Monthly Archives: January 2012

Podcasts: The Slate Culture Gabfest

For a long time podcasts were a mystery to me. They were mentioned on the BBC website so were sort of mainstream, but why would you need them with Listen Again? And anyway who had time to feel even more of a fogey trying to learn the next new technology? More recently, thanks to the Guardian and the estimable US webmag Slate, it began to dawn on me what gems I was missing. You don’t even have to go and find podcasts but can arrange for them to come straight to your computer. Or even to your phone! Sometimes the modern world is so wonderful I can hardly stand it.

For all the newness of the technology though it’s also a case of plus ça change, and good podcasts can become as essential a part of one’s life as TV and radio classics. I remember watching Nationwide as a kid. Every few weeks someone would write in to say they hadn’t missed a show since 1969 and how great was that? The seventies were obviously a barren period but still, they must (I thought) have had f*** all to do if they were  tuning into Frank Bough every night.

It was a shock then to realise that I have become one of those people who never misses my favourite programme. The show concerned is Slate’s culture chat podcast, the Culture Gabfest, and I have a 100% record since the middle of 2009. Not due to some anal completism you understand and not, of course, due to having an otherwise boring life, but simply because it’s so good there’s no reason to miss it. Ever. Not unless you’re actually dead, and even then I expect Apple are currently working on a gadget for streaming audio in the afterlife. I just hope Steve Jobs is making a fuss about the quality of the celestial interface device. Maybe Hell is simply not having this pop up in your iTunes every Wednesday.

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The Great Sport Relief Bake Off: BBC Celebrity Special


Sports and cakes? Do they go together? I think not. And I’d have to seriously question the ‘celebrity’ bit of this, since I hardly recognise anyone, apart from Angela Griffin, Arlene Phillips and Fi Glover. But I’m enjoying it hugely. Why? Because they’re being set tasks most primary school kids would expect to do in a cooking lesson, (eg cheese scones), and despite that, they’re mostly crap, that’s why.

The woman who plays the shop assistant in Miranda tipped a ton of red colouring into her electric mixer for her revolting looking ‘red velvet tray bake’, turned the mixer on, then splattered red slop over herself and everything around her. Then she created an accidental snowstorm with icing sugar and a fast moving whisk attachment. That never happens on the main series of the Great British Bake Off. The contestants are far too good, too practised and perfectionist for that sort of thing.

And by ‘that sort of thing’ I mean what I sometimes do when I cook. I was employed as a chef once and I sent watercress soup squirting with vivid green splendour up the walls of a very posh kitchen when I forgot to put the lid on the blender. Twice. Oh yes.

It seems that many of these ‘celebrities’ never bake in real life at all. Arlene Phillips got herself into somewhat of a pickle. Angela Griffin was pretty darn good, and is in the final tonight. Fi Glover and Anita Rani too.

Sadly there is no Sue Perkins in this. And the banging on about baking cakes to raise money for Sports Relief gets a bit tedious (fine cause though it is of course). I love seeing the wonderful Mary Berry and rather foxy Paul Hollywood looking on with pained sorrow at times, when all of the banana chocolate cakes are so bad as to be inedible, or pastry sticks to the surface, quiche sticks to the flancase, or someone makes a prawn meringue, yes you heard that right. Truly, madly, horrible. But brilliant.

The celebrities flail around like helpless, hopeless mortals who normally buy Mr Kipling slices. God bless them, one and all.

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Holby City: The champagne’s chilling in the mini fridge

(Series 14, Ep.13)   It was The Big Day at Holby. The day when they finally found out whether they’d achieve Foundation Trust status. It was a big deal, because without it they wouldn’t get funding for research and equipment and Holby would die a slow death. Hanssen was confident, though. He even had a bottle of champagne in the mini fridge in his office, as we could see from the fridge cam cunningly placed inside it.

