Author Archives: Jo the Hat

Joy of Sets: The Professionals Mk1

pla prosI will be honest with you. I adore the Professionals and have done since I was a child with (what felt like) a life-size poster of Bodie and Doyle on my bedroom wall. When I heard about the remastering of the show for DVD and Blu-Ray, you could probably have heard the squeeing from space. But, be warned, I watch this show with my slash goggles on – they allow me to overlook the political incorrectness, sexism and ludicrous moments like Cowley calling for a “helicopter and the nuclear bomb squad” or Bodie and Doyle defusing an atom bomb in a bowling alley (Stake Out) and focus on the alchemical gold of Bodie and Doyle.

For those who prefer a, ahem, straighter reading of the text, this is what you need to know. The lads have never looked better. Watching the repeats on ITV4 is genuinely like peering back through 30-odd years of grime. I’m not sure the show looked this good even when it was first aired… Network has done an incredible clean-up job. And the shiny new boxed set comes with lots of gorgeous extras, including exhaustive production notes (a 180-page paperback filled with everything you could ever want to know about the making of the first series. My only complaint is the tiny font they’ve used – good for the trees, bad for my eyes), Without Walls – the 1996 Channel 4 documentary about the show (which left me wanting to give creator Brian Clemens a slap, to be honest), a couple of bits of unused footage, and a massive gallery of photos, many of which haven’t been seen before, and covering the first few days’ shooting with Anthony Andrews as Bodie (on Old Dog With New Tricks).

pla punchbagOh and Network has put the episodes back together with the original, unintentionally hilarious, title sequences. I was too young to see the first couple of series, so for me Laurie Johnson’s iconic theme tune has always conjured the image of a car smashing through a window, Martin Shaw looking like he’s about to chop down a particularly nefarious tree and Lewis Collins ferociously working out in the gym. The sight of Shaw and Collins vigorously throwing themselves at random targets in the original titles is one that makes me smile and wince in equal measure. (We also get the original closing titles, worth checking for the sheer lack of traffic on the roads of London back then.)

If you’ve spent the last 35 years or so ignoring Bodie grabbing Doyle’s arse, Doyle touching up Bodie, or the pair of them making eyes at each other and flirting, and would like to continue watching from a heteronormative perspective – now’s the time to jump ship (if you’ll pardon the pun) on this review. Those who ship (or at least don’t mind if others ship) Bodie and Doyle, come with me below the line…

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Filed under Detective/police drama, Joy of Sets

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor


All right then. We have at long last wrapped up all those dangling threads that have been hanging around since the Pandorica opened and the Doctor reset the universe. And we have said farewell to the wonderful Matt Smith. Regular readers of these sofa-based despatches will not be surprised to learn that I waterproofed the laptop before sitting down to watch Eleven’s swansong (and that it was just as well that I did).

After being bounced around inessential, but not irrelevant, scenes like a pinball – the now traditional Doctor Who opening – we find ourselves, inevitably, on Trenzalore. We learn at last who blew up the Tardis, why silence must fall (not to mention who the Silence are), what’s on the other side of the crack in the universe (and that it was the crack that the Doctor saw back in his hotel room The God Complex), and why the oldest question in the universe is Doctor who?

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Filed under Dr Who

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

The-Day-of-the-DoctorI think Steven Moffat has given my brain indigestion. Even sleep didn’t untangle the knots he tied in my mind last night. It seems that The Day of the Doctor is an episode that genuinely requires two passes – the first to follow the plot, the second to absorb the story.

The first viewing left me a little deflated – there were so many good things in there, but it hadn’t moved me (and as you will know by now, I cry at the drop of hat – be it a fez or a stetson). A rewatching has, however, had me reaching for the tissues…

I can’t tell you if this is a reflection on my diminishing abilities to keep up with the Moff’s timey-wimey plotting, or a change in the way the man writes.

(Spoilers of many things 50th-related below the line…)

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Filed under Dr Who

Cabin Pressure. Simply brilliant!

Cabin PressureYou know how some people get when they have a fabulous new boy/girlfriend? They can’t stop telling you how brilliant said person is. They tell you the funny things they say All The Time. If they could clone them so everybody could have a boy/girlfriend as great as theirs they would. Well, I am currently that person – except I don’t have a boy/girlfriend. I am a late but enthusiastic arrival to the Cabin Pressure party.

Just when I had begun to fear my sense of humour was fading, I have found something that has literally made me spit out my grapefruit juice (luckily I was next to the sink) with laughter. I am to be found, earphones in and MP3 player on, giggling in the aisles of Sainsbury’s. I am utterly enthralled and addicted. I even traded in existing Audible books in order to gorge on all four series (plus a Christmas special) in less than a fortnight when I ran out of credits. If I had a pencil case and/or rough book, it would have Cabin Pressure quotes (Brilliant! The lemon is in play. Yellow car. etc) encased in hearts scribbled all over it.

CarolynWhy have I fallen so spectacularly for this Radio 4 sitcom about MJN, a teeny charter airline (or airdot – you can’t put one aeroplane in a line as MJN CEO Carolyn Knapp-Shappey once remarked)? Firstly, because it is really, really funny. (See previous paragraph.) I honestly think the last sitcom to make me laugh this much was Blackadder (on its first airing).

