Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A Nice Relaxing Holiday (yeah right)

I'm rubbish at holidays. Completely useless. For years I had the handy excuse of no money and unstable employment (hello, TV industry!) to keep me safe from the nightmare of holidays. But sadly, now that I'm a grown-up and on a salary that's not an embarrassment, I have to confront them head-on.

It's not that I've been burned by terrible holidays in the past, with the exception of a misjudged family holiday to Ibiza aged 14, the only highlight of which was me finally losing my last stubborn milk tooth. Generally speaking, all my holidays have been great. Aged 17, I spent two weeks in Zante with friends, thrilled to be getting away with public drinking. I loved Italy. I got shown around Copenhagen by a (sort of) native, and got the unique pleasure of hearing 50,000 Danes sing what they thought were the lyrics of Angels at a Take That concert. I had a crazy and inspiring five days in Edinburgh during the festival. And then last year I had a gay wedding in Spain, which was precisely as fabulous as you'd imagine.

So my problem isn't the holidays per se. The holidays generally turn out okay, apart from the constant headache I get in hot weather (one of these days the industrial quantity of ibuprofen in my suitcase is going to be cause for an airport strip-search). My problem is that one week of (semi) relaxation in return for a couple of months of stressful planning and at least a week of exhaustion (read: hangover) afterwards doesn't really seem like a fair trade.

First, you have to wonder if you should really be blowing a grand on a holiday when it should be going into the one-day-possibly-owning-a-shitty-studio-flat fund. Then I stress about time: How much holiday allowance do I have left? Would I rather save it for Christmas? What if I get [insert whatever writing thing I've recently applied for] and I need to take some holiday time to prepare that?

Then there's the destination. I finally have enough money to visit New York - the only place I've ever genuinely wanted to go to - just at the time when none of my friends can afford it. All other destinations are really just Not New York in comparison, aren't they?  I'm not an adventurous traveller, I don't really care if I never trek through South America and I'm subconsciously terrified of being murdered in Thailand. So until Thomas Cook start selling trips to fictional places, I'm going to struggle to muster much enthusiasm.

Finally, there's the key question you need to ask yourself when planning any holiday: Is it worth the 1,000 emails that I'm going to have to trawl through upon my return to work?

I find it strange that people will think nothing of dropping £500 on seven days of lying on a beach and dozing. And yet if I want to spend a week at home writing continuously, people think I'm crazy. But that is my idea of real relaxation. Contrary to popular myth, holidays are frickin' stressful.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

My Third Eye is Blocked (Fnar Fnar)

A few weeks ago, I went to see a psychic.

The atheist in me wants to immediately follow that statement up with an assurance that I don’t actually believe in spiritualism, of course, I was just researching for a script.

On the one hand, there are so many stories from over the years that it’s hard to dismiss it outright. On the other hand, it’s obviously a load of old bollocks, isn’t it?

Spiritualism (or fortune telling/clairvoyance/mediumism, whatever you want to call it) is so ingrained in British culture that it’s hard for us to shrug it off entirely. It’s in our collective conscience. When people say something is ‘on the cards’, they ain’t talking about blackjack. Brits believe in ghosts and psychics in the same way that Americans believe in aliens and Jedis (not that I’m saying that I don’t believe in Jedis – I’ve seen my brother play Call of Duty, that boy’s midichlorians are through the roof).

I headed off to see the psychic with as open a mind as possible – ready to be impressed by either some sort of magic or some impressive Sherlock-style cold reading. I was also determined to play the whole thing with a poker face in place – I wasn’t going to make things easy for her.

We started 45 minutes late (what sort of psychic can’t foretell bad traffic? You get those sort of ‘vibes’ just by watching BBC Breakfast, for Christ’s sake) and my poker face met its first challenge: not giggling at the repeated use of the phrase ‘third eye’. Apparently my Third Eye is blocked. If I learn to unblock it (some sort of PH-balancing wipe, perhaps?) I could be just as psychic as her. I’m a natural ‘sensitive’. No matter how sceptical you are, everyone secretly wants to hear that they have vast psychic potential. I refuse to be taken in by this blatant flattery.

The next challenge was to not look at her with utter disdain as she attempted to call forth spirits of my departed loved-ones (“I’m seeing someone very stern, with their hair pulled back. Very stern. Stern but loving. Really quite loving, actually...?”) After a minute or so of furtive guessing, I put her out of her misery as kindly as I could. I didn’t want to psych the poor woman out too early on in the reading.

Things lumbered on in a relatively disappointing fashion and I began to realise that, secretly, I really wanted to believe and she was spoiling it for me. She dealt Tarot cards for my past, looked at them blankly and eventually remarked “there’s really not much here” (she had a point there – I had the happiest and most uneventful childhood known to man). My future cards just told me what she expects all young women want to hear from a psychic: I’ll meet a handsome man, everyone will fancy him but he only has eyes for me, blah blah offensive-cliche blah.

With every ounce of my supposed psychic ability I projected “I AM A WRITER” at her. That’s all I wanted, some show of real psychic skill by identifying what I consider to be my defining feature. “AT LEAST PICK UP ON SOME CREATIVE ENERGIES!” I projected furiously. “I MADE IT EASY FOR YOU, I’M WEARING A BRIGHT RED COAT! I AM CREATIVE!” But sadly, that one passed her by. Perhaps the message got caught up in that blockage round my Third Eye.

I was going to come out of this session with even less belief that I’d gone in with. But then, just before I left, something happened. “There’s something wrong with your throat,” she said, looking at me quizzically. This was the last straw. Assuming someone has a sore throat just because they’re wearing a scarf indoors is the easiest type of cold reading there is – and also wrong. I was just chilly. Nowt wrong with my throat. I was about to spoil my poker face altogether with an expression Maggie Smith would be proud of, when she continued. “You feel things very strongly, down here (she grabbed her gut), but when you try to say them they get stuck in your throat and you can’t make them come out.”

That shut me the fuck up. That is, word for word, how I have described my inability to have emotionally honest conversations. I have said those exact words, complete with the same hand gestures, in conversations with people. How did she know that? How?!

I’m sure, if you analyse it, there could be an excuse. Perhaps my expert poker face tipped her off to my emotional coldness. Perhaps it’s something she says to all her clients – after all, we Brits aren’t known for our effusive emotions. Or maybe she really can see people’s chakras (whatever they are).

But it means that I got to leave with some sort of tentative belief, or the hope of a belief, that there’s something else going on. Hell, I’m a writer. It’s far more interesting to semi-believe in impossible things than to live in the real world. And that’s why there’ll always be a business for psychics.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

I'm baaack!

To celebrate the dawning of a new year, I made myself a list of acheivable goals for 2013. Points nine and 10 were:

9. Start my blog again, this time with a focus on real life adventures rather than TV/film/comics.
10. Have some real life adventures.

The order that I put those two statements in tell you everything you'll ever need to know about my priorities in life.

So, Follow the Nerd is up and running again. Yes, it'll still be a wee bit nerdy. Yes, I will still go on the odd feminist rampage. But it'll be about REAL THINGS now.

(For my TV/film/comics journalist, keep an eye on Bad Haven and Starburst, and for updates on my short film keep an eye on the Seven Stages of Geek blog.)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Nerd World News

Wow, I've been busy lately. I write for Starburst and Bad Haven now, so a lot of the nerd rants I'd normally put on here now go on those sites (both are awesome sites - go check them out!) So I thought I'd summarise some of the nerdy topics that have been at the forefront of my mind lately here.

My name is Abby and I'm a Sherloholic

How good were those three episodes?! Or 'films' is probably the more accurate word for them. As a writer they just make my brain sing with joy (and occassionally grumble and mutter about why I'm not as good as they are). But the How Did Sherlock Fake His Death? debate has unfortunately somewhat overshadowed the rest of the damn fine series.

Because before Sherlock took his climactic swan dive (or did he? etc) series two had been a lovely fairytale about a brilliant, isolated man gradually defrosting and allowing other people into his life, ironically opening up the chinks in his armour that Moriarty ultimately worms into in the process. Steve Thompson - a man who, let's be honest, up until The Reichenbach Fall seemed to be the useless brother-in-law that Moffat felt obliged to give work to - did a great job of giving Sherlock's fake suicide dramatic and lasting impact even after you know he's not dead. It was the moment that the audience finally got to see what John meant to Sherlock. Sherlock planned it all, of course, and prepared his fake death as a last-ditch plan. But he naturally assumed that he'd outwit Moriarty and not have to go through with it - until he learns that John's life is on the line. So he destroys his reputation and says goodbye to the only friend he has just to save his life. Sob.

But there'll be a series three! Hooray!

One final note on Sherlock (which, a couple of weeks on, I still can't get out of my head) - how spectacular was the acting, across the board? Benedict Cumberbatch is everywhere right now, and deservedly so, but that rather detracts from Martin Freeman who, in my mind, stole the show this series. Freeman is just so extraordinary at playing ordinary. What he does is so subtle that a lot of people don't even class it as acting, especially not when he's surrounded by excellent scenery chompers like Andrew Scott (so brilliant as Moriarty this year). But who didn't get a little something in their eye as John struggled to come to terms with his loss?

World's Finest
Wait, I'm who now?

On the one hand, this is right up my alley. In the New 52, DC's World's Finest are no longer Batman and Superman - they're Huntress and Power Girl. Two female characters getting a high profile book to themselves. And they're two great characters, too!

Oh, but wait - Power Girl might be the Karen Starr we know and love, but what's this? Huntress is Helena Wayne again, the original Earth-2 Huntress, daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Helena Bertinelli, who existed as a character for 14 years longer than her Earth-2 counterpart, who appeared in the hugely popular JLU animated series, who is the only version of Huntress that most modern comic readers know, no longer exists in current DC continuity. Well, that's just a slap in the face for a Birds of Prey fan like myself. Helena Bertinelli was one of my favourite characters. I read the first issue of her mini-series in the new 52, and it seems they've kept many of the personality traits of the Huntress I know, but without her history with the Birds she just won't be the same.

It seems that the concept for this series is that Huntress and Power Girl are trying to get back home to Earth-2. Now, I'm already ticked off at the prospect of Earth-2. There are rumours that some of the missing characters - including some of my personal favourites like Donna Troy and Wally West - might pop up on Earth-2. But what's the point when they can't interact with the characters who helped define them? Donna should be having drinks with Dick Grayson, advising him on his love life, not another dimension away. And now they're taking Power Girl and Huntress out of the main DC universe too, provided that they succeed in getting home in. Humph.

Secret Six (last time, I promise)

I finally got round to reading the last Secret Six trade last week (I'm a trades girl), and, well, that was emotional. Anyone who thought the "I thought we might be heroes" ending to the Western one-shot was a killer, wait until you see the final issue.

Over the six years or so that we had the Secret Six (on and off) they grew into the most believable damaged comic book family outside of the Batfamily. Their jaunt to hell in this trade and the surprise (although it shouldn't be) betrayal half way through just serve to solidify their bond. But there just isn't a place in that world of superheroes and supervillains for some messed up folk who just want to get by (and possibly one day kill Batman). Looks like DC editorial couldn't find a place for them either. Although, with any luck, the inevitable increase in interest in Bane after The Dark Knight Rises might see more people buying the Secret Six trades, which, in turn, might persuade DC to look a little bit harder for a place to put everyone's favourite psychopaths. Frankly, I don't want to read a DC universe that doesn't have Catman, Scandal, Ragdoll et al inhabiting a dark little corner of it.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

TV of 2011

2011 is nearly over, and it's time for me to reflect on the televisual year that was. One thing to note, looking at my list, is that this wasn't a great year for American TV. Having said that, I haven't seen Once Upon A Time yet or American Horror Story, both of which look like they could be good. But out of what aired in 2011 on British TV, here's my top 10, in reverse order for added tension!

10. Misfits series 3

This is much lower down my list than it was last year. Lets be honest, Misfits lost some of its mojo in series three. Was it because Nathan left? Maybe not. Joe Gilgun stole the entire series as "the new guy" Rudy, with his inventive split-personality power, cheerleader phobia and love of frozen treats.In fact, it was the power-swapping that really messed up the show. Their powers were demoted from clever metaphors for the personalities to just a side-note that can be swapped when they need new ones. The new powers, bar Curtis' gender-swapping ability, left little room for exploration. The series makes the list for a few genius things alone: Rudy, Kelly's delivery of "fucking Nazis", the zombie episode and the brilliant, brain-hurting, tear-jerking finale that makes you instantly want to rewatch series 2.

9. Smallville series 10

Here's where it all ended for Smallville, that loyal little show that's been with me my entire adult life. Clark Kent finally donned the red and blue and Lex Luthor returned from the dead (and conveniently lost his memory). Some characters unexpectedly died and some unexpectedly survived. Just about anyone who ever had a role in the show returned, and even if Darkseid was a complete wash-out, who cares? We got Brainiac 5, Emil Hamilton singing Elvis, Hawkman being awesome, Jimmy Olsen returning (and looking an awful lot like his big brother), Michael Hogan back in an eye patch, Justin Hartley dressed as a showgirl and the Superman theme tune. Good times.

8. The Shadow Line

A compelling, grown-up drama, billed (optomistically) as the British Wire. It's not that good, and in fact it occupies a stylised universe all of its own rather than The Wire's brutal realism, but it boasted one of the best casts of the year including the scene-stealer of 2011, Stephen Rea as the unexpectedly terrifying Gatehouse. The resolution was a little odd, but it kept you guessing until the very end with its nicely cyclical twist. In the words of BSG: "All this has happened before..."

7. The Crimson Petal and the White

My obligitory period drama of the year. This dark, disturbing drama is only three episodes long but it will change the way you look at Victorian dramas. It out-Dickens Dickens in the misery stakes and shows just about every character you care about being totally screwed over by the patriarchal Victorian system. Romola Garai's got to be a shoo-in for a BAFTA for her role as justifiably vengeful prostitute Sugar.

6. Fresh Meat

My comedy-drama of the year, this proves that I was onto something all those times that I said someone should make a show about students. Okay, so Kingsley and Josie let the side down a little, but Howard, Oregon, JP and Vod are surely four of the characters of the year. Jack Whitehall surprised everyone by being good (especially since he had the difficult job of making a posh twat loveable) but Zawe Ashton deserves all the plaudits for her intoxicated, bewildered, rambling Vod. It's a rare show where the girls get to be as funny as the boys.

5. The Fades

This was the most exciting new British series of the year and it still doesn't have a second series commissioned. Yes, it loses points because the nerdy banter between the two teen leads is from circa 1999, but a mundane 'I see dead people' show evolved into a daring, morally complex, thrilling drama. Characters drop dead all over the place, Iain De Caestecker and Daniel Kaluuya made a hell of an impact and Angelic Neil was easily the most bat-shit crazy character of the year. If it doesn't get a second series it'll be an outrage.

4. Merlin series 4

This series marked a watershed for the family-friendly show that's grown up with its audience (and cast). The world of the show was turned upside down with episode 3 and gave the show a much-needed shake-up. It's not 'safe' anymore - characters die, betray and get hurt. It still has the odd weak episode and it's a shame that the focus seems to be moving away from Merlin and the compelling Colin Morgan and towards Arthur, but this was their best series yet.

3. Being Human series 3

This was the final series of Being Human as we know it. After the disappointment of series 2, this series really stepped up a gear with Robson Green surprising everyone as a suspicious werewolf, Mitchell going to alarming lengths to protect his dark secrets, and the ticking time bomb that is amnesiac Herrick in the attic. Series 3 was 6 episodes of pure tension with a heart-wrenching finale that brings everything back to the central relationship between the werewolf, the ghost, and the vampire who, try as he might, was always just a little bit less human than them.

2. Doctor Who series 6

The Moffat/Smith dream-team really hit their stride this year, with Matt Smith just getting better and better, Karen Gillan finally making Amy likeable and Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill doing sterling work. This was the year of the River Song mystery, but it was two intelligent, powerful stand-alone episodes by Neil Gaiman and Tom McRae that the series will really be remembered for.

1. Game of Thrones

The most addictive, compelling new show of the year, stuffed with cliffhangers and jaw-droppng shocks (for those of us who haven't read the books). It's fantasy in the same way that BSG was sci-fi, in that it's really about politics and human nature. It's gorgeous to look at and boasts an amazing cast (albeit one that gets killed off at a rate of knots), and is the best show on TV for playing 'spot the obscure British TV actor' (it's Chris from Skins! It's that bird off Hollyoaks! It's... Jerome Flynn?!?) I'm eagerly anticipating series 2.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

What's happened to Merlin?

Merlin has always been one of my chief guilty pleasures, emphasis on 'guilty'. It's the sort of thing you create entire cover stories for. "I'm just going upstairs to watch, erm, a DVD", or "I just stumbled across it, I'm not really watching it". But now, with series four getting better viewing figures than ever (helped, admittedly, by a lacklustre showing from X Factor), it's actually getting close to Doctor Who-level viewing figures, but still with half the critical praise and about a tenth of the column inches. (And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Merlin is better than Doctor Who - I'm not going that far!) Merlin is one of the very few shows to have grown year-on-year, gaining in popularity all the time, and actually getting better as it grows up. Most shows are a shadow of their former self by their fourth year, while Merlin just seems to be shedding puppy fat.

When it started it was one of a raft of Saturday tea-time shows that sprung up to replicate Doctor Who's success. Where Robin Hood, Demons and, to a lesser extent, Primeval failed, Merlin kept going. It was a simple idea, kind of a Smallville-does-Camelot, exploring the famous characters of Arthurian myth when they were ridiculously hot 20-somethings. Merlin and Guinevere are servants while Arthur and Morgana are spoilt royals, living under the roof of the all-controlling, magic-hating King Uther. The creators cast largely unknowns, with Richard Wilson drafted in as Gaius to tempt the older fans and Anthony Head as Uther to appeal to the nerds. The show cleaved to a quest-of-the-week format and managed some impressive special effects and action sequences. But the makers soon realised that it wasn't the monsters or Morgana's impossibly gorgeous gowns that were drawing in the viewers - it was the chemistry between Merlin and Arthur.

By the end of series one it was clear that Colin Morgan could act a bit (hell, any Whovian could've told you after his brief showing in the episode Midnight that he could act). The jury, however, was still out on Bradley James' Arthur. He was good in the part, but I'm not sure that cocky, series one Arthur was much of a stretch for him. What was undeniable, though, was that somehow magic happened when the two of them were on screen together. They bounced off each other effortlessly, playing to each other's comic strengths and creating a touching, slow-build and very British friendship that practically defines bromance.

The one accusation, though, was that nothing ever changed in the world of Merlin. Morgana never goes evil, Arthur never becoems king and no-one ever finds out that Merlin has magic. But come series four - well, two out of three ain't bad. Morgana, after spending all of series three slinking around the castle doing sneaky things and unleashing her Smirk of Evil, is now living in a witchy shack, wearing a tonne of black lace and plotting world domination. It might not be an entirely believable character transition, but Katie McGrath is undoubtedlty having a whale of a time and has actually come into her own this series. (I've also just seen a video of her raving about Firefly and Nathan Fillion, so she's alright in my book!)

And as for 'King' Arthur, the show's biggest ever change came in one bold - but necessary - move: they killed off Uther. Anthony Head has been missed, but his death not only provided one of the most tear-jerking moments in the show, but it allowed Bradley James to finally prove that he's picked up some acting chops along the way. It was a stunning, Howard Overman-penned episode, perfectly balancing the tonal ups and downs before ending it with the spectacularly feel-good moment of Arthur's coronation, and Merlin's proud, shining face yelling "long live the king!" many shows would have saved that for the final moment of the final episode, up there with Clark Kent dashing out of the Daily Planet and ripping his shirt open to reveal the S shield on his chest. Merlin, however, knocked it out in episode three of series four.

It marked a watershed for the show. This series, airing at the later time of 8pm, has been noticeably darker. Gone are the silly fart gags of earlier series', replaced instead by torture, death and betrayal. The Guinevere/Lancelot plot has also been carried out now, even if they did cop out by introducing an element of magical control. I guess they just figured that kids wouldn't be able to quite get their head around Gwen loving two men at the same time, which is fair enough. The Knights have had a bigger role to play this series, and Adetomiwa Edun even got the chance to show us that he's not as bland as his character would often have you believe.

Which isn't to say that comedy has been abandoned altogether. A Servant of Two Masters is basically a comedy tour de force from Colin Morgan playing about three different characters and the writers seem to have been doing more slash-baiting than ever this series, including a roll around in bed, a trouserless tussle and, in a move which must surely be the pinnacle of all slash-baiting ever, a trouserless Arthur spinning Merlin around over a table to get at something he's hiding behind his back. Honestly, they're just seeing how much they can get away with.

But they've kept Merlin and Arthur's relationship at the forefront, even with all the Gwen/Lancelot stuff going on. Merlin might be a sword and sorcery show, but the thing that gives it crossover appeal is that what it's really about is two best mates, winding each other up, bickering, defending each other and being very reluctant to do anything quite so girlie as actually admit that they're friends. In an American show they would hug and declare manly hetero love for each other. In a British show, they just take the piss out of each other relentlessly. It might just be the best portrayal of a quintessentially British friendship ever.

The series four finale may even break the third Merlin taboo, and have Arthur actually find out that his loyal servant is the most powerful sorceror in the world and can also control dragons, you know, just for good measure. But then what would they have left to do in series five? Which, already, I can't wait for. Finally, Merlin is good enough that I can actually list it as one of my favourite shows without adding "yes, I know it's a kids show" or "I only watch it because they're hot". Hooray!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Smallville - Providing guilty pleasure since 2001

Remember when Smallville first started? The outcry over Lex Luthor being Clark's teenhood best friend? The cringing at the over-egged dialogue and tiresome freak-of-the-week guest stars? Well, somewhere along the way Smallville became the longest running continuous sci-fi series of all time. I've spent ten years of my life laughing out loud at ridiculous plot developments and Tom Welling's uncanny resemblance to a red setter and declaring that it really is an awful programme. But somehow, despite (or possibly because of) all of that it became one of my favourite shows. And tomorrow its final ever episode airs in the UK. So just how did the show that gave us the frankly insane Lana-as-evil-reincarnated-witch arc become such an institution?

Well, it's Superman, isn't it? That guarantees an audience right off the bat. Hell, that's the only reason I watched it, so I could point at the screen and go "hey, it's Perry White/J'onn Jonz/Ma Hunkel!" But for the first few series you'd be forgiven for not even realising that it was a Superman show were it not for the regular shots of the Kent Farm sign and the lumps of green rock everywhere. The meteor freaks were a canny idea initially, but one that quickly made the show a little stale.

In fact, the show only really stepped up a gear once it found the confidence to embrace its comic book roots and start introducing recognisable heroes and villains like Aquaman, Green Arrow and Brainiac. But it seems a shame to disregard the weaker, repetitive high school series' for one very big reason:

Lex Luthor.

The character whose inclusion caused the most ire among the fans was probably the thing that saved the show from cancellation. Or more accurately, Michael Rosenbaum was. Despite a script that never once remembered that Lex is the smartest man on earth, and which had him pinballing between good and evil twice an episode, Rosenbaum somehow managed to turn in the best portrayal of Luthor yet seen on screen. His development from unloved, lonely but somehow hopeful young man into the supervillain of legend was far more interesting than Clark's development into Superman.

He was helped by John Glover's bonkers, over-annunciating performance as the gloriously-haired Lionel Luthor, and between them the two of them created the most compelling moments of the show, from Lionel realising just how badly he's damaged his son in the brilliant Memoria to Lex declaring "No one will even remember your name" before Lionel takes an unplanned dive off LuthorCorp.

Unfortunately, Rosenbaum was so good that he skewed the balance of the show. As far as I was concerned, Lex was a lovely bloke before Clark came along and made him evil. It's a shame the writers lacked the patience to show Lex on a slightly more believable descent into bitterness, jealousy and villainry. Instead, they just decided somewhere between series five and six 'okay, he's a baddie now'. It's no surprise really that Rosenbaum jumped ship after series seven.

But, in a strange way, his departure actually evened the show out. It forced the rest of the cast to step up. And while Tom Welling never became a great actor (he did become a pretty good director though...) the others all over time really upped their games. Rosenbaum's departure also coincided more or less with Lana's, which was the best thing that ever happened to Smallville.

With the high school chaff well and truly sorted (Sam Jones III's awful Pete Ross didn't even make it to graduation) Smallville was - after a brief and disasterous flirtation with college - able to finally grow up. Allison Mack's always brilliant Chloe shouldered the heavy emoting while Erica Durance's Lois evolved from an annoyance to the driven, spunky reporter of legend. With the addition of the excellent Justin Hartley's Oliver Queen (he of the flawless comic timing and rarely-clothed chest) the cast moved into something approaching, well, good.

In its last few years Smallville often ran with arcs that never quite worked (Doomsday) and special guests that spectacularly failed to be special (Black Canary was awful - no wonder they did away with her relationship with Ollie), but it finally rose above the tackiness that mired it in earlier series'. It pulled off a stone-cold classic with the should-have-been-terrible Justice Society two-parter. It even made Hawkman cooler than he's even been in comics.

In the latter half of the Smallville's run, I found myself wishing the show would become more of an ensemble piece and give more screen time to excellent bit-part players like Phil Morris as the criminally under-used John Jones, Kyle Gallner as Bart Allen, Pam Grier's Amanda Waller, Eric Martsolf as Booster Gold and Alessandro Juliani's Emil Hamilton. But the show always stuck a little too closely to its main character - Clark. Which didn't stop Justin Hartley from gleefully stealing the show on more than one occassion.

Smallville always punched above its weight visually, with gorgeous cinematography and excellent special effects. It took a while for the production team to put as much effort into the scripts and actors, but eventually they did and after ten years I have developed a respect for a show that I used to laugh at and now laugh with. It's even given me some geek-out moments to treasure, loving nods to the hardcore fans like Lex's nightmare vision of himself as a white-suited President and the line "Perhaps Brainiac 5 will be an improvement."

I can't believe that Warner Bros haven't already rushed to fill the Smallville-shaped hole with a Justice League spin-off. It's a shame that DC, for now, have lost an ideal gateway to bring new fans into their universe. I never thought I would one day lament the loss of Tom Welling from my TV schedule. But I'm really going to miss Smallville.