57 minus 39: [Not Quite] Ten Things I Rewatch For The Sheer Pleasure of Rewatching…

Posted: 9 July 2021 in 57 minus, television, ten things
Tags: , ,

Last week, it was fun to run through the things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns, So, here are some shows I’ve been rewatching just to enjoy the rewatch.

There will be omissions. Of course there will, but I mean there’ll be omissions of your favourite shows. There’ll be no Breaking Bad, no The Wire, no The Sopranos, no Game of Thrones. Not because I don’t enjoy rewatching them, but because I never enjoyed watching them in the first place.

I’ll take it as read that you think that I’m objectively Wrong On This, say again that I tried each for a episode or two, and then point you towards Budgie’s Law of Popular Television: y = x + 2.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)
The West Wing
Not the hugest surprise, I’ll grant you; in fact, I doubt very many of the things attached will surprise anyone reading this. I liked The West Wing when it was first shown and I’ve continued to enjoy it since.

Yes, it has its faults, yes, sometimes the attempts to address those faults weren’t exactly… successful. And yes, the seven-season show has about a season and a half (from about ⅓ of the way through season five through the first half of season 6) that’s not great.

But man, when it delivered, it delivered. And the first four seasons are fantastic. The show doesn’t really find its long arc until about almost the end of the first season, but it doesn’t matter. The ‘episode of the week’ format serves it perfectly well through most of the show’s run.

None of the characters are free from ghosts, and all of them are people you’d want on your side, but what’s struck me on repeated viewings is that I’m truly unsure I’d like any of them as people, y’know. I mean, I’m sure I’d respect them (most of them, anyway) but like them? I don’t know. I doubt it, to be honest.

The scripts – at least for the first four seasons, and for the final season – are razor sharp, the dialogue is sparkling, and the walk and talks work for the show in a way that no other show, to my mind, with the exception of House MD managed,

Was it ‘realistic’? Probably not. Within its own storyline, sure. But ‘realistic’ in the ‘real world’? I wouldn’t claim that, even in the pre-orange poltroon era.

But if you’ve not seen it, you’re in for a treat.

Usually, I put trailers up for these things, but something a bit different this time. Something from each thatI really like. This is a two-hander bit from near the end of season 2, with Richard Schiff’s character, the White House Communications Director and John Spenser’s, the White House Chief of Staff.

Doctor Who
I mentioned Doctor Who last week, but only insofar as I’d been watching the recent run, with Jodie Whittaker. But during lockdown, I’ve rewatched pretty much all of what someone named Nu-Who, and quite a lot of the original run. My Doctor is, and will remain, Jon Pertwee, as his was the first Doctor I watched from the first appearance. And, as you know, them’s the rules.

But what I’ve gone back to again and again, is the Ninth Doctor’s run. On rewatching, I’ve come to appreciate more and more Chris Eccleston’s short stay on the show. I must have rewatched his episodes a half dozen times each, and wow they’re good. And they get better on every rewatch.

There wasn’t a wasted line, a wasted glance from him. A deeply damaged character – we’d find out why later, and we’d properly find out why much, much later – full of flaws and fairly burning with anger. Smouldering at times, but often just plain burning with anger, with fury.

And with shame.

The whole thing covered over with silliness, and with clowning, that he barely, just barely, lets slip occasionally, when he’s not paying attention.

There’s a game I play, sometimes. How would each Doctor have dealt with the first episode of another Doctor? How would Tennant’s Doctor have dealt with Patient Zero and the Atraxi? How would Tom Baker’s have dealt with The Sycorax?

There’s not one episode of Eccleston’s run which wouldn’t have been completely, utterly different, often with different resolutions no doubt, had it been any other incarnation. Would Capaldi’s Doctor have been quite so delighted that “this one time, everybody lives?” Would Davison’s Doctor have dealt with Cassandra quite as… forcefully on their first meeting?

It’s powerful acting, and the effortless switch between silliness and serious, between clowns and cold.

Also, I’ve realised, despite the deliberate move from ‘having assistants’ to ‘having companions’, it’s Eccleston’s Doctor that, patronisingly maybe, loves being A Teacher to Rose. He’s not her friend, no matter what she thinks. He enjoys having her around, but he’s letting her travel with him…

Here’s a clip when he encounters something anew, long after he thought he was done with them.

Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister
Yeah, be honest, you were waiting for me to mention these, weren’t you? Not only the best political comedy around to my mind.

I never really took to either Thick of It or Veep; the former I found too reliant on dialogue and plot at the expense of character or gags, and the latter I just didn’t enjoy at all.

But yeah, Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister. Just about perfect to my mind. Nothing really to say other than of course it wasn’t realistic in the slightest. The ‘four stage processes’ etc., were made up by the writers and though some plots were based on actual events (a dozen or so, over the forty or so episodes, spring to mind without much difficulty) they were of course exaggerated for comedic effects. And even when the show was being made, and broadcast, in the real world, executive agencies had already been created to remove responsibility both from ministers and the civil service.

But while I’m talking about the show, let me address the short reboot the writers did only a few years ago. The original actors of Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds were replaced by, respectively, David Haig, Henry Goodman and Chris Larkin.

