Interview: New Generation Project Podcast

I recently had a word with Stewart from the New Generation Project Podcast, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about wrestling’s past, the podcast’s future, and Alan Partridge references.

Your podcast starts at King of The Ring 1993, when ‘Hogan jobbed to fire’ and subsequently left the WWF. What is it about a post-Hulk Hogan, pre-Attitude Era WWF that made you want to study this particular period in wrestling history?

Well, the idea initially came out of being a fan of the Attitude Era Podcast and then OSW Review. I probably listened to every OSW episode in about the space of a week and then recommended them to Paul. He suggested we attempted something similar ourselves and having enjoyed both those shows, the “New Generation” era seemed like the logical option. In addition to that, 1992-1995 was the period I grew up watching, so there was some familiarity there for me and a touch of nostalgia, so getting to watch shows like “King of the Ring 1993″ and “Wrestlemania X” again were definitely part of the allure.

Hogan’s move to WCW put the WWF into something of what we’ll kindly call a creative holding pattern during the following years. To what do you attribute this spell? Further to that, what exactly is with all the double-gimmick wrestlers during this time?

Hogan’s move itself is what creates this period. Vince is determined to create another Hogan-esque top liner, and that’s what yields the ‘creative holding pattern’ you mention. His initial attempt is an exact Hogan replica: Lex Luger, and as we’ve all seen, it failed spectacularly. Vince never truly wanted to commit to Bret Hart as ‘the guy’ so we get those short spells between Vince’s different failures where Bret steps in to steady the ship. We’re currently at the period where Vince goes with Shawn, and fair play to him, he goes all in with Shawn, but as we’ll see he isn’t the one who ultimately works out, due to a combination of behaviour and ultimately, injury. As for the two-job superstars? I blame The Big Boss Man, Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake and Rick ‘The Model’ Martel – those gimmicks were successful in the late 80s, so Vince went back to what he knew. We’re about to hit another wave of those types of characters, so I’m looking forward to Adam and Paul meeting The Goon and TL Hopper.

new generation project podcast

Paul experienced a ‘Jimmy Del Rey’ moment early on in the run, when a wrestler he’d not really known of put in some impressive performances. Who’s provided you with your own JDR moment during the span of the podcast so far?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bull Nakano. I definitely remember her from when I was a kid, and in fact, I must have actually seen her live, but seeing that “Summerslam 1994″ match between her and Alundra Blayze opened up a whole new world of wrestling for me. I’ve been out and got hold of a ton of 90s joshi stuff and been blown away by the likes of Manami Toyota, Mayumi Ozaki, Akira Hokuto and Kyoko Inoue. If I could recommend a couple of matches, I’d say people should definitely check out the Manami Toyota/Toshiyo Yamada “Hair vs Hair” match from August 1992 and the 8 Woman “Thunder Queen” match from July 1993 – you won’t believe what you’re seeing is over 20 years old.

Armchair booking time: after the legendarily awful show it turned out to be, who from the whole roster do you think should’ve won King of the Ring ’95 (I will accept ‘Nobody’ as an answer), and how?

I think the correct answer is “anybody other than Mabel”. In all seriousness, the correct answer was probably Shawn. He was red-hot at the time, and eliminating him in the first round in a time limit draw with Kama, of all people, made no sense. You could have built to Shawn vs Diesel at Summerslam, and maybe done some face vs face stuff before turning Diesel heel. Plus, Shawn being in that lineage with Bret, Owen, Austin, HHH etc definitely seems more fitting than what we were left with.

One of my favourite things about your podcast is the clearly evident strong friendship between the three of you. That could all be down to the magic of an edit though! Do you think that the output of a typical episode gives an accurate depiction of how you guys get on?

Yeah, I’d probably say it’s a pretty accurate representation. Editing definitely does a lot for the show, but I don’t think it really affects how the dynamic plays out between the 3 of us. I’d say some of the random tangents and discussions we end up with are fairly true to what the conversations would be if we were to just sit down, watch the shows and discuss them between ourselves. Adam and I live together so we have to get on, and Adam used to live with Paul in the pre-Mrs Scrivens days so we definitely all know each other pretty damn well!

On the podcast so far we’ve had pay-per-views from both WWF and WCW, TV specials and even a special listeners’ mailbag edition. What’s been your favourite episode to make so far both from a research and recording standpoint?

