Thursday, September 15, 2005

We're The Sweeney, Son - And We Haven't Had Any Dinner.

Something happened on the journey from childhood that I didn't expect. One of my favourite TV shows of all time went from being a punch-happy, flare-wearing, car-chasing, tough-talking romp to something more cerebral.

The Sweeney is, inarguably, one of the most important British TV shows ever made. Click the article for a much more eloquent description of why, but the short version is that it took UK cop shows from moustachioed policemen bending their knees and saying things like "'ello 'ello 'ello, what's all this then, sonny Jim?" and giving cheeky teenage scamps a clip round the ear for stealing apples, into... well... reality. The London Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad could take their time on a case, often heading it off at the pass before it happened. They could interrogate criminals, cut deals with them and set up stings. It finished a shameful 19th in ITV's recent survey of greatest shows from its 50 year lifetime (right above the legendary Tiswas, another show I should perhaps do an entry on). The fact that recent shows featured so near the top proves, once again, that the public should never be trusted with voting for anything.

Being merely a glint in the milkman's eye when the show debuted, I was too young to enjoy it's brief 3 years. I was always aware of the shows existance (it lived on in repeats) but it wasn't until we were connected to cable TV and dedicated repeats channel UK Gold started showing it in rotation. I got hooked. I was 18 years old, packed to critical mass with testosterone, in control and knew everything. Thus, the hard living of the Sweeney's main characters appealed to me; they were dangerous and unpredictable. Stopping at nothing to get results from the criminals, drinking 24 hours per day, sleeping with loose women and prone to getting in 15 minute car chases, followed by 8 minute fight sequences. Add to that the hilarity of the fashions, the clunky cars, the flared tousers, the matching shirt and tie combos with a knot you could build a house on... it was a kitsch wet dream in the early 90s.

Fast forward to nowadays (as opposed to then-a-days I suppose) and the dawn of DVD has spurned a massive retro fashion in the UK. Now you can buy your entire childhood back and own huge collections of every TV show you used to watch as a child. Network DVD, a company with an intrinsic understanding of the needs and wants of my backward-looking generation, remastered and repackaged all the episodes of The Sweeney and released them in season-long box sets. Looking cleaner and brighter than they did on their original transmission and featuring an intelligently mixed 5.1 soundtrack (although the original mono is also an option), I jumped at the chance to see it again. But in the ensuing years, something bizarre happened. The episodes had changed somehow, now they were smartly written pieces of drama with - dare I say - stunning performances not just from the principals, but from the guest stars. All of a sudden, this kitschy 1970s time bubble full of fisticuffs and screaming tyres was an intelligent show with impenetrable plots and performances reeking with realism.

Did someone change the show whilst I wasn't looking... or did I just grow up?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Spike, The Motion Picture.

More stupid blog-friendly internet tests talking shite: What will the movie of your life contain and who will direct...

Woody Allen
Your film will be 72% romantic, 38% comedy, 20% complex plot, and a $ 29 million budget.
Be prepared to have your life story shot entirely in New York City -- though lately Woody's been loving shooting in London. Also, your music soundtrack is all jazz from before 1949. Filmography: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Everyone Says I Love You, etc. Woody has released one film per year consistently for the past 35 years. For the past 15 years he's been trying to make films like his older, funnier ones, just like characters in his Stardust Memories film suggest throughout. Regardless of his personal life, his films are American classics.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on action-romance

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You scored higher than 64% on humor

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 1% on complexity

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 24% on budget
Link: The Director Who Films Your Life Test written by bingomosquito on Ok Cupid

Come on now! I HATE Woody Allen! (Well, alright... The Sleeper and Zelig were pretty good.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nobody's Lazy In Lazytown...

I love kids' shows. I'm not sure why, maybe their simplicity appeals to my child-like mind. The psychologist in me says I have a bad case of passive regression syndrome, a desire to recapture my childhood, but I don't know if it's as simple as that. After all, you're talking to the guy who had a collection of bright orange Blues Clues VHSes even before he thought about breeding. (It doesn't half get you weird looks when friends drop by and peruse your movie collection. "Hmm... Das Boot, Withnail and I, Eraserhead, Blues Clues, The Usual Suspects, Citizen Kane...") But having kids has done nothing but boost my love for kids TV that's made well. And by "kids TV", I'm not talking about slack-jawed morons blabbering on at each other in between cartoons, I'm talking about honest-to-god TV shows made for kids and, it seems, the stranger the better.

One of my most recent discoveries is a show called "Lazy Town". It's a half real-life human, half CGI, half puppet mix from - of all places - Iceland. Don't worry, all you non-subtitle reading philmisitines, it's made in English. Long story short, it follows a familiar TV plotline to get the ball rolling: Character A is new in town and feeling depressed that he/she had to leave home to live with relatives, Characters B and C. Soon, he/she befriends Character D who shows her around town and introduces her to Characters E through G, all of whom posess stereotypical personality types. It's easy TV, but at least your audience won't be confused as the ins and outs of the characters are explained vicariously.

