Thursday, September 29, 2005

Media spat brewing

Having slated Lost for its shaggy-dog style of storytelling only two posts down, I suddenly found NetNewsWire pointing me to this post by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, one of the producers of the show.

It seems that in an interview with Rolling Stone, David Fury, writer of Lost’s best episode yet, whipped out an axe or two and began grinding them in public. He essentially calls the creators of Lost liars, accusing them of stringing viewers along with half-baked storylines and hastily conceived episode ideas.

In an admirably even-handed post, Grillo-Marxuach refutes Fury’s claims and reveals the genesis of some of the show’s mysteries, the hidden pratfalls of serial story-telling and the intimacy of the writers’ room.

As much as I’d love to see a full-on, handbag swinging contretemps, how Javier has chosen to respond to Fury’s baiting is far more compelling, and instructive for anyone who one day dreams of developing their own shows.

UPDATE: here's a link to my follow-up post for Technorati visitors.

Category: Movies and TV

Going nowhere fast

Say goodbye to my progress bar. God bless David Anaxagoras for the code, but it was just sitting there like the fruit you buy in the supermarket and leave in the bowl until it goes well off.

And it’s not like I’m not making any progress, I just have no idea how to measure it so far.

So it’s gone.

Category: Meta

Make friends with Veronica


How good is Veronica Mars?

No, seriously, how FUCKING INCREDIBLE is Veronica Mars?

I don’t know much about your Yankee networks, but I know UPN isn’t a hugely popular one. Plus, you know, Lost at the same time.

Get UPN. Dump Lost. Forget about it. If you want a show with a season long mystery that isn’t afraid to - and how’s this for novel - plan ahead, Veronica’s your baby.

Last night’s Season Two premier was, if you haven’t already guessed, terrific. Veronica’s back in the 09-er fold, her best friend’s murder’s solved, her dad’s a celeb and her boyfriend is thankfully not her brother.

But not everything is coming up roses. Rob Thomas resolves the cliff-hangers and loose ends from last year in timely fashion, but before you’ve even managed to sort through the ramifications, launches right into this season’s big new arc. When we last saw Veronica’s rich-kid boyfriend Logan at the end of Season One he was getting shit from a teenage motorcycle gang. When we catch up with him, he’s unconscious in the street, broken and bleeding, with a knife in one hand and a dead biker on the asphalt next to him. Now a class war is brewing in Neptune, and by the end of the episode appears to have claimed its first victims.

Rob Thomas writes terrific dialogue and his plotting is pitch perfect. I urge you, if you have any love for fine TV, buy the Season One DVDs and watch this show.

If only for the bikini clad Charisma Carpenter.


Now that's good TV.

Category: Movies and TV

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dead Things on Sticks

Denis McGrath, one of the writers on Canada's Charlie Jade (I hope and pray for a second season), has posted an AWESOME response to Complications Ensue's interview with Stephen Gallagher.

Entitled The Room vs The Auteur vs The Proddie it does a great job of deconstructing some of the grass-is-greener fantasies us Brits have about the showrunner system, and Americans have about the auteur system and how the Canadians just don't seem to get either.

Take a look, but make sure you've got a good chunk of time before you do: it's a long one.

Category: Movies and TV

Monday, September 26, 2005

All danced out

From Kate’s big, Monday night, thirtieth birthday ceilidh. Great fun.

Word to the wise, though, chief. Always buy two pairs of trousers when picking out a suit. Accidents happen and there’s no worse sartorial mishap than being stuck with a jacket that nothing matches.

Just saying.

Category: Meatspace

Interview with Stephen Gallagher (part two)

Part Two of the interview is now up, and the topic of British showrunners is breached. Mr Gallagher was also kind enough to respond to a comment I made on the first part of the interview about show-runners, digital TV and writing courses:

I'd like to hear what Stephen has to say about the growth of digital channels in the UK - most of the really good writing and gripping new shows seem to originate on BBC Three right now, and he doesn't mention that.

Also, Russel T Davies is, effectively, showrunner for the new Doctor Who, as is Paul Abbot on Shameless, so does this indicate some kind of sea-change? Are writers being given more creative control, or is the title a placebo?

What does he think about UK university courses, such as Leicester's TV Script Writing MA - are they are good way to break into the business?

