Stronger (2017)- A What I’ve Been Watching Special

 

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The good folks over at Nudge-book.com in conjunction with publicists Thinkjam contacted me regarding a book to film adaptation.  Due to unforeseen circumstances the book has not yet arrived but I have had the opportunity, thanks to Liongate to view the film which opens this week.

Stronger is the real-life story of Jeff Bauman who, in an attempt to win over his ex-girlfriend decided to stand at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 with a congratulatory poster praising her achievement.  This meant he was at the wrong place at the wrong time as a terrorist bomb explosion shattered his life and led to a double above-knee amputation.  “Stronger” is the tale of Jeff’s attempts to fight back and get his life back on track.

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To be honest, this is not the sort of film I would normally seek out.  It makes for tough viewing and there is little in the way of light relief but it is undeniably very well done.  The film is directed by David Gordon Green, a screenwriter and producer, who has worked in different film genres and also in television since his critically acclaimed 2000 debut “George Washington” (not about the President) which he wrote, directed and produced.  It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman and Miranda Richardson as his mother, Patti.  Both performances deserve to be given consideration at Oscar nomination time.

We first meet Jeff in the middle of a losing streak.  His relationship with Erin has ended, he is botching things up in his job as a chicken roaster for Cost Co, he’s living with his mother who has a drink problem and socialises with a group of boorish macho sports fans.  His relationship has ended because “he never shows up”, the irony being when he does show up to cheer Erin on he gets blown up. 

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I do think that this is a film which will resonate more with an American audience.  There’s an entrenched Americanness which is inescapable.  It’s rooted in American working- class culture, depicting Jeff as an ordinary guy, which here comes across via sport, beer and macho male banter.  I did initially feel quite distanced.  There’s also the American sense of “Gung-ho” and flag-waving patriotism which we British viewers find a little strange.  In many ways the film does challenge this.  In a very unsettling scene Jeff has become a beacon of hope for the Boston community and the embodiment of the “Boston Stronger” campaign.  He is asked to come on to the rink with a flag at an ice-hockey game far too early in his rehabilitation and is unable to accept the title of “hero” which is bestowed upon him.  His family find this difficult to comprehend leading to a showdown with his mother when she invites Oprah Winfrey to interview him.

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The whole thing is extremely sobering and powerfully brings home the long- lasting repercussions for Jeff and those around him.  A couple want their photo taken with him because they seem him as an example of “don’t let the terrorists win”.  Jeff’s response is that the terrorists have won- they have taken his legs from him.  It’s not possible to watch without sensing that taste of bitterness in the mouth.  A scene of reckless behaviour whilst drunk and high and the official response to it would have seemed too much if it was not obviously rooted in truth.  None of this makes for easy viewing.

We can tell from the title and the existence of an autobiography that at some point Jeff has to begin to put his life back together, but it does seem a long time coming.  A long-delayed meeting with the man who saved his life begins that process and we are left, inevitably and thankfully, with a feeling of hope for this extraordinary survivor.

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Jake Gylennhaal is a fair chunk older than Bauman who was 28 at the time of the bombing but he gives the part the right sense of experience and gravitas to make the painful scenes plausible yet watchable as it is hard to keep your eyes off him.  Moments where I felt an urge to close my eyes (there’s removal of bandages) I found myself fixed on Gylennhaal’s reactions.  Tatiana Maslay as Erin is so often the voice of reason and Miranda Richardson as his mother plays a significant part in the success of the film.

DSCF7354_RJake Gylenhaal with Jeff Bauman

It’s not an easy film to watch and would certainly not be first choice for a festive night out but one man’s determination to succeed should entice audiences.  I did emerge from it feeling like I had been pulled through the wringer but Jeff Bauman’s fight-back deserves to be told and this production has done his real-life story justice.

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Stronger is released in cinemas nationwide in the UK on December 8th.  View the trailer here. Many thanks to Nudge for the opportunity to do this.

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Joe Orton Laid Bare (BBC2 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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The summer I left school I discovered Joe Orton.  I was about to embark on a Drama course and was encouraged to read as many playwrights as possible.  I don’t remember if Joe Orton was actually on any recommended reading lists but it was his work that I became side-tracked by.

My eighteen year old self appreciated the rebel, the working class boy made good, his love at taking swipes at the establishment and most of all his use of language, rooted in what people actually say, which has always been for me one of the things I find most funny and has led to my love of Alan Bennett, Victoria Wood even right along to “Gogglebox” which just last the other night had me crying with laughter at an observation made by one of the regular viewers  (Izzi from Leeds actually).

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The more I read by and about Joe Orton the more obsessed I became.  His violent end appealed to my sense of the macabre and I devoured his diaries, probably not the most suitable reading material for an impressionable teenager.  When I eventually went to college I spent a good chunk of my first term producing an essay on, if I remember rightly, a quote of his about his work being from “the gutter”.  I don’t think I ever researched anything with such enthusiasm and it was probably my academic peak as I remember the assignment being awarded with an “A”.

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His work has never entirely left me. I read his plays, the diaries, and John Lahr’s masterful biography regularly and all three would appear on my lists of my favourite books.  The 1987 film, based on Lahr’s work, “Prick Up Your Eyes” with its screenplay by the perfect choice, Alan Bennett, is one of my all time favourite films and features career best performances from Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina.  Over the years I’ve seen a number of productions of his plays.  They are not always easy to get right.  Probably the best I’ve seen live was a touring version of “Loot” with Letitia Dean.  That was certainly better than the 1970 film version starring Richard Attenborough and Lee Remick in the part of the nurse played by Letitia Dean.  I do, however, rate the film version of “Entertaining Mr Sloane, also from 1970, mainly because of the delightfully grotesque performance by Beryl Reid.

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Gary Oldman & Alfred Molina from “Prick Up Your Ears”

Joe Orton Laid Bare was an 80 minute documentary on BBC2 which marked 50 years since the death of the playwright at the hands of his partner Kenneth Halliwell, who bludgeoned him to death with a hammer and then took his own life.  It featured a range of talking heads and extracts of Orton’s work- none of which fully conveyed the full flavour his work.   Orton specialised in farcical comedy which needs layers to be built as the play proceeds so to see a section out of context is probably not the best way of viewing his work.  The repertory company including Antony Sher, Jaime Winstone, Ben Miles and Freddie Fox who portrayed these segments with great gusto but they were perhaps the least successful aspect of the programme.  Orton was a writer who was perhaps just finding his peak at the time of his death, his last play “What The Butler Saw” is acclaimed his best.  There was a dramatization that I hadn’t seen before of a piece submitted for “Oh Calcutta!” which was embarrassing in its crass crudity which I think if I was producing this documentary I would have cut.

