Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The One That Got Away

It's common knowledge (or received wisdom) that for every film that gets made, the are 5000 screenplays that get left on a shelf; some because they are awful, but a goodly proportion for no particular reason other than being the wrong script at the wrong time.

Even a writer with an established reputation - Ray Bradbury, to pick an example at random! - can suffer this same fate. Although Bradbury has more than a handful of credits on completed feature films (Moby Dick, Something Wicked This Way Comes to name but two), he has his name on a large number of unfilmed scripts. Some of these have begun to appear in print in limited edition volumes from Gauntlet and Subterranean.

I have recently been studying Bradbury's unfilmed screenplays for The Martian Chronicles. Two of these have been published in the so-called The Martian Chronicles: the Complete Edition - these are a script from c.1965 which was written for Alan J. Pakula and Robert Mulligan, and a script from 1997 which was written for Paramount. The Complete Edition won't give you any of these details. Nor will it tell you that Bradbury wrote at least two other script version of The Martian Chronicles. Far from being "complete", that volume gives merely an (unexplained) glimpse at a substantial amount of script work Bradbury carried out between approximately 1958 and 1997.

I will be presenting a paper on these unpublished and unfilmed screenplays at a conference in a couple of weeks. The conference theme is the "invisible" nature of the screenplay, and my paper is titled "I Live By The Invisible: the Published and Unpublished Screenplays of Ray Bradbury". You can find my abstract on the conference website.

In case you are thinking a script is a script is a script, I can report that Bradbury seems to treat The Martian Chronicles differently each time he adapts it. Sometimes this may be because of the medium and format - a TV mini series will offer different opportunities than a two-hour feature film - and sometimes because of external factors. And in case you are still thinking a script is a script is a script, take a look at this delightful article on how strange (and terrible) some great movies could have been, if early drafts of the script had been used.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Past Futures

Back in 1963, we had barely left the confines of Earth. The Mercury program was underway, and a few Moon probes had been flung toward our natural satellite. With the developing space age, the media were beginning to pick out certain figures from the science fiction field who appeared to have some expertise in envisaging the future.

Somewhat oddly, given his lack of interest in technical and hardware matters, Ray Bradbury became one of the leading representatives of the SF community in media coverage of the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo programmes. Another, more logical choice for such a role was Bradbury's friend Arthur C. Clarke: not only an SF writer, but something of a scientist and "inventor" of the geostationary communication satellite.

Which brings me to a fascinating piece of television history: a recently re-discovered (previously considered lost)  episode of the BBC's astronomy series The Sky at Night. Although usually broadcast only once a month, the series claims to be the longest continuously running TV show in history - and is still presented to this day by its original host, Patrick Moore (himself a science fiction writer, as well as an astronomer). What's interesting in this episode is the guest: Arthur C.Clarke. Clarke talks about all manner of proposals for bases on the Moon and Mars. It all sounds so logical, obvious, and inarguable... and yet most of what Clarke predicts did not come to pass. Because we got bored with the Moon shortly after Apollo 11!



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Listening

There's a lot of Bradbury audio material freely available out there, especially radio drama adaptations from the 1950s. Many of these are of a dubious copyright status: series such as Dimension X are generally regarded as being in the public domain in the US simply because of their age and lack of copyright renewal at the appropriate time; but in most cases the underlying Bradbury short story is still in copyright and will remain so for many years.

My own audio listings give details on all the known productions, and in some cases I have provided links to Archive.org and other places where the shows can be heard. However, I'm not too diligent lately in keeping these links up to date, so don't be surprised if some of these are broken.

Another convenient resource is this little collection of embedded links from Sci-Fi-London. If you have nothing better to do this festive season, why not just click, sit back, and listen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Classroom

Ray Bradbury's work is used in all sorts of classrooms, particularly in the US. Fahrenheit 451  is frequently adopted for Big Read programmes, and adaptations of his works (especially the short film All Summer in a Day and the graphic novel of F451) have extended his popularity.

Boston University recently published an account - in their One Day, One Class series - of how one lecturer uses the short story "I Sing the Body Electric" to illuminate ideas about robotics. Read about Joelle Renstrom's class here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hitherto Overlooked

Although I systematically scour the web for Bradbury related material, some items slip under the radar. For instance, I just discovered a podcast from 2010 reporting on Bradbury's 90th birthday party and Ray Bradbury Week. It comes from the Cinefantastique Post-Mortem series, and features Lawrence French talking about Bradbury, the celebrations, Rachel Bloom, Fahrenheit 451 and William F. Nolan.

And from around the same time comes this terrific report by Betsy Lee on a celebration screening of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Wonder Of It All

There's an excellent blog out there called Thrilling Wonder Stories. In September it carried a review of Bradbury's "Kaleidoscope", as adapted for the 1950s radio series Dimension X by George Lefferts. It also includes the episode for you to listen to.

In many ways, "Kaleidoscope" is an ideal piece for radio drama, as its impact can be carried largely through the use of voice and the odd sound effect. The story involves astronauts who become physically isolated from other, and the sense of isolation can work well on radio... which is perhaps why "Kaleidoscope" has been adaptedly repeatedly for the medium. Check out my log of Bradbury radio adaptations and see how often it appears.






Monday, December 12, 2011

New Tech, Old Tech

You may have seen the recent flap about Ray Bradbury finally authorising e-book editions of his work - apparently starting with the delightfully ironic Kindle edition of Fahrenheit 451. Here's The Guardian's report.

Many of the reports focus on the theme of F451 as being the dangers of destroying books... but overlook the key lesson of F451, which is that it's the TEXT that matters, not the physical form of the book. This, after all, is why the book people memorise the texts.

While we're thinking of Bradbury moving into the modern era, it's nice to be reminded of the mechanical means he used to create most of his works: this story shows one of Bradbury's old typewriters.

And if you think Bradbury is able to conjure up amazing images at his typewriter, just see what this other creative typist can do!

