Sunday, 31 July 2011

TV Snark - Torchwood Miracle Day Episode Three

The third episode has been and gone, but what happened? Don't worry, I'm here to remind you or inform you depending on whether you watched the episode or not. I don't know either way because I'm not in your house watching your every move. Honest.

The episode begins with yet another Oswald Danes TV interview, he's spouting conspiracy theories and claiming he can say what he wants because the government couldn't kill him. It's blissfully short as we cut to Rex interrogating his boss, Friedkin (or Newman from Seinfeld if you prefer). Rex wants to know why Friedkin framed him and Esther and had them thrown out of the CIA. Rex threatens to shoot Friedkin in the brain and Friedkin cracks and gives up his mysterious red mobile phone. Rex then thanks Friedkin by blowing out his eardrums with his pistol. What a bastard. He also uses the line, "Don't go deaf." That is awful action movie speak.

After the opening titles, Gwen comes back from the shopping (that used to be Ianto's job *sniff*) and bumps into a parade of The Soulless cult. They wear masks with sad emoticon faces. They don't do much else. Esther then explains that Americans use different words for things like crisps, lorries, mobiles, and petrol. Gwen is grateful for this advice as she apparently has never ever seen an American TV show or film. Also it seems that people are panic buying food, the food shortage subplot will now be ignored for the rest of the episode.

Colon + Open Bracket for Vendetta

Jack notices Oswald Danes on TV and decides to investigate him along with anyone else making a profit from the current situation. That will be a lot people, Jack.Jack tries to Google 'morphic fields' and gets 10 million results, he then gives up on looking for any info and leaves it for Esther to do as she said her job was to read blogs all day (her and most office workers, I reckon). I don't think Jack has used Google before. Esther doesn't bother with the Google thing and instead digs up a mention of a warehouse in Friedkin's secret files so the crew head off to investigate.

Gwen steals a car and drives on the wrong side of the road, hahahaha, she doesn't know ANYTHING about America. It's like she has a ridiculous gap in her knowledge for humour value, hahahaha. The team break into the warehouse and find that it's full of painkillers produced by PhiCorp. Gwen has heard of PhiCorp and exposits clumsily about how it's a multi national corporation and Rex adds some handy information about how well the painkillers work. They then discover the warehouse is "bigger on the inside" for a gratuitous Dr Who reference. Looks like PhiCorp knew about Miracle Day in advance (or they produce a lot of painkillers, being that they're a pharmaceutical company).

Dr Juarez attends the think tank where no-one knows anything apart from her. The subject of abortion is brought up and some pretty horrific imagery is discussed, but this is mainly a set up for a big dis on a Catholic doctor from Dr Juarez, which I guess the writer of this episode really wanted to fit in. Jilly Kitzinger is present at the think tank and is still an annoying and overacted character. She convinces Juarez to attend a PhiCorp symposium, I think Juarez agrees to shut Jilly up.

Back at the Torchwood... apartment, Rex is desperate to go public with the flimsy PhiCorp evidence that he's accumulated. He wants to bring in a former ally to help expose the truth to the public and arranges to meet his friend in the Freeville Hotel. He then says the name of the hotel again at the end of the sentence then the camera cuts to a shot of a building with Freeville Hotel on it, just in case we forgot what the hotel was called in the few milliseconds it took to change shots. Freeville Hotel.

Rex's friend is arrested at the hotel (can't remember its name) so he has a tantrum and drives off and leaves the rest of Torchwood in street. Jack then decides to go to a gay bar because... uh, he's bored I guess? This leaves Esther and Gwen alone to walk down the street and act sad about their families.

In the gay club Jack finds a bowl of sobriety chips at the bar, because apparently if you can live forever then you're going to say hell to getting sober and well, and instead relapse into alcoholism. It's such a ridiculous and ignorant moment that I'm speechless. Someone on the writing staff needs to actually read up on what alcoholism involves.

Rex can see us! RUN!
Rex breaks into Dr Juarez's apartment and demands she redress his wounds, then they have sex. Jack takes the barman from the gay club home and they have sex. We don't see any of the sex other than a shot of some bums, pre-sexy time as the BBC cut it out. I imagine the scenes were cut because they are ridiculously gratuitous - they don't occur naturally as a result of good storytelling and they're not there to further the plot.

Oswald Danes sneaks out of custody at a nearby motel and visits a diner. This bothers me because the diner is open and not closed or full of people looking to buy food. This is because I remember the food shortage subplot that the writers have forgotten. In the diner Danes is recognised by a couple of customers and chased off as they want to beat the evil paedo to a pulp. Danes is rescued by a couple of nice police offers who drive him to a nice quiet alleyway and beat him to a pulp.

chat, Rex finds out that Juarez is invited to the PhiCorp meeting and he asks her to infiltrate it for Torchwood. Juarez is not happy with this and kicks Rex out. Then Jack drunk calls Gwen and starts babbling about her and him and Ianto, but she ignores him to chat on Skype with Rhys.

Danes is dropped off by the nice policemen and Jilly is waiting for him. She offers the services of PhiCorp and invites him to the meeting.

Dr Juarez agrees to spy for Torchwood and Gwen shows Rex the magic contact lenses from series two and three. For those of you who don't know the lenses work like cameras and allow the Torchwood team to text instructions to the wearer that will appear in his/her line of vision. The lenses can also lipread. Gwen lies to Rex and tells him that the lenses will only work for her so she will be the one to infiltrate the PhiCorp meeting. Dr Juarez lets Gwen into the PhiCorp building and the espionage mission is on.

Jack notices that Danes is in the building and Danes does indeed meet with some shadowy PhiCorp executives. It seems that the evil corporation is so evil that they want to hire a paedophile as their spokesperson. I don't think this plan is going to work without making my brain explode.

In the meeting, PhiCorp announce that all drugs will be available without prescription. I don't know how they managed to convince the government to allow this but it's probably all part of the EVIL CONSPIRACY. So yeah, any drugs without prescription. I'm sure that won't cause more problems than it solves.

Gwen breaks into Jilly's office and downloads some of her files onto a flash drive. Then Friedkin's evil red phone rings, Rex answers but no-one speaks on the other end of the line. Esther cannot trace the call but reasons that the EVIL CONSPIRACY can so they flee the run down apartment that they've been working out of.

Jack goes to the PhiCorp building and encounters Danes. He threatens Danes in an attempt to find out what he's up to. Jack asks if PhiCorp have mentioned him but Danes didn't know who he was until now. Danes then admits to Jack that he doesn't feel sorry for murdering the school girl - he was pretending MWAHAHAHAHAHA! It also turns out that Danes has been hired by PhiCorp to be their new drugs spokesman (of evil). Danes then summons some guards who beat the crap out of Jack. Jack Harkness is not Jack Bauer.

NEXT EPISODE: It's a 1970s BBC TV Christmas special as Torchwood go on holiday to Spain! (It's probably California.)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Torchwood - The Video What I Made

I had some time on my hands so I dusted off my old college-level editing skills and put together this video about Torchwood. Because I love you.

Torchwood The Lost Files - Submission

The title of this audio play is a pun. It’s not a reference to Captain Jack’s favourite type of hanky panky but rather a literal description of what happens. The Torchwood crew go on a mission which takes place within a submarine or ‘sub’ if you like. Sub-mission. Submission. It’s a mission on a submarine. A mission on a sub. Submission. Do you get it now? Good.

Awful title apart, this audio play is actually quite enjoyable. I know, pick up your jaw, I was vaguely positive about something Torchwoody. It shocked me too. Here’s the official plot blurb:

“In Ryan Scott's episode, Torchwood are chasing aliens down the M4, when Jack accidentally blows a hole in the Severn Bridge, and the SUV hits the water. Whilst submerged John, Gwen and Ianto hear a strange noise, which, back at the Hub they realise is a cry for help. They track the cry to its source which turns out to be the deepest part of the Ocean - the Mariana Trench. Ianto rings old Torchwood flame, Carlie Roberts, who's an expert in marine geology, and Jack pulls strings with the US government to get them all on board the USS Calvin, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, which is heading for the Trench. From there they board the Octopus Rock, the only submarine built to withstand the pressure at that depth, and follow the signal. But when the Submarine crashes, the team are left at the mercy of a hungry alien.”

