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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


October 28, 2011

Lost Gems: Max Headroom (1985-1988)

Posted on October 28, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Max Headroom

Never, in the history of music videos, has so much effort been devoted to giving one VJ a back-story as with Max Headroom.

Picture this: it's 1985. Music videos are big, especially thanks to the relatively shiny and new channel MTV (music television). Computers and computer graphics are also big, thanks to the Apple Mac, arcade games and movies like Tron and The Last Starfighter. So what more natural blend of coolness could there be than a computer-generated VJ?

Unfortunately, computer graphics weren't quite up to the job back then, so Canadian actor Matt Frewer got slathered in prosthetics and make-up to become the world's computer-generated VJ, 'Max Headroom', a stuttering, witty, seemingly plastic American 'shockjock'. And he was very popular. You can still see his influence in Back To The Future 2.

But the arrival of Max Headroom for some reason required an answer to the question, "Who is Max Headroom and where does he come from?"

Bizarrely, the answer was supplied by Channel 4, who decided to cash in on a literary and movie phenomenon, 'cyberpunk', to create an origin movie for Max Headroom that was set '20 minutes into the future'. Surprisingly, it was bloody good, and even more surprisingly, despite its inauspicious British origins, it launched two seasons of one of the most innovative and satirical TV sci-fi shows British and US TV has ever seen.

Here's the start of the British movie:

Continue reading "Lost Gems: Max Headroom (1985-1988)"

October 26, 2011

Review: Once Upon A Time 1x1

Posted on October 26, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Once Upon A Time

In the US: Sundays, 8/7c, ABC
in the UK: Not yet acquired

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a clever man had the idea to make a TV show in which fairy tales were true and still happening in the real world. He made that TV show and it was called Grimm and it'll be on later this week.

Yes, coincidentally, in the same 'strange' way as NBC and ABC both simultaneously deciding to do shows set in the 60s à la Mad Men (The Playboy Club and Pan Am) and CBS and ABC both simultaneously deciding to do shows about the plight of modern men (How to be a Gentleman and Last Man Standing/Man Up!/Work It), ABC has also decided to make a show in which fairy tales are true and still happening in the real world and it's called Once Upon A Time.

How did that happen? Magic, presumably, and definitely not just networks copying each others' ideas.

Anyway, in Once Upon A Time, Jennifer Morrison (Cameron in House) is a bondswoman. Yes, that's plausible, isn't it? She's a single bondswoman who can't get a date and has no friends. Getting more plausible by the minute, isn't it?

But get this - it turns out that 10 years ago, she gave up a child for adoption.

Uh huh.

He finds her on the Internet and asks her to come home with him to save the town where he lives - Storybrooke. Everyone there is really a character from a fairy tale but doesn't know it, thanks to the curse of Snow White's wicked step-mother: the town mayor and the woman who adopted him.

But get this - again. Morrison is really the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, disappeared in a magic wardrobe, but foretold to return on her 28th birthday to save everyone from the wicked step-mother's spell.

So does this review have a happy ending? Let's find out after the trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Once Upon A Time 1x1"

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October 20, 2011

Review: Man Up! 1x1

Posted on October 20, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Man Up!

In the US: Tuesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC

There is a famous illustration of 'the ascent of man' (it's invariably a man).

The Ascent of Man

Yet, on the US TV networks, we're getting a series of shows about what it's like to be modern man. And so far, on a quality scale, it's been more like this:

Ascent of Man Up 2

(Yes, I know that's rubbish, but I had five minutes to do it in).

We started with How To Be A Gentlemen, which partially satirised the whole concept and actually wasn't that bad - but now should probably be called How To Be Cancelled. Then we got Last Man Standing, in which Tim Allen basically does Home Improvement again, so although he does rant a bit about modern man (and his lack of manly qualities), largely he learns his lesson and discovers there is something to this 'sensitivity' thing after all.

But now we have - and there's still Work It to come so we haven't quite reach the nadir of this trend - Man Up!, from the same network that's given us Last Man Standing and will also give us, you guessed it, Work It: ABC. Written by and starring Christopher Moynihan (who you may recall also created NBC sitcom 100 Questions aka one of the answers in the TV trivia quiz "Name a network US TV show that lasted only six episodes because that's all the network thought it was worth"), it's about three slacker men who are having to deal with modern life, playing games and dealing with the fact they haven't fought in any wars to prove their manhood. It's the first honest-to-goodness piece of all out offensiveness, with horrible male characters, even more horrible female partners and a real sense of confusion about what it's actually trying to say, beyond "Ooh, er, life's tricky for men sometimes. Can we have sprinkles on our cereal? Is that okay?"

Its one redeeming feature: a guy who's basically the Old Spice Guy, but isn't the actual Old Spice Guy. Here's a trailer - it has the very few funny bits in it:

Continue reading "Review: Man Up! 1x1"

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