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Saturday 5th July 2014


On the recommendation of her hairdresser my wife and I started watching 2004 sci-fi series "The 4400" this morning. I like sci-fi, but had never even heard of this show before, though I thought it had an interesting premise, 4400 people who had disappeared over the last eighty years (possibly via alien abduction) are returned together and begin exhibiting supernatural powers.

It might just be because I am in the midst of writing something and wary of clanking exposition, but I have never seen a script that made such little attempt to be artful with its writing. "Here I am drinking beer with you, my cousin" is chillingly clsoe to  being the kind of dialogue you will get. "It's been six weeks now since your son came out of that coma", "I had to watch my son be possessed by someone from the future and then get shot," "I know, remember I was there." They don't even make any attempt to hide it. It's quite glorious. It's so clanky and awful that I wonder if it was done entirely on purpose, because the thinly drawn characters, the exposition and people describing their emotions rather than acting them make the programme slighly hypnotic and we couldn't get enough of it. Whatever the case I don't think the writers of this show spent very long struggling over the script. But if it is a first draft, it's a very entertaining one. It's heavily indebted to the X Files, of course and not too afraid to rip off "Silence of the Lambs" or "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest" and none of it makes any kind of logical sense. But we got through an awful lot of episodes and I am keen to see what happens next, so I might have found my new "Goodnight Sweetheart". I enjoyed the way that a man who had been abducted in the 1950s came back to start a relationship with the lookalike grand daughter of the woman he had been dating at the time and neither had them any moral quandaries about it. If even just for a second one of them had asked, "Is this a bit weird?" or "Are you getting off on this because I look like my grandma?" or even "How does it feel to have been intimately involved with a grandma and her granddaughter?" then it might have been interesting. But I worried for this couple that they didn't even seem to think that that was an issue.

But what's most notable is how dated it was. As we started watching we didn't know when it was made and I wondered if it was from the 1980s, due to the special effects and the fashions and the technology. Slowly I realised it must have been a bit later than that, but in fact it was made in 2004, only ten years ago and yet it seems like another world. It's the most terrifying thing about the programme. Burning CDs, awful computer graphics, no smart phones, massive headsets rather than bluetooth ear pieces. How can the world have changed so much? If I go back and look at early Warming Ups will I be similarly gob-smacked by our backwardness and bad haircuts.

I did manage a bit of work as well, but sensibly I think, took most of the day to relax. It's been a very hectic few weeks, but I think I can get the script finished tomorrow. Although worryingly I've been making statements like that for about six weeks and the gaps and the problems still exist. But at least I don't think I have got any scenes that start, "I am EM Halliday, an American journalist and I am coming here today to try and discredit the story of Felix Yusupov's murder of Rasputin and who are you?" Though maybe some of the aren't far off.

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