By Lee Thomson, at 5:12 AM

I seem to recall that Russell T gets a mention later on, so hang in there, Lee. I'm hoping that we're witnessing the exceptions that will prove and ultimately destroy the 'rule'.

BBC3's doing interesting stuff, for sure, but as a pro market for drama it's still comparatively tiny... BBC4 ditto, but even smaller. I mostly talked about our two main channels because that's where you mostly have to set your sights if you're going to sustain a career. But on their output I don't disagree with you at all.

I didn't realise that in describing the setup I deal with on a daily basis, I was telling a tale that Alex would read as a horror story; his reaction has made me view the situation in a new light. I'd had a glimpse of the showrunner system at a MediaXchange weekend in London a couple of years ago and had been persuaded that it's a far more exciting and successful way of making volume television drama. But now I'm even more dissatisfied with the setup than I was.

A screenwriting course will never make a writer out of a non-writer but as a place to stretch your muscles and learn stuff it's a better-than-most opportunity, especially if it's taught by genuine industry people. Having said that, it's always going to be what you make of it. I did a year as mentor/script tutor to a student at the Northern Film School and I don't think I helped her one whit. She sent me her script with a note saying that she'd got it pretty much as she wanted it. I praised her neat idea (which it was) and detailed which of her choices made it go nowhere (which it did). Four drafts and four sets of notes later she'd moved some of the furniture around but changed nothing essential.

You can't do that in the real world; you can stick you what to believe in but you have to do some footwork to deliver it in a way that'll keep it intact. With good notes I usually find that my initial resistance changes as I grudgingly implement them!

Flawed as her screenplay was, it was put together in a very professional way. I think the film school gave her that. The rest was up to her.

By Stephen Gallagher, at 7:21 AM


It's a bloody good read. Alex brings up the unique-to-the-UK method of producing blocks of episodes (generally six to eight) which are completely written by a single screenwriter before they shoot. This is both the blessing and the curse of UK TV. On the one hand this one show, one writer method has given us State of Play, Holding On, Blackpool - a tradition of world class, novelistic drama stretching back to Edge of Darkness, Boys from the Blackstuff and The Singing Detective. On the other, and this is Stephen's example, it's the same practice that fucks up perfectly good procedurals like Jonathan Creek which, when handled by a single scribe, never last more than a couple of seasons because all the inventiveness gets drained from the premise in a way it could never do if a team of writers were producing it. As Stephen says, "[producers’] own business model isn't about hiring writers, it's about buying stories, and as long as that persists then British writers are always going to be a bunch of spiky loners" By extension, the UK is never going to be capable of producing a Lost, Desperate Housewives, Battlestar Galactica or Veronica Mars; long-form quality dramas that viewers can really engage with because, by their very nature, they are team efforts.

As much as I love my American friends, the shows they produce, and their revealing blogs, the British industry is the one I want to work in, and this interview offers more pertinant information than pretty much all of the blogs in my sidebar combined (except for Danny's, which is a treasure). You should read it.

Category: Movies and TV

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Interview with Stephen Gallagher

Over at Complications Ensue, Alex talks to Stephen Gallagher about how one sells a show in the UK. It’s interesting, if slightly depressing material which tends to bear out many of the conclusions I had come to from simply watching TV, namely that BBC2 and C4 don’t give a rat’s ass about original drama any more unless it meets their narrow views, and that the whole process of creating and running a show is entirely producer led - all writers are freelancers.

However, there are a couple of things Stephen doesn’t touch on, such as the phenomena of the newly emerging showrunners on shows such as Doctor Who and Shameless - shows where the writer has creative control, and he laments the fact that the only two people in the industry have significant green-lighting power, the Controller of BBC One and the ITV Network Drama Commissioner, despite the fact that some of the best drama of the last two years has come from the digital sector: BBC Three in particular.

I get the feeling from some of the new shows being produced that this is a very interesting time to be involved in creating drama in the UK, that a certain old school of thinking is coming around to a more American view of production and that the industry is beginning, belatedly, to search for new ideas. I hope the interview continues along a more encouraging vein.

Category: Movies and TV

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Four more months!

Didn’t write about Rome this week, because mostly, it was not so good. No, this week’s TV highlight was Battlestar Galactica, back to it’s nerve-shredding best after a couple of weeks of downtime and what passes for relaxation in that crazy, frakked-up fleet.

