Published work – September 2014

Metro iconAs it’s almost October, I thought I’d share some of the articles that I’ve written for Metro Blogs throughout September.

After going to the launch of Glue, E4’s latest drama, I’ve written a couple of pieces about the show – which has since become one of my favourite programmes on television at the moment.

I also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Friends by selecting my choices of the sitcom’s best episodes and revealed some of my favourite Derren Brown shows – an article that was then shared on the illusionist’s Facebook page.

Check out the following blogs:

Friends turns 20: 20 episodes you need to watch

7 reasons I’ll be watching Strictly for the first time this year

9 best moments from the McBusted Tourplay announcement

11 types of students you’ll meet during freshers’ week

9 reasons why E4’s Glue is an unmissable yet shocking drama

Bad Education is back: 10 reasons Jack Whitehall is top of the class

9 reasons to be excited about Disney Infinity 2.0

13 things you need to be a convincing pirate on Talk Like A Pirate Day

11 lessons learned from Educating the East End (including how to run an election)

7 best moments from Our Girl series opener

Our Girl: Can anybody compete with Downton Abbey?

8 times Derren Brown blew our minds

Glue: 8 biggest shocks from episode two

8 reasons why How I Met Your Mother should’ve used its alternative ending

Giant spiders vs crane flies: Who wins?

And there’s plenty more to come in October…

Pretty Little Liars – A Pretty Little Television Adaptation

 

Pretty Little Liars has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in the US. The show’s third season has just finished and is going from strength to strength with ABC picking it up for another two seasons. There’s also a spin-off show, Ravenswood, in the works.

Based on the captivating book series by Sara Shepard, the show follows four girls who are tormented by the disappearance of their best friend Alison. Aria (Lucy Hale), Emily (Shay Mitchell), Hanna (Ashley Benson) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) are all stereotypical teenagers with different interests. The girls are fundamentally different yet pulled together by Alison, the glue of the group. They share secrets like all best friends do, but Alison seems to have dirt on everyone in town so when she disappears and is never seen again there are many suspects who could have been involved.

Alison’s disappearance causes the girls to drift apart and they believe their secrets are buried with her… until a mysterious person starts sending them intimidating messages revealing things only Alison knew, signing off the messages with “-A.” Initially the girls think Alison is still alive but when her body is found buried under the gazebo of her old house, the girls regroup to find the perpetrator.

The original book series has proved to be extremely popular, with twelve novels published as well as a companion novel. Two more books are planned for release by the end of this year.

Due to the loyal fan base of the novels, there has been a lot of controversy about the production of the television adaptation. Whilst certain elements remain the same, such as the characters names and the general plotline, some viewers have complained about more major differences. For example, some truly sinister characters in the book series have been transformed into love interests and well-received characters are still featured in the television series despite being killed off or leaving in the novels.

Whilst it’s fair that dedicated fans get frustrated about the differences in the adaptation, it’s clear to see why the production of the show doesn’t follow the same narrative as the original series. Most of the novels only span a timeline of a few days, which wouldn’t transfer easily onto a weekly television show of 20 or so episodes a series. New plotlines need to be introduced, or drawn out, to have enough material. The pilot episode, for example, was based entirely on the first book. If the show continued at this pace, there wouldn’t be enough material to make one series.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The show features many shocking scenes full of suspense.

The issue with television adaptation is that suspense needs to be built in every episode, which usually only focuses on a few plot points. In the case of Pretty Little Liars, with four main characters, it is essential to address a number of different plotlines in each episode. Due to the amount of content that needs to be addressed, fans often become frustrated when questions remain unanswered and sub-plots are forgotten about.

Marlene King, the executive producer for the show, constantly comes under fire on social networking websites for the show’s direction. Fans either criticise her for digressing away from the books or for leaving too many unanswered questions. But that’s surely what good television is all about – Intrigue, suspense, shocks and debate.

Fidelity to the source text is important to some extent, but with television adaptations, you never know how long the show is going to run for. To remain popular, producers will respond to what audiences want.

It can be frustrating as a viewer when questions remain unanswered and characters disappear for a number of episodes and it can be annoying when promos are edited to suggest viewers will receive answers when they don’t – but is fidelity in adaptation as important when it comes to television?

