Episode 161- THE WALKING DEAD

January 7, 2013

Click to download Walking Dead podcast

If humanity is caught-up in a zombie apocalypse, surely the question that’s going to be at the forefront of our collective consciousness is: Can you ever make an arc-based television show that isn’t fundamentally a ridiculous soap opera?

Where is the line drawn between epic storytelling full of big themes like vengeance, ambition, duplicity, sex, valor, betrayal and sacrifice, and schmaltzy, lowest common denominator, emotionally manipulative script gimmickry?

It appears to be a subjective distinction since many of these themes are the cornerstone of Greek myths, Arthurian tales, Shakespearean plays or and even Bible stories. The ingredients of the great stories of our culture exactly the same as the ones that seem so trite and contrived in shows like The Walking Dead. Is the Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle any different from the Agamemnon/Clytemnestra/ Aegisthus triangle? Not really. And in the end, the tale plays out in classically tragic form—the usurper is vanquished and the hero is punished for his hubris.

So is it, then, the skill of the chef and not the ingredients which determines if an epic tale is a hearty, satisfying meal or a cheesy, stomach-turning and guilt-inducing indulgence? Perhaps.

The Walking Dead trowels every story-telling gimmick on as thick as possible and doesn’t shy away from the cliffhangers. There appears to be less of a recipe being followed as much as the larder being raided. Anything that’s the slightest bit sweet, salty or fatty that might keep the audience engrossed is tossed in a given a good stir.

The question is, could anything different be done on a television show based on long-arc storytelling? Arguably, Battlestar Galactica‘s strengths an weaknesses all stem from the show being a soap opera set in space. Without the “soap” aspect, it could only be a series of battles and firefights which would have gotten even more tiring (even more quickly) than it did over four seasons. The “soap” elements provide a human element to engage the viewer and help them stay invested in the story and the characters. At the same time, “soap” is like a drug. Each hit has to be a little stronger to achieve the same high and things inevitably spiral upwards until every possible sexual relationship has been explored and someone loses an eye.

But where BSG could perhaps have avoided a few of these pitfalls, could anything other than soap opera melodramatics be done with The Walking Dead?

I’m drawing a blank for possible narrative alternatives. Other than raiding yet another abandoned drug store for supplies and endless waves of zombie attacks (there, frankly, needs to be more of these) what’s left for the characters to do but draw alliances, betray each other, manipulate the situation, grasp for power and plot revenge along the way? Remove the sex and duplicity and it’d be The Endlessly Walking Living show and that’d be arguably a lot worse. Or at least a lot more boring.

I’ll take “soap” over boring any day.


Episode 87 – They Call Him Bruce

November 5, 2010

 087

Sometimes they call him Brisco. Sometimes they call him Autolycus. Sometimes they call him Ash. But mostly people call Bruce Campbell campy, though that has nothing to do with his surname.

Kathie (from our episode on Internet Dating) joins us to talk about the man, the myth… the chin.


Episode 82 – Residunce Evils and the 3 biggest sins of Afterlife

September 21, 2010

The most chafing costume ever?

We went to opening night of the fourth installment of one of my favourite movie franchises, Resident Evil, with the intention of reviewing it (RE: Afterlife) on the episode. Too enamoured with Milla Jovovich and Zelda we didn’t get around to talking about it much.

So let me lay-out for you what’s wrong with it here in these (very late) show notes. Be warned, I’m not going to shy away from spoilers but, since this movie has probably been dropped from theatres by the time this post goes live, you’ve had your chance to remain spoiler-free.

First off, like I’ve said all over the internet, I love the Resident Evil films because they’re the “greasiest cheese.” I went into the opening night showing not just prepared for le fromage, I was hungry for it.

Simply put: Afterlife delivers the curds.

Paul W. S. Anderson and co. seem to be taking the film franchise seriously. Unfortunately, not only are they taking it far too seriously, they shouldn’t be taking it seriously at all.

What began as a series of underdog B-movie mash-ups of The Matrix, The Cube and every George A. Romero flick, is apparently now being treated as an epic approaching the grandeur of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. Or, more accurately, the aforementioned Matrix trilogy. A seemingly lofty goal until you consider that the Matrix trilogy was a pretty hokey affair to begin with. The risk of emulating a pop-culture watermark like Keanu’s cyber-fu adventure, is ending up as merely another second-rate knock-off cluttering up people’s Netflix queues. Afterlife suffers this fate in three main ways.

