Category Archives: reviews

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.

East West 101: season 2

Note: At the end of last year I talked about East West 101 as an Australian TV highlight. Here’s some extended thoughts.

EW101.jpgI continue to beleive that one of the last things we need in this country is more cop dramas but when a good one comes along, it’s really hard to ignore.

The second series of East West 101 was so good, we would do well to ignore the first with its ridiculous contrivances and overbearing political correctness. Now we get to see exactly what Australia can produce when drama is allowed to run its natural course.

Don Hany plays Zane Malik, a Muslim cop in Sydney’s west who’s trying to make a go of being a religious man in a secular world.

While the first series focused too much on revenge and the world’s inherent lack of fairness, the second delved into much more complicated territory: Maintaining one’s values in a society that offers constant temptation.

It’s complicated themes, treated with subtlety and patience, that make really good television. Imagine how much more interesting Dexter would be if there was no voice-over narration and his dead father didn’t keep explaining things. If there is limited exposition, then the audience is forced to work out the characters’ motivations. East West 101 stands out from other local drama because the creators seem to understand the importance.

The many storylines demand constant attention. The organised crime and terrorism world of Sydney’s west has many players. In addition, though, we see some of the trials of the characters’ home lives.

Susie Porter, whose presence in the series is mandatory under the SBS charter, is Patricia Wright. She’s Malik’s immediate superior in the police force. with has her own family issues to deal with and the piling dead bodies don’t make it any easier.

Both characters are, obviously, finding society’s inherent discrimination more difficult than it would be in a more ideal world. Still, they are committed to their jobs, their families and protecting themselves.

Yes, that all sounds very serious, but there aren’t any jokes here. It’s serious business, but it’s compelling, and that should be enough.

Buy DVDs, including the entire 2nd season of East West 101, at Sanity Entertainment.

A Special Note: East West 101‘s first series alternated between unnecessarily melodramatic and promising. Those of you who remember my rant about Cptn Cardboard possibly also remember that I changed my stance on the programme after a few more episodes. I still think the first season could have been better.

:30 Seconds — A Rule of One review

The following took place as part of the Outland Institute radio show and our controversial “Rule of One” review process. Since this aired, last Friday, there has been another episode of :30 Seconds but the Rule of One prevails.

Last Monday, the first episode of the new sitcom from Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films aired on the Comedy Channel.

Called :30 Seconds (complete with the colon), it’s about an advertising agency.

Yes, at the moment it seems like Zapruder’s is only coming out with shows about advertising. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Denton.

Comedy, as you well know, is a very sensitive lover. It requires caring, attention and tenderness.

To continue that already tortured analogy, the flowers and chocolate, the romance, if you will, are the acting and directing of a sitcom.

They make us feel like there might be something this relationship for us. We’re prepared to give it a chance and maybe allow a couple of dates.

The sex in the analogy that not even I can believe I’m taking this far, is the writing. It’s the writing that, BAM!, really drives home the idea that this comedy deserves a part of our lives.

As far as acting goes, :30 Seconds has the chops. Gyton Grantley, Kat Stewart, Peter O’Brien and Stephen Curry all bring their exquisite thespian skills to the set.

The glaring deficiency in the show is in the bedroom. The writing just isn’t there. So often we see a sitcom where the jokes come forced, like the writers are squeezing in the jokes regardless of context.

The secret is to let the jokes come from the characters. Especially when an accomplished cast is at the writers’ disposal, it the characters are good, the actors will find the comedy and the director will help bring it out.

The actors in :30 Seconds just don’t have enough to deal with. The characters are one dimensional at best.

The potential is there for a great comedy but the writing needs to improve.

Also, the lighting is some of the worst I’ve seen outside YouTube.

The following appeared as a segment on The Outland Institute on 24 July, 2009. If you’d like to hear this sort of thing live then tune in to Joy 94.9 every Friday at midday AEST.

One of the things I love about doing television reviews on the Outland Institute is what I like to call the rule of one. One episode is enough to judge an entire series.

This week I’ve seen the first episode of two new shows from the US. Drop Dead Diva and Ruby and the Rockits.

