Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Life On Mars?

There's quite a bit on TV for me at the moment.

TV Broadcasting goes in phases: there are certain times of year when everything seems to be on, and then all of a sudden (and in the erudite words of Roger Waters) there's thirteen channels of s*&t to choose from.

At the moment as a sci fi and comics fan I'm very much enjoying Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., produced by the geinus-that-is Joss Whedon that after a dodgy first season has really found its feet.

Also as someone who likes drama I see that Suits is returning for another season in February - admittedly I'm starting to tire of this one as the central premise (he's not really qualified as a lawyer) gets further and further stretched into absurdity.

And as someone who likes to laugh Dave Gorman's powerpoint centric show "Modern Life Is Goodish" is currently on nightly repeats, meaning that I can get a chance to watch the episodes that I previously missed (Dave is a UK comedian who may not be well known in the States, but his main joke is that he spends a lot of time on the internet looking into various things that catch his attention and then creates a powerpoint show around them - a recent show had him sending off a photo to a lookalike agency so that he could become his own lookalike...for reasons that made a lot more sense when watching the show)

Then there is Gotham.  Gotham is currently my favourite thing on telly.  It tells the story of Jim Gordon, a young and idealistic cop who wants to rid the city of Gotham from corruption but finds himself dealing with the rise of villains like The Penguin in the days before Bruce Wayne was old enough to start wearing black body armour.

It's nicely dark and the plots are engaging - and the performances of Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin and Cory Michael Smith as the troubled Edward Nygma/Riddler are spot on

But bloody hell it's violent.

Last episode the inmates of Arkham Asylum broke out and dropped seven people off a roof just to spell out a word using dead bodies - not people you'd want to challenge to a game of Scrabble.

And without wanting to sound prudish: it does worry me.

Thinking back to my childhood there was a programme called The Young Ones.  It was an anarchic sit-com about four students that everyone at school watched, despite the fact that we were all technically too young to be doing so.  Our collective memory of it at the time was that it was full of swearing and violence (in a kind of slapstick/cartoon/hitting people with a frying pan way), leading to a whole generation of school kids doing impressions of Rik, Neil and Vyvian (but oddly not Mike) in the playground.

Looking back at it now it all looks tame, dated and ever-so-slightly embarrassing in it's right-on ways...because of course you can get away with so much more now.

And therein lies the problem: what shocks the audience of today will not shock them tomorrow.  It's a central theme of the movie Jurrassic World (not that this is full of swiftian insight - it isn't: it's the best part of three hours of riding around on motorbikes surrounded by dinosaurs) - that the public visiting the park are starting to dwindle because seeing live dinosaurs is no longer a novelty: and so in order to keep figures up the scientists start experimenting with hybrids to bring bigger and better thrills.

When John Lydon (The Sex Pistols) sat and said swearword after swearword to the BBC reporter (who ended up losing his career) it was considered to be the end of society as we knew it (even though Lydon looked intensely embarrassed doing it - as if aware that he looked like a sulky 10 year old) - nowadays late night comedy shows go out with F words unbleeped and no one raises an eyebrow.

When Alien was first shown in cinemas people were reportedly crawling up the aisles to get out before they could be sick - but when I went to see a rescreening of The Exorcist people were laughing during the famous head-turning sequence that had previously sent them screaming.

Not that Gotham is doing anything new: there's six new episodes of The X Files due to air soon to remind us that TV horror has been around since the 90s (if not before)

And the same is true of the news - we constantly find newsreaders saying, "some viewers may be distressed by these images..." and yet they show them because they know that if they don't then someone else will - and then the other side will get the ratings win.

But I do wonder where it will all end - if we have to keep pushing more buttons with each passing year to get the same reaction: where does that road lead to.

Perhaps it leads back to Gotham and the reason that I titled this post Life On Mars.

The other week I turned over to watch the latest episode of Gotham and accidentally caught the last few seconds of Celebrity Big Brother - a programme that i would rather sell my brain to a passing cannibal than watch.  This was the week that David Bowie died and the news was full of his passing.
As it happened Angie Bowie (David's first wife) was one of the "celebrities" (thus extending the definition of celebrity to include "once married to someone famous") and the moment I happened to capture was when she was given the news over the tannoy.

Now I have to clarify here that since it was broadcast I've heard that she had been previously told off camera and had been given the choice as to whether to go back on camera - but quite frankly I don't think that makes it any more acceptable.  I can completely understand that sometimes on the news it is necessary to show someone's grief or reaction to a tradgedy - but for the purposes of light entertainment?

Really - we should just go back to feeding people to the lions.  It's not as if we've progressed much, is it?

Anyway - on a lighter note: here's a small tribute to David Bowie.

3 comments:

The Bug said...

What a nice song with which to end a terrifying post! I like this group - don't know why I just let you spoon feed me their music when I could search it out my own self.

I agree about our increased acceptance of violence - although I also wonder if life was always pretty darned violent & then the 1950s happened & we became faux extra terrified of scary things. Interesting to ponder.

Stephen Hayes said...

It's hard to maintain a sense of fear. It's most powerful when unexpected but familiarity with anything breaks down the fear factor.

Lydia said...

This is a brilliant commentary! You are spot on about how far we've pushed, and yet how little we've progressed. I worry about it, too. A friend of mine recently spent an entire month *outside* drifting down the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, camping at night--never seeing a human-made structure. No access to media of any kind. I think that something that beautifully radical is the only form of purification left to us.

Now, as to the programs, I have not watched any of them except one episode of Suits early on. It was likable enough but opposite something else I preferred at the time. I have wondered about Agents of Shield, and now I think I will try it. But Gotham sounds too intense for me right now. As always, I believe you write the best reviews ever.