At some point in his career, Bradbury switched from manual typewriters to electric ones, although he continued to use manual portables when travelling. Some of his early '60s electric typing can be seen in the "symbolism survey" that swept across the blogosphere this last week: this article in The Paris Review tells of a series of responses a sixteen-year-old high school student received in 1963 when he wrote to famous writers. Some, such as those from Kerouac and Rand, take issue with the questions or the assumptions behind the questionnaire. Others, such as Ralph Ellison and Bradbury, take a more helpful and thoughtful line.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Travelling Far and Wide

If you happen to be in Bradbury's home town of Waukegan, Illinois, now would be a good time to get down to your local museum. The Waukegan History Museum has an Open House on Saturday, offering a chance to view an exhibit called “Ray Bradbury: Waukegan’s Influence On A Visionary”. The exhbit runs until 22 December. More details can be found here.

 And if you want to travel a bit further from home, why not consider what Mars has to offer. This selection of books from the Washington Post provides suggested reading about the red planet in fiction and fact. Top of the list? The Martian Chronicles, of course.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Becoming Ray Bradbury Reviews

I've been away from the blog for a while due to pressure of work, but I felt compelled to do an update on the reviews for Jon Eller's excellent book Becoming Ray Bradbury.

The book came out in the summer, and has been gathering positive reviews both in literary circles and in the popular press. One of the most interesting reviews is actually quite an insightful article about Bradbury, using Becoming Ray Bradbury as a springboard: it's Jamey Dunn's article for Illinois Issues, published by the University of Illinois.

The British Times Literary Supplement published a review by noted fantasy critic Roz Kaveney,  who writes "Eller's excellent account makes clear that one of the reasons why Bradbury came to seem an important new voice is that he was never as naive a writer as literary patrons such as Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley may have assumed." (This review is only viewable online if you have a paid subscription, so I am unable to provide a meaningful web link.)

Other reviews include my own here,  and these others: The Washington Post, Shelf Awareness, Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Waukegan Mural

Bradbury's home town of Waukegan, Illinois, has a brand new mural representing the town's history. The mural is on Le Opera on Genesee Street. Among the historic figures and events depicted are Ray Bradbury, Jack Benny, the Genesee Theatre, the Carnegie Library, the old and current lighthouses, and Waukegan children in silhouette - looking to the future, according to the Lake County News-Sun.
The News-Sun also has a photo gallery showing different views of the mural. The local community has been invited to come up with a name for the mural.




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Arthur Slade's DUST

A while back I believe I mentioned Arthur Slade's novel Dust, which has been compared to Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and Stephen King's Needful Things.

I haven't read Dust yet, but I have browsed the opening chapters and find it quite appealing. In fact, I was fortunate to spot that, for a while, it was available as a free download in Kindle format, which is how I came by it. (The freebie was short-lived, although it's still quite cheap as an e-book: check out the pricing at Amazon and Amazon UK.)

On his own website, Arthur Slade has posted an appreciation of Bradbury's work, which ends with a reproduction of a letter from Bradbury. Bradbury wrote to him to thank him for dedicating Dust to him. Read more here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

1974 Interview

I don't know how I managed to miss this until now, but here's a 1974 interview with Ray Bradbury. It's from a series called Day at Night, hosted by James Day, and comes from CUNY TV. CUNY uploaded this and other archive material to YouTube.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

That Was October...

Of all months, October is the one most associated with Ray Bradbury. He wrote The October Country and The Halloween Tree, and set Something Wicked This Way Comes in the month of October. As a consequence, there are more references to Bradbury on the web at this time of year than at any other time. Now it's over(!), here's a few notable pieces which appeared recently:

Claire Thompson uses The Halloween Tree as a way into a fascinating discussion of how Americans (and, presumably, the rest of us) can evaluate their neighbourhoods. With its discussion of trick-or-treating and "walkability", it taps into more than one of Bradbury's recurring concerns.

The blog Too Much Horror Fiction gives a detailed appreciation of both Dark Carnival and The October 
 Country, with some good illustrations

The Lake County Sun-Times has a photo-gallery report on this year's Waukegan Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

Halloween comes but once a year, and fortunately the traditions don't change much... so I have no reason not to pass on this five-year-old link which explains some of the significance of things we associate with Halloween. The article begins with a quote from Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, which is itself, of course, full of information about those traditions, albeit in a fictional context.

Have you ever wondered about Bradbury's own personal experiences of Halloween? When he was interviewed for Show magazine in 1964, he associated Halloween very much with his Aunt Neva, who did so much to stimulate his imagination. He also identified the significance of rituals like Halloween and July 4th to people in small towns like Waukegan:

My aunt Neva helped bring me up in a world of let’s-pretend, in a world of masks and puppets that she made, in a world of stages and acting, in a world of special Christmases and Halloweens. It was she who read me my first fairy tales, she who read Poe aloud to me when I was seven and taught me all about fabulous mythological country from which I never quite emerged. Ten years older than myself, she was more like an older and loving sister whose art-and-dressmaking studio I hung about sniffing the watercolors and oil paints. Halloweens, she dabbed me with makeup, dressed me as a witch or monster and let me scarify at her parties. She took me roller-skating on autumn nights, in the middle of empty and abandoned concrete streets far out on the edge of town where the houses had not as yet built themselves up. I went with her to collect pumpkins and cornshocks out in farmyards far beyond the city limits and helped fill her big old house with them on October evenings [...]
I suppose when you grow up in a small town rituals like Halloween and the Fourth of July mean a heck of a lot more to you. It is much more basic than in a large city. The whole image of Halloween has changed so fantastically in the last twenty-five years. It’s not the same kind of fun. It’s become a form of bribery where you go and get candy for not doing anything. Well, that to me is not what it’s all about. I like the rawness and the nearness and the excitement of death, which went with the older vision of Halloween. In fact I’ve often wanted to do a one-hour special for TV in which I’d make a comparison between Halloween as it exists today and as it used to exist in America. And the way Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico and South America, where they have the sugar skulls with your name on it, or the name of a dead loved one, and they give you a chance to symbolize and live close by death and try to understand this mystery. We’ve lost sight of it. 
("A Portrait of Genius: Ray Bradbury". Show, December 1964.)
 That idea of a TV special would eventually be realised in The Halloween Tree. Begun as a screen treatment with animator Chuck Jones, Bradbury published it as a short novel in 1972 and later adapted it...for TV.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Something Wicked

The BBC has a surprise Halloween treat this Saturday: a new radio dramatisation of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

All I know about the production is what is on the BBC web page.

