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  
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A Game of Binge Watching – Game of Thrones

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th January 2014.

The way we consume entertainment has changed, and the studios know it. No longer are we obediently tuning in once a week for a fix of our favourite TV show. Instead, we are turning to “binge watching” and the market is adapting to our needs.

Many moons ago, when I was studying at university, the highlight of the week would be my weekly episode of The X-Files. Every Thursday night, I’d sit transfixed by the spooky adventures of Mulder and Scully, and Friday morning would be dedicated to the dissection of the storyline with my mates, between lectures of course.

Dominant US streaming service, Netflix, fired a shot across the bow of traditional television   content providers last year when they began to produce their own exclusive series. House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black both premiered to critical acclaim. The resurrected Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove were met with mixed reviews. Instead of a traditional weekly release schedule, these new shows were unleashed upon the world in complete season blocks. Viewers could watch episodes at their own pace.

Combined with the ever popular DVD box sets, iTunes downloads and marathons on pay TV, the pressure is off to timetable TV viewing. Binge watching is the new normal, and I experienced it for the first time this past weekend. Say goodbye to sleep and hello to Game of Thrones.

Lauded by critics and fans, I was well aware that Game of Thrones, based on the popular books by George R. R. Martin, would be a must-see on my never ending list of movies and TV shows to eventually watch. However, I kept putting it off as I was reluctant to deal with its large ensemble cast and complex, political storyline.

Spurred on by my significant other, who has already devoured every available episode, I was inspired to purchase the double season box set on blu-ray (I don’t steal media) and begin my binge. Let the games begin.

My Game of Thrones experience had a confusing start when I accidentally watched the second episode first. Initially impressed by the brazenness of the writers to begin the show mid-storyline, my enthusiasm soon turned to frustration. I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

A quick check of an episode guide online set me straight and I begin in earnest. Thankfully, everything made sense this time around and by the third instalment, I was well and truly hooked.

Produced by HBO, home of my beloved Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones is serialised storytelling at its best. Lavishly produced on location mostly in Northern Island, with CGI enhancements, the show is a feast for the eyes, particularly in high definition. The acting is uniformly exceptional, with a cast willing to strip off with great regularity.

With fifteen episodes devoured and five to go before I have to make the critical decision to either wait for the Season 3 box set to become available on February 19 or download the lot now from iTunes, I am well and truly addicted. Besides food and (a little) sleep, nothing will stop me from finishing the show. I’m even fast forwarding the opening credit sequence to get to the story faster.

Game of Thrones Season Four will premiere early this year. It’s already in my diary.

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:59  Leave a Comment  
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Doctor Who Memories

This column was published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th November 2013.

After decades of adventures in time and space, Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend. With a special episode entitled, The Day of the Doctor, broadcast simultaneously worldwide alongside 3D screenings at cinemas, interest in all things Who is at an all time high. In today’s fickle television market, it is hard to believe that a franchise has lasted so long (albeit with a break from 1989 to 2005).

Growing up in the eighties, Doctor Who meant it was almost teatime. Broadcast almost perpetually on the ABC at 5:30pm, it usually followed a Japanese animated show such as Star Blazers, Voltron or Astro Boy. For the next thirty minutes, I’d witness the Doctor battle Daleks or Cybermen through my fingers or from behind the couch. Once the end credits rolled with the familiar theme tune playing, Peter Russell-Clarke’s Come and Get It would be on for 5 minutes and then mum would call us for dinner.

The Tom Baker years always seemed to be on endless repeats. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen The Ark in Space. That’s the story with the killer sleeping bag. Sure, it was meant to be an alien caterpillar called the Wirrn, but even at as a youngster I knew it was a guy in a sleeping bag painted green.

One of my friends at high school, Stu, was a huge fan and collected the Doctor Who novelizations published by Target. I’m pretty sure he had all 156 of them. Before I developed other interests (girls), he’d happily lend them to me. They were short reads and every couple of days I’d swap a consumed book for a new adventure. I wonder if he still has them all. I’m sure they would be worth a fortune in mint condition. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure Stu’s collection is not in mint condition. After all, they have all been in my school bag and I caught the bus and then walked home.

They say that your favourite Doctor is the one you grew up watching. Arguably that was Tom Baker, but in terms of new episodes, Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor. Not the most popular amongst hardcore fans, McCoy’s Doctor was a dark and slightly sinister character. I really liked his chemistry with companion Ace (the foxy Sophie Aldred) and was bitterly disappointed when the show was cancelled in 1989 by budget conscious BBC management.

