Do You See

31
Mar 04

Peas In Non Bling-Bling Shockah

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Peas In Non Bling-Bling Shockah: Juley on Eastenders last night: I don’t want vegetables on my face, bro!! The scriptwriters on last night’s ‘Stenders obv had been on a nightbus with some “street children”* recently, as the phrase “frontin’ on” was used approx. 9 zillion times, when they weren’t demonstrating the dangers of a materialistic society and it’s effect on “urban youth”. Clunnnnnk!

That Sharon needs to touch her roots up**, innit?

*or Jamie Cullum, haha
**I said ROOTS, you filth merchants

30
Mar 04

Tom’s post below

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Tom’s post below made me think that mayeb an issue here the vanity of the writer; after a time, being a top-class gag crafter just isn’t enough. They wish to be seen as dramatists, commentating on the human-condition through the eyes of noble members of the working class who populate their scripts. The more they push forward this, the more they forget gags and push character emotional plotlines, not situations (it being a sit-com, after all) where the character of the character is a crucial part of the set-up of the gag.

Take Frasier (no, missus, please!) where they don’t indulge the melancholy of the Cranes. They want us to feel sympathetic to the Cranes, so they let us know it’s there. It ultimately a classic farce with the humour on the gentle and affectionate spectrum, not abrasive and scabrous. But they are pompous and that’s where the gags come from; most arise from the failure of the Cranes to do something really, really simple, such as say ‘excuse me’ to someone and the humour moves forwward until it arrives at the end point of a farcial new timeline than started off at a tangent from reality when Crane pomposity made sure something really simple didn’t happen. The melancholy is a crucial comedic device, not a conceit for the writers.

All of which make me think here that there’s something here about collegial writing as common with US shows and the single-writer model favoured here. A writer on their own is more likely to feel the need to get ‘arty’ and less likely to have someone remind them that ultimately, it’s about the gags, stupid.

29
Mar 04

Only Fools And Horses / Best Sitcoms

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Only Fools And Horses / Best Sitcoms: my views on OFAH are pretty conventional I suspect – very good early on and then getting steadily worse as first Rodney and then Del Boy get hitched. The character of Cassandra at least had comic potential as a middle-class ‘regular’, but with the introduction of Raquel the series tilted fatally to the sentimental and has been a Christmas chore ever since. Not that audiences seem to care: I am clearly a sitcom snob. David Dickinson, the ‘advocate’ for OFOH in the BBC’s interminable Sitcom Idol votefest* put forward his ideas about why people loved it – they liked it because it was about Proper Things like death and marriage and growing old.

This idea that sitcoms should be bitter as well as sweet is one I find increasingly irksome. For my money a sitcom has one duty: it should make you laugh, as often as possible. Not a fond chuckle at the foibles of a favourite character but a GREAT BIG LAUGH at a JOKE. If the joke is dark or upsetting, fine, it doesn’t bother me as long as it is a joke. What I don’t enjoy are the sitcoms which eke out a diminishing supply of gags with more-or-less ‘serious bits’: something Only Fools And Horses in its latter days is a good example of. It’s also why I’ve never been able to tolerate Carla Lane.

*(a parade of incompetence by the way: they ran out of time and had to present the ‘award’ as the credits rolled, and then some wag followed the closing moments of this family-uniting laughter pageant with an ad for a programme about predatory paedophiles.)

28
Mar 04

June 8th. JUNE 8TH!!

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June 8th. JUNE 8TH!!

That’s the release date for the first home-video release in any format of SCTV, the classic Canadian comedy series that originally ran from 1976 to 1984. The show never got a VHS release because the producers, not anticipating the home video market, didn’t have music clearances. But somebody has finally thrown some more money at the situation, and Shout! Entertainment is the distributor (though Time-Life was briefly rumored to have it). During its heyday the cast included John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara and Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis was one of the main people in the first 2+ seasons. Martin Short joined during the 4th season and did a little good work, though I’d be happy enough never to see his Ed Grimley character again. The DVD reissues are going to start with season 4, when NBC picked the series up in the U.S. and they switched from 30 minute shows to 90 minutes. It was a studio creation, not live like SNL — imagine your favorite band that constructs really intricate studio albums but don’t really come across in concert.

