Category Archives: TV reviews

Hawking the Infinitely Prolonged

People are dropping like flies at the moment, and the latest to go is Stephen Hawking.  He was given two years to live after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and yet survived until the age of 76.  I’m trying to think of something clever to say about him, but zerothly has done it much better than I can, so all I’m going to do is put together a series of Hawking-related clips as a sort of half-arsed tribute:

These are, in order, zerothly’s blog post, the biopic The Theory of Everything, Hawking appearing in The Simpson’s and his voice in the latest Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Basically Hawking was up for anything and in spite of the monotone of his voice, had a great sense of humour: when asked when he’d made a mistake in A Brief History of Time, he replied, ‘I predict that I was wrong.’

Sorry I haven’t done this with my whole arse but I’m feeling a little cold-y and woolly-headed right now.

Kirk out


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Doddy and the Old Grey Good Old Grey Good Old Days

Ken Dodd Pictures, Photos & Images - Zimbio

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You know how Billy Connelly once suggested replacing the National Anthem with the Archer’s theme tune?

Well, since today’s news has struck of the death of Ken Dodd, I propose the following update to the words:

God save our gracious Dodd

long live our noble Dodd

God save the Ken.

Send him hilarious


long to remain with us

God save the Ken.

Because, let’s face it, Doddy  is like her Madge.  They both go on and on for ever; they are both corny but inoffensive and they are both National Treasures.  Doddy and his fluffy stick tickled the nation for decades; so long in fact that one of the first links on youtube was to an appearance on the Old Grey – hang on, no – the Good Old Days.

The GOD (interesting acronym) was a series which ran for almost as long as Doddy (1953-1983) and was basically Music Hall on TV.  People dressed up in Victorian gear – all boas, corsets and crinolines – and crowded into an old-fashioned theatre to watch a variety of Acts, of which Doddy was one.

He’s about 34 minutes in:

He had his own show on TV for years, as well as performing live (where he was reportedly more risque) and amassing a fortune of millions.

This got him into trouble at one stage when he was tried on suspicion of tax fraud; however he was acquitted, giving rise to a rash of jokes from other comics about Ken Dodd’s lawyer:

RIP Doddy, your fans will miss you

Kirk out



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Nice Shell Suit. Was it Designed by Fibonacci?

Who or what is a Fibonacci?  Can you eat it?  Do you listen to it?  Is it a bird or a plane?  Is it a fashion designer?

Whatever the truth of this, although I am as ignorant of fashion as to be fashion-comatose, I am in fact aware that Versace was a designer.  I also have the impression that he was a nice guy.  I don’t know why – maybe because he was friends with Elton John and Princess Diana; maybe because I saw him interviewed at some point.  Anyway, I was curious enough about his death, which was eerily close to that of Diana, to click on to the first episode of a new BBC drama, ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’.  Assassination might seem a little over the top, but ‘over the top’ is something of a theme here as is evident from the first scene where Versace is shown waking up and going through his morning routine in a Miami house decorated like a tackier version of Versailles.  So far it’s a highly compelling drama with some similarities with The Talented Mr Ripley:

A serial killer meets and murders Versace because – well, we don’t quite know why, and that’s the intrigue.  With murder there must always be one element of mystery: either we don’t know who has been killed, or (more commonly) we don’t know who killed them.  But far more interesting are the why mysteries: why on earth did a guy who’d had a casual fling with Versace then go to his house and shoot him in cold blood?  Will he be caught?  And if so, will the police discover why he did it?  Will the courts?  Will we?  Therein lies the intrigue: I can’t believe I have to wait till Wednesday for the next episode.

Now, as I’m sure you all know, a Fibonacci is None of the Above – neither a fashion designer nor an Italian dish nor an opera singer: it’s a sequence of numbers, sort of like Pi, which seems to be present in nature as well as geometry and architecture.

Like Pi it is a never-ending sequence: I’m not sure to how many decimal places Pi has been calculated now but the Fibonacci sequence goes on forever and is much easier to calculate, being a mere matter of addition.  It goes like this:

Starting with one, each number is the sum of the previous two.


That’s it.

So, starting with one, you get one again because you’re adding one and zero, and then it goes:

2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144… and so on.  Add infinitum (lol).

What’s the point of it?  Well, it occurs in many natural objects: spiral shells, for one; cauliflowers, for another.

