Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

50 Greatest Tv Shows

Well, an interesting list. My first observation is the high level of "newer" shows to get in. Normally, these lists are skewed towards nostaligic faves, but most here are only a decade or so old. The only "classic stuff" to get in tended to be British comedy institutions - Monty Python, Blackadder, Faulty Towers. Aside from that and Quantum Leap, apparently there was no TV before 1980.

Despite my current love for Doctor Who, I never had a fear it wouldn't be on there, so wasn't particularly excited when it came up. The one I wanted to see - and by the time I got halfway down, I knew it wasn't there - was The Prisoner, a delightfully surreal 60s show about a man who resigns from his job, presumably as a spy. He is kidnapped and taken to The Village - think Disneyworld meets Big Brother, a paradise of happy people - from which he cannot escape, while the people in charge (his ex-bosses? The enemy? Someone else entirely? His own fractured psyche?) try to crack into his head. 17 episodes follow, stuffed with chess imagery, psychological bull and vagely philosophical delirium. Unlike Lost, whose rash authors promised that everything in the show would be explained, the Prisoner rarely falls into the trap of explaining anything. After its insanely brilliant final episode, creator-cum-lead Patrick McGoohan had to go into hiding for a few weeks, to escape fans who wanted answers.

There are always talks about it being remade by Hollywood - I believe it can be done, but I want somebody reliable to take care of it. Last I heard, David and Janet Peoples (Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys) were working on a script, and Christopher Nolan (master of the mindfrack, with Memento, Following and The Prestege under his belt) would direct. If the lineup stays like that, then they have my full consent. I'm less happy with reports that current remake plans involve an ITV six-part "a pacy, radical reinvention of the original show."

I was sad to see that given the snub. Empire's comments revealed the criteria on which they judged a good show (or was it public vote? in either case, that is what they praised...) was if it was edgy, ironic or down with the mood of the nation. What of Brideshead Revisited, a brilliant adaptation of the book, as well as a brilliant series in its own right. Slow paced, nostalgic, beautiful, multi-layered - it didn't stand a chance. Brideshead is just a good, timeless
period drama, told perfectly.

Enough on what didn't make it.

Battlestar Galactica should be lower. It's very good, at times completely brilliant, especially the
opening miniseries. But a lot of episodes are repetitive or filler, and there is no coherent sense that the plot is going anywhere. Surely place 14 should be reserved for something more consistant? On a personal note, one of my favourite characters, Gaius, is lumbered by having one of my least favourites following him around as a hallucination. It also suffers from being a remake of a camp 70s show, which sounds far more my style, than this gritty post-911 intensefest.

But kudos to them for casting Edward James Olsmos - most famous for robots-who-look-like-
humans classic Blade Runner - in the head role of Commander Adama, in what can only
be one of the greatest sci-fi in jokes ever. And with the start of the second series putting some of my other favourites in the front seat, I'm feeling a flush of love towards it.

In fact, my main problem is that it's one space above Firefly. As contrasts go, thats as direct as it gets, and Galactica just can't cut it. Firefly creates a world as vivid and human, without being so darn grim. There isn't a character, episode, script or scene that rings false in the whole thing.
Even the set design is gorgeous. It subverts genre cliches left right and center, and a more attractive bunch of characters you never will find. Most shows have at least one duff episode - Firefly was never allowed time for one.

I was also happy about Heroes. It didn't even need a second season - the first series was a perfect story arc, perfectly told. The style was gorgeous, the music attractive, and the plot moved at an ideal pace to fill the episodes - cutting the characters as they got dull, revealing
mysteries exactly when we needed to know them. Flashbacks, flashforwards, alternate universes - curse it, it was perfect.

I was very very suprised that Lost was there, and so high. I'm still watching - my sister has got Matthew Fox's signature, the Dharma bag, Dharma T-shirt, subscription to the magazine, going t the official convention this weekend - so I pretty much have to. That's not to say I'm not enjoying it - I almost died in series 2, series 3 was really entertaining, and now at the start of series 4, it's really picked up the pace. Things are happening every week - the introduction of flash forwards really gives it a sense of going somewhere. As I said above, one of the great strengths of The prisoner was it's stubbon refusal to even pretend it made total sense. Lost is at its best when intriguing, at its worse when it panders to fans and explaining the absurd.

The suprise comes not so much that it doesn't deserve to be there - it does, just lower than Heroes and Firefly - but that it's so high. I'm loving it, but I figured I was in a
minority. So how the hell did it get so high?

Band of Brothers should be far nearer the top - it beats virtually everything above it that I have seen.

Think of it as Saving Private Ryan in 13 hours, but based on real characters and real events. War films should always e based on reality. When you're watching it, you know that somewhere, someone went through that hell. It means the company can't demand suspension of disbelief as the same 13 misfits survive every scrape - life is ironic, good guys get killed, bad guys survive. When something unbelieveable, outrageous or heroic happens, you can't groan because it happened. Our central core of 25 characters or so drift in an out of view, as episodes focus on specific groups, as people are transferred or killed. By the last few episodes, you are about as desperate as they for them to survive. Practically perfect in every way, and probably wins my top spot for best TV show ever. Yes, take that Timelords, the very top.

But does the Simpsons deserve to be at the top? Maybe. It has universal appeal (it'd
be unfair to put a genre piece at the top, because it doesn't represent majority rules) and it is
something of an institution. But it'd be nice to have something suprising at the top, so you don't sit through 49 posts to get to one inevitable winner. My money was actually on the Sopranos - both my sister and I managed to whittle down to the top 3.

Being a fan of crime/gangster films, I note I haven't caught a single one of the equivalent TV shows - no Sopranos, The Wire, 24, the Shield e.t.c. Perhaps this should be my guide to the ones I should have seen? Other things I still want to see are Deadwood and Twin Peaks.

So, what do you think? Whats missing? What's OK?

In other news, I today ambled back to a favourite podcast of yore - Watching the Directors - to discover they have posted on Terry Gilliam. At last, hurrah!


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