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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Please Doc, don't be naff.

Ah, Christmas, how do I love thee? Not at all as it turns out, sorry. Yes, I am of the Bah Humbug persuasion, and proud of it.

Anyway, this is not the place for a big woe is me whingeathon, this is a place to discuss television shows. Of which there are none worth watching over the 'festive' season. The US imports have either ended (and I talked about those a couple of weeks back) or are winding down for mid season breaks (I've not watched last Fridays The Event yet; I'm rationing it). The only bright spot on the horizon is a Christmas special that holds out a little hope of not being totally shit.

I speak, of course, of The Weakest Link. No hang on, Doctor Who, that's the lad.

I know, I know. I'm well aware that since Doctor Who returned to our screens with 'Rose', the annual Christmas special has fostered a jealously guarded reputation for being, well, a bit rubbish. Credit where it's due, it's a rep they worked hard for. To produce something as mind bogglingly atrocious as 'Voyage of the Damned' or the execrable 'End of Time' takes true grit and determination.*

To be fair, The Christmas Invasion wasn't all bad.

The novelty factor of Tennant assuming the role for the first time bought it a lot of leeway, any episode that heavily features the rather wonderful Jackie Tyler scores points from me and then we have the delightful Penelope Wilton back. Of course, Tennant is hardly present for most of it and when he does wake up he struggles with some of the awkward tonal shifts in the script, Jackie is saddled with that Godawful clunker of a line that absolutely NEVER works (you know the one) and Wilton is only back so Davies can contradict what he wrote in the Slitheen storyline in aid of a half baked 'dark Doctor' moment that isn't half as clever as he thinks it is. Add to that the frankly ridiculous notion that there would be a button on the side of the ship that makes a huge chunk of said ship fall off and, well...So swings and roundabouts.

The Runaway Bride is better, because we at least have a Doctor who's active throughout, we're finally free of that nauseating Doctor/Rose pseudo romance thing that fucked up S2 and the Racnoss makes a half way decent villain but it still had it's flaws. Chief among them one Donna Noble . Now, I'm not one of those people who hated the Donna character. Indeed, I think that the Doctor/Donna relationship in S4 was probably the best Doctor/Companion pairing in RTDs era but I absolutely do subscribe to the theory that she was bloody awful in her debut. And I think that the blame for that is pretty evenly shared between the writer (who was it again?, oh yes) and the actress. Given that she was written as a screeching harridan for most of it, Tate probably took one look at the script and thought 'to hell with it, if they want pantomime I'll give them pantomime'. She's capable, as she proved so well in S4, of more than that but she lowered herself to the material rather than trying to elevate it.

The Voyage Of The Damned was next and was the first time I watched one of these and thought 'this is shit' while I was still watching. Previously I would get swept up in the moment and only realise during the comedown just how riddled with flaws they were but here it was just in your face from the get-go. I won't go into all the flaws, because frankly I don't have the inclination to waste my time on what would be an overwhelmingly negative rant so I'll just mention the one moment that actually genuinely offended me in it's heavy handed, club to the head, oh fuck off, Doctor Messiah bullshit.

It was the heavy handed, club to the head, oh fuck off, Doctor Messiah moment.

Seriously, that speech? And the striding through the wreckage, with the lighting and the flashes around him and the soaring music? The ship is falling apart and they are all going to die so the Doc figures now is the perfect time to stop for 5 minutes so he can tell everyone how great he is and how he's going to save them all. Which he then doesn't do. Awful. Still, Kylie in that uniform. Phwooaar eh? Weeell, kind of anyway.

Then we come to that Cyberman bollocks with that giant machine thing terrorising London and finally The End Of Time.

One had Dervla Kerwan looking lovely, offset by Davies forgetting (or just not caring) that he'd retconned the Cybermen origins, so he could crowbar in a past Doctors montage. These montages work, and fans like to see them, but they have to have a logical reason for existing. This one didn't.

The other story has Davies pissing on everything he'd done in the previous 5 years.

Here's the thing though. Poorly thought out, lacking in any kind of logical story structure and chock full of risible dialogue they may be; alright, definitely were, but there was one thing that can not be denied; they didn't lack for spectacle. The hope then, is that under the new regime, that spectacle, which is a big part of what you want from a Christmas blow-out, can be married to something resembling a cohesive narrative.

You see, for all my carping and moaning, (and I'm not alone and far from the most vicious) these shows were successful. Massively so. They pulled in the punters and got the big numbers. Is that enough though? Eastenders and The X-fucking-Factor can do that. As a writer, wouldn't you like to do the big numbers and tell a good story at the same time? The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the episodes above could all have been made so much better with an extra draft and a few nips and tucks. None of them were unsalvageable. If they'd had a writer who cared as much about making good telly as he did about boosting his own ego, who knows what they could have been.

My policy on spoiler avoidance means I am probably the least 'in the know' person in Britain right now when it comes to this years upcoming Christmas special. However the (slightly excessive) case of hero worship I have going on for Steven Moffat (come on, the man wrote Press Gang) means that my expectations are raised and I have well and truly 'got my hopes up'. I just hope they aren't dashed come Christmas night. I have faith.

*Seriously though, he was taking the piss with that one right? I mean, surely even the staunchest Nu-Who/RTD apologist can't defend that bilge, can they?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Lovers Walk

It's that time of the week again when I put pen to paper, so to speak, and waffle a bit of nowt about the tellybox. It's a bit of a rush job actually, because the thing I intended to post, I've held back until next week, on account of it's slightly christmassy themed and I realised I'd jumped the gun slightly. So here I am, making it up as I go along at the last minute again.

There's a lot of stuff I could talk about of course. The Vampire Diaries and The Event are both well into their respective seasons, there is my tale of woe about how the person I was trusting to tape The Walking Dead for me has let me down, Misfits is trundling along being all kinds of awesome and of course I've always got the option of sticking up one of my top 5's that are tucked away for an emergency but it feels a bit soon for another one of them.

No, it's not going to be any of them. Instead, it's going to be about a certain episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And not just because the last time I wrote about Buffy on here it got more views in a day than pretty much all my other posts combined have managed in months. The power of this show, and Joss Whedons body of work in general, to pull in the punters, years after the fact, never ceases to amaze me. The strength of feeling his stuff brings on is phenomenal.

So if it's not just a cheap attempt to court the attentions of one of TVs most loyal fandoms then why am I talking about this show? Well, I'm in the midst of a rewatch, something I haven't done in a number of years, and I've come across, would you believe it, an episode I've never seen before. I was sure I'd seen all of this show, most episodes several times over, so I had a quick look at my Quest checklist and sure enough, the episode is ticked off. Something obviously went wrong somewhere along the line.

It's funny because the episode in question is actually a fairly pivotal one and I should have noticed that something was amiss during my original viewing of the show. It's from S3 and features the return of extremely popular character Spike, a major presence in S2 who had left town in that seasons finale. This was his sole contribution to S3, so it was a trifle cheeky of them to plaster him and his girlfriend Drusilla (who doesn't actually appear at all) on the packaging of the video releases, but that's by the by.

