Couch Pumpkin: Sofa Adventures
News and reviews for the big and small screens…where potatoes fear to tread.

Putting the Oar in…

For the last few months I have been following with interest news of Ronald D. Moore’s next sci-fi programme, ‘Virtuality’. Moore is, as any sci-fi fan worth their salt will know, the power behind ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and a veteran of the Star Trek franchise, having cut his teeth on ‘Next Gen’ and contributed to ‘DS9’. His former ‘Battlestar’ colleague Michael Taylor joins him on the project, which combines elements of ‘Sunshine’, ‘The Truman Show’ and Trek’s (in)famous holodeck episodes. That makes it sound like a bit of a mess – but having looked into the details the show seems like my absolute ideal, combining compelling characters with a dash of space based fantasy. One of the most interesting aspects is the inclusion of a gay couple, Manny and Val; Moore has often expressed regret that he was not able to explore homosexuality fully on ‘Battlestar’, although ‘Razor’ and ‘The Face of the Enemy’ briefly touched upon it. He also has a selection of wonderful female characters, with one of them, Billie, undergoing a traumatic experience that forces the crew to examine the ramifications of a virtual crime. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling you, but you can read more about the show here.

Unfortunately recent news regarding the production leaves me less than optimistic about its future. In December the Hollywood Reporter suggested that the pilot needed to ‘be reworked as a more mainstream drama’. Now we have Fox’s Kevin Reilly saying ‘it could air as-is and a certain segment of the audience would flip for it. But it’s a little dense.”’. We’ll have to wait for ‘Virtuality’ to air before we can tell just how much it’s been dumbed down – meanwhile bets are open as to which elements get the chop and whether Manny and Val will survive the ‘mainstreaming’ process. Maybe Ron should take a tip from Joss Whedon and broadcast online, where ‘a certain segment’ would be very happy indeed to see intelligent, well written drama left untouched by executives!

Not that this is a purely Stateside phenomenon. No, like many things the trend for over zealous interfering from channel bosses has filtered across the pond. The latest casualty is BBC3’s ‘Being Human’, originally part of the channel’s vaguely innovative pilot season that saw them commission ‘Phoo Action’ , the most derided of the six pilots, before the season even started. ‘Being Human’, a darkly comic piece about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in Bristol, gained a cult following online, and a petition was soon set up to get a full series. The executives took notice of the hype, but unfortunately that’s not saved ‘Being Human’ from being fiddled with, with producer Matt Bouch claiming they’ve gone for a ‘tonal shift’. It seems that they have tried to make the series funnier and ‘less gothic’, presumably to fit in with the youth orientated output of the channel, but what that will mean in concrete terms remains to be seen when the series airs later this month. With two new castmembers, Aidan Turner and Lenora Crichlow, replacing Guy Flanagan and Andrea Riseborough (rising star), it will also be interesting to see how the chemistry of the trio has changed and whether the interplay of characters, which so enchanted the pilot audience, will still captivate viewers. I am reserving judgement until I can see for myself how the new, ‘improved’ version of ‘Being Human’ works on screen. However, I can’t help but wish that sometimes tv bosses would keep their oars out!

-‘Being Human’ starts on BBC3 at 9pm, January 25th.

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