TV Review Day
5 Thoughts On Ashes To Ashes
1. For someone prone to sentimentality and a big old reminiscifest, Ashes to Ashes was always going to trigger in me some flashbacks to the period. It wasn’t like the first episode was especially “eighties” as the fashions of the time don’t overly contribute to the plot, but the soundtrack took me back to being an odd 6/7 year old who’d nip out to Woolworths (or ‘The Record Centre’ – a shop in Fleetwood that has been shut for 15 years yet I can still picture it in startling detail, my love of music started in that shop) and buy a single that took his fancy. And even though I was far younger in 1981 than any of the characters in Ashes to Ashes I’ve still ended up thinking of those years in the early eighties when the streets and park of Fleetwood where my playground. I had an idyllic working-class childhood, not much money but safe, fun and one which has left me with an unshakeable love of my home town. I know this is little to do with the TV programme but as LOM played with the affection people had for the seventies, then A2A (right kids!) took me back to an eighties which wasn’t about inner-city riots, Thatcher or the cold war.
2. Right, onto the show. It was okay for a first episode. Anyone with a love of LOM is always going to be harsh in judging the new show because it’s playing with something that people loved. But I’ll give it some leeway as first episodes always need time to bed characters in. There were some pointers back to LOM which I found interesting (but will stick to boring other weirdoes with, rather than anyone who reads this) yet one stood out and distracted me throughout the entire show. In LOM every shot featured John Simm’s character. Everything was in his imagination so he was in every scene, which made it interesting as we didn’t see any interaction between other characters so all we had to go on was what Sam Tyler knew. However, early on last night there was a scene in which the new character who had gone back to 1981 wasn’t in a scene. And then there were a few more without her in it. Now this could just be an oversight from the producers or just a decision that they can’t be bothered doing it that way again (that seems unlikely and would be immensely disappointing if that was the case) so this opens up countless thoughts as to what is going on, and has set my nerd forums to overdrive this morning. LOM held together brilliantly, it was all in his imagination so of course we wouldn’t see anything without him in it. So, how can we see scenes without the 2008 cop in it? Is she imagining scenes without herself in them, in the way that you don’t really have to feature in every dream you have? Or is Gene Hunt and the gang somehow real? Was every conclusion taken from LOM false? To the nerd forums!
3. The tone was far more tongue in cheek and rather cartoonish. This didn’t make it un-enjoyable but one of the reasons that LOM was so fantastic was that it managed to both humorous but also rather dark and gripping. I guess it would start to grate if it was played for laughs totally so hopefully it was just a bit of fun for episode 1.
4. I hope it doesn’t spoil the affection people had for LOM by taking liberties with it. By making A2A (kids?) vaguely slapstick and by making people question what they understood from the finale of LOM (see point 2 above) then there is a worry in my head that they may somehow damage LOM’s legacy, which would be a crime because…
5. I watched the final episode of LOM on BBC 4 following A2A last night (are all these initialisms starting to piss anyone off?) and yet again I was touched by how it may be one of the finest TV programmes the BBC has ever produced. I adored all of LOM but the final episode manages to be one of the most uplifting and beautifully touching things I will ever see. When I first saw the episode I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks and last night I lay awake with it spiralling around in my mind. I know I’ve written about this before but a TV show in which the hero kills himself at the end of it yet which manages to be such a terrific celebration of life is down to a fantastic script and one of the greatest displays of acting I have ever seen. Did John Simm win any awards for it? It’d be ludicrous if he didn’t. Hopefully the script won something as well, I obviously found its romantic idea of love, friendship, imagination and sheer joie de vivre so intoxicating that I still can’t stop rabbiting on about it. It’s fucking beautiful.
The 5 Very Worst Things About Torchwood
1. The acting. John Barrowman is the antithesis of someone like John Simm. I watched the Torchwood episode on Wednesday and was staggered that the director didn’t make him retake most of his scenes. Maybe they’d already done them 50+ times and he’d given up but Barrowman’s acting is appalling. The hammy looks to display emotion, the laughable air of sexual “menace”, the inability to convincingly play an action hero…..Christ he’s shit. He comes across as a likeable and funny man on talent shows – although one obsessed in cocks – but a good actor he ain’t. The others aren’t that much better and on the rare occasions when you get a good actor mingled in as a guest star then the comparison is embarrassing. When Barrowman acted alongside John Simm in the last series of Doctor Who – but thankfully never actually shared any screen time - he should have realised his own limitations and knocked it on the head.
2. Sexuality. If I was a gay man or lady I’d be embarrassed. Fuck, heterosexual men and women should be embarrassed as well. TV needs more positive gay characters in it, and the last thing it needs is hackneyed, pathetically basic homosexual caricatures like Torchwood. But what’s even worse than the fact that gay sexuality seems to have been reduced to a cartoonish innuendo straight from a seventies sitcom is that the sexuality of the characters is so poorly drawn and seems utterly arbitrary. Out of a team of 5 there appears to be 3 bisexuals (2 of them staggeringly unconvincing), 1 serial cheater who acts all pious about how much she loves the fiancée she cheats on and 1 goblin-faced heterosexual man they haven’t got round to clusterfucking hermaphrodite aliens yet…but that they undoubtedly will. No explanation is given as to the change in sexuality of any character, it just looks like the writers didn’t bother talking to each other when writing their episodes. Which is probably the case. This leads on to…
3. That all the characters appear as badly thought out sketches. A programme like This Life had a series of different writers yet the characters behaved completely convincingly and believably from episode to episode. All Torchwood characters are utterly one-dimensional and therefore you end up not giving a blind toss about any of them. Not one of them has a background or any discernible personality that they carry through every episode. Russell T. Davies must take the blame for this as he is the series producer and surely must ensure that all the episodes hang together, and that the audience actually has some understanding of his characters.
4. Now I understand the budgets are low but the special effects are frankly wank. Whoever designed the Torchwood van should have his hands chopped off, and a story about a lost dying alien has no emotional impact on the audience because:
a) John Barrowman’s inability to show any emotion through acting. I actually laughed when it died.
b) The fact that the lost alien looked like utterly shit
c) That the interaction between real actors and CGI was utterly false and poorly directed.
5. The scripts. I actually do slightly feel sorry for the actors forced to perform this utter shit. The dialogue makes me wince and the plots are dull, cheap and about as intellectual as Jade Goody’s anal cleft. This isn’t intelligent adult sci-fi, a 12 year old would be disappointed at the lack of thought put into Torchwood. I’m only watching it because I’ve turned into a bit of a ghoul and find the whole thing unintentionally funny.