Monday, 25 July 2011

Sugartown: lost in the schedules where no-one will watch (or is that the idea?)

If a tv show can be lost, then Sugartown is lost. Marooned it is: adrift at 10.25 on a Sunday night when really it should be on at least three hours earlier.

Because then at least it might get some viewers.

As it is, the audience who might want to enjoy 60 minutes of lightweight tv napping featuring Sue Johnston and the bloke from Miranda who is married to Tamsin Outhwaite (Tom Ellis) - the people who probably liked Heartbeat, thought Wild At Heart was quite good or maybe even enjoyed a New Tricks now and again - will all be in bed.

But that, of course, is based on the assumption that the team who made it actually want people to watch it.

So you have to wonder at such apparently odd scheduling times - it's not like Sugartown needs to be on so late.

The content's hardly lesbian crack house sex positions (assuming that's what passes for 'late night' tv content these days - tv-ooh doesn't know, tv-ooh likes Homes Under the Hammer).

In fact, Sugartown is so undemanding it really is like an afternoon snooze while on holiday at the sea - and proper telly critics will probably hate it.

A proper and slightly desperate sounding PR-style synopsis is here, but, just to save you clicking, it's basically a three part comedy drama set in a fictional Yorkshire seaside town (shot back in February in Filey and Scarborough - I bet it was cold).

There's a factory making sweets, and it's run by a good brother, but the good brother has a bad brother and the bad brother wants to sell the factory, while the 'characters' speak in quips and are all good-natured and there's also some sort of engagement party, and a daffy young girl who makes mistakes but is meant to be endearing and then a confusing but community-gathering dancing-scene as a sort of finale finishes things off.

That's basically yer episode one.

It's got 'undemanding, lightweight fare' written all over it, and isn't actually any worse (or indeed any better) than plenty of other stuff on tv.

It's also got a decent ensemble cast of recognisable faces, but some of them appear to be doing it just because they look like they need the work.

Which is fair enough of course - we've all got bills - but this may, on reflection, explain the scheduling after all. Perhaps they didn't think it was any good either.

It's Candy Cabs all over again.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Killing: is that relentless rain ever going to stop or what

A programme called The Killing was never going to be a barrel of laughs.

But the murky grey depths reached in this US remake of a Danish murder/mystery may leave you agog.

Or it could just be the misery of the relentless rain in nearly every single shot.

It's set in Seattle (instead of the original's Copenhagen) and this new 13-part series, now showing on Channel 4, follows detective Sarah Linden, played by Mireille Enos.

Sarah's only hours away from a new start in LA with her husband-to-be and stroppy son when she becomes embroiled - embroiled, I say - in a new case following the discovery of teenager Rosie Larsen, drowned in the boot of a car, and hauled from a river.

How did she get there? Who killed her? How many different gut-wrenching ways can we see her family express their grief?

Cheery, it is not.

'Oversize jumpers'

And, in a subtle lesson that seems to suggest a working mum cannot, in fact, successfully manage a work/life balance after all, Sarah seems a bit on the edge: she's got an annoyed husband-to-be on the phone (he'd already left for LA); she eats soup from a saucepan; wears oversize jumpers that 'don't do a lot for her' (Copyright: my mother); and seems dependent on nicotine gum.

All this as the murder case itself begins to take over her life, while her son stays with a family friend on a boat.

The plot's thickening up nicely, probably not unlike that soup she ate from the saucepan, and several possible suspects are emerging.

There's several spoilt rich kids with evil faces and hair that says 'bad' in more ways than one; a political candidate and his various hangers on, ripe with narrow-eyed ambition; and even a school teacher.

What's more, there's going to be a season two - so it will be interesting to see if the murder of Rosie Larsen is even concluded in 13 episodes (but let's hope so).

Best of all, is Sarah's sidekick, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who is reminiscent of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

And although the addition of a cute talking dog with an affection for oversize sandwiches would probably cheer things up a bit, it's more likely that Scoobs himself wouldn't fit well with the overall air of doom and foreboding of The Killing.

At least not yet, that is. Come season two and he could well be cast as the comedy relief.
  • Here's a trailer for season one:

Monday, 18 July 2011

John Barrowman: "John Barrowman"

There aren't many people you'd see both merrily performing an obscure Texas album track while wearing a navy blue blazer with glittery lapels (Tonight's The Night) and then, a short time after, see the very same person engaging in alien derring-do with guns and drama (Torchwood).

It may sound incomprehensible. It may sound like the stuff of ridicule (err...) but this is, in fact, the force of nature known as "John Barrowman" - he is, in a word, a sort of phenomenon.

Admittedly a modern-day showbiz sort of minor phenomenon - he can act and sing and appear in tv and on the stage and is probably quite good at dancing too, but we don't know for sure.

And, just to be clear, if you Google phenomenon, it is defined thus:

1. A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, esp. one whose cause is in question.
2. A remarkable person or thing.
Let's ignore definition 1 (is his cause in question? It would be if we questioned it), and focus on 2.
You'll see that "John Barrowman" fits, neatly and perfectly.

