Colbert back on the Air

Even though the writer’s strike is still on the ever awesome Colbert Report, along with other less wonderful daily shows (sorry Sandra), is back on the air. Woo! Of course now that I’m living in Montreal without cable I have no way of knowing how amazing Stephen is being without a script… unless of course there was some kind of way to see him on the internet or something… Nah. That would never happen because that’s why the writer’s are striking… Oh wait.

And that was a standing ovation of over two minutes… only slightly spoilt by the geeky overweight guy saying ‘I love you, Stephen!’ at the end. We get it. We all love him. He knows, we don’t need to tell him. Doi.

And now for something completely different (and old)

Many years ago the Monty Python chaps cames over to the US o’ A to publicize their show for PBS. Luckily for us, an enterprising TV chap kept a small snippet of the interview – featuring Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and a mildly inebriated Graham Chapman, all with wonderful 70s hair. Enjoy.

Doctor Wood

Well having enjoyed the latest season of Doctor Who, albeit with mild upset that they wasted the Master’s re-appearance and got rid of Freema, I decided to catch up on Torchwood – the X-Files/CSI esque spinoff series. I’d seen the finale episodes before, and felt a bit disappointed that it seemed to rip ideas wholesale from Buffy so hadn’t gone back to see the early ones. I mean – evil old creepy guy, sharp knives and rifts that mean the end of the world… hmm. All we needed was Captain Jack to have a fake sister and it was Season 5 Buffy all over again.

Anyways, having gone back to watch it from the start I can only say that it is much much better than I thought. There’s a great mix of strong character development, realistic behaviors and weird alien stuff – not to mention disturbed humans. It was also interesting to see how far they took Jack’s ‘pansexuality’ (shagging trees anyone?). They may not have had the first on screen male on male kiss, but they certainly have the first male on male kiss between a time traveller and the dead guy he took his name from… I guess that would have been hard for him to become his own grand-father that way but they might have found a way.

Stand out episodes for me were Random Shoes and Countrycide – but they work best within the context of the overall story ark. Russell T Davis and colleagues have learnt some tricks from Joss Whedon for creating emotional scripts, and added some of their own. Definately a must see for scifi/fantasy fans, and maybe even for those of us who aren’t that geeky.

The Heroes’ Symbol

Before I left New York I got into Heroes, a new series about super-powers evolving and how it affects peoples’ lives. The conclusion was expertly driven from episode to episode, building to an emotional crescendo that while fantastic, was very believable.

Having only caught the last half of the series I’m currently catching up with the way it starts, which is filling in a pile of blanks. While watching an early episode that shows a DNA sequence on the screen I noticed a weird symbol built into the text (see image above). This was pretty subtle, but it turns out to be a repeating image across most of the show’s episodes.

I love stuff like this – it makes you pay extra attention to ensure you see all the subtle detail you might otherwise miss, and makes you feel like the series’ world is more substantial. Good job Kring & team.

Hugh Laurie in American Accent Shock

For us Brits there is no surprise that Hugh Laurie is such a big success with his Fox series ‘House’, he’s a talented actor that we’ve enjoyed for many years. However there is some level of amazement that Hugh is doing a series with an American accent, and one that is apparently very good. Well he’s been doing it for years, as you can see from this early ‘rap’ video he did for ‘A Little Bit of Fry & Laurie’

My Night With Stephen Colbert

Those of you who have spoken to me recently may have noted that I was going to see a filming of The Colbert Report tonight… well it’s true, and very splendid it was too. The audience is pretty small, about 100 odd folk, and the studio is very intimate. Colbert is amazing to watch in action, practicing his lines to himself and, off camera, telling John Stewart he only has another five days left to finish his imminent book. The only downside of the whole night was that the guest was a country & western singer so probably about the most uninteresting guest I could ever hope to see. Ah well.

My Colbert Ticket

For those of you thinking of heading down to see The Colbert Report here’s some background; you can sign up online for free tickets here – although they regularly stop taking requests so you have to keep an eye out. Also, once you’ve been given a date by email they need you to confirm your tickets a week or so before the date you’re given – this is a bit strange, as you need to email them back but they don’t confirm they got your mail. Alternatively you can just come down to the standby line outside the door (on W 54th St between 10th/11th Aves) before 5.15pm on the day of filming. They recommend you get down early, at least 1 1/2 hours before this, so I got down at 3pm at which point I was 32nd in the ticket line – there were about 10 people in the standby line and I think a lot of them got in.

