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Chaos (2011)
Great fun!
17 July 2011
Having now seen all 13 episodes I will really miss this show as it has been a breath of fresh air compared to just about everything else currently on TV, such as the rather plodding Covert Affairs which despite its bigger budget is so much less entertaining than this spoof of the spy game.

Chaos has an engaging cast, decent scripts and all played with a lightness of touch. As others have said the balance between humour and drama is handled very well. The episodes just fly by and for me are pure enjoyment. Thanks to all involved in its production. A nice Blu-ray release with lots of extras would be appreciated! A second series would be really nice too.
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The best thing I've seen this year
17 June 2011
Well the series finally came to its grim conclusion and I have to say I didn't see this ending coming. I read other reviews comparing this series to The Edge of Darkness (the series not the film), and while I get the comparison, that did have light relief in the Joe Don Baker and Charles Kay characters.

The shadow line has no such lightness or let up, and the nearest I can get to compare my feeling at the end is the 'Get Carter' (Michael Caine) film.

A fine cast does this justice and an excellent script made Thursday evenings a night in! A huge well done to the writer and all the actors who made this so memorable. If you remember Stephen Rea as Carter Brandon in 'I didn't know you cared' (one of the best comedy series ever IMHO), who would have imagined he would progress to being one of the most memorable screen villains ever. Bravo!
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Haven (2010–2015)
Promising start
23 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The premise of this show has yet to show real originality, but has many things going for it. The central character Audrey Parker is a young FBI Special Agent who is sent single handed to the eponymous Haven to look for an escaped prisoner. He is dead by the time she gets there, but she finds the circumstances of his death suspicious. On arrival she is placed in or life or death situation and is saved by a local detective who is also son of the sheriff, and it turns out there are father/son issues. He is assigned to her and together they investigate the mysterious death; how did the crim fall so far away from the cliff he fell off? Fortunately for us the small town of Haven is filled with strange and interesting people, at least one of whom is endowed with a strange power - watch on for the denouement of episode 1! The acting is very able, the location stunningly beautiful, and there are plenty of quirky characters such as the two local newspapermen, not quite the Lone Gunmen! The choices of music are great as well. Well what are the writers reaching for? Northern Exposure meets the X-Files? Whatever, Audrey decides to stay on in the town to investigate the woman who looks so very much like from an 80s newspaper - the mythology starts to build, and it seems that her boss at the FBI is in cahoots, with whom, the sheriff? And there are 'troubles'! I'm looking forward to more - very much so!
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Covert Affairs (2010–2014)
Could do a lot better
23 July 2010
Sub par so far. I would have to agree that they have yet to hit their stride after two episodes, and as others have commented Perabo's acting skills are not up to the job. However I do like Kari Matchett's character, Joan - she used to be in the Nero Wolfe series and was IMHO brilliant in that. She certainly is believable in her part, and has that whole smart sexy older woman thing going on. Perhaps they should kill off Annie Walker and concentrate on her! The two male leads Groham and Gallaher are entertaining and engaging so to the writers, please give them a decent script and it might fly! Annie Walker seems silly and vacuous I am afraid and if she were killed off I would not really care. Despite the dire scripts there are pluses and the filming and locations are well done and it is watchable, i.e. I have not switched off...yet! Anyway here's hoping that it will start to have more interesting scripts as that is really what lets it down. Who cares if it shows the real CIA, this is after all entertainment. Another new series, Haven, on the the other hand IS showing promise and with Fringe off the air there isn't much showing for us old X-Files fans!
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Far better than I was expecting - totally addictive!
24 November 2009
I nearly didn't watch this program as it was panned in the Radio Times (long running TV guide in the UK). In the article it was likened to Heroes which, I may say, I cannot abide. Anyway I watched it and while the dialogue could certainly have been bettered the ensemble cast's performances shone through, and the camera work and sets were brilliant - that old chestnut about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Some genuine chemistry between the actors, and the plot while not entirely new, is intriguing. Leisurely in the beginning giving time to get to know and like the characters and boo the unpleasant Goss. This show will not appeal to action junkies or those with short attention spans as it takes time to show past moments i.e. the crew training and personal histories via flashback.

O.K. the science may not be exact but this is after all prime time entertainment and you cannot afford to alienate any section of the potential audience. The tension and mystery builds nicely and it really does get a hook into you, so much so that I had to download the episodes rather than waiting for the BBC to get around to broadcasting them. A wonderful thing, the internet! I love sci-fi but am not pretentious or geeky about it, and found this program really great entertainment which is, in the end, all that matters. Perhaps we could have a film a la Firefly/Serenity to finish off the story, or at least a half decent book please. I want to know what happens! Hope very much that this will soon be released on Blu-Ray with some decent extras because I would have no hesitation in adding this to my collection.
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Shoebox Zoo (2004– )
Not far short of perfect
25 October 2009
A thoroughly entertaining children's program with enough interest to keep adults watching too. It was well reviewed in the upmarket press which also laments that the "US invasion ends golden age of children's TV". Well this program goes some way to redress that, and other more recent programs such as Merlin and Doctor Who do too! Thank goodness for the BBC which, while not perfect, does at least manage to put out some top drawer entertainment for those of us, both children and adults who do not speak in monosyllables, can cope with having our thoughts provoked and are capable of following a plot.

