What’s this? Mrs Columbo isn’t Mrs Columbo any more? There have been some odd ideas floated around as to why this happened, and in the absence of a detailed interview with somebody connected with this show we can only really speculate. Let’s take the reasons we can find on Wikipedia as our starting point.
Firstly, we have this: “poor ratings and reception from both audiences and the original producers of Columbo.” Only the first two words of that reason can have any relevance. There is no way dramatic changes would have been made to a show that was performing well, so it’s worth keeping that in mind. As for the opinions of the original producers of Columbo, if they didn’t matter when the show was created, they certainly didn’t matter by the time the second season was being aired. Continue reading →
Well, I guess they didn’t need the school set any more, or the principal for that matter. Snyder gets eaten, still thinking he can deal with evil by telling it off. He is devoured by a fairly disappointing bit of CGI by today’s standards, but I can promise you that in 1999 that seemed like an exciting and convincing effect. As always, though, this is a show that is about the metaphorical monsters much more than the literal ones, and how we deal with them. Continue reading →
As we come to the end of season 2, we are greeted with Burgess Meredith playing another bookish character (Time Enough At Last), but he’s a far more likeable one this time around. In fact, this is another strong contender for a top ten episode which is especially weird considering just how wordy it is. I was going to say “talkative” but with a man named Wordsworth as the central character, I felt “wordy” was a better option. In modern terms, this episode could be a scathing critique of office culture: no one is irreplaceable. But thanks to some damned fine writing, this works more like a thought experiment about government gone wrong. You hang on every word, waiting to see how Wordsworth will outmaneuver his opponent, the Chancellor. What makes it even more incredible is that he doesn’t “win”. He does posthumously outsmart his enemy, but he doesn’t find a way out. Continue reading →
No denying it: I’m a sucker for a werewolf movie. The unfortunate thing is that there are seldom good ones. I have memories of some that I liked, but I think if I view them now, I might regret it, like Peter Cushing’s The Beast Must Die. A more recent one that I really liked was a 2002 horror movie Dog Soldiers, the first movie I’d seen Sean Pertwee in (son of Doctor Who himself, Jon Pertwee.) Interestingly, the protagonists of this episode are referred to as dog soldiers, perhaps as a call back to that movie. Or perhaps with other intent… Continue reading →
What would you do if a bin bag emerged from the sea and started walking towards you? I think most people would run in the opposite direction, or at least be a little alarmed, but the fisherman at the start of this episode doesn’t seem bothered about it at all, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to him. This is the opening sequence to the first episode of the fourth season of The Avengers, and nearly everything has changed from the show we knew before. Continue reading →
Look up Space: 1999 and the first few words on Wikipedia is “…a British Science-fiction television programme that ran for two series from 1975 to 1977.” Look up Buck Rogers and you’ll find, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is an American science fiction adventure television series … between September 1979 and April 1981…” These are basically contemporary shows but from two very different parts of the world and there are some observations that I’m sure we could make into a comedy skit. Space: 1999 was thought-provoking but lacked a warm cast. Koenig is obnoxious, for one, and Helena is about as stiff as a surf board but not as much fun. Notably, the cast rarely was seen in anything but their uniforms, with rare exception. Cut to this side of the pond and the stories are as cliched and pulpy as you can imagine right down to the titles of the individual episode, but the cast is really fun to watch. Continue reading →
Whenever Doctor Who is being filmed on location, the locals are bound to get interested and want to go along and watch. That happened in the 1960s just as much as it happens now. Here’s a photo of some Kentish folk watching the filming of Fury from the Deep in February 1968:
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You’ve got to hand it to this show: they tried to choose interesting people as the killers. We had a retired police officer in Murder is a Parlor Game and a ventriloquist in A Riddle for Puppets. Now it’s the turn of a phony psychic, and of course that turn of phrase is tautology, because every psychic who takes money off innocent people is a phony.