I can easily and quickly cover off on Drop Dead Diva. If David E. Kelly known for Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal and marrying Michelle Pfeiffer, took an overdose of oestrogen, the product pumped from his stomach would be Drop Dead Diva.

An aspiring Price is Right model (and no, I’m not making this up) dies in a car crash at the same time that a fat and clumsy but talented lawyer spills hot coffee on her blouse and subsequently gets shot (and I’m still not making this up). The model manipulates her way out of limbo but ends up in the lawyer’s body. Everybody learns a lesson and fried food tastes good.

Margaret Cho co-stars in this one but its almost like they cast her because Sandra Oh is too famous now. She is in no way used to her comic potential. The role just seems so generic. She plays the best-friend/assistant of the fat lawyer.

Then there’s Ruby and the Rockits, a traditional 3 camera sitcom or laffer. David Cassidy stars, as does Patrick Cassidy. It’s produced by Shaun Cassidy. If that’s not enough “where are they now” for you, then it’s also directed by Ted Wass, aka the Dad from Blossom.

David Cassidy plays David Gallagher, a has-been rocker doing a residency at an Indian casino. A girl comes into the venue and introduces herself as his daughter from his time on the road. He takes this at face value and takes the girl, whose mother has recently died, to his brother Patrick’s house. Yes, they are using their real first names. How original.

Patrick’s family also accepts this story of a long-lost orphaned daughter and agrees to let her live in their house. That’s the premise and no, I’m not making any of this up. No paternity test, no questioning; Ruby’s story is entirely accepted at face value.

Ruby and the Rockits dispenses with any of that unnecessary and tiresome suspension-of-disbelief rubbish that other TV shows require for plausibility. In fact, it throws any sense of plausibility out the window. It’s not important. Neither, apparently, is writing jokes.

RatR slso stars Alexa Vega, who was the sister in the Spy Kids series. I mean, really, what did I do in a past life that all of these people would return to haunt me in such a terrifying manner?

Opinions on Southpark and Family Guy

So I’ve created a new category for the posts called Southpark v Family Guy. It will show you the posts where all the comments about this topic are as well as whatever we’ve posted about the issue.

After the jump I’ve included a letter from Riley Boxcutter so that no voice goes unheard in this debate.

If you have an opinion, this is where to voice it. If you’ve sent us an email and I haven’t included it, I’m sorry but make me aware of it and I’ll add yours in too.

Enjoy the argument.

Now read the letter(s):
Continue reading “Opinions on Southpark and Family Guy” »

South Park Vs Family Guy

Dishy challenged South Park fans to try and explain what we found funny about South Park, so here it is. Please excuse the usual spelling and grammatical errors.

Also, please note the plan is to turn all the South Park/Family Guy stuff into one big thread, which Josh is going to do…… Any time now……..[Which you can find here:- Josh]


[Check it out after the jump:- Josh]
Continue reading “South Park Vs Family Guy” »

The ‘No’s’ have it…

Thought maybe we’d play some ‘Movie Yes, Movie No’ (not to be confused with Film Yep, Film Nah – that’s a cheap knock off) but all I could find was movie no’s.

Quigley Down Under – No
Species – Yes (but really no)
Charlie’s Angels:Full Throttle – Oh God No!!
Ransom – No
Twelve Mile Road – More Tom Selleck?!? No
Instinct – No
Donnie Darko – No, no, NO!!!!!!!!!

And then finally – Saturday 1:30pm

The Poseido Adventure – Yes


Back to front and outside in

I may have been a little too hasty with my assessment of the current season of Simpsons. The most recent episode features Bart getting his drivers licence. Call me picky, but to me this is a little to similar to the classic episode from a few years back where BART GETS HIS LICENCE.

Ridiculous. The repetition is one thing, but such an unlikely and easily remembered premise being repeated is just stupid.

Also, after my ranting and raving (and possible spolier-ing) last week this week’s Lost was AWESOME. Everything I love about Lost in a fantastic little 42 odd minute package. Yum. Good work Lost people, I’m back on board. Don’t let me down again.

New Lost

Anybody see the new ep of Lost from the US this week(S03 Ep7)?

I like the bit where Kate said she wanted off the island and Sawyer said sure, we’ll just use my motorcycle to jump that shark and we’ll be free………