Recasting TV Characters

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26 August 2014.

With the first episode of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi hitting the small screen (and the big screen for the truly addicted) this past Sunday, let’s have a wander through my top 4 least successful recasting of characters in the world of television.

For the record, I thought Deep Breath was a solid start for the twelfth Doctor and I’m looking forward to enjoying Capaldi’s prickly, all business Time Lord.

4. The First Doctor – Doctor Who: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original run of Doctor Who, a feature episode was produced in 1983. The Five Doctors was to reunite all five lead actors. Unfortunately, Tom Baker refused to participate so footage from the unaired story Shada was slotted in instead. The original Doctor William Hartnell had passed away in 1975 and was replaced by Richard Hurndall. Although endorsed by Hartnell’s widow, Hurndall portrayal of the acerbic first Doctor is the least believable aspect of the special, despite the wobbly sets and rubbery aliens. Hurndall passed away in the same year, supposedly before he was paid for the role.

3. Catwoman – Batman: If Batman is the world’s greatest detective, why was he incapable of noticing when his arch nemesis Catwoman changed from white actress Julie Newmar to black cabaret songstress Eartha Kitt in the campy TV series which ran from 1966-1968? Catwoman even changed again to the white Lee Meriwether for the movie. I suppose she was wearing a mask.

2. Becky – Roseanne: For the first five seasons of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom, daughter Becky was played by Lecy Goranson. When the actress chose to pursue university, her character was written out of the show. By season six, the role was recast with Sarah Chalke (later of Scrubs fame) who continued until the end of season seven, when Goranson’s university schedule allowed her to return. Scheduling conflicts midway through season eight resulted in Becky being played by both actresses in different episodes. Chalke reclaimed the role full time for the show’s ninth and final season. The show producers dealt with the regular changes in Becky’s appearance with a running gag.

1. Jan Brady – The Brady Bunch: When the cast of The Brady Bunch were approached in 1976 to return to television in the all singing, all dancing, all terrible Brady Bunch Variety Hour, all were coaxed back with the exception of Eve Plumb (Jan) who wisely stayed away. She was replaced by “Fake Jan” Geri Reischl, a talented singer and actor. Luckily for everyone involved, and TV audiences, the show only lasted nine episodes and is considered one of the worst ever produced. Geri retired in 1983, but returned to singing in 2000. My brother bought me an autographed copy of her 2011 album, entitled 1200 Riverside for my birthday last year. It is not very good, but the CD makes a great drink coaster.

TV Review: Gotham

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7 October 2014.

In the comic adaption wars, Marvel may well and truly own the silver screen but DC has rapidly cemented its domination of our televisions. I’m a recent convert to Arrow, now about to enter its third season. With compelling characters and a gritty revenge based overarching storyline, it is easy to binge on an episode or five.

Joining the DC ranks will be the Arrow spin-off The Flash, premiering in the States tonight. Existing in the same universe, I’m looking forward to enjoying the adventures of Barry Allen following his encounter with an exploding particle accelerator and then being struck by lightning (as you do). Let’s hope it fares better than the 1990 series which starred John Wesley Shipp (who will appear in the new Flash series as the lead’s father) in an awkward Michael Keaton Batman inspired rubbery suit.

Already out of the gate this year is Gotham, a drama series set in the Batman universe. Actually, make that the pre-Batman universe. Focusing on a young Detective Gordon (The O.C.’s Ben McKenzie), the pilot episode opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon bonds with the now orphaned Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) at the scene of the crime. At this moment, they are both set on their paths to become the future straight edge Police Commissioner and masked vigilante Batman. If you don’t know whom becomes who, then you probably should stop reading here.

For the casual Batman movie watcher, the references to future members of the Rogues Gallery is about as subtle as Bat nipples. A young girl tending to her plants introduces herself as Ivy. An ambitious criminal receives a beating that renders him with a penguin-like limp. A forensic specialist at the Gotham City Police Department likes to tell riddles. A young thief clad in all black likes to climb on things and often coughs up fur-balls (I made that last bit up).

