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Christmas telly fail and other stories...

Heckling the TV. I am heckling the TV, which may be the most pointless activity on the planet. I have just switched over to VIVA TV at *exactly* the same point in The Last Supper as I did last night. To the line of dialogue. And fond as I am of the film, I don't wish to watch any of it again.

I was watching the new version of Day of the Triffids on BBC1 earlier. The script is so eye-wateringly terrible and every character so unsympathetic that I am actually rooting for the triffids. Come on, my chlorophyll-infused, flaily friends, kill every last manjack of them.

It's like the Poundstretcher version of 28 Days Later, which was itself not terribly overburdened with budget but at least had a clue, an eye and a decent script. John Wyndham's books have lots of faults (much as I love them) but they don't involve the plotting. This adaptation chose to dispense with Masen's background in favour of some kind of cliched estranged dad story on one side, and worse, a "dark heart of Africa" mystery with a spooky mask for his dead mother, which took place in Zaire. Which is no longer Zaire, so that confused me a bit. Then they junked the creepy emerging horror of the world waking up to blindness in favour of bangs, crashes and whistles and dodgy CGI London in flames.

Also the unconvincing villainous American bird from Spooks turned up as an unconvincing Hobbesian posh bird. Eddie Izzard played a character who had no redeeming features but not in a good way, and was also lumbered with the worst of the dialogue crimes.

The triffids, when they finally emerged from our peripheral vision, were fairly unconvincing giant orchidy, tendrilly things. Fatally, you feel that the director thought they were pretty rubbish and so decided to omit showing how they moved, just as the pathetic, shite, useless script didn't tell you anything remotely interesting about how the triffid biology worked or indeed anything remotely interesting.

Dougray Scott has clearly decided to base his performance on the statues in Easter Island. I think he was in danger of cracking a smile once, but the urge passed in favour of looking permanently craggy and constipated. There was also a rubbish narration he had to deliver and you felt that it was as though someone had told Scott they would still be interested even if he read the phone book and he was out to prove them wrong.

This was clearly made with North American money, because there's little other reason for Jason Priestley to be in there. Oh God, it was so bad. Merely downloading it would be a criminal waste of illegal activity, like being caught speeding in a milk float or shoplifting incontinence pads.

* * *
Actually 90% of telly this Christmas was shite. Even Victoria Wood's special was moribund and repetitive. The best thing I watched was the Swedish TV adaptation of Wallander, which was terrific

* * *
I didn't watch Doctor Who on Christmas Day. I did a mountain of dishes while it was on and then watched Corrie. I think perhaps that was a wise decision. When I watched it yesterday it left me sort of speechless. I spoiled myself silly but I don't think anyone's review quite conveyed the crackiness of it. Even when they said "OMG this is the crackiest thing I have ever seen". There were about five scenes that were terrific and then the rest? Crack.

So. I shall look forward to New Year's Day's extravaganza, hope it's splendid, and above all, hope Russell T Davies doesn't break anything else I love (see Torchwood: Children of Earth, which I loved lots of parts of, but which broke the show, goddammit) And perhaps get roaringly drunk, since I will have finished work for the week by then.

Roll on Moff, who has issues of his own but whose plotting tastes are closer to mine, and roll on Doctor The-Glint-In Rassilon's-Eye.

* * *
As some of you may know, British plugs are different to those in much of the rest of the world, having three prongs instead of two, and a flat back. This makes them difficult to pull out, which is good. And yet...

I was wandering into my dad's rubbish-strewn hellpit room 11 days ago. His video recorder has finally broken down so instead of taking it to the recycling place, he decided that the very thing was to leave it in his room until the crack of doom. Where the plug trailed out onto the floor. I stepped on the plug and fell over. My dad lifted one eyebrow and said "watch where you're going".

When it didn't stop smarting and my sock was as wet as if I had stepped in a stray puddle of puppy widdle, I had a look and discovered a square hole in my foot about 8mm deep and bleeding. It hurt like a bastard and it's taken until now to heal to a dent. Let me give you a piece of advice. If you are in Britain, please ensure you do not stand on a plug.

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
pw201
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
"I don't understand how John Simm can be so hungry after he CHEWED UP ALL THE SCENERY." - tzikeh, on Metafilter.
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)
I read that review. I do occasionally wonder whether when they say all the stuff on the Confidential about how wonderful Russell's scripts are, whether there's a burly Welsh rigger hidden behind the chair, threatening to break their fingers. Because this was not wonderful, five or six scenes notwithstanding, and this has been the pattern for half the specials since 2005 and half of the finales.

