Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Magical Mayhem

At last BBC One  gives us a wonderfully macabre and darkly  comic drama for Sunday nights.  Not a scantily clad Cornishman in sight, just the bewigged  and wonderfully inhabited cast of a veritable who's Who of British Character actors. In the first few minutes my mind was brought to the Tim Burton version of "Sleepy Hollow "and the dramatisation of "Gormenghast ", a similar kind of story from  the very popular series by Mervyn Peake a few years ago. With a cast of fabulous grotesques, I foresee this being a crowd Favourite.

The Learned Society of York Magicians of England are impotent and a young magical crusader seeks to know why  Magic no longer exists in England. This brings him into the Sphere of Mr Norrell a collector of magical texts and a self purported Practical adherent of Magics. Played by the ever adaptable and in my opinion highly underrated Eddie Marsden, whose taciturn portrayal is pitch perfect. He is moody and slightly socially awkward and at once powerful and vulnerable. Wanting to use his gifts to aid his Nation in the War against France, but rebuffed by the government due to bad press from the baying public, he decides to retire from public view... Curtailed in this plan by a crafty glory hunter, he makes a terrible choice...

Juxtaposed is the dissolute feckless and directionless Jonathan Strange, desperate to marry the Clergymen's sister, but unable because his cruel Father  refuses to give him a step  up in the world. He can find no gainful employment. Through a chance encounter he a becomes the second of the two magicians who are prophetically  said to be they who who will bring Magic back to England and to enable the return of The Raven King an as yet murky figure that seems to be pulling all the strings!

The use of York Minster as a backdrop for the magical demonstration that starts this plot unfurling  is an inspired move and made the bringing to life of all the statuary of the Minster very atmospheric and heaps of fun! Marc Warren practically cackles with glee in his role as The Gentleman, a sprite like entity who Mr Norrell accidently encounters in the course of a necromancy attempt and the ever creepy Paul Kaye as a vagabond schiester who may actually hold power is wonderfully bizarre and
ominous and a complete loon.

It was a delight from start to finish and I am breathless for more!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

William Blake reimagined for #SaveForever

A Forever Tree 

I was angry with ABC
I told my wrath, to all who'd listen, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
They failed my show, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears for Abraham
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with  Jo's smiles,
And with Adam's soft deceitful wiles 
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore a blog bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that diatribe was mine,
And into my  Twitter feed stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the Forever Tree 

Not my best work, but it was apt!

For the Real Deal..

A Poison Tree      

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.

And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.   William Blake.

This Tweet Event is just one way to help the #SaveForever campaign.

Tweet at Warner Brothers, Tweet at @Hulu, @tntdrama and @Netflix

Sign the petition

Call Netflix or Hulu and ask them to take up the show!

Just add your voice somehow!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Things go bump in 70's London Surburbia .... The Enfield Haunting

From  the eerie title music to the teenaged girl lying prostrate on a grave in overgrown Cemetery, The Enfield Haunting promised much... It did not disappoint. And as I have lived near Enfield for quite some years this particular series holds another layer of interest for me.

This new three part offering from Sky Living competes with the strongholds that the  BBC and ITV have over drama on Sunday Nights. I suspect they will do well. It is a simple premise, single mum and three children living in Enfield is menaced by a suspected poltergeist, amateur paranormal investigator is asked to take a look by the reporters who could not explain the happenings.

The age old catalyst of menstruation in teenage girls being a draw to spirits was used to nice effect  as events began to unfold and the two girls playing sisters are rather fabulous in their glee at trying to give each other "The Willies" until really scary things start to happen in their bedroom.

This first episode proves to be more than just a ghost story and  I suspect that the teenage angst on display here will have a lot to play as the series continues. Sibling jealousy and rivalry are creating energies of all kinds! The missing Father and incarcerated older brother may also prove pertinent but so far my disbelief is suspended enough to enjoy the programmes immensely.

Timothy Spall seems so perfect for his role as Maurice. An Everyman with a secret in his past that prompts his supernatural interest, plagued by both bad dream and Angina , he is not your normal paranormal investigator, but in a dingy kitchen in North London in 1977, there could be no other!

Matthew McFadyen's  portrayal of snooty expert  Guy Lyon Playfair is just this side of obnoxious, and I found myself rooting for Maurice immediately. He is sceptical of Maurice's innocent belief that 

the family are telling the truth and is bordering on rude about all the children before even knowing them a little. His belief that Maurice's grief for a tragically killed daughter is clouding his judgement might be tested  and as the book this story is derived from was from Lyon Playfair's true accounting of events, one must presume his opinions change!

The scares are definitely there and the atmospheric nature of the even quiet scenes is nicely realised, the last minutes were truly frightening and I will be hastening to the next episode on the Living "see it first" page almost immediately

For more in-depth information on the real life case...

Enfield Poltergeist - CSI http://www.csicop.org/si/show/enfield_poltergeist/#footer

And now the end is nigh... Or is it?

This review will not contain spoilers as it is my wish that anyone who has not had a chance to watch the Forever Finale to do so and to allow those watching in countries behind the US And Canada  in the run, watch the episodes preceding without spoilers.

This last Blog of Season One is a tribute to the various parts that together have made the show the wondrous thing has been and a bid, one last time ; to "encourage" the Powers That Be at ABC to continue to carry the show into a second season.

