"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Channel Zero #3

Sorry for not being more exciting recently; I’ve been having to do much human stuff and it saps the time. Rest assured I have not lost any level of grouchiness; I just haven’t gotten round to angrily scratching it down yet! The year’s still young; bile will arrive.

This week presented one of those mildly irritating problems that come from being a servant to cats. The eldest of the creatures required a teeth-clean which involved an anaesthetic and therefore no food for the previous 18 hours… it’s a bit hard to keep one cat unfed while the others demand not to be; post-procedure the groggy moggy couldn’t be let out which provided a second problem- how to keep one cat in when the others are used to free access and one of them point blank refuses to comprehend the concept of a litter tray.

The latter part of the week was marked by a retreat from the internet as it eats time and prevents things being done: the interweb’s as bad as a dictionary or encyclopædia for stealing time, except not nearly so informative; you look up what you want to look up then think that’s interesting and so on and so forth. This hibernation was ended briefly this morning by a local Record Fair; the first of the year. It’s was… disappointing.

As was the last week’s television, the saviour was Monty Don’s Around The World In 80 Gardens while both programmes I was most looking forward to were vandalized for different reasons. Horizon: What On Earth Is Wrong With Gravity? was a fascinating programme ruined by modish, extravagant and ultimately utterly pointless directorial tricks and editorial decisions. It looked rather like a 15-year old Media Studies group were let loose on it. However, I now know some interesting new facts such as that time is not a constant and light doesn’t always travel in straight lines as it is affected by dense gravitational fields… which I presume may mean that light has some sort of quantifiable mass… Andrew Graham-Dixon’s The Art Of Spain was vandalized for completely non-artistic reasons. It was broadcast on BBC4 and, sadly, Digital Freeview is rubbish. The picture broke up on a regular basis until the point where it gave up bothering to come back at all. Analogue never had this much of a problem. So, why are we being saddled with this inadequate system which is so clearly not of broadcast quality? Is it because Blair had a meeting with a media mogul just before his ascent to the Palace of Westminster? Is it because a substandard free system will force people to buy subscription television in order to have trouble-free viewing? You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment!

Possibly interesting stuff on the telebox for the coming week may include, but not necessarily exclusively, some, none or all of the following… ;-)

BBC2: 11.10 pm: Factory: Manchester From Joy Division To Happy Mondays: documentary on Tony Wilson and Factory Records.

BBC2: 12.40am: Dawn Of The Dead: Romero’s classic zombie sequel (if you ignore the stupid custard pie fight); judging by the scheduled length it’s the so-called Director’s Cut.

C4: 9.15 pm: Million Dollar Baby: if you haven’t seen it, you really did ought- and ignore all the people who whined about the third act!

C4: 1.35 am: Focus: all I know is it’s based on a novel by Arthur Miller and as he was responsible for Death Of A Salesman it cannot be without some merit or interest.

ITV4: 12.20 am: Sam Peckinpah’s West: Legacy Of A Hollywood Renegade.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Life In Cold Blood: Attenborough’s Ninth and Final series. It's David Attenborough, what more need be said?

BBC2: 9.00 pm: Horizon: Is Alcohol Worse Than Ecstasy?

BBC4: 10.30 pm: Storyville: The Polish Ambulance Murders: would appear to be about Polish Paramedics turned latter-day Burke and Hare.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Ashes To Ashes: the week’s big new series.

There’s no getting away from the fact that I’m looking to this with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Life On Mars was brilliant… one of the best television dramas I’d seen in many a year. Then it ended. Before it got stale; before it got annoying and before I wanted to throw the television from the highest turret. So, a new piece from ostensibly the same team following pretty much the same formula should certainly be something worth seeing…

