TV – What Are You Watching? October 2009

Ashes To Ashes Cast

As time has gone on I’ve found myself becoming more and more disinterested in TV and concentrating on gaming for good stories and interesting concepts.

But there are still some programmes I’m happy to watch and recently we caught up on lots of stuff we’ve had sitting on the Sky+ Planner!

 

Hairy Bikers Tour Of Britain

Hairy Bikers

I love the Hairy Bikers. I’m not afraid to say it.

For those of you that don’t know the Hairy Bikers, they are two cooks that do mainly down to earth recipes and travel all over the world getting easy but tasty local recipes.

Well this time they are staying closer to home and taking in a tour of 30 British counties – making a traditional dish and also facing off against a local chef in each place.

If you like food then this has been an informative and lively series thus far (I’m almost halfway through the thirty 45 minute episodes) – definitely recommended.

 

True Blood

True Blood

I’d heard only good things about this new US show which focuses on an alternate reality that has seen Vampires both confirm their existence and also start to integrate into society.

Most people are suspicious of them and take a negative view of the Vampires but not waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who longs to meet one.

Soon enough Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) shows up in town and is revealed to be a Vampire – much to Sookie’s excitement.

What with the scrapes her brother Jason gets into as well, this highly sexed drama has more than enough to raise a smile and keep you interested.

 

Ashes To Ashes

Ashes To Ashes

Well we finally got round to watching Series 2 of Ashes To Ashes and it was great to step back into the world of DCI Gene Hunt. (The ever excellent Philip Glennister)

Alex (Keeley Hawes) was still trapped in 1982, stuck in a coma in the present day and desperately trying to find a way home.

There were a fair few stand out moments, one being a traitor within the squad that was a great storyline.

I felt the ending was a bit of a let down but overall Ashes To Ashes maintained a high standard throughout the series.

 

Warehouse 13

Warehouse13

I’ve only seen the first, feature length episode (clocking at at over an hour and a half) but that was enough to hook me into Warehouse 13.

Basically two FBI agents (Eddie McClintock as Agent Pete Lattimer and Joanne Kelly as Agent Myka Bering) get relocated to a mysterious warehouse in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota.

Warehouse 13 contains any supernatural or unusual artifacts that the government don’t know what to do with. They are catalogued, boxed and kept on site.

The agents jobs will be to hunt out new artifacts, isolate them and bring them into the warehouse to be stored.

Angry and confused at first they soon come around to the idea after solving their first supernatural crime.

I think this one could have legs as long as the writing continues to be as strong as the opening episode. One to keep an eye on.

 

(WARNING)

If you want to maintain no knowledge of Ghost Whisperer then stop reading now!

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

Ghost Whisperer

GhostWhisperer1

Well it’s been quite a season so far with the death of Melinda’s husband Jim and his subsequent return via a new body (seriously? :lol:) shoehorned in amongst everything else.

I liked the sinister Dr. Epstein and was surprised they didn’t string it out for a few more episodes.

I really enjoyed Jay Mohr as Professor Payne and was sad to see him go. However his replacement Jamie Kennedy who plays Dr. Eli James (and is dating Jennifer Love Hewitt in real life) has been a great addition to the cast.

We’ve still got a few more episodes of this season to get through before we finish and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

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“I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Been Raining On My Face…”

Ghost Whisperer

NOTE: This piece contains potential spoilers regarding the following TV Shows and Games: 

  • Ghost Whisperer
  • Firefly/Serenity
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  • Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • GTA IV
  • Dead Space

If you plan to watch/play these DON’T READ THIS ARTICLE!!!!

So now that’s out of the way let me explain.

A few weeks ago a main character died on a TV show that I watch and I found myself a little choked up. That in itself is not really a surprise as I’m not the most difficult person to get an emotional response from – though we’re talking lump in the throat as opposed to actual tears.

It got me thinking about the reasons I would feel these emotions about fictional characters – was there some sort of checklist the programme-makers tick off to evoke these feelings? Or is it just that the makers/actors create the illusion differently each time?

