‘Peng Life’ – Channel 4

Forgive me for not knowing until now who the Chicken Connoisseur is. I am in my 30s and I still haven’t got my head around the many millions of creative ways people use YouTube and how they have an immediate connection with their audience that the old dinosaurs of terrestrial TV can only dream of. Superstars are born, made fantastically wealthy, and crash and burn overnight. This much I know is true. I also know I’m playing catch-up. I swear I was standing in a Blockbuster choosing which video to watch just last week, but of course that was at least a decade ago.

So kudos to Channel 4 for giving Elijah Quashie his own TV series. This is a guy from Tottenham who made his name in 2016 reviewing chicken shops in The Pengest Munch. Important work, steering the nation away from disappointing fast food. He’s a critic who knows what he likes and he’s happy to give his opinion delivered in his own authentic style. There’s a lot of working class black slang going on here, but it all makes sense. Although again, I did have to look up peng which means handsome or fit as in “This is the pengest penguin in the world” which I’d pay good money to hear David Attenborough say on Blue Planet.

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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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‘Too Much TV’ – On the Box

Well thanks BBC2 for this new tea-time waste of time. Too Much TV is the perfect name for a desperate and disparate bunch of ‘presenters’ – some with little or no presenting experience – chatting awkwardly about television shows that are all at least 469% better than the one they’re hosting.

They’re a motley crew of left-over raffle prizes in the school hall that should never have been grouped together (“The chocolate and wine are gone! I want to get my moneys worth but I don’t want lavender soap or a fucking Spanish wicker donkey!”). They’re like the very end of a list of potential presenters shouted out at random at a BBC meeting: “Can we get Dermot O’Leary? Fiona Bruce? Oh God, Terry Wogan has died! How about Carol Vorderman?… None of them? Oh shit, I guess this lot will have to do”.

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Blog Business

Hello blog fans!

This is an unusual post, not strictly telly related, but a matter of business that I’m excited about. I’ve just started the super-popular WordPress Blogging 101 course to learn how to write a better blog. These past five months I’ve really enjoyed the experience of writing a blog because tv is a genuine interest of mine, something I do as part of my daily routine. It’s a pleasure to focus on one interest as opposed to past scatter-gun attempts where anything and everything could be a blog post. That just got overwhelming and it was easy to give up and forget about writing altogether.

People have been really kind and told me they like my writing, but I know it could be better. I worry that as I’ve not really written creatively since I was in school my writing style might be a bit stunted. Like y’know… I don’t want to like… sound like a sixteen-year-old forever OMG! I’ve tried to break the habit of calling everyone dude, so I need to do that in the way I write too.

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Christmas Telly Round-Up 2016

Happy 2016 everyone! As we stumble outside and face the grey drizzly dawn of another new year let’s enjoy a round-up of the best and worst telly from the past two weeks. If we concentrate really hard maybe we can still pretend we’re comatose on the sofa in a Batman onesie surrounded by Quality Street wrappers and fighting about whose turn it is to put the kettle on. Ah, happier times.

So in no particular order…

We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story (BBC2)

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Photo: bbc.co.uk

Lovely looking comedy drama – very swinging 60s, very yeah baby – but I was expecting to learn a lot more about the beloved show. The focus was almost entirely on the bromantic writing process, like they ran out of time to discuss the actors, their relationships or how the show developed during filming. If they’d had an extra 30 minutes this could have been great, like BBC4 did for Monty Python in Holy Flying Circus. Watching the theme tune being recorded by a total geezer with such confidence in one take was lovely.

Sherlock (BBC1)

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Photo: bbc.co.uk

It seems no one liked this, apart from me. It was messy, frantic and confused (I’m not sure Sherlock should be allowed to borrow the Tardis again), but despite this I loved it. The cleverness and the silliness, the bizarre deus ex machina and the strange, sometimes strained, relationship between Sherlock and Dr Watson is all there in the original books. I’ve no idea who thought making the KKK (who were the baddies in The Five Orange Pips that this was very loosley based on) into feminists would be a good idea. Even the much derided Steven Moffat would have paused for thought on this one, right? Never mind. Still good.

Dickensian (BBC1)

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Photo: radiotimes.co.uk

It seems everyone liked this, apart from me. A brave and clever adaptation from former Eastenders scriptwriter Tony Jordan. When you think about it a regular serial with a large and varied cast living as near neighbours in London is a Venn diagram that Eastenders and Dickens fits into nicely.  I’ve only read two Dickens novels (A Christmas Carol and Bleak House, in case you were wondering) so I couldn’t play character spotting (that satisfied ‘a-ha!’ when you work out who someone is) or place them in any context. So I wasn’t entertained by seeing them out of context. And I know Dickens famously goes on a bit, but 20 episodes?! That’s too much for me.

Stick Man (BBC1)

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Photo: theguardian.co.uk

Julia Donaldson’s most terrifying picture book (The Gruffalo is a walk in the park by comparison) adapted for tv, and for your nightmares. I had no idea picture books were this scary. Martin Freeman’s Stick Man is separated from his family for a full year, and survives seemingly endless horrors on his long and distressing journey to be reunited with them. It was like an animated version of 12 months in the life of a Syrian refugee. Absolutely horrific!

A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (BBC1)

This is more like it. A really interesting documentary celebrating 40 years of Bristol’s Aardman Animation studios from their early beginnings in 1976 with Morph, through the Oscar winning successes of Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit, and the forays off into big-budget Hollywood films with Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! It was a gentle and kindly look at a great British institution filled with proper adorable eccentrics, devoted to their pain-staking jobs. Turns out it’s not the clay models who are the real superstars.

A Gert Lush Christmas (BBC2)

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Badly photoshopped photo: radiotimes.co.uk

Russell Howard is a long way from my favourite stand-up comedian, but he does a great job with well-polished satire on BBC3. A lot of comics make the leap from stand-up to their own series, so I was interested enough to give his family Christmas in the West Country a try. But it didn’t make me laugh once in the first 15 minutes so I turned it off. This was despite Russell’s real sister – the magnificent Kerry Howard from Him & Her – turning up as his screen sister, and Neil Morrissey as his Dad. If they couldn’t help it work, no one can. Unwatchable.

Downton Abbey (ITV)

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Photo: radiotimes.co.uk

Downton’s finale did feel very Christmassy – the family and staff reunited and patching over their long-standing grudges, while the viewer tries to guess which one will die in a car accident this time. So festive! Especially because the unexpected twist was no one died! Lord Grantham didn’t cough up blood all over the turkey. Bates and Anna finally had a baby. And even Lady Forgettable-Middle-Sister found a happy ending with a guy who seemed to be a very dull version of Bertie Worcester. I’ve been a loyal viewer for so long (so very, very long) that it was with squishy, weepy and slightly mixed emotions that I finally said goodbye. But the overriding feeling was that of relief that finally it’s all over.

So that’s it. Normal service has been resumed. Take the decorations down and shove them in a box ready for next year. But before you go, can you manage one more teeeny leetle chocolate?

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Photo: stuartdalby.co.uk