And I say this as someone who is quite fond of RTD's writing.

Edited at 2009-12-29 11:19 am (UTC)
muridae_x
Dec. 29th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
I wish they'd just done a reduced length season this year, rather than the specials. It'd have worked out to the same number of filmed minutes, and we'd only have had one season finale to roll our eyes at.

Because I don't know what it is about RTD and specials/finales, but everything he does right throughout the rest of the show seems to go out the window the moment they give him extra minutes to play with before the end credits roll.

*sigh*
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
You're right. It's sort of following the RTD finale pattern though: anti-penultimate episode terrific - Utopia, Turn Left (moments of fail notwithstanding), Waters of Mars; penultimate episode, interesting but somewhat whacked out - Bad Wolf, Army of Ghosts, Sound of Drums, Stolen Earth End of Time; finale, muddled WTF - Last of the Time Lords, Journey's End.

It's not that I dislike his writing in general, it's that I very much dislike his writing for the Who finales.

It's more the scorched earth example of Torchwood that worries me though. What if he breaks his version of Doctor Who so that Moffat inherits a blank canvas? I'd really dislike that.

Edited at 2009-12-30 02:38 am (UTC)
marakara
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
I'm always amazed at British TV and how hard they try on Christmas and New Year's nights. Here, it is old movies and crime show reruns (old reruns too - like from a season ago) on Christmas and sports, movies and crime show reruns (old ones again) on New Year's night

Torchwood: "Children of Earth" got me into the series so it didn't break it for me but it they did like the program in a precarious position.

Take Care
Mara
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
What about Thanksgiving then? Does US TV push the boat out for that? I wonder if it's maybe because Christmas is the only time that families are trapped gathered together that it's become such a prize to get the best ratings then.

Christmas is our Thanksgiving equivalent, nothing but pubs and hotels are open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day is also a holiday, and lots of places shut their doors for the time between New Year and Christmas as well, so lots of people are stuck indoors with nothing much to do. ITV tends not to go so mad at Christmas as the BBC, though they do have lots of ads for stores holding sales.

I did read an article (Mark Lawson, I think) which suggested that both ITV and the BBC also use the week between Christmas and New Year to burn off expensive drama they've commissioned which has turned out badly. (see Day of the Triffids tonight).

marakara
Dec. 29th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
No on Thanksgiving. If it is in the ratings period, maybe the networks will show something new (every few years, it falls in the time when all stations get their viewership measured) but mostly it is crime dramas and family movies.

The only holiday with real big TV viewing is President's Day in February. It is cold in most of the country and people are use to being inside.

Here in the States, we run off our expensive failed programs in the summer. Usually on Saturdays to make sure nobody watches just how poor the programs are.

Take Care
Mara
hobbituk
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
See, now we think it's weird to have those funny two pin plugs that look like they came out of the nineteen thirties...

Sorry about the foot, though. Hope it gets better soon!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 11:20 am (UTC)
Oh, it's fine now, but it was deeply unpleasant at the time. Thanks.
tabula_x_rasa
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
IIEEEEEEEEE that sounds painful! Your poor foot!

Also, boo for ruining Day of the Triffids and YES, I KNOW, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? about Doctor Who. I will be... relieved, perhaps, when it's all in the Moff's hands and RTD is out of it.

I hope you recover soon!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am fine, just grumping and occasionally limping. The Day of the Triffids is just awful so don't download whatever you do.

I like RTD's writing in other arenas but I have had enough of it in Doctor Who. Go be successful away from things I love.
kirbyfest
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
hope Russell T Davies doesn't break anything else I love

Seriously. Get him OUT. He had one, fine story to tell. He told it with Nine. Since then he's been wanking around, for the most part, and he needs to GO AWAY.

I think much of what's been good-- even the good Nine stuff-- has been in spite of him. I feel very small and mean thinking that. But that's what I think, anyway.
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
I don't think I take quite the hard line you do, but I do want him to go away. Take your garlands, congratulations, please bugger off.

