The 'Renaissance Fair’ is a curious US phenomenon, the origin of which is unclear. A popular holiday-weekend form of entertainment all over the country, the Renaissance fair has nothing to do with the Italian Renaissance, offering instead a melange of earlier British medieval history that arrives in the present day via Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court and the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, taking in jesters going ‘hey nonny nonny’, knights in shining armour, dragons and random fairground attractions along the way.
But fair enough. It’s the US. The average European would find it hard to name most US presidents of the 19th century, let alone know the difference between the Roanoake and Jamestown colonies. Let’s not quibble too much over it and we can always take the kids to the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas and enjoy a permanent Renaissance Fair if we want.
The problem is when you get something like The Bastard Executioner, Kurt “Sons of Anarchy” Sutter’s latest show on FX. Allegedly set in the early 14th century in Wales during the reign of Edward II (US readers: that’s the wimpy gay one in Braveheart), it sees one man lead a rebellion of the Welsh peasants against the evil English baron who’s oppressing the masses.
And while The Bastard Executioner would very much like to be a rousing, gritty historical drama, it is instead pretty much a Renaissance Fair on TV.
Despite the preponderance in critical theory of the idea of the ‘auteur’ since Cahiers du cinéma first originated it in the 1950s, film and TV are such collaborative media that there are precious few people whose individual vision 'stamps’ projects indelibly, making them uniquely recognisable as the work of those auteurs. David Lynch, Hal Hartley, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson - you can probably list a few but not as many as you might think at first.
Edward Burns is probably not a name you’d come up with for that list. His might not even be a name you’ve heard of at all. But starting with The Brothers McMullen and working his way through She’s The One and Sidewalks of New York, there can be few more distinctive directors - to the extent that if you hear a film is likely to be about working class Irish-Catholic brothers living in New York, you almost certainly know it’s going to be an Edward Burns film and as a result, that it’s going to be earthy, authentic, comedic and have a good line in dialogue.
But there's a danger with auteurship - it can go too far, crowding out everyone else’s contributions.
Take Public Morals, Burns’ latest foray, this time into the world of TV. Set in the 1960s, it’s effectively Burns’ New York take on LA Confidential, giving us corrupt, working class, largely Irish Catholic, often related cops, trying to enforce public morality laws they don’t believe in and turning them to their financial advantage.
So far, so good. It’s created by Burns. Which is fine. It’s exec produced by Burns. Which is fine. It's directed by Burns. Which is fine. It’s written by Burns. Which is… fine. And it stars… Burns.
In the US: Fox. Set to air 2016 In the UK: Not yet acquired
Some ideas just sound rubbish as soon as you hear them. You take a much-loved adult comic strip, Lucifer, created by one of the world’s most esteemed fantasy writers, Neil Gaiman, in which the Devil decides he’s had enough of Hell and decides to start a new life for himself on Earth.
And then you make a TV series of it that’s also a police procedural. Yes, the Devil solving crimes every week. On Fox, the network where good procedurals go to die.
And then you get that bloke from Miranda to play the Devil.
Just total rubbish, right?
Except Lucifer somehow manages to take all those elements, mix them together and produce something that’s actually very engaging. I assume some soul-selling was involved.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.