Home > Monthly Report (TV), TV > TV: February 2011’s Television

TV: February 2011’s Television

I’m still catching up with these, but unless procrastination gets the better of me March’s posts will arrive promptly in April once I’m off work (so probably the 6th onwards). This month the first monthly review post covered gaming (which was last  in January) and now it’s the turn of television, followed by film and ending with the month’s reading.

 

Finding suitable images for the ten new entries (both for their big image below and the smaller one above) was rather time-consuming. It will be easier when I'm able to re-use more of them.

Image sources: Jed, Mitchell, Francis, Enoch, Brennan, Kitty, the Turok-Han, House, Jack, Brian and Albert (Buffy is a capture from the DVD).

I watched more television this month thanks to two things. The first is simply that some programmes have returned from their seasonal break and I’ve jumped straight back in, and the second is thanks to Sky, our satellite TV provider. In February they relaunched their main TV channels, turning Sky1, Sky 2 and Sky3 into Sky1, Sky Living and Sky Atlantic. Sky 1 carries on pretty much as it has before, showing the biggest programmes and most of Sky’s original quiz, documentary and reality entertainment, Sky Living seems to be aiming a little more towards a female audience (which isn’t to say I’m writing it off as a girly channel or anything, but the branding and programme choice does seem to be aimed at a specific demographic) while Sky Atlantic is the new home for HBO programmes and things of a similar nature.

This relaunch meant there were quite a few new things premièring this month, and while in general I’m supposed to have sworn off new programmes (both because I have plenty to watch and because cancellation rates are so high right now) I did end up starting some new things, and nearly ended up watching The Sopranos again from the beginning and would have done so for Six Feet Under if I didn’t own the DVD box set. Here’s everything I did watch (there will be some general spoilers):

Bedlam (TV, Sky Living) - season one, three episodes

Bedlam is one of those rare things, an original drama from Sky (most of the time they’re happy to rely on US shows, with reality TV knock-offs or basic quiz shows being the things they make themselves). It’s based around a former asylum where lots of horrible things happened, but which has since been converted into luxury flats. The spirits of the tormented inmates latch onto residents and try to kill them, and each week some of the team try to find out what happened to the ghost so they can give them peace.

Outside of one potential villain all the main and guest cast are young and attractive and the scares aren’t particularly scary, relying on techniques that have long since become cliché. The ghosts have a particular fondness for playing with electronics, turning on TVs, starting up MP3 players and things like that, tying into the creepiness of something like The Ring (which I think also used a TV early on to provide menace) but really overdoing it. I do like some of the cast and it’s not been bad, but mostly it’s just been okay. If it was longer than six episodes I don’t know if I would have stuck with it, but it’s short enough that I’m comfortable sticking with it until the end of the season.

 

Being Human (web, BBC iPlayer) - season three, two episodes

I did it again, I allowed a programme I was watching online to expire before I could watch the remaining episodes, just as I did with Misfits last month (which has since reappeared online but which I still haven’t caught up with). I don’t know quite what to do about that as I don’t think they’ll return to iPlayer any time soon and I do want to watch them as it’s a good series. I’m either left with buying/renting the DVD, waiting for a possible repeat or just pirating the thing.

As with Misfits I enjoyed what I watched of this new season of Being Human and Lacey Turner was a great guest star in the first episode. I really must get better at keeping on top of these online broadcasts.

Blue Bloods (TV, Sky Atlantic) - season one, three episodes

This isn’t an HBO drama (broadcasting on CBS in the US) but fits the Sky Atlantic remit. It’s about a family who are almost all connected to the law, mostly serving in the NYPD at various ranks, with one being a district attorney. I don’t know enough about CBS to know how likely it is to end up suddenly cancelled but the previews (and presence of Tom Selleck) convinced me to give it a try anyway and so far it’s been good.

The opening episode was about an abducted child, but rather than save the rescue attempt for the final few minutes that aspect resolved earlier on and it switched to being about finding evidence and securing a conviction, which I didn’t expect. It’s not exactly The Wire in its depiction of police procedure but it does seem like it’s not just going to be about physically catching the bad guy. It seems like they’re adding some sort of secret society or conspiracy element to the series that could be a little odd and kill any semblance of realism, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt right now.

