Lib gets a life!!

September 16, 2008

Dexter – a serial killer with standards

Filed under: Télévision — Lib @ 1:05 am
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Dexter, then, starring Michael C. Hall. You know, the gay brother from Six Feet Under. Well, I’ve been hooked on this show ever since I started watching it, following a friend’s excellent advice. I finished watching the first season last week, and I’m just starting the second one now, hoping to get through it before season 3 starts, at the end of the month. I checked out the book it’s inspired from, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, from the library. To keep it short, I’m a fan.

Let me remind you of the pitchline if you’re not familiar with it. By day, Dexter Morgan in a blood spatter forensic expert working with Miami Police Department. He’s got a girlfriend, Rita, a sister, Debra, and he’s excellent at his job – everybody loves Dexter. By night though, he turns into a serial killer. There’s a catch, though: he only kills people who deserve it. And there’s the rub.

As far as I’m concerned, I took it all for granted when I started watching it – the fact that Dexter kills people never bothered me. When I think about it, I reckon that’s because I didn’t know what the show was about when I fisrt saw it. I was introduced to Dexter by Dexter himself, and I didn’t question his deeds… Maybe that tells something about me that I don’t really want to know… Anyway, I started to question it when I described the show to a friend, and her first reaction was wondering how this show could even appeal to anyone. Which is the sane, logical reaction: after all, this guy kills people. I am dead against the death penalty, in any circumstances. And yet, I accept Dexter’s own line ‘I kill people who deserve it only’. How come?

Well, first of all, I like Dexter. Like any person who watches and enjoys the show. He is smart and handsome, he is witty and cute. He’s a sweet boyfriend and a devoted brother, he’s good at his job, he makes me laugh. And most of all, he lets me in on his secret. No one knows who Dexter actually is, but the audience. And, in a way, no one understands him but the audience. ‘Hi, folks, I’m Dexter, I kill people. I can’t help it, I’ve got these urges. My foster father was the first to see it in me, so he taught me to cover my tracks so I would never get caught, and he told me to kill people who were murderers themselves only. I’m a serial killer with standards.’ And we buy it, even though we would never support the death penalty.

But in my opinion, at the end of the day, the real reason why we absolve Dexter is that he is, in his very own way, a modern superhero. It is shocking and provocative because the show is realistic. Dexter does not turn into a bat at night, he can’t make cobwebs spring from his fingertips, he can’t fly. He’s the man on the street, he could be your neighbour. But like Batman, Spiderman or Superman, he kills baddies. Simple as. Problem is, he doesn’t do it in epic battles, but in shady corners. His methods are not heroic, they are gruesome. And yet, when he’s done, he’s not any different from John Wayne or Indiana Jones. He’s rid the world of another villain. Except he can’t be hailed a hero – because what he does, deep down, is wrong, and he knows it. Dexter is a realistic superhero: he doesn’t get away with murder. Not that he’s ever caught, but he’s got to pay the price – forever lonely. A sociopath and a scapegoat. Like his brother says – You can’t be a killer and a hero. It doesn’t work that way!

So yes, my friend was right when questioning the morality of the show. Dexter is not moral. That’s because he is what a superhero would be if movies were real. And fortunately, Dexter is not real either. He is a terrific fictional character – I would have loved to be the writer that came up with that pitchline. Because plotwise, it’s genius.


June 9, 2008

Stephen Moffat rules!!

All right, so I’m a big Doctor Who fan – the new series, I confess David Tennant’s looks have a lot to do with it. But I’ll not deny it! (I’m seeing him in Hamlet next summer in Stratford, I’ll keep you updated!). Be careful before you read on though, there are going to be spoilers here…

So far, there have been four series (fourth one is aired on BBC at the moment) and, in my humble opinion, Stephen Moffat’s have been the best episodes we’ve seen. Six episodes, all in all, including two two-parters:

– series 1: The Empty Child + The Doctor Dances. The Doctor and Rose travel ton London during the Blitz, save the world from turning into one frightened hurt child, and meet Captain Jack Harkness on the way, who is to be a recurrent (and don’t we love him!!) character.

– series 2: The Girl in the Fireplace. THE episode who made me fall in love with David Tennant – and hooked on the show. The Doctor and Rose travel 3000 years in the future and open time windows onto pre-revolutionary France. They meet Madame de Pompadour who, but who will blame her, falls head over heels for the Doctor. Who cares about Louis XV when you have a Doctor in your fireplace??

