Category Archives: TV reviews

You Cannot Be Siri!

I think I must be channelling the spirit of Ronnie Corbett: I keep wanting to make corny jokes.  Incidentally I was very touched by the image of four large candles standing solemnly on the altar at his funeral last year:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36073888

RC was much loved, perhaps more so than Barker of that ilk who, though more talented, could be a tad pompous.  It was crystal clear to anyone watching Ronnie C in the BBC armchair in his trademark sweater and lacking only a cup of cocoa to resemble a parent going to bed (my parents drank Bournvita which I found disgusting, though I used it once mixed with water to paint my face) that he did not take himself remotely seriously.

But I digress – which, now that I think about it, is further proof that I am channelling the little Ron, since his whole routine was nothing more than a long digression followed by a short punchline.  Lots of foreplay, you might say.  Anyway, somebody on Facebook suggested that I should tap Siri on my i-phone and say ‘I see a little silhouetto of a man’.  I didn’t even know who or what Siri was (I guess it’s a sort of speaking Google) but I did so and it spoke the lyrics of Bo Rap, as Queen fans call it, in a gravelly electronic voice.  Which was amusing.  And which brings me to today’s joke:

What did John McEnroe say to Harry Potter’s grandfather?

You cannot be Sirius!

Kirk out

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Doctor, Doctor; Can’t You See I’m Fuming, Fuming?

Well!  They’ve been and gone and done it now!  The fat is out of the bag and the cat is in the fire – and yes, I did mean to Spoonerise my metaphors in that way because the Whole Order of Things has Been Upset.  It’s women priests all over again; it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad!  How many more male strongholds will be feminised!  How can the Doctor, an intrinsically masculine figure, a repository of – well, maleness – I’m not sure how but he just IS because – well!  I mean, every time he regenerates he’s a man!  Isn’t he?  I mean, that proves it!  The Doctor is male, all right!  He cannot be female!  It just won’t work!  He’ll – she’ll – be crying all over the place, she’ll be all warm and fuzzy and not dangerous or eccentric because everyone knows women can’t be dangerous or eccentric – and the TARDIS WILL BE COVERED IN DOYLEYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deep, calming breaths, deep calming breaths…

OK.

So, the news is, if you haven’t yet caught up with it, that the latest regeneration of Dr Who has been announced and it’s a woman; Jodie Whittaker, to be precise, of Broadchurch fame.  I have no idea if she’ll be any good , but in principle I think it’s great that they’ve gone this way.  I see no reason why the Doctor can’t be female: coming from Gallifrey there is no need for the character to confirm to any earthly genders (or colours, come to that) so it’s high time these boundaries were breached.  I look forward to seeing what she makes of it.

But never mind guys, there’s still one or two niches left for you.  After all, most MP’s, CEO’s, film directors, Head Teachers, rock musicians, Chief Constables, firefighters, surgeons, lorry-drivers, bus-drivers, train-drivers, bishops, scientists, engineers – are still men.  At least, last time I looked.  So you can’t be the Doctor for the next few years?  Never mind.  A man can still be Prime Minister.  In fact with any luck a man will be, very soon…

Kirk out

 

 

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Gone With Noakes

Image result for John Noakes

People are dropping like flies now: the baby-boomer generation is being mown down like an army at Passchendaele, and barely a day passes without further news of a hero or heroine being taken from us.  Today saw the death of one of my childhood icons, John Noakes.  Like the rest of my generation I grew up with Blue Peter, specifically the Blue Peter of Val, John and Peter Purves (aka Peter Perfect) who to me were the definitive BP team.  I liked Val; she was pleasant and sensible, and Peter was OK but I never really felt close to him.  But John!  John was unique.  In these days of wacky TV personalities it’s hard to appreciate the impact of an eccentric personality on a child in the late ‘sixties, but John broke the mould.  He was not only physically daring, he was accident-prone and clumsy, tripped over his words and laughed at himself.  In an age of staid, respectable, word-perfect presenters, Noakes was a breath of fresh air.

I was upset, though, when I found out later about some of the programme’s secrets.  For some bizarre reason the presenters never had an autocue: they had to learn the script by heart which, for a live programme which went out twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays as God intended) must have been an added strain.  But Noakes later complained that he had felt underpaid and undervalued by the BBC – and when I heard that, I felt almost betrayed.  I had felt so sure that what we saw was what we got – a happy family all working together.  It made me sad.

So RIP John Noakes.  Those of us who came home from school to watch you in black and white will not forget.

John and Shep reunited.

Kirk out

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Count Arthur Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeak

WordPress has recently informed me that I’ve been doing this blog for nine years.  Well, who’d ha’ thowt?  When I started I had just two readers (outside of family members); now I have – oo, at least, erm – actually it’s hard to say because although daily views are quite low, on aggregate (as they say in football) it could run into – well, dozens at least.

