Sh*t I Watch – Wolf Creek Season 1 and 2

Greetings, Glancers! I know it feels like I keep saying this recently, but we’re back with another entry from one of my long-standing series. Wolf Creek was a film I liked to a certain extent when it was first released, though my opinion on it was probably soured by the horror community’s over abundant love for it. At the time it just felt like a perfectly watchable addition to the ‘trip gone wrong, oops here’s a psycho’ sub-genre. It didn’t bring anything new but the main character of Mick was refreshingly smug. With the sequel, Wolf Creek 2, it explained more of Mick’s character and presented another group of hapless travelers in Australia with a series of bloody endings. Both films were torture porn with a self-mocking smirk, a fun time but nothing out of the ordinary beyond a charismatic lead villain. My wife enjoyed them too, but since that time she has moved away from a lot of the horror stuff we used to watch. It’s almost like she was just putting up with them until I put a ring on it.

Jump forwards a few years and Greg McLean decided to return to the outback and good old Mick, not with a third movie, but with a small screen outing. Wolf Creek Season 1 is a spin off from the films, and while it does loosely mention events and characters from the series, it’s its own thing. You don’t need to have seen the films to see the series, and vice versa. Within the opening scenes of the pilot episode, you know pretty much all you need to know about Mick, and about the show, and while the series as a whole does try to fill in his backstory and possibly explain his murderous intentions, it is more simply a female driven, wonderfully no holds barred, revenge story.

We open with an All American family on some sort of camping trip in the outback. They seem like your typical family – a bit of arguing, but clearly nothing out of the ordinary – Mom, Dad, athletic underachieving daughter, and cute son. Enter John Jarratt’s infamous Mick, the sly killer always ready with a racist quip, and a variety of guns and blades. Mick has this was of being charming and dangerous at the same time – lulling his audience with his Oz ways but simultaneously making you wary. You know there’s something wrong with this guy, but you cant honestly believe it. It’s not a spoiler to say that, in the middle of sharing the family’s food for the evening, he snaps and kills them. Pleasingly for a TV show, there is no shying away from the violence – mid conversation he slams a knife into Daddy’s leg before opening up his throat (in front of wife and child, naturally), then as mummy and son hold hands he throws another knife straight through mummy’s face. Son tries to run, but gets a bullet in his spine. When he goes stalking after daughter Eve (singing as he goes), the brutality finally hits home. Before going further, let me just say that Lucy Fry is a fucking beast. Her performance here, and in the series as a whole, is deserving of all the nominations and plaudits, and if she doesn’t become a superstar in the future it will be a damning slight for the human race.

Without giving away too many other spoilers, the rest of Season 1 sees Lucy, in classic Hitchcock style, trying to track down Mick to kill him while at the same time avoiding the cops. She learns more of his history as she goes, there are numerous side-plots about the cop who has been working Mick’s case for years, various locals with their own criminal or heroic pasts, and Mick himself who quickly realises that someone is following him for a change, and tries to turn the tables. The first season is only six episodes long, but this feels right. It never reaches the point of feeling bloated or unnecessarily stretched, but the various interweaving stories in the end are side dressing for the main event. While we end up caring about some of the others involved, in the end all we want to see is Eve and Mick standing off. Eve shows herself to be quick-witted and resourceful, a horror heroine in the vein of Ripley, Sarah Conor, or Sydney, and she plays the long game instead of rushing in. Fry and Jarrett have great chemistry, even though she don’t appear together too often, and on their own each is addictive and entertaining.

Credit should go to the writers and directors for continually thinking up great one-liners or speeches for Mick to chew on, and for shooting Australia in all its gorgeous, barren beauty. You’ve probably heard me talk about my love for sunrises and sunsets and twilight in movies, and Season 1 and 2 smash this look and atmosphere head on. Both series are among the prettiest I’ve seen in recent years – all the more so because there is little or no CG or false trickery going on – what you see is what the actors saw and felt.

Season 2 then concerns a new group. It isn’t readily apparent at what point in the Wolf Creek timeline any of this takes place, but again it’s not overly important. In classic sequel tradition, we up the ante by increasing the cast numbers – think Aliens or The Hills Have Eyes 2. We follow a group of people from various countries and of various ages going on a coach trip. We have a German couple and their daughter, a Canadian couple trying to salvage their marriage, a couple of tourists suffering from unrequited love, a psychologist, an ex soldier, a gay couple, a party boy, a bus – whatever the bus equivalent of a train spotter is. Through the six episodes we get to know this group, love them or hate them, and watch them get picked off by you know who. Yes, thanks to an unintended insult at a roadside cafe, Mick is back – this time taking charge of the coach and everyone inside. If there’s one thing Mick hates, it’s foreigners, and after driving his prey into the middle of nowhere he begins dispatching them with remorseless glee.

If I have any criticisms about Season 2, it’s that they have turned Mick too much into an unstoppable killing machine like Jason Voorhees. There are a number of teams he should quite easily have been killed, or at least slowed considerably, but there he is moments later back and badder than ever. Couple that with a few silly and unlikely decisions by our protagonists or others they meet along they way, and we have something which feels more contrived and cartoonish that the first Season. That being said, it’s still great stuff. Most of the cast are good and the time is taken to get to know their strengths and flaws. There is still a lot of up close and personal violence, with gruesome practical effects, and Mick is as rewarding and funny as ever. The story sometimes hints at a wider or future plot, but whether or not a third entry in the show or movie series will be made remains to be seen. With lead actor Jarrett accused of some serious crimes from a few decades ago, I can’t say much being done until is name is cleared (if it is). Would Wolf Creek work without him? It’s hard to see it happening, as Jarrett completely embodies the character, and all of his ticks, smirks, his voice, his stature, and of course that laugh – without those you would have a very different prospect on your hands.

Who’s it all for then? Fans of the movies should feel right at home, and anyone with a love for horror should get on board. If you like your horror violent and without holding back, then you’ll get a kick out of this, but it’s also funny, beautifully shot, and well acted and written, even if things do get a little silly the further down the line we get. My wife loved it too, and she has been avoiding the horror scene for a while now, unless it’s a creature feature. Horror is making a splash on the small screen in recent years, but it feels like this show flew a little under the radar. If you like horror, then you have no excuse not to seek this out and enjoy a bloody good time.

Let us know what you thought of the series in the comments below!

Neighbours – Bonus Post 5

*Note – this post was originally written at the start of August/end of July – if you’re up to date in you’re viewing then obviously there has been a certain character’s tantalizing reappearance, messing up my original intro below!

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Just when you thought it was safe – Willow’s back! Will fake Dee return too? I know it will never happen, but I’d still love it if real Dee returned. Quit living in the past, you say! Never, I say! Here are some more of my favourite classic characters.

