Category Archives: TV reviews

All Revved Up And No Church To Go…

Over the weekend I’ve been discovering some episodes of ‘Rev’, possibly my favourite sitcom of all time.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1588221/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

I had to resort to Youtube, alas, since they are not available on Netflix or iplayer and I don’t have the money to buy the DVD’s.  I watched the last series, at the end of which the threatened worst came to pass: dogged on all sides by Pharisaical prejudice, Adam resigns, the church is closed and the building sold off.  It looks like the end of everything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-bxjh5rutM

However, there’s always a way back  -and this week I’ve been imagining what that might look like.

Now, I realise that minds much more situationally comedic than mine may be pondering this even as we speak; but nevertheless here are my ideas:

As the fourth series opens, Adam and his wife Alex are returning from some time out travelling abroad.  Back in London, Alex goes back to work while Adam searches for a role.  He tries out being a hospital chaplain but that doesn’t fulfill him; then he organises a house church but that goes wrong too (I haven’t envisaged the specifics here yet).   Then the St Saviour’s building, now deconsecrated and on the point of being turned into offices, is struck by lightning for the third time in three months.  Reports that the building is cursed abound.  The Archdeacon, now promoted to Suffragan Flying Bishop (with responsibility for going round parishes reassuring them that the sky won’t fall in if the church supports gay marriage) crops up to make sarcastic comments about ‘acts of god’; meanwhile the company about to lease the building pulls out of the contract leaving it without a viable future.  Enter Adam.  Unable to face what happened he has avoided the place but at Alex’s insistence, he forces himself to visit and, as it were, exorcise the ghost.  Seeing the lightning damage for himself he realises it’s not irreparable; if part of the building is sealed off the rest could be a smaller, much more viable church.  And hey, presto, a plan is put together and by the end of the first episode he finds himself, Reggie Perrin-like, back in the vicarage and running his old church again.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073990/

Of course all the old characters are back: just as Reggie Perrin can’t escape the cast who peopled his former life, so Adam finds himself back in the company of Colin, Adoha and all his old congregation.  (There’s a short back-story involving each of the congregants: Adoha attends a black evangelical church for a while but falls out with them; she then goes to the nearest C of E church which is reassuringly traditional.  Sliding into a pew she says as much to her neighbour.  ‘Yes, says the neighbour.  ‘And you’re in luck – the new vicar is starting today.’  Adoha goes off into a swoon, imagining someone like Adam; only to be rudely awoken by a woman’s voice emanating from the front.  Yes, the new priest is a woman.  Exit Adoha.  Colin, on the other hand, while no longer homeless, has not found another church.)

Nigel does not feature in this series, however, since his actions in the last one put him beyond the pale.  His replacement is a woman who seems fine at first.  She asks what happened to Nigel and is told ‘we don’t talk about him’.

I think it could work.  Perhaps I should send this post to the BBC?

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If I Told You That, I’d Have to Kill Myself…

Val McDermid has taken the somewhat unusual step of adding a surprise ending to the surprise ending of her latest novel.  But more of that in a moment: I started the week by listening to the latest radio adaptation of ‘Rebus’.  Fleshmarket Close is a novel I know fairly well, and so far (this was just episode 1) it is excellently done.  Except for one thing: they have made Siobhan Clarke Scottish!  This is just plain wrong.  As anyone knows who has read the books, one of the main features of Clarke is her Englishness, the fact that she has to struggle to be accepted not only as a woman in CID but as a Sassenach in Scotland.  So that spoilt it somewhat for me as all the way through I was shouting ‘Siobhan is English!’ at the radio.

Annoying.

However that was more than compensated for by discovering Val McDermid’s latest in the library.  ‘Insidious Intent’ which I believe is a quotation from T S Eliot (yes, google confirms that as I thought it’s from  Prufrock:

http://www.shmoop.com/love-song-alfred-prufrock/stanza-1-summary.html)

is the latest in the Carol Jordan series.  I know I blogged about the TV adaptations (Wire in the Blood) a while back, complaining that you wouldn’t know Carol Jordan was the main character in the books as Tony Hill (her friend and sidekick) completely takes over; in fact you could be forgiven for thinking it was the Robson Green show:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/women-on-the-verge-of-a-tv-series/

McDermid’s is a world largely run by women and in Insidious Intent she has upped her game to a new level of quantum entanglement (hang on, that’s a thing isn’t it?  Let’s ask the oracle.  If you have two quanta with a common origin and you measure one they will both be in the same state.  Thanks, oracle.  Not sure how that helps us here, but still…) anyway, in this latest novel we catch up once again with Jordan and Hill, now sharing a converted barn (though not in the biblical sense) while Jordan gets over the trauma of seeing her brother and sister-in-law murdered and goes cold turkey on the alcoholism which nearly ruined her career.

Tony Hill is something of a redeemed character – product of a cold and abusive mother and an absent father, he has reinvented himself, partly through police work and partly through his relationship with Carol Jordan.  This relationship is tested to its limits and beyond as REmit, the new murder unit headed up by Jordan, handles its first case: the case of The Wedding Killer.  A serial murderer picks women up at weddings and later kills them; clever and forensically aware, he outwits the police until the very end.

And here’s the thing.  This is a new novel; released just this summer and with an ending that is bound to stun all but the most Sherlockian of readers.  I certainly didn’t see it coming: I sat there saying ‘Oh, my God!’ for about five minutes and it was fully ten before I could bring myself to say anything else.  But eventually I turned the page to see a note from the author asking readers not to give away the ending.  Quite right, too – there’s far too much of this sort of thing; not only in blogs, reviews and on social media but often from the publishers themselves.  It’s like film trailers which show you everything, or TV programmes that finish with what’s going to happen in the next episode.  I don’t want to know!!!  I’ll watch it next week, thank you very much – and I’ll thank you not to spoil it.

Enough.  So nothing will induce me to give away the ending to ‘Insidious Intent’ because if I told you that, I’d have to kill myself.

Kirk out

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One Who is Bored With Life is Probably About to be Creative

I’m not often bored; however sometimes a state of tedium does overtake me and nothing I do can shake it.  I feel like Sherlock when he lacks an interesting case to exercise his brain; like Sherlock I would probably fire some bullets into the wall if I could get away with it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6J_AUBT-PAo

but my inner Mrs Hudson heads off any such activity (not to mention that I don’t own a gun) so I am reduced to pacing up and down and sighing.  Deeply.

However, as my wiser self well knows, boredom is not so much the lack of interest as a lack of being interested.  And whereas when I was a child I often suffered excruciating boredom through, for example, having to sit through three services every Sunday, nowadays I am rarely bored – just so long as I have a notebook and a pen.  Because no matter how dull the situation, there is always something interesting in it: and the something interesting usually lies in describing it.  Suppose I’m stuck in a particularly dull lecture where to walk out would be either rude or impractical.  I amuse myself by describing the situation: first, my own sensations, then the voice and demeanour of the speaker, then the surroundings and then, most interesting of all, the reactions of the audience.  If I have long enough I can work up quite a good blog post on the topic, and that’s a portion of my day’s work done.

But often being bored is not so much about what’s happening outside as what’s occurring inside.  I find myself unable to take an interest in anything that has previously absorbed me.  All my books are dull.  TV is dull.  There’s nothing on Netflix, nothing at the cinema, I don’t want to go for a walk, the guitar is tedious and I’m fed up with sewing.  Quite simply nothing engages my interest because my interest is not ready to be engaged.  But just as we found with the children that the best response to ‘I’m bored’ was ‘I’m sure you’ll find something to do’, so rather than bombarding the brain with possible toys I allow it just to be bored.  Boredom is the mental equivalent of fallow ground: it is necessary to the creative brain, and often my best ideas come after a period of boredom.

