Saturday, January 02, 2010

TV highlights of 2009

The reason for doing this a couple of days into 2010 is that I can talk about David Tennant's last foray as Doctor Who, which occurred on New Year's Day.

Overall I thought the 'double episode' was a bit disappointing. The first half saw a resurrected Master, brought back to life for reasons that were never very clearly explained, and who was some kind of flesh-eating creature to boot, and the plot seemed to build to one joke: the establishment of the "Master Race" as humanity was turned into 6 billion copies of the Master.

The second bit was better, with some more humour, Timothy Dalton as the psychopathic Time Lord leader Rassilon (nice nod to Dr Who lore there), and a bit of pathos. I personally thought the ending was too drawn out, as the Doctor toured time to say goodbye to old friends. And they blatatly ripped off the cantina scene in Star Wars at one point. Still, it was nice to see a Sontaran for a few brief seconds, although how Mickey and Martha became married freelance alien hunters opened up a whole new can of worms.

It's hard to know where Dr Who, with a new Doctor, will go from here, and I have to admit the past year's offerings haven't impressed me much. So what, TV-wise would I say was great about 2009?

I really liked the adaptation of Day Of The Triffids shown just after Christmas. I'm always a bit wary when I watch an adaptation of a book I love. But this one worked for me. True, some bits changed - the convent scene was different, Eddie Izzard's character Torrance was more developed, the tribal mask back story was grafted in along with the hero's Dad. But overall, I think the update worked well.

The thing about Triffids the book is that it's a slow build. Triffids kill people and then wait for the flesh to rot before they eat them. In the TV show dead bodies were absorbed rapidly through rooty tendrils, but I guess that made more effective TV. Also, and a huge bonus point in my book, the Triffids were never aliens originally, so their discovery in darkest Zaire and subsequent breeding for Triffid oil was much more in line with the original story.

So, I thought it worked, although the critics lashed out at it. But as a fan of John Wyndham, it caught the sense of much of his work - that actually we have the capacity as humans to be the architects of our own downfall. That message was nicely played out in this most recent TV work.

I also loved the second series of The Big Bang Theory (the third series has just started too). This is the most recent comedy from creative genius Chuck Lorre (responsible for Dharma and Greg and Two and a Half Men), and ticks the boxes for me of nerdy cultural references and some genuinely funny moments.

I liked the episode where the four geeks met Summer Glau (the girl Terminator from The Sarah Connor Chronicles) on a train and conspired to talk to her. The show has set a high standard for itself, but the episodes of series 3 I've seen so far seem to show a show that is improving with time.

But my favourite telly show of 2009 has to be the second series of Chuck. If you haven't seen Chuck the premise is very silly - Chuck, played by Zachary Levy, is a computer nerd who has a top secret military computer ('the Intersect') downloaded into his brain. He subsequently needs protecting from various bad guys by two federal agents, one of whom is the very lovely Yvonne Strahovski, and the other the snarly Adam Baldwin. And every week something implausibly ridiculous happens that causes chaos in Chuck's life.

The first series of Chuck was cut short by the Hollywood writer's strike, so series 2 is the first full-length one. It got a little bit dafter as it went on, with a huge undercover evil operation (headed up by Chevy Chase no less!) that reminded me of Alias. But it was entertaining every week and series 3 is coming down the track. Yipee.

Other stuff I've enjoyed this year:
The QI Christmas special, and QI generally
Mock the Week, even after Frankie left
Rules of Engagement (import on Comedy Central) has had it's moments
'2 Good, 2 Bad' on Match of the Day 2 - possibly the funniest regular bit on any regular sports programme
Major League Baseball coverage on ESPN America (after the demise of Setanta Sports)

I didn't bother with Big Brother this year (who did?) and I tried to tune out the X Factor after the first couple of weeks. And, frankly, I was too busy having a life to get into any of the 'reality' shows.

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