[tv] Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis … Curtis discusses his Bitter Lake – his new film … ‘I found a man in the [BBC Archives] who spends his time recording the bits in between the programmes when they are broadcast. He writes down in detail all the announcements and the trailers, plus all the bits where things go wrong. So far his log of this stuff has got to 7,500 pages. He’s convinced that we don’t really understand television. He says the idea that you can break television up into discrete programmes is wrong. He believes television is really one long construction of a giant story out of fragments of recorded reality from all over the world that is constantly added to every day, and has been going on for 70 years. But what really opened things up for me was the realisation that there was an even further forgotten source of images. Not in London, but hidden all over the world. A BBC news cameraman called Phil Goodwin came to me and told me that the BBC offices in major cities have kept all their recorded footage in cupboards and store rooms. There are hundreds of tapes of what are called rushes – the original, unedited material from which news reports are created. And they were just lying there…’
Then the camera cuts to Max from a slightly new angle, facing off screen and bent over. His mask dangles near the camera; his face is off screen and his buttocks are hanging out, front and center. “They’re coming to get me!” he screams. On the right side of the screen, a woman lazily spanks his ass with a flyswatter. “Come get me bitch!” he yells. The scream becomes a distorted, symphonic drone. And then just as quickly as his arrival, the signal cuts out, and Chicago was back to the eerie quiet of the regularly scheduled Dr. Who episode.
“As far as I can tell,” the Doctor observes at that very moment, “a massive electric shock. He must have died instantly.”
[comics] Netflix unveils first look at new superhero series Marvel’s Daredevil … ‘Daredevil certainly feels like it has potential. Even though existing shows like Arrow and the recently launched Gotham have already staked out street-level superhero territory, there’s a richness to the character, who wrestles with Catholic guilt over his vigilantism, and a confidence to the execution that suggests Daredevil could cross over to non-comic fans looking for a stylish crime story.’
BUFFY: My shoulders are naked and I am drenched in the blood of my enemies. You are my physical and mental equal. I wish to express my respect for you in the physical embodiment of my ideals: the act of love. Let us have sex now.
ANGEL: Buffy, I can’t. You know that if I were to experience even a moment of perfect happiness I would lose my soul.
BUFFY: This sounds like a problem for you, not a problem for me.
[books] Against the Tide … Review of a book profiling the late Mary Whitehouse via her archive of letters … ‘Reading Mary Whitehouse’s letters is like digesting a scrambled Charlie Brooker. Dr Who is “teatime brutality for tots”. The World at War has too much genocide in it. Complaining of Chuck Berry’s performance of “My Ding-a-Ling” on Top of the Pops in 1972, she elicited the observation that the song began “with such a clear account of the contraption in question including bells”, that although the possibility of a double entendre was recognised, the BBC felt it was unlikely to “disturb or emotionally agitate its listeners”. But of course Whitehouse was permanently agitated. In editing this material from her archive, Ben Thompson not only works hard to salvage entertainment from some tedious cultural jeremiads, he also – and more interestingly – tries to make some sense of them…’
[tv] The 1979 “Rockford Files” Episode that Inspired “The Sopranos” … David Chase was trying out characters and situations used in the Sopranos twenty years prior to the start of the series … ‘In Just a Coupla Guys, Tony the mob boss (Antony Ponzini) is a doting father who also happens to be a killer. Anthony Jr. (Doug Tobey) is a good kid acting up to get his dad’s attention. Jean (Jennifer Rhodes) is the long-suffering mob wife, trapped in a suburban mansion. And Mr. Lombard (Gilbert Green), is an aging former boss who may or may not have lost his marbles. There’s even a Catholic priest (Arch Johnson), although he’s nowhere near as attractive as Father Phil, the clergyman who caught Carmela Soprano’s eye.’
[comics] The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos … ‘A compilation of all 14 window cameos from the 1960s ABC TV series Batman. Almost fifty years later, some of these folks are still remembered today–Others, not so much.’
[tv] Hannibal, slasher TV for the chattering classes … The Guardian On Hannibal … ‘When Hannibal – or CSI: Whitby Goth Weekend as I like to call it – aired in America earlier this year the cascade of acclaim spewing over its beauty and poetic themes was pretty spectacular. As an intellectual myself, I can only agree. Clearly, us highbrow types can’t get enough of juddery flashback scenes set to sinister circus music, or martinis made from children’s tears, or frosty psychopaths muttering weird jokes as his guests tuck into lung sushi. A body turns up, scooped out like a kiwi and filled with poisonous flowers. A thousand clever viewers politely applaud the artistry of it all.’
[tv] Down with dark: why screen drama needs to lighten up … ‘Then there is The Good Wife, an ongoing example of fine, female-led drama (see also the much underrated Nurse Jackie) providing an antidote to the overwhelmingly morbid maleness of longform drama (that said, lead character Alicia Florrick has been compared to Walter White). There’s a great scene in the series, as yet unbroadcast in the UK – an ongoing joke about an intense cable drama Alicia occasionally watches. It features a soliloquising male, naked torso lit only by a flickering strobe, about to enjoy some action with a scantily clad female but existentially disdainful of it. “Sex… is a chimera,” he intones. “I saw a crack whore eat her own arm. I saw a baby drown like a cat. Sex… keeps us occupied because reality can’t be endured. Even this will end in smoke.” There is Dark in a nutshell, in all its ball-aching, sexist prattishness.’
[columbo] The Case For Making Columbo America’s Doctor Who … a reminder of how great Columbo was … ‘Columbo says things like “Watch my hand, it’s full of grease. This is my dinner. Would you like a piece of chicken?” to suspects. He is deliberate. He moves at the pace of justice. Unflagging, unwearying, unrelenting; he is the Anton Chigurh of goodness. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Columbo. It is his fundamental goodness, as much as his native intelligence, that make him a good detective. He is not a remote genius; he is not a refined gentleman; he is a good man, and it is this that makes him not just a good detective but my detective. He is America’s detective. A good and a quiet man who brings his own lunch and will not go away until order is restored.’
[tv] TV palate-cleansers: after Breaking Bad, viewers need Cake Boss … ‘There is only so much of, say, Borgen that one can take before it all gets too much. You find yourself either shuffling around with your brow furrowed as you wrestle with the weighty thematic issues of whatever you’re binge-watching, or trapped in a desperate cycle of increasingly hyperbolic praise for a show that you only really like because a broadsheet newspaper said you should. When this happens, you need crap. You need a palate-cleanser. You know the sort of shows I’m talking about. Cake Boss, for example, is the perfect antidote to Game of Thrones. Sometimes, when you’ve watched 350 different but identically named characters from 200 barely distinguishable regions shout frilly exposition at each other for four straight hours, you just want to watch a man make a cake. Possibly a cake shaped like a Transformer. Possibly while doing all he can to push the limits of New Jersey’s workplace harassment laws.’
[tv] Twin Peaks: How Laura Palmer’s death marked the rebirth of TV drama … Looking back at Twin Peaks after twenty years … ‘It would be wrong to attribute all that’s since taken place to the creative impact of Twin Peaks but Lynch’s legacy can nonetheless be seen in dramas in a whole range of recent TV shows. For a start, Lynch helped make television attractive to film stars. Kyle MacLachlan, who played the other-worldly Special Agent Dale Cooper, had been the lead in Blue Velvet. The message was that television was no longer a Hollywood ghetto. Without Agent Cooper perhaps there would have been no Jack Bauer. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine that JJ Abrams’s high-concept genre-mashing with Lost would have happened if Lynch hadn’t pioneered the way. And in David Chase’s casting in The Sopranos it’s possible to see the influence of Lynch, who used almost forgotten character actors like Richard Beymer.’
[tv] What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live … ‘Edberg said the last time House of Cards launched, the engineers figured out that the entire season was about 13 hours. “And we looked to [see] if anybody was finishing in that amount of time,” Edberg said. “And there was one person who finished with just three minutes longer than there is content. So basically, three total minutes of break in roughly 13 hours.”‘
[tv] How should Homeland ‘reset’ for season four? … Stuart Heritage’s ideas for Season four of Homeland … ‘The absolute worst thing that Homeland could do this year is keep Dana around to snarl up a third of every episode by accidentally running over a nun on a Segway or Snapchatting a picture of her pubes to the Queen or whatever.’
