BBC Micro Men – TV Review

The somewhat overly-dramatised story of Sinclair and Acorn Computers in the 1980s, starring Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman.

It’s an amazing thing, technology. As I discovered that I could sync up my Galaxy S3 mobile phone with the YouTube app on my XBox 360 to make searching for videos a much simpler experience, it’s interesting that I did all this in order to watch a docu-drama about the birth of the affordable home computer in Britain during the early 1980s.

BBC Micro Men TV Sinclair Acorn

Micro Men was a programme first shown on BBC Four in 2009 about the battle between two British companies to dominate the newly-established home computer market. As components got more affordable and the country’s finest minds got together to make computing more than the niche market for hobbyists it previously was, two distinct figures emerged to make it their own.

Alexander Armstrong plays Clive Sinclair, the eccentric genius inventor, and Martin Freeman plays Chris Curry, his loyal employee. Along with a good supporting cast this is a humorous re-telling of the British computer boom with plenty of geek out moments for the real footage of products and games spliced in.

When the National Enterprise Board refuses to continue backing Sinclair’s vanity projects, he suggests that Curry takes control of a shell company that Sinclair obtained some years back in order to focus on raising more money through more conventional products. When Sinclair doesn’t give his blessing for Curry to pursue a microcomputer called the MK14, Curry breaks away and set up his own firm in order to continue the purer project.

This sets the scene for a head-to-head contest between the two companies, Sinclair and Acorn – firstly with the race to have their working products used exclusively on BBC television for an educational programme, and then to dominate the market which the television coverage helped open up.

BBC Micro Men Alexander Armstrong

If you’re looking for the cold, hard facts about the race for financial and technological innovation in the 80s then you won’t find them here. But such is the surreal nature of proceedings as Sinclair throws phones through windows with a string of expletives, and Curry toasts his success with two young ladies sipping champagne in the back of a limo – but it’s very nicely played in such a way that it is almost believable due to the actual scale of their achievements and failures.

For the record, this is probably my favourite ever work of Alexander Armstrong – I thought his sketch shows with Ben Miller were only okay and he’s now absolutely everywhere on TV which is far more than I can stand – but his portrayal of Sinclair is just sharp enough to rein in the hyper-realism of events unfolding.

I really enjoyed watching Micro Men as a re-telling of big moments in geek history and a funny one to boot.

Christopher Evan Welch will be missed on ‘Silicon Valley’

I definitely had to give Silicon Valley a go when I first saw it advertised on Sky Atlantic; a sitcom about a group of programmers trying to make it in the cut-throat tech industry, created by Mike Judge.

And although the first couple of episodes were pretty slow going, I have to admit I’m absolutely loving it now – but now that the programme has lost its single funniest character it’s going to be a tough few weeks while I try to get my head around the tragic death of actor Christopher Evan Welch and how it will change the show.

peter gregory silicon valley

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Welch acting in anything before, although going by his IMDB page it’s quite possible that he’s just one of the people that makes you point and say “that guy…” whenever he pops up in something else – the first example that springs to mind being…that guy…y’know, the one who was in Bones and 24 and House and Damages and…

But his portrayal of eccentric tech billionaire Peter Gregory is absolutely amazing. He steals every scene he’s in and plays that type so well – an undoubted genius who never learned how to be sociable with it – that the rest of this first season will be all the poorer for Welch’s death.

According to fellow cast members on a Larry King interview, Welch was 48 when he died of a heart attack having recently been treated for lung cancer – a sudden shock when everything was looking brighter. Welch looked in good enough shape in the programme that it had to be sudden – and it was sudden for me too to find out the reason for his reduced role on IMDB after I’d had enough of saying “that guy…” but was laughing so hard in the process.

 

(I strongly recommend you watch this scene too; it’s even better but sadly unembeddable. Yep, that’s a word now.)

For Welch, I can finish that sentence now: “that guy…was an incredible performer.”

Silicon Valley has quickly become one of my favourite programmes, and a good deal of that was down to Christopher Evan Welch. It’s really sad to lose him especially as this was more than a good bet for his breakthrough performance.

Ridiculous Rumours – Steven Moffat and Star Wars

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat to leave for Star Wars?

Sometimes when you read a rumour online, before you race off to check its authenticity with the star/director/writer you’ll take a moment to stroke your chin and have a really good think about how that might turn out.

