Monday, 5 September 2016

Week in Telly 1

A new feature for Visual Mutterings. Sometimes it feels like I watch a lot of telly. Other times it feels like I don’t watch that much. I don’t know what the average is. Often it feels like I mainly watch television made before I was born. I have never added up all the telly I’ve watched in a week before. Maybe you might be interested in some of the telly I watch. Here it is, an entire week of it.

The Breakfast Club
I’m trying to watch more films, particularly the sort of films that when brought up, people say, “How have you never seen it?!” I’m going to contradict myself by saying I didn’t entirely know what to expect from this film but it was a lot more serious than I was expecting. Yes it had its lighter moments but few and far between. Possibly my greatest source of amusement was how initially horrified the kids were upon seeing a bag of weed produced from a school locker. I think I might have enjoyed the film more if I’d seen it as a teenager because whilst I thought it was ok, after seeing it I’m surprised by how many ‘top films’ lists I’ve seen it in.

The Sweeney – The Tomorrow Man
In need of something more fast-paced and exciting, I ended my bank holiday with Reagan and Carter. Upon reading the blurb I knew I’d seen this episode a few years ago and remembered it as being rather good. The plot centred on a guy who has just done a couple of years for manslaughter and upon coming out turns to computer fraud. Reagan has his feet up in the office reading up on these computers. He asks George, “What’s a cursor?” “…Someone we nick for obscene language.” Despite the computer plot we still managed to get a punch up this episode too. Perfect.

Coronation Street
Over the past year I’ve spent a few hungover weekend mornings with the Corrie omnibus on ITV2. I watched as a kid for a while and I’ve tuned in occasionally over the years since. I like to watch telly with my breakfast and needed something that didn’t need too much attention first thing so I recorded the omnibus for the past few weeks. It means I’m always a week behind but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. What I like about Corrie is it can be a few months or even years since I’ve watched and there were still be characters I recognise. Recent plot is Leanne Battersby being pregnant with Steve McDonald’s baby and has decided to keep it because she’s always wanted a baby of her own. This plot is mental. I am more interested in how Bethany Platt’s storyline will develop. A girl from school has been bullying her, telling her she’s fat, so Bethany has been spending all her time at the gym and started taking diet pills. If I had to stop watching tomorrow it wouldn’t bother me but it does for my morning viewing.

The Coopers vs the Rest
I wasn’t blown away by the new episodes of Are You Being Served? and Porridge so was interested in the first sitcom pilot of the BBC’s ‘Sitcom Season’. The situation is a couple with three adopted children. Youngest of the three, Charlie, is the only one in his class who hasn’t been invited to a birthday party so his mom gate-crashes it. Charlie has ‘abandonment issues’ so of course his mom accidentally leaves him at the party after bringing home a different child. They all had the same face paint on and it’s only as it comes off that she realises she’s kidnapped another child. “Why didn’t you say anything?” “I did – I said you’re not my mum.” “Well our kids say that all the time!” I thought this pilot was great and well deserving of a series. I hope it does well enough to get one as it certainly has potential.

Danger Man
I’ve had two box sets of Danger Man sitting on my shelf for what must be a year now but I’ve been very slow at getting round to watching many of them. I’ve watched enough episodes now to get used to Patrick McGoohan’s accent though. I watched this just before bed after getting in from the pub and really didn’t pay enough attention to all of it. Some of the Danger Man plots seem too ambitious for a half hour episode with the ending feeling rushed but this one was just right. John Drake goes to an African country (always love an unnamed African country during the 1960s) where there has been some violence or other and in order to get close to the truth he pretends to be offering guns for sale. I do wish I could remember more of the plot because it was very good. Drake being the only white character for much of the episode was an interesting change too. Though Drake travels extensively, it is usually to Europe or the U.S. so far and with an almost entirely white cast.

The Great British Bake Off
Twitter is why I started watching ‘the baking show’. At some point a few years ago my timeline started filling up with people shouting random things about bread and cakes. Sometimes I’d just see “SOGGY BOTTOM!” with no explanation. I eventually found out what #gbbo was and was flummoxed as to how so many people could be so interested in watching some random people bake stuff. How lame. How sad. How could people get so excited about baking for fuck’s sake? I’m not a baker. I am though, like many others, a big fan of baked goods and a few years on I found myself saying, out loud, “Oh my god – it’s Biscuit Week. I fucking love Biscuit Week.” I don’t tweet about Bake Off because a) I rarely watch anything live, and b) it would mean risking missing some vital baking-related event and having to rewind. I like Biscuit Week because we get to see the contestants’ icing abilities and there is always someone who is a fantastic baker but whose icing resembles a toddler’s attempts at colouring in. I also like seeing the constructions in the Showstopper. They can be absolutely amazing feats of design or hilariously dreadful. This week the latter befell Louise’s church wedding. As much as she annoys me, it was Candice’s pub structure that impressed me the most. We’ll be down to ten bakers next week, meaning we get to see their individual personalities a bit more and I find it easier to remember all their names.