Boardwalk Empire (TV, Sky Atlantic) - season one, five episodes

This is one of the new shows to debut with the launch of Sky Atlantic, an HBO drama about Atlantic City during the Prohibition era. With Martin Scorcese and Terrence Winter (of The Sopranos) involved in the writing, casting and directing it was almost guaranteed to be good, as well as popular enough to avoid cancellation (especially as the nature of HBO means it seems less likely to finish shows early, notable exceptions like Deadwood and Carnivale aside).

So far it’s been good, though it’s mostly being carried by Steve Buscemi and Kelly MacDonald, the stand-out cast members of what is quite a large cast. It does have a similar issue to that of The Sopranos, namely that almost all of the main characters are villains who are actively killing and corrupting and being a negative influence on everything around them, while they are also being represented as the people the viewer should like and be sympathetic towards, which at times can be hard to do. By and large they aren’t good people in bad situations as much as they’re bad people making situations worse. It helps that those who are supposed to be enforcing the law and trying to bring down the main cast are little better, but to an extent means that there aren’t many characters that I’m able to easily invest in.

It is well written though, with that same The Sopranos mix of drama and dark humour, and I am enjoying myself so far.

Bones (TV, Sky Living) - Season six, four episodes (5-8)

Bones started off in quite a silly fashion and back then I wasn’t sure I would stick with it, but either it improved or I became inured to a lot of the silliness because I really do like it and consider it a highlight of my TV week. The only major ongoing irritant revolves around Angela’s ridiculous computer tricks, where she is able to extrapolate things she couldn’t possibly get out of her simulations or does things that are outright impossible. Even if they are written as a big joke it’s still annoying.

I don’t have much to say about the three episodes I watched, they were mostly just Bones on regular form. I don’t know where they’re taking the ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship between Brennan and Booth, which has been going on from the start of the series without resolution. Booth has currently moved on and found love with new cast member Hannah, but I’m guessing she’ll suffer the fate of everybody who gets in the way of a WTWT relationship and be written out in some form before the season ends.

 

Brothers & Sisters (web, 4oD) - season five, three episodes

I maintain that I was tricked into originally watching Brother & Sisters. Of its main cast there was Rachel Griffiths of Six Feet Under (a show that was important to me in several ways, similar to American Beauty), as well as Ron Rifkin (probably the defining character of Alias), Balthazar Getty (a major character in Alias‘ final season) and Patricia Wettig (a recurring character of Alias). Throw in Rob Lowe, Calista Flockheart and Sally Field and you have a decent cast.

None of that changes that Brothers & Sisters is basically a soap, not really hitting the same notes as something like Six Feet Under which sits much more in the realm of… ‘pure’ drama or something. I find it very enjoyable though, in part because of the cast but also because it’s written well for what it is, and really do look forward to seeing the next episode.

I don’t really have much to say about season five specifically, at least not yet. They’ve kicked things off with a big shift for almost all the characters, an event at the end of season four altering their careers or the direction their lives were heading in. It’s all created plenty of new conflict and I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s all going.

 

Where do we go from here?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (DVD) - season six, thirteen episodes (10-22)

I was still watching a Buffy a day in February and got through the rest of season six, the ‘dark’ season. I said in last month’s post that I liked this season when I watched it originally, enjoying the darker themes, and that has remained true with this rewatch. They use the darker elements to tell some good stories and put some of the characters through a lot of pain, while still having plenty of the snappy dialogue and humour (especially around The Trio) that makes the series so great.

There were maybe three big arcs to this season. The first is The Trio, who are the main antagonists through most of the season (though not the Big Bad of the finale) and who, in typical Joss Whedon fashion, aren’t conventional villains, being a trio of nerds who aren’t particularly evil, just ambitious and feeling that they’ve been treated badly by the world. I would definitely consider them a success, especially thanks to them providing some much-needed light-heartedness to a dark season.

There was also Willow’s magic addiction, an ongoing problem through the season with plenty of peaks and troughs for the character and her friends and sets up the finale, where something happens that turns Willow into the Big Bad. That was both a big surprise and a great development, something that kept surprising as the final episodes progressed and ultimately resolved perfectly.

