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Friday, 22 August 2008

The Nominees, FX

Did we like it?
Despite too much time spent with the necessary introductions of the grotesques competing for Australian of the Year, we saw the same glimpses of wit and imagination as in Summer Heights High that make star Chris Lilley an outstanding new comedy talent.

What was good about it?
• The five main characters – all played by Lilley – were distinctive and strong with enough depth to elevate them above being mere ciphers.
• Phil Olivetti is a former Brisbane policeman who survived a runaway “Inflatable, jumpy castle”. Clambering from the remains, along with other survivors, he quipped: “Talk about a rough day at the office!” This has now become his clarion call, to which he affixes the fading few tendrils of fame left to him. He’s an unremarkable bloke who is trying to keep his fame buoyant; he represents the modern non-entity celebrity.
• We see him boast about how “some kid” will ride past on his bike and point in awe as Phil collects the post. In reality, he loiters near his front gate while the world walks ignorantly by – it’s an obvious visual gag, but Lilley pulls an empathetic expression that combines arrogance and denial.
• Ricky Wong is one of the two outright likeable protagonists. He has some of Summer Heights High’s Mr G’s love of musical theatre, but also an obsession with physics that is equally gauche and endearing: “How do you spell fun? Phun!”
• Ricky’s introduction lacks apparent humour, but a familiarity with Lilley’s other work – which will probably be confirmed in future episodes – means that you are scouring the dialogue for those subtle quips.
• Ja’mie was our least favourite in SHH. While the inane teenage girl banter was excruciatingly acute, it was only as malleable as the stereotypical teenage girl vernacular will allow. Here, the focus on Ja’mie is sharper, and we cringe as she arranges the 85 impoverished African children whom she is ‘sponsoring’ (she extorts the funds from her intimidated peers) on her wall. “I don’t really know any of their names,” she mused. “I think these two guys could be related or perhaps they’re the same guy?”
• As with Jonah in SHH, Daniel is the boisterous troubled teenage boy who lives with his deaf brother and family on a remote farm. Daniel has been nominated for the award because he is willing to donate an eardrum to his brother Nathan to help him regain his hearing. This is odd because Daniel is a selfish brat who likes nothing better than to persecute his more timid twin. And we imagine that this whole scenario could be part of a con as at one point Daniel calls out to Nathan, who clearly responds.
• Our favourite from the opener was Pat Mullins from Perth, who has one leg shorter than the other but who overcomes her disability through her love of rolling. ‘Rolling’ is a wonderful Lilley-ism; Pat’s battlecry is, “Yes, I’m disabled but I can roll!” And we are told Pat had “rolled 19km from Perth to Freemantle”.
• The whole escapade of “rolling” was done so well that we could almost believe that there really is a vibrant “rolling” society in Australia. “Pat’s friends nominated her for her pioneering spirit and her contribution to the sport of rolling.”

What was bad about it?
• Because it was an opener, the episode was solely dedicated to a rather mechanical introduction of each character. This will improve in later chapters, but it was slightly off-putting to be wrenched away from one character to go and visit another utterly separate one.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Hairy Bakers, BBC2

Did we like it?
It was almost too quaint; two happy-go-lucky blokes amble or motorbike about North England’s verdant pastures cooking up some uncomplicated recipes along the way in a sort of lovely food show for people who don’t like food shows.

What was good about it?
• The main attraction of the show are the Hairy Bakers themselves, Dave Myers and Simon King, a pair of amusing uncles who love to put on a comedy double-act for their easily-pleased nephews and nieces.
• It’s never quite clear why the Bakers want Britons to start cooking the “12 million loaves [purchased each day] we could be baking ourselves”. Sure, as they go to great lengths to demonstrate the bread tastes delicious, but it can take a few hours to bake fully, time that most people often don’t have.
• However, as we said, it does look delicious and the Bakers garnish their loaves with bacon and other fillings, while they also prepare a ploughman’s lunch to accompany a brown loaf that takes six hours to rise.
• And it’s during the little jamboree while preparing this meal that the strengths of the Bakers bleeds through the screen. Waiting for the bread to rise, they take a ‘nap’ beneath a tree while Public Enemy’s Rise plays in the background (though, oddly, decapitated of appropriate lyrics) before setting out their respective versions of a ploughman’s and jovially comparing one another’s efforts.
• The Bakers don’t present food as the be all and end all of existence like certain other culinary goons. Baking bread in a Doncaster market, they offer tips on how to make baps have crispy bottoms or crunchy not how to elevate the palate to transcendental heights through some convoluted scripture passed down from chef to chef since the era of the Knights Templar.
• The Bakers stopped off in the glorious Derwent Valley to prepare and eat their naan bread, but were assailed by a swarm of pesky midges, forcing them to scoff the food with indecent haste.