Mind you, I don’t go to the lengths that Graham Greene did: he made life more interesting by playing Russian roulette:

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/novelist_graham_greene_played_russian_roulette_as_a_teenager

So there it is.  Sorry you’ve been subjected to this, but I hope the post was more bored than boring.

Kirk out

 

 

 

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The Tumbleweeds

I’ve been busy this morning putting together some jokes for Newsjack about the Tory Party Conference, and coming up against the ‘Trump Conundrum’ ie how can you make fun of something that is itself a joke?  Still by dint of Herculean efforts I’ve come up with a few one-liners: if they don’t get on – and let’s face it, they’ll be inundated by such contributions this week – then I’ll post them here.  Not to mention the possibility that she might resign or be pushed over the weekend.

What a fiasco though, eh?  Left to itself the speech would have been dull and unmemorable, the only good points stolen from Labour and the rest an embarrassment of poverty.  Who came up with the phrase ‘British dream’ and what were they on at the time?  Lots of cocoa, one can only assume…  We sat through the turgid flow for several sluggish minutes before OH had the brainwave of putting it on at double-speed; even then it was hardly entertaining.  I would imagine you have to watch a Theresa May speech at x 10 speed for it even to approach fun.

I can’t tell you much about what was in it, since there wasn’t much to tell.  As I say, she’d stolen a few initiatives from Labour, plus a lot of hollow rhetoric about equality and stuff, but the biggest cheers came from remarks about ‘wanting everyone to keep their money’ and ‘enjoying the rewards of all your hard work.’

Hmm.

The contrast with Corbyn could hardly be greater.  But the worst, as we already knew, was yet to come.  First a rogue ‘comedian’ broke in and handed her a P45 (even the Tory party disruptions are dull) and then she broke into a coughing fit* which lasted most of the rest of the speech.  Being Tories they manfully stood and clapped during the battle between voice and phlegm, but no amount of standing ovation could smooth over the car-crash of this speech.  If more evidence of God’s disapproval were needed, an ‘F’ fell off the sign behind her and, for all I know, down the back of her dress.  You’d have thought the Tories could afford decent signage at least.

Ah well – it’s all good fun, as was Amber Rudd’s excruciating interview on PM last night:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b096gjrb

William Hill are giving 9/4 odds on Theresa May resigning this year.  Mind you, I’m none the wiser as I don’t really know what 9/4 means…

http://sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-gb/betting/e/11251986/When+Will+Theresa+May+Leave+Office+as+PM%3f.html

Kirk out

*I almost wrote ‘coffin fit’ – Freudian slip

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Standing Up For Sitcom: The Inaugural Ronnie Barker Comedy Lecture

The phrase ‘comedy lecture’ sounds like a bit of an oxymoron but when you name it after Ronnie Barker and have it delivered by Ben Elton, how can anyone resist?  It’s oxymoronically appropriate too, as Ben Elton and Ronnie B did not get off to the best start.  They met at a BBC Light Entertainment dinner some time in the ’80’s, when the Two Ronnies were at the height of their fame.  Ronnie C and Ronnie B held, as it were, separate orbits; Ronnie C’s being relaxed and full of laughter and Ronnie B’s being full of intent, nodding BBC executives listening to the great man pronounce.  Excellent comic actor (and writer) he may have been; self-deprecating he undoubtedly was, but it seems Ronnie Barker could be a tad pompous.  Anyway, as Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson hovered at his shoulder like the three wise monkeys, Ronnie swivelled round and, pointing to each in turn, said to Atkinson ‘I like you,’ to Fry ‘I quite like you,’ and to Elton, ‘don’t like you’ – before turning his back on them. This was a rude beginning but as time went on they got to know each other better and became friends.

