One of my favourite podcasts is slashfilm: a podcast hosted by self-confessed movies geeks. One feature they have on the show is "What We've Been Watching" and I've borrowed that ingeniously simple idea for this blog in what will hopefully be a regular feature.
So without further ado, here's some thoughts on the television I've been watching over the past few weeks:
Doctor Who: The End of Time
David Tennant's well publisized exit took place over the holiday period. The story saw The Doctor team up with Donna's grandfather, Wilfred, to do battle with the resurrected Master.
For me, the episodes were a triumph. A minor quibble would be that the first instalment lacking a completeness that previous episodes broadcast on the same day managed. Like Christmas day movies, there was always something nice about watching a complete adventure with The Doctor, and then being able to switch it off and feel all was right with the world. As such, it would have been nice if the second part had been broadcast on Boxing Day, to give us a sense of imminent closure on the episode. I think what the writers were going for was more a two-part season finale feel, and if viewed simply as that, it worked.
Putting this trivial issue aside, I thought the reason the episode worked so well was the choice of the Doctor's assistant. Having Wilfred at his side was a complete masterstroke. So much so, you forget how little screen time they'd had together previously.
We've seen the writers misstep in the past in this regard. And by this I'm referring to none other than Martha Jones. Creating a Rose-clone for the Doctor to spend time with, merely reminded us of everything we loved about Piper in the role. As such, the show lacked a freshness the previous two seasons had. Donna, although annoying at first, was an incredibly clever move. It was great to see how the Doctor reacted to a different dynamic, and having someone loud and obnoxious to counter his intelligence, wit, (and arrogance) made the show a lot more enticing in its fourth 'season'.
In the combination of The Doctor and Donna's grandfather, we saw two characters with real history in their souls, who had been through hardships and knew their story was approaching its final chapters. That shared bond had an incredibly profound impact on this two-part story. The conversations between the two of them crackling with energy and foreboding.
Clearly this was what the writers were aiming for, since despite all the loud bangs, and flashing lights, this bond was at the centre of the Tennant's final exit. An entirely fitting way for the tenth doctor to leave the show.
Gavin and Stacey (Season 3)
I can't decide whether this comes under the category of 'guilty pleasure' or genuinely well-written comedy. Less laugh-out-loud moments than a programme like "The Royle Family". A show, incidentally, it owes an awful lot to. Then again, unlike most comedies, its characters are much more rounded, and as such you are a lot more invested in them. I also felt it was a series that rewarded regular viewing with plenty of references and on-going subplots threaded into its run.
It's ironic (or perhaps entirely intentional) that the two characters after whom the show is named are the least interesting. They live a fairytale romance with storylines that leave little doubt about their future together. It's Smithy and Nessa, played by the shows' creators, that have the best lines, moments and arcs throughout the series. These two characters are its heart and soul, and hopefully their real-life counterparts, James Corden and Ruth Jones, will continue their writing partnership in the future.
Gavin & Stacey started as a small show on BBC3, and finished its run on New Year's Day on BBC1. I think its almost-universal appeal comes from the central bond between all its characters: they look out for each other, love spending time together, and as such, you actually want to spend time with them. Gavin and Stacey was never going to be a ground-breaking show, but it should be commended for its simplicity and warmth in a genre increasing dominated by cynicism, and unlikable leads.
Peep Show (Season 2)
Speaking of unlikable leads, I wouldn't normally mention a show that's been out for five years, and fairly well-known. However, the whole series (seasons 1 to 6) is available on 4od here:
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/peep-show/4od (UK Residents only)
If you've never watched the show about two guys in their late 20s/early 30s. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that most of its episodes take place from Mark and Jeremy's point of view. As such, we always know what they're thinking. The insights we get are excruciatingly honest (imagine someone could hear every single thought that crossed your mind), yet funny and (mostly) endearing at the same time.
Peep Show is not for the faint of heart (it does nothing to dispel the idiom that guys only think about one thing) However, beneath its crude exterior lies a very funny and insightful show.
Coming Up Next: Expect A "What I've Been Watching: Film" Post in the near future, as well as a preview of Glee, a new American Musical Comedy Show, which premieres on E4 next week.