TV Blog: The best (and worst) of the week's telly

Blog by Thomas Meek | 05 Oct 2009

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, is it? In the earliest years of this millennium, we were loving every decade (Andrew Collins and Stewart Maconie more than most) and forcing children to learn the Victorian way, though with less bruises and colonial xenophobia. This obsession also lead to the inevitable, as families were soon fully immersed in the life of times past in the 1900s House, and its various offshoots.

The idea was an interesting one (for a while at least), and one that spawned a fantastic spoof by Adam and Joe. The 1980s House, seen in the final season of their brilliant TV show (which is available on 4OD itself), mocked this desire to immediately turn a period of time into something quantifiable and commoditised - somehow worth reproducing, for entertainment or education. Or just to see how people coped bringing TWO bottles into the shower (I don’t know how either!).

Unfortunately it seems that some BBC4 producers saw this back in 2001, kept those memories in the back of their mind for eight years before finally deciding that time had moved on enough for this to be a serious show, rather than, you know, a comedy sketch on a comedy show. And so, we have Electric Dreams (Tuesday, BBC4). Which is The 1980s House. Or will be next week.

Episode one however was dedicated to the seventies, with one lucky, oh so very middle class family being given the chance to have their house decorated in that garish orange brown that TV tells us the 70s looked like (I cannot confirm such details myself being born in 1987) with all modern technology taken away.

The results are expected, with the kids particularly finding it hard to adjust as the boredom kicks in and the power cuts out. Is it wrong to want to scream “Well read a bloody book!” in a child’s face? We’ll see how he copes with a Sinclair C5 next time no doubt.

Sticking with the past, Canadian comedy/drama thing, Being Erica (Monday, E4) debuted this week with its high concept tale of a woman, disillusioned with her life who meets a mysterious psychiatrist who somehow gives her the ability to turn back the clock and replay all those incidents in life she’s regretted.

If you were to think “Hey, this sounds a bit like Quantum Leap with Joan of Arcadia and Do Over thrown in for good measure” then you would be exactly right. Because it is. Exactly like that. Except without a central character worth caring for, or any prospect of any interesting outcome from the concept.

For if the rest of the series are like the first two light weight affairs, she’ll find changing her actions still can’t change the outcome of life’s major incidents, and only through doing this repeatedly will she learn to find happiness in her own existence. It doesn’t help her guide in this is a typical moody, smug, all-knowing dick who likes to make things as confusing as possible. Like in every other story like this.

Indeed the only thing that made this different from all other shows trying to delve into their character’s past was that the high school prom was in the 90s and sound tracked by Ace of Base rather than Spandau Ballet or Leo Sayer.

Finally, and with its own flashes to the past, Charlie Brooker returned to his successful ‘wipe’ format (I’m talking Newswipe and Screenwipe here, not the uses of toilet paper) with Gameswipe (Tuesday, BBC 4) – an hour long pilot focusing Brooker’s ire at the video game industry and the media take on it.

As expected, it has Brooker’s usual mirthful bite, all aggressive yet insightful, and with a whole ladle of self-loathing thrown in. Being just a one-off though, it found it hard to find a purpose, being a guide through the history of gaming, yet also throwing a redundant Wolfenstein review and then getting Dara O’Briain and Graham Linehan to talk about their gaming experience for a bit.

Of course, over a full series such complications would be ironed out, and this could be the smart, funny, informed TV series gamers have been looking for since they threw their first fireball. Ah, memories.

Go back in time with Electric Dreams on BBC iPlayer

Give Being Erica a chance on 4OD

And have a wee go of Gameswipe on BBC iPlayer