Author Archives: MaggieGW

About MaggieGW

I'm a performer, writer and director of creative projects, generally not all at the same time. For info about all these, go to www.maggiegordon-walker.com. For info about the creative support group Mothers Uncovered, which I founded and am the director of, go to www.mothersuncovered.com

Masterchef the Professionals: Popping up near you

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Boiled (Gr)egg

Yep, the gladiatorial instalment is back. Much the same as ever. Marcus – still wearing his ‘nice guy’ mask, Monica – a little bit feistier and more relaxed than in previous series, Gregg…words fail. When teamed with Torode, I think of them as Toady and Shrek. On his own that doesn’t suit, so I’ll just call him Boiled (Gr)egg, Boiled for short.

Boiled is clearly there because they have an hour long slot to fill and think we all need to see him shovelling forkfuls into his gob, being faux chummy with the contestants, gurning and repeating what Head Girl and Boy have said, with a puzzled frown on his face. I don’t need it, frankly. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if each episode was only 45 minutes because he had been shelled, sorry shelved and the proper judges could get on with it without resorting to picture cards?

Astonishingly, we seem to have reached the final twelve and they’re not all young, white men – who would have thought? So, what’s new this time? Not a whole lot, although I did notice they made less of the ‘bottom four’ having to cook-off and focused on saying the top eight had got through. A subtle distinction, but less damning.

Oh but there is SOMETHING different. They announced this proudly last night, as if baby had just taken its first steps. What is this brave new world of cuisinedom we have entered? Preparing soufflés while juggling knives? Performing the macarena while reducing their jus? Peeling Boiled while he’s still alive….? Sorry, got carried away there.

They have, drumroll, a pop-up restaurant. They’d never done that before! Right, so the past challenges where they have to cook in tents or on the streets with makeshift ovens, what are those then? No, those are worlds apart. Unlike a Pizza Express and Tramp nightclub, which are easily confused.

Who are the clientele sampling this food? Joe Public? No, 25 specially invited ‘guests’, who are, by and large, a bunch of irritating hipsters who run their own pop-ups and cannot believe they’ve got to advertise these on prime time telly. Not sounding much like a pop-up, is it? But lo, the contestants have been released from their chef whites to wear white t-shirts and they are serving food on rustic plates. Oh, that’s alright then.

The other thing this set-up had was waiters. Give. Me. Strength. I’m surprised there wasn’t a maître’d pottering about asking if they’d like to sample anything else from the wine list. Have any of the production team actually been to a street food pop-up?

Well, never mind about that, what about the nosh, which was supposedly street food? Looked pretty much like the usual stuff they produce. Except for Arbinder, who went rogue making quinoa with pomegranate sorbet. This is not good news for Marcus, who is apoplectic if cheese comes anywhere near fish and in his halcyon days used to get more aerated than the foam anyone foolish enough to attempt dished up.

The only thing really different was a vote, exempting the winner from having to cook in the next round. Admittedly, from the invited guests, but at least Boiled wasn’t there, shoving his oar in. I sense we’re a whisker away from a public phone-in in future series.

‘Yes, I’d like to vote for Boiled to go please….’ Sorry son, back to your saucepan.

They claimed every dish had votes. What fool is going to vote for quinoa and pomegranate sorbet?! Anyway, it’s not like a rigged referendum (ahem) so we’ll take that on trust. Of course, Exose had the most votes. All the hipsters were in ecstasy eating his banoffee style triumph. However, we had to go through the charade of getting him back in the kitchen in shiny whites to say he was going straight to the semi-final. And what about the food on his bench? Dear God, the waste! Exose missed out on the bubbly at the end though, so it wasn’t all glory.

In the cook-off, Andrew, a raisin bun version of Richard Gere, was the next best. Tom unfortunately, made ‘a dog’s dinner’ – the Marcus smiley mask slipped a bit there as he delivered this damning verdict. To be honest, I think Tom will be far happier in his veg patch. He didn’t have the cut and thrust necessary.

Exose is clearly a contender for the title, which would be lovely. He’s talented and chilled with a beauteous smile. However, in his first outing in the skills test, he did abysmally. Granted, I’d be appalling; I got antsy the other day with my colleague watching me mess up a simple spreadsheet she’d explained. Never mind being on national telly with two judges and Boiled making dramatic faces in your eyeline. Why, oh why, does the skills test have to be classic French though? Can’t remember what Exose had to make, but it was something he’d never heard of. But, that’s the great hallmark of cooking apparently. Here’s a thought: Indian food, for example, has been around for ooh, just a tad longer, why can’t they make a samosa or a particular spice mix? Curried (Gr)egg, perhaps…?

Maggie Gordon-Walker

 

 

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Fleabag – blame the parents

I’ve come to this all topsy-turvy, having watched the second series, then gone back to see the first and now rewatching the second again. To be honest, this doesn’t detract hugely from an understanding or appreciation of the programme, for those coming to it fresh.    It gives more information on the itinerant naked lady torso statue and the story behind the demise of Boo, (but no reason as to why Fleabag looks to the audience to be complicit, or where the nickname originated) but everything else can be gleaned from the second outing.
The soundtrack is also spectacular, with dramatic classical music stings. And there is the same wicked humour and devil-may-care attitude to character portrayal as in Killing Eve. I bet Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an excellent drinking companion.
So cleverly written is it, that you don’t really notice, until someone points it out; how few of the characters are named. (Another poke in the eye to traditional drama that feels that naming characters is imperative). ‘Hot Priest’ Andrew Scott is indeed delightful and manages to remain hot, even after you have read the comment that he looks like both Ant AND Dec. Some took umbrage to audiences finding him hot because he is emotionally manipulative and toxic, but as others riposted, so is Fleabag herself.
In fact, the hottest scene IMO, is the bar scene between our Pheebs and Kristin Scott Thomas. The latter’s speech about how women carry pain, whereas men invent it, should be made mandatory reading. Stick it on the Tube please. Watching Fleabag being drawn, moth-like, to older, authority figures of both genders made me realise how entrenched her parent issues must be. It’s a shame we never got to see the mother in a flashback. Dad is bumbling and easily swayed by The Unpleasant Godmother, yet clearly the problems inherent in both his daughters’ attitudes to relationships weren’t caused by him alone.
I wasn’t disappointed that Fleabag and Priest didn’t end up together (And I’m the soppiest romantic EVER). It wouldn’t have been right for either of them. Anyway, with no more series planned, we can invent our own ending. Maybe they can both work on their ‘issues’, he can ditch the priesthood for which he is clearly not suited and they’ll get together in a few years time. Possibly in Finland with Claire and Klare.

by Maggie Gordon-Walker

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Bros: After the Screaming Stops

Like several thousand others, I watched the Bros documentary over Christmas. Its popularity clearly took the schedulers by surprise, who’d parked it in a 10.00pm BBC4 slot with repeat in the early hours of New Years Day. I nearly missed it because my Radio Times only awarded it a paltry three stars. I thought it was an outstanding piece of film-making – it wouldn’t surprise me if it popped up again in the near future with a primetime spot on Beeb 1.

Leaving aside any of the content, it was a supremely well put together piece. It cunningly opened with a teaser of one of their backstage rows during their oft fraught rehearsal period last year, knowing that no-one would be shifting until they saw this played out in full. There were beautifully lit, revealing speeches to camera by our eponymous brothers, intercut with footage from their heyday in the 80s, their lives now in the US (Matt in Vegas, Luke in California) and their reunion gig at the O2 in August 2017. There was a slightly eerie refrain of Wogan asking ‘What will you do when the screaming stops?’ from an interview he’d conducted with them at the height of their success.

One of the brothers’ complaints, and it is a justified one I think, is what a slating they were given by the press ‘back in the day.’  I can’t deny that I was NEVER a fan of their oeuvre; insubstantial teeny pop it certainly was, but no worse than most of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s output that also clogged up the charts at the time. I don’t suppose it helped that their first big hit was ‘When Will I Be Famous?’, grandstanding par excellence. However, in the days of X Factor/TOWIE/Love Island et al, this wannabe-star posturing looks positively tame.

From most of the comments I read from others in response to the documentary, it seems that sneering is still the order of the day. It is true they come across as self-important, overly serious and startlingly un self-aware at times. There’s a definite Spinal Tap-ness going on with their often unintentionally hilarious musings. Matt (the more prolific of the two at these) proudly showing us the painting he had done of his dog with a pint is right up there with Nigel Tufnell’s wide-eyed wonder at his guitars and you have to pinch yourself as a reminder that this isn’t fiction.

There’s a couple of quotes that I did like though, such as ‘everyone has to be on the same page so that you can turn the page’. And there’s some genuinely touching and tear-inducing moments – mostly footage and subsequent memories of their late mother. They also treat their fellow musicians and fans, both now and then, with genuine respect and affection and I found myself warming to them and hoping that the comeback concert would be a success, which it seemed to be. Whatever your view of their music, Luke can play drums and Matt can sing, so good luck to ‘em.

The relationship between them is fascinating. Luke, we discover, always felt the ugly relation; the bridesmaid, never the bride; parked behind his kit while Matt was in the thick of the crowd, the more ‘successful’ one. And yet it was Luke who exerted the most power in their relationship, being the one to walk away from the band while they were still riding high. He has been married for over twenty years; his wife Shirley is present but not overbearing during the concert filming, and significantly, not interviewed. It is their story, not anyone else’s. It is likely that Shirley has been the steadying influence on Luke, who comes across as more grounded than Matt. For me the most poignant moment comes as they walk the long walk from backstage to start their gig. ‘You’re the love of my life’, says Matt to Luke. ‘I love you too’, says Luke, somewhat distractedly, no doubt thinking of the night ahead. ‘No, you’re the love of my life,’ reiterates his brother. This is not answered.

