Monday, 31 October 2016

Week in Telly 9

Man About the House
The final episode of the second series sees Robin fail his catering course exams, facing the prospect of having to move back to Southampton and work in his father's tubing firm. We have met Robin's friend Larry before but this episode seems to mark the start of  him taking a more regular role in the series. Larry is a tad less subtle than Robin but is still a rather likeable character. The star of the episode for me though was Robin's dad, played by Leslie Sands. Despite the family living in Southampton, Robin's dad has a broad Yorkshire accent. He comes across as an intelligent, self-made man who has provided all he can for his son. He also takes it in his stride after discovering that Robin's descriptions of his flatmates 'Chris' and 'Joe' are a touch out. Despite his mother's claims it turns out that Robin's dad is not so keen to have Robin return to join the family business. Robin's father sees his son as a good lad, but with no brains. He generously offers to pay for another year of catering college. The elder Mr Tripp is a stereotypical no-nonsense, straight to the point fellow. When Robin asks "You sure Mum's not going to be too disappointed?" the reply in a very matter-of-face tone is "Nay, nay. lad. nay. I'll get her a goldfish." Mr Tripp probably doesn't need to return but he really should.

Man About the House
The first episode of series three gives us new titles that reveal new haircuts for Robin and (I think) Chrissy (I'm not very good at these things). Richard O'Sullivan is now less of a, as Mr Roper would put it, "long-haired layabout" and has also lost most of his frankly magnificent sideburns. I wouldn't have expected to be keen but I actually think it rather suits him. I thought both he and Paula Wilcox's Chrissy looked rather attractive in this episode. Well, ahem, moving on... Larry has been staying with the three amigos for a fortnight. He's had the last of the milk, eaten their bacon for a late-night snack and to top it off he's smoked a pack of Robin's fags overnight. I haven't much touched on the booze and fags in Man About the House. It is something I half-notice every episode and yet it also feels very natural. In a manner only familiar to me previously from The Sweeney, the characters act very natural. Of course Robin casually drags on a fag whilst lying on the sofa and of course the very first thing Larry does upon waking is light up. Though it is undoubtedly in part down to a sitcom's limited number of sets, the trio's local, The Dirty Duck, is visited every episode. My favourite thing? Both the ladies drink beer. How often do you see that on 70s' telly? I cheer seeing it on contemporary programmes, though admittedly I have noticed lately that a few of the ladies of Coronation Street are partial to a pint. Cheers.

Man About the House
Robin is rather keen to sleep with a girl he's recently met. We've seen Robin with numerous dates in the first two series but none of the cast have so far had any luck in that department. The Ropers aren't even in the right store. Robin has planned a romantic evening in the flat and as he attempts to usher Chrissy out she meets his date. It turns out they were at convent school together but she's only been in London a few months. Chrissy becomes worried that her friend is less 'worldly' and a bit naive because she has only just made it to the big smoke. I was rather hoping the young lady would prove Chrissy wrong but when she and Robin finally get a night in together it becomes clear Chrissy was right. When Robin not so subtly hints that having had a chat and got to know each other it was time they got it on, the woman quite casually mentions it is her first time. As she speedily undoes her dress Robin panics. She thinks she is with a man who is serious about her whilst Robin was thinking they were both having a fun fling. Seeing Robin back out is great, hilarious and certainly redeems him. One of my favourite moments in this though was Mr Roper fixing the kitchen sink and when calling out, he manages to rhyme "Bucket" with "Fuck it".

Man About the House
It wasn't entirely clear before now but Chrissy and Jo do actually work for the same company. Mrs Roper is gripped by a romance novel of Chrissy's about a Jesuit priest. Meanwhile it is the annual office dance and the bloke Chrissy fancies already has a date so she convinces Robin to come with her. A black tie, formal evening is not quite his scene. Chrissy has given him a long list of things not to do including swearing, drinking too much or telling people he's a cookery student. When they sit down with an accountant and a solicitor Robin tells them he's a Jesuit priest. As the evening goes on he speaks to various people. He tells one that he's a brain surgeon and another that he's an MP. Man About the House is getting quite filthy. The double entendres are pouring down at times. I thought my mind could be dirty but the studio audience for Man About the House have imaginations like sewers. I love it.

Public Eye - The Morning Wasn't So Hot, Don't Forget You're Mine and Works With Chess, Not With Life
Recently I have had a procedure whereby I acquire DVDs from Network of programmes so good that I want to hold on and savour every episode. The result is it takes me a very long time to work through shows because I will only watch one single episode at a time. On Tuesday afternoon this procedure was chucked out of the window because Public Eye was just too brilliant. Prior to this I had watched only one episode from the set. The programme follows Frank Marker, an 'inquiry agent', who takes on all sorts of cases.
The Morning Wasn't So Hot sees Marker looking into a young girl who had come down to London from Hull and then disappeared. She turns out to have been recruited by a pimp. This episode is superbly constructed as we see a young fellow, Mason, recruit the girls at a cafe in a train station as soon as they have stepped off the train. We can guess what has happened long before Marker follows the trail there. The first girl Mason meets, Jenny, is a sullen, moody character who is not immediately taken in by his "What a pretty name" routine but nonetheless ends up with him. The second, Sue, is considerably more naive and falls for "actually a lot of my friends are models" hook, line and sinker. Bigger boys make their presence felt and Mason suddenly disappears. The basic plot doesn't feel particularly new to me but the scenes are all so tense and I love how things tend to be alluded to or hinted at. It makes this world feel dirtier. The episode's ending was unexpected and I was initially convinced it must be a two-parter. There is no great resolve and several of the character's futures are left looking bleak.

Carole Ann Ford as Jenny

Don't Forget You're Mine sees Frank move up to Birmingham. Being a native of the West Midlands I welcomed this move with open arms, only to find that Birmingham seems to have welcomed the rest of London too. In the previous episode there had been a young man supposedly from near Bridgnorth/the Black Country. His accent told me he certainly hadn't grown up anywhere near either areas. Whilst these Brum based episodes do contain a small number of attempts at 'Brummie' accents (Marker even puts one on over the phone), the main casts are all rather Queen's English and public schools. Marker starts on a missing person case that turns into divorce that turns into something else. It was an inventive shock twist. The attitudes to unmarried couples at that time are made firmly clear and makes me thankful for how far we've come.

A non-Brummie school teacher

Works With Chess, Not With Life also has the subject of divorce woven in. It feels an odd one as Marker gets three people involved all asking him to take on essentially the same case. None of the episodes are actually ever about Frank Marker. So far there is no private life - we don't see him so much as enjoying an off-duty drink at the pub. The clear conclusion to draw is that this is because he has none. The job is his life. But surely he can't spend every day as an 'inquiry agent'? There must be lulls in business. He must have free time. What does he do with it? Marker doesn't strike me as a sociable bloke. I can see him sitting at home reading or watching television. It is difficult to imagine much else. Marker is a fascinating guy and I love his no-bullshit approach. He is very confident, is not easily intimidated and has his own moral compass. I am curious as to where the series will take him.
Throughout these episode there are a few gaffs of bumbled lines or a boom mic dropping in. But my favourite is near the beginning of 'The Morning Wasn't So Hot' when the camera is positioned slightly too far to the right in Marker's office. It's swiftly corrected but we just about have time to see a member of crew standing in the corner.

Sleuths, Spies and Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes
The 'Sorcerer' element this week as Marr looks at fantasy stories. Whilst I was initially more interested than I expected to be, my interest dropped off as the episode went on. I want to say it's because I hadn't read most of the books mentioned but I hadn't last week either and the 'Sleuths' element had still held my attention. As I said before, the 'Spies' episode is what I am most looking forward to.

You just can't sum up this show - it needs to be seen. My favourite task this week was the special effects.

Man About the House
There is a mouse on the loose in the house and Robin uses it as a way to so very nearly get into bed with Chrissy. One of the highlights of this episode is a scene in Larry's room. He has brought a girl back after telling her he's a fashion photographer and Robin interrupts. On the table you can spot a Double Diamond beer lamp!

