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.

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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.

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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.

Alexander Armstrong & Ashley Banjo

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

Count Arthur Strong (BBC1 2017) & Count Arthur Strong- The Sound Of Mucus (Nationwide Tour) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

 

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This week at my local theatre in Shanklin on the Isle Of Wight I had the great pleasure to see live for the very first time Count Arthur Strong who brought his three man show “The Sound Of Mucus” over to the island.

Despite three series of his half-hour comedy shows on BBC television there were still a number of people who were asking locally “Who is Count Arthur Strong?”  It does seem that this comic creation by Steve Delaney whose inspiration stems from some of the comedy greats of the past is still under-rated.

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For the uninitiated the Count began his broadcasting life with in 2005 with “Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show!” which first brought to attention the  everyday life of this bewildered ex-Variety star.  The TV series is written by Steve Delaney with Graham Lineham and has been nominated for both Comedy Awards and for Best Sitcom at the BAFTAs.  The third series is currently on BBC1 on Friday evenings at 8.30pm.  This is an earlier transmission time which should bring in a younger audience as the Count is perfect Friday night family entertainment.  So far two episodes of Series 3 have been shown. This week’s gave way to Question Time but should be back with us when the General Election has been and gone.

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Predicting the election result?

The first episode of Series 3 saw Arthur roped into carrying out an exorcism and it was amusing but not classic Arthur.  I laughed more at the second episode where Michael (Rory Kinnear) ,whose association with Arthur began whilst researching a biography on Michael’s father (and Arthur’s ex-comedy partner) and who has been stuck with him ever since, was called for jury service and Arthur and odd-ball pals from the local cafe went along to support him.  There have been quite a few classic comedy moments in the previous two series.  Anyone wanting to dip into the world of the Count might want to seek out “The Radio Play” and “Arthur’s Big Moment” from the first series.  In “The Radio Play”, Arthur believes his acting career is due for a revival when he gets a small part in a radio play and “Arthur’s Big Moment” sees him, in a hilariously surreal sequence performing his variety act for a captive audience.  From Series 2 I won’t forget in a hurry “The Days The Clock Went Back” which builds misunderstanding upon misunderstanding and sees Arthur mistaken for a flying instructor in a sequence worthy of the best of “Some Mother’s Do Ave Em”.  Also seek out “Still Life” where Arthur attempts a new career as a living statue – all these have had me laughing until it hurts and so was delighted when he was making a stage appearance just down the road.

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Count Arthur with Michael (Rory Kinnear)

Something I heard somebody say as we left the theatre was “I don’t know why it’s funny, it just is” and that’s actually the joy of Count Arthur Strong.  I think it’s very British humour and seems to be in direct descendant to comedians of the past such as Harry Worth (where there are physical similarities in the hat and coat and from what I remember of Harry through misunderstandings), Hylda Baker (in malapropisms and bungled sentences), a touch of Frank Spencer (in ineptness to function), Tommy Cooper (in his ability to get laughs just standing on stage) and in his pompousness there’s even a touch of  both Captain Mainwaring and  Hyacinth Bouquets  There’s also in its joyful humour and playing with words a childishness which evokes memories of the golden age of children’s television and those people that you either dimly remember or were told about such as Mr Pastry, “Crackerjack” and Peter Glaze, Jimmy Edwards and the humour of “Rentaghost” yet it is more than a nostalgic nod to comedy pasts as it seems rooted in real people.  Like the best of comedy writing and despite its surrealness and occasional flight of fancy it seems authentic  and based upon real  (admittedly eccentric) people.

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Harry Worth most remembered for his shop window routine

Steve Delaney is 63 years old and has been playing this lovable bumbling character for over thirty years from when he was a drama student, down from Leeds and studying at The Central School of Speech and Drama.  The Count was resurrected in the late 90’s where he became part of Delaney’s club act, got the radio show and became a success at Edinburgh Festivals.   It’s been a long process, rather like the whole Mrs Brown phenomenon, another perfect case where I find myself laughing without really knowing what’s funny.

