Category: Anniversary Special

Special times in Jokerside’s life…

FICTIONSIDE 102: Jokerside’s 10 Rules of Engagement

Jokerside Fictionside #2 The Rules

Jplerside Fictionside #2 The Rules

To mark Jokerside’s third and a half birthday, another Fictionside. This time exploring the central tenets that Jokerside loves to stick by / completely ignore.

Here are nine of Jokerside’s rules of engaging with pop culture (full explanations below):

  1. Anything deserves credit
  2. A writer should want (need) to write themselves into a hole
  3. Change is a luxury
  4. Never count on renewal because, bluntly, Networks aren’t often wrong
  5. Works of fiction can’t have plot holes
  6. A creator cannot rely on an audience to fill in plot holes
  7. Remakes, sequels and prequel cannot diminish the original
  8. Enemies must be used sparingly
  9. Narrative knows no bounds, everything has its medium
  10. Canon is there to help fans, not deny them


Let’s jump in…

  1. Everything deserves credit

If it took people time and effort…

Hellraiser Pinhead and the Lament ConfigurationAnything that makes it to the small or big screen has taken time, effort and thought. No matter how tempting it is, no matter how flawed the end product, no matter how much you disagree with it, there’s more chance of Batman V Superman crashing at the box office than a group of people dedicating months to producing something that deliberately failed against their goals. Yes, even rush jobs like Hellraiser Revelations, which a Pandemonium’s worth of evidence might suggest was a cynical attempt to retain franchise rights, deserves some credit because aside from any studio or legal issues people persevered to make it happen. Clive Barker has every right to dismiss it, Doug Bradley too, and many others. But anyone who’s handed the keys to the franchise, even with a sharp production schedule and light budget is unlikely to resist opening that puzzle box.

From top to bottom, there are big credits that reflect every collaboration and rewards them. So, it’s unfair, bordering cruel, to disparage that work. And after all, everything is an acquired taste…

Jokerside seldom slips at the negative, even considering half the Hellraiser franchise on an equal plane, but it’s tricky. Take a trip to Victor Frankenstein last year. That was Jokerside’s first, long-awaited trip to see a Frankenstein adaptation on the big screen (you know, we love Frankenstein) and while the end result was a disappointment it just shows how behind the scenes nonsense can get in the way of incredible talent working in front of and behind the camera. That kind of mess can be impossible to decipher, it might be aspersion and it’s doubtful the behind the scenes tales will ever spill out. But really, what needed to be said about a film that crashed at the box office, was poorly treated by British cinema chains and was surely not what the creators envisaged.

Always remember the glasshouses. No matter which demon, scientist, captain or bunch of pixels built them.

  1. A writer should want (need) to write themselves into a hole

With a quill you are fearless…

It’s one thing to set a cliff-hanger at the end of film, book, comic, television series… And another to use it to pitch the direction an intent of a whole second stab. As arc shows have fast become the accepted norm, that’s all the trickier to navigate when a huge weight of concept shows appear year after year, propelled by hubris and concept and are… Promptly cut off after one season. Step forward Flash Forward. It’s the kind of thing that makes people utter inane comments like “Oh, if I’d have known it was only going to last one season, I’d never have bothered…” Really? It comes to something when a full US season of over 20 hours requires years of promised story yet to be written to warrant investment. After all, why bother with the second year when it could just as easily be cut off before the third…

For all the success (and contemporary criticism) The X-Files found by asking constant questions, giving few answers and hedging bets, there was an early warning shot when the ambitious five year plan of Dark Skies was cut short.

Television is both serial and finite, it’s Schrödinger’s Idiot Tube and you don’t get to both turn on your cathode ray and turn it off.

The Leftovers - A JokersliceA flip-side comes with renewals that are taken for granted or when there’s an occasional guarantee of multiple seasons. Lost was a prime example of the latter, with later truncated runs balanced against a fixed six season commission. Wonderful, but could it have been to the detriment of the show’s story? Recently, one of the sublime break-outs of the past two years, The Leftovers, had the mixed blessing of a confirmed but final third year. In that case it is very good news, and feels exactly right. But only as that show has bold, risky storytelling at its heart. And that’s rare.

Hannibal was another bold show that knew full well it was lucky to run three years on prime time network. Bryan Fuller would have had no issue keeping its intoxicating story going longer even though [spoilers] he ended the third year with a superb Reichenbach moment. Though we all lament for Fuller’s take on The Silence of the Lambs (truthfully, already echoed in earlier seasons), that was both a satisfying conclusion and a huge hole to write himself out of. A hole it might be said that Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t bothered to write himself out of over a hundred years ago. Back to the X-Files, the recent limited run poked fun at the outrageous stretching enigma that typified its original nine year run, but ended with a satisfying cliff-hanger that will likely, but possibly never, be resolved.