1: Lack of LOLZ. The first film got by as a decent action/horror film in its own right. Cheesy, yes, but that’s exactly what makes a decent action/horror film decent. Without a few yuks along the way to a zombie headshot, there’s really no point. With diminishing returns on the storyline and acting fronts, the only thing the second two installments of the series had going for them was unintentional comic relief. Afterlife‘s overly pretentious atmosphere significantly mutes the potential for sniggering at poorly delivered dialogue and cheesy snuff-lines.

2: The baddie is the baddest baddie ever. But not “bad” meaning good. He just sucks. He basically does the worst impression of your drunk friend’s worst Agent Smith impression the entire time he’s on screen. But he dresses like Neo. Actually, if your drunk friend was Keanu, you have a pretty good idea of this guy’s Agent Smith act. Only it’s not as good as when Keanu does it.

You’re probably wondering how this doesn’t factor into point #1 and the LOLZ. Remember Shane Brolly‘s hilarious performance as Kraven in the Underworld movies? Along with Bill Nighy, he saved that movie. This guy’s performance is that bad. Only somehow too absolutely meh to even be amusing.

3: Third time’s the charm. You can always tell when a director has disappeared up his own ass because the film doesn’t start until the third act. Their own rectum acting as a blindfold prevents them from seeing no one cares about Alice‘s trip down Amelia Earhart lane. Her whole discovery, or lack of discovery, of “Arcadia” in Alaska should have been told in a series of quick flashbacks. Instead it’s a long and ultimately pointless lead-up to where the story actually picks up in Los Angeles. Say what you will about the first three films, but the pacing was flawless (or nearly flawless) in all three.

It’s a fault that could be forgivable if the film didn’t begin with the final scene from the Matrix. Only replace the Agent Smith clones with Alice clones and add guns. Lots of guns. Too many guns.

It’s like the action sequences that open James Bond films—a bit of excitement that has nothing to do with the rest of the film, but whets your appetite for more. Unlike a Bond film though, this is a sensory barrage that deadens you to the rest of the film and perhaps any experience you’ll have in your life ever again.

Come to think of it, it was actually the perfect ending to Extinction. A little George Lucas-style re-cutting in future DVD editions and the two films could be somewhat salvaged.

Even if they don’t do that, and in spite of the film’s failings, I’ll probably still buy the DVD when it’s released. It’s always good to have plenty of greasy cheese on hand to help you get through those killer hang-overs.


Coming To Terms: Mid-Winter edition

February 4, 2010

The past month has seen some pretty great search terms getting people to The Hurdled Nerd. We’ve compiled the best here. The Borg Queen (which got even more hits if you include”die borg königin” ) takes top spot and, shockingly, The Fur Trade overtakes the longstanding hits victor, Zombies. Absolutely nobody searched for Jakob this month.

1. borg queen 119
2. the fur trade 106
3. zombies 54
4. how twilight should have ended 25
5. barbara adams 21
 
People who aren’t Jakob:
 
nerd hurdles mandi 13
starbase 66 karen 4
derek prinsloo 3
starbase 66 podcast kennedy 2
 
Things that don’t even exist:
 
fur trade photos 2
   
Best Grammar:  
twilight how it should have been ending 2

Best of the Month:
 
wesley crusher die die die 2
 i look like the guy from firefly  1
 road warrior meat  1
 bill nighy regretsy  1
 what’s on the interwebs  1

Episode 37 – Dead Zombies Walking (Halloween part 2)

October 30, 2009

Far and away the search-term that lands the most people at Nerd Hurdles is “zombies.” It’s well into the hundreds and the next highest non-zombie related search-term is “borg queen” at 22. And I’d argue the Borg are just space zombies so “data star trek” at a count of 14 is the real runner-up. Since until this latest episode we’d only talked about zombies once (episode 21), this is a clear indication the public has gone rabid for zombies. And it’s not just googling nerds who have a hunger for the dead flesh, last weekend we walked amongst hundreds of punk, goth and hipster wannabe ghouls at the Toronto Zombie Walk 2009.

