Category Archives: bbc

House of Cards

I’m about a month late to the party on this one, but there’s still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I’ve seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that’s probably the coolest thing about it – it’s not cable at all – it’s only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

“House of Cards” is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time – a practice called ‘stripping,’ Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of “House of Cards” was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it’s that good. I highly recommend it. I just don’t know what I’ll be doing until season two comes out…

French Fry Diary 420: The Supersizers Go… Victorian

One Year, 26 Seasons, Seven Doctors

Now I have to say up front that there are a few other blogs and websites out there doing this, but this one is by my friend Terry Willitts, and his is the best. No, I’m not biased, it’s just that good.

Spinning out of his project for last year, a blog that covered every issue of the cult classic comic book Cerebus by Dave Sim – 2011: The Year of the Aardvark – Terry has taken on the original “Doctor Who” series with his new blog – One Year, 26 Seasons, Seven Doctors. Each day Terry examines one of the serials that make up the long history of the British Time Lord.

Check it out here.

Bookmark and Share

What I Liked in 2011

Rather than go whole hog and do a best and worst of blog entry this year, and besides I’m already a week or so late for that anyway, I’m going to be tardy and lazy, and just do lists. Sorry, but I’m burnt, that’s all you get this year. Here are the lists, bests, favorites, take your pick…

Movies – in no particular order – Hugo, Ra.One, Captain America: The First Avenger, Super 8, Midnight in Paris, Attack the Block, Thor, The Help, Source Code, and Bunraku.

Television – also in no particular order – “Hell on Wheels,” “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” “Doctor Who,” “Mad Men,” “Dexter,” “The Hour,” “Shameless,” “Castle,” “Chuck” “Louie,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Walking Dead.” And yes, I know that’s more than ten choices. Deal with it.

With the birthday gift of a Nook late in the year I have started to read again so I wanted to give a shout out to a few books as well. I liked A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Horns by Joe Hill, Supergods by Grant Morrison, Kraken by China Mieville, and Reamde by Neal Stephenson.

I didn’t really listen to much new music this year. I bought a lot of stuff from “Glee,” and new albums by Kate Bush, William Shatner, Adam Warrock and Robyn, as well as soundtracks to Ra.One, X-Men First Class, and “Treme” spent a lot of time on my iPod.

Comics – T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents by Nick Spencer, Aquaman by Geoff Johns, Secret Avengers by Warren Ellis, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE, Action Comics by Paul Cornell, and the new Defenders series from Matt Fraction are all up high in my opinion.

And, in short, that’s what I liked in 2011…

Bookmark and Share

Episodes

I absolutely love this new series from Showtime. The Bride and I are big Anglophiles and we love British television. We are frequently disappointed however when American television networks try to adapt a much loved British program for those apparently dumbed down American audiences. One prime example comes to mind – “Red Dwarf” and “Homeboys in Outer Space.” It is still truly the stuff of nightmares. And let’s not even mention the Fox telemovie version of Doctor Who, canon or not.

“Episodes” is a series about exactly that – Americans ruining British television. The best part is that it’s actually a BBC program. Writers Bev and Sean, played expertly by Stephen Mangan and the wonderful Tamsin Grieg (from one of my fave Britcoms, “Black Books”), are the creators of a successful series purchased by a American network executive who’s never seen it.

Task one, they recast it. In the title role of the elderly schoolmaster, they place Matt LeBlanc, having far too much fun playing a parody of himself, and reset him as a hockey coach. They additionally change the title of the show to “Pucks,” even though it originally had nothing to do with hockey. And that’s just the beginning. I’m loving this, check it out.

Bookmark and Share

French Fry Diary 192: Freaky Eaters on TLC

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

As it has since the beginning of the post-millenium series, “Doctor Who” returns for Christmas with a new special, a teaser of the season to come. This time, it’s a Dickensian Christmas-themed trip on a honeymoon spaceliner with returning cast Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as The Doctor and Amy Pond. Arthur Darvill also returns as Amy’s newlywed husband, Rory. At least that’s what might be expected from the previews, and the episode’s title, “A Christmas Carol.”

We begin on board a plummeting spaceliner, this being “Doctor Who” all spaceliners are doomed, but we find Amy and Rory arriving from the bridge of the ship, from the honeymoon suite, in meter maid and Roman soldier outfits (!), telling the crew everything is all right because they’ve called for help. Yeah, you guessed it, The Doctor, cue opening credits.

The spaceliner is careening into a planet whose atmosphere is controlled by an evil old man who refuses to grant entry, dooming the passengers of the ship, unless The Doctor can change his mind. Between the Dickens references, the Victorian steampunk culture of the planet, and the more obvious “A Christmas Carol” parallels, this is not what you think it is, and goes in a completely different direction. And I would expect nothing less from writer/producer Steven Moffet.

Yes, this is Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, but not in the way you think. While Amy and Rory are here, they are barely here. The story revolves around Michael Gambon as the Scrooge template, Kazran, whose past is altered helter skelter. Gambon is terrific here, as are his younger self Laurence Belcher and the love of his life Katherine Jenkins.