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There were sections taken from the diaries brought to life by actors portraying a young and older Joe Orton which worked well.  There’s a recognition generally that the British Prison Service made Orton the playwright.  It took him away from the influence of the older Halliwell whose belief in his own literary skills was stultifying Orton’s writing and gave him the chance to find his own voice.  Both Orton and Halliwell were imprisoned (and this sounds incredible now) for defacing library books.  As someone who works within libraries I would have to take a dim view of this but there is something about the enthusiasm and care over the period of time that they did this and the outrageousness in what they came up with that always makes me laugh (against my better nature of course!)

joeorton6One of the many defaced library books which ended up in a prison sentence

There was a shining light in this programme which made it memorable to me who wasn’t expecting to find out a great deal of new things about Orton and that was the participation of his sister, Leonie as consultant and talking head.  Leonie, I believe manages the Orton Estate and is memorably portrayed in “Prick Up Your Eyes” by the fabulous Frances Barber.  Leonie in real life was more Julie Walters, (who played Orton’s mother in the film and who had the immortal line, and I may be paraphrasing a little, “I bet Dirk Bogarde never distempered his mother’s tablecloth!”) and her contributions to this programme were an absolute joy.  

joeorton7Joe’s sister, Leonie

For fifty years she has lived with the memories of her brother, from a working class Leicestershire background, who absorbed his parents into his characters (the weak men were his father, the surreally outrageous often coming from his mother).  She told a story about Joe returning home and hiding a microphone behind a loaf of bread to record his mother’s utterances which were then used in his work.  There were the few months of the golden era when Joe became the feted star of the West End – a radical new voice who won awards, appeared on the telly, was asked to write a screenplay for the Beatles and began to aspire to an existence completely baffling to the family.  And then, all of a sudden it was all over.  Leonie had to live with the repercussions of such a violent, horrible death, the discovery of the diaries and her inheritance of the whole of the Orton output, including unpublished works which she says pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable, and yet, she says with a twinkle in her eye, are still funny. Fifty years may have gone past but you can tell from Leonie that the presence of that naughty older brother, 11 years her senior, is still very much with her and a very real love for him shone through. 

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Other talking heads included biographer John Lahr and those that appeared in the original productions of his plays including Kenneth Cranham, Patricia Routledge and Dudley Sutton and those who knew him and Kenneth Halliwell in their professional capacity and even a casual pick-up of Joe’s .  I felt Kenneth was moved further back than usual, certainly more so than in the film, which focuses on his mental deterioration to the point of murder of suicide and which elicits a fair amount of sympathy in Alfred Molina’s portrayal.  There was less sympathy in this documentary, nobody really had anything good to say about Halliwell.  What was interesting was the willingness to apportion some blame into a direction I had not heard before.  Peter Wills was the head of Rediffusion Television Drama who seemed to be guilty of continually undermining Kenneth publicly when he was obviously suffering from serious mental health issues, he interfered with treatment and seems to have exacerbated Halliwell’s paranoia.  Kenneth Cranham said “Almost certainly I think that Peter Wills brought about the murder…I think there was something Machiavellian going on….I think Peter Wills is a nasty piece of work.”  This view was echoed by other talking heads.  There was a tape-recording from the doctor who treated Hallilwell who showed how far we have thankfully come in the treatment of mental health patients.

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The documentary built up towards the grisly killing in the small claustrophobic flat they shared as Halliwell began to fear separation from Joe, because of both what he had read from the diaries and from what Joe and others had been saying.  An air of continuing mystery is maintained by the latter days of the diaries going missing, taken by Peggy Ramsay, Orton’s agent when she arrived to identify the bodies. 

These 80 minutes fed my continuing fascination with Joe Orton.  I think the balance of the programme was right.  I’m not sure how well Orton actually benefits from academic research on his output.  I’ve read some over the years and it doesn’t ever come off.  It was important to let those like John Lahr, who has spent decades examining the man and his work, those who worked with him and especially sister Leonie to have their say to commemorate this extraordinary individual who burnt brightly and whose influence on comic writing still can be felt today.

fourstarsJoe Orton Laid Bare was first shown on BBC2 on Saturday 25th November at 9pm.  It is currently available to view on the BBC I-Player

Snatch (2017 AMC) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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Before seeing this 10 part crime caper advertised I’d never even heard of the AMC channel let alone watched anything on it.  It’s a BT channel and I am a Sky Customer so never expected to find it but there it was well tucked away on Sky Channel 192. I was interested enough in the premise of this to add the double bill of the first two episodes to my planner.

Snatch is loosely based on the 2000 crime comedy directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Brad Pitt and Jason Statham. I’ve actually never seen that film but I think the association comes more in the setting and style of the piece than any actual characters or storylines.  It has the Guy Ritchie coolness which made “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” a hit.

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The TV series provides the first dabbling in production for Rupert Grint, now 29, who spent a large chunk of his childhood as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise and may very well be looking now for ways to invest his millions. He is also starring in “Snatch”.  I was interested by his presence but this was not enough to get me going further than I would normally go with the remote control and the Sky Guide.  It hasn’t for example been enough for me to record his Sky 1 comedy “Sick Note” which started this week.  It was actually the supporting cast that got me interested enough to press record.

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I’ve also recently been watching the DVD box set of the BBC1 series “The Musketeers” which I’ve had recommended to me from a number of sources but which completely passed me by when it was on TV.  It’s been a lot of fun and of course features Tom Burke, who I highly praised for his turn as Cormoran Strike in another J R Rowling adaptation as well as Luke Pasqualino, who makes a dashing D’Artagnan.  Luke here plays Albert, whose father is in prison after a botched gold bullion robbery when Albert was a youngster.  He is big pals with Grint’s Charlie, a bow-tie bedecked posh boy whose family has fallen on hard times.  This dynamic duo become a trio with boxer Billy.  He is played by the fabulously named Lucien Laviscount who had a stint as a teenager on “Coronation Street”, went into the Celebrity Big Brother house a few years ago and flirted with Kerry Katona andwho I last saw in the one episode I watched of American TV series “Scream Queens”, a Ryan Murphy creation which slots directly in between teen series “Glee” and adult gore-fest “American Horror Story” by being a teen horror series.  It didn’t work for me and gave up early on, I was fully aware that I was the wrong audience for this but it was great to see Brit Laviscount in the cast which also featured Lea Michele from “Glee”, Jamie Lee Curtis and teen heartthrobs Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas.  Since then there’s been considerable hours in the gym as he has an extraordinarily toned torso with something looking like it amounts to a 23-pack.

