Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Preview: Primeval series 5.

ITV’s Saturday teatime answer to Doctor Who suffered a sharp decline in ratings over its last series. The unassailable draw of the Time Lord, continuing channel proliferation and old-fashioned audience fatigue have shaved an appreciable slice from weekly figures of the lively ‘CBBC presenters visit Jurassic Park’ drama.

Part of ITV’s response is to split the costs of the CGI-heavy show with a few other channels. The result is that satellite broadcaster Watch gets the first showing of Primeval series 5. It won’t be going out in the ‘hard luck’ slot opposite Doctor Who though. Instead it’s getting an 8pm Tuesday timeslot, starting at the end of this month.

Will it have better fortune there? Doubtful - the show feels as if it’s aimed at an early teens audience rather than being crafted for mainstream adult viewing.

Will there be enough kids willing to skip their homework on Tuesday nights to make the investment worthwhile?

I gave Primeval a cursory glance when it launched, but despite its intriguing time portal premise it felt too much like a kiddie show to me. I’m more of a Spooks man than an M.I High enthusiast.

I took a look at the first instalment of series 5 with an open mind. On the strength of that one episode nothing much has changed.

Although unrealistic it’s not unreasonable that the same small team would be at the heart of all the adventures – that’s a trope that’s true of everything from Star Trek to..well…Spooks.

It’s not exactly unreasonable either that all of the team look like they’d be happier showing you how to make a Tracy Island out of old cereal packets.

I watch a lot of sci-fi shows - I'm willing to accept a fair bit of nonsense.

It’s the quality of the scripting that puts me off.  In Primeval characters take action not because it’s natural or logical but because it gets us from point A in the script to point B.

Without outstanding actors to convince us that the lumpy plotting makes sense, Primeval is in a bit of trouble there.

Alexander Siddig does his Demon Headmaster bit, and Ben Miller delivers some bumbling dad laughs, but the show’s all about the creature-fighting street-team featuring former S-Clubber Hannah Spearritt and Barney Harwood look-alike Andrew-Lee Potts.

Oh, and some gigantic killer head-lice from the future. And a time-travelling conspiracy to save the Earth of tomorrow. And ‘free clean energy too cheap to meter’. Stuff like that.

The show has already circled the cancellation drain once. Joss Whedon's brilliant Firefly series shot into the black hole of cancellation and popped out of the other side with a movie deal. Word is that Primeval might do the same.

I think that those fans lobbying for the show to be brought to a dignified conclusion at the end of this run might have a very good point though.

You get the impression that Primeval wants to be Torchwood. The Sarah Jane Adventures would be a fairer comparison. Maybe it’ll fare better when it goes out on ITV but for this Watch run I’d say the outlook is bleak.

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