The Stand Episode 1: The Plague

August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm (TV) (, , , , , , , )

The end of the world is just the beginning.

I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but … no promises. : )

In June, I read The Stand (my review of the book is over here, and kept remembering the little bit of the miniseries that I watched back when it aired. I’m a wuss: I can’t do horror.  Can not.  That might be why I never watched the whole thing back in 1994.

At the moment (up till my next payment is about to go through and I change my membership) Netflix is still including free streaming with their subscription (*grumble*), and The Stand is available …

It’s faithful, as is only to be expected given that Stephen King wrote the teleplay.  There goes Campion and family; and there goes 9/10 of the population … I was right, it was all a great deal quicker on TV, as, again, is only to be expected.  There goes New York.  (*shudder*)  There goes the Vermont Center for Disease Control … There are the first cornfield dreams, creepy as only cornfields can be (though the color in Stu’s dream was just odd).  This first episode does a very nice job of creating likeable characters to kill off.  These deaths are (as, yes, is only to be expected) considerably neater than in the original – genteel small pools of liquid (some of which turned out to be spills, not vomit), very little blood, just a horrible mottling of the skin and some random sores.  We don’t see the rotting bodies of Campion’s family, nor the one that will haunt Larry (yet, at least – I just realized that might be to come); there is no corpse with his face in a soup bowl (though there was “Is that Hungarian goulash?”) … There have been no pants-wettings so far, though there was ample opportunity for at least one, for Dr. Dietz.

I’ve read scoffing comments about the conceit that a dead person looks like he’s sleeping; death isn’t sleep and doesn’t resemble it, they say.  It certainly doesn’t look like sleep in The Stand.  Each time someone dies, there is a remarkable transformation: a stiff relaxation of the body, not that that makes much sense, and a striking change in skin color … it’s horrifying.  It’s very well done.

The cast is a kind of mixed bag:

Gary Sinise is great; he’s so young.  I enjoy him, and he’s managing the East Texas shtick well enough.  I doubt I’m going to have any problems with Stu Redman.  It does help that I had him in mind while reading the book.

Molly Ringwald … dark hair doesn’t suit her.  I’m not overwhelmed with her performance, positively or negatively – my attention, to be honest, was on her belly in her first scenes and on her hair throughout.  We’ll see.  There’s much more to come.

Miguel Ferrer seems too strong an actor, too strong a personality to play Lloyd Henreid; I’m not sure I believe him as the character I remember.  Richard Lineback, the actor who played Poke (briefly), would have been ideal, I think.  Again, we’ll see.

Rob Lowe is Nick Andros.  My main thought is that I hope to all the saints that he changes clothes soon; he spends most of the first hour and a half dressed in a plaid shirt and khakis that look too big for him, cinched in at the waist and just … ultra nerdy.  And to reverse the Molly Ringwald quibble, he looks better with darker hair.  It’s early to tell on the performance, as with most of them; he’s pulled out a couple of great expressive expressions.  I’ll reserve judgment.

Apparently he was first considered for Larry, and I think I kept picturing him there (to the extent that even though I said “Hi, Larry” when the car with the DIGYOMAN license plate showed up, I kept thinking who’s that? when Adam Storke was onscreen.) (With Rob Lowe, Adam Storke, and Gary Sinise (at least), someone should suggest that gorgeous bright blue eyes might be related to survival of Captain Trips…) (They didn’t help the uncredited Ed Harris, though.) (That was a rather big role to have uncredited…) Adam Storke has an excellent Elvis lip curl, and may well be perfect for the part; even without more detail on his troubles in California, it’s clear that he could go either way, to Mother Abagail or to Flagg.  But he is a boy who loves his momma. (Loved.)

Ruby Dee as Mother Abagail … shouldn’t she have been aged upward a bit more?  “I’m a hundred and six years old, and I still make my own bread” – Mother, you don’t look a day over 80.  There’s nothing not to like, but…

Corin Nemec as Harold is … not fat, for one thing.  He’s a dweeb with thick glasses, lank hair, terrible acne, and a jogging suit.  It’s probably because of the book’s influence that I can imagine he smells – but then again he’s the kind of kid you tried not to sit near in school because he did smell.  He’s pompous, he’s verbose (hey, I don’t talk like this (usually), so I can say that), and Frannie can’t stand him.  Okay then.

It was a nice treat to see Kathy Bates as Ray (Rae?) Flowers, also uncredited as the radio host who defies the army.  (I wonder if Ray was one of the immune? She didn’t show any sign of being ill, though that might have just been due to location and successful avoidance of others.)

And as for Randall Flagg … Hm.  I very much hope that he isn’t one of those Bruce-the-shark-like things which are much more effective when left to the imagination.  The book’s Flagg was terrifying, though never as scary to me as the man-made plague.  Psychotic, more than human (and less), unpredictable, as a book character he could do anything and be anywhere and be frightening.  In the miniseries, he has been … a skinny guy (played by Jamey Sheriden, mostly in silhouette so far) in tight jeans with too-long hair (a mullet?! Oh, I do hope not) and eyes that sometimes glow red.  That part was pretty well done.  The moment when Lloyd sees him sitting up on top of the telephone pole in place of the crow was very well done.  The “AAAH” moment with Stu in the cornfield …. Meh.  I’m not optimistic.

Cast that is yet to appear: Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man.  All right then.  That should be good.  Should.  However, Ray Walston as Glen Bateman doesn’t sit well with me at all.  I pictured him as someone like Kelsey Grammer – longish curly hair, tall and solid, bluff.  Ray Walston is none of the above.  Ray Walston is a pillar of American television and film, so don’t get me wrong – he’ll be wonderful, and will assuredly capture Glen’s intelligence.  It’s just going to be a challenge to fit him into the role in my head.  He’s one of my favorite characters, so I’m a little worried.  The other one I really, really am looking forward to is Bill Fagerbakke as M-O-O-N spells Tom Cullen.  Yay.  I hope.  I don’t have good memories of Laura San Giacomo as Nadine Cross (whose character is blended with … oh dear.  *search* Rita Blakemoor), but I like her as a rule, and also didn’t think I saw that far into the miniseries – so, here’s hoping.

It was a very good start, this.  It’s a masterful job of compression of time and plot and characters, a wonderful abridged version of the book – I wish Stephen King would consider screenplays of books other than his own, he does such an excellent job.  (‘Course, he knows his own book better than anyone, but still.)  This first episode laid out many of the threads that will be braided together.  I look forward to seeing the interactions as threads twist around each other, and as new threads are woven in.  My instinct is that it will not compare to the book – but I still need to see it.


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Castle just gets better

February 22, 2011 at 12:01 am (TV) (, , , , , , , , , )

It is nothing short of miraculous when a tv show is good, stays on, and can boast not only a truly magnificent lead actor and really nice writing, but a truly brilliant production crew.  Nathan Fillion – the marvelous Nathan Fillion – is the magnificent lead; his Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly is one of my favorite characters in all of tv, movies, or print, as Firefly itself is one of my favorite entities in all of tv, movies, or print.  Well, not movies.  Not the movie.  No. 

The amazing thing is that someone in charge of Nathan Fillion’s current series Castle, long may it wave, knows this.  Not about me – I assume – but about all the other geeks who started, as I did, watching Rick Castle because they loved Mal Reynolds.  Above is the costume Castle wore for the first Halloween episode, “Vampire Weekend” in 2009. 

