R.I.P. Stevie Ryan (1984 – 2017)

R.I.P. Stevie Ryan (1984 – 2017)This morning I Googled Stevie Ryan’s name on a random whim, and was horrified to discover that she’d hanged herself in July, after a bout of depression linked to the death of her grandfather. She was only 33 years-old, and an incredibly talented mimic/comedian… not to mention very beautiful, for what it’s worth… so I was deeply saddened by this belated news. I wasn’t able to watch the second season of Stevie TV, but several sketches from the first season have snagged in my brain, to become part of my vocabulary… and her songs still make me laugh whenever I play them (especially “Goth Blocked”)… and it’s a tragedy/travesty that all we have left of her now is a handful of YouTube clips, when she had so much potential and promise as a performer.

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Laugh Overload

[Contains lusty lay-by liaisons and SPOILERS!!!]

There was so much new (and new-ish) comedy airing this week, that I barely got through it all without losing my breath… er, from laughter, that is, not weird pervy wheezing… though there was a bit of that too (for reasons that will be explained in gratuitous detail)…

Penny Johnson Jerald as ‘Dr. Claire Finn’ in “The Orville” (S1)First up was Seth MacFarlane’s new Star-Trek-spoof/homage The Orville, which I’ve been excitedly anticipating ever since I saw an extended trailer back in July… so I was rather surprised/disappointed to see it getting such negative reviews now that’s it finally arrived. At the time of writing this, it has a critical approval rating of just 21% at Rotten Tomatoes… but a rather more heartening audience approval rating of 89%! Having watched the first episode for myself, I’d have to say I’m siding with the “hoi-polloi” on this one… the show is far from perfect, but I thought it showed a lot of promise, and livened up my dinner time a lot more than the new kosher Trek series (Discovery) is likely to, if its trailer is anything to judge by. In fairness, I’m not sure Orville’s actually any smarter, funnier, or more engaging than TNG was back in the day… but if the official franchise is going to go all dark and brooding, then there’s obviously going to be an audience/market for off-brand shows like this one, that harken back to the more playful comedy episodes of ToS, TNG, and DS9. You also have to give MacFarlane credit for creating such strong female characters to prop his hero up, as the newly-promoted captain of an intergalactic exploratory vessel (The U.S.S Orville)… and for casting such established actresses in those roles, to keep him on his toes performance-wise! Penny Johnson Jerald plays ‘Dr. Claire Finn’, a forthright physician who’s volunteered to serve on the ship solely because she thinks its newbie captain’s inexperience will keep things interesting… Adrianne Palicki plays ‘Kelly Grayson’, the ship’s first officer and (not-coincidentally) the ex-wife of its embittered captain, who is trying to make amends for her previous sexual transgressions by supporting him in his new position (an epilogue scene reveals that she was the one pulling strings behind the scenes to get him promoted in the first place!)… and relative newcomer Halston Sage plays ‘Alara Kitan’, an inexperienced security officer, whose petite frame belies her alien super-strength! A combination of Kelly’s brains and Alara’s brawn saved the day (and potentially the universe) in this pilot episode, and I look forward to seeing all three femmes getting plenty more “hero” moments in future instalments… fingers crossed…

Aisling Bea and Sally Phillips ala “Taskmaster” (S5)Next up was the fifth “season” opener of quirky-celebrity-challenge-show Taskmaster, which this year boasts Aisling Bea and Sally Phillips as contestants. The show is just as ridiculous/hilarious as ever… but the highlight of this episode for me had to be when the participants were tasked with giving creator/co-host Alex Horne a “special cuddle”, and Phillips chose to lie on his prostrate body, shoving chocolate cake into his armpits, while grinning with twisted glee. Very odd… though I couldn’t help envying him a little… until she started getting carried away, shoving random bits of fruit in his mouth and pouring water in his eyes … Ack! Despite this bizarre display, the adorable actress still elicited the studio audience’s sympathy after being disqualified in a later task, for wearing a pair of wellington boots on her hands to get a basketball through a hoop (without touching it directly), despite the instructions clearly/strictly forbidding the use of gloves or glove-like items. In fact, host Greg Davies was so intimidated by the strength of the reaction against his ruling, that he promised he wouldn’t disqualify her for anything else in future, for fear of becoming unpopular with the public! Fun (but unconfirmed) fact: According to Wikipedia, the next season will see all of the previous winners (and this year’s as-yet-unknown winner) competing against each other in a “Champion of Champions” face-off! Crikey.

