Stuart’s Entertainment Review July 2015 (Inc. WWE, UnReal, Nashville, N++, Rocket League etc)

August 4, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my Entertainment Review articles, but seeing as I’ve been playing plenty of games and watching a few different things on TV throughout the month of July, I thought I’d exhume the format.

TV

As you’ll know, most American TV shows run between September and May, with the US market seemingly believing that nobody watches TV during the summer.

However, you will get the occasional programme running almost unopposed around this time, and one such example of that is UnReal, which finished its first season last night.

A drama about the behind the scenes running of a reality TV show called Everlasting (which is basically The Bachelor), UnReal ‘exposes’ the reality format and captures not only how stage-managed everything that goes on in these shows actually is, but also the ruthless and selfish types of people both in front and behind the camera.

Whether I truly enjoyed it is something I’m not all that sure of. Yes, I watched every episode and it kept my attention, but I’m struggling to understand how it can go beyond a single season without retreading over old ground. Now we know that everyone involved is an arsehole and that the show will always be run a certain way, surely any new season would just be a repeat of what we’ve already seen.

What’s also interesting is that there isn’t really a single character in it who is likeable. Everyone is out for themselves and though they try to portray the main character Rachel (Shiri Appleby) as sympathetic, she’s arguably the biggest prick of the lot.

Viewers of Entourage and House of Cards watching this must also come to the conclusion that Constance Zimmer has managed to become typecast as the very niche character of ‘Single Minded Woman In The Media’.

Apart from UnReal, here’s what else I’ve been watching…

Nashville: I took a punt at watching Nashville on Sky On Demand after unsuccessfully trying to be interested in the dull as dishwater Ray Donovan, and I was surprised at just how enjoyable it is. Not only does it

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

have a wide range of characters who are all written with some amount of depth, but the storylines are also interesting and it’s all supported well by catchy tunes. And I previously didn’t even like Country music. I think the biggest surprise of all is that previously wooden actress Hayden Panettiere – who I thought ruined Heroes by the time I stopped watching – is actually really good in it. I’m currently on Season Two so I don’t know anything about the most recent episodes, but I’m in this for the long haul.

Under The Dome: When I reviewed the first season of Under the Dome, I took the view that it was shit, but I forgave it because it was so unintentionally amusing. When Season Two came out I gave up after about three episodes, but with the news that it’s on its final season this year, I went back and watched the rest of the second one. Wow, was that a mistake. Season Two of Under the Dome is shit, but it’s not unintentionally amusing, it’s just shit. I don’t really know where to begin. Is it the tenuous way a host of new characters managed to come into it despite the confines of the setting? Is it the terrible acting, not least from the girl with The Largest Forehead In The Universe? Is it that the new science teacher character  is written so one-dimensionally ‘sciency’ that she doesn’t come across as a genuine human being? Is it that the plot became so garbled and confusing that I honestly have no idea what it’s even about anymore? Is it that they have situations like Julia getting stabbed through the leg one week and only surviving her predicament by literally dying of hypothermia so her blood stopped pumping and then in the next week she’s running around with a bandage over her jeans and not even a hint of a limp? Or is it all of the above? I will finish Under the Dome, but only because I feel I’ve put in too much time for me not to. But it’s really shit, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother.

Out of the Unknown: Ok, so I was doing reviews of Out of the Unknown, but I’m throwing in the towel. But for one or two episodes, it was just really boring. I couldn’t face watching another one.

1997 Editions of WWE Raw: I’m a subscriber to the WWE Network, and despite the fact that it must not get as many subscribers as WWE clearly wants it to, I would say it offers fantastic value for money for any wrestling fan. But what it also does is serve as a reminder that in almost all ways, wrestling in 2015 is rubbbish compared to what I personally feel was its heyday, 1997. On the Network at the moment is every single episode of Raw from 1997 (and indeed I think it has everything from 1993 up until 2000) and I have been happily sitting through episode after episode from that year. With the exception of the athleticism of the wrestlers involved, everything about that era – from the recognisability of the wrestlers through to the quality of the storylines – was just so superior to what we’ve got now, it’s quite sad. Most wrestling fans will point to 1998 – the year the Attitude Era came into full swing and when WWE turned the tables on WCW – as the best of times, but not me.

