Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Sherlock: 'Brainy is the new sexy.'

Sherlock is the best thing on British television in the last 10 years at least. This is a fact. Imagine my unbridled joy when I discover that with fuddled heed and broken body, sprawled on my couch on the first day of the new year, Sherlock would be there like a welcome can of Irn Bru.

And jings that cliff hanger last series was beyond gripping but it's conclusion did cross the line into the daft. 'Staying Alive' as a ring tone? Since we're on it, I'll get my gripes out of the way first. So death by boomerang? Come on. But these are tiny, extremely minor criticisms in what was otherwise an excellent episode.

As we begin the series, Doctor Watson's blog has made the duo a bit of an internet phenomenon but will their new found fame bring more unwanted attention? Yeah, probs. John and Sherlock's relationship has also developed into a kind of friendship, they have a laugh, exchange knowing looks and private jokes but of course Sherlock remains as unsolvable as a Rubiks Cube (okay, technically Rubiks Cubes are solvable but they're tricky buggers). It seems, however, that Sherlock has softened since we last saw him, showing uncharacteristic kindness and care Mrs. Hudson in particular and now he's even gone and fallen in love. Sort of. Weird, eh?

Yes, Miss Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), Conan Doyle's intellectual match for Sherlock, makes her first appearance and flipping heck, what an appearance. In this incarnation she is a dominatrix, known to the wealthy, important and famous merely as 'The Woman'. She manages to procure all kinds of secret documents and scandalous photographs from her clients because she 'knows what they like'.

Sherlock and John are summoned by Mycroft to Buckingham Palace and charged with the safe return of compromising photographs from Miss Adler from a mystery client (who could it be?). Sherlock arrives wearing only a sheet, refusing to dress until he is told who his client is (it's Buckingham Palace, love and you're Sherlock Holmes, have a guess), long story short we get a glimpse of Cumber-bum. Lovely.

Miss Adler seems to best Sherlock at every turn and he is impressed and intrigued by someone as clever as he is and of course it helps that she's a bit sexy too. I won't give the plot away but I will say this, FUCKING WOW. So if you haven't watched it yet, get on it.

As always Cumberbatch and Freeman are brilliant but the Star of the Fucking Show this week goes to Mark Gatiss's Mycroft. Elegant, precise and dry as ever, the way he moves, the way he seems to carefully select his words, it's all very near perfect. I hope to be seeing a lot more of Mycroft Holmes as the series continues.

Moffat's writing is excellent as per, with my favourite line delivered by Miss Adler, 'Look at those cheekbones. I could cut myself slapping that face. Would you like me to try?' His plot is intricately woven and so fiendishly clever, after all, 'brainy is the new sexy.' Welcome back Sherlock.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Holy Flying Circus: some lovely, freewheeling daftness

This reimagining of the furore surrounding Monty Python’s The Life of Brian is told in a hurley-burley Pythonesque way. Punctuated by Gilliam drawings, silly asides to camera, and men in frocks the programme is a nod to the original Flying Circus and all its eccentricities. The idea of making the programme in this way rather than a straight, dry biopic is both fresh and something it seems that the Pythons themselves would approve of.

We’re taken through the anti-Brian protests, the council bans and the death threats to the now infamous Friday Night, Saturday Morning debate with Cleese and Palin versus Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwalk.

The six Pythons are played as caricatures: here John Cleese is Basil Fawlty and Michael Palin is the Nicest Man in the World. In keeping with Monty Python tradition, most of the women are played by the men and the main cast play multiple characters, which can be confusing at times, like Phil Nichol as Terry Jones as Palin’s wife is quite a mind-boggler but it’s all in keeping with the tone of the programme. Nichol's Jones is brilliant, by the way and a tiny bit sexy...

There are some parts that don’t work or are hard to follow but that's probably the point; sometimes Monty Python didn’t work, sometimes it was a bit hard to follow but that was the fun of it.

The performances were excellent from the cast, notably Darren Boyd’s John Cleese was a revelation and Charles Edwards’ Michael Palin was, well, NICE. A host of wild characters joined a freewheeling surrealist plot. Favourite line? 'That is one big motherfucking bishop.' And Stephen Fry was God. Aces.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Comic Strip presents: The Hunt for Tony Blair: Crikey, what a caper!

