On the second day of Christmas, my TV gave to me…

It is no secret that I love Christmas (unless you have been living under a rock in a small village on the windswept edges of Mongolia in which case you are (a) very odd, and yet quirky, and (b) forgiven for missing that) and naturally being a pop culture junkie, I seek out every TV show and piece of music that feeds this festive obsession.

I know many TV shows are derided for featuring twee and corny Christmas episodes (mostly by elves on internet forums with massive chips on their very small, effeminate shoulders), but many of them actually come up with some of their most creative, clever and funny shows of their season, since they are given the freedom to do pretty much what they want.

So here are the Christmas episodes of my some of my favourite shows (which naturally will be shown in Australia sometime around May next year, with no regard for their sparkling seasonal content):

DR WHO


The Dr Who Christmas episode is a staple of British TV and it sounds like this episode is going to be right up there with the best of them. With a more than passing nod to C. S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the story takes place during the dark days of World War 2 when a war wear woman, Madge Arwell, flees the death and destruction  of The Blitz in London with her two children to a house in Dorset. There, the Doctor, who she mysteriously met two years before, is waiting for her, and sensing they need some magic in their lives, takes them on a fantastical journey through, yes you guessed it, a wardrobe in one of the rooms.
It promises to be every bit as magical as the other six episodes have been, and I can only hope the ABC here in Australia is able to do as they have done in previous years,and beam the episode into our homes in time for us to see this on or near Christmas Day. Fingers crossed!

Here’s an fun promo clip by Matt Smith to get you in the mood.

A prequel was released online on December 6 for the episode and it shows the doctor holding a red button in a space ship desperately calling for Amy Pond to come in the TARDIS and save him. He recalls though that Amy isn’t going to be able to help him as she is long gone. So he releases the button, and the ship explodes moments after he wishes Amy a Merry Christmas. It’s actually quite touching and bittersweet, and bodes well for the full episode to come.

EUREKA

To my great and enduring delight, Eureka has crafted what looks to be another standout Cristmas episode. The entire episode has been rendered in a number of different animation styles, packed full of the trademark wit and idiosyncrasy that has made this show so beloved by so many (although not enough for syfy, the channel it appears on, who declined to keep it on the air.)
So how do these usually flesh and blood characters end up as claymation figures, CGI and even South Park-esque doppelgängers? It’s all thanks to a super photon generator which as we all know can’t just be left lying around the house, and it takes all the wit and ingenuity of Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson – check him out talking about the episode here) and the Eureka gang to fix the mess this device generates.
What’s most impressive is that the producers of this fine series decided to go right outside the creative box, and explode out of the other side of the envelope (yep mixed metaphors – got that – thank you) with colour, fun and a great story to boot! But I’d expect nothing less from such creative minds who have granted fans of great writing, characterisation, and style the best show to come along in years. 
This preview looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch it. 
You can watch the Eureka team talk about the episode at Comic con in July 2011.
Also SciFi vision wrote a fun rundown of the show too.



COMMUNITY


Community, beloved for it’s off the wall characters, and even quirkier plots, is going all Glee this Christmas!
When Greendale’s very own Glee isn’t available to perform at short notice, tour favourite group of study buddies, and unlikely friends are seconded to fill in for them, driven to perfection by the college’s very own Mr Shue-like glee club director, who’s possibly a few notes short of symphony in the sanity department, played by Saturday Night Live’s, Taran Killam. All the songs are supposed to be originals and I can’t imagine this not being poptacular!
Here Joel McHale (Jeff) talks about the episode:

Oh, and in news to thrill the heart of any fan of this greatly underrated comedy which has to be the funniest, wittiest sitcom on TV at the moment, Community was voted the Fan Favourite by TV Guide readers and made the covers…yes three different ones! It’s brilliant publicity for a show that deserves to be a lot of love, and be watched by millions more than it is!
GLEE

This year Glee wanted to invoke old-time 70s Christmas TV specials (the fact this time period is now considered ‘old-time’ disturbs in ways I can’t even articulate adequately) by having the New Directions gang appear on a TV special within the episode. It will evoke the Star Wars and Judy Garland holiday specials which explains, at least, why Chris Golfer (who plays Kurt) is hugging the most famnous Wookie of all.

