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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Hazy Recollections

I watch a lot of sci-fi for the quest. That is, I watch a lot of sci-fi generally, but there are a lot of shows that I watch only for the Quest. Deathly dull shows like Project UFO, intelligence insulting (yet oddly popular with the masses)shows like Charmed, and mojo losing shark jumpers like latter day Heroes. So I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I find that a lot of what I've watched over the years has just disappeared from my head.

Take Prey for example. It starred Debra Messing and had something to do with the next stage in human evolution deciding to have a pop at us. That is the sum total of my memory of that show.

I definitely watched it, that much I know, but without a google search I couldn't tell you a thing about who else was in the cast, who created the show, who was on the writing staff or any story specifics. (Although as I'm typing this I am getting a vague hint of something involving a man being set on fire, possibly while standing in the bed of a pick up truck. I could be talking bollocks of course.)

Or Haunted. It starred Mathew Fox as (I think) a Detective, who was able to see ghosts. I distinctly remember two things about this show. The first is that I quite liked it despite something of a critical mauling. The second is that it starred Mathew Fox as a guy who could see ghosts. Again, this is a show I remember liking. I just can't remember why.

Then there are the phantom shows. The shows that I only know exist because I wrote their names down once in a file. Although in many cases I don't remember doing it. For all I know they could have been huge phenomenons at the time of their initial broadcast. Or maybe they were cult hits, shunned by the mainstream and yet having pride of place on the DVD shelf of any self respecting geek. Or maybe they just sank without a trace. Whichever it is, I have no memory of them. They popped up on my radar just long enough for me to enter them in my file and then I promptly forgot about them again.

A recent trawl through an old 'pending' file unearthed an episode list for something called Welcome To Paradox. What is it? When was it made? Who was in it? All good questions. I don't know the answers to any of them but they are good questions.

There are loads of them. Shows like Century City. From what little I've got written down it was fairly short lived. So was it designed as a self contained limited series or was it just a dismal flop? Or what about Something Is Out There. What a title! There was... something. And it was Out There. I bet that show was Arsom.

I've decided that this year is the year I tackle some of these long standing residents in my files. Pull them from the dingy recesses of the condemned squat of 'pending' and into the warm, cosy, warden protected retirement village I call the 'Canceled' file. I could go off and do some research as to what these shows were about, or who was in them. Just to give myself some idea of what I'm about to let myself in for. But come on, what would be the adventure in that, eh?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Back on the 'net

The Net is Sci-Fi only in as much as it depicted computer technology as being a trifle more advanced than it actually was. And I do mean a trifle because 5 minutes after it aired it looked pathetically dated, real computers having evolved far beyond the capabilities of their fictional counterparts depicted here. That's all part of the shows dubious charm though.

I've written about The Net before on The Quest. I spoke of the haste in which the early episodes blasted through all the Fugitive Show staples and worried that they were blowing their load too soon, as well as the risk of repetition inherent in having regular villains, before praising leading lady Brooke Langton for rising above the cliches and really elevating the material. Sadly, I must report that while the worries proved founded the praise was premature, leaving the show incapable of living up to whatever slight promise it may have held.

Brooke Langton:Decent actress who gave the material what it was worth.
Credit where it is due though, the producers did not go down without a fight.

The show lasted a grand total of one season. 22 episodes. During this time they managed not one but two major format changes in an attempt (one assumes) to boost the shows popularity, although you have to believe that the second change, coming as it did a mere 4 episodes from the end of the season, might have been a bit of a wasted effort.

The first change to the show might have seemed a logical one at the time. Up until this point lead character Angela had been assisted/manipulated by an unseen ally calling himself Sorcerer. Sorcerer was represented by the instantly recognisable tones of the legendary Tim Curry but never actually seen on-screen. In theory, bringing Sorcerer out into the open would serve not only to widen the story possibilities surrounding the character but also furnish the show with a second protagonist and thus slow the pace at which the Angela character was burning through potential plots.

Problems arose straight away however. Firstly, the character reveals himself, voluntarily, because he wanted to save Angela from the threat of the week. Now, were the threat of the week a particularly potent one this may hold some merit but it wasn't. In fact, it was one of the weaker plots they uncovered over the course of the series which made his decision, when he had remained hidden during times of much greater danger to Angela, and indeed had manipulated her into many of those situations himself, a pretty laughable one. Of course this was only the beginning of the 'Sorcerer acting out of character' problems.