Ah, old Tony Blair's back in the limelight, or maybe that should be searchlight, yet again. Only a couple of weeks ago Dispaches: the Wonderful World of Tony Blair investigated the vast pots of wealth he has amassed since leaving No. 10. Now the Comic Strip presents... take a slightly more light-hearted look at Blair's downfall in the style of a British film noir. There's loads of mist and trains and trilbies and smoking.

Stephen Mangan takes on the role of Blair and gee, he is just swell. He's got Blair's mannerisms but manages to make it a version of Tony Blair rather than a really bad impression. The story begins in a bizarre rendition of our world, somehow existing in the 1950s/60sish. Original Comic-Stripper (steady) Robbie Coltrane arrives at Downing Street to arrest the PM. It's nothing new really, 'Blair's a murderer', 'illegal war in Iraq', blah blah blah, but the way it's tackled is refreshing.

As Blair goes on the run from the rozzers, he reminisces on how it all went wrong and we meet a right gaggle of mentals along the way. As expected, the mentals are mostly played by some of our best British acting folk. Another original Comic-Stripper, Nigel Planer, captures Peter Mandleson's extraordinarily dull creepiness perfectly and I'm left with the distinct impression that this weird parallel universe is actually Mandleson's fantasy life where he gets to play a clever mastermind who outfoxes them all.

Also of note are Tony Curran who pops up as shouty ginge, Robin Cooke; Morgana Robinson (off of the Morgana Show) who plays sexy beatnik, Carol Caplin and Ford Kiernan who channels his Angry Man from Chewin' the Fat as the mentally unstable, Gordon Brown. The show-stopper though has to be Jennifer Saunders as Lady Thatch in the style of Gloria Swanson. Her run-down Sunset Boulevard style mansion provides a hiding place for Blair and a quick shag with the Iron lady herself. Saunders' Lady Thatch has an other-worldly kind of bonkers which works so well; eternally reclining as her butler, Tebbit, plays reel after reel of her glory days.

Also of note is the beautiful styling, the sumptuous lighting and the clever writing. It's great to see a new set of comedians and actors breathing new life into the old Comic Strip format. More mad-cap political satire is required so I really hope this wasn't just a one-off.

There have been so many articles, books and documentaries about Blair in the last few years with many differing viewpoints and versions of just what happened during his time as PM. The Hunt for Tony Blair ends when Blair, who is portrayed here as a self-serving, morally bankrupt cunt, ends up being shot in the arse. Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Hour: Coats, hats, gloves, cigarettes, brooches, brollies, intrigue and a stiff drink

Hello hello hello, I'm back bitches! Apologies for the long absence due to moving/internet woes and other boring things but never mind all that, I'm here, tapping out words on my keyboard, making sentences and everything. A champion as always of British-made telly, it's The Hour that has been feeding my eyes for the past month. Although branded by some the British Mad Men, it's not. Same period, yes but here the women are in charge.

Romola Garai plays the captain of ship as the Hour's producer, Bel Rowley. Billed as the strong ground-breaking female, the character sadly falls a bit flat. I mean she's fine but her bizarre affair with Dominic West's wet anchor with an equally wet name, Hector Madden, just doesn't sit right. What IS she doing with him? He's so DULL and wooden and insipid, EUGH. Rowley isn't the driving female force of the programme as I had hoped, but Duckface is. Yes, Duckface off of Four Weddings and a Funeral, the lovely Anna Chancellor. Playing the slacks-wearing, chain-smoking Lix Storm (Best. Name. Ever.) she completely steals the show from Garai which is a shame as Garai's character seemed so promising in the previews. She does, however look smokin' hot with her gorgeous Joan Holloway-style wardrobe.

