Thursday, April 27, 2006

Missing Episodes in Colour

After some comments that the light grey text of the existing version was a bit hard to read, I've started updating the missing-episodes site to use a rather bright and garish template like this.

I think it works reasonably well, even if personally I prefer pretty sparse web pages with lots of white space but any feedback would be gratefully received...
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Monday, April 24, 2006

Scraping the Spin Off Barrel

OK, so it's maybe not that bad yet, but following hot on the heels of the clunky and tacked-on Torchwood foreshadowing at the end of the otherwise excellent Tooth and Claw, we now have the potential announcement of a K9 cartoon on the Jetix channel.

K9 was crap back in the day, both in execution and concept. And while the execution in the next episode of Doctor Who is bound to be far better than in K9 and Company, the concept - it's a vaguely dog-shaped robot/computer with a laser in its nose, and that's about it - is no more inspired than it was then. Do kids today really want to watch the adventures of the world's least exciting machine? When they could be watching cartoons of the level of sheer genius of Spongebob Squarepants, The Simpsons or Family Guy? Somehow, I doubt it.

What I find particularly concerning is that the unexpected re-appearance of K9 in the TV show might be simply in order to provide a tie-in for new viewers to the cartoon series. I do hope not - or the return of Kamelion can only be imminent.

[oh, and on a more positive spin-off note, Cavan Scott - co-incidentally editor of the Jetix Magazine - and Mark Wright's Forge from the Big Finish novel, Project: Vahalla, is the setting for a new online comic. I haven't seen it yet, but I've enjoyed most fo the other bits and pieces Scott and Wright have put out, so I'm rather looking forward to it].
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Friday, April 21, 2006

Cholmondley-Warner of the Yard

As anyone who knows I love old television - primarily from the seventies, but also older stuff when I can get it. Generally that means programmes from the early sixties onwards, but amongst the plethora of TV I've downloaded over the past year and then stuck on hundreds of DVDs there's a smattering of even earlier shows.

Last night, for instance, J fell asleep early and, in a desperate attempt to avoid the large number of work-related things I should really be getting on with in my spare time, I put on an episode of the 1954 BBC show, Fabian of Scotland Yard. The first police show ever to be made by the BBC, Fabian concerns dramatisations of the exploits of real Police Inspector Robert Fabian (it even has the real man presenting a Jerry Springer style homily at the end).

The episode I watched was called 'The Execution' and was actually quite good, if very dated in presentation style. It's what would nowadays be called a police procedural rather than a whodunnit with the executioner in question a man whose son drowned years previously and who has now decided to take his vengeance on the six school friends whom he (erroneously) blames for the accident. Fabian figures it out just in time to save a young Elspet Gray from being the final victim and arrests the man, following a bit of a fight - a voiceover at the end explains that the killer is now in an asylum for the criminally insane.

There are some nice touches, like the killer talking to a picture of his son as though the child were still alive but for all that it was presumably ground-breaking at the time, it's hardly The Sweeney.

What almost ruins it however is Harry Enfield and his Cholmondley-Warner character. Fabian and his seargeant could be straight out of one of Enfields forties educational spoof shorts ("Women! Know your limits!"), particularly in one unintentionally hilarious scene in which a Fabian voiceover boasts of the crime detecting tricks used by Scotland Yard and then walks into a room to use 'the giant map' which is...a very big map. His colleague then appears and Fabian spends a couple of minutes pointing in a mannered (and curiously straight-armed) way at various pins on the map and explaining in RP English what they represent.

Fabian: "Yes, the killer struck here [swings entire arm to pint at pin]. After a brief bout of fisticuffs he evaded capture here [points in a Nazi salute at another pin] by boarding a speeding tram and thus outpacing the Police Constable's bicycle."

Sarge: "That's very useful information, Inspector. Shall we ask one of the girls to make a cup of tea whilst we smoke our pipes?"

Fabian; "Yes Bob, that's a very good idea. Let us examine the giant map further whilst we wait."

It's hard to imagine the impact the series made on British TV viewers fifty years ago, but to a modern viewer it is very much a nostlgia piece and, thanks to Enfield, very difficult to take seriously. Which does make me wonder how shows like The Bill will stand up to scrutiny in 2056.


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Thursday, April 13, 2006

A lazy code monkey speaks...

Hmm, my last post about Goodnight, Sweetheart seems to have upset Firefox in some way - or at least it doesn't display properly in FF 1.5 (although it's fine in IE6). I could be industrious and hunt down the errant line of code, but I thought I'd settle for lazy and just post this pointless post in the hope that that'll solve the problem.

If it still looks odd can you let me know?

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Insufficiently menky

In the minds of the non-geek, there is a definite correlation between involvement in a certain type of fandom (Doctor Who, for instance) and fandom in other areas (manga, for another example).

But no matter what the geeky niche you inhabit, all of the not-we assume that if you are involved, at however large a remove, in one type of geek fandom, you will definitely like at least one, very specific, other.

I write, of course, of comics.

"You like Doctor Who? So what's the deal with 'Batman Begins' then? How can they retcon it into Golden Age Batman?" [possibly not entirely perfectly remembered transcript of a question I was asked at a party last year].

"I have no f******g idea" [word perfect transcript of my slightly drunken answer].

The fact I work in IT apparently makes it all the worse that I know sod all about comics (and recent Graham Linehan disappointment The IT Crowd didn't help with the main character being unwilling to do any work because he was reading not a novel, but a comic).

But I really don't. The only vague flirtation I have ever had with comics was when I was about seven, on holiday in Mallaig, and we went into a rather strange seaside tat shop which, right at the back, had one of those whirly gig affairs, stacked with comics from 1973 (this would have been 1976). I got my dad to buy me a copy of each
comic they had and read them now and again over the years, before giving them away to IIRC Craig Hinton, who collects such things. I mean, they were alright and passed a few minutes each when I was stuck in the frozen wilds of western Scotland, but it's not like they were books or anything important.

The I got a copy of the Alan Moore graphic novel, From Hell, a few months ago and finally got round to reading it last month.

And in a word it's astonishing.

Whereas my pile of early 70s Marvel comics had featured unsubtle and heavy-handed misogyny and racism in the storylines (Swamp Thing being big on the former as I recall and Dr Doom's army to the fore on the latter), From Hell is at times as delicately nuanced as a Jane Austen novel.

Where the seventies superheroes were pretty badly drawn and garishly coloured, the Alan Moore book was filled with beautiful pencil drawings.

Most vitally, where my collection of tatty comics were clearly written for thirteen year old boys with no girlfriend, From Hell treats its audience as adults (there's a prince with an erection within a dozen pages, which never happened in Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts). It evens ends with a long appendix section, which does more to discuss various Ripper theories than several full-length academic works I've read.

It really is a wonderful book.

And so it is that I've ordered a pile more graphic novels today, by Moore and a couple of others I've had recommended.

I'm worried I'm turning into an uber-geek, but so long as I never buy a copy of Akira, I should be alright...
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