But why have the undead sprung to life? Something about shuffling brains-hungry corpses clearly resonates with the living population at a near universal level. I believe for the most part it’s due to the following three points: Read the rest of this entry »


Episode 36 – The Legend of Sleepy Hurdles (Halloween part 1)

October 23, 2009
Mandi and co. as the cast of Empire Records.

Mandi (left) and friends as the cast of Empire Records.

Halloween. It used to be my favourite holiday. It very well might still be. Though Thanksgiving is gaining ground. I mostly enjoy how Thanksgiving doesn’t take over the world for the month preceding it and yet there is still a turkey. Every year Halloween seems to come closer to the unholy orgy of excess that is Christmas. This creates hurdles.

Or perhaps I’m just getting older, turning into a Charles Schultz-esque curmudgeon and bemoaning the commercialization of childhood memories. I should just find the most sincere pumpkin patch and spend the week there, hiding from ornate window displays of cheaply produced, over-priced decorations and costumes.

Perhaps what gets me, like everything in our convenience-driven society, is the effort has been taken out of Halloween. Costumes don’t have to be creatively cobbled together from thrift-store finds and lawn displays are purchased wholesale instead of hammered together in the garage. Last night I came home to a plastic graveyard on my neighbor’s lawn—the same cheesy headstones I’d passed on the lawns of at least four houses on my street.

Jakob as The Spirit of Christmas (2003)

Jakob as “The Spirit of Christmas” (2003)

But turning into a grumpy old man aside, what’s always been my biggest Halloween hurdle as an adult is the costumes. I loathe wearing something ridiculous and uncomfortable in public.

And I’ve made myself of-so-uncomfortable in public on Halloween. For several years I always put on Beetlejuice grease-paint make-up and wore a black suit. I suppose was some kind of Reservoir Dogs ghoul. It always seemed like a good idea at the time—all I had to do was pick up a pack of make-up at the dollar store—but by an hour into the party (or shift at the videostore) it was the most uncomfortable torture you can imagine. By the end of the night there’d be claw-marks all over my face from where I was unconsciously scratching it like a cat with an abscess. Why did I do it every year? Clearly I was extremely dim in my younger years.

Jakob’s “Inner Monster” comes out (2005)

Not content to merely make myself uncomfortable, I began to design costumes to make everyone at the party uncomfortable.

It’s easier than you think. Start with a touch of drag, add a hint of passive-agression, top with a dash of TMI and blend into a hideous concoction. Since the year I went as My Inner Monster, I haven’t tried to take things to the next level.

The last time I dressed up it was as Robocoon, a character I played on a community radioshow. Robocoon didn’t make anyone uncomfortable, but a headpiece like that (see below) makes for awkward conversation. There’s only so many places in a crowded kitchen you can stand when your head is two feet wider than you’re used to.

In this episode we talk about the above plus, what the night is really about… candy, candy, candy! Next week we’re going to bring you a special report from Toronto’s 2009 Zombie Walk and discuss scary movies and monsters.

Jakob’s Robocoon costume from 2006:

Extra: Star Trek pumpkin stencils.
Bonus Extra: Gallery of nerdy jack-o-lanterns


Episode 030: Previously on… (Special Edition)

September 2, 2009

Every ten episodes we like to do something special. We read letters for 10 and for 20 we played clips from the “gag reel” plus some audio comments. This time around I wanted to do something really special. But I forgot to plan anything so we decided to recap the first 29 episodes, talking about all the points we’d wished me made in hindsight. None of which it turned out we could remember months after the fact. We’ve come to the conclusion these “specials” aren’t so special so this will be this last one until episode 50 (a reasonable milestone). This gives us some time to plan something spectacular.

A NOTE ON THE SPECIAL EDITIONS: Before we joined the Simply Syndicated network, the first 31 episodes of Nerd Hurdles were hosted on Podbean. Technically, they still are. But since letting our pro-account lapse there’s been a bandwidth problem were the files are only available for the first half of the month before they hit the Podbean ceiling. While SimSyn’s hosting was on Libsyn, we started releasing these episodes as “Special Editions” with newly recorded introductions. When SimSyn moved our hosting to Soundcloud, those files were again lost (and we’d only managed to upload the first 10 anyway). So, here they are once more; uploaded to a 3rd audio service and hopefully the last.


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