Friday, May 30, 2008

PCB's Television Round-Up 2008. Part 2

Prison Break

Oh dear. The show got off to a very bad start when Sarah Wayne Callies' decision not to return forced the writers to give Sarah Tancredi an offscreen death. It did not pick up from there. The show has never really been remotely interested in realism but the third season of Prison Break showed that this was a neat idea that had been stretched to breaking point and far far beyond. Factored into that are stupid things like Michael being banged up in Panama, a country where it's always 80 degrees with 90% humidity, but wearing a long sleeved shirt the whole time because the make up for his tattoos takes too long.

Strike shortened to just 13 episodes, it seemed to go on and on forever, as they tried to break out of another prison and I failed to care. I don't think the cast did either, as the acting was terrible, with Jodi Heap O'Crap giving the worst performance in a sea of bad performances. After the stakes uppingly great second season, this was a crashing disappointment. The announcement that there will be a fourth season and that Callies is back on the show (Tancredi's death will be revealed to have been staged) is an even worse decision than letting her leave in the fucking first place. I'll probably still watch it.


Maybe because by the time I saw the second season, the backlash was in full effect to the degree that Tim Kring had publicly apologised to fans that the sophomore season wasn't up to scratch. Or maybe it's that I watched the whole season in one big chunk rather than week to week. Whatever it was, I did not think the show took a dip at all. Sure, the new characters in and of themselves aren't the most fascinating of creatures, but meshing their storyline into Sylar's made it all very tense. Some of the storylines seemed a little redundant at first, but they all were paid off, and paid off well.

The biggest problem I had with this season was the absolutely godfuckingawful Oirish family that found Peter Petrelli. Are there no actual Irish actors they could have employed? The accents and the acting (particularly from Katie Carr as Caitlin) were jarringly awful. Other than that, I had no issues with this season. Again strike shortened to 11 episodes, at least they gave the season an ending, and with Sylar regaining his powers, looks like the third season will be quality.


The season started out better than ever. With this show, it's not the storylines that really hold the interest, it's the characters. The chemistry they all have together is really lightning in a bottle. It's always fun to watch them, even if what they're doing isn't particularly great (and the storyline to find Angela's husband was somewhat irritating).

However, the uproar over the season finale can't be ignored. The opening episode of the season, "The Widow's Son In The Windshield" set out the overall villains for the season, a supremely intelligent and evil killer, known as the Gormagon, and his apprentice. First time the show has attempted such a storyline (the only other recurring plotline has been with Brennan's father) and my hopes were high that it would be done well.

It wasn't. The strike shortened the season by a full 10 episodes and so true justice could not really be done to the Gormagon's story. In the season finale, it was revealed that Zach Addy was the apprentice, while the Gormagon himself was just "a nobody" and was killed off about three seconds after he appeared on screen. For shame! Why didn't they extend the Gormagon into the 4th season and give it room to breathe? Why did they fire Eric Millegan and give him such an unceremonious send off? While the episode was nowhere near as bad as I had feared (the opening with the fake funeral was fucking dreadful though), the Gormagon denouement was rushed and unsatisfying.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PCB's Television Round-Up 2008. Part 1

Well the TV year is drawing to a close. Thanks to the writer's strike, the scheduling has gotten a little haphazard here in the UK so the 2008 summation may take longer and run to more parts than planned. To begin, I would like to talk about the two freshman shows that didn't make it.


First of all, Audrey Niffenegger should totally sue the creators for ripping the premise off from The Time Traveller's Wife. Second of all, there is no denying that the show took a little time to find its stride. But then all new shows do and once Journeyman settled in, established its characters and got down to telling its story, it was a really good show that had potential to become great. Sadly, NBC didn't agree and canned it. I guess it was a small mercy that all 13 episodes of the show's first and only had been completed prior to the strike. While the viewer is left hanging by the show's ambiguous finale, at least said ambiguity was planned.

The Bionic Woman

Which is more than can be said here. With just 8 scripts completed before the writers downed tools, this show never stood a chance. And that is a crying shame as the potential was huge. Michelle Ryan was very comfortable in the role, the supporting cast were all great (though I laughed when Isaiah Washington was killed off. I wonder who he called a faggot this time.) and there seemed to be multiple plot strands that would, come the season's end, be all tied together. What a pity that it never got that ending. The storyline with the other Bionic Woman now seems to serve absolutely no purpose at all. Frankly, NBC have a fucking cheek to put this out on DVD and label it as "Volume 1" when a) they are releasing all 8 episodes on that volume and we all know that b) they have no intention of there ever being a "Volume 2". Sigh.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day blather

My blog has been awfully lacklustre lately. I've just given it a lick of paint to spruce it up. Not that that is the reason for its dearth of joy. The reason is me. And the reason I have been so blah lately is very simple. I absolutely hate my job.

