Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Short Film of the Week

12 Apr

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who has been so supportive to me over the last few days. I intend to get the site back up and running properly tomorrow. To say thank you properly I’d like to make you an offer.

I would like to start a weekly ‘Short Film of the Week’ feature. If you are a film-maker or a writer, with stuff on Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Veoh, or similar, then it would be wonderful if you got in touch. It could be a documentary, an animation, a comedy, a tragedy, a romance film, a reality TV show (it’d be interesting to see if anyone has done this well online!), a stand up comedy set, a music video, a vlog… or anything really, so long as it’s well crafted. No pornography though!

Every Monday, the film I consider to be the best submission will be embedded here with a short editorial from me. Tellybrain.com gets around 250 hits a day (on days with new content), and as the site is pretty new I expect this number to rise as exposure increases.

The best way to get in touch is Twitter. Link me to your film and tell me a little about it: genre, length, when you made it, and what your role was. My twitter handle is @Tellybrain.

In the meantime here are a few films that I have made in the past. This is shameless self promotion, I know, but some are actually quite enjoyable… others of dubious quality (with little bits of gold too!), but all were made with love and limited experience/equipment. I wrote all of them, with the exception of Reality Check which I co-wrote and created.

2012 – As Life Goes By (The Story of the humble park bench. Special thanks to the BBC Production Trainee Scheme for this one!)

2010 – I am The Doctor (An obsessive fan wakes up and thinks he is Doctor Who)

2009 – Radio Stars (Radio Play based on Steven Moffat’s Press Gang)

2009 – Spudz (A sketch show starring potatoes)

2009 – Lurking in Life’s Shadow (A short film/poem about Death)

2008 – Reality Check (Three short films about differing perceptions of reality – Also written by David Pallant and Iain Williamson)

2007 – Doss House (Sitcom set in a student house… my first piece of writing, so be gentle!)

Thank you very much for reading/watching. Feel free to leave a comment, and do come back tomorrow when hopefully I’ll have a proper blog for you!

Jack x

Which is better, British TV or American TV? Part One: America

6 Apr

In the last couple of weeks Sky Atlantic have launched the latest HBO series of Game of Thrones and Mad Men, both of which have been extremely popular with their British fanbases. Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) also launched his new show, New Britania, on the channel, which as you may have guessed is an exploration of the cultural differences between Britain and The United States of America. And this got us thinking… Often the question is asked “Which is better, British TV or American TV” and it is an argument that has never really been settled. Well, armed with passion, arrogance, and  brains full of loosely formed argument, Jack, the Tellybrain editor, and his mate David (of Den of Geek) hope to settle this once and for all. Flying the flag for Britain tomorrow will be Jack, but first here is David with his pro-USA argument. Enjoy!  

Why American TV is better than British TV by David Pallant

From watching The West Wing I know that any important debate can be won in one of two ways. The first is the positive campaign strategy where you focus on the issues at hand, and demonstrate the excellence of your point of view. Then there is the negative campaign. This debate strategy is based on the mantra “it doesn’t matter how bad you think we are; the other side is worse.”

The opinions I am going to express will be from the latter category, not because I don’t have confidence that American TV is better than British TV, but because I reckon it will infuriate Jack! I’m going to try and guess what he thinks the best things about British TV, and then explain why America still do it better.

I should add, as a disclaimer, I do not dislike British TV. There are some very fine examples out there of great British TV. However, I believe that for every one example of great British TV there are three examples of equally great American TV.

Jack would say that British TV is filled with talent…

He would be right. When you see Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais light up the little box in the corner of the room you know that the tiny island in the Atlantic is doing something right. Heck, when Monty Python went transatlantic decades ago, American TV was rife with cheaply-put-together imitations.

But right across the American TV networks at the moment you have over a dozen Oscar-winners working in-front and behind the camera. At this point the argument that British TV has talent becomes a little bit conceited. Martin Scorsese, Dustin Hoffman and Anna Paquin are just three I could name. The BAFTAs versus Oscars debate will rage eternal but it cannot be denied that when you line up the talent of the UK against the talent of the US it looks like Rotherham United versus Manchester United.

