Tag Archives: TV

“Todd and The Book of Pure Evil” – Metal High School Horror busts a gut…

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I’ve always been somewhat bemused by the UK wing of SyFy. It seems not to show quite as much terrible guff as its US parent channel – no wrestling or cookery shows for us – with the latest example of divergent programming being their new Canadian import, “Todd and The Book of Pure Evil”, which began its UK run on Tuesday night.

This is an insubstantial but amusing enough half-hour horror comedy which trades mostly in gross-out humour and sophomoric high school antics, set in and around Crowley High School (I see what you did there, guys) and the tribulations of titular teen, Todd.

He’s a Heavy Metal-loving dreamer who fantasises about musical fame whilst pining for rock chick Jenny, who doesn’t give a fig for him.  She’s devoted to the hunt for the Book of Pure Evil, which has some role to play in the fate of her parents.  Todd has a one-armed drummer buddy, Curtis, and a nerdy science in the form of Hannah, whose unrequited love for Todd drives the second episode.

If you get the slightest sense that this is reminiscent of early “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, then I wouldn’t disagree with you.

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It’s “Buffy” if the proto-feminism and inclusive agenda of that show was slightly jettisoned in favour of a ‘let’s take the piss out of everybody’ world view, balls-to-the-wall gore and a soundtrack which slams together the likes of Children of Bodom and Anvil and amps up the metal archetypes and references to grin-inducing effect.

My inner-Guardian reader is slightly aghast at some of the less PC gags and attitudes (the fate of Jenny’s crap, Chad Kroeger-like boyfriend veered a little towards the homophobic) but my metal head nods in appreciation at the awesome B-movie moments and the character comedy – it’s a tough line to straddle, but I think that I’m going to be sticking with this show.

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TV is broken.

I don’t know about you, but I’m bored with TV.

Sorry, TV – it’s not you, its me.

Detectives Bland and Blander in NBC's "Grimm".

I can’t blame this year’s new fantasy series “Grimm” exclusively for that (it wouldn’t be fair to place that responsibility on the shoulders of a freshman series), but it is the show that my wife and I have been watching which does seem to illustrate some of the issues that I have with a lot of television programmes of late.

Ever since “The X-Files” went all-out and delivered a complex, conspiracy-driven SF drama which compelled viewers to pay attention and keep up with all that alien abduction/invasion continuity, television producers have seen the merit in thinking about arc plots and in telling their stories over the course of five to seven years, all in the hope of their show going into lucrative syndication.

“Grimm” wants to go this multi-year route, with its hero detective Nick Burkhardt (the pleasant but unmemorable David Giuntoli) discovering that he’s got the gift and can sniff out evil fairytale monsters who are not myths but very real threats who live in the city and prey on us.  There’s a conspiracy running in the background, almost like clockwork, and a long list of storybook beasties to pit against the permanently baffled cops.

So far, so fine – if I were putting together a show which was going to go the distance, I’d probably stick directly to the same template and hopefully watch the viewers, box set sales and desirable demographics roll in.

My issue is that I’m getting bored with formula telly.  Dramas about cops – even cops who investigate the Big Bad Wolf – lawyers and doctors are very much what I don’t care about seeing every week and that seems to be the most popular route for producers and writers to follow.

The argument might well be that those professions offer a conduit to drama and life-and-death issues which most viewers can easily relate to, but I’ve seen too much of that stuff.  House is Sherlock Holmes with a medical degree and a fine line in running shoes.  Bones is an smart-mouthed, Aspergers spectrum Atheist who won’t freak out the flyover states because, well, she’s a chick and they can justly disregard her fancy talk on that basis alone.  The problem that I have with those two shows is that they are ultimately detective shows, even if neither protagonist is a cop – detection as a framework for drama seems to be the surest thing in telly currently and I’m a bit bored with it.

I suspect that my bias may be due to my speculative fiction Jones.  Why would I watch the latest pseudo-detective quirk fest with a feature actor transitioning to TV when I can read a book which genuinely transports me and offers the accessibility of serial storytelling in a package which, for me, is more digestible and desirable?  I realise that many novel series can be accused of the same, fiscally focussed formula fetish which drives the goggle box creatives but I can justify that in a way that I can’t with network shows.

