Archive for the ‘TV’ category


Seasonal Canadian humour

22.11.2019

My thanks to Sydney-based photographer Robert Catto for linking me to this one, especially near the festive season.

   It is funnier than the one I took in Sweden many years ago, which in pun-land could be racist:

   The sad thing is, at some point, the majority will not get the top joke.
   I have a ringtone on my phone for SMSs, namely Derek Flint’s ringtone from In Like Flint.
   If I mention In Like Flint, in my circles there’d be about one person every two years who’ll get what I mean.
   Twenty years ago, everyone would have said, ‘Who’s Derek Flint? That’s Austin Powers’ ringtone!’
   Today, some of my younger readers will ask, ‘Who’s Austin Powers?’

So far, only a tiny handful of people get my reference when I say, ‘Dear guards, Jeffrey can be taken off suicide watch. Signed, Epstein’s mother.’
   No, what Epstein did to his victims—children—is no laughing matter.
   However, I don’t think I’m alone in needing humour as an anchor for my sanity when the news is abhorrent.

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The 1970s: when TV shows were New

12.11.2019

As a child of the 1970s, I was exposed to this English word: new. Now, before you say that that isn’t anything special, for some reason, in the ’70s, there was an obsession with newness. It wasn’t like the news (by this I mean the plural of new) of Amsterdam or Zealand, but an adjective that was adapted to really emphasize that you should pay attention and consume, consume, consume.
   Perhaps the earliest exposure was a Tomica model I had: the Blue Whale Crown. The base plate and box read ‘Toyota New Crown’. Even as a child, I wondered: what happens to the old Crown models? And what happens to this Crown model when a new new Crown comes out? It didn’t matter: Toyota wanted us to live in the present and bask in the newness, and back in the early 1970s, this Crown certainly looked like nothing that had come from Toyota prior, or since. It was almost saying, ‘Yes, we know it looks weird, but hey, it’s “new”, so that means it’s good!’
   The real car flopped (relatively speaking; they still shifted plenty given top Japanese managers still needed transportation), and it was the last generation of Crown to be sold in the US, but to me it remains iconic, even if it is garish. After a mere three years on sale, very short even by Japanese standards, its ‘New’ successor emerged in 1974 with all the idiosyncrasies gone. Conservatism ruled in this segment, at least till fairly recently. The old toys hung round, still ‘new’, so even if your parents bought you one in 1975 or 1976, you could still relish the adjective.
   It wasn’t a case of Japlish. It was all over television as well. When we emigrated here, the Anglophone television introduced me to The New Dick Van Dyke Show. Never mind that I had never seen the old Dick van Dyke show at this point. This was the white-haired man doing the New Zealand Fire Service PSAs. Everyone knew him. And why was it The New? Because we needed to be told that despite the same network in its home country (CBS), Dick van Dyke wasn’t playing Rob Petrie, but a new character altogether. Please don’t take this as a continuation of the previous one.




Here are the News: The New Dick Van Dyke Show; The New Perry Mason; and The New Avengers.

