Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: March-June 2013

You'll all know by now that I'm the queen of the backlog and never quite get round to finishing that book/TV show/DVD box set/blog post etc etc.

So while I'm off work this week I thought I'd better finish off some of that unfinished business - at least those blog posts! My last TV review took us up to February, then my life was overtaken by pre-cruise planning, Eurovision season, and a very tiring and stressful few months at work which left me exhausted.  So it's now time for a catch-up.

March was all about one thing: Borgen, Borgen, Borgen.

Back in January/February I recorded series 2 of DR's brilliant political drama and feasted on it during March.  It didn't disappoint.  What's the worst thing about "BORGEN" (BBC Four)?  When it ends and you have to wait all those months for the next one.  Series 2 was gripping, as the strands of Birgitte's political and personal life unravelled throughout the course of the series.  Great acting all round, and a great big 'awwww' for Kasper and Katrine too :) Laugesen was as big a boo-hiss baddie as ever, and didn't Katrine and Hanne make a great double-act? Not wishing my life away or anything, but roll on series 3 which will be its final series, just like "Forbrydelsen".  If only that three-series-then-you're-out concept could be used over here.  I can think of a few stale programme concepts which are ripe for culling......!

To fill the post-Borgen void I'd Sky-Plussed "SPIRAL 4 - STATE OF TERROR" (BBC Four) which I'm currently working my way through at the moment.  Shame on me for missing the first three series, but I've managed to pick up the basic threads of the show, and I'm going to buy the box set in the next few months so I can catch up with those early series.  It's not Nordic Noir, but it'll do....

Unfortunately I had to give the latest Swedish import "ARNE DAHL" (BBC Four) a miss, due to the sheer volume of my telly backlog and other stuff going on.  It was very well received though, if my Twitter timeline was anything to go by.

"GREY'S ANATOMY" (Sky Living) reached the end of its 9th season, which began with the aftermath of the plane crash which was to have far-reaching consequences for the doctors and the hospital.  As with every season of Grey's, I lost patience with it several times along the way, particularly the introduction of new interns (above) who were obviously supposed to mirror-image the original crew but I felt it didn't work for a while.  Grey's being Grey's of course, just when you think the show is flatlining, the quality of writing and acting always pulls the series out of danger.  Even Meredith has done the impossible and has stopped annoying me - who'd have thought it?  But with every season of Grey's, the grim reaper comes calling and this time was no different, setting things up for season 10.  Although I hope the next season will be the last one.

Money is the root of all evil, and that was the premise behind "JACKPOT" (Sky Movies) a Norwegian film adaptation of a Jo Nesbø story.  Set at the Norwegian-Swedish border, it's a blacker than black comedy/violent thriller which begins with a syndicate's big pools win, but let's just say they won't all be sticking around to share the winnings.  That scene at the Christmas tree factory means you won't be able to look at a Christmas tree in the same way again.  If Quentin Tarantino relocated to Norge, this would probably be the result.  (By the way, my "Headhunters" DVD is on my to-watch list this week and I'll review it in next month's Square-Eyed).

"AGNETHA - ABBA AND AFTER" (BBC1) was a very nice documentary, timed to coincide with the singer's long awaited solo album. The best thing about it was that there was lots of great archive Swedish TV footage of A, B, B and A's life before Abba, and included a rare new interview with the singer who is often described as "reclusive" - but is there anything wrong with wanting a quiet life away from the spotlight?  She is such a refreshing change from the fame-hungry celebrities of today, and we could do with more like her.

Another contrast between 'then' and 'now' was very evident in "GOODBYE GRANADALAND" (ITV), which was screened to commemorate the closure of the iconic Granada TV studios in Manchester.  By the way, does anyone remember the Granada Studios Tour?  Back in 1992, I had the opportunity to go on this tour which took us behind the scenes of many of Granada's TV productions, and a chance to walk down the real cobbles of Coronation Street - we were shocked at how small it actually was, just goes to show how those camera angles can be deceptive.  But I digress. If anything, this documentary just showed how commercial TV in the UK has sunk to such a low level.  Granada was responsible for the likes of "World In Action" and possibly the greatest TV programme concept ever, which began with "7 Up".  Now with regional TV practically non-existent, and ITV's schedules in the grip of the Cowell-monster, we probably won't see Granada's like again.  Which is a real shame.

The celebrity disease which has infected TV in recent years still shows no sign of disappearing any time soon.  The latest international TV format to be sold to a number of countries is "Your Face Sounds Familiar". From what I've seen though, I'm guessing "Celebrity Stars in their Eyes".  Proof that there's nothing new in TV any more...but I'll reserve my judgement until I see the ITV version and will review it next month.

Talking of top TV formats, I mentioned "THE BIG REUNION" back in my February post, and this show just went from strength to strength, with the one-off Hammersmith concert spawning a UK tour.  Needless to say though, there will be a second series.  Lots of rumours bouncing around at this point in time for the series 2 line-up, however I have mixed feelings about this.  Big Brother and Så Mycket Bättre were also great programme formats to begin with, but like them, I don't think the special magic of the first series could ever be repeated again.

It's not just the 90s/00s popstars making a comeback.  Yes, it's the return of the docusoap, that fly-on-the-wall real people format which was initially such a hit in the 90s, which is putting the "ordinary people" back on our screens.  Well, anything which keeps the "celebrities" out of the TV schedules can only be a bonus.  This year we've already had "The Hotel" and "The Railway: Keeping Britain On Track", and more recently Sky 1 has also jumped on the docusoap bandwagon with "GREGGS - MORE THAN MEATS THE PIE".  That title immediately appealed to me being a major fan of puns, although I'm not such a big fan of Greggs products.  It's a nice, homely, feelgood weekly hour of bakery life, and what all the recent docusoaps have in common is that in spite of all the daily obstacles they face, not least having to wear a hairnet to work (!), these employees all enjoy what they do for a living.  It's all about the job satisfaction, which in the increasingly stressed modern workplace environments of today, is a quality to be treasured.

Still on the subject of baking, the artisans of a certain Brighton bakery take cake-making to the max.  But even they can't escape the celebrity-aspect.  "CHOCCYWOCCYDOODAH - STARSTRUCK" (Good Food) was a rather unnecessary variation on the show's usual format, as various celebs set cake-making challenges for the Choccy crew.  Meanwhile, away from the celeb commissions, Choccy were making some stunning creations and the results were as jaw-droppingly brilliant as ever.

Let's rewind to April/May, which meant another series of "WHO DARES WINS" (BBC1) with Nick Knowles.  You will know that this is one of my favourite TV quizzes.  However, I think there needs to be a change in the rules if the show is to return, so that both members of the quiz couples need to answer the questions on the list.  Chrissy and Joe won a lot of money on the last series, yet she did virtually nothing but smile, nod and agree while he did all the hard work.

Anyone remember Leif Garrett?  Late 70s US teen idol and star of all the teenage magazines, best known for "I Was Made For Dancin'"  but a classic "too much too young" story of self-destruction.  Perfect fodder then for a "BEHIND THE MUSIC" (Sky Arts) documentary about the rise and fall and, er, further fall of the American singer and pop poster boy.  Let this be a lesson to all those young fame-hungry wannabes!  But they will just ignore it anyway....

"20 YEARS OF EORPA" (BBC2) was a very interesting documentary about the Gaelic-language BBC show which focuses on European issues.  I was particularly interested to hear about the about the role of the "fixers" who smooth the path for the journalists and often keep them from danger.  Although I was very late to this series, I will be watching it again in future as it's one of the rare opportunities to find out about European issues on mainstream British TV.

Finally, it's the parting of the ways.  I've regularly watched BBC Scotland soap "RIVER CITY" for the best part of 10 years, but a couple of months ago I made the decision to stop watching the show.  Over recent months it has lost its way, becoming more of a gangster/crime drama focusing on DCI Donald and DC Cooper (pictured above), and when it's not being that, it would give EastEnders a run for its money in the dark and depressing stakes.  Glasgow is known for its humour, yet this aspect of life is completely overlooked by the writers of the show.  River City needs to get back to its roots, and until the scriptwriters, storyliners and producers let some light in, I won't be watching :(

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