Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Crimson Petal and the White (ep 3)

If you imagine the Victorian era as one where bitter secrets were kept hidden beneath a profusion of aspidistras (thank you Mr Orwell), utter despair masked under immaculate swathes of black mourning lace, and the sexuality of ‘respectable’ women so deeply buried they might as well be sewn into their bloomers, then The Crimson Petal and the White has all of that to a T.

There was less sex in this episode (and what action Rackham managed to get looked either extremely uncomfortable  - in an ancient, squeaky, lumpy single bed – or what was tantamount to necrophilia  - with a heavily sedated and emotionally traumatised wife) but it was an absolute corker nonetheless. My highlights included a fantastic black lace shrouded interchange between Agnes Rackham (Amanda Hale) and Mrs Fox (Shirley Henderson), whose eyes alone act the pants off most other people in the business. I also loved the echoes of Jane Eyre with Sugar moving into the spartan governess room in the Rackham household, overtly to look after his daughter Sophie, but really to be on hand for Rackham to shag at his convenience.   Continue reading

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Holby City: If something’s painful, keep your distance

(Series 13 Ep.27) Penny Valentine only died last week, so obviously her former colleagues will be suffering. It’s conventional wisdom that what they need is a bit of counselling. “I trust you cascaded  the note from HR about counselling?” Hanssen asked Jac. She sucked her cheeks in every so slightly (Jac is not one for management-speak), and replied that putting £50 behind the bar would surely be more therapeutic. She knows she’s on thin ice with Hanssen, though, so when he argued she gave in. “Okay, I cascaded, I cascaded!”

She didn’t cascade, though – whatever that means – with the result that Funny Little Nurse Tait ended up sobbing in a toilet cubicle. She takes things to heart, does FLNT, and wasn’t coping with her grief. Jac was right generally, though, as everyone else ended up at the bar at the end of the shift, raising their glasses in honour of Penny’s life. Young Dr Oliver Valentine wasn’t present as he’s presumably on bereavement leave.    Continue reading

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Game of Thrones: Winter has arrived

(Ep.1/10) “Winter is coming,” the members of House Stark are fond of saying, and a cloud of vapour rises before their faces at each syllable. Winterfell, their home territory, is already pretty freezing, and winter hasn’t yet arrived. When it does arrive, it’ll last for decades.

You’d think a holiday in the south would be just the ticket, but when Ned Stark gets the call that the king needs him to be his right-hand man and move to the more salubrious surroundings of King’s Landing, he’s not happy. He’s a northern kind of guy (he’s Sean Bean, after all), and being the King’s Hand is not a job you’d want, given that the previous incumbent is dead, possibly poisoned by the evil Lannisters.

Ah, the Lannisters. I shouldn’t love them, but I do. Evil, scheming, immoral (brother Jaime and sister Cersei are a bit too fond of each other, let’s say), but undoubtedly glamorous. Then there’s their brother Tyrion, a dwarf who makes up for his lack of inches with a razor-sharp wit.

HBO’s adaptation of George RR Martin’s epic novel (the first in an, as yet, uncompleted series), showing in the UK on Sky Atlantic,  is wonderful. It’s probably testament to Martin’s brilliant writing that what was shown on screen last night in the first episode was so exactly how I’d imagined the world of the book in my head, particularly the Winterfell scenes.

 The task of introducing such an array of characters, in various different settings, wasn’t an easy one to achieve in an hour, but it was done really well. Captions indicating the locations were only used the first time each one appeared, and after that it was left to the characters and the very different feel of each location to show where we were.

The cast are excellent. Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen had exactly the right combination of fragility and inner strength, and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) was just… spooky. Peter Dinklage looks like he’s going to be a perfect Tyrion and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jaime has the perfect mix of flashy good-looks and ruthlessness. I also liked the early glimpses of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who shoots arrows better than her brothers and can’t be doing with needlework.

A great start, and I’m looking forward to seeing the story unfold.

Posted by PLA          (more Game of Thrones posts here)

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Casualty: It’s not what you’ve got, it’s who you are

(Series 25, Ep.32) So who’s the best clinical lead? Is it Nick Jordan, all designer suits, snappy put-downs and brusque, no-nonsense bedside manner? Or the warm, motherly Miriam Turner, who’ll go with you for your medical appointments and put £50 behind the bar on a night out?

I like both of them, but which one should get the job, if there’s only one job? There’s only one way to find out – vote. Yup, Henry and Hanssen decreed that what was needed was a staff popularity contest, with the winner being decided by secret ballot. The ways of the NHS (Holby-style) are many and mysterious indeed.