We might not like it. We might not want it. But we have to acknowledge, for only then can we begin to heal.
But the thing with this "John Barrowman", is that it's best to take the bits you like, the bits you prefer, and ignore the rest.
We can accept "performers" who are "versatile" and "don't like to be pigeon-holed" but there's something disconcerting, something a bit flippin' mental, about seeing the same man who plays the heroic and tough Captain Jack so well in Torchwood, re-invented as Mr Saturday Night.
There he is, singing his songs and making viewers' dreams come true (as long as those dreams generally involve singing on stage in some way), with no apparent regard for narrow-minded audience members unable to comprehend he's both an actor and a singer and capable of successfully avoiding typecasting to do both.
And now, as both programmes run concurrently -  Torchwood has begun a ten part new series and Tonight's The Night shimmys onwards - one thing is clear.
Readers, we are in for bumpy, confusing times ahead.
Let's be strong for each other.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Oh, Pam St Clement (Pat in EastEnders): What are your post-soap options?

A job on a soap is like the showbiz equivalent of a job with the council: people tend to stay for years, having quickly become used to the routine and the regular money.

But it doesn't go on forever - and the fact that actress Pam St Clement - her off EastEnders - has described her decision to leave the programme after 25 years as "like a bereavement" suggests she's never experienced the death of a loved one, or that her job means a huge amount to her.

I think we can assume it's the latter.

But what of her options? What next for the lady who played Pat Harris/Beale/Wicks/Butcher/Evans and her famous earrings, which look like the heavy type that may one day result in droopy lobes?

She does panto
A favoured route for many ex-soapies. You can, apparently, "clean up" with a two month spell in Aladdin in Peterborough, so handsome are the rewards for working over Christmas in a provincial theatre with an X-Factor runner up.
Likelihood for PstC: 2/10

She releases a single
PstC re-invents herself, at the age of 69, as a Gaga/Britney hybrid, recording a record with Gaga producers RedOne, and shooting a raunchy video in a dry-ice filled warehouse somewhere, surrounded by a flux of dancers gyratin' to the oh so pumpin' beat. It would be called "I wanna" and part of the title would be in brackets - something like "(do it now cos I likes it)". Only PstC would call them "parentheses" as she's posh in real life.
Likelihood for PstC: 2/10 (if only!)

She does a one-woman show
A popular choice for certain actresses released from telly shows, eager to 'tread the boards' and get back to performing in front of a live audience, this could happen - possibly.
Likelihood for PstC: 5/10

She disappears to a cottage in Suffolk with a long term life partner called Wendy or Angela
Self-explanatory - she needs a rest after all. Twenty-five years in EastEnders would knacker anyone.
Likelihood for PstC: Little is known of PstC's personal life, so who knows. I bet she likes gardening though.

She endorses gambling
See former EastEnder's colleague Barbara Windsor and her online bingo ads where she's dressed up as some sort of Fairy Godmother. Fine for Babs, but for Pam? We can't see it somehow.
Likelihood for PstC: 0/10

The verdict
Simply, we do not know at this time. (Although an interesting piece on the Daily Mirror website suggests she wants to travel.)

Only time itself, and the hope that she has a good agent, will reveal the true path of Pam St Clement's professional future after her departure from EastEnders.

Either way, tv-ooh salutes you, ma'am, and your dedicated service to television drama, loudly patterned dresses, droopy earrings, and authentic cockney accents (as she's posh in real life you know).

Monday, 4 July 2011

Torchwood - Miracle Day: It's back, and so are Russell T Davies interviews. How marvellous!

Isn't it nice to see Russell T Davies back on the promo trail ahead of the launch of the fourth series of Torchwood: Miracle Day, due on BBC One from 14 July.


During his four years as chief writer and executive producer on Doctor Who he appeared on tv as often as the show's actors.

So his departure from the programme at the end of 2009, at the same time as David Tennant's Doctor, left only a hollow echo, a void, an ache, and probably a bum groove on the BBC Breakfast sofa, where once there were excitable cries of 'Hooray!', How marvellous!' and 'Oh we were hooting!'

He knows exactly how to play the game of course, because he'd probably much rather be at home watching Coronation Street.

But now he's doing the rounds again for this new series of Torchwood, a 10-part co-production with US network Starz, in which we're told the central plot theme is that no one dies, and so far Mr TD has been talking about it, and a lot of other things, on the BBC, in the Guardian and on Den of Geek.

Torchwood itself meanwhile looks suitably epic and important and global and gripping but with jokes about the Welsh and characters who talk about emotions - it is everything you'd expect from Russell T Davies in sci-fi drama mode, so in a way we don't even have to be concerned - it'll probably be very good.

It's just nice to have him back for a bit.

Here's a trailer for Torchwood anyway.

They've got an orchestra.