I changed jobs in September of last year. Nobody likes being the new kid and so the first weeks were as tough as I expected. But then I got settled in and I grew to really enjoy the job and I liked the majority of my colleagues into the bargain. But then at the beginning of the year, there were some changes in upper management. The new people who came in then made some enormous sweeping changes, all for the worse. The end result of the changes has been that everyone is miserable and hates it but nobody in management seems to give a shit. I have gone from true enjoyment to not really wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

However, unlike a lot of people I work with, I refuse to just sit around and whine as that doesn't resolve anything. I am also not afraid to make myself heard. Last week I had a 1 to 1 with my boss that should have been for an hour. At the very beginning she asked me how I was. One hour and 45 minutes later, she knew EXACTLY how I was. Rather than be a tirade of negativity, I did address it all in professional and constructive ways so I do feel like I was listened to and some of the stuff I brought up has already been addressed, so that's good. We'll see how it continues, I guess. If it picks up or even levels off, I think I'll be ok to tough it out until the fabled b plan kicks into action. If, however, by the end of the year things are any worse, I'll be out of there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm going to be kind and label this as "misguided"

Listen, I love Scarlett Johansson. I do. She's a great actress, she doesn't play the Hollywood game and she's an absolute raving beauty. When I first heard she was planning an album of Tom Waits covers, it made some sort of sense. Her speaking voice is deep and expressive, so the songs would suit her range. Also, Waits' material can have a flair for the dramatic that, reworked in the right hands, can be amazing (check out Megan Mullally's take on "Ruby's Arms").

Unfortunately, the end result is the aural equivalent of this:

which is to say, it's ill fitting, it's vaguely embarrassing and it's also murderously drab at the same time. She can just about carry a tune, but there's absolutely no range to her voice, nor is there any expression or emotion. And her voice is buried under bland and insipid arrangements of the songs, which do nothing to disguise the fact that she's massively out of her depth.

Since she's been in the public eye for some time now, it's easy to forget that Scarlett is only 23 years old. It's possible that she might have some people cut her some slack due to her young age. Well, as much as I love her, I can't do that. When the likes of Laura Marling, Adele, Mika and Amy MacDonald are producing infinitely more interesting and massively superior work when they are even younger than that, I can't bring myself to chalk this one up to naivete. Like Katherine Heigl, ScarJo has a huge army of very loud haters who will go after her for any reason (if you're feeling brave enough, check out the imdb boards for the both of them. It's unbelievable). With "Anywhere I Lay My Head", all Johansson has done is hand her detractors 50 minutes of very valid sticks with which to beat her. Shame.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Day At The Theatre

Last Saturday I had a day in London to take in a couple of shows. One of them was courtesy of a friend who got me the ticket for my birthday, the other was me splashing out. I decided that, as I hadn't had a day to myself in the capital for what felt like ages, I would walk everywhere rather than take the tube. It was a hot and humid day so that wasn't one of my better decisions. It took 45 minutes to walk from Victoria station to the National, so praise Jesus they had air conditioning.

The Year Of Magical Thinking

This was the present. I really really wanted to see this when it was on in NYC but the run was too short for me to find time to get over there for it. While I was on my extended stay there back in 2005 was when Didion's memoir was published to much fanfare and fabulous reviews. I remember really wanting to read it but for some reason I still haven't gotten round to it.

Anyway, Didion has now adapted the memoir for the stage, handing over the acting duties to her good friend Vanessa Redgrave. Friends of mine who have seen Redgrave perform on stage in John Gabriel Borkman and Long Day's Journey Into Night have all commented how she is so much better than the rest of the cast, it's like she is in a different play altogether. Thus, a solo piece fits her well. More of that later.

The original book followed Didion holding her life together after, on December 30, 2003, her husband and professional partner of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly at their home while they were having dinner. Compounding her grief, their only child was lying gravely ill in a medically induced coma. The titular thinking is something Didion adopts as a coping mechanism, an "if" thinking, as in "if I can keep her safe, then he'll come back". The book ended on a note of hope, with her daughter Quintana seemingly on the road to recovery.