I think the man can write telly in general, but he can't plot science fiction and he covers it with blustering and total bollocks and stunts. Every time some actor I had previously thought quite sensible says "well, of course, I decided to do it because of the quality of Russell's scripts", I sort of wonder what they're reading.
leiliaxf
Dec. 29th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
thanks for the warning on "Day of the Triffids". I can now waste those hours on some other pointless thing.

OW!!!!! DUDE. 8MM???? That's deep! OW!!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
I think I was exaggerating a bit. 5mm deffo though.

I was not exaggerating about Day of the Triffids. Oh Lord, it's crap.
aud_woman_in
Dec. 29th, 2009 06:44 am (UTC)
I must say, reading your descriptions of bad TV is extremely entertaining in and of itself. Furrowing my brow trying my best to picture a program in which both Izzard and Brandon Walsh appear. Hope your foot is now largely undented and not painful.

And your subliminal icon kicks ass.
7tree_hugger
Dec. 29th, 2009 08:21 am (UTC)
And Brian Cox!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Not last night. He was just a voice and a promise. I suppose he must show up in Part II
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
It's quite unspeakable telly. I might watch it tonight for more heckling if there's nothing on the other 30 sides. Sadly, last night there was nothing on anywhere.

Thank you. Might make some more
parthenia14
Dec. 29th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
Icon!

*dies*
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
I think I might make some more of those. Like finding messages to Satan in the runout grooves of records, they are a Good Thing.
7tree_hugger
Dec. 29th, 2009 08:17 am (UTC)
I am so glad someone watched Day of the Triffids. I was gonna try because it was Izzard, but after trailing around on buses all day to try and get family Christmas presents replaced in the correct sizes I was too knackered and watched the Nine O'Clock News thing instead. So it was dreadful? Shame. The trailer looked ok, but I guess they'd snaffled all the best bits for that.

Also re: Victoria Wood - thank you, thank you, thank you. Watched it with great hope and was mildly disappointed all the way through. Surely she's better than that? I remember her being better than that!

No love for the Top Gear Special?
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)
It's not worth the Izzard, honestly. He's just there to be sneaky and amoral and his dialogue isn't even moustache-twirly or amusing.

Re: Victoria Wood - I read two or three reviews which declared it fantastically funny and I wasn't watching that programme. Her early, very funny comedy was about people and this was just taking the piss out of television. That's what comedians do when they've got no inspiration. She should go back to writing dramas.

Didn't watch Top Gear, sadly.
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. I can't get excited about DW because I keep wondering what cracked out and/or offensive or just plain stupid thing will happen next. Who will get killed in the name of true drama and what kind of patronising justification will be used in the confidential afterwards?

It's so long since I last read Day of the Triffids that I don't remember much about Josella except that I liked her and didn't think her wet. Maybe I should see if I can track down the BBC Radio adaptation and see whether they kept the background there. I know that in The Chrysalids, which was always my favourite Wyndham book, the women are clever and sparky and often the ones who work things out, even in a very patriarchal society.

Watch Day of the Triffids. I'd love to know what you think.
(Deleted comment)
curiouswombat
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, for the review of Triffids - I had meant to watch it, but had forgotten - and you have saved me the trouble of finding it on-line!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
It's not good. I'd say it's not even worth a watch because it's so bloody humourless.
cofax7
Dec. 29th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Ow your foot! My dog got a deep cut in her foot from stepping on glass, and it took three weeks before I stopped getting little bloody prints on the kitchen floor... I hope you at least didn't insist on chewing off the bandages at every opportunity. *g*

Many thanks for the warning on Triffids, since you know me & apocapyses. ANd I'm kind of astonished at the EoT thing: I got 2/3 of the way through last night and found myself simultaneously frustrated and bored. I'm not used to being bored by DW. Although John Simm looks like he's having a grand old time. (FLYING? WTF!)
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 29th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
I KNOW! FFS!

I read some reviews this morning where they liked Triffids, so I am starting to doubt my critical faculties. Also, the audience appreciation figure for Doctor Who (which is the measure of how much people who watched it liked it) was only four points off its all-time record.

What the fuck are these people watching? Triffids had an execrable script and Doctor Who was four good scenes and five funny lines linked by absolute BOLLOCKS. Why invest time and interest in something that's going to make no sense in the end, no matter how beautifully individual scenes are.

Moffat is not without irritating issues by any means but he's good at plotting if his previous shows are any guide, and his vision is less pessimistic. I am just worried about what bits of canon RTD will dynamite before he buggers off.
cofax7
Dec. 29th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I am just worried about what bits of canon RTD will dynamite before he buggers off.