It’s also extraordinarily well-written by John Finnemore. He has a way with callbacks that is astonishing. You think a line is perfect and funny and 25 minutes later he turns it upside-down, gives it a polish,  and makes it even funnier. But it’s not his fabulous plotting or genius comedy that makes me love his writing so utterly – it’s the heart that it has. For all the turmoil he puts Carolyn and her crew through at 35,000 feet, the deep affection he has for them, and writes into every line, is what makes Cabin Pressure special.

That and having an astonishingly talented cast, of course. Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch and Finnemore himself are the core as Carolyn, First Officer Douglas Richardson, Captain Martin Crieff and steward Arthur Shappey.

Carolyn is the alpha dog trying to keep her business afloat and her crew in order. She could be an awful harridan, but Cole never lets that happen.

benedict mjnMartin is the hapless Captain, desperate to be taken seriously and generally suffering at the hands of Douglas and/or his own ineptitude. Again, there is a real danger that he could turn into a whiner – but that’s never going to happen while the fantastically talented Benedict Cumberbatch is wearing Martin’s heavily braided Captain’s hat. Also he convincingly conveys the impression that Martin is both a good deal shorter than his own six-footedness and deserving of our sympathy. Then there’s Paris (series 3, episode 2) in which his own success in Sherlock is beautifully subverted. (Martin: But the thing is, we’ve taken away all the things that can possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing that’s left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen, in fact. Douglas: Snappily put.)

douglasThen there is Douglas. He might only be the first officer but he oozes the confidence and authority that Martin would give a year of his life to have. Once described by Carolyn as being like Stephen Fry’s favourite uncle. Always has at least see seven ulterior motives for doing anything. King of the laconic putdown. Roger Allam is simply superb. Douglas may be a sky god, but Roger is a radio god. I’d join his marathon-running team in a heartbeat (once you have listened to Vaduz – series 4, episode 3, you will know what I’m talking about).

arthur_shappeyLast, but in no way least, is Arthur the eternally optimistic but dimwitted steward (and Carolyn’s son). Arthur thinks pretty much everything is brilliant and even I might enjoy flying in his company.

Now, here is a link to Cabin Pressure on Audible, who will even refund you if you don’t like one of their books. You have nothing to lose (except your drink over the nearest surface, the ability to ignore yellow cars and the inability to say “Brilliant!” without sounding like Arthur).

Existing Cabin Pressure fans may also love this lovely video done in the style of the Nikon ads.

I could rave for hours, but the jokes are really best experienced firsthand from the professionals, so I’m off to listen to Ottery St Mary for the fourth time (Yellow car).

Posted by Jo the Hat


Filed under Comedy, Radio

Doctor Who (7.13): Love hurts actually

Seventh Doctor[Spoilers all the way down this week.]

Oh, he’s a clever so-and-so that Steven Moffat. The fans want a multi-Doctor episode to mark the 50th anniversary, so he gives us not one but several. He’s been dripfeeding us echoes of Doctors One to Ten for weeks and when we sit down to watch the series finale, with  – let’s be honest – half an eye on the November special, he gives us all Ten (blink and you miss Eight though) and in a way that makes sense.

He doesn’t, of course, tell us the Doctor’s name, because the power of it lies in its mystery. There is no name you can give him that can match his chosen name or the draw of the secret surrounding his other name.

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Filed under Dr Who

Doctor Who (7.12): “Stay alive … and don’t let anyone blow up this planet”

The Doctor, Nightmare in SilverWooooohooo! Now we’re on fire… Neil Gaiman is back at the keyboard and applying his Midas touch for a second time. And as long as you weren’t expecting another The Doctor’s Wife (he did tweet that he didn’t even try to top it) I’m hoping you enjoyed it as much as Hat Jr and I did.

One of my favourite things about Neil Gaiman’s writing is his gift for deception. He has a sleight of hand that is breathtaking (Neverwhere is a classic example, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, by the way) and immensely satisfying. It also makes rewatching a special joy.

[Spoilers below the line]

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Filed under Dr Who

Lustbox: Men who can sign

sign languageNow, PLA and I were having a bit of a collective swoon about men who use sign language yesterday, and I suggested lustboxing the lot of them.

Then I worried that perhaps it was offensive or patronising or something. Anyway, after a lot of thought (and, I’ll be honest, there’s not usually a lot of thinking going on when lustboxing) I’ve come to the conclusion that this is just a variation on finding bilingual men sexy.

Leroy Jethro GibbsThe conversation started with silver fox Mark Harmon, who as Special Agent Gibbs regularly (though not regularly enough) converses in sign language with Abby Sciuto (who proves that signing women are sexy too), and moved on to Connor from Waterloo Road who signed his wedding vows.

Then there’s double signing with Guppy Sean and Sam Colloby from Casualty in the late nineties and more doctors signing in ER – proving that sign language can make even doctors Benton and Romano seem a lot more human.