What was bad about it?
• “We wanna get Britain baking again!” declared Dave. A noble and worthy aim, but we suspect that it’s also got something to do with the fact that their ‘brand’ can simply be tweaked from Bikers to Bakers.
• For all its pleasantness and cheery hosts, Hairy Bakers isn’t a very substantial show – it will entertain, but this will act to partly disguise its lack of identity.

The TV Week – what's new 30 August-5 September

Fiona's Story, BBC1, Sunday

7.00pm In The Name Of Love - Diana Princess Of Wales Biography7.05pm BBC Proms: Vaughan Williams Anniversary BBC2
7.05pm Weakest Link News and Weather Special BBC1
8.00pm The National Lottery - Big 7 BBC1 – Ben Shephard presents a celebration of the National Lottery's support of good causes, with McFly, Rita Simons, Bill Oddie, Ricky Hatton and Amanda Mealing.
8.00pm Battle 360 History Channel – Series using CGI animation to tell the story of key World War Two battles.
9.10pm The Most Annoying Couples We Love to Hate BBC1 – Clip show.

1.00pm T4 Presents Alicia Keys Channel 4
5.10pm Weakest Link Journalists Special BBC1
7.00pm Proms: Lang Lang BBC4
7.00pm The Sculpture Diaries Channel 4 – Three-parter in which critic Waldemar Januszczak travels to the most spectacular sculptural locations in the world and meets revered contemporary sculptors, including Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, James Turrell and the Chapman Brothers.
7.00pm Hairspray: The School Musical Sky One – Eight-part reality show presented by Denise Van Outen with Emma Bunton in which pupils from Kingsmead Secondary Comprehensive School, Enfield, Middlesex will be challenged to recreate the hit musical with help from vocal coach Zoe Tyler and choreographer Stacey Haynes.8.00pm Gladiators: The Legends Return Sky One
9.00pm Fiona's Story BBC1 – Drama about a family torn apart when the husband is accused of downloading child pornography. Stars Gina McKee and Jeremy Northam as Fiona and Simon Mortimer with Jimi Mistry, Claire Bloom, Nicholas Farrell and Amanda Root. Written by Kate Gabriel.
9.00pm The Conspiracy Files: Lockerbie BBC211.00pm Metallica: A Culture Show Special BBC2
11.20pm Faith In The Frame ITV1 – Ten-part series in which Melvyn Bragg examines Western art's religious pictures with panellists including Ekow Eshun, Andrew Graham-Dixon, Sarah Dunant and Rowan Williams.
11.40pm The Incredible Will & Greg Channel 4 – Comedy sketch show special starring Will Andrews and Greg McHugh.

g Guest list
* Duncan Bannatyne, Kirsty Gallagher, Denise Welch, Simon Weston on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ITV1, Saturday
• Will Young, The Charlatans, Dirty Pretty Things, Iglu & Hartley, Matthew Horne and Dominic Cooper on Transmission, Channel 4, Friday.
• Bryan Adams, Justin Currie and Ben Harper on Live from Abbey Road, More4, Friday


