Category Archives: TV

How I Became a Star Trek Fan @startrekcbs #startrekdiscovery

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In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

NOTE: this article originally came out in 2017

Ever since I heard that a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Discovery) was definitely for real actually happening, to be released this year, I’ve been super hyped and also a bit scared — what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes?

As you can tell, I’m a massive Trekkie… Or Trekker… whatever, I don’t care, but that’s for another post. In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

I was born in 1984. When I was a kid, back in the dark days when the UK only had four channels and we heard mythical stories about how in America they had FORTY, the replays of the original Trek were always on the telly at weekends. But I never paid attention. It was just another rubbishy show from the ’60s. It barely registered in my consciousness. I much preferred Land of the Giants(!)

Fast forward to age nine-ish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trek reboot, had been running for several years and still I didn’t notice. And then one day, a season five episode came on: Cause and Effect. It involves the Starship Enterprise being stuck in a timeloop; the same catastrophe-tainted day keeps repeating itself. Think sci-fi horror version of Groundhog Day, or the film Triangle, but in space, and with dodgier make-up and production values. I was sold.

I won’t ruin the episode for you. Check it out on Netflix! But it marks the sort of intelligent, mind-bending stories that were par for the course in Trek. Every time a new mindbender or time-travel flick comes out, like Looper, I love it. But I always refer people to Trek.

If you’re new to Star Trek, here’s a few more episodes you might want to take a look at (all currently available on Netflix):

  • The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 2): another great time-travel episode.
  • Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 18): the psychology of guilt and suffering.
  • In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, series 6 episode 19): the hardship of keeping your principles in war.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, series 5 episode 6): a good example of the lighter-hearted side of Trek, which pays homage to the original series with some neat special effects.

Sadly, no matter how I wax lyrical about the virtues of Trek, nobody’s buying it. The rubber ears, the dodgy acting, the huge number of episodes where, yes, nothing really happens. Sadly, TV has moved on. There is no Trek that fits modern conventions. For example, series are now limited to around ten episodes a season, there are no “one-off” episodes, and it’s all about moving the plot forward. The closest Trek came to this, and arguably it was instrumental in pre-empting the current trend, was the Dominion War story arc from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favourite incarnation of Trek, for what it’s worth).

But now with Star Trek: Discovery, I hope a new Trek for a new televisual era will be born, a Trek that captures the imagination of the young as much as the new Star Wars films have, as much as that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captured mine some twenty plus years ago.

© 2017, 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Limited Series Review “Ripper” (2020) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

engrossing

Four episode Ripper is Netflix’s recounting of notorious serial killer The Yorkshire Ripper, a.k.a. Peter Sutcliffe, and his murder spree across northern England in the ’70s and early ’80s. The series follows the standard script: talking heads, archive footage, and narration overlaid. None-the-less, it was thrilling. Well told, we are immersed in the world of ’70s/’80s Britain. With Sutcliffe’s recent death due to Corona (in December 2020), this is a timely and engrossing look at one of Britain’s worst ever serial killers.

As the series itself says, we all expect and want the serial killer to be an otherly monster, but the reality is far more banal, and far more terrifying.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from the-ripper-netflix-735×400.jpg (735×400) (screenrealm.com)

Upcoming Movie and TV Reboots: 4 “The X-Files” (2025) #Spoof

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The X-Files: the Amazon Prime Series (2025)

African American LGBT activist, Divinity Scully, and zany new-age Jew, Davina Duchovny

Once the new X-Files series (starting 2016) got cancelled after two seasons, it was only a matter of time before a reimaginized reboot would happen. Relive the story anew of the odd couple that was African American logical smart-thinking LGBT activist, Divinity Scully, and white middle-class zany new-age Jew, Davina Duchovny, as they investigate the paranormal — all at the tax-payers’ expense.

Note: this article was originally written in 2016, and the prediction about only two seasons of the new X-Files has actually come true!

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Upcoming Movie and TV Reboots: 3 “Lord of the Rings: The Series” (2022) #Spoof

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The Lord of the Rings: the HBO series (2022)

Starring Sean Bean — who dies again.

After scrabbling around for something, anything to replicate the success of Game of Thrones (finished 2018), HBO finally hits upon the idea of a Lord of the Rings series(!) It’s time to go back down the Hobbit hole, but this time using all the appendices and flabby bits that Walsh, Boyens, and Jackson wisely left out of the film, in an all new, ten-episodes-a-series, eight-series epic. Starring Sean Bean — who dies again.

Note: this article was originally written in 2016, and this prediction has actually come true (kinda)!

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Upcoming Movie and TV Reboots: 2 “Harry Potter” (2022) #Spoof

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Part I (2022)

eked out with additional … source materials

For a new generation of kids and fans, J. K. Rowling’s world now eked out with additional previously undiscovered source materials, this will spark a new frenzy of pottermania. Each of the first six books will receive a two part film makeover each, with the final getting a trilogy — or a two-part trilogy, depending on the box office takings.

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Spitting Image Season One (2020) Review #BritBox @BritBox_UK

A show this well-funded … with some of the best … talent around … just cannot be this badly scripted.

Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
Episode Six
Episode Seven
Episode Eight
Episode Nine
Episode Ten

Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show from the 80s and 90s. Crude, surreal, and always biting. This show helped define the era itself whilst commentating on it. And in a world seemingly gone mad — Brexit, Trump, Covid-19 — it seems the perfect moment to awaken the kraken. We’ve seen false dawns before (Newzoids 2015-2016), but this is the real deal, the return of the king.

Spitting Image Season One was a mixed bag, to be blunt. The structure of an episode started out a bit chaotic, but then gradually got stronger, until the last few episodes when it was generally good: satirical takes on the news events of the week were interspersed with running sketches. The show definitely grew in self-confidence throughout its run, and hopefully this rhythm will give the show the exit velocity required to launch a more consistent second season.

The puppets were absolutely magnificent (with the bizarre exception of one, Nicola Sturgeon, read here for more details). Even better than the original run’s puppets, whilst totally in keeping with the style. Of course, the puppets would be nothing without the puppeteering, which was splendid.

The biggest problem with Spitting Image Season One, and it’s quite a big problem for a weekly satire, is that it often lacked bite, edge, or even good jokes. Worst of all, it was frequently very lazily written. Prince Andrew getting hit in the head, James Corden getting killed in almost every episode, Trump’s hands are small: no amount of repetition can render these “jokes” funny.

A show this well-funded and with a team of 16 + writers, many of whom are veterans (David X. Cohen, Al Murray, Patric Verrone), with some of the best voice talent around (Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr), and frankly genius caricatures and puppeteering, just cannot be this badly scripted. Okay, they are responding to moving events, which is hard, but that should be bread and butter for the talented team behind this show, many of whom are stand-up comedians or with a background in improv. And just look at South Park, they are able to create hilarious and highly contemporary stories and jokes. Furthermore, Spitting Image often barely mentions current new events (see ep 7): a real clanger was the US Election Special Part II which was extremely light on US Election Special stuff.

In short, everything about this show was magnificent — apart from the writing. There were many highly memorable moments, but Season One is best watched in 24 minute compilation format; there simply isn’t enough funny stuff to fill ten episodes. But this is a show we need. So I look forward to season two despite Season One being, on balance, poor.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.inews.co.uk/content/uploads/2020/09/PRI_144981546.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E10 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

The satire was … more on-point than during most of the series.

Recent episodes of Spitting Image have been a bit weak. Would the season finale arrest this decline, or are we locked in a death spiral?

Episode 10 had the usual mix of running sketches and references to that week’s news events. This week, Priti Patel’s bullying came up. Boris Johnson compares it to his Eton shenanigans and declares Patel’s behaviour “harmless banter”. The whole cabinet then proceed to “banter” Hancock by physically abusing him while victim Hancock proclaims, “I’m part of the gang”. Probably the best scenes of the episode. Satirical, references current events, and the surreal elements had some basis in truth (Priti Patel “deporting” a succulent plant out the window for being “foreign”).

There were many other funny moments, too. Barack Obama was portrayed as a money-grubbing, corrupt, shyster who only cares about selling his book. Great to see a hero of the liberal-left satirised. Harry Styles tries to be macho but just keeps getting camper, which made me laugh. And Taylor Swift was portrayed as vacuous and basing everything on market research. The runner Mike Pence’s Fairytales for White Folk was actually funny this week, almost makes me regret that we won’t likely be seeing it again. Fox Man Starmer was also back, and as usual he isn’t so much “forensic” as he is a tedious law bore. None of this was razor sharp, but it was all diverting satire with surreal and grotesque streaks running through it.

The satire was indeed more on-point than during most of the series. A great example of this was the satire of Amazon, referencing absurd over-packaging of items and its almost creepy invasiveness. So much funnier than all that nonsense with Bezos on Mars from previous episodes.

There were a few clangers, though. Bezos’s girlfriend’s puppet looks exactly like a whitewashed Megan Markle puppet. This was weirdly distracting. The song number was once again unfunny. And there were a few sketches that went on a bit long.

None-the-less, Episode 10 was a stronger outing than in recent weeks, a decent end to the season. Just nudges a three.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.inews.co.uk/content/uploads/2020/09/PRI_144981546.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E9 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Nicola Sturgeon … this was lazy and vaguely racist, poor quality nonsense from the Spitting Image team.

Spitting Image Episode 9 continues with the rhythm it found in the last outing, running sketches interspersed with satirical takes on the news of the week, and it was characterised by the same growing confidence in its own material.

As for the “news of the week” stuff, we saw Cummings get sacked. This was a diverting if not totally amusing section. There was also a return of Trump and his launch of Trump TV. Again, hardly side-splitting, but it was good to see the best character in the show back again. We also also saw Matt Hancock give an interview on Good Morning Britain, an event whose significance, such as it was, has already been forgotten by society. None-the-less, vaguely interesting but hardly amusing.

The episode was characterised, as so often during this first season, by frankly unforgivably lazy writing. The Mars stuff, where we see Bezos, Musk, and Branson trapped on the Red Planet and passing the time by blazing the days away, is as unfunny and pointless as ever. The addition of Oprah showing up as she “has houses everywhere… even on Mars” was not in the slightest funny. Joe Wicks rears his head again only to be (once again) splatted by a frying pan. This running sketch is so forgettable that I have no idea why the writers keep doing them. But the pièce de la resistance of awful and lazy writing was the treatment of Nicola Sturgeon. I am no fan of Sturgeon or the SNP, so I was yearning for some good quality satire here, but this was truly dire stuff. The accent and mannerism was all off, the jokes was bizarrely lazy. I mean, “Glasgow kiss”? Seriously. But the worst sin of all, the puppet was really poor. This show has phenomenal puppets, and it is a puppet show, so this was just shocking in its general direness. The worst part of this sketch? It has actually made me take the SNP’s side in a debate: this was lazy and vaguely racist, poor quality nonsense from the Spitting Image team.

But it wasn’t all boring or lazy or unfunny. Jurgen Klopp once again amuses, starring opposite Idris Elba in a new section called “Good Klopp Bad Cop”. I didn’t need to reach for the needle and thread, but despite the lack of split sides I did at least smile along. The life of the modern rock star mockumentary sketch was overlong, but still quite snort-worthy if not full-on laugh-worthy. The joke was summarised, “Modern pop stars: focused, middle class, and tedious”. David Attenborough’s further tech fails did actually make me laugh, as did a scene with Ronaldo as a fat pub landlord: the line “Mini Frazzles… but enough about your dick” made me chuckle. And Ru Paul’s Pope Race was actually very funny, I can’t deny. To top it off, there was another “comedy” song which, although not funny, was for the first time this season not totally awful.

Despite some good moments, Episode 9 was still fairly poor quality. I’m even more convinced of what I said in my Episode 4 review: Spitting Image Season One will be best viewed as a 24 minute viral video compilation of its best bits.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Reference: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/nicola-sturgeon-spitting-image-puppet-23061793

featured image from https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/nicola-sturgeon-spitting-image-puppet-23061793

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E8 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Amusing … but uninspired and lazy

Spitting Image Episode Eight saw the show begin to get into the swing of things. With its running sketches, such as Govey in Paris and the Bond auditions, this felt like a show that was finally finding its rhythm. Sadly, it’s not a hugely funny rhythm.

The anthropomorphised Coronavirus “Coronie” is back again. He’s depressed because of the vaccine, but gets a pep talk from the Flu who tells him that Chicken Pox isn’t down in the dumps so why should he be? So Coronie vows to “mutate with the times”. Uninspiring stuff, but at least it has surrealism to make it borderline diverting. Something that cannot be said of our inane Bezos-Musk-Branson storyline featuring the three entrepreneurs trapped on Mars and getting high as kites. This is as unfunny as ever.

