Tags: charlie jade

Charlie Jade

Longtime readers who saw me blogging on War of the Worlds will know that I'm a sucker for the Little Show That Could -- even if it turns out the show quite often Can't. There's something about ambitious efforts on a shoestring which make me appreciate how plucky they are -- I can forgive all sorts of flaws just because I sympathize with the team scrambling to get this show made. It's that amateur-filmmaker fever in my blood, or maybe my Doctor Who gene.

And so I checked out Charlie Jade. A Canadian / South African international co-production, twenty episodes, trying to do full-on Blade Runner cyberpunk film-noir in Cape Town -- huge CGI vistas produced on a budget of about $6.50 and a packet of crisps. How could I not love this show?

Well... it tried its hardest to make me not. The show kept veering between stunning stylish visuals and flashy overproduction, imaginative storytelling and dreary torture porn (and indeed, regular porn; the producers seem so glad to have the chance to push boundaries, since they don't have a network deal, that they forget that some boundaries are a good thing; their extreme content ranges from a brilliantly effective fight scene to some interminable scenes of rough sex.) And the storyline... well, it's like if the slack patch in Twin Peaks began with episode six, and only fully snapped into focus half a dozen episodes from the end.

But the thing which really makes Charlie Jade riveting is the behind-the-scenes stories in the commentaries, which are a jaw-dropping picture of seat-of-your-pants filmmaking -- they make even the limp episodes adventures in themselves. You know the stories about the chaos of making the last episode of The Prisoner? Imagine that happening for about half the show's run...
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Just a brief aside about a post I'm hoping to get to one of these days...

Kate and I have been watching Charlie Jade, a Canadian / South African SF-film-noir series (which only ever ran in the US on Sci-Fi at 3AM). Best way I can describe it is, it's like if you were watching Life On Mars while you were still in the Seventies, and Sam was from this bizarre Blade Runnerish future world. Part murky conspiracy thriller with post-9/11 overtones, part fish-out-of-water tale, part Prisoner-influenced surrealist puzzle. So far it's been equal parts really promising and somewhat frustrating; after a strong beginning, the storyline wandered badly.

But we've just seen episode nine, when the second writing team took over -- and I've never seen a show snap so abruptly into focus! Instead of a moody meander, suddenly the characters are taking the initiative, and reacting to each others' actions, and facing dramatic decisions which change the overall state of affairs. It's simultaneously more plot-focused and more character-driven. I think this one may be a keeper!

Good luck finding it on DVD Up Over, though...