The day didn’t start too well when the person who turned up to do the assessment was the horrible one whom I previously described as being “so stern he made Henrik Hanssen look like Graham Norton.”  The day didn’t start too well for Irish Dr Greg, either, as he had a hangover and was put in charge of Darwin for the day. It got even worse when Sahira Shah the Registrah went off to pick up her adorable little son Indy from nursery and then news came in of a nasty car crash and a child with a coat labelled Indy was brought into the hospital. Greg went from being frantic that there was no Registrah present when the CTU Traumafone rang, to being frantic that the woman of his dreams may just have ended up tangled in some wreckage on one of Holby’s highways. Greg was worrying about Sahira, Hanssen was worrying about Sahira and Jac was annoyed that everyone was busy worrying rather than knuckling down and suturing arteries.  Continue reading

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Casualty: Ready for anything

(Series 26, Ep.17) A cracker of a first episode in the new Cardiff-based location. Extra long and complete with car crashes, explosions, poison gas, Tess in peril, a handsome new doctor and some fabulous work by Dr Sam Nicholls. I didn’t even have time to miss Dr Ruth Winters and Lovely Staff Nurse Faldren.

We began with our favourite emergency medics literally unwrapping their shiny new department, the previous one having been ravaged by fire. The new version is slick, shiny  (or it was at the start), and more closely resembles the wards of Holby City. The staff were just there to unwrap stuff and make sure it was working, find out where the toilets were, get the CT scanner up and running, that sort of thing. But when there was a multi vehicle car crash nearby, Nick Jordan wasted no time in declaring Holby A&E open for business. “Ready for anything,” he declared. Would he still have made that call if he’d known about the ensuing explosion and chemical leak on a nearby housing estate? Probably not, and he did go a little bit wobbly in the new Peace Garden. “Why do we need a Peace Garden?” he asked Charlie, who was sitting out there contemplating the peace and quiet. Charlie speculated it was probably so people had somewhere to go to contemplate the peace and quiet. Or to smoke. And, if the Linden Cullen Memorial Garden is anything to go by, it’ll also turn out to be a good spot for staff members to be attacked and/or poisoned. Anyway, Charlie gave Nick the small pep talk he needed – Charlie really is your go-to guy for a pep talk – and Nick headed back indoors ready to sort out the carnage.  Continue reading

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Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

I'm up here, you idiot.

Sherlock invariably ends with me turning to Mr Qwerty and saying, ‘ But what about the bit where…’ in the hope that he will shine a searchlight into what looks like a large plot-hole and tarmac it over for me. In the case of The Hounds of Baskerville, in which Hound turned out to be a not very plausible acronym (after all, why would a group of dodgy scientists feel the need to give themselves an acronym, and what’s more get I’m-with-the-band t-shirts made noch?), I turned to Mr Q and said, ‘So why did the kindly bloke who was the baddie kill the posh bloke’s dad?’ And the best Mr Q could come up with was, ‘I guess he knew something bad they were doing.’ Well, yes. But what? It troubles me a bit that I don’t know for sure. Was it the paranoid gas thing (or lighter fluid as we called it when I was young)? Big slathering dogs? Fluorescent rabbits? (Actually a luminous bunny would be handy; you could nip out to its hutch at night and feed it without having to find a torch.)

Anyway despite not knowing exactly what the important-enough-to-kill-a-man thing was, I enjoyed this heavy-handed Freudian interpretation of the H of the B’s.  Or as I now think of it, ‘The Little Hans of the Baskervilles’, a not very amusing psychologist’s joke referring to Freud’s classic case in which Little Hans was scared of horses because they reminded him of his father’s penis. Or something. I graduated a while ago and the details are hazy. As indeed were Henry Knight’s of the night his father was killed – seemingly mauled by a huge slathering black beast with red eyes. Arrrrr-oooooooooh!

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Coronation Street: Krazy Kirsty?

The moment Tyrone approached her in the quietest nightclub in the country and she eagerly got her claws into him, I knew there was something not right with Kirsty. She follows all of the Street’s regular rules for being an established psychopath and I can guarantee that within six months from now, she will be driving her cop car into a canal with Tyrone and Tina tied up inside or she’ll be blowing up the garage.