Alexis: What exactly are you supposed to be?
Castle: Space cowboy.
Alexis: Ok, A: there are no cows in space. B: didn’t you wear that like five years ago?
Castle: So?
Alexis: So, don’t you think you should move on?
Castle: I like it.

I love it.  I had a fair-sized conniption that night.  Bought the episode on iTunes. 

Another mini-conniption:

Castle (in Chinese): My partner is crazy and may start firing at any moment!

Beckett: Semester abroad?
Castle: No, a TV show I used to love.

Every now and then they toss one out.  It’s nothing that will get in the way of watching the show if you never saw Firefly – but if you did, it just makes for the happy. 

Tonight’s episode, “Setup” not only is using a song by Pink Martini in the background – bravo – but involves Martha wanting to take Alexis off to a spa where she will shed her ego in preparation for teaching the students who will be flocking into her acting school.  Richard never heard of the place.  Martha’s response?

“You haven’t heard of the Serenity?”

There’s no way that was accidental.

To whomever it is responsible for the recognition of your geek fan base – I love you. 

You too, Mr. Fillion.  You too. 

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The Wire in the Blood

February 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm (BBC, TV) (, , , , , , )

For a while now, two or three (or four) at a time on the weekends, I’ve been watching the British drama Wire in the Blood, streaming on Netflix. I’ve just finished watching the fourth season of the six produced (the show having been canceled after 6, in 2009, because it was “too expensive”. Really? How?). It’s based on the novels by Val McDermid, of which I have the first, and haven’t gotten to it yet; I don’t know if the books are going to go on my List, as I gather they’re far more graphic than the serial, and the serial is quite graphic. (Being British, it has far more leeway in that area than American tv.) It’s a bit Criminal Minds, a bit Mentalist, a bit Monk, a bit Sherlock Holmes, and all excellent. (Oh my God – from Wikipedia: “An adaptation for U.S. television is being developed by CBS Television Studios and DreamWorks Television.” For the love of heaven, people, come up with your own damn shows instead of messing with British ones! I wonder if it’s still in the works, and when it might show up on the schedule.)

Dr. Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist who is better working with information than people; his forte is to examine the details of a crime and interpret the characteristics of the person who committed it. In other words, he’s a profiler – but he always corrects people who label him as such, so I’ll respect his preference. He is a unique individual, is Tony, socially inept, more likely to tell the unvarnished and perfectly blunt truth than to take into account the feelings and sensitivities of the person he’s talking to, and to all appearances uninterested in pursuing a personal relationship with anyone, male or female. He’s brilliant, almost Holmesian brilliant, and this is part of what makes him so very impatient with ordinary dull mortals – when he knows he’s right, what difference does a lack of evidence make? In lieu of anyone of his intellectual equal with whom to work through ideas, he often talks to himself – often dividing himself in two, roleplaying a conversation with the unknown subject in question. In other words, to the casual eye he’s completely barmy, and doesn’t try to disguise it; he’s straightforward and unselfconscious in his barminess – but he makes himself indispensable to the (fictional) Bradfield police.

Another reason I’m hesitant to approach the novels is Robson Green’s stunning job of portraying Tony. His depiction is ingrained now, and it will be difficult if the Tony Hill of the books is very different. He presents a character who is deeply alone, deeply damaged, deeply vulnerable and yet very very strong – but whose strength has limits. He is confident in his abilities to the point of an appearance of arrogance, but acutely aware of the consequences if he is wrong, or slow, or unable to force action to find or to stop the people he determines are guilty. It was, I’ll admit, Robson Green’s bonny blue een which were a draw in the beginning, but he’s a gorgeous actor in more ways than just that – the writing and the cast as a whole kept me once I’d been caught. Green has managed to make Tony Hill a hugely sympathetic character with whom I’m delighted to spend a couple of hours on a weekend night, but with whom I’m very happy not to have to deal in person.

The series starts him out partnered with D.I. Carol Jordan, played by Hermione Norris. She presented a Place the Face moment – I knew her, I knew I knew her, I could not for the life of me figure out where I knew her from; I had to resort to for the answer: she played the horrid, adulterous, and much frillier Mrs. St. John in Berkley Square. I truly hated Mrs. St. John, which means Ms. Norris is a very gifted actress, because Carol Jordan is fantastic. She starts off the series completely unwilling to depend on Tony Hill – until he is able to prove to her that he is as good as he thinks he is and says he is, and her case closure ratio
increases dramatically. She’s much like Tony, in a way – alone, and strong-yet-vulnerable, with the added necessity of proving she’s not just a good cop but a good woman cop. She and Tony have what is usually called chemistry, in spades – there is always a cloud of will-they/won’t-they/did-they trailing along after them, and on that subject I’ll say no more. (I do wonder what goes on in the books; from what I’ve seen, the series of books and the series of tv programs begin at the same point, but diverge rather drastically.)

Put it this way – the show is so well done I only barely scoffed at Carol’s brother Michael, just enough for form’s sake. (In case I’m less than clear, they have the same last name. The result was not a problem in the UK, apparently, though somewhat more to be avoided when possible here.)

The rest of the cast is excellent as well:

Doreene Blackstock is Annie, often in the background and not used as much as she might be, but enjoyable when she is – and then gone after the first season.

Alan Stocks plays D.S. Don Merrick, an older detective (older than the kids Annie and Paula and Kevin, anyway) for whom the first adjective that springs to mind is “reluctant”. He is slow to accept Tony Hill’s help, in general and on specific cases, unwilling to diverge from procedures he’s used to, and at times downright sullen or obstructive – but I liked him. He still made a good cop, and someone you’d want at your back, while still showing the strains of the job: the constant barrage of evil and pain get to him.

D.C. Paula McIntyre (Emma Handy) joins the squad in the second season, and while she still isn’t being given a great deal to work with her role has (happily, in part) expanded a bit by the end of the fourth season. She’s solid, and while it might be a good thing for the series if she were to show some effects of what happens to her in one episode, then again Tony never does either, so we can just assume it all goes on behind the scenes.

One character I never expected to like is the ambitious and not always bright D.S. Kevin Geoffries (Kev – played by Mark Letheren). He’s not stupid on the job – Kev is a damn good cop. He can just be a right moron at times. He does something appallingly stupid in the first episode, but works his way back to a second chance – which he almost blows by doing something almost dumber at the end of season 2 – and yet when all’s said and done I really like him.

And despite the violence and the long hard look at depravity, I really like the show. I like it for many of the same reasons I love Criminal Minds: the fight against evil, intelligence pitted against horror – and, of course fine writing and acting. I’ll miss it when I’ve gotten through the six seasons. 

As to what the title means … It comes from  T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”: “The trilling wire in the blood/sings below inveterate scars/appeasing long-forgotten wars.”  Meaning?  Who knows?  “Robson Green said the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was taken to mean a genetic kink, something impure and unusual in the blood, that leads to the kind of psychosis Hill might deal with. 

“Val McDermid says: ‘Who knows what Eliot really meant by that line? Robson’s explanation is as good as any… For myself, I’ve always taken it to be a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream. But we’ll never know for sure.”  OK.

My impression of the title is of something alien and electric running in the veins of the unsubs the show deals in, something which shouldn’t be there, and the presence of which creates the sort of – yes, thrill a psychopath feels with a kill.  The imagery it gives me is of a literal, very fine wire inserted by some means through the vein of the arm, jolting like a needle hitting the side of a vein (nasty feeling), coloring the perceptions and reactions of the owner of the arm.

