Sh*t I Watch – Game Of Thrones

In this latest series of posts, I’m going to talk briefly about some of my favourite TV shows of yesteryear, and some which I’m watching at the moment. In ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’ I’ll reminisce about some TV shows that I used to watch, from my childhood up until roughly the time I graduated from University – by and large these will be shows that I haven’t watched since that period, or have only caught a small numbers of episodes of. In ‘Sh*t I Watch’ I will talk briefly about the shows I’m watching at the moment, and will deal with both current series which have not yet been cancelled or completed, and those which I am catching up on having missed first time around. I’ll try to post one of these each week, but as regular Glancers will be aware, my regular posts are fairly irregular.

Some of the shows in both categories which I’ll talk about will be ones you should all be familiar with, while others will be extremely niche and I can only imagine about three other people will have ever heard of. It’s my assumption in these posts, perhaps more than all the other junk on this blog, that you will get a murky picture of the person I both am and once was, and that maybe in a wider lens you’ll get a higher level look at the White, Western, child of the 80s. I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but the most obvious may be that we are what we consume, and our lives are rarely more than a procession of vicarious experience. Drill deeper though and we find a less bleak vision, seeing a communal, shared, loving experience as the most important moments of our lives as a species are no longer things like ‘Which Side Won The War’ or ‘Who Got To The Moon First’ or even ‘Why Are We Here’, but rather ‘Will Rachel And Ross Get It Together’ ‘Who Killed JR/Laura Palmer’ and ‘ WTF is Laddergoat’. Actually, that is kind of bleak. Today’s post is going to briefly summarize the show in question, and list a bunch of TV shows that I haven’t yet watched but which are on my ever-growing list. Between reading, writing, watching movies, playing guitar, playing videogames (on top of the real stuff like living, working, breathing, being married, and being a dad), there isn’t much time for me to watch TV. It used to be that any time a new, interesting show came out, I was first in the queue to see it, but now I tend to wait until a show has finished before I even start the first episode. We’ve all been burned in the past by a heinous cancellation, leaving unanswered questions and beloved characters forever suspended in a black hole of fan fiction and speculation; it hurts. A certain part of me only wants to invest my time in a show that I know has, or will fully run its course. I don’t need any more doubt, or imagination to take up my brain power.

My brain when Firefly was cancelled
My brain when Firefly was cancelled

Today’s show is a juggernaut, and arguably the most talked about and respected TV show of the last five years. Game Of Thrones is an epic tale featuring a massive cast of characters and places, with conspiracy, murder, deceit, boobs, and what am I even talking about you already know more about it than I do. I’ve known about the show for a long time, but until this year I hadn’t watched a single episode of it. I still haven’t read a single word of the books which the show is based on. My wife bought me the first three Seasons on DVD for Christmas and as of time of writing I have only seen up to the end of Season 3. I’m not going to give away any spoilers in these posts, either the ‘Sh*t I Watch’ or ‘Sh*t I Used To Watch’, hopefully, and so let’s try to keep the comments Spoiler free too! I don’t know why it took me so long to watch the show – I think it’s a cultural thing – I’m not a huge fan of the country I was damned to and if people from here try to claim something as their own, or latch on to something in a popular way, I will generally go in the opposite direction. Of course, that isn’t being fair to the show itself, and it was clear that there was overwhelming critical praise, so after watching a bit of the pilot I decided to give it a go. As expected, it is a treat, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan, and I certainly wouldn’t say it is without its faults. For my two cents, I think there are too few episodes per Season, and I feel that something as large as this appears to be could easily be expanded into a few more episodes each year. For me, there seems to be too much rushing in each episode, and too little time spend with each set of characters. That’s obviously a personal and minor squabble because the show still works wonderfully well. There is a terrific cast of actors, the effort going in to making the show believable is second to none, and it’s always great to see violence and boobs. Do I think it’s better than Buffy? Well no, because nothing is better than Buffy.

Hi!
Hi!

I raise the Buffy issue as that’s the benchmark I use for all TV now – no other show has affected me on so many levels as it did, and does. It remains the funniest show I’ve ever seen, with the most well written characters, the best dialogue, the most brilliant plots, and has such a huge emotional power compared to any other show I’ve ever seen. GOT is far from being a comedy, and there are rarely any moments of humour – that’s fine, humour would be out-of-place here. GOT is all about the drama, but in drama you need to have elements of horror or tension, and certainly an emotional connection. I have found it difficult to truly ‘like’ or align myself with any character in the series so far – there are people I like and people I love to hate, of course, and maybe that is also supposed to be the point. Buffy did the same thing though – every character was flawed, but it didn’t make you love or hate them any less. One of the things GOT is also known for is something which Buffy doesn’t get the credit for (outside of the fandom) even though it can be argued that it started the whole thing – the idea, and the reality that no-one is safe. Major characters are killed off at will during GOT, to the point that, similar to The Walking Dead, we genuinely don’t know if anyone is going to make it out alive, and much of the tension in an episode is from our belief that someone we like could have their throat cut in the next scene. GOT has a massive list of characters, and many of those characters do not survive more than a handful of episodes. Buffy had a massive list of characters, alongside its spinoff Angel, and a tiny number of those survive to the end of the show.