I’ve had my share of these in the past; my first real experience was probably a big footballing name being linked with joining Leeds United, or more frequently over the past decade, leaving; before he defected was wished well on his transfer to Fulham last week, Leeds striker Ross McCormack was rumoured to be going to just about any team with a vowel in its name for months. As I mused over each of the possible destinations for the league’s top scorer last season I had a good think about where he would be better off; finally settling on ‘any club that doesn’t treat its players like dickheads’. Call me crazy, but all power to Ross for deciding his future didn’t lie in Leeds. The fact that the club appears to have no ambition right now is, for me at least, a solid enough foundation for a rumour like its best player deciding to leave.

In TV land, it apparently gets even more cut-throat sometimes, but the rumour that TV producer/writer/ninja Steven Moffat is set to take the reins over some aspect of a future Star Wars  production is, again for me, an absolute non-starter.

Doctor_Who_-_Current_Titlecard

I really can’t see why some fans give Moffat a hard time over his showrunning on Doctor Who; I’ve much preferred his run on the show to that of predecessor Russell T. Davies. Moffat is a seasoned storyliner, and while there may be some sci-fi-type blips here and there, he’s been faithful to the programme’s mythology since the get-go; his characters develop smoothly, the performances from his cast have been brilliant, and what’s more – a charge I do lay at Davies’ door in particular – Moffat builds up a story at great pace, neatly and tidily introduces all the necessary plot elements, and can hit all the right notes without the requirement of someone swanning in and deus ex’ing their way to a satisfying conclusion. (I know I’ve mentioned that before, but it was a real issue for a long time.)

With all that (and Sherlock, which I’ll just come out and say I don’t watch) to go on, and the announcement that there will be a series nine of the rebooted Who, why would Moffat choose to move on to Star Wars?

I know there are a lot of people getting hot and bothered about Disney’s plans for a continuation of the Star Wars universe (I myself am maintaining a dignified poise about the whole thing; after all, they’re making more, not deleting current entries) but it strikes me as common sense that they wouldn’t have waited this long and got this far into the whole revival thing before they started tapping up producers of other hit programmes to try and lure them into the fold. JJ Abrams will have been doing absolutely nothing for the past year as he starts to get his head around the whole nasty business of expanding the Star Wars story; isn’t Moffat still well into filming series eight?

Peter Capaldi for Doctor Who?

It’s a daft rumour, it really is – as confirmed by his wife Sue Vertue who tweeted “that’s news to him!”

I firmly believe he isn’t doing it, and only because it’s obvious how much he loves doing this. Any kid who grew up dreaming of being in a Star Wars movie has another chance – but judging by the statement he released when confirmed as the showrunner in 2008, Moffat is already living the dream:

“My entire career has been a secret plan to get this job. I applied before but I got knocked back because the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven.”

I also remember during an episode of the Moffat-created criminally underrated sitcom Coupling when lead character Steve does one of his once-a-series monologue rants, lamenting that cushions on a sofa serve no purpose, unlike the sofa itself which you could hide behind in case of…

“…Daleks!”

It’s hardly solid evidence here to dispell a job change, but It’s the little things like that – and bear in mind that Coupling was made a good few years before Doctor Who returned – that make me feel like the programme’s going to stay in Moffat’s good hands, and that there’s precious little danger of him stopping right now; not when there’s a new Doctor to get excited over!

Doctor Who Peter Capaldi

Me and cinemas

I don’t like going to the cinema. For the most part I absolutely adore the films I make the effort to go and see in the cinema, but that’s a far lower number per year on average than a film buff like me should admit to.

At my local multiplex it starts with just the usual stuff – it’s expensive, the drinks are syrupy and the seats are uncomfortable, of course – but the whole film-going experience is usually soured for me before the blurry BBFC certificate even comes up.

Bernard Black cinema quote

Seat allocation

Cineworld is now allocating seats, which is all well and good for an opening Friday night, but me and my lady went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past (which was bloody BRILLIANT by the way – I’ll have more on that soon) on a Tuesday afternoon, 3pm screening. The screening room wasn’t empty but there certainly wasn’t any jostling for position – we took our pre-determined seats near the back without any cause for confusion with other ticket-holders. The onscreen placeholder now says “Seat Allocation – are you sure you’ve got the right seats?” before the film starts, to which I felt like – even if we haven’t, it would be silly of someone to try and get them when there are so many free ones, and not to mention a bit creepy if some random decides to get their seat next to yours in an otherwise empty room.

