Interactive Television

Back in the 1990s, when I worked at DDB Needham, Kevin, my boss and friend, knew that I was interested in screenwriting and he suggested I create a show for Viacom, which had three networks: MTV, VH1 and at least one other channel at the time. This show would emulate an interactive book where at different stages a choice would be posed to the viewers and they’d have to decide what the character should do. Then they’d be directed to change the channel to see the consequences of that decision. I designed some stories. Kevin knew someone at MTV and soon we were in contact.

The executive was a bit curious, but didn’t understand what technology was needed. The answer was simple: their remote. People would just change the channel to see the consequences of their decision.

Well, fast forward to today. HBO and Steven Soderbergh have come up with Mosaic, an interactive story which uses people’s phones and an app to view this show. Soderbergh’s got a reputation for good story telling so it should be well written and more than just a gimmick. Computer games have been around long enough so people expect quality. However, I’m not a big fan of HBO’s cursing and dark view of life so I’m not sure I’ll watch. Well, maybe if friends say it’s worthwhile.

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12 Days of Christmas Stories, #4

Doctor Who Last Christmas is an outstanding episode, that’s funny, mind-bending, and emotionally satisfying. It delivers smart science-fi that makes you think about our dreams and our dreams within dreams. We see Clara missing her boyfriend Danny, who had died (I haven’t seen that episode. I’m quite behind in my Doctor Who viewing. As usual Peter Capaldi is a frantic, whip smart and yet annoying Doctor, who usually makes a good point when you think about it.

It’s got the gross monstrous villains you expect. The twists and turns that make the plot unpredictable and moments between Clara and Danny and the Doctor and Clara that provide emotion that’s more real than what’s on a lot of television. It does a lot of questioning our dream states that was compelling.

Oh, and Santa, Santa and elves with attitude and smarts feature prominently.

You can find it on Amazon or DVD. Give it a watch!

Poldark Season 3 Finale

Poldark Season 3 went out with a bang making viewers wish for September 2018, which can’t come soon enough for me. From start to finish his episode was amazing.

George returned from London and when he saw that Drake had set up his smithy near his land, he hit the ceiling. Elizabeth tried to make him see reason and not interpret this as a provocation from Ross. As usual, George ignored sense and set his yeoman to vandalize Drake’s blacksmith shop.

Meanwhile the unctuous vicar has taken to drugging his young wife Morwenna while he indulges his foot fetish and whatever else with her even younger sister Rowenna. Rowenna’s hard to figure out. Of course, she’s manipulating Ossie, but where did she learn to be so conniving. How can she stand Ossie, who makes most viewers skin crawl if tweets are to be believed? Rowenna announces she’s with child and Ossie’s expression was priceless. Call it schadenfreude, but seeing Ossie, who’s ruined Morwenna’s life, getting taken down was so satisfying.

Since three French ships were spotted on the horizon, Ross and others are instructed to prepare local men for a possible attack. This is right around the time of the French Revolution, which was so violent and the English of the day were very nervous.

George’s henchman sets fire to Drake’s smithy, totally destroying his work, which compels Drake to humbly tell Elizabeth all about this. Finally, Elizabeth is getting to a point where she takes action rather than just staying in the background letting everyone around her, like Morwenna, suffer.

When George interrupts Drake and rudely sends him packing, Elizabeth realized Drake was right and she stands up to George. Finally! This episode Elizabeth wasn’t imbibing her “little helper” and seemed to have waken up. She tries to make him see reason and stop speculating and obsessing over what Ross was doing.

But Elizabeth’s action was too little, too late. Tom Harry with two thugs found Drake leaving Trenwith and beat him till he was near death. Tom kicked him into the edge of a river and left him for dead. Such humanity. Demelza happened to find him and got Dwight.

Dwight prescribed abstinence for Morwenna for another few weeks and Ossie would have nothing of it. Why he’s not content with one sister is beyond me. Rowella has told Ossie she’s pregnant and offers a solution to the problem by bringing a very wimpy librarian in as a possible husband. The librarian, no doubt coached by Rowella, asks Ossie for £1000, which makes Ossie the Slime-bag turn beet red. Rowella’s probably 16 and she’s got this middle-aged lecherous hypocrite tied up in knots. Morwenna overheard the conversation and acts. When Ossie creeps into her room, she draws a line in the sand and tells him he’s never to touch her. Shocked that the once mousy Morwenna is forceful, he demands she do her wifely duties. She responds that if he takes one more step she’ll kill their son, which makes Ossie back off. He now thinks she’s crazy.

The townspeople hear of George’s thug’s attack on Drake. This on top of George’s increasing the price of grain and doing nothing in Parliament to help the poor makes people’s blood boil. They’d lay siege to Trenwith if it weren’t for Ross’ rousing speech. As we all know, he should be in Parliament.

Hugh’s poetry and attentive ways melt Demelza’s heart. Ross has taken her for granted and gives everyone else in his life more attention. Hugh reveals to Demelza that he’s going blind. Though she struggles with the choice, Demelza grants Hugh’s wish to give themselves to each other before he goes blind. (He put that more poetically.)

Meanwhile Ross leads the militia to Trenwith where the peasants are about to lay siege to George’s property. It’s a tense scene interspersed with flashbacks of the French Revolution.  In the end, Ross gets the people to lay down their arms by promising to take a seat in Parliament when asked.

