Category Archives: Joy of Sets

Joy of Sets: Leverage

The official marketing line for Leverage is “Hustle meets the A-Team”. Trading Standards would not argue with this description. It is a fine place to start. But it’s a bit like calling Buckingham Palace an oversized council house, or George Osborne a bit of a knob. You’re hitting a truth, but missing out on a wealth of detail. Now I know I’m late to the Leverage party, but regular readers will be aware that when I fall for a show, I fall hard, and at least this way I can skip all that tedious waiting for the next episode/season stuff. Let me share what I’ve learned and loved in watching 77 episodes in just over a month… Continue reading

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Joy of Sets: M*A*S*H

M*A*S*HThere have been many medical shows in my past. I have hazy memories of Angels, was an avid viewer of Casualty for years until being lured away by ER, but my first love was M*A*S*H.

It’s a good job I’m not seeing any other medical shows at the moment, because I went from “Meeting my first crush is bound to be disappointing” reticence to “oh-my-god, why did we ever split up?” obsession in under a week, and there would, by now, be hurt recriminations coming in from Holby City and Facebook status updates that end in tears.

Apparently there have been people labouring under the misapprehension that M*A*S*H is a sitcom. I can only assume they never watched more than a couple of early episodes.  M*A*S*H is all ‘sit’ (all 250-plus episodes are about the highs and lows of the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean war ) and has plenty of moments of glorious comedy, but it will break your heart more than once and can be bleaker than a convention of fictional Scandinavian detectives.

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Joy of Sets: Orphan Black

OB promoThere are many factors that contribute to my love of Orphan Black. There is that it is a mind-bending delight of drama meets science meets comedy; there is that it’s a feast for examining the fundamentals of nature vs nurture; there is that it’s a ride of twists and turns and because of the excitement of never really knowing who you can trust…but really, there is one immense feature of Orphan Black that makes me love it and it is absolutely unique to this show. I love it because every episode has a moment, a very special moment, and each time I watch I assume it will be the last time it happens – but it never is. It’s the moment where I shake my head and remember that the character on screen is being played Tatiana Maslany…and that that one is too…and that one. I rub my cheek and can’t understand how I fell for the illusion yet again, that I forgot yet again…but I do – and if experiences of friends and other commentators are anything to go by, I am not the only one. This may make little sense for those unfortunate enough to have not spun through the whirlwind of series 1&2, so let me explain.

It’s all about the clones.  Continue reading

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The Joy of Sets: Stella

ruth jones stella(Guest post by Grace C)

I recently made a trip to London to visit a childhood friend of mine. With both of us having moved on to concrete pastures away from our green-belted Scottish haven, it was inevitable that we would end up with a bottle of wine reminiscing long into the night. It’s fair to say that one of the most common causes of our laugher were discussions around the particular oddball characters or town quirks that formed the backdrop of our youth. Like a homemade patchwork quilt, we all have our distinctive squares coloured by different accents, houses or backgrounds, but the feel of it is the same. It provides a familiar comfort, even if at times it can be a little itchy or smothering.

Relating to the nostalgic intimacy of a tight-knit, eccentric community isn’t what drew me to Stella (it was the presence of the talented Ben Glover on the soundtrack that did that), but it is a main part of what got me hooked. It wasn’t a shock that such a vivid and relatable character-led comedy drama would come from Ruth Jones; the whirlwind success of Gavin and Stacey proved she is Queen of the small-town caricature, but there is something about the extra grit and emotion alongside this that gives Stella its own identity. Before the end of the first episode you already feel an attachment to the characters, both those who are there purely as eclectic village furniture and also those who fulfil the more dimensional roles.  Continue reading

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Joy of Sets: Friday Night Lights

Posted by Grace C

FNL2Friday Night Lights had been on my TV radar for a while; friends in America had raved about it, stars had been bolstered by it and numerous recaps for other shows had referenced it as a beacon for unrivalled character portrayal. I finally had my opportunity to settle down and give it the attention it deserved over Christmas. It is safe to say it surpassed my already high expectations.