What I really loved about SCTV was the overall concept of the series, which was that there was a small TV station called SCTV somewhere in the faceless heartland of North America, in a town called Melonville — over the years the series develops the characters of the people running the station and a few folks in Melonville and the Quad-Cities area. But it’s a TV station, so a bunch of material could be presented as the shows that SCTV is broadcasting — movie parodies like “The Grapes of Mud,” “Polynesiantown,” etc., commercial parodies out the yinyang, you name it. PLUS, if you’re familiar with small-town America’s tv stations, you know that the on-air talent does, or at least used to do in the good old days, double and triple duty. So at SCTV, newscaster Floyd Robertson, who considers himself a serious journalist, has to demean himself on Saturday nights as Count Floyd, host of “Monster Chiller Horror Theatre,” presenting crap like “Doctor Tongue’s 3-D House of Stewardesses.” Metafictional layers upon layers, and all of it funny as hell. I am here to tell you, it’s worth buying a multi-region DVD player. The first collection will be nine 90-minute episodes (the 4th season was a supermarathon of 27 episodes in three cycles of nine each) plus three hours of supplemental featurettes, on five discs. List price is US$100, but *m*z*n has it available for preorder at $69. (These numbers are up from $90/$63.) GET IT!

26
Mar 04

“There’s a voice, keeps on calling me, down the road – that’s where I’ll always be….”

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“There’s a voice, keeps on calling me, down the road – that’s where I’ll always be….” Zatoichi is The Littlest Hobo. With a sword. And lots and lots of bloodshed. The kind of blodshed that would not have been suitable for Tuesday teatime, though I found the winsome adventures of a dull dog equally unsuitable for my entertainment. In Zatoichi, even the droplets of blood are entertaining*.

Like the minute mangy mutt however, the story of this (or any) particular adventure of Zatoichi has very little to do with him. He wanders in, almost like a force of nature, gets involved and solves a problem. Unlike similar characters, Drs Richard Kimble or David Banner, Zatoichi’s cure for said ills is usually massive bloodshed. Takeshi Kitano seems to enjoy the enigmatic icon, mumbling and shambling through the character motivational scenes of all the other characters. But we never find out who he is, why he is such a great swordsman – and it does not really matter. Kitano the director spends plenty of time distracting us from that in plenty of other ways.

Zatoichi has a lot in common with Kill Bill, in as much as it is a bunch of source material blended and thrown at a wall artfully to see if it will work. Generally it does. I missed Zatoichi himself in the climatic ensemble tap dance, but the film is willfully funny, dark and joyously bloodthirsty when it wants to be. There are issues about feudal Japan at the heart of the film, but only a curmudgeon would go to look for any overly serious theme (though the cross dressing Geisha is interesting). Instead take it as a primer, as a bit of cinematic fun, and take it as often as you can.

*Massive amounts of CGI bloodshed produces what looks like very unrealistic arcs and droplets. This is probably only because I am used to my bloodshed being explosive prosthetic pacs and sprayed out of squeezy bottles.

25
Mar 04

One of the most enjoyable English lessons of my youth was watching

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One of the most enjoyable English lessons of my youth was watching Joe Macbeth, over two legs. Perhaps the teacher thought that the updating to a gangster milieu would make the complexities of the Scottish play more relevant to his rabble of fourteen year olds. Unfortunately not living in 1940’s Chicago or being excessively involved in organised crime outside the flogging of some bent stencils, gangster speak was equally as alien as Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English. Nevertheless it had guns in it, Banquo was renamed Banky and was most importantly played by Sid James. A rare straight role for master of the dirty laugh, he sucked us in on the promise of a few innuendos. They did not appear, but watching videos always make for a good lesson. Or two.

