Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

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Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Johnstone McGuckian on Thu Dec 09, 2010 6:50 pm

Starting university has turned me into somewhat of a TV buff. In the past I've watched every Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Blake's 7, Only Fools and One Foot episodes in order. The first thing I noticed was that they're all British. A budding screenwriter like myself should be watching a much wider range of stuff. So I decided to try something American. The obvious choice would be something along the lines of 24 or Lost, something that's still recent. However this was impossible as, due to the fact that they're recent, the box sets cost a fortune.

So I was back to looking for something to find. I have a friend who is a bit of a Star Trek fan, complete opposite of me who can't stand it at all. I've seen the original series, it was silly and pretentious. I've seen Next Generation, it was dull and pretentious. I've seen Voyager and it made Next generation look good. I've seen Enterprise and... best we don't go there. My friend had been telling me for ages that Deep Space 9 is different and I simply ignored it. I wasn't willing to give it a chance.

However DS9 did spring to mind once I was looking for something. I watched the first two or three episodes online, just so I could judge to see if it was worth buying the box set. It was ok, so I got the first series and I ended up enjoying it immensely.

I'm about half way through series 5 at the moment and it's just fantastic. Gone is the pretentious crap that seemed to plague the other series. Gone are the dull self-contained episodes. Gone are the three regulars that may as well not be there at all. This is intelligent, this is gripping, this has believable characters, this has a set of lead characters that are likable and most of all, this is a proper story with an aim. Stuff gets carried over, bad guys survive the end of an episode to return another day. There's depth to the characters too. The Captain's wife snuffs it within five minutes. One of them doesn't know what race he is and then when he finds out he wishes he hadn't. This has got a credible bad guy, not some bumpy headed shouty irritating things. In fact, it does have the bumpy headed shouty weird things, but they're not as crap. It seems to lose the irritating politeness of Next Generation too, the characters even seem to ignore the rule book too for good measure!

I have only been able to reach one conclusion: I'm enjoying this!

And it gets better. there's apparently another series out there that's basically the same as this one but better! One that doesn't have the pretentiousness that the Trek logo couldn't help but bring with it.

I'd always seen Star trek and its spinoffs as very very poor, something that got so bad over time that they had to reboot and turn into Star Wars to restore some of its credibility. However Deep Space 9 is good, not only am I finding it watchable, something that is more than can be said for other Trek's, but I'm actually enjoying it. I'm glad that I found it. I still haven't told my friend that I am still hooked 5 months later though.

So yeah. I'm watching my way through old TV. I'm on Deep Space 9 at the minute and will move on to something else next, there's so much that I've not seen. I think I may take a peek at Babylon 5 once I have finished with DS9, I've heard that it's even better. There are loads of things I've never seen though: X Files, Buffy and Smallville to name a few.

So any wrinkly recommendations/advice? Am I being unfair to trek with what I said? Should I get the Tellytubbies boxset because it's far more ground-breaking, cutting-edge, dark and gritty(TM) than I remember? Just talk about telly to me!


Last edited by Johnstone McGuckian on Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:30 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Zoltar on Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:38 pm

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:So yeah. I'm watching my way through old TV. I'm on Deep Space 9 at the minute and will move on to something else next, there's so much that I've not seen. I think I may take a peek at Babylon 5 once I have finished with DS9, I've heard that it's even better. There are loads of things I've never seen though: X Files, Buffy and Smallville to name a few.
Of those shows, I'd recommend Babylon 5 first. The things you like about DS9 can definitely be found there in abundance.

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:Am I being unfair to trek with what I said?
Nah, you're just disappointed cos it's not as fun as the Youngster thread was. In all seriousness, if DS9 is working for you, that's great. It's actually my favorite of the spin-offs as well. If the rest of Trek's not to your liking, then it's not. No harm in that.

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:Should I get the Tellytubbies boxset because it's far more ground-breaking, cutting-edge, dark and gritty(TM) than I remember?
Er. No. Shocked

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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Patrick on Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:44 pm

How far back are you willing to go?

If you've ever watched an episode of X-Files, you should come to appreciate the source material. Hunt down and find "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." An excellent trip into early 1970s horror, before the age of the slasher flick.

And as far as science fiction on a space station, consider Babylon 5, as well. It's actually a nice counter-point in some ways to DS9, and it should be remembered that both series were airing at the same time in the mid-90s.


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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:03 pm

I also would go with Babylon 5 and if you can get your hands on it, Kolchak - The Night Stalker. I'd also recommend Sapphire and Steel, the Avengers...heck there's a massive amount of stuff out there that's more than worthwhile.

Not to plug something I've been involved in, (it really doesn't need plugging since it's excellence is unquestioned), you can do a lot worse than hopping over to Television Heaven for a superbly detailed overview of genuine televisual classics.

