Do you think Antiques Roadshow is for your gran and that one kid at school who wore glasses, had patches on his elbows and understood the Gold Standard?
Me too.
But, what about if, instead of stuffy toffs and crap old things, we had a down-to-earth yank (with a passing resemblance to a Mitchell Brother) and oddball, but cool, collectables?
Now that is a totally different proposition.
In Pawn Stars we have a Las Vegas pawn shop owner Rick who could also pass for Vic from The Shield.
Rick runs the shop with his old man who has seen everything in the pawn trade.
Also working there is Rick’s son Big Hoss and his friend Chumlee whose role in this is to play the fool, which he seems to love.
Episodes are formulaic where random items (guns, a Harley, replica bat mobile or Kiss pinball machine) come into the shop and either gets valued straight away or for the particularly oddball items (table with inbuilt gun, New Deal bank notes) an expert comes in to value the item.
So far, so Antiques Roadshow variant.
But then Rick offers his own money to buy the item. Which is where the fun really begins as Rick and the item’s owner haggle over the price.
Sod old blokes in stuffy tweed suggesting how much to insure the piece for or how much something could get at a hypothetical auction.
Witness the auction as it happens.
Offer and counter offer. The cut away shot to earlier where the seller tells the camera what the lowest possible price they would take is, which is followed by Rick getting them to part with it for less.
My personal favourite is when they get a gambling item in, such as a roulette wheel.
Rick will do something awesome like say he’ll meet a price if they spin and it lands on the colour the seller selects.
But if it lands on the other colour, Rick only pays the price he has named. Real money in reality TV makes for real drama.
The format may be formulaic, but the show is well made and extremely compelling viewing.
A sparkling gem amongst the dross of reality TV which you can find showing in the UK on ITV 4.

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Professor River Song is among the best characters ever to grace Doctor Who.
My brother complains she is essentially a renamed Bernice Summerfield from the spin off books from the 1990s . But the on screen coup of getting Alex Kingston to play a recurring character in the series cannot be underplayed.
From her first appearence in the Library she was a force to be reckoned with. The constant use of wibbly wobbly timely wimey to show what would really happen to time travellers who cannot possibly meet in the right order.  River’s last chronological lines before she dies are that through everything they have been through he has always known how she is going to die. At that point she is basically a stranger to the 10th Doctor.
The 11th Doctor then slowly gets to learn more about her as they meet again and again all the while more mystery being revealed as we discover who River is and how she fits in to the lives of the 11th Doctor’s other friends.
The way she gets to know more than the Doctor is a refreshing change for a show which has run, with a break, since 1963. Previously the only characters who have got anywhere near him have been other timelords.
Her entrance into the 11th Doctor’s life involves some pretty awesome shoes followed by psychic lipstick and a cameo from Mike Skinner of The Streets fame.
The Weeping Angels, one of the best baddies of modern Who play second fiddle to her.
The juxtaposition of transformation is one of the funniest elements of the show in recent years. The Doctor doesn’t recognise himself when Prisoner Zero takes on his form, but the first thing River does is find a mirror.
Rule number one is the Doctor lies, which River oft repeats. But she is a liar too and this is clear when she sees Amy just after she has defeated the Weeping Angels, but much later on in Amy’s timeline.
The definitive moment of River Song is when facing a dalek in the pandorica story, where the dalek predicts she will let it live and she says: “I’m professor River Song, look me up.” It’s response after looking her up sums up why River is so unique in Doctor Who.

Today the BBC is celebrating 50 years of Dr Who (no one is dwelling on the decade and half (ish) when they did not make the show for TV (aside from the under rated US pilot).

Why has the show endured for so long, especially during that TV show blank period (altho I understand the continuation books flew of the shelves during this era). There are countless audio books available and fan sites, blogs and the British tabloids go properly nuts for any snippet of Dr Who news.

But why is this the case?

Well, certainly domestically, the Doctor is very British. An eccentric, intelligent gentleman (so far – am personally very pro a female Doctor as that would be within the (modern) show’s ethos of refreshing itself). There is a bit of Sherlock Holmes in there and as quoted in the BBC dramatisation of the genesis of the Doctor a bit of HG Wells, CS Lewis and father Christmas. British quirkie-ness, British geekie-ness (before the term geek probably existed).

