The Handmaid’s Tale is most effective in its intimacy

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It’s notable how much time The Handmaid’s Tale spends in close up – rather than luxuriate over the production design, the camera rarely strays from within each Handmaid’s bonnet. It’s a subtle, intelligent choice, illustrating not only the restrictions on these women, but ensuring we rarely leave their own personal world. Such sharply considered direction places each woman, quite decisively, at the centre of the story; its impact is powerful.

I wrote a little something about The Handmaid’s Tale, which is, to my mind, the best new programme of the year.

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Cancer comedy Ill Behaviour elevates an absurd premise to affecting drama

ill behaviour sam bain chris geere lizzy kaplan tom riley jessica regan cancer comedy bbc two showtime tv show steve bendelack

Each character is in a state of denial; repressing feelings, refusing to confront illness or addiction, and being unable to let go of the past. Up to a point, it’s self-destructive – the catalyst that keeps pushing them further and further down this road, until it becomes increasingly clear there’s really only one way it can end. However, it also serves to highlight that there’s a genuine emotional core to the series; it’s more than just gallows humour, but a programme about the lengths people go to for their friends.

Here’s an article I wrote recently about new BBC Two comedy Ill Behaviour – which was absolutely brilliant. Since writing this I’ve also sort of become twitter friends with Jessica Regan, who’s in Ill Behaviour, which is nice.

The show, which I really really enjoyed, doesn’t seem to have done so well in America – I wonder if that’s a result of it being edited to six episodes of half an hour, rather than the three hour long episodes it was here in the UK?

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Chaotic Casualty one-shot episode illustrates the demands of working in a hospital

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And so, the one-shot format became more than just a simple gimmick or feat of cinematography – it’s part of the text of the episode. In doing the episode in a single take, it serves to accentuate the chaos onscreen. There’s a series of different emergencies; resources are thin and time is short. It’s a busy and involved episode.

I don’t think this is actually necessarily a very good article, even if the point it makes is basically okay. But, you know, that’s what happens when you’re writing it an hour before the deadline after wracking your brain to figure out what you’ve watched recently. Basically, I need to manage my time better.

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International Friendship Day: Here are 8 of TV’s best mates ever

international friendship day tv television best friends

Today is Friendship Day, an international event that encourages people to celebrate their mates. So what better time to take a look back at some of the greatest relationships ever seen on our TV screens? From Netflix sitcoms to network dramas, from the 1960s to the present, these are some of the best friends to appear on the small screen.

Yes, well. Here’s an article. If nothing else, it certainly exists.

(I’m reminded of what Michael Caine said about Jaws 4; I couldn’t tell you what, exactly, this article bought – probably a few days’ worth of lunch, or some cinema tickets – but I would wager the same sentiment applies.)

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Director Robin Swicord on her new movie Wakefield, her writing process, and more

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I definitely felt an initial repulsion about this man who would just walk out on his family – and then my next question was why would he do that? Why would he walk out? Once I started to understand why he would do such a thing, I was aligned with him. I was that way all the way through shooting, all the way through editing. In movies, that’s what I want – that’s the experience I was after.

I recently spoke to Robin Swicord about her new movie Wakefield, which stars Bryan Cranston.

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Peter Davison is wrong about a female Doctor Who, but he’s not being sexist – so stop saying he is

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Davison said “if I feel any doubts about it, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for”; in the past, he’s said that he thinks a female Doctor with a male companion might mean “you’ve got more of a stereotype than anything else”. Essentially, Davison considers the Doctor a good example of a non-traditional, non-stereotypical male role model. 

The character is, broadly speaking, counter to a lot of the facets of toxic masculinity and patriarchy; he’s openly emotional, driven by curiosity, intellectual rather than violent. Referring to, say, the various male superheroes of cinema – all of whom, when you break it down, solve their problems with their fists – is rather missing the point a bit. It’s perhaps the only coherent and cogent argument against a female Doctor that isn’t actually a sexist one – one that can be argued from a feminist perspective.

Yeah, this was a difficult one, in hindsight. Especially that title – it’s much too confrontational. Should be something closer to “wait, hang on, slow down”, but I was rather cynically trying to play to multiple crowds at once, getting clicks and shares from both pro and anti-female Doctor crowds. And, I suppose, both pro and anti-sexism crowds. It’s less than ideal, but hey, I don’t get paid a lot for these if they don’t hit 10 000 views. (Actually, that said, I’m almost certain I pitched the more tentative “he’s not necessarily being sexist”, but still.)

