Thursday, 29 December 2011

Top Ten TV Shows Cancelled Before Their Time

As the year comes to an end and the continuation of several TV shows I followed is questionable, I thought it seemed appropriate to reflect on ten TV shows that were all cancelled before their time. For some inexplicable reason I watched American sci-fi Terra Nova right to the excruciating end of its embarrassing and somewhat predictable first season finale. Almost every episode was full of vomit-inducing saccharine family bonding and the final episode could have easily been second-guessed without ever having watched any previous ones. Whether there will be a second season shall be decided sometime this year and to be honest I'm not bothered whether I ever see the Shannon family again or not.

In the past however, I have been genuinely gutted to see the departure of well-written cult shows with plots left dangling. TV bosses decide to cancel shows for a number of reasons (ratings and money obviously being the primary motivation) but never consider how annoying it is for the fans who're left with an unfillable gap, hungry for more and missing characters they've followed for so long they seem almost real. The following list comes in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive but is tellingly reflective of my eclectic ever-changing tastes:

1. Tripods

I vaguely remember this BBC series as a child and The Boy and I decided to re-watch it a few years ago - we were rather disappointed when it came to a sudden end with an unresolved story. Series one of The Tripods was broadcast in 1984 and covered the first John Christopher book, The White Mountains while series two (1985) used his follow-up novel, The City of Gold and Lead as its source material. A television script for the third series based on Christopher's novel The Pool Of Fire was written but sadly the third instalment was never produced.

2. My So Called Life

I loved this show as a teen and while going through a particularly nostalgic phase purchased the box set. The cliffhanger ending resulting from the show's unexpected cancellation in May 1995 was and is absolutely devastating. At the time I had no idea but it appears the lead (Claire Danes) had had enough of the show and wanted to go elsewhere with her career so was not too keen to sign up for a second series playing Angela Chase. We can blame an adolescent Danes for mid-90s teenage misery suffered across the land but then again perhaps TV bosses shouldn't end each season on a cliffhanger unless its return is set in stone – discuss...

Final episode: In Dreams Begins Responsibilities

3. E Street

Australian TV soap, E Street ran from 1989 until 1993 and had some pretty wacky plot lines. It won the "Most Popular Serial" in the 1992 Australian Logies and actors Bruce Samazan and Simon Baker both won additional awards in their respective categories in 1992 and 1993. Despite its success, the show was cancelled in May 1993. In this instance, it seems “creative differences” and the “direction” Network 10 wanted to take the show were to blame. In addition high-profile cast departures damaged the show's reputation, despite consistently high viewing figures. In the final episodes (403 and 404), the remaining cast were placed in life-threatening situations and a final 10-minute montage of E Street's greatest moments accompanied the closing credits.

4. American Gothic

Executive produced by Sam Raimi, American Gothic, is yet another series I watched religiously at the time and have since purchased on DVD. The show is just as compelling over fifteen years on and re-watching it was made all the more irritating by bizarre box set episode ordering. Its cancellation after one season on July 11 1996 left fans hungry for more and keen for a resolution to the final episode, Requiem.

5. Sugar Rush

Channel 4 series, Sugar Rush ran for two short seasons and ended on an unwelcome cliff-hanger. The stars of the show, Olivia Hallinan and Lenora Crichlow later confirmed its 2006 cancellation was "a last minute thing - especially the way we leave series two [i.e. with Sugar moving in with Kim and Saint and Stella's pregnancy], it sets things up for series three." Despite its popularity with viewers and critics alike, the show was reportedly cancelled due to a lack of suitable scheduling slot and because of the requirements for Big Brother 8. It's also rumoured a third series was never planned.

6. Deadwood

American Western-based drama, Deadwood, took a little getting into but once I was in the zone, there was no going back. Set in 1870s, South Dakota, before and after the area's annexation by the Dakota Territory, the series follows Deadwood's growth from camp to town, featuring many historical figures (Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp...). Although after three 12 episode seasons, the show is technically not cancelled, the likelihood of it returning with its original cast and crew is slim. Creator David Milch agreed with HBO back in 2006 after season three to make two two-hour television films in place of a fourth season and in doing so give fans a neater ending but we're still waiting...

7. Prison Break

Sure Prison Break became more and more ludicrous with each season but despite this, it somehow remained unfortunately addictive. After its fourth season fans were once again left wanting but kindly studio bosses later decided to release an additional two episodes entitled The Old Ball and Chain and Free, intended to wrap-up unfinished plot lines. Both were later transformed into a standalone feature called The Final Break.

8. Heroes

Tim Kring's sci-fi series appeared on NBC for four seasons from September 25, 2006 through to February 8, 2010. Tapping into a sudden renewed interest in comic book heroes, the series told the story of ordinary people who all mysteriously discover they have a variety of superhuman abilities. Despite millions of faithful viewers and a number of awards and nominations the show received (Primetime Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards and British Academy Television Awards), the cancellation of the show was announced on May 14, 2010. The network considered making a television special to conclude the series but this never materialised. Thankfully, unlike many cancelled shows, the fourth season at least ends reasonably neatly.

9. Flashforward

FlashForward revolves around the lives of several people as a mysterious event causes nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness and have visions of their future lives. Based upon Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer's novel of the same name, it aired for merely one season on ABC from September 24, 2009. For some inexplicable reason, it was announced in May 2010 that ABC would not be renewing FlashForward for a second season, leaving viewers perpetually in the dark about the cause of the blackouts. The first season's final episode, Future Shock, ends on a highly dramatic cliff-hanger with Mark (Joseph Fiennes) trapped inside the FBI headquarters.

10. United States of Tara

I've already moaned about the cancellation of this most addictive Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body) series and its ever-excellent lead (Toni Collette) AND have even uncharacteristically joined a Facebook page in a futile attempt to save it so for comments please visit:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Is In The Air And In The Toilet

Only three days until Christmas and I'm still trying my best to feel festive. I've watched at least another four or five Christmas films, bought Christmas themed earrings, been wearing a lot of red, using Christmas themed toilet paper (stocking fillers from the last two years finally put to good use!) and even been doing my daily pilates to Christmas music.

As the days before the holy one's birthday dwindle away, with each phone call home my mum is sounding increasingly stressed. My family has a pretty unusual Christmas with an awful lot of traditions we adhere to. Every year we rotate between my parents' house and my two Aunts' houses with up to fifteen of us staying for three nights for Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day. This year it is being hosted at ma and pa's house and dad decided to up the pressure by getting a new kitchen fitted that would be completed “well before Christmas”. “Well before” has of course actually translated as about a week before – surely plenty of time to give it all a good clean, put everything back in place and pre-prepare all of the food for the three days?

In addition to worrying about food and sorting out bedrooms etc, games need to be made. In my family, the only TV really permitted over the three days is to watch the Queen's speech on Christmas day and late night TV once the majority have gone to bed. Instead of ogling the box we go back to Victorian times without the singing around the piano. Games like “the drawing game” (known as Pictionary to many), “Give Us A Clue” and name the famous people in the newspaper cuttings are commonplace every year, as well as the annual Boxing Day “Car Treasure Hunt”.

As I've been uncharacteristically twiddling my thumbs a bit over the last few days, I decided to start devising some games to play to try and at least take one stress away from Big G. After having a long think about different games we could play, I wanted to get a series of Christmas song clips sung by unusual folk in the hope people would be able to guess the original artist. This actually proved more tricky than I could ever have imagined but prompted an amazing discovery.

When faced with a vast choice of music to listen to, I sometimes find it difficult to think of anything I fancy putting on but still love Spotify - it allows me to listen to unowned childhood guilty pleasures like Spaced and provides some fantastic recommendations of artists related to my search. Searching for “Christmas Pop Songs” I somehow stumbled across an amazing album I would have never previously believed existed: Christmas Cats (I promise I wasn't intentionally searching for cats on this occasion!).

I'd love to be able to play some to you but sadly as it is on Spotify I can't - those of you on Spotify must give it a listen. Unbelievably, it is actually a whole album of 30 Christmas songs all sung by cats. And I'm since even more shocked to discover there's a whole range of animal sung albums. The Maj is quite disturbed by the cat piano iphone app which merely plays piano keys as meows so imagine what entire songs with cats singing did to him! While he tried to eat a chunk out of the side of my laptop, I rejoiced I'd found a ridiculously effortless Christmas game.

One day over the festive period, my family are going to be listening to a variety of songs by feline artists and trying to guess what popular Christmas favourites they are. If the image of a room full of “adults” carefully trying to discern song titles while listening to cats meowing isn't enough to put a smile on your face, then perhaps a selection of Christmas cracker style jokes from one of my two Christmas toilet rolls might help:

Q1: What are the wettest animals in the world?

A1: Reindeer

Q2: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?

A2: Claustrophobic

Q3: What's the difference between roast beef and pee soup?

A3: Anyone can roast beef

Q4: What do you get if you cross a snowman with a vampire?

A4: Frostbite

Q5: Why would you invite a mushroom to a Christmas party?

A5: He's a fun guy

Q6: Why was Santa's little helper feeling depressed?

A6: He had low elf-esteem

Have a purr-fect Christmas (Sorry, I couldn't resist!).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Newfangled Festive Spirit

As the big day draws near I'm trying to perk-up my Christmas spirit – as you can see, The Major has already found his.

Despite hating most traditional Christmas foods and being non-religious, I've always loved Christmas - for me it's about family and tradition. Every year in the run-up to Christmas I start re-watching my large and somewhat embarrassing Christmas film collection and planning our annual Christmas party.

This year's “Echo Christmas” managed to avoid the ridiculously repetitive playlist we created on Spotify last year, instead opting for background sounds courtesy of music channels with Christmas shows. Momentarily stopping between putting batches of snack foods in the oven, I was disturbed to see what had been deemed “Christmas music” - Rockin' Robin seemed to have been replaced with amusing 80s ballads and one-hit-wonders.

As the night progressed, a monumentally unfestive discovery was made – something that managed to slip me by at the time of release. The video below is likely to cause children nightmares and make it very difficult for Santa to delivery presents:

Several days later and we're browsing through TV channels, shocked to discover the so-called “Christmas Channel” is showing Predator followed by Piranha. This year feels distinctly unChristmassy, despite my best-efforts. I've even over-heard people in the hairdressers talking about a local library banning the term “Christmas Tree” and using “Festive Tree” instead, deeming it to be less “offensive”.

With music channel playlists avoiding Christmas tunes and the designated TV Christmas channel showing slasher-flicks, it's no wonder I've lost that festive feeling. It's lucky Lonely Island are on hand to remind me about the spirit of giving at Christmas:

And if like me, the video on the above link is enough to make you chuckle, then you may also perhaps enjoy two more particularly entertaining Lonely Island videos:

Perhaps, instead of searching for bad taste joke videos, I should get back to supping on vast amounts of mulled wine while wrapping presents and up my intake of Christmas classics like It's A Wonderful Life, Santa Claus: The Movie and Rare Exports.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Surreal Signs

The last three weeks have been photo hell. Although it doesn't feel like it, it's now rather shockingly over two years since I returned from my year of travels. Ever since arriving back, sorting through the travel pictures has been on the list of things to do but with thousands of them, I kept inevitably putting it off.

Having embraced the joys of discount sites like Groupon, I purchased some print albums to begin the daunting process of finally documenting my travels. I'd planned to sort through my pictures over a month before the deal ended but in reality started sifting through pictures a few weeks before and actually created the albums on-line on the last two days of the deal.

The website I was using reassuring said it would take between five to ten minutes to create an album. Try anywhere between five to eight hours! Just uploading the pictures took several hours alone and traffic on the site was so busy it took an hour and a half to pay for the second album. Of course there's all the fiddly nonsense like rotating pictures, getting them in the right order, labelling etc to be done too.