Conveniently, the team were in the water at the exact time required to hear the alien sound – it was at this point I started to roll my eyes in contempt. Luckily the play pulled it back with a simple but enjoyable plot from then on as Ianto contacts an old flame from his days in Torchwood One, and the team blag a submarine from UNIT (it’s a sub mission remember, submission). The tale combines elements of Bioshock and The Abyss to create a suitable creepy underwater menace, in particular there’s a menacing American voice that seems very Andrew Ryan like. Unfortunately there are the usual gaps in plot and logic that Torchwood does so well but they’re not quite as offensively stupid as usual and the alien has a reasonable motivation (even if staying in the deepest part of the Earth isn’t a particularly great way of luring new human visitors).

The play is full of continuity references and mythology that the show has dropped since series one. We hear reference to the original Torchwood offices (remember early in the show’s history when they mentioned Torchwood hubs in other UK cities?) and UNIT provide the submarine for the sub mission (Submission). There is some decent character work with Ianto as the writer gives him dialogue which isn’t just limited to being deadpan or flirting with Jack. John Barrowman is poor as always, audio is not a good medium for his skills as it’s obvious that he struggles to emote convincingly using only his voice. There’s also yet another attempt at portraying Jack as a ruthless saviour, prepared to sacrifice anyone to remove a threat to the human race, but it’s not convincing here just as it isn’t convincing when Barrowman is forced to play that role in the TV series. Eve Myles is as loud and enthusiastic as ever.

Maybe it was the playful dialogue that saved this play for me, there are jokes and retorts aplenty in this episode and they’re certainly a step up from the usual Torchwood attempts at witty repartee. This is still a Torchwood play though and you will need to ignore silly stuff like a highly valuable submarine only being operated by four poorly trained operatives with no previous submarine piloting experience on  a journey to the deepest part of the Earth. So yeah, usual logic problems aside, this play is reasonably entertaining for 40 minutes.

But man, that pun title. Submission. Get it? Yeah? Submarine mission. Submission. A mission on a sub. It’s a submarine and the people within it are on a mission. A submission.

Okay, I’m annoying myself now.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

TV Snark - Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode Two

Hello again. Join me as I describe what happened in the second episode of Miracle Day. JOIN ME.

First of all, the opening titles now read: "One Day - No One Dies" and then "Next Day - No One Dies". This reminds me of The Day Today (again):

Anyway, the show begins where it left off at the end of last episode with Gwen and Jack in CIA custody and about to be extradited to America. Rhys spells out the situation for the people back home and reminds them about Jack's mortality (although we don't know if he can actually die, just that he can be hurt and not instantly heal the injury). Gwen rightly objects that she's a British citizen and can't be extradited by the CIA but Rhys uses the writer's hand-wavy excuse of "...the Americans have been getting away with this sort of thing for ages." Oh well now it makes sense. Before it sounded like bullshit but now, well, it's the Americans so that's settled that. Rhys is then bundled off back to Wales along with baby Anwyn so he doesn't have to appear in the next few episodes.

Jack, Gwen, Rex and woman from Dollhouse who was also in Neighbours whose character name I didn't catch, get aboard a secret CIA jet. Rex immediately decides to offer the male steward a chance to feel him up if he fetches him a vodka. I think it was supposed to be funny but it sounded like a line no human being would ever say. It was also delivered by Meki Phifer who is quite possibly the worst actor they have ever had on this show.

Meanwhile back in the CIA offices, the staff are watching a YouTube video of Oswald Danes being executed. It is supposed to be a viral, comedy video but there is nothing funny about it but the actors have to react as if it's hilarious. Esther Drummond then explains to a colleague that India and Pakistan are no longer at war as due to the undying epidemic, no one can be reincarnated. Esther then decides to hassle her boss about Torchwood. Her boss is Wayne Knight - you may remember him from Jurassic Park, Third Rock From the Sun, or Seinfeld.

