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Category Archives: Meta-stuff

Hi there! Still not dead!… pretty sheepish maybe, but dead, no. Really.

So a couple of people now have written in wondering where the Yonderland recaps went, and as a result I’m discovering that it’s possible to feel hugely gratified and abjectly guilty at the same time. Because this is precisely two more people than I thought would still care at this point, and just enough to raise the possibility that more are out there.

Thank you. I’m really sorry, but thank you.

Also, you raise a very, very good question. In the heady excitement of completing the HH recap series, I had just sort of enthusiastically assumed that of course there would be Yonderland recaps, and a Bill recap, and what the hey, maybe we could throw in the Wrong Mans while we were at it!

…And just about then, two other things happened. For starters, real life hit me with a tsunami in the form of a temp job assignment that required me to be constantly on-the-ball for six months, ready to handle whatever new (as in, completely unfamiliar) skill or responsibility might pop up, impressively enough that something might result in a permanent post. Which it did, then it didn’t, then it sort of did, then…

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned once or twice before, while I enjoy it above all things writing is not a form of relaxation for me (I’d be a little suspicious of anyone who claimed that it was, really). Under these circs it’d be a matter of coming home from an intense day of concentration only to intensely concentrate some more. Only one of those forms of concentration was lucrative, so.

Then there came the announcement that HH’s sixth series would after all involve Greg, Jim, Simon and Many Major Comedy Legends, hoop-lah! Excitement in the streets! …but not so much here at Review Central. My near-total enthusiasm failure at this point made me realise I wasn’t just lacking time but the motivation. In the aforementioned excitement over finishing the review series I’d neglected to build in a time cushion for inevitable burnout.

However. Eventually the job settled into at least a year’s permanency, and thus granted me leisure to remember exactly how much I missed having a little corner of the Web all my own to scribble in… also, how far “oh, it’s just a little delay” had slid past viability. Just as I was determining to do something about both, Yonderland Series II hit, and was a hit, and I further realised that dang, I kinda missed those six idiots after all.

The upshot of all of which is that I’ve spent the rest of S2’s runtime quietly planning a return to the printed word at the beginning of September. Besides the Yonderland recaps, I’m hoping to set up another more general review blog, as an outlet for the restlessly critical internal monologue that restarts with every odd bit of pop-cult I encounter… also, pretty pictures. Kinda like a Tumblr, except more wordy, and with maybe less focus on the gender preferences of my spirit animal.

Anyway, you’re welcome to check it out. All of it. Assuming you’ve forgiven me, that is. I’ll totally understand if you don’t, but I’m planning on writing it anyway, so, y’know…

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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Meta-stuff

 

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Meta-stuff: And then there were… six?

So last week it was announced that a sixth series of Horrible Histories was, after all–at least, in the mind of CBBC execs apparently desperate for a proven ratings winner–a very plausible thing.

This provoked a four-part sequence of reactions here at HH Review Central, closely mirrored across the fandom at large: i) Hurray! Gleeful giddiness at tidings of great joy! ii) …wait, doesn’t that make the big finale song just a teeny bit awkward? iii) Oh crap, didn’t they say that they were stopping explicitly because they’d run right out of material, which anyone with observational skills above lettuce can verify just by watching a few episodes of S5? iv) This is gonna suck, isn’t it? I mean, even if they bring the entire original creative team back intact and motivated, the track record of TV revivals alone indicates there’s a really good chance of this sucking, right?

The fandom-at-large was at least spared the complication of having been earnestly blogging about Horrible Histories: The Final Series for quite some while now, writing entire earnest mini-essays around how very poignant yet firmly necessary it was. Here at HH Review Central, I wasn’t. At all. In fact, I had several more earnest addendums to that thesis in the pipeline even as I processed the news, and possibly some while before I’d be given any idea what to do with them. This is what ‘having the rug pulled out from under’ looks like in the Information Age, kiddies.

Amid this mass of conflicting and disconcerting feels, one certainty rose immediately to the top: If it’s not the aforementioned original creative team, it’s not the Horrible Histories I signed on to blog about, and thus I would not be blogging about it. Period. My loyalty does not lie with the franchise, but with the TV show, and more specifically at this point, with the comedy troupe arising from its starring cast. (Whom, incidentally, I really wish would adopt a snappier formal name already. You just can’t go around casually calling grown adults ‘the idiots’ in public, let alone in earnest).

