Well Saturday night’s show was an utter revelation. Many of the celebrity dancers who have been previously at the lower end of the leaderboard and therefore at risk of being in the dance off, decided to significantly up their game. Not only did this make for great entertainment, it also succinctly reiterated one of the fundamental aspects of what makes Strictly Come Dancing so popular; the “journey”. Yes, it is an incredibly cliched phrase but its something that seems to resonate with viewers. If the UK does have any national characteristics, then one of them is an appreciation of dogged determination. We tend to warm towards plucky underdogs who improve through hard work and dedication. And that is what we were treated to on last night’s show.Read More
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As I’ve mentioned before, the one piece of reality TV that I avidly watch is Strictly Come Dancing. I’ve been a regular viewer since 2005. Once you’ve got your head around the format and have fully understood what the show is and is not, it makes for entertaining viewing. Strictly is not a pure dance competition by any shakes. If it were, then the public wouldn’t have any say in who remained on the show and it would all be left to the professional judges. But such a show would have very limited appeal. Hence, we have audience participation and all the theatrics of reality television. Talent and ability can be trumped by popularity and frequently is. Over the last fifteen years, the shows formula has been finely tuned and we now find ourselves with a very controlled format. The broad spectrum of celebrities fulfil the role of various archetypes and the judges all have distinct roles to play. But at its heart the show is still about people learning to dance (or not) and that is a difficult skill to master. For me therein lies the entertainment.Read More
There really is an excess of genuine talent in this year’s show. It’s week three and the standard has been raised yet again. Michelle Visage and Giovanni Pernice delivered a smouldering Quickstep to Cabaret, proving once again that it is unwise to write anyone off based purely on age. Furthermore actress Catherine Tyldesley dancing with Johannes Radebe stunned the audience and judges alike with a Rumba to the ballad Shallow from the film A Star is Born. The Rumba is a notoriously difficult dance to perform and to pull off such a feat so early on in the season was quite incredible. And we were also treated to our first Street Dance, with Dev Griffin and Diane Buswell performing an outstanding Aladdin themed routine. Considering that Diane had an accident during the week, it made such an assured performance even more remarkable. And let us not forget Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse’s robust Charleston.Read More
Thoughts on TV shows and my current viewing habits.
In August Elementary finally came to an end after seven years. The last season spanned a tighter than usual 13 episodes and introduced a new and very contemporary archnemesis; tech giant Odin Reichenbach (James Frain). Although it can be argued that the story arc was very formulaic, it also drew upon many elements of Conan Doyle’s original stories. Holmes realises that he may have to sacrifice himself to take down a foe and protect those nearest to him. Then there is the issues of his “death”. For many viewers such as myself, the final season wasn’t so much about a clever narrative but simply seeing what happened to all the major cast members. Broadly, it was all very satisfactory. Spoiler Alert. Captain Gregson retired and Marcus remained at the NYPD instead of taking his position with the US Marshal service. Joan finally adopted a child and Morland was killed while trying to broker one of his high-level deals. All story lines were brought to a neat and acceptable end. Furthermore the door was clearly left open for a future revival of the show if required.Read More
There is obviously some sort of psychological comfort in being spoon fed the same content, again and again and again. Because that is what Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC’s flagship Autumn entertainment show, definitely does. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, because once again, I am one of the 8 million viewers avidly watching this seasonal ritual. But is must be said, that the show is incredibly formulaic and that the production team are expert at playing upon all the foibles of the format. Hence every September we get a wide spectrum of “celebrities” eager to learn how to dance. All of whom fall neatly into the various categories that have been established over the last 15 years. There are those who display an innate ability right from the start. Then there are the determined improvers. We also have wild cards whose content wildly changes in quality. Another favourite are the rhythmically challenged whose embarrassing failures are deemed “entertaining”. And let us not forget those who are just hopelessly out of their depth and you know are going to fall at the very first hurdle.Read More
For anyone with a passing interest in literary science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is a seminal novel and considered an essential read. The story of humanity being shepherded into a utopian golden age by allegedly benevolent alien Overlords and the consequences it has upon society, was a radical departure from prevailing science fiction norms of the time. Over the years several film makers have expressed interest in adapting the story, but it has proven difficult to come to grips with. Stanley Kubrick initially wished to develop the novel but his subsequent collaboration with the author eventually lead to the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since then there have been radio adaptations and audiobook versions, all of which seem to be a better medium for this episodic and contemplative tale. In late 2015 US cable and satellite channel Syfy broadcast a three-part miniseries based upon the 1953 story; something that past me by at the time. I recently caught up with this adaptation which seems to have provoked very mixed reactions among viewers. As ever, the controversy seems to stem from purists who favour a more slavish interpretation of the book.Read More
I always cringe when I hear the phrase re-imagining. It's yet another contrived expression created by marketing bodies to justify the somewhat arbitrary process of remaking an established title. Often the re-imagined product has little to do with the source material and was chosen simply because of brand awareness. If you want a textbook example of a recent example of this somewhat cynical process then look no further than last year’s Death Wish reboot. It had nothing new to say on the subject and simply trotted out a generic and bland revenge thriller. So, when I discovered that Robert Wise's classic science fiction film, The Andromeda Strain had been remade as a TV miniseries (that had completely passed me by), I had great reservations as to whether this would be worth watching. However, the involvement of Tony and Ridley Scott piqued my interest, so I decided to take a calculated risk and give this 2008 A&E Network production a go.Read More
Thoughts on TV shows and my current viewing habits.