With Pretty Little Liars’ incredible fan base, and the go-ahead for at least two more seasons, it’s likely that producers will be able to plan ahead for what needs to be revealed and when. They have many hours of content they need to fill with plots so it is clear they will need to bring in new ideas rather than remaining entirely faithful to the books.

After all, if the show followed the exact plot of the book series surely we’d all be passive viewers, never excited about character developments and never intrigued about what would be happening in the next episode. It’s far more exciting to be an active viewer, continually being shocked by characters and wondering what will be revealed next. Pretty Little Liars is, in my opinion, a great example of how adaptation should be done for a continuing series.

What is your opinion on adaptation for television? Is fidelity less important for a continuing series?

 

Preview: Gavin and Stacey’s US Remake – Us and Them

Cast of 'Us and Them' [Image: Independent]

Cast of ‘Us and Them’ [Image: Independent]

The pilot of the American Gavin and Stacey adaptation, Us and Them, has officially been picked up by Fox TV.

I previously wrote about the remake, originally under the working title of Friends and Family, over on Yuppee Magazine but the trailer for the pilot has finally arrived:

Some things are clear from the trailer, there are new jokes but the general plot remains the same – a pair of young lovers start a relationship whilst dealing with their eccentric families. Gavin (Jason Ritter) is now a city slicker from New York and Stacey (Alexis Bledel) is from small town Pennsylvania.

Whilst adaptations are always exciting to watch, part of the beauty of Gavin and Stacey was the simplicity of its scripting. Catchphrases from the show weaseled their way into common phrasing and whilst the representations of characters were stereotypical, they were always relateable.

I think the main contribution to the success of the remake in America will be how viewers warm to the characters. In the original version of the show all of the characters were likeable and hilarious so hopefully with Ruth Jones and James Corden on board as executive producers this will be the case with the remake.

I’m excited to see the show when it airs but as a huge fan of the original I can’t help but be dubious about how it will translate on American television and whether it will do the show justice. I know that this has been the general feeling amongst UK viewers (and even American fans who have watched the original series) but others have expressed their excitement on social media at seeing the show being reinvigorated, stating it will fill the void left when Gavin and Stacey finished.

What are your thoughts based on the trailer? Will it be a tidy remake or a big mistake?

Crowd Funding: How Veronica Mars Could Change the Film Industry

Crowd Funding

Crowd funding is the process in which individuals can donate money to people and organisations to help them achieve their goals. It has long been associated with the arts, specifically with unsigned musicians or filmmakers, who ask their fans to help fund their projects.

These funding websites, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, frequently reward donators with perks and rewards for their financial contributions.

In the past, these websites were predominantly used by those who were relatively unknown, but recently they have become a source of backing projects made by well known organisations and filmmakers.

Since the cancellation of television series Veronica Mars in 2007, fans have been campaigning for series creator Rob Thomas to make a film version of the show. Both Thomas and actress Kristen Bell had expressed their interest in doing so but Warner Brothers, the show’s production company, opted not to fund the project.

Following persistence from Thomas and Bell, Warner Brothers agreed that should they find a way to provide funding for the film, they would back it. The pair organised a profile on Kickstarter with an objective of raising $2,000,000, the highest ever goal on the website, to be reached by April 12th. At the time of writing this article, with 18 days left to go, they have surpassed their aim and $3,872,624 has been pledged.

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

Due to the Kickstarter funding campaign, a Veronica Mars film is going into production this summer [Image: Kickstarter]

With the target being reached, the production of the film will now happen, with contributors winning rewards including scripts, limited edition t-shirts, DVDs, signed posters, twitter follows, premiere tickets  and even a speaking role in the movie.

Due to the support of the Veronica Mars movie project, the rumour mill has been going wild with the possibility of other defunct television shows being able to make films through fan funding. Shows including Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Firefly are now all being rumoured for revival.

The biggest issue with the increased interest in fan funded films is the fact that, should these higher budget films be successful, it will be a more frequented method of covering production costs and smaller independent projects may get overlooked.

When big production companies are already involved with the film’s development, it does feel like an elaborate ploy for these corporations to earn extra money and it is a shame that people are likely to be more willing to contribute to these ventures than those with absolutely no means of funding their projects without extra support.