I was just polishing and admiring this bit of decisiveness when Mat, in a manner clearly indicating a round of urgent troupe-wide texting followed by “look, you have the most followers, you do it,” formally tweeted that any proposed new series would involve an entirely different team, and possibly format. In other words, no, the idiots would not be assembling in reverse.

This was not a huge surprise by any means. As Mat further pointed out in a BBC interview, they had meanwhile reached a point where they could fully satisfy their desire to work together while still pursuing their promising separate careers. In the process they had shrewdly moved on up from being ‘the cast’ to, effectively, the showrunners–not only of Yonderland but of burgeoning movie careers. Among other things. Being Mat, he tactfully did not add “Seriously? You want me to give up any part of being J.Corden’s current favourite collaborator, a multiple-prestigious-award-nominee, just to get back into the caveman costume one more time?” but you can be very sure it was his agents/managers’ main theme. Also that variations on same were very popular in the other five camps.

All of which provoked profound relief in this one–if for no other reason than it saved me from having to decide what to blog if only part of the team showed up, a la the final series of the Flying Circus. But mostly, it was about the ‘Thank God, they’re not going to mar this gloriously unique achievement with suckage’ thing. As I’ve repeatedly mentioned in those mini-essays, the existing show had reached a crossroads not only in terms of material but tone; it ended not only when it was still popular but right before it would’ve begun to stumble visibly. Given that a move to primetime still wasn’t on the cards, in any proposed S6 they’d have had to begin actually fumbling to find a compromise between increasingly subtle, adult material and child-friendly clowning, which would’ve been unavoidably painful… or reboot all the way back to S1 and simply resume being loud and unsubtle about various types of ick, which would’ve been frankly ghastly. Not in a good way.

Except, as the books/magazines/stage shows have proven, inasmuch as the popularity of Horrible Histories the franchise and the TV show are still in some ways two very distinct things. It should still be possible to recapture the magic of the former without labouring too far in the shadow of the latter. Skip the attempt at sophistication altogether, return to the books/magazines for material, bring in a fresh lot of game performers (maybe the current stage show troupe?) add some jolly songs and cover the whole thing with slime at judicious intervals, and hey presto, the HH that’s been proven to put bottoms in seats if nothing else. Hopefully, that’s all the CBBC execs are looking for. If they do decide to get ambitious… well, yeah, I’ll just be over here watching, from a safe distance, while blogging about Yonderland.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Meta-stuff, The background

 

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Meta-stuff: Remember that HH review blog? Well, surprise!…

…it’s back.

Yeah, I know, just in time to be pretty much irrelevant to anything currently HH. Except maybe the new stage show, which I understand is very good indeed, but. Unless it comes with a guarantee of at least one Stupid Death, it will remain outside this blog’s remit.

However. I spent the last few weeks pre-hiatus insisting that I was in this to finish it, and then I just sort of didn’t–without any explanation–and I have been feeling really, really awkward about that ever since. Will spare you the details of the real-life events involved in the excuse, but essentially: these reviews take significant time and effort that, I finally had to admit to myself, I just didn’t have to spare at that point. What was supposed to be a purely lighthearted creative exercise had become an ugly, pressure-filled reminder of failure. So I decided to walk away, just for a few… months… how long has it been now? *checks date of last post* Shoot, really?

In the interim, many lovely not-stressful things HH-related happened, including the success of The Wrong Mans and Yonderland and the filming of Bill; all of which greatly helped revive my initial lighthearted enthusiasm. With RL now more-or-less back under control besides, I thought to dip a tentative toe back into writing a few months ago — and ended up raising the original show’s Wikipedia article all the way to Featured status. Which means it’s now not only considered among the very best of Wiki’s million-plus articles, but was showcased on their front page for the show’s fifth anniversary.

So that was nice, and the compliments I received on the article’s quality were even nicer (even once shared among its many, many helpful copy-editors). Also nice: the fact that people were meanwhile consistently not only reading but commenting on this project thus far. All of it had really only one logical followup (the part where I volunteered to become a Wiki Good/Featured Article reviewer myself not quite counting as logical). Time to finish what I’d started — and, incidentally, keep myself and possibly others mildly entertained at least until Bill hits theatres.

Right, then. Here we are where we left off, at the beginning of Series 5. If that goes well, there is the possibility of something Yonderland-related for afters (esp if, as I suspect, an announcement re: S2 of that show is shortly forthcoming). By that point, Bill might merit a post or two as well. All of which will appear when it wills, sans rigid update schedules, and in–I’m hoping, anyway–a format much closer to the simple, lighthearted snark of earlier posts than the intense mini-theses more recent ones had become. (To that end I’ve also done a bit of editing on the last few posts of S4, basically to remove the more overt signs of crisis.)

