The things I’m loving right now … and the things I’m not

14 04 2011

I’ll be the first to admit that I have pretty selective tastes. I’m a self described geek who loves sports. I’m a gamer who loves to read. And I’m obsessed with television. So I present to you the things I’m loving right now … and the the things I’m not.

The things I’m loving right now:

Northlanders – For as long as I can remember I’ve loved vikings. I love the mythology, I love the imagery, I even love their names. When I was a kid I used to draw norse longboats in the margins of my school notebooks. I even (sadly) went and saw the monstrosity that is Erik the Viking (shudder). And of course I love comics and Brian Wood comics in particular. So Brian Wood’s Northlanders is the perfect product for me. Northlanders consists of short stories set within the breadth of viking history. Sure there are multi part stories but for the most part they are unconnected to one another. This style of writing suits Brian Wood. While I feel that DMZ has lost its way a bit over the course of its 60 odd issues (though I still love it), Northlanders gives us succinct tales that have a real bite.  The latest arc is about a horde of vikings beseiging Paris and comes across as a short form graphic version of Joe Abercrombie. That’s a good thing. My favourite story would be the 8 issues of the Plague Widow arc. Good (if bleak) stuff.

Mad Men – Kirsty and I have always loved Mad Men. There’s just so much to love – the writing is brilliant, the characters are deliciously flawed, the setting is a stylish nirvana for design geeks and it’s set in an ad agency. In a word it’s awesome. Season 4 has featured Don falling apart in an alcoholic fugue, stumbling from one alcohol fueled disaster to the next. He might be a creative genius but that doesn’t mean he’s smart. He has become awfully uncomfortable to watch but that’s okay as the surrounding characters have become the true stars. Peggy and Pete Campbell have become my favourites. Peggy’s recent scene where she was stuck with an art director for days who could not come up with ideas reminded me (sadly) of my own experiences. But the true scene stealer is Don’s new aged secretary Mrs Blankenship – she’s LOL every time she’s on screen, just punishment for Don for sleeping with his last secretary.

A Song of Ice and Fire – I’ve been rereading George RR Martin’s epic masterpiece, partly in preparation for the HBO series, a Game of Thrones (see below), partly because there is finally an official publication date for a Dance with Dragons (yay) and partly just because it is so fucking awesome. I honestly think that this is my favourite series of novels. In the Game of Thrones you can definitely tell that Martin was a television writer. There is an economy in his writing that comes from scriptwriting 101 – he gets in to scenes as late as possible, and leaves at just the right moment. In the early books at least there is a brevity and breathless energy in his writing and while by A Feast For Crows the story does feel somewhat bloated, there is always a sense that Martin knows exactly where this story is going. I’m part way through A Clash of Kings and I’m loving every page, every character and every story.

The things I’m not loving right now:

No Adventures of Merlin, No Game of Thrones and No Walking Dead – Living in NZ sometimes feels like living in a television ghetto. We hear of these great shows and sometimes we even get to see a season (in the case of Adventures of Merlin), or we read endless previews and begin to salivate, longing for the moment that we’ll get a chance to enjoy them as well. Then, in a decision that surprises no one, the powers-that-be decide “nah, no one will watch that” and we don’t get it. Or worse, they simply forget to put the next season on. The three shows that have me worked up at the moment: The Adventures of Merlin, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. We know that tvnz have The Walking Dead but when are they going to screen it? It has been months and months since it screened overseas, but here? Nada. They’ll have screened the 2nd season in the US before we get this. At least we have had the first season of Adventures of Merlin but that was a couple of years ago, there have been two more seasons since. I suspect Prime have forgotten they have this. Idiots. And then that brings me to Game of Thrones. Which no network has bought to screen in NZ 😦 Sigh. I guess that’s what the internet is for.

Warriors Injuries – okay, injuries are a big part of the game but this is ridiculous. Our best player Manu Vatuvei out for half the season, our best attacking centre Jerome Ropati out for the season and now Glen Fisiiahi, the most exciting Warrior since Vatuvei, out for 6 weeks? That’s just shocking. You need ALL your players to compete week in week out, take out your attacking talent and how are we supposed to survive? Injuries, please stop, now.





A not so heroic effort – a Heroes series 3 review

10 12 2008

(Spoiler Warning: this review relates to the episodes screened in NZ so far)

What’s wrong with Heroes Series 3? The first season of Heroes was great, a taut gripping drama that was genuinely compelling. Sure it ripped off other things – most notably J.M. Stracyznski’s Rising Stars and Brian Wood’s Demo but also a whole host of other comics as well as TV shows like The 4400, but it did so in a way that was grown up and sophisticated. Essentially you didn’t mind because it was just really really good. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” was a mantra that we tuned in for every week, it meant excitement and drama.

