Previously on FTCH, there was cheese in the crackers, rabbits on the run, and a death on the Nile. We put cookies in ice cream, raided Minnesota, and loved it all madly. Somehow, a mere inch of ice on Wednesday night here in Texas has turned this into an unplanned five-day weekend. I’m not arguing, mind you. This week we deal with shiny, happy people and outsiders. There are ghosts and faceless ones all with soft skin. Remember, with a name like FTCH, it has to be good.
Pop Culture Ephemera
- Stephen King – The Outsider (2018) (Scribner): “People are blind to explanations that lie outside their perception of reality.” This book fits nicely into King’s recent foray into crime drama genre that was the Bill Hodges Trilogy. The books starts with the arrest of Terry Maitland for the horrific murder of a child where all evidence leads to his guilt. The initial use of multiple sources, like police interviews, feels like an old, comfortable King technique. But as quickly as the airtight case is built, the cracks start to appear until there don’t appear to be any logical explanations. That’s when the real King story kicks in and we bring in Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges’ novels to help put the pieces together. The book definitely changes in tone from her appearance forward. And I agree with criticisms that the ending is anti-climatic based upon the build-up. There are questions remaining that could have been explored in a slightly longer book. Read the Trilogy first, it’ll help add depth to the story. In all, despite a toned-down ending, it ends up making more logical sense than how the HBO adaptation decided to ratchet up the suspense.
- Ghosts (UK) – “Who Do You Think You Are?” (S.1 E.1) (2019) (BBC One): This is one of the better spinoffs of the past decade. The cast members of Horrible Histories find themselves haunting Button Manor which has just been inherited by distant relatives Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe – last seen in Stath Lets Flats). An accident allows Alison to see and hear the ghosts. The humor is pretty classic British, dating back to the ghosts of Blithe Spirit. There is a really high joke-per-minute ratio so even when some don’t work, there’s plenty that do. So far I like the “caught with his pants down” MP ghost and the caveman ghost. I really don’t imagine how this ended up translating to American television. Charlotte Ritchie is charming, like a young Karen Allen. I’ll keep going on this version.
- Reuben and the Dark x AG – “Shiny Happy People” (2020): “Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines.” (Disclaimer: I’m not one of the R.E.M. fans who think this song was where they jumped the shark.) I really don’t know much about this Calgary, Alberta indie band. This appears to have been featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I first encountered the song on YouTube recommendations. Then it showed up as the “TCM Remembers 2021” memorial. I’ve long been a critic of this network television trope of covering hit songs by slowing them down and only playing a piano to them. My theory held up with the show Stalker that you can make any song creepy this way. But this version just hit me differently. I could almost envision it as part of The Leftovers. I’ve sampled a couple other songs by this band and they are decent but this particular song is hard to beat.
- Doctor Who – “The Faceless Ones: Episode 3” (1967) (S.4 E.33): This third episode of the six-episode story with Patrick Troughton is a classic sci-fi mystery. The series received an animation update to the four missing episodes back in 2020. By this third episode, the mystery is in full bloom. The Doctor and companions (Ben, Polly, and Jamie) arrive on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport. Polly stumbles upon a murder that leads to some questions about a mysterious Chameleon Tours. Our heroes are loose in the airport and while Ben and Polly are mostly out of sight, the Doctor and Jamie (Frazier Hines) are more like detectives pulling together clues to the mystery of disappearing young people and the mystery of Chameleon Tours. The serial suffers from a slow start and feels like it could be four episodes instead of six. The story combines some elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the British series Quartermass. More importantly, it finally establishes a good chemistry between the Doctor and Jamie. I know that this will be the end of Polly and Ben as companions and it’s good to bond with Jamie finally.
- The Soft Skin (1964) (Directed by Francois Truffaut): “I’ve learned that men’s unhappiness arises from the inability to stay quietly in their own room.” – Pierre. The story of middle-aged Pierre (Jean Desailly) and his wife, Franca (Nelly Benedetti), and his affair with flight attendant Nicole (Francoise Dorleac) doesn’t break any new ground in storytelling (even back in 1964). What puts this film above others is the way the Truffaut tells the story. Even the initial scene where Pierre is running late for a flight. It is played against dramatic music that makes it seem like an action thriller and that something bad will happen if he misses the plane. What happens is the random encounter that will change his life. This film is five years removed from The 400 Blows (1959) that kicked the French New Wave into gear. The plot is more pedestrian but the way it is told elevates it above similar subject soap operas. The camera lingers over the actor’s faces for longer than we ever see in contemporary films. The musical score undercuts the emotions we are seeing on the surface to let us know the importance of specific actions. Pierre is not a “hero” or even likable, but I don’t think that’s the point of this story. This shouldn’t be your first Truffaut film but it’s an important step in the New Wave.