Public Eye - The Bromsgrove Venus
There are only five existing episodes from Public Eye's first three series and I watched four of them in two days. In this episode a librarian spots a photograph of his (tastefully) naked wife in a competition exhibition. The photo, dubbed 'The Bromsgrove Venus', has been entered by the assistant librarian. It is not explained exactly why the photograph is given that name. There are nearer places to Birmingham than Bromsgrove but I suppose 'The Solihull Venus' doesn't have quite the same ring to it. We also still don't know what part of Birmingham Frank Marker is operating in. It is increasingly apparent that wherever it is, it has a high population of people who were born elsewhere. There is barely a Brummie accent at all in this episode, though we do get a Liverpudlian one and a 'French' one. The librarian asks Marker to track down who took the photograph. This fairly simple task takes us down a complicated path that picks up blackmail on route.
The Bromsgrove Venus

Among my highlights in this episode was Marker's visit to the young assistant librarian, John Ingleby. He answers the door in a Japanese-style, slightly short dressing gown. He is anxious to get rid of Marker as he has the lights dimmed and someone coming over. When the guest arrives Marker opens the door to let them in as he is leaving. An older man enters and Ingleby is noticeably uncomfortable as Marker clearly works it out. Nothing is said though and Marker leaves. I am rather astounded and impressed they got away with this in 1968, only a year after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. My second highlight is Marker's visit to a nasty little shop run by a scruffy old woman. They have boxes you can rent to have mail sent to and Marker is trying to find out the name of one of the box renters. The woman doesn't fall for his talk though, calls him a "bastard", accuses him of being a copper ("I don't want coppers in a respectable shop!") then chases him out of the shop with her broom. As with the episodes of Callan I've watched (which also favours this word), the swearing has a lot of impact for me because I am really not expecting it. Such language is almost expected in post-watershed dramas now, it being argued, quite reasonably, that it is necessary for realism. I am not informed enough to know whether this would have been as true in the late 1960s. As well as 'bastard' there have been several occurrences of 'bitch' in Public Eye. I feel the need to read some sort of 1960s' handbook on the etiquette of swearing/blaspheming on television, a statement that I realise probably tells you plenty about me. If anyone should come across such a lovely book, Christmas is coming...

The scary old shop keeper
The Great British Bake Off - The Final
I had to go to great lengths to avoid having the result spoiled for me, like simply not looking at social media for a few hours. It was long, it was tough but I am so bloody thankful this series is over. Overall I have not felt as enthused as in previous years. The winner was fairly obvious early on. I don't know if this year's lot just weren't as good or if Mary and Paul have become more critical but it was the flippin final and bakes weren't perfect! Previous years' finals have been so close it seemed impossible to call because everything was just so big, so precise, so scumptious-looking. Not so much the case this year. Despite this, there were some masterpieces (I adore meringue) and there were two -TWO - Hollywood Handshakes. Let us all mourn the demise of BBC Bake Off.

Man About the House
Chrissy starts getting flowers and chocolate from "an admirer". She passes them on to Mildred who lets George believe they have been sent to her. When George finds out the truth he is a bit of a mean bastard, telling Mildred that the idea of anyone admiring her is farcical and he sits next to her laughing. Fast forward forty years and Mildred would have divorced George long ago. I do enjoy their scenes and obviously their marital strife is usually used very well for the comic effect. However to see George belittle Mildred so harshly was, I thought, a step too far. I am increasingly curious to see their spin off series.

Man About the House
Mildred goes to her sister's for a week and George takes the chance to give Chrissy, Jo and Robin their marching orders. His friend, Jerry (Roy Kinnear), is a builder and has convinced George to turn the flat into several "individual dwellings" to be able to make more money. I do find this plot a little iffy as it has been established previously that George doesn't actually own the house. The trio find out they are legally supposed to have three months notice but when Jerry tells the flat is needed for George's sick (also already dead) mother they start flat hunting. I have absolutely no idea of current rental prices in London but in 1974 the trio were willing to pay up to £12 a week each so £144 a month total. Thankfully Mildred returns home and order is restored. One thing never addressed in this episode is: what about Larry? He now lives in the converted attic but is neither seen or referred to during this episode.

Callan - Red Knight, White Knight
With the feeling that I could end up working though my Public Eye box a mite too fast I decided it would be a good idea to watch some Callan, a box set I previously left alone for fear I might work through it a mite too fast. Callan is, well it's difficult to say exactly. Spy, secret agent, assassin? They could probably all apply. Like Marker, Callan is individualistic. But whilst Marker chooses to do his work, Callan is considerably less keen and his old boss has been blackmailing him into it.
The opening of this episode was rather exciting for me because of the Thames Television logo used. This episode, the first of the second series, is also the first to have been made by Thames. I had never seen this logo before.

There is a new Colonel Hunter now (Michael Goodliffe) and Toby Meres slips Callan's file across his desk. Despite his dislike of Callan - "I detest him" - Meres rates him as an agent. Callan has been coming in to use the shooting range. New Hunter is appalled that someone who is no longer with them can walk in whenever he wants. Meres replies "He never officially left" and Hunter tells us that no one is ever officially in the department to begin with. Callan is called in and gets quite a shock that old Charlie is gone. He is his usual insolent self until this Hunter blackmails him too, saying they could easily get Callan "back inside". The "back" is interesting and I have no idea whether it is a slip of the tongue because it's the only allusion to Callan being in prison I've come across so far. We know he was in the army prior to joining the Section but that's the only background we have on him. After Hunter says "let's drop the informality", Callan stops calling him "mate" but it amuses me how Callan manages to inject the word "sir" with such a fantastic amount of contempt.

A slightly stunned Callan meets the new Colonel Hunter

Callan is tasked with helping to look after a defecting Russian. Callan was once sent to kill him but failed because "we were too good for each other". Callan doesn't trust this fellow, Bunin, at all, insisting from the start "Bunin's not a defector". When they go to meet Bunin at the airport he ropes in Lonely to check if they are being followed and the truth soon unravels. Bunin has come to assassinate the new Hunter, who used to be in the Foreign Office. This leads up to a tense and exciting final few scenes.
The new Hunter, Michael Goodliffe, has an odd and annoying parting in his hair. He also seemed very familiar to me and it took me a while to work it out. He reminds me of Jim Broadbent. That's it.

Annoying parting is just visible on faux-Jim Broadbent

Callan - The Most Promising Girl of Her Year
A young "lady biologist" (yes, they actually use this phrase) who has been assisting in work on a new nerve gas suddenly decides she wants to leave the job. This doesn't go down well with the powers that be as she has a photographic memory and they fear she could take her secrets elsewhere. Callan is asked to look into her and then when he finds out she has an East German boyfriend, to capture the bloke. Callan worms his way into Joan's life by striking up a conversation during the interval of a classical concert. He's very good at acting like a 'normal' bloke. He's friendly, makes jokes and pretends to be nervous. They go back to hers after to listen to records and she asks more about him. He tells her he used to be in the army so she asks whether he liked it because her dad did. "Oh yeah, it was great. Best time I ever had" he lies and internally thinks "*She likes you for that, Callan*". When Callan returns the next day he reveals himself to Joan (not like that!) and Meres follows afterwards so they can catch the guy that Donner, the East German, has sent to pick up Joan. The fellow is taken away and pumped full of drugs so he will tell them the whole plan. It is only then that Joan starts to believe the truth but she still loves Karl Donner and refuses to help the Section catch him. Hunter tells Callan to convince her, giving us a brilliant scene between Callan and Joan. He reads her some of Donner's file out, telling her how he's tricked another woman before. He tells her that Karl is highly trained and can look after himself with a gun. "Karl told me he hated killing" she objects, "I hate killing, I sometimes do it." "You don't hate it - you love it!" Callan's face instantly turns sour.

He yells "Look I don't have to justify myself to you, dar-lin'!" But after composing himself he takes a calmer approach, choosing to scare her instead. "It's very very real and very very nasty. Alright?You're trapped in it, darlin'. You can't get out." Thinking there's less chance Callan will have to kill Karl if she's there, Joan agrees to go along with it.
Callan's expression when Joan asks about the army gives him away completely to the audience and he is livid later with the way Joan sees him. Callan is not an emotionless, cold-blooded killer and I don't think he wants to be thought of as one either. He clearly has firm feelings about why he doesn't want to work for the Section but he is rather lumbered with it, whether they blackmail him or not. Hunter has pointed out previously that there is not much else men can do when they leave the Section. Callan's time as a bookkeeper has bored him rigid therefore I think secretly he probably enjoys the excitement of the job, if nothing else.
One thing I have finally got round to mentioning is Callan's inner voice. It's an aspect of the programme I have really grown to love. Sometimes it reveals Callan's true feelings to us and often it's just used for him to be sarcastic. Having not seen this used in any other similar shows, I've found it a superb little addition.