Biden comes face-to-face with the Illuminati which is comprised of underused puppets created for the show, one of which is Piers Morgan. But really, Morgan is that influential? Having him as a main member of the Illuminati could only be motivated by a desire to flatter the real Morgan’s huge ego in order to get air time on GMB. Weird stuff.

But it wasn’t all dire.

Harry and Megan made a return. It’s still the same joke: he’s a clueless put-upon prat and she’s a power and fame hungry C lister who’ll stoop to anything to get breaks. None-the-less, it’s amusing. A rather amusingly well-delivered line from Harry was, “Either I’m an idiot, or you’re the greatest actress of all time”, to which she responds “Oh, Hairr-brains, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said”. As much as I’ve been doing down this show over the last few episodes, that exchange genuinely made me chortle, and it was also refreshingly humanising of these two individuals.

The spoof of Tarantino was completely straight-forward and predictable but none-the-less reasonably amusing.

BoJo was shown as beholden to public opinion and willing to flip-flop at the drop of the hat if the people, that is, Marcus Rashford, will it. This was quite amusing, and I shared an online clip of this segment, such was my amusement.

Idris Elba‘s “smoulder” was back, and pretty amusing. The best bit of the episode, really, all five seconds of it. And there was some mockery of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s new age nonsense, which also amused. The James Corden impersonation is still shockingly accurate, hard to believe it isn’t actually him. Seeing Corden get hit around the head with a club by Tiger Woods was satisfying and amusing, but it was hardly great satire.

Amusing. Yes. “Amusing” is the word. Much of this episode was amusing, some of it raised a smile, but none of it made me laugh out loud as moments from previous episodes did. Therefore, even though it was more solid than Episode Seven, it has no real stand-out comedy moment unlike last week’s outing. Although there was an exceptional stand-out bit of surrealism where Kanye West takes to rearing GMed cattle which are designed to grow trainers instead of hooves which he then just snips off and sells…

Spitting Image seems to be finding a rhythm, finally, and growing in self-confidence, but it is still uninspired and lazy, lacking in bite, edge, or even good jokes.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.nme.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Kanye_Spitting_Image.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E7 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

a rather arid outing.

Spitting Image Episode Seven was the first to come out after the US Presidential results. So it was sure to be heavy on the Biden-Trump satire, and Trump was certain to get a right marionetting. I was looking forward to it.

Trump’s distended arsehole (no, yes) is still as shockingly funny as ever, really inspired toilet humour. Other toilet humour, such as a piss-exploding corgi, was good, albeit a bit senseless. We saw more of Keir Starmer’s superhero alter ego Foxman, which amused, and Vladimir Putin definitely doesn’t give James Corden a plutonium-laced death kiss — which was satisfying. Glad to see I’m not the only one who seethes with hatred (and jealousy?) whenever Corden comes on the screen.

Sadly, these good moments were few and very far between in a rather arid outing.

Dominic Cummings began the series as one of the best characters, but now his alien schtick is getting very old. None-the-less, the “head pulse” is still hypnotic and amusing. The “New James Bond Auditions” sketch, which has become a runner, is a potentially great idea — such a shame that it hasn’t been particularly funny.

The satire, such as it is, goes downhill from this point on.

Trump talking about having a big penis, Prince Andrew getting hit around the head (again), and Her Majesty with a mouth like a Tommy in the Trenches (Why? How does this even make sense?) were particular lowlights. The whole foul-mouthed Queen stuff took up significant screen time, as well. But we hadn’t quite reached rock bottom yet. That was “achieved” with not one, but two very unfunny and painful to watch/listen to “comedy” song numbers: the first, based on the decades-old skit idea of coming up with a new Bond theme tune, the second, on the potentially fruitful topic of euthanasia. Potential for laughs, sure, but the numbers were atrocious. As I’ve said before, the writers either need to knock these so-called “comedy” songs on the head, or else hire someone who can actually write funny music. Awful stuff.

The worst thing about this episode, given it came out after the US Presidential Elections results came in, was that it was distinctly light on current news or satire or reference to the election. Very disappointing.

I’m not sure that this show is getting better as it goes on. Scrapes a two. Sad.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.itv.com/presscentre/sites/default/files/20200905_spitting_image_3_05_prince_charles_camilla_0532.jpg