Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Special Message From The Roosevelt Hotel

When I visited New York last year, I spent a night at the Roosevelt Hotel. And, as people have since reminded me, the 'message' I sent subsequently deserves a place on the blog. So here it is.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself". But clearly he had not seen the service on offer from his hotel namesake!

It is with pleasure that we welcome you to the Roosevelt Hotel, New York City. Please arrive promptly in order that we can tell you that your room is currently unavailable, and would you mind waiting three hours.

Still, never fear - we have a fully-stocked bar available all day for your beverage needs. Unless those needs should include a cold soda, in which case we haven't got any. There's a box of them around somewhere, but they're a bit warm. It is July, y'know.

This is why New York's Roosevelt Hotel has been outfitted with a small Newsagency and snack venue. Conveniently located behind a staircase in a section of the hotel you should never actually be able to see, the staff are specially trained to cope with minor inconveniences such as the till not working. Their mathematical skills are second to none. Well, that's what they estimated them at. Three hours after we asked.

When you finally make it to your room, you will no doubt be glad to escape the sweltering New York July heat, and every room has been outfitted with an air conditioning unit. This handy device will rattle, shake, moan and hum at a constant high volume to remind you that it is both on and working.

Private bathrooms are available to all guests...though we'd by lying at this point if we recommended using them for anything. Y'see, after the first flush your toilet will maintain a small leak into the bowl that will prevent the cistern from ever actually filling. Just think of this as your very own relaxing water feature! And quite the compliment to that clunking air-con unit, we're sure you'll agree.

On to the bathtub and, once again, there's no reason to imagine run-of-the-mill service when dealing with a hotel named for not one but TWO U.S. presidents. (Hey, Dave - maybe we should rename the hotel The Bush? It has the same kinda kudos, but at least people will know to be pissed off before they arrive.) The bathtub mimics the American economy by failing to keep those involved buoyant, and siphoning the bulk of its contents to unknown and seemingly unnecessary areas. Which is to say - the plug don't fit the goddamn plughole.

Not to worry - our staff will be on hand all hours of the day and night. Not to help, just charging up and down the corridors shouting at each other. Still, you can't really blame them - if their journey up to Level 9 was anything like yours, they got in the elevator, arrived two floors short, then found themselves (and another half-dozen sweating passengers) descending back to the lobby for no discernible reason, making none of the requested stops on the way.

Like you, they will eventually have tired of this routine and got out that coupla floors early and eventually located the under-lit, painted-concrete stairwell at the side of the building.

Please ascend in comfort, and ignore the mounting paranoia that the doors will now all be locked, this being primarily an emergency fire exit - for departure rather than entrance. This is intentional, and has been designed to take your mind off those worrying lurches the elevator made that caused two of your fellow travelers to scream and get off at the first opportunity.

Nothing to fear but fear itself? Baby, that guy Franky had no idea...


Monday, June 26, 2006

Who Review

Strange time though it may be, I'm going to post some thoughts on the lastest series of Doctor Who - BEFORE the final two-parter changes everything. (At which point you may reasonably expect a follow-up post.)

Now, I saw a bit of Who as a kid, but as an adult it never really got to me. The new series have made me go back and look at the old shows again, but I'd never call myself a 'fan'.

With that in mind...

David Tennant is proving to be a remarkable choice. He's funny, charismatic, sexy, peculiar...

Hang on. Sexy? Since when was the Doctor sexy?

Yah. Interesting, that. He never was, really. And yet here we are, with a TARDIS driver of serious hotness. Was this a bad decision? Probably not. TV has a different landscape now. In (perhaps misguided) attempts to mirror American TV, casting has lurched to the hottie end of the scale. The theory Russell T. Davies puts forward for this is that it works to bring channel-flippers to your show. They stop mid-flip to check out the sexy face that caught their eye.

And dammit, shallow or not, the guy's not exactly wrong.

Still, he's balanced it by actually making sure the Hot Doc is also very talented. No question, Tennant is 'a good actor'. Oddly, this is where my real issues begin.

I had the same problem with Eccleston, who, as an actor, I worship above almost all others. His death in Cracker is burned into my brain, and his work in so many things since - not the least of which are Jude and The Second Coming - is just awe-inspiring.

