The Upfronts 2014: TNT

tntIn addition to the major networks, many of the smaller channels make annoucements at this time of year. TNT seems to have been making a big deal of its brand “refresh” with a new tagline: “TNT Drama. Boom.” . Seriously. Anyway, TNT has a dozen or so shows which it airs at odd times, so at the moment they’ve got some established shows just finishing their seasons, and new shows starting up over the next couple of months. They also seem to make their shows WAY in advance of airing, because the two new shows that are about to start already had full trailers available this time last year, which is a ridiculously long lead time!

What’s Dead?
Southland made it five seasons, which isn’t bad going considering that NBC cancelled it in the middle of its second season. Mob City and Monday Mornings didn’t make it beyond their first seasons. Mob City was a Frank Darabont produced noir cop show set in the 40s which didn’t appeal to me in the slightest despite the good cast and crew, but Monday Mornings looked like an interesting medical procedural show but didn’t make the cut.

What’s Returning?
Falling SkiesThe only TNT show which I sort of watch is Perception, which finished its second season in March and is due to start the third in June. Rizzoli and Isles is the channels longest running show, and is due to begin a fifth season in June, at the same time as Falling Skies starts its fourth and Major Crimes starts its third. Franklin and Bash will apparently have a 4th season which should be starting sometime over the summer if they stick to previous schedules. Dallas is just finishing up its third season (in the incarnation at least) but there doesn’t seem to be any word on if there will be a fourth.

What’s New?:
The Last Ship (trailer, June): A virus kills most of the world, an American Navy ship is the only thing left to find a cure. It’s made by Michael Bay, but on a television budget which doesn’t sound like a good combination. The awake amongst you will also note that this was on LAST year’s list as an upcoming show!

Murder in the First (trailer, June): Two cops investigate a series of crimes connected to young technology entrepreneur. Looks completely generic.

Legends (trailer, August): Sean Bean plays an FBI undercover agent who is losing track of who he actually is. Again, it’s been loitering since last year.

Transporter The Series (trailer, ‘Fall’): Based on the film series, I’m a bit there will be lots of driving, punching, shooting and quipping. The plot seems largely irrelevant. Could actually be rather fun.

The Librarians (trailer, ‘Winter’): Originally this was a series of three made-for-tv films, but it’s now being expanded into a television series. It looks like Indiana Jones (or possibly The Goonies) meets Warehouse 13 via a bit of Leverage and looks like pretty mindless fun.

Proof (trailer , 2015): a terminally ill billionaire hires a sceptical doctor to investigate whether there’s life after death. My first thought with this kind of pitch is always – no there isn’t. My second thought is, how long will this terminal illness be dragged out.

Public Morals (<a href=", 2015): 1960s cops and criminals in New York don't seem to be all that different.

The Upfronts 2014: The CW

cwThe CW, the perpetual teenager of the television networks released its schedule on Thursday. It broadcasts less hours of prime time programming than the other networks, so has fairly limited space on the schedule and it pretty much fills it with teenage angst and monsters. It had one of the more successful years for new shows, picking up 3 out of 5 dramas.

What’s Dead?
The Carrie Diaries the prequel to Sex and the City was cancelled after two seasons. I’m a bit surprised it made it that far, it seemed flawed from the get go, why create a show aimed at teenagers based on a show whose fans are now in (at least!) their thirties. Plus it’s set in the eighties (shudder). Nikita (4) was both more interesting and longer running, but the fourth season was a much shorter one designed to finish the stories off.

Star-Crossed and The Tomorrow People were both cancelled after their first seasons. Teenage aliens and teenage superheroes just didn’t bring in enough viewers. I barely stomached sitting through the trailer for Star-Crossed and the pilot for Tomorrow People was uninspiring, so I won’t cry over either cancellation.

What’s Survived?
Supernatural - Season 5Supernatural, a series that was with a five year arc and that started when The CW was still The WB will return for a tenth season next year! I stopped watching a couple of years ago because I just found the endless trauma the Winchesters’ experienced exhausting. I almost wish they cancel the show so they can retire to a nice quiet life somewhere. The Vampire Diaries enters its sixth season demonstrating the popularity of vampires. Arrow (3) shows the popularity of superheroes, Hart of Dixie (4) the popularity of will-they-won’t-they and Beauty and the Beast (3) the popularity of pretty people with disproportionate amounts of angst.

While a proposal for a Supernatural’s spinoff next year failed to generate any buzz or pickup The Vampire Diaries’ spin-off The Originals was popular enough for a second season. Two other new shows will return – Reign and The 100. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment, both look like the usual teenage high school show just that Reign is set in 16th Century France and The 100 in the post apocalyptic future. Different centuries, same problems with boys.

What’s New?
Flash (trailer): Barry Allen is a CSI with a tragic past and is hit by a lightning from a storm that was produced by a physics experiment. Now Barry has super-speed. So he’s a superhero, fighting other people who made the opposite decision after being hit by the lightning. It’s set in the same universe as Arrow and has crossovers, if Arrow was a budget Batman, this is a budget Spider-Man. The trailer is a bit naff, but it might be ok if it focuses on the light rather than the over the top melodrama.

Jane the Virgin (trailer): 23 year old Jane is saving herself for marriage when she is accidentally (!) artificially inseminated with her boss’s baby. Yes, that’s genuinely the plot. If the trailer is anything to go by Jane is a nice girl trapped in a terrible plot with a shrieking mother. It reminded me of Ugly Betty, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I also never made it past the first season of that because the shrieking people were a bit too much.

iZombie (no trailer, mid-season): Dr Olivia Moore was a perky go-getting resident until she went to a party and got turned into a zombie. She manages to hide that fact and takes a job in the coroner’s office where she can eat all the brains she needs. But it turns out each brain gives her memories from the dead person, so she pretends to be psychic so she can help solve their murders. The title is terrible, but I actually rather like the concept. Done right it could be a lot of fun.

The Messengers (no trailer, mid-season): Four strangers are knocked unconscious and wake up connected to each other, with new powers and a mission from a “mysterious figure known only as The Man”. The press release is littered with bible quotes which makes me a little nervous, but The CW have confronted these themes on Supernatural before and had a pretty interesting take on them.

The Upfronts 2014: CBS

cbsCBS has built itself a phenomenally successful and reliable line up, with its shows regularly topping the ratings list. That means that there’s relatively few slots for new things, and they have to get pretty astronomical ratings to make the cut. There’s five new dramas coming next year and two of them are spinoffs, but on the plus side three of them have female leads!

