Archives for posts with tag: tv

14adTP - doctor & river

The Advent Panda

14th Dec 2015: It’s Christmas Time (Lord).

Since it returned to our screens in 2005, Christmas TV in the UK is now gloriously and unshakeably wedded to the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Peter Capaldi has his second seasonal outing and having lost his faithful companion Clara, he could really do with having his wishes fulfilled by Santa. Unfortunately, that already happened last year, accompanied by the appropriate amount of running up and down corridors.

This time round, he will have to be comforted by his wife (yes wife!) River Song, played artfully as ever by Alex Kingston.

The BBC’s not giving much away, but I expect we won’t get too far into the episode before gruff Doctor 12 is River’s ’sweetie’ once again.

Anything else would be ’spoilers’!



10adTP - radio times

The Advent Panda

10th Dec 2015: Where IS that Radio Times?

Yes that bumper Christmas issue with two weeks of tv and radio crammed into one magazine. You’d think that in the age of DVR planners and catch-up tv, things have changed. However, I bet many an average household still fights over it and over who is going to circle and highlight the holiday season’s viewing.

It always amazes me that it actually survives the fortnight, although admittedly by the end, its normally coverless, dog-ended and laced with brandy butter grease stains!

The joy of opening a newly bought copy is equalled only by the sadness of reaching the last day’s tv page and knowing that you are returning to work or school imminently.


05adTP - wiz oz ruby

The Advent Panda

5th Dec 2015: Fly My Pretties…Fly!

The most famous Christmas film, that is not a Christmas film!

To understand how that happened, you have to be of a certain age and remember what television was like before the internet, before catch-up and especially before satellite and cable.

Back in the days when the UK enjoyed 3 channels and although ITV could afford to show a relatively recent Bond movie, the BBC (when not showing its home grown entertainment) was forced to raid the old film archives for its festive fayre.

Every year without fail as children, we were urged to celebrate as ‘Ding Dong’ the Witch was dead! It took years for it to be moved from prime time, but I bet even this year it will be hidden in the schedules somewhere….just click your ruby slippers and all will be revealed.


TP27 Superman cryingWith a new Avengers film about to be released and both Marvel and DC comic franchises trying to wet our appetites by announcing movie release dates for new superhero installments for the next 10 years (!), this seems to be quite a relevant question.

I’m not joking. Even though I am generally a fan of current superhero TV and film, you do have to ask – what happened to our cartoon friends over the last 15 years or so?

I was asked recently by an 11 year old boy why – if superheroes originated from children’s comic books – are the movies sometimes rated 12 or 15 and just out of reach for him? As adults, we can think of a string of reasons, but with the clarity of a child’s mind, you have to admit that he has a point.

You have to wonder how a genre that was almost exclusively developed for children now ploughs big movie money into outlets that are no longer immediately accessible to them.

It seems that today’s superheroes must now have a comprehensive back story and complex origin tale (that can be re-written and subtlety re-booted regularly) and with that comes the baggage of adult themes, issues and perhaps gritty violence which pushes up the film ratings. It has been proposed that DC comics struggled with their movie offerings because the majority of their superheroes were ‘alien’ or born ‘superhuman’ and therefore difficult to relate to on the big screen (Batman being a notable exception). Marvel on the other hand was able to successfully play with characters like Iron Man (rich business techy in a flying suit), Spiderman (high school kid carelessly bitten by a spider), Hulk (kindly doc who only gets green and chunky when angry) or Captain America (vintage war weakling who naively signs up to be a super soldier).

DC after having failed spectacularly to bring back Superman in ‘Superman Returns’ tried to mimic this approach with Batman (tick) and Green Lantern (cross!). Maybe the inherently sci-fi nature of Green Lantern over-powered the successful ‘ordinary guy becomes special’ formula, or maybe it was just a bad script! Eventually Chris Nolan’s Batman stardust managed to bring some sheen back to the Man of Steel.

In my opinion, it’s this recent obsessive need to create a ‘believability factor’ for unbelievable characters that has caused this new generation of ‘child-unfriendly’ heroes. As adults, the believability factor is important to us, as children, we didn’t really care.

The camp camaraderie of 60’s Batman (trunks, tights and meows) was lost on me as a child. It had comedy appeal to adults, but as a kid, I really did want him to jail the Joker and pen the Penguin. I remember reading a DC Batman comic in the early seventies, which had been shipped over from Canada by my Grandma, as they were not easily available in the UK – As a child I was surprised and possibly a little disappointed by its bleak nature compared to the vibrant candy-coloured world of Adam West and Burt Ward.

To this day despite the more skillfully crafted versions of our heroes that come with each reboot, it remains difficult to shake the colourful and simple versions of our childhood heroes. Adam West and Burt Ward punching the bad guys with a comic book BASH! CRASH! WHAMM! – Christopher Reeve circling the world and waving to the camera – Linda Carter arms out and spinning – or one of the greatest cartoon opening tunes “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a Spider can!

