‘Ghosts’ and ‘Back to Life’ – BBC

To quote a classic of modern literature “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” And boy is that true of the absolute shit-show that is Britain in 2019 (we officially lost the Great in 2016). At times like these the nation needs a joyful distraction, or just a way of putting our problems into relief with a a few jokes and this year we have been spoiled. Phoebe Waller-Bridge served up the last series of Fleabag and Ricky Gervais returned with After Life on Netflix, both contentious in their own way but both with devoted and vocal fan bases. Here’s a couple of new shows that I think we should also be talking about.

ghosts2
Things that go bump in the night

Ghosts is a long-awaited sitcom from the team who brought us Horrible Histories, and pleasingly it’s broadcast in a post-watershed slot, so while they don’t push it they have the rare opportunity to get away with more creative language and storytelling (Fanny is relating a tale of her husband’s proclivities “I caught him ‘pon the groundskeeper with the butler ‘pon him.” “It’s actually known as a Moroccan tea party”) Essentially it’s a flatshare sitcom with what looks to be a pretty enormous cast.

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‘Trapped: Series 2’ – Episodes 3 & 4

This is a full review of episodes 3 and 4 of Trapped so don’t read on unless you’re up to date.

Welcome to this week’s episodes of Trapped aka racist Lord of the Rings, well sort of.  The Hammer of Thor group are in the ascendency, racing around in the north embroiled in various criminal enterprises, large and small. The director must have heard my complaints about the first episodes; they’ve saved the greatest landscape shots for this week as we see Skuli evade the search team and murder a dog. Two dog deaths now in just 3 episodes. My top tip: never be a dog in a Scandi noir.

The Case

Incarcerated Torfi reveals a vague threat about “what happens today” which gives a real sense of pressure on the whole episode. Could the Hammer of Thor group have set a bomb at the location the Mayor will use to sign the controversial deal with American Aluminium? Could it be another attack on the plant? Rabble-rouser Ketill is delighted to be in front of the TV news cameras on his release from custody but desperate for his son to be found safe. On reflection Skuli’s white horse was a poor choice in a muddy green landscape. When Skuli is finally found he’s given up hiding as he is as sick as a dog (although not quite as sick as the one he stabbed previously). Could this be exposure as he’s been on the mountainside for days, or something more sinister. I immediately thought poison, but I’ve been conditioned by detective dramas. Aha! I was right, and we’ve seen him drinking from a stream. Is this the ecological disaster the angry farmers were predicting?

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‘Bandersnatch’ – Netflix

Are you the kind of person who always remembers to say thank you to Alexa? Are you careful in how you describe the great and benevolent Google when you’re within earshot of a Home Hub? Have you had a good long look at your Facebook privacy settings and do you actually understand what all that nonsense means? In which case you’re already familiar with the themes of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, a huge worldwide Netflix success (as far as we can tell with a company notoriously cagey about releasing their viewing figures) poached with extreme prejudice (and bucket-loads of cash) from Channel 4 back in 2015. Technology is a crutch for the human race, a wedge that drives us apart and the idealism of “do no evil” is an absurd fairy story. We’re being corrupted and driven to the point of madness by our own beloved, addictive creation.

Bandersnatch doesn’t make my life easy. This review is particularly hard to write. Usually I’d give brief outline of the story and then get into the nitty gritty. But everyone’s story here is slightly different, especially the multiple possible endings. So let’s cover the very basics and see where we go from there.

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Christmas Telly Round-Up 2018

It’s New Years Day and I’m feeling charitable so this blog is brought to you in a whisper, with a cold flannel (for your forehead) and a bacon sandwich (for your mouth… if you need instructions on how to eat a sandwich, maybe don’t get out of bed yet). Read my round-up of the best Christmas telly and figure out what you want to watch on catch-up to keep the festive feelings flowing, and I’ll pop to the shops for paracetamol. Alright?