For someone who loves nothing more than well written, grounded character development without the distraction of overly dramatic plots (for the most part), Friday Night Lights is the perfect show. The keystone of its quality is in the cuttingly realistic portrayal of its main protagonists – passionate and caring, but no-nonsense, high school football coach Eric Taylor and his level-headed, patient and committed wife Tami. This powerhouse couple come to life with the understated talents of Kyle Chandler (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty) and Connie Britton (Nashville, Spin City). Their chemistry and consistency is the driving force that maintains the heart and soul of the show even through changing circumstances and the rotation of the show’s repertoire of promising young talent.  Continue reading

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The Joy of Sets: Twin Peaks

twin peaksI haven’t seen Twin Peaks since it originally aired in 1990-91, but I’ve always wanted to see it again. Now, thanks to the channel that currently calls itself Syfy, I can. I settled down to watch the pilot episode feeling a tiny bit apprehensive in case I was disappointed – maybe it wouldn’t have stood the test of time and be as freaky/wonderful as I fondly remembered.

The weirdest thing to begin with was how pin-sharp and beautiful it looked. I remembered it as a bit grainy-looking. This is possibly because I had a rubbish TV back in 1990 and everything looked grainy. And small. Now, on my shiny newish flat-screen model, Twin Peaks looks crystal clear.

It’s the only crystal clear thing about it, of course. Twin Peaks was the first programme I remember watching that made me realise you don’t have to follow and understand every tiny thing that happens. Some things, you just have to go with the flow and trust that some sort of sense will happen eventually. It swings between hilarious and harrowing and you just have to go along for the ride.   Continue reading

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Joy of Sets: Supernatural

Dean and SamThis review comes with a disclaimer/health warning. I’m writing this having just watched eight seasons (that’s American, 22-episodes-per-season seasons) of Supernatural in less than six months (and the first five seasons were consumed in less than two months – I had to take a couple of months off to recover from what the Tumblr generation call ‘the feels’) . If I sound like a member of cult, that’s probably because to all intents and purposes, I am one.

I started watching something that was kinda X-Files meets Buffy with a (large) dash of daddy issues thrown in. By season five it became a show that will rip your heart out (if you’re human – if you’re a monster it will simply drive a stake through it).   Continue reading

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Joy of Sets: The Professionals Mk1

pla prosI will be honest with you. I adore the Professionals and have done since I was a child with (what felt like) a life-size poster of Bodie and Doyle on my bedroom wall. When I heard about the remastering of the show for DVD and Blu-Ray, you could probably have heard the squeeing from space. But, be warned, I watch this show with my slash goggles on – they allow me to overlook the political incorrectness, sexism and ludicrous moments like Cowley calling for a “helicopter and the nuclear bomb squad” or Bodie and Doyle defusing an atom bomb in a bowling alley (Stake Out) and focus on the alchemical gold of Bodie and Doyle.

For those who prefer a, ahem, straighter reading of the text, this is what you need to know. The lads have never looked better. Watching the repeats on ITV4 is genuinely like peering back through 30-odd years of grime. I’m not sure the show looked this good even when it was first aired… Network has done an incredible clean-up job. And the shiny new boxed set comes with lots of gorgeous extras, including exhaustive production notes (a 180-page paperback filled with everything you could ever want to know about the making of the first series. My only complaint is the tiny font they’ve used – good for the trees, bad for my eyes), Without Walls – the 1996 Channel 4 documentary about the show (which left me wanting to give creator Brian Clemens a slap, to be honest), a couple of bits of unused footage, and a massive gallery of photos, many of which haven’t been seen before, and covering the first few days’ shooting with Anthony Andrews as Bodie (on Old Dog With New Tricks).

pla punchbagOh and Network has put the episodes back together with the original, unintentionally hilarious, title sequences. I was too young to see the first couple of series, so for me Laurie Johnson’s iconic theme tune has always conjured the image of a car smashing through a window, Martin Shaw looking like he’s about to chop down a particularly nefarious tree and Lewis Collins ferociously working out in the gym. The sight of Shaw and Collins vigorously throwing themselves at random targets in the original titles is one that makes me smile and wince in equal measure. (We also get the original closing titles, worth checking for the sheer lack of traffic on the roads of London back then.)

If you’ve spent the last 35 years or so ignoring Bodie grabbing Doyle’s arse, Doyle touching up Bodie, or the pair of them making eyes at each other and flirting, and would like to continue watching from a heteronormative perspective – now’s the time to jump ship (if you’ll pardon the pun) on this review. Those who ship (or at least don’t mind if others ship) Bodie and Doyle, come with me below the line…

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The Joy of Sets: Breaking Bad

breaking badIn the olden days, before th’internet, if you missed a show you missed it. If you missed a whole series, you missed that – or waited to hand over a large wedge of cash and stagger home with a hulking great pile of video cassettes, in a souvenir carton, if you were lucky. Thus it was that I never did get to watch The West Wing (seems too late to start now) and, yes, I do feel culturally impoverished as a result.

