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  • Pixelated phantoms: My 5 favourite sitcom Halloween episodes

    devondevereaux via photopin cc
    devondevereaux via photopin cc

     

    Ah Halloween – what a frightfully funny time it is!

    Well actually no, it isn’t in general what with scary monsters, wandering zombies, haunted houses and so much candy it’s entirely possible your head will explode from the incredible sugar rush before you get home from trick or treating – which if you think about it would be a pretty cool, if rather final, effect; take that neighbour with your talking headless scarecrow and clown posse! – but in the hands of talented sitcom writers, it can be damn near hilarious.

    And in the case of five of my favourite sitcom Halloween episodes, it is also awkward, squeamish and a thousand kinds of “Earth just swallow me up now please!” (Which again is a pretty awesome scary effect; the neighbourhood decorating prize is in the bag!)

    But mostly funny, and a great way of throwing characters you love into situations they wouldn’t normally encounter.

    Cue the laughter … and remember to look behind you as you chortle uncontrollably.

    Why? Oh … no reason. Just watch the episodes will ya?

     

     “The Middle Earth Paradigm” - The Big Bang Theory

     

    (image via The Big Bang Theory wikia (c) CBS)
    (image via The Big Bang Theory wikia (c) CBS)

     

    This season 1 episode featured the mother of all fish out of water situations.

    Choosing to attend the party of their beautiful, decidedly non-nerdy neighbour Penny (Kaley Cuoco) over their usual comic book shindig, – at Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) urging naturally, since he is smitten beyond words with a woman even he admits he may not be able to keep - the gang, who initially all dress as The Flash before choosing other characters to dress up as, find themselves socially marooned on a couch watching everyone have fun around them.

    Their lack of social interaction isn’t helped by Sheldon (Jim Parsons) insisting everyone should be able to guess he’s the Doppler Effect since it’s so obvious (only to him of course), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), who is the Norse god Thor and not the Marvel incarnation, still being unable to speak with women without the aid of alcohol (although he does go home with Cheryl (Erin Allin O’Reilly), who loves him because he’s a “good listener”) and Woolowitz (Simon Helberg), who is Robin Hood, not Peter Pan, creeping every woman out, as per usual.

    Sheldon: Like Jane Goodall observing the apes, I initially saw their interactions as confusing and unstructured, but patterns emerge, they have their own language if you will.
    Leonard: Go on.
    Sheldon: Well, it seems that the newcomer approaches the existing group with the greeting “How wasted am I?” which is met with an approving chorus of “Dude.”

    Leonard’s night is marred somewhat by Penny’s ex-boyfriend Kurt (Brian Wade) Neanderthal behaviour but the altercation does give Leonard a sweet moment with Penny which also involves a chance to stand up to Kurt (followed by a quickly locked door!) and prove to Penny how much he loves her.

    WHY I LIKE IT: It’s still very early on in The Big Bang Theory‘s now epically-successful run, and we get great insights into what makes each of the characters tick, made all the more pronounced by throwing them out of their natural nerd environment of conventions, online games and Star Wars vs. Star trek debates. It also nicely advances the romance between Penny and Leonard in a touching, heartfelt way which gives you hope something very special will come of all the drunken admissions (which of course eight seasons later, it does). Plus the visual slapstick of seeing all the guys in the same costume and then unable to decide what their fall back get-ups will be is priceless – that scene is worth the price of admission alone.

     

     

    Halloween SurpriseParks and Recreation

     

    Pixellated phantoms Parks and Rec
    (image via We Got This Covered (c) NBC)

     

    This is one Halloween episode that doesn’t actually take place at that sitcom staples – a Halloween party.

    Rather it’s spread out over a week, starting on Halloween itself and ending a week later with a trick or treating do-over and the most romantic, and yet hilarious of marriage proposals.

    On Halloween itself, which Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Pawnee’s pre-eminent aspiring politician, ADORES, decides to take a lease out on a home that she intends to move into in just 10 days when her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott) returns from working in Washington DC on a political campaign.

    The happiness of this momentous event is diluted to a considerable degree by the news that Ben may well be moving to Florida to manage another politician’s quest for office, leaving Leslie down in the dumps, and in need of cheering up by best friend Ann (Rashida Jones).

    The best way to accomplish this? Why scaring Tom (Aziz Ansari) as he emerges from the bathroom, a foolproof plan except for the fact that Jerry (Jim O’Heir) comes out first, suffers a heart attack (and a great deal of flatulence, which Tom insists be referred to as a “Fart Attack”) and everyone spends the night at the hospital.

    Leslie: Oh my God. What are you doing?
    Ben: Thinking about my future. I am deeply ridiculously in love with you. And above everything else, I just want to be with you forever. So Leslie Knope, will you–
    Leslie: Wait, wait, okay? Just–I need to remember this. Give me a second.
    Ben: Leslie–
    Leslie: No, no, no, no, hold on. Just–I need another second, please. I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is, right now, at this exact moment.
    Ben: [laughing] Are you good?
    Leslie: Yeah, I’m good.
    Ben: Leslie Knope, will you—
    Leslie: YES!
    Ben: Marry me?
    Leslie: Oh yeah, yeah!

    Meanwhile Ron (Nick Offerman) goes trick or treating with girlfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless) and her kids and Andy (Chris Pratt), which doesn’t end well when Ron, who has no kids of his own, upsets Diane’s girls, refuses to apologise, leading to the break up of his relationship.

    But wait there’s still hope!

    At April’s (Aubrey Plaza) urging, Ron goes over to apologise, admits he is new at this whole family thing and begs for another chance which he duly gets, along with a second go at trick or treating – admittedly a week later! – which goes way more smoothly.

    The happy endings don’t finish there with Ben arriving back unexpectedly and proposing to an emotional Leslie who though delighted to be asked, insists that Ben not complete his proposal till she is done picturing the scene before her.

    WHY I LIKE IT: It has everything I love about Parks and Recreation – Andy’s lunacy, Chris’s obsession with becoming the best man he can be, Donna (Retta)’s determination to tweet her way through the entire Blood Canoe film franchise, special friendship moments between Ann and Leslie (witness the house signing, below) and a host of the sort of happy endings that the sitcom always manages to balance with its quirkier moments.

     

     

    “Halloween Story”Ned and Stacey

     

    (image via Argenteam)
    (image via Argenteam)

     

    Ah, the comic possibilities of mistaken identities!

    And, in the case of fake husband and wife Ned (Thomas Haden Church) and Stacey (Debra Messing), of extremely limited Halloween costume choices.

