‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 7 & 8

This is a full review of episodes 7 and 8 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Episode seven opens with the fairytale of Gutti the goat boy, his personal tragedy and how he gets trapped in a lost future. If it’s meant to evoke any sympathy or understanding in steely Halla it falls flat. “Gutti was an idiot” she says. There’s more myths and legends butting up against the everyday in these episodes as the villagers start to feel they’re cursed.

The man competing for unluckiest villager is Vikingur, stood awaiting his fate against a very suitable blood-red backdrop locked in a room in the plant to keep him safe from the angry mob. His white shirt is splattered in blood, the backdrop is a once-white sheet covered in red spray paint. Pawel was hit in the head with a nasty-looking pointed hammer and Vikingur looks extremely guilty. Pawel the Pole was running jobs with various foreign workers at the plant. Was he a mini mob boss? If so, I bet he had plenty of enemies.

Stefan, the clean-cut pal of Vikingur, rescues Ebo from yet another mob and puts him up with Hjortor and his girlfriend Soffia. Stefan can’t help but look guilty to seasoned fans of the genre – he’s so clean-cut he must be hiding something. Ebo speaks to the police to provide some context for Vikingur’s rage at Pawel and the homophobes they worked with. Lovely Asgeir’s English is beautifully spoken in this scene; he’s so kind to this terrified man.

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‘The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell’ – Netflix

Sometimes TV shows come along and they’re more than one blogger can handle. Welcome to this original collaborative effort between yours truly at Dead Pixel Test and Birmingham food blogger extraordinaire Laura who writes over at Full to the Brum. Your usual Dead Pixel Test fare is above, seasoned with Laura’s unique take on this singular show, and her thoughts in full on each episode is your delicious dessert buffet below.

In the week where TV fans are lamenting the silencing of an animatronic cat, I might have just the thing to cheer you up. The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is a strange box of delights, released on Netflix in the build-up to Halloween, which is of course goth Christmas.

This out-there show is based around wholesome pastimes of baking, crafting and sewing but Christine specialises in some shocking creations. And she sets out her stall early. The first thing we see is Christine painting what seems to be an actual human skull and then absentmindedly biting off a spiders leg. Our host is a totally glamorous 1950s housewife with a sort of romantic Snow White look about her. Her set is a gorgeous pastel coloured kitchen with gothic hints in the spiderweb patterned kitchen cabinets. It’s as if the Stepford Wives weren’t obliging robots at all but had their own secret coven.

Odd enough right? Well, lets meet her team. Christine’s rag-tag adopted family are all incredible puppets made by the Jim Henson Company. The stand-out star here is resurrected roadkill Rose who leaks partially digested food out of her seams. Not letting a little thing like that hold her back she’s a insatiably horny murderous scene-stealer, with hobbies including eating herself into a diabetic coma, torturing neighbours and humping gnomes. Rankle is the sarcastic talking mummified cat from ancient Egypt (a descendant or ancient ancestor of Salem, depending on how you see it) who still expects to be worshiped. Big cuddly Edgar looks to be part Bigfoot, part werewolf, there’s a giant one-eyed fuzz ball in the basement and huge but useful tentacles that live in the fridge. The creatures, especially Rose and Rankle, definitely get the best lines. These Henson creations are certainly not kid-friendly and the show would be hideously saccharine without them.

For a program ostensibly about baking, it’s astounding that zero cakes actually get made. It’s like joining an episode of the Great Transylvanian Bake Off mid-way through a showstopper challenge when the dull and messy jobs are done. Christine’s specialities are sculpting, painting, and decorating with enviable precision. Everything she produces is extremely obsessively beautiful, everything is a masterpiece. Piped royal icing teeth and claws seem to be her trademark, which looks like the fiddliest job ever. If Marilyn Mason ever gets married again he knows who to get in to do the buffet.

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Christmas Telly Round-Up 2017

To be quite honest with you, the bumper Christmas Radio Times (opened gleefully way ahead of time in our house) did not fill me with joy this year. The week in which about 90% of Britain downs tools, puts on their pyjamas and watch tv all-day every-day while eating Quality Streets and drinking prosecco (a healthy balanced breakfast) usually has an abundance of great telly. Was it just me thinking it was all a bit harder to find this year? Anyway, this is my little list of tv that caught my attention over the Christmas holidays.

Click through below for seven telly offerings, some which were more coal in the stocking than a sable under the tree…

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Where is the bear?

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Channel 4)

Michael Rosen’s picture book has very little in the way of peril. While being no expert on children’s books, I have read this recently to friends’ kids. The family bereavement subplot seemed to have been slotted in to pad out an extremely short story into 30 minutes of television, and to give that little bit of Christmas pathos that we seem to expect from everything in December, especially adverts. Who would have thought that after being totally traumatised last year (at the age of 33) by Cormac McCarthy’s Stick Man (turns out his nom de plume for kid’s books is Julia Donaldson), that I’d be wistful for a seasonal cartoon with a real adventure in it.

