Thursday, October 30, 2008

We could be heroes

Watching Heroes at the moment is some of the most demented fun I've ever had sitting in front of the TV.

I loved the first series; the way it threw a whole bunch of disparate characters at you and gradually knitted them together, and the sense that they were ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances was very well done.

The second series wasn't as bad as everyone made out, but it was kind of aimless. A sort of "we're doing this 'cos we have to" thing. Thankfully, the writers' strike causing them to have to jam about ten episodes' worth of plot into three episodes caused it to perk up at the end.

Now with series 3, the writers have gone mad with power. It's the only explanation. I can visualise them sitting round a table, pitching the most ridiculous, shamelessly over-the-top ideas they can think of, then throwing them all in at once.

It's brilliant.

They just showed episode 5 (of 22, I presume) last night on BBC 2. So far we've had the end of the world, a nuclear explosion taking out Costa Verde, secret brothers, secret triplets, one of the lead guys turning into Evil Spider-Man, characters hallucinating Malcolm McDowell, good guys turning bad, bad guys turning good, good guys turning bad then good then bad then good again, a bar brawl, several people getting killed very horribly, lingering close-ups of Hayden Panettiere's exposed brain in a scene that I chose to believe was paying deliberate homage to the second-series finale of the superb Farscape, a joke with a tortoise cheerfully ripping off The Simpsons, blatant misuse of time-travel causing several main characters to be killed multiple times, and a Buster Keaton film. And absolutely no sign of Peter's annoying girlfriend with the atrocious Irish accent.

Heroes was a better show overall back in series 1, but it's a heck of a lot more fun these days.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Little Dorrit

There's this great skit on one of Eddie Izzard's older DVDs where he imagines the meeting that led to young singer Arnold Dorsey being persuaded to take on a pseudonym by his manager.

"Cuthelbert Bushtywank, Fringleson Hoopdeflip, Engelbert Humperdinck, Slipteburt Scrotedewhip - "
"Hang on, hang on, go back one!"

I like to think that Charles Dickens had bits of paper with long lines of ridiculous-yet-brilliant names scratched out and one circled enthusiastically. There's always one in his books, and they're almost always evil. In Little Dorrit, it's Jeremiah Flintwinch, and oooh, he's evil.
The problem with Dickens adaptations is that it always takes forever to introduce everyone, and it's always a game of Spot The Face for two or three episodes before things calm down. Alun Armstrong, Ron Cook, Mark Williams and Tom Courtenay are all in this one, but they don't count because they're in everything. Armstrong is in everything so much, that he's actually in this twice - he's playing Jeremiah, and as it turns out he's got a twin named Ephraim (which is almost as good a name). Then we've got Sue Johnston, Matthew Macfayden, Maxine Peake, Freema "'ere it's Martha out of Doctor Who" Agyeman, James Fleet, and loads more to come yet if Wikipedia's cast list is telling truths. And Andy Serkis, who should be in everything.

One of the great things about Dickens is everyone is either a) a fairly well-sketched character, which allows some proper costume drama stiff-upper-lip acting or b) a bonkers caricature, which allows some validated scenery-chewing. The former so far appears to consist pretty much only of Macfayden and the excellent Claire Foy as the titular Amy, but they both acquit themselves well. Of the gleeful hamminess of everyone else, special mentions must go to Armstrong, who punctuates every third step with a vicious growl; Johnston, who summons her inner dormouse as Armstrong's wife; and Serkis, who plays a flamboyant, psychotic French murderer with a big fake nose and beard and flappy cape and does it the only way that is right and proper - with lots of exaggerated gestures and a glorious overdone accent.

Proper British telly, done the proper British way. Almost makes you want to put up with TV Licensing. (But not quite.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

They're not even a real country anyway

So, I am writing this post in Canada, being towards the end of an eleven-day holiday in Toronto.

I have learned the following things about Canada:

* They share the U.S.'s inexplicable love of not putting the cost of taxes on stuff until you take it up to the till, with the result that you're never sure how much something is going to be until you actually go to pay for it

* They have an odd definition of "ale" (most of them appear to be lagers)

* They love to recycle

* They enjoy slipping you U.S. 1 cent coins on the sly instead of Canadian 1 cent coins

* They enjoy American football, so it is actually enjoyed in more than one country

* They don't say "eh?" that much

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Fifty-eight years ago today, the first ever Peanuts strip was published.

And the world became ninety-three percent more awesome.