I was glad, for once, to have been accidentally spoiled for the information that Carol Jordan inexplicably leaves Wire in the Blood after Series 3. There is a rather feeble excuse given that, while Tony was away from the force for a time, not only did the Bradfield police offices move, but … so did Carol. All that was ever said was that she was offered a job she could not turn down – in South Africa. Whatever happened – whether Hermione Norris left for another role or the producers decided to replace her, the switch was made in a horrible fashion; not only was there little explanation for the viewer, but Tony was never told until he showed up at the station and found D.I. Alex Fielding (Simone Lahbib, who was apparently Isobel Anderson in Monarch of the Glen, though I have absolutely no memory of her) in Carol’s office. She just left without a word. And that’s terrible. Poor Tony.

And it’s part of what I mentioned above, about the tv serial diverging from the books; on paper, Carol never leaves. As usual with any change like this, I wanted to hate Alex Fielding … but she’s very good, is Simone Lahbib, and the character is, well, perhaps too much like Carol, but good nonetheless. Her soft brogue is delightful, and she put up a hell of a fight to making use of Tony’s skills – although she might have capitulated a little too quickly, still, he proved himself.

Again. Poor Tony.

They start Alex out in season 4 with a very interesting mystery about her: she does not work over. She is always available, always conscientious, probably works more than an 8-hour day – but where Carol was at the office first thing in the morning and well into the evening, Alex seems to leave promptly at the inner limits of her job description. It was pretty clear that she had somewhere important else to be, but we aren’t shown why until the very end of the episode, when we – very briefly – meet her young son. He is given a couple of scenes – his first being with Tony, to boot, who is bemused by the presence of a child in his new partner’s life – but is rarely otherwise mentioned; Alex is apparently one whose personal life is just that, and if we ever find out who and where the father is it could well be in the course of a case. That’s my prediction, anyway: we’ll see if I’m right.

Another casting change was the – also unexplained – disappearance of D.S. Don Merrick (Alan Stocks) a season before Carol’s departure. It can be explained logically within the show’s universe as a result of his attack on Kev at the end of season 2, with good reason; but it very simply never is mentioned, much less explained. Paula and Kev simply gain rather larger roles, and that’s about it.  It was a shame, but they do well making up for his loss. 

Did I say “poor Tony” up there a couple of times?  Make it three, because what they do to him in the third season is beyond the rest: brain tumor.  In the end of season 4 there’s the possibility that it has returned – and in the end he is distraught and depressed and considering death, and berates himself, something about how he’s so full of himself that he thinks a migraine is a brain tumor … Which wasn’t fair.  There’s the old Arnold Schwarzeneggar line “It’s not a tumor!”  Well, in Tony’s case, it was a tumor, and if it was me every twinge I would immediately think “it’s back”.  Poor, poor Tony. 

I look forward to the remaining two seasons… And, as I said, I’ll miss it.

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The Cape premiere & origin

January 10, 2011 at 1:44 am (TV) (, , )

Spoilers avoided as much as possible – –

I love comic books.  I didn’t know girls weren’t supposed to love comics, so back before I had to pay bills and such I had an order going out every month to Westfield Comics: X-Men, the Justice League; the Blue Beetle and … (*goodsearch*) Oh my, Booster Gold. Captain Britain – Excalibur!  I loved Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler and Wolverine.  The Watchmen.  Green Lantern and Green Arrow.  Batman, of course.  Oh, and ElfQuest, but that’s a whole nother thread.  The X-Men movies are some of my favorites – one of the happiest things film has ever done for me was to give me a “real” Wolverine to adore.  (I need to dig out my old books someday.)

So I was – cautiously – looking forward to The Cape on NBC.  Superhero stories can go disastrously wrong, of course… But I can’t help but be interested in a superhero story which involves Summer “I can kill you with my mind” Glau.

And – cautiously – I’m happy.  I’m really happy.  It’s dark – excellent.  It has a healthy dose of the glamour that makes a comic book special – the idea that a relatively ordinary man can, with nothing but anger and a good set of teachers, make himself into a Hero.  The idea that one man can make a difference.  That a man can partner with a group of carnies and learn their skills and, through sheer intelligent and desperate use of skill and illusion, can become something more.  There is a vein of fantasy running through a gritty cityscape, magic that they ask the viewer to believe is achievable through hard work and skill and technology (pure spider silk!).  It’s a good look.

The basic plotline is great fun: crime in Palm City is growing out of control, with a masked villain named Chess hunting down top officials.  Meanwhile, a mysterious, highly tech blogger calling himself Orwell is outing bad cops.  In the midst of this is Vince Faraday, who is a great cop – until Chess frames him, and makes it appear to the world that he a) was the supervillain Chess and b) was killed in an explosion. His name is destroyed, and the bad guys know who and where his family is – if he resurfaces before the bad guys are taken care of, his family is doomed.  Nice.

When Vince wakes up from the explosion he finds himself in the hands of a group of carnival folk – the Carnival of Crime, to be exact, who want money from the archvillain they’ve been lucky enough to get their hands on.  He manages to convince them he’s useful to them, and they prove to be useful to him as well.

The first five minutes were pretty terrific, economically informing me that Vince Faraday is a loving husband and a great father, reading comic books (“The Cape”, of course) with his son Trip.  It’s good story-telling.  And it didn’t slump.

David Lyons plays Vince Faraday, and he’s good.  Pleasant to look at, which never hurts; believable as a strong and straight-arrow cop who becomes a Hero.  His wife, Dana, is played by Jennifer Ferrin – and she does a nice job with the pain of having lost the love of her life, as well as his good name.  I like the son, too – Ryan Wynott.  He’s the driving force of Vince’s becoming the Cape – he can’t be allowed to believe his father was a bad person.

The leader of the folk who become his new partners is Keith David as Max Malini – he’s awesome.  And also awesome is Martin Klebba as Rollo; I think Rollo is my new hero, never mind the Cape.  And Izabella Miko is Raia, who thinks Vince is cute.  Smart girl.  There are no duds among the actors, and there are the possibilities of stories to be told among the characters.  I won’t mind seeing more of any of them.  (And Toby from The West Wing has a guest spot – nice.)

The supervillain is James Frain, playing Peter Fleming, who has a lovely psychotic thing going.  I don’t know what the deal is with his eyes, but I’m sure we’ll find out.  To help him in his evils he hires a poisoner called Cain – and Orwell digs up evidence that Cain must be part of a secret society of killers.  Which means that the show is well stocked up with bad guys for the Cape to battle.  Nice.

Relying on the shadow from a hood and a little stubble to disguise himself from anyone who knew him made me very nervous.  I kind of liked him not using a mask – but reason and logic have to be at least nodded at in passing.

I really enjoyed the premiere.  I like Vince, I like his family, I like the Carnival of Crime.  I enjoy disliking the bad guys.  I like the writing – I like that there is an underlying awareness that “the Cape” isn’t exactly “Captain America” or “the Green Hornet” as superhero names go.  There were some really good moments in the two-hour opener, and no bad ones – the cheese inherent in a superhero story never becomes limburger (until the very last shot, which without revealing what it was I will say is one which is just about obligatory in any show featuring anything remotely like a superhero; that was a little whiffy, I have to say).  I had fun … I’m going to watch upcoming episodes… and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.  And I won’t get too attached; if it’s good, and I like it, it’ll be gone in twelve episodes.

Who knows, though?  Maybe this can break the curse.  I wish it all kinds of luck.  And positive blog reviews.

Some moments, some of which might be spoilerish (wording to be corrected as needed when the episode airs again):

“‘Pammy Pees – Hours of toilet training fun’…”

“Do you think the raccoon acted alone?”

“You help me rob Peter Fleming, and I’ll help you get your family back.”

“I’ve broken 92 bones in pursuit of the perfect illusion.”

“You give me your soul, Vincent Faraday, and I’ll make you the greatest circus act that’s ever lived.”

“Why the getup?”
“It’s an unconventional war.”

“Damn it, I thought that was it. Wasted that great speech.”
( – one of my very favorite things about this show.)

“You’re a superhero! What do they call you?”
(a little hesitantly) “The Cape.”
(disbelievingly) “The Cape? Well, you’ll work on it.”

“People in glass houses – ”
“Get thrown out windows.”

“What the HELL were you thinking?”
“Nice ride.”

“The Cape? You’re not wearing a cape.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“No offense.”
“None taken.”

“Peter Fleming is just the gift that keeps on giving.”

“Don’t ever forget who it is that’s wearing the cape.”

And, for future reference, here’s what Wikipedia tells me is the significance of the tarot card The Tower:

Tarot – a secret society of killers; Cain is their poisoner.
Chaos —– Sudden change —– Impact —– Hard times
Crisis —– Revelation —– Disruption —– Realizing the truth
Disillusion —– Crash —– Burst —– Uncomfortable experience
Downfall —– Ruin —– Ego blow —– Explosive transformation

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October 25, 2010 at 12:47 am (PBS, TV) (, , , , , , )

That was fun.  I figured it out in about 45 minutes, but it was fun.  (Allow me a second of gloating; I never figure out murder mysteries.)  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes – very young, lovely voice, quite nicely arrogant and offhand about it.  And Martin Freeman is Doctor Watson.  No, I’m not watching it because of The Hobbit.  But I will come back to that.  In at least the third (iirc) take on Sherlock Holmes from PBS (the straight version starring Jeremy Brett, has been picked up from the 19th century and transplanted into the 21st, and there do not so far seem to be any signs of rejection of the transplant. 

I’ve wondered how it would work; it’s not as though the old “this was written on a typewriter with the letter ‘J’ misaligned – clearly the machine from Hardwick’s office” thing is valid anymore.  Technology has changed quite a bit of what transpired in the Holmes stories, and it always seemed to me it would be quite a challenge to work it in.  Not so much, as it turns out.  The use of cell phones and laptops was quite nice – the deduction of Watson’s brother was quite a lot of fun.

“Dear God – what is it like in your funny little brains?  It must be so boring.”  That was the concentration in this version – Holmes’s overactive mind drives him constantly, and the cares and feelings of other people mean nothing.  “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath – do the research.”  I have, and the diagnoses aren’t all that different and are pretty muddled, but let it bide.   Cumberbatch does a very nice job of embodying the sort of person you would want to murder within minutes but who is very entertaining to watch; he pulls off the impatient arrogance and overweening intelligence brilliantly.  His youth is somehow an asset in this; he overcame my resistance to it quickly. 

Why do people love Holmes so much?  So very much not a nice person, doing good mainly because he’s bored and he doesn’t have the inclination toward evil… Most people aren’t thrilled by extreme intelligence; overt displays of intelligence only annoy people – as evidenced by the other characters surrounding him.  “What do people usually say?” “Piss off.”  “Hello, freak.”  So why is he so popular? 

Freeman as Watson was also excellent.  I love the revelation by the mysterious gentleman that his therapist was wrong: he isn’t traumatized by his battle experience.  He misses it.  Which means that his new position as Holmes’s assistant is perfect.  Among ordinary folk he’s not stupid, and he finds he can enjoy Holmes’ … eccentricities.  He needs a challenge, and Holmes delivers in spades. 

“The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”  *cough*afoot*cough* I like their relationship, Holmes & Mrs. Hudson’s – I like her calling him Sherlock.  Everyone calls him Sherlock, actually – unless they’re calling him “freak”.  I liked the graphics that aided the viewer’s poor slow mind in following the deductions.  I liked the nicotine patches.  I liked nearly everything, really, except a few of the details of the conclusion – and the way the climax was ended; not sure about that.

I didn’t realize the Doctor Who connection – co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this first episode (“Study in Pink”) written by Moffat – that explains a lot.  I do hope, though, that they won’t keep banging (so to speak) on the sexuality question – talk about boring. 


When it had 19 minutes left to run, I wrote this:   I am officially stating my hypothesis: The Princess Bride.  Iocaine powder.  Now it is down to you, and it is down to me.  “Luck.”  “It’s genius! … I know how people think, even you…” 

But I’ll never know, blast it – they never said what the pills were.  I’m disappointed in that.  It made a great deal of sense, my solution – they were both arsenic, or something, and the cabbie – who never got a name, by the way, did he? – has spent the last four years playing with the stuff.  I was surprised that the poison wasn’t named either – obviously, the murder mystery isn’t as big a priority as the character study.  I will continue to believe in arsenic, a la Strong Poison.

I can’t get too cocky about figuring out that the killer was the cabbie (even though I missed the first few minutes and only just watched them on, and that made it more obvious yet) – I bought the whole misdirection thing about Mycroft.  They suckered me into the assumption that he was Moriarty – and I think I could have figured it out, too, darn it: the role of “mysterious government official with a lot more power than you’d think” and “Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother” was obvious, in hindsight. 

About halfway through it occurred to me that this role is a pretty good indicator that Martin Freeman will do well as Bilbo.  The hobbit is a fairly ordinary bloke, really, not stupid in his ordinary circumstances – and suddenly his circumstances aren’t at all normal.  Suddenly he’s plunged into the middle of a situation completely out of his ken, and has to adapt – and he does.  And once it’s all over he’s never the same again.  Watson’s immersion is as sudden and complete, but not quite as extreme (no giant spiders, no Orcs – just a serial killer), and he thrives on it a bit more than Bilbo – but essentially they share a basic arc.  If I go see The Hobbit in theatre, it will be for him. 

One of my favorite lines: “Are these human eyes?  They were in the microwave!”

I look forward to the other two episodes – and I think it’s a shame that there are only three.  And now The Hobbit is happening, I wonder if there’s any possibility of more …

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Utterly pointless observation on Katy Perry’s neckline

September 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm (PBS, TV) (, )

There’s a whole big hoo-ha over Katy Perry’s appearance, now banned, on Sesame Street. Now, really, I don’t much care for Ms. Perry; Elmo’s not my favorite Muppet (though I love the disparity between him and his puppeteer); I didn’t have public television when I was a kid, so I *gasp* grew up without Sesame Street, so I don’t have any investment in it either … But I call stupidity.

The hullabaloo is over this dress:

I have two initial things to say on the subject:

Ariel and Belle. 

I thought of Belle first, given the yellowness and what I recalled as a plunge-y neckline.  And then I remembered her oceanic fellow princess, who is wearing … a clamshell bikini.

This picture of Perry is interesting, because it makes clear something I didn’t notice in the video that’s so unavoidable:  she’s completely covered.  You can see the lines of armholes and collar, and a bit of wide straps coming up over her shoulders, and between that and the bodice is sheer net, which means no possibility of Wardrobe Malfunction. 

So, low?  Like the animated gals, yeah.  Stable?  Yeah, which is something the other two, but for the animator’s pencil (they used pencils back then) can’t say.  Not to mention – you can’t see Katy Perry’s belly button.

Just sayin’.  That there’s a plunging waistline, too.  Of the Sexy Girls of Toddler Entertainment, Perry’s pretty modest.

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Berkeley Square (no nightingales)

September 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm (TV) (, , , , )

I haven’t written about “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”, have I? 

Huh.  I should.  I really should. 

But not just now.

After a few months in which Netflix had its way with me (I had the same discs in the house, mostly unwatched, until I finally managed to lose them … and finally threw up my hands and reported their loss to the site and moved on so I can finally start using my subscription again)(Oh!  Found ’em), I’ve started actually watching the videos I receive.  I have a Twelfth Night with an Anglo-Indian cast (for the Gold-of-Fish Shakespeare series I’m getting underway – and because it sounds fascinating), and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (ditto) – and Berkeley Square, which we watched before, apparently, but several years ago, because it’s been almost – almost – fresh.  It was only when I accidentally read ahead and was spoiled for two huge plot points that I knew for certain I’d seen it before (which speaks to either my pitiful memory or the length of time it’s been since). 

The mini-series tells the intersecting stories of three young women who all become nannies in Berkeley Square.  There is Matty Wickham (Clare Wilki), who comes out of the East End to take a post looking after the three St. John (all together now: “Sinjin”) children; there is Lydia Weston (Tabitha Wady), who comes from her family’s farm to work as nursery maid under the formidable Nanny Collins for the Lamson-Scribeners, who are her father’s landlords; and there is Hannah Randall (Victoria Smurfit – aka Rowena Ciarán Hinds’s Ivanhoe and Orla in Ballykissangel), an Irish girl who comes, not quite directly, from a post as a lady’s maid – though there’s a lot more to her story. 

Matty is a rigid, black-and-white thinking girl, who intends not to set a toe over the line (yet is frequently reproved for the appearance of having done so by an even harsher critic in her mistress – who isn’t one to talk). 

Lydia is a sweet, not-as-naive-as-you-think, sharp country girl who comes to the household of the noble Lamson-Scribeners somewhat against the will of Lord George L-S, and certainly against Nanny Collins’s wishes – but the latter is growing old, and the American second wife to His Lordship, Lady Constance, mother of baby Ivo, puts her foot down.  Nanny C sees Lydia as a savage, but gradually comes to appreciate the help (until it seems to have been her idea all along to bring her in).  The baby is the start of a second family for Lord George; his first wife had a son who is now in his twenties, Hugh, who starts off charming enough – enough that Lydia develops a deep crush.  Which doesn’t go well – as the other girls warned her.

Hannah is an Irish girl who was a lady’s maid – until she fell in love with the lady’s son, who fell in love with her, and in due course produced wee Billy.   Wee Billy’s appearance led to Hannah’s dismissal, but that wasn’t so bad as long as the father, William, could look after them … and then, very abruptly, he couldn’t, and Hannah was left on her own.  Instead of heading back to Ireland, where there were no prospects for her, she makes for London, and – with forged references and a raft of glib lies and the heaven-sent assistance of a Polish lady to look after Billy – lands a job as nursery maid. 

And so, one by one, they enter Berkely Square and join the adventures already in progress.  Mrs. McClusky, the housekeeper at the St. Johns’, is sister to the cook – and mother to a handsome young fellow named Ned (Jason O’Mara – of the ironically American Life on Mars), who lands himself in deep trouble with the law.  Mrs. M … er, wangles him a job in the household, never letting on they’re related, and sparks between him and Matty are rather inevitable – as are tears when Matty discovers more about him.  The upstairs lot aren’t dull, either; Arnold and Victoria St. John aren’t exactly a model couple.  While he loves his pretty, younger blonde wife, she has no time for him – she is much more interested in the charms a certain Captain Mason holds.  (And she looks like a chihuahua.)  And neither of them is immensely interested in the children, Tom (8) and Harriet (4?) and their baby brother, and so despite Nanny Wickham’s best efforts – and she is good – the two capable of showing personality are, while relatively decent, somewhat untamed.  Which has devastating consequences. 

Meanwhile, over at the Lamson-Scribeners, the family life is somewhat nicer … but Nanny, though getting on in years, is adamant that she does not need help, and is not thrilled when the American missus provides her with Lydia.  Not thrilled at all.  But Lydia’s not stupid, and can deal with that … what she has more trouble dealing with is the young Lord Hugh, who is trouble in spiffy trousers.  There isn’t much positive about Hugh, even when he’s trying to be positive – or claims to be. 

And over at the Hutchinsons’ … That family makes the other two look like British Norman Rockwells.  The father is pseudo-jolly with poor sma’ Bertie, who is pale and weedy and sounds like he’s permanently stuffed up and looks like he should be in bed.  But Papa insists that Bertie will be a soldier.  Probably the baby, Charlie, as well, but it’s early days yet for him.  When Mr. Hutchinson is posted off to India, and his wife sails with him without a second thought for the children, Bertie can probably hardly tell the difference from when they were home, except that the burden of daily terror of being made to stand and deliver (sharp responses to barked questions on military history) to his father.  More difficult than the parents, who at least go away, is the redoubtable Nanny Simmons (Ruth Sheen, also seen as Nurse Ethel Carr in Bramwell), who believes that nannying would be a wonderful job, if only it weren’t for the blasted children.  She locks the toy chest – and Hannah’s door when she’s foolish enough to want to tend to the baby when he cries at night – and uses her own methods to try to keep him from crying (probably one reason Bertie’s so weedy). 

The mini-series was soapy, well-acted, well-written, and managed to put over even the most absurd ideas.  And the photography was surprisingly beautiful – there was some lovely work especially in the last episode, and most especially the final shots.  Great archetypal (but not stereotypical) characters, great depiction of 1902 London.  Loved it.

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Slings and Arrows of outrageous(ly good) TV

August 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm (Geekery, TV) (, , )

A long while ago, I heard of a tv series about a Shakespearean company; based on that alone I wanted to see it, but it was a Canadian series, and if it ever aired here we didn’t get the channel or something. (*Goodsearch* Canada’s Movie Central and The Movie Network channels, and the Sundance Channel here – which indeed we don’t get.) Some time after I joined Netflix I remembered the series, though not, Barnes-and-Noble-customer-like, the name, and went on a hunt to find out what it was. It took a while, but I finally came up with “Slings and Arrows”, and put the first season in my Netflix queue. And then got sidetracked and never moved it to the top of the list, so that it languished in the middle somewhere.

Then two of the Shakespeare admirers I admire, Chop Bard and the Shakespeare Geek, both recommended it in no uncertain terms, and I discovered that the series is available to watch instantly. With my shiny new laptop such things are more convenient, so last night I fired it up and watched the first three episodes, and would have kept going except for the lateness of the hour. (Sometimes, “To go to bed late is to go to bed late”.)

It’s brilliant. In several senses of the word, from “highly intelligent” to “of surpassing excellence (primarily UK usage)”. From the opening of the first scene, going from fixing a toilet and arguing over which bills are to be paid, to the return to rehearsal and – “Go for it, man!” – a gloss of the first scene from Tempest, in which a plunger becomes the wizard’s staff, to “Aw, nuts” … It couldn’t have been better calibrated to capture me, hook, line, and sinker. How absolutely gorgeous.

From the struggling little Theatre Sans Argent (Theatre Without Money) to the New Burbage Shakespeare Festival was a jolt – from the struggling, true-to-the-work little hole in the wall ready to be condemned to the shiny huge bureaucracy of the New Burbage Theatre was quite a jolt.  They’ve sold out – corporate sponsorship, leading to depradations of Shakespeare.  And there’s a gift shop. Things are gonna get interesting.

I love that I sat through the first episode wondering, when I could spare the attention, why Geoffrey Tennant looked so familiar … And then registered Paul Gross’s name in the titles of the second episode, and realization dawned: Constable Benton Fraser of Due South. From a three-dimensional Dudley Do-Right to an actor/director still recovering, emotionally and professionally, from having had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the fourth performance of a seminal staging of Hamlet … I acquit myself for not having recognized him. (He was also, according to Wikipedia, in Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, playing John Diefenbaker – wasn’t that the wolf in Due South, Diefenbaker? And in 2000 he played Hamlet in the Stratford Festival of Canada. That’s fantastic.) He’s perfect. Aside from being beautiful, he’s utterly convincing, and makes Geoffrey’s short-lived Hamlet (with Oliver directing and Ellen Fanshaw as Ophelia) one of those performances I long to be able to see. (And yes, of course I’m in love with him.) And his direction of “She should have died hereafter”, and the fledgling actor’s subsequent delivery of it, is three of the most perfect moments on television. (It makes me not only want to audition somewhere, but to use that speech as my audition piece, gender be damned.)

I love that as of the third episode I have not been given the whole story. I know the public part of what happened, via a gossip between the two elderly gay men who carry the spears in the company (and who provide the gleeful opening and closing credit songs, which I will learn before long); I know the results, certainly, via the present-day relationships among Geoffrey, Oliver, and Ellen … but they have not yet revealed the rest of why there is so very, very much bitterness left that when Ellen and Geoffrey have to be in the same room it feels like the air around them should curdle. It should be interesting.

I love that the ghost who shall remain spoiler-free and nameless is haunting the theatre, or at least Geoffrey – and according to Netflix and imdb remains through the series – and I love that at least as of now there is doubt as to whether he’s a figment of Geoffrey’s madness or an actual ghost.

 The rest of the cast is also amazing: Oliver (Stephen Ouimette) is pitiable, hateful, and sympathetic all at once; Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns) is exquisite (and Paul Gross’s real-life wife), and I’d have loved to have seen more of her Titania; Nichols (Don McKellar) is hideous; Kate (Rachel McAdams) is adorable, and Claire Donner (Sabrina Grdevich) is so hilariously bad that you just know her understudy (Kate, of course) is going to wind up playing Ophelia. Luke Kirby is Jack Crew, an American action film actor brought in to boost ticket sales by playing … Hamlet. (A la, apparently, Keanu Reeves being cast as God-help-us-Hamlet at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in 1995 – whose bright idea was that??  How dreadful … (He was critically praised, at least by some? Really? Was that critic high?)) He’s pitiful, and pitiable, in these early stages – “Angles and ministers of grace …” “the stings and arrows” … Poor bugger. But I look forward to Geoffrey getting his directorial hands on him. Standing as bemused civilian support to the fey acting troupe are Susan Coyne as Anna Conroy, administrative everything, and Catherine Fitch as Maria, technical everything – superb.

And then of course there are the villains: Mark McKinney as Richard Smith-Jones (“Can you spell your last name, please?”) and Jennifer Irwin as Holly Day (“She’s the devil!”). They’re bored with Shakespeare – they don’t like Shakespeare (“No one does!”) …though to their credit they do want to make people leave their theatre dancing and singing, which the Shakespeare they’ve seen doesn’t do. (They haven’t met John Christian Plummer and Maia Guest, and their Twelfth Night.) As of episode 3, they’ve only just begun talking about what they want to do to the Shakespeare Festival …

And I have to mention Matt Fitzgerald as Sloan, Ellen’s very new, very young boyfriend, or turn in my second X chromosome.

I love that it’s a comedy, but one that simply focuses a lens on an aspect of reality to find humor; there is some outrageous behavior, but the characters are by nature and by profession outrageous. And I love that while it is a comedy, it takes the art of theatre very seriously – albeit in a very, very funny fashion. Most of the characters have been with this company, this theatre, for years, and Geoffrey was until the crack-up; it’s their home, and their vocation, and their reason for being … Amid the ironic sheep and the pot-smoking for sense memory are stunning moments of Shakespeare as good as anything I’ve seen. Or better. I can’t wait for Season 2 and The Scottish Play.

What an utterly gorgeous show. I wholeheartedly pass on the very strong recommendations of … everyone: rent, buy, or insta-view this series. It’s one of the best things to have ever come out of television.

And there’s a chameleon.

Cheer up, Hamlet
Chin up, Hamlet
Buck up, you melancholy Dane!
So your uncle is a cad who murdered Dad
And married Mum.
That’s really no excuse to be as glum as you’ve become!
So wise up, Hamlet
Rise up, Hamlet
Perk up and sing a new refrain.
Your incessant monologizing
Fills the castle with ennui.
Your antic disposition is embarrassing to see.
And by the way, you sulky brat,
The answer is to be!
You’re driving poor Ophelia insane.
So shut up, you rogue and peasant
Grow up, it’s most unpleasant
Cheer up, you melancholy Dane!

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Bravo’s Work of Dubious Art

August 22, 2010 at 4:59 am (TV) (, , , , , , )

So. “Work of Art”, on Bravo. For a while now I’ve thought that because while there are reality competitions for dance and singing, the visual arts can’t, I thought, ever be covered in such a format. Which was a shame, in a way, because it would be nice if art could be given a platform like dance, could be given a boost more into the public eye … and it was a good thing, I figured, because after all the motivation behind these shows isn’t first and foremost the art in question. Even “So You Think You Can Dance”, which was a shock to me in the quality of art it produces, uses the whole horrendous “we’ll announce the winner of the week after the break to keep you here over the commercials” gimmick. As for “American Idol” … I’m pretty sure that the great music that really has come out of Idol has happened more in spite of the show than because of it. So imagine my surprise when I heard about “Work of Art”. A bunch of artists in various media are brought to NYC to create work on demand in order to win $100,000 and a private show at a prestigious museum.   

 I hesitated about watching it, because I went to art school. I wanted more than anything else to be an artist. Then money ran out, and I left art school. I have written and discarded diatribes against what I experienced in art school – no one needs to hear the spew of bitterness that sparks – but the upshot is that I never knew whether I wasn’t given any support in that school because I wasn’t any good, or because I didn’t work hard enough, or because I was quiet and shy and escaped notice. I left after two years not really knowing if I had any talent worth continuing to pursue, and never managed to go back. I tried working on my own but lost … hope, I guess, and stopped painting and, eventually, drawing. (Well, lost hope, and my mother let my then-toddler nieces use a $35 brush for paint-by-number. That didn’t help.) 

So that’s that. The result is that I have a massive clump of raw nerves that get zinged every time I brush up against the art world. And watching “Work of Art” has provided some zings, certainly … but it also has worked as a cure, to a degree.  

Watching SYTYCD has impressed me not only with the dance, but with the community of dance. The interactions between the judges, the dancers, the choreographers make it sound like there is a support system in place, a community of affection and learning. The critiques given on the show are constructive, and the goal is to build better dancers and to bring dance to more people. The Simon Cowell brand of criticism has no place on SYTYCD. These are people I have come to love (I adore those judges), and they’ve led me to believe that they are people who would be a joy to have in one’s life.   

And what Work of Art has taught me is that the art community is not so warm and fuzzy. After watching that series, I have learned that, at least from this exemplar, the art community is pretentious, self-absorbed, and filled with people I would claw my way through concrete to get away from. In other words, a world I can take some comfort in not being a part of. I do know that this wasn’t representative, necessarily; there wasn’t much pretension in art school, and my favorite cousin is a working artist. And I met Michael Whelan once, and he was lovely. But it’s fact that dance is a collaboration – the choreographer must work closely with the dancers, and the dancers’ partnering requires intimate cooperation; this can’t help but contribute to the familial feel of the community. Artists, unless they’re Hildebrandt twins, work alone by nature, almost start to finish. Like writing, art is a solitary endeavour.   