– series 3: Blink, a ‘Doctor lite’ episode, where you see a little bit less of the Doctor. But the episode is so beautifully written that it is the best of series. Don’t blink!!

– series 4: Silence in the Library + Forest of the Dead. The Doctor and Donna Noble walk into an empty library where shadows eat people and where the Doctor encounters a stranger from his future. Who knows much more about him than he thinks anyone has ever had.

What I’d like to do with you in this review is to try and see all the recurrent themes and patterns that are at work in Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who universe – and it’s not all about bananas. Not in a posh, academic way, no. Just for fun, because we all like the Doctor and it’s nice to link different series to one another and to stay with the Doctor at his best, for a little bit longer…

First of all, what struck me was the childhood theme. Obviously, because these episodes are filled with kids. But also because they appeal to the children we once were – or still has, since Doctor Who appeals to a young audience as well. Actually, it is designed for young viewers, but we’re still children at heart, aren’t we? The first episode Stephen Moffat wrote is called The Empty Child. And it’s about a frightened boy who’s lost his mummy – and he would destroy the world to get her back. Haven’t we all wanted our mummies so badly we thought we could tear down brickwalls to get them? And it turns out the boy’s mummy, Nancy, is still, in a way, just a child herself, lost in the Blitz, trying to save other starving children in order to make up to her lost son.

Then, The Girl in the Fireplace starts with the Doctor meeting a little girl who’s looking for a friend in her fireplace because the monsters under her bed are terrifying her. I’ll skip Blink for the moment, but fear not, I’ll come back to it in a minute.

Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead have got a little girl as a key to the plot. CAL is not only an imaginative little girl, we understand that quite quickly, and when it all makes sense, the conclusion is quite endearing: the knowledge of the world is all contained in her mind. Isn’t it a beautiful idea? There are another couple of children in Forest of the Dead – Donna’s fictional kids. I don’t know about you, but the scene where she blinks and they’ve gone just broke my heart. Maybe they were fictional, but still, she loved them as her own. In a way, it is comforting to find out that, thanks to the Doctor, River Song is able to go back to this saved world so she can take care of this fictional children – they may are not true, they still need a mummy, after all. The connection to the first episodes becomes quite clear.

There is another way to relate these episodes to childhood, and that’s the fear they made us experience. Well, true, this fear is Doctor Who’s trademark, this fear that made kids hide behind the couch when the Daleks came on screen, back in the seventies. Thing is, nowadays, children have grown tougher – and harder to impress. Instead of going over the top – the way Russell T. Davies is trying to scare us with Daleks and Cybermen… ok, they’re monsters, but we got the hang of it now, and I’m not sure pepper mills on wheels are as scary now as they were back then. But maybe I’m wrong… and this is not the point anyway. The point is, Stephen Moffat wakes up primal fears in us. The fear to lose your mum. The fear of monsters under your bed. The fear of inanimated things that come to life when you don’t look at them to spring at your neck. The dear of the shadows… it’s all so familiar, to anyone. Who needs Daleks or Cybermen to shit their pants? Invisible shadows will do just as well.

Let’s focus on the Doctor now. He’s always all right, he tells Rose and Donna after losing Reinette and River Song. Well, of course he’s not, he doesn’t fool them – or us. He loses two women he’d grown to like a lot in a very short space of time. Two women who knew much more about him than than his companions. Reinette walks into his mind as he’s reading hers, she digs up the lonely little boy under all the Time Lord bravado. River Song… River Song knows so much about him we don’t even know who she will turn out to be. She knows his name, for Christ’s sake! So who is she gonna be? His next assistant? Too predictable. His wife? Really far-fetched… or is it? We can speculate away… thing is, River Song is a very important woman in the Doctor’s life. And this encounter adds another layer to the Doctor’s character, it puts him through another ordeal… and promises him that there are more to come. Children are important to Stephen Moffat. So are women. And that’s great.

And there are all the tiny details that come back, to our great enjoyment… the bananas lines are legend.

The Doctor: Sonic blaster, 51st Century- Weapon factories at Villengard?
Capt. Jack Harkness: Yeah. You’ve been to the factories?
The Doctor: Once.
Jack: They’re gone now, destroyed. Main reactor went critical. Vaporised the lot.
The Doctor: Like I said, once. There’s a banana grove there now. I like bananas. Bananas are good.

That’s from The Doctor Dances. And look up the script from The Girl in the Fireplace…

[The Doctor stumbles in; tie tied around his head, wearing sunglasses, and carrying a glass of wine]
The Doctor: [singing] I could’ve spread my wings and done a thou… [breaks off] Have you met the French? My God, they know how to party!
Rose: [disgusted] Oh, look at what the cat dragged in: “The Oncoming Storm.”
The Doctor: You sound just like your mother.
Rose: What have you been doing? Where have you been?!
The Doctor: Well, among other things, I think I just invented the Banana Daquiri a couple of centuries early. Did you know they’ve never even seen a banana before? Always take a banana to a party, Rose. Bananas are good.
He’s not the same Doctor, but he still has the same references… and notice that the sonic blaster Jack shows off in the first excerpt makes a come-back in Silence in the Library… in River Song’s hands.
And to finish with… maybe we could talk about unrequited love. Reinette’s for the Doctor. Louis XV’s for Reinette. Lawrence Nightingale’s for Sally Sparrow. Rose’s for the Doctor – and the way she tries and finds comfort indulging in Jack’s harmless flirting. A little boy’s for his mummy that’s running away from him. River Song’s for the Doctor – or is that more complicated than that… Moffat’s episodes are thrilling. They are beautifully written. The are a pleasure to watch and watch again. But most of all – and maybe
that is the reason why they are all working so well – they are about human feelings, human passions – all these reasons to live, all these reasons to keep on going that make us all human. Even the Doctor, all Time Lord that he is.
Now, if you indulge me, I’d like to finish with a few of my favourite clips from these episodes…
Are you my mummy?
Thick Thickety…
Blink, and you’re dead!!
Opening Scene from Silence in the Library

May 15, 2008

Life On Mars

Filed under: Télévision — Lib @ 11:18 pm
Tags: , ,

My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home.

Life On Mars, 2 series, 8 episodes of 52 minutes each. By the way, small digression for those who don’t know the difference between series and season: a series is more of a British concept. They usually have 6 (Spooks), 8 (Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes) or 13 episodes (Doctor Who, Torchwood). Season is an American term, because most American series have about 24 episodes and follow the seasons – when it’s actually Christmas, it’s also Christmas in House MD.

Anyway, this is not the point. The point is, do you know this fantastic British series, produced by the BBC, which is Life On Mars (LoM from now on, shorter)? If not, you should check it out first thing in the morning. Right now, even, if you’ve got a bit of time to spare. Much more important than clicking the refresh button on your Facebook page again. Once you’ll see the first episode, you’ll be hooked.

Sam Tyler is a cop, he lives in 2006 and he’s a bit uptight, to say the least. One day, he gets hit by a speeding car. When he wakes up, David Bowie’s song is playing on a tape in his car where there used to be an iPod, and he realises that he’s landed in 1973. When he read the script, John Simm wondered how they’d pull this off. They did. Brilliantly.

First, there is the clash between two eras: Britain – Manchester, to be more accurate – before and after Maggie. 1973 is full of shit, whereas 2006 is bleach clean. In 1973, cops hit before they ask. In 2006, they record interrogations to prove they didn’t hurt the suspect. No wonder Sam is longing to go home.

Then, there is the clash between two characters, two visions of the world. There is Sam, discreet, meticulous (to the point of annoying sometimes…), always careful… He thinks before he acts, Sam. And he acts by the book. Evidence comes first. His world is turned upside down when he wakes up in 1973, but he is not willing to change, to adapt. Such an experience would be hard for anyone, but it is maybe harder on Sam, because he is so self-righteous that he finds it difficult to admit that there could be other truths than the one he believes in. This adventure is sent as a trial to him, so he can put himself to the test. Each series is a revealing experience. In the first one, Sam is confronted to the events that tore his own family apart – he then thinks that he’s been sent back to 1973 to fix things. This is his first trial. In the second series, it’s himself that is put to the test, in shape of a dilemma: which will he choose, 1973 or 2006?

Sam’s character could be boring, annoying even, if there weren’t for these sparks of intuitive genius he has. He is a brainy character, but going through what he had to experience does teach him that gut-feeling is a good thing – even though it sometimes gets him to end up in his boss’s car boot. In these moments, he brilliantly uses his rational mind to serve his gut-feeling, and even his DCI has to admit it – Sam Tyler is a good cop, even though he is a right pain in the arse.