   Van Dyke, in his autobiography, recounts a fan coming up to him berating him for leaving Laura (Mary Tyler Moore’s character from the earlier The Dick Van Dyke Show), so it’s not as though the qualifier worked; goodness knows how the same fan would have computed The Mary Tyler Moore Show, on the same night as The New Dick Van Dyke Show. Maybe that was proof that Rob had left Laura or vice versa and they were forging ahead with their separate lives.
   The New Dick Van Dyke Show wasn’t alone. A couple of years later, there was The New Perry Mason (1973), starring Monte Markham in the title role (though no one ever called him ‘New’). The Fred Steiner theme was nowhere to be heard. I’ve seen a few of these, and they are pretty good in a 1970s sort of way—which is to say more exterior filming and more flash cars (product placement was growing) on the back lot and on location. To make it more confusing, when Perry Mason returned in a bunch of TV movies in the 1980s, starting with Perry Mason Returns, it wasn’t Markham, but original actor Raymond Burr once more. You see, it wasn’t The New Perry Mason Returns.
   The New Perry Mason starred a different actor, so I can comprehend its Newness, and at least the presence of another actor underscored this. It didn’t do that well, which is probably why hardly anyone remembers it. Probably more people remember Markham as the Seven Million Dollar Man. I’m not kidding.
   One that I do remember extremely well was The New Avengers, in 1976. Again, given when I was born, I had no exposure to The Avengers, but The New Avengers was a favourite of mine then, and I bought the DVDs when I saw them decades later. Unlike the other two series, this was a direct continuation, though it wasn’t explained just how John Steed returned to Earth after Tara King blasted them both into space when they had their Endgame in 1969; but we do know they enjoyed Laurent Perrier champagne when they got back. It’s a third definition of new as far as the TV shows were concerned, with the same motive: if you want to be seen as in, hip and groovy, come watch the new.
   Perhaps more obscure were one-off TV movies: Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977), which had the same cast (grandmother aside, as actress Blossom Rock was ill), and where the new serves no useful purpose other than attempting to sell us on newness where there is none; and The New Maverick (1978), which sees the return of James Garner as Bret and Jack Kelly as Bart, though there’s no sign of Roger Moore as Beau (presumably too busy being James Bond) and Robert Colbert as Brent, but it did introduce a first cousin once removed called Ben Maverick (Charles Frank). I imagine Ben is the new Maverick, and a short-lived TV series, Young Maverick, did appear afterwards.
   No one really did much more New shows after this—it seemed to be a 1970s phenomenon. With one exception: CI5: the New Professionals in the 1990s, an attempt to recapture the glory days of The Professionals but winding up more like episodes of Bugs. There, new sort of meant old, reminding us that some of the writing and directing was out of step with late 1990s’ audience expectations; and, with the greatest of respect, showed that certain parties were past their prime. By then, we had had seven episodes of Bodyguards, which perhaps showed how a modern-day Professionals might be. All that needed was to be “laddified” for the FHM audience, at least in theory, and certainly, after 9-11, there may have been some scope for an élite, globally coordinated, anti-terrorist squad (which is what The New Professionals suggests the fictional CI5 unit morphed into, probably to accommodate its backers and the South African location filming in some episodes). But in 1998, there was less of an appetite for revival shows, especially when the top-rated series were ER and Friends, and the Americans were a year away from The Sopranos. Britain, meanwhile, was gripped with the tension of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and the FHM lads were more than catered for by Babes in the Wood.

PS., December 6: How could I forget this item of regular childhood viewing? From the US, in 1979.

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Facebook: no change, business as usual

24.10.2019

I would have loved to have seen this go to trial, but Facebook and the plaintiffs—a group of advertising agencies alleging they had been swindled by the social network—settled.
   Excerpted from The Hollywood Reporter, ‘The suit accused Facebook of acknowledging miscalculations in metrics upon press reports, but still not taking responsibility for the breadth of the problem. “The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60%-80%; they were inflated by some 150 to 900%,” stated an amended complaint.’
   Facebook denies this and settled for US$40 million, which is really pocket change for the multi-milliard-dollar company. Just the price of doing business.
   Remember, Facebook has been shown to have lied about the number of people it can reach (it now admits that its population estimates have no basis in, well, the population), so I’m not surprised it lies about the number of people who watch their videos. And remember their platform has a lot of bots—I still have several thousand reported on Instagram that have yet to be touched—and Facebook itself isn’t exactly clean.
   Every time they get called out, there are a few noises, but nothing ever really happens.
   This exchange between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Mark Zuckerberg is a further indication that nothing will ever happen at Facebook to make things right—there’s no will from top management for that to happen. There’s too much to be lost with monetization opportunities for questionable services to be shut down, while Facebook is all too happy to close ones that don’t make money (e.g. the old ‘View as’ feature). The divisions and “fake news” will continue, the tools used by all the wrong people.
   It’s your choice whether you want to be part of this.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, politics, TV, USA | 1 Comment »


