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by Kerrie Mills

23 Jan 2012


OK, I admit it… largely on account of I’ve just finished a lengthy essay on Horrible Histories, so there’s no sense denying it: My interest in new SkyOne Britcom Spy—currently also available on Hulu.com in the US—was initially about seeing more of one particular Horrible Histories star, Mathew Baynton, in an environment I didn’t have to keep justifying every time another adult walked past the TV.

On the plus side, this means the readership will be spared the usual rant re: how only in TV-land would we be expected to believe either Baynton or Spy’s star, 6’4” Darren Boyd, as random computer-shop schlubs. No offense to my local Best Buy, but one look at these two and I immediately thought of 87 questions I needed to ask about cabling alone.

by Kerrie Mills

10 Nov 2011


The thing is, the British attitude toward how one might go about teaching history is a bit more… relaxed than most.

Not that this has traditionally trickled down to UK classrooms anymore than it has North American ones; only that it’s not surprising that when the floodgates did finally open, it happened in the land of 1066 and All That, et endless seq.. When once you’ve decided to adopt Rowan Atkinson as a media icon, there’s not much use trying to prevent children learning about the Renaissance from the perspective of a sewer rat.

Thus was enabled the origin story of the best-beloved Horrible Histories franchise. When asked circa 1992 by Scholastic Books UK to write an historically-themed joke book with a few factoids thrown in, British children’s author Terry Deary had traumatic flashbacks to his struggles to stay awake during middle school courses on the subject. Wouldn’t it be much more fun, Deary suggested instead, if he were to write a book of historical factoids with some jokes thrown in…?

As he delved into the ‘serious’ history texts, that quite naturally evolved into lots of jokes—in fact, into the entire grand gold mine of black comedy that is human civilization throughout the ages, just naturally packed full of the kind of bodily-fluid-filled gags that invariably set children to squealing happily. All of it underpinned by the particular sort of shrewdly anarchistic cleverness that the UK media have been on high alert for, oh, just about f40 years now. Hey, “Chapter One: The Dead Pirate Parrot Sketch” has a nice ring to it…

by Jesse Fox

5 Jul 2011


For many, summer represents a respite from the year’s overly filled TV dance cards. High-quality June, July, and August programming like Louie and Breaking Bad is still the exception, not the rule. What does the savvy, obsessive or lonely TV fanatic do with this free time? Watch more TV, of course.

Since the medium’s first introduction on DVD, playing series catch up has become a fact of summer life. Arguably, no show represented this better than Lost. Nonsensical even to the dedicated, Lost was basically unwatchable to the uninitiated; cries of “Smoke-what?” – “Constant-who?” – “Island-where?” plagued those trying to bring new viewers into the fold. Plowing through seasons’ worth of its episodes became a summer staple, as suggested by the series’ huge DVD sales.

Lost might unfortunately (or thankfully, depending on who you ask) be over, but its legacy lives forever, especially as TV has grown increasingly serial.

If you’re inclined to watch TV on DVD this summer, I recommend these five:

by Martin Zeller-Jacques

25 Mar 2011


With the finalé of the Showtime/BBC series Episodes having been broadcast at the end of February (20th in America, 21st in the UK), a few words about transnational television seem appropriate.  Media sales across national boundaries have long been a part of broadcasting culture.  ITV’s imports of American series drew both criticism and ratings during the ‘60s, and the syndication of American shows remains an important part of Channel 4’s platform.  Likewise, British shows like Dr Who have found regular homes on The Sci-Fi Channel in the US, and telenovelas, produced in Central and South America, have increasingly gained popularity with the Hispanic diaspora around the world.

While these imports and exports laid the groundwork for television’s transnational economy, they are increasingly being superseded by new programmes, jointly funded by companies based in different nations, expressly designed to appeal to audiences across national boundaries, and simultaneously broadcast in several countries at once.  These range from glocalized franchise shows like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and Big Brother, which replicate the same format with different casts, crews and contestants in different nations around the world, to prestigious, big budget drama spectaculars like Rome.  Of course, as with so many trends in contemporary media, the increasing prevalence of transnational television is either a building block in a utopian post-national society enabled by the democratising power of new media, or the inevitable by-product of the audience fragmentation and personal atomisation occasioned by (again) new media, depending on your own degree of technological optimism or pessimism.

by Abel Trevino

27 Oct 2010


In the United States, it’s only fitting that the premiere of The Walking Dead, a television series based off the comic book by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, will occur on Halloween. If the name doesn’t say it already, it’s about zombies.

I’m just going to get to the point, the pilot was a pretty bad ass setup for a TV series. However, it was a little slow and if the series doesn’t blend the perfect combination of pace, character development and post-apocalyptic fright and gore, it’s not going to draw the mainstream audience and it will lose the target audience. Although, AMC has already placed an order for the first season, which will be composed of six episodes, and there are rumors that, before the show has even premiered, discussions for a 16-episode second season are underway. AMC is putting a lot of faith in this and, quite frankly, they have a good reason.

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