Tag Archives: bbc2

Eggheads: EXCLUSIVE Interview with new Egghead Lisa Thiel

BimrRqRCIAAs4NAWhen I was a wee tyke of a lad, and gangs of miscreants yelled ‘egghead’ at me on the playground, the connotations of their cries were largely negative. If only, as I sat mopping up my tears with the sleeve of my second-hand, fraying jumper, I knew that by 2014, it would have become cool to be known as an Egghead.

Nowadays, it’s a hard earned title, held by only the creme de la creme of the quizzing world. Those unfamiliar with the show Eggheads should know that it’s a quiz show airing on BBC2 which sees a team of amateur quizzing wannabes trying to outsmart an expert panel in all things general knowledge for a cash prize. And, in coming episodes, following a very public but successful audition on spin off show, Revenge Of The Egghead which saw her pit her wits against the frustratingly endearing CJ de Mooi, Lisa Thiel makes her debut as the newest Egghead. She was gracious (and blackmailed) enough to give PauseliveAction an exclusive interview about her debut on the hit show. So without further ado, let’s crack ‘er open and see what’s beneath the shell of the latest Egghead…   Continue reading

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Lustbox. Chris Packham

chrispackhamI don’t watch Springwatch. I’m sure it’s delightful, and I know lots of people who adore everyone in the team and feel connected to them, much in the way that the Blue Peter presenters of our youth seemed like cool, older siblings (well, sort of – what constituted ‘cool’ growing up in Newbury just meant people not wearing Marks & Spencer slacks. The bar was very low).

In the past, I’ve noticed people becoming gooey over the very mention of Kate Humble. And fair enough. I’d have married Valerie Singleton if only David Cameron had only made it possible in 1977. 

But there is one presenter I have a soft spot for, not for Springwatch, but having seen him as a panelist on various comedy programmes, and that’s Chris Packham. He comes across as funny and frankly a bit nuts when I’ve seen him on Have I Got News for You? and Would I Lie To You? (he was on that with Victoria Coren, who is also a bit admirably scary).

Some people admire clean-cut Rob Lowe types, or the heavily muscle-bound. I don’t object to either, but it’s not my favourite thing. Witty is good, and I just happen to like people who look like they might be up for some mischief, and also come across as a little mad, bad and dangerous to know. 

I mentioned this on Twitter, after re-tweeting the splendid Jake Yapp’s loving review  of it (full of sweary words, be warned)  and it seemed to strike a nerve with a couple of people. I ended up DM-ing a fellow admirer, saying: “What I like about him is he seems like he might be a bit of a filthy pervert. In a good way.” They concurred.

He does lots of good, important conservation and educational work too, saving bats and that. You can click here for more about that. 

But frankly, I’m shallow. I just think he’s gorgeous.

Postscript 13 Oct 2013 If you’re quick you can catch him on one of the greatest Desert Island Discs ever

Posted by The Divine Bebe, @thedivinebebe

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Fry’s Planet Word: Episode 2

S Fry not in exotic location

How is Stephen Fry allowed to get away with this?  A production budget you could buy a small football club with, or at least which you could lay out in multiple piles of notes, nail to a piece of wood, set fire to and call art. Profligacy thy name is Fry.

I suspect a younger, hungrier Fry would have satirised the fuck out of this patchy and uneven effort. As it is, as with late era JK Rowling or French & Saunders, once you become a national treasure no-one is prepared to take you aside and tell you that you’ve confected a pile of poo. Continue reading

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Great British Bake Off: Flour power

I can’t bear to watch the Great British Bake Off in ‘real time’ (not that it’s live of course). Too much tension, too much to go wrong. But I always catch up with it later, on iPlayer, where I can fast forward if it all gets too much. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a big baking drama, held over many weeks, in a tent in the garden of a fancy manor. The weather outside always seems pleasant. The contestants are nice but very intense and competitive, and the challenges are seriously hard. You’re expected to be super competent, as well as innovative, at all things baking-related, including cake, bun, tart, macaroon, quiche and biscuit making. And last night, bread making. And it doesn’t just have to taste good, it has to look good too. And be consistent. And there are all sorts of ultra tricky extra challenges too, such as making a breadbasket out of DOUGH. I fear madness could lie with too much of that sort of thing. And it does get a little like a Victoria Wood sketch at times.