Katya Kinski – Dichen Lachman – 2005 – 2007

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Significant Others: The Kinskis, The Kennedys, The Robinsons, Max Hoyland, Ned Parker, Guy Sykes

Katya was the annoying older Kinski sibling, joining the cast later than the rest of her family. For such an apparently wholesome bunch Katya was the antithesis, not willing to play happy families and trying to take custody of her brother and sister from Susan. Her short time on the street was marked by a lot of dramatic storylines and she was never a character allowed to be friendly or happy. Her various relationships never felt like they were going anywhere and they only ended in tragedy or anger. Still, she was an interesting, conflicted character who made an impression.

Special Powers: Her stare can turn a person to polystyrene.

Where Are They Now:

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Katya left after around a year on the show, going off to Adelaide to be a medic of some sort. It would be nice to see her come back, but I don’t see where she would fit unless the other Kinskis come back too. Dichen has had a distinguished cult career since moving on from Neighbours – appearing in the likes of Dollhouse, The 100, and Agents Of Shield to name a few.

Rachel Kinski – Caitlin Stasey – 2005 – 2009

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Significant Others: The Kinskis, The Kennedys, The Timmins, Ringo Clarke, Angus Henderson, Bridget Parker, Donna Freedman, Ty Harper.

Rachel was one of those characters I would have fallen in love with had she joined a few years earlier – interesting, a little introverted, clever, and beautiful. Her and Zeke never came across as the most interesting characters, but her need to be accepted and slight naivety ensured she still got into scrapes, particularly becoming the latest in a long line of students having a secret relationship with a teacher, and a pregnancy scare.

Special Powers: Can manipulate her body so that its natural tan drips off and can collected and sold.

Where Are They Now:

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I’d stopped watching by the time Rachel left, but apparently she faffed off to London with some guy I don’t remember or never saw. As for Stasey, I suspected she would hit the big time – as yet it hasn’t really happened. Sure she has starred in the very enjoyable Tomorrow When The War began movie, All Cheerleaders Must Die, I Frankenstein, and the TV shows Reign and Please Like Me

Zeke Kinski – Matthew Werkmeister – 2005 – 2011, 2014

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Significant Others: The Kinskis, The Kennedys, The Timmins, Justin Hunter, Kyle Canning. Phil Andrews. Sonny Lee. Summer Hoyland. Victoria Elmahadi.

The longest lasting Kinski character was the least interesting in the start, just another nerdy kid that Susan took on. He certainly grew as time went on, but it looks like I missed his most significant storylines after I stopped watching. Like his sister he had a sheltered childhood, but came out of his shell on Ramsey Street. He had to deal with the death of his father, various girlfriends, a near death experience followed by memory loss, and becoming a Radio DJ.

Special Powers: When he gets angry, everyone laughs.

Where Are They Now: 

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Zeke left in 2011 to study in London, but returned briefly in 2014 to announce he was getting married. I’m sure he’s been mentioned since but I don’t know – he seems like a good bet to return in the future with a young family. Mr Werkmeister doesn’t appear to have ‘werked meist’ (worked much) on TV or movies since leaving Neghbours – appearing on stage or in music videos or arsing about instead.

Drew Kirk – Dan Paris – 1998 – 2002, 2005

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Significant Others: Libby Kennedy, Ben Kirk, The Kennedys, Lou Carpenter, Steph Scully

Libby’s one true love, Drew Kirk had the looks of anyone’s Prince Charming and the attitude to boot. most of his storylines were not overly dramatic and his time was spent wooing and winning Libby. Outside of that he kept away the attention of other ladies in the area while working as a mechanic and sometimes race car driver, leading to one of the soap’s more memorable and ridiculous stunts. After only a year of marriage he fell off a horse and died (before coming back a few years later as a ghost, and then once again later as a zombie).

Special Powers: Can disguise himself as a tree.

Where Are They Now: 

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Presumably in training to become a vampire or a mummy. As for Dan Paris, aside from his undead appearances, he is currently a presenter for some show I’ve never heard of and has had many other presenting jobs while also running a Photography business.

Sam Kratz – Richard Grieve – 1994 – 1996, 2005

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Significant Others: Marlene Kratz. Annalise Hartman. The Starks. Stonefish Rebecci. Cody Willis. Lou Carpenter.

Another friendly everyman character, Sam had the looks and the personality, but never got too many huge storylines, Yeah he had an on and off relationship with Annalise, eventually leaving to marry her, and yeah he had just started a relationship with Cody when she was killed, but nothing too juicy. Still, he was one of the more memorable and likable blokes of the time.

Special Powers: Can turn petrol into diesel, but never diesel into petrol.

Where Are They Now: 

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After leaving with Annalise, they eventually married and he popped up in the 20th Anniversary episode. Since then I don’t think there has been any further mention of them. Given that there isn’t much of a Stark or Kratz connection on the street anymore it seems unlikely we’ll eve see him again. However, old families or kids of old characters do often make comebacks, so we may hear about him again. After leaving the showGrieve jumped ship to Home And Away before setting his sights on UK theatre work. He is also known for a stint on Emmerdale and still does a lot of stage and musical acting.

Have a look through my other Neighbours posts and as always leave your feedback on the show and any characters!

Neighbours – Bonus Post 3

So, Dee is back, and it’s all as weird and convoluted as you would expect. 2 things:

  1. Why not just go for the ‘I banged my head, half-drowned, and lost my memory’ rather than all of the other guff Dee said before actually getting to that point. Obviously they’re setting her up for future conflict, secrets, and stories.
  2. I was disappointed by the lack of emotion in the reunion scenes – Toadie, Susan, Karl, Steph – this was someone you LOVED and someone you thought was DEAD. I don’t care how many years have passed, you’re going to be in floods of tears. Of course there’s more to come so we’ll see, but just those initial scenes weren’t what I was hoping for.

Oh yeah, another thing – I want to see some old friends coming back to see Dee, even if only for a handful of episodes or scenes. Make it happen.

Aside from that, i have enjoyed watching the comeback and it’ll make future episodes interesting. As a side note, I’m writing this on 1/31/17 and have not yet watched yesterday or today’s episode yet. I’ll try to finish and post ASAP. But enough of that, here are a few more of my favourite Neighbours characters!

Amy Greenwood –  Jacinta Stapleton – 1997 – 2000 (2005)

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Significant Others: Lance Wilkinson, Damien Smith, Anne Wilkinson, Toadie, Billy Kennedy

Ahh Amy, sexy, flirty, and a little bit dumb, Amy gave hope to all hopeless nerds and romantics across the globe by loving resident geekazoid Lance. She arrived with her mum and brothers who all left the show inside a matter of months, leaving Amy to navigate the perils of Ramsey Street with her friends. She was there during my peak watching period/favourite watching time and so was part of the core Ramsey Street teen group, getting up to the usual fun and games, notably her on and off relationship with Lance and for preparing the blokes for the Full Monty show.

