I’ve been in need of good telly lately. Rev. is fab, so is Nashville and The Good Wife, but I miss The Bridge, Line 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
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
Oh dear me, Irene Adler couldn’t have been more right when she said “Brainy’s the new sexy.” Though let’s be honest Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have not exactly been beaten with the ugly stick, have they?
Actually, I think what really earned Sherlock and John their place in the PLA Lustbox is their devotion to snark. Done properly, it will make me go weak at the knees and these boys go by the Official Big Book of Snark – leaving me struggling to stay upright.
Bonus points are earned for:
- their devotion to each other – Martin Freeman broke my heart in the closing scenes of The Reichenbach Fall (reviewed for you here by Inkface), though it hadn’t been left in a very serviceable state by Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance a few moments before.
- just enough residual militaryness (here and there in posture or phrase, not to mention his decisive action near the end of A Study in Pink) to remind us that John Watson was a soldier as well as a doctor (move over Irish Dr Greg)
- that coat! That hair! Those cheekbones…
- running. Lots of running (enhanced by The Coat)* *note this may just be conditioning from five years of watching Captain Jack and the Tenth Doctor running around in long coats…
- the odd bit of homoeroticism…
And yes, Sherlock gets the coats, the big brain and the cheekbones, but John is played by a man made of kittens (thank you TV Tropes) who is loyal, brave and a deadpan snarker. Separately they’re interesting, but together they are great.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to lie down on the sofa and have a little swoon while I wait for the postman to bring me the first series boxed set of Sherlock…
Posted by Jo the Hat
Oh good grief this was a brilliant finale. Twisty as a twisty turny thing, full of shock and awe, it’s also the one in which my enjoyment of Andrew Scott’s ‘Jim’ Moriarty reached fever pitch.
One of many things that gave me great pleasure about this is how the writers (Steve Thompson for this one) are playing with the powerful celebrity persona that developed around Sherlock Holmes. It tormented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With the massive popular success of his character, he found he’d created a fictional monster. The public were addicted to Holmes, and to this day, people still believe Sherlock Holmes really existed. No-one was ever really interested in any of Doyle’s ‘serious’ writing, and at the time, he wrote to his mother in frustration,”I must save my mind for better things, even if it means I must bury my pocketbook with him.”
And so, sick to the back teeth of Holmes, Doyle wrote The Final Problem, in which he believed that he had finally got rid of the character that tormented him so, by killing Holmes off in a dramatic scene where he and Professor Moriarty fight to the death over the Reichenbach Falls. But as Victoria Principle found when Bobby came out of that the epically long Dallas shower, things are not always that simple. The public found Doyle’s belief in fairies less than convincing and screamed for the return of their beloved Sherlock Holmes. Doyle eventually had to bring him back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.
Now, so much is known by the public about Doyle’s stories, the trap that scriptwriters of Sherlock can fall into is to be too clever for their own good, which I felt happened with Baskerville episode (not everyone agrees I know). But I didn’t feel that in The Reichenbach Fall. And there was so much that was scream-makingly excellent:
- The touching, bookending scenes of Watson seeing his therapist to try to deal with the death of his friend Holmes, and visiting his grave.
- The court scene with Holmes unable to stop himself being a smart arse.
- The cameo of IT Crowd’s Katharine Parkinson as plaited haired Rita Skeeter-esque investigative journalist, Kitty Riley. I particularly enjoyed her encounter with Holmes in the Gents’.
- The beautifully done interplay between Holmes and Molly Hooper in the morgue scenes.
- Moriarty. So very fine an opponent for Holmes. I loved The Thomas Crown Affair meets The Wrong Trousers fun stealing-of-the-Crown-Jewels scene, particularly Moriarty being found by the police sitting on the throne in the jewel cabinet, wearing them. I think Andrew Scott has played him beautifully, exuding evil power with frightening, manic intensity without ever appearing totally psycho. Best bits for me: the chaos causing apps on the mobile phone, the carving of IOU into the apple and the delicate sipping of tea with Holmes. So many superb performances in this series, Cumberbatch and Freeman, Gatiss as Mycroft, Rupert Graves as Lestrade. But his is up there too.
- The rooftop scene on St Barts and Holmes’ fall to his apparent death to save the lives of people he cares about. The eruption of excitement on my Twitter feed afterwards when we then see him alive lurking behind a tree in the graveyard. What happened? How did he do it? Was Molly involved, was a ‘spare’ morgue corpse switched at the last? Utterly gripping.
