5 FOR FRIDAY: TV COMEDIES THAT INFLUENCED ME

Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.

I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works.
5 FOR FRIDAY: AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: TV COMEDIES THAT INFLUENCED ME”

DOCTOR WHO-OOOOO, THE TARDIS

Apparently, the BBC will be announcing the new Doctor this Sunday. To be honest, I’m not that fussed: the British churn out so many excellent actors that you could throw a ping pong ball into any green room in the country and hit half a dozen candidates who would do an excellent job of playing a character whose main job qualifications these days appear to be “must be able to wear silly jacket, run while shouting, and express sorrow for stuff”; and secondly, Doctor Who’s been little better than average for the last few years and just simply isn’t as exciting, innovative, and satisfying as it used to be.

Also: get off my lawn you bloody kids!

So, while talk of Peter Capaldi and Russel Tovey and that bloke from Dirk Gently and will it be a woman and please god anybody but Dawn French yadda yadda is all well and good, I’m going to admit something– there’s a part of me that really hopes they announce that they’ve decided to go back and do Colin Baker properly.

That would be worth a laugh.

BE SEEING YOU

Two iconical television SF actors died during the week: you can take your pick as to whether Ricardo Montalban was best known to SF fans for his role as Mr Roarke in the fantasy sitcom Fantasy Island or his turn as Khan in the TV and film versions of Star Trek. I never watched Fantasy Island, and am no fan of Star Trek, so his impact on my own fandom was nil, but it can’t be denied that both shows have large and attentive fan bases, so his passing will be noted by many.

Of greater significance to my own, personal, karass was the death of Patrick McGoohan, who played the titular character in the groundbreaking series The Prisoner, amongst other things. I first discovered The Prisoner a few years ago through friends John and Sarah Parker, and became an instant devotee, immersing myself in the twists and turns of the show to the extent that Lyn and I were able to deliver a presentation at a recent convention asserting that the show itself represents a psychological journey on the part of Number Six, and that the various Number Twos represent the varieties of ‘adult’ personality he must choose between before he makes his return to the world of responsibility.

Like all other fans of the show I’ve talked with, I’ve been waiting for McGoohan to reveal the true narrative of the show, and validate all my wild theories and second guesses. Enigmatic to the end, he revealed nothing, and we are left only with his assertion that the clues are all there, to be pieced together as we may. Forty years after screening it is, to me, still the most complex, intriguing, and bedeviling piece of television ever made. It is slightly saddening that McGoohan never again reached such heights—two Emmys (for Columbo, of all things) and a brilliant star turn as Edward I in Braveheart seem scant reward for such an iconic personality. But I am a fan, fascinated as much by the man himself as his works, and I shall miss the hope that, even at 80, there may have been some great project still to come.

Dammit.

A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT

Nobody remembers the war against the Sirk. Hardly anybody knew it was happening. The Governments of the world covered it up, used it as the excuse for their own conflicts, their own schemes of expansion and death. But no matter how many of our own we killed, there was always one common aim: destroy the Sirk. Wipe them out. They came to us as refugees, begging our help. In return, we murdered them in their millions. Is it any wonder the survivors hide?

So begins Cirque, the TV show project I pitched for the Screenwest TV Awards recently. In the last couple of weeks I’ve also: sent my Australia Council grants application; sent my 2009 KSP Residency application; completed the first draft of Comfort, my submission to the Datlow/Mamatas-edited Hauntings anthology; proof-read the galley of my The Beast Within story The Claws of Native Ghosts; completed the fourth draft of The Possession of Mister Snopes, my submission to the upcoming Interstitial anthology; been pencilled in as editor for the 4th issue of the AHWAs new fiction magazine Midnight Echoes; and continued my mentoring of Jason Crowe and Ben Szumskyj.

I feel a bit like a writer.

DEEPLY DIGGING DEXTER

So first, at the behest of Lily Chrywenstrom, we rented and watched Season one of Dexter. Twelve hour-long episodes. It took us three days.

Before the viewing had finished, I found myself in the bookstore, with enough money to buy either of the two volumes they possessed- Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the first in the series, around which the TV show was based, and which, therefore, (I thought) would hold few suprises; or Dexter In The Dark, the third in the series. What the hell: I lumped for the first.

That took a day and a half.

Now I’m skint, and it’s not pay day until Thursday.

Sunuvabitch…….

NAMED! or WE KNOW WHAT YOU SAID LAST SUMMER….

BECAUSE OF LILY CHRYWENSTROM

5 episodes in, we’re hooked on Dexter.

There just aren’t enough serial killer romantic comedy-drama police procedural biopics, in my opinion…

FAR TOO LATE, SAYING YEAH, BUT! TO STEPHEN DEDMAN, A POST FOR THE PURPOSES OF…

Stephen Dedman is an extremely good friend of mine. But there are occasions, usually during conventions, and usually when we’re discussing television, when he is apt to cry out “Don’t you like anything?” in response to my dislike of shows that all about me are gushing over in admiration (Buffy, Angel, Babylon 5, whatever SF show is flavour of the month this Con… hey, I remember all those conversations about Dark Angel…).

Which always strikes me as odd, because I go home to my cabinet full of DVDs and my ongoing complaints that we watch too much TV, and the two things do not compute. Until this year’s Swancon, when it was made clear to me just how little I fit in with Perth fandom, and moreover, how little I was welcome.

So, in an effort to set Stephen’s mind at rest, and give him something else to feel exasperated at me about, a partial list of the TV I do enjoy, outside of the individual documentaries that make up most of my watching habit:

Battlestar Galactica v2
Blake’s Seven
Deadwood
Dexter
Garden Invaders
Invader Zim
Life on Mars
Matt James’ Eco Edens
Most Evil
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Original run Dr Who
Red Dwarf seasons 1-6
Spaced
The Brak Show
The City Gardener
The Fairly Odd-Parents
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
The Prisoner
The Venture Brothers
Time Team
Torchwood

All of which proves… something, I’m sure…

A BOOK FROM BALL

One of the most exciting emails I can receive from a friend is one that says simply “What’s your snail mail address?”: Grant Watson sent me one in the middle of an argument about David Bowie, and introduced me to his late-career electronica work via a hand-made ‘best of’ CD; Paul Haines did the same while we were both grokking our love for Thomas Dolby, and sent me a DVDs-worth of Dolby albums, film clips, and ephemera (including my first taste of the glorious Richard Cheese); and a few days back, after reading our blogs, Clarionite, insane genius, and the author of the best unicorn porn story I’ve ever read, (picture me, on my hands and knees with two other guys in a cramped student living room, index fingers pointing outwards from our foreheads, discussing bone density and the relative physics of stabbing versus charging…) Peter Ball did the same.

Yesterday, with a postcard tucked into it explaining that, as far as Peter is concerned, random bookness is one of the best potential cures for depression, we received a copy of The Nimrod Flip-Out by Israeli author Etgar Keret.

And what do you know? He’s right. It’s not the package, of course, but the thought behind it. But seriously, random packages (by which I don’t mean male gymnasts, oo-er!), how cool can you get?

JULIET, JASONI, AND NICKY WHOSE NAME REALLY SHOULD BEGIN WITH A J TO MAKE THIS TITLE A LOT SNAPPIER

Such incisive and caring correspondences. Such heartfelt and involving glimpses into their own lives. Such trust, and companionship, and freely offer vows of friendship. Such reaffirming statements of respect and amity.

Our thanks.