Special Power: Tricking people into believing she is a time-travelling Madonna.

Where Are They Now:

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She returned for the 20th Anniversary Show and appeared in Annalise’s documentary – and although still working as a flight attendant and still married, she gave Lance (who was watching) a special mention – one of my favourite moments of that episode. As for Jacinta, she’s still a regular on Australian TV and movies but I haven’t seen any of them.

Annalise Hartman – Kimberley Davies – 1993 – 1996 (2005)

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Significant Others – Sam Kratz, Joanna Hartman, Mark Gottleib, Beth Brennan, Lou Carpenter.

Speaking of Annalise – here she is! Another glamour Queen for Erinsborough, Annalise was a favourite of men on and off the show, making a significant enough impression in her three years to warrant her return for the 20th Anniversary show as a focal point. A typical blonde bombshell (a phrase I’ve never really understood), she had a million jobs, survived a plane crash, got it on with almost every bloke on the street, and got jilted on her wedding day. There’s probably a lot I don’t remember about her period on the show, but I was pleased to see her come back.

Special Power: Immune to orc poison

Where Are They Now:

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As you know, she became some sort of film-maker and came back to document Ramsey Street and its people for the 20th Anniversary. After that, I’ve no idea. Kimberley Davies made guest appearances on some pretty big shows – Friends, Ally McBeal etc and has also appeared in various reality shows.

Boyd Hoyland – Kyal Marsh – 2002 – 2007

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Significant Others: Max Hoyland, Izzy Hoyland, Summer Hoyland, the other Hoylands, Steph Scully, Sky Mangel, Janae Timmins, Kayla Thomas.

Ah yes, Boy. Yes, I called him Boy. I always made fun of Boy because he always seemed like a bit of a tool in his early days, but I still liked him. As time went on, he was still kind of a tool, but always wanted to help people and was generally a good guy. I was a big fan of the Hoylands and was hoping they would stick around but around the time I stopped watching it was clear they were on their way out too. Reportedly Boyd was unhappy with some of the later relationship stories the Producers gave him, hastening his departure. He did have some good stories, acting as a surrogate father, getting on steroids, and developing schizophrenia. He was always protective of his sister and even though he was always butting heads with Max, it was clear they loved each other too.

Special Powers: Superior upper arm strength

Where Are They Now:

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After splitting up with Janae, Boyd deciding to leave with Sky. I know Steph has mentioned Max since I started watching the show again late last year, but I’m not sure if Boyd has been mentioned. Kyal Marsh quite acting after leaving the show, like so many others, but did appear in and win Circque de Celebrite. I’ve no idea what he’s at now.

Izzy Hoyland – Natalie Bassingthwaighte (WTF) – 2003 – 2007

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Significant Others – The Hoylands, Karl Kennedy, Darcy Tyler, Paul Robinson

The arch-schemer of the show, Izzy was a whirlwhind in her time on the show. I can’t say I ever really liked her character  – how could you – but she invigorated the show and caused trouble wherever she went. Her most significant moments were with Karl and Susan and Darcy, as she pretended Karl was the father of her unborn daughter. Later on it is revealed that Karl fathered a different child with her – Holly – who has apparently been in the show too. Her and Darcy marked the most scheme/wicked period in the show’s history.

Special Powers – Her lies can turn you to stone.

Where Are They Now

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Currently faffing around somewhere – sent her daughter Holly to leave with Karl and Susan for a while in 2013, but didn’t show up herself. Natalie has had a successful career outside of Neighbours as both a solo singer and as part of a group with various gold and platinum singles and albums – I don’t believe I’ve heard any of her stuff. She has also been a TV Presenter, Judge, and appeared in a few movies.

Max Hoyland – Stephen Lovatt – 2002 -2007

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Significant Others: The Hoylands, Steph Scully, The Robinson family

Good old Max – he always seemed stressed and in truth there was usually always something stressful happening to him or his family. Whether it be keeping tabs on his kids and looking out for the sister that everyone hated, or trying to keep his realationship with Steph going while dealing with the Robinson’s scheming (fair enough after he killed Paul’s innocent son thinking it was his evil twin… I know I know), Max had a tough life. But Max was a good father and always loyal, and hopefully after he departed for Fiji his life has been easier.

Special Power – Misfortune

Where Are They Now – Max left in 2007 after splitting with Steph and later got sole custody of their son. He’s still in Fiji and every so often Steph mentions calling him to talk with Charlie. It seems unlikely he’ll return now as Steph and him have moved on. Stephen Lovatt is a respected theatre actor who has also appeared in a variety of TV shows and movies, from Xena Warrior Princess to Ash Vs Evil Dead!

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Summer Hoyland – Marisa Siketa (2002-2007) and Jordy Lucas (2010-2013)

Significant Others: The Hoylands, Steph Scully, Andrew Robinson

Oh man, it would have been sweet if Marisa had returned to play Summer – that may have been enough to make me tune in back in 2010. Summer was mature beyond her years, conniving, and highly annoying, but occasionally sweet as time went on. I never saw anything of her second stint on the show so I don’t know how different her character or the portrayal was. You couldn’t help but like her, even when she was annoying as hell, thanks to Siketa’s performance.

Special Powers: Cries chocolate tears.

Where Are They Now:

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She left the show for the second time and headed for Paris. I’m sure her scholarship there is over, so it’s a ripe time for her to make another appearance in the show. Of all the Hoyland family, it’s Max and Boyd I’d love to see come back, but Summer and Izzy are the more likely options. Siketa was a child actress in Saddle Club and other shows but has since – you’ve guessed it – retired from acting and is now a traffic reporter on Radio. Jordy Lucas has had minor appearances in shows and movies I’ve never heard of.

I’ll only do a few more of these posts, I promise! Let us know in the comments what you thought of any of these characters!

Sh*t I Used To Watch – Neighbours – Bonus Post 2

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G’day mate, howz it goin’ ya flaming ga-lah! Wait, that’s Home And Away. Anyway, I’m back with another list of Neighbours characters and some recollections. I know you loved the last one, so please enjoy another!

Lou Carpenter – Tom Oliver – 1988 – 2016

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Significant Others: Cheryl Stark, Trixie Tucker, Kathy Carpenter, Lolly Allen, Lauren Carpenter, Nina Tucker, Paige Smith, Harold Bishop, Madge Bishop – basically everyone.

