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?
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.
In Canada: Fridays, 10e/7p, Space In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy. Starts tonight
They say there are no original ideas any more and that everything has already been done before - it’s just a question of how you take elements of what’s gone before to create a new mixture.
If this statement is true, it’s doubly true of science-fiction, where for any given show, it’s almost certainly possible to name a very similar if not identical predecessor. A case in point is the new Canadian-US co-production Dark Matter.
Adapted from their own comic by the brains behind the TV version of Stargate, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, the show is roughly 90% Blakes 7 for starters - a group of six misfits, four men, two women, wind up on board an advanced spaceship. There they meet the seventh member of the crew, the ship’s artificial intelligence, and come together to fight oppression from a huge federation.
The remaining 10% of the show is pure Andromeda, with the ship’s artificial intelligence having a robotic avatar and the crew having turned good relatively recently, originally being a bunch of criminals until they had their memories taken away. And then there’s the slightly enigmatic woman with funny coloured hair who’s on board the ship but wasn’t one of the criminals and who has strange powers.
So far, so derivative. There’s even a little sprinkling of Firefly on top. The question is - does Dark Matter stick all these components together to create something decent?
The short answer is: not really, but at least it’s fun.
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.
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"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."
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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.