SWTWC has been dramatised a few times. There was a film scripted by Bradbury (and an uncredited John Mortimer) in 1982, a play by Bradbury in 1988, and a radio production by Colonial Radio Theater a couple of years ago. Brian Sibley, co-writer of a number of Bradbury adaptations for radio and writer of the recent BBC Gormenghast adaptations, tried to raise interest in SWTWC as a "classic serial" production a few years ago, but without success.

This new production is written by Diana Griffiths, a playwright with a long list of credits for original works and adaptations. Her CV includes several items in the fantasy and SF genres, so she would appear to be an excellent choice.

You can listen to the play live on the BBC Radio 4 website at 2.30pm BST on Saturday 29th October 2011. It should then be available for catch-up listening for seven days. There is usually no geographical restriction on accessing BBC Radio broadcasts on the web.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RIP: Norman Corwin

I just heard that Norman Corwin, radio dramatist and producer-director, has passed away at the grand age of 101. Norman's career is remarkable enough in itself (I recommend the obituary in the Los Angeles Times for an overview of his life and achievements. But he also had a significant impact on the life and career of a certain Ray Bradbury.

I wish I had time to go into greater detail, but at the moment the best I can do is mention a couple of things off the top of my head:

Corwin was the one who urged Bradbury to get to New York and try to sell a book. The result of that urging was Ray's meeting with Walter Bradbury, who published Ray's first major-publisher book: The Martian Chronicles.

Corwin was originally intended to direct Bradbury's radio play Leviathan '99, which became Bradbury's first work for the BBC. As it turned out, Corwin didn't get to do the job, but decades later he was able to participate in a new radio version of the story, when Bradbury's novella version of Leviathan '99 was dramatised for radio in LA.

Friday, October 14, 2011

SF Encyclopedia Live - in beta

One of the best source books for the study of science fiction - for both the scholar and the casual fan - is The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Two print editions of the book appeared in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by a CD-ROM version. Now the SF Encyclopedia has gone online, and is freely accessible to everyone: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com

The text is a beta version: this means that the text from previous versions has been ported across, but not all entries have been updated. It also means that there may still be some formatting and factual errors, as well as glaring omissions for some modern topics.

Perhaps because his name is near the front of the alphabet, Ray Bradbury seems to have benefitted from a revised entry, although I suspect the text is little changed since the CD-ROM edition. If the editors were of a mind to be exhaustive, they might perhaps include information on some of Ray's most recent books, although many of these fall outside the SF genre. I would personally argue for some passing mention of the recent graphic novels, since they seem to have been significantly successful in market terms, and maybe a mention of "Leviathan '99", although since this novella is hidden within Now and Forever it might not be particularly visible.

There is one glaring factual inaccuracy (which I have reported): they give Ray's full name as Raymond Douglas Bradbury. Oops. Even Wikipedia knows that he has always been Ray, never Raymond!

Read the full entry here.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Jack in the Box

Production has just begun on another short film based on a Bradbury story. Jack in the Box is directed by Alex Gray as his thesis film at the Colorado Film School.

The production is being promoted at IndieGoGo, where you are invited to contribute to the film's production fund - in return for a DVD (or something better still if you offer more money).

The short story of "Jack in the Box" first appeared in Bradbury's out of print Dark Carnival, and is also collected in his (first) greatest hits compilation, The Stories of Ray Bradbury. The only previous media adaptation that I know of was a BBC radio production for the series Ray Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre.

Bradbury has given permission for this new adaptation. We can assume that the film will follow Gray's earlier short, Derek, onto the festival circuit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Who to blame, who to praise?

I recently saw this brief piece on the web which compared the novel and film versions of Something Wicked This Way Comes. The article mentions in passing that "Disney" made some changes to the story in adapting the novel to film, specifically the invention of some new minor characters.

This first made me smile, because I wondered if the author of the article was aware that the screenplay for the film was written by... Ray Bradbury himself. To "blame" Disney for the alterations seems wrong, if the original author was in control of the adaptation.

But then I had second thoughts.

Although Bradbury receives sole screen credit for the screenplay, it is no secret that the late John Mortimer carried out some uncredited rewrites, under the instruction of the film's director Jack Clayton. Without talking to Bradbury about it, or better still examining the script drafts, it's impossible to be sure how much was Bradbury's and how much was Mortimer's. Or Clayton's. Neither Clayton nor Mortimer are with us any more, so Bradbury is more or less the only one left who we could ask, with the possible exception of the film's producer, Peter Douglas.

But even if we learned whether Bradbury invented a given character himself, that wouldn't necessarily tell us what prompted him to do it. It could be his own free creative choice, or it could be at the suggestion of... "Disney".

I've been having similar thoughts about Bradbury's largely unpublished (and totally unfilmed) screen work in adapting The Martian Chronicles. I am currently studying various materials from the 1950s and 1960s, where Bradbury was attempting to work for a succession of production entities (for want of a better phrase) on bringing MC to the screen. I see an enormous amount of evolution of the script materials, but without access to script notes, correspondence, studio memos and the like, it is impossible to know for sure what motivated many of Bradbury's rewrites.



Sunday, October 02, 2011

Leiva Reviews Eller; Guardian Readers Review Truffaut

Steven Paul Leiva, the writer and producer who co-ordinated events for Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles in 2010, has written a review of Jon Eller's new book Becoming Ray Bradbury.


The review, for Neworld Review, is here.

My own review of Becoming Ray Bradbury is here, and the publisher's page for the book is here.


Meanwhile, over on The Guardian's website, the reading group for Fahrenheit 451 have been discussing Truffaut's 1966 film version of Bradbury's book. It's interesting to see how opinions remain divided on this film. On the one hand, it looks very much a child of the 1960s, but on the other hand the stylisation of the film is, I think, plainer to see forty-odd years on. My own view is that it's a fascinating film to watch, but is far from being a great film. But if you watch it in the context of the films Truffaut made before and after it, you can see how it is part of a continuum.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bradbury, Huxley, Fitzgerald and the Automobile

Writing for DC Streets Blog, Anne Lutz Fernandez discusses early- and mid-twentieth century literary uses of the car. Her reference points include Bradbury's prescient view of fast-car culture in Fahrenheit 451, as well as Huxley's satirical view of Henry Ford in Brave New World. F.Scott Fitzgerald (pictured left!) also gets a mention.

The blog post is here, and I see that Fernandez also has a book exploring these themes in more depth, Carjacked.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Short Film Win

Chris Charles' short film The Small Assassin, based on the Bradbury story of the same name, has won an award at a film festival in Illinois. It picked up a $1000 first prize at the Elgin Film Festival. The full story is here.

You can read my 2008 review of the film here, although it's possible that the version in the festival is a different edit of the film. Although the film has been in existence for a few years, it's only this year that it has had its official world premiere, and has been touring the festival circuit to some great success.

You can view the press kit for the film here, and find out more about the makers (working under the company name of Beverly Ridge Pictures) here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A.E. Van Vogt invented the term "fix-up" to describe a novel made up out of previously published short stories. It was a practice he indulged in himself, quite understandably: for writers who made a meagre living by penning short stories for pulp magazines, it was an efficient and rewarding way of keeping their work out there in hardcover or paperback.

The term is often applied to a number of Bradbury's works, including The Martian Chronicles and Green Shadow, White Whale.

It has been suggested to me that the term is sometimes less than helpful, particularly if it obscures the creative work involved in the "fixing-up" process. Certainly The Martian Chronicles is more than the sum of its parts. The stitching of that particular patchwork quilt of a novel is not utilitarian, but is an important part of the overall weave. To mix a metpahor or two.

Author Michael Swanwick has, I discover, blogged at length about the use of the term - and the abuse of the term. He says it all much better than me, with plenty of examples.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

F451 on Stage Again

A new stage production of Fahrenheit 451 is on in Bethesda, Maryland until 9 October. Not somewhere I've ever been...

Information about the production is here.

And here's the trailer!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I've been away from the blog for a while due to pressure of work, but here's a few Bradbury-related items that have been floating around the web.

Waukegan, Illinois, is about to host this years Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival. This is an annual event held in the Genesee Theatre in Bradbury's hometown. Tickets go on sale on 16 September.

Perhaps due to the recent publication of his book Becoming Ray Bradbury, a couple of short pieces by Jon Eller have appeared. The most interesting is his article for New Scientist, which looks at the influence of science on Bradbury's development. A popular caricature of Bradbury holds that he is a very unscientific writer of science fiction. Eller's article indicates that this is not necessarily so.

Another Eller piece is a short interview with Bradbury about e-books, censorship and modern technology. It first appeared in 2010. Although Bradbury comes across as a bit of a luddite, he wisely points out that "the future is too indefinite".

This point is taken up in this short article about "Way in the Middle of the Air", a chapter in the original edition of The Martian Chronicles which is usually omitted in modern editions because Bradbury realises that it has become rendered obsolete by the passage of time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

John C. Tibbetts

John C. Tibbetts is an academic and critic. Among his many writings have been interviews with and profiles of Ray Bradbury and a comprehensive review of Bradbury's filmed and unfilmed screenplays.

But Tibbetts is also an artist, who has sketched many of the famous people he has profiled, and often got THEM to sign the work. Here are a couple of his Bradbury sketches, taken from his own website:



















If you've seen a lot of publicity photos of Ray, you will recognise some of the poses which Tibbetts has adapted in his sketches.

See more of John's amazing gallery of sketches of the famous here - and read about how and why he does it here.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dandelion Wine

On Bradbury's 91st birthday (Monday of this week), it was officially announced that a deal has been completed for the production of a feature film adaptation of Bradbury's 1957 novel Dandelion Wine.

The producers of the new venture are Mike Medavoy, whose credits include Shutter Island and Black Swan, and Doug McKay.

Many times on this blog I have cautioned about getting too excited over announcements of film deals, since the vast majority of film projects (in Hollywood at least) end up going nowhere. In the case of Bradbury adaptations we have already seen announced versions of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man disappear from the radar.

What may make Dandelion Wine different is that the writer-director attached to the project is Rodion Nahapetov, who has a definite commitment to Bradbury's work. In fact, as a student in 1972 he directed a short film based around the Dandelion Wine character of Helen Bentley.

You can read more about the feature announcement here. Nahapetov's connection to Bradbury, and the development of the screenplay for Dandelion Wine is discussed on his website here.

And if you click here, you can view Nahapetov's Dandelion Wine short in its entirety. In Russian, of course!

I am indebted to Pavel for the Nahapetov links.

Monday, August 22, 2011

happy biRthdAY


Today is the ninety-first birthday of Ray Bradbury. The man just keeps going, with new works coming out all the time.

For a much better written tribute, read what novelist Alice Hoffman has to say in this tribute from the LA Times.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

UK First

The UK first edition of Fahrenheit 451 differed from the US first edition: it contained only the title story, and omitted the other stories "The Playground" and "And The Rock Cried Out". The latter stories would later turn up in Bradbury short story collections.

Such minor differences between UK and US editions are quite common in Bradbury's books, and were there from the outset - even Bradbury's first book Dark Carnival had variant contents. Sometimes differences were prompted by the post-war paper shortage that drove British publishers to keep books short, and sometimes due to Bradbury requesting the opportunity to make changes between publication of the US and UK editions.

Bradbury was significant enough to his 1950s British publishers that they would often feature his books in their newspaper advertising. He rarely got "top billing", but here's one instance where he did: Hart-Davis' ad for the first edition of Fahrenheit 451 (click to enlarge).


This ad appeared in The Guardian on 9 April 1954, and probably in other publications of the time.

Indicentally, nearly all of the books in this ad are still in print today. The exception is The Golden Honeycomb, which has been out of print for about fourteen years.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

451 in the UK

When Fahrenheit 451 was first published in the UK, it didn't exactly make a big splash with the critics. The Guardian newspaper carried a single paragraph review, part of a "books of the day" column, although it was written by a significant literary critic.

Hugh I'Anson Fausset is little known today, but was evidently an important reviewer, as suggested by the list of his critical works in his Wikipedia entry.

Here is what he had to say about Fahrenheit 451 on 23 March 1954:
Mr Ray Bradbury is reputed to write science-fiction poetically, but in Fahrenheit 451 [...] his acutely picturesque manner ill suits the dreary subject matter - future America where the firemen's duty is to burn such books as remain or be destroyed as enemies of the State by a radar-controlled Mechanical Hound. The masses have given up reading, except comics and technology. They have four-wall television and high-speed games. If without a clue to the brains in control, we are visually thrilled when the Hound is up after Montag, a rebellious fireman, and there is real gusto in the descriptions of burning.
I'm not sure what Fausset is referring to with "high-speed games". Maybe he saw premonitions of Wii and PS3 in Bradbury's writing...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Critical Judgement

Do you sometimes read a TV or film review and wonder whether the critic has been watching the same thing as you?

I had this (familiar) thought when I recently read a contemporary review of the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock Hour production of Bradbury's "The Jar". The review was written by critic Derek Malcolm in The Guardian (13 March 1964).

Malcolm is generally dismissive of the series as a whole, saying "by the end of the show one generally feels a little cheated".

Of "The Jar" in particular, he writes

The story, which may have been a good one as written by Ray Bradbury, collapsed in a sea of cliches about half way through and drowned without trace long before the end. It revolved around a simpleton who buys a mysterious bottle from a carnival sideshow [...] The jar, reckoned to hold the secret of life and death, is wrecked by his baby-doll wife, so he ups and puts her in another one to regale the natives even further. Mock not that ye be not mocked appeared to be the moral of the piece. But it needed better handling than it got to drive the point home past the numbing tedium which spread like glue across the screen.

[...] Even old stagers like Slim Pickens and Jane Darwell were unable to retrieve the situation for more than a couple of seconds. However, one has seen better Hitchcock Hours than this. But even the best look like Hitchcock at his most glib and facile, so there seems little point in connecting him with such goggle-box ephemera at all. Maybe he needs the money.

While the Hitchcock Hours were generally not as good as the half-hour format used in Alfred Hitchcock Presents - and while I would tend to agree with Malcolm that any artistic correlation between Alfred Hitchcock, film director, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was somewhat tenuous - I can't help thinking that he has almost entirely missed the point of "The Jar". First, the show hinges on the visceral and visual fascination of the jar's mysterious contents, which drives people to do strange things. Second, the direction of the episode by Norman Lloyd is deliberately contrived to mirror the way people sit around the TV, entranced by its vague and flickering movements.

Perhaps Malcolm, being best known as a film critic, was unable to appreciate this as a particularly televisual production. Or perhaps this is a reading of the show which is more evident today than it would have been in 1964.

My own review of "The Jar" can be found here. I also have reviews of the Ray Bradbury Theatre version, and the weak 1980s Alfred Hitchcock Presents version.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Back in '53

Back in 1953, you could get a hardcover novel for $2.50... or a paperback for 35 cents. Specifically, you could get Fahrenheit 451 for those prices, in the first edition from Ballantine Books.

Strictly speaking, I suppose Fahrenheit 451 was a collection rather than a novel, since that first edition also contained two other stories: "The Pedestrian" and "And The Rock Cried Out".

Among the first reviewers of Fahrenheit was J. Francis McComas, then co-editor of the influential Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Writing for The New York Times, McComas described the book as "an unsettling experience". He characterised the book as "a polemic: moving and convincing at times, this glum portrayal of a dismal future seldom makes its appeal exclusively to the emotions."

McComas uses some extreme terms, describing the book's "virulent hatred for many aspects of present-day culture" in its depiction of "a grisly world". He does, however, acknowledge the idea as intriguing and not altogether implausible.

Ultimately, McComas finds the world of the novel to be sketchily portrayed, and particularly criticises the lack of detail in accounting for the politics behind the all-out atomic war. He also finds the characters lacking, "spare symbols whose imagined lives are curiously inconsistent with established fact."

I have some sympathy with some of McComas's observations, but I tend to disagree about the atomic war. Bradbury tells the whole story from the restricted viewpoint of Guy Montag, whose knowledge of what goes on in his world is very limited. Montag's understanding dawns slowly, and does so in what immediately surrounds him. His knowledge of government and politics is completely lacking precisely because of the lack of meaningful information allowed to citizens of 451's world.

(Source: "Nothing But TV", New York Times, 8 Nov 1953, p BR43)

Friday, August 05, 2011

By Definition

Ray Bradbury writes across many genres. I've never counted up how many stories are SF, how many fantasy, how many horror, how many "mainstream" - but I would estimate that only a small percentage are out-and-out science fiction. Bradbury himself claims that only one of his novels is science fiction: Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles, on the other hand, he considers to be fantasy. Yes, it uses the gimmicks, hardware and aliens familiar from the science fiction genre, but the overall situation of the book he considers to be impossible, and hence fantasy.

Ironic, then, that The Martian Chronicles was the book that first branded him with the science fiction label.

Bradbury's views on his own writing were being clearly expressed way back in the 1950s, and probably earlier. In 1951, the year after The Martian Chronicles was published, he was interviewed by Harvey Breit for the New York Times.

Breit systematically asks Bradbury for his definitions of SF and fantasy. Bradbury makes his distinctions clear, with this description of science fiction:

Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together [...] Science fiction is a logical or mathematical projection of the future.
And as for fantasy?
It's the improbable. Oh, if you had a leprechaun or a dinosaur appearing in the streets of New York - that's highly improbable.
In light of these definitions, it is quite clear why Bradbury continues to characterise Chronicles as fantasy and 451 as science fiction. It is evident that Bradbury's take on SF is that it is primarily about warning us about the future ("If This Goes On...", to borrow a short story title from Robert Heinlein.

Of course, 1951 was also the year of publication of The Illustrated Man, a collection of mostly SF short stories, most of which take the line of "if this goes on". In the Times interview, Bradbury says, "The mechanical age is crushing people. People are confused", and this attitude is reflected in various ways in some of the stories in The Illustrated Man and in Fahrenheit 451. It is this warning about the future that earned Bradbury another label he has struggled to shake off: as someone who is anti-science and anti-technology.

Interestingly, the Times interview ends with Bradbury showing his optimistic side: "When we move out into space, what a revolution!" he declares.

(Source: "Talk with Mr Bradbury", New York Times, 5 Aug 1951, p182)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Logan's Run - audio dramatisation

I've been listening to another Colonial Radio production: Logan's Run - Last Day.

It's a full-cast dramatisation of various story elements from the Logan books, although I gather it is more directly adapted from the comic book series from Bluewater Productions.

I haven't read the comics, so I can't comment on this aspect of the adaptation, except to say that the radio dramatisation has a breathless pace which is rather like a comic book.

Logan's Run began life in 1967 as a novel, written by two friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury: William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. (Nolan had previously been known for his Ray Bradbury Review, and Johnson had been known for his Bradbury collaboration Icarus Montgolfier Wright... and an association with The Twilight Zone, Star Trek and Ocean's Eleven.)

I don't think it's a coincidence that Logan's experience has some parallels with Montag from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: both are responsible men in neo-military organisations in a dystopian future, who come to a realisation that there is more to the world than they had imagined... and who both find like-minded others when they go off searching for a kind of sanctuary. It's actually a good template for a science-fictional story, and Bradbury, Nolan and Johnson were neither the first nor the last to exploit it.

Colonial's production is fun and not too taxing. The pseudo-historical back story for Logan's world is, I believe, modified and updated from what appeared in the novel (as, presumably, is the case in the comic-book). I didn't find it quite as profound as some of their work with Bradbury stories, but it doesn't really need to be.

I was hoping for was something that was better than both the old Logan's Run TV series and feature film. I was not disappointed.

Ordering information for the audio version of Logan's Run - Last Day is here. And for the comic book, click here!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Waukegan Revisited

Chicago literature website New City Lit has a new article on a visit to Bradbury's hometown of Waukegan. A decent enough piece, with some welcome photos, it seems to conclude that Waukegan could do more to show its respect for its famous literary son.

While it's true that Waukegan has no statue of Bradbury, it does have a park named after him, and one of five stars on the 'walk of fame' is for Bradbury. Plus there are annual events named after Bradbury - storytelling festival, writing competitions - and another named after Dandelion Wine.

My own report from Waukegan from two years ago goes into a bit more detail, here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Becoming Ray Bradbury

If you have a shelf full of Ray Bradbury's books, you may think you know his work well. You'd be wrong.

Professor Jonathan Eller of Indiana University has made it the work of a decade or so to pull off Bradbury's mask and find what's beneath. Some of this work has been done in studies of single works by Bradbury. Eller has edited, co-edited or contributed to volumes such as It Came From Outer Space, Moby Dick: a Screenplay, and The Halloween Tree. These have all revealed previously invisible aspects of Bradbury's work, by publishing intermediate aftefacts such as screen treatments, outlines and screenplays.

In his work with his Indiana colleague Prof William Touponce, Eller has substantially overturned our assumed wisdom about Bradbury's authorship. Their mammoth study Ray Bradbury: the Life of Fiction presented new readings of Bradbury's major works in light of archaeological diggings into Bradbury's typescripts and working papers. Before Eller and Touponce, we tended to assume that each book Bradbury put out was a reflection of his writing at the time of publication. After The Life of Fiction we can see that the vast majority of Bradbury's work stems from an extensive outpouring of creativity in the 1940s and early 1950s.

Eller and Touponce are continuing to "set the record straight" through their ongoing multi-volume critical edition of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury. This series of books seeks to restore Bradbury's original texts and to establish the original compositional sequence and chronology of Bradbury's short stories. It's really quite stunning to discover how many of Bradbury's classic tales were conceived or written before 1950.

Now Eller has completed a volume which serves as an excellent companion to The Life of Fiction and The Collected Stories.

Becoming Ray Bradbury is a biography of Bradbury's early career, concentrating on his creative, literary and intellectual development. It goes up to the key turning point of Bradbury's professional life: his sojourn in Ireland working on Moby Dick for John Huston. The remainder of Bradbury's career is due to be covered in a sequel volume.

There have been Bradbury biographies before, of course, most notably Sam Weller's The Bradbury Chronicles. Why do we we need another?

The answer to that one is simple. Sam Weller writes about every facet of Bradbury. Not just Bradbury the writer, but Bradbury the young film fan who hung around studio gates waiting for an autograph from W.C.Fields. Bradbury the celebrity who walked out on David Frost on the night of the Moon landing. Bradbury the friend of the stars and honoree of presidents from around the globe. All of this makes The Bradbury Chronicles a rounded and fascinating read.

But what Eller does in Becoming Ray Bradbury is carefully examine the details of Bradbury's writerly development. Here we learn of exactly what Bradbury was reading and writing during his early attempts to become a writer; of the importance of mentors such as Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett; of his encounters with the works of Steinbeck and Hemingway. Some of this is covered in Weller's book, but Jon Eller takes us deeply into Bradbury's reading and can tell us that, for example, in 1944 Bradbury read Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend and E.B. White's One Man's Meat. In many cases, he is able to tell us how and why Bradbury came to each volume: perhaps a chance discovery in a bookshop; perhaps a recommendation from friend Henry Kuttner; perhaps a gift from his wife.

Why does any of this matter? Well, because Eller is trying to piece together factors that influenced Bradbury's writing, thinking and worldview. It is clear in the early chapters that Bradbury was quite susceptible to influence from others, as we discover through the account of Bradbury's aligning himself with the "Technocracy" movement. It is equally clear that the young Bradbury was astute in making up his own mind, and having explored an idea in depth would be quite prepared to toss it aside if it was found wanting.

