TEN DAYS OF TV, DAY 8: DAVE ALLEN

Over ten days, I’m chatting about TV shows that have helped make me the bent, broken old ruin that I am. A week’s worth have already been logged. Today, it’s the angry God of television comedy.

allen

Once there was a time when I was only allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch three things: the FA Cup final, the Wimbledon Men’s Singles final, and Dave Allen. Put simply, he was simply too brilliant, too funny, too ground-breaking not to share. And for parents who found Monty Python too middle class, the Goon Show too silly, and whose comic sensibilities could be enclosed within The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, and telling unbelievably racist jokes when drunk, Allen was as edgy and naughty as it got.

The truth is, of course, that Allen *was* edgy. He tore into the Catholic Church at a time when you simply didn’t, lampooned the Royal Family, made jokes at the expense of the IRA and any other dangerous social topic that crossed his precise, laser-focussed gaze. He engaged with the foibles of sex in a frank, knowing way– no sniggering, no winking, just straight sex jokes from adult to adult. He made death painful, and lasting, and *funny*. In an era where everyone I saw on TV treated adult topics as if they were trying to knock Ronnie Barker off his double-entendre throne, Allen looked his audience in the eye and said “Hey, we’re all grown ups here. Let’s be honest.”

As I type this, I’m listening to my children watching an Adam Sandler “hur hur, boobs, poo, hur hur penis” movie in the other room. It simply highlights how fortunate I was, at a young age, to be exposed to this master comic, with his brilliant timing, his perfect turn of phrase, his relentlessly acerbic and wise approach to life, and the example he set: that anything was fair game; that an audience can be treated as intelligent, knowing equals; and that an artist can reasonably expect his audience to rise to his level without compromising his vision.

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.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

Yeah, it has, hasn’t it. Much Real Life ™ has been the cause. Anyway, moving on….

TWO THOUGHTS THAT OCCUR TO ME WHILST WATCHING MATT JAMES ON THE CITY GARDENER

1. Cor, I love the gardens he creates

2. Why, in 5 years of high school guidance counsellors, did nobody ever offer ‘celebrity gardener’ to me?

THE HIDDEN SECRET OF THE MELBOURNE CUP

It’s just a fucking horse race.

BATTERSBY’S OBSCURE ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FOUND IN THE DUSTY CORNERS OF POPULAR CULTURE: THE FIRST IN A SERIES

Where: The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Ballantine Books, page 378
Answer: No, it was Keith David.

FOR I HAVE BOOKS!

Reading has been high on the agenda at the Batthome in days recent: a plethora of books have come our way, courtesy of contributor copies and the good folks at Powell’s. To whit:

My contributor’s copies of Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Volume 20 and Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy Volume 3 are here, both of which contain Father Muerte & The Flesh.

Daikaiju III, the last of Rob Hood & Robin Pen’s outrageous and fun Daikaiju series stomped into the house as well, containing Beached. Lyn’s story Born of Woman is a highlight of DII, so pick them both up at the same time and see how differently we treat the same brief.

And thanks to the Lords of Paypal, The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet now sits upon my reading table. By turns outlandish and delightful, this is rapidly becoming my book of the year, filled with a terrifically entertaining array of weirdness. It’s certainly the most I’ve been engaged in a book since reading The Book of slipstream earlier in the year.

MOVIE PROGRESS

Contracts arrived, were signed, and sent back. Now we wait for the Director to read the script and decide on what (if anything, he says with an air of utter naivete) needs changing. The project remains at a fork: we still move forward, although, should the producers fail to attract a shooting budget, and the film not reach principal photography stage, I could still walk away with nothing but a large chunk of the year chalked up to experience.

Dear God, I’m a simple man…….

CLARION 2009 TUTORS ANNOUNCED

Durnit: I had a blast at Clarion South 2007, and it stands as a highlight of my professional career. But I’ve not made the cut as far as being invited back to teach again next time out. That, however, is my disappointment. You, on the other hand, should be very excited indeed by the ‘greatest hits’ lineup of former tutors who have been announced as your guides through the emotional and professional bombardment that will be Clarion South 2009. In no particular order except the actual order in which they’ll appear, they are:

Sean Williams
Marianne de Pierres
Margo Lanagan
Jack Dann
And two entire weeks of Kelly Link & Gavin Grant.

Call me biased, but to me, that’s a genuinely exciting line up.