How do I know this? Well, just take a look at the quirks and rules followed by previous Street fruitcakes and see how many boxes loopy Kirsty ticks…

Corrie Psycho Rule Number One: Develop an inexpicably over the top obsession in a somewhat bland love interest. Let’s face it, despite his adorable, teddy bear-esque nature, Tyrone is no oil painting. He’s not really even a Crayola Wax crayon scrawl. Sure, there are many women who would love to give him a hug and tell him that there is someone out there for him, but not many would be willing to actually BE that woman. Well, Kirsty isn’t just being that woman, she’s excelling to the point where she wants to spend 24 hours of each and every day in his company. Maria and Molly couldn’t even cope with evenings in front of the box with him! So is Kirsty besotted and sees a side in the bumbling mechanic that no one else does or is she several tangerines short of a fruit basket? Continue reading

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Eternal Law: We’re loving angels instead…

There’s a certain irony to knowing that the creators of Eternal Law like their work to be judged on how well it achieves its aims rather than what people think it ought to be achieving, when a lot of people won’t be judging EL on its own terms at all this evening, but on whether it’s as good as Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (bearing in mind there are plenty of LoM fans who wish A2A had never happened). Personally I’m put in mind of the three series forming a sort of Law and Order: Afterlife – we’ve had the policework, here comes the prosecution…

The premise is a simple one: two angel barristers Zak and Tom (Sam West and Ukweli Roach) fall to earth to help humans (as counsel for the defence). They are helped by Mrs Sheringham (Orla Brady) and have a nemesis in the shape of Richard (Tobias Menzies), prosecuting counsel (and fallen angel).

Of course, this isn’t Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, crucially it doesn’t seem to be Bonekickers either. The mix of straightforward case of the week (Tom and Zak have to defend a man who seems to have shot at his ex-girlfriend  - whose testimony sent him to prison for two years – and her new husband on their wedding day) with an underlying mystery and mythology (Why are the angels here? What’s the big deal about God  - aka Mr Mountjoy – sending a chorister to earth? What sort of frontline is Richard talking about? What exactly does Mr Mountjoy ‘pulling the plug’ entail?) is well judged.

There’s plenty of funny dialogue (the jokes about the stained glass portrait of Terry were a particular highlight) and in Sam West, Eternal Law has a charismatic and highly talented lead (even if he does bear an increasingly uncanny resemblance to Gary Barlow). Zak is the jaded, flawed senior partner, but he’s not a stand-in for Gene Hunt. There’s a subtlety and restraint in the writing (and in Sam West’s performance) that mark him as a man cut from different cloth, albeit from a similar template.

If I have any complaint, it is that it was obvious from the moment we saw Sean dismantling the rifle on the roof after the shooting who the culprit was, but in an episode where we’re discovering the world and its characters, you can get away with a flimsy case of the week. Let’s hope next week’s case is a bit meatier – I have been sufficiently hooked to tune in again. I have high hopes that Eternal Law will be worth a weekly blog post – only time will tell.

If you didn’t watch this episode of Eternal Law, you can do so now on ITV player. I highly recommend doing so.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Holby City: Sexual tension x3

(Series 14, Ep.12)   After last week’s festive and romantic journeys to the Ukraine and Stansted, we were back in Holby this week, and the place was seething with sexual tension.

Young Dr Oliver Valentine realised, as Jac had told him he would, that relocating dislocated shoulders and listening to Dan blathering on all day did not make him happy. When he had a bone patient with a cardiac complication, he was only too keen to get back to Darwin and make Bambi eyes at Jac over an operating table. Oliver and Jac really do have the best eyes for gazing at each other above surgical masks, and they spark off each other beautifully. There’s obviously an attraction. She enjoys putting him in his place and being superior, but she loves it even more when he kicks against it and stands up to her. He rather loves it that she’s a bitch and she pushes him to be better.  And at the end of the episode he told her he wanted to come back to Darwin permanently, so expect a good deal more of this sort of thing in coming weeks.