I can cast those books and see them in my mind’s eye in a fashion which is more satisfying than in having the work ninety percent done for me by a producer and casting assistant.  The action defies constraints of budget and the focus on wit is generally more desirable for me than in finding a place to have the heroes use the latest product-placed gadget or car to move the plot forward.

The exception to my arbitrary rule set. So sue me.

That said, I’m kind of looking forward to watching season four of “Castle”, for no good reason that I can think of, other than it having all of the comforting familiarity and well-trod tropes that I’ve just decried other series for cleaving to.  Yes, the ones that I’ve just been grousing about.  Me, a hypocrite and proverbial trolling blogger?  Surely some mistake…

If Nathan Fillion wasn’t the lead, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this tale of a crime novelist consulting on real police cases, but his presence is often enough to make me give this series more of a chance than it might honestly deserve.  If ever an actor’s charm can be said to carry a show, Nathan Fillion is the main reason to watch “Castle”.

I’m a Whedonist.  I follow my Captain wherever he goes.

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“Doctor Who” – wholly unrevealing Christmas special location pics online…

He hasn't gone yet, but he will be back at Christmas.

The “Doctor Who” Christmas special is apparently filming now and Wales Online has a gallery of pics – nothing too remarkable to see, but Claire Skinner appears to be in it, garbed in what Mrs Rolling Eyeballs believes to be attire from the early 1930’s.

Which backs up “Who” show runner/genius Steven Moffatt’s previous assertions that the episode might have a period setting, if nothing else – now to figure out which classic Christmas story it riffs on.  After last year’s sterling effort, it has a lot to live up to…

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Warehouse 13, Season 3, episode 6 – “Don’t Hate The Player”

“Warehouse 13” is one of those shows. Whilst you enjoy it as a fan of TV science fiction because it isn’t afraid to embrace being camp, knowingly silly fun, there is this slight, nagging concern as you view it that the uninitiated will take it at face value and ascribe a value to it which asserts that, you know, ‘all sci-fi is like this’.

Just as there’s room amongst the Normals to have a show like “Burn Notice” tread the fine line between being a spy action series and making a meta-commentary on the in-built conceits and tropes of the genre I’m calling Spy-Fi, you would hope that anybody who came to watch episode 6 of Warehouse 13’s third season, “Don’t Hate The Player” would twig the fact that it was intended to be a chuckle-fest.

SPOILERS herein for the episode if you haven’t watched it yet.

screencaps via gallery.demon-cry.net

Eureka’s calamity magnet, Douglas Fargo, guested in an episode which was lighter on arc plot – who is that guy in the wheelchair and why does that Southern FBI agent keep showing up? – and heavy on the ‘WTF?’ factor.

The Warehouse agents get summoned to California by an employee of the video games start-up that Fargo has invested in – Fargo’s jacked into their experimental virtual reality video games rig with other games developers and all concerned are playing through a fantasy RPG with the unfortunate side-effect of killing anybody in real life who dies inside the game world.

Yep, this is *totally* going to take down "Modern Warware 3"...

(All of which, it goes without saying, would kill the trade-in market for second-hand video games overnight – I didn’t see any EA or Ubisoft logos on the games hardware, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there…).

With blissful inevitability, Pete and Claudia ended up going into the game world to try to get Fargo out safely and go on the kind of RPG adventure dreamt up by folks who haven’t played a video game since “King’s Quest” in the DOS era.

 

If your Warehouse fan fetish runs to seeing Claudia succumb to the inevitable and sport Elven ears and Pete get all bare-chested and skirted-up as a gladiator, this was the ep for you – and Claud’s elf alter-ego actually served the plot, as this episode’s character arc revolved around the Warehouse’s youngest agent doing something about that nagging confidence problem that she so clearly suffers from, both in the game scenario and out in the real world (well, the real world that Warehouse operates in: the two are quite distinct, I think you’ll agree).

Nerds, fire up your fan-fic engines...

As you can tell from demon-cry.net’s fine screen cap, the game action in the episode was rendered using a curious kind of half-rotoscope technique, which made it look like a first-pass take on the imagery used so effectively in Richard Linklater’s Philip K. Dick adaptation, “A Scanner Darkly”.

I can understand that the director needed to establish the difference between the game world and the real world – did nobody involved think about adding health metres or some kind of elementary UI aspect on-screen to make that distinction.  I ask because the rotoscope technique was, for me, rather of a distraction and didn’t really do the job that it was supposed to do.

Elven Chaotic Good?

The B-plot, meanwhile, saw Artie and new boy Steve in New York to try to acquire an artefact Van Gogh painting only to run into that mysterious FBI agent again. She’s still southern, by the way.  I had begun to think that this would be an episode light on the arc side of things but for the ending, where hundreds of miniature nano-bugs streamed out of the painting once it was in situ at Warehouse 13 –   Does somebody on the writing staff have an issue, perchance?

The artefact causing the shenanigans in the A-plot, meanwhile?  ‘Twas only Beatrix Potter’s bloody tea set, which induced anybody who drank tea from it to unfetter their imaginations fully, all the better to embrace the VR world inside Fargo’s game system.

So, quests were had, a song was sung (Alison Scagliotti doing right by the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” with an excellent acoustic rendition, as Claudia worked on her comfort zone problems by rocking out in front of complete strangers) and a fluffy 45 minutes or so of entertainment was had.

Seriously, dude - put it AWAY...

Not sure if this was an amazing episode – too many misgivings regarding treatment of teh VideoGamez on my part – but it rattled by well enough and had character moments to distract me from the troubling, nay terrifying sight of Eddie McLintock’s manly chest being on display for much of the episode (seriously – I demand more HG Wells, clad in anachronistic Victorian men’s suiting, solving crimes, by way of recompense).

If I scored episodes out of ten, I’d give this episode a 6.5.

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Doctor Who season 6, episode 10 – “The Girl Who Waited”

Image via doctorwhotv.co.uk

Now, that was an episode.

Timey-wimey? Check.  Mind-bending SF concepts? Czech.  Tour De Force performance by the Gillan? Verily.

If nothing else this episode managed to make me prematurely miss Steven Moffatt.  If this is the quality of story that we can expect whilst he’s running “Who”, our collective Saturday nights viewing will be the poorer when he eventually decides to move on – may that horrible day be many years away.  I’m holding out for decades, frankly, but reality will out.

Written by Tom McRae (“Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” in season two) and directed by debutante “Who” helmer Nick Hurran (whose credits include the recent revamp of “The Prisoner” – oh dear – and ace, underrated nineties UK teen flick, “Virtual Sexuality”), “The Girl Who Waited” is a chuffing masterpiece and one of the best episodes since the series returned under Russell T. Davies’ stewardship.

And Matt Smith’s only in sparingly – this is all Gillan, all the way, as the title implies.  If you didn’t like Amy Pond beforehand, I can imagine that the episode would have been pegged as an ordeal to match the Slitheen eps in RTD’s run.

How, then, to review “The Girl Who Waited” without having to blanket this post in [SPOILER] tags?

We’re on an alien planet, which has a dramatic effect on the Doctor, causes our heroes to be separated by time streams and featured a security staff of lethal bots so industrially designed that I was expecting to see a close-up of a ‘Made in Cupertino’ panel on one of them.

In the white room - with black curtains - near the station...

So far, so much that you could glean from the trailer.

What you might not have gleaned from the trailers for this episode was that this was all about relationships – most particularly the Amy-Rory marriage.  Separation, loss, the primal drive to be with somebody you love and defy all obstacles – all themes present here and used to brilliant effect.  The climax, especially, was a gut-punch, and neatly echoed events in “Amy’s Choice” from last season – a choice was made which any casual fan of SF could see coming from a thousand time-lines away.  And that’s the genius of this show – it’s not the big things and the show-boating which make “Who” what it is as much as the moments where frail, normal human beings have to make the decisions that nobody would ever want to make.

There’s been criticism in some circles of “Who” fandom that Moffatt’s run on the show has been far more interested in Amy than it has been in the titular hero – a criticism which I’m fairly sure was also aimed at Donna’s time as companion, at Martha and at Rose.  Spotting a theme there?

Wait, is he still Robo-Rory or did the big reset button erase all that?

I won’t say that this was the episode which would silence the haters – because haters function on being irrationally negative towards something and won’t embrace that which they have publicly decried – so I’ll instead just say that Karen Gillen was better in this episode than she’s been in any episode to date.  Moffatt has previously taken flak from blogs like I09 for perceived and implicit misogyny in his work and public utterances. This is guy who created “Press Gang” and Lynda Day – it’s a stretch for me to believe that he hates women.

Loved this episode – but you probably guessed that by now.  And next week’s episode, “The God Complex”, looks sweet

 

 

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