23 February, 2008

Woe is Echo Beach

As a second series looks increasingly unlikely, Echo Beach viewers are giving their opinions on what's gone wrong. On the Echo Beach Fan Club forums member Jess gives three main reasons as to why Echo Beach isn't succeeding as well with audiences as it could be: the lack of clarity, the scheduling and the miscasting of Martine McCutcheon:
Echo Beach sent mixed messages throughout the series. Was it really supposed to be a drama to be taken seriously, or was it intended to be an amusing spinoff from the real comedy? The answer is that it veers between both and unfortunately, the cast were of the belief that it was the former. The show should have been definitively pitched either as a serious drama (in which case it should have run to an hour, and MW should have aired afterwards) or as second fiddle to MW (in which case it should have been ten times' more preposterous).

This is a view echoed all over the place on Echo Beach-related sites. On Echo Beach's IDMB page, reviewer oelbr1 writes:
In some aspects, it tries to hard to be taken seriously to really be considered a parody; some scenes were actually acted out well, and the characters appeared to be quite clearly defined, with the potential to develop into, as one of the writers on Moving Wallpaper put it, into "real, breathing people".

In others, the nature of the show was less clear. Some terrible attempts at West Country accents and an overdose on beautiful looking people hanging around in skimpy clothing, teamed with the poor quality of acting (*ahem* Martine McCutchon, Jason Donovan) and mediocre plot lines left you confused, wondering, "So, is this a parody or not?"

Over at the Digital Spy forums, user BB-mega-addict comments:
I'm quite surprised that someone like Tony Jordan has made such a big mistake with a series. They are trying to make the show a parody of a soap as well as make it an interesting drams and it just isn't working. They should have decided whether they wanted a drama or a parody.

If the fans - or at least the regular viewers - are confused and think things should be clearer, then Echo Beach has a problem. One could claim it is like Shakespeare's "problem" plays, neither comedy nor tragedy. But let's face it, Mark and Susan Penwarden are hardly Angelo and Isabella.

To succeed in its current form, Echo Beach needs to find some kind of niche, and possibly one that isn't there yet. It is somewhat remeniscent of Eldorado, but that had a massive cast and a much longer run - and even when it finally built up a respectable viewership it was axed. There are also shades of the very early days of Neighbours and Home & Away, but those shows chose to evolve away from their original, more adult-led melodrama. And to some extent it is actually crippled by Moving Wallpaper, because as long as that hold the position of comedy mock-reality drama with all The Office, Alan Partridge and Absolute Power nuances and references, Echo Beach is left somewhat high and dry.

Then another problem is the cast. Whether they've signed up for a second series or not, the poor reviews are going to make many of them think twice. Even many of the lesser-known younger cast are already involved in other, high profile projects.

But it was a brave and important move to make this experimental dual-show. Given it can take several series for audiences to warm to a show, it seems wasteful to axe it as a knee jerk reaction. But given the size of the overhaul it would need in a second series to evolve past a kind of a quirky 30-minute sidecar to Moving Wallpaper, one can understand why ITV may feel it's easier to start again from scratch.

Echo Beach 107 review

Jason Donovan is a very harried man. He's rushing all over the place having awkward conversations and trying to make sure that his illegitimate son didn't sleep with Hannah Lederer's daughter and spawn a three-headed inbred. However they "just talked all night", as a coy and smirking girly-pink-shirt-clad Jimmy tells Charlie in the Jolly Roger pub:

Narinder is supposed to have had a tarty makeover this episode. She looks exactly the same but in hotpants. This is supposed to be a dramatic change. What would be a welcome change would be an adenoidectomy so we could hear her voice not coming out of her nose for a change.

Failed Lolita failed arsonist wannabe superbitch Grace has gone soft. Which is a shame, because she and Ian present one of the few glimpses of likely chemistry among the entire cast. And she can actually act, even if he can't. And it would be an enjoyably nostlagic echo of the coupling of Mike from Neighbours and Sophie from Home & Away.

Particularly if Ian also managed to die like Mike did. Crashing into the speeding orange campervan hotwired by a paralytic Fin and Mrs McCluskey. These two went on a date this week but kindly spared us from explicit geriatric passion. Fin manages to make his mouth turn down in exactly the same arc as the brim of his baseball hat.