I finally finished and paid for the second album at 11.30 (half an hour before the deal ended) to discover I'd actually purchased three albums and had someone changed the figure to two in my head. Queue some frantic downloading and a 3am finish that ended happily with the Groupon code being accepted anyway.

Having finished the task, I thought I'd treat myself to the less arduous job of looking through my more recent holiday pictures from Budapest, Slovenia, Salzburg and Italy. I love a good sign and there are quite a few comical or frankly bizarre ones among my photos that I thought I'd share:


I just love the additional use of colour in this image from our hostel.

This place doesn't seem to understand that the real meaning of “Happy Ending” was widely recognised some time ago or perhaps they're merely trying to use it as their unique selling point?

You may wonder what's going on in this sign?

Then you see the next one that helpfully illustrates the service offered:


I've always been amused by the randomness of Punkys in Indian restaurants but this Slovenian Pizzeria takes their plastic encased dessert collection to a whole new level.

I've no idea why this sign seems to suggest females are banned from holding hands with children along the footpath.

Or why this sign says it's OK for men to hold hands with children wearing hats resembling kites.

The existence of an erotic 3D cinema and shop in the tiny Slovenian town of Bled is a tad bizarre but one specialising in Avatar?!


Is this finally recognising the snail's right of way on our roads?

We thought this might be prohibiting any skiing on the flower beds.

This sign is dually strange – one side seems to be encouraging dog golf while the other encourages walks with ghost dogs. Unfortunately the dwindling daylight hours means this picture is a tad on the dark side but the version with flash manages to somehow mask the strangeness of the right hand side of the sign.

Decide for yourself, what the “yes” and “no” on the toilet flushers are trying to say.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Perils of Property Rentals

Having been back from my holiday for nearly two weeks now, we've been asked to leave feedback about the villa five of us rented near Lake Como for the remaining three days of our escape. Our stay didn't begin well after my friend's car was scratched by a piece of the garage door perilously tumbling on top of it on arrival. The log fire we'd been looking forward to using was apparently "out-of-action" and for "display purposes only", despite the large pile of firewood in the garage and adverts for the property suggesting to the contrary. We soon discovered the villa's caretaker lived above us and could easily pop in and out as he pleased and after exploring all the rooms, found a seriously disturbing painting:

An even more worrying boxed possession:

And an eerie tunnel running around three walls of the house like something a masked gimp would patrol in a horror film:

It was hardly surprising we initially mistook stacked sun-loungers for a surgical table:

After the paranoia of the first night, the rest of our stay was thankfully smooth-running with restaurant recommendations all proving well-worth a visit, even if other suggested tourist activities were an impossibility during the winter season or a serious let-down.

Having just left mixed feedback, it seemed appropriate to share an amusing survey of holiday home providers I've been sent:

Top Five Most Bizarre Requests

  1. A toupee stand - the holidaymaker complained when the owner didn't have one that every respectable beach house should have its own.

  2. Hot water bottles in the villa - this was a request made in Costa Blanca for the last two weeks in July when the outside temperature is 24 degrees at night.

  1. A pot for the poo - after speaking to the holidaymakers, the owner determined it was a potty they wanted for their three year old child.

  2. Are clothes compulsory? - The owner advised that public nudity was banned in Barbados, although they were OK to walk around inside the property naked. The holidaymakers requested that as the owner lived on site, they would expect her to comply with their revealing "dress code" too.

  3. A donkey to ride a pregnant bride up a long wooden platform.

Top Five Strangest Items Left

1. Two pet rabbits next to two violins - the owners are still looking after the pets now.

2. A set of surgeon's scalpels - the owners carefully checked every part of the property to make sure there were no hidden body parts.

3. A full roasted pig with head and legs still fully intact left on the breakfast bar.

4. A wedding dress screwed up in a ball left in the master bedroom wardrobe.

5. A whip found on the top shelf of the main bedroom wardrobe (alongside other related items).

I'm now wondering what feedback our chatty Italian left about us and if we left anything comical behind... I hope so!