Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is that it?

For as long as it lasted, I've enjoyed doing this blog.

It started when, frankly, I had very little work and a lot of spare ideas.

Nowadays I'm quite busy and I've got no idea about anything.

I haven't quite given up on the writing of nonsense about the telly though. If you're one of the few regulars here and you can stand more of my ill-conceived ramblings about all that's best on the box then it would be great if you could join me over at Bleeding Cool, where a lot of the stuff that might have ended up here will now live.

Such as, just to pick on example, this bit about the great Downton Abbey versus Spooks scheduling war.

Goodnight everyone, and thanks for watching.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shows you'll never see: David E Kelley's Wonder Woman

Poor old David E Kelley. He’s not a comic book guy. He knows he’s not a comic book guy. He probably sees himself as more of a small-screen Douglas Sirk.

So what does he do when his agent scores him a gig running a superhero TV show? He does his research. He asks people what the best superhero books ever are.

‘Read the Frank Miller Batman stories’, his friends tell him. ‘Take a look at the Millar/Hitch run on The Ultimates. Check out Judge Dredd. And most of all make sure you live and breathe Watchmen. ‘

And sure enough, Dave did.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Off topic: Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse

I've never much enjoyed Russell Brand's work,as a comedian or as an actor.

I do not profess to know anything about him as a person, it's purely a matter of taste.

His cogent and heartfelt heartfelt blog post about the late Amy Winehouse is a beautifully-written piece of work. I told a lot of my friends about it but the traffic to his blog is so high, it seems, that the servers are creaking under the load and many can't read the article.

That's a shame, because it really is very good.

I reproduce below, as a small act of public service, the article in full.

In copyright terms that's a bit iffy, so after a day or so I'll remove all but a short quote and the link.

Try Russell's site first, and if it's still misbehaving read my copy - I'm not trying to siphon off his traffic.

Infographic: What we watched

The Daily Mail - which contrives to be both the most unpopular and the most widely-read newspaper in Britain - has made a terrific graph giving an impression of TV viewing figures over the past forty years.

The first things that struck me were the extraordinary popularity of Coronation street and the visible fragmentation of audiences over the past decade or so.

It's fine work. Here's a link to their original article.

If you're the kind of person who won't click on a Daily Mail link under any circs., and I know quite a few of you are, you may be pleased to see that I've popped over there and stolen it.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Elsewhere on the web: In which I see Captain America

It's my totally unscientific opinion that the two big comic book publishers draw their fans from slightly different demographics.

Fans of DC Comic characters tend, I think, to be conventional characters who respect authority. Your Marvel reader tends to be slightly more countercultural. A little more out there.

You know me: I'm dull. I've always been a DC man, even though these days I'd have to say my all-time favourite funnybook is the Mark Millar / Bryan Hitch run on Marvel's The Ultimates.

So what did I think when I reviewed groovy hippy publisher Marvel's squarest, most conventional character for Bleeding Cool?

Well, it's my raviest review ever. and I don't mean there are glowsticks. I liked it so much, I simply couldn't find space for any jokes. I prefer my reviews to contain at least one decent gag.

You might want to read my take on Captain America anyway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Walking Dead: Rock, paper, scissors. But mainly rock.

I liked the last series a lot. Hard to tell from this short clip whether this will maintain the same standard, but it's enough to know that it's coming soon, isn't it?

If your appetite needs more whetting, there's an interview over on Collider with Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman. He says a lot of stuff like this;
We discussed with him all of the key zombie moments that we have thought of for the second season so far just to give him a head’s up on what kind of stuff he is going to have to do.  I do have to say that maybe because it’s just 13 episodes instead of 6, but it seems like there is twice as much zombie stuff going on in every episode even though we do have a lot more character development and stuff too.  I think the second season is going to be really cool.

Custardgate: The Daily Show version

Sometimes, there really is nothing to add.

Except to say: Where is our Jon Stewart?

And if you thought some pro-NewsInt commentators were trying to deflect attention onto the huge size and reach of the BBC. Just wait until you see what Fox News says about NPR.

But this is all anyone will remember about yesterday: THE SMACKDOWN;

Monday, July 18, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day. Who are these people?

When your Twitter timeline accelerates to an unreadable blur, it’s generally a sign that something special’s on the telly.

When the warning before a TV show isn’t for bad language, flashing lights, or even boobs but a mysterious ‘something that some readers may find upsetting’ then it’s generally a good time to start paying attention. After all, what could it be? Peanuts? Gluten?