I’m generally fairly critical of what we record and often come away from a recording session worrying about the quality of what we’ve produced. Generally editing and putting the episode together will ease those worries somewhat. From a recording standpoint, the WCW shows tend to stand out as the most fun to record; “The Great American Bash 1996″ was one of the rare recording sessions that I came away from feeling good about what the show would turn out to be, and “Halloween Havoc 1995″ was one I knew was a lot of fun also. “Baywatch vs Thunder In Paradise”, despite containing no actual wrestling, was a lot of fun to record. In terms of research, that’s something I quite enjoy on a personal level – reading about things like Vince’s steroid trial and Brian Pillman’s contract shenanigans stand out as favourite memories from that side of things. The mailbag episodes were fun to do in that I had to do no actual work for those in terms of research, so it was a bit like having a couple of weeks off.

Aside from, obviously, what’s on the WWF PPV schedule, do you have anything special lined up for an episode in the near future?

The WCW shows are VERY popular, so while we won’t be doing them on a month-to-month basis, we’ll probably look at doing them more frequently to keep up to date with the happenings over there. We’ll definitely do an episode for “Pillman’s got a Gun”. When we reach the end of the calendar year we’ve discussed doing another episode of “Thunder In Paradise” alongside the episode of “Baywatch” where Shawn Michaels turns up. “Santa With Muscles” has been requested by a few people, so we may do that nearer to Christmas. And there is another super-secret bonus episode that I can’t say anything about right now!

And finally,

Anything else you’d like to promote?

After months of people asking, T-Shirts are on the way! We’re doing it all by ourselves (WOO!) so what you receive will be a package completely from us, with some cool little freebies put in there. They should be available in the next week or so [EDIT: NOW AVAILABLE!]. And obviously, just the show in general. We’re massively thankful to everyone who listens and it’s genuinely a joy to interact with our listeners.

Who invented the skip?

Bobby Moore, I don’t bloody know, do I?

You can find the NGP Facebook page here. Or find them on Twitter at the slightly simpler @newgenpodcast, and on iTunes.

Five Reasons I Couldn’t Get Into EVE Online

Now and then whenever I’m looking for a new game to play, I load up Steam and spend anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes at a time carefully perusing my recommended games.

(Recommendations. Can anyone tell me a good example of a site that has the “if you like that, you’ll love this” feature? I’m yet to be dazzled by anything. Especially MovieLens.)

More often than not I close the window down again and resign myself to another hour or so on Farmscapes with a podcast playing on my headphones, but one game I keep coming back to and hovering over is the spacefaring MMO, EVE Online.

five reasons eve online screenshot

Pretty beautiful, ain’t it.

And goodness knows I love me a space sim – from my time playing Pioneer to the game I loved staring at as a child in awe of the difficult controls, its spiritual predecessor Frontier, I’ve had a weakness for exploring the outer reaches of the Big Black.

On a grand stage like an MMO, the thrill appears to intensify tenfold, but there are a few reasons why playing EVE Online would be beyond me at this stage. Here are some of them.

My computer could not hack it

Most significantly, even if I wanted to give EVE a go, I sincerely doubt that my computer packs enough of a punch to play it. I bought this thing four years ago, haven’t upgraded it in any way since, and even then it was only okay spec-wise. I can manage a good journey around the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3; there are plenty of indie games that keep it on the undemanding side, and I’m alright with its modest output. But to play it effectively and for it to even look halfway decent this thing would need to pack a serious punch.

MMOs are a hell of a big commitment

Remember that article where I gushed endlessly about Animal Crossing: New Leaf? How it’s “as gentle and cute as it is fun and wholesome”? How I missed being away from my friendly townsfolk? Yeah, well I gave up on it, didn’t I. It all got really quite tedious after a while. If I can’t even face my friendly townsfolk every day then what chance do I have in a massively multiplayer online game which requires careful planning and strategy? None. Plus, I’ve never played an MMO before and it feels too late to learn now.

I don’t trust myself with that much money

Planning and strategy? Yeah, you’d need that when you’re actually putting your own time and money into building a fleet and defending your virtual property against the space-taxman and his unruly warring empire. The thing about an MMO is the amount of relatively real money you see being poured into them; according to an article I found on QuickQuid of all places, the EVE Online economy is worth an estimated £10 million. Totally not worth going in there in case I accidentally start a massive money war or something.

It appears to be completely inaccessible

Back to New Leaf, but I get the distinct feeling that were I ever to start building my own ship, I wouldn’t get a friendly-looking dog with human characteristics telling me how to start my piloting career; more likely blown up for looking at a warship funny. It’s apparently a common misconception that it’s really tough to start cracking into the game and making serious money, as well as a few friends, but unlike, say, World of Warcraft where you can go raiding with friends, I’m not sensing the same community spirit among those million-pound destroyers trying to wreck each other’s economies.