Where the internet tends to be wrong on The Love Boat

07.09.2019

There are a few TV shows I get anorak about. Alarm für Cobra 11 is probably the one most people have seen me post about. I probably have some claim over The Persuaders, The Professionals, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Pointman. But there was one that was a staple for us as a family, that I don’t have any anorak status over, yet I seem to know more than a lot of people who write about such things professionally.
   It’s The Love Boat, where there are a few claims that go round the ’net.
   There are many pages and videos about the ‘original cast’ of The Love Boat, and the names are familiar enough: Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange and Lauren Tewes. Even documentaries on the history of the programme make this claim. But, as many know, this particular combination was the third cast, although Kopell, Grandy and Lange showed up in the second pilot in 1977, with Quinn Redeker as Capt Tom Madison and Diane Stilwell as Sandy, the cruise director.
   The original cast actually saw Division 4’s Ted Hamilton as Capt Thomas Ford, Dick van Patten as Dr O’Neill, Sandy Helberg as Gopher, Theodore Wilson as Isaac, Terri O’Mara as Gerry, the cruise director. Joseph Sicari, as a steward, also appears in the opening title.

   There’s also an internet fiction on a lot of websites that The Love Boat II, the second pilot, had Bernie Kopell play Dr O’Neill, and not Adam Bricker. I’ve no idea where this surfaced, and it also appears on IMDB. Sorry, internet, Bernie Kopell is introduced as ‘Lt Dr Adam Bricker’, the military title with its origins in the back story that Capt Madison, Dr Bricker, Gopher (YN1 Burl Smith) and CPO Isaac Washington all served together on the USS Chadway in the US Navy in Vietnam. In peacetime, they wanted to sail together. Here’s the scene in a Dutch video cassette release, though Bricker is misspelled:

   Hopefully, one of these days, these errors get corrected online. Though based on what I see on Wikipedia, I’m not holding my breath.
   The second cast wasn’t too bad, but most of the stories left something to be desired. The producers (and, for that matter, MacLeod and Tewes) were lucky that ABC commissioned a third pilot, The New Love Boat, and the rest is history.

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Spoiler alert: The Avengers’ endgame

24.04.2019

I’m hearing the young people talk about this lately. But we already know how The Avengers ends.

   Then they come back with some new cast members years later.


John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Tara King (Linda Thorson) on board a rocket.

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Tumblr is dead, long live NewTumbl

23.04.2019

Tumblr is dead, long live NewTumbl.
   I came across NewTumbl (formally newTumbl) a few days ago, after finding my Tumblr feed just wasn’t what it used to be. It’s not that the dirty pictures are gone—I only ever followed one blog where the images might be considered sensual—but that the energy was. Those friends whose posts interested me weren’t posting much any more, and it wasn’t just them: my posting had diminished significantly. Platforms, I imagine, have a shelf life, and when announcements such as Verizon’s last year, which became known, perhaps incorrectly, as Tumblr’s ‘porn ban’, it was bound to affect the platform. It was the language that opened Verizon up to ridicule: apparently, they had a problem with ‘female-presenting nipples’, and some innocent content was flagged for removal.
   What Verizon had really underestimated was that among the adult imagery were communities that were having free and safe discussions about sexuality, and sex workers themselves had a place where they, too, could post. It wasn’t an “adult” site per se, considering the overwhelming majority of the content was family-friendly. That perhaps kept the place relatively safe: you could have these private discussions while coming across general posts featuring interesting photography or good political viewpoints. Tumblr also hadn’t descended into the political divisiveness that plague platforms such as Twitter.
   I liked Tumblr for many reasons. It became a fun place to post interesting graphics for me, and to put anything that I didn’t want to structure into long-form thoughts. It was image-based. Every now and then I would put up a quotation. The Font Police blog is still there, with over 20,000 followers.
   I liked the fact that for years, someone would get back to you when you posted a query. This was true even after Yahoo acquired it.
   But during the Blogcozy experiment, which sadly resulted in that platform’s closure, I cut down my time on Tumblr, because I had found a more suitable place to put those brief thoughts and to share with friends. Had Tumblr been a greater draw, I wouldn’t have considered it. After Blogcozy closed, I didn’t really resume my Tumblring to the same extent. Social seemed to be dying, since it was being run by Big Tech firms that lied as their main position. Even if Tumblr was more honest (and it was), the age of social media seemed to be at an end.
   I may have been wrong, because since posting on NewTumbl I’ve been impressed by the sense of energy there. Yes, it has attracted a great deal of the adult posters who left Tumblr. But if you don’t want to see X-rated stuff, you say so in the settings, and adjust to M (for mature), O (for office), or even F (for family). You won’t see anything coarser than what you chose (with the occasional exception when posters did not have a clue how the ratings’ system works). The interface is familiar-but-different-enough for Tumblr users and Verizon lawyers. Yet it goes beyond what Tumblr does, with the smart use of Interstate as the body typeface, and photos in multi-image posts actually appear in the order you load them.
   It’s not perfect: I couldn’t link a video but I could upload; and I managed to stumble on a 404 page by following links, both of which I’ll report, since they make it so easy to do.
   But here’s the really good thing: the transparency. One of the main developers, Dean, talks to users and provides feedback. He’ll even post when an error occurs during development—that’s something you’ll never see Facebook do when its databases die.
   He and I have already exchanged notes via DMs after I joined for two days, and I said I saw so many parallels between what he was doing and what I saw with Tesla when Martin Eberhard was running it (transparency over ego), or even in the days when Jerry and David were building Yahoo—I’m old enough to have been submitting sites to them while they were still being run out of a garage. There’s an exciting sense with Dean and the small NewTumbl crew that they’re building something useful for the world, celebrating free speech and humanity. Am I being overly optimistic? I don’t think I am: I enjoy the UI, I like the openness and honesty, and these are just what the tech sector needs. I see a draw for spending my time here even though I have zero followers to my blog. The buzz feels similar to when I discovered some sites back in the 1990s: it seems new and exciting.
   It’s also rather nice being the first person to populate some fandom hashtags, though I was second for Doctor Who, and for anyone ever searching for The Avengers, they will see, rightly, a photograph of Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee.
   I’ll see you there at jackyan.newtumbl.com. Lucire also has a NewTumbl at lucire.newtumbl.com.