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Stephanie and Christina from Gogglesprogs

Gogglesprogs (Channel 4)

Cult telly, now mega-hit format Gogglebox (viewers talking about telly, on the telly, to you the viewers) is by turns charming and irritating, depending largely on whether you like the particular family passing comment and whether they agree with you. However, the mini-people version Gogglesprogs is always a treat and it was lovely to check in with these favourite nieces and nephews this year. My, how they’ve grown. Mr H and I had bets on who was going to cry (always Christina, always Molly). We did not expect it to be serious and sensible Ashton, crying at the complicated emotions and longing for lost childhood thrown up by Toy Story 3. He’s no older than 11 and already he’s so grown up. Old before his time and very wise. What a guy.

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Long to reign over us

The Windsors (Channel 4)

People either loved or hated the first series of this exceptionally silly royal satire, which was on Channel 4 in April 2016. I’m guessing there’s a big intersection in the Venn diagram labeled “extremely silly” and “Daily Mail reader”. Surprised there’s not an e-petition for them to be charged with treason and locked in the Tower. But then Netflix had to go and make The Crown, which is almost exactly the same – writers making up behind-the-scenes stories and motivations for our most recognisable and unknowable dysfunctional family. Ok, so in The Windsors Kate is a proud tyre-selling gypsy, Camilla is a scheming bitch desperate to be Queen and brash Fergie and her awful sloany daughters have to stay in the stables at Christmas because Charles won’t let them in the house. None of these are plots on The Crown, yet. Yes it’s vicious Spitting Image style satire, but it’s funny because it’s all quite likely in our collective imagination.

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Big bad sad wolf

Revolting Rhymes (BBC1)

It’s unusual to have a cartoon version of Roald Dahl’s characters without much of a nod to Quentin Blake. This two-part special had was soft and warm where Blake’s illustrations are scratchy and angular. But style and content couldn’t have been more dissimilar. This mixed-up series of fairy tales is rather slow and ponderous to start with but the end of the first episode really ramps up the revolting elements. It’s almost too unsettling for children and certainly freaked me out. Who walks around in a coat made from the skin of her enemies? Little Red Riding Hood, of course. Strange as someone who is still nervous around wolves, thanks to their terrifying presence in all the best children’s books, this made me feel quite a lot of sympathy for the Big Bad Wolf. Dominic West’s vocal talents made him angry, vicious and vulnerable. Probably felt quite at home among these sadistic killers.

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Saiful Islam is this year’s RI presenter

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (BBC4)

It’s a good thing that the lectures are only an annual event. Sadly they’re never as interesting as you remember and always quite a chore to watch. What with it being an actual televised scientific lecture from the Royal Institute in London there are too many moving parts and moving experiments on and off stage interrupt the flow. Usually at least you get to see kids taking part in exciting experiments but episode 1 was all about generating alternative sources of electricity so all Saiful Islam could really do was send a series of children around the building to read numbers off of various screens. And it was all a bit depressing really as the target remained firmly out of reach. It made renewable energy seem difficult and a bit pointless; hardly their intention. I think most people watch the lectures halfway through a chocolate orange and a game of Monopoly, hoping for some science knowledge to be stirred by osmosis. This is a shame as BBC science tv can do so much better.

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Cunk asks the hard questions about Christmas

Cunk on Christmas (BBC2)

Diane Morgan’s brilliant comedy creation makes a welcome return after the amazing Cunk on Shakespeare shown in May. Her investigations are always nonsense, always with an element of truth. It’s deft comedy dressed up as daft documentary. I’d worried now that she’s a big hit she might not have much of a shelf life, like Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G but she continues to baffle historians and other boffins who surely know she’s a comedian playing the interviews for hugely awkward laughs. Cunk’s musings are so ridiculous and the documentary style is so beautifully done that you can’t see the joins. She’s an absolute wonder and might even have more staying power than Charlie Brooker’s Wipe series, who elicited more sympathy than laughs in his annual review of the news. Who’d be a political satirist in 2016?

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Sue Perkins’ new chums, and not a cake in sight

Insert Name Here (BBC2)

Sue Perkins has a new job guys! We don’t need to worry that she’ll struggle to make ends meet in 2017 without cakes. This comedy panel show actually had its first full series in 2016 but was a bit hidden away in the schedules. There’s nothing revolutionary or even very exciting about the format (questions on famous people who all share a first name). Honestly, despite being a big fan of Sue Perkins, I didn’t have high hopes but it seemed to find its niche rather well. The host and team captains – Richard Osman (the clever one) and Josh Widdicombe (the naughty one) – seemed to gel after the first couple of episodes. I also liked how BBC historians including Kate Williams and Ruth Goodman got to appear very knowledgable and let their hair down a bit. Hopefully this Christmas outing means some more viewers for the second series due this month.

