The Final Update

Category: By Rev/Views
I've had a good long think about this over recent times and changes in circumstances along with an alteration in my personal priorities has made it pretty hard to keep focused on updating here on this blog.  I'm just not 'feeling' it any more, I enjoy television and I love sharing it, but writing about it 2-3 times a week just isn't happening for me and that's not enough content to keep a blog going.

If you add into it the fact that television at the moment isn't really gripping me and fiction writing is starting to take a hold on my free time and you can see why things are just not working here.  The blog is on life support at best and as it's not active enough to have a readership more than a handful and it doesn't earn me anything any more I've taken a long hard look at things.

I have tried breathing life back into the blog by seeking co-writers and I've even considered a change in direction, but the bottom line is this.

I've decided to stop updating here and lay this blog to rest.  However I'm not sure I'm completely done with writing about television, so I'm going to be looking for a new home where I can update less frequently (say once a week or a fortnight) as part of a team of contributors.  Especially if I can find someone who will give me direction (or say direct me towards shows to review).

If you know of anything like that, or if you're interested yourself drop me a line either on the email address in the header, via my twitter or with a message in this post.

For everyone else, thanks - this has been real.

(I'll be around on twitter occasionally if needed.)
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Homeland - "Pilot"

I finally got around to watching the pilot episode for Showtime's new drama/thriller series Homeland.  The show centers around Carrie Mathison/Anderson (Claire Danes), a CIA officer who suspects that the army Sergeant recently rescued from Iraq, one Nicolas Brody (Damien Lewis) has been turned during his eight year captivity and is planning an attack on US soil. The series has been greenlit for a full season, be warned - there are spoilers ahead for the episode.

It's a concept which plugs straight into the heart of a nation's experiences, concerns and fears.  Whilst terrorism is the least effective form of warfare (it tends to inspire defiance, strength and many noble traits in the people who have been attacked), it is a very real and constant threat in our current societies.  The insidious nature of the acts and the often civilian targets make it something that has the potential to hang over all our heads. Homeland takes this one step further, making the enemy not just a group of far away radicals or a Sleeper Cell, instead it gives the (potential) enemy an American face in Brody.

The cast is nothing short of fantastic, along with Danes and Lewis (sounds like an 80s cop buddy partnership), we also have Morena Baccarin (Firefly, V) as Brody's wife Jessica, Mandy Patinkin (Princess Bride, Dead Like Me, Criminal Minds) as Saul (Carrie's mento figure), David Harewood (Robin Hood, The Vice) and David Marciano (The Shield, Due South) amongst others.

The pilot unfolds in a manner that is reminiscent of The Shield's opening pilot, the punch comes in the last few moments (almost literally) and until then much of the episode is spent setting up the premise and introducing the characters.  It doesn't have the massive left turn that The Shield achieves, instead providing a huge indicator of guilt via flashbacks, but the result is similar - you're left in little doubt about Brody's Guilt/Innocence by the end of it.  I say little because this show, if it is going to run for any length of time, is probably going to be very twisty and turny.

However I do have concerns about Homeland, I'm going to watch it as I enjoy watching shows with bad people, and there is no doubt that both Anderson (Danes) and Brody (Lewis) are not decent people, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Anderson has severe mental problems that are only tempered by her brilliance, Brody is a suspected terrorist - even Jessica (Baccarin) is not without sin as she has been seeing Brody's friend Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) during the eight years that Brody has been MIA.  Make no mistake, this is a show about people with personal issues or political agendas.  It has the potential to take more turns and loops than the average season of 24 used to.

This is the problem, I'm not sure how far the concept can go, either Brody is going to turn out to be a 100% genuine threat to America and have to be dealt with, or he is going to be involved in a series of agent/double agent/is he/isn't he fake outs that if handled incorrectly will turn out terrible.  I'm interested in watching to see where this goes, but I can see myself dropping the show rapidly if it doesn't manage to click with me.  The cast is good, but the writing and plotting is going to be key here, especially if the show is going to run for more than a single season; but the writing team does not entirely fill me with confidence we have Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff.  The good news is that Gansa and Gordon have worked together for a long time, the bad news is they worked on the later part of 24, you know - the bit where the show jumped the shark repeatedly?  Gideon Raff was associated with 'Prisoners of War' the series that Homeland is based on, but I can find little information about that series on the web at this time. Raff's other work seems highly inconsistent.

It's enough to raise concerns, but the proof is in the pudding (so to speak) and as such I'm going to follow Homeland each week, at least until I've had enough - hopefully for the whole run.