MORE BBC more. Bring it back and bring it soon. Best telly ever.
Posted by Inkface
I'm up here, you idiot.
Sherlock invariably ends with me turning to Mr Qwerty and saying, ‘ But what about the bit where…’ in the hope that he will shine a searchlight into what looks like a large plot-hole and tarmac it over for me. In the case of The Hounds of Baskerville, in which Hound turned out to be a not very plausible acronym (after all, why would a group of dodgy scientists feel the need to give themselves an acronym, and what’s more get I’m-with-the-band t-shirts made noch?), I turned to Mr Q and said, ‘So why did the kindly bloke who was the baddie kill the posh bloke’s dad?’ And the best Mr Q could come up with was, ‘I guess he knew something bad they were doing.’ Well, yes. But what? It troubles me a bit that I don’t know for sure. Was it the paranoid gas thing (or lighter fluid as we called it when I was young)? Big slathering dogs? Fluorescent rabbits? (Actually a luminous bunny would be handy; you could nip out to its hutch at night and feed it without having to find a torch.)
Anyway despite not knowing exactly what the important-enough-to-kill-a-man thing was, I enjoyed this heavy-handed Freudian interpretation of the H of the B’s. Or as I now think of it, ‘The Little Hans of the Baskervilles’, a not very amusing psychologist’s joke referring to Freud’s classic case in which Little Hans was scared of horses because they reminded him of his father’s penis. Or something. I graduated a while ago and the details are hazy. As indeed were Henry Knight’s of the night his father was killed – seemingly mauled by a huge slathering black beast with red eyes. Arrrrr-oooooooooh!
The return of the telly (as opposed to the Robert Downey Jnr film) version of Sherlock had been hugely anticipated after the triumphantly brilliant trio of episodes a year ago. And A Scandal in Belgravia did not disappoint. Forgive me, I have to say it, it was a spanking good episode. Whipsmart in fact. Slightly more by way of raunchy undergarments and methods of restraint than I’d bargained for at 8.10pm on a Sunday evening, watching, as I was, with a nine year old, but it sparkled with fun and mischief from start to finish. Some possibly dodgy sexual politics too, more of which later, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it.
It began where the last episode left off, at the beautifully lit swimming baths with a standoff between Moriarty and Holmes. Moriarty’s ‘bomb’ jacket is on the ground and red dot scopes from anonymous rifles are trained on the foreheads of Holmes and Watson. But the crisis gets literally called off when Irene Adler, whom Moffat has made into a dominatrix, phones Moriarty on his mobile, and he leaves.
And then we’re off, with so much to enjoy. Much playing with modern culture in a droll, witty way. Best use of a text alert ever. And Watson is writing a blog about cases, including a man dying mysteriously by a loch (the blog ‘exists’, you can see it here). The rapidly increasing number of blog fans leads to Holmes trying to hide his face from fans trying to take his picture as he leaves a theatre – grabbing a random hat from the props box. A Deerstalker, of course. And there’s a ‘real’ Twitter account for Irene’s dominatrix business (@TheWhipHand).
I enjoyed this modern update on the character that proved as resistant to being killed off as Rasputin, dogging creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the point of believing in *fairies just to get away from him. I’m not familiar with the actor playing Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, (not Holmes, please note) in this new Steven Moffat series. But, by George, he’s rather splendid in it, as well as sporting a fine moniker.
Martin Freeman does an excellent job in the sidekick role of Dr Watson, AKA John, here an Afghan army war vet (with a stick, a la Hugh Laurie in House). Despite the modernisation of the story, there are nonetheless quite a few insider gags for Doyle fans to enjoy, including:
- Holmes’ use of multiple nicotine patches instead of pipes during tricky cases
- Rupert Graves as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade making reference to Holmes’ cocaine habit
- a running gag about whether or not ‘Sherlock’ and ‘John’ are actually a couple
Rather surreally, we have Una Stubbs playing housekeeper, Mrs Hudson. Also, one of my all time favourite actors, Phil Davis, makes a welcome appearance as a bitter cabbie offering a ‘Russian roulette’ choice of bitter pills to people at gunpoint, resulting in the serial ‘suicides’ which make up the case.
Is it all a bit too knowing and clever-clever for its own good? I don’t think so. I liked the way London was used as a location, in a slightly Monopoly-esque way. I thought it was well acted and wittily scripted. I think this may be a winner, and I’ll be tuning in again.
* I confess I may be taking biographical liberties here
Posted by Inkface