You see, they decided that Sorcerer was a teenager. A genius teenager but a teenager nonetheless. Now, on the face of it, not that big of a problem; the Tim Curry voice was explained as a construct and the hints of Sorcerer having been involved with Angelas Dad were actually, it seems, referring to Sorcerers Dad. So far, so clever cop-out. The problem was that they then started writing him as a teenager. His attitudes, his motivations, his speech patterns (the Curry voice disguised his voice, it didn't translate it into fuddy-duddy), every aspect of his personality changed. He simply wasn't the same character anymore.

Never mind though, we'll forgive them, because, well, we've got no choice have we, it's done now. In any case, they at least sweeten the pill by casting future babyfaced CSI underdog Mr Eric Szmanda. Say what you will about the guys choice of shows, he has a natural charisma and easy charm that make him one of the easier to like people on television. And you need to be likable if you're trying to replace Tim Curry.

Not Tim Curry

The second change was harder to swallow, not least because it altered the entire premise of the show. Having Angela defeat the Praetorians once and for all was a gutsy move by the producers but it was knee-jerk and unnecessary. Unless the show was already canceled and this was their way of freeing up the actors a couple of weeks early. If it wasn't that, and the producers genuinely thought that they were putting in place a new format that might stand the show in good stead going forward then I'm afraid it's a typical example of baby/bathwater syndrome.

Not to mention, and much like the Sorcerer reveal, an anti-climactic one at that. You see, this shadowy conspiracy that had it's tendrils in every aspect of worldwide computer use, able to topple major political figures, rig stock markets and lotteries and dealing with major criminal and political organisations from all over the world, was brought down in a perfunctory shoot-out with a bunch of street thugs. A cheaply shot, amateurishly edited(I swear, the same shot of a guy strafing the room with a machine gun was used 3 times), perfunctory shoot-out to boot.

The new format saw Angela, now exonerated, training as an FBI agent and going to work in a new division of the bureau dedicated to cyber-crime, called the CIC. Now, what they say this stands for is Center for Intrusion Control but you just know they wanted to call it Center for Internet Crime before someone told them it sounded naff. I mean come on, what does Center for Intrusion Control actually mean?

Anyway, she has a new boss/partner/potential love interest, good old Sorcerer is still around, as a 'consultant', and the whole thing could not scream 'kill me now, we've lost the plot' any louder. Bore zero resemblance to the movie anymore either, barring the leads name. Didn't save the show. Didn't deserve to.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Catsuits, sex and fond farewells.

Righto, little bit of a placeholder, stream of consciousness waffle post this week. You see, I vowed to myself that this was the week that all of my blogs would get back to running on their regular schedule and to that end spent most of the last weekend slaving over a hot laptop to make sure I had someting lined up. Then some of my 'too frequent to be funny anymore' laptop woes (oh for the funds to replace it) struck and the planned post is stuck in limbo for the time being. So instead, you get this rubbish...

I recently spent 4 days(4 DAYS!)completely unable to remember Julie Newmars name. "Who is the hottest Catwoman ever?" was the question posed by one of my pseudo-colleagues. Only one possible answer to a question like that of course but could I Hell pull the name from the pits of my so called memory. It was only when I heard Eartha Kitts name mentioned on the radio later that week (why did that jog my memory?, God knows)that the answer popped into my head. So of course, I promptly blurted it out, to the complete bemusement of everyone in the room at the time (none of whom had been part of the original conversation). Such are the highlights of my life.

Watching The Vampire Diaries recently it occured to me that this show has an incredibly casual approach to teenage sex. They don't agonise over it and when it happens they don't make a big deal and immediately set about 'punishing' the participants. It's refreshing.

Being Human S3 built to a rousing finish. Killing off Herrick, for good this time, was sad, if probably for the best but it was the double bluff, will they/won't they way that Mitchells story ended that really made the episode for me. A cracking finale all round and one that even Russell Tovey couldn't spoil. Although,as I opined on twitter at the time, just think how good that final scene could have been were he not so utterly utterly devoid of any acting ability whatsoever. Just think.

Still, Hooray for Nina surviving.

There you go. Actually, that wasn't too bad was it? Maybe I should make these things up on the spot more often.