Televisual Advent Calendar #11 – The Day of the Triffids

“When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”

The Day of the Triffids

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

This is one of those dystopian science fiction series, that felt too close to comfort. On one fateful night a meteor storm makes everyone blind. If that’s not bad enough, some carnivorous plants, the triffids take advantage of the situation to feed on the newly blinded population. A few sighted survivors try and make it through, and in the process have to deal with, not just triffids, but gangs, tinpot dictators, gangs and a disintegrating society.

This was the original BBC Version broadcast in 1981, starring John  Duttine as Bill Masen. There were six episodes, each 30 minutes long. I remember watching the series and been enthralled by this horrific future, knowing in one way that it couldn’t happen, but fearful it might.

Triffids

It was one of those series where I wanted to watch more, find out more about the world and how it changed and what happened to the characters. I felt there was a lot more to the stories behind the characters, and too much was missing from either passages of time between the episodes, and too much simple exposition on what happened to other characters and communities in passing comments.

Today you can imagine someone taking The Day of the Triffids and turning into an epic series of episodes like The Walking Dead. That way more of the world could be unearthed and more insight to what happened to the characters. 

A new version was made ten years ago, but though it had some qualities, I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the 1981 version.

I really remember enjoying watching The Day of the Triffids and it was scary and well made television.

Get Day of the Triffids on DVD.
Get Day of the Triffids on Amazon Video.
Get Day of the Triffids on iTunes.

Televisual Advent Calendar #10 – The Big Bang Theory

Bazinga!

Bazinga!

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version  in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

I never got into The Big Bang Theory when it was first broadcast. It took me ages to get around to watching it, but when I did, I loved it.

Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists, the kind of “beautiful minds” that understand how the universe works. But none of that genius helps them interact with people, especially women. All this begins to change when a free-spirited beauty named Penny moves in next door.

The interwoven stories of the six diverse characters were very funny. Many times I laughed out loud. I really enjoyed the character of Will Wheaton played by Will Wheaton. It was quite bizarre to see an actor portray a caricature of themselves. Of course as the series progressed other famous actors (a fair few from Star Trek) did a similar thing.

I really enjoyed the pop culture references as well as the science stuff. There was quite a bit of stuff that went over my head, I don’t do comics for example. However as someone who has watched Star Trek, Star Wars and other science fiction stuff, I liked how those aspects of popular culture was brought into the storytelling.

The Big Bang Theory

This was a series that I probably binge watched on Netflix rather than watch on a weekly basis on Channel 4 (or was it E4). So when it came to watching the final series 12, I did watch this “live” and was so disappointed about the impact of the advert breaks on the watching experience. I think I have been spoilt with services such as iTunes, Amazon Prime and Netflix. 

It’s one of those things that I find with services such as Netflix, when I think am I making best use of the service, am I getting value for money, do I need to still subscribe? I find with Netflix that when I look at how I am using this service, that something does come along that I want to watch, so I keep subscribing.

Get The Big Bang Theory on Blu-Ray.
Get The Big Bang Theory on DVD.
Get The Big Bang Theory on Amazon Video.
Get The Big Bang Theory on iTunes.

Televisual Advent Calendar #09 – Blake’s 7

No, not until free men can think and speak. Not until power is back with the honest man.

Blake’s 7

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

Blake’s 7 is one series I watched when it was broadcast live in the late 1970s that I never want to watch again. No, not because it wasn’t any good, if it want any good then it wouldn’t be in the advent calendar. The reason I don’t want to watch it again, is because my memories of that series are so good, that I worry I might be disappointed if I watched it again. Some television series age well, others don’t. The special effects used in series such as Blake’s 7 were state of the art in the 1970s, but even so they didn’t have the financing that big blockbusters films like Star Wars had. So the effects were good from a television perspective, for the day, but today look a bit dodgy… So as a result I don’t want to be disappointed.

It was something I remember watching live every week at a set time. Something that today appears quite strange for weekly series such as this, where now I would be more likely to watch something as and when I wanted and not wait a week for the next episode. Though with certain series on Netflix such as Star Trek Discovery you do need to wait a week between episodes which reminds me of watching programmes like Blake’s 7 when I was younger.

Liberator

The series which was set in a dystopian future was a mash up of Star Wars and George Orwell’s 1984. The series is about the exploits of political dissident Roj Blake, who commands a small group of rebels against the forces of the totalitarian Terran Federation. This federation rules the Earth and many colonised planets.  The Federation uses mass surveillance, brainwashing and drug pacification to control its citizens.  There is something about that seems similar today, well we certainly have mass surveillance, is fake news and social media akin to brainwashing?

Blake was arrested, tried on false charges, and deported to a remote penal colony. En route, he and fellow prisoners Jenna Stannis and Kerr Avon gain control of a technologically advanced alien spacecraft, which its central computer Zen informs is named Liberator.  This was an amazing spaceship and so different to other science fiction ships of that era. Liberator’s speed and weaponry are superior to Federation craft, and it also has a teleportation system that enables transport to the surface of planets. Blake and his crew begin a campaign to damage the Federation, but are pursued by Space Commander Travis—a Federation soldier—and Servalan, the Supreme Commander.

Servalan

The ship was destroyed at the end of series three as the show was probably going to be cancelled, so a completely new ship was needed for series four. I don’t remember watching much of series four.

One of the aspects of the series that stuck in my mind, was how the ensemble cast changed over the time, even the main character Blake left the programme at the end of series two. At the time I thought this was strange, I also remember thinking how it changed the feel of the series. The same could be said when they destroyed the Liberator and lost Zen.

My favourite character was Vila, who was a bit of an underdog and always getting “got at” by the rest of the team.

Overall I have some great memories of Blake’s 7 and though I could quite easily find ways to watch it again, I have decided not to, I will just have the memories.

Get Blake’s 7 on DVD.

Televisual Advent Calendar #08 – Drop the Dead Donkey

I’d just like you to stir-fry a few ideas in my think-wok.

Drop the Dead Donkey

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

Drop the Dead Donkey is set in the offices of “GlobeLink News”, a fictional TV news company, it covered the life of some key staff and presenters.  The work and personal life of George Dent, Alex Pates and Dave Charnley putting together the news with presenters Henry Davenport and Sally Smedley, as well as field reporter Damien Day was portrayed in a comical and humours fashion. The characters were somewhat extremes (or are they), though my favourite characters was the cynical personal assistant, Joy Merryweather, who was neither joyful or merry. Overseeing all of the work of the news room was Gud Hedges, a real management stereotype who has no real idea about management, but attempts to put into the workplace all those weird and crazy things he must have learnt on management training courses. I think Gus Hedges taught me more about management (and how not to do it) than any real management training course I have been on.

Could we interlock brain spaces in my work area?

Recorded close to transmission, it made use of contemporary news events to give the programme a greater sense of realism. That means in some ways it hasn’t aged well, but on recent viewings I still found it very funny.

My favourite episode of this was the The Christmas Party, even thinking about it, makes me smile and laugh a little.

I really enjoyed many of the things that Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have been behind, including Old Harry’s Game and Outnumbered.

Get Drop the Dead Donkey on DVD.
Get Drop the Dead Donkey on Amazon Video.

Just a thought I wanted to pop into your fishbowl to see if it blows bubbles.

Televisual Advent Calendar #07 – Bergerac

Jersey is an island. It’s nine miles by five. And if you drive *very* slowly, you can take a whole hour to go right round it.

Bergerac

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

I remember as a child sitting down on a Saturday night to watch a BBC drama series.  One series I remember with fondness was Bergerac.  It was broadcast for ten years from 1981 to 1991. I don’t remember many of the storylines, actually I don’t think I can recall a single one, but there are fond memories of the series. 

John Nettles played detective sergeant Jim Bergerac, a recovering alcoholic and whose marriage had just broken down. Bergerac always struck me as something different, not quite the same as an English police series, or detective drama. There was something “exotic” abut the Le Bureau des Étrangers. Something which even today I had to Google as I had no idea exactly how it was spelt and I could never get the pronunciation right.

It was also set in Jersey and though I had never been to the Channel Islands, it struck me as an incredible place to work and live. There was a combination of familiar and exotic about the series, this wasn’t just another police show, there was something very different about how the Le Bureau des Étrangers operated.

I remembering wanting to visit the Channel Islands having watched Bergerac, however I still haven’t made that trip.

Get Bergerac on DVD.

Televisual Advent Calendar #06 – Warehouse 13

Bag it….

Warehouse 13

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

Warehouse 13 is a science fiction comedy drama broadcast between 2009 and 2014. The series follows U.S. Secret Service Agents Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer when they are assigned to the secretive Warehouse 13 for supernatural artifacts.

This was a series I watched having bought the first season on iTunes in 2010. What I don’t recall is why I knew about the series and why I purchased it in the first place. However having watched the first series, I went on to buy all five series.

The concept is quite strange and has elements of the supernatural, though it has it’s comedic moments, it can also be quite dark. I quite like the historical links and have been known to search Wikipedia about an individual or a moment in history or a specific artifact. It’s not a series to take seriously, but for a fun enjoyable hour I like it.

I also enjoyed Eureka, which was made by the same company and set in the same “universe” even to the point of a couple of crossover episodes.

Get Warehouse 13 on Blu-Ray.
Get Warehouse 13 on DVD.
Get Warehouse 13 on Amazon Video.
Get Warehouse 13 on iTunes.

Televisual Advent Calendar #05 – Outnumbered

It tasted horrible to begin with, but then I added five spoonfuls of sugar and now I feel all zingy zangy zongy!

Outnumbered

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

Outnumbered is centred on the Brockmans, a middle-class family living in Wandsworth, whose two parents are “outnumbered” by their three somewhat unruly children. The father, Pete, is a history teacher at an inner city school and the mother, Sue, is a personal assistant. The three children are: Jake, Ben and Karen. Outnumbered stars Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner as the exasperated parents with three children.

I think one of the reasons that Outnumbered resonates with me, and more so now since it was first broadcast in 2007 was that I also have three children, two older boys, the youngest a girl and roughly the same ages. I can really identify with Pete and Sue and we as a family now laugh at the series.

Sometimes the series feels a little too close for comfort. However it is a series which makes me laugh.

What was clever was that wasn’t really a script and much of the conversations were improvised so that the children’s lines appeared natural.

The creative team behind this have been behind a lot of my favourite TV and Radio programmes. I have always been a bit of a fan of Hugh Dennis as well, ever since he starred in the The Mary Whitehouse Experience on BBC Radio 1 with Steve Punt. I really enjoyed many of the things that Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have been behind, including Old Harry’s Game and Drop the Dead Donkey.

As you might expect, my favourite quote is about coffee….

Pete: You got yourself a coffee?
Jake: Yeah. Double espresso.
Pete: A double espresso?
Jake: Well, you’re one who’s telling me to like, try new things all the time.
Pete: Yeah but I meant vegetables and stuff, not stimulants, you’ve never had caffeine before, I –
Jake: Don’t get in a state. I only drank half of it.
Pete: Oh. Okay.
Jake: Ben drank the other half.
Pete: (pauses) You let Ben drink a double espresso??
Ben: It tasted horrible to begin with, but then I added five spoonfuls of sugar and now I feel all zingy zangy zongy!
Pete: Zingy. Zangy. Zongy.
Ben:I feel like lightning!
Pete: Oh my god.

Get Outnumbered on DVD.
Get Outnumbered on Amazon Video.
Get Outnumbered on iTunes.

Televisual Advent Calendar #04 – Star Trek The Next Generation

Captain Jean Luc Picard

Make it so….

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

There are quite a few series of Star Trek and I do say I am enjoyING Star Trek Discovery and looking forward to Picard next year.

Having reflected though on the different series, I decided that The Next Generation would be the series that made it into this Televisual Advent Calendar.

Star Trek The Next Generation Crew

I never really watched the original Star Trek, I remember seeing a few episodes. I remember watching the first episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation at university, well I say remember, they were shown late in the Junior Common Room and I think I might have drunk a little too much. As I got older, I started to watch a little more science fiction television, I did start to watch Star Trek The Next Generation and really enjoyed it. I hit it when it was in its third series and unlike other TV series I started to watch this by buying the VHS tapes when they came out. I remember having no real idea of release dates, as in the early 1990s we didn’t really have the internet we have today. Every so often I would head off to WHSmith and buy the latest episodes on VHS tape and watching them on my VCR. Some episodes were good and some were not so good.

I really enjoyed season three and season five. Yesterday’s Enterprise is probably my favourite episode of the whole series. A time travelling episode involving an alternate darker Enterprise. Really clever story.

Yesterday's Enterprise

I liked the characters and their interactions. Looking back now, the sets and costumes look very dated, and the effects are very much of their time. However many of the stories are still strong, both entertaining and thoughtful. I was quite sad when the whole series ended, but the finale episode was very enjoyable.

As a result of getting into The Next Generation I did become a bit of a “fan” and have watched and enjoyed the other Star Trek series as a result.

I did enjoy Deep Space Nine, but felt that it was a bit of a copy of Babylon 5. This was different to The Next Generation in that there was a series of long story arcs within the different seasons and an overall arc.

This for some was somewhat of a disappointment, but I quite enjoyed he later seasons of Star Trek Voyager but in the end it wasn’t The Next Generation.

I must have been one of the few people who enjoyed Enterprise, I liked the early days of Star Fleet, but in the end I think it suffered from the weight of the preceding series of Star Trek.

When it comes to Star Trek Discovery, I did think it would suffer from the same issues that I had seen with Enterprise. I will say I wasn’t an early fan, but I gave it some time and now quite enjoy it. I think the revamped style was difficult to grasp within the context of the design of the earlier series, but It grew on me. I did enjoy the second season much more than the first.

I am looking forward to Picard, the next generation of the The Next Generation perhaps…

Get Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-Ray.
Get Star Trek The Next Generation on DVD.
Get Star Trek The Next Generation on Amazon Video.
Get Star Trek The Next Generation on iTunes.

Televisual Advent Calendar #03 – Secret Army

Secret Army

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

Today is about BBC’s Secret Army.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this series of blog posts was to remember some of those series I watched in the 1970s and 1980s that I remember with nostalgia and fondness.

The series tells the story of a fictional Belgian resistance movement in German-occupied Belgium during the Second World War dedicated to returning Allied airmen, usually having been shot down by the Luftwaffe, to Great Britain. It was made in the UK and Belgium and three series were broadcast on BBC1 between 1977 and 1979.

Though this series was eclipsed in some respects by the comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo which was a pastiche of Secret Army, I remember this series well and many of the plots and stories. Of course one thing which is often forgotten or confused was that Secret Army wasn’t set in France, but was set in occupied Belgium.

Secret Army

A few years ago I borrowed a copy of the series from a relative and watched the whole series from start to finish over a few weeks. It was just as good as I remembered. I may have not watched the first season when it was first broadcast, as it seemed (and is) different to the second and third series. As with many series recorded in the 1970s there is a quite a difference as indoor scenes (shot on video tape) cut to outdoor scenes (shot on film). That different grading was quite marked and is something that of course we don’t see today with the use of the same (digital) cameras for both internal and external sets.

The stories were powerful and you started to have a very slight insight into the horrors and struggles that the people who lived through the Nazi occupation had to suffer. One story I remember well was the story based around Operation Market Garden and the impact of that assault on civilians in the background. I think that was one of the powerful aspects of the series, this was not about military forces, but was about the civilians struggling under military occupation.

Secret Army

I also felt that the liberation was covered well, in that it wasn’t this straightforward change of state from occupied to liberated. The confusion over who had collaborated and who hadn’t, and the vigilantism that went on.

And of course the closing credits were a classic.

Get Secret Army on DVD.

 

Televisual Advent Calendar #02 – The West Wing

What’s next?

President Bartlett

This is my 2019 Televisual Advent Calendar. I did a musical version in 2011 and a cinematic one in 2012. It is in no particular order and I make no apologies for the TV series that I am blogging about. These TV series have either made me think, I have enjoyed or have had some impact on me. These are scripted TV series, some are drama, some are comedy, some are both. I found it really hard to narrow this down to just 24.

The second in this series is The West Wing.

The West Wing was an American political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin. It was broadcast in the US from 1999 to 2006.

The West Wing

As with many programmes in this calendar, I don’t recall when I started watching The West Wing. So doing a google search I unearthed this article from the Guardian.

Sky One was actually the first UK broadcaster to transmit The West Wing, running the first series back in 2000.

Well, having never had Sky, I know I didn’t watch it then.

Channel 4’s entertainment service E4 then took over in 2001, broadcasting series two-to-five on Tuesdays at 9pm.

This is probably more likely when I started to watch it, however back in 2001, E4 was a pay-TV companion to Channel 4 and I never subscribed to E4. It wasn’t until 2004 that E4 was free. Though reading on in the article I saw this.

On Channel 4, the show has had an even more peripatetic existence. Series one was broadcast on Thursday nights in 2001, with the second run moved to Sundays the following year.

I have a feeling that this is more likely when I started to watch it. Though I have a feeling I may have found others way to watch it….

I knew very little about the American political system, processes and how it all worked, so on the surface I wonder why I both enjoyed the series and got into it in the first place. I had really no idea about the American instruments of government and the more I immersed myself into the series, the more interested I got.

The series is set primarily in the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff are located, during the fictitious Democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet. The stories are about the senior staff, their relationships and their struggles and successes in pushing their political agenda.

Josh Lynam
Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman — NBC Photo: David Rose

One of the things I heard about the original concept was that the series was going to be about the staffers, and that the President would be rarely seen or heard. The series did change this as it progressed through the first season. 

One thing that I am currently enjoying is The West Wing Weekly Podcast which reviews all the episodes on a weekly basis.

Though I have listened to fan podcasts of shows, I think what I really enjoyed with The West Wing Weekly was the inside knowledge that Joshua Malina brings to the recording. He has worked with Aaron Sorkin the write behind the West Wing for many years including the stage version of A Few Good Men and the film, The American President. He also joined the cast of The West Wing in 2002. The format of the show is based on the concept of having watched the episode in question, you listen to the podcast as Josh and Hrishikesh discuss the plot, the character development, the filming. They also bring in guests, so for example, in the third episode they bought in a guest, Dulé Hill, who played Presidential Aide, Charlie Young.

I did understand at the time, that the real White House was probably nothing like the series, in the same way that the House of Cards was nothing like Parliament. Today I am not so sure…

Get the complete series of The West Wing on DVD.

Get The West Wing on Amazon Video.

Get the complete series of The West Wing on iTunes.