Category: TV

Killing Time – Premiere Episodes

A few weeks ago, TV1 invited me to a screening of the first two episodes of the new true crime drama Killing Time, based on the decadent eighties rise and fall of criminal lawyer Andrew Fraser. The series begins on TV1 tonight, and it looks poised to give Australian audiences more of what they want with fewer of the gimmicks endemic to the genre.

AMC’s The Walking Dead: episodes 1-3

Zombies. They’re everywhere. They’re coarse, they’re rough, they’re decaying and, like vampires and werewolves, they’re here to stay … for now. The ironic proliferation of the virulent undead across our pop culture landscape has not gone unnoticed, but the latest entry in the zombie pantheon isn’t a brainless cash-in. The Walking Dead is a TV adaptation of a comic that has been running since 2003. You probably already know this, but context never hurt anyone.

With three episodes – half of the first season – down, The Walking Dead has turned out to be more of a character dynamic mood piece rather than black and white panels made flesh. This is an interesting approach, and it makes for a significantly different experience. Frank Darabont is playing with character reactions to situations and drawing on source material only when he sees fit. It’s possible that this is offending a lot of people, but it also means that The Walking Dead is perfectly capable of standing on its own.

Very mild spoilers within!

When Twitter Fails, They Don’t

Earlier on Twitter I lamented the cult that has risen around Joss Whedon. Two people tried to slap me down for it. Then I remembered tonight that “The Trio” existed, and that this is a bad thing indeed and I was entirely right to be critical.

Twitter’s down, so I’m sharing it with you here.

Coming soon: Coraline (written but not edited; a good film!); the awful state of children’s film based on trailers (“Say Hello to my Little Friend!”); Funny People (when I find out when the damn thing is out here) and finally, GI Joe, which I’ve already lined up tickets for.

My God – it’s devoid of stars: Futurama to be recast?

Cliché image, yes, but iconic.

The news of Futurama’s return to television was a good thing, yes? If something worthless like Family Guy can claw its way back to prime time, surely a more deserving property like Futurama could be given another chance to shine?

The revival has hit a rather sour development with the release of a casting call sheet. When I saw the news on io9 I was prepared to discount it. Delving deeper and seeing that call sheet, however, is pretty damning. I’m expecting this to explode all over certain quadrants of the internet, and for good reason: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr and Maurice LaMarche are the crew of Planet Express and the people of the universe at large. They are an inextricable part of the show.

This is not like Daniel Craig succeeding Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. This is like someone killing one of your loved ones and replacing them with an android: it looks exactly like your dear old Grandmama, but it lacks her distinct personality and sounds ever so slightly off; an impersonator; an insult to the memory of someone important to you. Did no one at Fox see Changeling?

I don’t see how Fox thinks they can get away with this. Part of the reason Futurama is coming back, perhaps even the entire reason, is that it has a following; people like Futurama. It has a strong and storied cast that endeared itself to audiences over 72 episodes and four movies (that I did not see) and it was genuinely funny a lot of the time.*
People who like Futurama like the cast, and anyone else is nothing more than a pale imitation. I understand replacing a voice actor for reasons of necessity:

  • Death (see: legacy characters like Mickey Mouse);
  • Retirement (see: Christine Cavanaugh);
  • They turn out to be a serial killer who has used their position to abduct fans at conventions and then murder them.

I can’t see a legitimate reason for replacing an entire, more than amply talented, ensemble (not to mention Tress MacNeille and Lauren Tom!).

“Money” is not a legitimate reason, because I can imagine that people – myself included – would not be keen to watch a Futurama that has been senselessly neutered, and therefore a large amount of the anticipated revenue stream will have died.

What is the point of watching a science fiction cartoon composed of strangers whom no one would bother ever allowing into their hearts? This is a question I ax in all sincerity: I mean, seriously, what the hell? This is arse-backwards creative philosophy. Who cares if these actors don’t write or animate the material? They are still their characters, and their job is more than simply standing in front of a microphone and speaking their lines. If your cartoon is good, then your actors are going to care about the characters they represent and that care is going to translate itself to the finished product.

The call sheet is particularly insulting:

“Descriptions of these established characters follow, along with links to clips of previous episodes for reference.”

(Emphasis mine)

Who established these characters? The fact that they’re providing clips of previous episodes for reference confirms that they’re not seeking a new direction: they’re searching for cut-price impersonators. It’s my impression that voice actors have a certain professional pride: who could honestly trample over the work of people who are plainly still capable of performing the work they’ve become known for?

Entirely apart from not understanding the situation, understanding why people get emotionally attached to a property, it seems that Fox don’t even understand that some people have sensitive ears and will not simply deafly accept a change.

People obsess over voice actors; they follow their work across the years. I do it in both cartoons and anime, as another one of my hobbies: when I saw a trailer for Secret of Monkey Island featuring LeChuck’s first mate, I said aloud “Hey, it’s Rob Paulsen!”- and it frustrates me to no end that I can’t find a cast list for the game to confirm my suspicions. This would not go unnoticed by weird hobbyists like me, and even less fanatic types would be bound to notice a replacement of the entire cast of a cartoon with a large following.