[tv] Homeland – box set review… Why you should be watching Homeland … ‘Season one, aired in 2011, hinges on the question: has Gulf war hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), held in an Afghan hole for eight years, been “turned” by al-Qaida? Lewis won an Emmy for his portrayal of the traumatised marine; Danes won two for her role – hunter to Brody’s hunted. As a bipolar intelligence agent Carrie joins a clutch of intense, idiosyncratic female leads in current TV drama (Spiral, The Killing, The Bridge, The Fall). Her judgments are brilliantly unhinged: her CIA mentor, Saul Berenson, calls her “the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known”.’
[tv] Has the internet killed Have I Got News For You? … Stuart Heritage on the long, slow death of HIGNFY … ‘Back in the show’s heyday, you could rely on it to deliver the definitive satirical reaction to the news. But now it’s competing with The Daily Show, humour sites such as The Poke and millions of would-be wags on Twitter who fall over themselves to mine every last microLOL from every single news story a nanosecond after it breaks in a rabid bid for retweets. By the time Friday night rolls around, all Have I Got News For You has left to work with is the chaff.’
I follow Coogan’s fast-moving white Dunlops up the cliff and back to the hotel. “It started out not being like me at all. It’s probably got more like me,” puffs Coogan, as the wind buffets his impeccable Partridge hairpiece. “It’s recognising your own vanities and insecurities and turning the volume up on them. Anyone who is creative puts something of themselves in what they do, and I’ve put lots in, but it’s the warped, prejudicial side of myself. It’s not just a mocking caricature. It has to have some degree of humanity. On one level, Alan is very likable because he makes mistakes and vocalises a lot of the insecurities that people feel. He’s also a contemptuous Little Englander, the kind of person who I see as my life to rail against. Part of him is everything I hate about Britain. It’s a bit complicated.”
[tv] The Forty-Year Itch … is there a forty year cycle of nostalgia influencing pop culture? … ‘Though pop culture is most often performed by the young, the directors and programmers and gatekeepers—the suits who control and create its conditions, who make the calls and choose the players—are, and always have been, largely forty-somethings, and the four-decade interval brings us to a period just before the forty-something was born. Forty years past is the potently fascinating time just as we arrived, when our parents were youthful and in love, the Edenic period preceding the fallen state recorded in our actual memories.’
[tv] Clive James on The Sopranos … ‘The abiding complexity of Tony’s character lies in the way he must bring into balance two different considerations. Outside the house, his powers are unlimited. Inside it, he can affect the behaviour of others only to a certain extent, because they know he won’t kill them. Vivid as it is, this is a real conflict, genuinely subtle and complicated, continually surprising. Tony’s wife, Carmela, and his children A. J. and Meadow, are for ever cutting down to size the very man who would take a long knife to them if they were not his property.’
Gandolfini was the focal point of “The Sopranos,” the incendiary, sybaritic neurotic who must play the Godfather at home and at the Bada Bing but knows that everything—his family, his racket, his way of life—is collapsing all around him.
As the seasons passed, Gandolfini gained weight at an alarming pace. His death, at the age of fifty-one, in Italy, does not come entirely as a shock. But that makes it no less a loss. Gandolfini was not a fantastically varied actor. He played within a certain range. Like Jackie Gleason, he’ll be remembered for a particular role, and a particular kind of role, but there is no underestimating his devotion to the part of a lifetime that was given to him. In the dozens of hours he had on the screen, he made Tony Soprano—lovable, repulsive, cunning, ignorant, brutal—more ruthlessly alive than any character we’ve ever encountered in television.