Actually I try not to worry too much about numbers.  I used to check my stats obsessively each day and try to work out what was popular and why.  I failed utterly.  There’s no fathoming readership statistics so, rather than spend my whole life worrying about them, I try to be thankful I have some readers and just get on with writing about what interests me.  Because the whole reason I started this blog was to practise writing about a variety of subjects in order to improve both thinking and expression.  Readers are basically a bonus: comments doubly so.

Of course many people like and comment on Facebook, since the blog is linked to that particular medium, and these do not show up in the blog stats.

None of which has anything to do with today’s title.  So let us consider the mystery of humour.  Why do the things that make you laugh do so?  And conversely, why does some comedy leave you utterly cold?

Now, I’m on record (buried somewhere deep in this blog) as saying that Count Arthur Strong is just absolute rubbish.  It’s utterly lame, there’s only one joke which they keep plugging, the actor isn’t remotely convincing and it’s just awful.  In my book he’s basically Harry Worth for adults (you won’t remember Harry Worth unless you’re over 40, but he was fun if you were a kid.)

 

And yet, I know of several adults – educated, intelligent, thoughtful adults – who claim to like Count Arthur Strong.  I simply cannot comprehend it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08r8dtk/count-arthur-strong-series-3-1-count-arthurs-house-of-horrors

Apparently there are people in the world who don’t laugh at Monty Python.  And they’re not the same people who like CAS eitehr.  Go figure.

Give me an evening of Victoria Wood any day:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08qhn17/our-friend-victoria-series-1-6-fame

Kirk out

* PS OH says that his Maths teacher used Harry Worth’s shop window routine as an illustration of symmetry:

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Charles III and Another Windsor

Camilla (Margot Leicester), King Charles III (Tim Pigott-Smith), Kate Middleton (Charlotte Riley), Prince William (Oliver Chris), Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) in King Charles III

Image result for open source images barbara windsor

(no copyright infringement intended: images will be removed on request)

Notwithstanding Ken Loach’s recent comments about historical drama on the BBC, with which I substantially associate myself:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37679158

the Beeb does produce some stonking drama; and two gems I’ve seen lately tend towards the biographical; one retrospectively and one futuristically.  They are also royally linked; the subject of the first, ‘Babs’ being about a self-styled Windsor and the second, ‘Charles III’, featuring an actual member of that family.

I have never been a fan of Barbara Windsor.  You could argue that the construction of the dumb bombshell with the humungous bazoongas was a creation of male writers and directors, but it was one in which she was complicit.  Her ‘Carry-On’ persona so completely eclipsed her earlier acting talent that I was completely gobsmacked to find that she’d worked with Joan Littlewood.  You would think that Littlewood, a Communist in early years, would be anathema to the conventional and staunchly royalist Windsor; but work together they did.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02t02pl

Littlewood warns Windsor in this production that if she’s not careful she’ll play the dumb blonde for the rest of her life, a prophecy which came true – at least until Babs moved to EastEnders.

I liked this programme, in spite of it’s following the ‘Lady in the Van’ convention of having two narrators: it showed a side of Windsor I would never have imagined.  But it was as nothing to the stupendousness of last night’s ‘Charles III,’ an imagining of the first months of Charles’ reign following the death of the Queen.

Tim Piggott-Smith plays Charles (Smith was shortly afterwards to die) in a tour de force.  But though the acting is superb, the success of this begins with the script.  With the great soliloquys written in iambic pentameter, it brings to mind every Shakespeare play that ever featured a monarch, and takes us back to the power-plays of Richard II and Henrys IV and V.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen this yet I strongly advise you to watch before reading on.

Charles is known nowadays to be proactive behind the scenes; this play sees him make some disastrous decisions in his first days by refusing to sign a bill which comes before him, thus precipitating an answer to the age-old question of where royal power resides.  The paradox has been sustained for generations; the Queen signing bills with which she almost certainly disagrees, being fully aware that not to do so would precipitate a constitutional crisis.  You have to pick your battles, and Charles’ tragic flaw in this is that instead of waiting and discussing, he charges straight in like a bull at a gate, prompting the Prime Minister to call his bluff and enact the bill into law with or without royal assent.  The Machiavellian Leader of the Opposition advises the King to follow the example of William IV and dissolve Parliament: this he does, and the ensuing crisis is Charles’ downfall.

What was most interesting was the role of Kate in this.  Bored by her portrayal as a smiling and supportive wife, she urges the indecisive William to take control and intervene.  Kate is the typical Shakespearian female malcontent, albeit with more possibilities open to her than a Tudor princess: and from the moment she persuades her husband to act, the writing is on the wall for Charles.  He becomes Lear; pathetic, outcast, bemoaning the treachery of his children and only giving way when they threaten to leave the palace and take his grandchildren with them.

