Posts Tagged ‘Drama’

Just a Thought: Desperate Housewives

April 20, 2009

I’d never seen this before, though I recognised some of the actors. Kyle McLaughlin from that Twin Peaks, a lady from the TV series Superman and another one from pictures of her bottom in The Sun, which caused me to look at her face after a while.

My first impression is that it’s complete and utter shit. Everything’s so garish and bright and super-real, like the first twinklings of a hastily consumed microdot at the exact moment you discover all your friends have left you alone in a strange pub. The actors themselves are all clean and symmetrical like children’s painted wooden blocks and the acting follows suit.

Of course, apart from being shit, the look of the show is entirely deliberate. It’s meant to be cod-surreal, a bit ‘weird,’ but the acting is so knowing it completely lacks any subtlety. What wit that may have existed in the first place is condensed unto an unblinking blob of soulless drudgery.

I’m very sure that the makers of this tripe knew they’d cooked a turkey; this is born out in the tooth-grinding score which seeks to emphasis the whole ‘ooh, isn’t this weird’ aspect by employing a pizzicato plinking, plonking string section to imbue every scene with a supposed quirkiness. It’s unbelievably awful. It’s so loud that, even if you wanted to hear the script, your ears have to strain round the pumps of some bored session muso earning his living on his cacky cello.

In one scene the tempo of the score sped up every time the shot featured a male, only to drop to its heartbeat pace when the female mugged into the middle distance. This drone is there all the time; it’s gradually fed into the beginning of scenes and ends them with a self-satisfying ‘plong!’ But it’s also oddly hypnotic and I’m convinced that the incidental music is the key to the programme’s ongoing success.

At first it’s mildly irritating, then it becomes intolerable and all of sudden, your tea is cold and you’ve dribbled all over your pants. The only reason I saw 15 minutes was because I was channel hopping and happened on it. You see, I saw the last 15 minutes; I made it to the end – it was the music that made me do it.

I still don’t understand.

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Just a Thought: Death of Danielle

April 6, 2009

Finally, the soap storyline that seemed to have been limping along for several years  is finally over. Danielle finally popped her clogs last Thursday and that interminable mess of an Eastenders plotline drew its final breath after an almightly, squealing whimper – wafting from the squealing lips of Ronnie Mitchell.

Danielle arrived in the Square back in the 1930s, and since that day we, the viewership, have been left bewildered by the pointlessness of the writers’ insistence on drawing her story out for decades. We ground our teeth to splintered nubs through completely arbitrary occurrences, watched as Danielle’s character was put through the mill for no reason whatsoever and, ultimately, watched her die (in an eerily familiar death scenario) on Thursday with the story unfulfilled and women screaming in the street.

The BBC have received complaints – many of them asking for Danielle to return to the Square (as a zombie, one presumes) – so I’d like to add to the list of complainants with this post.

The heavy handed treatment of the paedophile plotline lasted about three weeks, whilst the tedious comings and goings of what would usually be a minor character dominated every episode, and I’m a little bit miffed.

Can we go back to tattoos on Adam Woodyatt’s arse and Minty trying to get it on with Josie Lawrence as soon as possible, please?

The Friday Question – Soap Yourself

March 13, 2009

Buttercup Lane - image by BP Perry

Buttercup Lane –

Love and Betrayal in a Family-Owned and Run Rural Garden Centre …

Ted Clappers: Maureen?
Maureen Clappers: Yes, Ted?
Ted Clappers: Did you put in that order for more pruning saws? We’re down to our last box.
Maureen Clappers: Yes, Ted. I phoned the supplier this …
Frankie Clappers: Mum, dad … I … I’ve got something to say …
Ted Clappers: What is it, son?
Frankie Clappers: I’m … I’m gay.
Maureen Clappers: Oh my god!
Ted Clappers: You’re what?!
Frankie Clappers: Gay, dad, gay. I like men’s bums.
Ted Clappers: WHAT??
Maureen Clappers: Oh, Frankie! Not in front of the Geraniums!
Frankie Clappers: I’m sorry, mum, but I had to say it. I’ve been gay ever since Julie was killed last year when the terrorists attacked the nursery sheds.
Ted Clappers: This can’t be happening! My son, a woof …
Frankie Clappers: That’s right! I knew you wouldn’t understand, dad! You’re prejudiced! Prejudiced against us gays. Ever since you caught Harry having unnatural relations with Daft Tony and saw what their shenanigans had done to the Chinese Trumpet Creepers, you’ve turned your back on tolerance!
Ted Clappers: It wasn’t YOU what had to shell out for four new palettes of Climbing Hydrangeas, my lad!
Frankie Clappers: It’s always money with you! You’re a monster!
Ted Clappers: How dare you speak to me like that in front of your mother!
Jeb Drudger: Mr. Clappers?
Ted Clappers: Yes, what is it, Jeb?
Jeb Drudger: I’m sorry to interrupt, sir, but that was Jackson’s on the phone …
Maureen Clappers: The suppliers?
Jeb Drudger: Yes, Mrs. Clappers. They … they …
Ted Clappers: Come on, Jeb, spit it out!
Jeb Drudger: They … they can’t deliver your order of Carpet Bugles because there’s been a mix-up at the depot …
Maureen Clappers: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So that’s WWM’s idea for a new soap opera, but what’s yours?

