• unreal lives

    There are a lot of reality shows on television these days, and I watch a number of them. I have a criteria, for instance I don’t watch Big Brother or any of the Survivor/I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here type affairs. I’m more interested in shows in which the ordinary people involved attempt to change their lives. Project Runway for instance, Masterchef, or even America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). Yet, I’m becoming weary of the obvious scripting of these shows. Once you know a smidgen about editing, direction, and the difficulties of shooting a simple scene, you quickly realise that nothing on television is accidental. As a taxi…

  • walk the line

    The WGA strike continues in the USA. I admire the courage of the writers who walk the picket every day. So, the talks shows are back on air, and only two–Late Night with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson–have come back with their writers. The rest: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live in Los Angeles, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien in New York are not using writers, and I’m sure it’s going to become obvious quite quickly. The likes of Leno and O’Brien are in a tough place because they genuinely support the writers, but if they don’t put their shows…

  • "His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

    A few days ago I saw three films in a row I hadn’t seen before on different television channels. It was a lucky dip. First up was Miss Congeniality (2000), a comedy about Gracie Hart (Sandra Bollock) a FBI agent who goes undercover in a Miss USA contest to locate a killer. The story is one of those transformation comedies that is based upon the Pygmalion structure. Overall, what saves this predictable romp is some snappy dialogue, and likable performances by Bullock, and a heap of excellent supporting cast members: Michael Caine, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, and Ernie Hudson. The film doesn’t offer any surprises but it’s good-natured, and Bullock…

  • the naked truth

    Last night I watched “How To Look Good Naked”, which is hosted by the Gok Wan, a fashion stylist who is on a crusade to restore women’s confidence in their natural body shapes. It’s horrible to listen to women who are completely demoralised about their appearance, and honestly it’s uplifting to see how the fashion savvy and compassionate Wan can change their perceptions and their lives. I’m sure men feel more threatened by the beauty industry these days, but I think it wrecks a devastating influence upon women. I can remember when the pressure hit me a girl. I just choose to ignore it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t…

  • drama provokes thought

    Over the last two nights I watched top-notch drama from Channel 4, called Britz. The two-part drama followed a brother and sister from a Muslim immigrant family who take very different directions in response to the political changes in England post 9/11. It’s a well-acted and scripted series that tackles complicated situations. The show is controversial. Thank goodness. People don’t get agitated about bland pap. They discuss issues that hit them hard. After looking over the forum pages on the Channel 4 site I can see that opinion is polarised, among Muslims and non-Muslims, about the drama, but it’s got them talking. What I thought came across very well was…

  • get Current

    Last night I watched a new TV channel that launched yesterday in the UK and Ireland called Current TV (it’s channel 229 in Sky Satellite). Current was first launched in August 2005 in the USA, and one of its founders is Al Gore. The channel uses a mixture of Viewer Created Content, and reports by Current’s team of journalists. These short non-fiction films are known as pods, and are between 3-7 minutes long. I wish they’d picked another name for the shorts, but that’s a small quibble. Initially, I thought that it would just replay home videos from YouTube, and I didn’t have high expectations. Much to my surprise, the…

  • Cracking toast Gromit!

    I’ve been a fan of the work of Aardman Studios for a long time. I realised Nick Park and his team of animators were geniuses when they made the chicken penguin from The Wrong Trousers menacing by the way it blinked. Their latest animated children’s series, Shaun the Sheep, is now airing on the BBC (BBC1 at 3.45pm every weekday since Monday; BBC2 at 8.15am every weekday since Tuesday). Judging from the clips I watched from the show’s website, and the photo gallery the BBC has put up, it looks likes another fun series from the masters of comic stop-motion animation.

  • we all stand together

    I’ve started working on a very part-time basis for the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild. Mostly, I’m working on streamlining their web site and maintaining their electronic newsletter. An early stripped-down version of the Guild site is now live. It’s serving up basic information at the moment, and I hope to add extra features over time. As one would expect, the Guild is not overflowing with cash, so I’m doing my best on a limited budget. It is thanks to the munificence and foresight of funding bodies like the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board that I’ve been able to begin work on our long-term plans. I’ve started up…

  • to nominate, or not to nominate…

    In an attempt to be conscientious, I’ve just spent far, far too much time filling out my Hugo Nominations. It’s taken me ages to track down which books, stories, films, artists, editors, semiprozines, etc. qualify for the individual awards. For the love of spare time, could the Hugo committee assemble a list of those eligible for the awards? Maybe not in every category, but it would be nice if I knew exactly which magazines qualify as a semiprozine. It appears that online magazines that don’t pay professional rates don’t qualify, since this category stipulates a “press run of at least 1,000 copies per issue.” Considering how times are changing, this…

  • the key to obsession

    The Sci Fi Channel’s original TV mini-series, The Lost Room, just finished its run on this side of the Atlantic. I’m always delighted when a TV show (especially one from Sci Fi, which has a very uneven track record) exceeds my expectations. The story revolves around a room that is lost in time and space, but can be accessed through any door if a special key is inserted and turned in a tumbler lock. The key is one of approximately a hundred objects that originate from the room, but in our reality they have extraordinary, and often bizarre, powers. Detective Joe Miller (Peter Krause) comes into possession of the key…