As we roam the English-language dial, we come, inevitably, to British television

My turn again, then. Even though Priya cheated by talking about YouTube (which is a medium, and not the sort of content-based thing we originally had in mind) I’m going to play along and talk about my guilty pleasure for the month: Torchwood.

Yes, the raunchy older brother of Doctor Who turns out to be pretty damn entertaining on its own. Billed as aliens for the 18-and-over crowd, Torchwood may not have the enduring legacy of the original, but it’s got better jokes. And Jack Harkness.

It’s not got the brilliant social commentary of BSG, although there’s plenty of social commentary to be found. Nor is there the witty banter of Farscape, despite the best efforts of a few of the writers. There aren’t even the convoluted storylines of Heroes.

But the actors are having fun, the characters are entertaining, and there are just enough plot twists that don’t scream “RTD got outvoted in a Doctor Who writer’s meeting” to keep my interest. Most of all, Torchwood has what’s missing from Studio 60: a sense that nobody involved takes any of this too seriously. It’s television, it’s fiction, and it’s supposed to be fun. And totally worth the hour or so a week it takes to watch.

Things to watch for: A new take on Harkness, and a brooding set of questions about how he got from omnisexual playboy to borderline-crazy secretive leader who keeps a hand in a jar. Ianto Jones, emo!receptionist and natty dresser. The problem of the week, which centers on sex, violence, or both. The Hub, one of my favorite sets of all time. Tosh, who has a stupid name but is sweet in an “if I had to pick a character to die painfully during sweeps week, I’d put money on this one” kind of way. And the zingy one-liners, some of which are really, really funny and some of which are so bad you have to laugh.

Things to avoid: Owen’s upper lip is mesmerizing yet terrifying. The Owen/Gwen relationship has a similar soul-sucking effect. Bisexuality, while fine enough on its own, is apparently required by the Torchwood HR department—something of which I’m not sure Queen Victoria would have approved, and something which hardly needs to be emphasized in half of the aired episodes. The show is eight episodes in, and only in the last three or so has the storytelling been consistent enough that I don’t cringe when telling friends to watch.

Overall, and I say this as a person who has watched some fantastic television art as well as some truly horrifyingly bad shows, Torchwood is considerably better than the detractors would have you believe, and only slightly worse than its diehard fans (and they do exist) claim it to be. British seasons are short—take the time while American ones are on hiatus to check out what you’re missing in this one.


At 12/08/2006 12:58 PM, Blogger Priya said...

raunchy older brother

More like puerile young cousin

better jokes
if you like them of the "in your face" sort. See "puerile" above.

brilliant social commentary of BSE
have you been taken over by the cylons?

actors are having fun
yes, agreed though Gwen and Owen look constipated half the time. Not sure (despite the descriptions we've been given) the shagging is going well...

I rather like the "borderline crazy secretive leader" though think RTD (as usual) thinks his audience is rather thick.

Seriously, E, I can't see how you think Ianto is a "thing to watch out for" though, if the emphasis is on "thing" I can grasp the concept (a bit). I want a few fun people, not just Jack.

Tosh--as I said--reminds me of the short, mustached bloke in the Bill. I grew up watching the Bill. No one else will ever be Tosh for me but the short moustached-up balding copper.

Like your other show-- S60-- I whinge about this but still watch it. If I had to choose, I'd choose the Welsh (if only for the filming being in Cardiff--one of my favourite cities in the world) over the (oh-so-earnest-at-times) Americans.

OH, and YouTube was not cheating! It has stuff in it. It's like an encyclopaedia :-)

At 12/08/2006 1:24 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I refuse to comment on the relative merits of Doctor Who jokes and Torchwood jokes. I've seen Doctor Who. They go looking for bad jokes. And the idea that Doctor Who is more mature than Torchwood is, in itself, a bad joke. :)

brilliant social commentary of BSE

have you been taken over by the cylons?

See dictionary, under "sarcasm." Also, it's BSG.

Ianto is fun *because* he's such a moody twit. You can't wait to see what sort of misguided idiot thing he loses it over next, while at the same time managing to be perfectly capable of behaving like a normal person. He's an angsty teen masquerading as a competent adult. And he's got a great ass.

If I wanted to watch *fun* people, or cheerful people, I'd have watched Friends. I didn't. Fun people are boring. Heartbroken people who still manage to make innuendo-laden comments about stopwatches are entertaining.

OH, and YouTube was not cheating! It has stuff in it. It's like an encyclopaedia :-)

Yes, it has stuff in it. That would be what makes it a medium, rather than a content-provider. Talking about the encyclopedia, because it has lots of cool stuff in it, would also be cheating, and you know it. The idea was to talk about stuff, not the things that publicize the stuff.


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