Thursday, 24 July 2014

TV15: British Mega-hits: Sherlock & Doctor Who


No TV shows made in the past decade have been recommended to me more often than Doctor Who and Sherlock. I held off a long time before watching either of these British mega-hits, but I have now watched the first three seasons of Sherlock and the first three and a half seasons of the new Doctor Who, so it’s time to respond to those who recommended these shows to me, noting in advance that I have always been a huge fan of British TV and that a great many of my all-time favourite TV shows come from the UK.



Sherlock

Sherlock brings the tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into the 21st century and gives us the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and the excellent Martin Freemen as Dr. Watson. The acting is as good as one might expect and definitely superior to most TV shows and the writing is very clever indeed (and very funny), with a level of intelligence that exceeds almost anything else on TV (i.e. it demands a lot from its audience). Combine the writing and acting with first-rate cinematography and a great score and you could hardly ask for more.

Nevertheless, I was quite disappointed with the first season of Sherlock, finding two of the three plots to be unconvincing under-achievements. Which is not to say that they weren’t very good (they were still ***+ TV); just that they were not as good as I had been led to believe they might be. However, the plots improved during the second season and in the third season the show reached the kind of **** level I had been hoping for (though not without being very disappointed with at least one of the endings). So to all those who recommended this show to me, as one I would love: you were correct. **** My mug is up.



Doctor Who

I first watched Doctor Who when I was a child in the sixties. It scared me silly (especially those Daleks), though now I laugh to think of it. For some reason, the trailers for the new Doctor Who did not appeal to me and so I did not watch my first episode until 2011. I crept slowly through the first season, being underwhelmed far more often than not and almost giving up on the series. Oh, I loved the character of Doctor Who (who doesn’t?) and thought Christopher Eccleston was great (as was David Tennant after him). I also liked Billie Piper as Rose. And I thought the production values were quite good. What I didn’t like were the aliens. Silly aliens just don’t work for me and most of the aliens I have encountered on Doctor Who have been, in my opinion, very silly. I know the original Doctor Who was aimed at children, but I had hoped the new version might actually be aimed at adults. Unfortunately, far too many episodes feel too silly to me to be treated as anything except children’s TV, and so I was not at all impressed.

Nevertheless, people kept encouraging me to continue, promising me that the best seasons of Doctor Who were the fourth and fifth and that I should just persevere and I would be rewarded. So I kept watching, and I now have a household of Doctor Who fans getting me through the seasons at a rapid pace. I remained generally unimpressed (i.e. some episodes were exceptional but most were only average), and in solid *** country, until the last half of the third season. I thoroughly enjoyed the last half of season three, with at least two episodes (Blink, starring Carey Mulligan, and Last of the Time Lords) rising well above average TV fare and giving me the hope that perhaps Doctor Who could yet become a favourite of mine. Alas, the first half of season four has not been promising. I very much appreciated the question, raised in Planet of the Ood, about whether those who make our clothes are slaves, but one question, in one of season four’s first six episodes, does not a brilliant TV show (or season) make. 

I have, however, been appreciating the often-intelligent and funny dialogue much more in the last twelve episodes than I did in many of those which preceded them, so, as a whole, Doctor Who has almost reached the ***+ level, though some very good episodes will be needed in the last half of season four for it to cross that line permanently. In the meantime, Doctor Who gets only *** and, to those who recommended this show to me, I say: I am still in wait-and-see mode but so far I am not persuaded of Doctor Who’s excellence. 


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