What has been the primary lighter for a very short fuse of mine has been the to me incomprehensible contempt shown through the series for mere illustrators. God forfend one should create a literal painting actually depicting, say, a human being doing something non-masturbatory. Literal = bad.   

I majored in Illustration. This prejudice is something that always infuriates me … It’s like when I first realized that characters in L.M. Montgomery’s books often expressed prejudice against Catholics. It baffled me… what did I ever do to them to cause dislike? And with illustration versus fine art, it baffles me that there is such a divide when the work is, at times, indistinguishable unless the genesis of the piece is considered …   

Illustration, you see, is whoredom, according to these folk. One mustn’t take money for a work of art … until after the work is completed. The fact that fine art is every bit as much for sale as illustration is – except that with illustration the buyer of a piece is set prior to commission, and fine art isn’t, sometimes (though often it is) … Hm.   

The other difference, besides money, is whether the subject of, say, a painting, is recognizable. God forfend you create a painting that looks like the subject at hand. God forbid you opt for realism, much less photorealism. No, that’s plebeian. 

VelasquezOne of my favorite paintings in the world is Juan de Pareja, from long before there was a division between “Fine Art” and “Illustration”. Most everything from the first volume of Janson’s History of Western Art is a joy to me. And, additionally, I was inspired by Tom Canty, by Keith Parkinson, by Michael Whelan, by Kinuko Craft, and – given that he went to my school – most especially Don Maitz. By New York standards I am quite, quite bourgeois. I’m a cretin. I value skill. I value the ability to create something with depth and beauty. Color, line, form, light, shadow – some or all of these and more; it doesn’t have to “look like” something or be a realistic representation for me to enjoy an artwork.I’ve spent the last hour being a Barnes & Noble customer – I don’t know the artist, I don’t know the name of the work, but it was ugly … There was a painter I remember Sister Wendy talking about, I think, who created some seriously unlikeable work, but whose name escapes me and whom I can’t track him down. My object in trying to find him was to use him as a prime example of absolutely abhorring an artist’s work but maintaining respect for the fact that the artist has ability. Similarly, I dislike the sculpture of Alberto Giacometti, but I can appreciate his ability. The later works of Picasso give me a headache, but he was attempting something, and his early work shows that he could paint. Modigliani, Max Beckmann, Kokoschka, Frida Kahlo – none of them artists I will choose to ever, ever hang on my wall or save to my computer, but whose work is solid, showing that they know their media and tools. It goes back to what I was talking about last month, about Scott Hamilton being able to skate badly because he could skate extraordinarily well. Knowing what you’re doing, being able to create a realistic work of art, allows you to create an abstract work that has some substance.   

Then there are the “artists” who offend me deeply. Here’s my plebeian, cretinous, etc. criterion for something to qualify as art – it’s simple. If it looks like something done by a cat, a chimp, or a two-year-old   


(with or without my $35 brush), it’s not art. I truly believe that at least some of these people selling work that I would slit my wrists rather than have attributed to me go home at night, put their money in their safes, go into their bedrooms and lock the door and laugh hysterically. I think they are taking advantage of a deep strain of gullibility in human nature combined with a desire to appear sophisticated.   

Such as.   

There's nothing wrong with the link - that's the "painting". Really? This woman's not laughing up her sleeve?

I also can’t drum up any respect for Cy Twombly,  Rothko, and, Heaven help us all, the wizards of wrapping things in fabric, Christo and Jean-Claude   

“Work of Art” was an experience. There were artists whose work I enjoyed, sometimes (occasionally), but whom I loathed deeply, and a couple I kind of … no, actually, I didn’t really like any of them except possibly one, who was happily and shockingly the one who won. The rest of them were by turns unbearably pretentious or nasty or … Put it this way. Two of them admitted to killing things in their spare time. One said that he felt another of them, who went to the finals, was faking it – putting on a performance and putting one over on the judges and anyone else he could gull.    

I don’t even want to get into performance art at this time, if ever. At all.The show was a strange experiment, and I’m not sure it was a successful one. It’s one thing to give a dancer a piece and expect him to have it down in a week; it’s one thing to give a singer a song and expect him to put a spin on it and give a knockout performance in a week. It’s one thing to hand a chef a theme or an ingredient or whatever and expect something amazing in a few hours. It’s a bit different to hand an artist an assignment and expect something magnificent in a few hours. Particularly funny was the “shocking” episode: go make something shocking in twenty-four hours or less. It was moronic. Making art on demand is silly, but, again, art school. Making shocking art on demand – especially when that isn’t your forte – is absurd. I particularly enjoyed it when one of the judges – most of whom I despised as much as I did the artists, except that with two massive exceptions the artists dressed like ordinary human beings while the judges dressed like sideshow exhibits – would say something derogatory about art school. What, exactly, do you think art school is but handing artists assignments and expecting something amazing in a few hours?  I watched the whole thing, and was curious about who would win, but I didn’t care so much; the show was an exercise in pretension with occasional sparks of actual talent, overwhelmed by the cast of characters chosen more for their cultivated eccentricities than for their talent.  I’d still kind of like to see the concept, done well …  If there’s some way of getting all of these people to check at least some of the attitude at the door, it might work … maybe …?

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Doctor Who: XI and Mr. Sofa Man

July 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm (BBC, Geekery, TV) (, , , , )

“The Lodger” still isn’t up on On Demand; what, did they not air it yet on BBC America? Wankers. It’s also not on iTunes, which is interesting. How did I see it? Don’t ask. Mysterious guy in a parking lot.  Paper bag. A few thousand pounds. Or something. And I haven’t seen the whole thing, which is, I take it, the Catch… Anyway.

No, actually, in the end I went here, which is my new go-to for just about everything Who, bless his buttons, even with a lamentable lack of punctuation skills. (And thank you very much for the last four minutes!) So.

The Lodger

The TARDIS lands, the Doctor sticks his head out –

Doctor (sounding a bit disgusted): No, Amy, it’s definitely not the fifth moon of Syndacalista.  I think I can see a Ryman’s.

(For the England-impaired, Ryman’s is a large chain of stationers.)

And there’s a Whomp and a flash, and he’s knocked out of the doorway – and the TARDIS dematerializes, with Amy still aboard – and without the Doctor.  Oh dear.

So he takes a room in a house with a bloke called Craig – and where he got the 3,000 pounds in a sack perhaps it’s better we don’t know. Where he got Craig’s address is a note from Amy of the future/past directing him to a specific flatmate-wanted ad.

Craig: Has anyone ever told you you’re a bit weird?
D: They never really stop.

That is utterly wonderful.

Craig outlines House Rules…

Craig: …In case you want to bring someone ’round – a girlfriend … (eyes bowtie) or a boyfriend …

It is established that Craig has a best friend, Sophie, and he silently would very much like her to be more than that, but hasn’t gotten up the nerve to tell her. When he does decide to, his “I love you” is wasted on the Doctor. Well, not wasted entirely – the Doctor did rather appreciate the sentiment. It is also established that there is an odd upstairs neighbor, who periodically makes a great deal of noise and is obviously responsible for the strange spreading stain on Craig’s ceiling.  Also, unbeknownst to the flatmates on the ground floor so far, the man upstairs is luring people in by asking for help, and the people who try to help are never seen again. The Doctor needs to do something about him – but not head-on… Not yet.

