Homeland, White Heat & MasterChef

Yes, I know the customary Pauseliveaction procedure is to pick just ONE programme to write about, but I’m greedy, and frankly I’ve been a viewing flibbertijibbet recently, so this post reflects that.

These have been three of my favourite programmes of late (to be fair, I must add that I also loved Prisoners Wives, and am quite enjoying Pramface. Well, the former has the fabulous Pippa Heyward in it, the latter has Angus Deayton and Anna Chancellor, and BOTH have Emma Rigby).

I’ve flitted in and out of MasterChef. I was utterly hypnotised by Aki’s eyes for quite some time, and when she got told off by John for being a mucky pup in the barn-based-undercooked-brownie-debacle (and we never did find out who sabotaged her), my heart went out to her. I couldn’t keep a white apron clean making meringues.

But when she left, my viewing became intermittent. The Jane Austen Fan Club task, with its purple horror show beetroot sauce, made me feel queasy.  The way every task is made out to be so hysterically dramatic and overhyped, with daft, shrieky incidental music, makes me want to shout “It’s only FOOD dudes. Chill the fuck OUT”.

But then, Twitter chums, including Pauseliveaction herself, alerted me to the concurrent (to the programme) tweets of @themanwhofell, and this brought the magic back. Surreal, hilarious. Utter genius. It’s the Twitter equivalent of having Dave Lamb narrate Come Dine With Me, but even better.

Sadly he wasn’t tweeting for the final, in which the beautiful Shelina beat the two boys, Tom and Andrew, to win the trophy, and frankly, it was less fun. But I’m glad she won.

So, then we’ve got White Heat, something of a Big Chill sort of drama, with the coming together in the here-and-now of a bunch of older people, who were students together in the ’60s, after one of them (we don’t know who yet) has died. There’s some bloody fine acting from the gorgeous Claire Foy in some very short skirts, the always lovely Jeremy Northam and the always wonderful Tamsin Grieg to name but three from an excellent cast. But it’s a bit dodgy in a number of ways this series. There are occasional anachronisms. They’ve shoved the arrival of feminism in early.  So making a point of having a raised fist power salute poster with the words ‘the personal is political’ on a student wall in the mid 1960s is at least five years too soon.

And it tends to preface the imminent arrival of new laws (such as the Abortion Act of 1967) somewhat heavy-handedly. But it’s all very atmospheric, gorgeous to look at, acted beautifully and the music is wonderful. I’m enjoying it.

Finally, we have the edgy and unnerving Homeland, with Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, about the return home from  Baghdad of a soldier who had been missing, presumed dead, for many years. CIA agent, Carrie, fears he was ‘turned’ during his years of torture and captivity and wants to find out by setting up secret surveillance in his family home.

His wife finds out her dead husband is, in fact, alive, by means of a phone call from him slap-bang in the middle of having sex with his best friend. Oops.

Once you’re past the trauma of Damian Lewis’s facial hair in captivity, and realise Claire Danes might be brilliant but she’s also unhinged, there’s lots to enjoy in this. There have been questions asked about whether the nudity and sex are justified (us watching CIA agent, Carrie Mathieson, watching Nicholas Brody and his wife having horribly, cringily awkward sexual encounters by means of a hidden spy-camera? And did the sheik’s  mistress need to interview potential harem members with them topless, then physically check if they’ve had a good enough Brazilian?)

But none of these can be described as sexing-up the programme. It’s more like uncomfortable voyeurism.

I’ve got no idea where this series is heading, but I’m enjoying the twisty, weird journey it’s taking on the way.

And there’s a really good Guardian episode-by-episode blog  here.

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