Jack would try and point out that British TV makes stories that are relevant to us…

Again, to some extent Jack would be right. Currently Titanic is beached on our TV screens receiving some praise (though not on this site!) and spinning a story that is relevant because of the ship’s centenary. Then you can look at shows like Hollyoaks and Casualty – the latter Jack worked on – that weave plotlines which are accurate commentaries on the UK’s social and economic climate.

Across the Atlantic, American TV also has socially-relevant programming. But they don’t work as well even in the USA; this is mainly because America is nearly twenty-times the size of Britain (give or take). What may make sense to a New Yorker could completely baffle a Californian.

Instead, America specialises in churning out (and in this scenario, the word is not meant negatively) dozens of viewer-friendly TV shows each month. Each one may sit nicely into a niche or genre, but they are designed and written to be accessible by every American. As a result they are accessible for us Brits too.

And when Jack says Doctor Who, I would answer Buffy, Lost and Fringe (Like I said it is a 1:3 ratio).

Finally Jack might try and land the knockout punch by talking about the unique brilliance of British comedy…

He would be absolutely correct. British comedy, when done well, is a feast for the ears, eyes and funny bone. However, the eagle-eyed readers may have noticed the clause in that previous sentence: when done well. We can all remember a side-splitting gag from BlackAdder, The Office or Only Fools and Horses. In fact, there are many creative minds out there that when you see them attached to a production you know it will be a guaranteed laughter-fest (I’m looking at you Steven Moffat). But how many comedies have fallen down at the first-series hurdle? Do The Royal Bodyguard, According to Bex and Sir Yellow sound familiar?

Then we look at the massive writer’s rooms of American Sitcoms. Britain has writing teams ranging from one all the way up to three or four. Any more than that and individual talent is stifled. That might be a fair point. But isn’t the bigger picture more important (or as Spock would say, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” – Star Trek, another American show) because as individuality dies, doesn’t the fruit of collaboration grows? Just think of Frasier, the most decorated sitcom ever. The more people involved, the more a comedy moment can potentially grow. That only benefits one person, you the viewer.

American TV is better. You can’t disagree with Jack’s logic.

On a side note, it should be acknowledged that this article has not made reference to Friends, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Angels of New York, Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Will and Grace, Saved By The Bell, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The X Files, Gilmore Girls, 24, 30 Rock, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Dallas, Dukes of Hazard or Futurama, The OC, The Vampire Diaries, Battlestar Galactica, Cheers, Happy Days House M.D and Doogie Howser M.D. even once.

David Pallant loves film and TV almost as much as his pet tortoise, Monty. If you want to read some more of his opinions on TV, films, food and fine-living feel free to follow him on Twitter, @Twit_Pallant.

And you can check out Jack’s Pro-Britain argument tomorrow on tellybrain.com!

The best comedy send ups!

4 Apr

When shows or personalities becomes successful they are almost inevitably going to end up being mocked. From the football on Sky to The Cube on ITV, nothing popular is exempt from a little gentle comedy ribbing. Of course ‘best’ is subjective, but here are six that I think are contenders for that crown. Which one will take my number one spot?

6. Doctor Who: The Curse of the Fatal Death

Steven Moffat’s first Doctor Who gig was several years before the show returned to our screens full time, writing for this parody episode for Comic Relief. In the sketch the 9th Doctor, played by Rowan Atkinson, is locked in a battle with the Master, played by Jonathan Pryce, and the Daleks. His assistant (and lover) is played by Julia Sawalha (of Press Gang fame). My favourite line is “ooh it has three settings” which is wonderfully delivered. If you haven’t seen it before then check it out – it is sublime!

Yesterday’s blog post was about Matt Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor. Feel free to check it out!

5. Posh and Becks Shopping  – Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression

Alistair McGowan’s shows were a bit hit and miss. Often the impressions were poor and the comedy failed to turn up. One of two impressions to save that show were his Richard “Welcome back!” Madeley, and his David Beckham. The latter was always good comedy value too. In this sketch David and Victoria have been arguing. (Apologies for the poor sound quality!)