There’s just something – and pardon the pun here – raw about 1997. In March of that year they moved to the new set and thetwo-hour format that the show is most synonymous with, and yet at the same time

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn't back down an inch. Legend.

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn’t back down an inch. Legend.

it feels a completely different era has been placed in that setting. Everything about the environment will remind fans of Austin vs McMahon, DX vs The Nation, The Undertaker vs Kane and everything else associated with Attitude, but for the most part, 1997 isn’t about that at all. There’s Vince McMahon on commentary, Gorilla Monsoon as the President who is not in the least bit intimidated by Steve Austin (who plays the heel for much of the time and is at his best at this point), voiceovers by Todd Pettengil and appearances by guys who you’d be forgiven for forgetting were still around, like Sid, The Patriot, Barry Horrowitz and The Honky Tonk Man.

The Hart Foundation storyline – and everything that came along with it – remains my absolute favourite wrestling storyline of all time. I said earlier that it felt raw, and this is the best example of it. Bret Hart’s attitude towards the way his character was no longer accepted as the hero in the US was genuine. His dislike for Shawn Michaels (and vice versa) was very real, and the exchanges between the two hit so close to the bone that with hindsight (especially knowing how Hart would be screwed at Montreal and forced out of the company) it makes for compelling viewing. There’s nothing they could do now that could touch this for authenticity.

Like I say, I believe 1997 is wrestling’s heyday. Every episode starts with a reprisal and ends with a cliffhanger, just like a good TV show should. It’ll never get this good again, but at least for $9.99 you can relive it and remember what it was like when wrestling was actually entertaining.

The Last Ship: Another show I’ve attempted to get hooked on is The Last Ship, but it’s failing to keep me interested. It’s just a bit corny and it’s difficult to take lead actors (Eric Dane of Grey’s Anatomy and Adam Baldwin from Chuck) seriously because of their past playing more comedic characters. Also, knowing that it was renewed for a second season which is currently airing just makes me think that the overall plot will just end up being stretched much further than it should.

Games

Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly busy on the gaming front as well. Here are some examples of games I’ve played over the last month.

N++ (PS4): Here’s a game I’ve been waiting to come out for years. The sequel to the Xbox 360 game N+, this was supposed to be released around the same time as the PS4, but the developers just kept holding it back and holding it back, Now this is a top game, and has a single player mode every bit as good and challenging as its predecessor, which came in at #8 in my Top 100 Games Of The Last Generation article series, but I won’t lie; I’m a little disappointed with it. One of the best parts of N+ was the ability to play online Co-Op mode with friends. That’s gone, and it’s a shame. The developers came up with a long-winded explanation for why they didn’t add it in, which seemed reasonable, but considering the game came out two years later than it should have and considering it’s not exactly inexpensive for a PS Store game at £15, I just don’t have much sympathy for them or their ‘woe is us’ excuses. All I know is that if the games developer I work for released a game two years late and with expected features missing, we’d be slaughtered.

Rocket League (PS4): Contrast N++ to Rocket League, which came free with July’s PS Plus membership and has been accepted with open arms around the world. Yes, I totally accept the difference between

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

one developer getting support from Sony and another having to go it alone, but Rocket League doesn’t come with a sob story attached (N++ literally does have a sob story which you can click on on the main menu). A simple concept of rocket fueled cars playing football, it’s fast, furious, frustrating and fun. And you can play it online with your friends, not just on the PS4 but on the PC too, which is a breakthrough in cross-platform gaming as far as I’m concerned. My only problem with it is that sometimes struggles to cope with my network connection and can be a tad laggy when playing online. Still great though.

Splatoon (Wii U): I love Nintendo, but I’m going to go against the grain here and say I don’t find Splatoon as enjoyable as I think I’m supposed to. I should love it; it’s bright and colourful, it’s a Nintendo game and it gets fantastic reviews from all corners, but there’s just something about it I struggled with. It felt samey and the controls were a bit awkward. Plus, more than the likes of Call of Duty, I felt that the weapons that more experienced players had unlocked made it nigh on impossible to triumph against with the entry-level options. I’ll try to give it another go, but it feels a bit disappointing to me.

Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush (Wii U): I was also surprisingly disappointed by this game, but for a different reason. Kirby is challenging and does what it’s supposed to well enough. It’s never going to be as good as a Mario game but it provides you with a few hours of solid platforming fun. The thing is though it has a huge design flaw; while it looks fantastic, you get no chance to actually enjoy how it looks because the need to use the touch screen on the Wii U Gamepad the entire time. This means that you don’t get a chance to lift your head up to actually see the beautiful graphics on your expensive 55″ TV screen. Madness.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge (Xbox 360): First released in the late 80s/early 90s heyday of LucasArts adventure games, Monkey Island 2 is regarded by many as one of the all time great games. I take issue with this. It’s amusing and it has been lovingly remastered to look swish on the 360, but I just don’t see the point in a game that you can’t complete without reading a walkthrough. Now you might come to me and say “Stuart, maybe you’re just not clever enough to work out some of the puzzles” but I’d argue that point. Maybe I’m not, but maybe it’s that these games were designed with the post-purchase money-spinner of getting players to phone up hotlines or buy guidebooks to get help finding solutions to these puzzles? Maybe also people had a greater tolerance to devoting time to thinking about all the possible tenuous ways to complete some of the more obscure brain teasers? But put it this way; there’s a puzzle where to get money you have to get a job. To get the job you have to get the cook in the pub sacked. How do you do this? You’ve got to pick up a rat. How do you pick up a rat? You have to pick up a cheese puff, a piece of string and stick and add them all together to create a trap with a cardboard box that’s sitting in a corner in the same screen as the rat. Without any hints, how is anyone supposed to conclude that’s what you have to do to move on? People who have too much time to think most likely.

Professor Leyton and The Miracle Mask (3DS): Speaking of puzzles, the Leyton games are famous for their brain teasers that require actual thought and cognitive reasoning. And that’s fantastic. The Leyton games however are also famous for being absolutely bogged down in layer upon layer of uninteresting storylines that you have to sit through before getting to the next puzzle. I suppose without the storyline the game would feel utterly bare-bones, but for me the puzzles are the only interesting part, so it made it a real struggle to get through it.

TwoDots (Android): My current go-to game for a quick fix is TwoDots, a sort of Bust-a-Move/Zookeeper/Candy Crush affair available on mobile platforms. It’s good, but success is entirely random. Sometimes the way the dots fall (you have to link up the same colours to clear them) means there’s just no way you can complete a level in the required moves while other times it just falls into place easily. After a while you realise there’s no skill involved. I’m guessing this is a deliberate ploy to sell in-app purchases like extra lives and weapons. You can do well without them of course, but you just need that little bit of patience. It’s free and it’s fun, but my advice is to keep calm and avoid paying out for these extras.

Assuming I remember, I’ll be back with more next month!

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


TV – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review

June 30, 2015

Sometimes people will exaggerate for effect when they review comedies and say that they didn’t laugh once.

So I won’t do that in this review of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I did laugh once.

Once.

I’ll even tell you the joke; it was in the second episode and it was a visual gag of a very crap Miss Piggy costume.schmidt

But apart from that, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – a Netflix exclusive comedy starring Ellie Kemper from the US version of The Office and created by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame – didn’t even raise a smile.

Though it seems to get critical acclaim and generally favourable reviews, I just didn’t personally understand the appeal.

Based around the premise of a girl who has been freed from 15 years trapped as a prisoner in a Josef Fritzel style bunker and has moved to New York to experience life for the first time – an interesting and original idea for a show to be fair – the humour seemed very childish, the acting over the top and the characters ludicrous.

I get that sometimes comedy has to involve exaggerated characters, but there are limits to what I will personally find credible or even funny, and the sheer stupidity of almost every character – probably designed to make the quirky Kimmy seem normal – just took it beyond those limits.

The last two episodes for example, where Kimmy goes back to Indiana as a witness in the trial against her former captor is just stupid. Not ‘stupid haha’ which I’m sure was the intention, but rather just stupid. And the dialogue – like “What the ham sandwich is going on” and “Oh Em Jeepers” – I think is supposed to be charming but is just cringe-inducing.

