Thursday, November 03, 2016

Self-indulgent TV bollocks (part 62)

My least popular blogs are when I talk about my US TV watching habits. I find this quite ironic because they tend to be the ones I really enjoy writing. Whereas my music reviews tend to be the most patronised - the last Sand album review has been looked at by over 1000 people, the last TV round-up by less than 50. I would like to think my music is far more eclectic than my TV, but...

Anyhow, here's a quick charge through what's being watched (in whatever spare time I might have).

The Strain: at the start of Season 3 I was ready to call it a day. It reminds me of a 21st century reworking of the 1980s series V but with 'vampires' rather than alien lizards. By the end of the second series there were few redeeming qualities and just about every character in the show was instantly dislikable. The wife seems quite keen so we persevered and by the midway point of this, apparently penultimate, season it was still badly acted with dodgy horrid characters, flawed people and many other criticisms, yet something had become slightly unhinged about it. The special FX are what makes this 'work' because, plot wise, it has more holes in it than the entire premise of The Walking Dead, which it seems to be mimicking slightly. With half the cast dead, a small tactical nuke been set off under NYC and one at the Statue of Liberty - creating night during day - a conclusion is almost within reach. I kind of hope the six-part final season will be the end of it. I won't really miss it, but like a car crash it is hard to look away.

People of Earth: it's a dramedy about alien abductees or 'experiencers'. We watched the pilot and were impressed enough to carry on watching when #2 arrived. It's a bit like Third Rock From the Sun meets the X Files and it has an 'indie' feel about it even if the talking deer is obviously a prosthetic. It also reminds me a little of Brain Dead, the 13-part stand alone series about alien ants taking over Washington, DC. Much promise, worth watching.

Son of Zorn: Did you like Thundercats? Are you now over 40? This is about a real life 2D animated character who leaves his world to visit his son in the 3D world. There's something slightly amateurish about it and most definitely cheap, but I laughed so much at the pilot episode - especially the end - that I'm committed to at least half a dozen more. You just have to imagine an episode of He-Man set in LA with added absurdity and comedy misogyny.

Channel Zero: is from SyFy, but, really, don't let that put you off. It has been likened to Stranger Things, but trust me, Channel Zero is much more creepy and a damned sight weirder even if it's let down by patchy acting from some of the characters. It's centred around a TV show that only kids can see called Candle Cove and seems to feature a monster that collects children's teeth. It suffers from the usual SyFy quirks - low budget, Canadian sets, more ambition than ability - but it's also probably the second weirdest thing on TV at the moment.

The weirdest thing on TV at the moment appears to be the stylish, sexy and mesmeric Falling Water. It's about the prophetic interconnected dreams of a talented muse, a corporate fixer and a NY detective. What is dream and what is real tends to blur and, honestly, three episodes in and I couldn't tell you what it's about apart from the fact some people are dying, some aren't who they claim to be, some are hiding alternate realities in their head and some of them might not even be real. I expect it will be cancelled because not enough (American) people will 'get it' but when Twin Peaks comes back next year it is going to have to be very very very weird to out-weird this.

[Incidentally both Channel Zero and Falling Water feature actors who both played plot fodder in The Strain.]

We're well behind on the new series of Shameless (which many know is my fave TV show of the last decade), but I reckon we'll watch it, along with Mr Robot season 2 and the new Walking Dead in box-set like chunks, when the winter and Christmas breaks come along. The same will apply to something called The Expanse, which was another SyFy series but has been picked up by Netflix and has had some of the best ratings for those purveyors of shit 'sci fi' in years. Someone I know who has watched it says it feels a little like Babylon 5 (which might be damning it with faint praise) and is surprisingly well written and acted. We shall see.

We're also watching other stuff: Agents of SHIELD which is a mixture of odd and strange at the moment with its new look and embracing of the 'supernatural'. I've never been completely emotionally involved in this series despite thinking Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson is a fine lead character and the new harder edge still seems to be missing a beating heart. Ghost Rider is quite cool but I really don't see why he's even in it.

The Luke Cage mini-series ended up being a bit poor, tbh. Unlike Jessica Jones, which often left you wondering how it was going to make it to 13 episodes, Luke Cage felt like three episodes stretched out into 13. It ended up being less fulfilling than the second season of Daredevil, which just felt like a series of intros for other shows and a finale setting up the next season - this Marvel/ABC/Netflix collaboration seems to have embraced Stan Lee's 'illusion of change' ethos too well.

Which brings us to the most enjoyable 41 minutes on telly at the moment (not the best, just the most enjoyable) ...

I don't know if the 5th episode of the 2nd season of Lucifer will be as much of a game changer as it is made out to be, but what was already the most enjoyable piece of crap TV seems to have developed a 'soul' and suddenly this very daft crime procedural has taken on a very sinister and serious direction. The 5th episode was seemingly the most important in terms of plot than anything that has gone before, with Tom Ellis ripping through the set with his best performance so far and moving the heaven and hell story way beyond what was teased about. It's beginning to remind me of the best horror shows of the 90s and 00s, especially the way the plot takes second place to the crap 'main' story. I struggle to see how this show can continue in the vein it currently has now that the bar has been set so high and the set is littered with fallen or dead angels, a humanised Mother Nature, and a demon developing a sense of honour and love. God is sure to turn up at some point and from the way he is talked about, he'll probably be played by Larry David. I'm sure they won't change the format too much, but it's going to take some believable writing to just carry on the way it was, which might end up being a curse.

Time constraints mean that I don't get half the chance to watch as much as I once would have liked to have watched and I do like to read, listen to music and go out into the cruel and xenophobic world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Psychic Vampire

About 20 years ago, my wife coined a phrase that may or may not have been used prior but has been used since. The wife referred to her own mother as 'some kind of psychic vampire' - a person who sucks the positives out of everything, to be able to paint the darkest and least optimistic picture. She was a 'every silver cloud has a black lining' kind of person, who would see the worst in everything and would probably find something wrong with winning the lottery. Over the years she mellowed, then she was struck down with dementia and so her youngest daughter (the wife's younger sister) inherited the mantle - something that has seemingly fit like a glove rather than be a burden on her shoulders.

There have been psychic vampires throughout history; we once called them pessimists, but in reality they're far worse than someone just expecting the worst thing to happen. Psychic vampires don't just play the worst case scenario game, they do it in such a way as to exasperate and deflate the person they're talking to. The worst case scenario pretty much always has aftershocks, which are aimed at deflating people even more and once, before the internet arrived, I used to sit and despair listening to half of my in-laws being stubbornly negative and selectively ignorant to allow their negative attitudes no wiggle room.

Going out Sunday? It won't just rain, it'll be a fucking monsoon. Job interview - you'll screw it up! Don't get nervous... WHATEVER YOU DO DON'T GET NERVOUS OR EVERYONE WILL DIE!!! Had a good day? These people will think of 50 ways to make you feel like your entire family has been wiped out by rabid frogs or even absurd Krauts. We all know a psychic vampire, whether it's the miserably frustrated wo/man at work, the neighbour or a member of our own family who we like but can't understand how they came to be so bitter and twisted and lacking in the joys of life.

That is Britain today.

Brexiteers are actually some of the most optimistic people out there at the moment. They view all the doom and gloom going on as sour grapes and now seem to have taken on a weird carpe diem attitude while simultaneously ignoring any talk of the future. The people who voted Remain are now called the Remoaners, because they're painting the Worst Case Scenarios and are being called for being so... pessimistic.

The irony is (and I have nothing scientific to back this up so the Vote Leave camp should accept this as 101% fact because no experts were involved in its decision) the people who now have a bright outlook are the people who used to be the psychic vampires and now they stand on their moral high ground, pointing at pessimists and accusing them of all the things they were guilty of. These are the same people that frowned at single mothers, at the disenfranchised, the addicts and most of all the foreigners, coming over here and stealing all the jobs that our feckless youth weren't interested in doing.