On AAU, The Best Nurse In The Hospital, Eddi McKee (can I start calling her BNITH, please? I feel an acronym gap in my life since FLNT went to NYC) had a hangover and squabbled with Dr Luc Hemingway about how best to treat an alcoholic patient. They have a love/hate relationship, those two do, but because they’re both fairly new I don’t feel like I understand what attracts them to each other as well as I understand Jac and Oliver. Anyway, she told him she can’t work with him any longer and AAU isn’t big enough for both of them, so she reckons she’s going to move to another ward. I hope it’s not Darwin. There’s already too much hysteria and passion up there courtesy of Sahira Shah the Registrah.

Ah, Sahira. Still capable of turning The Swedish Scalpel into a smorgasbord of unrequited longing, and also exerting a powerful attraction over Irish Dr Greg. This week, what with it being new year and everything, Irish Dr Greg decided he wanted to give up smoking. Luckily one of his patients was a professional hypnotist, so Greg paid him to hypnotise him to give up his nasty habit (smoking, not Sahira). That naughty Registrah asked the hypnotist to get Greg to be super-nice to a pain-in-the-backside patient who may or may not have been a mystery shopper, and Greg played along for his own amusement because – and, oh, we did laugh – the hypnotism didn’t work. If you asked me to explain the attraction between Greg and Sahira I would say that she likes him because he has a gorgeous nose and the old Irish charm, and he likes her because she’s female.

Next time: Greg’s in charge of the CTU while Sahira is away looking after her ill child – but when there’s a traffic accident, is Sahira involved?

Posted by PLA          (more Holby City here)

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EastEnders: Farewell, Fat Pat

The demise of the beloved Fat Pat was both swift and agonisingly slow. Swift because, although she’d had a few dodgy moments with the old ticker, it wasn’t until a doctor officially told her she officially had cancer that she started to go downhill fast. So fast, in fact, that I’m entirely put off doctors. They can apparently kill you just by telling you you’re not well. Pat went from her usual lumbering round the Square under the weight of enormous earrings and the cares of the world, to slumping over the kitchen sink sporting the finest blue rings around her eyes a makeup artist has achieved since Night of the Living Dead.

Yet her actual death seemed to take forever. It was the longest hour of my life. The scriptwriters had apparently decided that Pam St Clement was due at least an Oscar, if not an All About Soap Bubble Award, for her moving and gritty portrayal of a woman expiring from The Big C (which, in Bianca’s interpretation, seemed to stand for Complications. Anyone enquiring about Pat’s health would be informed by Bianca that it was “’Er ‘eart. And… Complications”).

Pat refused to take her death lying down, and insisted on getting up to put the kettle on. “Pat!” everyone admonished her. “You should be resting!” Pat didn’t want to rest. Pat wanted a nice cuppa, or preferably gin. You can’t blame her, really.

The entire neighbourhood called by, ostensibly to pay their respects, but mainly to work out their own personal issues via the medium of Literally Staring Death In The Face. Tanya obviously found it an upsetting experience, both because Pat is one of the few people in Walford with a worse reputation than she has and because she, too, is suffering from The Big C. Derek Branning called in to be even more horrible than usual, and Dot had some kind words and a Bible so Pat wouldn’t go to the hereafter unprepared. Janine, still filled with the spirit of Christmas, popped round to repossess Pat’s house, but even she was forced to reveal her softer side when Pat told her she was the only daughter she’d ever known (erm, what about Diane, proudly displayed in a photo frame adjacent to Pat’s bedside?). Ian popped in for a blub, and Bianca spent a lot of the episode looming around the door frame looking like she had even more Complications than Pat.

And everyone was uttering the D word. Not death – not in front of the kids – but David, as in Wicks, as in the son of Pat, the father of Bianca, and the actor known as Michael French who plays Nick Jordan in Casualty. Every knock on the door, every approaching car, every close up of a shoe – surely this must be him? Nope, it’s Michael Moon. That one’s Ricky. Oh, it’s Ian back again. But finally – the Wicks who was never known as Wicksy (that was Our Simon) turned up. He was introduced to his grandchildren, but poor Whitney was left to introduce herself – presumably no-one could quite work out how to explain her. After a heart to heart with his dear old mum he decided he couldn’t ‘andle it and it took quite a tussle in the rain from Carol to get him to come back indoors, so Pat could die in his arms.

And she even had her own theme tune at the end.

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Kick Ass Women: Sarah Lund

Kick Ass and very warm

I’m officially nominating Sarah Lund  (Sofie Grabol) from The Killing as a Kick Ass Woman. Not that I’d ever call any woman ‘kick ass’ in reality, you understand, but that’s the category I’m working with, and Lund definitely qualifies. I must admit that I missed the first series of The Killing when it was shown a few months back, and by the time it was repeated, I’d already just seen the American version (which I quite enjoyed) and didn’t want to start all over again. For series 2 of the Danish original though, I was there from the start. I know that the series finished before Christmas, but in these days of boxed sets and Sky Plus, who cares about such minor details?

Lund starts off the series in some back of beyond post due to some previous unpleasantness, I’m guessing at the end of the first series two years before. She seems miserable but accepting of her fate. Before long she’s dragged back into investigating a series of murders of a lawyer and the team of soldiers that the lawyer was representing. It’s all something to do with a murder of a family in Afghanistan by a mysterious Danish officer. I won’t go into details, as it’s all very complicated. Suffice to say, Lund doesn’t really cheer up throughout the whole investigation.

Lund & Strange in happier times

She’s very single-minded, is Lund. She would win a single-minded competition even if put up against some very single-minded people indeed. She sees a suspect and then goes for him/her like a terrier after a rat. She reminds me a bit of that bloke from Taggart who’s approach to investigating a murder is to say “It was him – he definitely did it, without a doubt”, until someone points out that said suspect has a watertight alibi, when he then switches to the next ne’er do well in line as the murderer. Lund exhibits this approach to her colleague Strange, convinced one minute that he was the mystery special forces officer, Perk, then accepting that he was back in Denmark when the atrocity in question happened. This despite the fact that she quite fancies Strange, even going so far as to smile at him once, and, very daringly, hold his hand in the back of a Land Rover in Afghanistan.

I’d be very happy for Lund to investigate something on my behalf. I’d be less keen on going shopping with her, and the chances of any bloke sustaining a relationship with her long term are, I would suggest, slim. She doesn’t take no for an answer. You can imagine her suggesting the house would be better for an extension, and before you have the chance to say it’d be very expensive but perhaps you could think about it in a few years time, she’d have dug some footings and knocked a wall down.

In Afghanistan (just going there seems pretty kick ass to me), she persuades their army driver to divert to a village to look for evidence. She gets pissed off with the uncooperative attitude of a local and starts shouting at him, up close. He had a shifty look and an obvious gun, and it never occurred to her that she might need to rein in the attitude a bit.  Somehow though, she gets away with it. That same disregard for her own safety and the consequences of her actions are displayed when she chases the killer into a deserted building, with no back up, and against specific orders to the contrary. It doesn’t go well.

SPOILER ALERT – KILLER REVEALED:

Her ‘did he, didn’t he?’ suspicions as far as Strange was concerned were ultimately resolved when she realised that when he was supposed to have been back in Denmark behaving himself, he was, in fact, in Afghanistan, murdering civilians. It was him all along! Her realisation of this, and of the fact that it was Strange who’d been carrying out all the recent killings, prompted a classic Lundism; did she call back Strange, with back up, and take him in for questioning? Did she raise her suspicions with her superior officer, Brix? Nope on both counts. Instead, she finds Strange and insists on driving him and the soldier he’d been trying to kill, back to the hospital, stopping off in the park where the first murder took place, to confront him. When he realises that Lund knows he’s guilty, he grabs her gun and shoots her. Luckily, she’d put on a bullet proof jumper (thankfully, no head shots), so all was well, and after a brief lie down, she managed to sneak up behind him while he was about to carry out another murder, knock him flat on his back and grab his gun. She tells Strange not to move. He moves. She shoots him – lots of times. That’s why we like Lund. No nonsense.

So, if any woman is ‘kick ass’, it’s Sarah Lund. Tenacious, focussed, ruthless and fearless, with a deep sense of social justice, and a nice line in knit-wear. Magnificent.

Posted by Our Man In The South

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