4. Star Wars Special Edition Edition – Dead Ringers

As I pointed out on the Tellybrain twitter page, Star Wars has been broadcast on television and therefore qualifies to be mentioned on this TV website. This clip from Dead Ringers cleverly spoofs George Lucas’ insistence to go back and tinker with bits of the original trilogy to make it more in keeping with the prequel trilogy of the 00s.

And if you liked that, why not check out this article about the best order to view Star Wars in?

3. Football Football Football – That Mitchell and Webb Look

David Mitchell publically doesn’t like football. He takes every opportunity to tell us so, on satirical news show Ten O’Clock Live, panel show Mock the Week, and on Would I lie to You? on which he is a team captain. It’s no surprise then that his send up of the over the top Sky Sports football adverts has such a sharp sarcastic edge to it. If only I could work out the subtext behind it…

2. The Cube – The Impressions Show

Jon Culshaw has some pretty amazing impressions under his belt (and some dodgy ones too) including Steven Gerrard, Tom Baker, and Brian Cox. By far my favourite though is his Philip Schofield impression. In The Impressions Show, Culshaw has made Schofield into a character obsessed by his own entertainment show, The Cube, and in this sketch when his co-host from This Morning, Holly Willoughby, comes round for dinner things get a little out of hand.

1.  The Apprentice – That Mitchell and Webb Look

David Mitchell has already featured in this list once, and guess what? He’s back again, this time with his sidekick Robert Webb. This sketch shows us the fictional beginnings of The Apprentice (which incidentally is on tonight at 9pm on BBC One ), from dodgy pilot to a eureka executive moment. This is my favourite sketch of the lot, and it is incredibly plausible! I hope you enjoy it. 

The Official The Apprentice website

Well, that’s your lot for tonight. How many of them had you seen? And do you agree with my choices? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below.

Doctor Who: A quick look at the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith

3 Apr

This article contains spoilers for Doctor Who series 5 and 6. Then again, if you haven’t seen it already it’s your own bloody fault, and you should be ashamed!

Two years ago today the Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith, the youngest actor to take the role, made his full debut in the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who, The Eleventh Hour.

In the action packed episode, the newly regenerated Doctor crash landed the smoking TARDIS into the garden of adorable little girl, Amelia Pond. Amelia used the powers invested in her as a Scot to fry all manner of foods for The Doctor, who was having post-regenerative cravings, a new sensation for him. Upstairs in her bedroom, Amelia had been hearing voices from a crack in her wall. The Doctor opened the crack using his sonic screwdriver, and the voice was revealed to be the Atraxi – some sort of prison warden race who were after an escaped convict called Prisoner Zero. Upon hearing the cloister bell, an alarm system in the TARDIS that signifies that very bad stuff is going down, he rushed back and dematerialised, after promising to the tot that he’d be back in five minutes.

Several minutes later for The Doctor, though crucially twelve years and several psychiatrists for Amelia (now Amy), he returned, and immediately realised there was an extra room hidden behind a perception filter in her house, and that Prisoner Zero was hiding inside it. The Atraxi weren’t far behind and placed the Earth in a kind of planetary force field and promised to destroy it. Rory, Amy’s boyfriend, and a nurse at the local hospital, had been taking photographs on his camera-phone of coma patients that had been talking while unconscious. The Doctor borrowed this phone and popped off to do some clever stuff with computers in Margaret Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave’s house.

After luring Prisoner Zero to the hospital, The Doctor faced off with the shape-shifting alien. The clever computer stuff was actually a virus that was spreading like wildfire, changing every clock on the planet to zero – a message to Earth’s captors aboves. The Doctor then uploaded all the photographs of the coma patients, prisoner zero’s shape shifting disguises, to every social networking site around, including Bebo. Using these clues the Atraxi followed the trail and apprehended Prisoner Zero, before flying away.

Then the Doctor, after stopping to get changed, called the Atraxi (a great big eye thing) back and berated them for daring to destroy the planet he’s so fond of. He told them it is defended and then they flew off again, scared. The Doctor then checked out his new TARDIS, which had repaired itself and given itself a brand new look (and provided toy companies a way to make loads more money), and gave it a test flight. Two minutes later for the Doctor, and two years later for Amy, the Doctor returned and without struggle convinced Amy to come and travel through time and space with him. She accepted, and as they disappeared into the vortex we found out that she was getting married…

I must say that The Eleventh Hour is one of my favourite episodes of Matt Smith’s tenure. It was funny, clever, nicely paced, looked great (the grading was superb), full of jeopardy, and as barmily plotted as ever. It’s probably the best post-regeneration story there has been in Doctor Who’s 49 year history, beating The Christmas Invasion (10th Doctor), and Robot (4th), the closest competition, hands down. But how has Smith’s Eleventh Doctor fared since then?

For me Smith’s two series have been a largely smooth ride, but with some bumpy bits too. I’ll start with the lows because I don’t like ending on a downer. This will be an unpopular opinion… but occasionally, I find the current Doctor to be a little patronising, a bit too kiddy and bit too immature for my liking. I completely get that it’s a kids show, even if some people will argue that it is ‘for families’, but I do find this particular trait a little grating. Often kids shows can be more grown up than grown up shows – look at Press Gang, for instance. Then again, as the Fourth Doctor once said ‘what’s the point of being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes?’ Childishness is of course a quality that embodies a number of Doctors; the recorder wielding Troughton in The Three Doctors for example, or the gurning Eccleston in The End of the World. Some Doctors could pull it off, like Troughton, others couldn’t, like Eccleston. Smith for me is actually in both camps. Sometimes he gets it right, like in the early part of The Eleventh Hour with the fish fingers and custard, and sometimes he gets it wrong, like the revealing of the designer bedrooms in The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe, and all that stuff with the baby (Stormageddon) in Closing Time, both of which I thought were ever so cringe worthy.

Anyway, that’s the controversial bit out of the way. Now for the stuff I do like.

The high points for me were in The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone the weeping angel two-parter, The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang two part series five finale, series six openers The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon and in Tom MacRae’s The Girl Who Waited. I’ve singled out these episodes as they are moments when Smith is at his best and most versatile. In these episodes he’s funny (making the angels say “comfy chairs” was a classic), he’s dark (“No. She’s not real.”), he’s arrogant (“Who takes the pandorica, takes the universe, but bad news everyone, ‘cause guess who?”) and he’s surprising (“a mysterious summons. You think I’m just going to go?”). Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is at his absolute best when he challenges the audience, and shows you glimpses of the Doctor that you’re not used to seeing. He’s capable of making you laugh, making you cry, and shocking the time head off you.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan you’ll notice that six of the seven episodes listed there also star Alex Kingston as Doctor River Song, and are written by Steven Moffat (lets ignore the fact that he wrote one of the episodes that I criticised… everyone has an off day). Smith thrives with excellent writing and top notch acting talent to bounce off. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are very good, but Kingston is a cut above.

To summarise then, for Tellybrain, Matt Smith is an outstanding Doctor when funny, dark, arrogant, and surprising, when he’s written for by Steven Moffat and Tom MacRae (honourable mentions to Neil Gaiman, and Richard Curtis too), and when he’s opposite Alex Kingston… but he should perhaps leave off with the interior design and the babysitting!

Oh bugger, I ended on a downer… erm…  okay… why not watch the clips below that I believe show off Matt Smith at his very best.

The Eleventh Doctor being:

Funny

Dark

Arrogant

Surprising

For more information about the episodes mentioned you could visit the BBC programme pages:

The Eleventh Hour

The End of the World

The Christmas Invasion

The Time of Angels

Flesh and Stone

The Pandorica Opens

The Big Bang

The Impossible Astronaut

Day of the Moon

The Girl Who Waited

Closing Time

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

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