Far from a straight forward drama series, the plot is filmic, like a John Le Carre novel. Set in the midst of the Suez Canal Crisis, there are spies, double agents, murders dressed up as suicides and fiendish puzzles. Trying to navigate his way through the maze of subterfuge and intrigue is young journalist Freddie Lyon played by the phenomenal Ben Wishaw. Trying to uncover the truth behind the death of a childhood friend, he stumbles into a dangerous conspiracy. I'll not spoil it for you (BUY THE DVD) but it is pretty thrilling. There are personal sub-plots as well, such as Freddie's obvious love for Bel and his sexy times with Lix, however they do take a back seat to the the Hour, highlighting the importance of the news stories that dominated the time and the vital new format of news programming that was so revolutionary.

I loved it, Bel and Hector's tedious affair aside and am delighted to hear the news that a second series is being commissioned. More Ben Wishaw in tank-tops typing through a haze of floppy hair and cigarette smoke? Yes please.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Thank you Telly for... Our Friends in the North

Sorry guys, been a busy bee lately with not much time to watch much new telly, hence very few posts so to rectify this I thought I'd revisit some classic series and say thank you Tellly! So today Thank you telly for Our Friends in the North. 'But Suzanne! When it was aired in 1996, weren't you but a young child, living in jodpurs, giddy on super strong Irn Bru Soda Stream and watching the episode of the Monkees where Peter tries to get a job so many times that you memorise the entire scene where the computer interviews him, so much so that you can still recite it today word for word?' Well, yes... 'Shouldn't you have been in your bed dreaming of going to an Enid Blyton style boarding school, ruddy-cheeked and boisterously playing lacrosse with a robust sports captain jollying you along on the sidelines?' Yes, I should have been but I've never been a bedtime fan, I've always been a telly addict and, most importantly, THERE WAS A TELLY IN THE KITCHEN.

I remember the 1960s period trailors and at the age of ten I believed it to be hugely unfair that I was born in 1986 and missed the Beatles, the beehives and the Biba. Anything that even remotely suggested the period was a definite must, hence the dozen Woolworths-bought 60s compilation and my overuse of the word groovy (I was only ten). I took note of when Our Friends in the North was on and stayed up until I knew it was safe to sneak downstairs in the dark, turn the volume knob right down low before switching on the television with a clunk from the giant on button.

I remember very little from the series when it was originally aired, but the history arc that it followed always stuck with me, the housing scam, Margaret Thatcher, the miners strike, the 1987 hurricane, I drank it all in. Recently I re-watched the series with the benefit of being older and somewhat wiser. At ten I thought the actors were good and the make-up that aged them through the decades was good but I appreciate now what a brilliant ensemble cast Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Mark Strong and particularly Daniel Craig, were. As an adult I'm now more drawn to the story of the four individuals; Mary and Nicky's love story, 40 years in the making; Mary and Toskers desperate struggle to keep their family together; Nicky's socialist political activism; Geordie's heartbreaking blows dealt by increasingly unfortunate circumstances.

Today it's still as impressive and moving as ever. An ambitious project, that could have easily fallen flat was excellently researched and executed by all involved. A journey through Britain's turbulant recent history combined with compelling stories of the people who lived it, Peter Flanery's epic drama still packs a punch today.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


And by this I don't mean telly for twits, no no no, I mean telly for twitterers (it's a word). Gone are the days of sitting on your lonesome sofa, with a Chef Lonely-Hearts and a tea-stained blanket wrapped around your Oreo-stuffed frame. No more of that, we have Snuggies now! But seriously, instead of talking to an empty room, we can now pick up our phones and type such thing as,

OMFG, this bawsac on my telly is a bawsac ROFL LMAO #thetellyshowwereallwatching

And we can be safe in the knowlege that there are others out there in the Twitterverse with the same views, all we have to do is scroll down and bingo!

What a cockface this cockface on my telly is #thetellyshowwereallwatching

I'm not alone in my house watching me telly, it's all actually an illusion! In reality my tiny living room is filled with people I admire, writers, actors, musicians, comedians, as well as a plethora of virtual pals whose faces I've never seen in motion, only frozen in avatars and everyone's sitting around chatting about what we're all watching. I am swept along on a wave of inclusion and I decide to tweet Thatmanthatwritesforthatnewspaper as we seem to be on the same wavelength:

@Thatmanthatwritesforthatnewspaper What a cockfaced bawsac! #thetellyshowwereallwatching

Hahaha! I'm so funny! He's going to think I'm so funny! And he only bloody does and retweets my tweet for all to see! OMFG! I'm flipping HI-LARIOUS, maybe I should start writing down my thoughts if they're this funny, maybe even try some stand-up, what the heck?! Basking in my new found awesomeness and to keep the momentum going for my six (count 'em SIX) new followers, I roll up my Snuggie sleeves and write a reply to a comedian I like because she'll get me too.

