Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumn means new tv

The Staghorn Sumac tree in my garden has gone bright red, while the apple tree's leaves have fallen off. The clocks just went back (for the last time if the government manage to convince Scotland to stay on BST all year round), and everyone I know has flu. It's autumn again.

At least it means better tv, as we all retreat indoors. I'm watching the second season of The Walking Dead - having been to Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, and seen where it was filmed (and the street where a poor horse got mauled by a zombie horde), it helps to add a frisson of realism. My fella (always a strategist) watches it scornfully, mocking the poor decision making and lack of an overall plan of the main characters. If there was ever a zombie virus, I'm sticking by him.

He can't stomach American Horror Story though, declaring it to be "sick" after one episode. So I have to watch it alone. Just as the Walking Dead takes a film convention (zombies) and stretches it out into a long-running series with proper character development, American Horror Story takes the "family move into Haunted House film" and serialises it. Every previous tenant of the home (and there have been many) met with a sticky end, and so back they come (in lovely period costume) to shake their chains and go bump in the night. Actually, as my mother used to say "It's not the dead you should be afraid of, it's the living", and much of the horror doesn't come from the ghosts. As expected, the family are full of angst and issues (lots of guilt over a miscarriage and an affair), the teenage daughter is a surly emo and in episode 2, a group of murder re-enactment fans invade the home, wanting to restage a murder that took place in the 1960s. The ghosts rather kindly help to see them off. The best character is a weird next-door neighbour played by Jessica Lange, who steals things, makes inappropriate remarks and gives gifts of poisoned cupcakes. She has a previous relationship with the maid of the house, who she once killed and threatens to do so again. And it seems that the male lead has it written it into his contract that he must appear shirtless for at least three full minutes.

That contractual clause seems to be quite common at the moment - the Dad in new sci fi drama Terra Nova also takes his shirt off a lot. Terra Nova is even sillier than American Horror Story, charting the adventures of a sickeningly all-American family who flee the pollution and strict rules of the 22nd century to go back to an Earth of dinosaur times. We are supposed to be sympathetic to the family because they have been persecuted for having a third child which is against the law. However, it's never explained why they get to break the rules, and when Daddy gets broken out of prison and then illegally manages to get to Dinosaur World, there's no punishment waiting for him at the end other end. The message seems to be that as long as you have a square jaw, a big chest and an urge to procreate, then you can do what you like. And there's also a British scientist who talks in clever-jargon speak and is marked out as the villain. Actually, it's not very good. When does Summer happen?

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