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.)

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General Reviews

As I like to do every so often, I am going to go through a bunch of shows I’ve been watching to write some general thoughts on the show and any exciting or upsetting news that I may have heard about it.

Survivor Samoa– One thing I like about this show is that they try and make certain that the women have an equal opportunity at most things. Very often, the physical competitions are divided so it’s women vs women and men vs men, elimination/immunity challenges tend to include equalizers like puzzles or skills that aren’t strength based. (I find this admirable since MTV’s RW/RR Challenges seem incapable of doing this. Remember the Battle of the Sexes’ final challenge?) About other aspects of the show: Russel has figured out something very basic–if there is no exile island, then the immunity idol must be hidden at camp. And if it is hidden at camp it must be an identifiable location so that clues can be given to find it. So twice now he has just wandered around camp searching the few places that it could be, and found it. Why has no one else taken this approach? Especially after he found it the first time? I will say that Russel, while I can’t stand him and don’t understand why so many people have gone along with him for so long, is quite the player. He’s super manipulative and strategic. And nice blindside this week.

Vampire Diaries– I have a few distinct issues with this show. 1) It bugs me that Elenia and Bonnie look exactly like their ancestors Katherine and Emily. They couldn’t just hire other actors for the three seconds that they are on screen? 2) Quite killing the interesting people! Vicky and that friend of Stefan’s were both interesting story lines that I would have liked to see develop a lot further. 3) Elenia is the dullest person ever. I mean really, she’s possibly the worst main character in existence. Otherwise, I think they did some clever stuff this week. Especially because there is obviously more to come from Damon, plus all the new vamps. Is Logan one of them?

Dollhouse– Probably the most upsetting, though not surprising, news of the week is the cancellation of Dollhouse. The show was getting really good this season, finally focusing on the entire cast instead of just Echo and Paul Ballard. There are so many things that Fox did wrong with this show (formulaic first season, poor advertising, horrible timeslot, not airing epitaph one) but I do think that Joss Whedon would be more suited for Syfy or some of other cable station (one thing he will have to do is have a cheaper budget though because Dollhouse, for example, is too expensive to produce for Syfy). At least the full season two will be aired. If you haven’t checked out this show already, I really recommend it. What I like about Joss is that he takes things further and uses his shows to examine human behavior and morality in a way that most shows do not.

FlashForward– After a bit of a lull following the series premiere, the show has really picked up steam again. The last few weeks have been some of the best episodes yet and they call into question everything that’s been revealed so far. And then call that into question. A few, interesting twists have come into play now and you can’t help but wonder what everyone is going to do as conspiracies and cover ups seem to multiply and desperation leads to some pretty crazy behavior.

V– Also on the upsetting news of the week, I did not realize that V would only be airing four episodes before going on hiatus until March. That’s pretty lame. The show’s second episode was just as good as the first (which says something about the show since I’ve found that most Sci Fi has a great pilot and a weak follow up). I have no idea what will be filling the time slot during the months off, but I really wish the networks would stop doing that.

Smallville– On the good news, this series has really improved from the last few years and it’s showing in the ratings. Despite being in its ninth season and on a Friday, the show has actually seen increases every week in its viewership. Perhaps everyone is just glad to be rid of Lana Lang for good or they like the playing with Lois Lane. Either way, the plots are better. Lex Luthor is gone for now which is actually fine by me. We looked into Oliver’s story more. Chloe has proven herself to be more interesting than ever before. Lois is just kind of crazy but entertaining. Sadly, Clark continues to be somewhat dull. There’s only so much entertainment to be had from a guy whose entire storyline revolves around “being the perfect hero.”

Ugly Betty– Another show that has become more interesting than before. It takes a look at dealing with grief, poor self esteem, jealousy, being gay in high school, what a mother would do for her daughter…In other words, real issues instead of just scheming against each other which, while interesting in Gossip Girl, isn’t suited for this show as much. Not to say some scheming isn’t good. I just don’t think in this show that should be the entire story. I think also the dad’s story about being wanted in Mexico or wherever just wasn’t as interesting as Justin learning to deal with being in high school.

