Sunday, 24 October 2010

X Factor (ITV1)

I managed to escape the whole show by going out this week, but what I did see of "Guilty Pleasures" week did raise 2 moments of slap yourself in the head dumbness.

1) As part of "gulity pleasures" week (ie, crap tracks you kinda like) one act performed Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. Guilty pleasure... Led Zeppelin... reeeeaaaaalllllllllllyyyy!?

2) Cheryl Cole talking about pre-pubescent manufactured (at boot camp) boyband One Direction's encounter with hundreds of screaming girls on Oxford Street said "boyband's have to deal with screaming girls like you did. Even the Beatles". Boyband... The Beatles... reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!?

This is what Ted is completely right about. Having a singing competition to create a new mainstream pop star is OK if they understand that that's what they are. To compare anything it creates to The Beatles or dismissing such massively influential bands as Led Zeppelin is appalling and just wrong.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Event (Channel 4)

A few weeks ago I mentioned the new US show The Event. This Friday it starts on Channel 4 with two episodes back to back from 9. But is it still worth checking out? Having now seen the first 5 episodes I will say Yes!

Of course The Event is a network show and therefore a different beast to the HBO shows I've recommended, like The Wire, True Blood and Treme. HBO shows are filmed in complete, short (usually 10 or 12 episodes) series and aired in their entirety while the networks are filming while it airs; usually about 6 weeks ahead. This tends to mean network shows are easier to pick apart and can change as the series progresses, depending on the response. And as network shows are always fighting not to get cancelled (especially in their infancy) they need to do more to keep the viewer watching and therefore tend to have something big happen every week. When done right, in the likes of Lost and early series of 24, this makes great entertainment as long as you don't think too much about it. When done wrong it makes for some shoddy TV. For example, later series of 24 seemed like they were written in 4 episode blocks with a massive twist every time it got passed to the next group of writers leading to a series that bore no resemblance to the start within 8 hours; or every series of Heroes after the first where superpowers were turned on and off or characters turned from good to bad and vice verse on a weekly basis just to suit whatever was happening that week, nevermind what happened before.

After just 5 episodes I can't be sure that The Event won't turn into something balls in the future, but for now it's building quite nicely. It's fast paced, mysterious, mostly unpredictable and fun. The characters have been sketched quite nicely and have room to be fleshed out, something Lost did so well, but they are still just sketches; not the fully drawn characters of HBO. Despite everyone looking so beautiful, a constant irritant in network TV, I don't particularly want to slap anyone I'm supposed to like. There is a minor worry in episode 5 where a character did something very out of character, but I'll hold judgement until I see where they take it.

So, if you're at home alone on Friday with nothing planned then check it out. It's nothing on The Wire or Treme, it's much better than Heroes or Flashforward ever were and it's not too far behind where Lost started out. It won't change your life, but it will hopefully keep you entertained.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Film 2010 (BBC1)

The second edition of Film 2010 dropped the live outside broadcast which was so awful last week, but also didn't include any reading of viewer messages which leads me to wonder, why is this show live? Seemingly so Winkleman and Danny Leigh can't give closure to their reviews. Instead they have to just stop and move onto the next piece far too quickly. The two headed reviews weren't helped by this making them feel indecisive. It's by no means a terrible format and will hopefully improve over the series. I've been genuinely surprised by Winkleman who, for the first time ever, doesn't seem drunk and incoherent. Danny Leigh will hopefully develop some confidence because at the moment he comes across a bit wet. He needs to stop justifying himself so banally.

It will very quickly return back to what the BBC's Film show has been since Norman's heyday... something I'll watch if it's on, but won't make much effort remember.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Film 2010 (BBC1)

I forgot about this so I watched it on my Wii. The idea of Claudia Winkleman reviewing movies sounded a very wrong one. For one, she's a woman and we all know women can't concentrate long enough to watch anything over an hour long unless it includes moody vampire nonces, ABBA songs or a group of women suffering personal tragedies together, but being happy and empowered in the end. Thankfully she's accompanied by Danny Leigh, film reviewer for the Guadian and man. At least he will make sense. There are also spots fronted by the "team" of Chris Hewitt from Empire and Antonia Burke a novelist with no heart.

The show is broadcast live for some reason. The only reason seemed to be so
Chris Hewitt could interview Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and... Spider-man... fuck, I've forgot his name... not Tobey Maguire, the new Spidey... he's in The Social Network... Andrew Garfield! I remembered. Anyway, they did a live interview and it was a shambles. Other than that nothing was really gained from the live broadcast.

Winkleman and Danny Leigh both give their opinions on the films and Winkleman actually spoke coherently, so I was pleasantly surprised. This could be interesting when they get movies they don't agree on if they get to bicker live. Other than that it's not really much different.

