Thursday, October 22, 2009

TV Viewing Diary: October

Having watched Sunday's decisive Brazilian GP from Interlagos on the (extremely biased) Fox Sports channel, I then downloaded the BBC's own (extremely biased) coverage via iPlayer.

This featured an amusing pit-lane encounter between Martin Brundle and a determined lady called Tania from She'd been waiting to interview Vettel but the wily old brummie got in first, though the hackette was in shot beside him mentandole la madre in krout as he asked a few pertinent pre-race questions.

V later quipped that this Tania had behaved as if she'd come down early to place her towel on the Red Bull driver!

Another funny moment came when Barrichello came on the team radio shortly after exiting the pits in order to screech "what the hell happened to the car?" His race engineer tersely replied "don't forget you're running heavy" possibly meaning "don't forget that 600m people just heard that".

Poor old Rubens makes Terry Gilliam look like a lucky bastard.

Other than that, I'd have to say that David Coulthard is yet to work out how to look relaxed on TV and the new presenter Jake Humphrey (who jumped across from the kiddies' CBBC) looks a bit like one of those freshly-intaken graduate trainees back at H&K.

I've been watching fewer movies this month thanks to the deluge of US serials either arriving or returning. Most notable amongst the newbies are Modern Family and Flash Forward (cast pictured). Meanwhile, Two and Half Men, Heroes, Nip/Tuck and Dexter are all back with new seasons.

Modern Family is about one part watchable to two parts unbearable (though I reckon V would probably say one part watchable to eight parts unbearable.) Its faux-liberal — but in reality quite conservative — laugh-at-everyone satirical format is hamstrung by its clichéd portrayal of gays and latins, and the whole thing is anyway painfully derivative of the mocumentary genius that was The Office of Ricky Gervais.

We're far more likely to stay the course with Flash Forward, the new sci-fi soap from HBO. (And it's likely to be a long course as Joseph Fiennes has signed on for five years.)

This series is an uncommon combination of both over-reaching ambition and a lack of it. In its key premise the writers seem to have bitten off a bit more than they can chew. America's finest minds may be sitting in a room dissecting this truly profound global event, but what we have here is essentially a police procedural in which it has become the FBI's problem to solve...and so far their best idea has been to set up a website.

If I'd been writing this I'd have taken a bit more time to brainstorm (or research) the full implications of every human being on the planet blacking out for 137 seconds. The team here have decided that the worst thing that could have happened is a bunch of aeroplanes streaming all over the place with nobody at the controls, and to emphasise the point, we hardly ever get to see a tall building in LA which doesn't have a big chunk missing from its flank. (And we had that ludicrous cut across to London with Big Ben blazing in the background!)

And where's the hysteria? We all remember how the American populace responded to 9-11, yet after the first ten minutes of episode one everyone seems to be acting more or less normally. The more the timeline moves away from the blackout — in which every human being who was still going to be alive in six months' time had a vision of what they would be up to then — the more you wish they'd keep flashing back to the flash forward, so to speak.

The big unresolved issue at the end of part four is whether these visions of the future are fixed. Within that, and particularly pertinent to Special Agent Noh, is the issue of whether those who experienced no flash forward are slated to expire, and there's really nothing they can do about it.

If I were running the FBI's 'Mosaic' website I'd be inclined to statistically examine this matter of the walking dead before all others, and if I were Agent Noh the thought of standing in front of a bus today to see if I could 'change' the future would at least have crossed my mind.

I know this has to be dragged out, but the believability of the show is being threatened by an apparent lack of determination to resolve the issue of determinism quickly enough.

As for the show's apparent under-ambition, the writers have tried to position it closer to the (dumb) mainstream than show's like Heroes and Lost. The latter is said to have two kinds of viewers: those who watch it to see Kate and Sawyer in minimal attire and those who will still be debating the metaphysical implications of it all some ten years after the final season. Flash Forward represents an attempt to carefully roll these two audiences together, but de-geeking inevitably means making the script that much less cerebral.

They also appear to have tried to limit the number of truly beautiful people in the foreground, which also contributes to the lower-key, soapy atmosphere and perhaps explains why it was snapped up in the UK by Five rather than Channel 4.

For all its faults, the show has both me (geek) and V (non-geek) hooked, so the innovative format appears to have been efficacious so far.

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