The Pooh story gets worse

Christopher RobinFurther to previous discussions about Christopher Robin being replaced in a new Winnie the Pooh series, Disney has released more details of their new, ‘improved’ Pooh tales. Here’s some more information that will cause a single, solitary tear to roll down your cheek:

The girl will be the star of the series as she moves next door to the beloved characters created by the English author about 80 years ago: Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kang (sic) and Roo, plus a new character, Lumpy, introduced in a recent Pooh movie.

Living together next door? No 100 Acre Wood? Kanga and Roo in their own little house? Where’s Owl/Wol? But wait. There’s worse

A 22-minute pilot was produced and tested worldwide in focus groups of preschoolers and parents, all to very positive feedback, the spokeswoman told Reuters.

Well, that’s all right then. Because the only important thing in the whole wide world is how well something tests in focus groups.

Coming soon from the Disney Channel:

  • Sherlock Holmes solves crimes with the help of his kick-ass niece, Skyler, when Dr Watson is forced to return to Afghanistan;
  • Macbeth and Banquo’s ghost reunite for 26×25 episodes of supernatural fun, aimed at the key 1-3 year old ABC1 demographic;
  • Voldemort’s Learning Zone – in which the dark Lord himself teaches Harry Potter valuable lessons about shopping (sponsored by Wal-Mart);
  • Swallows and Amazons: boating fun for kids, but this time updated for modern life, by setting it on Hawaii on jet-skis;
  • Wind in the Willows: all the animals you know and love, including that wacky Toad, but introducing some new friends, including Willy the Weasel, Badger’s cool kick-ass nephew Brad, and Missy, a girl who’s moved with her mom to the riverbank and who has a lot to teach them about life and friendship. A range of action figures will be available Fall 2008

All of these tested well with focus groups.

What to do? I’m inclined simply to let them make it. CGI isn’t cheap, so if it’s a flop, Disney will lose oodles of cash. After a series of commercial flops at the cinemas, they need revenue like they’ve never needed it before. Certainly, the originator of the idea – a soulless corporate drone without an ounce of poetry in them – will get the push. At the same time, animation studios in Korea will get big lumps of cash and South Korea’s general standard of living will improve (not that they’re totally strapped for cash of course), proving that globalisation has its benefits.

To ensure the failure of the show, not only must we refuse to watch it (not hard), we must make sure no one else watches it. But most important of all, we must write in protest to any broadcaster who picks it up. However, instead of complaining about the programme itself (thus getting ourselves a “crank” rating in the complaints department), far better to complain that it’s replacing another programme in the schedule: broadcasters appreciate ratings so if you say you’re a big fan of the dumped programme, they’re more likely to drop Pooh in favour of the programme you’re pretending to like.


The WB begins to regret its mistakes

Following the success of “Pretty Boy Ghosthunters” – sorry, Supernatural – The WB has decided it needs more hour-long shows about the supernatural.

What they really want is a show about vampires. Or even two shows: one about a vampire, and another about someone who kills vampires. You know, like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Oh. Wait. They were both The WB shows and the network decided it didn’t want either of them, because it was going for a different demographic or something.

Well done, guys. Good bit of thinking there.

Earthsea to become animé

Some of the books of Earthsea are to become animé. If you ever saw the execrable Legend of Earthsea, you’ll be greeting this news either with delight (that it isn’t the Sci-Fi channel making this) or trepidation (fearing that it will be as bad).

What isn’t clear from reports is which books are being dramatised. The Sci-Fi article says the movie will be based on the third and four books, which are The Farthest Shore and Tehanu respectively. Yet the movie will be called Gedo Senki, which means ‘Tales From Earthsea’. Tales from Earthsea is the fifth book and is a collection of short stories. And even worse, the SciFi article also says the film will be about “the journey of a wizard named Ged and Prince Arrenis”. There’s not actually a character called Arrenis, only Arren and that’s the third book again.


BBC4’s Ghost Stories season

BBC4’s odd, isn’t it? It’s basically 1980’s BBC2, pumping out the weird and wonderful – whatever the controller happens to find personally interesting, rather than what “common plebs” (in BBC parlance) might like.

This can be good. ITV is what you get if you become too distracted by the lowest common denominator: a channel of dizzyingly low ratings, given its former heights, populated by programmes whose quality threshold is nothing greater than “Will brain donors be able to cope with this as part of their post-op recuperation?”.

On the other hand, heading too far away from “what the majority wants” can also lead to “Etruscan Ballet” nights and seasons dedicated to the movies of the fisher people of the Indus Valley. You know, the sort of programmes a certain kind of Islington-based dinner party goer is proud the BBC produces, even though he never actually watches them.

BBC4 walks a thin tightrope between this zero-rating extreme of chattering class pointlessness and high quality programming. One moment, it’ll be producing fantastic stuff such as its live version of The Quatermass Experiment, the hysterical The Thick of It and biopics of authors such as George Orwell and John Wyndham; the next, it’ll be churning out worthy but unwatchable crud like African School (“Having a love life in Uganda is not easy. Teenagers face being expelled from school, and teachers struggle to afford to get married. Can love flourish despite the challenges?”).

This Christmas, however, imagine my joy that while BBC1 and ITV are gearing themselves up for Doctor Who on Ice and X-Factor Christmas Carols (will Louis Walsh come back? Wow, how dumb are you to even have to ask that question? Of course he will. Do you need to wonder, even for an attosecond, if all the ‘fights’ are orchestrated to gear up interest?), BBC 4 is gearing up for a season of ghost stories.

Oh yes. This is what we want. This is what our licence fees should have been going on all these years.

Now this isn’t just a season of “Things with the word ghost in the title”, although there is just a hint of that with Look Around You‘s ‘Ghosts’ episode – funny, rather than spine-tingling; surely, with its Sapphire and Steel-esque “Helvetica effect”, the pilot episode, ‘Calcium’, is far more terrifying?

No. We’re talking repeats of all the classic MR James ghost story adaptations from the 1970s, as well as a new adaptation of The View from a Hill. Then there’s the amazing The Signalman, adapted from Andrew Davies from Charles Dickens’ original short story.

This is worth sitting down for. This is worth missing Ant and Dec’s Celebrity ‘Risk’ Tournament for. The video recorder, unused since August, will be running three hours a day, every day. I’ll have to (shudder) buy some new blank tapes. I might even invest in a DVD recorder, even one of those cheapo ones from Asda, just to capture this last hurrah for quality programming in a format that has more than 90 days of future left in it.

I might, to sum it up, be watching British TV again. Now that’s odd.

So don’t delay. Don’t tarry. Don’t dawdle. Make a note in your diary, in pen, that it’s on. Let’s help BBC4 hit four-digit viewing figures. Let’s watch this Ghost Stories Season together. At the very least, it’ll be less frightening that way.