I won't rehash the storyline as others have done that. The young lead actress gives a very good performance as a child who has been bereaved by the loss of her much loved mother, and further traumatised by being uprooted by her father from her home friends and family and taken to live in Scotland, is it any wonder she is moody, petulant and emotional? The rest of the characters are fun, a hissable villain, an otherworldly wizard from years ago, his humorous sidekick, and the wonderful characters of the zoo itself. Ally that with the beautiful Scottish landscape and some fine cinematography and you are in for a treat.

All I would say that as it is squarely aimed at children this program acquits itself well. All the children I have spoken to about it loved the program, as did I and many of my adult friends. Overseas friends who I have sent the program too also tell me the same, so it would seem to have a pretty universal appeal (great Christmas present!).
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Battlestar Galactica: No Exit (2009)
Season 4, Episode 15
A welcome return to form
14 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Like many others I have invested a significant amount of time and money on this series, so much so that one becomes a bit proprietary about it, but hey we're all entitled to an opinion (maybe!).

Anyway after the foolishness of the last two episodes what we have here is an enormous improvement, tautly written (dontcha just love clichés?) and focusing on plot exposition and character development. This is what drew me to BSG, not high tech spaceships and robots and guns and battles. A story about people and yes I include the non-mechanical Cylons as people, finding themselves in an epic struggle to survive, to understand their place in the universe and a to find a home in both a physical and spiritual sense.

Sam with a bullet in his head is experiencing total recall of what occurred on Earth and is telling the others what he remembers of the final five and the significant seven and how history repeats itself. Interestingly Sam says that the final five saw people that no one else could see, which could suggest that Baltar has had the same condition? Still unexplained as to who or what Starbuck is if that was indeed her body in the downed Viper. Cavil barking mad, 20 years without sleep! How come no one boxed him? Expect more twists and turns before season end! Good to be back on track!
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Battlestar Galactica: The Oath (2009)
Season 4, Episode 13
Losing the plot.
31 January 2009
Well I was hoping the series would go out with a bang but it's looking more like the writers are floundering. Mutiny in reality is a rare thing, because any commander worth their salt has learned how to lead. You lead by example, by the book and because your experience and track record recommend you to your superiors and to your subordinates. Inspirational leaders are less common because they require something more both in themselves, and in those they command. If you lack experience in the military field I recommend you read this page which provides a good overview:

All I will say is that in my view, regardless of the seeming hopelessness of their position there is no way that a successful charismatic leader such as Adama would be removed from his command by mutineers. The fact that the arch mutineer is Mr Gaeta is beyond belief, no one in their right mind would follow him anywhere, he is a whiny malcontent whose military career prospects would be extremely limited even if he had not lost his leg. The fact too that he is allied with Zarek would make for little prospect for stability or a proper command structure, and it is infantile to imagine that long serving and experienced personnel would not realise this. The idea that they would rise up and murder their colleagues is mad, as military law is explicit and there would be no prospect of any amnesty or commutation. As characters Zarek and Gaeta are weak venal and uninteresting and should be pushed out of the airlock forthwith.

Shame, I had enjoyed the series up to now, but it really does appear that the writers have lost their way.
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The Cleaner (2008–2009)
Dealing with a difficult subject
21 October 2008
This makes for uneasy viewing as one must ask should psychological or chemical addiction be turned into entertainment? This series skates close to trite clichés, but overall it does succeed in concentrating on the sufferers' problems. William Banks is 'The Cleaner'; himself a past drug addict, he now works as an interventionalist, trying to help others whose addictions have reached a point where they are no longer in control of their own lives. Banks is no paragon either as he is a very controlling individual and has swapped his chemical addiction for a spiritual relationship with God whom he talks to about his problems, and a career which gives him power over others. He is also trying to win back his family who mistrust him after fifteen years of hell, and while he has moved back in with them, he sleeps apart from his wife at the start of the series. Banks has three employees who have all had their own addictions in the past and work for him for their own reasons, he also runs a residential clinic where clients are detoxed. Background plot isn't too soapy as, if it were it, would detract from the message. Banks has teenage children who want to see him reunited with them and their mother. Problem is the job which means that he takes off at short notice day or night and so manages to alienate his family as they come a poor second when there is a client who needs help.

William Banks is a hard man to like though, and he has demons of his own. You cannot fault what he does, but he is abrasive and pushy and talks to his family and employees as if he is the only one who is capable of knowing what is right. Is he in fact a messianic megalomaniac or just an ordinary man trying to save his own soul? Just a man with a calling? There are those would would equate his conversations with the almighty as evidence that the men in white coats will not be far away. However if this helps him to keep on the straight and narrow then as therapy maybe he has found his own personal answer.