Awful authoress Angela continues to be unspeakably awful. She also continues to look considerably older than Susan Penwarden.

Talking of the Penwardens, Mark Penwarden is wearing an unfortunate top that can only be described as "too tight across the bust". He's a fairly fit and fairly skinny man but the top in the suspicious-phone-call-scene with Susan gives him moobs.

16 February, 2008

Critics' reviews - 15th Feb 2008

Jane Simon, The Mirror:
There's no need to use Jason or Martine's character names because in this show you see household names playing somebody. Unless the actor once played a character that's more famous than they are.

So if I tell you that tonight Mike Baldwin and Mrs McClusky go on a date, you'll know who I mean. And then shudder at the image that pops into your head.

15 February, 2008

Falling viewing figures

A bad rap from MSN Entertainment, which has compared Echo Beach to other TV "high profile failures". Most weirdly, Eldorado doesn't make their gallery of examples:
Despite the presence of Martine McCutcheon and Jason Donovan, viewers are deserting spoof soap Echo Beach in droves. Sometimes hype just isn't enough.

Since Echo Beach's 5m debut, it has been losing viewers week-on-week and not even the respectable lead-in from sister show Moving Wallpaper has been enough to sustain interest.

12 February, 2008

Echo Beach "fails to resonate"

Bad news for Echo Beach from Dave West, DigitalSpy:
A poor audience for Echo Beach made ITV1 the least watched terrestrial channel in its slot on Friday.

The new soap drew just 2.3m or 10% at 9.30pm to trail last year's slot average of 4.3m by some way, according to viewing figures. Its sixth outing was the lowest after successive drops from a 5m (21.9%) debut.

Its exact figure of 2,336,000 was pipped to fourth place by NCIS on Five, which made 2,349,000 during the half hour.

Critics' reviews - 8th Feb 2008

Mark Wright, The Stage:
Unfortunately, Echo Beach is anything but fun. Dull, plodding and badly acted. Oh well, it was worth a try.

11 February, 2008

Echo Beach 106 review

Sometimes you witness something so gruesome it makes you want to gouge your own eyes out with a rusty spork. The scene played out in this week's Echo Beach between Jason Donovan and Hannah Lederer's daughter - talking in an icklegirlyvoice about being ready to "ride a bike" or not - was so excruciating it was also necessary to hack out your eardrums with a rusty chainsaw.

So just to recap Episode 6: Jimmy gets mad with Susan for kissing Jason Donovan; Hannah Lederer's daughter gets a new bikini; Mark and Fin fight; Jimmy and Hannah Lederer's daughter flirt; Jason Donovan and Hannah Lederer's daughter have the unspeakable (but sadly all too spoken) abovementioned conversation; Susan and Awful Angela chat; Brae and Jackie flirt; Jimmy and Grace fight; Jason Donovan and Jimmy chat; Jason Donovan and Fin talk; Jackie and Ian talk; Narinder and Charlie flirt; Susan and Grace talk; Brae and Jackie flirt more; Jimmy and Hannah Lederer's daughter flirt and talk and snog; Brae and Jackie drink; etc etc.

Anyone else spotting the woefully dreary pattern here? There doesn't seem to be a single three-way conversation going on in the entire episode, apart from a bit of dreary multipart muttering in the bar with Ivy. Is the Echo Beach budget so limited they can only use one camera? Or haven't the writers progressed past "Screenwriting 101 - The Art of the Duologue"? It's just an endless stream of gruesome twosomes. And by god are some of them gruesome this week.

The other week it was suprising to find out that Charlie is apparently related to Fin. And now it is even more astonishing to disover that that Fin is apparently supposed to suffer from learning difficulties or dementia or such like. We know Fin is supposed to be "old" (since he's the only male character aged over 40 in the entire cast) but is he supposed to have reached his second childhood? Because suddenly he's playing a stunning fusion of the yokel village idiot and Rainman:

Anyway Hannah Lederer's daughter ending up riding Jimmy's bike, all the while managing to talk through her nose. Whether it was supposed to be figurative or not doesn't really matter. Seeing Jason Donovan rushing around doing "frantic angst" was treat enough.