Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Terrible twos

June-August 2005: new blogs are springing up all over the shop, the scribosphere (coinage courtesy of Craig Mazin, ici, lest we forget) in chaotic, fractal bloom. Within this primordial gunk, a frightening future takes hold.

Ars Memoriae opens its doors on 27th June, 2005, with a eulogy, and just as swiftly closes them again. Later, it will return as The Light, It Hurts, a focussed, lean and single-minded screenwriting blog. Much later. Maybe tomorrow.

For two years I have wittered away, prevaricating, procrastinating, and pettifogging, and done so in sterling company. To all my readers, especially those of you kind enough to leave me comments, buy me drinks and put me up, my thanks, although why did you have to go and encourage me? If you’d ignored me, I’d have gone away and done something more useful.

So, two more years? Anyone else up for that? Let’s keep the party going.

The way we were:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Beside the seaside

Hey-ho, I'm off to Brighton for the weekend. I'll be taking my anti-rash cream because I'm spending the next two and half days rubbing up against bearded hippies at the Co-operatives' Congress. As it's June, and I'm heading down to the coast, I have also packed for hurricanes, gales, earthquakes, eruptions and the Rapture.

See you on Monday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

To steal a title from Ken Levine

If The Sopranos were on a major network:

New blogs

Well, two new ones and a third that’s been around for months, but remained so far under the radar it’s currently ranked 1,578,274th place with Technorati. Which is a shame, because it’s fab. So, in descending order of seniority (which means the newest one goes first, I think. Right?):

What It’s Like - Lisa Klink, writer for Painkiller Jane, Missing, Roswell, ST: Voyager, the upcoming Flash Gordon and bounteous others blogs about notes, typecasting, the room, agents and more, in order to pump yet more high grade advice into these junkie veins. Thanks to Maggie for this fix.

Eventually we’re going to have to stop taking advice and just do something.

Anyone writing a pilot will find lots to ponder in Running WIth My Eyes Closed by Jill Golick, a blog all about, er, pilots, damn it. This is a real “nuts and bolts” blog. Read it if you want to know how todays scripts are being put together. That one came from Denis.

My pick of the bunch though, has to be Seriocity. Kay Reindl (Millenium, Dead Zone), who hates Heroes, likes The Veils and mocks her comment section, gives us the lowdown on staffing season, writing pilots, Hollywood hacks, and TV critics who hate TV. She writes about three posts a month. They’re usually quite long. And ranty. So ranty. I like.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fuck, that hurts

Playing football tonight, I felt the familiar friction burn that signals the stretch and tear of a new blister. Post-game, in the changing room, I noticed this one was something special. I have, quite simply, flayed my big toe. An area of toe a little larger than a fifty pence piece no longer has any skin on it at all, and is all raw meat and exposed nerves. It’s really really painful.

UPDATE - news from the "got off lightly" desk: one of the opposing players actually broke his foot yesterday. Does this sound like a friendly five-a-side kickabout to you? Or more like a game of Jugger?

Utopia

Do I even need to say anything? Really? Come on, I know you felt it too.

Fucking masterful.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Human on the inside

Like I've said, I’m not too cut up about Veronica Mars’ demise. Really, I’m over it. Done. What does still tick me off though, nine years later, is that Cupid was cancelled. Damn them, how could they?

Rob Thomas’ Olympian TV Rom-Com starred a hyperactive, phenomenal Jeremy Piven as “Trevor Hale,” a psychiatric patient who claimed to be the Greek God of Love, exiled to Earth until he could match 100 couples. Show!Killer! (to borrow the lingo) Paula Marshall played Dr Claire Allen, his psychiatrist, and relationship councillor.

Trevor believes in animal attraction, and lust at first sight. Claire runs a singles group and advises her sad sack attendees and hangers-on to write compatibility lists and wait for Mr/Miss Right.

