a hissy and leaves rather discretely. For Harmony, this has got to be a first of sorts.

However her hunger for fame (which as far as I’m concerned is hardly a character stretch – she is after all Cordelia without the life lessons) does lead her into meeting up with Andy Dick of all people. Sadly for Andy, their encounter in a dark alley pretty much winds up with him being dead by the end of it.

Of course Harmony being the self centred madam she is thinks she’s nabbed a rather cute headshot of herself when we’re not being treated to a description of her eyes, hair and lips. Yeah, I’ve never thought of Harmony in that way before and this certainly isn’t going to make me start now.

The biggest reveal however is that Harmony’s killing of Andy Dick is that vampires are now known in the public. However instead of being feared, which is what you normally expect they’ve managed to become something of a zeitgeist.

Harmony’s more than thrilled to take such credit for her innovation and wastes no time in wrangling herself an agent. Most would be starlets would prostitute themselves. Harmony doesn’t bother with such old fashioned techniques but why would you when it’s so much easier to just vamp them on sight?

By doing that, Harmony gets an agent and also manages to get herself a bloody show for MTV. Yeah, these are the same people who’ve given such dreck as The Hills, so even if I still want to stake Harmony, her series can’t be as dire as that, right? Plus, she does make a convincing argument when she pitches herself as the hero and villain of the series, Harmony Bites.

From the look of it, Harmony Bites isn’t exactly something to jump up and down about in excitement. Mostly, it’s just Harmony being her dippy self and endearing herself to a public who should really know better by now when it comes to these kinds of shows.

Naturally because she manages to become a household name in such a short space of time, Buffy and Willow become very worried. My problem here is that while conveying concern is good and all, neither of them actually do anything to immediately stop Harmony in her tracks.

Instead the focus seems to be on yet another recently activated slayer. Like the poor girl in “The Chain”, this one also doesn’t warrant a name, so immediately you feel that she’s going to be a dead Slayer by the end of the story. More than that, she comes from a dangerous gang who are not happy that she’s eager to leave them.

In fact they decide to beat her to a pulp and it’s only when the slayer stuff kicks in does the girl successfully fight them off. The one thing that it’s interesting about this girl is her joy of being liberated from one gang, only to realise that another one will only be too eager to take her in sooner rather than later.

The other gang is obviously a reference to Buffy and her band of slayers and our nameless girl decides that she can’t be bothered looking for them. Unfortunately for her, they send Andrew of all people to find her and like the general audience, she’s not pleased to see him.

My hatred for Andrew has softened a bit with these comics. He’s not quite as annoying as he was in Season Seven of the series and the writers have been wise in only using him sparingly but when it comes to meeting slayers, he really does lack certain finesse with getting them on side.

He might have some essential points about certain slayers becoming corrupted without a stable influence to guide them but he did come across as rather condescending as well and to be fair, Buffy herself wasn’t any much better on the phone to the girl as well.

If the girl was unconvinced by Andrew, then she should’ve been convinced by what Buffy had to say. I know with so many slayers getting activated out there that it’s got to be hard to keep sounding sincere when recruit them but I just got the impression that Buffy wasn’t making the effort here.

In other words, I don’t blame the other girl for throwing the phone back at Andrew and storming off. Plus given that she just got out of a vicious gang without being seriously injured, her reticence to become a part of any other family is understandable to put it mildly.

There’s further celebrations of this girl having her freedom when she gets a new tattoo over the gang one she had but it’s the arrival of Harmony and her entourage at this parlour that nicely sets up some good moments. Of course, Harmony’s going to be dumb enough to talk about the place being so “grubby and authentic”.

More importantly, though is the return of Clem. With so many characters reappearing in this series, I knew that at some point we would’ve seen Clem but I wasn’t him to be acting like Harmony’s gay best friend for her crappy reality show. Plus he was totally pestering her to get a tattoo as well and she didn’t seem all that interested.

A bigger dilemma however was having our unnamed slayer discover that Harmony was a vampire. Given that this girl was vowing to stake the undead without joining Team Buffy, I have to admit that Harmony is slightly a high brow target – which totally means she’s going to get killed a collector of unicorn paraphernalia.

Scoring an invite to a party to do the deed however is easy when you’re hot. Security on the other hand are less easy to pull the wool over so our nameless girl needs to be careful of slaying Harmony. You just know that she’s going to fail and leafing through the pages is a car crash waiting to happen as a result.

For the most part, the girl just tries to blend in and even manages to tolerate one of those sad cases who seems to get off on vampires draining them. These are probably the same people who’d find the Twilight novels complicated as well but at least filming on the latest episode of Harmony Bites takes place.

Storyline wise, it’s not gripping but it fits Harmony’s profile. Some deluded lad wants her to sire him so they can be together forever but she’d rather play the field. Maybe Harmony has a point. Most of the men in her life do end wanting to kill her but that’s more to do with her being a general annoyance rather than the danger she poses to society.