For me, this show is just too over the top.

To give it some credit, Ellie Kemper is good and plays her character with charm and likeability, but it’s just not enough to convince me that it’s worthy of the praise it gets.

I did manage to sit through all 13 episodes though, and that might count for something in that at least it had a narrative worth following, but on the heels of having just caught up with the brilliant seasons 8-10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, this just didn’t cut the mustard.

So I recommend you avoid The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


TV – Orange Is The New Black Season Three Review

June 20, 2015

Saturdays in June and July – especially on odd-numbered years when there are no summer tournaments to watch – are always a bit of a dull chore for a football fan.

I mean, what do we do without football? Go out for a walk? Go shopping? Watch some other sport? No thanks.

Instead, I occupied my time today indulging in some binge TV watching, and having spent a few days getting through the first seven episodes, today I sat down and watched the final six of the third season of NetFlix’s Orange is the New Black.

And while I’m tired and probably should go to bed, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on it while they are fresh.

TV – Orange is the New Black Season Three Review: Thoughts – It Takes A While To Get Going

First off, I’d like to make it clear that I think binge watching TV is the way to go. I’d far rather watch a season of a show in bulk than wait to see one episode per week. I just think it works better that way, and basedoitnb on the success of NetFlix and the demand for seasons of shows to be released in a oner, I think a lot of people would agree on that.

But for binge watching to work, it’s got to start off with episodes strong enough to make you want to binge.

For me, this season of Orange is the New Black started off too slow. For a good few episodes it seemed as though it didn’t quite know where it was going and what the main plot-lines were going to be. Perhaps that was because they had to give certain characters – who shall remain nameless for those of you who haven’t seen it yet – reasons to depart the show and to wrap up or at least put to the sidelines some of the loose threads from the previous two years.

Once it got into its groove though with the three main stories – the private company owning the prison, Chapman’s underwear empire and everything associated with the Church of Norma – it settled in to providing hours of quality entertainment.

Like I say, I’ve just finished watching six episodes in a row, and they aren’t short, so it definitely had some appeal to it.

There Are No Villains

While not a criticism, one of the main things I noticed about this season of Orange is the New Black is that there weren’t really any villains.

At the beginning of the show and through to the end of Season 2 it seemed as though villains were part of what made Orange is the New Black tick, whether it was the evil V, Doggett, Fig, Pornstache or even the likes of Red.

Yet the final scenes of the season show that those days are gone. It seems as though pretty much all the inmates are good people who we should empathise with (which is bizarre considering it’s set in a prison) and that everyone – even the bosses of the private prison company – have reasons for doing what they are doing. Well…perhaps the exception to that is the guy from the doughnut shop, but he doesn’t count.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I don’t think it’s a particularly realistic thing, put it that way, but considering the show has moved to be far more of an ensemble effort than when it first started, you could argue that it probably had to be that way.

It’s Not About Chapman Anymore

And on that note, I think it’s quite clear that this is a show no longer about Chapman.

When it started, this was a show about her. The rest of the cast seemed to exist to offer her – the protagonist – obstacles in getting through prison life.

Whether it’s because she isn’t a very likeable character, or whether it’s because other members of the cast are better actors and more deserving of the spotlight than the rather one-dimensional Taylor Schilling (who I cannot believe I am two years older than), poor old Chapman has been relegated to equal billing or perhaps even a lesser character in this season than most.

That’s not something I have a problem with, but considering the show is about her and will likely finish when she leaves prison, it may have to become more Chapman-centric in the next season.

Oh and by the way, I thought it was great that we got an episode dedicated to Chang’s back story.

I HATE The Theme Tune

I love a good TV Theme Tune and have even written an article on my Top 20 (which you can read here) but I must go on record and say I absolutely hate the theme to this show.

It’s an ear bleeding song played over a terrible opening credits sequence. I mean…why not at least have the actual cast members’ faces in the titles rather than random people with bad skin?

And why do they go on for so long?

The solution is to skip to the 1.20 mark of every episode, but I shouldn’t need to.

TV Themes shouldn’t be that bad!

