The Watch; Hmm, Maybe

I’m watching The Watch. Yes, I just wanted to type that. The Watch, a partnership between BBC and AMC, is inspired by characters from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I applaud BBC’s honesty in their use of the phrase “inspired by,” because this is nothing like Pratchett’s ground-breaking humor-fantasy series. It does, however, have some characters who share names and occupations with Pratchett’s characters, in a city named after Pratchett’s fantasy city.

I stopped watching after the first episode because I was disappointed in the poor world-building. Later, though, I saw a teaser for an upcoming episode that had extraordinary silliness—a dance number to Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-go–and I was swayed. I binged the eps I’d missed and watched the one with the dance number, and it was good, silly fun. I have cautiously decided to watch the first season.

While they were busy amping up the silliness quotient and making one of the secondary characters really likeable, I think my internal approach to the show changed too. I’ve almost stopped wanting it to be Pratchett. I can almost like it for itself. Almost.

In addition to the gonzo dance routine episode, the show uses a lot of music. There’s music in the episode where the members of the Watch join the musician’s guild as part of an undercover operation. There’s incidental music whenever the characters hang out at the Busted Drum. That’s nice.

The character of Cheery, played by Jo Eaton-Kent, is great, and they are expanding her scenes. Cheery is a female dwarf (who’s about six feet tall) who shaved off her beard in an act of rebellion and came to the city. She is the Watch’s forensic expert, which is to say she’s pretty much inventing forensics as the show progresses. Cheery is tough and kind, and her kindness to others has paid dividends in at least two episodes so far. And please, please let Cheery/Jo Eaton-Kent sing in more eps. Please.

The show has made a mistake with the villain Carcer. Right now, what makes him interesting is a little bit of his backstory, but mainly the intensity of the actor, Samuel Adewunmi. It appears that perhaps Carcer isn’t quite as bad as we first thought—even though he plans to literally “burn the world”—but right now the show is putting all the weight of the villain on their actor. He’s up to the task, but this shouldn’t be how showrunners develop characters.

Carcer isn’t the only character who is dependent on the actor to create a connection. It’s Lara Rossi who’s making Lady Sybil Ramkin watchable, not the attempts at British humor or the pass at giving her a tragic backstory that enflames her passion for reform, or justice, or something. (And please, could you let her sing more too?)

I do think the showrunners are on their way to a car-crash of Unintended Consequences with the character of Wonse, Carcer’s female magical sidekick. The issue? Wonse was a cleaner at the magical Unseen University (the most highly visible building in Ankh Morpork). She learned magic in secret, because women aren’t allowed into the university. She is a powerful magician, but because she’s aligned with Carcer, if the showrunners are not careful, Wonse is going to prove the bigots at the university right. See? You teach women magic, they just go off and help the first villain that comes along.

You can watch this show for sweet moments like the love story between Jocasta and Perdita, members of the Thieves Guild, or bantery exchanges that mostly work. Certainly I believe the vulnerabilities of the characters as they’re presented now. The will-they-or-won’t-they between Anguia and Carrot is a snooze, but hey! Maybe Cheery will show up and do something*. While I appreciate how she makes everyone feel better, I wish Cheery would get to develop some kickass forensic techniques while we watch.

The librarian is an orangutan**, so there’s that.

It’s not appointment television, especially now that American Gods is back, but with On Demand I can see it when I want, so I’ll probably watch it now and then.

*UPDATE: Cheery has uncovered her connection to a powerful magic source.  It’s not forensic, but it gives her great costumes, so…

**In world, I mean. They haven’t cast an actual orangutan.

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