Tag Archives: Californication

Box set addiction


This morning, Juice, our local radio station (which is worth a listen just for the ads) had a breakfast show competition to win tickets to see last year’s X-Factor finalists who are performing at The Brighton Centre.  The two phone-in competitors had to answer trivia questions about last year’s show and I have to admit it was quite gripping in it’s sheer ‘oooh, I should know this’ factor.  The kids and I sat in the car staring at each other.  Who replaced Frankie Cocozza?  Ahh, Amelia what’s-her-name.  Of course.

I was stunned by how little information I had retained, despite picking up snippets of the show, although I wasn’t one of the 13 million who watched the final.

Perhaps it’s as they say, that booze, age and children stunt the memory (I have a high score in all three categories).  Or perhaps it’s just that television does something to your brain and it really is hypnotherapy for the masses. You only have to put a screaming infant in front of a Baby Einstein video to see that this is true.

I sat in the hairdressers this week and all the mags were shouting about how brilliant TV suddenly is, with The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent and Titanic, but I’m not going to get suckered in.

What I really want is a new box set. Box sets are – after house prices and schools – the most common topic of conversation during your average dinner party or night out at the pub. A box set addiction like mine is a guaranteed conversation starter.  Box sets elevate TV into a proper modern art form.

And it has to be a box set.  I can’t do episode by episode. Homeland, for example, has simply fluffed me for a new series to sink my teeth into.  I’m too much of a junkie to be able to stand being drip-fed the divine Damian Lewis on a Sunday night.  It’s too frustrating.

It’s like the eighties all over again when we had to wait a whole week before the next episode of Fame.  But this is the twenty-first century people, when you can watch a whole series if you want until your eyes bleed (the first series of 24); become so engrossed that you become one of the characters (like when I turned into Carmella from The Sopranos or Tina Fey from 30Rock); develop irrational crushes on the male leads however unsuitable (David Duchovny in Californication – OMG!) or suitable (Coach Eric Taylor in Friday Night Lights – I could seriously marry him); and make you re-assess your opinions on, say, gangland crime (The Wire), the police (The Shield ), or even making your own drugs (Breaking Bad).

So I need my next fix.  Suggestions please?

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The List

Today is a good day.  The list has gone up today.

‘The list’ is a sacred piece of A4 paper on the kitchen wall.  On it is written the things we’ll do when Emlyn has finished his book.

Yes folks, the thriller is a week away from completion.

Actually, that’s not strictly true.  A book is only ever truly complete when it’s been published and there’s a whole race-track of hurdles to negotiate before that happens.

However, the most exciting part – the moment when the book has been wrestled from the ether and onto the page – is nearly upon us.  As soon, I’m informed, as the end of the week.

I’m having palpitations of excitement.

A writer must pick their champagne moment wisely, when the tangible sense of achievement is at its peak.  Waiting for ‘the call’ from an agent or publisher is too torturous.  Waiting for the cheque to be banked is foolish and by the time the book is in the shops, you’re beyond caring and have almost completed the next project.  So experience has taught us that the Herculean task of writing a whole novel must be celebrated, the moment the words ‘The End’ are typed, whatever the fate awaiting it.

I loved the bit in the second series of Californication, when Hank Moody, played so brilliantly by David Duchovny, finishes Lou Ashby’s biography and enacts his own personal ritual, involving whisky, weed and Warren Zevon.

I don’t know if non-writers would get the significance of that precise moment.  The moment of exhalation.  The moment when you know you can now officially be run over by a bus, because the words are down.

Most recently I’ve been the one in this position, but this time, I’m playing the supporting role and is it my clever husband who is the one burning the midnight oil getting to the finish line.  But it’s not easy being the co-pilot as the project comes into land.

We’ve hardly seen him as he’s upstairs in the furthest reaches of the house, having recreated the conditions of Chaucer in which to work: strictly no phone, no internet and practically no daylight as he rattles away on the pre-historic Apple Mac – a machine so old, it recognises the concept of a fax and not an email.

I’m on hand to towel down his forehead, squirt tea into his mouth, feed him nutritious food, give him the pep talk, focus him on wrestling the bugger down onto the canvas.  It’s tough stuff.

