All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Ten works of art that have changed my life…

In today’s installment of the Ten Times to Be Happy Challenge we turn our attention to works of art – paintings, film, television, books, music etc. – and look at which ones have had a particularly life-altering impact on my life. Starting with the obvious…

~1~
Doctor Who (1963-Present)

doctor-who-50th

My love affair with Doctor Who began during the show’s twenty-fifth anniversary, when I watched the story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Little did I know then that this television series would go on to become one of the most important works of art in my life.

For twenty-seven years now this show has been the source of tremendous comfort, inspiration and excitement. It has soothed my soul through countless depressive episodes, been there to support me when I’ve contemplated suicide and stood by me during periods of intense self harm.

For two-thirds of my life I have had the good Doctor and his assortment of companions to guide me through life’s ups and downs. I seriously couldn’t comprehend my life without Doctor Who. It is in my blood. It is part of my DNA. And I will love it until my final, dying breath.

And now a flashback to 1988, and a clip from the very first Doctor Who story that I remember watching:

~2~
Quest for a Kelpie (1986)

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It began, as far as I was concerned, with the fight.

At midday one Friday, about the beginning of September 1743, a month before my tenth birthday, my mother called me in. As there had been no fishing for a week because of storms, there was no fish to take up the country, and I had a bit leisure to play with my little brother Isaac and the twins. Not Ellen, of course. She had her own friends, always.

“Come in, Jeannie,” mam called. “Away over with your dad’s bite. You can take the wee one with you, an’ be sure he takes no harm. Now mind an’ dinna spill it or I’ll skelp you.”

“Aye, mam,”I said. I knew fine she wouldn’t – if anybody skelped me it would be my dad.

How did this work of art change me? This book made me want to be a writer. What more can I say?

~3~
Psycho (1960)

psycho

This filmed changed my understanding of what great cinema is. Before I watched it I was gorging on a diet of Hollywood blockbusters and cheesy romantic comedies. Until I watched this, film was just a sugary snack, something to munch on when you felt depressed. But watching this masterpiece of direction made me realise that film didn’t have to be a snack, it could be a hearty main meal. This film set me off on a journey that took in some of the great artists of motion picture history; Welles, Altman, Truffaut, Wilder, to name but a few. This film began my love affair with Hitchcock, a relationship that has been ongoing for twenty odd years now. It changed the way I viewed film, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

~4~
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

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Is a video game a work of art? Let’s end this insipid date here and now: of course it is! And this video game, this inspirational, incredible, breathtaking journey, is without question, without argument or debate, the greatest video game ever made. From the moment I placed the cartridge into my trusty N64 back in 1998 I was blown away by the commitment put into this work of art by its talented team. The graphics, the music, the design, the everything!

This is one of those journey’s that you simply have to take in life, so if you haven’t already done so, do it now. Stop reading this blog post this very second and travel to your nearest video game store, pick up a 3DS and copy of the game, and play it immediately. You will not be disappointed.

~5~
One Tree Hill (2003-2012)

One Tree Hill

In late 2010 I had been sleeping rough for eighteen months. Throughout that long, brutal period of time there was little in my life worth writing home about. Joy, happiness, inspiration…everything had deserted me. It was just me, surviving through each horrible, endless day. Then a homeless service offered me a place in a boarding house. I jumped at the chance to get off the streets and merrily made my way to the northern suburbs of Melbourne to check out my new ‘home’. It was a cupboard. There were no windows. No natural light. But it was a room to sleep in. A chance to get off the streets.

Shortly after moving in, depression took hold. I found it difficult to rouse myself from bed, spending entire days laying face down in my cupboard, unable to summon any strength for normal, day-to-day activities. I took solace in a succession of DVDs that I’d borrowed from the local library. Veronica Mars, 24, Supernatural, all were devoured as time-killing measures, all acted as white noise for my pointless existence. Until I placed into the drive the first disc of season one of One Tree Hill. Within six episodes I was hooked. Within one season I was a rabid fan.

I fell head over heels in love with the lives and adventures of the high-schoolers of Tree Hill. Peyton became an object of intense lust and admiration. Hayley, and her singing, soothed my troubled soul. Whilst I promptly decided that, were it possible to date fictional characters, Brooke would be my soul mate. But it was the shows writing that enticed me more than my carnal desiring of its female stars. Episode after episode the dialogue and interaction of the characters blew me away, with entire episodes devoted to exploring character and their relationships. Something I had never seen in a television show before.

After watching four seasons back to back, I left my cupboard for the first time in four weeks, desperate for seasons five and six. Watching that show provided me with a renewed zest for life. It inspired me to return to writing. It forced me to reevaluate my decisions and where I was heading. Without One Tree Hill I would be dead. I’m not saying that to be over dramatic, I’m saying it because it’s true. One Tree Hill saved me from myself. And for that, I will forever worship and adore Mark Schwahn’s poignant creation.

Not my top 10 One Tree Hills scenes, but the top 10 scenes of a fellow YouTuber:

~6~
The Pioneer (1904)

thepioneer

This is my favourite painting of all time. I first saw it not long after arriving in Australia, whilst exploring the lengthy hallways of the National Gallery of Victoria. From my first viewing of this intricate, soulful piece of art, I was transfixed. I wanted to know more about the couple, about their life and family. I wanted to know how they survived each day and what drove them toward a better, brighter future.

