Sunday 25 March 2018

Blame The TV Times for my indifference - Telefantasy special

In my early teens, I read a lot of books and magazines about sci-fi TV. Didn't watch much sci-fi films, but TV - I watched classic Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (also tried the first radio series), The Tripods (which still has a special place in my heart), the 70s Tomorrow People (which I liked when I was 12), Eerie, Indiana (one of the few US TV SF series to appeal to me), seasons 2 and 3 of Lost in Space (because they were more appealing and the boxes were expensive), Children of the Stones (which despite enjoying - I think I didn't quite finish the last episode - just a little too padded, then neatly tied up, which most kids' serials were - and Sapphire and Steel especially). Dark Season (1991) I watched around that time too, and found it worked, because it was two three-part stories, with little padding.
Saw episodes of Blake's 7 online. Found Doomwatch a little stolid. I enjoyed Day of The Triffids (1981). Tried some Space:1999, and kind of liked it, but then realised that not only did it get either very dull or quite fun but quite stupid, but every episode was pretty much the same  - which is what I then found with most ITC series I caught, even The Prisoner because the first episodes I saw were The Girl Who Was Death and Fall Out, and when you see them first alongside a handful of clips, everything else doesn't really need to be seen. I saw some Robin of Sherwoods on ITV, and because I wasn't mad on Robin Hood, found it just to be a bunch of eco-warrior types wandering around as Clannad played - not too different from what happened in Wicklow.
I was already fascinated with Nigel Kneale - having seen documentaries and age 15, the Quatermass and the Pit film, but I only slowly got through his other work, loved the film of Pit and Quatermass (1979) the best, and Beasts (1976) despite some good performances is very silly, like old Emmerdale Farm or Crossroads with monsters - almost hinting at what a British Dark Shadows might have looked like.   I enthused about a lot of these shows through my then-love of Doctor Who, and telefantasy ideas, and from what I saw of the Avengers, because as a 13/14 year old, I didn't mind Clemens. I liked his silliness and broad eccentrics, but now I find it grating. Maybe because I was exposed to characters like his on kids' TV.
Anthologies -I watched a few Twilight Zones, which never quite appealed, and also the Ray Bradbury Theatres, but even as a 13 year-old raised on PAL VT, NTSC video always seemed off-putting in a dramatic context. Maybe because my main exposure to anthologies apart from Goosebumps and Tales of the Unexpected and not giving a fuck about Are You Afraid of The Dark? on CITV, were the Simpson Treehouse of Horror specials, which make you realise how silly some of those episodes/Serling/Bradbury concepts are.
 As a younger kid, my TV SF was mainly Star Trek and Gerry Anderson and cartoons, and I watched episodes of the Incredible Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man, Xena, Hercules, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Airwolf, Knight Rider, the Bionic Woman,  didn't really care for those - preferred Batman, enjoyed the Munsters and Battlestar Galactica even though now I can see I just liked the fact they went to planets that looked like western towns and there were kids in it. I also enjoyed BBC stuff like Maid Marian and The Borrowers, but Buffy kind of put me off. I liked that one episode with the ventriloquist's dummy, but old teenagers put me off things. Even the X-Files I preferred to read the episode guides than watch the actual show. Then, you could be showrunner! Which I did with a lot of shows, thanks to reading the TV Times Encyclopaedia of TV Science Fiction. That quenched my thirst for some shows, intrigued me by introducing me to others (though discovering that Ace of Wands was not full of Clemens-esque stereotypes but rather dull variants with little character did disappoint - especially trying to play a dragged-up character as a grumpy old bat and not as a floral-hatted caricature).
To quote Grandpa in The Lost Boys, why watch TV when you can read TV Guide...

I tolerated and enjoyed Star Trek, but I find Voyager and Enterprise crap. I liked the Original Series and TNG, and DS9 too, even though now I don't bother. But Babylon 5 always looked a bit rubbish. Most US TV I found formulaic, miniseries less so, but anthologies definitely - even though Night Gallery could be fun,  a lot of episodes bleed into either "US soap with a nasty twist", "Twilight Zone-esque comedy/sentiment" or "fun but rather shonky period nonsense". The Irwin Allen stuff I outgrew quickly. Goliath Awaits I was pleasantly surprised by, because it is bonkers.
The trouble is - when you get down to it, a lot of TV and film is samey.

1 comment:

  1. TV and film is samey because once someone gets a new idea and it's a success, it's copied all over the place. I suppose that's why there's such a thing as genres.

    Enterprise WAS rubbish - apart from two episodes, right at the end, when we saw everyone's evil counterparts in the Mirror Universe, and finally we had a series realising how it could have fulfilled its potential with something really interesting and entertaining. Then it was cancelled. There's a lesson there.