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Kick Ass Women: Sarah Lund

Kick Ass and very warm

I’m officially nominating Sarah Lund  (Sofie Grabol) from The Killing as a Kick Ass Woman. Not that I’d ever call any woman ‘kick ass’ in reality, you understand, but that’s the category I’m working with, and Lund definitely qualifies. I must admit that I missed the first series of The Killing when it was shown a few months back, and by the time it was repeated, I’d already just seen the American version (which I quite enjoyed) and didn’t want to start all over again. For series 2 of the Danish original though, I was there from the start. I know that the series finished before Christmas, but in these days of boxed sets and Sky Plus, who cares about such minor details?

Lund starts off the series in some back of beyond post due to some previous unpleasantness, I’m guessing at the end of the first series two years before. She seems miserable but accepting of her fate. Before long she’s dragged back into investigating a series of murders of a lawyer and the team of soldiers that the lawyer was representing. It’s all something to do with a murder of a family in Afghanistan by a mysterious Danish officer. I won’t go into details, as it’s all very complicated. Suffice to say, Lund doesn’t really cheer up throughout the whole investigation.

Lund & Strange in happier times

She’s very single-minded, is Lund. She would win a single-minded competition even if put up against some very single-minded people indeed. She sees a suspect and then goes for him/her like a terrier after a rat. She reminds me a bit of that bloke from Taggart who’s approach to investigating a murder is to say “It was him – he definitely did it, without a doubt”, until someone points out that said suspect has a watertight alibi, when he then switches to the next ne’er do well in line as the murderer. Lund exhibits this approach to her colleague Strange, convinced one minute that he was the mystery special forces officer, Perk, then accepting that he was back in Denmark when the atrocity in question happened. This despite the fact that she quite fancies Strange, even going so far as to smile at him once, and, very daringly, hold his hand in the back of a Land Rover in Afghanistan.

I’d be very happy for Lund to investigate something on my behalf. I’d be less keen on going shopping with her, and the chances of any bloke sustaining a relationship with her long term are, I would suggest, slim. She doesn’t take no for an answer. You can imagine her suggesting the house would be better for an extension, and before you have the chance to say it’d be very expensive but perhaps you could think about it in a few years time, she’d have dug some footings and knocked a wall down.

In Afghanistan (just going there seems pretty kick ass to me), she persuades their army driver to divert to a village to look for evidence. She gets pissed off with the uncooperative attitude of a local and starts shouting at him, up close. He had a shifty look and an obvious gun, and it never occurred to her that she might need to rein in the attitude a bit.  Somehow though, she gets away with it. That same disregard for her own safety and the consequences of her actions are displayed when she chases the killer into a deserted building, with no back up, and against specific orders to the contrary. It doesn’t go well.

SPOILER ALERT – KILLER REVEALED:

Her ‘did he, didn’t he?’ suspicions as far as Strange was concerned were ultimately resolved when she realised that when he was supposed to have been back in Denmark behaving himself, he was, in fact, in Afghanistan, murdering civilians. It was him all along! Her realisation of this, and of the fact that it was Strange who’d been carrying out all the recent killings, prompted a classic Lundism; did she call back Strange, with back up, and take him in for questioning? Did she raise her suspicions with her superior officer, Brix? Nope on both counts. Instead, she finds Strange and insists on driving him and the soldier he’d been trying to kill, back to the hospital, stopping off in the park where the first murder took place, to confront him. When he realises that Lund knows he’s guilty, he grabs her gun and shoots her. Luckily, she’d put on a bullet proof jumper (thankfully, no head shots), so all was well, and after a brief lie down, she managed to sneak up behind him while he was about to carry out another murder, knock him flat on his back and grab his gun. She tells Strange not to move. He moves. She shoots him – lots of times. That’s why we like Lund. No nonsense.

So, if any woman is ‘kick ass’, it’s Sarah Lund. Tenacious, focussed, ruthless and fearless, with a deep sense of social justice, and a nice line in knit-wear. Magnificent.

Posted by Our Man In The South

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Strictly: Back where it belongs.

Russell Grant fired from Wembley

I’m going to sound a bit of a grump, I know, and I hate to spoil the atmosphere and all that, but last week’s Strictly was, I thought, the worst I’d ever seen. Wembley Arena was a rubbish venue for the average TV viewer. It might have been enjoyable for those actually there, which is why the dancers and Brucie seemed genuinely so excited about it all, but sitting at home, it just looked and sounded completely wrong. I haven’t spoken to anyone this week who thought it worked well at Wembley. Anyway, the long and short of it is I was glad to see things back in the studio this week.

