Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: August 2012

The first two weeks of August were all about one thing and one thing only: London 2012.  The BBC's Olympics coverage was outstanding, purely because you could watch any sport you wanted anytime thanks to their satellite stream - 24 channels on Sky TV no less.  A fantastic Games of course, but this just made it even better. 

Whilst The Chase (ITV1) was on a break from its daily teatime slot (celeb-charity Sunday night specials excepted), various shows were keeping the seat warm at teatime, with varying results. After the frankly rubbish Tipping Point, we then had Dinner Date whose alternate title could have been "Come Date With Me". How many variations on cooking and dating can you get? Why not combine the two? It actually wasn’t too bad, although as with "CDWM" I’ve yet to find a menu which I’d actually want to eat anything off it.

After a brief run, it was then replaced by Don’t Blow The Inheritance, a family quiz show which promises to give away a lot of money but there’s a catch in the big finale: answer the questions wrongly and the money starts counting down. Bits of it remind me of my favourite quiz "Who Dares Wins" so that’s a good thing, and the best thing about it is the return of one of Britain’s funniest comedians, Tim Vine, to prime time quizmaster-ing. Back in the early days of Channel 5, he presented "Whittle" and it’s great to see him back on our screens again.

As you will all know by now, I like documentaries and travel programmes so combine the two and I’m very happy indeed. Urban Secrets (Sky Atlantic) was the kind of thing you’d expect to see on BBC Four: a travelogue exploring the hidden cultural life of various cities. Unfortunately Alan Cumming, who’s always a bit too affected at the best of times, was even more excitable here and dare I say it, on the wrong side of annoying. However I still like the idea of the programme, and well done to Sky for trying something different anyway.

It’s a good job we like the Hairy Bikers, as they’ve been all over our screens lately.  However we've actually seen a lot less of them,  as they lost 3st each in "The Hairy Dieters" (BBC2) and got back on the bikes in the US of A in search of food and music in "The Hairy Bikers Mississippi Adventure" (Good Food). As it happens, we enjoy their good-natured banter, Si and Dave always come across as a couple of likeable down-to-earth blokes and seem like genuinely nice people, and you can’t say that for too many TV presenters these days.

It's been a long, long time since I sat down and watched a really good film.  But if we're talking really good films, then I've got to mention "The Help" which was recently shown on Sky Movies.  Based on the very successful novel, it could be described as what used to be called a "women's picture" but that's probably more to do with the fact that all the main characters are female.  Set in Mississippi in the time of segregation, it's about a young white woman named Skeeter, rebellious amongst her peers, who in her quest to become a writer decides to interview a number of black maids regarding their experiences.  It's funny, sad, empowering and well-acted.   Highly recommended. 

Last year’s Seven Dwarves proved to be a very enjoyable series, despite pre-series worries in the media that it could potentially be exploitative. It ended up a very warm-hearted, feelgood experience and we cheered when Max and Karen fell in love. What happened next? Their wedding, of course! Cue "Seven Dwarves: The Wedding" (Channel 4), in which these two refreshingly frank and honest people opened up their lives again to the cameras and the warts-and-all preparation for their nuptials. We wish the newlyweds a very happy married life together!

Old stuff...

On to some old stuff now - a couple of shows which were on some time ago but didn’t get round to watching until earlier in the month in the early days of my digital detox.

"High School" was a BBC Scotland fly-on-the-wall series from earlier this year, about a year in the life of Holyrood Secondary School in Glasgow.  Very good it was too.  They should do more of this kind of thing.

Dominic Sandbrook’s social history series "The 70s" (BBC2) had me feeling a bit sceptical to start with. After all, Mr Sandbrook (above) was too young to remember the events of the decade that he was born in. (And being born in the 1960s I feel qualified to say that!) However it was pretty well researched, thorough and comprehensive. I’ll give him that.

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