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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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Being Human 3.01: I’m so sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve just died

Regular readers will know of my love for Being Human, primarily as being one of the only half-decent things on BBC3. And, as our dear friends at Smash Hits were wont to say, it’s back Back BACK!

We pick up from the end of the last series. Annie the Ghost (Leonora Critchlow) is trapped in purgatory and frantically appealing to her friends and housemates Mitchell the Vampire (Aidan Turner) and George the Werewolf (Russell Tovey) through a series of TV screens and radios. As charity appeals go, it’s not exactly Band Aid/Live Aid/Lemon Aid (oh come on, citrus fruits have rights too!) but it’s moving enough.

The Fantastical Four

Meanwhile, the chaps and George’s girlfriend Nina (for readers new to all this, is also a werewolf, have been bitten by George in the first series) have fled Bristol and are being shown round an abandoned B and B in Barry Island. Well, if it worked for Gavin and Stacey. The singular charms of Barry Island are colourfully outlined by a heroically lugubrious Estate Agent (“I bet heaven doesn’t have chemical toilets”). George and Nina (Sinead Keenan) are particularly taken with the basement, as it provides the prefect space for them both to transform into werewolves in the comfort their own home. Stick that in your Sales Particulars and smoke it, Heroically Lugubrious Estate Agent Lady! Proceedings are nearly derailed by Mitchell frantically walloping a tv set in order to reach Annie. “She’s our friend! We don’t have much time!”. Fortunately, George is on hand to calm the situation by hurriedly supplementing “it’s our friend, she’s, erm, appearing on Midsomer Murders later…”

Indeed, following a somewhat dour second series, Being Human has brought the funny back in a big way. And it’s brilliant. Despite its attempts and indeed some level of success at being a British Buffy the Vampire Slayer equivalent, it puts its own peculiarly British slant on the whipsmart one-liners.

We take a break from the B and B to be introduced to what turns out to be two new werewolves having a conversation in a transport caff. So far, so bonkers. But even better still, one of them is a Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike and the other one is ROBSON GREEN! We follow Robson as he uses a pair of bolt cutters to break into a locked up fairground to pinch scrap metal. Insert your own tenuous Robson and Jerome/Unchained Melody joke here, dear reader (note that I have not been arrogant/unrealistic enough to pluralise this). Unfortunately, he is rudely interrupted by a transit van full of thugs and DENNIS PENNIS! I am loving all these cameos. Also nice to see the producers nicely fitting in with my “British Buffy” hypothesis (take that, Popper and your black swans) by making Paul Kaye look even more like a mangy Billy Idol lookalike than Spike From Buffy (yes I know he’s got a real name, but this is my lunch break here).

We switch back to the main action, which largely involves George and attempting to, erm, y’know but suffering a number of difficulties including that old glasses-tangled-in-hair chestnut and then Mitchell bursting in and stealing the radio. As well as being very funny, Being Human is also very sweet. Cleverly, for a programme allegedly about the supernatural it says a great deal about the human condition. This is best encapsulated by a scene where George and Mitchell sit at the bed of a hospital patient about to die so that Mitchell can follow him into the afterlife to go after Annie. They bicker about Jewish Prayers and attempt to do the crossword, but switch to touching tenderness when the poor bloke actually carks it and his puzzled spirit self enquires what is going on. “I’m so sorry” says George gently “but I’m afraid you’ve just died”. It’s a fine line to tread between black humour and compassion. Being Human may not be viewed as a serious programme in some quarters, but it does a better job of this than most dramas. Continue reading

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Hattie: I can’t keep having sex above his head

As a child of the 60s, Hattie Jacques looms large in my televisual memory – and I mean large, in all respects. Exotically beautiful with her almond-shaped eyes, and unashamedly, fabulously voluptuous, Hattie wasn’t like anyone else on television at the time. Though I’m not at all a fan of the Carry On films, in which she was a regular feature, I loved her partnership with Eric Sykes (I revere Eric Sykes almost as much as I revere Eric Morecambe). There was such brilliant chemistry between them that you could readily believe they were twin brother and sister, even though the visual joke of their differing physical shapes strongly advised otherwise.

So I was looking forward to Hattie, the BBC drama about Jacques’ life with her husband John Le Mesurier and her lover John Schofield. And there was a lot about it that was good – the period detailing was all present and correct (they never stopped smoking in the 60’s, did they? Even a kickabout in the garden with the kids wasn’t complete without a cigarette dangling from the fingertips); Aidan Turner as Schofield managed the feat of being slimy yet still sexy, despite a very dodgy hairstyle and some nasty baggy Y-fronts. Robert Bathurst captured John Le Mesurier’s restrained sadness perfectly – without resorting to a Dad’s Army impression, he gave us fleeting glimpses of mannerisms, the little cock of the head, the absent-minded gaze into the distance while he was looking for the right word.

The chief problem I had was Ruth Jones, as Hattie. For one thing, I just didn’t feel she was substantial enough physically (apart from in some scenes towards the end), which sounds an odd thing to say, but she just doesn’t occupy space in the same way Hattie did, and her features are far less dramatic. And I never really felt I had a strong idea of Hattie as a person, what motivated and drove her to behaving in such an entirely selfish way and treating Le Mesurier so badly (moving him into the attic while she installed her lover into the master bedroom). I couldn’t get a real feel for what men found so irresistible about her. At one point Schofield told her that she was “beautiful, sexy and funny,” and maybe she was ticking the first two boxes but not really the third. It was like there was a dimension missing from this portrait – Hattie was strong, sexy, career-driven, but what was it about her that was loveable and inspired the devotion of not just a husband and a lover but also friends like Eric Sykes?

A good try, but not at all in the same league as the Morecambe & Wise drama from a few weeks ago.

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Lustbox: Aidan Turner

aidan-turnerI’d been saving my recordings of Desperate Romantics until Big Brother was all done and dusted. I don’t normally do costume dramas (I specifically don’t do anything with a whiff of Jane Austen about it), but I have a warm place in my heart for the Pre-Raphaelites, and this one looked like fun.

Three episodes in, and it is fun. It’s huge fun. Taking the same approach to history as the equally fun Robin Hood (i.e. let’s not bother with all that accuracy stuff), we have instead a complete riot of barking mad artists, flame-haired women (nearly every woman in London in those days had red hair, it’s well known) and lots and lots of sex. What’s not to like? Particularly when you have the very pretty Aidan Turner playing Rossetti.  He plays him as devilishly charming, manipulative and completely amoral – just my kind of man.

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