Lauren Socha  as ‘Catherine “Cat” Walcott’ in “The Other One”Finally, there was a prospective BBC sitcom pilot called The Other One, written by comedian Holly Walsh, and starring Ellie White as an uptight straight-arrow who discovers that her recently-deceased father was a bigamist, and that she has a secret half-sister with the exact same name as her, played by the inimitable Lauren Socha! Their respective (and resentful) mothers were played by Rebecca Front and Siobhan Finneran… so a great showcase for some incredibly talented women, and a textbook sitcom premise that neatly brings two worlds crashing together, for plenty class-divide culture-clash hijinks, and some sweet (if short-lived) moments of unexpected emotional bonding. Of course, I was already familiar with White’s work in The Windsors, but she plays such an exaggerated cartoon in that show, it was slightly disorienting to hear her talking like a normal human person… still, I think she makes a very strong claim for her “leading lady” status here, confidently holding her own while sharing the screen with Socha, who can easily steal a scene with little more than a smile or a scowl (or a deftly-deployed swear), not to mention seasoned all-stars like Front and Finneran. Bless ‘em. On a slightly pervier tack, I also got a big kick out of seeing Socha back in black for the funeral scene… hotcha! Apparently this episode was just a one-off taster, to test the water… but it’s been getting good reviews in the press, so hopefully the Beeb will see sense and commission a full series (or three).

Meanwhile, the return (or continuation) of Dice, Upstart Crow, The News Quiz, Full Frontal (with Sam Bee), Broad City, Get Krackin, and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown have all added to the hilarity. ‘Tis a good time to be alive with a functioning funny-bone!

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Renée Resurgent?

Lisa Nicole Carson ala “Essence” magazine (circa 2015)The 20th anniversary of Ally McBeal’s first airing (8/9/97) has inspired several “Where are they now?” articles, and I was delighted to discover that Lisa Nicole Carson is making a determined effort to revive her acting career, after a lengthy hiatus necessitated by her struggles with bipolar disorder… as outlined in an interview she gave to Essence magazine, back in 2015. Since then she’s scored a supporting role in The New Edition Story, a three-part biographical mini-series about the eponymous boy-band, which aired on BET earlier this year, and prompted numerous eye-popping red-carpet appearances. Hurrah!

Although it would be impossible for me to pick a single favourite Ally cast member, considering how talented they all were/are, Carson was a consistent scene-stealer, and a “double threat” to boot, with her singing and acting prowess… so it’s a crying shame that she hasn’t been able to enjoy the same level of success that her co-stars have, in the intervening decades. Hopefully by the time their 25th anniversary rolls around, she’ll have a series starring role and a couple gold records under her belt. Make it so!

Fun fact: The last onscreen appearance of Carson’s character, ‘Renee Raddick’, was actually a cameo in another David E. Kelley legal dramedy, Harry’s Law (2011-2012), as the judge hearing an anti-affirmative-action suit in the second season finale (ep #2.22). Naturally she also joined the main cast for a drink and impromptu musical number, after they’d all clocked off! Unfortunately that was the last episode of the show to air before it was cancelled, so it wasn’t much of a comeback… but it’s nice to know that she’s still out there laying down the law in some unseen corner of the Kelley-verse…

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Quasi-GothWatch: “Tiny Jane”

Katie Stevens as ‘Jane Sloan’ in “The Bold Type” (S1)Last week, The Bold Type signed off with its “summer finale”… which, according to a rather worrying article in Variety, might also serve as the series finale, due to the disappointingly low ratings that this otherwise excellent series has racked up. Of course, as a freeloading leech I don’t have a very sturdy leg to stand on when it comes to bemoaning the size of their official/legal audience… but I do think it would be a shame if this show didn’t get the six-seasons-and-a-movie that it surely deserves. In my post about the pilot episode, I casually compared it to Sex and the City, but it’s actually proven to be a far more socially-aware and politically-engaged animal than any of its glossy “lifestyle-porn” predecessors. Thankfully, there’s also plenty of fashionista frippery and bestie-bonding in the mix, to sweeten the spoonfuls of medicine that the more serious storylines serve up… achieving an admirably adept balance between comedy and drama that many other writers’ rooms can only envy. Which is probably why the show has attracted so much positive attention in the press, even if it hasn’t been sticking enough bums to seats out there in the living rooms of “real America”. Sigh…

Katie Stevens as ‘Jane Sloan’ in “The Bold Type” (S1)But getting back to the supposed subject of this post: While junior-journalist-on-the-rise ‘Jane Sloan’ (Katie Stevens) clearly isn’t a “Goth” by any stretch of the imagination, she does have a habit of turning up at the office in all-black/mostly-black outfits with goth-y frills and lacy-bits, and absolutely rocking them. Of course, her naturally pale skin and dark hair certainly help to sell the look… so I’m always a little let-down when she shrugs off the vampiric vibes, and changes into something lighter, or more colourful (usually in the second half of the episode, oddly). I was about to say that she could be a fashion-spiration for all aspiring “Corporate Goths”… but then I found the WornOnTV web-page that provides a rundown of all her outfits, and discovered that many of the pieces she wears are from top-end designer labels, that would set you back (literally) thousands of dollars to purchase! Eep!

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Hallo, Halo! [Updated]

"The Ultimate Collection: Issue 2: The Ballad Of Halo Jones", cover art by Ian GibsonGreat news for fans of Alan Moore, Ian Gibson, and/or satirical female-led space-opera: The Ballad Of Halo Jones is being re-released in a fancy hardcover edition, with bonus content, this coming Wednesday (6/9/17) (13/9/17)*… and, because it’s the second issue of a “part-works” series (called 2000 AD: The Ultimate Collection), this handsome tome will be available at newsagents across the UK, for the bargain price of just £6-99!!!

To quote the official blurb, TBoHJ is “a powerful tale of one young woman’s attempt to escape the monotony of her life on Earth and seek adventure as she journeys across the galaxy”, which appeared on-and-off in weekly instalments from 1984-6. According to Wikipedia it was planned to run to nine books, chronicling Halo’s life from adolescence through old age. However, the series was discontinued after three books due to a dispute between Moore and [2000 AD’s] publishers, over the intellectual property rights of the characters [he] and Gibson had co-created.” Sounds about right.

Obviously Moore is a master of the medium, and Gibson is my fave comic-book artist of all time, so its great to see this classic series getting another airing, with such widespread distribution. That said, it did take me a while to find the first issue (a reprint of Slaine: The Horned God by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley) in our local WHSmiths, because it was hidden away in a hard-to-reach corner behind the cash-desk… so I recommend looking in the least-convenient place first…


* Went in to buy it this morning (7/9/17), and discovered the first issue still sitting there in the box… now the collection’s Wikipedia page has been updated to reveal that the release dates have been pushed back a week… though apparently no one warned the 2000 AD Twitter droid about it either!

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Ilsana Auction

Patrick-Nagel-style portrait of ‘Ilsa’ (from “Danger 5”) by David AshbyMy long-cherished dream of establishing a museum dedicated to Natasa Ristic came one step closer to fruition this week, with the announcement that the peeps behind Australian-retro-spy-spoof Danger 5 would be auctioning off as many props, masks, costumes, and models from the show as they could salvage from the vaults of their secret volcano-island hideout.

The catalogue boasts numerous items used by Ristic’s character ‘Ilsa’ in both seasons, such as her hip-flask and “bombushka” grenade, as well as various uniforms/disguises, and a couple images of the sultry Soviet siren herself (including this rather gorgeous “Patrick-Nagel-style” portrait by David Ashby). Plus a bunch of stuff the other characters used/wore, of course…

Anyhoo, the auction kicks off on September 17th, and will run for a week… or until the world is destroyed by ego-maniacal despots… whichever comes first…

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“Shall We Begin?”

[Contains super-sonic ravens and SPOILERS!!!]

Sophie Turner as ‘Sansa Stark’ in “Game of Thrones” (S7)The seventh season of Game of Thrones ended as it began (sort of) with an army of ice-zombies marching inexorably south, to wage a “great war” between the living and the dead. I can’t speak to the original novels, but imho the TV series would actually be a lot better off without the “Night King” and his lumbering horde… I mean, yes, they look great, and as a horror-fan I understand the appeal of an implacable, seemingly-invincible supernatural enemy… but they’re entirely mute, and largely homogenous, lacking all of the humour, individuality, and unpredictability of the show’s best villains/anti-heroes. A couple seasons back, I realised that the longer the series went on, and the closer the Wights got to civilisation, the less time/space there’d be for the sort of political manipulation, manoeuvring, and moral-ambiguity that was the show’s stock-in-trade/unique-selling-point. And sure enough, without the literary source material to shore it up, GoT has devolved into an Epic Fantasy action series, shedding its gut-wrenching sadism in favour of crowd-pleasing spectacle. That being said, it’s still one of the best shows on television right now, and well worth the price of admission, thanks to its stacked cast, and beloved long-serving characters…

