Monday, 19 December 2016

Week in Telly 12th-18th December

Monday
The A-Team
Semi-Friendly Persuasion

A group want to settle near a town but the locals aren't keen and burn down their newly-constructed meeting house. One of the settlers asks the A-Team for help but insists there can be no violence used as it goes against their beliefs. It's a tough one and I was looking forward to seeing the A-Team perhaps employing all of Face's powers of persuasion. Instead, after a fight, they get sacked by those that hired them so come back all guns blazing to defeat the bad guys anyway.

"Face - did he call me 'boy'?"
The initial meeting between Hannibal and the head settler is interesting as the latter really doesn't want them there. When he sees some guns in the back of their van, he's ready to chuck them out. Hannibal says he respects their beliefs but this guy should respect them too. He can ask them not to use guns but he can't insist they get rid of their property. Hannibal also points out that these people are able to live freely because of people "like us" defending that freedom.

Later one of the kids, Ollie, has also come into town and B.A. finds some of the local kids ganging up on him. With B.A. towering over them they quickly leg it. "They don't like us because we're different," Ollie says, quietly. It's good to see it put so simply. Difference really is the overriding theme of the episode. At the end, with the bad guys defeated through usual A-Team methods, the head settler is still not happy but Hannibal understands. "I don't expect you to thank us," he says, telling him that he respects him for standing by his beliefs even though he's won.





Coronation Street x2

It was supposed to be Roy's wedding but (and I could have predicted this when I was watching regularly months ago) it was ultimately called off. The part of these episodes that intrigued me most was Anna, who is recovering from severe burns to her legs. She tries to get ready for the wedding but the idea of wearing a dress that will reveal her burns is too much for her. She's not in a good place at all and can't bear to be touched by Kevin. They talk, revealing that they haven't been intimate since the accident and Kevin is clearly finding it really hard not to be able to be close to her. He's understanding but she won't talk properly. Anna obviously needs some sort of professional help and I found watching her rather moving.

Tuesday-Thursday
Planet Earth
Grasslands

Highlight: watching a days-old calf outrun a wolf.

Wednesday
The A-Team
Curtain Call

This is the final episode of season 2 and though the stakes are high, it is clear the budget is not. The A-Team are just finishing off knocking seven bells out of some bad guys when one of them pulls a gun and fires it at Hannibal. Murdock dives in front of him and takes the bullet in the shoulder. The A-Team have to leg it as Decker's sirens wail and spend the rest of the episode trying to get medical supplies to treat Murdock without getting caught. It's another episode with no actual bad guys - just the military police. As all of the team worry for Murdock, we get a series of flashbacks from previous episodes. Even Decker gets one, reflecting on a time earlier in the season when he thought he had the A-Team trapped. These bulk out the episode, limiting the number of car flips compared to usual. There is also a smaller cast, though it doesn't feel like it. Apart from the A-Team, Decker, his Captain and two blokes Face cons, the rest of the cast is made up of military police extras. I enjoyed some of the flashbacks because most were unfamiliar to me but it does feel like a cop-out. Nonetheless, it is still a good episode to end the season on. It also features one of the most audacious ploys yet as Face takes the uniform of a soldier and simply walks past Decker to pick up a first aid box.

"People very seldom look at what's right under their nose."
Thursday
The A-Team
Mexican Slayride: Part 1 and Part 2


With Forces TV having finished season 2 we naturally move on to... season 1. After being in the 6 pm weekday slot, The A-Team has been moved to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 10 pm. As I record everything I watch on TV anyway, this makes little difference to me.

As I have said before, I watched repeats of The A-Team whilst growing up. I was delighted to see that with the scheduling change Forces TV would be showing The A-Team from the start as I don't think I have ever seen the first season.

Originally feature length, this pilot episode was later split into two parts. The most glaring difference to later episodes is that Face is played by Tim Dunigan, who would of course be replaced by Dirk Benedict. Dunigan looks far too young to have been in Vietnam ten years earlier but for me, this Faceman also lacks the charm the conman will come to show more of later. Peppard's Hannibal seems harsher, lacking the humorous edge that makes him more likeable. However, I quite enjoy this slightly different Hannibal. I also notice that he is slightly skinnier compared to season 2. B.A. has more of a part compared to some of the season 2 episodes I've been watching, where his main role has been to shout "sucker!" and stand around looking mean. We also get introduced to his fear of flying. We see Murdock inside the mental hospital, instead of just getting broken out of it. The word 'nuts' is used throughout the episode with Murdock insisting that he is the one that's nuts. I have never been certain whether Murdock has genuine mental issues, has some that he exaggerates or if he is making the whole thing up. He does hint towards the third of these, saying it guarantees him free food and lodgings. He certainly is exceptionally over the top in this episode.

Our way of finding out about the A-Team is through Amy Allen. A fellow reporter has gone missing in Mexico and having no luck anywhere else, she digs through some files to try to find out how to contact the A-Team. Hannibal susses her out whilst in disguise, first as a homeless drunk, then as Mr Lee, owner of a Chinese laundromat. It's as bad as you're (probably) imagining it, but hey - we also meet Mexican bandits later on who are exactly what I would expect Mexican bandits to be depicted like.

The whole first part is just setting the plot up and getting the team together. It seems they don't spend all their time together and there are even references to Face and B.A. having their own places, which just seems odd for a group almost constantly on the move. Hannibal calls up an agony aunt on the radio and his sob story is code for B.A. and Face to interpret, which is a pretty cool idea apart from when he doesn't get through.