I can’t be arsed

The largest of all obstacles is probably my own lethargy. It’s sort of a combined reason for the previous four points here, but it certainly all adds up to my enthusiasm waning before it’s even…waxed, I guess. Can enthusiasm wax? Cos I’m about to wax up another game of Restaurant Story on my phone.

 

A Song For Saturday Special

Lagwagon – May 16

You’ll either find this cool, or find me completely lame, but every year on this day I’m reminded of a really cool song simply because of today’s date.

You may have first heard May 16 by the American pop-punk band Lagwagon on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 – in fact, perhaps you could be tempted to break out the PS2 (or semi-faulty backwards compatible PS3) today to play a few rounds in tribute.

 

Elsewhere, on the THPS2 soundtrack there are some great songs alongside some…not so great ones. For every Bad Religion gem there’s an ill-advised Papa Roach follow up; just as Anthrax and Public Enemy bring the noise, Powerman 5000 brings the annoyance.

The Tony Hawk’s series is, no doubt, a classic – easily some of the most playable and most challenging of console games of all time (and soon to include the recently-announced THPS5! Perhaps a debate looms on the horizon…) but nostalgically, the original Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding is untouchable; it even made my Influential 15 Video Games list.

Tony Hawk's Skateboarding PS1

Soundtrack aside though, the great leap from first to second game was astounding – even for its release on the original Playstation – and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 does have its many, many charms; just as an example, if you ever had the rather specific thought of “hey, I want a skating game where I can theoretically manual forever,” then this game no doubt did the business for your very precise demands. (Just as it did me in, whenever playing a game of H-O-R-S-E against a couple of friends who had had far too much manual practice).

But the game’s ratings speak for themselves; according to the all-time Metacritic list, only Ocarina of Time has a higher rating! In ALL games! Ever! I cannot believe what an achievement that is. (Even better when you consider that the following game in the series rates so highly too, even on a superior console it scores a point fewer.)

I guess I know what I’m playing on this sunny Saturday afternoon! (Yes, indoors on a sunny Saturday afternoon, don’t you judge me.)

Harry Shearer to leave The Simpsons

So come on, which one’s your favourite? Mr Burns? Smithers? Flanders? Well, as of the 27th season of The Simpsons, if they’re still in the show they won’t be voiced by Harry Shearer.

AB

The founding cast member and bass player in Spinal Tap tweeted today that he was leaving the animated adventures of America’s best-known family; news backed up by an email received by CNN Money from showrunner Al Jean.

 

James L Brooks, one of the programme’s all-time head honchos has appealed to Shearer to keep in touch regarding a deal which he turned down, reportedly worth $14 million.

But at this point, I’d be astonished if it’s money – or not enough of it – that’s motivating the actor to move on. Throughout the series’ nearly 30 years on air, there’s plenty of cash to go around that recording studio.

Shearer tweeted “the freedom to do other work” as a driving force in his decision, which nobody can be blamed for seeking, after such an extraordinarily lengthy run as one of the most famous voice actors in the business.

But that hasn’t been a problem either for Shearer; he’s been working for both stage and screen in the UK, most notably as Richard Nixon ‘performing’ the contents of his secret White House tapes in Nixon’s The One for Sky Arts.

So what of the characters he has left behind? We all have our favourites – and it’s shocking to me that the vast majority of news reports have led with Mr Burns – but mine is Principal Skinner by a great distance. Other vastly underrated characters voiced by Shearer include Lenny and Jasper – if only for his ‘that’s a paddlin’’ speech from ‘The PTA Disbands’.

 

I’m glad that writing out a blog post gives me the space to avoid knee-jerk reactions that tweeting and Facebooking don’t, because on the latter social network today I had an extreme knee-jerk reaction along the lines of “okay, can they just STOP making this now?” The old ‘it isn’t as good as it used to be’ argument rages on, and I’m actually firmly of the opinion myself that, at season 26, The Simpsons is now twice as old as it should ever have been.

Recasting the characters though? A new voice for Flanders, Skinner and Burns? Yeah, I’m sticking with my jerky knees on this one. That’s going to be an extremely tough sell to anyone, diehard fan or not.