But, like Tennant, he's an actor-actor. A proper 'I shall allow the character to inhabit me' type. And, for me, that robs the Doctor of something. That thing, it turns out, is madness.

I had zero problem believing that Tom Baker was crackers. Pertwee, too. Nutters. Because the actors were nutters. Because they weren't just nutters, they were 'characters', and blended those (somewhat affected) personalities with the Doctor. Which really, really worked.

When Tennant or Ecclseston do the 'eccentric' bit, I always feel it's all script, no nature. It's the turn the script said to take. Not that I'm against sticking to a decent script - it's just that, when a writer writes madness, it's almost impossible to avoid being deliberate, being structured. Which madness, of course, isn't.

The structure of filming the way they do makes this necessary, of course. You can't spend an hour lighting one part of the set only to have tour Doctor bounce over the another part mid-scene. This was the gift of the old, cheap production. I'd hate to have it back, but it DID force directors to floodlight entire sets and just follow the actors - no cutting, no stopping, not unless you absolutely have to.

Quite what the solution is, I dunno. Videotaped rehearsals, maybe? In a rehearsal room somewhere, long before filming, letting the actors go nuts and picking what stuff to keep - maybe not the stuff the writer had in mind - for the final shoot?

Not sure. And frankly I'm getting a little edgy at the idea of ignoring the script, so let's move on.

The companion is, apparently, due to leave. There was a BBC statement, confirming rumours the actress had denied. Me, I hope it's the crew trying to fake people out. Sadly, the trailer for the coming episode suggests otherwise.

Billie Piper has huge teeth. She's also very likeable, even when her performance hasn't been top-drawer. (I'd also point readers to Queer as Folk, a series written by Doctor Who head Davies, where, again, performances are often a little...stiff. But, again, this is traded for charisma, charm and production value.)

Why does the teeth thing matter? Not sure. Sometimes an actor doesn't engage you enough and your mind wanders, I guess.

Still, every so often I'll watch her and be surprised. Often - more so this season than last - she'll find line readings that really impress. I mean, it's the same line, as written, but she manages to play multiple meanings without killing the joke. This is, frankly, a HUGE skill. I can name only five or six actresses of the younger generate who can do it well on TV - Billie, Alyson Hannigan, Emma Caulfield (both from Buffy) and Lisa Kudrow (from Friends) among them.

It's like...funny and scared, or joking but serious, confused and narked. Sure, it ain't rocket-science, it ain't DeNiro, but it goes beyond what's on the page. Keeps the old meaning and adds a new one. That is, FACT, good acting.

What a flat old start to a series. Great make-up effects wasted on characters with very little going on. (Shame, really - Cat-Nuns, coulda been interesting.) A plot that never gets beyond ticking over (though I don't bemoan the ending as some have. Sure, drugging people with a shower wouldn't work as a disease cure in real life...but it makes emotional sense. And I'll take that over a hundred Trek climaxes that go heavy on science which is probably true, but has zero connection to an audience.)

Still, we did get Cassandra's return. Pointless as it was, it made for a body-swap sub-plot that allowed Billie to be HUGELY funny. So, that's fine.

A lot of the problems of the solid previous year return - most importantly a reliance on zombie armies and/or cash-hungry characters. Both of which I enjoy, but they do suggest a shortage of new ideas. Not that I have better ones.

The overriding feeling I got from this episode was that the wad had been shot on the Christmas special. A series opener should be kick-ass. It should get you pumped for the later episodes. This didn't do that - it felt like episode two. Which, if you count the previous special as episode one, makes sense...but still leaves you kinda cold.

Supernatural? Nonsense. Not in the Whoniverse. Werewolves, ghosts, devils...these are all alien entities. It's all explicable. And, for this one show, I like that. Even if it does mean we keep getting the same couple of riffs time and again. One being 'I'm breaking through to your world' (the Gelth last year, The Satan Pit this year - and, if I'm guessing right, the forthcoming Army of Ghosts). The other being 'possession'.

So - Queen Victoria, wolf creatures, lunar light, big diamond...interesting stuff. This one gelled. It was exciting, climaxed just right - last piece of the mystery in time with the life-saving solution. Character chemistry, too. All good. A little on the nose (snout?) occasionally, but basically sound.

Plus, hey - ninja monks!