The two judges are strict but (largely) fair. You have baking wide boy, Paul ‘blue eyes’ Hollywood and top cookery book writer and headmistress type, Mary Berry. Both can be nice, but they are strict markers and don’t coat their comments with sugar sprinkles. Then we have the sweet comedy sidekicks of Mel & Sue. Both women I warm to very much, and like me, get great pleasure from eating baked goods. They are there to provide support and leavening to the harsh marking, and cuddles when things, such as a freshly frosted gateaux, go tits up. They also infill the cooking bits with historical sections, about, for example, where cup cakes originated (cos they were made in cups of course. D’uh!). It’s a vastly more palatable version of a David Starkey monologue. With added sugar and without the snobbery and racism. If Mary & Paul are the scary school examiners, then Mel & Sue are the cool but friendly sixth form prefects.

I do like Mary but I’m slightly prejudiced against her because she keeps describing one contestant, Mary-Anne, who is a large woman, rather patronisingly as ‘clumsy’. Well, actually Mary, she’s not ‘clumsy’. The clumsy one, who has got through by the skin of his teeth is Robert, the skinny, pretty boy photographer, who dropped a whole cake (I do sympathise – I’d have chucked flour over everyone and fallen into a tray of eggs within minutes) and whose pastry cases all stuck to the tin last week. Although Robert also shows flashes of cooking genius, Paul is clearly thoroughly irked by his poor timekeeping, inconsistency and overly-laidback attitude. Mary likes him though, and so far, I suspect it’s her that’s kept him in. Continue reading

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Dragons’ Den: Enter the dragon lady

I’m generally speaking a bit ‘meh’ about Dragons’ Den. Evan Davis is a nice chap, I have a soft spot for Theo Paphitis, and find myself curiously interested in Peter Jones’ choice of sock. He always brings to mind a 6ft 7inch five year old boy. But other than that, it can be too cringey for pleasure. If one of that scary panel pounded me with questions about my finances, I’d shriek like a cartoon girl and jump into Evan Davis’ arms (from which I fear he’d never recover). And I cannot stand Duncan Bannatyne, he really gives me the willies.

But I caught some of the latest series after noticing Grace Dent’s high praise for new addition to the dentists’ waiting room panel of big-bucks-wielding dragons. And Ms Dent is right (of course she is). Hilary Devey is bloody marvellous. I might tune in just for her. Visually, there’s something of a Dynasty vibe about her. Gravelly of voice and a bit feline around the eyes. She brings to mind a curious mixture of Bet Lynch, Kate O’Mara and Elsie Tanner. She takes absolutely no crap, but is fair, reasonable, and helpful when appropriate. But fools beware. She’ll chew you up and make you into a huge shoulder pad.

The first person to try their luck was a woman with an idea for a website where people can contribute money towards kids’ presents. She totally lost her confidence and couldn’t deliver her pitch at all. The dragons were kind, but it was Hilary who was really warm, which allowed the woman to regain her poise. It then transpired that she was extremely smart and capable – she left school at 15 and became the youngest woman on the Futures selling floor (no, I have no idea what that means either, but it sounds impressive).

Duncan ‘the beast’ Bannatyne was unnecessarily vicious with his “I’m out” speech, because his kids always take proper wrapped real presents to parties. Well, nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh. I bet they are bought and wrapped by his wife (or member of staff) rather than him. But Hilary’s intervention led to the woman getting not one, but two, dragons. The cute Little and Large team of Theo and Peter.

Other less successful pitches included: a floaty ball for toilets to stop unpleasant ‘splashback’, demonstrated with a bit of banana and orange squash chucked down a clear-walled bog. The Japanese are light years ahead with their techobogs of ultra cleanliness and bottom joy. No splashback there. Or bananas. Also – little jackets for brass instruments when the weather is brass monkeys and a massage chair that is supposed to encourage you to lose weight (“get up off the chair you slob”?). The chair guy was waffly and unclear, and got savaged by Hilary for being unprepared in a way that brought to mind the fiercest, cane-wielding headmistress.

Another great moment occurred with a guy (successfully) pitching his solar panels. The Dragon panel turned on each other like a pack of hyenas. Not pretty, but very funny. Duncan B had a little ego related hissy fit and the rest just carried on horse trading. Glorious stuff.

 Posted by Inkface

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The Night Watch: Nothing’s fair in love and war

The BBC continues its season of high quality drama with The Night Watch – an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ excellent novel set during and after the Second World War.

I approached this with both extreme excitement (as anybody within five miles of my twitter account will be more than aware. Apologies – I have had a sit down now) and extreme trepidation. I love this book so much. It seemed in some ways to mirror my Winter of Discontent where it felt like I was fighting my own war against Law School in Guildford and all that resided in it. Whilst dwelling on such a time could not be any further removed from the point of this article, the day I strode into a canteen full of Country Life- considering Blazer Boys and Tatler-toting Pashmina Girls in a Dennis the Menace Jumper, filthy plumber jeans and black DM boots carrying a hardback of Britain’s most prominent and proud lesbian author is not something I’ll forget in a hurry.