Steven Moffet spins a wonderful but bittersweet time travel tale that also mirrors last year’s season finale. It’s almost as if Moffet decided that if “Doctor Who” is a show about time travel, let’s make it a show a time travel gosh darn it – and he pulls out all the tricks. The result is delightful, and the Christmas tradition continues. I can’t wait for the new season to start.

Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who: The Big Bang

This is it, the finale. Last episode it was truly a 1966 “Batman” cliffhanger – The Doctor was imprisoned in the Pandorica by all of his greatest enemies and Amy had been shot, supposedly killed by the Nestine/Roman/Auton Rory at Stonehenge in 102 AD.

After the scenes from last week we get the caption that says 1894 years later to see Amy as a child praying for someone to come and fix the hole in her bedroom wall. This is significant as it skewers the rumors that the Doctor actually picked up Amy from the 1980s rather than the present day. Do the math.

What we see is very similar to the opening of this season’s first episode “The Eleventh Hour” – except there’s no Doctor, and no stars in the sky. With other things like star cults and Nile penguins, it becomes quickly apparent that this is an altered timeline. Young Amy is led to a museum by a path of Post-It notes Alice-style where she opens the Pandorica and is confronted by her older self. Cue title sequence.

My first reaction is that Steven Moffet was just watching a bit too much Bill and Ted. There is a lot of Bill and Ted time travel buggery going on here. You know, jumping back and forth in time quickly to make sure what you need is where you need it when you need it. It’s fun. Once. Not several times. But I have to say, Moffet covers his bets and makes sure everything is explained regarding these elements.

There are lots of cool bits in this episode. It felt sooo good when Rory punches the Doctor in the mouth. It’s even cooler when River Song makes a Dalek beg for mercy. And Rory seals his image with the ladies with perhaps the most romantic artist’s rendering ever. There were scary moments of premature realization when I thought maybe Amy was an Auton or perhaps DoctorDonna. There’s also the fez that the Doctor wears for a short time, “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”

There’s also an overlong backwards rewind through this whole season by the Doctor. In this we learn that not everything we have seen was the Doctor in his present time, at that time. It also serves to explain what I at first thought was an editing glitch in the Angels two-parter. When the Doctor is sans jacket, then with jacket and then sans jacket again – the jacketed Doctor was the Doctor from the future rewinding backwards.

“The Big Bang” was a somber and less special effects dependent finale than its first part, but it worked for me. It does suffer somewhat from Lord of the Rings-it is, in that it has far too many endings. The bad news is we don’t find out who River Song is, yet, so I cannot collect bets or pay folks off. I still think she could be the Rani…

So until Christmas… remember, in the words of Professor River Song, “the Doctor lies.”

Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

I can’t believe it’s almost over. Here we are at the final story of the fifth season (series for you Brits) of “Doctor Who.” As the title “The Pandorica Opens” implies, we’re going to get some answers finally, and man, are they something! Beware, there be spoilers ahead…

The Steven Moffet scripted episode opens with various characters from throughout the series – Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Prof. Riversong and Queen Liz all working to get a message routed through time via a painting and the TARDIS. The painting, by van Gogh is called “The Pandorica Opens” and depicts the TARDIS exploding.

Somehow we end up back two thousands years in the past with the Roman legions of Julius Caesar, with Riversong as Cleopatra. Don’t worry, it comes together. The Doctor, Amy and Riversong track the Pandorica to Stonehenge, and I half-expected an appearance of the Ogri from “The Stones of Blood,” one of my favorite old school stories. No luck, but there is a very cool Raiders going on when they discover the Pandorica, which appears to be some sort of prison cell.

This is when things get very bad. The Pandorica is sending out a signal, and apparently calling various alien races to Earth, and not good ones – all ones with a hatred for the Doctor. First the Daleks, then the Cybermen, and as if that’s not enough, it seems they are all converging on Earth – the Sontarans, the Judoon, the Silurians, the Sycorax, the Slitheen, the Atraxi, and the Autons among others.

Yeah, it’s the final battle with all the baddies with fanboy giddiness. You can almost feel Steven Moffet grinning as he wrote this.

Just as I was starting to like Karen Gillan as Amy unhindered by Rory, the old boy makes a reappearance, believe it or not as one of the Romans. And she still doesn’t remember him. And just when you might think it just can’t can’t get any worse … it does. Rory is an Auton.

Meanwhile Matt Smith’s arrogant promise-breaking Doctor has problems of his own with almost every one of his worst enemies in the skies. He momentarily holds off the warring alien races with smack talk, which would have been much cooler had it not been the same smack talk and the same trick he pulled at the end of “The Eleventh Hour.” It definitely seems like arrogance is going to bite Matt in the ass just like it did David Tennant last season.

And then the Pandorica opens. Wow. Once all of the elements of this season come together, it makes sense, and man, is it nasty…

So until next time… “Hello sweetie” … or should that be “Goodbye sweetie?”

Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who: The Lodger

“The Lodger” begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Three’s Company,” Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is “Doctor Who,” so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

“The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. “The Lodger” also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember… “Bowties are cool.”

Bookmark and Share