TP27 - Batman through the yearsOn the subject of cartoons, I suppose that like many genres in film, TV and music today, the explosion of entertainment media has led to compartmentalisation. The children who don’t get to see our adult indulgent 15 rated movies, are treated to an array of cartoon hero films and programmes which are made just for them. Yes! Yet another incarnation, another re-boot and another chance for more lunchboxes, toys and piñatas! Please, please don’t let me see another version of Bruce Wayne’s parents being shot! Those pearls around Mrs Wayne’s neck can only break and bounce in slow motion on the poorly lit alley floor so many times!

But perhaps there’s a chink of light? Has Spring sprung after a dark winter for the moody conflicted heroes of late? It may have been the case that DC has lagged behind Marvel’s movie prowess, but they’ve found their footing on television, easily relegating ‘Marvel’s Agents of Shield’ to a lower division behind Arrow, Gotham and The Flash.

Smallville began the trend, but despite being a colourful teen show it still couldn’t allow our growing ‘Superboy’ to actually fly lest it alienate the teenage viewers looking for more realistic teenage angst and romance. Arrow and Gotham started a little dark with much to owe to the Nolan Batman approach, but Arrow’s follow-ups – The Flash to be supported shortly by Supergirl and a new Superhero team-up show yet to be named, seem to fly a somewhat different flag.

The Flash positively revels in being comic book action. It is colourful, introduces super-powered humans by the dozen and is even unashamed to mess around with convoluted time travel plot lines.

Have the comic hero moguls and TV writers at last got the confidence to let our heroes be heroes once again and rejoice in the fact that they are NOT like us?

I hope so. I’ve kind of missed it.


ImageWith the coming weekend to mark the 50th Anniversary of the BBC’s science fiction television triumph ‘Doctor Who’, I have been looking for some way to tip my hat to our favourite Time Lord.

To do so innovatively has proven difficult. The web and most other news outlets have been plastered with material either reviewing the show or it’s influence over the last five decades. I had almost given up and left it to the army of devoted journalists and bloggers who have already trodden the path. However, today I was driven to tap the keys after reading an interview with Peter Davison, the fifth and at the time, youngest actor to assume the role of the Doctor.

ImageHe was speaking about his decision to depart the show upon the advice of one of his predecessors – Patrick Troughton, who had proposed that 3 years was enough before typecasting set in. He recalled how satisfied he had been with decision and how he had actually made the choice quite early, a good year or so before his final episode actually aired. Anyway, to get to the point, he was fine up to the time of filming his last story, but despite knowing it was the right move, was gutted to see Colin Baker actually replace him!

It caught my attention and got me thinking because I, (although somewhat less dramatically) was experiencing something similar today.

After a prolonged period of planning, I had agreed an amicable departure from my last employer to break away from the shackles of ‘commuterdom’ and pursue projects of my own. It has been a lengthy and congenial separation, with me continuing to help out on a part time basis until my replacement was found. He arrived over the last few days and this week I conducted the main thrust of a handover. He is now leading the team I led, receiving the mail I received and attending the meetings I attended.

Like Mr. Davison I don’t regret my decision for a moment, but it’s very strange and a little disturbing to watch someone step into your shoes and walk straight on at the crossroads, leaving you to take the different path you have chosen.

TP20 11Ds 2Change is hard but fundamentally necessary if we are to grow and live life to the full. Perhaps on some level as a child, Doctor Who taught me that. Letting go of an old Doctor was hard, but within a short period you had grown to love the next. With a new Doctor, some things stayed the same, but there is a reinvigorated opportunity for new stories, new companions, new adversaries and above all, new adventures!

How often do we look back on our lives and sometimes not recognise the people we once were? Different jobs, different relationships, different homes may have brought out diverse traits in our personality, even though some of our basic characteristics remain the same. Sound familiar?

We are often the sum of many ‘lives’ perhaps not quite as literally as the Doctor, but in some ways we ‘regenerate’ ourselves – sometimes willingly and sometimes as a result of circumstances beyond our control. Maybe my acceptance of this, my willingness to embrace it and my belief that I can reinvent myself, owes its origins to my Saturday teatime TARDIS journeys.

(As I look down at the lengthy striped scarf I am wearing as I write this on the train, perhaps there were other influences too…)

ImageAnyway, happy birthday Doctor Who and if I’m correct in the above, I hope that current and future generations of children will glean more from the show than just a love of Converse sneakers, bow ties and the notion that a fez is cool!

Now excuse me while I attend to my computer. The old girl is wheezing like a grampus. Perhaps I should reverse the polarity of the neutron flow?