So, as the helpfully explanatory theme song documents, "Stephanie (Character A) is new in town, and soon she and Ziggy (Character B) are friends..." and before long, she meets resident bad guy Robbie Rotten (boo hissss) and resident superhero Sporticus (yaaaay). Adventures, as one might expect, ensue with junk food-loving Robbie Rotten (booo hisss) trying to get one over on the people of Lazy Town, for reasons never adequately explored. Because he's rotten, one can assume. Or maybe a bad childhood. (Perhaps, my innner psychologist suggests, the lack of any openings on his striped trousers has given him a suppressed libido complex.) What sets this show apart from average fare like... well, any live action show on Nickelodeon these days, is that health and fitness are the focus. Thankfully not in an overtly preachy way, it's all done very subtly. And here's the rub: it actually seems to work. At almost three, Spikette is already unusual in that she's a big fan of eating fruit, but she'll eat twice as much if she thinks Sportacus sent her "sport candy". (I swear to god, that's what he calls it in the show.) I used to call it "nature's candy", but his explanation seems to work better.

The bright colours and fast pace will probably put some parents off, not to mention the thumping techno music soundtrack, a genre which seems to be inexorably linked with gay men in this country. I'm surprised there hasn't been an outbreak of outrage from the fundies claiming that the abundance of hot pink and dance music is "infecting our youth with gay". The show is the brainchild of Icelandic fitness guru Magnús Scheving who, in addition to starring in the show as Sporticus, seems to inhabit every second credit including writing, directing and designing the puppets. Honestly, check the credits, the dude does everything but the catering.

Despite some hideous stage school acting from the female lead, it's a catchy wee show. Dali-esuqe moustache aside, Sporticus himself is some pleasing eye candy (sport eye candy?) for the assembled mothers and, possibly, gay men attracted by the music.

About Lazytown.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bwaa haa haa ha haa haa...

I dare you to click this link. It's the results of Ship Of Fools' scheme to find the 10 funniest (and most offensive) religious jokes. Some will laugh, some will wince, some will condemn the writers, the submitters and probably me to the firey depths of damnation for all eternity. Feh, it doesn't bother me. If there's a hell and it's a foregone conclusion that I'll be on the first bus there, I can, at the very least, be where the great jokes and good music are. And what a bus ride it will be...

Humour is one of those wonderfully subjective things. Funny to me may not be funny to you and to some, there are subjects that are off-limits to humour altogether. I'm spiritual and have my own personal set of beliefs - I don't believe in organised religion and I certainly don't subscribe to the "go to church every sunday, fear God and pray daily or go to hell" mindset of some. In fact, I feel pity for people like that. To me, the man upstairs is a cool kinda dude and if I was God, I certainly wouldn't want to be surrounded by sycophants for all eternity. But we share my world with people like that and to them, most - if not all - of these jokes will be way out of bounds. Some deal with Christian imagery, some with Christ himself and others beat the well-worn path of the priesthood and paedophillia.

The line is firmly drawn for some when it comes to topics for jokes. For me, there's no line to draw if the joke is funny. Do I find jokes about Scottish people funny... most of the time, no. Some of them I find downright offensive, some of them just aren't funny artistically. I mean, if someone else sends me the story/joke/song/poem about the Scottish guy who falls asleep under the tree and wakes up with a bow around his fun parts, I'll scream. But that doesn't mean that Joe Schmoe from Idaho won't find it funny. I'm sure there are people out there who find redneck jokes incredibly offensive, but I think they're hella humourous. For example, what's a redneck fortune cookie? A biscuit with a food stamp inside.

You're wrong, that's a great joke.

But I have heard some Scot-centric jokes that made me chuckle and some I have repeated both to Scots and to non-Scots. So click and enjoy the religious jokes. Or, indeed, click and repent should you feel the need. But here's the great punchline to the story that had me laughing even harder than the jokes themselves... Ship Of Fools, the website that brought you those wonderfully offensive religious jokes, is a Christian humour magazine.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

There, But For The Grace Of Pod, Go I.

Sometimes I wonder if only post these stupid things so I can make ridiculous puns in the headline!

So here's the update. Podcasting is still a possibility. John's in (since it *was* his idea, this isn't really a surprise), Paul is tentatively penciled in as a possible maybe and so, therefore, am I. Now all we have to do is find a solution to the problem of having all three of us on from three different locations. We have a few ideas as to what might work, but John and I will be testing Skype on monday to see if it's workable and anyone who has been talking to me in the past week or so will tell you that I'm a big fan of Google Talk, so we may end up using one (or both) of those. I hear Skype is pretty good and John tells me that BBC Radio 5 are starting to ditch traditional phone lines and using it for their correspondents out in the field. High praise for the product and, might I say, about damn time! This technology has been around for at least 2 years, it's a wonder nobody else has thought about using it in the world of broadcasting, instead relying on crappy old phone lines. Bizarrely enough, only firewall issues prevented John from joining us on 'ye olde 58live' via MSN messenger about 2 years ago. Further bizarrely, I was looking through some unlabelled CDs the other day and found 2 mp3s of when John was on with us in late 2003. It's a siiiiiign, man! A siiiign!!

Interestingly, John is still broadcasting part-time on the Scottish Night Network one night a week. Thursday nights (Friday mornings over there) he can be heard here from around 8pm eastern. Helluva broadcaster.