The stand-out arc for me is definitely Spike’s. The way he develops from season two to season six (and beyond) is excellent and I think I’d have to say he’s my favourite character of the series. His relationship with Buffy in this season, really falling in love with her even though she could never feel the same and is only using him, gives him some great moments. It also works surprisingly well even though Spike is still essentially an evil, souless vampire. Both before and after becoming a vampire he always fell in love easily, so while it’s very different to Buffy’s relationship with Angel it still feels like some sort of love. The  way the season ends for Spike was another major surprise, and was ultimately the biggest hook to keep people wanting to see the next season.

Speaking of which…

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (DVD) - season seven, sixteen episodes

This is exactly the kind of picture I was looking for but it’s too small for my default 425*90 image size. I can’t be bothered to track the scene down on my DVD though so it will have to do.

I also got through the majority of Buffy’s seventh (and final) season in February. Considering that at the end of most seasons the gang faced the end of the world and Buffy had already died twice it wasn’t guaranteed that the writers would be able to successfully escalate things to make the final season feel sufficiently more epic, but they actually did a good job. As February only saw me up to the sixteenth episode I’ll leave any discussion of the finale until next month, but the build-up was already present this far in.

While still firmly based in Sunnydale there are attempts to add a global feel to the danger, with the Big Bad targeting potential slayers (replacements for when the current Slayer dies) and their watchers all over the world, ultimately leading to them coming to Buffy for protection. The Big Bad is seemingly unkillable, has an army of ancient, stronger vampires to call on, and for most of the season it’s difficult to see how Buffy can prevail.

It’s also a season that looks back quite often, referencing past events and including brief guest appearances, making the final season a reflective one in addition to building up to some level of finality, as well as returning the focus to Sunnydale High (finally rebuilt after being destroyed in season three) and the Hellmouth, the ultimate reason that Buffy lives in Sunnydale and why the town attracts so much evil.

I think it’s a very strong season but most of the reasons for that are better explained once I’m ready to talk about the season in its entirety, so that will wait until next month’s report.

 

House MD - (TV, Sky1) - season seven, three episodes (9-11)

I really do love House MD, however formulaic it is. I love seeing Hugh Laurie starring in a high-profile drama without having to play a twit or aristocrat (something UK television never managed) and the character of House is excellent, one of my favourites.

Right now the season’s focus is on the currently resolved ‘will they, won’t they?’ between House and Cuddy (which appeared from time to time but wasn’t a mainstay like the versions in Friends, Chuck or Bones). House has his moments of self-doubt about his right to be happy and how the relationship affects his job, but mostly his being in a relationship means he’s expanded his general selfishness to include Cuddy, as making her happy is good for him. If that means attending dinners or helping her daughter get into the right schools then he’s happy to exert all his intelligence and manipulation into those things, and for me it’s resulted in plenty of great moments.

There has also been a lot of focus on temporary cast member Masters (played by Amber Tamblyn), who has joined the team while Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen is absent (thanks to Wilde’s movie commitments). She’s naive but principled, functioning as House’s moral compass now that Cuddy is somewhat compromised. In one of this month’s episodes she chose doing what was right over preserving her own career and I can’t help liking the character. It will be a shame when she’s gone.

Bathed in light.

The Pillars of the Earth (TV, Channel 4) - 1 episode (6)

I said everything I needed to say about this last month. It really was very good.

Spaced (TV, Channel 4) - season one, four episodes

In the films round-up last month I talked about Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Spaced is where they got their start, a comedy series about a couple of flatmates and their friends. It’s been fun so far, sprinkling in plenty of pop culture references in a way that I haven’t seen much of on British TV in a while (especially references to things specific to nerd culture), and it’s happy to pull out the occasional surreal moment to add to a joke. Good stuff.

Treme (TV, Sky Atlantic) - Season one, two episodes

I love The Wire, though I think almost everybody who has ever watched it loves The Wire so that’s not much of a revelation. Treme is the new series from the same creative time, moving from Baltimore to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina and the devastation that hurricane wrought upon the city.

All of the hallmarks of The Wire seem present so far (as well as some of the cast). Things like episodes that don’t just present a conflict at the start and conclude it, a large and varied cast, great dialogue, interesting stories and a look into the culture of the setting. It’s long-form enough that two episodes isn’t really enough to have a proper opinion on it though, so I don’t have much to say.