TV – Orange is the New Black Season Three Review – Final Thoughts

So on the whole, while it took a few episodes to hit its stride, Orange is the New Black Season Three is another success for NetFlix.

There’s more than enough scope for another season and possibly even more.

If you’ve yet to see any of it, get binge watching immediately!

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review (or “What The Hell Was That?!”)

June 18, 2015

Ok, so I didn’t publish two reviews in one day.

Mainly because if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write this as an introduction, and I was struggling otherwise.

So with that in mind, here’s The Midas Plague review.

Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: What’s This One About?

It’s about a future society (that looks an awful lot like 1965) where free energy and robot labour result in an over abundance of goods that need consumed. The lower you are on the social ladder, the more pressure there is for you to consume these products by law.

But one man – who believes that giving robots emotional circuits would result in them wanting to consume and therefore take away some of the burden put on the ‘working class’ – rebels against the order of things.

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

Thoughts – What Am I Watching Here?

It seems that usually my summation of an episode of Out of the Unknown is “It’s a good idea, but it’s let down by execution or running time”.

I can’t say that about The Midas Plague.

Why? Because it isn’t even a good idea, it’s just daft.

If there’s an overabundance of supply, then stop supplying it. Episode finished.

Instead, we’ve got to put up with this ludicrous notion that is bizarrely presented as some kind of pantomime-like comedy.

Maybe that’s the point, and if it was actually funny I’d give it some credit, but it’s not; it’s horrendous.

It could be that this type of humour just that hasn’t aged well and was actually popular at the time, but it does absolutely nothing for me.

Moreover, the general presentation is shonky, from the over the top mannerisms and expressions of the actors to the played for laughs dialogue and whimsical, screwball-esque incidental music.

Overall, it was terrible.

And People Criticise Doctor Who’s Budget?

People say classic Doctor Who looks cheap. But what is cheap? If you’re comparing The Keys of Marinus to Star Wars, then yes, it does look cheap, but what’s the point of making such a comparison?

Doctor Who from the 60s should be judged against a show like Out of the Unknown. And while from time to time Out of the Unknown has looked ok, generally it looks pretty bad in comparison, with actors wearing

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

cheap rubber/tinfoil outfits, wandering around sets that look like they belong on the stage of an amateur theatre.

The Midas Plague takes things to a whole new level of cheap though.

If I was going to defend it, I’d say the robot costumes are deliberately made to look bad because of the ‘comedic’ nature of the episode, but even then they’d still be crap. It’s the sort of thing you don’t laugh with, but laugh at, and that’s never a good thing.

Then, despite being set in the ‘future’ there’s no effort whatsoever to make it look like it is, which is bizarre because the show usually goes out of its way to make things look ‘Space Age’.

I can honestly say this is the worst looking piece of television I’ve ever seen from the BBC. It’s horrific.

The Old British Actors Checklist

Apart from Richard Davies (Burton from Delta & The Bannermen), the main attraction here is the guy who played the Empire State Building Tour Guide in the Chase who was a lot like Columbo.

Great…

Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: Final Thoughts

Like my last review, I can’t really think of much to justify a Random Thoughts section.

In part this is because I watched these episodes a week or so ago, and my thoughts have faded.

But it’s also because there’s just not much to comment on beyond what’s already been said.

The Midas Plague is crap. It’s a bad idea for a story, it looks pitiful, it’s acted terribly and it goes on for too long.

Maybe I’m missing the point or maybe it’s just a form of entertainment that has been lost to time. As much as we talk about what TV was like by then, the TV we do talk about tends to be the stuff that is timeless. There’s plenty of crap that likely was forgotten about a week after transmission.

And this could be an example of that.

Hopefully things improve with the shorter episodes of Season 2, because really, if this first season is anything to go by, it’s a mystery to me why Out of the Unknown is remembered with as much fondness as it is.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 


Out of the Unknown – Thirteen to Centaurus Review (or “Let Down By The Running Time…Again”)

June 16, 2015

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Out of the Unknown is hit and miss in terms of quality.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering its format. When you change the writers, actors and stories every week, you’re unlikely to find a level of consistency.

With that said, I’ve fallen slightly behind on my reviews of the show and find myself in a situation where I have to do two in one afternoon.

