Ten Things… has moved

Over the course of the last full series of Doctor Who, I wrote a series of blog posts here collectively entitled Ten Things About Who, which I then collected into an ebook for Kindle.

I’m going to be doing the same again this series, but rather than on here, I’ve moved such posts to a new blog: TenThings.tv.

The site’s very much a work in progress at the moment, but the first post is ready:

Ten Things About… Deep Breath

 

 

Strictly Come Dancing: Why the new trailer is so good

People who know me – and many who don’t – know that I’m a big Strictly fan. In the battle of the Saturday night TV voting shows, I’m far more likely to be watching Brucie than Dermot. When we started TV Today at The Stage, the weekly blogs were more to do with encouraging the celebration of dance, which at that time was under-served on television. The notion of celebrity involvement was tolerated rather than embraced, I’d say – but my summaries always tried to look dispassionately at how well the amateur dancers were learning (or not), as a direct response to blogs and message boards which cultivated fandoms around the famous participants.

After a few years, I had to give up the weekly summaries as they just took far too long to put together. But I’ve never stopped loving the show, have been lucky enough to be in the studio once or twice, and have seen many of the live stage shows which have capitalised on the BBC show’s popularity, whether drectly under the Strictly banner or by virtue of the programme’s pro dancers gaining their own celebrity status.

And that’s at the heart of the new teaser trailer’s genius. In previous years, we’ve been shown coy shots of the celebrities – whose head is that the back of? Whose ankle? Whose midriff, improbably squeezed into a sequinned bodice?

This time round, the trailer team have focussed on the dancers. The clever visuals, which render each dancer’s celebrity partner invisible, highlights that we don’t yet know the full roster of amateurs for this year’s series. But the emphasis is on dance – professional dance at that. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of talent. And yet, it’s still a celebrity-laden trail, because one of the strengths of Strictly is that it brings professional dancers into the spotlight and and makes them nationally recognised figures.

Compare that with the X Factor, whose pre-series publicity always tends to emphasise the bitchiness of the judges, the toe-curling awfulness of the preliminary audition rounds.

I know which one I’ll be watching this autumn.

Talking about Peter Capaldi

So I’m a guest on this week’s As Yet Untitled London Theatre podcast, talking about new Doctor Who Peter Capaldi’s acting CV and how the approach he’s taken to his previous roles in theatre, film and TV may – may – give us clues about how he may approach his fortchoming role of the Doctor.

Some of the stuff I talk about is based on the interviews The Stage has done with Capaldi over the years, extracts from which I featured the other day.

Peter Capaldi in his own words

So it turns out the bookies’ favourite was the correct one – Peter Capaldi is to be the next actor to play the lead in Doctor Who.

A quick scurry around The Stage archives finds several theatre and TV reviews, and three interviews. Two of these incorporate paragraphs which are interesting to contrast with each other.

First, from a 1990 interview with Jane Garner, connected to his role in BBC crime thriller Chain:

He enjoys comic roles as well as serious ones and has ambitions to do more film work.

“I am fascinated by that medium and I am not terribly attracted to Shakespearian roles or have any great ambition in that area. I like to do things that I am not really sure I can do and that stretches me – then I am working with something new.

“Chain was different for me because it was terribly serious and a lot of the time before, I had played a lot of rather comic roles which I love and I am comfortable in.”

And from 2007, as he prepared to appear in Absurdia, a trio of one-act comedies (two revivals by NF Simpson, and a new Michael Frayn farce) at the Donmar Warehouse, interviewed by Nick Smurthwaite:

“You do it for the challenge, the stretch,” he replies, “Generally in TV, you are employed to do what you are known for doing best. Here I’m doing things I’ve never done before, a lot of mime and movement. The Frayn play is about staging a farce in the middle of the desert, generated entirely in the imaginations of the two characters, with no props. I’ve never done mime before, so it remains to be seen if it works.”

You could, if you were being harsh, make comments about how once it was film and TV which stretched actors, and now theatre is more likely to give that challenge. But really, I see a man who’s only going to take on any role if it could push him in ways he’s never been pushed before. Given the self-confessed Doctor Who fan that he is, I can imagine that Capaldi is going to make damned sure that the BBC production team push him in his role as the Doctor.

More interesting is a quote from a 1995 interview, where the focus was more on his writing ambitions. On the back of winning the Academy Award for Best Short Film (for Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life), he was working on a feature-length screenplay. But this quote is, considering yesterday’s news, intriguing:

Being in a series for any length of time doesn’t appeal to me and I’m always trying to avoid it. I suppose the two series of Chandler and Co. that I did was the longest I have been in a show, but I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. I want a bit of variety.

In the eighteen years since, maybe he’s mellowed to the idea, especially for a role he’s loved since he was a boy. But Doctor Who is one of those roles where longevity and variety can go hand-in-hand.

The new Doctor Who to be revealed – and who I’d like it to be

Who would have believed, back in 2003 when the revival of Doctor Who was announced, that ten years on not only would the series still be ongoing, but news of the lead actor’s recasting would be presented in a live TV programme?

Yet that is what is happening.

Continue reading “The new Doctor Who to be revealed – and who I’d like it to be”

And the Blue Peter badge goes to…

After the announcement in March that Blue Peter was recruiting for a third presenter via a TV series, the reactions were mixed. As I said at the time:

[the series] has always been at the pioneering end of audience interactivity, long before ‘interactivity’ was even used in television circles… In that context, it makes perfect sense for the children who have always been part of the show’s ethos to be let in on the audition process.

Others I spoke to were a little more concerned that this was part of the “dumbing down” of television, that Blue Peter had succumbed to the reality TV format. But concerns like that didn’t stop the applicants: some 20,000 audition showreels were sent in before the production team whittled them down to just ten hopefuls.

Continue reading “And the Blue Peter badge goes to…”

Wolfblood leaps the channel divide

Back in October, I was extolling the virtues of Debbie Moon’s werewolf drama serial for CBBC, Wolfblood, among other drama series on the children’s channel:

Young Maddy is a 14-year-old girl from a reclusive family ‘pack’ of wolfbloods (the series rejects the term ‘werewolf’). Her parents lock themselves away every full moon rather than risk roaming in the woods – partly to ensure the safety of the locals, but mostly to ensure that their family secret is not discovered.

Part of the reason for writing that post was to give publicity to an under-rated section of Britain’s TV drama output. It’s been wonderful to see news of Wolfblood’s ongoing success as countries around the world have acquired the series, and to know that a second series is imminent.

Part of the reason why shows on CBBC need as much publicity as they do is that, now that they are no longer shown on BBC1 or BBC2 in the afternoons, there’s less chance of grown-ups discovering their joys. When it was first announced that the strands would be phased out, I wrote in The Stage’s now-defunct TV blog, TV Today

These days, while CBBC content remains on air until 7pm, there’s little room to encourage the channel’s viewers to partake in shows on BBC1, 2, 3 or 4. Once the decision to not watch CBBC is made, their attention could wander anywhere else. With so much money being ploughed into good quality shows, particularly by outgoing CBBC commissioner Damian Kavanagh, it’s criminal that there’s seemingly little thought in how the Corporation can encourage the CBBC viewer of today to become the more general BBC viewer of tomorrow.

Maybe there’s a compromise that can be reached. On Freeview, CBBC shares digital spectrum space with BBC3 (hence why the former closes down at 7pm just as the latter starts up). As part of the BBC’s cost saving measures, why not free up an hour either side of the 7pm switchover to form a 6pm-8pm zone, repeating the best family friendly content that straddles that difficult gap between childhood and adulthood — the gap that the now-defunct BBC Switch brand was originally supposed to address? At least that way, CBBC’s regular viewers would recognise that their viewing habits needn’t drift away from the BBC as they get older, and parents would get a better chance to appreciate some of the love and care that the Corporation devotes to its programming for younger viewers.

Given that the 7pm BBC3 slot is so frequently given over to reruns of Doctor Who — itself a family-friendly show which, despite always being commissioned by the “adult” drama department, has never forgotten that children are at its audience core — such a solution would not be a million miles away from where we are now.

I’m happy to say that, while the concept of a formal ‘changeover zone’ isn’t quite in place, the principle is at least being put into play. From tonight,Wolfblood begins reruns at 7pm on BBC3.

Part of me feels validated for having an idea which somebody at the BBC clearly also had. But mostly, I’m just really chuffed for Debbie and the rest of the Wolfblood cast and crew, whose hard work is about to get seen and appreciated by a whole new set of fans.

Ten Things About Who: Aliens of London

Ten points of discussion inspired by the 2005 Doctor Who episode, Aliens of London.

It’s been a few weeks since we departed the Cardiff rift. Apologies – pressures of work, and all that. But we continue a revisit of 2005’s Doctor Who series with the TARDIS’ return to the Powell Estate.

A quick reminder that my collection of Ten Things About Who posts for the 2012/13 series is now available for Kindle devices and Kindle e-reader apps for the bargain price of £1.99 – that’s 14p per episode discussion Thanks to everyone who’s bought it so far – if you have, please do leave a review or, at the very least, a star rating. And if you haven’t bought it yet, you can do so at mtthw.mn/whoebook.

1. A quick recap…

OK, so I said that The End of the World starts with what is, for Doctor Who, a rarely-used device: a “previously…”-style recap, that has “rarely been needed since”.

And then, two episodes later, that device gets used again. Still, I’m right – it tends not to be used much after this. To be honest, its usefulness in a series where the setting can change so drastically from episode to episode is debatable. But notice, even here, that it’s a recap of events solely from Rose. There’s no glimpse of Platform One or Victorian Cardiff at all.

Conceptually, it fits – this episode is a thematic sequel to the first episode, and deals directly witht he consequences of Rose’s impetuous run into the TARDIS at the end of that episode. For me, the recap here feels alien, if you’ll pardon the expression.

While what we now call “classic” Doctor Who used the old B-movie serial of replaying the previous week’s hangover to remind viewers of where they’ve got to, this “remember this from three weeks ago?” style of reminder has never sat well with Doctor Who. And it really isn’t used much after this. I promise.

Continue reading “Ten Things About Who: Aliens of London”

A stretch in time – Doctor Who’s most atmospheric theme tune yet

Over on YouTube, user telegenicx creates atmospheric soundscapes by drastically slowing down existing music. Here, he takes Delia Derbyshire’s original 1963 arrangement of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme and turns it into a haunting score, full of tremulous undertones.

Derbyshire created some beautiful pieces in a similar vein to this slowed down version of her most popular work. Telegenicx’s version puts me in mind of The Delian Mode and Blue Veils and Golden Sands, both of which ended up being reused in the 1970 story Inferno, which ended Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor.