Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato - Bumper Bonanza Edition October-November 2012

I haven't really had time lately to post my monthly TV write-ups so I thought I would get the last two months out of the way before we hit the Christmas TV season.

Over the past few weeks, there has of course only been one story in town.  The "EXPOSURE" documentary (ITV1) uncovered a horrific catalogue of long-term sexual abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile over a number of years, which was shockingly covered up by all around him.  But the media loves nothing more than talking and writing about itself, and moved the focus away from the victims and focused on the "Newsnight scandal" - with events taking bizarre twists and turns and resulting in the resignation of the BBC's director general George Entwistle after just a few weeks in the job.

The whole Savile saga (and the unrelated arrest of Dave Lee Travis) has conveniently given the BBC an excuse to drop the archive "TOP OF THE POPS 1977" episodes which they presented, and it now looks as if the whole week-by-week archive series will be taken off our screens.  Would it really be so difficult to edit out the presenter links and show it, TOTP2 style, with a voiceover?  It's a real shame if it was to be axed: like many people from 'my generation' I've thoroughly enjoyed the 1976 and 1977 series, and even if you don't like all the music every week, you can't deny that the 1977 episodes have particularly been filled with the kind of musical diversity which is now long gone: everything from the Stranglers to The Dooleys! (remember them???).  They're blaming that good old ratings excuse, but I hardly think that 30 minutes on a Thursday night on BBC4 really makes much of a difference.  Save TOTP!!

Still on my favourite channel, we are currently in the midst of the final series of a TV phenomenon.  "THE KILLING III" is being shown in two-episode blocks over five weeks, and it will all soon be over, but Soren Sveistrup's decision to quit while they're ahead will ensure the show's place in telly immortality.  This time, the multi-stranded drama focuses on shipmate killings, the kidnapping of a shipping tycoon's daughter, and a Borgen-style election campaign.  The Danes are wonderful: they even make politics interesting!  (As ever, I'm behind with it all: I've seen three episodes so far but due to time constraints I'll probably keep the rest of it for a big festive-season catchup.  Or not.)  Don't like the chevron-jumper though.  I just hope that there is a nice happy ending for Sarah: but then, I think, don't be daft, this is The Killing we're talking about!  The show may be leaving our screens but I'll be in Lund-land for a long time yet, as Santa's bringing me the book-version of Series 1 and also The Killing Handbook which looks good fun :)  I'm planning to start book reviews on the blog next year and these may be among them.

Still in the Nordic parts, I enjoyed the offbeat, quirky and occasionally funny "LILYHAMMER" (BBC4) although I still can't decide what it was trying to be - a drama?  A comedy?  Both?  Still can't get that "My kind of town, Lillehammer is" out of my head.  A second series would be very welcome, although for some reason I can't see it happening.  

One long-awaited second series is nearing its end.  "HOMELAND" (Channel 4) was one of the biggest TV events of last year, so it was inevitable that Season 2 wouldn't be as mindblowing as the first.  It has had its moments though, but there have also been some dull episodes along the way.  Brody (why does everyone call him Brody, even his wife??) isn't just living a double life anymore, more of a quadruple one at the very least.

Another of the big annual TV events, "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) was back for a third series, which was good, but dare I say it was also lacking something?  I just hope that series 4 - yes there will be one - will be the last.  It's beginning to look like a successful formula being milked dry.  Talking of which...

It's December now, which means it's pantomime season.  Oh no it isn't! Because panto starts in August, when the "X FACTOR" (ITV) hits our screens.  I choose not to watch it, but then you don't need to as the papers and the internet have been full of the fake drama, the "fixes", the animosity between the judges etc etc for months on end.  Apparently there is someone in it this year called Christopher Maloney, who is a "cruise ship crooner" and it would be the kiss of death for the show if he won....!  We should be that lucky.

Over on BBC1, "STRICTLY COME DANCING" has been beating X Factor in the ratings week after week, yet it hasn't been a vintage year by any means.  Ballerina Darcey "yah" Bussell has joined the panel but it's still all about Craig and his catchphrases (that was a disaaaaaa-ster daaaaaarling) and Bruno, who should really be tied down to his chair and his arms tied behind his back.  Brucie may be a TV legend but he's now way beyond his sell-by date and even needs an autocue to say "let's meet the stars of our show".  This year's chosen one is Denise Van Outen.  Yes she is a very good dancer, but does she not have the unfair advantage of someone who has appeared in stage musicals?  So therefore she is no stranger to choreography, am I right?  She is also paired with resident rebel James Jordan, who seems to have been kidnapped by aliens and replaced with a grovelling sycophant.  I was hoping for great things from Victoria Pendleton, who certainly looked the part, but unfortunately she had two left feet.  She's gone, as are Johnny Ball, Jerry Hall (poor Anton!) Fern Britton, Colin Salmon, Sid Owen, Richard Arnold, Michael Vaughan.

Which leaves Denise Van Outen, Lisa Riley, Nicky Byrne, Dani Harmer, Kimberley Walsh and Louis Smith.  I was no fan of Louis in the Olympics as I thought he was incredibly dour and po-faced, but once I learned that he was being paired with my favourite female dancer Flavia Cacace I decided that he would be my favourite this time round.  He has done very well too, although been unfairly undermarked on occasions by the judges.  The main problem with Louis is that he's another Harry Judd: a very good dancer but he doesn't seem to have much of a personality.  Oh wait....Newsflash: LOUIS HAS A PERSONALITY! That was the decision of the judges after his Charleston this week.  Now all he needs to do is develop those acting skills and get to the final.  I really want him to win for Flavia's sake, she really deserves to be on the winning team after all these years.  Oh, and on a completely shallow note, Louis and Nicky have brought some very welcome eye candy to the show this year :)

At last, we got a new Scottish TV programme which isn't all about boring old independence or the small-minded world of Scottish politics.  "BUSKERS" is on BBC Alba, a channel which I don't watch too much, save for the odd football match.  This is well worth watching, and indeed does what it says on the tin.  A programme about buskers in Glasgow and beyond is long overdue, although the busking scene seems a little more disappointing these days than it once was - it's just not the same without the robot dancer (now there's a serious blast from the past!)  However you can't deny that those Clanadonia boys, dressed like that in our climate, are seriously hardcore :)

Seeing how the other half live can be fascinating and more than a bit sickening at the same time.  But you can't beat a bit of escapism from time to time.  "RICHARD E GRANT'S HOTEL SECRETS" (Sky Atlantic) takes us to the grandest, most expensive hotels.  You really shouldn't enjoy this stuff, but you can't help yourself.

How sad I was, tuning into a live-streamed Apple conference on 23rd October, waiting for news of the new iPad mini.  Which turned out to be much more expensive than expected.  (I can't really understand why, but I still have this urge to get a tablet computer although it's in the 'want' rather than the 'need' category at this stage).

Let's go back a few weeks with some more love for the mighty BBC4.  And so it continues.   "THE BEST POSSIBLE TASTE" was the latest in a series of occasional drama-documentaries, and if reports are to be believed, it was the last one of its kind to be commissioned due to forthcoming cuts.  Kenny Everett was the subject this time, and what an excellently-acted show it was too.

The Friday night documentary slot on BBC Four is always appointment-to-view stuff. "SQUEEZE - TAKE ME I'M YOURS" was yet another highly recommended programme in the Friday night music documentary slot, and told the tale of the highs and lows of one of our most underrated bands, told by the key players themselves, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford.  Most disturbing thing about this programme?  Glenn Tilbrook's beard.  Most distressing.  He's still got the voice though.  I remember seeing an Difford-less incarnation of Squeeze supporting Blondie at the Glasgow SECC a few years ago, and was very disappointed that we didn't get Cool for Cats. *chuckles at the memory*

"Bullets don't seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin!" gleefully declared JR Ewing in the 2012 reboot of "DALLAS" (Channel 5).  Now I'm not one for revivals or reboots, so it's all the more surprising that I've stuck with this, as it turned out to be strangely addictive viewing.  I won't spoil it for you if you have still to see it, but that was an amazing twist at the end of the series, which nicely connected the old and the new.  The next generation - John Ross and Christopher and their collective female partners - are a bit blandsville, but Larry Hagman stole every scene.  As you know, Larry Hagman sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago, but he will go down in TV history for playing the notorious 'love-to-hate' baddie, the iconic JR Ewing.  

For many, many years, before I started doing all that jetsetting stuff, Blackpool was almost like a second home as I holidayed there every year.  For that reason "999 - WHAT'S YOUR EMERGENCY" (Channel 4) became addictive viewing as we always enjoy any programmes about Blackpool.  However, these are now different times and I can't see this show getting a thumbs-up from the tourist office any time soon.  The programme focused on the stags, hens, drunks and low-lifes who now frequent the resort and most definitely didn't show the resort in a very good light.

The critics may not have loved "FOOL BRITANNIA" (ITV) but here at EuropeCrazy HQ we are firmly in the Dom-Joly-Can-Do-No-Wrong camp so you won't hear anything against it.  Although we will admit that it fell short of the glory days of Trigger Happy TV, and the Ian Yard character is nothing more than a rehash of Peter Kay's "Keith Lard" from Phoenix Nights.  That aside, it was rather refreshing to find something decent on ITV of a Saturday night, as the station seeks to fill the void left behind by the late lamented "TV Burp".

Talking of Mr Hill, we finally got round to watching "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HARRY HILL?" (Channel 4) which was a hilarious mock-documentary looking back at Harry's 1990s C4 show and trying to reunite him with his co-stars.  I was late to the Harry Hill party, and didn't watch this show back then, only becoming a fan when I discovered Shark Infested Custard and then Burp.

Strangely enough I didn't think I was going to like "PAUL O'GRADY: FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS" (ITV) as a) I'm not nor have I ever been a dog owner and b) I got very tired of Mr O'Grady a long time ago.  So all the more surprising when I found myself being drawn back week after week to this series about Battersea Dogs Home.  Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes it had the "wow" factor, or should that be the bow-wow-wow factor??  I think this one could run and run.  At least it's not "The Lakes" or "The Dales"  indeed "Coached Off The Couch" the latter which could probably have run "The Nightshift" close for the title of STV's poorest excuse for filler.  Like, ever.

Oh balls!  The first series of the slightly absurd but extremely funny "MOONE BOY" (Sky 1) came to an end.  The good news is that there is more to come, and that my favourite Irishman (the wonderful Niall Breslin) will be making a guest appearance in one of the episodes.  Have decided that the fab and funny Chris O'Dowd is now my second favourite Irishman.  More please.

Ex-politician Michael Portillo in 'rather good TV show' shock?  Who knew?  "GREAT EUROPEAN RAILWAY JOURNEYS" (BBC2) is probably the kind of programme I would invent if I was a TV controller so it's right up my street.  Given Mr Portillo's political past, I was extremely sceptical about watching anything he was presenting, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and put my political views aside, to find out that he's quite an agreeable and enthusiastic presenter.

Another Michael, Mr Palin, was back on our screens with "BRAZIL WITH MICHAEL PALIN" (BBC1), which was ok, although for some reason I didn't really enjoy this as much as some of his previous travelogues.

There may not be so many travel shows on the mainstream TV channels these days, but the same can't be said for food shows.  They're everywhere and inescapable.  When food is combined with travel, now that's a must-see.  A couple of months ago we had Allegra McEvedy exploring Turkey and its cuisine, now we have top chef Yotam Ottolenghi doing his bit for Mediterranean food.  "OTTOLENGHI'S MEDITERRANEAN FEAST" (More 4) took us to a different country every week (including Turkey and Tunisia so far).  He's quite low-key and let the food speak for itself.

1 comment:

Kippers said...

Great stuff, Laura!

I'm gutted at the increasing absence of totp from BBC4 of a Thursday night. If they're going to apply the same criteria in writing bad men from history out of television schedules then that's certainly bad news for the History Channel as it'll mean they'll have to find someone other than Hitler to talk about! We're all grown-ups now; just give us the old Top of the Popses unedited.

Skipped over The Killing III & lilyhammer paragraphs as I've been recording them with a view to watching over Christmas. Raring to go on Forbrydelsen but holding myself back till I can watch all ten episodes!

Haven't seen Michael Palin's Brazil yet either. So much good stuff to catch up on.

I loved the Harry hill thing and Moone Boy as well. A few more recommendations if you've not seen these yet: Walking & Talking & Community in the TV comedy stakes; and Justified in the US drama category. All great series!