This week, Miranda Zero, righteously pissed that Warner Brothers’ picked up Supernatural over Global Frequency shows up out of nowhere in her swanky new Battlestar and totally usurps Gaff’s command. While he’s been making little paper unicorns for Helo, she’s been putting bullets in the head of her XOs and hunting down Cylons for her troops to gang-rape. She’s totally inspirational.

In only fourty-two minutes of the leanest drama anywhere, Roslin gets side-lined; Lee and Kara get transfered; in a horrible, repellant interrogation scene, Sharon is almost raped; Gaius declares his loyalties; and when Tyrol and Helo are court-martialled and sentenced to death by Miranda for coming to Sharon’s rescue, Gaff decides it’s time to take the fleet back, ending the show with two Battlestars squaring up to one another.

And did I even mention the squadron sent out to attack a Cylon fleet protecting a hitherto unidentified mega-ship?

It’s a great chuffing cliff-hanger, and it comes just in time for the show to go on hiatus ‘till January.

That’s right, January. Sadly, this season’s crop of new shows evidences little promise of greatness, with only Threshold so far distinguishing itself in my book, and that nowhere near enough to fill the hole left on Friday night.

So thank the stars for Rob Thomas and the return of Veronica Mars next week.

Category: Movies and TV

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Constitutional

Working, as I do, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, has certain advantages. Chief among these is that I can take a walk at lunchtime, and not see another soul for an entire hour. It really helps to knock out the old mental cobwebs, a good walk. I believe the Romans swore by it. Any way, for the last couple of days I’ve not been able to shake this feeling – the closest I can come to describing it is that, having recalled I once met someone who told me how to fix something, I can no longer remember who, where, what they said or even what was broken. The problem is not that I can’t concentrate, it’s that I don’t know what to concentrate on. Many people suffer from lesser forms: the “I know I should be doing something but I can’t remember what,” or “damn, I’ve left the iron on,” syndrome. It happens quite often; I spend several days preoccupied with literally nothing and am no use to anyone. My subconscious is trying to let me know it’s figured out the solution to a problem, but I’ve got no conscious idea what the problem is.
 
Well, I took a walk and the veil was lifted. My path is clear. I can begin.

Category: Writing

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles for the First Time

My spirit is too weak - mortality
        Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
        And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
        Yet 'tis a gentle luxury to weep,
        That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning's eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
        Bring round the heart an indescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
        That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time - with a billowy main -
A sun - a shadow of a magnitude.

                                                        John Keats.


I’ve been feeling very off-balance this week: even more unfocussed than usual, generally malaised and isolated. Thinking about my script, thinking about my job, thinking about my life. Not getting anywhere.

Keats was younger than I am now when he died.

Category: Uncategorised

Monday, September 19, 2005

I said what now?

Long term attentive readers may have noticed that, while the deadline in my progress bar has now changed three times, the bar itself has shifted not a single pixel.

I don’t know what to tell you.

Research, reading scripts and doodling have all consumed a good deal of the time I had planned to set aside for outlining. And I think that’s fair enough. Especially the reading, as I have a real problem at the moment with breaking things down: if my man Tristan is going to escape from Dartmoor because the British military are using conscientious objectors as guinea pigs in a project to create merciless killers, at what point should he make his break?

In my original plan, all I knew was that a C.O. breaks out, makes friends with a young girl whose brother is out in the trenches, and has to prove to her that, despite abhorring violence, he is no coward.

That was the impetus. I wasn’t even going to show the breakout; he’d start off on the run and that would be that. But then when I started asking why he felt the need to break out; how he was going to prove himself; and who, if anyone, was after him I realised I’d lost control.

Answers, answers, answers; first just enough for a teaser, then maybe the first two acts, then with mounting horror I understood it was going to be the end of the episode before he made it to freedom! I’d devised an entire episode of material to take place before what would have been the start of my pilot and knew I had to put the brakes on it.

