Monday, 13 October 2008

Things we noticed watching tv this week (spoilers)

With everything that's been going on, I haven't watched as much telly as usual! But, having missed it first time around on BBC1, I caught the beginning of the Damages re-run on BBC4. I'd heard good things about it of course, but wow, I was immediately very impressed indeed. Episodes are being shown in blocks of two, so in under 120 minutes of screen time, I am already hooked.

Continuing our discussion about caring about morally questionable characters, Damages comes up with two absolute gems. I guess the protagonist of the show is actually Ellen Parsons. She's the Tom Cruise of The Firm character; a young, idealistic lawyer unaware of what the hell she is getting into. But far more fascinating to watch are Patty Hewes, her ruthless boss played by Glenn Close, and Arthur Frobisher, the man she is taking to court, played by Ted Danson (doing something we've never really seen from him before?). Very quickly, the intricate twists in the plot made us feel sympathy and revulsion for both characters in equal measure. First you were on the side of one, then the other. It's mighty writing and it did make me wonder, yet again, why we can't do more of this over here?

It can't be that the audience won't like it, because we lap these shows up when they come over from the states. I don't believe we don't have the writers, although it's true that maybe enough of the newer ones aren't getting a chance. We probably don't have enough risk takers in commissioning, but even that seems a weak excuse. Take Sunshine, on BBC1 with Steve Coogan. I will be talking more about this show next week but I happen to like it, in terms of what it was and what it set out to deliver. But it was all so frothy and cuddly. It's about a guy, a good guy at heart, who loved the people around him, and yet also has a gambling addiction that makes him betray them, and us as the audience, at every turn. The show didn't need to be horrible and grim and depressing. But some complexity might have been a good thing. Does it need, for example, the annoying, sugary voice over from his young son? What is this actually adding. The most poignant moment of the first episode was the sequence where opera music played over it and we saw Coogan lose all their savings and teeter on the edge. But tonally, it was completely out of sync with everything that had come before it.

But as I say, I liked the show and it's only 3 parts (another weird thing - can we not make longer running series either?) so I will be tuning into the rest. Can't wait for the next installment of Damages though. Saturday night, BBC4

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