Doctor Who - "Closing Time"

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I'm sorry, I'm sorry.  I missed out on reviewing the previous episode - I'm still gradually getting back into the swing of writing (and tweeting).  I intended to write about 'The God Complex' anyway, but the impact of last weeks 'Closing Time' has washed away most of my thoughts on the episode.  I'll leave 'The God Complex' with nothing more than, it was pretty good - though I don't believe Rory and Amy are gone from the series at this point.

'Closing Time'.  What to say. what to say?  Well Rob Buckley has quite adeptly pointed out that the episode felt like a Rusty era story.  I found it funny without devolving into comedy, touching, filled with emotional depth and wrapped up with a bit of a rubbish conclusion.

However, despite the ridiculous nature of the Cybermen's defeat ('I blew them up with love'), this was without a doubt the best episode of the second half of this series and the only episode that comes close to 'The Doctor's Wife' making it the second shining diamond in a series that has been, rather inconsistent.

I did not and I still do not like the River Song aspect of this season, I want to be taken to mystical places and made to feel a range of emotions by Doctor Who.  I'm tired of the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Doctor's head and while this very sword made for some powerful writing and acting in 'Closing Time' I do feel very worn thin by the whole experience.

I'm still reeling from the end of Tennant's time as the Doctor, I loved the Tenth Doctor, along with the Seventh and Eleventh he's my favourite Doctor and watching him gradually lose sight of what made him who he is, the loss of a human companion to provide him with balance and the gradual slip into callous, event changing godhood (The Waters of Mars) was a thing to behold.  The thing is, although it was two years ago now, it's still fresh and threatening the Doctor's existence is just too much for me - I'm wrung dry on it and I just want it to get over with and move on.  The Tenth Doctor passed very recently, the Ninth lasted no time at all and the impending end of The Doctor's regenerations faces the Thirteenth Doctor so really I'm at a point where The Doctor is the last character I want to see facing death... again.

Moving aside from the River Song denouement and returning to the rest of 'Closing Time' what we have is a great little piece about one man facing his death while another faces fatherhood.  It's the sequel to 'The Lodger' and while it's executed differently the things which made 'The Lodger' so great are still present in 'Closing Time'  James Cordon is wonderfully lovable as Craig and has a real buddy rapport with Matt Smith's Doctor, his performance throughout the episode - as a father, a concerned friend and as an ordinary man is something that I relished.  There were plenty of emotional points that just evoked a raw response from me on a deep level.  I think you could say I connected with the episode.

Now yes, the 'blew up the Cybermen with love' thing was exceptionally cheesy, however once I got over the initial wince at the sheer amount of stilton, black bomber and cheddar stuffed into the line I did appreciate the moment as a whole and I can see the "science" behind it - the Doctor's attempt to reinterpret the events into techno-babble before giving up and agreeing with Craig was a nice way of disarming my outrage.

In all, 'Closing Time' had me feeling, it had me close to tears at times and it was good old Doctor Who of the kind I love and enjoy.  I'm hoping for another Craig and the Doctor episode next series.  (I'd especially like to see Craig's reaction to a regenerated Doctor).

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Doctor Who - "The Girl Who Waited"

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Just as "Night Terrors" was the injection of good old Doctor Who monster fun the series needed, "The Girl Who Waited" is the character driven episode that both Karen Gillian and Amy Pond were waiting for.  

After the Doctor,Amy and Rory decide to spend some time on 'the second best holiday destination in the universe' (because the first one is too tourist-y) Amy becomes separated from the Doctor and her husband, separated by nothing more than a slight miss-communication about which button to press.  It's a small piece of symbolism about married life, one partner doesn't express requirement/instruction clearly enough and the other doesn't ask for clarification.  However here, instead of hilarious unintentional comedy moments/domestic arguments breaking out Amy ends up trapped in a compressed time stream - resulting in her being... a tad older... once the Doctor and Rory breaks through into her time stream.

The whole episode is an interesting piece, the Doctor is moved to the sidelines while Amy, Rory and yes, a second Amy take center stage.  Karen is given the lion's share of the acting in this episode and with the second, older Amy she has the chance to play someone more experienced, more isolated and bitter about the Doctor.  In this she echos many past companions, angry about being left behind by the Doctor.  For the role Karen developed new body language; an older, angrier voice and donned some facial prosthesis to make her look older - her appearance is a little off, but her physical performance and acting sell the character.

"The Girl Who Waited" is one of the high points of the current season, it's not as good as "The Doctor's Wife", however it's much better than most of the other episodes, the 'villains' are interesting (even if at times they look like dancers from a cheap pop video), Karen and Arthur are both given a lion's share of acting to carry, which develops and deepens the relationship between Amy and Rory, and Amy is shown to have hidden depths beyond the norm - able to develop/design a
sonic probe (screwdriver) and survive for forty years alone against constant enemies without gaining a single grey hair.

