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I hate weeks like this…

By Matt Kamen     January 13, 2007


Cast of Heroes
© NBC

Fine, I get it. We've just had two-and-a-bit weeks of holidays – drinking, eating, shopping, spending, seeing family you secretly hate, celebrating the New Year and then recovering from said celebrations. There have been the sales to brave and the weather to withstand and then, worst of all, having to suffer the vulgarities of having to return to work. Even so, are any of those valid enough reasons for the country to practically shut up shop? Not a single convention, event or gathering worthy of mention has blessed these isles so far this year, making this a very dry column. I'd apologise, but in true Brit fashion, I blame the rest of the country. 

There are, however, a couple of TV premieres worthy of note on the horizon.

Twisting the knife

 

Marvel Comics' half-vampire vampire asskicker Blade steps onto the small screen in this Kirk Jones-starring TV series. Already been and gone in the US, it will be interesting to see how this fares when it launches on satellite and cable channel Bravo on Monday night at 10pm. Will audiences shy away, knowing the futility of getting invested in an already cancelled show? Or will it be a surprise hit, bigger in the UK than in its home country? Bravo has thirteen episodes to find out. 

Those who've not seen the show should expect a notable departure from the Wesley Snipes movies. TV Blade is never portrayed as being quite as big a badass as his movie counterpart for one thing. Another problem is that the lead character is relegated to almost a supporting character in his own show, with the writers seemingly enamoured more with telling the story of newly risen vampire Krista Starr, played by Jill Wagner, and her infiltration of the House of Cthon on Blade's behalf. Still, for the short time it lasted Blade was an enjoyable enough action show and should garner a decent number of viewers for Bravo.

My Hero

 

Compared to Bravo, the UK Sci Fi channel is the cat that got the cream, salmon and diamond studded collar with their recent acquisition of NBC's uber-hit series Heroes. Only halfway through its first season in the US and Heroes has been a ratings smash, scoring some of the highest viewing figures of 2006 and already earning a plethora of awards and nominations, including the People's Choice award for Favourite New TV Drama. 

It's been hard to ignore Heroes' presence over the last few months and I dare say anyone reading this will be at least cursorily familiar with the show's premise – a jump in evolution bequeaths seemingly random people with various super powers. The show charts each character's journey as they learn about their new abilities and weave in and out of each other's lives, heading towards a literally explosive destiny prophesised by one of their own. 

While not wholly original – comparisons can be drawn to comics such as X-Men and Rising Stars or older shows like The Tomorrow People - Heroes forges its own identity with an amazing ensemble cast and remains exciting, captivating TV; the kind of show that reaches a rare crossover audience between the niche sci-fi/fantasy/comic book audience and the mainstream viewer who quite possibly thinks that the X-Men are a group of post-op trans-sexuals. While terrestrial viewers are going to have to wait a while longer to see this fantastic show on UK TV, it's a massive coup for the Sci Fi channel, having largely survived on reruns and movies over recent years. Presuming they don't screw up promoting the show, Heroes should rightly be as massive a success here as it is in the US

New UK DVD Picks for 15/01/2007

Dai-Guard Complete Series

 

This criminally under-appreciated mecha series is repackaged in an amazingly low priced collection. Taking the conventions of the mecha anime sub-genre – angsty teen pilots, improbably powerful attacks and pseudo-psychological ramblings – and filing them far away with last week's paperwork, Dai Guard instead focuses on a group of 20-something office workers who pilot their company's outdated mascot robot into battle against an alien threat a decade late in its arrival. Crisp animation, sharp writing and plenty of in-jokes for connoisseurs of the medium balanced with accessible and relatable characters makes Dai Guard one of the finest and most refreshing show to come out of Japan in a very long time. Highly recommended.

Children of Men

 

One of the most chilling dystopian futures committed to film arrives on DVD here in the UK, while the US is only just getting the movie in cinemas. Makes a change! While a notable departure from PD James' novel on which the film is loosely based, Children of Men hits all the right beats for a gripping sci-fi image of a dark and disturbing future. This is the fascist Britain that V for Vendetta tried to portray, here pulled off far more convincingly. A bonus featurette called 'Men Under Attack' is included. 

Witch Hunter Robin: Boxes 1 + 2 

This deservedly popular gothic anime gets the boxed set treatment this week, albeit split into two mini boxes to appease the likes of HMV by saving shelf space. Displaying elements of Buffy, X-Men and The X-Files, Witch Hunter Robin follows a 15-year old witch, Robin Sena, as she joins a secret organisation to investigate and capture rogue witches. Seemingly episodic to begin with, the series ties multiple threads together as it goes along and explores themes of alienation, power, betrayal and more. Also featuring one of the finest soundtracks to grace modern animation, Witch Hunter Robin is engaging viewing. 

That’s it for this week. Thoughts? Comments? Hatemail? Contact me at mattkamen@gmail.com

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