Click and Collect – BBC 1

Dev and Andy off to save Christmas

A classic tale of mismatched neighbours Andrew (Stephen Merchant, playing exactly the sort of person he always does) and Dev (Asim Chaudhry) from Bedford on a 9 hour mission to save Christmas and buy the must-have toy (Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess) for Andrew’s daughter. Dev is the lonely chubby one, separated from his family at Christmas, and Andrew is the awkward angry intellectual, successful but bad tempered with a family who loves him for some unseen qualities. Dev teaches Andrew to be a happier man and a better father, and despite themselves they’ll be best buddies for life. Basically it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Jingle All The Way for the small screen. It looks lovely with cosy camera angles suited to our suburban action heros. There’s great pacing throughout with real tension and subversive moments of mischief. Neither lead performance is all that over-the-top and their situation, while silly, seems entirely probable. An unexpected gem.

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‘Watership Down’ – BBC1 /Netflix

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, and spending a lot of money on presents that may not be exactly what the recipient really wanted. Do you have friends and relations who give great gifts or have you been in training for weeks to perfect your thank-you face? Shining eyes under a paper cracker crown, broad grin, scrabbling around in the box hoping they’ve included the receipt? “Thanks very much for the 6 pack of pan scourers Nana!” Does that sound familiar at all?

The new Watership Down adaptation showing on BBC1 and Netflix made me think they should have kept the receipt. This was one of the early festive highlights with a rumoured budget of £20 million for state-of-the-art CG animation and seems to have put the flop in Flopsy Bunny with very mixed reviews across the board. And it’s not just the ‘we should never do remakes’ crowd feeling grinchy towards these cottontails.

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‘The Bridge’ – Series 4, Episode 4

This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 4. Catch up with all the reviews here. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!

Well colour me confused. What are they playing at? The halfway point maybe not the best spot to introduce a whole new cohort of an already large cast. This is daunting even for seasoned viewers. If you watched the whole episode without pausing to wonder who someone was, who they were related to, and how they were linked to the case then you’re doing far better than me.

The Case

Taariq needs penge, and quickly. You’ve got to admire his audacity in trying to blackmail a murder suspectstealing his wallet and car. Someone told me Taariq was going to get a severe new haircut and I did wonder in a world as dark as The Bridge, does that mean he’ll lose his head? Of course the answer is yes. As Taariq finally realises there’s no way out Henrik and Saga are called to the scene of his armed stand-off. Saga’s compulsive twitching as she attempts to defuse the situation is unbearable. Taariq can’t handle the truth, and unfortunately for him, Saga can’t hide it. A final violent act is preferable to a future in jail or being deported to a repressive regime. Henrik and even Saga seem heartbroken at his death.

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‘The Bridge’ – Series 4, Episode 3

This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 3. Catch up with episode 1  and episode 2. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!

Episode 3 was a classic where not very much happens. Characters willfully impede the investigation and every plot point feels like a dead end, until a frantic final three minutes which leaves you shaking your head and softly repeating the word “What?” to yourself over and over.

Our heros

“I’m not well” says Saga in typical matter-of-fact style. If only it was always so easy to acknowledge your own mental health problems and ask for help. She then lists a devastating catalogue of personal disasters. “We’ve got a bit to work with” says the unflappable therapist, surely in the running for Understatement of the Year 2018.  We hope with help Saga will turn the corner and apply her logical, analytical brain to her own situation, but Mummy is messing with her delicate mental state from beyond the grave – having her lawyer send childhood mementos to Saga’s workplace. Don’t open the box Saga! It’ll be about as much fun as Brad Pitt’s surprise gift in Seven.

The Danish sister from episode two,  christened by the internet Öliver and Dødger, were such a perfect fit for a hole we’re desperate to be filled. Like a Choir of (Young) Believers the internet sang out in one voice “They could be Henrik’s daughters!” And he gets them home a lot faster than I’d have ever imagined, but now in context of their old bedroom he would recognise them, right? He seems to be the only person not swept up in the idea that they’re his long lost children. But one night at Henrik’s Hotel turns into two as these resourceful Tracy Beakers refuse to be sent off to any dumping ground.

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