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His stage show “The Sound Of Mucus” is Arthur’s attempt to bring to life that Rogers and Hammerstein musical classic only someone has made a mistake at the printers.  Julie Andrews is suddenly not available to take the stage with Arthur so we have to wait for his friend Renee to arrive on the coach and to do her shopping from Lidl.  It co-stars Dave Plimmer (Eggy from the TV series but here playing stage-hand Uncle Alan) & Terry Kilkelly, as the Count’s PA, Malcolm.  As the show progresses Arthur has a few snifters of his special “Scottish Lucozade” which both loosens and restricts, especially when he has to come to grips with his Sulky Monkey ventriloquist puppet when he aims to re-enact “The Hound Of The Baskervilles”.  The script is both clever and funny and yet I laughed just as much at the moments away from the script, at moments of stillness, even a bench being dragged along the stage..  So did the rest of the audience.  The Count is still a bit of a cult figure and there’s always a danger of the audience not really getting it but he had them eating out of the palm of his hand from the moment he walked on stage.  The response was warm throughout especially when Arthur turned his hand at singing (his version of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” was a treat) and when we eventually got to the songs from the “Sound Of Mucus”, “16 Going on 17” had me almost breathless with laughter.

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Steve Delaney taking time off from the Count

The show has quite a few more dates to run over the summer including Plymouth, Weston-Super-Mare, Crawley, Oxford, Derby, Weymouth, Bristol, Margate, Nottingham and finishing off at the Liverpool Empire.  For Tour Dates see http://www.countarthurstrong.com/events/.     If you are an Arthur novice I would suggest watching a few of his clips on “YouTube” to see if this quirky humour is for you.  I certainly had a highly enjoyable evening in his company.

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for both TV and stage show

 

The third series of “Count Arthur Strong” is being shown on Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC1.  Previous episodes are available on the BBC I-Player.  The DVD of Series 3 is released on 17 July.  The first two series are available on DVD.

Babs (BBC1 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Extra

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I’m deviating from my usual timetable of reviews to sneak in this extra one-off programme which aired this Sunday on BBC1.  On paper this was a dream for me.  From a small child I’ve loved Dame Barbara Windsor.  One of my greatest childhood treats would be to watch a “Carry On” film even when I was only getting a small proportion of the jokes.  Even now, if I’m feeling a bit off colour an hour and a half spent in the company of Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims and Dame Babs herself is always a worthwhile remedy.  (By the way, before you ask, “Camping” is my favourite with its so memorable Babs bikini-busting scene- perhaps one of the most iconic moments in British film!).

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Carry On Camping – Look out for the string!

There wasn’t a great deal of “Carry On” in Babs, just the much anecdoted first meeting with “difficult” Kenneth Williams on “Spying” which forged a life-long friendship and a fleeting nod towards “Doctor”.  Sid James, an important person in Babs’ life was just a laugh in the background (it can’t be easy to cast an actor to play Sid James).  This 90 minute production focused on Windsor’s pre-Carry On days.  The whole Sid James thing having been covered before in the excellent, revelatory stage play “Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle And Dick” which was adapted for television as “Cor Blimey!” (2000).

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Cor Blimey! It’s Babs!

This was quite a theatrical piece written by top television writer and ex-Eastenders head man Tony Jordan and focused very much on ghosts.  Using a pre-Peggy Mitchell Babs, sleeping on pier-end dressing room floors between shows as the central character she reflected on and observed various Babs’ and her past, most prominently the relationship with her father.

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The narrative moved back and forwards chronologically.  It was a fascinating structure but it did slow things down considerably and that is why it will not, despite its appealing subject matter, be getting the full five stars.                                                                                              . londonspyspiro

Samantha Spiro – Born To Be Babs

Certainly it was five star in terms of performance.  Samantha Spiro as the 90’s Babs was magnificent.  She’s been equally magnificent in the same role before.  Her performance in “Cor Blimey!” was so spot on that when the real Windsor takes over at the end it took a second or two to register.  Every time I’ve seen Samantha Spiro since I think of that portrayal.  Likewise here, Dame Babs was on hand, playing herself with just the odd aside and comment as she observed some of her life’s proceedings and, grand old trouper that she is, getting our eyes moist with an in-the-spotlight rendition of “Sunny Side Of The Street”, very much a significant song for the Windsor career and used quite heavily throughout.  This moment could have been as cheesy as anything, but as was stressed in the early part of the proceedings Barbara always had a certain something and aged 79 she still has it.

