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Podthoughts by Ian Brill: "Doctor Who: Time Tales"

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Inspired by the recent Doctor Who interview I conducted I thought about reviewing a Whovian podcast. When I saw that a group Darker Projects had put out their own Doctor Who audio dramas, entitled “Doctor Who: Time Tales” I was very excited about the idea. I’m interested in the art of audio drama. It’s a medium that is all but dead in the United States but kept alive in Great Britain, not the least of which are the Doctor Who shows by Big Finish. I was a little wary of fan fiction but at this point the actual Doctor Who program is very much fan fiction so how bad this could be.

Hoo boy.

All the hopes I had for an amateur Doctor Who production were dashed when I listened to “Materia, Part 1” and heard what the realties of an amateur production are. My first question is why was there no narrator? I thought that was a convention of the medium. If they wanted to define that convention that’s fine but when there are stretches where you’re just hearing footsteps it certainly would have helped if we could get a sense of where the characters were actually going and what they were doing. Instead we get cheats where The Doctor’s companion escapes from capture without explanation.

While I thought the actor playing The Doctor, Mark Kalita, did an alright job, he thankfully didn’t try to do an impression of Tom Baker, John Pertwee or any other Who actors, he might have done a better job if he didn’t have to say things like “there’s something strange about this situation…and I don’t like it.” The Doctor’s been having adventures for most of his 900 years in the universe. He probably burned through clichés like this in the first 100.

I wanted to give the show another chance, though. I downloaded the first episode of the show “The Grave White North, Part 1.” I was glad to hear a show that was a bit livelier. The shows works around not having a narrator by having character speak a lot of exposition. It’s about members of the North American branch of UNIT discovering The Doctor so it sort of makes sense that people would be explaining time travel and regeneration to each other. While the story was at least competent it was also unremarkable. I didn’t see the point of a show that spent so much time introducing the concept of Doctor Who. Let’s face it, anyone listening to Doctor Who audio fan fiction is more than familiar with the inner workings of the TARDIS.

Listening to both these shows I got the sad feeling that the creators were basically entertaining themselves. A lot of “Materia” was devoted to The Doctor explaining the dangers of altering time. Besides the fact that this is The Doctor’s modus operandi putting such ideas at the forefront of a show is the opposite of entertainment. I enjoyed reading Tom Powers and Marc Schuster write about the subtext of Doctor Who but if David Tennant and Freema Agyeman stopped the action cold to discuss the minutia of the series I’d switch the show off in a flash. Even “The Grave White North” has fan service moments, most notable when The Doctor’s penis is compared post- and pre-regeneration by one of UNIT’s physicians (really!). The energy put into writing those bits could have been given to come up with neat plot twists or characterization. I suppose we’ll wait for the real deal to come back to get any of that.

Orson Welles turns the tables on Dick Cavett

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This, I believe, is what is known in the business as "a hoot and a half."

Also: Orson on Winston Churchill, on a cockatoo and on La Grande Illusion.

Knit a vet a blanket...

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Our pal comedian Jen Kirkman has a message to you knitters and crocheters out there:

Gentlemen, Ladies, do you knit? Does a loved one you know knit or crochet?

Do you have some extra time between now and the holiday season?

Would you be willing to knit a blanket for a war veteran who is currently staying in a veterans hospital?

If you are, I'm willing to do the rest, which is gift wrap each one with your name on it and I'll take care of sending them. I'm not doing this on my own but am doing it as part of an organization that's sending blankets to vets in VA Hospitals this holiday season.

If you think you could get it together, Jen's got more information here on her blog. Regardless of how you feel about the war or war in general or the military, it's vitally important to show folks returning from it that there are people around the country who care about them, and this is a wonderfully personal way to do that. K?

Bill Hader: Fit to Print

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Our main man Bill Hader's rise to psuedo-celebrity has now been made official, as he's the subject of a nice profile in the New York Times.

WHEN an adult immerses himself in a comic book or a fantasy novel, it’s usually a harmless act of juvenile regression. When Bill Hader does it, it’s more like career preparation.

In 2005 Mr. Hader was rereading “The Sandman,” the supernatural comic-book series by Neil Gaiman, when he learned he was being considered for a spot on “Saturday Night Live.” He decided the two events couldn’t simply be a coincidence.

“I got all superstitious about it,” he said on a recent stroll through the science fiction section of the Chelsea Barnes & Noble. “Like, when I have Neil Gaiman books around me, I just do better.”

Juvenile regression? Somebody hasn't read a lot of Neil Gaiman comic books.

The piece is largely focused on how Bill's pop-culture savvy has, in odd ways, led to his success. Like a lot of our favorite comics, Bill can comedy-nerd with the best of them, as I discovered when his interview for TSOYA ended with a 30-minute discussion of "Garth Marengi's Dark Place" and "BrassEye." So I can independently verify that Hader's a culture vulture.

Bill's since been a generous and committed booster of TSOYA, and that kind of thing goes a long way with me. So... kudos to film and television celebrity William Hader.

And here's what the article's brief mention of Bill's German doubletalk character reminded this giant comedy nerd of... Sid Caesar from Your Show of Shows.

Edited to add: MaxFunster Josh notes astutely that Bill is wearing a "Newbridge is for Lovers" t-shirt in the photo! Eagle eyes. The Best Show is another thing we talked about in that conversation :).

Office Hours

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OK gang -- office hours are open again, till noon pacific. Sorry for the late start, I had to buy a new phone at the office store, and picking a phone is a nightmare I wouldn't wish upon anyone. God forbid one phone should have a "Ringer off" switch AND a speakerphone. THAT WOULD BE OUTRAGEOUS.

Anyway, you can use the button above to call me. Tell me what you think of the show lately, ask a question, whatever you want. I'm here for you. Hopefully this new phone will ring :).

EDIT: THANKS ALL WHO CALLED!

Podcast: Jordan, Jesse GO!: Ep 39: Vegas V. Disneyland

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On this week's program, we are joined by two of the members of the New York sketch comedy group Elephant Larry: Jeff Solomon and Stefan Lawrence. We discuss Stefan's obsession with Disneyland, Jordan's trip to Las Vegas, and much more.

ACTION ITEMS:


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* Do you have a dispute Judge John Hodgman can solve on a future broadcast? Email it to us! Put Judge John in the subject line.
* Have personal questions for Jesse and Jordan? Call 206-984-4FUN and tell us what they are!
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Our theme music: "Love You" by The Free Design, courtesy of The Free Design and Light in the Attic Records

Kanye & Timbo get the kick right...

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Kanye West calls up Timbaland to fix his snares. When Timbaland gets on the sampling keyboard with all the drum sounds in it, Kanye looks like a kid in a candy store. Great, great stuff. Geniuses at work.

Mel Brooks' "The Critic"

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Mel Brooks won an Oscar for this short, his first film, in the early 1960s. HILARIOUS.

Via Metafilter

Steven Wright on Conan

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The quickest slow talker in showbiz. Whatta guy. His new album comes out Tuesday.

Previously: Wright on TSOYA

Any Twin Cities MaxFunsters?

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Any Twin Cities Max Funsters? I'm going to be in town for a couple days for a public radio conference this week. I was thinking if there were some folks who wanted to have a meetup, we could do it Wednesday, happy hour-ish. If there are any takers, here's a forum thread on the topic.

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