The Conners – Season One

Can Roseanne survive without, you know, Roseanne? Yes, as it turns out.

What’s The Show? The Conners

What’s It All About, JG? First there was Garfield Without Garfield, a bleak look into the existential crisis of one poor man’s attempts to wrestle with life’s greatest (and smallest) conundrums. Then we have  Rosanne Without Roseanne, following in GWG‘s trailblazing footsteps! Yes, it seems that getting fired from your own show wasn’t enough to actually kill said show, so instead we have this, The Conners, which is literally Roseanne but without the title character who died on the way back to her home planet off-screen of an overdose. Everything else about the show is exactly the same – the same characters, situation, difficulties and so on, just without the matriarchal centre that held the show together up until this point (even the title music and font remain the same). That means that John Goodman’s Dan shifts rather more to the middle of the show, while also loosening things up a little so it feels more like a genuine ensemble piece rather than “Roseanne, oh and also everyone else”. That format worked well enough for Roseanne the show, but how well can the series survive without it’s primary creative force and principal character?

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Doctor Who – Series 11

The Doctor’s a lady womaness! Gasp! But is the first series starring Jodie Whittaker actallly any good away from the controversies?

What’s The Show? – Doctor Who, Series 11.  The Series 11 starring Jodie Whittaker, not Jon Pertwee, to be clear.

What’s It All About, JG? – Well I’m not going to explain the concept of a time-traveller in a police box from another world having adventures, because come on. Instead, let’s talk about the most recent season, which is mostly about controversy, it seems.  Controversy over the social and political content, controversy over the choice of showrunner, controversy over the Doctor being a woman… there was plenty to discuss, and regardless of where one falls on these issues one thing is sure – people have been talking about Doctor Who in a way that’s basically unparalleled since the big media blitz in 2005 when the show returned from the Wilderness Years. If the end result of all these changes was to garner more publicity for the show well – job done. Significantly, despite all the many questions raised by fans and more casual viewers, and despite the vast differences of opinion on almost every other topic, one thing seems to unite just about everyone when they talk about this season – Jodie Whittaker’s great. 

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Brexit

I hope you all appreciate the restraint it took not to put the word “fuck” in the headline

(You can assume, for this article, there will be even less of an effort made at objectivity than usual. Yes, really! This article was originally writte in December 2018 and somehow things have gotten worse since then. Well done, everyone…)

What’s Being Covered? Brexit. Why the fuck not? Everyone else is doing it…

What’s It All About, JG? David Cameron’s massively unsuccessful attempt to end Tory in-fighting over Europe, and the catastrophic consequences which have spun out from it. Cameron – an oil-slick poured into a poorly-fitting suit with a questionable attitude to porcine sexual relations – clearly thought he could win a referendum over whether to keep the UK in Europe as a method of getting his grumbling backbenchers to shut up once and for all, misjudged it, and now we’re all fucked.  Having lost, rather than stick around to deal with the consequences he promptly pissed off – it’s not like any of this was going to affect him anyway – which means instead we have the haunted, desiccated soul of Theresa May trying to guide the country through its biggest shake-up since at least the 70’s.

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Venom

Can Tom Hardy bring the alien goo to life in a way that Spider-Man 3 so specacularly failed to do?

What’s the Movie? Venom

What’s It All About, JG? Apart from Tom Hardy’s unexpected career side-step into goofy comedy, it’s about a lump of back alien putty that’s held in a space station that falls to Earth when something else on the space station escapes and causes it to crash. It subsequently bonds with washed-up journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) because the symbiote needs a human host to survive in an oxygen-rich environment for reasons of plot expediency. There’s a bad Elon Musk-alike, Carlton Drake, who’s gathering a multitude of aliens for… reasons (he claims to be trying to save humanity though to describe this plot thread as “nebulous” would be an insult to nebulas) and has other symbiotes he’s trying to get to bond with humans because He’s A Bad Guy. It all ends in a big rocket, scads of variable-quality CGI and a big-ass set-up for a sequel, where Venom and Brock finally get to the point of the exercise and start hunting bad guys in San Francisco. It is, in other words, a superhero movie, just with a sticky-looking blob full of teeth and a tongue even Gene Simmons would be envious of rather than a cast of spandex-clad muscle-warriors.

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The Gifted

Dreary family drama does not become less dreary simply because your brats have amazing abilities, you know.