For alternative takes on this have a look at Rob Buckley's review and Dan Owen's review.
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The One Man Star Wars Trilogy- Cardiff: 28th September

As a child I still fondly recall afternoons spent at my paternal Grandparent's home watching Star Wars: A New Hope on VHS.  I was captivated by the combination of fun dialog, mystery, excitement, "magic" (The Force), space ships, the cool Han Solo, the mysterious Ben Kenobi and the terrifying Lord Darth Vader.  It was a film that dominated my childhood - along with the David Jason animated version of The Wind in the WillowsThe Neverending Story and The Shawshank Redemption it remains one of the most watched movies of my life.  I watched that VHS copy until the tape wore out in multiple sections and I can still recite many lines from memory with great accuracy.

Flash forward to 2005 and I'm walking out of the cinema after watching Revenge of the Sith, the prequel trilogy for me wasn't a total deal breaker at the time - there was a lot in them I found pretty boring and from faintly ridiculous to absurd - but it was clear that they were far from the level of quality that the first three were created to.  However, in hindsight I know that it was the prequel trilogy that made me fall out of love with Star Wars and science fiction in general.  I can still vividly recall the moment where it happened, where even the original trilogy broke... forever?

A day or so after watching Revenge of the Sith my friends gathered together and we started to watch A New Hope again.  Things went fine until Vader's first appearance, at which point everything came crashing down for me, the connection between the snot-rag whiny Anakin Skywalker from the second and third prequel movie (ignoring the annoying little boy from the first one for the moment) and this menace from my childhood came together.  That final cliched scene where Anakin stumbles from the table as Vader and yells 'NOOOooooo!' was the straw that broke the camel's back.  As such, when Vader made his menacing appearance on Leia's ship in A New Hope; a moment that used to terrify me as a child, I was forced to permanently make the connection between Anakin and Vader.  No longer was this figure a terrifying menace, the magic had been broken - I could see the strings (I figured out the magic trick, if you like).  I stood up from my chair, fell to my knees and yelled 'NOOoooooo!' in my very best James Earl Jones impression then walked out of the room and never watched any Star Wars movie again.

Recently my better half; Datura, discovered that The One Man Star Wars Trilogy was playing in Cardiff, Wales.  In exchange for booking tickets to see Dave Gorman's Powerpoint Presentation I agreed to go and see it.  Needless to say, thanks to the history I briefed you on up there I wasn't that excited about going. (It's also needless to say that due to Datura being my wife I wasn't going to complain... much).

We arrived at the show and outside there were already one of my greatest pet peeves, cos-players.  They were dressed mostly as clone troopers, which felt extra ridiculous - because this was for the original trilogy there were no clone troopers in those movies (and about 99% less shit overall).  My observations about the ridiculous nature of the fan(atic) however did not go down well, we narrowly avoided a huge argument that would have spoiled the entire evening.  My bad.

The opening act, John Cooper as Danny Pensive, was a lot more subversive than you'd initially think.  Danny Pensive is Cooper's alter ego - a semi simple, duffle coat wearing man with a goatee and a bad hair cut.  His main traits are writing things down, making observations about them and then talking about it in an abrupt fashion.  It's an act that took us both a little while to gel with his delivery, where the punchline often comes about a line or so sooner than you'd expect - but once you click it works and it works well (check some out here).  "Danny" had to deal with the issue that the Cardiff audience tends to be unresponsive to any participation type comedy, but he did very well and had the audience well warmed up by the end of it.  It was an odd, but welcome act.

After Danny had shuffled his way off the stage it was time for the main act, all three movies back to back in the space of an hour courtesy of Chris Ross.  It was an experience I wasn't completely prepared for, I'd not done any reading or preparation for the show and I was caught completely off guard by Chris's delivery.  The most notable surprise for me was the fact that he does not only all the characters but he also performs the music.  With exceptional talent and accuracy I might add.

Chris manages to fit each film into about a 15 minute performance, it's a high energy show with lots of laughs containing the very best parts of each film.  Some scenes pass by with barely a mention while others are covered in detail.  But most of all, the spirit of what makes each film great, all the classic and fun moments, are present in spades.  Chris embraces the films with a professionalism and enthusiasm that showcases a great deal of love, pride and polish.  This is a man who has come to love what he's doing and had many years to perfect it.

Sections of note include his performance as an AT-AT falling on Hoth, superb impressions of Luke, Obi-Wan, Admiral Akbar and most of all, a star turn as Yoda.  He really gets to the heart of each character and highlights the things that make them great, while also lampooning their flaws.  The prequel trilogy's are touched on in moments as well, especially the way in which they've impacted on the first three movies and diluted some of the more potent scenes.  It's impossible to look at the original trilogy in isolation any more (shame), but Chris remained entertaining in his performance even when touching on the prequels.