    Ned ends dressed in almost the same Zorro costume as an old flame of Stacey’s, Scott (Scott Paetty) after his original costume choice of a horse goes south (neither he nor his friend “Rico” (Greg Germann) wants to play the back half of the animal), and Stacey (Debra Messing), who almost doesn’t go to the party thanks to a bloating-related funk from which she refuses to crawl out – well until she knows Scott is at said soiree, thanks to her sister Amanda (Nadia Dajani) – as a bright black and yellow bee, almost the same costume as Ned’s flame-of-the night Rhonda (Kimberly Quinn).

    (Spoken during the opening theme)
    Ned: Why Stacey?
    Stacey: Why Ned?
    Ned: It was business.
    Stacey: Strictly business.
    Ned: Here’s the deal – to get a promotion, I needed a wife.
    Stacey: To get a life, I needed his apartment.
    Ned: So what the hell, we up and got married.
    Stacey: The only thing we have in common? We irritate each other.
    Ned: Right! Enjoy the show.

    Cue the hijinks and hilarity as Ned does his best to seduce Rhonda with sweet talk and Strawberry Margaritas (Stacey’s favourite drink wouldn’t ya know?) and Stacey bats her eyelashes and tries to make up for lost time with Scott, her long lost ex, all of which comes to nought when, by gleefully-contrived circumstances, the two stars of the show end up not just with each other but KISSING … and LIKING IT.

    It sets in train an hilarious argument at the party, one which understandably enough scares off both Scott, and Rhonda (who leaves with her date who’s spent the night trying to get some action with “Rico”) and which is only settled when the two kiss again in their apartment, and oddly disappointed that the second go round isn’t as spectacular, resume their natural state of snarky squabbling.

    WHY I LIKE IT: It’s not the most sophisticated sitcom episode ever made, full of crudely-executed contrivances galore, but both Debra Messing and Thomas Haden Church are brilliant in it, realistically portraying the horror of two people who can’t stand each other and are only married because it each gives them something they want, who discover they may in fact have a fairly intense physical connection. Most people would embrace the chance to sex with no strings, but not these two who raise the art of hating the other to ever more comicallu-inspired heights, made all the funnier in “Halloween Story” by the costumes each is forced to wear.

     

     

    “Epidemiology”Community

     

    (image via Den of Geek)
    (image via Den of Geek)

     

    We hadn’t yet reached a state of Peak Zombie back on October 28, 2010 when the ever-creative Dan Harmon decided to pay a lovingly hilarious homage to everything undead in “Epidemiology”, a second season episode of the Little Sitcom That Could, Community.

    What should have been a simple Halloween party – there is nothing simple about anything that happens at Greendale Community College of course but no one ever seems to heed that observation – ends up as anything but when the army surplus store rations that Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), who is dressed up in a mighty fine Lady Gaga costume, ends up making everyone incredibly sick and feverish and act, well, like zombies.

    Abed Nadir: There. There’s a window. If we climb that chain-link fence, we can get up the wall and squeeze through it.
    [Jeff looks at the door, then his suit]
    Jeff Winger: I vote we take the door.
    Abed Nadir: He doesn’t want to dirty his suit.
    Troy Barnes: For real?
    [Jeff opens the door and lets the zombies in]
    Jeff Winger: Clothes make the man, Troy. What the hell?
    [the zombies wrestle Jeff to the floor. Zombie Rich enters wearing Jeff's jacket]
    Jeff Winger: That’s my jacket! My jacket! You’re stretching it! You’re stretching it!

    Pretty soon Jeff (Joel McHale, dressed as David Beckham), Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) in their Aliens-inspired finery, Annie (Alison Brie, as Little Red Riding Hood), Pierce (Chevy Chase as Captain Kirk from Star Trek: Original Series) Britta (Gillian Jacobs, as a crocodile), Shirley (Yvette Nicole-Brown as Miss Piggy) and Chang (Ken Jeong as Peggy Fleming, are running for their lives from a delirious horde of their fellow infected students, until one by one they are picked off and turn, leaving the fate of the entire Greendale student body in the hands of Troy who manages to lower the air con temperature, breaking everyone’s zombie-inducing fevers just in the nick of time.

    Instead of wiping Greendale off the map, the military, who arrive in full kick ass mode determined that no one should know about their experimental side effects-riddled rations, erase everyone’s memories of the night, leaving the whole campus believing their drinks were spiked, something which doesn’t seem to unduly trouble or surprise the students as America’s weirdest community college.

    WHY I LIKE IT: In common with many other episodes in this criminally under-watched and creatively-inspired sitcom, “Epidemiology” made brilliant parodying use of a host of pop culture references to devastatingly funny effect. They actually succeeded in making a zombie epidemic funny and frightening all at once, a masterful feat that makes this one of the classic Community episodes of all time. Plus they played only ABBA songs which made this ’70s boy Swedish supergroup-loving heart nighty glad.

     

     

    “Halloween”Frasier

     

    (image via The Complex)
    (image via The Complex)

     

    If there is one thing that the British do brilliantly, it’s farce, something they have raised to a high art form over countless movies and TV shows, all of which have made judicious use of misheard snippets of conversations, misunderstood revelations, innuendos galore and people’s predilection for gossip, to foster situations that get hilariously out of control in no time flat.

    Few US sitcoms have matched the British propensity for that kind of comedic insanity but Frasier comes very close in “Halloween”, a season 5 episode which makes fine use of the latent sexual tension between Niles (David Hyde-Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves), and the close friendship between Roz (Peri Gilpin) and Frasier (Kelsey Grammer),and dad Martin’s (John Mahoney) perennially straight-talking perspectives on life, to foment a witches brew of misconstrued, well, everything.

    The episode, which takes places at a Halloween party hosted by Niles, centres on Roz’s fear that she might be pregnant, a piece of life changing news to which only Frasier is initially party to, and which he hopes the party will distract an intensely worried Roz from dwelling on.

    Frasier: Niles, get your big nose out of this! And lower your voice, you’re embarrassing yourself!
    Niles:
    The only thing I’m embarrassed about is that you’re my brother! You cad, you bounder, you roué!
    Frasier:
    What is so wrong about trying to get a woman’s phone number?
    Niles:
    We’re not interested in your next conquest, we’re talking about your last one! And before you deny it, I have plenty of proof!
    Frasier:
    From here, it smells like eighty proof!
    Niles:
    A woman stands here before you in dire need…
    Daphne:
    It’s really not that bad. I can find someone else who’ll take me.
    Niles:
    Indeed you can.
    Martin:
    [realizing what he thinks] Niles—
    Niles:
    I told you, don’t try to stop me! [to Frasier] You have the audacity to seduce this poor woman, and then you aren’t man enough to stand by her?!

