Author Archives: Maggie Gordon-Walker

About Maggie Gordon-Walker

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

The Archers: 0, Staged: 1

4FE3F3A2-9842-4F93-9E42-2D409E050E3DOften, it’s the smallest things that introduce a moment of disquiet. As lockdown started, news came that The Archers would be reducing the number of broadcasts per week to eke out its recordings. In fact, I discovered that it was quite nice to escape the real world and be reminded each time that Ambridge was coronavirus free. Then we had the archive episodes. Having heard what came after, I’m all for saying can we go back to these please? After all, there must be 300,000; 34; 974,000 hours of material, to borrow from our beloved Home Secretary. Personally, I would very much like to hear Helen’s trial again, with the special jury deliberation episode.

I’d been all eager to hear the first instalment and awaited 7.00pm in my kitchen in childlike-excitement. Like all irritants, once something’s gone you miss it at some level, and the Twitter tweetalong has been a muted, sombre place the last few months. Other writers (Miranda Sawyer, for example), have already explained beautifully how disappointing this first episode was. David, patriarchal overlord, wanging on tediously about lasagne to Bess (that’s a cow, not a long-suffering family member), intercut with his equally tedious, grumbling spawn. Continue reading

Comments Off on The Archers: 0, Staged: 1

Filed under Comedy, Drama, Radio, The Archers

Masterchef: Knockout Time

265304BB-C041-42D0-B91E-0AC89B05E088Anything that has been filmed before ‘This Time’ looks odd now, as sequestered in our homes, we resemble alien life forms peering down. We observe the contestants; hugging, high-five-ing, slapping each other on the backs: Where’s your social distancing?! Thank God they make their own pasta, as there’s no ready-made stuff to be found in the whole of Christendom at the moment and the sight of it might tip someone over the edge.

So, it’s Knockout Week. Pedantic of me to say, I know, but isn’t every episode? Each week of the heats started with twelve contestants and finished with three – I don’t think those other nine were in a holding pen waiting to spring back into action. Anyway, there’s no boxing gloves here, just an occasional blue plaster on sixteen eager beavers chomping at the bit to progress.

After the giddy excitement of Apron-geddon, I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by this week, I can’t deny, but maybe Lockdown is making me grouchy. For starters they split them into two groups of eight and whittled down from there. Surely those last sixteen needed to see the whites of each other’s eyes, not least the whites of their aprons. Those aprons, my preciousssss!

First up, they had to make their showstopper dish. Again. Wouldn’t it be better to have given them something more challenging, as in something unexpected? If you haven’t perfected this one dish, heaven help you. Still there seemed to plenty to criticise, nonetheless. Jane’s adorable Woodland Wonder of toadstool meringues on pistachio moss. ‘It could be a fun looking plate,’ sniffed Toady beforehand, ‘I hope it doesn’t look like a novelty toy.’ No, Toads, cos that would be too much fun. In the event, it was too dry.

Shaheen went rogue with his mashed potatoes Beef Wellington, where pancake merged into potato in an unholy mess. I don’t know why contestants haven’t learned this yet. Don’t call your dish by anything like its official name, otherwise that is what they will expect! Call it Boeuf Pomme de Terre Surprise or something. So those two went, along with energetic James and his tonka bean sauce that didn’t taste of tonka bean, even though Toady had grumbled beforehand that it might and how could that possibly work in a savoury dish.

On the second night, I was mesmerised by the fact that Natasha’s colours on the plate matched her rainbow of eyeshadow. Such matching should be noted, you would have thought, but it wasn’t mentioned. Then off to the Pro Stint they went and we heard at least three times that we were in 2015 champion Simon Wood’s restaurant, thus affording us a lot of footage of him from five years back.

While Beverley in the kitchen hunched over her pasta, looking for all the world like Julie ‘Two Soups’ Walters; Toady, in his professional masseur black tunic, seemed staggered by their locale. ‘Incredible, isn’t it? We’re in former champion Simon’s restaurant and here’s five contestants who aspire to do exactly the same thing.’ Right. They’re not aspiring astronauts, man. Get a grip.  Shrek meanwhile, had come dressed as his granddad in tie and cardy combo, marvelling at how the ‘amachurs’ had followed a recipe where someone had stood over them, literally every step of the way.

So, to the last episode and the remaining ten had to produce a plate of nine canapés in order to progress – ‘the sort of thing you’d pass around at a party.’ Thanks Shrek. Next week he’ll be explaining the wheel to the hard of thinking. This also seemed an odd challenge. To produce a perfect example of something, then do eight more of it, seems to diminish it somehow.

The fellas, who’d been a bit depleted in the first two rounds, came storming back, with all four of them sailing through. Sandy was the only female exempt from criticism, as they muttered over the saltiness of Charlotte’s artichoke (not a euphemism), the blandness of Claire’s balls (again, not a euphemism) and the hardness of Beverley’s rice (again,… ok you got it).

In the end, it was another unholy mess of a tiramisu type affair that saw Marla, a confident American in the way that the Brits often aren’t, take the walk of shame. Actually, I don’t think it was really the mess of it that was the problem, especially as a. it looked great and b. she’d given them an espresso martini shot alongside. It was the fact that she said it could be eaten in a couple of bites. Shrek reached out eagerly, cavernous mouth agape and managed only a third on his first attempt. That won’t do at all, Marla. You can’t pull a ‘Not even a black hole can eat three Shredded Wheat’ stunt here….