 Luke Pasqualino and Lucien Laviscount

Interesting casting combination for a group of three lads who will in the weeks to come get themselves in deeper and deeper waters which will test the bonds of friendship.  It’s a young, slightly flashy stylish series.  By the end of the first episode the three who had indulged in small time crime suddenly found themselves in the big league when they unwittingly end up with a van of gold bullion.  In the support cast we get the fragile charms of Phoebe Dynevor (“Coronation Street” connection again, is the real-life daughter of Sally), and the always bankable Marc Warren as a beleaguered cop  and Dougray Scott as Albert’s jailbird dad.

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Both of the two episodes I watched were good fun, well-paced, a little flashy but certainly I would not have given up on them at this point.  You can tell there is still a lot of mileage in the plot.  I recorded the third but when came to watch it was informed by Sky that this channel is not part of my package.  I could add it as a BT Sports package (don’t bother phoning me to try and persuade me to do this Sky, it’s not going to happen).  Obviously the first two episodes were being shown as part of a “Showcase” to lure me in, which it did, but I’ll get over it.  

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The boys with Phoebe Dynevor

There is still the feeling, held over from the years of two/three/four channel television that anything that does not appear on the main listings is somehow inferior.  I think in the first years of multi-channel TV in the UK, this was often the case.  The first years I had Sky I mainly watched repeats of things I’d missed out when first shown on terrestrial as well as the odd off-the-wall series.  Things now have certainly changed, not only because of shows like “Game Of Thrones” which has probably more than any other show altered people’s perceptions of Sky’s programming but also Amazon Prime and, especially, Netflix, who seem to be making shows that are too ambitious and expensive for the main networks to produce (“The Crown, anyone?  I watched this open-mouthed at the sheer quality of this production).  Perhaps just as recent as a year ago I would have been sniffy about an original series appearing on a channel like “AMC” (what does that even stand for?) assuming that it couldn’t be good enough for “proper telly” I now know better and this is one of the reasons why searching the schedules for buried treasure has become another joy of TV watching.  Hopefully, another channel will pick this series up in the future (like Fox has done with the very likeable Amazon hit “Lucifer”) and I will be able to see it to its conclusion.

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Dynasty (Netflix 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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The latest series to get a revamp is 80’s classic glossy soap “Dynasty” which is currently being added one episode a week in the UK on Netflix.  We already have had the 21st Century version of “Dallas” which combined the next generation with the original stars, with some success, if not always gripping storylines, but found it was unable to survive the death of Larry Hagman.

Dynasty’s reboot is a different affair as it has been completely recast, using the original’s names and family relationships.  Starting with a clean slate means that Krystle Carrington (now Cristal) can be Hispanic, Jeff Colby is African-American and the role of Sammy-Jo (memorably Heather Locklear in the original) has been re-written as a gay man.

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I’ve watched two episodes so far.  The first was largely introductory as we had to get to know these characters all over again and the target audience was probably not born when the original series aired (1981-89).  The centrepiece (and Dynasty often had a centrepiece )was the wedding between Blake and Cristal, seen by Blake’s children Fallon and Steven as a gold-digger.  There was a nice nod to the original when Steven, (still gay), as a child in a flashback was seen playing the original theme tune on the piano.

dynasty6Blake marries Cristal – again!

There’s the first thing I missed – that glorious sweep of theme music composed by Bill Conti over the opening credits.  The rebooted “Dallas” went with the old tune, as has “Hawaii 5-0”.  “Dynasty” had a better theme tune than “Dallas” and it’s a shame not to have used it.

If things took a while to get going in the first episode that’s not too far from the original whose initial reception was very muted and it looked like this expensive series may be cancelled.  All that changed with the introduction of Joan Collins as the fabulous Alexis Colby and from her arrival onwards it became a huge ratings hit, influenced fashion (shoulder pads, anyone?) and summed up the glossy selfishness of the 80s.  On the reboot there have already been several mentions of Fallon’s and Steven’s mother but the role has not yet been cast.  I can’t actually think who could fill those shoulder-pads and take on Joan’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the super-bitch, but one name that keeps crossing my mind, and to maintain the British connection is Catherine Zeta-Jones.

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Dynasty was always bigger and blowsier than “Dallas” which centred on the machinations of JR and the stories were more outlandish (not counting Bobby’s dream which was used to write off a whole series when it went off in an odd direction).  In “Dynasty”, most memorably you had the kidnapping of Krystle by Psycho star Anthony Perkins, replacing her with a Krystle-lookalike in the Carrington home and Fallon got abducted by aliens (although now I’m not sure whether that was in the spin-off “The Colbys.”)  It also featured, probably from mid-way through the run, one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on television in Diahann Carroll as Dominique Devereaux (rebooted version, think of casting Rupaul in this role).

Future casting ideas for “Dynasty” producers – no charge.

It’s hard to say in the new version how far they will go in the over-exaggerated melodrama stakes.  We have had catfights (have you seen how ropey that famous fight between Alexis and Krystle in the lily pond looks to our modern eyes).  There was a fabulous moment in a cemetery at a funeral between Krystle and Fallon, which suggests that these slapstick-as-drama moments may be used freely in the new version.

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Fallon herself, played by   Elizabeth Gillies seems far more of a bitch than the Emma Samms/Pamela Sue Martin original but that just might keep us watching until Alexis turns up.  One of my favourite characters from the original, Sammy-Jo, has a lot of potential in this new incarnation played by the very easy-on-the-eye Rafael de la Fuente.  Anders the butler, or major-domo, as his role is explained here has had his role beefed up and is probably the most recognisable face in the cast played by New Zealander Allan Dale, who has turned out great work in at least three continents in major roles in “Young Doctors”  “Neighbours”, “The OC”,  and in the London West End production of “Spamalot”.