What’s Dead?
How I Met Your Mother came to a scheduled end, finally revealing said mother after 9 seasons, to widespread frustration and disappointment it seems. Although I quite liked the first couple of seasons, I got tired of the characters pretty quickly so haven’t watched in years. The cancellation of We Are Men is notable only because the Tim Allen comedy lasted into its second season.

The other cancellations are all new shows. The Crazy Ones was the Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar marketing comedy that I was actually kind of looking forward to, but apparently was a bit meh. Both the other new comedies got even shorter service, Friends with Better Lives got just five episodes, Bad Teacher only got three. Hostages was a show designed to be an entirely new story each year, except no one cared enough to watch the first story, so it’s dead on arrival. Intelligence looked interesting but didn’t get anywhere near the ratings CBS demands.

What’s Survived?
csiThe usual throng of procedurals are renewed (numbers in brackets are next year’s season number) – CSI (15), Criminal Minds (10), NCIS (12), NCIS: Los Angeles (6), Hawaii Five-O (5), Blue Bloods (5), Person of Interest (4), The Mentalist (7) and Elementary (3) . On the comedy front The Big Bang Theory remains one of the most popular shows on the air and is renewed not just for season 8 next year but for seasons 9 and 10 beyond that! 2 Broke Girls (4) and Mike and Molly (5) seem to have quietly puttered along for a surprising number of seasons, while Two and a Half Men has somehow weathered one and a half of its men having breaks from sanity and leaving and gets renewed for a 12th and final season.

goodwifeThankfully, despite relatively low ratings, CBS also picked up The Good Wife for season 6, the only network show that holds its own against the cable dramas for critical praise, and I’d argue the best thing on television anywhere. Under the Dome returns for a second season this summer and Unforgettable returns for season three despite seemingly having been cancelled at least once and possibly twice before!

What’s New This Summer?
Extant (trailer): An astronaut spends over a year on a solo mission on a space station and comes back pregnant, then her robot son starts being weird too. Starring Halle Berry, Goran Visnjic this could be something really interesting… or it could all get a bit silly.

Reckless (no trailer): A “sultry legal drama” set in South Carolina with a tough Chicago woman taking on a southern charm attorney over a case of police corruption. If not for the word “sultry” in the description, it might sound ok.

What’s New?
Madam Secretary (trailer): Former CIA analyst, current friend of the president unexpectedly becomes Secretary of State and finds herself in The West Wing. This could be another Good Wife, Tea Leoni and Bebe Neuwirth are definitely capable of stunning performance, and with strong writing this could be a fascinating look at international politics. But it could also be a trite and over-simplified flag waving exercise.

NCIS: New Orleans (trailer): It’s NCIS in New Orleans. I predict ever more tenuous connections to the navy and some thick accents. Scott Bakula is a good name to start with though.

Stalker (trailer): Standard procedural with the usp that it’s a team dedicated to investigating stalkers. The head of the unit is of course driven and has personal experience, new guy is a cockie out-of-towner trying to get away from his past. It’s all pretty formulaic, but it’s a formula that works and Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott will make good leads

Battle Creek (no trailer, mid-season): The FBI open an office in Battle Creek Michigan and the charismatic Agent picks a gruff detective as his partner. Buddy cop hijinks ensue. Utterly formulaic blurb and no trailer, so no idea whether this will be as dull and unoriginal as it sounds.

CSI: Cyber (no trailer, midseason): A new spinoff from CSI, set in the FBI’s cyber crime department. I’m dubious that it will be able to hold its nerves and focus on science and technology versus running round shooting people. Patricia Arquette stars though, which is a good start.

The McCarthys (trailer): I tried multiple times to write the blurb for this show but it’s just so boring, and the trailer is so stunningly unfunny that I just couldn’t be bothered.

The Odd Couple (no trailer, mid-season): Oscar and Felix are old college friends, Oscar is a slob, Felix is a neat freak, they’re both getting divorced and now they’re sharing a house. It’s based on the play, film and tv series of the same name and is written by and stars Matthew Perry, so will probably be great and get cancelled.

The Upfronts 2014: ABC

ABC network logoABC, home of Shonda Rhimes, Modern Family and really not much else. They cancelled 10 out of 13 new shows this year and seem to be attempting to remedy that with a pretty diverse array of new shows which range from intriguing to outright offensive with a diversion into something that looks like Monty Python crossed with Glee.

What’s Dead
2013/14 was a really bad year for new shows on ABC. Lucky 7 was the thing about the lottery winners which sounded like a great idea but for some reason fell flat on its face, cancelled after just its second episode. The Assets tanked even worse and was pulled after just one episode, mind you, I’ve never heard of it, so it wasn’t exactly over-promoted. Killer Women lasted a whopping 7 episodes. Betrayal and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland actually managed to see out their full (short) seasons, but neither delivered enough ratings to earn second seasons.

New comedies didn’t fare any better, Back in the Game managed 10 episodes, Mind Games 5, and Mixology and Super Fun Night had full seasons before cancellation (although who on earth watched the horrific Super Fun Night is anyone’s guess). I’m a bit frustrated by the cancellation of Trophy Wife – I actually caught a couple of episodes of this, despite there being no sign of it on schedules over here and I really like it! Bradley Whitford is his usual charming self, and the rest of the cast was also funny. I suspect if it had been scheduled alongside Modern Family it would not be on this list. A real shame. Surely someone out there can make a show for Whitford that stays on the air!
For those keeping track that 10 out of 13 new shows not making it to a second season.

Two slightly more established shows got cancelled, Suburgatory was cancelled after three seasons and, Neighbors, which is apparently a science fiction comedy about a human family living in a neighbourhood full of aliens was cancelled after two.

What’s Survived?
castleCastle (7), Nashville (3), Revenge (4), Grey’s Anatomy (11) and Scandal (4) continue on in all their varying levels of ridiculous glory (next season number in brackets). Power-house sitcom combo The Middle and Modern Family are both renewed for season 6. Motive and Mistresses are both returning for second seasons this summer and Canadian series Rookie Blue is back for a 5th.

Three freshmen series have been renewed, including the one I care most about, Marvel’s Agents of Shield. The show is all over the place, at its best it’s entertaining, funny, exciting and colourful, at its worst it’s horribly amateur. Everyone involved can and must do better and the end of the season has been getting more interesting. Resurrection is a new drama that sounds a bit like the French Les Revenants series, dunno what it’s like ‘cos it hasn’t appeared over here yet. The Goldbergs is a random sitcom that I’ve not heard of.

What’s new this summer?
Black Box (trailer): A cutting edge neurosurgeon who is secretly bipolar. This made me feel rather uncomfortable to be honest, I get nervous about any show using mental illness as a narrative device, it’s far far too easy to skim over the medical reality just to make the plot work. Not to mention that it looks like a made for TV movie full of inspiration and meaningful connections.

What’s New?
How to Get Away With Murder (trailer): Professor Annalise Keating hires four law students and then there’s sex, crime, suspense, tension and, because this is a Shonda Rhimes show (c.f. Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), probably a fair amount of ridiculousness and completely compelling television. Also it stars Viola Davis who is generally incredible.

American Crime (trailer, midseason): A couple are attacked in their home, he is dead and she is in a coma. Their parents and the police want to find out who did it, but that’s not simple particularly when race comes into it. The trailer is pretty compelling, but I’d wonder how the story is going to be stretched and contracted. It would be interesting to do this in the same way as American Horror Story, with different characters and plots each season, otherwise an audience will likely get frustrated at the lack of clarity about when the answers will arrive. The cast (Felicity Huffman, Timothy Dutton and Benito Martinez) is impressive though.

Forever (trailer): Henry Morgan is a New York Medical Examiner, working with the police to solve murders. He’s also 200 years old because every time he dies he just comes back to life. The tone of the trailer reminds me of either Elementary (smug = bad) or Castle (knowing = good) and I’m not quite sure which way it will fall. Ioan Gruffudd is watchable though and the legendary Judd Hirsch is in it too, so it might be worth a look.

Marvel’s Agent Carter (clip from the Iron Man 3 blu ray, midseason): Agent Peggy Carter (Captain America’s nearly-girlfriend from the forties) is working for both SHIELD (or what will become SHIELD) and Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad), I presume it will be a mix of spy hijinks and period stuff, the press release makes reference to her being “marginalized when the men return home”, which could actually be very interesting. It’s a pretty unashamed attempt for Marvel to completely flood everything for Avengers 2, and it’s a shame Whedon isn’t involved (Joss writing a female 1940s spy? Yes please!) but it could be fun and interesting.

Secrets and Lies (trailer, midseason): A jogger finds the body of a little boy and he becomes the prime suspect. It’s not a massively original story for a film, but I can’t think of a television series has ever really been told from that point of view. I’m not sure whether we’re genuinely supposed to think that he might have done it (not if when the story is effectively from his point of view as the trailer implies, and as with American Crime (which surely it’s in direct competition with?) I don’t really see how the series is sustainable. However Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis are pretty big names, so it should be pretty compelling.

The Whispers (trailer, midseason): Children are doing horrible things and blaming their imaginary friends. Except their invisible manipulators are actually aliens planning to take over the world. It sounds ridiculous, but the trailer is actually extremely creepy and pretty compelling.

The Astronaut Wives Club (no trailer, midseason): Based on a book of the same name based on the lives of the wives of the Mercury Seven astronauts. No idea whether this is going to be Mad Men with astronauts, or Desperate Housewives with astronauts. It was originally scheduled for this summer, but has apparently been put off to next year, which could be a good or bad sign.

Galavant (trailer, midseason): It’s a fairy tale, heroes and evil kings and everything. It looked awful, then amusing, then there was singing!, then weird, then there was more singing… I don’t know whether this is demented genius or just genius.

Black-ish (trailer): Three generations of a black family try to work out how assimilated they want to be. I really don’t think this was targeted at me. What happened to Lawrence Fishburne that means he’s ended up in this?

Cristela (trailer): Cristela balances her internship at a big law firm with her working class Mexican-American family. Yup, seriously. If that’s not bad enough the best clip they found doesn’t even seem to be trying to be funny.

Fresh off the Boat (trailer, midseason): A Taiwanese family chases the American dream from Washington DC and its Taiwanese community to suburban Orlando. It’s set in the 90s and may as well be made in the 50s for all the horrific racial stereotyping going on. Can’t believe this actually got made.

Manhattan Love Story (trailer): It’s a romance between people who you probably wouldn’t want to spend time with, and they narrate everything they’re thinking. Oh I hate myself, but I smiled and even chuckled a couple of times.

Selfie (trailer): Self-obsessed social networker sees the that her ‘friends’ aren’t actually friends at all and hires a marketing expert to rebrand her. It’s a “modern My Fair Lady”. It’s hateful. Karen Gillan and John Cho deserve far far better.

The Upfronts 2014: Fox

Fox network logoFox’s schedules are dominated by loads of non-scripted shows like American Idol which doesn’t leave much space for ‘proper’ TV. Even so, I only watch two shows from Fox, and one of them they cancelled.

What’s dead?
Not a good year for new shows on Fox (when is it ever?) as they cancelled six out of seven! Almost Human had great potential, but things got off to a very poor start and even though reviews seem to have got better, the damage was done. Rake, a legal comedy-drama bounced around the schedule with ratings that declined about as close to zero as you’re likely to get on Fox. Dads, Surviving Jack and Enlisted were all sitcoms with horrible ratings and only Enlisted got anything in the way of positive critical responses. The only non-new show that was cancelled was Raising Hope which made it to four seasons, but solid reviews couldn’t overcome low ratings.

What’s Survived?
bonesBones plods into its 10th season, still getting significant ratings despite (imho) failing to do anything new or interesting with its stories or characters for quite some time now. Glee will return for a 6th and final season (and a short one, starting midseason) with apparently a focus on the original character now in New York. If they’d done that when people started graduating, they might not have floundered so badly in the first place. Sleepy Hollow and The Following both return for a third season, both entertaining and slightly ridiculous, ironically it’s not the one about the Headless Horseman that’s the most ridiculous. The Mindy Project and The New Girl are renewed for seasons 3 and 4 respectively. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the only freshman show still standing at the end of the year.

Fox is also the home of animation though and they’re mostly returning – The Simpsons (for season 26), Family Guy (for season 13), and Bob’s Burgers (for season 6); American Dad is renewed for season 11 but will relocate to TBS.

What’s On This Summer?
24: Live Another Day (trailer): After a 4 year gap, 24 is back for a 12 episode mini-series this summer. Yes, 24 is back for 12 episodes. I don’t understand that either. Still, it’s set in London, some of the usual characters are back (of the small number that didn’t end up dead) but I never made it beyond the second episode of the first series before labelling it as too stupid even for me and giving up.

Gang Related (trailer): anti-gang police officer was raised in gangs. Conflict abounds. It reminded me I should really get round to watching The Wire.

What’s New?
Gotham (trailer): The story of Commissioner Gordon when he was just Detective Gordon, when Bruce Wayne is a newly orphaned 12 year old and all the comic book villains are just getting started. If they can pull this off it could be really spectacular, the trailer certainly looks impressive and I’m nervously looking forward to this.

Backstrom (trailer, midseason): Following a long trend of shows named after quirky cops with odd names, this is a comedy drama about a drunk, obnoxious and frustratingly good detective and his misfit team. Same old, same old… but Rainn Wilson is a charismatic lead and I actually kind of liked the trailer.

Wayward Pines (trailer, midseason): A secret service agent is hunting for two of his colleagues in the backend of nowhere when he crashes his car. He wakes up in somewhere that’s Twin Peaks, Stepford and the Truman Show all rolled into one horrific and bizarre place. The cast on this is stunning (Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Toby Jones) and it could be fantastic, but it is also produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and if he struggles to hold plots together over films, imagine the carnage he can inflict on a television series!

Red Band Society (no trailer): Set in the children’s ward of a hospital with the long term teenage patients and their doctors and nurses. It seems like this has the potential to slump into a angst ridden teenage melodrama or a daytime tv movie as they “confront questions of life and death which no one at that age should have to face, a kinship based on these shared experiences is created”. Either way this sounds like a really weird show for Fox.

Gracepoint (trailer): Or as we will come to know it “Broadchurch: The Americans Screw it Up”. David Tennant is crossing the pond for it, with a passable American accent, but nothing in the trailer made me not miss Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker. In fact nothing in the trailer made me want to do anything other than watch Broadchurch again. Apparently they’re going to change the ending so it will be different to Broadchurch, but everything in the trailer looked and sounded familiar to me.

Empire (trailer, midseason): The king of hip-hop is dying and his three sons and ex-wife immediately start vying for his company. I have a horrible feeling that this show will go the way of things like Friday Night Lights and Walking Dead, dismissed because people have no interest in the subject matter, while those who actually watch will find that it’s about more than just hip-hop, football or zombies and is actually a very well written, produced and acted character study. At least that’s what the trailer seems to show… it could just be about hip-hop.

Hieroglyph (trailer, midseason): From the writers of Clash of the Titans and Pacific Rim isn’t necessarily something to boast about. And they’re certainly not the names I would want to see associated with something that looks and sounds like an attempt to make Game of Thrones in ancient Egypt. It looks terrible, and not in a funny way.

Utopia (trailer): This isn’t scripted, so I wouldn’t normally include it, but I saw the trailer by accident and had to share it because it’s so jaw droppingly bad I assumed it was a spoof. Just watch it, words can’t prepare you.

Mulaney (trailer) – John Mulaney (never a good sign when the you see the same name as writer, lead actor, character name AND title) is a bloke who does stand-up, lives with idiots and works for Martin Short. That really seems to be about it. The stand-up was passably amusing (although each joke was really laboured) but the rest of it was hideous.

The Last Man on Earth (trailer, midseason): The plot is in the title, Phil Miller is the last man on Earth. This might actually be amusing and interesting if it were a series of 3 minute clips, but I was getting a bit bored by the end of the 4 minute trailer. So I figure we’ll either get as bored of Miller’s exclusive company as he is, or they’ll chicken out and introduce other characters, thereby breaking the show.

The Upfronts 2014: NBC

nbc network logoIt’s upfront time once again, it does come around fast! For those that are unaware, upfront week is when each of the five major US networks announce their schedules for next year, thereby confirming which shows are renewed, which ones are axed and which new shows will be arriving. What that mean for me is that I watch a large number of terrible trailers, read some awful press releases and get generally despondent about the whole thing. It usually takes me until Wednesday to lose the will, this year I started off pretty far gone.

What’s Dead?
CommunityGiven that it has been on the bubble every single year, it’s more of a surprise that Community got the five seasons it did, I think it’s actually to NBCs credit that they supported it that long, five seasons is extremely respectable. Slightly less impressive are the two seasons that Revolution managed, although to be honest I’m a bit surprised it lasted that long.

Four underwhelming new dramas, Believe, Crisis, Dracula and Ironside didn’t see out the year, the first three at least got most of the way through their (admittedly short) seasons before it was announced at the upfronts they wouldn’t be back, Ironside was abruptly pulled from the schedules after just three terrible episodes. New sitcoms didn’t do much better, Growing Up Fisher, a sitcom I have no memory of hearing about got the plug pulled. The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World were both cancelled mid-season and Welcome to the Family equals Ironside and was killed after just three episodes too.

What’s Survived?
Chicago FireOnly three new shows received pickups (3 out of 10), About a Boy based on the book and film of the same name and doesn’t seem to have been drawing a huge amount of attention. On the other extreme The Blacklist has been something of a smash, led by a hugely entertaining performance from the always reliable James Spader. The third pick up is for Chicago PD, which does numbers just about comparable with its parent show Chicago Fire, which is picked up for season 3.

Parks and Recreation and Parenthood have both been given shortened final seasons (7th and 6th respectively), both of which (like Community) lasted far longer than their ratings necessarily justified. NBC also renewed Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for season 16, making it the longest running primetime show on air at the moment, and closing in on Law and Order’s 20 season run. Grimm and Hannibal also get pickups for seasons 4 and 3 respectively.

What’s on this summer?
Crossbones (trailer): Blackbeard (John Malkovich) is a pirate. He does pirate things and is slightly insane. There’s something about him trying to decrypt a code or something, and he abducts some bloke to help him. The trailer starts out with appealing sea battles and ends up with tedious Da Vinci Code cyphers and lots of loaded dialogue. Not exactly blown away.

The Night Shift (trailer): The Night Shift in the Emergency Room is made up of a gaggle of quirky medics with an overabundance of issues. The trailer appears to be from at least two different series, one a budget version of Scrubs with cringey jokes and the other a cheap knock-off of ER with overdone sincerity and mediocre acting. Eesh.

Taxi Brooklyn (trailer): An “action-comedy” New York cop ends up with a French taxi driver as a partner. Bizarely I can only find the trailer in badly dubbed French, which means I don’t think I can watch the show without remembering that and finding it ridiculous.