Inspector Morse
It must be well over a month now since I started recording ITV3’s Inspector Morse repeats, feeling I had never really seen enough episodes. I didn’t think I’d seen many episodes at all but I’m discovering I have seen considerably more than I thought. I get anything from 3-20 minutes into an episode before something clicks and I remember who the victim is or (far more annoyingly) who the murderer is. I read the description for this episode and it didn’t sound at all familiar but I’ve learnt this has no bearing. It took me literally 3 seconds on Thursday before I knew I had seen the episode before. A single shot of Sean Bean. No other memories were stirred however and so I enjoyed the plot without foreknowledge for a change. Three financial types who defrauded thousands of people are doing a couple of years in prison and one of them is killed. Then another. Then very nearly another. The cast was great. As well as Sean Bean as the poshest man in prison, Richard Wilson has found God inside and there are smaller roles for Phil Davis and Sue Johnston. The jewel however was Jim Broadbent, inside for killing his wife, a crime he still denies after sixteen years. I’m beginning to feel I have watched too much Morse lately. I enjoy them all but the length means I struggle to maintain my concentration and get fidgety after around an hour. I often watch an episode in two halves. I have them on series link at the moment but they do seem to get shown in a completely random order, jumping around series. This has no effect whatsoever as they all stand up independently but it would certainly make it easier for me to try and keep track of what I’ve seen now.

Robot Wars – The Final
I have only very vague memories of the original series of Robot Wars but I have watched most of this new one and loved it. Annoyingly I had the result of the final spoilt on Tuesday morning when I went on the BBC homepage so wasn’t sure whether to bother watching. But in the end I did watch a bit Friday morning and in the very early hours of Saturday morning. After a few episodes I am still surprised and entertained by just how powerful these machines are. Within the arena they often look quite small and it’s only when you see them being repaired with a human nearby for scale that you realise how big they are. The ‘flippers’ have dominated most of the episodes I have seen. Their skill is being constructed very close to the ground, with barely a few millimetres gap, so they can get under other robots and send them flying through the air. I look forward to another series.

Only Fools and Horses – The Sky’s the Limit, The Chance of a Lunchtime, Stage Fright, Class of ‘62, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Uncle
On Saturday I was feeling the effects of overindulgence. For me this calls for something light, usually a sitcom, preferably one I’ve seen before. I started a rewatch of Only Fools ages ago but slowed down when I reached the 50 minute episodes. When a recent Twitter hashtag invited me to name, amongst many other things, my #fav7OnlyFools I realised I hadn’t included many that came after the original half hour episodes. It isn’t to say I think these episodes are bad – not in the slightest – but I just think the others are so good that I prefer them.
  The Sky’s the Limit and The Chance of a Lunchtime have never been particularly memorable to me. Whilst the former has Del Boy attempting to flog Boycie back his own satellite dish (that is actually an airport’s radio equipment) and the latter sees Raquel meeting with a theatre director, the most important ongoing plot is Rodney attempting to repair his marriage to Cassandra. What I quite like is in both cases this fails indirectly because of Del. Rodney books a hotel and goes to meet Cassandra at the airport but her plane has been diverted because of the equipment Del has accidentally got hold of. Then after making things up with her and having made plans to see each other back in their bedroom, Rodney stops by The Nag’s Head. A very drunk woman whose taxi has arrived turns out to be an ex-fiancé of Del’s. As Raquel has just got off the bus nearby Rodney offers to help the inebriated Trudy to the taxi. Trudy can barely stand up and Cassandra drives by in time to see Trudy lolling all over Rodney.
  This rewatch has really shown me that sometimes Only Fools seems very of its time, to put it nicely. In earlier episodes there are a fair few references to ‘the paki shop’. Throughout there are several little bits where Del’s attitudes about sexuality are made very clear, including in The Chance of a Lunchtime. Del gets left with a very effeminate set designer and when Rodney sees him through a window Del makes every possible sign language effort to indicate he definitely isn’t on a date. When Trudy is drunkenly screeching with laughter, Del remarks, “I think a lady should be a lady.” These little things irk me but not enough to spoil my enjoyment.
  My favourite moments for both these episodes come near the end of them. In The Sky’s the Limit the family are watching the news about the airport chaos and as a photo of a dish, identical to the one sat on Del’s balcony, appears on screen, the penny drops. Raquel says to Del, “You brought Europe, an entire continent, to a standstill.” Of everything Del Boy has done, this really does top it. The end of The Chance of a Lunchtime is when Raquel reveals she’s pregnant. She is so worried Del won’t want the baby. “Are you angry?” “Angry?” he says and walks away then a huge grin spreads over his face. He wants a party! Champagne! He wants everyone they know to come celebrate! “How could I be angry? I’m going to be a daddy!”
  Stage Fright sees Del convince Raquel to sing alongside another cabaret act, Tony, as he’s been offered £600. Tony cuts quite the figure on stage; tall, tanned, shades, perm, bulging trousers. Del and Rodney go backstage to offer him the contract and gradually all is revealed. The heeled shoes bring Tony down a few inches, the tan is fake and only covers his face and the V in his chest, the shades are replaced with prescription glasses, the perm is a wig and the bulge is a sausage. Tony tries to explain that he can only sing certain songs but Del blusters over him. The punchline is revealed on the night. Raquel starts off singing ‘Crying’ alone, looking rather pissed off. When Tony joins her he enthusiastically begins singing ‘Cwying’. As it goes on Raquel stumbles and finds herself saying ‘Cwying’ too. I don’t love this joke but I do like it and I remember my mom once crying with laughter at it. Back at the flat it’s the lines about the additional songs that get me. ‘Please Welease Me’ and ‘The Gween Gween Gwass of Home’ being amongst them.
  Class of ’62 give us the return of Roy Slater, latterly Chief Inspector Slater, before he got five years for diamond smuggling. I think all three of the episodes Slater appears in – May the Force Be with You and To Hull and Back being the other two – are superb, with May the Force Be with You being one of my favourite Only Fools episodes. Ever since her first appearance we have heard a few things about Raquel’s estranged husband. Most recently we found out he was a policeman. It turns out he’s the bastard of all policeman because he is of course Slater. He’s a wonderful character to love to hate. He blackmails Del who in turn manages to blackmail him, ensuring we never see Slater ever again.
  In He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Uncle Albert ends up in hospital after being mugged and Del Boy buys what will come to be known as ‘the Pratmobile’. Raquel is very pregnant now and Del gets her a car off Boycie so she can have a smoother ride than the van gives. It is the perfect car for Del Boy being lime green with pink furry window wipers and leopard print interior. This feel another very middleish episode with little actually happening. It’s ok but not the best. My highlight is the reveal that Albert wasn’t actually mugged but instead lost a fight to his friend Knock Knock. Too late, Del has paid a gang of bikers to beat up the skinheads hanging around The Nag’s Head. Rodney gets back from there to tell them that the skinheads weren’t skinheads, they are undercover cops and the bikers have taken a pasting.

Inspector Morse
Back on Thursday I was planning to have a break from Morse but on Saturday night you would have to pay me a lot of money to make me watch The X Factor so back to Morse it was. Finally, FINALLY, for the first time in a while, I had an episode I hadn’t seen before. I was very impressed with this episode, centred on several unexplained teenage suicides. One of those is a young girl Morse knows personally. We see him with the family, who are expecting her home from a sleepover soon. Morse later tells Lewis a little of his own personal history, revealing that the girl is his niece as her mother is his younger half-sister. It’s unusual and rather nice to see Morse like this with the family because he never normally mentions any. I’ve always presumed he has none or else was estranged from any he did have. The episode, first broadcast in 1992, takes a look into rave culture. I wasn’t around in 1992. I have no idea if there are still raves. If there were any when I was 16-17 it would not surprise me if they had completely passed me by. All in all this makes it difficult for me to judge how accurate a representation Morse gives of raves. No one drinks and instead they take drugs. The music is appalling. The kids ‘dance’ to it at the raves but also listen to it at home. I am not a fan of dance or ‘club’ music and whilst I can just about comprehend that some people might like to throw their moves to it in a club, I am baffled as to how anyone could enjoy actually listening to it. It’s quite a sight therefore to see Lewis, having acquired a baseball cap, nodding his head to the beat and declaring that the music is quite nice when you get into it. Overall though I found it a very sad story. Morse says, “There’s something about a teenage death, all that potential about to be realised.”

Goodnight Sweetheart – Many Happy Returns
I am a big fan of the original series of Goodnight Sweetheart. My DVDs have turned out to have been worth every penny of my pocket money as my brother and I have watched them repeatedly over the last ten years. I know the show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this is not the time for me to launch a lengthy defence of one of my favourite programmes. I’d seen a few photos online over the past few weeks, enough to feed my anticipation but not enough to offend my spoiler-sensitive nature. In the original series Gary Sparrow (Nicholas Lyndhurst) finds a time portal back to the 1940s and falls in love with a woman there. He proceeds to have a relationship with her, whilst also attempting to maintain the one with his wife in the 1990s. Especially in the later series, the writers really played around with the time-travel possibilities. The show ended on VE night with Gary getting trapped in the past. 17 years have passed. For Gary it’s now 1962 and he manages to reopen the time portal. With it being a show I love so much I was relieved I enjoyed the new episode. It was expected but we do get scenes with Gary being utterly confused by 2016’s technology. He also opens three phone boxes to find respectively: a library, a defibrillator and a hipster’s coffee shop. I actually really enjoyed the reminder of just how fast our technology has moved on in fewer than 20 years. Gary had a mobile, computers and the internet were around but what we have now is almost unrecognisable compared to 1999. It’s hard to say much about the plot without giving things away but Yvonne and Gary do meet. I was a tad disappointed she didn’t slap him but I did enjoy her calling him “an incompetent time-traveller”. Gary’s son Michael is all grown-up and Yvonne is revealed to have a daughter. With the addition of these characters I think there is certainly potential for a new series so we’ll wait and see.

Til Death Us Do Part
Whilst the other revisits to sitcoms have all been new episodes, Til Death Us Do Part is the first of the ‘lost’ sitcom episodes to be broadcast. These are episodes that are currently missing from the BBC archives. I haven’t seen any of the original episodes of Til Death Us Do Part and although I was sort of aware of what it was based around, it means I can’t compare these performances with the original ones. Alf comes home late from work to find an empty house, burnt tea in the oven and the fire gone out. He spends the entire episode moaning and attempting to get himself some fish and chips. I thought this episode was fantastic. It seems a very simple plot but the writing is so marvellous. I felt the performances from the cast were great too. The part of Alf’s wife was done just right as even when there were only a few words they were delivered just right. I am keen to see some original episodes. I’ve heard that Alf’s character is purposefully offensive, something not really featured in this episode, so I’ll head in prepared and see how I get on. Hopefully the writing is as consistently good as this.

An Extra Slice
Once a week not enough to get your Great British Bake Off fix? Watch Jo Brand and celebrity guests talk about the bakers, try some of the studio audience’s bakes and laugh at photos of disasters sent in. The baker that went out this week also comes on and has the opportunity to redo one of their bakes from the tent. Often they choose one of the disasters that got them sent home and Louise didn’t let us down here, perfecting her biscuit wedding scene.

Road Wars
I used to watch Road Wars and its sister show Street Wars late at night back when there wasn’t anything else on at that time and Sky+ hadn’t reached us yet. They show a lot of car chases, something I always enjoy. It is starting to date a bit now with some of the criminals’ fashions and there was even one copper who looked like he wasn’t wearing a stab vest.

The Simpsons
I rarely watch The Simpsons though I did watch it a lot growing up. For as long as I can remember it’s been on Channel 4 and Sky One almost daily. It’s always there so I could watch it if I wanted to but generally I’ve just become a bit fed up of it. This was a newer one that I hadn’t seen. Marge opens a franchise of a sandwich shop but a rival one run by the hillbilly family opens up opposite with predictable results. The Simpsons manage to trick the franchise into giving them back the money Marge invested. Not a great episode.

I watched the last series of Poldark and despite initially really liking it I started getting bored towards the end. I wasn’t sure whether to watch the new one but in the end agreed to. I got bored very quickly and only half-watched it whilst scrolling through Twitter. Someone died and I wasn’t even sure why. I think I need to give up on it now.

19 television programmes
1 film

Best: Til Death Us Do Part

Worst: The Simpsons – at least I was expecting Poldark to bore me

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