Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: March 2012

Best show of the month? No doubt about it - "THE HAIRY BIKERS BAKEATION" (BBC2, Tuesdays). Si "Kingy" King and Dave Myers are back on the road, heading across Europe to sample some of the best baking around. Now isn't that a dream job - combining two of my obsessions, food and travel? So far they've been to Norway and the Low Countries, next stop Germany - catch it on BBC iPlayer if you haven't already done so, it's an absolute treat. They're two of the most likeable people on TV, with a warm and funny sense of humour. Here at EuropeCrazy HQ, we love them!

Biggest hype of the month? The (yawn) 'ratings battle' between the returning dancers-and-performing pets-fest that is "Britain's Got Talent", and the British version of that new global talent show phenomenon - "THE VOICE UK". I wouldn't waste a second of my life watching anything with Cowell on it so needless to's all about "The Voice", which finally started last night with the 'blind auditions'. The format is fresh and original, we know it well from seeing clips of various foreign versions, and you're guaranteed nothing but good singers. Even Jessie J and, neither of whom are particular faves of mine, came across as quite likeable, and Mum fancies Danny O'Donoghue (although I wasted no time in reminding her that Bressie is hotter). There's competitive namedropping between the coaches, but there's a warmth about the show which is lacking in certain other talent shows I won't mention. On the down side, do they really need to feature the back-stories, the sob-stories, the family members sobbing backstage - all staple fare of those other talent shows? And please, no more of this "this is all I've ever wanted" crap. Just get on with it and sing. On the whole though, we enjoyed week 1 and will be watching again. Perfect timing too, as we're both suffering from a post-Melodifestivalen Saturday night void.

Stupidest concept of the month? The 'alternate reality' episode of "GREY'S ANATOMY" (Sky Living, Wednesdays). This is one of those jump-the-shark scenarios, almost as ridiculous as last season's musical episode. The funniest thing about the 'what if?' episode was undoubtedly Alex's glasses :)

Poorest decision of the month: OK so who decided to drop "PARENTHOOD" (5*, Thursdays) from the 5* schedule? I tuned in last week and it wasn't there, replaced by The Mentalist. No sign of it this week either. What's going on 5*? We want answers. You can't do this to us.

Social experiment of the month: Whether documentaries are 'dumbing down' or just becoming more 'populist' the TV channels are constantly looking for ways to adapt existing TV formats. So, imagine Big Brother mixed with a non-gender-specific Wife Swap = "MAKE BRADFORD BRITISH" (Channel 4) in which a group of racially diverse British people who all failed the UK citizenship test were all put together to try to understand each other's cultures better. The result was more than predictable in an "I'm not going to do this/act like this anymore" way. At least at two episodes it didn't overstay its welcome.

You wait for one documentary about racial extremism and two come along at once of the month: Regular readers will know that I'm no fan of BBC3 but occasionally I'll catch a documentary on there. This time it was "MY HOMETOWN FANATICS" where Stacey Dooley took a very personal look at two sides of extremism in her home town, Luton. As befits the BBC3 demographic it wasn't too heavy, and slightly simplistic at times, but young Ms Dooley has a down to earth appeal which may appeal to some of that demographic who would probably not watch something with a more serious, dry approach. Coincidentally, Channel 4 also screened a very similar documentary about the same theme and the same town, within about a week of the BBC3 show.

Celeb-fronted lightweight documentary of the month: I'm no fan of this type of show but don't really mind Gok Wan though, so quite enjoyed "MADE IN CHINA" in which the fashion guru went back to his father's roots and explored modern China. Gok came face to face with his Chinese doppelganger, and shops full of fakes including something called an "Eye Phone" which I thought was quite amusing. Like most of the other populist-docs of the moment it was pretty superficial and not too deep, but a nice way to pass an hour nonetheless.

Glitterball of the month: BBC4 celebrated its 10th anniversary with a disco night! We've all seen the disco stories over and over again, but who cares when you get programmes like "THE JOY OF DISCO" which focused on the birth of the music phenomenon, and the underlying racism and anti-gay prejudice of the time.

Scottish documentary series of the month: "HIGH SCHOOL" (BBC1, Mondays) is a very enjoyable short series about life at Holyrood Secondary School in Glasgow, which is Europe's biggest high school. When we learned that the show was made by the same production team which brought us the by now legendary shock-doc "The Scheme", we feared the worst. But don't worry - this one's all good, with not a Marvin in sight. Holyrood is a high-achieving school with a racially diverse group of pupils and very supportive teaching staff. Can we have another series please, BBC?

Big new US TV import of the month: I'm still watching "HOMELAND" (Channel 4, Sundays) although for some reason, it's as annoying as it is gripping. The is-he-or-isn't-he-a-terrorist main plotline is quite original, yet there is something about it which really, really annoys me. My friend at work who also watches the show answered my question - "it's her!" (leading lady Carrie, played by Claire Danes). I think there's going to be a massive plot twist. Or maybe I'm just trying to get excited about the show again, as it's gone a little off the boil over the past couple of weeks.

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