However, there are so many possible pitfalls that it seems a very tricky proposition; a courageous decision to quote Sir Humphrey. The first pitfall, as it is with all sequels, is purely having to live up to the quality, consistency and imagination of the original. Problem two: John Simm’s performance and character were a perfect contrast to Philip Glenister’s Gene Hunt: can Keeley Hawes’ DI Alex Drake match this? The clips shown so far have presumably been unrepresentative and out of context: high drama always looks bizarre and melodramatic taken as clips even if it works well within the programme itself. The next problem as far as I can see is that DI Drake knows the situation and what was the twist of Life On Mars and so does the audience. This seems to remove both a level of intrigue and more importantly a level of jeopardy. We, the audience, know that it’s definitely not real as does Drake; could this cause issues with the suspension of disbelief? As Drake herself understands the situation this could bring in the very real possibility of creating a situation where it becomes overly self-referential, too knowing and bordering on self-parody. There is also an issue of back-story: what does Drake know of Hunt as opposed to that which Hunt knows of himself. Does Hunt have a life outside of the imaginings of Drake or Tyler? As Gene Hunt was such a larger than life character in the original has the temptation to make him either too cuddly or too boorish been resisted? And as he’s now a known creation of Drake does this mean that she will project her own prejudices against his style of policing onto him or will he remain at the same level as for Tyler? There seem endless possibilities for getting tangled in knots over the whole notion of somebody else having the sequel to a different character’s dream sequence! I’m also more than a little curious as to how the whole of Hunt’s team can be shifted to London with adequate explanation excluding recourse to “it’s fantasy” or “it’s in her head so anything can happen”. I really want this to succeed. We’ll see!

On the other hand it’s got ‘that scary clown’ and an Audi Quattro in it, which was my dream car when I was younger, so can’t be all bad. Bizarrely (and somewhat disappointingly) I now find, with help from Top Gear, that the Quattro chucked out less horses than the (rather normal) car I’ve got sitting outside!


John Soanes said...

I lost interest in LoM when it seemed to chicken out in the final episode of Series 1 (it looked like a rewrite to allow a second series), but I too have serious doubts as to the underlying logic of AtA's premise. I gather Hawes's character's supposed to have read Sam Tyler's notes about his 'past experiences', but when did he write these? And as you say, if it's all fantasy, why should we care? And what's she doing in someone else's fantasy? And is Sam Tyler still alive in that fantasy world?
So very messy-sounding, that I'm not even going to bother watching it.
Mind you, it's likely to be better than that garbage Catherine Tate sketch that's meant to be some kind of parody of LoM. But I feel staring at a dead animal by the side of the M1 is more entertaining that most of the Tate show (my main problem? The 'script editor' appears to do no such thing).

Jon Peacey said...

I'm going to be watching AtA because I'm intrigued as to what they're going to do and I really want it to succeeed. So I hope my fears aren't realised. But I still have that nagging doubt... maybe a bit like that animal in the pit of Gene Hunt's stomach!

I suspect that the notes that Sam jotted down are meant to be from the last episode of Series 2, taken between his waking up and his 'retirement'.

Haven't seen the Catherine Tate sketch: mainly because I prefer staring at a dead animal at the side of the M1! I dislike the show so much that I have to travel 100 miles to do this! ;-)

My main problem is that it's not funny. And for a comedy this is quite a problem. I'm not sure a script editor would help because if there are no laughs to start off with the only editing would be to demand that they rewrite the whole damn thing. Again, it's another piece of outrageous, 'cutting edge' comedy (like Little Britain) that relies solely on out-dated negative stereotypes, old-fashioned bigotry and a succession of jaded catchphrases...

Catherine Tate and David Walliams on the other hand seem to actually be quite good actors. Maybe they should concentrate on that more.

Robin Kelly said...

I agree about the fantasy aspect but I'm intrigued enough to watch the first one at least.

There are two versions of what happened. The first is that he never ever came out of his coma and simply died which stays true to the original premise.

And the, 'don't think about it too much we wanted to keep the characters for a new series, just enjoy it and stop being so picky' version where he woke up from the coma, wrote down his dreams in detail and then decided to put himself back into a coma to get back to his dreams which he was successful in doing.

Anna said...

Hi. Quite a post - sadly, I can relate to non of the TV refs - being from the other side of the Atlantic - however, I would beg to differ about A. Miller always being worth a look. I confess - I do not - absolutely do not - like D. of a Salesman - sorry!

As for your cat issues - my sympathies!

Nice to meet your blog.

Robin Kelly said...

You know how they sometimes have a helpline if the show was shocking? Why was there no helpline for Ashes to Ashes? Hours later I'm still traumatised.