They seemed to give the show an X-Factor style intro, with Tess giving the stats from last week’s show, and recounting the celebs meeting the Doochess of Cornwall. This week was a two-dance week, with the couples performing a ‘swingathon’ as well as the usual ballroom or latin effort. I always find the thought of a swingathon mildly disturbing, with images of a 70s style keys-on–the-table party flitting through my mind, but then we do live in Crowborough where that sort of thing happened all the time, so I’m told. (Note to self – remove the Pampas grass from the front garden).  Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing: Scary stuff

Ooh, Miss Jones

It was Halloween Special on Strictly. I must confess I’m of an age when I’m not sure Halloween, as an event, merits a special of anything(apart from Psychoville). Far too much fuss made of it these days. When I was a kid, you might have a bit of enforced apple bobbing and a pumpkin in the window, but that was it. Now, we have a whole Saturday night’s light entertainment on both channels devoted to it.

In keeping with the theme, the show starts with a mildly embarrassing Addams family group dance, before a terrifying wizened member of the living dead appears – oh, hang on – it was Brucie, making the traditional weekly grab for Tess’s upper thigh.

Like Velocity Girl, in last week’s review, I must confess to getting a bit fed up with all the padding in Strictly at the moment. The show is plenty long enough without all the quirky videos. It’s fine to see a bit of training, but all this; “Alex was told by the judges last week that she needed to be sexier, so I decided to take her to a live sex show” is wearing a bit thin. We had Chelsee and Pasha visiting a school, Alex and James abseiling (yeah, yeah – it wasn’t really a sex show, but you get my drift), Harry and Aliona poncing about in the London Dungeon, and a horrific dream sequence for Jason featuring Ann Widdecombe of which the least said about, the better. In the words of Len, please stop all this messing about. A bit of training, and just do the bloody dance. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve recorded Strictly, which means you can whizz through all the extraneous nonsense and save a good half hour. I’d recommend it.   Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing: Brace Yourselves!

It’s back! The countdown to Christmas begins with the proper return of Strictly Come Dancing (I’m ignoring the pre show the other week when we saw which professional had been landed with which celeb). Even the announcer beforehand seemed to be camping it up for the start of the Strictly season.

Unlike X Factor’s drastic revamp, Strictly has kept things pretty much the same. Bruce’s ‘jokes’ remain as strained and awkward as ever, and his carer, Tess Daly, continues to wear the weirdest of outfits, prompting the weekly, “what has she got on?” from Mrs OMITS. I do like Bruce, though. There’s something comforting about having him still as a regular Saturday night feature on our screens (I know it’s Friday, but you know what I mean). My Mum doesn’t agree. She is visiting for the weekend, and watched it with us. At one point, Bruce quipped “I nearly went off there.” I distinctly heard “I wish you would”, emanating from the aged P.

The judges remain unchanged too, though Craig Revel Horwood has had a new hair cut foregoing the mullety look of last year. Len Goodman’s still a bit grumpy (‘You’re getting on my wick already”, he said to the audience after they booed a negative comment), Shy and retiring Bruno Tonioli needs to work on his confidence but I’m sure will come out of his shell as the series continues, and Alesha Dixon provides a generally supportive and matey flavour to the comments  from someone who’s been there and done it. I like Alesha, but I do hope she manages to sort out her tenses this year -“You was excellent” does tend  to grate a bit after week five.

For the first weekend (half on Friday, and half on Saturday) no one leaves the show, but their points do get carried forward to next week when someone will be kicked off. I know she hasn’t danced yet, but my money’s on Edwina Currie as the first to go. Not sure why, other than I find her irritating. Always have. Mind you not as irritating as Ann Widdecombe last year, and look what happened to her.

One of the strengths of Strictly is, I’ve always thought, Dave Arch and his Orchestra. That band can do anything. The vocalists are consistently amazing, often delivering performances that outshine the originals and add to the sensitivity of the dancing. Amazing stuff.

This year, we do get the option of live commentary from Karen Hardy and a celeb (tonight, Katy Brand) on the red button, but I instantly forgot that, and didn’t avail myself of their services.

