My TV Blog Small Screen Chat on Common Room

In December I began writing TV posts for Common Room, a website and series of podcasts on pop culture, beauty, fitness, and more. My segment, Small Screen Chat, is a weekly segment where I talk about some aspect of TV, whether that be trends, a specific show or episode, or what I am watching in general. Take a look at what I’ve written so far-

A look at new shows that have premiered over the year:

  • The End is Near – Intelligence, The Assets, Killer Women, Chicago PD (I also talk about the spring premieres of Community, The Crazy Ones, and Big Bang Theory.
  • What Else Is New? – Enlisted, Helix, Bitten, Spoils of Babylon, and True Detective (I also discuss the spring returns of The Originals, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Switched at Birth, and Shameless, as well as my decision to stop watching The Michael J. Fox Show and Community.)
  • Just Getting Started – Star-Crossed, Growing Up Fisher, and About a Boy
  • The Start of Something New – Crisis, Mixology, Believe, and Night Shift
  • Let’s Get It Started – Bad Teacher, Friends with Better Lives, The 100, Faking It, Sirens, Playing House, Deadbeat, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge.

If You Like…Doctor Who

British fantasy/sci-fi has easily become one of my favorite genres. For some reason they seem to be quirkier, cleverer, more long-lasting than many of their America counterparts (at least on broadcast TV). It’s unfortunate really, because the genre is a way of exploring humanity by taking it to its extremes. Anyway, if you enjoy Doctor Who (as you should), there tons of other shows you should be watching.

First, a quick explanation about Doctor Who: The show follows the Doctor, supposedly the last of his kind, the Time Lords, as he travels through time and space along with a companion or two. He fights alien creatures, protects Earth, and changes time for the better (when possible). Always with a joke. This is the most basic explanation of course, because the show gets infinitely more complicated from there.

Torchwood– this is one of the more obvious shows to watch if you like Doctor Who and if you watch one you have likely seen the other. It’s a spin off following Captain Jack Harkness, introduced in the first season of the 2005 reboot as he runs a branch of Torchwood, an organization established in Doctor Who to help protect the Earth from aliens. Jack is fun and easy to follow in much the same way as the doctor is, with the added bonus that he never changes his face. (John Barrowman is thought to be the British Neil Patrick Harris–he can sing, dance, act, he’s an out gay actor, etc.) This series is also meant to be getting something of a reboot to make it a bit more international-friendly.

The Sarah Jane Adventures– this is another obvious choice for those who follow Doctor Who, though it is geared more towards children, with mostly kids as the main characters in addition to Sarah Jane (a former companion to the doctor) herself. (There is said to be a spin off of this as well, Sarah Jane’s Alien Files, but I’m not clear on how this show would actually work.)

Moving beyond Doctor Who’s world, there is still a great deal of British TV to check out-

Merlin– easily my favorite non-Doctor Who show from England, this show follows Merlin as a child as he learns about his magic and helps ensure Arthur’s safe rise to the throne. Uther is king at the moment and has outlawed magic with the punishment of death, so Merlin must save Arthur in secret to avoid detection. This is a clever rewriting of who Morgan Le Fay (Morgana in the series) and Guinievere, as well as the Knights of the Round Table are. I like that the show went the less obvious route, focusing more on Merlin than on Arthur himself. Behind every great king is…a manservant?

Being Human– this show has actually just been picked up by Syfy, so it will be coming to America quite soon. It is about a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who are trying to come to terms with their…conditions and find their places in the human world. This isn’t my favorite of British series, but it is still interesting and deals particularly with some fascinating issues.

Misfits– Five teens are sentenced to community service for their various wrongdoings when a freak storm hits and they get special abilities. This is a bizarre coming of age story for the group, where they are forced to learn to use their powers and on occasion kill with them to protect themselves. Easily one of the grittiest of shows I’ve seen, it would not likely be allowed on broadcast TV in the US.

Primeval– Nick Cutter and his team of scientists investigate creatures that come through time-space rifts and threaten lives. I haven’t seen this one yet (it’s on my list), but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. There is news of a spin off to be geared towards a more international audience.

