East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Hits and Misses

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I’ve spent the last two days working in the morning (I’ve got a translation to deliver, and that’s overdue) and watching TV series in the afternoon, while nursing a bad case of cold.
I’ve also been writing, but not as much as I’d have liked. But I consider myself on vacation until the 6th of the month, and I’ll be recharging my batteries and feeding my idea box with stories.

I’ve been watching two old TV series – one old, the other very old – and two pretty new ones.
So here’s some quick notes.

First, a general consideration that came up last night as I was talking with some friends – “old”, when it comes to entertainment, has become anathema. Why spend time watching a movie or talking about it if it’s say, ten years old. And TV series have an even shorter shelf-life.
It’s like whatever falls beyond a certain time horizon is meant to be forgotten – I usually get a lot of strange looks because I watch black and white movies produced a few decades before I was born. It’s strange – it’s a radical shift in the attitude and consumption mode of the public. I find it horrible, a sign of the eternal present in which so many seem to be trapped – without a future, and without a past.

And yet I’m greatly enjoying The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder, a venerable 1969 TV series featuring Hugh Burden as the grey little bureaucrat that’s a genius with a criminal mind and solves mysteries in the stories of Edgar Wallace. The episodes are (mostly) in black and white, and they have a delightful charleston title track, because they are set in the ’20s. The production values are sparse, but the stories are gold.
I saw a few episodes on the telly when I was in middle school, and rediscovering them now has been a pleasant surprise. The series is apparently a cult sort of thing – and it made me want to read the original stories again.

And going from very old to old, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the two seasons of Galavant, a fantasy musical produced in 2014 by ABC, the sort of thing one wonders why never got HUGE – a revisionist fairy tale in the style of The Princes Bride, with Disney-style song and dance numbers and a ferocious, When The Days Were Rotten sort of humor.
I had caught a few bits back in the day, and finally I was able to binge-watch the two seasons (18 20-minutes episodes, no big feat). I really wish they had made more of them. I found fascinating how the writers managed to keep the thing absolutely silly and yet give the characters space enough to grow, and endowed them with a spark of humanity.

But enough of old stuff – I’ve been already called “such a nerd” because I enjoy stuff that’s not been made yesterday to be forgotten tomorrow.
Be certain I also spent some time with the latest wonders…

I watched about half an hour of The Witcher – I was never interested in the franchise, I found the books boring and I am not a PC gamer. In the first thirty minutes of the first episode I found everything I did not like about the stories, and so I saved myself time.
Incidentally, this does not mean you are a bad person, or stupid, if you liked them – it just means we have different tastes, or expectations, where out entertainment is concerned.

But I did watch the 4th season of The Expanse, and while a little slow, I liked the way in which the series is continuing, where the characters are going, and how the writers have set the chessboard for the next seasons. I still consider The Expanse the best series currently airing, certainly the best hard SF entertainment I’ve watched in a long while. A pet peeve? It’s a pity that the Amazon episodes are about fifteen minutes shorter than the old SyFy episodes.
But I have great expectations for what’s to come.

And finally, I’ve watched the BBC new Dracula and I was quite pleased and entertained for the first two-thirds of the run. Mind you, the series has very little to do with Bram Stoker’s novel, but on the other hand, no adaptation was ever truly faithful to the original and indeed, the most successful of them all, the one directed by Coppola, had absolutely nothing to do with Stoker’s work despite his name being in the title. The Gatiss & Moffat adaptation is a good pastiche, with a lot of nods and winks to the Hammer movies. And there is at least one character I would really love to see again in her own series.
Then the story gets completely off the rails and – at least in my case – loses the viewer as the viewer’s investment in the story suddenly drops to zero, or below.
But like the guy said, two out of three is not that bad.

It was a very entertaining week.
Now I can go back to work, and to reading a good book once in a while.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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