Monday, March 15, 2004

Prograpirents


The highlight of the week's telly (not that I watch a lot of it, as the combination of poor reception and even poorer programming puts me off) has undoubtedly been last night's episode of espionage-soap-opera Alias. This is down to a number of factors. Pretty much the entire length of the episode was focused on the main plot involving interrogating a terrorist in order to find out how to disarm a bomb on an aeroplane. It's been done countless times before, not least every single week on the 90's Superman show, where it went a bit stale, but it was done very well here. The tension was cranked up and the decision to have one of the heroes and the main villain both on the plane at the same time and have them collaborate to disarm the bomb was very clever. The episode wasn't ambitious as Alias is at its peak, but told a good solid action/espionage story, and as such was better than almost all of this third season, which has focused mostly on the soap opera element of the show, something which due to the cast's general incompetence regarding actual acting has never really worked. There was a bit of this at the end of the episode, as Jennifer Garner had a good cry accompanied by whatever coffee-shop-music the production company was plugging this week, but it lasted less than two minutes, and didn't interrupt the action, so that was acceptable.
The other factor which made this a very watchable episode was the utterly bizarre casting of Ricky Gervais as the bomb-making terrorist. After the terribly clichéd opening in Belfast (Heavy drinking? Check. People dressed like nineteenth-century peasants? Check. Jolly dancing music? Check. They stopped short of wandering bands of Catholic priests and horses running wild in the streets, but only just.), I was dreading Gervais appearing with some awful Oirish accent, but he was allowed to use his own accent. In fact, he was allowed to be himself, as it seemed like Ricky Gervais had, rather than play a character, simply walked onto the Alias set and they'd just carried on filming. It reminded me a lot of those things they do at awards shows over here where they splice the host into currently-popular films. He just sat there taking the piss out of it all, including Garner's hair. I suspect he was given a bit of leeway with his script, as Alias is never funny. So he was funny, and it was certainly fun to see him turn up in what is usually such a po-faced programme, but the most striking thing was that towards the end of the episode, he dropped the cheeky English chappie characterisation, and gave us a surprisingly chilling look at the murderous aspect of his character. You know when, in the Hannibal Lecter films, Anthony Hopkins stopped overacting for just a bit and just sat there silently and stared? It was just like that, except without Hopkins' cartoonish japery. Very creepy. Meg pointed out that The Office isn't exactly a jolly laugh-fest and is actually quite dark, so it shouldn't be surprising that Gervais could pull off such an effectively evil performance, and I suppose that's true.
The next Alias looks to consist of Jennifer Garner blowing stuff up and shooting the heck out of everything else, which should be fun, as long as there's none of the embarrassing soap opera antics. But what I'm really rooting for is a return appearance by Gervais' character, and the ending of this episode was left open enough for that to happen.

On a related note, the upcoming American remake of The Office is apparently going to be called The Office: An American Workplace. I've never understood the tendency to tack one's nation's name onto everything it produces. I suspect that every nation does it, but I've only noticed it in the move over here. It's "American" this, and "American" that. The cynic in me says that it's the American tendency to think "American is better" that's at work here. The absurdist in me says that Americans often forget where they are and need reminding. It would explain all the flags...

Not much else to report, other than the fact that we went down to visit the in-laws over the weekend, and so I've completely failed to get page seventeen of the comic finished by the end of the week as I'd hoped. May I be thrice-damned to Heck for my crimes against productivity.

Finally, it looks like I might, for the first time ever, start getting an X-Men comic on a regular basis. Usually I'm of the opinion that X-Men comics are a bit...well...naff, but there's something special about this one. More on that exciting news story as it happens. Bet you can't wait!

And that's me done, because that's the longest post I've done in ages, and it's about nothing of importance. Goodnight all.

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