White Collar– while not as exciting as the first episode (it has become a bit formulaic at the moment) there are some things that leave me interested in the show. The first is that Neal Caffrey is an interesting character. The second is the questions about his girlfriend. It is clear that more was happening than that she was just dumping him and now Neal is trying to find her. I’m hoping we’ll get more than cursory mentions of that in episodes to come. More chasing her and a little less of chasing random bad guys. It does bother me a little that he’s supposed to be this huge romantic in love with this girl and meanwhile he’s hitting on the new FBI agent transferred in to work with them.

Ghost Whisperer– I think one thing I dislike about this show is that the son, Aiden, is kind of weird looking and a bit annoying. Would have been nice for them to have gotten a cuter kid. But oh well. This week they introduced a frightened child-ghost who is hiding with Aiden at the very end which could lead to some great story soon. I wish they would get back to the Shinees and Shadows stuff a little more. (And I think we will be seeing that soon.) I dislike shows that are formulaic with little bigger arch. This show has a bigger story but they tend to ignore it for the majority of the time which is unfortunate. Show us more of Aiden’s skills, show us who he can see. And it would be cool to see more real murders instead of just misguided ghosts.

Merlin
– I know this show didn’t do well this summer when it came to the US, but I was watching it last year (online of course) and I really enjoyed it. I would like to learn more about Morgana (we got some hints with the introduction of her half sister Morgose–come on practically the same name!) but I think this season is pushing along well. Especially with the whole magic good or bad dilemma. Arthur and Uther are constantly being forced to rethink their stances only to be hurt by magic and revert back to hatred again. I can’t wait for the day when Morgana and Merlin’s magic is revealed. It would be nice to see more occasions where they almost get caught.

Legend of the Seeker– As I’ve said before, watching this show inspired me to read the entire 12 book (sort of 13 book) series. This season looks even more exciting with the introduction of Cara, a Mord Sith who has allied herself with Richard. I would like them to go more into depth about how the Mord Sith are created as that is an interesting/terrifying story. Meanwhile, I’d also like to stop seeing scenes of the underworld. (For one thing, it’s depressing to think that no matter what type of life you live you are doomed once you die and for another, it’s just not a very well executed bit of imagery.) I’m looking forward to seeing what else they are planning since they have changed things enough from the books to leave you surprised by how things turn out while sticking to the heart and emotion of most of it. (And while leaving out a bit of the preaching.)

As you can see, I’m a real sucker for Fantasy (which would explain why I’m writing a fantasy book–currently 400+ pages in). Any shows you have some complaints or good news about?

If You Like…Buffy

It’s frustrating when looking for a tv show and not knowing where to look to find one that you like. So I decided to make some lists to help. There can be any number of reasons why someone likes a show, so I will try to get a few different options.

The first one, if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

The obvious next option is Angel, since not only is it a spin off that carries many of Buffy’s characters (Angel, Cordelia, later Spike), but it has many crossovers with Buffy. For those who don’t know, the show follows Angel, a vampire with a soul, who moves to LA and sets up a group that works to help innocent people. Also obvious choices are Dollhouse and Firefly as they are Joss Whedon’s other TV show creations. I would also recommend checking out his online smash hit Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.

If what you like about the show is magic and the slightly silly lines while kicking butt, a great option is Charmed. This show follows 3 sisters who learn they are witches, the Charmed Ones, to be specific. Their job is to fight the forces of evil and protect the world, while trying to maintain a normal life. There’s also Eastwick which is very similar to Charmed but not quite as good.

If it’s the vampires and mythology that you enjoy, True Blood, a current show, is a good option. Sookie Stackhouse, a telepath in love withe the vampire Bill Compton (he’s the show’s Angel, tall dark, mysterious, and human-like in his morals). Vampires have revealed themselves to the world and want equality and the world is reeling. Can vampires ever fit in with the rest of the world. This is a more serious show than Buffy with none of the snappy dialogue and a lot more sex.

Not to be outdone on the vampire-front, the CW has The Vampire Diaries this fall, about two vampire brothers who are interested in a girl whose parents died and who is trying to get on with her life.

Also a vampire-related show is the new show on ABC, The Gates. It follows a closed off community that has some supernatural residents who are trying to live normal lives but can’t seem to escape their supernatural selves. Not the best description but so far it has been pretty good.

