TV Roulette: Ultraviolet, E1

Posted: July 30, 2015 in TV Roulette
Tags: , , , , ,

What is TV Roulette?: Once a month, the people who back me at a particular Patreon tier get to pick a show, and I’ll either watch the first episode (if I haven’t seen it before) or an episode of their choosing (if I have) and write about it in my best flamboyant, ranty, squee-filled style. Reality TV by negotiation only, because it erodes my soul; otherwise, anything goes. If I like the show, I’ll keep it up for the next month; if I don’t, they can pick something else next time around.

Who’s the backer?: This instalment comes courtesy of D, who picked Ultraviolet for me to watch.

ULTRAVIOLET: EPISODE 1

First impressions: Holy nineteen-nineties, Batman! I haven’t seen hair that floppy since Sam Winchester in Season 8 of Supernatural!

Look at that majestic man-mane.

Look at that majestic man-mane.

No, but seriously: Remember when you were a kid and adults would coerce you into watching a classic film that was either in black and white, or if it was colour, it was weird colour, all fade-y and stretched and flat, and you ended up with this bizarre idea, not quite shaken even once you realised that it’s all to do with changes in camera technology, that the actual past just looked like that?

Yeah. Nineties filmwork is that way now,too.

I mean, I grew up in the nineties – in fact, I’m pretty sure my twelve-year-old self caught a couple of episodes of Ultraviolet when they first aired in Australia circa 1998 – but that’s what makes it so eerie: it all felt modern at the time, and now you see the grainy picture quality, the lack of high def, and even without the shots of massive convex TV screens and giant early mobiles to clue you in, it looks like something out of the Dark Ages.

(Except Idris Elba, because Idris Elba is perfect and amazing and eternal. Obviously.)

(Also, that floppy-haired guy in the picture above is a young Stephen Moyer. Yes, that Stephen Moyer. Yes, he’s also playing a vampire here, too. I know! His larval form does look freakishly like a morph of James Marsters and Richard Speight Jr!)

No, seriously. He really does.

OH GOD WHY

OH GOD WHY

The point being, this is very definitely a nineties show, with a nineties vibe – which, beyond the distinctive camerafeel, means big shirts for the men, nipped waists for the women, and a soapie-style musical score that’s heavy on the theramin (or something like it, anyway – I’m not a musician) interspersed with long stretches of dialogue-free silence while the characters potter about and click pens and answer phones and generally help the foleys of two decades past to earn an honest quid. Aesthetic, as the tumblrs have it.

Also, vampires. Eventually! I mean, I get that they’re going for a slow build here, but even though nobody ever actually says the word vampire out loud, protagonist Michael seems to accept the gist of all this weirdness pretty quickly on the basis of some carbon bullets and the fact that his friend no longer shows up in mirrors. But for all that the scientific explanation given at the end is pretty cool (though the vampire threat seems a little overstated for what we’ve seen of them – like, one guy getting stabbed in a video arcade hardly seems like the native precursor to VAMPIRES WANT TO KEEP US IN BATTERY FARMS, you know?), this first episode takes a somewhat circuitous route towards interesting. Which, given that they’re working with Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker and Idris Elba, who are hardly slouches at the whole acting thing, seems more to be a fault in the script than the execution. It’s disjointed and naff and a trifle too convenient, but goddamn, can Elba fill out a tailored suit and vest, and buried under all the weird about vanished fiancés and priests who need INVESTIGATORS, NOT SOLDIERS, DAMMIT, there’s the seed of a cool idea. So!

Verdict: Aw, what the hell. I might as well stick around for at least one more episode and see if this shambling beastie can’t get its legs up.

 

Comments
  1. megpie71 says:

    I remember this series as being the thing which introduced me to the wonder which is Jack Davenport, and I definitely remember it being on the ABC back in the 1990s. Back in the early 2000s, when Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (what a pity they only made one…) came out, I went back and bought a copy of the whole series from Amazon UK, having been re-introduced to Mr Davenport. Unfortunately, the series sort of collapsed in a heap toward the end of things – I got the strong impression the writers weren’t quite sure which kinds of vampires they were using, or what the overall aim was – possibly they’d just seen Idris Elba in an audition for something else, and thought it was a crying shame this bloke didn’t have a role which showed off how good he looked in a suit for the world to see…

  2. Lurkertype says:

    I vaguely remember this showing on Sci-Fi Channel (back before it had the stupid name) and thinking I’d like it — attractive people, good acting, atmospheric — but it was soooo slooooow paced and ridiculous that I gave it up pretty quick.

  3. Sycorax7 says:

    I’m fond of Ultraviolet, despite its flaws – the characters are all so deeply messed up and obsessive that they’re creepy in an interesting sort of way. And you can’t forget Philip Quast! Ultraviolet was the first time I’d seen him doing anything other than Playschool or music theater, and that was awesome.

  4. […] Who’s the backer?: This instalment comes courtesy of D, who picked Ultraviolet for me to watch. My response to Episode 1 is here. […]

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