Tag Archives: Ashes To Ashes

The Persuasionists – When “Fan” Websites Go Bad


Viewers in the UK may have noticed a new sitcom called The Persuasionists on BBC2 this week. Or, then again, maybe not, since there was a suspicious lack of promotion for the show.

There IS, however, a website/blog for the show, which claims to be an “unofficial fan site”. However, it looks to me like it’s been set up by someone with a close connection to the show. The website is the main reason for this post but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The premise looked promising – a comedy set in an ad agency, created and written by a former ad man and starring some familiar British comedy faces.

There’s Adam Buxton, of Adam and Joe fame. There’s TV presenter Iain Lee, in his first acting role. Lee is best remembered as co-presenter, with Daisy Donovan, of Channel 4’s love-it-or-loathe-it late-night satirical news comedy The 11 O’Clock Show (which also launched the careers of Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais). For the record, I liked the first few seasons of the show.

The Persuasionists also stars Simon Farnaby and Daisy Haggard, whose names are not so familiar but their faces are. Haggard was in Green Wing, Man Stroke Woman and Psychoville and guest-starred in an episode of Ashes To Ashes. Farnaby has been in The Mighty Boosh and Jam & Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, all the promise proved to be false. The first episode was dire. In fact was quite possibly the worst TV comedy I have ever seen.

A little internet research revealed that the series started life as 2007 pilot episode on BBC3 called The Scum Also Rises, starring Red Dwarf‘s Chris Barrie. Wisely, he bailed. In fact, the only survivors from the pilot appear to be Buxton and Haggard.

I confess, I never saw The Scum Also Rises but what reviews I can find were scathing, so quite how this show was given a full series beggars belief. And, why it was allowed to continue filming AND THEN given a prime-time spot on BBC2 when it must have been obvious what a steaming pile of poo it was?

In the first place, the acting is mostly poor, though to be fair to the cast, I think Robert de Niro would have difficulty turning in a good performance with a script and characterisation this bad.

Ah, the script. The show was created and written by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Thake. There is not an ounce of originality in it.

In fact, it is perhaps telling that Thake was an ad man because ad men often “borrow” from other pop-culture sources to get their message across.

The Persuasionists lifts everything – from situations to jokes to entire characters – from many that have gone before. It’s as if Thake figured that just as he can lift characters and jokes from his favourite comedies to make a 30 second advert, he could use the same tactic to assemble a six-episode, 30-minute BBC2 sitcom. It has been largely pieced together from facsimiles of the work of others – unfortunately, without any of the wit of the pillaged sources.

For example, Farnaby’s character is a cross between Harry Enfield‘s Stavros and Steve Coogan‘s Tony Ferrino. And guest star Lee Ross‘s character in the first episode was suspiciously similar to Enfield’s Self Righteous Brothers (“Oi! Edmonds! NO!”).

If it was funny, the lack of originality could be overlooked. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that I never smiled once, much less laughed.

The Persuasionists was not just UNfunny, it was ANTI-funny. It sucked 30 minutes of humour out of the world. If you stuck it in the large hadron collider and fired it at the speed of light towards The Office or Peep Show or The Thick Of It or, y’know, ANY comedy that IS generally considered funny, the universe would disappear into a black hole.

The Choob doesn’t usually do reviews because I started this blog to share and discuss stuff that I like, not debate what is good and what isn’t – but in this case, I wanted to make clear everyone realises just how bad this show was before directing you towards the aforementioned website, www.thepersuasionists.com.

It’s a fan blog where someone has added a few posts about the recording and screening dates of the show. Of course, the thing about blogs is that they invite comments from visitors – and boy, has The Persuasionists attracted some corkers.

[EDIT: The comments on the official BBC comedy blog are just as brutal. There was a slightly better reception from a few people at The British Comedy Guide Forum.]

To say that the comments are infinitely more entertaining than the show is an understatement. If, like me, you feel you wasted 30 minutes of your life watching the show, you owe it to yourself to at least read the uniformly brutal opinions of similarly outraged viewers.

Click here to see them all on the original site but just in case it is taken down, here are a few highlights.

Particularly noteworthy are posts 23 and 24 (both of which make the excellent  point that The Persuasionists is disturbingly reminiscent of When The Whistle Blows, the deliberately crass, offensive and cringeworthy show-within-a-show in season two of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant‘s Extras – except that The Persuasionists forgot the irony) and 17.




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TV Newsround – Penny Spent? Kate Going? The Next Gen Boldly Returning? And More…


Is Lost‘s Penny doomed? The Choob has been worried about Penelope Widmore, girlfriend of Desmond Hume – the world’s favourite Scottish, Glasgow Celtic-supporting, time-travelling island-hopper – since nasty, vengeful Benjamin Linus said he was off to attend to some unfinished business, then was next seen covered in cuts and bruises next to some boats at a marina.

Further fuelling my fears, was the word that actress Sonya Walger, right, who plays Penny, had signed up for the lead role in the pilot of new sci-fi drama Flash Forward (lots more about that show here).

However, Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello offers some comfort, as he reports that Lost insiders say they are not done with Penny yet and that Walger will balance work on the two shows (they are both on the ABC network), should Flash Forward progress to a full series.

Of course, on Lost, the fact that a character will appear in future episodes does not necessarily mean they will be alive…

Talking of Lost, the rumour that has been spreading around “teh internets” over the last few days that Kate is being killed off (fuelled by a claim that actress Evangeline Lilly has been auditioning for new shows) has been flatly denied by the producers of Lost, network ABC and Lilly’s own spokespeople, all of whom insist Kate will be on the island until the show ends next year.