So you can understand my concern. Plus, it is a 500 page epic set in wartime that follows a narrative backwards through time during 1947, 1944 and 1941 respectively. Catherine Cookson, it is not. What on earth possessed the BBC to tackle it in 90 minutes? Could it ever do this masterpiece justice?

Well, there is much to recommend The Night Watch as a film on its own terms. Firstly, it looks absolutely terrific. For once the expression “TV Film” is truly warranted, its scale genuinely matching that of the book. It really puts across the point that, for all the danger, destruction and death, wartime Londonwas strangely alive.London in 1947 is battered, grey, exhausted. It is alive but not quite awake, staggering around in a daze. The central character, Kay (Anna Maxwell Martin), is heartbroken not just over love but also over life itself – the bold, feminist future offered by wartime life has faded to drab wash of having her suit stared at in shops and on streets.

The stunning look and feel of the film is helped greatly by spectacular cinematography. For all the tragic splendour of the grand bombsite scenes, tiny details add so much. A character applies her lipstick whilst peering into a shop window. Another gently takes a pencil from behind the ear of his estranged friend to write his address down, a gesture that expresses more than hours of sub-EastEnders dialogue.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Kay - in line for BAFTA No. 3, I should think.

The other big draw is the outstanding cast. When I first saw the cast list, I felt all were perfectly cast apart from Kay, the mannish lead. Anna Maxwell Martin is doubtless one of the finest actors of her generation. But would she be, put simply, butch enough? I don’t know why I worried – she is the pick of the bunch here. My notes upon her entrance read “AMM – stands right, looks grand.” An astonishing performance – every time she swallows her emotions, I swallow with her. And whilst it would usually be ungallant to dwell on a nude scene, her walking entirely naked across a bedroom whilst shaking with trauma from having carried the torso of a child is possibly the bravest piece of acting I have seen in some time. Continue reading

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Great British Menu: Scotland

I watch Great British Menu for two reasons. I’m fascinated by the chefs – a few in particular, but more of that later – and I love Prue Leith. What’s irksome about it, like so many programmes of this sort, is how bloody repetitive it is. The voiceover woman must want to slit her wrists after saying the same thing fifty times. I’d be mooning at the microphone and doing random farmyard noises in the sound room just to keep myself awake. I know I’m name dropping, but that’s how Dave Lamb said he came to develop his Come Dine With Me narrator style – by getting more and more silly to stop being bored at reading the script straight. But I digress.

As a viewer of Great British Menu, I feel like I’m being coached the basic concept, over and over, as if I were a slow child. It’s not hard guys. Stop padding it out. Three chefs competing per region, cooking four courses, each judged by a previous winner, with the two highest scorers going through to cook for the formidable judging panel of Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton. At which point, what almost always happens is that the menu of the chef who had been awarded top points during the week loses.

Each year there is a theme for the chefs to create their dishes around, which is generally poorly understood by the chefs and judges (they also disagree and/or are entirely inconsistent in the way they pass judgement on what’s put in front of them compared to the original brief). This year the theme is a ‘People’s Banquet’, which means a ‘sharing menu’, which some have interpreted as a picnic, others a kids’ tea party, or some kind of vast, trestle-tabled feast. It’s a totally unclear brief obviously inspired by the ghastliness of the recent Royal Wedding, a theme well past its sell-by date by the time judging has finished.

And the cheffier chefs, the ones with Michelin stars, are struggling to release themselves from the discipline of producing fine dining platters and do proper ‘sharing’dishes (whatever they are. Frankly sharing food reminds me of the horrors of childhood meals and my big brother nicking my chips. I want my own bloody food at a banquet thank you very much, not to be fighting over the largest pieces of lobster with a sharp-elbowed old lady). Continue reading

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Filthy Cities: Poo, pig innards and pongs galore

It seems I wasn’t the only one watching a lot of shit last night. Although, I have to say Filthy Cities was excellent TV, even if it was up to its ankles in poo. (Well, technically the fabulous Dan Snow was up to his ankles in poo, animal dung, rotting fish, wee and entrails.)

If you’re thinking, thank god they haven’t invented smellovision yet, then for God’s sake don’t use the scratch ‘n’ sniff cards the BBC have sent out to accompany the series. The smell of medieval London’s sewage sludge nearly made me (and Dan, by the looks of things) throw up.