I came in to GOT not really knowing much about it, and hoping/expecting a world similar to LOTR, a world of fantasy with Dragons, Orcs, and the like, but in reality those fantastical elements have been, so far, kept to a minimum. They are in the background, or they are older than the apparently modern, civilized world which the characters now live in. We do get Dragons, we do get creatures, but the series’ strength is in the clashing of the various houses and their respective values. In that respect the world mirrors our own, and there is a constant sense of fragility, a sense that a single injustice, misplaced word, or relationship gone sour could have apocalyptic ramifications. Like the real world, we have people who live only for honour, and those who only live for glory; those who seek personal gain at any cost, and others whose lives are merely more than a futile journey of vengeance. The best shows allow us to see ourselves, and our friends, and our world in what is presented on-screen, skewed just enough that we are happy to say at the end of an episode that ‘I would never do that’ or ‘that would never happen in my country’. Perhaps GOT’s greatest lesson is that we don’t always have control over our lives, and even the best laid plans can fall apart disastrously due to the smallest unexpected intervention; I think we can all agree that this lesson is one which is inescapable even in our own secluded lives.

Living only a few minutes drive from some of the shooting locations of the series gives an interesting additional dynamic to watching the show, both as a fan and as a fan of the craft; it’s fun trying to spot places you know and it’s cool knowing that there are talented people just down the road making positive history. I’m keen to see what happens in Season 4 and 5 and I’m keen to get started on the books, and while I’m not going to say I’m a GOT nerd, I will say I’m a fan.

Bonus Material Alert! Below is a list of shows I haven’t yet watched a single episode of, but which are on my list. Feel free to let me know in the comments what you think I should watch, or add anything which I haven’t listed – if it’s recent, I probably haven’t seen it.

24

Arrested Development

Boardwalk Empire

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Deadwood

Dexter (watched 1 episode but wife decided she didn’t want to watch any more)

Entourage

Eureka

Falling Skies

Friday Night Lights

Fringe

Generation Kill

Hannibal

Jericho

Justified

Mad Men

One Upon A Time

Orange Is The New Black

Parks And Recreation

Penny Dreadful

Person Of Interest

Rome

Spartacus

Sons Of Anarchy

The Americans

The Pacific

The Sopranos

The Shield

The Wire

True Blood

True Detective

Veronica Mars

Z Nation

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? The Tale Of The Hungry Hounds

Reading the synopsis of this episode on Lovefilm (now Amazon Prime streaming) before watching, I remembered very clearly some pieces from when I first watched it many years ago. In fact, this is the episode I previously alluded to in a previous post as remembering. Having re-watched it now, I’m not certain why it had such an impact on me, especially when I’ve enjoyed some previous episodes more than I enjoyed this one – maybe it was the first I saw. It does have its merits, which we’ll get to, but overall it isn’t a particularly good show. Then again, when you’re a man of the world, they say you always remember your first, rather than all the hundreds which follow –

My first… the two beside her came soon after. Ahem.

A brief look online suggests that this is one of the most oft and fondly remembered episodes of the series, so it must come down to the performances, the atmosphere, and the visuals, because everything else is rather lackluster. But before we get down to business, lets see what the blurb has to offer:

‘During summer vacation, Amy visits her cousin Pam, who lives in the country. While rummaging through the old family possessions in the attic, they come across a picture of Aunt Dora, who died tragically at a very young age. To their amazement, she looks strikingly like Pam. The girls find a trunk from which a scratching sound emerges at the mention of Aunt Dora’s name’

So, as I mentioned above, the episode has some clear strengths – it has easily the best acting of the series so far, and it has a truly unique, unusual atmosphere – something more akin to Twin Peaks, Jacob’s Ladder, or a nightmare. There is a sadness ripe throughout, and this would have been a much more powerful episode had all the other vital elements been up to scratch. Sadly though, the story is a complete mess, with more hole than plot, and you’ll be left bewildered and frustrated by questions – it truly does seem to be a half-assed story which no-one understands, writers included. The basics are that Pam puts on her Aunt Dora’s old horse-riding jacket which simultaneously turns her into Dora, and opens a portal in the attic to the past/some other dimension, and the cousins/aunts/girls, try to right a past injustice before Al appears and makes some lurid wisecrack.

Horses eh? They used to say I was hung like a –

The whole thing seems to be about guilt, with Pam’s mother never forgiving herself for forgetting to feed the Hungry Hounds of the title – if this still doesn’t make sense, you should probably watch the episode (spoiler – it still won’t make sense). Just a note on that title – I used to live near a chippie called The Hungry Hound. Further up the road, there was a Hungry Hound II. Possibly there was some wacky inter-dimensional salt and vinegar goings on going on on that road. Regardless, both were tasty.