My point? Watching the recently rebuffed Jean Cocteau’s Orph’e illustrates the folly of updating the classics. Orpheus is a mess of a tale anyway, so much so that the film feels the need to tell the original before showing its modern take. So Eurydice dies because he is to busy playing music. So he goes to rescue her from the underworld, but he can’t look at her. There is the vaguest of moral in the original which, and about as much sense as many Greek myths had. Cocteau updates to post-war (but still surprisingly fascistic) France, making hisOrpheuss a poet and the whole thing makes even less sense.

No-one is watching it for its story of course. Instead we invoke its dreamlike sensibilities and wonderfully inventive special effects. But history is rarely kind to spesh FX extravaganzas, here the effects lookseamlesss but as is often still the case, in the service of a dunderheaded story. Why are mirrors the way into the underworld, why does Death take an interest in square jawed self-obsessed Orph’e, why does Eurydice just not leave him rather than dying of the heartbroken swoon. And why does Cocteau tag on a happy ending? Worth it perhaps for the backwards gloves (later ruined by replaying), but generally more stupid than visionary. And yes, Joe Macbeth is better, cos its based on a better story. And has Sid James in it.

24
Mar 04

wive$watch

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wive$watch:

kyle takes up bareknuckle boxing and noah is doing rent boys YAY – except not: i so wish this was actually not like swimming through nearly dry fishbone glue, cz it cd be fast and funny

i know it fits the hyperwealthy milieu’n’all but i think the mistake wz making everyone’s rooms so BIG, it takes ppl far too long to walk in one door and out another

23
Mar 04

If television has taught us anything

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If television has taught us anything, it is not surely this: “Spiders revolt and terrify us”

Shape up Channel 5, I hope you are not going dumb on me all of a sudden!

Bunk Bed Boys:

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Bunk Bed Boys: you get the feeling the BBC don’t care for it too much. For the winner of their BBC talent sitcom writing contest you would think they would be trumping their new discovery. Instead they punt it out at 11:30pm on a Monday night, rescheduling with two days notice from 11pm. This tactic may well be to justify a low audience figure, since it was equally poorly trailed. Why (a question I asked the man at BBC complaints). It is not quite clear why from the finished show.

In many ways it is quite obvious what Daniel Peak (Danny to Do You See readers) was thinking when he came up with the situation for BBB. Cheap, small number of actors and sets. Youthful cast, perfect for that BBC3 demographic. It is a classic sitcom set-up, akin to Black Books or Steptoe and Son. The lead characters are trapped together with an unhealthy sense of loathing towards the other. Witht he addition of an overbearing mother the scene is set nicely, as long as you get the characters to do interesting things. The pilot, with its masturbating tiger sequence, certainly had that. Perhaps it was the very strength of the animal subplot that suggested the pilot would not go anywhere. It is a great pity, as the cast and script have a restless energy which suggested that it could actually go anywhere it wanted to.

There were problems, mainly caused by its position as a stand alone pilot. Gaps were left for studio laughter which seems to have been edited out. The one location set could have been spruced up a touch (though the bunk beds themselves were great). And like any pilot, too much information had to be crammed into the establishing shots. But the BBC have a nice youthful sitcom here, and would be mad to let it drift away. For one, it has to be cheap, and considering some of BBC3’s other flops (Sort-it-out Man) worth at least a six part tryout.

22
Mar 04

Best TV acting ever

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Best TV acting ever

I’ve been saying for years that my favourite ever performance in a continuing series on TV is Andre Braugher as Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life On The Streets. I hadn’t seen it in ages, then I recently learnt that the Hallmark channel is showing reruns.

In the episode I just saw, Frank is convinced a cop has killed a young black guy. His colleagues bring in the dead man’s best friend. While the guy is being questioned, Frank tells Lieutenant Giardello (his much admired boss, played by Yaphet Kotto, another powerhouse actor) that this man didn’t do it. G tells Frank that he had better decide whose side he is on. Frank loses his temper and announces that he’ll give him this guy if they want him.

He walks into the interrogation room and takes over. We get to watch Frank playing a role and convincing this kid who has watched his best friend get shot by a cop to sign a confession stating that he killed him. We can see that Frank is acting throughout, but we can also see it convincing his quarry. It’s an astounding, bravura performance, and as good a five minutes of television drama as I can remember seeing in my entire life.