Spike returns to town because Dru has dumped him. One thing leads to another and he decides to kidnap budding witch Willow and force her to do a love spell so he can get Dru back. As you do.

Of course, none of that pesky plot stuff is really important (at least until the closing minutes). The episode is just an excuse to have Spike back doing what he does best; being really evil while at the same time being really cool, and winding up the regulars with his sarcastic, but true, insights into their lives. He doesn't give a shit, so he can say everything everyone else is thinking. And he does, taking great joy in it. He also gets one of his all to infrequent chances to interact with Buffys Mom Joyce, a character pairing that is never anything less than delightful together.

Those closing moments though, in which every romantic pairing on the show, Buffy/Angel, Xander/Cordelia, Willow/Oz, falls apart, some more permanently than others, is where the episode becomes truly pivotal. Which is where my confusion lies. You see, by rights, I should have noticed something was amiss when I watched the next episode and all the romantic entanglements were so screwed up. What did I think had happened? Especially odd when you consider that that next episode was The Wish and was entirely dependent on the break up of Xander and Cordelia for it's plot. I honestly don't remember. In my defence, it's possible that I did wonder what had happened for about 5 minutes and then just got swept up in The Wish, because it is a bloody good episode.

Anyway, at a time when I'm watching an awful lot of stuff that I'm not particularly enjoying for The Quest (buck your ideas up, terrible new V) it's hard to describe the thrill that comes from finding out that there is a little slice of goodness waiting to be sampled from one of my all time favourite shows. What other missed or long forgotten gems will I uncover on this rewatch? I don't think there are any more, but then again, I didn't think there was this one. For the first time I'm actually hoping for errors in my filing system. When you think about it, it's pretty damning on the current TV output, that I have to turn to 10 year old reruns for my jollies.

Next : Doctor Who at Christmas.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Endings galore

And so, the end is near. Over the last couple of weeks I've watched the season finales of Merlin S3 (BBC1), True Blood S2 (CH4) and the S1 (and series) finale of Blade : The Series (Five USA). I don't really like it when a lot of stuff comes to an end at the same time ; makes the schedules feel all barren. What makes it worse is that I'm pretty sure CH4 and ITV2 are going to have to take a break pretty soon, with The Event and Vampire Diaries respectively, because they are awfully close to catching up to stateside screenings. At least I still have Misfits to keep me warm at night.


The Blade finale was a slight disappointment in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, the exercise was hampered slightly by the fact that the writers felt beholden to the idea of having Blade himself be involved in the big finale. Understandable, I suppose, given that he was, on paper at least, the star of the show, but since he was always the least interesting character in their arsenal his inclusion felt intrusive and unwanted. Marcus facing down the purebloods, and the enmity between Krista and Chase coming to a head would have been much more dramatically satisfying if it hadn't had to stop for a meathead fight scene, that being pretty much all Kirk Jones was capable of contributing.

While the show served it's purpose in that it brought the series arc to a head, with the Aurora project being exposed and Marcus making his move against the Purebloods, and it set the various regulars in new positions for a prospective second year they sadly felt the need to end on a cliffhanger, which we'll never see resolved due to the shows cancellation. Now, I have nothing against serialised storytelling, prefer it in fact, but I've always felt that unless you are absolutely sure you are coming back you should end the season in such a way as to have it work as a series finale, which this show would have done if not for that scene. The fact is though, even if the show was coming back, that cliffhanger didn't work for me. It came out of nowhere and pretty much contradicted a lot of the character beats from earlier in the episode. It felt like a shock for the sake of a shock and it didn't sit well with me.

True Blood

I'm a bit behind on this show, having had to wait for CH4 to show it due to loss of FX subscription so it's one of those shows that I can't really engage with the online discussion of, for fear of spoilers. Which is a shame,because if ever a show would have had me raving on the forums it would have been this one.

S2 was a massive improvement over S1, already a great show, thanks to the years Big Bad, Marianne, being a much more interesting and chilling character than S1s mystery serial killer. A nutjob who who kills women who consort with vampires is never going to be a match for an immortal nutjob who brainwashes an entire town into animalistic orgies of sex and violence in order to resurrect an ancient God. Stands to reason.

The real standout characters in S2 for me where Jessica, Jason and Andy. It's all to easy to dismiss them as comic relief, given that their storylines were so often played (successfully) for laughs, but these characters were rife with genuine tragedy (Jessica) and heroism (Jason and Andy).

Jessicas shyness and awkwardness around the older but equally inexperienced Hoyt, leading to their eventually sleeping together and her discovering that, due to her vampiric nature her physical virginity would reassert itself, meaning that sex would forever be painful was one of the most endearing, tender and real love affairs you'll find in vampire fiction. Not for them the heightened, epic love affairs of a Buffy and Angel, Edward and Bella, or indeed a Bill and Sookie. This is human/vamp romance in the real world, and it's heartbreaking.

Jason and Andy meanwhile, are probably the most truly heroic characters in the show during this season. They have no abilities to speak of, like Bills vamp strength and speed, Sams shapeshifting or even Sookie with her telepathy. They are simply ordinary people who see their town in danger, a town that has belittled and ridiculed them for years, and step up to do what they can anyway. That they failed is not the point; they tried, knowing full well that they were walking into a situation that would likely see them killed. Proper heroes, in my eyes.


And so we move away from vampires, and hit Merlin, the BBC Saturday night adventure show based on the Arthurian myth. I was, when this show was first mooted many moons ago, one of those skeptics whose first impressions from the premise (young Merlin comes to Camelot and has to hide his powers while working for Arthur who is the same age as him) were that the show would be, not to put too fine a point on it, shit. I based this on the age of the Merlin character. They could do what they wanted otherwise but having Arthur and Merlin as contemporaries just seemed wrong.I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt though, and reserve judgment until after I'd actually watched the thing (radical concept, I realise). The show has, over the last 3 seasons, managed to completely assuage* my fears and is a show which I now enjoy immensely.

Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur) are a solid central double act, with a good line in warm friendship disguised as mockery and Angel Coulby (Gwen), Richard Wilson (Gaius) and Anthony Head (Uther) round out a quite frankly stellar regular cast. Katie McGrath is also in the cast, playing Morgana, but she doesn't rate the 'stellar' tag. She barely qualifies for the 'actress' tag, to be honest. One weak link can't sink the ship though, and the others more than carry her.

The 2part finale of the shows 3rd season was, in many ways, an answer to the criticisms of those, unlike myself, who never got over the whole 'that's just not right' attitude to the show. The relationship between Arthur and Gwen becoming public, the introduction of the Round Table, Lancelot Gawain and others being made knights, the Lady in the Lake and of course the Sword in the Stone; all of these exciting developments and many more served to bring the show closer to 'proper' Arthurian history. Not that there is any such thing as historical fact with these characters. Still, some people have a hard time telling the difference being History and Myth, and those people had been complaining about this show from day one. With a bit of luck, these developments will calm them down a bit.