Comments Off on Masterchef: Knockout Time

Filed under Cooking shows

Masterchef: The Streamlined

Maggie Gordon-Walker

94F177B3-5465-44F6-BB76-4271BFC054D6These are lean, mean, streamlined times in 2020, chaps. With us undoubtedly going to hell in a handcart, the collective teeth-sucking at the continued existence of the BBC licence fee means some tough conversations have almost certainly taken place offscreen. ‘We need to show we’re not Oxbridge educated layabouts. We need to show we understand the value of money. We, the BBC, what hath spawned the mighty Shrek (Gregg Wallace); WE must lead the way. And verily we shall do this by making the Masterchef contestants bring their own food in.’

Where once the hopefuls glided across the approach to urban edgy Masterchef headquarters in a slow-motion Reservoir Dogs style, now they’re humping cool bags over their shoulders like demented hausfraus. From which they emptied the contents of their kitchens, literally in the case of Dev, whose bench was strewn with half empty cartons of this and that. Obviously the Beeb could have cut massive corners by painting a smiley face on a giant boiled egg, but no, here was Shrek – gurnometer turned up to the max and Toady (John Torode), perhaps too much of the good life. There used to be a vast discrepancy in their sizes. Now, not so much.

The new regime didn’t stop there. Are they wearing their nice white aprons? No they are not, in these lean, mean times, no they are NOT. There’s four aprons and six of them. Even Shrek can do the math. ‘Two of you will be going home,’ he announced, boiled egg aquivering so that his yolk nearly runneth over. The aprons sit, demurely folded, on a stool out of reach. You’ve got to earn me baby, they silently emit.

First batch of contestants also included Teddy, who is most definitely actor James Norton moonlighting. I’m going to call him James in fact, no space for cuddly teddies here in this dystopian nightmare, and smiley Glaswegian Karen. ‘Was it important to bring something from home’, Shrek patronised. Yes it was, she had some haggis. Yorkshire lass Becky DIDN’T appear to have brought something from home. Oh yes, a squeaky cheese. Like halloumi but better. She’s a cryer though. In the first challenge! No space for cryers here, love. Off you go.

Karen and Dev made the first cut and she clutched her newly won apron as if it were her firstborn: ‘No-ones taking this away from me.’ I wouldn’t be too sure, love. They’re not embroidered yet. In the next cook off they had to create a splendour from sea bream, fennel and tomatoes. Amanda told Shrek she didn’t like fennel. Too bliddy right lass. I’ve never been fond of the toothpaste taste meself. It had been all of two minutes since his last gurn and predictably enough, the mouth saucered open. James and ‘Three-sauce Pete’ got through and also worshipped at the Altar of Apron. It’s as if they were made of gold. I damn well hope previous years’ contestants realise how fricking LUCKY they were to get handed one, willy-nilly, on the way in.

Next up sees the four of them, their aprons now adorned with their names, having to cook for last year’s finalists. James announced his dishes as being, ‘simple but good-looking. Like him. No, don’t put that in’. Uhuh – it’s been noted, sunshine.  They were indeed simple – these are dishes from ten years back. Perhaps he should focus less on the acting and the being good-looking and make recipes with 435 ingredients in like Dev.

‘This is Masterchef life and death for Karen,’ piped up Shrek at one point (a whisker away from calling in the Apron-Removal Squad). The excitement didn’t stop there. Adorable Delia the cop and splendid teacher/sports star Jilly came back to judge their food, along with 2019 winner Irini, who looked twenty years younger and was dressed for a cocktail party. Were THEY wearing Masterchef aprons? They were NOT! They competed in pre-Brexit days when aprons rained out of the sky like rain does.

But there’s yet another twist. The three of them got to choose their favourite. What?! Lessening the stranglehold of Toady and Shrek! Clearly the good looks had worked for James – making dishes that everyone had seen before paid off as he went through. As did Dev and Pete, at the same time, so James didn’t really have that much advantage. He’ll swagger though, you mark my words. Sad that no woman made it through having faced an all-female finalists’ panel, but there you go.  Everyone’s got to man up here.

We’d like to think Karen got to keep her apron but who knows? Perhaps it was wrestled off her as she exited the premises and her embossed name whittled off with a partridge feather by an Oxbridge graduate determined to show his worth. In later episodes look carefully at those aprons to see if the segment of cloth bears the residue of disappointment.

2 Comments

Filed under Cooking shows

Masterchef the Professionals: Popping up near you

EE494203-EB5C-4BD1-9EA5-3DE6E4F31071

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. Continue reading

Comments Off on Masterchef the Professionals: Popping up near you

Filed under Cooking shows

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

Comments Off on Fleabag – blame the parents

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Comments Off on Bros: After the Screaming Stops

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Comments Off on Celebrity Masterchef: The Wall

Filed under Cooking shows, Uncategorized

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

Comments Off on Love Island – a salty affair

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Comments Off on Poldark: Hair-mageddon

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Comments Off on Celebrity Masterchef: Your 15 minutes is up

Filed under Cooking shows