What’s The Show? The Gifted

What’s It All About, JG? The Struckers discover that their children have “special powers” of the type that ought to be immediately identifiable to anyone with a passing knowledge of pop culture over at least the last twenty years or so. They’re mutants of the X-Men variety, destined to be hunted by mutant-hating purists who want to “keep the human race from extinction” by persecuting said mutants, which means the family need to go on the run. They’re being hunted by Sentinel Services, a government-sanctioned (sort of) mutant control authority who absolutely totally aren’t just Nazi stand-ins, honest guv. So – family on the run, secret to hide.  There’s a line in the last Deadpool movie about how mutants are, “a dated metaphor for racism in the 60’s!” Mmm-hmm.

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Lost in “Lost In Space”

Can Netflix manage to do the whole nostalga-meets-new-technology thing?

[NB – This article was written after the first season had been released, but prior to the subsequent ones]

So here we go with another reboot. History (and by history I mean, “the last fifteen or so years” for the most part) is littered with the corpses of failed reboots. For every successful attempt to drag some forgotten franchise into the twenty-first century (Battlestar Galactica, say, or Doctor Who) there’s a dozen more that fell by the wayside, as forgotten as the shows they tried to resurrect. Hokey old 60’s and 70’s sci-fi shows come with a built-in fanbase – not always very large, but often very dedicated – so it’s not exactly difficult to work out why producers might think old franchises might be worth taking a gamble on. Why bet on something new and completely unknown when you can dredge something up from the past which, even if it won’t bring in huge numbers, will at least bring some?

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The Spy Who Dumped Me

I’m not sure “ladies can do spy stuff too!” is quite as progressive as the movie thinks its it. Quite fun, though.

What’s The Movie? The Spy Who Dumped Me

What’s It All About, JG? Audrey Stockton (Mila Kunis) get unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend via text. Classy. Turns out, though, he’s a spy (you might possibly be able to deduce that from the movie’s title) and while returning to pick up his stuff and apologise, he’s killed in a raid and his dying words are to deliver a trophy to Vienna. The trophy hides This Movie’s McGuffin, a USB stick that acts as a backdoor to the entire internet. This sends Audrey and her best friend, Morgan (Kate McKinnon), on a cross-European jaunt to work out what’s going on and, if possible, survive. 

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Supernatural

Hot boys fight monsters for a decade and a half.

What’s The Show? Supernatural

What’s It All About, JG? Hot boys fighting monsters, which has somehow just begun its fourteenth season (and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down). So yes, monster fighting. Also, demons. Also, angels. Also, the King(s) of Hell. Also… well just about any mythological creature you care to shake a stick at. Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester are “hunters”, people who track down and kill the monsters that are real in our world. And then they kinda get dragged into the apocalypse and have to stop it. And then fight more monsters. And then battle the denizens of hell. And then fight more monsters. There’s the odd parallel universe to be visited. And then fight more monsters. A visit to hell? Sure! Guess what happens after that?

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Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

Are there fun and games? Eh…

What’s The Movie?Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

What’s It All About, JG? On one hand it’s about taking even the most slender of brand recognition and seeing just how much blood can be squeezed from the stone of vague 90’s nostalgia.  On the other it’s about getting a bunch of well-known actors to ham their way through a few set-pieces tenuously linked together by video-game logic.  This version of Jumanji re-imagines the original’s board game as a computer game into which our four heroes get inexplicably sucked, and gives them the task of lifting the curse off the land of Jumanji by returning a jewel to the eye of the statue of a jaguar.  Along the way our four disparate individuals will learn to appreciate each other while hacking their way through a bunch of Lara Croft/Indiana Jones clichés.  Can they reach the end and lift the curse?  What do you think?

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Grand Designs

Buying a house not challenging enough? Why not build one!

What’s The Show? Grand Designs

What’s It All About, JG? Middle-class tosspots with too much time and/or cash spend vast sums of money self-building houses, either from scratch or restoring old buildings that have fallen to wrack and ruin, while host Kevin McCloud sneers at their attempts until The Big Reveal, when it turns out he liked it all along. Every. Time. To describe Grand Designs as repetitive would be something of an understatement, but it would also completely miss the point. In a sense the whole purpose is repetition, watching different people and buildings emerge from similar circumstances and assessing the results. This could have been made into some ghastly “reality TV competition” type thing, but instead it’s one man (McCloud) expressing a genuine passion for all things architectural and his absolute love and joy for what he’s doing radiating off the screen all while just letting people who want to undertake these projects get on with it. The show has been running since 1999 and is still going strong – it’s just kicked off its 19th season at time of writing.

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