Having now binge-watched all seven seasons of The Great British Bake-Off, S2 and S3 of the Australian, 1x01 and 02 of the Irish, most of the Great Holiday / American Baking Show and half of S1 of the South African, I feel somewhat qualified to rank the various English-speaking versions and make some observations about which ones are definitely worth watching, which are just OK, and which ones you might as well give a miss.

First, though, I want to talk about what makes the original Bake-Off and its derivatives special in the first place. Feel free to skip this bit if you already know )

Anyway, here's my personal ranking of the various Bake-Off shows I've watched so far:

GBBO and its spin-offs rated from 'bleh' to 'YEAH', with accompanying reasons )

* * *

There is much more that could be said, especially about my favorite contestants and bakes over the seasons, but I wouldn't want to spoil the fun for those who have yet to watch and enjoy the delights of Custardgate, Selasi's unflappable cool, or the Amazing Bread Lion for themselves. (I can totally be induced to burble about those things in comments, though, if you're a fellow fan.)
It is sad to me that every time I mention Avatar I have to specify that I mean the cartoon series subtitled The Last Airbender only and not the stupid movie (or that other Avatar with the blue people either). I'll be glad when Legend of Korra starts and we can get away from all that for a bit.

But anyway, I just discovered something last night which made me very happy. Possibly I am the last person to know about this because I've never been involved in AtLA fandom, but there have to be other fans like me out there, so I'm going to share it anyway:

If you've watched all the episodes, there are 450 pages of post-finale comic beautifully drawn and written in the same style as the series (no, I am not kidding) by one of the storyboard artists for the show (no, I am not kidding about that either). It is not your typical pretty-good or even surprisingly-good fanwork. It is brilliant.

"Zhao of the Water Tribe" is the story of Admiral Zhao, whose apparent fate in the series I very much did not lament, and who in the comic is very much still an enormous jerk in many ways (which is to say, believably in character), but by the time I was finished this story I actually a) cared about him; b) wanted to know more about what happened to him; and c) was prepared to declare the whole thing canon.

Besides Zhao there are a number of familiar characters from the series (including a couple whose appearance will make [livejournal.com profile] lizbee very happy), but there are also some wonderful new ones invented by the author/artist which are absolutely strong enough to stand beside them. I have so much love for Nauja, I can't tell you.

And now I must go and make scones.
Actually, somewhat more than three, apparently. I haven't done this in ages, but I do find working in Photoshop curiously soothing, so after figuring out the new first line of Arrow this morning I celebrated by... um, making a lot of Sherlock icons. That makes sense, right?

Anyway, if you're a fan and you like text icons, you can find the pretties over in this post.

And now that I've figured out my method I can make them fairly quickly, so I will take requests if you don't see the quote you were looking for...
My husband's comment about THE PANDORICA OPENS, followed by some more Serious Thoughts, all Most Spoilery )

There is more, but I have to stop or I'd go on forever. Brilliant, shattering episode. I only hope Part Two lives up to it.
A deceptively simple, character-driven episode that at times strains credulity to the limit -- but there's a very good reason for that, as we find out at the end.

And I loved it LIKE PIE.

Details, spoilers and Peruvian folk bands under the cut )

Okay, I think I'm done now. Thoughts, people! I know you have them! Tell them to me!

* No, this is not an invitation for you to tell me why you dislike Amy in comments. If you don't like her, or Eleven, or Rory, or Steven Moffat, or this season in general, you have every right to feel that way, but please go and talk about it somewhere else. Thank you.
I just thought of this right now and... I think... I think I might really be onto something here.

Spoilers for 'The Time of Angels', 'Flesh and Stone', etc. )

Obviously the details are sketchy here, as I have no idea of the circumstances involved. But I do feel pretty confident about the underlying premise. It seems to fit well with everything we know so far -- though I'm willing to be corrected on this point by people with better memories than I have.

What say you, fellow Whofen?

If you like your secondary-world fantasy with a healthy dollop of intrigue, wit, danger, and understated but powerful romance, you should all go read Leah Cypess's Mistwood (HarperTeen, April 2010), which I just finished and enjoyed enormously. Steph Su has a very good review of the book here, though I'd disagree with Steph's comment about the secondary characters -- I had no trouble telling them apart, myself.

And Leah tells me she is working on revisions to the companion novel as we speak! Yay, companion novel!



In the DO WANT category: J.J. Abrams' new show Undercover, about a married couple who are spies. From the guy who wrote Jack and Irina? This HAS to be good. Seriously, look at this picture. I am gleeful and optimistic.

Also, check out this lovely, exuberant, heart-warming Doctor Who S5 vid from [livejournal.com profile] humansrsuperior: Brand New Day. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] infiniteviking for the tip.



I'm mostly preaching to the choir here, I'm sure, but still -- [livejournal.com profile] taraljc has reposted a terrific essay about the effort that goes into writing quality fan fiction, and how it isn't always easy -- or even desirable -- to just file off the serial numbers.


And that will be all, because I'm feeling curiously dizzy all of a sudden. *blinks*
I have spent the last fourteen weeks with my nose in my laptop, writing furiously -- but now Arrow is all drafted and even a bit polished and ready to send to my editor for her comments, huzzah!

So now it is time to fulfill my promise of telling you all what I think of the new season of Doctor Who. Because I know you have all been waiting for my Very Important Opinion on this subject, and that nobody else on the entire Interwebs has had anything sensible or interesting to say about it in the meantime.

*coughs in an embarrassed fashion*

Anyway. My opinions, which are mine and also contain Great Walloping Wads of SPOILERS, are as follows:

The Eleventh Hour )

The Beast Below )

Victory of the Daleks )

The Time of Angels )

Flesh and Stone )

Now for some general, non-spoilery thoughts on Eleven hisownself:

Others have said that David Tennant was Ten (and to that I would add that Christopher Eccleston was Nine, as well) but Matt Smith is the Doctor, and I agree. He's got that wonderful old-man-in-a-young-man's-body thing going that Davison occasionally managed but didn't quite hit consistently. I almost feel, so help me, that Eleven is what Five should have been if the showrunners hadn't been so uptight at that point about making him Different From Four and also keeping him physically distant from his companions so that nobody would think anything was Going On There. What has also surprised me is how much Matt Smith even looks like Davison at times, even though in still photos they could scarcely be more different. It seems like at least once a week there's a moment where Eleven turns or looks up and I catch my breath at how much he reminds me of Five.

But he's also so much like Two, with the dithery hands and the bow-legged stance and that distracted air that can turn laser-sharp in an instant, and I'm loving that as well. Really a fantastic performance that doesn't feel like a performance... just a fine actor inhabiting the Doctor and bringing him to life, instead of Eccleston-as-Doctor or Tennant-as-Doctor like we've had before. So yes, I am sold, and I look very much forward to seeing Matt Smith's portrayal continue to refine and develop over the course of the season.

Okay, I shamelessly admit to skipping the entire S4 finale and I doubt I'll change my mind on that point, but this preview has me all pumped for S5, despite* the spoilers )

So do we have an actual date for the beginning of S5, or just this vague promise of "Spring"?

Note to self: Need Matt Smith icon.

* Oh, all right, maybe BECAUSE of that part. What can I say, I'm an Old Skool Whofan, I still haven't got over the novelty of it.
Oh, show. You give me John Lynch being... John Lynch, and Colin Morgan turning in one of his most brilliant and heartbreaking performances (the fact that he can hold his own with John Lynch, and that Bradley also does it to a less obvious extent with ASH in this episode, is really impressive) and more Arthur/Gwen goodness and CGI that isn't dodgy at all, and then you tell me I have to wait another year for S3. WHY. WHY MUST I WAIT.

Spoilery comments )

...Do I really not have a MERLIN tag? Is this actually the first time I've posted about this show I've been watching (first skeptically, then indulgently, and finally with delight and deep affection) for the last two years? Wow. Okay then.

And why do I have no icons of Colin Morgan?