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (BBC4)

The second part focusses almost completely on Hammer and was much better than the first. The story of Hammer is far more interesting and expansive than the story of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff for a start. Then there was the excellent section in the middle where we learn about Hammer's influence on Italian horror and Roger Corman, which made me want to watch the Edgar Allan Poe Vincent Price movies.

Gatiss loses most of the creepy paedo when talking about Hammer, although it does creep back in the middle section. My main problem is the style everything is presented. Shots of Gatiss walking around looking thoughtful while we listen to a voice over comes across almost pompous. There's even a protracted shot of Gatiss pouring a cup of tea that holds a good 10 seconds longer than makes any logical sense. It just irks me. I'd rather see footage relevant to the voice over.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

X Factor (ITV1)

Insult of the Week - Louie Walsh to Matt Cardle "You remind me of Bono". That's the polite way of saying "you're a cunt".

Highlight - Cheryl Cole had a new, red, hairdo which included a fake plait that sat on her shoulder like a bloodied rat.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (BBC4)

The former star of League of Gentlemen and now novelist and writer on Dr Who and Sherlock brings us a documentary series about Horror movies. This first part looked at the first golden age of Hollywood horror, from the 1920's to the 1950's.

Gatiss openly admits that this series will be about very personal horror movies and he is clearly passionate with the films he discusses, but everything is somehow very dry. You expect such a creative, funny writer to bring some fun to the script, but he doesn't. Instead he delivers information in an overly theatrical way which, I assume, was intended to bring the fun to it, but he came across more like a paedophile museum guide for a school trip. Creepy.

I worried early on that this was just going to be another documentary about the same old films as the first 15 minutes mainly cover Dracula and Frankenstein, but things get more interesting after that with sections on James Whale, Freaks and RKO. By using Darcula and Frankenstein the episode does has an arc as Lugosi and Karloff stories litter the hour and finish it off.

Despite the dry yet perverse delivery this was a pretty interesting hour and I learnt quite a bit; the middle 30 being particularly good. The second episode looks like it's going to cover Hammer although I hope it covers more. And I hope there's more John Carpenter, I want to listen to him talk about Horror, not the (now) 100 year old woman who was in Dracula.

Monday, 11 October 2010

True Blood (HBO)

True Blood is the latest series from Alan Ball (writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under), and based on Charmaine Harris's Sookie Sackhouse novels. It takes place in Bon Temps, Louisiana, now; only vampires are real and have "come out" after the creation of Tru Blood, a synthetic blood vampires can survive on.

The core of the series is Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a naive waitress who can read people's thoughts, and her relationship with vampire Bill Comption (Stephen Moyer) . Surrounding them are Sam Merlotte who runs the local bar, is desperately in love with Sookie and has a secret (he turns into a dog. I'm not ruining anything, it's bloody obvious from about episode 3), Tara, a fiery young black woman who is Sookie's best friend, Jason Stackhouse, Sookie's incredibly dumb and horny brother, Eric Northman, a 1000 year old vampire and former viking, Jessica, a 17 year old girl Bill is forced to turn into a vampire and has to care for and LaFayette, a flambouyant gay cook and drug dealer.

Series 1
The excellent first series gradually introduces the world and the characters quite brilliantly through 3 central stories: Sookie, Bill and Sam's love triangle, a murderer killing "fangbangers" (women who sleep with vampires) and the dealing of V (vampire blood's a drug). It is all pulled off really well, gradually building a solid lore. It is also surprisingly funny with a rich sense of humour throughout. And there's plenty of sex and blood.

Series 2
The second series starts out fantastic with Anna Paquin tits and gets better. This time round we learn more about vampire culture with Sookie and Bill leaving Bon Temps with Eric to find his maker, Jason joins the religious right's anti-vampire movement/army while back in Bon Temps the mysterious Maryann (Michelle Forbes), who has a past with Sam, turns up and possesses the town. The first two stories come together nicely and come to a satisfactory conclusion with a couple of episodes to go allowing Sookie and Bill to return home and deal with Maryann.

Series 3
This time round werewolves are introduced into the mix and they don't really add anything. The main story this series concerns the vampire King of Mississippi's attempts to take over vampires. The King himself is a fantastic character, supreme fun and this story was really good, sadly this series has far too many uninteresting subplots: Sam finding his birth parents and brother, Tara being kidnapped by a vampire, Jason wanting to become a cop, Jessica and Hoyt's love story, LaFayette falling in love with a witch (surely being a bloke he should be a wizard). This series also makes a massive mistake in explaining what Sookie is.

