Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't Go Back There

Television on my computer? Now that I've tried it, I'm not a big fan. It is quite the Brave New World, though, to discover that your computer really is a Time Machine.

The first TV that I watched full screen on my computer was Doctor Who. I was just discovering Stephen Moffat's re-imagining of the show, wanted to see the episodes that he wrote for the David Tennant years, but didn't like Russell Davies' Who well enough to pay fifty to seventy-five dollars for the full seasons. At a buck ninety nine an episode, I was willing to make an exception to the rule of "No telly on the iMac."

These five or six episodes really cemented my enthusiasm for Moffat's Who, but the viewing experience is nowhere near as good as that of watching a DVD on a high-def set. The resolution is notably lower, there are the glitches caused by dreaded vagaries of the interwebs -- and you can't share it, unless you allow your friends to log in as you. So taken was I with Matt Smith's debut on Who that I sat my father and his wife down in front of the telly and said, "Just watch." I'd have a hard time plunking folks down here in my study.

Cutting to the chase, last night I made two more exceptions. My friend DP has been singing the praises of Hulu, so I checked out the list of shows that they host. What to my wondering eyes should appear but Nanny and The Professor.

Watershed moment! Yes, really. Stop that snickering.

As a seven or eight year old kid I loved Nanny and the Professor, and adored Juliet Mills with the pure soul burning adoration that's only possible in childhood (actually both of the Mills sisters have been objects of my ardent puppy love at one time or another. Haley several times). Nanny and the Professor  is not now, nor has ever been available on DVD or VHS. I made that excited "sucking in of breath" sound that children used to make when they heard the ice cream truck coming down the street. I thought, "Nanny and the Professor! I'm in!!"

Alas, you really can't go back. While Ms. Mills remains as puppy-lovable as ever (though I see more calculation in her performance than I did when I was eight years old), and Richard Long brings everything he's got to the table to sell the thing, Nanny and the Professor is really just an awful, terrible, no good, very bad show. Looking at it with adult eyes, I have to wonder how it stayed on the air for two seasons! Or how the pilot episode ever sold in the first place!

I was never deluded that it was anything other than a down-market Mary Poppins, but it never seemed so very down in that market back in the day. The adult cast all do what they can, but the writing is lowest-common-denominator, the direction hideous, and those children -- egad! All of their dialogue is overdubbed, and many of their scenes look like they were cobbled together from the only useable takes lifted from other, differently planned scenes.

But the thing that really annoyed me was the little musical trill, the cue that they use every time Juliet Mills does something "magical."

She guesses the children's names correctly.


She talks to the dog.


She knows that someone is at the door.


It's the producer's way of saying "GET it?" {nudge, nudge, trill.} "GET it? Nanny is MAGICAL, see! SEE? Did you GET that she just did something MAGICAL?"

Just how dumb did they think the audience was?

Oh my, what a crashing disappointment. Until last night I would have been first in line to buy any DVD release of this show. Now that I've ridden the Wayback Machine across the televisual timestream, any DVD release of this is going to have me running in the opposite direction. Not even prurient thoughts about Juliet Mills would make it worthwhile. Yeesh, even H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville have aged better than Nanny.

There's something uniquely disappointing in discovering that as a child you had all the taste and standards of a toadstool. It makes me wary about trying to "rediscover" some of my other televisual favorites from that era, stuff like The New Adventures of Tom and Huck (I had such a crush on the girl who played Becky Thatcher, plus the body of the show was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, plus Injun Joe was played by Ted Cassidy, Lurch from The Addams Family -- what, I say what was not for an eight year old to like?). Stuff like Mister Terrific, and Captain Nice. Stuff like Here Come the Double Deckers and The Partridge Family.

Being the glutton for punishment that I am, once Nanny had ended I cast around Hulu for some more lousy TV. And I found it.

I was vaguely aware that someone had made a cable series out of the Swamp Thing movies, and was curious enough about it to consider, a time or two, buying the DVD. Oh my! Thank goodness that never happened!

The original Swamp Thing comics are pretty good, and this looked to be hewing closer to the source material than the movies. Also, the first Swamp Thing movie is about as good as a really tacky, ugly, bad movie can be. Hulu has the series as part of their line-up. I had the time. Let's check it out!

I knew that I was in trouble from the first shot, which showed a dwarf tied upside down onto a pole in the middle of the swamp. It got worse. Why would you shoot a kid boating through the swamp from inside the bottom of the boat, with nothing but a cloudless sky for a background? Obviously, because your budget is so low that you're probably shooting the scene in a wading pool.

The dialogue! Oh my god! Dialogue is supposed to accomplish certain purposes, and this went in the opposite direction. And the way it's delivered by the "actors"! There's not a natural intonation anywhere within hearing. Rarely have I seen TV this bad, and it's not even good-bad. The writer, director, producer, cast and crew must all have been either drunk or on drugs when they made this lame-ass excuse for a TV show. The production values are so slight that the original Swamp Thing movie looks like Star Wars by comparison -- and it was strictly a poverty-row production.

I thank Hulu for saving me money, but even though it hadn't cost me a penny, I still felt cheated. Their line-up includes several other shows that I've long been curious about. . . but tonight, I'm feeling my curiosity draining away as surely as if someone had pulled the plug in my low-budget wading pool.

-- Freder.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...