Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

GamesMaster (1992-98)

For the people that saw GamesMaster back in the day, that watched Dominick Diamond in his presenter pants talk straight-faced about waggling his joystick in public, the warm fuzzies of nostalgia that accompany this post are for you.

For everyone else, yes, the disembodied head in the picture above is the one and only astronomer extraordinaire Sir Patrick Moore. He was the godfather figure on the first ever dedicated video games show on UK TV.

GM went to places that other shows didn't. It plumbed the furrows and poked the holes. It even reached around without being asked because it cared. It was dangerous. In truth it was nothing more than innuendo, but if your mother walked in at the wrong time she’d be outraged. That just made it better!

As an adult now, I can see how Dom’s “verbose vernacular” could be perceived inappropriate and occasionally borderline pornographic by the emotionally stunted, but it didn't stop me chuckling the same all over again.

Dom left after Series II and was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who was arrogant and shouty. It was a disaster. That’s all I have to say about Series III.

Mercifully, Dom returned for Series IV - VII. The innuendo was slightly curtailed, but the elevated icy sarcasm more than compensated. It’s as if he thought ‘I don’t give a toss about decorum or Channel 4. If they sack me, I’ll go out a winner.’ He'd perv the ladies and ridicule the men equally. The weekly mocking of Dave Perry, an act Dave seemed unaware of for the longest time, was pure gold.

Commentators and reviewers were from popular games magazines of the time, such as C+VG, Game Zone and my favourite, the one my paper round money paid for, Mean Machines. They dished out ridiculous scores of 80 and 90% for games we found out were turds when we rented them illegally from the unscrupulous but enterprising video store owner at the arse-end of town. Every town had one.

It was the era of the Mega Drive, SNES and Amiga; of Sensible Soccer, New Zealand Story, Alien Breed, and micro spring joysticks that broke about a week after purchase (but could we ever find that damn receipt?). Sonic 2, the slowed down PAL version, was a cutting edge new game! Bloody hell.

As the years went on the fast-loading, cartridge-based systems were forced into retirement as a cocky newcomer, the optical disc, arrived and seductively stroked the pockets of gamers the world over hungry for innovation. Little did we know it would lead to draconian business practices, patches, DLC and Season Passes.

126 episodes, approx 25 minutes each.

4 tight right-handers out of 5

Friday, October 3, 2014

Neverwhere (1996)

Richard Mayhew is a nice guy who lives in London. (Those two things are generally mutually exclusive, but Richard is a Scotsman who lives and works in the city, so it’s all good.) His fiancĂ©e is an asshole. His friends are assholes. If Richard could meet the criteria he believes constitutes success, he’d become an asshole too. But instead he meets Door, a pretty young woman in need of the kind of help that he in his privileged position is able to offer.

Richard becomes aware of London Below, an underworld with its own laws, both societal and physical, that coexist with the London Above. The two worlds can interact from time to time but must inevitably return to their own individual aspects. If Richard is to help himself then he must continue to help Door, and that means stepping into an unknown world of underground passageways, weird happenings and (not very menacing) cut-throat assassins.

It required a believable, fantastical aura to be effective, something like Hensen’s Labyrinth (1986), but instead it ended up looking more like Eastenders. The reason being that all footage was shot on video with a subsequent filmisation process planned, so the lighting needed to allow for that. When the filmisation process didn't happen, the resultant footage was released as is and it looks bad. It’s easy to imagine the morose ghost of Arthur Fowler lingering behind a market stall someplace, which doesn't do it any favours. I've gotten used to it over the years and can easily ignore that aspect, but newcomers might be less forgiving.

What drew me to the series initially was that it was written by the author Neil Gaiman. I was a fan of his storytelling style back then, which was influenced by classic literature. It’s watered down by oceans and time, but there’s an unmistakable element of it beneath the surface, giving it life. Richard is a kind of modern Aeneas; he’s an Argonaut; he’s Theseus walking toward a confrontation with the Minotaur. He isn't consciously aware of any of that, but the workings of fate exist and direct him in the same orchestrated manner. History has shown that even the Greeks viewed their myths as mutable, adaptive to the times and the teller, so at its most basic level only the setting is changed.

6 episodes, approx 30 minutes each.

3 forgotten route stops out of 5

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Legit (2014)

Jimmy's on a bad luck run, yo.
Season 2 picks up mostly where season 1 left off. Jim has lost his girlfriend Peggy, fired from a lucrative acting gig after making the lead actress uncomfortable with a rape joke and then is possibly diagnosed with a sex addiction by Dr. Drew after he drops his phone in the toilet while using it to masturbate in the shower. Steve is spiraling out of control as well with a growing alcohol addiction and frequent drug fueled binges that threaten his already strained relationship with his ex-wife and young daughter. Billy deals with the progression of his muscular dystrophy and while Jim resolves to dig himself out of their ruts, they all have varying degrees of success. Jim tries therapy, charitable shows for the disabled and veterans, and reconnecting with old flames, but they don't always work out either because of bad luck or just his crass nature. They will also test his resolve and possibly threaten his career.

The season is the same as the first with hilariously black comedic plots often pulled verbatim from Jefferies' stand-up routines, but adds a bit more dark themes that he is also somewhat familiar with like addictions toll on loved ones and depression. The show might seem to lose some of its comedy, but becomes better with the stark mixed with the hilarious. The season was just full of the hilariously raunchy jokes like the thin walls during a happy ending massage or Jim falling for a supposedly perfect woman except for being incredibly racist. It really seemed to hit a stride which is too bad that it was moved to the obscure spin-off channel FXX where no one watched and was cancelled at the end of this season. At least it had some resolution and went out on a high note.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on iTunes and Amazon Instant video.

4 binges ending on the beach in your undies with no recollection out of 5