Monday, 31 May 2010

09/10 - Quite a season for Television

Well it’s that time again, the end of another US television season, which means all our favourite shows go away for a few months to allow rubbish summer TV in its place.

But what of the 09/10 season we’re leaving behind? It’s pilots had their hits certainly – Glee, Modern Family and others, and some undoubted misses – Flashforward principal among them.

We said good bye to old friends – Lost, 24, even Heroes, a show I didn’t particularly like anymore but I know there are those mourning its loss nonetheless.

Comedy was definitely the biggest winner as far as my viewing habits went, with new comers Community and Modern Family both achieving and maintaining laugh out loud status throughout their rookie years.

The greatest comedy success story of the season though was undoubtedly Glee. Combining a mix of chart music, a witty and vibrant script and a brilliant ensemble cast, Ryan Murphy’s musical extravaganza blazed brightly across the world, with the show spawning number one singles and albums, quotes being used on just about every social network for peoples statuses, even an International Sue Sylvester Day was declared (unofficially of course, but the point stands).

In drama, the Julianna Margulies fronted The Good Wife performed well, gaining its lead several awards including a Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe.

While not a rookie drama I should also note that House fielded by far its best season to date, and that if Hugh Laurie was overlooked yet again next award season then it would simply be a travesty. His performance especially in season opener “Broken” symbolised one of the greatest single performances I’ve ever seen from an actor on any primetime television show, and really showcased Laurie’s immense talent. Unfortunately if previous years are anything to go by he will be nominated and then passed up as far as he win goes (my guess being for a member of the Lost cast this year, so I suppose I won’t complain too much).

But for sci-fi fans the news was not so good. With Lost entering its final season, ABC launched 2 new shows, Flashforward – trailed quite literally as “The next Lost” - and V, a reimagining of the 80’s miniseries of the same name. Neither show really grasped an audience though, and after haemorrhaging viewers faster than you could say kangaroo (you had to watch it), Flashforward’s quest to grab the Lost viewership ended abruptly in cancellation. V survived, but perhaps by the skin of its teeth, its fan base too clearly slipping.

The only Sci-Fi saviour came in the form of Caprica, a Battlestar Galactica spinoff, which seemed to grab the attention of fans of the original series and critics alike. The show, based 50years before the events of BSG tells of the genesis of the Cylon race, and promises going forward into it’s next season to explore the events leading up to the first Cylon/Human war.

09/10 then was an up and down sort of year, and only time will tell how the rookie shows that made the cut this time around will cope with the tough second season come September time.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Lady Gaga - TrentFM Arena

Fewer stars have had such a polarising effect on the music scene in recent years as Lady Gaga. She is the proverbial marmite of music. But last night at Nottingham’s TrentFM Arena: there was not a hater to be seen as her Ladyship took to the stage for her sell out show.

Using an elaborate stage set up which included as it went along a car with a built in organ, a full size New York subway carriage, and a giant sea monster, this was as much a piece of musical theatre as a concert, as Gaga and her dancers try and make their way from their New York suburb homes to the “Greatest Party on Earth” – The Monster Ball.

Beginning with fan favourite Dancing in the Dark, a silhouette of Gaga is projected through a huge curtain covering the stage, dropping half way through the song and sending us into almost 2hours of intense dancing. To put it simply, the whole night is utter brilliance. Broken up by a curtain with weird and wonderful videos which could only be Gaga productions so that the roadies can change the set every few songs, the night is seamless.

Changing costumes more times than I could count, she completely lives up to the hype, and the backing dancers are certainly earning their money tonight – they are spectacular.

The night is at its best though when plain old Stefani Germanotta from New York City shines through the Gaga exterior.

Sitting alone on stage at her piano, she tells the crowd that her grandfather is very sick in hospital and, almost crying, she announces that Speechless, her slow melodic rock ballad is dedicated to him tonight rather than her father who she wrote the song for. Pillars of flame erupt around the piano, and the whole crowd sings their hearts out as they see their idol breaking down under the strain.

Recovering quickly, she thanks her “Little Monsters” and tells them that no pop star will ever love them as much as she does right at that moment.

The curtain falls, and rises to reveal a massive tentacled sea monster on the stage, controlled by the dancers, and Gaga tells the crowd that only taking pictures of it can defeat it. The opening beats of Paparazzi ring through the arena, and the whole building is filled with the flashing of cameras from just about every fan.

The curtain falls a final time, and this time rises to reveal Gaga surrounded by every dancer she has used all night, in a dazzling silver costume with a spinning gyroscope around her. “We have finally made it” she announces. “We made it to The Monster Ball”. Bad Romance thunders through the arena, and – perhaps not surprisingly garners the biggest singalong of the night, and the whole arena is bouncing up and down.

Like her or loathe her, last night was simply amazing, and Lady Gaga is a force to be reckoned with. She will be around for a long time to come.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Lost – The End – Review

6 years ago a show exploded onto the box that would change Television forever. A show in which every question led to another question. A show in which polar bears on a tropical island, were as common place as simply saying hello.

Lost is a show which means so much to millions around the world, and its no wonder then that to ensure piracy of the episode is low, Sky have opted not to make people wait for the regular Friday night slot, choosing instead to air “The End”, the final chapter of the show simultaneously with their American counterparts. For those who braved 5am to see the conclusion, they were treated to what was, simply put: the finest two and a half hours of television in history.

So what of the episode itself?

On the Island, Jack and the 3 remaining candidates are heading to the Light to face Locke once and for all, while FLocke searches out Desmond. Everyone meets at the light, and both The Man in Black and Jack make the wrong decision – the light goes out, Jack has failed and the Island is about to sink, but MiB is mortal now, and after what is undoubtedly the greatest fight scene in 6years, Kate comes to Jack’s aid and finally kills the Man In Black.

Miles, Richard and Frank (the latter of whom is miraculously still alive after the sub crash – a moment for which the collective shouts of “YES!” from my front room could probably be heard from miles around.) head to Hydra Island in hope of fixing the plane, to leave the island forever, and are soon joined by Claire, Sawyer and Kate. The plane takes off and Ajira 316 is away, leaving Jack to sacrifice himself for the Island, and leave Hurley in charge of “doing what he does best – looking after people”

In the flash-sideways, everyone remembers, one by one, their past lives. Charlie and Claire are reunited as Aaron is born, Faraday and Charlotte get their happily ever after, Sayid finds Shannon with Hurley’s help and they finally get their moment, some 4 years after Shannon’s initial death on the Island. And then, the moment we’ve been waiting for: Juliet meets Sawyer, Kate meets Jack. They make their choices at last. It’s perfect. Utterly perfect.

But how does it end?

Christian Shephard’s (yeah, 6 season’s and I didn’t notice either until Kate points it out) coffin arrives in the sideways, and Jack arrives at the funeral he has sought for 6 years. But there’s one final shocker: Christian is not in the coffin. He’s stood behind Jack. “How are you here? You died!” Jack says. “How are you here Jack?” Christian replies simply. The sideways then are the Losties afterlife. They didn’t die in the crash, what happened really happened, but when they eventually died, some of them years in the future, their consciousnesses go to the Sideways, giving them a chance to reunite with their loved ones. Jack and Christian go downstairs and see everyone, and I mean everyone, from the Island, and Christian finally tells them they can go.

We flash to the Island, and see Jack in the bamboo field where the show began. He lies down and, joined once again by Vincent the dog, sees the Ajira flight over head, and, in the perfect closer, we’re back where we began: Jack doesn’t open his eye, but closes it. Jack dies, and the season, and the show finish.

Put very simply, this was the best episode ever to finally cap off the greatest show ever.