    Of course the news soon slips out thanks to Frasier’s loose tongue that Roz may be pregnant but the news, naturally enough, is misheard as gossip spreads like wildfire among the various guests, and soon a drunken Niles, who thinks Frasier has got Martin’s live-in physical therapist Daphne (with whom Niles is secretly in love) pregnant is proposing to her, in the midst of all manner of inflamed accusations and heated emotions.

    The situation is only resolved when Roz is forced to tell the whole party that she is indeed pregnant, in the one of the most awkward announcements ever.

    WHY I LIKE IT: Cleverly written and superbly acted, “Halloween” is a comedic tour de force, a perfectly realised slice of British farce, wholly apropos given Frasier and Niles appreciation for, and endless quest of, the finer things in life. It builds up layer by layer, one gloriously misheard twisted piece of information of another till all hell is pretty much breaking loose. It exposes, obliquely at least, Niles love for Daphne (she remains blissfully unaware till the end of the show’s seventh season of Nile’s feelings), the fault lines in the relationships between Nile and Frasier, and the close friendship that has developed between polar opposites Roz and Frasier.

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  • Halloween Pop Art: Fun and easy pop culture costumes for the big night

    The Ghost of Pushing Daisies (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
    The Ghost of Pushing Daisies (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)

     

    Halloween is a ridiculous amount of time.

    That is pretty much incontestable, what with all the dressing up, the partying, the candy … and the candy … oh did I mention the candy?

    But it can be kind of tough to come up with a cool, original one-of-a-kind idea that also actually makes sense to people as Sheldon discovered in The Big Bang Theory season 1 Halloween episode “The Middle-Earth Paradigm” where no one understood that he was dressed as the Doppler Effect.

    Absolutely inspired idea yes but damn near useless in a party context? Pretty much.

    Knowing how difficult it can be to have Halloween costume inspiration strike in time for the big day AND that most of are scrambling to come up with something mere hours from the party we’ve agreed to attend, Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus at Buzzfeed have come up with 45 Insanely Easy Last-Minute Halloween Costumes that are fun, easy to make and make the all-importnat nods to great pop culture moments and figures.

    It’s informative, inspirational and full of cuter-than-cute ghost drawings which if nothing else will have you in high spirits right before you head out the door to play one!

     

    The Ghost of Marilyn Monroe (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
    The Ghost of Marilyn Monroe (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)

     

    The Ghost of Charlie Chaplin (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
    The Ghost of Charlie Chaplin (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)

     

    The Ghost of Blockbuster Video (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
    The Ghost of Blockbuster Video (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)

     

    The Ghost of William Shakespeare (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
    The Ghost of William Shakespeare (drawings (c) Alanna Okun and Jessica Probus Buzzfeed staff via Buzzfeed)
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  • Big Hero 6′s short Feast for hungry eyes

    Winston is offered his first morsel of delicious food, beginning a love affair with all kinds of tasty offerings (image via YouTube (c) Disney)
    Winston is offered his first morsel of delicious food, beginning a love affair with all kinds of tasty offerings (image via YouTube (c) Disney)

     

    Taking a leaf out of Pixar’s book, which has long featured warm, funny and engaging shorts ahead of their feature film releases, Disney has announced that its upcoming movie Big Hero 6 will be preceded by what looks a touching short film indeed, Feast.

    (To be fair, Disney has been making wonderful short films since they began weaving their animation magic in the 1920s but it was Pixar who revived the idea of a cartoon feature having a companion short to usher it in.)

    Described by the studio as “the story of one man’s love life as seen through the eyes of his best friend and dog, Winston, and revealed bite by bite through the meals they share”, it features one adorable enthusiastic puppy who frankly has yet to find a yummy piece of food he doesn’t love almost as much as the man who feeds him.

    Feast will be the directorial debut for Patrick Osborne who was the head of animation on Paperman, one of the most emotionally-evocative and beautifully-drawn shorts I have seen any animation studio release anywhere.

    Much like a short story, you have to accomplish a lot in just a few short minutes, and Osborne has proved himself more than able to meet the challenge in his years at Disney as Hollywood Reporter notes:

    Feast is Osborne’s first project as a director since joining Disney Animation in 2008 as an animator on Bolt and moving on to projects such as Tangled. He also acted as co-head of animation for Big Hero 6 prior to assuming full-time directing duties for Feast.”

    Feast, and indeed Big Hero 6, are a further reminder that Disney animation, fresh off the mega success of Frozen is at the top of its game, back producing the sort of animation magic that has charmed us all for decades.

    Feast and Big Hero 6 open in USA on November 7, and in Australia on December 26.

     

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  • Rip’d from the pages of my childhood: The lifelong joys of Little Golden Books

    It looks well-loved true but that is testament to how much I would hold, read and pour over my precious collection of Golden Books as a child
    It looks well-loved true but that is testament to how much I would hold, read and pour over my precious collection of Golden Books as a child

     

    Little Golden Books, which launched in 1942 at a cost of just 25c per book, have been around my entire life.

    In my lifelong love or reading, of being endlessly imaginative, of writing my own stories and trying to get them published, these small, beautifully drawn and exquisitely well-written books have been the beginning and the end of everything, the very reason why I fell in love with reading and writing and the reason I continue down the many creative paths like blogging that the modern digital age offers me.

    That may sound like a grandiose statement to make, but it’s impossible to overstate how important these well-made, cheaply-priced books, which were launched in the midst of World War Two in an era of deprivation and sacrifice, were to families like mine which while not cripplingly poor, nonetheless were hardly full to the brim with excess funds to spend on luxuries like books.

    Little Golden Books meant that my Baptist minister father and part-time pharmacist mother – neither occupation exactly guaranteed a place on the Forbes Rich List – were able to afford to give my siblings and I a vastly greater range of material to read than would have otherwise been the case, and I will be forever grateful for that.

    Thanks to this innovative publishing line, which featured many famous writers and illustrators like Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) and the incomparable Richard Scarry (one of my great favourites), I was able to delight in and fall in love with the adventures of beloved characters like Winnie the Pooh, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, and the Poky Little Puppy, gateway books to a rich and rewarding reading habit which is still going strong today.

    Not all of the precious Little Golden Books I read as a child survived to my adulthood, but quite a few did, and while they may not be the obvious favourites, they imprinted themselves profoundly upon me and were the ones I gathered into my archive box when the time came to leave home.

    What did that Little Golden Book say? On the cover, what did it say? Did that say there will be a Monster at the end of this blog post? It did? Oh, I am so scared of Monsters!