Wayne Knight has a hidden agenda and an evil red mobile phone. He is also in direct contact (well, via text message which seems somewhat inefficient) with the Dollhouse woman on Gwen and Jack's plane...

Back on the plane, Rex hassles Jack about his magic Time Agent wrist band. You know, the wrist band that only ever does anything useful when Jack appears in an episode of Doctor Who. Jack tells Rex that it measures sodium levels. Jack explains his theory about morphic fields to Rex, basically if a monkey on one side of the world learns to use a knife, then all monkeys learn to use a knife. This insane theory is texted to Wayne Knight by Dollhouse woman and he replies back with:

Oswald Danes is going to be on TV and he's preparing for his appearance by stealing all of the catering food backstage. This is because he's an idiot. He reasons it's because the world will run out of food and a mob of people will follow him wherever he goes from now on. But, no one will die of starvation will they? Okay, I presume they'd have the symptoms of starvation which would not be pleasant but then if I wanted to store up food, I'd choose stuff that would last longer than a day and not some tiny sandwiches and pastries from a catering trolley. Maybe he hopes to use the food to placate the angry mob that follows him around?

Then there's some Rex-being-dumb-with-Dr Juarez-on-the-phone stuff. It also sounds like Rex called Dr Juarez, Dr Walrus, which provided a rare moment of mirth for me during this episode.

Jack and Gwen want a drink so woman from Dollhouse makes them and adds some poison to Jack's. Jack's crazy morphic field theory (which he stole from Rupert Sheldrake) must never reach America!

Oswald Danes cries on TV so people begin to forgive him for being a murdering paedophile. Yeah. This part of the plot is both stupid and offensive. I know they're trying to introduce moral complexity to Torchwood (is it possible to forgive someone for such a terrible crime and how do you rehabilitate someone like that?) but it's like the characters of In The Night Garden suddenly having a discussion about global economics. Then there's a scene that introduces new, annoying character, Jilly Kitzinger. She offers to act as Danes' showbiz agent. She also mentions that there's a Twitter hashtag about Danes. If I catch you using that hashtag, I will find you. Jilly is really, really, annoying.

Dr Juarez attends a government think tank about the undying epidemic. We find out that animals are still dying so it's only humans that are undying. There's also a joke where the men mistake Dr Juarez for the coffee girl. BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN AND COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE A DOCTOR. AM I RIGHT? BLOODY HELL. SOMEONE GOT PAID TO WRITE THOSE LINES. ACTUAL MONEY THAT YOU CAN SPEND IN A SHOP.

Back in the CIA offices, Drummond's PC is stripped of its information by CIA operatives who decide to do it by physically going to Drummond's PC and taking the info via datastick and then changing her password while at her desk, rather than doing all of this remotely. This allows Drummond to see the deed and then when the agents leave her desk, she has time to check her password has been changed, receive a phonecallpasscard. Wayne Knight asks his minions if they have arrested Drummond, they reply in the negative because she wasn't at her desk. Oh come on. They couldn't wait at her desk for her to show up?

Drummond then escapes from the CIA building by passing one checkpoint with her stolen card. She clumsily flirts with the guard and escapes. The CIA are actually worse than Torchwood. Hell, CTU in 24 were never this bad.

Back on the CIA plane Jack is dying from arsenic poisoning. It's time for a team building exercise - cure arsenic poisoning using only the ingredients and objects available on a plane. Rex calls Dr Juarez and she gives a list of chemicals needed to cure the poisoning. Gwen solves this problem by shouting at everyone and finding a laptop battery, silver, ammonia, some de-greaser, and a bit of cyanide. She puts it in a kettle and heats it up for a bit and then injects it into Jack. It works. It's stupid. Oh and Gwen punches out the woman from Dollhouse while declaring her nationality.