I don’t even like sitting in a full screening – I realise the value of a live comedian playing to a full room, but sure as hell don’t get the appeal of watching a film in a room that’s jam-packed with mouth-breathers laughing and/or gasping. (In fact I don’t mind admitting my own out-loud reactions as the film played: mainly “euggghh” every time Halle Berry appeared.)

The ads

Then comes the adverts. Not the trailers, the adverts. Commercials are for television, a platform that’s mostly commercially-funded, but if I’ve paid cash money to watch a film in the cinema then why should I have to sit through ads before the film starts? I hate it. They’re not even the usual TV ad fare – the tone is even more sickeningly aspirational than you’d see on the box. It wouldn’t be such a problem but I’m here in this case to watch a (prequel to a) film about (the) Apocalypse – the rise of the machines which are coming to destroy an entire race of people. I’m not about to wish it all away just to sip soft drinks with my grinning idiot friends or eat pizza without a crust on it. I’m here to escape from real life, dammit, not be reminded of how aspirational and smug its inhabitants can be.

Worst of all, having spent the past ten years telling you to turn your phones off before the film begins, they’re now telling you to keep them on and use their app during the special adverts! Thanks to the wonder that is Cinime you’re supposed to leave your phone on until the film starts!

“Once you’ve got your snacks and drinks and found your seat, switch your phone to silent and leave your cinime app open. It’ll respond and interact with the screen while you sit back and enjoy the ads, delivering content, offers and discounts directly to your phone.”

I cannot begin to describe how much this outrages me. I work in marketing, for fuck’s sake, and even I’m sick of the word ‘content’ being bandied about when it’s not a part of my bloody job! I shouldn’t be offering consumers ‘content’, I should be offering them words, pictures, music and videos. It’s a bloody lazy thing to do, it really is. For advertisers it seems that turning your mobile off at the cinema was just fine until they realised they could try to make money from you by ignoring the rules of common courtesy and getting you to leave them on.

(To be fair, the one advert they ran during this special section – which came with a special intro and outro and so looked very odd to only contain one ad – was for Scope, a charity that’s doing such good things for such deserving people that I don’t even mind giving them the link.)

Luckily my cinema-going experience improved mightily as about half an hour into the film I knew it was going to be awesome, and it was. But the whole painful preceding part is enough to make me stay away from the cinema almost entirely these days, and that’s not only sad but also quite probably responsible for so much of the ‘downloadin’’ that the guy from that GI Joe PSA takes so much offence to.

For me to pay a lot of money for cinema tickets, food and drink, and then have the piss taken out of me at every turn by money-grabbing shits all the way up until the film starts – more than half an hour after the screening starts by the way if you include the trailers which obviously vary in intrigue – is just interminable. The film has to be really, really promising for me to even bother any more. And that makes me sad.

The Dark Knight Returns – Animated Movie part 1

DC Comics continues its fine run on animated adventures.

We have this running joke in my family where, if we’re buying a present for someone that we’d definitely be interested in watching/playing ourselves first, we wrap it up in clingfilm before wrapping it as if to say “no, this is the original shrinkwrapping, of course I didn’t use it first”. So when my brother gave me a clingfilmed copy of TDKR Part One for Christmas, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he actually did get a viewing in before me.

TDKR animated movie

Based on the seminal Batman graphic novel of the same name, TDKR takes up the story of a Gotham City that hasn’t been protected by the Dark Knight for a decade. As Commissioner Gordon prepares for a peaceful retirement, it seems he’s spent the last ten years trying to keep Bruce Wayne in his own. But the itch to live dangerously and do the right thing keeps on needling at Wayne and, with the rise of a criminal youth known as the Mutants, Wayne decides to don the cowl once again.

Although a non-canon contribution, so much of the current general consensus of Batman’s background, themes and motifs come directly from Frank Miller’s original work; a lot of the Nolan trilogy owes itself to the comics too – which is why I was initially nervous about this animated movie which features the voice acting of Peter Weller as Batman/Wayne; in much the same way as I get nervous about remakes, reimaginings, sequels and prequels (see Weller’s other famous work, Robocop for example), is my panic justified?

On this occasion, no, I really don’t think so. DC knows how much of Batman’s resurgence in the late 80s was owed to TDKR, and so it knows how this source material needed to be treated with respect. I really enjoyed this version and, although I’d tell anyone to read the comic first, it does serve as a great introduction to anyone who puts the Nolan trilogy’s dark overtones above any of the camp sensibility put up by the previous films.