One more vampire show in the mix (though this one is not exclusively vampires) is Being Human. This show follows a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost as they try to figure out what it means to be human and attempt to live normal lives. There is actually a British and an American version of this show. Both are solid in their own ways and are some of the best genre writing I have seen in a while (perhaps because this is a bit darker and more morally ambiguous than a lot of what is on TV these days). The British version also has a spin off webseries called Becoming Human which is a fun bonus.

Another werewolf option is MTV’s Teen Wolf about Scott, a teenager who gets turned into a werewolf when bitten and must learn to control his abilities. The show is full of teen romance, mystery, and excitement. The writers said they looked to Buffy as an example of how they wanted to shape the series, so that should be a good sign for what’s to come.

If what you like about Buffy is the superhero action, then Heroes is a show for you. It’s an X-men type show, humans with abilities like flying, healing, time/space traveling, super strength, etc. The show was canceled, but I’ve found it pretty good all the way through. Most people will say only Season One was good though.

The 4400 is another people with abilities show, though this one is more out there because its premise is that 4400 people were abducted throughout history and then they were returned to earth at the same time, unchanged, except for the development of unique abilities. They too experience fear and discrimination from people who assume they must be dangerous because of their abilities.

The CW’s Smallville and Supernatural are also options. Smallville follows Clark Kent as he grows into his Superman abilities while Supernatural follows a pair of brothers (later 3 brothers) as they look into supernatural occurances and (in the beginning) search for their father. If you like the teen-type shows (like Buffy) then these shows could be a good option for you. While I’m not a fan of Supernatural (it’s too formulaic for me), I find Smallville to be a lot of fun, largely because I grew up on Superman.

Fringe is like the grown up version of Supernatural, on Fox. While I didn’t take to this fantasy show at first, I gave it another shot at my sister’s recommendation and found that I was missing out on a great show..

For some really old school magic-filled options, shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie are some fun options to watch. Sabrina is closer to the Buffy style of show, while the others are a lot older, though still fun.

Legend of the Seeker is another show that I really enjoy that is shrouded by magic and action. Unlike the other shows on this list, it does not take place in the modern world, rather being a part of the typical fantasy medieval ages, but it’s still a show to consider if you like a tragic love story, a quest to save the world, and magical intrigue.

Two shows coming from out of country that I would also add to this list are The Listener and Merlin. Merlin, like Legend of the Seeker, is a medieval times type magic story (following Merlin before he was Arthur’s personal wizard), but I find it interesting for the same reason that I enjoy Smallville. I like retellings of old stories. The Listener, though it wasn’t well received in the US, is a show I enjoy. It tells the story of an EMT who, like Sookie Stackhouse, can read minds. He uses his abilities to help people, while hiding what he can do from others and trying to put together the missing pieces of his past.

Lost and Ghost Whisperer both fit into this list as well. Ghost Whisperer staring Jennifer Love Hewitt, is about a woman who can see ghosts and helps them move on into the next life. Her gift constantly disrupts her social life, but it often comes in handy too. Lost is a completely different type of show, following a group of plane crash survivors who landed on a mysterious island where unexplainable things happen. You’ll have to keep watching to see where that story is going.

Finally, I am going to offer something different to the list. These shows only marginally fit the category, but are still worth considering anyway. Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, both dark comedies, are shows that are surrounded by the supernatural world. Dead Like Me follows Georgia Lass after she dies and, instead of moving on, remains on earth to act as a grim reaper, collecting the souls of people before they die. Pushing Daisies follows Ned, a pie maker who can bring things and people back from the dead. The catch, if they live for more than a min, someone else will die and if he touches them again, they die for good. This becomes complicated when he brings back his childhood sweetheart and the two, though in love, can’t touch ever again. Both were sadly canceled after two seasons, but they are definitely worth taking a look at.

That’s my list for now, anything else you think should be on this list?

For more “If You Likes…” check out these lists: Star Trek, Full House, Heroes, 24, and Friends.

Buy these great shows on dvd!
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Collector’s Set (40 discs)
Angel: Seasons 1-5 (Collectors Set)
Dark Angel – The Complete Series