    Shhhh. Listen, I have an idea. If you do not read any further in this blog post, we will never get to the end of it. And that is good because there is a Monster at the end of this post. So please do not read any further.

     

    Another well-thumbed volume from my collection
    Another well-thumbed volume from my collection

     

    As well as reading a lot as a child, I also watched quite a bit of TV, the highlights being The Wonderful World of Disney which aired in Australia on the weekends, and Sesame Street, which was telecast daily.

    I devoured everything they telecast with glee and was of course thrilled when I found out that Disney published many of its titles via Little Golden Books which, in the words of the official company web page, “have mirrored children’s popular culture over the years, having featured Lassie, Raggedy Ann, Uncle Wiggily, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Annie Oakley, Captain Kangaroo, Bozo the Clown, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Smokey Bear, Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera, Sesame Street …”

    Being able to have my own little piece of Disney, which I could read over and over and over again (the worn look of the Robin Hood title, above, testifies to how often these books were in my hands), in an age where VCRs weren’t commonplace, and merchandising was in its infancy, was such a special thing, and again I am thankful that Little Golden Books always kept culturally relevant.

    It made a real difference to have the world as I was experiencing via TV reflected in the books I was reading and the fact that we ended up with so many Disney and Sesame Street titles reflects how much this mattered to me.

    They are also presaged my current flourishing love of pop culture, the existence of which owes much of its existence to Little Golden Books and their willingness to embrace a multitude of characters that weren’t wholly and originally their own.

    You read further down the post! Maybe you do not understand. You see, reading further will bring us to the end of the post, and there is a Monster at the end of the post … but this will stop you from reading. See? I am tying the paragraphs together with rope so you cannot …

    YOU READ FURTHER! You do not know what you are doing to me! Now … please stop reading! 

     

    I have no idea what happened to the front and back covers of this book. Damaging them deliberately in any way was anathema to me so I can only assume I loved them off. That would make sense.
    I have no idea what happened to the front and back covers of this book. Damaging them deliberately in any way was anathema to me so I can only assume I loved them off. That would make sense.

     

    Let’s be honest, no one actually likes going to the dentist.

    But somehow this book, which told the story of Bobby and his friend Tommy’s visit to the dentist, made it seem far less scary than it was commonly assumed to be (and as an added bonus provided you with up to the minute knowledge on dental health; well as at 1970 which I will grant is a good few years ago now) and prepared me for the inevitable visits that childhood all but demanded.

    I am not sure if it was part of some grand plan on my mother’s part to soften me up in advance of these visits but it had the desired effect, making my trips to get my teeth checked far less traumatic than they otherwise would have been, with each and every one transformed into a living, breathing Little Golden Book as far as I was concerned.

    (In that respect, Little Golden Books were like Sesame Street, being entertaining and educational all at once.)

    My only great disappointment?

    The receptionist at my dentist didn’t give out toy cars like the one in the book, but she did have lollipops (this was the ’70s after all; you get toothpaste tubes now which aren’t quite the same but probably better for you) so that almost made up for it.

    An added bonus of this book was it reflected a multiracial friendship, something that made great sense to a boy raised for his early childhood in Bangladesh where my parents were missionaries for a time, who found the preponderance of Caucasian faces at school when we came back to Australia incredibly perplexing (where were all my wonderful Bengali playmates?).

    There, I Andrew, am nailing this paragraph to the next one so that you will not be able to turn it, and we will not get any closer to the Monster at the end of this post.

    All right! All right! All right! Do you know that every time you read another paragraph … you not only get us closer to the Monster at the end of the post, but you make a terrible mess!  Right this will stop you from reading any further. A heavy, thick, strong brick wall. I would like to see you TRY to read down to the next paragraph.

     

    I have loved watching wildlife documentaries all my life and it's a fair bet this particular love affair had its genesis in books like this and Where Is the Bear?
    I have loved watching wildlife documentaries all my life and it’s a fair bet this particular love affair had its genesis in books like this and Where Is the Bear?

     

    Many of my friends will agree that the Discovery Channel and National Geographic, not to mention the many wildlife BBC documentaries by Sir David Attenborough, are my natural home.

    Yes I love HBO’s grittiness and sass, syfy’s love of the supernatural, the bizarre and the galactic, and AMC’s fascination with the undead, but my real television home is the wildlife documentary.

    And I am certain that my love of watching hour long programs on everything from plovers to Asian elephants and wildebeest migrations had its beginnings in books like Wild Animals which takes you on a tour of the wild world, introducing you to animals as varied as lions, skunks, woodchucks, rhinos, and of course, koalas (which are erroneously referred to as “Koala Bears” in the books, something I am happy to forgive given how much the book, and other Little Golden Books like it, have enriched my life.

    Do you know that you are very strong?

    The next paragraph is the END of this post and there is a MONSTER at the end of it. Oh, I am so SCARED! PLEASE do not turn the page. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE.

     

    I love fantasy and escape and grand adventure, something that the tale of Ali Baba has in great measure
    I love fantasy and escape and grand adventure, something that the tale of Ali Baba has in great measure

     

    One of my other great abiding loves in life is reading books that take me far away from the humdrum ordinariness of life.

    They can be galaxy-spanning space operas, fantasies full of dragons and wizards, re-imagined fairytales or even the gentle rambunctiousness of The Wind in the Willows, but as long as they lead my imagination off along magical, anything-but-ordinary paths, I am happy.

    And once again, I am sure that this enduring obsession with tales beyond paying bills and commuting to a cubicle, had their genesis in books like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves which opened my eyes to countless more grown-up tales just waiting for me down the road.

    The genius of Little Golden Books was that they could distill the essence of these stories to a level a small child could comprehend without robbing them of one iota of bedtime story magic, an act of real creativity and dedication of behalf of the many talented authors behind this line.

    Well, look at that! This is end of the post, and the only Monster here is … GROVER. Good old, loveable, furry old Grover is the Monster at the post.

    And you were so SCARED! I told you and told you there was nothing to be afraid of.

    Oh I am so embarrassed.

     

    This is my favourite Little Golden Book of all. I cannot express how much I love it, and love Grover, my absolute favourite Sesame Street character of all. I love the Monster at the end of this book!
    This is my favourite Little Golden Book of all. I cannot express how much I love it, and love Grover, my absolute favourite Sesame Street character of all. I love the Monster at the end of this book! And I love Little Golden Books, the most wonderful book series of them all.
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  • The Walking Dead: “Four Walls and a Roof” (S5, E3 review)

    The scenes between Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) are among the most heartbreaking that The Walking Dead has ever featured, a sign that death is still not a casual fact of life for those who choose to hang onto their humanity (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)
    The scenes between Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) are among the most heartbreaking that The Walking Dead has ever featured, a sign that death is still not a casual fact of life for those who choose to hang onto their humanity (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)

     

    *SPOILERS AHEAD*

    “We need each other, we can get through all of this together.”

