What I’m Watching : TORCHWOOD MIRACLE DAY

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Russell T. Davies the man who nearly single-handedly spearheaded the resurrection of the DOCTOR WHO franchise after its decades long demise, created the boundary pushing spin-off series TORCHWOOD. Revolving around the popular Doctor Who character Capt. Jack Harness, Torchwood allowed Davies to create a show for adults. While American audiences are relatively comfortable with violence, Davies wanted to create a more mature show, laced with sex and sexuality and relationships in this fragile 21st century.

From a rough and awkward first season, every subsequent season of TORCHWOOD became better both in terms of budget, story and scope, until the third season, CHILDREN OF EARTH, which is largely and I think rightly considered some of the best and most ambitious and heartfelt television the BBC has produced.

So it’s in the shadow of that huge popularity and success of season 3, that season 4 of TORCHWOOD, MIRACLE DAY was born. A ten episode series, it met with less than stellar reviews upon its release. Season 4 set in the US, and financed by a US company, possibly fell afoul of an American audience expecting the standard Sci-Fi tropes, an audience possibly unprepared for the depth and level of sophistication and level of sex and sensuality, sometimes transgressively so, showcased in the season.

For the mythological middle America demographic that ratings are supposedly based on, MIRACLE DAY had a lot in it to buck the expected trends, Black guy on White woman, guy on guy, multiple characters of color, characters of color as heroic and smart, non-stereotypical writing. Davies (whose take on characters of color in his early work on Doctor Who bordered on the minstrel and offensive) in all categories is pushing the boundaries of his latest adult scifi epic, and especially in exploring the sexuality of its protagonist.

So MIRACLE DAY took its share of hits from those threatened by all the above, as well as the British audience feeling the show had gone American, and to be fair there is a bit in here to make even me uncomfortable. But if Davies comes down a bit heavy on the skin and sexuality, to push his own inclinations, it is his right, and thankfully the excesses never come at the expense of the story, and for the most part are always done artistically; and scifi has always been the perfect place for pushing boundaries and being a little bit dangerous.

And here watching MIRACLE DAY for the first time, courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku, I have to say ignore the naysayers, Season 4 of TORCHWOOD stands the test of time as some of the best and most epic writing Russell T. Davies has produced, which means this ten part epic is among the best and most satisfying TV produced… period.

It’s not perfect, the first couple of episodes are a slow build, the character of Rex perhaps more annoying than he needs to be, or perhaps it’s the actor Mekhi Phifer who tends to grate and be a little too belligerent and obnoxious for me in all his performances [I think the series would have been better with another actor cast, say Michael Ealy (ALMOST HUMAN) or Taye Diggs (DAY BREAK], and while a strong Season, CHILDREN OF EARTH still edges it out as the high-water mark for Russell T. Davies and Torchwood and arguably BBC. But those stumbles along the way just make MIRACLE DAY sticking its landing all the better, and stick its landing it does, a great end to a great season.

And an especially valid watch (episode 10 in particular) on Father’s Day! Grade: Highly Recommended.

Watch it for free courtesy of streaming [Get a free 30 day Trial of Amazon Prime (One Year Membership) here!] and then if you are as impressed with it as I was, buy it and the other seasons of TORCHWOOD, here:

Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series [Blu-ray]

Torchwood [Blu-ray]

Torchwood: Miracle Day [Blu-ray]

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WHAT IS HOT and WHAT’s NOT on TV for FALL 2012!!

I don’t have cable. I jumped off the band wagon years ago, and really have not been seriously tempted to jump back on. I’m content with waiting for products to hit DVD, and in the interim there are a lot of great shows out there on DVD to try.

I did that with both season 5 and season 6 of Doctor Who. Watching the shows over a few nights rather than the dubious experience of lengthy waits over several months, to invest in a story that may end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Which is how I tended to feel about Moffat’s Dr. Who seasons. While an imaginative and talented writer of “done in one” episodes or two parters, as a season wide story arc writer, his work tends to be swiss-cheese and disappointing.

So the ability to find that out by renting the DVDs over a couple nights, rather than an investment of months of ‘live’ watching, suits the way I like to view seasons.

That said for those of you who do watch TV/cable here are the shows I think you should be watching this fall, ones I’m intrigued in picking up when they hit DVD.

WHAT’S HOT

LAST RESORT on ABC- Why I’m interested? 1/Stars Andre Braugher of HOMICIDE fame. 2/Premise of a naval commander and his sub crew hunted for refusing to commit mass murder, has me incredibly intrigued. 3/One of the few dramas/genre/thrillers on an increasingly whites only TV shows, that has multiple actors of color

TREME- I’ve heard much about this Orlean’s based show. So look forward to catching up with it on DVD.

DOCTOR WHO- While I think Moffat should stick to done and one episodes or 2parters, and give up his attempt to outdo Russell T. Davies with big elaborate universe ending story arcs (Note to Moffat…, you may be a more imaginative writer than Russell, he is the better story arc guy. And your tenure is suffering in an attempt to outdo Davies rather than play to your strengths.

Particularly Moffat’s take leaves a lot to be desired. It gets old, the elaborate universe ending story arcs and over-hyping the Doctor into a God like protagonist. It just reads as bs and failed one-upmanship, and leaving your character no place to go or grow to. It tends to get boring, and while it’s fantasy and some level of inconsistency is inherent, season 5 and 6 have plotholes you can drive a truck through), I am interested in seeing where Season 7 takes the show. If Moffat would play to his strengths, smaller, intimate, done-in-one stories or two parters… the show could be fantastic.

WHAT’S NOT
ELEMENTARY- Sherlock Holmes is a recovering smart-alec drunk, Watson is his Asian female Bodyguard and Watcher, and the setting is New York. Really?!! I’m not a huge fan of the BBC SHERLOCK series, it’s okay, I just don’t think the writing is always up to the strong acting and direction, so my objection to ELEMENTARY has nothing to do with that BBC show. The more great shows the better. My objection is, if you’re going to change everything about it that is Sherlock Holmes, why even call the character Sherlock Holmes? I have no interest in seeing it, the premise just sounds insipid. However I’m willing to be proven wrong. If it makes it a full season and people are raving about it I’ll pick up the DVD, but otherwise this goes in the “What were they thinking’ trash pile.

That’s all for now! Feel free to leave your own recommendations, comments!

TORCHWOOD: Children of Earth REVIEW

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TORCHWOOD:CHILDREN OF EARTH- I came into this mini-series having only seen one other episode of TORCHWOOD, the season #2 finale preceeding this series.

And that episode by itself was pretty darn bleak and impressive. But CHILDREN OF THE EARTH ratchets it up several notches, with the stakes being nothing less than the world itself.

I found it powerful, and wrenching television, with strong performances throughout. It’s the kind of emotional wringer that BABYLON 5 and FARSCAPE were very good at pulling off, primarily due to the tortured and terrific performance of their actors. And while CHILDREN OF EARTH perhaps lacks any single stand-out actor, all the actors turn in strong performances, and CHILDREN boasts a script, that while science fiction, is more grounded in the issues facing us today.

That and the sustained storyline aspect, creates a cumulative effect that makes for one of the finer hours of television I’ve seen in a while.

It’s not without missteps, what show is, but the few it takes are minor and lost in the numerous strengths of the mini-series.

So all in all easily the best BBC TV production I’ve seen.

If this series doesn’t touch your heart in places, it’s quite possible you’re in need of a new one.

Recommended. A-.