As always, feedback–by now, whether commenting on the project or tactfully not commenting on its continued relevance–is enormously appreciated. The HH universe remains the epitome of sweet, silly, un-complicated enjoyment; let’s see if we can’t still have some fun with it together, eh?

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Meta-stuff

 

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Meta-stuff: So long, and thanks for all the… historical fish?

So I was paging through this blog last night, trying to figure out how I could possibly say thanks and goodbye…

And then it occurred to me: I write a damn Horrible Histories review blog. Episode by episode, for nearly a year now.

Believe me, I’ve asked myself why many times. And the reason always comes back: because this is one small corner of the media universe that works the way it’s supposed to.

The Horrible Histories production team, crew and cast have managed for five years now to make a children’s edutainment series that adults can not only enjoy but respect. It’s so obvious a received truth by now that it’s easy to overlook what a really extraordinary achievement that is. Not only how much talent, wit and cleverness but utter decency and generosity it involves.

This is media experience as proposed by Wodehouse, or maybe Thurber. There isn’t anything quite like it, and there probably never will be again. And so it’s right to be sad that it’s ending. But it’s even more right to be glad that it happened, and that in some very important respects it’s merely going forward to new heights.

Caroline, Greg, Simon, Ben, Jim, Mat, Larry, Martha and the rest — yep, even Lawry!— thanks, from my heart, for all you’ve done and will do. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, it was appreciated.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Meta-stuff

 

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Meta-stuff: I’m still here, also posting schedule during Series Five

First off, apologies, anyone checking to see if I’m still alive or possibly just where S03E10 & S03E11 went: I ran into unavoidable technical difficulties. Writing the reviews I mean, although frankly it works just as well for both.

However. Feeling much better now. Both pieces are anyway nearly ready to go, and will be up tomorrow evening, around 8pm EST. (I also need to catch up on comments.)

After that, I’m taking a week off to more fully participate in the Series Five kickoff festivities. S03E12 & the ‘Savage Songs’ article should appear the week after that… then we launch straight into Series Four.

I had thought to suspend operations during the entirety of S5’s first run, but have decided that much as I’m enjoying this project, I don’t actually want to spend the rest of my life on it. Besides, on the current schedule I should be done just in time for Yonderland, The Wrong Mans and Bill to rev into high gear, and I have vague ideas of doing something review-related for all three… albeit possibly not in as much detail!

Still, I’m enormously, vividly excited for the new troupe. If I’ve learned anything from this project to even date, it’s that in some very important ways HH is the cast. It’s their humour, their styles, their sheer talent that has gotten us this far. Following their further adventures is simply the natural extension of that, and who knows, a fresh perspective might turn out to be even more fun…

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Meta-stuff

 

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Meta-stuff: My credentials, aka a moment to humblebrag

So I’ve been at this for awhile now, and people are actually still reading — thank you from the bottom of my heart, seriously.

This combination has inspired me to start thinking about exactly why people should be paying attention to my ramblings. What qualifies me as a critic of last week’s lunch, let alone an award-winning comedy programme?

Well, since I’m Canadian, my first impulse is to apologise for not addressing this sooner. Sorry about that.

Next: William Shatner, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Due South, Mike Myers, Kate Beaton, the Barenaked Ladies… no, the band…. SCTV. We are a naturally funny people, primarily because for much of the year we are a naturally freezing-bloody-cold people, so have gotten into the habit of making sure the people we’re cooped up indoors with have a reason not to kill us.

As for me specifically… besides occasionally over the years acting as beta-reader for a novelist friend, may I humbly direct you to this page, representing my contributions to a respected online ‘zine. I was taken on as a reviewer/blogger on the strength of this article, on legendary American comedy team Bob & Ray, which in 2010 became liner notes for this CD retrospective…

…which earned me unbelievably gracious and generous thank-you notes from Bob Elliott himself, and Ray Goulding’s widow. Both of which notes currently occupy pride of place near the desk I’m writing this on, for inspiration.

So yeah. I’m not saying I always know what I’m talking about. But the above should give a pretty good idea of my ability to appreciate Horrible Histories, and comedy in general.

Again, thanks so much for reading. Any and all feedback gratefully appreciated.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Meta-stuff

 

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