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Friday, Apr 22, 2011
A memorial for a groovy time traveller's assistant.

It was a real shock to hear of the news of the death of Elisabeth Sladen (19 April 2011). She was a real hero of mine in the ‘70s. Of all the figures that I was regularly in touch with via popular television programmes, her character of Sarah Jane Smith, in the original BBC Doctor Who series, was one of the most inspirational. I wanted to be her when I grew up.


I really liked the way they styled her. She wore groovy fluffy coats and cloche hats, flared jeans and fitted jackets with magnificent lapels. She was assistant to Jon Pertwee’s doctor and my favourite, Tom Baker; from 1973-1976. In recent years Russell T Davies reintroduced the character in his revival of the series in 2005 and went on to create The Sarah Jane Adventures for children’s television in the UK.


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Monday, Feb 28, 2011
Here are five lines from the last ten years of television that made me laugh. A lot.

1. Arrested Development, Season 1, Ep. 12 “The Marta Complex”—We’re just a couple of consenting adults getting a stew on.
The use of unlikely supporting players in Arrested Development sometimes made actual jokes unneeded. This show illustrated the fact that, given the right casting—say of Henry Winkler as a randy attorney—what is actually said is really beside the point. Take the above line about “stew”, which made an unlikely comedic genius of Carl Weathers. Mitch Herwig and his writing staff gloried in creating characters that are either terrible wastrels or obsessive misers, as if the existence of one somehow explains the other. Weathers’s character is the epitome of the miser impulse. He has an almost MacGyver-like talent for squeezing the most out of his immediate resources, usually by making “stew”. That he would not relax his miserdom when romancing a lady—in this case Lucille 2, a character that had another creative casting choice in Liza Minelli—effortlessly blends story with a hilarious stand-alone catch phrase.


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Wednesday, Nov 24, 2010
P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves stories”, much like the serialized novels of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have a narrative zing seemingly tailor-made for the television format.

The 1990-93 British television production of Jeeves and Wooster has a special kind of historical and formal unity. The show starred Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, was compiled and adapted from P.G. Wodehouse’s stories about the 1930s London socialite, Bertie Wooster, and his all-knowing valet, Jeeves. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves stories”, much like the serialized novels of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have a narrative zing seemingly tailor-made for the television format. While they may not have actually inspired how radio and television took shape, they certainly seem like they did, with their episodic form, their light-hearted comedy, their circumstantial conflicts that right themselves with only minimal effort.


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Thursday, Aug 5, 2010
The flipside to the comedic realism of The Office is the sometimes shocking vulnerability of its characters.

Explanation is usually only necessary when a joke isn’t readily funny. However, some A-material contains narrative layers of nuance which defy a single pass. One such moment happens in the season four premiere episode of the American version of The Office.


In “Fun Run”, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflen Paper Company is all atwitter over the recent accident of a co-worker. Branch manager Michael Scott has made the office’s scare with vehicular manslaughter his latest pet project, mainly because his was the vehicle and he the man who almost did the slaughtering. Though Meredith, Dunder Mifflin – Scranton’s resident alky, survived being hit by Michael’s car with only minor injuries, her hospital stay fortuitously allowed doctors to diagnose and treat a much more serious Rabies infection. In other words, had it not been for getting hit by Michael’s car, Meredith probably would have died.


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Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010
Let's focus on the co-stars, many of whom clearly relished their roles as intergalactic rogues, vagabonds and ragamuffins. So much scenery was chewed by bit players between 1966-69, it's no wonder the series was forced off the air.

William Shatner’s delivery has long been an over-tapped well of material for hack stand-up comics. But while Captain Kirk has gone under the microscope, his co-stars have often escaped similar scrutiny. For the purposes of this review, the regular crew of the Enterprise gets a pass. After all, they crammed a five year mission into just three seasons of television. Plus, a measured critique would also have to include Chekov’s wig and Spock’s goatee.


Instead, let’s focus on the co-stars, many of whom clearly relished their roles as intergalactic rogues, vagabonds and ragamuffins. So much scenery was chewed by bit players between 1966-69, it’s no wonder the series was forced off the air.


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