Then it all kinda went wrong. The season 1 finale fell a bit flat, we were promised (threatened) with the apocalypse and instead we got a literal puff of smoke. It was all a bit whoop-de-doo. Season 2 was wrong in so many ways. They introduced too many new characters, went away from the characters that we liked (Micah and his family should have had more of a prominent role, and Hiro was in the past for waaaaaaay too long) and made it too slow.

Pre Season 3 we were promised that they were going to go back to what was working in the first season. So far it’s been a failure. The action has definitely returned, there are a plethora of baddies out there and some of our heroes are turning villainous (rather apt when the season is titled: Villains), but it all feels very kindergarten. Everything is simplistic and the sophistication that seemed to be there in season 1 is absent. Or perhaps it was all just an illusion and we were so grateful to have a grown-up superpower show that we ignored its many flaws.

Whatever the case, Heroes season 3 has too many problems.

The show suffers from Peter being too powerful. He can literally almost do anything. They’ve tried to rectify this somewhat by having him firstly be stuck in the body of a criminal then by him contracting Sylar’s power. This has turned him into a powers vampire and we have an insight into what has driven Sylar to be a monster so far. Admittedly this story is strong and provides many of the more powerful moments in the show. However it has the potential to go farcical if Peter has to be restricted every episode, if they don’t he’ll logically be able to solve every dilemma with one of his myriad of powers.

There’s also a definite sense of the producers making things up as they go. Case in point is Peter’s Irish girlfriend from season 2. WTF is she? Isn’t she still trapped in that alternate hellhole future? I found this quote from Tim Kring to be quite shocking:

When the fan asked if Peter would ever acknowledge Caitlin or express any grief over what seems to be her dire fate, Kring replied, “No, we passed it. We leapfrogged it.” He added that when the idea of returning to Caitlin was brought up, they asked, “Really? Are we going to risk that? We have enough stuff to [deal with].”

That’s just bad scripting, bad storylining and bad producing. So we’re supposed to give a crap about characters that the producers obviously don’t? my wife, who is a storyliner for a television show, is absolutely disgusted by this and says that she’d be in deep crap if they pulled a stunt like that.

Another problem I have with the show is that there is no real sense of a broader story like there is in Lost or Battlestar Galactica. This is something that the show definitely needs. Personally I would love it if they explored the reasons why the powers have come on now. Why can’t they have some otherworldly threat appear – it would give you a lurking menace and really, is it any sillier than the utter crap that they’ve pulled already? Maybe their powers are the world’s defence mechanism at some terrible tentacled menace that threatens our very existence.

The other problems I have are pet peeves:

Every time I see Parkman do that constipated turtle face when he is attempting to use his powers I want to throw my remote at the screen. Show the powers another way, the way you’re currently doing it is farcical.

They’re frikkin ripping off The Fly with Suresh’s story and it’s not even that interesting! It’s possibly because the actor is soooo bad but I doubt it. At least when Stargate Atlantis rips things off (which they do every second episode) they do it in a cheerful and exciting fashion.

And worst of all, they’ve ruined Hiro’s character. He was the best character and now he just seems annoying. Characters change and evolve, have him become that dark future assassin struggling to regain his happiness. He just seems like an annoying Chihuahua at the moment. I want Ando to kill him.

I don’t think the show is irredeemable but every week it gets harder to watch it. It’s a tragedy because once upon a time, Heroes was must see television. “Save the cheerleader, save the world”  now means “meh”.





rejection reality

26 11 2008

A month or so ago Kirsty and I put some pitches in for some television shows at the company where she works. Ks worked with them for years as a writer, script editor and storyliner, so that’s how we got our “in”. They were looking for some low budget shows to screen on C4 or TV2 so we tailored our pitches to meet this. As often happens when you work on ideas we fell in love with them and while we didn’t think they were going to be picked up for development, we kinda hoped and prayed that they would.

We got the news yesterday that none of them got picked up. Not a shock, but still disappointing. I was definitely crossing my fingers that at least one would be seriously considered.

What was a bit surprising was that our strongest idea, Ad-versity, a comedy set amongst a group of ad school graduates who take on the clients that no else will even touch, didn’t even make it past the first paragraph. The people reviewing the pitches had seen too many ad agency proposals (as a result of Mad Men) and were rejecting them immediately. Which sucks, as the pitch was really funny (everyone who read it laughed out loud) and the characters were awesome. I’d actually based it on my experience at ad school so I think that informed the story and ideas. It had nothing to do with Mad Men other than the setting in an ad agency.

