Eoin Mason and Shawn Cain predict Brodus Clay’s squash match victim, talk about a possible World’s Strongest Slam streak from Mark Henry, rant about HHH and wonder what kind of drugs the writing team were on when writing the storyline for Cena/Rock. Oh, and do WrestleMania predictions.
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Apologies for some sound quality issues in the first half, caused by an iffy connection while recording! Send any feedback to email@example.com or in the comments below.
Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below.
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Robert Seidelman: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of US Vs. UK. I am Game Show Garbage’s Robert Q. Seidelman.
Chris Nelson: And I am TV Editor of MultiMediaMouth and host of The TV Thing, Chris Nelson
RS: This time around we’re going to cover something more current than what we’ve normally done in the past.
CN: Looking at a show that leaves me deeply conflicted as a TV critic, The Weakest Link.
RS: With the show finishing up a great 11 year run on BBC Daytime, we will be comparing that one to our daytime version. Note the term daytime because both of our nighttime versions were similar.
CN: I’ll just explain from the off why I’m conflicted on the show.
RS: Please do.
CN: I think in itself, the show is great, it’s format works, it’s not overly gimmicked (although it relied too heavily on a gimmick which it exploited to get popular, which subsequently hurt it), but the twists on the conventional game show it introduced, the team element and the tension side of it has spawned several dreadful game shows that have chosen to focus on those elements and try and emulate them, rather than getting a solid format in the first place, leaving us with a generation of game shows lacking any real substance or interest beyond their window dressing. So show = good, influence = damaging
RS: It’s like the infatuation that Deal or no Deal made on TV. Look how many crappy clones we got out of that show that just threw in a quiz element. You had The Colour of Money, Set for the Rest of Your Life, High stakes.
RS: Yes, the UK weakest Link gave us the biggest piece of UK Garbage there was in Shafted.
CN: Which is my cue for THAT clip!
RS: And Yes, I will finally do the long awaited Robert Kilroy Silk induction in 2012.
CN: I have some background information to give you for that one, just around his political career pre-media career
RS: Good, I can use it. But back to the US Vs. UK thing. We have 5 categories that we judge on. Those being Host, Gameplay, Presentation, Impact and personal preference.
CN: So then…host….Do we really have to look at her twice?
RS: No because when the show moved to daytime over here, we got a new host.
CN: George Gray?
RS: That’s right.
CN: I know very little of this man, but I’m going to make a huge snap judgment looking at a picture of him, and reading a brief description of him and say that he would annoy my teeth out of my gums!
RS: Well, he toned it down from what he did earlier on, but when you actually see him host the show, it’s a different story. He is a good fit for this show. He knows when to turn the snark on and in a good way, unlike some wrestling fans that we know, but we won’t go there.
CN: How did he compare to Anne Robinson then? Because when she was on form, and didn’t work the catty remarks too hard, she had fun with it and was good, but too often she seemed like she was phoning it in and reading generic insults off a card.
RS: No, and even he made some jabs at anne at the contestants expense. One of them being, “Who here is still waiting for some british lady to ask them questions?”
CN: I like that a lot. I warm to this man
RS: Also, he was a great question reader, even knowing when to speed up reading the quesitons when tehre was about 10 or so seconds left on the clock.
CN: Anne Robinson did struggle with that too. She never seemed to be aware of the timing on the round. So in a spectacular show of backtracking…I’m leaning towards Mr Gray here.
RS: Not only that, he showed a bit of a great personality than Anne. He had great chemistry with the contestants.
CN: So George Gray is taking this first round then?
RS: It should be noted that he’s the new announcer for the US version of The Price Is Right, so there ya go. George Gray beats the Watchdog Queen herself Anne Robinson. 1-0 USA
CN: US vs UK: We do controversy.
RS: So now we do the gameplay. It’s pretty much the same game, but there are different nuances.
CN: Do tell
RS: The UK version is an hour long and has 9 contestants. First round lasts for 2:40, minus 10 seconds after each elimination. The max on the daytime chain is 1,000 pounds. The US version is only a half hour long with 6 contestants. First round lasts for 1:45, minus 15 seconds for each elimination. The Max on the chain is $12,500. The other difference, due to time is that while the UK versions final round had 5 rounds questions, where the US had 3.
CN: I will say here that I am always in favour of longer shows, because you build up a connection to the contestant, positive or negative, so the final conclusion means more
RS: So, you’d go for the UK version.
