Friday, January 11, 2008

Fairy Tales - Echo Beach / Moving Wallpaper - Shameless - Grand Designs - Torchwood - Primeval

Quick TV round-up for those who care!

(c) 2007 BBC - still from Rapunzel - Fairy Stories

Last night saw the airing of the first of four Fairy Tales on BBC One, with Rapunzel finally letting her hair down at the tennis. The anthology of tales with a contemporary retelling were all shot in Northern Ireland by Hat Trick. The Daily Telegraph were uncharacteristically upbeat in their review:

“Cross dressing, cod lesbianism and idiocy on the international tennis circuit probably wouldn’t be most people’s idea of the perfect background for a modern reappraisal of a classic fairy tale. But unlikely as it may seem, BBC1’s reworking of Rapunzel as a slapstick comedy, in which a failing East European tennis pro is persuaded to bluff his way into a UK ladies’ tournament in a desperate bid to win some cash, was an unexpected hoot.”

Also started last night was ITV’s new soap Echo Beach (Jason Donovan and Martine McCutcheon based in sun-kissed Cornwall) immediately preceded by the behind-the-scenes show Moving Wallpaper which takes a fictional look at the production process and stars Ben Miller as the series’ producer. Didn’t catch it live last night, but it’s got mixed reviews in this morning’s press.

The twelve episodes of Echo Beach and its associated mockumentary are made by Kudos, who rarely (if ever?) pick up commissions from ITV and are better known for their BBC and Channel 4 fare: Life on Mars, Hustle, Spooks, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, Pleasureland.

Update - having caught up with the first week's run, I'd comment that Moving Wallpaper was reasonable viewing - and it made Echo Beach bearable (standalone it would have been pretty naff). Worth taping and giving it a chance for at least the next couple of episodes in it's 12 week run. Suspect it'll be a terrific success - but won't be recommissioned. Update - Second episode of MW was worth it purely for the Casualty joke - tripping on the mint imperials and landing headfirst on a fork stuck in blutack!

The latest series of Shameless snuck on Channel 4 on New Year’s Day and continues on Tuesday nights at 10pm. If like me you missed the first few episodes of the sixteen-part series, they’re available for free on C4’s catch-up service 4oD.

Kevin McCloud - presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs

Kevin McCloud is dusting off his hard hat and optimism in the face of doom to present another series of Grand Designs starting at 9pm next Wednesday (16th) with a house that is being built 60% underground to meet planning restrictions. The half hour Grand Designs Trade Secrets sister series over on more4 immediately afterwards is often worth a watch to find even wackier examples of crazy architecture.

Update - Given that the couple's architect wasn't retained during the build, his/her design must have been very detailed and well thought out for the build to have completed so successfully. Felt nearly too straight-forward and drama light for the first in the new series? Property shows = watching other people make mistakes at their cost. Interesting that C4 didn't seem to trail the more4 Trade Secrets show as part of the closing credits - preferring to promote Jamie Oliver.

And making the assumption that the audience for property shows doesn’t significantly overlap with those who will tune in for sci-fi, BBC Two have scheduled the new series of Torchwood in the same Wednesday 9pm slot (repeated on BBC Three at 11pm). Available in high def on the BBC HD satellite channel. The promised family friendly repeat looks to be at 7pm the following Wednesday evening, immediately followed by the Torchwood Declassified behind-the-scenes spinoff.

(c) BBC 2007 - Torchwood Series 2 cast

Update - Thank goodness for iPlayer having Torchwood available to stream (and download) immediately after the show finished on BBC Two. Great opening, with the real life comment that Cardiff residents make about the show's filming - "Bloody Torchwood!" worked into the script. A show that didn't take itself too seriously, but had pace, tension and enough confusion to get the viewer through to the end (where they neatly summarised the background to Torchwood for anyone unfamiliar). And good to see that Gwen's life hasn't become any less complicated!

And if Russell T Davies doesn’t provide enough beasts and monsters, the second series of Primeval starting on ITV at 7pm on Saturday night (12th) will surely quench your thirst for dinosaurs and other animals that had to be CGIed as they were too dangerous to be taken out of their cages.

If you care that you can’t remember what happened at the end of the first series of Primeval, ITV are helpfully showing the last episode at 1.45pm on Saturday - just in time to put young kids off their lunch - sandwiched in-between a Coronation Street Omnibus and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Guess which scheduler wants to win this Saturday’s ratings war!

Update: Primeval failed to achieve the balance between levity and taking itself seriously. The fact that massive creatures could come through a time anomaly and eat up human civilisation isn't really that terrifying ... or funny. So unlike Doctor Who with its doom-laden yet jokey plots, it didnt really engage me. Besides, weren't dinosaurs boring by the second Jurassic Park film?

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