    This impassioned quote from Glenn (Steven Yeun), who found himself not once but twice playing the in-the-nick-of-time intercessor between Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), who is aggressively OCD when it comes to getting to good old Washington DC, wherein supposedly lies the saving grace of all humanity, and Rick (Andrew Lincoln), proves once again that hanging onto your humanity is day by day, hour by hour task in a zombie apocalypse.

    That Glenn, and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and even dear half-legless Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) still think this is an important calling and one that should be pursued even in the face of a renewed and rather sneaky attack by the Terminites to Father Gabriel’s church in the dead of night which was clearly designed to re-stock the larder with a great big serving of self-serving vengeance on the side, speaks volumes of what these three characters value even in the midst of mayhem, violence and the bloody pulping of enemies.

    And my Lordy was there a great and furious round of flesh pulping in an episode in which the bleating “Poor me!” leader of the Terminites, Gareth (Andrew J. West), in a weird mix of confessional Bond villain and solo therapy session, seemed hellbent on trying to cajole some sort of sympathetic admission from Bob along the lines of “Well golly gee Gareth, it makes sense you would resort to cannibalism since you were SO hard done by those aggressive interlopers who came in and wrecked your mung bean-loving hippie commune of peace and brotherly safety … and my chopped leg that you’re eating in front  of me? Why it’s the least I can contribute to your continued wellbeing.”

    Of course, Bob, who diligently, and in the face of monumental odds to the contrary, held fast to his innate belief that the bluebird of happiness was just around the corner, and not stuffed inelegantly in the mouth of a hungry zombie, had more reason than most to laugh in the face of Gareth’s pathetic justifying of his wholesale shucking of his humanity (which continued right up till the end when he pathetically tried to plead and reason with an uncaring Rick), given the fact he had been bit by an aquatic walker and was not long for this blighted world anyway.

    And he did, screaming at the top of his lungs, with a nice touch of maniacal laughter, that he was “Tainted meat!”, eliciting a rather panicky reaction from Gareth’s remaining Terminites, who didn’t seem to handle the idea of the boot being on the other foot (which in Bob’s case it actually was).

     

    The achingly sad look of resignation on Bob's face as he pulled his sweatshirt to reveal his zombie bite and Sasha's almost instantaneous grief made for a perfect storm of apocalyptic misery from which Sasha may not bounce back  (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)
    The achingly sad look of resignation on Bob’s face as he pulled his sweatshirt to reveal his zombie bite and Sasha’s almost instantaneous grief made for a perfect storm of apocalyptic misery from which Sasha may not bounce back (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)

     

    Rather than killing Bob outright – because they’re decent honest, hardworking cannibals you see who only want the best for the people they’re butchering – they dumped Bob outside the church before skedaddling away, a rather precarious position for one-legged man to be in what with zombies on the prowl for a midnight snack and all.

    Hardly an act of mercy, although Gareth went on and on about how they only did what they had to – Bob’s silent hostile reaction to Gareth’s PR missive spoke volumes about his humnanity-nicely-intact-thank-you view that it a choice not a coerced reality – it gave them a trigger for a showdown with Rick’s group after a number of them were seen to rush out to exact vengeance on the Terminites at the walker-filled elementary school they were holed up in (this was after naturally rescuing Bob from the peckish undead).

    Seizing their moment, the Terminites rushed in to the church where Carl (Chandler Riggs), Judith, Tyreese, Father Gabriel and others were huddled in locked rooms out the back while Rick, Sasha, Glenn, Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) were supposedly off enacting red hot vengeance, only to find themselves in the trap to end all traps with the sheriff and his posse stealing back into the church for a silent but deadly game of “Whack the Cannibals!”

    And whack them they did, in mercilessly brutal fashion, reducing their once-captors to piles of bloodied, pulpy flesh, vengeance made physical in such a raw visceral way that even Maggie, Glenn and Tara (Alanna Masterson) looked on stupefied incredulity.

    This understandable but grisly act underscored one of the central themes of the episode which was what do you choose when something seemingly unforgivable happens to you?

    Do you choose vengeance as Rick, Sasha and some of the others did, or do you take the far harder route, especially in the dog-eat-dog world of the zombie apocalypse where forgiveness and mercy are in short supply, as Tyreese did after he lost the love of his life Karen (Melissa Ponzio) to Carol’s (Melissa McBride) doing what needs to be done moment, and forgive those who, in old Bible parlance, “trespass against you”?

    Tyreese tried to talk Sasha over to the far less popular side of forgiveness but her grief, her anger was far too raw to listen to her brother who, she pointed out, reacted exactly as he did when he lost Karen.

    Acknowledging he had, he nevertheless tried to argue for mercy, justice and forgiveness, but Sasha was having none of it and the Terminites, who frankly deserved everything they had coming, delusional and self-serving as they were right up until the end, paid with their lives as a result.

     

    Those they may stand on opposite sides of the forgiveness/ vengeance divide, there was never any sense of a schism with Tyreese standing shoulder to shoulder with his younger sister through the desperately sad, dark night of the soul she was enduring (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)
    Those they may stand on opposite sides of the forgiveness/ vengeance divide, there was never any sense of a schism with Tyreese standing shoulder to shoulder with his younger sister through the desperately sad, dark night of the soul she was enduring (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)

     

    Far away the central core of “Four Walls and a Roof” – the title refers to the fact that the church, desecrated by Father Gabriel’s tearful confessed sin of locking out his congregation when they came seeking sanctuary and the execution of the Terminites, was no longer a house of god but simply, in Maggie’s words, “Four walls and a roof” – were the emotionally-resonant scenes between Bob and Sasha who stayed together until the very moment the endless optimist breathed his smiling last.

    Sasha: “You were out” [to a groggy just waking up Bob]
    Bob: “Was I?”
    Sasha: “You were.”
    [Bob smiles]
    Sasha: “Why are you smiling?” [her confusion is understandable since he's mere moments from death]
    Bob: “I think I was dreaming and I think you were smiling back at me in the dream. That’s it.”

    What could do you in the face of that kind of deathbed romantic utterance but smile which Sasha did, even with her pain raw to breaking.