If you can't find inspiration there - you won't find it anywhere!
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Jennyjenkins on Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:40 am

If you've not watched Buffy - go out and hunt her down

*has had all the boxed sets for some time*
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:28 am

Jennyjenkins wrote:If you've not watched Buffy - go out and hunt her down

*has had all the boxed sets for some time*
And if you do go for Buffy. Honour demands you also check-out Angel too. Just as good - perhaps arguably even a touch better in some respects.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Rich Flair on Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:33 am

Don't watch Babylon 5 - it's awful. It's like the excellent DS9 with all the good bits taken away and all the pretentious bits added on. Jump straight onto Battlestar Galactica, which is the natural progression from DS9.

But if you're a budding scriptwriter you'll ned to watch some non-sci-fi shows - from the US I recommend Six Feet Under, The Wire and Mad Men. That'll keep you going for a few weeks.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:37 am

Rich Flair wrote:Don't watch Babylon 5 - it's awful. It's like the excellent DS9 with all the good bits taken away and all the pretentious bits added on. Jump straight onto Battlestar Galactica, which is the natural progression from DS9.

But if you're a budding scriptwriter you'll ned to watch some non-sci-fi shows - from the US I recommend Six Feet Under, The Wire and Mad Men. That'll keep you going for a few weeks.
Excellent points Rich. Certainly BSG is a must watch - just as a fine example of seriously good drama, even without factoring in the Science fiction angle.

I'd also recommend Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, Rome or just about anything else produced by HBO.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Patrick on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:08 am

Rich Flair wrote:Don't watch Babylon 5 - it's awful. It's like the excellent DS9 with all the good bits taken away and all the pretentious bits added on. Jump straight onto Battlestar Galactica, which is the natural progression from DS9.

Well, I'd never claim Babylon 5 is award winning science-fiction drama, but I do find it to be fertile ground to plumb for ideas on how to construct a several-years long story arc. For me, the fourth season of the show was arguably the best, as all those story threads began to reach their conclusion.

My only complaint about BSG is a rather person quibble. I don't like this trend in film-making of the cinema verite camera shake. I find it distracting.

Rich Flair wrote:But if you're a budding scriptwriter you'll ned to watch some non-sci-fi shows - from the US I recommend Six Feet Under, The Wire and Mad Men. That'll keep you going for a few weeks.

Mad Men has become something a personal favorite for me. The period detail of the early 60's is very well done, and the characters are just compelling. When AMC shows it, they do something I find interesting- when they go to a commercial break, they give you a brief frame before the commercial break starts that gives you a bit of history about the advertiser whose commercial you're about to watch. As a great many of these advertisers have histories that stretch back to the 50s, and long standing relationships with advertising agencies, it's actually topically related to the show itself.

One other non-sci fi show to contribute. Although I don't normally watch it myself (its on a night when I'm not normally in front of a TV), a lot of friends highly recommend House.

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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:12 am

Patrick wrote:One other non-sci fi show to contribute. Although I don't normally watch it myself (its on a night when I'm not normally in front of a TV), a lot of friends highly recommend House.
House is another good suggestion - although seasons 1-4 are probably the show at its peak.

Oh, and throw "Sherlock" into the mix.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Jennyjenkins on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:36 am

Sid Seadevil wrote:
Patrick wrote:One other non-sci fi show to contribute. Although I don't normally watch it myself (its on a night when I'm not normally in front of a TV), a lot of friends highly recommend House.
House is another good suggestion - although seasons 1-4 are probably the show at its peak.

Oh, and throw "Sherlock" into the mix.

*note to self - do not miss episode 3 of Sherlock again Embarassed *
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:46 am

Jennyjenkins wrote:*note to self - do not miss episode 3 of Sherlock again Embarassed *
Oh Jenny, that's a shame. Still, it's bound to pop up on BBC 2 or 3 before too long.

Oh By the way, another for Johnstone: Inspector Morse.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Rich Flair on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:53 am

Oh yes, well said Sid - Rome is the greatest show ever!
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:57 am

Rich Flair wrote:Oh yes, well said Sid - Rome is the greatest show ever!
Ain't it just. Titus Pullo for the win! I can't wait for the movie follow up. Bruno Heller has confirmed it got the green light for active development from the studio.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Zoltar on Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:58 am

Sid Seadevil wrote:And if you do go for Buffy. Honour demands you also check-out Angel too. Just as good - perhaps arguably even a touch better in some respects.
Agreed.

Sid Seadevil wrote:I'd also recommend Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, Rome or just about anything else produced by HBO.
Also agreed. Carnivàle was also an interesting one from HBO.

