Aside from Season 2 of Breaking Bad, which feels like it ended ages ago, I haven’t watched much new TV this summer. I really wanted to like Bravo’s Fashion Show, and I tried; I really did. Top Chef Masters has been pretty good, though not quite as diverting as the original recipe. Three things stood out, to me though: Torchwood, Dr. Who and Better Off Ted.
In lieu of Torchwood Season 3, creator Russell T. Davies did a five-night miniseries for the BBC called “Children of Earth”. The series up to this point was often entertaining, but wildly uneven. The miniseries took the team, left in shambles at the end of Season 2, and roughed them up a bit more.
An alien race uses Earth’s children as speakers, and wants to take a lot of them away. Though Davies says otherwise, the production value on the mini felt top notch. The drama was riveting, and most of the acting, particularly by the actor who played John Frobisher, was great. By the end, when things get very tense, I sat on my couch with a lump in the pit of my stomach, eyes wide and waiting, hoping for a redemptive ending.
That said, it was perhaps too dark. Part of Torchwood’s charm, when it works, is its goofy, raunchy sense of humor. There wasn’t enough of that here. Along that line, John Barrowman, who plays Torchwood leader Capt. Jack Harkness, does better, IMO, as the grinning, swashbuckling hero than when he tries to emote. He made a couple tough decisions in the last episode, and I think either alone might have made it harder for me to like him as the lead. Both together were pretty damning. I’ll be interested to see what Torchwood looks like when it returns, but I do think the miniseries is the way to go.
The Doctor Who movies, “The Next Doctor” and “Planet of the Dead” did a much better job of maintaining the character’s and series’ wacky sense of humor but also dealing with dark, sad or scary things. David Tennant’s Doctor acknowledged the losses in his past, but didn’t go out of character in reaction to them. “The Next Doctor” was shown in the UK at Christmas time, and was really good, not only in comparison to last year’s Titanic-themed, Kylie Minogue-starring mess. “Planet of the Dead” was suspenseful and entertaining, with some sweet and funny and sad thrown in for balance.
For funny, though, I’m glad that ABC ran its additional episodes of Better Off Ted. The main character is good, but it’s the kooky characters orbiting him and how he’s affected by them that really brings the funny. I’m thrilled ABC renewed this, and it will join 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother and The Office in my upcoming comedy lineup, to break up the bleakness of shows like Torchwood and the upcoming season 3 of Mad Men.