It also has applications in geometry and architecture: this slide sequence also covers the Golden Ratio which has applications in both classical architecture and in the proportions of the human body, and uses the number Phi (I said it was like Pi):

And in an exciting new development I have decided to use the Fibonacci series in my latest novel ‘Tapestry (a picture of modern Britain’.)  This means that the first two chapters will have 1000 words each and the last chapter about 48,000.  I have no idea if it’ll work, but it’ll be interesting to see.

Kirk out


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Archers Episodes

Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make into drama characters.

I know a number of people who stopped listening to The Archers when the EastEnders guy started producing it: me among them.  In all the years I’d been listening, even though there had been sensational plot lines, they always seemed somehow to emerge from the soil of the programme and the seed of the characters, not just flung in willy-nilly for the sake of the ratings.  But I didn’t intend to tune out forever, and when the offending producer blew back to the city streets whence he came, I started listening again.

It’s better – but it’s still not back to how it was; and after the wholly gratuitous return and downfall of Matt Crawford, the latest in a series of OTT plot lines is the sudden and unexpected death of Nic Grundy.  Just to turn the knife in the wound of brotherly hatred, the sepsis which killed her came from a rusty nail which she encountered in the course of helping her sister-in-law – which presumably means that next week Will is going to hunt Emma and Ed down and kill them.  There was also a possible death-bed confession which people are speculating means that it was Nic who ran over Matt and put him in hospital.

But compared to Episodes, Ambridge is paradise and everyone in it a saint.  This deceptively blandly-titled sitcom cleverly bridges the Atlantic.  A couple of writers (married couple Sean and Beverley Lincoln, played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig – an Archers connection there) take a successful British sitcom over to LA.  They are excited by the possibilities, especially as they are told the network head, the improbably-named Merc Lapidus (but then improbable names are a trope here as his boss turns out to be called Eliot Salad) ‘loves, loves, loves’ their show.  But from the moment their planes wheels hit tarmac, it’s downhill all the way.

Of course the network doesn’t want to do the show as it is; and in a series of increasingly humiliating negotiations the pair are forced to see it morph from a witty, urbane school drama to a run-of-the-mill series about a hockey team featuring an unpleasant coach (Matt leBlanc) and a sexy librarian, played by someone called Morning who is about a hundred and five and basically made of plastic and filler.  In the course of all this the writers learn a devastating truth:

‘There’s a chance Merc hasn’t actually seen your show.’

‘Has he seen it?’


The comedy of Episodes comes from the clash between the relative sincerity and integrity of the British pair and the utterly self-serving fakeness of Hollywood.  No-one is happy; no-one is for real (either physically or in any other way) people sleep around with abandon, cheat on partners, get divorced, steal one another’s stuff and generally act as if nothing and no-one matters.  It’s a completely ego-driven society and in the midst of it all the Lincolns (some irony in the name?  Are they being shot in the theatre?) are a sort of wobbly moral centre who come through it all with their marriage just about intact.

But nothing else is intact.  As flies to wanton boys are these characters to the writers: it’s not just that no good deed goes unpunished; no deed goes unpunished.  The characters are punished just for existing; for having talent and for wanting success.  Series 5 ends with the worst possible scenario; their new series (of which they had such high hopes) being hijacked by Sean’s old writing partner who claims ‘came up with the idea.’  Nobody wins here except the a**holes; but even they don’t win because the life they live is not worth living.

As comedy it’s horrible, gruesome, even degrading.  Thank god for Ambridge…

Kirk out


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Chitty Chitty Dig Dig

Gardening can be very therapeutic.  It’s been depressing not being able to get out into the garden lately, but today I bought a few early potatoes and got them chitting; then I headed out to the shed and extracted a fork.  Rolling back the carpet mulch, I began to attack the soil, not knowing how much I’d be able to do.  But instead of getting tired I became more energised and managed to dig a square patch which felt like a good start.  I’ll do some more tomorrow and bit by bit I’ll get the garden dug.

After that I headed indoors to watch the Old Grey Whistle Test (or Old Grey String Vest, as we used to call it) – a special 30th-anniversary edition hosted by none other than Whispering Bob himself and featuring Annie Lennox, Andy Kershaw and many, many more.  It is impossible to list all the artists they had on; from Alex Harvey to an amazingly young-looking Peter Frampton; from Kiki Dee to Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, and featuring the competition winner, Bob Marley and the Wailers.