And that stain on the ceiling? Don’t touch it.

Next day, the Doctor’s in the shower, and apparently has been for a while – he likes a good soak.  Craig hears a massive thud upstairs, and tells the Doctor he’s going to make sure the fellow upstairs is okay – which is a very, very bad idea.  And so the Doctor makes a dash out of the shower to prevent it … gets tangled in the shower curtain, loses his towel … All very very strange for the Doctor.  A little disturbing.  Which didn’t stop me taking screencaps…

Soap-bleared, I suppose, he grabbed for the toothbrush holder where he had his sonic screwdriver stashed, and … grabs Craig’s toothbrush.  In the comic this was based on, the Doctor moves in with Mickey Smith, to Mickey’s surprise, and the latter grabs for his toothbrush – getting the sonic instead.  (The comic can be found on the same site as the video link above.)

Really, the towel’s riding a bit low in front, i’n’t it?  Right.  *ahem*  Well.

I was even more startled to find an actual screencap of the moment he drops his towel, and the camera is a half-second behind it … In all the blur, it could have been … startling, but Matt Smith has said he was wearing flesh-colored bloomers or whatever they were, so there is no Doctor-nudity, for which I am exceedingly grateful. And no, I don’t remember where I saw the screencap. I will not be a party to such depravity.

Sophie: You didn’t say he was gorgeous!

Well, awfully cute, yes; gorgeous?  Poor Craig.

Doctor: Football’s the one with the sticks, right?

Of course, XI has a natural and human-obliterating gift for footie (it’s not “footy”, is it?  That looks sillier), and he steals Craig’s thunder in the worst way. 

Sean: You are so on the team. Next week we’ve got the Crown & Anchor. We’re going to annihilate them!
The Doctor (all in one breath): Annihilate, no. No violence, do you understand me, not while I’m around, not today, not ever. I’m the Doctor. The oncoming storm… And you basically meant beat them in a football match didn’t you?
Sean: Yeah.
D: Lovely.

The Doctor must figure out how to find out more about the bloke upstairs, without him knowing the Doctor is about; so he proceeds to create high technology out of low technology. Oh, and he is also in touch with Amy via bluetooth, luckily for her; she’s clever, but I doubt she’d be able to fly the TARDIS on her own. (River Song, yes; Amy Pond, no.) (Hm: River; Pond … )

D (holding up screwdriver): Where’s the on switch for this?

Sophie: Life can seem pretty much pointless, you know Doctor – work weekend work weekend – and there’s six billion people on the planet doing pretty much the same thing.

She would, it seems, like to work with – was it orangutans? I think it was orangutans.

D: What’s stopping you? …
Well, lack of education, inertia … People asking stupid questions like “What’s stopping you” …
Craig: What’s wrong with staying here? I can’t see the point of London.
D: Well, perhaps that’s you then. Perhaps you’ll just have to stay here, secure and a little bit miserable, till the day you drop – better than trying and failing, eh?
S: You think I’ve failed?
D: Oh, everybody’s got dreams, Sophie. Very few are going to achieve them. So why pretend? Perhaps, you know, in the whole wide universe a call center is where you should be.
S: That’s horrible! Why’re you saying that?
D: Is it true?
S: Of course it’s not true! I’m not staying in a call center all my life, I can do anything I want. … Look what you did!
D: It’s a big old world, Sophie – work out what’s really keeping you here.

Right. It’s that simple.

Disgruntled because of the Doctor’s influence on Sophie – the voice of the ultimate Traveler weighed against the man who is beginning to look like his sofa, the man who said “I don’t see the point of Paris” and ditto “London” – Craig goes and touches the nastiness on his ceiling. Remember how the Doctor said not to touch it? Unsurprisingly, he was right.

The Doctor saves his life – with stewed tea, basically, just like #10 needed at the beginning … interesting …

… And then goes to the office Craig was so worried about not being in.  And, of course, becomes a hero there too. 

D: I had some time to kill, I was curious, I’ve never worked in an office – never worked in anywhere.

He was a star at the planning meeting – as Craig’s representative, of course – and now is taking over Craig’s calls, and Sophie is serving him cookies.  Craig is gobsmacked.

D: Hullo, Mr. Jorgensen – can you hold, I have to eat a biscuit.
– I want to use that.  If I ever have a customer named Jorgensen, I’m in trouble.

Craig goes home in a daze, and lets himself into the Doctor’s room, to find the extraordinary contraption the Doctor’s built.  XI comes home, talks to the cat, and Craig abruptly evicts him.  ‘And Sophie’s all “Monkeys! Monkeys!” ‘Well, XI can’t leave, not yet, so he has to let Craig in on everything … which is accomplished with a couple or three impressive head-butts.  Well, I guess he didn’t particularly want to kiss him like he did Reinette.  Look!  William Hartnell again! 

I liked that several victims of the upstairs neighbor said “Help you?”  Creepy.  Good. 

Craig is caught up now, and horrified, and noises start fromt the latest victim of upstairs – who happens to be Sophie.  The two of them rush out and up to rescue whoever it is – and both shortly realize (based on the keys left in the door when she was called upstairs) just who it is, which lights a fire under them both.  Then Amy, having accessed the plans to the building, stops them –

A: You can’t be upstairs, it’s a one-story building! There is no upstairs!

Instead of another recurrence of an XI line, there was, from Craig: What??  What?!

So – the neighbor upstairs is, basically, “someone’s attempt to build a TARDIS” – TARDIS used generically in place of “time machine”?  Or literally?  And it’s been hidden as the first floor (second for you Americans) by – wait for it … a perception filter.  THERE’s the Season V recurrence.

D: Hello, I’m captain Troy Hansen of International Rescue – please state the nature of your emergency.

It’s an emergency hologram for a ship that crashed, and it’s trying to get out of there, and that’s why it keeps grabbing people – to try to replace the deceased pilot.  It didn’t want Craig, because he doesn’t want to go anywhere.  Thanks to the Doctor and the monkeys, Sophie now does, which was why she was dragged in.  Well, now the Doctor’s looking pretty good …

D: Any questions no good.

Hologram: The correct pilot has now been found.
D: Yes, I was a bit worried you were going to say that.

But that would be a very bad thing.  Explosion, solar system gone, that kind of bad. 

However, love conquers all, including memory loss when Amy finds Rory’s ring while looking for a red pen to write the note to leave to bring the Doctor to Craig’s flat…  For a second I thought she might think that the Doctor was going to propose, but she suddenly had a flash.  She may not know what, who, she’s remembering, but she’s remembering something.

And there’s a crack behind Craig’s fridge. 

I liked it; I laughed, I … well, didn’t cry, but pondered; I enjoyed the writing and the acting and kind of wish this had been the episode before Vincent (except for that ending with the ring), because this would have had a better tone, in a way.  Maybe. 

And now I don’t know whether to seek out and watch the last two episodes of the season, or sit tight and wait for On Demand … After that there will be a drought until Christmas – well, no, some time after Christmas for us poor benighted colonists… Only a hundred sixty-odd days till they get it …

Anyway.  I’m happy about the redecoration of the console chamber:

And someone pointed out the weird painting in Craig’s hall, so I took a screencap and lightened it up and holy mackerel, it is weird…

And …. This was quite interesting:
Fairy Tale arc of Season V

And … Can I just add, at the last, that it worries me deeply to see this:

on the Doctor Who related website I linked to at the top? Ohhh … dear.

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