You have to remember they were only eighteen when they were catapulted into stardom, with crowd hysteria worldwide allegedly not seen on that scale since The Beatles. It does something to your psyche, I’m sure. I’ll forgive Matt some of his ludicrous pronouncements for that.

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Celebrity Masterchef: The Wall

Celebrity Masterchef S13Ready, Set, Cook! Or rather stand looking confused at a chicken, asking which part is the breast (Monty Panesar). Yep, Celeb Masterchef is back. Is it the same as before? No, it has ‘The Wall’.

Gregg’s (aka Celeb-irritant Shrek) saucer-eyes nearly expanded off his face with excitement at announcing this new development. As walls go, it’s safe to say that Trump’s one is still uppermost in people’s consciousnesses. My ten year old liked it though, so I guess it has some appeal. The pairs are sent to either side of the wall to attempt to make exactly the same dish. They can call out to each other, a la Pyramus and Thisbe, about what procedure they are doing but never the twain shall meet. Until they are summoned to the judging table of doom to see which offering looks more like a dog’s dinner. Selfish Martin Bayfield nearly toppled the wall (metaphorically rather than literally, although that would have been fun). At 6 foot 10, the pro rugby player/giant was obviously taller than any of the set designers had reasonably expected anyone to be. He could look straight over the wall. However, he is a sporting sportsman and refrained from doing so.  Continue reading

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Love Island – a salty affair

scenic view of beach

I didn’t watch Love Island at all for about five weeks. Then I saw a couple of extracts with my 13 year old son, snorting at the ridiculousness of it, the ‘melts’, ‘salts’ and ‘mugging offs’. He announced to our cat that he’d like to ‘couple up’ with her.

Sadly, like Icarus, I watched slightly too long and then fell into the blaze of the last two weeks. I didn’t have the app, I didn’t watch any of the spin-offs. But I did see all the remaining episodes.

Having now observed some snippets from earlier episodes I realise I missed most of the good stuff. The ‘recoupling’ sections I saw were completely yawnworthy for the most part.

‘Who would you like to couple up with?’

‘The same person I’ve been with for the last week.’

Oh.

Repeat five times.  Continue reading

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Poldark: Hair-mageddon

poldarkby Maggie Gordon-Walker  

I have to confess I was slightly underwhelmed by the first episode of Poldark. Granted it’s been a while since it was last on, so they probably thought a recap was in order, but it felt like over half of it was reminding us what had happened in the last series.

So we have Ross (of course), just as gorgeous and brooding as ever. Demelza, feisty and spirited, still righteously cross about Ross dipping the Poldark toe into Elizabeth, so to speak, although slightly less cross due to her own dalliance with Very Pretty Hugh, who looks like he’d be more at home on Made in Chelsea. Elizabeth, considerably less attractive since her adoption of her husband’s snootiness, George, mouth still like a cat’s anus. Cornwall’s very own Romeo and Juliet – the exceedingly baby-faced Drake and perpetually mournful Morwenna, forever under the watchful eye of the oily Rev, who is like a Christopher Biggins gone bad.

While I was waiting for something to happen and marvelling at how much galloping on horseback across the countryside there seemed to be (it could have rivalled a Lloyds bank ad), I fell to wondering if you put the combined hair of the cast members together, how far would it stretch? For they are all an astonishingly hirsute bunch, man, woman and horse. And there’s always a strong wind, so the locks are blown madly hither and thither. Demelza’s hair has definitely got redder, which is interesting because I don’t think L’Oreal stretched to Cornwall in the eighteenth century.  Continue reading

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Celebrity Masterchef: Your 15 minutes is up

imageI actually quite enjoy this version, truth be told. Not so much the personnel in question, who range from quite endearing to making you want to put your fist through the wall, but because they have some rather good challenges in this incarnation. The ingredient recognition test was always one of my favourites and I’m pleased to see it’s made a comeback, even though some of the items are insultingly simple. Red pepper, seriously?! Although I’d suppose you’d technically get brownie points for knowing it is a bell pepper, but this wasn’t adhered to.

The disparity between competence levels is both amusing and frustrating and makes you realise all the more they had to take who they could get, so thinly stretched is the ‘talent’ available. These Celeb versions littering the schedules rely on us, the ever-slavering public, giving two figs as to whether so-and-so who once presented something on an obscure cable channel is now able to boil an egg satisfactorily. You do get one or two bona fide big names per series, Vic Reeves being one this time round. Shame he couldn’t have been paired with Ulrika Jonsson. Or Ulrika-ka-ka, as she’s better known from their time on Shooting Stars. He might have relaxed her slightly. She looks like she’s being almost constantly tortured, which makes you wonder why she’s subjected herself to it. Oh yes, for cash probably. Continue reading

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