  • Where is it set?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What hot topics will it cover?
  • Will it be a glamorous, Dynasty-style slice of fluff, or will it be a gritty urban drama where everyone’s got The AIDS?
  • Who do you want in it?
  • What era will it be set in?
  • Is there any chance you could give Paul Shane a job in it?

And, most importantly, what’s the soap’s resident dog, and what’s his / her name? Is it a poodle like Roley was, or an Alsation crossed with whatever the hell Wellard was crossed with? Hey, it’s not something like Ethel’s little Willie, is it?

Y’know – a source of endless cock jokes?

WWMers, it’s over to YOU

Survivors (and the need to be beautiful)

December 18, 2008

Well, we’re now several weeks into BBC1’s remake of cheesy 70s Sci-Fi show Survivors, and something’s really started to niggle me. No, it’s not the lack of zombies, or the lack of action or, indeed, the lack of anything happening at all – it’s the lack of growth.

By this I mean face fungus, head-hair, grass, plants, fingernails etc. Nothing’s growing down at Survivor Central … and that defies the laws of nature.

The seven main characters all sport the same coiffured hairstyles they had at the start of the series. The Arab playboy Al looks like he’s just stepped out of the barber’s (even after the Apocalypse, there will be hair wax), the young lad Najid still sports his pageboy crop and the three ladies – Anya, Abby and Sarah – have kept those layers in place remarkably well, all things considered. And best of all, the two grunting alpha males (Greg and the psychotically obvious Tom) have held on to those number two buzz-cuts despite there being no electricity to power the clippers they’d need to keep those hairstyles looking razor-sharp.

That’s not right, surely?

Where’s the beginnings of Greg’s funky ‘fro? How come the ladies haven’t started sporting that alluring ‘just-got-out-of-bed’ look? Where’s Al’s tufts? Did the killer virus that wiped out 99.9% of the earth’s population also put the survivors of said virus in some sort of beauty stasis?

And for that matter, did it do for everything else as well?

Take the house in which the survivors live. They’ve been there for quite a while now, yet the lawns are perfectly manicured. Eh? Grass doesn’t work like that. Am I supposed to believe they’re mowing it?

Alright, fair enough, they’re mowing it … but what about elsewhere? What about the large country house Abby found herself at that was overrun with a pack of Lord of the Flies-style boys? You’re not telling me they’re mowing the lawns, are you? Without their parents to order them to? Come off it!

This sort of nonsense throws a show off balance, and it’s happening more and more these days. There used to be a time when we weren’t so obsessed with looking pretty, and television was all the better for it. Anyone who watched EastEnders in the 1980s will remember the strange – but realistic – sight of the show’s actresses appearing on screen in the morning without their makeup. Spin on twenty years, however, and the show’s women look like they’ve just finished a session at a top-class beauty salon when they arise to face a new day. This has put yet another strain on the viewer’s decreasing sense of the programme’s grounding in the real world.

Another shining example of beauty over authenticity is seen in the BBC’s two treading-water-whilst-Doctor-Who’s-not-on shows, Merlin and Robin Hood. Yes, they’re both shit on so many levels anyway, but I’d wager you’d forgive both programmes at least a little bit if the worlds created for both characters were as authentically grimy as the times they are set in demand.

Sadly, Merlin’s Dark Ages is remarkably free from human excrement being thrown from bedroom windows, rotting donkeys in the streets, open cesspits, plague-infested inhabitants, random acts of bone-crunching violence, stray dogs, rats, cats, fleas, flies, shit, blood, death and misery. Instead, it manages to make the mind-bogglingly idiotic Dark Ages world created for the uber-clean Richard Gere / Sean Connery vehicle First Knight look positively gritty.

