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Further Thoughts on 'Torchwood,' Plus Podcast Chat on 'Falling Skies,' 'The Hour' and More

Date August 05, 2011
Further Thoughts on 'Torchwood,' Plus Podcast Chat on 'Falling Skies,' 'The Hour' and More I'm a bit behind in posting updates about the last two podcasts, but we've got packed edition of Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan this week.

In this week's podcast, Ryan McGee and I talk about TNT's 'Falling Skies,' which has its season finale Sunday, 'Torchwood,' which hits the midpoint of its Starz season tonight, and 'The Hour,' an interesting new...

Further Thoughts on 'Torchwood,' Plus Podcast Chat on 'Falling Skies,' 'The Hour' and More I'm a bit behind in posting updates about the last two podcasts, but we've got packed edition of Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan this week.

In this week's podcast, Ryan McGee and I talk about TNT's 'Falling Skies,' which has its season finale Sunday, 'Torchwood,' which hits the midpoint of its Starz season tonight, and 'The Hour,' an interesting new drama that arrives on BBC America Aug. 17. I am not sure if I'll get a chance to write a full review of 'The Hour' this month, so if you're interested in the period drama, which stars Dominic West of 'The Wire' as a news anchor in mid-'50s London, you might check out our non-spoilery discussion of the show.

In the last segment, I talk about some of the things that have transpired at the Television Critics Association press tour, which I've been attending for the last two weeks.

I've got a bit more to say about the new season of 'Torchwood' further down in this post, and there are running times for the podcast below as well.

First, the running times for this week's podcast:

'Falling Skies': 0 - 11:49

'Torchwood': 11:50 - 26

'The Hour':20:01 - 33:49

Talking Margo Martindale, AMC, 'Chuck' and other TCA happenings:33:50 - end.

Don't forget to check out last week's podcast, in which we talked about the shows that hit Comic-Con and the controversy over 'The Walking Dead.'

As always, you can grab the podcast from iTunes (where you can also subscribe) or you can get both of the podcasts from the Talking TV home site. Full archives of every 'Talking TV' podcast are available here. The entire 'Talking TV' archives are also available on iTunes. Our RSS feed is here.

OK, as promised, here are some further thoughts on 'Torchwood.' Of course, you can listen to the podcast for more on what Ryan and I think of the 'Miracle Day' season, and I'd certainly like to get your views on where things stand, especially after tonight's episode airs. Please leave your thoughts in comments now or after Friday's hour ends.

Further Thoughts on 'Torchwood,' Plus Podcast Chat on 'Falling Skies,' 'The Hour' and More In this brief 'Torchwood' discussion, I won't spoil anything that happens in tonight's episode, which I've seen, but my feeling about the season as a whole can be put very simply: I'm not buying it.

Not much of what is happening in season 4 makes sense to me, on emotional or intellectual levels. Of course, most works of fiction require a suspension of disbelief at some point or another, but the most of the developments in episodes 4 and 5 haven't felt credible. At all.

When I wrote my review of the new season (which was based on having seen the first three episodes), I hoped that certain unfortunate tendencies would not come to the fore as the season progressed. But I haven't been encouraged by what I've seen in subsequent episodes. When it comes to tonight's episode, far from being shocked by certain developments, I simply felt more distressed at the lack of logic, cohesion and focus that the show is displaying.

With a high-concept show, you have to believe the basic concepts and premises for it to work. Nothing the show has done has really helped me believe these premises, and so far most if not all of the characters exist merely to advance the plot -- the new characters are not interesting in their own rights, and the old characters aren't getting any room to breathe and are not adding dimension to their relationships in any meaningful way.

But my main problem is this -- I don't think societies, the world, institutions, governments and the families of sick people would respond to this crisis in the ways depicted in 'Torchwood: Miracle Day.' Almost more importantly, I don't think they'd respond as quickly as they are shown responding here.

One thing I keep thinking about is that it probably takes a hospital months to decide what kind of chairs to buy for their waiting rooms or which brand of tongue depressors to stock -- yet hospitals and governments would readily agree to hand over sick people to Phicorp in a matter of days? No. I don't believe that. Families wouldn't object and want more information about their loved ones' fates before shipping Granny off to random strangers? Of course they would.

Another thing I don't buy: That a major corporation would want a child murderer as one of its spokesmen. No. These are all very basic things that make no sense to me. The fact that the show wants me to just accept these things without justifying these developments to the point that they feel inevitable -- well, it's disappointing, to say the least.

Admittedly, the show is trying to do a lot -- introduce new characters, transfer the action to America, weave Oswald into the story, do some kind of social critique, set up the overall conspiracy, etc. I don't think any of those things are going particularly well (last week and this week, 'Torchwood' gives us one-dimensional characters that come off, frankly, as caricatures). But the way the social critique and the conspiracy have been handled have been particularly mystifying and frustrating.

Let's just say that the depiction of the American political scene in last week's episode was hamfisted at best (I completely agree with Alan Sepinwall's take on the episode). But the overall Big Bad plot is even more disappointing to me. If you've seen the previous seasons of 'Torchwood,' the fact that a big corporation is the bad guy here is not at all surprising -- it's deflating, given how often Russell T Davies has gone to that well in the past. Even if Phicorp is part of a bigger scheme, so far that story line just seems rote, stale and, again, not particularly credible.

Davies can be an inventive, imaginative storyteller and, at his best, can do a fine job of depicting the complex relationships among people in crisis, but those strengths aren't coming through as this season progresses. In the past (certainly at the end of 'Torchwood: Children of Earth'), he's shown a tendency to rush pell-mell through plot points, assuming that the audience would follow him, even if certain things don't particularly make emotional or logical sense.

With this season of 'Torchwood' expanding to 10 hours, it feels like Davies is indulging in that tendency twice as much. What I look forward to in 'Torchwood' is not just the exploration of the edgy central concept but the impact that events have on the characters. But the show is asking too much from me without giving me that kind of character-driven satisfaction in return. What I'm seeing here is simply not rigorous or nuanced enough. 'Torchwood: Miracle Day' is simply too impatient, too slipshod and too overwrought for me to be enjoying it much at this point.

I'll keep watching and I'll keep hoping that the second half of the season will be more satisfying than the first half. And please do let me know what you think below. (There's a chance I'll add some thoughts about Friday's episode in the comment area after the episode airs).

Follow @moryan on Twitter.

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