    The thing about Bob throughout the episode was that even as he lay dying – in an act of brotherly love, it was Tyreese who knifed him in the temple to stop him turning – he never lost his tenacious grip on his humanity or his optimism, something made abundantly and poignantly clear in his final exchange with Rick (held tightly onto Judith as the two men talked):

    Bob: “Just want to say thank you. Before the prison, I didn’t know if there were any good people left. I didn’t know if anybody was left. You took me in. YOU took me in. It was you man. What I said yesterday [about the nightmare ending] I ain’t revising it even in the light of current events. Nightmares end; they shouldn’t end who you are. And that is the just this dead man’s opinion.”
    Rick: [softly] “I’ll take it.”
    Bob looks at Judith.
    Bob: “Just look at her and tell me the world isn’t going to change.”

    It was simply, heartfelt and understated but deeply and profoundly redolent with meaning – the apocalypse, horrific though it is, doesn’t have to be the end of optimism, of humanity, of mercy or forgiveness, that we all have a choice who we become even in the most taxing of circumstances.

    It was a lesson Bob knew by heart, Sasha still had to learn, Michonne (who in a telling act picked up her katana from the backpack of one of the dead Terminites, a sign she was perhaps hardening up a little again) might be un-learning a little, and Rick seem to take to heart, at least as Bob came close to breathing his last.

     

    In a powerfully emotional, though understated scene Bob imparts his final sermon of positivity, one not grounded in Hallmark-birthed warm and fuzzies but gleaned from life in the apocalypse where you always choose who you are and who you will remain (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)
    In a powerfully emotional, though understated scene Bob imparts his final sermon of positivity, one not grounded in Hallmark-birthed warm and fuzzies but gleaned from life in the apocalypse where you always choose who you are and who you will remain (image (c) Photo by Gene Page/AMC via official AMC TWD page)

     

    This fraught episode, which was punctuated by the departure of Abraham, Rosita (Christian Serratos), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), along with Maggie, Glenn and Tara who agreed to go along to keep the peace on the understanding that Rick and the others would follow upon the return of Carol and Daryl (who the group now knew had driven off after Beth’s kidnappers; the creepy stalker-y behaviour of the Terminites at least served some purpose) and the unexpected arrival of Daryl and persons unknown at the very end of things, was a master class in balancing action and philosophical introspection.

    There was plenty of action to be had but it served a purpose which was to underline how noble and wise Bob had become during his various apocalyptic travails, and that his life lessons, far from being airy-fairy and of little use in the real world, were grounded in the all too real hard slog of trying to survive.

    That Bob didn’t, and that Sasha will likely mourn him by shutting down, gave his message all that more power and urgency, and underscored that the writers of The Walking Dead continue to understand in the uniformly excellent season 5 that the show works best when action and emotional/philosophical ruminations are held in searingly-affecting tension.

    The renewed splitting up of the group, with a promise by Rick that he come to Washington DC as soon as he could – after ripping shreds off Rick in their tense exchange, Abraham apologised via the map he left with Rick saying “SORRY I WAS AN ASSHOLE. COME TO WASHINGTON. THE NEW WORLD’S GONNA NEED RICK GRIMES.”

    There’s no doubting we all need Rick Grimes but for the next while at least many of the major characters in The Walking Dead will have to do without his presence as the show once again embraces the fractured storytelling of season 4, and follows a series of divergent narratives until what is likely to be a rather full-on mid-season finale.

    And without further ado, here’s the promo and a sneak peek for next week’s episode “Slabtown” …

     

     

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  • The Comeback is coming back!

    (image via YouTube (c) HBO)
    (image via YouTube (c) HBO)

     

    It was Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd, who famously remarked “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small” as stinging retort to Joe Gillis’ observation that she wasn’t quite as famous as she used to be.

    It’s a sentiment that Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) would likely embrace with gusto if she had the time the concentrate on anything other than clawing her way, with cameras rolling and outfits and make-up (not to mention visible portions of her life) just so, back into the limelight she feels so richly deserves her occupation of it.

    While getting back to where you used to be is never easy no matter what you do, it is even less so for an ageing actress in Hollywood who, once the belle of the sitcom ball in the show I’m It! (1989-1993), now finds herself losing parts to younger, funnier actresses, resulting in a decade-long effective exile from the industry she is desperate to be a part of once again and forcing the once household name to be filmed for a reality TV show called The Comeback.

    Naturally she leaps from obscurity into the bright lights with alacrity, providing many moments of comedic delight, none of which the shallow, vain, and deliciously self-consumed actress even realises she is responsible for (which of course makes it all the more hilarious; oblivious disregard is pretty funny).

    It’s Valerie’s unceasing narcissism, and the effect it has on those around her including patient, publicity-shy husband Mark Berman (Damian Young), that made watching the first and until now only season of HBO’s The Comeback (2005), created and written by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, such a pleasure.

     

    Valerie Cherish is back! And loving the spotlight every bit as much as she always did (Image via YouTube (c) HBO)
    Valerie Cherish is back! And loving the spotlight every bit as much as she always did (Image via YouTube (c) HBO)

     

    And now to the delight no doubt of Valerie Cherish, and the legion of The Comeback fans who have accumulated in the nine years since it has been on air, the show is back on November 9 with a meta-heavy eight-episode second series that centres on the still-spotlight hungry actress landing a role on a new, yes you guessed it, HBO show.

    The prospect of being back in the game, and even better the centre of attention has Valerie all agog and a-twitter – no, not the actual Twitter; if past form is any guide, she has no idea what it is, being utterly non-cognisant of current trends in any form – until she finds out that she has been cast in the role of “neurotic older sitcom actress.”

    That, naturally enough, goes down like an un-filmed lead balloon and comedy, in all its needy, self-serving, hilarious ways, ensues.

    We only have 1 1/2 minutes to play with in the trailer but it gives every indication that the grand dame of sitcoms is back in all her vain glorious grandeur, and that Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, who were always ahead of the curve with their pithy, searing critiques of showbiz celebrity culture, are well and truly on top of their game and that The Comeback‘s return (“What is this, The Comeback comeback?”)will be every bit as enjoyable as you’d expect it to be.

    Take a photo of me to show how happy I am will you?

    The Comeback, series 2, debuts on HBO on November 9.

     

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  • Everything old is new again: Wonder Woman, Lost in Space, and Big return

    brizzle born and bred via photopin cc
    brizzle born and bred via photopin cc

     

    Karma. What goes around, comes around. Everything old is new again.

    Even though their intent may differ, one eternal idea underlies all of these words or phrases – the idea that if you wait around long enough, and in today’s hyper-fast recycling world, that isn’t too long at all (Spiderman re-imagined over and over … and over again, anyone?), what was once old and passe will come screaming back into vogue again, all shiny, new and updated, awash in a wave of rose-tinted nostalgia.

