What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week -October 10th

October is now in full swing or, at least, as close to ‘swing’ as October gets. Not that I’m really sure I know what ‘swing’ is or what it feels like, but I’m confident that if I did, I would be feeling it now.

The Apprentice: Or ‘the only reality show I actually watch.’ Man, I love The Apprentice. Yes, it’s full of people who were for the most part obviously picked because they are mad enough to make for good television whilst not being in danger of slitting the throats of the other contestants in their sleep. Yes, it’s obviously edited to make the smallest mistake seem like tap-dancing through a minefield. And, yes, it’s pretty much the same formula ever year with little deviation. But, boy, it’s good.

A highlight of any opening episode is the ‘choosing of the team names’ bit, and this series didn’t disappoint. My favourite exchange went something like this:

Male Candidate #1: How about Team Alpha?
Male Candidate #2: No, that’s too macho and masculine.
Male Candidate #3: How about Titans?
Others: Yes!

The female team went for ‘Team Nebula’, an ephemeral cloud of gas pretty much summing up their approach to this week’s task, which was basically a more shouty version of Bargain Hunt. The ladies lost, since it seems they were all in need of a clear pricing strategy to ensure that they didn’t sell a priceless vase for £3.50.

Roll on episode two…

Ni No Kuni: This week I was sucked into the uterus of a giant fairy, and wandered around rescuing the unborn before battling a giant jellyfish-thing and subsequently being ‘birthed’.

This game is great. 

What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week -October 1st

It’s that time of year when we all start talking about how it’s October already, and isn’t it going dark soon, and why are the supermarkets selling mince pies already, don’t they realise they’ll need to be eaten long before Santa has even considered checking the oil level in his sleigh? For introverted types like me, who prefer to stay indoors whenever possible, only venturing outdoors when I really have to, this is a great time of year. The increasingly inclement weather makes not going out seem a choice that no longer carries with it the guilt and worry about vitamin D deficiency that goes along with the warmer months. 

Ni No Kuni: I’ve finally made it past the point in the game where I gave last time, and have now managed to get access to a boat, thanks to what in retrospect was a very surreal encounter with a cheese-obsessed giant cow-woman. It did seem to make sense at the time. 

It seems ages since the last time I played a JRPG that followed as traditional a route as Ni No Kuni. No doubt it in a few hours I’ll get an airship or some similar flying thingummy. I’m still enjoying it so far, mainly because the game just oozes charm through all its various pores. It is pretty grindy, though, and not a game for those who don’t like lots of backtracking and fighting the same monsters. 

Red Dwarf XI: Back in my teenage years when, if you can believe such a thing, I was even more socially awkward than I am now, I was for a period obsessed with Red Dwarf. This was around the period of the sixth series, the last one that saw Rob Grant take part in the writing and, in a sense, the end of an era of what I’d consider ‘proper’ RD. Everything since then has never been quite as good, from the frankly awful seventh series through to the bizarre Coronation Street crossover that was Back to Earth. Anybody who was read the two third books in the novel series – Rob Grant’s Backwards and Doug Naylor’s Last Human – will have more than a rather sneaking suspicion that Grant was the funnier of the two writers, and his absence from all the later series of Red Dwarf has been keenly felt. 

Given all this, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I watched the first episode of Red Dwarf XI, which premiered on Dave the other week. I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised – there were a few moments that made me genuinely laugh out loud, some clever concepts and the decision to move back to using models for the special effects is undeniably a good one. The best bits were those that just featured the crew being the crew, arguably perhaps the most traditional sitcom bits. As I’ve often found with a lot of the later Dwarf stuff, the sci-fi narrative portions are the weakest. 

The cast are as good as ever, by this point so comfortable in their roles that it must be second nature to them by now. And, yes, it still makes you wish Chris Barrie was in more things (surely somebody somewhere other than me would like a one-off revival of The Brittas Empire?).

All credit to Dave as well, aside from a mostly unknown (save for Kevin Eldon) supporting cast, the lack of budget doesn’t show. This looks every bit as impressive as you remember the old shows looking.

Trump vs. Clinton: The US presidential election seems like it’s in need of a reboot. I don’t envy the choices of the American people, having to select either the stereotypical politician Clinton, who comes across as some kind of automatron whose moral programming has become corrupted, and Trump who is, well, Donald Trump. The first debate between them was a fascinating 90 minutes, particularly from the perspective of an Englishman. The differences between the two are stark, although not perhaps quite as much as they would have been had Sanders won the Democratic nomination.

To me, Trump is a man who needs to stop talking about a third of the way into every paragraph. Some of his policies are sensible (if you’re of the more right-wing persuasion), it’s just rather unfortunate that they tend to be followed up with lunacy. Clinton, on the other hand, lacks the charm of her husband and often came across as smug, which is amazing when you consider her competition. 

A fascinating show, though. Thank God it’s not real.