DCI Gene Hunt. Sam’s antithesis. He is all what Sam Tyler isn’t. Big as life, racist, homophobic, politically incorrect. Don’t think before you strike. Suspects will spill the beans way quicker if you hit their heads on the floor and kick them in the nuts. Gene Hunt is from another world, a world where John Wayne is king of the jungle and where the lawman is always right. DCI Hunt would rather be a marshall in Texas than a British cop in Manchester. But he is not a heartless brute only. He loves his city, and he has to keep Manchester’s streets tidy – even though he has to crash a few skulls on the way. He keeps calling his DI’s, morons and slapheads, but if one of them is hurt on duty, he’d move earth and sky to punish the offender. Gene Hunt drinks too much, but he always knows when to say when. He is outrageous, but deep inside, humanity tells him right from wrong.

This confrontation between two radically opposed visions of life is built on great situations and fantastic scripts. LoM could be another cop series, but this 21st century DI lost in a seventies’ police station, where his colleagues are barely aware of forensics and where crimes even have changed faces, gives each episodes a new twist to it. Constantly, Sam is made aware that he has to solve cases with basic means. That’s how he realises that technology isn’t it all – he has to use his intuition too.

And the dialogues are brilliant. To be honest, I find it really difficult to like something if the dialogues are not great – my literary education that kicks in, probably. I have no problems here. The dialogues are sharp and witty, hilarious sometimes, always spot on. Gene Hunt gets some of the best lines in the history of BBC shows. I’d like to share a few examples with you:

Gene and Sam, the eternal misundertanding:

Gene Hunt: Right, we pulled a bird in, Dora Keanes. She was the last person to see the victim alive.
Sam Tyler: Is she a suspect?
Gene Hunt: Nope, just a pain in the arse.
Sam Tyler: Okay, alright, brief me in full. What do I need to know?
Gene Hunt: [Slightly nonplussed] She’s a pain in the arse.
(Episode 1)
Gene Hunt: You think you know everything, don’t you?
Sam Tyler: I know the stench of rotten apples.
Gene Hunt: Yeah? And I know your slag is lying through her teeth and do you wanna know why?
Sam Tyler: Yeah, why?
Gene Hunt: Steven Warren is a bum bandit. Do you understand? A poof! A fairy! A queer! A queen! Fudge packer! Uphill Gardener! Fruit picking sodomite!
Sam Tyler: He’s gay?
Gene Hunt: As a bloody Christmas Tree! Mind you, he is a little touchy on the subject, being a twisted Catholic with an elderly mother and all, so I wouldn’t go mentioning it to him… You challenged his authority so he stitched you up like a kipper. Pretty girl appealed to your vanity as the only decent sheriff in Dodge City. Slipped you a Mickey, tied you up and bounced on your ding-a-ling.
Sam Tyler: Why?
Gene Hunt: I suspect the answer will lie in the post. Photos, you idiot.
(Episode 2)

Spoilers, now.

During both series, the big question is, which one is it? Is Sam mad, in a coma, or back in time? Actually, the answer is not that hard to fathom: from the beginning of series 1, a lot of clues point in the same direction. In 2006, Sam is lying in a hospital bed, in deep coma, constantly oscillating between life and death.

The las episode is, in a way, Sam’s epiphany. In order to go back to 2006, he has to betray his team, his new friends. Not that much of a dilemma, it seems, as that team of his is, after all, a creation of his mind. Or is it? The show never gives a definite answer.

And there is more. Back in 1973, Sam has changed. He’s found out more about himself. And he’s realised that he likes this new him more than the old one – and so do we, actually. He comes back for Annie, of course, because he’s promised that he’d see to her. But not only. He owes it to himself, too, to the new him that he has become.

LoM is a great show. It is original, well-written, full of endearing characters. Honestly, I’d like to find something wrong about it, because it would give more credit to this review. But I can’t. I’ve loved it from Episode 1 to the Finale. I watch it quite often, and I never get tired of it. Once again, the BBC’s pulled a brilliant series out of their sleeves. They even made a spin-off out of it, Ashes To Ashes. But more on that later.


Filed under: Télévision — Lib @ 2:02 am

So, I love series. Maybe because some of them are actually better than what you can see on the big screen. Sometimes. And also because our British and American friends are so good at making them…

I intend to review each one of the series I love – one at a time, of course. So here is what you can look forward to on this blog:

British series:

  • Doctor Who
  • Life On Mars
  • Ashes To Ashes
  • Torchwood
  • The Vicar of Dibley
  • Spooks – I still have to watch it, though.

American series:

  • House MD
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Sex And The City
  • Californication
  • Six Feet Under
  • Veronica Mars

That’s it for now folks, because it’s late and I should be into bed now… And I want a wee read before I actually tuck in.
Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!


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