Back in the think tank, Dr Juarez and co realise that everyone is still aging despite being undying. I don't think anyone in this show is in danger of aging to death. Dr Juarez reasons that hospitals are now in need of vast quantities of painkillers and drugs. Jilly Kitzinger conveniently turns up and tries to become Dr Juarez's pharmacy supplier. Jilly is still really annoying.

Rex and co arrive in America and Drummond calls Rex to tip him off to the whole being-kicked-out-of-the-CIA problem. Rex then helps Jack and Gwen escape from custody by beating up some CIA agents, and Rex snaps the neck of the woman from Dollhouse.

Jack, Rex and Gwen make their escape in Drummond's Mini. As they drive away they are confronted by this:

Gwen then welcomes Drummond and Rex into Torchwood.

NEXT EPISODE: The Torchwood team bicker and argue about who orders the pizza and makes the tea because Ianto is still dead.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Torchwood The Lost Files - The Devil and Miss Carew

No expense spent with the episode title cards this year!

Have you ever listened to the Shipping Forecast on the radio and thought, "Ooooh, that's scary"? No? Me neither but that's the concept behind the alien menace in the first of three Torchwood audio plays, The Devil and Miss Carew. Set in the gap between series two and three, this play features Gwen, Jack, Rhys, and Ianto. Yes people, Ianto is alive and well in audio play land. You can now sit by the radio and coo softly at his smooth Welsh voice as he flirts poorly with Captain Jack.

The Devil and Miss Carew features a technology hating alien that offers a new lease of life to the elderly in a scheme that stops making any kind of sense once you think about it for more than five seconds. The alien, named Mr. Fitzroy, manifests during the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 and offers to rejuvenate the elderly for the price of their immortal soul. In return the refreshed pensioners are supposed to aid Mr. Fitzroy's arrival on Earth by destroying the world's electricity supply because he really freakin' hates electricity. Torchwood bumble into the evil scheme and it's up to them to stop the end of civilisation as we know it.

There are so many problems with this play, a low budget affair that manages to be unambitious, uninspiring, and dull. First of all, the performances are poor. Eve Myles tries her best (and to her credit she always seems to be game for the latest Torchwood clunker she's handed) but John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd are awful. The lines are poorly delivered, almost as if it's the first read through of the script. A better performance from the leads could have elevated the piece a little during the numerous, chatty, character scenes but unfortunately Jack and Ianto make this threat to the Earth sound like an inconvenient trip to Homebase to buy some fuses.

The plot is littered with lazy conveniences and shortcuts. The Torchwood team don't really do much to solve the problem, they split up and wander around a bit. Jack and Ianto find the alien's stash of antiques and talk to him via the radio, which ends with them standing around wondering how they'll stop Mr. Fitzroy. In the meantime Gwen is beaten up by a pensioner (Gwen conveniently provides commentary while being battered) but after being subdued by the villain manages to convince her to provide a detailed breakdown of her plans and a convenient backstory via a massive infodump. Later on Gwen is rescued by Rhys because Rhys sits at home bored, checks Gwen's browser history, and then decides that's where Gwen is and he should go and conveniently check up on her. Very convenient.

This audio play is a waste of time, it doesn't provide an interesting threat, it doesn't give an insight into the Torchwood team, and it doesn't entertain. It's narrow in ambition while attempting to provide global threat. The idea of a creepy voice on the radio is a classic and should work well in this audio format, but here it's used rarely and only once for scares.

Luckily you can avoid this episode by not downloading it from the BBC site. Yay!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

TV Snark - Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode One

Torchwood is back! This time they're funded by American TV network, Starz. RTD is back on scripting duties for the first episode and the surviving members of the original Torchwood cast return. Everything is in place for more fun and frolics with the world's most inept secret organisation, let's go!

The episode begins with a news report about the impending execution of Bill Pullman's 'edgy' character, Oswald Danes (you may remember Bill as the president in Independence Day or as a nice guy in every film he's in). Danes is going to be executed because he's a paedophile and a child murderer, and an unrepentant one at that. Unfortunately my sense of immersion is already ruined because this opening news segment reminds me of the 'Chapman Baxter' execution segments on The Day Today.