You could never accuse Nick Jordan of pandering to public opinion or going out of his way to make himself popular – quite the reverse. “In order to win a popularity contest you have to be popular,” Dr Zoe Hanna advised him, but even with hs job apparently on the line, he wasn’t going to compromise by actually being nice. So when a girl was brought into the ED with apparently all the symptoms of being very, very drunk, Nick wasn’t listening to her sister protesting that the girl hadn’t been drinking at all, and must have been drugged. His staff were cross with him. I was cross with him – we’d seen the girl’s orange juice being spiked earlier, so what was Nick playing at? It turned out that the girl’s sister was well-known to Nick for having such a severe alcohol problem that she was, in fact, dying of liver cirrhosis. And just at the point where you’ve thrown your hands in the air in despair at Nick’s lack of bedside manner, and Lenny has cast his vote in favour of Miriam, Nick manages to persuade the father of the two girls, who hasn’t spoken to his elder daughter for years, to donate part of his liver to her. A job well done in the interests of his patient, Nick Jordan-style.

And it turns out that, while a cuddly personality will take you a long way, the ED staff actually prefer the more curmudgeonly approach of Nick. He may be a tad cussed, but he also happens to be a genius, and when you’re up to your knees in blood, guts and trauma, that’s what you want.

Meanwhile, Jay was dealing with a patient with breasts. Continue reading

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The Archers: Pimp my Peggy

Yes, I think I can just about detect a small plot here.

Those of us who’ve been puzzling over the purpose of Elona, the heavily-accented carer of poor witless Jack, let out a collective ‘eureka!’ this week. As with Archimedes in his bath, so the solution landed on our heads like an apple. You know, I’ve always wondered how Galileo managed to drop those two apples from the Leaning Tower of Pisa in such a way as to clobber Newton and Archimedes simultaneously, and why were they sharing a bath anyway? Those Greeks, what were they like? But back to Elona, who isn’t Greek so much as Albanian, and whose air-time has been steadily increasing to eye-watering levels since she first popped up to tell Peggy that, ‘Jack ‘as ‘ad a goo’ night Meesus Worrley’: finally we all understood her story-arc. Because till now speculation, which you can be sure has been rife in Qwerty-Towers, if nowhere else, has gone futilely along the following lines:

Why are they bigging up this here Elona considering she is playing exactly the sort of part generally occupied by the silent characters, viz. a member of the serving classes who is a complete treasure? (See Titcombes.) Is it simply because she allows the writers to tick the ‘ethnic diversity’ box? This box has hitherto been ticked by Usha, but obviously in these difficult days of budget cuts that kind of unthinking form-filling just won’t do. Presumably an alarming chap in braces and deceptively jovial manner has come in to run a compulsory equalities awareness workshop for the writers, shortly before the start of his three-year contract on Midsomer Murders. He has had to explain that just because a character is Indian doesn’t mean your cultural work is done. Particularly if that character is a lawyer and extremely middle-class and was born in the UK and is a vicar’s wife, albeit one with a statue of Ganesh on her coffee table. It’s rather like primary schools assuming they’re good to go re. cultural diversity because they’ve ‘done’ Diwali. All primary schools do Diwali because there are sweetmeats and candles and it’s near Christmas and they kept the display from last year. Tick. I’d like to see ‘em tackle something a bit more challenging, like Yom Kippur (no food or candles) or Ramadan (no food or candles).

Continue reading

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The Crimson Petal and The White

The Crimson Petal and The White continues to be the highlight of the TV week for me. Episode two kicks off with another of Sugar’s (Romola Garai) fantasies whereby she wakes William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd) with a red-hot poker. In reality it’s a gentle hand on his chest, and she’s soon planting the seed in Rackham’s mind of acquiring more salubrious surroundings for their liaisons. “I’ll be carried off by the cholera by the time I’m twenty five,” she warns him, when he moans about the smell in her rooms. She’s well aware that Rackham is worth a bit, having rifled through his briefcase whilst being – ahem – taken from behind in the last episode, (commendable multi-tasking) and checking out his address.

Meanwhile, Rackham’s brother, Henry (Mark Gatiss) continues his visits to Mrs Fox (Shirley Henderson) – who happens also to be the sister of the evil doctor Curlew played menacingly by Richard E Grant. Poor Mrs Fox is clearly ailing, though Henry seems oblivious to this fact, so captivated by her that the first rule of period drama completely eludes him (the first rule being; if someone coughs, they’ll be dead by the end of the episode). When this is finally pointed out to him, Henry questions his very faith, and burns his bibles and himself, fantasising in his final moments about finally getting it on with the Foxy Mrs F.

