More Welsh on BB

Turns out that Imogen comes from a Welsh-speaking family. So she and Glyn haven’t come up with a ‘code’, as previously thought, but are in fact just conversing in their first language. For some reason, and maybe it’s because I haven’t watched any episodes of Animal Hospital this week, I find that the most heartwarming thing I’ve heard for a while. It makes me all happy inside, even though Imogen and Glyn aren’t exactly the best adverts for Wales, to hear people on a mainstream programme getting to speak their native language. Bizarre, huh?


Review: Deal or No Deal

Caught my first few episodes of Deal or No Deal over the weekend. WTF? It’s such a bizarre show. I can understand the appeal for certain people – apparently market traders enjoy it because it’s more or less their job (ie guesswork combined with judicious decisions about when to back down) – but for the rest of us?

In case you’ve never watched the UK version, the rules are simple: you have a box, inside of which there is some money (or a sticky label with a number written on it, anyway). Then there are a whole load of other people with boxes, each with money/sticky labels inside. The contestant knows what all the numbers are on the labels, but doesn’t know which boxes they’re in. He or she then gets all bar one of these people to open their boxes in turn. Every so often, the ‘banker’ (for which read ‘a producer reading out numbers coupled with Noel Edmonds improvising dialogue’) rings up and offers an amount of money to the contestant if they’ll stop opening boxes. If you don’t take the money and run, at the end, you get whatever’s in your box .

In case you think you’ve missed something, you haven’t. It’s a game based entirely on random guesswork. I guess it’s like playing the lottery in that it’s just pure chance whether you get any money. In this case, the odds are considerably better. All the same, someone sat down and thought “How about a game show that’s all about opening boxes at random?” Someone Australian at that, since it’s an Australian format – you’d have thought an extrovert nation like that could have come up with something more dynamic, couldn’t you?

Oh well. I guess the thing is it’s gambling and if you’re a gambler (been there, done that, lost the T-shirt off my back), you’ll gamble on almost anything…

Review: Doctor Who – The Sun’s DVDs

After almost exactly six weeks, my DVDs from The Sun have arrived. How’s that for precision? Haven’t watched them all yet but impressions so far:

The Day of Armageddon (Hartnell): I’ve never seen this one before and I realise I have almost no recollection of the other episodes in the story either. But Hartnell’s a bit more spry than I remember – he’s practically doing forward rolls over Daleks at times – Kevin Stoney looks really silly with his “Guardian of the Solar System” make-up and Peter Hawkins can’t disguise his Bill and Ben voice enough to make the Daleks anything more than laughable. All the same, I’d forgotten just how complicated Hartnell plots were. UPDATE: I’d also forgotten just how keen they were on ‘hard sci-fi’ aliens, despite their limited budgets. And the incidental music is fantastic.

The Faceless Ones (Troughton): One of my all-time favourite stories – I even wrote a sequel at university that had the working title of “Gratuitous Violence of the Chameleons” (you can tell where I was coming from and why my screenwriting career never came to anything) – this one’s a bit duller than I remember. I think the other surviving episode, number three, was the better one. Instead, we get the Doctor and co being chased around 1960s Gatwick airport by an all-star cast including Colin Gordon, Wanda Ventham and Donald Pickering. Lots of violent deaths, brainwashing and implacable aliens all the same, so thumbs up.

The Spearhead from Space (Pertwee): It’s entirely shot on film, it’s the first Jon Pertwee story, it’s written almost entirely with adults in mind and it’s got the best companion ever in it (Liz Shaw), ripping the piss out of the Brigadier and eventually saving the day through sheer scientific genius and daring – pah to everyone who thought feminism on Doctor Who started with Sarah Jane Smith. Anyway, what more to do you need to know? It’s fantastic! Go and buy the full story. You’ll have to forward wind past the traditional comedy yokel poacher scenes that were so beloved of the Pertwee era.

The Robots of Death (Tom Baker): Ignore the silly costumes, silly special effects, silly make-up and silly Tom Baker. This is a cracking murder-mystery with some deeply disturbing robots. Trouble is, the title gives the game away a bit, but it’s still a classic, even if you only get to see the first episode – imagine giving someone an Agatha Christie novel but ripping out the last chapter first. Same thing here.

Earthshock (Peter Davison): “The Cybermen want to destroy Earth, and will use any means at their disposal” says the back of the DVD and on the front is a lovely picture of a Cyberman. Hmm. This is episode one. Essentially, false advertising then, since the Cybermen don’t do anything in this episode other than stare at a monitor and say “Destroy them! Destroy them at once!” in the last ten seconds. Plus it does ruin the cliffhanger (why are they ending there? We already know the Cybermen are the baddies). But this is another cracker of an episode with all sorts of unpleasantness happening in creepy caves. We do have to put up with the traditional Davison moanathon by the various companions, though. “Doctor, why haven’t you taken me home yet? Doctor, why haven’t you let me fly the TARDIS yet? Doctor, why have you overdone my eggs – you know I like them runny?” Shut up you whiny little brats. Where’s Liz Shaw when you need her?

Rose (Christopher Eccleston): Actually, the weakest link of the whole lot. Some nice lines of dialogue and the Nestene are back from Spearhead from Space (without Liz Shaw though), but still not wholly brilliant. Am not going to bother putting it into the DVD player, because I know I’m going to be cringing the whole way through it. Sorry, Eccles.


A test of musical arithmetic

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts“Rob, do you like David Byrne?”

Yes, I do.

“Rob, do you like Brian Eno?”

Yes, I do.

“Do you think, therefore, that you will like David Byrne and Brian Eno?”

I’m not sure I’d ever considered the combination of those two musicians. Do their skills complement each other or are they mutually incompatible?

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to find out if you’d like them or not – you can stream their entire album, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, over the Internet from this here web site, provided you have QuickTime. I wasn’t unduly impressed, but it might grow on me.

Now I’ve taken the test. Will you?


William Fichtner joins Prison Break

William FichtnerGood old William Fichtner. He’s survived a lot of rubbish in his time, mainly through being a good actor. He managed to make a whole episode of the dire fifth season of The West Wing watchable. He’s been a high-point of various series and movies, including the never-seen-in-the-UK series MDs, which co-starred John Hannah, and the I-wish-it-had-never-been-seen-in-the-UK movie Armageddon.

Lately, though he’s been reduced to being creepy in Invasion. As we all know, that’s now been cancelled, the moral of the story being never star in sci-fi shows written by former members of The Partridge Family who also happened to play little Joe Hardy of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew fame (I’m not saying it’s an easily generalisable moral). What a shame.

But the good news is that now that show’s over, he’s free to appear as Prison Break’s equivalent of Lieutenant Gerard. He’s the one with the unenviable task of chasing Michael “I have a cunning plan” Schofield and the other prisoners through Dallas (yes, season two’s being shot in Dallas instead of Chicago – where will all that snow go?).

EquilibriumIncidentally, that move reunites him with Dominic Purcell, who plays Michael’s brother Lincoln, since they both appeared in the Christian Bale Matrix-a-like flick Equilibrium, a film that knows its audience so well, it actually had a “view fight scenes only” option on the DVD. Cracking scenes they were, too, since an entire new martial art, “gun kata”, was invented for the movie, but all the same…