A CRYPTIC MESSAGE OF LOVE TO TWO OF OUR LOVELIEST FRIENDS

Star Wars on the accordion to you both, guys. We miss you.

ASSIST MY GEEK-NEED

Hey, anybody out there got any MST3K they’d be willing to let me and Aidey-baby borrow for a week or so?

We’ve only got 4 episodes on our hard drive, and now we’vew watched them all, and the local video store counterdrones look at us like we’re two-headed alien babies if we ask for anything weirder than Ghost in the Shell.

DVDs….. OBSESSION….. DVDs….. OBSESSION…… NOPE, I CAN’T HEAR THE DIFFERENCE

So Aiden and I met up in town the other day and did some window shopping. And, you know, ducked into Empire Toys, because, well, you know. And, you know, they had the 1st series of Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law…….

So we’ve been laughing our asses off every evening since.

2nd season is released in October….

And The Venture Brothers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force is on DVD too….

And it’s my birthday in a few weeks.

And Christmas is coming up.

Lyn, you reading this?

ARRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

September 19th today. Talk like a Pirate day.

Happy 🙂

A SHORT MOMENT OF PANIC

Luscious has just realised that going off to Femmecon this weekend means she’ll miss the 2nd part of the Doctor Who 2-parter this Saturday night, and as we don’t have a VCR, we can’t tape it.

Anybody got a DVD/burn copy they fancy lending us sometime?

HOODWINKED

Is a damn good idea ruined.

Too adult for the four year old, too slow for the adults, and the animation was bad in a way I haven’t seen for years (C’mon, how could you forget to put shadows under people so they don’t look like they’re walking three inches above the ground?). The few moments of genuine humour are spaced too far apart to justify even the short 80 minute journey. It’s hard to see who this movie is aimed at. To be honest, it didn’t seem aimed at anybody, rather, it felt as if they just threw a whole bunch of ideas at a wall and kept what stuck.

In a way, it reminded me of Hudson Hawk in that there are some lovely bits (Patrickk Warburton’s Big Bad Wolf and Glenn Close’s Granny are great, as is the banjo-playing hillbilly goat) but the movie as a whole leaves you hollow and regretful.

I’m really disappointed. Presenting the Red Riding Hood story like a crime movie a la The Usual Suspects was a great idea, a chance to do something hip and self-aware and still throw enough light and movement in to keep the kiddies satisfied. But they blow it. What a pity.

YOU. WILL. BE. LIKE. USSSSUH.

I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by the new season of Doctor Who. I thought the first 3 episodes were well on the lame side, and whilst episode 4 represented a big increase in quality, I looked forward to the 2-part Cyberman revival with some trepidation.

Heh.

I am, perhaps, in the minority in that while I’ve always liked the Daleks, I’ve always loved The Cybermen. They are my monster of choice, and as soon as the resurrection of the Doctor was announced I knew they’d be back to join him. Some things, like Daleks and the TARDIS, simply cannot be done without.

For the most part, Saturday’s opening episode was solid without being spectacular. The zeppelins were cool: I mean, hey, they’re zeppelins. The Ricky/Mickey storyline was looking interesting. But the flaws and logic holes that have plagued the first 16 episodes were there in abundance, large and obvious for all to see. And then….

You. Will. Be. Like. Usssuh.

I actually jumped in my seat for joy. They were back, just like they were meant to be. Logical, implacable, desperate, terrifying. As Luscious will testify, I was still breaking out into fan boy giggling fits three hours after the episode was finished. And then, the next morning, the A-boy reminded me of that other great Cyberman quote, and I can’t wait another 5 days to find out if the writers think it’s the perfect ending, like we do:

We. Will. Survivvvvvuh.

Pleasepleasepleaseplease…..

THE MEMORY GETS BIGGER

Luscious received a phone call from Producer Matt during the week. Seems my script for the The Memory of Breathing movie has been well received. So well, in fact, that they want me to prepare a second draft. At feature length.

It’s a long, long way from here to there, but if everything that needs to fall into place falls into place, Memory could be a feature film, written (at least the first two drafts), by me.

My guidance counsellor didn’t see that one coming…

PRIDE

Luscious starts her job on Monday. A wee while ago, we decided to swap places– she would go out to work and I would stay at home and be the house husband. I’m so proud of the way she’s gone about looking for work, and the way she negotiated to create the position she wanted out of the one that was advertised, it makes me determined to keep my end of the deal up: she deserves the best home envirnoment possible to reward her dedication and care for this family.