Armchair Theatre - A Magnum for Schneider
It had been a while since I watched the first few episode in my Callan box set so I decided to rewatch them. This Armchair Theatre episode is a sort of Callan pilot. I thoroughly enjoyed my rewatch of this and the following two episodes. I started writing some things down on this and the following episode, The Good Ones Are All Dead, a while ago so the details will come in a future post. Spoiler: I love it. Callan's opening titles are wonderful in their own way but I also adore the groovy Armchair Theatre ones used for this.

Callan - The Good Ones Are All Dead
One random note: Edward Woodward's haircut is much better in this than in Armchair Theatre, by which I mean it suits his thinning hairline far better. As the first actual episode of Callan we are introduced to the great titles I alluded to above. The black and white version isn't on YouTube so make do with a couple of screenshots, including the exploding lightbulb.

Callan - You Should Have Got Here Sooner
Lonely gets beaten up at home, only saved by the sudden arrival of Callan, causing the bloke to scarper out the back window. I spent the first few minutes of this episode rather distracted as I tried to work out where I recognised said bloke (Derek Newark) from. A little help from IMDB (regularly my savior) tells me I know him as Greg Sutton in a 1970 episode of Doctor Who - Inferno. This episode was a departure from the previous two as Callan doesn't actually have a job to do. Instead, he gets involved of his own volition after finding out Lonely robbed a flat occupied by a man Callan had put in prison. It's clear Callan has no loyalty to the Section as he undermines Toby Meres' work. We're starting to see that Callan has his own ethics and prefers to stick by them than support his former employers.

An exciting final episode of a series I have thoroughly enjoyed. Only a few days left and four contestants out of a starting ten are within reach of £100,000. The young girls are sadly caught out when someone dobs them in, despite a mighty attempt to escape. They got into a car with an old woman, Maureen, who nearly ran the hunters down in helping them escape and didn't mind them shouting 'fuck'. Bloody love Maureen. Despite nearly getting caught several times, Ayo managed to hold out. He had a lot of luck on his side and undoubtedly splitting up from his buddy Madu was a wise move. The other winner was only lovely Nick Cummings! I have loved this guy from the start. He seemed a really ordinary bloke but as the series went on we started to realise just how clever he was. His deception of the hunters with someone else dressed up like him was masterful and fantastic to watch. He was so nice and humble to everyone he met, which is probably why, unlike some of the other participants' helpers, no one turned him in. Things may have got him down at times but Nick never suffered the misery and paranoia of the rest of the fugitives. It was clear that he thoroughly enjoyed himself and his victory was well deserved.

Red Dwarf
Final episode of the new series. The Cat is the centre of attention for once and pulls it off superbly. I have enjoyed this series but no episode has stood out as outstanding. I feel a rewatch of them all is needed but as anyone who read my slagging off of the UKTV website can guess, I will be waiting for a DVD.

Gideon's Way
Whilst a chunk of the population were playing fancy dress, I began a thrilling Saturday night in by glancing over my ITV 60 box. I didn't really know what I was in the mood for but I had heard of Gideon's Way and knew it was a 60s' detective programme so took my chances. Like a few other programmes I've watched from this period, the opening doesn't follow the show's leads but instead gives us the background of the guest characters that week. A young couple are seen heading off to work and the young man later tells his coworker he's had a big win - £720 - on the football pools. After buying his wife a fur coat on the way home, he shows it to the landlord and tells him about the win. The landlord asks for a loan of £100 but the young man refuses. Shortly afterwards the man catches the landlord trying to steal the money, they fight and the man is killed in the struggle. The body is hidden and the young man's wife thinks he's disappeared. George Gideon of Scotland Yard ends up helping to solve the case. Gideon himself barely features in the episode. The tension is kept throughout as the landlord and his wife struggle to go on concealing what's happened. It was a nice, reasonably paced drama but I think the lack of a central character to follow is what caused me not to warm to it. I haven't checked but I would guess it had a fairly early evening time slot.

Four Feathers Fall - The Horse Thieves
Another ITV 60 programme. Having never heard of it, I didn't know what this was. I read the brief description and thought it was a sitcom. I laughed considerably when the episode started and it turned out to be a pre-Thunderbirds Gerry Anderson puppet show. Tex Tucker has four feathers in his cowboy hat that do some sort of magic, meaning his dog and horse can both talk. The dog sounds like Scrappy Doo and the horse is undoubtedly an English butler in another life. I spent the first few minutes flitting between open-mouthed awe and a huge grin. It was only fifteen minutes long and the story was just right for it. The traditional cowboy town has Tex 'Two Gun' Tucker defending it, which is best as the rest of the population seems to be entirely made up of a barman and three very old men. All five of their horses are stolen by Mexican bandits who positively piss their pants when Tex catches up with them. After Tex calls them "a couple of no-good horse thieves" one of them gives us this stupendous line of dialogue "What do you mean, 'no-good horse thieves'? We're very good horse thieves. Trouble is, we don't do it proper." This was a lot of fun. I'm familiar with Thunderbirds of course and have seen several episodes of another Gerry Anderson series, Fireball XL5, which I really like. Four Feathers Fall is the earliest of these I think. The puppets here don't blink, something I'm very glad was corrected for later shows because I found it incredibly disconcerting.

'Two Gun' Tex himself

Those pesky bandits
Public Eye - Welcome to Brighton?
Gideon's Way just couldn't make up for the excitement I have been enjoying this week with Callan and Public Eye. With so much of the first three series missing, I have swiftly reached series four. This is the first series made by Thames Television instead of ABC so as with Callan we get a new opening. Callan was 1968 but this is 1969 so it's now similar to the one I'm used to seeing in colour.

I am gutted that the final episode of series three is missing because series four starts with Frank Marker banged up at H.M. Ford Prison. The opening titles are marvellously done and a neat idea.

He's about to be released on licence after serving time for possession of stolen goods. On reflection this really isn't too much of a shock. The nature of his work meant Marker always operated close to criminality and finally something caught him out. The lack of any authentic Brummies in Brum has at last put him off the place and he is setting up a new life in Brighton. Aside from looking up the wife of a fellow convict, Marker has no work of any sort to do in this episode. It is certainly a lot slower than the usual Public Eye episodes and it probably wouldn't be a good episode with which to introduce someone to the programme. However, after seeing several episodes' worth of Frank now it is a fantastic look at him as a person and I was intrigued throughout.
On getting to Brighton on the day of his release one of the first things Marker does is get himself a bottle of whisky and stand drinking it whilst looking out at the shore. He is soon picked up by a woman and they head back to her place. Marker's been such a blank canvas up until now that I have pretty much viewed him asexually so this was quite a surprise. There is a very distracting sight of the woman's black stockings and they get down to a bit of smooching.

Before things can really get going he pops to the smallest room and whilst he is gone the woman takes a note from his wallet to stuff down her bra. Marker checks as soon as he returns and demands it back. She's glanced over his release papers too though and grins at him as she says "Look, you got out this morning. You call the police, tell them your version, I'll tell them mine, see which they believe." There is a fair struggle and Frank gets more and more pissed off. I feel so bad that such an unsociable guy speaks to someone for once and ends up with someone trying to rob him.

"You wouldn't!" "I would if I had to!"

Marker has several chats throughout the episode with his probation officer and one with a fellow who, I think, is the prison governor. They've sorted out somewhere to live for Marker, a room in a B&B, but he's less than happy about it because he's used to being secluded on his own. This independence is basically what these conversations centre around. They are worried because Marker has no one on the outside to turn to - no family, no friends. He has been a model prisoner but they feel his chances of coping out of prison would be improved if he had someone, anyone, to talk things over with. Marker is somewhat baffled by this reaction as he has managed fine so far. We also find out he is perhaps not just content on his own but possibly even prefers it. When his probation officer asks about making friends, Marker replies "I've never really tried." Going through his details on a form the officer notes that Marker has never married and isn't "queer" to which Marker replies "How do you know?!" though he afterwards admits that he isn't. At their final meeting in the episode, Marker sits there clock watching. The minutes go by slowly and he is clearly anxious to leave. Discussing the terms of his probation, he gets angry. He doesn't like the idea of having people checking up on him and he doesn't see what there is to talk about with his probation officer every week or fortnight or whatever. Marker doesn't want the intrusion. He wants to go back to going it alone and doing things his own way. This was such a fascinating episode and I am curious to see whether Marker does slip back into things perfectly well or not.