But in some ways it’s a positive as it brings home the reality of the situation. We just have to be more aware of what’s currently out there. You might think that following current trends are good, but those who make the decisions don’t necessarily think so. You need to make your ideas truly unique – even a total twist on something won’t necessarily even be read.





awesome news

13 11 2008

This news is awesome! George RR Martin is the best fantasy author around, and arguably the greatest ever. A Song of Fire and Ice will be an awesome series – let’s hope it gets picked up from the pilot. Now I have to start thinking who’ll play all the characters!





Ashes to Ashes … nah

28 08 2008

I can’t bring myself to watch Ashes to Ashes. It’s sitting there on our MySky (kiwi version of tivo), about four episodes worth, but I can’t bring myself to suggest watching it to Kirsty. Oddly she hasn’t suggested it once either. Instead we’ve watched Dexter, Chuck, Torchwood, Madmen, Mighty Boosh, Daily Show, hell we even watched Bear’s Mission Everest last night (that’s hardly a surprise, I adore Bear Grylls – K reckons I have a man crush on him). But not Ashes to Ashes.

We loved season 1 of Life on Mars. It was awesome. Brilliant writing, brilliant acting and a compelling story. TVNZ in their wisdom didn’t show series 2 for what felt like a decade and K and I almost became rabid waiting for it. Then it screened and it was … ho hum. It wasn’t so compelling and Sam Tyler was just a dick. There were great moments and a couple of good episodes but it just felt like an average meal that you’ve bought in a restaurant. You’ve paid for it so you feel compelled to eat it.

Ashes to Ashes sounds okay, and Gene Hunt makes it ALMOST worthwhile watching just to see how he copes with the 80s. BUT, I lived through the 80s and they were just, well, naff. I guess that’s the point but I want something more. I guess I’ve lost confidence in the creators.





the oh so mad men

15 07 2008

Two shows I’ve been loving for the past little while have been Mad Men and Dexter.

Madmen

We’re only four episodes into Mad Men but already it has become a must see tv for us. Of course that’s partly due to the fact it’s all about the advertising industry which I still harbour a suspicion I might end up in. It seems they’re making the show in the Sopranos style of television which is a good thing and kinda understandable considering the main guy behind it  was a writer on Sopranos. Like the Sopranos at times they deliberately try and shock, in Mad Men’s case in the first episode we had an absolute overkill on smoking – the smoke was so thick that at times I was surprised we could see the action. It actually was so confrontational that Kirsty said it confirmed that she never wanted to smoke. It was so ugly looking and unappealing. Which I guess was the point of the scene.

Also like the Soprano’s it focuses in part on the domestic. The scene last week where Don abandons his kid’s party after drinking all day while attempting to put up a doll’s house, really resonated with me. It’s strange, I don’t have kids yet, but for some reason it really connected with me – I guess Don speaks to the inner male or some primal maleness. Or some shit like that 😛

There’s also the added excitement of the creative process. In one of the episodes Don’s boss walks in and finds him sitting, staring into space and he says it scares him as he’s believes he’s doing nothing. I just smiled when I saw that scene remembering how I used to go through the same stuff. Sometimes coming up with something is just staring into the void. Paul White, a top copywriter and the head of the Advertising Creativity course at AUT, once told us that breaking down an idea is sometimes just about absorbing the brief for a week and letting the brain chew over it in the background. Kinda like the SETI project but for ideas. He told us how he and his art director were stuck on a project and solved it by going to the movies for a few days. Eventually the ideas came to them.

The biggest thrill I’ve had so far is the scene where they discuss the VW “Lemon” ads. They are of course some of the most famous ads ever but Kirsty had never heard of them so I was able to explain what was going on and the almost identical debate we had in class.

Dexter

We saw most of the first season of Dexter last year when we got back from our overseas trip. We were half jet lagged and messed up with the time zone thing and the only thing that caught our eye was this tv show about a blood splatter expert. Now the episode that we watched happened to be the only episode where Dexter doesn’t kill anyone and instead seemed to be relatively normal. Half way through Kirsty says, “I think he’s a serial killer”, and then we both went “naaaaah”. Of course he is and then of course the following week we had confirmation of Dexter’s dark side when he has his own brand of therapy with a therapist.

I just love the relationships in the show. Angel is this big lovable romantic, Debra, Dexter’s sister, is tough, cool and oh so secretly vulnerable while Doakes suspicions of Dexter’s monstrous nature add a dangerous edge to their scene’s. And Dexter himself is immensely flawed. He’s a monster like Tony Soprano and I find myself alternately cheering him on then appalled at myself for cheering him on.