Get down with your sweet self! The Doc faces off with a genuinely convincing bad guy - one who looks human. WAY scarier than all the Dalek Emperors and CGI Devils you can muster. Good job, Tony Head.

Another lovely Buffy trick is utilised - bringing back a character and using it to reflect on the 'now'. Remember how the return of Oz made Willow look closely at her relationship with Tara? How super-straight Riley's one-ep come-back showed Buffy just how...messed up she'd let her life become?

It's like that. Only with a robot dog.

Rose had to face up to the fact that all the Doctor's companions have to go bye-bye sometime, somehow. And it was sad. As, in its own, funnier, way was Mickey's realisation that he's the mechanical canine.

There are three truths to the new Who series. One: the production will have to make a cheap episode or two to compensate for all the explosions and graphics in other stories. Two: cliffhanger resolutions will be disappointing (see later). And three: Steven Moffat will typically write the best non-arc episode(s) of the series.

Yes, from the pen that wrote 'Are you my mummy?" comes a sweeping tale of romance, terror, mystery, wit...all the stuff good Who can do brilliantly.

And it does it. Brilliantly. Natch.

Clockwork creatures - no CGI, all real, all sinister. Comedy horse? Funny, and yet great for the climax.

And that final shot. The audience gets the mystery solved, the Doctor doesn't. It makes perfect sense of's gasp-worthy.

Sorry, I may have dozed off. Yeesh! What went wrong here? Sarcasm review mode:

'Hey, I know - we'll bring back the cybermen. Only, we'll ignore their interesting history and just do it on Earth. With an overacting loony in control - cos it's a great cliche that. That's why Who already did it with the Dalek's creation. Then we'll drag Rose's daddy issues out all over again, cos that's an easy way to manipulate the audience's emotions. Plus, we can use them twice by re-dressing those issues as Mickey's Granny issues. Brilliant!

'Plot...plot...erm, hang on...Oh, got it. They make cybermen, they kill, the doctor stops them, lots of stuff blows up. Remember when we dangled Rose from an airship? We'll do that again, too. And let's dump Mickey for a surprise comeback in the season finale by having him stay behind...for no adequately explained reason whatsoever.

"Finally, we'll set it in an alternate universe so there's no knock-on effect and nothing means anything. These aren't even the proper versions of anyone!'

Sorry guys, it was fan-fic. Fan-fic with a LAME cliffhanger resolution at the half-way point.

After last year's The Unquiet Dead I had the feeling that writer Mark Gatiss had a knack for solid, rather than exceptional, episodes. Plots and ideas that worked well enough, managed so-so supporting characters, had at least one Good Idea at the heart...and managed, somehow, to have a brilliant title.

Well, check all them boxes, m'friend. Uninspired, consistent stuff. Please see my post entitled Wonderfully Average for more.

So how come this two-parter, which uses as many SF cliches as the cybermen story, is so much better? I have no bloody idea.

Oh, no, hang on, yes I do. Execution. Manage to be actually scary, not just tell people 'this is scary'. Manage to puzzle, confuse, astound, instead of just chucking plum visuals and old emotions at people.

Sure, the guest characters were pretty 1-D. But man, this is the closest I've been to behind the sofa in a long time. Walking outside in zero-atmo, cracking glass, corpse of a pretty girl floating in space, tattoos appearing on hands with no warning. Rock and roll - this is the stuff!

Some flaws still - the sets were a bit 'Space Vets' - but the good massively outweighed the bad. And still we don't forget the emotional angle, as the Doctor and Rose discuss the possibilities of being TARDIS-less. Would they share a house, get a mortgage? I believe that little sit-com might be worth watching...

Maybe they could have a comedy Ood as a next-door neighbour? Why not - they're the best creature-designs since the new Who began. Gotta love a malfunctioning translation unit that claims domination and death in the same tone of voice as offering you some lunch.

Cliffhanger issue: same as before - which is to say, disappointing. POV shot of evil thing rising from pit...only it turns out it's not a POV shot at all. It's just a camera move. The biggest anticipated scare of the cliffhanger and it's just something the director's doing with the camera. Cheats!

Or 'The Comedy Episode That The Doctor Isn't Really In'.

Davies himself mention Buffy: The Zeppo in reference to this show. Good for him, saves me doing it.

Still, where we get into trouble in what is, basically, a fabulously energetic piece of comedy, is the fact that our lead character - Elton Pope, played without too much 'blatant geek' by Marc Warren - ISN'T Xander. He isn't a series regular. He doesn't appear in most of the shows, albeit as second fiddle.

In short, he has nothing to prove. Xander proved how important he was - that's what these 'look at the little guys' episodes do. But Elton, fun though he is, isn't the heart of our show. He's a newbie.

Still, the fact that the episode still mostly worked is credit to a decent script. Peter Kay over-acts even before he gets into the monster make-up, but it's a performance that suits the episode he's in. One that's so related to the farting aliens of last year that the character is made a cousin-race. From Klom, apparently.

It's an ep that proved too strange for some tastes, and I can see why - the chasing of a monster in corridors was ACTUALLY 'Scooby Doo' - but I hope that people will eventually see it for what it is. It's a lightener. An episode designed to pull back from the intensity of the last few weeks; to make things fun before the Big Finish that's due.

It's worth asking, though, what's next for this production. Last year, to make the schedule work, they wrote a sub-plot in for a minor character (it involved having a hatch put into his forehead. Not especially inspired). Just so the main actors could have a break. This year they made an entire episode without the mains (a couple of scenes aside).

My suggestion: split the buggers up. Doctor goes one way, companion goes the other. Then you spend two weeks on a single storyline, told from both sides, from two perspectives. You can even cliffhanger the companion's half, then resolve it at the 30-minute mark of the Doctor's ep.

Oh, and get Steven Moffat to write it. Because he does fragmented narrative structure brilliantly (see BBC2 sitcom Coupling).

I seem to be alone in my liking of this ep. Lacking in effects due to low budget, It's written, instead, to generate atmosphere in boring old suburbia.

The kid who traps people in her drawings. And can also CREATE from drawings. (Killer scribble!) It's such a straight, clear concept. And when you get to the drawing of her abusive dad in the, that's primal fear.

Getting bored of alien possession, but the fact that the entity was a child as well had a nice feel. Not evil, just a lonely tantrum. This also had some sharp dialogue from the creator of Life on Mars, yet more solid performance. Better secondary characters than usual, too.

And, yes, I liked the ending. Doctor grabs the Olympic torch and takes it to its destination in order to send the alien home. Hackneyed? Hell with it. I likes me some cheese. Cheer at the telly!

Particularly special, for me, was the way the Doctor was accepted into the crisis. The psychic paper has done so much work, just to keep stuff moving - this ep suggested that, actually, when a crisis occurs, you'll accept the help of anyone who sounds like they know what they're doing.

The cybermen return, Rose leaves, blah blah. I dread it because it has so much to live up to, while at the same time being a sequel to my least-favourite story to date.

That, and the fact that I'll have to wait until Christmas for the next episode!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Maybe 'Harder Candy'...?

Cinema-goers, please put this on your 'to see' list.

The move is Hard Candy. The director is David Slade (you've never heard of him), the writer is Brian Nelson (um...episodes of Lois & Clark and Earth: Final Conflict). It stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page, who might be vaguely familiar from Phantom of the Opera and X3 respectively.

But the track-record means nothing - certainly it proves nothing. Because what cinema audiences are seeing right now is one of the sharpest, slickest little indie movies you'll see.

If you missed the hype (it has only two main actors, only three locations and most likely zero budget, but there HAS been hype), here's the nutshell:

14 year-old girl meets 32 year-old guy on the internet. They get on in that special way, so meet up. Flirt, flirt, flirt, she ends up at his place. Oh dear. Next thing you know - he wakes up tied to a table and she's about to castrate him with her help of one of her Dad's textbooks.

That, by the way, is no spoiler. It's more-or-less in the trailers, and it's the first half-hour.

Hard Candy is a movie of wonderful ambiguity. You will NOT be offered easy answers. He's a child-molester (possibly with consent...maybe), she's a psychopath. Pick a side.

Well, actually, no, don't. There are no sides here. There's no good coming out of this. He should be locked up, actually; something I'll come back to in a second. But her? She's a danger to society, too. Scary-smart and totally insane.

So, should he be locked up? She's flirting with him clear as day, she's mentally much older than 14 (though very much not physically), and he even says he'll have to wait four years for her. (That's America, though. Over here he'd only have to wait two.)

That kinda greys things up a little.

