Thursday, April 17, 2014

Horse knickers

We don't have cable, so the amazing resurgence of great cable shows (that the interwebs keeps telling me about) has passed me by. Not one esipode of Mad Men, not a jot of How I Met Your Mother, not a single darning needle from the iron throne in Game of Thrones.  However I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it's generally possible to catch up with something as long as you start after season one has finished.  I rely on the famous word of mouth for recommendations and that can be a very iffy thing.

The last but one thing people told me to watch was Once Upon a Time.  Admittedly the "people" were in the singular, but they were very insistent that I watch. So we did - and it was amazing, as promised. Partly set in Fairyland, all the Disney fairytale characters have settled in a small town in New England due to A Spell, of course, and have to get on with each other in a non-magical, non-royalty sort of way. Some do, some don't. Some remember Fairyland, some think they're New England Yuppies having come through a long coma or other reason to be a bit befuddled. Children are mislaid and found, fathers are located and celebrated and the nuns who run the local charity joint are fairies. The Seven Dwarfs are heigh-hoing away in their mine and, once Wonderland is on board, Captain Hook is piped on to the deck.

We refer to the series as Horse Knickers, and there's a reason for that. Unlike any other show I can think of, the horses (and there are a lot of horses in this cod-Medieval Fairyland) are subtitled. The nags aren't actually reading from the script, as far as I can tell, but each different equine utterance is transcribed faithfully for the hard of hearing. Sometimes one neighs, sometimes one whinnies, but most often the subtitle reads: Horse nickers.

The production values are, to be sure, quite spartan, and the CGI budget-video-game worthy. And some of the characterizations are as thin as tissue paper, but what makes the show (and what made my friend insist I watch) is Robert Carlyle; you know - Begby in Train Spotting, here playing Rumplestiltskin.  This is a gift of a character. In one world he's cursed to be an ugly, amoral non-human goblin who giggles when his schemes work out, and in the other, a handsome man and doting father (or son or something, I forget) who gets to tug all the non-fantasy strings that people like in their TV series. As supporting cast, evil queens, evil queen mothers, Pinocchio, Belle and Prince Charming, among many others, get to manipulate each other and change motivation at the drop of a scriptwriters pen in order to produce ever more episodes of As The Other World Turns.

It's only two seasons long, though, so eventually we ran out. It's back on for a third season right now, so it's off to the ABC website to watch.

That was the last but one thing people told me to watch. The last thing was Breaking Bad, and I haven't quite finished yet.

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