Though you specifically mentioned older shows, Johnstone, I'd recommend having a look at Fringe. It's similar to The X-Files in its first season, but then changes dramatically to become something all its own.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:12 am

Zoltar wrote:Also agreed. Carnivàle was also an interesting one from HBO.

Though you specifically mentioned older shows, Johnstone, I'd recommend having a look at Fringe. It's similar to The X-Files in its first season, but then changes dramatically to become something all its own.
Agreed on these too.

Actually, I think it would really pay off if Jonhstone took in as broad a range of genres from as wide a timespan as possible. He'll quickly come to realise that although televisual techniques have grown more sophisticated, truly great television writing is pretty much unchanged in the essentials.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Zoltar on Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:22 am

Sid Seadevil wrote:Agreed on these too.

Actually, I think it would really pay off if Jonhstone took in as broad a range of genres from as wide a timespan as possible. He'll quickly come to realise that although televisual techniques have grown more sophisticated, truly great television writing is pretty much unchanged in the essentials.
Indeed. For some more non-SF stuff, I suppose ER (particularly in its early seasons) and The West Wing would be worth mentioning.

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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:32 am

Zoltar wrote:Indeed. For some more non-SF stuff, I suppose ER (particularly in its early seasons) and The West Wing would be worth mentioning.
Excellent choices both.

Actually, even with all of our suggestions the Youngster has set himself a pretty daunting task. There's a hell of a lot of excellent material out there...much more than a lifetimes worth - if you count the more obscure material from other than the UK/US.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:58 am

Gender Bender - Best X-Files episode. Evah.

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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by stanmore on Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:53 pm

I love Northern Exposure. Northern Exposure Series 1 is the only American TV boxset I own. *looks through piffling DVD collection* Yep, the only non-cartoon American TV-based thing I own. It's on the shelf between Peep Show and Mamma Mia!

I think British TV works well with my scattergun brain. The episodes of House or MASH or 24 or The West Wing or whatever have been fantastic, but there's something in my head that goes "yes, this is very interesting; you're building up fascinating characters and an intriguing set-up but can't we go somewhere different now?" Probably why Doctor Who is my favourite TV show.

I will always watch Bilko if it's on though. And Charlie's Angels. And, indeed, The Love Boat.

Essentially I'm not much help. This has been a waste of my typing time and your reading time.


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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:58 pm

Sorry, I don't agree with you not being much help, stan. For what Johnstone's asking there really is no such thing as an invalid suggestion - so you certainly haven't been wasting your time by offering your personal viewpoint. At the end of the day, you're only doing exactly what the rest of us have done - offing advice.

Don't be so hard on yourself. I know I'm not only speaking for myself when I say that you always have something interesting to say when you take the trouble to post.

And believe me - it's appreciated.

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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by stanmore on Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:12 pm

Oh, don't worry, I'm not being hard on myself. It was just an acknowledgment that I'd been typing for a few minutes and was rambling somewhat. If I'm ever hard on myself I'll use the "I'm being hard on myself" smiley. Probably this one - Ninth Doctor

Just, you know, I thought it fair to point out that if Johnstone does want an American show to obsess over, he'd better not take the advice of someone who is on episode 2 of about twenty different serieses... Smile
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Johnstone McGuckian on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:01 pm

The Wire was mentioned, I do need to have a look at that.

As I said, i think Babylon 5 will be my next port of call as, from what I've heard, it's very interesting from a writing perspective.
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:21 am

stanmore wrote:Oh, don't worry, I'm not being hard on myself. It was just an acknowledgment that I'd been typing for a few minutes and was rambling somewhat. If I'm ever hard on myself I'll use the "I'm being hard on myself" smiley. Probably this one - Ninth Doctor

Just, you know, I thought it fair to point out that if Johnstone does want an American show to obsess over, he'd better not take the advice of someone who is on episode 2 of about twenty different serieses... Smile
Then that's more than fair enough stan, old mate. Still it never hurts to remind ourselves ever now and again just what the Wrinklies are all about. So although not strictly warranted in this instance - a purpose has been served. Smile
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Re: Johnstone's Epic Quest to Watch Stuff That was on the Telly Box A Long Time Ago!

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:26 am

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:The Wire was mentioned, I do need to have a look at that.

As I said, i think Babylon 5 will be my next port of call as, from what I've heard, it's very interesting from a writing perspective.
The Wire is an absolute must see, Youngster. As for B5 - there is much to be gleaned from it. But it is uneven (although a lot of that was down to network interference). Also, as excellent at structure and overall characterisation as JMS is (he freely admits being influenced by a lot of UK writers/series) at his worst, his dialogue can be positively painful.

But having said that, I still think you'll find some valuable insights within the show.
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