All the original main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation have signed up for a reunion – on a special episode of animated sitcom Family Guy.

Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes will appear in an episode called Not All Dogs Go To Heaven, in which the Griffin clan visit the annual Quahog Star Trek convention.

ITV’s poorly-received Saturday-night prime-time fantasy drama Demons is facing the axe after a single season, according to tabloid reports. Star Philip Glenister (best known for playing Gene Hunt in the original UK version of Life On Mars and its sequel Ashes To Ashes) has reportedly quit his role as vampire hunter Rupert Galvin. This, along with rapidly-declining ratings throughout the first season’s run, seem likely to signal its demise.

What credit crunch? NBC is said to be charging advertisers up to $500,000 for a 30-second commercial slot during the two-hour last-ever episode of ER, which airs in the US on April 2.  Such advertising slots normally cost around $135,000. George Clooney returns in the finale for one last appearance as Dr Doug Ross, left, along with a few of the show’s other former stars.

With the second season of The CW’s Reaper starting on Tuesday (March 3) Sci Fi Wire has a video interview with star Bret Harrison revealing what lies in store for the Devil’s errand boy this year.

As season seven of 24 approaches the half-way mark on Fox, it has been announced that executive producer John Cassar won’t be back for season eight (which may well be the show’s final season), after failing to agree a new contract deal. He had been with the series for six years.

His next project will be as director of CBS pilot Washington Field, a crime drama about a team of elite agents operating out of the FBI’s Washington field office.

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British Shows Invade US TV


BBC America will broadcast three British fantasy/sci-fi shows later this year.

Survivors, which completed its first, six-episode season on BBC1 in the UK just before Christmas, is an remake/update of a 7os BBC show of the same name, created by Terry Nation, who also created Blake’s 7 and co-created Doctor Who’s deadliest foes, The Daleks.

The post-apocalyptic drama, follows a small group of strangers who band together to survive in the aftermath of a virus that wipes out 99.9% of the human race.

As they struggle to start over they face not only a struggle to find food and water, but also find themselves under threat from other survivors and, in some cases, their own troubled pasts.

A second six-episode season has been ordered by the BBC and will air in the UK later this year.

Being Human is a quirky drama/horror about three 20-something flatmates, a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf, as they struggle to live normal lives and avoid their secret double lives being exposed.

The first six-episode series is currently airing on BBC3 in the UK.

Finally, BBC America will broadcast the 10-episode season three of Primeval, which is due to air on the UK’s ITV1 in the Spring.

The first two seasons of the show, 13 episodes in total, about a team of experts who battle dinosaurs that emerge into modern-day London through a time anomaly, aired last year in the States.

BBC America has already announced it will be screening the first season of Ashes To Ashes, the sequel to the BBC version of Life On Mars, later this year. Season two of Ashes To Ashes is due to air on BBC1 in the Spring.

 

 

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Gene Hunt’s Five-Year Plan


Ashes To Ashes, the sequel to time-tripping cop show Life On Mars is on it’s way to America. That’s the BBC sequel to the BBC Life On Mars, not to be confused with the American remake from ABC that is half-way through its first season Stateside.

And while promoting the show, co-creator Ashley Pharoah and star Gene Hunt himself, aka actor Philip Glenister, dropped a few hints about the future and the mythology of both the BBC and ABC versions of the franchise. 

While Life On Mars, which ran for two seasons on BBC1, shifted current-day cop Sam Tyler (John Simm) to 1973 Manchester, where he finds himself teamed up with politically incorrect old-school “beat a confession out of them” Gene Hunt, Ashes To Ashes finds another current -day cop time shifted and teamed up with the Gene-Genie.

This time, however, the displaced officer is a woman – police psychologist Alex Drake (played by Keeley Hawes) – who had been studying the Sam Tyler case – and the location is 1981 London.

With the second season of Ashes To Ashes set to begin on BBC1 in March, BBC America will start airing the first season on Saturday, March 7.

It’s already been well recorded that while the US version of Life On Mars is following the storyline of the BBC original very closely, the ultimate pay-off to the show, the explanation for what is happening to Sam Tyler, will be very different from the ending to the BBC Life On Mars.

But Pharoah teased us with a little more information of what the future holds for the two versions of the show:

He said (regarding the BBC series): “Right from the start, we knew how we wanted to end it when finally the whole franchise comes to an end.

“We’ve got a terrific ending, I think. Very different from the American Life on Mars. We swapped endings drunk in a Manhattan bar, so I know theirs, and they know mine.”

Asked whether there may be another sequel, with someone else transplanted in time, when Ashes To Ashes ends, Pharoah said: “Never say never but I really would be amazed.

“[Season two of Ashes] is about to go out in March [on BBC1], and if that does well enough to give us a next [season], two Life on Mars and three Ashes would be a five-year journey. It’s been a wonderful journey, [but] I think we would probably say thank you very much and bow out.”

Whether the US version of Life On Mars will continue in the 70s or spin off into its own version of Ashes To Ashes remains to be seen and will no doubt depend heavily on the ratings when the show returns from its mid-season break on January 28, after it was moved to Wednesday night to partnet up with ABC’s other time-shift fantasy, Lost.

You can read SciFi Wire’s full report of the Q&A with Pharoah and Glenister here.

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