Lou Carpenter is now the soap’s longest serving character and Oliver the longest serving actor. Appearing briefly in 1988, he returned as a regular in the early 90s and immediately became a hit with viewers, mainly down to his womanizing ways, his banter with Jelly Belly Bishop, and that laugh. As you would expect, Lou has had his fair share of tragedy and interesting storylines – most notable being him becoming the owner of Lou’s Place, getting it on with and then losing Cheryl after a car accident, and becoming a dad again at a mature age (sort of).  Of course he has had a number of other realtionships over the years, but it’s his backstory and on screen chemistry with Madge and Harold that I remember him most fondly for, the three growing old together, falling out with one another, and helping each other through tough times. Always ready to sneak a buck or two when the opportunity arises, Lou’s house has also seen any number of tenants and neighbours over the years. Lou is a legend on the street and the show, and though he is only a recurring character now every few months, it’s always a joy to see him.

Special Power: His laugh can both raise the dead and kill the living and immediately causes those who hear it to imitate without pause for the duration of the episode.

Where Are They Now:

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Still on Ramsey Street, and recently got (re) married to Kathy. Expect guest appearances every so often.

Taj Coppin – Jamie Robbie Reyne – 2002 -2004

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Significant Others: Tahnee Coppin. Jack Scully. Nina Tucker. Libby Kennedy.

I could have done without including Taj because I never really liked him, at least at the time. I think this was more bias on my part because he was getting it on with my beloved Libby Kennedy and was a bit of a knob. Still, he was involved in some decent storylines with some of my favourite characters so I’ll include him here, namely his relationships with Nina and Libby.

Special Power: If he lived in Royston Vasey he would most certainly work in the local shop for local people.

Where Are They Now:

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As a minor character I doubt he has been mentioned much since leaving. After cheating on some film school exam he nevertheless got a job in the film industry and left the town. Jamie Robbie Reyne has released a number of albums since leaving the show, and while they don’t appear to have been very successful he has toured with my (other) beloved The Bangles so plus marks there.

Helen Daniels – Anne Haddy – 1985 – 1997

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Significant Others: The Robinsons, The Martins, The Bishops  – basically everyone who lived on the street in the first 15 years of the show.

One of the original and longest running characters on the show, Anne Haddy’s Helen Daniels is another legend. She was the unofficial matriarch of Neighbours, offering advice, taking in strays, and always willing to lend a hand in stark contrast to the more typical busy-boddy or nosy archetypes. She is one of the few characters whose death received the famous ‘sad Neighbours theme’ and she was a great loss to the characters and the show as a whole. Helen of course had plenty of her own juicy storylines from marrying or getting involved with dodgy types, to being kidnapped but most remember her as being the one person anyone could go to for help – everyone wanted a granny like Helen. Everyone remembers her death, surrounded by her family, in her own home, while watching a video of Scott and Charlene’s wedding.

Special Power: Curing any malaise.

Where Are They Now:

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Her death left a gap which has never really been filled. Anne Haddy was forced to leave due to real life ill health and died a couple of years later – she was so popular that her death was announced after the airing of that day’s Neighbours episode.

Mark Gottlieb – Bruce Samazan – 1993 – 1995

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Significant Others: Serendipity Gottlieb, Stephen Gottlieb, Annalise Hartman, Gaby Willis

Mark was just such a likeable chap, helped by Samazan’s cheeky performance. Mark was a typical good guy, though always came across as a little awkward which made his heartthrob tendencies all the more amusing. I was pretty pissed when the character turned to God and became completely different, even ditching Annalise on their wedding day to become a priest instead. After a few weeks or months of that nonsense he regained his senses and went back to normal, but by that point the damage was done and he left the show after a few months of reconciliations.

Where Are They Now:

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It always seemed like Mark and Annalise would get together finally, but it never happened. Mark left the street after getting a job as a TV chef and presumably that is where he remains – as usual I’ve no idea if he has been referenced again in the years since. Samazan remains the only actor to have appeared in all three of the major Ozzy soaps – EStreet and Home And Away along with Neighbours. He quit acting in 2000 and apparently became some sort of Sales Consultant for Real Estate firms.

Serendipity Gottlieb – Raelee Hill – 1994 – 1995

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Significant Others: The Gottliebs, Luke Handley.

Pretty much the opposite to Mark with regards to how I felt about the character – I never liked her and found pretty much everything about her irritating. But if I include Mark I may as well throw her in too. She started off as a bit of a hippy, then became a business woman, then moves to Japan.

Special Power: Attracts fists.

Where Are They Now:

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Maybe still in Japan, maybe back in Oz, no idea. Naturally, we all know Raelee Hill for starring as Sikozu in the last couple of seasons of Farscape.

Let us know in the comments what you think of any of the characters above and share your favourite Neighbours moments!

Sh*T I Used To Watch – Neighbours Bonus Post

Hello, hi, and hello. As you may have or did not see in my previous Neighbours post, I mentioned that I was going to abuse you all with a few bonus posts on my recollections of the show. The response to this of overwhelmingly non-existent, so here you are! As the folks on Ramsey Street are on their festive break, hopefully this will tide you over until the return in January. Here are a few of my favourite characters who have appeared in the show and some of their most memorable antics.

Rick Alessi – Dan Falzon – 1992 – 1995

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Significant Others: Benito, Cathy, Marco, Christina, Caroline (the large Alessi family), Andrew Robinson, Danni Stark, Debbie Martin, Cody Willis.

Most people remember ‘The Twins’ – Caroline and Christina – some of Paul Robinson’s early conquests, but I wasn’t overly fond of them even though they were already established before cousin Rick arrived. No-one remembers Rick’s brother or parents. Within a year, Rick was the only Alessi left on the show, a troublesome heartthrob always getting into scrapes with his buddies. He has various relationships and flings in his time on the show, mainly with ‘Mad Debbie Martin’ and ‘Maybe My Cousin Cody Willis’. Rick has a particularly turbulent time in Erinsborough, before leaving for Darwin. I always enjoyed Rick’s relationship with Lou Carpenter and how he got on with Cody, breaking up with her before she was shot and killed – it would have been nice to see him come back for Cody’s funeral but at least he did leave a message for her memorial.

Special Power: Rick’s floppy hair took at least six hours a day to clean and was known to make panties drop at fifty paces.

Where Are They Now:

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I’m not aware of Rick returning to the show at any point and I can’t think of any character mentioning him in years. Like so many of the younger performers on Neighbours over the years, Falzon has seemingly now retired from acting. He dabbled with music over the years, but is currently a paramedic and eco-warrior. He did appear in Gamesmaster, so that’s a bonus.

Sarah Beaumont – Nicola Charles – 1996 – 2016

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Significant Others: Karl Kennedy, Bess O’Brien, Catherine O’Brien, Peter Hannay, Angus Beaumont, Antigone Beaumont

No discussion of Neighbours would be complete without mention of Sarah – the original home-wrecking hussy. Sarah arrived on Ramsey Street to consideration male attention – basically everyone was infatuated with her, including Toadie. She eventually works in Karl’s surgery where she becomes close with everyone’s favourite doctor. Thus one of the soap’s most famous affairs started, devastating every character who was involved. It was great. She also had a dog called Bob, continuing the show’s long tradition with cute pets. Sarah has left and returned several times in the show, most recently returning to announce that she is dying of cancer.