Wacky high-jinks ensue. The show skillfully hedged it’s bets on whether Trevor was deity or ding-bat, was a pure joy, not watched, and quickly cancelled. It’s never been released on DVD and most likely never will be. Rob Thomas himself has had to buy pirated copies from E-Bay. Me, I got ‘em for free using Azureus, but each to his own.

Tonight I felt like wallowing for a while, and dug out my ancient copies, digitised from some anonymous viewer’s VHS. Whoever you were, I salute you. The best part of a decade, low resolution, and bad tracking cannot sour Cupid’s blend of quickfire cynical wit and sweet, romantic storylines. That the two leads have a chemistry you could taste 20 feet from your TV (raspberry and pistachio) only makes the experience richer. If you never got the chance to see this, and one day have the opportunity, don’t pass it up. It could be love.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"One thing you can never say...that you haven't been told."

First thought, after that cut to black: T got iced.

Second thought, while taking a slash: way too obvious.

Third thought, watching again: Chase couldn’t have visualised his condemnation of this fucking poisonous family any better, or come up with a sentence more cruel, if he’d had another eight years.

That was one cold finale. Right now, Tony Soprano is simultaneously both dead and alive; because the episode went to black when it did, he always will be.

That goddamn cat.

WWDC

Today is the day and this is the hour. Steve Jobs has just come on stage in San Francisco, and for the next hour and a half will be presenting all the goodies we can expect from 10.5 in October.

Keep up with the Leopard announcements, and much more, here.

A BIT LATER - Guess which new feature this is promoting (from MacRumors' live coverage):

Now Phil [Schiller] puts his mouth on the face of Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) - sticks his tongue out, and the crowd loves it


EVEN LATER - Sadly, the commentary was the best part of the presentation. Later on, even the Safari 3 Beta would suck.

Considered opinion: Lame

La-la-la, I'm not listening

Don't nobody mention The Sopranos 'round me today until after eight tonight. I'm staying away from the web 'till then.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nerd Alert

NetNewsWire and Camino, probably the most used apps on my laptop, both had huge upgrades this week - Camino gets a raft of new features, and NNW a whole new look. Both have been available as previews for several months, but now they're official it's time to take a closer look.

Over the years, I had gotten used to Camino as the browser that offered much and delivered little. The prospect of a browser that truly integrated with the OS was like the offer of a branch to a drowning man in the early days of OSX, when we all had IE5 ties to our ankles. But due to members of its tiny development team continually being snatched away to work on rival products, Camino (nee Chimera) took time to grow. Early releases were fast, but lacking in features, and for a long time it was more a proof of concept than a useful application.

Fits and starts would better describe its progress than leaps and bounds. It was only last year, in the nightly preview builds, that it's abilities began to catch up with its ambitions, and I've been happily using pre-release versions since October.

Today it stands as the best browser on the platform -- if you've been using Safari or Firefox on a Mac, then for your computer's sake, take a look at Camino. Like Safari, it makes use of many of OSX's system wide features, such as the built-in dictionary, Keychain, Address Book and Bonjour, but also includes some of the big ticket items from Firefox, such as session saving and type ahead find. It has the best bookmark management of all the browsers I've tried, and its ad-blocking is second to none. Camino has grown up to be more useful than Safari, and prettier than Firefox, and you should definitely try it out.



Like Safari and Firefox, Camino can also detect RSS feeds, but unlike its rivals, has no way of displaying them. Instead it hands off the detected feed to a nominated desktop reader, such as Vienna, NewsFire or NetNewsWire. That's fine by me, as I find Firefox's live bookmarks and Safari's RSS to be severely limited.

I don't know about you, but I - like, I suspect, most bloggers - have a heck of a lot of feeds that I read most days, and need some way of keeping them tidy. NetNewsWire has been my reader of choice for years. I've tried the shiny others, but every time I've come slinking back to Brent Simmons’ masterpiece, begging forgiveness and wondering what I was thinking.