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The characters names aside, the show it reminded me most of was not the original “Dynasty” but “Dirty, Sexy Money” (2007-9) which was headed by Donald Sutherland and was always a lot of fun with a scheming rich family, the Darlings.  The characters of the two Carrington siblings seem here quite close to Seth Gabel (Jeremy) and Natalie Zea (Karen) (especially with her relationship with father’s business rival Jeff echoing Karen’s obsession with Blair Underwood as Simon Elder).

dynasty4Steven and Fallon Carrington

Do we need a new version of “Dynasty”?  I’m still not convinced.  If it was going for a reboot I’d liked to have seen it done like “Dallas” was, moving the Carrington empire into the 21st century with some of the originals (those still with us, that is) taking their old parts.  (There were a number of “reunions” after the series ended in 1989).

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My enjoyment of this kind of heightened over-the-top drama is fuelled anyway by the splendid “Empire”, the story of a family run R&B/hip-hop label which is, to all intents of purposes “Black Dynasty”.  Their outlandish plots are kept bubbling by excellent casting and a battle of the titans in Cookie and Lucious Lyon (played magnificently by Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard.  So, I can’t help feeling that the success, or otherwise, of this new “Dynasty” will depend on, as the original did, the arrival of Alexis Carrington.  For the time being I’m going to continue to watch.

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Dynasty is currently available on Netflix in the UK.  For those of us old enough to remember the original here are the opening credits at their finest.

 

Strictly Come Dancing – (BBC1 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this ratings dominating titan of Saturday night entertainment before. I’ve certainly been watching it since its arrival on our screens in May 2004.  (Have you seen any clips of that first episode with the judges squashed on a small table with the whole thing looking decidedly low budget compared to what we have become used to now?) When the TV channel Watch screened the US equivalent “Dancing With The Stars” I used to watch that too, despite knowing few of the contestants and it feeling tortuously long.  Because we no longer hear much about that show in the UK I just had a look and have discovered it has been re-commissioned for Season 26.  (It’s aired more often than over there) and that 286 celebrities have taken part so far and that the current cohort includes singer Debbie Gibson and ex child-actor from the lovely “Malcolm In The Middle” Frankie Muniz. There, Len Goodman is still on the judging panel (alongside Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba).  You will also find the new home for UK version ex-dancers Artem Chigvintsev, Gleb Savchenko and Mark Ballas, the son of our new head judge Shirley.  So, there you go, a bit of fact-finding for you!

And onto last night’s Strictly, which was the Movie special, the first of the “big” nights where the BBC pulls out the stops (the others being the Halloween Special and the trip to Blackpool).  We can expect film-themed dances and great things in the costume and make-up departments.  For me, the weak link in last night’s show were some of the costumes.  The Buzz Lightyear outfit didn’t really work and looked like something off the shelf of a backstreet fancy dress shop (not sure how you could do it otherwise, to be honest) and I was trying to work out how the fat mouse fits into “The Jungle Book” until I discovered Aljaz was supposed to be Baloo the Bear.  Nothing was quite right about the Revd. Richard Coles’ Flash Gordon, costume, make-up nor performance.

strictly2But I’m being niggly because I do love Strictly.  The format is great.  It is just incredibly long at the moment.  The first episode seemed to go on forever and was just a conveyor belt of people you either vaguely knew or hadn’t heard of.  I much preferred the second episode last week as you had something to compare the celebrities with and the shortening of the time available to learn the dance for the second week throws an interesting spanner in the works which can shake things up.  I wasn’t that happy over the celebrity who went home, but I didn’t vote so I can’t complain.  At this stage of the series by the time I’ve got through the show the time allocated for voting has long gone.  There’s a too liberal use of the pause button in our house- it was about 10.00 pm by the time we finished it yesterday.

What I do like about Strictly is how many of us customise the show.  I’ve known people who press the fast forward button through all the judges’ comments (well actually it was all the judges apart from Craig), or through all of the training,  or all through all of the links (particularly when dear old Sir Bruce was in charge), or through the professionals’ group dance.  Probably more than any other show we use  our remote controls to turn it into the ideal package for ourselves.  I actually watch the whole thing but on the Sunday night results show I often fast forward the special guest performance and the bit when they’re sat on the sofa after having been saved by the public. 

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Is it possible to pick a winner this early on? Not really.  We need to see the celebrities grow and begin to settle into their dance journey.  The audience often tires of those who are really good early on (so beware Debbie McGee and Aston Merrygold), will support the no-hopers only for a while (although too long in the case of Anne Widdicombe, Judy Murray and Ed Balls) and will eventually favour those who we can see blossoming as the season progresses (as evidenced by the last three winners Ore Oduba, Jay McGuinness and Caroline Flack).  The “biggest names” tend to do well but are unlikely to win.  People who present early-morning television often do better than they should.

They got to hold the glitterball- winner of the last three seasons

It’s Series 15 and surely by now we’ve seen pretty much everything that we would expect to see (we haven’t seen anyone pass actually out at the judge’s bench due to stress and exertion but US viewers will no doubt recall the fainting of Marie Osmond!).  There were some thrilling dances last night including Aston Merrygold’s “Trolls”-based Cha Cha Cha, Alexandra Burke’s American Smooth (not up to the amazing Paso Doble of the week before) and the most heartwarming was Susan Calman’s take on “Wonderwoman”.  I would imagine that Brendan Cole’s partner’s chances would be a bit diminished by him challenging head judge Shirley Ballas (I like her) and getting told off by Bruno, but then Charlotte Hawkins probably should have gone out last week.  TV chef Simon Rimmer, Revd. Richard Coles and Ruth Lansford should all be fearing the dance-off but it’s the early days of Strictly and you just can’t tell………………..

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Still, I’m sure that everyone watching will talk about the show to at least one other person so it recalls the magic of television past when we weren’t all going it alone with box sets, catch-up and things we’ve recorded “so don’t talk about it yet!”.  The juggernaut rumbles on and I love it!

strictly12I couldn’t not have a picture of Brucie. 

Sir Bruce Forsyth 1928-2017

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In case anyone doesn’t know “Strictly Come Dancing” is on Saturday evenings on BBC1.  It is available to watch on the BBC I-Player.