Above: The one thing I posted to Tumblr that went viral, in 2011.

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When the writers don’t check the Cobra 11 universe

10.04.2019

This is how big an Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei nerd I am.
   Three years ago (April 7, 2016), we were introduced to Daniel Roesner as Paul Renner in ‘Cobra, übernehmen Sie’. There is a flashback scene dated April 7, 1996 when Paul and Semir meet for the first time, with Paul as a child.



   There are a few problems with the scene.
   If it was April 1996, then it would have been around the events of ‘Tod bei Tempo 100’, and Semir looked quite different:

   His goatee only begins appearing in episode 33 (production order), ‘Ein Leopard läuft Amok’ (October 1, 1998), and the BMW 3er with the registration NE-DR 8231 made its first appearance the episode before, ‘Die letzte Chance’ (which was actually shown later, on October 8, 1998).
   Also in ‘Cobra, übernehmen Sie’, Semir is on the radio to Andrea, when Andrea was not working for PASt in 1996. She made her first appearance in ‘Rache ist süß’ (November 18, 1997).
   I can understand star Erdoğan Atalay being reluctant to shave his goatee for the flashback, but it would have thrilled fans if he called to base for Regina and not Andrea.

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Alarm für Cobra 11: why the inconsistent season numbering?

29.03.2019


RTL
Above: From the first episode after the half-season break, ‘Endstation’. All three men have, at some point, played the sidekick on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei: Erdoğan Atalay, who was hired to play second banana in the third episode but has since become the star of the show; Rainer Strecker, the man whom Atalay replaced, here guesting and playing another role altogether; and Daniel Roesner, who is currently Atalay’s co-star in the series, and who also had played another role prior to this one.

