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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I'm a fool to myself

This week, I was going to write a post all about how I'd started watching the 60's version of Dark Shadows, the soap opera that started life as a sort of Gothic Romance but only really took off in the ratings when it started introducing fantastical elements into it's plots, such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts and, apparently, parallel universes.

But then I had an idea, thought about the idea, discounted the idea, thought about the idea some more, and then decided that yes, it was a stupid idea but I was going to do it anyway, and this post became an announcement.

I have in recent weeks been enthusing on twitter about my new favourite blog, Moosh Watches Who, in which Lindsey Williams; or Pottermoosh as she is known online by the yoof who are, by and large, her target audience; watches Doctor Who from the very beginning, and gives her thoughts on it, an episode at a time. She is very funny, and I love her posts,so I kind of got inspired to try my hand at an episode by episode rundown of a long running show. Not in the style of the above blog of course, because that would require that I be, you know, funny. But still...

Yes, the man who can't update the 3 blogs he already has on anything even remotely resembling a regular schedule, has started a new one. Because he's a lunatic.

Of course, I won't be writing episode by episode breakdowns of Doctor Who, because that way lies plagiarism; given how good her stuff is I'm bound to copy it, even if unintentionally. No, I shall be doing it with, wait for it... old soap operas. Because if there's one thing that has come anywhere close to rivaling my sci-fi love in recent years, it's my new found love of old soaps.

Since I have just started watching Dark Shadows, and that will, in time, become a fantasy show, thus scratching two itches, as it were, that seemed a good place to start. I'll also be doing Prisoner: Cell Block H. I'll probably alternate the two shows, so as not to burn myself out on either.

So yes, I'm doing this. I'd like to think that it means I'll be more of a presence in your reading lists, but what it probably means is that I'll be writing exactly the same amount of stuff per week on an even more erratic schedule than before. So be it.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Wolf Blood

Despite regularly declaring myself resolutely pro children's drama, and jumping to their defence on more than one occasion, I have to confess that I didn't really make that much of an effort to keep up with what the current scene was like, preferring instead to track down shows from my own youth, or even earlier. I don't know why I thought modern children's drama would in all likelihood be rubbish, but I can't deny that that was my working hypothesis.

It wasn't until the arrival on the scene of The Sarah Jane Adventures that I once more dipped my toes into what the yoof were watching and, as I believe goes without saying at this point, I was wowed. This was a 'kids' show that wouldn't have disgraced itself in it's parent shows slot. In fact, during David Tennant's final year in the TARDIS, when we found ourselves limited to special episodes every few months in lieu of a new series of Doctor Who, I advocated running that years SJA as hour long episodes instead of 2-part half hours, and putting it in the vacant primetime slot, or at least a Sunday teatime (where I still believe a decent family adventure drama could thrive). Of course, that didn't happen, but the show was good enough, for long enough, that it's convinced me to show a little faith and trust in CBBC to get it right.

It was with this in mind that last week I settled down in front of the tellybox to watch the premiere episode of WolfBlood, the new half hour drama about werewolves.* And while I don't think I'm insulting anyone by saying it's not as accomplished as the aforementioned SJA, yet, it certainly did nothing to make me regret my decision.

Created by writer Debbie Moon; and as I type that I see the Moon/Werewolf thing for the first time because I'm a total dunce; the series sees teenage girl Maddy attempting to live a normal life whilst hiding from her friends and teachers that she, and her parents, are Wolf Bloods. The task becomes even harder when new boy at school Rhydian turns out to be a Wolf Blood too, but one without a pack whose upbringing in the foster system has left him woefully unprepared to deal with his heritage.

Maddy and Rhydian
 That's pretty much all you need to know to enjoy the series, and in truth it 'is' very enjoyable. The leads, Aimee Kelly (Maddy) and Bobby Lockwood (Rhydian) both have charisma to spare and an easy chemistry with each other which really sells the unique bond between the characters. There are a couple of weak links among the supporting cast of friends and school bullies, but it would be churlish to name names; they're only young, after all, and there are flashes of brilliance from each that hint at great things once they find their groove.

Aimee Kelly

 I'll admit that I found some of the 'moral of the week' writing in episode 3 a touch too on the nose, but that's a minor complaint, and once the supernatural elements came back to the fore the show started to fly again. I hope the difficult childhood/emotional problems/ dealing with adolescence stories continue; and let's face it, they will; but hopefully they'll find a way to more seamlessly blend them with the fantasy. Once they get that balance right, I predict something a bit special from them.

Bobby Lockwood
  So far the story has been very much focused on Rhydian learning to fit in, and Maddy's burgeoning powers (the puberty/virginity parallels here are obvious, but downplayed to better suit the sensibilities of it's broadcaster), but at time of writing I've only seen 4 episodes and there's a lot still to come. I think we'll almost certainly see at least one of Maddy's friends discover the truth; the identity of the mysterious Wild Wolf Blood roaming the woods will be revealed (my money is on it being one of Rhydians birth parents, or the school teacher, although the latter would require some explanation as to how none of the other Wolves can smell him, so I may be talking rubbish there); and if we don't see another supernatural race (probably vampires but I'd rather it not be) then I'll be very surprised.