Outside of the UK, why has the Doctor endured? Well in the US he is so that lone hero character so popular in Westerns and beyond: think Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy, Batman or Superman or the Lone Ranger. Even Buffy – which I remember reading somewhere the 2005 return was particularly influenced by, in terms of the companion element of the narrative. Buffy was that lone hero who had friends, but walked a path they could not ever fully understand. The Doctor walks a path like that too.

And what has contributed most to the longevity of the Doctor on TV? The genius idea of regeneration – or what to do with your TV show when the star wants out. This sci fi way of dealing with the problem is completely genius and works so well within the narrative universe of the Timelords. This also gives the producers a way of refreshing the show every so often and, in theory at least*, allowing it to go on and on. What is not to like: a little blue phone box; new Doctors every now and then; endless new companions; adventures across all of time and space.

 

* There is that lingering plot device about the Master being on his last regeneration (13th, if memory serves) but I am sure some genius already has that covered (spoilers alert) – I expect River Song gave him all of hers when she saved his life that time, or maybe he has all of the Timelords regenerations ever, assuming it was he who wiped them out during the Time War.

 

Robot and Frank

August 3, 2012

This movie is a pretty good introduction to how robots will fit in to our lives in the future (or at least during the difficult transition phase to having robots in our society).

How robots are likely to fit into social care of the young and elderly is an ongoing debate as is the legal aspect of a machine in your home that remembers everything that happens there.

The text on you tube describes the nameless robot as a ‘butler’ which I am not sure is how we should describe robots in our homes. Will we name them like we name our cars, pets and our children? Or will the manufacturers do that for us (will they all end up with alphanumeric strings like R2 D2 / C3 PO?) cos I don’t think we can all call the ‘robot’ as they are in this movie.

I am sure when this movie is re-running on late night TV 25 years from now I will comment to my Asimo about how quaint and old-fashioned it all seems.

Did you ever watch Blake’s Seven – either when it was first broadcast or on video / DVD / download/ whatever.

I  was quite young when it was broadcast in the late 70s / early 80s, but one of my earliest memories is of my older sister loving / talking about / drawing images from the show Blake’s Seven.

I remember watching parts of the last series in the 80s and especially the shock ending of the show.

During the late 90s I watched most of the show on video (my sister owned them) and it was then I really GOT it.

Terry Nation (inventor of the Daleks) created the show and one of the key ideas what that these people were more real than anyone else in TV sci fi ever had been before. These characters had faults, were sometimes morally ambiguous and would not always make the right decision based on doing something which was right, but didn’t benefit them. They were pragmatic.

TV sci fi before then had been very black and white in terms of you were either completely good or completely bad. Star Trek so far was all about that – as was Dr Who (altho interestingly, Dr Who has had a slight edge at certain periods since then – Sylvester McCoy‘s Doctor always had a very dark side).

If you look at TV sci fi since then – Farscape, re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Firefly – or many others, they have that edge. And in my opinion this is down to Blake’s Seven.

If you haven’t seen it before take a look (but please forgive the 1970s BBC special effects).

Big Women – 4OD

November 23, 2010

4OD is probably one of my fav things in the entire world.

Everything Channel 4 (in the UK) has ever made is stored here and is accessible to stream to your PC.

Which is great, as the channel is owned by the government and therefore the citizens of the UK and we can watch what we have already paid for (and paid for again, as unlike the BBC, this channel sells advertising space as well) whenever we like.

As opposed to the BBC iPlayer system which only allows you to view things shown on one of its channels in the last week (or broadcast on its national radio networks). Which is fine for catch up, but not good for discovering hidden gems.

Something I found, watched and enjoyed the other day was Big Women, a four-part series about a woman’s publishing house, set up to promote feminist issues in the 1970s.

Great drama, great cast (including Daniela Nardini – who originally came to my attention in the BBCs amazing This Life series, which I loved watching while living in London while at uni) and a great service from Channel 4.

I found it interesting as drama and as a historical piece about the publishing industry.

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