The Insiders Guides to Love and Happiness

The Webmistresse visited our humble abode the other weekend. Over a cuppa, The Goddess and I enthused about The Insiders Guide to Happiness. We’d enjoyed the pre-/se-quel, The Insiders Guide to Love last year and, thanks to some applied relationship chaos theory, Mr Samson lent us his copy of Happiness.

“What’s it about?” the Webmistresse quite reasonably asked.

The Goddess and I looked at each other. It’s not a procedural. Nor is it a soap per se. Our best description is that it’s a television series that explores the philosophy of happiness. ‘Philosophy’ and ‘television’ in the same breath? Believe it. Not once was it trite as it asked – and didn’t necessarily answer – hard questions about being happy in and with the one life we get.

Most homegrown television has a self-consciousness pouring out of its every orifice. I suspect it’s a hangover from decades of cultural cringe: “Oh yeh, hi, I’m your latest Homegrown Drama. I know you’ve been waiting ages for me to turn up – and thanks to [INSERT BROADCASTER] and New Zealand on Air, here I am. Give us a go, eh, ’cause heh, y’know, you’re watching… New Zealand on air.”

The Insiders Guides are thankfully devoid of such affectation: these are the characters; here are the stories; keep up. Late-weekend-night scheduling and minimal publicity made the Insiders Guides the best intelligent adult homegrown television that few saw. Thank gosh for DVDs.

Fedora-tips to Happiness creator Peter Cox and writers David Brechin-Smith and Paula Boock for kick-arse scripts, and producer Dave Gibson for believing.


Something Old, Something New

Jed Mercurio, creator of the excellent, visceral, Bodies, wrote this about adapting novels for the screen. What I found most interesting was –

Cynics argue that drama adaptations for television demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm for original material or, worse, a lack of quality in original scripts. I disagree with both propositions. Commissioners crave original drama, and many (if not most) writers prefer to create their own material, and most (if not all) of them feel more attached to their original script than an adaptation. But marketing original drama isn’t easy. … The audience doesn’t know the story or the characters. That’s hard to explain in a trailer or a billboard poster.

As an audience member, I must confess to a double standard: I want more of the same – but different.

I work hard at trying something completely new though. How else could I have found and sworn by Bodies or The Wire – or even Green Wing or The Insiders Guides to Love and Happiness?

What I admire most about these series is the sheer depth, and complexity of story and character that’s packed into each forty-five minute episode. It didn’t matter if it was a procedural or soap. The writing, directing and acting is so good that the underlying structure is barely noticed.

Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are my poster boys for giving more of the same… but different. They showed that even the tired superhero, horror and fantasy genres of comicdom – and their audiences – could be treated just as seriously as any other form of ‘real’ literature – with maturity and intelligence.

I returned to comic-reading in the last few years – one could hazard that it was a precursor to my true return to reading. And upon my return I’ve found the pleasures of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson‘s blistering Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s heart- and gut-wrenching Preacher, and David Lapham‘s mindblowing Stray Bullets. These – and more – are just proof-positive that, just as the good doctor purred,

It is important to always try new things.

(Heads-up courtesy Lee Thomson.)