It works precisely because it’s so faithful to the comics – there are no unexpected sharp diversions from the original text or additional characters sprinkled in to mix up the pot some. This reverence works to its extreme credit, with great pacing and tone that’s as fast and furious then in turn dark and brooding as the comic itself. At times I was reminded of watching an anime like Akira in terms of style; it’s probably a standard feel for the translation of any comic to animation – and no bad thing at all to compare it to. That pacing is what makes for such a good build. While the dialogue has been updated for the modern age (the comic’s nearly as old as I am…no, not that old) it still doesn’t take away from the exact thing it’s trying to convey; the world is trying to move on without Batman, but can it really survive without a protector?

One character that’s always torn Batfans is Carrie Kelley; the plucky teenager whose life Batman saves from a Mutant gang, and ends up donning her homemade Robin costume in an effort to assist Batman in fighting the young threat. I think she’s a fantastic addition in the comics – the missing link between Batman and a new kind of Gotham which grew up without him – and I liked her just as much in this film, although her initial streetwise attitude was a little much at first.

Batman, of course, is Batman – and very well voiced by Peter Weller to add just a slight waver of uncertainty to the voice of his new campaign of justice. I do wish that the film included some of Wayne’s inner monologue from the comics though – his cursing himself for making elementary mistakes and blaming it on age.

The Dark Knight Returns so far is absolutely worth a watch – I stopped writing this review after one paragraph to go and order Part Two. Read the comic first though!

Can you recommend any other DC animated movies for me?

Redshirts, Red Dwarf and Reflexivity

Sci-fi parody only works if you’ve established the generic conventions properly – Redshirts doesn’t hold a candle to Red Dwarf in that respect.

And so, my new blog begins just the way I wanted it to – a massive bitchfest about an underwhelming science fiction trope.

As I’ve mentioned before, I found the sci-fi book Redshirts rather disappointing; as Ez from Geekocracy put it even better in the comments: “the whole thing sank under the weight of its own meta-smugness”.

Redshirts TV series adaptation

The book aimed to show a new side to the poor unfortunates who meet their grisly deaths on Away Team missions. These are the eponymous Redshirts who, as per the trope established in the original Star Trek series, were basically expendable; played as they always were by non-speaking actors who joined the major characters Spock and/or Kirk as they beamed onto alien planets to establish what evil alien presence they were dealing with each week.

Giving these expendable people a voice and a shipside life of their own is an amusing touch that I’m fairly certain should’ve been done by now in various spoofs and parodies. If it hasn’t, then Hollywood’s missed a trick. The additional layer of meta arrives by the bucketload as we discover along with Ensign Andy Dahl that they are, in fact, these very same minor characters in a script that’s being written for them as part of a TV show in another dimension.

My main quibble with the book’s ‘meta-smugness’ is that, in itself, being a purposely expendable character in a decades-old science fiction programme is all well and good, but having an entire story revolve around your, well, pointlessness, isn’t really much of a thing.

So I was quite shocked to see that, according to Deadline, some rather impressive Hollywood types will be adding a limited-series adaptation of Redshirts to their impressive CVs; including Ken Kwapis who worked on The American Office.

I see how Kwapis wants to be involved; he made (well, helped adapt) a brilliant sitcom that focuses on making ordinary people extraordinary; namely the staff of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre, so there’s plenty that can be done on making these ordinary ensigns into the masters of their own destiny.

With good writing and direction, it’s even feasible that this could be entertaining enough to work out as a TV series. My one main worry is that Paramount/Viacom/whoever owns Star Trek are just going to, plainly and simply, sue the shit out of them.

Redshirts doesn’t exist without Star Trek. That’s a fact. So how do they expect to make a programme out of the source material, especially if they hope to make it an effective enough parody that doesn’t just lift directly from Gene Roddenberry’s extremely well-established universe?

Parody, pastiche, whatever you want to call it – all things much better done from as broad a base to borrow from as possible. The trope-within-a-trope that is, Redshirts die on Star Trek, isn’t something which can necessarily carry across any range of story or breadth of genre. Is it enough of a thing to rip from if you don’t own the entire rest of the generic conventions to fit in alongside it? Does the parody hold much weight when it’s been entirely supplanted from something else?

One example of something which pulled off a much more convincing meta-collapse for me was the Back to Earth mini-series of British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, produced in 2009 to celebrate the programme’s 20th anniversary. (Incidentally, celebrity fan Patrick Stewart claims he once took one look at an early episode and tried to call his lawyer for Trek infringement.)