One for the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei fans. Our group—the largest on Facebook and, ironically, the one run mostly by non-Germans—saw this question from Tim Gottschall:

Kann mir mal bitte jemand erklären warum es bei Cobra 11 schon 42 DVD Staffeln gibt aber jetzt im TV die 33 Staffel läuft? Also damit auch die neuen Folgen

   This has always annoyed me. At Action Concept, this is still season 23.
   This has been compounded by certain episodes from new seasons being mixed in as the existing season was airing (e.g. production seasons 6 to 12) and episodes being shown out of order.
   According to production blocks (with overlaps explained above):

Season 1: episodes aired between March 12 and April 30, 1996 (episodes 1–9)
Season 2: March 11, 1997 to June 4, 1998 (episodes 10–31)
Season 3: October 1, 1998 to May 6, 1999 (episodes 32–47)
Season 4: December 16, 1999 to December 14, 2000 (episodes 48–63)
Season 5: April 5, 2001 to April 11, 2002 (episodes 64–80)
Season 6: April 18, 2002 to April 10, 2003 (episodes 81–97)
Season 7: September 11, 2003 to April 29, 2004 (episodes 98–110)
Season 8: March 25 to November 18, 2004 (episodes 111–25)
Season 9: February 10, 2005 to April 20, 2006 (episodes 126–41)
Season 10: April 27 to November 16, 2006 (episodes 142–57)
Season 11: March 22 to November 1, 2007 (episodes 158–68)
Season 12: September 20, 2007 to April 24, 2008 (episodes 169–79)
Season 13: September 4, 2008 to April 9, 2009 (episodes 180–94)
Season 14: September 3, 2009 to April 22, 2010 (episodes 195–209)
Season 15: September 2, 2010 to April 14, 2011 (episodes 210–22)
Season 16: September 15, 2011 to April 19, 2012 (episodes 223–38)
Season 17: September 6, 2012 to April 18, 2013 (episodes 239–53)
Season 18: October 24, 2013 to May 15, 2014 (episodes 254–67)
Season 19: October 9, 2014 to April 30, 2015 (episodes 268–82)
Season 20: September 10, 2015 to May 26, 2016 (episodes 283–98)
Season 21: September 1, 2016 to May 18, 2017 (episodes 299–317)
Season 22: September 14, 2017 to May 3, 2018 (episodes 318–36)
Season 23: September 13, 2018 to date (episode 337 to date)

   However, according to how Cobra 11 aired, all but the (short) first block were shown with a break in between—presumably due to labour laws there that required casts to have a break otherwise they would be overworked. So if you divide each of the seasons above into two, except for the first, then we are up to “season 43”. This is the numbering the DVDs use. As to “season 33”, I understand RTL used to follow the production numbering, but eventually diverged from it, so it’s a mixture of the “studio” numbering and the “broken season” numbering.
   I realize no one outside the fan community for this show will really care, but as this is my personal and business blog, a wide variety of subjects is covered. And for those fans who may stumble across this, I hope the above helps settle some questions.

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YouTube tracks you even when you’ve signed out and blocked their cookies

03.12.2018

Of course YouTube lies. Say you’ve paused your search and watch history on YouTube. And you block all youtube.com cookies. YouTube won’t track you, right? You’ve made it quite clear you don’t want a record of what you’ve done, so YouTube shouldn’t keep one.
   Wrong.
   As with Big Tech, what you expect given what you’ve told them, and what they actually do, are two different things.
   There’s just enough ambiguity in Google’s terms and conditions for YouTube to get away with this.
   It’s exactly like Facebook, which says you can opt out of certain categories of advertising (e.g. alcohol), then serve you advertising for exactly those categories you object to.
   It’s exactly like Google, which in 2009 said you could opt out of ad customization, then it began tracking you again within 24 hours of that opt-out.
   This is part of the same deal, and since US authorities are generally too gutless to go after Big Tech, they’ll keep doing this.
   Say you watched, as I did, a video on a toy collector restoring a model.
   You don’t expect any tracking given all the settings you made earlier on.
   YouTube ignores all that and has a way of determining who you are, even without cookies. Google has a series of cookies that it plants, and it can probably get you through those. Or it’s recognizing your IP address.
   I may block a lot of Google cookies but even I don’t block them all, since one of the schools I’m involved with is heavily into Google’s tools.
   After writing this I may download another browser just for their stuff and block all google.com cookies. It’s not as though Google News, the last of their services I used, is particularly useful any more, after they got rid of the customized news home pages.
   When I watched a completely unrelated video, there was a link on the side to one of the same YouTube user’s videos.

   You then have to clear your watch and search history, even though you don’t have a YouTube account, block all YouTube cookies, and you aren’t signed in to Google in any way.


