THE HOUR was a British TV drama that we started watching last year, about the birth of British investigative TV news in the 1960s. Two seasons of 6 episodes were made, and both Julia and I were very much on the hook, but sadly the planned third season was never completed. Although it is a good show I’m loathe to give it an enthusiastic recommendation because there is no closure to the story, leaving you on a season two cliffhanger that was not resolved. Feeling thwarted, we subsequently got our fix of British drama with that 1960s flavour by throwing ourselves into ENDEAVOUR (a prequel series to the 1980s INSPECTOR MORSE shows). This show about a young detective in mid 1960s Oxford I can heartily recommend, for its attention to period detail, fine acting, and clever scripts (I haven't done any TV sketches of that one yet though). I’ve always had a fascination for Britain in the 1960s, and sometimes wonder whether deep in my subconscious there are submerged memories of that place & time. Although I was tiny when I was there (just over a year old when my parents and I returned to Australia) and I have no conscious memories of my visit in the 1960s, the look and feel of 1960s Britain may have made an impression on my young mind, who knows?
GAME OF THRONES is a TV phenomenon these days. A sprawling Sword and Sorcery epic with violence, spicy language and lots of R-rated humping; LORD OF THE SCHWINGS. I've not seen any Orcs, Wizards or Elves, but there IS one dwarf. However, he’s not of the badass variety with a war hammer, more of a truth-telling court jester type. There’s lots of sword fighting and cussing, and there are dragons.. and Ice Zombies.. Where those plot threads are headed would be anybody’s guess at this stage (perhaps even including the author) and the political intrigues, battles and supernatural elements meander about willy nilly. The only certainty is that if we meet a comely mead wench at the start of a scene, we’ll inevitably see her vigorously boned on the tavern trestle-table by a dirty-faced bloke with bad teeth by scene’s end. (For this reason, Julia calls the show GAME OF HORMONES).
I've only read the first of the many books that this TV series is based on, written by George R.R. Martin, but Julia has read all of them. Angrily. Twice. (Despite her prior frustration with the books, she avidly watches the show). We are constantly told that 'Winter is coming' with ponderous ’mark my words’ gravity, but five seasons later, here we are, still waiting for winter to come, dragons to grow up and cook something, and Ice Zombies to do anything at all, as one character after another is seemingly groomed to be the protagonist only to be grimly killed off. Then the cycle repeats. At a certain point you start to wonder if there is an overarching plan at all, beyond punishing us readers/viewers for aligning our hopes with a ‘hero’.
Aspirational characters in GAME OF THRONES all come to a very grim end. In season one, NED STARK seemed to fit the bill of the ‘reluctant hero’, who’d nevertheless prevail. But no, he got his head cut off. Then KHAL DROGO, who’d once seemed a mere thug, but became likeable enough over the next season for me to want to see him kick some arse and avenge his missus. Only to die a drawn-out unheroic death after a wound became infected. PRINCE OBERYN was the next heroic sap to go; skull-squished. ROB STARK too; gutted at his own wedding. JAMIE LANNISTER started out as an unmitigated arsehole, but nevertheless grew on me, and just as he became likeable, wham; his sword-hand was cut off. JON SNOW was promoted to commander of the Nightwatch and poised for greatness, but no.. Hmm.. I’m starting to see the pattern. If author Jar Jar Martin had written LORD OF THE RINGS, ARAGORN would have been belly stabbed in the pub to die in his own gore at the very end of the first book.
Jar Jar Martin takes such great delight in killing off hero types that I wonder what happened to him at high school. (Are all these grisly hero-deaths a way of getting back at the jocks who whipped him on the arse with a wet towel?) While merciless toward ‘heroes’, he has a soft spot for cripples, orphans, bastards, dwarves and children. All of these from the first season have suffered setbacks, humiliations and mutilations, but as long as they avoid any overtly heroic actions they've survived. If they've made the mistake of trying to be a textbook hero, they were horribly dispatched. The downtrodden are all (with one recent exception) still alive at least, and my money is on one of THEM to prevail, though perhaps I’m a sucker for expecting anyone to ‘prevail’ at all.
A recent TV favourite over the past few years has been the relaunched series of Doctor Who, and shown here is one of my favourite incarnations of the changeling nerd from outer space; the 11th. I’ve not really bonded with the 12th guy yet. His debut season was (to my mind) very uneven, with some of my the silliest episodes of the relaunched series nestled right alongside some of my favourite episodes. It is very hard to say which way this version of the Doctor will go– Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat have the combined talents to make one of the most innovative versions of The Doctor, but it remains to be seen if this particular soufflé rises or collapses. The second season of Doctor #12 is soon to be broadcast and I will watch with great interest..