I feel Blue

Jun. 17th, 2009 09:58 am
rj_anderson: (Tintin - "What?")
[livejournal.com profile] watchmebe a.k.a. Jackson Pearce (author of the forthcoming As You Wish, which I am dying to read) has posted a hilarious video from her recent trip to Savannah with the Gothic Girls, in which they all retell their stories using zombies.

But although this post was inspired by watching that video, it is not zombies I wish to speak of, dear readers. Rather, I was moved by the closing music of the video to talk about the Smurfs.

As a cynical child, I totally hated the Smurfs. All these smarmy little blue people being cute and singing their little la-la-la song, and the only hint of conflict or danger was that evil wizard Gargamel (whose motivations for persecuting the Smurfs were obscure to me, to say the least). When I sat down to watch Saturday morning cartoons, I resented the Smurfs for taking up time that could otherwise be spent watching shows that were really awesome, like Drak Pack and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

But then one day I was browsing through my local bookstore, feeling frustrated that I already owned every Tintin comic in existence and that there weren't any new Asterix to be had, and I came upon -- what's this? -- an actual comic book of the Smurfs, as created by their original author, and translated into English by the same clever folk (Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge) who did Tintin and Asterix?


I picked it up. I flipped through it. I laughed in surprise.

And then I bought it.

You see, Peyo's Smurfs were not the nauseatingly perfect little darlings of the cartoon. They were not reduced to a convenient set of stereotypes endowed with different costumes so you could tell them apart (well, apart from the obvious differences of Papa Smurf and Smurfette, that is). They had actual attitude and personality, and what amused me most was that they used the word "smurf" in totally different ways than the cartoon did.

On TV, "smurf" was a cute little substitute for random nouns and verbs -- "Oh, that's absolutely smurfly! What a smurfy day for a picnic!" Whereas in the comic, "smurf" frequently ended up being a euphemism for things that could not be said in print. "I'll smurf you in the smurf, you smurfing smurf!" *cue tornado with flailing blue fists here*

And then of course Papa Smurf had to come break it up, but even he wasn't nearly so smug and condescending as in the TV series. He could be cranky and impatient and, well, more like a real person would be if they were saddled with being the father figure to a village full of little blue savages.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating the Smurf aggression factor a little. But there was definitely enough wit (including sarcasm) and conflict that the Smurfs could actually have plots all their own, instead of having to rely on some outside baddie (i.e. Gargamel) to come and persecute them. In fact, Gargamel was hardly in the Smurf comics I read at all.

In short: TV Smurfs = meh. Comic Smurfs = kind of awesome.

You would think I would turn this into some deep authorial musing on the importance of writing three-dimensional characters with flaws as well as virtues, wouldn't you? Nah, you can probably figure that part out yourself.

However, I fear I have sad news. The Smurfs did not fade gently away when their TV show was cancelled, nor enjoy an eternally cozy existence between the pages of Peyo's comics.

No, I am afraid that with the full approval of their creator, they were bombed to death by UNICEF.

You think I'm kidding, don't you?

Which just goes to show, sometimes you can take that whole conflict thing a bit too far.

Image by monkeyc.net via Flickr

Wow, has it been that long since I did an episode review for this show? I have still been watching House, you know -- long after virtually everybody I knew had given up on it, or nearly so. Right now it is actually the only network show I still watch on a weekly basis (since Doctor Who has gone to specials for the year, and the UK TV season is so short that stuff like Merlin hardly counts).

I also seem to have forgotten to mention at any point in the last two years that I never had a problem with the whole fire-the-old-ducklings-and-replace-them motif. I thought it actually did a lot to keep the show from becoming stale, and although I'm not a big fan of Thirteen by any means I could never work myself up to actively hating her or blaming her and the other Mark II Ducklings for replacing Chase and Cameron.

I even liked the Chase/Cameron thing once it became a proper romance, and don't find myself sorry that House/Cameron didn't work out after all. (Actually I still think House/Cate from Antarctica would have been the best match ever, but you know these long distance relationships...)

But anyway, let's talk about the episode in question )

Amazing how a show so formulaic can keep me interested after five years. It really is the characters -- or I should say one particular character: House, in all his dysfunctional, infinitely strange glory.
Previously posted on Twitter, but reproduced and edited here because I'm lazy that way:

Somewhat more than 140 characters, with some spoilers )

Final Rating for "Planet of the Dead": 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Matt Smith with Glasses
Originally uploaded by rj-anderson
No, really, I didn't. I mean, once New Who started up it became substantially more likely, but back when I was writing DW fanfic in the early 90's the idea of Eleven seemed incredibly far away. I mean, we hadn't even seen Eight at that point yet.

Anyway, I was whining a bit on [livejournal.com profile] calapine's journal about the casting of Some Guy I Don't Know Who Looks Funny, but then I was reminded how the first pics of David Tennant I saw made him look weaselly and weird and not especially Doctorish at all, and that I remained skeptical right up until I saw "The Christmas Invasion" but then was completely won over. And soon after that I found this picture on Outpost Gallifrey, where the New Guy didn't have weird pointy hair or resemble Robert Smith from the Cure in any way whatsoever, and suddenly all was right with the world again.

So roll on, Matt Smith! Even if you are twelve years younger than me, which is just WRONG, but then it was a shock to find out that David Tennant was a whole year younger than me and I got over it.

(And no, I am not cut-tagging this because the news is all over the place, and if you're that afraid of being spoiled by finding out about Eleven ahead of time you'll need to stay off the internets until Spring 2010. Let me know how that works out.)
Well, what do you know. I actually liked that. I kept expecting the whole thing to go down the drain at any moment, but though it started to spiral once or twice, it never completely sank.

Spoilers )

Bring on the Christmas special!
Seldom have I ever been so glad to have one of my predictions proven wrong.

On the other hand, the suspicion I had but didn't elaborate on here, as to the way this particular case would end? I was right about that part.

Just give RSL the Emmy already, people.
Okay, so I have learned my lesson about using fresh pineapple rings on my cooked ham, because if you leave the rings on overnight to let the juices soak in and then warm the whole thing up again, the ham tastes like it's been partially pre-digested.


In other news, I cannot get this week's House out of my head. I mean, I could have DEFINITELY done without certain parts of it (those of you who've seen the episode will probably have no difficulty guessing what those parts are, and most of them, alas, belong to Lisa Edelstein), and there were the inevitable bits of plot that were far-fetched to the point of absurdity. But Hugh Laurie was brilliant as always, there were some Good Chase Bits, and the foreshadowing was a thing of beauty. Spoilers )

On the other hand, my edits on Knife are going well, the pain in my arms is much better today, and I found some great pictures and made a new Paul icon out of one of them. (And no, I didn't use the mouse. This is what my pen and tablet are for, even though the pen is going wonky and doesn't always behave as it should, thanks to my toddler DROOLING IN IT.)
I actually... kind of loved that?

Some vaguely spoilerish comments )

I think this is yet another prime example of why I should never bother reading anyone else's reviews until after I've made up my own mind about the episode (and I don't mean just DW, I mean any show). So many many times the episodes I've been led to believe are junk turn out to be quite enjoyable, while the episodes that get touted as brilliant frequently leave me cold, or worse, enraged.
I have nothing in particular to say about this episode -- except these two things ). Everything else worth noting has already been said by other people like [livejournal.com profile] lizbee and [livejournal.com profile] calapine.

I do, however, desperately want a little Adipose of my very own. An icon will suffice. An animated one with the Adipose either skipping down the street or waving and smiling would be best of all: if anybody finds one in their travels, please let me know.

Oh, one more thing: did someone run over David Tennant with a bus between seasons? Seriously, he's looking kind of... worn out these days. Unless it is Plot, which it might be considering that Donna even remarked on it. In which case, well done BBC Makeup Dept., I guess.

Wait, two more things. minor spoiler )
I am three episodes into S2 of Blake's 7 and sadly, I have gone from quite liking Blake and being mystified as to why he is not more popular, to actively wanting to smack him around. I have also gone from thinking the scripts coherent and effective if a bit over-explanatory at times to finding them annoyingly cryptic and at times utterly baroque. Chris Boucher, what have you done with Terry Nation and how soon can we get him back?


And now to bed.


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