And as you might expect based on the intro, my feelings on them both are mixed.

The first of those episodes is Thirteen To Centaurus. 

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review

Usually I would start this with a ‘What’s This One About’ section, but I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to quote the synopsis – from the keyboard of ‘Hutch48’ – written on imdb for this episode.

It says…

“Interstellar travel at sub-light speeds: the enormous distances, isolation from human culture and the aching loneliness of space are enough to drive the strongest personality insane. Better to block all memories of human contact and to program the 12-strong crew to accept only the reality they can see and touch within their spacecraft. But a child born on “the Station” becomes insistent on learning the truth about ‘Outside’.”

But here’s the thing; it isn’t really about that at all.

Oh my god!!! They aren't really on a spaceship!!! Let's spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

Oh my god!!! They aren’t really on a spaceship!!! Let’s spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

For the first 18 minutes of this episode, you could be forgiven for thinking that was an accurate synopsis, but the swerve – the sort of swerve that would happen at the end of a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan – comes very early. You see, they aren’t on a spaceship at all. Instead – much like in The Invasion of the Dinosaurs – the people on board that ship are actually still on Earth, but are made to believe they are in space as an experiment.

I liked the swerve of course, but I think they shot their load too quick by revealing it almost as soon as the episode began.

This caused a problem because there was another 42 minutes left in the episode. So what happened? Well it became something of a political/human rights story based on the government pulling the funding for the Centaurus experiment and the debates and discussion on what they should do with the people on board the ‘ship’. In the end, the plot takes another twist when it turns out the boy looking to learn the truth about ‘Outside’ realises he’s in an experiment, brainwashes the guy controlling it so that he stays on board under his control (hence why it’s called ‘Thirteen to Centaurus’), and decides to stay on as the ruler of his own very small colony.

 

All of that is fine in theory, but the middle section went on for far too long and at such a slow pace that I ended up losing interest.

That’s a general problem with episodes from this first season of Out of the Unknown; interesting ideas hindered by an overly long running time. It should come as no surprise that from season two onwards, the episodes were cut to 50 minutes.

If this was shorter, it would have been better. I had high hopes for it, but they were let down.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

The Old British Actors Checklist

We’ve hit the jackpot on former Doctor Who actors, as this episode includes Noel Johnson (The Underwater Menace & The Invasion of the Dinosaurs), Robert James (Power of the Daleks, The Daemons & The Masque of Mandragora), John Line (Colony in Space), Robert Russell (Power of the Daleks & Terror of the Zygons), John Moore (The Myth Makers & The Frontier in Space – though to be fair he only played an extra in these stories) and best of all, John Abineri (Fury from the Deep, The Ambassadors of Death, Death to the Daleks & The Power of Kroll).

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review – Final Thoughts

I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t think of a single Random Observation to add to this.

Ultimately, I think I’ve said it all; it’s a good idea and it should have been better, but the pacing and overly long running time prevent it from living up to its potential.

Though it is one of the better episodes I’ve seen so far, for what that’s worth.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 


TV: Hindsight Review – Non Spoiler (or ‘The Best New Show You Haven’t Heard Of’)

June 3, 2015

I read an article the other day about the best US TV shows not to have found a home on a British station.

Some of them looked quite interesting and I certainly intend to give them a try, but the one that stood out the most for me was Hindsight.

Hindsight Review (Non Spoiler): What’s It About?

Broadcast on VH1 – a station you wouldn’t associate with TV drama – Hindsight is a show about a woman in her 40s who – on the eve of her second wedding – realises she’s lived a life filled with regrets. She wisheshindsight she could go back and change things to make her life more fulfilled.

A weird trip in an elevator results in her being transported back to 1995 into the body of her younger self on the day of her first wedding and before she fell out with the best friend she’s ever had.

Given a second chance in life, will things turn out differently this time or is she destined to repeat the same mistakes all over again?

Thoughts

So I’m not going to spoil this for you by giving away any plot details.

Instead I’ll just tell you why I think this show is fantastic.