Die hard fans will also appreciate the appearance of mob leader Fish Mooney (a fantastic Jada Pinkett Smith), as well as Detectives Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones), all relatively minor characters in the Batman universe.

The rendering of Gotham City is quite spectacular, in a comfortable hybrid of Christopher Nolan’s modern boom town and Tim Burton’s gothic megalopolis. At a glance, there’s no doubt that this is Gotham.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen the first two episodes and come to the conclusion that what this show needs is Batman. Sure, the similarly veined Smallville kept Clark Kent out of the Superman suit for ten seasons (with the exception of the very last few seconds of the show) but the series still centred on Kal-El coming to grips with his powers. The only great change coming up for Gotham’s Bruce Wayne is puberty.

Comic book readers and film fanatics are programmed to appreciate Detective / Commissioner Gordon as a supporting character. I honestly don’t know if I can sit through at least a decade of this show waiting for Batman to appear.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:23  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scooby Doo and WWE: the megapowers collide

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th December 2013.

As kid growing up in the eighties, one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning was to wake up early and watch cartoons. Nowadays, I much prefer to sleep in and miss Saturday morning altogether. My favourite animated series was Scooby-Doo and if it was listed in the TV guide, I’d make sure that I was glued to the box for every minute.

Sure it was super formulaic. There’s a mysterious figure haunting a location, usually a mine, theme park or film set. Scooby and the gang arrive in the Mystery Machine to investigate. Chaos ensues. Insert a whacky chase scene. The criminal is collared and unmasked to reveal that it was Old Man Smothers / McGillicutty / Jackson all along. The famous phrase is uttered. “And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” Roll credits and theme tune.

I guess the simplicity of the formula appealed to my young brain.That would also explain why I also loved similarly simple shows such as The Famous Five, Murder She Wrote, Hey, Hey It’s Saturday and A Current Affair.

My absolute favourite episodes were the ones which saw the Scooby Gang team up with guest stars, in particular Batman and the Harlem Globetrotters.


Produced in 1972, the “Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair” and “The Caped Crusader Caper” see Batman and Robin work alongside Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne to battle the dastardly Joker and Penguin. I was a huge fan of the sixties camp incarnation of Batman, starring the legendary Adam West, so this was the coming together of two of my most beloved franchises. It’s also worth nothing that the quality of acting is not much different between the animated and live action Batman. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to the voice actors of the cartoon or a brickbat for Adam West’s thespian skills…

As a child, I had no idea who the Harlem Globetrotters were. I still don’t. They seem to be some sort of basketball team who specialise in doing tricks but aren’t very good at playing an opposing team, kind of like the Parramatta Eels. Amazingly, they were also sleuths who like to solve mysteries. In “The Mystery of Haunted Island” and “The Loch Ness Mess” they team up with the Scooby Gand to investigate locations being haunted by mysterious figures… I won’t bother. You know the rest.

It was with some trepidation that I discovered recently that the latest Scooby-Doo animated movie sees the titular Great Dane work alongside another of my loves…wrestling.

Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery sees the Scooby Gang investigating the world of professional wrestling. Despite my initial reservations that these two worlds colliding might be a mistake, I’m think I’ll keep an open mind. After all, there are plenty of masked men in the WWE to be revealed. And quite a few steroid smugglers I’m sure. Scooby snacks anyone?

Many WWE Superstars will be lending their likenesses and voices to the project, including renowned Shakespearean actors Triple H, John Cena, Kane, The Miz, Brodus Clay, Santino Marella and the chairman of the board, Mr McMahon.

In March next year, Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery will be unleashed on the world, direct to DVD. Hopefully the Scooby Gang will solve some of WWE’s greatest mysteries, such as, “Why didn’t the referee see that?” and “How is it possible to be beaten up that badly and not get a single bruise?” I might finally also get an answer to the most commonly asked question whenever I admit to liking professional wrestling, “How on earth can you watch that garbage?” Jinkies!

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:46  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comixology: comics digital style

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th July 2013.