While certain of these elements had been hinted at previously this was the first time they had all been explicitly shown. To introduce them all in the space of one story could have been a massive mistake by the producers. As much as the viewers wanted to see them, bringing them all into play at the same time ran the risk of the show turning into one big exposition heavy info-dump, with the story making way for a simple checklist. Julian Jones, writer of this 2parter, was well up to the challenge however and managed to produce something that was, above all else, a rollicking good adventure story for all the family. What more can you ask for on a Saturday night?

With all of these departures from the schedule, it's looking like the Quest pickings on the basic channels are going to be slim on the ground in the run up to Christmas. A delve into the DVD shelves (and possibly *cough* the intenet *cough*)is looking likely.

*I'm not entirely convinced that this word means what I think it means but what the hell, right?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Top Blokes

I thought I'd do some lists. Top 5 type things, you know, because everyone likes lists right? So I put on the old thinking cap, and came up with some of my favourite shows, favourite actors/actresses, favourite characters, favourite episodes, etc. etc.

It made me stop and think. If anyone asks me what my favourite genre is, I tell them that it's science-fiction/fantasy. Always has been, always will be. Hence the Quest and this here blog. Yet the majority of my individual faves that I came up with are from other genres. How does that work? So while cumulatively, sci-fi remains my first love, and the primary focus of the Quest and these ramblings, I will be posting a few bits and pieces about other genres when doing my lists. Which I'm thinking will be roughly once a month. Or whenever I'm at a loss for a show to waffle about come Tuesday night.

First things first. Favourite (recent/active) Actor. Which means I'll probably struggle to crowbar in any pictures of luvverly ladies this week. Or will I?

5. JD Williams.

Whether it be naive and perennially in over his head Kenny 'Bricks' (bless) Wangler, the tragic Bodie or the (I'm guessing, cos, I aint seen the whole thing yet) doomed Mr Cat, Williams has the enviable ability of being able to make flawed, even downright unpleasant, characters likable. So likable in fact that when Kenny and then Bodie suffered the inevitable fate of the drug dealing murderer, you felt genuine grief at their passing. Good writing played it's part, no doubt, but it would have been much more difficult with a lesser talent in the roles, to get the viewers so passionately on-side with these flawed individuals.

4. Bruce Campbell

Now, he of the chin may be known, primarily, for his B movie roles but he's far from quiet on the small screen either. Pick pretty much any genre series and he'll have made a guest appearance at some time or another and I can think of but one (Charmed) that managed to drag him down rather than him elevating the material. Plus of course, his recurring and starring roles in any number of classic (if not always successful) shows. He basically plays the same role over and over again; the cocky but charming hero, never short of a quip or a sarcastic put down, but also actually capable of backing up his words with deeds.

Witness Autolycus, king of thieves, from the Hercules/Xena franchise,

or Brisco County Jr. from the rather wonderful show of the same name.

Most recently of course, he has managed to steal the show from the supposed lead in his current gig; Burn Notice. Bruce Campbell playing Bruce Campbell, long may it continue.

3. Mark Valley.

Currently to be seen as the lead in Human Target, but a veteran of many a cracking show like Fringe and Boston Legal, Valley actually came to my attention first in a little show called Keen Eddie. Destined for early cancellation Eddie was, for a brief shining moment, my favourite show in the whole wide world. It was funny, it was charming, it had a (then relatively unknown) Sienna Miller being very foxy and it had one of my favourite 'buddy' partnerships since Starsky & Hutch. The idea was that a New York cop (Valley) was 'loaned' to Scotland Yard and partnered up with a British copper (Julian Rhind-Tutt) to investigate crimes in London. It remains, to this day, the closest an American show has ever come to an accurate depiction of England. Not perfect, mind you, but very close.

Valley was a revelation, because to look at him, he's a bland meathead (sorry), but he has a charisma about him that major movie stars would kill for. Quite why he isn't a household name by now is a mystery to me.

Not an actor...

...but in a show with vampires, just like this guy.

2. Chris Bauer.

A God among actors. Simple as that. Put upon husband in Third Watch, tragic victim of circumstance and poor judgement in The Wire and bumbling but lovable cop in True Blood, Bauer invariably steals every scene he's in. In fact, it was only the quality of his performance in Third Watch that allowed me to forgive the way that family pretty much hijacked the show for a long time.

I'm a season behind on True Blood, having only just seen the finale of S2 (which saw Bauer play a much more prominent role than he did in S1) and I'm always keen to avoid spoilers but I've been getting the impression that Andy could be getting an even higher profile role to play in S3. This can only be good for the show, in my opinion. In particular, the Andy/Jason partnership is pure gold and needs to be explored.

1. Bradley Whitford.

The West Wing and Studio 60. Two of the greatest TV shows ever made and this guy was a huge piece of the puzzle in both of them.

It's hard to say just what makes him so great. He's not especially good looking, insofar as I can tell and he doesn't do anything anyone else doesn't do. It's just that, well, he does it with such seeming effortlessness. It's like he oozes sincerity and class from every pore and you just can't help but like the guy.

Oh, I don't know, I just watch the shows, no-ones paying me to analyse them. It's not like I went to film school or anything. All I know is, when he is on screen, you aren't watching anyone else, and with ensemble casts of the the quality West Wing and Studio 60 had, to command the screen like that you'd have to be pretty bloody special. I could watch him all day. And I often have.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Slayer talk

Disclaimer : The picture of Alyson Hannigan that will appear randomly at some point in this post is in no way relevant to the point Im trying to make. I just like Alyson Hannigan and figured, I'm talking about Buffy so what the hell.

So there are plans afoot. Plans to make a new Buffy Movie. Yay, you might say. Well, that wasn't exactly the reaction when the news hit on Monday night. What's this? A Reboot? No involvement likely by any of the TV cast? No JOSS? Madness, Blasphemy, The End Is Nigh. And so on and so forth.


Here's my thing. I don't, as a general knee-jerk rule, approve of remakes. Remakes, reboots (except the show of course), and the dreaded re-imaginings are, to my mind, a product of lazy storytelling. I feel roughly the same way about prequels and the dreaded 'missing story' approach, where writers try desperately to cram new adventures into every 5minute gap they can find in the original chronology, just so that they can use a character during his or her most popular period.

All of that said though, it can sometimes work. Case in point; I read a lot of comics. I tend to avoid Superhero titles, but by frequenting comic book internet forums I have met any number of people - people whose opinions I trust - who tell me that modern Batman comics are some of the best superhero comics they've ever read. How many times has that character been rebooted?

Not Batman

Or just look at his screen history. A TV show that spawned a movie. Then rebooted into a movie franchise that gave us 4 (variable) outings. The modern movies, again rebooted, are gearing up for their 3rd outing and are being touted as classics; not just classic comic book movies, but classic movies, full stop. The animated version of Batman has also been rebooted twice since I first showed an interest in it, with the Batman:Animated Series/Justice League/Batman Beyond franchise giving way to year one revamp The Batman (Note the use of the definite there. Trifle optimistic in my view) and now of course we have Batman:The Brave And The Bold.

