Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone

Merry Christmas everyone, and the best of New Years!


Monday, December 08, 2008

"Created and written by Adrian Hodges"

OK, so I would have posted about Survivors sooner but I accidentally deleted the most insightful and witty review the world had ever seen from my 'handheld' a couple of weeks ago and so had to start from scratch. Hard to make the words go together a second time so here's something slightly less witty but much less mean.

I'm a big fan of the original Survivors, you might have guessed that after my droning on about it for the last year or so since the new version was announced. I was pretty excited about the remake as I think it's that rarity - a story that deserves, demands even, to be retold. If you ask me the apocalypse is more relevant today than it was thirty years ago and I doubt society has ever been closer to it's inevitable collapse.

A couple of years ago, before I'd heard of a Survivors remake, I started writing a post apocalyptic drama pilot about a rag tag group of mismatched people bonding together in the face of barbarism, disease and the threat of their own lack of practical skills. I was halfway though it before I realised it was really just a retread of Survivors.

Maybe that's what irritates me so much about Adrian Hodges unimaginative take on Survivors (apart from the qu
estionable 'Created and Written by' credit he seems to have given himself*). It's such a great premise for a series and so full of potential for new tales yet this reinterpretation retreads very closely the ground covered by the original. Whole sequences (I'm thinking particularly of the sequence where Abby succumbs to but eventually survives the virus) seem to be filmed straight from the original script. I suppose I'd read to much into it being described as a re-imagining of the original.

As has been pointed out in previous comments on this very page the new show is populated exclusively by young and beautiful people, shunning the ordinary folk of the original while crowing about it's multiculturalism.

Our band of beautiful survivors came together very quickly, which just about worked for this viewer, but I can't help feeling that was more due to only having six episodes commissioned than for the benefit of the story.

'Shit,' cries Mr Hodges, 'we can't spread them all meeting out over three episodes guys. They all need to have bonded by page 82. Plus let's just have them already set up in a house when episode two starts - no time for all that travelling the countryside guff'.

We heard so much about how 'slow' the original was and how 'pacey' and 'updated' the 2008 version would be. Truth
is the storytelling in the remake is just rushed, not pacey.

Once established (off screen) in their new home the survivors seem to take no steps to protect themselves, despite encountering a series of armed and unfriendly people they gad about shopping and chasing chickens without any apparent thought of arming themselves or indeed any sign of a plan for the future. Stark contrast to the original where the group is drawn together by Abby's determination to survive and designs for doing so. By the third episode there seems to be little feeling of danger or jeopardy. There has been much talk of farming and relearning old skills but zero evidence of it actually happening.

The apocalypse has been a slight inconvenience mainly manifesting in an inability to text. This lack of danger is exacerbated by the viewers occasional visits to a secret and isolated scientific base where people wear lab coats and talk about the virus and it being 'time to begin'. Yawn. Perhaps this problem is caused by the programme makers seeming intent to focus on the 'hope' aspect of the story in an effort to avoid the show being depressing or weighty. Chirpy post-apocalyptic dramas are, in my experience, quite rare - and I struggle to see this as a bad thing.

Another irritation in the opening episode is the casting of lovely Freema Agyeman as Jenny, a character who survived the entire run of the original series, only to kill her off in the opening episode. That caught us off guard didn't it? Except the character replacing Jenny isn't particularly different to her and a new viewer wouldn't care anyway. It feels as if the production team are saying 'Ha! Anything goes in our Survivors.' The reality though is that it doesn't make a blind bit of difference if Jenny survives or if Anya survives. The change is purely superficial.

Public reaction to the show seemed to start well, although ratings have declined with each episode. Internet chatter and press reviews seemed to take issue with another post apocalyptic drama (perhaps not helped by the very recent, and very good, Dead Set on Channel 4). Perhaps in these days of 28 Day/Weeks Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Fallout 3 and Wall-E there's only so many dead Earth's the public can take (not a sentiment I share). They'll be gutted to hear there's another TV version of Day of the Triffids on the way then.**

None of which is to say that I'm not enjoying it...

Maybe it's just the apocalypse slut in me but I kind of like it. I like the new characters, I like the multiculturalism. I think Paterson Joseph has managed to channel Ian McCulloch's standoffish (to the point of having a personality disorder) Greg Preston. Julie Graham (wincingly awful in the dire, dire, dire Bonekickers) brings much determination and passion to Abby Grant, even if she can't really compare to Caroline Seymour. Phillip Rhys is fun as the disenfranchised yuppie, completely out of his depth in the brave new world.