With Murdock broken out and Amy joining them, they head off to Mexico to shoot up some guys forcing a town to work their marijuana fields. Bullets fly, cars flip, half of them get captured, meet the lost reporter, escape, more bullets, grenades, a helicopter and a Colonel Lynch in a car boot. Marvellous.

Hannibal is very much centre stage but all of the regular characters get their chance to shine too. Amy Allen's part is certainly larger than it would be by season 2 and it will be interesting to see how well this works if it's continued for the rest of season 1. For the A-Team I always think five is a crowd. Colonel Lynch is nothing in this episode compared to Colonel Decker, the former being a farcical character. His jeep gets drowned at a film studio when Hannibal flicks a switch on the Red Sea and he is later laid out by a single punch from Hannibal. It's hard to believe this guy has been chasing them with a passion for ten years, although saying that it is also evident why he hasn't been successful.

Friday
Planet Earth
Cities

'I'll cheer myself up with Planet Earth.' HAHA - no. Attenborough took us through how various animals have adapted to be able to live in cities. This was extraordinary and I was surprised to see some animals actually living in cities, instead of just heading in for food. Then I was hit with the baby turtles. They hatch on the beach at night and head towards the brightest light, which should be the moon above the ocean. But we humans have gone and screwed that up with our artificial lights and many go up the beach instead. They can get eaten by crabs on the way, they might get trapped if they fall down drains, or they may just get lost so they starve to death. I am not an animal lover. I feel no great urge to fawn over pets and am not reduced to rubble at the sight of baby creatures. In a survey of the general population, I would be in the bottom ranking for 'number of cat videos watched on the internet'. I can take it or leave it. But this? Oh, it nearly broke me. Someone informed me the BBC had stated that it was alright because all the baby turtles had been saved afterwards. Yeah, well, those smushed turtle corpses in the road told me otherwise.


Steptoe and Son

I had never seen a black and white episode of Steptoe before so I enjoyed seeing such early versions of the characters. After seeing him in Steptoe only last week, I got to watch Leonard Rossiter's earlier appearance. Here he plays a Welshman selling lead on behalf of his in need church. With business dire, Harold is keen to buy the lead but old man Steptoe is convinced it's nicked. Harold insists it isn't but I think he is trying to convince himself more than Albert. Later a police flier comes through the door listing stolen items and unsurprisingly, some lead has gone missing. Harold and Albert spend a day in the pouring rain trying to dump the lead in various different places. They get home, head upstairs, only to find - and I only guessed seconds beforehand - that the ceilings are leaking and some bugger has nicked the lead off their roof.

Saturday
In Plain Sight

This has continued to be excellent. Peter Manuel has been caught housebreaking with another guy but whilst on bail fancies one more job before he goes to prison. Three bodies are found in a house the next day. The crimes themselves are not the point of this series - Peter Manuel is. The man is so brazen. When a man is arrested for the murders, it is his daughter, wife and sister-in-law who have been killed. Manuel, inside for a burglary, speaks to Watt's lawyer, saying he knows who committed the murders, can give details, but won't name the killer. After his release, he says he is willing to name the man. Detective Muncie wants to trip Manuel up so tells Watt and his lawyer to meet Manuel. But Manuel has guessed the plan. He names a gang leader who humiliated him in prison. With the lawyer in the gents', Manuel tells Watt by the time the murderer left his daughter wasn't a virgin anymore. Watt can't contain himself and launches himself at Manuel, who now knows he's got one over on Muncie again.

My Mother and Other Strangers x3
Sunday
The A-Team
Children of Jamestown

The first regular episode of the series is also Dirk Benedict's first as Templeton 'Faceman' Peck. Conspicuous by its absence in the pilot, we get the first appearance of the A-Team's van. A religious cult has a load of kids brainwashed. One father has hired the A-Team to get his daughter out. They manage this easily and she is spirited away in a helicopter with Murdock. However, the A-Team is captured and have to fight back against the preacher and his guards, the latter all wearing monks' habits and guns.

The familiar elements of the series are starting to fall into place. The 'making stuff' montage is wonderful and at the end we have a jeep with a flamethrower on. A FLAMETHROWER! There weren't enough car flips in the pilot but Children of Jamestown does well as Face sends oxygen tanks rocketing through the air towards the baddies' cars.

After an enormous punch knocks Faceman for six, the team barge into a nearby house with him. Initially dazed, he drags it out as much as he can. Unsurprisingly, it is not because he's a malingerer; a young woman has him lying on her lap whilst she caresses his forehead. But there is work to be done. Hannibal asks nicely but when Face says he thinks he needs to stay lying down a sharp "Move it, Lieutenant!" swiftly gets him on his feet. Faceman gets a quick kiss with the lady at the end though, securing another regular feature.

One part still different is Murdock. Unlike the rest of the team, Murdock is not on the run and currently he is being checked out of the VA hospital in order to join their adventures. He is strictly a pilot though and aside from this he has little role to play. After taking the father and daughter to safety he doesn't properly reappear again until near the end. He does drop dynamite from the helicopter, which is pretty cool. He is able to light them one after another quickly from a cigar in his mouth, which stood out as I only ever remember seeing Hannibal and Face smoke. 