Suffice to say the Finale was a continuation of the great writing we have come to expect from The Writing team. From the initial premise through to the final moments of the episode, the strength of that writing has been phenomenal. The plots for each individual episode, held together by the story arc that has kept fans talking, debating and discussing from the off and what better tribute to a writing team than the fact that their vision is not predictable or hackneyed  and provokes and maintains viewer involvement?

It goes without saying that the performance of Ioan Gruffudd as the immortal Doctor Henry Morgan has been an irrefutable reason why Forever has garnered and maintained a loyal, dare I say fanatical base of viewership. Mr Gruffudd is one of those rare actors whose brilliance is his subtlety and genuine understanding of the complexities of the human condition. He does not ACT, rather he absorbs and then reflects out to the audience the emotion of his characters and in the case of Henry, he has had a whole treasure trove of emotions to raid.. Within a single scene he can be angry, sad and determined and each emotion is portrayed with such authenticity that Ioan fades and poor, troubled, brave, loving Henry is all we see.

I would also like to to take this opportunity to actually thank Ioan for his unfailing dedication to the show, it may not be immediately obvious to the casual onlooker, that  to carry a show with such intense scripting, monologues and almost present in every scene, takes a massive amount of time both in front of and away from the cameras to make Henry so important to us week after week.

No man is an island and the ensemble cast that rounds out the programme is no short of perfection, I doubt any regular viewer  could imagine anyone else playing Abe or Jo, no one else could have the comedic timing of Lucas or Hanson or the calm authority of Lt Reece... Where these roles could have fallen into tropes with great ease, here, the brilliant casting makes them more like familiar friends than characters.

All are superb, but for me special mentions have to be given to the incomparable Judd Hirsch whose warm and clever portrayal of the complex Son / Father  relationship at the core of the show has been nothing short of mesmerising. Abe is always present at the most heartwarming and emotionally  wrenching moments and I cannot express how much watching Ioan and he interact has been a veritable treat.

Similarly Joel David Moore has been a massively important addition, bringing Henry down to our level after centuries of sequestering himself behind his death research and mourning for a soulmate whom he never knew the fate of... It was the respect and sometimes fawning adoration that gently and gradually brought the supreme experience and intellect of Dr M down into our sphere and the genuine affection they have for each other was beautifully and subtlety brought to bear in the finale .

I have spoken often of my enjoyment of Mike Hanson's light envy and general bemusement at Henry's more brilliant moments, but in fact it is the loyalty, the friendship, the fun of the character that has made Donnie Keshawarz a firm fan favourite.

So what do we have ? A clever show that does  not talk down to its audience, a cast perfectly fitted to their roles and a NYC setting that is an embellishment to plots both in present day and in the brilliant flashbacks...  The only reason this show has not been massively present on the TV radar this past few months is poor handling by ABC.

Breaks in schedule have prevented a flow to the narrative that is so important in a show of this type, a lack of truly discernible promotion  and a questionable timeslot have hindered the show when it should have been lauded, respected and shouted about from every hill. 

LUCKILY for ABC there has been a troupe of vocal, dedicated and slightly crazy fans marshalling the troops and creating the buzz that the network should have done and to every person who sent a letter, tweeted or commented on Forever sites I say Thank you, you are fabulous human beings!  Do not stop now, Never give up, Never give in , #RenewForever!

All they and by association I, ask is for a second Season of the show we love. A simple request that only requires one answer to this burning question...

Will Henry live on? 

The answer is, that in our hearts, he will Forever, let's hope ABC catches up!


This additional comment comes after Forever has been aired in it's entirety in the USA, CANADA and the UK...

After cancellation rumours and THAT LETTER from Ioan, I have been deeply affected by the passionate refusal by old comrades and new to get Forever on a platform where we can see more of Henry and the gang.

I am proud of you all and hope that together we can get Forever the place on our screens it deserves!!

Keep up the good work!!!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Forever finale.... Final push people, go to it!

Is it Passion or is it Obsession? I suspect a little of both come into play when it comes to the subject of Forever, the seminal "Police Procedural with a difference" that came from the ABC Stable this Winter and Spring.
I have written before about the reasons it particularly resonates with me and my presence in support of the show, its stars and the Renewal effort on Twitter is probably annoying to a great number of my followers, but when something this good is not given a fair crack of the whip when so much mediocre and pat programming seems to be renewed ad infinitum, it really sticks in my craw!!
My message today is simple..  If you love it and don't want to lose it, you have to USE IT!
We all need to be present and correct in front of our TVs on air day. In the USA I implore everyone to try to watch live or at least within 24hrs of airing for the Finale. I know twitter will explode with theories and reactions, but I truly believe the only way to force ABCs hand is to be an immutable force of viewership for this last episode.. It matters not how many pictures or memes we post, if we do not get bums on seats… those voices become hollow, so begin today… PLAN to be available for the whole episode, get all the chores done beforehand , call around all your friends to remind them its on in advance…
French viewership for the show has been phenomenal and British Viewership is strong and we can reinforce the demand for the Show for a foreign market, but is the core US/Canadian views that really ABC has been watching and though their efforts to promote the show have been lacklustre from the start, Ioan and cast have done their best to connect with viewership and the phenomenal efforts of Foreverists Worldwide has been  awesome, lets try to honour cast and crew with a MASSIVE viewing spike for the final episode!!