So it’s time for the first proper This Week in TV 2009 lets get started.
Kicking off is ITV1’s big Saturday night primetime drama, Demons which is capitalising on the Doctor Who/Primeval/Merlin crowd who’ve got nothing else to watch on a cold January evening. The ludicrous plot involves a modern London teenager being visited by his American Godfather who he’s never met who informs him that he’s the relative of the Van Helsing dynasty and that he now has to fulfil his birth-right and start fighting Demons or something like that. Cue lots of CGI, running around and Mackenzie Crook from The Office hamming it up while wearing a prosthetic nose. The boy’s girlfriend then gets kidnapped by the demons so then he has to fight them and become a Van Helsing. Add to this something about levels of demons and a blind violinist who can sense things played by the doctor from Survivors and you get the level of stupidnity that this show brings. Add to this everyone’s favourite cockney Gene Hunt himself Philip Glenister puts on one of the worst accents ever playing the American Rupert Gavin. I’m guessing this is pitched at teenagers with ADD as it doesn’t have the family aspect of a Doctor Who or a Primeval as personally there’s not a lot for adults to enjoy. Mackenzie Crook who was the only decent thing about the show got killed off at the end. Given a good script and some good performances this could’ve been a good concept but instead there was a lot of fighting and training montages, unfunny gags and star Christian Cooke with his top off a lot. There’s not a lot of positive I can say about Demons apart from I’m guessing Primeval’s back soon but with a decent cast and what looks like a big budget you would think that even ITV1 could do better than this.
Thankfully there has been some decent drama on T.V this week over five nights on BBC1, The Diary of Anne Frank has been showing. Everyone knows the story of the Dutch Jews locked up in a factory roof for two years while hiding from the Nazis. The adaptation of the book tore it down to its bare bones and separated neatly into five parts. Newcomer Ellie Kendrick excelled as Anne demonstrating perfectly a girl in her early teens being forced to grow up early because of her situation and being drawn more and more to the only boy in sight the slightly nervous Peter Van Damme. The adult cast is packed full of staunch character actors Ian Glen is very stoic as Anne’s father, Lesley Sharp and Ron Cook were a highlight for me as the bickering Van Dammes but the real shock was Tamsin Grieg known for her comic turns in Black Books, Green Wing and Love Soup giving a career-defining performance as Anne’s nervous and overbearing mother. We obviously all know how its going to end and so we have a sense of knowingness as everybody celebrates the coming of D-Day and as the characters are lead down the stairs by the Nazis each is shown in freeze-frame with a caption telling us when and where they died, with only Mr. Frank surviving the concentration camps. There was also a poignant final shot of the Frank’s accomplice Miep finding Anne’s writings cruelly discarded on the floor. Because it was shown so early (7 pm) it won’t have got that much of an audience but I’m guessing that it was on then so children could watch it and it will get a more favourable repeat on BBC4 at some point. Although it wouldn’t have been for everyone, I thought this was a well-acted and incredibly well-shot version of one off the most famous pieces of non-fiction of all time.
Fans of the site will have heard me complain about the dire state of British comedy there was frankly a crop of rotten new sitcoms last year including Coming of Age, The Inbetweeners, Empty, Clone, Teenage Kicks, Parents of the Band and Beautiful People in comparison there was only one decent new sitcom: Lab Rats which I don’t think was everyone’s cup of tea and also Kevin Bishop’s sketch show which was hit and miss. Two new sitcoms debuted this week the first being Life of Riley which didn’t fill me with hope from the offset it’s a pre-watershed sitcom about an unconventional family headed up by Caroline Quentin’s Maddie Riley (hence the name of the show) who has married Neil Dudgeon’s dad of two, herself already a mother to a frankly weird child and they also have just had a baby together. The first show was a farcical affair in which a pregnancy test was found could it belong to the teenage daughter? Or the teenage son who bought it for his new girlfriend? Or Maddie herself? In fact it was the weird son who had been stealing home pregnancy tests and leg-waxing strips in an attempt to impress his step-brothers girlfriend. Other gags involved animals being released into the wild and a whole section about which paints to buy for a wall, yes there was actually a scene in which we watched paint dry. This show was obviously originally pitched in the mid-nineties when the non-nuclear family sitcom first came on the scene the theme tune is even ‘The Life of Riley’ by the Lightning Seeds a song which was released twelve years ago. Any attempt to explain the original partners of the couple wasn’t offered so instead we had lame gag after lame gag and I cried a little bit inside.
Slightly better was Plus One, a show based on one of the Comedy Showcase pilots along with The Kevin Bishop show and four more, one of which, Free Agents, I believe is being made into a sitcom later in the year. This channel 4 sitcom saw the criminally underrated Daniel Mays star as Rob Black a man whose girlfriend has left him for Duncan from Blue and is sleeping on his sister’s sofa after his house was completely covered in shit. Those who already saw the pilot know that the concept of the show is that Rob has to find a suitable date to outshine Duncan and his ex on their wedding date as his invite reads Plus One. Some of the gags and plot from the pilot have been recycled however the first episode’s plot is brand new in which Rob tries to impress the girl he fancied in Sixth Form by doing a Fun Run in aid of Duncan from Blue’s first love who is in a coma. Although an unsuccessful shortcut and a fight with a tramp end up getting him into a heap of trouble there are still a few laughs to be had. The two comic revelations here are Nigel Harman, who as Rob’s cradle-robbing P.E. teacher brother rubs away any trace of Mini-Den which he may have on him but Duncan James also sends himself up royally in a similar way that Shaun Williamson did in Extras, making himself seem really pompous in a giving way he is able to interact with the rest of the talent proving himself to be an apt comedian. The only problem I can foresee with this is that it’s a story rather than sitcom and once the wedding approaches that’ll be it and unless we can get hooked on the characters then Plus One won’t make it past series one.
Finally I can’t go without a word about the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith. I’m with the popular belief that we can’t judge the guy without seeing him in the role, personally I remember him as the junior assistant in Party Animals and remember his acting having a good nervous energy about it which serve him well in his role as the doctor. I have faith that Stephen Moffatt and the team have chosen the right actor and I actually favour seeing someone who’s not a ‘name’ and therefore has no preconceived credentials say if James Nesbitt or Robert Carlyle had taken over then their work would’ve been compared with their previous roles. But seriously I’ve never heard such a fuss kicked up about someone’s hairstyle a lot of people who I’ve talked to think his hair is a bit too emo and to be fair on the Doctor Who Confidential in which they announced his arrival they did mention his hair two or three times. I’m not a massive fan of the work Tennant’s done as I don’t think he could balance the drama and comedy leaning to the latter side the way that Christopher Ecclestone could. Anyway we’ve got till 2010 to discuss it, and as long as the rumours that Lily Allen will be taking over as the assistant are just wild lies than I’m fine.
Next Time: Unforgiven and Countdown