Ahem. Anyway, Danes is laid out Jesus-like (SYMBOLISM) with his arms outstretched while lethal injections are administered. He screams and convulses as the poison courses through his veins and continues to do so until the executioners come in and stop the show. Apparently the execution didn't take...

Next up is a scene that mentions 'Torchwood' eight times in the span of just over a minute. It's like the scene in Being John Malkovich  where the eponymous actor goes into his own head and the dialogue is, "Malkovich, Malkovich." "Malkovich?" "Malkovich." Seriously guys, we know the name of the show.

During this Torchwood, Torchwood, Torchwood scene we meet Meki Phifer's character, CIA agent Rex Matheson. Rex is a douchebag because he's glad that one of his fellow CIA agents has a wife with leukemia. That means Rex gets promoted! Before Rex can celebrate too much, he is impaled by some metal rods that fall off a back of a truck (just like in The Descent). What a shame.

Rex was talking to another character, Esther Drummond. She has Torchwood pop-ups and viruses all over her laptop, which triggers the Torchwood discussion with Rex over the phone. The call is terminated when Rex is terminated. Esther is also American, blonde, attractive and in no way resembles a CIA intelligence analyst.

Gwen wakes up from a nightmare, says Torchwood again and then the titles roll. No, the theme music hasn't changed.

After the titles, Rex is taken into hospital and meets Dr Juarez. Then we're off to Craggy Island Parochial House...

Gwen is living with her husband Rhys and baby Anwyn in rural Wales. Gwen is now paranoid about visitors and glares at a passing helicopter and then nearly shoots some ramblers. Gwen has a house full of guns because she's so paranoid. The ramblers walk away but give each other a conspiratorial look. Evil ramblers.

CIA agent Drummond visits Rex in the emergency ward and meets Dr Juarez. Dr Juarez rather conveniently tells Drummond and the audience all about the rash of non-deaths in the last 24 hours. No-one on Earth has died, despite wounds or diseases. We then cut to some really poorly produced fake news shots talking about the global undying epidemic. The newsreaders dub it 'Miracle Day' (which they repeat several times in case you're hard of hearing).

There is then a completely nonsensical argument between Paedo Bill Pullman and a government official. Danes basically talks crap at this guy until he gives up and basically says, "Okay, you can go free now because we didn't kill you." Danes promises to sue the government for 'cruel and unusual punishment' and for keeping him against his will. I am pretty sure this is not how the US legal system works, guys. He's a self confessed murderer, the fact that he didn't die at his execution doesn't magically make him innocent of that crime (even if you do invoke Act of God). This scene makes no sense. But hey, it has to happen or we can't have some mad, sensationalist, 'paedophile takes over America' subplot. Sigh.

Rex wakes up in hospital and watches some poorly acted news clips. He is in great pain but no-one offers him painkillers. Dr Juarez explains that he didn't die, blah, blah, yeah we know.

Let's go back to Craggy Island where Gwen and Rhys are decorating. The fun is interrupted by the special Torchwood mobile phone that Gwen keeps tucked away. It's a call from PC Andy. Yay! My favourite tertiary character in the Torchwood franchise. He arranges to meet Gwen in Cardiff as it seems her dad is ill.

Drummond visits a government records building in an attempt to find more information on Torchwood. Apparently having Torchwood pop up on her computer once has caused her to go and hunt it down despite her friend being in hospital and a strange worldwide epidemic. She opens a lot of boxes. It's a bit dull. It's supposed to be exciting but it's not because Torchwood don't have any exciting secrets. She then bumps into Captain Jack. Then a black ops guy appears and gets shot by Jack. It seems to be a black ops team of one.

Black ops man won't tell Jack anything and reveals he is wearing an explosive vest, which he shortly detonates (after giving Jack enough time to grab Drummond and dive out of a window). KABOOM. Jack and Drummond land in a convenient fountain and he introduces himself. Jack then tells Drummond all about Torchwood, blah, blah, blah, UK agency, inept, blah, blah. Jack has hurt his arm which means he can die now. Possibly. Jack explains he released malware to remove all traces of Torchwood from Wikipedia (it wasn't very good as it caused Drummond to investigate him in the first place). Jack then uses the retcon drug on Drummond to make her forget all of this happened.