Because if I do things this way, then I have to come up with something for poor little Evey to be doing while she’s not yet discovering Tristan pinching her mum’s chickens because he hasn’t even escaped yet. This involves building up Evey’s world - introducing a recruitment fair, an unrequited crush and a game of cricket. I now have two distinct stories to tell in two distinct locations, with two casts of characters who are never going to interact, many of whom, in fact, never to be seen again in Episode Two or beyond. While a part of me knows this is a Good Thing - that from nothing I now have a lot more - I need to keep it under control, otherwise Episode One is going to be spectacularly wasteful. And worst of all, I don’t know, because they both have equally divided my attention, who the focus of this piece is anymore, Tristan or Evey.

So I need to read. I need to see how other writers have dealt with the problems of prologue, and to determine if what I’ve described here is prologue or the real beginning of my story, which I’ll just have to get used to being a little bit bigger than I expected it to be.

As soon as I’ve taken advice and made some decisions, expect that bar to increase most hastily.

Category: Writing

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Retraction and apology

In the spirit of the Guardian’s Corrections and Clarifications, I feel the need to go on record with an apology to Neil Gaiman for my grumpiness on Thursday night, leading to unfair and uninformed trashing of his latest novel in my last post.

I felt the need to back up my comments, and as WH Smith’s have Anansi Boys on offer, I thought in the spirit of fairness that it really wouldn’t do to damn a book without having read it.

It was much better than American Gods. It wasn’t as good as Sandman, or Coraline. Irregardless (and what are the six degrees of geekdom between “irregardless” and Neil Gaiman?), it was a very enjoyable, pacy read. There was some nice stuff about fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, about families in general, some deft comedy, and statements about how our stories teach us how to behave, along with the usual guff about “just being yourself.”

On the downside there was a general laxity toward chronology, some terribly undeveloped and one-dimensional characters and the comedy/horror dynamic was a little unbalanced. On the whole, though, an entertaining way to spend a Sunday.

Rating: Seven and a half paper plates out of Maureen O’Hara.

Category: Books and Comics

Friday, September 16, 2005

Anansi Boys...

is the name of Neil Gaiman’s latest novel. Anyone read it yet? I picked it up in the shop and was completely turned off by the first sentence.

It begins, as most things begin, with a song,


is just so typically Gaiman, with it’s fey and completely unecessary wee sub-clause (first caption in Brief Lives: “It is, of course, a miracle”), that having read a good deal of the man’s output over the years I wonder if I actually need to bother with what already seems like a lazy, comfortable rehash of earlier triumphs.

I may, without a doubt, be reacting quite irrationally. Let’s try it again.

It begins, as most things begin, with a song.


No. It just sets my fucking teeth on edge, and I can tell you why. “It begins with a song,” I could get behind. It draws attention to the story. Interrupting my support with “as most things begin,” just pisses me off, because it draws attention to the storyteller, the author, the celebrity Gaiman and his silken bag of tricks. “As most things;” such as what, for example? Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a documentary now, is it? The entire purpose of the sentence is not to let me know I’m reading a story that begins with a song, but that I’m reading a book by Neil Gaiman. His name is on the front fucking cover, that’s enough for me. Just tell the story without mugging through it.

Many may claim that Gaiman has always been a hack; his comic output constantly raking over the coals of Alan Moore’s superior efforts, but I read Sandman when it came out, and loved it. American Gods; feh, not so much (“as good as Stephen King or your money back“ - what. the. fuck?). Coraline? Creepy; terrific. Original. But still I see “as most things begin,” and think “condescending, smug little twat,” the immodest storyteller drawing attention to his methods, safe and cosy uncle Neil with his “come sit by the fire and I’ll spin you a yarn” schtick and want to punch the book in the face. Possibly, it gets better; there is, after all, plenty more of it (shit, kill me now), but on the evidence of page one the disappointing realisation is that Gaiman is writing for his fans and has lost all interest in challenging his readers.


Category: Books and Comics

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Free scripts

Finding scripts on the web isn’t hard. I’m thankful for the number of collections out there, but often find hunting for new material a complete drag. Either sites lump scripts and transcripts together with little to distinguish between them, or they keep up links to material long since removed, or their lust to be comprehensive overwhelms the need to be selective. Will reading three dozen Knight Rider scripts really make you a better writer, or would one draft of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica be preferable? Depends what you want to achieve, I suppose, but I trust many of my visitors’ tastes overlap with my own.

