Surreality show

Tired of reality shows? How about a surreality show? (A term apparently coined by TV critic Tom Shales, referring to another program, the term meaning a drama unhinged from any kind of plausibility or realism.) “Lost” returns tonight. Will you?

British time-travel cop show

As I mentioned, I have become a fan of Life on Mars, a British mystery series shown here on BBC America on Tuesday nights. The premise is that Sam Tyler, a detective from our day, went into a coma, whereupon he finds himself as a detective back in 1973.

What I like most about the show is not so much that science fiction overlay but the well-scripted mystery plots, which are stellar examples of the police-procedural mystery genre. Also the characters, especially the Neanderthal-by-our-standards Chief Inspector Gene Hunt, referred to as “Guv.” Where the time-travel frame works best is in the contrast between police work in the 21st century and the way it was back in the 1970′s, before cops worried too much about suspect rights, ethnic and gender sensitity, or police brutality.

Sam just cannot stand the chauvinistic way everyone treats Annie, the loan female on the force.

Guv: “Get me some coffee, will you love?”

Sam: “Annie is the best detective on the force! She shouldn’t have to bring you coffee!”

Annie: “But I don’t mind!”

Then there are the different approaches to criminal investigations:

Sam: “We’ll have to put the suspect under surveillance.”

Guv: “What’s that?” [Sam explains, adding that before too long surveillance will take up a lot of what police officers will do.]

Guv: “Surveillance doesn’t sound like a very manly way to do police work.”

Then there is the wildly, embarrassingly, politically-incorrectness of those old-school cops, highlighted by Guv’s over-the-top sarcasm:

Sam: “I think we should investigate whether this was a hate crime.”

Guv: “As opposed to an I-really-really-really like you crime?”

Knowing you readers as I do, I think a lot of you would like it. Caution, though, for bad language. Though much of it you may find inpenetrable, due to the array of British class accents.

Idol chatter

I wasn’t really planning to get into American Idol again, but here I am. I’ll live-blog it:

Not stories! They are doing to a talent show what they did to the Olympics, giving all this human-interest background so we’ll get involved with the characters rather than concentrating on the performances. A guy who lost 200 pounds. . . An immigrant who loves America. . .A teenaged girl who has to take care of her wheel-chair bound mother. . .

A greater variety of music? A guy does a Hispanic song. I like that genre. Beautiful melodies, and Spanish is the loving tongue.

Some of the bad ones receive mercy. The girl doing it for her mother is sweet, so cries, hugs, and commisserations all around, even from Simon.

Memorable line: “I WILL be victorious.”

Whoops. My Tivo is switching to record two better shows: “Life on Mars” (a GREAT high-concept mystery on BBC) and “Comanche Moon” (which I will watch for the sake of the saga it is prequel to “Lonesome Dove”). This “Idol,” unlike last year’s, is not drawing me in. I’m not even going to watch the rest of it. Let me know what I missed and if I should give it another chance.

Huckabee reconsidered

In her thought-provoking discussion of the caucus results, Peggy Noonan recounts a line Mike Huckabee delivered when Jay Leno asked him why he was doing so well against Mitt Romney:

“People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.”

Whatever you think of the guy, that is a very funny and dead-on satirical quip. If Leno is looking for some scab writers, Huckabee just might fit the bill.

Some people don’t like Huckabee because of their aversion to and fear of “the Christian right.” Others don’t like him because he is not a “true conservative,” being too populist. If taken together, those seem to be contradictory concerns. If Huckabee is the new standard bearer for that movement, has the Christian right morphed into a Christian middle?

Perhaps the biggest problem with Huckabee for conservatives is that he would be the Republican version of George McGovern, pleasing an important element of the party’s base but destined to lose in such a spectacular way in the general election that he would knock that base out of influence for years.

What do you think?

My new favorite TV show

G. K. Chesterton said that there is no such thing as an uninteresting subject. There can only be an uninterested person. His point was that EVERYTHING in this created order is, when seen properly, amazing. A corollary that I have long noted is that ANY subject can be made interesting if it is presented with the requisite skill.

I don’t have that much interest in automobiles, but I do have interest in a TV show about them,
Top Gear. It’s a British show, to be found here on BBC America, and it is stone cold hilarious. The rumpled Jeremy Clarkson leads a team of English motorheads who test automobiles. . . Well, that doesn’t capture it. A typical show brings on a celebrity to see how fast he can drive a “reasonably priced car,” and humorous things always happen. (For example, on a recent episode, they supposedly sent out an invitation to everyone in the year’s Who’s Who. A celebrity showed up, but the hosts didn’t know who he was.) Then the team test drives some 100,000 pound sports car (that’s money, not weight, over $200,000 American money) in an entertaining way. Then the team takes on some project that fails miserably (building an amphibious vehicle, designing the interior of a car so that it accords with what you would like to see in your house, turning a van into a convertible that, unfortunately, catches fire in a carwash).

Well, I can hardly convey the full magnitude of this show. If you like British humor, never mind if you don’t like cars. You need to see TOP GEAR for yourself.


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