Callan - Red Knight, White Knight and The Most Promising Girl of Her Year
Yep, that's right, I rewatched two episodes I had watched only a few days earlier. May have taken my enthusiasm too far. Red Knight, White Knight was more background telly whilst I did other things but I did particularly enjoy the scene between Callan and the new Hunter. The Most Promising Girl Of Her Year meanwhile soothed me into dreamland. Sort of. It's rare I will watch telly immediately before bed and Sunday night proved why. I struggled to sleep, still being too wrapped up in the excitement of what I'd just watched.

26 programmes
5 new - the only things I watched this week that were first broadcast after 1975
21 old

Best: Another very strong week, especially with the Callan episodes, but Public Eye's The Morning Wasn't So Hot nudges ahead to be the outright winner.

Worst: Not woeful - Sleuths, Spies and Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes although the Man About the House with 'an admirer' came close.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Week in Telly 8

This was the first episode where nobody got caught by the hunters. I have been impressed with Nick all along and he is fast becoming my favourite to win. This week he managed to sneak round the back of his house where his wife then gave him money and a note. Fantastically, she had actually thought to tell Nick what the hunters knew about him. Nick then decided to set the hunters up by ringing his neighbour who then rang his wife's monitored phone, telling her to meet him with money the next day. Nick sent a decoy wearing his wig and boiler suit, giving himself the chance to get miles away. I was really impressed by this and glad that Nick has been sensible compared to other participants. The two software developers split up. One looks to be trapped now as his attempt to trick the hunters failed and he tried to go to see his family. Meeting up with family or friends seems to be the greatest downfall in this show. I like to think I could manage four weeks alone but looking back you notice that often the reason contact has been made is purely for money. To beat the hunters you need to become financially independent or else, like Nick, very lucky.

The Dark Knight (part)
I wandered in whilst this was on and accidentally ended up watching quite a bit of it. Reminded me that I really love this film and this is almost entirely down to Heath Ledger's Joker. I saw the end of the film so got to see a fair amount of tension and action.

Man About the House
Chrissie goes out with an older man. He's teased for being 'older' but is also stated as being around 30! I've also been watching Not Going Out recently, in which Lucy (late 20s) goes out with an older guy, Guy, in his early 50s. Over twenty years - that is an age gap. But this? Just how young are Chrissie and Jo meant to be? I'd have put them as mid-20s. Norman Ashley who plays Ian Cross, the older bloke, was only 28 when the programme went out! He does look older, but not that much. The crux of the episode becomes not his age but his marital status. I was surprised that Chrissie chose not to tell Mrs Cross what had been going on. I doubt Ian would have got away with it in any modern sitcom.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA
Ramsay went to help this restaurant that was losing huge amounts of money. The chef of this 'fine dining' restaurant was using POWDERED MASH. Wow. I just about found the stuff edible as a student. Just. One of the kitchen staff was also taking home leftover food. Seems reasonable. AND WINE. It seemed the biggest problem to me was that the restaurant had no manager. The owner didn't have a clue what had been going on. Ramsay made changes, going for a more casual eatery and encouraging better practices in the kitchen. A little flashcard at the end briefly told us that five months later the restaurant closed down, unable to pay its many, many debts.

Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes
Earlier this year I made a resolution, sort of, not to buy any more books until I had read all of my unread books. Many of you are already laughing at such an absurd notion and so you should be; this lasted a mere five months before I cracked. Last weekend I was in a bookshop and had to start shouting at myself (internally, fortunately) to stop - "LEAVE THE SHOP. LEAVE. NOW. NO - STOP LOOKING. I SAID STOP. STOP LOOKING! YOU HAVE PAID. NOW LEAVE. NOW. NOW!"
I always feel cautious around television programmes about books. There is a worry that television will fail to capture everything so wonderful about a book. The title of this one was enough to prick my ears up and seeing it was presented by Andrew Marr convinced my finger to press the record button. The first of three, I was really impressed with how the programme was done. A mixture of Marr monologues, interviews with authors, as well as recreations of classic detective genre scenes, with Marr sat among the characters. In addition, there was the odd clip of dramatisations of the stories discussed. My attention was held throughout despite having read only one of the books mentioned (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). I suppose that comes down to the fact that detectives and sleuths are gripping and exciting, their puzzles too intriguing to stop looking. The episode explored the tropes of detective stories, how they have changed over the decades as well as the importance of maintaining certain features. It reminded me of how many books I can still look forward to reading. Next episode is the 'sorcerers' element of the series. I will watch but I don't think I will enjoy it as much. The 'spies' installment is what I am most excited for.

Not Going Out
I've moved onto series 2 and am finding this is still a fun show to dive in and out of.

More utterly pointless but very entertaining tasks. My favourite this week was probably the dominoes challenge. Furniture, people, a paddling pool and a frying pan all featured in the attempts to make the best domino rally.

Man About the House
Chrissie invites the Ropers round for dinner but Robin has already invited his friend Franz and is preparing a traditional German meal to celebrate Franz passing his doctoral exams. Mr Roper still holds a grudge against the Germans for dropping a bomb on him whilst he was taking a bath in Putney on a Monday. The highlight of this episode was seeing Dennis Waterman, appearing one year before he would become far more well know as Detective Sergeant George Carter in The Sweeney. His hair is much longer and he has a beard so combined with the German accent it took me a moment to recognise him. A nice touch was giving his character the name 'Wasserman'.

Mr Roper spends the evening asking Franz, "Have you seen The World at War on the telly?" ("Yes. I thought it started well but I didn't like the ending.") and "You're too young to have been in the war, I suppose?" ("Well, a little, yes. I wasn't born.")

The Great British Bake Off
Patisserie took us back to much more scrumptious looking creations. I've been saying it for weeks and at last he finally went. Selassi is gone and we have our finalists. I'm predicting Candice to win, Jane second, Andrew third.

Man About the House
Chrissie and Robin step in to babysit a baby boy for some neighbours, only to get a phone call saying the mother has gone into labour early with the second child. Robin had been eager to take on the job after being told the couple have a, wait for it, colour television set. Oooooooh. This is still only 1974 after all and it would be another three years before the number of colour licences overtook the number of black and white ones (don't ever say this blog isn't educational). I myself was looking forward to seeing this set but much to the disappointment of both of us, on arrival Robin is told it is away for repair. He's told to help himself to a drink, only to find the cabinet locked. A phone call later informs him that the key is in the writing desk, which is also locked. Eventually Robin picks the cabinet's lock with one of Chrissie's hair pins. Sadly this does not lead to them both getting rip roaringly drunk because that would have made a superb episode. The baby won't settle and they spend much of the night trying to sooth him. We get a lot of shots of the baby. A lot of programmes, and sitcoms particularly, do tend to minimise how much screen time babies get. Shots of dolls wrapped in blankets etc get used whenever possible so it was interesting to see them choose this. A reminder that the (uncredited) baby is now 43.

The Brain: A Secret History
This episode looked at emotions and how people have attempted to study them. Similar to last week, it makes you very grateful for the development of ethics in modern medical studies. We see a nine month old baby have fear induced. He is seen playing with a mouse and being unconcerned by a scary-looking clown mask. But after a hammer has hit an iron bar, creating a loud noise behind him whilst the mouse and mask are there, the baby gradually comes to associate them. I found this examination of 'natural' and 'learned' fears fascinating. The 'love' experiment with a monkey was also insightful. The monkey was given the choice of two 'mothers' made from scrap bits. One was made of wire and gave food and the other had a soft cloth on it. The monkey much preferred the comforting mother. I wasn't aware that prior to these experiments it was believed love was built on providing food, one of our most basic needs. These experiments therefore came to have a huge impact on parenting advice. We were told about a further experiment on the monkeys that wanted to look at how long they could cope without love. The monkeys were placed in total isolation, some for up to a year, some also in a confined space. All came out severely disturbed. I was grateful not to see that footage too.