Likewise with games, although it seems harder to trigger that same response (for me personally) – I haven’t really choked up over a game but I have often found myself shaken, or perhaps stunned is more accurate, by characters deaths.

Emo2

I discovered that research into this sort of thing has been going on for decades.

Back in 1956 an article entitled “Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction” was written by Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl. They discussed how the general public (or audience) felt connected to the TV presenters at the time because they were addressing the screen (and therefore the viewers) directly.

Research continued in the 70’s and 80’s and the term ‘Para-Social Interaction/Relationship’ came to mean the affection that viewers feel with the characters or personalities they see on screen.

So why was I upset when Jim died in Ghost Whisperer? Or knocked for six when Kate got shot at the end of GTA IV? I am a rational person – I have no delusions that these are real people, so what’s going on?

The answer it seems lies in further research…

Viewers attach themselves to characters – that is an obvious statement. If no one cared about the characters no one would watch the show. However it’s the depth of the attachment and the reasons for it that seem to cause these Para-Social Relationships.

Some people identify with characters, or at the very least facets of them, and invest emotionally because they feel a sense of familiarity when watching.

Emo3

Others idolize the characters or see them as role models. Someone they look up to perhaps, or aspire to be like.

Either way you’re drawn to these works of fiction and invest a great deal of emotion and time (especially in TV shows and games which can both last for hour upon hour) in them.

That is certainly a reasonable explanation – especially looking at something like GTA IV where you have crafted out a relationship with Kate for Niko (the character you control) by actually spending time with her and going on ‘dates’ etc. 

Several deaths in Buffy The Vampire Slayer shocked and moved me but for very different reasons.

The death of Buffy’s mother Joyce was possibly more to do with the way it was handled – with Buffy finding her stricken on the sofa, eyes wide open but unresponsive following a brain tumour. It was powerful stuff anyway but the bleakness and honesty of the scene was both upsetting and slightly disturbing. The fact that they showed the scene repeatedly during the episode also made it hit home harder.

Whereas the death of Anya, right at the end of the last season was upsetting in that a) she was a main character and b) in the chaos of the fight she was struck down almost without a death scene as the action continued.

Anya

Having said that Joss Whedon has a history of killing off main characters unexpectedly – in Serenity the ships pilot Wash is killed during a crash landing but at least with that death we got to see his wife’s reaction and emotion.

In Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Derek Reese is killed quickly and while the shock did hit home it wasn’t as emotional as the other deaths I mentioned, say Jim in Ghost Whisperer, which had a longer build up.

So is there a reason some deaths effect us more than others? Is it solely down to our relationship with the characters and how we feel about them? Or do the makers of these programmes have some tricks up their sleeves? 🙂

I suspect it’s a mixture of both. Of course the director can use certain shots/angles or a powerful piece of music under the scene to help things along but if the actors don’t put the performances in the response won’t be as strong.

Maybe the groundwork has already been laid by the director in revealing the character to you in a certain light to motivate you to like and identify with them?

Going back to the former point about actors, perhaps that is why the emotions I feel during games are weaker than TV/Film? As great as the graphics are in games these days they are not entirely lifelike and often the person voicing the character is doing so months before the character is even properly created.

I expect you would get more of an emotional tie to a character you’d created, say in something like World Of Warcraft. If a character you’d built up from scratch and moulded however you wanted was killed it would hit you harder I would guess. I don’t play those types of games so I couldn’t answer that question directly.

The closest I’ve ever come to that is when I tried the Sims in 2 player with my wife. We created ourselves but unfortunately I died in a house fire 😮 I certainly wouldn’t play that again 😦

Emo6

Either way I’m glad to feel those emotions watching. It restores a little of my faith in TV/Film that these shows can evoke feelings of emotional shock or choke me up – especially when so called ‘reality’ television seems to be taking over the TV schedules more and more all the time. Certainly a worrying trend if ever there was one.

As for games I look forward to increasingly improving stories – more of stuff like Fahrenheit, Bioshock, Infamous, GTA IV and Dead Space. Games that made me feel something.