A few years ago, McCoy and Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor) came to Australia for a fan event and I was lucky enough to meet them and get their autographs. They were both very pleasant and seemed well adjusted to their geek icon status. I will never forget when some idiot in the Q & A session challenged them to fight each other. That was never going to happen. After all, Time Lords are a peaceful race.

Congratulations Doctor Who. Here’s to another half century of dodgy alien costumes, shaky sets and wonderful memories.

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:23  Comments (1)  
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TV Review: Under the Dome

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd July 2013.

The latest adaption of a Stephen King novel arrived on our TV screens last week. Premiering on Channel 10 just hours after its US broadcast, Under the Dome was watched by 1.7 million Aussie pairs of eyeballs. That’s a pretty good rating for a network that has been consistently failing in the rating of late. Reef Doctors anyone? I didn’t think so.

The premise is ripped straight out of The Simpsons Movie. A small town in the USA is encased in a mysterious dome. Even said dome’s crash landing was reminiscent to the completion of new buildings in The Simpsons Tapped Out game. I half expected Homer’s voice to exclaim “Kaboom”. Unfortunately, there are no further references to The Simpsons in this review. Doh!

The debut of the titular transparent structure hopefully set the tone for the rest of this 13 part mini-series. Landing on a farm, the dome wall managed to turn an unlucky cow into one of those Gunther von Hagens anatomy art installations. Wait, there’s one more Simpsons reference. Don’t have half a cow, man!

With two occasions of severed arms, told from the two available perspectives, Under the Dome introduced itself as an episodic thriller with lashings of gore. Finally, there’s something to watch each week alongside Hannibal and MasterChef.

Over the course of sixty minutes, we were introduced to the central characters and the subplots were laid which will hopefully entice viewers to stay for the entire season. The show opened with Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel), a war vet with a stupid name and mysterious motives for being in Chester’s Mill, burying a body, which we later discover was the husband of investigative reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle LeFevre). Of course, by the end of the episode, Julia has unknowingly befriended Barbie. Why does every two bit American town have an investigative reporter? Wouldn’t the majority of stories in the local newspaper concern corn prices and weather forecasts?  And what’s with the ridiculous surname? The last TV character to have that surname was ALF.

Then there’s shady used car salesman and local politician “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris) and Sheriff “Duke” Perkins (Jeff Fahey AKA The Lawnmower Man), both of whom seem to have known that the dome was coming because they were stockpiling propane gas. Maybe they were just preparing for a big town BBQ? After all, there is that half cow for disposal now. And do we really need to stoop to such silly stereotypes as car salesmen in local government?

For the younger demographic we have Joe and Angie McAlister (Colin Ford and Britt Robertson), teen siblings whose parents are locked out of the dome leaving them home alone. Let’s hope that the Wet Bandits are not around. The episode started with Angie in bed with local psycho Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch), son of “Big Jim”, and ended with her handcuffed in the basement. Breaking up is hard to do.

Overall, Under the Dome is shaping up to be an interesting watch but I’m going to give it one or two more episodes before committing. It won’t take much for the show to degenerate into a soap opera set inside a bubble. The producers need to tempt us back week with just a little more information about the dome.

Is it of human or alien origin? How is it powered? Where did it come from? Can you dig under it? Will it snow when you shake it?

Let’s hope the audiences stick around to keep Under the Dome running long enough for some satisfying answers.

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 17:20  Leave a Comment  
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Undies on the Outside: Thoughts on Superman

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th June 2013.

As long as I can recall, the Man of Steel has been a part of my life. For most of my childhood, I had a cardboard Superman stuck on my bedroom wall with pins in his arms and legs so his joints would articulate. Each night I’d doze off with a smiling and waving Kal-El looking over me.

My parents were early adopters of the VHS format in the early eighties and one of my perennial favourites was Superman II, taped off the television. Every couple of week I’d pop the tape in the top of the machine (yep, the VHS player was old school) and enjoy Supes battling Terrence Stamp’s evil General Zod.

Mum had also recorded the original Superman movie but I was less keen on it. I found the scene at the beginning of the film depicting the destruction of Krypton too traumatic for my sensitive little mind and would often fast forward through it and start with Kal-El landing in the cornfield in Smallville.

It was only recently that I discovered that both Superman and Superman II were filmed simultaneously. Original director Richard Donner clashed with the producers and was sacked after finishing the first film and three quarters of the sequel. Richard Lester was brought in to finish Superman 2 and drastically changed the storyline. In 2006, after much lobbying from fans, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released and it is magnificent.

Although a little patchy now, the flying effects in the first two films were groundbreaking at the time. I often could be found as a kid trying to replicate the effects by lying on top of a kitchen stool in a flying pose and making whooshing sounds. Maybe I invented planking?

I went to see Superman III with my mother at the now defunct Roxy Cinema at Parramatta. Even at the tender age of eight, I could tell that the film was terrible. A vehicle for coked up comedian Richard Pryor, this turkey saw Christopher Reeve split into two personas when exposed to synthesised kryptonite that was infused with cigarette tar, and then fight a supercomputer, as you do.

In 1987, I received the Lucky Book Club tie-in adaption of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and wisely steered away from seeing this movie bomb until recently. By this stage, Reeve was not keen to repeat the campy trash of the third instalment and was only swayed by the lure of story input. What resulted was a truly atrocious low budget film which involves Supes disarming the world of its nuclear arsenal and then fighting Nuclear Man, who is created when said bombs are thrown into the sun for disposal by the Man of Steel.

During the late eighties, Superboy started screening on TV in the late afternoon timeslot. Also a low budget affair, I remember it being rather low key, with a young Superman fighting drug dealers and crime lords, rather than super villains (or supercomputers). The romantic adventure series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman followed in prime time in the early nineties. I didn’t watch this one because it was more drama than heroics, plus I was too enamoured with The X-Files at the time. And I still have to catch up on the final eight seasons of Smallville which was a little choppy in terms of quality and certainly very slow moving (just put on the suit and fly already).

In 2006, Bryan Singer’s underrated Superman Returns hit the big screen. I must admit that as soon as John Williams’ iconic score began, the cinema got just a little dusty. Unfairly labelled as a failure, there is plenty to enjoy about this movie, which was largely filmed in Sydney.

On Thursday, Man of Steel will arrive and I cannot wait. Despite hit and miss director, Zack Snyder, being at the helm, I will buy my ticket and hopefully love it. After all of these years together, Superman surely won’t let me down.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:19  Leave a Comment  
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TV Review: Masterchef 2013 – Boys vs Girls

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th June 2013.

Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to reality TV cooking competitions, I prefer Masterchef. Sure, there are other (and higher rating) options available but I like my cooking competitions to be more about the food and less about human melodrama, double crosses and stereotypes.

So it was with a heavy heart that I witnessed the debut episode of the new season of Masterchef on Sunday night. Expecting the same old, comfortable format of previous years, I was horrified when judges George, Gary and cravat guy announced that the theme was boys versus girls.

Battle of the sexes? Really? Really? In a competition based on individual achievement, what relevance does the number of Y chromosomes have on one’s ability to prepare food for human consumption? What’s next? Battle of the blood types? Battle of the races? Plants versus zombies?

The episode began with the new array of kitchen cannon fodder arriving at the MCG for a showdown worthy of a place amongst the greatest competitions ever played on the hallowed turf: separating egg whites. Insert record scratch here. For the record, self-confessed cooking nerd Rishi bested opera singer Clarissa to separate 1kg of whites. Woohoo, boys rule!

The teams then rushed down, down (prices are down) to the nearest non-specific supermarket with only $204, representing the average family spend on groceries per week, to buy ingredients for a 3 course meal for fourteen. The boys had a few bucks more for winning the Great MCG Egg White Challenge™. I’m still not entirely sure about the link between the weekly expenditure statistic and the spending limit for a single meal, but who cares? It’s boys versus girls!

Desperation (for ratings) was the main scent emanating from the Masterchef kitchen as the producers immediately established the heroes and villains for the new season. Michael is the misogynist. Noelene is the eye rolling sarcastic divorcee. Jules likes to sledge the boys and call it like it is. A dispute at the supermarket over which ingredients to lose when the girls overspent led to the social worker labelling her teammates as “moles.” Wow, infighting already. It’s so My Kitchen Rules.

Clarissa is the annoying bossy one. As she dumped ingredients off the conveyor belt at the checkout, ethnic housewife with a heart of gold Samira was heard to utter, “Don’t let Clarissa touch my nuts”, without a hint of irony or innuendo. Unfortunately, this was the high point of the show.

To squeeze in yet another reference to the nameless supermarket chain sponsoring the program, the producers have also included an employee in the competition. Faiza, a veteran checkout chick with 8 years experience, saved the day for the female team by proposing that they half a clove of garlic to save 40c. Her employee discount card may have been more useful.

