RotW (12): Serial, Torchwood, Kelp, Sweeney Todd


Serial (series 1)
What?: Yes, it has taken six years and a pandemic to get me on this bandwagon

I’m so far behind the curve that I have no idea what the current trend is for Serial think-pieces, so please don’t expect me to have anything to say on the ethics of Sarah Koenig’s retelling of the case of Adnan Syed. I’m not generally into true crime or thrillers or even mystery stories, but a person cannot listen to podcasts without eventually getting round to the godmother of all podcasts, so here we are.

And yeah, it’s (obviously) really fucking compelling. The style of storytelling (particularly Koenig’s narrative voice), the format and length of the episodes, and the slow deepening of the story all hit that sweet spot where I start looking for more household chores just so I can keep it going in the background for a little bit longer.

If you too are in the tiny minority of the podcast-listening population that hasn’t tried Serial, everyone else is right and it is worth your time.

Tune in next week for my earth-shattering revelation that My Dad Wrote A Porno is v funny, actually.

Torchwood (series 1, eps 1-4, but especially fucking Cyberwoman)
What?: This trash is MY trash and no one else is allowed to be mean about it except me

When you’re forced to stay indoors, you re-watch Torchwood. I don’t make the rules.

To really savour the episodes of TW that actually exist for me (series 1 & 2, nothing else, fuck you), I’ve been treating myself to the audio commentaries too, and holy shit they were all very proud of Cyberwoman.

they meant to do this THEY WANTED HER TO LOOK LIKE THIS

It is wild to me that the Cyberwoman was designed like this on purpose. That a whole creative team sat down in months of tone meetings, painstakingly repeating to each other the words ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ and ‘real’, and still decided that this design was perfect, iconic, *chef’s kiss*

I mean, I’d still rather have Cyberwoman and Day One (I SEE YOU, CHIBNALL, AND I SEE WHICH EPISODES YOU WROTE, I FUCKING SEE YOU) than Ghost Machine, which is an episode they just straight up forgot was boring, I guess.

Anyway, join with me in incoherently re-watching Torchwood during this hour of national crisis. The drinking game is that you drink every time it is a Welsh sci-fi sex romp rip-off of Angel, so you basically drink constantly throughout. I adore this show with every fibre of my being.

Kelp by Linda Aronson
What?: The tagline for this book is ‘a comedy of love and seaweed’ because I guess ‘a story about capitalism and incest’ probably wouldn’t have sold as well with a YA market

This book is punctuated throughout by letters that the 14 year old protagonist writes to Rupert Murdoch, asking him to adopt her.

The question ‘why does this exist?’ is sort of answered by a quick foreword in which the author explains it was supposed to be a TV series but blah blah lambs kidneys blah blah and now it’s a book (I swear I am not making that up). While I was reading it, I tried to imagine it being on TV, and in my head it’s a sort of terrifying hybrid of Round The Twist and The Story of Tracy Beaker, but set in a seaweed factory on a small Australian island.

There’s some really good stuff in here – all of the characters are completely fully fledged in my imagination, even those who are only there for a couple of pages. It’s also properly funny, and it’s even funnier now I’m old enough to actually get all of the jokes. But there’s also no escaping that this is a book about a 14 year old girl who falls obsessively in love with the man who inherits her family’s seaweed factory, a man who is also one of her relatives but it’s okay because he’s only a distant cousin and he’s British and she’s never met him before so it’s all fiiiiiiiine.

Also there’s the idolising Rupert Murdoch thing. 1998 was a very different time.

Sweeney Todd
What?: That isn’t blood, Watson, that’s your jar of jam


I presented Ben with three thematically harmonious options for our Saturday night film viewing, and he discarded both Withnail and I and Moana in favour of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd.

I will always have a special place in my heart for Sweeney Todd because being the tallest Sixth Former in my girls’ school drama club meant that, when the Christopher Bond melodrama was picked as our end of year play, I was the only one qualified to play him. It was Year 13 and the last role I ever played in that drama club, and it felt like a very serious moment to me. On opening night I got myself into such a complete state of panic that I nearly passed out in the wings and Anthony had to physically manhandle me onto the stage. God I loved that show.

I also have a soft spot for the Tim Burton film adaptation. Sondheim’s music sounds incredible throughout, the casting is predictable but solid, and Burton’s signature aesthetic looks really good. I love the monochrome colour grade underneath all the strawberry jam blood, it’s ridiculous and perfect.

What I don’t like is that Burton doesn’t seem to know what to do with the songs. Or he does sometimes – By The Sea is gorgeous – but other times he just doesn’t bother. We’re given big swathes where the orchestra swirls and leaps and soars around, and Todd and Lovett stand in the pie shop and sing statically to each other.

(Also Depp just cannot resist going for the comedy and doing camp little grimaces and why can’t he just stop)

But hey, in a world where Tom Hooper’s Les Mis exists AND Tom Hooper’s Cats exists, it’s nice to go back to a musical adaptation that’s trying to horrify you on purpose.