Tag Archives: Lost

Ep 309: All SciFi TV is Rubbish

This is a very special episode of Boxcutters, recorded in front of a live audience at the 51st Annual National SF Convention. John Richards and Josh Kinal had a debate (aka a word fight) with the topic “That All Science Fiction Television is Rubbish.”

Josh took the affirmative and John the negative. Gasp and be shocked to learn the secrets behind genre television and its merits.

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Ep 287: Book Adaptations with Larry Writer

Larry Writer wrote the book about the crime wars in Sydney in the 20s and 30s called Razor. It was picked up by the Underbelly team and turned into the latest instalment of the true crime dramatisation that has proven so successful for Channel Nine. We talk to him about the whole process.

Also, Courteney Hocking is in to talk about those guilty pleasures we think we shouldn’t watch.

Then, Nelly Thomas tells us about the passion and drama that goes on in her head when she watches Lost.

Listen and enjoy.

Supernatural (2005 – current)

Two brothers wage a war on evil, fuelled by their loved ones taken from them prematurely and the legacy left to them by their father.

Wow. So dramatic? Already? On the one hand, that really is Supernatural in a nutshell. It is an ultimate battle against demons, wraiths, succubi, ghosts and, yes, the occasional vampire. It is what I like to call “conflict with a capital K (for Killing)”. It is pure drama.

With all those other-worldly baddies, though, it’s also a perfect opportunity for some nail-biting, pillow-clutching horror. Very rarely have we had a chance to see good horror on television. There have been attempts but, really, since the early demise of American Gothic in 1996, nothing has come close.

So we’ve got the drama and we’ve got the scares. There’s a rule of three in storytelling and the third thing here is comedy. The comedy is mild, wry and sometimes relies on knowledge of the characters and their history. That’s not a bad thing. Instead of the comedy being a draw card to the series, it’s more like a prize for long-term viewers.

There is so much to love in Supernatural, it’s hard to imagine why it’s not one of the more popular shows on TV. While it’s a great show to watch, it’s possibly a hard show to sell. It doesn’t have the novelty factor of something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Channel 7 kept spinning that around the schedule until it found a home amongst the insomniac university students who kept it alive in a late-night slot.

1970s and 80s heavy-metal ballads, muscle cars, leather jackets and scowling faces on the backdrop of the American mid-west does not really make for appealing teaser production from an Australian point of view. It’s not about police and it’s not about lawyers or set in a hospital. In fact, on a surface level it’s not about anything that a new audience can identify with.

What it is about, though, is good old-fashioned horror, action and thrills. It’s a comic book on the screen. Heroes save people in peril and sometimes get into peril themselves. In that sense it’s predictable. But so what? Every now and then we need a little escapism. We need adventure and we need good guys kicking bad guys’ arses. Supernatural gives us that but with a style and sense of Americana unlike anything we’ve seen.

Supernatural started the year after Lost and the year before Heroes. It really should appeal to audiences of both and especially those who loved the former but found the latter lacking in any substance. Unlike Heroes, it tells a big story by focusing on a small portion of it. It builds suspense rather than forcing mystery and disseminates information as required rather than creating artificial and soulless reveals.

Mostly, though, it’s fun and intelligent entertainment. Supernatural is exactly the kind of escapism we should be inviting into our homes.

Supernatural Season 4, is available on DVD. You can find all your entertainment needs: DVDs, Blu Ray and gaming consoles, including Playstation games, at Sanity Entertainment. —Sponsoring Boxcutters

Survivors (1975 – 1977)

seymour-in-survivors.jpgThe recent decision by the BBC to revive Terry Nation’s 1970s dystopian series Survivors probably wasn’t that much of a surprise. In the wake of the hugely successful Doctor Who (and copious spin-offs), we’ve seen the return of Quatermass, Captain Scarlet and Day Of The Triffids. There’s even endless rumours (or threats) of a rebooted Blake’s 7.

The 2008 version of Survivors started off as a lesser-populated EastEnders before descending into sub-Lost territory, and was finally put out of its misery at the end of the second season (which ended – optimistically – with a cliff hanger). The best word to describe the show was “workmanlike”, combining all the usual elements of 21st Century genre telly in all the usual ways.

That’s not how you’d describe the original. Debuting in 1975, it remains the bleakest programme ever to be a prime-time hit. A man-made virus sweeps the earth, killing the majority of the population. Faced with disease, wild animals, starvation and loneliness, the few who are left struggle to survive. It’s hard to imagine showing that one against Masterchef today. Survivors, however, was a hit in the UK and across Europe, and watching it on DVD now it’s hard to imagine anyone having the guts to make such unrelenting fare now.

Part of the success is due to Terry Nation cleverly playing against type – two of the three leads are female, and Abby Grant’s search for her son forms a rock-solid premise that other story lines can weave around. Carolyn Seymour as Abby is superb, playing the part with a stoic determination you wouldn’t see on telly today. Lucy Fleming plays plucky Jenny Richards (the only totally likeable character) and Ian McCollough plays granite-faced tough guy Greg Preston. The first series raises difficult questions about the life ahead and society they will need to build, and the episode “Law And Order” still packs a punch, an unrelenting tragedy combining rape, murder and the failure of justice.

Sadly the show goes off the rails after the first season, getting bogged down (literally) with the minutiae of subsistence farming, muddled storylines and continued (and seemingly random) changes of cast. Most shamefully, Jenny Richards gets relegated to background “wife-and-mother” character and Abby Grant vanishes altogether (Seymour claims she was fired for being argumentative and drinking too much, so she moved to the US and played villains for the next 20 years. She’s particularly good as Dean Stockwell’s evil counterpart in two episodes of Quantum Leap).

All three seasons of Survivors are now available as a 39-episode box set and are worth a look, if only to see a time when television was made without focus groups or the bourgeois concept of audience appeal. The lack of incidental music, the grimy look, the strong female characters and the powerhouse credit sequence all form a convincing world that make for a fascinating visit. You do have to allow for the cheap video look and cod-Shakespearean delivery that was de rigueur for the times, but even these add a certain quality to this barren world.

A final word on the recent remake – in a bizarre piece of legal jiggery-pokery the 2008 series claimed to be “based on the novel by Terry Nation”. That “novel” was actually a novelisation of the 1975 series published a year after it went to air. Yet Adrian Hodges still had the gall to claim a “created by” credit. Shame, Adrian, shame.

Find TV series, DVDs and Blu Ray discs, including the complete Survivors Series at Sanity Entertainment.

James Talia joins us to discuss the recent controversy over Channel 7 news and the former NSW Minister for Transport.

We review this year’s Eurovision coverage and the Lost finale.

And we look at the recent shows we’ve reviewed and see how they match up against the Bechdel Test.

All that and more. Just listen.

Don’t forget to let us know about your list of the greatest TV characters of all time.

You can also SMS us on 0458 288 837 (0458 CUTTER).

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Ep 225: Treme, Survivor, Ray Watch

treme.png

Treme is the new David Simon drama on HBO. We review it for your listening pleasure.

Also, by request, Nelly does a run down of the latest season of Survivor in anticipation of tomorrow night’s finale.

Brett discusses some bad reporting in Ray Watch.

Hey you. Come and celebrate the wonder of the Eurovision Song Contest with Boxcutters.

Also you can tell us stuff: by email or on the SMS us on 0458 288 837 (0458 CUTTER).

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Lost: The Orchestral Experience

lostliveconcert.pngIn what is possibly the coolest, geekiest, most meta-television experience ever invented*, Michael Giacchino, Oscar® winner and Lost music composer, will conduct an orchestra performing music from Lost in a live event in Los Angeles this May.

This event speaks to all aspects of my nerdihood. Are you in LA? Are you planning to go along? Please, let us know in the comments. We want to speak to you.

LOST LIVE: The Final Celebration – May 13 @ UCLA

*noted hyperbole

The League is another show about men and their relationships with one another. We take a good long look at it.

We also have a long conversation about whether or not there is a place for episodic drama on television. It’s a very interesting chat with lots of information. We go a little bit high-brow so you might want to wear your thinking-cap.

There’s also a surprise guest right joining us for One Thing.

Episode 210 is the show that had so much in it, we had to go into extra-long overtime. You have been warned.

Contact us by sending us email or send us an SMS on 0458 288 837 (0458 CUTTER)
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Conspiracy theories in television

Last week Oliver Stone announced his latest project. It’s a ten-part documentary series called the Secret History of America.

Stone is the king of creative conspiracy theorists. This series is apparently going to include newly discovered facts from the Kennedy administration and the Vietnam War amongst other things.

So I think it’s important to note how television has shaped the landscape of conspiracy theories.

Of course we can spend hours talking about the X-Files and its Lone Gunmen characters who subsequently had their own spin-off series that didn’t last very long. We could subsequently disappear up our own arses trying to work out why it didn’t last very long and who gave the order to pull it from air.

We can talk about the first moon landing being the first televised event to be derided as a hoax by conspiracy theorists who believe that the whole thing was shot on a soundstage in Burbank.

We can talk about programmes like 24, Prison Break, Heroes and even my beloved Lost, that base their entire story-lines around international conspiracy theories.

But we won’t, and I think you know why.

Conspiracy theories are a simple way to create intrigue in a series. They give the audience a chance to be part of the story-telling. Every reveal escalates the conspiracy up some chain of command that feeds on our fears of lack of freedom. They raise a question of the control we have over our own lives but, more importantly, how much trust do we put in the medium that is giving us information.

While these shows impel us to question everything that we see on television, they also serve as a warning. When we see the protagonist who has been following a conspiracy-chain for several episodes or several seasons, they always end up as loners, obsessed with finding the truth, often wearing the same clothes day after day.

So do these shows want us to actually know the truth or are they trying to stop us from finding the truth? And who’s in charge of trying to keep us confused like this?

Would you believe me if I told you it was an international federation of school teachers? I’m not crazy. This is the truth, people. They control the information. We are all their puppets.

Or maybe not.

This first appeared as an audible segment on John Richards’s excellent Outland Institute radio programme.

Mia Cross has started to Twitter. That’s right. The fictional, plagiarising Lolita from Californication is now also pretending to be a real person in the lead-up to the new series of the show that disappointed everybody with its final episode.

Showtime, the cable network in the US that produces Californication has been using viral marketing on the web quite well for some of their programmes. Most notable is the video/SMS campaign for the second season of Dexter.

The thing is, Mia Cross is totally the kind of character who would start on Twitter because their agent thought it was a good and quick way to get a profile without them even understanding the concept of the community or how it works.

Meanwhile, Lost‘s ?ber-invasive conspiracy body, The Dharma Initiative, has been seeking and testing new recruits. Fans of Lost, me included, are excited to get an insight into the organisation that harnessed the magical island’s magnetic energy and ran tests on humans and animals alike. Actually, some of us, me included, are excited just to get a Dharma Initiative ID card.

The question that comes to mind, though, is what are the marketing people thinking this does for a show? Will it build audience directly? Will it strengthen the brand in a viewer’s mind so that he or she becomes an evangalist for the programme? Or is it just throwing crap at a wall and hoping it sticks?