Monday, August 01, 2011

Touching Wood

Eve Myles as Torchwood's Gwen Cooper+++ MINORITY INTEREST POST +++

(But hey - aren't they all?)

So. Onto pastures new.

Torchwood has moved to the US of A. It has eschewed the bright lights and broad vowels of Cardiff and gone for the clipped and curled accents of, er, somewhere in America.

And this is the problem. They may have said exactly where in America the action is taking place but if they did I didn't take it in. And neither can I figure it out for myself by trying to eyeball any landmarks in the establishing shots. It appears to be somewhere in "TV America". That mythical place that seemed to come into being sometime over the 50's and 60's and then solidified into a place in the hearts and minds of kids the world over in the 70's and 80's.

TV America is how the rest of the world believes America to be. Michael Knight lives next door to B.A Baracus. Charlie's Angels sell Avon products to Jody from The Fall Guy.

It isn't real.

And this is why I am having a hard time getting my head around the current series of Torchwood. The plot is interesting. The ideas are good. The action is glossy, slick and movie quality. Clearly a lot of moolah has been spent on the show. £10,000,000 from what I've read. Though possibly that's in dollars rather than pounds. There's been some heavy-ish investment from an American TV channel / producer. A cash injection that would make even Captain Jack's eyes water.

And this, I suspect, explains everything.

The show is angling itself toward the American market. It has transformed itself into an American-ready chicken. Notice I didn't say turkey. Because it isn't that bad.

It's just the American thing... Don't get me wrong, I like America. I loved all those American action shows as a kid; they fed my young imagination. But it doesn't work with Torchwood. It doesn't work for me.

It feels too glossy. Too generic. Too Eighties pastiche. Rather than emulating modern American action shows it feels like they're emulating American action shows from 20 years ago. It clashes and it grinds. And not in a good way.

The American actors give it their all. They're reliable; they're competent. It's damning them with faint praise but it's true. Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper acts them all off the screen. Maybe it's the quirky Welsh thing? Maybe she seems more believable simply through familiarity? But I don't think so. Her acting and her emotional responses are streets ahead of everybody else. A couple of weeks ago she did a scene at the bedside of her on-screen father. He was ill in hospital. Her performance was brilliant. Real, gritty, restrained and yet emotionally full at the same time.

Everybody else behaves like a cartoon character in comparison. It's like the American contingent are just going through the motions. Possibly seeing their outing on Torchwood as merely a way to be noticed by one of the bigger TV channels, who knows?

John Barrowman too is pretty good but his character feels like it has been emotionally dumbed down. There's no range or even much scope for range at the moment. Maybe that will change as the series progresses? I hope so.

In the meantime I will stick with it. The plot has enough hooks in it that I want to see what happens next. This isn't a bad piece of TV.

It's just that after the previous Torchwood outing it feels like they've lost something. A little heart. A little soul.

I suspect there is a little demon running around somewhere thinking that's it's got itself a good deal.

And that's fine, believe me - as long as we, the viewers, are not ultimately short-changed.



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35 comments:

Owen said...

Desperate Housewives... you didn't mention Desperate Housewives, the epitome (imho of course) of where American TV has gone... down the dead end street of no return into an amorphous sponge of meaninglessness. American culture is imploding faster than you can say "big bang"... There are some who say that "American culture" is an oxymoron.

(as far as television goes anyway, there is still some good music down that way...)

Steve said...

Owen: I'm glad to say I have never watched American Housewives... I find the mere synopsis of the show deeply replusive and have yet to see or read anything that would tempt me to change my mind. What is interesting though is that American TV is starting to look to Europe for shows and ideas... The Killing being a very good, recent example. This can only have a good effect on the American TV (super)industry.

Nota Bene said...

I shall have to whip out the iplayer so I can catch up...and skip through if it's not up to standard

Steve said...

Nota Bene: ah, FastForward, the modern cure for entertainment ennui.

Mark said...

Lost me very early on, but then you weren't writing this for the likes of me, were you.

Steve said...

Mark: I am writing this blog for a very select audience I can assure you. ;-)

Gorilla Bananas said...

The man who is sentimental about the Welsh is turning into a sheep. Get hold of a big strong leek and whack it out of your system.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: oh big Gorilla bach, there's lazy stereotyping for you...

Anonymous said...

Elloo, I am welsh see an' what the big hairy chap said is quite correct. 'tis what we all do in Bryn-y-goch on a saturday night like, an' then we drink lots of cider till we puke. Some of the others, they go on to do a bit of cow tippin' and then molest some girls....by girls I mean sheep really...have you seen the local women here? Brings a tear to your eye boyo. I can't do all that as I have to be up early the next mornin' like, as I have a sermon to give.
That Torchwood is bang on like, an' that its gone all American like is only going to help matters. Captain Jack, now there's a man's man to inspire all the young boys in the valley!

joebloggs said...

Unlike the Miss Marple debacle that Touchwood....sorry Torchwood has "crossed the pond" can only be a good thing really as it is just a tad far fetched that Cardiff is some sort of intergalactic portal to worlds beyond our imagination. Though giving it a seconds thought if Aliens did visit Cardiff then yes I suppose their first impulse would be to EXTERMINATE EXTERMNATE!!

Steve said...

Anonymous: do yew have a sister, like, who is up for it cos it's shearing time here, see, and the sheep are too damn skittish to hold still and take a good bit of loving so if yew have a sister or a mother, like, hew's free sometime give 'er my phone number and I'll meet her in the car park be'ind llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station Sat'dee night. OK?

Joe: if you've ever wondered around Cardiff late on a Saturday night you know full well that portals to other worlds are opening up all over the damn place. Trust me.