So as a service to you, my dear readers, I have added a new group of links in the sidebar to teleplays written for some of my favorite shows. Grab ‘em while they last.

Incidentally, if anyone managed to nab the Babylon 5 scripts from Twiz TV before they were nuked and wants to e-mail them to me, that would make me extremely happy.

UPDATE: Babylon 5's creator J Michael Straczynski announced last week the B5 script project - all ninety-one of his scripts for the show are to be released in fourteen volumes of seven scripts apiece (those quick of multiplication will note this is actually ninety-eight scripts - there will be bonus material). Now, JMS may have a bit of a tin ear when it comes to dialogue, and a sense of humour that could be described as idiosyncratic, but his sense of structure is second to none. As a writer, I will be buying these to study at my leisure. Being a massive B5 geek has nothing to do with it.

The scripts will be available from babylon5scripts.com

Category: Writing

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rome 1x03 - An Owl in a Thornbush

Maybe he took a crap and missed it. - Titus Pullo


24 carat pure comedy gold in this, marvelously quotable, episode. The little touches help make it so watchable, such as a blind Cupid leading Octavia and her doomed lover to their nuptial chamber, and “Will that be all, domina?”

I’m starting to develop a real attachment to many of the characters. Atia is my new favourite TV bitch, a first century B.C Julii Cooper. Arrogant Pompey, a man with no understanding of human nature, is doomed to witness all his tactics unravel through the craven behaviour of his underlings. Titus and Lucius, one of the great double acts; though they may bicker, they influence one another in quite subtle ways. And Caesar, unknowable, untouchable, inexorable.

The only thing that could make this better would be if Joe R Lansdale suddenly started writing for it.

Category: Movies and TV

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Buy better games

Just finished God of War, and, man, that was awesome. Doesn’t quite surpass Ico or Sands of Time, but still a perfectly made piece of videogame entertainment.

There are about a million ways the film adaptation could be fucked up. Unlike the games mentioned above, God of War has no emerging narration; all of the game’s significant development - how Kratos become Aries’ disciple at the cost of his humanity - is in the backstory. This presents a significant challenge to anyone looking to write a script based on the game, and I forsee a lengthy period in development hell, followed by a forgettable release with at least five writers credited.

Too bad no-one’s developing Beyond Good and Evil. Now there’s a game with a hell of a story. Although it’s integrated with the game so well, what would be the point, except to show all the fools who never bought it part of what they missed.

I swear, EA can release the same half dozen games every year and swim in the profits, but when Ubisoft tries something different they get nada.

Category: Gaming

On being a wrong-headed poltroon

I've charged blindly at this project about half a dozen times over the last five years, never making any headway. Back when Conchie was a novel, I thought that having a vague idea of my characters and plot points was enough, and that armed with these meagre details I could start writing and let the story tell itself.

I'd cruise through the first bunch of pages easily enough, but, quite predictably, would end up hitting the buffers when I ran out of story. Even though I knew how it began and ended, I didn't know anywhere near enough of the geography in between. Every time I was bought up short, I rationalised that I must have approached the story from the wrong angle, rallied, and had another run at it, each time as ill-prepared as the last. Whenever the narration raised even a simple question I'd have to extemporise an answer. Following that, a lengthy period revising everything I'd written to accommodate it. I wrote about eight first chapters, all from different viewpoints, with varying tones and levels of characterisation, before giving up the job as a bad 'un.

If you've been reading your screenwriting blogs, you might be thinking that this is shaping up to be yet another post about the importance of outlining. But I'm no pro; I'm writing my first outline for my first script so what I've got to say is much more basic than that. Although I've learnt that if I try to write without an outline I end up in some kind of temporal loop, always starting over, the real lesson for me has been in the evolution of my nebulous desire to be "a writer" into something more concrete.

My total inability to advance with Conchie as a novel had less to do with my crappy prose than with the fact that I didn't know how to write a book. Call it ignorance, call it enthusiasm; off I went, wondering how hard it could be, believing that as long as I trusted my talent, I'd be okay. The fact was I had no idea how to pace a novel, when to introduce characters, initiate sub-plots, whether to aim for 100 pages or 600. I have a degree in English literature; but it turns out that reading Hamlet from a New Historicist perspective in order to gain insights into the Elizabethan attitude to insanity and treason is actually pretty inadequate preparation for becoming a playwright. Sadistic Talent had led me up a blind alley, two b'foured
me in the face and was laughing while he shat on my head. I was shit. I was deluded. It was the phone-room for me, forever.