That happened to me the other day, when Doctor Who’s anagrammatic spinoff Torchwood returned for a new series.

A number of recent TV series, especially BBC TV series, have flirted with America. It’s a big market and if you can consistently sell your content over there, worries about licence fees would be a thing of the past.

The new series did a lot more than flirt with America though. It slipped off its slingback under the table and boldly thrust its stockinged foot into America’s groin for a full hour.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The week the news went pop

It was difficult this week to avoid news of The News Of The World’s voicemail ‘hacking’ scandal, and the ripples of shame that emanated from it across the News International group.

It went beyond difficult, and shaded into the impossible, if you share my vice of watching current affairs television programmes and using Twitter to form a national catcalling mob of wisacres.

It wasn’t difficult to find commentators ready to condemn the NotW’s methods. John Prescott and Tom Watson were at the head of a phalanx of politicians and commentators of every political hue eager to stick the boot into Rupert Murdoch and his organisation.

But politics is just show business for ugly people. Show business is show business for pretty people and the News Of The Screws made plenty of enemies in showbiz too.

And you don't need me to tell you that TV prefers pretty people, if it can get them...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Night Watch, and the semiotics of pornography.

I watched The Night Watch the other night. It was an adaptation and condensation of the meaty, thoughtful and rather entertaining novel by Sarah Waters.

Now, Sarah Waters doesn’t only write about lesbians in the olden days, any more than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only wrote about Sherlock Holmes. Nevertheless If you asked the average chap in the street what Sarah Waters was all about he’d more than likely say ‘vintage lesbotica’.

Unless he was the easily-confused sort of chap who was always mixing Sarah Waters up with Virginia Water and ended up telling you how lovely it was when he had a fortnight in the Lake District with his ex-wife.

Even though it rained a lot.

It didn’t rain much in the wartime London of The Night Watch. That was about the only bit of good luck that the characters had though.

War is thought of, predominantly, as a manly pursuit. The Second World War however, more than any of its predecessors, was an equal opportunities upheaval.

Women died in bombing raids as readily as men. But many found new purpose and liberation in the work of keeping their country running while men sought out new places in which to kill and be killed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Further reading: Yet more breezy Michael Moran piffle to read

I can't pretend that Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is a great film. But I had a lot of fun writing about it.

Green Lantern got a pretty rough ride from a number of critics. I think that may be in part because it was being judged by the wrong standards. It's a cracking kids movie. Here's what I said about it on Bleeding Cool.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who cares how bad TV gets, when it's this buttery?

Swede Mason reduces all the Masterchefs there ever were into this piquant video jus.

And just in case you thought this was a one off....

Elsewhere on the web: Stevyn Colgan on the state of TV

The 'baby food diet' is currently exciting the imaginations of slimming faddists across magazine land. Imagine if we only ate pre-chewed mush all the time. Evolution is economical. If there were no advantage to having teeth we'd lose them.

There's a baby food diet for your mind too. It's called television. Here's Stevyn Colgan talking about it. He's funny, he's clever, he's right and he makes me afraid.

TED, if you've not found it yet, is an organisation dedicated to encourage us all to think. They hold conferences and shows and invite a staggeringly diverse range of people to deliver short 20 minute talks on their area of expertise. All of these videos are then posted to the TED website for us to watch for free. And they are watched. Over 100 million viewers per year. Staggering. But guess what? TED offered their talks to the BBC and they turned them down as being 'too intellectual'. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Glastonbury 2011: Alcopopalypse Now

You would be forgiven for thinking that the Glastonbury festival was a great national celebration, given the near-blanket coverage that the BBC provides. You might well think that everyone in Britain would be heading to Glastonbury or one of its numerous imitators, given the almost daily ‘festival essentials’ features running in the broadsheets for the past month or so.

The establishing crowd shots of a sea of shining faces give that assumption the lie, however. As the scene changes to a closer shot, it’s even more apparent that Glastonbury is an almost exclusively Caucasian event. 

As the camera zoomed in even further  on the front of every roiling crowd it seemed to find those same four pretty blonde girls that are apparently under contract to The Daily Telegraph to illustrate every Summer’s record-breaking A-Level results.

Despite The Guardian’s unstinting approbation for multiculturalism, and The Daily Mail’s unbridled fear, Glastonbury demonstrates that the great influx from Asia and Africa really hasn't penetrated our society all that deeply.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Camelot: Looking for King Arthur's iPod

Sword and sauciness really does seem to be the televisual flavour of the moment. In the last few years we’ve had Rome, two series of Spartacus, The Tudors and the towering majesty that was Game Of Thrones.