The Big Job (1965)

Starring Sid James, Jim Dale and Joan Sims among others, this is a Carry On film in all but name. It proved to be a good, relaxing, Sunday afternoon film. A gang robs a bank and Sid hides the cash shortly before they are all arrested. After serving fifteen years inside, they are all keen to fetch the money only to find a new housing estate has sprung up. The tree Sid stuffed the briefcase full of notes in now stands within the walls of a police station. Cue amusing capers as they try to recoup the haul.

My Mother and Other Strangers x2

Having watched all five episode across only two nights they have blurred together a little. This was a lovely series and it would be great to see a follow-up. It could have stood well enough on its own but the ending leaves things too open-ended. The programme follows the small town of Moybeg in Northern Ireland during the Second World War, where a U.S. airbase has been set up. In particular, we focus on the Coyne family, consisting of Rose, Michael, their sixteen year old daughter, Emma and their younger children, Francis and Kate. Bookending each episode is a voice over from an older Francis, reflecting on memories of his childhood. The series' storylines include Emma falling for a U.S. pilot, the persecution of the fishermen, an outbreak of scarlet fever and Rose falling for one of the U.S. soldiers. I enjoyed the first few episodes more as the romantic elements were not the main focus.


There are many smaller elements of the series to like, such as Francis and his friend Seamus's frequent visits to 'the dump'. They try not to get caught by the soldiers as they root around for anything. Francis is accruing a collection of toy planes but Seamus seems more interested in items that may have monetary value. When Kate contracts scarlet fever, Francis is terrified that it is his fault for bringing things home from the dump. I also loved the theatre group's visit to the town, telling a Halloween story.

There is plenty more for the series to explore. We discover Seamus's family is very poor and his father is an alcoholic who hits Seamus's mother. Emma has a scholarship to university but is having a year at home. She is rather naive but desperate for young love and excitement. Rose is the schoolmistress but the family also run a grocery/hardware store (a surprising combination for me) and a pub. For complicated historical reasons, Michael's cousin owns the pub's lease and has decided to sell it, threatening the Coyne's livelihood.



Overall this didn't feel like a depressing drama. Negative things happen but it doesn't have the depressing air that puts me off some modern drama. Why haven't I caught up on The Missing yet? Because the last series was bloody miserable! A child goes missing. Of course it will be distressing and miserable! That doesn't mean it isn't interesting - that intrigue is what drags me in. But it's great to watch something where 'bad things' are not the main focus of the programme.

The airbase throws a Christmas party for Moybeg's children
Total
16 programmes
10 new
6 old
1 film

Best: Having binge-watched My Mother and Other Strangers, I can't single out one episode properly.

Worst: High quality this week so a 'worst of the best' to Coronation Street.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Callan - The Good Ones Are All Dead

This is the second piece I wrote after seeing only the first couple of episodes of Callan.


Remember when I looked at Callan's Armchair Theatre and said how nice it was to see a German on 60s’ telly who didn’t turn out to be a Nazi? Well, it’s back to business as usual in The Good Ones Are All Dead. We’re told Strauss is a Nazi from the start and Callan’s task is to bring him in as the Israeli authorities are rather keen to have a few words. Quite possibly 'What would you like for your final meal?'

This is officially Series 1, Episode 1 of Callan. The events of A Magnum for Schneider are referenced but with it being broadcast five months previously they are thankfully not dwelt on. Hunter convinces Callan to work for the Section again, partly by blackmail but he also convinces Callan to take more of an interest by bringing up the fact that during the war Callan’s parents were killed by a V2 bomb. This Strauss fellow had a lot of responsibility for the launch of the V2 bombs after being involved with the concentration camps. It surprises me that this is what convinces Callan. It’s not like Strauss stood there and gunned down Callan’s parents in cold blood. The V2 bombs were launched from the other side of the Channel. Attributing blame to one guy for them seems quite a stretch. It’s hard to judge Callan’s perspective because for one we don’t know what he did in the war, if anything. His age is difficult to gauge. If we’re being generous then Callan sports a sensible short haircut. If we’re being harsh I’ll point out Edward Woodward’s receding hairline. Receding hairlines aren’t the be all and end all of course, as some of you may be glad to hear. Callan seems like he’s seen a lot, done a lot, knows a lot and obviously had enough. He’s been around a while but just how long is hard to say. I remain sceptical of this reasoning but I suppose it ties in with Callan becoming emotionally involved in things.


Callan takes his bookkeeping skills off to work for Strauss who is now called Stavros. His accent sounds more French than Greek to me. It doesn’t take much to work out that Stavros is shagging his secretary. Is she his secretary because they’re shagging? There are no references to a wife or children so it isn’t that bad but he is a good twenty years older than her. Callan isn’t certain that Stavros is actually Strauss so goes off to do some snooping.

He does a neat spy thing of spotting a hair laid across the handles of the doors to Stavros’s bedroom. In Dr No you see Bond pull out a hair, lick his thumb and stick the hair across his wardrobe doors. When he comes back the hair has gone and he knows his room was searched. Stavros has used a longer hair or possibly a cotton thread so it can lie across the handles. Callan picks it up and remembers to put it back when he leaves. Inside the room, he finds nothing except for a large safe hidden in the wardrobe.

Later on, Callan meets Lonely and describes the safe to him. Lonely turns out to be something of an expert on safes and knows exactly what sort it is. He’ll need a copy of the key. Callan also meets with a Jewish man, Berg, who was in a concentration camp run by Strauss and insists the man is definitely Strauss. "I must know why you're so sure," Callan says."I was his house slave for three months," Berg explains, telling Callan that he once broke a plate and Strauss broke three of his ribs. "When you fear a man, you watch him all the time." Callan is convinced.


