The Rowena Eureka Mega World Tour of Cinematic Armchair Travel
(Cardiff, Wales) Torchwood, series 1 & 2 (****) - Captain Jack Harkness protects the world from alien invasion by leading Torchwood Division--an independent agency located in Cardiff, Wales on a rift between time and space. Part police procedural, part sci-fi adventure, part character exploration, Torchwood became one of my favorite shows because it has a little bit of everything: dark edgy action, fun dialog, a little romance, and a bit of camp.
The characters are talented, devoted, and deeply flawed. Nobody's all good or all bad, just very human. Women and men are equally the heroes and the ones in need of saving. Everyone's sexuality is pretty fluid and sex is treated both more casually, and yet, more respectfully than it's usually shown on American TV.
The main characters are pretty, but in a realistic way, not the glossy American way. Policewoman Gwen Cooper begins investigating Torchwood after she witnesses their strange actions at the scene of a murder investigation. She's quite attractive and just happens to also have a gap in her teeth.
The best thing about the show is that the equal treatment of sexuality and people is never the point; it's just how things are. This is no public service announcement or after school special; it's a sci-fi action adventure show full of dark, fun escapism.
The beginning of the series is a bit shaky and a couple episodes are pretty awful *cough* Cyber Woman *cough*. Even they have their charms though since they come early in the series when the viewer is getting to know the characters. While this is a spin-off from Dr. Who, you don't to need watch Doctor Who to understand it. [Watched on itunes, also available on Netflix]
(Cardiff/London) Torchwood: Children of Earth (*****) - This is one roller coaster of a ride! Instead of individual episodes like season 1 & 2, this Torchwood series is one five-episode mini series. Though less campy, there is still a good mix of fun and darkness within the same egalitarian world. This time aliens are speaking through children and things get tense, dark, dark, dark, and definitely worth watching. [Saw on itunes, also available on DVD through Netflix.]
(The UK and Beyond) Doctor Who, series 4 (*** 1/2 ) - Donna Noble turned out to be an excellent companion. [Saw on DVD through Netflix]
(The Whole World) Michael Palin's 80 Days Around the World (*** 1/2) - In this 1988 travel series, former Monty Python member Michael Palin tries to travel around the world in 80 days using only the transportation available to Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg. Palin makes a smart, funny, and likable guide. Though it's 20 years old, it's interesting to watch Palin visit India and China right before their dramatic changes. His brief adventures in the US didn't seem that different from today. The best sequences though were his 8 days on a Dhow (a tiny open cargo boat) crossing the Arabian Sea from Dubai to Bombay with an all Indian crew who spoke little English.
(Manhattan in the early 60's) Mad Men, current season 3 (****) - AMC's evocative drama about a Manhattan Ad Agency in the early 1960's is one of my favorite shows. Season 3 starts off in the summer of 1963 after the Brits have taken over Sterling Cooper.