Jack then attends the autopsy/freak show of the blacks ops guy who blew himself up (he uses Owen Harper FBI as an alias). Black ops guy is in bits but still alive, his head is attached to his mutilated torso by a string of muscles. Jack suggests that the doctors cut his head off to see what happens. The doctors then just shrug and do as he says because they wanted to test the zombie theory too, I guess. The black ops guy is still alive as just a head. Eew.

Back in Cardiff (where no-one uses a Cardiff accent) Gwen & Rhys meet up with PC Andy where he tells them all about Miracle Day. Gwen's dad had a heart attack but didn't die. There's then a lot of talking in exaggerated Welsh accents. It's almost as if they deliberately made the accents as alien and indecipherable to the American audience as possible. It's like The Green Death all over again. Gwen and PC Andy do some research on Wikipedia (literally, they look up Earth on Wikipedia). The Earth will soon run out of food if people don't start dying soon.

Rhys and Gwen argue about Torchwood. Rhys demands that Gwen not investigate because the shadowy people who are out for Torchwood (whoever they are) will be looking for her. Gwen agrees not to investigate and decides to go back to Craggy Island.

Drummond wakes up in her apartment after being retconned by Jack. She notices she has mysterious bruises on her body and she can't remember what happened the night before. She does not report this to anyone, out of fear, embarrassment, or maybe because it's a regular occurrence for Drummond to get black out drunk? She rolls into work late where she receives a call from Rex. She mentions Torchwood to Rex as it seems she still has the files on Torchwood. Rex now wants to investigate Torchwood after he discovers that the last death on Earth occurred at the same time as the Torchwood pop-ups appeared on the CIA's computers (he also has to explain how timezones work to Drummond WHO IS AN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST).

Rex pratfalls his way out of hospital as he decides to go to Wales to investigate Gwen Cooper. He demands a handgun via Requisition 15 (a UK order from the last series of Torchwood, purely in as a geeky continuity reference as it makes no sense for Rex to know this). Rex stops to berate his Spanish maid and then gets on a plane. Rex arrives in England, gets a handgun from a helpful bobby (what?!) and learns that he has to cross the Severn Bridge to enter Wales and he has to pay for it. Haha. Wales is another country to England. Haha. Yes.

Rex blunders his way to Craggy Island (Drummond does all the work as she uses 24 style computer trickery to locate Gwen's house). Rex knocks on the door and is soon knocked out by Gwen and tied up by Rhys. Rex escapes in about three seconds as Rhys can't tie knots. Then a helicopter turns up and fires a missile through the house, missing everyone and flying out of a back window. The inept assassins are then shot at by Gwen thenJackturnsupinajeepandtheydriveoffandGwenfiresabazookaandblowsupthehelicopter. KABOOOOM. "Wales is crazy!" yells Rex. No. No it really isn't, Rex. Then the police turn up and extradite them to America because the CIA control the UK now, apparently. Yeah.

Then a trailer starts with, "This Season". What? Season? Splutter!

COMING SOON: The trailer goes on forever but at least Wayne Knight is in an episode.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

TwitterUp - X

Monday, 11 July 2011

Retrotastic - Nathan Barley

It's well weapon.
Nathan Barley was ahead of its time. It came too soon and faded away in a puff of obscurity and audience apathy. I think it's one of the greatest sitcoms to have spawned during the 2000s. Let me break down and pitch this 2005 sitcom to you, the savvy 2011 audience.

Nathan Barley was written by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris. Yes, the UK’s favourite critic and curmudgeon, Charlie Brooker. A man who in 2005 was lesser known than he is now but no less grumpy and brilliant. And Chris Morris. THE Chris Morris of The Day Today, Brass Eye, and Jam. A comedy genius and demi-god.

So we have two fantastic writers, PROVEN writers, men capable of making us laugh our lungs out – what’s the concept?