After eight series of blundering through space, avoiding swirly things and rubbish puppet monsters, the crewmembers realised halfway through this special visit to a far-off distant Earth, the home planet of last human Dave Lister, that they, too, were being written into – and soon out of – their very existence. (Even this included a great, great many nods to Blade Runner (which in turn came out of a book)).

The difference in Back To Earth was that, having followed these cult characters for a decade onscreen in their own universe and missing them for another decade off, the joke was on all of us: the crew found out that they did not truly exist in their own reality; nor did they have a reality to exist in. Lame as the joke turned out to be, it took a showdown between Lister and the bloke who plays him (on the set of the latter’s one other notable work) to let it sink in.

reddwarfcorrie

So the joke may be a letdown in the end, but at least Back To Earth fully satisfies the requirement of self-reflexivity to be something ‘meta’ in the first place – emphasis on self; it built up its own, albeit rather large pile of playing blocks over 20 years before knocking them down by itself. Redshirts, on the other hand, requires a whole new set of playing blocks off a lot of other contributors – in this case, pretty much exclusively the entire set of generic conventions and tropes laid down by one single text that doesn’t belong to them – before it can start knocking them down.

Not very original.

Just thinkin’ of Bill.

Love, Laughter and Truth

Twenty years ago today, Bill Hicks died.

I wasn’t aware of his work until after he’d passed, but I believe so much in what he stood for that I couldn’t let this day go by without saying that.

american-the-bill-hicks-story-cowboy-hat-england-london

His onstage sense of humour and delivery was always acerbic, often controversial, and frequently peppered with dick jokes if he ever felt like he was losing an audience. But he wasn’t onstage night after night solely to entertain. Of course it was a big part of it – his efforts to assimilate into mainstream culture coming mainly out of a ‘if you can’t beat ‘em’ attitude – but there was so much more to the man than that.

It will have been exactly ten years ago today that I stood onstage with my band in Wakefield, telling terrible jokes between songs, and then dedicating a song to the memory of Bill. Just a few months later I’d be cracking wise onstage as an actual comedian rather than lead singer. Bill made me want to do that.

As with most of my geeky passions, it was my older brother who got me listening to and heeding the words of this foul-mouthed gentleman at around the age of 13 or 14 – far too young to even get most of his adults-only material, let alone the message of peace and love he ultimately preached.

Once I’d grasped the concept that, beneath all those filthy layers of dark, twisted humour lay a message of hope that anyone of any creed or colour could identify with, his act became one of my favourites of all time. His act was filth, there are no two ways about it; from the sexual acts performed on the devil by wannabe popstars in the name of fame and fortune, to the simpler, baser needs – “gloves, scarves, rosy-cheeked women” – of a man who smoked, drank and drugged across the nation; first with his gang of Outlaws in Texas before settling for a strangled life in one of the two American entertainments capitals just to try and establish himself – Hicks never once shied away from the heavy stuff which would make more approval-hungry comedians head for the hills.

And that’s why I admire Bill Hicks. In a world which continues to peddle product at the expense of artistic development, and a nurturing environment cast aside for hothousing starlets before tossing them to the kerb, we needed Bill to have his say; to let his message remain on Earth long after he’d departed it, succumbing to pancreatic cancer at the age of just 32.

Of all the biographical accounts of Hicks I’ve devoured over the years, one story has long since stayed with me; out taking psychotropic drugs on a ranch with his best friends, Bill once pointed to a pain he felt on his left side, claiming that it’s where he’d been wounded in a past life. This same pain, the one he only felt when ‘rrrrrrrreeeeeal fuckin’ high on drugs’ was similar to the one which would be diagnosed, long before he’d even been diagnosed or was even suffering.

It’s as if he knew his time would be over prematurely. God knows the man told enough jokes about Jesus; to assume himself in some similar role would be ridiculous. But beyond that has always existed the story of the messenger; the strange man in a strange land, who spread his message of peace before his time was up.

And to me, that was Bill.

Sorry about that ladies and gentlemen, I promise, the dick jokes will happen next time.

Who Will Face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX?

Naming four potential Wrestlemania XXX opponents for The Undertaker.

