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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.


July 28, 2009

Weird old titles: The Omega Factor

Posted on July 28, 2009 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The titles to The Omega Factor

Way back when I started this blog, one of the things I promised to do was review the DVD of The Omega Factor, a 1970s show of extreme weirdness. I never did review it (well, not properly), but this is a good second best, I reckon.

Made by BBC Scotland and starring James Hazeldine and Louise Jameson (Leela off Doctor Who), The Omega Factor was The X-Files of its day. Hazeldine plays Tom Crane, a journalist who comes up to Edinburgh to investigate the paranormal for an article he's writing. While there, he comes into contact with a genuine psychic, Drexel, who is reputed to be one of the two surviving 'men of power'. Tom accuses him of fraud, so Drexel gives him a minor demonstration of power. But it's not enough to put Tom off his investigations, so Drexel causes Tom to crash his car, killing his wife in the process.

Tom eventually returns to Edinburgh to continue his investigations, where he's recruited by Department 7, a top-secret government unit conducting experiments into the paranormal. They theorise – correctly – that Tom himself has psychic powers, which is why Drexel was worried about him. Indeed, Tom is soon able to solve a murder using 'psychic visions', visions that mysteriously incorporate the Greek letter Omega.

Subsequent episodes see Tom helping Department 7 with their experiments into his own powers as well as investigations into haunted houses, telekinesis and more. Department 7 soon reveals itself to use suspect methods, even covertly experimenting on Tom's brother. But over time, it becomes apparent that a secret group called Omega has infiltrated Department 7, has been working with Drexel and has a plan to take over governments using mind-control. I won't spoil it for you by revealing any more of the plot though.

The show was very popular at the time, popular enough that it was left with a cliffhanger ending, but thanks to Mary Whitehouse declaring it 'thoroughly evil', it never got that second series.

I didn't watch it at the time – way too young – but caught up with it in the early 90s through VHS copies. These weren't very good and I never saw the final three episodes. But through the murky haze, I perceived this to be possibly the scariest TV programme ever made.

Unfortunately, once I had a crystal clear DVD version and the final three episodes, I discovered it wasn't – I'd been filling in the gaps with my own imagination – which was a shame, but it's definitely in the top ten. There are some incredibly interesting pieces of direction and scripting: in particular there's one scene where someone is 'possessed' and the mental struggle between Tom and the possessor is done entirely theatrically, rather than using effects.

Anyway, here are the dead spooky titles and a few dead spooky seconds of the first episode to give you an idea of just how weird and spooky it was. I heartily recommend you get it on DVD, if you can, but someone nice has uploaded the whole series to YouTube and even set up a playlist if you don't want to go that far.

July 23, 2009

Review: Ruby and The Rockits 1x1

Posted on July 23, 2009 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Ruby and The Rockits

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

You kind of have to admire a showbiz family that not only has longevity but sticks together. The Cassidy brothers have been around since the early 70s, with David Cassidy starring in The Partridge Family; Shaun Cassidy starring in The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries; Patrick Cassidy starring in the TV version of Dirty Dancing as well as the movie Longtime Companion; and Ryan Cassidy starring in The Facts of Life.

Shaun Cassidy went on to become a successful TV writer, developing among other things the (unfortunately) not very good Invasion . Now he's written a sitcom for ABC Family that stars not just one but two of his brothers and has the other working behind-the-scenes.

Unfortunately, just like Invasion and, in fact, most ABC Family comedies, it's a bit derivative and not much cop, even if it is about two musical former pop stars - you'd think they'd be playing to their strengths there.

Continue reading "Review: Ruby and The Rockits 1x1"

July 21, 2009

Review: Dark Blue 1x1

Posted on July 21, 2009 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

darkblue_home2.jpg

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, TNT

We are living in a post-The Wire, post-The Shield age. You can't get much grittier than those two police shows did. Cops are one of the staples of US television, so it's telling that most cop shows have stopped trying to be gritty since they know they can't match them. Hence, we have The Mentalist, Numb3rs, The Unusuals et al, whose proximity to gritty is measurable in light years rather than centimetres.

So it's a brave show that tries to do gritty right now. Then again, what choice does a programme have on TNT - the home of dark, gritty TV that couldn't quite make it on FX or HBO?

Dark Blue stars that lovely Dylan McDermott - you know, from The Practice and Miracle on 34th Street - as a dark, gritty undercover cop who handles even darker, grittier undercover cops in an off-the-books, top-secret unit way. It's not a bad attempt at gritty and it's not without merit, but it's very hard to believe that this is anywhere close to cinema verité for two reasons.

The first is that it's a Jerry Bruckheimer production and pretty much follows the standard queues of any police drama, from long-suffering wives to cops who give up everything for the job. The second is that it stars that lovely Dylan McDermott.

Here's a sneak preview. See if you can avoid laughing at him being dark and brooding.

Continue reading "Review: Dark Blue 1x1"

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