And then there’s Robin Hood. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen enough footage of bypass protesters on the news to know that living in a wood is a dirty business in the 21st Century, let alone the 11th. Even a rudimentary knowledge of history will tell you that the olden days were a dirty place to be. Cleanliness didn’t become the norm in Britain until the 19th Century – that’s why I’m writing these words now. If you’d been reading this nine hundred years ago, well, you just wouldn’t be reading them because I’d already be dead. I’d have been picked off by one of the many exciting diseases available to olden days man thanks to his habitat, his food, his water supply and his own body being caked in shit. This, however, didn’t occur to the set and costume designers on Robin Hood, and that’s why the 11th Century created for a 21st Century audience looks suspiciously neat and tidy.

What annoys me about all this is that it’s unnecessary. Audiences, I believe, can accept a bit of reality when it comes to what they’re watching. We wouldn’t, I’m sure, throw our toys out of the pram and turn the TV off in disgust should the cast of Survivors start to look a bit frayed round the edges as the series progresses. We wouldn’t mind if Ronnie looked a bit ropey when she was getting the Queen Vic ready for another day’s trading. We wouldn’t put our foot through the television if Robin Hood or Merlin had to jump over the occasional turd (we’d put that foot through the TV when we started listening to the dialogue instead … and send the BBC the bill!).

By being frightened of the ugly, producers are denying their shows an extra layer that, especially in the cases of Robin Hood and the brutally awful Merlin, they could certainly do with. By ignoring reality in favour of sparkling hairstyles, disinfected surfaces and ultra-bright whites, shows such as Survivors and Merlin miss a trick to inject just that little bit more more believability.

It’s a trick the Pythons didn’t miss in their 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail – they covered their world in shit, and it’s all the more believable for it. An impressive achievement when you consider all that coconut business, eh?

Survivors

November 26, 2008

survivors

Watching BBC One’s shiny new drama Survivors is a strange experience. Having grown up watching the usual glut of zombie movies, I expect to see them jump out at the characters at every turn. You see, the show – which sees a group of people survive a worldwide pandemic that wipes out most of the earth’s population – has all the elements you’d expect of a zombie movie … just no zombies.

It’s weird.

Take last night’s episode for instance. It had a classic zombie movie set-up:

A young boy goes into an empty sweetshop and starts filling his boots with the array of goodies he finds inside. So distracted is he by his good fortune, he doesn’t see the danger lurking in the shadows.

Now, in a zombie movie, the kid would be attacked by a wailing goon and would either be killed, bitten and infected or fight off the zombie using Sherbet Dips and Flying Saucers. The scene would end with the undead monstrosity crashing back into the display cabinets with a packet of Refreshers buried in his head. Job done – move on.

But in Survivors, this is not what happens. Where you’d expect a relentless cadaver raised from the dead, you actually get an old man with a baseball bat. Where you expect lots of screaming and bone crunching and blood ‘n’ guts, you get the old fella pushed into a display stand and then dying. And that’s it.

How shit is that?

Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I should get it out of my head that the armies of the undead are just around the corner? Maybe I should see this show for what it is – a survival story that’s a mildly distracting way to pass the time before the news comes on?

BUT I CAN’T!

Every time I see the characters get out of their cars on an empty motorway, my zombie movie watcher head shouts,

“NO! Get back in the car! The zombies are coming!”

Every time I see the plucky band of survivors go foraging for supplies, the part of me that sees shuffling corpses round every corner bellows,

“WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING IN THERE? DON’T YOU REALISE WHAT’S IN THERE? ZOMBIES, THAT’S WHAT!”

And then sod all happens. It’s really odd.

So, to sum up, if you’ve ever seen a zombie film, or a futuristic mutant film or one of those films where a nuclear war has turned most of the world’s population into flesh-eating, cyberpunk shitbags, then Survivors is a disappointingly anticlimactic experience. If you haven’t seen those sort of films, you’ll probably get on with it. To me, there’s something missing at the show’s heart – something that can only be stopped with a blow to the head.

Or a packet of Refreshers.

Gossip Girl

November 12, 2008

gossip girl

Having just returned from the Americas, I’ve already seen most of ‘Season’ 2 of Gossip Girl.

Jealous?

In your FACE.

For those who’ve never had this rubbish darkening their TV screens, it’s essentially the OC, but this time set in New York. If you never saw the OC (and if that’s the case, I compliment you on your ignorance), that was a show about a supposedly rough kid from The Wrong Side Of The Tracks being forced by circumstances beyond his control to go and live with some rich, posh folks in Orange County. The idea was that drama would arise when a brute with common sense mixed with hedonistic but mannered sophisticates who have bagel toasters in their kitchens and jacuzzis in their bogs.

It didn’t work at all, in execution, as Ryan (the common brute) looked and acted exactly the same as all the other cast, was clearly at home in the plush environs of the super-rich and was indistinguishable from those he was meant to jar against.