Josh LymanSadly I couldn’t find you links to the rare bit of signing we get from my favourite West Winger Josh Lyman (Season 2, Episode 20 – thank you Twitter hive mind), though I can give you Joey Lucas and Kenny signing AND annoying Josh at the same time. What’s not to love?

And then of course there’s CSI’s Gil Grissom. Smart, geeky and a signer. Not to mention William Hurt in Children of a Lesser God. Who have I missed? Let me know. And feel free to share more sexy signing women too.

Finally, why not follow @BritishSignBSL on Twitter and learn a new sign every day?

[NB I nearly included Benton Fraser here, but although he understands ASL, he doesn't actually sign for us in Due South, and semaphore may be a niche attraction even by my standards...]

Posted by Jo the Hat


Filed under Lustbox

Doctor Who (7.11): There’s trouble at mill…

The Crimson HorrorWell that was fun! And funny too. Master of gothic humour (or perhaps I mean gothic and humour) Mark Gatiss has turned in one of the best episodes of the series with The Crimson Horror.

Look at the ingredients – Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, more Victorian references than you can shake a stick at, ‘trouble at mill’, Diana Rigg AND her daughter Rachael Stirling, creative use of flashback and a Willy Wonka-esque ‘manufacturing process’ – and you can’t help but get your hopes up.

[Spoilers below the line....]

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Filed under Dr Who

NCIS’s 200th episode: Nearly as good as a slap to the back of the head

Leroy Jethro GibbsNow, just because I don’t write up every episode of NCIS for you, don’t go thinking I’ve missed a single one of its 200 episodes. I still love this show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, check out my first love letter to the best-looking navy cops around. There just isn’t time for me to blog it every week I’m afraid. However, this week is different. Not because it’s a milestone for the show, but because they chose to mark the moment with a very different kind of episode.

[Kinda spoilery from here on in...]

This isn’t the first time NCIS has entered an alternate reality (see the first two episodes of season three when the entire team have a Sixth Sense thing going on), and I have to confess the idea of Gibbs being in limbo while his life flashes before his eyes had me a little anxious. I should have known better.

Life Before His Eyes is not just fine by the show’s usually high standards, it’s full of rewards for the long-time viewer. The diner in which reality is temporarily suspended for Gibbs is packed with familiar faces from the present and the past. Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks, Joan Matteson, Ari Haswari, Caitlin Todd, Anne Gibbs (she’s a redhead, naturally), McCallister, Pacci, Pedro Hernandez, and, of course, Shannon and Kelly all make appearances at some point.

It’s also a Gibbs-centric episode, and who’s going to complain about that? And, in addition, it may just let the man heal a little. Lord knows he deserves to. As Mike Franks tells him, “You solved hundreds of cases, you helped families get over burying their dead by putting away murderers and terrorists.”

You could see this as a loving riposte to all the NCIS fan fiction/forum wishlists as it answers a whole lot of “but what if?” questions along the way. What if Cait hadn’t died on that rooftop? What if Gibbs hadn’t killed Pedro Hernandez? What if Shannon and Kelly hadn’t testified and been murdered? I, naturally, blubbed more than once.

And if all that isn’t enough, we also discover that Jimmy Palmer is absolutely ripped beneath those scrubs. As Gibbs murmurs at the end of Abby’s disclosure of her progress on this week’s case, “Who knew Palmer had abs like that?”

It’s not the perfect episode to start watching NCIS from, but it is a lovely present from NCIS to its fans – the next best thing to a personally-delivered Gibbs slap… Here’s to another 200 episodes!

Posted by Jo the Hat


Filed under Detective/police drama

Lustbox: Aidan Gillen

Aidan Gillen*inhales deeply from Inkface’s smelling salts* *puts the PLA fridge on standby*

So. Aidan Gillen. He’s been off my radar for some time what with being in things on Sky and The Wire (I tried it, honestly, but it didn’t grab me), but his appearance in Mayday was frankly the only thing that kept watching. I had forgotten what an incredible presence he has.

The man radiates dangerous sensuality from every pore. Not to mention a general air of knowing lots of somethings you don’t. Also, like princes of the Lustbox David Tennant and Rufus Sewell, he has excellent hair. It’s no surprise that his version of Phil Hendricks in Sky’s TV adaptations of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne novels isn’t shaven-headed.

It’s a mark of his extraordinary charisma that he made it possible to root for Stuart Alan Jones in Queer As Folk (NSFW), a man who (I suspect) even the most benevolent person could only describe as ‘deeply flawed’.

This is also, naturally, a consequence of being a very talented actor, and as we have testified in the Lustbox before, talent is incredibly sexy. His gift for intensity helps of course, as does that voice. Unlike a Scots accent, I can take or leave an Irish accent (I blame overexposure to James Nesbitt some years back), but I could listen to Aidan Gillen read the terms and conditions of an Adobe update. If I could be gazing into his mischievous eyes at the same time there’d be no hope of getting anything useful out of me for the rest of the day. Or week, probably.

Anyway, I’ll be in my bunk…

Posted by Jo the Hat


Filed under Lustbox