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Friday, April 26, 2019

Comic Cuts - 26 April 2019

It's amazing how you can have sixty quid in your pocket one moment and the next it's gone! My trip for a check-up at the dentist on Wednesday morning went very well. In the past I've had some problems which seem to have been resolved by the simple act of changing my tooth brush (a Braun Oral B electric) and how I floss (never did get on with the string, much happier with the TePe).

Well, the gum-prodding and general hygiene went well... but one of my teeth requires a small filling. It's not causing any problems and I could have left it, but as it might cause problems in the future I thought I'd get it out of the way. Even on the NHS, every filling, however tiny, costs £62.10. I don't mind paying – although I will admit that I grumpily muttered "Isn't that what I pay NI for?" but too quietly for anyone to hear – but it caught me by surprise and I was scrambling amongst the loose change in my pocket to make up the full amount.

Something to look forward to.

I'm working on the text for The Return of "Hercule Esq.", the fourth of the Bill Kellaway books. I didn't have much time over the bank holiday as we (shockingly) went out and enjoyed ourselves rather than sitting around in front of computers/the TV.

Last Friday we went to see Gary Delaney, who is probably my favourite gag merchant (in a field that also includes Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis, etc.). This is a continuation of the Gagster's Paradise tour, which has already played once in Colchester. It has now sold out twice, which makes me wonder whether Delaney will be moving up a venue (from the 300 seat Arts Centre to the 800 seat Mercury) next time, as Richard Herring did on his last tour.

Delaney delivers 200 or so jokes, but breaks up the two halves of the show with asides about which jokes he didn't tell on "Live at the Apollo", which jokes are too filthy to tell, one of which he'll perform at the end for every groan the audience responds with during his set (we managed six), some visual gags via Power Point, including Wikipedia alterations and even a short film about Gary, Indiana. The latter is not especially funny, but you need a break every now and then, as Delaney well knows. We've seen him before and knew exactly what to expect... and Delaney delivered.

We hadn't seen Andrew Maxwell before and it was a very different audience we found ourselves amongst on Saturday. The title 'Showtime' didn't give the audience any clues as to what to expect, and I know that some of the audience were disappointed that the gag-to-politics ratio was quite low. I've heard Maxwell on radio shows and he's clearly a left-leaning humanist. He's also Irish, married to a Muslim, living in Kent and we're in the middle of a Brexit-made disaster. And it was the Saturday after Good Friday. Why would anyone be surprised that a bit of politics comes into his set.

It's clear that the Colchester crowd hasn't the foggiest clue about the border or how vital it is not to undo all the good that came out of the Good Friday agreement. Who would have thought that a porous 300-mile long border with 2,000 crossings would create problems if you have an imbalance between the two sides? Who would imagine that this imbalance might lead to criminal activity in a tinderbox ready to ignite due to rising tensions and riots?

Laughing and learning.

I've been watching The 100... the review has some spoilers so skip it if you want to avoid that sort of thing.

Ah, The 100... Originally broadcast on The CW in the US and on E4 in the UK. This is a post-apocalypse SF series which, from the trailer, looked like it was going to be a bunch of good-looking teenagers with artfully dirtied up clothes and slightly smudged make-up to remind viewers that not only has Earth been destroyed but, even worse, Dior don't make lipstick anymore.

Well, I was wrong. The story opens in The Ark, a space station hanging above a nuclear devastated Earth with a population in the thousands, well beyond its capacity. 100 teenage prisoners are dropped to the surface to see if the planet has become habitable. There they discover that survivors of the apocalypse have broken down into warring clans, with the untrained and unprepared 100 soon caught in the middle.

Thus begins a brutal story of making choices that could kill some and save others. Just how far will you go  to survive and how much of your humanity will you lose if you choose your life over others? What I've found over the five seasons of the story I've watched so far is that you don't always have empathy for the characters you think you ought to be rooting for.

As the show has progressed, three characters have come to the fore in the ensemble of survivors. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) is meant to be the moral heart of the story along with Bellamy (Bob Morley) and his troublesome sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). As season five opens, Clarke has survived the meltdown of nuclear power stations known as Praimfaya which has turned everything to ash but for one small, green valley. She finds another survivor, Madi, a young girl whose blood can metabolise radiation – a religion has developed around these Nightbloods which has survived in pockets amongst the survivors who have reached season five.

Those survivors include the 400 or so who have been living in a bunker for the past six years, originally 1,200 but whittled down by gladiatorial games held between those deemed to be against the population, who call themselves Wonkru (one crew). With their food supply failing, the loyalty of the inhabitants to their leader, the now battle-hardened Red Queen, Octavia, is becoming more strained.

A small number have survived in space in the remains of The Ark. They see another spacecraft and a shuttle heading planetwards and use precious fuel to get to the spaceship. On Earth, the shuttle disgorges a group of well-armed, well-trained soldiers led by Charmaine Diyoza (Ivana Miličević), who take over the valley.

What I like about The 100 is that it's not afraid to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, although to do so usually means something apocalyptic has to happen at the end of each season. So be it. With most of the grounders now gone, a new enemy had to be created, and while most of the soldiers – actually ex-prisoners used for mining asteroids – are from central casting's rent-a-thug division, their leader is coldly rational, a strategist with one aim: the survival of her people.

Jumping forward by a few years has also allowed the characters to grow in new directions. Clarke is now a mother protecting her child at any cost; Bellamy is in love with Echo and has softened; Octavia has hardened and thinks the only solution to survival is to lead her people into a bloody battle for Shallow Valley... and she'll burn down all the bridges behind them to keep her people marching forward towards the battlefront.

Unlike most science fiction series, where there's a big red button that resets everything back to how it was by the end of the episode/season, The 100 has allowed its characters to develop in ways that keep them interesting. Clarke's troubles with Madi, as she begins to discover what being a Nightblood  commander demands of her, and with her drug-addled mother, Abby, lead her to make choices that she would never have taken in earlier series. As Madi says in one of the episodes: "We're on the wrong side of this war."

The ending is appropriately apocalyptic and I'm now looking forward to season six, which begins on The CW next Tuesday (30th April). The fifth season began broadcasting in May 2018, so hopefully it won't be far behind the American debut.

Today's random scans are a selection of books I've recently picked up...

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