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.

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