It’s particularly amazing that this would happen on a Matt Groening property. Does no one recall the multiple times that they have attempted to kill cast members of The Simpsons? Even The Simpsons remembered it, in largely unremarkable episode Homer to the Max:

Homer: Networks like animation ’cause they don’t have to pay the actors squat!

Ned:    Plus, they can replace them, and no one can tell the diddly-ifference!

They then summarily jerked around Maggie Roswell, who ended up paying for the privilege of appearing on the show (her pay cheque wouldn’t cover the cost of travel to recording). Marcia Mitzman-Gaven, her replacement, was probably a good voice actress in her own right, but as Maude Flanders and Helen Lovejoy she plainly sucked. They got around this problem by largely shutting Helen up and killing Maude in Alone Again, Natura-Diddly. Roswell is back now, but Maude is still dead.

Since then there has been a variety of industrial actions and talk of strikes, but the voice actors have continued to win out. I’ve heard The Simpsons is improving again (I haven’t particularly cared to find out), but for the longest time there the established cast was all it had going for it.
Futurama is plainly not the juggernaut that The Simpsons has proven to be, but there are clear ethical, professional and fanbase considerations that apply. I’d like to think that the Futurama fan base is strong enough to convince Fox that this is an awful decision and they’d better turn this ship around instead of charting unexplored and counter-productive territory.

*This is entirely not the time to confess that a while back I went through a listing of all of the episodes and only really appreciated about half of them, the third and fourth seasons largely, but not wholly, falling flat for me.

Beauty born of vandalism

Last night I saw Sweeney Todd once more, but beforehand I stopped by the bathroom of the cinema. In this particular bathroom, every stall had the words “Mr. Moops” or simply “Moops” carved into either a door or a wall. In my careful selection process – for you can never be too careful with public toilets – I saw that one of the stalls had “Moops” written in it … but underneath someone had scrawled “Moors!”.

I laughed long and hard – it was a perfect intermission for a lovely evening.

Happy things

After all of my Heroes rage, and after Tim Kring admitted that episodes one to six of series two sucked, I decided that I’d share a couple of happy thoughts with the world:

On the weekend, I had the finest piece of beef ever to walk on the Earth. If the Two Johns weren’t lying to me, and there is indeed a Cow Town, I just ate its Mayor, and still have some of it left in the fridge.

Tonight, I’m seeing Blade Runner: Final Cut. It is going to be the best thing in the world. Regardless of the changes to the film (and I’ve no idea what they are), I’m really looking forward to watching it without grain. It’s going to be supremely weird to watch the movie and to actually be able to see it.

“Goooood evening, JF!”

Yes, after tonight, my life will be complete. No further discussion will need to be entered into, and the next sixty or so years … who cares what happens? For on November 12th, 2007, I saw Blade Runner in HD.

I’m going to have to adjust my standards, but I’m not sure in which direction. And, for now, I’m spent.

(PS. Going to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Gerald Robert Ford to kill the time in between. I wonder what the spin on that movie’s going to be, and what I’m supposed to think of the characters? Thank you, Brad Pitt, for doing my job for me).

Heroes Season 2: Episode 6

“The Line”

From my notes for this week’s episode: “I hate this show”. Yeah, it’s like that. Heroes is an uphill battle, one that I continue to wage because, as far as I can see, I don’t want to concede defeat.

Spoilerzzzzzzzzz …

Ugly Betty Season 2: Episode 4

“Grin and Bear It”

Let’s do this quick, rollcage style. Whatever that means.

James Van Der Beek (Dawson!) enters the series as a guy who’s totally not cool with transsexuals (he considers Alexis a man in a dress); The advertising withdrawal scheme plotted by Wilhelmina makes little sense, because really advertising relationships should be ingrained; Alexis forgives Daniel for the accident, which makes total sense; and Betty has a boring story about plagiarism before she finds out that Henry is the actual father. Good! That means that we can see Betty have an interesting relationship. If she doesn’t, I will shake my fist.

In other news, Amanda’s on an ass quest (it’s an American show, so asses).

The big news of the episode is that Justin goes all delinquent and makes out with a girl, but finds absolution in the fact that she’s so charmingly charmless (“what’s your problem? It’s just be-ah.”).

Yeah, I like Ugly Betty. Next, on brief TV that you wonder why I bothered: House is entertaining again!

Heroes Season 2: Episode 5

“Fight Or Flight”

Get your stale week old Heroes write up here! The content of the episode was so stale you won’t even notice! Remember the Mohinder voice overs? They’re back hardcore, and they tell us everything we need to know about human nature! (PS. Mohinder could totally beat Meredith Grey in a fight.)
Oh yeah, and did Tim Kring remember to tell you that Heroes has black people in it now? Because Heroes has black people in it now. They’re black.

Woefully outdated spoilers

Ugly Betty Season 2: Episode 3

“Betty’s Wait Problem”

Oh, Betty. It’s like the writers were gifted with divine inspiration: they don’t need to set up Betty with a totally bland person with whom she could never share interesting dialogue: they can simply write in a character with whom she has chemistry! ¡Dios Mio!
Yep, Betty herself once more becomes a worthwhile element of the Betty ensemble: life is good.

Spoilers for the one who wears braces!