Broadchurch Thoughts

I hope everyone’s following the new series of Broadchurch. If you thought the second season didn’t live up to the first, then I think you’ll find that the third brings it back to greatness. Trilogies always sag in the middle, don’t they?

People are being very positive about it on Twitter. Many of the comments are around how every guy you see is a possible suspect. Which is very true. I’m just glad to discover that there are eight episodes, not six as I had thought. Which means we’re still not quite halfway through.

David Tennant and Olivia Coleman are fantastic together as ever. and Jodie Whittaker as Beth is amazing.

Most of all, I think it bodes well for Chris Chibnall’s future role as head writer on Doctor Who.

Broadchurch Thoughts

Missed Again: What a Catastrophe

OK, so I didn’t post before midnight. But there’s a good reason: we were getting up-to-date with Channel 4’s Catastrophe, which is a great sitcom.

We only started watching it a few weeks ago. Luckily the whole thing is available on All 4. Thank the tech & TV industries for catchup services.

Channel 4’s even seems to have become stable, and improved its UI. It’s only about a year ago that we stopped watching Homeland because the playback was so choppy. And we couldn’t record it because it was on Sunday night at the same time as Downton Abbey, and we were recording that. (We only have a simple DVR.)

Though it had well and truly jumped the shark by then. What were they doing in Berlin?

Missed Again: What a Catastrophe

Under the Television Skies

In The Colour of Television Jack Deighton questions the worth of the famous opening line of William Gibson’s Neuromancer:

The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.1

Jack questions its meaning, and describes it as “an author, straining, unsuccessfully, for effect.” I commented:

[D]on’t take it so literally. It was obviously meant to mean “the screen of a television set,” but writing’s all about deleting unnecessary words, as Orwell told us.

I always took it to mean a stormy grey sky. Not literally speckled like an old telly on a channel where there was only static, but that was certainly what he was going for. Imagine that roiling, churning, grey-black-white melange, converted into a sky of a similar colour palette.

It’s so evocative, so memorable, it’s almost poetry.

Plus there’s The Doors connection:

I also always took it as reference to the Doors’ song “My Eyes Have Seen You,” that goes, “… under the television sky! Television sky!”

Lyrics sites — and my ears, this evening — say it’s actually plural: “television skies!” But that doesn’t make any difference.

Anyway, I’ve always loved it — that opening, in particular. I mean, I’m fond of the book, but don’t go back to it that often; but the opening is unforgettable.2

In having a look around before writing this, I discovered that there’s an extract on Gibson’s site, which reminds me that its all that good. Reading that extract, what think of most is the beats, or Hunter S Thompson.

And interestingly it isn’t done with the sky after the first line:

you couldn’t see the lights of Tokyo for the glare of the television sky

and:

By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned silver sky.

Which last point suggests that Jack’s over-literal concern about the meaning of the opening might have an answer: maybe the sky was literally that staticy colour of an old TV between channels. If so, I don’t think we ever got a reason for it. But it’s implied there has been at least one war in the not-too-distant past of the novel.

Opening lines are so important. To my mind Gibson’s is up there on that bright, cold day in April, just around Barstow on the edge of the desert, with an exploding grandmother.

But to each their own, of course.


  1. I always remember it as “… over the port…”, which frankly I think is better. []
  2. Even if I misremember it, as described previously. []
Under the Television Skies

It’s Not Tomorrow if You Haven’t Gone to Sleep yet

Yeah, OK, so I missed my deadline: I’m typing this after midnight. But it’s still the same day I got up in, in sleep-cycle terms. Also in terms of how the TV listings mags give the days, too. Which can actually get a little bit confusing sometimes.

It stems, of course, from the days when all TV would have stopped by midnight or shortly after. Yes, kids, I know it’s hard to imagine, but TV stations used to “close down” at night. One or other of the channels used to even have a wee programme that was actually called Closedown, if I remember correctly. I think it was one of the weird religious things, where a priest or minister would come on and give a Thought for the Day kind of mini sermon.

Anyway, and still on TV, apparently the best comedy show around, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is having that annoying recent habit, a mid-season break. We have no idea when it will be back. And… well, if you’ve watched it…

No, I’m not going to say any more about it. Just hurry up and get back, guys.

I may actually backdate this post, just so my daily posting doesn’t show a gap. After all, I’m treating it as still Thursday 16th of February, even if the clock doesn’t.

It’s Not Tomorrow if You Haven’t Gone to Sleep yet

All the Things in the World

Do you ever look around and think how amazing everything is? How it all got there? And I’m not talking about the grandeur of nature, the glory of the universe, and all that. I’m talking about all the human-made stuff.

I have often found myself in the middle of a city, or looking out of a train window at a bridge or power station, and thought, “Wow: people built this. Just ordinary people, like me, actually made all this.”

Look at ancient buildings and you realise that they used to do it without the help of modern machinery, too.

And then think about the infrastructure that’s carrying these words from where I’m typing them to where you’re reading them. Hundreds of miles of fibre and copper cables across the country. Thousands of miles of undersea cables. Satellites, and the rockets to launch them.

We’re pretty amazing sometimes, us humans.

Like I say, I’ve often thought about this kind of thing. But today, while not at work because I’m a bit under the weather1 I had a slightly different version of it.

