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July 15, 2015

Review: Glitch 1x1 (Australia: ABC)

Posted on July 15, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Glitch

In Australia: Thursdays, 8.34pm (no, really), ABC
in the UK: Not yet acquired

The dead are coming back to life and this time they’re Australian! Well, most of them are, anyway.

Indeed, ABC’s new Glitch is exploring a path that the likes of Les Revenants, The Returned, Resurrection, Babylon Fields, et al have already trod well, with a small isolated town shaken up by the return of people once thought dead - thought dead because they actually were dead. And indeed, tonally, it’s very similar, being slow, thoughtful, consumed with the emotional impact of such a miraculous event and its real-world consequences.

So is there anything that makes Glitch different? Well, it’s Australian. That’s a bit different, isn’t it? And they all had to claw their way out of their own coffins, rather than just appear out of nowhere (although that’s Babylon Fields, too, now I think about it).

It’s also got a variety of dead people, including an Irishman and an Italian, although how big a variety is a bit tricky to say at this point, given most of them can’t even remember their surnames, let alone details about their lives. But certainly, as well as the recently deceased, there are zombies who died during the Second World War and even one who passed away during Victorian times. Are they coming back at random or because of what they can say about Australian history (this is ABC, after all)?

There’s also some comedy, surprisingly enough, with the Victorian Irishman (Ned Dennehy) being something of an ‘hilarious', slightly racist alcoholic and getting into all kinds of scrapes with his new, teenage aboriginal partner in crime (Aaron McGrath from The Code, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Gods of Wheat Street).

And lastly, there appears to be a rule that if the dead try to leave town, their eyes start to bleed and they revert back to dust. Or maybe it’s if they return to where they were killed. The rule’s not yet clear.

But otherwise, if you’ve watched any of the shows listed above, you’ll know what to expect: a prestige production with some lovely filming in some lovely locations, with people really getting to act and do tragedy because their dead wife’s back and they just loved her so much.

The cast is strong, including Patrick Brammall (Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch War, Upper Middle Bogan, The Moodys) and Emma Booth (Underbelly). The central premise doesn’t quite feel like a retread of previous shows. There’s a slight tension from Brammall’s attempts to keep everything secret from the rest of the town, including his suspicious sergeant (Andrew McFarlane), as well as another character who doesn’t show until right at the end of the first episode.

And there are the central mysteries of who the remaining characters are and why everyone’s coming back from the dead - which the show’s characters do at least seem moderately interested in, which is more than you could say of Resurrection's.

Yet despite the short run (all six episodes are now available on iView), I’m not sure how tempted I am to watch the rest of it. There’s something of an allure to it and with Thursdays looking a little light at the moment, I might be tempted to tune in. But the whole thing lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Perhaps because what it’s offering just isn’t new any more.

July 8, 2015

Nostalgia corner: Ace of Wands (1970-72)/The Wednesday Plays: Dutch Schlitz's Shoes/Mr Stabs (1984)

Posted on July 8, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Russell Hunter as Mr Stabs, with Judy Loe as Lulli in Ace of Wands

There can't be many TV characters that have managed to endure for 15 years, on and off. There must be even fewer still who were villains and played by different actors. Even fewer of them must have appeared in children's TV shows and been set up for their own spin-off series. And even fewer have had children imitating them in playgrounds.

But to do all of that and to appear in no fewer than three unrelated TV shows? That surely must be unique.

So spare a thought for Estabse, an immortal member of 'the Brotherhood', servant of Beelzebub and prodigious user of 'hand magic', for his journey is indeed both unique and fascinating.

It begins in Ace of Wands, in itself a fascinating and unique show warranting an entry in Nostalgia Corner, before moving over into The Wednesday Play and two different anthology series: Shadows and Dramarama. Are you prepared to meet Mr Stabs?

Continue reading "Nostalgia corner: Ace of Wands (1970-72)/The Wednesday Plays: Dutch Schlitz's Shoes/Mr Stabs (1984)"

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June 23, 2015

Review: Ballers 1x1 (US: HBO)

Posted on June 23, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Ballers

In the US: Sundays, 10pm, HBO

It would be tempting to think of HBO’s latest ‘comedy’, Ballers, as simply a black Entourage set in the world of American football. I imagine HBO would like it to be too, given that Entourage ran to eight seasons, several Emmy awards and has just been resurrected for a movie that is now in cinemas.

Certainly, there are similarities, with the Hollywood glamour and wealth transferred to the East Coast’s plastic surgery capital Miami, where the men apparently all behave just as badly as on the West Coast - at least when they’re not playing football.

However, there are significant differences. For starters, show star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is no Ari Gold, instead being the one good, sensible calm person in a world of dickheads and *ssholes, who must avoid becoming one of them, even as he tries to carve out a career as a sports agent following an injury that ended his career.

But the other big difference is that Ballers isn’t funny. In fact, it’s actually quite sad, being more like Hoop Dreams, except full of people on the downslopes of their sporting careers. There’s former player Omar Benson Miller (CSI: Miami) who’s reduced to taking a job at a car dealership, where even the dedicated sports fan who runs it doesn’t remember him. There’s real-life former football player John David Washington playing a God-fearing player whose career is hanging on a thread, following numerous stupid off-field transgressions that make him toxic to potential clubs. And every woman is either a nagging WAG or a ‘skank’/‘whore’ out for cash and doesn’t even get a name.

Johnson’s dilemma in the show: to do the right thing, get fired and go bankrupt or do as his boss Rob Corddry (The Daily Show) demands and exploit his friendships with them so he can flourish. And although he tries to do the right thing, that’s easier said than done, as he has to deal with baby-men who are their own worst enemies and resolutely refuse to learn. Well, maybe Washington will this time, but there’s a 60% chance he won’t, Johnson reckons.

I won’t pretend I know a lot about American football, beyond the fact it’s a bit like rugby but slower and with more padding, so I was thankful Ballers has almost nothing to do with football itself, focusing instead on the politics, society and industry surrounding it. From what I can glean from people who do know about American football, though, Ballers isn’t especially authentic or good in that area, and indeed, you’ll have seen most of the characters and situations before in other sports movies and shows.

What is good, though, is Johnson, who is a calm, intelligent presence in the show, and naturally enough for a former WWE wrestler, not only looks the part but seems very comfortable in this world. He’s worth watching in every scene and if you think that as an action star, he can’t be much cop at acting, here he’ll be a revelation to you.

All the same, I can’t recommend Ballers as it stands, because there’s really not much to enjoy about it. You can root for Johnson, as he wades through dirt, but it’s hard to root for the dirt itself and there’s a lot of it here.

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