As the world of gaming evolves even further I think we have plenty of great stories to look forward to playing through. 😎

 

Note: I found the website below really helpful in researching this article and I’m not one to take unwarranted credit so please check it out if you’re interested or want more information:

http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/6428/Attachment-to-Media-Characters.html

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TV: Cancellations And Catching Up

sarahconnor

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES

Wow. Just can’t believe this show has been cancelled. I know it’s down to bad viewing figures but I suspect it’s Friday night slot didn’t help matters.

Apart from one episode (the “Spiritual” one, seriously what were they thinking?) Sarah Connor Chronicles has been bang on the money every week.

The (slightly creepy) relationship between Cameron and John Connor really delevoped and. Summer Glau was brilliant as Cameron. Some of her delivery was the highlight of the show for me, it was like having a kickass version of Will Ferrell’s Buddy The Elf. 🙂

I really enjoyed this show and still have a flicker of hope it might be picked up by another network.

If not I’ll be waiting for some sort of Blu-Ray boxset of all the seasons so I can relive it all again!

 

primeval

PRIMEVAL

Season 3 of Primeval is scooting along at a great pace and the episode involving Abby’s brother visiting the future was probably the best one I’ve ever seen.

On the whole despite losing a main character or two the show is developing nicely and should be the source of some good old fashioned family fun going onwards.

The special effects deserve a mention as well as they are a vast improvement on previous series and hopefully this standard will be kept as the series continues.

I think there is still plenty of mileage in the format – especially with regard to them being able to go through the anamolies as well.

 

pushingdaisies

PUSHING DAISIES

Ah Pushing Daisies.

Brilliant start to the first season, so-so end of first season but this season has been immense and while I agree the show’s arching storyline hasn’t fascinated me the individual storylines per episode have been great.

Very well written and the comedic timing of all the actors (especially Chi McBride who plays Emerson Cod) has been excellent.

I’m still not sure how this had declining viewers and got cancelled – this season has been really good.

Looking forward to seeing how they wrap the storyline up – this is one show I’m really hoping does have a happy ending.

 

earl

MY NAME IS EARL

Looks like I’ll be trying to find something to watch next year with all these shows being cancelled 😡

Again I thought this season was a return to form for My Name Is Earl and whilst I can understand that the list idea might be getting stale for some people the scope for where this can go – even at this stage of the show’s life is a positive thing for me.

Someone has started the traditional ‘save our show’ campaign but is it too little too late?

It will be a shame to see Earl leave our screens but it’s been a fun few seasons.

 

dollhouse

DOLLHOUSE

Well at least one of these bad boys has been renewed for another season! 😎

Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, one of several ‘dolls’ in the aforementioned house.

Basically people who, for one reason or another (yet to be revealed) are now human shells.

They are hired by high paying clients, who dictate who they want them to be abd how they want them to act.

A specific set of ‘skills’ are imprinted into the them and off they go. None the wiser, doing whatever they are supposed to before returning to the Dollhouse to have their imprints and memories wiped so they can start all over.

Coming from Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Dr Horrible) I was expected it to be good but it’s exceeded expectations and it’s nice to tuck into a new US show knowing it’ll get a second season.

 

ghostwhisperer

GHOST WHISPERER

Melinda (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) and Jim (David Conrad) return to our screens picking up where they left off.

Melinda is still helping people with their nearest and dearest who won’t move on to the other side.

Professor Payne (Jay Mohr) has left, which I feel may leave a void as Mohr’s comedy brings a nice light touch to proceedings usually.

One thing that confused me – the tears when he left from Melinda, worried about a friend or something more romantic?

I thought the former but a fair few others think the latter.

Have only seen one episode so far so can’t judge the season just yet but it’s nice to have it back on the Sky+ planner 😎

 

flight

FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS

New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody act return with a second series that sees the band managerless but getting into the usual scrapes – before Murray returns to… well get them into more scrapes to be honest. 😆

The songs are still just as strong and the episode where Jermaine becomes a gigolo was wickedly funny.

I heard this will be the final season as they don’t want the songs to weaken which I can understand but it’ll be a sad day when Brett, Jermaine and Murray hold their last band meeting.

If you’ve never seen Flight Of The Conchords before check out the video below from season one to see what you’re missing.