Mrs Rackham (Amanda Hale) visits a pale and emaciated friend, with something of the Lady Gaga about her, who introduces her to a new health regime – a diet of green beans, supplemented by the occasional spoonful of well strained oxtail soup (no doubt it will feature in the Daily Mail  health section next week). Basically, we’re talking anorexia, with added pills (no doubt opium) washed down with ‘Godfrey’s cordial’. By the time she gets home, Mrs R is as high as a kite, looking strangely serene at dinner with her husband, until she reveals that the reason for her newfound calm is that she has a ‘guardian angel’ (this being Sugar, spied from her window at the end of episode 1). Poor old Rackham – it put him right off his grub.

It turns out that Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson, reminding me, at times of an evil version of Dorcas Lane from Lark Rise to Candleford – not sure why) isn’t just Sugar’s ‘Madam’, but is her mother as well.  When Rackham announces that he wishes to take Sugar away from her, their parting is choked with words left unsaid, although Sugar’s initial joy at being given a place of her own is very touching. Feeling out of place and lonely however, she keeps popping back to see her old friends, one of whom asks if she’s actually fond of Rackham. Sugar responds that she’s ‘used to him’, and when he’s away, ‘misses the world that comes with him’. Despite her protestations, one gets the impression that Sugar is becoming quite fond of Rackham. Although he has the cash, she clearly wields the power in the relationship. Continue reading

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EastEnders: Ronnie tells the truth, and I can start (officially) watching again

Like Ronnie Branning, I, too, have a confession to make. Ronnie’s is a lot bigger, of course – since New Year’s Eve she’s been bringing up someone else’s baby and pretending it was her own. My own crime is that, despite saying I wasn’t going to watch ‘Stenders until this baby-swap nonsense was all done and dusted, I actually only managed to stop watching it for about three episodes. I missed Fatboy too much.

Anyway, back to last night’s events. It was Tanya and Greg’s wedding. Tanya is a big fan of the colour pink – even her front door is pink – so that was very much the colour palette of the wedding. The bridesmaids’ dresses weren’t too bad – it was actually quite nice to see Lauren in something floral and girly for a change – but the theme shouldn’t really have been extended to the groom and best man. The general effect was that the bridal party resembled the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, with entire outfits fashioned from curtains.

Tanya couldn’t possibly want to marry Greg, because he’s reasonably nice looking, kind, affable, has no hidden crack habit or other vice that we’re aware of and he’s good at DIY. He loves Tanya so much he’s prepared to wear a comedy waistcoat for his own wedding. Of course she couldn’t really love a man like that, not when there’s baldy, ginger-eyelashed, fag-puffing, daughter-in-law-shagging Max lolling around the Square. You can see Tanya’s dilemma.

Tanya’s big day ended in tragedy, though, when Max and Abi, hurtling churchwards after an emergency visit to the bridal outfit shop, ended up colliding with an articulated truck. Will they be ok? Will seeing Max up to his ginger eyelashes in bandages make Tanya realise that he is the man for her? Will Greg be dumped and have to fall back on his bromance with Ian Beale?

This would be exciting enough for a Friday night’s viewing, but we also have the prospect tonight of Ronnie finally – finally – confessing that baby James Branning is, in fact, baby Tommy Moon. The only thing I’ve quite liked about this absurd and somewhat sick storyline has been that Kat has always seemed to have a connection with the baby, as if an instinct so deep she doesn’t recognise it and dismisses as part of her grief is telling her that he belongs to her. I love Kat and Alfie, so I’m laying in industrial quantities of Kleenex for when they get their baby back.

Posted by PLA          (more EastEnders here)

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MasterChef: Dougal fluff hats & other sweet surprises

MasterChef lost me as a regular viewer this year because of all the X Factor style nonsense early on. Plus my cooking show viewing quota is currently being diverted watching too many suckling pigs get slaughtered on the altar of the Great British Menu. But I caught last night’s MasterChef, and I’m glad I did, because there was a guest appearance by Michel Roux, the daddy of both lovely Michel Roux Jnr and pastry cooking in general. He was giving the remaining four contestants a masterclass in making the ultra-tricky croquembouche. But here all my (probably fantasy) credibility as a foodie deserted me, because in my eyes, this towering French choux ball structure looked like a heap of Pizza Express doughballs piled up into the shape of a wizard hat with a load of hairy fluff from Dougal (the Magic Roundabout dog) scattered over the top with random almonds stuck on for no reason I could discern.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore puddings and I adore Michel Roux, and eating any of the wonders that come out his legendary kitchen would make me a very happy woman indeed. I just didn’t quite get why a croquembouche is held in such high regard.