Furthermore, this method of funding changes the whole viewing experience for film fans. Rewards are there to ensure that financial contributors aren’t taken advantage of, but the process still holds great risk – what if the production doesn’t deliver with its promises and, more importantly, what if the fans who contribute towards the project aren’t happy with the final result?

Fans will be donating a lot of money to the film, what with the initial funding pledges, cinema trips and the purchase of dvds and merchandise, these contributors will therefore expect a lot from the final product and so they should.

I guess it comes down to Veronica Mars to set the precedent but, because of the media attention of the project and the persistence of fans, it seems likely to be a commercial success, which may mean film fans could soon have a more active role in the production of higher budget films, whether this is for the best or not.

#danceponydance – Social Media Influences Ad Campaign

Advertising agencies are now embracing social media to the full. Nowadays it is rare to see an ad without the familiar ‘hashtag’ (#) symbol in the corner, inviting viewers to discuss what they have seen on Twitter.

The latest viral ad to take the world by storm is Three’s #DancePonyDance, featuring Socks, the moon-walking Shetland pony. Created by Wieden and Kennedy, the ad sees Socks shimmying across the Scottish Highlands to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’. Watch the ad below:

As a brand, Three are trying to put more emphasis on their Ultrafast network and as a result are encouraging people to share the things that they enjoy via networking websites:

Three want to let the world know that all the seemingly stupid, funny and downright daft stuff we look at online on a daily basis…is not silly at all. Their point of view is that this stuff connects us to one another through the simple act of sharing it. Which is why as a network they do everything they can to help you live up to their brand line ‘Keep on internetting’. The commercial ends with the line ‘Silly stuff. It matters’.

[Source: Wieden and Kennedy London]

The brand have even started a “Sharing Stuff” section on their website where they discuss the top online sharing habits of the week:

[Source: three.co.uk]

[Source: three.co.uk]

As well as encouraging viewers to discuss, and share, the ad campaign using the #DancePonyDance hashtag, a web-hosted app was also released to further inspire online sharing.

The remixing tool, The Pony Mixer, allows people to make their own customisations of the ad by adding different backgrounds and props as well as changing the music genre. Once the user has remixed the viral, it can be shared online again via social media. Some of these user-generated ads are now being televised alongside the creator’s twitter name. The @ThreeUK twitter feed even has a promoted post sending tweeters to The Pony Mixer, making it unavoidable to connect with the brand.

The ad has been so popular that numerous celebrities have now mentioned how much they love Socks and the first @ThreeUK tweet linking to the ad has now been retweeted 1,277 times. A parody account for Socks has also been created on twitter, @ponydanceparody.

Perhaps the biggest sign that the public are influenced by ads, and social media trends, is the fact that Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’, the soundtrack of the ad, has now re-entered the UK charts. It will be interesting to see if the new songs featured on The Pony Mixer will follow suit.

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

Socks the moonwalking Shetland. [Source: Creative Review]

The ad has undoubtedly been a success for Three. Viewers are now linking their emotions towards the advert with the brand itself and the majority of tweets on the #DancePonyDance hashtag are positive.

However, there has of course been a surge of jokes relating to the recent horse meat scandal and now there is an unfortunate report of yobs forcing a Shetland pony to moonwalk off of a cliff. So it remains to be seen how long responses to the ad itself will remain positive.

Until then, I’m off to remix my own #danceponydance ad…

What are your thoughts on the ad? Love it or loathe it? Does it make you think of Three differently?

The Best of ‘Gavin and Stacey’

Gavin and Stacey

L-R: Rob Brydon, Melanie Walters, Ruth Jones, Joanna Page, Mathew Horne, James Corden, Alison Steadman and Larry Lamb

Be warned, this post contains spoilers from the show ‘Gavin and Stacey’

Gavin and Stacey was a huge hit when it started back in 2007 and marked a new era in UK comedy. The show, written by James Corden and Ruth Jones, was critically acclaimed and a commercial success.

The show told the story of the romance between Gavin (Mathew Horne), from Billericay, Essex and Stacey (Joanna Page), from Barry, Wales. It follows key moments in their relationship, from their first meeting to getting married and starting a family.