When I became homeless in 2007 it took on an even deeper meaning, for I could relate to the various stages of their life. The first panel with them sleeping rough, dreaming of a better future, was exactly how I felt during those first months of being homeless. Whereas the second panel, and the start of the couples family, reflected my own dream of family and togetherness. Whilst the grief (and change) reflected in the third panel mirrored the changes and grief that I knew would follow me throughout my life.

It is a magnificent piece of art and, in my humble opinion, should be regarded alongside the Mona Lisa or The Kiss.

~7~
Memory and Dream (1994)

memory_and_dream

But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.

How did 50pence change my life? It’s not a huge amount of money, it’s pretty negligible, if truth be told. But in late 2001, my life was changed by this paltry amount of money.

I was perusing a charity shop in Inverness, on my way to work another tedious shift at the YHA, when I saw Memory and Dream peeking at me from the bookcase. It was only 50pence, a bargain, so I took it to the counter and purchased it immediately. The author, a Canadian, had been recommended to me by my friend Deborah, and I had been on the lookout for him for months, so finding such a bargain was a stroke of good fortune.

That night at work, given it was quiet because of the off-season, I settled down to read my new purchase. Within minutes I was spellbound. Charles de Lint has a way with words that few other writers can match. He is lyrical, spinning wondrous stories populated by charismatic, compassionate characters. You genuinely care about the people de Lint writes about. They get under your skin. They make your heart hurt.

But it’s not just because Memory and Dream is a remarkable story that it makes this list. No. Memory and Dream did something no other book had ever done. It made me realise that there was a market for the sorts of stories that my soul wanted to tell. I was forever blending the mythical and magical with the humdrum of contemporary life, but until I read Memory and Dream, I didn’t realise there was a name for it; Urban Fantasy.

That’s how 50pence changed my life.

~8~
The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses (1926)

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This painting used to fascinate me when I was younger. I was drawn to it by the vibrant colours, sharp angles and subject matter. For better or worse, this piece of art has probably changed my life more than any other, for it was instrumental in setting me off on my journey with kink; a journey that I have been traversing for over thirty years now.

~9~
The Stamping Ground (2001)

thestampingground

The first single I ever brought was Naked, by British pop starlet Louise. A particularly loathsome piece of music that I purchased only because my teenage self wanted to imagine Louise stark naked. The first album I ever brought was Naked, by British pop starlet Louise. A particularly loathsome collection of music that I purchased only because my teenage self wanted to imagine Louise stark naked. But the first album I brought that actually resonated with me, that I brought for reasons other than teenage lust, was Runrig’s The Stamping Ground. And it blew my mind. There was actually music out there that spoke to me, that made my soul sing and my heart quiver. Runrig has gone on to become my favourite musical act of all time. Their songs resonate within me more than any other. Their music has formed the soundtrack of my life. Without them, I wouldn’t be Addy.

My favourite song from the album The Stamping Ground, performed live in 2014:

and

~10~
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

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Little did I know that wintry January day that reading a magazine would change my life. I was browsing the shelves of Forbidden Planet, a comic and genre store in Cardiff, when I picked up the latest issue of SFX. Flicking through the pages I stumbled upon a review for a brand spanking new television series called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The review was favorable so I decided to keep an eye out for it.

A few days later I was flicking through the various television channels when I came upon an episode of the said television series. It was the fourth episode – Teacher’s Pet – so I watched it to see if I agreed with the magazine review. I did. I was taken by the characters, the sparkling dialogue and blend of fantasy and reality. So it became weekly viewing and, by the end of the first season, I was obsessed.

Like Doctor Who, Buffy has changed my life because it saw me through some of the trickiest, more painful, chapters of my life. It was there for me during the loneliness and depression of post-school life. It was there for me when I decided to take a chance and go traveling. And it was there for me when I made the even bigger decision to emigrate to Australia.

But after it played an integral part of my abusive relationship, I wasn’t able to watch Buffy. It became a trigger for me. A source of pain and frustration. An endless reminder of the trauma my abuser had put me through. For years I wanted to watch it, but couldn’t. And I thought it would be relegated to the dusty archives of my life; the show I used to cherish but can no longer relish. But earlier this year I decided to face my trigger head on. I missed Buffy. I missed Willow and Tara. I missed the sage-like advice of Giles. So I curled up with some chocolate and endeavored to watch every episode; to relive one of the greatest television journeys ever made. It did trigger me, I’ll be honest about that, but I got through it. All 144 episodes were watched, all 144 episodes were enjoyed. And I found my love of this show hadn’t dwindled.

It will, like Doctor Who and One Tree Hill, remain one of the most influential television series of my life.

A fan’s collection of favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer moments. let’s be honest. All moments are awesome!

So there we have it. Ten works of art, picked out of millions, that have changed my life. But what about you? What works of art have changed your life for the better (or worse)? I’d love to know! :)


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Four favourite movies (or TV Shows) of 2013

Day of the Doctor-horz

~ in no particular order ~

~ 1 ~

The Day of the Doctor | Written by: Steven Moffat

How could this not be on my list? Over the last twelve months it’s been mentioned countless times on this blog and, as the date drew closer, my excitement levels continued to rise, eventually reaching fever point the evening before the worldwide simulcast event. Perpetually worried that it would be pants, my fears were appeased within minutes of the show beginning as Steven Moffat and the cast and crew had shaped one of the best episodes of Doctor Who in quite a number of years. This isn’t just one of my favourite television/movie moments of the year, but one of my highlights of 2013, period!

~ 2 ~

Star Trek: Into Darkness | Directed by: JJ Abrams

The first film in JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek franchise was one of the last films I saw before becoming homeless again in 2009. As such, the memory of this extremely good sci-fi action film is closely intertwined with my memories of that brutal period of my life. Approaching it’s sequel, Into Darkness, I was aware that it may resurface some unpleasant memories, but I also hoped that it would become intertwined with the new direction my life was entering. Fortunately, the latter proved true. Although not quite as good as the first film, Into Darkness was an excellent blockbuster movie that had me entertained from the word go.

~ 3 ~

Once Upon a Time | Created by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz

I’ll be honest, I watch a lot of television. Not only is it one of my primary coping mechanisms but it’s a field of entertainment that I’ve always dreamed of working in. Amidst the random fare that I’ve watched over the last twelve months there were some obvious stand-outs: Game of Thrones (S3), Nikita (S3) and Parks and Recreation (S4), but the show that most captured my imagination this year was Once Upon a Time.

I initially began watching this show because of the presence of Robert Carlyle – one of my favourite actors – but was soon swept away by the strong female characters, intricate storylines and sheer sense of fun the show offers.

(PS…I still have to catch up with season 3, so no spoilers please!)

~ 4 ~

Iron Man 3 | Directed by: Shane Black

Although last on this list, this is probably my favourite film of the year, mainly because I had more fun watching this gleefully over-the-top comic book adaptation than I had with any other film or television product of the last twelve months. Filled with exceptionally well realised set-pieces – the attack on Stark’s home, the barrel of monkey’s sequence, the CGI overload of the finale – I dare anyone to sit through this film with a bored expression on their face!


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Thirteen things that have saved my life…

Skins

Whilst working through the Skins DVD box-set I received for my birthday last week something strange happened. Something I wasn’t expecting but, in hindsight, should have.

In April 2009 I was living in a dodgy boarding house in Inverness. The boarding house was a converted kindergarten school, complete with child-size toilets and Playschool-esque wall decorations. With sixteen other people living in the house personal space was limited, and I spent most of my time huddled in my room, twiddling my thumbs and trying to find something to fill the void.

At the time I was suffering through a particularly nasty depressive episode, veering in and out of suicidal ideation and desperately trying to procure some professional help from the local mental health services.

On one night, in an effort to provide some relief from the self-harm I had been engaging in, I walked the two kilometers to the local Tesco supermarket at around eleven in the evening. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I ended up purchasing a copy of Skins Series 3 from their entertainment section and returned home to watch it.

As I had done countless times in the past, I ended up staying up the entire night to watch the ten episode series in a televisual marathon. By the end of it all urge to self-harm had evaporated and for the next several days no suicidal thought crept into my mind. Courtesy of a simple television show, for several days I was calm, at ease and able to focus on what I needed to do.

Whilst watching the same season over the weekend, I was taken back to those dark days and reminded that were it not for Skins there is a reasonable chance that I wouldn’t be here to write these words today.

All of which got me thinking about other entertainment products that have saved my life over the years.

Zelda

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1993)

This is the video-game that began my life-long love affair with the world of Hyrule and a game that, more than any other, defines my child-hood. At a time when my depression was first starting to bite and the urge to self-harm was becoming increasingly difficult to overcome, having a world to escape to was a tremendous solace to me. So much so that when the game was re-released for the Gameboy Advance in the early naughties, I was one of the first in line to add it to my collection purely so I could relive some of the happier memories of my teenage years.

2. Doctor Who: The Classic Era (1993)

There is a reason why I was so excited by the recent fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. It wasn’t just because I have been a fan for over twenty-five years of my life, but because during the mid-nineties, when I was first becoming lost to depression, self-harm and suicidal urges, it provided me with an escape like no other. Although heavily criticized for its effects, the classic-era of Doctor Who will long be held in my heart, and not just because one of my strongest memories is of Sarah Sutton stripping down to her underwear in the story Terminus!

3. The Famous Five (1995)

One of my strongest memories of childhood is of my parents reading me the Famous Five books each and every night. They owned the complete collection in – what I remember being – first edition hardbacks. Although I may have seemed a little too old for these stories at the time, during the harshness of those teenage years I would often delve back into the world of 1950s innocence as a way to escape the pain that I was feeling.

Famous Five

4. Highlander (1997)

During the late nineties there were only a handful of television series that I was passionate about. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one, Due South another, but the biggest of the three was the Vancouver based series Highlander, inspired by the Christopher Lambert starring motion pictures. This series was a huge source of escapism for me at the time and inspired countless aspects of my own writing (from the historical aspect of the storytelling to the presence of immortals). It was also a series that made me want to visit Glenfinnan, which would go on to become one of my favourite places in this world.

5. Doctor Who: Utopia, The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords (2007)

In late 2007, courtesy of losing everything after my breakdown, I owned just one DVD; the final three episodes of Doctor Who’s third series. As a result, over the course of six traumatic months, this became my go-to option in times of distress. As such, they are my three favourite episodes of new Doctor Who, and probably always will be.

6. Brandi Carlile, The Story (2007)

Along with Chasing Cars, this album provided me with the inspiration to begin writing this blog. When I hear songs such as The Story, Turpentine or Again Today I am taken back to the early days of my blogging career, and the hope that this venture provided me with at the time.

7. Supernatural (2007)

After attempting suicide in October 2007 I was a total, complete and utter mess. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t formulate ideas and I was unable to express how I was feeling to anyone. In fact, for weeks after the event – before becoming homeless – all I could do was sit on the sofa and watch random DVDs. It was during this period that I discovered Supernatural; a dark and humorous urban fantasy that enabled me to stay connected to the real-world and prevent the actualization of any further suicidal urges.

8. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2008)

Returning to Scotland in 2008 was a bittersweet experience for me. Although I relished being back amidst the mountains, glens and lochs of the world’s most beautiful country, I was overrun with memories of times past throughout my entire trip. Fortunately, this gleefully enjoyable video-game was at hand to beat back the demons and keep myself from doing anything stupid. I’ve been a fan of the Lego games ever since, and still turn to them in times of distress to this day.

9. Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars and The End of Time (2009)

As David Tennant was starring in the RSC’s production of Hamlet, there was no complete series of Doctor Who in 2009. Instead, we were treated to four ‘specials’ throughout the year; Planet of the Dead, The Waters of Mars and the two-part tenth Doctor’s finale, The End of Time. It was the latter two, which arrived during my initial months of homelessness, that helped ease the distress I was in and provided me with hope and inspiration for a better future.

10. One Tree Hill (2010)

Possibly the most important entry in this list is Mark Schwan’s stunning television series, One Tree Hill. Whilst living in a violent boarding house in late 2010 I essentially became agoraphobic, unable to leave my measly room for any reason for over four weeks. It was only the desire to watch more seasons of One Tree Hill that lifted me from my despair and enabled me to find the strength to rejoin the world. Without the magnificence of One Tree Hill I would definitely not be here, period.

Chuck

11. Chuck (2011)

Although I had been a fan of Chuck since watching the pilot episode with Samantha in Glasgow, 2008, it was only when I was re-watching the series in internet cafes whilst homelessness did I realise the positive effect it was having on my ideals of hope and determination. Ever since that realization, this show has lived in the forefront of my heart. One of the greatest television series of recent years.

12. Fringe (2012)

After procuring my new home in early 2012 I was a mess. Years of homelessness, despair, depression and hopelessness had taken their toll. Regardless of my new-found privacy and security I couldn’t shake the person I had become in the preceding years. I still believed I deserved nothing but pain, misery and a painful death. Fortunately, the decision to watch Fringe Season 3 changed all that. Within twenty-four hours I had polished off the 22 episode season and began working my way through seasons one and two before watching season three for a second time. As such, I have long credited this exquisite science-fiction show for giving me a renewed hope in the world and the strength to keep going when all felt lost.

13. The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (2012)

Last Christmas was a particularly brutal period for me. For nearly two months I was overwhelmed by the demons of depression, who pushed me against my will into the realms of alcoholism, self-harm and suicidal ideation. Luckily, courtesy of a birthday present from my parents, I had the world of Zelda to retreat into and, much like it did when I was but a fresh-faced teenager, it helped me quell the demons who were threatening me with extinction.


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My thirteen favourite television comedies…of all time!

This week’s Thursday Thirteen kick-starts what will become a semi-regular series looking at an often overlooked form of therapy; laughter therapy.  Everybody  – not just those who suffer from mental health issues – could benefit from a good laugh each and every day.

So today, I countdown my thirteen favourite television comedies of all time…each and every one of them pretty much guaranteed to get your muscles twitching and stress-busting endorphins kicking! :p

Thirteen of my favourite TV comedies

13. My Two Dads

Although it has been over fifteen years since I last saw this show, I still remember it as being one of my favourite comedies when I was an early-teenager. Perhaps it was because I fancied the actress who portrayed the daughter, perhaps it was because Greg Evigan’s beard was magnificent, perhaps it was because I had very little taste when I was younger or perhaps it was because this show was – and is – comedy gold!

12. Community

The fourth series was – let’s be brutally honest – a bit crap, but the first three seasons of this uber-meta series is some of the funniest in modern comedy. A magnificent ensemble cast, multiple examples of boundary-pushing television and the greatest cat gag since Victor Meldrew froze one in his freezer. Unmissable!

11. The IT Crowd

This series, revolving around the misadventures of three IT workers, was recommended to me by Samantha’s sister in 2009. From the moment Richard Ayoade’s Moss shouted “four…five…fire!” I knew I was going to be a fan for life.

10. Blackadder

I’ll be honest, my preference is Blackadder the Second because I have a massive crush on Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth, but all four seasons (and related specials) of Blackadder are top-notch comedy that should be quintessential viewing for any comedy aficionado.

9. 30 Rock

To place this ninth was a really tough decision. Smartly written, pitch perfect performances, an under-rated Katrina Bowden and the genius that is Tina Fey should be enough for this to be in the top five; but there is just something about it that I can’t put my finger on which is keeping it lower in the list. Not that anyone should take that as a criticism of its worth, for this show is one of the best contemporary comedies around.

8. Dad’s Army

There is something altogether comforting and familiar with this comedy series. Maybe it’s because the show has been around since before I was born, maybe it’s because the writing is as sharp today as it was forty years ago or maybe it’s because the characters are so brilliantly portrayed they feel like your friends. Even though I’ve seen some episodes countless times, this is a comedy I will never tire of.

7. Fawlty Towers

Is there a human being in the Western world who has never seen an episode of this show?  Because if there is, that person needs to stop whatever they’re doing and watch an episode…now! I suggest Communication Problems or Basil the Rat.

6. How I Met Your Mother

Granted, it’s gone on at least one or two seasons too long, but this series has been one of my greatest supports since my breakdown and subsequent mental health issues. I am now firmly attached to each of the characters and am eagerly awaiting the ninth – and final – season to see how it all ends.

5. Spaced

Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes and Edgar Wright are responsible for one of the funniest, hippest and most intelligent situational comedies that has ever been made. Absolute fried comedy gold!

4. One Foot in the Grave

The show that inspired Bill Cosby’s Cosby contains some of the most inspired ‘reveals’ in comedy history. Who could forget the infamous ‘street lamp through the window’, ‘plant potted in the downstairs toilet’ or ‘pick up the small dog instead of the phone’ gags. But beyond these visual gems, the writing and acting in this show is top notch with a marvelous (almost macabre) balance between comedy and tragedy.

3. Frasier

My primary reason for placing this second is not so much the superb (and intelligent) writing or the brilliant ensemble cast, it is because David Hyde Pierce (Niles) is a comedic genius! Frasier is the one psychiatrist I have no issues with visiting and this show has become one of my primary comforts in times of great (or marginal) distress.

2. Parks and Recreation

There is very little I can write about this show without exhausting synonyms for ‘superb’, ‘magnificent’ or ‘hilarious’. So I shall simply say it’s as close to perfect as any television show should legally be allowed to be.

1. Only Fools and Horses

It’s no surprise to me that this show is consistently voted by both public and critical polls as being one of the greatest series of all time, let alone comedy series. The exploits of the Trotter clan from the humble beginnings to millionaire status and back again has entertained and inspired me since I was a wee bairn.

So how about you? What are your favourite television comedy series?


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My Life in Television

Over the last year I’ve been writing a sporadic series titled  ‘My Life in…‘ where I highlight the films/books/moments/music that have defined me through each year of my life. Today it’s time to settle onto the couch, as we look over the last thirty-four years of television and all the series that have defined my life.

The rule is simple, for each year since my birth I’ve chosen a show that debuted in that year. These are not necessarily the best television series of each year, but the ones that speak of who I am in my soul.

My Life in Television

poltergeist

No poltergeist was summoned during the writing of this post (I hope!)

1978 ~ GRANGE HILL

Ahhh, Grange Hill. Anyone who grew up in the UK during the 80s will now be flashing back to that magnificent theme tune and remembering Mr Bronson, Mrs McCluskey and Todd Carty (pre-Eastenders). Anyone who grew up outside the UK will now be wondering what the hell this show is…basically it was an ongoing children’s drama set within a comprehensive school; cue storylines involving drug overdoses, mischief-laden school trips and visits to the headmaster’s office. An absolute classic!

1979 ~ NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS

Aside from Monty Python, this is one of the greatest sketch comedies ever. Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stevenson and her future husband, Billy Connolly.

1980 ~ YES, MINISTER and KICK START

Yes, Minister – one of the finest political sitcoms ever made. Kick Start – one of the finest ‘perform tricks on a motorcycle’ game shows ever made!

1981 ~ ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES

(Possibly) my favourite British sitcom of all time and the only one to ever make me cry.

1982 ~ THE COMIC STRIP PRESENTS…

This fantastic half-hour comedy series starred Dawn French, Robbie Coltrane, Jennifer Saunders and more. Notable in my life for the single greatest “Famous Five” spoof ever made!

1983 ~ BLACKADDER

If you haven’t seen this comedy series…finish reading this post, leave a jovial comment, then head to your local DVD retailer and pick up the complete series box set. Personally, I love Blackadder II, mainly because Miranda Richardson is magnificent as Queen Elizabeth and Stephen Fry, as always, is superb as Melchett.

1984 ~ THE BILL and CITY LIGHTS

The Bill; a quintessential British police drama than ran until 2010. City Lights; a not quite as quintessential Scottish sitcom that ran until 1991.

1985 ~ TELLY ADDICTS and NEIGHBOURS

In the mid-90s, my family applied to appear as contestants on the television quiz show Telly Addicts. We weren’t successful, but it didn’t deter us playing along at home each and every week. As for Neighbours, this was required viewed for a teenager in the UK when I was growing up. It probably still is! :p

1986 ~ CASUALTY and THE SINGING DETECTIVE

Casualty is a looooonnnnggggggg running drama/soap based in a hospital. Think Grey’s Anatomy without the musical episodes. In researching this article I was surprised to find it is still running. Meanwhile, The Singing Detective is one of the monuments of television drama and demands multiple viewings!

1987 ~ GOING FOR GOLD

A quality quiz show in which contestants from all over Europe competed to win something (I don’t remember what!) The only thing I can remember about this show was the theme music, which was composed by Hans Zimmer – now an Oscar-winning film composer!

1988 ~ THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

This BBC adaptation is still the greatest interpretation of C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s novel. The fact I used to have nightmares about being attacked by giant beavers is in no way a comment on its quality.

1989 ~ QUANTUM LEAP and SAVED BY THE BELL

Saved by the Bell; the show that introduced me to the beautiful Tiffani Amber Theissen. Quantum Leap; the show that (Doctor Who aside) defines my early teenage years. Fun Fact: When Scott Bakula uttered the phrase “Oh Boy” during his appearance in Chuck, I almost died of glee! :p

1990 ~ TWIN PEAKS and THE CRYSTAL MAZE

Twin Peaks is one of the few masterpieces of television…The Crystal Maze, not so much, but was a damned entertaining game show that once upon a time I aspired to be a contestant on.

1991 ~ MR BEAN

I adore Rowan Atkinson. That is all.

1992 ~ HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES

One of the most important television series of my life; I miss this show with an intense and fiery passion.

1993 ~ CRACKER

One of the greatest crime dramas ever!

1994 ~ TAKIN’ OVER THE ASYLUM and DUE SOUTH

Takin’ Over the Asylum is the single greatest drama ever made on the subject of mental illness and should be required watching for anyone working/interested in the field of mental health. Due South is one of the greatest Canadian television series ever and should be required watching for anyone with a Mountie fetish.

1995 ~ HAMISH MACBETH

If there is a man or woman able to watch this show without falling wildly in love with Robert Carlyle, I’ve yet to meet her! If there’s a man or woman able to watch this show without falling wildly in love with Shirley Henderson, I’ve yet to meet her! As for Plockton (aka Luchdubh in the show) I’ve been there…and it’s gorgeous!

1996 ~ THE PRETENDER

All I really remember about this show is that (a) I loved it and (b) they stopped screening it midway through a season so I never found out how it ended.

1997 ~ BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

I have written extensively of my love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I shall say no more about it here.

1998 ~ SEACHANGE, THE MICALLEF P(R)OGRAM(ME) and THE GAMES

There are only four Australian shows on this list, and these are three of them! SeaChange reminds me of my relationship with Louise and the early days of my time in Australia. The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) is the greatest work of Australian comedian (and genius) Shaun Micallef and The Games is possibly the greatest thing to ever be produced in the history of Australian television.

1999 ~ SPACED and FREAKS AND GEEKS

If you have never seen Spaced, you’ve never lived. The same could be said for Freaks and Geeks, but considering it has yet to see an Australian DVD release, few people in Australia have. Their loss!

2000 ~ BLACK BOOKS

The greatest ‘set in a book shop’ sit-com ever made.

2001 ~ SMALLVILLE, UNDECLARED and 24

I’ve often ranked Undeclared as one of the greatest comedy series ever made. But, like it Freaks and Geeks predecessor few people have ever seen it due to a serious lack of DVD release outside of Australia. 24 (and Jack Bauer) is a majestic work of absolute beauty that few people ever really appreciated (or understood), whilst Smallville is one of the great genre shows of the last twenty years. Well, until the hideous monstrosity that was Season 7, that is!

2002 ~ FIREFLY

Yes, it’s the second most over-rated series in the history of television. But it’s still pretty good! :p

2003 ~ ONE TREE HILL

Again, I’ve written a lot about this show in the past, especially how it once saved my life.

2004 ~ RESCUE ME and WONDERFALLS

Wonderfalls – the greatest ‘series that no-one’s ever heard of’ in the history of television. Damn you television networks for cancelling this masterpiece! However, a massive thank you to the networks, cast and crew for the exceptional drama series Rescue Me; one of the ‘must watch’ shows of all time.

2005 ~ HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, INVASION, WEEDS and SUPERNATURAL

Look, I couldn’t choose, okay? How I Met Your Mother is a magnificent sitcom that’s helped me no end over the last several years. Invasion is an underrated gem that introduced me to Alexis Dziena. Weeds is a magnificent opus of delightful writing and incredible acting. Whereas Supernatural is not only a show I’ve turned to in times of great distress but one of the finest urban-fantasy series in recent memory.

2006 ~ 30 ROCK and TORCHWOOD

In regards to 30 Rock: Tina Fey, genius. ‘Nuff said! :p And…if I can’t have Doctor Who (damn you year of birth!) at least I can take some solace with Torchwood.

2007 ~ CHUCK, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES and SKINS

It was impossible to pick between these three shows. All have saved my life. All are exceptionally well written, beautifully performed and deeply inspirational. Three of my favourite shows of all time.

2008 ~ FRINGE and jPOD

Fringe; a masterwork of science-fiction that took me years to fully appreciate. jPod, yet another show no-one ‘s ever heard of that I adored! Go Canadian television!

2009 ~ COMMUNITY

The greatest comedy series currently being made. And not just because it stars the magnificent Alison Brie! :p

2010 ~ TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL

This show helped my survive the chaos that was 26 February 2013; it is also a magnificent and creative comedy-horror series!

2011 ~ GAME OF THRONES

However much I want to dislike like this show because I (occasionally) love being a ‘lone wolf’, I just can’t.

2012 ~ GIRLS

Some of its male characterisation aside (a problem that also affected Sex in the City), this is one of the few series of late that I’ve developed an attachment to.

~ FYI, I deliberately left out animated series. Perhaps I will return to these in the future! :p ~

~~♥~~

Other titles in the “My Life in…” series:
| …movies | …books | …animated movies | …happy memories | …music | …video games |


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Thirteen female writers I’d like to see work on ‘Doctor Who’

Way back in 1997, when I was but a rather geeky high school student, I wrote an epic essay as part of my A-Level coursework analysing the somewhat dubious history of female representation in the television series Doctor Who. Although it was written in a mere 60 minutes the night before it was due, my rather rampant knowledge of the subject matter combined with the passionate voice with which I wrote, earned my essay an A+ and helped me scrape a pass in Media Studies.