Our Planet is the first major wildlife documentary to be made by Netflix. Presented and narrated by David Attenborough the series is produced by Silverback Films, who also created BBC documentary series Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and The Blue Planet. As you would expect with such outstanding credentials, Our Planet is a visually impressive, thought provoking exploration of our world’s respective ecosystems and a damning indictment of how we as a species are causing immense damage. If you watch this show and are still in denial afterwards about climate change, then “you need your bumps felt”. The show doesn’t shy away from showing the reality of nature. Something that some viewers struggle to come to terms, due to the ongoing infantilization of our relationship with pets and wild life. Netflix went so far as to produce a list of scenes to skip for the feint hearted. However, the sight of the Walruses plummeting to their death from a cliff was genuinely shocking. However given the nature of the show and its underlying message, this was totally justified.Read More
Thoughts on TV shows and my current viewing habits.
Broadly speaking I think season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery has been an improvement on season1, and I didn’t think that was a dog’s dinner. There were some very good ideas in the first series but it did stray a little too far canonically speaking in both some major and minor aspects of the production. The second season seems to be reining some of these issues in and I love the continuity the writers have shown with Captain Christopher Pike’s back story. There are times when the need to expedite the narrative comes at the expense of character development. For example it would have it would have been nice to have had an extra episode of two to get to know Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) a little better. It would have heightened the emotional impact of her death a little more. But this propensity to rush is hardly unique to Star Trek: Discovery. I am curious to see where the story is going as I like many other viewers suspect this may be an origin story for a major Federation nemesis. We shall have to see. I’m always cautious about plot devices that explain away an “enigma”. There is the risk that you rob it of its narrative potency.Read More
Thoughts on TV shows and my current viewing habits.
Tonight’s season finale of Endeavour was possibly the best episode to date. All the outstanding plot lines were resolved and despite my concerns that a tragedy may occur with regards to one of the central characters, the ending saw the prevailing status quo of previous seasons restored. This series has been exceedingly creative with regard to the subjects and themes it has explored and there have been some exceptional performances from Anton Lesser and Roger Allam. Writer Russell Lewis (a very interesting person in his own right) continues to embellish the proceeding with “metatextuality” which is always a source of joy for me. Recent references to Gordon Murray’s Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley were exceeding droll, yet if the causal viewer missed them, there is still plenty of practical story and historical referencesfor all to get their teeth into. I also thought that the final episodes exploration of a tower block collapse was particularly brave and relevant, considering that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is still proceeding.Read More
In the past I’ve often been left somewhat flummoxed when I’ve read stories about fans knitting baby clothes for pregnant characters in soap operas. I’ve also been bemused when reading about actors being berated in the streets by members of the public, who seem incapable of separating the person from the fictional character they play. Such anecdotes have always been met with tutting and shaking of the head from myself. However, I have recently had to temper this rationalist outlook, due to a sudden fit of emotional investment in certain TV dramas. This curious epiphany has led me to conclude that it’s not just a case of good writing and acting (although these are key reasons), but ultimately a question of identifying with a character and empathising with them. Furthermore, who we identify with possibly says something about us to.Read More
I am a big fan of the detective drama Endeavour, considering it to be one of the best UK shows currently in production. It has well rounded, interesting characters and their journey through the sixties affords the writer, Russell Lewis, plenty of opportunity to explore the political and social issues of the time. Lewis further embellishes the scripts with numerous period and contemporary pop culture references, all of which add to the shows charm and appeal. Tonight’s episode “Apollo” set against the historical moon landings of Apollo 11, saw Morse and Thursday investigating the death of a promising young astrophysicist and his girlfriend. Initially thought to be a car accident, it becomes clear that there is foul play. As ever the plot was complex and established story arcs were moved forward. Shaun Evans also made his directorial debut with this episode.Read More
Many years ago, I use to rush home from school to watch Project UFO. Based loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book, this show from 1978 featured two U.S. Air Force investigators, Maj. Jake Gatlin (William Jordan) and Staff Sgt. Harry Fitz (Caskey Swaim) and their subsequent investigation into alleged UFO sightings. Sometimes there would be rational explanations and on other occasions, there was clearly extraterrestrial involvement. By the second season out protagonists experienced a close encounter of their own. It wasn’t the most densely plotted of dramas and was produced and presented in the idiom of mainstream television of the time. However, for a ten-year-old boy it had some excellent miniature work (Brick Price Movie Miniatures) and anything about UFOs was always a source of interest. There was also a great and very seventies theme tune by Nelson Riddle. So when I discovered that History (formerly The History Channel) had produced a science fiction drama series called Project Blue Book, I became somewhat nostalgic and equally intrigued.Read More