Also interesting was a sub-plot centring on Harry’s desire to be a commoner: he returns to the fold just in time for the coronation.

And this is how the play ends: with William being crowned in his father’s stead, and stability being returned.  At the last minute Charles snatches the crown from the Archbishop, seeming to be about to put it on his own head.  Instead, in a touching gesture, he places it on William, murmuring ‘my son.’

And there’s even a Shakespearian ghost: Diana returns to speak to both widower and son, telling them both that they will be the greatest king ever: in a nice twist, it seems Charles will achieve this by abdicating.

I can’t sing the praises of this enough: I’m going to watch it again in a few days.  I’ve only scratched the surface here.  I urge you to see it while you can:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04z0n7s/king-charles-iii

Kirk out

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Frog Spawn?

What with netflix, i-player and itv.com, we are never short of series to watch.  But there’s a limit to how many you can get involved in, since many dramas demand no less than total immersion for the entire length of two, three or more clutches of episodes which – if they’re American – can run to unfeasible lengths.  Interestingly, bridging the Atlantic (so to speak) is the series Episodes featuring the divine Tamsin Grieg (whose praises I sang so loudly the other week) and Stephan Mangan.  The series-within-a-series is written by these two: it’s a great success in the UK but loses practically everything in being translated to LA:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1582350/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

But I digress.  Due to the diligence and devotion demanded of the viewer, I have chosen thus far not to begin with The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad or Line of Duty.  I have watched one or two Scandi noirs but you have to pick and choose these, and in the smorgasbord of my viewing I prefer to mix drama with comedy, documentary with soap (Casualty and Holby are staples) and Mastermind with University Challenge.  My current drama fix is the excellent BBC London Spy, first broadcast a year or so ago, now available on Netflix: this comes highly recommended, and I am also hoping to get another chance to view Capital, starring Toby Jones.

As regular readers will know, I am a great fan of really good sitcom: recent gems include Uncle and Detectorists but definitely, DEFINITELY not the latest offering, Bucket.  The usually excellent Miriam Margolyes does her best with the fairly lame script, but the whole thing is ruined for me by the main actor and author, a hitherto unheard-of woman called – if you can believe it – Frog Stone.

Frog Stone!  I ask you – what sort of a name is Frog Stone?  And why does this unknown woman – who as far as I can gather has done nothing else – get an entire series of her own?  OK it’s a nice idea, a comedy series about a dying mother and her daughter trying to get through her bucket list, but it’s just not that good.  As far as I can see the preposterously-named F*** S**** is neither an accomplished actor nor a very good writer.  So how do people get this work?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08mp2lb/bucket-series-1-episode-2#group=p02q32p1

Mind you, I have a thing about incomprehensible names: I was once unable to listen to an entire interview with Lionel Shriver because my brain kept shrieking how can a woman be called Lionel?  How can a woman be called Lionel?  It was like the elephant in the room – and nobody mentioned it! *

So answer me this: how can a woman be called Frog Stone?  I demand to know.

Kirk out

*I later found out that she chose the name as a tomboy and it stuck

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Misery Loves Company but Company Does Not Love Misery

I’ve been thinking about a woman I know – let’s call her Linda.  Linda is a talented and potentially interesting woman; she is creative and has an unusual history.  But I avoid her as much as I possibly can.  Why?  Because, frankly, Linda is a misery.  Sure, she has problems: who doesn’t?  I know I have.  But Linda is unhappy.  I don’t know what has caused her to be this way: I don’t mind listening now and again, but when a person’s conversation consists of nothing but problems, compassion fatigue sets in.

Linda lives in the same town  as me, and whenever we meet she takes the opportunity to tell me how much she hates it.  I don’t hate it, and I’ve told her so: I’ve been here about six months and in that time I’ve got to know Quakers, church people, Labour party members and others on the Left; folk clubs, beer clubs and cinema clubs.  I’ve got involved with stuff: and that’s the key.  I know some people find integration harder than others, but if all you do is sit around and feel sorry for yourself, you are bound to feel miserable.  If misery is at the forefront of your mind, it will affect your interactions; and if your conversation consists of nothing but misery, other people will start to steer clear.

Yes, positive thinking has its drawbacks, though it can help; but better than positive thought is positive action.  Do something: get involved with projects, interact with people, especially those worse off than you.  There’s nothing like a visit Sound Cafe for putting my own problems into perspective; there’s nothing like hearing about refugees for helping me to value everything I have.  We all have something to be thankful for – and at the risk of sounding like ‘Thought for the Day,’ every night I think about the good things that have happened during that day.  It’s a good practice when you wake up, too…

So don’t be like Linda.  Be like Manny after he’s swallowed The Little Book of Calm:

It’s 15 minutes in.

Kirk out

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