Best of the Rest
- “How to Incinerate the International Space Station” is an intriguing headline. By the end of the decade, the ISS will have outlived its lifespan. The options of how to disable it are many. The Skylab “let the pieces fall where they may” plan isn’t intriguing any longer. It would be fun to test out our Death Star weapons on it. Or let Musk, Bezos, and Gates have a contest to see who can push it out into Space first. The boring solution is probably sell some it off for parts and have one big bonfire in the sky.
- “How do you make money selling stuff to yourself?” That’s one of the clever lines in this ad from Norway for the Coop Grocery stores where the clever American is going to expose the conspiracy of a Co-Op.
- You need to have a primer of the first commercial in the Elizabeth Banks and Archer Roose the bottled wine company. I adore her as an actress and this ad series fits her personality perfectly. The second ad is her latest promotional idea: the Snakes Reward Program for frequent customers. And the final chapter of the story – the apology. It’s a 90-second story told over multiple months.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 9/24/2006, we were starting to feel some fall temperatures. This week I was telling you to watch South Park for the Scientology episode. I was bully on the debut of Heroes, Ugly Betty, CSI (a new season), and a new Ted Danson show called Help Me Help You. The funny pleading of the week was asking you readers to check out the new season of Doctor Who on Sci-Fi network that would see the debut of David Tennant as the Doctor. I also recommended the episode of Nova that week that I had skipped until now.
- Nova: Mystery of the Megavolcano (PBS) (2006): The story of the eruption of Mega Volcano Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, 75,000 years ago is told not so much as a historical oddity but as a “disaster porn” story for what could happen in Yellowstone in our “near” future. The effect on the climate was global, causing a thousand-year ice age because of the ash cover (Volcanic Winter). This episode seemed closer to some of the recent “Here’s how the world will end” specials that I’ve watched from 2006 than the usual Nova episodes. Oh, yeah, and Toba is likely to erupt in about 300,000 years. So keep that on your worry chart.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Combining two things that I like is usually a good idea. Coca-Cola and Space are two things I like. The new Coke creation is an interesting color, scent, and taste. The debate over the flavor of “space” is a great marketing technique to get people like me talking about the product. It’s got a red cream soda appearance. My original impulse is that it’s similar to Faygo’s Rock n Rye. I get a cherry/raspberry with vanilla and there’s something I can’t identify that gives it a slightly cooling aftertaste. I can report it makes a great mixer with rum. It’s a good limited edition concept. I’m curious for the official flavor reveal.
This new Pop-Tart flavor asks one to get back to the basic philosophical question: Is an Eggo a waffle or its’ own unique category? Is Pop-Tart a flavor? If Pop-Tart can be determined to be a pastry flavor, then these are mostly maple syrup-flavored Pop-Tarts. The center tastes like a maple flavor and the frosting has just a bit of butter aftertaste to give you the illusion of the buttered waffle. It’s a bit disappointing to be honest. Pop-Tarts and Eggos have existed separately for years as quick on-the-go breakfasts for the lazy among us. Combining them hasn’t done much to improve either. Definitely serve toasted.
Kit-Kat Duos: Strawberry & Dark Chocolate
Two great tastes that taste great together. It’s hard to go wrong with strawberry and dark chocolate. This is the third entry into the Duos brand. The Mint/Dark Chocolate and the Mocha/Chocolate were both decent but this takes it to another level. The picture doesn’t capture a more rose color to the strawberry topping. Strawberry dominates the pleasing look to the bar and the scent. The dark chocolate is just enough to overpower the flavor a bit more than most might want but it’s a flavor I would love to see stick around longer than just the Valentine’s holiday.
“Meet me in the crowd, people, people
Throw your love around, love me, love me
Take it into town, happy, happy
Put it in the ground where the flowers grow” – R.E.M.