Few WWE wrestlers have had such an impact on sports entertainment as The Undertaker; making his full debut at the 1990 Survivor Series, and accompanied for years by the late, great Paul Bearer, the man known in real life as Mark Calaway has carved out a tremendous 20-year career with his in-ring speed and intensity, and unique characterisation which has always struck fear into opponents. Among many other accomplishments he’s a seven-time WWE champion, but these days it’s The Streak which keeps fans coming back year on year. He has not lost a single one of his 21 matches at Wrestlemania, and the lure of defending The Streak forms a big part of the WWE’s Wrestlemania plans each year.

WWE Undertaker Wrestlemania XXX

The Undertaker at a previous ‘Mania. Image by Simon Q.

Two decades of destruction have taken their toll on the native Texan, who pretty much only wrestles at the biggest event on the WWE calendar. Despite some flops – the handicap match against the Big Show and A-Train anyone? – the booking surrounding The Streak is a huge priority to attract interest in what this year will be a massive landmark event; the match needs the right opponent for The Undertaker and the right circumstances to make it a killer rivalry. And so, just two months away from the thirtieth Wrestlemania – not to mention his 49th birthday – which Superstar will be chosen to take on the chance to end The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak?

Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan Royal Rumble 2014

Daniel Bryan – image by Krystal Bogner

He shocked the world of wrestling when he finally, under intense psychological and physical pressure, joined the Wyatt Family on Raw last week. (We all knew it was coming though, why else would Daniel Bryan grow that epic beard?) Just a week later we saw some tension between Bryan and cult leader Bray Wyatt, but if the writers do as good a job of teasing a split as they with The Shield then we should be in for some great action between now and Wrestlemania XXX.

Of course, the main problem with Bryan as an opponent – unless Taker happens to capture the World Title before Wrestlemania! – is that we all want, nay, need to see Bryan winning the Royal Rumble later this month, which would put him in a World title match instead. Taker has apparently personally requested Bryan as his WMXXX opponent, which means that Bryan must remain heel until then in order to truly jeopardise The Streak. Perhaps the Wyatt Family will focus their attention on taking down Taker on the Road to Wrestlemania XXX?

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar Wrestlemania XXX

Brock Lesnar. Image by Krystal Bogner

Former MMA fighter Brock Lesnar recently resurfaced in the WWE to announce his intention to pursue the WWE World Heavyweight Title; challenging John Cena and Randy Orton to face him for the belt somewhere down the line. If this comes off then we could expect to see him in title action at the Elimination Chamber – whether that would be among the competitors in the main match itself or elsewhere on the bill remains to be seen.

Assuming that Lesnar’s pretty much part-time schedule prevents him from an unsuccessful title bid, it’s quite possible that he’ll turn his attention to breaking The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak instead. Since their real-life-or-was-it-face-off at a UFC event in 2010, the match has been greatly anticipated by fans; however, such a potentially brutal match – which it would have to be to really threaten the outcome – would do the near 50-year old Deadman no favours as he nears the end of his career. With pundits speculating that Taker only has three good matches left in him, this one would have to take place sooner rather than later.

Batista

Batista WWE Wrestlemania XXX

Batista – image by Krystal Bogner

Before even stepping back in the WWE ring, we’ve been promised that Dave Batista will be competing in the 2014 Royal Rumble. At 44 years of age, he too may have his work cut out for him if he is to make a real impact in the ring during 2014. However, he’s been busy making films and staying in shape, and – much like The Rock who impressed so much during his last run – he could really hit the headlines by challenging Undertaker to a match at Wrestlemania XXX.

The Animal is the longest-reigning World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history among his six world title reigns and, if pushed to produce the same fine form which won him Feud Of The Year against The Undertaker in 2007 – where he became another notch on the belt at Wrestlemania 23 – the two veterans could produce a few surprises this time around.

Dean Ambrose

Dean Ambrose The Shield Wrestlemania XXX

Dean Ambrose – image by Krystal Bogner

Who better to bring the story full circle than the man who, alongside his teammates in The Shield, was responsible for the fall of The Undertaker the very last time we saw him in action? It was the week after Wrestlemania 29 when, while attempting to pay his respects to dearly-departed friend Paul Bearer, Undertaker was attacked by the Hounds of Justice.

He was powerbombed through the announce table, and that was the last we’ve seen of the legendary Superstar – until later this year that is. With The Shield now in the process of splitting up, and their current target CM Punk apparently locked in for a match with Authority leader Triple H, this will nicely free up the leader of the stable for some vengeance served up Undie-style in the next few weeks.