All the shows above are available either on BBC iPlayer or All4 for you to catch up while you finish up the chocolate and cheese and pretend you don’t have to go back to work/ school this week.

‘The Great British Bake Off: Series 7’ – On the Box

“I have cried over cake. I have shouted at a pie” admit the contestants in the pre-credits introduction. I myself have sulked at a chocolate brownie (too runny, even after hours in the oven) and thrown a hissy fit about a millionaire’s shortbread (Mr H had to take over and do caramel batch number three. It was impossible!). If baked goods make you emotional too, you know you’re in the right place. GBBO, episode 1 of series 7. Strap in for high-octane oven based excitement!

It’s week number one of the contest and it’s cake week. Which should in no way be mistaken for a cake walk – it’s quite the opposite. Blue-eyed silver fox Paul Hollywood promises the judging will get harder. I’m not sure that’s actually possible. Every year I enjoy watching the optimistic people who try to hide their failures with extra icing sugar, another layer of ganache or hidden at the bottom of the stack. Don’t they realise by now that Mary Berry has laser-guided vision for anything overbaked, underbaked or a bit shitty looking?

Almost like the producers read the internet too, Mel and Sue dive straight in and say the unsayable word ‘moist’. By itself it does sound sticky, sexual and faintly smelly. But in terms of sponge cake, it’s absolutely key.

Back to basics, says Paul. Good, says I. I’m sick of people using ingredients you can only track down on the Dark Web and have to purchase in bulk with a stash of little blue pills to make it look more harmless. And yes to creativity but enough with creating concoctions that seem like a mixologist’s fever dream. Shame then that the back to basics proclamation lasted for just about one task.

The Great British Bake Off

Surprisingly the technical challenge was jaffa cakes. What? I thought that was a brand name. To be fair, I’m no expert because they are revolting. I’m hoping next week it’s Tunnock’s Tea Cakes – giant dancing ones like at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The ‘show-stopper challenge’, which is a term that gets slightly more annoying each time you hear it, was mirror cake. WTF? This is week one people! It’s meant to be relatively easy – for the contestants to put them at their ease in one of the strangest kitchens in the world, covered from bunting to tent flap with cameras and microphones. And it’s meant to be a nice gentle welcome back to the returning audience, inspiring us to get back in the kitchen and cover every surface with flour, not trying to put us off with such complicated creations. The only nod to the beginners was that so many contestants restarted their Genoise sponge cake I was surprised everyone managed to finish in time. Maybe they had to give them all an extra half an hour?

So, the guy with the dryest, saddest-looking cake lost and was booted out of the tent. Lee, we hardly knew you.But Jane, who won the ‘star baker’ accolade shouldn’t rest on her laurels. After watching all the previous series my advice is to aim for fourth or fifth place for most of the challenges until the last few weeks. Don’t set the judges expectations too high, but do solid work. Mid-table results until you’re in the final 6 and then you can show off what you’ve learnt from the judges and your fellow contestants. everyone loves a contestant who has ‘been on a journey’. Goosbery fool-proof!

Episode one of GBBO is now available on iPlayer

 

Couch Potato Digest – wolves and cake in spaaaaace!

Good news and bad news this week in telly land. We’ll get straight to it and to soften the blow we have cake!

  • To save us from feeling too miserable now the stunningly successful Rio Olympics has finished I’m happy to report that The Great British Bake Off is back this Wednesday 24 August at 8pm on BBC1.  Love it or loath it.. no hang on, I know it’s formulaic game show tv produced by the same company who made the Daily Mail clickbait Benefits Street, but it’s the only one in that whole vast landscape of competitive human misery (ours) and self-delusion (the contestants) that actually works. No one is mean or manipulative, the judge’s criticisms are genuinely constructive and it is positively joyful.If you loath it, then you need to check yourself. I’m sorry for you.
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GBBO – Just seeing the logo is like a big delicious sigh of relief

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First Birthday!

It’s my birthday! I’m not 100% sure (and WordPress makes it hard to find out) but I’m going to record this day 17th August as the official Dead Pixel Test first birthday. I know I’m close because it was last summer I started to see articles about how there’s too much high quality tv to try to keep up with. I’d been feeling that way for a while and it was heartening to hear other telly fans and industry people say it too. That, and a nagging desire to write more, was the drive to start the blog.

To be honest we shouldn’t complain. You don’t have to go to the cinema to see beautiful complicated drama any more, or the newest comedy sensation. You can stay in with your slippers on. TV isn’t just silly game shows and amusingly shaped vegetables any more. Too many good things is a bit ‘first world problems’, I know, but you want to give your precious leisure time to something worthwhile. Literally worthy of your attention and devotion. And I like to think that over the course of the year I’ve helped bring a little more attention to great television (Murder in Successville, Chewing Gum, Billions) and show that even if everyone is talking about it, it still might be a total stinker which you should do your utmost to avoid (Marcella, Gamechangers, A Gert Lush Christmas).

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