Liar- ITV (2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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Someone is telling big fat lies in ITV’s six part drama and, two episodes in, it is not clear who that is going to be. I’ve been fairly resistant to ITV dramas recently (with really only the second series of “Victoria” getting a look-in) but there was something about this one that piqued my fancy. I think it was probably the casting combination of Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd. Joanne may always be associated with being the beleaguered Mrs Bates in “Downton Abbey”, the maid whose road to happiness seemed to be one step forward and three steps back but I also hold her very dearly for having to tell neighbour Joe that his wife’s ashes had gone up the Christmas present Dyson in the best Royle Family Christmas special “Joe’s Crackers” when she joined the family for a Christmas dinner as son Anthony’s girlfriend. Last year ITV kept her in the long frocks for miniseries “Dark Angel” but I gave up on that after the first episode as it was just too depressing. She’s back in the modern-day for “Liar” – a very modern tale.

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Co-starring with Joanne is Ioan Gruffudd whose Hollywood star burned brightly in films such as “The Fantastic Four” and George Bush bio-pic “W” where he played Tony Blair, but who I probably like most in US TV series “Forever” where he played immortal medical examiner Henry Morgan, shown here on Sky 1, a man who couldn’t help dying on a regular basis and each time emerging naked from the Hudson River to pick up again on his life. Here Gruffudd is keeping with the medical profession and has been tempted back from the US to play surgeon Andrew Earlham.

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When teacher Laura (Froggatt) breaks up with her live-in boyfriend her anaesthetist sister persuades her to go on a date with Earlham, whose teenage son Laura teaches. The date appears to go well but when Laura wakes the next morning she believes she has been raped. Having Earlham’s son as a pupil adds another level to the tension as does having her sister work with the accused. Laura’s ex is a policeman who gets dragged into the investigation and it’s not long before we perceive that he is secretly getting on rather well with Laura’s married sister. The lies begin to come thick and fast, nobody is exactly trustworthy and are those seeking revenge right to do so or just adding insult to injury? I’m finding the issues thought-provoking, I’m not sure how it will pan out over another four hours, there certainly will be more lies to come.

liar7liar8Co-Stars Warren Brown and Zoe  Tapper

There’s some good value for money faces in the supporting cast. I’ve always liked Warren Brown who is often at home in a policeman’s outfit (we wondered when watching it whether he just brings his own to his acting job) as we have seen him as part of the force in “Good Cop” “Luther” and “Criminal Justice”. Zoe Tapper playing Laura’s sister has a wealth of quality dramatic roles behind her including the TV adaptation of Sarah Waters’ “Affinity”, the BBC reboot of “Survivors”, “Mr Selfridge” and likeable ITV Saturday night vampire drama “Demons”. Seeing these four lead actors in trailers made me want to watch “Liar” and from the closing moments of the second episode we see that more lies may be embroiled within a character played by ex-Dr Who Peter Davison.

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There’s something else which is lifting this above most one series dramas and that is the stunning location. Just as Brighton looked so good in “The Level”, the makers of “Liar” have employed what I think of as the “Broadchurch” factor to bring beauty into a dark story via the location. Minutes into the first episode I was googling “Where is “Liar” filmed?” alongside, undoubtedly, many others as it was certainly quick to appear in the Google results. We first meet Laura kayaking in an amazing network of marshes which is actually Tollesbury on the Essex Coast. The fictional town where the characters live is a bit of a scissors and paste location with filming also in the town of Deal and along the Kent Coast. Laura’s school is actually situated in Ealing. The date takes part in a swish restaurant on Deal pier, which is actually apparently a bit of a greasy-spoon café tarted up for the assignation.

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“Liar” is directed by James Strong, who also directed “Broadchurch” who said of his new venture that he actually wanted to do something very different with this but then found himself once again looking at small English seaside towns. Some enterprising people could turn Deal into the next TV location to visit, just as West Bay in Dorset has become a significant tourist attraction following Strong’s previous hit. Maybe he should get some sort of commission from the English tourist board. I live in a pretty seaside town which would certainly benefit from such exposure even if it does mean incorporating murderers, liars and rapists within its streets for a short time!

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The six part series written by Harry and Jack Williams was perhaps commissioned as a result of the success of BBC revenge drama and Suranne Jones acting masterclass “Dr Foster”, which coincidentally is mid-way through its second series over on BBC1. Although this also feels like quality it was so good as a stand-alone that I don’t think it needed a subsequent series and I have gone on from egging Dr Foster on in the first series to despairing of her in this. I do have every confidence that the BBC will once again have our jaws dropping and the acting, writing and production will be exemplary but I’m not convinced it was necessary to put these characters through more drama.
“Liar” certainly feels like a stand-alone series, let’s agree that however successful it become that we do not get “Liar 2” please ITV. It certainly has the makings to be a big international hit, especially in the US with its highly recognisable leads and stunning locations.

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Liar is shown on Mondays at 9pm on ITV1. The first two episodes are available on ITV catch-up services.

 

 

Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling (BBC1 2017)- A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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(To be read in the style of  a Craig Charles “Gogglebox”voiceover) “In a week where a Cookery Programme found its own soggy bottom and lost over four million viewers by switching to Channel 4 we watched lots of great telly”.  I was one of those missing four million as I decided not to tune in to the revamped “Great British Bakeoff”, the first time I have ever missed an episode.  Sometimes you have to take a stance!

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I did, however, watch BBC1’s Bank Holiday potential crowd-pleaser, “Strike- The Cuckoo’s Calling”, the first two episodes of a three parter based on the JK Rowling 2013 thriller written as Robert Galbraith.  I was a little late getting to the novel, having only read it earlier this year and my motivation for doing so was because I had heard about the tv adaptation and wanted to experience the book first.  I wanted my own pictures to form in my head.   I really enjoyed the book and in my review focused in on the warmth and humour in the relationship between down-on-his-luck private detective Cormoran Strike and temporary secretary, Robin.

Much hinged I felt on the casting of Strike, an undeniably larger-than-life character. I got the impression of a kind of man-mountain from the book and at six foot Tom Burke doesn’t quite have the bulk that was in my head.  Best known to me as Dolokhov in the BBC1 “War and Peace”extravaganza, he is perhaps generally best known as swashbuckling Athos in “The Three Musketeers” series.  The 36 year old son of noted thespians Anna Calder-Marshall and David Burke has scooped one of the most prestigious TV roles of the year with the other Galbraith novels already having been filmed for later transmission. 