*****

February Verdict

Quality – The weakest programme of the month was Bedlam but I still liked it for the most part. Everything else are things I would say are genuinely good, though there are a few of the new programmes that I don’t think I’ve invested in enough to say that I would be bothered about not sticking with them. We’ll see how they go.

Quantity – I watched a great deal more television this month than I did in January thanks to some things returning and new ones premièring, and I’d say I’m about reaching capacity for what I can watch in a day without it affecting other things (and might already be more than I should watch). Right now on my days off I’m making sure to get through everything recorded that week but I don’t necessarily need to do that in the future. The whole point of a digital video recorder like Sky+ is that you can set the schedule, watching things when you want to rather than having to watch them when they’re on, and while it doesn’t have unlimited space there’s enough room that it wouldn’t hurt to let things build up. That’s something to think on.

Goals – As with last month this post is being written too late for me to be able to set proper goals for March, though if I had set some it probably would have been to make the effort to catch up with Misfits, figure out what to do about Being Human and buy Angel on DVD so that I have something to watch when I reach the end of Buffy. I also have a bunch of Castle episodes on the Sky+ that I can’t watch because I missed some that came before them, so I need to catch up on those somehow.

01/02/11 Tue Brothers & Sisters TV & Film TV 5 1
01/02/11 Tue Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 10
01/02/11 Tue Pillars of the Earth TV & Film TV 1 T
01/02/11 Tue Pillars of the Earth TV & Film TV 1 6
02/02/11 Wed Boardwalk Empire TV & Film TV 1 1
02/02/11 Wed Bones TV & Film TV 6 5
02/02/11 Wed Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 11
03/02/11 Thu Boardwalk Empire TV & Film TV 1 2
03/02/11 Thu Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 12
04/02/11 Fri Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 13
05/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 14
06/02/11 Sun Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 15
07/02/11 Mon Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 16
08/02/11 Tue Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 17
09/02/11 Wed Being Human TV & Film TV 3 1
09/02/11 Wed Bones TV & Film TV 6 6
09/02/11 Wed Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 18
10/02/11 Thu Boardwalk Empire TV & Film TV 1 3
10/02/11 Thu Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 19
10/02/11 Thu House MD TV & Film TV 7 9
11/02/11 Fri Blue Bloods TV & Film TV 1 1
11/02/11 Fri Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 20
11/02/11 Fri Spaced TV & Film TV 1 1
12/02/11 Sat Blue Bloods TV & Film TV 1 2
12/02/11 Sat Brothers & Sisters TV & Film TV 5 2
12/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 T
12/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 22
12/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 6 21
13/02/11 Sun Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 1
14/02/11 Mon Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 2
15/02/11 Tue Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 3
16/02/11 Wed Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 4
17/02/11 Thu Bedlam TV & Film TV 1 1
17/02/11 Thu Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 5
17/02/11 Thu House MD TV & Film TV 7 10
18/02/11 Fri Being Human TV & Film TV 3 2
18/02/11 Fri Bones TV & Film TV 6 7
18/02/11 Fri Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 6
19/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 7
19/02/11 Sat Treme TV & Film TV 1 1
20/02/11 Sun Boardwalk Empire TV & Film TV 1 4
20/02/11 Sun Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 8
20/02/11 Sun Spaced TV & Film TV 1 2
21/02/11 Mon Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 9
22/02/11 Tue Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 10
23/02/11 Wed Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 11
24/02/11 Thu Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 12
25/02/11 Fri Bones TV & Film TV 6 8
25/02/11 Fri Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 13
25/02/11 Fri House MD TV & Film TV 7 11
26/02/11 Sat Brothers & Sisters TV & Film TV 5 3
26/02/11 Sat Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 14
26/02/11 Sat Spaced TV & Film TV 1 3
26/02/11 Sat Treme TV & Film TV 1 2
27/02/11 Sun Bedlam TV & Film TV 1 2
27/02/11 Sun Boardwalk Empire TV & Film TV 1 5
27/02/11 Sun Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 15
28/02/11 Mon Bedlam TV & Film TV 1 3
28/02/11 Mon Blue Bloods TV & Film TV 1 3
28/02/11 Mon Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV & Film TV 7 16
28/02/11 Mon Spaced TV & Film TV 1 4
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