The geek in me would of course be remiss if I didn't point to Battlestar Galactica. Oh the consternation when Richard Hatch s long mooted and fan craved faithful sequel was shelved forever by a total remake from some bloke who used to do Star Trek. It's not like that turned out well, or anything, is it?

Further afield, Nikita. A movie which spawned a reasonably succesful TV show (5 seasons is nothing to sneeze at) is now back on our screens as, yes, a new TV show with no connection to the proto-24 Peta Wilson starrer. Doing quite well for itself too, from what I hear.

The fact is, my own (perhaps irrational) prejudices aside, I have long since come to appreciate that - in the sci-fi/fantasy genre especially - remakes are gonna happen and that is not neccesarily a bad thing. I mean, how many people were crying out for a crazed man-child to 'reimmagine' Planet of the Apes and look how well that... ah, well, you get my point.

Ah, but you see, and here be the rub of the nub, we aren't just talking about a reboot here. No, we're talking about a reboot of Joss Whedon, The Mighty Joss, The Whedonator, er, Joss The Boss, ..., hang on a minute, ..., no that's it, I'm out.

We all know Joss Whedon is a genius. He is one of the best television writers alive today and he's no slouch with a camera either but the fact is, he doesn't own Buffy. The producers own Buffy. And the producers want to make a movie. So I say let them make the movie, and wish them well in the endeavour. Best case scenario, we get a decent Buffy movie. Worst case scenario, we don't. In which case we can all go back and watch the 12 seasons of fried gold Buffy-verse magic that we already have. And do you know what? It'll still be great. It won't have suddenly turned to shit, any more than Star Trek turned to shit when they made Voyager or Law and Order when they made Law and Order : UK.

Here's something else to think about. An awful lot of people are using the old 'raping my childhood' argument. Now, if you feel this strongly you could always, you know, not watch it, but try this on for size; maybe, just maybe, this new version will affect a new generation in the same way. Who are you, or we, to begrudge them that.

After all, as great as Joss Whedon is, he wasn't the only person writing that show. Not by a long chalk. Others 'got' it. Maybe this new woman (Whit Anderson) will as well. I mean, I'm not sure of her qualifications, since most of the discussion seems to be based around her looks, or rather a certain sites reporting of her looks, but being an attractive woman (and she is an attractive woman)
doesn't preclude you from being abe to write a decent Buffy script. Just ask Marti Noxon.

And so, to sum up all of the above waffle in one sentence - Instead of assuming it'll be shit, try hoping it'll be good, because we've nothing to lose and everything (well, a good movie) to gain.

Until next week : grrr, aaargh

and Phwoarr

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Sarah Jane Adventures Mk1

The Sarah Jane Adventures (SJA). Sounds a bit naff doesn't it. Well, it isn't. Far from it in fact.

SJA is, for those who don't know, the second spin-off to come from Doctor Who (the first being Torchwood) following it's very successful relaunch 6 years ago. It stars the perpetually lovely Elisabeth Sladen as the intrepid investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, who traveled with the 3rd and 4th incarnations of the Doctor back in the day and now carries on the good fight, assisting nice aliens and foiling nasty ones whenever they arrive on Earth. Or at least, whenever they arrive on Earth near where she lives, which to be fair, seems to happen pretty regularly. She is aided in this by a group of youngsters, including her adopted son Luke (who has been effectively written out recently), Lukes best mate Clyde and neighbour girl Rani, who is fine as far as she goes but not a patch (the character or the actress) on Maria, whom Rani replaced when the actress left a short way into S2.

Say what you will about Russell T. Davies, the Head Writer/Executive Producer/Showrunner/Whatever you want to call it, of Doctor Who when it relaunched (and I have, oh I have, at length and with naughty words), but it's only fair to point out that whatever his failings as a writer (or more accurately, a writer of science-fiction), he did what few others would have even bothered to try to do, and he did it with style. He brought Doctor Who back, and he made it a force to be reckoned with, not just on British Television but around the world. Crap writer* he may be, but as a producer and a showman, he got the job done.

SJA (and Torchwood) may actually be a bigger deal than Who, when you stop to think about it. Who ran for 26 seasons first time around. 26 seasons, with numerous producers and writers at the helm at different points in it's run, and numerous very popular characters coming and going. Yet at no point did any of those producers manage to launch any of those characters into a successful spin-off.

The closest anyone got was John Nathan-Turner, who had a pretty mammoth stint as producer on the show towards the end of it's life. He managed to produce a pilot episode for a proposed spin-off series. Guess who the lead character was. Yes, I know you all know, I'm not claiming for a second to be telling anyone anything they don't already know on here because frankly most people know more than I do about this stuff. I'm just doing a bit of preamble to make myself feel clever, OK?

Anyway, the Adric spin-off. In which the deceased maths troll returned as a ghostly spirit to work alongside the Brigadier in a Randall and Hopkirk-esque journey into the heart of darkness that is Skegness in the off season. No, hang on... It was Sarah Jane wasn't it?

Of course it was. Although you wouldn't know it from the title. The show was called K9 and Company, and would have focused on Sarah Jane (the Company, presumably), working with K9, the robot dog who had also traveled with the Doctor for a time.

I had never watched this pilot, despite owning it on DVD for a good long while. I had intended to slot it into a full chronological re-watch of Doctor Who, but circumstances beyond my control meant that I couldn't buy any more DVDs and many of those I already owned were lost so that idea went for a burton. It sat, languishing at the bottom of the pile, forgotten and neglected.

So I'm at a loose end at the weekend, having lost my internet connection for the umpteenth time and being deprived of my beloved twitter, and I'm ruminating on the fact that the current series of SJA is about to end, and one thing leads to another and in goes the disc. It doesn't get off to a particularly promising start, it has to be said, but the title sequence has been mocked before, by wittier men than I, so I shall move on.

What of the actual story? Set in a none more cliched rural community the story sees Sarah Jane and K9 up against a coven of witches, intent on a human sacrifice to get a decent crop. You know, like every other rural horror of the last 9trillion years. (Shamefully, the Whoniverse would return to the concept of rural folk all being dodgy psychos as recently as 4yrs ago, with the God-awful Torchwood episode Countrycide) There aren't really a lot of ways to big up a story where the villains of the piece are a fat old farmer and the lady from the post office. I will say that the revelation of the female villains identity did come as a bit of a surprise, so there's that, but it was a surprise based more on the facts that a) the character was barely present for most of the show, and b) another, much more prominent character could not have been more obviously played as a villain. Fair play to them for giving it a go but the swerve felt like a cheat rather than clever. (Had the eventual villain been around more and the red herring played more subtly, dividing suspicion and keeping you guessing, the finish would have had more impact. As it stands, I barely recognised the villain when she was unmasked.)