Having misread my lack of attention to craft as deficit of talent, a dark depression descended. I didn't know what to do with myself. I watched a lot of telly. One day I noticed I had about eight torrents fired up and I was spending all my time watching TV. It was the only popular form of storytelling I respected, and there I'd been, trying to write a novel.

If I'd been in the bath, I would have leapt out.

No wonder progress had been impossible; I was in the wrong game. I'd wanted to tell a story, and because I never gave much thought as to how I wanted to tell it, it stayed locked up, weakened and got sick, and took a part of me down with it. Once it saw it's escape route, I perked up too and got ready to start digging.

So to anyone with a vague aspiration to become a writer, I say: stop being vague. Say goodbye to that romantic nonsense about being a conduit for stories and start learning to be a mechanic. This is a ten megaton atomic fact: writers don't channel stories, they build them. On a bad day, they smash them into place with bastard great mallets, seal them with foot thick metal panels and rivets the size of dinner plates and spend all their time running up the down the length of the
fuckers plumbing leaks that spring forth at enormous pressure.

Talent is one thing. But it's no substitute for knowing what you are doing, and being in control.

If you're trying to write, but just sitting there looking at a blank screen or sheet of paper wondering why it's just not happening, well then I don't have much sympathy for you. In most cases your problem is going to be that you may know a bit about your story, but you won’t work out the rest of it until you learn more about the medium you’re creating it for, because how it’s displayed will affect how it’s told. It will never just blossom into a fully-formed tale in your mind; if you are waiting for this to happen then you basically want the result without the work. If you don’t get your hands dirty and start making the effort to learn how screenplays - or comics, novels, poems, whatever - are constructed, your story is going to be stillborn.

There are plenty of places to get hold of TV scripts on the web. Print them out, get yourself some coloured pens and start having fun identifing the different plot strands, noticing if the act-out cliff-hangers are emotional or physical, how many pages there are per act, per scene, how many words in a typical line of dialogue, where the story beats are. To get you started, I’ve compiled a wee list for youse:

  • Firefly

  • Wonderfalls

  • Veronica Mars and Cupid

  • Twin Peaks:  Season One.
                          Season Two.

  • Sports Night

  • The Dead Zone

  • Lois and Clark

  • Tom Fontana collection

  • Lee Goldberg bonanza


  • Now go, and work, and learn.

    Then start writing.

    Category: Writing

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    iTunes 5


    Unified interface = pretty cool.
    New search = kinda weird (see previous Spotlight post).
    Playlist folders = about time. Thank you. Tricky keyboard shortcut, though.
    Radio as an option rather than default = radio not long for this world.
    Lyrics = whatever.
    Moving the volume slider = huh? Looks ridiculous. What's the point?

    And the Nano? Looks fantastic, but no Firewire. Apple, you invented Firewire and then put it in the original iPod because USB wasn't fast enough. Now everyone with a Mac more than two years old is stuck using USB1.1. You disappoint me.

    Category: Computing and Web

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    Rome 1x02 - How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic

    Snows. Always. Melt. - Mark Antony


    Indeed they do, and tonight, my frosty regard for HBO’s new drama began its slow thaw. This was much better than last week’s episode. In fact, it should have been the pilot. There was nothing in The Stolen Eagle that wasn’t done better here: Caesar’s scheming and Pompey’s miscalculation; the chalk and cheese friendship of Pullo and Vorenus; Atia’s gleeful sluttishness and indifference to the dysfunction of her brood; the total disregard for modern mores - it’s almost as if it is made for an ancient Roman audience.

    It displayed ambition enough to show up The Stolen Eagle as the redundant prologue I felt it was: backstory that never needed to be filmed.

    Memorable scenes, good lines, effective twists; don’t let me down next week.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    New season, same old same old

    When even the TV editor of Radio Times starts to get cross about the lack of vision and reliance on “dreary sadistic-serial-killer/forensic science drama” in our televisual output, it’s time for UK producers to wake up and smell what they’re shoveling.