There were a few scenes not in the 1970s series that I don’t think worked or seeing the DVDs of the 1970s series made me not like this series’ treatment of those parts as much. When Elizabeth turns the tables on George making him swear on the Bible that he wouldn’t suspect her of loving Ross or question Valentine’s lineage, George well apart emotionally. It humanized him as much as anything could, but I felt he was too weak. Also, the melancholy in Demelza’s return and the end of the episode showed more doubt in the marriage’s future. It was sadder and I think that’s partly because while both are fine, this Demelza isn’t as spunky or humorous. She’s got spirit, but of a different sort. I did wish the peasants had burned down Trenwith.

I’ll add that I miss Jud’s character and I think casting went overboard with stereotyping the librarian as a complete wet noodle. He wasn’t so weak and pasty in 1976.

But all in all, the show was gripping. I admit I watched it twice since we’re in for a Masterpiece drought till Victoria returns.

I’m going to miss Ross, Demelza, Caroline, Dwight, Geoffrey Charles, Prudie, the guy with the scar, Elizabeth, Drake, Morwenna & Co. They return in the summer of 2018 in the U.K. I may need to get a VPN.

Weeping for Morwenna

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This week Morwenna was a pawn in George Warleggan’s cruel machinations. At first he was clueless and thought His cousin-in-law Morwenna must be bored in Nampara. Far with from it. She was having the time of her life with Dwight and their young chaperone, Geoffrey Charles.

George goes nuts when he hears toads on his property. We later learn that as a boy, Ross terrorized George by putting toads down his trousers. (A tad contrived, but okay.) He makes his servant Tom get rid of every toad in his pond. It’s an impossible task since Dwight and Geoffrey Charles have such fun filling the pond with toads as Morwenna looks on forgetting that she may be wed to an odious toad. The writing was such that I continually thought I was watching a train wreck.

Ross received a letter from Aunt Agatha and raced to see her. Unaware that George and Elizabeth came back to Cornwall and were upstairs in bed eating strawberries, Ross snuck in Trenwith and checked in on Aunt Agatha who’s looking forward to her birthday. She will soon be the Poldark to live the longest . . . if George doesn’t kill her.

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Such a favorite, Aunt Agatha

Dwight suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after his time imprisoned in France. It’s no wonder after all the suffering and violence he’s seen. Yet Caroline expects him to be as happy to be back as she’s happy to have him. So there’s a growing divide. Hugh Armitage seems to be coping much better and Ross brought him to talk to Dwight. It seems that Ross could have talked to Dwight, but I suppose Hugh needed to be introduced into the story. By the end of the episode, Dwight opened up to Caroline so hopefully they’ll be fine.

Tom, George’s servant, spies Morwenna swooning around Dwight when he tries to apprehend Dwight, but fails. Afraid to report back to George, Tom tattles on Morwenna so she can take the heat. George, who’s married up, won’t hear of his in-law marrying down or even fraternizing down. Just by spending time with Drake, Morwenna seems to have become “damaged goods.” She acts like she’s upset, but we can tell she’s relieved not to have to marry sleazy Osborne, whom Ross and Demelza saw exiting a brothel in the Red Light District of town.

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Morwenna

George is all about vengeance and spite. A pettier character, I’ve never seen. He wants to punish Geoffrey Charles, for his wise remarks and even more for his part in the toad episode, so he’s sending him off to Harrow, a boarding school. Then they won’t need Morwenna, whom they’re going to send back home.

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Ross & Co. to the Rescue

On this week’s Poldark Demelza pleads with Ross not to rush off to save Dwight because perhaps the plan Caroline told her about the Royalists defeating the Jacobins will work out. The look on Ross’ face says he highly doubted that, but he did listen.

George hit the ceiling when he heard that his son Valentine has rickets. The possibility of his heir having a common disease appalled him. I expect if the baby isn’t perfect George would ship him off to an orphanage.

Morwenna’s trying George’s patience by not agreeing to the match with the slithering Rev. Whitworth. Who can blame her? Elizabeth, why don’t you find her someone less slimy? Morwenna’s returned to Trenwith where she’s happily catching toads with Geoffrey Charles and her true love Drake. Aunt Agatha spies them and figures everything out. She then has a tete-a-tete with Morwenna letting the lass know that there’s no future with Drake so she ought to break things off right away. In the end Morwenna realizes that’s true. She ends it with Drake.

Nothing works out across the channel so Ross decides he must go to save Dwight. Drake joins the gang to numb the pain of his broken heart.

George is in a snit about not getting an invitation to a big party. If he were born 240 some years later he could be a regular Mark Zuckerberg, who’s reaction to social rejection was to start a billion dollar internet service. But alas Poldark’s in the late 18th century so George will just grumble and snipe and drive Elizabeth to distraction. Eventually he is invited, but that’s not sufficient because Demelza was invited. He wants to be included and he wants the host to only invite those he wants to see. Demelza gets the better of George in their exchange of cutting remarks.

George thinks trashing Ross will garner social points so he scoffs at what he considers Ross’ foolishness in leading a group of brave men over to France to save Dwight.

Over in France the men fight fiercely to save not only Dwight but a slew of men who’re imprisoned. They party has a casualty, Mr. Henshaw, Ross’ right hand man in the mines. His loss is great and he’ll be mourned for years to come. It makes Dwight’s rescue bittersweet for all but Caroline. Dwight is likely to feel survivor’s guilt for quite some time.

Drake was shot and he’ll need to be tended to, but will probably have PTSD. Morwenna has no one to help her and she’s headed for a terrible marriage.

As usual, this episode was the best thing I saw all week. The drama was pitch perfect as it closely follows the book, included stunning cinematography, and every scene was compelling. Every actor delivered a four star performance.