Once, I tuned into the Victoria Derbyshire show expecting some intelligent debate to act as a foil and a counterbalance to the Jeremy Kyle atrocity on the other side, but now it's a horror film to be watched through your fingers. I appreciate the BBC has to be seen to be unbiased and giving even and fair coverage to something, but I'd rather it was the news and not something that brings the worst out in humanity. Am I right in thinking that once the BBC would never have reprinted tweets or social media messages that show the worst kind of thinking in people? Or if they did it would be one example out of 10 rather than 60% of 10 which seems to be the policy now. Post Brexit vote people seem to think it's okay to be cunts, and publicly if necessary. We didn't vote to come out of the EU, we voted to make racism and xenophobia legal and being a twat socially acceptable.

I've been struggling for weeks now to understand what the ultimate gain is going to be. This agenda is obviously being driven by sections of the media - what do they want? A war? Civil unrest? How will a country whose people hate each other as much as they hate foreigners (or any other minority once the ball is rolling) be of any benefit to the media barons and politicians? How is inciting hatred a better thing in the long run than advocating peace and love?

The problem with the psychic vampire is they feed off of negativity; someone else's misery or worry feeds them - like trolls on the internet, of which I'm sure a lot of psychic vampires are. It must take a special kind of person to walk away from a heated insult-session on Facebook happily thinking they had successfully ruined a person's day. Misery loves company and I suppose it's easier to sit around and bitch than it is to be seen viewing the positives in anything. Smiling takes less facial muscles than frowning, but the country has a permanent scowl on at the moment - a frown's big brother...

Someone I know - who voted Leave - spent the six months leading up to the referendum pointing out parts of 'Project Fear' and how the vote was rigged. Now the vote has been cast, they are posting the equivalent of Remain memes because, presumably, Leave won and they didn't know how to be happy about it.

That's the thing with Psychic Vampires, seeing them genuinely happy for long periods of times is as unlikely as seeing the aurora borealis in Ethiopia. They are so set on draining the life out of any good thing, they do it to themselves and that's probably why they have become such unhappy and wilfully nasty people. A self-fulfilling prophecy started, I would guess, by and with the media's fascination with the worst 0.01% of the population.

We've always had a Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and it was always more likely to receive a letter of complaint about something than it ever is to receive praise and even then the real Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells were miniscule in comparison - maybe not even existing in a vehement enough form to write a letter. What DoTW did was allow the media/press to express disdain and give moral judgement without attributing it to anyone.

Another example would be when someone posts something on social media like, "Here's a picture of my dog on the moon!" To which the Psychic Vampire will list all of the reasons why you're being cruel or how it's been photoshopped. This is not the same as someone normal pointing out that some hateful piece of racist garbage has been photoshopped or manipulated with the express intention of inciting anger. Another example of this is when we're manipulated in a different way: "Here's a photo of a cancer victim, can we get an 'amen'". What it actually is is an old photo of Miley Cyrus having her head shaved for charidee and someone has either knowingly made this a me me me meme or is having a cruel laugh in a world where there are so many people devoid of a sense of humour that jokes are pointless. Is negative attention seeking something humans crave now, like dogs?

The Internet and then social media allowed anyone who wanted to be Disgusted of Wherever and this gradually metamorphosed creating a subsection of net users whose sole purpose is to demean, find fault or be as viciously nasty as they can for no reason whatsoever because they get a kick - a massive erection maybe - they also feel its okay to hide behind a firewall and hurl insults. It's what a troll is. Trolls probably splash their keyboards with jizzum because that's where they get their jollies, whereas I can't recall ever leaving a heated discussion on the net all priapic and thinking I'd changed someone's mind; nor did I ever think I was trolling, because I simply get no pleasure whatsoever in fighting vile hateful attitudes with whatever mood I'm in when I face it. People want to be nasty and want others to let them do it. They want freedom of speech but not freedom of criticism.

We have a world full of psychic vampires, Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells and trolls and yet it's the people who want to be positive that are attacked; the people who are showing signs of being humanitarian who are vilified and the press is behind it all and I still don't know why and what they think they'll achieve at the end of it... One thing is sure, it'll probably get much worse before we reach a nadir.