No such problems these days. I’ve belatedly realised that Twitter is full of something called Breaking Bad, which I was dimly aware of but only as far as connecting it with a picture of a man with a shaved head and glasses looking a bit menacing. It didn’t seem like my cup of tea, but Twitter will wear you down, particularly when people whose opinion you respect keep banging on about something like it’s the best thing since… well, The West Wing, probably.

So hurrah for Netflix! I had a little look last night, and it’s got five whole series of the thing on it! Obviously, this wouldn’t be great news at all if the show itself was actually a bit dull and I didn’t like the shaven-headed glasses man. So I watched the pilot and – I expect you know this already – it’s brilliant. From the opening scene of an RV being driven extremely recklessly by a man in a gas mask, while apparently dead bodies slip around the floor in the back, to the ending where Walter (not shaven headed yet) gets his sexual mojo back because even though he’s got terminal lung cancer, he’s also more alive than he’s been in years – it’s fantastic. It’s stylish and dramatic and has a sly humour. It’s got main characters I cared about (I almost cheered aloud when Walter sorted out the kids who were laughing at his disabled son). The greatest thing of all is that because everyone is still raving about it, I know it’s worth carrying on with it, and it’s not going to fizzle away like Heroes. That’s my viewing pleasure sorted for the foreseeable future (though I’ll be tense as hell now, trying to avoid spoilers).

 

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Joy of Sets: New Doctor Who – Series 1

Christopher Eccleston

[Contains mild spoilers]

It’s easy to forget what sort of pressure there must have been for the rebooted Doctor Who to be a success back in 2005. Doctor Who was still a cult thing (though a popular cult thing) and the most recent attempt to resuscitate the series had been the Doctor Who movie with Paul McGann.

Rewatching ‘Rose’ as it introduces a whole new generation to the Doctor, the Tardis, the aliens and the monsters, is still a pleasure. It reminds us that it’s often the monsters that could be close to home that are the scariest – shop window dummies that come alive and make a sinister creaking noise as they move – but the fact that the Doctor remains cheerful in the face of danger stops it becoming horrific.

I adored Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. He was perfect as the first rebooted Time Lord – sarky, funny, serious, rude and good at running. In fact, the first word he says as the Doctor is one that defined the Russell T Davies era for many: “Run!”

I was hooked from episode one, but there’s no denying that Rose does look (if you’ll pardon the expression) a little plastic compared to later episodes. Though I’m prepared to overlook everything for this exchange: Rose – “If you’re an alien, how comes you sound like you’re from the north?” Ninth Doctor – “Lots of planets have a north.”

Across 13 episodes we get to experience the mercurial nature of the Doctor, always the cleverest man in the room, but so often missing the point – at least as far as humans are concerned.

Reasons to rewatch this box set?

1. Christopher Eccleston (see above).

2. Dalek. Asks hard questions of the Doctor and shows us his brittle, battle-scarred side – it’s not a pretty sight. Also demonstrates that the Daleks have learned to conquer that old enemy – stairs…

3. Aliens of London/World War Three is not the ‘tosh’ that some dismiss it as. It’s not the best of the first series, but forgive the writers for trying to make the younger half of their audience laugh (few things make eight-year-olds laugh as hard as farts after all) and pay attention to a chilling conceit – aliens hiding in the upper echelons of government and planning a nuclear holocaust so they can sell off the planet to the highest bidders – and all the ‘domestic’ stuff that the Doctor hates so much. Russell T Davies captures the fallout of a 19-year-old girl vanishing perfectly – of course her mum would be distraught, of course her boyfriend would be a murder suspect. Including the emotional baggage didn’t turn Doctor Who into a soap opera, it gave it heart.

4. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. My personal favourites of the first series. There are still moments that give me chills even on third or fourth rewatch. It has Captain Jack, though at the beginning of his character arc his ways aren’t as winning as they will be, Christopher Eccleston dancing, the gasmask monsters, a reference to Oliver, and “Everybody lives Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”

The parting of the ways5. The Long Game/The Parting of the Ways. It still had me on the edge of my seat and it still made me cry. There are thrills of fear and love and it’s the moment where we see how the Doctor has made better people not just of Rose and Jack, but Mickey and Jackie too. It’s the story that makes me wish Christopher Eccleston had stayed longer  – even though David Tennant is My Doctor (and I’m itching to get onto Series 2 now). This two-parter was a great ending to a great series.

It’s been an absolute joy to rewatch. Fantastic? I should coco…

Posted by Jo the Hat

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