Sci-Fi Film Marathon, Saturday 5th July-Sunday 6th July, 2014

I’ve said several times before that Sundays at our house have become a favourite of mine for sci-fi on TV and DVD, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to the day as “Sci-Fi Sunday”. Well, this weekend was no different, with the local UK Freeview television channels coming up with the goods yet again, airing some excellent sci-fi films over the weekend. The only unusual exception was Channel 5, which most weekends has at least one sci-fi film on, but not this time around (but lots of Disney stuff on today, for anyone who’s into that kinda thing).

The additional plus this weekend was that Saturday was almost as good as Sunday, for a change. This week it’s not just “Sci-Fi Sunday”, but an entire “Sci-Fi Weekend”, during which Film4 hosted no less than four classic sci-fi films, and Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC Three aired one each. Add to that the two sci-fi DVDs that I watched with my friends on Sunday night, and that amounts to quite a sci-fi marathon over two days.

Unfortunately the BBC channels, particularly the two big ones, BBC One and BBC Two, are very poor when it comes to airing any kind of sci-fi, preferring instead to aim for the lowest common denominator and concentrate on an unrelenting garbage diet of soaps, sport and reality TV. I think the BBC considers Doctor Who to be their absolute limit for sci-fi these days, and tough luck if we want anything else. When there’s no Doctor Who on the BBC channels, there’s very rarely any sci-fi at all. If it wasn’t for the news or documentaries, I wouldn’t watch BBC One or Two at all. The same for BBC Three. Aside from a couple of episodes of Doctor Who on Friday evenings, it’s complete crap.

Once again, Film4 was the undisputed champ, with two sci-fi films on Saturday, and two more on Sunday. Saturday afternoon started off well, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Then we did a bit of channel-hopping over to Channel 4 for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and then it was back to Film4 again for some Arnie in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Sunday afternoon saw Film4 picking up where they left off on Saturday night, with The Phantom (1996), running straight into Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). The usual Sunday evening visitors started drifting in by that point, so once the Star Trek V film was over, we switched from TV to DVD, with the first part (of three) of the Sci-Fi Channel’s excellent Dune mini-series (2000).

Then it was back to the TV for another film. Given what I said earlier about the BBC channels being very bad for sci-fi, I almost died of shock when BBC Three actually aired Tron: Legacy (2010). This was followed soon after on ITV2 by The Matrix Reloaded (2003), the very good second film in the Matrix Trilogy. Finally, and taking us from late Sunday night into early Monday morning, it was another DVD, the much underrated fourth film in the Alien series, Alien: Resurrection (1997). I’ve heard many people whinge about how bad they think this film is. I disagree with them. I always enjoy it when it is re-run on TV.

I’m slinking off to bed now at just after 4am, exhausted, but very satisfied after two days of great sci-fi films. Here’s looking forward to next weekend! 🙂

Advertisements

Channel 4 Cancels Time Team

In last week’s edition of Radio Times (March 23rd-29th), I was extremely saddened to read that Channel 4 has scrapped their excellent and popular archaeology series, Time Team, which has graced UK television screens for the past twenty years.

As a big fan of archaeology and history, this news has come as a huge disappointment to me. Time Team is one of my favourite programmes on UK television, and over the years has helped to popularize and animate archaeology and history for the general viewing public. It is both educational AND entertaining, something which is greatly lacking in most television scheduling these days. So to find out that Time Team is being dumped by Channel 4, frankly, sucks Big Time.

Some people would say that twenty years is a good run, but the show is always fresh and entertaining, and getting better, year by year. So why cancel it and replace it with yet another piece of mindless crap that we don’t need? Yet another bloody programme about cooking (isn’t obesity rampant enough already?), buying houses, auctioning, or whatever other cheap, boring fad that the TV channels are obsessed with riding into the ground? As soon as one of these programmes achieves a certain level of success, multiple clones inevitably sprout up all over the place, like weeds. There’s already far too much of this rubbish on TV. We don’t need any more.

I’m one of those viewers who prefers to watch programming that’s a bit more educational and informative, dealing with subjects such as science, history, and current affairs, rather than the endless parade of mindless, vacuous reality TV, soaps and sitcoms that the television channels constantly force down our throats. But hey, I’m all for a bit of variety, and I’m well aware that a large section of the population actually LIKES reality TV, soaps and sitcoms (God help us all). I can’t stand this kind of thing myself, but I am more than willing to compromise, just as long as there’s also something on TV occasionally for me.

Television channels should cater for everybody, minority tastes as well as more mainstream, popular viewing. But the sad fact is, in recent years they have done so less and less. There is little left on commercial television for the more discerning viewer, and we have so much cheap, unimaginative, unintelligent copy-cat programming infesting our television screens that I’m often driven to despair, trying to find something that’s actually worth watching. We may have a lot more television channels these days, but they are full of complete rubbish and endless repeats. The quality of television viewing has definitely declined over the years, and we can ill afford to lose a great series like Time Team.

Just by coincidence, my late Thursday night viewing this week included a 20 Years of Time Team special on Channel 4. Apparently this, according to the Radio Times, is the VERY LAST programme in the series, so I’m absolutely gutted. I’m sure that Time Team repeats will abound in future, but we really need new programmes in this excellent series. If tired, boring soaps like Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street can rattle on endlessly for decade after decade, why can’t something as interesting as Time Team? The series deserves at least another twenty years, if you ask me.

Next time I partake of the demon drink, I’ll raise a glass to Tony, Phil, Mike, Carenza and the rest of the Time Team crew, and pray that this isn’t the last we’ll see of this talented bunch and their herculean efforts to make archaeology fun and accessible to the man and woman in the street. RIP Time Team, but I hope it’s not for long.