Becoming Ray Bradbury is particularly good in covering Bradbury's early professional years, presumably in part because Bradbury himself kept good records. (He has a reputation, to this day, of never throwing anything away.) It also gives an excellent account of Bradbury's oscillation between optimism and pessimism in terms of his knowledge and understanding of the world. Many critics are confused over this, and find it hard to reconcile a perceived "anti-science" bias in some of Bradbury's work with a profound optimism found elsewhere.

At the heart of Becoming Ray Bradbury is a pair of chapters dealing with Bradbury's "miracle year", a twelve-month period in which he submitted three of his major works: The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and "The Fireman" (the earliest published version of Fahrenheit 451.)

You can probably tell by now that I think highly of this book, but that doesn't mean I find it without its flaws and foibles, although they are really quite minor. Although it is far more detailed than The Bradbury Chronicles, it doesn't attempt to cover every aspect of Bradbury's life. For some readers - particularly those who haven't read The Bradbury Chronicles - that might make this seem an oddly-balanced volume. In fact, the book is probably best seen as complementary to The Bradbury Chronicles. I still think it will make perfect sense to anyone who hasn't read Weller.

The only other slight weakness emerges from the difficulty of trying to draw out themes from a literary career while still sticking to a broadly chronological telling of events. There are occasions where the narrative has to backtrack, and with a work as detailed as this it's easy for the reader (me, at least) to have forgotten a crucial detail from a previous chapter.

The book is very clearly written. Don't be put off that this is written by a professor, and is published by a university press. It is free of scholarly jargon and doesn't demand that you have a degree in Eng. Lit.

Becoming Ray Bradbury is a fine companion to The Life of Fiction and The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury. Together, they round out a significant re-evaluation of Bradbury's life and work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lost in Development

It's nearly four years since we read the announcements that Zack Snyder was going to direct The Illustrated Man. It's getting on for ten years since we read that, first, Mel Gibson, and latterly Frank Darabont were going to film Fahrenheit 451.

Unfortunately, that's the way it goes in the movie business. It's not that it actually takes four years (or ten years) to make a movie, just that the wheels turn ever so slowly. What I've always found most bizarre is how long Hollywood will spend trying to perfect a script... and rarely succeeding.

We know that both Bradbury himself, and Frank Darabont, have written perfectly viable screen versions of Fahrenheit 451, for example. And yet I bet - if the film ever does get made - it will be neither Bradbury's nor Darabont's name on the screenwriter credit.

According to IMDB, The Illustrated Man is now estimated for release in 2013. And Fahrenheit 451? For years, IMDB has been showing a future date. Right now it says (and I quote), "????"

The Martian Chronicles took 22 years to make it to the screen. Bradbury's first stab at adapting it (for television) was in 1957. He then wrote complete movie screenplays around 1961, 1964 and 1978. It finally got made, inadequately, in 1979, from a teleplay by Richard Matheson.

This is why I refuse to get excited when I read that Xxxx has been signed to make a film of Yyyy. There is, it seems, a 90% chance that it will never happen!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Brand identity

Opinions are divided on what is best in an adaptation. Ask the proverbial man on the street, and I'm sure he will tell you that when he watches a film based on a book he's read, he wants it to tell the same story. Fidelity, faithfulness to the original work, is all important.

Except: it's impossible to achieve, because what works optimally in one medium can be impossible, dull or clunky in a different medium.

And: surely, if you want the film to be exactly like the book, wouldn't you really be better off just reading the book itself.

And: how many people will have read the book anyway?

In the academic study of adaptation, the whole idea of fidelity was considered and rejected decades ago, for the reasons I've suggested above, and for a few others. Instead, what most critics are interested in is for an adaptation to give a new insight into the original work, or to make the original work newly relevant to our world.

Which brings me not to a film adaptation, but to graphic novel adaptations. This summer sees the publication of two more authorised graphic novel adaptations of Ray Bradbury novels, follow-ups to the successful adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 released two years ago.

Ron Wimberly has adapted Something Wicked This Way Comes. In a recent interview he talks about the constraints of adapting an existing work:

You won't fit everything in, but one must try to capture the spirit of the work. The spirit of literature is poetry. Poetry suggests. It's the Impressionism of literature. So I approached it like that. Things are lost, but you can always read Bradbury's original to taste the angel's share.

He then goes on to talk about how, in his first draft of the adaptation, he chose to make the key setting of the story like the "suburban wasteland" of Washington, D.C., where he grew up. Then "Bradbury's people" asked if he could make it more like the Disney movie.

Part of me would be fascinated to see Wimberly's "suburban wasteland" version of Something Wicked. If you're paying an artist good money to interpret a work, let's see his interpretation. If I want Bradbury, I can read the original novel.

But then again, this book is one of a series of volumes that announce themselves as authorised adaptations. That announcement makes a difference. It's attaching a brand to the book. It really has to be Bradbury's Something Wicked between the covers, otherwise it would be like buying a can of Heinz Baked Beans only to open it and find they taste like supermarket own brand. (No, I don't buy that theory that all baked beans are the same. Heinz' taste different, no question!)

Read the full interview with Ron Wimberly here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

RIP: Roberts Blossom

Some sad news: the actor Roberts Blossom has died at the age of 87. He was in lots of great films, usually in small, quirky roles. But for me, he is a definitive Bradbury character: the Burning Man, in J.D.Feigelson's Twilight Zone episode.

Read the New York Times obituary here - and my review of "The Burning Man" here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Theodore Sturgeon

Ray Bradbury is the focus of my academic research into the relationships between literary text and screenwriting. I've also done a bit of study of the literature and screen works of Harlan Ellison. There are a few other writers whose literary and screen careers I have tracked, although I haven't gone so far as to write or publish anything about them. In this latter category is the late Theodore Sturgeon.

Sturgeon was born a mere two years before Bradbury, and yet he so rapidly established himself as a fantasy and SF writer of quality that he was a significant influence on Bradbury's own early efforts. Like Bradbury, Sturgeon developed a reputation as a stylist. Like Bradbury, Sturgeon wrote short stories, novels and screenplays. His best known screen works were Star Trek episodes, including "Amok Time", the episode that not only took us to the planet Vulcan but showed us the curious mating rituals the Vulcan race must endure. Actually, sex and sexuality were something of a thematic preoccupation of Sturgeon's, showing up in several short stories and his novel Venus Plus X (and elsewhere).