The reason the revival was horrible, a travesty, wasn’t solely down to the new casting, although that was a large part of it. (Simon Williams had played Sir Humphrey Appleby on stage, and to my mind did a creditable job of it. The same character, no doubt. Possibly slightly more polished, slightly less prickly. But essentially the same character.)

What didn’t work was that the characters in the revival shared the names of the characters from the original and their job titles… and nothing else.

Eddington’s Jim Hacker was a successful politician before he became a cabinet minister and then PM. And over the period of the show, he matured both as a politician and as a manipulator, occasionally triumphing over Sir Humphrey while never maintaining the win. He truly believed in the political process being superior to the governmental.

Appleby was the consummate Perm Sec and then Cabinet Secretary, but never oily, never cowardly. He truly believed, as much as he believed in anything, in the Civil Service as wholly essential, to maintain order in the face of politics’ inherent chaos. In it for service as well as what he could personally gain, the two were, to his mind, inseparable.

And Bernard? Ah, Bernard. Smart, clever, political but he tried to hide it, still learning his trade, quietly ambitious, and with a genuine like and respect for both Appleby and Hacker, though he tried to hide it from each.

They were not the venal, incompetent, stupid, selfish, slapstick… caricatures portrayed in the revival, as much caricatures in flesh as the opening titles portrayed. And bringing the political situation ‘up to date’ via a coalition? A stupid, stupid idea.

And yet, and yet, they could have os easily made it work. With one small change: Make the Perm Sec Bernard Woolley, the Private Sec Humphrey Appleby’s nephew, Hector. And make the politician Jeff Thacker, or even John Hacker, the original’s son who followed his (late) father into politics.


Anyways, here’s Humphrey Appleby explaining how you rubbish an official report you don’t like.…

And here, as a bonus, because why not, is yours truly, answering some questionss about the show…

Arrowverse Crossovers
Again, I mentioned last week how I was still watching the Arroverse shows, but I want to write this week about something more specific: the crossovers. They’ve done half a dozen, usually increasing them in size as they’ve added more shows. The first one, for example, just had a crossover between Arrow and The Flash, each show’s characters appearing in the other show for a two-part story.

But there are four I want to talk about, because each was handled differently, and two of them worked for me, while two of them didn’t, and one of them really, really didn’t.

Let’s get that one out of the way first.

The first of those crossovers, 2016’s Invasion! A three parter: Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, with Supergirl from her own show being pulled into the story without in any way featuring it on her own show.

It was a mess. It was one story spread over three shows, with nothing really to spoil the uniqueness of each show. It was a mess, I repeat. Barely any explanation of why each show was involved and each show took an entirely different ‘take’ on it. There was simply no reason for this story to happen other than… someone said ‘why not?’ And it showed. The Legends episode added precisely nothing to the story and could quite easily have been slid into a five minute bit in one of the other episodes. Arrow could have handled it because that story was an extended dream sequence. A mess, I repeat.

Moving on: 2018’s Elseworlds. At least they’d learned from 2017’s crossover (about more of which in a moment) and made it a story that crossed over from one episode to another, one series to another, with Things Actually Happening That Mattered.

The problem was that what mattered? Didn’t really matter for the most part. The purpose of the crossover was to introduce Batwoman and in that the show, and the story, did it, accomplished it, in spades. Superb story introducing her, and the resolution was fun. Loads of Easter Eggs, a call back to a fan-favourite Arrow/Flash moment (ouch, their poor backs), the introduction of the Monitor, and you got to see Superman and Lois. That’s about it.

OK, now we’re on to the two that really worked, that were proper full-blown comics-fans-would-recognise-it-as-a-proper-crossover-event. The last of these was 2019’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. The story itself started big and got bigger with every episode. We got so many cameos I could do a Ten Things about my favourite cameos (I won’t) and another Ten Easter Eggs I loved. Almost every character and actor got to play against type, the story didn’t go where you expected, and the interactions between everyone just… worked. And the story… Mattered. One of the main characters, one of the Big Characters… died. Not a fake, not an imaginary story. They died.

We got to see crossovers from characters that no way should the rights holders have said ‘yes’, but they did. And it was great and fun, and it was superb.

And we got to see the formation, if they want to use it in future, of the Justice League.

Yeah, can’t think of anything better.

Yeah, I can. 2017’s Crisis on Earth-X. The first crossover that the Arrowverse did right and they didn’t miss a trick. The show that each episode was, technically? yeah, didn’t matter. This was a four-part story where it didn’t matter who the stars of each individual shows were. Part one, part two, part three, part four. Each part relied on the part that came before and that came after.

The story? Oh, an Earth where the Nazis won invades our heroes’ world and wants something from them. It’s as simple as that. And it’s fun, and silly and serious and everything works just right. There’s heroism, and sacrifice, and you get to see alternative versions of the people you like and don’t like.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Earth-X.

Oh gods, I have just seen how very long this entry is, so I’m splitting it; you’ll get the rest next Friday, including The Honourable Woman, The State Within, The Sandbaggers and more. Next week.
See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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