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September 16, 2007

Review: Comics Britannia

Posted on September 16, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Comics Britannia

In the UK: Mondays, BBC4, 9pm

I'm not a big fan of British comics. At least, not the Beano, et al. The only time I ever came across them when I was growing up was in doctors' waiting rooms. So the first episode of Comics Britannia, a new history of British comics, shouldn't have been that interesting to me.

Narrated by Armando Iannucci and featuring interviews with the writers and artists behind the Dandy et al, Comics Britannia was still surprisingly riveting. I don't whether that's the union man in me, wanting to turn every obvious example of exploited labour into a parable of the virtues of joining a union. But certainly you couldn't watch this documentary without thinking that a lot of talented people have been hard done by over the decades thanks to exploitative management.

Featuring contributions by fans such as Steve Bell, this first episode did at least give you an appreciation for something that even if I still think is mostly tedious and unfunny, seems to have entertained millions over the years. It's well researched, well structured and some actual budget seems to have been spent on injecting the various interviewees into faux comics backgrounds. It also does a good job of explaining the historical and social contexts of the comics and why some kids seemed to find them funny.

Fortunately, the remaining two episodes are on slightly more interesting topics: the gender-specific comics, such as Eagle and Bunty, of the post-war years; and the darker comics of the 80s and 90s, which should feature an interview with Alan Moore among others. Worth watching, even if you have minimal interest in the subject matter.

September 16, 2007

Fifth-episode verdict: Flash Gordon

Posted on September 16, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Flash Gordon's Carusometer4-Major-Caruso

Well, you can't say I didn't give it a chance. I hung in there for five episodes. To be fair, Flash Gordon has got a lot better since episodes one and two, which were pretty appalling.

But even with three straight episodes in a row that were officially “not that bad”, according to The Carusometer, thanks to improved characterisation, more exploration of Mongo (there are Hawkmen now!) and better humour, it's still a bit on the tat side. It's the kind of programme that you'd end up with if you took up a couple of teenage boys, thrust a camcorder into their hands and said “Here, shoot a science fiction series. You've two days, $100 and all the babes and iMovie effects you need.”

It is amusing. It is starting to overcome its problems. But it's still nothing remarkable. If it maintains its current levels, it could be a diverting way to spend an hour at most - kind of like something shown during a “the worst of Stargate” evening.

The Medium is Not Enough hereby declares Flash Gordon is a 4 or “Major Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Major Caruso corresponds to a show that David Caruso might exec produce or star in. After channelling all the effects budget into buying the most powerful trailer in the world for himself, he will use glove puppets to depict the denizens of the alien world. Production will have to be stopped when, after insisting he do all the stunts because he's a “world class athlete”, he finds he needs a body double to do the far too taxing “going upstairs” scenes.

September 16, 2007

Review: Dogface

Posted on September 16, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Dogface

In the UK: Thursdays, E4, 10pm. Probably other times, too.

Extract from Tarquin Forquay-Fothering-Smythe and the Masculinity Hang-Ups of Doom.

112

You arrive in a small, squalid bedsit. Cockroaches scurry over days old pizza boxes. Cigarette ends line the floor, wall to wall. A small television set is in the corner, its picture flickering.

It is clearly not an actual bedsit that someone lives in. It is actually a bedsit furnished and decorated by some extremely posh people who have never had to live in anything less than 4* accommodation, but imagine that is how all working class men everywhere live.

Stepping over the cigarettes, you reach the faded, tatty armchair in the middle of the room and sit down on a stack of Daily Sports. Idly, you flick through the channels on the television, using the stain-caked remote control.

As you watch, you realise that the television has also been provided with programming exclusively from posh boys' imaginations: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch; and Dogface, a new comedy show from E4.

You stick with Dogface. On it, you see various people swearing. There are jokes about bodily functions. There are animations where dogs are voiced by men progressively trying to show how hard and working class they are by having pub conversations straight out of the left hemisphere of Guy Ritchie's brain. You idly notice how just about everything reminds you of something you've seen done better on another TV show.

Do you:

  1. Decide to leave because you have some emotional maturity and realise that even though it's from the “writers of Peep Show”, Dogface is just not for you and you haven't laughed once because it's all complete arse? Then turn to 127.
  2. Decide to stay and watch Dogface because you are a 14-year-old Nuts reader without much experience of life and who gets beaten up at school a lot? Then turn to 167.
  3. Decide to stay and watch Dogface because you are a middle-class Tarquin who thinks that by watching shows in which you see working class characters talk hard, that by some form of osmosis, you'll end up hard and be able to join in with pub conversations you'd never normally be invited to join in with, even though you'd get your f*cking head kicked in if you actually did try? Then turn to 173.

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