Special Power: Breasts.

Where Are They Now:

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Sarah has appeared sporadically either in person or by name on the show this year, and her tearaway son Angus became a recurring character, moving in with Karl and Susan. Charles was super popular in lads mags in the 90s, appearing on FHM’s sexiest list a couple of times, but she hasn’t appeared in anything else of significance.

Beth Brennan – Natalie Imbruglia – 1992 – 1994

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Significant Others: Brad Willis, Ned Willis, Lauren Carpenter, Lucy Robinson, Philip Martin, Wayne Duncan.

It may not be obvious if you’re a regular here, but I love Natalie Imbruglia. She was probably my first crush on the show but I don’t remember much now about her time. Imbruglia though is one of the best pop peeps of all time though, and White Lillies Island is one of the best albums ever. Her other albums are pretty great too, as well as her B-Sides. Seriously, check her out. But that’s not what we’re here for. Beth joined the show as a bit of an innocent country girl who was also practical and hard-working. She is most notable for her on again off again relationship with Brad – Beth leaves him at the altar on their (first) wedding day after she finds out about his affair with Lauren, though they later marry for reals before leaving the show together.

Special Power: Can take apart and re-assemble an M-16 in 17 seconds.

Where are They Now:

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Her and Brad divorced for reals. She gave birth to tearaway son Ned, who is currently on the show, but Imbruglia has said she has no interest in returning to the show. There’s always a chance someone else could pick it up. Imbruglia has of course gone on to sell millions of records, do lots of modeling stuff, and appear in decent movies like Johnny English and Closed For Winter.

Carmella Cammeniti – Natalie Blair – 2003 – 2011

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Significant Others: Rocco, Lucia, Rosario, Rosetta, Chloe, Raimondo and a bunch of other Cammenitis, Marco Silvani, Oliver Barnes, Connor O’Neill.

Of all the characters I would have been most interested in keeping up with after I stopped watching Neighbours, Carmella would be near the top. She was always a bit part character when I was watching at my peak, and always had interesting and bizarre storylines. The daughter of Rocco, some sort of Australian Mafia type, she first began a relationship with our very own Connor which of course Rocco did not approve of. This would be an on and off thing while until she went into hiding as a Nun. Later stories involved a singing career, selling a baby, and later various relationships, drug addiction, becoming a mum, and being haunted by her dead husband – most of these last ones I was not around to see. Blair was always incredibly hot and always gave great performances, though maybe this was heightened when up against the acting ‘talents’ of Patrick Harvey.

Special Power: Anytime anyone paints a picture of her, it looks like Jessica Rabbit.

Where Are They Now

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She left the show in 2008, briefly returning for a few episodes with her happy family in 2011. I have no idea if she has been mentioned since. Natalie Blair married her Neighbours co-star David Hoflin (Oliver Barnes) and has appeared in a few minor movies and series.

Rocco Cammeniti – Robert Forza – 2003 – 2007

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Significant Others: The Cammeniti family, Sindi Watts, Connor O’Neil, Toadie, Stuart Parker.

Rocco was introduced as a scary Godfather type, but also sort of looked like a cuddly teddie bear. He’s clearly a scumbag as he was having an affair with Sindi, eventually deciding to ditch his wife for her. When Sindi sets her sights on Toadie, Rocco gets angry and bad things happen. All the while he is jealous and protective of any male attention towards any of his family, usually in the form of Connor. He later seemingly becomes reformed but is arrested due to his past crimes and sent to prison. Rocco always brought a fun new dimension to the show and was a memorable and funny recurring villain.

Special Power: If you shave his beard, nothing happens; you can keep shaving forever and the hair instantly replenishes itself.

Where Are They Now:

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Presumably still in prison. Forza previously played two different characters in Neighbours, only for a few episodes though. He only appeared as Rocco in 28 episodes, which must make him one of the most impactful characters for such a small number of appearances. He’s another who has appeared in minor shows and movies, but he was Prisoner Cell Block H, because of course he was.

Stay tuned for another riveting trip down Ramsey Street next time, while we eagerly await the show’s return in the new year!

Sh*t I Used To Watch/Sh*t I Watch Special – Neighbours

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Greetings, Glancers! Today I begin a new niche sub series of the Sh*t I Watch posts. Recently as I have been writing other posts in the series and remembering all the other shows I used to watch, I began thinking more and more about Neighbours. I have a huge list of old and current shows which I just from at random when writing the next post in the series, and Neighbours is one of those. I added it thinking that it would be a weird one to write about due to its sheer size. One night I was arsing about on Youtube and I happened to see the 30th Anniversary of the show was coming up, so I began watching a few promo clips. This led to me watching some old promo clips and fan made videos and the more I watched it the more I realized I missed it. As the days passed I kept watching more clips and the waves of nostalgia and fondness and sadness were overwhelming – I’ve never been a huge soap fan, but I was a massive Neighbours fan for quite a few years. In fact, I wouldn’t be overstating things if I said that Neighbours has been one of the most important and most watched shows in my life.

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Don’t worry, you’re still my number 1

You see, when you watch a soap, when you properly dedicate yourself to it, you become part of an extended family. You spend time almost every day of the week with the characters on screen – you go through their ups and downs and by extension it feels like they are with you as you grow up and deal with the good shit and the bad. It was a difficult but necessary separation when I began moving away from Neighbours. I can’t remember precisely when it was, but I had met my future wife and moved in with her. I was working and had less time to myself, and was rarely home in time to watch the show. I estimate that this started in the middle and 2nd half of 2007 and by the same point in 2008 I had all but stopped watching. Considering I had been watching it from the beginning (though much of this as a toddler and young kid with little memory of the early episodes), that was already a 20 plus year relationship. The separation was made easier by the fact that around this time the soap was going through many changes – a lot of my favourite characters had left and many new ones had joined who I simply didn’t connect with. I would watch episodes and forget who they were and in the end stopped caring about the show. Over the next few years I would only watch a handful of episodes or snippets.

I’ve never been a huge fan, as I’ve said, but soaps are a staple for British Television – there was simply no getting away from them. Eastenders and Coronation Street are the big two from the UK, with Emmerdale eagerly hanging on and Hollyoaks doing it for the kids. I hear there is some show called Doctors these days too. As much as I watched Eastenders and Coronation Street, it was always Neighbours which I needed to see – it was simply sweeter, more quirky and light-hearted and funnier than the others. Watching Eastenders is like a slow seductive suicide while Coronation Street doesn’t have the emotional weight I need. I mean, it does, but it has too much of the old soap cliches – everyone has had an affair with everyone else. Neighbours doesn’t escape this, but it’s much softer and when the emotional moments come they hit all the more heavily. It’s also exotic, getting away from the stinking ever grey and brown streets of Britain. Oh yeah, for those wondering, I never could get in to Home And Away – I did try.