The episode, which will feature about 6 holiday songs, has scenes showing Kurt and Blaine exchanging gifts in the hallway (what looks like jewellery – what could it be?!), Sue helping out a homeless shelter showing she’s not a total grinch, and Rachel and Finn in the front of the lockers possibly giving gifts. Whatever happens the choir room is full of tinsel and a massive beautifully decorated tree and everything seems set for an “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” indeed!

One can only hope Channel 10 gets in the festive spirit and shows this before Christmas…

Matthew Morrison, who directed the episode speaks on Jimmy Kimmel Live about directing his costars, which had some funny moments:

Here’s an interview with some of the cast on the special:





WAREHO– USE 13


This looks, from the trailer, to be one of the classic ‘something-inexplicably-weird-has-happened-and we-have-to-sort it out-really-quickly episodes with a seasonal twist. The basic story pivots around Eddie McClintock’s Pete Latimer being hit on a head by an artifact while stacking them out in the titular warehouse, and waking up to find himself in an alternate reality where he doesn’t work at the warehouse, and McPherson, a very dead bad guy, and ex-Warehouse 13 agent, is very much alive. The episode also involves the usual cast, who all must be convinced in one way or another that they are living the completely wrong lives. As usual there’s lot of laughs to go along with the drama, and this has all the appearances of a great addition to the Warehouse 13 canon.

Here’s a preview of the show by SciFi Vision.

Glee done got its mojo back….mostly

Have you ever become fast and firm friends with someone who has charmed and delighted you every step of the way till one day they make an almost insulting remark, or appear disinterested in what you have to say, before bouncing back the next day as if nothing ever happened?

Sure you have. It isn’t something any of us enjoy, but people being the contrary beasties that they are, can often send mixed signals when what we crave is caring consistency. Still, you hope and pray that those who you truly madly deeply care for will be there staunchly the same day in and day out, come what may.

The same thing applies, let’s be honest to the media we consume. Yes we want our music artists to grow and change, and our TV shows to experiment and boldly go place no TV show has gone before, but we want to stay consistently mind-blowingly good while they do it.

I would like to say that Glee managed to do this during their sophomore season but alas they didn’t and while I watched every episode, I found a number of them  disappointing to watch to the extent that it took a lot of effort to complete the season. Characters didn’t play true to type or became discordant one-joke caricatures (thinking Sue Sylvester), romantic entanglements approached almost Melrose Place levels of silliness (by the end of the season everyone had pretty much dated everyone it seemed) and the story lines were often pointless, or just plain mean-spirited and aimless. I just didn’t enjoy watching it any more, a horrifying realisation at the time since I had adored this show almost from the first frame of the pilot.

Apparently I was not alone, and the creators of Glee, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk realised that they have lost their way somewhat and to their credit admitted as much. In fairness to them, it must be exhausting producing 24 hours of television a season and making sure that you stay right on course though all of it. But I think the basis of the criticism was that they didn’t just veer off a little bit, but they went careering off over the fields, threw away the map and hoped they would eventually find the road again.

Well fortunately they have not just found the road, but are screaming down the freeway, and Glee is back doing what it does so well – telling stories about a bunch of musically-inclined misfits in a high school trying to find their way in life, and singing as they do it. Yes it does have a slight air of been-there-done-that but that is inevitable to some extent, and hardly detracts from the freshly reclaimed vibe the show has in spades. Yes Sue is still a tad too one-joke for my liking, but then they have tried to broaden her character out on occasion which has worked well, and I guess they are counting on viewers remembering those moments she displayed a humanity other that wasn’t verging on the cartoonish. But Rachel and Kurt are still dreaming of the bright lights of Broadway, Finn is back with Rachel, and Kurt and Blaine are closer than ever.

So frankly what’s t complain about? They are singing and dancing and back to being the bright shiny friends we know and love, and it’s great to have them back!

Who will make it in the TV Lifeboat?