Technically, the play is Twenty Months of Magical Thinking as it is extended to take in her daughter, and her continued battle with her failing health. The battle was lost, (or as Didion puts it "she let go of the fence") to complications from acute pancreatitis, on August 26, 2005. I swear I read somewhere that Didion was not going to update the memoir when she wrote the play, but I can't find the article. It does of course make sense to update the play but in expanding your canvas, in order to shrink it into 95 minutes, then some of the original material is not going to make the cut. Some of the ardent fans of the book are not thrilled by some of the material Didion has chosen to excise, apparently.

Vanessa Redgrave is pretty incredible in the role. Her American accent was as bad as I was expecting (it was in fact the same mid Atlantic mishmash she had on Nip/Tuck) but it's my only criticism. At 71 years of age, this could be the pinnacle of what is already a legendary career. She has such an intense and mesmerising presence that it is impossible not to listen to every word she says over the course of the play. I defy anyone's heart not to break at the moment the magical thinking stops being enough and Redgrave wails in anguished grief that she "needs more, I need him. I need him back." The monologue is peppered with humourous asides to leaven the tone as well as reminisces of her life with her husband and daughter, so it's not all doom and gloom. The sense of loss and sadness is always there though, and when the play gets to Didion saying a last goodbye to Quintana, it's absolutely wrenching.

The play is simply staged, just one chair and four watercolour backdrops that disappear throughout the play to leave a bare stage. After Redgrave has uttered the play's final words and left the stage, a new backdrop appears. It's this photo:

Which just breaks your heart all over again.

After that I needed some air, so I walked to Selfridge's, just past Bond Street tube station, to treat myself to some girly shower gel and some manly aftershave. Then it was on to play number two.

Small Change

Hmmmm. I only went to see this on the strength of the cast. I have been a fan of Luke Evans since seeing him in Taboo but somehow this is only the fourth thing I have seen him in. And he's really hot. Lindsey Coulson's Carol Jackson was the best thing to ever happen to EastEnders so her being in the play was an added bonus.

I just wish it hadn't been so average. Described as Peter Gill's masterpiece of a play, it is a memory play, a chamber piece with just four characters and no set to speak of, just four chairs. I feel like I've been here before. It tells the story of two men who grew up next door to each other and were best friends before tragedy broke them apart and ensured that secrets would be buried forever and their relationship would remain unresolved.

Sounds fascinating, right? And it would be if it hadn't been told in such a frustratingly elliptical style. It is all over the place, jumping back and forth to tell fragments of the story in no apparent order. At one point, the two boys are laying on the floor looking up at the moon and in the same exchange of dialogue talk about how bright the sun is. It's not done well enough to be obvious that this is the collapse of several years worth of conversations into 20 lines, you just think the writer didn't notice he'd fucked up. Given that the writer is also the director of this production, I'd like to think he noticed.

Unresolved is also the keyword of the night. When the two boys meet again as grown men, the truth of their relationship begins to push its way to the surface but the dialogue keeps jumping back to when they were kids, larking around being told off by their mum and so on. It's an absolutely maddening technique that made me want to yell "for fuck's sake could you just once FINISH AN EVERLOVING SENTENCE?" and I somehow doubt that was the emotion Gill was aiming for. This was an evening that had it not been for the four stellar performances, would have been a total waste. Shame.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Her sugar is raw

A conversation between myself and one of my very best friends:

Her: So will you be attending the Sticky & Sweet Tour?
Me: Hell no! You?
Her: I'm considering it, but it's so expensive again.
Me: I know. Ridiculous.
Her: You'll probably change your mind though. You did last time after all.
Me: True. And that concert was.....not great. Plus, this time she's playing Wembley Stadium and not the Arena, so a decent view will be an impossibility.
Her: Oh. I didn't notice it was the Stadium. Well bugger THAT.
Me: Uh huh.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Something's coming, something good

I recently decided I hate the layout and colour scheme of my blog. It needs an overhaul, does everyone agree? The contrast of the white text on the black background is just too darn harsh, I feel. So a reworking is in the works. Any tips or suggestions or tutorials in working html code will be gratefully received.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for May

I surely cannot be the only one who is terrified by the speed at which 2008 is whipping by, can I? The other day I saw a TV Spot for Iron Man and thought "why are they starting the campaign for that movie SO ridiculously early?" before the "previews May 1, everywhere May 2" line at the end made me realise just how NOT early the ad was. Anyway. I digress and so without further ado, here's the Naked Farmer adorning my desk for the next 31 days: