You know, there really is some pestilential television on at the moment. Take for instance Channel Nine’s new offering for Sunday evenings – a show named Clever. It isn’t. Its general format seems to be getting two teams of C-List celebrities together, presenting them with ‘zany’ science experiments – the majority of which have already been done on Mythbusters and Braniac – and then getting them to answer a multiple choice question on the outcome. The first episode (which I watched most of last week before getting fed up and changing to David Attenborough over on the ABC) featured walking on a pool full of custard, putting light globes in a microwave oven, melting styrofoam with acetone (cutting edge science there guys!) and blowing up a caravan to see if mobile phones can cause fires at petrol stations. I mean blowing up a caravan! That’s Braniac‘s signature “experiment”! Now I’m no great fan of Braniac (give me Mythbusters – a show that doesn’t treat its audience like hyperactive 8 year olds – any day) but I’d rather watch 20 Braniac episodes in a row than even ten more minutes of Clever.
Nine has also thrown together a similarly monsterous travesty for Tuesday nights called Magda’s Funny Bits. My best guess at the concept for this show is that they had a whole load of left over content purchased from the States for Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show*Maybe you think Australia actually produces an hour’s worth of “funny” home videos each and every week – maybe you’re a fool. and episodes three to twelve of the The World’s Funniest Adds and couldn’t think of any way to use them. So someone suggested stringing them together into a clip show and getting some minor celebrity (Magda Szubanski as it turns out) to do “funny stuff” in between. Well, I suppose it’s cheaper than spending money on anything good.
That said I suppose there has been some pretty good stuff on the last few months, so maybe I’ve just been spoiled. Smallville for instance, which is becoming more and more incoherent with each episode. We got ten or so episodes of Gilmore Girls and the second (and sadly final, because it got axed dagnabit!) season of Carnivale. The ABC finally finished its complete run of Doctor Who with the incomparable Sylvester McCoy – leaving me with nothing to do at 6:00pm for the first time since (I think) 2003. And I discovered a very weird but rather endearing series called Wonderfalls which Nine were using (along with Celebrity Golf Challenge) as filler on Saturday afternoons.
Wonderfalls (which only lasted one season thanks to unfair comparisons with Joan of Arcadia) is about an extremely cynical Generation Y-er by the name of Jaye who despite (or possibly because of) coming from a highly sucessful family and getting an excellent education prefers to live in a trailer park and work (badly I might add*Quick! What movie?!) in a gift shop at Niagra Falls. Which all seems to be working out fairly well for her until previously inanimate objects start coming to life (when no-one’s looking of course) and spouting instructions at her. Like a wax lion telling her not to give a dissatisfied customer their money back, or pink lawn flamingos telling her to “get off your ass”. Naturally she tries to ignore them at first, but by a few episodes in is following their prompts almost without thinking because things usually seem to work out for the best that way – eventually at least.
It’s a very odd show. It seems to have had problems deciding exactly where it was going or what audience it was trying to appeal to, but the writing is pretty sharp and Caroline Dhavernas’s acting as Jaye kinda makes the whole thing work (she has the same talent for expressions of incredulous horror as Linda Cardellini in Freaks and Geeks). So it’s a shame it wasn’t picked up for a second season. It’s also a shame Nine seem to have given up on it after about five episodes – no sign of it for the last two weeks – so I may have to resort to finding it on DVD at some point. In the meantime I’ll just disconcert passers by by muttering “What ARE you!? The COW of PAIN?!?” under my breath and cackling.
Here’s two completely unrelated interesting facts I stumbled across recently. The music of the choral piece Oh Fortuna*Probably better known to many in this illiterate age as Excaliber was composed in 1937 (in Nazi Germany of all places), but the words are from a collection of bards’ songs dating from the 13th century. Now is that majorly cool or what? Six hundred odd years between the music and the lyrics! And what lyrics! Translate them from the Latin and they’re all about how fate is cruel and fickle and cuts people down like puppets – I had no idea there were Goths in the 13th Century!*Well obviously there were Goths, I mean Goths, not Goths. All clear?
The second interesting fact is that Rock, Paper, Scissors was invented in ancient China and there is no record of it existing in Europe until the early 19th century (when it was presumably brought back by sailors and merchants). Can you imagine living in a world without Rock, Paper, Scissors? It’s unthinkable! How could people ever decide on anything?
In other news I turn 30 this week. Oh good lord. I should be doing something highly important and significant with the last week of my 20’s, but I can’t think of anything – apart from doing the dishes that is. So I suppose I’d better go do that now…