I mean, I guess you all know that I love Doctor Who, and so any show about time travel is going to peak my interest, but what works so well with Hindsight is that it presents this sort of thing without feeling even slightly ‘science-fictiony’. As a result of that, people who generally don’t like sci-fi will be able to enjoy it without feeling like it’s something outside of their own wheelhouse.

A decent outline for a series isn’t enough though; it has to be well written, and again, I think it is.

The characters are realistic and multi-dimensional (and played by good, if less well-known actors who do them justice), the plots are varied and interesting and the season long story arc bubbles away nicely while building to a great cliffhanger that makes you want to come back for more.

There’s also the added attraction of that ‘Life On Mars’ style retro feel where a character from a contemporary setting is flung back into the past. There are plenty of nods to how dated certain aspects of the 90s are – like fashion and technology – but it also celebrates other parts of its culture. And because this is a show that airs on VH1, the music of the age takes centre stage a lot of the time.

Basically if you’re old enough to remember the mid 90s you’ll appreciate it, but even if you’re not you’ll enjoy the show anyway, I reckon.

So yeah, track down Hindsight and give it a go; it’s fun, it’s enjoyable, and unlike quite a few shows I’ve tried to watch lately, it has that ‘just one more episode’ appeal to it.

 

Remember to buy my books, focusing on my reviews of Doctor Who from the 1960s through to present day. You can read more about them here

Also, on a completely different note, if you’ve got any friends who post the crappest Facebook status updates in the world every day, you might get a kick out of my piss-take Facebook blog, ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Out of the Unknown – Some Lapse Of Time Review (or “Unnecessarily Complicated”)

June 3, 2015

It’s been one hit, one miss and one in between for me in my Out of the Unknown reviews.

Hopefully Some Lapse Of Time will be a hit…

Out of the Unknown – Some Lapse Of Time Review: What’s This One About?

A Doctor who has been plagued by a recurring bad dream since the death of his son to a rare disease is shocked to find a man from that dream has shown up outside his house dying of the same illness.

The man – speaking a severely regressed form of English that only a language expert can understand – appears to be someone from the past, but at a time when nuclear testing is at its peak, could he be from a future dystopia?

Thoughts – Well That’s Not Complicated At All, Is It?

The ‘What’s This One About’ section of these reviews is supposed to be a snappy one-liner that gives you the basic synopsis of the plot.

Shoes!!

Shoes!!

That doesn’t seem possible for Some Lapse Of Time.

Don’t get me wrong, I was able to follow it well enough, but it just seemed unnecessarily complicated.

Why? Because so many of the different things associated with the plot didn’t feel like they were needed or that they made much sense.

To give you the brief, here’s a step by step guide to the plot…

  • A man (Dr Max Harrow) has a recurring bad dream.
  • He wakes up to find the old guy from that dream is outside his house, dying of an illness that only kills babies (like his son). He’s also clutching a finger bone.
  • He takes the old guy to the hospital where his illness is cured, but the guy can’t speak a word of English.
  • Eventually they establish his name is Smiffershon.
  • They bring in a language expert who discovers he is speaking English but a regressed version of it.
  • Harrow’s wife takes a massive strop when she sees him talking to the female language expert.
  • They have a blazing row which results in her accidentally trapping his pinkie finger in a car door. He loses the finger.
  • At the same time as this is happening, some politician/expert in nuclear testing is admitted to the hospital. Harrow and his colleagues treat him.
  • X Rays show that Smiffershon – is highly radioactive.
  • Harrow starts to go a bit mental and concludes that Smiffershon must be from the future, because the finger bone he was clutching must be the one he just lost. He reckons that he’s come back in a bid to change history by killing him, as one of the people responsible for saving the life of the guy in charge of the nuclear testing.
  • He has a severe nervous breakdown and starts talking in the same weird dialect as Smiffershon.
  • The language expert says she’s worked out that Smiffershon is saying he came back from the future.
  • Harrow’s colleagues – having dismissed him as a fantasist – are shocked

Now read that back and ask yourself if it made sense.

Does it? It’s certainly on the borderline of being utter nonsense.

The thing is, if it just followed the basic narrative of a guy who has come back in time to try to prevent nuclear war, then it would be better.