Even Elisabeth Sladen, and by God it pains me to say this, comes across as somewhat lacking. Without a decent foil, be it The Doctor or, as in SJA, strong support from her younger castmates, her natural charm has nothing to bounce off. Her relationship with K9 is the same one that everybody else has (he's a snarky know-it-all and she rolls her eyes) while her cousin/nephew/I'm not really sure is exactly the kind of stuffy and obnoxious character that we narrowly avoided when Luke turned up in SJA. Both are abnormally smart for their age but whereas in the modern series it is played with a knowing, self deprecating air the guy in K9 and Co. is just stuffy and obnoxious. Not to mention redundant; since this was meant, on paper at least, to be K9's show, why did they need another brainbox?

And in perhaps the biggest disappointment, it's not even sci-fi. Well, it's got an ex-time traveler and a robotic dog so in that respect, of course it is sci-fi, but the actual mystery they are trying to solve...? There is no sign that these people are achieving anything with their rituals. They are simply misguided local yokels with one foot in the past. What is the point of doing a Doctor Who spin-off if you aren't going to embrace the genre?

I'll be honest, it's hard to be completely objective about the whole thing, given that we now know, thanks to SJA, what the possibilities really are but even allowing for artificially heightened expectations and giving a bit of the old benefit of the doubt to compensate, it's still difficult to muster up too much enthusiasm. Sadly, the budgetary and shooting limitations that were becoming all too apparent in the Doctor Who shows of the day were all present and correct here, with none of the 'push the boat out' attitude you might have expected from a high profile launch. On the contrary, the whole thing looks rushed and cheap. It's telling that Sladen, normally a very enthusiastic presence on Who DVDs, finds it difficult not to slag off this show on the audio commentary. It seems she spotted a lot of the flaws herself at the time but was unable to do much about it.

So all in all, a bit of a failure. Points have to be given though, for getting the thing made at all. Well done, John Nathan-Turner. A forger of new paths.

* Crap writer may seem very dismissive and not particularly constructive. This post is not about him though, and the comment was designed purely to move past him to the meat of the piece. I would not dismiss any writers work out of hand and have very defined reasons for disliking his work. I shan't go into them here though because I'm trying to watch my blood pressure.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Pretty Little Liars

You know that thing? Sure you do, that thing? The one where you watch a show and some sweet little girl in pigtails comes skipping on and you go "aww, isn't she cute", and then a few years pass and she's still there only now she's 15 and you think " Hmm, she's quite pretty, I bet she'll turn a few heads when she grows up" and then a few more years go by and she turns 18 and suddenly you can't move for bikini shots in the tabloids and pin up calenders on canteen walls and she's getting her norks out in the lads mags and wearing a piece of string to red carpets and you're thinking "Phwoar yeah, I definitely would". And then you catch a repeat of that old show and you suddenly feel really old, and not a little bit dirty. Yeah, that thing. You know what I'm talking about. Well, if you're a man you do. Can't speak for the fairer sex.

All of which is why I don't have all that much of a problem with the American casting method of having 20 year old pre-pubescents and 40 year old teens. It eliminates a lot of the guilt. Alyssa Milano and Hayden Panettiere aside of course.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, it's my transparent excuse to post a shedload of rude pics of hot young women,, actually it's because I've just looked up the actresses in a show I'm watching, in which the core characters are High School girls. There isn't one of them that's under 20. One of them is older than I am and was playing teenagers 10 years ago. Sickeningly, she looks no different now than she did then.

Pretty Little Liars is a strange one. I'm not going to lie, I love me some teen based soap opera. So when I saw that Lucy Hale, the best thing about Privileged (and one of the few people to come out of Bionic Woman with anything resembling credibility, which gives her some Quest validity), was all set to star in a new mystery/thriller/soap about a bunch of teens with a secret I was a wee bit chuffed. Not least because all indications where that there was set to be a supernatural basis for at least some of what was going on in the show.

Three episodes in and I have to say that, while they are still trying to tease a ghostly presence, I'm not buying it. I've not read ahead on the internet, nor have I read any of the books on which the series is based so I can't say for sure but I reckon a good old fashioned psycho/blackmailer is at the heart of it all. When it comes to the supernatural aspect, I'm not sure their hearts are in it to be honest. Feels a bit perfunctory. However, while the possibility (however slim) remains, I am taking the opportunity to write a little bit about it for The Quest because the show does have a lot of the elements I look for in a genre show.

Premise is simple enough : Four teenage girls are reunited at the start of the school year, having spent the Summer apart. Their bond is rekindled as a dark secret from the previous year comes back to haunt them in the form of text messages and threatening notes. The notes are signed 'A', which just happens to be the initial of the missing girl. When the girls body is discovered, they realise she couldn't be behind the messages. Or could she? Dun Dun Durr...

It's all a bit "I Know What You Did...", to be fair. Obvious inspirations aside though, the strengths are many. For a show aimed primarily at the teen market it has managed to amass a pretty full blooded cast. The 'teens', whether the core four or the supporting characters, are pretty decent, and the adults are played by household faces, if not household names, like 'The actress on Charmed who wasn't Alyssa Milano or Rose McGowan'. "Who McMahon?" Or that "Hey, he looks a bit like Rob Lowe only not as good looking" guy.* And Laura Leighton, who should qualify as a household face but somehow doesn't, on account of how she seems to have turned into a completely different person. As someone who knows her primarily from Melrose Place it took me three episodes to figure out who she was meant to be playing. I kept seeing her name in the titles but I'm buggered if I could recognise her. She got, well, not old as such...

The show was described by some as being similar to Gossip Girl (a show I'm yet to see but I get the impression it revolves around text messages?) and a junior version of Desperate Housewives. Housewives is a show I have watched. I came to it on the basis of the Mary Alice ghost character, assuming the show to be supernatural in nature but once it became apparent that that whole thing was just a gimmicky excuse for a voice over I stayed, at least for a while, for the murder mystery and the shadiness of the Mike character. Once the mystery of the first season was tied up, and after the second season arc proved such a damp squib, I drifted away. Of course , that show is still chugging merrily away and could well have regained it's early form for all I know but I'm afraid I don't have the stamina to find out.

The biggest vibe I'm getting from the show is more of a Veronica Mars deal. It's not as good as that show, and the cast lacks any real stand out characters like Veronica herself,
or Logan (who remains one of my favourite television characters ever), but there is that feeling,which Neptune had, of the whole town being a hotbed of deceit and absolutely everyone having something to hide that makes me think that if they play their cards right, fading numerous mysteries in and out, paying off on their clues and keeping things fresh, Pretty Little Liars could well turn into something a little bit special.

Having said all of that, I am prepared for the fact that it could just as easily finish off the 'A' plot and quickly devolve into just another soap. Or that b) it could stick slavishly to the books. Since I haven't read them I don't know whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing. I'm debating whether I should pick up the first one to check it out. My problem is that without knowing beforehand how close they are I'm wary of spoilers. I'll probably leave it until the show has a few more episodes under it's belt.