Plus it features the best and creepiest opening on tv. I mean seriously, who knew doing your morning ablutions was so bloody, well bloody. Though of course there is the jarring factor that Dexter shaves in the opening and then has a beautiful stubbly beard by the time he pulls on his oh so sexy tee. And that brings me to my next point – who knew Michael C Hall was so bloody sexy? I hated him in Six Feet Under but in Dexter I’d happily change teams for him. Er, probably not, but I’d think about it at least.

Tonight’s the season finale and while we know what happens already I’m looking forward to it. It means that next week we get to watch season 2.  Someone Kirsty works with is going to loan us their copy. I’m sure we’ll churn through it of course then I’ll be bummed, I’ll have to wait for season 3!





the Should Be Shows

10 07 2008

I saw this post at Blog@Newsarama today and it made me think about other comics that I read that should be tv shows. Or what I think would make a good tv show anyway. And yes I fully believe the now cancelled (sob) Exterminators will make a brilliant tv show.

So without further ado here is Rob’s List of Should Be Shows:

Runaways

This has been my favourite for a long long time, even before Brian K Vaughan became a name and bidding wars developed over his spec scripts. It’s already slated to be a movie scripted by (yay) BKV but I want a tv show. It has the potential to be a new Buffy for the late 00s. Joss Whedon obviously thought so as he just finished a run as writer. I love the relationships and dialogue in Runaways and the characters have the same allergorical relationship to the teenage experience that Buffy’s crew have. It has the potential to run for a long time. Bonus points: it is officially the comic that Kirsty wants to adapt into a film or tv show.

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

I’ve been reading this manga lately and the thing that struck me is that it has a really strong hook for a tv show. Five students of a Buddhist university are struggling to find jobs so decide to pool their skills to form a special delivery service: to search for unnamed corpses then find out and fullfill their last wills. It’s like the plan I had when I was doing advertising to form a company with some other students and take over the world. Only unlike me they actually do it. The first volume of the manga is a bit ropey but from there on in it’s great! It’s like CSI and those other shows, only good!  I could definitely see it as a HBO kinda show.

Transmetropolitan

Transmet, one of my all time favourite comics would make an excellent show. Spider Jerusalem is a gonzo journalist in a future world gone mad. Over its 60 or so issue run Transmet went from a grubby little pleasure to a hard hitting commentary on contemporary politics. Oh yeah, with a three eyed bastard of a cat. Awesome. Also writer Warren Ellis got to work out some of his hatred for NZ in it – made this kiwi laugh anyway. Wouldn’t be a show for nana though, oh no, definitely not.

Planetary

Warren Ellis’ other defining work. Unfortunately Planetary will never make it as a tv show unless you made it for a hundred million dollars an episode. When I was first getting into comics this blew my mind. Planetary is a comic about the “Archaeologists of the Impossible”, tracking down the world’s secret history. I’m still waiting for the final issue (it’s only several years overdue) but i’d love to see this made for the screen.

Walking Dead

Robert Kirkman’s zombie masterpiece would make for one of the most unsettling television shows ever. No character is safe, not even the main ones. I think this is a show that the BBC could do well – they have a history of bleak end of the world tv shows and nothing would be bleaker than this. I doubt anyone could stomach the horror on a weekly basis but it would be brilliant.

DMZ 

Gotta have DMZ on this list. Brian Wood’s anatomy of a war zone (in this case Manhattan) would make for a compelling drama. When I read the comic it’s like I’m reading a storyboard and with the war in Iraq its still incredibly relevant. Plus a battered and fucked up Manhattan, I’d tune in for that.

BPRD

I know there is a Hellboy movie coming out soon and I’m totally amped for that, but a BPRD tv series would be the shit. Like Runaways and Kurosagi above, BPRD has a team concept that I could definitely see expanded to a tv show. Done properly it would be like a more messed up version of the X Files. Plus i want to see the team battling frogs!

Fables

For those of you who don’t know, Fables is about well, Fables and fairytale characters who are living in the mundane world. Like the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White, those kind of guys. it could have been twee and the worst kind of lame but Fables is anything but. The story is awesome, the interpretation of the characters is wicked cool and it has high drama in every issue.  

Hellblazer

There’s already been a crap film starring everyone’s favourite lunk of wood, Keanu, but that film was almost as far from the comic as you can get without making the character Mickey Mouse. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. Made as a British series with the tone of Cracker, Life on Mars or Ultraviolet this would be wonderful. At least it would wash the taste of Keanu away.

Star Wars: Legacy

I know there’s the Clone Wars cartoon coming soon and it looks brilliant but I would love to see a tv series made of the Star Wars: Legacy comic. The comic harks back to the tone of the original movie – heroes are ambiguous, the dialogue crackles and the universe is gritty and dark. There’s none of the cgi sheen that George Lucas insists is his “true vision”. It’ll never happen but I can dream!