Friday, April 25, 2008

In Which I Lambast the Critics! [spoilers]

Anyone that knows me will be aware that I am a glass-half-full kind of guy and I have no time for people who lambast creative work for no real reason other than they can. Its a bit of a bugbear of mine. Well today I was thrown over the edge.

The stars have come together and I am currently in genre TV nirvana. Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who and Heroes are all on at the same time. Throw in a handy re-run of The Dresden Files after BSG on Sky and I am a very happy puppy. However, it appears not everyone is in the same boat as all three shows (I've already resigned TDF as 'an acquired taste') have been greeted with a resounding 'meh' from the newspaper critics in the UK. The crunch point for me was the Metro's innane write-up for Heroes, which debuted Season 2 last night.

Apparently it was slow, dull, already out of steam and not as exciting as the climax of last season. Well no fucking shit Sherlock! What masterclass of critique did that one come from? So, lets just recap what we had last night - a slack handful of new heroes, a plague, an infiltation of The Company, a mad kid, Hiro in Japan, Claire in cheerleader outfit again, a dead Sulu, Nathan is mad, Peter has no memory, mysterious assassins and more. And thats before Psycho-Mirror Woman, I Talk to Computers Lad and the others come back into it. Isn't that enough for 45 minutes? What do you want exactly? I'd happily watch The Mr Bennett in Photocopier World show for half an hour as it was hilarious - like James Bond meets Clerks.

Dr Who has met with the same wave of 'meh'. I can understand this because well, it is a British show and it has succeeded. Therefore we are all, apparently, just DYING to see it fail. No really, we're desperate. Add to this the bonus detrimental feature of Catherine Tate (who naturally isn't playing a young, slim, attractive intelligent character and therefore just isn't right) and it is car crash TV surely? Well, no actually. Whilst I thought the first episode was rather average, the next two have been quite entertaining. Moreover, the subtext of the series is vastly different from those that have come before. In each episode Donna questions one of the fundamental 'truths' of the Who-niverse. So in the Pompei episode, she questions whether the Doctor can actually intervene in a personal timeline to save someone' life from an event that he caused. In the Ood episode she questions his detached view of things such as slavery and exploitation when he can do something about it. I can see this leading to a sea-change in the Doctors attitudes and him doing something drastic like, oh I don't know, changing the outcome of the Time War? Add into that the numerous foreshadowings of Rose's return, a smattering of Martha and a relatively short season and its very watchable. Unless you want to see buckets of FAIL!

And finally, la piece de resistance. Battlestar Galactica. Apparently its impenetrable and complicated and slow and confusing and ... oh, this is your first season of BSG is it? Some of us have been watching from the start. Some of us watched the handy recap special that aired the week before. Some of us like our drama served in a way that makes us watch and pay attention rather than being delivered on a plate. I haven't watched Eastenders for about a year but I wouldn't lambast the show because I didn't get a blow-by-blow account of the characters and their histories in every episode! There reaches a point when the old adage 'every show is someone's first' has to be replaced by 'just buy the feckin' boxed set and catch up!'. This is the last season of BSG and it will build to a final crescendo unlike any other series I can remember, except maybe Buffy. It's not to be dismissed after the first episode. Oh and if the ending of the second episode ('MILF in spaaaaaaace!') didn't throw the metaphoric cat amongst the pigeons, I don't know what will.

So there we have it - I've vented steam. Like adults who are sent to review kids movies, a TV critic without the context of a series in mind is simply going to rip it apart because it is different. In the UK it would seem, TV shows have to deal with another factor - it was always better in the past. What a load of toss.

Saturday. Sontarans. Shudder.



redben said...

Excuse me whilst I slip into something more devil's advocate.

Is your issue with what the critic didn't like about those programmes or just that they didn't like them?

In the case of Dr Who then it doesn't really matter. The critic wasn't keen on it regardless. I'm not keen on it either. Are we both wrong?

In the case of Heroes then I suspect the reviewer has either a) seen season 2 already or b) has read the reaction to it. The criticisms made are fair ones of season 2 as a whole. Not an excuse, just some context.

If their criticisms around BSG were just that they couldn't follow it then that's a whole different debate apart from the quality of the show. Personally, I saw season 1, thought it was meh and haven't watched anything since.

Had I reviwed those three programmes I wouldn't have marked them highly either. Am I wrong or is it just a case differing tastes and differing contexts?

Vodkashok said...

For me it's the sheer predictability of the critique. I could easily have written down in a sealed envelope the reviews for the three shows weeks ago and got them 90% right.

Heroes is apparently empty and dull - but thats not what I saw on the screen. Why is it being judged against the finale episode from the previous series? Thats just ridiculous. BSG is a famously complicated show which you have to watch through to understand. Whilst that might not suit people who have grown up on the status-quo maintaining Star Trek, it doesn't negate its value. Dr Who? Well, I think of the three this is the weakest show, but the sheer GLEE that has been shown by critics regarding its apparently demise is sickening. It was the hottest shit on the planet a year ago (cf Mr Ronaldo Ronaldo)

I am firmly of the belief that a reviewer of a show should be able to do that show in an informed context. I would never, for example, expect that I would be able to do a review of something like Cranford, Americas Next Top Model or Emmerdale.

The reviews have been very ... lazy. Its easy to see a successful genre show and pan it, especially when you come at it with preconceptions and blinkers.


redben said...

Slipping back into my devil's advocate pajamas.

'I am firmly of the belief that a reviewer of a show should be able to do that show in an informed context.'

An interesting point. The editor of the Sunday Times wouldn't be so stupid as to hire David Mellor to review a history book or William Hague to review an opera. They each have their niches and stick to them. That said, I'm sure the editor of the Metro doesn't the luxury of choosing and maintaining a large reviewing staff, former conservative MP's or not.

In fact, I can't think of a single national newspaper that employs a variety of TV critics. Ditto for films.

Whenever I read a film review in the Mail I have to temper it with the knowledge that Chris Tookey and his slightly reactionary tendencies are reviewing it. When I read a review by Paul Ross I have to take into account that the man is largely a shill for big Hollywood studios.

I don't like half the programmes Jim Shelley likes but I make a point of reading his TV column in the Mirror because its entertaining. I accept that he has some differing tastes to me.

If you're raging against lazy journalism then fair point, though bear in mind we're talking about a free paper that gets all its stories from newswires and exists just to advertise things.

If its that the person who reviewed the programmes you love doesn't share your tastes or keep up with those programmes and is therefore incapable of rendering a balanced view then c'est la vie, read SFX instead.

Vodkashok said...

Absolutely. Its the lazy journalism thing rather than the clashing tastes.

To put the ridiculousness of the Metro into context I have read a review of a kids cartoon film that complained that it was too childish and obviously was targetted at children. Honestly.

Similarly Bev Stephenson, the food critic, seems physically incapable of giving a ***** review. The food may be able to give her and her anonymous companion actual orgasms whilst the staff spoon each individual morsel into her mouth explaining the provenance of every crumb and it will still get ****.

It vexes me. I am easily vexed.


Anonymous said...

You've gazzumped my blog entry on reviews.

The issue I have is more the concept of 'the review' as an art form in itself.

But then I'm biased. I don't mind people giving their view on things, but when the review seems to be something of value and worth in and off itself I lose interest.