Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mindless Pap of the Worst Kind

There seems to be something in the air, because this month has seen the release of not one but two inspid, uninspired, hackneyed, crappy, poorly executed fantasy spoof series - and the BBC has its hand in both of them. First up is Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, which is by all accounts godawful and which made me want to kill myself out of sheer boredom and hatred when I saw some clips of it on YouTube. And second is ElvenQuest, a "hilarious" programme on Radio 4 whose first episode aired today. To call it bad is perhaps unfair. Unfair to the concept of badness, that is. It was not only one of the worst radio programmes I've ever heard; it was flat out one of the worst things I've ever experienced. Ever. It wasn't so much that it didn't make me want to laugh; at times it actually made me think that I would never be able to laugh at anything ever again. Like sense of humour kryptonite.

I don't mind people spoofing fantasy - there's so much ammunition. But does it really have to be this unutterably terrible guff that the BBC is currently serving up?


  1. I expressed my lack of passion for Krod the other week:

    Really, even though Xena and Beast Master and other syndicated fantasy of the 90's was not perfect by any means, they were awesome compared to Krod.

    When I first saw an ad somewhere for it, I thought Krod must be pronounced "Crude." Not a joke that would save the show, but still yet another missed mark.

    I cannot even picture listening to crap fantasy radio. I guess it must be the opposite of listening to Hitchhikers Guide.

  2. I am a jaded SOB. As a kid I would lap up any ol' crap on the tube if it had swords. Now all it takes is three minutes of Krod to write the whole thing off as utter crap.

  3. Brunomac: I never watched Xena, or Hercules. In the UK it was always on at times when no sane person would be watching TV - like Sunday afternoons at 4.

    Crap fantasy radio is, yeah, pretty much the opposite of listening to Hitchhiker's Guide. That description suits it to a t.

    Jeff: Me too. Don't even get me started on the BBC's recent Robin Hood series...

  4. "But does it really have to be this unutterably terrible guff that the BBC is currently serving up?"

    You expected a Radio 4 sitcom to be funny? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Don't you know R4 sitcoms are nothing but job creation schemes for those media Tarquins and Jocastas with pretensions as writers?

    The BBC has *never* respected scifi/fantasy, not even in the 'glory days' of the Blake's 7, Baker-era Who, and the Radiophonics Workshop. Even back then the props dept had to go cap-in-hand to the 'serious drama' lot ("I, Clavdivs" or "Elizabeth R") for cast-offs.

    More recently just look at the mess that was "Hyperdrive", an attempt to corpse puppet "Red Dwarf" with a bunch of third rate 'comedy' jobbers. Or at the new "Robin Hood, the Boy Band Years". Or at the lazy RADA makework hackery that is "Dr Whomo-erotic" (Moffat episodes excepted), "Torchwales",or the execrable "Being Human".

    With the exception of "Top Gear" (which isn't actually a BBC property, Wilman and Clarkson own the rights) and "QI" the BBC is unmitigated, wall-to-wall crap nowadays.


    wv: inchal. Moebius comics are kewl.

  5. Chris: See above comment re: Robin Hood. Yet another contender for Worst Thing Ever Produced On British TV...

    I know I shouldn't expect much from R4 sitcoms, but maybe it's just a crazy optimistic streak in me. There is still some good comedy on R4 after all - The Unbelievable Truth makes me laugh, and Just A Minute is always worth listening to. The Now Show and The News Quiz are horrific liberal-lefty chattering-classes sneering of the worst kind, but at least that's only two days a week...

    With you on Dr. Who and Torchwood. One of my pet hates is sci-fi/fantasy written for people who don't know the genre. All the stupid cliches that were old 60 years ago in speculative fiction get trotted out. Meanwhile people who look down their noses at things like Star Trek can watch Dr. Who and call it a guilty pleasure, without having to feel embarrassed, because with 24/7 BBC propaganda it's become somehow culturally acceptable to like it. That programme really pisses me off.

  6. I listened to the first half of ElvenQuest last night then got distracted by a delivery of food from Sainsbury's. Will probably track it down on "listen again" later.

    It started badly then kind of settled into mediocrity. Couldn't get my head around around the distraction of the live audience. One of its main faults was the nagging feeling that all the jokes had been done before... and better.

    Can't see how they're gonna pad it out to six episodes though.

  7. The Acrobatic Flea: Yeah, all the way through it I kept thinking... wasn't this all done in Bored of the Rings? In 1969? And much funnier?

