Tag Archives: channel 4

Humans: More human than human

humans 1(Ep.1) I loved the first episode of Humans. I was almost certain to, given the subject matter – I’m a geek at heart and I’ve always been fascinated by the debate about at what point artificial intelligence has to be recognised as a life form and given “human” rights. Maybe that’s why I’ve seen Blade Runner over 30 times.

The shadow of Blade Runner looms large over Humans, but that’s never a bad thing as long as it’s done well, and it is here (even the trailers for this were genius). The basic idea of Humans – as soon as artificial intelligence acquires/is given feelings and memories it’s no longer a machine but a life form  – is very much Blade Runner, but the setting is here-ish and now-ish.  Continue reading

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Fargo: You’ve spent your whole life thinking there are rules. There aren’t…

 

fargo-tv-seriesI’ve been in need of good telly lately. Rev. is fab, so is Nashville and The Good Wife, but I miss The BridgeLine of Duty and Parks and Recreation. MasterChef doesn’t do it for me anymore. I can’t even be bothered to tune into the Great British Menu, despite loving Prue Leith and co on the judging panel dearly, because it all got too formulaic and silly last time round. The ‘brief’ is always silly, trumped-up and about as clear as a poorly executed consommé. After finishing and enjoying House of Cards (twice), I’ve been watching some ok TV series suggested by Netflix, but they all seem to be heavily dominated by men (Suits, Justified, Sons of Anarchy), and frankly, I have no interest in watching things in which women have been reduced to bits of skirt. The sexism of the 70s seems to be thriving in American drama, unless Netflix aren’t showing me the ones in which women have decent parts.

Best Marge of all time

Best Marge of all time

So, as a massive fan of the best fictional Marge on the planet after the blue-haired one, you might say I’m ripe and ready for the new TV series of Fargo (Channel Four, Sundays, 9pm). William H Macy was revoltingly, skin-crawlingly brilliant as hapless Jerry Lundegaard in the Coen brothers’ film, and I guess we all wondered if Martin Freeman would be as good – and could pull off a Minnesotan accent (and the Minnesotan accent – ya – you betcha -was such a brilliant feature of the original Fargo, it was almost a character in itself). Also, if anyone could make a good hash of a reworking of what was a frankly brilliant film.

Second best Marge, by a blue whisker

Well, the good news is, it seems Noah Hawley can. It’s not exactly the same story as the film, it’s sort-of is, it’s in the same, cold-as-heck, snowbound ballpark anyhoo (actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta, not Minnesota, however). The characters share similarities/dysfunctions with those from the 1996 film but are also different. Continue reading

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The Taste: A rose between two prawns

The Taste Tasting RoomWhy are people tuning into the new Channel 4 show The Taste? Let me count the ways. Because they enjoy cookery programmes? A few, possibly. Because they’re fans of Anthony Bourdain’s 2000 sex, drugs and buttered roll book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly ? Some. I loved it – and I got the vibe that a few contestants on The Taste were hoping they could look forward to a bit of a hardass Tony tongue-lashing in future episodes, definitely.

Nobody I know has ever heard of French ‘Allo ‘Allo stylee head chef Ludo Lefebvre that’s for sure. He’s apparently big in LA, but an unknown quantity here, other than appearing to be a bit of an egotistical, culinary willy waving twat (which Google Translate tells me, perhaps unreliably, is “zizi-agitant con culinaire”).

So what was the big draw? Nigella, of course. Along with most of the country, I couldn’t give a toss about the alleged cocaine snorting, I’m just sad she chose such a massive zizi-agitant con for a second husband and wish the ghost of John Diamond would come and “calm him down” with a couple of firm hands around the throat.

Anyhoo, Nigella was on top form. She’s a beautiful woman I don’t envy, because she’s mentally placed in my ‘statuesque goddess’ file, along with Sophie Loren, Beyonce and Angelina Jolie. She didn’t disappoint. Utterly, preposterously gorgeous. Also, kind, funny, smart, supportive. Made the two blokes look even more like a pair of zizi-agitant cons culinairesContinue reading

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Hacks: Watch All About It

Another New Year’s Day, another New Year’s Headache. And that was just from watching Sherlock. Thankfully, Channel Four are, as ever, on hand to provide something a bit less cerebral but even more fun.

Michael Kitchen as Stanhope Feast

Welcome to Hacks, telly’s first proper (fictional) pop at the phone hacking scandal that turned last year entirely upside down (thus making it 1105, by my reckoning) (sorry). The newspaper in question is the fictional Sunday Comet (motto – “Let The Truth Be Heard”) owned by the fictional Australian media magnate Stanhope Feast (Michael Kitchen, being good value as always) and watched over by the fictional new Prime Minister David Bullingdon (Alexander Armstrong being, well, Alexander Armstrong) but like all of these spoof docudrama things, it’s pretty damn obvious what’s actually what.

Pretty Damn Obvious is probably a fair description of Hacks. Its trajectory almost exactly mirrors real life events. And therein lies the problem – as Peter Kay found when he tried to satirise Reality TV with Britain’s Got The Pop Factor etc etc, it is impossible to spoof something that is already absurd. Hacks doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know and haven’t already thought.