Nathan Barley is based on an item from Brooker’s TV listing spoof site, TV Go Home. Nathan Barley was listed as a reality show that followed the eponymous Barley around and broadcast his weekly activities for our derision. It’s all available here (it contains lots of sweary words so watch out):

Nathan Barley the TV show is a sitcom that drops the reality show idea and instead follows the life of perpetually skint journalist, Dan Ashcroft (played by a pre-Mighty Boosh famous Julian Barrett). Dan hates his life, hates his social circle, and spends his days writing articles he doesn’t want to write for an editor who clearly delights in torturing him (played with wonderful, sneering, malevolence by Charlie Condou). Then one day Dan encounters Nathan Barley, a self-facilitating media node, or idiot as Dan repeatedly calls him. Nathan runs his own website,, a place where he uploads prank videos, urban art (inspired by Banksy but with none of the intelligence), and terrible flash animations. Nathan is a loud, swaggering, insecure, cock, desperate to impress anyone and everyone with his 'art'.

The problem with this concept is that in 2005 YouTube didn’t exist as we know it today. YouTube didn’t exist. Twitter didn’t exist. Facebook was in its infancy. Bloody hell. Can you imagine the primitive hell hole we all must have lived in then? So the idea of someone being ‘internet famous’ and having a social profile online was an alien concept for the majority of the primitive, stupid, 2005 audience with their books and outdoor living. I bet some of them still used dial up connections. Or MySpace. Poor bastards. The world of Nathan Barley must have come across as some bizarre fantasy world, alienating and frightening. Of course now everyone is plastering their stuff all over every social media site in the universe, and we have all seen a YouTube video and are no longer confused by moving images on a website. Anyone who lives in a metropolitan city has seen the idiots in action, in their natural environment. And while print media and the lifestyle magazines lampooned in the show are slowly dying, they're now all over the internet so now there's no real reason to feel alienated or not really understand who the show is mocking.

Another problem for new viewers is that there are no sympathetic characters. Dan Ashcroft is the closest to a viewpoint character but he’s a hard man to like. He’s miserable and hypocritical with a superiority complex. Nathan Barley is an obnoxious, nonsense spouting, idiot. Claire Ashcroft is less dislikeable than her brother Dan but it becomes clear that her moral principles can be easily compromised in her struggle to publish her work. But then, isn’t that realistic? Isn’t it good that a somewhat larger than life, exaggerated sitcom has characters with actual personality traits and recognisable behaviour? Other supporting characters in the show are broad comedy figures but then most of them are supposed to be ‘idiots’ (apart from Jonatton Yeah? the editor of SugarApe magazine and someone who seems to be above, but also revels in, the idiot culture).

To offset the strange characters and setup, the cast is uniformly excellent. Here’s a list of some of the very talented people in the show:

Nicholas Burns (in the comedy performance of his life as Nathan Barley)
Claire Keelan
Julian Barrett
Noel Fielding
Richard Ayoade
Charlie Condou
Nina Sosanya
The Actor Kevin Eldon
Rhys Thomas
Benedict Cumberbatch

All very capable, funny, comedy actors. Hell, one of them became Sherlock Holmes.

2005's problems aside, Nathan Barley is very, very funny. From the ludicrous fashions that the idiots wear to the unique dialogue spouted by Nathan Barley and his new media peers, it's all weapons grade silliness. Dan's repeated attempts at escaping the idiot lifestyle are hilarious and excruciating at the same time and become ever more desperate. I would guess that Dan is an uncomfortably familiar figure to a lot of frustrated misanthropes.

I would recommend you buy it on DVD because the menu is amazing in its own right. Each menu page has a sketch or scene of its own running in the background, specially made for the DVD menu. Here’s a compilation of the various menu bits that’s really fantastically well cut together:

The entire series is available on YouTube if you’d like to dash off and check it out. Episode one of Nathan Barley is here.

Here’s an interview with Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker, looking back on Nathan Barley. Check it out, it's well fucking futile.

Also, here's Jonatton Yeah? being a tosser (I love it):

Keep it foolish.