Instead, there are aspects to it – like the illnessSmiffershon was initially suffering from, the dream and thefingerbone – that could be chucked out on the scrap-heap entirely, while other parts of the story that I think were missing or were poorly explained/developed – like how he managed to time travel or how he seemed obsessed with a Doctor who didn’t really have that much to do with the events that would result in

That's right love, just light up beside the hospital bed

That’s right love, just light up beside the hospital bed

nuclear war – could have been done a lot better.

Perhaps the problem is that this is another episode that is based on a book. Maybe the hour just wasn’t enough to tell the story as it was meant to be told?

The result though is that Some Lapse Of Time feels like a story that could have been – and ultimately in other forms has been – told better.

The Old British Actors Checklist

Amazingly, only one actor in this has appeared in a Doctor Who, and considering he played a character for about two minutes in the Reign of Terror, I can be forgiven for not realising it was him.

The only actor I’ve ever heard of here is Peter Bowles, playing a policeman at the start.

Still, it’s got an actor in it called Moultrie Kelsall, so it deserves some bonus points!

Random Observations

  • Until around 15 minutes in, I assumed this was supposed to be set in contemporary Britain, i.e. the 1960s; that’s certainly what it looked like anyway with the traditional 60s police uniforms and absolutely nothing to indicate it wasn’t contemporary. Then all of a sudden they start communicating using those two-way TVs you’d see in almost every Patrick Troughton story. Do you think people generally thought that’s how we’d communicate in the future, or is it more likely it was the brainchild of one guy who worked at the BBC?
  • Considering when this was made, I imagine the idea of a post-nuclear dystopia probably struck a chord with the viewers at the time.
  • To give the story some credit – as I feel I’ve been quite critical of it so far – it has top quality incidental music. No, it’s not the sort of thing I’d want to listen to, but it captures the underlying tension of the episode perfectly.
  • There’s a marvellous example of how society’s attitude towards dogs seems to have changed since this was made. As much as I can’t stand them myself, it’s fair to say that the UK is a nation of dog-lovers. So when in this episode they talk about a dog having its throat slit by Smiffershon, they say “Thank goodness he only attacked a dog. He could have done seem real harm”. These days there would be such an
    Having seen her husband committing the grievous crime of talking to another woman, Mrs Harrow storms out of what appears to be Dundee College. She then amputates his finger; that'll learn him.

    Having seen her husband committing the grievous crime of talking to another woman, Mrs Harrow storms out of what appears to be Dundee College. She then amputates his finger; that’ll learn him.

    uproar if a line like that was said in a TV show that it just wouldn’t be allowed to go out.

  • Another great ‘Of The Time’ moment was when the language expert decides to light up and have a cigarette whilst sitting by Smiffershon’s bedside in the hospital ward. It’s amazing to think people thought this was acceptable.
  • Beyond coming up with a convenient way for Harrow to lose his finger, there’s no good explanation for the huff his wife took upon seeing him talking to a female colleague other than ‘Bitches Be Crazy, Yo’.
  • It seems as though every day is a school day. Watching this I discovered that a cretin is a genuine medical term for someone who has grown to be disproportionately small thanks to a thyroid condition. I think I know one or two people like that.
  • Smiffershon sounds like Jon Pertwee in Episode One of Spearhead From Space. “Shoes”.
  • Showing that buildings made around this time look very similar to each other, the outside of the hospital looks exactly like Dundee College. I’m guessing very few people will care about that.
  • This is the second episode I’ve seen that has finished on a cliffhanger of ‘I guess the guy we’ve locked up for being crazy was right’. A bit soon to go back to that particular well I’d say.

Out of the Unknown – Some Lapse Of Time Review: Final Thoughts

It’s a decent idea, but like I say, I’ve seen it done better in the likes of Day of the Daleks.

On the whole, it’s unnecessarily complicated, and fails to connect the dots properly in making all that much sense.

I doubt it’s an episode I’d want to watch again.

Remember to buy my books, focusing on my reviews of Doctor Who from the 1960s through to present day. You can read more about them here

Also, on a completely different note, if you’ve got any friends who post the crappest Facebook status updates in the world every day, you might get a kick out of my piss-take Facebook blog, ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


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