I’ve always loved comics. As a kid, I’d arrive at the bus stop early and browse the comic racks at the newsagency. Each week I’d receive my allowance and put aside just enough money to purchase a comic, which I would read on my way to school and reread on the return journey. I would then file the comic safely away in a shoebox where I presumed it would stay for years under my bed until it became valuable. What I didn’t know at the time was that the price the newsagent scribbled on the front cover in black marker rendered the comic worthless then and forever.

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a financial position (pre-mortgage, of course) that allowed me to have the latest comics delivered weekly from a specialist store in Sydney. Every Friday, I’d receive a package of crisp, mint condition books. I’d carefully read them before they were sealed inside acid free bags and then transferred to a comic storage box where I presumed they would stay for years in my spare room until they became valuable. What I didn’t know at the time was that there are thousands and thousands of nerds around the world doing exactly the same thing and that the vast majority of comics decrease in value over time. Only limited condition covers and pristine first editions are worth collecting.

Several thousands of dollars later, I realised that what I actually enjoyed was following the adventures of Batman, Superman and other superheroes with their underwear on the outside, not the actual physical act of collecting comics. And that’s why I’m now hooked on the Comics iPad app by Comixology.

Comixology is a platform for purchasing, reading and collecting digital comics. Both DC and Marvel sell digital editions of their printed products, as well as digital exclusive titles, through Comixology. Many major independent publishers also participate. Once you buy a comic, it stays in your virtual collection forever and is accessible via multiple devices (smartphone, tablet and PC). Actually, similar to music collections on iTunes, you are only licensing the comics for your own personal use until you die. You can’t bequeath your comic collection to anyone else.

One of the great features of the Comixology platform is the patent pending “guided view” technology, which allows the reader to follow the action panel by panel, replicating the normal action of the eye when reading a printed comic page. Both golden age and brand new comics look great in HD.

At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying The X-Files Season 10, which sees Mulder and Scully continuing to search for the truth following the events of the final episode of the TV series. I’m also keen on the ongoing adventures of the new movie universe USS Enterprise crew in Star Trek. The Walking Dead remains a perennial favourite. I’ve also just discovered Batman ’66 which continues the campy trials and tribulations of the Adam West caped crusader universe. Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods!

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 00:15  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th July 2012.

Rarely does a film trilogy manage to maintain its quality and momentum throughout the entire series. Many franchises start strongly and falter along the way as studios place pressure on creative forces to ensure that more money is raked in each time.

In recent years we’ve seen Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy begin with two brilliant entries but lose its way in the final chapter (Emo Peter Parker is best forgotten). The (then) Wachowski Brother’s The Matrix set up an intriguing world within a world but then threw it all away with two under baked sequels (and a credibility erasing rave party scene). And let’s not mention The Godfather: Part III or Jurassic Park III.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. The Indiana Jones trilogy (note that I said trilogy) and the original Star Wars flicks (Ewoks notwithstanding) are classics and practically critic proof. Same goes with the Back to the Future, Toy Story and The Lord of the Rings franchises.

So it was with excitement and some trepidation that I ventured in to see Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman series. After a strong opening and then a sequel that surpassed the original with a memorable performance from the late Health Ledger as The Joker, Nolan had declared that this would be his final visit to Gotham City and the good news is that he doesn’t disappoint.

Most importantly, try to catch The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX. Nolan shot over an hour of the film in IMAX and the format suits the grand scope of the cinematography well. As far as I’m concerned, IMAX is the future of cinema, not 3D.

The performances are all uniformly solid. Bale once again brings gravitas and vulnerability to the Bruce Wayne / Batman role, although I still have no idea why he suddenly requires a cough drop as soon as he dons the Batsuit. Michael Caine makes the most of Alfred Pennyworth with a couple of great scenes which essentially bookend the film.

I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I have to admit that she won me over as Selena Kyle (the name Catwoman is never uttered in the film). As a skilled cat burglar torn between Batman and the bad guys, Hathaway brings charisma and sassiness to a character that could easily have been played as a wisecracking sidekick (see Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl).

Tom Hardy is virtually unrecognisable as the principal villain; the muscle bound masked mercenary Bane. Much had been made of his incomprehensible voice in the trailer, but I had no problems understanding Hardy who appears to be channelling Darth Vader and Colonel Sander’s lovechild.