Despite my prediction last week that the software developer, Ayo, who was holed up in London was certain to be caught, I was proved wrong as he managed to escape. Nick is still off making his way round the rural South West and I'm now completely in love with him to win. He's the only person still in it who isn't doing it for the money and we've seen him go from bumbling, uncertain house husband to confident deceiver. The two Yorkshire girls who have hitchhiked up and down the country are great and have been sensible so far. But worryingly they have chosen to complete the adventure near home, going back to the Dales they know. The hunters are on their tale and haven't caught up yet but the preview we've seen at the start of every episode seems to show a drone hovering over them so I have always remained skeptical of their chances. Madu was caught this week, something that didn't come as a huge surprise as he never particularly came across as the outdoor type. He made an impressive run for it, dropping his rucksack and if he'd managed to leg it I would have been intrigued to see how he coped without it! Next week's preview shows the hunters going all out. It will make a bloody awful ending if they all get captured.

The Prisoner - Arrival
It cannot have escaped your attention that this blog has had a little bit to do with The Prisoner before. If I'm honest, my incomplete rewatch of it has long felt like the elephant in the room on this blog. I had a lot of time when I started it and spent most days thinking about The Prisoner, trying to work it all out. Then I got very busy. The current plan is to rewatch where I got up to before starting to blog about the Village properly again. I have really missed it.
My memory of this first episode was not good. I had misremembered just how much of it was taken up by the Cobb and his girlfriend plot. It's actually very little. Instead we get a great deal of information about the Village and Number Six. There are two Number Twos in this episode. When the first (Guy Doleman) speaks to Number Six he at one point says "Believe me, I know how you feel." This got me pondering as to who all these Number Twos are. Are they also prisoners? Prisoners given the chance to earn their way out by acting as Number Two for a while? Is that what this Number Two means. If they do a good job they may get some freedom? It's an intriguing notion. The second Number Two is played by George Baker, whom I recognised as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I must say he's far more handsome minus the glasses and things.
Number Six is given false hope for escape by Number Nine (Virginia Maskell). She was supposed to help Cobb escape but decides to help Number Six instead now. She has managed to obtain an 'electropass' concealed in a watch that will let the bearer enter the helicopter. When asked how she got the pass, she says "I knew the pilot." A little light bulb went on as I saw the expression on her face and I realised - oh, of course. She shagged him to get it. That's why she was so concerned. It's really hard to decide how much she knows. We see her with Number Two. Does she think she's helping Six to escape because that's what Two wants? Does Two know she has the pass at all? Perhaps she was just supposed to watch him for Two.
This got me pondering as to how The Prisoner could have been a completely different series. What if Number Six had managed to escape the Village in the first episode? What if he spent the rest of the series trying to discover who had sent him there? Trying to find out about who else was in the Village and why? What if he spent the series trying to get back to the Village to help everyone else escape?

Be seeing you.

Red Dwarf - Krysis
This was a great improvement on last week for me and I thought Kryten's midlife crisis was done pretty well. No doubt many viewers who watched the original series go out are around that point in their own lives. Lister gave us his own experience of his midlife crisis, which had lasted five minutes.

The film is called Spectre and I am torn as to whether it should be. My brain automatically corrects it to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or the acceptable SPECTRE. In the original books and films, the organisation's name comes from the activities it takes part in, calling itself SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. But this isn't mentioned in Spectre. Madeleine Swann names the organisation and it is never elaborated on. So perhaps my Bond fan mind is going to have to let this one go (it won't).
This was the first time I had watched Spectre since I had seen it (twice) at the pictures. Sitting down to it I realised it had been quite a while since I had last watched any Bond film in full. I own them all but I love nothing more than watching an ITV repeat on a Sunday afternoon and tweeting along with several others. I loved Skyfall so Spectre was always going to have a hard time following it. I noticed that Bond is working alone for the first hour of the film before he finds Madeleine. I've mentioned before my love of action so it is the car chases, running round and fights that I love in this. The 4 x 4 and biplane one, partly intercut with shots of an increasingly nervous Q, is probably my favourite.
I do also love all of Q's scenes in Spectre. The character has always been given good lines and it continues here. With Bond asking a favour he replies, "May I remind you that I answer directly to M... I do also have a mortgage and two cats to feed." Q's venture into the field is tense to watch. Whilst none of us doubt his ability to do more damage from his laptop in his pyjamas than Bond can a year in the field, I don't reckon on Q being able to manage an entire day in the field.
Back in London, I do in fact love the sojourn the rest of the MI6 team make into the field. Whilst Judi Dench's M was never one to shy away from such duties, we know Ralph Fiennes' M has experience. When he asks C "Have you ever had to kill a man?" it isn't just a question. They don't have too much to do but seeing Moneypenny, Q and Bill Tanner racing around too is great. I am all for the three of them having their own spin off TV series.
Spectre is not the best Bond film ever but by a long stretch it certainly isn't one of the worst either. Its shining light for me is Chrisoph Waltz's Blofeld. His calmness, his certainty, his sheer evil is superbly displayed. I am desperate to see more of him because despite the film's ending I think this incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld still has so much more to offer us.

Space: 1999 - Breakaway
I could talk for days about Network Distributing's magnificent ITV 60 box set. Indeed, at some point I may get round to some posts about this enlightening collection. I truly did not have the foggiest of what to expect from Space: 1999. The name was familiar but I knew nothing. I had formed the vague idea of some weird, non-mainstream, very strange and hard to follow sci-fi. Instead I got a brilliant gripping, exciting drama.

Previously this was my sole knowledge of Space: 1999, courtesy of @hellothisisivan
If you haven't seen it then I really don't want to spoil it because as I say, I went in knowing nothing and it was just awesome. I wasn't aware until afterwards but this is the very first episode. What a way to start a series! Originally broadcast in 1975 the series imagines a future in which Man has been depositing nuclear waste on the moon. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this might eventually produce an issue or two and it all comes to light here. Along with Callan and Public Eye, the single episode included included in this set has been enough to convince me to eventually buy a whole series at some point. This show has action, intrigue, excitement and all these things are included in the superb titles sequence that includes incredibly brief clips of what is to come. Almost from the off this programme seems to scream 'Do not adjust your set!' It isn't perfect. For instance, I'd love to know who made the decision in the mid-1970s that flares would still be de rigueur enough in 1999 to be suitable for a space mission's uniform. Attempts to predict future technology are always going to be fraught with problems too but personally I love the impression of this faux-future so far. I cannot wait to be able to see more.

14 programmes
9 new
5 old
2 films

Best: Tough, tough competition this week. I've watched the fewest number of shows for over a month, making it an even more difficult decision. Space: 1999 just about manages it I think, partly because I had never seen it before so it really did blow me away.

Worst: This is also tough because I haven't watched anything that stands out as bad or even just sub-par. Everything has stood up so well that I'm really only picking the worst of the best in Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Week in Telly 7

Last week I was flummoxed by the writing on the side of an ashtray in Man About the House.

I am happy to report my suspicion that it was an advertising slogan was correct. @IAmSimonHarris swiftly informed me the full quote is "You can't beat 'em", a slogan used by Tetley Bitter. As Robin usually orders a pint of bitter, this fits into the pub rather well and I love that we can now take a reasonable guess at which beer he drinks!

Coronation Street Omnibus
Despite saying I hated it a few weeks ago, Vinny and Pat's building scam is starting to grow. They have sucked in Sarah Platt and now lovely Rita too. This could do with becoming something serious and dramatic. One dead body before Christmas at least! Meanwhile David Platt is proving himself as thick as pig muck. He gets posters put up naming his wife's killer, who as a minor is supposed to be entitled to anonymity. The police immediately arrest David because it's blindingly obvious that he'd be a suspect. Once he's released he goes to find the killer's brother in hospital and tries to kill him. The omnibus ends with him looking at the outside of the courthouse on Google Earth, so it appears David plans to try to shoot the killer. What can possibly go wrong?

Man About the House
Chrissy and Robin are left alone together for the weekend in an episode that was awkward to watch at times. Chrissy seems terrified that Robin might try it on with her so he repeatedly teases her. Her reaction is so extreme that it's as though she expects him to force himself on her. If she really believes this about Robin then why on earth is she sharing the flat with him? I found this a very difficult topic to laugh with.

The Space Pirates - Episode 1
See my post here.

Man About the House
Robin gets landed with an adorable Labrador puppy, forcing the trio to go to great lengths so the Roper's don't discover it. A rather enjoyable part is Robin being invited by the landlord into the pub after hours to find himself sat with several coppers. He jabbers on and on, digging himself holes. Quite unnaturally none of them say a word, presumably because no one want to pay the actors.

