Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Weekly Rant - The End of Television

TV has just run out of ideas. As from Thursday 7th March, you'll be able to watch this on Channel 4:
Every night over 20 million of us enjoy an evening in front of the telly, but imagine if the TV looked back at you - what would it see? Channel 4 goes into the living rooms across Britain to get the nation’s real reactions to the week’s biggest and best TV shows.
So just to be clear - you sit down to watch TV. And what you see, on the TV, is a bunch of people. Watching TV. Presumily* TV that's a hell of a lot more interesting than the rubbish you're watching. And this is entertainment?!

Now, you would think the "biggest and best TV shows" would include the likes of Breaking Bad, Dexter, Mad Men, The Walking Dead et al. But alas, we all know they actually mean something along the lines of Made in Essex and Jeremy Kyle's Big Fat Gypsy Pissup.

Below is an actual transcript from an actual meeting that actually happened:

Past-His-Best Exec: We need a new show. And quick!
Young Fledgling: I have brought this writer with me. He has ideas in his head!
Deadbeat Writer: Does anyone have any food?
Exec: What is your fee, young writer on whom I look at in a downwards direction?
Writer: 50p per hour. And a cookie. Please?
Exec: Fifty pennies? Cookies?! Extortion! Be gone from my sight!
Writer: *slumps away to die in the corner. Quietly.*
Exec: Fledgling, more ideas!
Fledgling: I have.....one idea. But it needs work.
Exec: *swings back in his overly-sized leather chair*
Fledgling: We point the camera at people. While they do something interesting.
Exec: But what? What interests the TV-watchers at home?
Fledgling: Television?
Exec: YES! Television is the key, it's perfect!
Fledgling: And it will cost us nothing! We just need some cameras.
Exec: Huzzah! To Argos, away!
Writer: *dies*

This is what we're reduced to, gentle readers - watching TV to watch people watch TV.

More shockingly, this is coming from C4 - the channel that, last year, aired a superb hour of television about the Prime Minister shagging a pig live on air in order to save a princess from death (maybe you had to be there?)

So, as TV comes to a deathly close, I'm off to buy my post-apocalypse wasteland survival kit - fingerless gloves, a scarf, a bit of face dirt, and a zombies-stopped-me-shaving beard. See you on the other side!

Neil's Weekly Rants are posts about stuff. Read more stuff here.

*   "Presumily" - deliberate typo. See Angel season 5, episode "Life of the Party"

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale

When The Hunger Games came out last year, the world was divided into four groups of people:

1) The tweenage girls excited about their "new Twilight" (these people should remove themselves from sight)
2) The Battle Royale fans who instantly called rip-off on THG.
3) People who had never even heard of BR and thought this was a great movie concept.
4) Folk who generally couldn't give a toss about one or the other.

You could, of course, find yourself in category numero five - you've seen BR and you like it. But you also saw THG and liked that too. Because they're different, you see. They're not the same bloody movie! Yes, THG clearly takes the idea from its 2000 predecessor - a bunch of kids, grabbed by the government and thrown into a free-for-all fight, with one victor.

But this "stealing" isn't exactly an abomination - Halloween (1978) almost single-handedly defined the slasher genre and its supernatural-esque rules (killers appearing and disappearing at will etc), which was used by every slasher movie since. Likewise, The Rite (2011) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) are perfectly good movies, despite owing a lot to that film of 1973.

Ideas are not the be all and end all - they're far from the most important aspect of a film. Kill Bill (2003) is very simply about one person killing a bunch of folk - nothing but revenge. Django Unchained (2013) is the same. (500) Days of Summer (2009) has no peripheral story, it's merely one man and one woman. But while these ideas are as simple as they can be, it's the way in which they're told that makes them great - Kill Bill's mystery, Django's refusal to shy away from the issue, (500)'s intricate structure and POV realism.

Yes, THG and BR have the same idea. But they're about completely different things. BR is about anarchy - kids are taken, quickly briefed on the sitch, then thrown out into no-man's land until only one remains. We're shown/told very little about the origins of this or exactly why it's being done. Because that's not important - it's the anarchy of the situation that matters, the pure luck of which backpack you get that determines your survival.

THG, on the other hand, is all about the institution - great attention is given to what goes on behind-the-scenes and what it all means. It's BR's anarchy vs. THG's structural control. So while the ideas are the same, the execution isn't. Same idea, different stories.

In short, it's time to accept that two films can be similar in premise but are actually very different. I like both, as it happens. I'll watch THG more (because it's easier and more palatable), but I love BR's unrelenting brutality from the off (it's a great film if only for this scene!)

PS: The Hunger Games gets a rating of 7.2 on IMDb, vs. Battle Royale's 7.8. There's not much in it......

Read more of Neil's film/TV articles.