Tag Archives: John Simm

Mad Dogs: Island hopping

(Series 2, Ep.1)  Even though we left Quinn in the swimming pool having just shot a policewoman, and his four mates in the car on the way to the airport not knowing if they’d get away, be arrested, be killed by gun-toting crazies wanting their drug money back or what, the first series of Mad Dogs felt complete in all its barmy, surreal magnificence.

So was it a good idea to go for a second series? Well, on the basis of the series opener, it was. Picking up literally where series one left off, there was no messing about and the body count was added to almost before the credits had finished rolling. Quinn is fished out of the swimming pool – still alive, which you wouldn’t have put money on – and the comrades-in-trauma decide to flee the island. The airport being deemed too risky, they head for a ferry to Barcelona, and then hopefully towards home. This being Mad Dogs, they get on the wrong ferry and land, instead, in Ibiza.

Any crazy ideas that Ibiza will be any more relaxing than Majorca are shortlived. The first task is a bit of money laundering, which is done via a strange old woman hauling an oxygen tank, an even stranger man on a moped and a beautiful girl who has perfect skin, fancies Baxter and seems to know way too much. Can they trust her? Can they trust each other? And what are they to make of Rick’s wife telling them that she’s recently had a phone call from Alvo? This is Alvo who had half his head shot off in series one, episode one. Alvo whom they buried right at the start of their holiday from hell.

Mad Dogs series one was suspenseful, weird, darkly funny and brilliantly acted. There was a risk that stretching the story out would dilute it or diminish its impact (I’m thinking of Lost and Heroes here) – but on the strength of this episode it looks like it was worth it.

Posted by PLA          (more Mad Dogs posts here)

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The Joy of Sets: Life on Mars

Schedulers can be a bit rubbish over the summer months. They seem to think we’re all going to be dining al fresco every night and in no need of decent telly. Clearly they also live somewhere where that’s possible. Malta perhaps.

So while they phone in their schedules of blandness, we sit upon our sofas listening to the rain driving against the window and wondering whether watching Lord of the Rings for the fourth time will kill the magic.

What you need gentle viewer is to get your hands on some good TV that doesn’t seem to merit repeating by the broadcasters. So, let us celebrate the glory that is the DVD boxed set…

First up: Life on Mars – a programme that was immediately rated unmissable here at Hat Towers when it was first aired in 2006.

The first 5 minutes could have come from any modern police procedural if it wasn’t for the fact that our hero DCI Sam Tyler isn’t a rule-breaking, heavy-drinking, chain-smoking maverick. He doesn’t even follow his gut anymore…

It’s a testament to both the writers and to the phenomenal talents of John Simm, that those few minutes in the 21st century provide a perfect miniature portrait of Sam before the shocking sight of him being taken out of shot (and out of this reality) by a speeding car.

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Mad Dogs: I want to cut his feet off, not butter him!

Now Mad Dogs has reached its conclusion, I feel the need to blog about it again (Jo the Hat reviewed the first episode here). The problem is that I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, which will be a fair few because of it being on Sky1.

Basically, you will want to get the DVD when it comes out. Seriously, you will. And you will want to see it without knowing anything about what happens, so if anyone tries to tell you, stick your fingers in your ears and shout “Blah blah blah!” very loudly until they stop, or until someone arrives with your medication.

It was, in a word, brilliant. Superbly acted by an all-star cast (Marc Warren, Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Ben Chaplin – now there’s an acting dream team), with Maria Botto as the most disturbing, sexy Spanish policewoman you could imagine, and Tomas Pozzi as a terrifyingly kinetic assassin. You could smell the suntan lotion and and practically see Marc Warren’s skin turning pink in front of your eyes. Feel the sense of mounting panic as the goat in the swimming pool in the first episode turned out to be a portent of far nastier things, and each character was forced to extremes. The final episode was the most tense thing I’ve seen in ages, and the ending, which I was worried would be a let-down, was anything but.

It’s not often that you get a drama that’s so beautifully written and acted, so bleakly dark but so funny at the same time. Genius.

Posted by PLA

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Mad Dogs: Call me Tantalus…

I had given up hope of actually seeing Mad Dogs before reaching the end of the tantalising press release all those months ago. Philip Glenister and John Simm reunited! Plus Marc Warren and Max Beesley (who was frankly excellent in the darker than dark Bodies and is thus forgiven for Hotel Babylon)! Shenanigans in the sun! Murder! Mystery! Oh – it’s on Sky1… *deflates*

How is it that I can blog this first episode then you might be wondering? Have I shelled out for Sky1? No, instead the evil people at Sky decided to taunt those of us who have Freeview Sky3 by letting us watch the first episode. But ONLY the first episode. Gits.

Anyway, enough of my bitterness and resentment… Was Mad Dogs any good? Unfortunately for me, yes. It was blokeish without wandering into the usual casual misogyny. It had suspense and plenty of dark underbelly which I imagine will be fully explored in the next three episodes. It had a dead goat in a swimming pool… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading

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Ashes to Ashes (3.8): A love letter to Gene Hunt

Two questions. One, how can a mere blog do justice to a proper thrilling TV event like the conclusion of Ashes to Ashes? And, two, did you guess correctly what was going on? Actually – make that three: Did you make it through without crying? Me, neither.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in approaching this episode with some trepidation – we Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes fans have invested heavily (time, theories and emotions) over the past five years and if the writers fell at the final hurdle it wouldn’t just be disappointing now – it would devalue everything that went before (not to mention taking all the fun out of those DVD boxed sets).