Anyone know the number for a good cleaner? 🙂

FINAL DAYS OF DARYL HANNAH

I’ve always liked Daryl Hannah, because I think she’s been a better actress than much of the material she’s chosen, and you know, she’s hot. But we sat through the first episode of The Final Days of Planet Earth during the week, and oh God, everyone involved should be hauled off to the salt farm and have their skin flensed from them before being put to work. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a derivative, illogical, badly acted (although calling what Gil Bellows does ‘acting’ would be gilding a field of lilies), incompetently produced pile of crap.

We didn’t bother with part 2, which is unusual for this family of completists. But I only have one life span: I have to make it count.

DAY OFF

So my wife woke up yesterday morning and decided to kick me out of the house for the day, to reward me for recent housey-put-togethery activities. Had me a water massage, shopped for some personal effects, lazed about the library reading gardening books (I’m really getting into designing our backyard at the moment, along with Aidey-baby), and took myself off to watch Aeon Flux, which I’ll chat about in the next paragraph. ‘Twas a brilliant day, and I came home a happy and refreshed Battboy. If you make it as far as Whitfords City shopping centre, I do recommend you lash out 20 bucks on a water massage. It is so choice.

But Aeon Flux: I’ve always defended Charlize Theron, because, you know…. but did the director have to remember she was a beautiful woman every 5 seconds and give us the obligatory ‘babe’ shot? Had this just been a B-grade dress-fest puff piece (you know, like a Matrix sequel) I could have got on with hating it and been happy. But the damn thing looks so beautiful, and suddenly, about two-thirds of the way through, they drop what could have been a brilliant philosophical core into the thing for no reason (and ultimately, no purpose), and so I left the cinema not hating it, but being disappoiointed at what the film could have been.

There was potential here for something that transcended the subject matter’s origins, and could have been a genuine genre classic. And they missed it, because they needed to dress the beautiful people. And despite all that, it was still a watchable 90 minutes of illogical puff. It just could have been something special. Damn damn damn. I am so sick of SF movies that leave me explaing to friends and family that no, that is not what I write.

NERDS RULE

So it was 10.45 am on a work day, I was in a cinema to see Aeon Flux, and there were something like 60 people in there with me, and 2 of the 3 previews were for X-3 and the latest Superman revival, and a significant percentage of the audience cheered to see both of them.

And the normals sneer at the nerds why?

QUESTION

Philip Seymour Hoffman is in Mission Impossible 3.
Vingh Rhames is in Mission Impossible 3.
Laurence Fishburne is in Mission Impossible 3.

So my question is: WHY? FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WHYYYYYYY?

SHREDDER

Officially, my shiny new office shredder is here because it helps me to keep things neat and tidy in the office. Unofficially, I love my compost bin, I love it and want to give it special papery treats every now and again…

Is that so wrong?

SWANCON MEETING

The first meeting of the Swancon 33 committee is tomorrow, at our house. Which makes me realise just how not-ready we are for it. Much cleaning is in evidence, including the 2 miniskips parked out the front. So much to do… On the other hand, I know who I want to invite as guests (Yay for guest-wrangler me), and I have some pretty strong opinions on what I want to see at the Con, so it should be an animated conversation. And we’re providing a taco lunch with vegetarian options, and if there’s anything more wrong in the culinary world than a vegetarian taco, well, I hope they bring it tomorrow 🙂

DR WHO STORY

So, let’s tick off the career goals I had when I started, shall we?

Story in Aurealis. Done
Story in Eidolon. Through the rise of Borderlands, done
Winner in the Writers of the Future. Done
Produce and perform an orginal Goon Show play. Done
Write for Dr Who. Oh well, nev…… STOP!

Thas right, peeps (don’t ask me, my fingers have gone all gangsta for a second). The frabjous Steven Savile, for whom I’ve just finished the first draft of my story The Ballad of Dwight & Renfield for his upcoming anthology Monster Noir, has contacted me and asked me to pitch an idea for an upcoming anthology of Dr Who stories he’s been commissioned to produce.

So I sent him two. Trust me, it took time to cut them down to that many…. More news as it happens, but if he picks one up I’m going to have to create some new goals. Like, you know, finish the second novel, sell the first one, that sort of thing.

HAND ME MY RUBBER SUIT, WOMAN!

Boys and I are off to the FTI tonight to see Godzilla: Final Wars.

Yeah, baby!!!!