Two and a Half Men - 2 episodes
It's been years since I've watched any of Two and a Half Men. These were older episodes from the period I remember, with Jake just entering his teenage years. He sneaks out to go to a gig. Meanwhile Charlie goes out with his girlfriend, a hotshot in local government. A little nervous, his mother gives him something to relax. But of course she's mixed her drugs up and whilst we never find out exactly what Charlie has taken it's undoubtedly illegal in most countries. He spends a long time fascinated by the colours in a wine glass and Jake later finds him slumped outside the front door, unable to use his legs. The second episode is built around Alan and Charlie falling out over boundaries in the house, all kicked off by a new bowl. I enjoyed delving into these and found it quite good, easy viewing so may try some more.

National Treasure
"Do you think he did it?" I was asked. Throughout I have been undecided. I changed my mind during episodes but generally finished hoping he didn't. During this episode I began to feel sure. I became almost certain he didn't do it. How could his wife turn round on the day of the verdict and say she thought he was guilty? How awful. I mentioned last week how much I enjoyed the flashbacks but that they often left more unanswered questions. Right before the verdict things were all cleared up and I thought they were superbly done. The actor playing the young Finchley was brilliant for these scenes. We didn't need to see what happened in gory, vile detail. We all have imaginations and they are far worse things than television could ever depict. I was shocked. How awful. The ending was magnificent. Dragging it out and out, leaving it open. Utterly superb.

I want to be on this show. Puzzles and challenges, all of the most pointless nature. It just looks so much fun. This week contestants had one hour then Greg Davies' assistant, Alex, would emerge from a shed and they had to 'surprise him'. Undoubtedly my favourite 'surprise' was Al Murray sitting in his pants, his feet on four airhorns whilst repeatedly smacking a giant gong. The balloon challenge was interesting too with participants simply having to burst a line of balloons on a washing line as fast as possible. Some dived right in with their teeth, others had the foresight to find some sharp objects. My favourite task was the team challenge where they had to follow a series of clues that eventually led them to untie Alex.

Man About the House
This was the first and until last week the only episode of Man About the House I'd seen. With the Roper's away for the weekend the youngsters decide to throw a party. They make this decision on the Friday and have the party on the Saturday. This is absurd. How grim are their friends' lives that they all had no plans in London on a Saturday night? We see Robin begin to start ringing round people on that Friday night so presumably they must all have been in on the Friday too in order to have taken the calls. I'm also astounded that people as permanently skint as them managed to convince the landlord of their local to give them a crate of booze, including ten gallons of beer, on the slate. The party itself has moody lighting and a pile of copyright-free music. It isn't the liveliest party I've ever seen but the living room does get filled up.

The Brain: A Secret History
I've seen a number of Dr Michael Mosley's documentaries. I'm not sure what the number is but it's definitely a number. I was sure I'd seen this one before but when I started watching it I couldn't remember anything. This first episode looks at some of the experiments conducted on brains in order to try to understand the human mind. Pavlov and his dog gets a mention of course but I was considerably more disturbed at seeing the footage of his experiments on children. I was very interested by the experiments conducted about authority. If you say, "Would you give up your seat to a stranger on a train who gave no reason?" most people would respond, "No" but the reality of the situation proved otherwise. They got people to go out and ask for people's seats and most people would give them up. Mosley himself had a brief go at repeating the experiment and as soon as it was over he said he was relieved because he'd found it so awkward. Having been through the utter horror that is asking someone to vacate my reserved seat on a train, I sympathise.

The Great British Bake Off
Tudor week? This is getting ridiculous. I certainly wouldn't have turned down one of Andrew's pies though. The marzipan showstopper was interesting and by interesting I mean surprising and by surprising I mean dull. There wasn't anything huge and 'WOW' inducing for me. I was also a little put off as I've recently decided that marzipan is, well, a bit meh. Marzipan belongs on a Christmas cake, sandwiched between fruit cake and icing. Benjamina's exit was disappointing and I still think Selassi will be next. It's close enough that I can start making winner predictions now. I love Jane but I don't think she has quite the ambition or consistency to win. I think it will come down to Andrew or Candice.

Man About the House
I continue to enjoy this. In this episode Robin has to decide whether to face up to an intimidating and very large bloke in the pub.

The Sweeney
I'm struggling to remember much of this as it was some winding ,down bedtime telly after I got back late. Things kick off with a good old The Sweeney bank job, stockings over their faces and everything. Did banks used to get robbed a lot more in the seventies or is it just that I never hear about it happening now? Did the arrival of tights over stockings have an impact? Did it just start to look like too much hassle? Did potential blaggers get put off by how easy it was for a sawn-off shotgun to accidentally go off in some poor bank clerk's face? I'll probably never know. This episode feels different as it starts to look like a bloke who's already inside has been set up to take the fall for the blag. Reagan isn't keen and starts to look elsewhere. A nice change. It was also nice to see The Sweeney portraying a genuinely reformed criminal, as they are few and far between in this series. It's usually a case of 'once a villain, always a villain'. I only have one more episode left to watch in my BluRay box set of series one of The Sweeney. This is concerning and though devastating feels too strong a word, I am gutted. I've stretched it out but this is almost it. I am of the firm opinion that it would be a travesty if the other series were not released too. I may be writing to the people at Network Distributing or perhaps just continue to drop not-so-subtle hints in tweets to them.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
This follows Gordon Ramsay coming to the rescue of a failing restaurant in the U.S. I was never particularly fond of watching Ramsay because on the few occasions I tuned into his programmes it was obvious they had been edited to showcase him swearing and shouting. No swearing, not even a beep here in this pre-watershed offering. The owner/chef in this French restaurant was arrogant and vain. It was quite clear that the sous chef hated the guy's guts. I was amazed anyone bothered to continue working for such a tosspot. Of course this all made it even better to see Ramsay bring the bloke down a peg or two. Your restaurant is empty! You are going to have to change some things!

Saturday Kitchen's Best Bites (part)
I was in a hotel on Sunday morning and I was struggling to drag myself out of a large, comfy bed so I put it off for a little while longer. What grabbed my attention was a clip of Keith Floyd, whom I love watching. I like his presentation style, I like how friendly he is with those he's cooking with, I like how appetising all his food looks. He was making pizza with a lovely baker and it looked so good that I went to have pizza shortly afterwards. The other clip I saw was the first ever omelette challenge! Exciting indeed. The participants weren't quite as competitive originally and took 57 seconds and 1 minute 29 seconds.

Red Dwarf
Another new episode that I'd been looking forward to. This one saw Rimmer printing multiple versions of himself and whilst the story was good, there just weren't enough laughs for me.

Inspector Morse
I'd stopped recording these but somewhere somehow a series link popped one back in. As it started up a little man doing sign language appeared in the corner. My mother cried out, "What's that?!" and I replied, "It's a little man doing sign language." "Will he be there all the way through?" This question took me aback. "Erm, well, yes because...some people would need him to be." Mother's face fell. "Can't you get rid of him?" No. Of course I couldn't. Television people long ago decided that deaf people primarily watch television in the early hours of the morning so if you record a programme on then, you get a little person doing sign language in the corner. It would be good if, like subtitles, you could choose whether to have a little person doing sign language in the corner for every programme. I'm sure some people would appreciate it. I certainly would, as it would mean I didn't have to explain to my mother how the little person doing sign language in the corner actually works.
The episode of Morse itself was excellent with twists and turns right up to the end. A man was found strangled in his car on a multi storey car park. I'd started to feel quite smug as I guessed a few things throughout the episode, sometimes just before Morse brought them up. But the last twenty minutes threw enough curveballs to leave me baffled until Morse had demonstrated it all. One aspect of the episode I rather liked was Morse going on a date with the pathologist. Not a word is said about their age gap. She has to make it blindingly obvious before he takes the plunge to meet up with her. Before this he had found himself spending the evening with a prostitute. I think the word 'escort' would probably be used now but she chose 'prostitute'. Morse sits in her swanky living room, drinking decent whisky. Half the time he seems fine, the other half he is incredibly uncomfortable. It was intriguing seeing him hesitate so much before he spoke. He remains politeness to a tee.

17 programmes
10 new
7 old

Best: National Treasure - tough decision this week as Taskmaster continues to be great fun and Morse was a corker.