When version three was released this week, with a huge interface overhaul, I grabbed it. On starting it up, I was immediately worried that something had gone horribly wrong, because contra to reports of it being much faster than the previous version, it slowed my system to a crawl. What I should have realised was that indexing 50,000 news items is hardly a walk in the park for Spotlight. Yep, Spotlight can now search for news items and open them in NNW.

Once finished with the indexing, the bloody thing ran like a greased hare. NetNewsWire 3 is fast. Among it's new features are:

        •        Growl notifications when feeds update
        •        support for Microformats, allowing you to add events to iCal
        •        iPhoto integration that lets you send images from feeds straight to your library
        •        a small one, but new subscriptions can be placed directly into a group
        •        eye candy like "Cover Art," vertical tabs with thumbnails, and a nice full-screen mode.



All in all, an excellent update of an already essential app.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blue Mars

Finally forced myself to sit down and watch the last two episodes of Veronica Mars - most likely the final episodes of the series. I wish I could say I’d been looking forward to them, but I‘d been disappointed in Season Three as a whole. The two major arcs of the campus rapist and murdered Dean simply didn’t hold my interest, and the writing felt tired; sometimes forced, other times rushed.

Following the lengthy two month hiatus, I hadn’t planned to come back for the final five episodes at all, but for the sake of completion, fired up Weevils Wobble But They Don’t Go Down, and quickly followed it up with The Bitch is Back. They were good. Really good. A Trip to the Dentist good.

But - most likely - they came too late into a struggling season to save the show. Though a fourth season of Veronica Mars as we know it is almost certainly bound not to happen, there is as yet no word on whether that whore Rob Thomas will be able to bring back Veronica, retooled as an FBI cadet. Here’s hoping that Thomas finds some way to continue Veronica’s story, because these most recent episodes have proved beyond doubt that there is still life in Mars.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lordy, not another milestone

This is my 300th post. What a momentous day! Break out the Jura, I feel the need of a wee snifter.

Hello, 212.84.127.101

You’re from Liverpool, your ISP is NDO, and you came here searching for “Jekyll trailer on BBC1.“

And you are our 30,000th visitor.

The suspense is killing me

Current visitor count stands at 29,999. Whoever you are, reading this right now, HIT REFRESH. You won’t win anything. I probably won’t even say thanks.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Canadians

You guys. You complain a lot about the state of your TV industry, and for all I know it may be as big a shambles as you make it out to be. Nevertheless, I can slouch here with my hand more or less where I remember my heart to be and swear to you that we have aired nothing of the calibre of Durham County, Intelligence, or Slings and Arrows in the last twelve months.

That’s some first rate work, right there. God knows what you guys could do if you got your shit together.

For the unaware, Durham County, the most recent of the above, is a dark and twisted sado-sexual thriller taking place in a godforsaken bleached landscape. The constant and subliminal thrum of a thousand power lines permeates the characters’ lives; keeping them up at night, sending them into hallucinatory reveries, and from there into a frenzy of sexual paranoia and violence. It’s Midsomer Murders gone horribly, horribly wrong, and it’s magnificent.

Luckily, all the talk is already of a second season. This is great news. There is only one episode left of the current run, and it looks as though Season Two can only open with all the characters driven to madness, despair and rage. Just the way I like it. Suffer, little puppets; suffer and burn!

Also to be renewed is Intelligence, the second season of which is due to start in October. Here’s a little bit of Chris Haddock showing us one of his big boards (with credit to Diane):

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In addition...

One thing you might have noticed about yesterday’s listing of new shows (and, Robin, you’ve convinced me. I’ll give 4400 another go) : apart from Meadowlands, which is a Channel Four/Showtime co-production, they are all American. Where’s the homegrown love? English Dave has written a lot lately, and anecdotally, about how fewer and fewer people seem to be seeking out UK telly to watch. Everyone wants House and CSI, no-one’s interested in Casualty and Holby Blue.

Which is understandable, really. My experience matches English Dave’s, in that very few of my peers are interested in British shows. They all use Bittorrent and buy DVD’s, so they’ve got nothing against the format. They just think the UK programmes and the delivery suck.

Ofcom release a communications market report each summer, and one of the salient facts from last year’s was:

There is...evidence of a significant difference in communications usage patterns between young adults and the general population: for example, 16-24 year olds spend on average 21 minutes more time online per week, send 42 more SMS text messages, but spend over seven hours less time watching television. (My emphasis).


From another section:

At the same time, this age group has embraced online communication activities – our research shows that 70% of internet users aged 16-24 have used social networking websites (compared to 41% of the general population), with over half doing so on a weekly basis. They are also much more likely to contribute content: 37% of 18-24 year olds have posted material online (compared to 14% across all age groups), while close to one in five have their own website or blog (section 3.4.17 discusses this in greater detail).

The drop in listening and viewing hours of young adults is probably also partly explained by their higher ownership of most new technologies than the population as a whole. For example, over half own a games console and / or an MP3 player and they also appear to have a higher propensity to consume in an innovative manner; 38% of young adults view TV over their PCs, compared to only 24% of all individuals (Figure 1.29).


There are more frightening figures on this page.

Anyway, I initially wanted to write about a completely different frightening figure and got completely sidetracked, so forgive me for the awkward segue back to the point.



No British shows in my list, but there is one at least I will be watching. Starting June 16 - Jekyll. This is Stephen Moffat’s modern “sequel” to R.L. Stevenson’s classic chiller, starring James Nesbitt (of the ludicrously inconsistent Murphy’s Law), Gina Bellman (from Moffat’s Coupling), Denis Lawson (Bleak House) and Michelle Ryan (soon to be seen leaping across rainy LA/Vancouver rooftops as The Bionic Woman). With Moffat in control I expect nothing less than sheer brilliance - certainly a better showing than January’s Dracula. A preview is viewable here, brief behind the scenes piece here. You’ll need Realplayer for both.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Summer premieres

So the US networks' September-June season is done. In my absence from the blog we’ve witnessed the long goodbye of Veronica Mars, and the 200mph departure of Drive. In a week, The Sopranos’ll go out on a high note at HBO, and you might be wondering just what you’ll be watching next.

Well, there’s a whole slew of shows premiering in the coming weeks: a couple of new kids on the block, some old and dear friends, and a couple of other poor sad specimens I don’t have the heart to break it off with.

As they come, then:

June 10 - John From Cincinnati (HBO)
        the show with more to prove than most. Who wouldn’t rather have a new season of Deadwood, hmmm? But it’s Milch, so you can bet I’ll be right there.

June 11 - Big Love (HBO)
        I really liked what I saw of Big Love’s first season, but for some reason I never actually finished it.

June 11 - Kyle XY (ABC Family)
        there aren't many family dramas whose lead pisses himself, gets inappropriate boners and sleeps in a bath, so when one comes along, it's worth watching.

June 13 - Rescue Me (FX)
        fourth season. Why have I not even watched 1-3 yet? They’re sitting here on DVD, so what exactly is putting me off?

June 17 - Dead Zone (USA)
        I bailed during season four, and didn't go back for five, as they were in fact the same production block, with many of the season five episodes having been shot before a lot of the season four ones, which is not quite the sort of prognostication this show is known for. USA are promising a big shakeup, so I'll check this out, I think.

June 17 - The 4400 (USA)
        Dropped like a hot potato last year (what’s going on, USA?). It was boring. Really. Might look in on the premier if - nah, forget it, we’re through, 4400! Take that long, mopey face somewhere else, girlfriend.

June 17 - Meadowlands (Showtime)
        Co-pro between our own Channel Four, and pretender to HBO’s crown Showtime. I haven't seen any promos for this on C4 yet, but then I can't remember the last time I watched anything on actual telly. Showtime don't let you into their site if you're not in the US, so all my info is from Wikipedia:

Meadowlands is a television drama series which focuses on a family trying to escape its past while confronting an even more uncertain future. The series picks up as Danny (David Morrissey) and Evelyn Brogan (Lucy Cohu) along with their two teenage kids enter a witness protection program and are moved to a bucolic neighborhood, Meadowlands, to begin a new life. Picturesque and crime-free, Meadowlands appears to be a suburban paradise where the Brogan family can begin to start a new life. But they soon realize that it's not so easy to escape the past and their safe haven becomes a world of paranoia and psychological intrigue with surprises around every corner.