@Thatcomedianoffthatpannelshow Hahaha! What's the script with this cockfaced bawsac? Is he some kind of moron or something? LOLZ #thetellyshowwereallwatching

I am on FIRE. Buzzing, I wait for my inevitable reply. It's totes coming. I'll give her a minute. She's taking her time. I've refreshed my @ mentions twelve times now. My sense of inclusion is slowly ebbing away and my living room full of virtual pals fades away until it's just me, my Snuggie and my Chef Lonely-Hearts again. I fetch a bottle of red wine. By the time the telly show ends, I'm very drunk and definitely not funny.

Nah! Really though, Twitter has made telly-watching a completely different experience. There are event shows like the X Factor or the Apprentice that end up trending world-wide; there are shows you only decide to watch because Twitter tells you about them like the 1976 TOTP reruns, which turned out to be a brilliant night in; and then there are ongoing shows like Eastenders and Corrie that build-up a plethora of not-so-private Twitter jokes. So cheeurs Twitter! Cheeurs for the virtual pals! Cheeurs for the laughs! Cheeurs for indulging my telly addiction! And cheers for fueling this blog!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Everyone loves a good montage.

Adam Curtis began his latest documentary series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace on BBC2 this week and I tried my darnedest to grasp what he was on about and this is what I came up with, see what you reckon...

Ayn Rand was Russian lady, novelist and the founder of Objectivism. Objectivism is a philosophy based on the individual's achievement of happiness through pure self interest, out with government/religion and their restrictions, right? Right. So Ayn Rand wrote this book in the late 50s, Atlas Shrugged, based on this philosophy. In the book a group of innovators and business leaders take themselves away from the contsraints of society to live in the hills somewhere and watch smugly as the society collapses without them. After a while, when the economy is well and truly fucked, they come back to tell everyone how to construct a better society, focussing on the above mentioned principles of objectivism. Yes, this is a reductive explanation of a long and complicated book but that's the basic gist.

One of Rand's inner circle, Allen Greenspan, went on to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the most powerful man in the American economy and therefore pretty much the most powerful man in the world. Greenspan believed that computer networks could maintain order without central government control. This idea of the world being connected by these networks became known as the Californian ideology. Thus far I was kind of following but it wasn't long before my mind began boggling.

During Clinton's time in office, there were budget cuts in order that the market could right the deficit and public spending was encouraged, creating the boom of the 90s. Now here's where the machines come into it; the computers created mathematical models to keep the market stable so people are borrowing and spending like nobodies business. A New Economy has been made. But something isn't right, productivity rates are not increasing yet the predicted profits are rising. Greenspan notices this, tries to warn everyone but then changes his mind, deciding it's all going to be fine after all because the computers will sort it. But soon, of course, it all falls apart, the markets, Clinton and Rand's collective and everyone's in the shit, especially Asia, who's westernised economies take the biggest hit. China are well pissed off at this and begin flooding the west with cheap goods that the western markets can't match and so industry gets a kicking and the west is plunged into recession. Basically, I think that's it, okay? Okay.

So the moral of the story seems to be, don't be a selfish dick, think about how your actions will effect others ie. don't lend huge wads of cash to countries to aid their economies and then fuck their markets up, sending them straight into Third World status. While I may not have grasped all of the complex ideas Curtis raises, the economy has always been a bit of a mystery to me, I did enjoy the style and soundtrack. Numerous montages are accompanied by haunting/raucus/beautiful tracks and insightful parallels are drawn to illustrate that this self involved philosophy of objectivism is damaging to the individual as well as to the broader world, economic or otherwise. Never having seen a Curtis film before, I thought the style was captivating: he made a fairly depressing and at times frightening subject an aesthetically enjoyable experience.