ImageI’m sure we have all caught those movies on the Syfy channel, or at the very least seen the remorseless stream of trailers for something like “Disaster Movie Week”. It’s our opportunity to witness the world being consumed by a swarm of genetically modified wasps or some mad scientist’s weather machine disrupting the gravitation poles of the planet causing mayhem and carnage. This is the domain of low budget special effects and wooden acting that can only draw us in when we are particularly susceptible (often incapacitated on the sofa due to illness or after too many beers down the pub!).

Somewhere in the tangled synapses of my brain, I started to wonder what horrific stories might emanate from the actual news headlines of today. With tongue shoved firmly into cheek, I present to you my 2013 Disaster Movie synopses.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

What the Frack?

Greedy power companies and corrupt politicians ride roughshod over scientific research to recommence the practice of fracking in the UK, whereby high pressure liquid is pumped into rock deposits underground to crack them and release natural gas. A militant group of environmentalists has somehow managed to sabotage the fracking injectors, replacing the usual liquid with rice pudding. The plan backfires when against all odds, three companies set out to perform massive fracking operations at exactly the same time. The earth trembles, Big Ben and the Shard collapse as the whole of the United Kingdom is ripped apart by huge earthquakes, causing it to be consumed by the sea. The debris (including superheated fried rice) is thrown into the atmosphere and the change in sea level has a catastrophic effect on the rest of the world. As a result, humanity spirals back into an apocalyptic, pre-industrial age where physical strength supersedes intelligence and a ‘Lone Man’ of integrity must fight to rescue his estranged family from harm and restore a semblance of civilisation to a broken world.

Pyongyang Shebang!

ImageThe North Korean leader is vexed. The UN sanctions, state of high alert in South Korea combined with the US military exercises in the region have done nothing to make his gourmet noodles sit more comfortably in his belly. Aside from looking about 12, his hasn’t lost his passion for boyhood pursuits and is tipped over the edge when one of his aging Generals forgets protocol and accidentally beats his esteemed leader in a round of “Battleship” from MB Games. Howling “You sank my battleship!” in Korean at the top of his voice he hurls the box of the game violently at the General, missing him by miles, but hitting the rather large red button to the left of his desk. ‘No problem’ he thinks, the dual keys in separate locks need to be in place and quarter-turned for the launch of his shiny new nuclear missile. The relief is short-lived as he remembers overdoing the rice wine last night and showing off his ‘power’ to a pretty little Korean cutie before leading her to his palatial bedroom. Did he really leave the keys in? His question is answered by the roar of a missile launch. His groan is shared collectively by the world as the domino effect of retaliation strikes reduces large portions of the planet to a wasteland. As a result, humanity spirals back into an apocalyptic, pre-industrial age where physical strength supersedes intelligence and a ‘Lone Man’ of integrity must fight to rescue his estranged family from harm and restore a semblance of civilisation to a broken world.

Spam Slam

The biggest cyber attack in history is launched against a noble ‘not for profit’ organisation seeking to protect internet users from malicious spam. Spammers of the world unite to take down their servers with a sustained attack of e-mail Viagra offers, beating the existing attack record of 300 Gbps and ‘keeping it up’ all night! The Spammers get more than they bargain for when the internet slows for the entire planet and IT companies around the world throw everything they have at it to prevent its paralysis. Their efforts are in vain as the internet fails globally together with every system, financial and logistical, that relies upon it. Back-up systems cannot cope with a failure of this scale as infrastructure and economies around the world collapse. You’ve guessed it… as a result, humanity spirals back into an apocalyptic pre-industrial age where physical strength supersedes intelligence and a ‘Lone Man’ of integrity must fight to rescue his estranged family from harm and restore a semblance of civilisation to a broken world.

Eat Horse and Die!

The horse has been man’s faithful companion for millennia, but in his endeavour to make the horse stronger and faster, man has cross-bred and chemically enhanced its performance over the years. This has caused subtle changes in the horse’s body chemistry and biology which unbeknownst to us is toxic and harmful to humans when consumed. Horse meat may have been a delicacy in some countries, but the quantity in which it was eaten was small. After all, who’s going to notice the odd Frenchman smelling like decay, slurring his words and neighing into his glass of vin rouge before keeling over? However, when half of Europe starts to behave this way due to horsemeat mis-sold as beef, society is rocked. Productivity declines, economies fail and soon it becomes clear that the horse-derived contagion can be transmitted from human to human. Countries cannot close their borders fast enough and the disease sweeps through the world. Only a small amount of the population has natural immunity and survives the ordeal. And yes, wait for it.… humanity spirals back into an apocalyptic pre-industrial age where physical strength supersedes intelligence and a ‘Lone Man’ of integrity must fight to rescue his estranged family from harm and restore a semblance of civilisation to a broken world.

ImageI hope those of you that share my rather dubious sense of humour enjoyed this and are now scouring the news sites for your own movie nightmares.  Let me know if you find anything good and we’ll pitch it to the Syfy channel together!