If anyone can reconcile the oxymoron comedy lecture, it is Ben Elton: after all, he started off making people laugh with a combination of savage political satire and plain silliness – much in the style of ‘Not the Nine o’clock News’ – before going on to co-write ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘Blackadder’ and to author the police series ‘Thin Blue Line.’  He has mellowed with age and was even a tad Bob Monkhouse-ish towards the end of this lecture (can this be the same guy who once spat at an audience?  Whose mile-a-minute delivery seemed to come from a mouth glued to the microphone while his head span round and round?  It can and it is.)

It’s about time somebody stood up for sit-com and he is the one to do it.  He makes a plea for critics to be less scathing in their reviews: I felt a little sheepish at this as I’ve posted a few scathing comments in my time: however I have consistently stood up for the sitcom form which I, along with Elton, consider to be underrated.  He spoke about the ability of comedy to generate strong emotion and the often destructive power of criticism (I can testify to this myself, having had some blistering reviews of my work).  Even Shakespeare was lambasted by critics, the most famous comment being ‘upstart crow’ which Elton took as the title for a sitcom starring David Mitchell as a rather hapless and put-upon Bard.  Some of his insights were revelatory: I knew that there is a huge difference between recorded laughter and canned laughter (one is recorded live and is a genuine reaction; the other is fake) but I didn’t know that there is a difference between comedy recorded with one camera and one recorded with several.   It’s the difference between seeing the actors’ original timing and seeing an edited version, apparently.

Since the nineties there has been a tendency not to use live studio audiences; it started with ‘The Royle Family’ and followed on with ‘The Office’, but whereas it was entirely appropriate for these sitcoms, they seem to have started a fashion in which it is now practically de rigueur to dispense with a studio audience.  (I just want to mention ‘Detectorists’ here, which is unique in my experience being a sitcom which is set largely outdoors.)

Anyway, as all good lectures should be, the inaugural Ronnie Barker Comedy Lecture was both informative and entertaining.  So go watch:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b092l7pq/the-ronnie-barker-comedy-lecture-with-ben-elton?suggid=b092l7pq

Kirk out

 

SPACE HERE FOR YOUR OWN THOUGHTS……………………………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wall of Loneliness: Radcliffe Hall, ISIS and The Handmaid’s Tale

I’ve been thinking a lot about societies lately; how they can restrict us and how hard it is to do without them.  A society is like an impossible partner: you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  And two recent dramas which explore this theme are surprisingly similar, though one deals with ISIS in Syria and the other with a fundamentalist Christian dystopia in America.

These are so similar that at times ‘The State’ seems like a fantasy and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ like the reality: both are repressive totalitarian regimes in which women have to cover themselves when they go out or risk brutal punishments.  Beatings and executions are common, though in Gilead they go for hanging rather than beheading; and both feature stonings and chopping off hands, though Gilead being wealthier does at least anaesthatise its victims first.  In both societies women are reduced to chattels, kept only to serve or to procreate.

The difference is that, astonishing as it seems, the women in Syria have actually gone there voluntarily.  The series features two groups, one of men and one of women, and follows their diverse experiences as the men are trained in fierce combat and the women kept indoors to cook and clean.  As in Saudi Arabia they are not allowed out without a male guardian and have to obtain permission before doing anything beyond their normal duties.  It’s all the more chilling for being real; yet ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is not less chilling for being fiction, because it’s plausible.  You can imagine a combination of circumstances in which it could happen.

Which brings me to Radcliffe Hall’s famous novel on lesbianism, ‘The Well of Loneliness.’  This is equally gripping especially if like me you remember a time when gays and lesbians had to hide for fear of internment or worse (it wasn’t all that long since Oscar Wilde had walked the treadmill at Reading Gaol.)  It was written in 1928 and immediately banned because it contained the line ‘and that night they were not divided,’ making it clear that the two women had shared a bed.  They manage to make a life together in France but in the end their isolation from home, family and society at large makes their situation intolerable, and the ending is heartbreaking.

Kirk out

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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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