TV Many of the reviews I've seen of Torchwood have begun with something in the range of 'After the disappointment of Robin Hood...' which is odd considering that they're hardly in the same genre. I've not been a fan - and I haven't met anyone who will admit to liking it. Ratings have dipped considerably too. But I have to say, that Saturday's episode, Who Shot The Sheriff? was a marvel and actually seemed in places to be something like the show people might have been expecting. It had a simple old school story -- Robin was being framed for murders and had to clear his name. There were contemporary resonances -- much talk from the Sheriff of winning over hearts and minds etc. And some of the acting was first rate -- Keith Allen actually looked like her was enjoying himself and the chemistry between Jonas Armstrong and Lucy Griffiths as Robin and Marion worked brilliantly.
But I think the lift was really in the writing which shouldn't be too surprising because this was a Paul Cornell script. Cornell was one of the key Doctor Who spin-off writers and I guess whose work more than anyone else's influenced the style of that new series. His one episode for them Father's Day is rated very highly amongst and to be honest I can't think of something Paul's written that I haven't enjoyed. His non-Who work has included episodes of Casualty and Holby City so he knows the tv formula very well. But the pacing of the episode and dialogue took a step up -- there was a lyricism to some of the dialogue and it was genuinely witty in places -- Robin and Nottingham finally throwing insults in way we'd imagined was possible but hadn't seen yet. Favourite moment obviously being 'He shot the sheriff!' 'No -- he shot the deputy...' It's less clear on this series the extent to which the writer dictates the story, but this was very, very good indeed by comparison. The direction was more sedate too but didn't noticeably lack pace -- the dog chase through Sherwood was scary. Dominic Minghella back next week and it'll be interesting to see if that episode has the same bit of magic.
Any problems seemed to be as a result of the series premise rather than the writing. The merry men are have a cypher-like quality, even Little John -- what's the point in hiring Gordon Kennedy if all we'll here are a few grunts -- what happened to the loud gregarious man from previous incarnations? Iconic moments, such as the big meeting between John and Robin have been ignored which is a brave move but has left the series looking a bit colourless. It seems to me at least that the arc of the first season could have been about Robin's return from the cruscades through to his acceptance as the people's champion -- but he's already that in episode three. Whole episodes could have been wrapped around the introduction of the Sheriff, of Marion, of the Merry Men, of Robin's decent from lord to outlaw. But such moments have been almost thrown away to the point that everything has the potential to look very generic and samey. The decision was obviously taken for stand alone stories rather than a serial but that risks not making the thing unmissable. There's hardly any mystery here and so if you do miss an episode you won't feel like you're missing something, which these days feels like a mistake. And don't get me started on the costumes -- in Saturdays episode one man seemed to wearing a stripy t-shirt from the seventies.
Funny though, how I'm not entirely happy with this series, yet I'm still drifting back week in and out...