Having said this, it’s still good, if somewhat cartoonish, fun. It’s written by Guy Jenkin of Drop The Dead Donkey and Outnumbered fame and the dialogue is predictably as superb in parts. In fact, it makes up a large part of my notes. “I’ve seen more of Ashley’s cock than Cheryl has – we’ve had to install more memory to cope with it”, “I won’t have a word said against the Royals – they always die on Saturdays so we can break the story on a Sunday”, “Our Weather Forecast is too depressing; I want less rain”, the newspaper headline that reads “BBC Bosses Gave Cake To Terrorists”; it’s pretty much spot on throughout. It even stops to make a few pithy observations on the way – my personal favourite being “they are ashamed they were scared of us so now they’re going to destroy us”. My favourite line, however, concerns the sacking of Mystic Marilyn. I won’t spoil it for you here, but suffice to say it sums up the programme nicely – glaringly obvious but still strangely hilarious. Continue reading

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Joy of Sets: North Square

Ally McWho?

I’ve been watching Home Alone (1990) with my son, and it’s striking how you have to remind yourself that a world of ubiquitous mobile phone usage is relatively new. The plot would fall at the first hurdle if Kevin could have called his (frankly criminally careless) folks on one. I’m also enjoying revisiting Frasier (1993-2004), which is still sharp as a tack and well worth returning to, but Niles’ vast, clunky cellphone with an aerial sticking out of it clearly dates series 2.

And I’ve been re-watching the excellent 2000 legal drama, North Square. The characters do use mobile phones a little, and for exchanges of critical information at times, but you can see that the culture of using them is still in its infancy. Plus the phones are of the boxy Nokia variety we all once used. I could imagine that, if they ever make a second series, the magnificent Machiavellian senior clerk Peter McLeish would be plotting evil schemes and controlling the world with an iPhone. The other thing that’s really noticeable about North Square, and what dates it in an interesting way, is that there is A LOT of smoking inside bars and conference rooms, especially by McLeish.

I believe North Square is coming out on DVD sometime in 2012, but for the moment, the whole terrifically gripping ten episodes can be  watched on 4OD and I’d really recommend it. It’s written with great wit and class by Peter Moffat (who also wrote Silk in 2011, another barrister orientated series starring Maxine Peake). Continue reading

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Come Dine With Me: More cross than dressing

You expect Come Dine With Me contestants to be vaguely (sometimes historically) familiar when it’s the Celebrity Charidee Specials, but it was a bit of a shocker when artist and illustrator Simon Drew rocked up in a series of most extraordinary outfits in an ordinary CDWM last night. He was a sweetheart, but it was one of the mad shows where they seem to have trawled some odd places in South Devon to find the contestants. Frankie seemed mostly sane. I largely liked American Tara, but I was a little disturbed by the later revelation of her vast number of, and sometimes homemade, tattoos. Peter Pyne was the most unpleasant of the lot. A man clearly not secure with himself and scoring zero on the emotional intelligence chart, he kicked off with a series of sexist, racist and generally pathetic jokes which alienated him from the rest of the group. Then, on his night, he decided to reveal ‘Patricia’, his transvestite self. Now, it has been my pleasure to know, enjoy the company of, and indeed fancy cross-dressing men (Eddie Izzard in drag, what a magnificent sight).   Continue reading

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Friday Night Dinner: Why I’m happy there’s going to be second helpings

I was ever so pleased to hear that a new series of Friday Night Dinner has been commissioned. In a week when the dreadful Campus has had us bemoaning the state of modern British TV comedy, it’s good to know we have something to look forward to.

FND (which finishes its first series tonight, C4 10pm) has been an absolute treat. A programme which does what it says in the title, the basic set-up is that we join the Goodman family (mum Jackie, dad Martin and sons Adam and Jonny) at the parental home for their Friday night family dinner.

Jackie (Tamsin Greig) is in charge of the cooking (apart from when she had a sprained ankle, and then dad took over kitchen duties, serving “Potatoes. And some meat”). She’s also in charge of trying to keep her physically (though not mentally) grown up sons under some sort of control. This is an easier job than trying to control Martin, who will insist on eating toast out of the bin and taking his shirt off at inappropriate moments because he’s hot. Martin wears a hearing aid, and often uses his deafness to get out of doing what Jackie wants him to do, such as destroying his beloved and vast collection of back-copies of New Scientist.

Mark Heap plays neighbour Jim, the sort of neighbour who’ll turn up just as you’re sitting down for dinner and then hover around saying “something smells nice” and hoping you’ll ask him to stay. Jim is an oddball, something like Roy Cropper in Corrie used to be, kind of sinister but basically harmless. He’s always accompanied by his faithful dog Wilson, who frightens him a bit, and he has a crush on Jackie. Mark Heap is an absolute master of physical comedy, and the scenes involving Jim are toe-curlingly, blissfully awkward.

And that’s it, really, as far as plot is concerned. Adam puts salt in Jonny’s water and Jonny puts squirty cream under Adam’s napkin. Grandma turns up eager to try on the bikini Jackie bought for her in Spain, and Jonny coaches her to say “Happy birthday Pus-face” to his brother. Jonny’s girlfriend Alison fails to appear yet again and Adam’s convinced he’s made her up. A normal Friday night round at the Goodmans’ – and I can’t wait for series 2.

(If you’ve missed series 1 so far, catch up on the FND website here).

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