With the Streak standing strong at 21-0, and Wrestlemania XXX providing a nice round number for a wrestler getting on in years, will this be the final time we see the Phenom? Who would you like to see attempt to break the one thing which has kept wrestling fans on tenterhooks for the past two decades?

E4 Geeks: Episode Five

E4 Geeks: Episode Five – In which geeks just can’t get along because reality TV is a load of bollocks.

E4 Geeks Becca

…it can even drive you to drink. Photo of and credit: Becca Moriarty.

The reality TV torture continues with another episode of E4’s Geeks, which in this episode sees seven geeks take to the party scene in Los Angeles. Three Comic Con female fans join up with four World of Warcraft players in this episode, and are shown a good time at some cool nightlife spots by David Hasselhoff…

…’s daughter, who I’ve literally never heard of (unless she’s the one holding the camera in that viral video of him being all drunk.) I’ll get this out of the way; Taylor may know the hottest spots and the places to be seen, but personally I don’t even give her dad credit as A Thing That Happened To Culture, so why should I be any more tolerant of his offspring? She seems nice and all, but I’m assuming she’s been paid a fair whack of cash just to let them tag along to the bars and clubs that she would be going to regardless. Taylor bumps into our Cosplaying girls Ashleigh, Aisha and Becca (the latter two of whom you can follow in cosplay adventure at their great website) as they relax on the beach following a day of staring at be-pectoraled men on Venice Beach. As you do. Pfft.

Anyway. I’ve been doing some more of the old investigative journalism on the old Twitter, so I’ll say this about the WoW players and absolutely no more: I’m not entirely sure they’re the socially awkward type which this programme claims to champion in any way, shape or form. Their seemingly low-key holiday (which again, may have been edited so as to appear that way) takes a backseat to bitchiness as Ashleigh and Aisha disagree over the right way to spend their holiday. Aisha feels that Ashleigh is being too friendly with the boys to the extent that it makes the girls feel unwelcome, while Ashleigh is convinced that Aisha is just being a fuddy duddy. The awkward scenes that the programme tries to set up following these social skirmishes just makes for more of that birdsong-heavy background ambience while the boys stare at their shoes and poor Becca, caught in the crossfire, makes pleas for everyone to just get along.

Becca E4 Geeks

Marvel Girl and Wolverine in LA; by Becca Moriarty

The producers must have been relieved that they were able to engineer a situation arising from that friction because their Plan A was dead in the fucking water from the get-go. Without so much as an innocent flirtation between either party, the boys are practically falling over each other to blurt out that they’ve nearly all got girlfriends. The scenes were clearly edited in the wrong order because it’s only then that, with the other girls in bed, Ashleigh hangs out with the boys by the pool and we’re battered around the face with the impression that she’s flirting with them. She isn’t; she said as much when casually stating that she has more male friends than female.

Aisha goes on to accuse the boys of having a bad attitude, which gets a bit tiresome throughout the episode – that is, if you were to believe a second of the bullshit editing which would otherwise have you believe that they are just miserable sods. But they aren’t; they just didn’t necessarily expect to be sharing their holiday with strangers!

What shocked me more than anything is that I found myself agreeing with the tiresome voiceover man for the first time ever. As one of the girls laments that she never had the time to get to know Taylor, what with her being cool and a celebrity, Matt Edmondson cuts in with “…well, the daughter of a celebrity.” I’m as stunned as you are, readers.

Aisha E4 Geeks

Aisha with a mystery holiday friend! Photo by Becca Moriarty

I’m not going to waste my tired, sleep-deprived fingers on the twist ending; where it turns out that not all is rosy between Aisha and Ashleigh after all, because by that point – over an hour into the recording including breaks, the producers must have really thought they were onto a winner if they extended the runtime – I was just about done with them playing up the catfight angle to the detriment of the entire boys’ group; one of the few times we see them together, at the batting cages, the talk of the day is why the girls are arguing! They must have been a real bunch of boring sods…or perhaps not if their Twitter banter is to be believed.

Once again, what could easily have been a perfectly pleasant holiday with some minor disputes – absolutely nothing that doesn’t happen on holiday anyway, for god’s sake – is blown out of all proportion. It’s sad because our cast of geeks is once again made out to be beyond help despite their clearly being able to function within normal society.

The girls did look great in cosplay. At least there’s that. And their trip to JapanTown – holy crap, that place looks amazing!

Let’s end on the Cornette Face again because, well, why not.