I have to write that Chris was a pro throughout this performance, he had two major problems (apart from Cardiff's lack of audience participation) and both of them were dealt with in a way that did not detract from the experience at all.  The first was a series of technical issues, it started with the stage crew missing Chris's cues, repeatedly, Chris was professional enough not to make a deal of it and re-cue them, but once I'd noticed this was happening it was hard to ignore.  This is, of course, not Chris's fault, rather it's the fault of the staff at Cardiff's St David's Hall - and I hope they apologised to him afterwards.  Technical issues did not end there as Chris's mic started giving up the ghost towards the climax of Return of the Jedi, cutting out during his more vigorous scenes and requiring adjustment.  Chris was obviously frustrated with this, but he should feel reassured that it did not detract from the experience one iota.

The second issue occurred with young lad in the front row, he held up his phone to snap a couple of pictures and Chris spotted him doing it.  Fortunately for the boy Chris thought he was texting, something that he took up making fun of, mentioning that 'lad in the front row texting' by bringing it into the act several times.  However, part way through the show, when doing a quick bit of Q&A he discovered that the boy wasn't texting, he had in fact taken pictures.  Sure enough, at the end of the show Chris stopped to talk to the lad and ask him to delete the pictures.  The boy just did not get the seriousness of the request and sat there in mute refusal, I assume at first he thought it was a joke, then he became embarrassed.  Not even an offer of an autograph and official pictures was enough to get the boy to come up on stage and delete them, instead he was escorted to one side by an usher (at which point I think the reality of the situation hit him).  Chris smoothed this over by chatting with the audience as it happened, distracting people from the awkward scene occurring to one side.  In short, he dealt with an problem in the best fashion he could, as a professional.  (I have no idea if the lad got his picture and autograph afterwards, but I was sat a row behind and to the right of him and I think I saw him just get up and hurriedly leave at the end of the show.  So I guess not).

So, can I recommend the One Man Star Wars Trilogy?

I think I can sum it up as such, despite my opening story about how Star Wars lost it's magic, at the end of Chris Ross's show I wanted to watch the original trilogy again.  And I think that's all you need to know about how good it was, he restored my faith in the films and showed me that you could enjoy them despite what came afterwards.

See more about The One Man Star Wars Trilogy at it's site here.
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Arrested Development - Return to small and big screen confirmed!

Category: , By Rev/Views
Normally I don't update twice in a day, sometimes I don't update twice in a week (oops).  However once I read about this I just had to post about it.

Arrested Development's return has been confirmed with a 9 or 10 episode mini-series followed by a movie.  How great is that?  One of the finest sitcoms of all time (and the finest sitcom of the last decade) returning to us!  I'm very happy, Arrested Development is one of my top 1% shows.

11 hours ago Will Arnett tweeted:

"I'm peeing with  at the moment..and we can confirm that we are going to make new AD eps and a movie"

Jason Bateman an hour later then tweeted:

"It's true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early '13. VERY excited!"

I don't have the words for this one, it's right up there with the return of Futurama as one of the greatest events of my television watching life.  All I need now is the return of Vic Mackey to the screen and I'll be set for the near future.

So. Very.Happy.  Taste the Happy Michael!

More on this available at:
Empire Blog
Dan's Media Digest (he finally got around to watching it)
The Medium is Not Enough
and Bleeding Cool
(amongst others)
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Doctor Who - "The Wedding of River Song"

Whelp, that's another series over and done with for Doctor Who and while I land firmly in the 'bored with Alex Kingston/River Song/Melody Pond' camp (mostly because of Kingston's performance lacking any consistency or likability) I do have to say that it was pretty darn good.

The Doctor has decided that running away is enough and it's time to die, but instead of picking up where we left off last episode we're treated to a fantastical story told by a bearded Soothsayer/The Doctor to Caesar/Churchill in a reality where dinosaurs are alive, the Roman Empire hasn't reformed into the Catholic Church and is instead also the British Empire.  It's a world that's a compete mess and apparently a world where time never changes because it's dying.

The story was pretty darn good, there were plot holes, fallible events and huge leaps of faith/logic to deal with; but by the end of it it hung together pretty well.  The Doctor Who finales historically have been a mixed bag, under Rusty they were emotional triumphs that were let down by his inability to write science fiction without resorting to Deus Ex Machina to resolve everything (or in one case, a wonderful coffee shop conversation, surrounded by a terrible flying John Simm, and followed by an overly long death that felt 50% Opera swansong and 50% RTD swansong.  

