The Joy of Box

As many people have discovered, there’s nothing quite so satisfying in the evening as finding a good box set to watch. Nevertheless they are addictive so I try to ration myself to one or two episodes a night. But sometimes I get totally gripped, which is what happened last night with Press.

I’d come across Press before on Netflix due to that charming way they have of flipping little clips at you while you browse (I’ve got into the habit of pressing the mute button while I do this else you’re blasted every few seconds with incomprehensible snatches of conversation, a bit like the old days when you used to tune a radio. There’s a bit in Wallace and Gromit but I can’t find that so enjoy this clip instead.) Anyway as I was doing a bit of the old scrolling I came across a series I’d previously dismissed. Let’s give it a try, I thought. OH is forever saying I’m too quick to make up my mind, so determined to watch at least ten minutes, I clicked play. And did not click another button until bedtime.

Press is a slightly sensationalist take on two rival newspapers, The Herald and The Post. More than loosely based on The Guardian and The Sun, these papers represent the polar extremes of print news, the Post (handily signalled by red tops on all their office computers) unprincipled, unscrupulous and rich, and the Herald (blue tops) principled, conscientious and struggling for cash. The series follows the journalists of both papers as they chase up stories, often competing for the same scoops. Things come to a head when the Herald takes on a wealthy entrepreneur accused of sexual abuse (remind you of anyone?) They go to press but unknown to them the Post has stolen the story and the entrepreneur takes out an injunction, forcing the Herald to pulp the entire day’s papers. And that’s where I left them.

The best series are those which build a world for you to enter, a believable place with a sense of location; peopled with characters to root for, lament over or boo at; a world you can inhabit for a few hours. I inhabited this world all evening; in fact I inhabited it for too long, because when it came time to return home I didn’t want to leave, and instead of doing the sensible thing and reading my book for ten minutes, I went straight up to bed where lo! I did not sleep for at least a couple of hours.

Ah well. It’s an addictive series and only slightly OTT which doesn’t matter because it’s believable. Box sets are like dreams really – it doesn’t matter how preposterous they are, so long as they’re believable. Then you can inhabit them and they can teach you something. I’m not sure what Press taught me but I had a great time learning – and there’s more to come…

Kirk out

Three Wives, One Husband, One Viewer

I’ve been watching a Netflix series about Mormon polygamists in Utah and finding it very disturbing – though not for the reasons I expected.  I anticipated that I would disagree profoundly with their way of life, which I did; but I also anticipated that I would find them repressed, button-lipped, old-fashioned and rigidly patriarchal – which they were not.

First, the bad points:

Polygamy: I disagree with polygamy, not because it is a deviant way of life (I think we should at least explore deviant ways of life) but because it is structurally unequal.  As a Quaker I believe in the fundamental equality of all beings and marriage, being a relationship between equals, should reflect this.  Of course marriage between two people can be unequal, and often is in a patriarchal society, but polygamy is structurally so, and therefore cannot be equal.  Where one man’s attention is divided between three women, that is an unequal relationship.

Then there’s the patriarchy: though the series didn’t focus on this, there’s a council which makes decisions, and that council is composed only of men.  Men also seem to speak for the group in the wider world.

Then there’s the sheer number of children they have.  Each woman seems to have at least half a dozen (and to start quite young) and in an overpopulated world this is questionable, to say the least.  However that is offset to some extent by their aim of being self-sufficient as they believe some sort of apocalypse is imminent.

Having said all that, I found these people quite engaging.  They were frank and open both with the camera and with each other, and quite honest about their struggles with polygamy which they saw as something to be overcome on the path to a less selfish life.  It did seem – as far as anyone can tell – that the women entered into ‘plural marriage’ after a great deal of thought; and though there might be conformism there was no compulsion.  The women are far from silent; they speak their mind and some of them have jobs.  They don’t drink and their courtship habits are quite Victorian, but unlike fundamentalist Christians they both swear and do yoga!

I did find it quite creepy to watch though, especially the scenes where the man would embrace both wives at once.

At the end of the series they were fighting a proposed bill to outlaw plural marriage which in Utah is not legally recognised.  But up to that point they’ve generally been left alone.  I found myself reluctantly on their side because although I profoundly disagree with their way of life, I don’t see why they should be made criminals because of it.  As far as anyone can tell from a TV series, it seems to be a free choice, so why should it be outlawed just because the rest of the country behaves differently?

I wouldn’t want to see plural marriage adopted anywhere else (especially not where it might be forced or coerced) but I don’t see why these particular people shouldn’t be left alone.

Anyway, here’s the series:

Kirk out

Frog Spawn?

What with netflix, i-player and, 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:

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?

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