Tag Archives: tv

Four months of reading, TV and film…

In the four months since I went dark on the blog I’ve been ploughing through all sorts of fiction.

On the literary front, I ploughed through the back-catalogue of Jack Campbell, reading through his militaristic space-opera. Readable, entertaining, and demolished at great pace, if not of any great literary merit. I read the Peter F Hamilton short story collection, Manhattan in Reverse (some great concepts in there), two Ben Aaronovitch PC Grant novels (great dark urban fantasy set in London, reminding me lots of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books), the latest Terry Pratchett (wonderful, wonderful – more sophisticated and engaging that some of his other recent Discworld books), and a book by a client’s wife, Death at the Chateau Bremont – a fun murder mystery set in the South of France. I’ve got through more of Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue (including the fantasy/Western the Alloy of Law – great fun!), and now I have a stack of books to get through from Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle (currently reading the End Specialist about a world in which death is cured (99p on Kindle!), and the final Eragon novel) and from various Christmas presents (including the new Holmes, and some exciting fantasy and SF from Arvind).

TV-wise, thanks to my brother I’ve gotten into Modern Family (funny ‘cos its true), Community (funny ‘cos its off the wall and geeky), and via other recommendations/my own recognizance, Transformers Prime (after the horror of Michael Bay, this was a true wonder of storytelling – absolutely brilliant), Young Justice, Batman: the Brave and the Bold (thanks Arvy, brilliant) and Fringe (trashy but entertaining). I’ve dipped into Terra Nova (meh, Outcasts with dinosaurs) and Parks and Recreation too (not sure yet). I’ve been enjoying the Christmas specials too – Doctor Who nearly made me cry, Eastenders had me on the edge of my seat, and the AbFab specials gave me pause to giggle. Our sole cinematic expedition was to Mission Impossible 4 (a great ad for BMW, and fun as you’d expect it to be), and we watched Kung Fu Panda 2 on DVD on the bank holiday Monday. The Inbetweeners Movie awaits me on DVD…

So I’ve not been idling from that perspective, at least! More recommendations / comments on my reading/viewing history appreciated!

A new LED world

sony40My parents’ TV was reaching a certain age (I bought their Samsung Plasma in 2005), and I’d been longing for a new LED TV with enough HDMI ports for my consoles, Internet connectivity and some other good stuff. A seasonal cash back offer from Sony later, and a quick bit of horse trading with my folks, and we’re the proud owners of a new Sony KDL40EX723BU LED TV (catchy name, eh?).

Now, it’s hardly a dramatic world away from the old TV in terms of picture quality (the last TV was an LCD HDTV from Sony), but the frame is substantially smaller, and the software is a WHOLE lot cleverer; Wifi-enabled, the IPTV services are great (although my ADSL still sucks), the picture-in-picture Nav is awesome and the integration with our Sony DVR works much better.

I’ve not (and am not really intending on) bought any 3D glasses, despite the fact the TV is 3D capable. I’m not that curious about the format, so we’ll have to see whether anything really compelling happens in time to help me make the jump there. I have got, in my ageing but evidently still useful PS3, a 3D Blu-Ray player, so am ‘future-ready’ – assuming the future is 3D… but I’m open to persuasion!

In defense of Torchwood

From Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 107 "Immortal Sins"

So, Torchwood finished last week and as the show reached its climax, the complaints on this blog slowed to a trickle. Whether that’s because people lost interest or started to get drawn into it, it’s hard to say, but from my point of view – whilst the show didn’t reach the heights of Children of Earth – it was good (I’m not the only one that thinks so).

There’s always a challenge for writers when they decide to ‘reboot’ a show (or, as in this case, are forced to by funding circumstances), and the benefit of shows like Dr Who and even Star Trek – is that when they are rebooted, fans know what to expect. That’s not meant to be the same Doctor, or the same Captain Kirk; the settings are different, the context is different, the cast is different. In this case, Captain Jack and Gwen brought continuity and expectation with them, and so many loyal fans, it seems, found the changes a bridge too far.

I have to admit, as someone that is a big fan of American TV, I’m totally baffled as to some of the criticisms leveled at the show; it was too "Americanized"? Really? Why do you think Spooks, Doctor Who, etc., have got more exciting over the years – because they’ve ignored the conventions of American TV production? I’d argue the opposite is true; the episode lengths dictated by most American TV, the scheduling, all of it – has forced British serial writers to think beyond six episodes to longer story arcs, and learn how to tell stories within the stories.

I’ll freely admit Miracle Day wasn’t perfect. Elements of it were slower moving than they needed to be; the episodic sub-arcs didn’t grip and the overall ‘crisis’ only made marginal sense (which is par for the course with Torchwood, but when you’ve waited ten episodes for the climax… you expect more!), but it seems (and this is reflected in a few of the comments) to have been successful at drawing a new audience in. So perhaps it did what it was designed to do.

We don’t know if there’ll be a season 5 yet, but for more insights into the show production, have a read of this interview with Jane Espenson, one of the writer/producers on the show with Russell T Davies, and a longtime cohort of Joss Whedon. I’m hoping there’ll be more.

Comic-con, someday

Comic-Con LogoI don’t have a long list of places I’m itching to visit. I’m not one of those people that has 40 things to do by the time I’m 40. But there are a few things I’d like to experience at some stage, and, foremost amongst the ‘selfish’ desires would be to hit the San Diego Comic-con one year.

I’ve been following the news more closely than normal, thanks to Topless Robot and Geekologie, and hearing the inside track on things ranging from the new ‘Avatar’ series to rumours of Dr Horrible 2, seeing Andrew Garfield deliver his heartfelt geek speech on the wonders of Spidey, seeing the posters of the Avengers movie appear, knowing that the people making these things happen are wandering a giant exhibition stall with thousands of like minded people… well, it sounds intriguing, if faintly sweaty.

My brother and I have a non-specific plan to make it out one year. I’ve never had a lot of friends into the whole comic/fantasy/sci-fi/animation thing with me, but it is something my brother and I have always shared, and a select few other fellow geeks. Thanks to my brother’s career (he makes movies) I’ve met one of my favourite contemporary comic book writers virtually, Mike Carey, and that is a pretty heady feeling. Geek star struck, natch.

Anyway, if you’ve ever gone I’d love to know what you think and if you think I’d enjoy it. I’m not sure how I’d find the crowds – have always found that aspect of exhibitions unspeakably tedious…

The Walking Dead

THE WALKIN DEAD serie 2 dvdsMy brother introduced me, via iTunes, to AMC’s The Walking Dead – a 28-days-later style post-apocalyptic Zombie tv-series set in the American South – near the city of Atlanta. I’ve never really been one for horror – my cousins Rey and Anand used to lap this stuff up as kids, but I somehow never took great joy in being scared – amazed and amused were more my preference.

But the Walking Dead is very, very good television indeed. Whilst the characteristics of the zombies and the conventions of the genre are left undisturbed and ordinary, where it excels – as ArvD pointed out to me – is in the depth of the characters it manages to get across so rapidly. I’m only three episodes in but already have an excellent sense of half a dozen major protagonists.

For those curious, small-town sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up in hospital following a car chase and a shootout that sees him badly injured. He’s been out of it for several weeks and in the meantime pretty much everyone in town has either been killed, zombiefied or both. Unable to find his kids, with the help of a couple of other survivors, he raids the police station for supplies and heads to nearby Atlanta, where reports say there is a camp of survivors, in the hope of finding his missing wife and son.

It kinds of goes from there.

Really high production values, incredible performances, and very tight writing – incorporating some brave silences for mainstream TV-writing – has seen this renewed for a second season. Andrew Lincoln’s accent (he’s British playing Southern) is flawless.

I’m going to have to find gaps when Amanda isn’t around to watch it, as I don’t see her being sold on the genre regardless of the quality of the writing… there is a high level of gore involved.


HBO’s Game of Thrones–first impressions


We watched the opening episode of HBO’s new fantasy drama series last night – Game of Thrones. It’s been showing for some weeks on Sky Atlantic / in the US after months of filming in Ireland and lots of hype on both sides of the pond.

It’s based on George R R Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series, the first four books of which I blitzed through last year. Rich, immersive, politically complex, multi-faceted plotlines with an enormous cast of players. I wondered how it could make the transition to the screen and, having seen the first episode, I’m totally sold.

Atmospherically lush (that is the right word) you’re immediately sucked into the world and the politics of the Seven Kingdoms. The casting seems fairly spot-on at the moment – especially Tyrion Lannister – and Sean Bean is appropriately gloomy as Lord Eddard of Winterfell.

As you’d expect given the format, it whips its way through epic fantasy at quite a pace. Given that Mr Martin has taken some years to pen the fifth novel in the series, I do wonder how the pressures of commercial television will come to play in driving the completion of the series. In fact, Mr Martin has taken such a long time to get the next novel out that there has been some furore from the fans – evoking this perspective from fellow fantasist Neil Gaiman (in short, George R R Martin is not your bitch). He is, however, in some sense, probably at the beck and call of the nice people at HBO, which has picked up the show for a second season…

Trailer here for the epically curious:

Glee season 2 – episode 11… a return to form?

So, erm, yeah, I like musical stuff and Glee, too.

Last night’s episode was a bit of a return to form for the series. Where most of this season has seen a series of randomly interconnected songs with minor bits of more or less completely tedious exposition, there was actually a plotline in this episode. Zany, as ever, but more or less contiguous and coherent. Cannon, much?

Hasn’t been a better ep this season since Gwyneth did Cee-lo, IMHO.

Does it get better? Or worse…?

Trailer for ep here:

New sci-fi–Outcasts

Update: Further thoughts on Outcasts here.

I’ve only seen the pilot of Outcasts but am loving the ambition of the show. Bold, crazy, post-apocalyptic universe, Jamie Bamber making an appearance with his native British accent*, big budget BBC drama, Roz from Spooks, staggeringly striking sets in South Africa… so many good ingredients.

It saddens me that there have already been negative mutterings about its ratings and its been shifted to a graveyard slot – probably with a doubtful future. Why set these shows up on a pedestal? It’s sci-fi! For some reason, with rare exceptions, these shows always attract what the BBC controller describes as a “loyal, core audience” and rarely hit the mass-market mainstream – so why expect otherwise? I guess SFX budgets still don’t come in cheap, and everyone’s hoping they write a BatGal or a Star Trek.

Still – even if it doesn’t do great here, the BBC didn’t do much for its chances to do much better overseas with its weird series formats. 8 episodes? What is that?? An American half-season is 13 episodes – a length which gives you more time to get into a story or a universe, and which gives time for things to evolve to a point of genuine goodness.

Sigh. Well, if it gets cancelled, I’ll hope that it gets worse by episode three and I won’t regret its demise. But I’m not hopeful – I enjoyed the pilot. Check out the trailer here:


*I swear I thought he was American, he must be a good actor because I thought his English accent in Outcasts was unconvincing after seeing him on BatGal for years!


Been getting into Spooks lately. Tonight’s episode annoyed me slightly as they used an iPod Touch to hack into an iMac which was on the desk of a CEO of a City Firm – improbable on many fronts. Generally it was an awesome episode, though, just annoyed the geeky party of me, as I’ve never seen a non-marketing/design/publishing firm make widespread use of Macs — even at Google, where people can use pretty much any machine there want, there’s a fair mix of Mac and PC.

However… Spooks itself has clearly been having an impact on me. Today, walking back to the office at lunchtime, I didn’t see any bins where I’d expected to and so naturally assume that MI5 had moved them somewhere due to the threat level.

I think my brain works funny.