Sturgeon was in the news recently, because his personal papers are finally being brought together into a single collection, which will be housed at Kansas University. This is excellent news for anyone researching into Sturgeon's work.

The most detailed report I have seen on this is here.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Trailers from Hell

The always entertaining site Trailers from Hell hosts commentaries on movies by movie makers and critics, and is always a good place to head when you have a spare five minutes or so.

Among the delights are director and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson reviewing the 1956 Bradbury-Melville-Huston collaboration Moby Dick

... and director and screenwriter Darren Bousman discussing the Bradbury-Harryhausen Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Anonymous Tribute

Orange County Screenwriter's Association has a tribute to Bradbury, which tells us how the writer of the article has been inspired by Ray. Unfortunately, the writer is virtually anonymous, posting as "marse". He's probably someone incredibly famous or influential, but there's no way of me knowing that...

This, by the way, is another article that gets Ray's age wrong. We're told he's already 91, but in fact this won't be the case until August.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Nod to Orwell and Bradbury

The band British Sea Power release a new single on 25 July. Taken from their current album Valhalla Dancehall, it's a song called "Georgie Ray". Georgie is a reference to George Orwell, and Ray is a reference to Ray Bradbury.

The song is a plea for us to act and speak out in order to prevent the destruction of the world. The opening lines are, "
Before this day is cemented/In memory of Ray/Can we all do something, instead of pray."

Bradbury is also echoed in the lines "Can we all sing electric, On the sun?"

According to thedigitalfix, this is what the band's frontman has to say about the Orwell and Bradbury connection:

"Sometimes,” says BSP frontman Yan, “you end up thinking science fiction is all Star Trek and Buck Rogers, but great writers wrote sci fi too. In this song George Orwell and Ray Bradbury are combined into one person. It’s a song that looks into the possibly doom-laden future of nowadays and optimistically hopes for something better."

You can listen to the song for free on the band's official website (look for the PLAY button next to the song title "Georgie Ray").

The lyrics can be seen here (albeit with some differences to what is actually sung on the track).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bradbury as Verbal Architect

Thanks to Jeff Krulik, here are two video features from the National Trust for Historic Preservation featuring interviews with Ray Bradbury. In the first, he proclaims himself to be a "verbal architect". And in the second, he tells the story of the legendary "Brown Room" at Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. Trust Modern recognizes this space as an unheralded landmark, important to the history of American literature.













You can read more about Clifton's Cafeteria and its historical significance here and here.






Monday, June 27, 2011

List

There should be a little thumbnail image just here, but Blogger's image uploading facility wasn't working when I tried to post this. Anyhoo...

Here's an amusing little item from the website Timothy Sweeney's Internet Tendency: a list of things overheard on Ray Bradbury Theatre. I can't swear that these are all genuine, but they have the ring of truth - and that's good enough for me. Here's a brief extract:

Only two people left on Mars!
Oh dear!
Kinda strange, huh?
You run ahead! Make sure it’s safe!
You down there! You there!
I’m like a window with no glass!
Got a real beauty of a letter from my Uncle George! Sure is nice getting mail.


I like that this takes the appearance of poetry. And the surfeit of exclamation marks makes it look like Ray Bradbury's poetry.

Read the entire list here.




Further to my previous post about the late Alan Neal Hubbs, I'd like to mention another online tribute to Alan. One of his regular actors, Roses Prichard, has put together a Facebook photo album with memories of their time working together. It contains lots of behind-the-scenes photos with Roses' comments. You probably need to have a Facebook account to view it, but here's the direct link.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Raydio Gaga?

I like a bit of experimental sound, and I like a bit of Bradbury. So what's not to like about Raydio Broadcasts, a "series of audio vignettes based on recombining and rearranging bits and pieces from Ray Bradbury's huge output of inspiring literature"?

According to their creators, Charles Rice Goff III and Justynn Tyme, the collection called Mrs Morris Goes to Mars came about like this:

We sampled bits from radio, television, and movie adaptations of Bradbury's works. We read and caused computer voice emulators to read brief excerpts from Bradbury's stories. We cut and pasted bits from Bradbury's recorded interviews.

We combined these Bradbury samples with samples from other media sources and with original "music" to produce six recordings, each of which tells a unique story that provides listeners with a variety of interpretations. I should emphasize here that we make no claims on the copyrights of any of these sampled materials. What we have achieved here is purely an experiment in art and is in no way a capitalistic enterprise.

You can here their...strange...concoctions on Archive.org, where the entire collection is available for listening and download.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RBT: Top Ten Episodes

Someone over on IMDB has posted a list of their top ten episodes of Ray Bradbury Theatre. It's an interesting list, and inevitably got me thinking about my favourite episodes.

In some cases, "best episode" would coincide with "best story" - but in other cases, this simple equation doesn't hold. There are great stories that made good episodes, such as "The Long Years" and "A Sound of Thunder"... but also great stories that didn't turn out so well on screen, such as "Skeleton" (which I tend to think is almost unfilmable), "The Man Upstairs" (just too badly made) and "Tyrannosaurus Rex" (please don't make me watch that one again).



The best episodes strike a happy balance of fulfilling our memory of the story, but surprising us with something unexpected in the plotting, shooting or - more often than not - in the casting or performances. I quite like "Gotcha" and "The Crowd", although they both look quite dated. "The Small Assassin" never fails to hold my attention, largely thanks to Cyril Cusack's turn as the doctor. "Mars is Heaven!" is just about as good as it could be on TV - although I think radio is capable of doing this story more effectively. And "Emissary" and "By the Numbers" are always watchable.



Looking over the entire episode list again, I am reminded that Ray Bradbury Theatre started with great promise - look at the cast list: William Shatner, Jeff Goldblum, Drew Barrymore! It then shifted in subsequent seasons into a really mixed bag of international co-productions, with dreadfully variable production values. But toward the end, it hit its stride, and produced some strong, consistent episodes.

What are your top ten episodes?