*I do actually know who they are, by the way. I is only joshing like.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Connery, Greene and Costner? This guy pisses on 'em

Way back in the dark and desolate wastelands of this blogs archive there is an entry entitled 'How The Quest Got Started'. It documented my childhood love of old Irwin Allen shows and how I'd rush home from my paper round on Sundays to watch Channel 4 and its classic shows like the Allen canon and the Planet of the Apes series. The entry ended with me getting my first proper job and declaring that MVC didn't know what was about to hit them.

I really did spend a ridiculous amount of money in MVC. If Sci-Fi was my religion then that shop was my cathedral. Every payday I'd make the trek into Durham and splash a good 40-50% of my wages in one swoop on VHS tapes (yes, everything was still VHS then, I am old) of things like Blakes 7, The Prisoner and of course Buffy and Angel boxsets. Gerry Andersons UFO was another one, which had the added advantage of the ultimate nerd bait, a Vol 0. Of course, had we but known what was coming, a scant couple of years later, none of us would have been buying these tapes at all. For those too young to remember, the average price was £12.99 per tape and for that you'd get 2 episodes. 3 if you were very very lucky. That's gonna work out at well over £100 to collect an average US season of 22 eps. And you'd have to rent a warehouse to keep all the tapes. Hard to reconcile with todays DVD world.

Of course at the time I didn't begrudge it. I'd spent years reading about all of these legendary shows and never having the opportunity to judge them for myself.I was in heaven, and probably the biggest delight of those heady days was the first time I watched Robin of Sherwood. This show was spoken of in awed tones by all who'd seen it, not just in the sci-fi and fantasy press but also in my family. Normal people that usually had no time for anything other than Eastenders or Emmerdale Farm would, when it was mentioned, talk of it's brilliance. It was at the top of my list of must sees and MVC provided it to me.

I was wary when I played the first tape. I didn't know what to expect. Could it possibly live up to the hype? How would I feel if it disappointed? I had waited so long to see it, was I setting myself up for a crushing comedown? No way. Robin of Sherwood was, and remains to this day, an absolutely classic piece of television. I had purchased the first 2 seasons at the same time and I was transfixed from the first moment until the final, heart rending finish. I had managed to avoid being spoiled as to the ending of Season 2 and I won't give it away here, because I believe that anyone coming to it now unspoiled would be as genuinely shocked and moved as I was by it. If you've never seen the show, watch it, and if you don't already know how it plays out, lucky you.

Seriously, Robin Hood has never been done like this and no-one, from Richard Greene to Jonas bloody Armstrong, by way of Sean Connery and, dear lord, Kevin Costner*, has made Robin a more sympathetic, honourable and tragic figure than Michael Praed. He was backed up by a stellar support cast as well. As good as the chemistry was between Jonas Armstrong and Lucy Griffiths in the recent BBC series (and it was, even if everything else about the show was execrable) it couldn't hold a candle to the sheer poetry when Praed and Judi Trott are together on screen.

Ray Winstone gives one of the best performances of his career as the borderline psychotic Will Scarlet. Clive Mantle and Phil Rose could have stepped right out of your bedtime story books, so perfect are they as Little John and Friar Tuck respectively.

And Nickolas Grace as the Sheriff was a masterpiece. Ridiculously camp at times but never overstepping to the point that he was no longer credible as a villain, he was the Sheriff Keith Allen could only dream of being. This was a cast that knew what it had with these scripts and played them for everything they were worth. Here was a show that was infused with magic, literally in it's stories but also in it's storytelling, able to evoke in it's viewers emotions that no other family action/adventure show would aspire to, let alone be capable of achieving.

I knew going in that the show ran for 3 seasons but I could not for the life of me see where it was going to go after the events of the S2 finale. And in truth, it would never reach those heady heights again. But it was never a poor show, and the 3rd year, whilst perhaps suffering from being the same length as the 2 previous ones combined, meaning genius writer Richard Carpenter had to outsource a number of scripts to lesser talents** to make up the numbers, was still a brilliant slice of fantasy drama that, without wishing to be vulgar, pisses over any version since.

*Although at least his version gave us the single greatest pop ballad ever written. And no, that's not irony.

**One of whom was Anthony Horowitz. I am well aware that today it seems perverse to call Anthony Horowitz a 'lesser talent' but at the time he was a total newcomer and lesser talent is exactly what he was. I'd pay good money to see him write this show now though.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Teenage witch MKII?

Last weeks blog was intended as a pretty basic round-up of what I had been watching but it was missing one vital ingredient. I don't know why I missed it off, it certainly wasn't intentional, but it's kind of fortunate that I did because pretty much straight after knocking that post together I watched an episode of the show in question that I think warrants a bit of waffle all of it's own. That show is Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

Sabrina was one of the least funny teen sitcoms ever made I reckon but nonetheless successful enough to run seven seasons with a couple of TV movies in the middle. Normally, with a comedy as unfunny as this one was I'd question why it managed to last as long as it did but in this case I reckon I know. There was a charm to this show that transcended it's shortcomings and that charm came from it's cast. No matter how lame the jokes, the cast never gave it any less than their all and this, combined with the obvious chemistry amongst the leads, (although some of the supporting cast were less at home), meant that you never begrudged the 30mins you spent with them.

I watched bits and pieces of this show in my younger years and will admit to liking it quite a bit back then. This may have had something to do with the fact that it inherited a lot of goodwill by having the very lovely Melissa Joan Hart playing Sabrina. For myself, and indeed most boys my age, Hart had been a major factor in our first noticing girls, in that way, thanks to her lead role in Clarissa Explains It All. That lingering crush meant that our tuning in to Sabrina was pretty much a foregone conclusion, with our critical faculties unlikely to be fully engaged when we did so.

Sadly, like most shows aimed at the young, especially imported ones, it's scheduling was erratic to say the very least and so I'm currently engaged in a thorough, chronological re-watch. A re-watch which has thrown up quite a few surprises, not least the way in which the cast seems to be in constant flux with all bar Sarina and her Aunts (so far) being lucky to last a couple of years.Anyway, Season 5, which I am currently nearing the end of, sees Sabrina leaving High School and going off to college, leaving half of the supporting cast behind and gaining a whole bunch of new ones.

I've read a few comments here and there on the old interweb, putting down the new characters and bemoaning the loss of the 'much better' originals (forgetting that the 'originals' of which they speak were in fact replacements for even earlier characters) but to my mind it's academic since the support cast was always pretty interchangeable. Besides, the majority of the criticism was in the murky world of the youtube comments section and as we all know, there hasn't been a deeper pit of deranged mentalism than that merry lot since Torquemada and his lads were plying their trade.

One thing I have noticed about S5 is the distinct lack of magic in many episodes. At times the writers get so caught up with the soap opera aspects of the show that they seem to forget that they're writing about characters with magical powers. Given that the only reason I'm watching the show at all (sorry Melissa) is due to the supernatural aspect, this can become a trifle annoying and I hope it's something that is addressed in the last two seasons.

