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September 2, 2015

Preview: Blindspot 1x1 (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)

Posted on September 2, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC. Starts September 21st
in the UK: Acquired by Sky Living

It’s often said that there are no such things as original ideas any more. All that can be done is to take a whole bunch of existing ideas and come up with a novel combination of them.

However, some shows are just so derivative, you can’t imagine for a second that they’re actually trying to do something new, rather than simply showing you something so familiar and comfortable, you’ll just watch them out of habit, assuming that you’ve missed an episode or something and the cast all have new haircuts.

And so we have Blindspot, a show so familiar you’re probably picking out chinaware together.

On the face of it, this shouldn’t be the case. It has a whole bunch of qualities that it probably thinks are unique. Except they’re not. Perhaps Blindspot’s blindspot is its massive derivativeness.

After all, how many shows do you know that see people with full body tattoos that give mysterious clues to plot revelations? Apart from Prison Break, of course.

And how many shows do you know where a mysterious stranger wakes up with no memory of who they are or what their name is, but who wants to find out - and they have a very special set of skills that will help them with that? Apart from John Doe, of course.

And how many shows do you know where it’s Jaimie Alexander (Sif from Thor, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) who’s the mysterious stranger waking up naked? Apart from (seasons 2-3) of Kyle XY, of course?

And how many NBC shows can you name where every week the heroes chase after some mysterious, diabolical criminal with just a few clues handed down ex nihilo to them by some even more mysterious man? Apart from The Blacklist, of course.

In fact, each seemingly unique aspect of Blindspot you’ll have seen already somewhere else, probably done better, and Blindspot adds nothing to them. Alexander’s fine now she doesn’t have to do a cod English accent and she gets to kick ass, speak Chinese and do all kinds of things implausible for someone who has amnesia but that look cool.

Sullivan Stapleton plays her FBI handler, recruited to look after this amazing new asset because she has his name tattooed on her back. He's a lot of fun as the kick ass dick Damien Scott in Strike Back.

He would be fine in this, too, if he actually had a character rather than a plot function. Unfortunately, all he has to do is growl, pull faces and wave guns, since it's pretty hard to have chemistry with someone who has no memories.

But that’s basically it. You already know how it’s going to play out. Each week, they’ll find a new tattoo that’s a clue to a crime they have to stop. Alexander will kick some ass and maybe reveal a new talent. Stapleton will probably shoot someone or do something that will enable Alexander to look good. And there’ll be a gradual drip, drip, drip of clues as to who Alexander really is that will make ultimately make even less sense than the idea that someone would wipe Alexander’s memories then tattoo her with clues to future crimes, rather than simply tell the FBI all he knows.

I like both Alexander and Stapleton, but unfortunately this is just generic NBC action at its very dullest. The action's generic, the story's generic, the ensemble set up is generic. Get your DVDs out and you'll almost certainly find something better.

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July 21, 2015

Kneale Before Nigel: Quatermass/The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)

Posted on July 21, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Quatermass Conclusion

QuatermassStarring: John Mills, Simon MacCorkindale, Barbara Kellerman
Writer: Nigel Kneale
Director: Piers Haggard
Price: Blu-ray £29.99 (Amazon price: £21.75), DVD £19.99 (Amazon price: £14.75)
Released: 27 July 2015

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the whole world seemed to sicken. Civilised institutions, whether old or new, fell… as if some primal disorder was reasserting itself. And men asked themselves, "Why should this be?"

Professor Bernard Quatermass is one of the most important characters in TV history. Created by blog god Nigel Kneale back in 1953 for the BBC, Quatermass was the hero of The Quatermass Experiment, a ground-breaking piece of adult science-fiction television, created at a time when all the US had to offer the world was Captain Video.

The Quatermass Experiment saw Quatermass, the head of the 'British Rocket Group’, sending into space a rocket containing three astronauts, only for it to come back down again with two of them missing and the survivor strangely changed. What happened to the missing astronauts is for the coldly scientific Quatermass to find out and his investigations are set to change the way we think about ourselves.

The six-part serial was so popular that despite being broadcast at a time when very few people actually owned a TV, it was able to empty the streets. The result was not only a movie adaptation by Hammer Films, but a 1955 sequel appropriately called Quatermass II. If The Quatermass Experiment was “we go to them”, Quatermass II was “they come to us”, with Quatermass discovering that his plans for a base on the moon have already been put into practice… in England. But what’s inside these domes and how is it that no one’s noticed them until now?

The popularity of this new serial was again sufficient for both a movie adaptation and another lavish sequel, Quatermass and the Pit, to be approved, the latter being broadcast in 1958. This saw a WWII bomb discovered during building works in London. However, subsequent examination reveals that the discovery is a lot, lot older than anyone could have guessed.

“We go to them”, “They come to us” but now it turns out that they have always been here - and that we are the Martians.

However, that was the last of Quatermass for a while. Although Kneale was asked in 1965 to write a new Quatermass story for the BBC2 anthology series Out of the Unknown, he declined the offer, which meant that the first new Quatermass the 1960s got to see was a Hammer adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit in 1967.

The success of this movie prompted Hammer to ask Kneale to write a new Quatermass movie for them, but that got no further than initial negotiations, meaning Quatermass and the Pit was also the only new Quatermass story of the 1960s. But following the success of The Stone Tape in 1972, the BBC asked Kneale for a new Quatermass serial… and he agreed.

Kneale completed the script in February 1973, after which preliminary filming work began. However, for various reasons, the BBC got cold feet, and the serial was cancelled in the summer of that year.

The BBC's rights to the serial expired in 1975, by which time Kneale was working for ITV on projects such as Murrain and Beasts. Then, in 1977, Star Wars arrived on the scene and suddenly everyone was interested in science-fiction again. In particular, Euston Films, an ITV film subsidiary, became interested - perhaps, in part, because it was overseen by blog goddess and famous Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert. And Euston wanted both a four-part TV series and a movie.

Guess what’s going to be released on Blu-Ray next week. Yes, after the jump, we’re going to be looking at the forthcoming release of Quatermass and The Quatermass Conclusion - the final adventures of Professor Bernard Quatermass (almost)

Here’s a trailer or three.

Continue reading "Kneale Before Nigel: Quatermass/The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)"

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July 15, 2015

Review: Glitch 1x1 (Australia: ABC)

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


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.

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