Russell Baillie: Of Thrones and a Duke

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A scene from Game of Thrones.
A scene from Game of Thrones.

Item one: Is there a support group for folks who just don't get Game of Thrones? Yes, I know it's a Very Important Programme. The Sopranos meets Tolkien and all that. That's why we had wee Daenerys Targaryen on the cover last week.

Yes, lots of folks really like it. It's not like I haven't tried. Every chance I've had I've been attempting to get into the swing of things ahead of Monday's new series with Sky's pop-up channel, which has been showing the previous three seasons on an endless loop of decapitations, amputations, incinerations and all the other fun stuff that has made GoT such a must-see for so many. But nope, nothing.

Apparently it's all about power and politics. It just happens to involve dragons and a healthy libido among the characters in the (hold on, I'll look this up) seven kingdoms. And I can certainly admire the spinning plates act that balancing all those storylines requires.

But unlike plenty of other escapist fantasies I've been happy to waste brain cells on over the years, GoT just doesn't grab.

The patchy acting doesn't help. And it might be a sprawling story but the sort-of-medieval-sort-of-Middle-earth setting of George R.R. Martin's books just seems a bit crowded for all those contesting clans and royal families who seem to have nothing but black sheep among their flocks.

Ah well, there's up to three more series to go after this one, so plenty of time for me and the rest of the support group to console each other about the friends we've lost due to being collectively too thick to absorb the apparent greatness of this epic fantasy series.

The first meeting will be next Monday night at 8.30pm, venue to be advised. Please come, having practised the group chant: "We are the lot who don't get GoT ..."

Unlike plenty of other escapist fantasies I've been happy to waste brain cells on over the years, GoT just doesn't grab.
Russell Baillie

Item two: Until I saw a preview copy of the rockumentary David Bowie - Five Years (screening in the Prime Rock slot next Wednesday, 9.30pm) I had quite forgotten how much I loved David Bowie. Seeing his Serious Moonlight tour at Western Springs in 1983 was my first big rock concert. Loved it but it scared the hell out of me. Well, the crowd did. So did Earl Slick's guitar intro on Station to Station. Bowie himself was a beautiful shiny dancing thing.

That tour - off the back of his most successful album, Let's Dance, and its many hits - certainly scared something in Bowie too. He pretty much went off the boil for the next two decades.

Five Years first screened on the BBC last year in the wake of his out-of-nowhere comeback album, The Next Day, which heavily referenced his 70s heyday.

The doco also has a neatly selective memory. It focuses on five periods in his madly chameleonic, massively productive period - the 1971 Ziggy period; the 1975 transition from blue-eyed soul guy to Thin White Duke; the 1977 Berlin period of Low and Heroes, 1980's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and 1983's Let's Dance, upon which Bowie figured it was about time he had some hits. Which he did.

Much of the doco's early footage is astounding - even if some of the live concert bits sound little too good to be true. And while the Bowie of today remains heard but not seen, his elusiveness adds something to the programme's unconventional approach.

There's plenty of room left to his many and various collaborators - among them Brian Eno (erudite), Carlos Alomar (obviously the unsung sideman hero of Bowie), Robert Fripp (hilarious), Nile Rodgers (predictably funky) - to expound on the details of just how so much great Bowie music came to be.

That all makes Five Years unmissable for anyone who owns any of the aforementioned albums.

- NZ Herald

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