This isn’t for the squeamish, though Hat Jr (just turned 6) sat entranced through the whole thing after school today. Famous for her poo-fixation, she was enthralled by Dan mixing up mud, dung, wee, fish etc to recreate the genuine, revolting underfoot experience of the average medieval Londoner.

Equally fascinating, to my daughter, was the butchering of a ‘poor pig’ (um, hope she doesn’t make the connection when she finds ham sandwiches in her lunchbox tomorrow…) and the rats and Black Death section. Her favourite bit, however, was watching a leech engorging itself on the sanguivorous contents of Dan Snow’s (rather lovely) forearm.

Back to the grown-up review: Filthy Cities was rarely less than fascinating (the horse-poo-shovelling section went on a bit, frankly I’d have settled for an extra 30 seconds of Dan in his swimming shorts). I know now way too much about the filth on London’s streets in the Middle Ages, but also know that it’s better to catch bubonic plague than pneumonic plague (the latter has a 100% fatality rate). I’d still like to avoid bubonic plague though – it’s so dangerous that the MoD scientists wouldn’t even let Dan Snow hold a sealed petri dish of it inside one of those sealed glass units that have gloves attached to them so you can do your important microbiology stuff safely.

Entertaining and educational – full marks BBC! Next week: Revolutionary Paris. Mon dieu! etc.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Christopher and His Kind: Hot boys and dark clouds

WARNING for those of a sensitive nature: Christopher and His Kind does contain yodelling…

Am I the only person who sometimes finds HD TV distracting? Frankly the view through the HD lens is a good deal sharper than the view through my window and when we’re tracking through the steam and smoke of Berlin’s bahnhof on the trail of Christopher Isherwood, I can’t help but be pulled back from the drama and onto my sofa. I’m being picky, but there’s so much to enjoy in Christopher and His Kind and a) I don’t want to gush and b) the HD thing really does bug me…

On to the gushing then… Matt Smith steps into Herr Issyvoo’s immaculate shoes to take us to Berlin in the early Thirties and wow, what a ride it is.

Even without the lure of hot boys (and boy, are they hot) and his friend Wystan Auden (Pip Carter), who could blame Christopher for wanting to escape from his awful mother (the marvellous Lindsay Duncan)? (Though as a mother, I do understand why she’d ask “Couldn’t you go somewhere a little closer? Like the Isle of Wight?”)

Having seen something other than Doctor Who I can now conclude that Matt Smith is one of those actors you can’t take your eyes off (it was hard to be sure before, for the Doctor is certainly a character you can’t take your eyes off).

And speaking off the Time Lord, let’s get this time-travelling, room-occupying elephant out of the way. Although Smith has clearly incorporated some of his own tics into the Doctor (impossible not to I would guess), and the writers give him one quite Doctorish line of dialogue (“I need to buy a pair of socks” gets him past a couple of Nazis and into a Jewish-owned department store), there’s no sign of the man from Gallifrey here. Which, much as I love Who, is obviously a Good Thing.

Instead we have a beautifully atmospheric film full of delicate coded conversations about sex, sexuality and politics, hot boys, sauciness and poignant relationships.

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Nurse Jackie 2/2: Twitter tweetering dickhead

I’m not sure anyone takes any notice of those signs hospitals and GP surgeries put up telling us not to use mobile phones because they ‘interfere with sensitive medical equipment’. It’s a huge fib to cover up the fact that the noise is irksome for staff. And the freeing up of this convention has impacted on medical dramas. In Holby, for example, a patient was recently seen to be blogging about the lack of bedside manners (and nurse fondling activities) of the new heart surgeon. And now, in the second of the new series of Nurse Jackie, one of the doctors regularly tweets what’s going on around him. Or more specifically, since it’s Dr Cooper, what a total ‘biatch’ Jackie is. Cooper is gunning for her, and has also put in a complaint to Gloria Akilitus about Jackie undermining his ‘authority’. This, of course, is entirely accurate. But then he is, in her words, ‘a twitter tweetering dickhead’ who can’t be trusted to concentrate on his work when he’s got his iPhone to play with.

But things are never black and white in Nurse Jackie. In this episode, she wrongly sends a family home without Cooper’s say so, whose son, it transpires, has cystic fibrosis. In most series when you have a maverick (House, for example) the flawed central character is usually brilliant at their job despite personal failings. Jackie is also brilliant at her job in the main, but she makes mistakes. Which is not entirely surprising given how many painkillers she’s snorting (yes, I know House does that too). Continue reading

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