The first 2 series are quite excellent. Most of the irritating vampire traits are kept in check and there's some fun ideas added. There is also a good balance between drama, comedy and horror. And, best of all, the characters are great, in particular LaFayette, especially in series 1, is great fun, Jason is an extremely likeable idiot and provides plenty of laughs and Tara has some great putdowns.

The third series is less good, but still entertaining. As I've already said, The Mississippi vampire king is brilliant and there's some fantastic gore, but it's beginning to lose the balance it held so well for two series. The homo-erotic subtext that runs throughout the first 2 becomes less a subtext and becomes overplayed. It also suffers from giving too many characters too much to do. All the major characters have their own story and they don't fit together. This means that the better stories (the vampire stories) are sidelined so we can get enough screentime to major characters in previous series that should be taking a back seat (Sam, Tara and Lafayette). It is also starting to get a bit too silly with the amount of "magical" creatures. We already had vampires, shape shifters, Sookie and Maryann in 2nd series. Now we have werewolves, witches and Sookie's power defined on top. All in a town that has a population of 2,600 (according to the town sheriff). All a bit too soap opera.

It may be on the decline this year, but all is not yet lost. And if it is, at least there was 2 excellent series. Well worth it if you can stomach sex, blood and vampires.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

X Factor (ITV1)

So, this week the seemingly decade long live shows began and there was a "big twist". That was that each judge could put an extra act in the show which was one of the lamest "twists" ever concieved. So along with the 12 acts mentioned last week we have...

Over 28's - Wagner
A foreign chap in his 40's (at least) who would be brilliant if his singing voice matched his eccentricity. As it is his singing voice is the polar opposite to his eccentricity so "shit" would be quite a complimentary description.

Boys - Paige
A young black chap who's barber could be Kid 'N' Play. I was surprised he didn't make the 3 last week.

Bands - Diva Fever
If you genetically spliced The Scissor Sisters and Jedward together this is what you would create. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.

Girls - Trayc
As Gamu is being deported Cheryl couldn't put her back in so we got a different young black girl with nothing memorable about her except the retarded way she spells Tracy.

This weeks theme was number ones, but sadly no version of Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter.

Highlight - during Wagner's medley of Ricky Martin's She Bangs and the B52's Love Shack the director cut to a close up of one of the lady dancer's asses. I'm assuming she was supposed to be seductively rubbing her buttocks, but it instead she pulled her cheeks apart.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

X Factor (ITV1)

This week the final 32 "acts" are split into their groups and they go to the respective judges house and are narrowed down to the final 12 who will go to the live show. The over-25's has now been changed to the over 28's after the chick from Pussycat Dolls suggested they change it because "some of the guys in the over-25's a still young". So, acccording to X Factor you are no longer young at 29.

The final 12 are:

Girls - Cheryl Cole's group

Cher - Touted as being "unique" and "original" but actually is more "tuneless" and "raps bad". I have a horrible feeling she might win it.
Rebecca - A young black girl with an excellent voice, but nothing memorable. Will probably "grow" as the show progresses. This year's dark horse.
Katie - A thoroughly annoying young woman who you will love or hate, depending on whether you're intelligent (hate) or a moron (love). Shouldn't be in the show as she bottled her final audition.

Boys - Dannii's group

Aiden - a guy with over stylised hair who I have no recollection of.
Nicolo - a strange Italian lad with a genuinely eccentric personality off stage who then becomes more normal when he sings. He's actually quite likable and will probably go quite a way.
Marlon - quite natural performing he deserved to go through after being made to sing If I Was A Boy.


FYD - five blokes that together look a bit odd; i can't imagine many teenage girls putting their posters on their wall. They are also the only group that entered as a group.
Bell amie - 4 girls who weren't good enough individually so Cowell turned them into a group at bootcamp. I have no recollection of them at all. My tip to be the first voted off.
One Direction - Another group created by Cowell at boot camp. Much better than the girls, but what's the point in having a group category if you are going to make one on the day and put them thru instead?

Over 28's - Louis's group

John - the only act in the over-28's with any hope of going far. He basically only sings one note so is the X Factor's answer to Ian Curtis.
Storm Lee - a non-entity who's most memorable feature is his stupid name.
Mary - a 50 year old Tesco worker who has no chance of selling records, but has a really good voice.

The big shock was Cheryl Cole's failure to pick Gamu Nhengu; hands down the best act in the whole competition. She could sing, had a quirky voice, was immensely likable and would sell records. I think she didn't put her thru because the producers were afraid the standard British punter wouldn't be able to pronounce her surname.

I didn't endure Xtra Factor this week, but I'm sure Konnie Huq was still bollocks.