I don’t know about you, but I take my hat off to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. They crammed the episode chock full of the things we love about LoM and A2A: the great, incomparable Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister in his finest hour yet), a daft TV reference (well done whoever made the papier mache heads of Alex and Gene for that It’s a Knockout run), wonderful Huntisms, spine-tingling tension and some serious chills too. If it wasn’t enough that we’re wrapping up five years of questions (well the most important ones anyway), we get a crime of the week too.

And the truths we’ve been hankering after? Gene tells the truth about Sam in a moment you might otherwise miss – the DCI sent him to get a pint in. It brings a whole new meaning to Last Orders, doesn’t it?

The policeman who’s been haunting Alex? Poor old Gene… a green PC who thought he was Gary Cooper in High Noon and was buried in a shallow grave back in the fifties. But from the moment Gene experiences his own weird TV flashback in Keats’ office, you know your heart is really going to get broken.

Philip Glenister has been the star of the show from Day One (if you don’t believe me, read the reviews of Harvey Keitel trying to wear the Gene Genie’s cowboy boots), but, boy does he blow you away here. The look of trepidation on his face as he drives onto the farm, the terrible, un-Gene-like look on his face as Alex uncovers, first, the bones and then the awful, awful truth. The poignant story-telling in the decrepit farmhouse. Who could blame Gene for forgetting his past, and that this world is a place where coppers go to sort themselves out?

Which answers another question – Ray, Chris, Shaz – they’re all dead coppers working through their issues. But who is Jim Keats? Some sort of demon determined to wrestle some souls into hell it would seem. If there was a line where Gene explained it, we’ll have to wait for the 100-minute version of this episode on the DVD extras I guess. We can only go on the heavy symbolism (Ray, Chris and Shaz being led downstairs for their ‘transfer’) and plentiful hissing noises emanating from Daniel Mays for now. I don’t know which I found more disturbing – Keats driving the Quattro back to London or him stroking Alex in his office. Both had my flesh creeping though.

Neither matches the horror of him leaving the death tapes for Ray, Chris and Shaz though (and let’s not forget the incredible performances of Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Monserrat Lombard here) or the manic insanity as he tears down the walls of the world. For all that, I love that the team’s love and loyalty is enough to repair the world – and that Alex can restore the Gene Genie to his full powers (and in time to solve that crime of the week).

Funnily enough, for all the revelations, it was the moment that the Dutchmen ‘killed the Quattro’ that really drove home that the end was nigh. Of course, the sight of the Railway Arms – and Nelson – really started the tears falling. And as Gene’s beloved team finally move on, bickering, Alex faces her final test, Gene finally gives Keats that smack in the face and Alex at last kisses that man… well, it’s a good job the tissues were close to hand.

And then, just when you think it’s all over (in every sense), in stumbles some poor sod looking for his iPhone…

So what am I taking with me to bed now? A satisfying explanation for five years of weirdness and the stand-out performance of Philip Glenister – from the vulnerability in the farmhouse to the full-on Armed Bastard. I’m glad that the Gene Genie lives (as it were) to fight many more days – even if we won’t get to see them. Thank you Ashley, Matthew, Philip, Keeley, Dean, Monserrat and John (not forgetting the rest of the cast and crew) – you gave us something wonderful and unique. The Quattro may be dead, but Gene Hunt will live on in our hearts for many years to come.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Dr Who: Say hello, wave goodbye

Well there we go. The old cute David Tennant-shaped Doctor has checked out and the new cute Matt Smith-shaped Doctor has arrived. And frankly, both shapes are delightful, so nobody loses here. In a two-parter clearly designed for an audience of regular and devoted viewers, at times it was tough for a drop-in irregular like myself to keep up with who was who and what the flip was going on. I lost the plot many times, but I felt I got the big picture, so that’s ok.

Much like an Agatha Christie Special, this was a star-studded affair, and The End of Time began with a manic and cackling John Simm as The Master. Over-acting is hard to call on Dr Who, given the genre, but I can say he had excessive blonde highlights. I liked the way white whooshy power jets shot out of his hands so he could zoom up in the air, it looked like it might have been fun if he wasn’t in constant torment because of the hammer-on-anvil tinnitus and the urge to keep gnawing on whole turkeys.

Anyway. With the help of two bright green pointy cactus-headed creatures (no idea who they are) the Doctor sorted out the bit of local difficulty with the ever fabulous Bernard Cribbins by his side. It’s funny how we age people as children. I thought Cribbins was old when I saw him in the Railway Children in 1970, but he clearly wasn’t, since he’s still in fine fettle.

So it turns out that the entire Time Lord race weren’t really all dead as we’d thought all these years, they were locked in a something or other, and by means of a diamond star jobby, Timothy Dalton (with some disturbing spitting) brought them down to earth along with a giant planet (Galafrey) which was about to squish Planet Earth until the Doctor made a wise choice about what to do with Bernard’s pistol and zapped the machine which got rid of the Time Lords just in time to stop them ending time. Didn’t quite get the fine detail there, but overall, big Phew.

That left the Doctor with a few odds and ends to tie up, involving helping and/or saluting old chums. He dropped in on John Barrowman propping up a bar very similar to the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars and helped him pick up a date. He saved Sarah Jane’s son from being run over, and dropped by with a winning lottery ticket at Catherine Tate’s wedding. A quick chat with Billie Piper before she knew who he was, then it was time to start regenerating. This gave us a teasing glimpse of the lovely Matt Smith, who arrived clutching his endearingly floppy hair saying ‘I’m a girl!’ No, you’re definitely not a girl Mattie. Too early to say what kind of Doctor he will be, because as the music kicked in, the TARDIS was crashing to earth with him screaming ‘Geronimo!’ Bless.

Posted by Inkface

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