Anyway, so. Basically, as I’m sure some will remember, a few different newspapers took a quote Peter Davison gave out of context, and essentially tried to paint him as an out-of-touch old guy in an attempt to get a few extra clicks. This apparently went exceedingly well, because lots of people felt the need to jump in and explain how wrong he was, etc etc. Eventually he left twitter because it got so out of control.

Now, far be it from me to think he needed defending as such – though again I suspect there was a slightly cynical attempt to, I don’t know, befriend him or something going on on some levels of my thinking – but I do find his actual objection to a female Doctor, on the basis of a male role model thing, actually quite interesting. At least, that was how I interpreted it; I was almost certain I’d seen a quote to that effect from him making it more explicit, but I couldn’t place it in the end. Which was a nuisance.

Anyway, though, yeah. So this was just an article basically to the effect of, you know, back off a bit, he said he thinks it’s a good idea, but expressed a brief caveat. (Which I suspect he wouldn’t have bothered with if he realised this would grow beyond a quiet convention interview.) In the grand scheme of things, there are probably quite a few other things to critique.

(Though it would be a pretty fair accusation to level at me that there are definitely other more important things to defend, and I’d accept that.)

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Why I don’t watch Game of Thrones and I never will

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Game Of Thrones is one of the most popular television series around – a genuine, proper, global phenomenon. When people describe the golden age of television, Game Of Thrones is one of the hallowed offerings placed alongside the likes of Breaking Bad, Mad Men or The Wire. People build their lives around this programme in a way they do with few others – it doesn’t just command a loyal cult following, but a real populist significance too.

I don’t watch Game Of Thrones, though. I never will.

So, a couple of things are going on here.

The above article is not, admittedly, especially good. The main part of my objection to Game of Thrones was, basically, that as I understood it the show had a lot of issues to do with its female characters, chiefly in terms of an overreliance on rape as a plot device. For a couple of reasons, I ended up a little unwilling to actually address that directly, largely talking around the point for five hundred words and leaving it at that. As a result, it’s a bit weak, but also bungles the point entirely – I end up putting “there’s nearly 60 hours of it” on par with “it has massive ethical failings that I would find offensive to watch”, which is, you know, not true, no matter how terrible my attention span is.

The other thing is that, actually, about six months after writing this – probably not even that – I did actually end up watching all of Game of Thrones across the span of two or three weeks. Oops.

I will, I imagine, end up writing about it at some point (I actually took notes while watching it, with the intention of putting together a “117 notes, thoughts and observations I had while watching every episode of Game of Thrones for the first time” type piece, until I realised that brevity is my enemy and that would end up somewhere far in excess of ten thousand words, the sort of length reserved for emails to Alexis rather than Yahoo blog posts I’m paid a pittance for) so I’ll hold off on giving you my full thoughts on the show now. Suffice to say, while it does actually have some good things going for it, pretty much every critique I’d heard vis a vis gender and race and so on was pretty much on the money.

So, even though I’m now more inclined to appreciate the things it does well, I’ve now got a much fuller understanding of the things it does poorly. (Things which, frankly, it is not criticised for even nearly enough.)

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Why it’s a shame we’re not getting a surprise regeneration in Doctor Who

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It wouldn’t be entirely unlike Jenna Coleman’s early introduction in Asylum of the Daleks, four months before she was expected to appear as the new companion – surely the most successful and memorable twist of the Moffat era?

It’s an exciting prospect to consider, and one that would really heighten the drama of the regeneration – in a real sense, it’d be exactly as unpredictable as it’s meant to be.

I am, of course, utterly over the moon about the 13th Doctor casting. This is something I wrote before we knew who it was – not bemoaning, but lightly lamenting, the fact we were finding out at all.

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In anticipation of the Thirteenth Doctor

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It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Or is about to be prepared for.

When Peter Capaldi announced he was leaving, I wrote this article for Metro suggesting some possible replacements. Eventually, a new frontrunner became apparent – Kris Marshall. I have to admit, I wouldn’t be a fan, and I’m hoping he doesn’t take the role. My preference, broadly speaking, would be a female Doctor – I’ve collected together everything I’ve written about it here.

As to who I’d like specifically? Well, there’s always something to be said for unknowns (they pretty much all have been so far, to me at least). But outside of that? Well, I’ve been an advocate of Natalie Dormer for years now – it was thinking about her in the role that made me realise how much I’d like to see a female Doctor – but in recent months I’ve been coming around to Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

I do, admittedly, take a little bit of hipster pride in that – I first watched Fleabag in December, before Capaldi announced he was leaving, and immediately knew that Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be perfect for the role. I reckon, actually, with that Metro article above I was probably the first to publically suggest her for the role, so I feel vindicated that everyone else agreed with me so wholeheartedly. I’m still clinging to the vain hope she might still take on the role, though in my heart of hearts I know that’s still a little unlikely. Just a little.

The new last-minute favourite is Jodie Whittaker, who I’d also love – and have been wondering about for the past few months, suspecting that everyone had overlooked her when suggesting the other star of Broadchurch for the role. Whittaker, again, would be a great choice; I’ve always thought she was the real star of Boradchurch, really.

I don’t want it to be a man, particularly. Obviously! If it was, I think my preference would be Sacha Dhawan. If it is going to be another white man – and, unfortunately, I do rather suspect it is – then I’d hope it’s someone that I haven’t heard of. (And then it’s a fakeout! He’s the new companion! They’re preserving the surprise, for when Capaldi regenerates into Phoebe at Christmas!) There’s always something exciting about an unknown.

Indeed, there’s something exciting about this all, really. A whole new era. Once more unto the breach. Here we go again. Sontarans perverting the course of human history. I really, genuinely can’t wait, even where I have little worries and misgivings.

But of course, a necessary word on Capaldi. When he was first cast, for days and weeks afterwards I’d occasionally just say “Peter Capaldi” and grin, I was so excited. He lived up to the promise and more; he’s my favourite Doctor. The Doctor. And he deserves a lot of thanks for that.

I’m watching the tennis now. Any moment, we’ll know.

See you on the other side!

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Regarding a Female Doctor Who

doctor who female doctor who silhouette thirteenth doctor jodie whittaker argument for against chibnall moffat

Here, I’ve collected together everything I’ve written about the possibility of a female Doctor. 

Some Thoughts on a Female Doctor

It shouldn’t be a case of opening the auditions to men and women, and then casting the best of them. The BBC production office should actively look for and cast a female Doctor. The Thirteenth Doctor should be explicitly female from the genesis of her character, right the way to the casting, the announcement, the writing, and the broadcast. She should be created with a specific gender in mind. 

First, though, we should sort of dispense with the main arguments against having a female Doctor, rebutting them and just generally getting them out of the way.

Some More Thoughts on a Female Doctor

Doctor Who is always at its best when it’s doing something new. The key appeal of the program is the breadth of the narrative; when Doctor Who fully realises the concept of “anywhere in time and space, anything that ever happened or ever will”, that is when it really sings. Innovation has always been the biggest achievement of the show. 

And a female Doctor is the next logical step. It’s the next thing that the BBC can do to open up new possibilities, bring new potential and create new stories.

Doctor Who Trailer – Natalie Dormer IS the Doctor!

When Peter Capaldi eventually decides the time has come to regenerate, the BBC production office should actively look for and cast a female Doctor – specifically, Natalie Dormer. This speculative fan-trailer imagines what her first series might look like…

The Female Doctor Masterlist

A comprehensive list of all the Doctor Who cast and crew members (and a few associated others) who advocate a female Doctor.

Arguing the point against an anon ask

A female doctor wouldn’t ruin the dynamic of the show, or the dynamic between companions – it’d change it.

With Peter Capaldi leaving, now more than ever it’s time for a female Doctor

Change is inherent to Doctor Who – after all, to quote the Doctor, ‘life depends upon change and renewal’. When your new idea has become your old idea, it’s time to get rid of it.

Does the Doctor need to be a male role model?

There’s only really one argument that is, if not convincing, worthy of some genuine contemplation: that the Doctor should be preserved as a male role model, being one of the most prominent fictional heroes who isn’t reliant on violence and aggression, but instead is a template for teaching curiosity and compassion to children. However…

Because it might, hopefully, prove to be quite relevant tomorrow, here’s a collation of everything I’ve written about a female Doctor Who. Not long to go until we find out! I’m quite excited actually.

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