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Take your tears somewhere else….Alf

But what the hell am I talking about? Neighbours is a long-running Australian soap opera created by Reg Watson. It started in 1985, has over 7000 episodes, and has launched the careers of many famous peeps – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan? Guy Pearce and Natalie Imbruglia? Margot Robbie and Holly Valance? Liam and Chris Hemsworth? Russel Crowe? Them and many others got their start or appeared in the show and the show has been as much a hit in the UK as it has been in Oz. It has had its fair share of weddings, funerals, births and break-ups, and other assorted weirdness. It’s great, it’s crap, but mostly it’s mine… again.

Full disclosure – as of 2016 I am a regular Neighbours viewer again. After all the watching of promos and hearing some rumours of one particular ex-character making a return I thought I would dive in again. As you would expect with re-connecting with old family and friends after years apart there were some nerves and awkwardness. It took a few episodes, weeks, storylines before I was up to speed with who everyone was and how the related to the characters I already knew. The atmosphere and tone and spark is all still there, helped by the fact that there are still plenty of familiar faces – Karl, Susan, Toadie, Paul, Steph, Lou to name a few. One of the best moments for me was in a recent episode where a 2 second – literally 2 seconds – snippet of an old song they used to play regularly was played during an embarrassing moment. The song is called Sea Of Love – click that link and be prepared for nostalgic tickles if you watched the show in late 90s – early 2000s. I’m just waiting for them to play One Good Reason again – that would be sweet.

Music is one of many triggers the show uses to keep audiences involved – the show knows its audience and knows that many viewers are long-standing, yet for the longest time the show has catered towards a younger audience, even though it crosses generations. The key to this is that it focuses on the families on one street – Ramsey Street, and that several generations of the same families have been appearing since day 1. When it first started the main players were the Ramseys, the Robinsons, and the Clarkes – over time newer families were introduced – Kennedy, Willis, Bishop, Daniels, Canning Rebecchi, Scully, Mangel etc etc. We get invested – when someone leaves we miss them, when someone does we mourn them, and when someone returns we tune in to see them again even if we had already left by that point.

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Ta-da!

In case you didn’t know (and depending on when I post this and when you read it) Dee Bliss has returned to Neighbours.  At the time of writing this, she is only a day away from making her return. I will say that I wasn’t the biggest Dee fan in the world – I mean I like her of course, but she is more significant in that she represents that time when I was most obsessed with the show. I’m holding out that we may get a few more cameos coming back due to her return. For those who don’t watch the show this will be (at least) the second time that a character who was presumably killed off will be making a return. It’s thirteen years since her death/disappearance, making her absence longer than the infamous Harold Bishop vanishing act. Over the next few posts I’m going to indulge in more nostalgia by going over a few (a lot) of my favourite characters and sharing some of my favourite moments. I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll watch the show. I mean, I know you won’t – on either account – but it would be nice if you did. I’ll be your best friend?

Let us know in the comments if you watch/watched Neighbours and what you think of Dee’s return. What are your other favourite storylines and characters in the show?

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Sh*t I Watch – The Walking Dead

*Note – at time of writing the show was in its mid season break. Now that I’m returning to the post the same season has finished and I’ve added a bonus paragraph!

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Greeting, Glancers! It was inevitable, wasn’t it? My love of horror, apocalypse scenarios, TV, zombies – of course I was going to watch The Walking Dead, and of course I was going to love it. And of course I was going to include it in the Sh*t I Watch series. It should be noted though that I have not yet read the comics, though I hope to some day once they are cheap or someone gives me more money or an apocalypse comes and I can wander in to Forbidden Planet and take them free of charge. That’s what we all really want to see and dream about when we watch a show like this – the complete freedom to go and do as we please, no job, no responsibility, no future, our only care being how to survive.

Not Right

I won’t get into why this sort of thing is so cherished by people suffice to say that it has always been something I’ve fantasized about from an early age; all the usual questions – which weapon to use, where to live, how to travel, who to trust, what sort of person you should be – a lone warrior wading through the wasteland and killing zombies as you go, a trader who moves between settlements passing on information and supplies, part of an elite military or rescue group, hoard yourself with your family and only sneak outside when absolutely necessary, a peacemaker and builder who tries to bring society back from the brink? The possibilities are both endless and endlessly cliched, but it’s so easy to lose yourself in daydreams.

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‘And then I’d steal their weapons and eat their children… good times’

For my part, I don’t think the perfect zombie or apocalypse show has been made, though I love so many movies, books, and games which base themselves around similar ideas. I Am Legend and The Stand are my two favourite books of all time; Romero’s Dead trilogy are among my most loved movies of all time; since as far back as I can remember, the stories I have been most drawn to have involved some sort of survival against the odds, either a journey back to civilization, or the survival against its breakdown – all going back to when I first read The Odyssey in Primary School, along with all the other assorted heroic journey myths. I bought The Zombie Survival Guide the first day it was released, having had it pre-ordered for months. I wrote a draft script for my own TV series based around a zombie apocalypse years before The Walking Dead was developed. If I’m ever walking alone (which is most days) my thoughts invariably drift to questions like ‘how would I escape if I was surrounded in this street’ and ‘what would be the best way to travel to and from the city from here’. I have gone so far as printing out detailed Google Maps of the places I’ve lived and covered them in coloured lines to signify borders and barricades to build,filling them with notes on where the best place to live would be and how to divide survivors into teams to move from house to house, building to building, street to street taking out corpses and barricading the area to make it as safe as possible. In short, I am not right. What’s cool (and disturbing) though is how many people are the same. If friendly conversation in a group somehow turns to this topic, there is always, always at least one other person who is similarly intrigued by the whole thing and has spent hours obsessively pondering. Hopefully all this has set the scene for why, even though I sometimes scream at the TV for how boring and repetitive The Walking Dead can be, I wholehearted love it and forgive its flaws.

Swallowed Whole

If you somehow don’t know, The Walking Dead follows a group (or groups) of survivors in a world where society has collapsed due to a zombie outbreak. In grand zombie tradition the reasons for the outbreak are never explained and our lead character, Rick, missed most of the initial carnage. Waking in a hospital days after the world has essentially ended, a la The Day Of The Triffids, 28 Days Later, The Stand, etc etc, Rick seems to be the last person alive surrounded by flesh eating ‘Walkers’. Over time we find out that plenty of people have survived, including Rick’s family, friends, and other assorted goodies and baddies. Each series sees new characters introduced, old characters slaughtered, and plenty of human drama offset by scares, action, and horrific and delicious violence. Where The Walking Dead scores more highly over other recent shows that I watch is that it makes me care about the characters – I love some, I despise others, and the ones I am ambivalent about usually don’t last more than a few episodes. The characters feel real and you can understand the actions 0f even the most crazed or most evil, though there have been plenty of moments where you are confident that a certain character would never behave in a certain way based on what we have previously been shown. There isn’t a lot of humour, and in recent seasons the atmosphere has become almost unrelentingly bleak and tense as beloved characters are killed off with or without warning, and every glimmer of hope is swallowed whole.

