Monthly Archives: October 2011

Holby City: Dig us out of this hole

(Series 14, Ep.1) A new series, and not much has changed (it’s only been a week, after all), apart from a few people have had haircuts. Among them is Eddi. Frieda, who so often says what the rest of us have been thinking, asks her if she got tired of the helmet head look. I do love Frieda. I do love Eddi, too, now that Tedious Josh has wheeled off into the sunset. This week Eddi was required to hold her ruler of professionalism against Chrissie to see if she measured up. Chrissie is striving to be a Nurse Practitioner, whatever one of those is (I think it involves wearing a suit, like Mark “Jesus” Williams used to do), and this means she has to pass a module in emergency medicine. Since everyone pretends A&E doesn’t exist most of the time, this means AAU and Eddi.

But this was a sub-plot. The meat of the story (vegetarian options are available) concerned Henrik Hanssen’s continuing attempts to salvage what’s left of the hospital’s reputation following the Bogus Boobs Debacle. Sir Fraser (I know I should hate him, but I rather like his icy cold eyes) installed a small team of experts to scrutinise all the hospital’s doings. Luckily one of them was an ex nurse, and when he pitched in to help Hanssen in one of those inevitable “Can we have some help here!” moments in a basement corridor, he witnessed the skill and passion of Holby’s finest Swedish medic. He couldn’t help but be impressed.   Continue reading


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Downton Abbey: Playing doctors and nurses

I’m still watching Downton Abbey during the current First World War period of action, but with less joy and pleasure than the previous one. There’s a rule Qwerty once explained to me about sitcoms and soaps. To work for the viewer, the action needs to take place in one setting. Downton isn’t a quite a soap or a sitcom, but the same applies as far as I’m concerned. I can cope with the Abbey becoming a hospital for injured officers. I watch Holby and Casualty, and know full well how much fun can be had from people playing doctors and nurses.

What I’m less keen on is all the moving of action between Downton and the tiny length of ditch representing the horrors of the trenches in France. It was batty that Matthew seemed to keep popping from place to place anyway. There wasn’t either Eurotunnel or regular weekends off as far I know from my visits to the Imperial War Museum.

Actually, do you know what? I don’t like the war setting full stop. I like my Sunday evening drama to be benign and predictable, largely taking place inside a lovely house, with pretty frocks, elegant soirees, lots of subtle interplay between the characters and bags of flirting and sexual tension. I don’t want Sunday night drama to be comprise, well, too much bloody drama. I don’t want my heroes to come back from the Front with a spinal injury and no operational sexual organs. It takes all the fun out of it.

Shallow? Why yes.

The subject matter of life, injury and death during any war distresses me, as it should of course. Poetry by Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon has enormous emotional resonance. I don’t take it lightly. In fact, I think we’re a nation still scarred and traumatised by war. During the First World War, shellshock was not recognised as a mental condition until long after many men had been shot for ‘cowardice’.

This is important stuff, but I don’t watch drama to be educated. I watch to be soothed and to be distracted from thinking about everyday troubles.

And in Downton Abbey, no-one can be happy in love. Everyone and everything in this series seems to be about being thwarted. The evil scheming Mrs Vera Bates, who looks like she might be quite a laugh to get hammered with, is hellbent on destroying her tedious estranged husband’s chances of happiness with saintly Anna. Earnest Nurse Lady Sybil wants to cop off with Tom the troublemaking Irish chauffeur but can’t because of their class differences. Continue reading


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Lustbox: Harry Pearce

As Spooks faces the final curtain on Sunday, and most of us cross our fingers for a happy ending for the top Spook and his favourite analyst, it seems
appropriate to welcome Harry Pearce and his almost-permanently clenched jaw into the PLA

Spooks has given us much more conventional eye-candy over the years (Adam, Lucas and Dimitri, for example), but ten years’ exposure to Harry’s buttoned-up persona, super-dry wit and botched wooing of Ruth has left me with a soft spot for the head of Section D.

In our X Factor, look-at-me, sex-sells world, Harry’s understated, but always totally dedicated, approach shines like a  diamond in a pile of ordure.

Like my other favourite spy (Michael Westen), Harry may be the best in the intelligence business, but is undone time and again by his inability to manage his relationship with the woman he loves, Ruth Evershed.

Their relationship is like something out of a Jane Austen novel, all meaningful glances, misunderstandings, witty banter, brief touches of hands, bad timing and other people’s problems getting in the way. (Although as I recall, there weren’t quite so many dirty bombs and terrorists in Pride and Prejudice.)

I love the fact that the Harry and Ruth relationship has grown from the genuine affection and chemistry between Peter Firth and Nicola Walker. You really should hear the two of them talking on Radio 4 Extra while you can. Not only is it a lovely interview, it’s a chance to wallow in Peter’s wonderful voice too.

