Tag Archives: Idris Elba

Kick ass woman: Anna Chancellor

Fans of the BBC drama, The Hour, are spoilt for choice in terms of top-notch acting. It marks the moment Dominic West has finally broken free of The Wire (it was the same with Idris Elba in The Big C – I think they both needed an interim ‘rebound’ part to help get me past the brain-searingly strong characterisations of McNulty and Stringer Bell).

I’m loving the general aesthetic of The Hour, as well as watching the beautiful Romola Garai in action. But my favourite character is the excellently named Lix Storm, played by Anna Chancellor. You may know her from that Boddington’s advert, or as Donna Lathaby in Tipping the Velvet (described as ‘amoral, capricious and predatory’, someone who introduces another, Nan, into a world of ‘luxury and debauchery’ – which is pretty much a description of my favourite kind of woman). She was a superb as the snooty bitch, Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice and is preposterously famous (because she’s so attractive) for being Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

But she’s a legend in her own trousers in The Hour. The character of Lix Storm is that of a rare (especially for its time) female war correspondent. Apparently tough as boots, she has a sharp sardonic wit, one suspects, a cupboard full of messed-upness masked by a heavy whisky and Gauloises habit. But spot-on in her judgement in terms of news. And very cool, smart and beautiful.

Other kick ass women posts here.

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Sex and the Sitcom: Ooh, er missus

Sex and the Sitcom examines how British sitcoms have dealt with the subject that brought Mary Whitehouse out in hives. This programme gave me pangs of nostalgia, particularly with regard to Butterflies and the wonderful Wendy Craig’s never-to-be consummated affair with Leonard. After the relentlessly male perspective of sexuality in sitcoms such as On the Buses and Casanova 73, it’s clear Carla Lane’s arrival resulted in a really interesting era of sitcoms with complicated and fascinating women characters. I watched every episode of Butterflies as a child, and somehow got caught up in colluding with the men, her boys and husband, that Ria was a bit daffy and a lousy cook. Now, watching a clip of it as an adult, I get a much sharper sense of her longing for something of her own, a relationship where she can feel attractive, noticed, away from the pleasant but stultifying home life where she’s endless washing Y fronts.

There were many other gems in this programme. I’d forgotten how refreshing the arrival of Agony was, with Maureen Lipmann and two lovely gay men (first in a British sitcom not to be Mr Humphreys camp or Frankie Howerd ‘straight’). I never had any interest in watching Men Behaving Badly, so I missed out on the ‘radical’ airing of porn mags and ‘sticky tissue on the face’ of Caroline Quentin Christmas Special wank scandal. I feel sure I can survive the disappointment (I should point out that I do rather love Martin Clunes in general, just not in this).

The programme featured intelligent, thoughtful between-clip discussions by some fine comedy writers, such as Simon Nye, Carla Lane and David Nobbs. Much was said about how British sitcoms traditionally relied on male characters who are somewhat inadequate, stuck, unable to communicate, and never able to have sex with the women that they fantasize about. And even if they do get the girl, they don’t actually know what to do with her. This was beautifully illustrated by a clip of the magnificent Leonard Rossiter being led by the hand to the bedroom, looking terrified, by Audrey from Corrie, in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

And an interesting fact I learnt – that Idris Elba appeared, as a tasty bit of trouser, in an episode of Ab Fab.

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The Big C: Watch (porn) with Mother

I watched the first episode of this a while back, after reading Jo the Hat’s excellent post on it, thought it was wonderful, then weirdly forgot all about it. Then remembered! Thank the lord for Channel 4 OD. I’ve just caught up with all the episodes I’ve missed. Fantastic treat. Like discovering a box of chocolates in a drawer you’d forgotten was there (it’s a terrible analogy since this could not actually happen to me, ever).

By golly it’s brilliant. Still so subversive and amusing. You can tell, I think, that the creator is a woman (Darlene Hunt) because the female characters are all so beautifully observed. I love the way Cathy’s relationship with husband Paul (Oliver Platt) is portrayed. He thinks getting her back is all about grand gestures, like dumping a ton of sand in the living room with deckchairs to recreate their first meeting, which just pisses her off because she knows he’ll never get round to cleaning it up.