This one was one of the better ones, there was a lot to follow and a lot to get your head around but it made sense, it was clever and it wiped clean a lot of the "damage" Rusty had caused over the time he was in charge of Doctor Who.  I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but Moffat's work has gradually been cleaning away the dramatic changes Rusty put into place when he regenerated the series.  The Daleks have returned to a more familiar form (as opposed to the loose analogs for religion they became) - even if they do now look like iPods and now The Doctor is due to return to the shadows and become a figure of mystery again - much like he was in the original series, where he could wander about and people often thought he was a harmless traveler.  That's pretty good, and all you have to do now Mr Moffat, is bring back the Time Lords, thank you very much.

I would be amiss if I didn't at least touch on the hanging threads left to tease future events.  In essence we've been told that the Eleventh Doctor will die (and regenerate) at Tranzalor - however it's worded as the 'fall of eleven' so there's still a little room for wiggle room - mind you it's not worth bothering too much about how it'll pan out, the Internet has created such a forum for speculation that it's impossible for any writer to surprise viewers when dropping hints like that.  People are very wise to foreshadowing unless it's done in a subtle fashion (see Arrested Development's second season and The Wire for the definition of subtle foreshadowing).  Moffat took a pop at this during the episode with a fun jibe about the speculation around River Song.

I do hope that this means the end of River Song in the series, as I have written before many times - I just don't like the character, she's rubbish - and I'm concerned about what it means for Amy and Rory going ahead (Amy's in essence a killer, that's something The Doctor doesn't tolerate in companions - even if it "hasn't happened" because it took place in an alternative time stream.

I think I'm very contented with "The Wedding of River Song", it was a well crafted piece that hung together brilliantly.  It was fast paced, exciting and faintly ridiculous - but it makes sense when you look at the overall picture, there wasn't a big button labelled 'reset to normal' here, instead there was a brilliant man coming up with a brilliant plan for his own survival - saving the universe and himself at the same time.  It's... to quote Ace... "Well devious".

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SpongeBob Squarepants, Season 1

By Datura

Dear Blog reading world - Hello!

I hope you are doing well. I know I am and that's at least partly because of one certain TV show, the one show that will pick up my mood when I am down with its absurd humour and brilliant cast:

SpongeBob Squarepants first graced the Nickelodeon TV screen in 1999 and will during its current 8th season become the longest running show of all time for Nick. It has a simplistic, clear cut animation style, which is mixed up with real world footage, Monty Pythonesque cut-outs and high detail artworks, all of which gives it a very unique style that's easy on the eyes. A season usually runs for 20 to 23 episodes and all of them tend to be ready available to buy as well as a flurry of additional movies, special DVD compilations, games and masses of merchandise readily available.
So why is the show so popular?
The show is set at the bottom of the Bikini Atoll (which explains a lot..), in a small town called bikini bottom. SpongeBob lives with his pet snail Gary in a pineapple and works as a fry cook in a fast food restaurant. His best friend is Patrick Star (a pink, chubby sea star is a ditz but incredibly loyal). SpongeBobs boss, Mr Krabs is hilariously greedy and a cheapskate. His neighbour Squidward is grumpy, sarcastic and hates SpongeBob and Patrick, as they manage to torture him with their happy adventures, a fact to which they are totally oblivious. The only character I class as seriously weak is Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel living in a dome. She's texan. Sadly she feels like a token girl.. even though she likes karate and is strong, shes so very boring and I would not miss her.

For a childrens show, it is surprisingly intelligent. Even as an adult I never feel patronized. The scripts are also lovingly written, with a very fast set pace and almost every line containing a joke. SpongeBob is also so very endearing. He is optimistically almost to a fault, gets easily distracted and watching him reminds me on all the things that were good about being a child.

The Season 1 Boxset comes on three dvds, though sadly the pilot episode is missing. This has been rectified and its now available on the season 3 boxset, but it's still a shame. Even though episodes can be watched in any order, I recommend season 1 as it introduces all major characters.
With every episode just being 23 minutes (and containing two episodes!) I strong recommend to give it a try.

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Doctor Who - "Closing Time"

Image from here

I'm sorry, I'm sorry.  I missed out on reviewing the previous episode - I'm still gradually getting back into the swing of writing (and tweeting).  I intended to write about 'The God Complex' anyway, but the impact of last weeks 'Closing Time' has washed away most of my thoughts on the episode.  I'll leave 'The God Complex' with nothing more than, it was pretty good - though I don't believe Rory and Amy are gone from the series at this point.