That's S5 in general, but what of the episode I mentioned up top which deserved it's own write-up? Well, it was called Witchright Hall. The basic idea was that Sabrinas cousin Amanda (played by Harts younger sister Emily) was sent to live in the mortal realm and in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for her the family send her off to a boarding school for wayward magical youths. So off she goes, with Sabrina as chaperone (because the Aunts had a romantic history with the Headmaster that would have soured him against the family), to try and get admitted.

While I was watching it I got the distinct whiff of the dreaded 'backdoor pilot' from the whole affair and a quick Google search told me I was right.

The impression I got, (which may be right or may be wrong because finding out that it was definitely intended as a pilot was pretty much the extent of the background research I did) was that the mooted show was intended as a route back to the younger days of Sabrina. Being in college and quickly closing in on the point where the 'Teenage' part of the shows title would become redundant meant that the character of Sabrina was beginning to deal with more adult concerns. Perhaps the producers were keen to go back to the more innocent hi-jinks if the shows early years. By launching a spin-off with a younger witch they could do just that, while still allowing Sabrina to mature as she aged.

Choosing Amanda as the lead in this proposed spin off was a sound one because, well... I'm not sure how to word this without sounding slightly dodgy, given her age at the time and my age now but... Sod it, she looked a lot like her sister, which meant that young boys then would likely have come to the show for the same reason I and others like me came to Sabrina years earlier.

And that would definitely have been a factor, have no illusions, since sitcoms about teenage girls, with strong romantic elements, are not the first choice of viewing material for most young boys boys. On top of her aesthetic appeal though, Emily Hart had something else (and I'm not talking about nepotism) in her favour. She had proven, in her earlier appearances as Amanda, to have something of a flair for the style of over the top, slightly arch comedy the show traded in. Indeed, I've found during this re-watch that the (roughly annual) Amanda episodes were usually a highlight of each season. Not only did the younger Hart shine in the role but she brought out a little something extra in her sister as well.

As far as the rest of the characters introduced in this pilot, there really isn't much to differentiate them from their counterparts in early Sabrina. Two authority figures with an affectionate yet often bickering relationship, a cute boy for Amanda to moon over/get together with/split from ad infinitum, a best friend figure and of course, a talking animal. Where Sabrina had a talking cat Amanda would be joined by a talking dog, gym teacher at Witchright Hall and affecting a military drill sergeant persona. Strangely enough ,the dog animatronic was little better than the woeful cat animatronic that Sabrina had been dealing with for years. I say strangely because I have it on good authority (alright, a Doctor Who commentary track) that dogs are a lot easier to fake than cats. (The problem with cats being that they were too small to house the necessary machinery)

All in all, while I don't think a Witchright Hall series would have done anything particularly groundbreaking or epic with the premise, I also don't think it would have been any less of a show than Sabrina was. I certainly would not have begrudged however much of my time I would have inevitably expended on it. As it turns out, the show didn't go ahead, despite what a certain friend of mine (who knows about the Quest and delights in messing with me) insisted but the younger Hart continued to make occasional appearances on Sabrina until it's finale, so it wasn't the end of the world for her, although I'm sure she'd have preferred a show of her own.

Although technically she kind of got one, because she voiced Sabrina in the popular animated version of the show.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


No review this week. Nor even a quick and dirty, dashed off in half a minute, piss take of something eminently deserving of a good dose of the old urine extraction. This is due to the fact that the only truly 'new' addition to my schedule has been the revival of V, and such is my love of old school Visitor action I just can't bring myself to write about it until I can say something positive. So not yet then.

Elsewhere, things carry on much as before. Vampires continue to dominate, with no less than four shows; Forever Knight (just okay but it's early days and I've heard good things) Vampire Diaries (far better than it's Twilight-lite, if that's not compltely redundant, premise/publicity would have anyone believe, this show is poorly served by it's promotion, although it seems to be doing pretty well in the numbers game regardless) True Blood (sublime show with an 'A' cast down to the smallest roles) and Blade (woefully miscast lead, meaning the writers are forced to write a show which barely features him in order to minimise the damage he can do). A mixed bag to be sure.

Non vampire action is thinner on the ground. Other than the aforementioned V there is the latest run of The Sarah Jane Adventures (SJA), proving once again to be one of the smartest 'kids' shows of it's era (although pity poor Yasmin Paige, who is to SJA what Christopher Ecclestone is to modern Dr Who, ie best thing about it but largely forgotten because a vastly inferior replacement happened to stick around longer). Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Smallville chugs along nicely enough, building to a finale that manages to both satisfy (decent final punch up and despatch of bland villain Zod) and disappoint (compare and contrast this with some of the season finales Smallville provided us with in it's earlier years) in equal measure. And where was Kyle Gallner during that video conference, that's what I'd like to know.

I've still yet to watch the end of Heroes, although even as I type this I know that an episode is the next thing up on my tape. It's indicative of just how far this show has fallen for me that after sitting through an episode of (the abominable) S8 of Falcon Crest I actually turned off the tape when Heroes popped up next. Once upon a time I would have latched onto it as a very welcome antidote. (To S8, not Falcon Crest in its entirety, which I've loved for the most part) Now, I see it as more punishment.

DVDs of The Net and Robocop enable me to occasionally drop an episode of those into my viewing, although the weakness of each means that I'm rationing them so as not to breed contempt. The really good news on the DVD front is that I was recently able to pick up some cheap X-Men (90's series) discs, so my viewing of that show, previously stalled mid-S3, will soon recommence with The Dark Phoenix Saga. Sure to be a cracker.

All in all, the Quest trundles along, managing to keep me only moderately entertained compared to how I used to feel. Could Sci-Fi be losing it's grip on me? I don't think so. I argued recently, and do genuinely believe, that televised science fiction is better now than it has been in a long long time. That I know this to be the case, and yet still fail to be enthused, is perhaps a sign of my mood more than anything and I reckon all it will take is 1 or 2 truly spectacular projects to kick start my enthusiasm, in the way that The X-Files, Babylon 5, Buffy, Farscape and Lost did. Flashforward had the potential to do it, had it not died so prematurely. Perhaps The Event, due to begin airing in the UK this coming Friday, will be the one that blows my mind. Hell, it's got Laura Innes in it so it's gotta be at least a bit good.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Robocop : The Series

Okay, so here's the thing. Last week I posted a load of waffle about how I tried to get hold of some Robocop DVDs and failed. Well, not long after that post went up - the next day actually - I embarked on a day out that very nearly was, for real, as much of a fart on as the one I exaggerated. A bit of bureaucratic nonsense I needed to get sorted for my 'real' life sent me on a trip that severely taxed my patience. Silver lining though, I came across a branch of good old Poundland on my travels and managed to pick up the first two discs in the Robocop collection.

I have now watched the first disc, comprising Pilot 'The Future Of Law Enforcement', and the first episode thereafter. I have also composed a long, reasoned, analytical post about its (many) shortcomings and (few) saving graces. Which disapeared when my laptop died. So now your getting the dashed off in 5 minutes version instead.


The new characters are pale imitations of their movie counterparts, with even Blu Mankuma failing to do much to lift the material.