The episode starts with Kristen arriving late to the party, bringing her dog, Elvis, along for effect. This prompts some truly bizarre activity, including the completely absurd ‘my dad says Elvis is king’ comment, which arrives and leaves without prompting or follow-up. That was one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the series so far. Once the pleasantries are out-of-the-way, we meet Pam and Amy, cousins and friends. continuing the dual kid dynamic from previous episodes, this time the girls are actually good friends, and on a level with each other, though there is some basic city girl versus country gal fun early on which doesn’t lead anywhere. Pam loves to ride horses, but her mother tried to stop her at every turn, continuing the useless/absent parents theme of the series – early on Pam’s mother almost causes Pam to break her spine by honking on her horn as Pam is trying to mount a horse. When will these crazy parents learn that being overly cautious only leads inevitably to broken spines!?

Speaking of weird things – what’s with the weird midi file music? And why is the chest of riding gear in the attic covered by a shroud of smoke? Anyway, once the riding jacket goes on, the weird goes off, with a portal and stairs opening to another world and/or time. The image of those stairs was one which I could remember vividly, so kudos to the show for some brain-etching. The girls do a Red Riding Hood through a forest and end up in a graveyard, naturally. Pam goes for an Emmy with a lovely little speech about Foxes, hunger, and being ripped to shreds, and suddenly, a creepy old ghost appears – again, kudos for this startling and unsettling image. Unfortunately, his weird accent veers towards Irish and his voice has some cheesy vocal effect added, so the chills fade rapidly. So Giles had a heart-attack running away from the Hounds? Did Dora die when she fell off the horse? Was she eaten? The build-up to Pam/Dora opening the door is filled with tension for the young-hearted, but even the most timid child would laugh when we see the hungry hounds are a group of the least frightening, small, happy dogs you’re every likely to meet.

RIP THIS BITCH APART!

After somehow surviving this terrible onslaught, Amy makes it back to the attic, where it turns out Pam was hiding all along, behind a pile of jackets. Was it all a dream? Does Pam remember nothing? What was it all about? I’m still none the wiser about why Pam’s mother is so guilty and frightened of horses. Anyway, the curse is lifted and everyone lives happily ever after.

As I mentioned, the acting in this episode was the best so far, at least from the kids. Lets pay our respects. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Pam is played by a young Mia Kirshner, known for her adult roles in a variety of TV shows and movies – Mandy from 24, Kenya from Defiance, Jenny from The L Word, and the titular Elizabeth Short from the poor Black Dahlia. Her successful career is unfortunately not matched by her cousin Amy, played by Jennifer Gula. Gula only has 3 other credits to her name, nothing of note. Equally short-lived is the mother of the piece, played by Ais Snyder who appeared in tiny roles in a handful of 90s films, while David Francis, who played the ghost has popped up in minor parts in big movies like 300 and in bigger parts in a number of notable TV Series like Fortier.  He even returns for 2 more episodes of AYAOTD.

A strange episode then which, though messy, manages to successfully stay with you. Don’t forget to share your memories in the comments and check out my other episode reviews. Next up, we go back to school with The Tale Of The Prom Queen. Sweet Dreams!

Ziggy!

Are You Afraid Of The Dark? Retro Review: An Introduction

January is popularly known as the most terrifying month of the year. Sure, October gets all the headlines thanks to Halloween, Mad Hatter’s Day, and everyone’s favourite – Moldy Cheese Day –

Feet
YEESSSSS!

April is a wasteland of existential despair, but January, is an icy Eternia of horrible beginnings and regret. After the joys of the holiday period, you will likely face the terror of returning to school, university, or work. For most , that means preparing for a new term of skiving followed by a few hours of frantic cramming, or having to speak with colleagues who you may or may not have made nude drunken advances towards during your extravagant solo rendition of Gangnam Style (I assume this is what happens during work parties – I never attend).

Luckily, you can rely on The Spac Hole to provide some much-needed steel against such unthinkable terrors (via a typically tenuous linking introduction) by offering you some thoughts on that fondly remembered anthology show from your youth – Are You Afraid Of The Dark. I’ve recently acquired one of these new fangled boxes of witchcraft, The Kindle, which enables me to watch my lovefilm choices on the train. As I, perhaps like you, am a broken hopeless man-child, much of my list consists of programmes devised for people one-third of my age.

The Rest Consists Of This
The Rest Consists Of This

Over the next few posts I’ll attempt to give my thoughts, rants, and imaginings each episode, while you can leave dick jokes in the comments.

Want to read the first episode review? Go here with your eyes: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/are-you-afraid-of-the-dark-the-tale-of-the-phantom-cab/