I think I saw Broadcast give this a pretty firm nod a couple of weeks ago, as well. Sounds like it’s worth checking out.

UPDATE - Apparently Meadowlands will be known as Cape Wrath over here, and will be showing on Four from July.

All this, and I still need to make time for season two of Rome, The Riches, and Mushishi (dudes, I have been in anime overload lately - any of you ever seen Noein? Hot damn! If Alan Garner were Japanese and read X-Men, this would be the result).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

And so it continues

First trailer for the D2DVD Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales. Here’s hoping it’s more like the original series than much of what came after. I’d like to see this do well.



I sounded rather cool and objective above, didn’t it? I’m actually quite geekily excited! Yay!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Family of Blood

Doubtless Good Dog would disagree, but tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, along with last week’s lead-in, totally justified my license fee.

David Tennant’s turn as 1913 schoolmaster John Smith, his innocence shredded by the realisation of who he really was, and had to become once more:

I'm John Smith! That's all I want to be! John Smith. With his life. And his job... And his love. Why can't I be John Smith? Isn't he a good man? Why can't I stay?


was heartbreaking. And his final scene with equally capable Jessica Hynes turned me into mush.

And let’s not even go anywhere near the horror of his retribution...a lot of the Doctor’s actions in this story really were quite questionable, even if they sprung from an initial desire to be merciful.

Awesome on every level. A fantastic adaptation (the original novel is available to download here, along with Cornell’s notes on turning it into a TV story). A great character study. Brilliant baddies (wasn’t Will Scarlett terrific?). Deserving of a Hugo. Give this show to Paul Cornell when Russell Davis leaves.

At long loooong last

Three years after the release of Season Two on DVD, Sony finally get around around to putting The Shield’s third season onto WH Smiths’ shelves.

One of my all time favourites, The Shield has never had a weak season, and although the third is perhaps not the best when viewed on its own, pretty much everything in successive seasons built on elements introduced here (although ultimately, everything comes back to Terry). This is where we first meet Mara, cat strangling Dutchboy, and where the seeds of Lem’s eventual destruction are sown. And of course, who can forget Acevada’s grim sexual assault, the repercussions of which are still playing out in the latest, sixth, season?

The set comes with all the special features of the Region 1 release, which means plenty of great commentaries, but also the acclaimed documentary “Breaking 315,” an eighty minute masterpiece taking us into the heart of the writers’ room as they break each of the six stories featured in this episode, and which also takes us into casting sessions, on set, and into the editing room. Highly educational viewing.

Like the previous Region 2 releases, the episodes are presented in widescreen, which is very strange to go back to after watching recent, downloaded, episodes in 1.33:1. The full-screen ratio is showrunner Shawn Ryan’s preferred, as it was Joss Whedon’s in the case of Buffy, and yet the studio have gone their own way here, as Fox did with the Buffy sets (additionally, both shows aired in widescreen when shown on UK telly). I haven’t seen enough of this set yet to know if the wider picture results in abominations like this, from Buffy’s fourth season episode This Year’s Girl:



Yes, that is the camera operator you can see on the far left, for heavens’ sake. If the frame remains free from such atrocities, I’m happy to watch The Shield (and Buffy, on the whole) in widescreen, although I appreciate Ryan and Whedon’s intentions in framing their shows the way they do, and believe those intentions should be honoured. In this case, I’ll happily take what I’m given for the opportunity to watch this fantastic show again, for the first time in three years.

A great release, a long time coming. And as if to make amends for dragging their feet for so long, Sony will be releasing Season Four on the 2nd July, the UK airing of which was the subject of the eighth post in this blog, way back in July 2005, 284 posts ago.