TV Reviews

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Eyes watching through TV screens

I have discovered a new show — for me, anyway. It is the light of my life and perhaps the funniest thing on television, and is commonly called Peep Show. For those not familiar with it, Peep Show is about two guys, Jezz and Mark. It's essentially a sitcom, but is as far from run-of-the-mill as it's possible to get.

It's all about subjective point of view and internal neurotic logic and it's absolutely beautiful. I recently discovered it with the start of Season Four and am absolutely kicking myself that I managed to miss it this far. If you like extremely clever, but at points silly, but mostly surreal, comedy, then Peep Show is right up your street.

Talking of shows I'm a late arrival to, there's House. I recently discovered this with the start of Season Three and I swear it's the best medical programme on television. The most recent UK episode, 'One Day, One Room' (broadcast on Channel Five on 7/6/2007), is a perfect example why. I know a lot of the American critics didn't like this episode and found it a little contrived. Basically the set-up is that a women comes into the clinic who has been sexually assaulted and won't let anyone treat her but House. During the course of the episode they gradually open up to each other, revealing that House was beaten up by his father as a child. I'll admit that the set-up is a little basic, but it works. Admitting that sort of thing to a complete stranger ties in with House's trust issues; after all, it's easier for him to admit weakness to strangers than friends, because he's likely to get hurt. In addition it goes a long way to explain House's personality. Some people don't go for the psychological elements of House, but I think it's necessary; people don't become the way he is without a reason.

I do worry that this is the start of a softening process for House. I would have hated that at the start of the season, but think he's due for a huge fall and is made far more human for it. It's fine for a character to be mean and sarcastic, but they need to remain likeable. I don't want him to go even slightly nice, but I think he does need to be made a touch more sympathetic. Personally I love the character, flaws and all, but I can see why some people don't.

The episode itself is well-written and, I imagine, fairly realistic, dealing with big issues in an effective way that isn't just cut-and-dried. This is what makes House one of the best dramas on television, because it's not afraid to tackle the big issues and is all the more impressive for it.

Doctor Who is shaping up wonderfully. The two-parter — 'Human Nature' and 'Family of Blood' (Broadcast on BBC One on 16/5/2007 and 2/6/2007 respectively) — is one of the most wonderfully unique and well-written episodes in the series run. It centres on a man called John Smith who has dreams that he's a 'madman' called the Doctor. What he doesn't realise is that he is the Doctor and his memories have been stored in a watch because a sinister group of aliens called The Family are out to get him. It's a really touching set of episodes as John Smith falls in love and you realise what the Doctor can never have: a family. The Doctor is reinstated and in a beautiful sequence takes his revenge on The Family: he punishes them by providing exactly what they want: eternal life.

My favourite episode this season, though, has to be 'Blink' (aired on 9/6/2007). I've been a fan of Stephen Moffet since Series One and 'Blink' is the perfect reason why. It's centred on a woman called Sally Sparrow who finds herself in a haunted house, from which her best friend goes missing and is tossed into the past. Through a DVD she receives a message from the past filled with loads of instructions, but the main one is 'Don't blink'. Sally finds herself stalked by a bunch of stone statues with the beautiful name 'Weeping Angels', that are actually aliens in disguise. Moffet has found an ingenious method of making them scary; namely, that they can't hurt you if you look at them... it's when you turn away, or the lights go out, that things become tricky. We are offered an ingenious explanation: the aliens threw you into the past in order to make you die earlier and live on the days you would have had.

As one of the 'Doctor Lite' episodes, you might think it's not going to be up to much, but this is Doctor Who at its utter best. The woman who plays Sally is on absolute top form and you don't even miss the Doctor thanks to repeated TV footage.

Just an observation: the scene in the dark where the statues are shaking the TARDIS is wonderfully done. In the outside shot, the viewer's gaze freezes the statues because no-one else is there. It's touches like this that endear the writer to me.

Multilayered and scary: a complete gem of a story. Moffet, I love you. I have a single issue in that this is based on one of Stephen's previous stories from the 1996 annual called 'What I Did on My Christmas Holidays'. I'll let him off though because to his credit it may share similarities, but is entirely different. Oh, and let's not forget my favourite line: 'Timey wimey'. Odd, but I love it.

I'm sorry, but my TV viewing has been patchy over the last few weeks. You see, I'm currently rushing about like a mad thing, but normal service will be resumed next issue. Plus, I tend to only watch the same thing; I promise that some variation will come overall. To make up for it, I present you with a new feature, called 'Fifty things you need to know about...'. Essentially, it does exactly what it says on the tin and offers fifty facts about a particular show.

Fifty things you need to know about... House MD

It's created by a guy called David Shore (1) and started in November 2004 (2). The tagline for the show is, 'Genius has side effects' (3). It's set in a hospital and centres around a group of doctors (4) under the leadership of one Dr Gregory House (5). The title character is played to perfection by Hugh Laurie (6) and is generally considered to be a horrible person (7) but gets away with it because he's a genius (8) and very, very funny (9). He has a bad leg at the beginning of the show (10) and his increasing dependence on pain-killers (11) becomes a running plot arc. His three underlings Foreman, (11), Cameron (12) and Chase (13) are constantly made to look stupid and inadequate, but give the show some added depth (14). They are very rarely, if ever, right (15) and House is VERY rarely, if ever, wrong (16). House's best friend Doctor Wilson (17) is a good guy (18) and genuinely cares (19), though House claims that Wilson believes if he cares enough he'll never have to die. (20) Wilson is the only person who can make House laugh (21) and seems to take far too much rubbish. (22) Wilson is also a bit of a ladies man! He's been married three times in the series run (23). The boss is a woman called Doctor Lisa Cuddy (24) who has an extremely fraught relationship with House (25) due to his unconventional way of healing people(26).

The show revolves around these characters and their job in the hospital (27). They work together solving spectacular cases (28) that get more and more outlandish as the series goes on (29). Lots of people tell House that he's got the diagnoses wrong (30), he insists he hasn't (31) and he's right (32). Then someone is bound to complain about his over-medication of pain pills for his leg (33). That essentially is the plot! (34)

Despite this, House never fails to be interesting and the writing's never less than wonderful. It's a huge critical success in both the UK and US (35). It has won many awards (36), including two Golden Globes (37) and many acting awards for Hugh Laurie (38). Hugh Laurie was lifted to A-class status due to his superb acting (39) and brilliant American accent (40). For those of you who don't know, Hugh Laurie is a British actor (41). With extremely high ratings (42) there have been many similar shows created (43), the best and most memorable being Shark (44).

Perhaps the best indicator of the show's success is its parody on Scrubs (45), in an episode called 'My House' (46) in which Doctor Cox drops a tin of paint on his foot and needs to get a cane (47). He then proceeds to act like Doctor House for the rest of the episode (48) and even tries to solve a major medical mystery (49). It's definitely worth checking out (50).

That, ladies and gentlemen, are fifty things you might like to know about House MD. This is a relatively new section to my column; you see, I'm sort of playing around with the format.

I know that this isn't really my place, but since I'm House-obsessed at the moment, please indulge me. The House cast are doing a plea for blood donations, which I think is admirable. I come from the UK and I know that blood donation statistics are frighteningly low, which is why I give every three months. This is so goody-two-shoes, but please consider donating yourself. That's my good deed done.

Well, this is me signing off this issue. Come back next time for: reviews of Doctor Who (which spotlights in the 'fifty things you need to know about...' section), along with other assorted shows. Hope to see you then.

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