Nameless slayer on the other hand is less patient to see if Harmony is going to sire herself a soul mate and decides to simply just kill with the handy stake she made on the spot. Seeing Harmony drop her puppies before tussling with the girl raised an immature giggle but that’s not a bad thing people.

As fights go, this girlie one isn’t the best we’ve seen but newbie slayer’s heart is at least in the right place. She wants to protect people from the likes of Harmony but she handled this badly and not only does Harmony use her stake against her but she also drains her in front of a captive audience.

When you’ve got even Andrew realising that murder isn’t entertainment, you just know that Harmony’s crossed a further. By rights, this should’ve earned her a good staking but given that her murder of slayer caused ratings gold for her show, the position of slayers is put in a bad light.

For this however I do have to blame Buffy. She didn’t act soon enough and thanks to Harmony’s media manipulation, she’s practically shot her band of slayers in the bloody foot. The only question is, does Harmony’s glorification of vampires benefit Twilight’s anti-slayer/magic cause or not? Undoubtedly, we should find out sooner rather than later.

Also in “Harmonic Divergence”

The main cover for this issue included Harmony with her two dogs on each arm.

Harmony (re her dogs): “Oh, can you really say no to this perky pair?”
Bouncer: “No animals in the club.”

You gotta love Jane Espenson for managing to cheekily get in the headline – Hot Vamp Gets Tastes Of A. Dick. Just priceless!

Producer: “Hmm … I dunno. Seems like it needs a villain.”
Harmony: “No, see, that’s the hook! With me, you’ve got a hero … with a villain built in.”

Buffy (upon realising Harmony’s famous): “What the hell?”
Willow: “Pffft. She’s no Tina Fey.”

Harmony Bites can be viewed weeknights at 7pm on MTV. Funny that she bemoans the billboard approach a little.

Unnamed Slayer: “I feel totally free. But I figure it won’t last. If I know anything about good luck, it’s that something always shows up to take it away.”

Andrew: “Hi. Can we talk about your destiny?”
Unnamed Slayer: “Oh, crap.”

Andrew and Vi’s commercial from “The Chain” is briefly seen again in this issue beside another TV screen showing a gorilla.

Buffy: “We’ll protect you. We’ll train you. You’ll be part of a family … togetherness! Unity! Sisterhood!”
Unnamed Slayer: “I understand those words. I’ve hear ‘em before. I’ll slay the hell out of vampires but I ain’t joining no other bunch of girls. I’m doing this alone.”

Unnamed Slayer: “What the pink hell is this?”
Cameraman: “It’s Harmony. You know her show, Harmony Bites, right?”
Unnamed Slayer: “Um … no.”
Cameraman: “That’s okay. It’s probably not gonna make it. Reality show about a vampire, only nothing much ever happens.”

Some of the tattoo designs included a Buffy and a Fantastic Four logo as well as a five by five one.

Random Girl (to Unnamed Slayer): “Oh maybe you’ll get lucky tonight, though. It’s fun when it happens. It’s like you feel weaker but you feel like that’s okay.”

Harmony: “It’s my party and I can have more than one date if I want to!”
Guy: “But I want to be something special to you! Come on; turn me into a vampire like you and we can be together forever.”
Harmony: “I don’t know if you deserve that.”

One of the other celebrities we got in this story was Anderson Cooper and Andrew’s a fan of Spiceworld of all movies to be into.

Harmony (re Unnamed Slayer): “I’m terrified. This girl is clearly a slayer. People are gonna like slayers, right? This could really hurt my show.”

Willow: “Buffy, it seems like the world doesn’t know we’re the good guys.”
Buffy: “No. They do. They have to. Right? They can tell who’s wearing the white hats?”

The second part of this arc is called “Swell” and it’s released on February 4th.

As a start to the first part of a new arc and plot inconsistencies aside (would the general public be that accepting of vampires so quickly?), “Harmonic Divergence” is a mostly fun issue to read. Jane Espenson’s writing is on good form and I’m looking forward to seeing where this further progresses as a story.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Remnants Of 2008

Best Show (UK):
Doctor Who. Because apparently I’m easy that way and this show really did deserve it.

Worst Show (UK): Rock Rivals. Because whoever came up with this deserves a swift kick in the back side. TV at its most pointless.

Best Show (US): Dexter. Because the second season really went above and beyond the levels of excellence I wasn’t expecting.

Worst Show (US): Gossip Girl. Because it continued a trend of bad US teen shows that doesn’t seem to be letting up.

Best Villain: Benjamin Linus in Lost. Seriously this guy just ruins you by being in his company or by being related to him.

Worst Villain: Eden Lord in Nip/Tuck. Poorly written character played by a very weak actress and that’s me being nice.

Best Spin-Off Series: Ashes To Ashes. I know some might strongly disagree but I had fun watching this series unfold.

Best TV Death: Chris Miles in Skins. Top marks to Joe Dempsie throughout the second season for his consistently brilliant performances as the pill popping teen.

