Torchwood

Didn't really get into the first series of Torchwood - have to admit, Doctor Who's passed me by for the most part, so a spin-off didn't really excite that much. And the ones I watched felt like they were relying too much on the ooh! shock! factor with their swearing/snogging and not enough on either the sci-fi or characters to make it work.

Maybe my expectations were lowered, but the first ep of the second series (on BBC2 Jan 16) is a big improvement on what I've seen before. It's snappier, tighter, and feels like they've listened to the critics and tried to fix the problems. You've still got a Cardiff that's pretty much empty, and the odd shot of Cap'n Jack jumping up on a rooftop (a character trait they point out) and some of the trademark polysexual kissing. But on the other hand, they've drafted in James Marsters - Spike from the mighty Buffy.

Now, it may be that it all goes down the pan again further on in the series when he's not around to beat the crap out of Jack, but it's a pretty inspired cameo, even if he is basically playing the very Spike-like "rogue Time Agent Captain John Hart". He's got real presence, and has obviously got used to delivering lines about odd creatures and made-up fantasy blah with real intensity over the years. He also looks a bit like one of Adam's Ants, circa Kings Of The Wild Frontier.

They also cram in some Star Wars references, a nice "where are the blondes on your team?" Buffy gag, and even almost get you to forget all those annoying appearances from Barrowman on Strictly Come Dancing, Jonathan Ross and BBC Breakfast etc.

Am all in favour of the BBC working on new genre pieces like this, and do think the return of the Who enterprise has on the whole been a good thing - even if it's really more of a teatime kids treat than the multi-level fun that US shows like Buffy managed to create. Hope it continues to get better from here - Captain Spike is back for a few more eps, along w Alan "Jim from Neighbours" and Martha from the Tardis later on.