Undateable (trailer): A group of ‘undateable’ men are taught how to play “the game of love” by some bloke who thinks he’s all that.

Welcome to Sweden (trailer): A celebrity accountant moves to Sweden to be with his girlfriend, cultural hilarity ensues. Or doesn’t.

Working the Engels (No trailer): Sitcom about a widow struggling to try and keep her husband’s law firm running to support the kids, despite her not actually being a lawyer. I’ve heard weaker premises, but it’s not much to go on.

What’s New?
Constantine (trailer): Yup, THAT Constantine, demon hunter and somewhat reluctant fighter against all things evil and weird is brought back in to the fight to save the daughter of an old friend who’s got the ability to see supernatural stuff. It’s a strong story, that’s why it’s been done so many times, and it sits nicely alongside Grimm on NBC’s schedule. I’m not sure the balance of dry humour and biblical epicness is quite right in the trailer, but it may even out in the show.

State of Affairs (trailer): Charlie Tucker (Katherine Heigl) is a CIA agent, she was also dating the President’s (Alfre Woodard) son when he was killed. Now the two of them appear to be on a crusade to kill whoever’s responsible, which I suspect will turn out to be more convoluted than just killing terrorists. It looks extremely Zero Dark Thirty, which may or may not be a good thing, but with the exception of some stunningly bad romantic comedies, Heigl is always watchable and Woodard brings significant class. However it does feature the painful line (in text) in the trailer – “All the Presidents men are nothing compared to her”.

The Mysteries of Laura (trailer): Debra Messing is the least believable homicide detective ever seen on television, she’s better as a single mother clinging to the edge balancing everything, but every time she holds a gun or tries to act tough I want to die a bit. She deserves better.

A to Z (trailer): Andrew likes Liam Neeson movies and Celine Dion, and Zelda likes cocktail parties and apparently having less back story than the guy. They apparently caught a fleeting glance of each other 2 years ago and now, like it’s destiny, they’re reunited. It’s not offensively bad, but I didn’t laugh either.

Bad Judge (trailer): Kate Walsh (Private Practice) is a judge, a slightly unorthodox one who is a drummer in a band, drinks too much and hasn’t exactly settled down, then she gets a phone call from a kid whose parents she put in jail and now needs some help. I always liked Walsh in Grey’s Anatomy and this could be a good vehicle for her, and I did actually laugh a couple of times!

Marry Me (trailer): Jake attempts to propose to Annie, but she has a meltdown. Then she proposes to him and accidentally gets him fired. Based on the 2 minute trailer, she’s a hateful person, he should avoid her like the plague.

Aquarius (mid season): In 1967 an LA police officer is investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl, the trail leads to a cult led by someone by the name of Charles Manson. Yup, THAT Charles Manson. The series will apparently follow what happens over the next couple of years, “ultimately ending with the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders”. That sounds like they’re pretty confident about how long the series will be, I sense frustration. Duchovny is a draw though.

Odyssey (mid season): A lawyer, a soldier and a political activist, three strangers, are pulled into an international conspiracy about a huge corporation that’s secretly funding Jihadists. There’s an awful lot of terrorists and secret agents on NBC this year and without a trailer to go on it’s impossible to know what the tone of this will be and if it’s going to have some interesting character stuff, or just dull conspiracy wrangling.

Allegiance (mid season): Mark and Katya are Russian spies that have been sleeping in the US for decades. Now Russia is trying to bring down America and they’ve been reactivated and told their son must become a spy for Russia, a bit of a problem, because he works for the CIA. It’s like The Americans: The Next Generation. Frankly it sounds pretty ridiculous, are they really doing a show set in the present day about the Kremlin trying to overthrow America?

Heroes: Reborn (mid season): Tim Kring restarts the hit series of 2006 and flop of 2007 with a new miniseries with new ‘heroes’ just discovering their powers. Did the world really need this? Can NBC not find anything original, or at least old but popular!

Mission Control (Mid season): Dr Mary Kendricks attempts to break into the boy’s club of NASA mission control in the 1960s. The blurb incudes “Houston, we have a problem!” and “They all want… to get a man on the moon. It might just take a woman to get him there”. I predict we are about to lose the battle of the sexes.

Mr Robinson (Mid season): struggling musician takes job as substitute teacher, gets crush on English teacher, clashes with uptight head teacher. Not sure whether it’s actually School of Rock or just stealing everything from it, but Craig Robinson is gonna have his work cut out being Jack Black.

One Big Happy (Mid season): Lizzy is gay, Luke is straight, they’ve been friends since childhood and they decide to platonically start a family together. Then Luke falls in love with Prudence, they get married, Lizzy is pregnant and “a different kind of family is born”. It’s an unsurprising but solid enough setup, will need a trailer to actually make a real assessment.

Nurse Jackie: Seasons 1-5

Nurse JackieMy brother has been nagging me for years to watch Nurse Jackie, but I have very firm rules about not starting a series mid-way through and I never quite got round to hunting out the first season either on television or on dvd. Finally though I spotted the first four seasons on LoveFilm instant and I made pretty swift work of powering through all the episodes and then finding season 5 to bring me bang up to date within just a couple of weeks. That in itself pretty much tells you how right my brother was.

I’ll keep the main review pretty spoiler free and generic to the series as a whole, then at the bottom I’ll go into each season in a little more detail, but it’s hard to do that without spoilers, so beware!

The show is (unsurprisingly) about a nurse called Jackie. She’s an excellent nurse who does what she has to do for the good of her patients, but she’s also a drug addict who lies and deceives everyone around her. mostly-functional drug addict. The show is notionally a comedy (and a 1/2 hour one at that), but it’s more a “snorting quietly under your breath at the humour that’s inherent in life” kind of comedy rather than a laughing and jokes kind of one. Really though it’s a pure character study of Jackie, of her interactions with the people around her – family, friends, colleagues and patients. It’s funny because people are generally pretty funny. But it’s also dramatic, tragic, farcical, sweet and sad, because people are all those things too.

The series really is like nothing else I can think of. On occasions I was frustrated at the half hour format, wanting to spend more time with the particular cases of the week, or wanting to see more of the fallout of events, but generally I think the show was far better for its brevity. It has an elegance to it, not a second is wasted explaining something that the audience can easily work out for themselves. Not only does it obey the rule to “show don’t tell” but it excels in the secondary rule of “imply don’t show”.