You never know what you’re going to get with OGWT.  Literally anybody could be on it; from the New York Dolls to Led Zeppelin, from John Otway (and Wild Willy Barrett) to Gary Numan; from Joan Armatrading to Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) – and the commentary was neither bland nor fawning but serious and minimal, allowing the music to speak for itself.  The programme was a great mixture of old clips, live performances and chats on the sofa: if you like rock music at all I urge you to watch:

They’ve also made this retrospective available from 2011:

Aaaand – what about the Archers, eh?  Didn’t see that one coming:


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I’m trying to think of unusual words for what is coming out of my lungs at the moment, and ‘slurry’ seems like a good one.  Yes, I know from my ‘Archers’ listening that it means muck, but it sounds right and it looks like something slurred.  OH has also suggested ‘slurt’ but I’m not so keen on that as it sounds like a collapsed yurt.

Or maybe it’s a liturgy?  You know, a lurgy with a great big IT in the middle.  Anyway, somehow I feel that coming up with funny names for it helps me to feel better – like when people name their tumours.  In the latest Rebus book, the detective has a shadow on his lung which he nicknames ‘Hank Marvin’ and which eventually turns out to be benign.  I’m fairly certain I have a chest infection and not a shadow on the lung but we’ll know more when I see the doc tomorrow – always assuming I can get an appointment…

In the meantime I’ve not been up to doing much except watching TV.  I’ve checked out some videos of ‘Rex the Runt’ (a wobbly bobbly dribbly squiggly dog)

followed by the film ‘Eddie the Eagle.’  This is a great thing to watch if you’re ill: the uplifting, soaring, swooping, yearning, stretching tale of a no-hoper who went on to be an Olympic ski-jumper and the British record holder is highly inspiring and altogether in the traditional British spirit of cobbling things together on a shoestring and coming last.  It’s the perfect antidote to the relentlessly pervasive culture of competition which confronts us at every turn.

See you on the other side folks.

Kirk out


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Jack Whitehall and His Father

If you want to gain an idea of Jack Whitehall’s father, imagine a cross between Basil Fawlty and Prince Phillip.  You never know what is going to come out of his mouth next: there’s no censorship button and he’s not shy of criticising his son.  In fact the whole series works as an explanation for why Jack took to comedy: with such a father no-one but a young Prince Phillip (or Basil Fawlty) would have stood a chance.  I watched the first episodes with mouth open in disbelief, unable to credit what I was hearing.  The guy is bigoted, hypercritical, hidebound, uptight and utterly devoid of empathy: more than once I found myself shouting at the screen or wanting to give Jack a hug – or both.  To add insult to injury, Michael (Whitehall Senior) buys a Cambodian ‘doll’ as large as a toddler which he treats with far more care and consideration than his own son.

What triggered all this was Jack Whitehall being on ‘Desert Island Discs’ this morning (his father’s comment: ‘you haven’t been famous long enough to be on that’) and hearing him talk about his father.  When he says that travelling with him was like being the Queen travelling round Africa with Prince Phillip, never being quite sure where the next toe-curling gaffe is coming from, he is not overstating the case.  Michael rarely, if ever, takes criticism from anyone, though he is quite willing to dole it out: when Jack plays elephant polo he yells a series of critical comments on the mic for everyone to hear.  But by the end he seems to have softened a little and is slightly more positive towards Jack; father and son go home reconciled.

There are moments when, if you look closely, you can sense Jack’s longing for love and acceptance: I’m not saying that all stand-up comics have this need but in his case you can see why.  Michael, on the other hand, shows remarkably little self-consciousness for a man whose every inflexion is being recorded in close-up; and generally seems to believe that he has an absolute right to think and say anything he wants.  It’s quite something.

Then again, there’s always a query with these so-called reality shows.  It’s not enough any more just to have people travel round South-East Asia: there must be a narrative and that narrative must centre on conflict.  So here’s the rub: how much of this is real and how much is engineered?  It’s hard to believe you could invent a man like Michael Whitehall – as Marvin the Paranoid Android observed, life’s bad enough without inventing more of it – but you could exaggerate them.  Then again, the guy seems so genuinely awful, maybe there was no need to exaggerate.  Either way the series left me feeling desperately sorry for a boy whose father’s idea of parenting was to hire a nanny for the first few years, send the child to boarding school at age eight and tell him he was rubbish at everything.

Anyway, leaving aside all the nonsense it’s a fascinating series, full of tacky religious artefacts, trains which you have to alight from and dismantle when another train is coming the other way, fantastic architecture including Angkor Wat (Michael: ‘is Anchor butter named after that?’ – Jack: ‘yes and later we’ll be visiting Lurpak temple, Flora temple and I Can’t Believe It’s not a Temple.’)

Seriously, can this guy really be for real?  I just don’t know.  But we are living in strange times, when fiction seems more real than ‘reality TV.’

Here’s the link:

Kirk out




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