The fact that I am writing about the contestants and not the food isn’t a good sign for Masterchef Season 5. Falling ratings have prompted changes to the original format which replicate characteristics of its competitors. I’m predicting that Masterchef becoming more like the others will make it harder for viewers to distinguish it in a crowded reality TV marketplace. It’s been fun but I’m voting myself out of the Masterchef kitchen this year.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:01  Leave a Comment  
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New TV Reviews: Defiance, Da Vinci’s Demons, Hannibal

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd April 2013.

A fresh batch of episodic TV series has hit our screens, fast tracked from the USA within a few days or weeks of their original airdate. This strategy was tried by the Australian free-to-air networks a few years ago in a bid to curb illegal downloading, with mixed results. Ratings didn’t rise proportionately compared to the known downloading figures, and it left the local networks vulnerable when a series was abruptly cancelled. This is less of a problem for the pay TV broadcasters because they are less at the mercy of ratings and advertisers, and have a tendency to run a show in a particular day and timeslot for its entire season run.  Regardless, it is pretty hard to compete with illegal downloading, which allows fans to view a program within minutes of its US broadcast, ad-free, without the need for a recording device.

Defiance is the latest big budget series from the US Syfy Channel. Starring Australia’s own Grant Bowler (he’s actually a Kiwi) and Julie Benz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame, the show is set in the near future following the arrival of the Votanis Collective, an alliance of five alien races. In the movie length pilot, Joshua Nolan (Bowler) and his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) arrive in the outpost town of Defiance and soon become embroiled in a murder investigation which will jeopardise the entire population.

This show has been developed in conjunction with a multiplayer online game of the same name. Allegedly, both the game and series will influence each other, whatever that means. A large cast featuring multiple alien characters may turn off some but I think this show will reward dedicated viewers. Think of it as Babylon 5 meets Firefly via Eureka.

Da Vinci’s Demons is the latest series from David S. Goyer, the writer of Batman Begins and the new Superman movie, The Man of Steel. A fictional take on Leonardo Da Vinci’s early life, the show stars Tom Riley as the genius inventor, artist and intellectual. The first episode features flying machines, conspiracies, cults, opium smoking, a gay Pope and plenty of nudity. Fun for the whole family!

I’m sure this show is wildly inaccurate historically but for fans of Rome, The Tudors and The Borgias, you could do much worse. I’m going to give it a couple more episodes but I have a feeling I’ll eventually lose interest in this one.

Hannibal is my pick for best new show, although it is definitely not for the faint hearted. The series is based on Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon, which has been produced as a feature film twice: Manhunter (1986) and Red Dragon (2002), the latter a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Troubled FBI investigator Will Graham, (Hugh Dancy) is sent by his boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) for counselling with forensic psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). The two strike up a working relationship, although viewers are well aware that sooner or later, Lecter will become Graham’s greatest adversary.

For a mainstream network show, this is pretty gruesome stuff. Death is depicted explicitly and you might find yourself watching through your fingers. Despite the gore, the most compelling component of Hannibal is the characters. Graham and Lecter make a great team, and it will be interesting to see just how long the producers can draw the story arc out before the inevitable climax. Suggestions of Lecter’s culinary preferences are made in this first episode, although methinks this may be a red herring. Dancy and Mikkelsen are both excellent, with the latter wisely avoiding any attempt to impersonate Anthony Hopkins’ chilling portrayal of Hannibal the cannibal.

Defiance airs on SCI FI Thursdays at 9:30pm.

Da Vinci’s Demons airs on FX Tuesdays at 7:30pm.

Hannibal airs on Prime Wednesdays at 9:45pm.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 17:41  Leave a Comment  
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ShamWow! The Movie

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th March 2013.

The problem with film reviewing is that I have to watch the good and the bad. For every magnificent Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece, there’s a Paul W. S. Anderson schlockfest. One of my goals for the year is to watch the American Film Institute Top 100 in order, starting from the bottom of the list. I’ve seen 39 already but will rewatch them all on my way to Citizen Kane.

This week I experienced a film that most definitely belongs on the other end of the scale. In fact, I am pretty sure that I can declare this The Worst Film I Have Ever Seen™. Worst (or best) of all, it’s directed by the “ShamWow!” Guy.

Most people would know Vince Offer as the infomercial pitchman for such vital household products as “ShamWow!”, Slap Chop and Schticky. What you probably don’t know is that, despite selling millions of absorbent towels, Vince considers his pitchman job as a side project. His true calling is comedy filmmaking.

The Underground Comedy Movie was released straight to DVD in 1999, and is directed by and stars Offer. The movie employs a sketch comedy format, and according to the DVD jacket, “follows the hilarious tradition of The Kentucky Fried Movie.” Hmm, let’s see. The latter was helmed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House, An American Werewolf in London) and is a hilarious fast paced comedy from 1980, with a plethora of guest stars. The Underground Comedy Movie is unfunny, overlong and tasteless, with three or four Z grade cameos, directed by a hack.

So besides sharing a sketch comedy format that replicates someone changing channels on a TV, Offer’s film debut is not even in the same league.  Unless also being released on a DVD in a plastic box is considered following tradition. In that case, you could say that The Underground Comedy Movie also follows in the tradition of Gone with the Wind.

I think there would be a reasonable case for false advertising. There is no comedy in this film. In fact, the DVDs were probably only manufactured in a factory that handles and processes comedy. The underground part of the title is best used as a direction for use before you watch it.

How do these sketches grab you? A Batman parody featuring a man dressed in a baseball uniform, carrying a baseball bat… Two supermodels going to the toilet… A superhero character with a head that resembles genitalia… A hip hop talk show with a guest from the KKK… I can hear you chortling from my typewriter.

How about The Miss America Bag Lady Pageant, featuring a cameo from Guns N’ Roses’ Slash? Or the late Michael Clark Duncan in a sleazy bar resisting advances because he wants to save himself for the right man? The hilarity never stops. It never starts either.

I honestly did not laugh once. I will only confess to a single titter during a rather aged Baywatch parody where the camera keeps getting distracted by girls in bikinis, ignoring the lifeguards dramatically rescuing people.

The Underground Comedy Movie is just awful. Luckily, its R18+ classification should keep away its intended audience until they are old enough to know better than to waste 90 minutes and $5 on this junk.

I want my time back. I want my money back. And I want a Schticky.

Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 19:15  Comments (1)  
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Walking with The Walking Dead

Walking Dead Promo

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 5th March 2013.

To celebrate the return of post-apocalyptic zombie drama The Walking Dead to Australian pay TV, series star Norman Reedus made a promotional trip in January to our shores. Besides a sold out Q & A session after a screening in Sydney as part of the ever popular Popcorn Taxi events (which I couldn’t attend), he also shot a live action promo for FX, the home of The Walking Dead.

To help populate the commercial, FX took to social media inviting fans to volunteer as extras by sending in a headshot. My dashing good looks must have served me well (or perhaps my resemblance to a rotting zombie), because I received an invitation to the shoot which took place in a studio in Alexandria on the Australia Day public holiday.

To be transformed into a zombie is every fanboy’s dream, however, it seemed that my wish wouldn’t be coming true this time around. Firstly, I was well aware that the actors portraying the reanimated dead for the actual show attend zombie school. Secondly, we were asked to bring along travelling clothes and a suitcase for the shoot which was to take place in an “airport” setting.

Upon arrival on set, my predictions were confirmed. The studio was set up as an arrivals terminal, complete with metal detectors and baggage scanners. There was little activity in the makeup room. Alas, this promo for The Walking Dead would be minus any walking dead.

I had done a little extra work when I was a teen. The novelty of being on a film set wore off pretty quickly and there was a lot of waiting around. I can report that not much has changed in the twenty years or more since I roamed the halls of Summer Bay High. It was, however, pretty fun to chat to other The Walking Dead fans and eat as much junk food as possible from the craft services table.

Pretty soon I was put to work walking through the airport set, wheelie bag dragging behind me, until they called for a cut. We’d then wander back to our “first positions” and do it all again. And again. And again.

Things became more interesting with the arrival of our guest star. Reedus plays fan favourite character Daryl Dixon, a Southern redneck with a penchant for killing zombies with his signature crossbow. Reedus is also known for co-starring in The Boondock Saints, a cult action flick infamous for its troubled production under first time director Troy Duffy.

The good news is that Reedus was a gentleman. Softly spoken, he was keen to interact with the fans between takes, joking (I hope) that he had very little idea about the storyline of the commercial. Although we weren’t allowed individual photos with him, we all had a group shot with the guest star and on my way out after the recording concluded he shook my hand at the door. I also took home a signed poster and a pretty awesome zombie t-shirt for my troubles.

I did get into a little trouble for posting a sneaky photo of Reedus on twitter during the shoot. I thought that was somewhat ironic considering that FX acquired their extras for free via social media. I took down my post and reposted it after I received my goodie bag. Heh heh.

The promo premiered in February and I am proud to say that you can see me (well, at least three quarters of my face) about 18 seconds into the commercial. Apply for my autograph care of the Central Western Daily.

Published in: on March 5, 2013 at 19:09  Leave a Comment  
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