The ensemble cast is good, Benjamin Bratt has one of those voices you could listen to all day, and fills the William Banks role very well. His employees (played by the talented Grace Park, Esteban Powell, and Kevin Richardson) all bring depth to their parts, but, and this is a big but, the writing does not endear the characters to us. Hopefully if and when there is a season two there will be more character development, and we will come to understand and empathise with the characters. To date the series has failed spectacularly in that respect and the writers are to blame as there is real potential here.

My view is that this is a worthy effort to portray the nature and effect of addiction, on the addicts themselves and their family and friends, and goes some way to showing the physical spiritual and moral degradation that people fall into. Many, it is true, are beyond help and in spite of attempts to help will eventually succumb, only a quarter of clients are cleaned which is a sobering statistic.
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Proud sensibilities prejudiced and persuaded!
18 September 2008
Three episodes in and I feel now is the time to say a big well done to all concerned. As a long time Austen lover and a fan of period/costume drama I was unsure what to expect from this reworking of a favourite story. As others have commented this bears similarities with 'Life on Mars', a person taken out of modern day life and deposited into the past, albeit Jane Austen's fictitious one. Fortunately Amanda (played by Jemima Rooper) is a devotee of the novel and is genuinely pleased to meet her favourite characters. However, and this where the series really takes a life of its own, the characters are not as she (or we) imagined them from the book, and events start taking different paths than those in the book. Amanda, horrified, tries to restore the story to its proper track but events spiral out of control and she herself is unsure whether she is now part of the story, and if so does she 'become' the character who in the novel was Elizabeth Bennet? A wealth of talent is here and I pick Hugh Bonneville as Mr Bennet and Alex Kingston as his wife for special mention. Who would have thought that they would be as enjoyable as Benjamin Whitrow & Alison Steadman in the 1995 P&P, but they are - and if this was a straightforward P&P remake they would do very well indeed! There are moments of complete hilarity where old and new collide, in music and manners and speech and it is done brilliantly, and, if you know the story, you wonder what liberties with the plot will be taken next. Casting is first rate...none of the characters are quite 'right' but in the context of this story they are brilliant, the obnoxious Darcy, the drunk Bingley and the threatening Mrs Bennet! Locations costumes and period detail are excellent and I look forward to the rest of the series which I recommend to you.

I suppose that we can expect more in a similar vein as there are many stories that could be re-jigged. Holmes with a modern day Watson anyone? I think it is probably more entertaining to see a modern person cope with the privations of life in a bygone age than say to tell Elizabeth Bennet's story in our 21st century. Anyone remember Adam Adamant Lives? I almost find myself hoping that they manage to spin this out for longer and embellish the book even more! Full marks so far - it's very good!
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Hardy Labour
18 September 2008
A review of the first episode and I am I have to say disappointed. I am partial to Austen/Hardy/Dickens and have enjoyed many of the recent adaptations but this is not as good. Central to this is the central character the eponymous heroine. The young actress is vapid, her accent is poor and her expression lifeless. You get the impression she is acting i.e there is no suspension of disbelief and she is, I find, annoying. Her mother too is as bad as Dawn French was in Lark Rise to Candleford! Thankfully there are others in it who can act, who go some way to redeeming it. Anna Massey as Mrs D'Urberville, Donald Sumpter as Parson Tringham, Christopher Fairbank as Groby all give good turns and Hans Matheson as Alec is suitably creepy. Unfortunately Tess does not evoke our sympathy as she is too wooden and unlikeable.

I will continue to watch in the hope that it improves, but am not expecting much...I am enjoying 'Lost In Austen' much more!
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Grass Roots (2000–2003)
One of the Very Best Aussie Comedy Dramas
3 May 2006
Saw this while living in Australia. It's a great shame it has never been shown in the U.K., whereas cr*p like Blue Heelers has! Yes this is up there with the best in Aussie TV - I loved Grass Roots (also loved the whimsical Sea Change). I watched this with a big grin plastered all over my face - the heady, swirling, jazz soundtrack is delicious, as are the performances of all concerned.

Basically the storyline is about the Machiavellian machinations of the purveyors of local government, somewhere in NSW. Plot, counter-plot, blatant ambition, amoral and self-serving councillors and staff...just superb! Toe-curlingly realistic (probably!) and very well written. Sophie Heathcote (as Biddy Marchant) is especially worthy of mention as she just drips malevolence. I am so sorry to read that she died earlier this year.

Why do programs of this quality not reach a global audience and Neighbours, Home and Away etc do??? Grass Roots is as far from Lowest Common Denominator TV as you can get - I recommend it to you.
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SeaChange (1998–2019)
Wonderful - a real slice of whimsical pie!
3 May 2006
Not a lot to add to the other comments. This series which, lamentably, is little known outside Australia, was compulsive viewing. Sunday nights were never the same again after the end! Yes it was right to go out on a high rather than peter out a la Northern Exposure.

Escapist and full of strange characters, you can only wish you lived somewhere the people were so strange (in a good way!). The series is as good on re-viewing and I have acquired all the DVDs. The series has little for action junkies. You come to know and like the characters - no real baddies, just a few scallywags, nothing major ever happens, but that does not give you the sense of the twinkle, the merriment of the little things that happen in everyday life, and the magic of living in Pearl Bay. I wish I did.
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