Today, this essay exists only in the cobweb gathering files of the British Educational System, but the gist of the essay was basically: female representation in Doctor Who, with a few minor exceptions, has been pretty abhorrent since the shows innception. This needs to change!

Fortunately, since the shows revival in 2005, females characters have had a much better time than they did twenty to fifty years ago. Although far from perfect, it is a plesant change to have female character who actually do something beyond flashing a bit of leg or fuelling a variety of ‘spot the knickers’ drinking games.

Unfortunately, this change has not extended behind the scenes, as Mathilda Gregory recently wrote about in The Guardian:

“On Saturday, Doctor Who returns, kicking off the second part of the seventh series with a James-Bond inspired episode that sees the Doctor and Clara whizzing round London on a motorbike. Which is exciting if you like interesting drama with witty banter and thoughtful concepts. But less exciting if you like interesting dramas that include women on their writing teams.

Because season seven of Doctor Who will feature no female scribes at all. Not in the bombastic dinosaurs and cowboys episodes that aired last year, and not in any of the new episodes we’re about to receive. In fact, Doctor Who hasn’t aired an episode written by a woman since 2008, 60 episodes ago. There hasn’t been a single female-penned episode in the Moffat era, and in all the time since the show was rebooted in 2005 only one, Helen Raynor, has ever written for the show.

Isn’t that is a pretty terrible record for a flagship TV programme?”

One female writer in the last seven years. ONE!? There are no words to properly describe how disgraceful this is, especially given the vast array of tremendous female writers working within the television and film industry. Given that the writers seem to have difficulty writing three-dimensional female characters, it’s time to shatter the current sexism and let women take control of the TARDIS…but who?

In this first of two Doctor Who inspired Thursday Thirteen posts, I look at some of the female writers I believe should be writing for this television institution.

Thirteen female writers I’d like to see work on ‘Doctor Who

JLC Doctor Who

~ in no particular order ~

1. Felicia Day
Although best known as an actress (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka, Supernatural, Dollhouse), Felicia Day is also the creator, writer and star of the magnificent Web TV show The Guild – for which she has won numerous awards for writing. This writing talent, coupled with her apparent love of genre television, makes her the perfect fit for a writing job on Doctor Who.

2. Jane Espenson
I have long admired Jane Espenson as one of the best writers in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. She wrote some of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Earshot, Triangle, Superstar, Conversations with Dead People) and one of my favourite episodes of Angel (Guise will be Guise). She co-created the Syfy series Warehouse 13 and has written for other seminal genre series, such as: Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse, Once Upon a Time and Game of Thrones. All of this – in addition to her work on Doctor Who’s sister series Torchwood – means the question isn’t should she write for Doctor Who but why hasn’t she written for Doctor Who?

3.  Lena Dunham
Okay, this is the first of two odd choices on this list, but bare with me. Whatever your feeling toward the television show Girls (personally, I think it’s brilliant) you cannot deny what an exceptional writer Lena Dunham is. Although the genre of Girls is about as far removed from Doctor Who as you can get, she has already proved her ability to write terrific dialogue and characters, earning an Emmy nomination along the way, which is all I need to one-day hope to see a Lena Dunham scripted episode of my favourite television series.

4. Isobelle Carmody
Isobelle Carmody is one of the leading names in fantasy writing. She began work on the Obernewtyn Chronicles at the age of fourteen and since then has won numerous awards and international acclaim for her writing. As Neil Gaiman – another prolific writer of fantasy – has been given the opportunity to write for Doctor Who, I see no reason (unless she doesn’t want to, of course) why a writer of Carmody’s calibre shouldn’t be given the same opportunity. I for one, would cherish the chance to have her write for the show.

5. Abi Morgan
Doctor Who would be lucky to have a writer of Abi Morgan’s calibre working for the show. Over the last fifteen years, Abi Morgan has proven herself time-and-again to be one of the greatest writers currently working in British stage and screen. Her credits include the screenplays for the television dramas Sex Traffic, Tsunami: The Aftermath, Royal Wedding and Birdsong. For film, she wrote the screenplay for Brick Lane (adapted from the novel by Monica Ali) as well as multi-award winning films The Iron Lady and Shame. Most recently, she has earned acclaim for her BBC television series The Hour, set in the world of 1950s current affairs television.

6. Lucy Watkins
Although you may not immediately recognise the name, Lucy Watkins has been a considerable force in genre television writing for many years. Since co-creating and writing the cult classic Hex in 2004, Lucy Watkins has gone on to write for Merlin, Demons and Sugar Rush, consistently proving her writing skills within the medium of television.

7. Jessica Hynes
Having guest-starred in three episodes, Jessica Hynes has already accrued experience within the world of Doctor Who. This, in conjunction with her exceptional writing work on the television series SpacedLizzie and Sarah, Asylum and Learners, makes her a wonderful fit for the world(s) of The Doctor.

8. Amber Benson
Although perhaps best known for her role as Tara Maclay in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amber Benson is also the acclaimed author of several novels and graphic novels as well as the writer and director of two feature films; Chance and Loves, Liars and Lunatics. A resume that reveals her to be more-than-capable of writing for Doctor Who.

9. Tina Fey
This is the second of my ‘odd choices’ on this list. Despite her critical acclaim, Tina Fey’s writing work has never strayed into the genre of science-fiction and fantasy. However, as with Lena Dunham (above), I see no reason why this would be a hinderance. She has a perfect grasp of character, dialogue and plot which, when all is said and done, is all one needs to write in any genre. Personally, I think I would have some form of aneurism if Tina Fey were ever to write for Doctor Who. So perhaps it’s best that it will likely never happen! :p

10. Alice Bell
When Alice Bell was twenty-one she wrote the screenplay for acclaimed Australian film Suburban Mayhem. Since then, she has gone on to write for such critically praised television series as The Slap (the adaptation of the Christos Tsiolkas novel), Puberty Blues (the 2012 adaptation of the quintessential coming-of-age novel of the same name) and Spirited (starring British actor/comedian Matt King). With such an impressive body of work, I would be more than happy to see her join Doctor Who’s writing team.

11. Anne Cofell Saunders
Anne Cofell Saunders began her career in television as assistant to the producers of the show 24. She wrote her first episode for this series in 2005 (Day 4: 7pm-8pm) before going on to write for such genre mainstays as Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville and Chuck, consistently proving her knowledge of both the genre and masterful storytelling; the latter being something Doctor Who is (in my opinion) currently lacking.

12. Allison Adler
The fact that she wrote my personal favourite of Chuck is by-the-by, for over the last twenty years Allison Adler has worked extensively in the arena of television, writing and producing for shows ranging from Chuck and Family Guy to Beverly Hills 90210 and Glee. An exceedingly talented and more-than-qualified writer/producer for a show of Doctor Who’s calibre.

13. Dawn French
Before you furrow your eyebrows and proclaim you can’t imagine Dawn French writing for a science-fiction show, may I ask if you ever expected Richard Curtis (writer of comedic fare Love Actually, Notting Hill, The Vicar of Dibley and Four Weddings and a Funeral) to write one of the best Doctor Who episodes since its return in 2005? If a writer can write multi-layered characters, engaging dialogue and interesting stories – as Dawn French can definitely do – they are more than capable of writing for Doctor Who, regardless of what ‘genre’ they are most known for.

What do you think? Should the producers of Doctor Who employ more female writers?
If so, who would you like to see write for the show?


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Addy’s Best of 2012: Best Guest Star in a TV Show

In addition to the Mental Health Month Challenge I have decided to undertake a more light-hearted challenge this month that I discovered on Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges. Each day in December I will be issuing an award in celebration of everything 2012, continuing with…

Best Guest Star in a TV Show

~ Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter) ~

Yvonne Strahovski

Every awards ceremony – whether it’s the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Tonys, Baftas, whatever… – Australia becomes completely and utterly obsessed with how many of its citizens will walk away with an award. An obsession so great that if an Australian doesn’t win the award they were nominated for, we don’t get to hear about who actually won as the country is too busy sulking!

So it’s with great happiness (as I don’t get many Australian readers as it is) that I can announce this award marks the second in my awards series that has gone to an Australian!

I have adored Yvonne Strahovski since first seeing her in the pilot episode of Chuck way back in 2008. Over the five years of the show she continually amazed me with her superb performance and I longed to discover what project she would be taking up following the end of this great show.

When I heard it was Dexter, I nearly had a heart attack!

Being a long-time fan of this psychological drama I was brimming with excitement to see one of my favourite actresses play a darker role…and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. From the get go her scenes with Michael C. Hall were off the charts and the chemistry between these two actors has been incredible all season.

I’m sincerely hoping she’ll be returning for the eighth (and final) season as she’s the best thing to happen to Dexter since John Lithgow!

(…and if anyone knows, please don’t tell me as I want to find out for myself by watching the show and not reading about it online!)

*SPOILER WARNING*
The following clip (from episode 6) contains a rather large spoiler for season seven of Dexter, so if you haven’t seen this season yet and are planning to, best not to watch if you don’t want it spoiled. Everyone else, sit back and enjoy :)

~ Runners up for ‘Best Guest Star in a TV Show’ ~

Bo Derek – Chuck

One of my favourite aspects of this show was the superb casting of its guest actors; the divine Scott Bakula as Chuck’s dad, Linda Hamilton as his mum, Kristin Kreuk as a one time love interest (loved the Superman references);  the awesome Timothy Dalton. One thing you could always be sure of is that the producers would always nail the casting of their guest stars…never more than Bo Derek (playing a version of herself) in this wonderful season five episode.

Chloë Grace Moretz – 30 Rock

In my humble opinion, Chloë Grace Moretz will not be an acting force to be reckoned with in the future. She already is an acting force to be reckoned with. Following superb performances in Kick Ass, Hugo, Dark Shadows and Let Me In, Chloë Grace Moretz guest starred in 30 Rock and had me in absolute stitches. In fact, the two episodes she’s starred in are two of my favourite episodes of the series.

Andrew Scott – Sherlock

It’s always difficult pulling off one of the most infamous villains in fictional history, but Andrew Scott is amazing in the role with his creepy, insane, brillianct take on the character. Easily the (equal) fourth best thing about this bmagnificent series!

Leonard Nimoy – Fringe

Between watching seasons 3 and 4 I thought I’d read online that Nimoy had retired from acting, thus his appearance in the latter season took me completely by surprise! But, as always, he was utterly superb as Dr. William Bell.

~ View the rest of the awards in Addy’s Best of 2012 series ~