    It may sound like an appealing prospect to those of us with fond memories of times gone by, and the TV shows, books, movies, music and comic books that defined them, but much of the time the re-emergence of something old in the clothes of something new simply reminds us that you can never go back; that the past, no matter how glorious it might have been, is just that, the past and should be left basking in the hallowed glow of our fond recollections.

    You only have to look to the slew of movie-to-TV adaptations to see how true this often is with failed efforts like Bewitched (2005), Scooby Doo (2002), The Avengers (1998) and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) only serving to tarnish the memory of the wonderful TV shows that inspired them.

    And yet despite all this accrued wisdom, painfully gleaned from seeing one too many of these movies in the cinema, there is still a part of me, a hope-springs-eternal masochistic part of me, that still believes you can bring back old pop culture icons and re-invent them in new and exciting ways.

    After all, for every Bewitched, there is a Battlestar Galactica, for every Scooby Doo there is The Brady Bunch Movie, proof that it is possible to bring some TV shows and movies back from the dead, provided you have a sufficiently imaginative new take on them that, while honouring what they essentially were, contributes something new to them as well.

    And if the following three projects get off the ground, then the latter examples will (hopefully) soon be joined by a number of new re-invented companions …

     

    LYNDA CARTER’S WONDER WOMAN

     

    Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman (image (c) Warner Bros Television via Comic Book Brain)
    Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman (image (c) Warner Bros Television via Comic Book Brain)

     

    While Superman and Spiderman and Batman seem to get movie after movie made about them with effortless and often uninspired, production line-ease, Wonder Woman can’t seem to land a feature film to save herself (and trust me what with the golden lasso, bullet-deflecting bracelets and a golden belt she is more than capable of doing that) .

    It’s a real pity because as one time beauty queen Lynda Carter made abundantly clear in the TV series Wonder Woman, which ran from 1975-1979 and was set in the turbulent times of World War Two, there is a huge amount of dramatic potential in the story of the Paradise Island princess who came to the USA, joined the navy and fought Nazis and any evildoers foolish enough to get in her way.

    She was, says Comic Book Brain, the quintessential Wonder Woman:

    Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston (and his wife Elizabeth), but Lynda Carter made the character famous in a way that transcended comic books. Carter combined her beauty-contest winning looks with a friendly, honest approach to the character. The TV series (1975-1979) appeared at just the right time to ride the cresting wave of WWII era nostalgia and the changing standards which allowed for the spangled suit, a kind of stars-and-stripes one-piece swim suit.”

    So it seems only fitting that she could come alive again in a new digital comic book series which will recreate Wonder Woman as she was brilliantly interpreted by Lynda Carter, according to a report by Bonnie Burton at c|net.

    Reporting on the “DC Digital: Download This” panel held at the recently-concluded New York Comic Con, Burton noted that DC Entertainment will launching Wonder Woman ’77 as a digital comic series, debuting with six weekly chapters in December 2014 (they will come out in print in early 2015) “written by Marc Andreyko, with covers from artist Nicola Scott.”

    It sounds like an exciting take on Wonder Woman and a clever way to give some new life to this venerable but woefully under-utilised character and one that will pay worthy homage to her considerable legacy.

     

     

    LOST IN SPACE

     

    The cast of Lost in Space (image via Wikipedia (c) 20th Century Fox Television)
    The cast of Lost in Space (image via Wikipedia (c) 20th Century Fox Television)

     

    Lost in Space, created by Irwin Allen and which ran from 1965-1968, was one of the staples of my television-viewing childhood (I must hasten to add that I watched the show in re-runs in the ’70s).

    The story of the Robinson Family, who were sent on a 5 1/2 mission to the outer reaches of space to find another Earth-like planet that the USA could colonise, only to find themselves flung so far off course by the nefarious Dr Zachary Smith that they became lost in an uncharted galaxy, it was given another lease on life in 1998 when a movie adaptation starring William Hurt and Gary Oldman was released into theatres.

    Unfortunately the film, while visually impressive, fell victim to a runaway plot that paid only lip service to the original premise on which the TV show was based, leaving everyone fairly certain that this was one show that should be left well enough alone.

    It appears though, according to Hey U Guys, that not everyone shares this view with the announcement that the men behind Dracula Untold, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless will be working with the current rights holder for Lost in Space, Kevin Burns of Synthesis Entertainment, to bring the TV series to the small screen once again at Legendary TV.

    As Hey U Guys noted, “this new take on the franchise has seemingly come out of nowhere”, and very little beyond these details is known.

    You can only hope though that these men will learn from the mistakes of the film adaptation and deliver a modern interpretation of the show that keeps the best of its premise while updating with some modern touches much like Battlestar Galactica, which is the template for re-interpreting an old TV show in the best possible way.

     

     

    BIG

     

    Tom Hanks in Big (image via Coverlandia (c) 20th Century Fox)
    Tom Hanks in Big (image via Coverlandia (c) 20th Century Fox)

     

    Who didn’t want to be all grown up when they were a kid, wishing they could be free to do what they liked when they liked without any adults telling them what to do?

    It was all a deceitful fantasy of course, a construct of young minds too new to the world to understand how it really works (adults are in many ways more comprehensively boxed in by regulations and expectations than any child will be) something the protagonist in Penny Marshall’s Big (1988), Josh Baskin (a perfect performance by then rising star Tom Hanks) discovered when a fairground wish to a fortune teller machine Zoltar Speaks seems his catapulted, literally overnight, into the complicated minefield of adulthood.

    It’s a charming tale that ultimately reminds us that every adult can benefit from regaining some of the guileless bravado and sheer joy of being a kid, a fun-filled movie with message and heart, which is largely why it has become a classic in the 26 years since its release.

    And also why I suspect it is about to be made into a 1/2 hour per episode comedy series, as reported by Hollywood Reporter.

    According to the trade journal, the team behind the much-mourned one season only sitcom Enlisted, Kevin Biegel and Mike Royce, is readying what is being described as an “event series” to be screened on Fox with an eventual episode count more closely resembling that of a cable production than a network show.

    Big the series, which if done right – and that means capturing the delicate balance of the film which ably explored both the delights and constrictions of adulthood and childhood – will be a delight, is going to be joined by a number of other movie to TV adaptations including Minority Report, also on Fox and Problem Child and Real Genius on NBC, among many, many others.

    Everything old really is new again in the hyper-competitive world of the modern TV landscape.

     

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  • Weekend pop art: Sleepy Hollow expands its unique universe with new comic book series

    Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills look every bit as fiercely determined in comic form as they do on TV (image (c) BOOM! Studios via Popwatch EW)
    Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills look every bit as fiercely determined in comic form as they do on TV (image (c) BOOM! Studios via Popwatch EW)

     

    Sleepy Hollow (Fox)is an utterly unique show.