  8. For entertainment I think we are on our own and always have been. We game to fill that void. I can count on one hand the decent genre movies ever made and TV is just a box with moving colours and voices burbling inanely, a combination most find irresistible. The BBC is a haven for half-wits who desperately want to influence how nice everyone is according to the pc fashion.

    For inspiration it is best to look at brilliant non-genre material and consider how to transform it. Tinker Tailor, Westerns....

  9. I was lamenting Krod too, and realized much to my despair that I'd still watch it pretty faithfully because . . . well . . . it's still about the closest thing on television right now to a fantasy series.

    I have high hopes for HBO's upcoming Song of Ice and Fire adaptation, but I'm surely not holding my breath over it.

  10. Er... Hyperdrive was indeed awful (but then so was the new Red Dwarf), but I have to say I really like the new Who, and both Robin Hood and Being Human have their moments.

    I'll get me coat.

  11. HBO are seriously adapting an unfinished fantasy series by a man with a procrastination habit that is a target of sustained mockery? That can only possibly end well. :-|

    HBO could have optioned "Memory, Thorn and Sorrow" if they wanted a low magic, high fantasy doorstopper epic that actually has a conclusion (and a lot less less secondary character sprawl). Or they could funded an adaptation of David Gemmell's "Legend" (Fangorn already storyboarded it FFS).

  12. Chris: But Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is lacking in random brutality, incest, and just general sex. Remember, the model is "Rome". MS&T is more tightly written and may be a better and more coherent story, but it's not got enough blood, guts, and naked babes. :p

  13. Noisms: I liked that Robin Hood series... Right up until the end of Season 1. Season 2 was unwatchable.

    It was enjoyable, but I don't think I'd call it good now.

  14. The BBC is a haven for half-wits who desperately want to influence how nice everyone is according to the pc fashion.I quite agree, but there are so many compensatory factors. Like Simon Mayo's programme on R5 on an afternoon, Bob Harris late at night on Saturdays on R2, R3 in general. And there are still great documentaries being made - even if they're increasingly being shoved to BBC4.

    Hamlet: The pedigree is there for ASOIAF, but I agree with Chris that filming a series of books which will likely never be completed is a recipe for disaster.

    Kelvin: Some of my best friends like Dr. Who, so I won't hold that against you. If you'd liked the new Red Dwarf I would have been worried.

    Chris: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was good, but ASOIAF is undoubtedly better. Even as it stands, unfinished, I think it has effectively drawn a line under multibook epic fantasy sagas.

    Trollsmyth: Do you really think MS&T is more tightly written? My one complaint about it is the page upon page of overly descriptive prose.

    Rach: Couldn't stand it. Though I only watched one episode.

  15. Do you have an email address you use to vet potential nutters on the web?

    You could send it to my version which is on my blog.

  16. That R4 Series was rough, but not worse than the usual R4 sitcom written by Sixth formers and Footlights failures. You know it's going to be a bad drive home when a new one turns up and you can shout the punchlines five minutes before they start the jokes.
    I never thought I'd say it, but give me Sandy Toksvig any day.

  17. Noisms: Yeah, I do, but that's a bit like trying to decide which of the seven dwarves is tallest. Both are big, rambling things. MS&T has the benefit of a smaller cast and tighter focus (and time as well, since it's been almost a decade, I think, since I've read it). ASOIAF is also hamstrung in this regard by its realism. There are plots we spend a lot of time and the characters spend a lot of effort on, only to find out that something someone else did a few hundred miles away has already rendered the whole discussion moot. This is realistic and reminds me sometimes of things that happen in my RPGs, but lends a confused, frothy feeling to events.

    Finally, SOIAF spans something like three continents. I keep forgetting that this John Snow kid is part of the same story.

    That said, the nearly constant, frenetic activity and sense of menace in SOIAF rarely makes me feel like I'm dragging myself through a passage that was added just to make the book longer. Tad Williams has a bad habit of boring me as a reader (a habit that only peeked through a few times in MS&T, but was unbearable in Otherland). GRRM never bores me, but he does exhaust me sometimes.

  18. Noisms: I think I only liked it 'cause the guy that played Robin hood A) was completely gorgeous and B) Used a scimitar. God I love scimitars.

  19. Glad(?) to see I'm not the only one who thinks the new series of Doctor Who and Robin Hood are utter utter crap. Unfortunately, these two series are standard examples of what passes for drama on British TV these days.

    We can't have more than a minute's worth of dialogue before interrupting it with lots of running around in case the viewers' attention spans expire!

    I was watching Sapphire and Steel a couple of days ago with the thought that this series simply wouldn't get made now.

    Sorry for the digression :(