For a show built entirely around one character it’s a credit to the writers that I love the show even though I don’t actually particularly like the central character. She’s a stunningly complex and fascinating character, and one that I would very much want to be my nurse, but I don’t think I’d want her as a friend, and I’d be very nervous of getting on her bad side if I were a colleague. The writers make brave choices to not soften the character or have her make the ‘right’ decisions and Edie Falco is phenomenal at playing her.

In this kind of character study though, the supporting cast hold equal power, bringing out different sides of the character and highlighting the complexity in the way she interacts with each individual. Her friendship with O’Hara (Eve Best) is probably the most honest you see the character with others (although it’s not entirely honest still), and that acceptance of who Jackie is provides a lot of the humour and lightness. Her friendship with Akalitus (the always wonderful Anna Deavere Smith) is more complicated, but as the person with probably the longest history with Jackie, she too is one of the more accepting of who Jackie really is. With Akalitus and O’Hara sitting on either side of her, Jackie is both balanced and challenged constantly. And following in her footsteps is Zoe, as a reflection of who Jackie might once have been, allowing the audience to see which paths can be followed.

I’m less blown away by the male characters sadly. I never found Coop anything other than epically irritating, he remained like a small child with a desperate need to be liked by everyone but an endless ability to destroy relationships through ignorance and thoughtlessness. Kevin and Eddie are both likeable enough, but both struggle to have any character outside their relationships with Jackie, leaving them as appearing rather weak and uninteresting.

It’s an utterly addictive series to watch, I found myself watching half a dozen episodes in a row multiple times, both impressed and entertained and occasionally devastated. It’s also a show that keeps moving, with each season doing something slightly differently. So below are slightly spoilery bits on each of the seasons.

Season 1
1I knew very few of the details of the show going in and that works well. Knowing that Jackie is a drug taking nurse doesn’t really prepare you for the reality of her actions. Likewise the surprises of the relationships she has are delightful and difficult to see. It never pulls punches on the character, never excusing her choices or making her lies and actions easy or without consequences. There were several avoidable plot contrivances which left me frustrated (cutting off a ring and then breaking a finger as an excuse rather than just wrapping the finger in a bandage with the ring still on being a key example), but overall a surprising and excellent first season.

Season 2
2I did miss the character of Mo-Mo, I liked the way he was sort of in between Zoe and Jackie, Thor grew on me though once he started answering back a bit more. I also wasn’t a massive fan of Eddie going all stalkery and desperate, as I mentioned above he just came across as entirely defined by his relationship with Jackie and therefore rather bland and weak. It was however interesting to see Jackie losing control, entertaining when it came to Eddie befriending Kevin, but tougher when it was watching her struggle to understand her daughter’s problems.

Season 3
3There was a deeply frustrating Coop storyline where he once again acted like a child the whole season, upset about his parents’ divorce and desperately engineering a wedding for himself. Jackie meanwhile is rapidly losing control of her lies and her addiction which is hard to watch, but also satisfying. I didn’t really feel sorry for her, she had after all brought all this onto herself, but I also didn’t feel any real satisfaction seeing her gradually lose the trust of her friends and family.

Season 4
4Jackie goes to rehab. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, to see that she’d been playing a game all along and deceiving everyone, but as the season went on, it just became more and more real. It was a brave choice for the writers to make, to redefine the show from being about a drug addicted nurse to being about a recovering addict, but it really worked. Less brave was the fact that they followed the unwritten rule that sooner or later every American medical show seems to do a storyline about becoming more like a business, all suits and targets and efficiencies. At least Nurse Jackie brought in Bobby Cannavale to add weight to the story, and it had the unexpected delight of bringing the very best out of Akalitus and her relationships with Jackie and O’Hara. The three women supporting each other through the change of management, rehab and a pregnancy was possibly the high point of the entire series.

Season 5
5Jackie’s now clean, sober and divorced, but more alarmingly – she’s without O’Hara. While I love Jackie’s stronger relationships with Akalitus and Zoe, I really really missed O’Hara and the show really missed her humour. I felt particularly robbed of the opportunity to see O’Hara with baby! Watching Jackie and Kevin try to work out their new relationship was interesting (although sometimes heartbreaking) and I liked the new love interest of Frank and the new honesty Jackie brought to a relationship. Coop continues to be a frustrating character though and the other new doctors didn’t make a very favourable impression either. All my responses and reactions to the season pale into insignificance at the intensity of my emotions during the final few moments. I can’t think of anything else I’ve felt so devastated and overwhelmed by in response to a calm and understated action by a character. I’m both looking forward to, and dreading, season 6.

Community: Season 2

CommunityWhile the first season of Community was good, the second season was verging on sublime. The show raises the art of the spoof to art form, making almost every episode an exquisitely crafted collection of references to every type of genre and trope that film and television have to offer. I had a quick look through the episode list for the season to see if I could pull out a highlight and found myself amazed all over again at the breadth of subjects covered. The whole series is like a love letter to television and film. I usually don’t like spoofs because I feel they’re mocking their targets, but the writers of Community manage to pick the subjects apart with such respect and care that they can’t be anything other than fans themselves.

Even my quibbles of the first season have been addressed a bit. Shirley developed a little more backbone to alleviate her simpering and the writers took the bold choice of actually making Pierce MORE unlikeable and having the group gradually treat him more like the enemy than a member. Each of the other characters has just enough development to sustain them, while not overdoing it so that they become useless for the comedy. Every character and combination gets a chance to shine, even the phenomenally annoying Chang has moments of redemption scattered through the year.

Floating above all of this though is Abed, one of the most entertaining and best used characters on television at the moment. In my review of the first season I described him as a “media obsessed soothsayer… quietly manipulating everything around him” and he raises that to an art form this season, playing both narrator, audience voice, critic and deus ex machine all at the same time. He’s not infallible though, he still under (or over) estimates his peers and that’s an even greater treat for the audience.

This has turned into a very gushy review, but I really can’t think of much to criticise. No storyline outstayed its welcome, every character had their moment and not a single moment went by without something that I either laughed or smiled knowingly at. Community is one of the smartest things on television at the moment, and is more satisfying by far than the majority of dramas out there.