[funny] Dalek Relaxation Tape … according to Peter Serafinowicz the Dalek’s have recently released a new-age relaxation tape … ‘YOUR TENSION HAS BEEN EXTERMINATED! EXTERMINATED!’ [via Feeling Listless]
[life] The Godzilla Threshold: ‘Things are at the point where even summoning Godzilla, king of monsters and patron saint of collateral damage, could not possibly make the crisis any worse. The situation has crossed the Godzilla Threshold. Once the Threshold is crossed, ANY plan, with even the smallest possibility of success, no matter how ludicrous, impossible, dangerous or abhorrent, suddenly becomes a valid option.’ [via YMFY]
[tv] Looking Beneath The Waves … another Adam Curtis interview … ‘The great wonder of our time is also a disease of our time: the desire to experience things for ourselves. It’s just the thing at the moment, what we don’t want is to be told stuff. We don’t like elites any longer because we’re all like each other. We want to know it ourselves, we want to feel it. It’s partly due to the rise of individualism. But what we get to is what I call the “duchess paradox”, where everyone is now a duchess in society. The real problem with that is that if you’re all duchesses then what’s the point of being a duchess? Everyone’s a celebrity now. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, they want to be treated like celebrities. They want to go to spas, they want to get married in big, posh houses. People will pay for VIP tickets to concerts. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is desperately searching for where it’s at. The point is there is nowhere it’s at – “it” simply just doesn’t exist. It’s the great tragedy for that generation: they just want to experience something.’
[tv] How Unrealistic Is Murder On Television? … ‘In a paper printed in the British Medical Journal, Tim Crayford, Richard Hooper and Sarah Evans reported that the mortality rate for characters in the television soap operas Coronation Street and EastEnders exceeded those of bomb disposal experts and racing drivers. Deaths were generally violent, and recently introduced characters had a five-year survival rate.’
“Downton fans around the world will be thrilled with what we have in store for the Crawley offspring and their service drones as they navigate life in the 22nd century,” Fellowes said of the new season, which features eight new episodes and a film-length Christmas special set on a distant vacation crater. “Robert, Earl of Grantham, once saved Downton by marrying the American heiress Cora. Now, new and old worlds collide again as their progeny vie for territory against a proud lineage of space clones who have forcibly invaded the family’s colony.”
Co-hoaxer Mike Scott says: “I was annoyed when the
script leaked because it was a rough draft in dire need of roughening
up. I thought it’d never fool anyone unless it was toned down a bit. I
heard that Paul Merton was infuriated by it, which disappointed me at
“Amusingly,” says Joseph Champniss, “the publication
resulted in something similar to what we’d planned, albeit via a more
scenic route. It certainly wasn’t a planned forum-leak. Had we realised
beforehand what was going to happen, we would have removed the credit
from the base of the page! We probably should have put a stop to it
sooner, but all three of us were fascinated – and not a little excited –
about how far it could conceivably go.
“We found out for sure a
bit later when solicitors, apparently acting on behalf of Sir James
Savile OBE, managed to close down the site pending an enquiry re libel,
defamation of character etc etc. As webmaster, Rob was required to write
a legally-binding letter in hardcopy pointing out that the script in
question had never actually been ‘officially’ published on the site (and
that we had no plans to publish it in the future) before the ban could
One reason why I thought the fake transcript was so
convincing was because, I assumed, the people who wrote it were TV
insiders. But I was wrong. Appearances can be
[adverts] The Hard Sell: Wonga … the Guardian takes an amusing look at the Wonga.com adverts … ‘[The Wonga.com puppets] work on a simple but watertight assumption: that everybody trusts an old person. The over-70s usually offer us fluffy sweets, tell long stories, or send pound coins taped to the inside of birthday cards. They never, repeat never, push barely legal, morally questionable loans at 4,214% APR.’
[tv] William Shatner confirms Devon town actually prostitute free … ‘One knowledgeable Register source confirmed that Ilfracombe is indeed prostitute free, but full of “dodgy brummies and scousers who are too dodgy for Liverpool”. He added the “toilets up on Oxford Grove” had been shut down because of immoral activity.’
[blogs] Jim Davidson’s Official Blog … ‘I have put on some replies to my blog on the Jubilee. It would seem that I am once again a racist. I am not. Why do people get so upset? was it because I didn’t like Grace Jones or because I described her as a black woman dressed as bat girl. Well I’am sorry if that caused offence. I really am, but come on, get a life.’