Lifeboat TV shows MAIN

 

I think we can all agree (and by ‘we’ I mean every member of the human race, so encompassing is my forthcoming thesis) that someone, somewhere – insert your choice of deity/third world dictator/secret world society bent on domination and control being pursued by Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider character – has pushed the hyper fast forward on our lives, thrown in more and more sensory output till we feel like we’re about to explode in the manner of the glutton from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, and is even now working out how to weave additional hours and/or alternate universes of experiences into the mix (too much Fringe perhaps? Is that possible?) till Outlook begs for sweet mercy…

All agreed? See, that was easy and took but a second from your crazy frantic existence. Right so, given that we are all time poor from pursuing our ludicrously busy first world lives, something has got to give right? Well you would think so, and frankly that would be the sensible option but if you’re a ‘I must experience everything I can’ pop-culture loving person like myself, then dropping anything at all is anathema. Everything must be read. Everything must be listened to. Everything must be watched… then blogged about (how ironic that I mention while, uh, blogging), talked about on Twitter, updated on Facebook, recorded on Goodreads and…. and…. BOOM!

 

 

Now, you may think you know where this blog post is going. Social media has exhausted all of us as we rush frantically to and fro, stuffing our lives full into what we think are TARDIS-like suitcases (infinitely bigger on the inside for the uninitiated) and we must pull back, smell the flowers in a quiet field in Tuscany and reflect on the quiet beauty of just being with ourselves and our friends. If you though that, you’d be wrong, and clearly not as in agreement with me as I thought. (Or possibly I have constructed a vague and wandering thesis and should be shot at dawn by a cadre of fellow Tweeps).

No, what I am saying is, finally, is that I have decided that in order to have it all pop culture-wise, that I must pare down what I am looking at, hard though this is to do, and so, though it feels like I am leaving my pop culture out in the cold and dark to be picked by TV critics till they are no more, I am culling the TV shows I watch, and want to watch (ah, aspirational TV, you make me believe I can be a better TV viewer) and concentrating on those shows I can save. In practical terms, this means the following shows get to scramble aboard the lifeboat that I am jettisoning from the cruise ship of my life :

I CHOOSE YOU MY PRETTIES!

GLEE

I have loved this show from the first episode, and while I know it has its detractors, and a wildly uneven second season which tested my loyalty, I love its sense of camp fun, the often wonderful song covers (not all of them work but kudos to them for giving it a shot), its treatment of some serious issues, and it’s Melrose Place-style dating merry-go-round.
 

Yes, I have only just finished watching season 2 (shh don’t tell Ryan Murphy) partly due to time pressures, and partly because I stopped at the Funeral episode fearing it would be too sad – and I have only managed to download the first three episodes of season3 so far, but it stays because every lifeboat needs glamourous discussion of important social issues, and Britney uttering the sort of bon mots I want to memorise and repeat to anyone who will listen (except on Sydney public transport where you just look weird if you try it.)
BIG BANG THEORY
So much geeky fun and some of the wittiest scripts and best deliveries I have ever seen in a sit com. Plus they manage to actually bounce the humour off the character interaction without resorting to cheap laughs. Even when there are cheap laughs, it makes sense in the context of who these people and what their world view is. I laugh out loud multiple times in every episode (a rarity these days) and if you’re marooned in the lifeboat of life, you need an engaging, intelligent, humourous clown, or a posse of them.
FRINGE
This show, which started slowly like the X-Files on some particularly ineffective Valium, shook off its initial lethargy and spent seasons 2 and 3 becoming a creature so original, clever and engaging with characters that made sense and were a treat to spend time with, that I can only hope it lasts forever. It won’t of course but while it does, I will be watching for dear life, and hoping the show gets to paddle on for as long as it can.
THE BIG C
Laura Linney rules! She plays her role with sass, fun and a sense of bluntness that is refreshing. She is dying from cancer damn it, and you can’t sugar coat it, or hide from it, so she won’t and it results in a show that is heartbreaking, hilarious and deeply insightful all in the space of a 20 minute episode.
I have had season 1 gathering a very unfashionable coat of dust for ages, having heard it was a gem of a show but only really got into it when my housemate played me some season 2 episodes. I was intending to watch one and watched a bunch of them, and if I am going to paddle out into the sea of life, I need no-nonsense Laura along for the ride!