Now imagine that voice reading out these lines (just some of Harry’s greatest hits):

HOME SECRETARY: You know, back in my days as a student radical, our dreams were all about the glorious proletariat.
HARRY: We’ve still got those dreams on file somewhere.
JOHN RUSSELL: What aren’t you telling me, Harry?
HARRY: John, I’ve been up all night, my psychic powers are at a low ebb. Please elaborate.
FERNANDO TORRES: La vida no vale nada, as they say.
HARRY: Not an expression we hear very much around these parts, but then again we did have rather more success in seeing off the Spanish than you.
HARRY: Did I not say to shut that bloody journalist up? We’re supposed to be MI-5, not the Stoke Newington branch of the Green Party.
HARRY: I’m aware I have not played nicely with the other children.
HOME SECRETARY: Would it have killed you to pick up a golf club every once in a while?
HARRY: It may well have done, yes.
DIMITRI: How was your, er, um, break?
HARRY: In one particularly dark moment I actually considered gardening.
Farewell then Harry. All that remains is to keep our fingers crossed that he and Ruth get a good ending. For the rest of us, well, there’s always the boxed sets to fall back on…
Posted by Jo the Hat


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Strictly Come Dancing – It’s time to meet the Muppets…

Look, Strictly started it with Craig and Len doing their Statler and Waldorf impersonations. If they don’t want to draw our attention to the performers who are all startled expressions, fluff and jerky performances they shouldn’t lampshade them.

I’ll admit my heart sank at the concept of Broadway night. For one thing every night is pantomime night on the Strictly dancefloor, especially when it comes to the judges. Unlike the hair-trigger audience who appear to have been stuffed full of ’70s orange squash and pre-health and safety Smarties, my favourite of the judges is resident ‘villain’ Craig. He seems to me to be the only one judging dancing as opposed to national treasure status. And the day he finally loses it and punches Bruce on the nose for one of his homophobic comments will be Fab-u-lous.

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Burn Notice (3.16): “I want my life back”

It may sound counterintuitive but if you haven’t already started watching Burn Notice, then this season finale is an excellent place to start. The ‘Previously’ gives you enough background to ensure you’re not going to flounder, and the episode gives you the very best of Burn Notice – the snark, the sassiness, the jeopardy, the Team Westen chemistry, explosions, sneaky spy stuff… Added to which, once you’re hooked, you can spend the weeks/months until Season Four, catching up on everything you’ve already missed. You can not lose.

That said, it’s spoilers from here on in, so if you want to pop off to Demand Five, we’ll just wait here for you before we carry on together to the end.

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Holby City: The natural order is finally restored

(Series 13, Ep.52)  In everyday life, 52 weeks is generally considered to be a year. In the world of Holby City, 52 weeks is a Series. And last night was episode 52 of this particular series – which is kind of New Year’s Eve, Holby-style. A time for reflection, for resolutions, for one era to end and another to begin…

And for all this idiot nonsense about carving Darwin down the middle and calling one half Plastic Surgery and the other half Sahira’s Cardiac Trauma Unit to end.

It went right to the wire, though. Elliott Hope had packed up his office, all his bits and bobs, plastic models of hearts, leftover bits of pie, photo of Gina from the desk. I felt rather sad as he left for what he thought was the last time – the office he’d once shared with the Divinity Connie Beauchamp looking all lost and abandoned. As did Elliott himself.

Elsewhere, Irish Dr Greg and Sahira Shah the Registrah were admitting that they did actually like each other and would miss each other when he was at The Mythical St James’ (or the less mythical Spain) and she was forced to cry her way through operations without him. And Hanssen was doing a lot of firefighting over the exploding boobs business.   Continue reading


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The X Factor: A vat of tepid skimmed milk and Misha B

We did it. We puffed and panted our way through the auditions, boot camp and judges’ houses. Now it’s time for us to all to face the music. It’s the lives!!

Now we’ve got the lives, I’m not sure it was worth all the effort.  The song choices were lazy and the whole show was a bit boring. It was one of the worst opening live shows I can remember. Apart from Misha B, it was like being force-fed a vat of tepid skimmed milk. Bland.

The boys

This is always a hard category to stand out in. It’s either full of cocksure wannabes or pallid bores designed to tug at the nation’s heartstrings.

In the former category we have Frankie C. Jesus H Christ, someone get that boy a jug of Bromide. The whole way through the competition his arrogant, arse bearing, too much swagger for his age shtick has got on my last nerve. Then, in an attempt to “humanise” the little brat, we had to sit through him going all emotional and ruining an Ed Sheeran song. Seriously bruv, the young girls may like you but your vocal is wack. That breathy Pete Doherty shit will only take you so far. (Yes, I am aware that combined heat generated from the loins of the tweenagers he excites may well propel him to the final. Sad times).