Worst: The Space Pirates

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Doctor Who: The Space Pirates - Episode 1

The Space Pirates is the penultimate story in season six of Doctor Who. It is also the penultimate story for the second Doctor, who happens to be my favourite Doctor. It is the only one of his stories I have never watched. Until now.

When Doctor Who returned to BBC1 in 2005 I consumed as much of it as I could. One such way was through the photonovels on the BBC's Doctor Who website. They are a sort of online book, made primarily from telesnaps and text depicting what is going on and what is being said. They were created for stories that have episodes missing. They either do not exist or only partly exist. I passed over the first Doctor's stories and instead worked my way through all the second Doctor ones. I came to adore this Doctor and Jamie before I had even seen a single episode of theirs. But The Space Pirates is the only one of the second Doctor's missing/partly missing stories that has no telesnaps and therefore has no photonovel.

Some years ago I began a 'Whoathon', watching all of Doctor Who's episodes from the start. This eventually took me through any second Doctor stories I had missed. I reached The Space Pirates... and skipped it to watch The War Games instead! I was dreading it and the knowledge that it was 5/6 telesnaps completely put me off. That knowledge is the only concrete information I actually have of the story. What I've heard is that it's terrible, not worth anyone's time and should be brushed under the carpet to be forgotten about.

It's time though. If I am to ever go on to reach the fun times of U.N.I.T., Bessie and Section Leader Shaw (not forgetting - colour!), I need to get my final telesnap story over with. One last time, let's run.

Episode 1

Pirates doing some pirating, but in space

It isn't terrible. I can say that at least. It is not a terrible episode. However the majority of it is rather dull. It takes fifteen minutes - FIFTEEN MINUTES - for the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to show up. These fifteen minutes stretch. The Space Pirates is a great title for a story. It sounds thrilling and exciting. You imagine the 26th century version of Captain Hook perhaps, mowing down Space Corps personnel with a blaster gun or swiping at them with a laser sword, his neon eye patch secretly scanning for valuable cargo. This is not what we are given. Instead it's a couple of blokes in dodgy headgear blowing up satellites in order to steal the 'argonite' they are built from. The reconstruction I watched has a lot of scenes with spaceships moving slowly in space and men in spacesuits floating as they mess with the satellites. There is also a lot of time at a Space Corps' ship's bridge where the crew watch blobs on screens and the captain makes the odd announcement over his PA system.

The future doesn't let women on the bridge to look at blobs on the screens

The arrival of the TARDIS crew is a welcome respite from all of this. They arrive on an unmanned satellite that has recently been manned and shortly afterwards gets attacked by pirates. The crew themselves get shot at but in the end find themselves trapped somewhere, ensuring they never have to exchange a single word of dialogue with any of this week's guest actors. I can't believe our three lead actors have been given so little to do in an episode as boring as this one. I'm very much hoping none of them need to go on holiday in this story as it's going to need all the help it can get to keep it going. Six episodes already feels far too long.

If only I could say that for this episode
There have been few sets so far as it has primarily been 'space' and 'the bridge'. The scenes on the satellite, Alpha 4, feel very claustrophobic though. The two pirates make reference to others with them but it's no surprise they aren't seen on screen as you couldn't have fit them in the room. As Alpha 4 looks to have been blown up at the end of the episode I'm hoping the action (although this definitely seems the wrong choice of word) moves to bigger or at least better sets.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Week in Telly 6

I was very ill on Sunday evening (not hospital bad - just a nasty bug) and felt utterly dreadful all of Monday. Any movement felt like an enormous effort so I spent a lot of time in front of the telly.

Coronation Street Omnibus
I can't think of a single plotline that has particularly gripped me this week as I just wasn't concerned with any of them all that much. Caz and Maria end up speaking and the former's crush is outed. It's been obvious that despite Maria talking to her after the kiss, Caz has still been lusting after Maria. This would be fine but Caz has seemed naively oblivious to the fact that Maria has no feelings towards her whatsoever. It takes Maria shouting, "I'm one hundred percent straight!" for Caz to actually accept it.

Dara O'Briain - Craic Dealer
I used to get stand up DVDs every year at Christmas and watched them regularly. I'm currently not entirely sure where most of mine are. I spotted this one on a shelf in the lounge and felt like I could do with the laughs. It was nice to find my tastes haven't completely changed. I stopped watching Mock the Week a while ago as I had become fed up and found the guest comedians hit and miss. I have always liked Dara O'Briain's stand up though and re-watching this has reminded me that I've always wanted to see him live.

The Sweeney
Love it. One of the baddies this week was properly deranged, as confirmed to us by a shrink with one of the most superb hairstyles for the balding man I've ever seen. Our bad lad Cook has escaped from prison, helped by a friend who is at an open prison. His friend has been taken under the wing of a man he now calls 'Uncle'. We find out this old man has in the past engaged in certain activities with young men and it becomes perfectly clear that he fancies the young lad in his charge. The guy has no problems with this and accepts the old man's lusting because he's loaded. Cook plans to do a couple of jobs then scarper abroad but doesn't make it far. His violent temper and decision to pick up a shotgun rather ruin things. Besides Cook's petty thieving, no proper crime happens in this episode. No car chase, no shoot outs. Nonetheless there's plenty of tension and a certain 'thrill of the chase' as Reagan and Carter attempt to find Cook.

Dinnerladies (part)
The start of some late afternoon channel hopping. I haven't watched this for a long time but as I remember the plots are of no consequence to me. This is all about the marvellous writing.

The Brittas Empire (part)
I missed the start but still tuned in as it was the very first episode. It was interesting to see that there was no great decline for Gordon Brittas as from the very start he was a bit of a dick. I don't think I've ever enjoyed watching someone so irritating. Gavin and Tim both ask if they can swap their afternoons off. I found it quite amusing as they skirted round the obvious, explaining to Brittas that they had a lot of hobbies in common and liked to spend a lot of time together outside work. Do they ever get a kiss in on screen?

Futurama (part)
'Death by Snoo Snoo'. After crashing on a planet inhabited only by giant women, the men are sentenced to death by shagging. Like The Simpsons the other week, I realised this is a show I have long since grown tired of.

Man About the House
I'd seen an episode of this on the ITV at 60 box set and really liked it so when the info guide said this was series 1, episode 1, I felt it was worth my time. I enjoyed finding out how Robin came to join the flat and found the opening few minutes strong gag-wise, which was nice when some sitcom openers struggle to fit this in around all the plot to establish. George and Mildred, an older couple from the flat below, get plenty of screen time. George strongly objects to having a man share the flat with two women but is persuaded when informed (wrongly) that Robin is gay. What a different time.

Only Fools and Horses - Little Problems (part)
Our Sky box wasn't working so we were stuck without our recorded programmes for a short while and this was the only thing we fancied watching. I actually chose to put it on because I always get it mixed up and thought it was Sickness and Wealth, where Del goes into hospital. Instead this is Rodney's wedding. One of my favourite moments is when Del realises he needs to pay back £2000 to the fearsome Driscoll brothers but had already promised it to Rodney as a wedding present. A trouserless Rodney drunkenly confronts Del through the bathroom door later saying Denzil had told him Del wouldn't be able to give him the money. Del shouts that the money is on the side. Cut to Del, wimpering a tad as he eases his sores, courtesy of the Driscoll brothers.

National Treasure
I am behind on this series (behind being this is the first episode) so am keen to try and catch up. It follows a celebrity accused of historical sex offences. As something that has been played out several times in the headlines over the past few years, it's obviously an intriguing take on contemporary events. The celebrity in the series, Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane), is fictional but the series is set in a world we know with Alan Carr and Frank Skinner amongst those appearing as themselves. It felt very odd to watch at times. In the first episode Finchley has already shown himself not to be a perfect family man but as the series progresses it will be interesting to see whether we believe him to be guilty or not.

As Time Goes By (part)
I have yet to watch a full episode of this and usually only catch a few minutes at a time. It's about an older couple attempting to rekindle a relationship they had in their youth. I'm not sure whether it is supposed to be a sitcom because it doesn't really feel like one. It's more comedy-drama, for which reason I've never really warmed to it.

The Brittas Empire
It's the opening day of the centre but everything Brittas touches turns to disaster. I think my favourite character is probably his wife, being the only one in these early episode who knows just how dreadful his influence is.

Doctor Who - Mummy on the Orient Express
Though I felt much better, my body still seemed to be quite worn out from tackling the bug I'd had. I suddenly felt exhausted not long after 8 on Tuesday evening so retired to bed with telly. I have a lot of Doctor Who on my shelves but they rarely get watched anymore. No reason - I just never fancy it. A couple of online sales are the main reason I have any of the most recent series. This episode was my favourite from Peter Capaldi's first series. I found the mummy quite scary at the time but either I've hardened over the past couple of years or I was just too tired to notice. I still enjoyed it a lot and found the plot very good. My only problem was with the 'ongoing story' stuff with Clara. It didn't dominate but I was unable to remember what had gone on with her in the other episodes that meant she was fed up with the Doctor and planned to leave him. I really dislike these story arcs now though I am torn. It doesn't just happen in Doctor Who. On the one hand it means characters can develop and become more interesting, on the other it can drag out and get ridiculous. Doctor Who is a series where episodes should be able to be watched on a casual basis. For me that means I don't need to re-watch the last series to remind myself of minutiae. Thankfully, I think it has got better compared to a few years ago.

Doctor Who - Flatline
I wasn't very keen on this when it went out but I'd hit 'Play All' and wasn't quite ready to drop off to sleep yet. I actually enjoyed it far more. I found the idea of two dimensional beings trying to communicate in our three dimensional world an interesting one. It's also always intriguing to see how a writer deals with an episode that doesn't feature the Doctor as much. I loved Clara deciding to call herself 'doctor' and trying to be the Doctor. At the end she asks the Doctor, "Was I good?" and after hesitation the Doctor eventually responds, "You were an exception Doctor, Clara [...]Goodness had nothing to do with it." The Doctor has a fair few 'rough' days. I thought this reminder was a great touch right at the end.

I've loved the previous couple of series of Taskmaster so was thrilled to see another one appear so soon. Greg Davies is the Taskmaster and every weeks sets the celebrity contestants various nonsensical challenges then judges them based on his own criteria. The first task is always to provide an object. These objects become the prizes at the end of each episode. This week's theme for the objects was 'flamboyant clocks'. Other challenges were to reach a microwave across a running track in the fewest steps, propel a pea as far as possible onto a red carpet, make the best snowman, and balance as many swedes on a Swede as possible. The snowman task was undoubtedly my favouite as they all desperately struggled to construct snowmen without any snow. Often the best way to win a task is to think a bit differently. Last series the contestants were asked to balance three huge yoga balls on a yoga mat at the same time. Fastest wins. The was a yoga mat was at the top of a hill. Richard Osman was the only one who thought to bring the mat down before attempting to balance the balls on it.

Man About the House
Jo is having a boyfriend over for dinner and Robin is blackmailed into cooking. Robin and Chrissy head downstairs out of the way, where they find themselves playing French Monopoly with George and Mildred. Neither evening goes well. As Chrissy and Robin are leaving Chrissy politely says, "We must do this again sometime." "Why?" Robin quickly asks.

The Great British Bake Off
Dessert week. Or is it desert? No definitely dessert. I didn't know that mousse was so difficult to make. But even those that didn't set properly or started to melt still looked fantastic and I went to bed a bit hungry. Tom had had a close time of it and had been incredibly lucky last week so it was definitely his time to go. Selassi had once looked a robust contestant - he was so cool and calm under pressure! - but the quality of his bakes has suffered recently and he has never particularly shone in the technical challenges. He could be next as the competition gets very competitive now.

Man About the House
I accidentally watched episode 3 before episode 2 so this episode sees Robin moving in. I was quite pleased to see him having several suitcases, boxes and bags plus a guitar wedged into a taxi. Often programmes from this area see people moving with a single suitcase. I'll be moving myself at some point and my stuff alone could easily take up a small van. Chrissy's mother has come to visit so they spend the episode trying to make sure she doesn't find out Robin is living with them. Jo hurriedly takes him down the pub and explains the situation, to which Robin replies, "My mother doesn't trust me so I don't see why anyone else's should." I'm really warming to this sitcom. Whilst some of the attitudes are very dated, the humour is often based on wordplay or sarcasm. Most of it feels very natural and the type of thing I'd hear in my own family. It works very well.
A rare Week in Telly treat - screenshots! Sort of... Can anyone identify the writing on the ashtray? It half resembles a butter dish to my eyes. It reads, "You can't beat..." but I can't make out the final word. My first thought is it's probably an advertising slogan so perhaps someone remembers it.

For the unacquainted, Hunted is about people trying to avoid capture for 28 days in order to win £100,000. This is a fun show to watch. The series starts with, I think, ten people. Some are in pairs whilst others have opted to go it alone. The contestants are of varying ages and come from various backgrounds. This was episode 3. I actually forgot to mention the first two last week - I blame being ill. Several of the contestants have worked out that 'going rural' is one of the best ways to avoid getting caught as there is no CCTV and far less people who might turn them in. The 'hunters' are supposed to have 'all the powers of the state' though it is stated at the start of each episode that some of these have been replicated. They hack the participants' phones and laptops, they can monitor any phone conversations and track people via their phones. They have access to CCTV and number plate recognition technology. I'm really enjoying watching it but at episode 3 I've begun to get skeptical. They decided to intercept mail, which helped them catch one person but hadn't bothered to do it for another. I am aware that a certain amount of the show must be set up but that bit in particular has really bugged me.

Man About the House - episode 5 and 6
If it wasn't enough that I was accidentally watching episodes out of order myself (regular readers will remember that I like order), ITV3 skipped episode 4 this week. These episodes see Robin get a cold and then the rent goes missing. Still lapping it up.

Not Going Out - Series 1
I had nothing to do on Saturday and I couldn't think of anything I would want to do. Combined with an adult colouring book (please don't judge - I find it so tranquil!) I enjoyed the whole first series of Not Going Out. It has been a few years since I've watched this, though I have watched most of the newer series go out. Layabout Lee Mack shares a flat with American vegan, health-freak Kate, who has recently split up with her boyfriend, Tim, who is Lee's best (only) friend. I seem to remember these early series going out at 8.30 and this would tie up with the many times in this series where they almost swear. This certainly isn't a family show though; the first episode has Lee date a woman who suffered abuse and became a teenage prostitute. The topics chosen in some episodes just don't allow it to be a proper pre-watershed show but there are moments when it shows it could have been. The episode with Tim's nan's funeral stands out. Tim gets giddy off creme de menthe and at one point an aunt appears with a permanent marker beard. By the series' end we've settled in. This is a nice, comfortable, middle-ish sitcom with some occasional corkers. We've got to know our three main characters a fair bit too, right before we say goodbye to Kate and welcome Tim's sister, Lucy, for series 2.

National Treasure - episode 2 and 3
This is gripping and with one episode left I still don't know what to expect. What I most enjoyed from these episodes was the flashbacks. The babysitter flirting with Paul Finchley was a very tense moment in particular. The main reason I liked them is that they are all pretty open-ended. They answer some questions but not all and I'm still left wondering. I want to believe Finchley is innocent because they've painted a portrait of him that we could put to so many of our real life national treasures. Nonetheless it has always been clear that he is not a faultless man. He says he is innocent and everyone around him is saying he is innocent but of course they are - they are his family and closest friends. At his daughter's party he tells his friend Karl that despite how many people have come, he actually invited far more. We haven't been shown the people who believe he might have done it. They were the people who did not come to the party.

Out of Sight
Struggling for something to watch on Saturday night I found this late nineties film with George Clooney and J Lo. She's with the FBI and he's an escaped bank robber. Will they, won't they? Will she turn him in? Whilst it sounded fun and in fact most of it was, it quickly became clear that the ending was a foregone conclusion. If anything made the film feel unrealistic it was that George Clooney was by far the best-looking criminal in the entire film. They could have at least have found some handsome extras to disperse among everyone in the prison scenes.

Sunday Brunch (part)
I watched Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs teaching the hosts how to apply eyeliner and then badly cut up some garlic.

Inspector Morse (part)
At the time of writing I haven't finished this episode. A famous opera diva has been shot dead and someone left a cryptic message in Welsh.

Bridget Jones's Diary (part)
Bit of background telly, despite having watched it only last week. I still managed to spot something new; when the gang visit for Bridget's birthday you can hear Shaz yelling, "You look so fucking thin!"

30 programmes
18 new (21st century)
12 old
2 films

Best: Taskmaster

Worst: Futurama