Following the success of Masters of Horror in which acclaimed horror movie directors were given a slice of TV to play with and the 'hey it wasn't so bad, but lacked any Soul' remake of Salem's Lot Americans have been treated to a new series with the rather long title of Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King. It sports a decent enough cast (William H Macy leads one episode) and films some of King's better short stories along with some of his newer bits and bobs. It normally wouldn't fit into our remit here on Londonist, but they only went and made something called 'Crouch End' so we were duty bound to watch and see what was what.
What it was was bad.
American Honeymooners Doris and Lonnie start off likeable enough (they'd rather have sex than go to the Victoria & Albert museum for example), but it soon becomes clear that Doris is superstitious enough to be annoying and her hubby is a bit of a tool. But we're not watching this for character development; we wanted to see what London was like. We'll its sunny. Very sunny. Not just the 'oh my God make it stop' sunshine of late, but a more 'this doesn't look a bit like London' sort of sunshine. Turns out the thing was filmed in Australia.
They do have a lot of trappings to make it look a bit like London though. If you squint. Or have had a stroke. Bobbies in the background for example. Bobbies with badges on their helmets that are so big that they hang off the side, but bobbies nevertheless. Then there are the black cabs. The first cabbie is hilarious as he warns the couple not to go to Crouch End in a rather bizarre Jamaican accent with Reggae blaring out past his shocked expression. It seems that strangers just don't go to Crouch End. Dun dun der!
Once they're in the second cab it seems the makers of the show just give up as a parade of Australian cabs go past. They do mock up some Evening Standardish headlines for something called the London Chronicle, but they're displayed outside a Milk Bar - 'Sixty Lost in Underground Horror' is a very ES sounding panic mongerer though. Oddly Doris is more freaked out by that headline than the gang of werewolf looking bikers they pass. Things just get daft from this point on as weird cabbie, "It's Archibald, Ma'am, but everyone calls me Archie", starts giving the couple a local history lesson.
"You see London is laid out like no other city - more like it hatched and meandered a street pattern than it planned one"
"It's because the street were paved over barriers"
"Barriers between what is rational and what is not".
At this point we'd get out and walk too. Big mistake as it turns out. King's watered down version of HP Lovecraft slowly takes over as the bickering couple walk around a deserted town that, of course, looks nothing like Crouch End, but at a high point in the proceedings hubby seems to get eaten and spat out by a hedge - now that has happened to us before. From here on in it's all cats with torn eye sockets and street urchins with talons who still insist on calling Americans 'sir'. Oh and a police station stocked with all the latest crime fighting equipment such as magnifying glasses.
The rest of the episodes can't be this bad (William Hurt fighting off murderous toy soldiers sounds good) and there's a lot more Stephen King on the way (movie versions of Cell and a remake of Creepshow among them), but we've no idea when this TNT show will air over here. Good odds that Channel Five will probably buy it though.