Robert Hampton

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11th August 2013

Dying on Stage (Screen)
Posted by at 7.21pm | Television | No responses

Cory Monteith’s death a month ago is not the first time that a television series has had to deal with an unplanned death. There have, sadly, been many occasions where the sudden death of an actor has forced scripts to be hastily rewritten.

Jim Davis – Dallas (1981)

Davis portrayed family patriarch Jock Ewing during the show’s initial years. He became ill during filming of season four and his appearances were restricted – in the few scenes where he did appear, he would usually be sitting down. Although Davis died in 1981, his character was not written out immediately. Instead, Jock was offscreen for several months “in South America”. Eventually, the writers incorporated Jock’s death into the show, and in this scene broadcast in January 1982, JR and Bobby deliver the news to Jock’s widow, Miss Ellie.

Technically, Jock was not killed off, but was only presumed dead, as the writers had toyed with the idea of recasting the role. In a bizarre postscript, a storyline a few years later involved a man claiming to be Jock Ewing showing up at the Ewings’ home, much to JR’s chagrin. This plot was resolved when an entire year’s worth of episodes were revealed to be a fevered dream of Pamela Barnes. American television is weird.

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14th July 2013

Gleek out

OK, so Glee has never really matched the heights it reached during season one, and since Sky snatched the rights a few years back I haven’t bothered to watch it.

I do have fond memories of the genuinely impressive first season, though, with Cory Monteith centre stage as the high school jock who risks social alienation by joining the unpopular kids of the glee club.

He died earlier today. His cover of Don’t Stop Believin’ with Lea Michele, from the pilot episode, remains one of the series’ most memorable moments. This is how I’ll remember him.

22nd March 2013

Ogle the Goggle Box

BBC Television CentreI always like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t watch much TV, apart from the odd highbrow drama on BBC4, of course. However, on reviewing my blogs of times past, it’s clear that television has been a big inspiration for blog entries over the years.

The TV I discuss isn’t always high-minded, either. One of the earliest television related entries came in the wake of a massive brawl in the Big Brother House in 2004:

Sorry to go all Daily Mail on people, but BB really is the most reprehensible, morally bankrupt thing on TV. I hope the police investigation results in prosecutions against all the Channel 4 executives involved in putting this vile show on the air.

Good grief, that show pisses me off.

While on the subject of reality TV, let’s skip ahead chronologically and get this embarrassing post out of the way right now:

I’m going to come out and say it: Hooray for good old-fashioned Light Entertainment bollocks on ITV1! Britain’s Got Talent was actually fairly entertaining.

What was I thinking? In my defence, this was before I found out how cynically produced the whole thing is.

A much more pleasant show to watch is Frasier, so I was sad to see the show come to an end:

I think Frasier will stand the test of time much better than that other recently-ended American sitcom. Friends, with its reliance on 90s pop culture and “cool” dialogue (like… you know, whatever), will be irrelevant within 10 years. Whereas Frasier never tried to be cool, just funny, and was all the better for it.

Not sure whether that prediction has come to pass, with Friends filling up every spare timeslot on Comedy Central while Frasier is relegated to the lesser Comedy Central Extra. But I still think it’s a million times better.

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19th June 2011

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky
Posted by at 1.05pm | Television | No responses

On Monday I watched the final episode of season 2 of Glee on E4. That was the last time I’ll be able to watch it for free, because Sky have won the rights and will be screening season 3 in the Autumn. It’s disappointing, but frankly I’d be more upset if season 2 hadn’t been so inconsistent in quality.

It got me thinking – Sky likes to claim that it shook up the “cosy duopoly” of the BBC and ITV by bringing much-needed innovation to British TV. There’s not much doubt that a shake-up happened. But is Sky One really innovative, or is their success largely based on programmes that have built an audience on free-to-air channels?

It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember back in 1992 or thereabouts, when LA Law, a modest success on ITV, was snatched by Sky One, causing much consternation (although not with my family, as we had cable by then and I felt quite smug about the whole thing).

Friends, Lost, House and Mad Men all built up audiences on terrestrial channels before Sky opened up their chequebook and locked the rights away on their pay channels.

On the other hand, there have been cases where Sky fell down and the free-to-air channels came to the rescue. Family Guy failed to find an audience on Sky One (largely due to lamentable scheduling – 6.30pm on weeknights and cut to ribbons). The BBC took a big chance by picking up the rights, but it is now one of the bedrocks of BBC3’s lineup.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer did not perform well when Sky first showed it. It rated so badly, in fact, that Sky One dropped it halfway through its initial run. The BBC showed more faith, and built it into a cult hit. Oddly enough Sky then quickly found a slot for it again.

This isn’t an anti-Sky rant. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Sky doing this – it’s business, after all – but to claim it is “innovation” is a step too far.

Anyway, please enjoy this incredibly cheesy Sky promo from 1990.

30th December 2010

Twenty Ten – again

What a year 2010 was! It had twelve months, each consisting of at least 28 days. On some of those days I made blog entries. Here are the highlights.

I began the year in January fretting about an alleged Crystal Maze remake starring Amanda Holden. This story fortunately turned out to be utter bollocks. Ginger people again proved that (yours truly excepted) they have no sense of humour or perspective. Britain experienced a deluge of snow, and Merseyrail impressed everyone by soldiering on throughout, a feat which they would surely repeat next time we experienced awful weather… right?

I finally joined the Wii owners’ club, just as the console stopped being cool. My rekindled love for video games did not result in me getting rickets. I also celebrated my first Twitterversary and cautiously welcomed the iPad.

I also took time to blog at length about a US comedian no-one has heard of over here, illustrating my post with YouTube clips which have now been removed for copyright infringement.

In more serious matters, the Haiti earthquake occupied people’s thoughts as a humanitarian catastrophe unfolded in the devastated country.

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10th March 2010

Glee, sir? Can I have some more?
Posted by at 11.36pm | Television | No responses

How friggin’ brilliant is Glee?! Of course, it wasn’t exactly difficult for this one to win me over — anything which features uptempo singing and dancing on a regular basis already has me drawn in.

It’s just so… upbeat. I always seem to end each episode with a warm fuzzy feeling in various parts of my body. I don’t know what it is: even when bad things are happening on-screen, there is an overall positive vibe which permeates the show and leaves me feeling happy.

Comparisons with High School Musical are inevitable, but Glee contains just enough sharp comedy to balance out the syrupy sweetness.

I suppose my one criticism is that most of the characters are generic American high-school stereotypes (dumb jock, cheerleaders, a bully, sassy black girl, gay kid, etc) but by episode 10 they’ve started to flesh out the characters a bit and made them seem a bit more 3-dimensional. It is good to see a successful US show set in a high school which focuses on the misfits rather than the super-popular kids.

Right at the centre of the show is someone who could be the greatest villain in the history of television: Sue Sylvester (played with relish by Jane Lynch), who steals every scene she appears in with rants about curly hair and kitty-cat related threats. Marvellous stuff.

There’s always a danger that Glee will be unable to sustain this momentum long term and struggle to keep going past the second season. For now though, it’s an amazing show fully deserving of the praise and awards that have been heaped on it.

If you’ve missed the first few episodes, E4 are repeating them all on weekday afternoons starting next Monday. You won’t be disappointed. And that’s how Sue C’s it.