Emilia Clarke as ‘Daenerys Targaryen’ in “Game of Thrones” (S7)First and foremost has to be Queen ‘Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) who finally landed on Westerosi soil in the premiere episode, to reclaim her ancestral home (Dragonstone Island), and set about winning the hearts and minds of her erstwhile motherland. Although the “armchair general” in me couldn’t help tut-tutting at her aerial-combat tactics (Why approach the line of Lannister troops head-on and punch a shallow corridor through their ranks with dragon-fire, when you could just make a parallel approach and burn them all with a length-wise swoop… if you see what I mean?), and the wannabe-writer in me rolled his eyes at the showrunners’ reckless, logic-defying eagerness to conscript one of her precious “children” into the Wight army, it was gratifying to see Dany interacting (and forging alliances) with the other major players in the “great game”, after her long exile abroad. I’m not quite as invested in her romantic relationship with ‘Jon Snow’ (Kit Harington) as some other viewers might be, but I did appreciate the twisted humour of the two of them hooking up just as its revealed to the audience that they’re actually aunt and nephew! Hee.

Maisie Williams as ‘Arya Stark’ in “Game of Thrones” (S7)Meanwhile, ‘Arya’ (Maisie Williams) probably scored the most cathartic stand-out scenes this season: She really hit the ground running in the premiere episode, wearing ‘Walder Frey’s (David Bradley) face in order to mock and annihilate his family-line… then there was her genuinely moving reunion/parting with AWOL direwolf Nymeria (ep #7.2)… and her long-awaited return to the family pile, where she hugged it out with big-sister ‘Sansa’ (Sophie Turner), and playfully sparred with ‘Brienne’ (Gwendoline Christie) (ep #7.2). Of course, things started to get kinda shaky after that, as it appeared that the Stark sisters were naively allowing the wily “Littlefinger” (Aidan Gillen) to insinuate a wedge between them… only for the tables to turn in the finale, as the siblings united to sentence and silence that silver-tongued schemer, once and for all. Hurrah! Although it’s a shame to see him leave the stage, it was a huge relief to learn that Arya and Sansa had been working a long-con together, and that ‘Bran’ (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) was using his hard-won “Greenseer” powers to actually help/protect people, rather than just creep them out!

Ellie Kendrick as ‘Meera Reed’ in “Game of Thrones” (S7)Sadly, the aforementioned Brienne seemed to spend most of the season either training or fretting, which was a bit of a let down… though I did enjoy her bonding with “The Hound” (Rory McCann) over their mutual affection for Arya, in the finale. I was very disappointed by Bran’s unceremonious dismissal of ‘Meera’ (Ellie Kendrick, aka “England’s Sweetheart”) in ep #7.4, after all the poor thing had done for him*… though at least she’s still alive (as far as we know), and theoretically available for a triumphant return in the next season… unlike the much-maligned “Sand Snakes”, who were either dispatched outright (in the case of ‘Obara’ (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and ‘Nymeria’ (Jessica Henwick) in ep #7.2) or dumped in a dungeon to rot (in the case of ‘Ellaria’ (Indira Varma) and ‘Tyene’ (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) in ep #7.3), as the writers hastily washed their hands of the entire Dornish debacle. Feh. ‘Olenna’ (Diana Rigg) was another unfortunate casualty of the narrative downsizing, but at least she got to deliver a poisonous parting-shot before she snuffed if (also ep #7.3). I hated seeing the Ironborn amazon ‘Yara’ (Gemma Whelan) reduced to a damsel-in-distress in the service of ‘Theon’s (Alfie Allen) belated redemption arc… but hopefully she’ll be allowed to play a larger role in the battles-still-to-come, after her successful rescue (preferably in the premiere episode)…? Fingers crossed!

Oh, and (much like the writers themselves) I almost forgot about ‘Lyanna’ (Bella Ramsey), who was basically just brought back in eps #7.1-2 for a retread of her previous scene-stealing turn in a couple council meetings, before disappearing entirely. Boo! How can she become Arya’s BFF if they never even meet???


* BOOK SPOILER: I haven’t read them, but apparently Bran has a serious crush on Meera in the original novels… which I can totally sympathise with, if she’s anything like her on-screen counterpart!

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