It was crap – but for some reason, girls loved it. ‘Enjoyable trash’ is how my better half described it.

Gossip Girl has the same set up, but this time a family of poor people move to New York and, for reasons I haven’t worked out, are forced to mingle with the super-rich. And again the poor family look rich beyond any reasonable doubt. Their appartment is an enormous loft space, they eat huge family meals, Dad used to be a rock star, the young sister is always dressed to the nines and the older brother… well, he deserves his own paragraph. In fact – let’s look at the key players in turn.

Penn Badgely – I’m not making this up – plays Dan Humphrey, the older brother in this apparently poverty-stricken family. He’s the most annoying character currently on TV. He’s an extreme version of Dawson from Dawson’s Creek in that we’re supposed to believe he’s an intellectual because he talks in sentences that don’t seem to end, filled with pseudo-psychological asides and one-liners that you couldn’t possibly come up with spontaneously. Even more infuritatingly, out of nowhere and with no experience, in one episode he found himself writing an article for the New York Times. Because those kinds of experiences just materialise out of nowhere in this fantasy-land. But – to be fair – we know he’s an intellectual before he even opens his mouth because his bookcase is stuffed with books. Books and a smart mouth. It all adds up. Give the lad an article at the NYT!

Chace Crawford – ‘Chace’?! – plays Nate Archibald, a faceless, asexual, blank-canvas of a life-form. His character… is characterless. He generally walks around trying to look moody but ultimately just appears to be in the wrong studio. Opening a door requires deep concentration for this berk.

Leighton Meester – (‘Meester’ being Spanish for ‘Mr’, fact fans) – plays Blair Waldorf. Like the salad. Made of celery, apples, walnuts and grapes, Blair is incredibly good looking and I’ll not have a word said against her.

Blake Lively – and now their real names are starting to freak me out – plays Serena van der Woodsen. I think Serena is meant to be the female lead but the actress who plays her is so anonymous it’s hard to tell. She’s a shrug of a woman. Add to this she looks a good decade older than the other cast members who’re meant to be her age group and she just doesn’t fit in. She’s meant to have lived a wild-and-crazy lifestyle before going dry, so perhaps this accounts for the fact she looks about 43.

Ed Westwick – at last a believable real name – plays Chuck Bass. The only character with any charisma, apart from Blair, Chuck is meant to be a sneaky, slimy sleaze who lives for high times and rutting. He even smokes weed, which for a mainstream show like this means he’s a right royal rebel. In episode one of the first series, Chuck appeared to be attempting to rape someone, but the scriptwriters have happily forgotten about this and now he’s a sympathetic character. Being the better performer of the bunch, he’s obviously going to be played by a British actor – and that makes me glow with pride. I like the way he achieves the smooth-snake look by walking around with his left hand permanently in his left pocket. It’s a clever acting trick used by real actors.

And that’s the main cast list. Any other characters are peripheral and only really there to set up a weekly plot.

The one character I’ve missed off, however, is the one the show’s named after. The eponymous Gossip Girl acts as the continual thread that strands the show together. She’s the supposed keeper of a blog which details the exploits of these movers and shakers, updated with salacious titbits about their actions and photos of them necking.

The problem is, though it might have seemed a good idea at the time, it doesn’t work at all. They’ve tried to copy the Desperate Housewives idea of having someone on the outside looking in and come up short. The Gossip Girl voiceover only acts as a distraction and when it’s not a distraction, it’s a massive annoyance with its affected witticisms and hugely cloying ‘lolspeak’ sign off – ‘you know you love me! X O X O’.

So here’s what they need to do to improve this show if it ever gets a third series.

  • Cut the voiceover.
  • Axe the crappy blog-structure artifice.
  • Get rid of the old woman.
  • Have the pseudo-intellectual Dan horribly maimed onscreen.
  • Have Nate do magic tricks.
  • Turn Chuck into a Roger Moore type smoothie (with an English accent) who always ends up getting it on with Blair at the end. 
  • Make it so that Blair is contractually obliged to be fully naked for half the show’s running time. 
  • Make her do a hula hoop over the end credits.

Only THEN will this show rise above plastic mediocrity.

EX OH EX OH.

Spooks

October 29, 2008

You might not know this, but Spooks is actually based on my life.

When I was at university, I was approached by a mysterious man who identified himself as being from MI5. Of course, we’d all seen him wanking in the bushes outside the girls changing rooms. But he explained that this was merely his cover story.

Anyway, he informed me that for just £10 a week I could join the British Secret Service and serve my country. From then on, I was always aware of a shadowy figure keenly monitoring my every move – especially when I was waiting for my girlfriend outside her keep-fit class on Tuesdays. But enough fascinating espionage stories … to Spooks.