A Puzzle for Prophets shows us a really messed up bunch of people, but maybe you have to be a bit twisted to be willing to con people out of their money by taking advantage of their grief and desperation, which is basically the modus operandi for any practising fraudster who calls themselves a psychic. There is a power struggle going on between “Sister” Janice and the young pretender to her crown, Eve. There is no mention of her age, but one can’t help but wonder just how twisted this situation is, and how long she has been in the frame as Janice’s replacement. Continue reading →
And so the inevitable happens: Buffy and Angel’s relationship ends. We first get an illustration of how awkward their version of domestic bliss has become, with Buffy talking about having a drawer for her clothes, but she’s trying to create a veil of domesticity, while Angel doesn’t have any mirrors around and nearly catches fire when Buffy looks out of the window. Joyce’s intervention gives Angel the final push to end the relationship, but we were really always heading to this point. It needed to happen in dramatic terms, not just because Angel is heading off to star in his own show, but also because he has been hanging around fairly aimlessly for a whole season, on the fringes of the action, separated from the rest of the group. He’s out of place now. Continue reading →
I remember reading that Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up? was one of the top 10 episodes of The Twilight Zone and unfortunately, there was a picture of the Martian with his 3rd eye next to the review, so I’d known what was coming all along. What I didn’t expect was a real zinger to still catch me off guard and let me say: I can see why this episode was considered to be one of the best. It introduces us to a group of people, stranded in a diner due to a snowstorm, with the threat that one of them was an alien. This episode is head and shoulders above nearly everything else this season, and that’s no metaphor! There are two aliens, one with an extra arm and the other with an extra eye. As I said… head and shoulders above! Continue reading →
Perhaps if it were called The Junkyard, I might have liked it more. The unfortunate truth is I have a bit of a bias myself: I don’t like things to be low class. Crass behavior puts me off and I don’t love dirty places and disorder really throws me off. When my desk gets out of hand, I get twitchy. So an episode taking place in a dump isn’t going to appeal to me aesthetically but that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a good story to explore. Except, even that is about grungy people in grungy places.
Dave lives in The Dump. An inspector shows up to evict Dave. Dave tells a story and things go bad for the inspector. Could there possibly be a deeper meaning?
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This is an oddly unambitious episode to end the third season of The Avengers. There are none of the madcap schemes and grand criminal plans of previous weeks, and instead we have a straightforward smuggling plot that feels like it belongs in the second season rather than the third. There are, however, a couple of unusual locations: a chess shop and an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant, both of which are places I would love to visit. Interesting settings for Avengers episodes have been a feature of the series almost from the start, and the chess shop in particular is nicely integrated into the story, with an ornate chess piece used as a clue to investigate a murder, and a postal game of chess used as a way to disguise coded messages being sent, although Cathy decoding the messages by assigning letters of the alphabet to squares on the board was very silly when you think about it. You would only be able to send one letter per message, so it would take a while to achieve any useful communication. Continue reading →
Let me get this right: Ardala is back and she is searching for a human husband and the top of the line is a guy she met once for a few minutes? First off, isn’t Earth the enemy of the Draconian empire? Why would her husband be human? Her own species looks the same. I guess it makes a kind of twisted sense as a form of conquest perhaps but wow!