Here’s a quick history lesson for those too young to remember or who reside elsewhere. During the seventies, there were only three analogue, terrestrial television stations available in the UK. BBC One, BBC Two and ITV. Actually, ITV at the time was a network of separate regional commercial television channels. Television stations usually only broadcast for 16 or so hours a day and home video recorders only started to become common place towards the end of the decade. Therefore, as a ten-year-old in 1977, if I wanted to watch something, I had to be physically present to do so. Furthermore, as there was at that time only one television set in the home and I was a child, my viewing was pretty much at my parent’s pleasure and discretion. “Viewing rights” were often used as a bargaining chip. But there were some positive sides to viewing TV in this fashion. Popular programs enjoyed viewing figures unheard of today. And television was a far more shared experience than it is now. Saturday evening’s episode of Doctor Who was naturally a major topic of discussion at school the following Monday. If you missed it or any other “essential viewing, you were effectively a social outcast.Read More
There are many aspects of TV and film that I wish to discuss here on Contains Moderate Peril, but they don’t all require and in-depth post or detailed review. Therefore, it seems practical to create a recurring editorial piece in which I can address these more concise and conversational pieces. Hence you are reading “The Idiot Box” which is my new means to quickly summarise and touch upon what I’m currently watching. Because I do the bulk of my film viewing at home now via VOD and no longer that much at the cinema, this recurring post will deal with movies as well as television. I’ll still be producing long form reviews because I enjoy doing so and they also constitutes a substantial percentage of traffic to this site. This virtual column is more of a “friendly chat” about my viewing habits as well as what’s popular, as you would have with your friends down the pub. So, let us begin with a few thoughts about some of the shows I’m currently enjoying.Read More
Star Trek: Enterprise was the first show in the Star Trek pantheon to have a song performed by an established artist play over the opening credits, rather than a traditional theme tune. Up until 2001, the franchise had maintained a more formal approach, established with the iconic introduction to the original series composed by Alexander Courage. Needless to say, such a radical departure from established practise brought about consternation and debate among fans. In some respects, you can argue that point about the entire show itself, but that as they say, is an entirely different blog post. Needless to say, the dislike and hatred that the song Where My Heart Will Take Me engendered in certain quarters, lead to a petition to have it removed. Needless to say, this movement failed, and the show continued using it for four seasons. Seventeen years on this particular debacle has now died down and the song is often just referenced ironically by fans as an amusing anecdote and piece of Trek trivia.Read More
For those outside of the UK, The Radio Times is one of the most popular TV guide magazines in the country. It was the world's first broadcast listings magazine when it was founded in 1923 by John Reith, then general manager of the BBC. It used to exclusively cover only BBC TV and radio content but over the years has expanded its listing to cover all terrestrial, satellite, cable and internet TV channels. As well as printing the various TV schedules it also contains articles, reviews and interviews associated with most forms of UK media. It is broadly deemed to be in good standing with the population and still boasts a high standard of journalism. However, over recent years The Radio Times has suffered a decline in readership the same way that all traditional print media has. Hence the bulk of its current readership are mainly those who have grown up with it and have a strong bond with it.Read More
Series 16 of Strictly Come Dancing has been in many ways the most predictable season to date. It became clear within a matter of weeks as to which couples were the front runners, who had potential to grow and who would only go so far. Apart from the slight anomaly of Vick Hope going out early in week 5 due to a poorly conceived dance (blame Graziano for that), the show has followed a fairly unsurprising route. Therefore, it really comes as no shock to find Joes and Diane, Stacey and Kevin, Ashley and Pasha as well as Faye and Giovanni are going through to next week’s final. Nor should we be astonished by the subtle distinction between the judge’s favourites, and the couples that the public related to and take to their hearts.Read More
The BBC has a long and illustrious history of commissioning innovative adaptations of the works of M R James. Consider a moment the likes of Jonathan Miller's Whistle and I'll Come to You or The Ash Tree by Lawrence Gordon Clark. If you are unfamiliar with these short television dramas, then I strongly advise you to seek them out. They are the epitome of quality television forays into the world of the supernatural. The Tractate Middoth, written and directed by Mark Gatiss, once again demonstrates how well the finely crafted short stories of Monty James lend themselves to the medium of film. Mr. Gatiss has a clear understanding and passion for the horror genre and proves (as he did with Sherlock) that "adaptation" does not have to mean "bastardisation".Read More
Firestorm originally started as a Japanese anime series co-created by Gerry Anderson and John Needham back in 2003. The show combined CGI animation for mecha and traditional cel animation for characters and the environment. Despite the quality of the production and an emphasis on the futuristic hardware that has always been a core tenet of Gerry Anderson productions, the anime version of Firestorm didn’t find an audience in Japan. The show subsequently failed to secure a wider release and so became a more obscure part of Anderson Canon. However, in 2014 Anderson Entertainment (under the auspices of Jamie Anderson, Gerry’s son) announced a crowdfunding campaign to produce a pilot episode for a new television series of Firestorm using practical film-making techniques including miniature effects and puppetry. It’s been a long road since then but today a debut “minisode” was shown at MCM Comic-Con London and simultaneously released on You Tube.Read More