The Old Man, now The Chairman, has been neutured, in order to allow him to be a regular. He's like a loveable old Uncle or something.

The ways around the lack of killing are comically bad. Shooting cabinet legs so it topples onto someone? Realy? Or dropping chandeliers on them? Weak.

The CGI is broken. I know it was early days for the form but if all you're using it for is a cheap gag and it doesn't work, lose the cheap gag. Better than embarressing yourself.

The actress playing Murphys wife is both blatantly too old and also as wooden as hell. Seeing as how the "I love you very very much" memory is, as in the movie, one of the lead characters primary motivators, and therefore shown quite a few times, you'd think they'd hire someone who could actually say the line without sounding bored.

There seem to be some very awkward tonal shifts in the show. When we are with the cops it's all very earnest and damatic. When we are with the villains they are virtually cartoon characters, so over the top and played for laughs are they.

The biggy - there is a cute kid. Yes, a regular character, in the titles and everything. She hangs around the station and helps Robocop. She's like his little mascot or something. She is even allowed to be hanging around in the Robo maintenance lab, messing about with equipment, when none of the scientists are anywhere to be found. I mean,a cutesy kid sidekick? For Robocop? Had they no shame?


The animated inserts in which a superhero flies around espousing the virtues of capitalism are a much subtler (and funnier) way of satirising the greed culture than all that "I'd buy that for a dollar" stuff in the movie.

I know I said the tonal shifts were a bad thing but if I'm honest, the pantomime villains did, at times,raise a glimmer of mirth. You have to take your entertainment where you can get it with this show.

Sight gags - Street signs, business names (I'll admit I grinned at Ecoli meat packers), and computer graphics (the mad genius Dr Cray Mallardo is revealed to have the middle initial Z when Robo reads his bio) are full of little bits and pieces for the careful observer.

Andrea Roth. And not just because she's a attractive woman who seems to wear formal outfits a lot, though I do like a woman in a posh frock. She can act, for one thing, which puts her above most of the rest of the cast (Mankuma excepted) and she somehow managed, against all the odds, to take the dire writing seriously and actually conjure up an affecting performance.

So there you go. A quick and dirty Robocop write up. I'm a bit peeved actually, because the one I lost was the first, I think, halfway piece of proper, no messing about writing I've done for this blog. I was genuinely quite proud of it. I'd done research about the movies and everything. Oh well, maybe next time.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Terrible Disappointments

People, people people. Prepare thineselves (is that a word?, yeah, I'm sure it is) for a disappointment. It is, as I look at my calender here before me, Wednesday, and yet I have no musings of a televisual nature to share with you. I know, I know, it's a crying shame, but what can I do?

The only shows I've been watching since last I spewed forth my witless drivel, er, I mean sage words of wisdom, are The Net, True Blood, Blade... You know, the ones I've talked about the last couple of weeks and have nothing new to say about. Actually, that's a lie because I've also watched an episode of Forever Knight and last night I cast my critical gaze over the S2 premiere of The Vampire Diaries. You see my dilemma there though, right?

So what do I talk about? Well, I'm gonna tell you a really funny story. Well, a mildly amusing story. A story, anyway. It goes a little something like this:

Once upon a time, in a land called County Durham, there lived a boy. The boys name is not important but we shall call him Paul. This boy was devilishly handsome, as all heroes are, and exuded an air of casual awesomeness in his every action. The boy had only one failing, yes only one, and it was that he was completely useless when it came to computers. Didn't understand them at all. Which is why his online usage was confined to a couple of blogs (which he barely knew how to operate and were appropriately spartan), a twitter account (he was terrified by the looming form of the monster known as newtwitter, but that is a different tale) and membership of a discussion forum based around a comic he read.

It was on this very forum that Paul heard the wondrous news. At first it seemed too good to be true. He could scarcely believe his eyes. But there it was, in black and white, staring at him from the screen. Someone had posted a message, spreading the word that the discount merchant known throughout the land as Poundland was selling DVDs of Robocop:The Series for a mere £1 each. Several separate volumes with multiple episodes on each. Well, this was sheer poetry to the ears of Paul, for he was on a Quest (had I mentioned that part of the tale, I may have forgotten, sorry) to view every episode of every sci-fi show ever made. These DVDs would be very helpful indeed in his noble endeavor.

A problem though! Whereabouts would he find a vendor affiliated with said Poundland? He was unaware of any in the near vicinity. The answer was obvious, he would call upon the knowledge of his Sister, for if there was one thing that could be relied upon in the topsy turvy world of County Durham, it was that Pauls sister would know the answer to any question that had 'shop' in it.

And so Paul rang his sister and enquired of her the location of the nearest Poundland outlet. But what was this? Scorn, mighty and full of much meaty profanity. Whatever had our hero done to deserve such treatment?

Well, as it turns out, there was indeed a Poundland store in the very town Paul did all of his shopping in. Not only that, but it was situated directly between two specific places that he regularly used and directly opposite another. It seems that not having noticed it, given this somewhat obvious location, made him something of a fool in the eyes of his sister. Suitably chastened and feeling rather humbled, Paul had a bath and went to bed, this being his habit of an evening.

Saturday morning arrived. Paul was unaware of this because Paul does not rise before noon on weekends.

Saturday afternoon arrived and Paul prepared himself for his mighty pilgrimage to the next town. His goal, procurement of the kiddified, cheapified and bastardized offspring of a classic movie. His obstacle, pissing down rain and gale force winds. Undaunted, he set out. Now,I could, at this point, regale you with the many and varied travails of our intrepid hero but I fear that any attempt to describe the horrors he endured would sorely tax my descriptive prowess, not to mention curse your sleep with nightmares for at least 42 weeks, at a conservative estimate. Suffice it to say, it was the longest 37minutes of Pauls life.

Upon arrival at his destination, bedraggled but unbowed, our hero didst meet with a further problem. The storefront upon which he was casting his manly gaze did not cry out in bold font

Instead, and much to Pauls dismay, it read,

while several doors further down stood a store bearing the name

Could it be? Could the all knowing sister, so full of contempt for Paul and his 'stupid questions', have gotten it wrong. In any other field of expertise Paul would have no trouble believing such a thing but when it came to shopping? Surely not. She must just have been a little confused. So Paul set off, intent on finding the store he was looking for. An hour later, even more bedraggled and pretty resolutely bowed he realised that the truth could no longer be denied. She was wrong, no Poundland store existed in this town.

Vindication was his but scant compensation could he find in it. He had journeyed far and wide and faced oh so many dangers, not least the way the rain was making his hair all sticky-uppy at the back, and had naught to show for his ordeal. There was truly nothing else for it; he fell to his knees (getting his jeans all wet in a puddle), raised his arms to the sky and called out the most bloodcurdling of screams to the uncaring Gods. Then he went for his lunch in the cafe and caught the next bus home.

So there you have it. Had things been different I might have had a bit of something to say about Robocop but sadly you have been denied that rather dubious pleasure. We'll just have to wait and see what makes itself available for next weeks post