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A pair of Babs’ –  Samantha Spiro and Jaime Winstone promoting the show

The Barbara of the Swinging Sixties was played very well by Jaime Winstone who’d got the giggle and the wiggle down to a tee, but was always strong in conveying a more vulnerable Babs behind the (formidable) front.  This section focused on her relationship with bad boy husband Ronnie Knight, a man who made those in her working life distinctly nervous and whose appeal to Babs never really got across here.  Barbara’s early theatrical career and the support given to her by Joan Littlewood at The Theatre Workshop (played by Zoe Wanamaker) was also very well handled.

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Perhaps the most affecting Babs ghost on display was the determined pre-teen, turning cartwheels in auditions much to her mother’s chagrin and having to give evidence against her beloved father in court proceedings.  Played by twelve year old Honor Kneafsey (so good in BBC1 Series “Our Zoo”) who painfully brought home each snub received by the man she idolised whilst taking on board that “the show must go on”

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The young Babs, happy with both parents

So, wonderful performances and a good feel of the time but really I think there’s a series load of material in the extremely readable Windsor autobiography “All Of Me” so Jordan had to be selective when putting this together.  If it had flowed a little better, I would have no compunction in awarding five stars as it is it was very memorable Sunday night viewing.

In checking the odd fact for this review a few minutes ago I’ve discovered that there has been what the Daily Mail likes to regard as a “ TV Storm” about this and that is was “Slammed by viewers”.  Not having seen any other reviews and not (thankfully) reading the Daily Mail I knew nothing of this whilst writing the above.  I’ve just taken a little look and it seems like the structure and flow which I aired reservations about caused people to find it unwatchable and not know what was going on, although with usual tabloid overstatement there seemed to be a considerable number of viewers and reviewers who praised the production.  So, a mixed reaction but it was great to see a true British National Treasure getting ninety minutes of primetime on a Sunday evening.

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Dame Barbara Windsor

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fourstars

“Babs” was shown on Sunday 7th May and is currently available on the BBC I-Player.  The DVD will be released on the 15th May

Jamestown – Sky 1 (2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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A big old ship sailed into Sky 1 on Friday night.  It was the launch of their big new eight part drama series with the much promoted tagline “By the makers of “Downton Abbey””.  I don’t watch a great deal on Sky 1.  Since football comedy “The Rovers” which I enjoyed it’s just the rebooted “Hawaii 5-0” that makes it into my planner, but I thought I would give this a go.

It’s 1619 and the men sent to colonise Virginia have been there for twelve years.  Now the ship is bringing them in women, known as “maids to make wives”.  With one exception, the men and women have never met, yet deals have been struck and they have already been paired off.  It’s a good premise.  It had the slight feel of the Jimmy McGovern penned  Australian-convicts- on- the beach BBC2 series “Banished” from last year, but this doesn’t star Russell Tovey and is probably going to be less edgy and grim.

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The Women Of Jamestown – Jocelyn, Verity and Alice

“Jamestown” seems as if it will focus on three of the betrothed women who have survived the journey to meet their men.  Alice (Sophie Rundle) thinks she has lucked out when she sees the man waiting for her, only to discover that it is the brother of the man and that she is really betrothed to a churlish Henry (Max Beesley) who wants a quick return on his investment and rapes her whilst she is out walking on the first night.  We can all tell that his brother Silas (Stuart Martin) is a much better bet.  Alice’s good friend Verity (Niamh Walsh) has a bit of trouble finding her man until she discovers he is the one with his ear nailed to the stocks for blasphemy (watch out Stephen Fry!).  Meredith (played by Dean Lennox-Kelly) is a drunk and is soon gambling using Verity as stake.  Perhaps the most interesting of the female characters is the one with the back-story, a woman who tells Alice before they dock that she had to leave England as a man had been killed and who has already met her beau, the company recorder, Samuel.  This is Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick) who in the first episode looks like she is being set up as the Alexis Carrington of the piece as she schemes and manipulates to get her own way and to ensure her survival and that the man she has been paired with will prosper in this new community.

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Jamestown itself was the first permanent English colony in America with its existence pre-dating the Pilgrim Fathers.  The programme makers have chosen to relocate this in Hungary as the series has been filmed near Budapest.  It is written and created by Bill Gallagher, who has previously worked on those comforting historical dramas “Lark Rise To Candleford” and “The Paradise”.  The first episode was directed by John Alexander, a man with historical pieces “Indian Summers” and “Sense And Sensibility” among his many television credits.

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Jamestown Colony

The most striking thing about the series was how lovely it looked.  Colours are quite vivid, making the sea (when calm) a vivid shade of blue. True, there is no doubt going to be a lot of mud, but this New World has a clearness and lushness which just might keep a few viewers along for the ride just to wallow in the scenery.  Also in the cast there are some good old reliables such as Burn Gorman (“Torchwood”/”The Hour”) Jason Flemyng (“Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels”/”Primeval”) and Shaun Dooley (“Broadchurch/”Cuffs”).  In this first episode they were all rather upstaged by the dim but devoted domestic help, Mercy (Patsy Ferran), who judging by her non-appearance on the IMDB cast list might not play much of a future role in the series.  (Surely IMDB cannot make a mistake?) If this is so, then this is a shame because it was played with the making-the-most-of-a-minor domestic role which spans way back to Ruby from the original “Upstairs Downstairs” and includes Daisy from “Downton Abbey” (By the makers of Jamestown).  I couldn’t help but wonder, as Mercy was already there when the boatload of women arrived why she wasn’t the most popular girl in the town and already shacked up with one of the better looking men.  But then, that’s seventeenth century class differences, I suppose.

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The jury is still out if I’m going to last the distance with “Jamestown”.  I’ve already got one historical drama on the go, the cup-runneth-over “Harlots”, which is a mass of tightly contained heaving bosoms in a series which is actually beginning to win me over with its tale of eighteenth century London rival brothels, shunted for some reason onto ITV Encore ( a channel I don’t think I’ve ever watched before). To keep the Downton connection going to the very end this features the ill-fated Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) as the highly-esteemed Charlotte the harlot, currently making out with a much more downmarket Irishman than the chauffeur she elevated from downstairs in “Downton”.  All in all, I’ve decided I’m going to be paying a visit to Jamestown for the next episode at least.  There’s plenty of dramatic potential in the characters and the scenery is gorgeous.  Whether the makers have another Downton on their hands I’m less convinced.

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Jamestown is on Friday nights at 9pm on Sky 1.  The first episode is available to watch on Sky catch-up platforms.

Peter Kay’s Car Share – BBC1 (2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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The success of the first series of Peter Kay’s Car Share certainly took the  name-checked star and director by surprise.  It was a much lower-key  piece than we had come to expect from this larger-than-life stand-up.  It was subtle and character-led.  I was talking to a friend about it today who said they watched just one episode and it was like watching paint dry and in a way I know what she meant.  I think expectations were high for another series like “Phoenix Nights” which could make you laugh until your sides ache or something which reflected his live shows with not enough recovery times between jokes.  A series largely composed of two people sat in the car on the way to work needed time to work its magic.  But for those of us who stuck with it, the charm of the piece hit home.  It was almost a case of letting the jokes find you.  There were the big laugh moments but for much of the time this viewer would have little more than a wry smile.  Series 1 won the BAFTA award for Best Comedy and a viewer voted National TV Award.  This was a great surprise to Kay but not, perhaps for the majority of us who are now struggling to find TV comedy funny.  For the BAFTAs it was up against “Peep Show”, which I had given up with quite a few series back and “Chewing Gum” and “People Just Do Nothing”, two shows on smaller channels E4 and BBC3.  Kay’s uncommercial idea was the most commercial of the lot. The audience rating led National TV Award saw him a worthy winner against two comedy juggernauts, long past their prime “Benidorm” and “Birds Of A Feather” and “Not Going Out” of which I’ve seen only one episode.

Peter Kay speechless at the BAFTAs

For those who had stuck with Series 1 and its more leisurely pace Series 2 was an essential.  The relationship between characters John Redmond (Kay) and Kayleigh, his car share partner from the supermarket where they work (Sian Gibson) was simmering nicely.  The warmth generated by these long-time off screen friends was palpable and it was this rather than laugh out loud jokes which made it special.  Series 2 consists of four episodes and once again followed the now more common but radical idea of having all four episodes available on BBC I-Player as soon as episode 1 has been transmitted.  Last time round I watched each episode as they were shown on a weekly basis, not really understanding why anyone would do anything different.  At time of writing two episodes of Series 2 have been transmitted, but for the purpose of this review I have found myself downloading and watching the other two.

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Checking reviewsrevues for a good review?

This series seems to be bookmarked at each end by two quieter episodes.  The first re-establishes the characters, carries on from Kayleigh giving John a copy of her all-time favourite album (Now 48) with a note to listen to a specific track (“Pure And Simple” by Hearsay).  According to news reports the reintroduction of Now 48 to Series 2 caused a huge demand for the 16 year old double compilation CD which led to appearing it on Amazon.co.uk’s Charts on the basis of its second-hand sales alone.  That demand is still continuing.  Now 47 and 49 are in plentiful supply for a penny, yet Now 49 will currently set you back £24.75.  I absolutely love that this has happened on the strength of its mention in a comedy show.

I bet that has got you going off to the CD shelves to see if you own this potential money-spinner.  (I’ve just checked Now 46 is the closest I’ve got).  I enjoyed this first episode with Kayleigh attempting to find her own way to work “I’m in court shoes, I’m not Zola Budd.”  Much of the humour came from the soundtrack of Forever FM and the character’s reactions to the ads and playlist (Eurovision runner-ups Bardo’s “One Step Further” being a little gem here).  The fourth episode has to deal further with the relationship between John and Kayleigh with some knockabout comedy when Kayleigh finds herself locked indoors and a nod towards “La La Land” for the resolution.  Once again there’s musical highspots in Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” and Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance”.  However, in both of these episodes I found myself wishing that there was just a little more to laugh at.

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Get it on E-Bay quick!

What lifted this series were Episodes 2 and 3 for different reasons.  Episode 2 (shown on BBC 1 last Tuesday) set the comedy up with John and Kayleigh on the way to a staff do fancy dress Chinese banquet but then handed the whole thing over to a new character, Elsie, who they give a lift home to dressed as a Smurf.  (“There’s no taxis, it’s the Ramadan”). Costume and make-up were so convincing that I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t Peter doing one of his double roles, which had fooled many people in “Phoenix Nights” days when he played Brian Potter and the bouncer Max.  It turns out that this comedy-tour-de-force was Conleth Hill, best known for his role as Varys in “Game Of Thrones”.  Peter played second fiddle and the result was comedy gold.  But for bigger belly laughs Episode 3, which will be shown on BBC1 this week is a gem.  When John and Kayleigh decide to skive off work for a day it leads to a section which had me laughing like I haven’t done for a TV comedy in ages- a sequence where laugh is piled upon laugh which was certainly nothing like paint drying!

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Not Peter Kay but it could have been!

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Elsie – 2017’s great new comic character

This second series of four episodes has felt familiar and yet surprising.  I love Peter Kay when he is unsubtle (presenting Royal Variety Performance and in the magnificent TV talent show spoof “Britain’s Got The Pop Factor….”), I love his stand-up (made Guinness Book of Records for most successful of all time playing to 1.2 million people) I loved the whole set-up of “Phoenix Nights”, have enjoyed his three number 1 UK hit singles, but admittedly was not wild about his “Max and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere” series.  This revitalised attempt at a very British road trip, a car share journey to work, has seen him once again getting close to comedy gold.

fivestars(On the strength of Episodes 2 and 3)

The third episode of “Peter Kay’s Car Share” will be shown on Tuesday on BBC1 at 9pm.  The whole series (4 episodes) is currently available to view on the BBC I-Player.