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April 10, 2005

TV Ark

Writing about web page http://www.tv-ark.org.uk/

This site is a collection of credits, continuity announcements and adverts from off of the telly, going back a really long way. It's amazing to look back in time and discover that flake adverts worked on basically the same principle in 1969 as they have ever since. Or that KP Nuts caught the essence of 1983 better than any number of pop videos or "I remember" retromentaries.

The TV show clips are even better. Roger Moore does a fine job selling his 1971 show The Persuaders in several European languages, except in German, when his blooper reel reveals his true views.

But perhaps my favourite is the opening credits from Gerry Anderson's 1969 show UFO . Clearly a contender for most ridiculous credits ever, these are a delirious mix of sixties futurism, stellar miniature model work, stunning costumes (and wigs!), and Barry Gray's best-ever theme music. And, the whole thing is cut at a blinding pace – it wouldn't disgrace even the most hyperactive of modern directors. I wonder if Michael Bay edited them as a junior school project?


September 27, 2004

Top ten cartoons

The TV channel Boomerang asked 1,000 adults between the ages of 25 and 54 to vote for their favourite cartoon. The results:-

  1. Tom and Jerry (1940)
  2. Scooby-Doo (1969)
  3. Dangermouse (1981)
  4. Top Cat (1961)
  5. The Flintstones (1960)
  6. Bugs Bunny (1940)
  7. Popeye (1933)
  8. Road Runner (1964)
  9. Wacky Races (1968)
  10. Hong Kong Phooey (1974)

Interesting. Can't argue with T&J in the number 1 spot (after all, it's the only entry in the list that's won Oscars - seven of them), and Dangermouse is classy stuff too (and the only UK production on the list). But I'm surprised and slightly disappointed to see unimaginative, cheaply produced stuff like Scooby-Doo and Top Cat beat out the pioneeringly brilliant work done by Chuck Jones et al in Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and the rest of the Looney Tunes. Warner's cartoon shorts from the forties through the sixties were inventive, imaginative gems, ranging from satire to surrealism to slapstick, often within a single cartoon. Hanna Barbera's cartoons were simply remakes of earlier sitcoms (Top Cat = Phil Silvers, Flintstones = Honeymooners) with nothing like the visual or verbal wit of the Looney Tunes.

And no Daffy Duck? Desthpicable!


June 10, 2004

Best sitcom ever?

The recent passing of Friends didn't excite much comment around here, and that's clearly a good thing. But what's the best sitcom ever? Clearly there's going to be some age-related issues here; if you're old enough to remember the prime-time eras of MASH, or Bilko or even I Love Lucy then you might reasonably be tempted by any of those. And if you're Anglophile, you might contemplate Dad's Army or Fawlty Towers. But for me, alas, the contenders are all American. In my "nearly made it" spots:-

  • Seinfeld. A work of genius which managed to stay consistently brilliant for nine seasons, something no other sitcom has achieved, and then had the smarts to stop before it went down-hill. No hugging, no learning, characters who were selfish, self-absorbed and obsessed – and hilarious because of it.
  • Frasier. Misses the number one spot because it has been so patchy over its lifespan. If it had stopped around series 5, it would have been the wittiest, most sophisticated comedy ever. But it ploughed on, lost its sparkle and reduced its characters to cariacatures of themselves. Shame.

So my winner would be my dark horse candidate: Scrubs. In a way, that's unfair to longer-running shows, because it's only had three seasons, so it could easily go horribly wrong in years to come. But for those three seasons, it's had the best characters, the funniest lines, the most whimiscal diversions into surreal fantasy, and of course The Todd. If you've never seen it I recomment giving it a try; Season 3 will probably be starting in C4 some time in the next few months.

Any gems I've forgotten?


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