Holly Valance (emphasis on the ance) and Artem kick things off with the cha cha cha, and for a first dance, put in a pretty solid performance. Holly said that her experience of cavorting around in pop videos doesn’t make her a dancer, but it obviously gave her a physical confidence that your present correspondent never developed during ‘music and movement’ at school.

Len said, ‘not the best first dance I’ve seen’ (booo), ‘but it was close’ (hurrah!)

Dan Lobb (from Daybreak – I know – I’ve never seen it either)) and Katya Virshilas do the waltz, and to my untrained eyes, seemed to do pretty well. Craig wasn’t pulling any punches though, even for a first night; ‘hideously rigid topline’ and ‘transformations were clunky’ or something.

Next came Lulu and Brendan Cole with a cha cha cha. Hopes had been high for Lulu, who looks in great shape, and is a proper showbiz legend, but who looked devastated to be given Brendan has a partner. Oh dear. It all went very wrong. Len succinctly summed it up; ‘lots of boombangabang, but nothing to shout about.’ Craig was even more focussed in his critique; ‘disaaaaaaaaster’! Alesha was more encouraging, but then she can’t criticise Lulu can she?

Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe performed a waltz and he was surprisingly light on his feet for such a large chap. Len liked it, though Craig was back in the ‘disaaaaaaster’ zone, moaning about his hands or suchlike. I’d be careful laying into his hands too much, to be honest, in case he gives you a closer look, Craig.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan were next.  Hmmmm. I like Ola, and it turns out we share the same birthday, so she gets my vote. The Savage fella, I’m less sure about. To my mind, being known as the dirtiest player in the Premiership is nothing to boast about, especially when one looks like a preening fop, and this bad boy image is going to get rammed down our throats until he’s voted off. They danced to – ahem – ‘Bad Boys’. A bit of strutting and some dodgy pelvic thrusts, and Craig rightly pointed out that it was all about the look rather than the dance.

Anita Dobson & Robin Windsor turned in a very nice waltz. You can tell the performers – they have a distinct advantage over sportsmen and other celebs who don’t have that experience of expressing themselves on stage. The judges loved it.

It was the turn of Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace next. I must confess a bias here as Flavia is my favourite professional and looked stunning.  I wasn’t really looking at Russell Grant, though I hear he did quite well for a ‘comedy’ turn and will probably be very popular. Mrs OMITS queried whether you could see his testicles down the leg of his trouser, but, as I say, I wasn’t looking.

In the round up clips at the end of the show, Holly Valance looked even better than she had first time round. By then we’d realised what everyone else looked like, and she and Anita Dobson were in joint first place, with Lulu, rightly, and unfortunately, languishing at the bottom of the table.

Tonight, the remaining celebs get to Dance. Will the collision of Edwina Currie’s and Nancy Del Olio’s egos cause a rethink of the laws of physics? I can’t wait to find out.

Posted By Our Man In The South

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The Apprentice: Taking the biscuit

It’s week nine for our entrepreneurial elite, and a relaxing Sunday in Apprentice Towers is disturbed by a late night knock on the door. It’s his Lordship himself. They must have edited out the swearing that this surprise visit would have generated amongst the inmates.

What possible task couldn’t have waited until Monday morning? Were our heroes required to parachute into Palestine and secure a lasting peace with Israel? Or fly to Africa and design a lifesaving mobile water purification unit? No. Their task was create and sell a new brand of biscuit. There was some travel involved though – Lord Sugar had laid on a trip to a development kitchen in Wales, or ‘Wows’, as he calls it. It’s not all bad then.

Venture, this week, comprises Natasha, Helen, and Darth Jim. Jim must have been delighted as Helen has proved unstoppable so far. Also, he likes Helen, as she’s ‘passive’. Goes with his ‘passive aggressive’ then, as diagnosed by Karen last week. In any event, passive or not, Helen puts herself forward and no one feels like arguing. This is a guaranteed cert with her form.   Continue reading

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Scott and Bailey: Quality crime

When I saw the previews of Scott and Bailey on ITV, my expectations weren’t high. Sure, it would be decent enough Sunday night telly, but probably leave you with that sense of slight disappointment that formulaic detective dramas often do. I was wrong. This is good stuff.

Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) are believable characters played with immense sensitivity. Either of these actors brings something classy to a TV drama. Together, they make for compulsive viewing.