All told, the show is another impressive notch on CBBC's belt and a credit to Moon and her fellow writers. It's not easy to put a fresh spin on such a familiar concept, but they've done it. I'm begging though, no romance for Maddy and Rhydian. Please.

*The show goes to great pains in-story, to stress that they aren't werewolves at all, but rather 'Wolf Bloods'; werewolf carrying a 'monster' stigma. Fair enough. But even if you accept that werewolf=monster; and I think Buffy, and others including current show Teen Wolf by all accounts, have proved that stereotype doesn't always need to be applied; the fact is that whatever you call them in-story, you want kids (and, er, sad cases like me) to be raving about 'that cool new werewolf thing.'

Friday, 7 September 2012

I couldn't think of a title for this. So I'm going with 'Ballbag'

Brace yourselves. It's a long 'un.

Now I'm sure we all know that Flash Gordon pre-dates the Queen singing, James Bond indulging his Robin Hood fetish, Blackadder's Dad cosplaying as Katar Hol, 80's movie. Don't we? Of course we do.

Adam Strange? Pussy! Superman? Mommies Boy!
We know about the original comic strips; we know about the Buster Crabbe movie serials; some of us may even know about the series of novels from the 70's, (I've read 'em, they aren't very good) and 80's (I've not read 'em, they could be aces for all I know). But did you know about the 1954 TV show starring Steve Holland? Because for some bizarre reason, I didn't. Shocking, I know.

Not now Flash my dear. Ming is busy.
I only found out about said TV show when I was messing about googling Flash whilst in the midst of watching movie serial Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (or Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers Conquer The Universe, or Flash Gordon 3: Foxy Spy Ladies Of Mongo), which I picked up dirt cheap in a DVD discount store.  As so often seems to happen, watching one thing leads to the discovery of something else and I end up further behind than when I started. Well, not really further behind; the shows already existed; but it seems like that because I know these shows exist now.

Case in point; I plan in the very near future to get back to the 90's X-Men animated series, which I am roughly half way through watching. A quick search to update my episode checklists leads me down the link trail to Wolverine and the X-Men. Fair enough, I knew that show existed and had planned to tack it's relatively small episode count on to the end of X-Men. What I didn't know, and what I was about to find out, was that their was a 12 episode Wolverine anime. Something else to add to the list.

Hugh Jackman he aint

This is an all too common scenario, and one which can always be relied upon to batter my head whenever I get complacent. I mean, how many Spider-Man cartoons have their been? Searching for the Conan cartoon reveals a live action Conan series; which it turns out I knew about at one point because I have a full episode list printed off; no memory of it though. And of course there's the time you're reading an article about Children of the Stones and it mentions in passing something called Timeslip.

Timeslip. I know what he was up to. Cheeky blighter.
Even just having a wander in HMV can be a nightmare, as shelf after shelf after shelf is filled with shows that, once I become aware of their existence I become overwhelmed with a mad urge to watch them. Many of them will fester in the back of my brain for a few months, causing untold mental anguish, before gradually fading from my mind. Not because I've become less obsessive, but simply because another new thing has just popped up on a google search for He-Man.

Then there are the times you're flicking idly through Smallville reviews on a comic website and you're suddenly confronted by talk of this:

How had I never heard of that? Christos!

What you may be taking away from this post is that I am not the most educated of men when it comes to television science fiction. I profess to be going to watch everything but I don't really know what everything is. Rest assured though, that as soon as something comes to my attention, it's on the list. It just takes me longer to get around to some shows than others.

Let's take Life on Mars and Being Human, for example. Both have spawned US remakes, and neither of said remakes have crossed my oculars as of yet. Partly for reasons of time and partly because the originals were; and in the case of Being Human, still is; in production. (I'm counting Ashes to Ashes here. Gene is Gene.) I didn't fancy the confusion.

And then there are the shows that just look, or are reviewed as being,so shit that I have no real inclination to watch. It happened with The Net, but I eventually got around to watching that. And it happened with...du du du duuurrr... the 2007 series of Flash Gordon, starring Whitney Fordman, Shady Double Agent Lady From Mutant X, and your Dad's accountant. That one I haven't touched yet. One day though. One day.

Flash Gordon. Apparently

I hope you're all very impressed by the way I brought this here post; which you all thought was rambling aimlessly with no destination in sight, admit it; full circle and back to The Flasher. It's my way of pretending I know how to structure a piece of writing. (Which I don't. I'd have been useless at uni. Essays be damned!)

Anyway, proof positive that The Quest really is impossible. But it's not gonna stop me from plugging away regardless, with not a care for my sanity, or your boredom thresholds. Until next time.