On the other hand, those of you interested in playing the notorious “Lone Man” are probably best served imagining yourselves falling to your knees on a deserted beach in a leather loincloth and yelling fruitlessly at a half buried Statue of Liberty. Once you’ve perfected your best Charlton Heston impression of the line “God damn you all to hell!” let me know and I’ll keep you in mind for the auditions!


aerial sunset houseEverywhere I look I see the looming figure of Kevin Spacey in seated Abraham Lincoln pose advertising a new TV political drama called ‘House of Cards’. What is so special about this, I hear you ask? We have all become numb to the systematic television advertising machine that splashes new series warnings across our computers, TVs and billboards. They scream at us and plead mercilessly with us to watch the show and almost have us believing that a major life goal will somehow be missed if we don’t tune in at 9pm tonight!

Well, to answer your question, the difference is that ‘House of Cards’ is produced by Netflix. For those of you in countries who are Netflix free or have been hiding under a bush, Netflix is an internet TV provider that for a modest monthly sum will stream a vast collection of TV shows and films down your broadband cable for viewing on your computer or if you have one…internet-friendly TV. They are not the only provider of such services and other UK cable and satellite companies such as Sky and Virgin Media are diversifying into similar services. Even the often considered austere and haughty BBC was quick off the mark a few years ago with its trail blazing internet iPlayer.

However, Netflix unlike the BBC or Sky has traditionally had no production capability. They and others like them have been purveyors of existing material – regurgitated and repackaged for your internet pleasure. ‘House of Cards’ is a game changer. Subscription internet TV services moving to produce new high quality drama for them to uniquely broadcast before any of the other traditional players. Additionally, internet rules apply to this new television show. No longer, must you wait for your favourite channel to frugally dole out your new TV episodes once a week – no, no, no! Netflix will make this whole new series available in its entirety on day one for its subscribers. Watch it week by week if you wish, day by day if you see fit, or simply commit a whole day to the project and watch every episode end to end – the choice is yours. The infinite options befitting the internet generation have now encroached on that last bastion of patience and self control….the weekly TV show.

You may think that so far, this sounds like a bit of an advert for Netflix. I promise you it isn’t. I don’t have the service, although I do subscribe to a satellite provider with supplementary internet services. The purpose of these ramblings is really to consider how our viewing habits have changed and imagine where it will all end? I suspect I am a bit of a modernist when it comes to telly. I can’t really remember the last time I watched a fictional TV show at its time of broadcast. My hard disk recorder gathers it all in and I sit down whenever I want to watch and enjoy whatever I’m in the mood for. As a consequence I have not really watched a TV commercial in years (unless it is at 16 times the speed while I fast-forward through it!) Of course there is a place for live television with respect to the news, current events, sports and other important live broadcasts. However, those aside – a TV channel’s broadcast schedule means practically nothing to me (unless of course my recorder throws a fit and screws up a recording – then of course I am scrambling through the channels trying to find the repeat showing!).

Unfortunately, I don’t think TV viewing statistics have quite caught up with this new way of life and live TV ratings are still king, particularly in countries like the USA. This does nothing for the quality of our television and can lead to fantastic shows being cancelled because their viewer demographic sits firmly in the band of those who are technologically savvy enough to view everything from hard disc and not at its broadcast time. Additionally it causes TV networks to focus on producing live reality TV “Talent” shows (or “Freak Shows” as I like to call them). These shows encourage us to watch at the time of broadcast so that you can not only vote for your favourite, but also, save yourself the indignity of finding out who was ‘voted off’ second-hand before you’ve had a chance to get to your hard disk recorder. It’s a clever ploy, but just how much ‘American Idol’ or ‘X-Factor’ can the human race be exposed to before Darwin’s Natural Selection kicks-in and we are overrun by evolved grey squirrels!

I have no doubt that the networks will catch up and services like Netflix will be biting at their heels to do so. The balance of my viewing between what trickles down from my satellite dish or aerial and what comes charging through my broadband cable is changing week by week and the internet component is gaining all the time. TV networks will find a way to force adverts down our throats through internet and hard-disk viewing and once that happens, post-broadcast viewing will be welcomed with open arms into the TV rating statistics. It’s a little like the recent history of the music charts. Downloaded music was the young pretender to the solid dependable CD, but at some point, not including downloads in the charts became a nonsense.

So in time, my TV aerial may go, my satellite dish may rust away and on the whole I’m not too unhappy about that. If I’m honest, I do think it is a shame if eventually TV series are packaged up a la Netflix and we are denied the weekly anticipation of what will happen in next week’s episode or the water cooler speculation of who murders/saves/sleeps with who.

But then again…it’s not really worth worrying about is it? The squirrels will be in charge by then!


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