Friday, March 21, 2008

Goodbyes

In a week that the world lost Anthony Minghella, Arthur C Clarke, Paul Schofield, Mr Barraclough and Captain Birdseye I also learned of the death of my old university friend Tim Hogbin.

I hadn't seen Tim for about six years - that's life - but always thought that one day, next time I was down in London, I'd give him and a few people a call and catch up.

Too late.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time for humble pie

Oh, feck. Tonight’s Torchwood (the one on BBC Three, not the carnie one) was really, really good. There may even have been a tiny tear or two.

Damn you, Torchwood, and your vexing inconsistency!

Thoughts on recent telly

Now that The Fixer has had two episodes to show me its stuff, I’ve concluded I like it. It's apparent that Ben Richards has had to comply with some idiotic network notes, which leads me to worry that maybe all is not well behind the scenes. If one season is all we end up getting of this enjoyable action show, then that would be a shame. Kudos have successfully updated the classic ITC formula, and tried to bring some quality hour long drama back to ITV. I really, really want it to succeed.

For those that haven't seen it, which seems to be quite a lot of you, judging by the ratings, The Fixer focuses on a group of extra-legal operatives, headed up by the modestly intimidating Lenny Douglas. An ex-copper, Lenny claims to be secretly funded by the State and tasked with controlling and manipulating the criminal underworld. Our window into his operation is John Mercer, an ex-soldier who murders his aunt and uncle in the teaser and then calmly calls the police. Mysteriously granted early release from prison, he soon learns that liberation comes with a price - that he join Lenny’s team as an assassin. Having swapped one sentence for another, Mercer now needs to find a way to enjoy the few freedoms he's granted. So far those include playing with his sister's kids and shagging beauticians. Such an unhappy lot he has!
 
It could all be very good stuff, as long as ITV leave it well enough alone.
 
Sticking with ITV for the moment, the second season of Primeval ended a few weeks ago, and if there was ever a show whose reach exceeded its grasp, this is it. It's nonsense. I really can't bear to watch it, and yet I do anyway, if only to see how they're going to throw away their premise this week. Season Two tried to come back BIGGER, BOLDER, BADDER, but limped its way through six episodes, desperately trying to prove it was actually about something other than it’s unconvincing CGI, by throwing in a half-assed conspiracy plot. Douglas Henshall looked more angst-ridded on a weekly basis, and Hannah Spearitt didn’t prance around in her pants enough. Season Three is already a goer,and is bound to be more of the same.
 
Sigh, what else? The Last Enemy, the BBC's big polit-thriller for 2008, failed to ignite despite the combined talents of Robert Carlysle and Max Beesley, and was sadly very dull indeed. No-one who writes about it fails to mention Benedict Cumberbatch’s wonderful name, presumably because they can find nothing to say about his expressiveness.
 
Torchwood. Torchwood, Torchwood, Torchwood. After a competent start to the new season, you seemed to be on a roll. Except for Meat, which was rubbish; irredeemable even by a face-tasering Ianto. You killed Owen! Hurray! But then you bought him back from the dead, and I had to forcibly asphyxiate myself because I couldn’t stand it.

Owen the Foul, a creepy rapey twunt who deserved a horrible TV death more than anyone I can think of, is finally done away with. Did you think anyone would be upset? No, we were all cheering! Then you bought him back to life and made him miserable. Did you think we’d care? No, we wanted him to be dead again. And cremated. And nevermore spoken of from this day forth. Then - then, sweet Jesus make this painful storyline stop, you had him come to terms with his unfeeling resurrected existence and thought we'd be pleased for him. No, I have not missed the bitter parallel of Jack living forever and Owen being dead forever, you just made a shitty job of it, you stupid, stupid TV show.
 
Remote control go “click.” And here we are with Kudos again. There's nothing wrong with Ashes to Ashes. I love the production values, and the performances, and actually think the toe-rag of the week storylines are more effective and better integrated into the fantasy than those in Life on Mars, but for some reason, the show can’t connect with me in the same way as its parent. I don't know if it's the locations, the year, the protaganist, or what, but Ashes to Ashes has yet to really strike a chord with me.
 
Like pretty much everyone else, I fell in love with Being Human. I thought it was brilliant both in concept and execution, but don't imagine for a second it will be back. It was just too promising. Although is anyone else shocked by the number of vampires in Bristol? What could possibly be the cause?
 
Ah, so much disappointment and compromise. Thank heavens, then, for Skins; improbably the most perfect show on telly right now. And Cranford, which I missed, but am catching on DVD. It's brilliant!
 
I am also extra impressed with Portal. It may not be telly, but it’s all on the same screen so there. Portal is a triumph of small-scale storytelling. And with me not being able to play Burnout without starting to hyperventilate, it satisfies my game craving like nothing else.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Write-off

Leicester was great, although I am the worst networker ever. I think I spoke to about six people all day. And fell off the smoking wagon. Hard. My chest hurts.
 
The whole day was valuable, but I’ll single out Jed Mercurio’s closing keynote for special comment, because it was so straightforward,  honest, and cynically hilarious. Much like Bodies.
 
An inspirational day.
 
But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about what happened afterwards.
 
I got lost off the Fosse Way on the way home from Leicester. Somewhere between here and there, I hope I never quite remember, there is a Hell Town of Cthonic loyalties called Brinklow. Like Strangehaven, there is only one road in and out. You can take it as many times as you like, but will always find yourself back in Brinklow before the town’s lights have vanished from your rear-view mirror.
 
Driven to frustration and insanity; approaching Brinklow for the fourth time, a DARK POWER forced my car to clip a kerb. The tire burst, the wheel collapsed, the car span across lanes. Moments later, I was deposited in a ditch, surrounded by broken glass and branches, rain pouring through my missing windows.
 
Miraculously, I was unharmed. I called my dad to come pick me up, and the breakdown guys to bear my car away. Throughout the  wait, I was lucky enough to be cared for by three lads on their way to a friend's eighteenth. They kept me warm in their car, and plied me with fags and booze, at the expense of a waiting chip supper. A motorway maintenance crew turned up, and we pulled the car out of the ditch onto the road. I was feeling pretty good, but my soul was in mortal peril. The town was surely seducing me by sending its agents to “help”. At that very moment, my dad was driving blindly around Warwickshire, unable to locate Brinklow or me. I swear I saw him drive right by me twice, and never slow down or look my way.
 
After a couple of hours the breakdown truck arrived, and somehow dispelled Brinklow's eerie hold. In quick succession my dad arrived, and my guardians, Gus, Andy and A.N Other (sorry, I can't remember), melted into the night. Sadly for my dad's car, I was so pumped with adrenaline, I pulled the door handle clean off trying to get in. The reason for his navigational confusion was less sinister than I imagined: he wasn't under an evil spell at all, he was just shitfaced after watching the rugby all afternoon.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Field Trip

At a little after seven o'clock (ye Gods!) tomorrow morning, I will be heading off up the Fosse Way to Leicester, to attend De Montford University's TV Writers' Day.

Anyone else going? If I read this press release, issued on Monday, correctly, there may still be some places left. If you'd like to go and chat-up the likes of Kate Rowland and Jed Mecurio (and meet me, you lucky devils), it could well be worth your while calling 0116 250 6470.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What the frak is going on?

Is the so-called “Golden Age of Television” winding down? With The Sopranos gone, The Wire on the way out, and Lost and Battlestar Galactica quite publicly announcing their planned endings, it seems so.

Galactica’s fourth and final season kicks off on April 4th. Don’t know if the whole repeated four thing was intentional, but hey, it’s a nice birthday present for me.

Sci-fi are running a re-cap of seasons 1-3 on their site, but if you’re not in North America, forget about trying to watch. Instead, just go to YouTube, to catch up on the last five years in eight minutes.

Better still, just hit play:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You spin me round, round, baby right round.

I got outbid on that PS3 in the end. Rather a good thing to be honest; I didn't really want one. No, what I really wanted was an X-Box 360, so on Sunday I shod the Peugeot and cantered into Oxford to buy a sexy black Elite. I have no shame in admitting that, moulded from Satan's turds as he may be, I would gladly lick Bill Gates' vinegary nerd balls for having birthed this miracle of modern engineering (yes, I can say that with a straight face, and will continue to until lassooed by the Red Ring of Death). An unholy love has been consummated this week between man and machine, mostly to the thumping, trance-like strains of RezHD.

I love X-Box Arcade. I love how it's made Symphony of the Night available for a paltry £6.80. I love the spruced-up Prince of Persia Classic. I love being able to download HD movie rentals (okay it's not true HD: it's got the pixels but lacks the bit-rate, but it's still a whole lotta lovin better looking than a DVD).

I adore that with a tiny £10 app I can stream photos, music and videos off my iMac straight onto my telly, and that torrented TV shows look ace, upscaled and post-processed.

I haven't yet jumped into the waters of X-Box Live, but my Gamertag is Marston1604, should I ever take the plunge and you're hanging around, looking for a n00b's ass to kick.

I'm happy enough offline though. In fact, with Burnout, I am in Paradise.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

American Gods online

So the result of the poll to put one of Neil Gaiman’s books online to celebrate his seventh blogoversary is in.

The winner is American Gods, which is disappointing, as I recall thinking the book somewhat unremarkable. A re-read might change my mind; however, I won’t be taking the opportunity online, cos Harper-Collins e-reader is atrocious.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Going? Gone.

Sometimes I get the horn so badly, I have to spend a lot of money. Which doesn’t mean what you think it means, but would probably be better if it did. In fact, I’m considering a spot of Amsterdam sex-tourism in the near future, if Chippy can’t start presenting me with options. I’ve even looked at flights.

But that’s not what I’m talking about right now.

I’ve subsumed my aching libido in eBay and Telebids, taking part in dozens of auctions, and spending money on - in some cases quite literally and idiotically - nothing.

Oh, and FYI, FFS, etc, it is auction, and not “oktion.” I don’t care if it is for charity and the auctioneer’s famous.

Shit, I might be about to win a PS3. Oh Gods, what have I done? Why did I bid?

I should have had a wank instead.