“Nowhere else works like the cities”. This is the first line of BBC1’s new drama based on the 2009 ‘weird fiction’ novel by British author China Miéville, an exotically named man actually born in Norwich. His book has been adapted for TV by screen writer Tony Grisoni.
The cities in the title are Besźel, which looks like the Eastern Bloc of 30 plus years ago mixed with cafes and people from 1970s Istanbul and Ul Qoma which is glimpsed only briefly in the first episode. These streets look brighter, cleaner, and more advanced. The colour pallets are quite different in each city; dingy yellows for Besźel and clean blues for Ul Qoma. Like the inhabitants, the viewer always knows where they’re looking.
The two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but the inhabitants wilfully ‘unsee’ the areas they’re not allowed to view. Early on Commissar Gadlem (Ron Cook) gets out his overhead projector, and lays two acetate maps on top of each other. That’s a good way to get your head around it.
Continue reading “‘The City and the City’”
Phil is friendly. Phil is kind. Phil is funny. But those qualities count for very little over at foodie magazine Eater where Somebody Feed Phil, the Netflix travel documentary eating its way around the globe was cruelly slated as “too cute”, “annoying” and having “no discernible point of view”. Conde Nast Traveler is much kinder, praising the positivity and optimism wrapped up in each delicious bite. So, which one is it? Sweet or sour?
This new to Netflix series is fronted by a gangly beaming Phil Rosenthal, a television writer and producer, best known as the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. He had a similar show called I’ll Have What Phil’s Having on PBS in America, but this is the first time an international audience has seen his culinary adventures.
And what a road trip he’s on. In six hour-long episodes he covers Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, New Orleans and Mexico City. I’m immediately jealous of his experiences and his air miles. He begins in the exotic east, but this isn’t just an American on a gap year, as he’s keen to promote food closer to home too, understanding that not everyone can afford international travel. Each episode also runs the full gamut of food available for the budget conscious backpackers and the money-is-no-object crowd. We seem him try street food out in the road on plastic chairs, befriend old ladies in shopping mall cafes, try all sorts of strange things in cafeterias off the beaten track and other hole-in-the-wall cafes where you’d need a local guide just to find the place.
Continue reading “‘Somebody Feed Phil’ – Netflix”
Another sumptuous drama here on a subscriber service. It’s almost like this is where the big bucks reside in these digital days. Z: The Beginning of Everything is the story of Zelda Fitzgerald, Mrs F Scott Fitzgerald to you dear. It’s based on Therese Anne Fowler’s book which Christina Ricci read and wanted to audition for. It turns out no one was making it, so she decided to do it herself. Ricci says that Zelda had suffered bad press over the years, with the focus firmly set on her genius husband. Ricci was sick of her being overlooked and sets out to flip that script.
Ricci with her soulful doe eyes and her fierce blonde bob is Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern belle, the original flapper and an icon of the Jazz Age in the flamboyant 1920s. Zelda is young and bored to death in her little quaint country town of Montgomery, Alabama. Having never been to the American south it looks lovely to me – all wide tree-lined avenues, sugary iced tea and cotillion balls at the country club.
Continue reading “‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’”
Morgana Robinson is a famous face that you might not recognise. Such is the life of a telly impersonator. She was excellent as Julie the odd-ball seductress in Vic and Bob’s House of Fools, ‘Puppah’ Middleton in The Windsors and in painfully funny Sky Arts sketch show Psychobitches (more of all of those please!).
In The Agency she plays all the characters on the books at Mann Talent Agency. These celebrities are helpfully named in the opening credits for those of us who a) don’t watch Eastenders or b) don’t think she looks much like Greg Wallace (but then really that’s no bad thing). She’s unusual because she brings both female and male stars to life with equal aplomb. You can see she’s studied their movements and mannerisms just as closely as their voices.
Continue reading “‘Morgana Robinson’s The Agency’ – On the Box”
I’m extremely happy to report that Andrew Collins, tv reviewer royalty and inspiration for this very blog is back in business.
Andrew had the long running weekly review round-up at The Guardian until April this year. I loved his video blog stylings, his sharp commentary and his infections optimism for the medium where others delight in telling us that watching tv is a waste of our precious time.
He’s a charming chap and always a treat when he irregularly turns up on telly. In an act of benevolent generosity late last year he described part of this actual blog as “great” which was even more exciting than Abs from 5ive enjoying my review of his remarkable farming documentary. I should probably incorporate Andrew’s quote in my tag line – “As endorsed by a proper telly critic”.
Continue reading “Great news for Telly Addicts”
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”.
Continue reading “‘Too Much TV’ – On the Box”