The line itself is pretty comfortable – it’s covered over which was very handy in today’s intense sun. You’re not allowed to take food or drinks into the actual studio, but you can take them into the waiting room so it’s worth bringing some along. About 5.15pm they give you a number and you go through security into the waiting room, where you get to hang around a bit more until around 6pm. Once they’re ready to let you in, you will go in in the order of the numbers you were given – so don’t worry about being near the studio door.

When you go through the studio door you tell the crew member there how many people are in your party and they direct you to where you need to sit. Since it was only me in my group I got put in the second row to fill up some space in the section of audience opposite Colbert’s desk. If you want to be in the audience near the interview area, which is generally more visible in shots, then you probably want to be further down the line but it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Also note that if you’re in the front row Colbert will high five you before the show – bless.

Once everyone’s inside the warm-up comedian does his stuff, and the stage manager gives you some background. Then Stephen Colbert himself comes out – huzah! Today we got to sit in and watch the ‘toss’ between Jon Stewart at The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Then Stephen went backstage again and the warmup guy carried on. Shortly Stephen came back out and took some questions from people in the audience – favourite moment; some guy asking Colbert about Jane Goodall… he actually meant Jane Fonda, referring to his infamous kiss & cuddle session, but the mistake was hilarious. I didn’t get the nerve up to ask a question, although I thought of a good one when leaving the studio – guess that will wait for next time.

Questions over, Colbert takes the stage and rules the show. He ran through the show tonight with only one slight hiccup which was pretty amazing. One thing I noticed was how pale he looks in his TV friendly makeup, he also never really stops smiling and moving, often tapping & singing along to the indie rock songs that play between shooting to keep the energy up. ‘Keeping the energy up’ is a key part of being in the Colbert audience; you need to be ready to laugh and clap loudly, so my throat is pretty sore right now.

Have fun if you go, it’s well worth the effort. Although in my case this meant flying down from Montreal so maybe that was a tad excessive.

Uncovering Missed Gems

It’s been a weekend for catching up with mindless video style enjoyment, in between back breaking sessions on a 3000 piece jigsaw. My colour blindness and the jigsaw’s bad colour printing (and indeed their trimming the edge of the image on the box lid) is certainly making that more challenging than I’d like. Definately getting value for money from it.

First up was Stranger Than Fiction – the new Will Ferrell film widely touted as a Ferrell’s first effective cross over into ‘serious’ movies. I was a little bit apprehensive about this as some commentators had classed it as a Charlie Kaufman movie, without Charlie Kaufman writing it, luckily it came into its own and was a highly enjoyable romp. All the players were outstanding, with the exception of Queen Latifah who was just wasted, and Emma Thompson excelled as the neurotic writer for whom Ferrell is just a character in her latest novel. Strange, but entertaining – go see.

Continuing in the Charlie Kaufman vein, I finally got to see the wonderful Human Nature – Kaufman’s first collaboration with Michel Gondrey (before the excellent Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind). This beautiful film, which I had somehow managed to miss even though I’m a fan of both Gondrey and Kaufamn, didn’t do so well in the cinema – even after getting pretty good reviews – but it certainly should have. Great performances from all the principal actors, especially Rhys Ifans as the ‘ape’ man trained in manners by Tim Robbins’ repressed, and saved by Patricia Arquette’s hirsute nature writer. On top of the usual Kaufman script forging, Gondrey gets to extend and evolve his nature filming from the Bjork videos of old, plus introduce some beautiful CGI mice. Not sure how I missed it, but hoping I find some more wonders like this again.

Finally, another TV series I’ve been avoiding for a while for some unknown reason, Arrested Development. This now, unfortunately cancelled, series is pure genius – following the antics of a rich, orange county family whose patriarch has just been arrested for improper financial dealings and his second oldest son Michael’s attempts to keep the dysfunctional family functioning and save the company. With the likes of David Cross in the mix you know you’re in for a treat, but everyone else in the cast also excels to produce a laugh out loud comedy that reminds you however bad your family is – they’re your family.

Next stop.. the new James Bond movie, which everyone is calling superb which is good news indeed.