12.00pm What Are You Like? BBC2 – Celebrity panel game hosted by Fiona Bruce with team captains Aled Jones and Simon O'Brien.
12.30pm Loose Women
ITV1 – Return of the talk show.
2.00pm Sixty Minute Makeover ITV1 – Return of the makeover series presented by Terri Dwyer.
3.00pm The Alan Titchmarsh Show ITV1 – Return of the chat show.
5.00pm Britain’s Best Dish ITV1 – Return of the cookery series featuring with judges John Burton Race, Jilly Goolden and Ed Baines.6.30pm Animal Rescue Squad Five – Michaela Strachan and Matt Baker follow work going on to save and protect animals in the UK and abroad.
7.30pm BBC Proms: Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra BBC4
8.00pm Fifth Gear Five – Return of the motoring magazine.
9.00pm The Children ITV1 – Three-part thriller following the investigation into the murder of eight-year-old Emily (Sinead Michael), written by Lucy Gannon. Stars Kevin Whately as Cameron, Lesley Sharp as his ex-wife Anne, Geraldine Somerville as his new girlfriend Sue, Ian Puleston-Davies as Sue’s ex-husband Paul and Kate Ashfield as his new partner Natasha.9.00pm Hell's Kitchen USA ITV2 – Fourth series of the reality show featuring Gordon Ramsay.
9.00pm James Martin's Brittany UKTV Food – Series in which the chef retraces the journey he made as a student in France.
9.00pm Extreme Fishing with Robson Green Five – The actor attempts to land some of the wildest and most elusive sea creatures in the world.
9.00pm Law & Order: Criminal Intent Hallmark – Series six of the US crime drama.
9.00pm Ross Kemp On Gangs Sky One – Series four of the documentary series, featuring gangs in Liverpool, Los Angeles, Belize, Kenya and Bulgaria.
9.00pm Profiling Colin Dexter ITV3 – Documentary about the crime writer, accompanied by reruns of Inspector Morse.
10.35pm Britain's Really Disgusting Foods BBC1 – With anarchist Alex Riley.
5.00pm American Gladiators Sky One – US version of the game show hosted by Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali.
8.00pm Driving Mum And Dad Wild BBC3 – Documentary in which Joe Pritchard, a gay hairdresser, and Verity Abrahams, are taught to drive by their parents.
8.00pm Secrets of the Jesus Tomb Five – Documentary about the discovery of a tomb in Jerusalem believed to be that of Jesus and his family.
8.00pm Thames Shipwrecks: A Race Against Time BBC2
8.00pm, 10.00pm Big Brother Eviction Show Channel 4
9.00pm CelebAir ITV2 РEight-part reality show presented by Angellica Bell in which celebrities run their own airline, working as cabin crew and customer care assistants, with one of them being eliminated each week. The celebrities are Mica Paris, Lisa Scott-Lee, Chico, Tamara Beckwith, Amy Lam̩, Neighbours star Dan O'Connor, Kenzie, Johnny Shentall, Lisa Maffia, model Michelle Marsh and actor Phil Cornwell.
10.00pm Prison Break Sky One – Series four of the US drama series starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows, who have fled from prison in Panama and are seeking revenge.
10.00pm Katy Brand's Big Ass Show ITV2 – Second series of the comedy sketch show.

Wednesday8.00pm High Priced Celebrity Hotness MTV
9.00pm The Riches Virgin 1 – Series two of the US drama series about a family of con artists who take on the identity of a deceased, wealthy family. Stars Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver.
9.00pm God on Trial BBC2 – Drama set on a single day as Auschwitz prisoners put God in the dock for letting the Jewish people suffer. Stars Stellen Starsgard, Stephen Dillane, Rupert Graves, Antony Sher, Jack Shepherd and Dominic Cooper. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce; made by Hat Trick Productions.
9.00pm Lost In Austen
ITV1 – Four-part drama series starring Jemima Rooper as Amanda, who lives in a rented flat in London with boyfriend Michael and is obsessed with author Jane Austen. Amanda ends up in the 19th-century world of Pride & Prejudice, swapping places with fictional character Elizabeth Bennet. With Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth Bennet, Hugh Bonneville and Alex Kingston as Mr and Mrs Bennet, Lindsay Duncan as Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Morven Christie as Jane Bennet, Tom Mison as Mr Bingley, Guy Henry as Mr Collins, Tom Riley as Captain Wickham and Christina Cole as Caroline Bingley. Written by Guy Andrews (credits include Chancer, Prime Suspect and Lewis); made by Mammoth Screen.
9.00pm CIA Experiments: The Secret History National Geographic
10.00pm Desperate Housewives
Channel 4 – A resumption of series four of the US comedy drama.
10.00pm Take Me to the Edge Virgin 1 – Series in which rock climber Leo Houlding takes five people on a global adventure.
10.45pm Medium BBC1 – Return of the supernatural drama starring Patricia Arquette.

Thursday8.00pm Chateau Monty Channel 4 – Six-parter following 39-year-old writer Monty Waldin as he gives up his life in England to take over a small vineyard in the south-west of France.
8.30pm The Great Italian Escape Channel 4 – Six-parter following Richard and Sarah Turnbull who moved to Tuscany six years ago and now help other Brits moving to the area.
9.00pm I Own Britain's Best Home and Garden Five – Four-part series in which Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen leads a team of experts as they visit 12 of the country's best gardens.
9.00pm Money For Nothing BBC3 – Rebecca Wilcox offers advice on spending.
9.00pm The Big Bang Machine BBC4 – Documentary on Cern's Large Hadron Collider.
9.00pm Ghosthunting With… ITV2 – Reality show featuring Paul O'Grady, Natasha Hamilton, Phil Olivier and Jennifer Ellision in spooky locations on the Sicily Isles.
10.00pm 8 Out of 10 Cats Channel 4 – Return of the comedy panel game chaired by Jimmy Carr with team captains Sean Lock and Jason Manford.
10.35pm When Women Rule The World Channel 4 – Eight-part reality series hosted by Steve Jones in which eight women get to boss a group of 10 men around in a remote Caribbean village. Made by September Films.

7.30pm The What In The World? Quiz Five – Comedy science and nature quiz presented by Marcus Brigstocke with teams captained by Lee Hurst and Dominic Holland.
8.00pm Mastermind
BBC2 – Return of the quiz hosted by John Humphrys.
8.00pm, 10.00pm Big Brother 9 Finale
Channel 4
9.00pm Ugly Betty
Channel 4 – A resumption of series two of the US comedy drama.
9.00pm Harry and Paul BBC1 – Return of the comedy sketch show starring Harry Enfield are Paul Whitehouse.
9.00pm American Inventor Virgin 1 – Series two of the US reality show.
9.00pm Manchester Night
BBC4 –Featuring They Came From Manchester – The Story Of Mancunian Pop, Rock Family Trees – And God Created Manchester and Factory – From Joy Division To Happy Mondays.
10.35pm Friday Night with Jonathan Ross BBC1 – Return of the chat show. Guests include Kelly Brook, the Mighty Boosh, Team GB's Olympic heroes and the Streets.
11.05pm 8 Out of 10 Cats: Big Brother Special Channel 4

g Subject list
* Despatches Undercover Mosque: The Return. Channel 4, Monday
• Panorama How the Economy Got Personal. BBC1, Monday
* Natural World Spectacled Bears - Shadows of the Forest. BBC2, Wednesday
Drama Trails The Fixer to Trail and Retribution. ITV3, Wednesday
Who Do You Think You Are? Esther Rantzen BBC1, WednesdayComedy Connections Little Britain BBC1, Thursday
First Cut Marriage Technique for Beginners. Channel 4, Friday

Old Post,2008

An Englishman in New York 2008, ITV1 – A sequel to the award-winning 1975 drama The Naked Civil Servant. John Hurt reprises the role of Quentin Crisp (aka "the stately homo of England”), following his life in the 1980s and 1990s when he lived in New York. With Cynthia Nixon (of Sex and the City fame) as performance artist and playwright Penny Arcade, Denis O'Hare as magazine editor Phillip Steele, Jonathan Tucker as Patrick Angus, a young artist who befriended Crisp, and Swoosie Kurtz as Crisp's American agent, Connie Clausen. Written by Brian Fillis.

An Addict's Last Days
Sky1 – Documentary featuring the video diaries of 34-year-old heroin addict Ben Rogers leading up to his death.

The Thirty-nine Steps
Christmas 2008, BBC1 – Feature-length adaptation by Lizzie Mickery of John Buchan’s spy thriller. Stars Rupert Penry-Jones.
The Prisoner: X Virgin1 – Reality show in which celebrities will stayin the world's harshest prisons. Features Jack Osbourne, Toby Young, Debra Stephenson, Linford Christie, Will Mellor, Joe Pasquale, Donal MacIntyre and Marc Bannerman.

I Want To Work For Diddy
Virgin1 – Eight-part reality series in which 13 contestants compete to become the personal assistant of rap star Sean 'Diddy' Combs.

Ghost Hunting With…
ITV2 – Reality show featuring Paul O'Grady, Natasha Hamilton, Phil Olivier and Jennifer Ellision in spooky locations on the Sicily Isles.

Hell's Kitchen USA ITV2 – Fourth series of the reality show featuring Gordon Ramsay.

Jack Osbourne Celebrity Adrenaline Junkie ITV2 – Challenge show.

Coming Of Age BBC3 – Sitcom written by 19-year-old Tim Dawson about a group of sixth-form students living in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, who are always being thrown out of the pub and end up in a garden shed instead. Stars Anabel Barnston as Chloe, Tony Bignell as Matt, Hannah Job as Jas, Ceri Phillips as Ollie and Joe Tracini as DK.

Massive autumn 2008, BBC3 – Six-part comedy series about a fictional Manchester record label starring Ralf Little as posh Didsbury boy Danny and Carl Rice as a nogooder from Gorton, Shay, who quit their temporary jobs with the council to form a new label in Manchester called Shady Records and get involved in various misadventures. With Johnny Vegas as Shay's father, Paul Kaye, Philip Jackson, Christine Bottomley, Lorraine Cheshire, Joel Fry, Steve Furst, Craig Parkinson, Beverley Rudd, Faye McKeever, Joanne King and Craig Parkinson. Written by Damian Lanigan, a former member of the 1980s band The Twentieth Legion.

Jack: A Soldier's Story (previously listed as Jack's Story) BBC3 – Series in which Ben Anderson spends two months with 24-year-old Lance Corporal Jack Mizon and a unit of Grenadier Guards in the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.

World's Strictest Parents BBC3 – Series in which British teenagers are sent to live with tough parents in India, Ghana and Jamaica.

Last Man Standing BBC3 – Return of the challenge series in which six athletes take part in ancient tribal sporting festivals around the world including Suri stick-fighting in Ethiopia, Waura canoe racing in Brazil, high-altitude climbing in Nepal and endurance foot racing in Siberia.

Consuming Passion, 100 Years Of Mills & Boon BBC4 – One-off drama written by Emma Frost about the romantic publishing firm Mills & Boon. Stars Daniel Mays as Charles Boon, Patrick Kennedy as Gerald Mills, Jodie Whittaker as Charles's wife Mary, Olivia Colman as spinster Janet Bottomley (Olivia Colman) and Patrick Baladi as a handsome consultant.

To The Ends Of The Earth 2009 BBC1 – Eight-part reality series fronted by Nick Knowles in which eight people compete to join the BBC's Natural History Unit.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pacific Abyss, BBC1

Did we like it?
From the celestial heights of Sir David Attenborough’s compendium of natural history nirvana, through the gritty shiny surface water of Bill Oddie and Kate Humble’s Springwatch etc, we arrive disheartened in the murky, pseudo-intellectual Twilight Zone of Pacific Abyss and Lost Land of the Jaguar, below which there lies the burning circles of Hell and below that only the impenetrable obsidian depths of Mark Frith’s deluded sense of self-importance.

What was good about it?
• The journeys made by the divers featured some glorious scenery. The ghostly wrecks of the Japanese fleet sunk in an atoll bay which was both smothered and constricted by aquatic flora, while shoals of brightly coloured fish swam mindlessly about.
• We did learn the particulars of the bends, but even this educational exposition was accompanied by the trademark lurid morbidity as safety supervisor Richard Ball offered graphic descriptions of the numerous ways that you can horribly die from bubbles in the brain, heart and almost every other major organ.
• John DeGruy’s visit to the island of Puluwat, where he learned how the local tribesmen solder their boats with grapefruit sap (we think) and navigate the desolate surrounding waters using the stars.
• The excitement of the team when they brought what they thought could be new species to the surface for analysis slightly restored our faith in the scientific purpose for the expedition rather than a tiresome saga of how very brave they all were. But even here there was a vacuum as we weren’t told through the narration or a catch-up in the lab if they were new species.

What was bad about it?
• In summation, we learned more about rebreathers than we did about the fauna of this Pacific wilderness, which is utterly wrong.
• At the core of this is a misguided fidelity to the appeal of the human drama rather than the intrigue of discovery. As with Lost Land of the Jaguar, there is a grotesque focus on the exploits of the exploration team with the fruits of their exploration just tagged on and squeezed in like a superfluous DVD extra.
• And this is no surreptitious smuggling of the narrative to the foreground – the fate of the Mike DeGruy, Kate Humble and the rest march from the screen with all the subtlety of a Blitzkrieg, exemplified by a repetitious reminder of how very dangerous every single step of their quest is, setting every scene with a grim acknowledgment of pain and peril akin that moment in Die Hard when Bruce Willis must choose between facing a horde of machine-gun wielding maniacs or a barefoot dash across shattered glass.
• Before the divers have even tasted the salty waters of the Pacific, we’re told in a solemn voice more often reserved for state funerals that the scientists are on “one of the most dangerous diving expeditions ever undertaken”, which will involve “diving to crushing depths” before hammering it home with “a death-defying journey into the Twilight Zone and beyond”.
• Meanwhile, we are told that during the dives, “the slightest malfunction to the computer-controlled air supply could be fatal”, which smacks of the tabloid front page desperation of “Reading books causes cancer”, “Food to run out in five years – dead will appear on school dinners menu”, or “Clouds evolve to target middle class estates and holidays with rain”.
• Inevitably, in the throes of a dive something did go wrong and from the manner in which the narrator’s voice dropped into an urgent tone and the music adopted an ominous timbre as if in harmony to herald an imminent nuclear attack to a doomed populace. After a tortuous melodrama all the divers surfaced, “I’m feeling fine,” reassured John, who was imperilled because of a fault with his rebreather.
• Meanwhile, in the final dive in the open ocean, where “if things go wrong there’s no emergency rescue”, something did go wrong – or at least that’s what we were shown. But such was our scepticism that we’re unsure to believe if that the divers would recklessly wander off into a deep cave, cutting themselves off from radio contact from above, in the knowledge that there was a huge risk of tempestuous weather with the storm breaking apparently just minutes after they venture into the cave.
• But perhaps they’re all just following the drab editorial line – the ‘y’ on the Pacific Abyss logo is a shark that, while not threatening, is evidently designed to evoke memories of man’s impotence in the oceans when confronted by these leviathans of the deep.
• We believe it’s the editorial line that is the problem rather than the protagonists of the piece, as Kate Humble is erudite and charming on Springwatch et al as she wrestles with Bill Oddie to explain what we’re watching. But here, her commentary during her dive to a Japanese vessel sunk in World War Two is reminiscent of those essentially wordless plagues of gushing nonsense as ecstatic Olympic athletes ineloquently convey their delight to a succession of dumb questions that serve not to provide insight but to evoke in the viewer a primal interpretation of animalistic kinship. This might be tolerable in a hectic sporting environment, but in a show with aspirations of scientific discovery it is unforgivable.
• And of course, this focus on the team is at the expense of genuine intrigue. During her dive Kate marvelled in a sporadic moment of lucidity, “It’s amazing how intact the ship is when it’s all over 60 years old”. Yes, but how has it been preserved? We imagine it’s got something to do with the qualities of the chilling brine, but it would have been fascinating to find out, however, instead we are taught how a rebreather works.
• The cumbersome efforts to offer a sense of perspective. One of the team mused on the shipwrecks, “It’s pretty impressive that from death comes life” – but it’s more the non-living ships themselves that offer a haven for fish than’ death’. And Kate’s: “I live in a city that’s been bombed a lot but never seen the impact of a bomb. It’s quite terrifying,” as she surveyed a derelict runway that was attacked 60 years before.
• After an extended preamble, “the voyage of discovery begins” – after half-an-hour of pottering about in the shallows.

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