E4 Geeks

E4 Geeks: Episode Four

Just before my favourite reality TV show Geeks on E4 got buried in the 11.00 time-slot, I was unfortunate enough to watch episode four as it went out rather than just recording it for future fist-shaking and general sadness.

E4 Geeks

In this episode three magicians from Yorkshire met a group of girls who dubbed themselves the SuperWhoLocks – a combination of their three favourite programmes (and again, while a fair enough thing to bond over, not really much to identify yourself by for the purposes of geek profiling which this programme enjoys so much) for another sun-soaked adventure and being stared at by the locals.

Sadly, the passing of time and my own attempts to repress all mention of the programme – plus a fairly hectic and hugely enjoyed festive period, thanks for asking – has greatly reduced my ability to review this episode. I made my usual notes on it but sadly these make little sense in the cold light of…well, 4am as I type to be fair.

However, having spoken to one of the cast over Twitter at length, I’ve been able to piece together something of a controversy!

While the group were all clearly having fun (as the programme wants you to believe), with two of the three magicians working their magic and wowing the crowds – making new friends on holiday is part of the fun – not so much for mind-reader Chris, who abruptly left the programme about halfway through.

It seems that the razzle-dazzle of reality TV proved not enough for Chris to fully enjoy himself, despite his clearly having fun on the boat party it proved something of a last hurrah as he departed quickly after. Those clever TV producers weren’t fully able to erase the impression that he actually was having fun though, so he quietly sailed off into the night soon after – and let’s just say, that decision to leave wasn’t entirely on him.

This conversation really did bring home the idea that reality TV isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially if the producers have an ideology and an agenda that must be seen through no matter what its participants may actually believe. Which makes it all the more shocking, jarring even, that good times were actually being had aboard that boat by someone who we wanted to be told was actually just antisocial and a loser, itching to be back home with his giant flash cards.

The rest of this post will contain some of my notes plus some explanation if I remember the reference. I don’t expect they’ll make sense, but there you go. Apologies. I’ll make it up with a better examination of the remaining episodes in the near future; only two to go and then I think we can safely say that it’s game over for Geeks on E4.

 

I can’t believe I’m wasting another hour of my life here.

Yorkshire magicians. Ace. (A cool hobby based in the best of all counties. I’m sold.)

Tom – broke up with a girl over magic. Dedicated.

“Look at that concentration!” – yeah, he’s a magician mate.

“Magic can be exhausting!” – yeah, it takes concentration mate.

The narrator’s really reaching for the sarcasm with these boys. (What’s so wrong about a pursuit which is, though something of a fringe activity, an activity which nonetheless attracts hundreds of thousands of paying customers, TV and Youtube viewers year on year? He’s having to try really hard to make these guys out as anything other than cool people.)

“Conversational Dalek?” Daleks speak English, you prick.

Especially socially awkward girls, not like previous weeks. (To begin with, although Chris explained a lot of this to me was down to part of the artificial storyline they had to cook up for his departure.)

Definitely a set-up now. “Do you girls have any mutual interests?” (Seriously, if you try that line on a group of people in future you will definitely get the same weird looks these lads did.)

The narrator is now resorting to jokes he knows for a fact are shit because there is NOTHING else to go on.

“Is Chris going home?” He’s well within his rights to be shocked! He just wanted a trip with the boys!

He made Aida a lovely birthday card (using what little he had to go on, it’s the thought that counts!)

And again, ripping on them for not going raving! They’re having drinks together, getting to know each other better! It would be rude not to!

“Fifteen years and no social life”. This man is my hero.

Tom is very, very good at magic.

Chris shares the same anxieties as many people “I don’t see the point if it doesn’t make you happy.” Like me watching this. (I think that I was just trying to say here that Chris is not the only person in the whole world who worries about silly things, and gets anxious. And yet, he’s being made out as a proper leper. It’s well fucking harsh.)

Shaun’s about to do magic. “We’re all rooting for you!” says the narrator. Well, it only took three and a half episodes but finally we get a compliment. Maybe it’s because there’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can knock these lads for.

“Debbie McGee to his Paul Daniels.” – You’re not even fucking trying any more. I’ve heard you do better than that.

“Tom has a girl under his spell.” Fuck you. “He spoke to a girl!” Sod off.

 

I think this must have been one of the less controversial ones. If Chris hadn’t left, there would have been absolutely nothing to go after all these lovely people for. It would’ve been a waste of the cost of a holiday. Oh well. I’m done. Four down, two to go and then I promise we will never speak of this again.