What she really wants is a grown up man for a husband, not a needy, irksome child. Someone who doesn’t leave cupboard doors open after getting things out, who picks up his dirty clothes or wet towels from the floor and who changes the toilet roll when it runs out. Ok, some of those were my gripes, but it’s truly the cause of many failed relationships I know.

What we see in Cathy, who of course knows she going to die soon, is a woman who doesn’t want to waste her precious remaining life feeling like house-mother in a frat house.

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Luther: episode 2. Oh do buck up

I did watch this immediately after the coverage of the Camerons looking unbearably smug outside No 10, so I concede I may have been in a grumpy mood, but I wasn’t impressed by this episode. Idris Elba remains as beautiful as ever, but surely the point of having a super smart detective is that they demonstrate these powers in some way?

I suppose what I want from a detective show is the same thing I want from a detective novel. A sense of how dangerous and mad the world can be (albeit it plainly fictional -I don’t want to feel anxious when I’m going about my daily business) but with everything nicely resolved by somebody who knows what’s going on better than me. I hate watching something where you know, as an audience, that something horrible is about to happen, and nobody on screen seems to. We’ve got enough of that in politics.

The Closer is an excellent example of a show that resolves things in a way that I like. The detective, beautifully played by Kyra Sedgwick, seems ditzy and vague, and often gets distracted by snack food secreted in her drawers, but she always can be relied upon to outwit everyone around her. Brains and a sound appetite. That’s what I like to see, and resolution is what I want from the drama. Life is tough. I want the world made safe in my police shows. Luther did not demonstrate enough by way of mental super powers last night, and I found myself sighing irritably, at his behaviour, and that of his estranged wife and her lover. I usually like Paul McGann, but not in this.

I ceased watching Spooks when the body count got too high, and this episode of Luther was all about the bodies piling up. Police officers in this instance. The ‘baddies’ were an abusive ex-military father and his messed up son. All very sad, but I didn’t connect with anyone, neither could I bring myself to care that much.

Steven Mackintosh stood out as by far the best, most complex and interesting character in it.

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Luther: Baltimore’s finest drug dealer crosses the pond

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this, but not without reservation. A few things were disconcerting. I know that the beautiful Idris Elba, who plays DCI John Luther, is British born, but I haven’t heard him speak in anything but The Wire, so however unfairly, an Estuary accent seemed to fit awkwardly, like someone in the wrong shoes. But this is the accent equivalent of jet lag – you get over it. I remember being similarly unnerved when I first heard David Tennant’s real Scottish accent.

I loved the cool opening credits, and the way, like Spooks [also written by Neil Cross], it uses the backdrop of London really well. Although, like Spooks, the settings are perhaps a little too elegant and beautiful. What made The Wire so compelling was the reverse approach- police officers trying to manage in grotty surroundings with barely a functioning manual type-writer between them.

Luther has a skilled and impressive cast, including Saskia Reeves as Luther’s boss, Steven Mackintosh as his friend and colleague, and Paul McGann as Luther’s wife’s new squeeze. I think that’s my other reservation actually. Possibly too many big-hitters that you know from other productions, which is distracting, but may settle down when everyone has bedded in a bit.

I know Elba, for example, has been in other things since The Wire, but his embodiment of the role of the complex, oh-so-bad but effortlessly cool and charismatic, Stringer Bell is so seared on my brain, it is tough to see past it.

So how about the show? It was pretty darn good. I particularly enjoyed Ruth Wilson’s portrayal of Alice, the child prodigy turned psycho murderer, who goes head-to-head in a tense and enjoyable sexual/psychological tussle with Luther.

The idea of a smart but troubled, maverick, morally ambiguous, psychologically-minded detective is not new of course. After Luther had solved the case by realising that the missing murder weapon had been stuffed inside the dead (cremated) family dog, Mr Inkface, watching with me, said “It’s Cracker”, and he’s right, but I’m not sure I mind that too much.

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