Body of Proof: Season 1

Body of ProofIt’s important that I explain why I was watching this series. You see, thanks to an abundance of free time at the moment I actually find myself running a little short on things to watch. I’ve also just got a new book of Killer Sodukus and need something fairly innocuous to put on while I’m working my way through that . One evening, after clearing off my Sky+ backlog, I went rummaging around on the Lovefilm Instant service to see what I can find and stumbled over Body of Proof. I went back and had a look at my pilot review and noted that although I wasn’t enthused enough to seek it out at the time, I thought it might be ok. On top of all that, the first season is only 9 episodes long, so it wasn’t exactly a huge commitment.

That’s a pretty lengthy insight into my unexciting life, but it’s important that you understand that. Because even given those low ambition reasons for watching, and the fact that my brain was half occupied with soduku… it’s impressive that Body of Proof was still so deeply unsatisfying.

The biggest problem with the whole thing is the quality of the mysteries. The most basic requirement of a procedural show is that the cases make sense. Yes, to be successful you need characters and originality etc, but if your cases are stupid, you are sunk before you even start. It’s not like I even need the cases to be memorable (god knows I watch enough CSI and NCIS), but the ones on Body of Proof are just plain shabby. Aside from the phenomenal reliance on our hero spotting a microscopic clue, or each victim or accused having some obscurely specific medical complaint, almost every episode had a gaping error in it. One case was immediately ruled a murder rather than a suicide because the victim had been shot in the head twice (admittedly tricky to do yourself) and then utterly failed to have that happen in the eventual flashback to the murder. Barely an episode went by when something wasn’t either dropped in the middle, or introduced unexpectedly.

Everything was just so frustratingly fake. The female medical examiners are always in form fitting designer dresses and ludicrously high heals, no matter where the body is. One of the flunkies is a borderline offensive parody of a self-righteous black woman (although he’s male) doing the whole “oh no you di’nt just go there!”, while the other is the usual tedious caricature geek with glasses and awkwardness. The detectives are two good actors (Sonja Sohn of The Wire and John Carroll Lynch of ‘you’ll know him when you see him’) doing their best with the clichés they’ve been given, but even their attempts to deliver subtlety and humour with body language and delivery cannot completely overcome the terrible dialogue.

I guess I should comment on Dana Delany as it’s really her show, but I don’t really know what to say, because talented though she is, she can’t fight her way through the fact that this show just isn’t very good. I came to like the stuff with her daughter and when she got a chance to play human, but the rest of the time the character she was too much of a superhero, a medical examiner who can see the tiniest details and identify fungus at just a single glance.

Even as something that I only wanted to pay attention to with half my brain, it still managed to be unsatisfying. The actors deserve better. My soduku book deserved better. It will take a special kind of boredom to make me watch season 2.

Body of Proof is available on Lovefilm Instant (give me a shout if you’d like a free trial link) and probably other on demand services too, or on dvd

Film Review: The Hobbit

hobbitWhile I agonise over trying to write a review of Homeland Season 2, I thought I’d post a film review, just for a bit of a change.

There will be three big parts to this review, because I want to make sure that I spend enough time on the actual review of the film, without bogging down in the questions around the 3d/high frame rate stuff or lingering too much on the major problem with the film. I would consider it spoiler free, but if you’re paranoid about knowing which incidents from the book appear in this film as opposed to others, and want to be surprised about which characters appear, then you should probably avoid reading this (or anything else on the internet, or indeed on some of the posters). Also, I’m reviewing the film, it’s decades since I read the book and I don’t actually care about whether the film is ‘true’ to the source material or not, if an element of the book doesn’t work in a film then it should be fixed.

hobbit_fellowshipThe Review
So first off, the review. I enjoyed the film, it was good. It is of course “Lord of the Rings light”, it tells a similar story of a diverse group of people off on a somewhat vague quest which requires them to trudge across the landscape of New Zealand, helped and hindered by an equally diverse range of people along the way. For the most part though the Hobbit skims around the apocalyptic doom mongering of Lord of the Rings, only occasionally (but poignantly) reminding us that the reason for the quest is that generations of dwarves have been exiled from their city and have been wondering homeless. That driving force and sorrow is however for the most part limited to just Thorin, the Dwarven leader, the others all seem to be coping pretty well with it. There’s also a couple of scenes talking about the ‘rising evil’ which felt rather as if they’d been put in so that in a decade or so when people watch the films in ‘chronological’ order the elements of foreshadowing are obviously on display.

So with that limited amount of angst the film is much more an action adventure romp, and leans quite heavily towards the silly end of the spectrum a lot of the time. For the most part the villains are played for comedy value and aren’t particularly threatening (one of them is voiced by Barry Humphries!) except for the fact that The Fellowship (Prototype Version) aren’t actually very good; Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas would have dealt with most of the problems in a jiffy. Each sequence hurtles along at a wonderful pace, with plenty of fun dialogue and carefully timed comedy to make each piece feel like a perfectly crafted episode.

What brings these episodes together into a proper film, and elevates it beyond just being a fun adventure is Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins. Peter Jackson never considered anyone else for the role, and even held up filming to work around Freeman’s commitments to Sherlock and never has there been a better decision. Freeman is utterly perfect as the reluctant teammate, who adores his life of comfort and having things just so, but also wants to be able to write about having had adventures. The film shows the gradual reveal (both to himself and to his dwarven companions) of what Gandalf knew all along – that in his heart he is a hero.

With Freeman’s Bilbo being the shining star of The Hobbit and Andy Serkis’s Gollum/Smeagol being the revelation of The Lord of the Rings, the scene where they meet was always going to be something special. The Riddles in the Dark chapter is the only thing I really remember from reading The Hobbit (indeed it’s probably the only name of a chapter I actually know of any book) and I wasn’t sure which of the films it would end up in. It was stunning. I watched it completely engrossed thinking to myself about how ironic it was that for all the money spent on the film, it was this ‘little’ scene with just two actors talking in a cave set that blew me away. Then of course I remembered that Gollum isn’t really there. I genuinely forgot that he was a cgi creation. I can’t think of higher praise.

Sadly, in comparison, most of the ‘new’ characters for the Hobbit are not so great, with the exception of Thorin (the broody leader) and Balin (who acts as sage exposition master), the other eleven dwarves are reduced to a sort of beardy rabble. Even after checking the Empire Magazine’s very helpful Dwarf Guide most of them still only had a single line descriptor such as ‘the fat one’, ‘the one with the bow’, and ‘the one with the silly hat played by James Nesbitt’. As a whole they’re used as plot devices, so when arrows are helpful to move the plot along Kili appears, but when they would actually offer too easy an escape, Kili seems to be distracted by other things. The only other character really introduced (I’m not counting the bad guys as they weren’t really characters, just plot machinations) was Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy, and I can’t quite decide whether his dementedness was fun, an interesting look at what can happen to wizards left to their own devices, or just plain awful.