This first episode of series seven saw them killing-off yet another of their main characters, in what is by now standard operating procedure for this show. In addition, an old team member previously thought ‘dead’ is back in the game. There’s hardly any regular characters left now, but we still have:

Adam Carter – that ugly bastard all the girlies drool over. I guess he gets the sympathy shag, poor devil.

Harry Pierce – the stiff-upper-lip head of the team. Underneath we all know he’s just a big loveable jessie.

Malcolm – the techno-geek. A cross between a slightly younger Q and a middle-aged, virgin librarian.

Roz – that scrawny bird who looks and acts like the Predator. Scary and bony and ruthless, she’s pretty convincing as the sort of psychopath who might do this kind of thing in real-life.

Lucas North – The new boy, played by Harry Potter lookalike Richard Armitage. His character has seemingly just spent eight years in a Russian prison. He appears to have spent his time inside getting loads of weird sexuality-bending tatoos all over his body. Like that’s going to help when he goes undercover as a stockbroker. ‘Our cleaner Natasha knows this Chechen warlord, marvelous chap, did them in a weekend. That one above my nipples says “Gullible wealthy twat” apparently. He’s such a character.’ 

Connie Jones – the old rheumy-eyed bird based back at HQ. Very much a nod to John Le Carre and probably the only one who looks and acts like an actual spook does.

Miss/Mister X – back from the dead.

I miss Jenny Agutter. And wee Zoe. And that posh bint that was married to Adam. And Tim McInnery as the evil head of MI6. I don’t miss Tom Quinn though. He was just an annoying bastard and I’m glad he’s dead.

That’s my MI5 training you see. We’re taught not to care. Thankfully, such brutal cold-heartedness comes in handy when reviewing tv shows.

Hokum. But enjoyable enough to see us through the cold November nights.

Sunshine

October 24, 2008


 
What is this massive guilt-trip with working-class people who get famous?

Craig Cash, Steve Coogan, Bernard Hill and the rest of the cast of this maudling, sentimental tripe about the loveable working-classes in the North appear to lose their critical faculties when it comes to this sort of stuff.

I have to confess I only made it through the first episode. But it was clear from the first five minutes what rubbish it was going to be. Steve Coogan plays a loveable family man and gambler called Bob Crosby. ‘Bing’, they call him here in the first of many examples of Royle Family and Early Doors writer Craig Cash running out of ideas.

He sells the television to pay for gambling and spends most of his wages on gambling the week after his wife has given birth to their first baby. Back in real life, this would make him a cunt. But in loveable ‘TV Northland’ its fine because he sings her a song in the lovably working-class club they go to and everyone sings along. ‘What a character he is’, we’re supposed to think. What a load of absolute shite.

I love Steve Coogan as a comedy actor, but he shows his limitations in this and you can see him constantly struggling to reign in his Partridgeisms. Maybe he’d have been better with a decent script. Or a good Director. Or a less misty-eyed ‘how great it is to come from a housing estate in the North’ cast. But that’s all academic. This is just by-the-numbers, condescending rubbish. I can only guess that the people involved in it are now so far removed from their backgrounds that they really believe this is a fair representation of the North. 

TV people love all this sort of shit though. It saves them from ever venturing up there out of curiosity. Of course, there are many very good examples – The Royle Family, Early Doors, some Alan Bennett, some of Alan Bleasdale’s stuff ( though I’ve been watching his stuff again recently and it dates quite badly).

In case you’re wondering, TV Northland includes:

  • A working-man’s pub/social club where people from all ages mingle – like that bar in Star Wars except the females are less attractive.
  • A Coronation Street type street where everyone lives and grew up together.
  • A central character who is going through a tough time but deals with it by displaying his plucky northern sense of humour.
  • A father who is timid but loveable and has a secret. A quite loveable secret. And a shed.
  • A mother who is initially stern but loveable. She secretly knows about both the secret and the shed.
  • Our main character’s loveable best-mate from school. And his wife who is best-mates-from-school with our main character’s loveable wife. Our main character’s loveable wife may well be also be best-mates with our main character’s loveable best-mate from school. ( I hope you’re following all this, it’s important).
  • Someone official who is a cunt. We know he is a cunt because he has a different accent (usually Southern) and wears a shirt and tie. His job is to take away the shed/reveal the secret/break up the loveable working-class friendships.

With the pedigree of the acting and writing involved in this, we really should expect something much much better. I felt patronised enough watching it, and I’m Scottish. I hate to think how I’d feel if I actually came from the North of England.

Stay in your sheds until it clouds over again.