Still, in what is by far the best discussion of an extremely intelligent screenplay, Hayley gives a compelling argument against the whole 'SHE seduced ME' angle. The essence of it is something like this: A child may be able to pretend to be an adult, but that doesn't mean she is one. When she comes on to you, you're still the responsible adult in the situation - you don't encourage it. You tell her to cut it out and back off. That's the adult thing to do.

Now I know, I know. I've seen 20 year-old hotties who've been revealed to be 13 year-olds developed beyond their years, deliberately pretending to be older. I know, I understand. But that's not what we're talking about here, with this movie. We're talking about two people:

- A girl who looks young, is young and admits to being young

- A guy who searched the internet to find someone underage

These undisputed facts of the film mean that the basics of the blame are totally clear. If she hadn't been so forward, he'd have seduced her anyway - he's good at it, he's done it before. When she offers to go to his place it could just as easily have been him letting her THINK she suggested it. This is NOT the grey area.

It's hard to talk any further without blowing the twists. Suffice to say that your sympathies will bounce from one to the other, rarely rest in either place, but similarly they won't disappear completely. That, friends and neighbours, is one hell of a juggling act for a writer and a director.

So, kudos for a script that's deliberately claustrophobic but never feels small - despite the whole thing being based around two characters talking in three locations. (It is, frankly, almost a stage play.) Ditto kudos to a director who brings smart visual flair to what could have been a very bland shoot. The photography is lush but harsh, the movement constant. And the performances are as genuine, classy and un-cliched as you can imagine. No type-casting here.

The final act loses things a bit, with the twists used up it falls to a case of demand and counter-demand. But at least they don't go the Wild Things route and chuck in two more twists just for the hell of it. And yes, the film draws some annoyingly straight lines between pedophilia and murder - the topic is simplistically handled in what had, otherwise, been a layered and complex script. (The guy's job, photography, causes Hayley to ask interesting questions about just what all those images of young flesh actually mean.)

That aside, it's a golden flick. It crackles. And the torture? Horror directors everywhere wish they could work this kind of magic. Because all the squirming in the world doesn't change the fact that a) it's a nightmare to watch, and b) you hardly see anything. An out of focus video camera shot in the background. Maybe some blood on a scalpel after the fact. That's all.

And the dialogue in the aftermath, from both players, delivered with such intense truth, is some of the blackest, funniest, most uncomfortable you've seen since...well, let's say Fight Club.

Still, go, see it, have an opinion. The Internet Movie Database message board is rife with nonsense about it - blowing twists left and right as some yell that he got what was coming to him and others miss the point entirely and wonder why Hayley wasn't cast as a hot cheerleader-type. (But have a look after you see the film. There are some really DUMB interpretations about twists that aren't twists for a crowd who, I guess, are more used to the Cruel Intentions movies.)

This, though, is my final point. And it's one I hope I'm wrong about.

In this write-up I've mentioned Cruel Intentions and Wild Things. Two film series (yes they are, both have had two direct-to-video sequels each) that thrive on a popular mix of nubile sexiness, seduction, murder/violence and double-cross.

Now don't get me wrong, I love all those things as much as the next guy. But when an audience confuses Hard Candy with this...well, what shall we say? This more 'base' kind of have to worry about sequels.

Cruel Intentions and Wild Things both had solid first films, remember. Reputable, even. Classical adaptation, strong cast, decent director, whatever. Proper, solid movies - films.

But the sequels? Fun they are, and entertainment. But not so much with the great art. And that's just fine too. I like a movie that gives you a mystery and the horn.

What I don't like is an audience who thinks Hard Candy is ready for this kind of treatment. Because it's not. But when they go DTV for American Psycho 2, you start to worry just how many people - executives and audiences alike - missed the point.

So I'm asking now for a total ban on any of the following:

Hard Candy 2: Cherry Red
Hard Candy 2: Sweet Centre
Hard Candy 2: Jawbreaker
Hard Candy 2: Suck It and See

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Things They Never Say In 'Lost'

"Hey, this is kinda like that time I did something very different, and yet emotionally similar..."

"Anyone think we should sit down and talk about all the weird stuff that's going on?"

"Isn't it funny how we keep having conversations when we don't like each other....and yet I never chat to most of the other 40+ crash victims on the island?"