    BBC, ITV and C4 are all indulging in an orgy of publicity for their Autumn shows, but when you strip through the hype and look at what they are actually putting out, what have you got? Historical drama, adaptations and quirky P.I.s.

    The fuck is this?

    Now, I admit I’m quite looking forward to Vincent, but only because it stars my TV daddy Ray Winstone, and I’d watch and rewind him taking a crap all day, such is my reverence; and Bleak House.

    Bleak House gets the nod because:
            1 - Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. Following her performance in The House of Mirth, how could I not?
            2 - the format. Bleak House was written as a serial drama, with parts being released each month. The BBC are treating it as a soap opera, with sixteen half-hour episodes to be shown over eight weeks, which I think is pretty brave of them given our aversion to producing any TV stories that take more than half a dozen episodes to tell (notice though, that it’s still only eight weeks, despite the episode count).

    That’s it. Two shows. And it’s not even as if they’re going to keep me entertained between now and May. Eight weeks of hopefully great acting and atmosphere and then back to prime-time sports coverage and repeats of Hettie Wainthrop.

    Well, don’t expect me to swallow that. I’ll be firing up my Torrent client, and making room on my HD for, among others, the new season of Veronica Mars, for which previews have generated more excitement than the prospect of anything this dismal little isle can muster.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    That fucking dream

    I had that fucking dream again.
     
    It’s the one where I walk into a bar or club on my own, and no-one I was supposed to meet turns up. Instead all my old, not-forgotten housemates from university, who I haven’t seen in five years, are there. After the blank stares followed by the “my god you’ve changed”’s and happy hugging it becomes clear to all that I’ve, well, failed to live up to the achievements of Louise, Jon, James and Martin. Doubtless Alice, Alex and Pete have also done very well, but as Google denies their existence they never appear in that fucking dream.
     
    I end up alone at the bar, bitter, while they all take a cab to far more fabulous places.

     
    Category: Meatspace

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    TV or Movies

    Lee Goldberg at A Writer’s Life makes a valid complaint about the current vogue for TV producers to tout their series’ as mini-movies, and wonders where their need to look to movies for validation comes from.

    The truth is that I get so much more satisfaction from TV than movies these days, mainly because there are so few films that are actually willing to place any demands upon their audiences the way that continuity driven, ensemble shows like BSG, Veronica Mars, The Shield et al. do.

    How would you even begin to cram thirteen hours of The Wire into ninety-seven minutes?

    TV is just a richer narrative medium these days. Eye candy production values be damned (and isn't this all that's meant by "little movies" - "we spent $100 million on this series, look at that photography?"), it's all about the quality of the storytelling. The scripts, in short.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Action at a distance

    If you can’t bear to watch New Orleans and thousands of its inhabitants disappear from the face of the earth and want to do something about it, then you could make a contribution to one of the aid organisations that are doing their best to save people’s lives.

    Or you could nip over to Kung Fu Monkey and send whatever you can to John Roger’s Pay-Pal account. At the end of the month he will match whatever his readers donate, and send the funds to the Red Cross.

    Sounds good to me.

    Category: Computing and Web

    The triumph of apathy

    Is that Bush can head-up a complete cluster fuck of an administration; an administration whose actions have allowed anarchy to take root throughout an entire American city; and not be assassinated.

    The people of New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport have been betrayed by their leaders. Soldiers who should be helping people are being sent out there with shoot-to-kill orders. People have been raped and murdered in the Louisana Superdome.

    Granted, these are desperate times, but a society with any faith in its government and constitution shouldn’t be behaving this way.

    Looting, killing, car-jacking, the desperation of a displaced people – is this the news or a John Carpenter movie?

    He’s got to go, and serious questions need to be asked about why America’s social fabric is so weak; why the people and their government appear to live in different countries, because the scenes we’ve all watched in horror this week have no place in the world’s richest nation.

    I hope to god the American people get some help soon, and preferably before my sister becomes one of them.

    Category: Newsround

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Shit out of luck

    Who'd have thought Sony would be so stingy? With an initial shipment of just 150,000 PSPs, only 95% of pre-orders are likely to be met today. Unlucky fools like me who refuse to cough up hefty deposits will now most likely have to wait weeks for retailers to restock.

    Some fucking launch. Six months late already and now even longer until you can actually go and buy one from a shop.

    Category: Gaming