19 December 2005

TV Roundup

Of the three TV series I'm in the process of watching or rewatching currently...

Buffy, moving now into the endgame of Season Three, continues to be ace, interspersing some of the series' very best individual episodes (The Zeppo, Doppelgangland, Earshot) with a character-focused arc story (Faith's journey to the dark heart of Slayerhood) just as compelling as that of Season Two -- although, granted, its seriousness is weakened somewhat by the reset-button resolution of that season's aftermath. It helps that Faith is possibly my favourite character in the Buffy universe, ushered by Eliza Dushku's consummate acting through this compellingly believable moral descent and her later redemption. (Plus, of course, she's sex on legs.) But if Buffy tails off (and the matter's arguable), it's certainly hasn't started doing it yet.

The West Wing is a hell of a lot better in Season Six (two more episodes left to go) than in was in Five, although it's achieved this largely by shifting the emphasis altogether away from the Bartlet administration itself and onto the inevitable succession battle. I still miss the era when it was entirely about speech-writing, but there's some very decent stuff on offer here.

I'm finding the programme's attitude to the Republicans particularly intriguing: having fielded an obvious joke candidate against Bartlet in Season Four's second-term elections, this time the writers have decided to pit the Democratic candidate against a Republican nominee who's every bit as implausibly idealised as Bartlet himself -- and is, moreover, played by archetypal counterculture rebel Hawkeye Pierce off M.A.S.H.

This is presumably designed to suggest in Season Seven that Congressman Santos is being given a real run for his money[*], but it's beginning to backfire: as someone who lives on the same planet as the United States, I think I'd prefer to have the capable and honest Vinick in charge, rather than the frankly shambolic Santos. (Either of them, of course, would be far preferable to the chimp chap running the place in the real world, who bears a more than passing resemblance to the aforementioned joke candidate.)

Rome remains utter drivel, relying more and more heavily on implausible coincidence to throw the spurious and unnecessary everyman characters Pullo and Vorenus into the thick of every historical situation, and serving up the same unpleasant splurge of cod-shakespearean diction and 21st-century banality in the dialogue. Apart from the stunning visual texture and a half-decent performance (yes, about half I'd say) by Ciarán Hinds as Caesar, this series has virtually nothing to offer. Even on the most basic level, none of the later sex scenes have lived up to the full-frontal promise of the pilot.

I've been wondering, too, what Rome fanfic is like. I presume there's no shortage of Pullo / Vorenus slash, but has anybody yet written a crossover where they meet Asterix and Obelix?

Come to think of it, a cameo from Gérard Depardieu would liven up the series no end.

[*] OK, so strictly speaking I don't actually know at this point that the Democrat nominee's going to be Santos. But come on.

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