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Friday, December 23, 2016

Comic Cuts - 23 December 2016

OK... just to explain the picture. Last week I mentioned that there had been a break-in around the corner from us and that any coverage in the papers quoted people saying that this was unexpected as Wivenhoe is such a quiet place. I then went on to mention a recent drug-related stabbing, a violent attack and that some ducks had gone missing.

And I was asked about the latter by someone thinking it was a reference to Doctor Who. Sorry, Bill, I'm not that smart! It really happened. Two ducks have genuinely gone missing.

Most people are compiling their best of the year lists, but I've seen so few films this year that it would be pointless: I have just seen Rogue One, which was brilliant, but there are loads of films that I'm happy to wait to see on DVD so I can watch them in the comfort of my own home as many times as I like for the same price as (and sometimes cheaper than) a trip to the cinema.

That said, I do watch a lot of TV and I'm reasonably up-to-date on a lot of shows. So the Guardian Top 50 made interesting reading. There are a couple of shows in there that I ought to catch up on. Happy Valley, for instance, and The Night Of, which I almost bought last week on DVD (I persuaded myself not to as I still have loads of stuff to watch).

Anyway, I can't fault Planet Earth II as being the best TV of the year. It was truly astonishing and Mel and I still mention the iguana being chased by snakes – it has become a bit of a meme around the house, as has the phrase, "kicked right in the lioness", thanks to seeing a giraffe seeing off at attack. We haven't watched too many documentaries due to the sheer amount of other TV that we want to watch. I guess Who Do You Think You Are? is our only regular factual programme. The Danny Dyer episode was hilarious and we still have Ian McKellan and Greg Davies to look forward to.

I did see the film documentary For the Love of Spock, which I can recommend. It's a biography of Leonard Nimoy filmed by his son. Perhaps the only fault is that it would have been nice to explore a little further into the periods when Nimoy himself fell out of love with Spock. But overall it was a moving tribute which didn't try to cover over the difficult relationship Adam Nimoy had with his father.

Of the comedies, I loved Fleabag (Mel didn't), I though Flowers was weird but OK – but we definitely don't need a second series (which, apparently, they are doing). I haven't seen quite a few on the list: Veep (which I want to see), People Just Do Nothing, Camping... we did see the BBC's sitcom season and thought most were good; glad especially to see that Motherland is getting a series, not so sure about the Johnny Vegas one, which is also going to series. Thought the remakes of missing episodes worked very well, and I'd love to see more. Some good news on that front: the radio series of Missing Hancocks is returning next year and will include four episodes from the second season of radio shows during which Tony Hancock really did go missing (he fled to Rome). Harry Secombe was drafted in and Hancock only returned with the fourth episode. These will now be recreated with Secombe's son, Andrew, standing in for his late father.

One show that didn't make the Guardian list was Catastrophe, which was just as good in its second season as in its first, and, from across the pond, John Oliver's This Week Tonight and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, both cuttings from The Daily Show that have flowered beautifully. Trevor Noah has been a pretty good host for The Daily Show, although I still prefer John Oliver's take-downs of American politics. (And despite the excellent job the rotating cast of replacements is doing, I still miss him on The Bugle.) A British attempt at a political show, Matt Forde Unspun was a valiant attempt at doing a similar show on Dave and I hope they'll give it another spin.

Of the thrillers that rolled out in 2016, I have to say that Line of Duty probably had me on the edge of my seat the longest. The Missing was also incredibly good. I've missed a few of those listed by The Guardian, including the The People vs. OJ Simpson, which was apparently brilliant, and we've still ti watch most of Black Mirror, although the first couple of episodes have been up to the very high standard of earlier shows.

One that I saw that nobody else seems to have seen is Hap and Leonard, based on the novels by Joe R. Lansdale. The 6-part show was based on the novel Savage Season and it caught the tone of the book beautifully: violent and funny and with two central performances by Michael Kenneth Williams and James Purefoy that capture perfectly the relationship between the titular characters. The good news is that they're making a second series, based on Mucho Mojo.

There has been some brilliant SF/weird/fantasy in 2016. The series that everyone was talking about was Stranger Things (Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg, to a John Carpenter soundtrack), which became a huge hit for Netflix. The streaming company also produced a bunch of other shows that I'd recommend: Luke Cage was brilliant and I'm really looking forward to Iron Fist (due out in March), I'm looking forward to watching The OA, which could be the next Stranger Things, the Christmas special of Sense8 and the animated Trollhunters over Christmas.

Other latecomers that I have yet to watch include The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime), Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America, via Netflix), Incorporated (Syfy) and Timeless (NBC), but I did manage to catch Mars, which was a mixture of fact and fiction produced by the National Geographic channel. It followed an attempt to put mankind on Mars in 2033 and the struggles the crew – and subsequent arrivals over the next few years – faced to build a sustainable base of operations. The show included flashbacks to present-day interviews with scientists and others (including Andy Weir, author of The Martian) discussing the science behind any such attempt. It worked, and I was gripped.

One of the best new shows of the year was Preacher, based on the Garth Ennis and (sadly missed) Steve Dillon comic. The show got the tone of the comic just right, in a way that the John Constantine TV series from 2014 didn't. Preacher shows you what Constantine should have been. Thankfully I'm not the only one who thinks it's great and there should be another season next year.

Ditto Westworld, which both Mel and I thought was excellent, although we won't see the sequel until 2018.

The best of the foreign thrillers we saw this year was Trapped, set in Iceland, with a terrific performance from Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, who turned up later in the year in The Missing. Deutschland 83 was a critical hit and had plenty of thrills, especially as it reached a potentially nuclear climax (for those who didn't see it, a spy steals war plans from Americans based in West Germany and a war games exercise is mistaken for the real thing and could potentially lead to a pre-emptive strike by East Germany against the West). Apparently there are plans for further stories set in 1986 (to air in 2018) and 1989.

The Australian series The Code had an excellent second series... no news of a third series yet, but fingers crossed.

As writing the above has taken so long I haven't had a chance to sort out any cover scans. I do have one, which is a wonderful story by Raymond Briggs about the lives of his parents. It has been adapted as an animated movie and it will be broadcast by the BBC at 7.30pm on Wednesday the 28th of December.

I was a bit surprised when my Mum told me that she had heard an interview with Roger Mainwood, the director, in which Wivenhoe was mentioned. Turns out he lives just up the road... I've probably bumped into him in the Co-Op!

I've got to get some sleep! My advice for the new year is not to start writing a 1400-word blog post at 10.30pm.

There's just enough time for me to say I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you have a brilliant time. The Paul Temple strip will keep running until the new year. I like to think of Bear Alley as a quiet corner of the internet that you'll be able to visit for a bit of peace, quiet and adventure over the busy Christmas and New Year period.

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas Steve from a 'lurker' who continues to enjoy your blog postings and I'll try to watch some of your TV tips - I also realy enjoyed "Stranger Things" on Netflix