Actually, I blame Iceland (the frozen food manufacturer, not the country that produced Björk). Their ghastly Kerry Katona/Jason Donovan pile ‘em high ‘party’ ads have ruined the joy of choux pastry as a luxury item for me. I can’t look at profiteroles with respect any more, and essentially, a croquembouche is a monster pyramid of profiteroles minus the melted chocolate that is my favourite part anyway. With heaps of spun sugar. Life, in my view, is too effing short to spin sugar. Continue reading

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Holby City: And then there was one Valentine

(Series 13, Ep.26) Stunningly Beautiful Dr Penny Valentine is no more! Crushed beneath a crashed train while rescuing a patient, her fabulous skin and gorgeous hair will be seen on Holby no more.

It sounds like one of those Holby/Casualty crossover episodes, all action sequences and falling masonry, doesn’t it? But it was all the more shocking because the action didn’t leave the hospital, so there wasn’t really any hint that such a huge tragedy would occur. In fact the first sign that all wasn’t well was when Michael Spence and Goth Dr Frieda, who’d gone to the scene of the accident with Penny, arrived back alone, while Oliver was leaving a message on his sister’s voicemail, trying to make amends with her and telling her that “life’s too short.” Oh, the dramatic irony of that little phrase.

There was loads going on this episode – power tussles between Dan and Sacha, and Sahira and Jac. But the episode belonged to Young Dr Oliver Valentine (brilliant work from James Anderson), under threat from his sister that if he hadn’t told Hanssen that he wasn’t actually medically qualified by the close of play, she would do it.

Boy Valentine has been a bit rubbish recently, medically speaking. Lots of mistakes, errors of judgement, lack of confidence. Then on what was due to be his last day as a doctor, there’s a massive train crash, Holby is the designated receiving hospital for the casualties, AAU is on the front line, and Oliver is up to his knees and out of his depth treating a woman with a shard of glass sticking out of her abdomen and delusions that her daughter, who died five years ago, is still alive. He almost messed things up, Continue reading

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Coronation Street: Daddy was a bank robber, so he was

We’re always being told the police have a difficult job to do, but not if they’re in Weatherfield they don’t. Weatherfield, and more particularly Coronation Street, has the most incompetent criminals a lazy copper could wish for.

Looters who get caught when they try to give the money back; Joe McIntyre who couldn’t even manage to pretend to drown himself without drowning himself; Leanne the world’s worst arsonist; there have been hundreds of them over the years. In fact possibly the most successful has been the one man crimewave known as John Stape, some of whose crimes remain undetected to this day.

But Jim McDonald has to have been the most useless criminal so far, so he has. Needing to raise some cash quick (to finance a double child-napping – but that’s a whole other story), and having exhausted all the usual avenues (the bank and lottery winner Kevin Webster) our Jim calls in a favour from his former cell mate at the Big House, who owes him one. Owes him what? A nice bag full of spending cash? Or the next best thing, a sawn-off shotgun.

Without pausing to acquire either a Proper Plan or a balaclava (“with that face he looks like he has a stocking over his head already,” observed Mr PLA), and obviously never having seen any bank robberies on telly, Jim marches into his local branch, waves his firearm at a cashier and demands a bag full of “just enough cash to buy the Rovers Return, Coronation Street. Off of me son Steven McDonald and his lovely wife Becky.” Okay he didn’t say that, but he might as well have done because that’s exactly how rubbish he was.

And he’d have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for that meddlesome have-a-go hero and the pesky cashier and her darned panic button (who knew such things existed? Duh).

A full siege situation swung into action, with Weatherfield’s finest tooled up and assembled outside and a hostage negotiator on the line to Jim. He didn’t want a million pounds in unmarked notes and a plane waiting for him at Manchester Airport, so he didn’t. He wanted a quiet word with Elizabeth. The radiant Elizabeth, whose happiness was worth any amount of risk. Liz and Steve were bundled into a van that was acting as a nerve centre of the operation so they could watch Jim on CCTV (he had twigged that he was on CCTV, and uncannily knew exactly which camera they were using to look at him, so he could speak straight into it). The hostages all released, would he turn the gun on himself, or rush out of the front door of the bank to go down in a hail of bullets?

Or give himself up, resigned to his next holiday being quite a long one in Strangeways. Meanwhile, poor Liz, who’d started the day thinking she was set for a future as queen of Weatherfield’s premier back-street boozer, was left to contemplate the fact that maybe she’d have been better off sticking with Vernon.

Posted by PLA            (more Coronation Street posts here)

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