By Maggie Gordon-Walker
Hurrah, it’s olde worlde rural England. You can tell that from the font they’ve used for the titles. Ah yes, let’s settle down to a nice bit of light gossiping over the teacups – bloomin ‘eck! It’s all gone Midsomer Murders.
Ian McShane creeping about, looking sinister, wondering where all the antiques are, and then bumping someone off. Yes, brutally kills him, by, um, pushing him over. His victim doesn’t even bang his head. That’s a bit like lighting a match to a birthday cake and the whole thing going up in flames because someone’s secretly covered it in brandy. Unexpected. It certainly was for McShane who looked deeply puzzled that one push had proved fatal.
Phew, here we are in olde worlde England, a rural garden with some ladies and teacups. But, shield my eyes – the colours are so bright and garish they must have let a five year old with some Magic Markers loose on the film. It looks exactly like that Specsavers ident crossed with an Utterly Butterly ad. I couldn’t actually concentrate on what they were saying a) they were so OTT and b) I was wondering if a bee was going to alight on their floral headgear. But one of them was getting married and another one wasn’t going to be a bridesmaid. Continue reading
by Maggie Gordon-Walker
Having never had one of those debilitating, but not too painful, illnesses that confine you to your bed for a couple of weeks, there hasn’t been time to read the epic that is ‘War and Peace.’ Now perhaps there’s no need, having this jolly romp to keep me going. Everything looks gorgeous, the people, the houses, the countryside.
The first scene is a grand party, with beautiful creatures flitting to and fro. I can’t help a momentary snigger when they address each other in names that take half a minute to say, Alex PopDownToTheShopsonov, that sort of thing. Into this veritable Eden lurches an outsider. You can tell he is, because he’s wearing ordinary clothes, rather than looking as if he’s wrapped himself in ornamental brocade curtains like everybody else. Also, GASP, he doesn’t regard Napoleon as the devil incarnate. He bowls about, gesticulating madly, while the ladies titter in the background. Continue reading
I understand the desire to have more two-part stories, I do. Sometimes a story really needs more than 45 minutes (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances being a particularly strong example in new Who) – but this Zygon story is not one of them. Next week’s conclusion could be an absolute zinger, but there’s no getting away from this half being much more filler than thriller.
[Spoilers below the line…]
(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
I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve watched all of the current series of Lewis. There’s much to recommend it – a fine cast, the warm architecture of Oxford, some witty dialogue (at times), and the legacy of Inspector Morse always lurking in the background in a faintly comforting way. There is one problem though, and it’s a big one: the plots are ludicrous!
I know it’s Sunday night drama, and that means nice scenery and a reassuring murder or two, but each episode seems to have an average of four deaths, and every time the action centres on another college. Don’t they have any crime in Oxford that isn’t university related? Imagine the media coverage that would follow the events of any typical week in the life of Lewis, let alone the twenty odd (and I mean odd) murders per series. Yet they seem to operate without any press coverage whatsoever, shrugging off another set of bizarre and disturbing crimes with a cheery pint and a matey quip.
I do quite like Lewis (Kevin Whately), and Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) is an interesting character whose police gimmick (they always have a gimmick) is that he’s clever, having studied theology at Cambridge. The relationship between the two is affectionate, and one of the strengths of the series. I do wonder, though, how they always manage to solve these crimes completely on their own. In other police dramas, there are teams of detectives working on each case, with technical support, a geeky computer whizz kid, and a shouty superior officer. None of that in Oxford. You get Lewis and Hathaway, Lewis’ love interest, the pleasant pathologist Dr Hobson (Clare Holman), and the excellent Rebecca Front as Lewis’ boss (they never seem to reveal her rank) but who seems to run the department with the air of a benign head of sixth form – never any shouting, swearing or venturing more than five feet from her office. Continue reading
I’ve categorised this under kids’ TV, because it’s being shown on CBBC, but having watched it with my eight year old (who thought it was funny, but sidled out of the room when William Brown was being toyed with by the Machiavellian six-year-old in petticoats Violet Elizabeth Bott), I think there may be an awful lot more adults watching it.
The stories have been taken from the books written by the dry, witty, and generally splendid Richmal Crompton (who is top of my fantasy, and I guess, ghostly, dinner party guest list) and turned into television scripts by the deft hand of Simon Nye. He has moved the action from the 1930s into the 1950s, and downgraded the social class of the Brown family a little. But it works. The stories are marvellous of course. And there are are some very good performances from the rest of the Brown family: minxy temptress, sister Ethel, trying-to-be-cool but failing brother Robert (last seen as Dudley Dursley – and what a transformation), and the long-suffering parents, played nicely by Rebecca Front and Daniel Ryan.
And it’s a double treat for those of us who adore the perfect voice of Martin Jarvis above and beyond any other human being (he’s loaded on my MP3 player and ‘reads’ my bedtime/insomnia stories of PG Wodehouse and Just William), because he gets to narrate this too.
Many of us remember the memorably lisping Bonny Langford as Violet Elizabeth Bott in the TV series from 30 odd years ago. This time the formidable young miss is Isabelle Blake-Thomas. And, on balance, I prefer this equally terrifying, but slighter lower key version. Her parents are sauce magnate Mr Bott, and wife, in some damn fine hats, played by Caroline Quentin.
I’m not sure how many of these have been made, for they have gone straight onto my ‘favourite’ list on i-player. And William Brown remains my all time favourite boy character.
Posted by Inkface
Simon Amstell’s new comedy Grandma’s House is marmite TV and I’m on the dark side.
But one aspect which even the most ardent yeast addict admits is that Simon Amstell himself is a truly rubbish actor, which is quite a flaw in a programme centred on him.
So I’ve invented a new game which makes watching Grandma’s House even more fun: who should actually be playingthe part of ‘Simon Amstell’?
Here’s my top-of-the-head five:
- Stephen Mangan: he would bring the right degree of hang-dog put-upon angst to the role. Plus he’s got the necessary shaggy-haired lost look. Is he too old for the role?
- Chris Addison: brought to mind since two of the gems in this programme are co-stars from The Thick of It – Rebecca Front playing his mother, Tanya, and James Smith her new boyfriend, Clive. Maybe too clean cut. But he could also tweet while he’s doing it which would bring a whole new social media dimension to TV comedy.
- Chris O’Dowd from the IT Crowd: plausibly lost and distrait. Plus you can easily see him being put down by his family. But can he ditch the Irish accent?
- Benedict Cumberbatch? Very now. But no.
- David Mitchell: young enough. Weedy enough. But not sure he’s actually any better at acting than Amstell.
Alternatively, they could go postmodern and have Simon Amstell played by a different comic actor each week, culminating in a tour de force from Bruce Forsyth – with Lisa Tarbuck being surprisingly good and everyone agreeing that Alexander Armstrong should probably get the job full-time.
There you go. Suggestions for the part of Amstell welcome.
Posted by arialbold