02 'A Beginner's Guide to Making Sex and Violence Really Boring' by Torchwood (Age 14 3/4): Torchwood

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There aren't a lot of successful family shows on television, but Russell T. Davies' version of Doctor Who definitely qualifies. It crosses all demographics--young and old, male and female--and unsurprisingly the BBC was keen for a follow-up. Commissioned in a moment of euphoria, Torchwood (screening in Australia on Channel Ten) was pitched as a cross between The X-Files and This Life, something that could tell Who-type stories for adults. Freed from the responsibility of appealing to the masses, Torchwood could be refreshingly frank about just what happens to people when they drink, have sex, or get turned into a Cyberman. On paper it sounded terrific. I like the new Doctor Who, but there are times when its remorseless populism clearly puts a creative brake on its storytelling. If Torchwood was free of this kind of hassle then that was fine with me.

The trouble is that bridging the gap between 'family' and 'adult' storytelling can easily strand a program in an adolescent no-man's-land, and sadly Torchwood is no exception. Obviously a lot of its problems can be blamed on the fact that it's a show struggling to define itself. Davies' version of the Doctor is not strictly for kids, but it's still in many ways a children's show. Consequently, when Who is good, it's like the best of the Pixar movies. When it's bad, though, it's usually because it's self-indulgent, facile and deeply, deeply silly ... and that's what Torchwood is like every week. But that's not the worst part. What really makes it atrocious is the supposedly 'adult' material. The nympho aliens and porno-costumed Cyberwomen are bad enough, but it's the constant sniggery atmosphere that makes Torchwood seem so juvenile. …