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.