   You might say that the paused history only works when you’re signed in, and that’s a fair call. But I don’t expect a user who isn’t signed in to be snooped on more than someone who is. Maybe I’m just weird that way, and the default position for Big Tech is to track everyone unless you tell them otherwise (again, their T&Cs probably allow them to get away with this).
   Consequently, YouTube says we have a ‘signed-out YouTube search history’ and a ‘signed-out YouTube watch history’ on each device.
   While I know you can use a private- or incognito-mode tab, you should be asking yourself: why on earth should I, given how I expect their website to work?
   It’s only after clearing all of that that you get a truer list of recommended videos.
   As I have said before, I really still don’t get why people want to keep using these unethical firms’ services. If Google disappeared overnight, it’d take us a week to find replacements.

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Remakes: Widows joins other Euston Films series

04.11.2018

I see British filmmaker Steve McQueen has remade Lynda La Plante’s Widows.
   I was younger than he was when it aired, and didn’t appreciate the storylines to the same extent, though I have recollections of it.
   What I did recall was a Smith and Jones sketch, which had a voiceover along these lines: ‘From the makers of The Sweeney and Minder, Eusless Films presents Widows: exactly the same, but with women in it.’
   The reality was that La Plante wrote Widows because she was unimpressed with how men wrote female parts in scripts (she was the actress Lynda Marchal, and I still remember a small role she had in The Professionals). It was actually ground-breaking. Verity Lambert produced.
   I hope McQueen does well with his remake, with Viola Davis, and the setting shifted to Chicago.
   I worry a bit given that Hollywood also remade Edge of Darkness or State of Play: pretty decent miniseries that weren’t as good when transplanted and turned into feature films, according to period reviews.
   I saw the former and while it was a pacy actioner, even as far as employing the same New Zealand director, Martin Campbell, it lacked the depth and suspense of the original; I daren’t even see the latter as the original remains one of my favourite miniseries and I don’t want to see it butchered, even if Scottish director Kevin Macdonald helmed it. It was a wave of American efforts to remake anything with John Simm and Philip Glenister.
   But tonight I did think about the other famous Euston Films series that were remade or reimagined.
   The Sweeney was remade but with the action still in South London. The 2012 version by Nick Love had a tight budget but plenty of violence, perhaps recapturing the grittiness that audiences would have felt when they first saw the Armchair Cinema special of Regan. Ray Winstone, who guested on the original, took the lead, and channelled Jack Regan well; Ben Drew (Plan B) had even more of a coldness and wild tension on screen as George Carter than Dennis Waterman did. It’s perhaps best known for a car chase involving the crew from Top Gear, who took the opportunity to build a sketch around it during production. It wasn’t as special as the original, and I didn’t rush to repeat the DVD. Reviewers didn’t like it, but in my opinion it ranks above Sweeney!, the first attempt to turn the TV series into a silver screen film but using the original cast. There, we saw countless acts of violence explained away at the end in one meeting with Thaw and Michael Latimer’s characters after a plot that seemed to build up a complex conspiracy. Sweeney 2, by Troy Kennedy Martin (the brother of the creator), was far tenser and the better effort, and it was fun to spot the Ford press fleet vehicles with the VHK prefix on the number plates.

   Minder never went to the big screen, but a remake, or sequel, appeared in 2009, with Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel. I sat through the first, found it tolerable, and at least in the spirit of the original, but it always felt like an imitation trying to live up to its forebear, not something that carved its own direction. Many don’t seem to remember that Minder was created as a vehicle for Dennis Waterman, not George Cole, even if more and more scripts wound up focusing on the latter’s Arthur Daley, leading to Waterman quitting the series. The 2009 series’ première followed on from that later formula, whereas to me it always required the two stars being on par with each other.

   So, will the Americanized Widows follow suit? Will it be ‘exactly the same, but with women in it,’ or, with McQueen as talented as he is, will it be a solid retelling with the same sense of ambiguity at the conclusion as the original? I might have to see it because of McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and McQueen says he has been a fan of the series since he saw it as a teenager. Even the original Dolly Rawlins (Ann Mitchell) has a cameo.
   Now, who’ll star in a new Van der Valk?

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