'Closing Time'.  What to say. what to say?  Well Rob Buckley has quite adeptly pointed out that the episode felt like a Rusty era story.  I found it funny without devolving into comedy, touching, filled with emotional depth and wrapped up with a bit of a rubbish conclusion.

However, despite the ridiculous nature of the Cybermen's defeat ('I blew them up with love'), this was without a doubt the best episode of the second half of this series and the only episode that comes close to 'The Doctor's Wife' making it the second shining diamond in a series that has been, rather inconsistent.

I did not and I still do not like the River Song aspect of this season, I want to be taken to mystical places and made to feel a range of emotions by Doctor Who.  I'm tired of the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Doctor's head and while this very sword made for some powerful writing and acting in 'Closing Time' I do feel very worn thin by the whole experience.

I'm still reeling from the end of Tennant's time as the Doctor, I loved the Tenth Doctor, along with the Seventh and Eleventh he's my favourite Doctor and watching him gradually lose sight of what made him who he is, the loss of a human companion to provide him with balance and the gradual slip into callous, event changing godhood (The Waters of Mars) was a thing to behold.  The thing is, although it was two years ago now, it's still fresh and threatening the Doctor's existence is just too much for me - I'm wrung dry on it and I just want it to get over with and move on.  The Tenth Doctor passed very recently, the Ninth lasted no time at all and the impending end of The Doctor's regenerations faces the Thirteenth Doctor so really I'm at a point where The Doctor is the last character I want to see facing death... again.

Moving aside from the River Song denouement and returning to the rest of 'Closing Time' what we have is a great little piece about one man facing his death while another faces fatherhood.  It's the sequel to 'The Lodger' and while it's executed differently the things which made 'The Lodger' so great are still present in 'Closing Time'  James Cordon is wonderfully lovable as Craig and has a real buddy rapport with Matt Smith's Doctor, his performance throughout the episode - as a father, a concerned friend and as an ordinary man is something that I relished.  There were plenty of emotional points that just evoked a raw response from me on a deep level.  I think you could say I connected with the episode.

Now yes, the 'blew up the Cybermen with love' thing was exceptionally cheesy, however once I got over the initial wince at the sheer amount of stilton, black bomber and cheddar stuffed into the line I did appreciate the moment as a whole and I can see the "science" behind it - the Doctor's attempt to reinterpret the events into techno-babble before giving up and agreeing with Craig was a nice way of disarming my outrage.

In all, 'Closing Time' had me feeling, it had me close to tears at times and it was good old Doctor Who of the kind I love and enjoy.  I'm hoping for another Craig and the Doctor episode next series.  (I'd especially like to see Craig's reaction to a regenerated Doctor).

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Doctor Who - "The Girl Who Waited"

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Image from here
Just as "Night Terrors" was the injection of good old Doctor Who monster fun the series needed, "The Girl Who Waited" is the character driven episode that both Karen Gillian and Amy Pond were waiting for.  

After the Doctor,Amy and Rory decide to spend some time on 'the second best holiday destination in the universe' (because the first one is too tourist-y) Amy becomes separated from the Doctor and her husband, separated by nothing more than a slight miss-communication about which button to press.  It's a small piece of symbolism about married life, one partner doesn't express requirement/instruction clearly enough and the other doesn't ask for clarification.  However here, instead of hilarious unintentional comedy moments/domestic arguments breaking out Amy ends up trapped in a compressed time stream - resulting in her being... a tad older... once the Doctor and Rory breaks through into her time stream.

The whole episode is an interesting piece, the Doctor is moved to the sidelines while Amy, Rory and yes, a second Amy take center stage.  Karen is given the lion's share of the acting in this episode and with the second, older Amy she has the chance to play someone more experienced, more isolated and bitter about the Doctor.  In this she echos many past companions, angry about being left behind by the Doctor.  For the role Karen developed new body language; an older, angrier voice and donned some facial prosthesis to make her look older - her appearance is a little off, but her physical performance and acting sell the character.

"The Girl Who Waited" is one of the high points of the current season, it's not as good as "The Doctor's Wife", however it's much better than most of the other episodes, the 'villains' are interesting (even if at times they look like dancers from a cheap pop video), Karen and Arthur are both given a lion's share of acting to carry, which develops and deepens the relationship between Amy and Rory, and Amy is shown to have hidden depths beyond the norm - able to develop/design a
sonic probe (screwdriver) and survive for forty years alone against constant enemies without gaining a single grey hair.

If I had one critique, it would be that old Amy should have been released in some fashion, to allow Karen the chance to return to the show twenty/thirty years from now and play the part of the freshly freed Amy.  But this is a minor quibble in an episode that was mostly gold.

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