EUREKA

I love quirky shows set in wacky small towns full of idiosyncratic people, and no one does it better than the producers of this show who have crafted a show that bristles with intelligence – it is about the people working for, and near the world’s foremost scientific facility after all – wit, and characters that are well rounded and not goofy parodies.
I know its been cancelled and frankly this has caused me much grief (for which not even copious amounts of Lindt chocolate were sufficient as a salve, if you can believe it) but I am only four episodes into season 3, so it will quite some time before the show shuffles off its broadcasting coil, and I am forced to sadly and with much ceremony push them out of the lifeboat.
So the lifeboat is reasonably full at this point right? So the sensible thing would be to call it quits at this point, set some wine and nibblies on the coffee table, adjust the air con (I don’t buy slum lifeboats, trust me) and let my witty, clever boat guests shock and awe me using their awesome powers of pop culture entertainment. But picking my five favourites  is akin to Solomon trying to split a baby in two – for the Biblically unversed, he didn’t actually go through with it so you can all relax – so I plan to have some shows swimming gamely alongside the lifeboat, which will be let in from time to time to sit with the Favoured Five and sup at the big kids table. Which lucky shows, which will need to be able strong of limb and swimming technique have made the grade? Why these ones, good people:
WAREHO– USE 13 – So much fun! The two leads have fantastic chemistry; the storylines are inventive, and the quirky vibe just what the left of centre doctor ordered.
MODERN FAMILY – Who knew you could re-invent the family sitcom and make something heart warming that doesn’t insult the intelligence and is witty into the bargain? Well you can!
TERRA NOVA – It is still sailing uncomfortably close to warm and fuzzy family moments for my liking and need some shades of darkness but I hope to keep this one in the loop.
HAVEN / IN TREATMENT / BORED TO DEATH – I bought the DVDs but I have not watched. I wish to, I really, really do. REALLY….. REALLY.
Now, I know you must be wondering – apart from when is this never ending post, um, ending, of course – is who has been mercilessly, yet with regret, tossed adrift into the chaos of the pop culture never to be seen, at least by me again? Why sadly, and I do regret this greatly, MAD MEN, WEEDS and PSYCH. They are all wonderful shows, the first two damn near magnificent, but I will never have the time to watch them from scratch in the right order, and so they must go, and maybe in some far distant time as I wait for my sago pudding to arrive in the nursing home, I will find the time, drool hopefully not trickling down my aged chin, to watch these shows, and make up for this horrible decision I have had to make.
For now though, I need to concentrate on jumping overboard and taking my precious cache of treasured shows with me onto my pop culture lifeboat and hoping against hope that life slows down enough that there aren’t any more casualties …

Mixed Bag o’ Updates – Dr Who and Glee!

Yes I like to mix it up folks and here’s a doozy! Dr Who, time-traveller extraordinaire fighting against galactic evil, and Glee, all singing, all dancing and fighting societal evils. Yep a tenuous crossover, it’s true but it’s the best I can do right at this moment!

DR WHO

This second half of season 6 looks like it holds lots of promise with more River Song revelations, plots to kill Hitler, minotaurs and who knows else what as the following interview with Matt Smith details quite nicely :

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/s7/doctor-who/interviews/a336374/matt-smith-interview-doctor-who-should-be-scary.html

GLEE – Season 3

Yes season 2 was very hit and miss, and I can only hope that Ryan Murphy recaptures the taut storytelling and immediate relevancy of season 1. All indications are that there are good storylines in the offing, and if he can re-invent Sue from a one-note character, and stop the Melrose Place-type dating syndrome in the Glee club, I will definitely be tuning in with perfectly tuned bells on!

…oh and the Dodgeball promo is a hoot! (although it doesn’t bode well for the whole Sue as an ongoing full realised character)

http://entertainment.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474980046137#.TlWXFrvWnGQ.twitter

Emmy Nominations are in!

I would like to say I am a connoisseur of hip quality TV, but the truth is I love and need it so much that I am, in all truth, a junkie. I need my fixes of my favourite shows like Nurse Jackie, Glee, Big Bang Theory, Modern Fanily and Parks & Recreation, and I need them often and now!

So as a junkie of pop culture, one of the big events of the year is the release of the Emmy nominations and this year’s are out and you can see them here:

http://www.spoilertv.com/2011/07/emmy-nominations-2011.html

http://www.spoilertv.com/2011/07/emmys-2011-comedy-nominations-aka-ones.html

My only moment of bug-eyed spluttering outrage was the omission of Community, one of the laugh out loud funniest shows on Tv right now. For shame Emmys, for shame…