Worst TV Death: Elle Bishop in Heroes. Poorly realised in my opinion. Surely the girl could’ve been kept around for Fugitives at least.

Shocking TV Moment: David Tennant announcing his Doctor Who departure and now, the casting of Matt Smith as his successor. Both surprising, neither bad.

Sexiest Male On TV: Gareth David-Lloyd in Torchwood. What can I say – I love Ianto like everyone else. Sometimes it’s good to heed the majority.

Sexiest Female On TV: Kristin Bell in Heroes. She’s just got that certain something I can’t put my finger on.

Excellent Use Of Flashback: The Torchwood episode “Fragments”. Everything you wanted to know about Jack, Owen, Ianto and Toshiko joining Torchwood got nicely explained here.

Best Finale: Doctor Who’s “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End”. Yes, it reeked of fan fiction but I still adored both episodes. Lost and Brothers And Sisters came a close second/third.

Yes, Kids Are Annoying: The Scavo twins in Desperate Housewives. Less really is more if you catch my drift.

Neither Use, Nor Ornament: Holly Harper in Brothers And Sisters. Get rid, get rid, get rid and did I mention – get rid!

Good Reality TV: The Apprentice. Still amusing as far as I’m concerned and even the Irish version was fun to watch.

Bad Reality TV: Big Brother 9. Just plain abysmal.

Best Gay Couple: Kevin Walker/Scotty Wandall in Brothers And Sisters. And this is coming from someone who originally wasn’t that keen on the latter.

Worst Gay Couple: Julia McNamara/Olivia Lord in Nip/Tuck. Every couple on this show is bad nowadays and these two continued the trend.

Best Straight Couple: Dexter Morgan/Rita Bennett in Dexter. The second year certainly went further in giving them depth as a union.

Worst Straight Couple: Julia McNamara/Christian Troy in Nip/Tuck. Again, every single couple on this show is bad nowadays and these two did even more than any other pairing.

Best Guest Appearance: Julian Bleach in Doctor Who. Davros might have been overshadowed by his creations but Bleach made for an excellent presence in the season finale.

Worst Guest Appearance: Victoria Beckham in Ugly Betty. I know she didn’t exactly have a demanding role but she could’ve at least made the effort.

Industrious Character: Maria LaGuerta in Dexter. Who else would play on a co-worker’s paranoia in order to get their job back?

Lax Character: Tommy Walker in Brothers And Sisters. Not a criticism on Balthazar Getty but Tommy does seem to do damn all on the show.

Killed Too Soon: Danielle and Alex in Lost. Their deaths might have made more of an impact if they had been fleshed out better as characters.

Difficult Season: Heroes. Season Two was literally in some places a chore to watch and Season Three has been pretty hit and miss in certain places.

Best Revamp: Lost and its use of flash forwards. Who would’ve thought this would have worked as well as it did?

Worst Revamp: Nip/Tuck moving to LA. Less interesting patients and some irritating moments from our main players.

Good Show Producer: Bryan Fuller. Apparently he’s going to fix Heroes.

Bad Show Producer: Tim Kring. You’ll never make friends if you refer to your audiences as halfwits.

Best Male Character: Dexter Morgan in Dexter. Because of him, I can no longer criticise people who find the likes of Tony Soprano appealing.

Worst Male Character: Peter Petrelli in Heroes. Only because there’s so much whinging I can take from this character.

Best Female Character: Donna Noble in Doctor Who. I was stupid, Donna rocks, end of story.

Worst Female Character: Lana Lang in Smallville. How not to write a female character on a sci-fi show.

Most Improved Show: Torchwood. Season Two went above and beyond in silencing critics.

Least Improved Show: Nip/Tuck. Season Five was a hot mess and I’m not sure the remaining eight episodes will fix it. Then again, I hope I’m wrong.

Best TV Partnership: The Doctor/Donna Noble in Doctor Who. Alex Drake/Gene Hunt come a close second though.

Worst TV Partnership: Gabriel ‘Sylar’ Gray/Elle Bishop in Heroes. Clearly Sylar doesn’t play well with others, even with ones he sleeps with and then murders.

Best Use Of Music: Skins. Some pretty excellent choices throughout the second year, especially in the last few episodes.

Best Cancellation: Moonlight. Bland, boring vampire show deservedly got staked.

Worst Cancellation: Pushing Daisies. Surely ABC could’ve given this another chance.

HoYay Award: Merlin/Arthur in Merlin. Undoubtedly inspiring a lot of seedy fan fiction in its wake as well.

Good Use Of Retcon: Sara not being dead in Prison Break. I like her and she’s been good in the fourth season.

Bad Use Of Retcon: Rebecca not being a Walker in Brothers And Sisters. Poor judgement on the writers’ part.

2009 Hopeful: Dollhouse, which will hopefully not have the same fate as Firefly when it premieres in February.