Jacked by David Kushner – the Rockstar Games & GTA Story

I’m well aware of the regularity of opening a blog post by saying how much I loved David Kushner’s Masters of Doom; the story of id Software’s struggles to produce landmark games against a backdrop of censorship and developing technologies in the 1990s, so when I found a book by the same author about the minds which brought you the Grand Theft Auto series, I was ready for another great exploration of seminal games creators and their biggest detractors.

Jacked: The Unauthorised Behind-The-Scenes Story of Grand Theft Auto was the opener in my week’s worth of happy holiday reading by the pool, and sadly for me it’s found lacking when compared to that previous work.

jacked grand theft auto book

Through interviews with the industry’s major players, those involved at DMA Design who created the first games and a few of its biggest critics, Jacked aims to tell the story of Rockstar Games’ trials and tribulations in releasing some of the best-selling titles of all time: the GTA series.

It’s somewhere between quite likely and downright obvious to all but me that the title ‘Jacked’ serves as both a reference to the jacking of one’s car in the GTA games and Jack Thompson, but for me the two narratives served up in this book – Rockstar’s rise to the top and battles against censorship, and Jack Thompson’s moral crusade to see games of this ilk handled more responsibly – are in no danger of ever clashing as such an eponymously-placed pun would suggest they do.

That to me is the book’s biggest weakness; aside from one minor scene setup in this narrative combining both stories, opposing key players like Thompson and Rockstar’s Sam Houser are on completely different trajectories with no – literal or metaphorical – collision in sight. To me it’s like painstakingly setting up a Rocky film, but having both Rocky and Drago each fight someone else when the plot reaches boiling point.

Kushner employs a lot of dramatic licence in his work; it worked to great effect in Masters because the main men behind id Software were there to tell their side of the story. Aside from the early days of GTA games at DMA Design, whose key employees were involved during the research for this book, and the full timeline of Thompson’s attempts (of varying degrees of success) to shut down the industry’s worst offenders, there’s precious little here from the main protagonists – actual Rockstar employees – to corroborate how the story goes.

Nowhere is this more obvious than during the section about the ‘Hot Coffee’ scandal – an apparent mini-game in San Andreas which…well, you all know what it is. In taking such great pains to spell out Rockstar’s reluctance to comment on their PR gaffe during the event, it’s made obvious that the company still chooses not to join any ongoing gaming discussion…including the one between these covers. Kushner instead relies on the testimony of the Dutch hacker who discovered the hidden code alongside other non-Rockstar bodies who had to bear the brunt of the authorities’ crackdown.

The attempt to shape a narrative around and about its subject has been known to work (and does so to brilliant effect, for example, in Disgusting Bliss about its equally silent subject, Chris Morris) but when it’s applied to an entire company that would rather see the myth than the truth printed in the first place, and stay well away from the lines of communication in general, there’s just one too many holes in the same wall that so neatly fits, again for example, the shape of Morris in Bliss for me to really recommend this book.

Frank Miller announces Batman: The Dark Knight Returns sequel

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race to be released in Autumn 2015

The writer of the seminal Batman comic The Dark Knight Returns has announced another instalment of the series, fifteen years after its sequel and in time for the thirtieth anniversary.

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race was announced last week in a rare tweet from Frank Miller, and will be co-written by Brian Azzarello. Unlike the previous two entries in The Dark Knight, which were pencilled by Miller, it appears that an artist will join the team.

Released in 1986, The Dark Knight Returns was an iconic non-canon Batman story dealing with Bruce Wayne’s return from retirement, struggling against his advancing years as well as the rising threat of the Mutant gang, a relapsed Two Face and a Joker which hit new lows of evil and insanity.

In these pages there’s even a reach towards the very top of the food chain – the American president; more of which is tackled in the 2001 sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again through a much less subtle visual attack of noisy colours and pretty heavy violence.

Small wonder that while the original instalment is held up as an example of not just Batman comics, but comics in general, beginning to make more of an artistic statement and compelling argument for good storytelling in graphic novel form, the sequel was much less successful.

And so, 30 years on from the original, Miller is set to return – with the subtitle The Master Race alone a rather shocking invocation of what the story could contain.

With the likes of TDKR and Watchmen shifting comics into a more mature, mainstream medium in the 1980s, today the sheer flood of superheroes hitting the cinema is a direct result. I really am curious to see what this book may contain by way of comment on that graduation, from one of the very first people to begin that movement.

A Tune For Tuesday (and the rest of the week) – Seven Days In The Sun

At the time of publishing this post I’ll be on my way to the airport with my good lady for a well-earned week in the sun.