I had a sudden, overwhelming sense of how much cultural work we have created. Specifically stories and TV and films. Though in fact it was comics that really triggered it.

As I say, I’m not at my best, so I wanted something simple. I ended up reading a bunch of comics on Marvel Unlimited. And no matter how many I could read in a day, I could only make the tiniest of scratches in the surface.

And in TV, Netflix seem to have a new original series or two coming out every week.

It’s not all great, of course. But just think of all those people, writing away, acting, filming. Making things.


  1. I have a vague memory of someone in a film or TV programme mis-saying that as “beneath the weather,” but I can’t think who, or where. I kind of want it to be Josie in Twin Peaks, but I’m not sure. []
All the Things in the World

Things We Can’t See

There are certain interesting TV programmes that I’d like to see but I can’t watch for ethical reasons.

If you’ve been around here much before you’ll be familiar with my contempt for Rupert Murdoch and all his works. I’m far from alone in that attitude, of course. But this means, most notably, that I would never get Sky TV. That has only ever mildly bothered me on the odd occasion when they’re showing a film I’d like to see that isn’t available elsewhere.

But things have taken a turn for the worse lately, and it’s largely the fault of an American TV company that I generally heartily approve of: HBO.

Actually the rot probably started to set in when Sky got the rights for Mad Men Season 5, after the first four had been on BBC 2. I’ve still never got round to seeing the later seasons.

But the problem with HBO shows is that Sky has the exclusive UK right for something like five years. And that means I haven’t been able to see Westworld. Which is a shame, because everyone was talking about it a few weeks ago.

More worryingly by a long way for me, though, is that the new series of Twin Peaks, which is not being made by HBO, but something called Showtime. It’s due out in May, I believe, and guess who has the UK rights?

Showtime seem to have a streaming service, so maybe that’ll work here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t, though.

On the other hand, in doing some research when writing this, I discovered that Westworld is available to download via iTunes, so maybe the same will be true for Twin Peaks.

Either way, it’s going to cost. It would be a lot better if these kinds of things could go to proper channels.

Things We Can’t See

More on The OA

I got to the end of The OA. Which didn’t take too long, seeing as it’s only eight episodes.

It was another one where I enjoyed the journey, but the destination was kind of annoying. Though luckily, not quite as annoying as I thought it was going to go at one point during the last episode.

One of those stories where you’re left not knowing what exactly it was trying to say. The ambiguity of the ending is not inherently bad, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind an open ending in general. But I think this falls down slightly because it doesn’t address several of the points it raises.

This (non-spoilery) review catches the mood of it all very well. I note that it describes it as “Season 1.” That may not mean there’s any plan for a season 2, though. I’d be surprised if there were, really.

They’ve also got a spoiler-filled version, which you should only go near if you’ve watched the whole thing.

More on The OA

Oh, Eh?

I watched the first episode of Netflix’s The OA last night. Very interesting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest, and speculating about what “OA” might stand for. “Operational Assistant”? “Overcome with Angst?” I kind of want it to have something to do with UFOs, but that would mean it had to be “Object” something.”Object Activity,” for example.

But none of that would make much sense. And I’m betting that it won’t be anything easily guessable.

One could of course google it, but that would be to walk into a pit of spoilers, and I came into this knowing exactly nothing about it, which is great.

Also watched the first episode of Person of Interest, which my son has been singing the praises of for some time. No bad, looks quite promising.

And (a bit of a TV-fest last night) a few episodes of That 70s Show, which my daughter has been singing the praises of. Quite funny, quite (but not exactly) like the real 70s. The joke may wear thin, but it should be good until then.

Oh, Eh?

Classy

I just watched the last episode of Class, BBC 3’s web-only1 Doctor Who spinoff.

It is really, really good. If you haven’t seen it you should stop reading this now and go and watch. Really. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Eight episodes with special guest appearances at the start and (spoilers) the end, about five young people in the famous Coal Hill School. Famous from the very first episode of Who, of course, right up to the 50th and beyond. It’s now an academy, not surprisingly. And it seems that it is — or always has been — something of a nexus in space and time.

I’ll not say much more, as it would be hard not to get spoilery. But I will tell a little anecdote of how I watched it.

I saw episode 6 first. Why? Because I was careless, and iPlayer has stupid defaults. I went to the site and searched and found the programme, and started watching the first episode it presented me with. Because that would be the first episode, obviously, right?

Wrong. The rationale is sound: iPlayer is a catch-up service; and the episode you’re most likely to want to catch up on is the current one. So the episode I saw first was 6, “Detained”, which must have been current at the time.

Thing is, I don’t think there can have been a “Previously…” at the start — though there was later — or I think I’d have noticed. I was just impressed with how it started straight in, giving touches of backstory in moments of dialogue, so that by the time the five teenagers were locked in the detention classroom and the plot began to unfold, I was really impressed with this in medias res beginning and compact storytelling.

Well, of course, after that I realised my mistake and went back to the beginning. And when I got to 6 again it did have a “Previously…” But if you didn’t start at the beginning, it was probably the best one to start at.

Is it great? Maybe. It’s certainly got the potential to be so. It’s better than early Torchwood, maybe not quite as good as the best of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Well worth watching, and I hope there will be more serieseseseses.


  1. Well, that’s a tautology now, of course []
Classy