But now we can both see the light at the end of the tunnel, the list has gone up.  The magical world of real life opening up to us.

We’ll have childcare and for maybe an hour a day, free time.  A heady combination.

We’ve split the list into two.  Fun things we’ll do, house things we’ll do.  The things we fantasize about and the stuff that’s always on the mental to-do list.  It’s quite illuminating and after all this time, my husband can still surprise me.  Emlyn’s number one entry of house stuff he’ll do, is to creosote the shed.

Creosote the shed?  Is that what boys think about?

I look out of my study window every day at the shed.  I’ve never, ever noticed it needs creosoting. I kinda like its shabby-chic appearance.

But then I scanned across to the fun things.  Number one is to rig the TV up in the shed, so that we can watch the whole of Wimbledon in the garden.

Aha! That’s more like it.

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A quick Oscars rant

I’ve bought all the rags for the reportage this week, but to be honest I’ve gone off The Oscars. I’ve always been a fan and I still love the dresses, although everyone looked rather silvery and wedding-ish this year.  Oh, hang on, apart from the most beautiful girl in the world Charlize Theron.  What was she thinking?  She looked like an under-developed bridesmaid in that squished boob purple number.
So the reason for my disdain this year?
The realization that it’s all such a big stitch up.  It always has been, but I’m even more annoyed this year, because the critically revered films being lauded, Avatar, Inglorious Basterds and The Hurt Locker are three of the worst films I’ve seen.  Controversial, I know, but this is my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.  Hear me out.

Avatar first.  Boring.  I fell asleep for forty minutes during it and woke up in the cinema still bored.  Sure, the effects were good, but you get used to them after the first five minutes and then you’re left with a tired story-line lifted from Pocahontas and World of Warcraft.  The planet never seemed real and the scale was all wrong.  The American invaders so over the top and unpleasant, they were a parody.  I just felt ripped off.  Like I did when I saw Titanic and realized I’d fallen for the hype.

Inglorious Basterds…!  Don’t get me started.  I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence and I hated Kill Bill, but yet again I fell for the hype, only to realize straight away that Tarantino is getting away with murder.  Of modern history mostly.  The whole thing was just such a pile of pants.  I know there’s the argument that film-making is supposed to provoke a reaction in the audience, but outrage wasn’t the emotion I was looking for. I was seriously tempted to write and ask for my money back.

The Hurt Locker – well, I guess it’s America’s way of feeling good about the war in Iraq, but I just didn’t care.  It posed in parts as docudrama but the characters never felt like anything other than actors.  Guy Pearce was the only good thing about it and he lasted less than ten minutes.  Ralph Fiennes, a supposed special forces operative, stranded in full view of the enemy because – wait for it – his mate had thrown a wrench at someone! – hammed it up so much, it was like he’d been in the desert since The English Patient.

Maybe I’m just being pernickety because I’m a writer and during my viewing journey plot holes jump out at me as clearly as pot holes, but it annoys me that these hugely hyped, expensive films aren’t better, when Americans are SO good when it comes to the TV series.

Oh, how I love American TV series.  You see, I am a total addict of the DVD box set.

It started with 24 one cold winter.  I still hear the plink plink of the introduction music and I’m transported back under a duvet, bleary-eyed and desperate for sleep, but fizzing with excitement and committed to watching just one more episode.

Then there was all of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is genius.  The Shield saw me through writing Platinum because the plot pace was so fab. There was a lot to learn too from  The Wire with its totally believable characters and Mad Men with such awesome character development.  Cameron, Tarantino and Bigelow take note please.

Californication seasons one and two brought sunshine into my January.  And let’s face it, if I ever did get to chat with Kirsty on Desert Island Discs, my one luxury would be a DVD player loaded with the whole of The Sopranos.  I still miss Tony like a fun, but naughty dead uncle.

My latest addiction is Harper’s Island.  We’re saving the last two episodes for tonight.  Oh it’s good.  So good. There’ll only be one series sadly, as most of the characters get killed off, but it’s impossible to predict who’s for the chop.  The episodes are fabulously named after the sound of each death ‘Ka-Blam’, ‘Sploosh’, ‘Gurgle’.  You an imagine.  No, actually you can’t.  It’s much better.  Go see.

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