Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The power of spin

Spinning Jennies, spin doctors, ‘baby you spin me right round,’ none of these come close to the true power of spin. That most lazy of methods for television show genesis, the spin off. The Legendary Adventures of Hercules, Cheers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all preceded Xena: Warrior Princess, Frasier and Angel.

Being a member of the zero attention span generation, I’ve forgotten what made the original programmes so compelling. I think Hercules was entertaining in a sort of pseudo-educational way. What with being barely an embryo I’m sure I conceived the notion that watching a programme where evil was battered and mythological evil at that, was probably beneficial.

Xena on the other hand was a much better show. Former evil warrior badass changes her ways and seeks atonement through saving the innocent etc with lesbian undertones and plenty of scantily clad, everything. I’ve never seen it but I understand that in the last ever episode, Xena is finally taken down not by a God or mythological monster but by Genghis Khan. Not that meeting your end by Genghis’ blade isn’t a bad way for a warrior to go but he’s not very big or got more than one head.

I can remember even less about Cheers other than Woody Harrelson played a dunce and often had the best lines. The owner of the bar, Sam, was a womaniser and the rest of the characters were obviously all alcoholics, spending all their spare time in a bar.

Frasier was a part of the bar fly crowd but eventually moved to Seattle. The lusting of Niles Crane, Frasier’s brother, for the live in physical therapist, Daphne, made the show great. All the characters often had superb one liners. It’s like comparing a rose to a turd, they’re both made from organic material but that’s about all they have in common.

Whereas Xena was marginally better than Hercules and Frasier was miles apart from Cheers, Buffy and Angel were a lot closer in the stakes of quality. Buffy was, and is genius. All the characters were great whether good or evil or interchangeable as most had a stint as both. The lines were fantastic, the post-modern tone of the show appealed to my, ‘I’m so beyond everything now’ teenager stance at the time. Stand out episodes were, the Buffy musical, Buffy’s mum dying and the one where everyone loses the ability to speak. But that’s just the tip of the buffberg.

That being said, the first few series of Angel were pretty piss poor. Poor enough that even I, who will gladly watch anything unless it’s causing me actual physical pain, found that I wouldn’t bother to watch. Then suddenly, it was like a different program. Much darker and the best embodiment of evil in the guise of the law firm, Wolfram and Hart.

Having the main villains as the Senior Partners is faultless. It taps into something that feels so acute and well observed, it must be true. You know who you are. Spin offs can often transcend the original shows they geminated from, some with more success than others. That’s quite an inconclusive statement, isn’t it?

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