Their relationship is heavily contrasted to their best friends Smithy (James Corden) and Nessa (Ruth Jones) who end up having  a child together, despite hating each other.

Other characters include Gavin’s mum, Pam (Alison Steadman) and dad, Mick (Larry Lamb), Stacey’s mum, Gwen (Melanie Walters) and Uncle Bryn (Rob Brydon).

With the recent announcement that the show was to be remade for American television, re-titled Friends and Family, I couldn’t resist looking back at some of the best moments of the series.

Gavin meets Gwen and Bryn for the first time

After a miscommunication with Stacey, Gavin travels down to Wales to make things right. He is met by Gwen and Bryn who assume he is a Jehovah’s Witness and don’t let him get a word in edgeways.

 

Smithy’s Best Man Speech

Smithy spends the majority of the episode telling anyone who will listen he’s written an amazing speech. Having heard Gavin’s emotional declaration of love to Stacey, Smithy is too overwhelmed to talk. The speech is featured in the book From Barry to Billericay… and it is indeed a corker.

 

Mick’s going to be on the telly!

The gang are all excited because Mick is going to appear on the news. They are all cheering for the new “local celebrity”, despite the fact it is because he found a dead body. Bryn even describes the moment as the best day of his life… until the report comes around and Mick is only seen saying “well it’s the last thing you expect to find when you come into work in the morning”.

Mick Gavin and Stacey

 

The Barn Dance

Bryn decides to organise a Barn Dance for Gwen’s birthday and invites all of the gang along. He is surprised to find Gwen doesn’t have that many friends and ends up inviting people he knows she doesn’t even like. Bryn and Nessa put on a surprise performance of Islands in the Stream before being interrupted by Stacey’s brother Jason, who has a strained relationship with Bryn due to an undisclosed event that took place at a fishing trip.

 

Oh Doris, Where’s the Salad?

Gwen’s next door neighbour Doris was an absolute scene stealer. She had many standout moments, from flirting with Gavin, taking home toyboys (including Noel from Hearsay) and singing along to The Smiths. Her best, and arguably most iconic moment came in series 3, when she was tasked with making a salad for baby Neil’s christening party.

 

The House of Fun

The gang have a drunken night at Pam and Mick’s house which is just hilarious. There are so many things that make this clip amazing – Dawn falling over, Pete’s general drunkenness, Smithy’s reaction to Pam smoking, Mick coughing and Gavin then imitating him, Pam suggesting shots, the conga line and Nessa and Mick swapping tops. It almost makes you want to get drunk with your parents…

 

Pete and Dawn renew their Wedding Vows

Pete and Dawn decide to use song lyrics as their vows – they decide to recite Coldplay’s Fix You and Michael Jackson’s Ben. Pete is having trouble reciting the lyrics without elongating them as if he was singing the song and Smithy takes his job of giving Dawn away a little too seriously. If you can find them, the outtakes from this scene are hilarious.

 

Nessa’s Wedding

As you can probably guess, Nessa’s wedding day was as far from traditional as you could imagine. There was no white dress, she wore the boots she wears everyday and she traveled to the church with Stacey in a trailer attached to her dad’s car. The episode saw cameos from Noel from Hearsay and John Prescott, who had previously been alluded to being one of Nessa’s past lovers.

There are so many great moments in the show, I could probably list 20 more easily! What are some of your favourite scenes?

The Best of ‘How I Met Your Mother’

How I Met Your Mother is, without a doubt, one of my favourite shows. There are so many great things about it and I think it’s premise is a great idea.

For those who haven’t seen it, it follows Ted Mosby as he tells his children – you guessed it – how he met their mother. He recalls stories about his life as a bachelor with best friends Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin.

In honour of the show’s return to UK television tonight, here I run through my favourite things about the show.

The Catchphrases

The show is full of catchphrases (mostly Barney’s) and unsurprisingly, they never seem to grate on you as a viewer. Some of my favourites include:

“Have you met Ted?” 

Due to Ted’s desperation to find a soulmate, his friends sometimes feel the need to introduce him to women he isn’t confident enough to talk to. This is one me and my friends love so much, we’ve taken to mimicking it on nights out.