Lesley Sharp’s portrayal of Scott informing a husband that his missing wife was almost certainly the woman they had found raped and murdered in the boot of her car, was a revelation. It should be used for police training purposes demonstrating how to convey devastating news with honesty and compassion.

Suranne Jones plays Bailey, duped and dumped by her boyfriend of two years (Rupert Graves), with a mixture of scary anger and touching vulnerability. The scene mentioned above was enhanced by her sideways glances at the murdered woman’s grieving son as he sobbed on the sofa. It was a simple thing, but beautifully observed.

I’m no police officer but this seems more believable than many crime dramas. They work in a team, there are resentments and tensions, but also humour evident, and the dialogue is convincing.  Continue reading

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The Apprentice: Top hats and tea

We all know that the success of The Apprentice is due, not to our aspiring to be one of the chosen few ‘entrepreneurial elite’, but thanking the Lord that we’re not. Tonight’s episode did nothing to upset this general theme. Having lost the hapless Edward (a man with strength of character, honest and direct, according to the website) and Alex (ambitious, driven and extremely focussed), we’re now down to fourteen ‘hopefuls’ competing for the pleasure of a £250k business deal with Lord Alan of Sugar.

The call came early –“we leave in thirty minutes to go to the Shtrand!” What was waiting for them in the Shtrand, turned out to be The Savoy Hotel, coming to the end of a three year refit. Leon, Jim and Glenn were sent to Venture. Melody, Zoe, Ellie and another one (there’s too many to learn all the names at this stage) went to Team Logic. The teams have a few hours to find ten items that The Savoy, weirdly, seemed to have forgotten to buy. Logic choose Scouse Gavin as leader, whereas Venture get ‘Market Trader’ Susan (“I helped my mum pay off her mortgage when I was doing my A levels) Ma.

Nick seems impressed with Susan at the start – to be fair, she did take control, chiefly by shouting ‘go – go now – NOW’ at her team mates.

Vincent for Logic leaps into action on the phone: “can you tell me anywhere in London that sells fillet steak?” Try Tescos mate.

It all starts to turn a bit ugly. Gavin, after two hours of team wrangling, actually said, in his Liverpool accent, “calm down, calm down”. Three hours in and team logic still don’t know what a ‘cloche’ is. Wonder if they know what a cliché is? Have none of them got a dictionary app on their iPhones? Failing that, nip into a book shop and find a real paper one – ten minutes, and you’d know what you’re looking for which can only help the buying process. Continue reading

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Lewis: What is going on?

I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve watched all of the current series of Lewis. There’s much to recommend it – a fine cast, the warm architecture of Oxford, some witty dialogue (at times), and the legacy of Inspector Morse always lurking in the background in a faintly comforting way. There is one problem though, and it’s a big one: the plots are ludicrous!

I know it’s Sunday night drama, and that means nice scenery and a reassuring murder or two, but each episode seems to have an average of four deaths, and every time the action centres on another college. Don’t they have any crime in Oxford that isn’t university related? Imagine the media coverage that would follow the events of any typical week in the life of Lewis, let alone the twenty odd (and I mean odd) murders per series. Yet they seem to operate without any press coverage whatsoever, shrugging off another set of bizarre and disturbing crimes with a cheery pint and a matey quip.

I do quite like Lewis (Kevin Whately), and Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) is an interesting character whose police gimmick (they always have a gimmick) is that he’s clever, having studied theology at Cambridge. The relationship between the two is affectionate, and one of the strengths of the series. I do wonder, though, how they always manage to solve these crimes completely on their own. In other police dramas, there are teams of detectives working on each case, with technical  support, a geeky computer whizz kid, and a shouty superior officer. None of that in Oxford. You get Lewis and Hathaway, Lewis’ love interest, the pleasant pathologist Dr Hobson (Clare Holman), and the excellent Rebecca Front as Lewis’ boss (they never seem to reveal her rank) but who seems to run the department with the air of a benign head of sixth form – never any shouting, swearing or venturing more than five feet from her office. Continue reading

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The Crimson Petal and The White

The Crimson Petal and The White continues to be the highlight of the TV week for me. Episode two kicks off with another of Sugar’s (Romola Garai) fantasies whereby she wakes William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd) with a red-hot poker. In reality it’s a gentle hand on his chest, and she’s soon planting the seed in Rackham’s mind of acquiring more salubrious surroundings for their liaisons. “I’ll be carried off by the cholera by the time I’m twenty five,” she warns him, when he moans about the smell in her rooms. She’s well aware that Rackham is worth a bit, having rifled through his briefcase whilst being – ahem – taken from behind in the last episode, (commendable multi-tasking) and checking out his address.