Keith said...

With you 100 %

After killing off two thirds of the regular cast I was hoping they would use this as a real push the boundary moment, and instead they have slipped into an odd mid atlantic morass.

Gwen is still worth watching, but bring back characters of Tosh and Ianto's caliber please.

Steve said...

Keith: absolutely. I loved Toshiko. With a passion. I was very upset when they killed her off. What a waste of a sexually repressed pretty brainiac. She was the show's very own Velma.

Nana Go-Go said...

I recommend `The Wire` for more than a hint of `Real America`.
I think Captain Jack`s eyes were watering for a different reason, from what I observed!

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: yes, he was having - as the French would say - his pipe cleaned.

Nana Go-Go said...

Lol!

John Gray said...

Torchwood one of the few good things to come out of wales
apart from Tom Jones And Bonnie tYLER

Marginalia said...

I don't know. I feels like a cracking idea that's run out of steam and lost its way.

Money might buy top notch "production values" but if the storyline can't bear it it collapses into dust.

Not sure about the "man on man" action or, for that matter, the hetro-sex. In my book SciFi's about outer space and aliens not the space between your legs.

Bring back Dan Dare and Jon Pertwee.

Steve said...

John Gray: that Rhodri Gilbert fella is rather good too.

Marginalia: but then again Jon Pertwee did spend several series on kid's telly trying to get into the bloomers of Aunt Sally... I'm not sure if that is really preferable.

Martin Lower said...

Sorry, never watched it. I read somewhere that it's a Dr. Who spin off, and I never liked that either. Hmmmmmph.

Jeneane said...

Er Steve, this has got nowt to do with this Torchwood thing - if we ever got it in NZ (glad it's not only NZ where people like you and that Anonymous chap flash your headlights at... sheep). Anyway I wouldn't mind Following you (not like a sheep) and I feel a bit silly that I can't see how, and wonder if maybe you disdain the practice. You seem to have plenty of adoring fans all the same. There you are on every one's list...

Steve said...

Martin Lower: it is indeed a Doctor Who spin-off. I feel it is now confirmed as damned in your eyes.

Jeneane: wow. That's very kind of you. Thank you. I think at the bottom of your Blogger dashboard you'll see your "reading list" window. At the bottom of that should be a button to "Add". Click on that and when it asks for the url or link just copy and paste this: http://bloggertropolis.blogspot.com
...and that should do it, I think!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Eve Myles?? Acts them off screen??

Glad i took the decision not to bother then...

Series one and two always showed potential, but there were so many dull as ditchwater episodes, and who would have hired such a bunch of absolute unlikeable gun wielding maniacs for a secret government agency? Then James Marsters came along for an episode or two and showed them how it should all be done.

Series 3 was better, but not sufficiently so that i was bothered about the new one and i kinda agree that there was no way the format was going to stand a USA re-vamp without looking out of place. I'm kinda intrigued why it was necessary to get rid of the Jack/Ianto relationship to satisfy the american audience - can they not cope with an outwardly gay main character?

Spooks With Aliens - that's what it should have been. Such a great idea, but never quite hit the mark for me. Sorry :(

Jeneane said...

Thanks Steve. It worked. Just haven't gone through the process often enough yet to know what to look for. I have to say that I particularly enjoy your Comment-ary. A good dose of witty repartee to keep me up late at night.

Steve said...

Don't Feed The Pixies: I do know where you're coming from and felt frustrated with series 1 and 2. The 3rd series special, however, I thought was a superb bit of sci-fi. They seem to have taken a retrograde step with series 4, however, and that's a shame.

Jeneane: a pleasure - and welcome aboard!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Don’t know nuffink about that ‘Torchlight’. Never seen it. I’ve only got a little old English Tv, an it doesn’t do all that foreign stuff, unless I take it with me to the top of a tall tree.

I knows what ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ means in Engerlandish though. It means – ‘Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’.

Did you also know that the word ‘GOCH’ - pronounced "Coch" in Welsh, means "red".

Nope…thought not…nor did I.

Sighhh.

Joo actually know how deep her valley is then?

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: not how deep, no, but I do know it is where the "red cave" got its name.

Sorry. That may have been a gag too far.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Re your: “…may have been a ‘gag’ too far” – oh you’re such a silly billy sometimes, Stevie Weevie. I was referring to her…you know… ‘V’ valley place, not her gob.

Duhhh!

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: it's all the same in the dark, mate (wish they'd get that streetlighting fixed at the back of the bingo hall)...

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Easy solution to that old ‘which way up are they’ in the dark…just tell em to start slagging off about their last boyfriend, and then, if it sounds like they’re eating with their mouth full, well…you get my drift, don’t you. Thought so.

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: what if they're sufficiently talented that they can fart the national anthem and say "sausages" in a gruff voice at the same time?

Sorry... reminiscing about a dream date.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Ohh that’s absolutely fine Steve. Excellent news even! Means you’ve correctly navigated your way to the good old fashioned port of entry there. Give yourself a lollypop, and enjoy the wonderful occasion.

But…if you should, find yourself still struggling to prod your way past a piece of dubiously placed ‘meat and two veg’, then my advice would be - “Run!” – cos that gruff voice you just mentioned, may have just changed ‘everythink’ !! Capiche?

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: may I refer you back to my second reply to you above? Any port in a storm, as they say.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Ohhh Nooo! Surely not Stephen, please!! That can’t be what you meant by “reminiscing about a dream date?” Noooooo…

Oh that’s horrid. Yicky yacky yoo yoo horrid even. Eeeeeeeuwe!

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: he weren't bad for an 90 year old. Showed me his medals and everything. Still shiny after all this time. It's all in the wrist action...