If I had one critique, it would be that old Amy should have been released in some fashion, to allow Karen the chance to return to the show twenty/thirty years from now and play the part of the freshly freed Amy.  But this is a minor quibble in an episode that was mostly gold.

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Futurama - Season Six

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Standing as the longest season of Futurama so far, with a whale sized serving of twenty six episodes it's rather difficult to review the entire of the sixth season without missing out some elements, however I'm going to do my best by looking at the high points and low points of the season.

I have to be honest, around the first two episodes of the show I was left thinking 'Maybe they shouldn't have brought the show back...'  The first episode, Rebirth is a middling affair with little good to recall about it, it's not terrible - but the jokes are pretty flat and there's a little too much time spent on pointless exposition.  This is Futurama, we don't need exposition or explanation, we need jokes and episodes that make us cry without warning.

The second episode, In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela is in my mind one of the worst episodes I've seen - it could have been a middle of the road episode with some good jokes, but the throwaway gag at the end of the episode - having Leela engage in sex with Zap - was the writing equivalent of taking a dump on the viewers, in their open mouths, while telling them to enjoy it.  Now I will skip That's Lobstertainment nine times out of ten, but I'm never watching In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela again, it has nothing worth going through that.  Proposition Infinity is a similar piece of fecal matter, this time breaking Amy and Kiff up for the purpose of the story, before 'returning everything back to normal' in that old sitcom cliched manner that I thought comedy writing was starting to grow out of.

There are other terrible episodes in this season, The Futurama Holiday Special is boring and fails completely to live up to the 'Tales of Interest' heights that occurred in seasons two and three; Attack of the Killer App seems like little more than a pointless shot at Apple and Consumerism and Yo Leela Leela turns from a fun episode into a preachy rant at reality shows and the quality of television writing in general - don't get me wrong, I'm not for reality shows as a whole, however Yo Leela Leela really doesn't have anything new to contribute to the discussion.

That's the awful taste of Futurama poop in your mouth there, and this is one of the problems with the season, there's a lot of episodes that are just not, not good enough - it didn't need to be twenty six episodes, twenty would have resulted in a superb season, but there are six turds floating around in the soup and that's a problem.

Fortunately there are also some real gems in the sixth season, Lethal Inspection is one of those beautiful tearjerker episodes that can hit you out of nowhere; Law and Oracle and Benderama are also personal favourites.  In fact most of the episodes that are Bender-centric tend to be a cut above the rest.

There is also one episode that stands up above the rest, stands head and shoulders above all else and ranks as possibly one of the best episodes of Futurama all time, if not the best.  I refer to, of course, 'The Late Philip J. Fry' the episode is exactly what makes Futurama great; it's funny, thought provoking, true to character and plays beautifully with mainstay science fiction concepts - in this case time travel and the big bang.  It's such a great episode that I can't help wish they'd used it to close out the season.  Overclockwise and Reincarnation are OK, the first one being a nice end to the 'cannon' storyline and the second being... well... just Futurama filler. But The Late Philip J. Fry should have been the last episode in the season, it's just that... right.  It's what Futurama always should be.

On the whole the sixth season of Futurama is great, the show is still among the best shows still airing at the moment, something we need in an increasingly stale world of television (is it a coincidence that the number of good shows going down coincides with a reduction in the number of female television writers?)  However the season has rough patches and really could have done with some objective quality control.

It does leave me hopeful for the seventh season, I expect some great episodes.  But I also have my sewer diving suit at the ready, because I'm expecting a few stinkers.
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Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place - Season 1

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Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (later known as Two Guys and a Girl) is one of those shows that has for a long time seemed rather bipolar in my research about it.  Some people rave about it as being one of the best shows they've ever seen, but many others tend towards 'It's good, but not amazing'.  This is quite evident when you look at the ratings on IMDB (7.7/10) vs (9.1/10).  It's the difference between being a solid show that passes the time well and something that takes your socks and blows them away from their usual location inside your shoes.

It was enough to make me curious about the show, and so I researched a little and found out that it starred Ryan Reynolds, or as I like to call him 'The man who made Blade 3 watchable', Traylor Howard - from Monk and some guy called Richard Ruccolo who I recognise, but didn't know too well.

