Friday, December 29, 2006

Box Stupid

Though not one for New Year resolutions and other such bunk, for 2007 I’m thinking it might be an idea to be less critical and disparaging in some of my observations. Especially concerning television. Or rather, British television.

After all, weren’t we taught if you haven’t got a good word to say about anything, don’t say anything at all? But given it’s not yet 2007, there’s time for one last grumble.

I’d planned a post of my Top Ten television shows of the year, particularly since I could do a list of films due to a growing lack of enthusiasm for the cinema. It would have been up already had I not decided to wait until after Christmas, just in case something wonderful leapt out of the schedules at the last minute. Which means I’ve either been infected with a modicum of blind optimism or gone utterly demented.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is of course the latter. Because this year Christmas television has been especially cock. Of course television over the holiday period isn’t supposed to be good. It’s there to serve as a time-out for the nation between gorging itself immobile, tiresome games and escalating family feuds.

Even so, when a showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which has been available on DVD for three years now, scores the highest rating on Boxing Day with 10.1 million viewers, it’s pretty obvious something is incredibly wrong. In fact the screening came third overall over the two-day period.

Top, inexplicably, was The Vicar of Dibley on Christmas Day. 11.4 million people watched. Frankly I’d prefer to have my genitals pressed against an industrial sander coated in bleach for an extended period of time.

Apparently one of the plot threads involved the gormless idiot-girl in the series becoming convinced she was the last living descendant of Jesus after deciphering the clues in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. What is that book, three years old now? That’s writing with its finger firmly on the pulse. And a thumb firmly up the butt.

The remaining comedies were either a litany of trite catchphrases in place of jokes and grotesque caricatures instead of character, or tired family sitcoms. With their obvious chuckles and casual racism, they wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 1970s (or at least from a time when Dawn French could still see her vagina). Repeats of Porridge and Dad’s Army were once again on hand to show how desperately unfunny this current crop is.

In terms of drama, The Ruby in the Smoke was good. I love Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy but never got around to the Sally Lockhart quartet, which he describes as “old-fashioned Victorian blood-and-thunder”. Any story when the innocent young heroine has to inhale opium to unlock her past is all right by me. But ultimately it lacked something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then there was the new version of Dracula, which managed to be even more irritating than Coppola’s 1992 version. Described in Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel as a ‘tall old man’ and certainly an imposing figure in all the previous adaptations, this time around the Count was anything but. Marc Warren, who specialises in playing weasels lacked any real presence. The silly wig didn’t help either.

And finally there was, of course, the Doctor Who Christmas episode. (Calling it a special would just be plain wrong). All the critics that jabber on about how brilliant this show is and how it has revitalised television drama really should be hung upside down and beaten around the face and neck until their heads come loose.

Useless, lazy rubbish, this was the fairy on top the Christmas Tree of Stupid. Anyone over the age of twelve who raves about the show is either officially retarded or in need of an MRI.

To keep with tradition, all the familiar elements were once again in place: piss poor pacing, a stupid storyline capped off with the obligatory deus ex machina, a nasty intrusive soundtrack and none too special effects. Darkness in Legend, already appropriated in the previous series, was referenced once again for the villainess, along with healthy dollop of Shelob added to the mix.

Being sicked up on would have been more entertaining. The only reason we stand for this kind of nonsense is... it’s Christmas! But even that excuse is beginning to wear thin.


At 12:28 pm, Blogger Ian Smith said...

Couldn't agree more with your comments on TV, but am surprised by your loss of enthusiasm for cinema.

Admittedly, there's the endless naff Hollywood fluff for 13 year old boys there's always been, but there's been an incredible number of wonderful movies I've caught over the last year which mean that the only use of the box in the corner of the living room these days is to watch such cinematic gems on DVD (or if one MUST watch TV to do so by grabbing the best American TV drama on DVD and watching that).

Admittedly a trip to the cinema these days is a thankless task, surrounded as one is by the chattering masses and mobile ring tones, but films like "Pan's Labyrinth", "Babel", "Junebug", "Hard Candy", "Shooting Dogs", "United 93" and even "World Trade Center" have made even that an ordeal worth undertaking, and that's before taking into account some of the better, smaller 'art house' pictures.

At 2:24 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I think my loss of enthusiasm is actually going to the cinema with all the twittering proles. And being thoroughly sick of all the blasted hype.

If the alternative is to wait until they come to DVD - or, in some cases, even until they get their UK television premiere - then I'm happy to wait.

Especially when the sound mixes favour loud booming effects over dialogue and I can bring up the subtitles.

Another step on the road to being a miserable shut in.

Oh, and one more freaking thing about that dumb Doctor Who... that stupid sodding tank at the end blasting at the alien craft. A flippin' Chieftain tank!?

Get one of those into position up the High Street, no problem. Maybe a couple of fighter jets instead?

And for anyone who says it was probably very difficult to get hold of footage of a couple of Tornado fighters and the like, I might have to do a post about my interview with the head of Directorate of Corporate Communications (RAF) - which is the department that helps out film and television companies.

At 2:54 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Wow...what a vent...I could almost taste it.

But ya know...some might say why watch then if its sooooo bad. I know I's what we do, but maybe that 'looking for the positive' resolution might help find some light in all the bleakness?

(I know, I'm dreaming)

At 3:13 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


No you're absolutely right. The only two I watched all the way through were Doctor Who - which was an absurd act of masochism on my part - and The Ruby in the Smoke because it had come recommended.

And as much as I bitch, I really, really wanted them to be great because of the time and the effort put in. It may be a little misplaced at times, but folk have actually got off their backsides and been given the opportunity to make them.

Dracula I gave up on after about ten minutes but flipped back occasionally when whatever the heck it was on another channel cut to a commercial break. By which time it was silly.

Vicar of Dibley I absolutely loathe and didn't watch, except for... again, flipping channels, I accidentally hit BBC1 late into the show and caught part of one scene. Which was:

Dawn French rising up out of a (very big, obviously) puddle of muddy water. It was shot in such a way that it obviously referenced Willard rising up out of the water on his way to kill Kurtz.

I mean, come on, an Apolcaypse Now reference? In 2006, going on 2007? And not only that, the scene that always gets parodied. Fuck me, that is too lazy for words.

What happened next, I don't know. I switched over immediately before I had to reach for the bleach.

Hey, maybe one of the characters said: "I love the smell of brandy butter in the morning." That would be so funny.


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