The story picks up eight years after the last film. Bruce Wayne is a broken man, both physically and mentally. Only Bane’s terrorist attacks on Gotham City can convince him to become The Dark Knight for potentially the last time.

Nolan’s screenplay, co-written with his brother Jonathan, gives everyone their moment to shine and neatly wraps up all of the storyline strands from the previous chapters. A few plot holes and lapses in logic may leave you scratching your head after the fact (see my website for the plot holes after you have seen the film) but at the time, it’s hard not to be captivated by Nolan’s superb ability as a storyteller.

I can’t recall a film in recent memory that makes its hero suffer for the audience as much as The Dark Knight Rises but in my books, this magnificent final entry in Nolan’s Batman trilogy is one of this year’s best films.

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 11:43  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Dark Knight Rises: a near perfect film but not without plot holes

I’ve just returned from experiencing The Dark Knight Rises in glorious IMAX. As my 129th movie for 2012, I am pleased to say that I have given it 9 out of 10. Christopher Nolan has managed to conclude his Batman trilogy with an epic thriller that will enthral audiences worldwide. However, I still left the theatre wondering about a few plot points that didn’t make sense.

SPOILER ALERT
Below are my plot holes for The Dark Knight Rises. If you can explain them to me or have others to add, please let me know.

1. How did Bruce Wayne / Batman return to Gotham City following his escape from the prison? All of the access point to the city were blown up or blocked.

2. Why didn’t the prisoners attempting to climb out of the prison use the rope (that they were all tied to for safety) to be pulled most of the way and thus save their energy for the final and most difficult part of the climb?

3. Why did Miranda (Marion Cottilard) not reveal her true nature until Batman returned to Gotham? Once she had control of the bomb and Batman broken, what possible advantage was there to maintaining her secret identity?

4. Why didn’t Batman focus his attack on Bane’s mask in their initial battle? It was pretty obvious to me that it was his weak point.

5. Was Bane’s mask electric? Batman used a gun that knocked out electronic devices early in the film. It might have been worth a try.

6. Is Wayne Manor located in Gotham City? Why wasn’t it attacked by Bane’s thugs?

7. If Bane knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman, why didn’t he look under Wayne Manor for Batman’s weapons and vehicles too?

Superhero going stale? Reboot!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th May 2011.

Next year will see the cinematic release of The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. With stars Christian Bale and Gary Oldman returning, along with new cast members Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Harding as Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levy as an unnamed character, the film is sure to be a major box office hit for Warner Bros and DC Entertainment. However, with Nolan and Bale confirming that they will not be back for a fourth film in the franchise, rumours are rife that Batman will be rebooted with a new director and star.

In cinema, a reboot is where all previous continuity in a series is discarded and begins anew. In the Caped Crusader’s case, Tim Burton’s original series, which began in 1989 with the box office smash starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, had petered out to a kiddie friendly mess by 1997 with Batman and Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys), when the big red reboot button was thankfully pressed.

Batman isn’t the only comic superhero to undergo a reboot. The Man of Steel has been revised once, and is soon to be revamped again. Following four films starring Christopher Reeve, each one sillier than the next, reaching rock bottom with the anti-nuclear rubbish that was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, X-Men director Bryan Singer was given the reins to reboot the franchise. Starring Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey, Superman Returns essentially eliminates the original third and fourth films and picks up from where the second film ended.

Superman Returns, which was shot in Sydney, was not the mega success anticipated by Warner Bros, and now the rebooted Superman: The Man of Steel, which will premiere in 2012 and star Henry Cavill in the blue tights, will begin production soon.

Marvel comic characters are also not immune to a reboot or four. Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and The Thing make up the Fantastic Four, who were successfully translated into cinematic gold in two films produced between 2005 and 2007.  Starring Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon, both movies were profitable for Fox. A much more superficial take on the superhero genre compared to Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, the Fantastic Four are due to be rebooted soon.

Sam Raimi’s very successful Spiderman trilogy has made a fortune for Sony Pictures. Following the critically panned Spiderman 3, which starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Sony has announced a reboot, The Amazing Spider-man, to be directed by Marc Webb (no pun intended) and starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.

The dilemma with reboots is where to take a renewed franchise. After the serious Gothic style of Michael Keaton’s Batman to the silliness of Val Kilmer’s Caped Crusader to the craptacular Bat-nipples on George Clooney’s Bat-suit to the super dramatic gravelly tones of Christian Bale, where to next for the Dark Knight? You can’t really go any darker than Health Ledger as the Joker and you can’t get any campier than Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze (unless Adam West is looking for work). The choice in my opinion is simple, a musical spectacular on ice in 3D. Holy reboot Batman!

Classic TV shows you won’t find on DVD

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd March 2011.

Have you ever wandered around the entertainment section of your local department store and seen how many TV shows are now available to buy on DVD? Surely there can’t be a demand for all of them? For every classic series such as Twin Peaks there’s a Golden Girls Season 5. Why buy the excellent Firefly box set when you can buy the craptastic JAG or The Anna Nicole Show? There must be someone buying this stuff.

With that in mind, there are still many notable shows that have yet to find a release on DVD.

“Holy chicken sticks Batman, we’re not on DVD yet!” That’s right, the campy Batman series from the sixties is still yet to be released. Starring the super serious Adam West as the titular superhero and millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, alongside Bert Ward as his youthful sidekick Robin a.k.a. Dick Grayson, there are apparently very complicated rights issues between US networks Fox and ABC, Greenway Productions and DC Comics preventing the Caped Crusader from making his way to DVD.  Why can’t there be disputes keeping Acropolis Now off the shelves?

The eighties series about the sixties, The Wonder Years, is also stuck in DVD purgatory. Starring cuddly Fred Savage as tweener Kevin Arnold and Danica McKellar as his love interest Winnie Cooper, the six seasons of this popular dramedy utilised many popular songs from the late sixties and early seventies. This is where the problem lies. With the licences for the songs limited to television broadcast only, each tune requires a new licence and royalty to be negotiated for DVD release.

Secret Valley was an Australian TV series broadcast on the ABC in 1984. Starring siblings Beth, Miles and Simone Buchanan, the show revolved around a holiday camp for kids. Strangely devoid of adult supervision, the camp was regularly terrorised by bully Spider McGlurk and his gang. It was a G-rated Lord of the Flies without a pig’s head. From memory, each episode ended with a flour bomb fight (take notes kids, bullies are best dispatched with flour, not body slams). The show was shot at the now defunct Smokey Dawson’s ranch in Terry Hills, NSW and the even more defunct El Caballo Blanco Spanish horse theme park in Catherine Field, NSW.

A spin off from Secret Valley, Professor Poopsnagle’s Steam Zeppelin was produced in 1986 and starred Justine Clark. Broadcast on Channel Ten, the story followed a group of kids from Secret Valley who build a flying red bus (as you do) to search for the missing six golden salamanders which when combined will produce a solution to air pollution. Apparently this show is still very popular in the UK, but then again, so is Benny Hill.

Both of these classic Australian children’s shows are not available on DVD. To be fair, equally daggy but awesome kids’ shows Pugwall and Pugwall’s Summer can be found on DVD.

D.A.A.S. Kapital was a sitcom of sorts written and starring the Doug Anthony All Stars. Running for two seasons on the ABC, the show featured Tim Ferguson, Richard Fidler and Paul McDermott as custodians of the world’s most treasured artworks stored aboard a submerged submarine that is owned by the Shitsu Tonka Corporation, a company that now owns the world. Despite a recent DVD release of Doug Anthony All Stars material compiled from the also MIA comedy series The Big Gig, this cult series is nowhere to be found.

If there is supposedly a demand for all twelve seasons of Murder, She Wrote (if Jessica Fletcher arrives in your town, leave because someone’s going to die), five seasons of Ally McBeal and one (but feels like twenty) season of Cops L.A.C., then there must be a market for my picks. And while you’re at it, why not also release China Beach, L.A. Law, Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs (not the mama) and Hangin’ with Mr Cooper? Write to your local member today.