Two Guys and a Girl is a light hearted twenty minute sitcom created by Rick WienerKenny Schwartz (both now involved in American Dad) and Danny Jacobson (Rosanne, Mad About You) about the trials and tribulations of a trio of twenty something friends living in Boston and "working" in a pizza place.  You have Michael 'Berg' Bergin (Reynolds) an aimless drifter through life who isn't sure what degree/career he wants, he's effortlessly brilliant but endlessly lazy, his flatmate is Pete Dunville (Ruccolo) a more regular guy, if a little highly strung and their friend from university (and upstairs neighbour) Sharon Carter (Traylor - side note: who calls their little girl Traylor?  Don't get me wrong, she's a fantastic actress, her work in Monk replacing Sharona was excellent - she filled the void admirably - but Traylor?  It's rather masculine and it also sounds a lot like trailer...) who works for a chemical company that 'kill the environment'.

Also joining this triplet are the regular supporting characters of Pete's girlfriend Melissa (Jennifer Westfeldt - 24), the pizza place owner Bill (Julius Carry) and the oddball Mr Bauer (David Ogden Stiers) who compulsively claims that his life is whatever movie he watched most recently.  Mr Bauer, for me, was the character who softened my opinion to the show, he's almost a one note character but I've loved Stiers' work since he played the is he evil or isn't he Reverend Purdy in the 'cancelled one season too soon' Anthony Michael Hall show 'The Dead Zone'.  It was his Jedi impression that swung me over, I guess despite falling out with Star Wars (over fiddled with these days) I still have a soft spot for a good Alec Guinness/Obi-Wan quote when applied correctly.  However, from what I've gathered so far, none of these characters make it into the second season.  So don't get too attached to them.

Two Guys and a Girl is a pretty lighthearted affair, unlike the traditional sitcom it does occasionally carry on the consequences of events from one episode to the next, but for the most part each episode is standalone.  That makes it easy to pick up and put down, but it can still be a tad confusing if watched in the wrong order.

Guess who watched the first season in the wrong order?

Despite this, I did enjoy the show, it has a humour that grows on you the more you watch it, initially I didn't see what the fuss was about, but having watched the first season I can say that I have adopted a few funny lines/quotes here and there (especially Pete's fish impression) and I am looking foward to watching the second season.

So I think I'd call that a bit of a success and I'll leave it at that until I take a look at the second season in a few weeks time.

(Incidently... Searching for pictures to this show is a minefield - even with Google images set to 'Moderate'.  I guess that's what happens when you go for such a provocative/risque name.  Git writers/creators!)
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Doctor Who - "Night Terrors"

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Last week's episode "Let's Kill Hitler" was not my favourite cup of Doctor tea, in fact it was the latest in a run of episodes that I've found to be substandard (everything since "The Doctor's Wife" I've found to be kind of sucky if you're interested), in fact I was reaching the point where I was getting tired of The Silence and River Song, well more tired than usual.

Fortunately the preview for "Night Terrors" outlined an episode that looked like it was going to be old school Doctor Who, a monster, scary stuff and fun lines.  Unfortunately it was written by Mark Gatiss, writer of "The Unquiet Dead" (genuinely good), "The Idiot's Lantern" (pretty poor) and "Victory of the Daleks" (awful with a few moments of brilliance).  So the quality of writing was not ensured - Datura summed it up well when she commented at the start of the episode "Mark Gatiss, his writing is always a mess."

I sound like I'm going to open up another round of episode bashing don't I?  Well I'm not, because "Night Terrors" was actually quite a decent standalone story that ticked most of the boxes a Doctor Who needs to.  At it's core it was a retelling of "Fear Her", but this time the story was told in a stronger fashion.  In fact, looking back on the episode it hangs together exceptionally well - creating a piece that's about adoption, childhood fears and the love of a parent.  Daniel Mays, as Alex the father of George was given the bulk of the story to carry on his shoulders, this episode was about Alex and George, with The Doctor supporting them while Amy and Rory provided a little classic 'companion peril'.  Daniel delivers; he's very, very good in the role and more than capable of carrying the acting burden, this is always a risk in an episode that is focused around a one off character, how can you manage to round out their personality without ham-handed exposition and what happens if the actor miss-sells the character in some fashion?  We're in good hands here as Daniel takes the character of Alex and fills out the dialog and plot with some superb character acting.  I'm buying him as the concerned father, I'm buying him in bulk.

If I had any criticisms (which I inevitably do), I would say that the story wobbles only on a few points, first of all it moves away from being scary and into being funny a little too quickly (oversized lantern & wooden pan), the CGI is weak at all times in the episode (carpet and doll landlord in particular) and the 'monsters' (as such they were) look awful, not scary, not creepy, just awful.

But these are minor complaints in an episode that was a breath of fresh air to a stale cupboard.  I'm happy with "Night Terrors", it was classic Doctor Who with fun dialog, peril, a plot that hangs together and touching scenes between a father and his son and that's exactly what the show needed at this point in time.

A second successful Doctor Who story for Mark Gatiss me thinks.
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