Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Origin of Series

We're trying to find something new to watch of an evening chez Stuart and have therefore been trying out some new stuff of late. What's rather lovely is the fact that - courtesy of Demonoid and similar - you can test the water of any new series, prior to shelling out for DVDs and box sets.

Hence we've watched the first few episodes of several recommended series over the past week or two, with mixed results.

Tru Calling
  • Starring: Eliza Dushku, who had previously appeared as Faith, the Slayer gone bad, in Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Premise: Dushku plays Tru Davies, a potential medical student currently working the night shift in the city morgue. To her surprise, dead bodies occasionally wake up in her presence and whisper 'Save Me' in a sexy voice, at which point she is whisked back 24 hours to enable her to do just that.
  • Good Points:
    • Dushku's very pleasant on the eye.
    • The acting (particularly Zach Galifianakis, who plays Tru's socially inept boss) is fine.
  • Bad Points:
    • It's the same plot over and over again, to the extent that after a couple of episodes you find yourself pointing out those little things unconnected with the plot that Tru will incidentally fix when the day rolls back (spilled coffee, smashed vases etc).
    • The scenario relies on Tru going up to complete strangers and basically telling them they are going to die that day - surely everybody would phone the Police?
    • The titles are dreadful and end on a shot of Dushku looking all moody standing over a grave.
  • Current RL Status: Cancelled six episodes into season 2.
  • Verdict: Tru-ly awful (boom boom). No chance of buying the DVD.


  • Starring: Ben Browder.
  • Premise: Browder plays Captain John Crichton, a late twentieth century scientist who slips into a worm-hole during an experimental space flight and ends up on the other side of the galaxy, surrounded by aliens.
  • Good Points:
    • Engaging lead character.
    • Some imagination has gone into the alien races for a change.
  • Bad Points:
    • Jim Henson is behind it all and so there is a certain Labyrinth quality to the puppetry (I kept expecting David Bowie to turn up).
    • It's a bit Buck Rogers, isn't it?
    • Polish subtitles on my copy aren't helpful.
  • Current RL Status: Cancelled after four seasons. Followed by a mini-series, The Peacekeeper Wars, which attempts to tie-up various loose-ends.
  • Verdict: Hard to tell after only one episode, but I think I'll stick with it for a while (J doesn't like space-based sf much though so I suspect it'll be on those rare occasions when there's no-one in the house bar me).

The West Wing
  • Starring: Martin Sheen, proper film actor and heart attack victim during the filming of Apocalypse Now.
  • Premise: Martin Sheen plays President Josiah Bartlet, recently elected President of the United States. The series charts the activities of the President and his coterie of advisors as they face the day to day crises which make up their public and private lives.
  • Good Points:
    • Great writing.
    • Great acting.
    • Great plots.
  • Bad Points:
    • The tendency to have the President thunder out something emotional at the end of each episode or have a touching quiet beat as the screen fades to the titles is a little annoying.
    • The theme tune itself reminds me of Dallas.
  • Current RL Status: Seven complete seasons.
  • Verdict: Brilliant. Hopefully the DVDs will be a Fathers Day present.

We also have Earth 2 to have a look at, but as West Wing seems to be a winner for both of us and Farscape worth persevering with for me, God alone knows when we'll get a chance to fit it into our busy couch-potato schedule.


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Blogger SAF said...

So that's why you had kids - for the Father's Day presents? ;)

That's a pretty spot-on summation of "Tru Calling", although I'd be disposed to be more charitable and call it 'average' rather than awful (tru-ly or otherwise). Maybe that was Eliza having a mellowing effect on me though! ;) I did have a good idea of what they *could* have done for one episode, but that would have required them to be a bit braver in exploring their basic concept.

"Farscape", yes, I should have warned you it is all a bit Buck Rogers, but if you do stick it out for the long term, you'll realise that's only it's starting point. It's like someone nicked that story and ran with it in all sorts of creatively brave directions - which is the sort of treatment other series could use/could have used (Tru Calling being just one of them!)

5:23 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Thinking about "Tru Calling" again, it seems to me that it would have made a great single episode of the X-Files or possibly a great short series of plays all starting with the same premise. It's just not flexible enough an idea to carry a long-running show, even with braver writing (so was your idea one you hope to re-use elsewhere?).

8:42 am  
Blogger SAF said...

Yeah, I think Tru Calling *might* have worked okay as a single-season effort, where they endeavour to explore all the aspects of the concept - but they'd already run out of variations early on in the show. (And just like you, we had to find our entertainment in playing 'spot the things she'd put right', but even that became a little too easy.) Unfortunately, I couldn't really do the idea without people saying, ooh, that's just like Tru Calling, but if I could think of some other time-travel series wherein I could write it as a short story or something, maybe I could get away with that sometime. ;)

11:16 am  
Blogger Philip said...

I've not seen the others, but The West Wing is absolutely top-league television. Up to season -- er, is it four or five? -- when Aaron Sorkin leaves and it suddenly becomes merely watchable.

People kept telling me this and I wouldn't believe them. But they were right.

6:53 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Philip: "Up to season -- er, is it four or five? -- when Aaron Sorkin leaves and it suddenly becomes merely watchable."
It's so good that we've found ourselves sitting up until 2 in the morning watching 'just one more'.

It'll be a huge disappointment if the quality starts going downhill (although we do have four season until we get there).

11:57 am  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

That's all wank, I can do you the first two seasons of Northern Exposure if you like...proper telly...

8:12 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Northern Exposure - is that the dodgy Jewish stereotype goes to live with dodgy Alaskan stereotypes, all directed by David Lynch whilst pissed?

9:14 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Dervla's already made a film with Chris Eccleston so you never know! ;)

Another Irish actress, Elaine Cassidy would be on my shortlist and Caroline Harker, older and thus more experienced, too.

11:29 pm  
Blogger Stewart M. said...

It's been nearly a decade since I've seen, but what I remember of Earth 2 is cringeworthy.

7:39 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Tim: "Dervla's already made a film with Chris Eccleston so you never know! ;)"

True - and it's a good film too. Caroline Harker would be rather good, now that you mention it.

Stewart: "It's been nearly a decade since I've seen, but what I remember of Earth 2 is cringeworthy."

It soudns promising, but then so did Tru Calling...

4:59 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Have you ordered your copy of "55 Degrees North", out next Monday? What's it like as I've never seen it? Dervla looks good on the cover. The longer hair suits her.

8:34 pm  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

I've just realised, that picture of Dervla looks exactly like Donna Robertson. Suddenly it all makes sense... :-)

9:30 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Tim: "Have you ordered your copy of "55 Degrees North", out next Monday?"

Dervla's not in it enough to buy, unfortunately - it's a download only job (it's not bad as an actual show, but not brilliant).

Scott: "I've just realised, that picture of Dervla looks exactly like Donna Robertson. "

No she doesn't, you wall-eyed freak.

8:33 pm  
Blogger Stewart M. said...

Any way you could be convinced to put that live 'Low' bootleg up on Demonoid?

6:38 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Stewart:"Any way you could be convinced to put that live 'Low' bootleg up on Demonoid?"

If I can find it, I will (it's a 2cd set with the other being his other set frm Meltdown where he did the entirety of, IIRC, Heathen in one go).

8:10 pm  

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