The Deep– another one I haven’t seen but am looking forward to, this show is about a crew aboard a research submarine that gets stranded thousands of feet below the water. This one is a bit like Stargate Universe, follow a bunch of people whose personalities clash but must pull together to get back home. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is interesting that Minnie Driver is the lead.

This one doesn’t fall into the genre at all, but I wanted to include it for the sake of Doctor Who fans. If you liked Rose Tyler a lot, you can follow the actress, Billie Piper in her newer show, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like, following her as Belle as she tries to make money by being a call girl (because she just likes sex and that’s what she’s most qualified for) while keeping her occupation a secret from family and friends. As I said, this is an entirely different world, but still an interesting show. (And just how it sounds, there is a lot of sex in it.)

Doctor Who

A couple of weeks ago, my father kept bugging me about a show he’d recently discovered: Doctor Who. A friend had recommended the show to me over the summer and I tried it but found myself unable to get through episode one. I found the graphics and the acting to be sub-par. But my dad kept talking about it. And I mean KEPT. Like brought it up every day on our morning bus ride to the city. I told him I didn’t like to watch shows not from the beginning (which would be quite a trick since the show started back in the 1960s and has been on and off since, being most recently rejuvenated in 2005). Finally, after he’d driven me crazy for…a few days, I agreed to watch the show, starting from the beginning of 2005 (he said you can start with 2010, but that’s not my style).

I’m glad I did because once I watched for a bit longer, I found myself actually enjoying it. Sure, the acting isn’t the greatest (I often find that British shows don’t have the best acting) and the special effects are greatly lacking (some of it is so incredibly old fashioned to the point where things that should be creepy feel more silly than creepy–I know sometimes they’re staying true to the original series, but couldn’t the Daleks have done with an upgrade?), but for some reason it’s still pretty addictive.

I think that discovering that Billie Piper of The Secret Diary of a Call Girl was the first of the companions amused me enough to give it a chance.

The show, it turns out, is fairly clever. Sometimes the cleverness has to do with plays on history (such as meeting Agatha Christie and resolving the question of where she was for the seven days that she couldn’t remember and having her think she failed as a writer) and other times it has to do with the characters.

Considering the number of changes in the Doctor’s companion, they do a good job of integrating each new personality so that it actually feels like they are close to the Doctor. Some are better than others of course, but always you can feel the bond that is developed.

I think the thing I like best about the show is the way they handle serious issues, (SPOILER) such as the departure of Rose (giving a plausible explanation without killing her while keeping her relevant, at least for season three) and the Doctor’s Daughter. I wish they did more in terms of letting us know about the Doctor, though I get that the point is that we don’t know a lot. They slowly build information over the course of the show and we learn something new about him all the time.

I’m only mid-season four so I can’t wait to see where things go. I’ve heard good things about the episode I’m up to (The Library).

I also particularly like how many episode are joint episodes, spanning two, sometimes even three, episodes per arc. It really allows you to get involved and to care about the characters, even when they are temporary.

The concept of time travel is a complicated and confusing one, which has yet to satisfactorily be explained. You can’t change events that are fixed but some are in flux and those ones can be changed. How do you determine one over the other? The Doctor knows. Not the most satisfactory answer. It may be further addressed later, but seeing as I’m pretty far into the show, I don’t think so.

What I’m Catching Up On…

I’m always looking for shows to catch up, specifically, to watch from beginning to end while waiting for something else to watch. So, this is the list that I’m currently on, if you have any suggestions, please add them.

Catching Up On:
-Fringe
-Southland
-Rescue Me
-Mentalist
-Nip/Tuck
-Big Love

I wanted to include a list of all the shows I’ve already watched but quite frankly, there are just too many. So instead I will tell you what I do and don’t like:
-I don’t like dating shows or reality shows that follow people just talking (ie Real World, NYC Prep, Miami Social).
-I love most competitive reality shows. I like international shows (though I could not do Coupling so maybe it’s more the international reality and sci fi/fantasy stuff that I like).
-Not really a soap opera fan though I did a bit of Passions and Days of Our Lives once upon a time. (During finals time in high school we got home at 12 and I needed something to do.)
-Disney shows are just as fair game as NBC or ABC.

But I’m also willing to try new things,

All that being said, if there’s a show you think I should be watching, let me know!

24: Seasons 1-7