What led me to watching Parks and Recreation was Qwerty insisting I watch another NBC show, 30 Rock, last year. I admit I was initially reluctant. I’d tried it once and didn’t like it much. “Get past the first couple of episodes. You’ll love it.” You don’t argue with Qwerty when she’s in that sort of mood. But, by golly, she was right. 30 Rock, well, rocks. Brilliance all round.
Alec Baldwin a revelation (and let’s face it, he needed to be after getting lost in the celebrity wilderness and ending up playing the Fat Controller in Thomas and the Magic Railroad), and Tina Fey a total comedy genius.
Then I noticed Fey and Amy Poehler were compering the Golden Globes together recently, to huge acclaim. Sharp, witty, clever. Not puerile frat boy twats singing about tits, looking at you Seth MacFarlane. But I’d never actually heard of Amy Poehler. Until, that is, Parks and Recreation hit BBC4 recently. It’s a mockumentary of the Spinal Tap, Office ilk, set in local government, specifically the parks department of a mythical Indiana town of Pawnee. Poehler plays eager beaver bureaucrat Leslie Knope. Her boss is the glorious libertarian, luxuriant mustachioed Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).
I’m only four episodes into season one, but they’re up to season five in America (some tweaks were made to the characters after the first season I’ve read, and it’s gone on to win lots of awards). I’m finding it hilarious. The town of Pawnee is beautifully drawn. The murals of bloody interactions between native Americans and the white settlers on the walls of City Hall are agonisingly brilliant, and even better when Knope tries to explain them away to visitors with perky, monumentally inappropriate enthusiasm. Continue reading
For anyone who has got totally sucked into Nordic Noir, via The Killing, or Nordic political drama, via Borgen, the new BBC4 series, The Bridge should be essential viewing. The premise is that super efficient, leather trouser wearing Swedish detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) and laid back, bearded Danish detective, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), meet on the Øresund bridge that links their two countries when a body is discovered bang in the middle.
The ‘body’, we then discover, is, in fact, two halves from different people, and their murders were just the beginning of a nasty series of deaths in Malmö and Copenhagen. So, despite having a very different approach to life and detective work, Saga and Martin end up having to cooperate to find the killer.
If you want a detailed analysis of The Bridge, episode by episode, have a look at the Guardian series blog. I’m just going to tell you why you should watch it:
- It’s smart and sometimes really odd. In a good way
- I do get foxed and perplexed about who is who and just WTF is going on sometimes, but that’s ok
- The character of Saga, (somewhat disconcerting in the first episode until you figure out she has Asperger’s), is utterly compelling. The scene in the second episode when she picks up a one night stand had me simultaneously shrieking and hiding behind a cushion, then shrieking into the cushion
- Bear-like, groin rubbing Martin is a lovely contrast to her, and for some reason, it amuses me that we meet him just after he’s had a vasectomy (“I’m tired and my dick hurts”)
- Like The Killing and Borgen, it’s beautifully shot, inside and out. Lots of night-time action (is it cheaper and easier to film then, I wonder?)
- There’s often great tension – I love the scene with the obnoxious journalist being trapped in his car with a ticking bomb. But this is tempered by some funny bits
- I’m intrigued by Stefan, the unnerving social worker who has the looks, facial hair and outfits of a 1970s porn star, and a bit of an odd relationship with body lotion
- It’s a delicious mix of Swedish and Danish, even down to the fact that both languages are used in every episode in conversations between police officers (Danish and Swedish are, more or less, mutually intelligible), which adds to the interesting dynamic that is revealed about the relationship between the countries and their perceptions of each other. As far as I understand it, Danes see Swedes as wealthy and ‘up-themselves’, and Swedes see Danes as far too laid back and hedonistic. Apparently, there are as many jokes that begin ‘There was this Swede, Dane and Norwegian…’ as there ever have been ‘There was an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman…’
- It just feels like, 3 episodes in for me, that there’s lots of exciting and probably terrifying twisty-turny stuff ahead of us. I can’t wait
Catch it on iPlayer while you can
Posted by Inkface
Nobody in this damn coalition rocks the scarf look like I do
I am so enjoying Borgen (pronounced, by Danish friends tell me “Born” with a bit of a swallow in the middle where the ‘g’ is). And a huge reason for my pleasure is the performance of the luminously beautiful Sidse Babett Knudsen, who plays Birgitte Nyborg, leader of the (fictional) Moderate Party, who becomes Denmark’s first (fictional) female prime minister.
Clever, complicated and utterly compelling, she’s no Margaret Thatcher. She’s much more the sort of groundbreaking female PM that many of us dreamed of having. For a start her politics are magnificently liberal (think President Bartlett, on a bike, without God). Secondly, she’s a thoroughly decent human being. And thirdly, she is operating as prime minister in a nightmarishly complicated coalition, which requires the patience and diplomacy of a saint and the ability to juggle ninety balls in the air at once.
There is so much to enjoy in Borgen (which means castle or fortress, and is the Danish slang for their parliament building).
- Lots of scandals involving sex, infidelity and money
- A great baddy in the form of slick, scheming Michael Laugesen
- Vast plates of Danish pastries in meetings (oh leave me alone, I found it funny)
- Ubiquitous bicycles which have right of way over cars, with even young children taking themselves off to school on them
- A gripping portrayal of a marriage, with kids, in which both adults are trying to be egalitarian and fair under massively increasing pressure
- Fascinating interplay between TV journalists, spin doctors and politicians
- Real looking actors of all ages, some a bit overweight, with crap teeth. Very reassuring
Just loads of good stuff really. But best of all is the wonderful character of Birgitte Nyborg in her sexy boots and wonderful scarves.
Posted by Inkface
Calm down dear, it's only Michael Winner with a large boom in his pocket
I love BBC4, I stumble across such delights there, and the Time Shift series is a gift that keeps giving. This week it was about the British Board of Film Classification and the way they have navigated over the decades the difficult path of classification vs censorship with taboo-challenging films. Some of these were far more serious than others of course, and the less appealing sections included a gleeful Michael Winner talking about the soft porn drivel he produced under the guise of representing ‘naturism’, in the form of Some Like it Cool (1961). Continue reading
Don't look! You might accidentally see what David looks like... too late.
I hadn’t seen this Arena programme when it first aired in 2007, and wondered what the Archers would be like on the telly. Turned out that, for the first half hour anyway, it was exactly the same as on the radio. Fearing the wrath of the famously militant listeners (many of whom are currently demanding the head of Vanessa Whitburn), the programme-makers tiptoed round, unwilling to show us any actors. Snatches of dialogue were in audio only, played over stock shots of the countryside. It was still vaguely interesting, though the programme focused too much on the Ruth-Sam story which feels as though it were a hundred years ago, what with people falling off roofs and cursed brooches. You’d think being the Archers they might have stuck in one of their much-admired and clunky ‘topical inserts’ and mentioned poor old Nigel, but no.
Incidentally, am I the only one bored to the back dentures by Stephen Fry’s ubiquitous narration? He’s so effing cosy and complacent, his mouth full of moist fruit-cake. I wish they’d got someone more edgy for the voice-over. Like Alan Bennett.
There were only a handful of really good bits in the first half of the programme. One was when we got to see the exciting story-board conferences. How I would love to be one of those writers! (Vanessa I’m available, I have some great ideas for how to get rid of Kate). Another was when a scene-stealing perky blonde woman, I’m afraid I missed her name, showed us round the sound-effects (marigold gloves for udders; bicycle pump for champagne corks; a board with all the different houses’ doorbells).