Sunday, August 05, 2007

Jekyll: Please allow me to introduce myself

Spoilers for the first two hours of "Jekyll" coming up just as soon as I go to the zoo...

I always feel like I'm in murky waters when I review a BBC America show. They send me the original British cuts of everything (with occasional edits for content: curse words elided, sex scenes trimmed, etc.), and I frequently get complaints from readers that what actually aired was cut to shreds, with commercial breaks every five minutes and large chunks of plot removed. I unfortunately don't have time to watch this stuff twice, so I'll be discussing the versions I saw, and hopefully my experience won't diverge too much from yours.

Anyway, as suggested in my Steven Moffat interview on Thursday, I found "Jekyll" to be quite a lot of fun, both in watching Moffat play his usual games with narrative structure and in watching Jimmy Nesbitt turn himself back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde with only minimal makeup.

Splicing the first two episodes together does create something of a mess, as each of the six hours has its own form and storytelling devices. So while the first hour plays with time so we don't see the monster until halfway through, doubling back to his first meeting with Catherine Reimer, the second hour is far more straightforward, starting with the cat-and-mouse game in the apartment and then turning into an action thriller set piece at the lion's den. I don't think they're completely incompatible, but each would have worked together had they aired separately. (The final two hours, which are also going to be lumped together here, flow together a bit better.)

And, dammit, Nesbitt is something to see as Hyde, isn't he? Moffat said he fought for a long time to not have to use any makeup for the change -- he came around only because it would cause plot problems in later episodes if the alter egos looked exactly like each other -- but Nesbitt doesn't really need it. There's that moment in Miranda Callendar's place where the lighting completely obscures his face, yet you can still instantly tell when the change happens. Just a great scenery-chewing (and lion-chewing, and human-chewing) performance.

I have a few problems overall with the miniseries, but I can't discuss most of them until closer to the end, save that the guy playing evil Benjamin is way too broad, and both his English and American accents sound forced. But I hope enough of you are coming along for this ride that we can talk more about it at length over the next month.

What did everybody else think?

24 comments:

'Coma said...

Personally, I loved it.
Of course, I've only seen the first episode on BBCAmerica, but I had a good time with it.
It was fun.

jim treacher said...

The black guy's not American? Well, he had me fooled.

Moffat likes his double entendres, doesn't he? If it's possible to be too clever, sometimes it feels that way with him. But what a thing to complain about!

"Come for a drink?"
"Can't. I've got someone coming."
"A quick half, then?"
"Gotta go home and change..."

notjon said...

Jim, I felt the same exact way during that exchange. It should have been one line or the other.

Fun show though.

jim treacher said...

Well, I didn't dislike it. But sometimes he piles it on so thick, you can't quite catch your breath. But hey, better to have a whole cast of impossibly clever characters than otherwise, I guess.

Eric said...

Haven't watched Jekyll yet (on the DVR) but I watched an episode of Coupling last night for the first time in a few years, and realized what a huge influence it is on "How I Met Your Mother." Back and forth narrative, scenes shown multiple times from different points of view, the abstraction and presentation of clever names for various male-female interactions - there's a lot of DNA shared there. Given how awful NBC's Coupling was, it makes me appreciate HIMMYM even more.

DonBoy said...

Well, this would be too complicated, but I'd give anything to have a separate thread for those us who've seen the whole thing...anyway, I definitely agree that there are quite a few moments where the dialogue is so clever it draws attention to itself. Sometimes Moffat reminds me of Alan Moore in that respect, as a matter of fact.

By the way, administrivia rather then on-topic: Alan, would you consider switching the template so that dates as well as times appear on comments? Sometimes I don't know if a comment thread is still live a couple of days later or not.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, would you consider switching the template so that dates as well as times appear on comments? Sometimes I don't know if a comment thread is still live a couple of days later or not.

If there's an easy way to do that, Don, I'd be happy to. I'm just very busy and very lazy these days, and the last time I tried to monkey with the template (updating to the New! Improved! Blogger version), I lost the ability to easily do the spoiler-protection, so I need it to be explained to me like I'm a five year old.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The black guy's not American? Well, he had me fooled.

IMDB has him born in London. Of course, this could be one of those John Barrowman situations where he was born in the UK but spent so much of his life in the States that the accent just developed, but his American sounds just phony enough that I'm going to assume he's been a lifelong Brit.

jim treacher said...

Hmm. Well, I bought it. Now the old lady he was talking to on the phone... I don't know WHAT kinda accent that was supposed to be.

DonBoy said...

the last time I tried to monkey with the template (updating to the New! Improved! Blogger version), I lost the ability to easily do the spoiler-protection, so I need it to be explained to me like I'm a five year old.

I'm sure there's just ONE MAGIC WORD you have to change to ANOTHER MAGIC WORD, but since my own blog template doesn't use native Blogger comments, I don't know what it is.

