Friday, September 19, 2014

All That Is Old Is New Again: On the Current State of Doctor Who

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, in BBC's Doctor Who

This past winter, my wife knit a Tom Baker-era Doctor Who scarf as a birthday gift for a friend. It turned out my friend has been wanting one since he was a kid, and could not have been more thrilled with the gift. He proudly wore the 12-foot scarf, its colourful tassels dragging along the streets of Washington, D.C., for the remaining cold days of the year, and even beyond them. Recently he told me a story: while walking to work on one such day, he crossed paths with a young boy (perhaps nine-years-old) and his mother. The boy, on seeing my friend, began jumping up and down and pulling at his mom's coat, yelling with delight: ""Doctor Who Scarf! Doctor Who Scarf!!!"

I tell this story, not only because of the profound pleasure the incident provoked in my friend, but because it reveals something I've long believed about Doctor Who as a televisual and cultural phenomenon. Even after 50 years and over 34 seasons, the show appeals across cultures, continents, and generations. (Tom Baker stopped wearing that scarf more than three decades before that young American boy was even born!) I loved the show as a child, when episodes of Peter Davison's Doctor aired on my local PBS channel, and as an adult the relaunched BBC series has topped my list of favourite shows since the show appeared in 2005.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tainted Love: FX's You're the Worst

Chris Geere and Aya Cash star in You're the Worst, on FX.

The summer television season has come and gone, and it was a season of surprising, if ambitious misfires: Hollywood stars couldn't make Crossbones any less absurd or Extant any more compelling, and the less said about the return of Games of Thrones' much-lamented Sean Bean in TNT's painfully derivative Legends the better. But the show I'm already missing (even though it still has two episodes remaining of its 10-episode order) is the one I didn't see coming: FX's dark relationship comedy You're the Worst. Created by former Weeds writer Stephen Falk, the series doesn't come with any super-spies, worldwide apocalyptic events, or mysterious – possibly alien – pregnancies. What it does have is charm, humour, and a delightfully dark undercurrent that it plays without shame.