Monday, April 04, 2011

The Poor State of the Televisual Treat

I remember when the phrase, 'there's nothing any good on the telly' was theoretically easier to comprehend. Today, with 99 channels of shit and nothing on, you should struggle not to find something to watch.

I'm amazed that almost 50% of my allotted channels seems to be documentary based - which sort of pooh-poohs the idea that with the plethora of channels the death of the documentary can't be far off. I'm equally amazed at how little of this plethora I either haven't already seen or have any faintest hint of a desire to watch. The thing is even the 'special', the Pay Per View or Subscription channels don't offer anything that sets my pulse racing. I'd argue that I don't even need a set top box; I could survive on Freeview and my PC...

Is watching a TV programme theft? It's a complicated question because it doesn't offer any hints to what exactly I mean by theft in this context. I'm also not getting all existential on your arses, this is to do with when and how you watch it rather than when and how. I shall explain that. You watch, I dunno, Coronation Street either live, on one of the digital stations or plus 1 channels, or via your set top recorder and it is totally legal. But, what if you download an episode from a Torrents site? Is that as legal, or has that episode of Corry just become a little warm? I feel that the law about torrents and file sharing must have a very hazy middle bit; a big grey area that probably helps pirates rather than a company seeking to protect its interests.

I could also argue that I might never have watched Coronation Street but decide on a whim to download an episode, love it to bits, start watching ITV1 (how wrong is that name even now?) and leave myself open to be targeted by whoever's sponsoring the soap now and add one more viewer to ITV's audience share.

TV therefore is not music - because not all copyright theft leads to buying the album from Amazon. TV is also not film because of the obvious DVD spin offs; but hold on a second,Coronation Street doesn't (to my knowledge) have DVD Boxed sets of entire year's worth of stories (yet), but TV series like, oh, I dunno, Waking the Dead or The Killing or Martin Clunes: Up An Aardvark's Arse Hole in a Hot Air Balloon 3D, are going to have DVD or box set releases. So, is downloading the third part of a four part drama theft? The owners could argue that if you really desperately want to know what happened in the penultimate episode of the thriller you should buy the box set. But you'd think they were a bunch of pricks and they'd know you were thinking that and entertainments companies are empathic with their customer base; how else would they know what to force feed the masses with? Or something.

So you probably wouldn't get prosecuted if you downloaded the news every day off of a Torrents site, but if you download an entire season of Xena: Warrior Princess or X Files then it probably is illegal. See what I mean about grey areas? Equally, you could argue that with all these channels, whoever buys a potential hit TV series will want the best possible exposure and audience; so FX that runs first view True Blood will want people to watch their station and they can sell advertising for more money, etc etc. So, watching an avi file downloaded off the Internet and watched anything up to a year before its actual UK TV showing is also a no-no. What if it is for a TV series that isn't shown on UK TV by anyone?

That is just a long winded defence in case anyone from the CPS reads this. I tend to download any TV that isn't British rather than wait for it to be shown or not on one of the subscription channels such as Sky Atlantic that I don't subscribe to. I don't distribute the content or sell it, I just watch the TV that interests me. If I couldn't download it, I'd go without because I can't afford to have 199 channels of shit on my TV. I might get one or two of the things I miss on DVD, but it would have to be from a relative as a gift because I feel the price of individual seasons is ridiculous and I wouldn't pay the price, I'd rather go without. That's why I watch some of the shit I watch because I tend to take a risk when it's free. Very little of what I've watched - a small percentage compared to the overall list - is persevered with; I therefore view it as an exercise in quality control. My argument is simple; if I buy a DVD box set of something and I think it's un-entertaining and therefore a waste of my money, no shop is going to give me a full refund after watching it all - they would say 'tough' and we wouldn't have a leg to stand on. This is me doing it the other way, kind of.

Anyhow, stuff that was watched legitimately appears to have all but finished, with the exception of the final series of Waking the Dead and as we hurtle towards summer there will be less and less wanna see and much more meh. This leaves the burden on the USA and if the current crop is anything to go by then I will be spending more time outside on warm summer nights.

I've never realised just what a 22 or 23 episode series is like for someone who doesn't live in the USA or has no concept of the way they watch television. It's stop, start, stop, stop, start, stop so that when a series starts in September it will be May by the time it finishes just leaving the 3 high summer months void. A bunch of favourites come back in the middle of April for straight run throughs till season end, but at the moment we're in lull land and it makes you wonder how people actually manage to stick with series. Why don't they just do what we do and show the bloody thing from start to finish? But that's an aside I just wanted to throw in somewhere.

What, apart from The Killing, is happening? Is the next Sopranos out there or another No Ordinary Family?

I mention The Killing because Roger and his missus have been avidly watching this like plumbers and the US version has just started on AMC - the station that brought you The Walking Egg or Egg of the Dead, depending on what side of the street you live. I did the stupid thing and watched this version first. I don't know how close it is to the original, but nothing grabbed me by the gonads and threatened to immolate me. It was... okay.

Speaking of okay, Camelot fits into that category. It's full of semi-authenticities, has the new black in US TV dramas - lots of full on nudity, and appears to have been scheduled to usurp HBO's Game of Thrones, which I've been told, nay almost ordered, to like when it appears. My belief is that anything with Sean Bean is stretching it. Camelot has a mixture of dodgy acting and women with drop dead gorgeous bodies; one of the Ffiennes boys is in it, the one that failed with Flarsh Forwards!

Harry's Law is David E Kelley doing his quirky lawyer thang to usual good affect. Kathy Bates looks old and battered, she's surrounded by mad people and a teenage ex-coke head in a shoe shop. What's not to like?

I am punished, weekly, for watching Off The Map because it is a bit shit. The problem is I can't put it down; I keep going back to it. It's shit; I must have more to my life than this? Probably crack or heroin... God, I'm so out of the loop for hard drugs now...

I've been trying to think of what I'm watching on terrestrial TV and apart from the aforementioned Waking the Dead, I'm struggling. I'm giving White Van Man a try because it has a strangely surreal feel about it; like Brush Strokes had for a while. Um... I'm struggling to believe there isn't actually anything I'll sit down and watch live - apart from football - this spring. Obviously Doctor Who, but that's being spoiled somewhat by associates all speculating as to some subliminal message placed in an advert for the next series. Part of me is hoping that they're all clutching at imaginary straws. Besides, what makes them think that producers are going to hide subliminal messages aimed at 14 people and an intelligent goat in adverts. That's just pious.

Arguably, I should be more concerned about stuff I have waiting to be watched. The list of things I've got to watch is more frightening than anything Wes Craven does now. I have 5 seasons of Boston Legal, a couple of seasons of Dollhouse, the final season of The Dead Zone, three series of Breaking Bad, a series of Rubicon, two series of Bored to Death, three series of Mad Men, then there's The Wire - it would be silly to forget that. I've got Nurse Jackie to watch, and Spartacus. Then there's going to be stuff that I want to catch back up with - I have all of the Kricfalusi Ren & Stimpy series, to remind me how good cartoons were in the 1990s. I have two thirds of the old Fry and Laurie to get through, I downloaded the 6 episodes of Police Squad because I felt it was important to watch again. I've finished downloading Denmark's The Killing and I'm pretty sure there's at least two or three other series I've forgotten to mention; probably hidden away in a DVD case, in the cabinet, by the electric meter... Plus there's stupid stuff like all of Tex Avery's Droopy cartoons; that SF series made for $40 called Pioneer One and DVDs packed full of things like Carnivale, The Tick and Firefly which I might get around to watching between now and the end of all life as we know it.

You could say that I could get rid of my TV package altogether and just watch DVDs for the foreseeable future and if the wife didn't like all the bollocks she likes, I'd probably go for that idea straight off.


Actually, I'll tell you what real madness is. Real madness is having a list of films as long as a donkey's swollen member to watch. It appears that very few films that come out now are really worth watching. 90% of the films I've seen in the last couple of years have left an anticlimactic taste in my mouth. It seems that the duff ones are extremely pooh and the much-vaunted ones are a slightly lesser grade of pooh.

Several months ago, we sat down and watched the totally bonkers film Skyline; we did this under advisement from various sources that this film was utter shit and we should wait for the film it was ripping off because that would be so much better. I thought Skyline suffered from having Eric Balfour in it, a host of other B-grade TV 'stars' and it went a bit uber-fucked up during the last 20 minutes. It didn't make a huge amount of sense but by God it was several buckets of shit loads better than Battle: LA, the movie it apparently knocked off.

Battle: LA was just 90 odd minutes of gung-ho Americanisms and offered the thing that Skyline didn't - a happy ending. It was a film that offered so much and delivered a massive fake orgasm. Aaron Ekhart would make a good Sgt Rock though... It's a crap movie with about a fifth of the special effects that Skyline has and you want everyone to die by the end of it!

The celebrated return of Wes Craven arrived with My Soul to Keep which was a big bag of wombat's vomit. Seriously bad teen slasher movie with no redeeming features and it could have been a PG-13. On the other hand, Hammer's US remake of Let The Right One In is a great film, full of atmospheric images and the distinct feeling that you're witnessing the birth of a sociopath - in many ways it was creepier than the Swedish film. Let Me In stars the girl from Kick Ass and the boy from The Road and it pisses over other horror movies by massive arcs of urine!

Husk is supposed to be a return to the traditions of 1970s and 80s horror films. It was an interesting idea poorly executed and for all of it's attempts to be post-post modern really needed a script editor to give the thing a sense of making sense.

Finally saw the new Harry Potter film and wondered if the movies were now just being made for aficionados of the books. I found there were some things in the film that needed explaining to me. It was like it should come with an explanatory documentary called So Far in Harry Potter. I definitely felt like I needed a Hoggwarts refresher and the old school was nowhere to be seen.

I currently have 36 films to watch, 39 if you count the three I have on the TV hard drive; that's going to be at least 60 hours of my life I may never see again. Some of these films I actually want to see: L'Illusioniste, Belleville Rendezvous, Mr Nice, Voyage of the Dawntreader, then there's about half of them that I'll maybe get around to watching and half a dozen that I'll be watching on my own because the wife wouldn't give them house room - things like Bad Biology, The Human Centipede, Rubber and Sanctum.

The point is, barring a couple, none of these films would I have a) gone to the cinema and seen or b) rented or bought the DVD. I believe we all have a right to enjoyment and we shouldn't be expected to pay for something that don't like and not have the same rights as other retail services. Fuck me, the price of going to the cinema is now so expensive you'd be better off (and have more fun) if you bought a top class prostitute who doesn't mind wardrobes, jelly and ooh is that the time?

1 comment:

  1. I should be the right target audience for Game of Thrones, but I thought the books were rubbish -- and appear to be the only one in the world to think so -- so I've got next to no interest in the TV show and I do wish they'd stop going on about it.