Well, I guess it helps to be a very casual DW viewer, then, since I generally don't recognize when he violates canon.

... except for the FLYING. That was egregious.
thehornedgod
Dec. 30th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
I didn't hate Triffids too much, but I was sorry I'd forced myself to stay up to watch the first half. I liked Izzard in it, but I'd rather have watched the completely different show he seemed to have wandered in out of.

Victoria Wood was very poor, yeah. It was a bad sign when she claimed it was for bored old people who weren't very bright, and the show lived down to her claims.

Loved End of Time, thinking the next episode might be the last new Who I watch for a few years. Moffat's plotting tastes have been getting on my nerves for years now, and I don't think I want a Doctor who dresses like Eleven.
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 30th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
I didn't hate Triffids too much, but I was sorry I'd forced myself to stay up to watch the first half. I liked Izzard in it, but I'd rather have watched the completely different show he seemed to have wandered in out of.


Part Two was better than part one, and Izzard got better lines to play with, but it still needed better scripting. It needed someone like RTD or Moffat to inject wit and unexpectedness into it

Loved End of Time, thinking the next episode might be the last new Who I watch for a few years. Moffat's plotting tastes have been getting on my nerves for years now, and I don't think I want a Doctor who dresses like Eleven.


Well, I don't think we have the same perspective on The End of Time or indeed RTD's finales, because I dislike them in a way that I don't dislike the rest of his writing. I feel that he's working against all the things he is good at when it comes to big-scale finales because, IMO etc etc, he can't plot science fiction at all well and he relies too much on coincidence and deus ex machina. But on small-scale drama, those intricate, intimate character beats, he can take your breath away. I also have some differences with him on the way he sees the character of the Doctor, but that's just my personal thing. I'm so out of touch with the fandom mainstream that I actually like the NAs.

I'm sorry you're checking out for Moff because you have interesting things to say, but I reckon that properly interesting TV writing is like music: some songs just get to you in a way that you can't fully explain. Something just chimes right. And if it chimes wrong to you, there's not much to do but check out until the song changes. (God, that was a metaphor so bad it was worthy of country music)

Moff's plot kinks are my plot kinks. Sometimes even I know they're a bit trite, but that doesn't matter, because it's hitting the kink for me, even when it's not top drawer stuff. I like all of his stuff, even the series that don't work, because I like the way he constructs stories and writes dialogue.

It's like Aaron Sorkin. The man is a five-star prick and has a narrow range but something about the way he writes sings to me. He's limited but incredibly good within those limitations, yet I know he makes some people's fillings squeak.

As for the way Eleven dresses -- symptomatic of the times we're entering, mate. It's all squirearchy, young fogeys and triumph of the Tory bell-ends for the foreseeable.
thehornedgod
Dec. 30th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
I'm familiar with what you're saying about RTD and science fiction plotting, but I don't read or watch much stuff I'd consider science fiction so I wouldn't know. I love most of his finales. Last of the Timeys has problems (as does End of Time), but mostly the effects choices, imo.

What annoys me about Moffat's writing is the way he revels in the structural showing-off I find intensely annoying and contrived and inauthentic and untrue to the sense-of-real-life I need in any story, fantasy no less (more?) than any other genre. It's the reason I like Watchmen loads less than Swamp Thing, if that means anything. His Who stories are like sitcoms, not just the way people talk (they do sound less real than RTD's on the whole imo, though that's not my point) but the way they work on the inside, lots of repeated lines and callbacks. They're like the Lloyds building. They wear their skeleton on their skin. Exo.

As for the way Eleven dresses -- symptomatic of the times we're entering, mate. It's all squirearchy, young fogeys and triumph of the Tory bell-ends for the foreseeable

I'm just not going to survive the elevensies (?), am I?
se_parsons
Dec. 30th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC)
OW, your poor foot. Glad it is getting better.

My brother and I had a great time watching the old 1950s? verions of Day of the Triffids some time ago. It was also really bad, and had me hoping the Triffids would kill everyone, so I don't need to watch another, but your review was awesome.

this may be my favorite sentence ever...."Merely downloading it would be a criminal waste of illegal activity, like being caught speeding in a milk float or shoplifting incontinence pads."
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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