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3 For the Weekend: Online Wonders

Despite my pathetically limited awareness of online entertainment I wanted to share some nuggets of gold that have sifted their way to me recently. So read on for a vital new film from the extraordinary Slung Low, a soothing but addictive game, and...the future of talk shows.

Gary Whitta

Like many people, I started following Gary Whitta on twitter as he's the writer of Rogue One. He also wrote Book of Eli, but it was the Star Wars prequel that drew me in.

Gary is an interesting and entertaining fella to follow anyway, but recently he has branched out in an unexpected but wonderful way. I'm gonna assume you've heard of Animal Crossing and that you know about the possibilities of transforming your own island and meeting up with other people. Gary decided this would be the perfect setting for a talk show. And it is. I shared it on social media a few weeks ago and asked whether this new show "Animal Talking", was signposting the way for the future of talks shows. It seems that others are now taking the same view following his episode with Danny Trejo and Elijah Wood, and a show stealing turn from T-Pain on another episode.

Clip from the Danny Trejo on set.
Animal Talking

Why is it so good? It's familiar enough - there's a talk show set, a live "band", and guests join the host and sit next to him on a sofa. It's the quirks and the scope allowed by the online setting that really make it sing. Each broadcast runs over an hour and the guests aren't just swooping in to promote their latest wares. Gary is an adept host who does the questioning part with ease but also acts more like he's hosting a party in his house and doesn't want it to be all about him. He nudges the conversation along whilst also allowing little moments of magic to happen. In the episode with Elijah Wood, he tracked down and invited onto the show Jessica, who had tweeted out her turnip prices in the game and got a surprise visit from Frodo Baggins himself. On a regular show, this would be a "wow - the normal person gets to meet a celebrity" but here it was all about Jessica as we found out she'd recently graduated and that her ambition is to work in communication in the space industry. To show her excitement, Jessica's avatar simply spun round with joy. It sounds so simple. So silly. But then all of them were up and just spinning. It's lighthearted entertaining goodness and I don't think it will be going away when "real" talk shows return.

This is a real talk show. And it's really good. Check out the joyful clip below and then go follow on YouTube and Twitch. After the clip, we go from a good show, to The Good Book...

Slung Low and Leeds People's Theatre

This short film (30mins) was completed only a few weeks before the world changed and it seems absolutely of this moment in so many ways. However, this isn't a film review, if you want one though, you can fill your boots with one from The Stage and one from The Guardian. What makes this such a compelling project is the the use of just a handful of professional actors with the rest of the cast being drawn from the local community in Leeds. Slung Low are unique in their approach as a creative force as they are less theatre company, more an essential creative community hub. During the last few months they have become just full stop essential as distributors of food and clothes to those in need, as well as art gallery facilitators on the streets of Holbeck and Beeston. To get a sense of what Slung Low achieve, Amber Massie-Blomfield wrote an in depth piece that is well worth a read.

The story of The Good Book is set in my favourite era - the near future. There are two opposing factions of an impending revolution and if - like central character Avalon - you are trying to stay neutral, life and friendships can be tough when you don't know who to trust. With a group of Knights (think right wing protestors in America) riling up locals and demanding the removal of certain books that they disagree with, Avalon is drawn into the dispute via an anonymous note, and revelations from a friend outside the conflict zone.

The orchestral score and the heightened emotion of the main players reminded me of peak Doctor Who in the Russell T Davies. It wouldn't have shocked me to see David Tennant popping up and being roped in to help this alternative timeline right itself. It also had some of the hopefulness that I associate with that period of Davies' writing and the sense that good will triumph and we need to believe in "right" and "good."

I'm always a sucker for stories set outside of London and this is even more important here as it also showcases a way of telling big stories that are organically part of our everyday lives. You don't need to do outreach when you're on the inside with your community.

Watch the trailer below.

Once you've watched the film, you might want to chill out, so read on below to go with the Flow...

Playing Wipeout solid for 24hours on the Playstation in the late 90's was probably the zenith (or nadir) of my gaming career. I get easily confused and then frustrated with games that are hard or require manipulating a thousand different controls. I do however, like the sort of zen calmness you get when you can space out in a game. How about floating about as a single cell organism with calming music? Oh Flow you know me so well.

There's no peril to this game. No fighting. No missions. No dialogue.

You just...keep swimming. Let yourself languidly float up and down and round and spin. If you want, you can move a bit quicker and snack a bit faster on other small organisms so you can grow. Or you can just chill out and watch the other shapes drift by as you're lulled by the soothing music. He's me dancing about a bit as I played earlier.

Check out the other blog posts and don't forget to try the podcast for free.

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