Guest Post – The Merits Of TV Shows Based On Movies

Guest Post – The Merits Of TV Shows Based On Movies

With the countdown to Twin Peaks, Westworld and Brave New World well and truly on the tick, I’m really looking forward to yet another movie-cum-TV series. In case you’ve made your mind up after coming across the likes of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, however, I thought I’d shed a little light on what’s decent among the more recent movie-to-TV genre.

The first notable jump in this direction was probably M*A*S*H*, right? Despite the added canned laughter and it getting dumbed down a little, still class. In recent years, there seems to be an acceleration of this cross-over, and even movies you’d assumed were safe on the DVD scrapheap get broken down into their constituent parts then sellotape’d together as some Frankenbride of their former selves. Out of the bunch (and there’s a bunch), the first I gave an actual shit about was Hannibal.

I was reticent. I’d grimly looked in the direction of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, twice, and it was shit, a half-decent movie expanded to a ten hour version of itself. Without the original well-cast cast, it boiled down to a very reduced ten minutes of the movie diluted up again with a further fifty minutes of weak rinse. With less and less caring put in and leaking tension like fuck, that extra fifty minutes per hour were getting real strung out. Just a fucking terrible idea.

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But yeah, Hannibal. Who the fuck is this main character with empathetic superpowers? Will I care? Oh wait, yes I will because it’s Will Graham! This cross-over was class. Fucking class. It charts the time between Red Dragon/Manhunter and Silence Of The Lambs. It’s very post-Hannibal Rising and very pre-Hannibal. And Jesus, Mads Mikkelsen is a Hannibal to rival one of cinema’s most iconic performances. He’s one suave bastid with a selection of lovely knives in a great kitchen and a selection of dapper ties that could put John Snow to shame. The goodies? Well, they work cases alongside him in this growing, melty tension which leaves the audience screaming at their screens as scene after intense scene is handled  with such a sweet finesse. Frames of this show belong in an art gallery.

One thing, though. I tried to go back to the beginning as a catch-up before the third series arrived and the first few episodes just looked real dated. Not sure this became true of the rest of it, but the look must have evolved so far, so fast and handled so well it dated itself… dunno. So stick with it if it does look a little dated, because it is just so fucking good. Dark as fuck too, so not for nippers or the ill. Oh, and don’t eat during the episodes. I know all gore turns the stomach to some degree, but no matter how hardened you are to the PTSD, your nice wee dinner will be ruined with this ultra-smart and hyper-crazy blood fest…  all very tasteful, of course. I mean who doesn’t aspire to be eaten by a more tasteful person? Is it maybe that they had free reign between a series of movies that this had such resonance with me? It was such a defined world already that, while all others were at mass this fella was making hay…? Dunno, but yeah, lethal.

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Next to Fargo. Season one is a very well teetered-out version of the film. Not like some other dung I have mentioned, Fargo’s extra bits and new characters expanded well. Can’t help comparing the original (which I have to say, in my mind is a better) cast, but the characters are strong enough to last one season. Martin freeman is deadly. Billy-Bob is fucking stunning. So yeah, it’s fine, BUT the second season is the deadly life saver of this wee gem. It’s a completely different story, although the small twist I don’t mind letting out is that it’s set a generation earlier. So the grand daughter of Ted Danson’s character in season two is the great case-cracking cop from season one, who incidentally, wasn’t in the movie. Odd but there y’go. Her da, the diner owner in season one, is the main lead in season two. Make sense? Of course it does, and perhaps the very talented Coens did have to skip a little, but I have to say – there was enough left in that beautiful and comedic world to justify a full season one. But fuck, even if you don’t, season two is a must. Dusk Til Dawn can go fuck itself. To split the performances up by who was best is hard as fuck, but I’ll try to point out a few extra-notable notables. Kirsten Dunst is unbe-fucking-lieveable, so much so i think I checked IMDB three times to make sure it was still her; her denial arc is just insanely class. The real horrid Gerhardt-asshole character is played by a relatively unknown actor (Jeffrey Donavan – bit part from 2015’s great movie Sicario) as is most of the cast but aye – him and his ma are both class. Danson and Wilson are class as lead investigators and aye – some other good performances from big names alongside class performances from unknowns there too. My favorite? That fucking mental Native American Indian who is just looking to watch the world burn. Class show. I see Ewan McGregor is in next year’s third season too, class.

What else, there’s loads of these; aye – Ash vs. Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell’s back. It’s great to see him play Ash again after so many other roles, and it’s a mental mash-up, his character being an even bigger moonbeam, thirty years on. Not really a movie straight to TV, but y’know, is.

Oh shit, Bates Motel… holy fuck, if you wondered on the reasons Norman Bates did what he did in that motel way back when, the writers got him spot on as a teenager in this one. There’s a lovely retro-look, insane story arcs and desperately good tension-building dialogue and action. Zizek has a class analysis of the psycho-dynamics of the super-ego, the ego and the id based on the original movie psycho… look at that… but here are three terrifying seasons which get all messy upside your head.

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I’m going to push one notable exception on you here, but it’s probably the best thing this year’s television has produced – Louis CK’s Horace and Pete. It’s a TV play – not a movie, but not TV, not really. There aren’t enough of these, and sticking with this tangent a little, Louis’s got a new one just started as well – Better Things. It’s deadly too, co-written by the lead, Pamela Adlon. It’s especially rewarding if you liked her in the recent series of Louie and a good compliment to the also-recent Motherland. But yeah, Horace and Pete? Great, dark fucking comedy with a Buscemi (Fargo), a Falco (The Sopranos) and an Alda (M*A*S*H*). See what synchronicity did there? A must. Some of the bar conversations are shit-your-pants funny, running alongside some of the saddest visuals I’ve ever seen. Beautiful piece of writing from a master.

There’s loads of these now that I think about it, all about to bip down wires to glare right in your facehole like you’re not even there. As I said, Westworld is due very soon, and Tremors too. Devil’s Advocate has a pilot due and Fatal Attraction as well. Frequency (80s Dennis Quaid becomes his future son – think time-traveling Freaky Friday) is still to be approved, and The Truman Show and Shutter Island both have the potential of very being good. Damien (that wee shit from possibly the scariest movie trilogy of all time, The Omen) is not good. I’m not sure either about elongated versions of Uncle Buck, Taken, Ghost, or Big. Or Bachelor Party. Or School of Rock. I just can’t see comedy classics, nostalgic classics or actually decent gore flicks doing well with the standard conversion track record of the genre. Who needs it with shows like Stranger Things kicking about? I liked Buffy, but remember, there have been  some real ruinations made in the name of once-greats; Terminator, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. They all could’ve been… but weren’t.

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There’s just loads, this is a can of worms I wish I’d let sink. But it’s fine. I’ll likely see all these and more along the way at some point, plus Rosemary’s Baby and Daredevil. Oh, and to finish up, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s good to see Marvel are doing it well, but Gotham, well it is a strange meld. DC are so far up their own hole at the minute, what with pushing out dung for dollar I’m just glad I’ve liked any of their output since Bale was Batman. Gotham yes, but why not Flash? Well here’s why. Arrow came first and they should have had his movie first, then the series, then a Flash movie, then all of Suicide Squad’s cast getting their movies, placed in the Flash series as best they could, all to the tune of a dark shouty Bale, and no, DC, you should NEVER have put that fucking Afflection into the world. Now it’s all just some fucked up multi-cast mess of a thing. Anyhow, ruined a perfectly healthy dependence on DC for me is all. Gotham’s fine, but yeah, bad DC…

While it is always good to see movies which have transcended the trap of being elongated episodes projected onto a bigger screen, we still have three hundred days of rain in Ireland, so stop fucking them up please; although, come to think on it, I do have a fuck ton of books sitting looking at me which aren’t going to read themselves.

I’m down with the few I have mentioned because they actually feel like they’ve gained something in transition; not only do they satisfy an already-strong fan base, they make themselves accessible enough to entice the not-yet fans among us. But when it goes wrong, not only have you wasted your time, more, you’ve gone into minus pleasure, a horrid HORRID sensation.

Anyhow, since it’s another lovely, rainy day I’ll leave you with some of the other-way-arounds… some movies which you may not know came from TV shows;

  • The Muppets got their start as a TV show in the set-up known locally as the fifties.
  • The Blues Brothers came from a Saturday Night Live sketch (as did Wayne’s World and Coneheads).
  • Shaun the Sheep, y’know – Shaun. The sheep.
  • The Untouchables was a 1959 TV show based on an autobiographical book, all of the same great name.
  • Three words; Twin fucking Peaks – because the second season was less Lynchian as he’d stepped away from it a little too much, he shot Fire Walk With Me to explain some of the gaps. So c’mon the third!
  • Maverick, that Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson one, yip, it was a 60s TV show.
  • A couple I may watch which might have been better than the decent enough bubblegum movies they spawned are Dragnet and Wild Wild West, but a revisit is well overdue for The Prisoner and Twin Peaks.

Have a feeling I’ve mentioned Twin Peaks? And Westworld? Uuugh, please don’t be shit. Don’t you DARE be shit.

Frame Thing

Frame Thing

Earlier this year, I paused while watching the Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land and caught, entirely by chance, that amazing frame above.

That it’s a great frame is obvious. Bart’s expression and body language, his revelry is such a great reason for Lisa to look so ashamed, while poor old Itchy just screams with his eyes.

I love this frame so much I wanted to capture it again, only this time directly from the episode and not with my camera from the television. In doing so, I discovered something pretty interesting.

The frame, isolated thus, lies.

Continue reading “Frame Thing”

That Time I Thought David Spade Was A Ghost

I once watched almost an entire episode of the CBS sitcom Rules Of Engagement, in which five friends operate on an entirely natural and entirely normal plane of televisual existence, convinced that David Spade’s character was a ghost. As the episode progressed I began to create for myself a set of justifications for this, which I should confirm was not a supposition, not a theory: I just  watched the show under the impression, innocently conceived, that Spade played a ghost in it. I just thought the show was about him being a ghost and also some of his friends, who were alive.

As I recall it, there was maybe one character who was ignoring him or one character who simply didn’t interact with him (which is NORMAL) in one scene (SO SO NORMAL) so I just ran with the idea that he was dead. The basic premise of the show as I now understand it is that there’s two couples, right, and one of them is married and the other is engaged, and what I decided upon with little or, as it turned out, NO evidence to the contrary was that the engaged couple represented the future, the married couple represented the present and Spade’s character, alone and dead, represented the grimness of death and of course the past, somehow. Maybe it was his place to offer pearls of wisdom on relationships from a position of finality, casting a gallows-humour pallor over the vital, youthful optimism of the living couples. At the time I was delighted, not just because I had discovered something great in the graveyard slot on RTE2 as I often did, but because my faith in the American sitcom was preserved with the continued employment of David Spade as That One Character He Plays (albeit it with a perceived twist) and the headlining role of Patrick Warburton, who needs to be seen in this comedic environment to understand traditional definitions of happiness. It’s a shame it’s a bit shit because Warbz is faultless in every scene.

I think I just stopped watching rather than having it confirmed that he wasn’t a ghost (I think seeing a second episode where nothing overtly supernatural had happened was the last nail in the coffin) but it’s been a personal benchmark for a year or two now for just throwing a whole other concept onto a show that just doesn’t need, or more pertinently, support it.

Brains are funny things, huh? Parting thought, though: Look how much he looks like a ghost because of the way this promo shot’s been put together:Rules of Engagement Season 5

 

Spartacus: Shit and Piss

I’m sure you’ve heard about it, but Spartacus: Blood and Sand needs to be seen to be believed. It tells the story of yer man Spartacus in a Rome populated entirely by Scots, Micks and whatever you call people from Australia (Australians?), and presumably thanks to some sort of temporal confundity privy to the wonders of plastic surgery and 21st Century swearing, inexplicably and delightfully paired with the unique syntax of what creative forces in America seem to think everything set before the Wild West sounded like. The amount of times I’ve heard ‘shit’ and ‘piss’ within seconds of each other over the course of three hour-long episodes is staggering enough for frequency alone, but coming from the mouths of the sorts who’re just as likely to spout utterances like “what manner of man are you?” it takes on a greater significance. So far, my favourite insult came from slave-owner and chief offender in the Scottish-accents-in-ancient-Rome sect Dominus Ligoolihool (not learnt anyone’s names yet) who berates an underling for having no mother, as he was “belched from the cunt of the underworld”. Another pair of friends are informed they’ll be battling the following afternoon in the arena (OF DEATH) and share a light-hearted (I mean, it really is handled with undeniable light-heartedness) exchange: “Try not to die too quickly”. Uproarious laughter. “I will fuck your corpse”. Copious chortling. “With what cock?” And everyone in the room, every oiled body and swinging dick (frequently on show), has a hearty guffaw.

The violence and just about every other aspect of the show takes each and every one of its cues from 300. Curse Zack Snyder and his penchant for ludicrously coloured skies, slow motion sword battles and slower motion breast jiggling. You could say without a hint of snarkiness that without 300, there’d not exist Spartacus: Shit an…Blood and Sand. Unlike 300, which took itself seriously despite its myriad, certifiable flaws, Spartacus has no such pretensions. Any show that features the line “Never lose focus, even if Jupiter himself were to rip open the heavens and dangle* his cock from the sky” can’t be accused of, well, any fault at all really in my book.

It’s absolute trash, and I absolutely am one sentence away from saying that I love it. But I’ma save that sentence ’til I’ve seen a few more. As it stands, three episodes into the twelve-episode season, I’ve comfortably and confidently predicted the rest of the series: who’s killing who, who’s boffing who, and who’s killing who for boffing who. Let’s see how my predictions go.

(Of course I’m not telling you, but if I’m wrong I’ll level with you, honest).

*Dangled!

In Praise Of Chucklevision

I think it’s high time (meaning what?) I registered my adoration of the televised duo, Paul and Barry Chuckle. I can’t remember what Chucklevision was like when I was young but I remember not watching it, so I can’t tell if everything that makes it fantastic today has always been there. And it is fantastic, really a hugely entertaining comedy: one episode set in the legend of Robin Hood is among the finest fifteen minutes of comedy I’ve ever seen, even. There’s sophistication in their wordplay that’s hidden by the more obvious gurning and slapstick. They have this excellent approach to jokes that they’ll just kind of give way when they’re ready to move onto a next one (witness Paul out of shot with fight sound effects behind a tree despite no-one being there, and him stepping out later as if the joke had never happened to move the plot along). The show is so tightly scripted the mind boggles. Seriously, the pair of them are gifted. Sure, every episode is the same, but if it don’t broke, ain’t fix it. They have their art down to a t (the one at the end of art, snarf snarf), a fine mix of confusion, misconception, verbal japes and sheer comic ineptitude. I also appreciate that time doesn’t seem to affect them at all- there’s no pop culture references, no ‘old man’ jokes, none of that shite lesser comedians would fall back on. Yesterday (same episode), Barry accidentally turned on a heavy metal tape, and instead of some sort of embarrassing headbanging or comment of any sort, he just looked really pleased for a few seconds, like he’d found something new that he like a lot. You can’t help but get the feeling that despite their age and obvious success they still live in relative moderation, and they just do this for fun ‘cos kids love them. And I love them. I love their colour-coded outfits. I love the dumb-and-dumber dynamic of the idiot being the smart one, and the ‘smart’ one being the hypocrite. I love how one episode will be set in the past, the next in the present, how they’ll interact with historical figures, or just local postmen. I love “Oh dear oh dear” “oh dear oh dear oh dear”. I love the low-key, completely shit midi piano music. I love how you can see nearly every ending coming from about two minutes in, but the guts of the show keep you guessing and laughing.