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Within the first half-hour Burke had become Cormoran Strike as the book-derived image in my head faded and he became the perfect fit. Not quite as convinced by Holliday Granger as Robin, but that will come in time.  After her turn as Lucrezia Borgia in “The Borgias” I’m finding it hard to trust her wholesomeness.  In the first two episodes there was a little less Robin than I was expecting- we had less of her putting her mark onto the office than I remembered from the book and a little less of developing the relationship between the two characters although it took only the odd glance from Strike to make us realise how valuable she is making herself to his enterprise.

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Characters nicely established the plot followed along expected lines.  The presence of acting heavyweights, the great Sian Phillips and Martin Shaw in the cast gave the whole thing kudos and showed the BBC’s commitment to the project.  I was a little concerned after the TV adaptation of “SS-GB” which the BBC had sat upon after filming and put it out without a great deal of fanfare where it limped along somewhat in dark scenes and mumbled lines, but this was altogether a very different proposition.  Liked the music, liked the opening credits, which gave it a moodiness and recalled the opening of some of those great ITC Entertainment series like “Man In A Suitcase” and “Danger Man”.  In days of technological glossy thrillers this seemed pleasantly old-fashioned, making it perfect Bank Holiday viewing, when we don’t want anything too demanding.

There was always going to be an issue with Strike’s false leg and there was a “how did they do that?” moment as well as some obvious cut-aways.  The leg almost feels like a character in the novel so I was pleased it was given air-time here.  It was hard to forget that the television Strike had lost a leg, just as it is in the novel.  I wondered if three episodes would cause the plot to rattle along too quickly but it established a good, steady pace.  I wonder if the decision to film “The Silkworm” and “Career of Evil” as two-parters will impact on the overall pace.  I hope they are going to be hour-longs and not “feature length” as the hour long format seems most fitting for this.  I wasn’t as struck on the book of “The Silkworm” which will air on television straight after “Cuckoo’s Calling”- I felt it was overlong, so perhaps two episodes will suffice.  It is a much darker piece and it will be interesting to see how it translates to Sunday evening television.  I’ve yet to read “Career Of Evil” but I am pushing it up the To Be Read list so I can get to it before it is shown.

With two parts down of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and one to go I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this.  To be honest, even though I only read the book six months or so ago some of the plot details have blurred in my mind so I’m getting plenty of enjoyment as the story unfolds. It does seem perfect for television, will push up sales further of the three novels and is likely to give the BBC another big worldwide hit.

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Strike- The Cuckoo’s Calling is shown on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1.  The final episode is due to air on the 3rd September.  Previous episodes are available on the BBC I-Player.  “The Silkworm” is due to be transmitted from Sunday 10th.

 

What I’ve Been Watching – Riverdale – Season 1 (Netflix 2017)

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I recently took out a free trial of Netflix and I was soon drawn in to paying the monthly subscription.  Apart from a couple of films it has been three series which have caught my attention- the sumptuous  royal drama “The Crown”, the absolutely addictive drag-queen competition “Rupaul’s Drag Race” and this teen mystery series which I was absolutely delighted to see on the Netflix schedules.

I had heard a lot about “Riverdale” and it taps into a little obsession I’ve had since I was a very young child.  One year on holiday in Cornwall on a visit to the newsagent’s at the end of the road where we were staying I discovered a set of American comics I had never seen before.  In those days my reading habit was fuelled by comics- I would buy, borrow, swap many during the course of the week, “Beano”, “Dandy” “Sparky”, “Cor!” “Whizzer and Chips”, “Beezer”, “Buster” “Topper “, “TV Comic”, “Look In” – I loved them all.  I wasn’t so keen on the football or war ones, they had to be funny, although I did used to read my sister’s “Bunty” and “Mandy”.  Occasionally I would pick up an American comic from the Harvey publishers “Caspar The Friendly Ghost” “Richie Rich”, but these were harder to come by because they were imported.  I loved the adverts in these as much as the stories but by the time I was in that newsagents in Cornwall I would have deemed these as a little young for me, but in a rack in front of me was something that would certainly fit the bill.

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The history of Archie Comics was unknown to me.  I didn’t know that the character on the cover that I was trying to get my Dad to buy alongside the “Daily Mirror” had been around since 1941 when he appeared in a strip in “Pep Comics”.  The success of Super-powered Comic Book heroes had led the publishers to deduce that the market was ripe for a teenage “Everyman” to appeal to all readers and thus Archie and his group of friends living in Riverdale were developed.  By 1943 he had his own national radio programme which ran for over 10 years and by 1946 (71 years ago! ) the publishers changed their name to Archie Comics and the seal was set.  There were lots of spin-off publications from the range of characters (many still going to this day), there were Cartoon series (don’t think we ever had those in the UK) and most famously as the 60’s moved into the 70’s a massive US and UK#1 single “Sugar Sugar”.  Recorded (obviously) by a session group led by Ron Dante, Toni Wine and Andy Kim this was not the only #1 single by an animated group but it remains the first and the best.  It was the biggest selling single around the world in 1969.

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Archie and his friends have lurked around in the background to my life since then.  Every visit I have made to the United States has found me bringing back a small pile of the latest publications.  I have an Archie comics app on my tablet, a much-followed Pinterest board and I even named my cat after the character.  And now, on my TV, there is a real-life adaptation where the characters have been re-imagined and developed into a series – I’m going to watch it, aren’t I?

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I’m now one episode away from the Series Finale (with Season 2 due on Netflix in the UK in October) and I do really like it.  Certainly darker than the comic-book world of Riverdale this has a death at its centre of Jason Blossom, a character who was introduced to the comics in the 1980’s as twin brother of Cheryl, a more prominent character who has had a whole comic book series dedicated to her.  Although these perennial teenagers have been “reimagined” it’s important to the legions of fans over the decades that this reimagining does not take anything away from the original creations.  I think, on the whole, the makers of “Riverdale” have got this right.

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Where they have certainly got it right is in the difficult to cast lead character.  Archie Andrews (who in real terms must be knocking on 90) is played beautifully by 20 year old New Zealand actor K J Apa.  It must have been a brave bit of casting to choose to play one of the ultimate All-American boys a Kiwi whose father is a Samoan chief, but he looks the part and he has become the part.  I’m totally convinced by his performance.