CN: I’m torn, the bigger prize makes the US version tempting
RS: Ok, but here’s why I’m voting UK. When season 2 of the US link came about, they changed up the format and chain. The top value on the chain became $25,000 and there were only 4 rounds. And after the 4th round vote, the two left standing went to the head to head, so if you were one of the smartest there, odds are you were getting ko’ed.
CN: Ah, yes that is a disadvantage. UK it is then.
RS: Uk takes this one: Tie Score 1-1. Now we’re on to presentation. Graphics were the same, and the set were the same on both fronts.
CN: The music?
RS: Exactly the same. So we have some minor differences.
CN: Such as?
RS: In the US version, they wrote votes on telestrators and hit a button to show their votes. The US version had audience members in black shirts and it looked even more eerily fascinating.
CN: I always wondered why they didn’t use the telestrators on the UK daytime. They had them on the primetime, so it’s not like they weren’t around.
RS: And the Primetime verison had audience members. So, point to the US it seems.
CN: Very much so.
RS: Ok, so it’s 2-1 US. Now to Impact. I don’t think its’ that much of a challenge here for the UK version. UK version lasting 11 years, while the US version only 2 in daytime.
CN: It was MASSIVE here, it’s a shame it’s going down with such a whimper.
RS: The last episode is going to be all of Anne’s crushes. I.e. we’re going ot see lots of eye-candy for most of the female contingent. With that said, It played second banana here in daytime to the usual suspects in Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Family Feud. So, it’s going to have to go to the UK.
CN: I’m surprised any male would want to appear on a show with such a theme for fear of having their essence stolen.
RS: Right. So we’re back to a tie score in 2-2. Now we have the tiebreaker in personal preference.
CN: Which is where my conflict comes in. I’m going to go with…..the US one. I think my contempt has overrun my admiration for the UK version.
RS: As much as I like the UK version, that first season of US Daytime was must-watch. So, US gets the personal preference and the win with a 3-2 score.
CN: That has to be considered a shock
RS: Yeah, the shorter-lived version gets the win. And for the next US Vs. UK, We do Family Fortunes Part 2: the late 80s to the end of the 20th century.
CN: So what happens here? One of us gets voted off?
RS: Not really, we just look at the camera and say Join us next time for US. Vs. UK. Goodbye. *Wink*
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An American family – Mom, Dad and moody teenager – moves into a house. The house was bought at a bargain price. Creepy neighbours turn up unannounced at every possible opportunity. Weird stuff starts to happen. Oh, look, there’s someone in a gimp suit!
Welcome to the dark world of American Horror Story. Take all the ingredients from the Haunted House movie genre, throw in some adult content and some teenage angst for maximum appeal, hire an ageing female star of the 1980s, now too old to get any decent work in Hollywood, give it a good shake and put it on FX – one of the ‘interesting’ US television networks – et voila, you have a hit series.
The concept of AHS is certainly interesting: the haunted house story that we all know from classic horror movies like Poltergeist, Amityville Horror and The Shining, is developed into an entire 12 episode series, allowing for a lot more to happen than the usual moving in, things going bump in the night, freaking out, moving out that the genre rules usually allow. This is why I had a lot of hopes for AHS, and for the first half of the series, I was not disappointed.
In the first few episodes we are introduced to some really great characters, the first and foremost being Jessica Lange as the interfering neighbour – a failed actress and single mother, with a Down syndrome daughter and younger lover. Afflicted by the curse of being Too Old For Hollywood, Lange hasn’t really done that much in recent years. For all of us who grew up in the 80s, it is a wonderful treat to be able to see her in a regular role.
Younger audiences are also kept happy with two really great teenage leads. There is newcomer Taissa Farmiga brilliantly cast as Violet – for once, a teenage character who does actually seem constantly in some form of emotional pain. Farmiga’s Violet, hopefully thanks to the talent of the make-up artist, looks ill, anaemic and dead-eyed. What better love interest for her then than Evan Peters in the role of Tate, a boy who is not only dead, but also clearly a Nirvana fan (check out his stripy top and cardigan from episode 1) as well as being the cold-blooded perpetrator of a Columbine-style mass murder. The two make the perfect teenage emo couple, something that almost seems to have been created with the sole purpose of being the subject of endless posts on Tumblr by the show’s younger fans.
In this respect, AHS follows the footsteps of shows as disparate as The Simpsons, Frasier and The O.C. by providing multiple layers of meaning and embedded cultural references aimed at different age groups and types of viewer. There are references to music, for instance where Tate says to Violet: ‘Do you have any Kurt Cobain?’ (although is anyone aware of Kurt Cobain’s solo music? Wouldn’t ‘do you have any Nirvana’ have made more sense?). There’s a nod to Freud in a nice little speech, improbably uttered by the Moira, the maid, on the origins of the word “hysteria”. Even John Keats gets a mention in the form of a quote of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. This is the kind of TV that aims at making every viewer feel included, and in my case it almost succeeded.
What doesn’t work that well for me, is the casting of the two main adult leads who play Violet’s parents. Maybe it’s because Dylan McDermott as Ben, the father, bears more than a slight resemblance to Clive Owen – only his facial expression ranges from Owen-style wooden to even more wooden. Maybe it’s because Connie Britton as ‘Mom’ Vivien is a character who, no matter how hard I try, I cannot warm to (have you seen Britton’s perma-smug face?). Or, arguably, it could equally be the intended effect of a script that is manipulating me so astutely that I am siding with the bad guys instead.
The thing is, I am not entirely sure as to who the bad guys actually are. Are they the ghosts of the dead, forever trapped within the confines of house? It seems unfair, as they are all, to various degrees, themselves victims of violent crimes. What about their living accomplices, such as Constance and even Violet, the latter who, in order save her relationship with Tate, betrays her own mother? And what exactly are they all trying to achieve?
As of episode 9, it is still not very clear. I am confused: everybody is having sex with everybody, so surely, things can’t be that bad. There’s lesbian action, necrophilia (the dead don’t look dead, but they are) and of course, the killer in the gimp suit. It caters for all tastes. But wait: they have now mentioned Anti-Christ, and we know Vivien is pregnant with twins! Suddenly, I think I know where this is going. Will both babies be named Damien?
There are still three episodes to go (for us watching on FX in the UK) so there is still scope for improvement. The show has already been renewed for a second season, which will have entirely different characters – although some will be played by the same actors from season 1, and will be set in a different but equally haunted location. This sounds very promising, with no prospect of the current story being dragged on and on, lose its viewers and eventually be cancelled after two seasons like ‘V’.
As a huge fan of the haunted house genre (I have affectionately renamed my house Amityville), I am intrigued to see what new elements can be brought to season 2. Personally, I think AHS needs less, rather than more: less sex, less gloss and fewer characters – less of the gimps, more of the ghouls.
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4.(a) For the purpose of eating we will consider some reality TV as fiction: there is, after all, little reality in reality TV, as Hugh Hefner once tweeted. Any single episode of Kendra! or Keeping Up With The Kardashians is so scripted that, in comparison, Holby City seems improvised in the style of Stanislavski’s method system.
4.(b) There is also another obvious exception to Rule 3 – i.e. watching Man vs Food whilst eating is not only perfectly acceptable, but actively encouraged.
5. It helps if food is heavily featured in the VM: The Sopranos is excellent in this respect, with the characters pretty much constantly eating, swapping Pyrex dishes of baked pasta, idly opening the fridge, ordering pizza, cooking and then eating some more. When they are not whacking someone, of course.
6. Don’t pick anything with a particularly complex plot. Remember ,you will have to look down at your plate at least occasionally and the sound of your own mandibles chewing will inevitably distract you from what could be a vital narrative twist. So keep it simple: House is ok (you already know that it’s NOT Lupus) and so is something light and fluffy like The Mentalist; but trying to follow The Wire whilst stuffing your face is setting yourself up for failure. Also see 7.
7. For the reason described above, it is also a good idea to pick a show with subtitles and put them on, ready for those moments when scraping cutlery and the chewing sound in your head interfere with your Mega Dolby Digital 5.1 home cinema set-up with surround sound.
8. Subtitles are there as a back-up plan, not as the main conveyor of dialogue: therefore, if the VM is not in a language you understand well, it will NOT do. So keep your boxset of The Killing in all its original Danish glory for another time, and the same goes for any strange ideas you may about stuffing your face to the first series of Heimat, unless you are fluent in Dutch or German.
9. (WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT SPOILER!) At the risk of stating the obvious, avoid any VM containing excessively gory scenes, as MMM editor Chris found out recently as he was idly eating his dinner during an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Then the scalping scene came on. Oh-oh.
10. Finally, if you are on a diet (this is, after all, the first week of January), don’t bother with any of the above. The chances are that, as you munch on your salad, Tony Soprano will be taunting you from the TV screen with a huge plate of lasagne and calling you a pussy. It’s really not worth torturing yourself. Instead, switch over to the shopping channels and just lose yourself in the first available diet & fitness infomercial, and maybe one day you, too, will look like the Kettlebell swinging, Ab circling Venus/Adonis.
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