I love Chucklevision.

I honestly think Barry was born that age, like, this was 20 years ago and he’s STILL alive!

Top Show: Why I Love About Top Gear

Aw man I love Top Gear. It’s pure class. It’s this show about cars on the BBC channel. Sometimes they show old ones on Freeview but I don’t get Sky in the flat so I don’t see them but I seen them round my mate Luke’s. He’s got the dish. Top Gear is presented by Jeremy ‘Jeremy Legend’ Clarkson, a columnist for The Sun. He’s the curly one, I call him the main one. There’s also Richard Hammond, they call him ‘the hamster’ because he loves the Hammond organ and looks a bit like a hamster. There’s another one with long hair but he doesn’t do much and he’s a bit of a poof with the long hair. They film it in a small room with about 15 people because the budget is small but from 2010 I heard they’re going to be filming it in The Wembley Arena since now they don’t have to feed Top Gear Dog since it died last decade. The lads do all kinds of cars on the show, fast new ones from Italy and James Bond’s cars and old shit ones from the 90s and 60s and that with no spoilers or CD players. I’ve never seen an Impetsa on it but nearly everyone I know drives in one. They’ll do like adventures sometimes like the time they drove their cars into America and wrote stupid things on them like ‘Geroge Buss Is A Fat Wanker’ and the long-haired one had said on his jeep “what’s the beef” but the Texans threw stones at them and they barely got out alive. There’s another one I have on video where they drive old cars in sand dunes in the Egyptian Desert and The Hamster’s breaks down and they play this sad music like from an old movie or record player and he does some talking to his car and it starts again and he even wins! There’s always funny bits like that in it. There’s always making fun of caravans- they’d hate Coalisland then!!! Because it is full of caravans and gypsies. Sometimes they’ll do lists of songs that are good to drive to like ACDC playing “Black in Black” and The Bat Out Of Hell but there’s never any Scooter or Cascada so I fast forward the video. I seen this one where they got a stunt driver in and he was driving around like a rally but they showed it all in slowed motion so you could see the long haired-one’s face in the passenger seat, when he drove off the ramp you thought he was going to shite himself the queer!!! There was one bit where they went off the ramp and there showed a motorbike and a plane in the background all in mid air at once, it was like all the modes of transport at once, very good cameras, then. The best bit is when they put a celebrity in the reasonable price car and have them drive around a lap to see who’s the fastest at it, you’d be surprised at who gets highest, the comedian Jimmy Carr (or might be Alan Carr) done the fastest lap but you’d think he’d not even know about cars let alone be fast driving them, and then Christian Slater (USA actor) and even Clarkson himself couldn’t believe it when he got the best. I nearly turned the TV off in disgustment. Then there’s the bits when Clarkson dresses up in The Stig and does special tricks with the cars like cartwheels and handstands and cupboardsquats. This is my least favourite bit of the show as they always steal the stunts from the movies Herbie Goes Bananas and Herbie Goes Mental but they’re better because the car can talk and Linsey Lohann is in them, and she is a pure ride. You wanna seen last year Clarkson made some crack about killing a woman by driving  a lorry on her and all the newspapers went mental, even The Sun that  he even writes for. I thought it was alright like, a woman would die if you drove your truck on her. Sometimes people don’t get Clarkson I think, he’s always being really cheeky and winding people up and sometimes people think he’s a wanker but he’s just messing about. He is very opiniated but he is always right and me and the boys are always quoting him round the pub. There was another famous bit when The Hammer crashed his motorbike live in the show and he nearly dies. He was off the program for a few weeks but everyone sent him the money for his operation so he got better fast enough and then he came back but in the meantime he was played by Doctor Who so it was alright. AND on that bomb-site, that’s the end of why I love Top Gear.