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The series is narrated by Archie’s pal, Jughead, who is more intense and less goofy than we would remember from the comics and he brings in the air of darkness which permeates the series and which works very well, making it something more than just another set of teens doing their thing.  This curiously named character was there in the very first 1941 strip and has always been a little bit of an outsider.  They’ve taken away the food obsession which fuelled the animated character and have developed a dysfunctional family background for him.  The character and performance has developed throughout the series. He is played by one half of child acting twins Cole Mitchell Sprouse, who with his brother was one of the wealthiest children alive in 2007, from franchised products and TV shows.  Thankfully, we were largely spared the Sprouse Twins in the UK.  It is interesting casting which makes his portrayal of the intense, disadvantaged teen even stronger.

At the heart of the comic’s success is the eternal (70 years and counting anyway) love triangle between Archie and the two girls he cannot choose between, Betty and Veronica.

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I’ve always been a Veronica man myself, with her bitchy edge compared to the sugar-sweetness of wholesome Betty.  The real-life portrayals are less stereotypical and more rounded and in “Riverdale” it may be Betty who has the edge.  (Incidentally,  in 2009 the publishers launched two story lines of a post High-School Archie, in one “Archie Marries Betty” in the other “Archie Marries Veronica” showing that really that lack of decision which has been going on for so many years is entrenched).

Also featured in the cast are Archie spin-offs Josie & The Pussycats (who we did have as a cartoon in the UK in the 70’s– great theme tune, as well as a fairly awful 2001 movie).  These have been part of Archie’s gang since 1962 and featured Valerie, the first non-stereotypical African-American regular in a cartoon series. The Riverdale version takes this further by recreating the Pussycats as an R&B trio.

The Archie comics also pushed boundaries by having the first out-gay teenage character with Kevin Keller -an important step.  Kevin looks somewhat different in his TV version- but I am glad they have included the character.  In fact actor Casey Cott is a closer match for the traditional representation of another member of Archie’s gang, Reggie, who is somewhat sidelined in the first season of the TV adaptation.  Having Kevin as an accepted character whose sexuality is not an issue either with his friends, family or Riverdale marks a significant movement in TV’s representation of gay characters.

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Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, masquerading as Reggie?

There has been some drastic reimaging in some of the minor characters.  Take a look at Archie’s teacher Miss Grundy who at the start of Riverdale Archie is conducting some extra-curricular romance with……

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And the TV adaptation version……..

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Fits the plot better, I suppose………..

The older generation characters are interesting in that some are played by actors who a decade or two before were themselves teen heart-throbs, notably Beverly Hills 90210 dreamboat Luke Perry who now plays Archie’s Dad, Brat-packer and ex-number 1 VH1 Teen Star Molly Ringwald who plays Archie’s Mum, Twin Peaks star Madchen Amick as Betty’s Mum and teen horror classic “Scream” star Skeet Ulrich as Jughead’s Dad.  This gives the show an interesting dimension and lifts it further above run-of-the mill teen fare.

Does this programme really want to make me feel old ? Presenting the parents of Riverdale

It is the darker edge that lays underneath the comic book sunniness of Riverdale which is the most potent aspect of the series.  A couple of episodes in the first series forgot this and veered towards teen soap, but it got back on track and the later episodes were very satisfying .  I have one more episode to watch and ends seemed to be quite nicely  tied up by episode twelve, which might suggest a slightly new direction for the remaining episode as a prelude to the new series.  All in all I think this has been a bold television venture which no way detracted from the source material (as so many re-imaginings do) .  The Archie heritage is preserved by the TV show being developed by the company’s chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and along with the other shows I mentioned more than justifies my monthly Netflix subscription.

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Season 1 of Riverdale can be found on Netflix in the UK.  Season 2 is due in October

The To Be Watched List – A What I Will Be Watching Review

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This week I was geared up to review the opening episode of Series 7 of “Game Of Thrones” which exploded onto Sky Atlantic.  It’s been plugged for what feels like months on Sky and was such a big event that even people who have never watched Sky must have been aware of its return.  I have watched every episode, but saw the review writing as a challenge as there’s so many plot-lines and characters that I take (most) of it in while I’m watching but tend to forget quite a lot soon afterwards.  Visually, it’s stunning and like no other television series ever made and I do always enjoy it, but I’m not a super-fan who knows every little detail and my review could end up just upsetting the super-fans if I get things wrong.

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I prepared myself for this by watching “Game Of Thrones- The Story So Far” on Sky Atlantic, a 90 minute re-cap narrated by Sue Perkins and whilst there were a few things I’d forgotten I actually surprised myself by recalling much of what had gone on.  It’s the unpredictability of the series which can throw you off-kilter.  Seemingly minor characters become important, major characters get killed off, and plot lines develop from all directions which demands attentive viewing.  I felt I was ready to give you my verdict on the opening episode and sat down to watch.

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But I fell asleep.  This had nothing to do with the episode (although it was one of the slightly too dark to totally make out what was going on scenes which did it).  It’s been a busy week at work and although I know Arya got some splendid revenge for the massacre of much of her family, that Ed Sheeran sang a song and Daenerys sailed into somewhere I’m not totally sure where.  I’m going to have to re-watch but as it’s not going to fit in with review deadlines I’ll have to hang my head in shame and feel like an old man.  I know I’m  probably not too far away from being my Dad who used to wake up from armchair TV slumbers after the channel had been changed and we were watching something else, him thinking it was the same programme with increasingly bewilderment as to what had been going on.

It’s actually the second time this week this has happened.  The night before I had rented overnight from the library “Hidden Figures” which I’d really been looking forward to seeing ever since I saw a trailer when I went to see “La La Land”.  Starring Taraji P Henson, who I adore in “Empire”, this based on a true story tale of three African-American women working in the early 60’s at NASA at the Langley base in Hampton Virginia seemed right up my street and I was really enjoying it until Taraji’s math genius character, Katherine Johnson, began writing long sums on a blackboard and it was if I was back in double Maths and, like the perfect sedative that used to be, I fell asleep.

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Which is why I’ve decided to use what’s recorded on my Sky Planner as my To Be Watched list (not to be confused with my To Be Read List- which is massive) to take a look at what I should  be watching over the coming weeks, should I stay awake long enough.

There’s the last episode of ITV’s “The Loch”, which began really well and I was delighted to see Siobhan Finneran in a leading role.  I had high hopes of this as another “Broadchurch” turning the Loch Ness area into a must-see for television watchers in the West Bay location boosted tourism for “Broadchurch” voyeurs.  It looked just as stunning, but the series for me didn’t sustain it’s very good opening couple of episodes.  It’s still good but not the must-see tv event I had initially anticipated.

