Ronja the Robber’s Daughter – Down Stream

A Studio Ghibli tv series on Amazon?! Yes please, says I! Most people who love the silver screen are familiar with the masterful Japanese animation house, behind such beloved international classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. 

Film School Rejects say “The studio is respected the world over for its lush animation, attention to detail, and the way its movies can soak its audiences in a mood without any effort at all”. So it’s easy to see that expectations were set high for their first ever tv series, which debuted in Japan in 2014. I won’t drag out the suspense – Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is a huge disappointment.

Ronja is a cute little girl, born to a robber king and his wife. They lead a band of ne’er-do-wells who patrol the forest paths robbing from the rich who travel through in their horse-drawn carriages. The merry band live in a secluded castle surrounded by a forest full of enormous creepy birds with women’s faces.

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BBC Sitcom Season – ‘Are You Being Served’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Young Hyacinth’

In the gloomy lab of a crazed scientist’s lair the spooky organ music rises to a crescendo. The thunder cracks and the lightening flashes. The hand-stitched body-parts on the gurney start to twitch and there’s no longer any doubt. “It’s alive” yells Dr Frankenstein, “it’s alive!”.

This is exactly what happened in the mind of head comedy commissioner Shane Allen when he decided to launch the BBC Sitcom Season, reviving comedy classics from the last 60 years, to mark the anniversary of the first broadcast of Hancock’s Half Hour arguably the originator of all tv sitcoms. It’s up to us to decide if these unnatural creations are monstrous, or if like the good Doctor’s best known creation, they’ll have us in stitches.

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I Have Been Watching… SitCom Thoughts

This week I have been thinking about all sorts of telly. Comedy in particular, which is a pretty all encompassing description when you think about it. What is it? In Shakespearian parlance it meant a play that ended in a marriage. It could be farce. It could be sketches. It’s very often character driven. It’s so many things. On reflection I prefer a sit com to dramas. I sat through the much lauded Doctor Foster because Hubby wanted me to watch with him but it just was so …well…miserable. Suranne Jones stropping around just didn’t do it for me (a little bit controversial there). I tried The Night Manager because, well, Hugh Laurie ­and just the other day, Undercover because well, Adrian Lester. But I know I won’t stay the course. Heck I couldn’t even invest in Downton Abbey. I’m saving my concentration for Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, 9pm 25th April).

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We Need The Muppets Now More Than Ever

Andrew has hit the nail on the head with this reivew of the abysmally poor Muppets reboot. I was excited they were coming back and it was being picked up by Sky in the UK. But when they trailed the fact that Kermit and Piggy were breaking up it was a red flag. Worse still when it turned out Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise was younger, thinner and less outrageous than his old flame. And also a pig. A pig! He can’t help himself can he? That frog has some serious issues.

I am and always have been Team Piggy. I would like very much to be her when I grow up. Mr H would probably say I’m exactly like her right now and don’t need to change at all. I want to perfect the hair-tossing flounce – Harumph!

The viewing public were not happy with this break-up. Fictional and felt they may be, but these characters are very imporant to people the world over. The fans watched, and continued to watch hoping that something would work. But it didn’t. The Muppets have always been about rebellion, and sticking their middle finger (paw?) up at to man. They’re always putting on one last charity show to save the Muppet Theatre from fat-cat developers for the love of it, but now they’re working in late night tv (Up Late With Miss Piggy) that love has gone.

And we don’t love it anymore, and that’s a real shame.

As Andrew says, I hope the team behind this flop get the message. We still love The Muppets and their crazy mad-cap joie de vivre but this was not the format for them. Try again please, and do it better!

Thanks to Andrew at cronofire.com

CronoFire

I’m a little behind with what is on my DVR so I’m watching the Disneyland 60 special that was on the other week. Kermit the Frog came on and did his song The Rainbow Connection that I absolutely adore. He did it with some girl that has an amazing voice and I don’t remember her name (Tori Kelly perhaps?). Anyway, no offense to her, but shes not important to what I’m getting at. As I was watching this I was smiling like an idiot because The Muppets mean so much to me. I love the movies, the shows, and the songs. When I heard about the new TV show that ABC was putting out I was beyond excited. That was until I started to hear more and more about it.

The show was going to be filmed in the same style that The Office was. I didn’t like the office…

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The Power of Comedy – Viewpoint

I read a really inspiring blog post last week about the importance of tv comedy. Sarah at Gracefully Falling Upwards wrote about how comedy changed her life; how it helped her laugh and feel ok during a particularly dark and difficult time in her life. She says:

“Comedy was there for me when I didn’t have the words to tell anyone how I felt. Comedy was there to make me laugh on the days that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Comedy made me feel like the world wasn’t always so dark and painful and that eventually it does get better.”

This really resonated with me. When I was little I was pretty awkward and quite lonely. I found solace in books, rather than tv. I still do. Along side trying to keep up to date with great tv shows, and finding the time to write about them for you folks, my challenge is to read 70 books this year! (You can follow my progress at GoodReads). Basically I’m going to spend so much time sitting this year I might develop DVT!

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‘This is England ’90’ – Seeing the Future

A quick post to add my voice to the many thousands of other fans delighted that This is England makes its return on Sunday 13 September (9pm on Channel 4). Reviewers have said that Shane Meadows’ semi-autobiographical film and follow-up tv shows have been so successful because this is a gang we all want to be part of. I remember being nervous in the council estates in my home town. Even as a child I realised I wasn’t a part of it. It all seemed alien to this emotionally repressed middle-class kid – the close-knit families who did enormous favours for each other with no complaints, calling your Mum’s friends Aunty, kids playing out in the street until all hours, shouting, swearing, crying, sometimes private tensions bubbling over into violence made public. You’d never have gotten anything like that on my street. When we were really cross we might tut.

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Being a Human

I never used to get sci-fi. Our relationship didn’t start out well. I was one of those kids who have never seen Star Wars (this was rectified at the age of 21) and the guff that my brother used to watch on the BBC (in what became The Simpsons time-slot) was just awful. He loved Stargate (this is a fact, but he tells me that wasn’t on tv when we were kids – I mean Farscape. This is proof of how much attention I paid). I thought it was toss. He’d watch re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation until the galactic space-cows came home, I was sick to death of it. Every week it was the same old crud – distress call! aliens! they’re so strange and mysterious! they’re evil! or are they?! are they in fact… JUST LIKE US?!!1!! The moral message was always writ large in heavy-handed caps lock because this was MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT and despite trudging through tired old tropes every week, watching the programme made you a BETTER PERSON. (You may be wondering why I suffered through this week after week – why didn’t I just watch something else? Readers, we were a one tv household until well after I left for university, and the internet didn’t exist. What was I supposed to do – go outside and get some healthful exercise?!)

Maybe the problem was that I came to sci-fi in the ’90s when the shiny chrome spaceships had tarnished. There wasn’t even the Doctor to save the world – my fondness for Ace’s leather jacket and Sylvester McCoy’s umbrella wasn’t enough to hold my attention or even keep the show on the air. The genre was ripe for satire and that’s where I got my fix. I adored Red Dwarf in all its glory – rude, gritty, sentimental, ridiculous, hilarious – and really enjoyed Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct with its friendly bug-eyed alien police officers and flying cop cars.

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So with these prejudices still shadowing me all these years later I saw the trailer for Humans on Channel 4 earlier this summer and yawned. Androids. Sentient androids. Making a heavy-handed and laboured point about our essential humanity. Bound to be a cheesy American import. YAWN. But I saw the cast had some great actors in it, and it was a British show. I was intrigued. I put the first episode on and quickly powered through the whole series. It was proper sci-fi, and it was great!

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It was a series about what makes us human, but the message was subtle, intelligent and never dumbed down. It was a dark drama about love and fear and family. The plots were slow, but that made the action, when it came, all the more shocking. The characters had depth and were terrifically well cast, especially Katherine Parkinson as the struggling Mum and Emily Berrington and Gemma Chan as two very different androids from the same family. It was as if it could all happen tomorrow; a freakishly strange and yet entirely possible future for our tech-obsessed humanity. If I’d known that Channel 4 had pulled an ad stunt for the show with actors in London playing ‘real’ androids ready and available for you to purchase from a fake shopfront for Persona Synthetics backed up with a goose-pimple inducing advert I wouldn’t have been so negative about it initially. I like it when things get a little weird.

This year I made a conscious decision to branch out and find sci-fi worth reading (A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness) because it turns out, it isn’t all the same. There’s freshness and variety out there if you know where to look. I still prefer swords to laser blasters and castles to spaceships but after having my preconceptions crushed by Humans I’m happy to timidly peek at what else is on offer on Netflix or SyFy. I’m not sure that I’ll ever boldly go.

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