james debate
james debate

Thursday 10 July 2008

Even though the tv show is not due to be broadcast until mid season (january 2009) I have been able to preview the pilot episode now. The pilot has been rejected and is due to be reshot with massive changes, something which is indicative of its quality, or lack thereof. The pilot is a complete mess, completely lacking in charm or style, completely lacking in polish (which is shocking for a show which has several times the budget of its english counterpart) and comes with a script that is a muddled arrangement of lines pilfered directly from the sublime british original and some rather incoherent and clichéd (and that's a word you'll see a lot of in this review) additions from the new writers.

First of all the characters.

The main character Sam Tyler is written to be an exact carbon copy of John Simm's character from the original series, what a shame then that they have completely mis-cast him with Jason O'Mara, a brawny, clichéd, square jawed, thug with not even a fraction of the range and depth of the original character. You can't write a character that's supposed to be an intellectual 21st century 'thinking mans cop' and then cast a 7 foot tall action man to play him. He doesn't fit the role as copy of John Simm, or as an original creation, he is wooden, inexpressive and just looks plain wrong in the part.

Then we have Gene Hunt. Anyone who has spent even 5 minutes watching the original show knows that he is the biggest character in the show. He is a man of the past, a dinosaur completely unfamiliar with modern etiquette and technique, and yet he has such a naturally confident swagger, charm, and wit about him that he manages to get the job done anyway, and with style. He learns how to be a better cop from Sam, but much in the same way, he shows that sometimes things are more efficient when done his way. The show honestly lives and dies by his success. All of this is lost on these writers. In this pilot, Gene is just a thug, a bully, completely lacking in depth, completely useless, completely lost without 'the hero' Sam to show him what to do and simply a shadow of his original character. To portray Gene like this completely misses the entire point of the show, and misses the entire charm and chemistry between the two perfectly balanced characters in the original. This balance is what led to such nuanced narrative in the original, a story with humour and wit, but also with depth and meaning. The show falls completely flat without this.

Annie has turned from a plain but spunky 70s woman, nervous and inexperienced in a man's world, to a confident swim suit model of a woman who looks and acts like someone accustomed to the world we now live in where women are equal, again completely missing the point in her character.

None of the other characters even warrant a mention, they are all completely lacking in depth, condensed from their original counterparts to mere clichés. This is a theme common in every single one of the characters beyond Sam Tyler. Every little bit of character depth has been sucked out of them (gene hunts instincts, annies knowledge of psychology) and inexplicably forced into sam's character, even going so far as to switch half their lines from the original script to him during the course of this episode, making certain scenes nearly completely incoherent and non sensical and conversely removing any depth from Sam by making him a highly inconsistent character who quite frankly is all over the place.

On top of this the production values are pathetic. In one scene you can see characters' shadows cast upon the backdrop that is supposed to be a view into the distance. In the final rooftop scene you can quite clearly see safety harnesses attached to the actors' backs, completely illuminated by the lights. This is a pilot so presumably all that can be ironed out, but it is still pretty shoddy.

So what else sucks about this pilot? Several scenes are taken from the original episode and rewritten in such a fashion as to be completely meaningless (ie 'what part of my subconscious do you hail from', and the psychologist scene near the end). No effort whatsoever is made to make the show feel like it's in the 70s as with the original show. Action scenes are badly filmed and highly reminiscent of the recent alien vs predator sequel where you could barely even see what the hell was going on half the time. In the end, this pilot looks like a bunch of amateurs decided to remake the original show, in a rushed fashion, cutting half the material out of the original and removing 90% of the depth, completely unbalancing the characters and removing all the charm and nostalgia from the original. This show works neither as a remake or as an original property.

As I said before, this pilot was (understandably) rejected and is being redone. They are going to have to pull a miracle to save this show now, and with reports suggesting that O'Mara's role is safe, it doesn't look like they have the slightest clue how to do it. Might as well give up now, but since they clearly won't, lets hope the next pilot is a little less insulting.


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