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There’s three US series shown on Sky that have episodes stacked up on series link.  I’ve nearly worked my way through Series 5 of “Elementary”.  This feels like a good old fashioned detective series, it’s wobbled slightly over the years but its back as strong as it ever was.  Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Watson in modern day New York are a great combination.  I know I’m in a tiny minority here, but I prefer Miller’s Sherlock to Benedict Cumberbatch’s.  There I’ve said it………. “Quantico” is midway through its second series on the planner.  I didn’t watch all the first but rejoined it for the second because Russell Tovey was joining the cast.  It’s all over the place, seemed to change tack drastically a few episodes ago and it’s really only Tovey (who’s very good in it) and the very attractive cast which is headed by ex Miss World Priyanka Chopra that’s keeping me tuning in as I really don’t know what’s going on.  I also have ten (gulp!) episodes of the re-booted “Hawaii 5-0” to watch.  This is probably past its prime now, it has always has the odd duff episode but there are now fewer quality episodes to make up for that.  The news that the leading Hawaiian actors have decided to leave over pay inequality does not bode well for the future.

When I’ve got a good few hours to spare I may also catch up on the Channel 4 school based drama “Ackley Bridge”.  Watched the first episode, liked the cast more than anything else but haven’t got round to catching up with the rest of the series.  It features Paul Nicholls who has had his own personal drama this week after being trapped under a waterfall for three days with a broken leg in a Thai jungle- a real life story more dramatic and chilling than anything he’s appeared in on TV.  It sounds like a long road to recovery for him.  Those of us that have enjoyed his performances in “Eastenders”, “Clapham Junction”, “Canterbury Tales”, “Goodbye Charlie Bright”, the very under-rated “A Thing Called Love” and even as  a posh doctor with Suranne Jones in the weirdly casted “Harley Street” wish him a speedy return to good health.

Paul Nicholls in “Ackely Bridge” and being rescued in Thailand

There’s another poignant presence on my Sky Planner.  We heard this week that Britain’s Got Talent winner Pudsey has died leaving owner Ashleigh Butler and his legion of fans heartbroken.  I’ve got his full length movie appearance in “Pudsey The Dog- The Movie (2014) which was shown on TV a few weeks ago to watch.  I know reviews were atrocious and that’s there probably as much CGI as real dog.  I’ve got to be home alone to watch it- the other half drawing a line over this one but I’m hoping it will be a tribute to this extraordinary dog who just seemed to love to perform.  I might need to wait a few weeks to watch it though to avoid sniffling through it.

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Ashleigh and Pudsey – a true showbiz trouper

 

The Real Full Monty (ITV 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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It’s been 20 years since film-goers were captivated by a depiction of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who became a male strip troupe to the sounds of Hot Chocolate, Tom Jones and Donna Summer.  “The Full Monty” was a massive hit and even had Prince Charles alarmingly joining in on the action.  The film had much to say about men, about what unemployment does to a community, about thinking outside of the box, about friendship and featured a group of men discussing issues and coming to terms with things that Sheffield steel workers might find difficult.

The popularity of the film even had royals joining in (I’ve spared you the video of this!)

One of the things us men still feel difficult to talk about is prostate and testicular cancer.  This one-off documentary showed an attempt at linking a celebration of the film’s China anniversary with raising awareness.

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The man at the centre of this was “Pointless” host and possessor of a surprising yet profitable singing voice, Alexander Armstrong.  He enlisted the help of Dance legends Diversity’s inspiration Ashley Banjo to put together a routine for a group of male celebrities who were expected to eventually bare all in front of a packed crowd at the London Palladium.  Male celebrities willing to do this were a bit harder to find, 600 were apparently asked and of those who agreed some had been directly affected by prostate cancer themselves, Wayne Sleep, Dom Littlewood who had endured cancer diagnoses and Elliot Wright, brother of the more famous Essex boy Mark, whose father was about to undergo radiotherapy for the condition.  They were joined by a couple of ex-Strictly alumni, McFly’s Harry Judd and swimmer Mark Foster and also Stuart Wolfenden from “Emmerdale”.  A representative from the Afro-Caribbean community was welcomed in Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules, who also had dancing experience.  This was a particularly appropriate move as we found out in the programme that those from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to be affected by prostate cancer.  A visit to a garage mechanic who was working hard to promote awareness provided sobering moments.

From rehearsal to performance

ITV produced a good documentary here .  It certainly had the potential to be cheap and cheesy.  The process followed by Ashley Banjo to teach the dance would have been familiar to those of us who have watched his various Sky 1 series.  I always made a point of watching these because of the sheer passion for dance from the Diversity crew and how this infectiousness spread during the course of every episode towards group of often inactive workmates keen to astound loved ones with a professional standard street dance routine.  But here on ITV there were other issues to contend with, mainly getting naked in front of a packed London theatre.

The first unveiling down to underwear saw two surprising objectors (Sleep and Wolfenden) and added tension came along the way when Danny John-Jules had to pull out over work commitments and Ashley (whose body, let’s face it, is highly impressive) had to wrestle with his conscience to see if he could bring himself to bare all alongside the other celebrities.  Along the way there was a visit to Sheffield to see landmarks from the film and a trip to meet the stage cast of “Calendar Girls” who are also stripping off for our entertainment.  The message that ran through was that men should be checking for lumps and getting tested for the often symptomless early stages of prostate cancer.  To do this in what was actually a fairly family-friendly show in which there was a chance to see celebrities get naked (!) was really quite a canny idea.  Okay, so it was not especially original but it did have an original slant, it was well-paced over its 90 minute length and it was heart-warming.  Overall, it recalled audience responses of 20 years ago when we willed on those original Sheffield steel-workers in the movie.  I found myself doing the same for this equally unlikely group of strippers.

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I did feel, however, that at the end of the programme the ITV announcer could have been a bit more pro-active at pointing viewers in the right direction to get help rather than just talking about up and coming shows.

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The Real Full Monty was shown on Thursday 15th June at 8.30 pm on ITV.  It is currently available on ITV catch-up services.

More information on the issues raised by this programme can be found on:

Yourprivates.co.uk

Macmillan info on Prostate Cancer