The Easter bank holiday saw the return of a number of shows. This, of course, generated intense debate from the Twittersphere about how the producers have improved/maintained/killed their programmes on the basis of their latest offerings. Here’s a sample of what fans and detractors of Doctor Who, The Voice UK and Game of Thrones had to say over the weekend.
Look Who’s back
With former companions Amy and Rory now firmly departed, the second half of season seven of Doctor Who kicked off on Saturday evening with an introduction to the Time Lord’s new companion, Clara Oswald. Except, of course, it isn’t the first time we’ve met her: it’s the third (actually, the fourth, if you include the events of the online prequel).
As ever, Twitter opinion on The Bells of Saint John – a fast-paced adventure featuring a nose-diving plane, a motorcycle racing up the side of the Shard and walking wi-fi stations with spoon-heads – was split about as wide as the mouth of the Amazon (the river, not the online retailer). On most matters these days the Whoniverse is broadly split into three firmly entrenched factions: the ‘David Tennant is the Only Doctor EVAH!’ fan club, the ‘I love Matt Smith’ fan club and the general ‘Why can’t I just be a fan of the show?’ populace. Oh, and of course, there is a fourth category: those who couldn’t give two hoots about the Whoniverse but feel compelled to comment on it anyway.
I’d watch Doctor Who if he swapped the Tardis for a cool car. And wore a cape. And a mask. And tights. And was called Batman.
— October Jones (@OctoberJones) March 30, 2013
I think it’s fair to say she falls into this last category. Although as for the cool car and the cape, I would direct the commenter towards the Jon Pertwee era and Bessie. I can’t vouch for the mask and tights, though.
One of the funniest things about Twitter is the speed with which fans can react to new characters and events. Having explained the origin of one of Clara’s previous alter egos as a contraction of ‘Clara Oswald for the win’, this hastily renamed fan account was rapidly going viral around the Twittersphere:
If you don’t love Doctor Who, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, BUT WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!
— Oswald for the win! (@PondsAreCool) March 30, 2013
The series returned to a healthy audience of 6.2 million ‘live’ viewers (before taking into account time-shifted recording, iPlayer and repeats) – impressive for its early 6:15pm slot on a holiday weekend. I watched the episode in my own time later in the evening – there’s something appropriate about viewing Doctor Who time-shifted, no? – but others have found far more exciting and convivial places to take in their favourite show.
— Scott Jordan Harris (@ScottFilmCritic) March 30, 2013
Damn. Where’s a TARDIS when you really need one?
You can read my episode review here.
Will.I.Am’s long lost twin
The second season of the UK version of The Voice debuted immediately after Doctor Who. This year there is a rejigged format in an attempt to keep viewers hooked beyond the blind audition stage, in which the judges sit with their backs to each singer and have to press a button to declare their interest before their chairs spin round so they can see them for the first time.
Like Nicki Minaj on American Idol, Jessie J is a polarising, theatrical, street-talking figure with outlandish dress sense and a tendency towards honest but unfiltered comments towards contestants. Personally I quite like her as a judge, even if half of what she says is incomprehensible and ever so slightly pretentious. If nothing else, her constant refrain of “keeping it real” allows a rich seam of humour to be mined.
Q. What’s Jessie J’s favourite currency? A. The Real. #thevoiceuk
— Daniel Maier (@danielmaier) March 30, 2013
Which prompted an even better riff on her debut hit, Price Tag:
@danielmaier It’s not about the Reichstag.
— Dave Cohen (@cohendave) March 30, 2013
Like any reality show, The Voice is all about creating narratives to guide viewers from week to week. Its stock-in-trade is one of two stories: the impossibly amazing vocalist who looks nothing like the archetypal pop star because they are 25 stone/seven stone/four-foot-six/not conventionally good-looking, and the once-famous singer looking for a second chance who will inevitably fail early on but generate some buzz to bring viewers back next week. Last year it was former Five Star singer Denise Pearson. This year it was pretty-boy soloist Kavana, who had two top ten singles in 1997 and a handful of other minor chart placings. He’s probably best-known for his number eight hit I Can Make You Feel Good, a lightweight but harmless enough piece of disposable pop. Judge for yourself:
Sadly (for him), his audition failed to persuade even a single judge to turn their chair around for him, sending him home in ignominy.
Only one coach for Kavana, the 8:30PM National Expressback to obscurity #TheVoiceUK
— TellyMix (@tellymix) March 30, 2013
As a PR-generator, it certainly worked. Kavana was all anyone on my Twitter stream seemed to be talking about for, literally, minutes – which is a long time in the Twittersphere – at least until Matt Henry came along. Bearing a striking resemblance to one of the judges, this set off a predictable stream of tweets of the “Why are they letting Will.I.Am perform and judge at the same time?” variety, by far the best of which was this corker:
It’s Will.they.are! #TheVoiceUK
— Mrs Stephen Fry (@MrsStephenFry) March 30, 2013
These were immediately countered by the equally predictable and tedious responses of “They look nothing alike – stop being racist!” You can make up your own mind about Henry’s chances in a Will.I.Am lookalike contest from the clip below, but the one thing everybody on Twitter agreed on is that the fella can sing.
And don’t forget the big prize at the end of it all is to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Leanne Mitchell, whose only single to date peaked at … number 45, The X Factor, this isn’t.
Finally, a quick nod to HBO’s epic Game of Thrones, which returned for the start of its third season on Sunday night – and in the UK last night. The medieval/fantasy epic charts the political and military machinations of the kingdom of Westeros as its key players engage in epic battle for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Basically it’s the Wars of the Roses but on an even more epic scale and with better teeth and less bad breath.
Did I mention it was epic?
Based on George R R Martin‘s series of books A Song of Ice and Fire – each of which makes War and Peace look like a Janet and John story – we’re presented with a complex world filled with dozens upon dozens of major characters, each lovingly fleshed out with their own background and story. And it has all been recreated on screen with the kind of budget and ambition that really only HBO can provide in a TV format.
Fortunately, there are lots of online and app-based primers to help newbies cut through the dense plot, but if you want a 140-character summary of GoT you can’t do much better than this:
Game of Thrones has: knights, dragons, wizards, wolves, zombies, pirates, and ninjas. That’s a m-fing pop culture hedge fund right there.
— Ian Bogost (@ibogost) April 1, 2013
Add in giants and lots of naked women, and you’ve just about captured everything.
The undoubted star of what must surely be the largest cast of any drama anywhere on TV is Peter Dinklage as the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, and conversely the most hated is surely the current incumbent of the Iron Throne, the irksome, oiksome and generally loathsome Joffrey Baratheon, who is not altogether unfairly described thus:
I bet dinner with Justin Bieber is a lot like dinner with Joffrey Baratheon. #Gameofthrones
— Dan Levy (@danlevy) April 1, 2013
Personally I think if you throw a pinch of Draco Malfoy – or indeed, just throw in Draco Malfoy whole – into that mix you’re just about there. Only you’d need another bucketful of evil. One of the most popular debates in fandom is exactly when and how King Joffrey will meet his doom. When he finally does, you can be sure that the squeals of delight from the show’s fans will be audible around the world.
I’ll return to delve further into what Twitter is saying about GoT in the coming weeks.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more 140-character-based commentary next Tuesday!
To read previous Tweets of the Week columns, click here.