Welcome one, welcome all to Man versus Horse’s first recurring feature, Dante’s TV Blitz, where I watch the first three episodes (or ‘eps’ as my grammatically deficient freind Ludo would have it) of various new TV Shows in order to surmise wether they’re worth expending some of your all too short lifespan viewing.
Why three episodes? – Because as we all know pilots are not representative of a full series, there’s far too many introductions to be done, thus the second episode is the first ‘real’ episode, in that it follows the structure of the majority of the series. Of course it might still be finding it’s feet in laying down this template, so a third is required, if you’ve not got into your stride by then then you’re in trouble.
What will I be watching – New series, often american ones that have yet to reach the UK, because that way I can be ahead of the game for readers at home while still being reasonable current with those abroad. I’ll largely be ignoring long established, well known series, because most people (including me) will have watched more than three episodes. If there’s demand enough I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts on the Sopranos and the like but I’ll mostly be looking at things that are a) new and/or b) cult.
So let’s get the ball rolling with…
It’s about… a piemaker who can raise the dead. Well okay, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, well a lot more complicated actually. As neatly illustrated in the opening minutes, if he touches something dead it comes back to life, but if it stays alive for more than a minute something of equal life in the vicinity dies instead. And if he touches it again it’s dead again, forever. Of course, anyone who inexplicabley gains a superpower must immediatly chose between fighting crime and going completely psychotic, thankfully he chooses the former, and team up with a private detective to ressurect murder victims and ask who killed them.
The characters are… Ned (the piemaker), Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles, his boyhood sweetheart who is found dead in the first episode (and subsequently ressurected), splendidly grumpy private detective Emerson Cod and Olive Snook, waitress at the piemaker’s shop who has a crush on Ned. Chuck’s two eccentric aunts also appear often.
Episode One… concerns the murder of Charlotte Charles (I can’t get enough of that name), most of the exposition is gotten out of the way with blinding speed, with a combination of classical fairytale narration and a similarly fantasy style look, which puts one immediately in mind of Amelie, in fact I’m pretty certain that was a strong influence on both the look of the series and the narration. Where it differentiates itself however is in the high speed (and I mean like high speed, the kind of high speed that would give The West Wing a run for it’s money) witty dialogue and lashings of dark humour thoughout. As is inevitable if you’re going to have a series so closely linked with death that doesn’t make you want to slit your own wrists. And far from it, the series is seriously charming, with both Ned and Charlotte extremely sweet, but thankfully not in the insufferable way that invites throttling, but in the way that makes you genuinely sorry they can’t touch (see clause 2 of Ned’s powers). The plot of this episode itself is about Charlotte being killed on a cruise because of a pair of monkey statues she was transporting, and is really very slim and lacks resolution (in fact you never even see her killer’s face) here’s hoping they have time for a better plot next week.
Episode 2… is about a the murder of an engineer working on a dandelion powered car (which looks as ridiculous as it sounds), it’s probably a tad weaker than the pilot, as the plot is once again paper thin, as a whodunnit it lacks any real mystery whatsoever. The wit and style of it all continues, although the addition of a musical number did nothing for me the introduction of some lovely character quirks (Emerson loves to knit) makes an already charming show even more charming. And Ned and Chuck continue to be one of the sweetest couples ever, did I mention it was charming?
Episode 3… goes back to the original episode, dealing with the undertaker that died as a result of Ned bringing Chuck back to life. Contrasting at first to the rollocking adventure of episode 2 there is some subtle character work regarding Chuck finding this out. Later however when dealing with the mystery of where the graverobbing undertaker stashed his ill gotten gains it ramps up more, climaxing in a fantastic swordfight with a chinese confederate. And no I didn’t make any of that up, these surreal interludes are great fun but often seem to consitute more than they should of the episode plots.
So, to summarise:
It’s good because… it has a charming fairytale style, it has quick and witty dailogue, Chuck and Ned are really sweet, Emerson Cod is a great name.
It’s bad because… it rips off Amelie more than a little, episode plots leave much to be desired.
Watch more than three if… you have a soul.