Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More scripts to read

I've added a link in the sidebar to a collection of scripts for The Inside, Tim Minear's aborted FBI serial-crimes drama. Although I wasn't too keen on the episodes that aired on Fox last summer, ITV4 have recently completed showing the entire run of produced episodes, and as the show went on and its characters continued to develop, I will admit I began to warm to it.

I've also turned up, in my time-wasting jaunts across the internet, an early - and therefore all Stephen Gallagher's own work - draft of the pilot for Eleventh Hour, which I'll look foward to reading later.

Category: Writing

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In further praise of Apple

Wide open Powerbook plus one and a half meter drop equals?

Not the feared shattering into a billion fragments, merely a slight ding on the battery housing.

Robust machines, these. Still, probably should replace the hard drive, as a shock like that can’t be good for it. Wasn’t for me.

I have no damn luck with hard drives. Oughtn’t complain, really. Pity my Applecare ran out three weeks ago, though.

Dramatic news

The BBC must have figured this was a good day to bury bad news. By having its director general give a keynote speech on the future of the broadcaster, it must have thought it could squeeze in Grandstand’s cancellation under the flurry of headlines Mark Thompson was sure to generate.

No such luck. The axing of the long-running all day sports bonanza was front and centre all day long, despite being lesser than many of the changes proposed by Mr Thompson.

Now, nevermind that a soundtrack three generations have grown up with will soon be no more, what concerns me is this, from Thompson’s speech:

So what should we do?

  • in drama, we need to build fewer titles with longer runs, more impact, more emotion - and make more brave calls like Bleak House and Dr Who;

  • we need to think of mobile and other ways of using new media from the very start of the creative process - like the Dr Who Tardisodes;

  • we must cherish and where necessary invest in the titles that bind us emotionally to the broadest audiences - EastEnders, Casualty, Holby · we need more drama landmarks and signature pieces on Radio 4;

  • across TV and radio, the nurturing and support of outstanding writers is a key to success

  • Also, ITV seem to be getting the message that no-one is watching the absolute toss it chooses to fill its 9pm slot with, even if it did require a very public mauling from Jimmy McGovern to help get the point across. Apparently:

    The channel wants more stylish pieces that look better and are faster and will compete better.

    and have approached the likes of Kudos, among others, to pitch for them.

    Looks like we could be seeing both the end of the six-pack, and the flabby feature length event. Normally, this would be great news, but it comes just after the return of Sharpe, which, I have to admit, I was quite in the mood for.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw

    Quite unquestionably, one of the lupiest things I’ve seen on the BBC.

    Next week: K9!

    A survey. Hurrah!

    Visit Todd’s blog, South Dakota Dark and participate in his “best of today’s TV” survey. Let’s see if we can’t get some UK nominees on the list.

    When you’ve done that, swing over to the bfi and take a look at their (now six years old) “best brit telly evah!!!11!” survey and be amazed by how much of it you’ve never seen.

    An interesting offshoot: the bfi list was voted on by members of the TV industry, but when the poll was released, the British public were asked to send in their favourite programs. The result was rather intriguing:

    Your favourite programme: poll results

    When the bfi TV 100 was released, we asked you to vote for your favourite British Television programme, whether it was listed in the TV100 or not.

    The surprise winner of your poll was Blake's Seven (BBC1, 1978-1981), not listed in our tv 100. Read more about this unjustly neglected science fiction series from the seventies.

    Doctor Who (always the bridesmaid...) came in at number two, followed by Only Fools and Horses, hotly argued over in our discussion forums. As Time Goes By (BBC1, 1992- ), in fourth place, was another no-show from the 100, as were, tailing your list, The Goodies, Prisoner, Sherlock Holmes, Press Gang, Are You Being Served and Red Dwarf.

    Many thanks to all those who voted.

    Programme Votes cast %
    Blake's Seven11324.9
    Doctor Who7316.1
    Only Fools and Horses275.9
    As Time Goes By265.7
    The Goodies255.5
    Granada's Sherlock Holmes143.1
    Press Gang132.9
    Red Dwarf112.4
    Are You Being Served51.1

    I call shennanigans. Clearly a plot by SFX to get Blake and Avon listed. Press Gang should have been higher. It should have been on the grown-up table, damn it!

    Category: Computing and Web

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    A UK perspective on "The Carmela Problem"

    Inspired by a post at Dead Things on Sticks. Read it.

    Done? Hello, this is the voice of Britain.

    UK audiences are quite used to seeing actors turn up in all sorts of places, and stop paying it any mind after a while. Certainly, I see the same faces all over the place - some actors, such as Martin Clunes, Tamsin Outhwaite, Ray Winstone, Julie Walters, and David Jason are pretty much ubiquitous. David Jason is currently portraying detective Jack Frost, a role he developed while still regularly playing Derek Trotter. While he will probably always be best known as the Peckham entrepreneur, it’s worth bearing in mind that he also inhabited Pop Larkin during Only Fools and Horses’ run, and was still playing Granville when that started. It’s not difficult to keep them all separate in my head. Ronnie Barker starred alongside Jason in Open All Hours whilst at the same time playing a thoroughly different character to that show’s Arkwright in Porridge, proving, I think, that it's characters people take to their hearts more often than actors.

    In fact, separating actor from character is something we've become very practised at in the UK, not because the available pool of talent is so small we have to reconcile ourselves to familiarity, but because we love to demystify celebrity. Personally, I blame panto - one day you’re Gandalf the White, the next, Widow Twankey, chucking sweets at screaming kids. As long as one performance is sufficiently different from the other, it doesn't matter if they come days apart. Of course, it takes a very skilled actor to create this differentiation, but that's the point isn't it, and the contradiction; the best actors, and the most recognised, are those who excel at making themselves anonymous. Their anonymity is the key to their employment, and the barrier to their marketability.

    When Denis talks of the difficulty of building a show’s identity in people's minds, when all the cast can be seen regularly in other roles, he gives me the impression that he’s associating identity with long-term survival, and a static, exclusive cast with marketability. This is alien to me. Right or wrong, TV in the UK is designed to be disposable; questions of longevity, or “what would the hundredth episode be,” are never raised in a culture that doesn't expect to produce more than, say, thirty episodes of even the best shows. Still we produce one memorable drama or comedy after another, and whether or not they find root in the public consciousness has little to do with the exclusivity of their casts. Therefore, identity has to be predicated on something other than faces. Add to this my belief that we do particularly well in not typecasting people, at least not the talented actors, then it should follow that new portrayals are rarely perceived through the lens of those that came before.

    Thinking of it, it seems our most tenacious shows are those that find ways to outlive their casts and develop their own personalities. Doctor Who has had ten leads now, and who knows how many companions. The door doesn't finish closing on one set of Spooks before the next lot come in. Taggart hasn't had a character called Taggart in it since 1993. And yet tune into any of these, or Eastenders or Coronation Street for that matter, and you pretty much know what you're going to get. Compare lists of regulars in Casualty, The Bill, and Monarch of the Glen over three year intervals, and you'll see few repetitions. But the shows survive, and remain identifiable.

    The very fact that we don't regard actors as key to a show's national adoption, and that they have the freedom to stretch their wings is a good thing. Although it can sometimes result in unwelcome overexposure (Ross Kemp, Neil Morrisey, Amanda Holden, I am most definitely not looking at you), the ability of actors to move around, be in three shows a year, not stick at anything for long, is what has allowed some of our best loved and culturally resonant shows to develop their defining characteristics.

    Category: Movies and TV

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    The sky, it has fallen

    Hacks are one thing, but Apple releasing software that allows users to run XP on Intel Macs?

    And then making it part of the next OS release?


    Category: Computing and Web

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Happy birthday, D Kelly

    David Kelly turns 50 today, and I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him the very best of health.

    On this singular day in history, 1956, Mr Kelly, one of America’s most successful television producers, was born. Put him in a room today with Dan Simmons, Hugo Weaving, Maya Angelou, Graham Norton, Robert Downey Jr, Heath Ledger, David Blaine and Jamie Lynn Spears and you can bet they’d have a hell of a party.

    And you can open the door to that party for me, while you’re at it.

    It’s my thirtieth birthday.

    How is that possible? What the hell happened to my twenties? Where went the time spent travelling the world, taking part in extreme sports, having sex with interesting women and getting high on a variety of drugs? I am now an old fuck. “The days have come down in the west, behind the hills, into shadow.”

    Apologies to all the other old fucks out there.

    Another quote from Dead Long Enough:

    Picture this: a box of matches. And each one of those matches represents a full-on Saturday night. Approximately 52 per box. Scritch-woosh!

    How many boxes have you got left? Really? How many real, proper, right-through-the-night, ready-for-romance Saturday bashes do you expect to have this month? This year. Look at the boxes arranged on your bedroom shelf. Not long ago, not more than a couple of years ago, you had so many that you never even thought about counting them. And now, and now: a slim pile. How will you feel when you start on the last one, and know it is all for real? And don’t even think about trying to store them up for later, because it is a damp old world we live in, and if you wait too long you might easily find that when you take your long hoarded box of Saturday nights, all dressed up and thinking at last at last at last, now I am the person I always planned to be, here comes the pay-off, now I can get out there and... you find that all you can do is scrape your saved up time pathetically away with barely a feeble flare.

    You use it, you lose it. You don’t use it, you lose it. Who said anything about fair?

    Can it be too late to learn to never, ever hesitate to set shit on fire?

    Category: Meatspace

    Monday, April 03, 2006


    But the doctor does.

    What do you think happens when people with nothing better to do start messing about with BT’s Tom Baker SMS to landline service? Joycore covers of Common People and How Soon is Now, that’s what.

    Absolute time wasting genius.

    via Paul Cornell.

    Category: Computing and Web

    Saturday, April 01, 2006

    Who by ear

    Is anyone familiar with Big Finish’s series of Doctor Who audio adventures? If so, could you recommend any? I’ve already listened to Loups-Garoux and A Natural History of Fear, and been very impressed, so now I want more.

    I hear that Spare Parts and Jubilee are very well-regarded. What other stories should I track down? And which should I avoid?

    Category: Movies and TV