So, a few quick points about a show that's half joyous, and half utter toss.

I just watched back the pilot episode of Firefly - a flawed start to an amazing series - and check out the character! By end of play, I get them all. Some I have backstory for, some I don't, but where I don't have it...I generally don't need it. What made most of these people is written in their actions, their existence.

And while I loved finding out how this disparate bunch got together...I never questioned it. I never watched thinking 'Sure, but I don't buy that they all ended up on the same ship."

So - Lost.

Let's be clear here - the island mystery surrounding Lost is glorious. Not always amazingly written, but painstakingly plotted and generally thrilling. A drip-feed of revelations that, in retrospect, will seem cheap and tedious, but for now works a treat.

But the flashbacks...Ye gods, the flashbacks! They make me want to take an electric drill to my forehead.

In the last season and a half, we have seen the following shocking revelations:

* The couple who are married...met, once, and fell in love.

* The wife of said couple, who has a difficult, bullied relationship with her husband...once seriously considered leaving him.

* The guy who lost his son in a custody battle...found that separation difficult.

* The single, pregnant girl...wasn't sure she wanted to keep the baby after all.

* The doctor who married his patient...once fell in love with his patient.

* The fat guy had a bad case of unrequited love for someone thinner.

...and so on. Let me know when any of these comes as a shocking revelation worth 50% of any given episode.

Now here's the thing: this is not the fault of the flashback in general. It can be a great device (please see Firefly: Out of Gas, also referenced above.) And in one single, solitary episode, the flashbacks actually worked to tell an emotional story. It was 'Walkabout', the fourth episode of the series.

That's one. Once. And they do these things every bloody week!

I ask you - if Doctor Who's Tardis-based stories didn't work for a series and a half, wouldn't the writers re-think? If CSI's extreme-close-ups failed to tell the tale right, wouldn't the producers have dropped them, reformatted, or at least taken a long hard look at how to make them function?

Sure, these things are designed to reveal character, to peel back their layers. But let me introduce you to the characters:

* Fat Guy Who Likes Movies, TV, Music, Comics and Hanging Out.

* Doctor Who Can't Always Be God.

* Bad-Boy Trouble-Maker Who Actually Has a Warm Heart Under All His Fear.

* British Rock Star With Drug Addition.

* Iraqi Guy With Violent Military Past.

...and, again, so on. If there's a single non-Lost viewer reading this, you tell me - you think you need any explanation of who these guys are? Or have you pretty much got it already?

Sit down, open up a Word page, or a new email, and type the first few things you expect you know about one these characters. Their natures, how they were formed, who they get on with, what their issues might be.

I guarantee you'll be right about at least 70%.

COMPLEX characters are entitled to flashbacks. Lost has one and a half complex characters. Cut-outs and out-of-the-drawer types attached to actors deserve no such luxury.

Would you be amazed to learn that our rock star has to battle his drug addiction whilst trapped on the island? Would you be stunned by the fact that the fat nerd is lovable, but gets on people's nerves? That the Iraqi eventually has to delve into his past and torture someone...for the good of the group?

Oh, and did I not mention the spoilt little rich girl? She is learning Valuable Life Lessons while marooned. Ain't that special?

It's ridiculous, the time they're given. It's a show built on function, on the release of information. It's almost impossible to care about these people. So we'll settle for being interested in the events that surround them.

Which is why cutting away from those events for half of every show is REALLY DUMB.

Another consequence of this type of formatting - sticking rigidly regardless of usefulness - is what it does to the island story on the off-weeks.

Every arc storyline has to take a beat sometimes. You can't progress it every week. (24 tries, and just keeps being forced to throw in more and more stupid twists. Again, slave to the format.) The dust has to settle before you kick it up again.

On a normal show, fine. On Lost, this is a major problem. Because in between the Shocking Flashback Revelation that a character once found stubbing their toe painful is an island story of dust settling. A B-plot of, say, the islanders making themselves a golfcourse.

In a regular show, such a B-plot is fine, it's light entertainment, relief from the A-story.

In Lost, it means you get a C-plot supporting a B-plot.

Oh dear blessed Jesus and all his many comedy sidekicks.

That Lost remains addictive as popcorn, or picking a scab, is without doubt. But I would, happily, exchange 20 minutes of every episode for...well having that time back, frankly.