Sunday, March 27, 2011

27 March 2011: Netflix

We've had Netflix for a year or so now and still finding new things to see. Gloria is steadily working through the recent BBC version of Robin Hood and I've been ploughing through the back-catalogue of Doctor Who for quite some time.

It began around the time Hannah was born - I saw that along with all the 'new' Doctor Who (ie post-2005) there was a pretty decent selection of the 'classic' series represented there. And at 4am, after the re-runs of the Dukes of Hazzard have finished (which, by the way, is a whole other story: I don't recall it being quite so cartoonish, but it was) and there's nothing on TV but random shopping channels (and yet the baby continues to scream and head-butt her father), there's not much else to do but put on Netflix (on the Wii, by the way, which is a fine development) and see what's out there. Messrs Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker (T), Davison, Baker (C) and McCoy were willing to oblige.

Began by watching a few I remembered - mainly early Davison outings (I realised the series I watched most intently was the first one after Davison took over when I was about six) - and these were pretty good. Then onto some very early ones - in fact, the first story, in which Hartnell takes two nosy schoolteachers back in time ten thousand years, which was really quite enjoyable.

Troughton next, and he was a bit rubbish in my opinion compared with the press he gets about being one of the better ones. The one where they go into the Void and Jamie gets replaced by another actor for an episode was very weak. 'Tomb of the Cybermen' - said to be a firm favourite of current doc Matt Smith - was confused and showed the Doctor more as a victim than anything else. 'The Krotons' gave a little room for hope (mainly because Zoe was in it and she was portrayed as more intelligent than Troughton's Doctor) but overall they were ok at best.

Pertwee came in with a bang - 'Spearhead From Space', his first story from 1970 (and the first in colour) took a while to get used to (they really did try to make Doctor Who into James Bond for a while, didn't they?) but overall was superb. UNIT over-feature of course, but the ones Netflix had for me to 'Watch Instantly' were a clear step forward from the Troughton disappointment for me. There's one I've yet to see - The Green Death (where Jo Grant leaves) but I've now seen the three or four others they have on Netflix and overall it's pretty good. Even 'The Three Doctors' was worth watching again (saw it on YouTube once) but sad to see Hartnell so ill by that point and looking to one side to read his cue cards all the time.

Then came Tom Baker, and the person at Netflix in charge of Doctor Who clearly prefers Tom to any of the others. Plenty to view (although Genesis of the Daleks is DVD-only so I've not ordered that one yet, having seen it a couple of times before) and obvious to see the highs and lows as the time progressed. The early ones with Harry and Sarah-Jane were pretty decent but allegedly the best era (with Leela) was disappointing. 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' is viewed as being possibly the best Doctor Who story ever by a lot of reviewers but was ok at best - knocked spots off Troughton's stories but fell short of Pertwee's best - whereas 'The Horror of Fang Rock' (an attempt by perennial script-writing disappointment Terrence Dicks - seriously, did he ever write anything good - to get in on the 'horror'-genre Doctor Who stuff) was a slow-moving boring waste of time.

Netflix had (for a few months) the entire 1978 season - 'The Key To Time' - available for instant view, so Hannah's early mornings enabled me to watch those straight through in about a week. And in there lay the best ever as far as I'm concerned - 'The Pirate Planet' by Douglas Adams, a decent-paced imaginative (yet not confusing) story, with a few twists on the way and some superb humour, including K-9 as a hunting dog who eventually returns with the pirate captain's robot parrot impaled on his telescopic nose.

Goes downhill fast after 1980 came along and John Nathan-Turner took over the production. Baker's last season was disappointing - a shadow of the former Doctor - and despite some interesting early outings for Davison, it was downhill. 'The Caves of Androzani' - Robert Holmes' only story for Davison - was pretty strong (not as great as everyone makes out), mainly because it was so bleak and hopeless for the characters involved. And then Davison regenerated into Colin Baker and that was that. Sheesh, was that ever that.

Netflix had only one Colin Baker story for instant view - 'Vengeance on Varos' - which was unutterably awful. It was a one-dimensional story involving running around corridors and being periodically caught, with no subtext, subplot or anything else beginning with sub. It stank. Nicola Bryant's clothing appears to be the only reason the ratings didn't completely collapse. If Pertwee and Baker (T) proved anything, it's that to some extent you have to be able to *like* The Doctor. Colin Baker's Doctor was generally unlikeable in any manner at all.

Then finally we came to Sylvestor McCoy, who (as I think I've said before) had two pretty dreadful series before the final one picked up a good bit in terms of storylines. Indeed, some of the darkest, most interesting Doctor Who stories are from McCoy's last season. Two problems though: (1) it was on against Coronation Street on ITV on a Monday night and (2) - and this is the new one for me having the blessing of Netflix - the production values were still stuck in the 1960s. Not even the 1970s. It was so low-budget that the fascinating stories just get lost in the cheap sets and poor-quality explosives, and as a result it's not Drama any more. It's not Children's TV. It's not Horror (which, at its best, Doctor Who is). It's not Comedy. It was just disappointing, such a far cry from The Pirate Planet of 11 years previously.

And so it was cancelled by the BBC. And despite various attempts to resurrect it, nothing new came on the screen until 1996. And *that* was supposed to be the theme of this blog, but I just realised I bored you senseless with the preceding essay so I'll stop for now. 'Doctor Who - The Movie' is available on DVD from Netflix and last night I watched it, along with a couple of documentaries on the DVD Extras. And it was interesting, and for different reasons than I remember.

But more on that later... for now just know that if you have a new-born baby who wants to cry at night and head-butt you, Netflix can be your friend in so many ways.

Postscript: Nothing new on Plymouth Argyle as they limp onwards towards something. The creditors may this week end up in court over a fake valuation on Home Park that they did a while ago, but we'll see.

Friday, March 18, 2011

17 March 2011: Nope

Administrator Brendan Guilfoyle hoped to announce a preferred bidder for Plymouth Argyle today. Or at least announce that there is a preferred bidder, even if the name wasn't revealed.

But of the four bids that came in on Monday, none have the money ready to take over. And the Administrator can't take on legal responsibility for paying the wages of the club with no means of paying the staff.

So today he asked the staff to sign contracts saying they wouldn't be paid for March and April, and if they couldn't sign the contracts, they had to leave today. Some did, some didn't. If enough don't, there'll be nobody to make Saturday's game go ahead.

The Administrator said he'd like the game on Saturday to go ahead, to show bidders that there's life in the old club yet. But as of right now, we're beyond the stated finish line and the 124-year-old club teeters on the brink of liquidation. And all for the greed of seven men who bet everything - including a 'model'-run middle-league club just five or six years ago - on a World Cup bid and some non-existent Japanese millions.

Negotiations continue, say the journalists. But right now, it looks pretty dark.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

8 March 2011: Deadline

Minutes from a meeting between the Administrator of Plymouth Argyle and representative of various supporter groups have been placed on (the new-look) PASOTI.

Among other matters discussed were a variety of sensible and silly ways to get more money out of the fans, and the fact that the Youth Development Trust Charity (PAST&DT), set up to save Argyle from Dan MacCauley all those years ago, donated £300k to the club as a 'loan' a couple of weeks ago and, already, "it's gone". Roll on an investigation from the Charity Commission...

But the main thrust is this: if there's no buyer by 17 March, the plug will be pulled and Plymouth Argyle will be no more. The Administrator is currently working with no funds, and if nobody comes in to fund the administration (let alone the club) by that point, that will be it.

And what are the chances? No idea - it's very hard to tell, and from the Saints experience it would seem that we shouldn't know... any bidder who comes into the public domain is usually a charlatan. So from that point of view, it's good that nobody appears interested... right? Officially, three interested parties, and it will be at least Monday before a 'preferred bidder' is identified. OK, but Monday is the 14th. That is three days before the deadline.

I'll be in Louisiana next week as we visit the family down there. I may not be sleeping much Wednesday night.

Friday, March 04, 2011

4 March 2011: High Court

Plymouth Argyle Enter Administration - latest from Matt Slater's Twitter. Updates include the fact that the Directors voted for Admin, therefore they appointed the administrator... their barrister then related that fact to the court as it continued in session. Presumably this was to pre-empt HMRCs actions of appointing their own administrator. The court then denied the HMRC petition, so that's that for the day in court.

Brendan Guilfoyle, the Administrator favoured by the Argyle board, arrived at Home Park around 2pm. He's done other football-related admins - most notably Crystal Palace - so does seem to be a good choice. Would appear that HMRC's actions got Argyle into admin, but not with the administrator the taxman would have ideally liked.

Still, it's the next step in the process. Maybe the mess that is the current Board of Directors can get cleaned up without destroying the club in the process...

Earlier Post:
Argyle somewhat surprised to be in the High Court today.

Yesterday one of the PASOTI spods found Argyle were listed as appearing there today, rather than next week (for appointment of administrators or otherwise) but instead HMRC (UK taxman) took them to court today to see if (1) they could get a new winding-up order issued and (2) if they could get the court to appoint their favoured administrator rather than Argyle's. (See the Pompey scenario for why HMRC don't like other people's administrators).

As I write, HMRC have told the court that one way or another Argyle will be in admin by end of day, and the hearing has been adjourned until 2pm UK time (9am over here... 15 mins from when I write this).

More one for twitter than blogger I think - Matt Slater covering for BBC, and a good overall search here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

2 March 2011: Futile

Matt Slater has penned an interesting, if depressing, summary of the Argyle situation here.

The main thing seems to be that nobody has either the money or the inclination to stop the club falling into administration or worse. Ridsdale has walked out (third time that's happened? Don't really believe him any more... if I ever did...) saying the Directors are all just doing in-fighting and nobody is actually trying to solve the problems.

The Japanese have a new investor in their ranks and he has sent over 1.4 million quid.. but not to Argyle, instead to the club's lawyers. They are holding it until the local directors put in 50k each, at which point the funds will be released.

But all that will happen is that they'll then pay January's wages with it (maybe February's too) and then owe a huge tax bill on it.

And with the ten day grace period following the Notice To Appoint An Administrator up on Monday, and only a fifty-fifty chance of getting it extended by another ten days, many Argyle fans are saying this is probably the darkest moment so far in the saga.

There's no intrigue or corruption undertones like with Pompey, there's no wealthy fans who may or may not be interested like with Saints... just a nice family club that's been run into the ground by greedy opportunists who saw a potential World Cup bid and put all Argyle's eggs in that ridiculous-sounding basket.

Latest rumour is that Argyle can't even afford to appoint an administrator. If that's the case, the end may be a lot nearer than we think.