The Idiot Box
Thoughts on TV shows and my current viewing habits.
Tonight’s season finale of Endeavour was possibly the best episode to date. All the outstanding plot lines were resolved and despite my concerns that a tragedy may occur with regards to one of the central characters, the ending saw the prevailing status quo of previous seasons restored. This series has been exceedingly creative with regard to the subjects and themes it has explored and there have been some exceptional performances from Anton Lesser and Roger Allam. Writer Russell Lewis (a very interesting person in his own right) continues to embellish the proceeding with “metatextuality” which is always a source of joy for me. Recent references to Gordon Murray’s Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley were exceeding droll, yet if the causal viewer missed them, there is still plenty of practical story and historical referencesfor all to get their teeth into. I also thought that the final episodes exploration of a tower block collapse was particularly brave and relevant, considering that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is still proceeding.
Ricky Gervais is a controversial figure and opinions surrounding him are often binary. His work is often challenging, and I fully understand why some find it such difficult viewing. However, comedy and satire can be incredibly astute vehicles for analysis and criticism of the human condition, and I believe that is something Mr Gervais does well when his work hits the mark. So having seen the various trailers for his new show After Life, I am cautiously optimistic. After Life follows Tony, who enjoys a good life until his wife suddenly dies. After considering suicide, he subsequently decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife's death by literally saying and doing whatever he wants to. His behaviour has unexpected results. I suspect that this show will touch upon numerous subjects close to my heart, such as the superficial nature of modern life, social etiquette and pointlessness of many contemporary jobs. The entire season of eight episodes is released on Netflix on 8th March.
In between my other viewing commitments, when ever I have a spare hour, I try to catch up with Star Trek: Voyager. It is one of the few Trek shows I neglected upon release as I only watched the first season. Like other shows in the franchise, it took a few seasons to get going and find its feet but by late season three, it started to reach its potential. I am currently watching this via Netflix (UK) which has the rights to all Star Trek shows. Sadly, unlike TOS and TNG, Star Trek: Voyager has not been remastered and is not available at present in High Definition (The same is true for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Therefore the image does look a little “soft” at times which is especially noticeable in some of the FX shots. Like TNG, although the live action was shot on film, the show was edited via video and so there are no trational master negatives of each episode. A full restoration means remastering the live action and recombining it with the FX elements and credits, making it a very costly endeavour. I suspect that the right holders will have to think long and hard before financing such a project. In the meantime, what is available on Netflix will have to suffice.
Finally, as a grandparent I end up watching a lot of children’s TV either directly, or by being around when it is on in the background. Surprisingly enough, a lot of it is inoffensive and usually has some lesson to impart to its young audience. I do find the associated toy marketing a nuisance as I have spent about a year now having to endure Paw Patrol both on and off the screen. However, one show I do admit to enjoying is Hey Duggee. This animated program is set in The Squirrel Club, an activity group for children, similar to The Scouts. The children take part in all kinds of activities, have adventures and earn badges for their accomplishments. The novelty lies in the fact that the children are an Octopus, Rhino, Crocodile, Mouse and Hippo. Duggee, the leader of The Squirrel Club, is a big floppy eared dog who communicates via the onomatopoeia "Woof". Yet everybody understands him perfectly. This is another show that smuggles a great deal of pop culture references into the short seven-minute stories. A simple journey in a river boat to find a missing sheep quickly alludes to both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Who would have thought that children’s TV could become so “meta” and clever.