All have featured – to a greater or lesser extent – swordplay, intrigue and no small amount of nudity in a pseudo-historical context.

Michael Hirst, the creator and writer of The Tudors has rebooted or reimagined or rehashed the legend of King Arthur for us, the easily-pleased 21st Century television audience.


You can make a grown-up sexy King Arthur. Just ask John Boorman. You can make a family-friendly Camelot story for tea-time audiences too. It’s called Merlin, and it’s doing fairly well thank you.

But I don’t think you can do both.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The two exciting futures of television

A little while back I had a job interview at ‘a major national newspaper’. One of the interview questions was “what would you do with our TV listings?”. My answer was “scrap them and use the space for something worthwhile”

I didn’t get the job.

My point was that IP-enabled televisions are becoming so common, and IP enabled devices such as games consoles and minicomputers are attached to so many more TVs, that access to on-demand services such as the BBC’s iPlayer are edging towards universality.

My friend Steve who knows about these things assures me that the number of IP-enabled IPTV ready 3D TVs in the wild will, according to figures from iSuppli, reach 23.4m by the end of 2011, hitting nearly 160 million in 2015

Monday, May 30, 2011

In which Stewart Lee gets it right, and the BBC TV schedulers get it wrong

There are only so many hours in the day, so it seems churlish to complain when a television show gets squeezed out onto the fringes of the schedule. Especially when it’s a show that may only appeal to a comparatively small demographic.

But when such a show then becomes an absolute smash on the iPlayer, it’s probably a sign that the BBC schedulers have in this case made a mistake.

You know, that iPlayer they have nowadays. The iPlayer. You've seen it haven't you. The iPlayer...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Further reading: More lively Michael Moran nonsense on the web

I do a lot more than write about television programmes you know. I walk my dog. I do a certain amount of light dusting. And sometimes I write things for other sites.

Mostly, I look at films for Bleeding Cool. Some of my more recent efforts include the splendidly heroic Thor, the momentously groovy X-Men First Class, and the ineffably daft Priest.

Because, when I was a lad, I played synthesizers for a living I have also written about a large and lovely synthesizer for The Register.

If you like my chatty style and devil-may-care approach to research, you’ll find more of it on those links.

Give ‘em a go, why don’t you? 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Preview: Falling Skies

When the story of early 21st Century television is written it won’t consist entirely of indistinguishable reality shows featuring publicity hungry no-marks. Not entirely.

There’s also a fine tradition of  big high-concept TV series being maintained. We’ve got a couple over here – Sherlock, the rebooted Doctor Who series, Spooks, that kind of thing.

The US of course did it bigger, better and first. The trend really kicked off with shows such as 24 and Lost.  Now we are almost routinely encouraged to get excited about ambitious new TV dramas. Some of them, like The Event, prove to be non-events that leave us high and dry waiting for a conclusion. Some, such as The Walking Dead, are so great that we never want the end of the world to stop.

Friday, May 20, 2011

True Blood series 4 preview: May contain traces of witch

There's a vampire for everyone. You can have your old-fashioned louche Count, you can have your twinkly emo, or you can even have the freaky Pan's Labyrinth Alien kind they're trying out in Priest.

I'm pretty keen on True Blood's version though. Taking most of their vampiric cues from the Blade movies they're strong, supernatural and more than a bit saucy.

Last series, our bloodsucking pals had a few werewolves to deal with.

This time around, Sookie and Bill take on a coven of witches. Seems fair enough.

What do you reckon for Series 5? Shall we start a sweepstake? Zombies? Mummies? It's been a little while since anyone has put together a halfway decent Frankenstein's monster...

If your're still reading, I have one more question: Why didn't Marvel hire Alexander Skarsgård to play Thor?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flippin' sweet: Napoleon Dynamite on TV,

I read about this a little while back, and thought "Hmm...I guess it could work in a sort of King Of The Hill gentle comedy way.." but guess what! It's here now - and it does work. In a sort of King Of The Hill gentle comedy way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Game Of Thrones: This fantasy shit just got real.

My initial take on Game Of Thrones was cautiously positive. With Monday night’s episode all my reservations are oficially suspended. We saw Peter Grant out of Led Zeppelin lose a joust and behead Shergar, we saw Peter Dinklage shield the bejaysus out of some random miscreant, and best of all we saw one of 2011’s most spellbinding bits of dialogue writing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Preview: Primeval series 5.