James was definitely in the pallid bores category. When he rocked up for his week in the sun at judges’ houses I had no idea who he was. I thought he was just wearing a hat to avoid springing for the litres of conditioner it would take to keep his curly mane manageable in the heat. I didn’t even realise that was his “thing.” He’s this year’s Twat in a Hat, if you will. What can I say about his singing? Hmm, the song they gave him was so wrong. In the first week we need a performance that drags us in and makes us pay attention, or a faultless vocal. His warbling while clutching on to a guitar simply wasn’t good enough. He deserved to be dispatched this week.

Craig and Marcus both did well. Marcus was flanked by female dancers and did look a bit awkward but there were moments where his vocal was pretty good. There were also moments when he sounded less than ideal but I think he just about pulled it off. Poor Craig, I’m amazed he even made it onto the stage after a week that looked like hell for the poor boy. I have no idea why we had to see him being starved and run ragged in his opening VT. Oh, yeah, it’s to give him stamina, or help with the high notes or something. If I remember rightly, they tried the same thing on Paige last year. I can’t believe the X Factor producers don’t see how damaging it is to show a boy being forced to exercise in order to win a talent contest. Don’t even get me started on Louis and his “it’s nice to see you taking it seriously by losing weight” comment. Bastard. Anyways, aside from all of this Craig took to the stage and sang his little heart out.   Continue reading


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Waterloo Road: Is it just me?

(Series 7, Ep.14)  I’m having trouble with this series of Waterloo Road. Basically, I’m wondering how much longer I should give the new characters to bed in. Is it just a matter of time before Michael Byrne, the Diamonds and the terrible Sarah Hadland character start seeming like proper Waterloo Road teachers?

I love Jaye Jacobs, I adored and revered her as The Radiant Donna in Holby City, but something about her character isn’t working in this. I don’t think it’s the actress’s fault. As Donna, she was given a part that was funny, vulnerable and sweet. She could be selfish, stroppy and lazy, but we always cared about her. I just don’t care about Sian Diamond, even though I do rather love the dresses she wears. Jez is neither here nor there – not a serious character, not a comic character (so he’s had Botox? Big deal). And Michael Byrne is a cardboard cutout of a headmaster, not fit to fill the shoes of Jack Rimmer, Rachel Mason and Karen Fisher.

Did I hate the last episode, then? Well, no, because a lot of it featured the glorious Ronan Burley, my favourite Waterloo Road character. Maybe I’m just against Sian for daring to suggest that Our Ronan could ever hit Vicki. It’s almost as absurd as thinking he could captain a rugby team.

But I’m hankering after the mad old days of Ruby Fry having a meltdown in the cookery room, and Grantly and Fleur, and Steph Haydock, and Pious Kim Campbell and Chris Mead coming up with Controversial New Initiatives. Poor old Daniel Chalk and his winning ways with an electric guitar just aren’t providing a sufficient level of that particular kind of warm barminess that WR specialises in.

Or is it just me?

Posted by PLA          (more Waterloo Road here)


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Burn Notice (3.15): It’s Tony Almeida from CTU

It’s busy, busy, busy in Miami as we approach the end of season finale (I know, already, where have the past 15 weeks gone?). The final pieces are manouevered into position to reveal who the Big Bad on the black ops flight is and what he wants with Michael, and Fi gets a job with Tony Almeida from 24, or Gabriel as he’s called here.

Rather like Tony, Gabriel has a certain moral opacity about him. (Don’t worry, it’s not spoilers, I haven’t seen 24 since it went to Sky and had to Google to refresh my brain on Carlos Bernard’s character. Even now I’m not sure about Tony’s morals.) Gabriel seems to be a completely rotten apple, but turns out to be doing bad things for a very good cause. Sound like anyone else we know? Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing: Chilly willies & warm lap dances

I confess to getting a bit distracted at the beginning of this because I spotted Paul ‘Silver fox of the Great British Bake Off’ Hollywood in the audience and started thinking about cakes. But that’s no bad thing. It allowed the Brucie drivel to wash over me in a not unpleasant, bun-scented reverie.

Several things struck me this week:

  • Brucie really shouldn’t be allowed to mention Audley’s ‘rhythm’ without a useful aide (and I’d volunteer) quietly wrapping Nancy’s boa around his neck & doing a little bit of constricting to shut him up
  • Audley comes across as a lovely bloke: he won’t win, but I like him a lot
  • With Len Goodman talking about things getting a bit ‘chilly around his willy’ and Bruno’s pantomime letching, it can get too much like a Carry on film at times, and not in a good way
  • The show is currently far too long for someone with my attention span – which actually makes me pleased couples will be voted off from now onwards
  • Others on Twitter may mock (Our Man in the South, I’m looking at you. ‘Bertie Bassett’ indeed) but I thought Anita Dobson looked fantastic in her Carmen Miranda salsa outfit, and she danced beautifully too
  • Less keen on Dan Lobb   Continue reading


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