Cream of the new crop however is Max Beesley's Tom Price. A very differnt proposition to Talfryn Thomas's sometimes comical itinerant sleeper villain. The 21st Century Tom Price is a mercurial sociopath who seems happy to stand fast with his codependants for now, though it seems inevitable that blood will spill sooner or later - but whose will it be? His interaction with the other survivors is one of the highlights of the series so far.

If it wasn't for that 'Created and Written by' tag I'd probably be wholeheartedly endorsing Survivors 2008. As it stands I'm sticking with it in spite of it's lack of originality, it's arrogance and it's oddly neutered and unthreatening quiet Earth...

*How can something be 'Created and written by' one person AND ALSO 'Based upon the novel by' another person..? Discuss.
**And not gutted for the very good reasons that a)they can't hope to improve upon the 1981 version and b) there is so much more to Wyndham than the bloody Triffids. Why not film The Kraken Wakes for Gods sake!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Unnamed Blog Update

I've been a bad blogger. Not bad as in murdered your parents and fashioned their faces into underpants but bad as in not really been updating the old blogerooney as much as I ought. In the spirit of a bit of catching up then, here's some of the nonsense what's been filling my head the last few months...

As I was recently saying over at the old Fractal Hall T2 never really delivered on the promise of the original Terminator film for me. I mean it's got some good moments, and Linda Hamilton does a fantastic job of turning the Sarah Connor of the first film on her head. I just couldn't be arsed with the cutesy 'I'm your best friend' version of the Terminator especially in the relentless-killing-machine-knee-capping-people-because-killing-is-bad scene. Call me a sourpuss but there it is. As it goes I was never a fan of ET or the Goonies either.

Anyway, I had zero interest in
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which is as much interest as I'd had in Terminator 3 or the upcoming McWhatever sequels) but I happened to catch some of the opening episode on Virgin and thought it looked worth a look. I'm now starting on the second series and I must say it's really good.

It's a perfect sequel to both the original films story of the future resistance and the story of Sarah and John from T2. Lena Headey is excellent as the terribly damaged but relentlessly determined title character and Thomas Dekker (formerly of fast disappearing up it's own backside -
Heroes) is sympathetic as teenage John Connor, who is almost a prisoner of his own destiny, whilst sometimes showing the steel of the impossibly heroic future John Connor we have heard so much about. Also Summer Glau of Firefly fame gets to beat the crap out of big burly blokes on a weekly basis - which has got to be worth a look surely?

Fringe is great. It's often referred to as a kind of X Files clone but there's much more to it than that. While it owes plenty to Mulder & Scully (you know, mysterious strangers, magic torches (as seen on CSI) and all that FBI baggage) it's an awful lot more fun that that show was even at it's peak. Most of the audiences enjoyment of the show comes from the relationships between the principal characters.

These three characters are drawn together by the things they see and quickly seem to bond almost in spite of themselves. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), is an FBI agent drawn into a world of mysterious phenomena and niche science when her partner (in all senses) falls victim to a particularly unpleasant virus. The only person who can help them is Dr Walter Bishop (John Noble), an experimental scientist and grade A genius who has spent the last sixteen years in a mental institute. The third character is Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Walter's brilliant and estranged son who is required to sign Walter out of the sanatorium.

Quite aside from weird science and hidden conspiracies Fringe is worth watching for the amusing and sometimes questionable antics of Walter Bishop, frequently reminiscent of televisions favourite Time Lord.

Right that's it for now but be warned, I'll be back soon to talk about Apparitions, Survivors and (as Look-In used to say) much, much more...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Screenwipe Writer Special

Stop what you're doing and listen to me! ...with your eyes...

Thanks to my Electronic Programme Guide I've just noticed that this evenings Screenwipe
promises to be a Writers Special...

Charlie Brooker takes an irreverent look at all aspects of life on the small screen, including capsule reviews of the week's highs and lows.

In a writers' special, Brooker is joined by some of the best in the business to talk about how you make a TV programme actually happen. The people and pens behind Doctor Who, Father Ted, Peep Show, Life on Mars, Shameless and many more lead us through the joys and pitfalls of writing, with the added benefit of some of the best bits from the programmes.

More reason than usual to check tonight's edition out then. Remember it'll be be iplayable for a week after broadcast.