Jplerside Fictionside #2 The RulesWe’re well past the days when episodes reset every week with a laugh on the Bridge of the Enterprise. Writers should always aim for the boldest and most satisfying conclusion for a story, no matter the difficulty it causes their future selves. They should be confident that no matter how dire or finite the ending, a writer or writing team can pen themselves into a new story the next time round. After all, real life carries on regardless, and it takes writing itself out of ridiculous situations for granted every second. That is life. It doesn’t stop.

So writing to a limit or writing to infinity is a trap to be avoided at all costs. And come the end of a series, no matter how demarcated, no matter how Blake’s 7 it all seems, a writer must be ready to continue that story. That’s what Charles Dickens was doing week to week far before a TV writer hedged their bets. Continue reading “FICTIONSIDE 102: Jokerside’s 10 Rules of Engagement”

Captain’s Orders: Jokerside’s Five Year Mission

Captains Orders March 2016

Captains Orders March 2016Now that’s a real iPad… The orders have been opened at the allotted time.

Full transcript below…

Jokerside Captains Orders

The Full transcript:

“Space… To write about the final frontier.

These are the archives of Jokerside, its five year mission to explore pop culture horizons. To seek out new shows and old anniversaries. To boldy mash Jokertoons and longreads with a smirk as no one has before.”

It’s Jokerside’s third and a half birthday, and that means the Captain’s orders have unlocked. Had to find them first of course, carefully concealed in the irradiated core of the warp engine, parcel taped under a bulkhead alongside a Walther PPK, a French dictionary and a spare T-101 hand. Yes, the order is passed:

Jokerside’s Five Year Mission will end in 18 months.

That means a year and a half to soak up the near 200 articles on Jokerside crossing pop-culture. There’s plenty more to come. The long awaited conclusion to Jokerside’s series on James Bond, Halloween, Doctor Who villains, the Marvel and DC cinematic universes just for starters. They’re all lurking in neighbouring star systems.

2016 year will bring special salutes to giants of science-fiction, some fun and off-centre looks at the Star Trek franchise for its golden anniversary and finally, the arrival of the original Star Wars trilogy – starting this April. Expect more comics, more videogames – coz times they always are a-changing. Myths and legends and a bold future will all be covered as Jokerside aims at the second star to the right and straight on until September 2017.

All that and far more before Jokerside completes its cycle. And that gives its just enough time for a spot of Doctor Who Series 10.

And what then? Mothballed in dry-dock for decommissioning or perhaps an upgrade? Back to the wild frontier or feet up on the Admiral’s desk? Time will tell.

Keep your eyes posted. Remember.

Live long-read and prosper.

Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

The results are in – which posts from the Jokerside were the most read in 2015? From dystopia to horror to platformers to clowns, there was something for everyone…

  1. Waterworld at 20: We need to Parley about Mariner (July 2015)

The Mariner sinks - Waterworld at 20One of the single shots from the Dystopia series, there was no way Jokerside could ignore the 20th anniversary of Waterworld. A huge reaching addition to big budget future-set blockbusters, it’s as much of a dramatic disaster as it is a flop. It made money and has lots to teach modern disaster cinema. Still notorious 20 years on, it’s impossible to overlook the sparing desolation, the beautiful filming, solid retro effects and fine sense of humour in what’s proved to be quite the influential film. Jokerside came to praise…

“Waterworld may never escape its reputation, but it’s never going to disappear. There’s a dash of Snake Pliskin, a helluva lot of Max but essentially it’s a pirate film. Eight years later Pirates of the Caribbean would pull a neat trick on the two Kevs, taking set-pieces and settings from Waterworld while hitting many of the narrative beats of Prince of Thieves. And that’s a real anomaly at the pirate box office, a very successful one. As dystopia has risen again to remind us that it’s still around sunken cities and post-apocalyptic action will continue to grace the big screen.

And really, for all the criticism, let’s not forget that the three Universal Studios are still running Waterworld attractions to this day. And inventive side-effect from an inventive film. Never forget Waterworld’s last line: “It’s more than that” – and so it is.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned this winter as the Dystopia Series draws to a halt on The Planet of the Apes. Ka-boom…

  1. Doctor Who: Silence – Fooling you twice the same way (Whovember #11 Alpha) (March 2015)

The Eleventh Doctor and the Silence that must fallA surge into the top ten for just one of the Eleventh Doctor retrospectives. The New Series restructure has pushed the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors near the top of the pile in terms of stories. While the Doctor’s 51st birthday saw Jokerside revisit the Tenth Doctor’s tendency to meet historical celebrities.

The Eleventh Doctor’s tortured and twisted tales demanded a three apart retrospective as Jokerside took on the nefarious overlapping plots of the Silence. Quite possibly the biggest mixed bag in Doctor Who. The first part took a look at the prolonged plans of the Silents that didn’t involve their memory averse high priests the Silents. The summary, mid-way through makes it sound all rather exciting, while capturing some flaws that were never solved…

“Of course the something that abducted the TARDIS and blew it up, destroying the universe in the process, isn’t uncovered. The Silence, whatever it is, is still out there. But this Doctor, like his successor, are in no great rush to find out what could have easily accomplished this horror show. Narratively this is a far stronger force than the Pandorica Alliance; the greatest threat he’s ever faced. But then again, it’s a whole new universe and there’s an Egyptian Goddess lose on the Orient Express that’s far more appealing (or possibly not, as it’s contradicted by Series Eight). The Silence are off the hook and would need a Plan B, if they could possibly realise they failed what with it being a wholly new universe and everything… Fortunately, that night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are providing the Silence with just such a second chance…” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s customary celebration of Doctor Who in November 2016. And first, this March we’ll be taking a look at the episode that saw showrunner Steven Moffat make Who history…

  1. Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom (September 2015)

Super Mario Bros at 30 - MarioAnother one-shot in the series of Dystopia, the 30th anniversary of gaming icon Super Mario’s first solo adventure was the perfect time to revisit his sole Hollywood outing. Another film mired by, it was unfortunate to kick-start videogame big screen adaptations. It’s flawed certainly, but the creativity and ambition behind a film that’s almost never shown and fairly difficult to get hold of should trigger mass-reappraisal. At the very least it remains a vivid lesson.

“The terrible tone issues don’t affect Super Mario Bros. cult status, but they do lessen the chance of a brightening reappraisal. Hollywood’s infatuation with videogames comes not just from their inherent merchandising, but also their in-built audience and huge money earning (as well as surely a wary glimpse at its parallel and media rival). Few chances to merge the two have managed to fulfil the potential and that sadly started here. Ultimately Super Mario Bros. manages to do a disservice to itself and the game franchise while being immensely watchable and on occasion visually stunning. Its greatest injustice is that such a glorious adventure ended with the opposite legacy: two decades later an increasing raft of videogame adaptations are now expected to fail, following standard formulas with the need to break ground being felt less and less.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s widening look at videogames – particularly a special glimpse at James Bond on consoles coming soon…
Continue reading “Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015”

Post 101: 100 Jokerside Moments (51 – 100)

Jokerside 100

TO MARK JOKERSIDE‘S SECOND AND A HALF ANNIVERSARY AND 100th POST….  What better way than the second part of the 100 things of note that have happened in film, TV and music during Jokerside’s lifetime? The great, the good and the sad…

Still wearing that party hat?

51. Universal Horror

It may have taken Disney/Marvel rubbing their noses in it, and they may not have got Dracula Untold exactly right, but at last the great sleeping Universal Studios has woken from the depths of the Black Lagoon. And there’s always Blu-Rays of the classic James Whale Frankenstein films until they nail that huge coffin.

52. Cucumber, Banana, Tofu

Regardless of the massive entertaining quality of Cucumber, this is the commissioning, cross platform public service and high concept budgeting that Channel 4 was born to make. And if the sadly under-watched Cucumber made us realise anything, it’s how great it is to have Russell T Davies’ writing back on air.

53. Lego

Just when it couldn’t get more world-conquering, there’s a public competition and an official Doctor Who set is announced for release in 2015. (See 58)

54. Return of the Gothic

The last 12 months may have seen Jokerside glimpse at contemporary adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein, but things look set to get a lot busier. Dracula Untold did the business to modestly kick-start the Universal franchise while American and British broadcasters aren’t alone in commissioning multiple adaptations of gothic classics. Just keep an eye on the re-energised drama of ITV in the UK…

55. New talent on Doctor Who

Doctor Who’s Eighth series may have been enjoyable but it wasn’t an unmitigated success, scuppered by the cloyingly pointless Clara dating arc and a Doctor who didn’t even feel compelled to be in a Doctor Who story. But there was much promise behind the camera with the very welcome Ben Wheatley and Douglas MacKinnon, and on scripting duties, including Peter ‘Kill the Moon’ Harness and Jamie ‘Mummy on the Orient Express/Flatline’ Mathieson.. As Moffat’s tenure inevitably draws to a close, there’s hope they’ll form the new guard…

56. Constantine on the page

Only a few swam at speed after DC Comic’s ambitious reboot. Was there ever any doubt hat Liverpool’s most famous wizard would become a key player in DC’s agenda (See 10).

57. The First World War

2014’s commemorations one hundred years after the Great War saw a social and cultural response that complimented a generation. Whoever first thought of those roses around the Tower of London roses deserves an Honour.

58. Travellers’ Tales

Plodding away for over a decade on their Lego videogame franchises, the English software house’s consistent quality is admirable. And really, without those original Star Wars comedy cut scenes there wouldn’t have been the all-conquering The Lego Movie last year (see 53).

59. Channel Five

The Desmond tenure turned a significant profit and saved Big Brother, still in Jokerside’s reckoning, the king/queen/both of reality TV. But Five has now become the first UK terrestrial channel owned by an American mass-media company. That’s huge, but what it will mean for British broadcasting remains to be seen.

60. Winter keeps coming

It may lead the pack when it comes to comfort viewing, but Game of Thrones, the show where nothing really happens and no-one seems to mind, hasn’t let us down at doing just that.

61. The Fab Films

50 years since the release of The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night last summer kick-started a retrospective of their diverse and underrated filmic oeuvre (See 62). Watch for more of that on Jokerside in 2015.

62. And the Fab songs

And of course, that meant the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first single in October 2012. A single that would start a revolution in the head (See 61).

63. 60 years of Rock ‘n’ Roll

And last summer, the 60th anniversary of Bill Haley and the Comets’ Rock Around the Clock. Rock had been around before, but this pushed it mainstream and it hasn’t taken a holiday since.

64. Wonder Woman

(See 96) It came with criticism, but it wasn’t quite as rude a welcome as Aquaman received. Gal Gadot looks the business as Wonder Woman. And pointing out the similarities between an Amazonian goddess and a Greek warrior princess? Well, duh?

65. Netflix

Netflix arrived in Castle Jokerside for Arrested Development fourth season and hasn’t left. Sod the films, their approach to original programming is refreshing and welcome. Conventional channels have even less reason to be complacent.

66. Seven Spools

Jokerside’s fiction sister-site launched in late 2014. Stories to divide the year sevenly are waiting for you right here

67. Videogames just not slowing down

In a short period of time videogames have supplanted other forms of media, drawing headlines for the sheer devotion and money they engender. Nowhere near maturity, they need support and creative input to flourish into an important and life-changing part of life; from education to philanthropy.

68. Wine

Fuelling Jokerside since 2012. May Bacchus be praised!

69. Bowie wins a Brit

Unbelievably and incredibly well deserved: Bowie became the oldest ever recipient of the Best Male Solo Artist Brit in 2014. He didn’t turn up of course, managing to annoy the Scots by proxy. After all, he didn’t even turn up for the Olympics. One day…

70. DC’s creative split

No, not on the page but in motion. Splitting their universes into the cinematic and televisual is bold and allows creative freedom that can only reward the fans. All Terran and alien fingers crossed that it pans out.

71. Birdman

Not perfect, an acquired taste, but certainly stunning. It rightly ruled the Oscars while reminding us that a film industry without Michael Keaton acting crazy isn’t worth having (not to mention Ed Norton…). Keaton’ll be back at the Oscars one day soon…

72. W1A

She’s had a tough few years has Auntie Beeb, and it’s not getting easier – but she’s still up for taking the piss out of herself. (see 74)

73. Coincidence

It’s bloody everywhere.

74. The BBC

Oh yes, Britain’s wonderful, unique, flawed state broadcaster. Doomed to be criticised no matter what she does, but she keeps on going, and Jokerside wouldn’t have that any other way. (See 72)

75. DC animation

Sadly, the rather good Beware the Batman fell after just one series in the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary year (see 97), meaning no regular animated Batman for the first time in 21 years. Fortunately DC’s ambitious animated films were there to keep the ball rolling. Jokerside watches repeats of the brilliant The Brave and the Bold to fill the gap. Continue reading “Post 101: 100 Jokerside Moments (51 – 100)”

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