J said...

I'm sort of hoping it's the sort of thing that comes together at the end, and that talking about it before then won't do much good, becuase I'm not really won over yet. I love a lot of the ideas about how the halves communicate with each other, and there's some good boo-scare stuff. But I worry whenever there's a whiff of Big Paranoid Conspiracy.

I'd almost prefer it were a show that was two characters in a room, talking to each other. I think I'd sort of prefer a Cronenberg version of all this.

The teeth are haha goofy. And am I the only one who thinks Gina Bellman's a miserable actress?

And I think the throwaway lines are distractions not because they're clever, but because they're not. There are some funny moments, but a lot of these one-liners are as obvious as the bad action hero stuff Ahnuld pulled out in his heyday. When they work, it's because they're not as expected. Like, "I've got my pride."

And a question from a future episode: What exactly has Moffat got against Hull? Is it just a great-sounding word?

jim treacher said...

"And am I the only one who thinks Gina Bellman's a miserable actress?"

She's not noticeably bad until she has to register any kind of strong emotion. But she's gorgeous, so there's that.

Oh, and Jackman's older friend has possibly the most ingenious combover I think I've ever seen.

Greg aka gkla said...

hey - just saw you quoted on an ad for john from cincinnati. nice blog.

Dark Tyler said...

The first two hours I thought were very good, I liked the dialogue, the setup, the way Moffat writes around a few cliches essentially avoiding them, and of course I loved Nesbitt. I always have, so this was a given here, what with "Jekyll" being his most challenging part yet.

(Plus,as someone commented on the other thread, I now have one more reason to look forward to "Bionic Woman".)

But episodes 3 and 4 are by far the highlight of the series in every possible way, so I really can't comment on the content of these first two eps. Loved the whole thing, though.

Eric said...

Now that I've seen it, I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

And if Nesbit's not the first person offered the Blake's 7 revival, they're nuts. I'm just not sure if he should play Blake or Avon.

Dennis said...

I loved it, but I do agree that it would have worked better had the first two episodes not been presented as one. I really liked how the narrative folded backwards to Hyde's first meeting with the assistant, and it would have been a stronger moment on its own.

And, O, what terrific actig from James Nesbit! After watching that, I would love to see him play Dr Who at some point in the future.

Finally, I do tend to avoid BBC America given the rampant complaints about obnoxious butchering of episodes, but I was struck by the pre-show urging of the viewer to use closed captioning. Do they do that all the time? Was it because Nesbitt is Scottish? I didn't have any difficulty understanding anyone; was that meant to be a joke?

Also, as regards the time editing. Since they're willing allow 40-minute blocks for the Britcoms, why don't they just schedule 80-minute blocks for the dramas and leave them intact? I know I'd watch the network a lot more frequently if they did.

Dennis said...

Also, Alan,

Will there be a thread about "Evolution of the Daleks", last Friday's Dr Who episode?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I never got around to finishing "Evolution of the Daleks," Dennis. I was just so bored by it and every commenter who had already watched the whole season were uniform in their condemnation of the Dalek two-parter that I just decided to watch something else. I'll be back with this week's "Who."

J said...

What about this Masters of Science Fiction anthology show? I'm curious, as they've got a Harlan Ellison story scheduled to run, and with names like Judy Davis and Michael Tolkin involved, it doesn't look like it was intended to be a total throwaway...

Alan Sepinwall said...

What about this Masters of Science Fiction anthology show?

Never got a review copy, too tied up with other things to see it, unfortunately. Ed Bark gave it a nice review over on his blog.

Dennis said...

Alan,

Whilst I agree with those who call the Dalek two-parter the low point of the season, I had a much more charitable response to it upon second viewing. There's some interesting stuff going on in there, including the Doctor's striking suicidal bent and a certain poignancy in the Dalek "dilemma", particular in terms of how it parallel's the Doctor's.

It's not great, by any means, and it pales alongside the rest of the season, but I think it's a mistake to skip it if you've got the time to see it.

Dennis said...

As for Masters of Science Fiction, I was pretty much unimpressed. A nice performance by Sam Waterston (although when isn't that true?) in the service of a fairly obvious story with "twists" you could see coming from a mile away.

Add to that a not-so-subtle bit of very thinly veiled Bush bashing, and there's not a lot here to appeal to the non-Olbermann fan.

I don't think I'll bother with the rest of the series.

Taleena said...

Well I have enjoyed what I've seen of it so far, only the first and not the second hour. Walking into this with a nice guy bias for Nesbitt from his portrayal of Pig Finn, his Hyde is that much creepier to me.

Anonymous said...

Dennis @ 12:22

The subtitle/closed captioning thing is no joke. During screenings of both The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Once I had to endure the grumblings of audience members: "Why don't they have captions? I can't understand a thing they're saying!"