And from Buck’s point of view, it’s head off with the most sexy alien in the universe to be her plaything and save all of earth in the process or… don’t go and let earth be destroyed? Is that really a question? “See this gorgeously sexy woman who dresses in bikinis all day? Either go with her to have as much fun as she wants or we will destroy your world!” The correct answer: “Give me 30 minutes to pack…” Instead, Buck runs off to the wilderness to meet Dr. Crater from Star Trek’s The Man Trap (Alfred Ryder) who was a former Draconian now living in hiding on earth. Now, the logic may make sense, but the technology doesn’t. Buck realizes this guy has knowledge about the layout of Ardala’s ship that could be helpful to them, so his plan is to get it. Dr. Huer is able to extract the right information that comes up in his head as a picture. How many of my memories must be images like that, I ask you?! The reason Buck does this rather than run off with Sexy McAlien is that the Draconians are using a probe to destroy earth and Buck is hoping to disable it. Continue reading →
You’ve probably heard of the fight-or-flight response, something we share with other animals. It’s our body’s response to danger, producing a flood of hormones in preparation for either standing our ground and fighting, or running away. Our body gets ready, while we decide. On 17th December 1967, a very surprised dog encountered the Doctor Who crew filming the Yeti at Covent Garden, London, for The Web of Fear, and had what must have been the most puzzling fight-or-flight decision in it’s life…
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The first episode of Mrs Columbo was about 90 minutes, but every subsequent episode has been around the 45 minute mark. This is significantly shorter than a Columbo episode, despite still showing us the murder first and then having Kate follow clues to solve it. That’s a lot to pack into such a short running time, and so far the pacing seems to be a bit off each week. This is probably the worst offender so far, because the build up to the crime is entirely necessary and works very well, but takes up over a third of the running time and still leaves questions unanswered. Inevitably, the only way to fit Kate’s investigation into the remaining half an hour is to make the clues quite easy to follow, and that has been another issue with this series. Continue reading →
There are lots of choices we have to face in life, some of which are potentially life-changing, and possibly the most important of all is what we do when we finish school. Whatever we choose to do, we will probably end up looking back and wondering what other path our life might have taken. That’s inevitable, whether we made the right decision on not. Even if we ended up happy, there’s always that nagging thought that things could have been even better if we had taken that alternative fork in the road. If things didn’t work out so well, then the regrets can be overwhelming. Continue reading →
Back in the early 90’s, I was just over 20 years old and would spend the weekends with my friends. We started out most Friday nights with a movie then we’d grab dinner and hang out all night often with video games or board games and lots of discussion about whatever movie we saw. In 1993, we saw a movie about a man who had just about as much as he could stand. Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas, was a powerhouse. In almost every respect, we could relate to the things he encountered and we were only in our 20’s. I can’t help but reflect on that movie more and more as I get older. From traffic, lying merchants, dishonest salespeople, crass people, rude people… the list goes on. Ironically nearly all of those things are about the bad stuff people do! Then after nearly 2 hours, Douglas delivers a chilling line: “I’m the bad guy? How’d that happen?” I remember Douglas, who played a guy named Bill, telling the cop, Prendergast (played by Robert Duvall) that he was lied to. Prendergast asks if that’s what his whole issue was about. He says, “…they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish!” And that’s what makes it such a weird movie. The good guys lie and it’s ok. The bad guy stands up to the liars and somehow he’s doing the wrong thing! I get it: the writers couldn’t condone Bill’s actions; they had to play him as the bad guy while simultaneously sharing the frustrations we all feel with an audience who could relate. Continue reading →
Sometimes a story hits all the right marks and manages to say something even when the basis isn’t that deep. What we really have here is a revenge story; revenge against cruelty and tyranny. It revs the engines and has something to say even if we have to look at the background to find it.
On a personal level, there is something very satisfying about revenge stories, especially when the revenge is against a heinous crime. I very rarely hold a grudge, but most things done against me are minor and a couple words resolve those issues. What happens to Yan, one of our two main characters, is terrible and no “few words” will resolve this. Continue reading →
Brigadier General Sir Ian Stuart-Bollinger and his underling Captain Trench have an absurd plan to overthrow the monarchy and replace the Queen with a descendant of the Stuart Dynasty. That descendant happens to be Cathy Gale, thanks to some faked lineage she organised, making her second in line to the throne. First in line would have been the General’s own son, although he has said no to the idea. Presumably he thinks his father is insane. Continue reading →
Oh dear, what have we got here? When this series starts, I rapidly zip past the opening scenes of what’s to come because I think that’s a deplorable thing to do with an episode. I realize this is sort of an “in reverse” way of doing coming attractions which would normally be shown at the end of the previous episode, but I want nothing to do with it. I’m going to watch the episode and that’s all there is to it. So I listen to the opening music and then watch the list of guest stars. And with this episode, I realize how much has changed for me since I first watched this series back when it was new. I was 7 or 8 back then. Actors names meant nothing to me. 40+ years later, I know actors names. So when I see My Favorite Martian, Ray Walston as a guest, my antennae rise with curiosity. When I see Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman also star, I think “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Wilma?” This is going to be quite a trip down memory lane and I can’t imagine it being a good one! Continue reading →