04-12-11 - Some TV Reviews

Circus - PBS reality show about a shitty circus ; they don't really do a good job of tapping into the crack-rock capabilities of reality TV, it's too much like an interview/documentary. The biggest problem is that the Circus managers and the head clown and the all the people in power are just giant douchebags, they're literally like the Office Space manager, "I'm going to need you to work through the weekend mmmkay" and you just hate them, but not in a compelling reality TV way, more in just a "I don't want to watch this any more way". Anyhoo, it's saved by some of the Circus performers, who are just such sympathetic characters, so full of art and passion, such as Sarah Schwarz . Meh, can't recommend it, but if you fast-forward extensively it's okay.

Luther - Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) as the hammy over-acted ever-so-intense John Luther. It's enjoyable and well made, though rather heavy on the gruesomeness and trying too hard to be serious all the time. Yeah it's ridiculous, over the top, cliched, but Idris has an awful lot of charisma and carries it pretty well.

Sherlock - modern resetting of some Holmes stories ; at first it seems appealing, because it is at least trying to be intellectual; unfortunately it's only "smart" on a wafer-thin vapid surface level. Tolerable but not worth seeking out.

Long Way Round / Long Way Down - Ewan McGregor motorbikes around the world. Actually, to be more accurate I should say, "Ewan McGregor plans to motorbike around the world in agonizing detail, whines about every little inconvenience, travels with a massive support crew, and then goes on and on about what a difficult thing it is". The main thing that struck me was how someone who's so rich and outgoing can be so bad at life. They seem to have no concept of how to travel. Point of advice #1 would be don't bring a film crew. And then #2 is don't plan out an hourly itenerary for yourself in advance. The whole show is just sort of upsetting because you watch them botching their journey so badly, just constantly worrying about getting to the next checkpoint (or coming across a small puddle and calling in the support team to help them across it). It's pathetic.

I did find watching Ewan somewhat inspiring though. Actually I got the same thing from Michael Palin in his travel shows. You can watch both of them turn on the performance personality when it's called for, even when they don't really want to, they're tired, they're embarassed, it's a situation where a normal person like me would just beg off "no no, I can't" but you watch them sort of take a deep breath and steel themselves and get on with it, make a speech or sing a song or whatever it is that's called for. Performance situations happen constantly in life, not just on stage, you come across a moment when the appropriate thing to do is to tell a funny story, or to dance, or whatever you should do to smooth out the situation or make it fun for everyone in that moment, and unless you're a psychopath, much of the time you won't really want to do it or you'll be embarassed or afraid or whatever, so the question is whether you just get on with it, or whether you wuss out and be bland and boring.

They both also do a very good job of talking to people in a nice way but without sacrificing their own dignity. You know like when you're in a weird place and you talk to some guy and he turns out to be a rabid racist or some awkward shit, there are two easy ways to deal with it which most people fall back on (1) is to just pretend that you agree with what he's saying, lots of nodding and mm-hmm, (2) is to just go "you're a nutter" or get sarcastic or just generally not engage with him any more. The hard thing is to stay engaged and talk to the guy in a joking, friendly manner, but without agreeing, and even making it clear that you disagree. I'm very impressed with that.

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