It goes without saying really that the film looks fantastic. All the work that was put into the Lord of the Rings films is carried through and developed further. Rivendell, Hobbiton, the costumes, the creature makeup and the infinite amount of detail are gorgeous. The music is similarly a development of the exquisite score from the series, with familiar themes and motifs returning. To someone who has watched The Lord of the Rings films probably a dozen times, it felt like coming home.

hobbit_doorThe problem
Having said all that, and making sure that you understand that I love the film and think it’s brilliant. I now have to point out the massive flaw that undermines not just this film, but the whole series.

It’s too long.

Just doing some maths – this film is 169 minutes long. If the other two films in the series are the same length, that makes 507 minutes (8 and 3/4 hours). The book (according to Wikipedia) is 310 pages, so that’s over a minute and a half per page. In comparison the three Lord of the Rings films total 558 minutes long (on original cinema release), the books total 1571 pages and there’s therefore just over 30 seconds per page. So The Hobbit is spending 3 times as long on the source material as Lord of the Rings did. And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me.

An Unexpected Journey drags. It’s a painfully slow start with two prologues shoved on the front before you even get to the main film, and then there’s a long introduction section (which doesn’t actually introduce anybody but Bilbo, Gandalf and the concept that Dwarves are loud, hungry creatures) is interminable. Once they get on the move, things pick up pace a little bit, but it still feels rather stilted with a couple of entertaining episodes interspersed with the familiar tramping through the countryside as sponsored by the New Zealand tourist board. I spent the last third or so of the film continually thinking it was building up to an end, but then something else would happen to drag it on a bit more.

I realise that it would be heart breaking to a director to drop any of the material, it all has some value, is well put together and is fun, but it does result in an exceptionally baggy film. (First to hit my cutting room floor would be the Bilbo and Frodo intro and the whole mountain giants section). It would be excusable if this were it, one film and then done. I would even forgive it for padding things out a bit to make two films, as Unexpected Journey did pause at a natural and satisfying point. But I couldn’t help but think that every minute I was watching now was effectively a deposit and a commitment to watch another minute next Christmas, and another one the year after that. Of course I’m not going to be able to fairly assess whether it was really necessary to stretch the material over three films until we’ve actually seen the third film (Jackson has already drawn material not directly in the Hobbit into the storyline, and there’s the Silmarillion to plunder if he really wants to), but my feeling at the moment is that Jackson is being self-indulgent, wallowing in the world of Middle Earth, and while it is a beautiful and interesting place to wallow, the quality of the film overall suffers because of it.

hobbit_bilbo3D and High Framerate (HFR)
The final thing to talk about in this review which will soon be as long as the original book, is the formats. I’m lucky enough that one of my nearest cinemas is the Vue Westfield, which is a superb cinema with all the latest bells and whistles, so could see it on a beautiful screen in 3D with high frame rate, although it did cost me nearly 15quid a ticket! I ummed and erred about what type of showing to see (standard 3D and 2D are also easily available) as I’m usually very critical of 3D. However Peter Jackson encouraged people to try the HFR, and I was intrigued. I’d also originally thought that I’d go and see the film again in 2D, but given my issues with the runtime, I may not bother.

I’m not really sure that 3D added anything to the experience to be honest. I don’t think anyone ever really felt that Lord of the Rings was lacking in immersion because it was ‘only’ in 2D and I’m inclined to think the same of the Hobbit. A few of the ‘flyover’ scenes of the landscapes and Rivendell looked even prettier, but they also looked a bit less real. It’s ironic that people talk about 3D mimicking the real world more, but for me at least it makes things feel more artificial – I’m used to watching flat screens and interpreting them as real, I’m not used to the pointy-pointiness of 3D.

However, while I found the 3D a little unnecessary, I didn’t find it anywhere near as distracting or unpleasant as I usually do, and I think that was down to the HFR. Usually when watching 3D I find it very hard to track things as the camera moves, so for example much of the beautiful design work on Hugo passed me by because every time the camera panned over the station, or through the mechanisms of a clock, my eye and brain couldn’t process it fast enough to see all the detail. That was not a problem at all in The Hobbit, and from the very little I’ve read that’s down to the HFR smoothing out the movement. I know there have been some reports of motion sickness, but to me at least the HFR made everything better than normal 3D. I’m also not sure whether it was the HFR or just sensible lighting, but I didn’t struggle to make out what was going on in darker scenes, as I often do with 3D due to the light loss, everything was clear, colourful and atmospheric.

However there was a strange sort of sheen to a lot of the film, I’m not sure whether this was down to the HFR, the 3D, the lighting or the shooting style (it was certainly most noticeable on the sections filmed on handheld cameras), but it really distracted me. It felt weirdly un-cinematic. Mark Kermode (in his wonderful show with Simon Mayo on 5 Live) described it as like watching HD television which is an excellent description. Peter Jackson (in an interview on the same programme) described it as being more intimate, as if you’re there with them, which is also true, but doesn’t quite work for me. It really felt at times like I was watching a very special episode of Eastenders or something, a television production blown up to the big screen.

While that would be a great effect for many films, I just don’t think it’s appropriate for The Hobbit. This is a fantasy film; I don’t need to feel a part of it in a way that might be appropriate for a drama or comedy set in our own world. When I go to see a big blockbuster film like this at the cinema, I’m looking for something cinematic – big and deep and sweeping and gorgeous. Spending a lot of money to make something look like a middling budget television show seems pretty ridiculous to me. While I guess it may mean that it will eventually look ‘appropriate’ when you’re watching it on blu-ray in the future, I didn’t pay 15 quid to see television quality on a cinema screen.

So I guess HFR fixes some of the problems with 3D, but introduces new ones of its own. Given that I don’t think the 3D really adds anything to the enjoyment or beauty of The Hobbit, I would be inclined therefore to say you may as well just watch the 2D version and avoid all the problems altogether. However, despite the fact that I spent several hundred words saying how good the film was, I’m afraid my issues with the runtime mean that I doubt I’ll go and see it a second time to find out whether the 2D version is better, which is a great indication of the sense of disappointment I have for a film which I will still describe as excellent.