Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cult Of... The Cult Of

Watching "The Cult Of... Poldark" on Sunday, it finally crystallised exactly what I don't like about BBC4's "The Cult Of..." series: it's that they could go in two very strong directions, but instead go in neither. They could either be a good in-depth history of the programme involved, discussing their genesis, their production, the televisual context which meant a programme like that became a hit, etc., but they don't: the "Poldark" episode mentioned a couple of times that Winston Graham (author of the original Poldark novels) complained initially about the series but later became reconciled, but never actually explained what he complained about, nor why he changed his mind (both of which are interesting stories, easily available in the author's memoir "Poldark's Cornwall").

Likewise (and perhaps more controversially), with a name like "The Cult Of..." they could do a series on reactions to programmes, why they come about and what appeals to people about some programmes, and why unexpected phenomena sometimes occur (why does Blake's 7, a programme with no explicit sex scenes and almost no inexplicit ones, have a thriving erotic-fanfic subculture attached to it? Why is Between the Lines popular in Canada and Howard's Way in Australia, but the reverse isn't true? Why are there lots of Survivors fans and yet almost nothing in the way of an organised fandom? Etc). But again, the series barely touches on what makes the programmes popular, and when it does it's usually in a fairly denigrating way: Kate O'Mara, interviewed on "The Cult of... The Brothers" the other week, said that the programme was popular because there was nothing better to do on Sunday nights in the 1970s, and the Poldark episode showed us a group of Poldark Appreciation Society members without actually interviewing any of them to find out what it is about the programme that inspires them to meet in full period dress.

The world is crying out for a good documentary series on cult television in all its various and sundry permutations: unfortunately, this isn't it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Headline of the Week, or, You Know You've Been Working on the Battlestar Galactica Book Too Long When...

From Channel 4 News:


...Gaius Baltar is reported to have turned Colonial Government's Evidence.

Funk to Funky

Okay, I love "Ashes to Ashes." But what's bothering me about it is the cognitive dissonance among amateur and professional TV reviewers alike out there. They first note that "Alex Drake doesn't really believe she's in 1981, and thinks it's all in her head," and they then go on to say something along the lines of "it's completely unbelievable that a female cop would wear off-the-shoulder shirts and miniskirts/talk to her male colleagues that way/drink bad red wine in public/whatever."

Put the two together, guys. The reason why she's not acting like a copper is because she doesn't believe any of this is real. In 2008, she wears sensible clothes and acts like a sensible police detective, but as far as she's concerned 1981 is just a dying fantasy she's having.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

RIP Kevin Stoney

...who played my two all-time favourite Doctor Who bad guys, as well as appearing in pretty much every other classic British show I like. Plus some wonderful interviews, which we used to refer to as "Was I a Doctor Who Monster?" for his entertaining take on appearing in the series.

Damn, that's gone and ruined my entire month.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Headline of the Week

From the Guardian:

FIVE FACE TRIAL OVER SECURITAS Enid Blyton. Timmy the Dog is reported to be considering turning Queen's Evidence.

Funeral Reith

Every year, around August, the newspapers continually run screechy articles about how A-levels, and indeed school curricula in general, are dumbing down and that the history curriculum has been reduced to a whistlestop "Nazis and Tudors" overview. I generally laughed this off as scaremongering, and then I did my usual tour of the blogosphere for reviews of last week's Torchwood. And was amazed by the number of reviews praising it as "educational" and "Reithian" simply for pointing out that shellshocked soldiers in 1918 often got shot for cowardice. I remember learning that at fourteen, in a Grade Nine history module, and again, in OAC North American History, and again, in OAC Social Studies (in the unit on psychology, which dealt with PTSD among other things). If people aren't learning about that sort of basic historical fact in school, then the scaremongers really do have a point.

The Stuff of Legend

The local real ale pub's latest beer is called "Legend." Every time I see it, I keep picturing a Spartacus-style faceoff between Will Smith, Charlton Heston, Bob Marley and a pint of beer, all shouting, "no, no, I am Legend!"