Thursday, 17 January 2008


There are red flags up about Facebook (FB), recently demonised by the likes of Tom Hodgkinson for no good reason (a moral panic amidst worries for FB users' social welfare?), other than the G2 journo being disgruntled with FB as timesink for users, and a big moneyspinner for the 'geeks' who created it. But who's exploiting who? Seems to me that FB is becoming a major player in the global village experiment (e.g. I can play umpteen simultaneous games of 'Scrabulous' - an online version of popular word game Scrabble - with other FB users from around the world), and - as with FB applications in general - all we really have to put up with is sundry targeted adverts (which, like the animated banners on many other commercial sites, are easy to ignore).

The virtual community of FB is a good thing, relatively, and I don't view it as some malevolent commercial entity undermining our personal freedoms. Other businesses have played the 'connecting people' card in promoting their products, before, but without offering so much potential for mindless, distracting fun. Okay, FB and Scrabulous are potentially addictive... but neither compare to the genuinely destructive power of drugs or even alcohol, right..?

Now, corporate johnnies at Hasbro and Mattel have called for Scrabulous to be removed from FB, and fans of the online game are fearing the worst. I wonder how the lawyers have regarded Scrabulous' creators (brothers, Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, based in Calcutta)? On FB, fans of both Scrabble and Scrabulous are wondering if their fun is about to end, or whether a licensing deal can be worked out. I suspect there will have to be a close-down of the Scrab online servers, even if that's just for re-branding purposes.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Boston Legal

Although the second DVD boxset of Boston Legal lacks the verve and sheer freshness of the 1st season, the eccentric-lawyers partnership of Denny Crane and Alan Shore (a brilliant double-act by William Shatner and James Spader) continues to appeal, with much savagely absurdist humour (including the postmodern use of in-jokes, usually aimed star-wards), crazily unrestrained courtroom antics, and incisively constructed speeches (thinly veiled social and political commentary on various burning issues and current affairs of today). Although this season sees the exit of supporting actress Rhona Mitra (as Tara), replacement starlet Julie Bowen (as Denise) is instantly likeable, even though she's challenged by the late arrival of Parker Posey (as Marlene).

If the lively arrogant banter of Crane and Shore now becomes rather subdued in those end-of-day balcony-scene codas, the script-writers maintain Shore's unique propensity for acid-tongued yet often deeply compassionate trial closures, while Crane ('Denny Crane'), still gets plenty of great, pithy comedy lines for before, during, and after his brief marriage to Bev (Joanna Cassidy). Other guest stars include Tom Selleck (rather smug and irritating) and Michael J. Fox (too obviously sympathetic).

Perhaps the biggest surprise this season is that Brad (Mark Valley) is promoted to full partner in the company, and the actor manages to leave behind his wooden charm, becoming a major asset to the main cast, especially in his dramatic if not always his comedy scenes. The best and cleverest moment is when Wes Craven is called to testify as an expert witness about a porn video! Needless to say, I have ordered the season 3 boxset. If you like a bit of honest drama with your TV comedy, this show has excellent production values, and is quietly superior to every other law-firm series I've yet seen... although I wonder how it compares to James Woods' vehicle Shark?