Tag Archives: Tamsin Greig

Friday Night Dinner: Why I’m happy there’s going to be second helpings

I was ever so pleased to hear that a new series of Friday Night Dinner has been commissioned. In a week when the dreadful Campus has had us bemoaning the state of modern British TV comedy, it’s good to know we have something to look forward to.

FND (which finishes its first series tonight, C4 10pm) has been an absolute treat. A programme which does what it says in the title, the basic set-up is that we join the Goodman family (mum Jackie, dad Martin and sons Adam and Jonny) at the parental home for their Friday night family dinner.

Jackie (Tamsin Greig) is in charge of the cooking (apart from when she had a sprained ankle, and then dad took over kitchen duties, serving “Potatoes. And some meat”). She’s also in charge of trying to keep her physically (though not mentally) grown up sons under some sort of control. This is an easier job than trying to control Martin, who will insist on eating toast out of the bin and taking his shirt off at inappropriate moments because he’s hot. Martin wears a hearing aid, and often uses his deafness to get out of doing what Jackie wants him to do, such as destroying his beloved and vast collection of back-copies of New Scientist.

Mark Heap plays neighbour Jim, the sort of neighbour who’ll turn up just as you’re sitting down for dinner and then hover around saying “something smells nice” and hoping you’ll ask him to stay. Jim is an oddball, something like Roy Cropper in Corrie used to be, kind of sinister but basically harmless. He’s always accompanied by his faithful dog Wilson, who frightens him a bit, and he has a crush on Jackie. Mark Heap is an absolute master of physical comedy, and the scenes involving Jim are toe-curlingly, blissfully awkward.

And that’s it, really, as far as plot is concerned. Adam puts salt in Jonny’s water and Jonny puts squirty cream under Adam’s napkin. Grandma turns up eager to try on the bikini Jackie bought for her in Spain, and Jonny coaches her to say “Happy birthday Pus-face” to his brother. Jonny’s girlfriend Alison fails to appear yet again and Adam’s convinced he’s made her up. A normal Friday night round at the Goodmans’ – and I can’t wait for series 2.

(If you’ve missed series 1 so far, catch up on the FND website here).

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Lustbox: Dominic Cooper

Who’s a pretty boy then? Dominic Cooper is to be sure in Tamara Drewe, Stephen Frear’s recent film. Set in a remote Dorset village and based on a Posy Simmonds cartoon, Cooper, in kohl, black leather and banana yellow Porsche, plays Ben, bad boy drummer in indie band Swipe. After being interviewed by journalist Tamara (Gemma Arterton), he seduces her with a dextrous display of skilful drumming using cooking implements. Always a winner, until you get tinnitus. They embark on an affair watched by jealous teenage Swipe fan Jody, lurking in the disused bus stop (service discontinued) with her mate, snapping anyone in the village snogging with their mobile phones and hurling eggs at passing cars because they are so bored.

The story of Tamara Drewe, based loosely on Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, is all played out very amusingly and includes excellent performances from Tamsin Greig and Roger Allam. But my favourite character by far is the badly behaved Ben, with his long-suffering boxer dog, floppy black hair and designer stubble. What impresses me about Dominic Cooper, other than the fact that he’s gorgeous and funny, is that he never seems to mind losing his dignity. His role as Dakin in The History Boys is probably my all-time favourite, but he was great in An Education too, and even managed to not look like a total knob as the bridegroom in the enjoyably preposterous Mamma Mia!

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Lustbox: look at the wits on that

arialbold in a manful attempt to provide some balance as the female hormones run rampant in the PLA lustbox has been contemplating how to post without being labelled lumpenly sexist.

While male TV stars can be freely drooled over, doing the same in relation to the female equivalent strays dangerously into gratuitous lechery.

Something to do with power imbalances, post-modern feminism, or simply getting away with it since they can. The sensitive middle-class man just can’t position himself safely on this.

Clearly one must avoid anyone who is superficially attractive – no Racquel Welshes, natch. 

But they can’t be too worthily plain either else you’re not really being honest – this is lustbox, not worthyadmirationbox. 

And god forbid you go for the conventional cliched candidates – so Nigella is out.

Perhaps then you need to balance it all up with a goodly amount of wit and/or quirkiness – more Pamela Stephenson than Pamela Anderson.

So here’s my top of the head list:

 

 

 

 

  • Sue Perkins: mostly for her weirdly named Supersizers Go series with Giles Coren. Anyone who can debauch their way through that many banquets and remain witty and self-deprecating has to rate high.
  • Tamsin Greig: the only voice that made the Archers worth listening too, Black Books a place to work in and Green Wing sexual tension believable.
  • Lois Griffin: you see if Mr Benn can be up there don’t see why we can’t have a female cartoon character.
  • Emily Maitlis: only because in real life I remember her when she was a spotty teenager, and it never fails to entertain me to see her as an intellectual news siren.

Err … you see I can’t even produce more than a short sentence, since my brain goes – “I’ve been trained not to do this, please stop this now”.  A little like HAL in 2001, if I try to keep going my brain will have to take over and kill myself. 

To be honest you can see my heart isn’t really in it. I just can’t playfully kick around the objectification of women on TV, weighed down by years of lack of experience of sexist banter.

Chalk this one up to the wimpbox – I just can’t do it.

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