Meanwhile, Rackham’s brother, Henry (Mark Gatiss) continues his visits to Mrs Fox (Shirley Henderson) – who happens also to be the sister of the evil doctor Curlew played menacingly by Richard E Grant. Poor Mrs Fox is clearly ailing, though Henry seems oblivious to this fact, so captivated by her that the first rule of period drama completely eludes him (the first rule being; if someone coughs, they’ll be dead by the end of the episode). When this is finally pointed out to him, Henry questions his very faith, and burns his bibles and himself, fantasising in his final moments about finally getting it on with the Foxy Mrs F.

Mrs Rackham (Amanda Hale) visits a pale and emaciated friend, with something of the Lady Gaga about her, who introduces her to a new health regime – a diet of green beans, supplemented by the occasional spoonful of well strained oxtail soup (no doubt it will feature in the Daily Mail  health section next week). Basically, we’re talking anorexia, with added pills (no doubt opium) washed down with ‘Godfrey’s cordial’. By the time she gets home, Mrs R is as high as a kite, looking strangely serene at dinner with her husband, until she reveals that the reason for her newfound calm is that she has a ‘guardian angel’ (this being Sugar, spied from her window at the end of episode 1). Poor old Rackham – it put him right off his grub.

It turns out that Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson, reminding me, at times of an evil version of Dorcas Lane from Lark Rise to Candleford – not sure why) isn’t just Sugar’s ‘Madam’, but is her mother as well.  When Rackham announces that he wishes to take Sugar away from her, their parting is choked with words left unsaid, although Sugar’s initial joy at being given a place of her own is very touching. Feeling out of place and lonely however, she keeps popping back to see her old friends, one of whom asks if she’s actually fond of Rackham. Sugar responds that she’s ‘used to him’, and when he’s away, ‘misses the world that comes with him’. Despite her protestations, one gets the impression that Sugar is becoming quite fond of Rackham. Although he has the cash, she clearly wields the power in the relationship. Continue reading

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The Tudors: The end is nigh

And so, the end is near, and Henry must face the final curtain. We know it’s going to be one of those episodes when a few of his dead ex-wives pop up in the opening credits. Always nice to see Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, mind you.

Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the Duke of Suffolk (Henry Cavill) look, if possible, even rougher than they did last week, and still seem to be existing in a different time continuum to the rest of the cast. Little Edward has grown a bit, and, thankfully, given up on the leprechaun act, though Henry’s accent is as Oirish as ever, if now delivered mainly in staccato grunts and groans.

Bishop Gardiner, played by a reptilian looking Simon Ward, is plotting and scheming, as ever, and is targeting the Queen with his anti-heretical attentions , drawing up warrants for her arrest. Henry feigns ignorance of this, but seems unsure, really, whether to have her arrested or not. Ultimately, despite Catherine telling him that, basically, she’ll go along with whatever he tells her to believe and say no more about it, he lets the plan to arrest her go ahead, it seems, merely so he can leap to her defence and give the Lord Chancellor an ear bashing. “Get out, and take your bastards with you”, is a line I will try and use myself, at the earliest opportunity.

Lord Hertfod, little Edward’s Uncle is gearing up to look after the shop once Henry pops his clogs, making him and his protestant wife a major source of irritation to those who want Mary on the throne. Gardiner’s plans to arrest Lady Hertford, are however, foiled by the fact that she has some dirt on him. Apparently the proceeds of those monasteries that he was supposed to dissolve in Cornwall didn’t all make it in to the King’s coffers. Gardiner has an account in the Cayman Islands, it seems, or the 16th Century equivalent. Nice to see Lord Hertford, give Gardiner a bop on the nose in a particularly volatile council meeting. When Gardiner tries to take his protest to the King, Henry says “Refused. His grace has a troublesome nature, and I don’t want to see him here ever again.” About time. Gardiner stood crestfallen outside his majesty’s chambers having been told to sling his hook, looking like one of those X factor hopefuls who don’t make it through to the second round. Continue reading

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