Alphas and Misfits, Heroes and Villains

Misfits LogoAlphas cast photosA superpower is as much a curse as it is a blessing. It sets its heroes apart, it sets its heroes alone.

Alphas is a new US science-fiction drama from the Syfy channel about dysfunctional folks with superpowers currently airing on Channel 5. Misfits is a British offering of a similar theme and is back for its third series on E4.

It used to be easy enough when reviewing this genre as there were only a small clique of superheroes to cast back to – Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman… and a few others. And then there were those who whilst not necessarily what you would call superior there difference was such as to give them an edge over their fellow men and women – The Invisible Man for example.


We can be Heroes…

This though was before 2006 and the arrival of NBC’s Heroes. Any super-power that could possibly be conceived of was it seems conceived of by the Heroes’ script-writers.

So with Alphas and Misfits you can play a game among yourselves to see which of the superpowers featured were first prototyped in Heroes. I say superpowers rather than superheroes because with both the Alpha and Misfits characters – if Misfits in particular – a number of these powers belong to those of less than heroic nature let alone super-heroic.

Alphas David Strathairn

The Good Doctor…

The Alphas in Alphas are a motley and disparate group of men and women brought together by Doctor Lee Rosen (played by David Strathairn) working for the US Government’ Department of Defence who is seeking to harness the alphas collective powers to help in the fight of good over evil (this being the comic-book story genre with its black and white morality) – like most such tales the Super Heroes are serving in effect as Super Cops – rounding up villains – and we can suppose some super-villains too, perhaps of Alphas gone bad, Alphas whose powers are being harnessed for criminal enterprises by an Evil Doctor – surely not?!

Super-powers used in the service of your country for the common good – almost a social democratic undercurrent if not socialist! The Misfits on the other hand use their super-powers for their own ends only and are not employed in any of their government’s various departments. And more of them shortly.

The current crew of alphas on the Good Doctor’s team are explained in detail on the Channel 5 program page but briefly there is Bill Harken who has the more traditional superpower of physical strength and stamina but untraditionally unlike Superman’s unlimited supply (Kryptonite not withstanding) has to conjure up this strength himself and cannot sustain it for very long.

Alphas Cameron Hicks and Bill Harken

Don’t mess with Bill

Next up is Cameron Hicks whose superpower is one of heightened balance – seriously I am not making that up! – his aim is flawless.

Next is Rachel Pirzad who has the rather cool power of being able to heighten any one of her five senses at any given time. Though this is clearly a power as much a curse has a blessing – consider a restaurant and with your sense of smell enhanced and the over-whelming aromas of the food from the kitchen and your fellow diner’s tables – consider too the over-whelming aroma of the scent of said fellow chefs and the diners – and we must assume for health and safety there would be a bathroom on site – well let’s not go there!

Then there is Nina Theroux who has the power of suggestion – to hypnotically override your thought – quite a sinister power really. The Heads of the Republican and Democrat Party will be on her trail no doubt along with countless media barons.

Alphas Ryan Cartwright

Ring my bell…

Finally there is Gary Bell who has the power to view and interact with wireless communications out of thin air – this is a very particular superpower but one in this ever connected web-age whose time clearly has come! He is also described as diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder – he is challenging for his colleagues to work with and he is challenging for this viewer  to watch. Whether this is to the credit of the actor Ryan Cartwright and the Alphas scriptwriters or to the discredit of my own tolerance towards this condition I am not sure.

A strange brew of super-powers then – and the question then for Dr Rosen and we the viewers is whether it is potent enough to successfully fight crime and keep the US homeland secure.

With the Alphas it is assumed they were born with their powers and their being no standard metric tests, like IQ, for their talents it is only belatedly they have come to wider recognition and in particular the attention of Doctor Rosen. Here the Alphas can realise there are others like them, their poisoned-chalice superpower possession is not one they possess alone.

The Misfits in Misifts on the other hand were not born with their powers rather they were rudely visited upon them following a freak weather incident – and these powers have not just effected the main characters but other members of the public too. Misfits because the original quintet were all working on probation for various minor crimes and misdemeanors. Misfits has also done a clever trick of having another character as a broker of these weather-born powers allowing those so blessed, so cursed, to trade in one superpower for another superpower when they perhaps get bored with their current one or indeed find it far more of a curse than a blessing.

Misfit Joe

Joe, new Misfit in Town

For the third series, one of the original Misfits, Nathan Young, (played by Robert Sheehy) has left the show for Las Vegas but though what happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas a 7 minute mini-episode of his exploits are available to view for free on iTunes or online on Channel 4 here.

He has a replacement Rudy played by Joseph Gilgun who is as charismatic an actor as Robert Sheehy was. His is a very Freudian power as is Ego can split from his Id! Sometimes he and they are as one, other times his Id cuts loose to live a happy-free-loving, party-time existence. The ego meanwhile left at home to  sadly reflect his past misfortunes!

Again as with Alpha details of the Misfits are available on the E4 program page called Meet the Misfits. Though they have yet to update it with the new Misift.

Misfit Kelly Lauren Socha

Misfit Kelly

And for this series three they all back with new powers. Misfit Kelly Bailey (played by Lauren Socha) previously was able to read people’s thoughts – very much a curse as a blessing – do you want to know what someone might be thinking about you as you are talking to them?! Granted it will have some advantages – you would be a sizzling poker player, well at least until you got barred from every casino in the land, but quite an assault on ones delicate sense of self too I would think. Now she has the power of super-intelligence – she is a rocket-scientist! However though she can design elaborate plans for rocket ships her CV is of course absent the relevant educational and work experience for this particular field and thus none of her prospective employers take her seriously suspecting only that she must have stolen the plans she presents them!  She is then escorted from the room before exclaiming ‘I’m a fucking rocket scientist!’. This being a killing joke. I suspect it won’t be long – I am guessing episode 2! – before this particular power is traded in for something more useable.

The other female character is Alisha (played by Antonia Thomas) who previously had the power of sexual magnetism – very darkly as much a curse as a blessing. In this third series she now has the ability to see the world through another’s eyes – think the Bob Dylan song Positively Fourth Street and the lines “I wish that for just one time,You could stand inside my shoes, And just for that one moment I could be you” – yet another mixed-blessing power – I can think of many people who I might like to inhabit for a day or two but can think of many more who I would not want to occupy for even a second!

Misfits Curtis

Misfit Curtis

Fellow Misfit Curtis Donovan (played by Nathan Stewart-Jarret) has gone from time-bender to gender-bender. In the first series he could turn back time – which he usually did to save the butts of the collective Misfits – in this series he can shape-shift male to female – the tantalizing talent of transient transsexuality!

Final Misfit is Simon Bailey (played by Iwan Rheon) who is the default Misfit leader, even if this is not known to those he is leading – this because there are two of him – a Future version of himself physically and socially stronger than his current awkward self – who has knowledge of the Misfits as yet revealed purpose and destiny. He also had the power of invisibility – tsssk! what a traditional superpower! He being the only one of the Misfits who is content enough with his original powers not to one to  trade them in.

As noted unlike Alphas no agency whether government or private enterprise is aware let alone interested in making use of their collective powers. Neither are these misfits natural friends rather united in their common misfortune whereas otherwise would never be seen in each others company. This common misfortune as said being that they are all on community service. We might at least think with their new found powers that they might use it to break free from petty criminality but again by the end of the first episode of this new series they are re-arrested and back on probation!

It is clear that the first episode of the third series of Misfits is as much to establish the new Misfit Joe. What the rest of the series has in store for them I can but wonder but surely it must involve more than bumping of yet another of their probation officers, but maybe not.

Misfits is quite content for its Misfits to misstep from miserable mishap to miserable mishap. There is no grand goal in mind for these possessors of superpowers. Misfits has a dark humour, imaginative writing and continues to provide a platform for accomplished young British actors in the same way that Skins, Fresh Meat and The Inbetweeners do. I look forward the rest of this series irrespective of whether very much in particular gets resolved.

Alphas Anger Management

Rogue Alpha

The last episode I saw of Alphas was Anger Management which saw its team dealing with a rogue alpha who has the power to incite rage in those people who happen to be in his close proximity due to the huge release of pheromones – an unleashed rage so strong as to cause those afflicted to kill too. It so falls to the Alpha team to track down the culprit to prevent any more carnage and general human misery from occurring. In the process the alphas will get to know and understand each other a bit better and we the audience them.

And there lies the rub. I am not sure that I want to get to know the Alphas better whereas I am more than happy to spend time among the dystopias and dysfunction’s of the Misfits.

For science fiction shows like this to work we need to suspend not just our belief but our reason. Misfits accepts this and accepts that we the audience will do so too. Alphas though cannot accept this and the plots and characterizations sigh and sag as they strive to make us the audience take them seriously.

They should instead be getting on with telling their fantastical tales and letting the characters breathe and develop.

And this is what Misfits does so effortlessly, Alphas so ponderously.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen Program LogoSuperior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen has just finished its first series on Channel 5.

The program starts by announcing that Kelly Hoppen is on a mission to tackle bad taste in homes all over the world. Transforming inferior interiors as she goes.

On the Channel 5 Program web-page she is described as ‘Britain’s first lady of design’ – another great quote and bold claim. I had never heard of Kelly Hoppen before this series aired but then again I am not a paid up subscriber to Home & Design and the like either so would be none-the-wiser if that was a claim that was wholly realistic or outrageously audacious! Each show also starts with some endorsements of Kelly Hoppen from those of the celebrity firmament – first up is athlete and now Dame, Kelly Holmes – I was then expecting more Kelly endorsements of Kelly such as from Rowland and Clarkson but alas I was disappointed on this score!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - Kelly Hoppen

Host Kelly Hoppen

She then goes on to say that she wants to show that good design and taste can be achieved with a small budget. I am sure it can. But not on the episode I watched at least where the client featured saw their final bill come close to £35,000 all told – nearly as much as I paid for my own home – I do not have any problem with TV shows about the homes of the rich and famous but let us not have then the ridiculous claim that this was home redesign on a shoestring budget.

The web-page goes on to describe her style has ‘minimalist but opulent’. A Phil Spector of interior design – that I like the sound of!

As well as keeping abreast with the show via the Channel 5 website Kelly Hoppen also has her own blog detailing her thoughts on the five part series and the various interior designs she was commissioned to undertake for each of the episodes. I like this idea. It would have been interesting to have had journal entries for the clients too alongside to compare and contrast!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen with Clients

With clients

And then there is the casual matter of all of this commissioning and designing process taking place before television cameras and an audience of at the very worst hundreds of thousands and at best several millions – and that for the client however small or big the viewing figures will be they will almost certainly include your closest friends, work colleagues and your very extended family network. You will want to put on a show even if that should be the last thing on your mind.

And for the designer however well established they are in their professional practice such a series is not just an opportunity for their fifteen minutes plus of celebrity fame but a fantastic way to promote their brand and business and hopefully get at least a second series out of it along the way, if not a string of commissions arising.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - in client's home

In client’s home

And how then might they achieve this? How should Kelly Hoppen play it? Should she play it safe with unobtrusive small c conservative wares. Or instead go for the flamboyant and attention grabbing. As there is always the real risk that they will abandon their client and their wishes altogether in favour of appealing to the wider TV audience. It is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for Reality Based TV – the very act of observing real people going about their lives is a guarantee that the last thing we will see is real people going about their lives!

Would this be the case with the Drewitt Barlows? This the family whose own Chelmsford home interiors featured in the final episode of this series and which aired Tuesday November 1. The Drewitt Barlows are husband and husband and parents of one daughter and four sons.

Though there are seven of them in their household the interior décor is very much the work of just one of them, the father Barry, whose taste is gaudy or at best flamboyant depending on, well, whether your own taste is flamboyant or gaudy. Put it this way this is a man who likes ornaments, really really really likes ornaments!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - client bedroom

Saffron’s bedroom before Kelly

Despite saying that Kelly Hoppen has complete free reign to redesign his daughter’s bedroom the father Barry cannot help himself and interfere – sorry intervene – wanting at least some of Saffron’s bedroom to stay as it is, some testament to remain of his own tastes. Kelly Hoppen is focused on what Saffron wants, and will have to ensure that Barry does not get what he wants. And so sets up the episode.

Kelly is ultimately an autocrat not a democrat of design and she will get her way – eventually.

At first Barry is insistent that the redesigned bedroom should include an en-suite bathroom. Kelly Hoppen manages to repel that idea. Then he becomes set on a purple sofa as a centre-piece for his daughter’s bedroom. On seeing this for the first time via a photograph on her laptop she describes it initially as ‘like a pair of lips’ then after a few seconds further reflection ‘as like a woman’s lady parts’! Needless to say this sofa goes the same way as the bathroom.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - client bedroom after

Saffron’s bedroom – after Kelly

As indeed all that Kelly Hoppen and Saffron wants comes to fruition and the only concessions to the father’s wishes are to the other father Tony and his more subtle taste.

And so we leave the Drewitt Barlow’s but as the camera’s pan away there is always the suspicion that when they and Kelly Hoppen are long gone that father Barry will be back in his daughter’s bedroom suggesting if not insisting on some of his own design ideas being reapplied. And can we expect his daughter to be as resistant to him as Kelly Hoppen is?!

Were the Channel 5 camera’s and production crew to visit a year from now would we see the design ideas of Kelly Hoppen pervading the rest of their home or discover that father Barry’s taste has re-established itself upon his daughter’s bedroom?! Such is reality TV on and off camera…

In my previous post about this show’s credit sequence I stated that I thought there must be a sweet-spot for an Interior Designer somewhere between Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Ann Maurice. Kelly Hoppen is certainly nearer to Bowen than Maurice but not too close. She may well indeed be this interior designer sweet spot.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen, Superior Opening Credits with Michael Pipkin

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - Host

Kelly Hoppen

Kelly Hoppen is on a mission. To tackle bad taste, and improve interiors all over the world.

So goes the opening monologue of her new home improvement TV show (it seems a daily expanding genre), currently airing on Channel 5, Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen, from Anglo-American production company Optomen, providing a window into the interior décor of some of her clientèle.

I may yet post about her first venture into TV – there must after-all be a TV sweet-spot for interior designers somewhere between Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Ann Maurice?! – and may be she will be it.

This post though is about the opening credits. As with my post about Jeeves and Wooster, it is only to focus on them and to discover more about those responsible.

The closing credits list ‘Titles and Graphics’ to Michael Pipkin and Additional Graphics to Satsuma Designs.

Michael Pipkin works for the show’s production company the aforementioned Optomen as their Post Production Manager. A brief bio on their website does state that he ‘creates graphics and title sequences for various programmes’ but does not detail any program in particular. He has a Twitter account and his own website Pipkino but neither refers to this show that I could discover – he is either modest or perhaps it was a collective effort and it is not done practice to name the individuals involved. Or he is not in anyway responsible for them!

Additional credits were given as Satsuma Designs but I cannot believe the opening credits would be described as ‘additional’.

Therefore I am going to credit Michael Pipkin as the man mainly responsible for them, until I hear otherwise!

They have a collage mixture of graphic design and still photographs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Celebrity Big Brother Channel 5 Launch Show

Channel 5 Big Brother KitchenCelebrity Big Brother kicked off its latest series last night Thursday and its first on Channel 5 after 11 years on Channel 4. Will Channel 5 do it proud?

Channel 5 is lower brow than Channel 4 – its owner Richard Desmond also owns the Daily Star and pornography channels such as Television X & Red Hot TV – and there have already been series spoiler stories about a 24 hour bar and having to bath in public – this latter is now confirmed!

But equally they air a lot of quality US shows in particular crime ones like CSI, The Mentalist and Castle.

But Big Brother is now their own commission not something they have bought in – and the list of their watch-worthy homegrown shows is a small one – The Gadget Show, Fifth Gear umm, anything else?!

Channel 5 Big Brother Sally Bercow

Sally Bercow - Twitterless

I am not a great fan of celebrity reality television either – it is almost as if the programmers are saying this is not a show you would ordinarily watch unless we include some celebrities for you. The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing for example sets up to sell us ballroom dancing with the inclusion of the likes of Felicity Kendall and Patsy Kensitt – whereas I would watch a show about ballroom dancing if it were us mere mortal members of the public – as soon as it becomes celebrified I have no interest as the quality is inevitably going to be reduced to the random choice of available celebrity participants.

Channel 5 Big Brother Bobby Sabel

Bobby Sabel - Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Celebrity Big Brother is the exception – it is the one celebrity reality show that gets under the skin of the celebrities – at least after the opening show and first few days when they start to let their showbiz masks down and we see more of their personalities revealed.

Those exposing themselves in this way for this series are certainly not A-list and the closest yet to Z-list.

However the lack of celebrity punch on this line up does not mean that the series will be a turn off rather that the series will have to rely even more on their personalities and antics to maintain viewing figures.

The opening show pulled in over 5 million – a promising start but that could just be Big Brother loyalists tuning in for ‘Big Brother Life After Channel 4’ – will they stick around though?

Kerry Katona and Jedward are perhaps the most well known – and Kerry Katona more so for her troubled home-life under the prying paparazzi eye then her brief singing stint in Atomic Kitten. Perhaps ironically, perhaps deliberately one of the other housemates is Pap Photographer Darryn Lyons. What is the Paparazzi to such celebrities but their lifeblood as their parasite?

Channel 5 Big Brother Tara Reid

Tara Reid - No scrubs

Jedward are as renown as much for being twins as their X-Factor fuelled Pop Career

Not though the first Big Brother twins, remember the Staffordshire sisters Samantha and Amanda Marchant? – coined Samanda! – from Series 7 – and they Samanda should have won not Brian Belo – I don’t froget! – like them I will be interested to see if their own personalities get aired beyond the joint personality of their pop act and twindom.

Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff

Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff - ex-Mrs you-know-who!

The show also includes two spouses – which can be a sign of desperation in the selection process – though in the first spouse Sally Bercow‘s case she is as famous in her own right as her husband and House of Commons speaker John Bercow. She should bring some intellegence to the show – assuming that is there is anyone else in there to provide her mutual stimulation.

The other spouse is Pamela-Bach Hasselhoff – not even a current spouse but an ex – can you guess who her husband was? I think you can! She is one of two Americans on the show the other being actor Tara Reid of American Pie fame (and briefly in Scrubs) who looked quite bemused if not bewildered by proceedings. She also claims to have never watched Big Brother – can there really be people who have never watched Big Brother even if they detest the show?!

Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother Amy Childs

Amy Childs - Essex, have it!

There is one British actor – and eye candy – Lucien Laviscount – who you may not be familiar with unless you are a fan of British Soaps, having appeared in Waterloo Road and Coronation Street.

Further eye candy in the shape of a male-model is Bobby Sabel – despite my comment about Z-listers the others I have at least seen before whereas this model is neither known to me by his handsome face or memory-friendly moniker.

Finally we have two housemates themselves famous for being on other reality TV shows. Amy Childs was on ITV’s The Only Way Is Essex and Paddy Doherty described as a Traveller Boxer was on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

Channel 5 are certainly a little audacious then in claiming these housemates as celebrities and whether the viewing figures will continue to hold up to five million will depend in any case on what they get up to not on how famous they are.

There are enough differences of age and background and enough egos in there to suggest that the exchanges between them could be lively and interesting.

As said it is still too early to make any grand assertions.

We need to wait for the fanfare and brouhaha to recede and the banality and the friction to ascend. Stifles pantomime villain evil cackle!

Big Brother and Cheryl Cole – TV Heaven?

Cheryl Cole at Brit Awards 2011

Endemol makers of Big Brother have announced that Channel 5 will be reviving the show following Channel 4’s ending of it last year.

I have mixed feelings about this – I enjoyed Big Brother but probably watched too much of it – Channel 4’s axing was likely the only way I could have been weened off it – and now Channel 5 are to revive it!

And Cheryl Cole to step into Davina McCall’s shoes!  I’m sold, as a big fan of Cheryl too, but this might just be media speculation – there will be a lot I guess as Davina has said she is not interested in compering it again.

It is a hugely expensive show to produce and the audience figures have fallen away over its decade duration so some risk for Channel 5 too – I wonder what other plans they may have for it?

Big Brother does have its share of fame wannabes but the program usually strips that away and gets under the skins of its contestants into their hearts and minds.

My fear is that Channel 5 may not understand that and turn it into a circus with unnecessary gimmicks.

I hope not – time will tell.

Sex and the Cities

I have been enjoying Channel 5’s nocturnal re-runs of Sex and The City on their Five * Channel. Candace Bushnell‘s smart chronicles are still as fresh as when first told in the 1990s.

It ended after a sixth series in 2004 – perhaps the characters wanted to move on and out of the city – and perhaps happily and married and in the suburbs and do enough of us want to watch conjugal bliss!? Undesperate Housewives …?  But its romantic tales broken or not are not limited in time or place and I feel this program could have continued on as a constant presence on our television…

We have had the two films but I think Sex and The City by its nature is episodic and television its natural medium.

Sex and The City was of course Sex and New York City – and rather like the CSI franchise which takes in New York, Miami and Las Vegas so too a Sex and The City Franchise? – and not just US cities but global ones too – London, Paris, Rio, Mumbai  – these dating tales don’t date – they are dateless to excuse the pun!

The places and characters change but the romantic tales of love found and lost and found again never does…