    A one-of-a-kind blend of Biblical and occult mythology, historical intrigue, good old police procedural and what EW rightly calls a “fish out of water comedy”, it has a fashioned for itself a narrative world so unusually detailed, comprehensively explored and richly told that it has surpassed similarly intricate shows like Fringe and Grimm in both storytelling nous and devoted fandom.

    In fact so popular is the sophomore show, which kicked off its second season just a few weeks back with its two protagonists, 250 year old Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Sleepy Hollow police detective Lt. Grace Abigail “Abbie” Mills (Nicole Beharie)’ collectively the Two Witnesses who can forestall the end of the world, buried alive in a coffin underground by his son, the Horseman of War, and trapped in purgatory being stalked by the demon Moloch respectively, that it has now spawned a fan movement known as the Sleepyheads.

    And these devoted fans, of which I am most assuredly one, are being showered with even more ways to enter fully into the universe of Sleepy Hollow with a range of tie-in novels, and now a monthly series of comic books from Boom! Studios, the first issue of which was released on 15 October, after a major promotion at New York Comic Con where a rare variant of the comic was released with a super-limited edition cover by Noelle Stevenson (the issue was written by Marguerite Bennett and illustrated by Jorge Coelho).

    To check out the first six pages of the release, go to Popwatch at EW and make sure you pick up a copy of the comic that anyone and everyone who loves Ichabbie (as Ichabod and Abbie have been cutely termed) will likely have snapped up already!

     

    Weekend pop art Sleep Hollow pic 2
    (image (c) BOOM! Studios via Popwatch EW)
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  • Air New Zealand presents The Hobbit cast in The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made

    (image via YouTube (c) Air New Zealand)
    (image via YouTube (c) Air New Zealand)

     

    Let’s be honest – airline safety videos are usually pretty dull, boring affairs, their level of watchability sitting somewhere between a video manual on concreting your own garden gnomes and a travelogue made by boring people of watching paint dry.

    Most of us either ignore or watch them just in case the unthinkable happens but we’re not really invested in the show, a necessary evil to be endured before the plane takes off and we go off on our next grand adventure.

    But if you are fortunate to be travelling on Air New Zealand, which is one of the world’s friendliest, most well run airlines, and one which happily is based in the country that has come to be affectionately known as Middle Earth, you aren’t required to grit your teeth, lie back and think of Hobbiton when the safety video screens.

    In a brilliant move that begin in 2012 with A Most Unexpected Briefing, Air New Zealand has teamed, according to Hollywood Reporter, with Peter Jackson and the team behind The Hobbit movie trilogy to create The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made (it really, absolutely is):

    “Using both locations and actors from Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy — and including cameos from Jackson himself — the Most Epic video was directed by Taika Waititi over six days, and features effects, costumes and make-up from Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, both of which offered similar services to the movies themselves.”

    It is every bit as entertaining and magical as you’d hope it might be, as well chock full of all the actual safety information you need to know, and is likely enough to entice me back onto an Air New Zealand fight just to watch it on an actual plane.

    Oh who am I kidding?

    I LOVE the airline – shhh don’t tell QANTAS – and would travel with them regardless; having the The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made to watch into the bargain would simply be icing on the cake.

    Now if I could just get Kili or Thorin Oakenshield to serve me drinks, it would be the BEST FLIGHT EVER.

     

     

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  • Goodbye Miranda #suchNOTfun

    The cast of Miranda look as shocked as I do that the sitcom is coming to an end (image via and (c) BBC)
    The cast of Miranda look as shocked as I do that the sitcom is coming to an end (image via and (c) BBC)

     

    Bonjour peepsickles!

    “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

    Lifted from Heather Small’s song “Proud” (2000) and oft-quoted (or sung, really) in Miranda Hart’s hilarious sitcom Miranda by her best friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland), it’s a phrase used by the two best friends to inspire them to go and do great and amazing life-changing things.

    It very rarely works of course but that is hardly the point since the intent and the inspiration is there and that’s all matters.

    (Life is far too short to focus on the serious adult-y things; far better to conduct an orchestra made out of fruit and see how much food you can catch in your mouth as it flies out of a blender at full speed right?)

    Now it seems that the star of the show, which in the words of the British Comedy Guide, focused on her character’s accident-prone nature and regularly disastrous attempts to establish a love-life”, Miranda Hart, who has enjoyed meteoric success since her sitcom debuted in 2009 and is fresh from an amazingly well-received stand-up tour of both Australia and the UK, has decided to call it quits while the sitcom is on, what she likes to call, “a high”.

    Now I know your first response to this horrendous news is to scream out, wherever you may be (train commuting etiquette be damned!) “I presume you are kiddingtons.”

    Sadly I am not.

     

    Miranda and her mother are joined at the hip although the former wishes the latter would keep her distance especially when it comes to matters of the heart (image via and (c) BBC)
    Miranda and her mother are joined at the hip although the former wishes the latter would keep her distance especially when it comes to matters of the heart (image via and (c) BBC)

     

    She announced the news out in public and everything on Steve Wright’s BBC Radio 2 show, according to BBC News, and while I am, in the words of Miranda’s old boarding school pal “flabagastamoomoo”, there’s no escaping that she said this:

    “I’m actually coming to the end of the whole sitcom. I’m doing two Christmas specials, but they are going to be the finale of the show, full stop.”

    And then went on to say this:

    “People have loved the character, which is so nice and amazing for me. But as she gets older I don’t want her to keep falling over and make a complete fool of herself.”

    So there we have it then.

    After two more Christmas specials, which are filming in November, and the release of a book The Best of Miranda: Favourite Episodes Plus Added Treats – Such Fun!, that will be very sadly that.

    I am, what Miranda’s mother Penny (Patricia Hodge) likes to call, deeply saddened.

    My only wish is that Miranda will finally and will as many pratfalls and word stumbles as possible, get her man, one Gary Preston (Tom Ellis), who is, again in Tilly parlance, “marvilisimous, fabulasmic, Brillo pads! and totes amazeballs”.

    Miranda Hart, naturally, will be keeping very busy with her new stand-up career – she made her name doing one woman performance pieces which is how she came to the attention of the BBC in the first place – and the hosting of an updated version of British entertainment show The Generation Game.

    And of course should the pining for Miranda prove too great, there is a DVD release of the 2010 and 2012 Miranda Christmas specials on November 24 as well as the DVD of her stand up tour My, What I Call, Live Show a week earlier on November 17.

    Just remember that sad though this news is, there’s “No need to get emotional, we’re not Spanish”.

     

     

     

     

     

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