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'Torchwood,' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Return: Summer TV Just Keeps Getting Better
July 8, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Two more delightfully different TV shows return this weekend to brighten up the summer: HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm sitcom, returning Sunday at 10 p.m. ET, and the sci-fi drama series Torchwood, returning Friday at 10 p.m. ET on Starz, its new home. Both shows are daring, playful, and far more intelligent than the norm in their respective genres...

Torchwood already has presented three smart, impressive seasons as a British import on BBC America. This Doctor Who spinoff, created by that show's imaginative rebooter Russell T Davies, returns Friday as a co-production with Starz on that new network, with a largely new cast. (By necessity, since all but two of the show's main characters were killed off last season.)


John Barrowman returns as Captain Jack Harkness, a character who's sort of like the bisexual Bill Cosby of sci-fi -- a simile that demands explanation. Captain Jack is attracted to, and has affairs and one-night stands with, men as well as women. The show treats this as matter-of-fact, just as I Spy, back in the 1960s, broke a TV taboo barrier by having Cosby co-star as an international spy, with no mention being made of his skin color. In terms of gay and bisexual TV drama characters, Captain Jack is that same sort of stealth pioneer.

Also returning is Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, who has a baby now, but has lost none of her fight or feistiness. And the new regulars and supporting players make this new Torchwood as exciting as its plot, which revolves around a day in which people around the planet suddenly stop dying. Co-stars include Bill Pullman (in a rare villainous role), Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under (in a rare grown-up role), Mekhi Phifer, Alexa Havins and others.

I review both Torchwood and HBO's Curb on today's NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross -- a review you can both read and hear, after about 5 p.m., by clicking HERE.

One thing I didn't take time to point out on the radio: When Davies was trying to hide the secrets of a new production of Doctor Who, he scheduled shoots and sent out scripts under the title "Torchwood" -- a scrambled word jumble that's an anagram for Doctor Who. Eventually, he recycled the name as the title of this Doctor Who spinoff series. For some reason, I love that.

As for Curb, HBO didn't send out Sunday's season premiere for review, so I'll come back to that later. But the three episodes from this season HBO did provide are very funny, very startling -- and very much in keeping with the overall mood and path of David's groundbreaking, taboo-defying sitcom.

Both Curb Your Enthusiasm and Torchwood, in their own ways, are going against the grain, challenging the status quo -- and making damned good televsion while doing so.




Sarah said:

Yea! My favorite series Torchwood is finally back. I have been counting the weeks the days and now hours til it is back on my TV. And a very much welcome back to Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper. Although I still miss Tosh, Owen and sweet wounderful Ianto it has been a long year and time to move on. I am looking forward to the new crop of characters (been a Bill Pullman fan since I was a kid)WOOHOO!:)

Comment posted on July 8, 2011 12:25 PM

jgodsey said:

i really don't think jack restricts himself to humanoids regardless of their anatomy.

Comment posted on July 9, 2011 4:07 PM

jan said:

I just think it's so neat that "Torchwood" is an anagram of "Doctor Who." I hadn't realized that before. Thanks for the esoteric bit of information.

[Thanks, Jan. Just the fact that one other person thinks that's neat makes me feel a little less alone... -- DB]

Comment posted on July 12, 2011 9:32 AM
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