“It’s going to be Legen – wait for it – dary!”

Barney thinks everything is legendary. Whilst his friends think he is too liberal with the word, he is always looking for things that will outdo the last in terms of “awesomeness”.

“Suit Up!”

Barney loves suits -so much so that in the 100th episode he sings a song about it. He is often heard telling his friends to “suit up” to join him on the hunt for women. Variations of the phrase have included “snow suit up” and “flight suit up”.

The Slap Bet

The best episodes of the show revolve around the Slap Bet. When Marshall and Barney debate why Robin won’t go to a mall, they bet on why, agreeing that whoever wins gets to slap the other. When Barney mistakenly thinks he was correct and slaps Marshall, they soon find out the real reason why Robin won’t go to the mall (see Robin Sparkles) and as the slap bet commissioner, Lily gives Marshall the right to slap Barney five times over all eternity. In a later episode, Marshall wins the right to slap Barney another three times, making eight in total.

The slaps happen at random times throughout the show and are often unexpected. The best one has to be during the episode Slapsgivingwhen Marshall terrifies Barney by introducing him to the “slap countdown” after the slap has occurred, he treats the gang to an original song he had written for the occasion “You Just Got Slapped”. 

Only six of eight slaps have been seen on screen so far.

Marshall and Lily

Marshall and Lily – or should I say Marshmallow and Lilypad – are the most adorable couple. It was clear from the start that they were destined to be together and whatever they’re doing is always sweet. When they’re separated, Lily sleeps with a Marshpillow and he has a pre-recorded “night night song” where he sings her to sleep. They live for Halloween when they can dress up in extreme couples costumes (such as Sonny and Cher and a pirate and his parrot) and are always there to offer Ted moral support.

Robin Sparkles

As previously mentioned, Robin doesn’t like going to the mall. No one can work out why, until they come into possession of a video from her past – a music video of ‘Let’s Go to the Mall’ by Robin Sparkles. It is revealed that Robin was a 90s popstar in her native Canada, although, because Canada was “a little behind”, she looks like she belongs in the 80s.

So far in the show, as well as her debut, we’ve seen her soppy ballad, ‘Sandcastles in the Sand’ and also her double act with Jessica Glitter (Nicole Scherzinger). This series we’ll see what happens when Robin Sparkles deals with unrequited love and discovers grunge…

Guest Stars

The show has seen a number of celebrity guest stars, many of which have joined the show for numerous episodes. Some of the most memorable have been:

Britney Spears as receptionist Abby. She becomes obsessed with Ted and stalks Barney, warning girls to keep away from him.

Mandy Moore as Amy. She gets drunk with Ted and encourages him to get a tattoo with her. Ted opts for a butterfly on his lower back… something he regrets in the morning!

Enrique Inglesias as Gael. As Robin’s first boyfriend following her break-up with Ted, it is expected that the gang will all hate Gael, but they all fall for his charms, even Marshall…

Nicole Scherzinger as Jessica Glitter. Jessica Glitter used to be part of a double act with Robin Sparkles on the show Space Teens. 

Jorge Garcia as the Blitz. The Blitz always misses awesome moments, when he joins the gang for dinner, his curse “the blitz” gets transferred to Barney.

Katy Perry as ‘Honey’. Ted can’t remember ‘Honey’s’ real name when talking to his kids but refers to her as “Honey” because when you recall things she says, you can’t resist replying with “oh honey” because of her naivety.

Katie Holmes as ‘the Slutty Pumpkin’. Ted spends years hoping to meet the girl who got away one halloween, only to find she doesn’t live up to his expectations when they meet again.

The casts real-life spouses have also featured on the show. Alyson Hannigan’s husband, Alexis Denisof, appeared as Sandy Rivers, Robin’s co-worker. Taran Killam, Cobie Smulder’s husband, appeared as Blauman, Marshall and Barney’s co-worker and David Burtker, Neil Patrick Harris’ partner, appeared as Scooter, Lily’s obsessive ex-boyfriend.

The Bloopers

I usually find the bloopers to any show hilarious, but because the cast are so amazing, I think these ones are especially great! Watch them below: