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Friday, 16 September 2011

The TV Week: Sunday 25th - 30th September 2011

9.00pm Fry's Planet Word BBC2 - Stephen Fry dissects language in all its forms, journeying from the thousands of years since humans first mastered speech, through the glories of world literature, right up to the cyber world of today with its html codes and texting. He begins by asking why people are so advanced in their levels of communication compared with other species on the planet. He also explores the history of feral children and sign-language, and follows a child learning to speak over nine months.
9.00pm Fighting on the Frontline Channel 4 - 3-part behind the scenes with British troops on tours of duty in Afghanistan. Helicopter crews discuss their experiences of life in the warzones of Helmand Province, where state-of-the-art Apache craft launch attacks on Taliban forces from the air, while Chinooks embark on medical rescue missions to try to save troops injured by explosive devices.
10.15pm That Sunday Show ITV - Series two of the topical news show fronted by Adrian Chiles with panelists Frank Skinner and Shaun Ryder
10.15pm The Only Way is Essex ITV2 - New series of the reality soap.
8.30pm Home Cooking Made Easy BBC2 - Lorraine Pascale uses her culinary expertise to demonstrate how delicious meals can be cooked at home.
9.00pm Jono: Finding My Family on Facebook BBC3 - Jono Lancaster, who was adopted as a baby, examines the issues facing people who use social networking sites to track down their families.
8.00pm Gok's Clothes Roadshow Channel 4 - The stylist heads to Liverpool, where he has a budget of £50 to create an entire outfit, and three women get the star treatment before appearing on the catwalk.
8.00pm Super Interiors Channel 5 - Makeover show in which interior designer Kelly Hoppen transforms viewers' homes. First up are Theresa and Vince di Martino from West Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, who want to rid their garage of all its junk and breathe some life into it, creating a stylish space for socialising.
10.35pm Hedge Wars BBC1 - The programme features a naturist in Keighley, West Yorkshire, who loves the privacy they afford him in his garden, and people on a sheltered housing project in South Shields who live in the perpetual shadow of a massive hedge owned by their local church.
10.00pm Fringe Sky1 - Fourth series of the US sci-fi series.
8.00pm The Marvellous Mrs. Beeton With Sophie Dahl BBC2 - Sophie Dahl explores the extraordinary life and times of her food heroine, Mrs Beeton - the creator of the original domestic bible Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management. Through cooking original recipes from her book, investigating her childcare advice and home remedies and even throwing a full Victorian dinner party, Sophie finds out how one young woman shaped our idea of what a home really is and reveals the personal tragedies behind Mrs Beeton's starchy public persona.
8.00pm Ringer Sky Living - Pilot of a US drama series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar inwhich she plays a pair of twins with a murky past.
9.00pm Shirley BBC2 - Drama about the life of Shirley Bassey as part of the BBC's Mixed Race Season
9.00pm Strictly Come Dancing BBC1 - Two night edition of the reality series with dancers Alex Jones, Anita Dobson, Audley Harrison, Dan Lobb, Lulu, Robbie Savage and Russell Grant take to the floor with their professional partners to perform either a waltz or a cha cha cha.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A fly on the wall at 'The Body Farm'

I had really high hopes for The Body Farm, having loved Waking The Dead but, unfortunately, found so much to dislike in this cliched spin-off.

We opened with a voiceover from Eve Lockhart, who told the dead she wanted to 'unlock the mechanism of your murder' which was interspersed with a shot of an unrealistic body with a weed growing through it and the team eating their lunch mid-way through tampering with the inhabitants of the farm.

Credit: treehugger.com
A body farm, we found out, is where forensics experts experiment on people who've donated themselves as part of a scientific experiment, allowing forensic scientists to deduce how humans decompose in various settings and conditions.

Their first case was investigating the circumstances which led to two guys spattering themselves across a room in a condemned apartment building. So far, so disgusting. Having become accustomed to the gory side of forensic shows, it wasn't this that caused face-contortion, but a scene where a half-naked Oggy, smeared in blood and effluent, chatted to his colleagues about bacteria in the name of science. We didn't really understand why he had decided to cover himself in the (no doubt) stinking liquid. To be honest, we didn't want to.

It's a good thing this wasn't filmed in 3D, because the flies, specially bred by the production team (according to Keith Allen on This Morning), were everywhere and they had a special starring role of their own which we'll get to later.

After around ten minutes of watching, I wasn't keen. The dialogue was unnatural and seemed very constructed to ensure you knew, for example, that Oggy suffered from some kind of illness; 'a disorder'. It played into what American Dad has lampooned in terms of story telling - unnatural over-explanation of what a character is doing or thinking, or how two characters are related: "I didn't know what to do, sis... what? I've never called you sis before? You're right. It is oddly clunky and expositional. I mean, I know you're my sister. Who am I saying it for? Weird".

In fiction, writers are told to 'show, not tell', meaning that instead of a character saying 'I'm really pretty annoyed right now', they slam a car door or are extremely rude to someone for no reason. This was an exercise in telling.

The dialogue and suspension of belief required in believing that a cheating boyfriend would hammer two men into submission before blowing them up with knowledge gleaned from his girlfriend's father's war stories was nothing compared with the unrealistic technology available to the Home Office, unbelievably fast turnaround of a paternity test and the idea that anyone could stand in a room that had been decorated with someone's insides, swarming with flies, without a mask.

Criminal Minds fans will also recognise a similarity between 'quirky' Oggy (who has to take pills, you know, did you notice that?) and Garcia, who stay behind in the office with a mass of computer screens, making 'clever' quips and observations whilst the team do the dirty work.

Gory artex aside, for me, the highest rating on the repulsive scale was when one of the scientists appeared to pregnancy test a rat. I wasn't sure exactly what he was doing, but investigating the demise of the poor rodent would possibly have been more interesting.

Plot holes were also aplenty: how did they know the two boys were dead before they exploded? Why would the news of a girl in a coma being likely to die be broken by Rosa, a visiting pathologist, and not the doctor responsible for the comatose patient? Does GHB definitely show up in blood tests? Why was the father not surprised to learn he was under arrest? He was never cautioned. Would they really question a dead woman's sister and father a few seconds after her death? How do you castrate a fly? I assume it was some kind of genetic or chemical castration or else surgery with a huge degree of magnification. Do forensic scientists really grind up tsetse flies after they've supped on the blood of the murdered?

This was, sadly, one of the most contrived stories I've seen, coupled with wooden acting, cold and unfeeling characters, overdramatic music and dodgy visual editing designed to get you to the edge of your seat. Sadly, I was supine, watching with disinterest in order to get to the end of this review.

Reviewed by Tannice for thecustardtv. Follow Tannice on Twitter.

DCI Banks: The Custard Chats with Andrea Lowe

I recently got the chance to chat to Actress Andrea Lowe who starting on Friday (September 16th) will reprise her role as the headstrong DS Annie Cabbot in ITV's 6-part crime drama DCI Banks. We spoke about her hopes for the new series as well as what its like to work with Stephen Tompkinson and her views on reality TV.

Firstly, congratulations on the success of the pilot and the new series.
Thank you very much we were all really chuffed

The pilot went down really well with 7million viewers When did you get the call that the series had been given the go ahead?

After the first episodes went out I think it was a few weeks after that as they had to confirm it with everybody and get all us in place and everybody was really rooting for it and obviously we were so I was so pleased when it did go again

There’s a lot of crime series on the TV, why do you think they do so well?
I think people love crime dramas I think it’s the mystery and its outside your real life and the fact there’s a suspension of disbelief and there’s cliffhangers and  it keeps you enthralled throughout and I think people have got quite dark sides now so it exercises that part of them without having to leave their house and do horrible things.

What do you think it is that sets DCI Banks apart from other ITV hits like Scott and Bailey or Vera?
I know I can never believe how many there are but I think their all quite different. I thought Scott and Bailey was fantastic. I think Banks is very focused on the crime and I think a series like Scott and Bailey perhaps shows more of the relationship side. Even though we do see Banks and Annie a little bit outside the office its not shown that much.  I think Banks is affected by the fact its shot in Yorkshire. Peter writes really brilliantly for women. In the pilot (Aftermath) and in this series a lot of the guest roles are female and they’re all really strong female characters. Also I think it stands out because Peter is obviously a crime novelist so they are very brilliantly written and the relationships within the team are interesting too.

Because they are so many crime dramas they seem to be getting darker and often you’ll think I hope this isn’t give anyone any ideas Do you think it goes too far?
I often think its amazing what people come up with but in the papers you read about such other extreme crimes and I think people are aware its television but I do know what you mean its sometimes like what is there left to shock people with. I was so surprised when I met the writer Peter Robinson because he’s such a nice guy and you just think where do you get these awful stories from you’re so lovely!

Can you come in fresh to this new series if you haven’t seen last year’s pilot?
Yes I think you can come in fresh. Annie was from complaints and investigation so that might be slightly confusing at the beginning but the crime stands on its own.

DS Annie Cabbot and DCI Alan Banks
Annie has been described as quite feisty do you think she likes working with Banks or would she prefer to run her own team and how would you describe her style of Policing?
I think she loves working with Banks but they have this sort of love hate relationship and as the series progresses you see that she learns a lot from him. As far as her style of policing I think she’s very ambitious and sometimes she makes very quick decisions so she can be a bit hasty and ruthless and doesn’t always think things through.
Annie Does say in this opening episode “I hate men” and in Aftermath they very nearly shared a kiss but were saved by the bell do you think Annie has any feelings for Banks at all?
They’ve definitely got this sort of underline tension and a slight sexual tension.  Banks is quite powerful and good at his job and I think that attracts her to him but at the same time he really infuriates her.

What’s your relationship like with Stephen Tompkinson off screen?
We don’t like each other. No I’m joking Stephen’s lovely. He does lead from the front, he’s a great guy and we’re bouncing emails back and forth as he’s in South Africa at the moment. He’s such a lovely man.

You mentioned her ambitious nature and in the first episode she does make some questionable decisions and can come across as quite ruthless and hard faced. Was it hard to make her also a warm and likeable character?
Yeah I think in the first episode of this series she is quite annoying and as actor you think it is nicer to play a character that an audience is going to warm to but you just have to go with it and trust. There’s some revelations later on in the series and there’s a real vulnerability and naivety to her that I think people will connect with.

As the atmosphere of the series is quite dark and moody does that transfer over to the set?
Yeah it can be quite tough sometimes. We’ve always got new actors in so you are always really quite focused and I think sometimes the tone of it did effect the set but when we’re in the police station and all the regulars are together we have a great time. We all get on really well and the crew are fantastic so working with professional people who are really lovely with really high standards that makes it good fun.

You have an impressive CV of TV and film what’s been your Favourite role?
Doing the Ken Loach film (Route Irish) was a real career high for me so I’d say that was my favorite role.

Do you tend to watch yourself on TV?
A lot of actors will watch the playback on set which I’ve never really done but I will watch Banks. Apart from anything else when you’re on an ongoing drama its nice to watch it so see how it turned out and as show of respect to everyone who worked on it. But its not the most enjoyable thing in the world to watch yourself because you’re your own worst critic.

What are your TV Favourites?
Hmm. TV Favourites? Curb your Enthusiasm. I love Jimmy McGovern so I love the Street, Accused I did Cracker and Accused for him he’s brilliant. Accused is something I’m really proud to have been in I really enjoyed that.

And what do you absolutely loathe?
Certain reality shows I think are just mind numbing.

As an working actress how do you feel about reality TV and that people will often watch reality over a good drama or comedy?
 I can see why people get into it and its got its place but I just think its not very intelligent. Not that everything should be but I do find it dumbing down and I do worry about the effect it has on the youth. They’ve got really bad role models and I get really frustrated with things like that but that’s not to say I hate all reality TV I love Come Dine With Me for example.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got a film coming out called When The Lights went out which is a thriller horror which was really good fun to do. But no new TV at the moment.

And finally if we haven’t convinced them already why should people tune into DCI Banks on Friday?
I think its really well shot, its fast paced we’ve got some really interesting stories and I think its just really good Friday Night Television.

You can catch DCI Banks from 9pm on Friday 16th September on ITV1. The series is comprised of three 2-part stories beginning with Playing With Fire.

More on the Show

The TVWEEK: Sunday 18th - Friday 23rd September 2011

8.00pm Antiques Roadshow BBC1
9.00pm Spooks BBC1 - Tenth and Final series of the Spy drama. Harry survives his MI5 employment tribunal and is quickly back on the Grid, where changes have been made to the team. Buried secrets are unearthed when Max Witt, a retired spy and Harry's colleague in Berlin during the Cold War, is found murdered by an unknown assassin. Meanwhile Ilya Gavrik, Russia's foreign ambassador and Harry's opposite number in the KGB for much of the 1980s, has flown into London to negotiate a groundbreaking strategic partnership between Russia and UK. Harry is deeply suspicious, but Towers insists he must put a lifetime of animosity behind him when it appears that the killer of Max Witt now has Gavrik in his sights.
9.00pm Downton Abbey ITV - Second series of the acclaimed period drama set in 1916.  New housemaid Ethel has replaced Gwen but she soon has everyone's backs up - and O'Brien plays a cruel trick on her. Robert is now Lord Lieutenant of the County but is disappointed by not being at the front. William and Branson are accosted by a group of women and presented with white feathers for not being in uniform. Matthew is in France and surprises everyone when he returns on leave with his new fiancee. Sybil hopes to help the war effort by enrolling as a nurse. When Bates's wife appears, it becomes clear that her motive is blackmail - and Anna is left distraught.
11.05pm Curb Your Enthusisam More4 - The eighth series is set a year on since Larry and Cheryl reunited. In the opening episode, Larry is affronted when he discovers that his divorce lawyer isn't Jewish. Later, a girl scout puts Larry in an awkward position when she tries to sell him some cookies.
9.00pm My Fored Unwanted Wedding BBC3 - Documentary that follows two British teenagers - Alia, already forced into marriage, and Jessie, facing a forced marriage in Bangladesh. Two years in the making, the film observes first-hand how two young girls cope with the enormous pressure from family expecting them to marry not for love, but for the sake of honour and the community.
9.00pm Sandhurst BBC4 - Three-part observational documentary series shot at the Royal Military Academy over the course of a year. It follows the journey of one intake of cadets, both male and female, through the 200-year-old institution - three gruelling terms that turn them from civilians into officers, from followers into the leaders needed for the ongoing war in Afghanistan and beyond.
10.10pm This is Jinsy Sky Atlantic - Quirky comedy set on the fictional island of Jinsy. With guest appearences from Harry Hill, Jennifer Saunders and David Tennant. Episode 2 airs at 10.40pm
No New Series starting today but continuing series include
9.00pm The Body Farm, BBC1
9.00pm 71 Degrees North, ITV
9.00pm Don't Tell the Bride, BBC3
8.00pm Midsomer Murders ITV
8.00pm X Factor USA ITV2 - The reality series gets an American makeover with host Steve Jones and judges Simon Cowell, L.A Ried and Paula Abdul.
9.00pm Dragons' Den: How to Win in the Den BBC2 - A look back over the highs and lows experienced by the hundreds of entrepreneurs who have entered the Den over the last nine series. As well as examining the key ingredients required for a successful pitch, there is a selection of the tough lessons dished out by the Dragons - advice that will hopefully help budding entrepreneurs. The programme also delves behind the scenes during the filming of series nine, finding out how new Dragon Hilary Devey settled in.
9.00pm The Fades BBC3 - Teen fantasy drama. 17-year-old Paul is haunted by apocalyptic dreams that neither his therapist or best friend and fellow geeky social outcast Mac can provide answers for. Worse still, Paul is starting to see the Fades - the spirits of the dead - all around him. They're everywhere but they just can't be seen, smelt, heard or touched by ordinary human beings. But now an embittered and vengeful Fade has found a way to break the barrier between the dead and the living and Paul and Mac and their friends and family are all right in the eye of the storm.
10.00pm Fresh Meat Channel 4 -  Comedy drama about student life from the minds behind Peep Show and starring Jack Whitehall in his first drmatic role and Inbetweener Joe Thomas. Shipping up as freshers at their shared house are: JP, public school boy with good teeth and an inflated sense of entitlement; Kingsley, charming and crushingly insecure; Josie, determined to experience 'new things'; socially-awkward know-it-all Howard; hard-living Vod; and Oregon, desperate to be cool and terrified of being boring.
9.00pm Educating Essex Channel 4 - 4-part Documentary series that has unprecedented access to an English secondary school to follow a group of GCSE students, and the staff who teach them, as they face the most important year in their education. Passmores School in Harlow, Essex, is a successful school in a challenging area. Under headteacher Vic Goddard, it's just been awarded Academy status and is rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted. Now the school has been rigged with 65 fixed cameras - from the corridors to the canteen, and from the headteacher's office to the detention hall - to reveal every detail of daily life.
9.00pm Glee Sky1 - Third series of the US high School Musical comedy.
9.00pm Jo Brand's Big Splash Dave - Comedy travelogue in which Jo Brand explores Britain's relationship with water. Jo attempts synchronised diving and invites Sean Lock to join her on a mud race.
7.30pm Nigel Slater's Simple Cooking BBC1
8.30pm E20 BBC3 - New Series of the EastEnders spin-off.
An Idiot Abroad: The Bucket List Sky1 - Ricky & Steve send Karl to try out things that people want to do before they die starting with a trip to a desert island.
10.30pm 8 Out of 10 Cats Channel 4 - New series of the panel game hosted by Jimmy Carr. Guests include Boxer Amir Khan and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Will America Have the X Factor?

With X Factor still proving a hit for ITV the time is approaching for Simon Cowell’s anticipated American version of the show. This is the show that has taken him away from his British TV work on Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. It’s the show he left his lucrative job on ratings giant American Idol for and it’s the show he’s hoping won’t go the way of recent failure Red or Black.

There have been several changes since the auditions began earlier in the year with the highly publicized dismissal of Cheryl Cole and the hiring of “Pussycat Doll” Nicole Scherzinger who had originally been signed up to co-host the series with Welsh presenter Steve Jones. The other judges on the panel are Music Mogul L.A Reid and oddly Cowell’s old Idol sparing partner and “straight up” singer Paula Abdul.

There are some other changes when compared to the UK original most obviously the huge prize fund that will see the winner pocket a five million dollar cheque which is a first in reality TV. Also the age range which in the UK is 16 has been lowered to any child who is out of nappies and has the ability to hold a microphone without falling over. This lowered age range may seem a good thing on face value but when you watch the eight minute extravagant promo that aired for the first time on American TV this week you it may dawn on you (as it did me) that this just means more sob stories and more precocious kids trying to belt out ballads.

Cowell does have a few challenges on his hands with the X Factor, the newly refreshed American Idol proved a massive hit with viewers who were agreeing that the show needed a shakeup and now that Idol appears not to have been dented by his departure Cowell may find that viewers decide they don’t need another singing competition. American TV is currently littered with singing competitions. NBC had a surprise hit on their hands with “The Voice” (which will air on BBC1 soon) and ABC has a Friday night Karaoke show that isn't exactly setting Friday nights alight but has enough people watching to prevent ABC reaching for Extreme Makeover repeats and that’s not even delving into many cable channels that have their own ragged versions of the format.

There’s also the worry that American viewers won’t realize that the X Factor’s strength is the judging rivalry and the different categories that allows for more varity than its counterparts.Fox appear to have every confidence in the show’s success and are promoting it at every possible opportunity.

If anything is going to draw an audience it’s the live auditions. The auditions with the audience give the show a more anything could happen feel and make American Idol’s performance in the judging room look tiered and out dated.

The series begins with a two night premiere on Wednesday 21 September and will be shown on ITV2. Despite the overdose of talent shows that is bombarding American television I am sure the X Factor will be the hit Cowell hopes for. If they’re anything like me they’ll tune in for the auditions and still be watching at Christmas!

The X Factor USA will kick off on ITV2 with a two-hour double bill on Thursday, September 22 and Friday, September 23.

 Watch the Fox Promo below to get a taste of the Series

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