Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Do re-runs stand the test of time?

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Some TV shows are worth revisiting, writes TV blogger Paul Casserly.

James Gandolfini and the cast of 'The Sopranos'.
James Gandolfini and the cast of 'The Sopranos'.

After bringing back a DVD of The Goodies from the UK many years ago I thought that I struck on a golden rule of TV. Never look back.

The Goodies was a childhood fave, it was like nothing else on TV at the time. It was a weird hybrid of the Three Stooges and Monty Python and most importantly, the three dudes rode around on a triple, a bike with three seats.

But settling down to relive the magic wasn't what I had anticipated. After a few minutes a wave of solid disappointment crashed over me. The magic I remembered looked different now. Something had shifted. Was it me? Was it the world? Was it all the TV I'd seen in meantime?

Maybe I was stoned when I first saw it, but no, I was just a kid and was still years away from that Gary Numan concert with my big brother when the guy next to me passed over what I assumed to be a clove cigarette.

The Goodies were perhaps a moment in time, and my fond memories of them remain undiminished, but they haven't travelled well (I also don't drink nearly as much Fanta these days either).

Foolishly I took this example and applied it wholesale to many shows in the years since, and haven't bothered to give them a second look. But rules, like menus, are merely guidelines. Sometimes you can relive the magic. Sometimes it's better the second time.

A case in point is the never-ending smorgasbord of joy known as The Sopranos, which I have been reliving thanks to Soho's replay of the entire masterwork. This possibly made the news of the shock passing of James Gandolfini actually shocking.

It's hard to think that Gandolfini and Tony Soprano are really two different people. A heart attack, in Italy? It's almost an alternative ending to the series. I didn't bat an eyelid when Lady Di departed but this was different. I felt like I knew Tony. He has afforded me so many hours of captivating entertainment.

Gandolfini might have died young but he's left a performance that few actors will come close to matching. He nailed it, though it has to be said, he wasn't alone, the rest of the cast were hardly chopped liver.

What also helps the re-run of The Sopranos seem so enjoyable is the sheer bulk of the material. Six seasons comprising some 86 episodes means you forget just enough to enjoy the return journey. It almost feels new, but with the added bonus of feeling familiar. One of the new measures of quality is the shows that A) go onto my series link selection on MySky and B) the ones that I actually watch.

Currently re-runs of The Sopranos rate as highly for me as new episodes of Madmen, Breaking Bad, or The Killing. That's a rare thing for a re-run.

I was suspicious about how the re-run of Twin Peaks would fair given my Goodies experience. This was a big show for me back in the 1990s when it first screened.

Back then, in the early days of TV3 - before their first receivership - billboards around Auckland featured the body of Laura Palmer wrapped in black plastic. That was cool, and a first. Flatmates gathered around to watch the show religiously. Bob scared the bejesus out of us. We quoted Agent Cooper when were ordered breakfast. "Black coffee, crispy bacon, nuke it if you have to."

It was an almost cult experience and people who 'just don't get it' were quickly shunned and marked for life as philistines. The years have proven this to be quite an accurate marker in the most part. Some have gone on to positions in the National party, others to the far left of of Labour, while another is a 'life-coach'.

Sky's new Jones! Channel has been re-running the show from the beginning so I got my chance to test my rule. I had my doubts, as the show was so idiosyncratic. You could even damn it with the word 'wacky'. I'm pleased to report that the work of David Lynch has held up remarkably well indeed.

What an absolute pleasure this master mash up is. Part thriller, with added noir, extreme soap opera, sci-fi, comedy, it's a strange pix'n'mix of genius. Has anyone ever assembled a cast as entertaining as this before or since? Possibly The Sporanos, possibly Dad's Army, but few others. From the opening chimes of Angelo Badlalamenti's unsurpassed score to the closing credits, Twin Peaks rules. Simple as that.

So do look back and if you don't have Sky get the DVD. Hell, get the VHS if you have to. If there's ever been a show where the destination is nowhere near as important as the journey, it's Twin Peaks.

Some other stuff I'm watching this week

Monday: Country Town Rescue, Country TV, (Sky 81) 8pm, this is real good, more a real life social experiment than a reality show in which 5 families leave their old lives behind to live in Trundle, deep in the New South Wales outback. The town is in decline, and the families have been brought in to turn the tide. Lead by the publican, the scheme 'Tree Change' offers unused farmhouses at a $1 rent to outsiders who prove they have something to offer.

Louie, Comedy Central, 10pm. Series 3 of the true politically incorrect guide to parenting. Louie is a flabby middle-aged ginger stand up comedian, the best since Seinfeld and less smarmy.

Tuesday: Justified, Soho, 9.30pm. Not sure how I have missed this show when it first ran on TV1. Noir novelest Elmore Leonard's short stories come to life in the form of a glossy and gritty cable show. Mean cops, dumb crims, inbreed freaks, chicks with guns. Tick, tick, tick, tick. This is episode 1 of season 1.

Wednesday: After 3rd Degree at 8.30pm I'll be sticking the F**k around to woof, woof, co*k face, watch The Town That Caught Tourette's, a British doco about a group of teenage girls who all developed Tourette's syndrome at the same time. How awesome is that? TV3, 9.30pm.

Thursday: Shihad - Beautiful Machine, Rialto, 8.30pm. The much loved doco about our much loved rock band. And what a story it is what with all the name changing and carry-on.

Friday: Black Mirror, Soho 9.30pm, Charlie Brooker's brilliant series of films are uneasy viewing in the best possible way. With added zeitgeist.

- NZ Herald

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