We got the packing out of the way this weekend so that I could really get down to some difficult decisions on Monday; namely, what books I’m taking and the all-important contents of my iPod.

So with a couple of new books for my Kobo, the entire back catalogue of the excellent Calling Spots wrestling fanzine and plenty of podcasts stored up, we’re heading off for a week.

To celebrate, here’s a couple of my very favourite summery tracks.

 

The Beatsteaks – Summer

 

I’ve loved this song ever since it showed up on the P-Rock music channel, many many years ago. The video shows life on the road for a rock band and the ways they can combat boredom, while also being a very sweet tribute to the bonds of band brotherhood.

 

Feeder – Seven Days In The Sun

 

You know when you’re walking somewhere with your headphones on, you turn a corner and see the sun coming out. The sun gives you a little rush, then a big tune comes on and you feel an even bigger surge?

This song is THE song that just started playing.

 

What gets you in the mood for summertime? Comment below! See you soon!

The Week in Geek: Red Dwarf XI, TellTale Marvel and Age of Ultron

This week in geek culture, a sitcom was announced, a game was announced and a film I saw more than a week ago finally came out elsewhere.

week in geek culture news 

Red Dwarf XI and XII confirmed for Dave TV

There’ll be two new series of the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, to air on Dave in 2016 and 2017.

The announcement was made by co-creator and showrunner Doug Naylor, who is a surprise guest at this weekend’s Dimension Jump XVIII, a Red Dwarf fan convention.

The two series will be filmed back-to-back this autumn, and feature the core crew of four – Chris Barrie as Rimmer, Craig Charles as Lister, Danny John-Jules as Cat and Robert Llewellyn as Kryten.

reddwarfcorrie

As a cult TV favourite of nearly 30 years, naturally Twitter is abuzz at the news – some welcoming another shot of the universe’s most hapless crew, others unsure that the quality of years past will still be there considering a shaky second half of their BBC tenure and a deeply unpopular one-off special for digital channel Dave in 2009.

The debut of Red Dwarf X in 2012 actually won back some of that wavering fan base, stripping back the fluff which it had acquired during the late 90s, with simple stories and pretty decent gags.

It’s taken all this time to get the boys back together for a new series – and Craig Charles has left his regular role on soap Coronation Street in order to sign on – but hopefully the new series will be an even bigger improvement on series X.

Marvel and TellTale Games team up

As per Mashable, the storytelling masters at TellTale games are turning their attentions to the Marvel universe for future games.

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe extending beyond cinemas and onto the small screen – with Daredevil on Netflix and Agents of SHIELD still performing well – it’s been theorised that a new game from the team which brought us Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead episodic adventures would somehow fit in with ongoing major story developments.

Reviews are generally excellent for the TellTale games, and I’m pretty sure that a steer from the Marvel creative team could make their new games an even bigger deal. But we’ll have to wait until 2017 to find out – we’ll be even deeper into the MCU by then so this would have to be a pretty ambitious story!

The Avengers: Age of Ultron released in the US

Bless your cotton socks, you Americans – you’re only now able to experience the new Avengers movie. This isn’t really news, just a bit of a ‘nyeh nyeh’ as I saw it well over a week ago!

I did really enjoy the new effort, and having since read the reviews made a personal decision never to let reviews affect my own enjoyment of something ever again – sure, it’s more set-up than execution but it’s beautifully done, very well written and features some amazing fight scenes, but what else was I supposed to expect?

The Transun Travel Bucket List

This is an entry for the Transun Travel competition, where one lucky winner will receive a chance to travel to see the Northern Lights! T&Cs here.

 If you want to enter, you’ve only got until Thursday – simply write a blog post detailing your three dream destinations, and tweet your post to @Transun using the hashtag #TransunLights.

I never used to be a great traveller; I get very restless on planes, and even more so on coaches – especially one particular school trip which took me to Austria. From Yorkshire. Yep, that took a while. But actually I’m taking two trips in the next two months – three in three if you count the exotic locale of Manchester for a Comic Con in July – to Tenerife and Paris, and I’m very excited to take turns in the sun and the city of culture.

But this comp has really got me thinking – if money were no object, where in the world would I want to go? You’ve got your usual standout choices like New York and LA, and while they’d be brilliant cultural experiences I’m looking for something a bit different here.

 

Toronto

I have always wanted to go to Canada; I don’t know why really but it seems like a very friendly place that’s got some great landmarks and activities. Toronto is Canada’s biggest city by population and as such, there’s got to be plenty to do there. According to Lonely Planet Toronto speaks more than 140 languages, quite a cultural blend! Of course in Canada ice hockey is a religion, and so I’d want to take in a Maple Leafs game – they’re one of the most storied clubs in the NHL’s long history so it’d be a great choice in terms of tradition.

toronto maple leafs stadium

Its art gallery is one of the largest in North America, so I’d definitely spend a good few hours browsing the various works, and if I could do the famous EdgeWalk atop the CN Building I’d be very pleased – albeit very scared too!

 

Tokyo

Figuratively a million miles away from North American culture, I’d love to visit Tokyo. One of my best friends has lived in Japan for the past year, and given his proud northern English heritage I was as surprised as anyone to find out he’d be moving there – the culture shock must be immense.

But Tokyo has always had this otherworldly vibe to me – even as Westerners get more switched on by each passing decade, Japan and especially Tokyo has a unique way of life for residents and tourists alike. Bright lights in the Shinjuku and Shibuya districts; diverse cultures and lifestyles; and a ridiculous but enthralling non-stop buzz about the place.

 

Like a lot of people I was turned onto Tokyo by the film Lost in Translation and have wanted to visit ever since seeing it for the first time. It looks like such an exciting city, and I’m such a fan of Japanese cultures and traditions that the NHK World TV channel is often watched at home!

The Northern Lights!

This might seem a bit hokey considering the circumstances for writing this post, but the Northern Lights is one of the most fascinating phenomena I’ve ever heard of and I would LOVE to see it in person one day.

Aurora Borealis

Among other less likely places like Principal Skinner’s kitchen in The Simpsons, “AURORA BOREALIS!” is visible from places in high latitudes in Scandinavia and (here comes the science bit) is basically caused by radiation from the sun exciting particles in the Earth’s magnetic fields up in the atmosphere. Around the poles where the magnetic field are weaker than the rest of the planet, the radiation gets through and collides with airborne particles to create swirling patterns of light that are simply stunning.

Of course, up near the poles it gets a little bit nippy, and I’m not really a fan of the cold but I’m sure I could find plenty of other fun activities to fill the daytimes like snowball fights and maybe even an attempt at skiing.

So there’s the list! Glad to have got myself thinking about travel in preparation for where I’ll be going over the next few weeks.

HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is back!

For the next several weeks I’m going to be watching the final scenes of every episode of the new series of Game of Thrones.

But it isn’t because I’m too lazy to watch anything except the cliffhanger endings, and it’s certainly not because I care about the fate of that weird-looking throne thing – no, I’m tuning into Sky Atlantic every Monday at 10 so that I can watch the long-awaited series two of Silicon Valley, scheduled after GoT.

silicon valley sky atlantic

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but my favourite book of all time is Microserfs by Douglas Coupland; written in the mid-90s, it’s about the employees of a small tech start-up company in California as they try to rediscover themselves following many long and thankless years working at Microsoft. Coupland’s characters are obviously a bunch of weirdos as per their creator, and I always imagined what a great TV series it would make.

Silicon Valley is as close as it gets – co-created by Mike Judge, it shares many of the same hallmarks; a fledgling software company, its neurotic yet relatable employees and the downright bizarre behaviour of a culture that’s building the roads toward a supposed utopia of tech with all the turf wars and misguided predictions it would bring.

And it’s funny as hell, with a great cast and some inspired interplay between them. I already liked Zach Woods from In The Loop and Veep, and especially for his role as Gabe in later, admittedly Carell-less and therefore weaker seasons of The Office, but as the unassuming former corporate exec Jared, he’s a great foil for the boisterous Erlich Bachman, played by TJ Miller, who’s on board as the wannabe-rockstar face of the company. The real brains of the operation are supplied by founder Richard (Thomas Middleditch, who played Dwight Schrute’s brother in that backdoor pilot for The Farm, which thank goodness didn’t get made if it meant missing out on this) and his ‘odd couple’ argumentative staff of Dinesh and Gilfoyle.

The first episode of season two of Silicon Valley neatly (and very funnily) dealt with the offscreen death of Pied Piper backer Peter Gregory, who was played in series one by Christopher Evan Welch until his real-life death halfway through filming the episodes. He’ll really be missed as the programme progresses, but his replacement (played by Suzanne Cryer) was pretty decent in her opening scenes, displaying some of the same social awkwardness as her predecessor.

I really can’t wait to see the rest of the series – it’ll be tough to replace the scene-stealer who was definitely my favourite thing about series one, but I’m confident that the first-season nerves are over and we can now settle in for some even greater stories and jokes.