ITV’s Saturday teatime answer to Doctor Who suffered a sharp decline in ratings over its last series. The unassailable draw of the Time Lord, continuing channel proliferation and old-fashioned audience fatigue have shaved an appreciable slice from weekly figures of the lively ‘CBBC presenters visit Jurassic Park’ drama.

Part of ITV’s response is to split the costs of the CGI-heavy show with a few other channels. The result is that satellite broadcaster Watch gets the first showing of Primeval series 5. It won’t be going out in the ‘hard luck’ slot opposite Doctor Who though. Instead it’s getting an 8pm Tuesday timeslot, starting at the end of this month.

Will it have better fortune there? Doubtful - the show feels as if it’s aimed at an early teens audience rather than being crafted for mainstream adult viewing.

Will there be enough kids willing to skip their homework on Tuesday nights to make the investment worthwhile?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dr.Who, Hugh Bonneville, and realism in science fiction

After an ambitious two-part opener in which both the entire series budget and the audience’s minds were comprehensively blown, Doctor Who settled down to a more traditional ‘freak of the week’ format on Saturday.

Hugh Bonneville turned up as a pirate with a heart (and cache) of gold. So far so good. Everybody likes a pirate.

Anyway, when his son improbably pitched up as a stowaway halfway through the episode we were encouraged to think of Hugh’s career choice as somehow shameful. As if anyone could ever think ill of dear old Hugh.

Actors don’t like to think of themselves as being typecast, they tend to think of themselves as being less ‘actor-y’ if they play the same rôle over and over again.

That is, though, what most really successful actors do. Why bother spending half a movie establishing that your hero is an irascible cop/cowboy with a poorly-concealed heart of gold when you can just hire Clint Eastwood and get on with the exciting part of the film?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Borrowed Hours - Part 1

Earlier this afternoon I finished reading William Boyd’s absorbing, and in parts deeply affecting, Any Human Heart.

It, like his earlier and also highly recommended New Confessions, is an autobiography of an imaginary character. It’s a form of writing that is at least as old as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, and one which might credibly be described as the original form of the English novel.

To an extent any autobiography is that of a fictitious character though, there are invariably passages in any memoir where the author glosses over something that casts them in a bad light, or simply misremembers an event through simple human fallibility.

I’ve done some things of which I’m quite ashamed, and I’m not going to tell you about them. I’ve done a few things of which I’m fairly proud, and I’m not going to spend too much time on them either.

What I am going to try to capture for you here is all the wasted time. All those days squandered while I waited for something to happen offstage that would make my life special. The borrowed hours.

Most of them, as you may be able to tell, have been spent watching the television.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Game Of Thrones: May contain sexual content, scenes of violence, and nuts.

Amid all the more obvious HBO imports currently being touted by Sky Atlantic at the moment is a fantasy cuckoo in the nest. Fantasy books and movies always live, to an extent, in the shadow of JRR Tolkien. He’s the daddy of dwarves. He’s the don of dragons. Nobody writes an elf into a story without kicking a buck back to JRR.

Game Of Thrones is not your average kiddie-friendly trip to Middle Earth though. As the continuity announcer reminds us at the outset of every episode there’s talk of effing, there’s talk of jeffing, there are boobs and supposedly there’s violence although so far I’ve been disappointed on that score.

Everyone knows if there are boobs in something then it's OK for grownups to watch it. Even if it's about an imaginary olden days time that Simon Schama never told us about.

The tricky thing about writing fantasy is that there’s a whole new set of rules to get across. Fewer people than you think have read Lord Of The Rings or the Narnia books but there’s enough of that stuff floating around for most viewers to have absorbed most of the grammar without noticing.

In Game Of Thrones there are few of the standard fantasy tropes to lean on. In the handful of episodes I’ve seen so far no animals have spoken, despite numerous hints no dragons have appeared, and there’s only been one dwarf.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Shadow Line – and the parlous state of television drama.

I watched BBC TV’s The Shadow Line last night. I was, like so many others, suckered in by the raft of trailers announcing, “ here is a Big Important TV Event”. This was not a show to be lumped in with mere police procedural pablum such as Waking The Dead or Silent Witness. The Shadow Line was, we were encouraged to believe, the real deal. A show worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as HBO classics such as The Wire or The Sopranos.

Of course it wasn’t.

Nothing is.

Not even The Wire or The Sopranos, really.