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Uh oh

There’s a valid argument that this show and other fiction like it fails to take into account that most humans are essentially good, want to survive, and understand instinctively that to survive we need to live in packs and work together towards a common goal. Too often in this sort of show are there people only looking out for themselves and who will terrorize and murder everyone in sight if they don’t bend the knee or simply get in their way. Whether or not this would happen in reality is hard to say – history has shown that we’ve only got to where we are today by forming societies and ensuring that those things which harm the group are punished, those things which prevent us from losing our humanity are cast out. But of course, the most interesting characters are always the outcasts, rebels, and misfits and there wouldn’t be much drama if we focused solely on rebuilding and avoiding the dead – we’re only happy when we’re filled with dread or grief. In The Walking Dead there are moments which show how our main characters wrestle with the notion of humanity, frequently turning into animals themselves to survive or get what they want. Several have come close to ‘stepping over the edge’ and therefore losing their humanity. The problem may be that each series there is a bad guy or bad element for dramatic purposes who rarely crosses the line into humanity – we know they are evil from the moment we see them and that there is no hope for them. To the show’s credit, it recognizes this fact and does its damnedest to try to make these bad guys more human, but as a smart audience we understand that the twain cannot meet, and that TV demands our characters to remain stalwart and true against the baddies.

Throwaway Evil

I can’t speak for what Negan is like at this point, but lets look at the ‘big bads’ we’ve had so far. We’ve had Merle – essentially a psychopath, lines blurred by the fact that he is the brother of another character, Darryl. We’ve had Shane  – Rick’s best friend and the man who basically takes over looking after Rick’s family. As the series progress he feels like he is losing control and influence within the group and wants Lori (Rick’s wife) for himself, eventually resorting to cowardice and malice and murder. We’ve had The Governor, a self-placed leader of a successful community who seems like a saviour on the surface, but is ruthless underneath  – there are few real attempts at blurring the lines with him until a few brief moments after the collapse of Woodbury where it seems he could be human after all, but these don’t last long. We’ve had The Claimers – roving bandits whose loose set of rules is that whoever ‘claims’ something gets to keep it – throwaway evil. We had the people from Terminus – inviting survivors to an idyllic place only to execute and eat them, again they seem nice on the surface but are killers underneath with little attempt to blur the lines. The best and most frustrating attempt to blur this line is with the Policewoman Dawn, who rules Grady Memorial hospital. She genuinely wants to build a better world, but she allows her need for control get the better of her – she believes in upholding the law, but allows her men to rape and steal and hurt, she essentially turns the hospital into a prison demanding the most useful people to stay and help. She is shown to have good intentions but is also shown to be too cold and doesn’t get the character development needed to make us question whether the things she did were for the benefit of society or not. After she is dispatched, a large group of survivors decide to continue what she planned, but supposedly without resorting to inhuman activity – I wonder if we’ll see them again.

(Update since mid-Season: Season 6 to me had a major focus on this blurring of good and evil, with Rick and the gang frequently being seen by others as being the bad guys, or recklessly dangerous to the point that us the viewers will have been hard pressed to disagree with such notions. There is not simply a sense of performing awful acts to survive, but rather that they are going out of their way to kill because there might be a threat. They have become so deluded by their own confidence that when Negan finally makes his appearance in the final moments, his group has toyed so easily with Rick’s group as to make them seem like amateurs struggling within an ever-tightening noose.)

There are plenty of other examples of more minor bad guys (again notably the Doctor at Grady who seems like a good person but is killing certain patients for his own survival) and those who are simply canon fodder. But enough talk of such things, lets talk about what we really care about – guns, swords, and gore!

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Yum

We may stay for the drama, but we came for the blood. The Walking Dead raised the bar for depictions of violence on TV and has superb effects throughout thanks to genre legend Greg Nicotero and his crew of wizards. There is so much work and love put into the practical effects, the make up, and even the CG, that it is a joy for gore fiends like me. Even the most static episode will have an obligatory chunk bitten from an arm or headshot etc, but we go truly overboard with all manner of kills, injuries, and gruesome creatures on various states of rot. The sets and locations are suitably barren and reflect an America sickened and on its knees, however I am getting a little tired of the same scenery over and over – those leaf strewn roads and those same forests. I’d love a little more variety, and that’s why I’d love further spin offs showing survivors from around America, from around the world – beach zombies, mountain zombies, a last stand around Chichen Itza, tribes or roaming survivors in Africa, Australia, all keeping away from the cities – and of course why not some cities themselves – a group of scared politicians or officials holed up in suburbia, or a bunker, or in a palace or millionaire’s mansion? I haven’t watched any of the spin-off show Fear The Walking Dead yet, but I understand it takes place in another US city and deals more with the lead up to and immediate aftermath of the outbreak. All I’m saying is that there is still room for other ideas and people and places before it all becomes too saturated and silly.

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While the dialogue is peppered with inspirational speeches it’s not exactly the most quote-worthy show. There is a lot of introspection and there are a lot of arguments. Nevertheless, the show is well written and packs in plenty of surprises and shocks, though it’s clear those are on the wane. There isn’t a lot of humour and there isn’t a lot of love – when there is it usually doesn’t last. The show follows in the tradition of Buffy and Game Of Thrones by placing a lot of its ability to scare the viewer into us knowing that any character can be killed off at any time. There have been some rumblings recently though that the show has lost its bite and is now too scared to kill off one of the key players – a Rick, a Darryl for example. We’ve seen several main characters apparently be killed only for them to be miraculously resurrected which has pissed off quite a few people. The show does still have a high death count, not just bad guys and zombies,  but recurring cast members. If you make it through a couple of Seasons as an actor you’re bound to feel both lucky and wary that your days are numbered. We know someone from the main group died at Negan’s hands in the Season 6 finale, but we don’t know who. There are plenty of disposable characters, but we all have our favourites. My main issue at the moment is that the format does seem to be running thin – survivors find a new place to hide and live, a new human threat emerges, the threat must be overcome, usually at the expense of the place they were living and a few new characters. Rinse and repeat. I was excited by the prospect of the road trip to DC as that gave the show a different direction, a different endgame and purpose, but it fizzled out. We know the show will have to end some time, and I’m not advocating some pleasant answer where a cure is found and they all live happily ever after. I do think there needs to be an ending though, before the masses lose interest and they wrap it up in a lazy way. I’d be happy watching forever of course, guns and gore and zombies and I’ll watch. Even if it’s Zombie Nation, and that show is balls.

But I’ve rambled on long enough. I need to go check the barricades and make sure the surrounding streets are clear before it gets dark. Because they mostly come out at night. Mostly. Let us know your thoughts on The Walking Dead in the comments section – your favourite character, kill, and of course what you would do if, nay, when the zombies come.

Sh*T I Watch – Breaking Bad

In this series of posts, I’m going to talk briefly about some of my favourites 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.

Breaking Bad. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word against it, and those who watch it inevitably praise it. Well, all that’s about to change folks! Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and say that Breaking Bad is crap – it’s clearly not. It is an often excellent show with always superb performances, it tows the line between gripping tension, brutal violence, offbeat humour, and depicts its characters with a maniacal realism. But it isn’t without some faults, most of which are minor, subjective, and petty at worst, and I’m going to briefly talk about those below. But first, bear in mind that I have not yet finished the show – I’m almost at the end of Season 4 – which has taken me maybe two years to reach, so I don’t have much more to watch – NO SPOILERS!

Breaking Bad’s first series was an entertaining blend of humour and drama with two interesting characters who you wanted to root for, but also screamed at for dumb decisions. Season 1’s biggest failing perhaps was the lack of interesting supporting characters – with the exception of Hank no-one else really felt important or worthwhile (although Jessie’s assorted mates provided some decent light relief). Later seasons have rectified this by bringing in a more layered cast of characters, each with their flaws and plus points, and even characters not used to great effect ni the early days begin to show their worth. I do feel though that the addition of new characters has been at the detriment to the plot – we’re basically going through the same moves now, with Walt and Jessie getting up to some dire escapade and just barely avoiding death or the law or worse. Each Season has its own arc, but at its core it’s still about getting rich off drugs and not getting caught or killed in the process. That doesn’t mean that the show is not worth watching, clearly it is, just that it doesn’t engage or excite me as it did in its early days. The stakes are higher, but somehow the drama is less intense.

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The show’s strength having said all of that is its writing. There are few shows which can compete with the writing of the characters in Breaking Bad. The conflicts within and between each character are multi-faceted, and the likes of Walt and Jessie are given exceptional dilemma and dialogue. The show, again highlighted in its early days, is written with a scientific precision and it is again one of a very small number of series which makes you feel smarter just by watching. On the flip side, the show is not afraid to go deep into the dark, seedy side of drugs, abuse, and the criminal underbelly. It tows the line between the glossy side of drugs – the money, the feeling, the experience, but never shies away from the fact that someone somewhere is being killed, tortured, or abused by making, selling, or taking these narcotics. The dialogue though is only as strong as the person delivering it, and with Breaking Bad there is a stellar cast who are so good they risk being typecast themselves. Even the bit players, or those who are important for a few episodes are stellar. While lacking the Hollywood names of shows which would come after, Breaking Bad is definitely one of the shows which heralded in this New Golden Age Of Television, where the best writers, actors, and directors realised they could give better performances, tell greater stories, and reach wider audiences on the small screen.

One thing which the show gets a lot of praise for is its music; not for me though. Too often are there pointless musical interludes or unnecessary blasts of sound or songs. These pieces are more often than not irritating and, well, crappy. Sure it can be argued that they set the scene for the border war area, but for me they get in the way, add nothing, and could be easily replaced by a more traditional score. Something more petty which bothers me is the emptiness of the setting. This looks like a dead America, lifeless and barren. I’m sure this is all deliberate, and understand that I’m not taking about the deserts employed in Season 1, but rather the town and suburban areas. This is a personal thing which in no way detracts from the show, but it gives me some feelings I can’t quite put into words – something akin to depression, the same feelings I see in the autumn countryside where everything reeks of death and useless expanses of land decaying.

Leaving loose ends is something I’ve also noticed, and while i haven’t finished the show to see if some of these are picked up on, to me it gives the impression of the writers trying to take a story or character in one direction but then abandoning that idea. I know that my two examples below aren’t the best as I;m sure they will be revisited, but as I’m writing this from the top of my head with no prior planning, you’ll have to bear with me. Jessie’s relationship with what’s her name goth girl – not necessarily set up to have the tragic ending that it did have, but at this point Walt has not had to answer for his crimes. Like I say, I’m sure this will come around again, but I get the feeling that this was set up to be a central conflict between Jessie, Walt, even the girl’s father – but that they decided to sweep it under the carpet. Similarly, Hank’s brief job down south where he witnesses a brutal turtle-related explosion, is all set up to show how scared and unhinged Hank is becoming but there is no pay-off or resolution. Some will argue that this lead to Hank’s beating of Jessie, but for me it again looked like the writers wanted to do something different with Hank then, for whatever reason, discarded the idea. Naturally both of these examples are covered up nicely but the rough edges remain.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5b _ Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

So, enough moaning. Good acting and good writing is usually enough to get me watching any TV show. The idea of this meek, dying, mid-life crisis, talent thrown away man becoming a drug king pin is the main reason for the show existing, and Walt’s transformation over time is brilliantly executed. From the subtle moments in the early episodes of him failing to lose his nerve, from his increasingly devious and desperate plans, to his eventual cold-blooded malice and self-serving violence and vengeance is arguably the best portrayal of one man’s descent ever filmed. Jessie’s changes have likewise been interesting, but more uneven – from drug-taking waster, to man on the street with connections, to Walt’s lackey, to reformed junkie, to efficient drug-maker and killer. I want to see what happens next to these two – Skylar was such a wasted opportunity that I don’t care what happens to her. With a better written wife, a more interesting character from the start, she could have created and become involved in more interesting drama, instead of being the paranoid, bored, boring housewife who goes down the tried and pointless storytelling technique of having sex with someone else – the show doesn’t know what to do with its women. Side characters like Saul, Hank, all have their moments and are more the sort of person the show needs to keep that spark as the series progresses. Again personally, the show never quite pulls me in enough that I feel I need to watch episodes in rapid succession, but after some time passes I do want to come back to it.

That seems like a reasonable place to stop. I’d like to go on a little more about the humour but for now I’ll say that the show has a fair amount of funny moments, whether it be silly slapstick, or simply the increasing ridiculous nature of the scrapes the characters paint themselves into. I could talk more about the violence, the realism, the smaller side characters, but for now I want to go finish the season and see what happens next as it has been a few weeks since I last watched an episode. Let us know in the comments what you make of Breaking Bad – are you a fan, or are you one of the crazed few who hasn’t been wrapped up in the love-fest? How does that Saul spin-off show shape-up? Inject your opinions below.