Having copied Stavros's key using plasticine, Callan now has a key to the safe. When he gets into the safe he finds a trunk and rifles through it. An SS uniform, a Nazi party card, a gun and a bag containing gold nuggets are among the items. The SS jacket has a cyanide capsule sown underneath the lapel and when Callan checks the wardrobe he finds several other jackets that have one too. Callan is rumbled by the secretary, Jeanne, who confesses she has known Stavros/Strauss's past for a while and it was she who turned him in. When Callan calls in to Hunter we learn that the gold nuggets are in fact gold fillings, a detail that sent a shiver down my spine. If you weren't aware, the Nazis extracted them from Jews in the concentration camps.



When Stavros/Strauss returns he finds Jeanne in the bedroom who tells him she thinks Callan is a thief as she caught him acting suspiciously. He sends Jeanne away and tells her to get on a plane to Cairo. Afterwards, Callan hears a noise and going into the corridor sees the bedroom door open. As he goes towards it Stavros appears behind him with a gun, wearing his SS jacket.


Callan informs Stavros/Strauss that he has been found out. When Stavros is told it is the Israelis who are on to him, his sheer terror is conveyed in his "Oh my god". He tries to bribe Callan - "You work for money?" - but no dice. Here follows a magnificent scene between the two of them. Callan tells him he must be handed over as it is what the Israelis want. Stavros insists "Strauss is dead!" For the past 23 years he has lived a good life and tried to be a good man. He has been racked with guilt and it was finding Jeanne that was his ultimate salvation. "You poor bastard - she turned you in!" Callan yells at Stavros, who then seems truly defeated. He tries to bite the cyanide capsule on his jacket but Callan stops him, crushing it on the floor.  I don't think I have ever felt slightly sorry for a Nazi before but Stavros seems truly repentant. He convinces me that he regrets what he did, wanting to become a better person. He appears to convince Callan too, or at least to elicit some pity, as Callan hands him one of the other jackets. As Stavros bites into the capsule, the camera stays on Callan, showing his racked expression as he turns his back on the deed.



Stavros's repeated insistence that his old self is long gone is what grabs me at the end of this episode. I also thought it was a brave move for the programme to portray an ex-Nazi so sympathetically. The war had only ended 22 years before so a proportion of the audience would have fought against the Nazis and some may well have been in concentration camps or had family that were. This wasn't just an ordinary infantryman either; we're told he was an Obersturmbahnf├╝hrer, the SS equivalent of a Lieutenant-Colonel - a fairly high rank. Despite the pity I feel for Nicholas 'Strauss is dead' Stavros, the one gap in his story is that he held on to remnants of his Nazi past. Stavros says it is a reminder of a time when he was looked up to and held in high regard, but surely if he regrets what he did to earn him that respect then he would throw it all away?

I haven't mentioned Toby Meres, Callan's colleague, though he does appear in this episode. In Armchair Theatre he was played by Peter Bowles but from now on it's Anthony Valentine. I was initially disappointed not to see Bowles again but I actually think Valentine is much better for what's required here. He intensely dislikes Callan and comes across somewhat callous.


This is an excellent series 1, episode 1 for the show, managing to tell us what we need to without repeating Armchair Theatre too much. "What is the Section for, Callan?" asks Colonel Hunter. "Eliminating people, framing, extortion, death... all the jobs that are too dirty for her Majesty's other security services to touch" Callan replies, sounding like he's quoting a handbook.

There is also some continuity as Hunter throws Callan's own file in front of him, which Hunter had moved into a different cover at the end of A Magnum for Schneider. Callan is annoyed as he reads it: "Red cover. Most urgent, marked for death." Hunter's expression is blank as he blackmails Callan into taking on the job "You do this for me or I'll have you destroyed." I love seeing the contempt Callan has for Hunter. He uses the word 'mate' a lot, often in the tone of someone in a pub at ten on a Friday night, asking 'D'you fancy taking this outside, mate?' Callan doesn't take Hunter's threat well. He leaves it a while before returning to the subject. "I know you can have me killed. But... [he draws a gun] don't you push me too far, right... because I might just let myself be killed... only you won't be there to see it because mate I'll get you first. And I can do it. Believe me, I can do it. You ought to know." It is interesting that Callan knows and states how good he is ("very good") but he never comes across as arrogant.


Hunter says Callan's only good at killing people but in both Armchair Theatre and The Good Ones Are All Dead we see Callan kill only one person. I think Callan does show himself to be very good, if not excellent, at what he does but what he does is more than just murder. Perhaps those other things affect Callan just as much.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Week in Telly 5th-11th December

Monday
This Morning (part)

I caught most of an interview with an actor, Martin Compston, promoting a new series he is in, In Plain Sight, about a serial killer. Compston is apparently known for a London-based programme, Line of Duty, which I haven't seen but they said he uses a London accent in it. Compston, Philip and Holly chatted a bit about Compston getting to use his own Scottish accent for the new show. The man did his job well and sold the show to me.


Steptoe and Son

I have not seen many episodes of Steptoe and Son, something that is quite nice as from what I have been told I have plenty to look forward to eventually. I had however seen this episode before. Two convicts escape from Wormwood Scrubs and take up at the Steptoe residence, planning to nick some grub, money and a car. Albert and Harold have none of these things. The younger of the criminals is played by Leonard Rossiter. Both he and Harold feel held back by the old men they are stuck with and an unlikely bond is struck up. 

Porridge
A Test of Character


Godber is preparing for an O Level History exam and Fletcher decides to help him out by nicking the exam questions. He enlists McLaren to help distract Barrowclough whilst Warren rifles through a filing cabinet. Godber is at first horrified and refuses to look at them but later we see him sneaking a peek into the envelope. Undoubtedly my favourite moment is the reveal that the illiterate Warren had in fact lifted the Biology paper instead.

One Foot in the Grave

I don't remember watching a full episode of this before and I doubt I will again. It did little for me, though it did get interestingly dark when it is revealed that Meldrew has encased some nursing home carers in concrete out in a field, dressed as scarecrows. 

Goodnight Sweetheart
...But We Think You Have to Go

I am a big fan of Goodnight Sweetheart so have seen it all many times. This episode is the second of a two-parter from series 5. The fifth season is where Goodnight Sweetheart starts to get really interesting as the writers begin playing around with the time travel element of the programme, though this is not actually one of those episodes. Gary has spent years pretending to be a spy in the 1940s. Suddenly the real MI6 of 1944 contact him as he is an exact double (minus a tache) of a French colonel. They tell Gary they need to use him as a decoy on the Isle of Wight so the real colonel can get involved in the planning of D-Day. However, Gary is tricked and they in fact send him to Nazi-occupied France where he is certain to get shot. Gary gets captured by the Nazis but is helped by a member of the French Resistance. It's an exciting episode and always nice for a sitcom to move away from its regular sets. The following episodes get even more intriguing as Gary is deeply affected by his experiences.

Porridge
Final Stretch


This final episode sees Godber getting parole. It is rounded off nicely with a chat between Mackay and Fletcher as Mackay describes a young lad he thinks will benefit from becoming Fletcher's new cellmate.

Tuesday
I Dream of Jeannie

My Dad introduced me to I Dream of Jeannie a few years ago but I haven't revisited it since. It's a 1960s' U.S. sitcom and though I prefer a few more laughs from a sitcom, the plots of this series have held it up for me. Larry Hagman (best remembered for getting shot in Dallas) plays a young astronaut, Tony Nelson, who has a genie, Jeannie. The only person who knows about Jeannie is his friend, Roger. In this episode Roger has been consulting a clairvoyant and even after meeting her Tony is skeptical. He still agrees to come to a seance but tells Jeannie she definitely can't come. Jeannie has other ideas and Madame Vastra gets quite a surprise.

The A-Team
Harder Than It Looks

This was AWESOME. The A-Team move up considerably from their usual bad guys, fighting against a terrorist group. Magnificently, we get through the entire episode without discovering the name of the group or even what they stand for. We find out they want to blow up a dam but we never find out why. We know these are serious baddies though as, in an extremely rare A-Team moment, we actually see someone get shot! Whilst breaking into a very poorly guarded dam system one of the terrorists shoots a security guard in the stomach. It is quickly revealed to be Hannibal in disguise and he is wearing a bulletproof vest. Earlier in the episode the A-Team has been tasked with getting back a rich bloke's kidnapped daughter. This involves breaking into a terrorist group's heavily guarded compound, B.A. getting the gold kicked out of him fighting off "Godzilla", making a get away only for their fuel to have been shot up so they head back, grab the ransom money they had to leave before and interrupt a terrorist meeting to take off with the kidnapped girl's terrorist group boyfriend.


Decked out in some stolen terrorist uniforms (all black with skin-tight sweaters), everyone apart from Hannibal abseils down a cliff whilst he holds off some terrorists single handed (Murdock says "as long as there's gunfire we know he's still alive for them to be shooting at him"). When he runs out of bullets he dives off the 200 foot cliff into the water below.

This is top, top stuff. Hannibal spends most the episode in the black uniform and though you would think the skin-tight top would do him no favours, he still manages to look superbly cool. He very much feels the star of the show in this episode.


Wednesday
Bargain Hunt (part)

If you aren't familiar with the concept of Bargain Hunt (I am not particularly well acquainted with it myself), the show pits a red and blue team against one another to buy stuff then sell for the highest price at an auction. I saw them look round at all sorts of marvellous tat but the highlight was a little piece to camera from the show's presenter. He talked about some silver cufflinks in the shape of dumbbells then a small, intricately decorated silver cuboid with a hook on one end. This hook is to thread it onto the chain of a pocket watch. One of the longer sides of the cuboid is hinged and opens up to reveal three tiny dice you can tip out, which are gaming dice. Absolutely lovely.

Thursday-Friday
I'm a Celebrity: The Coming Out Show

This programme is often better than the actual series of I'm a Celebrity... as we see the celebrities unashamedly gorge themselves on food and drink.

Thursday
Christmas Night with the Stars
Coming soon...

The Apprentice

I have never watched an entire series of The Apprentice and am doubtful I have ever seen a full episode. Someone was watching an episode when I got in and I ended up watching the last twenty minutes or so with them. Blimey it's worse than EastEnders - all they do is shout and bicker. One team had made an orange gin and were trying to flog it to a supermarket. The supermarket weren't keen on the colour so Lady A says that it could be changed. Immediately after this Lady B says they would not change the colour as it was part of their brand. Unbelievable. This team ultimately did shitter than the other slightly shit team so had to go and argue in the shittest cafe in London before Lord Sugar decided which one of them would get a free taxi ride home (it was Lady B).

Friday
The A-Team
Deadly Maneuvers

Another absolutely AWESOME episode. The A-Team are doing some fitness training on a big obstacle course they've knocked up in the middle of nowhere, meaning there is plenty of work for George Peppard's stunt double. Hannibal reckons they have been making mistakes lately so need to improve their fitness - this from the only member of the team with a little pot belly who chain chomps cigars all day.
I might have moved faster in P.E. if they'd fired a gun over my head too
They have been at these digs so long they have even got a milk delivery sorted. The enormous quantities of milk getting delivered there is probably what has drawn the attention of some bad guys, as well as the regular bursts of gunfire. A milk delivery is poisoned and B.A. starts to feel rough, with Hannibal slowly getting affected too. This is only the start as after getting in a Ferrari with a pretty young woman Face gets captured. When Murdock goes to look for him he finds a moaning dog in a hedge only to discover it's a trap. Hannibal takes B.A. to a doctor but has to leg it when guns are drawn. He's on his own and has to get the rest of the team back.




This is a great episode because it completely departs from the show's usual structure. There is no mission, no one to help - just bad guys who want the A-Team dead. The bad guys here have been hired by a consortium of even badder bad guys. The A-Team have ruined a lot of money-making operations and therefore affected the work of plenty of criminals, even if they've never met them. In short, they have pissed off a lot of people. It reminds me of a couple of other fictional characters.

There is an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor is basically locked inside a big box after loads of aliens he had fought against decided to work together to defeat him. He had pissed off a lot of aliens. Likewise, in The Man With the Golden Gun James Bond has a '007' engraved golden bullet sent to him. The message quickly becomes clear: someone has paid $1 million to have him assassinated. "Who would pay a million dollars to have me killed?" ponders Bond. "Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!" quips M. Flippant though M's line is, the reality is that Bond has killed a fair few people and ruined several villains' plans. There are a number of people who would prefer him dead. Even Batman's bad guys got together to plot against him in The Dark Knight. It's all very well being the hero but you can't be surprised that if you spend your days chasing bad guys, one day the villains could start chasing you too.

I like this concept and The A-Team carries it out well. It shows just how fallible they are as they each get picked off one by one. They don't even realise anyone is after them until it's too late. This is the complete opposite to how they work normally. They scope out the villains, then have an initial encounter where the A-Team whip the baddies' arses. It enables the A-Team to start from an offensive position. Yet here, Hannibal has to call in Tawnia for help after running off, firing a gun behind him and having to leave B.A. Overall this plot is a wonderful way of changing things round as the series comes towards the end of the second season.

Doctor in the House

I was distinctly unimpressed by this. I had enjoyed an episode on Network's ITV 60 set so when I saw ITV3 were putting Doctor in the House into the Man About the House slot I thought it a good opportunity to see it from the start.

Saturday
Holiday Inn (1942)

After having this recommended to me earlier in the week I wasn't too sure what to expect. It turned out to be a traditionally fun musical. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play a couple of fellows who can't help but fancy the same woman. They both employ morally dubious tactics in trying to ensure they keep affections of Virginia Dale and then later Marjorie Reynolds. Apart from a rather disturbing sequence in which a song and dance number is performed in black face (including a blacked-up version of Abraham Lincoln!?), the whole film was enjoyable. 

In Plain Sight

It was impossible not to notice the Scottish accents in this drama set in Scotland and for the first fifteen mintues or so I really noticed them. It is very rare I hear any accent on telly that isn't English. Obviously this is not helped by the type of programmes I choose to watch - the most recent Scottish accent I had heard was McLaren in Porridge. To hear an entire cast's worth was a lovely change.

We meet Peter Manuel, a previously convicted rapist, who assaults a young woman, Mary. Detective Muncie had caught Manuel before and was determined he would go down again. It goes to trial but after defending himself Manuel gets off. The episode ends with the body of another young woman being found dead on a golf course. It is such an intriguing story and obviously being based on true events draws us in all the more.


Peter Manuel is a psychopath. Muncie says so and Martin Compston said so in his interview on This Morning. Compston spoke about what a brutal character Manuel was and that he "had no redeeming features". I instantly knew this couldn't be true. Serial killing psychopaths are interesting so I have read and watched programmes about a fair few. Whilst they and other killers often have many deplorable characteristics, if nothing else redeems them then there is often one seemingly positive trait they share: they are charming. With charm you can convince other people of what a lovely, kind, person you are. Perhaps not everybody and not all of the time, but enough that a community would not point the finger at you first. In fact they might even point it last. If you can charm people, people will believe the stories you tell. If you can charm people you can make them trust you, if they trust you they let their guard down and then eventually you can perhaps get away with murdering them.

Sunday
Planet Earth II
Islands

Having been meaning to get round to this series for some time, I at last started and was instantly gripped by Sir David Attenborough's lovely, soothing, familiar voice. There were a couple of magnificent moments. The first was the dragons. I cannot emphasise just how fucking enormous these creatures look. I have never seen anything like it before - something that continually draws me to Attenborough programmes. I could scarcely believe it as I watched, open-mouthed, two of them fighting over a female. Whilst they grappled with one another and slammed their huge tails into each other, Attenborough's commentary told us the tails had a force equivalent to a sledge hammer. Astounding.


The second highlight for me was the baby iguanas hatching. The eggs are buried on the beach and when born, they scramble up and out to then make their way to meet the adults. Lying in wait however are nests of snakes. I've never seen snakes move like that before and they were also incredibly fast. We cheered the newborn reptiles on as they legged it across the shore but not all of them would make it and seeing them squeezed to death was a little unpleasant.

Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special 

There is every chance Morecambe and Wise will be making regular appearances in Week in Telly over the next couple of weeks. I haven't seen very much Morecambe and Wise and it is mainly the Christmas programmes that I have seen. Their BBC2 repeats in recent years have attracted me over whatever has been on either BBC1 or ITV. This 1969 one wasn't all that Christmassy and I didn't have a clue who half the guests were. It very much felt like a variety show with plenty of singing spots. The songs weren't a hit with me but I enjoyed the bits in between.

Total
17 programmes
6 new
11 old
1 film

Best: The A-Team - Harder Than it Looks. Picking a best programme this week was the toughest it has been for some time. I also feel I am betraying, well, Britain itself, for picking The A-Team over Sir David Attenborough. But Harder Than it Looks was such a cracking episode and so much fun that for me it topped everything else.

Worst: Doctor in the House

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Doctor Who: The Space Pirates - Episode 3

We're back in telesnap land for the duration now. Despite this and despite it being The Space Pirates I... actually enjoyed this episode. I wasn't expecting it. I was expecting the remaining four episodes to be a hard slog of space hell. But the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe became the focus of this episode, unlike the previous episodes in which they had seemed like the asides.

Milo Clancy is the fellow who shot Jamie at the end of Episode 2 but of course Jamie is only stunned. Milo gives them a hand as he is heading to a nearby planet. The Space Corps are keeping an eye on things and believe that the planet is the base for the space pirates.

They are right. When Clancy, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land, Clancy tells the other three to remain in the spaceship because they will get lost in the caves. But they talk and start to think that maybe Clancy is one of the pirates so head off. They get lost, then confronted by some pirates with a huge scary floodlight so they all jump down a hole.




With less emphasis on the Space Corps and fewer shots of spaceships just moving around in space, this episode became interesting. We haven't actually seen much of the pirates since the first episode but the conclusion of Episode 3 means this is likely to change hopefully. Separating Clancy from the TARDIS crew after a while was good because having the three of them compete for dialogue could have become problematic.

I am feeling more optimistic about the rest of this story now but daren't get too excited as it could all nosedive as quickly as it lifted up. My only gripe for this episode is Milo Clancy. The audio recording with my telesnaps is not immaculate and his strong accent is difficult to understand at times. It is also starting to grate somewhat.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Week in Telly 28th November-4th December

IT'S CHRISSSSSSSSSSTMAAAAAAAAS. Like tinsel it is. There will be none of that Christmas specials baubles around here for a while yet.

Monday
Doctor Who: The Space Pirates - Episode 3
Coming soon...

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Again.
Man About the House 

A beach holiday is on the cards, much to the annoyance of Robin who would rather go skiing so he doesn't have to show off his pasty white skin. Larry flogs him a sun lamp he's bought off Mr Roper, who doesn't tell Mrs Roper. Robin spends most the episode in some very tiny shorts.

The A-Team
Pure-Dee Poison

Someone is supplying poisonous moonshine in a rural area. Small and/or rural areas really are the A-Team's speciality. The episode starts excitingly enough when a reverend comes into a bar and shoots up the moonshine. He is but one man though so calls in the A-Team who don their country cowboy-like gear and take up in one of the bars. The oddest part of the episode is B.A. striking up a sort-of romance with the reverend's daughter. I say sort-of because at a push they indulge in some light flirting, mainly coming from her because B.A. rarely seems to string a sentence together that doesn't end in the word 'sucker'. You can see it her eyes the way she looks at him but B.A. barely seems that bothered. Maybe she liked him because he's been stripped down to only one chain round his neck.

Man About the House


Robin's brother, Norman, comes to visit. They immediately ask the question we are thinking: why has Norman never been mentioned before? Norman is better than Robin at everything and when he turns up he invites Chrissy out for dinner. As Robin has been trying it on with Chrissy for six series it is abundantly clear why he's never brought up Norman before.

Tuesday
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Again.
Back in Time for Brixton


The family continue to move through the years, experiencing the lives of West Indian immigrants. We reached the 80s where the kids and I got to hear about the New Cross house fire, as well as the depiction of black people in the press at the time. This has been a great series and I only wish it had been expanded into more episodes, like the previous series.

School Swap: Korean Style


Three Welsh pupils head over to South Korea to experience a very different sort of school life. This turned out to be episode 1 of 3 but I am not sure I can be bothered to watch the rest. It definitely could have been condensed. In summary, the South Korean kids put in more hours and as a result are far more advanced than their Welsh counterparts. After school finishes many go to tuition, often until 10pm every night. As one of the Welsh students commented, I have to wonder just how happy the Korean children are. They aren't sleeping much, they don't have much in terms of social lives and at some point they must burn out. I am unsure it is worth the sacrifices.

Wednesday
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! x2
Thursday
The A-Team
It's a Desert Out There


After a group of elderly day trippers get held up at gunpoint shortly after leaving a casino, the A-Team pay a visit and discover what's going on with a gang called 'The Scorpions'. I don't know why the gang felt they needed a name and I am baffled as to why they felt the need to shout it out to the geriatric gamblers, thus clearly identifying themselves from behind their covered faces.
A long time ago I heard someone describe B.A. as dressing 'like a children's TV presenter' and now that is what I hear every time he appears on screen. He had toned things down last episode, which clearly helped him pull, but he's back to normal now. The idea of B.A. being a shining example to young people seems utterly absurd; if nothing else he's incredibly rude. If you aren't familiar with it I feel it is my duty to share Mr T's single, 'Treat Your Mother Right'.



Man About the House x2


The final couple of episodes of Man About the House. This final sixth series has been interesting and the only change I would make is having Robin's brother, Norman, introduced at the start of it. Spoiler alert: he first appears in episode 5, he proposes to Chrissy in episode 6 and he marries her in episode 7. It is a pretty quick turn around but this is actually acknowledged in the show. We are told they have been seeing each other for a couple of months and the wedding invitations only go out a fortnight before the big day. I know, to use a word of my nan's, 'courtships' were shorter in the past, but by 1976? Only knowing each other for a couple of months - really? There are many things that have make Man About the House of its time but I think this one may just top it.
The wedding itself it held in a registry office, something I wasn't expecting but when I saw the set I immediately jumped to the conclusion that this was probably far cheaper than shooting in a church. Man About the House has rarely ventured on location and a church wedding would inevitably have blown the budget.
Robin has spent six series flirting with Chrissy but these six series are in fact only three years. When it's time for Norman and Chrissy to head off on their honeymoon to glorious sunny Scotland, everyone is offering goodbye kisses. Robin and Chrissy exchange a full on snog in front of friends, family and the groom. It's a wonderful what-might-have-been but I am glad they remained purely as friends.



One disappointment is that this is the end of Larry. Starting out as Robin's occasional dodgy-dealing mate, he appeared more regularly after taking the attic room upstairs. Having another bloke around did obviously completely alter the original series dynamic but this also kept the show fresher. Robin and Larry sometimes landed themselves or each other into trouble. The character of Larry also gave someone Robin could air his thoughts too on matters he wouldn't discuss with Chrissy or Jo.
One of Man About the House's spin-offs, George and Mildred seems to get repeated regularly on ITV3 so I will inevitably get round to it at some point. I am not wildly enthusiastic about it as, as I've touched on in other posts, George and Mildred's relationship frustrates me somewhat - though clearly not as much as it does Mildred. I am much keener to see the show's other spin-off, Robin's Nest, which I know has Robin running a cafe. I have never spotted it in the repeat schedules though so I may have to just take the plunge and order the box set.

Friday
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

The A-Team
Chopping Spree


Cars are being stolen then sold on, then stolen again and sold on and... you get the picture. The cars get chopped up so they can't be identified. In an attempt to catch the thieves the A-Team use Faceman's cherished custom Corvette. If driving round in a huge black van with red stripes on didn't make them stand out enough, Face has a white convertible sports car with red stripes. No wonder they had to be constantly on the move to escape the military police. The sting with the Corvette goes awry when, after jumping out of the van to catch the would-be-thief, the actual thieves jump in the van and drive off with it. It then becomes a race against time to find the van before it gets chopped into bits. This episode gives Face the opportunity to act as a used car salesman. For the A-Team's con man it should be the perfect gig but it amused me that Face actually got frustrated at having to do something so below his expertise. He also had to reign himself in a bit from being too good so his colleagues didn't get suspicious.

Saturday
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Rugby Union: England vs Australia

No rugby on telly for me last week because, yet again, I was lucky enough to be at Twickenham, this time for England vs Argentina. That had been a pretty exciting game but it was nothing compared to Australia. England beat them on their home turf three weeks in a row during the summer. To make it four was a magnificent prospect. Nothing felt guaranteed and it was an abysmal start with Australia taking the lead. Both teams fought hard and it certainly was not an easy comeback for England but gradually the points built up. This was a thrilling end to England's year. Compare it with this time last year when England, the hosts, had been knocked out of the World Cup at the group stages. Everything felt rather bleak. This year has been a fantastic turn around; a grand slam win in the Six Nations, beating Australia four times and an entire year undefeated. Despite this there is still room for improvement and it will be interesting to see if this success can be maintained in 2017.

Tom Kerridge Cooks Christmas

I said there would be no Christmas specials yet and this doesn't count because it is basically just food porn. As a kid Christmas was obviously all about the presents but as an adult I get much more excited about all the food.

The Nation's Favourite Christmas Food

This repeat from 2003 is a hark back to when countdown shows were all over the TV schedules. They don't even tell us how these top ten Christmas foods were voted on. It could have just been the production team's office. Various celebrities talked about said foods and as most of them were chefs, took it in turns to suggest recipes. Two of the celebrities featured, Keith Floyd and Clarissa Dickson Wright, have in fact since passed away. Numerous others have long ceased to be regulars on telly so it was very much a show of 'Oh I remember him!' Unsurprisingly, turkey with all the trimmings came out top.

Sunday
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here

It is finally over. I enjoyed most of it and it was nice to have such a happy camp for a change.

Total
20 programmes
12 new
8 old

Best: Rugby Union: England vs Australia. Great fun from start to finish and I was elated with the result.

Worst: The Nation's Favourite Christmas Food. It was only background telly but even then I can't take any more dreadful countdown programmes.